Panelists Josh Davidson, Cem Ertekin and Enzo Sabbagha discuss the NDP Convention which voted for a campaign to replace Tom Mulcair as leader, Jersey’s Saloon, a controversial new coyote-ugly style bar Peter Sergakis is opening in NDG and the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the issues of gender and race representation it brings up. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
It’s something I have been asking myself for the past few months: Why, as a lifelong Canadian, do I care so much about the current US election?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a bit of a political junkie and I also write about politics, so American presidential elections always interest me. But never this much and never this early.
Sure, when the parties pick their candidates and the election looms, I’ll watch the debates and tweet about things like “binders full of women.” I’ll even find a bar to watch the results on election night.
But this year, I have been glued to the primaries, refreshing the page as results come in and once even watched CNN and was incredibly amused and confused by how caucuses operate (they’re flipping coins, really?).
Why do I care? After some reflection, it comes down to two people and none of them are Donald Trump.
It’s Not the Circus, It’s the Substance
When it comes to politics, one thing I have always enjoyed is the spectacle. The theatre of the whole thing. Yes, I know that they are talking about serious issues, but seeing as how I have never believed that any prominent candidate would ever be able to or want to change how things run, I have settled for watching their rise to the top as sport and trying to guess the outcome in the same light.
Things are different this time. I believe that Bernie Sanders wants to make things better. He doesn’t just say the sort of things that please my progressive sensibilities; he has been saying them for over 30 years.
This isn’t a case of a candidate catching up to what the voters want and emulating it. Instead, the voters have finally caught up with the candidate.
That is something truly revolutionary. While the spectacle remains with the Republicans, the substance is with Bernie. Though I have to admit, the bird landing on his podium was probably the most spectacular piece of unexpected and improvised political theatre I have seen in a long time.
So that’s why I have been following so closely, reading the polls, getting annoyed every time Hillary Clinton or her supporters tried to block the Sanders surge. Hell, I even joined the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash on Facebook.
Well, Bernie’s authenticity is one of the reasons. The other is a little closer to home.
What this Election Means for the Canadian Left
It’s no secret that the election of a new US President has a profound impact well beyond the 50 states. A change of face and possibly direction in the world’s one remaining economic, cultural and military superpower always has an effect around the world and here in Canada, too.
But that’s not why I care so much this time. I am far less interested in the relationship our current Prime Minister will have with the next POUTS than I am with the effect a potential Sanders victory will have on the left in Canada.
If the Empire itself, a country that can generously be described as center-right by and large, can elect a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist as their President, then what place does the NDP, supposedly the most progressive party in Canada, a center-left country, have removing the word socialism from their party platform?
Moreover, if the unapologetically left approach the Sanders Campaign has employed eventually moves him into the White House, there will be no more justifiable electoral reasons for the NDP to remain silent on issues that speak to their left flank.
Not only does Bernie Sanders welcome the support of Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner, he put her in an ad. He also didn’t stop BLM activists from taking the microphone at one of his rallies. Meanwhile, Tom Mulcair’s NDP remained silent during Quebec’s student protests in 2012, even when the movement was threatened with massive police repression and draconian laws.
What were they afraid of? That they would be tagged with embracing protest? Well, one of the images that improved Bernie Sanders’ rep among voters was the one of him being personally arrested at a civil rights protest in the 60s:
Also, while Mulcair campaigned for a $15/hr wage for federal employees, Sanders wants to make that a reality for everyone in the US. When our own left-leaning party is more cautious than a potential Democratic Party nominee for President, it makes me wonder.
It makes me wish that this was the Mulcair we got during the campaign and during his tenure as Opposition Leader. Sure, he was strong in his opposition to C-51 and in a few other ways, but overall he refused to embrace the radicalism that was at the base of his party.
Whether Mulcair remains NDP leader or not, the change in the party’s approach to big issues has already begun, and that’s thanks to the influence of the success Sanders has had so far. Imagine what the NDP will be courageous and principled enough to campaign on next time if Bernie is President.
So why do I care so much about the next US Election? It’s because of two people: Bernie Sanders and Tom Mulcair.
Theories trying to explain just what went wrong with the NDP campaign have been as prevalent on my Facebook newsfeed this past week as posts about how cool Trudeau is and analysis of the new Star Wars trailer (it’s awesome, btw).
There are three main arguments being put forward. Each has its merits:
It’s Because of the Niqab!
Party insiders, defeated (and elected) MPs and now even leader Tom Mulcair himself have laid the blame squarely on the niqab. Specifically, they blame the race-baiting tactics employed by Harper and reinforced by Gilles Duceppe for their defeat.
Since NDP Orange Wave seats came largely at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois, Duceppe was able to mobilize xenophobic members of their former base and make the NDP look weak, or at least weaker than they looked before, in fortress Quebec. When people in other parts of the country saw this happening, the Anyone But Conservative crowd collectively decided that if the NDP couldn’t hold Quebec, voting Liberal was the only way to ensure a Harper defeat.
Awkward Bearded Man in a Suit Trying to Smile
Every politico worth their salt knows and loves The West Wing, so the easiest way to explain this theory of defeat is to reference the show, in particular the episode The Two Bartlets. NDP strategists took a street fighter and a damn good parliamentarian and forced him to run as Uncle Fluffy.
When Tom Mulcair railed against Bill C-51 while being rained on at a demonstration in the streets of Montreal a few months before the campaign started, it was magic. Angry Tom was in his element. The Harper Government ripping apart the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is definitely something to get angry about.
It worked. Too bad NDP strategists opted to take a different road for the campaign. Tom Mulcair in a suit, the same suit each time it looked like, talking in measured tones and cracking a forced smile.
They also chose to make the campaign about him. Focusing on the ensemble of talented MPs and candidates with Tom at the centre leading the charge would have been a much better strategy. You should only make it all about the leader when the leader exudes charisma.
Running a Jack Layton campaign only works with Jack Layton as leader. Focusing on a leader who isn’t all that charismatic and not being used to his full “angry” potential when one of your opponents is Justin Trudeau is just bad strategy.
Sharp Right Turn Alienated the Base
While the NDP started off the campaign strong with a principled stand to the left opposing and promising to repeal Bill C-51, they soon tried move themselves to the mushy middle. On the economy, they overshot their goal and found themselves to the right of the Liberals.
Sure, it may have seemed like the only option at the time. The NDP saying it was going to run deficits would have caused some to say “look at those socialists, can’t manage money.”
True, the Liberals can get away with promising deficits in a way the NDP cannot, but surely some strategists in Mulcair’s inner circle knew that and could have predicted Trudeau would make an economic play to the left. Mulcair’s zero deficit promise helped further alienate a good chunk of the party’s social democratic base.
I say further because Mulcair had already damaged relations with the base a few weeks before by refusing the nomination and candidacy of candidates who had been critical of Israel during the bombardment of Gaza a year earlier.
So What Was It?
Which one of these theories is correct? They all are.
The niqab debate did hurt the NDP much more than it hurt the Liberals. It was the spark that pushed the party to third place in the polls.
However, if the base had been solid instead of pushed to the sidelines, those who had all but given up on the New Democrats wouldn’t have been saying “you see, I told you so!” Instead they would have been devoting every second of their spare time to counter Harper and Duceppe’s poison pill on social media, on the phones calling voters and door-to-door.
Likewise, if Mulcair had been allowed to be Angry Tom, he could have got mad at the race baiting and explained clearly, as he did with C-51, why it was wrong. If the campaign wasn’t just about him, his co-stars, the candidates, could have taken some of the heat off on a much larger level.
It’s possible the NDP would have still finished in third place, but it would have been a much stronger caucus, one that may have eliminated the Bloc, too. It may have even been strong enough to hold Trudeau to a minority.
So What Happens Now?
Along with calls for Mulcair to resign, I have seen total disbelief that he hasn’t done so yet and that the party hasn’t forced him to. It makes more sense, though, if you look at NDP history.
On one hand, this is the most catastrophic defeat the party has ever suffered. On the other, with 44 seats in the House of Commons, this will be the NDP’s second largest caucus since the formation of the party, beating Ed Broadbent’s 1988 total by one seat.
Then again, Mulcair was elected leader, over the misgivings of some of the party faithful, on the promise that he could win. Not just do better than Ed Broadbent, but continue what Jack Layton started and form government. On that promise, he failed to deliver in a spectacular fashion.
I think the best course of action would be for Mulcair to announce his resignation as leader, to take effect when a new leader is elected. I hope he stays on as an MP, as he is a strong presence in the House of Commons. He’s a pitbull, but not a Prime Minister.
The NDP should elect a charismatic, preferably bilingual, social democrat as leader. Alex Boulerice springs to mind, so does Nikki Ashton. Now that vote sharing with the Liberals won’t be an option, maybe even Nathan Cullen, with some French lessons, could work.
If Mulcair does decide to stay on, though, and the party doesn’t force him out, he should admit all the reasons why he failed this past election and make changes accordingly. Otherwise, what happened to him and the NDP last Monday could end up being a preview of worse to come.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!