Doesn’t the the Harper Government believe in Science?

Sunrise over Lake Ontario, one of the 5 Great Lakes, the largest concentration of freshwater in the world

People around the world are flabbergasted by the Canadian Government’s emphatic rejection of a parliamentary motion calling for “evidence-based policy-making” on March 20th this year.

Vote No. 631
41st Parliament, 1st Session
Sitting No. 225 – Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sponsor: Mr. Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas)

“That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.”

Sitting No. 225 – Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All 137 NDP, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green and the one Independent MPs voted in favour of the motion.
All 156 Conservative and the one Conservative Independent MP Voted Against it.

Science impacts on everyone, regardless of party affiliation. But facts are immutable; they don’t change based on party lines. Facts aren’t opinions; they are still true even if we don’t choose to believe in them.

Policy not based on evidence is very likely to be against the public interest.

Q: Why would the Conservative party of Canada unanimously vote against “evidence-based policy-making”?

A: Because they can.

The Conservative party has won 100% of the power with 24.3% of eligible Canadian votes.

Under Canada’s winner-take-all First Past The Post electoral system, 39% of those Canadians who voted have elected a majority Conservative Government, effectively a dictatorship with a time limit.

Our electoral system grants a Majority Government absolute power to legally pass or veto any law it wants. Evidence need not enter into it.

Maybe I missed something.

Maybe there is something bad buried in the text of the motion. Lets look at it bit by bit.

(a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making;

This seems pretty straight forward. The Harper Conservatives don’t want to be tied to evidence-based policy making. Which is like saying the news needn’t be based on facts. Oh, wait…

(b)  If federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and…

What possible reason could there to prevent federal government scientists from discussing their findings? Sharing information with other scientists is how innovation and scientific advancements are achieved. The public foots the bill for such research, why shouldn’t the public have the right to know?

Does our government want the right to prevent scientists from telling us our water supply has been compromised by

Have federal employees been stripped of their right to free speech?

Will this put our federal scientists at personal risk of becoming whistle blowers if they decide to inform the public of public hazards? Don’t federal employees, even scientists — enjoy the fundamental protections guaranteed under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

(c)  the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

Maybe it’s just about this. Maybe they just don’t want to spend the money.

The Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility only cost at most $2 million a year. The Canadian Government spent more money ~ $28 million ~ advertising the anniversary of the War of 1812 to the mystification of all of Canada.

Our government didn’t just close the Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility, but they are actively preventing fully funded experiments from finishing up. This is throwing away research that has already been done and paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Why would the Harper Conservatives do this?

Is science or free speech a left/right thing?

It shouldn’t be.

Is it a religious thing?

The Harper Conservatives have made no secret they are predominantly a conservative Christian Party. How many people say their belief in religion is grounded in the wonders of the natural world. Shouldn’t a Christian Party be working to protect the environment that God gave mankind stewardship over?

Perhaps they think if they don’t know the facts, if the environment should be damaged beyond repair, perhaps they’re hoping for plausible deniability when they meet their maker.

It’s pretty basic: if they don’t collect the facts, there will be no evidence to prevent policy based on guesswork and beliefs. Not collecting scientific data about the environment makes it easier to pass “business friendly” laws harmful to the environment.

If the government allows the collection of facts that give scientists ammunition to say we’re damaging the environment beyond repair, the public may get upset about government policy… they might not be able to do what they want.  And the people making policy decisions in the Harper Government reportedly don’t believe in climate change.

from sea to sea

We all need to breathe the air, drink the water, walk on the land. Why would sane people wilfully, deliberately, damage our environment beyond repair? That I can’t answer.

Unless they just don’t believe in it.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Must Read:
Franke James pictorial essay: What is Harper Afraid Of? and sign her petition.

Please ask the Government of Canada to reverse its decision to terminate Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area by signing the Public Petition to Save ELA

Get informed about electoral reform; find your local Fair Vote Canada chapter and sign the Declaration of Voter’s Rights. We need to tell all our elected officials, and all our political parties, that Canada needs electoral reform to Proportional Representation NOW.

whose election is it anyway? #elxn41

Elected Members of Parliament from the previous session of parliament are by no means guaranteed a seat in the next Parliament.

The clearest example of the change that can take place in the course of a single election can be seen by comparing the 34th Canadian Parliament and the 35th Canadian Parliament.

Every registered political party running candidates in the election should be treated the same. Because NO ONE has been elected yet.

Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras

During the televised “Leadership Debate” Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe stated:

“Mr. Layton, you know this just as much as I do.   I, say it, will never be prime minister. And you know, you won’t be prime minister either,”

—Gilles Duceppe, “Duceppe says he has saved Canada from a Harper majority

Although M. Duceppe is quite correct in stating that he can not hope to be Prime Minister of Canada, it is because thus far his party exists only in La Province du Québec. Even winning every possible riding in La Belle Province can not garner enough seats to form a Canadian Federal Government. If Mr Duceppe wishes to be Prime Minister of Canada, he first needs to extend his base of support beyond Quebec’s borders.

This is not true of Jack Layton’s NDP.

The New Democratic Party of Canada has fielded Candidates across the country. This means that enough NDP MPs could be elected to form a federal government. Which would transform Jack Layton into the Prime Minster of Canada. Not impossible.

Jack Layton at rally, standing in front of flag.
Prime Minister Layton?

Particularly considering the ideological bankruptcy of both the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada) and the LPC (Liberal Party of Canada).

Prime Minster May?

The same is true for Elizabeth May. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) has fielded candidates all across Canada. If enough Green Party candidates are elected, as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth may would become our Prime Minister.

This is why the televised Leadership Debate was such a travesty. The arbitrary rules set by the consortium are in fact meaningless. In a first-past-the-post democracy, it does not matter who formed the last government. That’s old news. Just because they have been elected in the past doesn’t mean they will be elected again. That’s history. All the leaders of all registered parties should have been included.

Every election is a fresh start, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “with no mistakes in it.”

Because no one has been elected, all the candidates are supposed to start on a level playing field.

Canadians have been under the apparently mistaken impression that the Elections Canada mandate was to ensure a fair election. To ensure as level a field as possible. Yet it seems Elections Canada was powerless over the televised Leadership Debates. The way the “debates” were conducted was left entirely in the hands of “the consortium.” This utterly unaccountable media consortium decided that the only leaders allowed on the televised debates would be the ones with elected representatives.

Elections Canada lacks any authority to mandate any rules of fairness.

Previous governments have written laws allowing these unaccountable media corporations to define the terms of election broadcasts. This places the broadcast media in control of what the electorate is allowed to see.

More than ever before, this election is being held at a time when the unaccountable consortium of broadcasters is a special interest group.

Who is in charge of Canada’s mainstream media “consortium”?

Ahem. Bell Canada Enterprises just happens to own the CTV Network, The Globe And Mail, much of Canada’s land and cell phone networks, as well as a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. The supposedly arms length CRTC has failed Canadians by granting the gigantic Bell more and more control over the Canadian media when in fact a good regulator would be breaking it down into smaller parts to diminish the unhealthy stranglehold this corporation has over the Canadian digital economy. Usage Based Billing is just one of the perks that Bell has attempted with the assistance of the CRTC.

Suffice it to say that Elections Canada should be calling the shots, not media special interest groups.

democracy #fail

The deliberate exclusion of Green Party candidates by the media in the supposedly non-partisan meetings seems the recurring theme for this election. The media supposedly “covering” these all candidates meetings and debates is actually controlling them.

The Renfrew Conservative candidate walked out of a debate that had excluded the local Green Party candidate.

Then there was the “Kitchener Centre Forum” put on by the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce at Kitchener City Hall on April 21st. This forum only invited four of the seven candidates registered to run in this riding. Stephen Woodworth (Conservative Party of Canada), Karen Redman (Liberal Party of Canada), Peter Thurley (New Democratic Party), and Byron Williston (Green Party of Canada) were allowed to attend while Mark Corbiere (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada), Alan Rimmer (Independent), and Martin Suter (Communist Party of Canada) were excluded.

Canadian media coverage used to be equitable to all the candidates.

Instead of fair election coverage, Canadians are getting scripted debates and reality TV.

up close and personal: local level debates

I missed the first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting in my riding since it conflicted with the televised leadership debate.

What I heard went on revealed it to have been something of a travesty. Albert Ashley, the Green Candidate was absent altogether (out of the country), making the “All Candidate” meeting short one candidate. Like the televised “Leadership Debate”, this local debate was rigidly controlled by the media companies, in this case, Rogers Cable and The Record newspaper. Apparently candidate answers were limited to 30 second sound bites, making the answers, for the most part, shorter than the questions.

The published Record story downplays the fact that the incumbent Albrecht’s ‘office’ had been caught out for registering his opponent’s domain name and putting spurious content online.

What would have been a major scandal back when we still had a watch-dog press, instead came out in the Record as a partisan whitewash. The characterized this breach of ethics (if not law ) as “website pranks.” In fact it is very close to Identity theft, and may well constitute libel or fraud in the business world.

What the Record would call it if someone were to register the http://www.thekwrecord.com/ domain name and load it with spurious content?

Apparently Harold Albrecht laid off the responsibility for this attack on “an overzealous volunteer,” named by the Record as “his former chief of staff Jeff Chatterton.” Apparently Albrecht offered to sell the domain names to Liberal Candidate Bob Rosehart.

A closer look reveals Jeff Chatterton is no eager innocent, but rather a former journalist who hung out a public relations shingle and cut his teeth in damage control for the City of Walkerton during the Walkerton water crisis. Chatterton’s bio indicates he has made a career of characterizing scientific findings in opposition to his corporate client’s interests as “junk science.” According to Chatterton’s Facebook Page, the tag line for his company, Checkmate Public Affairs, is “Keeping clients OUT of the news – and doing it alarmingly well.”

Which makes me wonder what other improprieties are conducted in Mr. Albrecht’s office that can be blamed on underlings.
What ever happened to personal responsibility?

Possibly the most disturbing thing about the article is the Record implication that the Green Party candidate’s absence is spurious. Scheduling an all candidates meeting for a date when one of the four candidates is out of the country, and then blaming that candidate for the absence is masterful politicking.

But it is not what one would expect from an unbiased media.

looking over a creek at a very nice neighborhood in winter

The Elmira All Candidates Meeting

Put on by the “Greater KW Chamber of Commerce,” and again run by the media, this time the local 570 News Radio station. There were perhaps 200 to 300 seats, all filled, with an additional 50 or so standing room only attendees.

This indicates a far larger turnout than expected. (Interestingly, I also heard that Tuesday’s Kitchener-Waterloo All Candidates meeting was also standing room only, but their reported overages were in the hundreds.)

The format of the meeting was to pose a series of questions, which each candidate had the opportunity to answer. And at the end, “if time permits” they said they ‘might’ take questions from the audience. In other words, the corporate radio station decided the questions to be asked, while the citizens in attendance would only be allowed to pose questions on sufferance.

[They did, in fact, take audience questions at the end, and the moderator made a bee line to a young man in a suit whose first question exposed him as an embarrassingly blatant conservative shill.]

Applause

While it is may be reasonable to applaud a panel of candidates when introduced at the outset of such a meeting, it is wholly inappropriate to applaud each answer.
hands clapping

Since time was supposedly an issue, no applause should have been allowed. Interestingly, the applause was loudest and absurdly long for the only professional candidate, the Conservative incumbent, Harold Albrecht.

The applause reminded me of those talent programs where the loudest cheering section, not talent, decides the winner. It doesn’t matter how talented or not the participant is, the contest is won by how many friends they can bring. This bit of showmanship is important only as a demonstration of political power.

Which is, of course, precisely why applause should not be allowed at an ostensibly non-partisan political meeting held during an election. I wonder how much that influenced the trickle of attendees who walked out though out the show…
er, meeting.

Party Platforms

The theme of all answers given by both the Conservative Party incumbent and the Liberal Party challenger was to attack each other’s ruling party record. Of course the Conservative cheering section applauded Harold Albrecht’s Liberal attack-answers just as the Liberal cheering section applauded Bob Rosehart’s Conservative attack-answers.

The worst of it is, both cheering sections were right. Every bad Liberal deed that Albrecht pointed out was true, just as every bad Conservative deed Rosehart mentioned was. The problem is that the partisan cheering section doesn’t seem to care that the team they cheer … er their party … has done bad stuff, too.

Many who blindly pick a leader and a party will follow them no matter what bad deeds they have done or are going to continue to do. They have made a choice to allow someone else to decide what to think and who to vote for, and are not going to change. And that’s their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they pack a hall and engage in an “applause battle” in an attempt to exert peer pressure, itself a form of bullying, to pressure others to vote for your team… er, party.

Since the NDP and Green Party haven’t ever had the opportunity to rule, they weren’t included in the slagging match, and had no choice but to answer the questions. The Green Party’s Albert Ashley made it clear that his candidacy was last minute, so he was really just getting up to speed, and clearly not as conversant with his party’s platform as the other candidates. He did manage to crack up the audience with the observation that no one had hijacked his domain name. NDP candidate Lorne Bruce answered all the questions posed concisely and well, something not often seen in a campaign.

Ironically, one of the key topics was the decisions that lay ahead for the Region in regard to the expansion of public transit. The implication was that these decisions for the region would be made at rarefied stratas by the rich and powerful who do not have to actually use public transit. Which may explain why both Conservative Harold Albrecht and Liberal challenger Bob Rosehart champion the sexy LRT expansion option, rather than the more prosaic NDP intention to expand bus service to ensure citizen access before adding luxury bells and whistles.

But clearly, any citizens actually needing public transit have been excluded from the Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meetings.

IXpress bus driving in urban area

As it turns out, a third All Candidates meeting was added for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding tonight. When I first heard, I thought it would provide an opportunity to allow citizens reliant to transit access to the electoral process. Silly me. This one was held in New Hamburg, and again without and public transit access. I didn’t attend this one.

Since all four candidates are on Facebook, yesterday I asked them all this question:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

I do understand that time is short, and social networking is anything but universally adopted. It takes time to master, and there is an election to run. So I don’t hold it against the two candidates who have not yet responded. Still, the responses I did receive were interesting.

First, I need to mention that I included the link to my Voter Apathy article with the question, as I felt it provided background on the disenfranchisement of voters. And three of the four candidate facebook pages allowed the link to be posted.

The only one that didn’t was Harold Albrecht’s. His Facebook page is also the only one that does not allow visitors/fans to initiate content. So the only way to post my question was to attach it to an existing Harold Albrecht status as a comment. So I did.

Imagine my surprise when someone other than Harold Albrecht responded for Mr. Albrecht. This is the exchange:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Jeff Chatterton
Laurel – Harold is no more to blame for All-Candidates Meeting locations than you or I. He simply goes where the meeting is held, he doesn’t organize them.

Laurel Russwurm
I asked what he will do to compensate for the fact no “All Candidates Meetings” are being held in transit accessible venues. How is he reaching out to the citizens that rely on public transit?

Greg McLean
Harold, your re-election office is less than 2km’s to my neighbourhood. Haven’t seen you or any or your team door-knocking.. how come?

Harold Albrecht
‎@Laurel, I’m reaching out to citizens with or without access to public transit the same ways: advertising, doorknocking, a website, this facebook page, and participating in All-Candidates’ Meetings. As was noted above, I do not control w…ho invites me to attend ACM’s.

@ Greg, it may be that we’ve knocked on your door and missed you, or it may be that we haven’t reached your neighborhood yet. It’s physically impossible for me to meet in person at the doorstep with the 100,000+ citizens I’m privileged to represent, but as the thousands of people I’ve had the privilege to meet during this campaign will attest, I’m trying my best.

Thank you both for your questions.

Harold Albrecht’s Facebook Page

At the time I received the defensive answer from Jeff Chatterton I had no idea who he was. Possibly a zealous Albrecht booster, but more likely a staffer. Having discovered he was Harold Albrecht’s “former campaign manager,” the speed and firmness of his defensive response makes me seriously wonder how “former” his association with Harold Albrecht really is.

The other response I got was from the NDP candidate, Lorne Bruce.

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Lorne Bruce
Laurel, I understand how you feel about this issue. Many of my campaign staff use transit as well. Because we do not plan these all candidates meetings we have very little say in where they are held. The best we can and have been doing is organizing car pools for those who do not drive. There is one debate left in New Hamburg on Tuesday. If you would like us to try and arrange a carpool give us a call or email @ 519-569-4040 ndp@kcndp.ca and we will do our best.

Lorne Bruce Facebook Page

It was refreshing to hear someone wasn’t making excuses, but putting an effort into addressing the inequity.

All in all, I am left feeling quite disturbed about the way this election is being run.

Why are business associations and media special interests allowed to dictate the course of the election process?

It is disturbing that previous governments have granted so much unaccountable power to corporations. They have put in place election rules and legislation that allows this undemocratic manipulation. If these practices continue, we are likely to end up with some new form of corporate feudalism. Personally, I’d rather see a restoration of democracy.

The Conservatives and Liberals are more concerned with attacking each other than Canada’s problems.

Perhaps because they are responsible for many of them.

Four Canadian political parties have fielded enough candidates to form the 41st Federal Government. I think it is time for a change.

Don’t you?

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos



[note: Public figures and their staff are fair dealing to quote particularly during an election; private citizens, however, are not.   I have included Greg McLean’s permission to include his question, which I thought particularly germane to the Voter Apathy issue.]

Image Credits
Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras photo by davehuehn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

Jack Layton photo by Matt Jiggins

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

“Applause” cc by laurelrusswurm

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

Canadian DMCA

I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.

Is that a bad thing?

Of course it mans we have another federal election.

Copyright Reform Apathy

Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.

copyright symbol over a red maple leaf

That’s wrong.

Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.

Some people are tired of elections.

We’re having them too frequently, apparently.

Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.

Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.

If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum.  They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want.  And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.

a pile of canadian money

Then some people think majority government is a good thing.   Talk about an expensive proposition.

Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending.   While majority governments are always awash in patronage.   That’s got to be worse.

Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm
The AVRO Arrow ~ painting by Lance Russwurm

Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?

Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.

I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.

the NoProrogue rally in Guelph

You know what?

If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.

You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.

You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.

You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.

You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.

Andrew Telegdi

A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:

Minister of Industry Tony Clement

On Twitter, Tony Clement said:
@TonyclementCPC I use my 28 vote margin in 2006 all the time as an example of “every vote counts!”

The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.

You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.

Debate and Democracy

GPC leader Elizabeth May with nearly a million constituents, not a seat in the House

This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.

I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.

The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.

Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.

It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:

pirate party of canada

@mikkelpaulson

A vote for anyone other than your first choice undermines democracy. We should vote for,
not vote against

I don’t know about you, but as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy.

And elections are a really good time to get out there and find out what the candidates think.

Or at least what they say.

Vote.

Canadian Political Party Logos
Registered Federal Canadian Parties include neorhino, Christian Heritage, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First, Libertarian, Work Less Party, People’s Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP


Image Credits

AVRO Arrow, painting by Lance Russwurm

Andrew Telegdi photo by Chris Slothouber

Tony Clement, Twitter account image (fair dealing)

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

All other images created by laurelrusswurm and released CC by-sa

Whose Party is it Anyway?

Costco AdI don’t like the idea of paying a membership to a retail store chain to pay for the right to shop there.  No matter how good the deals are.

Not because I’m made of money; certainly not. But once you pay, you have a vested interest in shopping there. But you remain a customer without any influence on what products the store will carry. If the retailer I patronize stops carrying the brand I find essential, I want the freedom to go somewhere else. I don’t want to have to weigh that against how much money I’ll lose by walking away from my “membership”. For myself, I much prefer freedom of choice.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"And I feel the same way about political parties.

I do not now, nor have I ever, belonged to a political party for much the same reason. Even if political parties had established ideologies I don’t think it would make sense to belong to one.

If anything I am prejudiced against both Conservatives and Liberals, because the one thing both parties have done pretty consistently is  pander to big business– which helps line their war chests with enough cash to run ridiculous media campaigns. However, if either of these parties start actually looking out for the rights of citizens instead of corporations I might be inclined to swing their way.

Conservative Party of Canada and Liberal logos
The actions of a political party don’t always reflect their stated ideology. Sometimes a political party doesn’t have an ideology beyond wanting to be in charge. Like the Conservatives. Or the Liberals.

"Mein Kampf" book

And you can’t really tell if the one you vote for will really do what they say until they actually get the brass ring. Or if the party leader actually believes the party ideology. Say what you want about Adolph Hitler, at least he honestly laid out exactly what he wanted to do in his political platform Mein Kampf.

The whole “party” system produced the idea of “strategic voting”. Therein lays madness. Under First Past the Post our votes mean so little already we should never even think about voting the way someone else wants us to vote.

Take for example the NDP accidental majority government in Ontario a few years back. It was a clear case of voters “voting against”, and no one was more surprised than the NDP to find themselves with a majority. They spent pretty much their whole term trying to appease business interests at the expense of ordinary people. Certainly they did real damage to Ontario’s health care system. Even so, they did not go far enough to make Corporate Ontario happy. In essence, the Ontario NDP government ended up annoying everyone and pleasing no one, effectively ensuring that it will be a very long time before the NDP will be able to come to power in Ontario again.

Cover of the book RAE DAYS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper certainly brings home the realization that a party leader can make a huge difference in how a political party behaves. And isn’t it interesting that after the NDP’s resounding ouster it quickly became apparent that the NDP provincial Premier Bob Rae was in actuality a Liberal in NDP clothing.

Certainly Mr. Rae is now thoroughly ensconced in the upper echelons of the federal Liberal Party of Canada. Personally, I don’t think it was a Liberal plot, I think Bob Rae just took the easy way to establishing “a name” in politics. Because although the NDP is considered one of the three main Ontario parties, it is not one of the ruling parties. Everyone acknowledges that the Bob Rae majority was totally unexpected from all quarters.

But Bob Rae got himself a “name” on the NDP nickel, saving himself from obscurity he may have had in the Federal pond he swims in now. It is much easier to rise in the ranks of a party that almost never wins than it is to rise in the hierarchy of one of the alternating ruling parties. I would expect that there is a lot of attrition due to burnout among the non-ruling political parties. It has to take a lot of stamina to run an election campaign knowing your chances of winning are slim to none. I know how depressing it is to go out and vote every time for candidates of parties who aren’t likely to get elected.

I had mixed feelings about Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for example. (OMG: he was YOUNGER than my Dad! No way!) As a mom I was furious our Prime Minster would punch out a protestor. Not exactly my idea of a leader responsive to the people he is supposed to represent.

Let’s teach our kids that even a bully can become the Prime Minister. The BS about the GST didn’t particularly thrill me either: adding an entirely new tax requiring a bloated bureaucracy which eats up the bulk of the generated income was not even close to a good deal for Canadians.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Chrétien was the only politician with the chutzpa to keep Canada out of an ill advised war. Had he chosen to stay on as the Liberal leader I might well have ignored all the patronage scandals etc. and voted for him forever just to keep our Canadian soldiers safe from being killed off in an uncalled for foreign war being waged solely to prop up a bad American president.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if that same war might bring down our Prime Minister because of the torture scandal. It isn’t as though Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing anything to bring our troops home.

In my own riding a local politician I very much respect (because of what he does) is Andrew Telegdi.  He made quite a rousing speech at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally, explaining that he lost the last election by 17 votes. Too bad… first past the post.  But I won’t vote for him because my biggest fear right now is that we will end up with a backlash Liberal majority government.  Should that happen I am not remotely confident that the Liberals won’t end up giving up sovereign Canadian right to craft our own domestic laws on incredibly important issues like copyright and the Internet.

With minority governments there is a possibility that the government will at least consult with the citizenry.

Andrew Telegdi speaking at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally
Andrew Telegdi speaking at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally

What it boils down to is that the party system does not work in the way that we think it does.

When we think we are electing candidates we are really electing a party.

Canadian Political Party Logos
Registered Federal Canadian Parties include the Neorhino Party, Christian Heritage Party, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, Pirate Party of Canada, Libertarian Party, Work Less Party, Peoples Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP


Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

Official Language Blues: If I ran the zoo… er country

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada" It is a major failing of our education system that all school children are not offered the “other” official language in school.

Of course the federal politicians can say, “Education is a Provincial responsibility”.

This is nothing but a pure cop-out.

Canada has two Official Languages.

If federal funding was forthcoming the provinces would jump at the chance to introduce education plans to comply. It seems to me that the problem is that the Federal Government is simply not willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Vancouver Olympics 2010 logo

Personally, I am disappointed that the Bloc Quebecois have not pushed for this. In a perfect world, even if the Bloc manages Quebec succession at some point, would it not be easier for a separate Quebec to deal with a Canada where there isn’t this knee-jerk language war?

From everything I have read and heard, when children learn a second language in childhood, it makes learning additional languages later much more attainable. And breaking down barriers to communication is always a good thing.

It is inexcusable that the Olympic Games are not fully accessible in both Official Languages. We should all be ashamed of that.

BON COP BAD COP: A graphic description of the great divide between our official languages.

Canada is known to be a nation rich in resources, but our greatest resource, which is also the one that is most often overlooked is our children.

Both English and French are our official languages as Canada is officially a bilingual country. I’ve just been told that Canada is merely “institutionally” a bilingual country, and that only at the Federal level in a CAPP Facebook discussion group. That may be the way it is, but it should not be.

In a perfect Canada all kids would be bilingual. So that eventually all adults would be bilingual. It is ridiculous that that still has not happened.

Whole School Portrait - 1930's Rural Ontario
English immersion - 1930's Rural Ontario, Whole School Portrait

My father didn’t know a word of English when he started school in the 1930’s. We’ve always teased him about the trace of accent we can still hear, but in retrospect maybe it isn’t a rural Ontario accent but a rural German accent. Our parents made it a point to not teach us German so they could speak privately in front of the kids. So I grew up a monolingual English Canadian, whith parents who were bilingual German/English speakers.

I think that learning French when it suddenly appeared in Grade 7 would have been much easier had we learned German as kids. I know I worked hard at trying to learn French in school, but High School was the end for me. I was crashing and burning by grade nine French thanks to a personality conflict with my ninth grade French Teacher, and it made me give up. Out of self preservation I learned the phrase “Je ne sais pas” which got me out the other side with a bare pass. Given enough time and motive I have been able to muddle through written French. Because Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors, I struggled through his novel The Black Tulip which our High School Library stocked in French.

Two Official Languages

Bon Cop Bad Cop Poster

My niece was enrolled in French Immersion when she began school, so I was thrilled that my child would be able to enter a French immersion program when he started school.

As it turned out, we were not allowed to enroll him in French Immersion because the school district we lived in only offered that option to children with a French speaking parent.

The educational options open to Canadian school children vary from board to board as well as province to province.

The best argument I had heard against French or English Immersion was the fact that the mother-tongue was disadvantaged since all of the education the children receive is in the second language. But I just learned from one of the parents in a CAPP (Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament) discussion thread that his children in Quebec get an alternating curriculum… one week French, the next week English. What an excellent idea. Problem solved.

If all Canadian school children were educated to be bilingual, I think it would help enormously in healing the language rift we have in Canada.

I’m quite sure we’d still find things to fight about, but they would be different things, quite possibly less harmful things. In addition to helping break down the language barriers which cause so much friction between anglophone and francophone Canadians, learning a second language is reputed to make music and mathematical learning easier for students as well.

And if we were all bilingual there would be a lot more great films like Bon Cop Bad Cop, which was great in either/both languages.

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

Canadian Flag

I would provide adequate funding to offer bilingual education to all our children.

Because we are ALL Canadians, whether we speak English or French or Both.
And both would be best for us all.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.