Tom Mulcair rally in Vancouver

Yesterday Tom Mulcair came to Vancouver for an NDP rally at the Jack Poole Plaza. Somehow I was put on the mailing list, despite having moved to Chilliwack. Thinking there might be a chance to ask some questions, I drove down.

It turned out a lovely day; a little blustery overlooking the water, with clouds passing through. A substantial crowd was in attendance, and people were friendly. Many held signs, and gave the impression of being long-time party members.

I fell into conversation with a younger woman, a volunteer for one of the Vancouver ridings. This was the first time she’d taken an active part in political life. Like me, she was shocked by the cheating and outright fraud the Conservatives used to win the last election. And she told me something I hadn’t known about: Harper’s stacking the courts with judges who share his point of view. Considering that his majority government was achieved with only 39.62% of the popular vote, this kind of activity is highly dubious.

The Vancouver candidates were introduced, to great applause. Then the energy level of the Plaza went to a higher level.

Tom Mulcair may be the most important person in Canada today, and he inspires love in a lot of people. The crowd parted and he entered with music blaring, and an advance guard of security men. Progress was slow, because everybody wanted to shake his hand.

The NDP leader opened his speech by promising to hold an inquiry into why so many Indigenous women disappear in Canada, especially in B.C. The crowd was well aware that Stephen Harper routinely turns a blind eye to this injustice, and recently he rejected a UN commission’s advice on the matter.? Immediately then, attention was drawn to the great divide between Harper’s radical conservatism, which favours white supremacy at home and imperialism abroad, and Canadians with deeply rooted values of basic human decency.

This was the first time I’d seen Tom Mulcair speak in person. The overall impression was of the confirmation of a true Canadian identity. I’d regarded Jack Layton very highly, so there was a definite sense of relief when someone of Mulcair’s caliber, a brilliant man of huge experience and a real grown-up, stepped up to take charge.

On leaving the event, we were given a copy of Common Ground, a smaller Canadian magazine. This issue includes an excerpt from Mulcair’s book, Strength of Conviction, in which he tells of his experience as the environment minister of Quebec.

In a world where the Faustian types are so deeply entrenched, some may feel a man of principles means trouble. He is needed, though.

 

something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien/ That to be hated needs but to be seen;/ Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,/ We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Few older Canadians will forget the time when former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, accused of taking bribes, filed a multi-million dollar libel lawsuit against the government. After a two million dollar settlement the truth came out about his meetings with lobbyist Karl Schreiber in hotel rooms. Mulroney collected his payoffs in brown paper bags stuffed with thousand dollar bills.

Politicians would not normally start off with the intention of becoming crooked. Lobbyists are everywhere in Ottawa, and help create a dangerous environment. The old adage, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” holds true.

For Westerners, it’s especially disappointing to see what happened to the Reform and Alliance parties, whose members crusaded to bring more honesty and openness to government, but succumbed to the very vices they fought against.

One example of this dynamic exists here in Chillwack, B.C.? Chuck Strahl represented this riding for eighteen years, and had a distinguished career in which he came close to winning the leadership of the Conservative party itself. After retiring from politics for health reasons, he was appointed to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Two years later he was forced to resign, when it was revealed that he also worked as a lobbyist for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project: a major conflict of interests.

The Strahl saga continues in the present election campaign. Back in 2011, when Chuck Strahl decided against running for reelection the normal nomination process was bypassed, and his son Mark was chosen as the new Conservative candidate.

Most Canadians would not condone preference to family, or transferring power like some feudal lord or mafia don. The Conservatives carried it off though, and today Mark Strahl is running for reelection.

The moral is that politicians, like diapers, should not be kept on forever, or things get kind of ripe.

Voters have a good range of candidates in the coming election, and they need to pick someone different. It’s time for a change.

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.