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Tag Archives: the Fair Elections Act

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.

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THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG AND THE APATHETIC CITIZENRY: THE UNDERMINING OF DEMOCRACY

The justification of majority rule in politics is not to be found in its ethical superiority. – Walter Lippmann

Along with responsible newspapers we must have responsible readers. – Arthur Hays Sulzberger

It is well to remember that freedom through the press is the thing that comes first. Most of us probably feel we couldn’t be free without newspapers, and that is the real reason we want newspapers to be free. – Edward R. Murrow

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE, THE ARCHITECT OF PAIN AND RUIN

If anyone has lately seen Pierre Poilievre, the architect of the egregiously mistitled Fair Elections Act, on television news defending his vile handiwork, it can immediately become clear why all Canadians should be deeply troubled for the state of their democracy. His appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, March 27, 2014, immediately following that of Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer and author of the report of his, Neufeld’s, investigation reviewing issues of non-compliance of election rules, ceaselessly cited by Poilievre as justification for reworking the Elections Act, provides the clearest evidence, and just another example of many, of Harper’s extreme lack of judgement. Placing Poilievre at the helm of the Ministry of Democratic Reform makes him the unlikeliest and most unpleasant candidate for the post, particularly in light of the campaign he and another vicious conservative sidekick, Dean del Mastro, now facing four charges for election irregularities, waged war in the House of Commons against Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for their investigations of the Conservative Party’s role in the robocalls scandals and voter suppression. Poilievre, hardly non-partisan, poses the greatest threat to our democracy and to our electoral process. Not many, I suggest, were that surprised by the appointment. As has been demonstrated in the past, Harper is quite willing to poke his finger into the public eye as he did with his appointment of Joe Oliver, former Minister of Natural Resources, another partisan and vile adherent to a political ideology that denies and ridicules not only the opinions of others, but also the facts. It was he, on behalf of the Harper gang, who labelled environmentalists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline as “radicals” and stooges to foreign environmental groups and who has persistently denied global warming and climate change. Speaking in Washington, DC, last year, he savaged renowned NASA scientist climatologist James Hansen accusing him of “exaggerated rhetoric” for his position regarding development of the Alberta tar sands. Poilievre is of that ilk, only much, much more offensive and dangerous. The Conservative Party must draw these folks as naturally as road kill does carrion.

How is it possible that Bill C-23, a Bill that will alter the electoral system in such a profoundly fundamental way, be even considered without real, meaningful consultation with, or agreement from, the opposition parties, from Elections Canada and past and present Chief Electoral Officers, legal experts, academics, and the public? Imposing one’s will with the brute force of a majority is no way to operate in a democracy. That is not open, honest, transparent governance; that is control.

No one, absolutely no one, other than conservative partisans, agrees that this is a good revision of the Elections Act. This is not just the opposition opposing everything as the Harper thugs would have you believe, it is opposition by almost every segment of society except, sadly, the sleeping, indifferent, parochial, narcissistic public that seems to be reluctant to awaken to the hazard facing it.

The so-called, cruelly misnamed Fair Elections Act is unfair, discriminatory and clearly aimed towards benefitting the party in power. When Robert Fife of CTV’s Question Period asked Poilievre March 30th, 2014, why he hasn’t been listening to the critics, Polievre offered the smile of the cat swallowing the canary, saying, “We are listening.” My impression was that he didn’t believe it and didn’t care if we did or not. When Fife asked him if he would have supported the bill if the opposition had presented it, he replied, remarkably without even a hint of a smirk, “I would”!

I just hope no one hearing that was eating at the time.

To my mind, both Oliver and Poilievre are thoroughly unpleasant individuals and both are perfect emblems of the worst in the Harper regime but they are by no means alone: they are just emblematic of the rot that infuses this group. But Poilievre is even more troublesome because I believe him to be that much glibber, that much smarter, that much more shamelessly partisan; he has his own unique version of the “facts” and the “truth”. I do not know if he is an ideologue; that suggests an individual holding a set of beliefs and principles; he is certainly a partisan and a nasty one at that. Holding the position of power he does, he is about to impose on the public one of the most important changes that threatens to undermine our very democracy and he is about to do so happily and with utter equanimity. This is no exaggeration, no scare mongering. This is a man who refuses to listen to the opposition because, as is Harper, he is uninterested in the opinions of others, righteous in his own certitude; Pierre Poilievre knows best and all the rest are just whiners out to get the Conservative Party. And, because he knows best, and because the world is out to get the conservatives, he will rig the game and he will do so by changing the Elections Act. If successful, what he plans will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. According to some, those who will be disenfranchised are the least likely to vote for the conservatives and the conservatives know this. If true, if that is not fixing the game, nothing is.

But the truly disturbing thing is, Poilievre and the conservatives cannot do this without help. And that is were the public comes in. The conservative thugs obviously believe they can get away with it and the public silence appears to bear that out.

Apathy may be fine for the dead, but it has no place in the life of anyone who believes himself a sentient, living, breathing being. To ignore what Harper and his crew are doing is to be among the narcissistic living dead; it is not enough to simply eat, work, sleep and excrete, take selfies, twitter OMG! or tweet Facebook followers about the latest inanity as if one were the sun around which the earth orbits. Harper and his gang, indeed, too many politicians, rely on such as these as do maggots on a corpse; the egocentric airheads upon whom the Harper gang seem to rely appear to give permission to the likes of Harper and Poilievre and the rest to behave as they do, pulling fast ones in the hope that no one is listening, looking or caring. Self-absorption and self-love, the “what’s in if for me” attitudes, have no value and deserve no place in a vibrant, democratic society and yet, unlike voter fraud, it really is rampant. And it is this, the maggot of apathy, feeding on the body of democracy. It is numbing, distancing, and irresponsible. If this sounds like a lecture, it is; I am sick and tired of people boasting about not voting or whining about their one vote making no difference, or screaming over taxes while whining about hospital wait lines, deteriorating roads, crumbling overpasses as if none of these were linked. No one lives in a vacuum and none should be excused their indifference to their surroundings or insisting that other shoulder their responsibilities while they, these self-lovers, reap the rewards. But even they, the shirking nonentities, cannot sleep forever unaffected. Surely they will wake up, for isn’t democracy more valued, more sacred, than the loss of their favourite “reality” TV show that would almost certainly elicit screaming outrage and savage letter writing campaigns? Surely they are more than dazed, brutish oxen? But, how long will they sleep? Before long, it will be too late, the conservative Harper monsters will have won and fragile democracy reduced to the substantiality and hope of a soap bubble.

THE CONSERVATIVE END RUN ON DEMOCRACY

From day one, Harper and his crew have demonstrated their concerns were more on clinging to power than in offering sound, honest, open, and free governance. They have abused their majority with gross negligence and savage partisanship to promote a brutal laissez-faire Capitalism that is well on its way to creating a new world of “haves” and “have-nots”, those that “deserve” and the rest. That’s you and me, folks.

What the hell is wrong with us? Why are we letting this happen?

In the past, we have had many instances of conservatives skirting the rules. We have had Shelly Glover and James Bezan fighting Elections Canada over their failure to fill full reports regarding their 2011 campaign. We have had Peter Penashue resign for accepting illegal corporate donations during the same campaign. We have had Dean del Mastro facing four charges regarding breaches in the Elections Act for failing to report expenses in the 2008 election and for filing false documents. We have had the Conservative Party paying fines for the robocalls scandal, for workers posing as Elections Canada officials and directing voters to non-existent polling stations. That’s voter suppression. We have had Eve Adams making expense claims for spa treatments while campaigning and, even as I write this, facing allegations of abusing membership information to win a nomination bid in a new riding. Recently Shelly Glover again made the news for questionable ethical behaviour for attending a fundraiser in which the organizations of those in attendance stood the possibility of gaining from decisions made by her department. These are just some of the unethical, illegal, and contemptible abuses of the Elections Act that the conservatives have been caught at. In fact, contrary to what the Harper gang, and Pierre Poilievre in particular, would have us believe, it is not voter fraud with which public needs be concerned, but fraud committed by the Conservative Party, its members, and its supporters.

If Poilievre and the Harper gang succeed, Bill C-23 will not only disenfranchise voters, it will also entrench election fraud.

Almost all experts agree there is neither systematic nor rampant election fraud. In fact, they believe there is no problem of election fraud but, rather, a problem with administration and training of election workers. But, for Poilievre, that is too easy and it doesn’t help his cause. He has to justify the changes to the Elections Act; he offers them, as fixes to a non-existent problem he wants us to believe is real. The critics are wrong. As for rethinking, amending, or even cancelling Bill C-23? Not chance in hell. You just have to trust the Harper thugs.

But how can one? It’s not just how the conservatives have behaved during past campaigns. One needs only harken back to this past February when conservative MP Brad Butt stood in the House of Commons and vividly described, even acting out, what he personally saw, with his own two beady eyes, what happened to voter information cards discarded by tenants in an apartment building. He saw opposition campaign workers pick up the discarded cards with the purpose, he said, of handing them over to others who would then pose as the cardholders to whom those information cards were addressed while others, opposition supporters, of course, vouched that those people were who they said they were.

Naturally, this bolstered Poilievre’s claim voter fraud was a fact, even rampant. The story, however, was an outright fabrication. It was a lie. The only fraud committed, it appears, was the story told by Butt. There is no supporting evidence of widespread voter fraud, Butt’s fiction notwithstanding, nor has Poilievre produced evidence of it though repeatedly asked to do so by reporters. As for Butt the shameless liar? The conservative majority denied opposition moves to have him appear before a House committee to explain why he stood up in the House and gave that ridiculous performance and misled the opposition and the public. They want to know why he lied? But the conservatives don’t want you to know. But why do they worry? The majority of citizens are apparently asleep or indifferent, too busy exploring their navels or fretting about Justin Bieber or frozen into awed silence because they might have had a thought.

But why did Butt and the conservatives feel the necessity of the charade? Was it merely to bolster a claim that had absolutely no merit? It appears so. We do know this, the elimination of the vouching system is no harmless tweak; those who rely on vouching are likely to be those in the transient community, students, seniors, aboriginals, and seniors or those with severe disabilities, including blindness. If you don’t drive, you likely don’t have a driver’s license. If you just moved, your address may not yet be on record. The 39 documents that Poilievre harps on that can be used for ID at the polling stations are not all that easy to come by for many, especially those of no fixed address. Most of us will be unaffected; but does that justify our silence, excuse our indifference. Because we are unaffected, should we stand idly by while others lose their right to vote?

While the merits or not of vouching can be endlessly debated, what cannot be doubted is this government’s determination to ram Bill C-23 through without amendments and without meaningful consultation. Yes, they will pretend to listen, they may have their public hearings, but the Harper thugs will do what they want. That’s not consultation. That’s not even listening. Even if the Harper gang relent on amendments, it is almost a certainty that there will be another cost.

It’s the negative accumulative effect of many aspects of this Bill that makes it exceptionally bad. Eliminating vouching could possibly take away the vote of 120 thousand (Harry Neufeld says the numbers could go as high as 500 thousand!). The Bill also strips the Chief Electoral Officer of the power to investigate instances of election breaches. Nor will he be allowed to inform the public of such examinations without informing those being investigated and obtaining their permission to do so. The cheats have the upper hand. And who have been the cheats? Why the same folks who make the laws. What a surprise. Had this been in place before the last three elections, we might never have known of the conservative attempts to subvert our electoral process. Is that what we want? Is that what we are seeking?

Keep silent. The death of democracy as we have known it is approaching.

Of course, it gets worse, if possible. Elections Canada will no longer be allowed to promote and encourage voters to vote. Just think of that. So who does this affect? Likely the young, the elderly, aboriginal, the transient, the homeless, and the disabled. Nice touch. Again the least likely to vote conservative. As well, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, the Commissioner of Canada, has been forced to move to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This is extremely significant and troubling; with this regime, it would almost certainly lead to political interference should there be more instances of conservative voter suppression and election fraud. We will never know of it. That is, if conservatives were involved.

The revised Act would also allow parties to escape accountability for the “misuse” of party databases “used without party permission”. In other words, party bosses could do what Harper and his gang always do: claim they didn’t know and blame others. Too, incumbents will be allowed to name polling station supervisors in their ridings to handle matters of dispute on Election Day. This is another important wrinkle because it introduces another element of partisanship that benefits the winning candidates of the past election. Further, candidates will be allowed to donate more for their campaigns. As well, the act allows campaigning Parties to call past donors (anyone who gave $20) without having to count them as part of the telephone marketing costs of election campaign expenses. This allows the richer parties, again the conservatives, to actually circumvent election-spending limits allowing parties to spend more on phone calls, marketing and advertising. Furthermore, Elections Canada will have no way of gauging the accuracy of the reports presented by the parties because there is no requirement that robo-marketing companies record the numbers they call. So, we just have to trust the richest parties or the ones most likely to cheat.

Bill C-23, as created by Poilievre and his boss, Stephen Harper, not only provides an incentive to cheat, it entrenches cheating. When there is almost no possibility of being discovered, why would not candidates and their powers cheat? Especially if lying, cheating, dishonesty, and lack of integrity doesn’t bother one at all.

Marc Mayrand, in his appearance before a Commons committee, said that his reading of the Neufeld report states that any irregularities in voting had to do with administration missteps by elections officers rather than voter fraud. As reported by the Canadian Press (March 7, 2014), Poilievre, standing in the House of Commons, challenged Marc Mayrand with this response: “This is what page 10 of his (Harry Neufeld’s) own report says: ‘The Supreme Court made it clear that such errors in other circumstances could contribute to a court overturning an election.’ That sounds serious to me.” Serious indeed. But the thing is, it is what Poilievre deliberately omits that is significant when he reads that. What is meant by “such errors”? If voter fraud is meant, why not say so clearly? No, Poilievre does not do that because he cannot. Neufeld’s report clearly estimated that an average of 500 “serious administrative errors” were committed in each of the 308 ridings. He further states, “Serious errors of a type the courts consider irregularities that can contribute to an election being overturned were found to occur in 12 per cent of all election day cases involving voter registration and 42 per cent of cases involving identity vouching”. There were many reasons for the errors, including “complexity, supervision, recruitment (of poll officials), training, updating the list of electors” (Canadian Press, March 7, 2014). Neufeld never claims that there are deliberate attempts to cast illegal votes. In fact, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon on CBC, Harry Neufeld states categorically that Poilievre, in citing Neufeld’s report, was “selectively picking” and “selectively quoting” what was in the report. Poilievre would have us believe otherwise. But he did not write the report but he sure knows how to abuse it to his advantage. Poilievre apparently prefers to forget the many investigations the conservatives have endured for voter fraud, including illegal spending, illegal expense claims, in-out scams, robocalls, and four charges laid against conservative Dean del Mastro. For Harry Neufeld, voter fraud is akin to an “urban myth”.

Even Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former Chief Electoral Officer, who had originally given Bill C-23 an A minus rating, changed his tune after closer examination, saying to the Commons committee, “This will directly affect the constitutional right to vote for a significant number of Canadians without justification,” and “I have no problem whatever with vouching the way it is structured under the Canada Elections Act at this present time” (Canada.Com, Glen McGregor, March 25, 2014).

THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

It is true; we have a free press. But how free can it be when it is denied the right to do its job, which is to inform the public and protect society by taking on the role of watchdog. An informed society is probably the best protected. Harper, apparently, does not believe that. Or, more likely, he does, and that is what terrifies him. An informed society is a threat to him and his gang.

When was the last time that Harper has stood before a scrum of reporters and answered all questions thrown at him in an environment that has not been heavily controlled, the questions unscripted, the “message” set aside, the “journalists” real? It has been years.

The relationship between Harper and the media has become poisonous. Talking bobbleheads give their relentless messages of the day and hardworking journalists struggle to break through the plastic façade of smiles, faux equanimity, phoney indignation, and the endless litany of denial and fingerpointing. If only they could get a straight, honest, unscripted, answer to even one hard question!

But even this iron curtain of defence against a press is not enough for Harper and his gang. They don’t mind using the media when it’s clear the message is one most Canadians would support, as in Stephen Harper and John Baird’s strong denunciation of Russian incursion into the Crimea. But it’s the other things, the Senate scandals, Harper’s apparent lack of judgement in appointing Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau to the senate, or his recent hiring and firing of Dimitri Soudas, robocalls, the in-out scams and on and on. One can only take so much and besides, does the public really want to hear about this? Who cares? Harper and his gang have had enough so they push back: the press is out to get them. They have a message and by God, the world is going to get it.

So 24 Seven, a video, online, taxpayer funded propaganda organ, is born, initially to provide Canadians with insight into the weekly life of Harper and family and gang. Unfortunately, it morphed into something more, staffers or supporters, posing as journalists asking Harper soft questions before a friendly crowd getting his message out. The viewer is expected to take all this seriously, as “real” news, “real” exclusives. It’s clumsy, heavy-handed, and might be laughable if not so serious. Avoid accountability; create your own Ministry of Propaganda. Truth takes another blow and democracy another cut.

It’s not insignificant. There is a level of distrust, suspicion, and animosity from a government that views knowledge, truth, openness and transparency as things to be feared rather than embraced.

Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated a keen willingness to betray the trust of Canadians. Moreover, it is clear they do not trust Canadians, especially Canadian voters. They point fingers at others in the world and pontificate about democracy. But, to conservatives, democracy is only a nine-letter word. Because it holds so little meaning to them, they are willing to debase and corrupt it to their own ends. With the arrogance of the truly ignoble, Harper has shown a profound lack of judgement in his appointments and his appointees. As a leader, he has, I believe, presided over one of the most arrogant, dirtiest, most corrupt, most secretive, most mean-spirited, most vicious and most anti-democratic regime in the history of Canada. He have conservative Mark Adler working on a bill to force employees of Canadian watchdog agencies to disclose past political activities. This is a free society? Staffers in the PMO must sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. Binding for life! His contempt for Canadians and democracy is writ large in almost everything he does. He appears to detest the thought that Canadians possess knowledge. Apparently, he feels he has reason to.

If Democracy holds no true value for them, there is another word that does, that means more to them, which they hold in higher, if not the highest, esteem. That word is POWER.

Why are Canadians untroubled by all this? Where are their voices of outrage?

When a government fears an informed public, when it fears the truth, when it sneaks legislation into omnibus bills without consultation or debate, when it acts to subvert democracy and the electoral process by “tilting” the field in their favour as Harry Neufeld has suggested with the Fair Elections Act, when it charges that the press is out to get them, it should surprise no one that the end result would eventually be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Canadian must wake up. What Harper, Poilievre and the gang are proposing with Bill C-23 is nothing less than an assault on democracy. We can sit by and do nothing or we can fight back.

I chose to fight. How about you? Even as I am writing these words, there is news that Poilievre may consider amendments to the vouching items. That’s not enough. He and the Harper gang cannot be trusted. Bill C-35 must be thoroughly examined with considerable consultation. It must be amended with the agreement of the opposition parties or, better still, simply scrapped. Despots may rule, but they never really conquer.

Tyranny does not happen overnight. It’s often a slow, incremental process of rights removed and voices silenced while a public looks away.

What will you do when they say to you, “You cannot vote”?

In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up. – Martin Niemoeller

***

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.

STEPHEN HARPER RIGS THE VOTE

The wolf in sheep’s clothing is a fitting emblem of the hypocrite. Every virtuous man would rather meet an open foe than a pretended friend who is a traitor at heart. –H. F. Kletzin

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Confucius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE CONSERVATIVE WHINE: I’M A VICTIM TOO

Harper and his cretinous gang have set out to rig the next election. Oh, it’s not as obvious as stuffing the ballots or party faithful posing as folks long dead; it’s more insidious and, if all goes the conservative way, and they will, the methods of rigging will become entrenched into law. Not only will skirting election rules and cheating be easier, and those involved have less reason to worry about being caught and prosecuted, the changes will most benefit the liars, the cheaters and the vote riggers who form our present government.

Unlike as in the past, when the public was informed of conservative attempts to subvert democracy and the electoral process, circumventing rules through in-out scams, robocalls, illegally accepting corporate donations, fudging campaign expenses, illegal overspending, passing themselves off as Elections Canada officials, redirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, this Harper regime of vile bodies intend to make it possible to do even more of that. When that happens, and it will be soon, the public may never learn of breaches to the Elections Act or of those involved unless, of course, the offenders are from the side of the opposition. The new Bill, C-23, invites corruption because there is almost no possibility of discovery, charges or penalty when the election rules are breached. Had this bill been in effect the last two elections, we might never have known about any of the ethical violations by members of Harper’s gang. The bill will pass and pass with few, if any, amendments, because Harper has his majority and he is far from reluctant to wield it like a club. Once it does, it is likely we will never know if Shelly Glover goes for the hat trick in attempting to skirt election laws.

C-23, is concerned with reforms to the Elections Act. In a page stolen from Orwell’s 1984, the Harper Tories have embarked on a campaign where nothing means what it says. Thus Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform would be, in the real world, and in the real sense, the Minister For Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression. Bill C-23, in Harper’s world, is called the Fair Elections Act; in the real world it would be called the Screw Democracy Act. This is no exaggeration however outrageous it appears.

Bill C-23 appears to be a direct response to recent investigations by Elections Canada spearheaded by the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. The result, especially if passed as is, as Harper clearly intends it to be, will almost certainly lead to the absolute corruption of the election process. While there may be some worthwhile aspects to Bill C-23, it is the not so good that is most worrying and which offers clear evidence of the partisanship, pettiness and vindictiveness which permeates and poisons almost everything this regime does.

Portraying themselves as victims of a conspiracy by Elections Canada, Poilievre, in announcing the proposed bill to the media, was moved to say, “the referee should not be wearing a team jersey”. With those few words, Poilievre chose to carry through with his unwarranted and unsupported character assassination of Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada. Smearing opponents is not new for Harper’s scummy crew; they have resorted to it many times in the past and always against someone or some group who dared to question the Harper gang decisions. If Poilievre has evidence that Elections Canada is out to “get” the conservatives as he suggests, why doesn’t he present evidence of such? He will not because he cannot. He spews filth and hopes it sticks. And it will for some, especially those cretins who fantasize about governments out to get them.

POILIEVRE: DEMOCRACY? WHAT ABOUT IT?

This vendetta with Elections Canada goes a long way back. It dates from the 2006 elections when Elections Canada began, in 2007, to investigate the conservative ‘in-out’ scam whereby parties shuffle funds between ridings and the party to rip of taxpayers with illegal refunds. For that escapade, in a deal reached with federal prosecutors, charges were dropped against four Conservative Party officials, including Senators Irving Gertstein, proud conservative bagman, and Doug Finley and the party paid a maximum fine of $52,000 and returned $230,000 for illegal claims. The conservatives hailed the agreement as a great victory in that “no individuals were found to have done anything wrong” (National Post, April 10, 2012, Glen McGregor & Stephen Maher). That’s legalese by the way. Something happened: a deal was made, money handed over and folks walked away unpunished. Laws were broken and ethics discarded. With conservatives, ethics are easily tossed aside.

Since then, when the investigations began, Poilievre and loudmouth Dean del Mastro had embarked on a smear campaign that was loud, vicious and always under the protection of privilege because waged in the House. Mayrand and Elections Canada were accused time-and-again of bias by the whining pair after Elections Canada received many complaints of irregularities during the 2006, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. As a result of these investigations, the public learned about the in-out scams, the robocalls scandal, of Shelly Glover and James Bezan refusing to submit full reports on their campaign expenses. Eventually, del Mastro himself became caught up with his own scandal, facing four charges relating to the 2008 campaign with allegations that he had failed to report $21,000 in expenses and for filing a fraudulent document. I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude on hearing that. The Tories, caught in their own webs, cry foul, del Mastro even shedding actual tears of self-pity in the House. You could see it then, the claws were out: the Harper gang would strike back.

Meanwhile, Poilievre, that partisan toad, and today’s Minister of Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression, finally answering the call from Elections Canada for reform, after ignoring it for years, does so, but in so blatantly and prejudicial a manner that Tories on the sidelines must have felt a warm glow of pride swelling in their sere, tiny, vengeful hearts: Gotcha Mayrand and Elections Canada.

Canadians, however, should be extremely troubled and enraged. While the Chief Electoral Officer says of the bill that he and Elections Canada have not been consulted, Poilievre, however, asserts that, “I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago, and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened to all his ideas” (Macleans’s, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Feb. 3, 2014). One needs only examine aspects of the Bill to know Poilievre may have listened, but that’s about it. He certainly didn’t hear and heed. When Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand finally did respond to Poilievre’s intimations of bias on his part, he was to the point and particularly pertinent: the referee had been kicked off the ice.

Bill C-23 will certainly pass rammed down our throats with debate limited by the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Note that is not the majority of the popular vote; they only won 40% support from those who voted. But that 40% was sufficient to give them the majority in the House. And make no mistake: Harper’s governance, with limited debate, with multi omnibus bills, with legislation sneaked in without consultation or discussion, is nothing less than a tyranny. Perhaps not of a Putin or Pinochet kind, but sufficient to eventually lead to serious consequences for Canadians down the road. It’s a system that needs changing but, as we shall see, one that is not likely to happen thanks to Bill C-23 and the Liberals who apparently support aspects of this anti-democratic reform.

OKAY, LET’S TALK. THAT’S ENOUGH. ALL IN FAVOUR? PASSED.

But why this reform now; and why the haste?

Since Harper’s gang won its majority, they have been all but unstoppable in achieving their goals. They want something passed in the House, be it omnibus bills and hidden legislation, they ram it through. Every time. There is no consultation and only mere nods to a semblance of debate. What listening there is is just pretend listening and sometimes not even that bone; the results are as inevitable as the Harper thugs smearing Kevin Page while he was the Parliamentary Budget Officer or slamming Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada simply for doing their jobs: enforcing the laws and keeping Canadians informed. But the days of informing Canadians and enforcing election laws are about to end.

By the next election, there will be an additional 30 new ridings, the boundaries redrawn with the conservatives the happy beneficiaries. If Harper’s core of supporters hold, and there is no reason to believe they will not, these changes will almost certainly give a gerrymandered additional 22 conservative seats to the conservatives increasing their majority substantially and alarmingly. No doubt anxious, if only for the sake of appearances, not to be judged as too overt and greedy in their gerrymandering efforts, the conservatives will surrender the bone of 8 ridings for the opposition to fight over. It’s a rigged game. With even less of the popular votes than they have already, the conservatives could end with an even larger majority in the House. The thought is terrifying.

However, not content with even that all but certain possibility, Poilievre, savvy if oily partisan guttersnipe that he is, has finally responded to Elections Canada’s call to reform the Elections Act after his government had ignored such demands for years. On the surface, it seems to be good news for Canadians. It’s not. Not content with the cheating of the past, they have embarked on a road that is dark, deceitful and dangerous, reforming the act, true, but rigging the outcome just the same but in a fashion that is truly malevolent; Harper and his thugs wish not only to steal your vote but also deny others theirs. Poilievre would claim it’s a new and improved Bill, but that’s the snake oil salesman talking. Bill C-23 offers no pretence to fairness, no nod to honesty, no blush of shame for its lack of moral decency. It bodes ill for all Canadians and entrenches even more firmly my detestation of this group; their version of democracy doesn’t match mine. If it matches yours, shame on you.

Among the items Elections Canada sought was for more investigative powers to enforce the Elections Act. One of the things that would help them in this would have been the ability to compel witnesses to testify. These are not suspects, but those who may have knowledge of wrongdoing. That is not going to happen. In fact, Harper’s thugs have done exactly the opposite: Bill C-23 takes power away from Elections Canada; it emasculates the body. The cheaters will have been liberated to cheat: free at last, free at last, free at last.

One way the conservatives will have achieved this is by moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is presently housed in Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which reports to the government. Now that is a huge step towards corrupting the system and denying Canadians the opportunity to be informed of any investigation of any party or individual suspected of breaching election laws. The mandate of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who, until the passage of Bill C-23, is an independent officer, “is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced” (Elections Canada). That independence, once the Bill is passed, will be stripped from him because it denies him of the right and duty to report directly to the public through their representatives in Parliament. He must approach the government of the day. If they don’t like what they hear, they can keep it out of the public eye. Yes, indeed, they have taken the referee off the ice.

Too, the Bill offers the real possibility of disenfranchising students, aboriginals and the truly marginalized. Incredible as it may seem, with voter turnout as low as it is, this government of tyrants has made it against the law for Elections Canada to place ads encouraging citizens to vote. Poilievre, that oleaginous shyster, would have us believe that political parties are the best means of getting people to vote. Yeah. I can easily imagine the Conservative Party placing ads where the marginalized live and urging them to vote. This is real chutzpah shamelessly flaunted and absolutely revelatory of the depths of Harper’s hypocrisy and contempt for democracy. He and his thugs have easily spent $136 million in promoting themselves in 2009-2010. Of that money, they spent millions promoting over-hyped, non-existent job programs. And yet Elections Canada cannot encourage voters to vote. Is that your version of democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 also goes after the voter information card. You know, the card Elections Canada mails you confirming your name and address and notifying you where to vote. Well, that, too, will no longer be used for ID purposes as it has been up to now. And if your name has been crossed off the electors’ list “in error” (or deliberately, who knows with this regime) you will have to take a written oath before receiving a ballot. For two elections, provincial and federal, my wife and I have been excluded from the rolls. And we own our home. If, for whatever reason, the voter is transient, has relocated to his parent’s home or moved in with a friend, neither the Elections Canada information card nor the word of family or friends vouching for you will be enough to allow you to vote. These, along with denying Elections Canada the right to remind citizens to vote will likely affect thousands, even hundreds of thousands, mostly students, aboriginals, the homeless, seniors and others who may be on the fringes. Do you believe this is democracy? If so, shame on you.

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. This is simple rejigging of the formula to allow parties to spend more without having to claim it for elections purposes. Naturally, this will greatly help the money-rich conservatives who have mastered, if often in the sleaziest of ways, methods of expanding the list of supporters with no extra cost to them. It’s like a tax break, the richer they are, the more people they know, the less they have to pay. Another rigged advantage.

Bill C-23 absolves parties of being held accountable for party databases used without authorization. If this Bill had being in effect when “Pierre Poutine” was wreaking havoc, the conservatives would have got off scot-free. We would not have known and they would not have been revealed as the sleaze they are. With Bill C-23, the message is clear; campaign managers and party brass have been given permission to inform staffers they can cheat: “If you’re using databases for cheating purposes, we don’t want to know.”

Too, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections cannot inform the public of investigations without first informing the parties and then obtaining the permission of all parties involved, including those very individuals and/or parties accused of breaking the law and under investigation! That means there is almost no chance of prosecution and certainly no chance of the public learning of breaches to the Act. Just think of that. Bill C-23 effectively protects the villains against the good guys (Elections Canada and the public) and denies citizens the right to fair, honest elections. It actually appears to encourage cheats to break the laws. Yes, fines will be increased, and there is threat of even jail time but when the risks of discovery and penalty are placed at near zero, it should not surprise anyone that unethical politicians and their supporters would feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity. For that, we can thank Harper and his gang of chisellers. Poilievre is, in effect, saying to the cheats: “Go thou and sin more; there is no punishment.” Except perhaps for the truly wicked, the New Democrats or the other conservative party disguised as Liberals.

Harper’s thugs have set out to make Elections Canada impotent and they will have succeeded with the passage of this Bill. Not only must the Commissioner of Canada Elections be required to inform the subject of an investigation when it starts, MPs found to have violated the rules will be allowed to continue to sit while they appeal their cases. Now the cheats can continue to rig the laws in the House while, at the same time, dragging out lawsuits at public expense. Public scrutiny of election campaigns will have been brought to a grinding, undemocratic halt thanks to the conservatives and this Bill. Elections Canada will no longer have the power to enforce laws and inform Parliament and the public. If that doesn’t concern you, why doesn’t it?

While the irony of imposing debate limits on such a sweeping Bill named the Fair Elections Act is impossible to ignore, can anyone really claim to be surprised by the depths to which this sordid band of vote riggers have lowered themselves?

Well, there are a few more things.

There is another very serious troubling aspect of the Bill, one that demonstrates the egregious level of contempt Harper and gang hold of Parliament and of Canadians revolted by the shenanigans of the Senate. Bill C-23, while permitting the Chief Electoral Officer to seek approval to test a different voting method, i.e. one truly representative of the vote, say proportional representation, he “must first obtain the approval of the Senate and the House of Commons” to do so. Guess who controls the Red Chamber and the House? This is the conservative thug poking a stick into the eye of the outraged voter.

When pressed about the troubling aspects of the bill, Poilievre offers no satisfactory explanation and, when pressed about limiting debate, he doesn’t pretend to consider the question. This is vote rigging. This is a government that has set out the rules with full knowledge of an almost certain outcome. This is not by accident, not through misadventure or by inattention or oversight: this is by calculated design and from pure malice.

WHAT? ME WORRY? NOT NOW. I’M IN AND YOU’RE OUT.

Embroiled as they have been and are in scandal after scandal, one would think that Harper and his gang of lowlifes would wish to offer a semblance of adhering to democratic principles. Not a chance. That’s the perspective of a sentimentalist longing for the good old days, not that long ago, when politicians actually believed in the virtue of serving others rather than themselves. But such virtues went by way of the Dodo bird with the Liberal sponsorship scandal; Harper and his crew have simply entrenched the rot of corruption: with Bill C-23, they have sabotaged the democratic process. Shameless sleaze and slime have become the order of the day. With this gang of fixers and riggers, it is all about winning at any cost. How do you feel about that?

For Harper and thugs, truth and examination are dirty, fearful concepts only to be applied to all those who oppose them but never themselves. Thomas Cooper had it absolutely right when he said, “Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.”

This week, while the world is watching the Olympics, the Harper gang will be putting forward its budget. As with Bill C-23, there will be little, if any debate. The budget will be rammed through because of the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Among the items in place is the government’s plan to audit all charities involved in some way with environmental concerns. Flaherty, the finance minister, had warned that charities involved in politics should be careful. That was a threat. By law, his department is not allowed to direct the CRA about who should be investigated. Because the CRA often acts on complaints, it is interesting to note that one of the complainants has been Ethical Oil.org, a creation of Alykan Velshi, Director of Issues Management for the PMO. We all know Harper and gang, along with the Liberals support the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Charities are allowed to use 10% of their monies for political purposes. Yet the Harper gang has set their sights on them.

And we know that Tony Clement, he of the $50 million slush fund and president of the Treasury which is missing $3.1 billion, has not only targeted public servants, he has set his sights on unions as well.

Finally, convinced that the “elite” media is conspiring against them, Harper and his gang have staff, for which taxpayers pay, that play the role of journalists questioning cabinet members about the great things his government is doing? Yeah, everyone is out to get them.

Does any of this concern you? If not, why not?

Of what are the conservatives, Harper and his rat crew afraid?

Everything it seems, including the truth.

 ***

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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