Tag Archives: NDP

Skimming the Scum of Election Campaigns

Three days into the campaign for our fourth election in seven years, and I find I’m already getting aggravated. What happened to the time when political parties would actually campaign, saying what they would do and give the country? Now it’s not campaigning; it’s haranguing, attacking and generally low brow attitudes that would make the drunks in an alley brawl proud.

The government, run by the Conservative party, has brought Canada to an all-time low in being the first country in the commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament (that includes England’s lengthy five or six centuries). I guess I shouldn’t expect any ethical attitudes but I’m sad to say I think all the parties have pulled off their gloves and are jumping into the mud. On Friday (the first day of campaigning) Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that if you vote for any party other than the Liberals you’ll have more of the same, the contempt the Conservatives were charged with, which has brought around the new round of political campaigning. I find that insulting to paint everyone with the same brush and when it was clearly the Conservative government that did this to say other parties would is just low.


Creative Commons: theresalubowitz.com

Today I hear Harper going on about Ignatieff wanting to form a coalition government, which Ignatieff never said. In fact the ad to the right not only made aspersions that Ignatieff had made such a deal in the past when he wasn’t even party leader. The background picture shows three other people, but Harper is trying hard to convince , a) a coalition government is bad when in fact we’ve never had one and it couldn’t be as bad as the contemptuous Conservative government, b) that Ignatieff ever had anything to do with the first time around way back, and that, c) this is what Ignatieff plans now, when he has expressly said no. After all, to say the Liberals are going for a coalition government is admitting defeat at being a majority before the voting happens.

It’s actually hard to find many images of the attack campaigns because most are verbal harangues or TV spots and I don’t watch TV. Thank the gods; otherwise this might become so irritating I wouldn’t vote. And that’s the point of this. If the politicians would all get of their high horses of arrogance and get back to actually campaigning.

Creative Commons: PointsofInformation.com

I don’t know if all the parties are slinging mud yet but I’m having little faith. The examples of the NDP, Conservative and Liberal images here are not all attack ads. Two are political cartoons. While lampooning is done by various papers the biased rhetoric of the parties disgust me so much that no wonder people aren’t voting. I will, because I believe you can’t complain unless you voted.

I’m beginning to think we should scour all the political parties and put in some new faces and fresh ideas but it doesn’t seem long before they all become jaded and join the giant sandbox. Of course you have to watch out for sandboxes because you never know what animal has used it as a toilet.

 

I’ve been trying to ad the links today but WordPress isn’t accepting them. Will try later.

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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 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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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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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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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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