Saturday, September 18, 2021

Canadian Federal Election Blog, 2021

I wasn't going to write this blog.

I promised it back at the beginning of the campaign...and then the campaign happened, and it was even uglier than I expected it to be. I've been saying for years that we are no better than the United States when it comes to political trends: we're just two or three electoral terms behind them. It's a lonely drum I've been beating: Canada has long had a massive inferiority complex masquerading as a superiority complex about the United States. (You don't think it's an inferiority complex? Watch how the media reports any American celebrity venturing into the Arctic tundra wasteland. Do you like us? How do you like us? Please like us!)

As I have been bloviating on Facebook, the ugliness -- of the political landscape around the world;  of the climate catastrophe that, by some accounts, will see us all dead by 2050; of an economic system that worships the most exploitative and obscenely moneyed individuals and excuses their every fault, while trodding on regular every day people with an increasingly heavy boot; and and most definitely permeating everything about the pandemic...has been tremendously disheartening and enraging. I have allowed it to infect me, and I'm trying to root the infection out by disowning the ugliness wherever I can. 

That's difficult, and it's only going to become more so as the world deteriorates. I'm trying to figure out how to stand up against hatred, bigotry and ignorance without becoming a hateful ignorant bigot myself. The thing is, if I don't stand up for my beliefs, I am accepting, condoning and encouraging monsters. That makes me a monster just as surely.

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”  --John Stuart Mill

Many people claim they're not political. They're fooling themselves: everyone interacts with politics hundreds of times each and every day. You can't get out of bed without benefitting or suffering from a whole bunch of political decisions. The engine in your car is profoundly political -- see "Who Killed the Electric Car?" for details. The fact you need a car at all is also profoundly political. Elsewhere in the world, cities are built for people, not cars. You can easily walk to your local grocer and for greater distances there is cheap and ubiquitous public transportation. But here in North America, car companies didn't see any profit in that urban model, and more importantly they were allowed to dictate policy. That's why it takes four times longer to get anywhere by bus -- and why your busmates are largely the dregs of society. 

Oh, and if you have children? Your school's efforts to teach them that people who don't look like them are just as worthy of respect as they are came about because of political will. If you live in a place where announcing you're gay or nonbinary gets you expelled --  that's likewise a political decision. 

And I probably don't need to tell you about the politics men play with women's bodies. I will never understand women who tacitly accept this, because I don't, and I'm a man. Stand up for yourselves, women. You are not incubators. 

The ancient Greeks had a word for people who let politics wash over them without actively engaging: idios, "private". If that word looks awfully close to an English word, yup, that's how the Greeks felt about such people.

I don't. In a way I admire them: their lives look blissfully unencumbered from here.  But I don't understand them, because politics has become more about morality than philosophy, and while you may find the minutiae of politics dull and inscrutable, the words and behaviours of political actors should register, one way or another.  

Consider one of the election slogan of the "People's Party of Canada": "It's okay to be White!"

Now, if you are an idios, you might wonder what's wrong with that statement. Of course it's okay to be White -- who ever said it wasn't? Well, the answer is nobody, but many people don't believe that. This slogan, and its close kin "White Lives Matter", never entered the language until someone had the colossal gall to suggest that maybe police should stop murdering Black people for no reason, bragging about it, and going completely unpunished for it. Hell, despite clear video evidence of cold-blooded murder, there are still many people who think the Derek Chauvin verdict was a miscarriage of justice. Gotta keep those n*ggers down. 

That, too, is politics. Ugly politics, to be sure, but the real McCoy. 

But no, caring about Black people is a threat to White people, by some mechanism I don't understand.  I see White fragility everywhere lately. 'WE'RE BECOMING A MINORITY IN OUR OWN COUNTRY!!!!!" ... to which I respond  so what's so bad about that? Do we treat minorities poorly, or something?


To summarize this introduction. Everything is political, your politics are a clue to your morals, and do we let immoral people win by ignoring them?


I'm not sure why Justin Trudeau called this election. I'm not sure he's sure. That's maybe the only thing the NDP and the Conservatives agree on, that there was no need for an election. But we've got one, and so on with the show.

And it is a show. I won't argue you there. I understand why cynics disengage from the process when political promises are usually so much hot air. A really good example of one comes from Trudeau himself: electoral reform.

Now, if you don't give two shits about politics, the topic of electoral ref--see, you're already asleep. Gentle question: is one of the reasons you're politically ambivalent because you don't think your vote matters? I get that. Oh, do I get that. Because in many cases, you're right. Under Canada's archaic electoral system, called "first past the post" (FPTP), the winner of any election is not the party with the most votes but the party with the most seats. Let's take my seat, or riding,  as an example. It's currently Liberal, and considered a "Liberal safe" riding. If the polls hold,  the Liberals will get 44.8% of the votes in my riding: the next closest party, the Conservatives, will get 25.7%.

The practical upshot of this is that unless you vote Liberal in this riding, you are wasting your time. Your vote for any other party will of course be counted -- we're not the United States -- but fat lot of good that will do when so many others around you are voting one way.  The same is of course true for many Conservative safe ridings, among them Kathy's and my father's. Voting anything but Conservative in Parry Sound District or Oxford County is throwing your vote away.

It gets worse because it's not just a local issue. Seats are distributed by population. It's not partisan the way it is to our south: our elections are governed (as all elections everywhere should be) by an apolitical body. But in a way it's very partisan because have you seen how many seats there are in the Greater Toronto Area? I'll tell you how many there are. There are almost enough. Show really well in Toronto and you probably win the country.

Toronto is a city. Liberals show well in urban populations the world over.  So Toronto can go a long ways towards deciding an election all on its own. And trust me, Conservative ridings do not like this one little bit. I wouldn't either, were I them. The entire province of Alberta, but for a couple of urban ridings, votes Conservative without fail. They feel alienated, and as much as I disdain their politics, I can't say I blame them one littler bit for that. 

So I have largely been concentrating on the Liberals (who fancy themselves "Canada's Natural Governing Party" with typical arrogance) and the Conservatives, who have devolved over my lifetime from a party I regularly voted for into something I wouldn't vote for with a gun to my head. The Canadian political landscape regularly flips between the two parties (and in my province, we seem to like to elect the opposite of whatever party is currently ruling nationally).

But there are other parties here. And at least one of them, my political home, polls better than any third party in modern U.S. history (while never well enough to win anything, federally). 

Current polling suggests this election will change nothing: another Liberal minority. (Apolitical friends, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph; American friends, by all means read on if you wish). Minority governments are different in origin but very similar in effect to, say, a Democratic President and House with a Republican Senate. The only difference is that there's still some faint notion of the common good up here, so parties work together a little more easily. Majority governments are not something I trust even if "my" party has the majority, because they confer far too much power. Picture a Democratic President with a supermajority of Democrats controlling both houses and you'd be about halfway to as much domestic power as a Canadian PM with a majority enjoys. It's practically a dictatorship: the only check such a PM has is the Supreme Court. Incidentally, our leaders are elected by their parties, not by ordinary electors. This doesn't entirely negate a cult of personality -- our current PM's father had a pretty potent one -- but it does tend to blunt it. Oh, and we don't tend to elect celebrities, either. I think that might be because to be a Canadian celebrity you have to make it in the U.S. (inferiority complex, remember) and thus you're a sellout. We're complicated. 

There are four other parties that will garner 3% or more of the vote, besides the Libs and Cons. In projected order of popularity, from most popular to least:

  • The New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Jagmeet Singh, the first person of colour to lead a federal party in Canada. Current projection: 19.5%, 34 seats, plus or minus 17. 
Always the bridesmaid, or an usher, federally at least. The best the NDP can hope for is to hold the balance of power in a Liberal minority, as they do right now. This ensures the Liberals have to pay attention to NDP priorities, which happen to be mine. Platform here.
I like Singh. Not as much as I liked Jack Layton, the former NDP leader who died on us shortly after I voted for someone for the first time in my life. But it's because of Jagmeet Singh that I got to keep my home during the pandemic.  And if the guy I elect has to be religious, I'll go with a Sikh seven times a week and six times on Saturday. Sikhism isn't about telling you you're going to hell and I'm going to heaven, or making gays and women second class citizens. Sikhism is about community service. A politician who genuinely believes in giving to his community? Singh me up! They are not perfect, but "voting isn't marriage, it's public transport. You're not waiting for "the one" who's absolutely perfect: you're getting the bus, and if there isn't one to your destination, you don't not travel- you take the one going closest." I have no idea who wrote that. I wish I did. 

  • The Bloc Québécois, led by Yves-François Blanchet
I am including this party for the sake of completeness. It shouldn't be allowed to exist. 
That is NOT an anti-Québécois sentiment. Provincially, I would not just expect a Bloc but possibly vote for it, if I lived there.
I don't, so I can't vote for them -- because they only run in Québec ridings. Why this is allowed is a mystery: federal parties, to my way of thinking, ought to be required to run a candidate in every riding nationwide. 
As can be surmised, this party is for what it deems are its province's interests -- and nothing else. They house the Québec separatists, who fantasize about leaving Canada (what would happen to the indigenous population, the Canadian military bases, and the anglophones is unclear like any pipe dream). 

  • The People's Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier.
I am not going to link their platform. Google it if you must.
If Covid-19 hadn't happened, the newest federal party we have might have disbanded by now. It came about because its leader almost became leader of the federal Conservatives (in my darkest, darkest nightmare, he tries again and wins). Maxime decided the problem was that the Conservatives weren't extreme enough, and so he founded the People's Party, a catch-all haven for craziness of all kinds. 

They aren't going to win anything, but they are polling much better than they did last election....because they're the anti-lockdown, anti-mask, anti-vaccine party. Many people are voting for them for this reason alone.
I am refraining from launching into a diatribe against such people out of fidelity to my real values. I have decided that if they do gain popularity, I will fight them every legal way I can, and if they ever gain power, I will leave this country as quickly as possible because (a) I will no longer recognize it,  (b) nor wish to, and (c) I would be very, very tempted to go extralegal. That's how I feel about these people: they are an existential threat to everything I hold dear. It's not enough to deny science, you see. You must also deny the basic humanity of anyone who doesn't look like you. As I once said on Facebook, if that's the People's Party, I'm not a people. I can -- barely -- stomach you voting for the Conservatives if you have to. But if you are a People's Party of Canada supporter, the very best thing you can do is quietly sever all contact with me, forever.

I should put "led" in quotes, because Annamie has done precious little of that. Last I looked, she hadn't even left Toronto. For all I said about Toronto singlehandedly electing governments, you have to admit it's a novel strategy when your object is supposedly to gain recognition.
It's sad that the Greens must still gain recognition. Given what's going on with the climate, they should be in power. They are miles and miles and MILES away from that: they're currently polling nationally at 3.4% and are slated to take one, maybe two seats. One of the ridings adjacent to mine is in a statistical three way tie between the Greens, the Cons and the NDP: by all accounts, the guy running for the Greens, Mike Morrice, should be leading the national party. 
I have voted Green provincially, but federally it's  beyond pointless until we get a fair electoral system. 

Saving the titans for last:
  • The Conservative Party of Canada, led by Erin O'Toole (platform here)
Erin has tried to campaign closer to the center than Conservatives usually do. Or maybe it's that Bernier has out-crazied him. Take that platform with an ocean of salt, because O'Toole has flip-flopped on pretty much all of it. And then there's the matter of that slogan, "Securing the Future". That's lifted from the 14 words, the most popular white supremacist credo in the world. In my experience, Conservatives don't care for the future one bit. They vastly prefer the past, when women were barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and those uppity minorities knew their place. I'm also not a fan of their economic policies, which benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
If you strip all the emotion I'm sorry I put in there, though, you're left with a party that wants to conserve -- and I beg you to look at what "business as usual" has done and is doing to our world. 

I feel that the Conservatives are the People's Party with legitimacy, and it really scares me.
  • Finally (whew) the Liberal Party of Canada led by Justin Trudeau. Platform here (pdf)
The question must be asked of any incumbent party, why are you making promises when you've been in power the last four years? You have suddenly noticed housing is a problem, have you? After he reneged on the biggest reason I voted for him, I don't trust him one bit and quite frankly, I'm sick of him. He really is your quintessential liberal: he'll say all the right things about caring, but when push comes to shove, money talks and bullshit walks. I'd rather deal with Conservatives: at least they're honest about their intentions. 

There are six competing and very, very different visions for this country. Please pick one. I know voting feels stupid and it seems awfully symbolic. But it's the only way we can make our voices even heard.

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