Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 3 of 3

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.

2008 photo of Kiefer Sutherland
Tommy Douglas' grandson Kiefer

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 <>

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

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

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

Back to Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 1 of 3   Back Navigational Arrow

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

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6 thoughts on “Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 3 of 3

  1. Hrm… my issue with MMP is that it effectively guarantees those extra seats to party members as opposed to independents. I would hope that any electoral system we use wouldn’t deepen that effect. But still, better than FPTP.

  2. I’m 100% for electoral reform, but I’m skeptical of what can be done from the top-down. Take BC as a prime example. Without widespread public support, BC-STV failed miserably. Instead, I think we’re better served by raising people’s expectations of what voting means. I made a small web app ( ) that demonstrates how more expressive ballots might work (specifically, it implements Schulze STV).

    I’d hope that once people get used to expressing more than just their top preference, they might look upon government FPTP ballots as restrictive. Until the majority of people are behind that notion, I’m skeptical of how far any approach might go, y’know?

    • I hear what you’re saying. The Ontario MMP tanked as well, as much as anything I suspect because people didn’t understand it. Of course it had an impossible time limit. As I understand it they had to get the process figured out and the campaign up and running from scratch in a matter of months. And of course now the Provincial government can say they asked but Ontarians didn’t want electoral reform.

      I realize change won’t happen instantly, but I the first step is for Canadians to become engaged in the process. Every voter needs to be out voting. I hate to say this, but we can thank our Prime Minister Harper for starting the dialogue. A good starting place is the non-partisan Fair Vote Canada site. They’re looking to set up branches cross country.

      And the rallies should be amazing!

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