Category Archives: canada

Planning for preferable politics, in baby steps

 

This federal election seems to me to be a culmination of  all the dissatisfaction felt by progressive Canadians with our electoral system. The system, after all, dictates how well we are able to exercise our democratic rights. It dictates how responsive our government must be to the will of the majority of the people they govern.

There is more to Canadian democracy than electing a member of parliament. In fact, I would argue that the health and efficacy of a democracy should be measured not by the simple freedom to cast a ballot, but by how well those ballots cast inform the government and the plurality of views that government must represent.

And I ask you, how can either of those two requirements be met when our range of choices is restricted to two? A or B. Good or bad. Black of white. For nearly a century and half. It’s been ‘my way’, or the ‘highway’.

The system is not serving our better interest, that’s true. However, right now the first past the post system is the symptom, and our voting behavior is the disease. Our voting behavior can change the system and get us more of what we need from our government.

best doc crop

I don’t understand why we don’t intuitively realise that our system does not offer actual choice when we only ever give two parties power to form government. We praise capitalism, choice and competition, and by in large we regard it as the superior economic model. We boo and hiss at the mention of monopolies, or oligopolies that collude to restrict our perfectly capitalist range of options as consumers.

Yet, we don’t follow the same logic in our politics. Ours is a political oligopoly in which two parties collude to only work hard enough to appear to offer an alternative product, while actually churning out the same sense of entitlement to govern.

ice cream choice crop

We need democracy and choice, and we need the political innovation that comes only from collaboration. We should balk at having one party in power too long, or two parties sharing access to power unchallenged because these arrangements restrict our range of political options as voters.

Canada has swung between the Liberal and Conservative parties since Canada was Canada. We swing between centre right and centre left and feel as if we are experiencing the full range of political options available.  The Liberals make us mad, so we turf them and elect the Conservatives. The Conservatives make us mad so we turf them and replace them with the people who made us mad last time. What we have is revolving door politics and short term change for long term pain.

revolving door politics

It’s like the freakin’ hokey pokey. That’s not what it’s all about, trust me. It’s supposed to be all about real options and real political progress.

What does progress look like to you? Like what we had yesterday? Like what we have today? Personally, when I think of progress I think of what we could have tomorrow.

You need to think for yourself when you cast your vote.

Don’t fall for the fear of the unknown. Penicillin was once unknown, polio vaccine was once unknown, the sequence of the human DNA was once unknown. The unknown is just unknown. A party that is an unknown might also have new ideas. They might have more incentive to cater to us than to just try and look better than their only opponent. Right now the parties aren’t fighting for us, they are fighting each other for power. Elect three; two to wrestle, one to referee.

It will be no shock to those who know me that I voted NDP at the advance polls. One of the primary reasons is that I believe the NDP will bring in proportional representation because as a current political outsider they have a vested interest in new ideas and in breaking down the status quo. The Liberal platform was similar and current polls tell me they have the best chance of defeating Harper – AND THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT – but as a current political insider party they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. I am not confident that they will bring in proportional representation. The Green Party – god love ’em – simply don’t have a chance at enough power to create the momentum for change. I am hopeful that change will allow them to become the political force they deserve to be.

My ultimate goal is long term change. You may have very different reasons to vote, but do vote. Vote for what you hope to have and not just against what you’re afraid of getting. Vote to make your voice heard now and tomorrow.

murrow quote

 

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Eine Klein-era not good example

Canadians are obsessed with budgets, deficits, surpluses and financially irresponsible quibbling over all things federally fiscal. Alberta, though, has a particularly fascinating idiosyncratic tic that comes out whenever fiscally responsible government is discussed. Talk about economics in Alberta and you will hear a wistful “Where’s Ralph Klein when you need him?”

It amazes me that anyone anywhere still holds Ralph Klein up as a model of political (insert anything positive here). It especially irks me when people wax poetic about his fiscal prowess. Some of us get it, but for those that don’t let me challenge you to think just a wee bit harder. klein ideas

Yes, Ralph Klein balanced the budget. But it is important to ask HOW he did that.

You know how? He taxed Albertans enough to cover his bills until 1999, and balanced the budget. Plain and simple. Then he brought in a regressive and costly flat tax, stopped maintaining Alberta’s infrastructure, and hastily left office in 2006 before the shit hit the fan.

Why then do so many of us get stuck in a fog of fiscal fisticuffs and fallacious financial fabrications when we talk about taxation and the ‘Alberta Advantage’?

Because Alberta you’re shamefully naive. Or lacking common sense. Or something. This glorifying a balanced budget, demonizing taxation and neglect of budgetary realities has to stop. We by some stroke of luck, timing and strategic voting have a provincial government that understands that you gotta make money to spend money, yet many of us are falling for the sucker ‘low taxes’ line in the federal election.

So folks, here’s a parable to explain how Ralph pulled off that balanced budget you so fondly remember, and the consequences it has had in the years since…

Ralph decided he was growed up enough to own his own house. So he got a job, and went to the bank to convince them to trust him with a mortgage. He went to the bank and demonstrated a certain income based on working a certain way. He worked regular hours at the regular rate when times were slow, and extra hours at a higher rate when times were busier. He had two rates of income coming in. That gave him enough income to buy that house.

And folks, we all know there’s more than mortgage payments to owning a house. There’s furnaces to repair, ducts that need cleaning, shingles that wear out with time and hot water heaters that burst and flood the basement. You have to bring enough income to cover that, over and above the mortgage payments.

Ralph worked hard and put all his income toward paying off that mortgage.

And he did it. He paid off the mortgage.

Then instead of instead of counting his blessings and looking around at what he had built, then planning in order to maintain the lifestyle he had achieved, he decided he was done the work.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein declares the Alberta debt paid off, in Calgary on July 12, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

 

 

Look Ma, I sold Alberta’s future for short term political gain!

 

 

He decided all that income that came from those extra hours, the pay at the higher rate when times were busy, was superfluous to his personal happiness. He cut back his hours and all his income was suddenly at the lower regular rate. He lost a lot of income.

Ralph coasted that way for a couple years. Eventually though, evenly the most willfully blind can see the corners of the shingles curling up, and Ralph realised his 20 year old roof would need replacing soon.

So, what did Ralph do? Did he prudently work more so he could do the necessary maintenance on his cherished home?

Not Ralph.  He sold that house, and walked away with the profits.

RALPH KLEIN AFTER WINNING ELECTION.*Calgary Herald Merlin Archive* SOLD! to the biggest sucker.

Did you buy that house from Ralph? Did you get in thinking you had enough money only to to discover that the shingles were so bad that the roof was leaking? Did the furnace die on a chilly Sunday evening in February? Did you argue with yourself, saying that the problem wasn’t that you didn’t have enough money, but that you’d been tricked into buying premium shingles and high end furnaces because your family had come to feel entitled to having a roof over their heads and heat in the winter?

I know you did at first. But eventually it was pretty obvious that the only way to survive was to find a way to make a little more money. Now maybe you can work 37 instead of 35 hours. Maybe you can invest in some education that diversifies your skill set to get you that higher paying gig. Either way, the problem won’t go away. You need to make money to spend money, and you need to spend money to live a decent life.

That’s how it really happened, folks.

The flat tax died and is buried in Alberta. We’re going to be okay once we catch up on fixing the issues that accumulated while we didn’t have the cash flow.

Right now Canada needs the same surge in pragmatic thinking in government. Refusing to admit that we must pay taxes to pay for the lifestyle we expect is willful ignorance. Don’t vote for the lowest taxes, vote for the best bang for your buck over the long term.

 

Does that make sense? I hope it does, folks.

 

 

Missing & murdered …

 

six of one, half dozen of another

I have been so proud to witness the (overdue) change in attitude toward aboriginal peoples in Canada in the last couple of years.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission‘s efforts were so well done and so positive. I am not aboriginal, but I felt like I was bettered and healed by it. Certainly my society was. It’s a first step, anyway. Truth is a lifelong goal, and at least we are pursuing it now.

That Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson was so solidly and unflinchingly in support of the pursuit made me proud to be an Edmontonian. That our new Premier Rachel Notley consistently references aboriginal people and the fact that we are on Treaty 6 land made me proud that Alberta had grown up, finally.  Top that with hearing my local federal NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie reference the inequality in resources provided to aboriginal children in their education and point out that we are all on Treaty 6 land, and the NDP party leader Thomas Mulcair  talk about taking aboriginal issues seriously makes me hope that our federal landscape is on the threshold of a constructive cultural shift.

Today was the REDdress campaign to lend visibility to the issue of a crisis of violence against aboriginal and indigenous women in our nation. On social media, women were encouraged to hang a red dress on their homes to show they understand the issue is real and protest our current Conservative government’s refusal to take real action.

This is one of the issues that will define us a nation as we go forward. There are too many truly terrifying issues being lobbed around in this election, that this one flies just under the radar is shameful.

Vote better. Act better. Be better, Canada.

mmiv do better

This is the way we all lose #elxn42

A friend just sent me this article in a direct message. Probably because they know I am all over politics. Openly. I am choosing to be open in my reply to this article because I think we all need to be more open and vocal about politics, and stop misinterpreting political discourse as impolite.

READ THIS

My sense is that Stephen Harper is, to some degree, xenophobic. I say this based on statements he has made in the past and the people he has chosen to align himself with. I can only imagine how much worse his inner monologue is, because I also think he is keenly intelligent and knows what not to say out loud.

HOWEVER, my strongest sense about Stephen Harper is that he is very much a man who want power for himself. He is less concerned with how he gets that power than with any ideology. Which is not to say that when he is successful in securing his power that he will not then act upon his ideology.

We should be asking ourselves whether he is the master of manipulation because that is what he excels at. He manipulates people who, for reasons I do not comprehend and have lost the willingness to accommodate, seek simple, superficial and easy answers to the complex questions in life.

Those people vote in knee-jerk reaction to Harper’s masterful dog-whistle politics. Those people hand him the power, which he then uses to undermine each and every one of us. He undermines our access to information (which I guess most people don’t mind because clearly very few of us bother to access information before forming opinions), he undermines our public goods, he undermines our social fabric, he undermines our institutions. He incrementally takes power away from the electorate and puts more power in the hands for the few. And his own hands as Prime Minister.

So, does he believe that it is un-Canadian to cover your face when you take participate in a non binding ceremony? No. But he does believe those women should be able to do and not do as they wish as his whim. And that is terrifying. He believes he should have the right to define what is Canadian. Does he believe that stripping citizenship will survive a Charter challenge, or go unchallenged under international law? No. But he does believe he should have the right to rank Canadians according to his personal whim. And that is terrifying. Does he think he has evidence that the Alberta NDP government is a disaster? No. But he does think he has the right to declare any organization that has ideas contrary to his own to be wrong, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The scandals that he is suppressing with his dog-whistle and showboating xenophobic assertions are beautiful. They tell me that somewhere in this wounded democratic machine someone is still working for the public good and bringing the corruption to light. For every corruption you see I have no doubt there are ten of which we are not yet aware.

Harper’s ideology is control. He sees that tolerance and sharing of wealth undermine the extent of his control.

He wants us to re-elect him so he can tell us what is good for us. He wants us to re-elect him so that he can continue to do things on our behalf without our knowledge or consent.

He knows that a huge proportion of the electorate that bother to vote then immediately disengage. (Never mind those who simply don’t even care enough to vote)

Canadians want a government they can trust to do what is right, and so they trust without remaining vigilant or questioning.

 

I want YOU to re-elect a government that allows facts and evidence, and yes public preferences that are based in evidence, to tell them what is good for us.

 

Is Harper a racist? Probably. A little. But it isn’t his worst flaw. And that isn’t the important question. The important question is are you? Because if you aren’t you need to wake up and pay attention to the shell game we are calling #elxn42.

 

 

PLEASE challenge me on this. I do change my opinions if I hear good reason. What I don’t change is my world view or my sense of what is, and what is not moral.

Niquab or not Niquab, that is the question, Canada

COVERINGS

(hasty blog alert)

I admit to having an emotional first reaction to the niquab.

It is not of my culture, and it does, visually, represent to me all the things that I as a western feminist have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I know women who feel it is their right to wear skimpy clothes, show their bras as part of their ensemble, wear tiny skirts, and bare their cleavage.

I admit to having an emotional reaction to that as well. Dressing so skimpily represents to me all the things that I, as a western feminist, have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I choose to dress conservatively, but I would be livid if someone told me to wear a longer skirt OR a shorter skirt. Fundamentally it is my choice. I choose a hem length to balance what I want to say about myself and about how I view myself in relation to the world around me. I love clothes, and I love feeling attractive. But I most definitely do not like sensing that men are imagining me in ways that I would never in reality consent to. Naked. With them. In their sight at all, really. So I balance wanting to look like a beautiful woman with my distaste for being sexualized. And that balance is a very personal one.

That balance is a very personal one for every woman.

My choices are influenced by my upbringing, my dad, my mom, my Sunday School classes, my friends, my husband… But saying that the choice is influenced is very different from saying I do not have free choice.

I assume this is the case with almost all women. There are women who feel pressured to dress sexy for their significant others. There are women who feel pressured to cover up for their significant others.

But we aren’t going to mitigate that by being yet another party in that woman’s life to pressure her to conform to an outside (outside her own head and body) definition of what is, or what is not, acceptable when it comes to how she clothes herself.

My emotional reaction to her choices, her emotional reactions to my choices, do not matter. What matters is that logic dictates that the choice be hers.

Our laws protect her freedom to choose. What she chooses must always be left up to her. And to me.

Deja-vu,you-too?

My oh my, Mr. Harper dropped the writ. As an Albertan I am having deja vu. Calling an election as an attempt to capitalize on unfair advantage before the truth of a budget reveals itself and before the taxpayers figure out what is actually going on seems pretty familiar to me. I am certainly angry in a very familiar way and being led politically in a familiar direction.

It is so patently obvious that the timing is a ploy to increase his party’s financial advantage. Who can blame him, he has no other real advantage.

He can’t run on his economic record.

He can’t run on the quality of his leadership.

He can run on his accountability or claim a lack of corruption during his time in office.

He can’t run on his policy record for research or science or his ability to create good laws that respect the Canadian constitution and align with Canadian values.

He can’t run on his record on environment.

Watch his speech announcing the election (or read what all the leaders said).

Stephen Harper thinks it is appropriate that Canadians have the opportunity to consider their options. He says elections are not popularity contests but about serious choices. All this I agree on.

It’s not all agreement from me though. Far from it. I completely disagree in an awful lot of what he is trying to sell.

Note when he says now is not the time for the kind of risky economic schemes that are doing so much damage in the rest of the world? Harper has in the past and continues to support the type of flawed economic policies that created the current global economic problems. Austerity is killing the world, and we have austerity because we didn’t have enough regulation of capital markets to prevent the current global collapse from happening. Cuts to the most vulnerable, tax breaks at the top, trickle down economic fairy tales and a short run race to environmental destruction? Therein lies the real risk.

He balanced the spring current budget using a slight of hand and on the backs of regular Canadians and our economic future.  I wouldn’t count on it being solid fact; it may magically not even be true.

Harper claims his party is the only party that is fiscally responsible, but does his record support that? No it does not.

The significant new benefits to Canadians are a short term illusion, for most Canadians. Plus, is he really trying to benefit all Canadians, or just those Canadians that make choices he approves of because? He seems to have his own narrow definition of what makes a Canadian.

Harper goes on about security and being tough on crime. What exactly is secure about constant constitutional challenges to dodgy laws and public fights with the supreme court? How is his approach to crime constructive? It’s really a war on what defines Canada. That doesn’t make me feel very secure.

It takes some real balls to thank to the brave members of our military for their service to our country, afterall, what has he done for the armed forces?

In terms of your election advantages I think Stephen Harper might be a bit over confident.

Harper is a deeply prejudiced, deceitful, secretive, controlling man, and his party marches in step with him. His ideology is out of step with Canada, and a poor long term political strategy.

I hope he enjoys the next 77 days while they lasts. I hope they are his last. I hope that the lesson Alberta taught the arrogant, irresponsible right is a lesson that Canada embraces and will dole out on a Canadian scale.

Let the games begin and let the best man win. I know I’ll be voting for the best man.