a good day to vote

There was an urgency about voting this time, because Canada appears to be losing its democratic tradition.

The Conservatives gained a majority in 2011 partly through widespread cheating, and followed that up with their oddly named Free Elections Act. Initially under the Fair Elections Act, the civil service would lose control of the polling stations. Voting was to be administered by the party that won the riding in the previous election.

Just imagine the regions under Conservative jurisdiction: hard men stationed at the entrance doors, to glad-hand supporters and give the bum’s rush to undesirables. Determined folk do get through, and deposit their ballots in the box marked Harper Government. Under the new order though, it matters not who votes, but who counts the vote. The shredder in the back room soon destroys the evidence.

Saturday I found long lineups in the little elementary school holding the advance polls for the neighbourhood. Apparently the turnout was much higher than in the past, so only the minimal number of elections personnel was hired.

None of those waiting seemed to care much.  The situation appeared achingly normal; it felt good to see the Elections Canada signs.

An important section of the Fair Elections Act that was enacted though, the disallowing of vouching for identification requirements, strikes at those who’ve fallen through the cracks. One person might have just moved, another had his wallet stolen, someone’s house burned down–there’s a multitude of possibilities, and apparently as many as one percent of Canadians used the vouching system in past years.

According to Mel Hurtig’s The Arrogant Autocrat, “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.” The turning away of only a few voters in these hot spots might prove decisive: if so, an ugly triumph, attained by screwing citizens out of their rights.

Recently Canadian celebrities like Donald Sutherland and Pamela Anderson have complained that they can’t vote either. Last July 20, the government won a victory in Ontario’s Court of Appeal, stripping voting rights from Canadians who’ve lived outside the country over five years. Canada would not exist but for the brave hearts who left Europe for years at a time, to sail around and discover new lands, and it seems unfair for the homebodies to strip the more adventurous types of their vote.

The traditional Conservative refrain, “government should not play favourites, let the market decide,” has been abandoned by the current bunch, as they’ve put the government’s whole weight behind Alberta’s tar sands. As a result, the economy is much less diversified. So on the one hand they kill off job opportunities in the homeland, and on the other hand they strip the voting rights from those who leave.

Add up all the gimmicking and gerrymandering in this desperate attempt to pull off another victory, and you can see the Conservative strategy in a nutshell: transform Canada into a backward land like Zimbabwe, which holds regular elections, but where the incumbent leader, Robert Mugabe/Stephen Harper, always wins.

Canadian heroine, Elizabeth May

According to the media Elizabeth May’s mishap at this year’s press gallery dinner, giving a speech while impaired, was a disaster that would finish her.

My guess is, one of the other guests slipped something into her drink. Tricks like this have been used since the time of the pharaohs, and drugs are everywhere these days.

In taking the leadership of Canada’s Green party, May challenged very powerful forces. The billionaire Koch brothers are currently enlisting other billionaires with the aim of controlling the coming U.S. elections. Oil money is active in Canada too, and it backs the Harper government.

May cannot expect fair play in this battle, any more than David did when facing Goliath, or Batman in struggling with the Joker. Her opponent acknowledges no rules, and its only intention is to win.

Today’s contest differs from previous wars and showdowns in that the stakes involve the health of the entire world. No matter how much the octogenarians and their minions huff and puff, the age of oil is drawing to a close. Clean energy¬† sources must be brought in, for the sake of humanity’s survival.

May’s performance in the first debate, held by Maclean’s Magazine, was stellar. After she threatened Stephen Harper’s dominance though, the hosts cut her from the following two debates.

A lesser person than Elizabeth May would be crushed by this sort of exclusion. The use of Twitter to maintain her presence is ingenious, and highly commendable.

The second debate, hosted by the Globe and Mail, focused on the economy. Like Tom Mulcair’s NDP, May favours raising taxes on the large corporations. The present 15% corporate income tax rate, brought in by Stephen Harper, allows top executives, directors and major stock holders to do extremely well. But the millions funneled to the few means decreased funds for Canada’s schools, health care and infrastructure.

This difference in tax policy is one more example of the great divide between the ruling Conservatives and the parties looking to replace them. The Harper government has abandoned any pretense of serving the Canadian people, and mention of the “common good” is not in its vocabulary.

The coming national elections will see a real turning point, as Canadians decide whether they want to continue with democracy, and having a voice in their own government, or whether they are more comfortable with an old world style autocracy, and a stratified class system.

However things go this October, Elizabeth May will sail through; a true Canadian heroine, she saw the menacing dead hand for what it is, and refused to let it drag her down.

 

 

 

the fight for Canada’s soul, continued

The Munk debate was to concentrate on foreign policy. Women often experience the most profound consequences of foreign policy decisions, and it felt strange to have Elizabeth May squeezed out.

The NDP takes a strong stand against Bill C-51, and May has said too that the legislation makes Canadians less free and less safe. Stephen Harper’s inner circle constantly refers to Canadian environmentalists as terrorists, and it’s logical to suspect the government wants dissidents to simply disappear, as often happened in the South American dictatorships.

At the same time the Harper government manufactures fear of Islamists, it ignores dangers that menace everyone in the country. It’s well known that thousands die miserably every year from infections picked up in hospital. Last January the National Post ran an expose of something perhaps even worse: Canada’s secret world of medical error. Apparently as many as 23,000 Canadians die every year because of preventable adverse effects in acute-care hospitals alone. “For most serious treatment gaffes, not even the sparsest of details is revealed, making the vast problem all but invisible.”

During four years of majority rule the Harper government failed to address these serious problems faced by real Canadians on a daily basis. Now the government mounts a cynical scam, trying to make people believe terrorists are hiding under their beds. According to Conservatives the country is in such dire straits the police and courts cannot deal with the situation; habeas corpus needs to be suspended, and suspects dealt with in secret by unaccountable tribunals. It’s pure nonsense.

Justin Trudeau’s support for Bill C-51 might be an indication he takes after his mother more than his father. Pierre Trudeau understood the implications of the country’s collapsing birth rate; also he despised bigotry, and in one of his essays he speaks of the “continuing revolution,” which will occur when immigrants arrive from all over the world, bringing their cultures with them. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a powerful support for an individualistic society, where people can grow, evolve and learn to think on their own in freedom.

At one point, Justin Trudeau makes casual reference to the “Five Eyes,” as if this espionage partnership is totally normal for him. Does Trudeau believe Canada is a great nation in its own right? Would he welcome a reconstitution of the British Empire, under the U.S. flag?

In looking at foreign aid, both Trudeau and Mulcair questioned Harper’s refusal to include family planning and safe abortion in the African maternal health initiative. When Michaelle Jean was Governor General, she addressed the Congolese parliament and condemned the widespread rape of women in African war zones. This ugly situation is not something for men to decide on among themselves, and it does not speak well for the Munks that May’s voice was missing from the discussion.

Elizabeth May has the capacity to work well with others. If Canada forms a coalition government this October, similar to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and most of Europe, the Green party can play an important part.