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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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T’is the Season…

…for gross consumerism. Once upon a time it used to be that Christmas began in December and actually meant something spiritual. (I’m picking on the Christian, sort of, holiday because I don’t know if other faiths go mass market this time of year.) Then stores decided it was best to put out all the seasonally afflicted merchandise at the beginning of the month. Soon, it seemed like a smart thing to put out the holiday decorations right after US Thanksgiving. Get all the turkey, fall and feasting goods done with, then there is room on the shelves for the next festivity. But someone decided that Thanksgiving wasn’t big enough or didn’t dent the shelves with related crap, so Christmas decorations and lights and cards started coming out after Hallowe’en. We’re now two months before Christmas and that hasn’t been enough. This year, I saw Christmas related crapola in stores in September. Soon, we’ll have it year round.

This frantic marketing makes me less seasonally cheerful and downright grumpy. A festive occasion is just that, an occasion, not a year-long extravaganza. It takes the specialness of the time away when one is inundated with the same driveling songs for months, though I notice that the stores do hold off on the tunes or their employees would go postal. But seeing the ho ho ho bits and garlands and cards and hats and stockings and lights etc. really kills the feeling for me.

But what is at the root of all this? Obviously it’s greed, and probably the whole fear around the economy has whipped store execs into a froth where they’re pushing everything onto shelves early. Buy buy buy, more more more. Make it super duper very bright, large and festive and red and green. It’s enough to make all the reindeer drink until their noses are red.

The problem is that our society is based on a consumerism that is supposed to always grow. Sell more cars, sell more clothes, sell more everything or we can’t get bonuses and more money to buy more stuff. What happens when the quantity stays the same in consumer purchases? Take cars for example. You can’t price them out of everyone’s pocketbook, but there’s another way around it. Make them so they don’t last as long. A Model T Ford could run for fifty years but we’re lucky now if we get cars that make it to ten years. Planned obsolescence. Printers are the same. They cost less than a hundred bucks to buy but the ink cartridges that you have to keep using (and therefore should be cheaper because of mass consumption) are $60-$80. Not because ink is that expensive but because the company has to make money. Some printers are designed to eat ink every time you turn them on so feasibly you could use up a cartridge without printing a page (I got rid of that one fairly quickly.)

What happens when we have enough, when growth stays the same? Or what happens when the baby boomers stop buying and the next gen buys less? Panic. Maybe the economy fireworks didn’t have to happen right now but it was bound to happen sooner or later. I thankfully, have only worked for one company where “grow grow grow” was their motto mixed with a lack of understanding people. People left on stress leave and others were walked out the door almost regularly. I hear this company was bought by a company wich was bought by a company and that more changes are happening. I’d rather slide down razor blades into a vat of vinegar than work there again.

So be prepared. Those Boxing Day sales have become Boxing week sales and pre-Christmas/Boxing week sales. They’re about to become Christmas month sales and yet there will be more and more and more stuff. Costco has mass Santa suits that you can buy for cheap. Now every little Santa will look the same. How sweet. And if you think that Santa at the North Pole is kept busy with all his elves working over time because of the mass merchandising, think again. The little fellas have been laid off to cut costs and because everything was farmed out to a third world nation where the kids get to toil for twenty hours a day. Ho ho ho, enjoy the consumerism.

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