Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Party of Canada’

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.

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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.

Transport Canada hopes to launch a no-fly list, officially known as Passenger Protect, as early as this spring. The stated objective is to guard against terrorist threats. A senior Transport Canada official told a Parliamentary Committee yesterday that individuals will not be told why they are on the list — only that they are on it. And, of course, they won’t be permitted to board the plane. Appeals will be permitted, but without knowing why one is on the list, it would be difficult to know how one could appeal. (The list will be compiled by the same spooks from CSIS and the RCMP who fingered Maher Arar. Hmmmm.)

Meanwhile, Health Canada has consolidated regulations regarding asbestos use; permitted uses include children’s toys and drywall joint cement. In case you missed it, asbestos is a highly toxic mineral; exposure can cause asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma. It has been linked to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Is there a pattern here? Is this a case of government “protecting” us against low risk threats (terrorist evildoers) while facilitating high risk threats (lung cancer, etc.) perpetrated by corporate evil doers.

According to Mining Watch,

“There has been a worldwide movement to ban both the mining and the use of white asbestos. France banned the use of white asbestos completely in 1997. The UK banned any new use of white asbestos in 1999. Further, by 2005 all EU nations must implement a prohibition on white asbestos. However, despite piles of reports showing the dangers of white asbestos, Canada continues to mine it and export it worldwide.”

Canada’s New Government provides $250,000 annually to the Chrysotile Institute (the mouthpiece for Canada’s asbestos industry), uses Canadian embassies to host asbestos promotion events and sends teams of lawyers around the world to oppose international efforts that might restrict the use of asbestos. (So did Canada’s Old Government!!)

Maybe it is time to rename Health Canada. Disease Canada? Death Canada? Any suggestions would be welcome. Alternatively, we could put Canada’s New Government on a no-fly list.