"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Only in Canada You Say?

The scene is a cozy little sitting room, decorated in a quasi Victorian motif. Nick-knacks, fine painted china trimmed with gold and delicate looking vases abound. The furniture, appearing to be far from comfortable, features intricate wooden swirls on which the rather sparse but tastefully decorated upholstery is attached.

Three women, all seemingly past their middle years, sit, sipping tea from the daintiest and most fragile looking of tea servings. They sit in silence, an awkwardness fills the air as each of the three seem to be searching in desperation for a relevant comment to make.

Mrs. Prenderghast, apparently the younger of the three, having chosen not to wear gloves for the occasion, cleared her throat and looked sympathetically at her hostess. 

"Have you considered poison  at all Elizabeth? Surely it would be far less of a mess and dare I say, it would be exceedingly more humane".

The hostess, Mrs. Elizabeth Duval, the more matronly looking of the three in her peacock-blue, wide brimmed sun hat trimmed with lace draws a deep breath.

"Emily, I've been over this and over this in my mind. A knife in the heart is by far the quickest and most convenient method. Poison would require some sort of deception and I am just not the duplicitous type. Not that I care whether or not I look him in the eye as I do the deed, I want swift, and I want effective and bugger the mess"

The third woman in the room, Mrs. Agnes Weatherbie, speaks up for the first time,

" Well if that's all you want then Lizzie, why don't you just blow his bloody head off with a gun?"

"I've considered that option also" said Elizabeth. "But I don't have access to a gun thanks to the long gun registry.  I asked constable O'Malley for his opinion and he said it would be far too difficult and time consuming to apply for a gun license. Plus I've never used one of the blessed things in my life. The good constable recommended just using a good, well  sharpened kitchen knife to a vital organ. Quick and easy he said."

There was a brief silence once again and then Emily cleared her throat in preparation for yet another appeal to her friends better nature.

"But Elizabeth" she began, "Why not just separate? Carve your portion of the house away from his. A good workman could do it cheaply with a chain saw in, dare I say, a day or less. Then you could live your life your way and Henri could live  his his way"

"No Emily, Henri must be done away with. His Socialist nonsense has gone on long enough. He has besmirched my good reputation and has made my family beholden to his good graces. For the good of the family dear Emily, The devilish Bastard must die".

Henri, a tall, distinguished looking French gentleman enters the room. He carries a fresh tray of tea which he sets carefully down onto a serving table just behind the spartan looking couch on which his wife Elizabeth sits.

"So my lovely Elizabeth, are we plotting my demise once again?"

Emily and Agnes look up and away from Henri in unison, feigning innocence.

"Well of course I am you Socialist twit. You are a blight, a cancer on my good family and it's name and you must be done away with once and for all" Elizabeth snapped.

"Well then I do hope your lady friends here have provided you with good counsel as to the best method to bring about my end" said Henri lightly. "The good constable has said he recommended a sharp kitchen knife to you. I dare say I hope you use it swiftly as you know I will not be done away with easily".

"I recommended separation.... with a chainsaw" Emily piped up. "Carve the house up I said so that each of you could live your life in peace"

"Ah Emily" Henri began, "always the conciliatory one. But then who would provide for dearest Elizabeth? And which of us would the family side with? Lizzy here, the disgruntled one, or myself, who has provided for and supported the family through the darkest of times?

"You make it sound as though it were a mere matter of jealousy" said Agnes,  daring to admit her part in the plotting.

"That conceited pea-brain thinks everyone is jealous of him" Elizabeth hissed at her friend.

Henri laughed lightly "I fear the grapes in the south of France have a decidedly sour taste to them this year"

"Laugh all you want" said Elizabeth menacingly as she turned to Henri for the first time, "But your end is now all but certain. And NO LONGER will we all be subjected to your cancerous, Socialist garbage". 

Henri looked down upon his seated wife and frowned. "The vehemence with which you have plotted this course of yours is most disturbing.  I have done no wrong except to provide for our family to the best of my ability. Indeed I have made mistakes over the years that I have come to regret deeply. Some of which have caused many of our clan to doubt my intentions. But there are a great number of our family and friends who understand the intentions of my heart and appreciate still the efforts I have made on their behalf. And for this I must be eradicated? For this you plot my death"?

Elizabeth quickly stood and turned to face her husband. She shook a frail white fist at him as she shrieked: "For that you must perish you devil simply because you will not go away. You will not cease to treat my family as though they should continue to be beholden to you for your charitable nature. I have amassed a far greater personal fortune than  ever you could. I know what is best for my family so I should be their benefactor. Yet many of them still refuse to listen to my good counsel, merely because it is contradictory to yours. So for that dear Henri, you and all your Socialist ideas must be EXTERMINATED once and for all".

"First of all Lizzy, they are OUR family, not just yours" said Henri in a low but slightly tremulous voice that betrayed his consternation for the first time. He paused, his jocular facade seemed to have left him.  " So because you perceive me to be a threat to your idea of how our family should be treated, and to whom they should be beholden, you would stab me through the heart with a kitchen knife? You would bleed me dry and erase all evidence of my existence? This and only this is what would make you eternally happy my pathetically wretched wife"?

Emily spoke up once again " I still think a chain saw would be better....on the house I mean, not on Henri". Emily blushed.

"It is but for the good of my family that by my own hand , I would bring about your death and then carry on as though you had never existed" said Elizabeth in a low but maniacally firm voice. 

"For the love of God Lizzy" said Agnes, "can you not just shoot the bugger and we can be done with this"?

Henri straightened himself up to his full height and with his head tilted skyward looked down his nose at his wife. "As it appears I am not welcome here my dear, I shall leave you and your confederates to your vile plotting. But know this my loving wife, I shall not go quietly into the night". And with that Henri spun on his heals and strode from the room.

Elizabeth slowly sat back down. She removed her hat and began fanning herself with it in an effort to regain her composure. 

"Fear not my friends" she began slowly, "That Socialist swine's end is all but certain the moment I procure a knife...If only I knew where the kitchen was..."

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The above story is, to say the least, absurd, that such seemingly polite and well mannered people should openly and unabashedly discuss a plan to murder someone. That the local Constable should be consulted as to the best way to carry out their nefarious plot only adds to the absurdity. 

But here, today in Canada, seemingly polite and well mannered people are openly and unabashedly discussing the manner in which the ruling Conservative party plans to bring about the untimely demise of the Liberal Party. Their purpose seeming to be nothing more than a disagreement with the Liberals "paternalistic" approach to governance. That and the fact that historically,  the Liberals and their ideals have been far more popular than the Conservatives. 

So because the Conservatives view the Liberals as a threat to the way they see the country should be run, they must be eradicated once and for all and every last vestige of their legacy should be destroyed. 

And everyone is ok with this discussion, as though it were as natural as having tea with good friends. Never mind that conflicting points of view are the heart and soul of a democracy and that healthy debate is generally held to be in the best interest of the citizenry. 

With the destruction of the source of one of those conflicting points of view, we are doomed to suffer a one sided conversation that shall become all consuming with the absence of a strong dissenting voice.

Yet still, everyone seems to be ok with this. 

And to add to this absurdity, various other voices are openly discussing carving up our country with "fifty plus one chainsaws". And they do so with all the passion of people discussing the day's weather. 

And I'm quite sure that among foreign observers taking note of our rather blithe discussions about the death and destruction special interest groups intend for our country, at least one of them would be inclined to quote from the old tea commercial "Only in Canada you say"?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rae to Vie for Liberal Interim Leadership

So Rae decides to go for "Interim" Leader position of the Liberals. Which means he can't run for permanent leader, nor talk merger with the DIPs (no slight intended there. I just like the nick-name). In the short term, I would say that Rae, though I really like the Parliamentarian he has become, would not be a good choice for LIB leader. Ontarians have long memories and I doubt he could capture much of the Ontario Centrist vote. However, muzzling any attempts at merger with the DIPS is unfortunate and dare I say, knuckle-headed. To my mind, I think he would be the perfect person to negotiate that kind of rocky, ego laden mine-field. But as all to often is the case, politics defies logic in lieu of partisan sentiment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Meaning of the 41st Election or, Pepsi vs Coke

Well it's been a week since the federal election. I've remained fairly silent on the whole affair, making no more than the odd "tweet" of despair on my twitter account.

You see, I've been trying to come to grips with the outcome. It simply makes no sense to me. I foresaw the possibility that the Cons could be returned to power in a minority capacity. This presented all kinds of interesting outcomes including a coalition government and the end of Stephen Harper.  But with all the scandals, contempt of Parliament and ruthless unethical behaviour, I in no way foresaw a majority Conservative government in the cards.

My first response was that Canada has taken an enormous leap to the right, both socially and politically. In many respects, it may have unwittingly. But I felt that Canadians were saying No to:

-women's reproductive rights,
- immigration
- the gun registry
- gay rights
- the environment
- scientific evidence based facts in determining policy.

And that they were also saying yes to:

- Punishment instead of rehabilitation regarding criminal behaviour.
- investing huge sums of money on Jails that will do nothing to make the streets safer.
-investing even more money on unneeded high tech, state of the art fighter jets (with or with out engines).
- an end to our ideal of a multicultural society.
- an end to our public health care system
- unscrupulous and rampant unethical behaviour on the part of our government.
-an end to our all inclusive social values.
- policy based on religious dogma

All that was a lot to swallow. I couldn't believe that the Canada I know and love would get behind those kinds of ideas. And the above is not the sum total of the Con agenda.

The day after the election, the pundits began making excuses and coming up with theories to explain the commanding majority the Cons now have in the House of Commons. They were basically a rehashing of old theories that explained how the Cons ended up with two previous minority governments. Some seemed to make some sense, others not so much.

Some blamed the vote-splitting on the left and subsequent surge of the NDP. In reality, it didn't matter how the votes were split on the left, the left leaning parties were still in the minority. Still others have blamed an unbalanced electoral system that rewards the party "first past the post" instead of the party with the highest percentage of popular votes. It seems the Cons still were just shy of 40% despite their commanding majority. But this is the same system that has been in place since confederation and has worked to the benefit of parties on either the left or the right of the political spectrum.

The short-comings of the Cons were well documented in the media. I felt that this majority outcome was in many ways, an indictment of the mainstream media. That people just don't trust what they have to say anymore. Or failing that, Canadians have become so cynical as to assume that deceit, unethical and dishonest behaviour is the norm for federal politics so no amount of scandals were anything new or out of the ordinary.

There may be a grain of truth in any or all of the above theories or explanations. But I feel that, after having taken some time for consideration and reflection, that the main reason for the quantum Con victory comes down to nothing more than effective marketing.

The Harper-Cons approached this election campaign more as if it were an advertising blitz then a political event. They approached it from a business perspective, using measurable market research and data as well as techniques learned from previous campaigns. They could have been Pepsi-Cola looking to steal customers from  Coke.

Since 2006, Preston Manning, former leader and, with Stephen Harper, co-founder of the Reform Party, has operated a right-wing "think tank" known as the Manning Center. The soul purpose of the Manning center is to allow it's founder and his colleagues to have an effect on Government policy. What better way to achieve that end then by having your colleagues form the Federal Government?

So for the past five years, the Manning Center has been collecting the best ideas and strategies from all the best right-wing thinkers from all over North America.  They bill themselves as being able to create opportunities for "political entrepreneurs" and offer a Master's degree in "Political Management". They employ such rabid Cons as Kory  Teneycke, the infamous vice president of Sun Media and the man who by his own admission, unabashedly suppresses left-wing  educators and political scientists through the use of smear campaigns and threats of job loss.

So despite their statements to the contrary and armed with the data and strategies provided by the Manning Center, the Cons were well prepared and, dare I say eager for this election. They did their research, they knew which ridings they had to target and they knew which consumers they had to ensnare, mainly the mainstream centrist.

The Cons knew that most Canadians listen more to sound-bites than to debates or to platforms, so with their bloated coffers, the Con's political entrepreneurs began putting their messages out there well before the election was even called.  They appealed to their target audiences, which did not  include students or women. They were well tapped into the social networking scene, but ignored it for all intents and purposes as it was seen as a mainly youth driven media.

As a result, the Cons were able to take the influence of the main stream media out of the equation by creating doubt in their ability to provide unbiased reports about the election. And as a result of this, all the myriad scandals, indiscretions and even the contempt of Parliament issue were effectively minimized. The image was projected that ALL politicians, parties and governments are dishonest and unethical so the Con's underhandedness was no big deal.

They created an atmosphere of "fear", false or otherwise, then effectively projected themselves as the protectors of the mainstream centrists and their pocket books. And in so doing, were able to convince this mega voting-block that nothing but uncertainty awaited them if they allowed the squabbling parties of the left to form the next government.  Even though Harper's message about the legitimacy of coalition governments was absolutely false, it was put out there often enough and emphatically enough that hordes of voters bought into it. 

And in that lays the Center piece of the Con strategy - strict enforcement of the messages being projected. There was a script. And everyone stuck to that script. And if there was every any danger that they couldn't, such as in candidate debates, they didn't speak. Even rallies were carefully orchestrated so as to eliminate almost all variables. And the press was all but silenced at these events.

So in the end, while the Liberals and New Democrats were seeking to win over hearts and minds, the Cons were effectively winning pocket books and votes. Not because a majority of Canadians necessarily like them, but because they believed them to be the best protectors of their standards of living. That, in essence, was the Con message.

So now it's up to the parties of the left to sort themselves out, to have some sort of joint agreement in place by the next election if not a full merger. And like the right, they need to start employing "political entrepreneurs" and to approach elections like ad campaigns rather than political campaigns. They need a focused message and they need to win back those main stream centrists who once upon a time saw the Liberal Party as the entity best able to look after their best interests.

As I said on the eve of election 41, we are witnessing the birth of a new Canada. And with that, comes a new model for fighting elections and governing the country. It is a decidedly  unpleasant affair, but it is hoped, at least from this corner, that our love of civil rights, equality and progressiveness does not become irrevocably lost in the process.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Dawn of a New Canada

Well it's election's eve day. The final few hours before the country has a chance to vote in this all important election.

I think I've made it pretty clear what my position is regarding this election. In fact, in the many months leading up to May 2nd's vote, I've been quite outspoken. I haven't liked what I've seen and I've said so quite emphatically.

I hope that my political railings have not fallen entirely on deaf ears. I don't get many page views, but it's enough for me. I would be happy to know that I've caused at least one citizen to stop and think about the issues that have plagued our government for the past five years.

I also hope that my incessant ranting hasn't pushed anyone in the other direction. That's the danger of being outspoken I think. You run the risk of alienating folks and turning them off. You start to sound like an obsessive lunatic.

But if not through me, I hope via some other avenue, that more Canadians are paying attention to the issues that are at play regarding our country and it's social and political future.

Surprisingly, the Globe and Mail, which supports the Conservatives, published an op ed today by independent journalist Bruce Anderson entitled: How This Unnecessary Election Has Changed Canada For the Better. In it, Mr. Anderson makes some compelling arguments as to the good that has come from this election. He contends there are five primary positive effects: 

1) The Bloc Quebecois have been hugely destabilized by the surging NDP, something that can be seen as good for Canada as a unified entity. 

2) The relatively positive nature of the NDP campaign (as opposed to the Tories and the Grits) which instead of speaking to what should not happen, speaks rather about the positive things that CAN happen with a conscientious government in place. This is in stark contrast to the negative messages  and attack adds that have proliferated this campaign otherwise. And people like it.

3) Canada's youth are becoming engaged in the political process again. Like the youth of the 60s and 70s, today's young people have the ability to prove that they can be game changers. All they have to do is vote. Their collective voices can be heard.

4) A national debate on our priorities is occurring. Is it Corporate tax breaks?  The Health Care system? Or education? All very important issues. And Canadians have been talking about them.

5) The stark reality has come to light that if the parties of the center-left want to have a positive effect on Canada's future, they must consider merger. The Liberals can no longer claim themselves to be the "natural governing party" nor can the NDP claim to be the natural choice of the center-left. If they hope to effectively battle their natural rivals in the future, the far right conservatives, they must learn how to function together.

The point here good Canadians, is that this IS a very pivotal election. The face of our democracy may be forever altered as a result. We could see our first NDP government federally. We could see our first coalition government. Or, we could see constitutional wranglings like never before seen. Come the final tallying of the votes on May 2nd, it's not over. The result will be but the beginning of something very transformational. Where are we going as a country? What are our priorities? What will our democracy look like? And more importantly, will our country continue to be as socially focused as it once was?

So despite the political nattering and smearing, this has been a hugely philosophical campaign, loosely based on the core ideals of the political left and right. And it has been a very passionate campaign as illustrated by the myriad acts of vandalism, fear mongering, slandering, suppression of the press  and overt hate-speech. Not to mention the home stretch surge by the NDP and the huge participation from the social media.  Many many Canadians have very strong feelings about this election, like none in recent memory. So when the dawn emerges on May 3rd, we could be witnessing the birth of a very different Canada.

So if you want to have a say in what out country will look like come Tuesday, get out there and vote on Monday. Make a difference. As Gandhi said "be the change you want to see in the world".