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Reversing course after one election? Good luck with that | #cdnpoli #elxn42 #TPP

Posted by Sol Chrom - 35 min 28 sec ago

ship goes down

Yeah, well.

As a couple of friends have pointed out, some of my recent blatherings about voting may seem inconsistent with my “brand.” You know, civic engagement, the responsibilities of citizenship, the obligations we have to society and to each other … yawn.

Can’t be too surprised that that’s not a huge part of the conversation these days. There’s a lot invested in making sure that isn’t, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise either. The more people are all wound up and angry and yelly and distracted, the less energy and attention they have to focus on the underlying stuff. Fill the window with dead cats and all that.

But once again, maybe we step back and look at this within a larger historical context (dear god, I’m going to hit myself in the head with a hammer — ed.). Let’s reframe this over the course of the last 20 or 30 years. What’s been happening?

The gutting of the public sphere.

The devaluation of civil society.

The emasculation of public institutions.

The dismantling of the social safety net.

Austerity, privatization, deregulation, outsourcing, yada yada yada, all served up with noxious sides of deficit hysteria and tax cuts, and the attendant kneecapping of government’s ability to act.

All predating Stephen Harper, nasty though he is. Again, think back a few decades. Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien. Paul Martin. Running through it all, like a river of toxic slime: the successive implementation of the same agenda. “Free trade” regimes that concentrate more and more wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. Nods to the knuckle-draggers aside, Harper’s just peddling more of the same. Seriously, can anyone point to a substantive change in the country’s direction over the past few decades?

All of this has been encouraged and paid for, of course, by the CEOs, the international investor class, their flunkies, and their cheerleaders in the corporate media, along with the Serious and Responsible People who guard the parameters of conversation and gaslight everyone else into thinking that whatever’s left of the “middle class” shares the same values and interests as the business elites. And always with the same themes: need to compete and obey the diktats of the market. Trade barriers need to come down. Labour flexibility. Capital mobility. Safeguard the rights of investors lest they take their money elsewhere. Anything that interferes with the accumulation of private profit becomes a target.

And what’s the effect? Well, what happens to anything that’s consistently attacked, demeaned, belittled, stripped of resources, and corroded? Gradually but steadily, the fabric of society wears away because the things that hold us together and allow us to act with common purpose are systematically undermined. We are isolated, exhausted, and/or distracted in the face of economic precariousness. What’s the point of acting collectively? What can we accomplish in the face of impersonal global forces which, we’re told over and over, are inevitable and irresistible?

Is it any wonder that the notion of citizenship starts to mean less and less? Is it a coincidence that the avenues for meaningful engagement are closed off while we’re distracted with the latest shinyshiny?

I’m not necessarily suggesting there are no differences among Harper and the opposition leaders in terms of policy or commitment to democratic ideals. But I do fear that the sustained assault on the things that hold us together has gone on for so long, and that the damage to our body politic has been so profound, that it may be too late to restore it.

This has been going on for decades. Does anyone really think a mere change of government is going to fix it?

Related posts:

Tagged: apparatus of repression, Canadian politics, citizenship, civic engagement, civic virtue, class warfare, distraction, free trade, international investors, social infrastructure, the public good, the public sphere

The Disgusting Homophobia of Stephen Harper's Filthy Cons

Montreal Simon - 44 min 13 sec ago

Stephen Harper has always been a stealthy but vicious enemy of the LGBT community.

He has voted against every bill or measure designed to protect their human rights.

He believes that being gay is just a choice.

And now I see one of his candidates is following in his master's ghastly footsteps.

And advocating the torture of gay children.

A Conservative candidate in suburban Toronto is defending therapies that attempt to turn gays straight, having penned an editorial that referred to homosexuality as "unnatural behaviour" and heterosexuals as "normal."

Jagdish Grewal, running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial in the Punjabi Post earlier this year entitled, "Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?"

Quoting quacks to back up his grotesque bigoted beliefs, while disregarding the advice of the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Grewal's editorial does not address professional criticism of so-called reparative or conversion therapies. The Canadian Pediatric Society's position on adolescent sexual orientation states that such treatments "should not be provided because they do not work and have the potential to heighten guilt and anxiety."

Even though he is a Sikh and should know all about bigotry.

But then of course he isn't the only Con supporting anti-gay bigotry. So is this foul group in Ontario who are fighting the province's new and eminently reasonable sex education curriculum...

Which the Cons are stealthily supporting for crass political purposes. 

On the federal election trail, Islamophobia keeps thrusting the niqab onto the nightly news. In other news: Homophobia-tinged protests over sex-education are sexing up the election in key federal ridings, allowing Conservative candidates to screw (metaphorically and politically) their Liberal rivals.

The NDP is paying a price for its principled defence of the niqab in Quebec, where the face covering remains especially unpopular. And federal Liberals across Ontario are being crucified for the supposed sins of their provincial Liberal cousins, who dared to update a two-decade-old sex education curriculum with present-day social (and legal) realities about homosexuality (and sexuality).

And by so doing are supporting the barbaric cultural practices they claim to be against. Which couldn't be more ironic.

Oddly for anti-sex-ed Muslim parents, their allies in intolerance of gays are in some cases Conservatives stumping on the campaign trail by stirring up mistrust of Muslims who wear the niqab (which tends to drag down all Muslims).

But do make it clear that Con values are nothing but HATE.

Jagdish Grewal is an ignorant scumbag who would torture gay kids, and help kill them.

And Stephen Harper is a low life bigot who must be defeated if our Canada is to live...

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I Should Go Away More Often

The Disaffected Lib - 4 hours 45 min ago

It's pleasant having a few days off, in this case for a daughter's wedding.  Let's put it another way - no news is good news, at least every now and then.

This morning I hit up CBC's web site to learn that they figure the election is now a two way knife fight. They're calling the runoff Trudeau versus Harper. Mulcair, it seems, is being written off.

"What [Justin] Trudeau's team is trying to do, what Trudeau is trying to do, is look at who they would deem is their prime competition, which is the prime minister," said Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer. "Likewise, you won't see the prime minister mentioning [Tom] Mulcair very much from now on until the end."

The Conservative and Liberal battleground is well known — the Greater Toronto Area and Lower Mainland of B.C., Lietaer said, and both parties "will be throwing everything they've got" into those two areas, trying to drive home their message to Canadians.

"I expect there to be a very clear choice presented by both the Liberals and the Conservatives over the next two weeks about what the various options are. At the very end of this, there's very likely to be either Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And I think both of them won't shy away from, in their own way, presenting that choice."

Much as I hate to give unsolicited advice to New Dems maybe,  just maybe, this is the time for Mr. Mulcair to decide whether he really wants Harper to be prime minister again.

Destroyer Down - Again

The Disaffected Lib - 4 hours 54 min ago

Canada's geriatric Atlantic fleet flagship, HMCS Athabaskan, is getting a reputation for impromptu port calls when its tired engines falter and fail.

The old warrior was on its way to scare the bejeezus out of Vlad Putin when one of its engines crapped out sending it dockside in the UK to await repairs.  Ottawa Citizen defence correspondent, David Pugliese, writes that the navy's last destroyer, a veteran of 43-years service, has been having a pretty rough time of it lately.

HMCS Athabaskan, the flagship of Canada’s Atlantic fleet, was also sidelined earlier in the summer with cracks in its hull and various other engine issues, the Citizen reported in July.

Earlier this year, the ship broke down in Florida because of engine problems. It later broke down in the Caribbean, again because of engine issues.

HMCS Athabaskan sailors have contacted the Citizen to note a litany of problems, including limitations on fresh water on board the vessel. The ship has also been stripped of some of its radars and weapon systems, sailors say.

But the navy says it has confidence in the ship’s ability to continue to meet its duties. “It should be mentioned that HMCS Athabaskan’s role within the fleet has evolved over time,” said navy spokeswoman Lt. Linda Coleman. “During its service life, it has served as a platform capable of long-range anti-submarine warfare, area air defence, and enhanced command and control. Today, HMCS Athabaskan continues to fill a role that meets the current requirements of the fleet.”

The navy is trying to cope with a dwindling number of ships. The destroyers HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Iroquois were recently decommissioned. Iroquois was taken out of service after cracks were found in her hull. Another destroyer, HMCS Huron, was decommissioned, then sunk in 2007.

Of course Athabaskan's role "has evolved over time." With any luck, some day it'll evolve into an artificial reef.

The Real Bruce Carson Scandal - The One You Paid For

The Disaffected Lib - 5 hours 31 min ago
Former Harper aide Bruce Carson had a one-day trial last month for illegal lobbying. That involved a water purification venture that he pitched to First Nations groups on behalf of his then stripper/escort/girlfriend.  Dirty Old Man stuff indeed.

But old Brucie's fat is still very much in the fire. This time it goes beyond Carson's sordid indulgences and extends right into Harper's cabinet, his PMO, the University of Calgary and Canada's major oil producers.  The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk describes it as Canada's biggest political scandal you never heard of.

The tale involves Big Oil, millions of taxpayer dollars, call girls and someone the RCMP describes as "one of the prime minister's longest serving advisors": Bruce Carson.

And it largely took place at Stephen Harper's alma mater: the University of Calgary between 2009 and 2011 with a cast of industry CEOs as well as several Harper ministers and aides, including Nigel Wright.

The basic plan was to use $15 million in taxpayers' money for a university think-tank, chaired by Carson, to foster with industry and the federal government a plan to rebrand the oilsands mega-project as "responsible" and "sustainable" and "clean."

The name of that think-tank Carson would run: the Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE).


The 1989 Lobbying Act bans public office holders from lobbying for five years after they have left office.

The act requires anyone paid to communicate or set up meetings with federal public office holders on a variety of subjects set out in the statute to register their activities in the Registry of Lobbyists, a federal list with more than 5,000 names.

The act, however, is weakly enforced and full of loopholes. Between 2005 and 2010, the nation's lobbying commissioner referred only 11 cases to the RCMP. No charges were laid.

Since then the Office of the Lobbying Commissioner, the RCMP and Crown prosecutors have decided not to penalize 67 lobbyists caught violating the act and Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.

Their identities have been kept secret.

To date, only one person has been found guilty of violating the act, and only two other people have been charged with violating it, including Bruce Carson.

Democracy Watch calculates that nearly 1,600 people have violated the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists' Code of Conduct since 2004, but that 95 per cent of them were not caught and that 81 per cent were left off the hook.

"Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd has clearly failed to enforce the federal lobbying law and code effectively as she has failed to even name and shame 81 per cent of the lobbyists caught violating the law," saidDuff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa in a 2015 press release.

"Together with the RCMP and Crown prosecutors, she has a negligently weak enforcement record as bad as the former integrity commissioner's record, and so Democracy Watch is calling on the auditor general to do a similar review as the auditor did in 2010 of the former integrity commissioner's performance."

Conacher says the act needs to be strengthened as recommended by a 2012 reportby the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information to end secret and unethical lobbying.

The Harper government promised during the 2006 election to end secret lobbying of the federal government, but to date it has not kept its promise. -- Andrew Nikiforuk

The whole case shows clearly that [the] prime minister didn't care about the ethics of who worked for him as long as he thought they could help him win and stay in power," says Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa.

"And it shows clearly that the Conservatives broke their promises to clean up the federal government."

Which brings us back to the PMO and Harper's litany of lies when the media finally got wise to the jailbird in the prime minister's office. In true Harper form, this equally unprincipled prime minister, anted up with the opening lie. This began with the story that Harper was let down by his staffers who failed to properly vet Carson before he was allowed into the PMO. Harper said if only he'd known about Carson's criminal background he would have never set foot inside the PMO. When that bluff didn't work, Harper went for the follow-up lies, eventually conceding that he knew just a little bit of Carson's background but thought the guy deserved a second chance, an opportunity for redemption.
By Nikiforuk's account, that was all pure, unadulterated, prime ministerial bullshit.
Carson, who looks like pugilist, long has had ties to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. He served as director of policy and research for the federal leader of the Opposition from 2004 to 2006.

Harper liked what he saw. After the election Harper promptly elevated Carson to senior advisor from 2006 to 2008. In 2009, Carson also assisted the government with its federal budget.

The political power broker had a formidable reputation. He often described himself as the "mechanic," a political fixer who got things done in the corridors of power.

In fact, Harper often began conversations with his former top advisor "in his usual complimentary way," writes Carson, by saying since you are "familiar with every vice known to man," can you help me with this or that problem.

..."The Duffy scandal was about trying to cover up an expenses scandal, but the Carson saga shows the rot goes much deeper," says Keith Stewart, head of the climate and energy campaign for Greenpeace Canada.

"Carson could lobby for the oil industry at the highest levels without anyone raising an eyebrow because the Harper government forgot that they work for Canadians, not oil CEOs."

The courts have yet to rule on any of the charges against Carson.

Stewart met Carson just once at an Energy Café organized by Shell in Calgary in 2011 before Carson's energy world came undone.

According to Stewart, when Stewart introduced himself, Carson blurted: "Will you take down that blog you wrote about me?"

Stewart's blog detailed EPIC's lobbying efforts. But Carson was most upset that Stewart had mentioned that the former advisor had been disbarred as a lawyer.

The blog remains.

Putin Rides to the Defence of Westphalia

The Disaffected Lib - 6 hours 26 min ago
Few would dispute that Vlad Putin can be a little thuggish but, when it comes to Russian intervention in Syria, his arguments do hold some water.

Putin points an accusing finger at the West's recent history of demolishing sovereign states and leaving utter chaos in their wake - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo and now Syria. Our side doesn't have a lot of successes to boast of - unless you consider Grenada or Panama great victories. Mark Twain was thinking of someone remarkably like us when he wrote that, to a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Experts in this sort of thing regularly point out that, around the world, the nation state is becoming an endangered species.  The stitching is beginning to fray from any number of causes - ethnic tensions and tribalism; the rise of non-state actors from militias to rebels, insurgents and organized, transnational criminal gangs; water and food insecurity and the destabilizing ravages of climate change.  The status quo that once held us together domestically and internationally is weakening and, in some obvious hotspots, collapsing.

The very concept of state sovereignty is considered to be rooted in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.  It embodied notions of territorial integrity, self-determination, legal equality between states and non-intervention. The Soviets, in their time, wiped their boots on these principles but, in the course of this century, it's been the West that has tossed Westphalia into the rubbish bin, which, in the context of Syria, presented Putin with an open door.

"The only way to solve this problem for good is to restore statehood where it has been destroyed," Putin said, by shoring up "the legitimate government of Syria".

A leading Putinologist at the Brookings Institution, Fiona Hill, told me: "There shouldn't be so much mystification about what the Russians are doing. They've been very consistent and very direct. They've been asking: if not Assad, who? They want to see a strongman in place who can keep order."

What else does Russia want in Syria? Some hawks charge that Putin's decision looks like a campaign to make Russia a major military power in the entire Middle East. But Hill and other experts describe Russian goals as more limited and practical, and even defensive.

The Assad regime has been Russia's most dependable ally in the Middle East for more than 40 years. Assad's father, president Hafez Assad, asked the Soviet Union for military aid and gave the Soviet navy a base in Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast, in 1971, when Bashar Assad was six years old.

Russia's initial airstrikes were clearly designed to help Assad defend his home territory in western Syria against a growing rebel threat. That's why the first targets included units of the US-backed rebel coalition instead of Islamic State, which is concentrated in eastern Syria.

Still, Russia is worried about Islamic State, too. Russian officials say more than 2000 Russian citizens have joined the extremist group, many of them Muslims from Chechnya, the rebellious republic in southern Russia. "Now that those thugs have tasted blood, we can't allow them to return home," Putin said at the UN.

So Russia is involved in Syria for practical domestic reasons, not merely the pursuit of prestige. But global factors are real, too. Mired in diplomatic isolation by his 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Putin clearly didn't mind being able to command a meeting with the US President last week.

And that brings us to American policy in Syria, which is, alas, much less clear than Russia's. While Russia has sent planes and troops to shore up its client, Obama has refused to put American forces directly into the fight, except for airstrikes against Islamic State.

Putin's policy is ugly – Russian airstrikes produced immediate reports of civilian casualties – but effective for its purpose. Obama's policy is high-minded and prudent, but it has been painfully ineffective.

US officials think Putin's strategy will in the long run earn Russia lasting enmity from the Sunni Arabs who are a majority in the Middle East. But in the short run, Putin appears to be getting what he wants: a guaranteed seat at the table.

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Droit au but!

Dammit Janet - 6 hours 30 min ago
Straight into the goal. NOT.

Are arrogant old creeps with an exalted sense of entitlement drawn to Olympic organizations because of the perks: a wide field of physically admirable and goal-oriented young women and men?

Slimy Marcel Aubut, ex-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, is a long-time practitioner of a medieval tradition known as "le droit de cuissage". The term was revived in the French media following allegations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 

And it was tolerated because Aubut is wealthy, a gregarious schmoozer (he's an habitué of grandiose sporting events such as the Montréal's Grand Prix), politically well-connected, a successful fundraiser, etc. etc. 

Doesn't that sound familiar: habitual sexual harasser gets away with it because other men in the organization find it more beneficial to pretend it isn't happening.  Women who speak up are told to deal, to be a "good sport" about it or to look for another job. Rarely is the problem fixed - that is, the harasser told to stop.

In case you thought his repellent actions were only directed at menial support staff members, "good ol' boy" Marcel always rose to any "opportunity" in a skirt.
TVA reported that Aubut settled a sexual harassment claim at his law firm, Heenan Blaikie, in 2011, over groping, verbal harassment and inviting a woman into a room only to show up wearing boxer shorts. In La Presse, lawyer and Canadian Soccer Association board member Amelia Salehabadi-Fouques alleged Aubut forcibly kissed her in a restaurant, verbally harassed her, and tried to enter her hotel room, also in 2011.
Seems COC did try to read the riot act to Aubut.  Just as some un-neutered old dogs still try to hump just about anything in sight, some privileged old white men just can't stop playing their vile old patriarchal tricks.

Aubut's most recent peccadillo was a covert operation jiggered with Toronto Mayor John Tory as they colluded in trying to finagle an Olympic bid without the approbation of city council.

My co-blogger fern hill led the charge, writing and tweeting in support of #NoTO2024.  Her trenchant blogposts on that issue are here.

But now, Aubut has *resigned*.  I suspect he was given a spectacularly shiny golden handshake to speed him on his way.  Hopefully the women who had to endure his groping, his greasy kisses and his disgusting salacious comments in the work environment were just as generously compensated.

Ha! Kidding! Unless they hired a lawyer to secure a financial agreement, the COC will give them nothing for the humiliation they suffered

Finally: remember that one woman got very angry, d'une crisse de sainte colère and officially filed a complaint about Aubut's actions.  She was the tipping point, actually more than that: 
“I hope people don’t lose sight of the strength it took for this lady to come forward, faced with a very, very powerful individual,” says Rudge. “And to have the courage to challenge what had gone on, and the courage of her convictions to follow through and get a resolution to an issue for many, many other women who weren’t in a position to come forward.”

That, as much as anything, is the underlying lesson in all this. Nobody truly challenged Marcel Aubut, until somebody did. If you’re looking for the Olympian in all this, there you go.

What Does He Say In Private?

Northern Reflections - 7 hours 58 min ago


The differences between the Liberals and the Conservatives are getting starker. Susan Delacourt writes:

If this election is distilling down to a potentially ugly culture war in the final two weeks before the vote, much could rest on how Canadians feel about the people living around them.

Trudeau gave an important speech in Brampton on Sunday — one that all those who have dismissed him as ‘not ready’ probably ought to see for themselves. This being an election and all, it was analyzed immediately afterward through the prism of political strategy — for its ability to mobilize support, to give the Liberals the impression of momentum, and so on.

Simply put, Trudeau is clearly gambling that if Canadians have to choose between generosity and suspicion toward their neighbours, they will summon up their generous side. If that’s your view, the Brampton speech on Sunday probably spoke to your Canada in a way we haven’t seen in this country in a long time.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, are -- and always have been -- suspicious of their neighbours:

In case you missed it, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Women’s Minister Kellie Leitch announced the establishment of a special RCMP “tip line” for citizens to report people they suspect of indulging in “barbaric cultural practices.”

Already, the announcement has sparked widespread parody, including the website, which lays out all the ways in which Conservative policies also could be regarded as culturally offside, if not “barbaric.”

In Winnipeg last week, Conservative MP Joyce Bateman presented a list of Liberal candidates she alleged to be anti-Israel, clearly believing it would be a crowd-pleaser at a debate sponsored by B’nai B’rith. It was not. She was booed down by many attendees and at least one shouted “shameful” as she tried to read out her list.

It's all very Nixonian. It's worth remembering that, on the White House Tapes, Nixon called Trudeau the Elder an "asshole." Pierre's response to the news was that he had been "called worse things by better people."

One wonders what Harper says about Trudeau the Younger in private.

Political Shifts and the (apparent) Falling fortunes of the NDP . . . .

kirbycairo - 8 hours 13 min ago
The apparent gradual decline in NDP fortunes over the course of this gruellingly long campaign has carried a morbid fascination for me. As polls stand today, the NDP are thoroughly out of this race now (at least in terms of forming government), the Liberal Party seems to be on the gradual uptick and the Cons, though they received a racist bump in the polls, are basically holding steady. The polls at the moment seem to point toward a fairly large number of people switching from the NDP to the Liberals in the past few weeks, and the Liberals are now ahead in Ontario and threaten to actually overtake an NDP lead in Quebec that once seemed unassailable.

Predictably, there is a lot of blog-chatter concerning these recent movement in the polls. Is the NDP decline a result of a poorly run campaign? Is it a result of Tom Mulcair's apparent abandonment of traditional NDP leftist ground? It is it a demonstration that is ultimately, despite temporary shifts, an expression of the long-standing status quo of the Conservative/Liberal strangle-hold on Canadian politics.

Let me say right off that it doesn't appear to me that the NDP decline is a result of the party's abandonment of its leftist tradition. As far as I can see, people are simply partisan, they care surprisingly little about what 'their' party's actually policies are. The majority of people seem to be lead around by the nose by their party and fall continually for their talking points and various emotional appeals. Supporting a political party seems, for many people, like supporting a sports team - it is not a rational decision, that is just "my" team and I am sticking with it. The most obvious demonstration of this attitude is actually the Conservative Party. There is very little that is conservative about the contemporary Conservative Party, yet their base of support remains remarkably steady. You would think that a Conservative PM running six or seven straight deficits would turn off Conservative voters, but it doesn't.  Harper once said, and most conservative say they agree, that stimulus spending does nothing to help the economy and that running a deficit under any conditions is just an attempt to buy votes. But Harper's total performative hypocrisy on this matter has done nothing to the core of Conservative support. Furthermore, though Harper has made guns (particularly assault rifles) easier to get in Canada, he has dubious credentials on the libertarian front - he has significantly increased police and state powers, something Conservatives (particularly of the North American variety) usually say that they strongly oppose. Harper has done nothing to protect the environment. On the contrary, he has basically gutted most of our environmental protections. Hardly a traditional conservative value. Harper has done nothing to further the social conservative cause either. He never made any attempts to limit abortion and left gay marriage alone. Harper is not 'conservative,' he is 'corporatists' plain and simple. But people who vote Conservative have simply chosen their team and are sticking with it. Rightly or wrongly, many people (and many traditional NDP supporters included) contend that the NDP has abandoned their traditional left position in many ways, yet their core support appears to remain unchanged. It is very difficult to contend that the NDP of today is anywhere near as left as the NDP of Ed Broadbent, but the core remains unshaken.

I also don't believe, as some of my blogging peers contend, that the NDP has fallen in their fortunes because they have run a poor campaign. The NDP has certainly run an uninspiring and uninspired campaign, but then so have the other two major parties. The NDP has failed to be bold or particularly interesting but there has been nothing that I could say that could be defined as a "gaff" in their campaign. In fact the Liberals have been the only of the three major parties that could be said to have run a "good" campaign and that is only because Trudeau has exceeded expectations and has not particularly faltered.

I think the NDP decline is fairly simple to explain actually. It is the result of two factors. The first is that the soft support in Quebec has evaporated, and the second is that its apparent support in the rest of the country was largely illusory. The NDP support in Quebec began to evaporate when they released their fiscal platform. I think that Mulcair's deficit fetishism is the primary factor in the NDP losing support in that province. It seems that Quebecers are tired of "austerity" attitudes and they were just turned off by Mulcair's apparent need to stick to a "balanced" budget. Proof of this is that since Trudeau came forward with his "infrastructure"  investment plan, the Liberals have been on the steady rise in Quebec and are now nearly tied with the NDP in a couple of polls. I think that the Niqab issue has been relatively small in actual voting intentions. Both Mulcair and Trudeau have been fairly clear in articulating their support for the court's decision and the need to support religious freedoms, but the Liberals have been on the uptick while the NDP has faltered, suggesting that this is not the primary factor in voter intention changes. The second reason that the NDP has fallen in the polls is, I think, that the high status that they enjoyed in the polls in the first part of the campaign was a kind of false reading. I think that during those heady days of the Duffy trial a lot of Conservative voters were pissed off and embarrassed to admit that they would support the Conservatives, and since many Con voters would never vote Liberal on principle (and would particularly never vote for someone named Trudeau), and since Mulcair's political style seems similar to Harper's, this skewed  a lot of polls and created the illusion that the NDP had a chance at forming government. A lot of Con voters were just saying that they were going to vote NDP out of anger with no actual intention of voting for that party. As the election has neared and the Cons have effectively diverted a lot of attention away from their terrible corruption and incompetence, some of the supposed support for the NDP has just dissipated. Meanwhile, the Liberals (again, rightly or wrongly) have managed to place themselves in the perception of many as somewhat revitalized party with a slightly left of centre slant. This has meant that some voters have returned to the party and some people who are soft NDP voters are thinking maybe the Liberals are a worthwhile alternative to Harper. Furthermore, as the election nears I suspect the Liberal numbers will rise as the "anyone but Harper" crowd sees the Liberals as the party most likely to beat the Conservatives.

However, the falling fortunes of the NDP doesn't trouble me that much. I think that there is little doubt that the political discourse in the world and Canada is changing. As I have said before this change is a result of the near total failure of Neo-Liberalism to deliver greater prosperity or equality, the growing precariousness of people's lives, and the entrance of a new generation into political life. The first significantly noticeable change in this regard was the so-called "Occupy" movement. We are now seeing changing attitudes in economic orthodoxy everywhere, increased talk of the need to address inequality, genuine movement in the IMF and World Bank, and a change in discourse among many political parties. These kinds of changes are very slow and they have barely arrived in Canada, and so far have left our politicians largely untouched. But the very fact that a national leader like Trudeau is talking publicly about running deficits with the intention of investing in infrastructure is a sign of this shift. The truth is that regardless of one's political beliefs, it is pretty clear that neither Trudeau nor Mulcair represent a deep change in political policies. And because of the depth of Harper's threat to even basic democracy and civility in Canada, this election is not really representative of the looming political shift that is just beginning. Anyone who is not stupid enough to support the Conservatives is largely in panic mode hoping to get rid of this political pariah and get to a government, any government, that actually respects the Constitution, the rule of law, the traditions of democracy and Westminster and won't continue to dismantle the very basics of our political system. Getting rid of Harper (if we can actually do it) if the first step in a long journey. I am not too worried about the apparent falling fortunes of the NDP because ultimately I believe that Mulcair is, like Harper, yesterday's man. And in the political change that is coming the NDP as well as the Liberals will have to rebuild themselves in response to what will be radically different views about government and the economy in the coming 20 years.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 8 hours 20 min ago
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood highlights how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will do little but strengthen the hand of the corporate sector against citizens. Duncan Cameron notes that even in the face of a full-court press for ever more stringent corporate controls, there's plenty of well-justified skepticism about the TPP. And Olivia Chow compiles both plenty more concerns with the TPP, and the evidence that the Cons' obsession with trade agreements is doing nothing to help Canada economically.

- Upstream calls for Canadians to vote for a healthier society in the upcoming federal election. And Kimberly Noble points out how poverty and deprivation affect children's development - resulting in worse results for everybody. 

- Catherine Latimer discusses the prison crisis created by the Cons' combination of dumb-on-crime policies and lack of investment to deal with the increased demands on the correctional system.

- The CCPA provides a much-needed overview of the Harper Cons' disastrous record over their past two terms in power.

- Which means it's no surprise that the Cons are left with little but fearmongering to try to cling to power as pointed out by Heather Libby. But Sandy Garossino writes that Harper and company are putting women at risk with their choice of targets for xenophobia and exclusion. And Joseph Heath rightly argues that the Cons have gone far beyond the realm of defensible policy to the point where there's no innocent or reasonable explanation for their choices:
I usually lean towards the more charitable interpretation of people’s motives. And I try very hard to be charitable with conservatives, in part because I disagree with them on so many points, and so am likely to be biased in the direction of being uncharitable. Thus I have really been working hard to resist the tendency – which many of my colleagues have – of writing off the Conservative Party entirely, as being outside the scope of “reasonable” political conviction. I’ve also been doing what I can to encourage centre-right conservatives to be more assertive in controlling the drift into extreme ideological positions that one can see in the right wing in Canada. At this point, however, I’m starting to have trouble. My most charitable reading of the current situation is that it can be blamed on this Australian strategist they brought in, who’s basically been telling them to play the anti-Islam card, because hey, what does he care what happens to the country – he doesn’t have to live here (never thought I would find myself missing Jenni Byrne!). But even then, I’m having doubts.

Psychologically, I’m starting to feel that I should put the Conservative Party of Canada into the same mental category that most people put the National Front in France – not as a representative of a reasonable political position, but as more of a cancer on the body politic. For the moment I’m still resisting that – holding out some faith in the decency of Canadians – but the way things are going I may need to reconsider.

The one thing I can say, however, is that after Friday’s press conference, I can no longer regard it as morally acceptable for anyone to vote for the Conservative Party of Canada. A week ago, I could still persuade myself that reasonable people could disagree over how to vote in this election, but no longer.

A Quick Thought About The TPP

Politics and its Discontents - 8 hours 38 min ago

I was not planning to write about the Trans Pacific Partnership deal gleefully announced by Mr. Harper yesterday, trade and economics not being my strong suits. However, looking at the overall details of what it entails prompts me to make an observation.

First, a few of the details:

Beef and Pork
Under the deal, Canada could double or triple its annual beef exports to Japan to nearly $300 million, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. The beef industry would see a phase out in tariffs to those countries from 39 per cent to 9 per cent over 15 years. The deal also secures Canada’s ability to export more pork to Japan, where producers sell roughly $1 billion worth of the meat annually.Fish and Seafood
The deal means far greater access for Canadian producers to other Pacific Rim markets. Canadian seafood — from frozen fish to fresh crab and lobster —is currently slapped with tariffs of up to 15 per cent in Japan and Malaysia, 34 per cent in Vietnam and 5 per cent in New Zealand. The tariffs on fish and seafood to those countries would be gone within a decade. Japan imports a number of premium seafood products from Canada such as crab, shrimp, lobster, herring roe, sea urchins, salmon and halibut.Forestry/wood products
About $1 billion in Canadian forest products were subject to tariffs last year. Exports to countries like Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia will gradually be reduced, thereby increasing access for these products.

Metals and Mining
Iron and steel products would benefit from Japan eliminating tariffs of up to 6.3 per cent within 10 years, Vietnam wiping out tariffs of up to 40 per cent within 10 years, Malaysia doing away with tariffs of up to 25 per cent within a decade, and Australia cutting tariffs of up to 5 per cent within four years. I trust that you can see the pattern here. The gains under this deal for Canada reside almost exclusively in what are called primary industries. What is a primary industry?
An industry involved in the extraction and collection of natural resources, such as copper and timber, as well as by activities such as farming and fishing. A company in a primary industry can also be involved in turning natural resources into products.

Primary industry tends to make up a larger portion of the economy of developing countries than they do for developed countries. It seems to me that the deal Canada is entering into is merely a continuation of the Harper retrograde vision of Canada as the traditional hewer of wood and drawer of water, a vision he based the bulk of our economic hopes on in his relentless promotion of the Alberta tarsands.

Value-added jobs will take a real hit under the TPP:

Automobiles and Auto Parts
An auto will need to contain just 45 per cent TPP content to qualify for free trade. And for auto parts, the figure is 40 per cent. that’s down from 62.5 per cent and 60 per cent respectively under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which this will replace. Japan already offers duty-free access to passenger vehicles and auto parts. Canada agreed to phase out its 6.1 per cent tariff on imported vehicles over five years. Malaysia and Vietnam, which have tariffs of 35 per cent and 74 per cent respectively, agree to phase them out over 12 years. According to Unifor president Jerry Dias, that betrayal concession will cost upwards of 20,000 auto industry jobs.

And what do we get in return? Long-term elimination of tariffs that may allow for more sales of industrial pumps, medical equipment, and harvesters and mowers.

As well, there is the opening up of Canada's dairy market, in exchange for which Harper is promising billions of our tax dollars to farmers who will suffer losses.

I'll leave it to others with more wisdom to decide if all of this sounds like it will produce a net benefit for Canada.

Recommend this Post

How to Use Strategic Voting to Defeat the Bigot Cons

Montreal Simon - 9 hours 27 min ago

Stephen Harper and his Aussie attack monster Lynton Crosby must be delighted. 

Not only do they now have the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to wave around as a shiny bauble to try to distract voters.

The niqab issue is back in the spotlight. 

The Federal Court of Appeal has denied the application for a stay of the Federal Court ruling in favour of Zunera Ishaq, clearing the way for her to wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony.

So they can hope to keep riding it to victory.
Read more »

votepopup: voter education at the library

we move to canada - 10 hours 57 min ago
On the long list of anti-democratic policies the majority Harper Government has enacted, the Orwellian-named Fair Elections Act ranks near the top. More properly called a voter suppression law, the Act effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Canadians.
The Council of Canadians has taken the issue to court, including an ongoing Charter Challenge, but those won't affect the upcoming election. That means there's only one way to lessen the effects: voter education. 
Last night at the Malton Library, we contributed to that effort, with #VotePopUp, a voter education program for new Canadians. 
Some weeks ago, I learned that one of our libraries had hosted this program, and jumped onboard. I worked with an amazing community organizer, who has a bit of funding from Samara Canada and Elections Canada, and copious amounts of know-how through the Peel Poverty Action Group and her own nonprofit, Building Up Our Communities.
I promoted the program through various community organizations in Malton, and by chance it was scheduled on the same night as a newcomer ESL class, known here as LINC: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. These programs have been hit hard by Conservative and Liberal budget cuts (do you see a pattern here?), but thanks to dedicated teachers and social workers, they survive.
So last night, 39 adults crowded into a room in the Malton Community Centre to talk about voting. 
Why vote? Am I eligible to vote? Where do I vote? What ID do I need? How do I mark the ballot? ... and a few dozen similar questions were answered. Many of the students have voted in their original countries and are very keen to do so in Canada. Many of their original countries make voting much easier; others, more difficult. 
The program is completely nonpartisan, of course. By another excellent coincidence, there is an all-candidates meeting in Malton tonight, the night following the program. We were able to distribute flyers and explain what would happen at that meeting.
The presenter had prepared a mock ballot, and students chose the issue most important to them: jobs, transit, education, healthcare, and so on. Jobs won by a landslide. Using that, I was able to demonstrate how this would tie in with an all-candidates meeting: "What will your party do to bring more jobs to my community?" 
The library is the perfect place for a program like this. Our customers can use free, public computers to register to vote or look up their polling station. They can ask experts for free (and friendly!) help. They can use their library cards as a piece of voting ID. The public library is all about democracy and levelling the grossly unfair playing field. Voter education is naturally a piece of that picture.

The Day Stephen Harper Sold the Canadian Farm

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 23:58

Well it took him almost ten years, to destroy Canada as we once knew it. 

But I see Stephen Harper and his porky Cons have finally sold the farm.

A free-trade deal that opens a small part of the Canadian dairy market to cheaper foreign imports could spell the beginning of the end for the country’s dairy supply management system, and push inefficient farmers out of business, observers say.

And so much for our family farmers.
Read more »

Protest song

Dawg's Blawg - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 19:08
Yeah, I know, this is a family blog. But I can’t help preferring this to Harperman. Let’s stop trying to make the case. If we haven’t made it by now, we wont in the next two weeks. Let’s just get... Dr.Dawg

On uncosted liabilities

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 17:27
So even from the sketchy details made public so far, and even leaving aside the more general harm done by limiting government action and entrenching corporate monopolies, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will cost Canada:
Naturally, none of those costs were taken into account in the budgets being relied on by any of Canada's political parties in developing their platforms. But now that we know they'll come with the TPP (while any supposed benefits tend to be longer-term to the extent they materialize at all), can we agree that any party open to ratifying the deal has to account for the price in its platform for the next four years?

Guest Post - End the Bureaucracy: UMSU won’t solve our Problems

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 08:30
Note: I spoke to a concerned student at the University of Manitoba about current events involving the University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) and the administration. They expressed a number of concerns and I, The Analyst, asked if they would be willing to summarize the situation for interested members of the public. They agreed to submit a summary of the problems at hand geared towards University of Manitoba students. Presented below are the thoughts and arguments of the concerned student, not me. They have been edited for the blog format.

Is power at the University of Manitoba too centralized
with the administration? In today's guest post, a
U of M student argues it is.

Image Source: University of Manitoba Administration
Building, obtained from Wikipedia.
We are often told that we are facing a financial crisis at the University of Manitoba, but what is ignored is that we are facing a political crisis as well. This crisis is driven by the structure of our university’s decision making process, and the political actors such as the administration and UMSU executives. Bureaucratic structure
The university administration has attacked students. The attack can be most clearly seen in the budget cuts and fee increases that were passed this May, 2015. Depletion in the quality of our education, cuts to programs and courses, a loss of services across campus, a drop in community morale, and, despite University VP Academic Joanne Keselman’s claim that increasing tuition makes the university more accessible, an increase in barriers to accessibility were visible results.
But the attack on students existed long before the vote on this year’s budget. The process, or system, that generates these harmful decisions is the larger problem that plagues thisuniversity as well as many others.
The process in which the budget is created is incredibly opaque, as are many other decision making processes on neoliberal campuses.
The majority of budgetary decisions are made by a tight group of senior administration and by the Budget Advisory Committee – a small group completely lacking in transparency that meets throughout the year. These meetings are closed off to the public, including the university community. No minutes are published, and any documents dispersed are not allowed to enter the public domain. What a shame it would be for the university if their proposals could be properly scrutinized by the great minds of our campus.
Students who begin to question budgetary decisions, such as the $3.6 million transfer from the operating budget to the capital budget to pay offthe Welcome Centre, or the plans for developing movie theatres on purchased golf courses, are directed by the administration to the University’s Strategic Planning Framework and Strategic Plan. But this plan was created without student consultations that could create any binding decisions. This means that the consultations with students could only end in recommendations that the admins were free to ignore.
Once the budget proposals have been created, they are passed on to the Board of Governors (BoG) for a rubber stamp of approval. Students, who comprise the vast majority of the campus community, are given 6 out of 23 seats - 3 of these seats are given to UMSU who have traditionally given one of these seats to a University of Manitoba Graduate Students' Association (UMGSA) representative. These board members are only given a single week to review the proposal before it is voted on, with no alternative offered. This decision came at a time when many student board members were preparing for exams.
The university both keeps us in the dark, and acts as if we are having our voices heard. They have created a façade of democracy where students are led to believe that they make decisions that in fact come from a small group atop the administrative hierarchy. This fake democracy conceals our lack of power on campus and creates passive tendencies in students.

A question that is surely on the minds of many students is what the two UMSU representative’s positions were on the budget that was passed. The purpose of a union is to advocate for better and just conditions for its members. The last public stance made by UMSU’s executives seemed to reflect this when they claimed they were against budget cuts in a letter published by the Manitoban on December 4th, 2014.
But the phrase “action speaks louder than words” comes to mind, as UMSU VP of Advocacy Rebecca Kunzman refused to stand in opposition to the cuts and international fee increases, abstaining from voting while offering no amendments to the budget proposal. UMSU President Jeremiah Kopp voted in favour of the proposed cuts and international fee hikes, with no objection or amendments to the budget.
Our executives are failing us. On Friday, May 15th, students from the Student Action Network (SAN) met with voting student members of the BoG in an attempt to have them vote in opposition to the budget proposals. Despite our efforts, despite the outcry and activism of the international community, and the hundreds of students who participated in the rallies and marches of last year, it was evident that Kopp had already made his mind to vote in favour.
It is has been said time and time again by student bureaucrats that “process is process”. But this reinforcement of the bureaucratic structure allows the administration to avoid responsibility for the dire situation it has created. It allows them to continue with the façade of democracy, pushing the blame onto the broader community who is not at fault and is ultimately powerless.
Our UMSU executives have confused the end goals of unions with the means of attaining those goals. While good relations between our union and the administration can perhaps streamline the procedure of advocating for students, these relations must never be prioritized above the condition of students themselves. Better conditions for students must be the goal. Their confusion is manifested in their support of the budget, and their refusal to oppose administration.
Where do we go from here? Our first step is to recognize that budget allocations are political choices, as are tuition increases. The austere conditions facing the community today are a result of the choices made at the hands of an administration.
Until UMSU takes issue with the processes it participates in, they can do little to solve our problems. It is not enough to ask them, or the administration, to make different choices on our behalf. The bureaucrats and their choices are a problem, but the problem also lies with the bureaucratic structure.
If the administration were to become reasonable before the next round of cuts, they would still be able to make terrible decisions on our behalf in the future. Instead, we must be able to make the choices ourselves. The university is a diverse and public intellectual centre that deserves a proper democratic process. The recently revived Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) has begun to make headway towards a participatory budget for the University of Manitoba as well as the University of Winnipeg. No doubt this is a step in the right direction, and one we must push the administration to adopt. Hope that we may progress towards a democracy – one that listens to domestic and international students, workers, and faculty – is inspiring.
But our efforts must not end there. Problems such as quotas, differential GPAs, and an increasingly privatized campus cannot all be fought for, or even discussed, within the scope of a budget. We must democratize other aspects of campus as well.

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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 08:16
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Joseph Heath discusses how the Volkswagen emission cheating scandal fits into a particular type of corporate culture:
(W)hen the Deepwater Horizon tragedy occurred, or now the VW scandal, it was hardly surprising to people who follow these things. Certain industries essentially harbour and reproducing deviant subcultures. This is one of the reasons that much of the best work on white collar crime has been inspired by, and draws upon, work in juvenile delinquency. Whereas delinquents tend to exist in subcultures that reproduce deviant attitudes toward authority, many corporations reproduce subcultures that promote organized resistance to regulation.

This is a well-known feature of the automobile industry, and apparently this is what was happening at VW as well. One executive, speaking anonymously, blamed “the company’s isolation, its clannish board and a deep-rooted hostility to environmental regulations among its engineers. “
What can be said about this? Perhaps a few lessons: First, it serves as a helpful reminder that white collar crime remains a very serious social problem, one that attracts far too little public concern. This is partly because of an almost entirely supine business press – it remains that case that while the “news” section of newspapers focuses very heavily on criticizing the government, the “business” section almost never criticizes business, and does almost no investigative reporting or muckracking. (Notice that while political scandals are almost always uncovered by political reporters, the VW story was not broken by an “automotive” reporter.) Second, it is important to be aware that these criminogenic business subcultures, once developed, can be extremely difficult to eliminate. Thus it is a very important responsibility of management to set the right tone, to keep a careful eye on the corporate culture, and to take hard line when things start to get out of hand. Finally, there are many people who, for reasons of political ideology, are strongly critical of environmental law, health and safety regulation, financial regulation, the FDA, etc. These political ideologies are often appealed to by corporate criminals, as a way of legitimating their law-breaking activities. It seems to me, therefore, that those who express an ideological hostility to regulation bear a special responsibility for ensuring that their views are not misused in this way. This can be achieved, in part, by emphasizing the very significant difference between claiming that a law should be repealed and claiming that a law need not be obeyed.- And on the subject of cultures where lawbreaking is seen as normal if not outright desirable, Andrew Nikiforuk reminds us of the multiple scandals surrounding Bruce Carson - involving both illegal lobbying and publicly-funded shilling for the oil industry.

- Meanwhile, Joseph Stiglitz sees the Trans-Pacific Partnership as nothing more than a means of entrenching corporate abuses into law around the globe. But Michael Harris notes that plenty of voters and activist groups will be fighting that choice in Canada. 

- Edward Keenan makes clear that the Cons' campaign of discrimination is intended to foment hatred against Muslims in general, while Sean Fine reports that the Cons' target voters are taking up the invitation to do violence against fellow Canadians. And Paula Simons highlights the arrogance involved in claiming to tell women what they may and may not wear.

- Finally, Haroon Siddiqui discusses the domestic damage being done by the Cons' politically-obsessed foreign policy.

Rolling back the damage: are we a country, or a commodity? | #elxn42 #cdnpoli

Posted by Sol Chrom - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 07:17


Haven’t really crystallized this into a coherent argument yet, but I can’t remember feeling this disheartened about a federal election since 1997. Ever since then, there’s been a growing malignancy in our body politic — a malignancy that goes beyond partisanship.

Successive governments since then have, for whatever reason, surrendered more and more policy tools, and more and more of their innate capacity to advance the public good, in the face of supranational trade and investment regimes. Regardless of who’s been in power in Ottawa (and provincial capitals, for that matter), we’ve been watching the gradual but unmistakable enfeeblement of government, to the point where it may well be irreversible. As awful as Harper’s been on so many files — environment, the war on women, civil liberties, First Nations, the economy, health care, immigration, housing, veterans, integrity in government, climate change — this didn’t start with him.

What I still don’t understand is, why? Why is government, of whatever stripe, voluntarily abandoning its role? Free Trade, NAFTA, MIA, CETA, FIPA, TPP, whatever. Why are public institutions consenting to, and even participating in, their own enervation? Why are we, through our governments, surrendering our ability to protect ourselves and act in the national interest in favour of a few multinational corporations and allowing them to sue us for notional lost profits? Who benefits from this? Who’s looking out for the common good here?

And that doesn’t even begin to address the glaring faults in our current electoral system. The disfiguring effects of our antiquated, necrotic First Past The Post system have already been discussed, but if there’s any sustained discussion of alternatives or efforts to reform the voting system, or the so-called “Fair Elections Act,” it’s barely being heard above the manufactured controversies and distractions. The conversation’s being dragged into the sewer, and that’s no accident either.

It’s why I’ve been wondering, perhaps at odds with my arguments about the responsibilities of citizenship, about the efficacy of voting. If civic engagement is reduced to casting a ballot every few years for choices that have, in truth, been set out for us, then are we really participating meaningfully in our own governance? Is voting, even if it manages to end the Harper era, going to undo decades worth of damage to civil society? Is it going to put an end to this misguided fetish with austerity? Is it going to reinvigorate the notion of an activist government committed to using the power of public policy to cultivate the greatest good for the greatest number? Is it going to re-assert the primacy of the public sphere in the face of “free trade” regimes and investor-state protections? How likely is it that any government, even the best-intentioned, will move to roll back the damage in the face of the inevitable backlash from international finance, the small coterie of Serious and Responsible people who decide which ideas are “realistic” and which are “lunatic,” and their amplifiers in the media?

I don’t want to sound facile, but doesn’t it come down to the kind of government we want and the kind of country we want to be? Do we want to be governed by the people we elect, or by a small global oligarchy of unaccountable string-pullers? And is the simple act of choosing a brand on polling day going to affect that?

Related posts:

Tagged: apparatus of repression, austerity, Canadian politics, civic engagement, civil society, class warfare, democratic dysfunction, democratic governance, electoral reform, free trade, gatekeepers, international finance, manufactured controversy, public policy, the public good, the public sphere, TPP

We Aren't As Good As We Think We Are

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 06:27

If anything, the racism and xenophobia that have become cornerstones of the Harper re-election strategy are showing us something we would prefer not to think about: when provoked, our own darker natures come easily to the surface.

In his column today, Edward Keenan reveals a few things we should ponder:
... if you have been paying attention, it’s obvious enough that when Team Harper refers to “barbaric culture” it means Islam.

And so this new election initiative is intended to respond to some imagined Canadian epidemic of “child and forced marriage,” “sexual slavery and so-called ‘honour killings’ ” and “female genital mutilation.” These things, of course, are horrific and are already illegal. And while they do not appear to be particularly common here compared to other crimes (even compared to other crimes against women), there is already an established national reporting mechanism for those encountering them: dial 911. So nothing about this announcement actually makes women any safer. Instead it’s an excuse to talk about Muslims as barbarians in a press conference. It’s a transparently BS announcement to drum up hate and fear, for their own sake.Sadly, there seems to be evidence that this loathsome strategy is working:
As they’ve unveiled these items, the Conservatives have gone from third to first in many polls. Is it a coincidence? There’s reason to think not.

A government poll showed 82 per cent of Canadians support the niqab ban, for instance. Moreover, eight per cent of voters told Leger marketing that the niqab ban was the main issue determining their vote. Considering that the Conservatives’ recent swing into the lead has been an increase of only about six points in their support in most polls, it’s not crazy to conclude this anti-Islam posturing has made much of the difference for them.It is time for all of us to take another look in the mirror, because despite our desire to think of ourselves as a tolerant and accepting people, the truth appears to be something else:
But we’re also a country where it appears an election may be won by blatantly disregarding the Charter and promoting intolerance for no discernable reason other than to stick our thumbs in the eye of a minority whose cultural and religious practices we find off-putting.Cultivating such prejudices, as the Harper regime is shamelessly doing, has consequences beyond electoral gain. Consider what happened to Safira Merriman, a 30-year-old convert to Islam who wears the niqab:
Last week, wearing her Islamic face veil – the niqab, which has become a central issue in the federal election – she says she was trying to enter Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto’s Fairview Mall when a man carrying a liquor-store bag blocked her path and then drove his elbow hard into her shoulder, in front of her two daughters, ages nine and four.Or how about this?
Last week in Montreal, two teenagers reportedly pulled the hijab, or head scarf, of a pregnant woman, causing her to fall.These are not things we should be proud of. Yet if we succumb to the Harper politics of hatred, suspicion and division, there will be no one to blame but ourselves and our unwillingness to resist the demagogues who skulk among us.Recommend this Post


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