Canada Is Slowly But Surely Shifting To Totalitarianism

A Commentary by Mark Taliano

Totalitarianism, aligned as it is with “rule by corporations”, is something that happens in incremental steps over time.  Nobody actually chooses it, it just happens, and it’s happening to Canada right now.harper_obey0011

What are the conditions that foster these top-down, undemocratic trends?  Public conformity in matters of importance plays a large part.

Corporate “governance”, with its anti-social, anti-public orientation, is adept at manufacturing and perpetuating public conformity by employing subtle but effective tools that secretly subvert the populace.  These tools are employed to create what  Sheldon Wolin would describe as “inverted totalitarianism”.  The tactics persuade a population that what the government/corporation wants is also good for people, even when the opposite is the case.

For example, legislation that endorses catastrophic global warming, for the perceived benefit of a handful of transnational corporations, is not to the benefit of the people. Many Canadians, however, remain deluded, even as they witness Canada’s descent into the scientific and diplomatic Dark Ages.

We are, after all, the only country to have abandoned its membership in the Kyoto Protocol, and more recently, we are the only country to withdraw from the United Nations Convention on Desertification.  We have also abandoned the Canadian International Development Agency, as well as other international organizations. 

Additionally, we are also refusing entry to Canada of the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Each of these snubs to the international community besmirchs our international reputation, and our ability to positively impact world affairs.

Subtle tactics of control are used to delude the public into thinking that these are the right choices.  Not only have scientific research centers been shuttered, and scientists muzzled, but now, even federal librarians and archivists have been muzzled

Muzzling federal librarians and archivists is more subtle than book burning, and also more effective. This tactic is widening the net of suppression and further inhibiting the public’s access to reliable information (as if being ranked 51st on the Freedom Of Information Index, below Angola, Colombia, and Nigeria, isn’t bad enough). Librarians must now be vetted by the government before speaking to the public.  If, for example, a federal librarian, or archivist (including their volunteers and students), is asked to speak at a high school, he/she must first contact the appropriate government agency and secure approval. The government rationale is that public employees have a “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government”. 

Add to this the muzzling of the Parliamentary Budget Office, and the appointment of an unqualified person to replace Kevin Page, (as well as the failure to commission a Public Inquiry into electoral fraud), and we have the suppression of a great deal of “source” information that is crucial to a functioning democracy.

Once the source information is suppressed, it is easier for the government to create its own narrative through fiction-based messaging, which reinforces public forgetfulness (enabled by the 24 hour news cycle), confusion, and falsehoods. 

When subtle subversion proves ineffective, more overtly fascistic tools are being used, and with ever increasing frequency. It happened at Toronto’s G-20 demonstrations in June, 2010, and it is happening with more regularity in Quebec.

Municipal By-law P-6, like its (now repealed) predecessor, Bill 78, though condemned by the Quebec Bar Association, has been used extensively in Montreal to thwart peaceful protests.

An important component of the by-law is the seemingly innocuous requirement that protestors secure a permit and file notice of a demonstration before it takes place.  The danger of the by-law is that demonstrations can be stifled, and police can be used, to suit the political requirements of politicians.  Police are not meant to be an arm of any particular government, unless, of course, it is a “police-state” government.   

The most recent impact of the by-law is that riot police charged peaceful protestors in the streets of Montreal, illegally kettled them, and fined them $637.00 each.  (Evidently, poor people are precluded from exercising their democratic rights.)

The Service De Police De La Ville De Montréal, later held a press conference, and Sergeant Jean-Bruno Latour declared that “the Charter (Of  Rights And Freedoms) protects the right to freedom of expression, but (that) there is no right to protest.”

Peaceful protesting may not be allowed in North Korea, but in Canada, peaceful protesting is still legal. The police should not be used to intimidate peaceful protestors, and the permit issue should not be used to arbitrarily quash demonstrations.  The right to peaceful protesting should trump any requirement for a permit.  Similarly, kettling and mass arrests of peaceful protestors are overtly fascist police strategies that should be condemned.  Such tactics are used to dissuade the public from exercising its democratic rights to protest.    

Demonizing those who overtly oppose government policies is nothing new for this government.  People and groups with dissenting views have been labeled “radicals” or “extremists”, or even “traitors”. These polarizing tactics are now being ramped up, and  the government is now conflating protest with terrorism.  The ever-expanding (and expensive) security apparatus is increasingly being used to surveil peaceful activists

Earlier, I wrote a piece called Canada’s Totalitarian Shift, in which I enumerated government policies and tactics (as described by author Naomi Wolf), that are consistent with totalitarian rule.  The steps include these:

  • invoke an external and internal threat
  • cast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason
  • surveil ordinary citizens
  • arbitrarily detain and release citizens
  • infiltrate civilian groups
  • subvert the rule of law
  • restrict the press

 Each of these steps is becoming more entrenched in Canada.

There is no clear boundary which delineates a country’s transition from weak democracy to full blown totalitarianism, but Harper’s Canada has all of the symptoms of totalitarianism, in varying degrees.  Equally disconcerting though, is that much of the mass media is still apologizing for this rogue government, and the increasingly entrenched symptoms are being subverted, or ignored.

Mark Taliano is a Niagara, Ontario resident and regular contributor of news and analysis to Niagara At Large.

(Niagara At Large invites you to join in the conversation by sharing your views on the content of this post below. For reasons of transparency and promoting civil dialogue, NAL only posts comments from individuals who share their first and last name with their views.)

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47 responses to “Canada Is Slowly But Surely Shifting To Totalitarianism

  1. Linda McKellar

    And this is news? As long as the electorate fails to educate itself and rise up Canada will be a fascist state. We’re well on our way. The chickens are voting for Colonel Saunders.

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    • Hear, hear!
      Why else would people in the media consistently refuse to talk to me about SNC-Lavalin Inc. and the corruption that they and others have directed at me personally for the past 30 years? See my web sites at http://www.exposethismuck.com and http://www.unempgeninfo.com I believe everybody knows about SNC-Lavalin and the bribery and corruption associated with their Libyan business, which has continually been making the news headlines over the past year or so. Part of the trouble in all this is the dependency of the mainstream media on advertising revenues from corporations; news reporting therefore seems to me to be a secondary consideration for the mainstream media. Anyone interested in the historical background would do well to read a book, “The Mass Media in Canada” by Mary Vipond, published in 2000. Mary Vipond in a Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

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    • Since my previous posting, just out of curiosity I Googled the book by Mary Vipond referred to and published in 2000 – and found that it is now in its 4th edition, published in 2011! Reference: http://www.amazon.ca/The-Mass-Media-Canada-Edition/dp/1552776581

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    • Nobody in office represents you. They represent a party, then a riding. That alone should tell you that if the majority in your riding sre opposed to Gov#y legislation and the ruling party demands a vote according to party loyalty, your phoqued

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  3. Gail Benjafield

    So true, so true, Mark T. Spot on. You understand this absolutely. The muzzling of scientists, and then, such anarchist types such as librarians and archivists, the stereotyped meekest of the meek, as ones needed to be muzzled. Gawd.

    Anyone ever heard of Freedom of Speech? Guess not, according to Harper and his choir.

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  4. Excellent article, Mark. I would add ‘abandoning, revoking undemocratically, or just ignoring treaties’ – such as those with the Indigenous Peoples of this land, the Rush-Bagot Treaty limiting warships on the great lakes to ONE, and above all the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
    Perhaps a more dangerous person than Stephen Harper is Ernie’s boy Preston – I saw a meeting of the Manning Institute on CPAC where they are plotting the way they will continue the process engineered to a large extent by Tom Flanagan – even though he is sidelined (for now) they will continue his work and strategy of hidden agendas.

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  5. Next thing you know Mark will be saying that regular people should become politicians. Maybe they should but we have a couple problems to address.

    This is Canada. Where politicians apparently act as operators rather than moderators. There is no room for the unwashed masses in the board rooms of the biggest legitimated monopoly in the country.

    If you believe that Healthcare, Education, and Security services should be free for everyone while remaining a part of the government monopoly then that monopoly needs oversight.

    If politicians are involved in the operation of the crown corporations then they are incapable of acting as part of an independent oversight organization.

    Since there are no rules that protect a politician to act independently then it should fall to the party level. If a party wants to act as the operator then they should exclude themselves from participating in the creation of legislation intended to correct the actions of the governing body.

    The remedy:
    Get the politicians out of government. Ministers should not be politicians – just as Police Chiefs should not be city councillors.

    If you register as a member of a political party then you should be excused from working in the non-partisan government. This isn’t limiting your feelings toward parties – just your ability to promote a candidate from within the ranks. This is the anti-oligarch clause, and does not effect voting rights.

    Finally, as a protection against totalitarianism allow for local anti-government referendums. If you don’t like the monopoly – try a two year term without police, healthcare, or education from the government you hate. Chances are if you can organize a tax collection agency, police force, etc. then you didn’t need the oversight. If it fails referendum in two years – the Canadian forces would be glad to take a peace keeping team into the third-world village of Thorold and restore order.

    I trust the nurses – teachers – constables – and soldiers more than opinionated political hate-generators. That includes critics that want to make excuses for anarchists to maim public servants.

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  6. corie johnson

    Love the line “the chickens are voting for Col. Sanders”….ain’t that the truth. However when you rig an election, and two years later you are still investigating yourself for ELECTION FRAUD, while abusing power and obstructing justice, one wonders where the hell the police, are – or our legal system. Checking out world court however we find an arrest warrant in Brussels for Stephen Harper, along with a former prominent RCMP officer and the Queen…so we know why he is not being arrested…the police report to his boss, also charged.!
    http://www.itccs.org i.e. The Pope resigned when Ireland threatened to exercise the arrest warrant against him in the same case.

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  7. janice williamson

    Thank you Mark for your insight and analysis. To my mind, Omar Khadr is one of the canaries in a coal mine called Millhaven Maximum Security Prison. The response of the Harper government to calls for his return from everyone including Hilary Clinton, the Pentagon, Guantanamo, the UN, all political parties but the Cons (after 2007, the Liberals called for his repatriation), International Law, and various domestic high court decisions that ruled Khadr’s charter rights were violated among other things. The Harper government’s response to this pressure was to: change the International Transfer of Prisoners Act so the authoritarian Minister of Public Safety (what a euphemism!) Vic Toews had total control; transform Canada’s policy re: torture – we now admit evidence obtained through torture if it is performed by third parties in prime-time tv’s ticking time bomb circumstances (they don’t even have to reveal whether or not the evidence has been obtained through torture); and to fire 18 multi faith chaplains from prisons just in time for Omar’s return. I was shocked at the way Ezra Levant’s racist diatribes, Vic Toew’s obsessive malice, and Harper’s total control entirely betrayed a Canadian citizen who had already suffered a decade in off-shore prisons that had been condemned internationally and even by their own former military prosecutors as dangerous and illegal places. Those who critique the Canadian government are denounced as traitors. Ethical whistleblowers are demeaned and dismissed. Canadians remain either paralyzed out of fear, silent out of apathetic comfort, or exhausted by our inability to replace this frightening government by an effective opposition coalition that is required to remedy our inefficient first-past-the-post electoral system.

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  8. Further evidence that the voting system should be replaced with proportional representation and the electoral quotient should be reduced to what it was in 1867 (19,239).

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  10. Ralph Killoran

    One piece that has been missed is in our Justice System. We have public courts but private lawyers. The government is free to act in anyway it wishes, legally or illegally, knowing the citizens have no ability to challenge corruptions. Our public health care provides full professional care and I do not understand why our courts cannot offer the same.

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  11. If the Queen wants to redeem herself, she should instruct the Governor General to dissolve the government and call an election, it is not like there are many broken laws and corruptions to justify this action.

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    • Wayne, educate your self and read the statute of West Minister. The Queen has nothing to do with Canada….. Commonwealth was dissolved in 1931

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  12. The aspect you’ve missed is the increasing pattern of retaliation against individuals who have criticized or stood in the government’s way:
    – Sean Deasy – Canadian veteran of the first gulf war and outspoken veteran’s advocate – criticizes the government for failing to support the mental health of veterans. The government accesses his confidential medical records and illegally releases them publicly to try and discredit him.
    – Stewart Wells – President of the National Farmer’s Union – criticizes government on Wheat Board and organic ag programs. The Minister of Agriculture illegally discloses Wells’ confidential business info in the House of COmmons.
    – Linda Keene – head of the Nuclear Safety Agency – shuts down Chalk River reactor because of serious safety violations. Shortage of medical isotopes embarasses gv’t, so they brand her a “Liberal” and fire her.
    – MP Rob Anders falls asleep during a meeting with two veterans advocates. When they get angry and complain, he brands them “NDP hacks” (both were card-carrying Conservatives).
    – CIndy Blackstock – head of the First Nations Family and Caring Society – launches a Human Rights Commission discrimination case against the government because First Nations communities get less per-child funding for child welfare. The government begins all-out spying campaign – creeping her Facebook, sending people to monitor all her public appearances, and even illegally sharing her confidential First Nations status information between departments.
    – Andrew Okulich – a scientist – fired from the national Scientist Emeritus Program for complaining *privately in an email* about a directive forcing all participants in the program to use the phrase “Canada’s New Government” in all their communications.
    – Jil Wizonski – Manitoba reporter – fired from her job after pressure from Con MP James Bezan for writing news articles critical of the government

    And those are just the ones I know off the top of my head.

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  13. Thanks for the info. Moria

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  14. I am going to add one more terrifying totalitarian trend I was just reminded of today: increasingly partisan police.
    In 2006, during the federal election, the RCMP makes a public announcement that it is investigating MP Ralph Goodale for leaking budget information. Making such a public statement is a wild break from standard procedure. That announcement is widely credited with being the tipping point that shifted enough undecided voters to hand Harper his first minority government. At Harper’s very first swearing-in as PM at Rideau Hall, RCMP Commission Zaccardelli is seen sitting right beside Harper, chatting and joking with him.
    2011 federal election – At Harper’s campaign stops the PM’s RCMP security detail is involved in screening out not just potential security risks, but political undesirables like the girl who was kicked out of an event because her Facebook page had a photo of her with Ignatieff. Video footage from another campaign event shows the RCMP officers running media interference for the PM, actively intercepting reporters in the crowd and preventing them from getting near the PM.
    And today it has just been announced that Harper has appointed the head of his security detail – presumably the same man who directed those operations during the 2011 election – as Canada’s new ambassador to Jordan. This is a man with ZERO diplomatic experience. Clearly a patronage reward for a job well done.
    Under the Conservatives the RCMP has clearly abandoned non-partisanship and started using its power to influence politics. And that’s how we get a “police state”.

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  15. Thx Moira. There are CSIS issues as well: I wrote an artice about it. Have you seen the newly acquired military vehicles for some police forces?

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  16. Are you kidding me? Have you the faintest clue what totalitarianism means or have you ever lived in one? Harper, if anything, is a silly man who has very little actual power (power always belongs to business, here in Canada and everywhere else) and will be gone soon anyway. Please don’t try to sell our Canadian reality as some sort of dictatorship. It’s insulting for those of us who actually experienced it.

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    • Mark is skilled at hyperbole – even if he doesn’t believe it.

      I agree with Bill that the threat is imagined – not real.

      Unless they put Mark in charge – then we would be in a cold communist world that lacks incentives for ambition and dialogue between professions. Not quite Ayn Rand levels of repression and unjust taxation but just enough to make it clear that the only way to get ahead is to join the herd. (Just to note – this is a satirical take on the authors hyperbole)

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      • Frank Smith

        Are you suggesting Ayn Rand represents repression and unfair taxation or am I just reading you wrong? Because, if I’m not, it would be about as ridiculous as saying Ghandi represents violence.

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      • Sam Aubins

        Ghandi was an Indian rebel figure. Ayn Rand was an author. The comparison is that while Ayn worked within the realm of fiction like a painting, this article attempts to graft itself onto reality – neuro-digital graffiti that needs to be painted over.

        Not a big fan of either story, since the comments section is our forum – our salon – here is my take:

        Reality is also flawed. Without a real threat of violence and revolution the hunger strike and demonstrations that Ghandi lead would have failed. The article asserts that peaceful protest is repressed in Canada. At that point Ghandi would starve and either the people would respond with violence or cower under their new tyrannical government.

        Would anyone here choose not to cower?

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  17. Consider this. The invasion of Iraq was sold to the people/proles based upon absolute fiction. Hundreds or thousands were killed/murdered. Some corporations benefited. Harper wanted to join the party. This is not democracy.

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  18. Hundreds of thousands

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    • Adam Kingsmith also seems to have a problem getting a permit.

      This is a system that protects ordinary Canadians from the constant whine of discontent. While it would be great to believe that all protesters are looking for a peaceful way to enunciate their strongly worded letter to politicians that do not care – this law is not for them.

      This law was for the violent protests. The racially motivated attacks. The widespread mob and rob mentality taking over in the anti-establishment community.

      Using the slippery slope argument (into totalitarianism) is just as flawed as the argument against violent radicals. There are no governments that have denied permits without providing what should be an acceptable alternative. I know plenty of Montreal residents that don’t give two hoots about tuition or political parties – they do give a hoot aboot the criminals that never seem to get caught due to the chaos and corruption.

      The solution to chaos and corruption is more oversight, more reporting, and more paperwork. History speaks in favour of moderation, not radical ideologies.

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    • Also, would it make you feel better if you had public access to Prime Minister Harper’s call logs and transcripts *in real time*?

      It would work for me – watching the watchers while they watch us watching other watchers. You should have the freedom to remain anonymous – as long as you’re willing to have people scratch their heads and try to connect the dots without asking.

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  19. The radicals and extremists are literally Harper and his sock puppet government.

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  20. The Harper dictatorship and his clown brigade is sickening and frightening. In 1- 4 year term, since getting a majority, he has literally undermined freedom, destroyed the checks and balances on government/corporations developed over decades, is selling off our sovereignty etc. We need proportional government NOW and a means to yank such self serving mini-Hitlers from office by their short and curlies at any time!

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  21. Megan Hirons

    Anyone who thinks that Canada is a totalitarian state has never actually lived in one. Wake up you ignoramuses – we are the one percent and we live in a fairer and more equitable society than the vast majority of people in the world. Go try living in China or the Middle East.

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  22. Megan, that is the point, we are rapidly moving in that direction and DON”T WANT TO!

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    • RTFA – “Slowly” is in the title – there is nothing rapid about it, although I’ve also argued against the “surely” part of the perceived hidden agenda.

      It is terror threats and semantic shifting by radicals that kickstart the repression of freedom.

      Protest is not an effective tool in democracy – it is an advertising tool. If it disappears then another tool to change minds will be used with a near equal lack of effect.

      See you at the polls in the next election – maybe – because we are free.

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  23. An excellent piece, marred only by the misspelling of Colombia in the excerpt, “(as if being ranked 51st on the Freedom Of Information Index, below Angola, Columbia, and Niger, isn’t bad enough)”

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  24. Again, by calling Canada either totalitarian or saying that the country is heading in that direction, you are insulting all those who have actually lived in a dictatorship (yours truly) or suffered by the hands of such system. You should very much be ashamed.

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  25. We’re fighting so that we don’t end up like a third world colonized nation bereft of democracy, and economic self-determination. We’re also fighting to improve our disreputable international reputation, to improve our human rights record, and to improve our environmental standards. All this for the benefit of Canada and the world. There is no shame in fighting for a better country and a better world.

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  26. This is true, Mark. But doing it based on baseless sensationalism demeans the intentions you have and actually backfires.

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  27. There no sensationalism about it, in my opinion, which is supported by evidence.

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  28. Well how does dictatorship start Bill…if you were heading down the road to control the resources of this country without effective opposition, how would you do it..it’s not an overnight deal, but a process. And that is what it seems that Mark is pointing out here. Piece by piece they take away our rights and make us believe it is the right thing to do because of the economy or terrorists. If the great powers will do it in Latn America, East Asia, Middle East, and Africa..why wouldn’t they do it here?

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  29. Bill – read the article again – it does not say that Canada is a totalitarian state like North Korea or Germany 1930’s. It says that incrementally the steps that have been taken by this government are in fact steps toward totalitarianism. Please take off the blinders.

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  30. Mike, I was born into and have lived in communism (also did extensive studies on how it started and how others totalitarian states in general have started) and know that you are not speaking to one of those Canadians who was born here and is easily fooled by fear mongering (Chris, unfortunately I can’t get into the genesis of dictatorships as this is a comments area. If you are truly interested on how these things develop however, there are some excellent, non-partisan publications to find at your local library, bookstore or on Kobo).
    There have been questionable steps made by this government, of this there is no doubt. Just as there have been by previous ones. But none of these steps should be mistaken as conscious steps toward totalitarianism. There will be an election fairly soon, your bogey man will probably be outvoted and you will most likely become quiet, with this page becoming dormant. Until you find your next target to attack from your incredibly comfy chair called democracy.
    I know that I am speaking for many (who have come to this country due to fear, dislike or economic hardship) when I say that we don’t appreciate what you are trying to do (albeit innocently).
    Canada is not even remotely close to be teetering between dictatorship and democracy. The notion of it is bizarre but at least ridiculous.
    My suggestion is to keep your eyes open, protest unfair decisions by any political party and leave it at that. You will be fine.

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  31. Honestly…does this sound like a nasty ass dictatorship or another bumbling government? Come on people, the weather is nice…go play outside! 🙂
    http://news.yahoo.com/harper-under-cloud-chief-staff-resigns-200244827.html

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  32. Bill Ferencz raises the question, “Honestly…does this sound like a nasty ass dictatorship or another bumbling government?”

    I would say it’s ” another bumbling government…:” . If it’s anything to do with unemployment, under-employment, social assistance and related problem areas, in my view the root of the trouble is popular disinformation that forms the basis for government actions, no matter who is running the show or what their political beliefs are. The other dimension to this is how the business community might exploit this, or actually does exploit this, in order to procure cheap labour and /or cheapen people. See my web sites at http://www.exposethismuck.com and http://www.unempgeninfo.com Policies and attitudes designed to procure cheap labour and cheapen people do NOT equate to policies for getting best value for money from people and do NOT help the economy or the government’s own tax base. Unfortunately, I think the business community DOES assume that policies designed to procure cheap labour and cheapen people will always result in best value for money from people – when the actual result is WASTAGE of people, on a massive scale.

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  33. I think reading Lawrence Britt’s “Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism” would make some good reading now.

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  34. I think Lawrence Beitt’s “Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism” would make good reading. As well:
    1. Fascism in Canada and the United States has ben creeping in for years. Prime Minister Mackenzie King, our WW2 Prime Minister, thought it was an excellent political philosophy. One could argue that while Hitler lost WW2, Fascists won. I it is just that the creep has been going on for so many years, many people haven’t really noticed it. And, in the meantime, they were distracted by the battle against Communism.
    2. We need to remember that virtually everything Hitler did was legal. He past laws to “make it so.” Nuremberg demonstrated there can be really bad laws. But the German people didn’t clue in till they were too far down the road to stop anything. All they wanted was political stability.

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  35. “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

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