Tag Archives: vote

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.

 

 

On Co-opted Conservatism and Responsibility Redistribution

Giddy-up Alberta. The writ has been dropped and the politicians are now (openly) wooing us, running six ways from Sunday.

AB all

Sadly, too much of of the wooing involves attempts to portray the alternative as ‘extremists‘.

Part of the way this slander works is by shifting the parameters of discussion in one party’s favour.

For instance, shifting terms of reference so that they appear to align with one group and then pairing that shifted definition with a term not tampered with to lend the shifted term extra credibility. Like linking the word conservative to the word responsible.

Prentice says

Conservative and responsible are not synonyms, and responsible governance is not the exclusive domain of conservative ideology (how we have not figured this out I don’t know). Alberta, you have been duped. You have been inundated with a 43 year feedback loop of tenuous credibility, and it has pasted a paper thin connotative veneer of responsibility and trustworthiness over all things conservative.

Here’s another much maligned phrase: tax and spend. Tax and spend is ACTUALLY what the government is supposed to do. Government collects your tax dollars, then spends that money on health and education and infrastructure. Your taxes are how government pays to keep your province running. Taxes themselves are neither good nor bad. What can be either good or bad is how your tax dollars are spent.

If you pay $100 in taxes and get $100 worth of services in return you have good government. If you pay $100 in taxes and get $50 worth of services in return you have bad government. If you pay $50 in taxes so the government can only afford to pay to provide you with $50 worth of services but you actually want/require $100 worth of services you also have bad government. It’s about value for the money, not about the (shocking) fact that stuff costs money.

Canada is a social democracy. We overwhelmingly support government redistributing wealth to provide universal services. Stop pretending that wanting government to pay for our health care and a good public education system is conservatism at work. It is social democracy at work. Social democracy is, by definition, is the way our government redistributes wealth to provide more equity between have and have not. Stop saying ‘socialism’ and sucking your teeth. You are a socialist. And that’s OK.

Let’s take back the concept of responsible government and divorce it from conservatism.

The real, actual, factual definition of conservative is resistant to change, and that is not a virtue. History is rife with examples of those rough patches when radical change was the best option. Look back through that history and see how awful conservatives look in hindsight. Sometimes the status quo is more a barrier to progress than a banner of pride.

If you keep telling yourself conservatism is prudent and socialism is an extremist idea that can come to no good, you haven’t thought it through. That lack of thought is keeping you from making constructive, progressive changes to how you are governed.

Change

Think Alberta…who is telling you that the conservatives are the only choice and the other options are ‘extremists’? Do they have a vested interest in preventing change? Change is usually opposed by those who have the most to gain from preserving the status quo. You only have to take a quick glance at the big supporters of the PCAA to see that illustrated – their big funders are the ones who weren’t asked to contribute a few more tax dollars to help keep things running smoothly. The status quo is them benefitting from what your tax dollars provide, with them not pay their share. Thats’ conservatism in a  nutshell. If that doesn’t sound right to you, you might not be a conservative. This conservative party maintains the status quo for the benefit of specific parts of society that have the money to fund this conservative government and thereby protect their interests with no regard for the greater good.

Redistributing wealth and power make our society more fair and to allow everyone the chance to participate fully in our society. That broader participation brings with it the benefit of new ideas and the adaptability that makes a nation strong in good times and in bad. Socialism advocates for the redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the entire society because democratic socialism is founded on the principle that progress depends on everyone contributing and being equally able to participate.

I am not arguing against conservatism as an idea. I am arguing against this conservative government and against Alberta’s stubborn and foolish refusal to admit that there are options and that the time has come to consider them.

Let’s take our social democratic values to the polls with us on May 5, leave behind our misconceptions about what is responsible and what is extremist, and redistribute responsibility to a new party with new ideas to help us deal with new global realities. If we want to move forward we need to elect the leaders that put us on the be on the road that takes us there.

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Oh, and Martha and Henry voted Social Credit. Can we drop that hokey crap already? Pet peeve.