What do the 2016 US Presidential candidates eat? What do their gastronomic ways say about their presidential personality?

Though it only lasted five months, our own federal election in Canada gave us enough time to find out what out candidates ate, and what it said (or didn’t say) about their leadership style.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is the Tom Mulcair of candidates south of the border. Just not in the way you might think.

Each has pulled his party in the polar opposite direction. Yet they share a gruff gastronomic asceticism on the campaign trail.

If you recall, Forget the Box was the first outlet to uncover the bombshell news: Mulcair’s organs are made of bricks and wool. Our investigative report disclosed that this Prime Minister hopeful had never been seen partaking in food, even when hiking on Mont-Royal, stumping in small towns, or Schwartz-ing with jovial peers.

    

Now Sanders’ food choices remain equally opaque, leaving us up here to surmise that he survives on his healthy diet of finger wagging. Even the hearty US press corps, with its fifteen months of research, has come up mostly empty trying to paint the “lifestyle” profile of loveable Uncle Bern.

In candidate surveys, the best they could come up with was “scrambled eggs for breakfast.” This sounds like it was filled in by some campaign intern. Though it’s not really an answer, we’ll assume they’re unsalted, devoid of condiments.

To be fair, Sanders has this slight edge over Mulcair. The latter was never even seen sipping coffee, whether in meetins or at pictoresque rural working class diners. Sanders, on the other hand, was definitively ID-ed sipping Vermont craft beer. It seems suspicious, sort of a photo-op setup.

Yet I believe it. He is drinking the hoppiest beer in a state known for very hoppy delights, which seems to fit with his enjoyably bitter personal brand.

Ted Cruz

You might recall the eponymous #GuacGate, spurred by the NYT’s suggestion of peas in traditional Mexican-American versions of guac.

We saw then that guacamole was a deeply divisive political issue, and this was before the immigration debate gathered full steam. Yet it also united party leaders in unexpected ways, such as Jeb and Obama’s ardent disavowel of this French intrusion into an already-perfect dish.

Fittingly, one of the only dissenters, even in a moment of bipartisan fun, was divisive Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas senator came up on the wrong side as his colleagues as usual, claiming his distaste not only for guacamole, but for avocadoes full stop.

Fitting consistent with his Texas image, Cruz picks enchiladas (the legal kind) over any other dish.

Donald Trump

Now to the frontrunners. We’ll save Clinton to the end, because her food preferences, like Harper’s in my original article, somehow leave me most unsettled.

This is a surprise in itself, because in this unprecedented US primary spectacle, you’d think Trump would reign supreme generating gastronomic headlines. Yet despite him criticizing Kasich for his hearty four-course Italian meal at a New York market food stand, he has been criticized for eating pizza with forks and generally unhealthy food preferences. This might be exciting for another candidate, though for Trump’s grand style, his diet lands up surprisingly boring, even unworthy of mention.

He claims he eats light and healthy on the trail, sans alcohol. He does, of course, mention that he indulges in his favourite dish once in awhile: US steak. This is helpful, given the cartons of unsold Trump Steaks likely sitting in some warehouse.

Hillary Clinton

Remember Obama’s epic stops at Ray’s & In n Out burger, photos of juicy burgers joyously shared with Senator Joe? They swarmed over social media, part of his fresh new image that helped launch him to the win.

Source: WaPo

Clinton, on the other hand, is ever the milquetoast frontrunner. In ways eerily similar to Harper who, lest we forget, was once touted to regain his majority reign, she avoids unplanned ops or stops or any real insight into her soul. So the first similarity is their over-advised inhuman personas: it’s hard to discern if they have any real passions or preferences at all.

Yet the second is spicy. We revealed Harper’s “secret obsession” with deathly strong hot-sauce (he supposedly kept a special pantry of it at Sussex Drive, if you recall). Clinton, too, has been said to carry hardcore hot sauce in her purse, a “confession” corroborated by aides.

Now, some criticized this as blatant pandering, since this detail unsurprisingly slipped out during one of her Southern campaign stops. It’s possible that Clinton’s hot sauce obsession is as manufactured as her Southern accent.

Like her true views on society, policy and values, one thing’s safe to say: we’ll never know the truth.

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What dirt have you uncovered on the Presidential candidates eating habits?

UPDATE: Press time: Carly Fiorina just announced her VP run with Cruz. We’re curious if the Cruz team vetted her dietary preferences before the presser.

‘I always used to eat Milk-Bones as a kid’: Carly Fiorina snacks on dog treats and tells puppies to vote Republican because ‘Obama ate your cousin’ in bizarre video – Daily Mail, 15 Dec. 2015

Souce: Daily Mail

The other day I saw people sharing an article with the headline: Southern Poverty Law Center Lists Donald Trump and his Campaign, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. as a Hate Group. I didn’t open it right away and believed it was real for almost a day, eventually discovering the source was a parody site.

Honestly, I was disappointed to find that out. There is no reason why the Trump Campaign shouldn’t be classified as a hate group, because, well, they are.

Donald Trump himself, I still believe, is nothing more than an opportunist. A billionaire without a conscience who will say absolutely anything to become President. When he said that he would deny all Muslims entry into the US, he did so because he knew that everyone in the media would be talking about it.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

His plan worked. He was on all the morning shows the next day. Defending the indefensible and even using the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was responsible for Japanese internment camps and is still celebrated as justification.

FDR is still celebrated in spite of the internment camps, not because of it. They are probably the second biggest domestic policy blight in the history of the United States, following, of course, treatment of natives.

While that may not be lost on Trump the person, who is, by all accounts intelligent, it is lost on Trump the candidate. Bringing up a dark chapter in American history and using it to justify an unthinkably racist and at the same time pointless position is just par for the course for this candidate.

Hate-Filled Followers

What was once a joke candidacy stopped being funny a while ago. While I feel that Trump personally does not believe more than half of what he says, the truly frightening thing is that quite a few people do.

Racists and other ignorant people had been restricted to trolling and operating in secret for decades. Now, thanks to Trump, they are able to take part in a national political debate. They’re not afraid to say the crazy shit out loud anymore, either.

Prohibiting all people who practice the world’s second largest religion from entering a country because a few adherents committed violent acts in said country is the sort of nonsensical idea you would expect to hear from some loner with no concept of how the world works and a serious axe to grind. Now we’re getting it from a front-runner in a major political party.

As a result, all the racists, Islamophobes and other assorted bigots feel free to express their prejudice openly and sometimes violently. It’s hard to forget that just a few weeks ago, Trump supporters physically attacked a Black Lives Matter protester during a rally.

Republicans Distancing Themselves

Amidst all the petitions to remove Trump branding from buildings and bar the billionaire from entering cities and countries (like the UK and Canada, we’re seeing something new. Several prominent Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump.

People like Paul Ryan and even Dick Cheney are publicly speaking out against The Donald. Yes, the same people who built careers partially on the support of bigots are now turning on bigotry.

It’s clear why they’re doing it, too. Using divisive issues to mobilize voters is one thing. Actually speaking the language of racists from the top to do it is very different.

The Trump Campaign doesn’t use coded language for the base while sounding moderate to moderates. Instead, the hood is off. They are a hate group and if Trump gets the nomination, the Republican Party will be one, too.

A Hate Group by Definition

The Trump Campaign isn’t a hate group because of satirical comparisons to The Emperor in Star Wars. Though accurate, they are pretty common with far-right politicians:

It isn’t because of comparisons to Hitler, either. While also pretty common and usually a reach, taking a look at their respective campaign tactics side by side, the comparison seems to ring true this time:

FB_IMG_1449857942831

But that’s still not why.

No, the Trump Campaign is a hate group by definition:

“A hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, nation, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society.”

Let’s see: Organized group? Check. Advocates hostility? Barring entry to a country based exclusively on religion is definitely hostile, so check. Advocating violence? Well, supporters physically attacked Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump defended the attackers, so check as well.

These are but a few reasons why the Trump Campaign is a hate group by definition. There are more.

This is frightening. We shouldn’t treat the Donald Trump Campaign as a joke, or a legit political force. We should treat it as a hate group because that’s exactly what it is.

Weed, Pot, Mary Jane, marijuana – these are all names for cannabis and its derivatives. Marijuana has been helpful to people with chronic pain issues, in calming muscle spasms and in neutralizing the nauseating effects of medications.

According to the Canadian Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)’s website, 44% of Canadians say they have used marijuana at some point in their lives. A Statistics Canada report on Police-reported drug offenses in 2013 stated that there were approximately 73 000 reported cannabis offenses that year, 80% of which were for possession.

Marijuana has become one of the wedge issues in the current election because of the Liberal Party’s plan to legalise it. The problem, however, is that many voters don’t know what the current state of Canada’s marijuana legislation is.

Cannabis and its variations and derivatives are considered controlled substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). This law works in conjunction with the Criminal Code to control drug offenses. Marijuana offenses can be lumped into two categories: possession-related, and supply-related (production, trafficking, and importing).

Photo by Hannah Hackney
Photo by Hannah Hackney

If you have marijuana in your actual possession, someone is holding it for you, or you have it stashed somewhere, you are considered in possession. You can’t possess, seek, or try and get it. If you try and get it from a doctor or dentist, you are guilty of an offense unless you disclose to them the particulars relating to its acquisition and every attempt you’ve made to try and get marijuana in the past 30 days.

The penalties for all these offenses vary depending on how many times you’ve been convicted. The maximum prison sentence for possession of is five years less a day OR for a first offense, a prison sentence not exceeding six months or fine of up $1000 or both.

For a second offense the maximum jail term of five years less a day applies, or you could be made to pay a fine of up to $2000 or serve a jail term of up to one year or both. In all cases, conviction will result in a criminal record.

Trafficking marijuana is selling, administering, giving, transporting, transferring, sending, or delivering it. Trafficking is also the selling of an authorization to obtain that people would have gotten from a healthcare professional, or even offering to do any of the aforementioned things.

The sentence depends on aggravating factors like whether the person used or threatened to use violence or a weapon, sold the drugs for a criminal organisation, or did so near a school or to a minor. The maximum sentence is life in prison, the minimum is one year. However, IF the amount of cannabis being trafficked was no more than one gram of resin or 30 grams of marijuana, the maximum sentence is five years less a day.

Importing and exporting of marijuana fall under article six of the CDSA. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, the minimum is one year. The sentence depends on whether the offense was committed for the purposes of trafficking, if the person abused a position of authority or trust, or whether the person had access to a restricted area and abused that access to commit the crime.

Growing marijuana and doing anything to alter its chemical or physical properties is considered production under the CDSA. The sentences vary according to the amount produced and aggravating factors like whether you’re using someone else’s property, said production put minors at risk, was a public safety hazard located in a residential area, or the person set a booby trap in the production location.

Growing marijuana comes with a maximum sentence of 14 years and minimum sentences of six months if you have less than 201 plants and more than five. If you have more than five plants but less than 201, you’re considered to be producing to traffic, and any of the aggravating factors apply – the sentence is nine months or the 14 year maximum.

Parliament Hill 420 Rally 2013 (photo by Joel Balsam)
Parliament Hill 420 Rally 2013 (photo by Joel Balsam)

If the number of plants is over 201 but less than 500 and any of the aggravating factors apply, the minimum sentence is 18 months. If the offender has more than 500 plants, the minimum sentence is two years unless the aggravating factors apply in which case the sentence jumps to three years. Though the law is silent about what the penalty is for having four plants or less, chances are you’ll get charged with possession, not production, as you were probably keeping those plants for personal use.

The Liberal Party’s plan is to “legalize, regulate, and restrict” access. Legalization would start with a task force of public health experts, substance abuse experts, and enforcement specialists to advise on the creation of marijuana regulations. This includes removing marijuana consumption and possession offenses from the Criminal Code, and enacting stiffer penalties for those who push marijuana at minors, drive high, and sell it without obeying government regulations.

Many critics argue that decriminalisation, and not legalisation, is the answer to society’s marijuana problems. Decriminalisation is the act of making something legal that was once illegal. Legalisation is the legal recognition of an unregulated practice or illegal act that society has already been tolerating.

However, Canadian society hasn’t exactly tolerated marijuana as police continue to arrest even those who keep the drug for personal use. These people often find themselves stuck with criminal records and there is no proof that tough cannabis laws deter use. Those convicted of marijuana offenses often continue to smoke it.

With the Harper Conservatives bellowing about how marijuana is worse than tobacco and most statistics saying otherwise, it is imperative that Canadians know what their rights are with regards to cannabis related offenses.

Regardless of why you have marijuana in your possession, remember that as long as it remains illegal, you can find yourself with a hefty fine or even stuck in jail just because you wanted some to ease your pain or lighten your mood and couldn’t get a prescription.

* Featured image by Joel Balsam

This article was originally published on QuiteMike.org.

After dissolving parliament, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promptly lies to Canadians about the election’s cost

October 19th 2015 has been the chosen date for Canada’s next election since Prime Minister Stephen Harper won his first majority parliament back in 2011. It should be mentioned that the fixed election idea belongs to Harper’s Conservative Party which amended the Canada Elections Act.

What Canadians didn’t expect at the time was a 78 day election campaign marathon. The longest election since 1872 when the country was just five years old. Well buckle up Canada because that’s what harper has brought us. This Canadian Election will be twice as long as past traditional elections and twice as expensive to tax payers.

After dissolving parliament, Prime Minister Harper stood outside Rideau Hall yesterday and announced the 11 week campaign. He then blatantly lied to Canadians as to why he called the election more than a month early by saying “As it my intention to begin campaign-related activities and it is also the case for the other party leaders, it’s important that these campaigns be funded by the parties themselves, rather than taxpayers.”

canadian flag

The Conservatives of all people should know how bullshit a statement like that really is. Last year they changed the election rules to allow more money to be spent on longer campaigns. Approximately $685,000 for each day beyond the basic 37-day campaign. Campaigns that are 50% funded by the public.

After being challenged about the statement from a CBC reporter, Harper repeated “I feel very strongly that if we’re going to begin our campaigns, if we’re going to run our campaigns, those campaigns need to be conducted under the rules of the law, that the money come from the parties themselves not government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources.” WTF?

In the last election of 2011, taxpayers refunded 50% of each party’s spending limit, which was just over $20 million for each party. This time around thanks to Harper’s rule changes and early election call, the limits will be above $50 million each.

It should be noted that as the only right wing party in Canada, the Conservatives have raised more money than the other major parties combined. A long expensive election works to their advantage which I imagine was the plan all along.

conservative-leader-stephen-harper

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sarcastically joked about the rules being fair then said “What isn’t right is to claim that the taxpayers’ aren’t subsidizing this election. It’s going to cost Canadians tens of millions of dollars more because for all of those horrible attack ads that we are about to hear — we will be bludgeoned in our own homes by attack ads — and every single one of those attack ads, we are paying for half.”

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP spoke about the need for change and said the campaign is about priorities. “Mr. Harper’s priority is spend millions of dollars on self-serving government advertising and an early election call.”

The cost of the early election to the Canadian public is not the only thing Stephen Harper lied about in his opening election speech. He also falsely claimed his Conservatives have balanced the budget despite having a deficit for eight straight years including this one. He even had the gall to say that the Canadian Economy was stronger, but I’ll get into that story another time.

Over the next 78 days, there will be plenty of time to expose the lies and the policies of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. In the meantime, please do not allow an extremely long hate filled campaign to keep you from voting. It is too important.

Check back with Quiet Mike and our partners at QuiteMike.org throughout the campaign for all the election coverage you can stomach. We will do our best to keep all the parties honest.

Although it may feel like our federal politicians have been in election mode for a few months, Canada’s 2015 Federal Election was only officially called this morning, August 2nd. That’s eleven weeks away from Monday, October 19th, election day, making it the longest federal election campaign in recent memory.

I already know who I’m voting for. While sometimes I choose None of the Above, this year I’m going Orange and voting for my local NDP candidate, mainly because I want to see C-51 repealed.

That doesn’t mean that everyone involved with Forget the Box or our readers feel the same way. That’s why we don’t do political endorsements from the editorial team as many media outlets do.

Instead, we ask our readers, contributors and editors to decide who gets an endorsement, which I will write up, whether the result is what I want or not. You get a vote – one vote – but, just as with real politics, you can also campaign by sharing this poll with your friends on social media who agree with you. Believe me, if my choice isn’t winning a few days before the election, I will.

So here it is: FTB’s 2015 Canadian Federal Election Poll:

Who do you plan on voting for in the 2015 Canadian Federal Election?

  • New Democratic Party (NDP) (51%, 137 Votes)
  • Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) (30%, 82 Votes)
  • Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) (4%, 11 Votes)
  • Green Party of Canada (Green) (2%, 6 Votes)
  • Bloc Quebecois (BQ) (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Pirate Party of Canada (2%, 5 Votes)
  • There's an Election? (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Libertarian Party of Canada (1%, 3 Votes)
  • None of the Above (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Communist Party of Canada (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Other (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Marijuana Party (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Forces et Démocratie (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Rhinoceros Party (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Non-affiliated Candidate (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 271

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You can vote above or in the sidebar of every page on the site. The poll closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time the day before electips day. The results and the endorsement post will be published the following day as people are voting for real.

We included as many so-called fringe parties as we felt our readers may actually consider voting for. If you’re planning on voting for a registered party not listed, you can either check the “other” box or let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

Pros and Cons

To get this started, I have compiled a list of the pros and cons of each political party as well as the None of the Above option. Now, what is considered pro and con is entirely subjective, but given the progressive bent of a large portion of our readership, these should pass the test. Honestly, it was kind of difficult coming up with “pros” for some parties, but I did it.

Please feel free to debate these pros and cons in the comments below and, of course, debate the election.

Here goes in the order they are currently polling in the major polling firms:

New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP)

ndp

Pros:

  • Against C-51: The NDP is the only party with a decent expectation of forming government that not only voted against Bill C-51, Harper’s so-called anti-terrorism legislation, but promises to repeal it if elected.
  • MMIW Inquiry: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has promised an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on the first 100 days in office.
  • No Community Mailboxes: The NDP has promised to reverse Canada Post’s decision to end door-to-door mail delivery and replace it with community mailboxes.

Cons:

  • Energy East: The federal NDP doesn’t have a clear policy on the proposed trans-national pipeline project. In fact, Alberta NDP leader and premier Rachel Notley is actively campaigning for it.
  • Gaza: It took the party’s grassroots occupying MP offices to get Mulcair to offer a balanced approach to Israel’s attack on Gaza last year. Also, Paul Manly was denied the chance to run for the party’s nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, BC, supposedly due to his father and former MP Jim Manly, being on the flotilla to Gaza.

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

cpc

Pros:

  • What You See is What You Get: If you’re happy with the last four years of federal policy, then you can expect more of the same with Harper & Co.
  • Protest Recruitment: If you think mobilization on the streets against the government is the only way to achieve social justice, then there is no better recruiting tool then Prime Minister Stephen Harper (though it may be more difficult now that C-51 is law).
  • Band on the Backburner: The silver lining of another Conservative majority is four more years of Harper only rolling out his musical chops on special occasions. He’s really terrible.

Cons:

  • What You See is What You Get: Omnibus bills, fear, second-class citizens, bromance with Bibi, Duffy, fraud, community mailboxes, muzzling scientists, muzzling charities, the list goes on
  • Nickelback

Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)

lpc

Pros:

  • 420: Trudeau supports the legalization of weed for recreational use. It worked for Colorado, why not for Canada?
  • First Nations: The Liberals also support Nation to Nation talks with indigenous populations.
  • Experience: While the CPC love to mock the Liberal leader’s lack of experience, quite a few of the candidates have considerable government experience.

Cons:

  • Voted for C-51: How can you be against something and vote for it? Also, only promised to change it, not repeal it.
  • Pipelines: The Liberals may also be unclear on Energy East, but their leader went down to Washington to pitch Keystone.

Bloc Quebecois (BQ)

bq

Pros:

  • Against Energy East: This may be a wedge issue against the NDP. The Bloc has released ads against the pipeline project and presumed Dipper support.
  • Gilles Duceppe: Although he got his political ass handed to him in 2011, Duceppe is a consumate, likeable and ultimately progressive politician.
  • Conservative Vote Splitter: Harper had hoped to make inroads in rural and suburban Quebec. Some of those right-leaning voters may also be nationalist and a viable Bloc may just make those Con inroads impossible.

Cons:

  • Electoral Math: The Bloc cannot form government, the best they can hope for is opposition.
  • Mario Beaulieu: Before Duceppe took over, the Bloc was attacking the NDP from the right, releasing xenophobic ads and pushing a Marois-esque message. Despite changing gears, the Beaulieu faction is still around.

The Green Party of Canada

green

Pros:

  • Democratic Reform: While not the only party pushing to get rid of the First-Past-The-Post system, the Greens have made it one of their core issues.
  • Against C-51: They were the first party to raise the alarm about Bill C-51.
  • Clean Energy & Green Transport: One of the main planks of their platform is investment in clean energy. Another is investment in green transport.

Cons:

  • First-Past-The-Post: The electoral system which the Greens hope to reform could be the greatest impediment to them being able to pull off any real change after this election.
  • Policies Adopted by Other Parties: Most of the best ones have been.

None of the Above

Pros:

  • Record Your Displeasure: If you really don’t like any of the options, then not voting for any of them by scratching your ballot means your displeasure will be heard. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Why vote for evil?
  • Broken Promises: Party platforms are not written in stone. Politicians break promises all the time, even major ones if they become impossible in the current system (cough, Greece, cough).
  • The State: If you are fundamentally opposed to the state and would like very much to get rid of it, it makes sense not to perpetuate it with an endorsement.

Cons:

  • The State Exists: While the Canadian state still exists, the winner of the election will be able to form its policy. By voting None of the Above, your only recourse against the one of the above that wins may be the streets.
  • C-51: With Bill C-51 now law, it’s a helluva lot easier to be labelled as a terrorist. With Bill C-24 people with dual citizenship could be deported after being labelled a terrorist for doing something as simple as protesting an injustice. With these laws on the books, taking to the streets may be considerably more difficult. For some, repealing C-51 is an “at all costs” sort of thing and None of the Above isn’t an option this time.

Tuesday night’s BC election was supposed to be an in-the-bag victory for the NDP. Instead, it turned into a cautionary tale of Canada’s altered political landscape.

Adrian Dix, BC New Democrat frontrunner, will perhaps go down in history as the suffocated canary who somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

According to Angus Reid, a forecast before the election showed New Democrats were the party of choice with 45% of decided voters and leaners. Liberals were in second with 36%. On Election Day, however, Liberals won 44.4% of the popular vote with the NDP trailing at 39.5%. This translated into Liberals winning 50 of BC’s 85 legislature seats ― an increase of five seats.

Unlike Quebec PQ premier Pauline Marois, Christie Clark’s supporters should not hail Clark as the Iron Lady of the West. Premier Clark failed to secure for herself a seat in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. An MLA elected in a Liberal stronghold will likely surrender their seat so the party leader can run in a by-election.

Liberal Premier Christy Clark first sworn in by Clerk of the House E. George MacMinn as BC’s 35 Premier on March 14, 2011.

Postmortem assessment will likely uncover ‘leadership’ as the underlying cause of the BC NDP losses. BC’s election may have had more to do with Dix’s incompetence than Clark’s popularity.

Polls definitely showed that while federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s popularity rose, Clark’s popularity declined. Neither her nor Dix inspired province-wide confidence.

Indeed, Clark’s only saving grace was her ability to stay on message as the only viable candidate to stabilize BC’s economic sector and create jobs. BC Conservative leader John Cummins, shared similar policies with Clark but ultimately, his skepticism about global warming proved incompatible with BC voters.

An effective strategy for Dix would have been to prime Northern Gateway and frame it as a political clash between BC’s populous left against its irreconcilable right. Dix did no service to the party by clouding his position on Northern Gateway with qualifiers while Clark had indicated willingness to do business with Alberta if the price was right. An uncoordinated effort to attack the right in cooperation with the Greens also proved devastating.

What happened  should give NDP brass in Ottawa pause. Party leader Tom Mulcair, who had openly campaigned for Dix and saw this election as a potential warm-up for the next federal campaign, has already pledged to apply the lessons learned here in 2015.

This result was also bad for Dix’s campaign manager Brian Topp, also Jack Layton’s former chief strategist, a member of the NDP old guard and last year’s federal NDP runner-up to Mulcair. Topp’s miscalculation shows signs that the Orange Wave is regressing. Its effect could prove fatal to the federal campaign.

mulcairBC’s election represents the largest NDP experiment since the 2013 Montreal convention rejected creating a provincial party in Quebec. It may soon be the NDP’s Spanish Civil War before World War II.

Clark’s negative attacks on Dix and Dix’s unwillingness to be nasty in return, shirking away from confrontation at the televised debate, proved lethal.

Is the negative attack strategy no longer just a Harper hallmark, but a matter of political survival? Canadian politics may have not only shifted further into negative campaigning, but proved it is here to stay.

New Democrats may have to commit sacrilege against their fallen hero whose dying breath was of love being better than anger and optimism being better than despair if they want to win in 2015.

This story was broken by Ethan Cox in a rabble.ca exclusive

With a little over a week to go until the Quebec Liberal Party elects a new leader, a leading contender for the post is facing questions over his work at McGill University during a four and a half year absence from politics.

Dr. Philippe Couillard, the neurosurgeon and former Quebec Health Minister widely considered to be the front-runner to replace former Premier Jean Charest, was appointed Senior Fellow in Health Law at McGill University in January 2009, shortly after his resignation from politics in the summer of 2008.

According to sources at McGill, he held that position until April of 2012, a period of over three years, or ten academic semesters. At the time of his hiring, it was announced that he would be joining the McGill Research Group on Health and Law, and his responsibilities would include “teaching, special lectures and research.”

However a search of Minerva, McGill’s electronic registration system, shows that he taught only two courses over his time at McGill, one in the fall semester of 2009 and another in the fall semester of 2010.

This appears to be at odds with Dr. Couillard’s campaign website, which states that he was “appointed Senior Fellow in Health Law at McGill University in January 2009, and taught there from January 2009 to December 2011.” Minerva records show Couillard did not begin teaching until Fall of 2009, and did not teach at all in 2011.

“Here at McGill, we’re seeing budgets being slashed across the university, and these cuts are having a profound impact on students and the quality of our education,” said Jimmy Gutman, a Student Senator with the Student Society of McGill University who researched Couillard’s teaching record.

“If he was doing research he certainly didn’t publish any of it. I think students and taxpayers alike deserve to know what he was paid, and what work he did for the university.”

Dr. Couillard did not respond to repeated requests for comment directed to press secretary Harold Fortin, and did not reply to a request for a list of what duties other than teaching he performed for the university. McGill promised to, then failed to respond to a series of questions submitted in writing.

Wendy Thomson, a faculty member in the McGill Research Group on Health and Law, said that although she did not work directly with Couillard, she remembered him being around and suggested that his case is not comparable to that of Arthur Porter, the former MUHC head who was publicly criticized for drawing a teaching salary without teaching any courses. “[Couillard] taught a course or two on healthcare policy… he was certainly visible and present in the university.”

“For me it’s about transparency,” continued Gutman, who says he will raise the issue at the next meeting of the university’s Senate. “If he was doing something other than teaching, why won’t he or the university tell us what that was? Why won’t they disclose his salary, which is paid out of our tax dollars? If he was paid a significant salary for over three years to teach two courses then I believe that’s a misuse of public funds.”

It was a tense election, but I didn’t think it would end this way. In the alley, behind Metropolis, one person on the ground, held there by cops making his gun visible to the cameras, another, sound technician Denis Blanchette, dead and another injured.

PQ leader Pauline Marois, newly minted Premier-designate rushed off stage by security mid-speech. She had just won a minority government.

That’s right, the same kind of government that made Harper hold a damn kitten on his lap for years. A minority PQ can’t and won’t call a referendum. They can’t even hold a bake sale without at least some Liberal, CAQ or QS MNAs supporting it.

The election result was perfect for progressives, even for progressive anglos like me. Charest was gone (officially as leader this afternoon) and the PQ can’t do much, except maybe stuff that’s good for everyone.

And then some idiot goes and brings a gun to the PQ victory party. And he has the nerve to say as the cops were parading him in front of the cameras, in French, that the English were waking up.

Waking up from what? Waking up from years of voting for the Liberals no matter what? Waking up from the Federalist/Sovereigntist English/French debate that has dominated our political discourse in Quebec for too long?

Apparently, the shooter hasn’t woken up yet. Sad. Even more sad that one person is dead.

For the rest of the evening, well, here’s what I was planning to write up until the plot changed:

Quebeckers sent a message that they reject Bill 78, tuition increases and Charest’s corruption. That’s a good thing, in my book, because enforced austerity must be rejected. Charest had to go.

They also elected our first-ever woman premier. While I’m not a fan of some of the things Marois said during the campaign and am disturbed by others, I’m happy that our local political glass ceiling has been shattered and believe that she will do her best to make her new government work.

The impact of the CAQ was muted—also good. Quebec Solidaire doubled its seats, now both leaders, Francoise David and Amir Khadir, are MNAs and the party finished second and third in quite a few ridings. This is a big step forward for a forward-thinking party.

There was a chance, that finally, the discourse would change. The parties were forced to work together, Marois even spoke English during her speech (that’s finish your drink time in our Quebec Election Night Drinking Game).

All this, sadly, will take a backseat to one confused individual’s attempt to bring us back to that same discourse.

There is a vigil tonight at 8pm in front of the Metropolis for the victim of last night’s shooting

Ever been asked if you’d rather contract herpes, gonorrhoea or crabs? That’s pretty much the question facing progressive Quebec voters on September 4th, at least when it comes to what the mainstream media (and TVA in particular) see as the three main parties. I’m beginning to understand why so many politically active students are considering not voting.

First we have Jean Charest’s Liberals (PLQ). If this election is about anything, it’s a referendum on Bill 78, Charest’s handling of the student strike and corruption in the construction industry.

Unless you’re a supporter of one or more of those things, then one thing is crystal clear: everything else aside, Jean Charest has got to go. But you replace him with who or rather what?

The PQ? True, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois was really playing to progressives a few months ago. Her MNAs were passionately speaking out against Bill 78 and she seemed to be stepping away from the PQ boilerplates of sovereignty and language towards more socially-driven causes. She even wore a red square.

Now in campaign mode, her red square is gone and that boilerplate is back on the table. Just a reminder that today’s PQ and PLQ are essentially the same corporate party, with minor philosophical differences. Voting PQ to get rid of Charest is like banging a nail through your thumb with a hammer to take away the pain from the brick you just dropped on your toe.

That brings us to the Coalition de l’Avenir du Quebec or CAQ (most unfortunate acronym when said as a word in English, ever). François Legault left the PQ, hooked up with some Adequistes and formed a new party. Well, new if you’re talking dates, ideas are a different story.

This is basically the ADQ all over again. While they’re making a big deal about cleaning up corruption and have a better track record in that department than the PLQ or PQ (not hard given they’ve only existed since last year) their platform includes some right-leaning gems like exploring the idea of a two-tiered healthcare system.

They originally voted for Bill 78, but now are suggesting that they would eliminate some of the law’s provisions. I’m not usually one to champion a black or white approach to politics, but the unconstitutional suspension of basic rights and freedoms is a pretty cut and dry topic.

It’s something you really should be either for or against. There are fences you can sit on. This one, they’ll find, is particularly uncomfortable.

All this is not to say that there aren’t choices out there that lean left or are full-on progressive. In fact there are three.

Option Nationale is interesting. They’re advocating two things primarily: free tuition and sovereignty.

While I support the former wholeheartedly, the latter really isn’t my cup of tea (not a fan of any type of nationalism: Canadian, American or Quebec) and is something that has been played to death in Quebec.

What’s interesting, though, about ON, is their marketing approach. They released a video in French talking about the tuition issue and one in English talking about sovereignty.

It’s rare for a Quebec party to make ads in English in general, but aiming a separation pitch squarely at anglos is a unique approach to say the least. Can’t quite tell if it signifies a bold new way of doing politics or that they sent the wrong script to the translator by mistake

There’s also the Quebec Green Party. Not usually a ballot box favourite anywhere in North America, these Greens seem particularly confused.

First they made former MERSQ (a group for the tuition increase) president Karolane Baillargeon their candidate in Outremont. Then, after news of her recent job spread in the media, they backpedaled and announced that she wouldn’t be their candidate.

While Green squares apparently aren’t a great fit in the Quebec Green Party, I doubt any of them would have even thought of approaching Québec Solidaire to run. Party co-leader Amir Khadir was, after all, arrested at a casseroles demonstration and was very vocal against Bill 78, urging civil disobedience shortly after it was passed.

I like QS. That is to say I like most of their ideas. I’m not too fond of their insistence on sovereignty, but at least their vision for it is an inclusive one that goes beyond one dominant culture seceding. They even got slammed by former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, you know, the guy who oversaw the decimation of his party when the Orange Wave hit last year.

Will there be a Vague Solidaire sweeping Quebec in September? Well, while I admit that it’s not likely, stranger things have happened in Quebec. QS is the one left-leaning party with a chance (albeit a small one) of winning. Maybe the climate is right.

If not, then we can all go back to protesting and demanding real change out of whatever “major” party takes or keeps power in hopes of washing the bad taste out of our mouths.

* photo by Iana Kazakova

 

When Rick Perry announced he was running for the Republican nomination  for  President of the United States on August 13th, he did so with much publicity and fanfare, he even managed 700+ votes as a write in candidate in the Ames Straw Poll that same weekend. He was instantly dubbed as a man with charisma, a man of action, and a man who  isn’t  too shy to let his voice be heard, kind of like a George Bush that can speak English. Perry has deep corporate pockets and will be a formidable foe for the other conservatives aspiring for the top job, but like Chuck D once said “don’t believe the hype”, at least not yet.

Rick Perry was molded by former Senior Advisor to George W. Bush Karl Rove, the notorious Republican strategist. Rove this past week turned on Perry and now wants to bring down the Frankenstein he created, warning people of his right-wing extremist views (ironic isn’t it?).

Perry’s views are as far right as one can get, he is quick to dismiss evolution saying recently that “God is how we got here.” He also defended the teaching of creationism in schools because evolution “has some gaps to it.” Unlike the bible which we all know is seamless without gaps and contradictions.

Going along with conservative tradition Perry, also does not believe in man-made global warming. He said Earth’s temperature “has been moving up and down for millenniums now and there are enough scientists out there that are skeptical about the reasons for it.” For the record, 98% of scientists believe man is responsible for global warming.

Not to be outdone by his predecessor, Rick Perry broke George W’s record for state executions under a governor’s watch, 234 at the last count including Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was executed via lethal injection in 2004 for murdering his wife and  three kids through arson. It soon appeared for certain that Willingham was innocent, but Perry declined to grant a stay of execution when presented with evidence that his case had been mishandled. When the Texas Forensic Science Commission was on the edge of concluding that the fire might not have been arson after all, Perry promptly replaced three of its members. An innocent man grieving the loss of his wife and kids was put to death and Perry pushed it aside then covered it up.

Perry is also concerned that the rich are carrying too much of the nation’s financial weight. The wealthiest one percent of Texans paid only 3 percent of their income in state and local taxes while without having to pay income tax, the poorest fifth of Texans ended up paying about 12 percent of their income in taxes. Perry said during his announcement speech that “spreading the wealth punishes success.” If that’s true it’s no wonder the poor stay deprived in Texas.

Speaking of the economy, Mr. Perry likewise took on the Federal Reserve and its Republican-appointed  chairman Ben Bernanke last week. He stated the central bank’s leader would be  committing a “treasonous” act  if he decided to print more money to boost the economy before the election. Treason of course is punishable by death and boosting the economy is good for Obama.

If Rick Perry is trying to win over Tea Party members to his cause, he will have an awfully tough time. During Perry’s time as Governor of Texas the state debt has almost tripled from $13 billion to $38 billion. The few tea baggers with half a brain should see right through him.

Furthermore, Perry’s claim of high job creation in Texas (mainly minimum wage jobs) was by no means his own doing. It was due in part by the booming oil industry and Barack Obama’s stimulus package, $17 billion of which went to Texas. 47% of all government jobs added in the US between 2007 and 2010 were added in Texas.

This Texas Governor has a good a chance as any conservative of winning the Republican nomination as long as he continues to convey the message of God, guns, no taxes, and the American flag wrapped in unrelenting support of Israel. While the average conservative might fall for all this, other high ranking Republicans think this message will make him unelectable versus Obama.

Rick Perry’s bark might indeed be worse than his bite, but when it comes to elections nothing bites harder than money, corporate money. This is one area in which Governor Perry thrives. The corporatist knows who his friends are and how to make them happy, so he is free to bark as loud as he desires and his food bowl will continue to be replenished. Let’s all hope that people will learn how to ignore that unintelligible noise coming from next door.

Attention!

I’ve decided to have a little contest for next week. For those who are interested, send me your favorite political cartoons (photos). I will pick the top 20 and post them in my article with the submitter’s name underneath. Send your entries to quietmike@hotmail.com and be sure to include your name, thanks everyone!

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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

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

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.