On Sunday, at the Green Party of Canada’s National Convention in Ottawa, party membership adopted a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution into the official Green platform. Now leader Elizabeth May, currently the party’s only elected Member of Parliament, is taking a week off to decide if she still wants to head the federal greens.

Entitled Palestinian Self-Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the resolution builds on existing Green Party opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes with “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).” The Greens will continue to support BDS “until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state.”

The resolution also “opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.” Efforts like the recent toothless, though inflammatory resolution in the House of Commons condemning BDS proposed by the Conservatives but supported by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government.

May opposed the Green BDS resolution, but said she welcomed the discussion and would support the members’ decision. Now, she is singing a somewhat different tune, calling BDS “polarizing” and musing in public if stepping down as leader but remaining the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands in BC might be the best course of action for her.

Most likely May is really weighing whether or not she can effectively defend her party’s position on the issue in a debate a few years from now with Trudeau and whomever the Conservatives and NDP decide to anoint as leader. You know someone’s going to bring it up. Probably Trudeau.

She’s also probably doing some math. Figuring out just how many lefties this will bring over from the NDP and comparing it to how many Green voters she may lose and factoring in how many Canadian voters actually care about this issue enough to switch their vote over it.

This is, regardless of how it plays out, a change in Canadian politics, and not just because the Green Party has staked ground in stark opposition to our current Government and Official Opposition. The very fact that May is mulling her options right now is incredibly significant.

In theory, if a party’s membership and leader are on different sides of a particular issue, the leader must decide between getting behind what the membership wants or resigning. That’s what’s happening here.

Now compare that with the NDP a little over a year ago. The leader, Thomas Mulcair, was at odds with party membership over his unbalanced support of Israel. In a contrast to what we are seeing now with the Green Party, NDP membership had to decide if they could get behind what the leader wants or leave the party. Many opted to try and push Mulcair’s position a little bit closer to theirs and some even occupied offices to do just that, only to see Mulcair back to his old tricks in the General Election.

With the Green Party, it’s the leader who has to follow what the party wants or leave. And that is a big change in Canadian politics.

* Featured image by Canada 2020 via Flickr Creative Commons

Fort MacMurray and large swaths of Northern Alberta have been burning for a few days. Homes and communities have been destroyed and people have died, too.

This is a time for everyone in Canada and beyond to come together and try to stop the fires and assist those who have been forced to evacuate as much as they can. That has been happening. There have been stories circulating of everyone from the people of Lac Megantic, Quebec to recent Syrian refugees pitching in.

Politically, though, there has been a fire of a different sort. At first, there were those online suggesting that the fires were directly caused by the oil being pulled out of the ground, but when it was clear that the fires did not start at the extraction site and had no specific correlation to the most prominent industry in the region, those rumblings gave way to a political argument about whether or not the wildfires were the result of climate change.

Ottawa Weighs In

Green Party leader Elizabeth May fired the first shot, so to speak, when asked if the fires were linked to climate change:

“Of course. It’s due to global emissions. Scientists will say we know with a destabilized climate, with a higher average global temperature, we will see more frequent, more extreme weather events … due to an erratic climate, due to our addiction to fossil fuels.”

Later in the same day, she walked that statement back a bit, saying there was no specific correlation and that “no credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got the question next and responded like this:

“It’s well-known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet, however any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster I think there is a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.

Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘Well this is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate. What we are focussed on right now on is giving the people of Fort McMurray, and across Alberta, the kind of support that they need.”

Now, I, for one, am loathe to agree with Trudeau anything, let alone on environmental issues. He is, after all, the one who seems to think pipelines will lead to our green future. I also believe that most of Alberta’s oil should stay in the ground. In fact, I experienced quite the dilemma a few paragraphs back in this article. I absolutely refuse to use the term “oil sands” but thought that “tar sands” was a little too hardcore a term to use for the “coming together” point I was trying to make.

That dilemma is nothing compared to the one faced by people whose homes have recently burned to the ground. In fact, not all of those fleeing the wildfires are oil company executives, very few are. These are workers, their families, activists opposed to pipelines, First Nations communities and others who, a week ago, were fighting against the destruction the oil industry would bring to their home, and now are fleeing from their home.

With that in mind, I have to agree with Justin Trudeau. This is not the right time to be talking climate change.

Put the Fires Out First

Are these fires the result of climate change? Maybe. Could they also have been caused by inconsiderate campers? Maybe. Are wildfires a natural occurrence in the area? Yes. Do these fires have no other explanation? Maybe. These are all good questions that can be answered later.

Right now shit is burning and stopping that and helping those affected has to be our first and only concern. There will be time to talk cause and assign blame later.

When a spree killer is chasing you down the hall, you don’t stop running, turn around and pontificate on the lack of gun control or our failing mental health system, you get the hell out of there and hope the killer is stopped before he gets to you. If you survive, there will be plenty of time to talk about and hopefully stop the root causes of what happened.

Right now, metaphorically, we’re still running down the hall. The fires are still raging and we need to stop them and find a way out.

It’s fine to criticize the government at a time like this, but only on things they aren’t doing or could be doing better to deal with and hopefully end the situation (like not letting the Russians help). Linking the disaster to climate change at this point isn’t one of them.

I know that I may be annoying some people whom I otherwise agree with and may agree with on this issue, except that I don’t think this is the right time to be on a soapbox about it. I don’t really care, because, here in Montreal, I still have a roof over my head, which is more than some in Alberta, Manitoba and now Ontario can say.

When your soapbox is burning, run away.

It has all come down to this. Tomorrow night we will know the result of #ELXN42, the longest Canadian Federal Election campaign in recent memory.

With millions of votes already cast in advance polls, no more nationally televised debates left, and no real time for new media stories (except for huge ones) to take hold, it’s all about the ground game now. All the parties know it and have been sending their armies of volunteers out to knock on doors and call voters all weekend and will quadruple their efforts tomorrow.

At this point, I think the election is still too close to call. Sure, each party will tell you that they are headed to victory and so will their pundits, but what will it actually take for each of them to win?

Well, here is my analysis, in the order the parties are currently polling nationally:

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)

liberal logoThey started at the bottom and now they’re here. On top of the polls. For this to become reality, recent polls need to be right as well as mainstream media predictions.

For Justin Trudeau to become our next Prime Minister, corporate pundits need to be correct and not just thinking wishfully. Or, they have to be powerful enough that their pieces cause their wishes to be fulfilled.

If enough Anyone But Conservative voters, particularly those in Ontario, think the niqab issue damaged NDP chances of retaining Quebec and lined up behind Trudeau, the Libs may pull it off. That is if the last minute scandal surrounding Dan Gagnier, their now former campaign co-chair/Enbridge lobbying tutor doesn’t take hold.

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

Conservative_Party_of_Canada.svgStephen Harper is a master electioneer, but his strategy may have finally caught up with him. Making it a super long campaign and then throwing a curveball covered in a niqab at his top ranked orange opponent late in the game was a brilliant, though morally bankrupt, strategy.

If the campaign had ended two weeks ago, it may just have worked. However, it’s possible things may have gone on just a bit too long for the Conservatives. Even Lynton Crosby, the so-called Australian Karl Rove, has jumped ship.

Crosby’s strategy is still at play, though. If Harper hopes to remain Prime Minister, Canadians not only need to be as xenophobic as he thinks, but their prejudice needs to be the first thing on their mind when they go to the polls.

Endorsements from corporate media at the behest of their owners could also help bring about a CPC victory as well as support from the wealthiest Canadians. Niche campaigning from the likes of the Ford brothers could help, too, but statements critical of Trudeau having smoked weed do more harm than good when they come from Doug Ford, an (alleged) former hash dealer and brother of admitted crack smoking mayor.

Plus they could always cheat.

New Democratic Party (NDP)

NDP-LogoRemember when I said that the ground game is the key? Well, that applies to the NDP more than any other party. With poll numbers sinking, the local candidates and their campaigns have the best chance of reassuring voters that a vote for the NDP is the best way to defeat Harper.

It would take a superb ground game this time out for Thomas Mulcair to become Prime Minister, but it is possible. Recent polls being wrong would help, too. Keeping the Quebec seats they won during the Orange Wave and adding a few more is essential, so the Bloc really needs to implode more than they have been.

They would also need a strong First Nations turnout, which may happen. Mulcair spent much of the last two weeks campaigning in First Nations communities promising an almost immediate inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, nation to nation dialogue and more. It may pay off in ways other than bolstering his progressive credentials.

Mulcair has been impressive even since the party’s poll numbers started tanking. He kept his cool in the TVA French debate and in a recent interview on Vice. That could help. The Gagnier scandal growing legs would help, too.

Green Party (Green)

Green-Logo-300x300The Green Party’s ultimate goal this election should be to retain the seats they have and win as many new ones as they can. If they succeed, they could end up wielding some power in a minority parliament.

Most of those seats will probably come in the west of the country where the party has been focusing their efforts. If their ground game was solid, they very well may achieve that goal. If not, well, as long as Elizabeth May still has a voice in Parliament, the party will not be in bad shape.

Bloc Quebecois (BQ)

bloc quebecois logoFor the Bloc, a victory is the majority of seats in Quebec. That’s just not going to happen.

At this point, the Bloc winning any seats would be impressive. If leader Gilles Duceppe wins his back and overall they top their 2011 seat count of four, it will be a victory for them.

For this to happen, it would take, for lack of a better word, a miracle. Their desperate play to the right on the niqab issue only benefited the Conservatives and indirectly the Liberals.

Bottom line, the Bloc is screwed.

What I Think Will Happen

While this not what I hope will happen, it’s what seems the most logical outcome on Monday evening will be. I predict a Minority Government. Regardless of which party comes out on top, I’m pretty sure none of them will win enough seats to form a majority.

Coalitions are possible and so is a huge role for the Governor General in selecting our next Prime Minister. But I guess only time will tell.

Oh yeah, there’s also still a few hours to vote in FTB’s Election Poll. The winner gets an endorsement post written on behalf of FTB readers published on election day.

I guess you could chalk it up to a victory for traditional debate media. The French language leaders’ debate or #debatdeschefs was hosted by Radio Canada, making it the first debate of this campaign hosted by media that usually host debates.

It was, by far, the fieriest and most interesting debate we’ve had this campaign. This could be because it was the first to feature five major party leaders, Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and Gilles Duceppe. It could also be because the moderators knew how to ask the right questions. Regardless of the reason, it was a good one.

But how did the leaders do? Well…in no particular order, here’s what I thought (with a little help from the live tweets I made during the debate):

Gilles Duceppe

With the Bloc Quebecois tanking in the polls and Gilles Duceppe projected to lose badly in his own riding, this was the newly re-minted leader’s shot. He needed to pull off a knockout victory if he wanted to have a chance of taking back what the Bloc lost in 2011. He failed.

He did have some memorable moments, most notably when he turned the pipeline debate into an issue of separation of powers and was backed up by May. Before that moment, the energy section was just a re-hash of the previous two debates.

Duceppe also started strong with his opposition to women wearing the Niqab at citizenship ceremonies, something the Bloc has really been pushing in the past week. But then it turned into a debate between Mulcair and Harper. By that point Duceppe had faded into the background.

He also got left out of the fray when it came to rules for Quebec sovereignty. That turned into a debate between two federalists, Mulcair and Trudeau.

He was also responsible for one of the more confusing moments of the night when things turned to the Senate and the NDP’s plans to open the constitution in order to abolish it:

Duceppe has one more shot, the TVA debate on October 2nd, to save his party from obscurity.

Stephen Harper

Our sitting PM Stephen Harper seemed like he would rather have been actually sitting during most of this debate. He started off alert when the Niqab discussion was happening, claiming that he would never force his daughter to cover her face. Mulcair argued that the Conservative leader’s approach to helping oppressed women was wrong-headed. I had this to say:

After that, Harper seemed to doze off. Maybe he was trying to play the father figure unimpressed with the kids arguing or maybe he really just didn’t care. Regardless, he seemed to perk up near the end when discussion shifted to one of his favourite subjects:

Thomas Mulcair

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was king of the one-liner at this debate. From his comment on other parties incurring debt which ended with “for everything else, there’s MasterCard” to his line about Harper hiding his failed economic policy behind a niqab to this gem:

Leading the polls in Quebec, everyone thought Mulcair would be under fire from all sides in this debate and he was. He handled it by not really handling it. He didn’t go all Angry Tom, he stuck to his message instead. He offered the same delivery he did in English, that of someone carefully choosing his words.

He seemed rehearsed and holding back, but that worked in his favour this time. It said loud and clear that he isn’t really fazed by the nature of the debate. He was going to stick to script no matter what. Also, that he was the same debater in English and in French, countering some recent criticism.

No, he didn’t have a Layton moment, like the one that turned Quebec voter intentions into a wave that wiped out the Bloc in 2011, but one wasn’t needed and going after Duceppe would have been counter-productive. Better to treat him as an after-thought and focus on Harper instead.

The counter-argument is that by playing it mellow he wasn’t doing much to inspire Quebec voters, just reassure them that they had made the right choice. His best course of action would be to prepare things he is going to say, but go off script in the next two debates, once in English and once in French.

Justin Trudeau

By contrast, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau came across as natural. He looked good on camera and really tried to play to the crowd:

He looked like the perfect candidate to play the Prime Minister in a movie, and not just a CBC movie of the week, I’m talking about a major Hollywood production. The problem is he wasn’t working with a script that could really connect with voters. His best moment in the debate cast him in a supporting role, reminding Mulcair and Harper, who were arguing about niqabs and how best to protect women that the only woman in the room, May, had yet to speak on the subject. Kudos to him for calling out their man-splaining. It made him more likeable, for sure. Electable? Well…

Elizabeth May

It’s unfortunate that Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s French wasn’t better. If it had been, she probably would have interjected more and may have very well won the debate. She made some of the best observations of the evening. When everyone was talking Quebec independence, she was the only one to mention that natives had their own right to self-determination:

When the topic was the niqab she said loud and clear that it was a distraction, which then encouraged Trudeau and Mulcair to do the same.

Also, when Duceppe made the pipeline discussion about provincial jurisdiction, she agreed. She added, though, that the people of British Columbia were in solidarity with those in Quebec who did not want Ottawa imposing pipelines on their communities.

This debate helped breathe new life into a very long campaign that seemed to be dragging on for a while. Could the real winner of the debate possibly be the debate itself?

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org and is republished here with permission from the author

Politics in the Great White North has often been referred to by Americans as boring, dull and uninteresting. This widely held opinion also extends to Canada’s national elections; they are too short and too civil. Canadians even take pride in these facts. “At least we aren’t as crazy as those damn Yankees,” we would say.

Canadian politics, the elections in particular, are indeed mind-numbing and tedious. More so when you take into account we are midway through the longest election campaign in modern Canadian history. A month in and I’m ready for bed already. Speaking as seasoned follower and analyst of politics in general, I feel election forty-two is missing a great deal of fire so far.

What makes this campaign season so epically dismal isn’t the lack of money being spent on campaigns or the amount of attack ads on TV, it isn’t even the issues themselves (although they aren’t helping), it is the uninspiring party leaders who are at fault.

Not an Inspiring Bunch

There are four real parties running candidates throughout Canada this fall, three of whom, who as of now, have a shot at winning. The main three, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats are in a virtual three way tie. Elizabeth May‘s Greens are still a distant fourth.

First off you have Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. Harper had a terrible first month on the campaign trail. Harper had to endure the fallout from the Mike Duffy trial as well the struggling economy which is now in official recession. His handling of the death of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee didn’t help.

harper trudeau mulcair

On the Campaign trail Harper has gone into hiding. He has employed his “chickenshit strategy” where candidates have reportedly been urged to skip debates and avoid the media. Harper himself has already promised to skip the English broadcasters’ debate. Even though the Conservatives are running their campaign as a party on the way out, they can still win.

Next we have Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The young Mr. Trudeau reminds me of an inexperienced Hillary Clinton. For the last decade, the Liberal party has gone after the centrist vote, driving down the middle of the road on social issues (except marijuana legalization) and on the right on economic issues.

Under Trudeau, it appears Liberal strategy has not changed and again, it’s not really working. Being the centrist party also means you take the brunt of attacks from conservatives and NDP, all three of whom are sucking up to voters who don’t really follow politics.

Last we have Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Tom is an ex Quebec Liberal and it shows. The NDP used to be known for its socialist leanings, but not anymore. Now it seems they are just another Liberal Party without the experience. A socialist party in favor of the TPP agreement? Really?

Playing it Safe and Boring

The three political parties at the top, while different, are all playing it safe catering to the same middle of the road voters and as a consequence boring the crap out of everyone. The problem is, the political ideology of Canadians does not lie at the center.

Last week, before the refugee story started to emerge, the media was fixated for days on which party leader wanted to balance the budget. Trudeau would run a short term deficit to turn the economy around while Mulcair and Harper would balance the budget at all costs. And you wonder why Canadian politics is boring?

Balancing the budget, while important, is not the most pressing economic issue of our time and it would be nice to stop pretending it is. Like the United States, and following a decade of Harpernomics, income inequality should be front and center, but no… Canada’s Middle Class is strong, but inequality is skyrocketing.

Canadians don’t care about the trial of a corrupt senator they can’t relate to, it’s certainly not going to change which way they vote. They don’t care about deficits if they can’t find work. Nor do they care which party leader is more ready to lead. They’re all ready or they wouldn’t be running. Uh, yawn.

Canada’s party leaders could learn a lesson from the man shaking up his party and scorching the campaign trail south of the border. Someone who is lighting a fire under the asses of the electorate and bringing important issues to the forefront of people’s minds.

Searching for Sanders

No, it isn’t Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. There is a big difference between bringing excitement and bringing in TV ratings. American Senator Bernie Sanders, the proud socialist from Vermont, has been packing them in by the thousands for months now. And he’s done so by campaigning on the economic issues that common people can relate to. He is bringing a sense of hope and passion to U.S. politics that Canadians can only dream of.

Granted, aside from wealth inequality, Canadians don’t have the same problems Americans have, but that is no reason not to be passionate about the policies you care about and the future of your country.

Canadians saw that passion once, in another proud socialist. Four years before Americans were feeling the Bern, the late Jack Layton of the NDP was giving us the Orange Crush. Layton’s New Democrats gave the Liberal Party their greatest defeat in Canadian history. He did it by galvanizing the population by campaigning on the left.

If you want votes, you need to get people talking. No one did it better than Layton who took the NDP from virtual obscurity to official opposition. If he were still alive today, there is no doubt in my mind the NDP would be miles ahead of the pack.

Alas, we can only dream. Those days seem dead and gone. What we are left with is lesser men fighting it out over lesser policy and they wonder why only 60% of the country votes. I’m still going to vote, but it looks like it won’t be for any of these Prince Valiums.

I’ll be waiting for the Canadian Bernie Sanders to finally whisk me off my feet. They’ll be passionate about wealth inequality, the environment, health care and aboriginal rights. They’ll speak out about bogus trade deals, and shameful foreign policy. Lastly, they’ll be able to communicate their message so well that the corporate media will have no choice but to listen and talk about them. I’m looking at you Elizabeth.

Panelists David DesBaillets and Stacy Drake discuss the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, nightlife gun violence in Toronto like the shooting at the afterparty for Drake’s OVO Fest and a rundown of stories since our last podcast in the Old News segment. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

David DesBaillets: Freelance writer, legal academic, former political operative, former FTB contributor and occasional contributor at Loonie Politics

Stacy Drake: FTB culture and entertainment contributor

You can still vote in our Federal Election Poll

FTB PODCAST #10: Election, Nightlife Violence in Toronto and Old News by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons