When I was a city councillor I made thousands of speeches – speeches at community events, speeches at committee meetings and at council from everything from another spot rezoning, to park privatization to surface light rail for the city etc. The list is a long one, but I’m thinking the speech below will be the last one I will make – not because only politicians should make speeches. It’s more important that ordinary citizens do, but I no longer see the point of them, at least from me.
When I gave this speech on Parliament Hill, I believed in every word, I still do. The difference is I can no longer see the what can be achieved by old warhorses like myself cantering up to the podium once more. Speeches like the one below have become associated with bad manners and a choleric temperament. What they actually say does not seem to register. This came home to me with great force when a young woman with her parents visiting from Western Canada said during the rally, ‘she didn’t think our little ‘Rally for Truth’ should be on Parliament Hill. It should be somewhere else. In her mind, we were sullying the beauty and the importance of the place.
My initial reaction was to simply shrug and dismiss such an opinion, for what is Parliament but the nation’s town hall? And if you can have no dissenting opinions expressed on Parliament Hill or within Parliament, there can be no debate and if there is no debate, there is no democracy. This was what the Omnibus bill was all about. It had little to do with adjusting the nation’s accounts and everything to do with suppressing public debate and democracy itself.
Nonetheless, as I reflected on the young woman’s distaste for an opinion not shared by the government, it seemed to me she captured honestly how tired people are of the stalemate of our current public discourse. In just a few years, we have managed to create in Canada, the American model of public and elected debate. On one side is anchored by those who believe protecting and augmenting corporate wealth is the greatest possible good a government can provide and on the other are those who do not. One side has power, the other has outrage and they meet together in stalemate.
It is not working in the United States and it is not working in Canada at the national, provincial or local levels. In the last Ottawa municipal election, the principal adversaries, both former Mayors had virtually identical platforms, (privatization of Lansdowne Park, hole in the ground in Centretown etc.). One was a millionaire, the other backed by millionaires, but there was one signal difference, a difference that turned out to be very important to the public. The winning Mayor promised a quiet, compliant council that would vote his proposals through quietly. He delivered and people seem satisfied.
One popular definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’. I’m going to stop doing the same thing. I’m going to stop giving speeches. The great, political leaders of the past both south and north of the border, Ted and Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Tommy Douglas, Pearson, Trudeau proposed and delivered, they didn’t protest. Jack was like that and it’s time I found a way to do so also – without speeches.
Here is my last speech.
June 23, Parliament Hill, Rally for Truth
I am flattered that the organizers of this Rally for Truth would think of me to speak on Parliament Hill. This is an important place and we should gather here for the issue before us is both national and international. I’m just a former city councillor who has never had any national aspirations. My interests have always been resolutely local. So it comes as a surprise to find myself standing here before you. I would have thought there would have been others better suited to speak about the theft of the last federal election.
The one thing we do know is that it was stolen. The only thing in dispute is the size of the theft. Was it ten seats? Was it several dozen? We don’t know. We do know that wherever election fraud surfaced there was a 3 per cent reduction in the opposition vote and many elections were decided by less than three per cent.
But the list of things we don’t know is a lot longer. We don’t know who organized the thousands and thousands of calls or how they were able to prepare national lists in ridings from the Arctic to the Pacific to the Atlantic. We don’t know how much money it took, where it came from or who was involved. Nor do we have any idea if this present government is legitimate or not, but we do know voter suppression is a criminal offence subject to up to five years in a federal prison.
The strangest thing is the entire criminal prosecution now rests on the slim shoulders of a volunteer organization called the Council of Canadians. The Council is one of the very few volunteer organizations left standing in Canada because it manages to raise its own funds and does not depend on federal funding.
Another thing we know is Elections Canada was never designed to investigate massive, national election fraud. Elections Canada has no power to correct the outcome of a stolen election. If after years of private investigation, they find someone or some organization guilty,m they can assess a modest fine and ask the perpetrators not to do it again. Elections Canada must depend on volunteers like the Council of Canadians to actually do anything that means something.
The extraordinary thing is Parliament actually voted for a toothless, Elections Canada investigation instead of a public enquiry which is what 75 per cent of Canadians said they wanted and for good reasons: A public inquiry has the power to subpoena witness and compel the production of documents. Most importantly, a public inquiry can keep the fickle focus of the media concentrated on a single issue.
We saw this with the Gomerey Commission which was enormously successful in investigating the misuse of public funds to buy flags and television ads. Today, we have before Parliament the theft of a national election and the resulting enormous powers it has conferred on the party which primarily benefited from it, – but somehow Parliament has been persuaded this doesn’t deserve a public enquiry. How is it the misuse of public funds to buy flags buttons and ads did, but the theft of a federal election does not?
Public inquiries work. This is why Premier Charest fought so hard and so long against any public enquiry into illegal construction funding of provincial elections. This inquiry was finally undertaken but only after many months of outcry from all levels of Quebec society including the opposition parties to have one. This provincial inquiry into illegal construction election funding is now uncovering a funding trail that leads directly to political colleagues of Premier Charest.
What else do we know? We know that this present government is not a Conservative government. A conservative government is one that governs in a way that respects traditions and values. My great uncle Moise Doucet was the first Acadian member of Provincial Parliament in Nova Scotia. He was a Progressive Conservative. Robert Stanfield was another Nova Scotian my family supported for the federal leadership. He was also Progressive Conservative. These were Conservative men with Conservative values whom I and many others admired. Their values were not the values of this government.
It is a government founded on lies. The first one was when the present Defense Minister Peter McKay promised the old Progressive Conservative Party members if he was elected their leader, he would never agree to amalgamating the party with Mr. Harper’s Alliance Party.
This is a radical government, the likes of which this country has never seen. It is the first government Canada has ever had that fears science and is doing whatever it can, locally, nationally and internationally to suppress all research that might be unfavourable to their beliefs.
It is the first government to suppress all social, historical and archival research that could lead to forming opinions other than what the government wishes people to have. It is a government that doesn’t want policy debates. This is why they they crammed 70 Acts into one bill. It was another way of suppressing public debate. This is a government that does not want ‘public servants’. They want employees who will do what they are told and the oath of office that public servants now take refers to themselves as employees, not public servants who’s primary job is not to present the best possible advice to the government but what their ‘employer’ wants. In other words, they’re to do as they are told as all service industry employees are obliged to do. ”Have a nice day!”
It is a government based on fear and bullying. It fires public servants who have the courage to stand up to them. It fires public servants who look like they might have the courage to stand up to them.
It treats Parliament like a toilet seat. Lift as many times as required and flush. If you think I am exaggerating for the sake of rhetorical effect, consider each member of Parliament had 5.2 seconds to debate each Act in the Omnibus Bill – that’s not democracy, that’s flushing the toilet – if you’re quick.
Consider that the Omnibus bill suppressed virtually all of the government’s environmental protective capacity, that’s decades of work by all Canadian parties, Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats. Consider that withdrawing from Kyoto alone was just one of the 70 bills included in the hundreds of pages that deserved a full parliamentary and national debate – not 5.2 seconds per member of Parliament.
These are not Canadian values. These are not Canadian democratic traditions. This is the primitive behaviour of schoolyard bullies. It is the behaviour of men and women with one over-riding thought: We have the power, sit down, shut up and vote. It’s a power that comes from 14 ridings and just 6,800 votes – that’s their winning mandate 6,800 votes. And voter fraud impacted every one of those winning constituencies.
It’s a government that wants to listen to the private conversations of ordinary citizens in airports. It’s a government that wants to have access to your banking files and your private electronic conversations.
These are not Canadian values. These are not Canadian traditions. These are not Conservative values. This is why the federal party did not work for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party in the last provincial election. They worked for Tea Party or as it is called north of the border – Wild Rose.
The Minister of the Environment has just come back from Brazil. He has reported to Canadians, he has been successful in preventing any binding commitments for carbon reductions. Canada is now considered to be a problem on the world stage, an example of a progressive nation where even the legitimacy of its democracy is in question.
No one understands how such a progressive, important participant in the world community of nations could have so quickly become a belief based, ideological pariah.
The last time, you invited me to speak here, I mentioned that in my opinion, the current values of this government were so foreign to the older parts of Canada of which Quebec is the oldest part, that it would drive Quebec towards separation as nothing else had. Mr. Harper is now meeting with Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Charest to see what they can collectively do about the possibility of the election of the Parti Quebecois in Quebec. I don’t think this triumvirate can find a new hair do to put on their collective heads that will work.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank-you again for asking me to speak, I hope I haven’t depressed you, but it is important to be honest with ourselves as well as in our opinions of others about both the gravity of the problems we face and the difficulty in inspiring people to care. But in one essential way it doesn’t matter if there are 10 out protesting or a 100,000 today, the principle remains the same. This is a government founded on lies, fear and dependent on voter suppression. It is a bully government where the response to every criticism is to attack. It is not surprising people are afraid to be seen opposing the government, but it is all the more reason to be here.
The summer is now upon us. My suggestion to the Rally organizers is take some time off to reflect and gather your strength. Enjoy the warm days with your families and think on how we might best renew the fight in September. My general feeling is outrage will not work because this Wild Rose Federal version doesn’t care about the values or the traditions which animate your outrage. It’s what they expect from you and have learned to expertly deflect through violent personal slurs and false insinuations; and they’re very good at it.
We have to find a way to laugh at these men and women, bullies don’t do well with laughter. This is the way Canadians marginalized Vic Taves and it may be the only way to marginalize the Harper government.
Thank-you very much. A la prochaine.