Archive for April, 2011

April 28, 2011

Election Diaries: A plea…

The election campaign is almost over. Opinion polls have the Conservatives easily in the lead. In the last week they have consistently polled between 37% and 38.5%.
The only issue is whether the Conservative can get a majority. They only need to win 12 seats more than  last election to achieve a majority. This election they have targeted a small number of ‘vulnerable’ seats. That is why they could get a majority with as little as 35% of the vote.

.In 1990 the Ontario NDP got a significant majority with 37% of the vote. Voting analyses suggest that the Conservatives may be in majority territory–if their vote holds and comes out to tick off that ballot.

With a minority government, Stephen Harper has ‘ruled’ as if he had a majority. What would a majority mean to this man whose respect of Parliament, democracy and Canadian values are tenuous at best? He has proclaimed that a coalition representing 62% of Canadians would be illegitimate. What would he do with a majority based on less than 40% of the vote? Why anything he likes.

Most governments while following their agendas at least acknowledge that they represent all Canadians to some extent—even those who did not vote for them. No such pleasantries for the Stephen Harpers and Rob Fords of the world. It is the American Republican style of government and it may be coming to a country near you.

I hope voters can put aside partisanship and look honestly at the likelihood of their preferred candidate winning and assess whether they are better off voting for another centre-left contender to stop a Conservative. That candidate does not have to be perfect. Sometimes it may require holding your nose.

The alternative is a crippling debt and/or slashed services brought on by massive spending on a penal system out of control and more military toys.

For help in deciding who that should be, go to Project Democracy (http://www.projectdemocracy.ca/). This site had the Conservatives winning 154 seats a couple of days ago. One hundred and fifty-five seats are needed for a majority.

No one knows what will be the effect of the NDP surge. Will those voters show up and will they vote for the NDP or change their minds last minute. Will a surging NDP simply take votes from the Liberals and allow some Conservative to squeak by in close ridings?

The choice is ours. Not voting is to choose to allow others to decide.

April 26, 2011

Election Diaries: So, how should I vote?

After all is said and done we have to make a decision on who to vote for. For some, this is easy. They always vote the same party. For others a certain issue or subset of issues has driven them to a party. Still others are concerned with strategic voting.
I have pretty much always voted NDP…. but not always.

In every election the Conservatives have been the boogyman. When the Liberals are favoured to win I feel free to vote my conscience. But with the Conservatives slated to win I always give consideration to strategy.

Here in Trinity-Spadina there is no concern that the Conservatives could win so the decision comes more easily.
It’s not that simple in many ridings in the country.

But it seems unfair to the NDP and the left in general to always have to weigh conscience against strategy. And it plays into the hands of those who believe in a two-party system.
Many question whether it matters if the Liberals or Conservatives hold power…they are both small ‘c’ conservative and pro business. But I think that is not a realistic appraisal of the situation.

Under some red Tories and some conservative Liberal leaders the difference may not look too great. But if, say, you are poor or disabled or live in a city then Mike Harris in Ontario meant an awful lot to you. Whether welfare cuts or amalgamation in Toronto, you were hit hard. And the deficit as a result of the screwball right wing economic theory prevalent in conservative circles is frightening.

No, Stephen Harper isn’t just a Conservative. He is a Republican-style conservative of a type we don’t see often here in Canada. His style is acutely partisan and autocratic. He has prorogued Parliament; he has fired civil servants who disagree with him. He has waged dirty campaigns against whistle blowing bureaucrats… both of which are in complete contradiction to his espoused views while in opposition.

He invited the military to his first Throne Speech, an action which I find particularly troublesome and very American.
But, honestly, what worries me most is his economic policies which seem determined to drive Canada into massive deficits and which have seemingly no strategy to encourage competitiveness. Like after Mike Harris and Brian Mulroney I think we are going to be painfully digging ourselves out of debt for years after these guys are through with their mismanagement of the economy.
I do agree with the Conservatives that this election is about the economy and that is why I am in absolute dread of them achieving a majority.

I don’t like having to vote for a party whose policies are not as tuned to me as my preferred option but I think this election is indeed a turning point for Canada. Yeah, I know, we thought Mulroney was dangerous. He obviously wasn’t (harmful yes, but not history changing).

No, I think Harper is one of those politicians who has the potential to do long lasting harm. He will be destructive to the economy and is very dangerous to the culture of Canada–the political culture.

I think Harper’s Canada is a game changer. And the polls put him on the doorstep of a majority.
If ever there was an election to vote strategically this surely is it.

I would urge anyone in a riding where the Liberals are leaders to abandon the NDP and vote Liberal. Likewise I would urge Liberals to vote NDP in those ridings (eg: in B.C.) that seem likely to defeat a Conservative. While I really would like to see a Green MP in the House, surely this is a time to vote against the Conservatives… unless a Conservative doesn’t threaten in your riding. Five years of ignoring the environment isn’t going to be good.

Unfortunately the party with the most seats will form the government. That party is almost certain to be the Conservatives. The Canadian electorate has been miseducated by the Conservatives to believe that it is illegitimate for several minority parties to try to form a government if none of them have a plurality of seats.
I only hope the Conservatives can be held to a minority.

As for me, as I said, I have the luxury of voting my preference. Yes, I know the NDP is not the party many would like it to be. At times I don’t feel like it has an understanding that there is actually an economy and businesses out there that need to create wealth to pay for social services. I often feel that it doesn’t consider productivity issues enough. And it certainly seems to have lost much of the grand vision and settled for tax tinkering (like the other parties). And it nearly faltered on the gun registry. But if we wait for a political party that reflects all our concerns, we will hand the future to the Conservatives.

Please vote and please think about the larger implications.

If you are not certain as to what is your best strategic option, may I suggest you check out Project Democracy (http://www.projectdemocracy.ca/). They list, riding by riding, your best shot at defeating a Conservative candidate by analysing every public opinion poll as it comes out.

Or click here http://www.projectdemocracy.ca/embedv2?style=1 to directly enter your postal code and get the latest advice on your riding.

April 22, 2011

Election Diaries: Liberals and NDP battle in Trinity-Spadina

Image credit: thornypup on Flickr

Thankfully, here is a riding where we don’t have to worry about the Conservatives winning. We can vote as we wish without having to worry strategically. Or at least so we thought.

Olivia Chow has held the riding since 2006. Before that Tony Ianno held it for the Liberals between 1993 and 2006. Although Chow won in 2008 with a 3500 vote lead over the Liberal’s Christine Innes, the latter ran a terrible campaign. She is out in much greater force this time around. Rumour has it that this riding is a toss up right now.

I was at the all-candidates meeting last evening (April 20) and some of my thoughts follow.

What I find interesting about Innes’ campaign is what isn’t being discussed…certainly not by her.

For instance, I feel strongly that a candidate be judged on her own merits. The fact that she is Tony Ianno’s wife should theoretically not be held against her. However, I do find it interesting that she has made no mention of their relationship at all in this election. In fact I cannot find out much of anything about her. Aside from having four children and being involved in the Annex Residents Association and her church, she is described as a ‘community leader’ of whom very few people seem to have knowledge.  She has a long history of political backroom activity within the Liberal Party and works now as Chief of Staff to a provincial Liberal cabinet minister.

She really sounds like the proverbial backroom boy. Not a lot different from our previous Liberal MP, her unspoken husband. You may remember he was accused of having one of the worst attendance records of any MP in the House of Commons, certainly the worst participation record and generally seen as a do nothing MP.

There are some questions that some people in this riding would like addressed:

…Given that Mr Ianno, your husband, is under investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission (http://www.thestar.com/business/article/777840–ex-mp-tony-ianno-faces-securities-probe), what is your stand on ethics in government. Yes, I know that he and you are two different people, but I think the voting electorate has a right to know if there are ill gotten gains involved.  Given the legacy of the sponsorship scandal and the concerns around trust funds in the local Liberal riding association, would it not have been better not to pursue an Ianno/Innes dynasty but rather let someone fresh carry the banner for the Liberals locally (http://afuitbs.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/the-real-swing-factor-in-trinity-spadina/)?

… How can we trust  your commitment to public education given your choice to send your children to private school? In fact, what, then, is your commitment to Medicare as well given the context of the choices you make in your private life?

Well fellow Trinity-Spadina-ites, without those questions answered I don’t feel comfortable with Ms Innes. The previous Liberal government left power with an unfortunate reputation for sleaze. It is important that all Liberals make a clear break from that era. Innes’ close ties with the last Liberal member don’t do much to dispel old perceptions. I think people can be judged by the company they keep and it’s company I am not comfortable  with.

Although Olivia Chow too is a long time politician, Innes just smacks of backroom deals and political manoeuvring.

Frankly, from what little I have seen of Rachel Barney, the Green Party candidate, I quite like her. But while I would love to see Elizabeth May have a seat in the House, I am not going to vote Green and take a chance that the Liberals will take this seat… much as I would like to see the LIberals form a government. This last statement is based on my concerns that only the Liberals can get enough seats nationally to have any realistic chance of unseating the Conservatives. However, new opinion polls out this week may change the whole scenario. More in the days to follow.

April 19, 2011

Election Diaries: Nothing happening

I haven’t posted anything these past few days about the election. It’s just not happening for me. We started off with some sparks but the past week has been really dull.

The Conservative ads have now turned to ‘the vision’. There is Harper talking about what Canada is and can be. Only problem is that beyond a strong military and lots of jails, he really doesn’t have anything to say.
He doesn’t like government involvement (except when trying to buy votes). His whole economic plan (until the opposition forced him to take action) is essentially to do nothing. His ‘stay the course’ really means ‘let things go’. He is an old fashioned laissez-faire capitalist (again, unless he can buy power with targeted spending).

But if any leader has a vision, I think Harper’s vision of a more militaristic and conservative , more individualist and  no grand direction, is strongest. It’s unpalatable but it is there.

So the Conservative campaign is really a boring old hash of nothing with a small dash of something rotten.

And the press coverage? We keep hearing that the Conservatives will only allow reporters four questions per day. Wow, where is the press on that issue? Nowhere. I would have thought this incredible assault on democracy would be in the news daily.
Where is the reporter writing that he/she had questions to ask but once again the Prime Minister refused to answer. Geez, that would be headline news every day if I ran a media outlet.

The NDP feel they can smell power… oh well power of the sort the NDP refers to. They think they are within reach of Official Oppositiondom.

But where once there was a vision of a just and more egalitarian Canada, there is now only families and targeted programs. Now, I don’t really blame them. When I was younger I railed against the NDP for not remaining true to the concept of a ‘movement’ rather than just another political party. As I have grown older I realize the usefulness of a party on the left that actually seeks to attain power even if it means watering down some policy. It’s easy to criticize progressive parties for the compromises they make to get elected.

I suppose the alternative is to keep shouting from the sidelines but I don’t find that terribly useful and neither does the NDP.
But I still can’t help but feel that there has to be something more to the peoples’ party. Is this all it’s come to… tax deductions?

The Liberals, now there is a letdown as well. Not because I think they would change the world. It’s really because I’m afraid the Conservatives would change the world. That’s why I am so concerned about the Liberal Party. Who else can stop the Conservatives?

The Liberals owe it to Canadians to not be so stupid. Where once they had a brains trust, there now seems to be no one at the helm. It is interesting to think about what a Liberal government might look like. Except for Iganatieff who is on the conservative side of the party, there are a number of NDP types that would be in any cabinet. Think of Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Ujjal Dosanjh, Ken Dryden. These are people that could easily be in the NDP and who do, I think, have some kind of vision of a better Canada.

But, alas, a Liberal government is not to be. And that is partly because the left, unlike the right, have refused to co-operate, but also because the politicians, the press and we Canadians have let the Conservatives define democracy for us. I mean how many parliamentary democracies have majority governments today?

New Zealand, the United Kingdom and virtually every European country have coalition governments. Canada has a long history of minority government either nationally or provincially. So majority governments, while the norm in Canada, are certainly not unusual globally.

Yet Stephen Harper, with the acceptance of a docile press, has convinced us that parties representing over 60% of the vote do not have the right to govern… either in coalition or co-operation. Just how can it be that this ahistorical and constitutionally incorrect interpretation of parliamentary democracy can have won the day?

Why does our press ape Harper’s pronouncements without question? Why do they accept his isolation and lack of accountability without ridiculing him over it?

Maybe it’s time to ask the press some questions. But first, let’s do whatever we can to keep this clown Harper out of a majority government.

April 14, 2011

Gardening as racism: Native species….

Gardeners are all into ‘native’ species, by which they mean plant species that originated in the local environment. They claim two major reasons. The first, which I feel is somewhat legitimate, is that species that evolved in this ecosystem may be better adapted to it and therefore more likely to thrive and survive. This is not always true but I will return to this question a bit later.

The main reason given is that there is some intrinsic value in restoring an ecosystem to its original contents. This argument I find absurd, regressive and unscientific. Think of human populations that have migrated across this planet. What of all the intermarriage? Has this not only led to a healthier breed of humanity but also a more interesting cultural expression of humanity? Would anyone suggest we isolate and maintain current genetic strains and populations of humans?

Why would we apply different standards to the rest of the biological world? The same gardeners cum ecologists, in complete contradiction to their rhetoric, act as if humanity is separate from nature and not part of it. That is not to excuse all actions of humans as natural because we evolved on planet Earth. Let me deal quickly with that canard. While I believe we are definitely a natural and normal part of the biosphere, I also feel our intelligence, and the resultant technology we have developed, as well as our ability to plan ahead do indeed makes us a special case even though we remain an integral part of the natural biosphere.

What I am saying here is that to limit new plantings in City parks, as many people demand, to native species, is really a kind of ecological racism. I find it theoretically repugnant. After all, gardening is all about imposing human control over nature anyway. There really is no better example of human domination (fascism, if you will) than gardening. So what is the big deal with adding a few different and interesting species to the list. Why the conservatism of the environmentalist groups?

As for the contention that native species are better adapted to the local environment, well… new research disputes that claim. It appears that ‘invasive’ species are often very well adapted and, further, that they add to the local ecosystem to help ensure survival of current inhabitants  (New Scientist, Issue 2727).

The ‘nativist’ attitude is unscientific, ignorant of historic fact and, certainly for those who call themselves gardeners, self deluding. And it isn’t healthy for our environment either.

April 13, 2011

Election diaries: It’s over!

….the debate, at least. Thank goodness that’s over.

CBC Newsworld (as I’ve complained before) covered it like a game show. In the hours leading up to the debate they had a ticking clock in the lower right hand of the screen counting down the hours, minutes, yes even seconds, to the debate. There was  talk about what each leader had to do to ‘win’.

And after it was over, all the talk was about form and not substance. No one on the ‘news’ seemed to care about what the politicians had to say. It was all about scoring points moving up the polling ladder. This from the same journalists who decry the demise of debating and discussing policy. And why are fewer people voting? I don’t know…. maybe the press coverage and cynicism has something to do with it?

You know, I really tried to watch the debate but had to turn away from it frequently. Stephen Harper just looked into the camera and continued to deny any of the truths thrown at him by the others. In fact he never seemed to notice the others. His entire engagement was with the camera. I don’t call that a debate. When debating, one faces their opponent and argues back and forth. Harper really does find other politicians superfluous, doesn’t he.

But Harper ‘stayed on message’ as reporters like to say. He ignored the debate. He ignored his political foes and just kept repeating the Big Lie that is his government,s and his message. He continued to repeat that, against all evidence, he was somehow handling the economy and guiding Canada out of the recession. He just kept on saying that, knowing that if he repeated it often enough, some people would believe him.

Ignatieff at least engaged with the others. But even though he harped on the Family Pack (what a name for a policy platform) there seemed to be no vision of Canada. That is what I have come to expect of him. He really doesn’t have an idea for what he would like to do if he becomes Prime Minister…. just thought it might be fun to try.

And if Jack Layton mentions ‘families’ one more time, I just may puke.

As it was, I lost my appetite early into this one. Too bad the Leafs are out of the playoffs. What is there to look forward to these days?

April 11, 2011

Election diaries: What is it going to take to stop the Gravy Train?

Yep, you heard me. I am fed up with the damned gravy train. I want it stopped. Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are right…. this gravy train is killing us.

Why do we have to put up with this crap?

Look at the latest stuff with Robdoug, Mayor of Toronto. He is handing out jobs without tenders or competition.

But if that isn’t bad enough, in a leaked draft of the the Auditor General’s report on the G8 security spending today, Sheila Fraser has fingered the Conservatives for jumping on the train as well. The Conservatives, apparently, are spending our money like drunken sailors. And not just on security. It’s rampant.

Now, that’s bad enough. But what really gets to me is that they are running around, all self righteous, saying that we should give them a majority so they can continue to maintain a steady hand at the helm. At just where are they steering us to? Well, it appears, the abyss.

I am really upset about the lack of ethics and the complete contempt of parliamentary democracy of the Conservatives. But I think that Canada will survive this fling with authoritarian government.

What I am really afraid of is the mismanagement of the economy. Remember the pain of the Paul Martin cuts after the Progressive Conservative years of Brain Mulroney? I don’t want to go through that again. But these fools who have now been in power for five years have not got a clue about how to run an economy.  Harper may have a degree in economics, but his lust for power, his absolute abhorrence of government (except when he is in control) and his ideological blinkers make him a fake as an economist.

If I recall correctly, wasn’t Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance in the Mike Harris government of Ontario… the same one whose belief in the discredited ‘trickle down economics’ left Ontario with massive budget deficits?

Yeah, well, he now has a bigger government to screw up.

Stop the gravy train! The engineer is drunk with power. Turf these spendthrifts out.

April 4, 2011

Election diaries: Is the truth racist?

The Bloc candidate running in northern Quebec has been called on the carpet for making a racial comment (Duceppe faces NDP call to expel incumbent over aboriginal misstep). Now I admit that my only source for this information is second hand from an article in the press. However it has raised a small storm that a candidate has suggested that an aboriginal candidate for office may face a tougher time getting elected because of his race. The NDP has suggested that this implies that there may be some bigots in the riding that would not vote for a candidate because of race.

The same comments were made about Barak Obama when he ran for President. As it turned out, his race was not a limiting factor in his winning.

But for the NDP, and others, to suggest that the comments by Yvon Levesque should lead to his resignation from the race are simplistic. Jack Layton accused Mr Levesque of suggesting that some members of the riding are racist! Wow, wouldn’t that be a shock. Imagine that some Quebecers might be racist.

How are we ever to deal with issues of social importance if we cannot discuss them? I am sure that there are some residents of the riding who will not vote for an aboriginal candidate based on race. That would be wrong but it happens. And if we won’t talk about it then how does that help?

Again, I am not privy to the entire conversation with Mr Levesque and he may indeed have made other comments that were inappropriate or racist but nothing that Jack Layton quoted, from what I can see, are inherently racist.

Nor was it racist to say that Obama would have a difficult time getting elected as a black American.

That these two points are true is sad. That we won’t discuss them dispassionately is almost as sad.

April 1, 2011

Election diaries: read someone else…

I feel I must pass on the two links below.

Jeffrey Simpson is a columnist for the Globe and Mail. He has historically been a small ‘c’ conservative columnist who has, I think, supported the Progressive Conservatives. I would refer to him as a Red Tory.

Lately, with the aggressive new American style of conservatism we are now seeing in Canada, thinking columnists like Mr Simpson are being led to the centre and even the liberal side of centre by their own thoughtful arguments.

Hence Simpson’s column today (Tories’ income splitting another nail in tax coffin) on Harper’s tax policy.

Now Henry Mintzberg, even though teaching management studies at McGill, has a history of liberal thought.

His article (Conserving Canada or a Conservative Canada?)  takes Harper to task over his concept of democracy and rallies to the cause of coalition government, something which has strangely become a dirty word in Canada.

Hell, so bizarre have conservative politicians become, that even the Globe’s Toronto politics columnist, Marcus Gee, quite a conservative writer has become outraged with Rob Ford’s politics.

Read on! There remains hope yet. Even conservatives have their limits to the nastiness that passes for politics by the right these days.

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