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STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: THE MORAL FLEXIBILITY OF HYPOCRITES

Trust not him with your secrets who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers. – Johan Kasper Lavater

Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind. – Charles Caleb Colton

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

GOLLY GEE LOOK AT ME; I’M A LEADER

Stephen Harper still rides high in the polls largely as a result of Conservative mythmaking, dishonest use of public funds to promote the Conservative story under the guise of informing the public and the skilful employment of populist rhetoric that panders to the worst in us whipping us into a frenzy of Islamophobia and hysteria at the risk of abandoning any pretence towards safeguarding civil and individual liberties.

Too, it doesn’t help that his target audience, largely apolitical and uninvolved, is often too lazy and too willing to trust a government that in its shameless perversity admonishes other nations for failure to honour and promote the loftiest goals of democracy while undermining it at home with its anti-terrorism legislation. There is more at stake than an attack against civil rights. Indeed, there is a threat to democracy as Harper seeks to turn Canada into a Corporatocracy willing to rub shoulders and do trade with tyrants and their murderous regimes.

Harper is the unrepentant hypocrite who refuses to allow Canadian journalists to record him with Cuban socialist leader, Raúl Castro, and yet giddily fawns over the pro-business prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, and signs a deal to ship uranium to a country once considered a rogue state for many reasons, one of which was for breaking a 1956 pledge to use Canadian uranium for “peaceful purposes”. What assurances did Harper obtain from Modi and what is Canada’s liability if Modi reneges on the promise of using the uranium solely for energy production? There was a time when Modi was persona non grata in much of the western world, including Canada, because of allegations of his involvement, directly or indirectly, in the murders of Muslims when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Too, as prime minister, there are still lingering suspicions that he has little interest in protecting religious minorities who often fall victim in violence, including murder.

While I do not object to trade, I believe Harper should be more circumspect with whom he deals and calls friend. Pandering for the east-Indian vote and on behalf of the interests of corporate friends should not come at any cost with Canada keeping silent to the abuses against Indian minorities. Yet, unless I’ve missed it, I’ve heard nothing on that score from Harper. That disturbs me and it disturbs me even more so knowing of Harper handing over land worth $30 million to erect a monument to the victims of Communism. I see red and a thuggish hypocrite in a suit, a miserable cretin who clearly believes the victims of murderous pro-business dictators are somehow less worthy and somehow different from those of communist states (unless, as with China, he manages to overcome his squeamishness enough to score huge trade deals; then he just takes the money and keeps mum). He’s probably right of course the victims of capitalist dictator states are different. They are likely feminists, unionists, environmentalists, mothers supportive of family planning, and Socialists, fighting against the Western exploiters of workers and land and we all know what Harper thinks of family planning, unionists, environmentalists, and “Communists”.

Still, if Canadians haven’t wakened to the awful reality of Harper by now, it is doubtful they ever will in the near future. Even if Harper loses the next election, and I doubt the Conservatives will, it appears the public will only opt for change that is insignificant. In that eventuality, voters will turn to the Liberal party, which, in reality, is not all that different from the Harper Conservatives (they support the war in Iraq and C-51, the anti-terrorist bill with promises to amend it at a later date. Yeah, right.). Unlike Harper, the liberal leader is young, well meaning and charismatic. Unfortunately, like Harper, he thus far offers little in the way that is new and hopeful. It will be the same old same old, the Conservatives, if turfed, turfed for doing exactly, only better, what the Liberals were doing when they were booted out of office.

Sadly, it will not, however, be the NDP that gains unless the unexpected happens, the public waking up and/or the Conservatives running a clean election (Oops, too late on that front). The New Democratic Party, with Thomas Mulcair as leader, has proven itself a party of ideas, vision, ability, and intelligence as has Mulcair who possesses, if not the charisma of Trudeau, the skill and maturity of experience Trudeau lacks. But for a self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and materialistic and shallow disinterested public, none of this will likely matter. Voters will likely stick to the tried-and-dishonest, preferring the false promises of Harper, who lies, misleads, and picks the public wallet with the same ease, glibness and skill of the tainted snake-oil salesman spending $7.7 million for Tory ads masking as government information bulletins. We can expect to see lots of ads, ads promoting the Conservative balanced budget, childcare benefit increases, income splitting and, of course, its wars on crime and terrorism. Too, there will be lots of ads showing off our Canadian Forces, heroic images of men and women in battle, rappelling down ropes, parachuting, fighting drug smugglers on the high seas, protecting the north against the Russians, “proud to go where many are not” as one ad has it while another says “fight fear, fight chaos, fight distress”. This laughable last from a government that has been stoking the flames of fear, chaos and distress even as it attempts to inflate its own image on the world stage with Harper’s strutting, hectoring bombast and Canada’s contribution of six fighter jets and a few hundred special forces to train Iraqi and Ukrainian troops. The message is clear: Harper will save us all if not the world. “Proud to go where many are not”. Catchy hyperbole if nothing else.

GIVE ME YOUR MONEY AND I’LL GIVE YOU MORE LIES

It’s all about the vote, the main chance, the “what’s in it for me” attitude. Ideological blindness and selfishness will not easily embrace, let alone demand, integrity, honesty, decency of our politicians; such sentiments, while noble, belong to another era and evidently have no place in today’s world. It’s much easier and more appealing to embrace ignorance, intolerance and fearmongering than having to actually think: hysteria and bigotry wins. Add to that mix the Conservative lie of sound fiscal management…. well, stupidity wins…by a landslide. This is false advertising and a form of theft; it may be legal, but it’s wrong. Canadians who have been ripped off by good ole’ Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are also having their pockets picked by Stephen Harper and his gang. Yet not a peep from those who believe civil servants are overpaid and underworked.

But God help you if you’re a single parent or the sole, low-income earner.

So then, whose fault is it really? A corrupt government that attempts to rig elections, that spreads the lies, that appropriates for itself tax dollars for propaganda purposes and resorts to bribery of an indifferent, sleeping populace easily distracted and satisfied with cheap, shiny promises while the wealthy, Harper’s business friends and cronies, benefit even more thanks to the largesse of Conservatives depleting the public purse on their behalf for their votes and the promise of job creation? Job creation? So, where are the jobs? For Harper, there is no greater demonstration of love for such folk than cutting taxes, cutting services and sacrificing union workers while also working with Big Business to suppress Canadian wages with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. And, if you have an offshore account, even better for you. He loves you so much that he believes you should be able to swim in our money in your offshore accounts without having to worry about the taxman coming after you. He has cut 3,000 jobs from the Canada Revenue agency: there’s no one to chase you, the money you stole from the Canadian purse is all yours! But, not to fret, he is going after those nuisance left-wing charities none of you like. The Fraser Institute is safe as are others of its ilk. The million or two he saves by taking on these leftie charities that promote family planning and affordable daycare and shelter for the homeless will be enough to appease the wingnut Conservatives. The best thing of all is that Harper will then offer taxpayer-funded ads telling us all how he has saved our dollars!

So, as Harper regales us with tales of money saved and dire warnings of terrorists targeting Canada and Canadians and of murderers on every street and of laws too lax favouring criminals (by criminals he doesn’t mean those wealthy friends of with offshore accounts or MPs and Senators stiffing taxpayers with bogus expense claims), he also reaches out with both hands, one offering shiny bribes in the way of tax cuts, more jails, longer jail time, and, fingers crossed, the assurances that he, only he and his Conservatives can save us. And the other outstretched hand? Why, it’s picking the public purse; someone has to pay for those Conservative/government ads and it ain’t going to be the Conservative Party.

Are there really that many stupid voters? Is there not a brain in those who support Harper? Does not one of them remember or care that when Harper became prime minister he inherited a surplus of $13 plus billion? Recently Joe Oliver announced that they would have a balanced budget. Where has the money come from, the money suddenly available and thrown about as carelessly and lavishly as champagne at a bacchanal? Remember, just weeks ago, Harper could not even find money for our veterans. Not only has he promised a balanced budget, Harper’s minister has mandated that all future budgets be balanced by law unless during times of war or natural disaster. It’s a gimmick that, if enforced, would severely hamstring future governments. It’s all show and yet some of you out there will buy it. To you I ask this: What the hell’s wrong with you? Where does the money come from? Well, not from corporations paying their fair share. We all talk about wanting honest governance, MPs with integrity and an idea of what ethics mean. We all want improved Healthcare, better roads. None of us believe children should go hungry or be denied a good education. Yet no one wants to pay. I agree, make governments more efficient. A good start is by electing honest politicians who actually do believe we are all part of society and that we must all share the joys as well as the pain and that pandering to special interests are a thing of the past. No. The Harper gang doesn’t care for that sop nor do those who vote for them.

Do you want better for everyone? If you voted for Harper or intend to do so again, clearly not. Under Harper’s governance, Canada has racked up seven successive deficits to a staggering sum. Since 2007 – 2008, the Harper years, the national debt has grown by $650 billion for a total of $1.8 trillion. So much for the myth of the Master Economist. So, how will Harper balance his budget this year? One way, of course, is to overestimate the costs of governance and claim a surplus for money unspent. That’s an old trick one that the public surely must have picked up on by now. Another way is for Harper to sell Canada’s GM shares that came from propping up the auto company to the tune $13.7 billion in taxpayer funding during the 2008 meltdown. The Harper gang recently sold the shares for a return of $10.2 billion. That’s a loss of $3.5 billion. Sound fiscal management? Does this really seem like a man who knows what he’s doing? Finance minister Oliver says the funds from the GM sale will not be needed to help him balance the budget as the numbers were already in place before that. Does anyone really, really, really believe him? If so, why didn’t Harper sell the shares earlier and balance the budget before this?

This is the government that has laid off thousands of public servants, restricted their pay raise and yet accepted for themselves a pay raise of 2.3%. Now wages of MPs and Senators are tied in to settlements reached by private sector companies. It is the secretive, controversial Board of Internal Economy, made up of MPs, which oversees House of Commons administration. The Board of Internal Economy can refuse or accept the wage increase. Not surprising it recommended the wage increase for MPs, an increase that is almost five times that of public servants! Even less surprising, not one of the pigs at the trough rejected the recommendation. But where is the public, those loudmouth Conservatives always whinging about public waste? Where is the rage? Not a peep. Probably too busy planning how to spend the windfall coming their way or, if among the less fortunate, a single parent and low income earner, too busy juggling two or more jobs. Families of children under six will receive an additional $60 for a total of $160 as of January 1st of this year while those with children ages 6 to 17 will receive a new benefit of $60 a month per child. However, the $60 increases will be held back until July 1 when all families will receive a retroactive payment of $420 per child, just three months before the October 19 election. Perhaps this gives a clue to the public silence regarding MP pay raises and the silence regarding the shabby treatment of public servants, workers who really keep governments working. Apparently, as long as families with kids get their share, they couldn’t care less about politicians picking their pockets and treating civil servants like trash. Pigs don’t care what the farmer does as long as they get their share.

But what about those childcare benefits? Who really gains? Well, Harper if he has his way, and he will, and those families who really don’t need it. Recently, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report saying that over half of the money Ottawa will spend towards child care will go to families with little or no child-care costs. That’s Harper for you, always there to help those who already have. Over the years, costs for child benefits rose as follows: 2006 – $600 million; 2013 – $3.3 billion; 2015 – $7.7 billion. Under Harper, 51% of the benefits will go to families who have no childcare costs. Those with children over 13 years of age “will receive nearly eight times the amount they spend on caring for their offspring” (Tom Parry, CBC News, March 31, 2015).

WHAT JOB CUTS?

That families who really don’t need this money will receive these breaks largely at the expense service and public servant job losses apparently troubles them and the Harper gang not at all. Harper knows everyone hates public servants (“deadwood” to Tony Clement who, in 2010, dipped in the trough for a $50 million slush fund for his riding) – until they need them. So families with teenagers will earn money for children who incur no costs while those from poorer families unable to afford daycare will continue to be left out of the equation. Nothing changes for single-parent families, for the poor, the homeless, or the mentally ill. They are short-changed. Again.

Nothing illustrates the inequality more vividly than Harper’s slightly altered income-splitting program that Parliamentary Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, says will cost Canadians $2.2 billion federally and $1.7 billion provincially. Of that money, those who already have, high- and middle-income earners, that’s about 15%, will get the lion’s share and the rest, 85% of households, very little while those at the bottom of the income scale will experience “near zero” benefit, about 1/6th of those in the upper bracket. The wealthy will get an additional $2000. But it’s unlikely this will negatively impact Harper and gang this upcoming election.

One way they will get the balanced budget has been through job cuts of public sector workers. But is this what we want or need? I guess so if you plan to vote the Harper in again. In 2008, twenty-three Canadian consumers of Maple Leaf products died as a result of Listeriosis. The Harper government had cut services to many governmental agencies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Of that tragedy, the agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz quipped, “This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.” Nice. Since that terrible event, the Harper gang have made claims to improving the system. Really? The Conservatives boast of having hired more food inspectors. So what, if true? In 2012, four years after Maple Leaf, the Alberta plant owned by XL Foods, sent out meat tainted with E. coli and were not notified by CFIA for two weeks. In fact, it was American border agents who caught the tainted meat, which, up to that time, resulted in the largest recall of bad meat in Canadian history. Just recently, a BC meat processing plant, Meadow Valley Meats, was charged with 11 counts of selling meat unfit for human consumption and covering it up in 2011. The company pleaded guilty of one count of selling meat with E. coli. It received a fine. It should have been closed. In December of last year, 31,000 pounds of meat shipped by the Cargill plant in Calgary for Walmart was recalled. According to CBC News James Cudmore (Dec. 14, 2014), it was not CFIA that discovered the tainted me but an obscure federally run public health program, FoodNet Canada. Hiring more “food inspectors” do nothing to enhance product safety when this government deregulates food processing so that the role of food inspector has become diminished to that of rubber-stamper for in-house testing by food producers.

On March 31 of this year, Canadian Food Inspectors have spoken up saying that the government promise to improve food inspections is a fiction; the reverse has happened. They also claim that meat shipped to American is getting preferential treatment over that of meat for Canadian consumers. In fact, the government has rolled back any improvements (very few) that did take place after 2008 with job cuts and by increasing the workload of food inspections. This is not news. This government has worked at undermining the CFIA and Health Canada for years going so far as to fire staff daring to voice their concerns. This government continues to lie about the problems with CFIA and, it appears, the public simply doesn’t care or get it: the Harper gang worries less about public consumer health than they do about the health of Corporate Canada. Where is the rage? How many more will die before Canadians wake up and consign this filthy gang to the trash can of history? Ritz is still the minister of agriculture and is the minister overseeing the sale of the Canada Wheat Board, which, to some, has an estimated value of a billion dollars, and yet a 51% share is being sold to G3 a venture of food company Bunge Ltd., an American company, and Global Grain Group a Saudi company. That’s an interesting choice considering that Canada’s oil is ethical (as opposed to Saudi oil) but the Saudi consortium can own over half of the resources, resources that were paid for by Canadian famers, for $250 million. Yeah, once again Harper and gang betray the interests of Canadians for that of corporate bargain hunters.

IT’S NOT BETRAYAL; I HAVE THE MAJORITY

Harper’s regime betrays at every turn, not just in the way he changes laws and rams them through with his majority and not just by his many efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills and subvert the electoral process, but also by his attempts to undermine our institutions, in particular the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a government that has no hesitation in pushing the boundaries by creating legislation that is bound to fail when challenged in the Supreme Court. This is no accident by stupid people. These people are not just mean and with an agenda they are also anti-democratic. They have made a mockery of Parliament by refusing to answer questions put to them by opposition members and they have gone out of their way to whip public sentiment against Canada’s highest court and the justice system in general by creating legislation doomed to fail. This allows them to then suggest these failures are proof of an activist, Anti-Conservative Court. That is not true, of course, but to those who support the Harper agenda and who have a tendency to point fingers and blame, who prefer punishment over seeking solutions, the invidious lie is enough, they know, just know, in their gut, that Harper and gang are right, that crime is rampant, murderers are on every street, and guns, only guns and godly Conservatives will save them. So the Conservatives deliberately overreach, hoping some legislation sticks and those that don’t will be attributed to the Supreme Court’s activism. As a result of such deliberate mishandling of legislation, of ignoring experts and opposition members, Harper lost another of many decisions to the courts. This time it was a rejection of his mandatory minimum sentencing for illegal possession of guns. He lost when his government attempted to deny assisted suicides. He lost when the high Court found prostitution laws unconstitutional and ordered him to come up with new legislation. He lost when he attempted to appoint Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. As a result of that verdict, Harper, Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, and the gang engaged in a smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin with the charge of political interference. These are not nice people but it appears with every loss to the Supreme Court the Conservative base willingly swallows the Harper gang’s poisonous lies regarding activist courts.

MY WAR, YOUR RISK

It should surprise no one that Harper has expanded his war against ISIS with little consultation or debate. That is not unusual; he has little to no room for honest, open dialogue and even less desire to reconsider any of his positions especially those regarding his anti-terrorism bill, C-51. What little debate there was resembled something from the plague years of McCarthyism, committee Conservative hacks Diane Ablonczy, Rick Norlock and LeVar Payne, in a shocking demonstration of ignorance and partisanship, ridiculing witnesses, questioning the integrity of those opposing the bill and running the clock so as to forestall questioning by opposition members on the committee. It was cheap shameless disrespectful theatre by Conservatives without even pretence of fairness, gutter ambush by guttersnipes.

When the Harper Conservatives voted to expand the war against ISIL, they evoked the image of “moral clarity”. That is a bit rich coming from a party that has long ago set aside any pretensions to governing with a moral compass. We have had Conservative members forced to resign over questions of expense claims, Dean del Mastro found guilty of election fraud, Conservative workers sent to jail for the robocalls fiasco and the Conservative party paying a fine for breaking election laws. In truth, morality and ethics are strangers to this gang. Even when it comes to training our troops, they must act in secrecy. In this instance it is justified, perhaps, shame playing less a role than possibility of a public backlash, I suspect. The National Post has reported that Blackwater USA, a highly controversial private security force, mercenaries, has been training our troops in Afghanistan. Blackwater USA, with ties going back to the Bush administration, played a role in the killings of civilians in Iraq in 2007. Of the four charged and found guilty, one received a life sentence and three 30 years each. This linkage of Canadian troops to mercenaries was new to me but not surprising; nothing surprises me with this gang. If the devil were a businessman, Harper would happily consort with him. He’s already dirtied his hands by doing business with despots and murderers. If one is pro-business, it doesn’t matter his crimes, Harper turns a blind eye. He refuses to see. Or to care.

I am disheartened by the public willingness to ignore the dirty tricks, the scandals, the lies, the bad governance, the fomenting of hysteria and intolerance. Where is the public outrage as the Harper gang spreads the poisonous filth of fear and bigotry that borders on Islamophobia? I’m an old man and remember a time when people took an interest. It seems with the Internet and selfies a whole generation has drifted into casual indifference to the world around them. God help them when they wake up.

On March 24, when Harper put forward his proposal to extend the war against ISIS for another year, he did not rule out the possibility of feet on the ground in Syria as well. “Self-defence” he offers as justification. That stretches credulity because untrue; Canada has not been a direct target of ISIS. The Liberals, originally supportive of the war, says it will not support this expansion. The NDP has been opposed all along saying the government has been less than truthful and have no exit strategy. Undeterred, Harper and gang still evoke the images of terror and have no issue with outright lying to make their point.

Take Defence Minister Jason Kenney, for instance. A while back, he used his government’s letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party. He was untrustworthy then. Today, as he continues to defend his government’s role, he continues to prove himself completely untrustworthy as minister, spokesman, or witness, sending out photos of chained women that were, in reality, recreations of historical events or, as the case with one depicting a child bride, hands tied, which was proven to be a fake. He’s the fellow who tweeted Cirillo’s death even before the military learned of it. Critics have referred to these as “missteps”. Generous considering the frequency and eagerness of his use of twitter to inflame public sentiment with such nasty surprises. He is a partisan attention seeker, nothing wrong in that if you like bombast and hot air, but there is when he smears opponents by innuendo as when he forwarded a letter to Sun Media, a shrill Conservative fan base, using his Parliamentary email to suggest Justin Trudeau supported religious extremists by his visiting of a mosque in Montreal in 2011 that the New York Times had claimed in an article to have been linked by the military to al-Qaida. None of the Conservatives who picked up the story, including Harper, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and anyone in the PMO could work up the decency to tell the whole story, that Trudeau had visited the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque a month before the New York Times story ran. Was this just another Jason Kenney misstep? Did no one, not even in the PMO know the mosque was not on the list when Trudeau visited? If not, why are they still in charge? The smear by Kenney was vile and clearly meant to pose an ugly question regarding Trudeau’s loyalty and relationship to terrorists.

During what little debate there was on expanding the war, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, rose to request if she could speak on the issue. Because she does not have full party status, she must have unanimous support to be allowed to speak. A few petty ignoramuses in the Conservative Party shouted “No”, thus denying an elected Member of Parliament the opportunity to be heard on an issue that affects all Canadians. Cheap, very cheap.

TRUST ME, I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Harper is a man leading a party made up of folks without a moral compass, without a shred of decency and without an iota of shame.

As a judge of good character, Harper has proven himself abysmal. And indifferent. It is evident that ethics doesn’t play a role in his thinking when he picks his people and makes decisions.

We have been witness to the debacle resulting from his appointments of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau to the Senate and the unseemly behaviour of Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate Internal Economy Committee whitewashing the Deloitte audit of Mike Duffy after Duffy agreed to repay the money owed for fraudulent claims and which allowed Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, to declare the matter closed.

We also know, though we were led to believe otherwise, it was not Mike Duffy who repaid the money but PMO Chief of Staff at the time, Nigel Wright. We have witnessed the departure of Peter Penashue, called by Harper the greatest MP “ever” from Labrador for illegally accepting corporate donations during his campaign, which he won. We have seen Bev Oda, the forger of a government document, forced to leave after charging, one time too many, expense claims to which she was not entitled. We have witnessed how Shelly Glover and James Bezan fought against Elections Canada by refusing, initially, to submit full and proper claims during their 2011 campaign. Shelly Glover (again) and Leona Aglukkaq, a true model of incompetence, were both caught at separate fundraisers attended by members of the community who stood to gain by decisions made by their departments. Glover, caught on camera, is clearly heard to unhappily exclaim when she saw the media, “What are they doing here?” Mike Sona, a junior staffer, was sentenced to jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. Dean del Mastro was found guilty of election fraud and is facing possible jail time. Mike Duffy is presently facing the courts for ripping off taxpayers for expense claims. Pamela Wallin is also facing possible criminal charges for illegal expense claims. So is Patrick Brazeau. Recently, we have learned that Diane Finley, minister of public works has had her knuckles rapped for breach of ethics in awarding a contract to the Markham Centre for Skills and Independence in 2011. The allegation is she favoured a project backed by a Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn friendly to the Conservatives; this after it was rejected by her own department. For Harper, the fact that Finley did not personally gain was sufficient reason to still support her. Harper did the same with Wallin, claiming in the House, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over a period of time.” For Finley, there will be no consequences because the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, has no power to punish. As we have already seen with the Harper gang, ethics, as most understand it, plays no role. For Harper, ethics is what he and the gang decide is ethical and that includes rigging elections and suppressing votes and imposing anti-terrorism legislation that is so sweeping that every individual who ever voiced a critical thought about this vile gang could, theoretically, be subjected to surveillance, harassment and even arrest.

What is almost amusing is how the gun-loving Conservatives supporters are silent on C-51. In the past, they railed against the Long Gun Registry as a way of spying and “criminalizing” “law-abiding” gun owners. They had their way and Harper scrapped the registry. Now, with a bill that threatens to trample on civil rights and free speech, the gun-worshippers are strangely silent except in their support of Harper.

No, it’s not just Harper and his gang who are hypocrites. But they are more than enough for me.

As for all those who stand up in protest against Bill C-51? A grateful thanks. It’s nice to know that not all have succumbed to the Harper myth.

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

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

HOW STEPHEN HARPER AND ROB FORD CAME TO WRITE MY BLOG

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHY THIS BLOG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer appears to be a resounding: Yes.

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

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

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

ONE MAN’S POISON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30. Harper cited for contempt of Parliament 2011.

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

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

33. – ?

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

THE MORE SINCE JUNE 18TH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People have died for that privilege.

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER: THE PAPER LION

To the surprise of no one, Harper has announced that he would approach the Governor General to prorogue parliament until October. This is mere formality. The GG will go along with whatever Harper seeks and Harper will do as he has done all too frequently in the past: thumb his nose at the democratic process. To some, the sleeping, the brain dead or Tory supporters, who make up both camps, this will be acceptable. A few folks will be incensed, a few will speak out and the rest will shrug, claiming it’s no big deal; it’s been done before.

That is true. Unfortunately, when Harper invokes it, suspicions are naturally aroused. This is the man who, when faced with tough questions regarding budgets, omnibus bills and scandals, resorts to prorogation of Parliament as a matter of routine in the hopes that, with time, out of sight, sound and opposition fury, the public will forget. It’s worked before.

When he finally got his majority, clearly relying on public apathy, a short attention span as well as playing on fears, ignorance and resorting to outright lies, Harper did not hesitate to prove himself the anti-Democrat he is wielding his majority in the way of bullies wielding a club. He not only sneaked in legislation through massive omnibus bills, he satisfied the thirst of his base by scapegoating the poor and helpless, criminalizing those collecting EI, stigmatizing the mentally ill, ignoring supporters of the long-gun registry, and smearing all critics, seeking neither to accommodate nor to consult. Why should he, he has the majority and, as are most bullies, not shy of publicly revealing his petty and vindictive side; as the elected victor, he was typically ungracious, the lout who would never let his enemies forget that he was now the man. And who are his enemies? Why everyone who disagrees with him and his gang.

It’s the same old same old with Harper and his mob, an anti-democratic regime led by a bullying coward who, when riding high in the polls believes himself invincible and imagines himself master of all he surveys. At such moments, in the euphoria of public- and self-love, Harper is king and certainly, in all the world, no finer man to be found. But that is all will-o’-the-wisp, Tory fancy and utter rot; that is not the real man. The real man is the bully who throws his weight around at such moments and in others, in times of crises (robocalls and Senate scandals), thinks nothing of throwing loyalists under buses while he cuts and runs shutting down Parliament as if it were his own personal playhouse. That pending legislation withers and dies because of this means nothing to him. He can always push the reset button. Meanwhile, away from the House, he avoids answering opposition questions and sets his own storyline and plots with his despicable crew how to woo the public once again with the same old refrain of “jobs and the growth” without even a nod towards ethics, integrity, and Democracy. These are side issues and, for Harper and crew, have nothing to do with running a nation.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said of him, “He likes the power but he doesn’t like to govern.” Ain’t that the truth.

But, if Harper is gutless, he is also shameless. When he announced prorogation of Parliament, he was up north enjoying his annual pilgrimage of tokenism. That he made the announcement while away from the capital is typical of him; almost all major announcements are made away from Ottawa where questions are few, limited and all too unsatisfactorily answered (after all, these affairs are meant to be photo ops and the churlish liberal media lickspittle spoilsports appear maliciously intent on marring these good-news love-ins with real issues regarding Senate scandals and prosaic day-to-day governance).

As well as announcing prorogation, Harper reaffirmed his intent to lead the Tories during the next election. Whether he goes or not is immaterial, his replacement will certainly be equally odious having emerged from the same vile swamp that has nurtured Stephen Harper’s corrupted version of Democracy and governance of misrule. Among the contenders are James Moore (past Cultural Minister who appears to dislike culture), Jason Kenney (past Immigration Minister who illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Tories), Tony Clement (president of the Treasury, of the $50 million slush fund and missing $3.1 billion) and the least likely to succeed, sciolist Joe Oliver (and just one of the many ideological Cliff Clavens who make up Harper’s cabinet) who apparently knows more about science, climate, oil and pollution than any disagreeable scientist in the universe who dares challenge this regime.

During the brief five week spring session, Harper made five appearances in the House. One appearance a week. By the time the House will have reconvened in October, over five months will have passed and Harper’s appearances in the House will remain at five.

Is this a way to govern? Whose interests are served by prorogation, by refusing to answer questions, by denying the public the right to hold Harper and his miscreant rabble accountable? Certainly not the public’s. It is of no consequence that others have imposed prorogation of Parliament. What is of consequence is that Harper has all too often resorted to the easy out. In doing so, he has made a mockery of the Democratic process. He really believes that the public will forget and forgive his Party’s numerous attempts to subvert Democracy, that it was he who appointed Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin. and that it was he who broke his word on Senate reform and appointed over half of the senators now sitting.

As a leader of a nation, Stephen Harper is an abysmal failure. He and his party have no great vision. In fact, they have no vision at all. Instead, they appear to be infused with hubris for which there is no basis unless the arrogance and smugness of his majority are rated virtues. Power is all that matters but in the hands of a weak, frightened person, that power can be dangerous. Harper is such a person. He is weak; we see it in how he uses and abuses his majority. And he is frightened. We know this, too, by how he regards all opposition with suspicion and fear. Those who oppose him are seen as the enemy. And because he is weak and frightened, Harper and his crew are willing to pander to the worst in us because they actually believe that all of us are like them: venal, petty, self-interested. Many of us are, but not all.

Harper and his gang are quick to point to the motes in the eyes of others, but find intolerable the thought that they may be similarly afflicted. They are good and perfect and I have no doubt they truly believe that. Perhaps that is why they are so afraid of facing questions and challenges. Harper and his gang have no interest in serving the interests of the nation nor of all its people. They would, however, happily sell themselves to special interests and they have. They equate Capitalism with Democracy. In truth, Democracy doesn’t much interest them any more than the plight of the homeless. Money does. Power does.

Prorogation may be a legitimate tool in governance. However, when Harper resorts to it, it is just another abuse of power by a weak, frightened man.

He and his party have no business leading this country. And, right now, they aren’t.

HARPER, THE TFWP, AND WINDOW DRESSING

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On April 29, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney flanked by Kellie Leitch, Human Resources Parliamentary Secretary and obnoxious CBC Power and Politics regular, announced changes to the outrageous and deeply flawed Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). While it is dropping the contentious 15% wage differential rule that allowed Canadian firms to hire foreign workers at a wage rate of 15% less than Canadian workers, it’s the backpedaling and revisionist maneuverings of Kenney and Leitch that most offends. As noted in previous entries (Workers And Harper’s Shame; Harper: The Worker’s Enemy), the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) as touted by this regime was meant to quickly meet the demands of of business for high skilled workers. As further noted, that didn’t happen, instead companies such as Tim Horton and Burger King, skirted the rules to hire foreign workers in the place of Canadian workers for jobs that, while respectable, hardly require specialized skills.

Said Kenney at the news conference announcing the change, “We are concerned about examples of the program not being used as intended.” No fooling! He continued to say, “Canadians must always have the first crack at available jobs in our economy.”

Words are easy and from the minister’s mouth, cheap and empty. The “concern” expressed by Kenney stretches credulity coming as it does only at the heels of public outrage when news leaked out that RBC employees, Canadian workers by the way, were training TFW to do their jobs for outsourcing. Also stretching credulity is the pretence that this government could not have foreseen the abuses that would ensue. Who, with a modicum of intelligence, could really believe that? Kenney’s statement, however, does indicate the mindset of Harper and his gang: Big Businesses is always honourable, always trustworthy, would never circumvent the rules, and would never, never do anything that was questionable or illegal cross their collective greedy hearts and hope to die.

Of course, that kind of blind faith is nonsensical wishful magical thinking based on pro-business, free enterprise ideology that has absolutely no basis in reality. No business worth its salt would ignore the opportunity to hire workers at cut-rate wages especially if that opportunity appears to be government sanctioned as the TFWP clearly was. Harper and gang know this. Their interest is not the welfare of workers, but of Big Business. And we know that.

 While I detest Harper and gang, while I believe them untrustworthy, malign and vicious, I would not say that they are, by and large, unintelligent, but I do believe more than a few wilfully ignorant, naturally ignorant and/or, several come to mind, downright stupid. Neither Kenney nor Leitch approach that as far as I can determine. Which suggests to me that the above statement by Kenney was disingenuous at best. The TFW program, as initiated by this government, made it all but a certainty that abuses would occur, that jobs would be outsourced, Canadian workers displaced, and wages deflated. Harper and gang had, in effect, given Corporate Canada the green light to exploit foreign workers with the goal of undermining Canadian workers, especially Canadian union workers.

When I wrote the entry, Workers and Harper’s Shame (April 12, 2013), I suggested Harper’s gang would make changes. I also stated the changes would be window dressing. Unfortunately, it appears I and others who predicted the same, are right; the changes have been announced but, as yet, the government clearly has in place no plan to oversee, investigate and punish those who circumvent the rules.

 You’ve got to love free enterprisers.

THE MISSING 3.1 BILLION

Today, in releasing the spring audit, Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, revealed that 3.1 billion of the anti-terrorist fund was unaccounted for. Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, commented on it basically saying we had nothing to worry about, that this was  merely an accounting issue. Really?

It is fitting, and interesting, that the President of the Treasury Board should speak on this because he most certainly could account for $50 million of the unaccounted for money. During the G8 & G20 conferences, it was Tony Clement who set aside that amount to create a slush fund for his riding. We know some of that went to a fake lake and a gazebo. For all we know, this government might have allowed similar diversions in other areas. If so, Canadians deserve a full accounting from this regime, a government that has managed to hoodwink voters into believing that, when it comes to taxpayer monies, they know what they are doing. Really?

The Auditor General further revealed that there were other major concerns and, from what was released, it is evident that Harper and gang haven’t as firm a grip on the budget and finances as they would have us believe. For one, Search and Rescue is in critical need of upgrading. If you’re on the East Coast just don’t ask for help after 4:00 pm. Of the taxes owed to the government, $29 billion is uncollected. Last year, over $2 billion was “forgiven” by this government. Well isn’t that nice. As well, Michael Ferguson revealed that $295 million was in overpayments to employment insurance. This from the government that has a grasp of our finances? Oh, really.

That this bit of joy came out on the day taxes are due must certainly give taxpayers reason to pause, reflect, and store until next election. Hopefully they’ll remember to vote Harper and gang out of office – for good.  

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