Monday, August 31, 2015

Pulling Strings

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," bellowed the 'mighty' Oz as Dorothy and her companions were discovering the secret of his power.

Similarly, Stephen Harper would divert us from his machinations through manipulations and muzzling. Star letter-writers, however, are not so easily fooled:
Conservatives seeking happy vets for TV ads, Aug. 28

Perhaps veterans need to remember the conflict the military had with the Conservative government regarding repatriation of our fallen soldiers. General Rick Hillier had to stand firm against the Harper government in order to have the proper respect shown to the fallen members of our military.

More respect should be shown to all veterans; they are not here to be puppets for the Conservative dog and pony show.

Maureen Spinney, Caledonia

Re: Don't muzzle candidates, Editorial Aug. 28

As a master puppeteer Stephen Harper wants to personally control all aspects and activities of his party and its members and it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t want his candidates (people who supposedly want to be our representatives) taking part in all-candidates’ debates or press interviews where they might say something off-script.

Nor is it surprising that he will only speak before sympathetic supporters at campaign events and has progressed from limiting questions from the press to avoiding them all together.

He appears to have an obsessive need to micromanage every aspect of his party’s activities, with the one exception of his having not been at all interested in the details of Mike Duffy’s repayment of bogus expense claims despite the risk of those details undoing his government, his personal reputation and his re-election.

What a curious oversight!

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

Your editorial argues that the “informal edict” not to participate in candidates’ debates and media interviews is not in democracy’s interest, so we must infer that it is in the party’s interest. Candidates would have to defend the indefensible in debates and the media. The Tories know they could only look worse, so they’re not taking any risks and counting on their loyal base to win again, even if Canadians want a change.

By parroting lines and refusing to debate, the Conservatives are avoiding critical scrutiny. They’re betting their political lives on fear of instability rather than hope for better government. What are we betting on?

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

The decision by the Harper Tory leadership to muzzle their candidates is a direct assault on the freedoms that define our Canadian parliamentary democracy. Public debate and participation of the press are among the essential democratic checks and balances that assure those freedoms.

That includes freedom to: learn and be better informed as candidates debate varying priorities and approaches; gather as citizens and publicly declare our own concerns and priorities; assess the commitment of candidates, their integrity of person and their response to pressure and argument; assess a candidate’s responsiveness to reason and discourse beyond the partisan line; publicly challenge the candidates on how truly representative of their constituencies they are rather than being slaves to a party line; challenge the party lines; hear informed challenges to purported statements of fact; and freedom of access.

What’s more, limiting the democratic freedom of its candidates provides suspicious evidence of an insidious readiness by the Harper Tories to limit the democratic freedoms of Canadian citizens.

As the Canadian electorate, we should be very worried about this action of the Harper Tories. Restriction to democratic freedoms is an ominous step backwards for progressive, democratic society and conjures up images of devastatingly dark periods in human history, past and present.

We must say no to their muzzling directive. We must say no to the Harper Tories. We must declare a passionate yes for parliament, for democracy, for freedoms that have been won at such sore cost and which bear the light of hope for so many.

James McKnight, St. Catharines

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Looking Back

Although it was made in 2013, the following 22 Minutes' video has lost none of its relevance:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Olivia Chow's Video About Bill C-51

Given yesterday's post on the growing worldwide governmental repression of civil society groups and NGOs, as well as the disturbing information included in my update, a video by Olivia Chow attacking the Liberal position on Bill C-51 seems especially pertinent.
The NDP is launching a national attack on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over their support for Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism law.

The “T minus 51” blitz — 51 days from Saturday until the Oct. 19 election — will see dozens of NDP candidates in targeted ridings from coast to coast go door-to-door with special brochures attacking the Liberals on Bill C-51.

The weekend blitz will focus on ridings with incumbent Liberals who voted for the Conservatives’ “spy bill,” NDP sources say, including Toronto MPs Adam Vaughan and Chrystia Freeland.

Olivia Chow, the former MP and failed Toronto mayoral candidate, has gone a step further and created an online attack ad accusing Trudeau and Vaughan, her opponent in the new downtown riding of Spadina-Fort York, of “betraying” constituents by voting for a “dangerous and anti-democratic” law.

NDP leaders hope C-51, which they brand a threat to the civil liberties of peaceful protesters, journalists and anyone else who opposes the government, will be the wedge issue that convinces Canadians they are the real alternative to Harper’s Conservatives.

Liberals “said they were going to Ottawa to stand up to Stephen Harper and they didn’t,” an NDP organizer in Ottawa said on background Friday.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Night Humour

I was just checking my Twitter feed when I found this. Enjoy:

UPDATED: A Troubling Trend

Canadians have much to ponder before casting their ballots in October. Opinion polls tell us that the economy, healthcare and job creation are uppermost in their minds, all worthy topics to be sure. However, only 15% list Bill C-51, Harper's anti-terrorism legislation, as one of their top-five issues. More Canadians should be very, very concerned about it, given the disturbing international trends that are emerging as governments crack down on groups they feel threatened by.

Readers will recall that in addition to Bill C-51's troubling lack of oversight, there is a provision that could allow for mass arrests for protesters:
Within Bill C-51, the definition of what constitutes a threat to national security is broad and non-specific, making it difficult to understand how protesting in particular is affected. Any activities that undermine the security of Canada, including interfering with the economic or financial stability of Canada, are offences under Bill C-51.

This definition allows for a broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat to national security: a protest calling for action on missing and murdered Indigenous women that blocks a highway, or an environmental protest that fails to secure the proper permits, could warrant widespread arrests.
A troubling worldwide trend demonstrates a solid basis for fears about Bill C-51's misuse, as reported in The Guardian.
Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.
Parenthetically, one cannot help but think of the politically-motivated CRA audits of groups in Canada that disagree with government policies, which I have written about extensively on this blog.

The Guardian piece reports some very disturbing findings by Amnesty International:
“There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”
The list of countries involved in repression of civil society groups and NGOs is extensive, ranging from unsurprising states such as India, China, Russia and Egypt to Israel, Ecuador and Hungary.

Consider the following examples among putative democracies:

Israeli NGOs critical of the government – in particular the country’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories – are facing severe new restrictions amid a toxic political climate on the right that has sought to label them as disloyal.

A draft law seeks to cut off foreign funding by introducing a tax and labelling NGOs with external finance as “foreign agents” receiving funds from foreign governments to continue their work.

Some of Israel’s best-known human rights groups – including B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former soldiers that highlights alleged military human rights abuses – are likely to be affected.
Pachamama, an organisation that supports indigenous groups and campaigns for the conservation of biodiversity, was one of the first to feel the force of the clampdown on NGOs and civil society organisations by the government of President Rafael Correa.

A few months after executive decree 16 was issued in June 2013, Pachamama was closed down for having violated the order, in what Mario Melo, the foundation’s lawyer, calls a “tainted and invalid administrative process where Pachamama wasn’t given the right to defend itself”.
Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s populist prime minister, has called for the monitoring of certain “foreign-funded civil society organisations” that he describes as “agents of foreign powers”.

The targeted NGOs – referred to as “the dirty 13” in pro-government media, and including Transparency International, the Civil Liberties Union and the Roma Press Centre – received letters demanding two years of financial and administrative documentation within one week.
We live in a world deeply infected with a neoliberal agenda. Groups that interfere with that agenda are being widely targeted. Given the repressive measures that the Harper regime has consistently taken throughout its tenure, measures that include the muzzling of scientists, the defunding and dismantling of environmental oversight, the CRA audits the provisions of Bill C-51, and the terrible police abuse of citizens during the Toronto G20, we should all be very wary about casting our ballots lightly.

UPDATE: While I claim no prophetic powers, a report from Thinkpol appears to confirm the insidious and very dangerous nature of Bill C-51, as discussed above:
The RCMP are preparing to carry out a mass arrest operation against the indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern BC under Harper government’s Bill C-51 labelling as terrorists First Nations activists exercising their Aboriginal Title and Rights to protect their lands from oil and gas development, according to a joint statement by the groups supporters.

The Conservatives’ controversial anti-terror act criminalizes protests that may be seen as interfering with ‘the economic or financial stability of Canada’ and opponents of the bill had long feared that it would be used to stifle opposition to oil pipelines aggressively promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The activists have been protesting against the proposed Enbridge Pipeline and Pacific Trails Pipeline (Chevron), which are planned to cross the river at the exact points of our Pithouse, and Permaculture Garden that was built on the Unist´ot´en Territory of Talbits Kwah.

“The courageous stand taken by the Unist’ot’en and their supporters must not be criminalized by the RCMP nor targeted by government,” states Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Through the draconian Bill C51, the federal government is attempting to brand people defending the land and water as ‘security threats.’ The Unist’ot’en are heroes, while the real threat is this government destroying the planet and economy.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Some Comeuppance For The Minister of Democratic 'Reform'

The minister responsible for the Unfair Elections Act, Pierre Poilievre, has finally gotten a taste of his own medicine. In the following you will hear a telemarketer calling on behalf of his campaign being answered by 'Lenny,' a software program that manages to tie her up for about 11 minutes.
Lenny, in essence, picks up calls and answers them with pre-recorded audio clips from a doddering Australian man, sometimes keeping telemarketers on the phone for over 20 minutes.
The clips include non-sequiturs, complaints that he can’t hear the caller, and extended reflections about one of his daughter’s academic achievements. At one point he even chases away ducks.
You don't have to listen to the entire clip to make your day. Enjoy:

On Mad King Stephen's Monomania

This is not the post I was planning for today, but these letters about Stephen Harper's economic ineptitude seemed too good not to share:
Re: Another Orange Wave for Alberta? Aug. 20

Of course, the prospect of an Orange Wave in Alberta is tantalizing to many and I applaud Tim Harper’s article. However when he quotes Brent Rathgeber as saying that falling oil prices are not Stephen Harper’s fault, it would have been just as astute to point out that perhaps our PM can’t be blamed for the fall of oil prices but he certainly can and should be blamed for doing what no “investor” or “economic planner” worth his salt would or should do, which is to put all his eggs in one basket.

A prime minister with a sound economic plan that looked to a solid future would have long ago diversified Canada’s strengths by encouraging, supporting and subsidizing (much the way the oil patch has been subsidized over the years) our manufacturing sector, which took such a tremendous hit when our loonie became a high petrodollar and has yet to recover.

How does Harper have the gall to ask about anyone’s “economic action plan” when even the most cursory glance at our present near-recession predicament would make it abundantly clear that he, himself, didn’t have one that worked worth a bean.

J. Bartram-Thomas, Richmond Hill

It is factually based and verified that this government has exacerbated, greatly, the economic situation Canada finds itself in, world-wide or not. From its “all our eggs in one basket” reliance on commodities, to massive cutbacks to social programs, science, and R&D, to surplus elimination/deficit creation by handing out tax breaks for the rich and companies that hold but don’t spend cash, and so on and so on, this government has empirically proven itself to be both myopic and inept at handling our asset base. Any of the opposition parties would have done a better job at preparing us for the worst.

If one was on that unfortunate plane a few months back, as a supposedly skilled pilot was directly aiming at the side of a mountain, would one turn to one’s seat companion and declare that this is no time to change our aviation “expert”?

David Klarer, Oakville

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Which The Globe And Mail Continues To Service Its Ideological Master

Were it possible for a corporate entity to be appointed to the Senate, I am sure that The Globe and Mail would now be making its presence felt in the Red Chamber. Ever-constant friend to Stephen Harper, the paper with its cadre of ideological sycophants, John Ibbitson consistently leading that particular pack, has proven itself time and again as the Tory newspaper of record.

The Globe's latest genuflection at the altar of Harper came on Monday in an article written by Konrad Yakabuski entitled Harper hysteria a sign of closed liberal minds. In it, said scribe suggests that we all calm down and see the Harper record in the kind of light that only a true believer could entertain:
Just what it is about the Conservative Leader that sends reasonable people into such fits of hysteria is best examined by historians, or better yet, psychiatrists. But it surely can’t be evidence, for Mr. Harper’s political style is not particularly novel, nor have his reforms been that transformational.
Two words in that paragraph are ample indication of the blinders Yakabuski donned for the premise of this piece: style and reforms. More about that in a moment.

Incredibly, he asserts that Harper largely
governs from the centre, upholding the long Canadian tradition of middle-of-the-road pragmatism.
I guess in order to try to reassure readers that his is not a satirical piece, Yakabuski admits his lord has perhaps made a mistake or two along the way but really, twas nothing:
Yes, the Conservatives have made some questionable policy choices in the name of stroking their base. Killing the long-form census was one. The form had been a long-standing bugaboo among conservatives who felt the state has no business knowing the granular details of their lives. Its demise has inconvenienced some researchers, but it has hardly led to a “subtle darkening of Canadian life.”
But what of all the criticism directed at Harper? Tut, tut. Nothing to see here. Move along:
...because elites in the media and academe have deemed Conservative supporters a less evolved species than the progressive subclass to which they themselves belong, they are beside themselves at the loss of their own influence.
And about the prime minister's obsessive micromanaging?
Autocratic, Stephen Harper? Well, yes, like just about every other successful prime minister from John A. Macdonald to Mackenzie King to Jean Chrétien. The centralization of decision making in the Prime Minister’s Office is a phenomenon much bigger than Mr. Harper and it would take wholesale parliamentary, if not constitutional, reform to reverse the trend.
The Duffy scandal, according to Mr. Yakabuski's bible, is much ado about nothing:
The questions raised at Senator Mike Duffy’s fraud trial about the conduct of Mr. Harper’s closest staff in the PMO, and the Conservative Leader himself, are not flattering. But in the annals of Canadian political scandals – a fairly tame volume to begin with – this is a footnote.
Getting back to his qualifiers of style and reforms, informed readers, of which there appear to be growing numbers, will be aware that much of what Harper has done has nothing to do with legislation. Rogue appointments to the National Energy Board, the muzzling of scientists, the egregious contempt for Parliamentary traditions are just three from a long list of abuses that have been well-chronicled and documented over the years and need no repetition here.

They are all part of the public record.

The Harper base may exult in propaganda organs like the Globe and Mail. All those who embrace critical thinking should feel duly insulted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

More Canaries

My guess is only the willfully ignorant, the profoundly stupid, and the ideologically blind do not realize the environmental peril we are experiencing, one primarily but not exclusively driven by climate change. Monster storms, massive wildfires and record droughts are just three of the more obvious symptoms of a critically ill planet. But it is not hard, if we look just a little beyond melodramatic headlines and visuals, to see that the problem is leaving no ecosystem unscathed. The world's oceans are one such ecosystem, as rising temperatures are wreaking largely unseen havoc.

The latest evidence of earth's fever is the death of 30 whales in the Gulf of Alaska:
Since May 2015, 14 fin whales, 11 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified specimens have been found dead along shorelines in the Gulf of Alaska, nearly half of them in the Kodiak Archipelago. Other dead whales have been reported off the coast of British Columbia, including four humpbacks and one sperm whale.
Labelling it an “unusual mortality event,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the deaths are three times the average for the region, and the fact that little or no trauma has thus far been found on the whales has led to speculation that they are the victims of rising ocean temperatures and a very toxic and extensive consequent algal blooms:
Over the past two years, a large mass of warm water that climatologists have dubbed “the blob” has persisted in the north Pacific, and El Niño 2015 is pushing more warm water into the region.

The unusually warm and calm seas are believed to be behind a series of toxin-producing algae blooms – record-breaking in size and duration – stretching from southern California to the Aleutian Islands. Clams sampled near the town of Sand Point, Alaska were found to have toxin levels more than 80 times what the FDA says is safe for human consumption, said Bruce Wright, a scientist who studies toxic algal blooms for the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands Association. The levels were ten times anything Wright had previously recorded.
All of this suggests we are bearing witness to yet another canary in the coalmine, one of many that all of our major political leaders and a majority of the population will almost certainly continue to ignore.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This And That

The start of a new week inspires me to look back on the one past; thanks to an array of editorial cartoonists, it was a week not kind to our outgoing (one hopes) prime minister:

Government for all Canadians, not just the wealthy, offers this intriguing clip from the past. Keep your eyes on the late Jim Flaherty:

Watch Jim Flaherty's reaction when Steve tells the House of Commons that Nigel Wright didn't tell Ray Novak about the Duffy bribe.

Posted by Government for all Canadians, not just the wealthy on Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lest Angry White Guy be forgotten, The Star's Heather Mallick offers her views in today's edition:

#AngryCon, identified by the Star as “Earl Cowan,” was filmed in a tan suit, white shirt and, on a hot day, undershirt. His hair a limp version of Harper’s, he accessorized with a calculator watch and a Doug Ford for Mayor button, but no wedding ring. If there’s any man who needs a wife, it’s Earl. He has no one to say, “Earl that’s nuts,” which is one reason he watched himself shout in a high-pitched voice that the reporters were “lying pieces of s—t” and then accused them, a propos of nothing, of cheating on their taxes.
And a Star letter-writer has this suggestion on how to deal with the unstable volatile Cowan:
The now known profanities shouter, Earl Cowan, should immediately be investigated by the Canada Revenue Agency because he, in all probability, must have been cheating on his income tax returns. He thinks it’s okay to do that — everybody does that, and Duffy has done nothing wrong.

Satendra Ganjoo, Toronto

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now This Is Getting Ridiculous

Apparently, Stephen Harper feels that Canadians are real whores for tax cuts:
Stephen Harper is kicking off a quiet day on the federal election campaign trial by promising tax relief for service club members.

Harper says members of organizations such the Kiwanis, Lions and Royal Canadian Legion can claim a tax break for their membership fees if the Conservatives are re-elected.
I'm sure that will make the disaffected vets much, much happier.

Angry For Good Reason

Every evening at 6:30, I try to take about 10 minutes to watch NBC Nightly News, the object of my interest not American politics but the apocalyptic imagery of the West Coast wildfires. Every night seems to bring reports of new conflagrations and tragedy, and every night my anger grows, not just for the loss of valuable forests and the consequent release of all of their stored carbon, not just for the loss of hundreds of homes that have often been in families for generations, and not just for the loss of the lives of the brave people putting themselves on the front-lines in often futile attempts to contain these raging conflagrations.

No, my greatest anger is reserved for two groups, one of them being the politicians and their well-heeled enablers who facilitate either outright climate-change denial or, even more insidiously, now acknowledge it but doubt that it is caused by human activity. Hence, no need to change our reliance on fossil fuels or anything else about our earth-altering habits - it's out of our hands, goes the messaging.

The second target for my deep anger is the rest of us. Sure, as a society we may express concern, but as soon as measures are proposed that would constitute concrete action against ever-rising temperatures, outrage ensues. Consider the glee with which Conservative MP Michelle Rempel pounced on Linda McQuaig's recent assertion that much of the tarsands oil may have to be left in the ground if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures under two degrees Celsius. Rempel's Dark Lord and Master, Stephen Harper, quickly joined in the pile-on, saying such a statement shows that the NDP will “wreck our economy” and should never come to power.

But why do you think their triumphalism is so nakedly and unapologetically on offer? It's because they know that whatever veneer of noble intent and purpose we have can be easily pierced by raising the spectre of job loss, tax increases, and disruption of our profligate lifestyles, this, of course, despite the fact that those consequences, and much worse, are coming our way as runaway climate change takes hold.

That is also why people like Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau limit their references to climate change to platitudinous generalities.

Said Mr. Mulcair recently:
At a time when world leaders are negotiating new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Mulcair said he wants to represent Canada in December when decisions are made in Paris.

“Nothing would make me more proud than to be there in December, as Prime Minister of Canada, to participate in the conference on climate change, to declare loud and clear that Canada will work with the world and not against the planet,” he said.
Note the similar stance taken by Trudeau:
He would take the premiers with him to the Paris climate-change summit in December. By April 2016, he would hold a first minister’s conference to forge a consensus on emissions-reduction targets. He would commit “targeted federal funding” to help provinces reduce their emissions.
Their timidity, of course, is predicated on the same boldness that galvanizes the Harperites: the knowledge that people are all for addressing climate change, as long as it doesn't impinge upon their lifestyle choices and economic statuses.

In the days of widespread church attendance, Sundays were devoted to uplifting messages, and in that regard my post falls far short. However, I will end on a positive note. One of the few things that keeps me from complete despair is the knowledge that there are those among us who are willing to put everything at risk, even their very lives, in service of their fellow humans. The above-mentioned firefighters are sterling proof of that. Now, if only the rest of us could awaken that noble potential ....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Go On, Make Her Day

You'll understand the relevance of my post's title when you get to the end of the following video, about the efforts of 81-year-old Doreen Routley, a former steadfast Conservative, to convince people not to vote for Stephen Harper in October. I shudder to ponder what expletives Angry White Guy would hurl at her.

And as a supplement, you may wish to check out some Star readers' reactions to the revelations emerging from the Mike Duffy trial, a few of which I reproduce below:
To help Canadians suspend disbelief and to enter his imaginary world, the next three Senate appointments by the Prime Minister will be: the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Boogey Man. Together, they will enhance our benefits and scare those who threaten us.
Chuck Simmons, Pickering

We’ve seen this movie before. A network of senior political operatives scrambles to cover up an unravelling embarrassment in order to insulate their boss whose abuse of power created the problem in the first place.

After Watergate was exposed, Richard Nixon won the largest majority in U.S. history. It was only later that the wheels came off.

We can only hope it doesn’t take as long for us to be rid of our tyrant and his gang of democracy suppressors.

Dermot P. Nolan, Hamilton

The Duffy trial can aptly be renamed “Wruffygate” due to its profound effect on the federal election campaign. The mounting email evidence and testimony leaves us with two clear conclusions.

Either Stephen Harper knew all along about Wright’s activities. Occam’s razor favours this explanation. Almost nothing happens in the Party of One without Harper’s knowledge.
Or his many underlings were too afraid of their dictatorial leader to tell him what Nigel Wright was doing to extricate Mike Duffy from his dilemma. We have seen this before when Saddam’s underlings were too afraid of him to relate how few weapons he actually had. The resulting electronic chatter fooled U.S. intelligence into thinking he had “weapons of mass destruction.”

Either way, the scandal has derailed Harper’s branding. During the Macleans debate, he simply stuck to his party line, largely ignoring the criticisms of the progressive party leaders. Now he has to answer persistent questions about the Duffy trial evidence. Canadian voters are getting a true picture of the inner workings of the ruling Conservatives.

Donald A. Fraser, Waterloo

Friday, August 21, 2015

Your Morning Smile

Pinocchio, Snow White and Superman are out for a stroll in town one day.
As they walk, they came across a sign:
"Beauty contest for the most beautiful woman in the world."
"I am entering," said Snow White.
After half an hour she comes out and they ask her,
"Well, how did you do?"
" First Place ," said Snow White.
They continue walking and they see a sign:
"Contest for the strongest man in the world."
"I'm entering," says Superman.
After half an hour he returns and they ask him,
"How did you make out?"
" First Place ," answers Superman. "Did you ever doubt?"
They continue walking when they see a sign:
"Contest! Who is the greatest liar in the world?"
Pinocchio says "this is mine."
Half an hour later, he returns with tears in his eyes.
"What happened?" they asked.
"Who the hell is STEPHEN HARPER?" asked Pinocchio.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sympathy For The Devil?

With tongue firmly ensconced in his cheek, Andrew Coyne writes that we are being too hard on Stephen Harper, a prime minister who has been cruelly betrayed by all those in whom he placed an absolute trust:
You will be familiar with the picture we have created of him: suspicious, paranoid, controlling, a leader who trusts no one, leaves nothing to others, insists on taking a hand in even the smallest matter. Well, you’d be suspicious, paranoid and controlling, too, if everyone around you was lying to you all the time.
Such deception would be enough to break the spirit of even the strongest person:
Consider what we have learned about the Duffy affair. More to the point, consider what he has learned. Wholly without his knowledge, several of his closest advisers, including his chief of staff, his principal secretary, and his legal counsel, together with his Senate house leader, the chairman of the Conservative party fundraising arm and the party lawyer, conspired over a period of several months to pay Duffy for his improperly claimed living expenses, then to pretend to the public that he had repaid them out of his own pocket, then to attempt to block, shut down, or rewrite a confidential audit, then finally to rewrite a Senate committee report so as to absolve Duffy of any fault.
To have the foundations of his world so shaken must have exacted an enourmous toll on Mr. Harper:
Imagine the sense of betrayal he must have felt — the vertigo, the nausea — as it slowly dawned on him that everything he had been led to believe about the whole affair was a lie: that in fact, everyone knew. Everyone, that is, but him. Imagine the humiliation, to have been played for a patsy in this way — him, Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada — and what is more, for the whole world to know it. He is a proud man, but not immune to feelings of self-doubt. Would anyone respect him now? Could he carry on as leader, if he were not master even of his own office?
And yet, while others might have lashed out in fury at the byzantine machinations of subordinates, the true character of the prime minister became apparent as he chose the road less travelled:
And yet, this good man, deceived, humiliated, betrayed on all sides, found it in his heart to forgive them. You or I, had we found ourselves in the same position, might have taken the most foul sort of revenge: fired the lot, paraded them in front of the media, forced them to answer for what they had done. But that is not, we can see now, Harper’s way: this supposedly ruthless autocrat, this cold, vindictive brute of caricature, responded to this monumental breach of trust with comprehensive mercy. No one was fired, though some were allowed to leave. Some are even travelling with him on his campaign. He was even going to forgive Wright, and would have, had it tested better.
"These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine. Out of this current political crisis confronting the prime minister, all Canadians have been presented the opportunity to see the stuff that Stephen Harper's soul is really made of.

A Blast From The Past

Many thanks to John B who, in response to my previous post, wrote the following and provided this video and this link. I daresay you will enjoy this eerily prophetic blast from the past, as the 'over served' and pompous Mike Duffy attempts a stout defense of his Senate expenditures less that one year into his illustrious post-television career.

I realize that the Beaverton piece is fictional, but let's not forget that Duffy was appointed to the Senate in late 2008 just after the election and possibly as a direct reward for his role in Harper's project to destroy Stéphane Dion.

It would also be informative to our current perspective to keep in mind that the infamous CBC interview during which Peter Stoffer attempted to draw attention to the expense claim abuses that Duffy had committed to support his "expanded role in the party, an exercise that, taking a page from the Jason Kenney manual for publicly-funded CRAP Party ethnopandering, the Scotch-soaked Senator dared to describe as an "outreach", took place in November of 2009, at least three years prior to the "revelations" that have led to the tap-dancing we are now observing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

UPDATED: Now Trending

Following yesterday's sterling advertisement for the Harper base, the satirical publication The Beaverton decided to have some fun:
TORONTO - During a campaign stop reporters asking questions about the Duffy scandal were cursed at by a Harper supporter, before he was removed and offered a seat in the Senate.

“I spoke to my current Chief of Staff, Ray Novak, about making this problem go away,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when asked later about the Senate appointment. Harper further elaborated, “Considering after the 2011 election I appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate in exchange for him doing ‘work’ in the press, this just kind of made sense.”

Harper then clarified that he had no knowledge of any conversations with Novak, and “rejected the premise” that he had said the opposite mere minutes previous.

The latest Senator from Etobicoke has refused to offer any identification outside of the prominent “Doug Ford Mayor” campaign button on his jacket. Following his nomination to the senate, he is expected to chair a committee on how “the media are all lying pieces of shit”.

At a later campaign stop, Conservative spokesperson Kory Teneycke apologized to journalists for the outburst, adding “If you think that guy was bad, you should see the supporters that we screen out.”

It would seem prudent for all future innocent bystanders at Harper rallies to wear protective apparel to guard againt the spewing of infected saliva.

As well, perhaps angry white guy can put an end to this abuse by the Senate, as reported by Buzzfeed.
In a March 2013 memo to Stephen Harper, his chief of staff Nigel Wright and other senior staffers raged that Conservative Senators were too independent and had recommended policies that were not pre-approved by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Imagine, the bought-and-paid-for Red Chamber Conservatives thinking they could act independently! A sobering second thought indeed.

UPDATE: Angry white guy now has a name: Earl Cowan. When contacted by the Toronto Star, he had this to say:
“If I wrote anything for the Star,” he added, “the issue would be: is or is not the Toronto media a piece of s---. Excuse me, a lying piece of s---. I’m forgetting my own lines here . . . That’s the issue. That’s the only issue.”

More Fun With 'Deceivin' Stephen'

H/t Theo Moudakis

And this from Star letter-writers:
Re: Duffy scandal dogs Harper, Aug. 17


There are many types, just as there are many kinds of lies – white, boastful, malicious, and the Big Lie. This last kind can perhaps be used successfully only by one class of liar – the Big Man or CEO type.

The method is familiar, probably taught at MBA schools. Appear calm and subdued. Begin by saying “Look,” or “Let’s be clear,” or “I’ve said this before.” Slump your shoulders as a visible sigh of exasperation. Use a somewhat rote, very slightly sing-song style of delivery, like one who is patiently taking up valuable time to re-explain something that the listener, disappointingly, lacked the perception to grasp the first time.

Then unleash the Big Lie. The black economy is actually white. Saving the climate is good, but taking any suggested step to that end is bad. Canadians are in imminent danger of terrorism, and bombing Syria will prevent lone-wolf attacks here.

Past tanker, railway and pipeline disasters have taught us so much that future incidents are impossible. Breaches of election spending rules and Parliamentary conduct are normal, nothing new, conform to past practice, nothing to see here, folks. The Senate scandal was rare, contained, and completely divorced from the practices of the party and PMO. If one didn’t use certain quoted exact words, therefore nothing of the kind was said.

The punctiliously polite Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May seem to think that on the debating podium they are still hamstrung by the Parliamentary rule against flagging an untruth. Well, Stephen Harper himself has killed the current Parliament, so those rules don’t apply, and good heavens, surely somebody has to bell the cat.

If they absolutely can’t bring themselves to use the word, how about witty references to lengthening noses, or: “Mr. Moderator, do we need to call 911? There seems to be a smouldering odour in here of pants on fire.”

Or how about simply looking at the camera and asking Canadians directly: “On the economy, who are you going to believe – this guy or your own eyes?”

J.A. McFarlane, Toronto

For years we’ve known that Lyin’ Brian Mulroney earned his sobriquet; now we know that Deceivin’ Stephen Harper has earned his monicker, too.

Bernie Smith, Parksville, B.C.

If Nigel Wright believed that his $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy was a good deed, then why would he not have told the Prime Minister? Is there anyone in Canada who still believes that he didn’t?

Paul Axelrod, Toronto

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

UPDATED: A Member Of The Rabid Harper Base Foams At The Mouth

The following occurred this morning, at a Harper rally in Etobicoke:

You can read about it here.

A persistent Terry Milewski was met by the same crowd lustily urging that the government "shut down the CBC."

Two more reasons not to live in one of Toronto's suburbs.

UPDATE: The fallout begins:

The Company You Keep

You remember, I'm sure, what your mother taught you: you are judged by the company you keep. By that standard, almost all of the MPs who form the Harper regime are to be condemned, willing, as they apparently are, to trade any vestige or semblance of integrity and self-respect for the chance of obtaining power. The seal that barks the loudest often gets the biggest fish.

Looking decidedly well-fed on piscine fare these days is Finance Minister Joe Oliver who, despite some very obvious shortcomings, appears quite content to be the good soldier carrying out Dear Leader's commands. Yet a closer look reveals that Stephen Harper has some serious competition in the unsavoury associates category. That's because of Oliver's close association with
Rebecca MacDonald, founder and executive chair of Just Energy Group Inc., a $3.9-billion Toronto-based energy marketing company. Oliver appointed MacDonald to his Economic Advisory Council last summer.
MacDonald was in the news last month after Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. made her the head of its corporate governance committee. MacDonald has been on CP Rail’s board for the past three years.

Bruce Livesey writes that MacDonald, who enjoys a high social profile, has a rather low ethical threshold. You may have encountered some of her employees at your door, trying to sell you an energy contract. If your 'Spider sense' started to tingle, your instincts were correct, since
charges of consumer fraud, unscrupulous sales tactics, multi-million dollar fines, and allegations of fabricating credentials have plagued both MacDonald and Just Energy for years. This past winter, for example, Massachusetts forced a (US) $4-million settlement out of the company over its sales methods, specifically over making false representations to customer. “We allege this… supplier engaged in widespread and misleading conduct that lured consumers into costly contracts in the form of high electricity rates and termination fees,” said the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, when the settlement was announced.
Just Energy also owes $105-million to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – a loan it received three years ago after Bay Street refused to finance the company in a public share offering.
Says forensic accountant Dr. Al Rosen, who has investigated both MacDonald and her company, “How they could possibly have loaned them five cents is beyond me”.

Part of the answer may lie in the fact that she has friends in high places, including Oliver, John Baird, Major General Lewis MacKenzie, former Senator Hugh Segal and former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry.

An investigation by The National Observer reveals that her life seems to be filled with a series of fabrications, ranging from the lie that her father was the minister of energy in Yugoslavia under Tito, that she became a doctor at the age of 22, and that she is a trained concert pianist. And these were just the lies she told her first husband.
Telling fibs about your credentials is not a minor issue if you’re running a publicly-traded company, says Joe Groia, one of Canada’s top security lawyers. “If you have a director or an officer of a public company who’s falsified her credentials or if she’s telling stories about her background in order to give herself credibility in the marketplace and those stories are not true, that’s a very serious issue… So regulators take it very seriously… because directors have a huge amount of responsibility.”
From suits involving consumer fraud to employing people whose companies were fronts for the Russian mafia to juggling its books, MacDonald's Just Energy, for anyone interested in corporate morality and ethical practices, is a toxic product, a matter apparently of no concern to Joe Oliver or CP Rail:
Oliver spokesperson Nicholas Bergamini responded by saying: “Our government consults widely with leading business and economic innovators – to hear ideas to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.”

And CP Rail spokesperson Marty Cej says that MacDonald has the “full confidence of the board” and that her posting to the head of its governance committee was an “unanimous” decision. When pressed if they conducted any due diligence on her background, Cej repeated the same statement.
Perhaps the final word should be accorded to the forensic accountant, Al Rosen, who issues this warning to consumers about the company:
“It's something that you should run far and fast away from.”
It is the same advice I would give to voters about a government that endorses such ethically-challenged companies and practices.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Too Good Not To Share

H/t Michael de Adder

Apocalypse Now, And The Shape Of Things To Come

I decided to take a break from the political landscape today to look at our physical one. Regrettably, although the title of this post comes from two films, what is depicted here is all too real. I'll let the disturbing imagery speak for itself.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Another Reason To Vote

If you know any young people looking for a reason to vote, please pass this on to them:

National Pipeline Approval Board

Posted by Robin Chat on Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fun With Stephen

As a Facebook wag described the above, Harper's caucus room post-election.

I have always respected Smokey's advice. At this critical juncture, Canadians would be foolish to ignore him.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Evolving Harper 'Narrative' On The Duffy Scandal

Of course, I am using the word narrative quite euphemistically here.

About Those Diversions, Mr. Harper

H/t Raeside Cartoons

Meanwhile, always perspicacious Toronto Star readers will have none of it. Here is but a small sampling of their sentiments on Mr. Harper's diversionary tactics:
Re: Harper vows to end ‘terror tourism,’ Aug. 10

Travel restrictions to terrorist locations shouldn’t be election promises. When warranted I expect any government to take responsible precautions, including restricting travel to certain areas, more for the safety of the travelers than as a way to stop potential radicals.

It’s hardly worthy of be‎ing touted as a campaign plank, but I suppose the Conservatives have little else to run on. More and more though, the Conservative positions on security sound like a paranoid response from someone who runs and hides in a closet at the first hint of trouble.

Terry Kushnier, Scarborough

Life mirrors art. Stephen Harper unjustifiably presents terrorism as so threatening to Canadians that he must be kept in office to be our saviour. Remember the movie “Wag the Dog,” in which a film producer created a pretend narrative of real war threats in order to keep the incumbent U.S. president in power? It worked in the movie — let’s be aware and ensure it doesn’t work for Stephen Harper.

Linda Silver Dranoff, Toronto

If Stephen Harper had been a politician in the 1950s, his bogeymen to scare voters would have been those nefarious communists. Richard Nixon parlayed that type of fear mongering into a political career that launched him all the way to the White House. Once in power, Nixon would direct his people to undertake unethical retaliations against individuals and groups that disagreed with his ideology or who had pointed out mistakes or deceptions committed by his administration. Tax audits were one of his weapons.

In the end, his governments involvement in a scandalous illegal activity brought down a majority elected government. A lot of people knew the negatives about Nixon before he was elected to a second term. But, it took the release of the Nixon tapes to convince the rest of the U.S. electorate.

Wait a minute – in addition to our government’s cynical ploy of a tough on terrorism agenda, aren’t we seeing tax audits being used here in Canada against environmental and politically liberal charities? Don’t we have a chief of staff for the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada involved in a hush money payoff scandal? I don’t get it. Isn’t it our duty to learn from history?

Someone should have been taping the Harper administration.

Russell Pangborn, Keswick

Now we know who’s been spying on people through their baby cams. You gotta get to those terrorists while they’re still young eh Steve.
Harpers “Anti Terrorism Act” is just that — an act of desperation.

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough
Let us all hope, for the sake of our country, that such critical thinking is not confined to the pages of national newspapers.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Power Of The Makeover

A FB friend put this on his page. I hope you agree that it deserves to be spread widely.

And Now For You Youngsters Out There

Those words, or something very similar, were often uttered by Ed Sullivan when he had an act that would appeal to a youthful demographic. People of a certain age, or, because the Mound of Sound recently chided me about my use of euphemisms, old farts like me, will remember those times.

Today, it is hard to find something in the political spectacle of campaigns to appeal to the youngsters out there. Nonetheless, comedian Scott Vrooman warns them that political disengagement, and its logical conclusion, the refusal to vote, are not viable options:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

UPDATED: Carnac The Magnificent Stephen Harper Is Not

Readers of a certain age will remember with fondness the Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson. A staple in my youth and throughout my adult life, Carson was a peerless entertainer who would often go to considerable lengths for laughs; like all comedic endeavours, some worked better than others.

One of Carson's enduring creations was Carnac The Magnificent, a 'psychic' who would hold up an unopened envelope, discern its contents, and give an answer to the question posed within. Sometimes it worked well, other times it bombed.

It appears that Stephen Harper is our own version of Carnac, discerning answers from some etheric realm that is not accessible to mere mortals, answers that seem at odds with secular polling results and science. One such instance occurred the other day, when Stephen the Magnificent pronounced on Canadians' views on marijuana:

How well do Harper's assertions stand up? CTV News investigated, and came up with these results:

“Most Canadians (when) you actually ask them, do not want the full legalization of marijuana.”

A 2014 survey by Angus Reid Global found that 59 per cent of the 1,510 Canadians surveyed supported legalizing marijuana and 41 per cent were opposed.

“I think the statistics in places like Colorado are very clear on this. When you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children.”

Marijuana has only been legal in Colorado since Jan. 1, 2014, so extensive research has not been conducted. However, drugs have been decriminalized in the Netherlands since 1976, and past-year cannabis use among young Dutch citizens appears to be declining. Among those aged 15 to 24, past-year use dropped from 14 per cent in 1997 to 11 per cent in 2005, according to a study in the journal Addiction.

“Marijuana use has actually been declining (in Canada).”

A recently-published report by Statistics Canada noted that about 12 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2012 said they had smoked marijuana in the previous year – the same proportion the agency found when it did the same survey in 2002. However, the results did vary by age. Past-year marijuana use declined over the decade by nearly one-third among those between the ages of 15 and 17, was stable among those aged 18 to 24 and went up among those 25 or older.

While the issue of marijuana legalization may not be uppermost in most people's minds, Harper's stance and his frequently fanciful assertions on the topic do serve to remind us of something none of us should forget as we prepare to cast our ballots. The Harper regime has shown a consistent aversion to empirical data, an aversion that has led to the muzzling of scientists, the end of the mandatory long-form census, egregious contempt for the implications of climate change, and the passing of punitive criminal laws in a time of steadily declining crime, just four consequences among many of a government bent on governing almost exclusively through the narrow lens of ideology.

Unlike the Carnac skits, there is nothing to laugh about in Stephen Harper's pronouncements.

UPDATE: the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy is now weighing in on the prime minister's Pinocchio proclivities. M. J. Milloy, an infectious-disease epidemiologist,

said his group’s research proves that recent use by teens in Colorado has gone down from 22 per cent to 20 per cent in the first year that the U.S. state regulated recreational pot sales. The Conservative Party did not respond to calls for comment on the report.

“It’s not a sort of a ‘push a button, get the result’ type thing,” Dr. Milloy said. “We’ve had, what, 40 years of doing things Mr. Harper’s way, both under his government and under previous governments, which have enacted a very stringent cannabis prohibition model.

“Where are we after billions of dollars and thousands of arrests? We are at a place where Canadian teens lead the world in marijuana use.”

You can read the report, and the debunking of the kinds of myths Mr. Harper likes to perpetuate, here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

UPDATED: Signifying Nothing

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

In the above quotation, the beleaguered Macbeth, facing his final battle, is talking about the meaningless of life. He could just as easily been talking about election campaigns.

As I noted the other day in a brief post, speaking truth during an election campaign can be a perilous pursuit indeed. Just ask Linda McQuaig, who opined on Power and Politics that much of Alberta's bitumen may well have to be left in the ground if we are to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius , a view supported by serious research.

The anaphylaxix that sets in when truth and politics meet is the subject that Seth Klein, the B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, writes about in today's Star:
... the McQuaig episode is illustrative of a larger problem: namely, that our politics do not allow for serious — and truly honest — discussion of the most pressing issues of our time.

McQuaig was accused, by the prime minister and many others, of heartlessly ignoring the economic needs and employment anxieties of Albertans.

Honest leadership would mean speaking frankly about climate realities. It means acknowledging that a new global climate treaty is coming, that it will require that Canada leave much of its oil, natural gas and coal reserves in the ground, and that in anticipation of this eventuality Canada must invest extensively in renewables and green infrastructure that will allow us to leap into this transition.

There are a lot of jobs in this necessary future, and these should be championed, instead of simply pointing to the jobs that will (and must) disappear.
But the reality of climate change is but one of the subjects considered verboten on the campaign trail:
Canada needs a comprehensive policy response to address inequality — one that restores progressivity to our tax system, and that boosts the social wage and earnings of low- and middle-income families. Instead, we get to witness the unfortunate display of the NDP critiquing the Liberals’ well-advised proposal to create a new upper-income tax bracket; the Liberals critiquing the NDP’s welcome plans for national child care and a federal minimum wage; and the Conservatives dismissing of all the above.
Seth Klein goes on to suggest that the spectacles of denial and caution among our political leaders may ultimately prove counterproductive to their goals:
New data from Innovative Research Group, reported in the Hill Times this week, suggests parties looking for the progressive vote will gain electorally the stronger their positions are on the environment, civil liberties and health care — since these are areas where people feel very strongly one way or another.
But don't tell that to either Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair. With their eyes on the prize of electoral victory, there is little appetite for a truly inspiring vision.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the United Church of Canada is showing real leadership, having voted to sell off fossil fuel assets worth $5.9 million and instead pump funds into renewable energy co-operatives in a landmark decision on Aug. 11.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Just Because....

I like this so much, I will share it on my blog:

H/t Terry McTavish

As Hamlet said, One may smile and smile and be a villain.

Openness And Transparency: An Update

Recently I wrote a post about the very stringent and restrictive conditions imposed upon those who would attend gatherings featuring Stephen Harper. Not only are all potential attendees vetted and issued a ticket, but it was reported that they had to agree to a gag order, a virtual embargo on information and pictures from the gathering.

Now the Tories are changing their tune, perhaps stung by the public reaction to measures, as I noted earlier, that seem more appropriate to a totalitarian state than a democratic one.

That ubiquitous gadfly, Conservative party spokesman Kory Teneycke, now assures us it was all just a big misunderstanding, at least the part about the embargo on information. He now says
that the requirement was a “legal boilerplate” that some lawyer “cribbed” for the ticket’s disclaimer – but that ultimately meant nothing.

“We’ve removed it,” he said of the disclaimer. “It was never intended. It was never enforced.

“We encourage people to take pictures and use social media at our events.”
The restrictions on admission, however, remain, inviting widespread scorn for the PM's fear of Canadians:
“It sends a message that the leader is trying to avoid questions and challenges to the Conservative party’s platform and ideas,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“To not be open to debating the public during an election campaign is definitely anti-democratic. That’s what the election is supposed to be all about.”
But in the skewed world of Harperland, such restrictions are reasonable:
Teneycke said Monday there is nothing wrong with the practice, insisting that while the Conservatives do restrict public attendance at some events, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In what surely must be adjudged a parody of democratic openness and accessibility, the serial apologist for all things Conservative said that
Harper does meet average Canadians on the trail every day at places such as a local bakery or shopping malls, such as the one he visited in Scarborough Monday.

He cited an instance where Harper went to a grocery store to buy sandwiches, ordered his lunch, and “sat around taking pictures and chatting with people at the store.

“This notion that people can’t come up to the prime minister is nonsense.”
What Tenecke doesn't mention, of course, is the fact that these photo-op sites are rigorously pre-screened to ensure they are Tory-friendly.

Engaging in the favourite of Tory pastimes, revising history, the Conservative puppet averred that
it’s only logical that such events be restricted to Conservatives, adding that this is how it’s been done in elections dating back to at least 2008.
Tom Flanagan, a former Conservative insider,
said the practice is new. “Message events have always been constructed this way, but not rallies.”

Flanagan said the new policy may have a “security aspect,” noting last October’s attack by a gunman on Parliament Hill.

“Or maybe it’s more about message control. If there is even one vocal protester at an event, the cameras will pan on him and the message will be lost.”
Or, heaven forfend, he or she might ask a real question. That would never do in Harperland.

Monday, August 10, 2015

In Which Stephen Harper Tries To Change The Channel

One suspects it won't work.

Speaking The Truth: A Crime In Harperland

I was going to write about Linda McQuaig's honest assertion that much of the tarsands' oil will have to be left in the ground if Canada is to meet its climate change mitigation targets. It is an assertion that world experts agree with.

However, since Bill Longstaff has beaten me to the topic, I will suggest that you check out his blog post rather than run the risk of being repetitive. You might also want to watch the video wherein Ms. McQuaig makes the 'offending' observation, one that fellow guest and Harper apologist Michelle Rempel pounces upon:

And, of course, Dear Leader, ever the monomaniac and hyperbolist, couldn't resist pillorying McQuaig for bringing a modicum of honesty to the campaign:
A remark about the oil sands made to the CBC by Linda McQuaig, the NDP’s Toronto Centre candidate, shows the NDP will “wreck our economy” and should never come to power, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said.
Linda McQuaig - a rebel with a cause. We surely need more of her kind.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Openness And Transparency: Not In Harperland

The gulf between the open and reasonable persona Stephen Harper tried to convey during last week's debate and the Nixonian truth about the man is a yawning one indeed. Until and unless Canadians become widely aware of that reality, there is still very much a chance that he could win the upcoming election, an eventuality many are fighting hard to prevent.

I suspect that even if people are not really that interested in politics, they expect their elected representatives, especially their prime minister, to be open and reasonably accessible, especially during an election campaign. They might be surprised to learn that this is not the case with Stephen Harper and his cabal.

While it has been reported in alternative media, the fact that a vetting process is in place for anyone wishing to attend an event where Harper is present (no one can attend without an invitation) is not widely known; the MSM has made little mention of it. However, we now learn that there are several other restrictions being imposed on those who wish to touch the hem of Dear Leader's garment:
Members of the public who attend Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign events are being required to agree to a gag order before they can walk through the door, iPolitics has learned.

While attendance is by invitation only, and attendees are vetted by the Conservative Party before receiving a ticket, those who want to attend a campaign event in person are also being asked to agree to a number of conditions including not to transmit any description of the event or any images from it.
In a move more befitting a totalitarian regime than a democratic society, hopeful attendees must cast aside any semblance of self-respect and the accustomed rights of citizenship and embrace the following:
“Holder (of the confirmation of registration) is prohibited from transmitting or aiding in transmitting any description, account, picture or reproduction of the Event,” according to information contained on the invitation website for an event Harper is planning in Brampton East on Monday.
A Tweet or a Facebook posting? Don't even think about it.
“Holder and his/her belongings may be searched upon entry, and Holder consents to such searches and waives any related claims that might arise against Conservative Fund Canada, the Electoral District Association concerned, and the facility. If the Holder elects not to consent to these searches, Holder will be denied entry to the facility.”
For anyone who might chaff under such restrictions and contemplate rebelling, a strong warning about the futility of resistance is being issued:
“The confirmation of registration and entry to the event is a revocable licence: it may be withdrawn, admission refused or Holder expelled from the premises at any time for any reason without recourse by Holder.”
The contrast with the NDP and the Liberals is jarring:
Other parties often encourage participants to tweet comments or photos from party rallies, sometimes even asking them to use a particular hashtag in a bid to build social media buzz around an event.

An NDP official said the party’s campaign events with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair do not have any prohibition on transmitting comments or photos.

“People are invited to bring their friends and are encouraged to take photos and share their experiences however they choose.”

Olivier Duchesneau, spokesman for the Liberal Party, said his party’s events are open to everyone because Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants to meet “as many Canadians as possible.”
It has often been said that people get the government they deserve. Let us hope there are not too many voters out there who enjoy being treated with suspicion, disdain, condescension and contempt by a national leader who pretends to be representing their best interests.

The Emperor clearly has no clothes.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Pinocchio Effect

Those of us who have followed the machinations of the Harper regime over the years know that it is a rare occasion indeed when Stephen Harper tells the truth, either inside or outside the House of Commons. His capacity to convincingly dissemble, or effect what Stephen Colbert has called 'truthiness,' no doubt comes from long practice. Thursday's leaders' debate was no exception.

Happily, the alternative press rarely lets opportunities to correct the Harper record pass. Press Progress has compiled seven lies the prime minister uttered during that debate. Following is but of the seven, so please make sure you check out the link to see the full array of his prevarications.

The reality is Harper doesn't have a balanced budget.
On two separate occasions during the leaders debate, Stephen Harper claimed Canada has a balanced budget.

"We have a budget that is balanced now and other countries don't," Harper said, later explaining "the reality is the figures out of the Department of Finance show that so far this year we are substantially in surplus."

Unfortunately for Harper, the Finance Canada report he referenced only looks at April and May. Another report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer looks ahead and takes into account dire new projections for the Canadian economy released by the Bank of Canada.

The PBO's projection says Canada will not balance its budget and will run a deficit of $1 billion this year, meaning Harper will run his eighth deficit in a row.

In case you are interested, his other lies ranged from misrepresentations about environmental assessments to greenhouse gas emissions to the 'freedom' his backbenchers enjoy.

The man definitely has no shame.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Few Thoughts On Last Night's Debate

I generally leave the assessments of debates to other more analytical and attentive minds, so I will offer only a few observations, for what they are worth. My overall impression is that all, even Stephen Harper, performed well last night. Very ably moderated by Paul Wells, who seemed to know when to sit back and when to intervene, the debate offered viewers their first chance to see our four national leaders confront each other as they sought to convince us that they are all worthy of our trust and our vote.

Justin Trudeau, as I think most would agree, did not make any real mistakes, except perhaps to talk over Harper at times; he presented himself as knowledgeable and even, at times, passionate. I felt he was strongest when disparaging Mulcair over his stand on the Clarity Act, in which 50% plus one would be enough for Quebec secession to proceed.

Elizabeth May always impresses, and although her debate contributions seemed modest compared to the others, she always made valid points. One of my favorite moments was when she took Harper to task over his claim that greenhouse gas emissions were down substantially thanks to his government, something she dismissed both as a result of the 20008 recession and Ontario's closure of coal-burning plants. I also thought her closing remarks were powerful, especially pertaining to the fact that this debate might be the only one to include all four national leaders, and that many more topics need to be covered in subsequent ones.

Mulcair was generally measured and quite competent, except for the initial part of last night's encounter, where he seemed to have trouble finding his voice; that hideous simile of his did nothing to enhance his presence, although that moderated as the debate progressed. I thought one of his best moments was when he got Harper to admit that we are in a recession, one the prime minister blamed on the falling price of oil. Did he look ministerial? That's for others to decide, but I doubt many would have come away from the debate not being able to envisage him leading the country.

With regard to Stephen Harper, it occurred to me that unless one follows politics closely, the impression he made last night was not a bad one. He was restrained and respectful, something we rarely witness in his persona, one clearly crafted by his handlers to make him appear prime ministerial. With unusual facility, Harper lied about and distorted his record, especially as it pertains to climate change and the economy; fortunately, as indicated above, he was called on those lies. But it also occurred to me that few watching last night would likely have been political neophytes given that it was conducted during the middle of the summer, so likely few were taken in by his dissembling performance.

What I think I regretted most about the debate was that the issue of the debasement of our democracy, both inside and outside Parliament, got barely a mention. The closest any of them came to that topic were the restrictions imposed by the Fair Elections Act, which Mulcair labelled the Unfair Elections Act that will disenfranchise many voters in October. Harper's response sounded reasonable, ("I'ts not unreasonable to ask voters to prove who they are"), but, of course, that doesn't really address the problems inherent in the act.

I liked the format of the debate, which allowed for more freewheeling discussion than we have seen in the past. I look forward to the next one, hosted by The Globe and Mail on September 17. But since Elizabeth May is being exluded, it will doubtless suffer in comparison to this one.

For more detailed analysis, be sure to check out Maclean's, which includes some video highlights.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Little Something For The Masochists Out There

A Solution To The Problem Of Vote-Splitting?

Going into this election, probably the biggest fear among progressives is the spectre of vote-splitting. If we follow our hearts, we may wind up ceding another victory to the much-despised Harper regime, well-past its expiry date in the minds of the majority of Canadians. After all, only 39% of Canadians supporting Harper in the last election resulted in his majority government, thanks to his having united the right.

So what is to be done to ensure that Dear Leader does not once again sneak up the middle to form yet another government that will complete the job of dismantling the Canada we knew for so long and want to reclaim? The folks at have established a website called Vote Together, its purpose to inform voters in swing ridings which candidate has the best chance of defeating the Tory contender:
A growing majority of people want change this election, but Harper could win again because our broken “first-past-the-post” voting system splits our votes and distorts our democracy.

The Vote Together campaign connects people who want change with the tools and information they need to select and support the best local candidates to defeat the Harper Conservatives in their ridings and move Canada forward.

Throughout nearly a decade in power, the Harper Conservatives have gutted environmental protections, sabotaged Canadian institutions and shaken the very foundations of our democracy.

We want to elect a government that reflects the priorities and values of the majority, with representatives who will work together for a strong democracy, a fair economy, and a clean environment.

Will you join us?

If you visit their website, you will get the opportunity to sign a pledge to vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Harper clone running in your riding; there is also an opportunity to volunteer to become part of this very worthwhile effort. I hope you will give it a look.