Posts Tagged ‘Michael Ignatieff’

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.

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Harper’s decision to continue Canada’s participation in the occupation of Afghanistan beyond 2011 is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Ignatieff’s acquiescence is similarly unsurprising. Still, in light of previous statements, their hypocrisy is impressive. For example:

“We will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission.”
–Stephen Harper quoted in National Post, January 6, 2010

“We’re bound by the parliamentary resolution. I’ve said clearly that our party’s position currently is that the military phase of the mission ends in 2011.”
–Michael Ignatieff quoted by Canadian Press, February 2009

“Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, we made a pledge during the last election campaign to put international treaties and military engagements to a vote in this chamber.”
–Stephen Harper in the House of Commons, May 17, 2006

Tory-Liberal strategists and their apologists in the mainstream media are framing the issue in terms of training versus combat. By misrepresenting the character of the military mission they hope to defuse outrage over the promise not to commit Canada to “military engagements” without a Parliamentary vote.

Their refusal to debate the issue in the House of Commons deprives the NDP and BQ of an opportunity to challenge the government’s plans. It may also divert them from what should be the real issue, namely: “Should Canada have any involvement in Afghanistan?”

Most Canadians oppose continued military involvement in Afghanistan. A CBC-EKOS poll in April 2010 indicated that 60 per cent of Canadians opposed an extension of the military mission beyond 2011. A September 2010 Global News poll confirmed this view, with 61 per cent opining that “all Canadian troops need to come home.”

One has to ask what kind of democracy we have if the governing party and the principle opposition party can collude to flout the will of the majority of Canadians on issues as important as war and peace. Harper’s decision is one more indication of his lack of fitness to govern our country; Ignatieff’s complicity confirms his unsuitability to succeed Mr. Harper in the next election.

Where does this leave the NDP? A recent NDP statement is problematic:

“Harper waited until MPs left Ottawa and then engaged in a backroom deal with the Ignatieff Liberals to extend the military mission in Afghanistan. This is wrong,” said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton. “A majority of Canadians say they are against extending the military mission – Conservatives and Liberals must start listening to Canadians, not just to each other.”

“What New Democrats are saying is we need an increased focus on diplomacy, development and governance in Afghanistan, in order to build a lasting peace to this region,” said Layton. “Canada’s military has served with honour and done its fair share, now it’s time for Canada’s contribution to be through aid and diplomacy.”

Layton expresses his opposition to continued military action and his support for the peaceful aspirations of Canadians. This is positive.

However, his opportunistic genuflection to “Canada’s military” which “has served with honour and done its fair share” misleads Canadians about the shameful character of Canada’s involvement in America’s imperial war. The fact is, before the UN gave the occupation a fig-leaf of legality, the American-led invasion was a naked act of aggression, a crime against humanity, a war of aggression that had been on the drawing board well before Sept. 11, 2001. By supporting this war, Canada’s political leaders (Liberal and Conservative) are the moral equivalent of the Nazis we hanged at Nuremberg; our troops are their hired guns.

Layton’s commitment to ongoing aid for the the corrupt gang of drug lords and crooks that allegedly governs Afghanistan (aka, the Karzai government) reveals either a complete misreading of the war in Afghanistan (which is as much as anything else a civil war between ethnically defined contenders) or a preference for the kinder, gentler forms of imperialism that have characterized Canadian foreign policy in the past (also known as “peace keeping”).

The fact is, any Canadian involvement in Afghanistan that lends support to the Karzai government puts us on the side of America’s imperial project. Layton should know better.

Where does this leave the peace movement? I suppose we should be grateful for any kind of Parliamentary allies, however imperfect. That said, it seems unlikely that Parliament will extract us from this war or keep us out of future American imperial adventures.

In a recent article, Michel Chossudovsky argues:

“The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network which challenges the structures of power and authority.

“What is required is a mass movement of people which forcefully challenges the legitimacy of war, a global people’s movement which criminalizes war.

“Antiwar protest does not question the legitimacy of those to whom the protest is addressed.

“Protest is accepted under Western style “democracy”, precisely because it accepts the established political order, while exerting pressure on political leaders to shift their policy stance.

“Protest serves the interests of the war criminals in high office, to whom the demands are directed.

“Ultimately what is at stake is the legitimacy of the political and military actors and the economic power structures, which control the formulation and direction of US foreign policy.”

While much of his article appears to be more directed at the American peace movement, these concerns need to be addressed by Canadian activists if we are to move beyond the limitations of Layton’s lame response.