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politics of cynicism

The NRA folks must be smilin’…

… as Harper seems to be moving toward an American style position on gun ownership rights.

Now, not only are Canadians being told that there are terrorists around every corner, but armed criminals are just waiting for us at our country homes and cottages.

Scary country, Harper’s Canada!

Harper’s comments are being promoted by the Conservatives’ election campaign manager, who says she is “proud” of how Harper said gun ownership is “important for safety for those of us who live a ways from immediate police assistance.”

I’m personally not against gun ownership. But I am very much for a highly regulated environment. This is something we currently have and the main reason why we haven’t seen the gun violence in Canada that is so prevalent south of the border.

Of course, confrontation and hostility have become the touchstones for the Harperites… Lawrence Martin:

It’s hard to recall another time when we have witnessed such a flame-throwing approach to politics, policy and Parliament. Too often, the governing party resembles a band of belligerents rather than sage public servants. How many fights do they want to pick? Are they not concerned about the impact on the country’s social fabric, the dangers of pitting one Canadian against another?

Other governments had men at the top who served as voices of reason or restraint – think of Don Mazankowski in Brian Mulroney’s government, or John Manley under Jean Chrétien. Mr. Harper has no such force of measured resistance in his office or cabinet, no one to keep his harder-edged ideological impulses in check.

Provocations at home have also been coupled with provocations abroad. Last week, James Bezan, parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Jason Kenney, raised the ante with Russia, claiming that our navy was “confronted” by Russian warships and “buzzed” by fighter jets in the Black Sea.

NATO officials said this was nonsense – that Russian vessels remained far off and that there was no buzzing.

How support for the ReformCons remains at the level it is at is beyond me. I really believed that Canadians would see through the politics of hate and cynicism… but maybe I’m wrong. 

 One hope – Duffy.  The other – Justin Trudeau.


Harper’s politics of cynicism….

… and an empty shelf in the pantry where “ethics” used to be…

Wandering around the Interweb, I found this cutting piece that brilliantly sums up the CPC modus operandi as follows:

The Harper Government is a public relations oriented government. The machine seems to operate in the following manner; get the youngsters in the party to operate unethically, send their manufactured news tips to a media organization filled to the brim with ideological allies, then raise money from your base while pretending you had nothing to do with how the information was unearthed. The strategy would be brilliant if it was not so painfully and obviously orchestrated.

This is the culture of the Harper Government, a government on the verge of expiry, following in the footsteps of past government who drowned in their own sense of entitlement. What Trevor Stack and Alexandra Constandinidis may not realize is they are not helping their party long term. We still do not know if they acted independently or through the encouragement of the powerful ministers and MPs they work for directly, but in either case one thing remains clear: ethics in the Harper Government is in short order, and while these examples are undertaken by the kiddies in short pants working for what used to be public servants, the real first domino of dirty politics has long been the influence coming directly from 24 Sussex Drive.

For years on these pages I have called Harper’s style the “politics of cynicism”. I was wrong, or at least I am now. It’s not cynicism but a cold and well-calculated approach to gain votes strategically and without care for standards – moral or political.


My debate teacher told us that…

ad hominem attacks were cowardly and used only by those of inferior intellect. And I agree.

Yet the CPC doesn’t see it this way. Politics over policy. Attacks over debate. Accusations over cooperation. It’s the Stephen Harper Way.

Daniel Veniez penned a good article in iPolitics about the latest series of cowardly attack ads on Bob Rae.

Mr. Harper has taken Canada down an ugly path of gradual incrementalist polarization, division, cynicism, and subterfuge. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed that such an amoral and unethical character could sit in the chair of the most important office in the land. He does not deserve the respect his office commands. Why? Because this sinister attack is only the latest in a very long string of flagrantly debasing drive-by hits, destructive and cynical policy, and immoral conduct by this small man and his smaller coterie of taxpayer-funded cheap shot artists and assassins.

This criticism is not aimed at the vast majority of Conservative Party members. They are good and decent people. I know they are horrified with how Stephen Harper has perverted the basic values of the old Reform and Progressive Conservative parties.

Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell would never sanction – much less stomach – Stephen Harper’s actions and the ugly politics he personifies.

My favourite quote : “Stephen Harper is the Todd Bertuzzi of Canadian politics.” Good one!

Majority Government. No election in sight for years. And still they practice the politics of cynicism and fear…


Honesty in Canadian politics? What a crazy notion!

I have seldom come across an article in The Mark that would I consider to be less than stellar in editorial quality, content and analysis. They are more often than not on the “mark”.

Aand they continue this high standard with an article on “truth” in politics penned by Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch.

Conacher challenges the ho-hum attitude of many Canadians these days when it comes to holding our elected representatives up to high moral and ethical standards – more specifically: telling the truth.


And we see this shoulder-shrugging a lot, don’t we? Ask a half-dozen folks what they think of Bev Oda’s recent blatant disregard for “truthiness”, and I say that at least a few of them will respond with a “Meh, so she lied. Isn’t that what they ALL do?”… implying that if everyone does it, what’s the big deal?

Granted, members on both sides of the House have been caught red-handed in lies on a number of occasions over the past couple of decades, so this public cynicism is bit understandable.

But it doesn’t make lying right. After all, isn’t honesty required of us, as citizens, by the government?

As the article correctly notes:

Politicians have passed many laws that demand honesty from Canadians. From welfare applicants to taxpayers to corporate executives, it is illegal for Canadians to lie, and high penalties are in place to discourage dishonesty.

Go ahead, lie on your income tax return and see what happens if you get caught. Tell a fib about anything on an official government form on any level and see if the responsible agency says “meh”.

No. In fact, you should “lawyer up”! Stating falsehoods on government forms is usually punishable by fines or imprisonment.

So why is it such a stretch to expect the same level of honesty from our pols as they demand of us? And why aren’t there laws or regulations in place that penalise dishonesty? Oh, there are some, you say…

But when it comes to political candidates lying to voters, or to politicians and government officials misleading the public, almost anything goes. This is because the laws that are in place to prevent politicians from lying are vague, and enforcement agencies are often reluctant to act in such cases. In fact, in most parts of Canada it is illegal for candidates to make written pledges saying that they will take specific actions if elected.

So, tell me wanna-be Government A or Government B, who will have the balls to propose an honesty-in-politics law? Who will finally say that an upward motion on the ol’ democracy bar is long overdue? Call me crazy, but this might be something that would register with voters and lift them from indifference and sub-50% voter turnout rates! What an issue to run with!

No takers?

Going once….


Who the hell is Larry Miller and why is he sending me junkmail?

So I’m getting these damn leaflets in the mail. The text attacks Iggy as being pro-raise-taxes and extols the virtues of the ReformCons as being the economic saviours of Canadian families everything.

Do I really want this crap to be funded out of the pockets of those same families? Doesn’t Harper (and ol’ Larry Miller) realize that we have been down this road before and that the Cons have angrily and self-righteously launched into vitriolic attacks against the Grits for engaging in the same type of political game-playing?

And why am I getting this leaflet from the M.P. for Bruce/Grey/Owen Sound? I cannot help but think that the ReformCons are once again exploiting holes in the Elections Act.

Here are copies of the leaflet that I received.

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I am, apparently, not the only one who is questioning the use of these obviously partisan leaflets and the public purse being unzipped to finance them.

Bill Tieleman, a B.C. political commentator, says:

Perhaps the federal Liberals will send me a similar letter soon with these and other quotes about Stephen Harper – and I supply them to Iggy here for free.
But I’d rather that all parties talk a lot more about their policies and a lot less about their opponents’ many and obvious failings.

And most of all – stop wasting my damn tax dollars mailing me junk I didn’t ask for!!

But I’m a little worried. This Larry Miller guy is a bit freaky lookin’… and he gets things “done”…  I may wanna check over my shoulder a bit more often.



Harper is becoming predictable – of course he HAS to make everything political!

Never one to miss a chance to score some political points, Stevie lays the groundwork for blaming the Grits et al if the refugee claimant system isn’t “fixed”.

Mr. Harper insisted the visa obligation for Mexicans will remain in place until Canada’s refugee system is fixed, calling on opposition parties to join his party in reforming Canada’s refugee system to discourage bogus claimants.

“The visas will stay as long as the problem exists,” he said.

“Parliament should be seized with this issue [and] I hope our Parliament will take advantage of the attention that’s been brought on this issue to deal with this problem,” Mr. Harper said.

Next to come will be:

  • blaming the previous regime (the Liberals) for not doing something about this during their (brrr…) reign of terror
  • the introduction of legislation that will be just contentious enough to fall outside the “we’ll sign on the dotted line” zone of approval for one of the Opposition parties.
  • attack ads labelling Iggy as being soft on bogus refugees and hence soft on terror… or something like that. The words “soft on” will most definitely be used.

Just watch. He is becoming so bloody predictable.


Pork barrelling – deuxième partie – spas and schools…

There are some great observations out in the blogosphere about how some of the Harperite’s crazy cash (aka Economic Stimulus Funding) is being doled out.

I wrote a note about this last week with regards to Clement’s refurbishing of public washrooms in Muskoka. One commenter to that post rightly pointed out that it is the habit of politicians to roll out the ol’ pork barrel when they have the opportunity. I agreed but noted that the ReformCons seem to do it more than the Grits did while in power.

Happily,  we (as in you and I) are giving the spa industry a much needed massage:

The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, today announced the awarding of $200,000 in repayable funding to Spa Le Montagnais under the Community Economic Diversification Initiative – Vitality to undertake the work necessary to establish a Nordic spa… The coexistence of a Nordic spa with other local attractions is bound to attract novelty-seeking visitors.

But giving 4 million smackeroos to a private christian school? Well that takes the cake and it strongly offensive for a hell-bound(1) atheist like me.
I thought we were a secular nation… you know… all that separation of church and state and stuff.

If so, why are Canadian taxpayers footing part of the bill for this project? IMO, this is clearly a case where the religious right is being thanked for its unwavering support for the Harperite socially conservative agenda.

Thanks to Paulitics for pointing this out.

Question – who goes to these schools? There does seem to be a lot of them. Especially out west.

Anyhow, we’re gonna see a lot more of this crap, so I am already planning out the 3rd pork barrelling post, and the fourth and the fifth….

1. As an atheist, I obviously don’t believe in the existence of a heaven or hell, or valhalla… or leprechauns either. But christians sure think I’m destined for fire and brimstone!


The home reno tax credit – supporting the sturdy, glossy envelope industry since 2009!

stephen_harper_prime_ministerIt is really easy to see what the Harperite’s cornerstone will be for the next election campaign.  Oodles of dollars are being used by the CPC trumpeting their Economic (In) Action Plan. The ship of state is being calmly steered through the economic malaise with your good Captain Stevo at the helm… ably assisted by his wacky crew.

I don’t watch a lot of TV but I saw the ad for this the other day.  The home renovation tax credit is the centerpiece of the cornerstone in this instance. This is completely expected as the ReformCon script always calls for simple messages targeted at their weak points – electorally speaking. What better way to sell the Harper brand than by putting some coin back in the pockets of young, middle to upper middle class home-owners?

At least this is what the ad says to me.

All that aside, what struck me about this was the prominent use of the Big Green Envelope that can be used to store all of those receipts for the new brickwork, water heaters and bidets.  Hey, it’s not like we needed those trees  anyway, right?

Here’s a partial pic of one of those envelopes… best I could find.


Now, here’s my reckonin’. The ReformCons will never pass a policy / take up a position / take a crap unless there is some political gain to be had. Yeah, yeah, yeah… they ALL to this to a certain degree – that’s politics. But I am still of the mind that the CPC has this principle as the overriding deal makers or killer. If it doesn’t score us political points, then we ain’t doin’ it. Period. The other parties take political gains into consideration but I am yet to be convinced that the cynicism is as deep as in the meanderings of the Harperites.

So if we take as given the envelope and the campaign around it as a purely political move, then what happens next?

The envelopes will be made available to “home improvement” retailers this fall. My Mom, for example, can go to her Home Hardware Building Centre, buy a new sink and ask the cashier for one of these handy-dandy envelopes to store it in. She takes her rather sturdily-made (at least it seems sturdy – and heavy… glossy too – by the looks of it) home and stores all of the rest of her receipts for the tax year.

Then it is that wonderful time of the year where we file our taxes. I do mine electronically, but my Mom (or anyone’s Mom) likes to do them long-hand (By the way Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m not really talking about you… just using you as a hypothetical example…love you!).

And after carefully doing the additions and subtraction and having carefully stored all of those receipts in that wonderfully-made envelope, what does she you do now?

Why she mails that sturdy package to the government for processing, of course. Yes, she knows that you need only produce your receipts on request. At least that is how things were done in the past. But this sturdy envelope looks so official. Has that nice flag in the corner and everything. Surely I am meant to send it back! Why would the government give me something like this and not expect me to use it? That wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it?

Hey – maybe Mom should take the sturdy, glossy envelope back to Home Hardware?

My observations are as follows:

  • A lot of tax payer $$$ was put into the design and production of these politically motivated sturdy and glossy envelopes.
  • A lot of tax payer $$$ will be spent distributing them to the retailers… postage and courier costs will be sky-high.
  • Tax payers will likely send them back to the government along with their cheques or claims for rebates… and the government folks who receive them won’t know what to do with them… et voilà – landfill fodder!
  • Retailers will be confused when folks bring their receipts back to the store.
  • And, knowing the CPC, they won’t stop at simply making them available at the retail level; they will target some borderline ridings with just the right demographics and do a wee bit of a direct mail. So, if you see a big, sturdy, glossy envelope in your mailbox this fall, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • How many of these sturdy, glossy envelopes might we expect to be distributed? Hard to say for sure, but I figure there are at least 50 “national retail establishments and their affiliates where home renovation products are sold” (the CRA’s description) here in Ottawa, and that’s conservative. So, that’s about 1 for every 16,000 people in the City. Extrapolate to Canada and you get about 2,125 outlets. The Harperites spare no expense when it comes to matters political, so pencil in 1,000 envelopes per store. That’s 160,000 sturdy, glossy pieces of political paper. I just ordered quite a few thousand brochures to be printed and they cost about 20 cents per brochure. Given that these envelopes are undoubtedly of higher quality stock and almost definitely heavier… with glue and stuff to hold everything together, I’ll estimate the production of these to be about 50 cents per. That’s 80K to produce. Add about 2 bucks a pop to distribute them and you get a grand total of :


And that is before advertising costs, outreach, help lines, etc. And before the costs associated with the (I’m presuming) distribution to targeted ridings.

In short, once again we are seeing the real costs of the Harper’s government approach to governing. All politics all the time and damn the bank account!

Thanks Steve!


Pork barrel politics in Cottage Country

I take a particular interest in the political goings-ons in Parry Sound Muskoka. After all, I grew up there, all of my family (save moi) still call it home and I ran as a candidate there in the ’93 General Election. So I do retain an emotional attachment to the place.

A place that is now represented by Tony Clement at the Federal level… a ReformCon from a time when the party wasn’t even yet birthed.  A key part of Mike “The Monster” Harris’ Common Nonsense Revolution, Big Tony moved over to the Harperite bunch a while back and has had a few plum cabinet appointments.

Seems like Big Tony has become Uncle Tony to many of the riding’s folks as he is handing out big bags of moolah to almost everyone who asks! And all in the name of the G8 Summit due to take place outside of Huntsville, Ontario next year... Huntsville is one of the larger centres in the riding.

Funny thing is that much of the largesse (as noted in the article) is not really targeted toward the Summit at all. The Summit is being used as a convenient excuse to practice some good ol’ pork barrel politics.

Now, you may say, so what? Don’t they all do it?

Well, no. Not to this degree.

Big Tony unseated Grit Andy Mitchell a couple of elections back and before him was the legendary Tory,  Stan Darling. Both were very, very good constituency MPs. Looked after their folks well and found money when needed and warranted. But never was present this flagrant and cynical misuse of the public purse in order to buy votes! Yeah – Parry Sound gets some new infrastructure and street work.  Baysville gets some new washrooms. And many other small communities in the riding will get some cash infusions.

And none of these places will have anything to do with next year’s Summit.

Are the ReformCons worried about their prospects here in the next election?  Probably not – it’s just another example of the Politics of Cynicism.


Retail and Political Haggling – why not?

On the political stage

Just noticed that Iggy has laid down some conditions that the Harperites will have to meet in order to avoid a no-confidence motion and a summer election.

According to Ignatieff, the government must meet the following four conditions:

  • Provide more details about improving the employment insurance system before the House of Commons votes on budget estimates at the end of the week. The government has said it will introduce unspecified new EI proposals in the fall.
  • Give more information about the rate of stimulus spending than included in last Thursday’s progress report.
  • Show more details on the government’s plan to contain the ballooning deficit, instead of offering what Ignatieff called “rosy projections.”
  • Provide clearer answers on the government’s action plan to deal with Canada’s medical isotopes shortage.

Ignatieff said the government’s answers and performance so far on these issues “just aren’t good enough.”

This is a type of “haggling”. The Grits are playing from a strong position in that the economy has nose-dived, the have a new and semi-intelligent leader, the polls are pretty good and, of course, Steve is still a robot. And no one likes robots.


What Iggy is saying is the following:

I will support you and we can all have a nice, election-free summer if you at least give the appearance of cutting me a deal by meeting me halfway and following through on my demands. Or at least some of them.

Due to it’s unpredictability, it’s a dangerous game when you engage in political haggling. The seller (in this case Harper) can back away and say “Forget it – I’m calling your bluff.” In which case, the one in the role of the buyer (Iggy) must risk losing the “good” that he is bargaining for (the avoidance of an election) or backing down himself and risk losing credibility.

As much as this Trashman would love to see Harper and his merry gang of ReformCons heaved out onto a pile of half-cured compost, he is very nervous about this game that the Grits are playing. It may just backfire and we’ll end up at the polls this summer. Canadians may take out their frustration on the new kid on the block instead of the robot. harper

Yikes. Careful Michael, careful…

At the store

The teen-monster is doing some training to ready herself for her 3 week stint as a kid’s camp counsellor and last week was my turn to deliver her to said training centre. For whatever reason – and I didn’t want the details… scaaaaarrrrrrrrrrryyyy – the kid was obviously having a bad day / week and it culminated that day in a ruined shoe. Somehow (again, no details please) she caught a lace in a fence and this tore the footwear asunder.

I actually heard about this earlier in the day when she texted me “Daddy – I need new shoes!”

Feeling particularly magnanimous that day, I suggested that on our way home from the training (which was totally “lame”)we stop at the Billings Bridge plaza to see if we couldn’t outfit her in a new pair… was gonna be a rush since closing time was about 15 minutes away. Hurriedly, she tried on a few sizes before settling on a pair and size that she really liked.

“How much?” I asked the sales-dude.


“Yikes!”, said I, “how about a discount?”

“Sure, I’ll give you 15% off.”

Huh. It was that easy? I just had to ask? I may be middle-aged, but in no way resemble a senior.

And any commenters claiming the contrary will be immediately flamed and ridiculed.

Our western culture is anti-haggle, with some exceptions. Haggling over the price of a car or a house or negotiating a price at a garage sale is perfectly OK, but we aren’t like those in many Asian or Middle-Eastern nations where the “back and forth” is the norm.

I’m thinking that I’ll do this more often!