Jack Layton and a record 102 other NDP MPs

Today Jack Layton announced the composition of the shadow cabinet that will take on the Conservatives when Parliament resumes on June 2. For those who don’t obsessively follow politics, a shadow cabinet is the group of MPs who will serve as critics to the government’s ministers. A critic is tasked with holding their government counterpart to account, and is the main voice of opposition on issues relating to the ministry for which they are responsible.

For the first time in their history the NDP are the Official Opposition, and the government in waiting for the next four years. As such, a strong front bench that will be able to stand up to the Conservative agenda is critical.

Looking down the list I am impressed by the calibre of the NDP MPs, but also by the artful juggling act undertaken by Layton to produce a well-balanced shadow cabinet where no one looks out of place.

In particular, the representation of women and Quebec is great to see.

Women:

The NDP shadow cabinet is 40% female, which reflects the record percentage of female candidates the party fielded in the last election. The NDP ran strong female candidates, and is now putting them in positions of power.

This compares to a Conservative cabinet which boasts only eight female ministers (22%) and is once again overrun with old white men.

The NDP was able to draw on the strength of returning heavyweights like Libby Davies (Health) Olivia Chow (Transport) Megan Leslie (Environment) and Peggy Nash, who returns to Parliament after losing her seat in 2008 to take on the all important Finance critic position. Other returnees include Linda Duncan (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development), Irene Mathyssen (Minister of State for Seniors) and Jean Crowder.

While the NDP will rely on the experience and skill of these veterans, there’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to the rookies.

Nycole Turmel

Nycole Turmel, the former national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, becomes Caucus Chair and critic for Public Works. Although she had left by the time I started working for PSAC, my colleagues are universally enamoured with her drive, determination and principles, and I’m thrilled to see her in such an important position.

Hélène Laverdière, a former Canadian diplomat who resigned her position over philosophical differences with the Harper government, will be the critic for International Cooperation. Her energy and intelligence (she holds a PhD and used to teach university) will be needed as she tries to explain the meaning of the word “cooperation” to the Conservatives.

New NDP MP Francoise Boivin

Francoise Boivin, a lawyer and former Liberal MP, will go head to head with Rona Ambrose in the Status of Women portfolio. She is an extremely intelligent and articulate advocate and I’m looking forward to seeing her contrast herself with the less than impressive Ms. Ambrose.

Meanwhile Marie-Claude Morin (Housing), Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Post-Secondary Education), Manon Perreault (Disabilities) and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Skills) will each take on different parts of the Human Resources and Skills Development portfolio, with returning MP Jean Crowder as the principal critic. Claude Patry (Employment Insurance) will round out the field. I love that it’s been broken up, as each of these sub domains are near and dear to the NDP’s heart. With a dedicated critic for each, these issues will get their due.

The other rookies are Christine Moore, who will go head to head with everyone’s favourite Con, Julian Fantino, as critic for Military Procurement. Look to see this up and comer from Northern Quebec hold Fantino’s feet to the fire on jets without engines and other boondoggles.

Hélène Leblanc will be up against Gary Goodyear, the Minister of State for Science and Technology. Given that he believes the earth is six thousand years old, and she is an educator and agronomist with degrees in education and agriculture and the environment, I like her odds.

Finally Paulina Ayala will be the critic for the Minister of State for the Americas and Consular Affairs, Diane Ablonczy. She was born in Chile and was a leader in the student movement and in citizens rights organizations fighting the Pinochet dictatorship.

Quebec:

40% of the shadow cabinet is from Quebec, which is not surprising given that the 59 seats the NDP won here are more than they have in the rest of the country combined. All of the rookie women I mentioned above, with the exception of Rathika Sitsabaiesan, are from Quebec. They will be joined by a number of talented men from here.

Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair at a Habs game

Tom Mulcair is rewarded for his role in delivering Quebec to the NDP with the role of House Leader, aka second in command. His tenacious determination and incorrigible optimism got the NDP this far in Quebec, and much will be expected of him as the elder statesman in a provincial caucus otherwise consisting of rookies.

Alexandre Boulerice is a union man (as are many of the new NDP members) who was most recently with CUPE. He has run and lost several times before breaking through, and although he’s a rookie MP he will bring a lot to the table in terms of experience with the party. He’ll have the weighty assignment of Treasury Board, where his intelligence and rock solid progressive principles will be called upon to go toe to toe with Tony Clement.

Tyrone Benskin

Tyrone Benskin is the former National VP of ACTRA (the union for actors) and Artistic Director of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. His wealth of knowledge and practical experience at ACTRA make him a natural fit for the Heritage portfolio. This is
an area where the NDP matches up particularly favourably with the Cons, who haven’t recovered from blasting artists for being lazy bums who spend all their time at lavish taxpayer funded galas, and Benskin will be counted upon to be a strong defender of everything from the CBC to freedom of expression for musicians as the Cons go on the offensive against Canadian culture.

Pierre Nantel, formerly the artistic director at the Cirque du Soleil will take on Sport, while his South Shore colleague Hoang Mai (another veteran of multiple campaigns) will be responsible for the important National Revenue post. Both are dynamic, well qualified MPs and I’m thrilled to see them in the shadow cabinet.

Romeo Saganash and Jack Layton

Romeo Saganash is a hugely respected Cree leader and a star candidate who had a good chance of winning in northern Quebec even before the surge. A former representative to the U.N., Saganash is no stranger to politics and he will take on Natural Resources, where his talents will stand him in good stead.

Raymond Côté rounds out the Quebec contingent, and he will take on Small Business and Tourism. His counterpart on the government benches will be the disgraced but inexplicably back in cabinet Maxime Bernier.

Bottom line?

The NDP shadow cabinet is good. Scary good. These people’s intelligence, talent and dedication are going to impress the hell out of Canadians over the next four years, especially in comparison to the Cons front bench.

Today Jack Layton took the first step along the long and winding road to replacing the Conservatives in four years. For my money, it was a damn good first step.

 

I skipped some big ones, like Joe Comartin in Justice, because they weren’t women or from Quebec. Here’s the full list: NDP Shadow Cabinet

 

 

What an election, huh? Quebec went from light blue to orange, Ontario went from red to dark blue and British Columbia now has a shade of green. If I were a religious man I’d say it’s a sign of the apocalypse. The Conservative Majority aside though, the biggest surprise was obviously Quebec’s orange crush. I thought the NDP would do well, but going from 1 to 59 seats is unheard of.

How did they do it? Well, for starters, voters aged 18 24 voted more for the NDP in every province except Alberta, and they did so without the NDP even really appealing to that age group. As for La Belle Province, Quebecers have a low tolerance for B.S., and virtually every protest vote joined the orange wave. When a region overwhelmingly votes in protest however, MPs who aren’t bilingual, who didn’t campaign and who have never been to their riding end up getting elected. That’s just the way it is. It’s better to have a nobody than to actually have nobody.

Pierre-Luc Dusseault; Youngest MP ever

The NDP managed to elect 103 MPs to Parliament on May 2nd; 20 of those MPs are under the age  of thirty, and most are from Quebec. One of those is even under twenty, 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a student of applied politics who now becomes the youngest Member of Parliament in Canadian history. He not only voted for the first time, but got elected for the first time! The Quebec NDP youth brigade also includes four students from McGill, and of course the more publicized (and scorned) Ruth Ellen Brosseau.

Since Election Day, the Layton Youth have been getting a bad rap in the media and by colleagues of mine, and without so much as an hour’s work under their belt. Now that these kids are in the public eye, some say, such criticism is fair game and all part of the job. They could have a point. What’s pointless, however, is to scrutinize someone simply for their age, when the the fact remains we don’t yet know what these newbies are even capable of.   After all, as Mr. Layton said, “We send our youngsters to Afghanistan, why not Parliament?”

I’m of the opinion that these young MPs are going to work far harder than the average 56-year-old Member of Parliament who’s been at it for twenty or thirty years. They’re young, ambitious and have a lot to prove, but more importantly, they have more to lose. They are more aware than anyone that it will be a lot harder to get re-elected four years from now.

These new NDP MPs might be inexperienced, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt; one of them just might be our Prime Minister one day. Either way, what an opportunity to prove themselves in front of the whole country at such a young age. Personally, I’m jealous.

Good luck boys and girls!

You can follow Quiet Mike on Twitter at @MWeishar

NDP supporters watching Layton speak at the Montreal victory party

By all accounts, this looked like it was going to be an election that would really change the political map in Canada, and it was. It looked like some political careers would be over, and a slew of new MPs would come to Ottawa. That happened too. It looked like an unstoppable wave would sweep through Quebec, then head west and not stop until we had a new Prime Minister with a new vision for a better Canada, and that’s exactly what happened – at least, the first part happened, then something went wrong, really wrong.

As the dust settles, we see a Quebec painted NDP orange with 58 MPs, a huge leap for a party that held just one seat (Thomas Mulcair in Outremont) after the 2008 election. We also see the party in second place nationally with 102 seats, something that has never come close to happening before.

There is now a strong, left-of-centre national opposition to the Harper Conservatives. Quebeckers have decided to stand up, en masse, for progressive social policy ahead of the sovereignty-versus-federalism, anglo-versus-franco dialogue that has dominated the discourse for so long in this province.

New NDP MP Hélène Laverdière speaks to the media after defeating Gilles Duceppe in Laurier Sainte-Marie

The Bloc is broken, reduced to just four seats from 49 in 2008. Even leader Gilles Duceppe lost his Laurier Sainte-Marie seat to the NDP’s Hélène Laverdière.

The Liberals aren’t doing much better, falling to third party status with only 37 seats, something that has never happened to Canada’s “natural governing party.” Leader Michael Ignatieff also lost his seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore to Conservative Bernard Trottier.

This was an election that saw many prominent politicians lose their seats and political careers, making way for a slew of new, mainly progressive candidates. A wave of change, an orange wave of change, was all around. The perfect storm, right? Well, there was one huge problem. This election produced a nightmare scenario that pretty much everyone on the now-united left dreaded happening. Stephen Harper got his majority.

Alberta and the rest of the Prairies were pretty much a lock for the Conservatives already and BC fell a little more into the blue column than expected, but that alone didn’t change the game. It’s southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, and even parts of the City of Toronto itself, that put Harper over the top, bringing his total to 167 seats, enough for a majority.

A closer look at those ridings shows that Liberal support didn’t bleed to the NDP as anticipated, or at least not as anticipated by those like myself. We were hoping that strategic-minded anti-Harper people in Ontario would clue into the fact that Quebec and a good chunk of the rest of the country would vote for Layton, giving the NDP enough seats to take power with their help. The old two-party far right/centre-right-posing-as-centre-left dynamic still applied.

Some might claim that NDP supporters in Ontario should have voted Liberal to give the Grits a few more seats and the Conservatives a few less. Others argue, as my colleague Megan Dougherty does, that our voting system, which allows a party that doesn’t have the majority of votes to form a majority government, should be reformed.

No matter how you analyze it, one thing is clear. People living in and around Canada’s largest city actually voted for Stephen Harper.

Whether they realize it or not, they voted for corporate tax breaks, fighter jets, an endless war in Afghanistan, no more CBC, an internet unprotected against corporate interests, more prisons, less social programs, no federal funding for other political parties and a police state. Remember the G20? Remember the mass arrests for no reason? That’s what this guy did in a minority position. With a majority, who knows what he’s capable of.

He’s going to try and implement his far-right platform as soon as he can, so it’s up to the opposition NDP and all of us to stand up to it however we can.

Tyrone Benskin greets supporters at the NDP victory party after being elected in the Jeanne-le-Ber riding

For those in opposition, I have high hopes. If the energy in the Rialto at the NDP victory party isn’t reason enough, it’s knowing that people like Laverdière, whom I proudly voted for (not a chance to knock out Duceppe, my ass) and new Jeanne-le-Ber MP Tyrone Benskin, whose campaign I proudly helped out with, now have our back in Ottawa.

It’s also knowing that people without tons of corrupt political baggage like new Sherbrooke MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault (at 19, the youngest MP in Canadian history) and McGill students Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne-Blainville), Matthew Dubé (Chambly-Borduas), Mylène Freeman (Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel) and Laurin Liu (Rivière-des-Mille-ÃŽles) will bring new ideas to Ottawa.

We can only hope that this newly invigorated party will do three things: oppose, oppose and oppose! Whenever Harper tries to shove one of his unethical, destructive policies down our throats, let’s hope the NDP makes a huge fuss about it in Parliament and gets the rest of us energized, too, through the media, through grassroots organizing and through any (legal, of course) means necessary.

No, they can’t vote down any proposed laws, but they can make sure the rest of us know about them so that we can bring them down with our voices and our actions. It now becomes our turn to take action and hopefully that’s just what we’ll do. We know it’s possible to bring our voices to Ottawa, now let’s make sure they get heard loud and clear so that the next time around, with all the pseudo-progressives out of the way, Harper won’t stand a chance.

* photos by Cindy Lopez

Why must there be so many evil, vile people out to ruin other innocent people’s hard work and the fruits of their labour? People who rob and then stab their victims, even though they’ve already stolen what they wanted? Or for that matter, those creepy, anti-social type people who sit in basements crafting computer viruses and malware, for the sole purpose of causing other people harm?

As some of you probably know, Forget the Box was hacked last week forcing us to temporarily take the site offline. (The hack has since been cleaned up & we extend a wealth of gratitude to Terry Cutler: The Ethical Hacker for his help cleaning our system. We apologise for any inconvenience and have taken steps to make the site more secure.) Overall for me this ordeal was quite disheartening. Forget the Box is one of the only successful ventures I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve seen it begin to flourish and grow.

Forget The Box is one of the only good dreams of mine to have come true. Through the hard work and efforts of the whole team, as a media collective which we’ve done our best and worked tirelessly and often thanklessly to get this far.

Then someone decided to sabotage our collective dream!?

I admit it! I don’t know what a “l33t hx0r” is. I’m told that it’s a code for hackers. A hacker is someone who deliberately breaks into the code of a software program or website, for the purpose of creating and spreading computer viruses, spyware, malware, and adware.

A hacker is also the name of a bronze-age chopping tool used for butchering meat into more manageable sizes by cutting pieces off, usually at the joints. It was also used for torture. These computer hackers deserve to be hacked apart with one of these, a death that is slow and extremely painful, as the dismemberment begins with the digits and continues, joint by joint, until all the limbs are cut off. If the victim somehow survives, they will pretty much be a helpless vegetable for whatever is left of their miserable lives, which of course, will be very short and filled with pain.

The torture I just described was also popular among despotic kings from the early Bronze Age until about the renaissance, a period of roughly 4500 years. Of course, computers, as we know and love them today, didn’t exist back then, so hacking a website at that time would probably not have been possible. (More on that in a future rant.)

In other news, Prince William married Kate Middleton, in an overblown and over reported ceremony. I mean according to the news for the past month or so, the only things happening were the Canadian federal election, and the royal wedding, and who made the cake, and who was invited, and what a ‘Fascinator hat” is.   To me, this was a nice thing, but really didn’t merit even one tenth of the coverage it got.

Saturday night was the FTB FUN(d)raiser at Trios Minots, on St. Laurent in Downtown Montreal. A good time was had by all and we thank everyone for coming out to support us. Photos will be up soon 🙂

Today is Election Day in Canada. The polls close at 9:30PM, so if you haven’t already done so, GO VOTE. If you don’t know who to vote for, check out our election coverage!

Today is Election Day in Canada and tomorrow the Canadian political landscape may be drastically different. What seemed like an ordinary campaign at the start with predictable results similar to those attained the last time around has been flipped on its head and might just take a sharp turn to the left before the dust settles. It’s a bit cliché to say that every vote counts, but this time, it looks like that’s actually going to be the case.

It seems, for once, people are excited to go out and vote and more than two million of them did just that in the advance polling. Even though it was a holiday weekend, advance polling numbers were up 34% from the 2008 election.

For those of you who didn’t go out last weekend, you now have twelve hours (9:30am 9:30pm) to let your opinion be counted. All you need is the voter card you got in the mail with your name on it or a proof of address (a driver’s license or a bill addressed to you at your address) and a photo ID. If you’re not sure where to vote, check the Elections Canada website.

Changing Tides
Last time around, there was a growing resentment of Stephen Harper and what he was doing to the country. Unfortunately the political left, and quite a bit of the center as well, were divided between the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc (in Quebec only, of course) and the Greens.

Strategic voting sites sprung up, telling people which party to vote for in which riding in an attempt to defeat the Conservatives. For the most part, it involved people having to hold their noses and vote Liberal.

Fast-forward to now, past the G20 and other scandals, and people have even more reason to dislike Harper. This time though, the left is uniting and according to pretty much every poll done over the past two weeks it is uniting behind Jack Layton and the NDP.

This orange wave started in Quebec and could very well wipe the Bloc off the map or push it back to its hardcore sovereignist base while bringing the Liberals down to third-party status, something that has never happened before, ever.

The most recent polls see the NDP neck and neck with the Conservatives. This has scared pretty much everyone in the other parties who launched some last-minute attack ads and even a very ineffective smear campaign.

If enough Liberal and other voters switch, we may have Prime Minister Jack Layton and Harper can go back to whatever it was he did before.

Vote Internet and Culture
Elections always bring out special interest groups trying to push a particular policy they champion to the forefront of the discourse. This is sometimes done in a backroom wheeling and dealing way but when it comes to issues that affect all of us such as the environment, it’s usually quite public.

Sometimes they poll the parties on the issue and make the results public, issuing “checkups” or “report cards” on their stances. Sometimes they throw together entire parties dedicated to the singular issue. Now, one special interest that is of interest to us all, really, is doing a little from column A and a little from column B. Yes, The Internet is running for Prime Minister of Canada.

This candidate, known more simply as Net, is already off to a great start. Not only does Net connect millions of Canadians together from coast to coast, 35 000 people have signed an online pledge to vote for the Internet and this only a month after half a million people signed OpenMedia.ca’s Stop the Meter petition against Usage-Based Billing (UBB).

The threat of UBB is why the web is such an important issue this election. A few months ago, giant telecom companies like Bell, Rodgers and Shaw convinced the CRTC to allow them to put a cap on the amount of online content their customers, and the customers of smaller ISPs using their lines, can access and charge more for anything beyond that point. Not only is this a cash grab not based on what it actually costs the big boys to provide the service, but it’s a threat to the free flow of information online in Canada as we know it.

And just how do you vote for the Internet? Well, since Net doesn’t have a party and is only looking for the top job, OpenMedia.ca has prepared a list of local candidates that support a free and open Internet. If one of them is running in your riding, then a vote for them is a vote for the Internet and a fair and open media future in Canada. They’ve also published the results of a quiz sent to all the main and some not-so-main parties running. Pretty much all except for the conservatives responded. No big surprise there.

The Net isn’t the only thing to consider. Culture is also very important. Having successfully won (for the moment) against the City of Montreal and developper Angus, the coalition to save Cafe Cleopatre hope that you vote with culture in mind. They’ve issued their own report card on the parties and even released an attack-ad style video on the candidates.

Photos courtesy metormedia.ca and cbc.ca

 

An electoral campaign dominated by talk of coalitions, corporate tax cuts and care for seniors has sidelined an issue crucially important to the future of the country: court appointments to Canada’s highest judicial body.

With four of nine Supreme Court Justices approaching the mandatory age of retirement in the next four years, and eight of nine eligible for retirement with full pension by the end of 2011, Canada’s next Prime Minister will likely wield an inordinate influence over the country’s judicial landscape for years to come.

In Canada, the Prime Minister appoints judges to the Supreme Court with no formal checks and balances. While the Supreme Court Act requires that three of the nine judges be from Quebec and that all nominees must have been members of the bar for at least ten years, the appointment process is otherwise uninhibited.

This leaves Canada’s Prime Minister with unchecked power to choose the individuals who will make definitive judgments on abortion, national security and religious freedom among other contentious issues. Long after the Prime Minister has held office, judges with no term limits will continue to make policy that affects the lives of future generations.

So, given this startling number of imminent Supreme Court vacancies, why have judicial appointments been a sleeper issue during this campaign?

First, in Canada media coverage of political culture does not normally extend to the judiciary and Canadian new sources have few, if any, justice reporters.   This stands in stark contrast to the Unites States, where Supreme Court Justices border on celebrity status (consider the media coverage of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination).

Can you name all of the people in this picture? Canadian Supreme Court Justices

Second, despite the fact that Supreme Court rulings have a profound effect on our lives, judgments are notoriously long, dull and academic, and most Canadians are more interested in clipping their toenails than following the procedures of this far-removed institution.

Finally, there is the unavoidable fact that reforming the judicial appointment process is a complicated issue no matter how you shake it.

Critics of the Canadian appointment process have lobbied the government to reform the current system to resemble the more democratic US system of appointment where   nominees must be confirmed by the senate, which holds veto power.

In Canada, leaving the confirmation to our unelected senate would do nothing to improve the democratic value of the process. Bestowing the confirmation on elected legislators would be equally fruitless since the Prime Minister’s party holds the most seats in the House of Commons and, with the crack of the party whip, the PM’s nominations would likely go unchecked.

Detractors of the US-style process are also quick to point out that including legislators, while more democratic, would render the process a legitimately partisan affair. The independence of the judiciary may be compromised when the process is politicized and party preference for Supreme Court Justices plays an accepted role in the process.

Heeding to criticism about the democratic deficit, in recent years the executive branch has taken minor steps to reform the unchecked Canadian appointment process.

In 2003 Prime Minister Paul Martin altered the process by initiating a parliamentary committee to review nominations, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed suit by allowing the committee to question Supreme Court nominees—a commonplace practice in the US but a first in Canadian history.

Ultimately, however, the committee’s role was simply a perfunctory one, as the committee was carefully instructed as to what types of questions they could ask nominees, and accomplished nothing in fundamentally altering the appointment process.

Although these superficial changes to the appointment process have been disappointing, we should not be discouraged from pursing a more meaningful type of reform.   A major step in this endeavor is to cast the net of possible reform options beyond the usual reach of our Southern neighbour to consider how other countries proceed.

In Australia for instance, there must be consultation with the Attorney-Generals of the states and territories, which offsets the executive’s concentration of power.   The United Kingdom, while not operating under a charter, takes a distinctly non-political approach to High Court appointments by forming a selection committee, which includes significant lay representation, each time a vacancy arises.

While far from perfect, both countries’ appointment processes offer potential options for reforming our current system’s disproportionate concentration of power.

With a frightening number of vacancies looming, and a still yet unknown government, it is especially important to moderate the majoritarianism that a selection process left entirely up to the Prime Minister creates.

If Harper’s two previous Supreme Court appointees have been relatively uncontroversial picks, his track record suggests cause for concern. In 2008-2009 alone there were a documented 233 patronage appointments sprinkled generously among the senate, lower courts and various other government positions.

If we really believe that judicial independence is a cornerstone of our democracy, and that its primary function is to provide a balance to executive and legislative powers, then why has the appointment process gone unchecked for so long? Now more than ever we need to demand real checks and balances to the appointment of the individuals who have the final say on our rights and freedoms.

I don’t blame you for flirting with the idea of voting for the Liberal Party if you actually support the NDP. I don’t blame you for your well intentioned effort to beef up the odds against a Conservative majority government.

It’s not your fault, one of the inherent flaws in our electoral system is that it encourages strategic voting. It has pressured many voters into voting for the perceived lesser of two evils at the expense of their first choice. But I urge you to be strong against the seductive powers of strategic voting. This election, vote first with your heart and then with your head.

If you support the NDP like I do, or any other party, do not to donate your vote to a party that has and will continue to compromise your values. On May 2nd, your vote is your voice and it’s as close as many of us may ever get to making ourselves heard.

Let’s get one thing straight. There is no such this as a ‘throw away’ vote. Even if you think that the NDP candidate in your riding has zero chance of winning. Electoral history indicates that it is possible for party popularity in a given riding to jump around from year to year.

I caution you on basing your vote primarily on the results of the last election. Just because somebody voted Liberal in the last election does not sign-seal-and-deliver their vote straight to the Liberal party this time. And even if it did, your vote still counts in many other ways.

This is not to say that the results of this election do not stand independent of the achievements of the last. The New Democrats wouldn’t be where they are today if it weren’t for successes in previous elections. The support acquired during this election will have a profound influence on the results of the next.

One thing many of the other parties have on the NDP is money and lots of it. But your vote can help change that. The primary method of government funding for political parties in Canada is per-vote subsidy. This entitles any party that garners more than two percent of the popular vote to about $2 a year in government funding per vote received.

And don’t forget, the more NDP Members of Parliament there are, the greater influence the party will have in the House of Commons. The more NDP MP’s in the House, the more people there will be fighting for you, your family and your fellow Canadians. Your vote does count a just and sustainable Canadian society won’t be built in a day.

Our electoral system is far from perfect and is in need of revision, but I urge you to play the game until the party you actually support is in power.

The result of a strategically elected government is this: a government that most people don’t want. Ring a bell? I’m voting NDP because I care about people. Everybody. I want my tax dollars to be spent on helping everyone and not just a few. I want a government that will improve our healthcare system, create jobs and job training, invest in infrastructure, education and other social programs. I want a government that cares about the environment and the arts. A government that will use its powers for good!

I will not not vote for a party that is partly responsible for mass civilian casualties in Afghanistan, even if the media tells me they have the best chance of beating Harper. I want people who are not as lucky as I am to be able to buy diapers for their kids and then eventually be able to send them to university. I do not support a government that punishes people for being born in the wrong neighbourhood or for having the wrong last name.

The NDP and Jack Layton will put you and your family before corporations or kick-backs, the NDP will be there for you. That is why this party exists and that is exactly why it is so crucial that it become the next Government of Canada.

I remember back in November of 2004 the headline on the cover of the Daily Mirror, the UK tabloid newspaper. It read “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?” referring to the number of people who voted to re-elect George W. Bush. I can’t wait to see the headline when we re-elect Stephen Harper for a third time.

In the Canadian election of 2008 there were 5 209 069 people who voted Conservative. This time around the Conservatives are in line to receive roughly the same amount if not more. Don’t worry though, I won’t be saying on Election Day how five or six million Canadians could be so dumb, but I will wonder how that many can be so blind.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative base is roughly 20% of the populace. These people will vote for him regardless of his record, they are the ones who share in Harper’s core values comparable to the Neo-Cons in the U.S. They are traditionally religious, pro-life and pro-war with reservations regarding gays and the poor. If Harper wins this election I won’t be blaming them however, I’ll be blaming the other 20% who vote against their own beliefs and without the knowledge that the Conservative Party under Harper is both dictatorial and corrupt.

I need more hands to count the number of controversies and political flaps that have dogged the Prime Minister in the last five years, but here is a list of the top ten I got from “Much Ado about Stupidity“. I could not independently confirm the facts of the whole list, but these ones I could:

1.       Prorogued Parliament (twice!) to cover up/interrupt investigations into misconduct in his cabinet.

2.       Refused to take responsibility for the detainment and torture of Taliban soldiers.

3.       Ignored elections act legislation by “in-and-outing” large cash sums to individual ridings to defraud tax-payers and fund local candidates.

4.       Used the RCMP to suppress free-speech during the G8/G20 summit (and spent 1 billion on that security)

5.       Appointed a creationist as science minister (who refused to answer questions about evolution because “it was against his religious beliefs”).

6.       Got Canada voted out of the UN Security Council for the first time in history.

7.       Has been an ardent supporter of the oil-sands, and enemy of environmentalism. Since he was elected, Canada has had the worst environmental record of any of the G8 nations.

8.       Used $50 million of a G8 legacy fund to pay for projects in Tony Clement’s riding of Muskoka/Parry Sound, despite the bulk of the projects having nothing to do with the G8/G20 and being, in some cases, 100 km away from any of the summit sites (all of this without the approval of parliament).

9.       Did not investigate the “Bev Oda” scandal, in which one of his own ministers penciled in a “not” that denied federal funding to an international aid organization, and then lied about it.

10.       Misrepresented a quote from auditor general Sheila Fraser to make it sound like she supported the Harper Government’s handling of the G8 money (she was in fact referring to the Liberal handling of the 9/11 relief fund).

I’m not sure what it will take to convince the 20% of rights, centrists and undecided voters to wake up and smell the Tim Horton’s coffee. The opposition parties have tried and done their best, it’s now time for the people to get informed. Some people say that a vote for a lesser party is a wasted vote; I think the only wasted vote is one that is uninformed. One thing is for certain, if nothing changes in the coming week we will have the blind once again being led by the blank.

You Can Follow Quiet Mike on Twitter at @MWeishar

Harper Mugshot courtesy of The Hammer

EARTHDAYBANNER_1

With Facebook and Twitter alight with news and people’s voices on the impending election, and the media reporting every last controversy it can uncover, Canadians across the country still complain that the real issues are not being tackled.   But at least one issue in this campaign has its own day.

Ten days before the election, on April 22, Earth Day gives Canadians and people around the world the chance to focus on the environment.   But the question is: does anyone really care?

If you follow the election campaign, the answer would be no.   The funny thing is that back in 1970, it was a Wisconsin politician, Gaylord Nelson, who started Earth Day.   But even though our leaders aren’t talking about it, get back to reality and you’ll find the environment is front and centre.   Start at the computer.   Earth Day was trending on Twitter in Canada hours before the Montreal-Boston game took over the Twitterwaves on April 21.

People were talking about what they’re going to do for the planet’s day: bringing along a reusable mug, buying eco-jewellery, cleaning up the neighbourhood, even voting for the Earth in the election (advance polls open April 22 across Canada).   And that’s what Earth Day is really about: taking action to recognize and raise awareness about the value of the natural environment.

In Montreal, events of all kinds are planned.   On the island’s south shore the Salon Eco-Jeunes reaches out to parents with school-age kids to come out and participate in educational activities on the environment.   And downtown a workshop on local food aims to show people how to become ‘locavores’ with a trip to the grocery store and tips on how to grow food in the city.

A sunny day in the forecast will also bring out the thousands of eager users of the popular Bixi bike sharing service that opened for the season only a week before.   The service has spread its zero-emission active transport trend to cities around the world like London, Melbourne, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis.

Earlier this month, Quebec made another commitment to the environment with a pledge of $95 million over the next 10 years to develop the electric car industry in the province.   It makes sense for a major hydro-electric producer like Quebec to get into electrics and the government has also created financial incentives for residents to buy hybrids, electric vehicles and set up charging stations at home.

So, what’s the answer? With Earth Day upon us, do Canadians really care about the environment? Last Sunday, Canada’s only national call-in radio show, CBC’s Cross Country Checkup, aired from small-town Ontario.   Residents of Port Perry, guests and the local election candidates discussed the issues important to them while Canada listened, called in and emailed.

One email from a fellow in Halifax summed up the views expressed that day. “Listening to today’s show, and people clapping when a candidate talks about what they will do for the farmers, the environment, providing good drinking water,” wrote Lawrence McEachern, “I am saddened to let them know that unless the leader of the party supports farmers, the environment, providing good drinking water, then nothing will happen. Our system does not support grass roots issues.”

But even though the federal leaders haven’t been talking much about the health of the Earth, Canadians can be encouraged by a recent survey done by four major environmental advocacy groups.   Environmental Defence, Equiterre, CPAWS and the Pembina Institute asked the parties to set out their position on 10 environmental issues at play in Canada.   Aside from the non-respondent Conservatives, the Liberals, NDP, Bloc and the Greens made strong commitments to seriously address climate change, implement renewable energy solutions, get the tar sands under control and regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Earth Day began as way to take action to raise awareness.   Even though federal leaders may not be talking about it much, the environment is important to Canadians.   And even without overwhelming fanfare this April 22, more than merely raising awareness, Earth Day can rightly be seen as a celebration that the environment is an issue that people care about and that’s here to stay.

I had the pleasure over the last three days to attend a leadership convention in Springfield, Massachusetts. The convention was geared more toward business owners than it was toward politicians, but anyone of the leaders running in the Canadian federal election could have taken a lesson from it.

What my colleagues and I learned at this conference was not just how to build our businesses, but how to lead others to success and greatness, in essence to lead people to realize their dreams. Obviously the Canadian party leaders aren’t trying to build a business, but they are trying to build a country with the same goal of leading people to greatness. That being said, the traits that make up the two types of leaders should be relatively the same.

Some traits are more evident than others, some of the more apparent ones are things such as being honest, having vision, competence, inspiration and intelligence. There is not one party leader that possesses all of these characteristics. It’s clear they all have a vision for Canada and its future (for better or worse), but I would only associate one or two of these other traits with each leader.

Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe are all intelligent. That was proven during the debates last week by having them tear the conservatives’ policies to shreds. Sorry Mr. Harper, in my mind you don’t win a debate by simply “surviving”. I’ve yet to see a politician collapse onto the podium dead. Harper and the three opposition leaders did seem quite competent debating each other. The four of them seemed to know each other’s platforms, weaknesses and strengths. Preparation is a good test of competency.

Throughout the campaign up until Iggy started to tell people to “rise up!” I didn’t sense much inspiration in any of the party leaders. I believe that is reflected in the poll numbers that have showed very little movement for weeks. Inspiration breeds excitement and that is what attracts voters, the lack of excitement breeds apathy.

Some of the lesser known qualities of a good leader are from time to time just as important as any. Humility for example shows that the leader understands that their status does not make them a god and he will use his mistakes to elevate everyone else rather than blame another. Jack Layton is a great example of this. Other lesser known traits include dedication, fairness and openness, even a sense of humor can be vital. Stephen Harper has dedication, but has no sense of humor while Ignatieff seems to be open to new ideas, but in my view he lacks dedication.

Honest Abe & Winnie, two natural born leaders

You’ll notice I haven’t yet mentioned the most important trait of a good leader; trustworthiness. That is because it’s not clear to me that any of the party leaders are indeed trustworthy. Harper and his government clearly aren’t, his government was brought down on contempt charges after all. As for the other leaders, they haven’t been in office so it is impossible to judge their honesty, trust is something that is earned after all.

There is perceptibly much that goes into finding a good leader and it’s a shame that it isn’t something that is really taught in our schools. There have been very few born leaders throughout human history, the Lincolns, Ghandis and Churchills are hard to find, so if we can’t breed them, maybe we should teach them. Imagine Canada having a Prime Minister that is honest, competent, inspiring, and intelligent who has vision. What a country we could have.

(l-r) Tyrone Benskin and Marie-Claude Morin

Lineups outside of the Corona Theatre in St-Henri aren’t a unique sight. The classic movie house, reborn as a concert hall, has been hosting some of the larger local and touring musical acts playing the circuit these days. Energetic crowds inside the venue aren’t a new thing either. The main difference this Thursday afternoon was that the lineup and the energetic crowd weren’t there for a rock band, they were there for their political convictions, rallying to a familiar face that has recently felt a resurgence of support: Jack Layton.

After a warmup speech by host candidates Tyrone Benskin (the Corona is in the hotly contested Jeanne Le Ber riding) and Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot), who introduced the rest of the local NDP slate, Montreal Canadiens jersey-clad Outremont candidate Thomas Mulcair took the stage, kind of like an opening act. He got the crowd pumped and ready for the headliner: Jack.

This is a new Jack, though. Fresh off knocking down his opponents in the English-language debate and holding his own with Gilles Duceppe in the French one, the NDP leader doesn’t seem to be interested in moderate seat gains or holding either the balance of power, or leading the official opposition in yet another Conservative minority. This Jack wants to be Prime Minister.

“Ottawa is spinning on its wheel and it’s time for us to change it,” Layton told the excited crowd of supporters during his speech before explaining the best way to challenge Harper’s control of the country: “we have to do more than oppose the Conservatives, we have to replace him.”

He proceeded to tell the sea of people holding orange signs just what he would do if elected to the country’s top job. He’ll stop subsidizing big polluters, invest in clean energy, cap credit card fees, cut taxes for small business, and bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

All of these have been part of the NDP plan for years, and for years I’ve supported this party with my vote because of it. There was always something missing, though: energy and excitement. But not this time around.

Stephen Harper has never had the support of the majority of Canadians and after the G20 fiasco, losing a seat on the UN Security Council and a seeming disdain for the environment, he’s becoming something of an embarrassment on the world stage. And then there are his many scandals here at home. Michael Ignatieff showed up out of nowhere, became the Liberal leader without a convention and has proceeded to support Harper almost every step of the way, until it became politically convenient for him not to. Gilles Duceppe is a smart man and would probably make a good leader, but the Bloc can, at best, alter policy to benefit Quebec, not set it themselves.

Given these choices, it makes sense that voters may be looking for something different. Maybe they’re thinking about that guy who, for years, said he could do better but was never given the chance to. I think they’re saying, “this time, let’s give him a shot.”

That mood has electrified the base, NDP candidates, volunteers, the people in the Corona theatre and even Jack himself. Quebec is one of those places where the energy seems particularly high and Montreal even more so. One reason could be that most of Quebec and none of Montreal wanted Harper to begin with.

“We saw that in the last election,” Layton explained, “the vast majority of Quebecers did oppose Stephen Harper. And the results? Today we’re still in Afghanistan. Quebec language and culture still aren’t adequately protected. And we’re still shoveling billions to Stephen Harper’s big polluter friends.”

Now with dwindling Bloc support in the province, especially in Montreal, and the Liberals doing considerably worse (or not getting any better) it looks like Quebec voters are starting to agree with Layton that their previous method of fighting Harper isn’t an effective approach. If people keep thinking that way until May 2nd, it could mean some serious seat gains for the NDP and a fundamental shift in the political landscape in this province and city.

If last Thursday’s rally wasn’t a strong enough indication of the changing political tides, then Jack sticking around to catch the Habs’ game and taking a stroll through Jean Talon market with Rosemont-Petite Patrie (referred to as “deep behind enemy lines“) candidate Alexandre Boulerice the next day is a good indication of how the party feels things are going in Quebec. But there’s more to come.

New poll numbers show the NDP tied with the Liberals nationally and Jack Layton will be holding another rally in Montreal this coming Saturday at Theatre Olympia. Another rock venue for another rock and roll campaign stop. If you missed the last one, you should check this one out.

* photos by Chris Zacchia

A few nights ago, a tall woman wearing tight black pants and an incredibly accentuating tank top began dancing on a table at a popular Montreal bar, while a few tables away I was having a particularly heated political debate with some friends. During her theatrical debut, we found ourselves wondering who this woman was going to vote for in the upcoming election, or if she would even roll out of bed on May 2nd at all. After making our predictions, I walked up to her and asked. She laughed it off and after some nervous hesitation finally admitted that she didn’t really know who was running, but would probably “just vote Liberal.”

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that most people would be very hard pressed to find a Canadian citizen who has not heard about both the Liberal and Conservative parties – the tired default options of far too many politically uninspired Canadians. Most people who haven’t been leaving their homes blind-folded these past few weeks probably even know about the Bloc, the Green Party and the NDP.

What so many Canadians don’t know is that they have even more choices than that!  Did you know that Canada actually has 18 registered political parties and several candidates running as independents this election? We as citizens hold the power to potentially make this country’s political system proportionately representative of all of our values.

I will address strategic voting in depth in my next article, but before I continue, I would just like you to keep one thing in mind before you consider a vote for the underdog a waste. Per-vote subsidy, which is granted to any party who garners more than 2% of the popular vote or more than 5% in a given riding. Both of which are a long shot for all of these parties, but if you happen to believe in one of them, and they happen to be running in your riding, I urge you not to forfeit your civic duty.

Due to a lack of funding, may of these parties are only running a few candidates and none of them may be on the ballot in your riding. But in the spirit of hammering away at the Americanisation of Canadian politics and in a vain effort to nurse our fragile multi-party system back to good health, to re-marginalize the marginalized, I would like to introduce to you the others.

Jump to a party: Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party, Christian Heritage Party, Rhinoceros Party, Pirate Party, Libertarian Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Western Block Party, United Party, Progressive Party, First People’s National Party

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

Introducing the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada. Founded in 2005, the AAEVPC “stands for just and equitable human progress that respects, protects, and enhances the environment upon which we all depend and the lives of the animals with whom we share our world.”

The AAEVPC “campaign[s] in elections in order to give environmental and animal protection issues the political relevance necessary to make governments proclaim sound and well-enforced environmental and animal protection policies, laws, and regulations.”

The AAEVPC is not running with the intention of becoming the next government of Canada. Rather, their goal is to lobby for better environmental and animal protection through governmental participation. Specific goals included in the party’s statement this year include ending Canada’s commercial seal hut, reforming factory farming, promoting a vegan lifestyle, improving wildlife polices and the development of ecologically sustainable agriculture.

In 2008, the party ran four candidates in the Toronto area and captured an average of 0.28% of the  vote in the ridings they ran in. This election they will be running 7 candidates primarily in the Toronto area.

The Communist Party of Canada: Marxist-Leninist

If you live in either Mount-Royal, Papineau, Laval, Bourassa, Hochelaga, Rosemount La Petite-Patrie, Notre-Dame de Grace – Lachine or LaSalle – Emard, the Communist Party of Canada-Marxist-Leninist is running in your riding! Founded in 1970, the Marxist-Leninist party is the largest of the so-called ‘fringe parties’ of Canada, with about 70 candidates running throughout the country this election.

According to their website, the purpose of the Marxist-Leninist party is to form a “new, modern, truly democratic society in which people are sovereign is the urgent requirement for Canadians to free themselves of the legacy of the country’s 19th century colonial foundation.  The creation of such a society is the immediate aim of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), consistent with its long-term aim of creating a socialist society as the transition to communism.”

If elected, the CPC-ML promises to drastically increasing funding for social programs, healthcare and education, along with the nationalization of all banks. They will introduce a new and revised constitution that will include a non-discrimination clause addressing language, race, religion, origin, age, lifestyle, gender, ability and wealth. The CPC-ML supports Quebec’s right to self-determination and any Aboriginal peoples who were treated unjustly or harmed in the past would be granted indemnity payments.

The party also plans on pushing for the democratization of the United Nations so that all member countries will have equal weight in the decision making process. It will oppose the blockades against Cuba and North Korea. The Marxist-Leninist Party will form a so-called “anti-war government,” this includes reviving the principle of noninterference, ensuring a peaceful coexistence between nations and an immediate withdrawal from NORAD and NATO. The Marxist-Leninist Party will bring home all Canadian troops around the world upon election.

In 2008, the party captured 0.06% of the popular vote, down from 0.17% in 1974. The current leader of the party is Anna Di Carlo.

Communist Party of Canada

The CPC-ML is not to be confused with Canada’s other Communist party, the Communist Party of Canada. The CPC has been around for 90 years and is Canada’s oldest communist party and the third oldest political party in Canada. Like the Communist Party of Canada – Marxist-Lenninist, CPC’s ambition is socialism to lay the groundwork for an eventual communist Canada. The party argues that only socialism can lead to a true democracy in which a Canada exists that puts the interests of the majority first. Their platform includes the creation of a nation-wide strategy for full employment, a tax reform that targets the very top, the nationalization of energy, natural resources and banks. They will also implement a foreign policy based on peace and disarmament.

Some of their most vocal and immediate demands this election include the prompt withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, an end to the war in Libya, the breaking of all diplomatic ties with Israel, free education for all, a public childcare system and putting people before profits. I urge you to check out their comprehensive party platform and a very interesting history of communism and capitalism in Canada.

The Communist Party is fielding 20 candidates across the country. In Montreal, the CPC is running in Westmount-Vile-Marie, Hochelaga, Laurier-Ste-Marie and Outremont. In 2008, the Communist Party captured 0.03% of the popular vote.

Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Next on the list is the Christian Heritage Party of Canada (yes, we have one too). No surprise here, the CHP is a socially and fiscally conservative party. It was born in 1986 in Hamilton Ontario, primarily out of the belief that Canada was failing to protect the rights of the unborn child.

Here is a taste of their platform: The CHP plans to introduce a family allowance that would grant families with young children a payment of $1,000 a month if one parent remains at home with the children. This policy is derived of the belief that daycare centers cause harm to children. The CHP will “appoint a Royal Commission, and give it the authority to do a thorough examination of [same-sex marriage] and suspend the legislation that allowed same-sex ‘marriages’ until the enquiry is complete.”

The CHP also intends to refurbish the justice system so that instead of remaining behind bars, non-violent offenders will be required to pay restitution to their victims. It also intends to invest in rehabilitation programs for prisoners who pose a threat to public safety, however, the CHP also claims that it will restore capital punishment. They will charge young offenders who commit so-called ‘adult crimes’ as adults, and they will also revoke voting rights from prisoners. The CHP is in favor of scraping the long gun registry and argue that all citizens of Canada have the right to bare arms.

The CHP claims that “more and more Canadians are beginning to realize that the ‘supremacy of God’ clause in [the Canadian] Constitution is the most important bulwark protecting our democracy and the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all Canadians—and only the CHP is committed to the protection of that principle.” The party also believes that Canadian civil law should be based on biblical law and that “decision-making processes by civil government must not in any way contravene…Biblical ethics.”

With regards to immigration, the CHP would require all immigrants to adopt Canada’s ‘Judeo-Christian heritage,’ and would further specifically require the abandonment of any Islamic culture. This includes the donning of the burqa and the similar head dressings in public. Any violation of these laws will result in immediate deportation. In fact, CHP promises to “implement a moratorium on immigration from any Muslim nation.” With regards to refugees, the CHP will require new non-christian refugees to participate in faith based training programs.

CHP’s economic platform includes the introduction of its “Fair Tax” program. This program would replace federal income tax with a national retail sales tax.  They will treat Canada’s national debt like a “mortgage,” they speculate that through monthly payments of principle and interest, Canada will be out of debt within 35 years. If elected, the CHP promises to invest heavily in research and development of low cost clean water technology and infrastructure.

The CHP’s healthcare platform includes increased privatization of Canada’s health care system, the elimination of funding for abortion, building better hospitals and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

On their website, the party argues that “”greenhouse gases” are  not  pollutants. [They] are essential to agriculture—and indeed, to all life on earth. Furthermore the global temperature does  not  follow CO2 levels (as IPCC computer models assume), it  leads  it. That is, higher global temperatures cause rising CO2 levels, not the other way around.” They urge voters not to vote for any party that perpetuates the ‘myth’ of global warming.

CHP is running 31 candidates this election, with three candidates running in Quebec. In 2008 they captured 0.19% of the popular vote.

Jump to a party: Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party, Christian Heritage Party, Rhinoceros Party, Pirate Party, Libertarian Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Western Block Party, United Party, Progressive Party, First People’s National Party

Rhinoceros Party

Next I would like to welcome Canada’s infamous Rhinoceros Party, also know as NeoRhino. Just a heads up, if you live in Montreal, you can only vote for this party if you reside in the  LaSalle-Emard riding. They also have candidates running in Trois-Rivieres and  Chicoutimi-Le Fjord.

The Rhinoceros Party is the successor to the original Rhino party, known as the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. It was established in 1963, by Jacques Ferron  as Canada’s first national joke party.  The name for the party was derived from the similarities Ferron found between between Canadian politicians and the animal.

“[They’re] thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted [creatures who] can move fast as hell when in danger and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces,” he once explained.

When asked one day what his party would do if elected, Ferron replied, “same as yours, nothing.” Although often criticized for their…silliness, the Rhinos argue that their party is as valid as any other because they are the voice of the people who no longer believe in the system.

Although they are a group of self-professed “imbeciles, licensed cretins [and]… cupboard anarchists,” the Rhinos have a serious message for the Canadian government that they send by capturing the fed-up vote. What a message it would send if instead of staying home on election day, just a tiny portion of those 40% of non-voters voted Rhino… In their prime, in 1980, the Rhinos captured 1.01% of the popular vote, in 2008 they got 0.02%.

Some promises the party has made over the years include repealing the law of gravity, creating the world’s biggest parking lot by paving over Manitoba, building taller schools to increase and promote higher education, damming the St. Lawrence river to convert Montreal’s streets into a series of Venice-like canals, converting Saint Catherine Street into the longest bowling alley ever, putting the Canadian Senate up for sale at an antiques auction, transferring Canada’s national debt onto a Visa card and renaming the country Nantucket.

They have also promised to build the worlds longest bridge, an ambitious project that would connect Vancouver Island with Newfoundland. They propose to reconstruct the Trans-Canada into a one-way highway and will initiate a counting of the 1000 islands as the result of suspicion that the United States have stolen some.  Oh, but don’t worry, I forgot to mention their campaign slogan: “We promise to keep none of our promises!”

The Pirate Party of Canada

Nope, the Pirate Party of Canada isn’t another joke party advocating that we all search for treasure while wearing striped t-shirts and eye patches. Founded in 2009, this nascent party stands  for information reform. The party is out to tackle inadequate copyright laws and push for the expansion and reform of online privacy laws. They also want to shorten patent terms and eliminate patents for  software, pharmaceuticals, business models, genes and life forms.

The party is also campaigning to increase government transparency via the internet.  The PPCA is running 13 candidates in Canada and one in Quebec, in the riding of  Laval—Les ÃŽles.

The Libertarian Party of Canada

The Libertarian Party of Canada began its journey as a political party in 1973 but only became an officially recognized political party in 1979. In 2008, they captured 0.05% of the popular vote. This election they are running 8 candidates, none of which are in Quebec. Similar in many ways to the more, uh, visible Tea Party in the United States, the Libertarians primary cause is to promote and protect the rights and liberties of the individual. This sounds nice, right? According to the Libs this entails reducing the size of the government to an absolute minimum so that its reach would only extend as far as the administration of justice and national defense.

They describe the government as a “force” that uses social welfare to unjustly and forcefully rob from those who have worked hard for their wealth only to redistribute it to the needy. They argue that welfare is damaging and often leads to dependency while also proposing to  eliminate all minimum wage laws.

Furthermore, the Libs posit that the government should play no role in the economic sphere of Canada. If elected, they propose to do away with government subsidies and licensing restrictions. The Libs are opposed to any taxation that is not intended to fund the justice or defense systems.

Furthermore, they argue that some of the remaining crumbs of government services should be funded by convicted criminals who would be expected to fund a large chunk of the justice system. Other ways they plan on lower taxes include abolishing social services and filling the military with volunteers.

By now, it should come as no surprise to you that the Libs are proponents of a privately funded healthcare system, they also oppose all public funding for education and compulsory education laws. They will repeal all non-violent criminal legislation and would thus legalize all drugs or any other substance and will grant amnesty to those punished for said crimes. This brings us nicely over to the next party I would like to introduce to you, you guessed it, the Marijuana Party.

The Marijuana Party of Canada

After Marc-Boris St-Maurice was found guilty of possession of marijuana in 1991, he became a Marijuana activist which eventually led to the Marijuana Party of Canada‘s formation in 2005. The Marijuana Party’s  only official party platform is the decriminalization of marijuana and the subsequent amnesty to those being punished for marijuana-related crimes.

The  party is a lobbyist party and does not exist for the purpose of becoming the next government of Canada. In fact, the party  even endorses strategic voting against the Conservative Party. They posit that members are under no obligation to vote Marijuana and many Marijuana candidates have openly supported the NDP, Green and Liberal parties.

In 2008, the party received 0.02% of the popular vote. The party does not have any candidates running in Quebec.

Jump to a party: Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party, Christian Heritage Party, Rhinoceros Party, Pirate Party, Libertarian Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Western Block Party, United Party, Progressive Party, First People’s National Party

The Canadian Action Party

Nova Scotia-based former Liberal defense minister  Paul Hellyer created the Canadian Action Party in 1997 after considerable frustration with what he felt was a sort of colonization of Canada by the United States. He resigned in 2003  after his party was rejected for a merger with the NDP. The party’s current leader is Christopher Porter.  CAP is a left-leaning political party that advocates a fairer and more democratic Canada. CAP has five main pillars supporting its platform: monetary control, civil and human rights, sovereignty, parliamentary reform and the environment. Its proposed monetary reform include, re-empowering the Bank of Canada by increasing its role in servicing public debt, the re-institution of statutory reserves and a restructuring of the Canadian tax system. CAP proposes to replace the current Free Trade market and NAFTA with a fairer economic system. CAP proposes to replace the current Senate with a “Jury Senate” and urges an increase in the use of direct democracy in Canada.

The party is calling for a withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, decreased military and increased peacekeeping budgets. CAP seeks to  “end the culture of war mentality that is driving the greed and lust for power, control and dominance of people all over the world. CAP seeks to promote policies, which support peace and freedom for all.” CAP is running one candidate in Quebec in the  Mégantic-l’Érable area and 12 in total.  In 2008 the CAP  received 0.03% of the popular vote.

The Western Block Party of Canada

The Western Block is, yep you guessed it, a Western separatist party – the Bloc is fighting for Western Canada to become an independent state. The Block asserts that Western Canada has been marginalized over the past many years because Canada is controlled by Ontario and Quebec. Its founder, Doug Christie, became a separatist in 1975 and by 2005 became so fed up with Canada’s neglect for the West that he formed his own political party in an attempt to get out of Canada. Defending his position, Christie in a interview in 2005 said, “What’s good about Canada? Tell me one thing that Western Canada gets from Ontario and Quebec that they could not get better, quicker and cheaper somewhere else, including good government. We can govern ourselves, we’re not idiots. We’re capable of making better political decisions for ourselves than Ottawa’s 106 seats and Quebec’s 75 will ever do for us. We can govern ourselves much more effectively.” The full interview is available here. In 2008, the party received 0.00% of the popular vote. This election they will be running several candidates in…Western Canada.

The United Party of Canada

Founded in 2009, United Party of Canada is a party with one overarching vision: to unite the Canadian people, to amalgamate French, English, Aboriginal and Immigrant Canadians. But the party is not just some big love fest, they have a progressive and comprehensive platform. Once elected, UPC promises to cut taxes for families while cutting business rates for nascent businesses. They will create a $750 million a year program designed to train new workers with a focus of jobs in the sustainable energy sector. They demand capping credit card interest rates at 5% and propose to put an end once and for all to the Canadian penny. They will name a minister specifically committed to consumer affairs, and promise to go the extra mile in food safety. The party also proposes some interesting solutions to the current pension problem in Canada. They proses a mandatory system wherein both parties, the employer and employee will be required to contribute 5% of pay. They also propose to abandon the minimum income that dictates how much a person can obtain from the current Guaranteed Income Supplement program.

UPC proposes the creation of a ‘Guaranteed Minimum Income Level Program’ which would eventually replace federal income support programs. This program would guarantee that every Canadian receives a minimum of about  $1,564.40 per month.  They argue that this affordable program will not only eliminate virtually all of the poverty in Canada, but it will also increase health and safety for all Canadians. They posit that this program can easily be paid for by Canada’s Employment Insurance Program and would actually generate a surplus.

When it comes to the environment, UPC is pushing a fee for polluters of $10 a ton for greenhouse emissions, which will be set to rise every four years. This revenue, they argue, will end up back in the pockets of Canadians.

They will attempt to integrate dental care into our health care system and will create incentives for dentists to treat priority patients with actual priority. They are in favor of a ‘Pharmacare’ bill, that would decrease Canada’s drug expenditure by over $10 billion. With regards to abortion, UPC posits that Canadian woman have the right to choose, however tax breaks will be give to those who op for adoption over abortion.

They promise to scrap all post-secondary tuition so long as the student maintains a passing grade. This will be in addition to a guaranteed minimum income for post-secondary students. UPC promises to transform the prison system so that prisoners have a better quality of life, access to education and work. Some of the money made in prison by prisoners will be channeled to pay restitution to victims. They envision a future where new metal health facilities, rehab and drug treatment centers go up in place of new prisons. The party is also in favor of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana of less than one ounce.

The United Party of Canada is running Candidates in Ontario. In 2010, in a by-election in Vaughan, Ontario, UPC received 0.01% of the vote.

The Progressive Canadian Party

Founded in 2004, PC is a party committed to the progressive conservative agenda, they strive to keep what is good in our system while improving on what is needed. Their aim is to fill “the space on the political spectrum, where most Canadians are.” The party agrees with many Harper policies but would improve on, or change the following: they would initiate a universal post-secondary program that grants free post-secondary education for all; they seek to further increase trade with developing countries in order to stimulate their economic growth and global prosperity. As opposed to the conservatives, PC has a greener vision for Canada. They plan on greater investment in renewable energy. However, the major difference between Harper and PC is Afghanistan. PC proposes to form an alliance with Pakistan and India to bring about peace instead of continuing to attempt the so called “impossible.”

In 2008, the party earned 0.04% of the popular vote. This election PC is running 3 candidates, none of which are in Quebec.

The First Peoples National Party of Canada

The First People’s National Party envisions a government that truly puts all the people of Canada first. The party argues that Canada was founded on the shoulders of First Nations people and that the original Treatise between Canada’s colonizers and colonized based on mutual respect and cooperation was broken. The party calls for the government of Canada to honor those promises now. The party claims that “any country that continues to exclude its First Peoples from all levels of governance is a colonizing body. The snails pace of government in land-claim settlements and the light speed of resource development by foreign-owned companies are continued acts of colonization and cultural genocide.” The party is fighting first and foremost for inclusion, they advocate Senate reform and the formation of a First People’s House in addition to the House of Commons.  They propose the development of, and increased funding for sustainable communities and social programs and are dedicated to fighting poverty. The FPNP advocates respect of all cultural and spiritual beliefs.

William Morin, the party’s interim leader, argues that First Nations People generally do not vote because by doing so they would be forfeiting their sovereignty as First Nations people. Voting to many First Nations people is perceived as an act of encouraging further exploitation by legitimizing an abusive government. He also argues that First Nations leaders often find themselves in catch-22-like situations. Do they stand up to big business and an unjust government and risk losing the government funding they deserve and so desperately need for their people?

This election, the FPNP is running one candidate in Ontario, in 2008 they captured 0.01% of the popular vote.

Jump to a party: Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party, Christian Heritage Party, Rhinoceros Party, Pirate Party, Libertarian Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Western Block Party, United Party, Progressive Party, First People’s National Party

This Thursday Jack Layton will arrive in Montreal for a huge rally in the riding of Jeanne-Le-Ber, one of many seats that the NDP suddenly find itself competitive in as Layton fever sweeps the province. The rally, taking place at 5PM at the Corona Theatre (2490, Notre-Dame O) is a homecoming of sorts for Quebec’s newest favourite son.

Considering that the NDP was at lower than 2% in the 2000 election, it’s almost inconceivable that the party now finds itself in second place to the Bloc Quebecois. The latest Angus Reid poll put them at 24%, and they have been at or over 20% in almost all polls released since the beginning of the campaign. In fact, as polls taken on different days and by different companies bounce around like some sort of electoral yo-yo, the consistency of NDP support in Quebec is startling.

So what accounts for this stratospheric increase in NDP support in this province, and is it a permanent marriage, or merely a temporary fling for my fellow Quebecois?

All indications are that this is no one-nighter and that the NDP is here to stay as a force on the federal level. In every election since Jack Layton assumed the leadership of the NDP in 2003, the party has posted significant gains. From 4.6% in 2004 to 7.5% in 2006 to 12.5% in 2008. This last result was undoubtedly aided by Thomas Mulcair’s by-election victory in Outremont in 2007, a feat the party’s deputy leader repeated in the 2008 general election, proving once and for all that the NDP was capable of winning in Quebec.

The truth is Quebecers are increasingly falling head over heels into Jackmania, and the only cure is more votes and more seats.

Our long lost native son has succeeded in reshaping the image of a party long seen as too centralizing for Quebecers, and Layton seems to have truly gained the trust of this province with his relentless championing of social issues important to us.

While the Bloc and NDP share many platform points when it comes to fighting for the rights of regular people, rather than the major corporations whose interests the Liberals and Conservatives seem to represent, Quebecers are losing faith in the Bloc’s ability to achieve its goals.

Tyrone Benskin: candidate for Jeanne-Le-Ber where the rally will take place

Of hundreds of bills proposed by the Bloc since their inception, they’ve managed to pass three, two of which were to change the names of ridings. There is also a lingering distrust of the Bloc’s commitment to their platform since they voted against $4.6 billion of new funding for social housing, education, healthcare and other social programs. Rather than supporting this new funding, negotiated by the NDP to save Paul Martin’s government, and which they had promised to fight for in their platform, the Bloc chose to oppose it in order to gain a few new seats.

As Tom Mulcair is fond of saying, the Bloc is very good at playing defence, but you can’t win a hockey game with five defencemen.

So as the Bloc slides, a process sure to accelerate after the looming departure of Gilles Duceppe for the provincial arena, the NDP is the party best positioned to take up the progressive flag of Quebecers concerned more with social programs and a just society than doling out favours like corporate tax cuts to the giant corporations that bankroll the Libs and Cons.

Considering that 45% of Bloc supporters identify their second choice as the NDP, it isn’t hard to see why disillusionment with the Bloc is resulting in a surge in NDP support.

What is harder to measure is how this new-found support, which is quite evenly distributed across the province, will translate into seats in our out-moded first past the post system.

While La Presse’s riding poll of Outremont shows a 20% lead for Mulcair over his Liberal rival (and former justice minister) Martin Cauchon, increasing numbers of other ridings appear to be in play. Gatineau and Hull-Aylmer   seem likely to fall to the NDP while even the northernmost riding in Quebec, Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou could see an upset by star NDP candidate Romeo Saganash, a leader in the Cree community there.

Meanwhile, if NDP gains continue many Montreal ridings could fall to the orange wave sweeping the province.

Full disclosure, I am currently a member of NDP central campaign staff in Quebec for this election. As such, it’s sometimes hard not to pinch myself when I wake up in the morning. But this is no dream.

Quebecers are flocking to a party that is first and foremost honest about its intent and is also clear on who it represents. The NDP is and always has been a party that seeks to get the best deal possible for the oppressed and marginalized in our society.

The party that brought us medicare has been no less clear on where it stands in this election. Promising to radically overhaul funding for post-secondary education and freeze and reduce tuition, legislate net neutrality, hire more doctors and nurses and strengthen pensions. They’re promising to cut taxes on small businesses and reward job creators while raising the Corporate taxes that Harper has unconscionably lowered. They’ll also cap credit card rates at 5% + Prime, take federal tax off home heating oil and give us control over our cell phone bills. Social Housing that we desperately need will be a priority, as always, for the NDP.

Ultimately, the determining factor in how many of those Quebecers who now find themselves supporting the NDP actually make it to the ballot box to vote will depend entirely on how successful we are in mobilizing them. The NDP’s key disadvantage is that the Liberals and Bloc have well oiled electoral machines in Quebec, which are capable of keeping their voters in the fold and driving them to the polls.

If we can field an ever-growing team of volunteers in this election, then we have a real shot at many ridings here in Montreal.

So this election, please don’t just vote NDP, volunteer for the NDP. Because this is history in the making, and you don’t want to miss it.

To volunteer for the NDP please phone Ethan directly at 514-662-0070. The Jack Layton rally will be held at the Corona Theatre (2490 Notre Dame W.) at 5PM this Thursday, April 14.

Images: ctv.ca and ndp.ca

The Canadian National Election is now entering its third week. All major parties have released their platforms, the NDP being the last out of the gate yesterday. All the parties have made their promises to improve the country in a way they see fit, but they all seem fit on catering to Canadian families without much concern for the national deficit or the apathy of young voters.

Political parties always accommodate families because the conventional wisdom behind elections is that it’s the mom and dad/grandma and grandpa that get out to cast their vote. Unfortunately, this perception could not be truer. The 40th general election in 2008 saw improved voter turnout as the ages of the individuals increased. For voters aged 18 to 24 the turnout was a dismal 35% to 38.5%. At the other end of the spectrum, more than 67% of the senior citizens voted. Clearly, the political parties go after the 40 years in between and for good reason.

The Liberal Party, to Ignatieff’s credit, did promise to give a billion dollars to students to help pay school tuition fees, however, apart from that I can’t help but think that if I was young again, without any political affiliation, I would be absolutely bored to tears. Perhaps the reason young people don’t vote 65% of the time is that there is nothing for them to vote for. Young Quebecers seem to be the only exception, as their turn out rate is constantly slightly less than the overall national average.

young supporters cheering the future president

In the US election back in 2008, Barack Obama managed to capture the minds of young people with a simple slogan (Yes We Can!), a terrific online campaign and the hope (delusion in hindsight) that change was on the way. Between 22 and 24 million Americans aged 1829 turned out to vote, resulting in an estimated youth voter turnout of between 49.3% and 54.5%. Students who cast their vote were part of the largest ever group in their age bracket to support a single candidate. Obama got 66% of their vote.

So, what is the difference in Canada, bad slogans? The Conservative slogan is “Here for Canada” (really? I thought they were “Here for Mars”). The other party slogans aren’t much better either: the Liberals have “Your Family. Your Future. Your Canada (that really appeals to young Canadians) and the NDP’s is Canadian Leadership/Travaillons Ensemble (yawn). I know a party’s slogan isn’t as important as its policies, but these slogans lack any sense of excitement.

I think, the real difference in Canada is the leaders themselves. With the exception of Michael Ignatieff all the party leaders in this election have run several times before. However, even with Iggy joining the crowd, there is nothing new, nothing exciting, no flare, no “coolness” about them and therefore, nothing to attract the youth of the nation. If the leaders are waiting for this week’s debate to draw in some young supporters, I fear none of them will be watching as none of them have been given a reason to.

Estimates of voter turnout by age group in the 2008 Canadian general election

Aaah, Craigslist casual encounters, will you never cease to amaze. Thought he was married, but check it out:

Lonely, Mature, White Male Seeks Hot Canadian Internet for Voyeur Fun! (m4wwmm)

As the title says I’m a mature white male (a gray wolf?) looking for Canadians who want to open up their online activities to me, for my viewing pleasure, with the forced help of every ISP in the country.

With your name, phone number, address and IP address I’ll watch everything you do online in real time! You won’t even know I’m there. It will make you feel safe, and it really gets me off.

Just imagine: every time you log on, I’ll be there, over your shoulder, breathing gently in your ear, letting my eyes roll over your mouse clicks and keystrokes. My buddies will be watching too. I’m so hard already, just thinking about it.

I just want to make the whole country my best j/o buddy doesn’t it sound beautiful?

Check out this article for more information. I’m not affiliated in any way with Michael Geist, but I can’t wait to leer at his bandwidth. Mmmmhmmmm. Delicious.

To sign up as my personal masturbatory fodder, just vote conservative in the coming election or better yet don’t vote at all!

Eagerly Awaiting,

S. Harper.

I’d like to begin this one by wishing my grandmother, Zelda Tenenbaum a very happy 90th birthday!

Kittens don't make you responsible: Harper

Stephen Harper even sent in a form letter that was signed by a machine to tell her just that! Harper might not be the best choice for Prime Minister, but out of the current candidates he seems to be the only candidate with any real experience as an incumbent Prime Minister of Canada.

Of course, Harper hasn’t exactly done any better of a job at being Prime Minister than any of his predecessors. In fact, many of his predecessors did a far better job than him, but then if he was doing a good job of running the country, taxpayer’s money would not be going in to be blown on the fourth election in seven years. It could probably be put to use by building more jails and buying more ludicrously overpriced fighter planes that are available to him at a much lower cost.

In reality, longer sentences in prisons without appeals, along with deportations of many, not all of whom were foreign-born, have been on the rise. So has unemployment and the general crime rate across the country. This achieves and accomplishes the creation of only a few jobs, and an infrastructure that costs Canadian taxpayers a very large sum of money indeed. The Liberals are led by a seemingly power-hungry out of touch lout, as per usual, and I’m wondering whether NDP still stands for “No Damned Principals?”

For further erection coverage, consult your fly.

…And now, on with the rant…

It’s April, and with the melting snow comes all of the garbage, the stink, and especially the dog-excrement that lies like landmines just waiting for someone to step in. Cleaning up after a pet is responsible, and really should be backed up by law. If someone doesn’t clean up after their dog, they should then be forced to give up their dogs, followed by their own immediate execution. OK, maybe that’s going too far, but I think at least that if we made urban landmines actually explosive, like regular landmines, a lot more people would clean up after their dogs.

Now wouldn't that be nice!

Therefore, I propose a bill that would have dog food manufacturers put nitroglycerin and other explosives into the dog food, with some kind of time-release system where the owners of the dog could safely clean up after their dogs, but if left out for more than, say, an hour, they will then explode on contact, causing damages to the property, with dire consequences for dog owners who are irresponsible.

On the other hand, I realize that most dog owners are usually responsible, respectful, law-abiding citizens and those few irresponsible and ill-mannered dog owners simply give the rest of the dog-owning populace a very bad name. Therefore I believe that if anyone doesn’t clean up after even one infraction of their dog pooping on the sidewalk (clean it up with a pooper-scooper, and empty it into the nearest municipal trash can) and instead covers their dog’s excrement with the snow that is conveniently there because no trash can is readily available, then the excrement must be mailed to city hall by way of priority courier, destination: the mayor’s desk. Trash cans will pop up fast all over town shortly thereafter. If they don’t, then you must keep shipping your dog’s excrement to city hall until they do.

Really, though, irresponsible pet owners should not be permitted to own pets.

And if you would like to send any care packages to the Mayor his mailing address is:

Hôtel de ville
275, rue Notre-Dame Est
Montréal (Québec)
H2Y 1C6

* Photos by gerryporter.blogspot.com and thehydrant.wordpress.com