the times they are a-changin’

Saturday, August 8, 2015 was the NDP’s National Day of Action, and I joined the Chilliwack contingent that morning in the Safeway parking lot. Only fifteen or so were present, and most seemed to know what they were doing. Seonaigh MacPherson, our candidate, said hello and took a moment to chat. She has a relaxed, direct demeanour, and I liked her very much.

After some initial paperwork, the team went out canvassing. I was put with two experienced men, and we drove a few blocks to a neighbourhood of detached houses with well-tended grounds.             Continue reading the times they are a-changin’

democracy under siege

Ross Perot’s warning to the U.S. over NAFTA, that there’d be a “giant sucking sound” as jobs moved to lower-wage areas, proved to be an understatement.

The outsourcing stories were covered quite thoroughly by the media; as a Business Week subscriber, I learned that not only blue collar jobs and telephone call centers were involved. Architects, engineers and computer experts were also cheaper overseas. During this period, executive compensation went through the roof. Globalization and tax breaks for the rich created class distinctions reminiscent of old Europe.

In 2010 the Supreme Court passed the Citizens United bill, which upheld the right of free speech for corporations. This opened the flood gates for campaign donations, and America’s billionaires assumed a new prominence. Today it’s virtually impossible for ordinary people to enter political life at the national level in the U.S. without being backed by these powerful sponsors.

Canada is highly dependent on the U.S. and the Americans are always a powerful influence. America’s move toward plutocracy has encouraged elements in this country to attack a way of life Canadians had come to take for granted. One of the most telling developments is the Harper government’s open mockery of Canada’s parliamentary system.

To my discredit, I’d been apolitical most of my life, and it wasn’t until my ’50s that a journalism course opened my eyes more to current events. However like most Canadians, I knew something of what our people went through to win democracy.

It’s a wondrous thing for people to have a voice in their own government, and every representative, from every part of this nation, is deserving of considerable respect. When they go to Ottawa they have a job to do, and it’s not for anyone on Earth to get in their way.

a man on a mission

As is well documented, Stephen Harper had a different plan. That he succeeded in trampling on Canada’s laws and revered traditions does not speak well for us.

One of the most shameful moments was when he prorogued parliament to shut down the investigation into the Afghan prisoners torture scandal. A respected Canadian diplomat had blown the whistle on this situation and Parliament had a duty to ensure it was handled properly.

Harper remained a couple of steps ahead, and he had more tricks up his sleeve. In 2011, because of his stubborn withholding of information, the Harper government was found in contempt of parliament.

The ensuing election gave Harper his hoped for majority. Most of Canada’s major newspapers had backed him, and the result was portrayed as a triumph and a vindication.

It was not until later that the Conservatives were found to have perpetrated a wide-spread “robocall” operation, in which non-conservative voters were phoned up and directed to the wrong voting place.

Recently Mel Hurtig’s The Arrogant Autocrat has presented a clearer picture of those times:

  1.  The 2011 election saw no resounding victory in terms of the popular vote. In 2008 the Conservatives won a minority government with 37.65% of the vote, and three years later they increased by 1.97 %. Their majority was achieved with 39.62%.
  2. Most interesting, “the 2011 majority government was decided by only 6201 votes spread across 14 swing ridings–ridings where the ‘winner’ was decided by a handful of votes.”

This data raises more questions about the robocall operation, and aids insight into the thinking behind the Fair Elections Act. If ridings are won by a mere handful of voters, major results can come from depriving people of their voting rights.

the basic Liberal weakness

As many have pointed out, the coming election is a stand on guard moment for those who love Canada. And today’s Liberals can’t cut it.

Justin Trudeau appears guided by his handlers’ evaluation of the latest public opinion polls. There’s a strong desire to get into power, but where are his principles?

For example: after the failure of Stephane Dion’s 2008 campaign, the Liberals dropped any mention of the green shift. But Dion’s setback was not an indication that his ideas were wrong. Dion encountered the same powerful resistance that Al Gore did in his 2000 race against George W. Bush.

Al Gore is one of the most gifted people ever to enter political life, and the popular vote showed him ahead in that election. Everything depended on the state of Florida, but in a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court halted the counting of the vote, and declared Bush the winner. This was one of the most amazing moments of our times.

Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth is well worth looking at, as he saw first-hand how the disinformation campaigns waged by the cigarette industry, were adapted by the fossil fuel companies. And he documents the aftermath, when Bush took power. Government scientists were censored, and a petroleum lobbyist was put in charge of environmental policy in the White House.

Dion is not the most persuasive communicator, and he may have been slightly ahead of his times. The Canadian people are not stupid though, and most want to avoid causing major damage to the environment. If the Liberals had been more patient and kept the green shift as part of their platform, they’d be on firmer ground today.

Different types of alternative energy providers are already here. To name a few: solar panels are commonplace now. So are the heat pumps that cool the house in the summer and warm in winter. My brother in law installed one that can draw heat from the outside air in sub zero temperatures. Reportedly the geothermal devices are even more efficient. Canada’s Ballard Power remains the world leader in hydrogen fuel cells. B.C.’s Westport Innovations developed natural gas diesel, and they’re also world wide. Railpower is gone from Canada now, but their hybrid diesel technology is still used for rubber tired gantries. Each one of these companies creates good jobs, whether it’s in engineering, manufacturing or installation.

Tom Mulcair’s NDP seems fully aware of the benefits these green energy companies bring to Canada, both today and as they grow and fulfill their promise, far into the future.

Albertans too are starting to realize the boom times are over, and they’re no different from the rest of Canada. The corporations are fast-tracking automation and in a few years even the largest of trucks will be self-driving, so it’s inevitable more jobs will be lost.

It’s disastrous for Canada to ship out so much raw material, whether it’s logs or bitumen. Factories, sawmills and refineries should be based in the homeland.

Canada needs a government that’s flexible, forward looking and able to protect people in changing times, over the long term. The NDP is the only viable option.