"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Sunday, December 9, 2012

So When Will Canada Elect it's First Female Prime Minister?

Canada is slowly waking up to the fact that women can make very good politicians. And why shouldn't they? Out side of the fact that Canadian politics has been until now, seen as a combination blood sport and gentleman's club, there is absolutely no reason why a woman couldn't be every bit as effective as a man in the political arena. In fact, the lack of testosterone induced combativeness may be a decided advantage, especially when Canadians are desperately seeking a return to a more collaborative Parliamentary Democracy as opposed to the hyper-tribal Harper Autocracy we currently have. 

There are currently a record 76 women sitting as MPs in our 308 seat House of Commons. That's an average of about 25% as opposed to the United States that has 72 women currently sitting in it's 435 seat House of Representatives. That's 17% by comparison. In addition, there are  5 women Premiers in Canada, or roughly 38%. There are only 7 women Governors in the United States for an average of about 13%. It seems Canada has a slight edge in the area of gender equality in the political arena. That's not to say though that the U.S. is less open minded. America came with in a hair's breadth of nominating Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Representative in it's 2008 election and there is every reason to believe she could have won the whole damn thing. 

Kim Campbell. First Female
Prime Minister In Canada
While not elected, Canada briefly had a woman Prime Minister in 1993 when Brian Mulroney resigned. Kim Campbell was anointed leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and served as Prime Minister for six months.  Campbell was a well respected cabinet Minister in the Mulroney Government and held such posts as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Minister of Defense  All very high-profile positions. So Ms. Campbell was indeed, an extremely qualified and effective politician. However, taking the reins of the Progressive Conservative Party and leading them into a Federal Election, hard on the heels of the Mulroney years was tantamount to being made the captain of the Titanic after it hit the ice berg... and the band had stopped playing. So as with Ms. Clinton in the states, circumstances dictated that North America would not see it's first elected female head of state. 
Elizabeth May
Parliamentarian of
The Year

Today, there is a plethora of highly qualified and dedicated women in Canadian politics. I would have to say that first among them would be Elizabeth May who just recently was voted Parliamentarian of the year by her peers. That recognition speaks volumes. Ms. May is without a doubt, one of the hardest working MPs in Ottawa today. She is a prolific writer and researcher and as leader of her party, she has gained the reputation as being very vocal in the House (in a productive way as opposed to the usual "Rah-Rah" party rhetoric). Unlike most MPs, she attends the House almost daily. She considers it her job and her duty. 

In opposition to the destructive and anti-democratic bill C-38, May collaborated with the other parties in opposition to craft hundreds of amendments to that disastrous bill and subsequently participated in the marathon voting session that followed. And as she is the only elected member of her party, May sat through the entire affair. 

May also demonstrates her collaborative nature by openly and actively advocating for cooperation (as opposed to merger) among the parties in opposition so as to overcome the obstacle of vote splitting- there by deposing the Harper Autocracy and setting the stage for electoral reform. This plan is seen as a remedy to our "first past the post"  electoral system which Harper skillfully manipulated and was able to turn slightly more than 38% of the popular vote into a rather questionable majority government. But alas, as Ms. May is leader of the distant fourth place Green Party, she has zero hope of ever becoming Prime Minister unless she is prepared to jump ship and change her knickers from Green to either orange or red. Unless of course, Canada decides to do away with Political Parties all together, but that is another story.
Joyce Murray. A
Collaborative Strategy
For Electoral Reform.

Elizabeth May is not the only woman talking about inter-party collaboration as a means to electoral reform. Liberal Party leadership hopeful Joyce Murray is also advocating for this process which seems to be gaining some grass-roots support. Recent NDP leadership hopeful and current House leader Nathan Cullen has also advocated for opposition party cooperation in bringing about electoral reform. 
Martha Hall Findlay
Campaigned on issues
Near and Dear to
Canadian's Hearts.

But alas, Ms. Murray is a dark-horse candidate for the Liberal Leadership which seems hell-bent on bestowing the crown upon Justin Trudeau. But who knows, perhaps if Mr. Trudeau continues to shoot himself in the foot every few days, Murray and her vision might actually have a shot. But Joyce Murray is not the only woman contending for the Liberal Leadership. Successful entrepreneur and 2006 leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay is also  vying for the Liberal top spot. In her first quest for leadership, Hall Findlay was an ambitious campaigner who formed her platform around the environment and health care, things that are still near and dear to the heart of many Canadians, especially health care. 
Nycole Turmel
Held a rookie NDP caucus
together after Layton's passing

And leave us not forget that in the wake of Jack Layton's tragic passing, Nycole Turmel was given unanimous support by the NDP caucus as interim party leader until Layton's successor could be chosen. As such, Ms. Turmel sat as the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition for seven months preceding Thomas Mulcair's election as party leader. During her brief tenure as interim leader, Turmel showed a steady hand in guiding the largely rookie NDP caucus and forming them into a coherent opposition party. She now serves as "Party Whip" in the House. 

As I mentioned in a previous article, Alberta Premier Alison Redford has demonstrated a decidedly collaborative approach in dealing with the other provinces (with the exception of B.C.s Christy Clark who is attempting to make political hay on the strength of her animosity for Redford). Thus, she is gaining supporters outside of Alberta's boundaries and could one day, restore the "P" (for progressive) to the Federal Conservative Party. It says here, Ms. Redford has a better than reasonable shot at replacing Harper once the severely  "whipped" CPC caucus has decided they have had enough of the Harper Autocracy and the Harper-Youth in the PMO. Being outside of the Federal caucus, Redford would seem a logical leader of a palace revolt. 

Alison Redford has proven the
ability to be able to stand
Toe to Toe with Harper, yet
plays well with others.
So it seems that there is quite a number of extremely strong and qualified ladies well suited to being Canada's first elected Woman Prime Minister. These are all  women who have demonstrated leadership, a collaborative approach and a strong vision for Canada, not just enthusiastic  support for the ruling elite. The only thing that seems to be standing in their way is the traditional party system which tends to favour men, and the support of the Canadian electorate. 2015 may or may not be the breakthrough year for Canadian women, but it is coming soon and it could well be a decisive factor in finally overhauling our electoral system and ultimately salvaging our devastated democratic system of government.  

Canadian Women Parliamentarians
In front of the Centre Block. In support
Of International Women's day, March 2010.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Link Between Mike Harris's Common Sense De-Evolution and the Harper Regime

Mike Harris, author of the
Common Sense De-evolution
Those of us living in Ontario remember well the Mike Harris "Common Sense Revolution". It came hard on the heals of the Bob Rae years.

 Rae was Ontario's first and only NDP Premier and is remembered only for his wildly unpopular "Rae Days" which forced thousands of public sector workers to take unpaid days off in an effort to attack the Ontario deficit. Rae was soundly criticized by his power-base- organized labour- and the millions of Ontarians who were effected by this restriction in services. I myself have terribly painful memories of it's impact when my then pregnant wife was experiencing complications and needed to get an emergency ultra-sound and couldn't because all the technicians were on a "Rae Day". But while Rae became unpopular for this move, it saved many public service jobs, in contrast to the Federal Conservatives slash and burn strategy regarding public servants. 

So when Mike Harris came along, waving his blue book that seemed to contain all of the answers to all of our problems, the majority of Ontario voters were quick to jump on board. Harris presented himself as a grass-roots kind of guy with a down to earth kind of logic that backed his 'revolution". He was the "anti-Rae", the antithesis of what was commonly believed to be the usual "entitled" political elite. (not unlike Toronto's Rob Ford today). 

But Harris's "Common Sense" approach was to attack the public services in a way that was down right blood-thirsty. He slashed Welfare and bade recipients purchase dented 69 cent cans of tuna. He cut health care, closed hospitals and John Snobelen's  "useful" artificially created crisis in Education resulted in two teacher's strikes. And Harris closed his ears, stayed his disastrous course and refused to acknowledge the growing criticism and upheaval in Ontario. He had an agenda and he intended to see it through. The horrendous impact these policies had on the province are still being felt today, ten tears after Harris has left the political stage. Despite his so-called grass-roots common sense, Harris was no friend of the common man. 

But there is a direct connection between Mike Harris's "Rule-By-Sledgehammer" government and Stephen Harper's "Shock and Awe" reign of terror. The most obvious connection occurs when we take a peek inside the Harper Cabinet. 

Flaherty's Budgets
 are "Killers"
Right off the top, there is Jim Flaherty who was Harris's Minister of Finance. Flaherty has been Harper's one and only Minister of finance during his six years as Prime Minister. It was under Flaherty's watch and as a result of Flaherty's attacks on the public service that seven people died in Walkerton of an outbreak of E-Coli. Under his guidance as the Federal Finance Minister, there has been similar out breaks of E-Coli and Listeriosis at Canadian meat packing plants. Coincidence?

Tony "The Gazebo
Under Mike Harris, Tony Clement was the Minister of Health as hospitals were being closed and  people were dying in Walkerton. With Stephen Harper, Clement took on the same cabinet position which he held until he became known as "Tony Gazebo" due to siphoning off  millions of dollars of Tax-payers money for the beautification of his riding in anticipation of a scheduled G7 summit. Clement has since become the President of the Treasury Board and is Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's chief adversary in the PBO's quest for Government accountability and transparency. 

Bombastic Baird never learned
to use his "indoor voice"
Then there's "Bull-Dog" John Baird, perhaps one of the biggest blow-hards in the history of Canadian Politics. Baird is well known for his rabid partisan "attack-dog" style in Parliament and having never mastered the art of the "indoor voice". Baird has held several different portfolios in the Harper Government and has left bloody fingerprints on each one. But Bellicose Baird was also a "Harrisite", serving in various cabinet positions in Ontario as well, most notably as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services which saw a vicious attack on Ontario's poorest and most vulnerable citizens. 

Bob Runciman
The personification of all
that is wrong with the Senate.
Another ex-Harris accomplice  Bob Runciman, who was the Ontario Minister of Justice, couldn't win a seat in his federal riding so Harper tossed him into the Senate. He has since become a hyper-partisan "Rah-Rah" Harpercondriac in what is supposed to be the house of sober second thought. He has done little since then to advance the cause of the Red Chamber's continued existence and has in fact, been the personification of all that is wrong with the Senate. 

Another little known connection between the two regimes, is that from 1997 to 2002, which was the majority of the Harris years, Stephen Harper was president of the uber-right leaning and highly secretive National Citizens Coalition. The Ontario arm of the NCC, Ontarians for Responsible Government were major backers of the Common Sense Revolution. But due to their highly secretive nature, it is impossible to know to what extent Harper and his connections had in funding and influencing Harris's agenda. 

Harris the Fraser Fellow
Since leaving politics, Harris, along with former Harper accomplice Preston Manning, have both become Senior Fellows at the Fraser Institute, the right-leaning think-tank that has major influence on current federal Government policy. So Harris might be gone from Government, but he is still influencing events in our country. 

Harper won his recent Majority on the strength of heavy campaigning in key Ontario swing ridings. In 2015, he will likely duplicate this strategy. He needs Ontario to win.  So when Canada goes to the polls in the next federal election, Ontarians would do well to remember the painful legacy of Mike Harris because he and Stephen Harper are not only cut from the same cloth, they are also well connected and Stephen the Terrible is merely duplicating Harris's agenda only on a national level. 

Yes, and little "Timmy the Terrible"
was also there.

Harper and Harris. 
A 2008 meeting of the 
criminal minds.