Jun 102013
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Meanwhile, Conservatives push another anti-union bill through a private member.

by Ish Theilheimer

Although new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau claims to stand for some "new" sort of politics, he badly damaged his brand on the weekend defending Liberal Senator Mac Harb. Although an independent audit found Harb filed false claims worth more than $50,000, claiming he likes in Westmeath, ON and that his Ottawa home was a travel expense, Trudeau told Global News he will "absolutely" welcome Harb back to the Liberal caucus once his expense problems are dealt with.

"For me, there’s a real difference between what Mac Harb is going through and what Senators Duffy and Wallin seem to have on their plate," Trudeau told host Tom Clark on the Global news program The West Block.

Moral indignation over phony claims from a colleague of Harper, Wright, Duffy, Wallin is classic  chutzpah —  as defined by the example of the defendant charged with killing his parents who pleads for leniency on account of being an orphan. The Conservatives are life imitating fable.

“If the RCMP, which is now looking into the issue, decides it’s a problem, then of course there will be stiffer consequences,” he said. Trudeau contrasted Harb's problem with Duffy's and Wallin's, calling it "an honest mistake or a misunderstanding of the rules." That's what the Conservatives said about Duffy, for a while.

The statement is classic chutzpah. Harb claimed the Westmeath home as his primary residence. Harb may take occasional gets-away there, but he is not even known in the community, about an hour from my home. He is quite well known in Ottawa, where he was active in city and Liberal politics and elected in 1988 as a Member of Parliament.

Anyone who has ever filled out a tax form or insurance claim knows that a $50,000 claim is rarely made casually and not often the result of "an honest mistake or a misunderstanding." It appears that Harb made a claim at taxpayer expense the like of which ordinary citizens would prosecuted for. Trudeau, who did a good job of waffling throughout his leadership bid, should have waffled here. Defending Harb at this point was a serious error.

Chutzpah fans will rejoice because the story doesn't end there. The Harper gang seized immediately on Trudeau's comments. "Senator Mac Harb is refusing to repay over $50,000 in inappropriate claimed housing allowances and, instead, is trying to stick taxpayers with the bill," government House leader Tom Van Loan said in response.

"Defending disgraced Senator Mac Harb isn't the only lapse in judgment on Justin Trudeau's part in recent weeks. Justin Trudeau continues to allow Liberal Senator Pana Merchant to sit in the Liberal Caucus despite uncertainty over the status of a $1.7 million offshore bank account that media have reported she has not declared publicly, as required by Senate rules."

Moral indignation over phony claims from a colleague of Harper, Wright, Duffy, Wallin and company is classic  chutzpah —  as defined by the example of the defendant charged with killing his parents who pleads for leniency on account of being an orphan. The Conservatives are life imitating fable.

Last week's revelation of a million-dollar Conservative Party contingency fund at the Prime Minister's disposal further shreds Team Harper's credibility and tatters public trust. TV appearances by Conservative MPs Chris Alexander (on CBC on Tuesday) and Pierre Poilièvre (in the House on Wednesday)  first confirming and then denying the fund's existence puts the torch to those shreds and tatters. "Conservative credibility" has become an oxymoron.

Problems in Harperland, however, have not stopped the machine from grinding forward. A new favourite tactic involves so-called "private member's bills," proposed by backbenchers with endorsement from the centre. Using this technique, the government can advance odious laws without politically owning up to them. Conservatives didn't promise these things in election campaigns. They don't proclaim support loudly for them . They just let them pass.

So it is with Bill C-525 , introduced last week by Conservative MP Blaine Calkins (Wetaskiwin). If adopted the bill will make it vastly more difficult to organize a union in a workplace and vastly easier for the enemies of unions to have existing unions decertified in workplaces.

The bill, which, so far has only been endorsed by the anti-union construction outfit Merit Canada, fits with the Harperites' plans to disable organized labour. This summer, the Conservative Party of Canada will be meeting in a policy convention later this month at which they will be debating the adoption of tough anti-union policies.

Most Canadians will never be aware of Bill C-525, which is being dressed up as supporting democratic accountability, until it has been slipped through and imposed on them and the voices that have stood up for them in their workplaces are silenced. By then it will be too late.

What's really scary here is that chutzpah or not, under Harper or not, the Conservatives actually have three more years to wreak havoc, having been elected in May, 2011. Harper has promised another election in 2015, but he's promised a lot of things.

Only public outrage can cause the Harperites to change course, and, in the case of Bill C-525, that is unlikely to happen without all-out efforts by unions and their activists to earn the trust and support of Canadians.

About Ish Theilheimer

Ish Theilheimer is founder and president of Straight Goods News and has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.

eMail: ish@straightgoods.com

© Copyright 2013 Ish Theilheimer, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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