Laurel L. Russwurm

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Posts Tagged ‘minority government

Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 3 of 3

with 6 comments

PART 3 of 3

NOTE: I’ve broken the original gigantic “Canada, we have a Prorogue” article into 3 more manageable segments with no additions,
EXCEPT I’ve added postal mail addresses after email addresses at the bottom of this one.
So if you read the long version, you will have already read this.

Alternating Parties

In the Post-Trudeau world, the two “alternating ruling parties’” candidates began to merge into an indistinguishable gray mass.   Possibly in atonement for the long years of Trudeau rule, the Canadian Liberal party started getting more like the Conservative Party.   And of course, the “Conservative” Party was actually calling themselves the “Progressive Conservative” Party so they wouldn’t sound so anti-progress… The ideologies between these two parties especially became so fluid that the Liberals and Conservatives SOP is to steal platforms from one another, or even from the weaker parties, like the NDP or the Greens.   Because in reality, the big parties aren’t really about ideology anymore.   The big Canadian political parties have one one overwhelming motive.   Their goal isn’t to govern.   It is to be re-elected.

And of course the easiest way to be elected is to have massive amounts of money so you can do a lot of advertising.   This strategy has helped to continue the tradition of alternating between Liberal and Conservative governments ruling the country.   It doesn’t matter to big business which of these parties is in charge, because both the the Liberal and Conservative parties represent corporate Canada.   Both parties are probably funded about equally by the large corporations doing business here.   It is far easier to raise election campaign funds from big fish corporations than it is from small fish citizens.   So of course both these parties have the largest advertising budget.

Conservative Party Logo and Liberal Party Logo

Always Elected but Never in Charge

My only union membership was my former membership in the former ACTRA Writer’s Guild (now the Writers Guild of Canada).   Although I think trade unions used to do a great deal of good, over time they have given the public more than enough reasons for disillusionment.   Many people assume that the NDP exists solely to represent unions.   I suspect they would garner more support if they made it clear that they didn’t.   From what I have seen the NDP is the only party that appears to represent Canadian citizens rather than corporations.   Of course, that may well change if they actually end up in power.   I’ve been reading a certain amount of Jack Layton bashing lately, and I’m not quite sure why, unless it is that many people are nervous when the NDP actually has some meaningful input.   For myself I’ve been happy to see that the NDP has recently been championing net neutrality issues.   Overall though, some NDP governments have done very well indeed while others have not.   I suspect it depends on the individuals involved.   As far as I can see, the NDP has done a lot of good for people, usually during minority governments.

Of course, a lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction to words like “socialist”, and that’s another reason the NDP has trouble getting votes.   Socialism is like communism, right?

For myself as a citizen I certainly enjoy socialist initiatives like universal health care.   Canada enjoys universal health care thanks to Tommy Douglas, former Saskatchewan Premier, who went federal when his Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) merged with the Canadian Labour Congress forming the New Democratic Party (NDP).   (Of course Douglas’ other great claim to fame is being Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather.)

No wonder the Conservative and Liberal parties have done a lousy job maintaining universal health care.   It was after all forced on them, so in a way I’m surprised that it still exists at all, even in its current weakened state.   Left to their own devices, Canadian medicare would never have happened at all, and the alternating parties know they can’t actively dismantle our healthcare system, but they can let it decay…   Certainly these two pro-business political parties must be under extreme pressure from the business world to privatize health care, particularly now that the United States is threatening to follow the Canadian health care lead.

Bloc Party Logo and NDP Party Logo

Almost all new Canadian political parties begin as a single issue parties.   People come together to address a single specific political aim.

The Bloc Québécois started with the intent to foster the separation of the Province of Quebec from the rest of Canada.   Interestingly enough, a lot of anglophone Canadians are suggesting a coalition government might work with the Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe at the head.

Gilles Duceppe has generated a great deal of respect in English Canada.   Which begs the question: if Canada had a Bloc Prime Minister, would Quebec still want to separate?

No Seats…. YET

The Green Party of Canada began with the single plank of environmental care.   When they first set up shop all their other policies seemed cloned from the conservative agenda.   Over the years they have in fact been quietly crafting their own platform so they are no longer simply conservatives with an environmental bent.   Like Duceppe in the Bloc, the Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been building a very good reputation.

If Canada had proportional representation, the Green Party would have at least several seats in parliament.   Instead, they have none at all, since the “first past the post” system we are currently stuck with favors the two biggest parties, the Liberals and Conservatives.   Is it any wonder they aren’t embracing electoral reform?   That is the last thing they want.

Green Party Logo and Pirate Party Logo

Another party I’ve had my eye on is the fledgling Pirate Party of Canada.   Probably the youngest political party in Canada, not just in terms of length of existence but in the age of its membership.   Like the European Pirate Party they no doubt hope to emulate, their stated intent is to “to reform Canadian copyright laws, reform the patent system, and protect every Canadian’s right to privacy”   These are big issues among the world’s youth who rightfully resent the fact that they are being criminalized for personal use of copyright material.

To illustrate the legitimate uses of internet file sharing as a way for artists to promote and distribute their work the Pirate Party established the Canadian Pirate Tracker.   Unfortunately they’ve not done much since that I’ve seen.   I’m not quite sure if it’s because they are being hampered by the undoubtedly mind-numbing red tape required in setting up a Canadian political party or if it is just because they haven’t yet sorted themselves out as a group, but I would have expected them to have made a submission to the Canadian Copyright Consultation, as copyright law reform is the main plank in their platform.   I’m surprised they haven’t recruited or at least solicited advice and strategy direction from copyright experts like Russell McOrmond, Howard Knopf, Michael Geist and Cory Doctorow.   Or maybe they think these copyright heavyweights are too old to be trusted.  

Still, times like this when serious voter frustration is rampant are the ideal time to get the word out and build a base following.   It’s certainly have been a good time to get visible.   Yet I haven’t heard a peep from the Pirate Party through the entire prorogue debacle. If the Pirate Party doesn’t DO something soon they’ll just fall through the cracks. Which would be too bad.

Voter Apathy

Canadians have become increasingly frustrated with our politicians.   Many Canadians proclaim that they don’t vote, almost as if it was a badge of honor.   And in fact far too many Canadians don’t bother.   I certainly don’t blame them, because I’ve felt the frustration myself.

It irritates me that after every election there is invariably at least one newspaper editorial chastising those who haven’t gone out to vote.   Because even though I think that voting is necessary, I can well understand why so many Canadian people don’t vote.

It sounds like no one is listening.

For many years it seemed to me that there wasn’t even anyone to vote for if I voted “against”.   But as more and more citizens refrain from voting, the worse it gets.   A spoiled vote doesn’t count.   Apparently a Declined votes count at Provincial levels, but since nobody knows what it means it may as well not count.

There doesn’t seem to be anything we can do.   But it is clear that we can’t just leave it to them.

What Canadians really need is electoral reform

There was a time when I had hopes for a political party.

political party campaign button

The National Party of Canada

In 1993 bookseller, nationalist and creator of the Canadian Encyclopedia, the incredible Mel Hurtig launched the National Party of Canada in 1993.   The National Party ran candidates ran in every riding cross Canada that year with a platform in opposition to the Progressive Conservative party initiatives including the Canada/U.S. free trade agreement, privatization, the GST and other initiatives.

To me, the National Party sounded like exactly what Canada needed.   Instead of electing any National Party candidates, however, Canadians simply gave the “alternate” Liberal Party a resounding 177 of 295 House of Commons seats.

So yes, Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative party was crushed, but in reality it didn’t really make much difference to Canadians, because we did what we always seem to do: we put the Liberal alternate party back in power.   And funny, it took a little time, but turns out that the Progressive Conservatives had to reinvent themselves but they are STILL the other “alternate party”.   Canadians are forgiving, or maybe just forgetful.

NO NON Prorogue

The Point

And of course that is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is counting on.   He thinks that the worst consequence he’ll have to face is the resumption of business as usual.   But in the interim he’ll have had a nice vacation at the Olympics and maybe even a bit of a tan.

Canada has been deeply wounded by this recession.   The fact that our Prime Minister would be so self serving as to flush a year of his own government’s work in order to avoid responsibility for his actions is not sitting well with Canadians.   A government led by someone who can’t comprehend what it is like to be an ordinary Canadian has not helped.   Doesn’t Prime Minister Stephen Harper know who paid for this work, not to mention all those government salaries?   Canadians have been struggling to put food on the table for our families and he thinks wasting our money is acceptable?

I don’t have any magic answers.   I do have some ideas.   At the very least, Canada needs electoral reform.   Since I’m running long (even for me), I’ll reserve my thoughts on reformation for my next blog post.

What Can Canadians Do?

All across Canada there are non-partisan “Say No to Prorogue” rallies being organized for January 23rd. Check the
No Prorogue!
website to find out what is happening in your area. The sight of our warm bodies huddled out in the cold will no doubt do the most to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper just how angry Canadians really are. Dress warm and get out there. Bring flags if you’ve got them!

[Many thanks to Colin Carmichael for providing Canadians of every political persuasion this excellent outlet.]

And as always you can start by sending Email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.   Did you know you can send him snail mail without a stamp?   I’m actually surprised that that one is still on the books but it is true, Canada Post will carry all Canadian mail to our elected representatives gratis.
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

…oh wait, what am I thinking! I guess he isn’t likely to be there!
Best send it to his Constituency address:

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

They actually give more weight to snail mail than email.   Maybe because it’s more work: we have to physically go out and mail a snail mail letter.

As always, send a copy to your own Member of Parliament.

Find your MP with this lovely link that will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know.
Find your Member of Parliament

Globe and Mail: Prorogation only a blip on ‘Richter scale of upset,’ Clement says

Seems Canadians need to tell Tony Clement what we really think.   Maybe if enough of us do, he will finally hear us.   The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B., Minister of Industry

The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
44A King William Street
Huntsville, Ontario
P1H 1G3

OR
The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
126 Kimberley Avenue, Unit 1
Bracebridge, Ontario
P1L 1Z9

OR
The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
17 James Street
Parry Sound, Ontario
P2A 1T4

Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get some information about the idea of electoral reform.  

ThunderBay "Say No to ProRogue" poster - Parliament buildings with

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Back to Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 2 of 3   Back Navigational Arrow

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Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 2 of 3

with 3 comments

PART 2 of 3

NOTE: I’ve broken the original gigantic “Canada, we have a Prorogue” article into 3 more manageable segments with no additions
So if you read the long version, you will have already read this.

My take on Canadian politics

I first became aware of politics during the Trudeau era.

Our dashing PM with John and Yoko

Pierre Elliot Trudeau was undoubtedly Canada’s most dashing Prime Minister.   And although almost unheard of in politics, Trudeau was SINGLE.   A suave and sophisticated bachelor– heck he even dated my favorite movie star diva Barbra Streisand!

Checking out Trudeau’s biography on Wikipedia just now, I am aghast to discover that he was much older than my Dad.   I guess our own parents always seem old.

High School

A lot of who we are begins in high school.   Now, I have always felt mathematically challenged and I’m quite sure the introduction of the metric system while I was in school didn’t help matters any.   Which isn’t to say that introducing the metric system wasn’t a good thing for Canada.

In order to survive high school math I didn’t even pretend to convert.

Memorize:
20 degrees Celsius = 70 degrees Fahrenheit = no coat

Let me tell you that I credit my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Ziegel, for helping me learn how to think for myself in his grade ten history class.   I grew up in a large family, and you better believe it, with six siblings you learn how to argue if you want to survive.   So going in I thought I knew how to hold my own and make a point; because after all arguing was practically an Olympic event at home.

The best teacher I ever had.

But Wayne Ziegel was a master.

He quite often argued points that I am sure he didn’t believe in order to make us think.   I don’t know if it worked for anybody else, but he certainly forced me to think.

Mr. Ziegel’s devil’s advocacy both infuriated me and challenged my perceptions.

  • Why did I think what I thought?
  • Did I understand or,
  • did I just think what my parents thought?
  • Did I have facts?
  • Could I back them up?
  • Did I really know?
  • Was I just parroting what I had heard?
  • How did I reach these conclusions?
  • Did I use logic?
  • Or guesswork?

At the time I don’t think I entirely understood what was happening.   But I knew it was important.   I made a point of taking every class he taught for the remainder of my high school sojourn.   I’ve had other good teachers in my life but none that could touch him.   Thank you Mr. Z.

Mr. Ziegel made the prediction to our history class that gas prices would reach $2.00 a gallon by the year 2000.   This “wild prediction” made everyone think Mr. Ziegel had lost his mind.

This was after all the enlightened 1970’s.   There was no way anything that insane would ever happen.   After all, Canada had our own oil fields.   Yet since that time Canadian gasoline prices have exceeded one dollar a litre.   Which converts to something in the neighborhood of four dollars a gallon.   So as it turns out, Mr. Ziegel’s prediction actually turned out to be terribly conservative.

Gas Pump 2005

2005 Gas Prices: $1.19 per litre

You may well be asking: high school?   The metric system?   Is this a digression or what?

And I’d have to say no, not entirely.

One of Prime Minister Trudeau’s majority governments forcibly implemented the metric system on Canada.   Although the metric system is rational, our largest trading partner — the United States — was not on the metric system.   (Of course they weren’t using the imperial system either, heck, I’m not sure what the American system is called.)

Canadians were not pleased.   Not pleased at all.   This was imposed on the country without any consultation.   What recourse to Canadians have against a majority government?   Uh, none actually.   Our only option is to vote against next chance we get.

So what happened?   Trudeau was voted out and Joe Clark in.   Sadly Clark’s minority government only lasted a couple of months before a non-confidence vote triggered an election.   During the campaign I remember Prime Minister Joe Clark warning Canadians that if Trudeau was re-elected, gas prices would rise by an extraordinary amount.   And Trudeau countered with the promise that gas prices would not go up as much as Clark said.   Naturally Canadians re-elected Trudeau with another majority government.   Of course, Trudeau actually kept his promise because gas prices didn’t hit the high promised by Clark.   Gas prices actually went much much higher.

The Trudeau Legacy

Gas Station Sandwich Board: $136.9

2005 Gas Prices: $1.36.9 per litre

But even so we still didn’t really get it.

What we saw was that the big number on the gas station that used to be seventy cents was now only twenty cents.   What didn’t really sink in was that twenty cents a liter really meant eighty cents a gallon.   Because the real reason we got the metric system was so that adult Canadians who weren’t adept at conversion (aka, everybody) would not really understand that gas prices were actually going up so much.

Prime Minister Trudeau certainly had chutzpa, as well as being the most intelligent man to hold the Canadian office of Prime Minister.   Even worse, he wasn’t just intelligent, he was smart.   And yes, he did some good things for Canada, but still, I will never forgive him for realizing that under our electoral system a majority government is essentially a dictatorship with a time limit.   Even worse, for making that fact crystal clear to all his less brilliant contemporaries.

Is it any wonder Canada has been poorly served by succeeding governments?

My political “awakening” happened in high school, thanks to Mr. Ziegel as well and other fine history teachers our school had.   They taught us we could make a difference.   I remember writing a letter to my MP Perrin Beatty and being totally amazed at a telephone call I received in response.   But that was then.   The Progressive Conservatives were the out of power “alternate party” so of course they were approachable.

Like many other Canadians, I have been increasingly disappointed in our governments.

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