Posts Tagged ‘Canadian Federal Election 2011’

In his new job as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Jack Layton has pledged to “fix Ottawa.” I’ve taken this to mean he will lead by example in hope of teaching the children to play nicely. I wish him luck.

The problem with our democracy goes far beyond Stephen Harper’s well documented contempt for Parliament. Fundamentally, our democracy is undemocratic. The “first-past-the-post” system of electing MPs always means that the wishes of great numbers of Canadians are unrepresented in Parliament. In a multiparty system, few MPs garner a majority of votes. But even in a 2-way race, substantial numbers of citizens find themselves unrepresented after the votes are counted.

This is not news. But it bears repeating – until we dump the FPTP system and adopt some form of proportional representation (PR) method of electing MPs – we are doomed to unrepresentative Parliaments and endless repeats of dubious strategic voting exercises.

What would a representative Parliament look like? Here’s what we have now.

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.

As things stand now, Stephen Harper has an undeserved majority in Parliament – one he will use to impose his minority, right wing agenda on the majority of Canadians who voted for other visions of Canada. Under the current rules, he can do what he wants without reference to the other parties.

In a PR Parliament, Harper would be compelled to negotiate with some or all of the other parties in order to keep his job. Parliament would be representative and this, I believe, is a necessary first step in fixing our broken democracy.

Electoral reform must become a priority for all who call themselves democrats. In the past, both the Greens and the NDP have said they favour PR. We have to encourage them to make it their priority. At the same time, if we leave it up to any political party, we will be disappointed. It’s up to us to make it happen.

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April 20, 2011: Dennis Lewycky (NDP), Ilona Niemczyk (Liberal) and Jacqueline Romanow (Green) at a Federal Election Forum on the Environment at the First Universalist Unitarian Church in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

If the state of our environment is a defining issue for you in this Canadian federal election, you must be disappointed at the scant, superficial mainstream media coverage to date. Despair no more.

I attended an “all-candidates” forum on the environment in Winnipeg last night (April 20, 2011), and posted a two hour video on YouTube to redress this portion of our democratic deficit. (For other insightful creations, go to http://youtube.com/redriverpete – but I digress.)

The phrase “all candidates” sits between inverted commas because the Conservative Party, true to form, chose not to participate. The Bloc Quebecois was not invited, understandably, because it is not running in Winnipeg (or elsewhere outside of Quebec). Other parties were excluded because they are not running candidates in all ridings.

Nonetheless, representatives of the Greens, the NDP and the Liberals were there. All gave good accounts of their respective parties’ positions. The questions put by the organizers were challenging in substance and comprehensive in scope. Panelists and audience members addressed each other intelligently, thoughtfully and respectfully. In short, it was an informative, educational evening, refreshingly free of the rhetorical bombast that passes for political discourse in this era of spin doctors and attack ads.

The candidates were:

The forum was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church and moderated by CJOB Radio’s morning talk show host Richard Cloutier. It was sponsored by:

Grab some non-GM popcorn if you can find some, kick back and enjoy. And don’t forget to share this with friends and family, because it may be one of the few opportunities they will have to compare the environmental positions of three of the four main parties running across Canada. As for the Tories, the silent empty chair on the stage pretty much illustrates their environmental platform.

The more we learn about the so-called humanitarian intervention in the skies above Libya, the less it looks like a war Canadians should support. Like the bogus humanitarian claims Tories and Liberals have used to support extending Canadian participation in the occupation of Afghanistan, the war against Libya has more to do with imperialism and any humanitarian benefit is simply “collateral.”

US Democratic Party Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently drew attention to the amazing similarity between the NATO invasion of Libya and a NATO war game entitled “Operation Southern Mistral 2011.”

“While war games are not uncommon, the similarities between ‘Southern Mistral’ and ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ highlight just how many unanswered questions remain regarding our own military planning for Libya.

The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games called for Great Britain-French air strikes against an unnamed dictator of a fictional country, “Southland.” The pretend attack was authorized by a pretend United Nations Security Council Resolution. The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games were set for March 21-25, 2011.

On March 19, 2011, the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Scheduling a joint military exercise that ends up resembling real military action could be seen as remarkable planning by the French and British, but it also highlights questions  regarding the United States’ role in planning for the war. We don’t know how long the attack on Libya has been in preparation, but Congress must find out. We don’t know who the rebels really represent and how they became armed, but Congress must find out. (Denis Kucinich, Kucinich: President Had Time to Consult with International Community, Not Congress? | Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Press Release, March 29, 2011)

Professor Michel Chossudovsky, of Global Research, in an article entitled When war games go live: “Staging” a “humanitarian” war against “Southland,” shows that the similarity is no coincidence.

Rep. Kucinich does not appear to have a Canadian counterpart who is questioning why we are involved, much less speaking out against it. Harper’s decision to send jet fighters to bomb Libya was supported unanimously by Canada’s MPs, some of whom one would expect to do their homework before being caught up in media-hyped war hysteria.

Did any of them stop to consider why we are doing nothing to stop the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Qatar and Oman from murdering their citizens in large numbers? Did none of them find it odd that the uprising in Libya was armed and violent from the beginning — in stark contrast to the peaceful mass movements Canada has refused to defend? Isn’t it strange that we will rush to war against Gaddafi who, arguably is no better or no worse than any number of despots but we will not do a thing to restrain the routine brutality of the Israeli state against Palestinians?

The war in Libya is the pink elephant on the campaign trail that none of our politicians want to acknowledge. We have to change this.

With the annual retreat of snow and ice blessedly underway, the crap and crud that mysteriously didn’t make it into my back lane dumpster is revealed in all of its putrescence. I call this a mystery because I don’t know how apparently sentient, reasonably healthy, bipedally-capable adults with opposable thumbs could miss the dumpster’s gaping maw and deposit their refuse behind it, under it, beside it — anywhere but in the damn dumpster. But they did. And because it apparently  bothers me more than my neighbours, I suppose I will have to clean it up.

After I stopped fuming at the unfairness of it all, I started thinking about garbage. We make a lot of it. Even little Winnipeg (pop. 684,000) manages to dispose of over 200,000 tonnes annually. While this is a minuscule share of the estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of municipal waste that is tossed away every year around the world, it’s still a lot. Judging from what doesn’t make it to the landfill, such as the recently mapped Atlantic Garbage Patch, it’s probably a lot more and definitely unsustainable.

Strangely, I’m grateful for my messy neighbours. Were it not for their disagreeable practices, I wouldn’t have taken the time to think about garbage at all. Bag it. Toss it (hopefully in the dumpster). Forget it. Out of sight, out of mind. Somebody takes it away, never to be seen again.

But most garbage doesn’t really go far. Nor does it go away. Not for decades. As it slowly decomposes, it leaches poisons into the groundwater and expels noxious gases into the atmosphere. Garbage is both a symptom and a cause of serious, potentially game ending challenges to human survival – which brings me to Canada’s federal election, replete as it is with the toxic flatulence that passes for political wisdom these days.

I gotta tell ya, looking at the sorry record of politicians of all stripes, I’m almost at the point of erecting a billboard in my yard that screams “DON’T VOTE. YOU’LL ONLY ENCOURAGE THEM!”

Yes, yes. I know. Stephen Harper is a contemptible, war-mongering, fossil-fueled son of a bitch and if he gets a majority he’ll shred the social safety net, torch the CBC and declare the Fourth Reich. (I don’t really think he’s a Nazi, but he has twice shut down Parliament to avoid the embarrassment of being held accountable by the Official Opposition. This betrays a certain contempt for democracy. It could become habit forming.)

Michael Ignatieff? Ummm. No. No thank you. I have nothing against Iggy personally (except for his support for the Iraq war and torture, until it became a political liability). But no. He leads the Liberal Party that has governed Canada for most of the last 143 years with unswerving loyalty to big business. In this respect their role is indistinguishable from that of the Conservatives. Stephen and Iggy: two little corporate castrati singing the Hallelujah Capitalist Chorus.

This brings us to Jack Layton and the NDP. (Though I like his style, I won’t bother with Gilles Duceppe until he does the anatomically impossible and runs candidates in the rest of Canada.)

I have voted NDP since I was old enough to vote – and that was a long time ago. In my youth I supported them because of their ties to labour, their socialist roots (sadly all but plucked out by now) and their willingness to take risks on behalf of working people (think Tommy Douglas and Medicare).

As I grew older and, if not wiser at least more experienced, I voted NDP because it represented the lesser of evils. The NDP might not be perfect, I reasoned, but at least it wasn’t as bad as the others. Or so it seemed.

After countless focus groups and rebrandings “Today’s NDP” (as we call it in Manitoba) has morphed into something approximating the Liberal Party – which is good news for the Liberal Party and bad news for the New Democrats.

Grits and Dippers want to put a human face on the economic system that creates all the garbage I was kvetching about at the top of the page. Tories aren’t so sentimental. So, while there are differences between the three parties, they owe a common allegiance to capitalism. And while all of them, to varying degrees, talk about environmental issues, none are willing to put The Environment front and centre in their vision for Canada.

Which brings me to Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada. Canada’s Green Party is unique in Canadian electoral politics because it has put the environment front and centre, where it belongs. They put forward a set of principles and proposals which, if adopted, would give me a measure of confidence about my grandchildren’s future.

Check out their program. I don’t agree with everything (who does?) but I like their approach. Intelligent. Straightforward. Thoughtfully developed and thought provoking. It won’t fit into a series of TV sound bites. You’ll be challenged and pleasantly inspired.

Can the Greens form the government? Not this time, but that shouldn’t disqualify them. Part of the reason we’re in this mess is because we vote for the “lesser of evils.” Motivated by fear, we support something we don’t want to block something we fear more. Or, because we don’t want to “waste our vote,” we give it to someone we think might win, even if they don’t really have that much to offer – a brain deadening strategy if ever there was one.

If you like the Green Program, vote Green. Your vote will not be wasted. To quote Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” The same applies to voting.

By Canadian Boat to Gaza

As the Canadian federal election campaign enters week two, the government of Israel has launched a campaign to slander, disrupt, and possibly attack the upcoming Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which will have many Canadians aboard the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has now threatened to “act firmly” using “force” against the flotilla in May.

The Canadian Boat to Gaza is calling on all of the federal parties to denounce these threats against Canadians by Israel, which has demonstrated its willingness to use lethal force against civilians, similar to its fatal attack on last year’s freedom flotilla.

“Netanyahu’s vow to use force is tantamount to a death threat against the Canadian and international participants in the flotilla,” says Wendy Goldsmith of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. “The question is, if elected, what will candidates running in this election do to ensure the safety and security of those on board the Canadian Boat to Gaza, in light of Israeli threats of violence?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu has falsely claimed that the Flotilla is being organized by “radical Islamists” intent on smuggling weapons into Gaza by sea. With support from coast to coast, the Canadian Boat to Gaza has raised over 80% of its fundraising goal of $300,000, and enjoys the endorsement of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Retired federal politicians – including Warren Allmand and Raymond Gravel – support the initiative, and the Canadian Boat to Gaza is calling on politicians seeking election to do the same.

“In the absence of federal leadership, Canadians are preparing to stand up for Palestinian human rights and international law by breaking the illegal siege of Gaza. We’re inviting the federal party leaders to join us on the boat and to be part of the peaceful solution to this crisis,” says Ehab Lotayef of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. “Candidates seeking office in this election have a responsibility to make it clear that it would be unacceptable for Israel to attack the Canadian Boat to Gaza or any other vessel in the upcoming flotilla.”

Many notable Canadian and international figures have already endorsed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, including Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Amir Khadir, Quebec MLA, Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh, writers Judy Rebick and Linda McQuaig, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, to name but a few. More than 100 civil society organizations – trade unions such as CSN in Quebec, Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, campus and community organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations – have lent their support to the mission.

The international Freedom Flotilla II, coordinating the efforts of groups from all over the world (Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, USA, UK, Greece, Turkey, France and others) is planning to sail to Gaza in the second half of May 2011. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help him stop the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in Gaza in May. The Secretary General responded saying that Israel should end the blockade of Gaza.


See also: Video: Huwaida Arraf on the Free Gaza Movement and Freedom Flotilla

Contact your MP – here.