It’s a phrase we hear often these days: eating is political.

In other words: we’re actors in food systems. Our decisions carry vast implications—the ethics of the brand we support, say, or the type of living beings we decide to ingest.

Yet now that elections are looming, it’s worth considering the literal sense of the phrase.

George Washington, after all, is forever associated with cherries: a symbol of humility and aversion to lies. François Mitterand had a not-so-secret addiction to caviar—anathema, said some, to his socialist past. Bill Clinton, of course, was the Prez of BBQ and fried chicken, indulging in the richest of Southern foods, it would seem, whenever opportunity arose. And we all know Obama’s love of quality burgers—especially In-n-Out Burger—frequent stops for him and his entourage that in some ways helped launch his social media persona.

We can even find some reaching significance on the plates of our past Canadian PMs. Budget king Paul Martin, for example, had a well-documented obsession with the ultra-frugal Kraft Dinner.

If food is the way to the political heart, what do the eating habits of our Prime Minister candidates reveal?

Spoiler alert: a mostly opaque snapshot of dullness, disjointedness, and general disingenuity.* (*though if the candidates return my dinner party invitation, more may soon be revealed).

Where to begin?

Justin Trudeau

Consider our dear Papineau homeboy Justin Trudeau. Though the Liberal leader has revealed little of his culinary personality, he gains hipster points for slagging off Schwartz and holding his latest presser in a retro Québécois diner (the latest foodie cult object, if you didn’t know). Sadly, however, Mr. Trudeau’s hipster swag is severely undermined by the generic grilled salmon meal he cooked as part of the Win a Date with Justin Trudeau contest, promoted by such gems as the snapshot below:

trudeau food
(via Maclean’s)

Popular opinion, however, is firmly in Mr. Trudeau’s favour when it comes to the culinary. An Abacus poll ranked him Canadian’s top choiceto have over for dinner with your family (43%),” as well as to “cook the best meal (41%)”. (Incidentally, he also outranks cat-loving Harper in the animal category, voted “most trusted to look after your pet (40%)”).

Stephen Harper

What of Mr. Harper, our teetotalling incumbent, who once famously said, “I don’t drink, except when I do.” What be the gastronomical keys to his heart?

We’ve boiled long weeks of exhaustive research on this question down to a simple answer: they’re dictated by his PR team each day.

Mr. Harper’s ubiquity in culturally-capitalistic food photos is matched only by his ability to appear lifeless when caught by the lens. Harper’s habit of seeming photogenically disengaged is so widely known that regular citizens have dedicated blogs to the phenomenon.

One, called Things Harper Does to Seem Human, captures Harper’s utterly unnatural food moments —captioning them with faux-naturalistic brilliance: “Buying candy from a machine. Everyone needs something to munch on while doing a little shopping,” says one.

via Tumblr
via Tumblr

While a posed Yellowknife shot says, “Just chilling round the campfire. Eating dinner. Getting ready to sing Kumbaya.”

Keenly aware of his poor “normalcy” index, Mr. Harper’s PR team recently crafted a Twitter campaign dubbed #dayinthelife. Yet besides beefing up his already prolific set of cat photos, the campaign’s thick veneer only served to reinforce his lack of humanity further.

The PM eats some unspecified breakfast which is dominated by Stanley the cat. Near noon, the PM’s “working lunch” is mentioned, though glossed over using lingo from generic dietary trends du jour; the suggestion is that it’s something similar to broccoli and fish (how perfectly healthy).

There’s no mention of dinner.

Stephen & Maureen Harper inspect some hot cross buns in photo op on campaign (via International Business Times)

Yet there is one thing thing of substance we do know about the PM’s eating patterns. It’s a big one, as antithetical to his stony public image as the perpetual selfies with kittens. Journalists and aides both corroborate that hot sauce is Mr. Harper’s serious vice. He is said to regularly request the spiciest version of any available food, to add jalapenos to his mother’s lasagna and possess a voluminous collection of deathly-hot sauces in his own kitchen.

Thomas Mulcair

If Harper is intent on ingesting all manner of PR-friendly goods (while secretly mainlining hot sauce late at night with Stanley), Thomas Mulcair is just as intent on abstaining altogether.

So-called “angry Tom” has been trying (to mixed reviews) to turn his frown upside down. Yet he remains mad as hell at his food.

All of it.

There is simply no evidence Mr. Mulcair eats. Or that he has ever eaten. Surely not on camera. Even the Maclean’s portrait of the candidate, perhaps the most intimate yet, offers only one fleeting reference to consumption. Mulcair downs some quick hot chocolate (no food)—only after a grizzly daylong trek through the snow.

Even food-themed photo ops suggest Mulcair’s disdain for ingestion.

Consider Obama, Trudeau or Layton. Each one can be seen wolfing down diner fare at their rural campaign stops. Though Mr. Mulcair uses similar resto backdrops, he hasn’t been seen so much as sipping a cup of joe.

Yet no one can accuse the industrious NDP head of slacking off in the kitchen. Even when he slaves away at the pizza oven, as at the Brampton pizzeria where he announced tax cuts to small businesses, Mr. Mulcair didn’t indulge in a single bite from his labours.

(via Mississauga Times)

Then there’s those pre-Orange Wave photo ops alongside the eponymous Mr. Layton. Just take a look below. Genuine though his smile may be, Mr. Mulcair conspicuously refuses to share in the pleasure of the bite; meanwhile Mr. Layton is in obvious joy with the food in his hands.

  

The sum of our findings… if they’re findings at all?

At best they’re useless – and at worst they are grim. For either these candidates are ashamed of their true passions (a bad sign), or their eating habits are impossibly dull and unconscious (even worse).

Elizabeth May

Perhaps there’s one candidate who proves the exception to this culinary rule. In the fiery vegetarianism espoused by Elizabeth May we see her natural fit with party ideals, not to mention the genuine, seemingly enjoyable relationship to food.

She’s known to haunt several Ottawa restos, is loved by the waitstaff, speaks passionately about seafood in her home province of Nova Scotia (though it’s unclear if she ‘cheats’ on the veggie diet), discusses openly her recipes and food thoughts with journalists, and even shows off her unvarnished love for the kitchen on this cooking show.

Let’s be clear: this is far from an endorsement of May (or her diet). Though I can’t help be moved by a politician that actually eats, actually experiences food, rather than posing with it: after all, that’s what humans tend to do.

If you like your Canadian politics with an extra helping of camp, then Laureen: Queen of the Tundra is the Fringe show for you. Named after the wife of our Prime Minister (portrayed by Montreal drag queen Connie Lingua), this cabaret drag show explores what it’s like to be queer and Canadian under a conservative government.

The structure of the show is very loose. A sketch comedy number is followed by a lip synch performance followed by a testimonial. But throughout the production everyone’s favourite bad guy “Stephanie” Harper (a delightful cameo by Jordan Arsenault) makes sure to keep her evil eye over what’s going on.

The tone of the show skips back and forth between silly and serious. The silly numbers are mostly a portrayal of your standard Canadian clichés; RCMP officers, Celine Dion and Shania Twain all make appearances. Some of these numbers are hilarious; you’ll be laughing in spite of yourself at the Dion number for instance. Others numbers make the show start to drag a bit; the fake talk show number felt like a reject sketch from This Hour has 22 minutes.

But the real reason to see this show is the more serious aspect; the testimonials. In between all the silliness each member of the cast comes out and monologues what it like is to be Trans, queer, or an immigrant in Canada. The raw emotion and expressions of pain, fear, and hope is lovely stuff. It would be great if someone turned that aspect into a whole new show… maybe for Fringe 2016?

Laureen: Queen of the Tundra plays at Cafe Cleopatre until June 21st, for tickets or more info, please consult the Montreal Fringe website

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

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

Harper stood up in the house this past week and said with great conviction that the Niqab “was rooted in a culture that is anti-women.’’ This statement was the climax of the ludicrous debate about the Niqab that this country has been engulfed in for the past few weeks. Another chapter in the ongoing saga of the usage of demagogic discourse, fear, xenophobia and the intermingling of three that certain Canadian political parties have promoted for the past few years.

Just to clear the air, because tension has been ripe about this issue especially within our beautiful province of Quebec, the Niqab isn’t a ludicrous debate because of the nature of the debate itself, it’s ludicrous because of the political recuperation it has been a victim of. And the ridiculousness of this whole debate can be summarized in two simple questions: Since when has our prime minister become an ardent defender of women’s rights? Since when has feminism been the motto of the Harper administration.

In an ideal world, this Conservative government would have called an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women the minute they took office. They would have put in place a framework that made sure that economic and social inequality between genders would be addressed in a serious manner and not just hyperbolically. They would have put an emphasis on tackling violence against women in all of its forms, in supporting women’s shelters Canada-wide and organizations that fight for women’s reproductive rights.

FEMINISM

In an ideal world, Harper would have made reference in one of his crown speeches to the plight of single working mothers and created initiatives to make sure no single mother and no child would live in poverty in this country.  In an ideal Canada, Stephen Harper would’ve put an end to the deportations of mothers without status and call for “regularisation” of all mothers without status.

But that’s merely an ‘ideal’ world and unfortunately the Canada of Stephen Harper is the polar opposite of that ideal. We live in a country where more than 1200 aboriginal women are missing and murdered while the Canadian government defacto institutionalized violence against women by stating that it wasn’t a priority. We live in a country where inequality between genders is growing at a rampant pace, where violence against women is on a steady rise even though “this Conservative government has been the most for women in the history of the Confederation.’’

So we must ask ourselves why all of a sudden this call to defend the cause of feminism? Has Harper finally come to realize that deep down inside he’s truly a feminist? Has being the father of a brilliant, beautiful, daughter finally made him come to that conclusion?

Nah… scrap that! This is part of Harper’s new little scheme to build on the heritage of the Charter of Values, a strategy of using the supposed fight against discrimination as a Trojan Horse to promote another form of discrimination.

This strategy has been used by different political parties in past few years. First it was the Front National in France. The most homophobic party in France supposedly did a 180 and “became” the valiant defenders of the rights of the French LGBTQ community against Islamic fundamentalism, while still being against Gay marriage. In Quebec, all of a sudden, a Parti Quebecois that had imposed austerity measures that affected women most became the ardent defender of feminism against, once again, Islamic fundamentalism.

And now, in Ottawa, the Conservative government has used on several occasions the argument of feminism to promote its xenophobic agenda. The most ironic thing is that we are supposedly fighting for women rights and human rights in the Middle East but can’t even uphold them on our own soil.

I won’t get into the whole orientalist and neo-colonialist dimension of this Conservative fear-mongering, although it is an important aspect to consider when dismantling the Conservative jigsaw. I will emphasize the fact that many more women, many more single mothers, many more women in precarious situations, many more working-class women, many more indigenous women, racialized women, more women in general are affected by the austerity and the neo-liberal agenda imposed by this Conservative government than they are by the Niqab.

Economic fundamentalism is as detrimental to the stature and the well-being of women through this country as is religious fundamentalism.

A luta continua.

Thank you Stephen Harper. You did it.

For weeks, months actually, it seemed like you were a done deal. People had started focusing on who was the better choice to replace you. Was Justin really that much different? Could the NDP base actually move Mulcair enough to the left that they would be able to make real progress? Maybe we should just abandon all parties and form a new participatory democracy?

Then, like an obnoxious party guest no one invited but who still managed to crash on the couch, Harper wakes up, still drunk on his own power. Everyone else is having a serious, though contentious, discussion about the future and the different ways to make things better when Harper lets out an enormous belch, reminding everyone just who the biggest asshole in the room still is.

That smelly, loud belch, better known as Bill C-51, or the “Anti-Terrorism Act 2015” in Harperspeak, is a piece of legislation that would grant broad, sweeping powers to CSIS to prevent terrorism or the promotion of terrorism. The problem is, it doesn’t really define what terrorism is.

I know the image the Conservatives want people to associate with this bill: that of Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in particular and radical Islam in general. But that’s not what the bill says. In fact, it doesn’t say much about what constitutes a terrorist. Seeing as people can get five years in prison for just “promoting” an undefined concept and have their websites shut down, too, I think a bit of clarity is in order.

Open to Interpretation

bill c51The bill does try to define what it hopes to prevent. As you can see in the screenshot to the left and by reading the actual document (PDF), it doesn’t really get the job done.

We get a list of things which, for the most part, are things that I think most people reading this would agree should be prevented, like proliferation of chemical weapons. However, there is one bullet point, Clause D, which simply says “terrorism” with no explanation.

Consider for a moment that over the past few years, the Harper Government has been busy trying to apply the terrorist label to environmental activists and Idle No More protesters alike. With this new law in place, what would stop them from also going after any journalist, blogger or supporter who may take up their cause?

Could it be the last point in this section? The one that says “it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”? Well, what constitutes lawful advocacy? It’s not clear. This passage sounds nice, but it still depends on who is defining the terms.

Let’s look at point I: “an activity that takes place in Canada but undermines the security of another state.” I wonder what state they could be referring to? Could it be Israel? Now consider that the Harper definition of security includes economic security (point A), then couldn’t a blog post promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel be considered to be promoting undermining the economic security of another state and therefore promoting terrorism?

When you start sending activists and bloggers to jail for opinions that reflect a popular view that is at odds with that of the government, you are only slightly better than Saudi Arabia.

It’s Not Just the Left that Needs to Fight This

This goes beyond the left-right paradigm. Even if you’re not a fan of the environment, the first people to live in the place we now call Canada or those who are willing to fight for basic rights for the Palestinian people, you too should oppose this bill.

Think about it: Harper may lose the next election. If this bill becomes law before he does, then the next Prime Minister would be able to use it and interpret what constitutes terrorism however they like.

Let’s say you run a group calling for the dissolution of the CBC. You blog about it, you write Facebook posts about it. What if that Commie Mulcair (yes, I know Tom Mulcair is not a communist and to suggest so is offensive to actual communists, but I’m trying to appropriate some right-wing lingo) decides that trying to destroy the CBC is a threat to the economic security of Canada. What if pretty boy Trudeau says “just watch me” as he has your blog removed from the web and sends you to prison for five years?

If Bill C-51 becomes law, all bets are off. Once there are wide-sweeping powers in place that can be directed at anyone the government of the day decides is promoting terrorism, we’re all potential terrorists.

So thank you, Stephen Harper, for proving to everyone that you’re still the biggest asshole in the room. I can only hope we can all come together and make sure this bill does not become law.

So, here we go again. Thirteen years after the tragedy at the World Trade Center on September 11, and eleven years after the beginning of the Second Gulf War, a coalition of the ‘’willing’’ is being put together to salvage the what remains of Iraqi democracy.

But let’s be clear here. There is nothing ‘’humanitarian’’ about this third intervention in Iraq, and neither will it resolve anything. Sorry Stevie.

When the lessons of the past aren’t learned properly, or when they’re thrown purposefully into the trash bin, the missteps of the past become the fatal mistakes of the future. As the saying goes: History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce. But I don’t know what would it be the third time around. A comical apocalypse? The question that must be asked and yet isn’t being asked by the mainstream media is quite simple: Why? Why again? Why us? Why should we think this will help?

A-statue-of-Saddam-Hussein-is-pulled-down-in-Baghdad-on-9-April-2003.-Photograph-Jerome-Delay-AP
Soldier looks as Saddam Hussein’s statue is toppled.

Once again, at a frantic pace, the Conservatives and the Liberals are trying to turn the debate regarding the Canadian intervention in Iraq into a Manichean argument, a choice between good and evil: Either you’re for boots on the ground, or you’re with the terrorists! Anything less than military intervention is, apparently, unthinkable. For them, the roots of Islamic terrorism have to be “bombed out,” and obliterated.

But then one must wonder: Isn’t this the same strategy that was also used or attempted in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria? Didn’t the international community, through their sponsorship of radical Islamic organizations, ease the toppling of several governments in the region? Didn’t Western governments, de facto, pave the way for the chaos and massacres that are currently unfolding? Yes, absolutely!

Using the same strategy, with the same problematic actors, yet still expecting a different outcome is insanity.

Blatant, disingenuous hypocrisy fuels the Conservative government’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to the so-called “war on terror.” This is the same hypocrisy employed by the Bush administration, which thought that terror could root out terror, that torture could save the world from cruelty, that bigotry and racism could shun bigotry and racism. Unfortunately, this ideology of fighting fire with fire has left the whole of Middle East in blazes.

Stephen_Harper_and_George_W._Bush_July_6_2006

The Guantanamo Bay strategy, using brutal and cruel tactics to fight against brutality and cruelty, has utterly failed in the past and will utterly fail again, but this time around Canada will have indelible blood on its hands.

So, this is the non-strategy that the Conservative government and their Liberal allies are offering us on the silver platter of media: Military intervention with no timeline; no real notion of how many Canadian troops will be sent or what role they might serve; no strong local allies except for the dysfunctional Iraqi government, whose lack of legitimacy is the reason behind the current crisis; and no exit strategy.

As for the rhetorical fallacy of acting as “military advisors,” let’s remember, that back in the 1960s, US president Lyndon B. Johnson promised Americans, that the US’s role in Vietnam would only be an advisory one; we all know how that story turned out.

Maybe, deep down inside, Harper is waiting impatiently for his “Bushian moment.” Maybe he has developed some sort of a Bush complex —something that within the neo-conservative ranks is similar to the Napoleon complex — and this is the moment he has been waiting for all of his life?

How many lives will it take for his folie de grandeur to be exorcised?

No, it’s not April 1st, no FTB has not turned into the Onion and yes, you did read the headline correctly. Stephen Harper is to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, that Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister responsible for Canada’s unprecedented shift of focus from peacekeeping to full-on militarization. The man whose administration ruined Canada’s reputation internationally and even got us kicked off the UN Security Council.

This is the same Stephen Harper who clearly isn’t interested in bringing any sort of peace or justice to the homefront, either. He’s set out to augment our prison population by increasing sentences for small drug offenses, re-criminalizing sex work and criminalizing acts of dissent like wearing a mask at a protest.

Clearly there are many reasons why he should not win or even be considered for a prize of peace. But, to be fair, let’s look at the reasons for the nomination, in this case put forward by B’nai Brith:

“Moral clarity has been lost across much of the world, with terror, hatred and antisemitism filling the void,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant said in the organization’s press release, “throughout, there has been one leader which has demonstrated international leadership and a clear understanding of the differences between those who would seek to do evil, and their victims. More than any other individual, he has consistently spoken out with resolve regarding the safety of people under threat — such as opposing Russian aggression and annexation of Ukrainian territory — and has worked to ensure that other world leaders truly understand threat of Islamic terrorism facing us today. ”

If you read between the lines, it’s pretty clear  “the differences between those who seek to do evil, and their victims” refers to Harper’s unwavering support of Israel’s humanitarian crisis-inducing assault on Gaza. Now even if your blinders are so thick that you feel this attack is justified, arguing that support for and encouragement of a military action makes someone a man of peace takes a logical leap much greater than the Canadian North, which, by the way, Harper is also trying to militarize.

The same goes for Russia and Ukraine. Even if you think someone is on the right side of a conflict, being on any side instead of working for a solution should automatically disqualify you from winning a peace prize.

War is not peace. Orwell’s 1984 was meant as a warning, not a guide.

So, while Harper clearly shouldn’t win, stranger things have happened. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had a chance to do anything. At least it was for the hope of peace in his campaign speeches and not for his drones.

Unless Harper does a complete about-face on most of his policies real soon, I think it’s important that we let the Nobel people know that Harper is in no way a man of peace and completely undeserving of this award. Looks like others feel the same way. There’s already a petition asking the Nobel committee to reject Harper’s nomination.

This is great, but maybe we should go one step further and think of our own Canadian nominees for the prize. It shouldn’t be that hard to find someone more deserving of a peace prize than Harper. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments, or, at the very least, sign the petition.

We shouldn’t let our national embarrassment of a warmongering Prime Minister be celebrated as a man of peace. Even the very suggestion of such an accolade needs to be stopped and quickly.

During past few weeks since the start of the Israeli operation of and collective punishment against the people of Gaza, which was supposedly triggered by the killing of three Israeli teens by the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas which controls the Gaza strip, the statements released by the Conservative government have come to dangerously resemble Ezra Levant type rants instead of thoughtful and thought through foreign policy.

In fact not only has this Conservative government lent a blind eye to the majority of the violations of international law that the Israeli government has committed during this military operation, our Canadian government has thrown its support and whatever leverage it has on the international scene behind the Israeli hawks, taking a unilateral position which favors Israel in any given circumstance or situation.

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Ezra Levant at the PetroCultures conference (photo Jay Manafest)

Unfortunately this neo-conservative stance is far from being a novelty. It appears that in the eyes the Conservative war room, international affairs is merely an extension of domestic affairs by other means, another tool to assert their domestic agenda and garnish support among certain sections of the Canadian electorate in view of 2015.

But as for all pre-fabricated position of ideological purity, this doctrine or approach to international affairs has it’s Achilles heel and that is the hypocrisy and double speech on which it is founded.

During the heated debate revolving around the PQ’s  Charter of Quebec Values, the Harper Government, much like Don Quixote jousting against invisible windmills, took the bold position to cut down the nascent legislation, using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the ultimate rampart against xenophobia and racism used as political vectors for short term political gains. But while the Conservative Government supposedly crusades against such intolerance and xenophobia on domestic turf, on the international scene it promotes its antithesis, an international policy which refutes basic human rights and international conventions favoring instead a Manichean vision of the world, rooted in profound demagogy and fueled by fear.

Other governments of the same vein through the globe have pushed forward Islamophobic legislation with the intent to preserve the sanctity of some mythical antique society, refuting one religious dogma for another in the name of secularism. This Conservative regime prefers to promote pseudo multiculturalism within its borders and support racist and xenophobic policy and segregation and inequality on the outside. Unfortunately, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

This government’s reaction to the suffering of the people of Gaza, slandering them and belittling them at every possible occasion as “terrorists” and “fundamentalists,” not the victims of Israeli aggression but the makers of their own oppression in some sort of twisted Stockholm Syndrome way, is but the culminating point in a decisive shift in foreign policy taken by the current regime.

On the African continent, the current Canadian government has allocated funds to extreme-right, homophobic and xenophobic evangelistic groups, thus aiding them in their mission to propagate the light of Christ throughout the world. In South America, the Conservative Government has lent their support, through enhanced free trade deals, to Canadian multinationals that run amok, with devastating consequences for entire communities, especially for indigenous communities resisting the violation of their habitats. Such a policy endangers their way of life and is pushing them to the brink of extinction.

When it comes to international cooperation in terms of climate change or within the United Nations, the current government has undermined much of Canada’s international status as a deal broker, preferring to sign alliances with the newly anointed group of “weasels”—composed of the ideological brothers of Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada—and push for climate deregulation.

The hard right might not have found its niche with the Conservative government domestically, many on that side of the spectrum would like to see this government be more assertive with its social conservatism and push for the criminalization of abortions and the repeal of gay marriage legislation. But in John Baird and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have found a champion.

They are several types of power in terms of international affairs; the two main strains are described as soft and hard. Hard power is referred to as the usage of brute force, military force, and domination through physical submission. On the other hand, soft power is domination through cultural influence and diplomacy. Canada might have once had a strong stock of soft power, but today it has given up on both approaches to fully endorse the Ezra Levant archetype of Sun News power.

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This is a power that serves only the ideological purposes of the most radical sections of the Conservative Party of Canada and the vision of a planetary struggle of Ying versus Yang. Any pragmatism or rationality are sidelined in favor of an outright xenophobic foreign policy which asserts through the rants of it’s spokesperson—John Baird has taken the role of Ezra Levant in this case—that some human beings have more rights than others, some populations are more valuable than others, some communities have more a right to live a dignified life than others.

A government that is honest with itself cannot appeal to the high moral standards of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when dealing with domestic xenophobia and disregard such values aboard. Canada must promote human rights for all.

What better role could Canada play on the international scene than being the sole defender of human dignity and human rights, with the values and ethics invested in it through the charter of Freedoms and Rights. That must be our banner on the international scene.

On June 11 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and offered apologies on behalf of the Canadian government for the hideous Residential School program – a program with the purpose, in the words of its most ardent supporters, was to “civilize” First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations. It was a system of cultural cleansing with a sole finality to destroy the remains of any Indigenous way of life and thus allowing for their complete assimilation.

The apology was supposedly a watershed moment in Canadian history, a moment which would allow for renewed dialogue, a dignified correspondence between the ‘saviours’ of such a system, their children, and the non-aboriginals populations of Canada. The Conservative government at the time, as it still does today, boasts about the historic moment as proof of their efforts to build a stronger partnership with Indigenous communities.

Outside of the universe of smoke and mirrors, of the political spin and lip-service that is Ottawa, the apology put forward by the Conservative government is a chef d’oeuvre of hypocrisy and the paragon of why the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous communities is not just broken, it’s non-existent.

A sincere apology is first and foremost a lesson and promise. It is an acknowledgement that our past ways were inhumane, cruel, and racist, and a statement that from this day forth the federal government would fight to eradicate the remainders of colonialism and neo-colonialism in all of its forms. Unfortunately six years after, the Canadian government’s apology seems void of any concrete steps to change the nature of our relationship with Indigenous communities, much to the contrary in fact.

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The honeymoon period following the apology was short-lived. Within a few years of the statement the Conservative government was handed a majority and since then, it’s been a race to the bottom when it comes to the state of aboriginal/federal government relations.

In the past few years of Conservative majority rule there have been an incredible amount of low points when it comes to this government’s respect of Indigenous rights, and especially with regards to their unalienable right to self-determination and sovereignty within their own communities. For some right-wing pundits – read Ezra Levant – the  storyline is the following: Conservative government pushes for  natural resource extraction on Native land , Indigenous peoples oppose extraction, the Conservatives pushes forward with it because that’s what’s best for the economy and what’s best for the economy is what’s best for the aboriginal peoples of Canada … But when bill C-33, or the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act (in good Conservative newspeak) is thrown into the mix, the “prosperity” argument that the ‘neo-cons’ construct to justify their willing incapacity to uphold treaty rights and their rampant violation of aboriginal sovereignty doesn’t apply.

Bill C-33 might have stemmed from a good intention (even though that is very doubtable), but a very misguided one to say the least. Bill C-33 is the legal framework for an education system for First Nations communities drawn in Ottawa without the consent or the input of First Nations – a framework that would impose an educational system in which the transmission of knowledge from one generation to another isn’t important, and the only objective is to “integrate”.

In the words of its proponents, it brings First Nations youth into the Canadian economy, aka assimilation by other means. The best manifestation of that is the fact that the teaching of First Nations languages doesn’t even have a place in the bill.  This new education system would answer to the needs of the market, the needs of Canadian employers, not to the aspirations of First Nation communities wanting to make sure their cultures and languages are passed on to the next generation.

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On the other hand, contrary to Conservative belief, 100% First Nations’ controlled education systems are the models that work the best. The province of Nova Scotia is the best example of a 100% controlled First Nations education program.

Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey has been an incredible success story. Today Nova Scotia has the highest rate of First Nations high school graduation in the entire country at a staggering 88% compared to 35% nation-wide. Statistics such as these put the Conservative government in a very awkward situation, because they prove that self-determination works, which puts the Conservative government’s entire economic plan in porte-à-faux.

Indigenous communities throughout Canada have been on the frontlines of the fight against the ruthless exploration and pillage of Canadian natural resources, which only benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the rest of us. We non-Indigenous peoples of Canada are indebted to these communities historically in many ways, but we are ever so indebted for the struggle they lead against the destruction of our natural wealth in this day and age.

This Conservative government is truly afraid of what Indigenous communities have to teach all of us, primarily that our greatest wealth is our environment. We cannot eat money, and that’s why the Conservative government is the main obstacle on the path towards a strong autonomous Aboriginal educational system in Canada. The Conservatives are scared of an educational system that promotes an alternative worldview in which prosperity is measured in environmental and social terms, not economic ones.

If we want to build a truly prosperous Canada, we have much to learn from our Indigenous sisters and brothers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anti “Fair Elections Act” messaging from canadians.org

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

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

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

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

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

It that time of year again, folks! That time of year when lazy scribes get busy putting together their top stories of the year for their retrospective end-of-year piece. In this case, it’s the stories, people, laws, scandals, senatorial or otherwise (with the retirement of former Conservative Minister Vic “Vickie-Leaks” Toews, sex scandals are in short supply, sadly!), that made the corridors of power in O-Town buzz and the publicists, spin-doctors and high-paid hacks that now run our political system wring their proverbial hands with worry!

2013 is destined to be remembered for arguably the biggest crisis that the Harper government has experienced since it came to power back in ’06. Prior to revelations involving the expense fraud of Duff Man, the Brazman, Pammy “The Honourable Senator for Manhattan” Wallin and Mac “Seal hugger” Harb, Harper and his government had managed to avoid many of the fiscal and criminal scandals that recent federal governments invariably suffer during their mandate (i.e. Airbus, Sponsorship, etc.). Though, for those of us paying attention, there were others that set off alarm bells, including the In-Out election spending scheme of the 2006 and the robocall voter suppression scandal of the last elections, to mention a couple.

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But with the growing problem of an inexplicably absent Prime Minister at the heart of a major criminal investigation into the actions of his inner circle of advisors and hatchet men (i.e. Nigel Wright) by the men in red, Harper appears to be bearing the brunt of the public outrage over this mess. Make no mistake, the federal Tories and their previously Teflon leader are in way over their heads this time and will wear this one into the 2015 elections and possibly beyond.

In a related story, Tom Mulcair, the leader of the Federal NDP, established himself as the king of Question Period with his brilliant prosecutorial style and his blunt line of questioning on the connections between the Prime Minister’s Office and the cover-up of Senator Duffy’s illegal transaction with Nigel Wright. It has been noted by many a cynic in the media and elsewhere that such performances do not score many points with the general public who usually tune out the House of Commons.

It remains to be seen whether this will translate into greater support for the NDP in the next election. But, if nothing else, this has distinguished him very nicely from Justin Trudeau who has been lagging behind his main rival on challenging the government in the House, preferring to concentrate on the kind of retail politics outside the Ottawa bubble that are rapidly becoming his trademark.

Speaking of the current golden boy of Canadian politics (these things typically don’t last, if you don’t believe me look at the sorry state of Gerard Kennedy’s career), you’ve got to admit that Trudeau’s mojo has been growing ever since he crushed his opponents in the farcical Liberal leadership race back in April. He stumped for his candidates in recent by-elections and the results indicated that the Trudeau effect has helped the Liberals gain some inroads in Brandon-Souris (Manitoba) and retain their current number of seats by fending off strong campaigns by the NDP in Bourassa and Toronto-Centre (and then promptly rubbing their noses in it, in very classy fashion). If the current favourable polling trends continue, expect Trudeau Junior to go from strength to strength in the next couple of years, leading up to the general election in 2015.

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Remember the Bloc? The separatist party that dominated Quebec Federal politics since 1993. Well, in case you didn’t notice, they’re in a severe tailspin with zero hope of recovery at the moment. At the risk of dancing on the grave of the still barely alive political party, the death of the party in the next election (if not sooner) is now inevitable.

They lost Maria Mourani, one of a rump caucus that used to count  48 Members, over their decision to back Pauline Marois and the Quebec government’s ever controversial Quebec Values Charter. They registered a pitiful 13% of the vote in Bourassa, and just last week came the coup de grâce: their leader, Daniel Paillé, resigned suddenly for health reasons (not that many noticed), seemingly without any credible replacement lined up.

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No end of the year list would be complete without a nod to the Fordzilla fiasco in Toronto. The monster that is reportedly running amok in a crack and alcohol fueled rage at Nathan Phillips square downtown, is devouring everything in his path. He appears to be headed for Ottawa next, where he is expected to do even more damage to the Conservative spin-doctor frankensteins that helped unleash this twisted creature on and unsuspecting public in 2007 and defended him until it became apparent he was becoming a major political liability.

Here’s hoping that next year’s federal political stories, be they good, bad or ugly, keep us all half as enthralled, as this year’s did. Amen!

Canada’s continued prohibition of marijuana represents perhaps the most glaring example of our government’s near total lack of critical thinking. While legalization efforts are catching across the globe, and perhaps more importantly are proving more effective deterrents against organized crime, we continue to endorse the prohibition of marijuana seemingly without ever having asked why it is illegal in the first place.

The near constant insinuation by the Federal Tories that the legalization of marijuana, as proposed by Justin Trudeau, is intended to put drugs in the hands of children is vulgar, reprehensible and completely unfounded. But in country governed by the politics of fear it should come as no surprise.

The Tories have their backs against the wall, having appealed so much to the most fundamentalist, evangelically conservative elements of our society they couldn’t support a sensible reform of our antiquated drug laws even if it was their own idea. And so like mules they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge reality.

Marijuana is misclassified.

Marijuana may be a drug, but it is quite unlike any other drug out there. It is not habit forming, it can be used regularly and recreationally without serious physical or mental side-effects and has myriad therapeutic effects, the extent of which we have no idea simply because we’ve idiotically refused to fully examine its medicinal qualities.

Cannabis is a plant that has a million uses and can be grown throughout the world. A plant so useful, so universal, so ubiquitous is illegal to possess, cultivate or use in this, what was once a progressive, forward-thinking nation.

marijuana-girlI can imagine the only reason marijuana continues to be illegal is because, as ubiquitous as it is, it could be cultivated by just about everyone. For that reason, people in this country may no longer need to buy a wide variety of government-subsidized medication, may refrain from gambling in government-owned casinos or buying highly-taxed government-regulated drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

The only reason marijuana is illegal in the first place is because of racism and racist ideas that were prevalent in Canada about a hundred years ago. Anti-Asian sentiment was widespread back then and a common myth was that Asian men lusted after white women and were using drugs (at first opium, then heroin, cocaine and then marijuana) to turn newly socially and politically liberated Canadian women into sex slaves.

It’s an unfortunate reality of our political experience that progressive early feminism had to ride the coattails of socially conservative temperance movements which promoted these ideas in the yellow press. It was these temperance movements which advocated against drugs for the aforementioned reasons inasmuch as alcohol because of widespread alcoholism (a malady more associated with men at the time). Reform wound up cutting two ways, empowering women with the vote and then getting those votes to empower social conservatism.

Today our socially conservative federal government continues to uphold draconian drug laws and is pushing for stiffer sentences, despite mounting evidence marijuana’s illegality is completely and thoroughly baseless. The argument it is a ‘gateway drug,’ whatever that means, is ludicrous and absurd. You may as well say spaghetti is the gateway to pasta, or that pasta is a gateway to enjoying Italian food. Maybe remote controls are the gateways to television addiction, maybe hockey’s a gateway to high dental costs…

Where does it end?

What’s even more enigmatic is that the Tories haven’t recognized three key points:

1. Marijuana arrests are racially-skewed to begin with and clog up our judicial system and prisons. Legalization removes the institutionalized racism and clears out a lot of prison beds and courtrooms. All of this saves money and increases the respectability of our federal judicial system.

2. Legalizing marijuana takes money out of the hands of organized crime and puts it back in the hands of the government through taxation. Marijuana is in constant high demand and users are used to paying an admittedly exorbitant price for the product. Legalizing marijuana could return more money to the federal government in taxation than alcohol and tobacco combined. The loss of this revenue would be crippling for organized crime across Canada.

3. The prohibition of Cannabis and marijuana is quite simply anti-capitalist. Legalization would provide numerous new small business opportunities as they pertain to the cultivation of cannabis and the production and sale of marijuana and marijuana by-products for a potentially massive number of consumers. The government monopoly on sin would be broken.

I can imagine farmers might develop cannabis as a kind of back-up cash crop, an insurance against bad harvests, and this in turn could have the effect of reviving Canadian agricultural independence more broadly.

But of course, it is precisely for all these reasons that our corporate-owned federal government refuses to look at marijuana prohibition critically and precisely why they equate drug law reform with reckless child abuse.

* Look for Taylor Noakes’ interview with Adam Greenblatt on the privatization of medical marijuana in Canada in a few days on FTB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In October of last year, NDP MP Dany Morin proposed anti-bullying legislation in the House of Commons. Conservatives, including Peter MacKay, defeated it.

Over a year later, following the tragic cyber bullying death of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Harper Conservatives are ready to pass their own piece of anti-cyber bullying legislation, Bill C-13, being championed by none other than current Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Could it be that they learned their lesson and are finally doing something about a problem that needs to be dealt with?

Well, the bill does deal with cyber bullying, making it illegal to transmit images of someone without their consent for the purpose of intimidation. That’s fine by me, cyber bullying is a huge problem that we need to get rid of, along with analog or old-school bullying.

The problem is the bill also brings back some of the provisions from Bill C-30, you know, the one that then Justice Minister Vic Toews defended by saying “you’re either with us, or you’re with the child pornographers.” Canadians widely rejected that bill and the Conservatives promised us that they had scrapped it.

Turns out they didn’t scrap all or even most of it. They just re-branded it.

If you want the details on what’s in and what’s out, Micheal Geist has a thorough rundown. Long story short, law enforcement will gain a bunch of new powers that have nothing to do with online bullying.

It makes sense that the Conservatives blocked the NDP anti-bullying legislation. Why waste a perfectly good hot-button issue by dealing with it directly when you can use it to justify passing a whole bunch of unrelated laws that people already rejected when they saw through your child porn smokescreen?

It’s like telling a kid in the playground that you’ll stop some other kid from taking their lunch money but only if they agree to share their lunch with you. Sounds like bullying to me.

We need to attack bullying just as we need to attack child porn. Direct laws that deal with these issues can and should do it.

Unfortunately, Harper and his gang of bullies don’t see the intrinsic benefit in dealing with real problems. They are only tools to get what they want and in this case it’s a surveillance state.

So what can we do about it? Raise hell, yes, but unless MacKay slips up and has his own George Bush moment like Toews did, that might not be enough.

I think the best solution is for our elected officials to propose an alternative: a bill that deals with the real issues but eliminates the secret Harper agenda.

Looks like the NDP already had this idea. Despite the defeat of Morin’s bill, Robert Chisholm has proposed another private members’ bill, C-540, which tackles the issue of cyber bullying head on, without any unnecessary baggage. If the Conservatives vote against this, they are voting against parts of their own bill.

If it passes, we’ll have legislation that is needed and there will be no excuse for the stuff we don’t. If it doesn’t then at the very least, Harper will be exposed as the bully that he is.

Photo by Reuters

Stephen Harper doesn’t usually visit Montreal and you can understand why. He doesn’t have any elected representation on the island or even near it, he only gets invited to speak at small private and expensive gatherings of the business community and when he does show up, there’s always a welcoming committee that he would rather do without and does his best to avoid.

Yesterday was no different. When Harper showed up at the Palais des congrès to speak on the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement at the invitation of the Montreal Board of Trade, who was charging $1000 a plate for this lunch, there was a protest outside to greet him.

Organizers at Concordia’s Quebec Public Research Interest Group had less than a week to prepare, but still managed to mobilize a decent crowd to show up at 11:30 am on a Friday. There was also another protest marching through the east end at the same time protesting Harper’s cuts to Employment Insurance and a much larger anti-austerity demo with more planning time scheduled for 2pm.

Protesters assembled in the fake green space across the street from the main entrance of the Palais, signs and banners in tow. While I don’t know what this pseudo grass was doing there, it made the spot look like one of those designated protest areas, which the assembled activists soon grew tired of.

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When it looked like most people had arrived, the group headed across the street, Jaggi Singh of QPIRG spoke on the megaphone and the crowd had generally jovial interactions with the SPVM officers flanking the building. One activist even started chanting “This is what a moustache looks like” to one of the cops who looked like Tom Selleck, presumably for Movember.

As this scene transpired, a group of riot cops assembled around the corner, an ominous though small reminder that there was still a police state in effect. When half of them broke off and marched right in front of the protest to station themselves around the other corner, the protestors started singing the Imperial Death March (Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars).

I have to admit, I like Star Wars references in popular culture but when I see (or hear) one at a political demonstration and it’s an accurate assessment of the situation, I think it’s perfect and in this case it was. Despite the nonviolent approach the police were employing, I can’t forget that this is the same SPVM riot squad that kettled some of these same people for hours with no good reason just a few months ago.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned that recent history would repeat itself when I heard that chant that anyone who’s been to a protest in Montreal in the past decade knows very well: “A qui la rue? A nous la rue!” But it didn’t.

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The group started marching in the street, circling the Palais a few times and even reversing direction once. The best part was when we passed under the building, with tunnel-like acoustics giving protesters’ voices a beautiful echo.

At one point during the march, two bike cops were riding on the sidewalk and a few protestors decided to use their voices to remind them that bikes belong in the street. The officers listened to the makeshift traffic cops and stopped breaking the law.

Expert provocatrice Katie Nelson, known for exposing police political profiling through a lawsuit, today exposed a security flaw with side doors to the Palais de Congres. Although a cop thwarted her first attempt, she succeeded the second time, opening a door that led to the inside and Harper, then stood there and let the SPVM know that they had failed. Admitteldy, if most of the protest hadn’t already been forced to the opposite sidewalk, she may just have ushered a bunch of them inside the building.

This playful competition between activists and police took me back to protests I had attended years ago, before the unwarranted crackdown during the Maple Spring and the ensuing repressive P6 kettles. It seemed like activism was alive and well in Montreal once again.

There was no teargass, no new armored tank-like thingy the SPVM just purchased, just peaceful protest and a nonviolent police response. Exhilarating feeling aside, I wonder why this was the case.

This wasn’t a protest made up of senior citizens and children in strollers, the bulk of those in attendance were pretty hardcore, including the CLAC. These are the same people the police targeted both during the student protests and later, when there was an attempted resurgence after Marois came up with her own tuition increase.

Maybe it has to do with Harper. In fact, I’m sure it has to do with Harper.

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Nobody ’round these parts likes the guy and I think that includes the cops. So, while they will do their job and protect him, they clearly don’t have the same gusto and desire to quash the peaceful rebellion they do when it’s a provincial leader, be it Charest or Marois, in the activist crosshairs.

If this had been, say, a student protest, with the same protestors in attendance behaving the same way, things would have ended differently. In fact, within minutes of activists taking the streets, there would have been a police kettle.

It is widely known that most Montreal police don’t live in the city, but they do live in Quebec and that is where their loyalty is. I only hope they realize soon and en masse that their provincial masters in Quebec City are just as pro-austerity, anti-worker and for an elite class that doesn’t include them as Harper is.

I also hope that they realize opposition to Harper means standing up for Idle No More-affiliated Native activists as they stand against Harper’s devastating ecological policies which affect us all while asserting their own self determination. The SPVM embarrassed themselves when they tore down a tipi recently and even compared the Native activists to occupiers, apparently irony isn’t something they teach police trainees.

There are a long list of reasons to oppose Harper, the group who organised this protest outlined a few on the Facebook event page. I can only hope the SPVM officers realize that its those reasons that got people to the streets and not the fact that Harper is some douche from Calgary (or Toronto) that none of their friends voted for.

Harper is a figurehead, as is Marois and Charest before her. If the SPVM are cool with activists protesting one, then they should be cool with the same people protesting the others.

The state is the state. As agents of the state, SPVM officers should learn that and realize that they actually don’t work for the state, in theory, but the people, the same people they kettle for protesting one leader and exchange jokes with when they are targeting another.

We need more vibratnt and fun protests like this one in Montreal that aren’t crushed before they have a chance to get going. I hope we don’t have to wait until Stephen Harper returns for that to happen.

* photos by Jay Manafest, you can see the full album on our Facebook page