With the 2019 Canadian Federal Election looking like it might be a close one, we’re hearing calls for strategic voting once again. The narrative, coming mostly from Liberal supporters online is a familiar one: If you vote for anyone other than a Liberal, you’re helping to elect Andrew Scheer and his ultra-regressive Conservatives (or basically re-elect Stephen Harper).

The Liberals are acting like they’re still “Canada’s natural governing party” and the only alternative to the Conservatives. In reality, they’re the group who were in third place just five years ago until they vaulted to Majority Government last election, defying expectations.

This time, though, it looks like people are realizing that the Lib tricks are soo 2011. If the Liberals could jump like that, then if everyone who supports the NDP votes for the NDP instead of strategically, we might just have Jagmeet Singh as our next Prime Minister.

Minority or Coalition

Or, as the latest polling indicates, we may be headed for a Liberal Minority Government where the NDP could hold the balance of power, which would mean the NDP could force the Libs to the left on key issues. Even if Scheer gets the most seats, but not enough to form a majority, we could be looking at a Liberal-NDP Coalition Government, which could be interesting.

Such a scenario is a very real possibility, but don’t just take my word for it. Scheer clearly thinks a coalition could happen. So much so that he came out swinging against the very notion of it.

The Conservative leader is pushing the narrative that since the “modern convention” has the party that wins the most seats forming government, that needs to happen. He should ask former BC Premier Christy Clark if the “modern convention” helped her out at all.

We almost had a Liberal/NDP coalition government in 2008 but Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament. He knew that the break would give the Liberal Party establishment enough time to show Stéphane Dion the door.

Harper bet that the Lib brass would rather be in opposition with their handpicked leader Michael Ignatieff than let fluke candidate Dion elevate himself to PM and he was right. The coalition evaporated about as quickly as Liberal relevance under Ignatieff did the following election.

This time around, though, the Liberals are very much the party of Trudeau. Their goal is to keep him in power by any means necessary.

Obviously Trudeau doesn’t want to talk about a coalition before the votes are cast. Doing so would invalidate his party’s “only way to stop Scheer” narrative. But if it turns out a coalition with the NDP is the only way he can keep his job, he will take it.

Broken Promise as a Campaign Tool

Funny thing is, strategic voting wouldn’t even be a thing this time around of Trudeau had made good on his 2015 election promise to bring in electoral reform. He didn’t even try.

Why would he? Our current First-Past-The-Post system works very well for his party and the Conservatives. It was only when the Liberals found themselves in a crouch that he even brought it up.

Most electoral reform models involve switching from FPTP to some form of Proportional Representation. They have their strengths and weaknesses, which I go through in a post on my personal blog (so as not to get too sidetracked here) and also propose a model of my own.

The only party that will actually bring in electoral reform or at least put it to a vote in a referendum is a party that campaigned on it and then finds itself in power for the first time under the current system. Changing how it works is not just a promise to voters for them, but a way to ensure that their party and other smaller parties don’t continue to suffer the same disadvantage that kept them out of power for decades.

Therefore, Liberal and Conservative voters who support electoral reform voting for Jagmeet Singh and the NDP this election would, in fact, be a strategic vote. And it’s the only kind of strategic voting I can get behind.

For everyone else, let your vote, your real vote, count!

Featured image by ishmael n. daro via Flickr Creative Commons

The UK’s Iraq war inquiry just came to a damning conclusion: Ex-PM Tony Blair led the country into an ill-prepared war under false pretenses. The decision to blindly follow the United-States into Iraq in 2003 “went badly wrong, with consequences to this day,” said the long-awaited Chilcot Report, published Wednesday.

The war in Iraq killed 179 British soldiers, 4500 American ones and at least 150 000 Iraqis. It left the country without a proper army or government and riddled with rising terrorist militias. And according to Chilcot’s findings, it might be now considered an illegitimate act of aggression under the UN charter.

Key Findings

The independent inquiry was ordered by Blair’s successor Gordon Brown (Labour Party) in 2009 and was supposed to last two years.  Half a decade late and £10 million later, Chairman Sir John Chilcot published a 2.5 million word document eviscerating the launching and the planning of the UK’s military involvement from 2003 to 2009.

The report found that Blair overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in order to gather support for a military intervention in Iraq. The claims that Hussein posed an imminent threat and that all peaceful options had been exhausted were found patently untrue.  Although the report heavily blamed the government for playing up what was actually very shaky intelligence about a possible nuclear threat from Iraq, it did not accuse them of knowingly lying.

Chilcot heavily critiqued the entire military operation. The risks were “neither properly identified nor fully exposed to ministers,” he wrote.  He was especially critical of the “wholly inadequate” planning for post-conflict Iraq. British troops failed to reach the objectives laid out in 2003 and ended up making “humiliating” deals with local militias to avoid attacks.

In a bewildering two-hour-long press conference, Blair expressed “more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe,” for his decisions, all while resolutely denying their horrible impact in the middle-east and declaring he would do it again.

He insisted that it was “better to remove Saddam Hussein” and does not “believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.”

He added “If I was back in the same place with the same information, I would take the same decision because obviously that was the decision I believe was right.”

Tony Blair Facing Trial?

Relatives of soldiers killed in action renewed their calls to prosecute Tony Blair.

“We want to see him in court,”  one father assured.

“There is one terrorist the world needs to be aware of and his name is Tony Blair; the world’s worst terrorist,” said Sarah O’Connor, whose brother died in the war. She was speaking at a press conference called by bereaved families after the report’s release.

The report stopped short of commenting the legality of Tony Blair’s action, but it might have opened the door to prosecution.  It stated that Blair called for an invasion of Iraq at a time when Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, and that peaceful options to contain him had not yet been exhausted.

This makes the action an illegitimate aggression, according to the UN charter. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Tony Blair will face repercussions. The UN Security Council could apply sanctions, but since the UK and US both have permanent seats on the Council, this is a very unlikely scenario.

The international court, which deals with war crimes, does not have jurisdiction over “acts of aggression.” Bringing politicians or military leaders to court would require proving that

  • a) The army breached laws of war in Iraq and that
  • b) The leaders in question knew about it and did nothing to stop it

No western leaders have ever been indicted by the international court.

Lawyers representing the families of veterans are looking into bringing Blair to civil court on charges of “misconduct in public office.” This law, unused since the 19th century, was recently criticized for its vagueness.

Canada Should Take Note

The Chilcot report must singularly vindicate Jean Chrétien, Canada’s PM at the time. The question of whether or not Canada would join the US-led coalition had generated heated debates in the House of Commons and the population alike.

He and Blair both said that this was the hardest decision of their respective mandates. Chrétien made the right one. The Canadian population can claim partial credit for that. Anti-war protests had taken place across the country, uniting 1000 people in Montreal, 2000 in Toronto and 3000 in Vancouver.

To kill any temptation to feel smug about it, Canadians should remember how close we came to being an integral part of the disaster. You can watch Stephen Harper’s fervent plea for the invasion of Iraq, if you need a reminder. This was in 2003, only a couple of years before he took Chrétien’s place (and stayed there for almost a decade).

As it is, we should face the fact that while Canada avoided the international backlash, it did not do so with a clean conscience. Unofficially, it provided significant practical support to the war. Canadian troops escorted the US navy through the Persian Gulf. They also provided significant military expertise and training for our southern neighbours, as well as airspace and fuel.

Paul Cellucci, then US ambassador to Canada, admitted that “… ironically, Canadian naval vessels, aircraft and personnel… will supply more support to this war in Iraq indirectly… than most of those 46 countries that are fully supporting our efforts there.”

Our 16th podcast is our holiday/2015 Year-in-Review Special. Regualr panelists Jerry Gabriel and Josh Davidson discuss some of the top events and stories of 2015 including the Canadian Election and the rise of Justin Trudeau, Just for Laughs, the Quebec anti-austerity movement and police repression, Bernie, Hillary and Trump, the Montreal music scene and more! Plus the Community Calendar, Sergakis Report and Predictions for 2016!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Josh DavidsonFTB food columnist

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

FTB Podcast: 2015 Year-In-Review Special by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

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

There is one reason to be sorry to say farewell to Stephen Harper. That’s because the end of the Harper era might also mean the demise of ShitHarperDid. The social media comedy group that has built a large cult following poking fun at the PM for four years is considering drawing a the curtain its own act, maybe as a victim of its own success.

For the past four years the pesky anti-Conservative government protest, best known for its satirical YouTube videos supported by crowd funding, aimed to connect with an audience of young Canadians who had grown disenchanted with politics and their inability to affect progressive change.

SHD first came to prominence during the 2011 election, with its own campaign to empower young people with information and the motivation to vote. But SHD could have died after that election, especially as its efforts were frustrated by such a disappointing result.

“We thought we’d have to go back to our day jobs,” said SHD’s founder, Vancouver based stand-up comedian Sean Devlin. But instead the movement was sustained by the frustration at the electoral system that gave Canadians a majority government that didn’t reflect the values of many Canadians.

It’s no accident that the group has a comedian at its foundation. Political change may be the group’s ultimate goal, but the message is delivered through the comedy and satire which has made it so popular.

Devlin soon built SHD into a nationwide network of organisers, volunteers and supporters all across Canada, like Montreal’s David Vanderfleet, who was originally attracted to SHD by its biting brand of comedy.

“I think a lot of young people consider politics really dull. But they’ll share funny stuff online even if it’s political,” he says, “like a lot of people, I first got into the group because of the name. It’s like what you’d say to your friends; ‘Hey, have you heard about that shit Harper did?’”

The group’s YouTube gags include the viral video Ryan Gosling Not Endorsing ShitHarperDid.com:

and the purchase of the domain name EcomomicActionPlan.ca to spoof the government’s self promotional ads on the state of the economy. The SHD versions highlighted unemployment, lack of opportunity and discrimination as an alternative view of Harper’s economic record:

Behind the gags was much more serious activism. Devlin teamed up with Brigitte DePape, who is best remembered as the Senate page appearing on the floor of parliament holding a stop sign with Harper’s name on it. The two activists breached the Prime Minister’s protection protocol to crash a 2014 Harper speaking event in Vancouver to protest the PM’s environmental policy. The stunt got Devlin roughed up and arrested but also gathered national media attention for SHD and its message.

As the 2015 election neared, SHD swung back into full campaign mode focusing on getting the anti Harper vote out. The Conservative campaign handed the protesters plenty of ammunition for its particular brand of mocking protest.

A protester holds a sign reading "Stop Harper" is led from the room as Canada's Governor General David Johnston delivers the Speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Former “Rogue Senate Page” now SHD member Brigitte DePape

With reference to the niqab issue and a woman who was attacked on the streets of Montreal while wearing the veil, SHD’s webpage offered a stinging message to the Harper government: “If you’re going to put Canadians against each other to get ahead in the polls at least offer a hand up after they get knocked down…and wash it off before you offer it, you slimy eel-eyed discriminating weasel.”

A massive mobilization of its supporters on election day may have played a part in ending the Harper era, but the question the membership is now being asked on the SHD web page is whether the group’ efforts should continue and where it could go from here.

Brigitte DePape has suggested that the fight will continue on several other fronts. “We are part of building something special that is capable of taking down not only the Harper government. It’s really great being part of this shift in culture,” she says.

It remains to be seen whether the shift in Canada’s political culture DePape refers to will gather momentum or moss, considering how it has been built on antipathy toward such a polarizing figure as Harper.

One hint at SHD’s new focus can now be seen on its website. A ‘Trudeau meter’ will record the incoming PM’s record of keeping his promises. “We will be prepared to hold that (new) government to account and push for the systemic changes we need to get through,” said a statement by Devlin, “things like the climate crisis, the environmental crisis and the economic crisis.”

David Vanderfleet confirms that he wouldn’t like to see the movement disband, even if it’s in need of a name change. “Shit Trudeau Does? No!” he laughs, as he considers how it might be abbreviated, “I don’t think that could work.”

There have been rumours that the Conservative majority in the Senate could block Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan reform the unpopular Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015 (“the Act”), known to most as Bill C-51. In an October 26, 2015 article by the Ottawa Citizen’s Ian MacLeod, the Conservative majority in Canada’s Upper House mentioned their plans to act with reason, common sense, and good faith to prevent any changes to the act that would make the majority of Canadians “uncomfortable.”

The subtext being that our Senate, consisting of 47 Conservatives, 29 (technically former) Liberals and 7 Independents, would be more than happy to save Trudeau from having to honour his election promise to reform the Act, an act that is perceived by many as prioritizing Islamo and Xenophobia over Charter rights in the name of national security.

Trudeau’s proposed amendments include the following:

  • The creation of an all-party joint committee of the House of Commons and Senate responsible for monitoring all activities of any government organisations such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP, responsible for enforcing Canada’s anti-terrorism laws.
  • New legislation forbidding CSIS from violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the Act and articles 12.1 (3) and 21.1 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, CSIS can violate the Charter to take measures to reduce a threat to national security if they get a warrant from a federal judge.
  • Clearer definitions of things like “terrorist propaganda,” currently defined under the Act as “any writing, sign, visible representation or audio recording that advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general… or counsels the commission of a terrorism offence.”
  • Ensuring that lawful protests and advocacy aren’t dubbed terrorist threats under national security law.
  • Requiring a mandatory review of the Act every three years.

These reforms, for the most part, seem to be what the country has been calling for: a reasonable approach to national security. The question is: can the Senate block a bill that would reform the Act and start the implementation of these promised changes?

In theory, yes, the Senate can. In practice, it’s not bloody likely. In order to fully understand this, we need to look at the Senate itself.

The Senate, also known as the Upper House, consists of members appointed by the Governor General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister. It was created as a house of “sober second thought,” protecting our country from the tyranny of the masses as represented by the elected members of the House of Commons.

The Canadian Senate chambre (image: Johnath / flickr, Creative Commons)
The Canadian Senate chambre (image: Johnath / flickr, Creative Commons)

In order for a bill to pass, it must go through the House of Commons (the House). After introduction, multiple readings, discussion, and debate, the House votes on the bill. If the bill passes, it goes to the Senate, which in turn does its share of debating, discussing, and voting. If the Senate passes the bill, it goes to the Governor General, who puts his final stamp, known as the Royal Assent on it, thus turning the bill into law.

In the beginning, no one had any problems with the Senate determining the life or death of legislation. As people became more educated and realised the magnitude of their democratic rights, the Senate’s popularity waned and with it, the legitimacy of its right to kill a bill.

Canadians are very aware that they have no say in who ends up in the Senate beyond voting for the Prime Minister who appoints Senators through the Governor General. As a result, the Senate has in turn evolved so that most laws are now given the Senate’s consent whether a majority of Senators agree with the law or not.

The Senate is HUGELY unpopular, especially in light of last March’s auditors’ report, the results of which displayed gross expenditures so scandalous HBO’s John Oliver did a three and a half minute segment on it on Last Week Tonight. The NDP has been pushing for the Senate’s abolition for years, while others have been demanding that if it’s not abolished, it should at least become an elected body like the House.

Given the Senate’s unpopularity, it is highly unlikely they will block attempts to reform C-51. The last time they blocked controversial legislation was when they killed Brian Mulroney’s attempt to re-criminalize abortion in 1990.

The Senate’s very existence is hanging on by a thread. It’s more likely that our Senators’ plans to act with reason, common sense, and good faith in the face of the proposed amendments to the Act are really just words of wisdom for our new Prime Minister.

Prime Minister-Designate Trudeau,

Hi, first off I would like to congratulate you on your sweeping victory. Canadians clearly had enough of Stephen Harper and his policies and put their trust in you to rectify the wrongs our soon-to-be former leader wrought on our country.

To be completely honest, I did not vote for you. In fact I urged others to vote for the NDP rather vocally. While I have found myself supporting that party in the past, this time it was due almost exclusively to their promise to repeal C-51, Harper’s so-called anti-terror legislation, completely.

I am aware that you voted for this legislation, helping it become law. At the same time, you promised to make changes to it, which was not enough to get my vote. However, you and the Liberal Party got enough votes from my fellow Canadians that now we are left with your promise as our only way to eliminate at least some of this disastrous piece of legislation.

Some Positive Signs

You’re off to a good start. I have to admit that so far you seem to be sticking to your promises. You even made it clear that reforming C-51 is a priority. In particular, I like that you are considering making changes to the vagueness surrounding the “terrorist propaganda” section.

As someone who frequently writes opinion pieces online, I would hate for one of my pieces supporting, say, Idle No More, to land me in jail for five years and result in this site being taken down. While you may not be inclined to apply C-51 in such a way, the fact that a government that was so inclined could do so is completely horrifying.

It is equally frightening that attacking the economic interests of Canada or another country can be considered terrorism. Urging economic boycott is one of the most effective tactics activists have in their arsenal. Also, while I know you don’t agree with me about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and have tweeted as much, at least you can agree that my writing a post supporting then shouldn’t land me in jail for half a decade.

Adding parliamentary oversight and sunset clauses is also a very good idea, so is having public consultation. But why not go further?

Canadians Don’t Need It. You Don’t Need It

I don’t think there was any need for C-51 to begin with, as what happened in Ottawa was closer to a school shooting than an act of terrorism. We should have been looking at mental health and gun issues instead of passing sweeping anti-terror legislation. But after hearing you talk about the need for balancing our security with our rights and freedoms during a debate, I realize you’re probably not going to change your mind on this.

Though, after laying a wreath for Corporal Nathan Cirillo this year, you didn’t repeat your claim that what happened in Ottawa last year was an act of terrorism. It gives me hope. Now that you don’t have to fight Harper in an election, maybe you are starting to realize that all of his claims were not only full of it but counter to what the Canadian people want.

c51 sign
Anti C-51 rally in Toronto (image openmedia.ca)

Since you want to be the Prime Minister of all Canadians and not just those who voted for you, I hope that you will take advantage of an opportunity that now presents itself. Instead of trying to reform C-51, surprise everyone and repeal it. I know there were some things in there you feel are worth keeping. Why not simultaneously pass your own security law with them included?

You have a majority government, you can do this. You can honour the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and get this Harper stain off of your administration before it has a chance to set in. You also will live up to your election promise of balancing security and rights in the process. You’re already planning on repealing C-24, why not get rid of its companion legislation at the same time?

Petition Already Underway

In case you needed more incentive to do the right thing, there is already a petition underway, courtesy of the people at OpenMedia.ca asking you to kill C-51. While the public may have been behind the bill initially, that quickly changed as they found out what was really in this piece of legislation.

You and your party learned this, too. In fact, it almost cost you the election. As I’m sure you’re aware, you won the election in spite of having voted for C-51, not because of it.

Now is the time to listen to the public and do the right thing. Opponents of C-51 didn’t remain silent during the campaign and there is no sign that we will now that power is changing hands.

Now, Prime Minister-Designate Trudeau, is the time to be on the right side of history. I have faith and hope that you will do the right thing and get rid of Harper’s omnibus disaster C-51 once and for all.

Yours truly,

Jason C. McLean
Montreal

* Top image: Election night screengrab

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.

In the midst of all the stories of long lines, screw-ups and smiling politicians voting in advanced polls, we have been, I guess you could say, “treated” to a few theatrical political stunts. There was the image of a woman voting with a potato bag over her head and another one of a man voting in a full clown costume with a mask covering his face and more as the days went by.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I love a good theatrical stunt as much as the next person, even more so, probably, having taken part in a few myself over the years. I’m usually the first to champion such clever expressions of dissent. This time, though, I’m not so sure.

You’re Allowed to Do It and You Should Be

Make no mistake. Voting with your face covered is perfectly legal in Canada. As long as you show your face to an Elections Canada employee briefly for identification purposes or swear an oath; much in the same way a citizenship oath can be taken with face covered as long as proper visual identification is done prior to the ceremony.

It’s all legal and should be. There is no security issue if proper identification is provided, leaving cultural prejudice as the only reason to object to someone covering their face.

While no one has ever attempted to ban wearing clown masks at polling places, there has been talk, far too much talk, about banning Muslim women from wearing niqabs in various aspects of public life. This is all political hot air and distraction which has somehow, unfortunately, caught hold and changed the focus of this election.

The Good

Jon Keefe did it for the right reasons. The St-John’s businessman put out a call to vote in the Newfoundland Christmas tradition of Mummering. He did so because he wanted to make a statement against the predominant role the issue of face covering has taken in the campaign.

mummer-voting
Jon Keefe (image CBC)

Keefe told CBC News that “it seemed like a great way to work in the point that there are already a lot of cultural customs across Canada that might seem bizarre or unusual to people unfamiliar with them, but we’ve all managed to get along pretty well so far.”

Taking the piss out of Harper’s tactics of division and mocking those who, through xenophobia or ignorance, have an obsession with Muslim women voting or taking a citizenship oath while wearing the niqab is a justifiable reason to do a theatrical stunt.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, most people photographed wearing some sort of facial covering in the past few days were doing it for all the wrong reasons. They weren’t protesting the manufactured obsession with the niqab, instead they were endorsing it.

Toeing the Conservative, or possibly the Bloc, party line, people like Rafik Hanna, who voted were quoted saying “truly sad that I can vote to elect a Canadian prime minister without having to show my face and prove my identity.”

If you read between the lines (and ignore the fact that he did have to prove his identity, albeit briefly), the message is clear. These people have a problem with Muslim women who choose to wear a niqab doing so in a citizenship ceremony, or when voting or taking part in any other aspect of public life.

This is even more clear when it is done by someone who shares the image of him voting on the Facebook page of known racist organization Pegida Canada:

voting-quebec-flag-face-covering

They are effectively campaigning for Harper and his xenophobic tactics of fear and division while at a polling station. Campaigning in a poling station is illegal, by the way. Voting with a mask isn’t.

The Silver Lining

Whenever the bigoted debate over religious face covering at public events rears its ugly head, those vocally opposed always make four arguments:

1. It’s a security risk

2. It’s oppressive

3. There’s nothing in the Qur’an about the niqab.

4. What if I wore a Halloween costume when voting? Would you be okay with that, too?

Arguments two and three are easy to deflate. If the person wearing the niqab is being oppressed, then why oppress her more by denying her citizenship or the right to vote? And if you say there’s nothing in the Qur’an about the niqab, well, I didn’t know you were a scholar. If that is true, though, I’d like to point out there’s nothing in the Bible about wearing a cross around your neck, but you wouldn’t dare make a Christian take off her necklace to vote, would you?

The people wearing masks to the polling station over the past few days have defeated argument four in a way that no bit of intellectual debate ever could. Would we be okay with you wearing a Halloween costume to the polls? Yes, and so is Elections Canada.

Does it look ridiculous? Yes. Does that mean that the concept of voting with a face covering is also ridiculous? No.

A Muslim woman wearing a niqab to vote is not silly. People wearing Halloween costumes to the polls to protest her right to do it look, for the most part, like idiots.

These stunts also have the added bonus of destroying argument one, that a niqab is a security concern. It’s clearly not.

If proper identification is done, it makes absolutely no difference what you wear to the polling place.

When you take away the four main arguments, all that is left for people who think wearing a niqab should be election issue number one is to either admit their ignorance or admit their bigotry. Because if you strip away the rhetoric, they all pretty much sound like this guy:

For those of you who don’t speak French, the man wearing a fake niqab standing outside of a polling place tells the camera that he wants all Muslims out of Quebec before being schooled by a Muslim woman.

Forgive the pun, but the veil is off. The whole niqab debate is a manufactured controversy designed to boost Harper’s polling numbers by playing to people afraid of the Muslim ‘other’ above all else. The intended audience wants everyone to act like “old-stock” Canadians or Quebecois, conveniently forgets that they are themselves the descendants of immigrants and is obsessed with this issue to the point of it blocking out all other electoral concerns.

At least now, thanks to a few people who tried to make a statement while voting, that fact is now crystal clear for all to see.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

Not an Inspiring Bunch

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

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

harper trudeau mulcair

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

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

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

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

Playing it Safe and Boring

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

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

Stacy Drake: FTB culture and entertainment contributor

You can still vote in our Federal Election Poll

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

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

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

I’ve often said, and many Canadians would agree, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is the most conservative the county has ever seen. It is, after all, the first conservative government to hold power without the word progressive tied to the party name.

Normally in Canada, we can determine the extremism of a party’s ideology by the laws they pass through the House of Commons. In the last decade however, particularly since 2011, we can also determine just how far-right Stephen Harper is by the amount of laws deemed unconstitutional by Canada’s Supreme Court.

The fact of the matter is, if Harper’s Conservatives pass major legislation with social implications, you can bet there is an above average chance that these laws fly in the face of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Stephen Harper

Before we get into the details, it is important to note that Canada’s Supreme Court contains 7 out of 9 justices appointed by Stephen Harper himself. The court has been under conservative control for years now, yet have continuously ruled against the guy who put them in the big chairs.

It just goes to show just how unconstitutional these laws really are. It should also be mentioned that 80% of these decisions were unanimous.

Federal ban on non-dried marijuana extracts – Jun 11, 2015

Canada’s highest court ruled that the federal government’s prohibition on consuming cannabis extracts for medical use is unconstitutional.

The case involved Owen Smith, whose legal team argued that the ban on non-dried forms of medical cannabis violated his constitutional rights. Mr. Smith went to Ottawa and won. The unanimous ruling against the federal government expanded the definition of medical marijuana beyond the “dried” form. Medical marijuana is now fundamentally legal in all forms.

Federal ban on assisted suicide – Feb 6, 2015

The Supreme Court of Canada lifted the government’s ban on doctor assisted suicide. The historic, far-reaching and once again unanimous decision declared that suffering patients have a constitutional right to have a doctor help end their life.

The Court ruled that assisted suicide is constitutional “under a physician’s care, for consenting adults who determine they cannot tolerate the physical or psychological suffering brought on by a severe, incurable illness, disease or disability.”

Canada’s three prostitution laws – Dec 20, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s three main anti-prostitution laws. In another unanimous decision, the court struck down laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients. The Court ruled the laws were over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.”

canada-prostitution

The supreme justices didn’t legalize prostitution (they don’t write laws), but they did give the federal government a year to fix them or face the reality of legal prostitution.

Naturally, Harper’s conservatives wrote a new law and more than 220 legal experts inevitably claimed the new prostitution bill once again offends the Charter. I’m guessing Supreme Court Challenge part two is around the corner.

Marc Nadon on the Supreme Court – Mar 21, 2014

In order to appoint Quebecer Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court, Stephen Harper tried to amend the Supreme Court Act through a budget bill. The government introduced changes in an effort to make Nadon eligible as a former member of the Quebec bar, as opposed to a current one.

The court said in a 6-1 decision that the amendment was unconstitutional because the government does not have the power to make such amendments unilaterally. Changes to the court’s makeup require a constitutional amendment with the unanimous consent of the provinces.

Expands land-title rights – Jun 26, 2014

In what legal observers called the most important Supreme Court ruling on aboriginal rights in Canadian history, the Court determined that native Canadians still own their ancestral lands, unless they signed away their ownership in treaties with government.

The decision complicates any of Harper’s plans to build large federal infrastructure projects such as pipelines and highways in the vast un-ceded sectors of British Columbia.

The Prime Minister’s attempt at Senate reform – Apr 25, 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to give up on one of his career goals when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that he needed substantial provincial consent to introduce elections or term limits to the Canadian Senate and undivided consent to do away with it altogether.

Believing the provinces would never see eye to eye on reform, the unanimous 8-0 ruling forced Harper to throw in the towel. Without even trying, he determined “that significant reform and abolition are off the table.” Harper just conceded that the country was “essentially stuck” with a scandal-plagued unelected Senate.

Harper blocked from shutting down Insite – Sep 30, 2011

From the moment Stephen Harper was elected, he had his mind set on closing Insite; the country’s first (and successful) safe injection site. But in its 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court said the federal government had the jurisdictional right to use criminal law to restrict illicit-drug use, but that the anxieties it cited in an attempt to close Insite were “grossly disproportionate” to the benefits for drug users and the community.

insite bc

“During its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada,” the Court said. The ruling had made it possible for other safe injection sites to open across the country, but Harper passed another, yet unchallenged law, that made opening new sites impossible.

Mandatory minimum sentences for gun-related crimes – Apr 14, 2015

Harper came into office promising to get tough on crime despite the fact that crime rates were at 40 year lows. One of the laws he passed with his Majority Government was his now famous Omnibus Crime Bill which included, among other things, mandatory minimums for gun-related crimes.

The 6-3 ruling, said the statute was unconstitutional as it upheld a 2013 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that labelled the law cruel and unusual.

The court said the mandatory minimum sentence could entangle people with “little or no moral fault” and who pose “little or no danger to the public.” It cited an example; a person who inherits a firearm and does not immediately get a licence for the weapon.

Truth in Sentencing Act – Apr 11, 2014

Another part of Harper’s Omnibus Crime Bill was the Truth in Sentencing Act. His government basically tried to stop judges from acting in what it saw as an overly generous way toward prisoners who had not received bail. The 7-0 Supreme Court ruling said the practice is rooted in traditional sentencing principles and can continue.

What both cases have in common is the Harper Government’s attempt to limit judges’ discretion in sentencing. In essence, the party that preaches smaller government was trying to tell Canadian judges how to do their jobs.

Cutting access to early parole – Mar 20, 2014

Another blow to Harper’s crime fighting agenda. In another unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a law that applied retroactively to non-violent offenders that took away their easy access to early day parole, violates their constitutional rights.

The Harper Government had tried to end the Accelerated Parole Review which made it quick and easy for first-time, non-violent federal offenders to obtain day parole.

Harper, and conservatives in general, love to say they believe in small government, not wanting to manage people’s lives or waste public money like liberals or progressives apparently do. Judging from this list I’d have to say the opposite is closer to the truth.

I would love to get a figure on how much time and money these unconstitutional Conservatives have wasted passing and protecting these illegal laws. Regulations that their own judges have consistently and unanimously ruled unconstitutional.