LONG LIVE HUGO CHAVEZ!
Hugo Chavez is dead. Long live Hugo Chavez! May his policies that have lifted millions of Venezuelans out of poverty prevail into the future. And let’s take a moment to contrast Hugo Chavez’s regard for his people with that of our own Prime Minister. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Prime Minister who actually loved the people of Canada, who worried about our welfare, especially the poor, the working poor, the children of the poor, the increasing poor as well as the business and middle class of Canada, as Chavez loved his people? But the message Stephen Harper sent to a grieving Venezuela along with many other South American peoples was a short, curt, unbelievably arrogant slap in the face. Harper’s message in part read:
“At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principals of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
In the first place, this message is hypocritical beyond belief. Hugo Chavez was elected with a 54 per cent majority in a democratic election. And Chavez used the country’s oil money to lift millions of his people out of dire poverty. Harper is striving to push as many of us in Canada into poverty as quickly as he can. In spite of everything the US and global finance did to crush him, Chavez stuck to his mandate to improve the lives of his people, from the bottom economic tier up, and to inspire all people to work to improve themselves. Who and what does Harper inspire? The answer is so discouraging it makes one feel sick.
Aside from rancid hypocrisy, Harper’s message carried clues to what he sees ahead for us. Just more of the same. Harper is not urging us on to more workers’ councils and the creation of democratic community learning centers as Chavez did, but the opposite. Harper is taking away our rights, along with First Nation’s rights, to be stewards of the lands and water of Canada. He is doing all he can to crowd our overflowing jails with asinine pot charges against young people while cutting to the bone the people programs that help, protect, and prepare for the future. Worker’s tax money that used to go into building a caring, modern, just nation has taken a sharp turn to the right that simply makes the rich richer while our life sustaining infrastructures crumble.
When I first came to Canada in 1966 I was thrilled to be in a county that recognized and practiced all of the concepts that Stephen Harper, in his message to the Venezuela people tries to pretend we Canadians still have…freedom, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. But now? For us? Not so much. But where did all these concepts and programs to improve ordinary people’s lives go if they were still here when I immigrated in 1966?
They didn’t go anywhere until 1974. That was the year then Prime Minister Elliot Trudeau and Paul Martin made the decision to stop borrowing money from the Bank of Canada at no interest for public works and started borrowing from private banks at compound interest. This set the stage for Canada’s thirty- nine year slide from a diverse, strong, just, sovereign country into one of an internationalism so pervasive Canadians and First Nations can no longer independently manage our own soil and waters, much less the resources contained within. And jobs?
Our job market has been internationalized, too. Manufacturing has largely been gutted out of Canada. Oil and the search for oil and gas will be about all we have to depend on for big money makers, but even these are rife with problems such as First Nations claims, environmental protests and falling market demand. But how did we lose control over work? Over our environment? Why did worker’s wages start going down as banks profits soared? How did we as a people start getting poorer as private bank profits soared? Did our deteriorating social and economic health of Canada have everything to do with the decision of Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin to start borrowing needed public money from private banks? And if so, did Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin deliberately conspire to try to drag Canada down into the dust bin of failed states?
Yes and no. I don’t think either Pierre Trudeau or Paul Martin had at the time any particular desire to see Canada go down the tube. They were just privileged men, conceited in their supposed intellectual superiority, and dedicated first, to their own class. So they listened to other privileged men (private bankers) who had an idea about of how to siphon huge chunks of money out of public tax dollars.
Tax dollars, of course, pay for public programs and public debt. At the time, the government was borrowing what money it needed from the Bank of Canada. The Bank of Canada is our bank, the Canadian people’s bank. The Constitution says so. And it specifically mandates that our bank is there for us, for our government to borrow what it needs to run the government, and at no interest.
Well, the private banks prevailed. They persuaded Trudeau and Paul Martin to borrow the money that the government needed from them instead of from the Bank of Canada. And the private banks not only charge interest, they charge compound interest. This practice doubles and triples the amount of money to be paid back from the government (us) to the private banks. And this is how our national debt has become so large. Two thirds of the money Canadians pay on the National Debt each year is interest on interest (compound interest).
If we just remember that the government is us, and we are different from the politicians we elect. Some of the politicians we elect will be okay, some will be terrible, but they are not the government. We are the government. We have the Canadian Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Criminal Code. We also have Case Law (the history of Canadian judge’s decisions concerning specific cases that went to trial) First Nations legal agreements and we have the Bank of Canada. All of these together constitute a major component, but of course not all, of the tools of government. Our tools.
It has only been 39 years since Trudeau and Paul Martin changed the banking rules. These rules aren’t written in any stone that I know of. But even if some vague documents are unearthed detailing the supposed reasons for plunging Canadians into massive debt somewhere, they wouldn’t stand up to the Canadian Constitution. The Bank of Canada provisions are written in stone. The rules and rights of the people to the Bank of Canada are anchored in the Constitution. Can we go somewhere with this?
Stephen Harper knows he isn’t loved much by Canadians. He doesn’t care, because in spite of his cruelties (or perhaps because of them) he thinks he is right with God and the Rapture is approaching. How did we get a crazy man for Prime minister? Oh, for a sane, earnest man like Hugo Chavez, one who united people, fought injustice and believed profoundly in sharing. Hugo Chavez was a comfort to me as are many others who are on the world stage including Vandana Shiva, Mohamed Nasheed (The Island President) Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman (Democracy now) and the entire government of Iceland. But I will deeply miss you, Hugo.