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DECEIT & MALIGNANCY IN THE PMO: STEPHEN HARPER’S RELENTLESS CAMPAIGNING ON THE PUBLIC DIME

No other factor in history, not even religion, has produced so many wars as has the clash of national egotisms sanctified by the name of patriotism. – Preserved Smith

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. – Richard Arlington

I should like to be able to love my country and to love justice. – Albert Camus

Frank A. Pelaschuk

In a world of politics, when it seems no man, no group, in a civilized society can sink any lower, Harper and his gang always manage to prove me wrong. There is something depraved about the happy nonchalance with which they whittle away at Canadian democracy as they transform it into a Corporatocracy, a meretricious form of governance that works on behalf of business interests and always at the expense of citizens, particularly against the marginalized, the mentally ill, and the working poor, the single parent holding down several jobs while struggling to keep the family together. The extent of the Harper gang’s animus and the notable glee with which they savage unionists and public servants, critics, foes and opponents is unsettling, not just because it happens but because the attacks are so frequent, arbitrary, and malicious with so few apparently noticing or caring.

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

Harper’s 2006 electoral victory that resulted in a minority government was an achievement not all that unique. As had other politicians in the past, he successfully exploited public outrage over Liberal corruption and failed promises offering smug, loud undertakings of his own: less government, less taxes and more jobs. He and his regime would be deaf to “special interest” groups, be more transparent, more open, more honest, and more inclusive. But the allure of Power, of Big Business, especially Big Oil, and the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs and Big Money, had immediately proved too much: special interests won and transparency, openness, honesty, and inclusivity went out the window. Harper has pinned almost everything on the Conservative myth of economic mastery and on the huge tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline project, which would extend from Hardisty, Alberta to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. Here was a base of voters that would have little trouble supporting him and his party. After all, Alberta was rich in oil, jobs were aplenty and this was the birthplace of CRAP (an amalgam of Conservatives/Reform/Alliance Parties), which morphed into what it is today: mean, ugly, partisan, corrupt, and anti-democratic. All Harper had to do was promote Big Oil and tax cuts and play to fears of Big Government by getting rid of the Long Gun Registry (even though the majority of Canadians supported it), and ignore statistical evidence regarding crime, again playing to our fears with promises of more prisons and more jailed for longer periods. And if there were abuses, the mentally ill, the not so dangerous untreated and confined for years in solitary, well, who cared, certainly not Conservatives. The money rolled into the Conservative coffers; happy days were here again. Two years later, the Great Collapse of 2008 threatened the economies of the world but Canada remained relatively secure and stable. We had survived relatively intact. But the quiet, steady, unexciting Canadian modesty of the past was precisely that, a thing of the past with Harper at the helm. There he was, gloating loudly, pointing and wagging fingers, reminding the world of Canada’s economic strength and shrewdness and taking for himself all the credit for the achievements of a solid banking system put in place by previous, mostly Liberal, governments. Harper was no wallflower, nor was he shy in telling others how to get their houses in order and he certainly wasn’t shy in spreading the lie of how he and his Conservatives had saved Canada, perhaps even the world, from the brink of disaster. It was an unpleasant spectacle revealing Harper and his gang for what they really were, parochial, petty, hectoring, taking credit they had not earned and for years reminding Canadians it was the Liberals, always the Liberals, when things went wrong. Harper and his gang were wizards, faultless and nonpareil. Unfortunately, too many Canadians bought the myth: Harper was and is the economic wizard, a leader among men if you don’t mind him telling you so himself. But suddenly he was more; with Canada’s involvement in the war in Iraq against ISIS, he was a warrior/leader unlike any Canada had ever elected before, the man who would lead the world to salvation against ISIS the greatest threat to mankind since history began. Well, with oil prices tumbling, the gloating’s stopped and the Great Economic Wizard doesn’t look so great today after turning an inherited $13 billion dollar surplus into a massive $159 billion deficit. The collapse of oil prices was bad enough but Obama’s rejection of XL over environmental concerns was another shattering blow, the “radicals” in the environmental movement had won. So, for most, the good times are all gone if they ever were. Harper and his oily crew will tell us about the million net jobs created but how many of us feel the effects of all the good times coming our way? A million jobs? The flim-flam man’s at it again twisting facts and figures with a brave display of of bloviating braggadocio. According to him, we were the envy of the world and he let the world know it. Are we now? Times are suddenly tough but it’s not Harper’s fault, the gods are conspiring against him. He can’t blame the Liberals any more so it’s ISIS, the failure of other governments to respond to market forces, environmentalists and climatologists wreaking economic havoc with their lies and false-science quackery. Never mind that he pinned his hopes on one sector and neglected other provinces and the manufacturing sectors. Harper was, is, blameless. Just ask him.

Even so, neglecting infrastructures, cutting healthcare transfer payments and unloading unemployment burdens to the provinces, cutting services, closing down offices, and offering bonuses to bureaucrats who, in a reign of terror, oversaw the loss of 37,000 public servants jobs, a reign of terror that continues to this day, Harper is able to claim a small surplus and to find scads of money to bribe his core base of supporters with shiny baubles. Well, it’s worked before, why not now? He’s the Great Economic Wizard and there are plenty who prefer to believe in magic and snake oil.

And that is exactly what Harper is counting on. So the programs roll and there he is pushing for voluntary increases to CPP contributions, something he not all that long ago railed against and has absolutely no intention of seeing through. There is the increase to childcare benefits that began January 1st but will not begin to pay out until July 1st, mere months before the election, with a big, fat, retroactive cheque of $420 per child to remind those who receive them to whom they owe this largesse. And, of course, we have the income splitting, that wonderful program that helps those who already have, the top 15% who will garner about 49% of the benefits. But what of the single income family, the single parent holding down two or three jobs and struggling to keep the family together? What does income splitting mean for them? Nothing. A big, fat zero. No two thousand dollar tax break for them. Too bad, how sad, perhaps next time. Meanwhile, don’t forget, Harper’s your man.

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

While how Harper came to be elected may not be unique, what is unique is the nastiness of his governance and of those around him. We are all familiar with Harper’s boasting of how his was the only economic vision that would create jobs and witnessed first hand how he, and then employment minister Jason Kenney, conspired with Big Business to undermine Canadian workers with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% below Canadian workers. That stopped when the public learned of it. Then we had RBC workers training foreign workers to do their jobs, which were then shipped overseas. That, too, changed when the public learned of it. But Conservatives and Big Business kept on trying. Foreign workers replaced Canadian workers in low-income jobs (they don’t complain, i.e., stand up for themselves, like Canadian workers). That is how anti-union Harper and Big Business work together to create jobs for Canadians: suppress wages, maximize profits. Never mind that the jobs are part-time, minimum wage, a life-long trap of drudgery, misery and fading hope. Harper and gang are not just anti-union, they are anti-worker preferring to keep low-income earners on the margins and are apparently content that a preponderance of jobs are part-time. Theirs is a vile worldview whereby the greedy, the powerful, and the brutal are rewarded while the real creators of wealth, the men and women who do the hard work and heavy lifting are punished, forced to do more and accept less.

And if the Conservatives are petty, vindictive and just plain mean, they are also puerile. Just watch them during Question Period in the House and judge for yourself. You will be treated to a dismal show of Conservatives exhibiting all the traits of what it takes to be a member of the Conservative Party, Harper’s gang in particular: arrogance, stupidity, pettiness, vanity, vindictiveness, deceitfulness, ignorance, bigotry, shamelessness. Their wilful refusal to answer questions put to them, their fingerpointing with responses unrelated to questions posed, their disregard for truth, their dismissal of the input of others, their absolute certitude they have all the answers, their abusive use of their majority, has made a mockery of the Parliamentary system. I have yet to see sparks of decency, of shame, of integrity from any member of the Harper gang. They govern as drunken lords and masters rather than as leaders worthy of respect and trust. They know more than all the scientists, scholars, legal and social experts combined. Contemptuous of everyone, they listen to no one, barbarians locked into a narrow vision that allows for no dissent. Experts are to be mistrusted, scientists to be muzzled, advice disregarded. Critics are dismissed, maligned, ridiculed, mocked and crushed. As for the public? Distract them, buy them off, offer cheap, shiny trinkets, the voter is that stupid. The Harper gang know their supporters.

Conservatives leave nothing to chance. As a consequence, they rig the game, surreptitiously changing rules, slipping and burying legislation into omnibus bills in hopes opposing players and spectators will not notice. Such moves are designed to deny members of the opposition and the public they serve opportunity to even learn of new legislation or of campaign electoral breaches by the governing party until too late. Too, such changes allow, indeed, almost guarantee, for political interference by the government, especially if the government is made up of present members of the Conservative party. Ethics and integrity are of no concern for this bunch of Conservative pond scum. So, when one sees a Conservative ad attacking Justin Trudeau, there should be no surprise to learn the ad is lifted almost verbatim from an NDP Manitoba ad during the 2011 campaign. It is this, Harper’s relentless campaigning without an election writ yet dropped and his willingness to spend lavish millions of newfound monies, your taxpayer dollars, that most clearly reveals the utter contempt he holds for Parliament, opposition members and, more particularly, the public. His only concern is to satisfy his hard-core base of supporters, those 30 to 40 percent of the voters who never tire of his mealy slop. Daily, we see our tax dollars spent on advertisements (to the tune of $13.5 million during hockey playoff season) that do not inform but rather promote the Conservative budget and its promises of income splitting and childcare benefit increases that have yet to be approved by parliament. By now, most Canadians have doubtless seen the partisan, tax-funded ads in which smarmy Pierre Poilievre appears talking to “shoppers” promoting Harper and the increased childcare benefits or standing in the halls of Parliament regaling us with the heart-warming story of his “Auntie” Kathy caring for him after school, we are not being informed but rather reminded, several times, that it is due to Harper that we owe all this largesse. But these are just promises. “Pending parliamentary approval”. That’s what we see at the bottom of these partisan ads, which, for politics generally, marks a new low in skirting elections laws but, for the Conservatives, is just another day at the office of dirty tricks. Imagine your banker drawing money directly from your account to pay for ads telling you how much he is saving you and doing for you. Would you accept that? I think not. Yet, there is Harper, spending your money to tell you what a great job he’s doing. And the election has yet to be called. We have entered the era of American-style campaigning. It never ends. And the winner is invariably the side that gets the most money in return for political favours. That is the huge downside of fixed election dates and first-past-the post.

But it is not a downside, of course, when you have a party as wealthy as the Conservative Party and which is made up of scoundrels, liars, opportunists, and the coldly calculating. It is not blood that gives them life, unless sucking it from others, nor conscience that directs them, but the allure of power, what power does, how it can be wielded, who can be made to bend and submit. We see it almost daily, Harper’s contempt of Parliament, his absences from the House during question period or, when present, by his dismissive refusal to answer questions honestly, often with diversionary responses having nothing to do with the matter at hand. It is all about control and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than the Conservatives refusal to appear in televised debates with the major networks, CBC News, ICI, Radio-Canada Télé, CTV News, and Global News which, in the past, have joined forces to offer leadership debates for maximum public exposure. Harper has opted to form a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine YouTube, and Rogers/Maclean’s. In turning the others down, calling them a “cabal”, Kory Tenecyke, Conservative spokesman, and former head man of the defunct Sun Media owned by Separatist Pierre Karl Peladeau, for whom Harper and gang could do no wrong, says the traditional outlet excludes other formats. What a crock! This is about control and about a government running scared. Personally, I would prefer the other leaders go with the “Consortium”. If Harper doesn’t show, place an empty podium reminding Canadians of Harper’s refusal to join the debate with the best chance of being viewed by more Canadians. The leaders could say something like this: “I would like to know what the Prime Minister thinks, but wait, I can’t know, he refused to be here.” As it is, the NDP has accepted Harper’s terms of when, where, how and what the topics will be. That is a mistake. Mulcair has ceded to Harper what was never his in the first place.

But, if Harper loves control, and we know he does, we also know he is not much for accepting responsibility. We have seen too often how he prefers to cut and run, to blame others, to smear and belittle opponents and to question the patriotism of his harshest critics.

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

Not that long ago, Harper, the great general, our Dear Leader, went to Iraq. We know he’s a great leader because we’ve seen the ads, sombre music, thunderous sound of helicopters, tanks, jeeps, speed boats, men and women in camouflage, “Going where few dare to go” and making “the world a safer place”. These are war images, Harper at his vile best fomenting fear and evoking images of barbarians at the gate. Now don’t get me wrong. I support the military and I believe the men and women as brave and fine as any. But the fact is, Harper’s acts do not match the rhetoric. We can all recall how he treated our disabled veterans. The military operates with out-dated equipment, boats in repair, submarines inoperable, tired ships due to be retired in five years. Yes, our military men and women are all that we would wish and more, but they are handicapped by a government that has cut, cut and cut some more. For God sakes Halifax navy mechanics had to shop on eBay for parts for one of two supply ships! Is this really a military might that will save the world? Is Harper really the leader you want as commander?

Yet there he was in Iraq, with members from 24Seven, which masks as a government “news” channel over “exclusives” but which is, in reality, a front for his own personal tax-funded advertising team (it’s easy to see why the Conservative Party has a huge reserve for campaigning; it gets to spend public money until the writ is dropped). The Iraq visit was a photo-op, nothing more. We were treated to images of Harper at the front, peering through binoculars. But we also saw images, the faces of Canadian Special Forces members. That’s a no-no. Soldiers and their families could have been placed at risk. Harper, with this vainglorious stunt, broke his own rule. While the mainstream media honoured the restriction, Harper couldn’t resist the poster shot of himself with brave men and women. Yeah, a real leader is Harper.

When confronted by this, Harper said he and his tax funded advertising team had been cleared and given permission to do this. Not so, according to the military brass: the Conservatives had neither sought nor received clearance to show faces. Well this is an election year. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Harper and gang are liars who will do anything to win including placing at risk those already in harm’s way.

When he did speak to the troops stationed in Iraq, presumably giving them the comfort of his magnificence presence, leadership and words, Harper said, “That’s why, as the national anthem says, you stand on guard, alongside a wide coalition of the international community, to comfort and defend the innocents in this part of the world and to make sure this threat does not despoil our home and native land” (CBC News, May 3, 2015). That’s a rather unique view of our anthem but, gosh, how American is that? You could almost love the big lug for that, if you didn’t know that he was again reminding Canadians, with his penchant for hyperbolic assurances, that he, mighty warrior, having proven himself on the world stage as a leader among men and women and the bravest and grandest of the allied forces leaders, he, he alone with his Conservative Party, is the only leader capable of bringing ISIS to it’s knees. If you haven’t heard it by now, ISIS is the most evil force man has ever known and the greatest threat to humankind, especially Canada. As a consequence, he has rammed through the anti-terrorist bill, C-51, a bill that jurists, legal scholars, activists and the NDP have condemned as overkill and unnecessary posing a real threat to civil liberties. Think not? As the bill stands, Conservative denials notwithstanding, C-51 grants greater powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) without real oversight. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), already underfunded and understaffed will simply not be able to do an adequate job of protecting Canadians from abuses. Too, all information on Canadian citizens can be shared not only with other Canadian agencies but also with allies. Those making accusations against others will be granted protection by the cloak of anonymity. The accused will not be able to face his accuser. Even peaceful protest could conceivably be targeted. Activists blocking transportation of oil, for example, could be charged with economic terrorism. That is not the way a free society operates. C-51, itself is an act of terrorism against Canadian citizens.

It is unfortunate that Trudeau’s Liberals opted to support this bill.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

The less informed Canadians are, the greater the comfort experienced by Harper’s Conservatives. They do not opt for light, for generosity, for kindness, nor do they offer hope or wisdom. They prefer to wallow in the filth of their kind of politics, the politics of darkness and cowardice: cheap shots and foul blows; fear, hate, rage, envy, dishonesty, pettiness, bribery, and vindictiveness are the tools in their vile arsenal of dirty tricks, and they deploy them happily and shamelessly.

They plot. They do not inform but will tell us they do. They derive no comfort in our knowing. Instead, they suppress. Or they create the mythology of themselves that no one can believe except the truly credulous and the easily bought and these, the easily bought, believe in nothing but what’s in it for themselves; they are the enablers of a corrupt regime, this regime, bloodsuckers that take and contribute nothing towards making for a better society; they not only allow for bad government, they make for corrupt governance: as long as they get their slice, they’ll ignore the Harper gang’s corrosive effects on the institutions that have made this country better than it is today. For the enablers, only today matters, tomorrow is a long, long way off.

During Harper’s years in office, we have witnessed his regime’s attacks against climatologists and environmentalists. Their credentials are often questioned and reputation impugned. Environmental activists are dismissed as “radicals”. But the Harper gang have also gone after the government’s own scientists, particularly those doing research on climate and fisheries and oceans. Government scientists work in fear and dare not speak; those who do are fired or threatened with job loss. In recent weeks, a few have taken to the streets demanding an end to the muzzling of scientists by Harper. The scientists speaking out were few; they know the price of doing so. What we saw in these public events were those representing them, the union and unionists. In the past six years, 2,000 scientists have lost their jobs. Research funding has been cut. Scientists believe they have a right to speak out; after all, Canadians pay for the research. Harper and his gang believe otherwise as do some journalists using the false argument that the government owns the results of research. That is true, but it is not a question of ownership, of scientists seeking to profit from the research. Rather, it is the belief of scientists that, since the public pays for it, the public has the right to know when research results demonstrate a real impact on Canadians. This is not about ownership but about the right of Canadians to know. There is only one reason the Harper gang would not wish the results of scientific research be made public: the possible negative impact it may have on Big Business, especially the big polluters in Big Oil and Big Mining. While Harper and those special interest groups who have his attention may wish it otherwise and seems determined to have it so, government scientists work at the behest and on behalf of Canadians not for profiteering Big Business. At least, that’s the theory. But Harper and gang and their business friends clearly know something we don’t. And they wish to keep it that way.

Those who pollute are protected. Those who lay waste to the land, who poison our water are seldom held accountable. This is a pro-business government more concerned with the health and welfare of Big Business, especially the tar sands, than with the health and welfare of Canadians and the land we inhabit. As a result, Canadians find themselves blindsided by a government in the pockets of special interests groups willing to intimidate, silence and fire scientists daring to speak out. For Conservatives, it is true: Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

We have an election coming on. You know it with the endless Harper tax-funded ads and the lavish promises of tax cuts and more money in our pockets. But there is nothing about infrastructure, improvements to healthcare, aid for the homeless, for the elderly, or help for the young. We have the Duffy trial and a report on the Senate by the Auditor General Michael Ferguson to be made public on June 9. The report, a government document, has already suffered leaks, and was released to the Senate June 4. This dovetailed neatly with the leaks of the previous weeks and with the story Robert Fife of CTV “broke” during the week of May 24 to May 30 regarding the expenses of the Auditor General’s office and which prompted Ferguson to defend his office and to confirm that 30 Senators would be named and ten referred to the RCMP for investigation. It appears, over a period of four years, the Auditor General’s office spent $107,110 for its 640 employees in its four offices across the country. The employees were taken out to dinner, had pizza and, this of particular note to Fife and others, spent $23,000 at an entertainment centre for “team building”. That’s about $41.83 per year per employee. Quel Scandale! This kind of team building is common practice in large organizations and hardly merits attention especially in light of the fact that all this is non-news; anyone wishing to can find the information on the government website. The timing of the Fife story, a week before the AG Report was to be released, was curious and its intent unmistakable. Fife is deservedly a well-respected journalist; it is not his integrity I question. I am, however, curious as to who put the bug in his ear. This is information easily obtained on the government website, though, it is true, the expenses are not outlined in the detail offered by Fife. Fergusons numbers regarding Senators who may have overstepped the mark were confirmed on June 4. Thirty senators have been named, nine to be referred to the RCMP. The nine to be referred are two sitting members, Liberal Colin Kenny and Conservative member Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and seven retired members, Liberals Sharon Carstairs, Rod Zimmer, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, and Bill Rompkey and Conservatives Donald Oliver and Gerry St. Germain. Folks may recall that Conservative Senator Boisvenu, a Harper appointee, was a very strong supporter of Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda. On the report’s release, he has resigned from the Conservative caucus. Of the twenty-one remaining Senators with questionable expense claims are three holding key positions in the Senate including leading the charge to clean up the Red Chamber. They are two Harper appointees, Leo Housakos, Senate Speaker, Claude Carignan, government leader and Liberal Opposition Leader, James Cowan. They were also responsible for the appointment of ex-Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie as independent arbitrator regarding disputes regarding Senate expenses. Because of the roles they play and because of the possibility of perceptions of conflict-of-interest, the three must, in all decency, step down. As of yet, they have not done so. Two have stated they will appeal to Binnie. Again, without impugning the integrity of the ex-Supreme Court Justice, this should raise concerns on the matter of conflict of interest regarding these three Senators who offered Binnie that position.

What has come out, the leaks, the attempts to smear the Auditor General’s office and Ferguson himself just a week before the report was released should raise concerns. But of more concern is that something is very rotten to the core in the Red Chamber. Experts say the NDP promise to abolish the Senate is empty because it can’t be done. Why not? Surely we can reform the Senate at least and not by going for elected senators which could lead to a secondary body shutting down a government simply because they don’t like the Prime Minister or the government in power. This would lead to American-style gridlock. We do not need that.

But, surely, something can be done. We have a government in power that has with a few changes to the Elections Act found a way to rig elections by simply disenfranchising voters and with a few strokes of the pen, inserted in an omnibus budget bill, C-59, a way to actually rewrite history and alter time! They’ve done this before. Slipped into C-59 is legislation that retroactively changes the Access To Information Act (AIA). The change, in effect, blocks anyone seeking information regarding the RCMP’s destruction of the Long Gun Registry records that could lead to criminal charges. An unnamed individual sought information on the registry and made an application for Access of Information (AOI). Canada’s Commissioner of Information, Susanne Legault agreed to the request and told the RCMP not to destroy records pertaining to other provinces and to hand the material over to the individual making the request (Quebec had sought to keep the records and took the matter to court; they lost the case not too long ago). The RCMP ignored Legault’s request, destroying the records even before the destruction of the registry received royal assent and even before the results of the Quebec case were released. In other words, those charged with enforcing the law and protecting us were, in fact, breaking laws and working against us. The change to C-59 not only protects the RCMP for breaking the law but, in effect erases history making legal what was illegal yesterday. It is as if nothing had happened, as if no registry existed. History is erased and rewritten without a hint of shame from those Conservative members in the House. It’s insane, immoral and absolute corrupt. Would you actually welcome these people into your home? Would you not feel tainted in doing so? Legault, in a devastating critique, suggests that this move by Harper not only breaks the law but also sets a dangerous precedent that will allow future governments to cover up almost any crime retroactively! Harper and gang’s response to this when the news came out? The RCMP was “following the will of Parliament”.

Now there are several things happening that should concern Canadians. First, Harper and gang and the RCMP totally disregarded a watchdog agency of the government. This is not the first time. Everyone recalls how they went after Kevin Page, the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer. And we all now how Pierre Poilievre, the snake, along with convicted election fraudster Dean del Mastro, attempt to daily smear Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada in the House. This is vile stuff by vile people but not new stuff and no longer surprising. Public servants looking after the public interest have routinely become targets of the Harper gang who evidently find this approach much easier to do than the right, moral, ethical thing.

Harper claims that the RCMP followed the “will of Parliament” is not false, but it is a lie. With forty percent of the vote, Harper has gained a majority number of seats. In destroying the Long Gun Registry, it is to these voices he listened. A vast majority of Canadians opposed the destruction of the registry. Harper went ahead with it anyway because he had his core base of supporters. Again, the majority of voters were outgunned by the tyranny of a special interest minority. The Senate must go, or changes made. But how or when is for another debate. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party must be stomped into the ashcan of history come next election.

Until then, Harper and his gang will promise anything to get elected. They did that in the past and got elected. But what has Canada gained except broken promises, a corrupt, secretive, mean-spirited, anti-democratic group of folks who would hold us hostage to our fears, ignorance and bigotry. They wave the flag and talk of terrorists pounding at our gates. But these are the folks who have accomplished nothing worthwhile in nearly ten years in office. Their successes are in inflicting misery by targeting public servants, low-income earners, single parent families, the poor and marginalized. These are the folks that wage war against scientists, environmentalists and would stifle and end debate, criticism, and knowledge. They do not believe in, nor do they wish for a knowledgeable voter.

Look around you. Think about what you see and what you have. Has Harper and his gang really given you the life they promised?

Look around you, look at Harper, really look at him, look at those who surround and protect him, really look at them. Can you really place trust in them and their promises once again? With the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, five years in the making, Justice Murray Sinclair, speaking before an audience of Aboriginal leaders, church representatives, politicians and reporters asked for a national inquiry to investigate murdered and missing indigenous women. As one, the audience rose to its feet and offered a standing ovation of support. But one member sat stoically in his chair, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. As before, the Harper regime remains steadfast in its refusal to meet such a request. They still don’t practice sociology. How hollow must the Harper apology of a few years ago ring today for those families and friends of the murdered and missing.

And then think of Bill C-51. Ask yourself this: Whom should I really fear? Who is the real terrorist?

I know. And so do 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.

 ***

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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

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

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE, THE ARCHITECT OF PAIN AND RUIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CONSERVATIVE END RUN ON DEMOCRACY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER RIGS THE VOTE

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE CONSERVATIVE WHINE: I’M A VICTIM TOO

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

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

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

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

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

POILIEVRE: DEMOCRACY? WHAT ABOUT IT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why this reform now; and why the haste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. This is simple rejigging of the formula to allow parties to spend more without having to claim it for elections purposes. Naturally, this will greatly help the money-rich conservatives who have mastered, if often in the sleaziest of ways, methods of expanding the list of supporters with no extra cost to them. It’s like a tax break, the richer they are, the more people they know, the less they have to pay. Another rigged advantage.

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

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

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

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

Well, there are a few more things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything it seems, including the truth.

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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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