Poopin’ Puffin Party

See that little puffin over Stéphanne Dion’s right shoulder, dropping a load of poop?  That’s what the tussel betwen the Conservatives and the Liberals was all about today.  And some people say the voters are stupid …  Besides which, Dr. Oz says that white stuff isn’t bird poop, it’s pee.  Hhhmmm, trying not to think of pissing contests ….  Jack Layton wishes he could get in on this.

So.  Right.  When Canadian political parties want to really do a hatchet job on the opposition, they show videos of birds pooping on them.  Well.  That’s kinda ok by me.

Libs and Conservs

I thought I’d re-run Rick Mercer’s take on how the Liberals stand up strong against Harper’s Conservatives

And here’s Dr. Dawg on the Liberal’s voting record during the last Parliament – wowzers, them Lib boyz (mostly) really distinguished themselves.

Let May Debate

Elizabeth May answers questions on the Election Debates

From the Green Party of Canada website:

The Green Party of Canada is going to the courts to seek a fair hearing and opportunity to participate in the leaders’ debate in this election. This action is prompted by the announcement of the major television networks to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May from the television debates. In the interim the Party is urging all Canadians who believe in democracy and fairness to contact the leaders of the Conservative Party, the NDP and the Bloc to demand they respect democracy.

“Harper says this election is about strong leadership. It’s about strong arm leadership. We are a national party with a point of view supported by Canadians. This decision is undemocratic and we have no choice by to challenge it,” said Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

The networks said in a press release (they have not contacted the Green Party of Canada) that the threats of the Conservatives, NDP and the Bloc to boycott a leaders debate caused them to refuse to allow Ms. May to participate.

“I think it’s appalling that the media consortium is submitting to Stephen Harper and Jack Layton’s threats,” commented Ms. May.

“Stephen Harper knows disenchanted former Progress Conservatives, Reform and Alliance supporters are turning to the Green Party as the best alternative to represent their values.”

The debates are the most important events in a federal election and the arbitrary decision to bar the Green Party will jeopardize the fairness of this election. A complaint will be filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and legal proceedings to overturn the decision will commence shortly.

“I said in my campaign launch, this election for me, is about democracy about involving more people in the political process. For Stephen Harper is about excluding people, exclude ideas and excluding women,” said Ms. May.

Canadians are urged to join the 80,000 who have already registered their support for Elizabeth May’s inclusion in the debates at www.Demanddemocraticdebates.ca

If Jack Layton doesn’t go to bat for Elizabeth May and the Greens debating, I’m gonna be switching parties.

Canada Goes To The Polls (sigh)

I don’t sense an abundance of excitement about the federal elections.  The most I can say is, at least we’ll be done before the US.  It feels as though their election has been going on for decades rather than years.  Look away for a moment and we’ll either have a new Prime Minister or we’ll be stuck with Stephen Harper for another 2 – 5 years. 

If Harper gets a majority, we’re in deep doo.  If he comes up with another minority government, it’s doubtful that much will change until the Liberals get a new leader who’s up to challenging the Conserve.  That is, unless the NDP come up with a larger share of the seats and can work out a coalition with the Libs that actually works the way coalition politics ought to work.  But, if the Liberals are all caught up in a leadership campaign, it’s unlikely they’ll have time for governing.  Sigh.

Of course, there’s the possibility that Dion comes up with a minority, but only the campaign will tell us something about the chances of that.  It’s not looking good just now.  Dion just hasn’t acted like a leader.  As well, he has the “problems” of his francophone background, his unskilled English and his hearing difficulties to overcome.  Rather large hurdles, unfortunately.

For the moment, it would appear that Harper and, to a certain extent,  Jack Layton are trying to push Canadians into an American style election, based on personality and “values”, with Harper coming out as the “family man” and Layton as the Canadian version of Barack Obama.  I don’t think it’s gonna work and frankly, I hope it’s not gonna work.  We’re not in quite the hole the US is in, but these are important and dangerous times everywhere.

I just don’t think the “politician as ‘family man'” meme works in Canada because people with families aren’t identified solely with the conservative electorate, as has been pointed out in the Globe and Mail:

Yesterday, Mr. Dion appeared surprised to hear that Mr. Harper had been somewhat dismissive of his family. Mr. Dion and his wife, Janine Krieber, have a daughter, whom they adopted from Peru in 1989 after they were unable to conceive. “Did he say that?” Mr. Dion asked.

But instead of taking the opportunity to present his own compelling family narrative, Mr. Dion stressed the importance of privacy.

“Well, we’ll speak about me. I’m a Liberal … and we believe in this beautiful word we don’t have in French, which is privacy, which is more than private life. It’s the distinction between public and private life,” he said, before finally allowing, “But I’m a family man. I love my mother, I love my wife. I love my daughter and my brothers, even my brothers.”

The role of the family in Canadian politics is starkly different than in the United States, where when conservative politicians start talking about family, it’s a safe bet they are trying to fire up their base and undermine the competition.

Christopher Waddell, associate director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism, said he believes the Conservatives are making family a campaign issue as a way to define Mr. Harper against Mr. Dion. But he does not think they intended to insult the Liberal Leader.

Most Canadians know Mr. Dion is a staunch environmentalist, Mr. Waddell said, an issue that the Liberals are likely to make central to their campaign.

Mr. Harper, by contrast, is understood as a proponent of tax cuts and smaller government, topics that do not exactly translate into sexy fodder for a general election campaign. Instead, he is being painted as a father and a patriot.

“It’s giving him some kind of personality and saying this is an issue that defines him like the environment defines Dion,” Mr. Waddell said.

Playing up his image as a dad will also play well in suburban areas where Mr. Harper needs to make electoral gains if he is to win a majority government.

But the problem with the strategy, Mr. Waddell said, is that having a family is not Mr. Harper’s exclusive domain, which Mr. Dion could have easily pointed out.

“He couldn’t say that Mr. Dion isn’t a family man,” Mr. Waddell said of Mr. Harper’s comments yesterday. “But if he said he was, that undercuts the whole image he’s trying to establish for himself.”

Ah Canada, where that “privacy” word still seems to mean something.  Being a dad will play well in the suburbs?  Yeah, right, city and rural people don’t have children.  If this works I’ll eat my dad’s frosted socks!  I think it’s just as well that Dion continue to ignore Harper’s attempt to play politics American style, just as he laughs at Layton doing an Obama.  Come on Jack, keep us on the issues!  Canadians are in a different political situation than Americans.  If we think we’re boring, perhaps that’s something to celebrate.  See how Waddell points out how Harper can’t play family man because Dion’s a dad too?  Well, guess what?  So is Barack Obama, as was plainly hyped up at the DNC.  But it doesn’t seem to be working for the guy, now that Sarah Palin’s on the scene.  And thank gawd that Elizabeth May is not our Sarah Palin:

Elizabeth has one daughter, Victoria Cate May Burton, born in July 1991. As well, she remains close to her three older stepchildren from Victoria Cate’s dad, their spouses, and loves spending time with her six step-grandchildren! Although she is a single mother, Elizabeth has worked hard to keep all the family links intact.

Woops!  They’d have a field day with this bio in the States!

And here’s Rick Mercer’s take (mind you, Mercer seems to think it’s Dion who’s trying to be Obama, who may be going over better here than in the US:

The race in Canada is not that much different. We can compete.

Sure, Stephen Harper wasn’t tortured for six years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp the way John McCain was, but he’s angry enough that he could have been. In fact, on a good day the Prime Minister seems way more angry than Mr. McCain ever does. Like the Republican candidate, he, too, has pain and anguish in his eyes.

Mr. McCain suffered at the hands of a hostile enemy bent on breaking his body and soul, and he survived and triumphed. Mr. Harper, the story goes, suffered from adolescent-onset asthma and so was often picked last for team sports. This helps to explain his dislike for people in general. He also was startled quite badly by a clown at the age of 6, which explains his lifetime commitment to destroying arts organizations.

In America, presidential candidates spend a lot of time boring voters by telling them what they will do to improve their lives. Mr. Harper’s message will be far more exciting. He will spend his time telling people, “Don’t worry – no matter what happens, I can’t win a majority, so I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do that clearly scare you.”

This is an “only-in-Canada” scenario.

Power Hungry Harper

It appears fairly clear that Canada’s Prime Minister is going to take his country into a Federal election next week.  You would think that he would not waste the time and money of Canadians unless he felt that an election was both necessary and likely to result in a different allocation of power between the federal parties than that which the country has been living with, miserably, for several years now.

But that’s not the case.  Even Harper cannot say that he believes an imminent election will lead to a change in power or even anything other than a minority government:

“My expectation would be that we will have another minority. I think that’s a reality of the current political climate,” Harper reported during a two-day tour of the north.

Harper said that the possibility of anyone getting a majority, “in the current political alignment” is highly unlikely.

Whoa!  Talk about low expectations.  Harper need barely get his hair mussed to declare himself a success according to his scenario, assuming, of course, that he believes it will be a Conservative minority.  That being the case, why the hell is he about to waste our time and money and put us through the horrors of listening to him and all his colleagues, of whatever political stripe, lie to us for weeks on end?

A “fresh mandate” he says.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word mandate means, in this instance, “an authorization to act”.  He has an authorization to act for heaven’s sake.  A mandate is not a loaf of bread that goes stale; it isn’t something that needs refreshing except, according to the rules of Parliament, when the Opposition can show lack of confidence and bring the government down or otherwise, due to the lapse of a generally accepted period of time that Harper has always, till now, acknowledged to be about five years from the date of the last election.  That’s not now.

So, if Harper doesn’t expect to get anything much different from what he has, what the hell is he up to?  Tom Flanagan thinks he knows.  The former Harper chief of staff, who is now a political scientist at University of Alberta, thinks Harper is waging a “war of attrition” against the Liberals:

 As Mr. Flanagan sees it, the first major battle in this incremental war occurred in 2004, when Mr. Harper managed to reduce Paul Martin’s Liberals to a minority. In the second clash in 2006, Mr. Harper won his own Conservative minority.

The third skirmish, which Mr. Harper appears set to launch next week, likely won’t kill what Mr. Flanagan jokingly refers to as “the evil empire.” But, if the Tories can win a few more seats at the Liberals’ expense — an outcome Mr. Flanagan considers realistic given Mr. Harper’s superior campaign skills and the Tories’ fatter war chest — he predicted that would be enough to throw the Grits into a long-term tailspin that could eventually lead to their demise.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, to acknowledge that Stephen Harper is better at anything than just about anyone.  But when the competition is Stéphane Dion, I can only wish to disagree.  I’ve little doubt that Dion could give Tom Flanagan a run for his money as an academic, but as a campaign politician he’s downright embarassing – I squirm in my seat watching the guy.

But if Harper is willing to put the Canadian people to the trouble and expense of a federal election just so he can fuck over the Liberals, I hope the people of this country show him who’s boss and leave him with the most stale bun in the shop.  I’m not interested in Harper’s personal war with the Liberals.  I’d like my country to have a credible government.  I’d love to see a big Canadian boot in the middle of that guy’s butt.  If we can do that, bring the election on.

Listen my dear Canadians, there’s more than one way to warm his buns.  We have more than two choices in this enlightened land.  We have the New Democratic Party.  I’m not insane; I know that Jack Layton isn’t going to be the next Prime Minister of the land.  But the NDP is more than a credible option and, in fact, is the only party in our beleaguered nation that can provide a coherent vision of how to get through the economic mess and the foreign policy debacle that the Conservatives and the Liberals have led us into.

None of us is so dumb as to be unaware that the world and our country faces serious challenges which must be met if we are to survive on this planet.  We have no time for internecine political warfare.  Hey y’all, Steve is up in Tuktoyaktuk trying to expand Canadian sovereignty over its resources.  Why aren’t we engaging other countries in negotiations that would involve shared responsibility for Arctic waters and a mutually beneficial share of its resources instead of attempting a coup?  Instead of wasting our very precious time and resources on Steve’s quest for personal dominance and power?

A Nation’s Apology

Part of the text of P.M. Stephen Harper’s apology, on behalf of the nation, to Canada’s First Nations people:

[…]

The government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities.

Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. all were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools.

Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools – these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The legacy of Indian residential schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today.

It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered.

It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures. regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the government of Canada.

The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation.

Therefore, on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian residential schools system.

To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you.

Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. the burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.

There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.

You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.

The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. we are sorry.

[…]

Opposition leader Stéphanne Dion, NDP leader Jack Layton, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe and Grand Chief Phil Fontaine respond:

Today’s apology is about a past that should have been completely different,” he [Dion] said. “But it must be also about the future. It must be about collective reconciliation and fundamental changes. 

“It must be about moving forward together, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, into a future based on respect. It is about trying to find in each of us some of the immense courage that we see in the eyes of those who have survived.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton denounced the residential schools program as “racist,” and called Wednesday’s event an important moment for Canada.

“It is the moment where we as a Parliament and as a country assume the responsibility for one of the most shameful eras of our history,” Layton said in an emotional address.

“It is the moment to finally say we are sorry and it is the moment where we start to begin a shared future on equal footing through mutual respect and truth.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe offered his own apology, adding that the most meaningful expressions of regret are followed by concrete action.

“This is something that must be done concretely by the government …The federal government has not invested enough for young aboriginal people.”

Televisions set up in a room outside the House and on the lawn of Parliament Hill broadcast the statement to overflow crowds, while more than 30 events were staged across the country so the apology could be viewed live.

While aboriginal leaders were not expected to have an opportunity to respond on the record in the House of Commons chamber, House leaders agreed at the last minute to allow it.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, himself a former residential school student, was one of several aboriginal leaders who took the floor, saying the occasion “testifies nothing less than the accomplishment of the impossible.”

“For the generation that will follow us, we bear witness today…Never again will this House consider us the Indian problem just for being who we are,” he said.

“We heard the government of Canada take full responsibility for this dreadful chapter in our shared history. We heard the prime minister declare that this will never happen again. Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry,” Fontaine added.

[…] 

The Assembly of First Nations said survivors watching the apology who need support can call a 24-hour toll-free crisis line at 1-866-925-4419. Other support information is also available on the AFN website.