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THE CORPORATION AND TRUDEAU’S LIBERALS: THE BETRAYAL OF PROMISE AND THE RETURN OF THE ERA OF ENTITLEMENT

 

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire

The aim is not more goods for people to buy, but more opportunities for them to live. – Lewis Mumford

Frank Pelaschuk

THE OLD

Can our elected politicians be trusted? I do trust them to make and break many grand promises but not with much else; I do not expect perfection of them, but I do expect them to possess the honesty, integrity and the ability to experience shame, as I would expect of my family, my friends and myself. People do make mistakes but making easy promises and breaking them easily and often are not mistakes any more than is lying routinely and with the ease of a con man. Making excuses for every misstep, blaming others for every blunder, and denying our own failings suggest a failure if not lack of character. I prefer to judge and trust a man by what he does rather than what he says and I would hope they the same of me. We see too little of that from our politicians and we still see it in the detritus from the previous Conservative government running for the party leadership most notably from those who continue to pander to the vilest instincts under the guise of Canadian values and security as espoused by the likes of the odious Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney the former minister of public. These are the people who would buy our vote by exploiting our fears and, in the process, encouraging the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance. The cost is too high. They will likely not win the leadership, but they will have infected the political landscape with a rot that will only spread as time goes by. That is probably the best we can expect for some time from that quarter: divisiveness, scapegoating, the scraping of the barrel rather than any hope of elevation and enlightenment. Leitch and Blaney and all of their ilk are bottom feeders best left in the filthy swamp that is their natural habitat.

THE NEW

But times have changed; we have a new, Liberal government with a new, young, charismatic leader and a slew of young, fresh cabinet ministers all swept into office by voters eager for change and eager to believe. We’ve seen this picture before, too many times, change that wasn’t change at all, the same old same old: the revolving door made for two parties only and a vast number of voters left unrepresented in the cold.

Better? Can these mostly new faces be trusted? Are they honest? Have they kept to their promises of openness and transparency? Do these Liberals really stand apart from the Conservatives or are they just as so many of us believe of politicians: little better than those con artists who will woo and dine and win your heart only to break it once they have gained what they want from you?

It is clear that voters can be bought. We swallowed holus bolus all the promises, many of them so excessive and extensive as to stretch the credulity of those calmer folks who have witnessed it all before and stood by the sidelines sadly shaking their heads knowing of the headaches and disappointments that would eventually befall those silly addle heads moved by gleaming surface and hollow hope offered by Trudeau and the Liberals. And if a few of the sceptical fretted wondering if they were doing the right thing, the doubts didn’t last, they allowed themselves to be charmed and bought and gladly gave the Liberals what they wanted. Anything was better than the Harper gang they were told and told themselves.

We live in hope and high expectation and are all too easily swayed by the same tired lines. Things really will be different this time we tell ourselves. And they, the politicians tell us that too. Sunny days, sunny ways are coming. We believe in them because we want to believe in them. But what makes them special, different, more believable better than any other politician. Their youth? The grandeur or extravagance of their promises?

I look at this new bunch and see what I expected but hoped not to see. I didn’t expect to see it as quickly as I did but I see it nevertheless.

We can be bought easily, cheaply and just as easily betrayed. The Conservatives and now the Liberals have demonstrated that time after time. But what of them? Can politicians be as easily and cheaply bought?

Of course they’ll say not. No, not a one of them is for sale. And I’ll believe them as much as I believe in the tooth fairy or that Kevin O’Leary cares about the homeless almost as much as he does about M-O-N-E-Y. I know this: when anyone, especially a politician, justifies a questionable act by claiming, “it’s allowed” and “others have done the same”, I know I’m in the presence of a man or woman I can not trust. In fact, I see a scoundrel. These are people who rely too much on legalese, what they can legally do and get away with seeming not to possess enough in the way of judgement and character to even ask themselves a simple question: Because I can, should I? These are opportunists, the self-enrichers who seek every avenue and seize every opportunity to find benefit in their every deed and word. I do not like such people. I prefer the honest thief; we both know what he is and what our roles are.

Now these people, such as shameless premier Christy Clark, will meet with anyone clutching $5, $10, $20, $30K in their hot hands and swear with eyes crossed that they are not and cannot be bought. That may be true. I don’t know. How can I know when almost all of these meetings are unannounced, are secret, private and often exclusive? We just have to take them at their word. But why should we? When they break promises as easily as they dip into the public till, how can one trust them when it comes to access for pay? We can’t, of course, and we shouldn’t.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould, our justice minister for god sakes, makes the ludicrous assertion that she had attended a fundraising event put on by lawyers not as a justice minister but as an MP, what are we to make of that? The roles of MP and minister are inextricably linked there is no separation. She, backed by Justin Trudeau, then asserted that the conflicts of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, that she was cleared. What a crock. In a letter, the commissioner stated, public office holders “including ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” are allowed “to personally solicit funds if the activity does not place them in a conflict of interest” (Vancouver Sun, Peter O’Neil, April 13, ’16). She has also stated that unless regulations are put into law, she can not enforce them. Bardish Chagger, government House Leader and, I suspect, minister of the newly created department of circular thinking, says legislation is not necessary because there are already rules holding them accountable. Say what? If a private meeting between a justice minister and a babble of lawyers doesn’t make for conflict of interest or, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does? Can the justice minister reasonably expect the public to believe that these lawyers were quite willing to accept that only the MP was in attendance but not the minister of justice? It stretches credulity and cannot be believed by anyone but a dolt.

And then we have other Liberals, newcomers seeming born to the role of skimming from the public trough. We have environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna’s stiffing taxpayers $17K for photographers for 15 events including $6,600 for a private photographer as she attended a Paris climate summit where news photographers were aplenty and free. And who can forget health minister Jane Philpott’s several forays into charging and reimbursing taxpayers for unseemly claims. I guess she hopes to get it right which will be the day no one will notice. But these are pikers next to Chrystia Freeland who thought nothing of cancelling a government jet waiting to take her home from a business trip to Manila so that she could make a side trip to LA for an appearance on a talk show with Bill Maher. But if she went big, she was not above going low as well. While campaigning, she charged us $500 for her grooming. Now I can hear some screaming this is small stuff. Well, Eve Adams got into a lot of hot water over the same issue. Nickels and dimes add to dollars. One man’s meat is another man’s poison I guess.

But what is acceptable behaviour? Surely not access for pay. It seems the Liberals, provincially as well as federally, disagree. We have the Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, Oct. 19, ’16) reporting that Bill Morneau was at a fundraiser at $1500 a plate attended by business executives at a private waterfront mansion of Fred George, a one time mining bigwig turned land developer. Those in attendance, numbering “about 15”, included Jim Spatz, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Properties. Spatz, as the article points out, is the partner of Fred George, host of the party, and was recently appointed to the board of Halifax Port authority “on the advice of federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the Liberals’ power broker for Nova Scotia.” Nothing fishy going on? The finance minister at the private home of a partner to a government appointee attended by like-minded individuals? Now CTV news has reported that Morneau has taken in part in several such meetings and is due to attend a gathering at a private home sponsored by an executive of Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs licensed to lobby Morneau’s department. If these are all innocent fundraising tea parties, why the secrecy? Again, we have to take these people at their word that everything is above board. Well, I don’t have to and I don’t.

Said Trudeau in his mandate letters: “Government and its information should be open by default.” On CBC television and radio, I have heard some journalists say that the sums are too small to influence anyone. Come again? We have a hint of what it takes to gain access but how much does it take to buy influence? If the Globe and Mail number of attendees is accurate, that’s $22,500. Is that enough to buy influence? What if it happens ten times with the same number of people? And if the attendees of other events have the same interests and goals and if the numbers in attendance were larger, 50, 100, 200 well, that’s $75, $150K, $300K… How small is too small? It doesn’t wash. When should the public begin to worry? People will smash a car window for a loony. Imagine what a politician will do for a vote. No one, no one, forks over thousands of dollars simply for the pleasure of being able to boast about sitting with premier Christy Clark or finance minister Bill Morneau and chatting about the weather and smelling lettuce. Bill Morneau is from the business world and no doubt knows almost everyone who counts on major corporate boards. As finance minister, when he talks, they likely pay attention. When they offer money for access, I have no doubt it is his turn to listen.

It is not just in the appearances of ethical failure that disturbs me, though, in truth, that should be more than sufficient for any citizens. It’s the excuses: it’s legal; others have done the same; I made a mistake; my assistant did it. These are the words of chiselers and cowards. Even if true, the excuses must not be used as justifications for one’s own acts but a call to do something about another’s and for making changes.

WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY

More than once I have stated that I believed Harper and his gang were often working more for the health and welfare of Big Business than of Canadians. We saw evidence of that more than once by how they handled the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, when Chinese workers were allowed to work in mines in northern British Columbia while our own were turned away and when his regime worked with business to allow foreign workers in low-income jobs to be paid 15% less than Canadians and when RBC had its own workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be shipped overseas. The TFWP under Harper was more about working hand in hand with business in the suppression of Canadian wages and union busting than in fulfilling a need. Once the public got whiff of these scandals, and the Conservative role was scandalous, Harper and gang pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers companies could employ from 20% of the workforce to 10%. The Liberals appeared to be on side but now, in power, apparently have had second thoughts; instead of tightening the program, they have decided to let things stand. This was to allow fisheries in the east to hire more workers. Well, one can understand that, after all, the Liberals won every seat in the east coast and one good turn deserves another. Right?

But how do workers feel about the program or about Bombardier Inc. receiving $1 billion from Quebec and a possibility of $1 billion from the Canadian government especially in light of news that the company has announced a 7500 job cut but will hire 3700 in “low-cost countries”? That is, jobs for workers overseas. That’s Capitalism for you, Big Business claiming they want less government interference, let business do what it knows best…which seems to be extending it’s greedy collective hands into the public purse whenever things get tough.

So, are we better off with Trudeau or did we buy a bill of rotten goods?

Maybe Canadians should ask our veterans. The Liberals saw an opportunity when Harper and gang time and time again screwed those very people who were likely the staunchest of Conservative allies. Trudeau promised to reinstate the lifelong disability pensions and to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Conservatives. We have yet to see the final outcome of the second promise but we do know that the Liberals turned their back on the first. They reneged on reinstating the lifelong disability pensions opting, instead, to add to the lump-sum payment and to the sting with another betrayal by a country for which they have given so much.

This is a government that talks big and looks good when it “consults” on almost every topic under the sun and even produces results on the things with which most Canadians do not disagree. Unfortunately, as I have suggested in previous posts, this regime seems prepared to let die one of its major promises: that the last election was the last ever first-past-the-post election.

During an interview for Le Devoir, Trudeau said that the voters appeared satisfied with the present regime (Liberals) and that there was no pressing need to act on electoral reform. Said he on the week of Oct 17, “they (voters) have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.” How things have changed. Now that is nerve, hubris and hypocrisy. Harper had won his majority with just slightly over 39% of the vote. While campaigning, perhaps out of sheer exuberance, Trudeau had promised loudly and often that there would be electoral reform. Surely he must have believed the present system of FPTP was unfair and too many voters unrepresented. Now, a year later, having won with the nearly identical popular vote of just over 39% and with even a greater number of seats than Harper ever had, Trudeau, after the formation of an electoral reform committee, has suddenly become convinced that the public is well served under our present system.

Now Trudeau may well have been simply musing aloud to gauge public response to this. Regardless, it is a cynical move and does him no credit for it was he, on his own, not the clamour of the public, who made this significant promise that “We intend to keep.” Well, politicians lie all the time and Trudeau is apparently no exception. Yet his behaviour suggests he would prefer to have us believe him unique among the breed. He’s not. If anything, he has revealed himself as just another sleazy politico out for the main chance. On electoral reform, he mouths the appropriate things: he wants to “judge” the peoples’ opinion, i.e., consult more with the public before letting finally allowing to wither on the vine that for which he had little appetite in the first place.

That is the old and new Liberal hat of entitlement. Things are right with the world and why should he, of all people, tinker with it? To be fair, he hasn’t quite ruled it out though I expect he will or, if not, go with his preferred choice which will have the same effect: the ranked ballot.

On this issue, I did hold out some hope but not much. I did hope he would surprise me in a pleasant way by actually shooting for real electoral reform that was truly proportionately representative. I no longer hope for that from him. Why should he commit to the remaining 60+% of the voters when, like Harper, he won the love and his massive majority with just 39+%?

But, of course, Trudeau and gang have betrayed us even more significantly than in revealing themselves willing to push ethical boundaries and breaking promises as easily and quickly as Liberals did in the past. And that is in the areas of Human Rights and the question of Canadian sovereignty.

As did Harper, Trudeau seems to have made signing on to trade deals an important if not essential cornerstone of his mandate. That’s too bad because he appears too eager to sign the deals at the expense of Human Rights. In fact, he has turned his back on Human Rights, which he had declared to be his priority while campaigning.

Not only has he signed off on the light-armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most repressive regimes regarding Human Rights, he lied about it saying he couldn’t get out of it, that Harper had made it a done deal, that trading nations would not respect Canada if it broke the contract. They were phony excuses and lies, the deal actually “done” when Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion signed off on the export documents. To do this deal, Harper and Trudeau were quite willing to ignore UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with oppressive regimes. It’s easy to understand, $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are no small thing. But then again, neither are Human Rights. But, while Trudeau made an exception this time, he did promise Human Rights would be a priority next time. Reminds me of St. Augustine’s prayer when he was young, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!” And, of course, there’s no blood on our hands. No, no blood…. let’s keep telling ourselves that.

But if Trudeau has failed Canadians in so many ways, including protecting Canadians against the depredations began by the Harper regime with C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, he seems prepared not only to betray Canadians by freely exchanging information on all Canadians who may travel to the States or overseas, he has proven himself equally willing to betray Canadians and Canadian sovereignty on the altar of Capitalism and to fulfill Harper’s goal of turning Canada’s democracy into a corporatocracy.

As I write this, Wallonia, an area of Belgium, with a third of the population, appears to have agreed to sign off on CETA (Eu-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) after a few days as the lone hold out. Evidently, the left in Europe had problems with the deal seven years in the making. And so they should and so should Canadians and all citizens of the signatory nations. The deal, cited by Chrystia Freeland as the “gold standard” of trade deals, is precisely that: a gold plated deal for Big Business but not so golden when it comes to ensuring that the legislative powers of signature states will be able to pass laws effective enough to protect citizens against the depredations of polluters, chemical companies, agribusinesses, and Big Pharma. Under NAFTA, ushered in by the Mulroney government, Canada has become the most sued member as a result of a clause that allows corporations to sue governments. Any business believing its “right” to maximize profits has been negatively impacted by laws meant to protect citizens can challenge the law and sue the government. Canadian and American laws, the right to protect citizens from corporate abuses, take second and third place to that of corporate rights under NAFTA; Big Business are more powerful and have more rights than governments and consumers. Sovereignty has taken a brutal hit and citizens betrayed by the very people and governments that are supposed to protect and look after their interests. CETA, lobbied and supported by Harper with Trudeau eager to sign off on the deal, offers more, if not worse, of the same. While the deal does replace the dispute mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement with a permanent investment court system, the changes are window dressing with an end result that offers, for all practical purposes, little to no change. It allows, as it did with the old ISDS clause for three arbiters: one from the investor, one from the defending nation and one appointed by agreement of the parties involved all drawn from a panel of fifteen agreed upon by Europe and Canada, five of whom are from parties of countries not involved in the deal. The benefits, if any, are procedural, rather than substantive and in one direction only; General Bullmoose, Al Capp’s caricature of the greedy, ruthless, tyrannical capitalist not only lives, he has won, and he thrives. The thing is, though the changes are subtle, the effect is not: the mechanisms protecting the interests of corporations are still in place: laws can be mandated to accommodate foreign businesses. That is likely catastrophic news for Canadians in general and for those in the agricultural sector in particular. If it is such a good deal, why haven’t Freeland and her boss offered assurances that sovereignty has not been compromised? Let us see the details before finalization. This is what the Conservatives were prepared to sign off on and this is what the Liberals are eager to see to its completion. Can anyone be surprised that these deals are conducted in secrecy and the public often staggered and embittered when they finally are made privy to the details and fully understand the extent of betrayal and what they, as a nation, have given away? But, by then of course, it’s too late! Knowing that, it is easy to understand why those working on such deals, like Freeland and her counterparts in Europe, refuse to address the details regarding corporate regulation and Canada’s right to protect itself and its citizens preferring to quickly move on to other topics, the magnitude of the deal, for example, while loudly braying that “this is the best deal in the history of mankind”.

It’s only when finally inked that Canadian and European citizens will fully realize the extent of their betrayal. I admire Wallonia and its people not only for the stand they have taken but also for withstanding as long as they have what must have been enormous and unrelenting pressure from the 27 other signatories to the deal. Bullies win far too often and far to many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands doing nothing. If CETA goes through, and it seems it will, the only winners will be Big Business and those politicians who have sold us out. And that is exactly what they have done. They have responded to the bell ringing of their corporate masters, shameless lackeys out for the main chance. Once they leave office or are booted out, they will, and have, be free to walk into corporate boardrooms in droves welcomed with open arms and sporting huge grins; they, at least, got theirs.

As we have seen with his shocking betrayal of the promise to make Human Rights a priority, Trudeau has revealed an almost childish eagerness to pander and trade with anyone including China, another outrageous and aggressive abuser of Human Rights. Trudeau appears to be a younger, smarmier version of Harper with the same gluttonous appetite to sign trade deals at any cost. Regardless of what happens with CETA, we then come to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement including Canada, the USA, and 10 other pacific states. The Americans loudly touted TPP as a “Made in America” deal. That alone should alarm all would-be signatories. Guess who the Americans believe will come out the winner? If you said Canada, go to the outhouse.

So, what has changed?

Nothing, really.

When a prime minister seems prepared, even eager, to sign away Canadian sovereignty, when he can only offer excuses and justifications for the questionable behaviours of his ministers and staff, when he can dismiss disabled vets as easily and readily as he has, I question his judgement and integrity. This is the same man who, while MP thought nothing of charging a $20K speaking fee to a financially troubled charity for seniors. He promised to reimburse the charity and all other fees for similar public speaking events between 2008 and 2012. You see, he explained, he wanted to make it all right in the same way Jane Philpott does. Too bad both had to be reminded by news reports and public exposure before suffering from the malady of making things right.

Everyone loves Trudeau. Lately, however, a few have, literally, turned their backs on him, perhaps regretting their votes. Too bad, too late. Maybe he is a nice, sweet fellow but I too often see a smug, strutting camera-loving well-dressed phony who welshes on the big promises and believes Human Rights are a priority—just not yet, later, after the next big deal unless another, something better comes along…. It is truly sad for he is extremely capable and could accomplish great things.

But he’s a Liberal. Get it while you can, as much as you can, however you can.

Just don’t get caught.

The world hates losers.

No doubt about it, the Liberals and the era of entitlement are back; the party is on.

***

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

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PIGGIES: POLITICIANS, THE GRAVY TRAIN AND THE LEGITIMIZATION OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. – Rex Stout

In every well-governed state wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. – Anatole France

The people came to realize that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the result of organized protected robbery. – Frantz Fanon

An honest politician is an oxymoron. – Mark Twain

Frank Pelaschuk

Because I do not believe people inherently good or wise, I am occasionally surprised when they do what I believe the right and moral thing. This is particularly true of politicians and voters. I would prefer the politician to be honest and with a conscience and the voter exactly as the cliché every losing politician trots out to show what a good sport he is: The voter is always right. When it does happen, the voter electing a politician who behaves with integrity and in a non-partisan way for the interests of all citizens, I immediately become alarmed believing I will soon awaken to the political nightmare that is our reality.

While perhaps not to the degree of the transit of Venus, I believe the politician of unwavering honesty and steadfast principle a rarity. It should not be but it is. That is our fault. We make it easy for them by demanding too little and expecting even less. Both politician and voter measure each other by their own values and, because they do, often end with an inferior product: It’s what’s in it for me rather than how can I help make us both better. No voter, no con man, makes the politician corrupt, greedy or deceitful any more than does opportunity, lax rules, or systemic rot within an organization; the culpability lies with the individual, with his failure of character and lack of intellectual and moral substance. Unfortunately, the voter all too often plays the role of enabler and likely for the same reasons. He will forgive almost anything as long as he gets his cut.

THE GIVERS

They have always been with us, those citizens who put themselves forward, often “reluctantly”, willing to temporarily “sacrifice” personal ambitions and family life for the “greater good” as a way of “contributing” towards a “better” more “just” society and as repayment of a “debt” for the life they now enjoy. “Serving” some will modestly say. Nice sentiments, almost noble, perhaps even true for some – once. Much of it is baloney and most of it self-serving.

There are exceptions of course, there always is, those who enter politics with the best of intentions and the purest of motives. Occasionally they succeed and do honour to themselves, their families, their community, and to the offices they hold. Sadly, they are not the norm. Too many take the easy route adopting the party line or going with the flow; the path of least resistance is much easier than going against the tide. Cooperation, giving a little ground is perceived as weakness and disloyalty to the party or to the government. Too little attention is paid to the concerns and welfare of all citizens particularly the weakest and meanest among us because the real goal of any governing party is to maintain power preferably with a majority to inflict the greatest damage to those in opposition.

But whether a government of years or relatively new as is the Trudeau regime, there is too much effort directed towards enriching the party fortunes when it should be directed towards improving the lot of the citizens they govern. As a consequence, too much goes into secret fundraising cocktail dinners with the wealthy and powerful from all sectors. That such events often fail to pass the smell test and clearly transgress conflict of interest regulations are dismissed as the petty cavilling of envious opposition members unable to sell their favours as easily and as richly because theirs is a toothless power: second place is simply that.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIGGER PIGGIES

IN THEIR STARCHED WHITE SHIRTS

YOU WILL FIND THE BIGGER PIGGIES

STIRRING UP THE DIRT

ALWAYS HAVE CLEAN SHIRTS TO PLAY AROUND IN Piggies by The Beatles

For such as these, optics and public opinion matters not a jot until, as with Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal party, it becomes a public issue when the media picks up the story. Even then, media attention and public disgust may not work. Christy Clark clearly doesn’t give a toss what the public thinks. If it’s legal but ethically dubious, no matter, they will do it. Ethics are for suckers and imbeciles. These are folks who game the system, mostly in secrecy though, it is true, sometimes openly and shamelessly, because they believe, mostly know, public apathy is their salvation unless it is provoked to fury over the sheer pettiness of some acts such as happened when Canadians learned of Conservative Bev Oda charging to the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. Tax evaders rob the public purse of billions but it is the orange juice that gets our attention! Even so, not to worry, particularly these days. Extravagant spending, false expense claims, unethical picking of the public pocket has been legitimized; all one has to do is plead innocence, ignorance and naiveté.

It is astounding, not only the extent to which the public purse is milked for claims that are often of dubious merit, but also the shamelessness of such. It is not theft in the legal sense that happens, but it is pilfering nevertheless. Claims are made that to the average person often seem frivolous, questionable, petty, and bordering on illegal. Every once in a while, a politician is caught with his hand in the till. Sometimes they receive a slap on the wrist, most times, nothing happens. Occasionally, the miscreant is forced to resign or shamed into resignation but that is as rare an occurrence as was a direct answer to a direct question in Question Period during the Harper years: politicians are shameless; they have to be when they pander. When they are caught, exposed to the glare of the media, they will justify their acts resorting to legalese weasel words, the wormy deviousness of the shady and dishonest as they extract every nickel and dime possible from the public purse: It was legal, allowed, permitted, within the rules. Occasionally they will claim the rules are “obscure, vague, unclear, difficult to understand”. At other times, they may claim that a higher authority approved their actions. Occasionally they will point out others have done the same thing and that, over time, such acts have become accepted as normative practice. If I am to be punished, so must others. They will often make claim to the adherence of the law by which they mean the “letter of the law” but never in this manner, and will likely keep silent regarding its spirit. It’s what one can get away with that matters.

They do not talk much of moral compasses, personal responsibility, common sense, conscience, and personal integrity unless pushed and pushed hard. Of course, they will insist, they themselves possess all these admirable qualities. Nor do they much dwell upon propriety, possible conflicts of interest, of the public good, or of public perceptions of doing something that not only doesn’t seem right but isn’t right: If it’s allowed, I will do it because it’s allowed. With the verdict of the Duffy trial, that view has apparently become legitimized. I wonder what will happen now regarding other senators who have paid back money for undeserved claims or who have been referred to the RCMP for investigation. Unless things change drastically, we can expect continued pillaging of the public trough with the same foul weaselly justifications.

Ethical behaviour is not about appearing to do the right thing but actually doing the right thing. I have nothing against a senator or an MP making claims, but let them be legitimate claims, earned claims. Don’t charge the public for your meals at home or for the coffee and donut you bought for a friend. Don’t travel across country on the public dime on the pretext of doing Senate business that can be handled with a five-minute phone call because you want to spend a few days with your family. Don’t claim expenses for a home you’ve lived in for forty or so years claiming your other property visited a few weeks a year in a province you supposedly represent as your primary residence. It may be legal but it’s certainly not ethical nor is it justifiable.

Whatever happened to common sense and judgement? Why is less attention paid to these rather than the excuses often stretching one’s credulity when politicians and senators misbehave? I can’t imagine our common variety street corner petty thief being granted as sympathetic an indulgence while standing before a judge. The rules are unclear; I didn’t know it was wrong; everyone else does it; there is no law against what I did; I made a mistake; I believed it was okay; I thought it was standard practice; my staffer made a mistake; my dog ate the rule book, I was told by my boss it was okay (in this instance the higher the level of approval the more likely the chance of absolution and no one paying the price). What is so difficult about knowing right from wrong? One who fudges seldom offers explanations he offers justifications and excuses.

So, when I look at Liberal premiers Kathleen Wynne and Christy Clark, and their responses to breaking stories regarding serious ethical lapses regarding conflict of interest in the way of secret meetings with corporate executives and/or anyone with the money to pay for the privilege, I am torn. While both deeply trouble me, it was the response of each that allowed me to declare Clark the winner among the ethically challenge but not by much.

When news broke of two of Wynne’s cabinet ministers, Charles Sousa, finance minister, and Bob Chiarelli, energy minister, attending an unannounced (secret) fundraiser that benefitted the Liberal party with $165,000 and a cabal of banks to the tune of $29 million with the privatization of 15% of Hydro One, an embarrassed Wynne announced not only an end to ministers raising money from those who may benefit from their decisions but also the end of $500,000 quotas members of her cabinet were instructed to raise each year. Wynne clearly was chastened but not unduly; the changes would be phased in over time and probably not in place before the next election. Was there a conflict of interest? Absolutely. Did anything illegal occur? I don’t know, the rules allowed such shady shenanigans. Legalese. Again. Unethical? Most certainly. Shameful? You bet but one wouldn’t know it from the response by Sousa and Deputy Premier Deb Mathews. Sousa said that was “part of the democratic process”. Mathews, dismissive of a need for an inquiry, said there is “absolutely no evidence ” of wrongdoing. Of course not, nor will there be unless there is an investigation. But explain that to the citizens of Ontario who were recently informed of steep rate hikes because Hydro One didn’t earn as much as expected because of the mild winter. Unethical? Yes. When a consortium benefits from a secret fundraiser it puts on for a political party something is rotten and it’s not in Denmark. If the fundraiser was so innocent, why was it kept from the public and how was it that the finance and energy minister sat with the very folks who raised money for the Liberals and walked away with millions from the Hydro One deal? Coincidence? I think not.

And then we have princess Christy Clark of BC who earns $200,000 as premier and another $50,000 from her party, which calls it a “stipend” for her impressive fundraising efforts. As reported in the National Post, Clark has earned $301,900 in stipends since she became leader in 2011 (Rob Shaw, Postmedia News, April 28, 2016). When questioned regarding this, Clark laughed it off saying she had believed it was a car allowance. Really? It’s all a joke to these folks but I wonder how much laughter there was from the single parent minimum wage earner holding two jobs upon hearing this. Were those who donated to the party amused when some of that money went to Clark who could use it as she sees fit? Stipend suggests a token payment usually to offset additional expenses. Clark’s amused response to receiving $50,000 is the carefree let-them-eat-cake attitude. But, before we feel too bad for those minimum wage earners, she promises to give them a raise from $10.45 to $10.85 this September. That should keep those carpers quiet. It’s contemptuous and callous. So, what does she do to earn this stipend? Well she’ll meet privately with anyone who can raise $20,000 to $30,000. Clark clearly believes there is nothing wrong with this saying she governs for all British Columbians (just works harder for some for a price) and has no plans to review or do away with the private (and lucrative) meetings between her and wealthy suitors. She claims no favours are exchanged for cash. We have to take her at her word for that. It’s difficult. Between Wynne and Clark, it could be a toss up judging which is more ethically challenged. Clark may have the edge simply because of her shameless disregard for public perception. She cares just enough to rub salt into the wounds by raising the stipend of minimum wage earners 40 cents. Car allowance I guess.

And then, of course, we have the newcomer, Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould, the federal minister of justice, who, along with her boss Justin Trudeau, should know better but apparently doesn’t or doesn’t care. She sees nothing wrong with attending a fundraiser with the very people who stand to gain from her decisions regarding justice. The ethics commissioner Mary Dawson evidently agrees. “The rules are scant,” she told CTV News (Thursday, April 7, 2016). Again, legitimacy is granted to weaselly outs by the very body meant to oversee ethics. Judgement and common sense are not required. It cost $500 to attend the two-hour cocktail event. That’s not much when one considers what it costs for a private audience with Christy Clark ($20K to $30K) or Sousa and Chiarelli ($7,500). I have heard some commentators suggest no politician would risk their reputation for a mere $500. That’s nonsense and beside the point. It’s not a measly sum when it’s $500 times the number of guests and all from the same field holding the same interests and wanting the same outcome. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. Unethical? Without doubt.

Folks who shape ethics to suit their own wants are suspect. Meeting with constituents is not a problem; meeting them in secret in exchange for money is. I certainly do not believe that anyone, regardless of how wealthy, would simply fork over $20 or $30 thousand for the simple pleasure of having had tea with Christy Clark. He expects something in return and the politician princess, regardless of how dim, knows it. Yet we must take Clark at her word: no favours are exchanged. How can we? Why should we?

AND THE WINNER IS…ALL THE LITTLE PIGGIES IN WHITE SHIRTS

Honesty in politics seems to be an increasingly missing ingredient. And I am not talking about folks simply picking our public purse. I am thinking of the integral aspects that make us what we are, character if you will.

The last election provided very good examples of similar failures. We had the Conservatives fearmongering with a vile campaign playing the cards of racial and religious intolerance. There was Kellie Leitch the ambitious bundle of mediocrity now running for the Conservative leadership. There she was standing before the media with Chris Alexander at her side both of them announcing the creation of a snitch line for Canadians to report and stop the barbaric cultural practices of you-know-who. It was contemptible and meant to play to the worst aspects in us. Recently, Leitch on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton disavowed her role almost on the verge of tears…well it was a good if phony act. “We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,” she said (CBC, Power & Politics, April 21, 2016). “It shouldn’t have been done.” No kidding. Leitch is a reputable professional and from all I have found, good at her profession, and I have no doubt she cares for her patients. But the fact is indisputable: she was part of a team that made race and religion an issue. She cannot disavow that. Anyone with a shred of dignity, decency and intelligence would have walked away from the suggestion of the snitch line. More importantly, she would have walked away from the real message of the snitch line. The target was not abuse but the Muslim community. Neither Chris Alexander nor Kellie Leitch walked away from that filthy campaign. That says something about character or, more precisely, lack of same. It was an unpleasant spectacle because so willingly engaged by Alexander (he lost his seat) and Leitch (she kept hers). She is not leadership material but she certainly is a politician. When she says they weren’t talking about race, I suggest she is less than truthful. We have 911 and other services across the country to assist families and children. As with so many of that Harper gang, Leitch is just another sad example of another MP who, in hindsight, sought to refurbish a tarnished image with a subdued apology, faux tears and a flimsy defense without any evidence of sincere acknowledgement of her role in the sorry debacle. Of late we have seen too much of this, arrogant politicians caught in their own snares and then repenting with showy displays of phony tears only when the game is over or when seeking re-election perhaps or the role of leader to their party. They must stand before mirrors these bad actors in every sense practicing the quavering voice, the trembling lips, the tears sliding down cheeks with, perhaps to offer verisimilitude to the act, snot precariously leaking from one of the nostrils. I am unmoved convinced the tears are only for themselves. Perhaps, when done rehearsing the scene of self-abnegation they will then seek to relax by facing the mirror all pretence stripped away hands on hips making rubber faces before finally bursting into genuine laughter as they imagine the sympathetic response of the public they will face with teary eyes.

Anyone can misspeak and err but what happened that October 2 day with Leitch and Alexander was no mistake, no slip of the tongue. It was a media event staged during the final days of a failing campaign in desperate hopes of garnering a rush of support from the fearful and the intolerant. It did not work. Where was the shame at the time?

Conservative Jason Kenney is another likely to throw himself into the leadership race. He should not. When he used government letterheads to fundraise for his party, he demonstrated he was willing to fudge; he crossed the line. Last year he posted tweets on International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS. He posted two photos, one of women in chains and one depicting a child bride with her “husband”. Her hands were tied. The tweets were clearly meant to inflame sentiments against the Muslim community and ISIS in particular. Both were bogus and he knew it. The first picture was of a re-enactment of an historical event. The second was simply a fake. When asked about Canada’s expanding role in Iraq, he offered this as explanation: “The United States is the only one of those five that has precision-guided munitions. That is a capability the Royal Canadian Air Force has, so one of the reasons our allies have requested we expand our air sorties into eastern Syria is because with those precision-guided munitions our CF-18s carry, we can be more impactful in the strikes we make against ISIL” (David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, March 25, 2015). That was a lie. But Kenney is used to lying. As multicultural minister, he used his government email account to suggest Trudeau held sympathetic views for terrorists based on his visit to the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque when he was an MP. The US intelligence community had released documents that they believed the mosque had links to al Queda. This bit of news was made public a month after Trudeau had visited the mosque. But Kenney and the other Conservative members kept this to themselves. Can such an individual who deceives, misrepresents and proves himself a glib liar time-after-time be worthy of governing a nation? We had that kind of leadership from Kenney’s previous boss. We don’t need a repeat. All the above suggest an individual with serious ethical issues. Evidently he’s a man of some ability. That may be true. He is also untrustworthy.

Behaviour matters. But, judging by the support Donald Trump and the deceased Rob Ford managed to garner, not much to many. Rude, foul-mouthed misogyny, drunken rowdyism, name-calling and shameless lying, racial and religious intolerance seems, in fact, the endearing qualities that draw the stupid and ignorant to support worthless notables of that ilk. Politicians have taken note.

Secret meetings between politicians and influential community and business types for a fee, have apparently been and still is the accepted practice. Does this matter?

Duffy, legally cleared of all charges, will re-enter the Senate chamber and likely make claim for restitution for pay for the more than two years he lost while absent from the red chamber. The Senate itself has made changes but will they be enough, will they endure. I suspect not. As long as there are folks willing to bend rules by pleading ignorance or turning a blind eye, the Senate will remain the dysfunctional, unloved and unwanted institution of a bygone era of partisanship and entitlement. Going along to get along, doing what others have always done is not sufficient. Yet that is how the zoo operated. Men and women took advantage of the laxity of rules and oversight and thought nothing of pilfering from the taxpayer coffers. The Duffy verdict seems to have legitimized such abuses. The offender is not liable. The offender is a victim in fact. Sometimes I want to join Howard Beale from Network and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But then I guess I’ve been doing that the past three years.

But where does the blame really lie? Why must the public accept that a politician can claim ignorance or was unable to understand the rules? If you watch a man going to the washroom, do you pocket the wallet he left behind knowing that it is his? If so, you’re a thief. Would you take that wallet claiming he had left it behind therefore there was not theft? Would you say, “If I hadn’t taken it someone else would?” There are just some things one does not do even when the water is muddy or opportunity presents itself. People without character play dumb, do not question, do not wish to know; they prefer to close their eyes to the wrongdoing of others or to join in saying if it’s okay for one, it’s okay for all.

Politicians who accept money for private meetings are corrupt. What they do may be legal but it is certainly immoral, unethical, and dishonest. They should not hold office and voters should not forget or forgive. Getting away with something simply because one can or because there are no rules against it doesn’t make it right.

PIGLETS

But let’s turn our attention to Trudeau and the Liberals. They swept into office promising new and better and, as have all previous governments, promised openness and transparency. Well, they have failed and continue to fail. Think about the meeting with lawyers by Jody Wilson-Raybould. She said she attended as an MP not as minister of justice. When you are a minister of the crown, there is no such distinction. A few years back Shelly Glover was skewered (and I joined in) when she was filmed attending a secret fundraising event that violated conflict of interests guidelines simply because many of the attendees could possibly benefit from the decisions made by her ministry. Now Glover did not want to be caught but caught she was. She at least paid back the money. Wilson-Raybould? Well, thus far there’s no word of what she’ll do but I can guess and suspect you can as well. Remember this next time you vote: She as minister of justice met with the very folk who stand to gain or lose by the decisions she makes.

But there is something equally as troubling and that concerns the CRA offering amnesty to tax cheat clients of KPMG, one of Canada’s large accountancy firms who allegedly helped these tax cheats set up accounts on the Isle of Man. Amnesty was offered on condition the tax evaders paid the taxes owed and kept their mouths shut regarding the deal. Now that is not only patently unfair, that is corrupt providing more evidence to those already suspicious that governments are more interested in protecting the wealthy and punishing the weak and helpless. The scheme is simple. Firms such as KPMG help businesses or wealthy clients create shell companies offshore and then help them get it back as tax-free “gifts”. Recently the CRA proudly announced it had recovered $1.5 billion from tax cheats. Big deal. What does that do about the rest of the estimated loss per year of $7 to $9 billion? Stats Canada says there is a total of $199 billion declared money in offshore accounts. That is likely a fraction of what is undeclared. In the House, May 3, 2016, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair asked Trudeau if he would hold an investigation of the matter and of KPMG. Trudeau responded thusly: “Once again, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is always willing to play parliamentary procedure games as opposed to digging into the real facts of the issue. We’re working with the Canada Revenue Agency,” (CBC News, Question Period, May 3). The answer was clearly “No!” to Mulcair’s question, which, as posed, clearly indicates he and the NDP do want to dig into the facts. Trudeau said the government was working with the CRA…and skirted the issue of a government agency, assisted by the government, also working with tax cheats and those firms who help the tax evaders in their cheating.

So, from Trudeau and the government, no penalties for stealing, and that is exactly what tax evasion is. If anyone is playing a game, it’s Trudeau, but it’s a rigged game with Canadians losing to the wealthy thanks to the our political leaders taking on the role of accomplices. It may have started with the Harper gang but it is unconscionable that our government continues to protect cheats with promises of amnesty and demonstrates absolutely no desire to go after the corporations who help them cheat some more. Even after the story broke the CRA was still quietly meeting with KPMG. None of this however is surprising; the Liberals have a history of scandal, of working with Big Business and dipping into the public trough. With the Trudeau crew it looks like we will, over time, witness the return to the bad old days of bad old ways.

Good words mean nothing. We have heard the Senate to which Duffy has returned is not the Senate as Duffy knew it. Don’t believe it. The Senate fails in all counts. The changes made are too little too late. The Senate members will behave for a time but before long, the greedy greasy fingers will again be picking at the public purse.

Trudeau’s government fails because it has proven itself flexible in ethics when Trudeau sanctioned the Wilson-Raybould cocktail dinner. The government also lied to its citizens regarding human rights when it ignored government regulations by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal. Trudeau lied to our veterans when he said he would restore disability pensions. He didn’t. He just increased the lump sum payments. He has done some things I do like but he could do much better; he has changed the tone of parliament and has a balanced cabinet of many capable individuals, there is more openness (but already showing signs of second thoughts on that front) and a better image internationally; for these reasons and a few others, he deserves very high marks. But he also broke his word on the big things that count and this is where he may eventually fail. I would prefer it if he had honoured Canada’s commitment to human rights when trading with other nations today and not down the road; yes, the Saudi deal is big, $15 billion. There are Canadian jobs at stake that too is true. But, as a nation, we have to be counted. Can we really justify setting aside human rights until the next international trade deal? Should monetary concerns really trump when dealing with one of the worst offenders of human rights?

Nor should he have reneged on his promise to veterans with disabilities. I would prefer he spent less time posing before every camera he meets and think more seriously of what he wants to do and what he will do and be more open about it. He has what it takes, but fudging on ethical matters, even if a little, suggests he is on the same path as others before him. One thing is clear; the people mobbing him still love him even as he jobs them. They at least got a picture with him.

Politics is a filthy game. It needn’t be. But as long as we allow our politicians to bend the rules, to act unethically, to lie, cheat and deceive and to meet in secrecy with the wealthy and powerful special interest, little will change.

Politicians may be corrupt, but so are we. Join Howard Beale: Get mad as hell. Do something!

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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 nor safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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