* 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.

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

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

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

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

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)

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

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

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

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

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

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

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

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

Plus they could always cheat.

New Democratic Party (NDP)

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

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

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

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

Green Party (Green)

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

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

Bloc Quebecois (BQ)

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

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

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

Bottom line, the Bloc is screwed.

What I Think Will Happen

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

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

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

Panelists Léo K. McKenna, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss upcoming Canadian Federal Election and dumpster food served as gourmet meals at the UN and what that means for food waste in Canada. Plus an interview with Jake Smith from Montreal band Lakes of Canada, the Community Calendar and Predictions.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Léo K. McKenna: Political pundit, music student, former political operative

Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Interview segment by Hannah Besseau. Listen to Hannah’s full interview with Lakes of Canada on FTB.

Win tickets to the album launch and the album Transgressions with FTB and IndieMontreal!

FTB PODCAST #12: Lakes of Canada, Canadian Election and Dumpster Food at the UN by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

For ten years, Stephen Harper has used the same electoral strategy:

1. Campaign from the centre, hold a kitten, don’t say much
2. Let opponents destroy each other
3. Govern from the far right
4. Repeat

It was a strategy that served him well and even gave him a majority government. He had no reason to change it, until a few weeks ago.

For the first time in a long time, it looked like the Conservatives were going to lose, badly. Harper’s own efforts to scare his opponents into accepting Bill C-51 had made this possible.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau took the bait. NDP leader Tom Mulcair didn’t and fought hard against it. This encouraged many progressives to abandon the Liberal brand and get behind the next Orange Wave.

A mostly united left in a country that is predominantly centre-left is a real threat to Harper. He recognized it and decided to send his campaign manager back to Ottawa and bring in Lynton Crosby, known to many as the Australian Karl Rove.

Crosby didn’t waste too much time:

Post-Crosby Conservative mailout (via Twitter)
Post-Crosby Conservative mailout (via Twitter)

Canada is now getting a federal George Bush-style campaign of fear.

The Niqab Debate is Back On

A few months ago, before the campaign was even launched officially, people were talking about the Niqab. It all stemmed from the case of one woman who wanted to wear hers while taking the oath of citizenship but was denied because of a rule imposed by Harper’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

When the rule was overturned, the Conservatives wanted to bring it back, the NDP didn’t and the Bloc Quebecois, under the leadership of Mario Beaulieu, tried to make it their wedge issue against the NDP.

It stayed in the public eye for about a week and then most people forgot about it. The Bloc changed leaders and started attacking the NDP from the left on pipelines.

Fast forward to the week leading up to the first French language debate. The Bloc, reeling in the polls, brought the non-issue back up and in the debate, Harper pounced on it.

Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair in a heated exchange during the French language debate (Radio-Canada/YouTube)
Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair in a heated exchange during the French language debate (Radio-Canada/YouTube)

In a heated debate, Mulcair got off a great one-liner: “Stephen Harper is trying to hide his failed economic policy behind a Niqab.” Elizabeth May echoed that statement. Bottom line, this is a distraction pure and simple.

Mulcair is right. Very few women actually wear the Niqab in Canada. I have seen maybe three people wearing Niqabs in my life and I live in Montreal. Only one woman fought for the right to wear one during a citizenship ceremony. Also, during the French debate, “What is a Niqab?” was the top Goolge search in Canada.

But yet, this non-issue is somehow THE issue for the moment.

You’re Either With Us or You’re With the Guy Who’s Already Serving a Life Sentence

When the Conservatives brought in Bill C-24, making it possible to strip citizenship from anyone convicted of “terrorism” or “treason” who could be considered the citizen of another country as well, most people, to put it mildly, weren’t impressed. Harper had just created second-class citizens and seeing as C-51 made it possible to define anyone the government didn’t like as a terrorist or terrorist promoter, it was now possible to have political opponents deported.

Harper`s new strategist Lynton Crosby
Harper`s new strategist Lynton Crosby

C-24 fell to the backburner quickly, but now that Crosby’s in charge of the campaign, the government decided to apply the law. They picked Zakaria Amara, one of two leaders of the so-called Toronto 18, a group of home-grown terrorists who planned to detonate several bombs in Toronto.

A dual citizen of Canada and Jordan, Amara was stripped of his Canadian citizenship on Friday. He was informed of this via a letter sent to the prison in Quebec where he is currently serving a life sentence. That’s right; our government boldly declared that someone serving life is no longer a citizen, though he will be staying here as long as his sentence lasts.

For him, that punishment means, wait for it, absolutely nothing. He’s still behind bars and will be for a while. Sure, if he gets paroled while he is still alive, he could be deported to Jordan, or, theoretically, Jordan could ask for his extradition before his sentence is up. After all, we are now holding a Jordanian citizen in one of our prisons. It was so much simpler when he was just a Canadian arrested and convicted under Canadian law.

It was a purely symbolic move. One designed to bring support to C-24 and the Harper government. Forget “sure it restricts freedoms, but it gets the bad guys,” this is more like “sure it restricts freedoms, but it allows us to turn the bad guys we’ve already caught into a political prop.”

Will It Work?

So, the big question is: will a right-wing wedge issue and fear-based campaign actually work federally in Canada? I don’t think so and seriously hope not.

I hope that the predominance of the Niqab debate is just spin from a mainstream media desperate for divisive issues. While I trust the Bloc’s statistic that 90% of Quebecers they surveyed are against permitting the Niqab at citizenship ceremonies (for now), I wonder how many of those people care enough about the issue to make it a primary voting concern.

If voters consider all the facts including the amount of women who actually wear the niqab in Canada, the fact that there are procedures in place at citizenship ceremonies to ensure proper identification and the fact that denying someone citizenship does nothing to protect them against coercion (in fact, it has the opposite effect), then the only way they can vote for a niqab ban is if their own cultural prejudices trump everything else. I seriously hope that’s not the case with my fellow Canadians.

I also hope that we can all see through the charade of picking someone who is already doing life and making him the poster child for an ill-conceived law that does not affect the guilty and harms honest Canadians who only want their voices heard.

I don’t think my countrymen and women are that fucking dumb. I don’t think Canadians will fall for a Karl Rove strategy. But I guess we’ll all find out on October 19th.

* Fetured image: feelguide.com

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

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

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

Gilles Duceppe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Harper

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

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

Thomas Mulcair

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Trudeau

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

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

Elizabeth May

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

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

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

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

We just passed the mid-point in one of the longest Canadian Federal Election campaigns in a while. The stress of such a long campaign is starting to show, sometimes in quite hilarious ways.

Over the past few weeks, politicians and staffers alike have given us some moments that really make you do a double-take. Some are quite offensive, others are hilarious in how tone-deaf they are. All will make you wonder how supposedly seasoned political operatives could have let them slip by.

Enjoy:

Harper’s 24 Hour Surveillance

stephen-harper-campaign-signs-surveillance-stickers

When it comes to making your opponents’ greatest fears about you come alive visually yourself, no one beats Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Afraid the CPC will take away your rights? Here’s a campaign sign advertising 24 hour surveillance with the image of a surveillance camera to really drive the point home.

Now, to be fair, there were some people vandalising election signs in Harper’s home riding of Calgary Heritage and it is illegal to vandalise political signage during an election. So, adding stickers to let would-be vandals know that they are being filmed and could be prosecuted does make sense.

That is, of course, until you remember that the potential audience for those stickers is all Canadian politicos on the internet. To dissuade a few people in Calgary with spray cans, the party behind Bill C-51 effectively advertised to the country that re-electing Harper meant 24 hour surveillance.

Gilles Duceppe Taking the Fight to Isis

Isis beware! Gilles Duceppe has you in his sights. The Bloc leader announced that a sovereign Quebec would fight the Islamic State.

This came as part of an announcement that the Bloc supports the Harper Government’s military mission in Syria. While that stance is a pretty desperate last-minute move to the right in and of itself, bringing Quebec sovereignty into the equation makes it a point of ridicule.

I don’t have to read the internet comments on this one to know what the general theme will be: just how Quebec is supposed to take on ISIS without a military of its own? Send the SQ to Syria?

If voters’ primary concern is engaging in foreign wars, they’re going to go with the guy who has already gotten us into them and plans to keep us there. And that’s not Gilles Duceppe.

Trudeau’s On a Plane!

This is a case of screwing up an announcement that should be run-of-the-mill. Due to the length of the campaign, the major parties with smaller war chests (all but The Conservatives) were only able to charter private jets to fly their leaders, staff and press around the country at the midway point. Until then, Mulcair and Trudeau had been flying commercial.

When they finally got their private, branded planes, the NDP and the Liberals announced it. While Mulcair was smart and made it part of a broader policy announcement of new aerospace jobs, Trudeau went the full-on the Andy Sandberg “I’m on a Boat!” route.

If you can think of a better way to prove your opponents’ criticism that you are out-of-touch and elite than bragging about your new private jet, please let me know. Otherwise watch this video and try not to have that Lonely Island song in your head:

 

The Bloc Going for the Xenophobic Environmentalist Vote

The Bloc makes a second appearance in this short list. Not surprising considering their whole campaign has pretty much been one big WTF moment from the time Gilles Duceppe became leader again without even a vote.

Have a look at their latest ad:

No, you’re not imagining things. In just 21 seconds, they went from slamming the NDP for their refusal to come out against pipelines to slamming them for their opposition to Harper’s attempts to ban the Niqab at swearing-in ceremonies for new immigrants.

Wedge issues are an effective way to mobilize a specific voter base. They work fine solo or in tandem with other issues that appeal to the same voter base like how opposition to marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose fit well together. The Bloc didn’t bring in Bush-Era Karl Rove, they brought in Rove drunk and passed off that the last cheque bounced.

I can only imagine the brainstorming session that went into this:

“So our attempt to get the xenophobe vote didn’t work and our play to the left to get pipeline opponents on board isn’t working either. I know, let’s try and appeal to both groups at the same time!”

“Hey, oil is black, and so are Niquabs. I’ll call the graphics department.”

This, of course, was followed by tears and reminiscing on how they once were the official opposition and came so close to being part of a coalition government.

Harper’s Old Stock Canadians

Thursday’s Globe and Mail Leaders’ Debate was, to be completely honest, kinda boring. Sure, there were some snarky comments exchanged, probably more than in the last debate, but overall just a lot of arguing over numbers. And then our current Prime Minister said this:

“So,” the internet wondered, “just what do you mean by old stock Canadians, Mr Harper?” Well, in Europe, “old stock” generally refers to the original inhabitants of the land, or longtime inhabitants. Like old English stock or old French stock.

So does that mean he was referring to the First Nations, whom his government has routinely screwed over? Nope. He clarified the following day that he was referring to Canadians who were “the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations.” And while he didn’t specify Western European descent, we all know he was talking about white people.

The racism and ignorance inherent in referring to people living on occupied land as old stock proves that Harper is a right-wing reactionary and a bigot with one small off-the-cuff remark. While it does qualify as a WTF moment, it also may help him solidify his base. Remember, his base is this guy:

old stock canadian

I would have liked to include some WTF moments from the NDP and the Green Party but the Greens have been doing everything right this time around and the only NDP screw-ups are of the direction and policy variety and make sense if you know Mulcair and the party. No double-takes possible. But the campaign’s still going, so they may make the cut next time.

Got any of your own #elxn42 WTF moments? Please share them in the comments.

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

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

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

Stacy Drake: FTB culture and entertainment contributor

You can still vote in our Federal Election Poll

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

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Bill C-51, the Harper Government’s so-called anti-terror legislation, is now the law of the land in Canada. It passed the House of Commons last month and yesterday it passed the Senate. While supporters of the bill argued that it will make Canadians safer, this Canadian felt a whole lot safer before this thing was law.

Now Anyone Can Be Labelled A Terrorist

One of the most jarring elements of this legislation is that it makes what it calls the “promotion of terrorism” punishable by five years in prison and websites being taken down. The problem is that it doesn’t define what is and what isn’t terrorism.

This is really frightening to anyone who expresses an opinion or advocates actions that are contrary to the interests of the current or future governments. Supporters of Idle No More and environmental activists whom the Harper regime has already tried to affix the terrorist label to have a reason to be scared, but they’re not the only ones.

While it does say that “lawful protest” is not terrorism, anyone ticketed under Montreal’s Municipal Bylaw P-6 knows that what’s lawful can be redefined in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a moment’s notice by pretty much any level of government.

Civil disobedience is our right as Canadians. It’s also a good way to keep the pressure on until unconstitutional laws get overturned in court. That could be considerably more difficult with the prospect of being labelled a terrorist or promoting terrorism hanging over your head.

Another chilling part of C-51 is how it labels threats to the economic interests of Canada, or another country, acts of terrorism. This might make you think of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel. Given that the Harper regime is already letting it leak that they may use hate speech laws against BDS activists, the prospect of going after them with C-51 isn’t that much of a stretch.

But, as one surprisingly honest RCMP officer admitted, the law could be used to target anyone who uses economic pressure tactics like boycotts:

Economic protest is not only one of the most effective tools out there, it is also a non-violent tactic which is everyone’s right to use. When you equate boycotting a company or a country with doing physical harm to actual humans, you are taking the personification of corporations to a whole new level which it should never be at.

No Need Except Political

The saddest thing about this Bill is that there is no need for it to begin with. The Ottawa shooting was not an act of terrorism.

So when you hear Justin Trudeau argue that the bill is flawed but needed, you can deduce that he only means it is needed for political purposes, to help him secure votes on the right. When he promises to make changes to C-51 if elected, it’s simply a ploy to keep some votes on the left.

It was a clever plan that seems to have backfired on him and the Liberals. There are even protesters at his rallies now saying that he’s the same as Harper because of his stance on C-51.

This is working out very well for the NDP. The anti-Harper vote is starting to galvanize behind them. Admittedly, at one point, leader Tom Mulcair was quoted saying that the party opposes the bill but he would only make changes to it if elected. That has changed, rather dramatically, with the NDP and its leader emphatically saying they will repeal it completely if they form government:

Mulcair is now listening to his party’s base and the Canadian left in general. He knows he needs to do so to become Prime Minister. But this is going beyond the left-right axis. Even Conservative supporters have realized that this law is bad news and needs to be done away with.

Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t carry over to any Conservative senators. It also escaped some of the now former Liberal senators, though most of the ex-Liberal Senate Caucus did vote against the bill to their credit. The Canadian Senate had one chance to prove itself useful and it failed miserably.

Honestly, if they had stopped C-51 from becoming law, all the Mike Duffys in the world wouldn’t be able to stop my appreciation. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

228 People On My Shit List

Between the House of Commons and the Senate, 227 people voted in favour of C-51. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, interestingly enough, was out of the country at the time of the vote in the HOC, so he wasn’t counted, but I’m going to count him anyway, because I’m sure how he would have voted.

So 228 people, 228 elected officials, for whatever reason, decided to vote to enact a needless law that stripped away some of our basic rights and freedoms. 228 people voted to put their own political interests ahead of the rights of the people they were elected to represent.

c51 protester

It’s never a good idea to take things personally. But, in this case, I can’t avoid it. As someone who enjoys expressing my opinion which at times conflicts with the aspirations of the current government and may promote causes which are potentially damaging to the economic interests of the friends of the powers that be, I am horrified that 228 people think it’s okay to label me as a terrorist or terrorist promoter.

This is beyond politics. This is beyond what is acceptable in a democratic society. This is one of the most un-Canadian things I have ever encountered.

C-51 doesn’t need to be amended. It needs to be repealed immediately. Thrown away, spat on, stomped on and otherwise abused until it is no longer part of our present or history.

For those not frothing at the mouth like I am, or those who want to do something positive to get rid of this monstrosity (I’ll join you soon enough, promise), OpenMedia.ca has a helpful guide of potential next steps for those opposed to C-51.

For those 228 fellow Canadians who supported a law which scares me to the core, I have two words: FUCK YOU!

* Images by Obert Madondo, Creative Commons via Flickr

The other shoe has dropped. Barely a few days after Harper’s Conservatives, with the help of the Liberals, pushed Bill C-51 through the House of Commons, we get more proof that this government is, in fact, all about silencing dissent by any means necessary.

Top government officials indicated that they would enforce their zero-tolerance policy towards criticism of the State of Israel by treating the promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as hate speech.

Government Policy is Not a Person

Canada’s hate speech laws are a very good thing. They prevent promoting discrimination based on gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the way Harper now plans to use them is an insult to those who are actually victims of hate speech.

Last year, national origin was added to the list, presumably to make it easier for the government to follow the approach they are now following. Previously, they would have had to prove a correlation between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, which may be possible when talking to their base, but not in a court of law. Also try calling Jewish people who support BDS anti-Semites and you’ll be in for quite the argument, to say the least.

Harper and company have opted instead for the dubious route, but they still don’t have any real footing. Encouraging economic boycott of Israeli products is not a criticism of or discrimination against the people who produce those products based on national origin or anything else.

Those people could produce the same products in a different country and not be under boycott. In fact, if they voted out the current government and replaced them with one that eliminated the policies the BDS movement is protesting, or if the current government went that route, the people could produce the same products in Israel and not be under boycott.

The boycott is against goods produced under the current government policy in the State of Israel and government policy is not a person and therefore cannot be the victim of hate speech.

Double-Standard for Israel

One thing staunch supporters of the current Israeli regime’s policies love to bring up is the notion of a double-standard. In fact, a few years ago, the Harper Government was trying to get everyone who criticized Israel to also criticize another country at the same time, otherwise be labelled an anti-Semite.

Well, when it comes to double-standards, this could turn out to be a whopper. If it’s hate speech to urge boycott of Israel, presumably because the country’s population is majority Jewish, even though their government has some horrible policies, does that mean it would also be hate speech to boycott the products of a country whose population is largely Muslim whose government has some ethical issues to account for?

ethical oil
Hate speech? Ezra Levant’s Ethical Oil campaign

Let’s take Saudi Arabia as an example and imagine people in Canada urging a boycott based on ethical grounds. Wait, we don’t have to imagine such a scenario, thanks to Ezra Levant.

Wouldn’t the former Sun News, now independent, pundit’s Ethical Oil campaign be considered hate speech under this new definition? He is urging us to boycott Saudi oil, after all. Come to think of it, wouldn’t any Buy Canadian campaigns be considered hate speech against the country we are buying from instead of Canada?

I really don’t think so, because, after all, this isn’t actually about right and wrong or hate speech. It’s about using the law to silence political opponents of our government at home or allies abroad.

The Politics of BDS

Since this is an election year, it’s important to remember that the only type of discrimination Stephen Harper cares about is discrimination against his party at the ballot box. This new approach didn’t become public knowledge at this time by accident.

Harper is playing to his base, that much is clear. But this is also an attempt to derail one of his opponents. C-51 took care of Trudeau (plus Trudeau is in lockstep on BDS), now all but hardcore Liberals will admit his is pretty much just Harper with better hair. This plan is aimed at Mulcair.

netanyahu_harper

The NDP leader has garnered quite a bit of support for his principled, logical and, at some points passionate opposition to C-51. I sincerely hope that he doesn’t take Harper’s bait on this one.

Personally, Mulcair is a strong supporter of Israel. This nearly cost him the support of the NDP base a few months ago when his response to Israel’s assault on Gaza came very close to the one-sided approach both Mulcair and Trudeau were espousing. Fortunately for the party and for him, he changed his tune in an op-ed in the Toronto Star.

That only came after the party faithful occupied NDP offices and forced his hand. This time around, he doesn’t have the luxury of time to realize he has to support what his party wants.

If some reporter asks Mulcair for a comment on the CPC plan to use hate speech laws against BDS supporters, I sincerely hope that his response doesn’t focus on his personal views on BDS which, as far as I know have not been declared, but one can guess.

Instead, I hope he uses his logical and constitutional mind and attacks the gross misinterpretation of a law meant to help the real victims of hate speech. He can even admit his views on the actual subject, just not dwell on them.

To do otherwise would waste a good chunk of the unity fostered by the NDP being the only party (with a chance of winning) strongly against C-51. With all three parties appearing as basically the same to some, many on the left will stay home and Harper will win.

I also hope that those critical of the BDS movement realize that Harper is trying to use you. Even if you don’t agree with boycotting Israel, arguing that those who do support it are uttering hate speech is a stretch that defies all logic.
Economic boycott is one of the most peaceful and accepted methods of dissent. Now, Harper is trying to take that away in order to earn a few cheap political points. Don’t let him.

On Wednesday, as most Canadian politicos were either basking in the afterglow of the Orange Wave which swept Alberta or nursing their hangovers, the House of Commons passed Bill C-51, the Harper Government’s so-called anti-terror legislation. This wasn’t a surprise by a longshot, but it is, nonetheless extremely unfortunate.

All the major parties voted as the said they would. The Conservatives voted for it, the NDP and Greens against, and the Liberals, living up to half of their promise to help make it law and then change it if they come to power, voted yea.

Much has been said about how this Bill is fundamentally flawed and over-reaching. Many pundits, including myself, have raised concerns that C-51’s definition of terrorism was left vague so the bill could be used as a weapon against the government’s political opponents such as environmentalists, First Nations, BDS supporters and others.

One thing that really hasn’t been talked about, though, is that even if C-51 was on-target and not a typical Harper Omnibus distraction, there still wouldn’t be need for it at all.

A Tale of Two Tragedies

I will never forget the Dawson shooting. My old CEGEP turned into a crime scene. Anastasia DeSouza was gunned down, an innocent, random victim of one man’s violent delusion. Her murderer, Kimveer Gill, killed himself after being shot in the arm by police, though this is one of those rare times when I think deadly force by police would have been justified.

At the end of the day, two people were dead, one an innocent victim, one very much the exact opposite. Several people were injured and survivors were left traumatized.

It was a terrible tragedy. In the aftermath people were calling for tighter firearms regulations and improved services for people suffering from mental illness. No one, though, was screaming terrorism, because it wasn’t. It was the act of one man.

Ottawa shooting Harper

What happened last October in Ottawa was also a tragedy. Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo died senselessly, the victim of one man’s delusion. His killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was justifiably killed by Parliament Hill Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers.

At the end of the day, two people were dead, one innocent, one guilty. Others were injured and survivors were traumatized. I don’t laugh at Prime Minister Harper hiding in a broom closet (though I do question the RCMP’s exit strategy for a head of state), he’s human and was a victim of this event, too.

Despite its similarities to the Dawson shooting and other horrific attacks carried out by troubled lone gunmen, the reaction to the Parliament Hill shooting was different. It was instantly labelled as a terrorist attack.

A few thousand people, or even just a few people, killed by a coordinated assault planned by a group is a terrorist attack. It doesn’t justify something like the Patriot Act, in my opinion, but at least the shoe fits. A lone gunman going on a spree is a spree killing, even if the spree is cut short after one or a few victims.

While Zehaf-Bibeau may have had thoughts of jihad in his head and chose targets based on his take on world politics, he was still just a disturbed man acting without outside coordination. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was as much a member of ISIS as Kimveer Gill was the Angel of Death he claimed to be on a website.

Political Reasons Only

Justin Trudeau was interviewed on Vice News a few weeks ago. Shane Smith asked him about his party’s confusing position on C-51. Trudeau said that despite C-51’s faults, “there are a number of things in that legislation that increase security for Canadians, that do make us safer at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”

I’d honestly like to know what those things are. How does anything in a bill, inspired by an event that is not terrorism, but the act of a disturbed individual, protect Canadians against the bogeyman of terrorism?

It can’t, but that’s not the point. The point, at least for Trudeau, is “at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”

It’s politics, pure and simple. Polls, albeit sketchy polls, showed support for the bill at the time. He went for it. So did the Bloc Quebecois. When C-51 came up for a vote, though, the Bloc voted against it. I guess they saw that the bill was now opposed by many. If there ever was a time for the Liberals to flip-flop and not suffer for it, it was Wednesday.

There are so many ways Trudeau could have sold a reversal on this that even the cleverest Dipper wouldn’t be able to use it to hurt his party. While I’m not a Liberal supporter by any stretch of the imagination, I would have welcomed it. The more voices against this bill, the better. I even wrote to Marc Garneau, my current MP, asking him to convince his boss to change his tune.

Colossal Miscalculation

Being the anti-Harper candidate doesn’t just mean looking younger and fresher and having somewhat more progressive social policies. It means opposing crap bills with no purpose like C-51.

Instead, Trudeau stuck to his badly aimed guns. The opposition to this monstrosity of a piece of legislation now clearly belongs to Tom Mulcair. The NDP leader is a moderate centrist at best, but, thanks to a little bit of rain on his hair and some serious Liberal bungling, he has the chance to come across as a street fighter, standing on a soapbox railing against oppression and invoking the War Measures Act and Duplessis’ Padlock Laws. He’s Angry Tom who’s angry for a very good reason.

trudeau voting for
Justin Trudeau voting for C-51

C-51 may have cost Justin Trudeau any chance he had in the upcoming election. That is, if people remember a few months from now that he sided with Harper on a bill which has no purpose but potentially horrible repercussions. If they do, he can forget about the left. As for the right, why would they vote for Harper Light when the real deal is also on the ballot?

This colossal miscalculation on the part of the Liberals doesn’t necessarily mean a new era, though. Stephen Harper is still one of the craftiest politicians out there. Even if the anti-Harper vote crystallizes into a shade of orange, some of what once was red may turn blue and join their right-wing brethren to fight the feared wave.

The real trick is convincing all, or most, Canadians, whether they lean right, left, stay in the centre or don’t really care about politics at all, that taking away our basic rights to express ourselves for manufactured purposes is just plain wrong.

* Featured image: openmedia.ca

The other day I got an email from Chrystia Freeland. At first, I thought that it must be part of a new strategy by the Liberal Party to reach bloggers and other online media.

“Fair play,” I thought. I get quite a bit of unsolicited emails from various groups, promoters and artists – all part of the game when you have a publicly listed email. This was the first one from a political party.  So, the Liberals added me before the others, good job! At least that’s what I thought at first.

Then I opened the email. It wasn’t sent to my Forget the Box account, but rather to my personal email. Also, it wasn’t a press release, but rather a fundraising plea. I’ve received similar emails from the NDP, quite a few in fact. But that makes sense, because I was, at one time, a member of the party. That has since lapsed, but I never told them to stop sending me stuff.

I have never been a member of the Liberal Party or even voted for them – well, once, but I was young and didn’t know any better. I live nowhere near Freeland’s riding, either. There’s no other word for this email but… SPAM!

I took to Facebook almost immediately, asking how such a thing may even be possible. The response I got was that I had probably signed a petition that was CCed to Justin Trudeau. That’s got to be it!

But why am I not getting the same crap from the Conservatives? After all, if the petition was CCed to Trudeau, it was probably sent to Harper. Well, let’s say it was the petition demanding an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Native Women. The Conservatives clearly know, that my signing that petition clearly means I’m not a potential supporter or a source of cash.

The Liberals, on the other hand, do support such an inquiry – though not as strongly as the NDP, but that’s besides the point. So, someone like me, who signs that petition, may be someone who could end up supporting them. I can think of a good way they could have followed up: By sending a message to all those who signed, thanking them, stressing that they, as a party, agreed with them, and providing them with a link to sign up for LPC emails. They could even have kept my email address in a database for future releases on the topic.

Instead, with no warning, I get put on a list of potential donors where all the language assumes that I’m already a party member or supporter. I get email mentioning something about Freeland being a journalist, followed by a money ask with no mention that the Liberals support something that they now know I do too. Instead of thinking “Hmm, Trudeau agrees with me on a particular subject, I wonder what else he agrees with me on?” I’m left wondering how the LPC got my email and what to do about their spam.

Liberal fundraising email

Honestly, I’ll probably do nothing. I could, as another commenter on my Facebook thread suggested, click unsubscribe, but that may only lead to their confirming that my address is legit. Even if it doesn’t, I really couldn’t be bothered. As I said before, I get so many emails already, many that I ignore, what’s a few more?

Sure, for a while I may be intrigued by and open to them, just to get a sense of the party messaging, only to get bored with them and start ignoring them at a later date. I know NDP fundraiser emails generally include a bit of why I should want to give them money, but the ones I received from the Liberals don’t have anything about why I should even vote for them. The one from “Trudeau himself” did have a bit, but only at the bottom, after the ask.

The email I got from them just a few hours ago had as a subject: “This is bad.” What was bad? The way Harper was ruining Canada’s reputation yet again? Something else shady the Cons were doing? No, the horrible thing that needs to be rectified by midnight tonight is the fundraising gap with the Conservatives.

Well, maybe if you had first established whether or not I was interested in your succeeding or at least tried to give me a reason to be interested, I might have found this situation dire as well. Unfortunately, you didn’t, so I really don’t care.

For every person like me, who has the time to figure out how this happened, write a post about it, and move on, there are probably five or maybe ten people who does not feel that the LPC sees something the way they do and instead feels like the Libs are a bunch of spammers. It’s just not a good tactic.

To be fair, I don’t think the Liberals are the only ones who do this. I get NDP money asks legitimately (and they were also pushing the fundraising deadline of midnight tonight, though less frantically) so there’s no real way for me to tell if they do the same thing, and I don’t think I’ve ever supported anything by Harper & co., so no reason to get anything from them, either.

No matter who’s doing it, though, political spam is just unproductive. I understand the need to raise money, but potential donors need to be wooed, or, at the very least, you have to make sure they show some interest in the ideas you’re selling. Then, and only then, can you justifiably bug them for money.

Oh, and by the way, press releases can be sent to jason@forgetthebox.net

Media attention to abortion in Canada ebbs and flows, and has recently been in the spotlight yet again since the impending closure of the Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick. The clinic is the only private clinic on the island and it’s closure ultimately speaks to the broader creation of barriers for women to find accessible options.

The closure, which will officially happen at the end of July, comes after years of legal battles between the clinic and the province over provincial funding for the clinic. The clinic cannot continue to operate without provincial funding. New Brunswick is the only province in Canada where private clinic abortions are not funded by provincial medicare.

Such a closure should bring home the fact that access to abortion rights in Canada are not accessible to all, and that it varies – at times massively – from province to province. The access those seeking abortion have, in the case of New Brunswick, can sometimes take the form of no choice at all. Even more shocking, the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton is the only private abortion clinic east of Montreal.

Last week Justin Trudeau came out in favour of pro-choice, stating that in order to run in the Liberal caucus, a member must be pro-choice, or at least, vote pro-choice. The statement has garnered criticism from both external and internal sources. Not surprisingly, an Archbishop in Toronto has called on Trudeau to rethink his decision on the stance, and just yesterday a recording of Liberal MP John McKay criticizing Trudeau’s choice to issue such a stance was obtained by CTV News. In this incident, McKay called the subject “toxic” and questioned Trudeau’s decision to take such a stance.

Despite these criticisms, the fact that Trudeau is setting a party line on abortion is good to hear. Trudeau’s stance may meet party criticism, but it is a welcome reassurance for those in Canada who care deeply about the guarantee of rights for those looking for abortions. The stance also speaks to the fact that there could be a time when the debate is reopened at a federal level. It provides comfort for Liberal voters who are pro-choice that their MP will vote in a similar fashion.

However, recent media attention around Trudeau’s stance could be best shifted toward the closure of the Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick. While it is perhaps a step to know that Trudeau is aware of the debate re-opening in Parliament, what are the major political parties doing to actively ensure that abortion rights are met in provinces across Canada

Efforts to rally around the Morgentaler clinic have mostly been grassroot, with the hashtag #NBprochoice becoming popular across Twitter, and pro-choice rallies for #NBprochoice happening across the country in the last month. According to the #NBprochoice campaign, there has been no reaction from the New Brunswick government, despite it being nearly two months since the clinic closed.

While it’s good to hear that politicians are aware that abortion rights in Canada are still being threatened, it would be much more comforting to see real action being taken to an urgent issue at hand. In order for federal parties to call themselves “pro-choice” they should be taking more action to actively ensure these rights are upheld – including pushing for provincial funding for the Morgentaler Clinic. Being pro-choice is not just something that matters in the 2015 election season, and not just in a House of Commons debate. It matters on the ground and beyond election season, each time a woman seeks abortion and is denied for lack of simple access.