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Those Who Don’t Learn From History……

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
 – Mark Twain
There is an election fraud investigation underway in Canada. Someone, or many someones, used a robo-call company to contact voters in a riding, or maybe multiple ridings, to inform them that their polling station had been moved. The intention, clearly, was to create confusion and through that confusion reduce the number of voters actually showing up to vote. It was hoped this would swing the election in favour of the party (Conservatives) polling in second place in specific ridings.

Canadians are angry and justifiably so. This kind of manipulation is not only dishonest; it undermines the very principles on which a free and open democracy functions. But that anger has turned from indignation to ‘knowing’ accusation.
The simple truth is that we don’t know who is behind this. We have suspicions and opinions but we don’t know….yet, which is the reason why I qualified who might be behind this in my opening paragraph.
Both the RCMP, Canada’s national police force and Elections Canada are investigating and there is little doubt they will uncover who is behind the fraud, if for no other reason than because it was so simplistic and unsophisticated. Even a newspaper was able to track information that led to one of the key ‘persons of interest’ in relatively short order.
This hasn’t stopped many Canadians from already deciding who is guilty and the rush to judgment is one more nail in our democracy’s coffin.

The national media have assumed it is a Conservative conspiracy and the CBC went so far as to publish a list of all Conservative candidates that had used the same company, including the Prime Minister. They didn’t bother to include the notation that there was no evidence or complaint of election fraud in any of the ridings represented by those on the list nor did they bother to identify the robo-calling companies used by the other political parties. Why spoil a good insinuation with facts? This is professional journalism after all.

Liberal PM Trudeau
For decades, political parties and their strategists have worked hard to undermine the integrity of our democracy with an overwhelming and cynical lack of integrity, vision or anything even close to approaching good governance.

In the 70s, the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau ran on a promise not to implement wage and price controls. The people voted in favour of that promise and six months after the election, wage and price controls were implemented. So much for the voice of the people.

In the 80s, the Mulroney government while keeping its major promises, climbed into bed with people like Karl Heinz Schreiber. Mr. Schreiber is currently enjoying the hospitality of the German government on charges of tax evasion and bribery. The government’s association with him eventually led to yet another Public Inquiry that eventually even touched former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Former PM Mulroney (left) and
Karl-Heinz Scheiber
In the 90s, the Liberals under Jean Chretien campaigned on a promise to repeal the Goods and Services Tax. Once again, the people voted and once again, the promise was broken.

Later it came to light that the Liberal Party had been engaged in illegal acts, using tax payer money, in an attempt to sway votes in Quebec. It was a sleazy business involving Liberal backroom boys carrying around money in brown paper bags which they dispensed in diners. It was correctly labeled ‘small-town cheap’ by Chief Justice Gomery during the subsequent public enquiry. Some Liberals went to prison as a result and none of the tax-payer money has been repaid to the government by the Liberal Party.

Left to right: Joe Volpe who had
a number of dead people listed
as donors to his campaign. Former
PM Paul Martin who slashed
health care transfers while Finance
Minister, Alfonse Galiano who
was accused of misuse of his
office as a cabinet minister and
former PM Jean Chretien who was
prime minister during Adscam.

While decrying the election campaign tactics of their opponents, the Liberals gleefully released an ad depicting the new leader of the Conservatives, Stephen Harper, as someone who would instantly put military troops in our streets upon being elected. I always thought this a strange claim to make considering the Liberals are the only party to have ever proclaimed martial law in this country, stripping away the civil rights of Canadians virtually overnight, arrested hundreds without warrant or charge and put military troops on the streets of major Canadian cities to enforce curfews.

Now we have the Conservative government of Stephen Harper who campaigned on openness and transparency but has delivered anything but. Instead, we have yet more of the same anti-democratic nonsense of previous governments on both sides of the political divide.

This is a government that prorogued Parliament in order to avoid being defeated in a non-confidence vote, routinely attacks its critics with negative ads even when there is no election looming and has a number of ministers of the crown with hoof in mouth disease. It is a political party that had a somewhat flamboyant interpretation of Election Canada’s campaign spending laws and a significant disregard for things like protecting consumers. That became self-evident in the case of the Consumer Cell Phone Plan Comparison Calculator project cancelled by then Consumer Minister Tony Clement after Mr. Clement met with the big cell phone service providers and opted to address their concerns for profits rather than protecting Canadian consumers.

This is the same Mr. Clement who donated $50 million infrastructure development in his riding, a little more grand than Jean Chretien’s pork barrelling in his riding but only in terms of cash outlay, not attitude.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which party is in power or trying to obtain power. The promises, the tactics and the focus are the same. It has little to do with serving the people or respecting democracy and everything to do with winning power.
NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau
who  managed a Carleton Universyit pub

 in Ottawa was recruited by the party
 to run ina French-speaking. Quebec riding
She didn’t speak French and had never
seen the riding before.

She spent part of the election campaign
on holidays in Las Vegas.

Even the New Democratic Party, much vaunted for being the ‘conscience’ of Canadian politics, flooded the last election with candidates in Quebec many of whom  neither lived in nor had even been to the riding they were now running to represent. In other words, the party was less concerned with democratic representation than winning seats. How is that serving the people? The NDP and their supporters, of course, rationalize this in various ways but that simply makes them the same as the other parties and no better than those they oppose.

In Ontario, Canada’s largest province, the government of Dalton McGuinty broke 75 election promises within six months of winning his first election. He won his second mandate by playing on racist fears of what would be taught in religious schools if full-funding was extended to them as it was to the Catholic school system. It was a strategy not only successful, it was bragged about by some of his strategists following the election.

Six months ago, Mr. McGuinty won his third election on a campaign of a stable and growing economy which has now been revealed, thanks to the Drummond Report, to be nothing but one more deliberate and cynical election campaign lie.

The list is endless and no political party has clean hands in what can only be called the erosion of democracy.

Why is any of this important? It is important because we fail to learn from our own history.
I had a conversation with someone recently about this and her position was she only dealt with the present because she couldn’t do anything about the past. I beg to differ. We can learn from our past and stop making the same mistakes although I see little evidence of that happening.
Anti-Haprer poster
An example of the failed belief that it is only the
current government that is ever the problem

Today, in Canada as in other democracies, the belief is that if we only change the current government, everything will be better. We’ve clung to that belief for decades but it hasn’t proven to be true and political parties count on us continuing to cling to that belief.

So cynical has politics become that it isn’t simply dirty tricks at election time that is a disgrace, it’s what happens in Parliament after the election.
The Liberals attack the Conservatives for the F-35 fighter jet contract even though it was the Liberals who initiated the procurement of these jets when they were in power.
The Liberals put Canada into Afghanistan only to demand Canada withdraw once the Conservatives were elected and then demand that we stay once the government announced a ‘pull-out’ date.

The previous Liberal government slashed health care transfers to the provinces, the Conservatives increased transfers so the Liberals now in opposition, criticized the Conservatives for not increasing them enough.

The Conservatives, for their part, go out of their way to offend as many people as possible with a self-righteous hypocrisy that they never seem to learn from no matter how often it blows up in their face. They promised less government but delivered more.They promised fiscal prudence but have spent like Liberals at a vote-buying flea market.

In opposition, the Conservatives under Stephen Harper tried to form a coalition with the other opposition parties to defeat the Liberal minority government and then govern in its stead but was highly critical of the opposition doing the same thing once he was elected to lead a minority government.

At the end of the day the only difference from one to the other is that the Liberals masquerade their arrogance behind a mask of self-righteous social conscience while the Conservatives masquerade theirs behind a mask of self-righteous indignation. The NDP doesn’t pretend, it knows it’s righteous regardless of how absurd their policies or hypocritical their politics.

It is no different in the United States where the only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is about where the tax money goes and in Britain between Labour and the Conservatives it is almost impossible to tell what party is actually governing after it is elected. Regardless of the campaign platform, the policies all look the same after the election. Indeed, the Tony Blair Labour government looked suspiciously like a mild conservative government during its term in office.

All of that to say that simply blaming the current government and believing that by replacing it everything will be different is absurd.
When a political system is only about winning power and not about serving your country, it really doesn’t matter who is in power, nothing will change. If all parties bring lies and cynical and hypocritical self-interest to the table, the people lose and democracy is undermined. The only difference between Canada and some third-world countries is that Canadian politicians don’t shoot their opponents……..yet.
One thing is certain. Continuing to blame only one party or politician simply plays into the hands of the backroom strategists. They count on it and use our anger and frustration against us by feeding us bromides and empty promises during elections in an attempt to win power.

God alone knows why they want power when all they intend to do with it is pretty much what their opponents would have done.

It is this environment that breeds bright young minds who believe that it is acceptable to use automated, fraudulent phone calls to mislead voters during an election because winning is everything……isn’t it?
Certainly, that’s what the politicians believe……and we’ve been supporting and encouraging that belief for decades. As the old adage goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”
It appears that in Canada, just as in the United States and virtually every democracy in the world, we haven’t learned very much at all.
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09274319987240334778 Aftermath

      Therein lies the rub :) And also why minority governments work.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

      I tend to agree with you about minority governments. It provides an imperative to cooperate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09274319987240334778 Aftermath

    Power corrupts…and some more than others.

  • Rod Smelser

    Take it easy on Ruth Ellen Brousseau, will ya? She was NOT a bartender. She managed the Careleton U pub on a $55K/year salary.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

      I will correct the caption under her photograph but it doesn’t validate what the NDP did.

  • http://therantvault.wordpress.com/ therantvault

    hmmm, This is making Canada sound more like the US than the land of Democratic perfection and excellent health care I imagine it to be.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

      I think our image of ourselves as a nation is greatly undermined by the reality of what we really are. It isn’t that we are like the United States, it’s that we are as gullible and as easily bought by our own money and empty election promises as the electorate in virtually every democracy around the world.