The Canadian Federal Election is October 21, 2019 and it stands to be an important one.

It’s important because for the first time the baby boomers are no longer the dominant voting block and younger people who’ve felt ignored or dismissed by the system can finally have their voices heard within it. It’s important because many politicians are realizing this and trying to cater to our needs, not the entitled uninformed whiny ones of our parents’ generation.

In my last article I tackled the four mainstream federal parties running in this election and how they fare on issues concerning voters under the age of 60. In this article I’ll be tackling two fringe parties on how they fare on similar criteria – specifically where they stand on climate change, LGBTQI2+ rights, and income inequality.

Once again, this is not to say that these issues do not concern older voters. It IS to say that these are the issues that younger people feel have been insufficiently addressed by mainstream politics in the past.

In cases where a party does not have a specific platform on the issue, I will elaborate in broader terms based on their track records and publications. Unlike the previous article, I’ll be going party by party instead of topic by topic.

For the purposes of this article, I am defining a fringe party as a party that either caters to a very specific, niche group of the population, or that expresses views far too extreme to fit within a mainstream party. I will elaborate further in my discussion of each political party.

Bloc Québécois

Many will argue that the Bloc Québécois is a mainstream party because they’ve actually succeeded in getting seats in the House of Commons more often than the Green Party and they once even formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa. I argue that the Bloc is a fringe party for though they claim to advocate not just for Quebeckers but for French speaking Canadians across Canada, all their MPs are from Quebec and their platform seems focused only on advancing Quebec interests in Federal Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois’ platform shows a clear understanding of what their base is – specifically older white French Islamophobic Canadians. Nearly a third of their platform is devoted on improving care for seniors, while younger voters are not mentioned at all.

On climate change their plan includes:

• Imposing a carbon tax on provinces with higher greenhouse gas emissions than the national average – up for revision every four years
• Funneling the proceeds of such a tax into provinces with lower emissions in order to facilitate green innovation
• Introduce a law that gives Quebec a right to consent or refuse federal construction projects involving land allocation and environmental protection
• Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies

On LGBTQI2+ rights, the Bloc does not have a specific policy, so I am evaluating them on how they address the broader issue of hate. Bloc Quebecois signs promoting a xenophobic form of state secularism have been found in Montreal within a few steps of Islamic centers and aspects of their platform include pushing this notion across Canada. Their platform includes excluding Quebec from a federal law recognizing Canadian multiculturalism.

Recently the Bloc came under fire when party leader Yves-François Blanchet tweeted that Quebeckers should vote for people that look like them – a tweet widely and appropriately criticized for being racist, despite Blanchet’s claims that that’s not what he meant. If their attitude towards visible and religious minorities is any indication, Canada’s sexual and gender minorities would be right to be worried for their own safety should the Bloc get seats.

On Income Inequality, the Bloc’s platform is focused on those not paying their fair share of taxes and making things easier for elderly Canadians. Their plan – which almost entirely excludes young people -includes:

• Having Ottawa demand that companies, especially businesses and banks, repatriate funds hidden in tax havens
• Offering a tax credit to employers to train and keep employees over the age of sixty-five
• Offering a tax credit to immigrants and recent graduates willing to work in remote areas
• Allocating Federal grants for social and affordable housing

The People’s Party of Canada

The People’s Party of Canada is a party that has received a lot of media attention, mostly negative. In Hamilton, their people clashed with protesters who have branded them Nazis, and looking at their platform and leader’s comments, it’s easy to see why.

Many of the party’s values, which include the abolition of multiculturalism in favor of a broader national identity, claiming that being called racist for saying racist things is somehow persecution, and resorting to personal attacks rather than countering arguments on their merit (see Maxime Bernier’s tweet about Greta Thunberg) are right out of the neo-Nazi playbook. But, in the interest of fairness, let’s discuss what they’re actually saying.

The People’s Party platform on climate change claims that there is no scientific consensus on the issue (fact check: there IS). Their plan includes:

• Withdrawing Canada from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
• Abolish federal subsidies for green technology
• Abolish the carbon tax so provinces can come up with their own plans to reduce emissions
• Implement practical solutions to make Canada’s air, water, and soil cleaner, including bringing clean water to remote First Nations communities

On LGBTQI2+ rights, the People’s Party platform is pure hate. Their website actually berates the Trudeau government for allegedly forcing “Canadians to express support for the existence of various gender identities beyond the biological categories of male and female, and to use pronouns demanded by those who identify with these other genders.” Fact check: Trudeau actually just amended the Criminal Code so crimes motivated by hate based on gender identity or expression would be considered hate crimes.

Their platform on LGBTQI2+ rights includes:

• “Restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to expression which explicitly advocates the use of force against identifiable groups or persons based on protected criteria such as religion, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation,” thus rolling back Trudeau reforms so people outside the gender binary and transgender people would not be protected under the legal definition of hate.
• Roll back Trudeau administration changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act that had expanded the definition of prohibited forms of discrimination to include “gender identity or expression”
• Pull federal funding from universities restricting free speech
• “Ensure that Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions” – with a specific reference in their platform to the Trudeau government’s refusal to provide funding to anti-choice groups as part of the summer jobs program

On the issue of income inequality and the economy, the People’s Party is focused on lowering taxes to boost the private sector and benefit the wealthy. There is nothing in their platform to directly address poverty and the growing housing shortage. Their plan includes:

• Gradually reducing corporate income taxes from fifteen percent to ten percent
• Over the course of one mandate eliminate the current capital gains tax by reducing the inclusion rate from 50% to 0%
• Eliminate corporate subsidies and government bailouts of failing companies

If you’re under sixty and have felt like your voice has not been heard by politicians in the past, remember that things are different now and your votes matter more than ever. On October 21st, 2019, you have a chance to finally see your choices determine the outcome of the federal election.

Take twenty minutes and go tick a box on a slip of paper. Our future is at stake.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth- Revelations 3:16

In a political party there are few things as reprehensible, or indeed as volatile, as the combination of cynicism and populism. For an example of this we need only turn to the embarrassment that was the Michael Ignatieff campaign; run with an arrogance born of the former and a desperation significant of the latter. It was a pitiful, ugly thing from beginning to end.

It is for this reason that there’s almost something sad about Liberal apologists who continue to cite voter apathy and disproportionate representation as reasons for their defeat. We know exactly how and when the Liberals lost and it had nothing to do with how many people showed up to the polling station. It can be summed up in five words: at least we get votes.

It was one of the few beautiful things in what had otherwise been a rather sombre and mediocre night: the head of the Liberal party in a nationally televised debate confirming what many of us had known all along, and in doing so outing himself as the remorseless charlatan he is. This was not the moment the campaign ended however, but rather a summation of why it was over before it had even begun. How anyone trying to defend the corruption, and dishonesty, and failures of the Liberal party could respond with a statement so arrogantly contemptuous of voters is really all one needs when explaining what took place this past May.

It is for this reason that I can only express a certain amount of wariness at trends I see beginning to develop within the New Democratic Party.  With its unprecedented success in the past election we have seen an influx of so called “centrists” attempting to drag us further and further right. It could be seen in the censoring of supposed “anti-Israel” commentary, or in the frightened, desperate way in which they tried to distance themselves from even the very word socialist.  These are just a few moments in which we’ve managed to witness the cowardice and malleability of the supposed “centre” left.  With everything they do, they demonstrate further what fearful invertebrates they really are.

It is the very mix of cynicism and populism we saw in the Ignatieff campaign, with its deference to popular opinion and its utter absence of anything resembling conviction. Socialism is unpopular, criticism of Israel is unpopular, workers’ rights (alarmingly) are unpopular, and the centre left has decided that it no longer has the stomach for unpopularity. For them it is better to be an echo chamber for public opinion, or in failing that to say nothing at all. Anything is better than saying something that might upset   somebody and draw unwanted attention. Better just to ride the wave under the guise of centrism and keep collecting a paycheck. What we have now is a group of people so afraid of the public, so afraid of saying something someone might even – gasp – disagree with, that they would rather forgo discussion entirely.

I, for my part do not give a fuck whether opposing Israeli apartheid is popular or not. Or sticking up for workers’ rights. Or the rights of homosexuals. My own opinion is enough for me, and I reserve the right to defend it against any majority, any time, any place.

Perhaps what would alarm the supposed “centre” most is that I  identify as one of them. I do it however, knowing that centrism, true centrism, comes not in the form of compromise but rather in contempt of popular opinion. I recognize the importance of a secular democracy in the Middle East, the value of Israel as an ally and perhaps most importantly the threat they face from the fascists and thugs that surround them; but that does not mean I don’t stand with my Palestinian brothers and sisters in the face of Israeli expansionism. I don’t need it to be popular to call Ariel Sharon a war criminal, or to say the same of Henry Kissinger, just as I don’t need it to be popular to support the war in Libya or Afghanistan. Centrism means being able to think for oneself, not moral cowardice and avoidance of “unpopular” topics. It is to form one’s own opinions free of party politics, and with it the belief that compromise is not always desirable for its own sake.

Instead what we have are a group of weak stomached conformists who rather than being willing to adopt unpopular positions have chosen to adopt no positions at all. Or barring that, positions dictated to them. At times, even the word “liberal” has taken on another rather nasty connotation for these people as they try harder and harder to distance themselves from the hated “left”. As the Liberals learned, this type of crass populism is a slow acting poison, but it will get you eventually. It is the erosion of moral courage for the sake of short lived popularity and unattainable compromise, and as the Liberals now know, if you say and do nothing for long enough, eventually people will stop listening.

To be left of centre was at one point to be a free and critical thinker, but now it has decayed into nothing short of bland, mirthless conformity. It is one thing to oppose the Gaza Flotilla, or partial birth abortion, and it is quite another to actively and fearfully attempt to suppress discussion on anything that might not go with the flow of popular opinion. Those are the types of centrists we don’t need. They are as much the enemies of reason and critical thought as any extremist, and their aversion to the unpopular is deserving of nothing short of ridicule and contempt. It might mean not being popular, but at least we’ll be saying something, which is better than the unscrupulousness and cowardice which destroyed the Liberal party.

Jack Layton and a record 102 other NDP MPs

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

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

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

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

Women:

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

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

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

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

Nycole Turmel

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

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

New NDP MP Francoise Boivin

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

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

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

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

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

Quebec:

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

Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair at a Habs game

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

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

Tyrone Benskin

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

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

Romeo Saganash and Jack Layton

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

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

Bottom line?

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

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

 

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

 

 

If opposites attract, then this marriage is screwed...

In our ongoing effort to make our election coverage both fun and informative, we have a truly awesome video for you today. In September 2010 Michael Ignatieff held an open mic in Montreal. This previously unreleased video shows a student journalist (or someone who pretends to be a student journalist) approach the mic to ask a question.

Before Iggy knows what hit him, the would be interlocutor announces that he will be asking his question in the form of a song and busts out a Mandolin. He then bursts into an inspired indictment of Liberal corruption and hypocrisy, set to a surprisingly catchy tune.

By the end of the song Iggy is left literally speechless and the room bursts into laughter and uproarious applause.

Although this video is more funny than serious it does convey an important point. The Liberals gutted social programs far more than the Conservatives have done when they were in power, and pretty much redefined political corruption.

Furthermore, Iggy himself was a vehement supporter of Dubya’s misadventure in Iraq, and has been an ardent supporter of torture over the years.

Don’t be fooled by their shiny campaign promises, these Liberals are just about as bad as the Conservatives, and they both represent a badly broken political establishment. If you’re looking for real change in this election, don’t look for it from the Liberals.

Mark May 2nd on your calendar; that is the day we vote for a new national government of Canada for the fourth time in seven years. Many Canadians are no doubt wondering why we have to go to the polls yet again when the party in power is already leading in the polls. If you are not a diehard supporter of the Conservative Party, you can appreciate the fact that the opposition parties really had no choice.

Stephen Harper’s second straight minority government came crashing down on contempt of parliament charges. The conservatives became the first party in office to be brought down on contempt charges in the history of the entire commonwealth. In the past month, the Party of King Harper and four of his top officials have been charged with election overspending and two RCMP investigations have been launched against former political staffers.

The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP both supported the Liberal non-confidence motion. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff started out on Friday accusing the Harper of undermining democracy. “A government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office” he said.

It is ironic that the Harper Government was first elected to office in 2006 on the promise of having an honest and transparent party following the Gomery inquiry that helped to bring down the Liberals’ 13-year-rule. How the tables have turned.

Harper tried to form a coalition back in 2004

With no way for Harper to defend the allegations against him and his party, he has turned to good ole fashioned Republican style fear-mongering by using the threat of a coalition among liberals, Socialists and separatists to scare voters. Stephen Harper, always willing to play the role of hypocrite, tried the same type of coalition himself back in 2004 with the NDP and Bloc.

Potential voters have been bombarded with $26 million worth of (taxpayer-funded) feel-good Economic Action Plan ads over the past 11 weeks and bureaucrats were directed late last year to start using the “Harper Government” in place of Government of Canada on departmental news releases. Alas King Harper has now fallen.

While the Conservatives still maintain a wide lead in the polls at the start of this election campaign, those numbers should start to drop in the coming weeks if the opposition parties are capable of driving home their messages to an increasingly apathetic public. Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton have to find a way to appeal to Canada’s youth who traditionally vote on the left.

Ignatieff will need to find a way to reach out to young voters

Unfortunately men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 have only had a 30% voter turnout in the last couple elections. Harper seems to emulate the Republican Party when best he can, maybe it’s time the Liberals and NDP took a lesson from Barack Obama who was able to mobilize the youth of the United States back in ‘08.

The Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois and Greens are all in for a big battle, which makes us in for a month long circus. Over the next five weeks leading up to the May 2nd vote, I will be covering the different political parties, their leaders, and unlike many news organizations their policies as well. So stay tuned!

Get involved, get out and vote!


We are currently on an inexorable march towards a Canadian federal election, which will more than likely take place on May 2 or 9th. Despite the seeming strength of the Harper Conservatives, chinks are beginning to appear in his armour. One revelation of unethical behaviour after another has left Our Glorious Leader facing down the barrel of a finding of contempt of parliament.

Parliament is likely to find the Harper government in contempt as a result of senior government officials lying to parliament and otherwise carrying on like mafia dons rather than public servants. In the face of this unprecedented action, which has never happened in the history of our nation, was Our Glorious Leader duly cowed? Apologetic?

Hardly, his response “you win some, you lose some” smacks of the arrogance and thinly veiled contempt for long-standing democratic principles and practices that has so many Canadians itching to oust him from power.

So, on the eve of another election, what options do we have? Well there’s the good ol’ Liberals under the leadership of our man Iggy. The same man who supported the Iraq war, wholeheartedly supports torture and loved corporate tax cuts until his pollsters told him to oppose them (for the election campaign only of course).

Business as usual? Chretien and Ignatieff

What can we expect from Iggy this time around? Well pretty much business as usual for the Liberals, who always campaign to the left and govern to the right. A campaign that shows the cuddly-feely side of the Liberals as they try to convince NDP voters that the Libs have their best interests at heart. Of course if they win you can forget about all that progressive stuff as the Libs pay back their buddies on Bay Street with corporate tax cuts of their own and devastating cuts to the social programs Canadians elected them to protect. We saw it with Chretien and Martin and you can bet we’ll see the same script play out if we elect Iggy.

Meanwhile, as much as we love the NDP, no one has illusions that they will be forming a government when the dust clears from this election. So what would qualify as a best-case scenario for a long-suffering and beleaguered progressive?

Quite simply, the best we can hope for is a coalition government. Ideally one in which the Liberals need the support of the NDP to govern without needing the politically touchy support of the Bloc.

So keep your fingers crossed and work your tails off to elect as many NDP MPs as possible.   After all, some of the best days of Canadian government, including the introduction of Medicare, were the result of Liberal minority governments supported by the NDP.

Hope in Gatineau: Francoise Boivin with Jack Layton

Meanwhile, here in Quebec, the fortunes of the NDP are brighter than they have been since, well, ever. Over the last eight or nine polls of voting intentions in Quebec, the NDP has held steady at around 20%. This is not only a huge jump over the 12% they earned in the 2008 election but also puts them in the rarefied air of second place behind the Bloc. That’s right, the NDP is more popular in Quebec than either the Liberals or Conservatives.

With numbers like that it looks like Francoise Boivin in Gatineau and Nycole Turmel in Hull are sitting pretty and we have a serious shot at taking some ridings in the Montreal area that were hopelessly out of reach even a year ago.

So if you ever thought of getting involved with the NDP, now would be the time. Let’s elect some more NDP MP’s here and hope the chips fall right in the rest of the country to have a minority Liberal government propped up by the NDP.

It’s the best case for a country already scarred by an overdose of Harper and his fanatical quest to dismantle the Canada we hold dear and bring us in line with the disaster down south.