On February 25th, voters in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby South may very well give Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh a seat in the House of Commons. The prospect that they might not, though, has some openly speculating Singh won’t lead the party into the 2019 Federal Election if he loses.

Last Wednesday, former NDP Leader turned TV pundit Tom Mulcair told CTV’s Power Play that it would be very difficult for Singh to hold onto power if Burnaby South votes for someone else. He cited sources within the party to back up his statement.

Later in that same broadcast (the 40:40 mark to be precise), La Presse journalist Joël-Denis Bellavance told the panel that he knew of a pre-Christmas caucus meeting where they discussed a Plan B if Singh loses in Burnaby South. Basically, a new leadership election would be too expensive, so the party would force Singh to resign and the caucus would vote in a new interim leader that would take them into the 2019 campaign.

That’s right, some in the NDP think sending an unelected and officially temporary leader to debate Justin Trudeau on TV is a good idea. It’s actually the worst idea anyone has had in Canadian politics since the Liberals tried basically the same thing with Michael Ignatieff and failed miserably.

Sure, there were some differences. The Liberal Party establishment did let the leader their membership elected, Stéphane Dion, run in one election before replacing him with their hand-picked candidate and they did eventually go through the formality of letting membership officially elect Ignatieff once he was already in place with no challengers.

Still, the Liberal Party establishment’s choice failed worse than any other leader the party ever had in over a century. And that was with steps taken that the NDP establishment doesn’t even seem to want to attempt.

Bellavance mentioned Nathan Cullen and Guy Caron as possible interim choices. While Caron may be the current Parliamentary Leader, he didn’t just lose to Singh in the last leadership election, he finished fourth, so the party brass would probably go with Cullen, who didn’t run.

While Cullen may be a skilled debater and charismatic, he wouldn’t be able to overcome the fact that he wasn’t actually running for Prime Minister. Instead of “what I would do differently” he would have to talk about “what the person my party picks as leader and PM in a few months” would do differently.

Sure, if the NDP did win the election and form government with an interim leader, that person would probably become the actual party leader and PM very quickly, but there would still be no shaking the interim label during the campaign. It would be as if the NDP was saying “we won’t win, but vote for us anyways.”

Not only that, replacing a leader who had been on the job just over a year with someone else months before an election screams that the party is in disarray. Yes, the Ontario PCs did that and won, but they were already poised to win, not trailing in third place.

As a card-carrying NDP member, I didn’t vote for Jagmeet Singh in the last leadership election. In fact, I volunteered for one of his opponents, Niki Ashton.

That said, my fellow NDP members spoke and elected Singh as leader and I respect that. When we voted, it was to select the candidate to lead the party into the 2019 election, we all understood that.

When Tom Mulcair became leader, to say I was disappointed would have been an understatement. Still, I didn’t think that replacing him with someone else at the last minute before the election was an option, because it wasn’t.

Singh may still win the by-election. In fact, I suspect that talk of him losing is being amplified by the Liberals in hopes that the NDP will pull more money and resources out of places like Outremont and bring them to BC.

If he does lose, though, and resigns of his own accord, then another leadership race voted on by party membership is the only option if the party hopes to have any chance of maintaining what it has and gaining. If Singh loses in Burnaby South but wants to stay on as leader, then he should be allowed to do so and to run in 2019 as a party leader still looking for a seat.

NDP members knew he didn’t have a federal seat when they elected him. If he goes into the election running personally in some GTA riding where he is bound to win, then the party will do way better nationally than they would with a placeholder running as leader.

Pushing out a leader elected by the membership and replacing them with a handpicked party establishment favourite voted in by just the caucus is something that blew up in the Liberals’ face, and they’re the party of establishment insiders. Imagine what will happen if a party that is supposedly the progressive alternative pulls the same thing, and not very well.

* Featured image by ideas_dept via Flickr Creative Commons

Wow, they’re actually admitting it. On-again/off-again Bloc Leader and die-hard soverignist Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre, a staunch Liberal and federalist, in his bid for re-election as Mayor of Montreal.

During the last Montreal Municipal Election campaign in 2013, there were rumors that supporters of the Liberals (both provincial and federal), the Bloc Québécois (BQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) were secretly pushing Melanie Joly’s candidacy for Mayor, not in hopes that she would win, but that she would split the anti-establishment vote and prevent a Projet Montréal victory. Whether there was involvement from those forces or not, that’s exactly what happened: Coderre won and Joly was off to greener pastures in Ottawa.

But why would these seemingly divergent groups have a common goal? The argument goes that establishment parties would do anything to stop anyone loosely aligned, even in terms of who supports them, with parties like the Federal NDP or Québec Solidaire (QS) provincially.

While that may seem like pie in the sky conspiracy stuff, Gilles Duceppe just endorsed Denis Coderre and he said why. Mixed in with reasons/excuses like how he feels the Pink line is unrealistic and there are a couple of soverignist candidates on Equipe Coderre, Duceppe said that Plante and Projet were “too close to QS and the NDP.”

For decades, both the federalist provincial and federal Libs and the sovereignist PQ and BQ thrived on everyone being focused on the National Question and the division it brings instead of more pressing issues like the corporate dominance, austerity and, more locally, transit. Now that their dominance is threatened at the municipal level by an arguably leftist party with a dynamic leader who is concerned with making life in Montreal better above all, they are scared.

Moreover, they are getting desperate. Desperate enough, apparently, to get in bed together publicly.

Earlier this week, establishment press tried to make a big deal out of Projet Leader Valérie Plante not answering a question about how she voted in the 1995 referendum, a smart move considering this election is about Montreal, not the specter of sovereignty and both sovereignists and federalists can be found in both main parties running. I wonder if they will give equal play to Coderre getting an endorsement from a prominent sovereignist like Duceppe.

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre. The other shoe has dropped.

This election is about the staus quo versus a new way of doing things and it only took the Liberals and the Bloc to make that crystal clear.

M-103, the Private Members’ Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, to fight Islamophobia in Canada has sadly and predictably sparked anger and debate. While most of the venom being spewed in comments sections and at rallies comes from Islamophobes afraid they may have to stop hating Muslims in public, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is fighting it in a different way, at least officially.

The CPC’s Religious Freedom Critic David Anderson introduced a counter-motion which doesn’t use the word Islamophobia and instead calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”

Looks like this was the kind of “doesn’t sound that bigoted” cover some were waiting for. I’m now seeing arguments on social media that start by asking why Muslims should be singled out for protection. Of course these are made by some of the same types of people who have no problem singling them out for criticism.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly and Iqra Khalid

Generally, a few comments later, or sometimes even in the same paragraph, their cover drops and they show exactly why we need to take Islamophobia seriously. As if the recent Mosque attack in Quebec City, Friday’s “anti-Islam” blockade in Toronto and the threats received by Khalid and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly over this motion weren’t each enough to do just that.

The CPC approach sounds very familiar to that employed by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and here in Canada as well. Instead of speaking out against police indiscriminately murdering people in communities of colour, some opted to promote the All Lives Matter narrative instead.

Basic deflection. Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t whereas insisting that people say All Lives Matter instead means that you want everyone to ignore the disproportionate amount of young people of colour being murdered by police. No one counters a Stop Cancer fundraiser by saying All Diseases Matter.

And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Yes, there are hate crimes against other religions, too. Here in Montreal, synagogues get vandalized on a regular basis. Antisemitism is a problem that needs to be dealt with and people are trying to fight it. That doesn’t mean Islamophobia shouldn’t be attacked as well.

When there is a real and present danger to a specific group of people within a society, that danger needs to be admitted, addressed and fought. I’m not sure if a motion in the House of Commons is anywhere near enough to fight Islamophobia, but admitting that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with is essential.

The CPC would stop us from performing even that most basic of civic duties. Meanwhile, some of their leadership candidates are openly campaigning for the Islamophobic vote. It’s two sides of the same coin, like the All Lives Matter crowd and the open racists.

Defending the right of the special snowflakes in their base (two can play at that particular name game) to be bigots is no justification to block fighting Islamophobia. Muslims are a target and no amount of defensive re-wording of language will change that, only action.

* Featured image of David Anderson in the House of Commons

Justin Trudeau was a man on a mission Monday. Canada’s global golden boy came to Washington ready to go head to head with Donald Trump, newly elected US President and international orange pariah.

First, there was the handshake. Trump’s grip and grin style is a classic, though awkwardly applied, power move: yank the unsuspecting fellow world leader in and only let go on your own terms.

Trudeau, a sometimes amateur boxer and full-time media savvy politician, was ready. He bound from the car and immediately grasped Trump’s shoulder, turning the President’s opener into a stalemate:


Then there was the joint press conference. While the focus was clearly on NAFTA and the plans Trump had to renegotiate it, reporters did ask about the infamous (and now officially suspended) travel ban. In particular, they wanted to know how the two leaders would square the circle that is their quite different approaches to refugees.

Trump dodged the issue, like, well Donald Trump. He talked about his Electoral College victory. At least he managed to mention an initiative for women in business without plugging his daughter’s clothing line. He’s, um, learning?

As for Trudeau, well, he spun it like a pro. First he talked about Canada accepting 40 000 Syrian refugees and then finished by saying that “the last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they govern themselves.”

Mission accomplished. At least for Trudeau’s international reputation as a refugee-hugging progressive. He met the beast head on and prevailed. The memes, shared video and pics will attest to that:



As for his claim that a lecture is the last thing Canadians would expect him to bring, well, he’s right. After the NDP tried to get his government to publicly condemn the Trump travel ban, Trudeau dodged and refused. If he wouldn’t step up in the comfort of our Parliament, why would we expect him to in Trump’s home?

That doesn’t mean a good many of us didn’t want him to say something a bit more confrontational. Maybe he could have put the same energy and tact into fighting against arrogant and ignorant discrimination that he did into his photo-op handshake.

Criticizing the travel ban would not be akin to “lecturing another country” either. There are plenty of Americans vocally opposed to the executive order. Thousands of them took to the streets and the airports and quite a few can be found in both the legislative and judicial branches of the US Government and it’s the judicial branch that has the final say in the US, no matter what the President thinks.

But…diplomacy you may argue. Sure, fine, but Trudeau’s agree to disagree approach in the press is hiding a just agree but try not to talk about it one behind the scenes.

The day before Trudeau’s trip to Washington, the CBC reported on Bill C-23, the so-called Pre-Clearance Bill, which would give US Border Control agents the power to detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil and even deny permanent Canadian residents the right to re-enter Canada. While this was, admittedly, originally negotiated by the Harper and Obama administrations, it’s Trudeau’s Liberals who are trying to make it law.

They’re doing so with full knowledge that they will be giving new powers to an agency that didn’t think twice about implementing an illegal, illogical and immoral ban. They’re also doing so in cooperation with an administration run by white supremacists who propagate myths equating refugees with terrorists.

Diplomacy is one thing. This is falling in line with the fascistic tendencies of the Trump Administration. Trudeau won the handshake battle on camera, but in reality, Trump’s power move prevailed.

And then there’s Keystone XL. At least, with this one, it’s something Trudeau has supported all along. He even went to Washington before he was Prime Minister asking President Obama to approve it.

Now, with a new President hell-bent on profit for energy companies regardless of the environmental cost, it looks like he will get his wish. Keystone was a key part of the joint statement the two released.

Coming across as a progressive environmentalist standing next to Donald Trump is easy. Living up to your international reputation here at home in reality, not so much.

I’ll leave it to The Beaverton to sum up the Two Trudeaus in this comedy skit:



He’s not as bad as Trump, nowhere near it. He may be the progressive hero the world needs, but that fiction is not what Canada has.

It happened. Justin Trudeau has gone from the Selfie Prime Minister to the Photobombing PM. At least that’s what it seemed like yesterday.

He was speaking (and I use that term liberally, he really didn’t get to talk much) at a Youth Labour Forum in Ottawa. Most of the assembled crowd, though, seemed less interested in Trudeau’s platitudes then they were in speaking up on his inaction or potentially wrong action on several fronts.

They were upset over what his signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean for their job prospects and the effects of “precarious work” which Trudeau said is now a fact of life. They also challenged Trudeau on his broken election promises, saying “we don’t have dialogue with liars.”

At one point, a group of attendees literally turned their backs on the PM because they felt he had turned his back on them. This led to the image you see at the top where it looks very much like Trudeau is an unwanted part of the photo.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Trudeau. On Monday, about 200 protesters showed up on Parliament Hill upset with the prospect of our Prime Minister approving the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. Close to 100 of them were arrested.

Last week, just after celebrating one year in office, Trudeau made the argument that the fact that he won the last election meant electoral reform was no longer urgently needed. The irony of this stance wasn’t lost on many, including Hill Times cartoonist Michael De Adder:

trudeau-rigged-system-trump-cartoon

Trudeau Had a Long Honeymoon

Up until a few weeks ago, things had been running real smoothly for our PM. Sure, there were attacks, but most of the ones which garnered major media attention came from the right and were over ridiculous things like him posing for shirtless selfies or progressive things like an MP (who has since passed away) trying to make the lyrics to O Canada gender-neutral.

The only time the NDP made a go at him that garnered mass coverage, it failed. It was supposed to be about his strongarm political tactics, but it ended up being about the physical movements of his actual arm, or elbow, when in Parliament.

That’s not to say there weren’t valid progressive reasons to criticize Trudeau over the past year. This self-proclaimed feminist let the previous Harper Government’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia go through and even relaxed our policy to make it possible.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s attempts to “modernize” the National Energy Board have amounted to nothing more than committees studying problems with no concrete action. The NEB, of course being the organization that Harper had chosen to evaluate pipeline proposals after abolishing the Environmental Assessment Agency.

So, progressive criticisms of Trudeau, until recently, have been focused on Harper policies that the Liberal Government has been ineffective in getting rid of. Not nearly enough to ruin Trudeau’s mainstream progressive cred at home, given the fact that his government has made some significant improvements on what the previous administration was doing.

It also hasn’t been anywhere close to something that could spoil his rep abroad. I constantly see Facebook friends living in the US and other countries as well as foreign progressive media jealously praising our Prime Minister and wishing he could be their head of state.

I always want to burst the bubble, but then think better of it, because at least his rhetoric is better than what 90% of politicians they have to deal with spout. Fortunately, Jesse Chase wasn’t as cautious when he wrote about Canada and our superstar PM in The Guardian.

While I don’t think Trudeau’s honeymoon with the world will end anytime soon, especially given the nastiness in the US Presidential Election, his sunny ways love-in with progressive Canadians may be about to come to an end. The downfall started when when he clearly stated that a $15/hr minimum wage was not a currrent goal of his administration.

Think about that for a second. This is now part of the official Democratic Party platform in the US. Sure, Bernie Sanders forced the issue and pushed Hillary Clinton in that direction, and there’s no proof that she will actually fight for it if elected. But if a corporate centrist running to be leader of a centre-right country can be cajoled into running on a $15/hr minimum wage, then what business does the self-billed progressive global heartthrob leader of a centre-left country have in rejecting it?

It was a long honeymoon for Trudeau, but is it now really over, or at least ending? Does the Emperor now really have no clothes, and not in a fun shirtless selfie kinda way? Maybe.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Now, I’d like to shift gears and speak directly to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Take a look around you, sir. The people turning their back (literally) on you and the people being arrested for getting a little too close to your place of business aren’t Conservatives. They aren’t even jaded lefties like me who vote NDP, sometimes while holding our noses because the leader is not progressive enough.

These are your people. People who voted for you in hopes that you would change things. They wanted to get rid of Harper and his rhetoric, which you have done, but, most importantly, they wanted to throw his policies away, too, and you, sir, have failed to do that.

Does your feminism include arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s 2016? Are Kinder-Morgan and Harper’s NEB part of your sunny ways? Have you given up on improving the condition of workers in this country? Can you really use your government’s popularity as an excuse to backpedal on electoral reform when that popularity seems to be waning, or rather plummeting, among former ardent supporters?

I’ll admit I was skeptical of you from the start and I’m sad to report that you have justified my skepticism. I’m a lost cause for you, but it’s not too late, though, for you to win back your former voters and live up to the false impression many have of you. It’s not that hard, either.

Just make your policies match your rhetoric and you can continue the honeymoon until the next election. Otherwise, the honeymoon’s over and things are gonna be kinda awkward before they’re downright unpleasant.

I really thought the US would get there first and we’d see a fistfight on the floor of the House of Representatives before what happened Wednesday in Canada’s House of Commons. I was wrong.

In case you were on a social media sabbatical, I’ll recap: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau manhandled Conservative Whip Gordon Brown and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest, then got into a shouting match with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

Have a look (starts around 0:38):

What lead up to this was a vote being called on a reduced timeframe for debate on the Liberal Government’s controversial assisted dying bill. The NDP is not opposed to the bill itself, but nor do they support it as a party. Mulcair made it a free vote, so MPs could vote their conscience.

What they are opposed to is the way Trudeau’s Liberals have been limiting the debate time on this and other recent pieces of legislation. That’s why they were blocking Brown’s path, something the whip didn’t seem to have a problem with, which prompted our PM to leave his seat and take matters, and Brown, into his own hands.

I have some advice. Most of it is for the NDP, but we’ll get the easier advice out of the way first.

Dude, What Were You Thinking?

By all accounts, Justin Trudeau is a smart man and a skilled politician. That’s why his antics on Wednesday really make no sense.

The vote was going to happen. The opposition whip making his way to the Speaker was really just a formality.

If he wanted to break up the logjam, he had two viable options: officially ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to do it or unofficially get some MP craving the spotlight to do it. What he did wasn’t one of them.

Maybe he thought this would play like Jean Chretien choking a protester. Instead it came across more like the late Rob Ford knocking over a city councillor by accident.

Or maybe he wasn’t thinking at all. Maybe he was just pissed. If that is the case, then there is a real problem. When the opposition is pulling a stunt to highlight your government ramming things through, maybe pulling your own stunt of ramming yourself through them isn’t the best idea.

My advice to our Prime Minister is, well, to think.

Wrong Spin, NDP

As for the NDP, Trudeau had handed them the kind of PR gold opposition parties can only dream of. Their response should have been a simple one that stayed on message: Trudeau is trying to steamroll bills through Parliament and now look at him physically steamroll through the opposition.

Instead, they decided to sell it much in the same way a pro wrestling jobber would sell an elbow from an up-and-coming mid-card talent, by falling to the ground. They decided to take the “what kind of feminist is Trudeau, he just elbowed a woman and she had to leave the room” approach.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of ways to call bullshit on Trudeau’s much touted feminism. His recent arms sale to Saudi Arabia comes to mind. This, unfortunately, was not one of them, and I am astounded NDP leadership didn’t realize it.

In less than 24 hours, they managed to turn a story about our PM acting like a bully into one where they were the butt of jokes in The Beaverton and, at the same time, the posterboys of trivializing violence against women by reducing it to an accidental elbow caught on camera while others have suffered and continue to suffer much worse on a daily basis.

In some coverage, Trudeau is now coming across as the victim of an overzealous opposition. In other articles, writers are juxtaposing the faux outrage over this incident with the real suffering people considering assisted dying are facing.

The NDP stunt was a statement against fast-tracking legislation in general, not against the specific bill being fast-tracked, but it’s easy to conflate the two when Mulcair and company aren’t sticking to their original point of contention by making it all about the elbow. Trudeau has apologized three times for the elbow, muting further attacks based on it and the Liberals have now quietly withdrawn their attempts to speed up debate in the Commons, meaning the NDP has now completely missed their chance to make it an issue, at least for the moment.

Another unfortunate side-effect is that now Brosseau is fielding tons of personal attacks online about the incident which she, in no way, deserves. Getting elbowed in the chest, I can only imagine, is quite an unpleasant experience, even if it was an accident. She was right to leave the room after being hit and also perfectly justified in being upset about what happened.

The over-reaction and insistence of her party that this is all about the elbow is not her fault. Unfortunately, now when Mulcair and others defending her against the recent hate tweet something like this:

Almost all the responses are about the elbowing incident and whether or not the party over-reacted and not about all of the hateful comments she has received.

So now the NDP has completely lost their message and are now fighting against internet trolls when they could have easily turned this into a statement about government bullying.

My advice to the NDP is the exact same advice I gave to Justin Trudeau: think.

The Winners

So who comes out of this debacle on top? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and the Conservatives.

May got her chance to chastise both the Liberals and the NDP for being incredibly immature. Meanwhile, former PM Stephen Harper, who doesn’t always show up in the House of Commons these days, but was present for this vote, can be seen briefly in the video feed of the incident smugly smirking at what was going on:

So, once again to recap: Justin Trudeau screwed up royally but the NDP botched their response and are now on the defensive and Stephen Harper had a good chuckle.

Panelists Quiet Mike, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the defeat of the NDP and the overall results of the Canadian Election and Bernie Sanders and the US Democratic Debate. Plus a Sergakis Update and Predictions.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Quiet Mike: Editor-in-Chief of and columnist on QuietMike.org

Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

* Please note: This podcast was recorded prior to the events in Paris

FTB Podcast #13: Canadian Election Results, Bernie Sanders and Sergakis Update by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

* This article originally appeared on QuietMike.org and is republished with permission from the author

While the rest of the world debates how handsome Canada’s new Prime Minister is, actual Canadians are just relieved to be rid of Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party for the first time in a decade.

While Canadians are happy with the change, promises were made, and we’re all curious to see just how many promises Justin Trudeau is able to keep. According to trudeaumetre.ca, a self-proclaimed non-partisan website dedicated to tracking Trudeau’s election promises, he made a total of 174 such assurances.

That is a lot of promises by anybody’s standards. They vary in size and importance, and it will certainly take a lot of work. From tax changes to full marijuana legalization, it will be a busy four year mandate to be sure.

Of the 174, there are a select few that may turn some heads within Canada and even the rest of the world. Here are the top five Justin Trudeau promises:

Taxing the Rich

After almost ten years of Conservative rule, it’s no surprise that Canadians find themselves with the smallest tax burden in half a century. That might seem great on the surface, but Harper’s Reaganomics policies have led to a big spike in income inequality along with huge gaps in investments toward infrastructure, research, manufacturing and just about everything else.

In order to reverse these trends, Trudeau promised to change Canada’s tax code by taxing the 1% more while cutting taxes on the middle-class within his first 100 days. He’ll also reverse the Conservative government’s doubling of Tax Free Savings Account limits and the income splitting they introduced for families with young children. Both of which overwhelmingly favour the wealthy.

On a separate note, Trudeau was also elected on the promise to run a $10 billion deficit for each of his first three years to jump start Canada’s economy, which is now in an official recession. The money will be used primarily for infrastructure.

Access-to-Information

Harper’s government and office was exceptionally secretive, to the point where Canada’s scientists were even muzzled. It was welcoming news then to hear Justin Trudeau promise to modernize Canada’s Access to Information Act. A deed not done since the time of Justin’s famous dad.

The Liberals have pledged to eliminate all but the $5 submission fee for access to information requests. Under the new and improved act, Trudeau has promised to give the Information Commissioner more power along with the ability to require federal departments to disclose information. They will essentially bring more federal departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, under the act.

ISIS and Terrorism

Royal Canadian Air Force drill with CF-18s (image: Combat Camera)
Royal Canadian Air Force drill with CF-18s (image: Combat Camera)

Along from pledging allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel, Stephen Harper, during his only Majority Government, also managed to bomb three separate Muslim countries (Libya, Iraq and Syria). None of which has yielded any positive results, just more disorder.

Although it is yet to be seen if we stop taking sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Trudeau has promised to put an end to the bombing campaign against ISIS. The Liberals seem keen on returning to the peacekeeping days of the past which Canada was famous for.

Trudeau has already announced an end to the mission and has announced a continuation in the training of the Iraqi military. Iraqi troops have come under fire for human rights abuses recently so Justin will have to tread lightly.

Electoral Reform

When Trudeau originally made the promise of electoral reform, his party was running in third place. Hopefully now that he is enjoying a newly elected majority government thanks to the strategic voting of Canadians, he doesn’t rescind on his promise.

Electoral reform done right should change the country forever and for the better, but it would also be the difficult task to accomplish. Trudeau said during the campaign that he will consult Canadians on a new electoral system with an aim to adopt proportional representation.

First he’ll need to teach average Canadians what proportional representation actually is, then he’ll need the provinces to sign off on it. It will be difficult, but not impossible, and in a country with five major parties, it is absolutely necessary. No one should form a majority government with less than 40% of the vote. Nor should a party have to settle for one seat after accruing 5%.

Marijuana for All

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

After the Liberal Party’s thrashing during the 2011 election, the party decided to make marijuana legalization part of the platform in order to win back voters. Justin Trudeau was elected party leader not soon after and with it came the announcement that he had smoked pot while serving as a Member of Parliament (at home, on his front porch, at a party, while the kids were away). Aside from some Conservative Parliamentarians, no one was really upset.

Perhaps Justin was testing the waters a little, maybe he just wanted to be honest when he was asked. Regardless, Trudeau did pledge to legalize and regulate the sale and taxing of marijuana across the country. A measure if carried out to fruition, will have worldwide consequences.

No one knows yet what legalization will look like, whether it will be open to private industry for instance, regulated the same way as alcohol or controlled differently by each province. What we do know, is that no major country on earth has gone beyond decriminalization at the national level.

I have no doubt that Trudeau will move to decriminalize within the first few months. If however he decides to take it to the next level, he will be sending a powerful message to the United States and the rest of the world about the sorry state of the war on drugs. He’ll even have to break several international treaties to do it. Now that would be progress.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That’s something Canadians had better get used to hearing for at least the next four years, maybe longer.

I’ll be the first, and certainly not the last, to admit that it has a much better ring to it than Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Then again so would Prime Minister Elizabeth May or Prime Minister Tom Mulcair, hell, I could even live with Prime Minister Ben Mulroney or Prime Minister that guy who works at the dep near my house and lets me use Interac for under $5 (not the strongest on the economy, but a real man of the people).

After close to a decade of destroying everything it means to be Canadian and a few months of trying to get us to hate our neighbours, Stephen Harper had to go. And now he’s gone as both Prime Minister and apparently (though not officially yet) as leader of the Conservative Party as well.

Canada’s Obama?

If you went on social media at all yesterday, you were most certainly greeted with jubilation in the form of celebratory status updates and memes like this one:

its trudeau

And this wasn’t just from your usual cast of politically-fixated characters, either. It seems everyone was jumping on either the Harper’s Gone bandwagon, they Yay Trudeau bandwagon, or both.

Globally, this is playing as a great victory for progressives. While Democracy Now hosted a cautiously optimistic discussion, most of the international coverage has been celebratory. The UK’s Daily Mirror even asked if Trudeau was the sexiest politician in the world, comparing him to the likes of shirtless Putin and Obama.

Come to think about it, style-wise, Trudeau is Canada’s Obama as much as Stephen Harper was our George W. Bush and our Dick Cheney rolled into one. He’s a young, charismatic politician who talks a very good game. He even used “Real Change” as his campaign slogan and comes across as a real man of the people.

Just look at him shaking hands at Jarry Metro hours after winning:

A lot of what Trudeau said during the campaign sounded great, so did quite a bit of what Obama said back in 2008. But just how much of what he promised or seemed to promise did Obama actually accomplish? And, now more importantly, just how much of what Justin Trudeau said that he would do or implied that he would do will he actually do?

It’s Not About the Leader, It’s About the Party

Unlike American politics, in Canada it isn’t all about the name at the top of the ticket. In fact, only voters in the Papineau riding actually got to vote for the name at the top of the winning ticket this time. Despite Harper’s attempt to turn the Prime Minister’s Office into a sort of Oval Office and muzzle MPs who disagreed with him, that’s really not how it works here.

If you want to know if Justin Trudeau will bring the change he is promising or if he will simply take advantage of all the Omnibus bills Harper passed without being blamed for them (he already ruled out repealing the horrific and completely unneeded C-51) you have to look beyond him and his charm to the party he represents.

After almost a decade of Harper rule, it’s easy to forget that the Liberals are actually regarded as Canada’s natural governing party. One thing they are known for is campaigning to the left and then, once in power, making a sharp right turn.

They are populists who promise what they think most people want to hear. They keep only the promises they want to (or the ones their financial backers want to) and those they can’t avoid. This is in contrast to both the Conservatives and the NDP, who are ideologically-driven parties of principle.

Generally, this means they will get their progressive social policies through. We got marriage equality under Chretien, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms under Pierre Trudeau and we will probably get pot legalization under his son, even though that was bound to happen anyways.

justin trudeau election night

When it comes to economic issues, that’s another story. Sure, Trudeau will probably run deficits as he promised, but I would be really (and pleasantly) surprised if they were actually used to combat austerity.

One of the saddest things to happen in this election is the defeat of several prominent and very progressive NDP MPs, including two former leadership candidates, Jack Layton’s replacement in Tortonto-Danforth and a huge chunk of the Orange Wave. Some were experienced MPs, others had found themselves working their first job in politics. All were committed, in one way or another, to social justice.

Trudeau, on the other hand, is bringing more conventional political types with him to Ottawa. He’s also bringing Bill Blair. Yes, the same Bill Blair that was Toronto Police Chief, Harper’s police chief, during the massive police repression at the G20 summit. He is now a newly elected Liberal MP. Is this guy really what passes for “real change” these days?

Sure, Trudeau is likable, but his MPs, for the most part, pale in comparison to those who are out of work or never got the chance.

Back to Where We Were

Stephen Harper was an aberration in Canadian politics. Canada is a centre-left country. The fact that such a regressive administration could hold power for so long is abhorrent.

Ten years ago we had lived through over a decade of Liberal rule and were ready for the next step in our evolution. A step that would have seen Canada become a real progressive nation, a social democracy with the size and scope that would make us unparalleled in the western world, but instead of moving forward with the NDP we jumped back, way back, with the Conservatives.

A Liberal Majority government is not progress. We have simply returned to where we were before Stephen Harper took power. Progress is ahead of us, I know it, I feel it, but we will have to wait at least four years for it to happen.

All that said, Stephen Harper is gone and we should rejoice. Justin Trudeau is our Prime Minister and we have to accept that. Who knows, maybe he’ll prove me and all the skeptics wrong, I sincerely hope so.

Until then, we should be vigilant and make sure that he sticks to what he promised and push him to do more. It’s all about social movements now. Sure, he’s not as easy a target for progressives as Harper was, but that shouldn’t make a difference.

If Justin Trudeau thinks that people on the political left wouldn’t dare hold his feet to the fire given his newfound popularity and the fact that he isn’t Harper, I have three words for him: just watch us.

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.

In the past two weeks, “democratic reform” has been on everybody’s lips within the spectrum of federal politics, from Trudeau’s supposedly “bombshell” announcement that Liberal senators would now sit as “independents” in the upper chamber of Canadian parliament or the dreaded Fair Elections Act which was tabled this week by Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Democratic Reform.

Now all this talk about democratic reform would be fairly encouraging if it wasn’t just mere talking points concocted by an array of political spin-doctors. Both Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre’s “blueprints” for democratic reform are the epitome of double-speak, a perfect representation of how the debate to reinvigorate democracy in Canada has been hijacked by buzz words and catch phrases.

The fact is that it seems, that within the Liberal and Conservative parties, there is a severe lack of courage and imagination. The question to be asked is how can the Liberal and Conservative parties truly understand the profound systemic change that Canadian democracy is itching for, when the system in place has benefited them time and time again?

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The polarization of Canadian political life between a centre-right wing Conservative Party and a centrist –whatever that means- Liberal Party has been the configuration of the Canadian political spectrum since time immemorial.

The first truthful challenge of this system came with the rise of the Reform Party in the 1990s. The Reform Party challenged in many ways the homogeneity of Canadian political life; the ascendency of this unorthodox political formation of libertarians, social-conservatives and neo-liberals repositioned the point of equilibrium of Canadian politics towards the right.

This movement of transformation of Canadian political life wasn’t initiated by Stephen Harper. It was continued by him and since last election has found in his government its apogee.

But the Reform Party and later the Canadian Alliance had to conform to this Canadian binary vision of politics and thus, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Progressive Conservative Parties on provincial and federal levels were increasingly infiltrated by the “new right” until the final merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance in December of 2003.

fair-vote-canada-signs

During the period from the 1993 election and the final merger of right-wing forces in 2003 the Liberals reign was undisputed in Parliament. The Reform Party and its successor the Canadian Alliance had indeed profoundly changed the political discourse in Canada but unfortunately within the boundaries of a First-past-the-post voting system, the potency of your message doesn’t count when a majority can be achieved with merely 38% of the vote.

The right-wing forces compromised and this gave birth to the biggest political re-branding (or takeover, which ever you want to call it) in Canadian history, the birth of the contemporary Conservative Party. But the newly anointed Conservatives in many ways were caught at their own game.

Moral of the story: yes the point of equilibrium of Canadian politics had shifted with the “Reformist Revolution” of the 1990s but in joining forces with Progressive Conservatives, the ideological “unity” of their group was compromised. Their “radical ideas” such as abolishing the Senate were thrown to the dustbin of history; they adopted a new position, which was an elected senate.

Then this newly formed coalition started winning elections and now shortly after the mid-mark of their first majority mandate it looks like the Conservatives have adopted status-quo as their modus operandi when it comes Senate affairs. Status quo was saved.

fair-elections-act
Anti “Fair Elections Act” messaging from canadians.org

This is the question that isn’t addressed by either of the so-called reforms introduced in Parliament in the past two weeks: the question of representation, the representation of divergent political ideologies, of every single Canadian voice. Trudeau’s idea of an “independent” but still non-elected senate is the brilliant idea that wasn’t.

It quite simply puts a fresh shade of paint on a collapsing structure, because independence is nothing when you’re accountable to no one but yourself. Who would an “independent” unaccountable Senate represent but themselves as they already do quite well.

When it comes to the Fair Elections Act, it’s anything but fair. The changes give accrued importance to money and disenfranchises scores of Canadians.

The system of first-past-the-post has a twisted way of self-preservation; it excludes the “unwanted” voices, banishes them to the sidelines thus upholding the status quo. This is how this morally bankrupt system and has survived since the days of Confederation.

The senate scandal is merely the most recent manifestation of a crisis of democracy in Canada, not the crisis itself. And the only solution to this crisis is to reopen the debate of defining a system that truly represents all Canadian voices, all political affiliations and all groups within the boarders of this Canadian federation.

As the 2015 federal campaign is gearing up, one question may be on many a progressive Canadian’s mind: who is the best option in the federal arena to turn things around? Who will be able to – after nine horrid years of “wild wild west” conservatism – give progressive Canadians a voice in the government?

Many see Justin Trudeau as young and charismatic, someone that would be a break with the past. He is seen as a figure who would be able to rally like-minded Canadians from coast to coast to coast and finally defeat the Conservatives after three successive failures. But if he were to win, the status quo would win as well.

Trudeaumania, as coined by political pundits, is back again after the election that put Trudeau at the helm of the Liberal Party of Canada. Trudeaumania, as any mania, is based purely on a sensation – the sensation of a nostalgic past when Trudeau Senior was the Prime Minister.

In many ways Canadians can identify with the bygone era when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was in power. Some may be thinking that those were the days when Canada was really great and that this nation held an important position in an international political setting. But, in many ways, the Trudeau era was far from perfect.

Trudeaumania the first time around (image: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada)
Trudeaumania in 1968 (image: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada)

We must not forget that Quebeckers from all walks of life were striped of their rights and thrown into prison, that the civil rights of the people of Quebec were sacrificed on the altar in the name of “national unity.” During the Trudeau era, this nation saw the implementation of the War Measures Act, and a massive violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that was implemented by Trudeau himself.

Not unlike the reverence many Americans have for the Kennedy era, Trudeaumania is a misplaced Canadian longing for a bygone era in which Canada had as its head of state an inspirational and progressive leader on the world stage. Once you scrape away the surface of the myth, the mania around continuing a Trudeau lineage in office comes off disingenuous, based on false pretences.

In the 1972 federal election, P.E. Trudeau was handed a slim minority and had to work with a new political landscape in Ottawa, thus implementing many of the New Democratic Party (NDP) measures such as the creation of Petro-Canada. The progressive era of P.E.Trudeau was more so a product of intelligent political maneuvering than a true affection for the ideals of social democracy.

One thing to be said about P.E.Trudeau is that he possessed political courage on many issues, the main one being the National Energy Program. The National Energy Program would be his Waterloo and the Waterloo of the Liberal Party in the Canadian West. No matter how unpopular it may have been, P.E.Trudeau fought tooth and nail for the project, and unfortunately for him, the main benefactor would end up being a future Prime Minister of the Progressive Conservative Party Brian Mulroney.

Since 2004, the Liberal Party of Canada has been heading down a slippery slope. Canadians in recent polls (Ipsos-Reid poll conducted from the 16th-20th of October) have said that they know very well what issues are the backbone of the NDP and the Conservative Party, but have trouble figuring out what the Liberal Party stands for. I believe there is a quite evident correlation between the adoption of the Chicago School of Economics 101 (Neoliberalism as described by Milton Friedman professor at the University of Chicago) by the Liberal Party of Canada and their loss of relevance within the arena of Canadian politics.

trudeau washington keystone
Justin Trudeau in Washington, DC to help Harper promote the Keystone XL pipeline (image Susan Moss, AP)

More recently Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his caucus might be firing shots left, right and centre during question period but when the time comes to vote, the Liberal caucus, on numerous occasions, have sided with the Conservatives. On the issue of the exploitation of tar sands and the building of pipelines, he offered to team up with Harper and head to Washington D.C. to help lobby for the Keystone XL Pipeline. When the National Energy Program – one of the pillars of his father’s legacy – was brought up at a press conference in Alberta, he shutdown the conversation by saying that he was flat out against it, end of story.

Justin Trudeau speaks widely of the need to reform and rejuvenate Canadian democracy and yet has voted time after time for the status quo in the Senate. And when it comes to free trade deals that serve the interest of multinationals rather than Canadian citizens, he has sided with the donors with the deepest pockets.

Would P.E.Trudeau be a member of the Liberal Party of Canada if he were alive today? I think not.

Maybe, after all, the Liberal Party of Canada, is…liberal. As Domenico Lusurdo explains in Liberalism: A counter-history, the “ideology” of liberalism born in the 18th century, was from it’s conception a flawed idea. It defended the equal rights of men and yet under the premises of civilization enabled the enslavement of millions of others throughout the globe. The rhetoric of liberalism and the practice of liberalism don’t match, they are antithetical. In this sense, the gulf between Trudeaumania and the aspirations and the hopes of many Canadians have put in Justin Trudeau and the real content of his message is a gap that cannot be bridged.

As Losurdo explains, liberalism has always been a fluid ideology capable of being everything while keeping the reins of power in the hands of the elite. Thus, the Liberal Party of Canada has become a machine built to keep and gain power and, without knowing, many wishful thinking liberals are maintaining the status-quo.

The political landscape in Canada has shifted under Harper, shifting Canadian political discourse toward the right. In this new politically polarized landscape, the Liberals offer no new alternative to the neoliberal Harperite vision of society. Unlike the Conservative Party and New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party of Canada offers no vision for the future of Canadian society, this is why the Liberal Party has lost its dominant place within the Canadian political spectrum and now should be relegated to the wishful shores of nostalgia.

* Top image: Justin Trudeau via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Justin Trudeau supports the legalization of marijuana. Not only that, he’s not afraid to admit that he’s smoked the odd joint himself. Unless Tom Mulcair and the NDP do something about it, it may just make him Prime Minister.

I don’t say this lightly or even enthusiastically, far from it. I’ve been an ardent NDP supporter for years and with my party poised to take power for the first time ever, to lose by being outflanked from the left by a right-leaning centrist with a good head of hair would be disastrous.

What’s worse is that as an MP, Trudeau both voted for Bill C-15 which imposed mandatory minimum sentences and smoked at least one joint. That hypocrisy will probably be forgotten or ignored by some voters, potheads aren’t known for their memory but they do turn up at the polls (Colorado and Washington, anyone).

While Trudeau may be a hypocrite, he’s a hypocrite who knows good electoral strategy when he sees it. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The only voters he’ll alienate are those in Harper’s Alberta base, people who will vote Conservative no matter what. He won’t lose the Ontario hockey moms who may have voted for Harper last time for economic reasons, in fact he may gain support from those who know their kids will probably experiment with the drug once or twice and don’t want to see them in jail for smoking a joint.

Meanwhile, supporting outright legalization will undoubtedly steal votes from the NDP in their former BC base and maybe even in their current stronghold of Quebec, if voters can get by the last name Trudeau. While a political battle between the love of ganja and hatred of the man who put tanks on the streets of Montreal being directed at his son may be interesting to watch, it doesn’t have to happen at all.

canadian-marijuana-flag

During the NDP leadership campaign, a reporter asked Mulcair if he would legalize pot if Prime Minister and he said no (the party has since reaffirmed its commitment to decriminalization), they would need to run studies first. I strongly suggest that he quietly commissions whatever studies he feels are needed now so the next time someone asks him if he also supports legalization he can answer with an emphatic yes.

It will also be a much more honest yes than Trudeau could possibly give. If both leaders support pot legalization, then the one who did so after conducting the research he said he would do would seem like and be a much better choice than the guy who voted with Harper to harshly punish people who enjoyed what he enjoyed and only embraced legalization when it was clearly a good move electorally.

If the NDP want to remain the only alternative to Harper, then they need to at the very least match the Liberals on social issues. Surpassing them with progressive economics won’t be enough if they lose progressive ground on the next hot button social cause.

Canada is a centre-left country and has always been. A neo-con majority government is just good strategy by the Conservatives and not an indication of changing values.

It seems like the Mulcair and the NDP, closer to power than they ever have been before, may have forgotten that. I fear both removing socialism from the party’s constitution and Mulcair’s views on legalization both walk on the same cold feet.

I know that I’m probably more radical than your average voter but I can see how removing a word, even one that doesn’t carry the same negative connotations here as it does in the states, isn’t the end of the world. If the competition aren’t calling themselves socialist, then socialists who want to vote for a party that has a chance will still vote NDP, word or not. Standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization, on the other hand, is inexcusable for a party that needs progressive support to win.

If the NDP acts swiftly and comes out with a pro-legalization stance backed by scientific research, then they will, forgive the pun, smoke out Trudeau’s hypocrisy.

Otherwise, pro-pot voters may get lost in the haze and make Trudeau PM.

* Top image by MontrealSimon.blogspot.ca

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

If you were to speak of Justin Trudeau’s charisma and character, you would know he is his father’s son. Justin will tell you however that he is not his father, Pierre Trudeau, the beloved former Prime Minister of Canada during the 70s and 80s.

Pierre’s son Justin fulfilled part of what some would call his destiny by winning the Liberal Party leadership race this past weekend (with 80% of the vote). People are already wondering whether a new generation of “Trudeaumania” will take hold. If Justin is to follow in his father’s footsteps and become Prime Minister, it will be a far more difficult task than when his father was first elected in 1968.

Back then, the Liberal Party was already considered the natural governing party of Canada, having ruled the country for 31 of the previous 42 years. Pierre Trudeau also had the luxury of succeeding Lester B. Pearson, one of the most influential Canadians of the 20th century.

Son Justin might have inherited his father’s name, but he didn’t take over the same Liberal Party. Less than two years ago, then Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff oversaw the worst defeat in party history.

In the general election of 2011, the Liberal Party not only lost the election to the Conservatives, but they lost their status as the official opposition to the orange crush of the NDP. The Liberals were relegated to a third place finish for the first time in Canadian history.

Now with two years remaining until the next election, Justin Trudeau has time to pick up the pieces and re-establish the Liberals as the natural governing party it used to be, but it will not be easy.

A National Poll that was taken before the conclusion of the Liberal leadership race showed Trudeau with a slight lead over Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Some might consider these numbers to be a good sign, but they’re based more on Trudeau’s name than his policies. Justin has spoken very little on the policies he supports.

The Liberal Party stood divided following the three consecutive majority governments of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien; the party took a slight shift to the centre of the political spectrum as a result. Thanks to the policies of the Liberal leaders who followed, they are now considered Canada’s centrist party.

Some say the beginning of the Liberal fall from grace came from years of party infighting and its perception that they no longer speak with progressive voices. These realities can explain why the NDP has done so well of late.

Pierre-Trudeau-Justin-Trudeau-baseball-game
Pierre Trudeau with son Justin at a 1987 Montreal Expos game (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

Unlike his father, Justin has more than one party to contend with. As Liberal delegates were casting their votes, the New Democrats were hosting their policy convention in Montreal.

The NDP voted overwhelmingly to strip socialism from the preamble to the party constitution. This action might have angered some hardcore democratic socialists, but they say it was necessary to modernize the party and appeal more to liberals and progressive conservatives. Either way, it’s clear the NDP have no intention of bowing down to the newly elected Liberal leader.

Justin’s father is famous for the “just society” speech he gave when he accepted the leadership of the Liberal Party back in 68’. It is not yet clear whether Justin Trudeau will remember his father’s words and bring the Liberals back to its more progressive roots or re-mould the party into a yet unknown mixture of progressive/conservative policies.

Canada has become an increasingly polarized country under Harper. If Trudeau decides to stick to the middle ground, it may come back to haunt him much to the delight of the Conservatives and NDP.

Trudeau and his Liberals have an uphill battle to be sure, but if there is anyone who can turn the party around, it’s his name/him. Good leadership doesn’t come from someone’s genetic makeup (just look at the Bush family), but it if it did, Justin would have an abundance of it from both sides of his family.

The new Liberal leader will spend the next two years honing his skills, rebuilding the party and reaching out to Canadians. At the same time we can’t deny that his name could be advantageous come election time, but only if his leadership is worthy of it.

The media will undoubtedly concentrate on Trudeau’s attention grabbing name, not just because of his father’s accomplishments, but because of Stephen Harper’s public disapproval of him. Pierre Trudeau is regarded as the reason why Harper got into politics on the other side in the first place. It seems like something only Hollywood could make up.

If Justin plays his cards right and he is able to use all the media attention to his advantage, he just might outdo his dad. For better or for worse, the Liberal Party has finally found a leader who can unite them and his name just happens to be Trudeau.

There’s been talk of union, of merger, between the Liberal Party of Canada and the federal New Democrats now that a grand iconoclast has passed into the great hereafter. Perhaps it will be developed into a kind of ‘unite the left’ initiative, much like the successful ‘unite the right’ campaign of the late-1990s.

In fact, if there is serious consideration of a merger between the Grits and NDP at the federal level, there’s little doubt in my mind that it will be subsequently marketed specifically as a united alternative to Stephen Harper and the ruling Conservatives. Mergers have been proposed a number of times recently, pretty much each time with the aim of beating Stephen Harper out of 24 Sussex.

Here’s where we encounter problem number one. By acknowledging a media report on a merger proposal (which, let’s face it, may be no more than a Facebook group initiative), both parties admit to some kind of public perception of weakness. By hinting, especially now, that either party is interested in a merger, it does not build the public’s trust, but instead demonstrates one of the two parties is simply too weak to stand on its own and must adopt a new personal politics and ethics. It in effect concedes that elements of policy platform are hopelessly unrealistic, in order to become part of the bigger, ostensibly more successful whole.

Moreover, the word ‘merger’ as opposed to ‘coalition’ or ‘union’ carries certain negative connotations here in Canada, like how many proudly Canadian companies had to merge with foreign competitors in the early-mid 1990s as a result of various Conservative-era free-trade agreements signed into law years earlier. By contrast, ‘coalition’ seems impermanent, something which involves the cooperation of all parties for a short-term period of national emergency. Again, it’s hardly an appropriate term for the sound-bite media.

And union, well, what can I say it seems that this term evokes about equal amounts of scorn and praise, and something tells me that it may have to do with the fact that in French, ‘union’ is syndicate, and thus the word in French is free to embrace the figurative implications of the term. Quel dommage pour nous!

It is indeed a shame that this word through no fault of its own is impugned with all the seedy, grainy CCTV footage of countless longshoremen busted in Giuliani-era internal affairs stings. But the reason we, whether Greens, Blocquistes, NDPers or Grits, should avoid union is far from a semantic one.

It’s a matter of being an iconoclast in your own right, as a sovereign individual citizen, and about using the collective force of our combined society, as progressives united for change, to shift the balance of the political dialogue far into our camp. To swing the pendulum so far off to the left we actually destroy the concept of a political dialogue, simply because there are myriad progressively minded political options.

Then there is the issue of the individual legacies of Canada’s four federal ‘alternative’ parties, which in turn is built upon their individual histories. There are many Canadians who felt a strange kind of national pride with regards to the Bloc the idea that we are so politically evolved we can function as a federal democracy with a political party that advocates for a new federalism participating in government. This is still valuable, though I’m not sad to see the Bloc’s representation in Ottawa scaled down to a more appropriate level.

Then there are the Greens who, let’s face it, have also focused their party on a single political issue. Say what you will about Ms. May’s proclivity to praise the world of homeopathy, Canada needs a federal alternative that places environmental concerns at the head of the table.

These two parties are relatively young and need time to grow and evolve in their own right.

The bigger issue is what will become of the Grits, and I would personally hope they look to their own history as a guiding light for future progress. The Liberals always governed best when they focused on key social-justice issues, but let’s not be glib, they are also a historically autocratic and technocratic party, preferring to govern with strong centralized governments. This is as true of the Liberals in Ottawa as it is of those in Québec City, despite the weakening of that relationship over the last few decades.

The Liberals may be wise to try and lure the so-called Red Tories, remnants of the old Progressive Conservatives, though I feel this may have already been accomplished, what with Stephen Harper’s regular purging of CPC party ranks for disloyalty. Whatever the case, the federal Liberals have got to regain the strength and momentum of the Mackenzie/St-Laurent/Pearson/Trudeau years, when they governed with an iron fist.

In addition to building a massive public service and a national economic foundation of crown corporations, the Grits also pushed scientific and technological research & development, perhaps further in the forty post-WW2 years they largely governed than at any other time in Canadian history. This is their legacy, and they would be very wise to remind the Canadian people of what they have accomplished.

As for my beloved New Democratic Party, I can say only this. Take Jack’s last words very seriously. Take it up as a personal code of conduct. And remember the roots of the NDP Prairie Populism.

The grandparents of the generation that elected Stephen Harper and built his voter base out West over the last twenty years once voted overwhelmingly for Tommy Douglas and the CCF, an admittedly socialist organization with a leader who was regularly spied on by the RCMP.

Whatever it was that had these people caring about their fellow man back then surely still exists in the people who live there now, but they have been successfully brainwashed into believing the CPC now has their best interests in mind. It’s perverse, as Progressives know the reality of the situation, but Western Alienation is still a political concern for our nation, perhaps a greater threat to our federalism today than Québec separatism.

With the voter base of the NDP now concentrated in Québec and Canada’s major urban centers, we must begin to reach out to those living in Canada’s rural areas, people who may be inadvertently snubbed by the machine that is federal Canadian politics. I have heard too many disparaging remarks made with reference to rural Canadian voters, and I know I’ve made some of these inconsiderate and ultimately prejudicial comments myself.

That being said, I feel the way forward is by building multiple progressive alternatives to the CPC, and by fostering new relationships with rural Canada. The hegemony of the federal Tories can only be broken if Canadians from coast to coast to coast are shown that distinct yet fundamentally progressive, cooperative parties are in fact a better governing option than a regressive ‘Tower of Babel’ built by a small clique of charismatic oligarchs.

* Images: bcblue.wordpress.com, cbc.ca, canadahistory.com, sixtiesretro.blogspot.com