laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Does this Canadian Election Matter?

leave a comment »


Tractor parade at the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, 2015. Coincidence? I think not.

Last week Canadian farmers drove their  tractors to Ottawa in a protest against the TPP. There are wide-spread fears this agreement will allow Multinationals to be able to dictate laws, suppress citizen rights and dispense with environmental protections if any of these things interfere with the pursuit of profit.

Much of the ground work has been laid for the unprecedented abdication of Canadian sovereignty through many of the laws pushed through by the Harper Government in previous years.

In spite of the fact Canada is undergoing a federal election, the Harper Government has made the unprecedented decision to continue with business as usual   Under the Canadian political system, government is prorogued — stopped — when an election is called.  Any draft legislation which has not completed the process is thrown out. Instead of pursuing new business, the Government has always gone into “caretaker” mode.  After all, there will be a new government after the election; new decisions will be up to the them.   If anyone in the new government is still interested after the election, they have to start over then.

But not now.

This is why it is bizarre — and disturbing — that the Harper Government has continued  with its secret trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (TPP).  Although we know this exists, whatever it is that is being negotiated is secret.   Still, there have been enough hints of what we might expect that many Canadians are very much concerned, and many are very much opposed.

Instead of behaving the way Canadians rightfully expect, Mr. Harper has chosen to act as though the election doesn’t matter.  As though he is Prime Minister for life.  And in spite of mounting protest against the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, they announce

Canada has successfully concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Even now, the content of the agreement is secret, and the New York Times reports that

“Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached, New York Times

So Canadians will have no facts — beyond the fact the Harper Government has signed it — until long after this election.

Over the years we’ve seen our democratic processes chipped away, but most Canadians have insisted that  because we hold elections (no matter how unfair), Canada is still a democracy.

But it seems Mr. Harper doesn’t think there is any reason to stop what he’s doing just because we are having an election.  [A election he himself called.]   Apparently elections are meaningless to Mr. Harper.  Perhaps he thinks it is in the bag.  After all, he has the money to outspend all the competition in TV ads.   Is that all it takes?

Is this what we have come to?

40% of Canadians didn’t vote last time.

Everyone has theories to explain why more people didn’t than voted conservative.  If we had a “non-of-the-above” option, it would have prevailed.  But we don’t.

I myself think there are many reason why so many eligible Canadian voters don’t vote.  Where I live, I know old order Mennonites don’t vote.  And I know there is a lot of conflict among First Nations about whether or not to vote.  And a lot of young people reject the idea of voting in a system that is so corrupt.  Personally I am inclined to think the biggest demographic are voters who gave up after they realized their vote would never count.  But like everyone else’s theories, that is just a guess.

Frankly, I don’t care why we don’t vote.  We all have our own reasons, and that’s fine.  What I do hope is that many of these Canadians can see their way to voting this time in spite of everything.  As someone whose vote has never counted, I know my vote isn’t likely to count again this time.  But that would change if my vote is joined by some of theirs.

If even half of the 40% who don’t customarily vote would vote, we will see change.

Does this Canadian election matter?

You betcha!  This one is the most important election of my life. Its outcome will have a profound impact on our world, and on our future.

I have spent my life being non-partisan.  Every election I have chosen who to vote for on the issues as I see them.  With a better system my vote might have counted once or twice.   But this year, I am partisan because my husband decided he had to run for the Green Party, and since he is one of the smartest and most honorable men I have ever known in my life, I am supporting him to the best of my ability.  And along the way I seem to agree with most of the Green platform, so that works out.  And while we very much hope you vote Green, what is most important is that you vote.  Vote for the candidate that will best represent your interests.

Vote. Vote for the candidate who will best represent your interests. I hope that's a Green, but vote regardless.

It may be pretty thin, but Canada is still a democracy.  We can still vote.  And if enough of us vote, it will make a difference.  But it’s time to use it, or lose it.


a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Why Don’t Canadians Vote?

leave a comment »

Canada is a diverse nation; and there are many reasons for not voting.  This insightful article looks at one demographic.

Nothing lost when indigenous people vote

[guest post by James Wilson.
Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2015

In 1960, when former prime minister John Diefenbaker successfully restored the right to vote for First Nations people, he earned the nickname “the man who made us people again” by elders in my northern reserve. That’s why it shocks me, over a half-century later, to still occasionally hear some of our leaders encouraging our people not to vote.

A few have argued for First Nations people to vote is for us to buy into the colonial, racist system that has done us so much harm over the years and removed us from our claims of sovereignty. Simultaneously, they argue the Canadian Constitution protects our rights as First Nations people.

I don’t buy into this confused response because, to me, you can’t denounce the obligations of citizenship without first denouncing the benefits.

My 14-year-old daughter responded to the “Why should First Nations people vote?” question in a straightforward manner. To her, it is about who makes decisions that affect her. “If you want to have no control over the decisions that affect your life, then don’t vote.” To her, conceding control is the furthest thing from sovereignty.

In the Oct. 19 election, there are 45 indigenous candidates running for the federal parties who, like all other candidates, make choices in terms of whom they are going to communicate with. They ask themselves, “Should I door-knock in community A with a population of 1,000 and a voter turnout of 80 per cent or visit community B with 1,000 people and a 40 per cent voter turnout?”

If door-knocking and voter identification are the bread and butter of politics, then the choice to visit community A is easy, as they’ll encounter an engaged voter at almost every door. And, from the perspective of a voter, the community will have a significant advantage, as their concerns will be heard over and over again by candidates.

When my 11-year-old son was asked the same question, his answer was strikingly different than his sister’s. He said we all need to vote because, “It’s part of being treaty.” He’s not far off from the views of his grandfather who, when asked one day why he was wearing a military jacket, said: “I do it to acknowledge and honour those aboriginal people who put their lives on the line to help the British monarchy, as a symbol of the sacred treaty relationship between the Crown and First Nations.”

Sure, there are probably other less important reasons why so many young people have and continue to respond to the call, across so many conflicts, but I believe the base is to honour the treaties. Even when the monarch, according to the late Jacob Bignell, told indigenous soldiers the First World War was not their war and they could be excused from participating, aboriginal soldiers kept their oath.

We need to continue that commitment.

Through the generations, we’ve had many First Nations veterans who have served and fought and died for Canada and for our collective rights, including the right to vote. In my father’s view and mine, we fully plan to honour this sacrifice, as an important part of defending the treaties the Crown and First Nations came together to make.

Political scientist Kiera Ladner, who holds the Canada Research Chair in indigenous politics and governance, says voting can be an expression of your nationhood, not contrition. If we as First Nations are “nations within,” then voting in a federal, provincial or band election would not dissolve your citizenship but enhance it. If someone gave you the opportunity to vote in the upcoming U.S. election, would you vote? Most of us would say, “Yes, what happens in the U.S. has a great influence on me. I won’t stop being Canadian, so why not?”

Also worth noting is if a person has ever voted in a First Nations band election, they have already voted in a Canadian system. In fact, it would be rare to find an individual who felt less Cree or less Ojibwa by voting for their chief and council.

The bottom line in the ground game of politics is this: First Nations people have tremendous power as the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population. It’s time for mainstream parties to woo our people as voters, candidates and as part of their long-range plan. Equally, now’s the time for First Nations voters to fully exercise the right restored to them some 75 years ago… or risk becoming irrelevant on the political landscape.


James Wilson is commissioner of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, a neutral body mandated to encourage discussion, facilitate public understanding and enhance mutual respect between all peoples in Manitoba.

Follow @JamesBWilson_ on Twitter

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

October 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm

#DébatDesChefs Tonight!

leave a comment »

[Full disclosure: I have become Green for #elxn42]
French Debate

This evening’s french Language debate in Montreal might be the last real leadership debate of the 49th Federal Election. The five major federal party leaders will be taking part in a French-language debate on Radio-Canada.

Greens will be live-tweeting the action with both French and English graphics on topics relevant to the debate, as they come up in real-time.

Please make sure you are following the French Twitter accounts @MayElizabeth and @LesVertsCanada and are retweeting during the debate.

Please use the following hashtags when adding commentary of your own:
Primary: #DébatDesChefs
Secondary: #VotezVert #Partivert #vert

You can watch the debate in French from 8 to 10 p.m. on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, ICI RDI, ICI Radio-Canada.ca, facebook.com/ICIRadioCanada, Télé-Québec, and lapresse.ca.

The debate will also air in English via simultaneous translation on CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, CPAC – as well as their respective websites – Globalnews.ca, and on YouTube Canada: Election 2015.


Ce soir à Montréal les cinq chefs des parties principales s’affronteront dans le débat des chefs.

Nous serons en direct sur Twitter pour commenter et diffuser des graphiques sur les sujets abordés.

Suivez les comptes @MayElizabeth et @LesVertsCanada et retweetez durant tout le débat.

Utilisez les mots-clic suivants pour faire vos propres commentaires :
Principal : #DébatDesChefs
Secondaire: #VotezVert #Partivert #vert

Regardez le débat de 20h à 22h sur ICI Radio-Canada Télé, ICI RDI,ICI Radio-Canada.ca, facebook.com/ICIRadioCanada, Télé-Québec ou lapresse.ca.

Le débat sera également diffusé avec traduction simultanée en anglais à CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, CPAC(et leurs sites), Globalnews.ca, et sur YouTube Canada: Election 2015.


Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

September 24, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Who will rock the ‪#‎GlobeDebate‬ ?

with one comment

There are no end of excuses for excluding Elizabeth may from the Globe and Mail’s so-called “leadership debate.”

The Globe’s own story is:

We have invited the major party leaders to this debate  – those who have official status in The House of Commons.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been asked to take part, because we believe a more streamlined, effective conversation about the Canadian economy will take place in that format.

I guess the boys think Elizabeth May shouldn’t bother her pretty little head about a hard issue like the economy… never mind that her party was the first to publish a complete platform– one that is fully costed!  Not only do we know how much everything will cost, we can see where the money will come from.  (Has there been such a fiscally responsible leader in Canada since Tommy Douglas?)

Erïch Jacoby-Hawkins writes:

“The clear Canadian precedent is to allow parties running a large slate (at least 70 candidates) with at least one elected MP to be in the debates. Recognized party status (12 MPs) have NEVER been the criterion.

When Audrey McLauglin was in the 1993 debates, she had only 9 seats, while Preston Manning was also in with only 1 seat. In 1997, Jean Charest was in with only 2 seats. In none of those elections did anyone complain about those leaders being there; at no time did anyone seriously argue that this mean the Communists or Rhinos or any other unelected registered party should be in, nor did anyone argue that McLauglin, Manning, or Charest should be out for having fewer MPs than would normally comprise recognized party status.

For some reason, the Green Party is the ONLY party, during my voting lifetime which has had elected seats in the House yet been left out of leader debates. There is no precedent for this, nor is there any valid justification.

For some reason, every time the Greens reach what was previously the declared barrier (in 2008 and 2011 it was always “you need a seat first”), the bar is suddenly raised.”

But no matter that a large majority of Canadians want to see Ms. May in all the leadership debates, Mr. Harper decided to boycot the Consortium Debates to avoid her, and Mr. Mulcair seems happy to follow suit, the Globe and Mail is happy to proceed without the Green Party leader.

But Elizabeth May isn’t just any leader. She is a woman who knows how to stand up for what’s right, and she knows how to get things done. She certainly isn’t one to be silenced by an old boys club “no girls allowed” pact. I suspect Ms. May is also the most media savvy of the the leaders, possibly because the Green Party is a real grass roots party, so her solution has been to take the debate to Social Media, where she will participate in the debate in spite of everything. Partnering with Twitter, Ms. May will answer the questions herself on video, and each of her answers will be uploaded to twitter in real time.


Our Waterloo Greens are planning a twitter debate party at 42 Erb Street East, Waterloo. Come on out and join us as we watch the #MayDeb8 and tweet and retweet.

We’re pretty sure we know who will rock twitter for the ‪#‎GlobeDebate‬
Here’s how you can take part:
1. Open both the @CanadianGreens and @ElizabethMay Twitter accounts.
2. Follow the live tweets.
3. Encourage your Twitter followers and Facebook fans/friends to do this, too.
4. Pick the tweets you like best, and re-tweet them.
5. Remember – if you comment on your re-tweets – the debate tweets will not show up as high as possible in the “Trending” list.
6. Use these hashtags #GlobeDebate‪#‎VoteGreen‪#‎elxn42‬ ‪#‎GlibandMale‬ ‪#‎GlobeandMale‬ ‪#‎VoteGPC‬ ‪#‎GPC‪#‎GreenSurge‪#‎UpForDebate

Team Michele Braniff

Who is rocking Twitter for the The Globe and Mail Debate?


a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Let May Speak

leave a comment »

Although you’d never know it from the attack ads, most Canadians are fair minded people. Even people who would never in a million years vote Green want to hear what Elizabeth May brings to the table.

Personally, in over 30 years of voting, I have never elected anyone to Parliament.  Not once.  So was never represented– until Elizabeth May was elected MP, waaaay over there on the other side of the country.   At that time, I had never considered voting Green.  And yet, even though I live in Southern Ontario, suddenly I felt I was represented in Parliament for the very first time by Elizabeth May.

Elizabeth May speaks for me.

Please join me in signing this Avaz petition:
The Globe and Mail, TVA, and the Munk Debates: We call on you to include Elizabeth May in your debate.

Elizabeth May Speaks For me

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

September 14, 2015 at 11:20 am

Posted in Canada

Tagged with , , , ,

8 Reasons Why Elizabeth May must be in every Leadership Debate

with one comment

Elizabeth May cropped cc 4311smElizabeth May is many things.

  1. Leader of a National Party
    She is the leader of a nation wide political party. A party that fields candidates in every riding. Which means there is a possibility, no matter how slim, that she could become Prime Minister. All it would take would be enough Canadians voting to send enough Green Party Candidates to Ottawa.This is reason enough for her inclusion in every leadership debate.
  2. A conservative estimate: 1 million supporters
    The Green Party of Canada received almost a million votes in 2008. A great many people who would support a small party won’t if they think their vote won’t elect anyone, so if almost a million people were willing to vote for such a party, it is probable that a great many more did not.One of the biggest hurdles small parties face in our winner-take-all electoral system is that small parties (like Independents) find it almost impossible to get candidates elected. So it isn’t at all surprising that a great many supporters whose hopes for a Green MP were dashed would have been seduced into voting strategically in 2011.But things changed in 2011.The ineffectiveness of strategic voting was amply demonstrated by Mr. Harper’s majority government. Still, in any winner-take-all system the votes cast for any small party don’t accurately reflect its support, so there is little doubt that more Canadians would vote Green if there was a chance of electing GreenMPs.In a nation whose population is just shy of thirty seven million, Ms. May’s inclusion in the debates would still be warranted even if there are only a million or so Green supporters
  3. House of Commons
    When any country is saddled with an unfair winner-take-all electoral system, citizen’s find it a struggle to vote for any party that can’t elect a single MP. But in 2011 Elizabeth May was the first Green Party of Canada MP elected to Parliament. And since that time, Green MPs have been elected in Provincial ridings across Canada. Suddenly we’ve seen the Green Party is viable; supporting Green Party Candidates is no longer perceived to be a hopeless gesture. In fact, a Green Party member was elected to PEI’s provincial legislature where not a single NDP candidate won a seat.This suggests Green Party inclusion on the basis of party viability wouldn’t be amiss.
  4. A stellar record
    Elizabeth May’s parliamentary record has been staggering. Not only has she earned the respect of her fellow parliamentarians, she has shown Canadians the importance of a strong dissenting voiced in Ottawa. While her leadership on environmental issues has never been in doubt, Canadians have since learned she is equally passionate about many other issues, notably about necessary democratic reform to Proportional Representation as well as her relentless battle against the Canadian civil rights busting Bill C-51.This record should certainly entitle Ms. May to a seat at every debate.
  5. A Real Party
    Some people say she should be excluded because the Green Party isn’t a “real” party. After all, it has only 3 seats. But what constitutes a “real party” is decided by those who already hold the power. When Kim Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives were decimated – from a crushing majority to a mere 2 seats, the rules were changed to allow the PCs to retain Official Party status… and all the perks that went along with it. Just because they changed the rules again– expressly to further disadvantage small parties– doesn’t change the fact that this argument has been shown to be purely specious. Any party with even a half a million supporters is a real party.After all, shouldn’t half a million citizens count?
  6. The Gender Gap
    But there is more. Slightly more than half of Canada’s population is female. 50.4% of the total population to be exact. That is a larger share of the population than voted for any of Canada’s major parties in 2011. And yet the leaders of the other three major parties are all male. Any debate devoid of a female perspective would certainly fail a large segment of the population. This alone would be enough of a reason to include Ms. May.Shouldn’t Canadian women have a voice?
  7. Fairness
    And if all of those things are not enough, poll after poll show that 80% of Canadians (or more) support Elizabeth’s May’s inclusion in the debates.Not because 80% of Canadians support the Green Party, but because the vast majority of Canadians believe in fairness.
  8. Meaningful Electoral Reform
    Without Ms. May’s inclusion in every debate, who will talk about meaningful electoral reform? Who will keep Proportional Representation on the table?

Elizabeth May must be included in every leadership debate.

Anyone who supports excluding the Green Party of Canada leader from the leadership debates does so only because they are afraid their team might not win if she does.
And how fair is that?

Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner in Guelph

Is the NDP Greener than Green?

with 4 comments

I’m no expert, but I have been told by NDP friends that their party policy is dramatically “greener” than Green Party policy on environment issues.  When the NDP’s Linda McQuaig spoke out,  I thought …maybe…  But as it turns out, I was wrong.  Climate scientist Andrew Weaver is an environment expert. He is also the Green Party Member of the Legislative Assembly for Oak Bay-Gordon Head in BC, so I am very pleased to be able to present his much more informed perspective on the two environmental policies in this guest post.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Elizabeth May

“Only the Federal Green Party has been honest
about the need to keep oil sands production
at two million barrels a day. “


by Andrew Weaver

Linda McQuaig speaks the truth and rather than supporting her, the NDP party brass throw her under the bus. I am disappointed that the Liberals criticized McQuaig but expected as much from the Harper Tories.

Only the Federal Green Party has been honest about the need to keep oil sands production at two million barrels a day.

Federally, Mulcair is so twisted up in inconsistencies re: Kinder Morgan that it is stunning. He wants to wait until the NEB process is over. But that didn’t stop the NDP being against Northern Gateway before the NEB process was over. And the NEB process this time is so rigged it’s not funny. The reality is, it is entirely unsafe and completely irresponsible to be increasing our shipments of diluted bitumen threefold. Vancouver is trying to brand itself as the world’s greenest city by 2020. That can’t happen when it becomes one of the world’s great fossil fuel exporters.

And finally here is what Horgan, the BC NDP leader tells the Kids for Climate Action Group when asked if he would sign their pledge to keep BC’s 2020 targets. He called it a “shallow publicity stunt, saying the target won’t be met and he wouldn’t sign the document because it isn’t possible”. And not a single BC NDP MLA asked was willing to sign the Kids for Climate Action commitment to take steps to limit thermal coal. Why? It’s obvious. The BC NDP are more concerned about what taking such a position might look to their labour union puppet masters than they are about thinking of intergenerational equity.

The Best, Worst, and Strangest of our Government’s Plan for Climate Change

So the evidence is clear, the NDP both provincially and federally are all over the map and completely unprincipled on actions to deal with climate change.

Thomas Mulcair, federal NDP Leader

“Federally, Mulcair is so twisted up in inconsistencies re: Kinder Morgan that it is stunning.”

Rather than pretending they are something that they are not, they should be honest with people. I would actually have far more respect for them if they were.

Some will argue “Let’s give them a chance it will be better”. Frankly we only have to look at the about face of Notley’s climate campaigning once she got elected to know what we can expect. What happened to her talk about proportional representation? Sorry. It’s about trust and you have to earn that. NDP actions clearly demonstrate otherwise.


“The federal NDP attacked Stéphane Dion’s green shift which was designed to put a price on carbon
yet offered nothing of substance up in return.”





And as Ed Wiebe pointed out, what is the NDP GHG reduction plan? It doesn’t exist. The Climate Change Accountability Act was only a monitoring Act. They’ve offered absolutely nothing but have the audacity to pretend that we should “trust them”.

I remember too well when the NDP attacked Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax with their cynical “axe the tax” campaign. The federal NDP attacked Stéphane Dion’s green shift which was designed to put a price on carbon yet offered nothing of substance up in return.

To my NDP friends, take a look in the mirror and please stop kidding yourselves. The BC and Federal NDP will not put in place any substantive plan to deal with climate change. You can take that to the bank.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
Image Credits:
My own photos of Elizabeth May, Thomas Mulcair and Stéphane Dion are released under a Creative Commons Attribution Unported 2.0 license available via Flickr.

For more information download the pdf

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE ALBERTA OIL SANDS: Understanding the Environmental and Human Impacxts, Export Implications and Political, Economic and Industry Influences bt Michelle Mech


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,552 other followers