Tag Archives: Conservatives

Why Canada is Racist

It’s a shameful fact that I’d like to see less of, that Canada is racist. I’m lucky enough to have been raised without racism. I don’t understand it. But then some of it is subtle. It’s not always about the color of a person’s skin but a person being other, not one of us. Outsiders need not apply.

Canada’s own interior racism (or should I say racial profiling) includes the interment camps for people of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Those people were uprooted for fear that because of their original nationality, even if they were born here, that they would betray Canada to Japan. Guilty by association, and in fact guilty even if innocent. These people lost homes and livelihoods and many of them never regained their properties. Vancouver’s Japantown is nonexistent these days.

Even older than that was of course the treatment of various First Nations bands (once called Indians and called Native Americans in the US). Many people were corralled onto reservations. While BC’s west coast fared better and many bands had fur and trade deals with early settlers and the Hudson’s Bay there were still many infringements on the culture including the nefarious residential schools. In some cases, First Nations people were punished if they used their own language, did their own rituals or anything else that represented their culture. They were also physically, emotionally and sexually abused. As well, many people were uprooted from where they lived and in the case of some Inuit, promised all sorts of things to move farther North to protect Canada’s sovereignty, where life was extremely hard and isolating.

We could say that these are issues of the past but the truth is no country is completely free of racism and bigotry. Canada still has many issues with First Nations where they are treated as second class citizens and live in appalling conditions. People of color (whether Native or black or…) are still arrested or harassed more frequently by some police departments. Prostitutes are still treated as if their lives don’t matter. After Willie Picton’s rampage and disturbing murders of so many street workers over the years and the lackadaisical attitude of the police in searching for these missing women (some who were First Nations on top of that), at least some police departments pay more attention now.

So you could say we’re trying to improve. And I would like to think on an individual level that most people are decent and treat people equally. It’s how I was raised. I never called someone a name because of the color of their skin or their race. I’ve dated men of all colors. I have what I call a soft racist friend. She works with and gets along with people of color and other races but she would never think of dating one.

It is something that everyone as an individual must be constantly aware of and try to curb. We can all fall into an “us and them” mentality and it’s insidious and dangerous. But we could say that our country at least has a human rights policy and upholds international standards of protecting the rights of the individual and helping those who are subjugated whether children, women, racial minorities, religious groups or any persecuted group. You could say that about a country but Canada is sliding a slippery slope toward a dictatorial regime.

I can’t yet draw comparisons to Hitler’s Germany and his persecution and murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. (Yes, those three groups were targeted.) But if Steven Harper’s nearly totalitarian clutch on his ministers continues and his blatant disregard for the rights of Canadians continues, I won’t be far off.

Canada is hiding its face in shame over the issues of the following people and their problems. Suaad Mohamad was stuck in Kenya for three months when she went to visit her mother and was accused of being an impostor by Canadian consular officials.  Anab Issa took her autistic son Abdihakim Mohamed to Kenya to see if it would help him. He was not allowed to return and Issa was told that he wasn’t her son. Sound familiar? Then there was Abousfian Abdelrazik stuck in Sudan after being accused of being an Al Qaeda confidante of some sort. Cleared of charges by CSIS and the government, still Harper’s Conservatives would not let the man back in the country. Abdelrazik jumped numerous hoops but lived at the Canadian embassy and was in limbo for years, denied time and again his passport.

Debra Martin was jailed in Mexico, accidentally embroiled in her boss’s dealings. She was the cook I believe. When media finally got involved Canada sent a private jet for her release. Omar Khadr, the only person of a western nation and the only Canadian, still resides in Guantanamo and Harper and his henchmen are challenging yet another court ruling that they are infringing on Khadr’s rights.

Worse than that, they’re taking on the nightmarish doublespeak of 1984 and censoring such words as “child soldier,” “gender equality” and “international humanitarian law.” What’s next? Women are just incubation machines? Our elected members of parliament will not be allowed to say Khadr was a child soldier. What happens if they say this? Are they shipped of to a gulag or Guantanamo and never heard from again. Sure, governments change laws but it seems the Canadian government is changing the law to get their way. They’re doing it on the sly and they’re doing it against those they consider “other.” And they are setting a dangerous precedent toward bigotry and racism.

And what do all of these people have in common? They were Canadian citizens who went abroad and were abandoned by their government. What do all of these people except Deb Martin have in common? They’re brown skinned, with foreign sounding names and probably most of them are Muslim. Why do we even know about many of them? Because the media had to start pointing out what the government wasn’t doing. What does this say about the Canadian government? They’re willing to abandon you if you go abroad and you’re not white with a last name like Smith or White. I could be okay should I fall afoul in another country but I’m a woman and the government could be changing wording so that instead of saying “woman” we will soon say “second class citizen.” I certainly have faith in their racism and bigotry but not in them protecting humanitarian rights.

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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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Politicians & Voters: The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Less than 50% of people voted in BC’s provincial election. Less than half, which means that everything could have changed had more people voted. I’ve always said, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And really, an apathetic acceptance of whatever is thrown at you is no way to foment change. There are countries where not everyone has the vote or where they’re even losing the right to vote. People should not treat the liberties we have so lightly.

Granted some people are disenfranchised because these days one politician is like another, just in a different suit. What matter be it Liberals or Conservatives or NDP, they will all make the same promises? I’m not saying I believe that completely but it’s obvious some people do. And on top of that, there is the aspect of political campaigning that has got down to name-calling and trying to take down another’s character to change votes, even if it’s obfuscating the truth or the facts.

People are becoming tired of politicians denigrating each other, and it is a very important element in negating voter turnout. This week the federal Conservatives have taken out ads to discredit Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Not ads on what they’re doing, nor on concerns for our country but just another smear campaign against the enemy. That’s money well spent. Politics has gotten down to this. Don’t talk about what you can do but talk about what the other guy is not doing. I’m very tired of that.

Voters also see a lack of charisma in our potential leaders. Where is our Barack Obama? The truth is that there are few completely charismatic leaders. It takes a special blend of hubris and confidence, intelligence and eloquence, theatrics and honesty. I’ve mentioned this before but some notable orators (the one element a charismatic leader must have) have been Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Pierre Trudeau, Barack Obama, Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney, you say? Yes. I don’t like him, never liked him as a PM and I believe he took the Conservatives to overwhelming defeat (and stuck Kim Campbell in as the fall guy/girl). But in recent years as Mulroney has been investigated for the airbus scandal and the Hans Schreiber affair (receiving envelopes of cash and storing them in safety deposit boxes, making them untraceable, which somehow the lawyer side of him just didn’t think looked suspicious), I’ve heard his voice on the radio. The man has a deep and well modulated tone.

I’m sure he was/is a very good lawyer because it is obvious in the way he speaks that he understands the drama of words and how to stress particular words and concepts. Were his tears real or alligator tears this week when he broke down in giving testimony, I don’t know. And I must be careful of what I accuse or Mulroney will make a pre-emptive strike on me too and sue as he did in the airbus scandal. No person is without a range of emotions, nor are they completely good or evil. I’m sure he does care deeply for his family but I also believe he would pull on anything to manipulate a situation, being a good lawyer and all. And his spokesman (publicist for a retired prime minister) was there at the inquiry to jump up and accuse two big bad journalists for making him cry. Poor Brian. Sounds like he’s getting his money’s worth from his publicist.

Without knowing the end of this inquiry I can predict accurately that Mulroney will get off scott-free, whether he is innocent or not. And why, because he is a great speaker and actor. He’s a master manipulator and will use that to his advantage. Besides, it’s his word against Schreiber’s, a guy trying to avoid extradition to Germany (for fraud and bribery) by any means possible, and it’s two men forgetting a lot of things so in the end, conclusions will be…inconclusive even if Mulroney hid his money in safes, didn’t record receiving it and didn’t consult his accountant, even though he claims everything was on the up and up, in receiving those fat cash envelopes. Can I conduct affairs like this and what about tagging him for income tax evasion?

Were voters swayed by his voice to vote for Mulroney when he ran? Yes, just as each of those other men I have mentioned gained popularity at one point because they could put thoughts together well, speak them with conviction and relate to the crowd (and they had great speech writers). So, voters want charisma and drama and maybe not so much honesty.

But voters, as I’ve said before, are fickle and have short memories. They believe the promises too easily, yet also cynically believe nothing at all. Here are two comments I heard in regards to our recent provinicial election. One person said, “They gave me a hip, I have no complaints.” Although it’s been many years since this person received a hip and the government (and the issues) have changed a great deal since then. It was naive to think everything is the same and that even the government is the same so that this person didn’t have to vote. Someone else called into CBC and said they didn’t vote because they were dissatisfied and until every vote counted there was no point in voting. So, why didn’t that guy get out and vote for the single transferable vote, which would have made every vote count?

I can begin to understand why there are dictators. I did put the good into the title but I’m not sure why. What’s good with a situation where people don’t care enough to vote or try to bring about change. Everyone should writer their MLA and MP if they have a concern. Change is never all-sweeping at first but incremental, by very small steps. But voters will continue to be disenfranchised and moreso if they continue not to vote and have no say or concern in what happens. So, what are you going to do about it?

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BC Politics: Faux Pas and Scandals

Here we go again with the dirt, and dragging each candidate through the mud. Ray Lam is the latest victim of the scourge that happens before every campaign. And since BC is gearing up to the provincial election on May 12, and because Campbell’s Conservatives in Liberal clothing have a race for their money, they’re digging deep. Of course, this goes for any side; mudslinging is becoming far too common.

So Ray Lam is the latest victim, who somehow had Facebook photos that he thought were on privacy settings that no one could really see. The media is calling them “racy” photos and I suppose these are to a degree though no actual flesh is seen. Lam has his hand on one woman’s breast and in another a man and a woman have their fingers hooked in his underwear and are peeking in or pulling them down a bit.

When I run for office I will proudly admit to and display all my naughty photos off the bat. I don’t think there are any but one person’s naughty is another person’s tame. What I hate the most is the hypocritical prudery. Many people will claim to be open-minded (heck, what does Liberal stand for in the Liberal party) but will get all bent out of shape over some innocent antic. So some people were partying and went skinny dipping, or flashed the camera, or mooned a car,  or streaked through a field, or wore a giant penis costume for Hallowe’en.

And my opinion: so what? It’s obviously consensual on all people’s parts. There is no violence. There are no underage people. Some people get together and pull some pranks. It’s hardly out of the realm of human behaviour and pretty harmless. Whose morality runs the show?

What bugs me most is that people profess to be open-minded as long as it serves them (just what does liberal stand for in the Liberal party?) yet become indignant about supposed misdemeanours as long as the spotlight isn’t on them. Did I hear correctly that the Liberal member who outed this guy’s photos was asking for an apology? It should be the other way around and the Liberal member should be apologizing to Ray Lam for the untoward attention and a pretty banal thing. In fact, it matters not which party outs the other. If it’s just photos like this, who really cares?

Trudeau once said, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” This goes for the parties and extracurricular activities as well. As long as a candidate or a politician is not stomping animals, playing with minors, beating people, shooting opponents, stealing, taking kickbacks and bribes, lying or otherwise breaking the law, then there shouldn’t be a problem in their personal life, which should stay personal. Yes a public figure like a politician should be held to high moral standards, but only in the aspect of the law. Oh, but I forgot, one must look innocent and angelic while running for office.

Once you get in you can break the law and stay in office. Like Port Coquitlam mayor Scott Young who was convicted of two accounts of assault and breaching conditions. He stayed in office against protests of his constituents. Or let’s see, Ralph Klein, ex premier of Alberta who swore at homeless people and threw money at them. Well, not exactly against the law because homeless people have no rights and never charged him. Or, oh yeah, Gordon Campbell, convicted of a drunk driving offence in Hawaii but too arrogant to step down or barely apologize.

So, other people must step down from political careers on allegations often later found to be false and unsubstantiated, and candidates have to step down for some silly photos. If the public cares, and I’m not sure we do, then it’s a sad state when we get our knickers in a twist over the minor and harmless infractions, yet offenders of the big ones get rewarded with longer time in office. If we look at honesty, then Lam is more honest for not denying this than Campbell was when he tore up hospital worker contracts.

I wish the media and the politicians would stick to the business of politics and not stick their noses in everyone’s personal business. No one is perfect and people do silly things. We should not all be punished for it and if it’s not against the law, then don’t expect godlike behaviour from mere mortals.

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Environmentalism & Politics

I actually wrote this last year on my other blog but I think it’s still pertinent. What often happens with government is that they focus on whatever the media starts paying attention to. And the moment the public looks away, they go off in another direction. Although the economy is of great concern, so is the environment still and always important. Moreso now when recycling companies are not making as much a profit and therefore it isn’t “economical” for them to recycle or for other places to buy the products.
There has been quite the hullabaloo in the media lately as politicians have woken up from a twenty-plus year hibernation to look around in sudden alarm and go “Oh my, we have an environmental problem.” Hello?

When I was a teenager I wouldn’t litter and a friend asked, oh why bother? I said, well it may only be me today but then tomorrow it might be me and someone else, because they saw me not littering. And the next day there could be three or four, etc. I feel vindicated that at least recycling has become more of a norm (at least in some provinces) than it was in my teens.

And at least by the time I was in my twenties I was reading about the Gaia Hypothesis (how the world is one symbiotic living organism and what you do to it in one place affects the whole) and how our pollutants were wreaking havoc with the world and if we stopped all smog causing agents, then it would take at least fifty years to see any positive results.

In 1998 I wrote for a now defunct e-magazine (victim of the dot com downfall) called technocopia.com. It looked at how new technology was changing one’s life and lifestyle, from cell phones in third world countries to robotic heart surgery. I was researching fuel cells and hybrid cars and came across the Kyoto Protocol. Governments had already signed up for it. So how is it in 2007 various governments have dropped out of fulfilling the requirements and now cry it will break the bank because there’s not enough time? That was ten years of time.

I hear Stephan Dion say on CBC that pollution has just become a problem? What!! Just? Puhleese. I’m not sure what the benefit was to Tony Blair to stand up and start waving the big green flag but it suddenly looked like the cool thing to do and Canada jumped up beside him. George Bush of course is still in right wing crusader war mode. Environmentalism might mean putting collars on his pals, the oil and car companies.

But I’m cynical enough and eyes open enough to wonder why politicians would suddenly go on about this when a lot of us have known there’s been a problem for over twenty years. Well, hmm, minority government. Who wouldn’t want to keep our country green and with air we can breathe? For Harper it’s a surefire way to garner a shiny star on his report card. But it would be much more believable if saving our resources wasn’t done because of political maneuvering and was just done because it’s the right thing to do.

And yet, the Conservatives whine and shuffle their feet and say oh we can’t meet the Kyoto Protocol. Or, maybe we could but it would cost gadzillions and all you poor Canadians that we normally only care about when you’re voting will pay the price. A few weeks ago on CBC, The Current had business leaders from various sectors and they were saying that they were on board with changing and implementing environmentally safe processes and procedures. The interesting thing here was that all of them said that it would be more cost effective and they would probably actually make more profit by switching over. So how is it that the Baird Report says we’re going to have to pay with our first born?

Perhaps I’d almost believe that maybe, just maybe, our lovely government was actually concerned with the environment and not with losing power if it wasn’t that I see this as a big smokescreen. What have polls of recent years shown is the number one priority for Canadians: universal medicare. So why aren’t we hearing more about this? Because it needs a massive overhaul. And we’ve all turned to look at the shiny new green flag being waved so that we won’t notice the huge cutbacks, the ever longer waiting lists, the rampant deadly infections running amok in hospitals and killing people. Because the government can win votes easier with this lovely green beast than with the monster of medical coverage.

I was willing to let go some of my frustration, anger and disgust with the head-in-the-sand attitude various Canadian governments have had if it meant at least something was being done. But then we get the Baird Report; more stalling about actually really doing something.

I’m trying to do my part and have for years. I could do more. We all could. I’d get a hybrid car if I could afford one. What part is the government really doing? Will they put teeth into their policies or leave them to gum the ankles of corporations and groups that continue to pollute? I’ll wait and see.

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Separtism vs Unity

I was going to write a book review today but this is more important. Thanks, Stephen Harper, for raising the hoary head of separatism yet again. Wasn’t it enough that it’s almost torn the country apart twice in the past?

Stephen Harper is like Gordon Campbell. They both have this smooth plasticky look that I’ve never trusted. And Gordon Campbell’s adamant voice this last week against a coalition partially formed of his party (albeit at a federal level) really cements that he is a Conservative in Liberal clothing. BC Liberals are the same as Alberta Conservatives.

Anyway, I wouldn’t trust either as far as I could throw them. But back to Harper who in his arrogance not just poked at the sleeping lion of separatism, but prodded it with a red hot poker. He has single handedly guaranteed that the Conservatives will not win in Quebec’s provincial election that’s coming up.

Although I do not like what the Bloc stands for and there is a huge problem in having a federal party that is only concerned with one geographic area (I don’t think it should be allowed at all but how do you word something like that?), they are a valid party in the current parameters and have to be respected in that aspect.

When Harper said, “The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if one wants to be prime minister, one gets one’s mandate from the Canadian people and not from Quebec separatists,” he pried open the lid on the issue that will not die and now has another chance to suck the lifeblood from Canada. Somehow, he neglected to understand that Quebec is part of Canada.  He pitted anglophone Canada against francophone.

But of course, he isn’t the only one who sees Quebec as separate. Jacques Parizeau, a former Quebec premier, was quoted as saying, “The fact that the Bloc got Stéphane Dion to sign a political accord in which it is explicitly written that he undertakes  ‘to act in partnership with Canadians and the Québécois should bring a smile to the face of many sovereigntists.’ ” Here again we see Québécois as separate or other from Canadians when in fact they are Canadians.

The separatist (or soverignist if you want the word that muddies the connotations) movement has surged like a tide in the past. A good French-Canadian friend has told me that the provincial government often keeps the Québécois insulated from the rest of the goings on in Canada. We’re a bilingual country but truly it’s Quebec and New Brunswicks and some of the other areas in eastern Canada that speak French and that right is protected. Western Canada predominantly speaks English. There is a law that public signage has to be in both languages, especially official and government signs, yet in Montreal when I was there, there was a lack of English

The Québécois have received many rights protecting their culture, which is absolutely fine but they don’t always realize that they sometimes have more rights than the rest of Canada. And then on top of that, there are those who foment views that they’re hard done by, they’re picked on, they’re whatever. Canada is a large country with not an overly large population when you compare it to smaller countries. But Quebec is about a third of Canada’s population. There are unique areas and cultures throughout this country.

Any split of Quebec from Canada would sever Canada as a nation. We wouldn’t survive. You can’t take a chunk out of the middle and expect it to continue. Of course the Québécois wouldn’t want to take one-third of the deficit and other costs that have been spent to maintain the provinces. And the US would be waiting like a hungry shark to get the little provinces that couldn’t survive on their own. The maritimes may be the first to go. BC and Alberta (especially) would most likely survive as their own little nations.

But more than the geo-political aspects, there are those of nationality, of identity. I very much feel that I’m Canadian, so much so that when I thought of moving to Seattle to work I just couldn’t do it. Only love could make me move. I love my country in a way that’s not stand-up-and-wave-the-flag, hand-on-my-heart patriotic. But it is a deep and visceral love of this land and way of life.

It makes me furious whenever someone stirs the pot and makes people think they’re disenfranchised. Stephen Harper gave in to base prejudices and let his arrogance get the better of him. He’s been accused of showing little respect and it is damaging the nation, just as the Bloc would if they ran this country for it wouldn’t be a country for long. But saying that a government can’t work with the Bloc is thumbing one’s nose in their faces. We have a government and it is made up of several parties, including the Bloc. The governing includes all parties coming to decisions.

Unfortunately people often vote with their hearts and not their heads. I just hope that the Quebec people realize that there are many people in Canada and that we’re not all Stephen Harper. I’ve been to Montreal and it is beautiful and intriquing and full of artistic life and unique culturer. I don’t want it to be somewhere else. I want it part of Canada. Just as I want all the idiosyncratic pieces and cultures and diversity.

And I just wish that we could see more effort in the political parties (all of them) at working together and finding solutions, rather than finding the flaws in each other and name calling. I’d rather see a party saying what they’re going to do and do it, than pointing fingers at others and saying what they’re doing. Some integrity in politics again would really be nice. So let’s stay united.

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Coalition Calamity?

Well, yes, it was inevitable that I might have an opinion on the proposed coalition of the opposition parties in an overthrow of Canada’s minority government.

Minority governments always walk a tightrope. Stephen Harper tried to set the stage for the best time to hold our election. But that’s not unusual. Politicians and all people really try to work things to their advantage. But it didn’t work quite the way the Conservatives hoped. Yet again, another minority government.

This is not a good time for anyone moving into a position of government. Obama has his work cut out for him, picking up George Bush’s mess and the plummeting economy. But it’s the same here. Economy has moved to the forefront and Harper, with a minority government has a had lot. Yet, he has come across already as totalitarian and keeping such a tight leash on his MPs that they’re often crippled in making their decisions.

Then the new budget came, the tightening of the belt and the Conservatives seem to have made a fatal mistake. Many donations by companies to political parties have been severely limited. It makes sense because these factors could unfairly influence (bribe) a party in power to consider their wishes. When the Conservatives said they would cut public funding to the parties, it seemed the last straw. Here are the pertinent bits about funding from the Elections Canada website: http://www.elections.ca/content

The legislation was rooted in the belief that the primary source for contributions to political parties and candidates should be individuals giving relatively small amounts, as opposed to larger donations. The new regulations, therefore, stipulated that each elector could contribute up to a total of $5,000 a year to the electoral district associations, nomination contestants and candidates of a registered political party, while donations to these entities from corporations and trade unions were limited to $1,000. Furthermore, while individuals could contribute directly to the registered party, corporations and unions could not. To police the new rules, the act also stipulated that candidates and parties should disclose contribution information within a set period of time after an election, and leadership contestants should do so during and after a leadership contest.

As a counterbalance to the new contribution limits, however, Bill C-24 also introduced significant ongoing public financing for political parties. These provisions entitled any party receiving a minimum percentage of the popular vote in a general election to an annual public allowance proportional to its share of votes. The concept was not new – both the Barbeau Committee in 1966 and the Lortie Commission in 1992 acknowledged that funding for political parties through direct public subsidies was a good idea. Bill C-24 introduced annual allowances, recognizing that parties should be compensated for the loss of their customary funding stream from large corporate and union donations – and that the political party is arguably the focal point of a vibrant and viable democratic system.

Oops, the parties really didn’t like that. But there was some fast backtracking by the Conservatives and they said they would not lower public funding. But since the Liberals and NDP have tossed in their lot, they’re now steaming ahead saying there wasn’t a good economic package. And we’re off to the races.

Now the Bloc has thrown in with the Liberals and NDP to form a coalition government. But compare the Bloc to Judas or any other turncoat. They’re in it for themselves, not for the good of Canada. It’s the one biggest flaw in the coalition package. I think there should be a bill against allowing a party to run that has no federal or countrywide interests because the Bloc doesn’t care about any province but Quebec and they’re happy to use everything to their own advantage. Splitting up Canada doesn’t bother them because they think it will make Quebec stronger, not seeing the big shark that waits south of the border to gobble up the pieces of a dismembered nation.

They can be trusted to support a coalition as long as it serves them. Harper and the Conservatives are now taking out ads saying the other parties are conniving, stealing the leadership of the country, undermining our democracy. Though these moves are far from common, there is room in our constitution for such a coalition. I’m willing to see what happens. After all, Italy has had to function this way quite a few times. What I’m not for is public tax dollars going to any campaign for or against the coalition. The ads coming out that I couldn’t care less about better not be using public money but then if the parties are publicly funded, I guess it is, one way or the other.

The one thing all the political parties know is that if we went to another election we would make two records, The most federal elections in the shortest number of years, and the lowest voter turnout in Canada’s history. I for one don’t want to see more campaigning. I’m sick of it and campaigning for/against the coalition is not going to endear me to any party.

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Arts, Culture and Politics

Stephen Harper made a statement that Canadians didn’t want to pay for artists to stand around at galas, which didn’t relate to the ordinary person. Here’s his lovely open-minded comment:

I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people … at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.

So let’s see, ordinary people. Hmm, he’s saying artists aren’t ordinary. So who is: police, cashiers, neurosurgeons, unemployed street people? Just, who, Mr. Harper, is ordinary and who isn’t? We “artists,” writers, musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, singers, actors, etc. aren’t ordinary. Hell, we float down from the clouds, perform our works and then go back to gilded halls of champions. We don’t need to buy food, pay rent, sleep or socialize. We’re aliens I guess, living in our special niches high on the rocks.

He even mentioned taxpayers. No body told me, that as an extraordinary artist person that I can actually not pay taxes. I’ll apply for that right away since I’m a taxpayer and an artist but I therefore can’t be ordinary. Oh and I go to galas every week, in my head maybe. Galas, puhleeze, Mr. Harper, get your facts straight and stop making sweeping generalizations. As a taxpayer, an ordinary person I very much want to see the culture of my country and not a carbon copy of the US’s culture. I want to have Canadian individuality.

The only “galas” I’ve ever gone to have been those I’ve paid for and usually at conventions. Granted I’m a small peas writer and not a big name singer or actor but all of those people have worked hard and long to get where they’re going. Should we never have a gala to recognize the best in their fields? Is this is what Harper is suggesting? Just how many galas are there? I bet there are fewer than the ones the politicians attend especially when they’re doing fundraising for their campaigns.

Art and culture consists of far more than watching TV, Mr. Harper. It involves plays, concerts, art for walls and halls and front lawns of government buildings. It involves things to read and things to look at, a break for the “ordinary person” from the dreariness or just plain hard work of a job. It provides entertainment and humor, and a release of tension. It provokes joy and sorrow with deeper thoughts and discourse into our everyday life. The pen is mightier than the sword for a reason.

Speaking of swords and other sports, if you subsidize athletes, artists of the body as much as dancers are, then why not subsidize the arts? It all falls under entertainment.  Many regimes through history have tried to muzzle their artists. The governments fear what the art may point fingers at. China is an example of some of the muzzling being done. But I’d say that Harper’s gang is trying to muzzle any arts they disapprove of and doesn’t represent the views they want put forward.

I have to go now and put on my subsidized ball gown so I can go to another subsidized artists’ gala that all those ordinary people are going to watch on TV but not care about. But one last point to Stephen Harper: perhaps if you didn’t slash funding to the arts and censor it, then you might have got a truly original speech all those years ago as opposed to having to use the Australian prime minister’s recycled speech. plagiarized

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Politics: Freedom to Choose

Originally this was published in the online magazine called Fearsmag.com. The magazine didn’t last long due to the withdrawal of funds by the benefactor during the dot.com crunch. I was an editorial writer and took a look at different fears to write about each month. This was the December column for 2000 but it’s appropriate now.

Christmas or politics? Christmas? Politics? Agh, the indecision nearly froze my fingers on the keyboards, sort of like choosing which candidate to vote for. Well, I decided that Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/your favorite winter festivity happens once a year but this unique political picture forming in Canada and the US happens but once.

            I’m not going to go into great detail on the buffoonery, the conniving, the shiftiness, the lying or even the successes of the candidates. I’m going to dig around in that really nasty cesspit of the fears we have about our politics.

            On the lighter side, we are lucky; we all have the right to vote and with some degree of democracy, with all its requisite odors and flavors per country. That’s good. I’ve had nightmares about a future where we were all enslaved, fighting for our rights and freedom from aliens or dictators and bigots. Freedom fighting has been a popular theme ever since our ancestors climbed out of the trees and pretended they were civilized. Freedom is the integral right of the individual, though ask a handful of people on the street and what freedom actually means will be quite different from one to the other. UPN’s new show Freedom is just about that; the US president is shot and the good guys fight the military regime that’s restored order to a rioting USA.

            Now I’m Canadian but close enough to the border that half my friends are from the USA. I’ve heard enough about the politics to get an idea of what people think, at least the West Coast. Freedom in the US election meant choosing between two leaders with as much personality and flavor as cold spaghetti without the sauce. Clinton, even if he was careless enough to let his private predilections fall under the White House spotlight, has lots of personality. Many people told me they were afraid of the old world, right wing, knee jerk politics that Bush represented. Some even said old Bush senior had at least been a statesman but Jr. hasn’t lived up to that image. He represents to many a redneck, narrow-minded conservatism.

            Well if you don’t want Bush you have well, er, um Gore, (Gore actually became stronger and better known after the election.) not exactly someone of scintillating mien. Many people liked what Nadar stood for but were afraid that if they cast their votes for his determination to launder the old political baggage that they would be tossing their vote away and letting Bush in. There you see the freedom to choose but fearing to choose what your heart says is right.

            And what bigger fear could we have than that our democracy is but a sham, that computers are being fixed with ballot tallies, that authorities are delaying folks long enough that the polls close, that ballots are confusing, that information is leaked to media sources before it should. It would make a great conspiracy movie or perhaps, it’s the truth.

            Now let’s look at the other half of the coin. (I know little of Mexican politics but have heard that el presidente Fox is somewhat right of center.) Here in Canada our election just happened. The ruling party, the Liberals spent eight years in office and curbed the National debt, but at the expense of human welfare and lives. There have been issues like the APEC rally and the loss of freedom of speech and civil liberties. The Bloc Quebecois only cares for one province and not at all for the rest of Canada, yet because of population alone always stands a chance of being the government. I fear that if the Bloc won, Canada would be a country no more.

            Then there’s the Conservative party, which used to be strong and either the governing party or the official opposition. After Brian Mulroney’s heavy-handed bludgeoning of the country the Conservatives dive-bombed all but out of sight. Like the proverbial phoenix, they’ve been trying to resurrect themselves from the scathing ashes that many remember and which gave us the hated GST (goods & services tax or better known as the gouge and screw tax). However, this phoenix is still small with but a few feathers and not a contender.

            The NDP (New Democratic Party) could stand a chance if they had a stronger leader and weren’t willing to completely blow the national budget with wholesale spending. Then there’s the Reform party, renamed the Canadian Alliance party. (The Reform nee Alliance party congealed back into the Conservative party, like  a phoenix, but containing more right-wing thinkers.)  They booted their founding leader Preston Manning out just a few months ago and put in the younger stronger Stockwell Day. Day and his party have stuck their feet in their mouths in the past, stating they’re not so far right wing that if they were a bird it would never get off the ground. (Day would have been a scary combination with Bush.) They’re not racist, yet one member once said it was all right to have colored people work in your store—just have them go to the back if it offended anyone. They won’t use a religious-political agenda but they’re all for “family values” which means no gay rights, no women’s rights. I’m sure they believe a woman’s rightful place is in the home. They want tougher criminal laws. Granted our justice system is flawed, but should we really take a DNA sample from everyone charged with a crime, whether found guilty or not?

            Many parties, yet the mindset on both sides of the border has been who to vote for, no one’s particularly good, and some are downright scary. Here’s my nightmare—that Bush should get in and that Stockwell Day should win here. Two extreme right wing leaders, two powerful and large countries, most of North America, a lot of guns, and a lot of “free” people. If you ever read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (or saw the movie) it’s a fear I find still too close to my future.

            Well, Canada went to the polls and, like the US, feared the worst and cast their votes. The US has Bush (still being determined) and we voted in the lesser of the two evils and have the Liberals yet again. At least it’s not my worst nightmare.

            Whatever we voted many of us our still stuck with the fear, the gnawing small fear that, like an insidious worm, eats away at us from the inside. Our biggest fear is that our government isn’t working, that our politicians are lying to us. Do our voices and our votes even make a difference or are they just a drop in a vast ocean of indifference? We fear we have no choice in what we see. There is no good alternative and if it’s actually presented, we fear to choose it because not enough others will and we’ll then end up with a worse evil.

            We are afraid of the darkness of our democracy, the loss for everyone to choose his or her own path, to move about freely, to say what we think. But what if it doesn’t matter? What if the handful of the powerful and those who control the country’s wealth let everyone think their vote counts for change or upholding values when in fact it’s all hollow? What if those powers that be, “they” just do what they want–what they have always done because they “know” the masses don’t know enough about governing a country or the political process itself? Therefore, they will guide us and our country and our policies whether we like it or not. What if freedom of speech means only speaking in a place at a time when they want you to but not if it causes too much thought, too much questioning?

            Remember Desert Storm? I was in New York around the time the troops were coming back. A ticker tape parade and all the fixings for heroes. But there were those who disagreed on the military policies. Bus shelters with pro posters had graffiti scrawled in indelible ink on the glass. They were scrubbed and cleaned, or replaced before the troops arrived. In New York? A park in the lower east side, near where I was staying had police tape and sawhorses up so that people couldn’t gather and speak out against the military’s activity. (Shades of Beijing.) Gatherings had been planned but the police banned them. That was freedom of speech.

            True freedom means never bowing down, never giving in to the dark, the evil, the bigoted and the judgmental. Yes, one must work within a society but freedom means being heard and continuing to be heard, to shout, to scream and to keep screaming until other voices join in and those voices are heard. Becoming complacent about the freedom to choose is when it can be taken from you.

 

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Politics: If We Don’t Laugh, We’ll Cry

I don’t know about you but with all the campaigning going on, on both sides of the border, I’m feeling a strong futility in it all. Will Obama really bring change? What if McCain gets in? He’s a maverick liberal Republican but he brought Palin in as his running mate to get the redneck conservative, uber right-wing fundamentalist, female Republican vote. Whoever gets in will have to clean up the giant mess Bush has left the country in: soaring debt, crashing wall street and mortgages, war on terror (how I hate that phrase), loss of rights and freedoms, dropped dollar, reviled throughout the world…thanks, George, you did an amazing job.

In Canada Dion is considered not strong enough, Harper close to running a regime, not a government, Layton cleaning up after his pothead candidates and May (Green Party) moving up fast even if the party is still a little green. Promises tossed out like bird seed. Harper’s Conservatives making comments about ethnic people responsible for crimes, Dion proposing more carbon tax without bringing through other environmentally viable options.

And what does it get, billions of dollars…billions spent to promote themselves? What could all that money have really done for people, the economy, the environment? Alas, we’ll never know as it went to pumping up egos. Well sure it supported some spindoctors and campaigners but someone like you or me could never consider being the head of our country unless we’re multi-millionaires. And as we’ve seen, rich does not equal wise or competent

I’m going to go beat my head against the wall. But in the meantime below is a very funny spam for money going around. Anyone who falls for it wll be particularly stupid and deserving of losing their bucks. The other is a fun little piece by JibJab on campaigning. Does it say anything that I can’t seem to find a good funny on Canadian politics?

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP
DEAR AMERICAN:
I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE. (indeed, it will have a great magnitude when you realize what an idiot you’ve been.)
I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU. (Considering how bad Bush is with the English language I could see how someone might think the rest of the government is as equally inept. So much so, that they can’t transfer funds without the help of the average American.)
I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. (Lord help us. If he was nearly single-handedly responsible for the mortgage crisis, then putting him in charge of the treasury will be like a kid in a candy shop.) AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE. (Oh yeah, and so is that beach front property in Nevada. As safe and accurate as your spelling.)
THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. (Hahahaaa, oh yeah. I need a blank check too. Just fill in the amount. Perhaps Gram could send me one.) WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. (Could that be because of the grand illegality of it all?) MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED. (What, Gram has no next of kin? Surely he could claim McCain as one.)
PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS. (That would be the safeguards so that you’re not found after bilking people. But really anyone stupid to send all their account information deserves this. And who has account info for their kids and grandkids? My mother certainly doesn’t have mine. But if these spammers are successful perhaps they can take over the US treasury and fill it up in no time.)
YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON

http://www.peteyandpetunia.com/VoteHere/VoteHere.htm

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