Tag Archives: Canadian politics

Political Name Changes: A Rose By Any Name

Or perhaps never a rose. It could be a stinking weed or even a better flower. The NDP (New Democratic Party) of Canada is looking at changing their name and dropping the “New.” One reason stated is that people who are newer to Canada (and maybe those not so new) see the “New” and think that the party hasn’t been around very long, and is less experienced.

Fair enough, and it’s not the first time the NDP have gone through a transition. Its roots are in two parties, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Co-operative Commonwealth Foundation, which joined together to form the National Committee for the New Party (known for a while as the New Party). That party became the NDP with Tommy Douglas as its first leader.

It’s not bad for any political party to re-evaluate where its going, what its mandate is and is it serving the needs of the people. Of course, once you have more than a small handful of people you will get differing needs and views. (Heck, even if you have two people that can happen.)

The Progressive Conservatives went through a split where the right of center PCs spawned the Reform Party of Canada. This happened after Brian Mulroney drove the party into the ground, setting up Kim Campbell to be the fall guy (or gal) for the party that was nearly voted out of existence. Mulroney’s arrogance and his implementation of the GST and the controversial Free Trade Agreement (seen as selling away some of Canada’s rights to the US) left the federal party with only two seats in the next election.

The Reform offspring, a farther right-wing, extreme conservative party then became known as the Canadian Alliance after the unfortunate name of the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party (or CRAP for short). They were known for being narrow-minded and members were caught several times saying racist and sexist remarks. So in a big sellout the Reform party merged back with the PCs, causing many long time Conservative members (such as former prime minister Joe Clark) to leave the party in disgust.

That’s our Conservative party today, cloaked again with the respectable Conservative name but still more right of where the PCs were yet not as red as the Reform was. But Harper’s disinterest in helping anyone of color or of a nonChristian religion, even if they are Canadian citizens has been noted by the press. (such as Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan but not charged with anything) One could say it is the government but Harper likes to keep a stranglehold on his ministers.

So, in that case, the name change for the Reform didn’t work but merging back into the Conservatives did. Will it work for the NDP? That depends. Often what happens when a party renames itself is that it also looks at its mandates, its policies and its platform. If the NDP doesn’t do an in-depth examination, then a name change probably won’t do much for them in the polls and they’ll continue to be third runner up in federal politics.

As I’ve said before, Canada’s political parties don’t have very charismatic leaders at present. I’ve heard from an experienced ex-politician that he liked Jack Layton until he met him. I also listened to several people talking this weekend at a party about the NDP. Layton at some point had been in town for a photo op with guards and press. It blocked the way to a local store (selling roleplaying games I believe). Because it took so long when they were packing up this one guy was saying that Layton could have gone into the store and shook a few hands because the nerds (his word not mine) were waiting to go in. And then they would have probably blogged about it. But Layton missed an opportunity.

Layton comes from a long family history of politicians and a has a PhD in political science so he should know his stuff. However, he comes across as arrogant, and he’s not the only political leader who does. It certainly didn’t serve Stockwell Day or Brian Mulroney that well with many people. Like Preston Manning before him, it could be Layton also needs a makeover. Not even gay men wear moustaches like that anymore: only policemen. But it’s attitude and party politics that will need to change most of all to bring the party out of third place in the race. Politicians should try being genuine and talk more with the common people.

If the NDP are not going to be new democrats anymore but democrats with seasoning and experience, then the party has to grow up all around. Perhaps at the NDP convention the name change will come with a new leader but if they change the leader they better throw smarts and charisma into the package. Oh and clearly stating their platform and sticking to their guns. If not, the NDP, or the Democratic Party, will continue to bring up the rear, even if the other two choices aren’t much better.

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US Election: Hope for a New America

Well, like everyone else, I’m weighing in on the recent US election of the president elect and hopeful, Barack Obama. There is more than one factor that makes him the new hope. He will be the first black president with a very non-American sounding name. He is relatively young, the same age as Clinton when he took office. Only Roosevelt and Kennedy were younger. He inherits one of the worst messes in recent history from the worst president. Really, anyone who did half a job better than Bush would probably shine. You could almost say he’s the messiah to Bush’s anti-christ but let’s not bring religion into it. There’s been enough already.

But it’s a tough job ahead. The US economy, and world economy is a mess, Bush has brought the world too close to World War III, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing divisive views and is as tumultuous as the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war lasted through several presidencies. Interestingly enough it was escalated by Democrats Kennedy and Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon was not only the one to remove troops in Vietnam but brought about some thawing of the Cold War.

This time it’s reversed and Republican Bush brought troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. Will Obama remove them? Although Iraq was the misguided invasion of a deluded president, Afghanistan is a different story. Albeit Bush invaded for his “war against terror” and “axis of evil” blatherings, the fact that Afghanistan was under a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime that subjugated its citizens, especially women, could not be denied. The world needed to help. And yes, the World Trade Center was decimated by a terrorist attack…by Saudi Arabians, the country studiously ignored because they can be a bigger bully than the US.

But back to presidents and chaos. There have been charismatic leaders in the past. John F. Kennedy was one. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84. He was immensely popular, young and avant garde, coining the term “fuddle duddle,” which was a euphemism for what he was presumed to have actually said. And although Martin Luther King never ran for president, at a time when blacks were still considered second class citizens, he too galvanized a nation. Had he lived longer, he might have run as president but like Kennedy he was assassinated.

What these four men (Kennedy, King, Trudeau, Obama) have in common is youth. This is not the youth of age though they were all in their 30’s or 40’s when coming to prominence, but a youthful demeanor and way of thinking. Trudeau and Kennedy made mistakes but after they were leaders their legacies lived on. Trudeau’s influence colored politics for many years after he retired.

The other common thread is that these men were all great orators. Obama speaks well, bringing passion and belief to his words. The background speechwriters should be given accolades for the skills they put into such famous speeches. Obama also has something that was lacking in the McCain/Palin campaign: integrity. When others stooped to trying to mar his name, he did not fall to the same low standards. When it was discovered that Palin had a pregnant, teenage daughter, Obama replied, “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits.” When was the last time we saw any politician stop slinging dirt at the others? That alone would have gained my vote, had he run here.

Obama has a heavy burden on his shoulders. If he cannot affect the change that is so desperately needed and clean up some of Bush’s mess, then people will leave him. But if anyone can, he is the man to do it. Of mixed heritage, he represents the world of today. He’s intelligent in a way Bush is too dull to even dream of and he will hopefully keep a level head.

Charisma goes a long way and people will forgive a lot of sins because of it. Being young enough to remember there are young people bridges the generation gap and it showed in the number of younger people who voted for Obama. Being intelligent can make a difference but it is wisdom and the use of knowledge that can bring the greatest, beneficial change.

We’ll have to see if Barack Obama can bring change. All we have to do is keep him alive long enough. Here’s hoping he relies on more than the fallible CIA to keep him safe. (Speaking of which, at the college where I work in Canada, the IT guy checked an IP address that was trying to break through Finance’s firewall. It was the CIA. The next day that same IP address showed as unregistered.)

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Election Aftermath: A Rose by Any Other Name

I was caught up in the super insidious PSW OnlineGames Trojan Horse and worm. It’s taken several different software programs to remove the cursed bugs. Microsoft has done two priority updates to counteract this problem. So, due to the virus and not the shock of the election, I missed a day.

Canada spent $290 million on our third federal election in same years, to come out with a bit more of the same old same old: minority Conservative government with Liberals, NDP and the Bloc making up the opposition. And no surprise, we hit an all-time low on voter turnout: 59%. The lemmings in Alberta did pretty much as they have doen for ever, as did Quebec. Here are just a few of reasons that voters aren’t bothering to vote:

  • We’ll vote and it will just be the same.
  • We’ll vote but no one listens to us anyways.
  • Politicians make all sorts of promises and never keep them (in fact Harper wanted a mandatory election date and then went against his own rule)
  • Politicians don’t talk to us or have our concerns in mind. (I heard this from several people in their 20s–do politicians talk at the universities at all?)
  • All they do is call each other names and then get involved in scandals.
  • I make my opinion known by not voting.
  • We need proportional representation.
  • I can’t support anyone 100%.
  • Our leaders lack charisma.

Looking at this last point I have to say that Obama has inspired a nation and I bet the voting will be higher in the US than it has been in recent elections. I didn’t hear Elizabeth May of the Green party speak so I don’t know if she has the inspiration and charisma needed. Just listening without watching, I’d have to say that Steven Harper came across the strongest and most confident. Stephan Dione may have been stronger in French than English but he certainly didn’t have that charisma. Jack Layton would like to have it but all of the speeches I heard for any party were just not inspiring. Maybe that’s because they were always jabbing at each other and it’s hard to raise a nation’s love and will if all you do is harp. Charisma, great oration, may not mean you have the best platform or way of governing but it might involve more people.

The people who voice their discontent by not voting, to me, defeat the purpose. There will still be a government, there will still be things you dislike but if you vote, you can possibly get the lesser of two evils. If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain about the government because you had no say whatsoever in their formation. Just think, if 41% more people had vote (100% then) it could definitely have swayed the outcome.

Besides that, there was the new voter registration requirements. After reading over my card I discovered the notice the third time. The whole card, in maroon and white  doesn’t really set off this notice. A friend of mine went to vote and didn’t have her card because her husband had taken it. Well, it turns out that it was a waste printing such cards as most people didnt’ need them to vote. My friend was told that they don’t go by names but by addresses. So, in fact, one person in the household might have been able to vote for more than one person.

Of course my friend has never actually changed her driver’s licence to reflect her correct address (the house next door) so they wouldn’t take her name and her address because they didn’t match. So, she went home and got the requisite bills with the right address and got back a half hour before the polls closed and the line-up was out the door so she didn’t vote. Her fault but there are many instances of people who had similar experiences: the person who lives in a small island community where everyone knows each other but the people working can’t vouch for the person and the others were of a different polling station but in the same building. Another friend has a PO box for a mailing address but lives in a condo. She didn’t even try to vote. It didn’t particularly help the turnout for voting.

The Conservatives won because they were the only right-wing party with several left-wing parties. If you add up all the votes for the Liberals, NDP and Greens you’ll see that the Conservatives do not represent the majority of those who voted. Yet they’ll govern us all. But then again the whole country’s government can still be decided by the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The system is being seen as so broken that fewer people believe that they matter in the scheme of things, especially if they don’t live in central Canada. Maybe it’s time for a big change in politics, in attitude and in the voting system.

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Politics: Crossing the Floor

The news reports today that David Emerson is considering whether he should run in the upcoming election. He’s stating the strain on his family life. But I can hazard a guess why he’s taking a big think over this. David Emerson ran as a Liberal in the last federal election, in a Vancouver riding.

Once he was elected, within days, he crossed the floor to become a Conservative. Not halfway through a term when he was disagreeing with his party’s practices but days after winning, before parliament had even sat. The people who elected him protested vociferously and said a by-election should have been called. Harper studiously ignored this blatant disregard of scruples and not only happily embraced Emerson into his minority government but made him a minister. You can bet the price for crossing the floor was a cushy ministerial position.

So, David Emerson, why are you really considering whether to run or not? Because the people in your riding haven’t forgotten your betrayal and you can bet your life that you won’t get any votes from them again. Sure, maybe, just maybe the Conservatives in that riding would vote for you but it was already shown that there were more Liberals than Conservatives. Let’s call a spade a spade. There’s no way in hell that you’ll win. Better to slink away now with your minister’s pension and chalk one up to being a sneaky bastard.

Sure, people have crossed the floor before in politics, but never before the sessions even began. Often those people are looked at askance by their political cronies as those you might not be able to trust. After all, once a turncoat, possibly always a turncoat. Yet, it hasn’t hurt some careers. Herb Dhaliwal and John Turner are two that come to mind.

Still, that Harper encouraged and allowed such a floor crossing brings into question the integrity of our political system. We could have an election where everyone ran in a riding for the party most likely to win there. Some ridings often vote the same way time and again. Then once the election is over, all those elected politicians could do a wholesale line dance and cross back and forth. Then after a few days everyone could re-tally and see who really won the election.

But of course, the people wouldn’t stand for that. Or would we? We’ve protested before loudly and in number. And overall our governments (the local Liberals when we protested all the cuts that Gordon Campbell made, and with Emerson) have ignored us, blatantly doing whatever they want, even though the voice of the people, those they are supposed to represent, have shown their displeasure.

And this is another reason why Canadians aren’t enthused to vote in the elections. Conservative or Liberal, there will be more sneaky business, underhanded dealings and plain disregard. It’s a good thing to remember when Stephen Harper is touting the shiny, better, more wholesome side of his government.

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Canadian and US Politics

Well, it looks like both countries will be moving towards an election because Stephen Harper is going against his own wish of a set date for elections (as the US does) to avoid having his government raked over the coals in the next session.

People are talking about the excitement of US politicians as opposed to the same humdrum rhetoric of the Canadians. Actually, they’re most talking about the fresh new aspect of Obama than the same ole political claptrap of men in suits. Let’s face it, in most cases, it doesn’t matter if you vote Conservative or Liberal, because they’re really all going to do the same thing. That’s how Canadians see our politics and the last election had something like a 64% turnout.

Part of the difference is that we have leaders for our political parties throughout the four years from one election to the next. So we know that Stephane Dion would be the next prime minister if the Liberals win and that Stephen Harper will be if the Conservatives win and that Jack Layton will be if the NDP win. We get tired of hearing about them. There’s no mystery, (the two big parties even have a guy with the same name though one is anglo and one franco) no big rev up to who will win the race as the Republicans and Democrats do it. (It’s also a lot less expensive in the campaigning aspects).

If we look at John McCain, he’s a lot more of the same old boring with a full military background, though he’s considered a bit of a maverick. You don’t see military in politics as often in Canada. He pulled a surprise move with choosing a running mate who is a fairly inexperienced, new senator. And she’s a woman. When you look at it, he almost had to do this when the Democrats were going to make history either way, with either a woman or a African-American. McCain needs to make his campaign look fresh too and make history and the only way to do it is to have a female running mate.

Of course Canada had its first woman Prime Minister back in 1993 with Kim Campbell, who really was set up as the fall guy (or woman) for Brain Mulroney’s destruction. Mulroney, was in his own way, unknown to the Canadian public when he ran for office. He has that gift that Obama has; he’s a good orator, but then he’s a lawyer and they’re often practiced at acting. And Mulroney can definitely act. He did it recently when he was being investigated in the Carl Hans Schreiber affair. I didn’t believe a word of the theatrics though.

Obama is a great orator and Hillary Clinton is pretty damn good. Now Hillary is a lawyer too and in Canada, all the prime ministers since Lester B. Pearson (1963-68) have been lawyers except for Stephen Harper. (People always make jokes about trusting lawyers and yet we vote them in as our leaders.) He has degrees in economics, whereas Jack Layton, Stephane Dion and Barack Obama have degrees in political science. Could that be a sign of the new future; people who have actually studied how politics works?

All I can say is that like most Canadians, I’m sick and tired of the double speak, the hollow promises and lies. No wonder no one wants to vote. They think it won’t make any difference. A fresh new look would be good. Voting for the Liberals or the Conservatives is pretty much six of one, half a dozen of the other. But if Obama or Clinton were running here, I’d certainly be voting for either of them.

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