Tag Archives: Liberals

Parking Nazis: The Price You Pay

Parking in Vancouver has been annoying for a long time and is probably this way in most major cities. In some areas there are two (0r one) hour parking zones but they are few and far between and becoming more limited. These are usually in residential areas with high populations, such as the West End or around any commercial streets. The two-hour zones have gone down in recent years as the city puts in more and more metered parking.

Right now those meters run at about $4 an hour. That’s a lot of change but you can pay by cell phone with many of them. However, it was only a year or two ago that the city raised the price of parking, including their EasyPark lots. EasyPark’s mandate is supposed to be affordable parking and while the city said they were raising meter parking to encourage people to not stay in those spots too long and open them up for others, there was no reason to raise the price of parkade and lot parking. Except there’s that Olympic thing, and the deficits that would not happen.

So here we are a year or so later and the city is talking about raising street parking again, to cover their budget deficits. And we all know, once a price goes up it rarely if ever goes down. It will be $6/hour at least. You can bet the city-run EasyPark parkades will follow suit or be ordered to do so. If they really wanted to help with encouraging people to leave their cars at home, then running the SkyTrain later that 12:30 would help and lowering the price of the transit fair especially for going to the downtown core would be an incentive. I believe Calgary does this.

But what’s even a more surprising and sneaky move, voted on quietly behind closed doors was that TransLink will be raising the tax on parking in the New Year. How can one raise a tax when the PST and GST are set amounts. Well, TransLink thinks they are a power unto themselves and have voted in to raise the PST to 21%. How they can do this when it’s legislated by the government? I don’t know but I’d like some answers. So consider this: when you park anywhere in the lower mainland next year, if it’s run by EasyPark or possibly even the metered parking, the cost will reflect 26% in taxes (5% GST). How this will change with the GST might be even higher.

Translink has said they don’t have the money to build anymore lines but were still spending millions on doing the studies. Well now we know where those millions and where those possible future lines will come from: nearly a third from people’s pockets just for taxes and illegally done at that. They are an arm of the provincial government I believe though it’s been hard to find that and the provincial Liberals are overbugdget on the Olympics too.

Let’s add in that the government will be taxing us on things not previously taxed with the HST and you’re looking at a province that won’t be spending as much. If you eat at a restaurant with ther liquor tax and the HST, that’s going to be at least 12% plus 15% tip and that will be near 30% on every food bill. If you’re parking, it will be nearly 30% on every parking spot.

We’ve hit a new era and the only thing difference between TransLink, or the provincial government and a thug’s is they’re not holding guns to our heads but they’re robbing us on the sly nonetheless. If you don’t want to be taxed to death, protest the HST, write your MLA and MP and ask for accountability from TransLink. If every merchant of anything refused to charge HST, then the government would be stuck but in this case being Canadian will be our downfall, where we’re too polite to truly protest.

http://www.easyparkvancouver.com/

Translink

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Why Protest the Olympics

There are people out there wondering why anyone would protest the Olympics while others are happy to protest anything for the sake of protest and anti-disestablismentarianism. Recently as the torch relay began in Victoria, pre-emptive strikes were taken by the organizers to ferry the torch bearers in a van around protestors. According to other media reports the protestors and police both met their mandate without violence or arrests.

Yet these torch bearers were cosseted away so that the protestors couldn’t protest the relay. Now I don’t know what exactly this group of protestors were trying to raise their voices against in regards to the Olympics but the last I remember (despite the changes to human rights laws that Harper has been making) Canada was a fairly free country with the right to freedom of speech. That means that if we disagree with our government and politics, or if we agree, we are allowed to voice our opinions.

BC MLA Harry Bloy would rather we have a totalitarian state in which everyone is a shiny happy person loving all that the government does. And if not, well then, off with their heads. He in fact stated the following: “People who protest the Winter Olympics are nothing more than terrorists with limited intellect…” Wow. So now we have one of the new catch phrases in our modern vernacular, right after George Bush’s overused hyperbole of “axis of evil”  and the “war on terror” with using “terrorist” for anyone who does something I don’t like.

Here’s how I see the whole Olympics thing. The Olympic sports are a great thing. Having the top athletes compete against other countries in something that isn’t blood and violence is something that should be encouraged. Extolling the best in the world in athletics is a memorable moment and people who excel whether as brain surgeons, ballet dancers, runners or engineers should be acknowledged and cheered for their excellence and skill. I applaud that.

What I do not applaud is the Olympic committee (both internationally and VANOC) which makes their rules over those jurisdictions civic, provincial and federal. What I do not believe in is spending millions, promising the taxpayers all the time that the Olympics won’t run overbudget nor will our taxes be raised (can anyone say HST) to pay for this fanfare…and all the time we know they are going to go overbudget. What I do not support is millions of dollars spent for fancy buildings, some of which are only temporary, while people are losing jobs, and lives, because of healthcare cuts. What I protest is a million dollars worth of free tickets for politicians when nothing has been mentioned on what people who don’t have a $100 for a ticket can see.

I think these are worthy things to protest. Not the sports themselves, nor the athletes. I protest attitudes and security of a greater level than that of visiting heads of state even seem to get. I protest to the fact that anyone who has a problem with so much money gone to frivolity is deemed a terrorist by an arrogant politician who has no clue what it’s like to be underprivileged. I protest to a lowbrow attitude that anyone who dislikes the Liberal government’s brazen disregard for people in real straights (and taking forever to even give paramedics a contract) is considered of low intellect. Mr. Bloy, let’s you and I go take an IQ test and see who comes out on top.

I also protest people who protest anything just for the sake of being contrary, but I don’t believe this is the case with many of the protesters. They want people to know that not everyone is happy with the money being thrown at the Olympics, and when has an Olympics event ever made money for the hosting city? Isn’t it only once in recent memory? It would be better to say that I don’t protest the Olympics but that I protest VANOC and the International Olympics Committee, and I’ll continue to as long as we see unfairness and inequality happening even with this.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/burnabynewsleader/news/68785952.html

Addendum: Feb. 14–In light of the fact that this is now getting even more attention, although I wrote it several months ago, I’m going to add to it, to clarify. And to comment to the comments below.

I’m a little amazed that the commenter below equates spending tons of money with fun, joy-filled lives and spending no money with a boring, joyless life. There is quite a range in between no money and some money. Not to mention that, guess what, you can actually have fun and not be bored by spending little to no money. But I’m not going to list activities for you here. Spending far overbudget on the Olympics does not necessarily lead to joy. Did you see anywhere in my post where I said this or that we should spend no money? Nope. What I protest is the overspending and VANOC/IOC’s attitude.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about read my recent post about the IOC’s attitudes towards Australia’s athletes hanging the boxing kangaroo flag in the Oympic village, or my post of Feb. 9th in regards to overkill on the budget. Here are a few more examples of the wastage of money better spent.

I know someone who was hired to get the communications village built up at Whistler for the various media. A temporary structure, it was already behind schedule and he was the second or third person hired to oversee it. Meetings in Madrid and other parts of Europe and a command to get it done, no matter the cost. He was also replaced by yet another person. Who knows how many to this date but you can bet money was wasted replacing person after person as some used the prestige of having an Olympics contract to push them into a better job, or the ones in charge let people go so they could maneuver in who they wanted.

Here’s another example. Campbell bragged this week of the $450 million spent on sports as part of the Oympics while at the same time his government has cut the arts funding budget for BC from $47 million to $3 million in just two years (that’s over 90% cut which no other area has experienced so drastically). Arts, like all the ones seen at the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not wrong to support sports but it is wrong to slash and get rid of arts and then demonize and pit artists against children saying if we give money to the arts we cannot give chidren a school lunch program. Even $47 million is pretty small peanut next to what’s been spent on sports or the Olympics over all. Oddly they didn’t pit the athletes against the children.

I talk to people in this city worried about the raise in taxes that will come (and has in several ways already) because of the Olympics. They worry about their children suffering under the debt that we will still be paying off twenty plus years from now. Yes, the Olympics cost money. That’s a given. But there could have been much more of a middle ground and I for one never believed the glosses that  came out in the beginning where they (politicians of course) promised us that we would not see a hike in our taxes to pay for this and that it wouldn’t run overbudget. Oddly enough, to the commenter below, because of spending all this money we could very well be leading boring and joyless lives for years to come because of the tax burden that we will be shouldering. Next time you choose a book over a movie or a walk in nature over dining in an expensive restaurant, tell me if you’re having a boring and joyless time.

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The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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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 Election Day

    I’ve been fairly quiet about the election. Although I’ve paid some attention to it and the usual, unfortunate name calling that’s happened, I haven’t said much, because I know which way I’ll be voting.

    The NDP and Liberals are neck in neck and it will be anybody’s game. The Green party could possibly take a seat or two and there is a possibility, though slim of a minority government. Still, there will be enough representation of both sides to balance things, I hope.

    Politics is much like the boxing ring. You put your gloves on and go out there and pummel your opponent as close as you can to a pulp. Then afterwards, you stand before the cameras and clasp your opponent on the shoulder, shake hands and say nice things about fighting style. Just like politics.

    So Campbell bashes James and James bashes Campbell. It would be nice to see less of this and more of what is going to happen. But politicians are known for hollow campaign promises anyway. We can thank Gordon Campbell for tearing up hospital worker and teacher’s contracts (teachers don’t even have a contract right now).

    We can thank him for raising the cost of our universal free medicare. Only Alberta and BC pay for what the rest of the country gets for free and Campbell more than doubled that cost while at the same time removing some services. Podiatrists and optometrists are no longer covered because gee, I guess it’s only old people who have foot and eye problems and as one of Campbell’s cronies once said, they’re a special interest group. Campbell took massage, chiropractic and physiotherapy off of the list. We used to get 10-12 visits each a year. Now, only if you’re on subsidized assistance will you get 10 combined visits. Because, obviously it’s much better to go and pay money to pharmaceutical companies rather than heal the person permanently.

    If you’re big business, you’ll love Campbell. He’ll cut things like teachers rights and tear up contracts of the little people but he’ll make sure he arranges that money he’s saved to go to business. Because big business always needs help. I could go on, rant, rage, but there is no point. I’ve never trusted Campbell and I will not start now.

    Someone ludicrously said he looked like a premier whereas Carol James didn’t. How ridiculous is that? That comment was one step away from being sexist. She doesn’t look like a premier because she’s a woman? Doesn’t wear a suit? What? But then, there is one thing I know. No matter how fickle a politician is the voters are just as fickle. Okay, fickle isn’t the right word but short term amnesiac memory is. Voters forget so quickly and only remember all the candy that is tossed out right before an election. Many are just like kids, believing the campaign rhetoric.

    At least one hopes a politician will fulfill some of their promises. But the one thing that BC voters do; if they do remember the bad stuff and are unhappy, then they will willingly change their spots. Easily influenced? Yes. But unlike Alberta that will vote Conservative no matter what is done to them, British Columbians are willing to try on a new shoe. Did I just contradict myself? Perhaps.

    But one other thing I’m voting for is the STV. It may or may not work but proportional representation does sound appealing and we won’t know if we don’t try. So, don’t forget, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

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    Gordon Campbell’s Record

    We’re moving closer to a provincial election and the super plasticky premier Gordon Campbell and his cronies will be putting on their best faces, making more promises and hiding their earlier dirty work. Unfortunately they’ll probably get in again because people have notoriously short memories. So here are a few things to do with health care that we can thank Gordon Campbell for.

    • Raising the cost of medical services by 50%. And remember, BC and Alberta are the only provinces that pay for what Canadians call “universal health care” that’s free everywhere else. Ask your MLA why we have to pay.
    • Broke contracts with health science professionals, nurses, health support workers and community social service workers. That was in his first four years and even though it went tot he courts and the Campbell government was found in the wrong, what did that do for those people who had to wait four years to get a ruling?
    • Because those contracts were broken and things like cleaning hospitals was given to the lowest bidder, which did not guarantee that workers knew how to work with biohazardous waste, many people lost their lives and livelihoods do to increased infections (some of this is to blame on health cleanliness standards too).
    • Raised Pharmacare deductibles for the poor on MSP premium assistance from $600 to $800 a year.
    • Delisted podiatry, eye exams, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and massage services. This means they are no longer covered or subsidized under health care. As people age what two areas tend to need work: eyes and feet. But who needs those, right? I have a condition that requires massage or chiropractic to stop chronic pain, and when I cannot receive timely care because of the cost, I end up seeing my doctor and specialists and in no way does this cut the costs to the health system.
    • Privatized MSP billings to Maximus, an American company, making private BC records subject to disclosure under the US Patriot Act. This company was also fined twice and has not save people money.
    • Eliminated the provincial mental health advocate.

    Everyone may have forgotten these things (and the many more listed below) with the huge economic downfall scare. However, the poorer we all become the less likely we are to be able to pay for any healthcare needs, and we’ll all just suffer a bit more. I never trusted Campbell and I still don’t. A premier that will tear up legally binding contracts is bound to do more dirt to the people.

    This site lists 77 reasons, and that only up to 2005 on what Campbell’s government has done for us. http://www.pej.org/html/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2551&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    http://www.bcndp.ca/node/1054

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/todays-paper/Campbell+record+reform+falls+short+ambitious+agenda/1238924/story.html

    http://howbadtherecord.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html

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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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    Election Day

    Well after a nice long weekend of ignoring the news completely, I also completely forgot about the election. But I have my little card and will be voting after work. I’ve been hearing how this year you need a piece of ID to be able to vote. It’s not been very clear as to whether you need this if you have the voter registration card. Spokespeople for Elections Canada have been saying it’s marked very clearly.

    I’d certainly like to know where it’s marked clearly. The voter registration card is printed in maroon and white. Some parts have a maroon background, some on white. But with the overall two-tone color nothing stands out in particular. I’ve read it once and didn’t see this caveat to bring ID. I’m sure many other people will miss it if they haven’t heard it already. And this morning CBC talked about a guy who brought in his laptop with PDFs of his bills. This wasn’t good enough and he needed to have a printout. That doesn’t necessarily make it any more secure. But at least we’re not at the pregnant chad state of the US.

    How will this election turn out? I think we may have another minority government but whether Liberal or Conservative, it’s hard to tell. The polls were showing a race getting closer and the NDP gaining a fair number of seats. Campaigning is outlawed on election day and I heard once that all campaign signs had to be down by that day though I’ve never seen this really carried out. The news stations are waiting with baited breath for the polling stations to close before they start reporting the news like some huge horse race. The wild speculation and criticism has stopped as those particular horses have been flogged to death.

    Everyone gets three consecutive hours to vote so if the stations are open from 7am to 7 pm and you work 9 to 5, your employer must give you time off (either 7 am to 10 am or 4 pm to 7 pm) with pay. They are not allowed to intimidate you by law. I’ve seen the coercion happen in the past, in subtle ways sometimes but still a limiting of the legal time. You can check out legalities of the election at the Elections Canada website. It will even tell you if you can eat your ballot. (I kid you not.)

    http://www.elections.ca/content.asp?section=faq&document=faqvoting&lang=e&textonly=false#voting26

    But here it is, Tuesday morning, after a long weekend, our bellies filled with turkey and other thanksgiving equivalents. Somehow the price of gas went from $1.12/litre on Thursday to $1.21 this morning. What was the huge crisis this time? Another seasonal storm in a tropical clime? A shifting iceberg? A hangnail? An impending election? The birth of another child? Price of oil is dropping they say but the manipulation of our pocketbooks on a daily basis hasn’t. I guess that will be save for the next election, or the one after that.

    Soon it will be back to the usual, another government, another pack of unfulfilled promises. And the world continues.

     

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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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