October 20, 2015 19:07 +0100  |  Canada Conservatives Democracy Liberals NDP Stephen Harper 0

I'm both thrilled and disappointed with the outcome of this election. On the one hand, the Cancer that was Stephen Harper was finally cut out of the country like the rotten tumour he is, but on the other, we managed to do so only by putting all of our faith in yet another autocratic situation. We've elected another majority, doing away with all accountability in the House. Given where this election started, this is a gross disappointment.

I suppose that it's a question of faith really. Do I have faith that Trudeau, with all the power of the PMO (that his father pioneered) and a majority government elected through first past the post, will actually introduce proportional representation? Are these Liberals really all that different from the corrupt, entitled, double-speaking Liberals that came before them? Indeed, many of the candidates elected today are the very same people who held the same positions under Chrétien and Martin.

It kills me that to remove Harper, we had to stick a knife in the NDP, a party that, no matter how much I criticise them, represents a much closer vision of my Canada than the Liberals ever will. It's also deeply frustrating to see how very poorly the NDP managed this campaign.

From their gloating, passive, condescending demeanour in the early days of the campaign, to their weak-kneed, dispassionate stance on Harper's divisive Islamophobic platform, the NDP left the country desperate for leadership, vision, and passion for what we value as a nation. Trudeau was clumsy, but he shared a vision for Canada that resonated with people. His passion was infectious and painted a picture of the Canada that should be, in stark contrast to what Harper would have us become.

This could have gone another way. We could have had an NDP-lead minority or even a majority, but they screwed up, and now we have to hope that Trudeau really meant everything he said -- because no one will be able to hold him to it if he changes his mind.

October 06, 2015 18:02 +0100  |  Canada Democracy Environment Green Party NDP Politics 0

A dear friend asked me over Twitter today why I think she should vote Green and not NDP. I started with 140 characters, then switched to a direct message, and then I wanted formatting... So I wrote a blog post.

So Theresa, this is a short, but reasonably complete list of the reasons I couldn't bring myself to vote NDP this election. Which is a pity really. I'd like to live in a world where a party like the Greens didn't need to exist because the mainstream parties actually did the Right Thing.

...but they don't do the right thing, and they shouldn't be rewarded for that.


The Tar Sands

If there is one fact that should be obvious to anyone who claims to know anything about climate change, it's that the carbon reserves that we have in Northern Alberta need to stay in the ground. The NDP are against Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, but they do support Energy East. So, either the NDP don't believe the millions of scientists who have stated that this stuff has to stay in the ground, or they're pretending to support the oil sector in an effort to get votes.

Either way, the NDP position is suspect and speaks to either their scientific literacy or their authenticity. I'll let you decide which is more egregious.

Carbon Tax vs. Cap and Trade

The NDP has taken a cap/trade position (to the exclusion of a carbon tax) against the advice of every prominent environmentalist and economist. This is quite clearly done for political reasons, to separate themselves from the Liberals and Greens who favour a carbon tax.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that every reputable environmentalist group will tell you that a carbon tax is the best way to affect the change needed, and that cap/trade is a market non-solution. In other words, the NDP is choosing its platform based on what it thinks will win them power over what is right for the country. You may sense a theme developing.

The Senate

Their position on the senate is untenable, impractical, and dishonest. Ignoring for the moment that almost all of the countries on the planet with a single governing house are what you and I might refer to as banana republics, an upper house is a crucial check on the power of the lower house, and in a parliamentary system like ours that vests so much power in the hands of a single person, the prime minister, this is a Very Bad Idea.

On top of that, abolition is quite impossible as it would require support for all of the provinces and every constitutional lawyer in the country will tell you that there's no way you'll ever get everyone on board with abolition.

No one is saying that the Senate shouldn't be reformed, but the NDP position of abolition is not good policy. Once again, they're writing policy based on what they think will play better with the public (abolition is much easier to grasp than reform), as opposed to what would be good for the country.

Proportional Representation

After the 2011 election, the NDP, who had been talking about electoral reform months earlier, suddenly came out in favour of first past the post. I distinctly remember listening to CBC's The House, where the NDP MP steadfastly supported FPTP with the typical platitudes of "it's worked for the country for so long" etc. etc. None of this is surprising since it was first-past-the-post that gave them that "orange wave" in Québec.

Then, just last year, they showed up late to the party on electoral reform and did a big blitz where they told everyone that if elected, they'd "make this Canada's last unfair election". Then, as they rose in the polls, all of that rhetoric evaporated, and now their issues page makes absolutely no mention of it.

The Consortium Debate

Thomas Mulcair started this campaign saying he'd gladly debate anywhere, any time, and he's finishing it having backed out of the one debate that was guaranteed to have the most viewers out of the entire Election.

You can't claim to want to lead the country if you're going to run away from debates with your opponents. It doesn't matter that Stephen Harper refused to participate. In fact, Mulcair's refusal simply puts him in bad company, with arguably Canada's worst Prime Minister in history.

The Consortium Debate could have been an opportunity to reach more than 10 million people (as opposed to the paltry 1.5 from the Maclean's Debate) and publicly shame Stephen Harper for abdicating his responsibility to the democratic process. Instead, through his actions, Mulcair legitimised Harper's position and drastically limited the level of political discourse in Canada.

This reason alone would be enough to keep me from the NDP.

Wrap Up

I want to make it clear that I still think that the NDP are better than the Liberals and Conservatives, but I also think that they've fallen far, far from their roots as the sensible socialist alternative. They've become a party of pragmatists, shifting their principles toward whatever they think will win them votes, and for me this is an unforgivable sin.

If you want to lead my country, I expect you to have ideals and principles underlying your positions, policy that's supported by those principles, and a leader that stands behind them. The CCF was that kind of party, Tommy Douglas, Elizabeth May and Jeremy Corbyn are that kind of leader, and voters can smell the stench of an impostor. They smell it on Thomas Mulcair, and they certainly smell it on Justin Trudeau.

I voted Green because they're still the party of principle out there. They take sometimes unpopular positions that are vested in principles as stated by the party members. I don't agree with all of these positions, but I can live with what I see as bad policy if it means that I can trust the party to follow through with everything they say they represent:

  • They called for a carbon tax more than a decade ago, when the science was in but the public was strongly against it. They've never wavered on this.
  • They've always opposed the tar sands because it's bad policy to support an industry that's trying to kill everyone on the planet.
  • They routinely call for order and respect in the House of Commons.
  • They support the reduction of powers of the Prime Minister, because we shouldn't be electing de-facto dictators, and for the increase in power of MPs so that they can do the work of local representation.
  • Their leader is an accomplished lawyer, parliamentarian and diplomat, dedicated to her role as MP and advocate for a safe environment.

I also think that their position on the senate is silly and impractical, and that their opposition to GMOs is anti-science and idiotic, but as it's clear that neither of these are priorities in the party, I'm unconcerned given their positions on real issues that actually matter.

When it comes time to vote in this election, who would you rather support, a party that stands by what it says, or a party that has demonstrated that their ideology and even their science will bend to pragmatism?

September 27, 2015 10:35 +0100  |  Canada Conservatives Democracy 1

I opened my mailbox yesterday to find something both astounding and infuriating, it was a letter from the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Centre:

Dear Friend and Neighbour!

You are on Elections Canada's international Register of Electors as a non-resident entitled to vote in Vancouver Centre, BC in the October 2015 Federal Election.

You can vote by mail. Elections Canada has already mailed your special ballot voting kit to you. If you have not received it please contact Elections Canada.

[Elections Canada contact info]

More information on how to vote by mail can be found at the Elections Canada website - Ways to Vote, Vote by Mail, Vote by mail-apply now -- Voting by Canadians living abroad.

I am writing to ask you to vote for me as the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Centre. I am a business woman with over 20 years of experience in executive management in the non-profit social services sector and a long-time resident of the West End. I have an MBA and Communications degree and I am running to bring accountability to all areas of government. On the reverse side of this letter there is more detailed information about my background and qualifications. More information about me and the Conservative campaign is available on my website:

Please complete and mail your special ballot today to ensure that Elections Canada receives it by the deadlines set out in your special ballot voting kit. If you have not received your special ballot kit, forms are also available at any Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate, or by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or collect at 613-949-7502.

I need your vote to win this riding and to ensure that Canada continues to have a stable, secure, Conservative government lead by Stephen Harper.

Thank you for your support.

Elaine Allan Conservative Candidate Vancouver Centre, BC

Take a moment to appreciate the hypocrisy of a party writing letters to expats asking for their vote when that party has worked so hard to remove that expat's right to vote at all.

I'm fast approaching the 5-year mark in my expat status. As a result of the Conservative Party's fight to strip me of my rights, this could very well be the last vote I'm permitted to cast in any Canadian election.

For someone like me, this is a crushing realisation. I've been neck-deep in Canadian politics since I was a teenager: canvassing for candidates both in Toronto and Vancouver and even running for a seat in BC, and the Conservatives have decreed that I'm insufficiently Canadian to be permitted to participate in our democracy after this election.

The audacity of a party that would ask me to support them today, then strip me of my rights tomorrow is at the heart of the Conservative Party. It's their ideology of consumption: use up whatever you can and move on. You see it in their environmental and economic policy, and now you see it in their electoral strategy. The fact that their candidates don't see it, that they can live with themselves writing letters like this, tells you just what kind of people they are.

I'm thinking I might give Ms. Allan a call. If you have any suggestions regarding what I might say, I'd be happy to hear them.

April 18, 2014 13:18 +0100  |  Canada Democracy Politics 0

Listening to CBC radio this morning, Evan Solomon interviewed a Conservative Party senator about the Fair Elections Act. He claimed support for the bill because while he'd received a number of form letters opposed to it, "not a single personal email" had crossed his desk.

Of course, upon hearing this, I did what I could to send him a personal email, but it turns out that it's rather difficult. He didn't list any contact info on the show, so I had to look him up on Wikipedia. From there, I went to his personal website, which was down, so I visited his official page on the Senate's site and sent him this:

Subject: You said you'd not received any personal emails so...

Here's one asking you to reconsider your position on the Fair Elections Act.

The vouching issue is a big problem, but to be honest, it's not my primary concern. I object to the act on the grounds of banning vouching alone as it will disenfranchise voters at a time where our elections are bordering losing their legitimacy, but personally I see the other facets of this bill as far more dangerous.

For me, the most disturbing part of the act are the changes to spending limits that create loopholes so big that that it effectively enables rich parties to dominate the electoral process. Poorer parties, like the NDP, Greens, Bloc, and Pirates, which represent the will of millions of Canadians will be eclipsed by the war chests amassed by the already dominant parties in our country. Canada's democratic process is already biased toward a two-party system, why would you work to deepen that problem?

Then there's the constraints on Elections Canada, a spiteful swipe by the Conservative party if ever there was one. Elections Canada needs the power to compel testimony in its effort to keep our elections fair, and the Conservative Party moves instead to curtail the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer and then goes even further to do something nobody wants: block them actually promoting voting.

There's a reason no one who knows what they're talking about supports this act: it's insane. You know that deep down most of these proposals were never made in earnest. The goal has always been to distract the public with the more glaring changes (vouching, stopping Elections Canada from promoting voting), so that the financial changes -- the long-term, most damaging ones -- can slip through on an amended bill.

You're an unelected senator, and this is why I love the Senate. You're in a position to vote to turn this bill out completely with absolutely no risk to your position. You know that this is a bad bill, you have to. Have the courage to stand up for future generations in this country that want fair elections. Turn this bill back with a recommendation to introduce real electoral reform: open accounting, a modern electoral process, any number of recommendations proposed by experts in this field.

You have a choice, here and now to do something right with your position. Please don't waste it.

This Fair Elections Act is probably the most damaging piece of legislation the Conservatives have ever put forward. If it succeeds as-is, it will permanently damage the legitimacy of every Canadian government from 2015 forward. If it's amended to include only a fraction of its current payload, it will simply cripple democracy across the country.

If you're reading this and you're Canadian, please take a few minutes to learn about the act and then write to a senator about why (s)he needs to fight this. It's important.

May 14, 2011 20:13 +0100  |  Canada Conservatives Democracy Stephen Harper 1

It's been more than a week and I'm only now able to write about it. I was so upset about the whole thing the night of the election that I actually got drunk on soju -- which is a pretty big deal when you consider that I really don't drink. This is what the progressives in Canada have been fearing for years: a majority Harper government.

Those of you who have read my previous few posts on parliamentary democracy will probably note that strictly speaking this is a Conservative majority and not a Harper one, but lets be honest here: this has always been about Harper and his lust for power. He runs his party like a monarchy, and even under a minority government, his attitude was routinely autocratic. He has made it his mission to kill parliamentary governance for a very long time and now we've given him the keys.

Good job Canada.

I'm speaking of course to the 39% of voters who actually think this was a good idea. My only hope is that now that he has Absolute Power for at least 4 years, the people who "voted for Harper" will start to actually blame him for what goes wrong, rather than find a way to pin it on "the coalition", or some other boogeyman.

Yes, the NDP is finally getting the support it deserves, and yes we finally have an elected Green MP, this is all good news. But in a majority government, run by an autocrat like Harper, I have little faith in anyone being able to get anything done unless it be his will.

Honestly, I fear for Canada's institutions, the things that make us great: Universal Health Care, The CBC, Peacekeeping, even the Charter. Most laws that can be written can also be undone, abolished under one government and restored by another, but institutions like these have taken nearly a century to build, and Harper has been clear about what he'd like to do to them. I'm honestly afraid for the future of my country, and I will hold each and every one of that 39%, as well as those who didn't even bother to show up accountable for whatever he does.

May 02, 2011 18:05 +0100  |  Canada Democracy 0

It's already May 3rd here in Seoul, but I wanted to post here, as I always do, to remind you to vote today.

This past year weve seen millions of people in the Middle East fighting and dying for a voice in their own government, while the majority of Canadians didn't even bother to show up to our last election.

You might think that your vote doesn't matter, that our system is so screwed up that whether you show up or not has no bearing on the outcome of events. In some of our past elections, you may have been right, but not in this one. Every poll is screaming that this election is a turning point. The NDP are capturing mountains of support and some polls have the Greens taking as many as 5 seats. This is a big deal and could change the landscape of Canadian history. Yes, it is potentially that big.

Get out there, make your voice heard. Your employer must, by law allow you up to 3 consecutive hours off to vote if your work hours would otherwise prevent you from doing so. Can't make the trip? Ask a friend to drive you. This is important - seriously. It's time to change the way we do things in Ottawa.

Still not sure who deserves your vote? You've still got time, I'll get you started:

April 29, 2011 13:07 +0100  |  Canada Democracy Politics 2

Disclaimer: I am very jetlagged. Please be patient with me.

Canadians, and more specifically the Canadian media have been perpetuating a myth about our electoral system for a while now and it's gotta stop. Newspapers and radio shows are guilty of it, as are party leaders of most stripes: they're treating our electoral process as if we live in the United States.

Here's how it is: We elect parliaments in Canada, not presidents. We elect representatives who sit in the House of Commons who then collectively determine who should speak for Canada: the Prime minister, the first among equals.

Most of us can't vote for Harper, Layton, Ignatieff, or May, but not a day goes by on this campaign that I don't hear some pundit talking about how Ignatieff will do X or Harper will do Y. Both Harper and Layton have been noted for talking like they will personally do something if elected, and though I haven't heard Ignatieff do the same, I wouldn't be surprised.

The fact that in practise, our political system does work as though we elect short-term tyrants doesn't negate the fact that that's not how this system is supposed to work. In fact, I would argue that since we cover campaigns as though it were some sort of horse race between presidential candidates leads not only to an excuse, but an expectation of tyranny once that leader ends up in the Prime Minister's role.

The second myth is that parliamentary elections can be "won" somehow. Jack Layton or Stephen Harper cannot "win" this election as the absurdity of that statement is twofold:(1) as we've already established, any one candidate can only win his or her riding, and (b) winning a minority of seats (or even a majority) does not mean that the remaining parties are somehow not part of our governing process. The House is the authority, not the governing party, and certainly not the Prime Minister.

Ignoring these two truths about our system of government leads to the devaluation of the role of our elected MPs and to support for arguments like Harper's opposition to a coalition. We should either take advantage of our parliamentary system, or simply drop it in favour of (in my opinion) less democratic presidential role. There's really no point on keeping up the premise of parliamentary democracy if people are going to continue to believe that the Prime Minister runs Canada.

April 11, 2011 22:26 +0100  |  Activism Art Democracy 0

This has been going around and I thought it worth preserving here for my friends and family who don't do the whole Twitter/Facebook thing. The author apparently loves to do this sort of thing, and obviously has a stake in the outcome of the upcoming election. Please visit the original page for more information and feel free to pass the link around. The way I see it, every Canadian considering support for the Conservatives really needs to see this.

As an added bonus, the site also includes a bunch of links I'll be able to use for my site.

April 05, 2011 21:15 +0100  |  Democracy Politics 7

I got some heat from a few people today for what I said on Twitter and Facebook so I thought that I should clarify my position on it a bit. You see, I have a Big Problem with so much effort and rhetoric being poured into getting people to vote.

Now let me be clear: If you know what's going on, if you know what your options are, and you know what you think about what your candidates stand for, then by all means, I want you to vote... even if it's not for the party I'd prefer. My preference is for this country to be ruled by the collected will of the enlightened majority, and while democracy may be flawed, it's the best tool we've got for that.

But let me be clear again: If you do not know what's going on, what your options are, or who those people are who want your vote, I want you to figure that part out before you even think about voting.

Paul Martin was right when he said that there was a democratic deficit in this country, but I think it's time that we stop expecting these problems to be fixed from the top down and start looking in the mirror. Democracy is dependent on three things:

  • Free and fair elections
  • A free press
  • An informed electorate (dependent on a free press)

Now in Canada, we're pretty lucky to have some semblance of the first two. Complain all you want about our antiquated first-past-the-post system, as someone who's volunteered to work in a polling station, I can tell you that Elections Canada runs a clean ship. As for the press, well it has a lot of problems with consolidation, and this recent fiasco with a private consortium denying the Green voice in the debate should give anyone pause, but lets be honest, it could be worse.

But the informed electorate is where we need serious work, and it's from here that our governments derive this feeling that they can get away with anything... because they can. I have met transgendered people living on welfare in social housing who vote Conservative. I've heard about people who vote based on party colours, and there isn't an election that goes by that I'm not subjected to some idiot spouting something completely false to justify their vote for a party that works against her best interests. How many Canadians will vote in May not knowing (or caring) that our Prime Minister was found in contempt of parliament? How many will know why? Hockey games get more attention in Canada than the politics of running Canada does.

There's a democratic deficit in this country alright, but the low-hanging fruit here is in the electorate, not the government. Too many people don't want to talk about, read about, or even think about politics in Canada, and that's where we need to start: at the level of engagement, not at the end of the process.

These massive campaigns to "Rock the Vote" or some such nonsense work so hard to appear non-partisan and drive home only one message: that voting is cool, important, or even a responsibility... and it's all of those things, but only if that vote represents an informed citizen's opinion on how her country should function. They skip all that boring stuff because these campaigns are under the false impression that checking a box is the goal, and that democracy is simply the byproduct.

So yes, I know it's harder to sell, but can we please stop with this "get out and vote" business and instead try for something a little more thorough like: "it's your government, maybe you'd like to find out what's going on and take part?" I'll leave that to the marketing folk to figure out.

November 26, 2010 07:30 +0000  |  Activism Anarchy Democracy Police Politics Protests Violence 10

It's an ugly phrase. Often overused and misunderstood, it's important to know that despite what you may have heard, Canada is not such a place. It is however equally important to accept that we are closer to it now than we have ever been, and each day I read more and more about us losing the Canada we want for ourselves. Whether we believe it or not, we're closer to a police state than most of us want to admit.

Our police officers in every jurisdiction are out of control. Responsible to the public only in the minds of people who haven't been paying attention, we've seen officers commit murder in Vancouver, sexual assault in Ottawa, and beat non-violent protesters in Toronto. There have even been claims of subverting federal elections. The consequences for these actions have been made clear: there aren't any. In Ontario, officers aren't even compelled to speak to the SIU, the supposedly impartial body designed to look into police assaults against civilians.

This is our Canada, glorious and free.

To those of you who would still defend these people, I say that these acts are indefencible. In the G20 case, the SIU has found that no one may be charged because no one can be identified. The appropriate response to this then is to argue that any officer refusing to identify themselves is in fact a criminal -- at best, a thuggish terrorist at worst. Is it safe then to assume that self-defence can be invoked when assaulting an unidentified officer committing acts of brutatlity? And what, if anything will become of the officers higher up in the chain of command after this incident? Who gave the orders to arrest non-violent protesters, and who allowed the city to burn while our freedoms were crushed beneath combat boots and riot shields?

There is anger brewing in this country... at least, I hope there is.

For my part, I honestly don't know what to do. I feel like I'm abandonning my country when it needs me, that I could do something to fight this if I stayed. But I don't know what that something is. To those reading this, I ask you: what, outside of violent revolution can we do? How do you fight thugs and Fingermen without resorting to bloodshed?