America needs fewer men obsessed with erecting fences of hate, suspicion and name calling. – William Arthur Ward
Joe….was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything. – John Ciardi
We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. – Jonathan Swift
He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. – George Orwell
NEW REGIME, OLD STORY
Having observed politicians for some time, I have not found any reason to hope that Trudeau and gang would fulfill many of the campaign promises of newer and better than the Harper fare Canadians endured for the past decade, they were too many and too lavish. But there are some things that are refreshing and offer signs of hope, the prime minister and his crew showing a willingness to engage with the media, answering questions and offering responses that are not always scripted something that became the crippling hallmark of the Harper regime; it’s clear that Trudeau has confidence in his ministers and trusts them enough to carry the government’s message without coming across as living dolls incapable of independent thought. As well, I do appreciate that the Liberals have made an effort to consult with the public but have my doubts about the necessity of doing so on almost every conceivable item many best left for those who really do know what they are doing.
The support they have garnered is still extremely high. Perhaps that accounts for a few missteps since their massive victory. In less than a year, they have revealed themselves as susceptible to hubris, to a sense of entitlement and to questionable ethics as they have in the past and which their Conservative successors and predecessors have embraced under the Harper banner. Many of the Trudeau cabinet are new to politics but their behaviour in some instances is reminiscent to that of the old politico guard with years of experience revealing, so early into the mandate, troubling signs of rot. There is Jody Wilson-Raybould, just months into her office as justice minister showing a complete failure of understanding or simple disregard for public perception of her attendance of a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers from prestigious firms, the very entities who stand to benefit most from the decisions made by her ministry. For some, myself included, this is a clear example of conflict of interest revealing a justice minister of poor judgement, questionable behaviour and a careless indifference to either. Such fundraisers or other methods, including private access for loot, have become common, accepted practice among politicians such as Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark and other premiers, ministers and backbenchers. They should not. It does not look good and it’s not good. Wynne, when questioned by the media, acknowledge such and has since made moves to scrap such practices. But how sincere or effective are such displays when some, as Clark, see nothing wrong in holding private meetings with those who can afford it: it’s about privilege and money. We just have to take the word of Christy Clark and her fellow politico hacks that access for money does not mean everything is not on the up and up. I don’t accept that and I cannot believe that. Access for cash is by its very nature corruptive; something is being bought and sold and apparently it’s our politicians.
And then we have politicos, who are pikers, the cheesy nickel-and-dime types who pilfer from the public trough with bogus claims in the belief the amounts too small to earn notice or the public fury. When caught, they will often apologize, claim they had done nothing wrong, that everything they did was allowed under the guidelines and, if the noise becomes too loud for too long, still claiming innocence of wrongdoing, some will offer to reimburse the treasury. Three recently elected Liberals who apparently had no trouble not consulting Canadians regarding the picking of their pockets immediately come to mind. There is Catherine McKenna, environment minister, who charged the pubic well over $6K for photos from a professional photographer to highlight the work she was doing on our behalf while at the Paris climate change conference. Surely that was an unnecessary expense since the media following the event must certainly have been as eager to showcase this new and highly photogenic cabinet member as she was to be photographed. Jane Philpott, health minister, is another who had little difficulty charging Canadians for costly limousine services and for access to Air Canada’s executive lounges across North America and Europe. When the first story broke regarding limousines, Philpott quickly agreed to repay taxpayers though there was some quibbling as to what constitutes a luxury vehicle. Again, when news broke of her signing up for the executive lounge pass, she offered to repay the tab. The question is: Why do these things in the first place? Perhaps it’s the thrill of pushing the envelope in hopes of seeing with what one can get away; if caught, there’s always the public apology for it’s seldom that something ever comes of such abuses. Finally, we have Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, who had been in Manila on government business and had already been booked to return home on a government plane. However, she booked another plane to make an appearance on a TV show with Bill Maher. The cost to taxpayers? Close to $20K. Even if she had committed to government business as she claimed, surely that should have been planned for ahead of time rather than appearing to be a sudden change of plans that the Conservatives were quick to pounce upon as a “vanity” trip to L.A. Too, while she was campaigning to get elected, she charged $500 as grooming expenses to the public. Evidently Freeland and the Liberals and their supporters see nothing wrong in this. Yet, Conservative Eve Adams suffered considerable grief for doing the same in 2013. When you’re as loved as the Liberals anything is allowed it appears.
These are behaviours, however, easily remedied by these very people if they possessed a sense of shame and the desire and integrity to do so. Regulations, detailed and not too complex regarding expenses can be made explicit so that even the most ignorant among them with the comprehension of a preschooler can be made to understand and follow them. Should the rules be broken, punishment should be instant, public and severe; neither apologies nor repayment should be considered sufficient. People who can’t be trusted with the little things certainly can’t be trusted with the big.
These are not deadly blows to the Trudeau gang, but they are telling. I do not like that Trudeau has broken his promise of making human rights a priority by going through with the LAV trade deal with Saudi Arabia. Nor do I like that he is in China signing trade deals without taking a stronger stand and making such deals conditional on China’s own problems with human rights. These are in contravention of Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with nations that violate human rights. These should be more damaging but apparently are not. The broken promises and unethical behaviours suggest a culture of entitlement, a cold disregard and insensitivity for the realities by which most Canadians and citizens of the world live, and an attitude that the suggests because something is not forbidden by law it becomes acceptable and therefore allowable because doable. Offensive and egregious as they are, and to me they are egregious, such attitudes can ultimately be remedied by the voter if not the folks he or she elects: boot the bums out. MPs can be made to act ethically even if reluctantly if the punishment is certain, swift and public. MPs can be made to repay padded expense claims as had Jane Philpott (unfortunately, only when her extravagant ways became public). Rules need to be rewritten so as to remove all possibility of pleading ignorance, of claiming misunderstanding because the guidelines are too difficult to understand. They must be rewritten so that even the stupidest, the sharpest, and the most corrupt can know for a certainty, without exception, the consequences of breaching ethical guidelines. The buck stops with the MPs and not with sacrificial staffers or the use of legalese as a refuge: the rules allow it; the rules were not clear; others have done this in the past; I was told this was allowed. That is the response of the coward, the man or woman who accepts no responsibility for his or her own acts. Those who blame others or who resort to legalese have no right to hold office.
THE SHAMEFUL AND SHAMELESS
I did not vote Liberal. Nor did I vote Conservatives. Both parties have histories of corruption and have ruled as if entitled. Nor do I much admire a party a couple so besotted by cameras and adulation of the public as the Trudeaus. I find their sincerity fulsome and believe it more show than genuine. It may be real; I have just to be convinced. I have never much trusted actors who can put on the sad faces on cue or who express warmth and authenticity by furrowing their brows and tapping their fingertips on their breasts to convince me of their sincerity. I have met a few like that over a long life and none have later proved themselves the real thing.
That said, the one thing I have yet to see from the Liberals, and hope to never see, is the utter debasement of politics as practiced by America’s Donald Trump and Canada’s Conservative party last election when they warred against two women over the niqab and then announced the Conservative plan to create a snitch line so that Canadians could report the BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES OF YOU KNOW WHO! as proudly trumpeted by their own Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander. Astoundingly, only a few paid a price for that debacle, one of them Alexander. Leitch, as we all know by now, and many of the prominent figures of the old Harper gang of mean-spirited, petty, shrill, lying, and hypocritical members still holding office as Official Opposition, are running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
With Leitch running for office, there is no need to look south at Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and not so quietly trumpet our own moral superiority. We have our own sewer rats.
When the Conservatives were ousted from power to become official opposition, months after the election, April 21, 2016 in fact, Leitch appeared with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics making a big show of penitence for the party decision to create the snitch line and her role in happily making the announcement at the time. As she spoke, she appeared to be struggling to squeeze a few tears. That’s the trend these days, politicians going to the same school learning how to offer their “Sorry’s”, some even going so far as if to offer concrete proof of their rue, dabbing their eyes as if there really were tears or actually shedding and wiping a few drops of the real thing likely induced by onion juice rubbed into their knuckles. That’s all that’s needed they believe; hollow regrets, a few tears, real or faux.
So, almost a year from the snitch line announcement and a few months after her weepy appearance on CBC, we have Kellie Leitch emailing a survey to her constituents asking: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants?”
Now what Canadian values is she talking about? She doesn’t say. Are they the same Canadian values of the Conservatives who waged war against the poor and sought to disenfranchise them by rigging elections with the misnamed Fair Elections Act. Perhaps it’s the same values exemplified by Harper’s Conservatives as time and again they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes Canadians wouldn’t notice. Perhaps it’s the Conservative values of smearing Supreme Court Justices the way Harper and Peter MacKay did when their choice for Supreme Court Justice was rejected. Perhaps it’s the same Conservative values that, during the last election, raised the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance as they worked at warring against two niqab-wearing women and evoked images of slathering bloodthirsty Muslim barbarians pounding on our doors. Are her values the same as mine? Yours? Kellie Leitch was a proud, vocal supporter of that gang and that campaign. So, which person is the real Kellie Leitch? The teary-eyed one on April 21 or the one on September 1st so closely resembling the Leitch who so proudly announced the snitch line? Maybe she wasn’t even weeping for her role in the snitch line debacle, after all. Anyone with a jot of self-respect would have walked away from it instantly. She did not. My guess is that she was sorry for the loss the Conservatives sustained October 19, 2015 rather than for role in fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Regardless of how one looks at it, she has proven herself totally unfit as an MP especially one with leadership aspirations. If the Conservatives had any decency, any sense of pride and shame, they would demand she withdraw her candidacy and resign her seat. She contributes nothing to the dialogue. She vows to continue in this vein saying, “In my bid to become the prime minister of Canada, I will be putting forward policies that will make Canada safer, stronger and that will enhance a unified Canadian identity” (CTV News, Sept. 2, 2016). Safer? Stronger? Unified? This is racism, plain and simple, the Leitch emulation of Trump and for no other purpose than to garner votes from the frightened and the racist lowlifes among us. Well, we have more than a glimpse of how far she will go to satisfy her ambition and ego. But what a way to do it!
This passes for politics. Swimming in filth and offering nothing, the triumph of the mean, ugly, reckless, ignorant; the ultimate ignominy of Conservative values. Is this the best the Conservatives can offer? Here are some of the other contenders: there’s Maxime Bernier who is best recalled for leaving behind classified documents after a night with his then ex-Hell’s Angels girlfriend; there’s Tony Clement who still hasn’t explained what happened to the missing $3 billion when he was president of the Treasury. He’s also the guy who called public servants deadwood and during the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010 created a $50 million slush fund for his riding. There’s Brad Trost who likes to boast of being to the right of Attila the Hun. There’s Deepak Obrai. Who? Enough said. There’s Michael Chong, a relatively decent chap, I suspect, and relatively unknown. And then we have those yet waiting to declare themselves: shrill hysteric Michelle Rempel who wondered in what appeared to be drunken tweets if the world was ready for someone like her. She’s right; we’re not. We have Andrew Scheer who, as Speaker of the House, abused his role with too many bad decisions including keeping from the House requests by Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan until they submitted full, corrected, campaign expense claims. And, of course, we have the possible entry of Peter MacKay, the man who betrayed to Progressive Conservative Party by joining with Stephan Harper’s Reform party. You get the drift. There is one possible decent candidate in the mix but how many really know Michael Chong.
Unfortunately, one notable member is not running for the leadership. That is Jason Kenney who months ago has announced he would run for the leadership of the Alberta PCs. He also announced he would keep his MP seat, which he has, and continue to collect his pay, which he has, as a lame duck member of parliament until the Alberta Conservative leadership race becomes official. That, too, is another abuse of office and the taxpayers’ wallet. Others have done the same, he says. So what? Does their unethical behaviour absolve his? Evidently he believes so. But Kenney is a man of fluid ethics. In the past he has used government letterheads to fundraise for his party. He has thought nothing of smearing Justin Trudeau with fundraising letters by attempting to suggest he was sympathetic to terrorists because he had visited a mosque in Montreal that, after the visit, had been declared a recruitment centre for al-Qaeda by American intelligence. Nor did Kenney have any qualms of tweeting photographs of women in chains and a young “child-bride” with her hands bound with her “husband” with the clear intent of inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments; he just neglected to inform the public that the first photograph was that of an historical re-enactment and the second a faked document. And it was Kenney who made the false claim that, of the allies, only Canada and the US had the capability of precision bombing to justify Canada’s expanded role in the war against ISIS. No doubt, he will work up a complete set of new fiction to smear his opponents and inflame his supporters as he campaigns in Alberta. Had he stayed, however, he might have given Leitch a run as she plays in the sewer so familiar to every member of the Conservative party.
While no supporter of the Liberals and holding the Conservatives in contempt for their narrow, mean-spirited, pro-corporate parochialism, I prefer the NDP and even the Liberals who at least attempt to offer solutions and ideas that for the lowest and meanest among us offer at least a glimmer of hope. The Conservatives offer none; not ideas, certainly not hope; theirs is a commitment not to citizens but to special interests. It’s about the bottom line, dollars and cents and the myths of free enterprise and trading on fear: lower taxes, the infrastructure will take care of itself; corporate tax breaks are good for the country; tax breaks create jobs; the homeless and poor are to be feared; those collecting welfare are fraudsters, lazy bums; more jail time is the only answer to crime; every foreigner must be viewed with suspicion; every Muslim is a potential terrorist; every aboriginal a drunk; every person of colour suspect. The Liberals were swept into power not by the politics of fear but by offering many of the things that the Conservatives offered but also the possibility of hope and renewal. The Liberals have not fulfilled and likely had not even intended to fulfill all the commitments they made; that is the cynicism that has infected politics. It should not happen.
We, as voters, are too ready to forgive. We should not be. We must demand and expect more from those we elect. The least we can expect is that they be honest, ethical, open. We do not need politicians who will seize every opportunity to enrich themselves simply because they can. Nor do we need the likes of those who foment hatred and fear and target strangers as suspect. As voters, we have a responsibility to know for what we vote. We must educate ourselves and we must question and challenge rather than blindly accept every promise from a politician’s mouth as a promise fulfilled. As voters, we must not fall into the same traps we have always succumbed: that of acceptance and acquiescence. Politics should not be about getting power and then clinging to it by any means. And it should not be about voters asking, “What’s in it for me?” but rather, “What’s in it for us?”
But, as long as we keep electing those who pander to the worst in us, nothing will change.
Just how stupid are we?
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin