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STEPHEN AND JUSTIN: BILL C-51, OPPORTUNISM AND SUBMISSION IN THE AGE OF FEAR

A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterwards. – John Paul Richter

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his convictions. – Robert G. Ingersoll

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April, 2013, some sneered at the Liberals dismissing their choice merely as a shallow, photogenic youngster, inexperienced and riding on the coattails of his father’s name. For the Liberals, however, that was enough: they had a winner and they knew it.

The goal, of course, is to attract new, younger voters to the Liberal fold. In the age of superficiality, of selfies and narcissism, it was hardly necessary that those drawn to the Liberals be particularly knowledgeable; the draw was all that mattered, someone young, handsome, articulate, and charismatic: he was one of them, he understood them, he knew where they were coming from: besides, he was cute, had great hair, and had won much admiration for defeating the brash, handsome, controversial Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, in a charity boxing match when the odds had the senator wiping the floor with the lanky Liberal MP. Too, it did not hurt that his deceased father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Liberal and Prime Minister, larger than life and polarizing at the time, was still enough of a draw to earn some support from the elderly, those who harken back to the days of the late 60s and 70s and early 80s through the prism of nostalgia: memories not of what was but rather of what should have been. Compelling, charming, abrasive, intellectual, dashing, reckless, Trudeau père had married a vivacious, slightly insecure, and much younger woman, perhaps not quite up to his intellectual capabilities, but she was beautiful, endearing, fun loving, and naïve if a bit reckless and self-destructive. They had three children, all boys, the perfect family if briefly with it’s share of grief, a disintegrating marriage and later the death of the youngest at 23. It is not surprising that among Liberal supporters today, women outnumber the men.

Unfortunately, memory is an unreliable friend, the Trudeau era no Camelot. While it is true Pierre Trudeau gave us the Canada Act which included the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, we also had the FLQ and the October Crisis in1970 that clearly delineated a leader who, in the name of public security, squandered his reputation as a lifelong advocate of civil rights by placing the nation in lockdown with the imposition of the War Measures Act. The following excerpt of a seven-minute exchange with CBC’s Tim Rafe did nothing to help:

Trudeau: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is ‘go on and bleed’ but it’s more important to keep law and order than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of…”

Rafe: “At any cost, any price? How far would you go? To what extent?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.” (CBC Digital Archive)

It looked good to the timid, easily swayed and easily frightened, showcasing a leader at his best and worst and who was prepared to act decisively and at any cost. But not all were impressed. Imposition of the Act was akin was akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut” quipped NDP leader Tommy Douglas

So here we are 44 and 45 years later, this time with the Conservatives leading the government and another Trudeau leading the Liberal party. Again, to hear how Harper and his gang tell it, Canada is besieged, in crisis, its citizens in direct danger not just because of the lickspittle, anti-Conservative media or an “activist” (i.e., anti-Conservative) Supreme Court, and not just from the murderers and mad dogs roaming our streets: terrorists are everywhere and they are pounding on Canada’s doors. Those who downplay those fears as alarmist and extreme urging caution in how we react are dismissed with innuendo their loyalty questioned.

It should surprise no one that a government, particularly one as secretive, mean-spirited and anti-democratic as this one, would play to our nightmares and appeal to our bigotry during its slumping fortunes. It’s been done before. But how far is Harper willing to go?

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

Long before ISIL entered the scene, Harper and his party have proven themselves quite willing to label critics in the environmental movement as radicals, stooges for foreign interests. Government employees have been fired, threatened with jail time, stonewalled, smeared, their reputations tarnished and medical records leaked. We have Conservative McCarthyite Mark Adler offering a bill that would require employees of watchdog agencies to swear loyalty oaths; employment will no longer be based on merit but on which political party you supported, or worked for years ago. If that passes, cronyism as played by Peter MacKay will be commonplace and accepted practice. But of what is this government afraid that it works to deceive Canadians by means of such dirty tricks, the frequent attempts to slip in spying legislation into omnibus bills and, when caught, hurling charges accusing critics of “siding with pornographers”.

Crime has always been a good bet for Conservatives, always eager to feed the fears, ignore the facts, and give the public what it wants: punish, punish, punish, one size fits all. The world is dangerous, full of bad guys and no one is redeemable except, perhaps, those Conservatives who subvert electoral rules, hold secret, illegal, fundraising events and pad their expenses.

But these days, even get-tough-on-crime measures aren’t enough. So thank God for ISIL and those horrific images of mass slaughters and videos of beheadings and a burning offering Harper and his Conservatives glimmerings of how they could reverse their sliding fortunes in time for the next election. Without debate, discussion or consultation, Harper joins coalition forces and involves Canada in the war in Iraq with the promise Canadian soldiers would play strictly advisory and support roles. The public approved, his fortunes immediately rose. Where was the downside in joining the forces of good to stop those Islamic monsters?

But, if the boost wasn’t as much as Harper expected or wanted, the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent shortly after allowed him to quickly frame the narrative and raise the spectre of terrorism. The death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill two days later, in a separate incident, was a godsend lending credence to the speculation and giving him an extra bounce after Canadians watched events unfold on Parliament Hill on television while media wildly fuelled speculation about the number of gunmen and victims. The initial confusion and reaction is understandable. However, Harper’s exploitation of the tragedies, working up hysteria to win public support for new, draconian, anti-terrorism legislation for his own political ends, is not.

And if all this helped Harper, the war, the deaths of two fine men, how much more could he have gained if, when reports came out of Canadian soldiers engaging ISIL in combat, one or two Canadian casualties were added. He could throw that into the campaign speeches he’s been giving across the country for an election yet to be declared, evoking jihadists with every other word and having us imagine the rest: bloodthirsty savages slathering at our doors wielding bloodied knives and leaving behind a trail of headless corpses. Still, even without dead Canadian soldiers in Iraq, he’s doing well. Almost daily we hear reports of more arrests, of plots foiled. My God, we are under siege!

So it’s working, this pandering to our fears and emotions, providing impetus for Harper’s Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorist legislation, with no public blowback and with little to no resistance from the opposition, particularly the Trudeau Liberals who have promised to vote for the bill regardless of its shortcomings. When the bill passes, and it will, CSIS will be given broader powers without any parliamentary oversight. Harper doesn’t trust the opposition members we elect and do. In fact, oversight will be almost none existent, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an “independent” government agency empowered to investigate and review CSIS, has proven itself ineffective, it’s members government hack appointees and itself prone to controversy with chairs Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, forced to resign in 2014 for lobbying activities and Arthur Porter (2008-2011), facing charges for fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, receiving secret commissions, and money laundering while also in the role of director general for McGill University Health Centre.

The bill is dangerous with real potential for abuse. So why is Justin Trudeau so eager to sign off on it? There are no terms of reference. Who defines what makes a terrorist or a criminal act. The Act prohibits “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism. But how are these terms defined? As Terry Glavin pointed out (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 12, 2015), C-51 is not just about terrorism. Unions and activists will almost certainly be targeted, as they have been, if their actions have a negative economic impact, as when a union strikes or environmentalists set up roadblocks. Would these be deemed acts of terrorism? Almost certainly with this government. Bill C-51 grants CSIS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without warrant and for longer periods, allows CSIS to shut down Internet access of whomever it deems a threat, and denies accused individuals the opportunity of facing their accusers. This is not a bill for a free democracy but for a nation governed by an iron fisted despot.

Is this what Trudeau is willing to sign off on? How far is he willing to let Harper go?

SPY VS. CITIZEN

It’s easy to understand Harper’s motive for putting this forward. He is a demagogue, he is anti-democratic, his is the interest of corporate kleptocracy not the fair and just society that Pierre Trudeau talked about and then abandoned when it suited his needs.

As I stated many times, Harper and his gang are not above smearing their opponents. In trying to rally voters to his side, in whipping up the vision of terrorists banging on our doors, no one should be surprised that Harper resorts to planting the seed of the big, insidious and invidious lie: those who do not support him are against him. By itself, if used only in the rhetoric of campaigning, one party against another party, that may not seem so bad. But when used in the context of war, terrorism and electioneering for the purpose of stigmatizing opponents, of casting doubts to their loyalty, it becomes a weapon of potent danger. Only someone small, vicious, and corrupt would impugn another’s name and honour by questioning his loyalty, doubting his patriotism and by suggesting he supports the enemy in the full knowledge that it is not true simply to score cheap political points. Harper and gang are doing it now. Even as recently as today (February 17th), Harper was sowing division when, in a French-language interview, he said many employees of CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada, “hated” Conservative values. If by that he means his values, he may be right; I know I loathe them. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are swallowing that Harper poison. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and it’s destructive not just to the individual affected but also to society at large.

But how does one respond to the vicious smears, the innuendoes and the politics of division when there is always a whole population of the ignorant, bigoted and plain stupid ready to drink from the tainted Harper well?

A federal court recently ruled that Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim, should be allowed to wear her niqab while taking the oath of citizenship. Harper’s response before a gathering of faithful dolts was swift appealing to the lowest aspect of our nature. “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. This is a society that is transparent, open and people are equal.” It was a vicious statement, one of division and intolerance, meant to inflame, to isolate and to stigmatize the woman and her community by suggesting with the use of the word “hide” that there was a more sinister aspect behind her desire to wear the niqab. The niqab and burkha are not religious requirements but some Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an’s admonition for modesty as such. However, Zunera Ishaq stated she was quite willing to unveil herself before a government official but not to be unmasked in public. This should satisfy us. Not so for Harper. He must plant that vile seed of mistrust and suspicion. Personally, I would prefer to see the face of my fellow citizens and would wish newcomers embrace our mores. But I have family members who are unhappy that I wear T-shirts only instead of buttoned shirts, even at family celebrations and funerals. That Zunera Ishaq prefers to wear a niqab makes her no more suspect than wearing a T-shirt makes me a redneck. As well, the last part of the statement caused me to smile. Harper’s regime is as closed, secretive, distrustful, petty and vengeful as any tinpot dictator’s. He has invoked closure, refused to consult with opposition members, attempted to slip laws into omnibus bills, subverted electoral laws, engaged in cronyism, and thrown those no longer useful to him under the bus. As for being equal…tell that to the single parent who may want to know why she or he has been left out in the cold while the well-off become even richer by an extra $2,000 thanks to Harper’s income splitting bill. Tell that to the Canadian worker who has been replaced by a foreign worker thanks to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or to the low income earners whose wages have been suppressed as a result of the united efforts of Harper’s gang and big business.

The storyline Harper has framed is deeply disturbing. It does him no credit and it does Trudeau no credit when he appears to buy into it.

What has happened to the Liberal Party? Well, nothing really. It’s the same ole’ same ole’ not the new and better Justin promised. As has Harper, Trudeau has proven himself as venal as any cheap politician though, as one wit noted, there is no such thing as a cheap politician.

So it’s a tossup with the voters who cannot seem to count above two: Conservatives or Liberals, Liberals or Conservatives. It is as if the two parties, with public consent, really do believe they are entitled to rule by divine right. To the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP as official opposition is merely an aberration so they work together in the secretive Board of Internal Economy to temporarily change the rules in hopes of financially destroying the NDP for engaging in what they all do with taxpayer funded mailouts.

BACK TO THE WHIZ KID AND HIS STORY OF NEW LOVE, ETC.

So what do Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have to offer that is new and different from Harper and his gang?

Well, very little, as it turns out.

In August of last year, he said, “A Liberal government will ensure that every Canadian is included….My vision is for a strong, united Canada and for a strong, respectful government.” We’ve heard that speech before. “Inclusion”, “openness”, “transparency”, “honesty”, are the buzzwords. And that’s the problem, they’re just buzzwords. After almost ten years of governance, suffused with an inflated image of himself as an economic mastermind, Harper has long ago proven himself a failure in every way. Integrity? None. Honesty? None. Openness? Nope. Truthful? Economic genius? Who is kidding whom?

Early in his term, we saw how it would be with Trudeau. He spent more time working the crowd than working in the House. Except for Elizabeth May, who does not get to ask questions in the House every day, none of the leaders have a stellar record of attendance during question period, “once considered a crucible of democratic debate in Canada, but now increasingly heavily scripted political theatre” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 30, 2014). Of 125 question period sessions in 2014, Thomas Mulcair attended 74, while Trudeau, with 49 appearances vied with Harper’s 46 in the race to trivialize and diminish Parliament. On that basis alone, there is no reason to vote for either Harper or Trudeau. For the record, May’s attendance was 100 out of 125 question period sessions.

In January of 2014, Trudeau boldly booted 32 Liberal senators from his caucus. The move came in the wake of the Senate scandals and while clever and unexpected, was perhaps meant more to show that Trudeau, young and inexperienced as he was, could be as decisive and brutal as anyone when necessary. But what did it accomplish? If the ploy was to eliminate partisanship in the Senate, what did it do for the House? How do you tell a life-long believer and member he is no longer a Liberal? Just as easy order a member of Harper’s gang to develop ethics.

And while he has proven himself as adapt as Harper in flexing his muscles, can Trudeau really be trusted to keep to his promises? Well…no. Remember his much ballyhooed open, free from political interference nominations promise? That proved a bust from the start with allegations of Trudeau publicly supporting some nominees and blocking others, of changing rules and membership cutoff dates behind closed doors. New, different, better? Hardly.

So, if quite not all he promised, if slow in unveiling some of his platform and less than open in some of his actions, it is true he still has a way to go in matching Harper in pettiness, ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and hypocrisy; that will likely come with time, the hardness and meanness, though I do not really believe Trudeau will ever develop the taste Harper has for wallowing in the sewer. Even so, Trudeau has shown himself able to surprise and, in doing so, of occasionally being remarkably reckless and as opportunistic as any old pro when, as recently as February 9, he made an appearance at a news conference with Eve Adams trailing behind him. Was this a joke? Apparently not. It did, however, elicit as much conversation as John Baird’s sudden departure a few days earlier. What was Trudeau thinking?

The loss of Baird, capable, partisan, and adroit as he was, is certainly more significant for Harper than that of Adams but the damage to Trudeau in embracing the defector may be greater. Which may explain why the Conservatives are still rubbing their hands and smiling. Not only had they rid themselves of a troublesome and toxic MP, Trudeau had, in welcoming her to his party, proved himself truly lacking in judgement. If he had failed to recognize the move by Adams for what it was, the last desperate gasp to salvage her political career and fulfill her personal ambitions, other Liberals did. If he had been under the perception he had made a coup, it is not all that surprising Trudeau would spring Adam’s defection before a clearly shocked media; what was surprising is that he would also spring it on his own supporters. It quickly became apparent that only a few members of his inner circle knew about Adams’s sudden conversion to the Liberal fold. Had more been informed, Trudeau may have been persuaded to withdraw the welcome mat thus saving him from embarrassment over the unseemly show. His failure to understand she was no great prize, certainly not of the calibre of John Baird, and that she had nothing to offer, in fact, might prove a liability, poses a real problem for him and the Liberal Party. How could he not see that Adams, by her own reckoning “25 years a ‘progressive’ conservative’”, was not a good fit for his goal of rebranding the Liberals as united, inclusive, honest, open and transparent? Had the ambitious Adams snookered an opportunistic Trudeau? Maybe. Other than baggage, what does she bring? More than one reference has been made of her telegenic looks. Is that the sum of her gifts? Well, turn about is fair play; the same has been said of Trudeau. I can just see it, Trudeau on the hustings, smugly offering platitudes while the cameras frantically shift from Adams to Trudeau to Adams ad nauseam: who cares about substance when you’ve got all that beauty? But, really, did Trudeau even pause to reflect?

Just days before her defection, she stood in the House staunchly defending the government in her role as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Yet, as she and Trudeau sat side-by-side facing the media, she was able to claim without offering so much as a smirk that, “after a long and very difficult period of reflection” she could no longer support Harper’s “divisive”, “mean-spirited” leadership. It was enough to make one cringe. She also wanted to “better the lives of all Canadians.” Well, one Canadian in particular. “We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions shared vision for how to made Canada work for anyone,” she went on to say. Of income splitting, she had these words, “As a government, we were given a tremendous opportunity with the purported surplus to do right by folks. Instead the government is still about to roll out policies like income splitting which will devour the surplus without benefiting most Canadian families or creating a single job….I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few.” As if this was news to her! Yet, in December 2014, she was loudly and extravagantly praising income splitting in the House, calling it a “simple, time-tested plan” and suggesting that all families would be better off.

Which is the real Eve Adams? I guess the phoney one.

But it is for her achievements outside of the House for which she has drawn most attention and which should have given Trudeau reason to pause if her 25 years as a Conservative wasn’t reason enough. During the 2011 election, Adams attempted to claim $2,777 in personal expenses including spa treatments and dry-cleaning costs. In December of 2013, she was caught on camera blocking cars at the pumps of an Ottawa Esso station throwing a hissy fit over a $6 carwash. There were allegations of misconduct against her and fiancé Dimitri Soudas with accusations they had paid for party memberships to build support for her nomination bid for the new federal riding of Oakville-North Burlington. As well, Soudas, a confidant of Harper’s and executive director in the PMO, was ordered by Harper not to interfere in Adams’s campaign. He did and was fired. In March of 2014, Adams angered a crowd of Conservatives attending a board meeting in the Oakville-North Burlington riding. She was asked to leave, she refused, more angry words before she finally left. When the Conservative Party finally cleared her to run in the riding, the party was forced to put a halt to the nomination process in order to investigate claims of dirty tactics by Adams and her opponent, Natalia Lishchyna. Due to an injury, which resulted in a concussion, Adams withdrew from the race in August. On February 9th 2015, Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberals. During the public unveiling, Adams neglected to reveal that, two weeks before, the Conservatives had informed her by letter she would not be allowed to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party. That was fine, the Conservatives were eager to help with that bit of news.

This is a woman of ambition who clearly feels entitled and doesn’t mind the perks while riding on the taxpayer dime. So what was the upside for Trudeau except to claim that he had poached a member from the Harper gang, a member who was already on the way out? This had all the hallmarks of gamesmanship as some have posited, nothing new, nothing different, certainly nothing better.

Now Adams had declared her intention to run against finance minister Joe Oliver in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. She would have to prove herself by “earning” the nomination in a process that would be free and open, Trudeau said. He said the same before and broke the promise in three other races. If Trudeau places a thumb on the scale in Adams favour, it could do irreparable harm to him with his own base. Some Liberals in the riding are already extremely unhappy with the idea of a parachute candidate and have made it clear they did not want nor would they support Adams. Is the risk of alienating lifelong Liberals worth it? Yes, if Adams turns giant killer by defeating Joe Oliver. But then Trudeau would be stuck with her, her overweening ambition and overwhelming sense of entitlement. If she lost, well, that’s one problem and one gigantic headache removed. But, what of the bitter aftertaste for those loyal, ignored, Liberals, Trudeau doing what all leaders apparently do all too often, opt for the expedience of one-upmanship, the cheap and easy short-term gain, lofty words and principles tossed aside for the photo-op, the telegenic booby prize. The same ole’ same ole’.

But it could be that Soudas, not Adams, is the real draw. As a close confidant of many years to Harper and as an insider in the PMO, he doubtlessly could provide much insight of Conservative strategy. But then, could he be trusted? Unlikely. He is poison, his career as a political insider surely over. And, if he did it all for love as some have suggested, even more foolish. If Adams loses, will true love conquer all?

While I have absolute contempt for the anti-democratic Harper and his Conservatives, with their anti-unionist/anti-worker/pro-business stance and would never, ever, vote for them, it is not to Justin Trudeau or the Liberals I would turn. I see too much in both that suggest they are brothers in spirit. Both will say and do anything to win the upper hand even sacrificing many traditional values that differentiates the parties. At one time the Liberal Party was proud to declare itself progressive, which suggested some support for individual rights and freedoms, for social and political reform. But that is gone by the wayside, winning and power the end game. Harper and Trudeau are two faces on the same coin and that is an unhappy thought. Interfering in riding association’s nominations and embracing Eve Adams and just two examples of Trudeau’s profound lack of judgement, blatant duplicity, and shameless equivocal scruples.

Yet it is his declared intention to support Bill C-51 that is most offensive and puts the lie to the Liberal brand of old. His father did the same. Trudeau has surrendered to Harper and his gang to such an extent that he has allowed Harper to define him. At least Pierre Trudeau was his own man. We do not need more anti-crime, anti-terrorist legislation. We do not need a police state. But that is what we will end with if Harper continues as he has and refuses to allow for parliamentary oversight and amendments to the bill. Of all the leaders, Elizabeth May, as of this writing, has been the only voice foursquare opposed to C-51. For that, I applaud her. The bill is vile, it is dangerous, it is contemptible. Those who support it are opportunists, stooges, and/or cowards. The new bill will almost certainly result in abuses and be taken to the highest court and likely struck down.

Trudeau says he will support the anti-terrorist bill. The NDP appears to be leaning against support but have yet to declare themselves decisively. I hope they do vote against it. It will pass, regardless, thanks to the Conservative majority, but I would hope there are some politicians who will see this bill for what it is and find a bit of backbone.

Those who oppose Bill C-51 are soft on terrorists. That will be the Harper spin and some will buy it. It will not be true, of course. Only a simpleton would believe that.

Any politician, and I mean any, who supports C-51 out of fear that voters will buy into the Harper narrative has already lost; they have allowed Harper to define and shape them. They will not have my vote but they will have earned my contempt.

Andrew Jackson said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

Think of that. Where do you stand? What kind of person are you?

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE VOTER IN THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE: THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

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

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

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

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

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

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harper and gang have a lot for which to answer.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SECRET COURT AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are few sinners as interesting as hypocrites.

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

THEY SIMPER, SHY AWAY AND PLEAD IGNORANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

 

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