Archive for the ‘Act Locally’ Category

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

This Wednesday, I’m voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette. I believe he offers the best combination of progressive ideas and personal characteristics of all the candidates. Having voted in every Winnipeg civic, provincial and federal election since the 1970s I’ll go even further – Robert is the most promising candidate for mayor (or any other office) we have seen in a generation.

Robert proposes sensible ideas for fixing Winnipeg’s infrastructure and knows how we’ll pay for them. His plan to renew Winnipeg Transit is both practical and visionary. His proposals for standing up for indigenous women and girls will save lives. He’s serious about cleaning up City Hall and he walks the talk: unlike his competitors, he lists his contributors on his web site, in real time. As a grandfather, I’m pleased with his many creative ideas for a child friendly city and for a city our grandchildren will thank us for when they are old enough to vote.

There’s much more I could say about Robert’s platform. Visit his web site (links below) and judge for yourself. While I have your attention, I’d prefer to talk about Robert the man.

Born on Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Robert grew up poor. His father suffered from alcoholism. He’s been hungry and homeless and knows what it is like to live on next to nothing. Statistically speaking, he should be dead, in jail or poor.

Instead, Robert has defied the statistics that come with being born aboriginal and poor in Canada. At 37, he directs Aboriginal Focus Programs at the University of Manitoba. He, his wife Catherine, and their five children live in a comfortable home. During 18 years in the Canadian Forces he earned a Bachelor of Education degree, two Masters degrees (music and education) and a PhD in educational anthropology.

Robert credits his success to his mother’s sacrifices and the support he received from a high school teacher. However, without his own considerable intelligence, hard work and self discipline he would not have come this far.

Robert is youthful and energetic, but thoughtful and mature. He’s self confident, yet modest. He’s self-aware but not self-absorbed; without exception, he treats everyone with genuine interest, respect and warmth. He communicates fluently in English, French and Cree. He likes to laugh, dances a pretty good Red River jig, sings on key and plays a mean piano.

Robert says he wants to be “a mayor for everyone.” Not content with cleaning up City Hall, he aspires to unite a city that is divided along racial, ethnic and class lines. This is a tall order, but if anyone can, it’s Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

A poll came out this morning that puts Robert in third place with the support of 14% of decided voters. This is a remarkable achievement for a candidate who was completely unknown when he declared his candidacy in late May.

The two front-runners, Brian Bowman and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, are in a statistical dead heat with 38 and 36 percent of the decided vote respectively. With 29% of those polled in the undecided category, this race is too close to call.

I expect Robert’s supporters will feel considerable pressure to abandon him. “Vote strategically. Don’t waste your vote,” we will be advised. We’ll be warned that “it’s the only way to stop ___________ (pick your favourite villain)”

I don’t accept these arguments. For starters, a careful analysis of the front-runners’ programs reveals no significant differences. Neither candidate promises the break with the past we need for Winnipeggers to meet the many challenges we face. Neither candidate has demonstrated the skills or attitudes needed to unite a divided city. One is as good or as bad as the other.

My philosophy is simple: You get what you vote for. The only sensible thing to do is to vote for what you really want. For me that means voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

If Robert wins, great! If he doesn’t, his ideas will have to be taken seriously, especially if he attracts a significant share of the ballots cast on Wednesday. These votes will provide the foundation, not only for future campaigns, but for the movement for real change that must be built and sustained far into the future.

 

Links

Robert-Falcon Ouellette on the Internet
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on Facebook
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on YouTube
Information for Voters
Winnipeg Mayoral Debates Video Playlist

About these ads

I wonder how many Manitobans have received an email from their Manitoba NDP MLA entitled “A Fairer Deal for Renters.” I wonder how many are as pissed off as I am about what it represents.


Hi PaulRA Emailer

You may have seen information in your mailbox recently about Manitoba’s Fairer Deal for Renters.

Most of us have rented at some point in our lives, which is why I’m proud to be part of a government that introduces new protections for tenants rather than cuts.

Changes include investing in repairs and upgrades to social housing and introducing a new housing tax credit to stimulate construction in the private and non-profit sectors. On top of that, more apartment dwellers will now be protected from large rent increases.

But even with these changes I know there is more we can do. I want to hear what you think our next steps should be.

I’m inviting you to visit FairerDeal4Renters.ca to give us your input and to learn more about our plan for Manitoba renters.

You can fill in a brief survey and let me know how you think we can continue to protect tenants and keep life affordable for Manitoba families, while protecting the services we value most. I look forward to hearing from you.

**PS – Feel free to forward this email on to any family and friends you think may be interested in providing us with feedback on this issue.

Thank you,

Rob Altemeyer – MLA for Wolseley


At first glance, it appears rather innocuous — an MLA informing his constituent of new government initiatives and inviting input into future policies that will help tenants and other Manitoba families. If you didn’t follow up on the opportunity by clicking on FairerDeal4Renters.ca, you might think that it was a genuine invitation. You might think “How thoughtful of him to ask. I feel so included. This government really cares!” You might.

I clicked on the aforementioned link and found myself — not on a page dedicated to tenants’ interests, as one might have suspected from the name of the link — but on a page on the Manitoba NDP Caucus web site. As promised, it provided a bit more information on how life had gotten better for Manitoba tenants. Then came the survey — and this is what pissed me off.


How can we continue to keep life affordable for Manitoba families?

RA Emailer2Continue investing in safe, affordable housing units for seniors.
Protect consumers with fair and transparent cable and Internet contracts.
Keep Manitoba Hydro public and Hydro rates low.
Protect Manitobans from American-style, two-tier health care.
Keep post-secondary tuition affordable.
Continue building public infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and Quick Care Clinics.


Nowhere is there an opportunity to comment on the plethora of genuine issues and policy concerns that would impact on tenants in particular or citizens in general. Instead we are presented with a tick-box menu of vaguely worded motherhood statements that reflect existing government policy, with a text box at the end for comments.

This is not consultation. It is pre-election propagandizing. The Manitoba government did something similar in the lead up to this year’s provincial budget.

I wish I could say I was disappointed, but this bogus, tawdry, cynical approach to “consultation” is well established. Everyone does it. Governments, corporations, political parties. They smile, appear concerned and insult our intelligence on their way to the bank. The NDP is hardly unique. No wonder voter turn-outs are in decline.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Mary Agnes Welch nailed it when she described this particular email message as “NDP bait and switch.”

Until political parties learn to engage honestly with citizens, our democracy will continue to wither.

Dennis LeNeveu

Winnipeg, Oct. 26, 2013: Retired scientist Dennis Le Neveu spoke at a forum on the environmental hazards of fracking, sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Fracking is a process used to extract oil and natural gas. It involves drilling horizontal wells into rock formations and injecting a mixture of fresh water, chemicals and sand under high pressure to fracture the rock and release the oil and gas.

Fracking has been linked with contaminated water aquifers,  air pollution and earthquakes.

In Manitoba, the gas extracted with the oil is hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that is lethal in small concentrations. The gas is burned off and returns to earth as sulphur dioxide, also known as acid rain.

Last year in Manitoba, 570 new horizontal wells were drilled, and more than 600 are projected for 2013.

This presentation was sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba as a part of its Red Feather Campaign in solidarity with the people of Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, who have been resisting plans to frack for oil in their territory.

The presenter, Dennis Le Neveu, is a retired scientist who has written on this topic for the Fall 2013 edition of Eco Journal, published by the Manitoba Eco-Network.

It was recorded on Oct. 26, 2013 at Neechi Commons in Winnipeg.


No Prairie PipelineTransCanada Pipelines’ proposed “Energy East” pipeline project, which is intended to transport Alberta tar sands crude to eastern Canada, is meeting growing opposition from First Nations, environmentalists and citizens who live along the planned route.

The Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians, along with Idle No More and the Boreal Forest Network held a public forum on the issue on October 22, 2013. Speakers included Maryam Adrangi, the Council of Canadians’ Energy and Climate Campaigner, and Crystal Green, Michael Kannon and Nina Was’te of Idle No More. The forum was moderated by Susan McCrea of the Boreal Forest Network and held at the Mondragon Book Store and Coffee House.

Ken Harasym recorded and I edited this video report.


Winnipeg, Oct. 12, 2013: Jingle dancers ready themselves to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Oct. 12, 2013: Jingle dancers ready themselves to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Canada: Thousands gathered at the intersection of Portage and Main Street to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, with a Jingle Dance. Speaking in this clip are Jo Redsky and Michael Champagne, activists in Canada’s Idle No More movement.

Among the many issues outstanding between the First Nations and the Government of Canada is the refusal of the federal government to hold a national inquiry into the documented murders or disappearances of over 600 aboriginal women in Canada. Stephen Harper has been distinctly cool towards the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur, but until the Canadian government takes serious steps to address the needs of Canada’s First Nations they will continue to seek support in the international arena.

October 8, 2013 - Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaking at the Speak Up For Democracy Town Hall Meeting in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

October 8, 2013 – Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaking at the Speak Up For Democracy Town Hall Meeting in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Canadian democracy ain’t what it used to be and what it used to be was far from ideal. Still, fewer of us are voting and even fewer are satisfied with the outcome.

Over the past 20 years, voter turnout has declined precipitously. Of the 24.2 million citizens eligible to vote in the 2011 federal election, only 14.8 million, or 61.1 per cent did so. Of those who voted, 39.6 per cent, or 5.8 million voters chose a Conservative candidate. In other words, the government of Canada was elected by fewer than 25 per cent of eligible voters. 9.4 million Canadians chose not to vote for anyone; this is nearly twice as many as those who elected the governing party.

Among those of us who have chosen to vote, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way this is represented in the House of Commons. The following table shows the distribution of seats following the 2011 federal election.

Party

Elected

% of Seats

% of Vote

Conservative

167

54.2

39.6

NDP

102

33.1

30.6

Liberal

34

11

18.9

BQ

4

1.3

6

Green

1

0.3

3.9

Source: http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html. (Note, percentages to not add up to 100, probably because of some rounding in the original data. But you get the idea.)

The top two parties clearly have more MPs than their share of the popular vote would justify. It looks like this.

Now, look what happens when MPs are elected in proportion to their party’s share of the popular vote.

Party

FPTP

PR

Conservative

167

122

NDP

102

95

Liberal

34

59

BQ

4

19

Green

1

13

(Note: the above chart needed some rounding to make it work – but it’s close enough.) It would look like this.

Would adoption of a proportional representation system increase voter turnouts in elections? It might. Those who are convinced that their vote does not count might be encouraged to participate in a process that offered a more representative outcome.

However, all the electoral system reforms in the world will be fruitless unless the governments we elect learn to behave in a more democratic fashion.

A common refrain among voters is that once elected, Members of Parliament become invisible, until the next election, anyway. Stories of MPs frustrated by the their lack of freedom to speak their minds are growing, as are the complaints of reporters who are frustrated with the federal government’s record of providing information that should be made public in a timely way. Government scientists are prevented from discussing their publicly funded research. Organizations that evaluate government policies lose their funding. Critics of government policy find themselves described as dangerous radicals and citizens concerned about fracking are placed under surveillance. Shutting down Parliament to avoid controversy and using omnibus budget bills to to limit Parliamentary examination of legislation can be added to the list.

While our current federal government is notorious for its antidemocratic practices, governments at all levels have fostered a system that insulates them from addressing the concerns of citizens. This growing trend to undemocratic governance in a country that regards itself as a democracy inspired the town hall meeting that took place in Winnipeg Oct. 8, 2013.

Sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and the Green Party of Canada, “Speak Up for Democracy” featured Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Dennis Lewycky, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, and Leah Gazan, a leading activist in Idle No More.

More that 200 people packed the Broadway Disciples United Church to hear from them and to discuss with them what must be done to rescue our democracy.

I’ve been to a lot of meetings over the years; this clearly was one of the best. So grab some pop corn, turn off your smart phone and invest the next two hours in pondering one of the most pressing issues of our generation.

Links:
Elizabeth May, MP
Green Party of Canada
Social Planning Council of Winnipeg
Idle No More Manitoba


tour_logo_enGreen Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, is on a cross country tour, billed as “Save Democracy from Politics,” to call for major reforms in Canada’s Parliamentary system. According to May, Canadian democracy is being undermined by excessive partisanship, a party system that punishes MPs who do not toe the party line, and a Prime Minister’s Office that wields the powers that should be exercised by Parliament.

May was in Winnipeg to speak at a town hall meeting co-sponsored by the Green Party and Peace Alliance Winnipeg. I will post the video from that meeting later this week. In the meantime, here’s Michael Welch, News Director of CKUW-FM, in conversation with Elizabeth May.

 

Links