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Canada’s government seems set to crumble mere days after it kicked off a new parliament. At first, I was enthused by the idea. Even at around noon, yesterday, I sent an email to everyone I know, encouraging them to rally to the defence of a potential NDP-Liberal coalition (propped up by the separatist Bloc Québecois). Now, I admit, I’m not so sure.
The fact is, a three-headed coalition government is going to expose Canada’s regional fault-lines like never before. The West is going to go berserk! They’re already apoplectic out there at the very idea that Stephane Dion, a colossal failure in the election, might replace their man, Stephen Harper. And to an extent, I can see their point.
But the scariest part of a coalition is making concessions to the Bloc Québecois. It’s a sign of Canada’s current dysfunction that its second largest province has seemingly embraced a party that wants to flee Canada at the first opportunity, and meanwhile, will extract every last entitlement that it can out of federal coffers.
How to get any clarity in this current quagmire?
The ideologue in me – that profoundly disliked Harper from the get-go – relishes the prospect of him getting his ass kicked for the monumental stupidity of last week. What was he thinking? Trying to bankrupt the opposition by removing federal financing? It’s not only a slap in the face to the opposition, it’s a slap in the face to me and all the millions of other Canadians who embraced this system – who knew that our vote would mean just under two bucks in funding for our chosen party. No matter how ruthless Chrétien was in his day, he never tried to destroy the other parties.
Nevertheless, the pragmatist in me – that wants Canada to stay as strong as possible – is balking at the idea of Stephane Dion seizing the helm. Rationally, it doesn’t make sense. It goes against the country’s best interests. I mean, I agreed with Dion and the Green Shift – tax the hell out of pollution, that’s what I say. But it must be conceded that most Canadians did not embrace Dion or his platform. So to appoint him leader now is going to strike millions of Canadians as a bit of farce, not to mention, undemocratic. Granted – there is parliamentary precedent for it, indeed, Harper suggested exactly the same power-sharing arrangement in 2004, but just because Harper thought of it first certainly doesn’t make it right.
In the long term, I think there is only one way of saving Canada. We have to reform our democracy and introduce a form of proportional representation. It’s the only way a country as vast as this one can mitigate the regional differences. The Bloc is not as popular in Québec as their seat-count in parliament would suggest. Moreover, the Conservatives (or Stephen Harper) are not as popular out West as their seat-count would suggest. Both are benefitting from a first-past-the-post system that rewards the racking up of big regional victories instead of appealing to Canadians from coast to coast. If the Bloc Québecois were awarded seats on the basis of their support among Canadians, how many seats would they have right now? Thirty at most? And thirty seats seems about appropriate to their status as a purely provincial party with only narrow and selfish interests.
The vast majority of Canadians prefer centre-left parties. That is what recent history is proving. What unites the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc is that they reject the deference to Big Oil and pure individualism; in this time of economic crisis, they believe more help for struggling Canadians is needed. If we could somehow remove the toxic poison of separatism from this mix, I believe we’d get the government we need at this time.
It’s time for proportional representation!
Today is the day of the Canadian election. I voted earlier today, hoping that my support for the Liberals will cost the Bloc Quebecois their seat, which they’ve held since 2006. Overall, though, it looks as though the Conservatives will win again, albeit with a minority. I find Canadians’ choice bizarre, since Stephen Harper’s Bush-lite administration has turned its back on many things that I thought were widely supported. For example, affordable daycare. When they were in government, the Liberals got almost universal support from the provinces for their national daycare program; the Conservatives scrapped it and replaced it with a measly $100 monthly credit that is a drop in the bucket compared to what it actually costs to send a kid to daycare.
And Stephen Harper’s conservatives do next to nothing on one of Canadians’ top priority: the environment. If re-elected, they will preside over yet more Big Oil tax holidays and further increases in carbon emissions. Plus, without rhyme or reason, they cut arts funding, and favour direct ministerial interference in determining which arts projects get supported. Since when did Conservatives became the community standards police?
Closer to home, I have a new bicyle. I purchased it from a rough-looking dude on St. Laurent yesterday. It’s a great bike. Only $25 — probably stolen — but it goes like a racehorse. Yesterday, I took it all the way from Villeray to NDG and back. Beautiful ride.
And today, I continued my trend of buying from dodgy people, and purchased a black kitten from some apparent drug fiends in a basement apartment — again on St. Laurent. The woman answered the door in a skirt-thing that stopped well short of her knobbly knees. Her shoulder was plastered with band aids. A remedy for needle-induced track marks, I wonder? The squalid pit, which was a third of the size of my own apartment, was nevertheless currently serving as digs to the aforementioned woman as well as two men who were content to laze around in their undies. The healthiest critters in there were the kitties. My kittie was reportedly born August 30. She’s tiny. She is now settling into her new abode nicely, and is currently enjoying a well-deserved sleep on my bed.
Meanwhile, work continues apace on scheming of how to make money. I already make a bit of money, but I need to make a lot more in order to be solvent on a month-to-month basis. There could be good news on the horizon, or there could be yet more depressing news. Luck has not been plentiful, lately. I guess I have to go make my own damn luck.
For almost two decades, Canada was led by an intelligent and principled leader, who faced national crises bigger than any than those we’ve seen since, and who left behind institutions that will far outlive him. Although enormously popular in his day, he did not pander to the public to win his popularity. He had the strength of mind to make unpopular decisions, preferring to do what was best for the country rather than what was best for his party or for him personally.Watch this short clip of Pierre Elliott Trudeau debating reporters – actually engaging in a debate, mind you, not delivering sound bites or recycling messages – and weep at the lamentable choices before us among the current generation of politicians in Canada and the United States.
Salon.com recently wrote a scathing article about the popularity of Sarah Palin, decrying the current culture of reality show politics.
“…more and more Americans seem to see politics as just another reality TV show. You vote for Palin the same way you vote for a designer on ‘Project Runway.’ As Katharine Mieszkowski reported for Salon, Palin’s rapturous supporters embrace her because ‘she represents me.’ It’s the politics of sheer narcissism. This crudely personalized and debased approach to civic life has always been present, but it’s getting stronger, and the Republicans are recklessly exacerbating it. Never mind that if they succeed in dumbing down the electorate and turning politics into the most superficial popularity contest, the country will suffer irreparable harm. Hey, we gotta win this election!”
The economic and environmental crises, of which I’m guessing we’ve seen only the first storm winds of the hurricane that’s coming, cannot be resolved by reality show politics or unadulterated populism. It’s a sign of a malfunctioning system when a party such as the Republican Party roars “drill, drill, drill!”in Congress, calling out for more offshore exploitation, and actually considers this a potential vote winner. You know we’ve reached the syrupy crud at the bottom of the barrel when appealing purely to the pocketbooks of gas-guzzling drivers is the sum total of an energy policy. Likewise, Stephen Harper, refusing to halt the catastrophe in Alberta’s oil sands because it will supposedly “slow” economic growth, is an exemplar of the kind of populism that, in the long-term, will sink an entire civilization.
We don’t elect these people to sing our praises and talk about the wisdom of the average American or Canadian. The very definition of the average Canadian or American is somebody would be unable to make decisions on behalf of millions of citizens. We elect people to be better than us, to be brighter than us, to be better informed then us. I am convinced there are still such people around; they’ve probably all chosen careers outside of politics because politics has become a reality show.
If Pierre Trudeau were alive to combat the collapse of our economic system and environment, I have a feeling he’d have the courage to make the unpopular decisions necessary to get us through the storm. He wouldn’t behave as if Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth were just a piece of middle-brow entertainment from yesteryear; he’d enact the call to arms that is so sorely needed. He’d have the strength of mind to know that no matter how unpopular he might have to make himself in the short-term, he’d be proven right in the long term and the public would be grateful to him for it.
And then, suddenly, the anxiety melts away. It doesn’t take much. Today I was getting pretty worried about money — the shortage thereof — and then I had a phone conversation with Bell Mobility that worked me into a little fit. I hate it when I call about charges that I’m sure are unfair and unwarranted, and then they explain exactly why your phone bill is so exorbitant, and you have to pay it anyway. I hate it! Anyway, just at the moment that my head is swirling with angry thoughts, I walk into Parc Jacques-Cartier and there is a band playing beautiful Latin music, people are gathered around, relaxed and happy, and I get the feeling like I’m on a summer holiday. A holiday in my own city. And then I bump into a friend — a native Quebecoise — and even more worries slip away as I relax into the feeling of community and companionship.
Later this week, or more likely the weekend, I’m planning on doing a post or two on web writing, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. So the conversation is likely going to turn pretty serious. But not morbid. More and more, I think about the weird world of keywords and tags, and how they can end up influencing what we write, until there’s a risk that we simply use words as a kind of product. Like the way I could mention Stephen Harper in this post, and then mention Stephen Harper again, and then top it off by mentioning Stephen Harper for a third time, and I’ll likely end up caught in the net of those trawling for blogs that mention Stephen Harper. I know this, because it’s happened already!
Clever bloggers know how to send their blog shooting up Google rankings with expert allusions to hot button issues, such as 9-11, and Britney Spears. This Guardian column about it is a great read. But that’s not to say that Google is easily fooled. Oh no. Its acute algorithmic brain knows if you are trying to play dirty tricks. It can gauge the quality of the material you have to write about, say, Stephen Harper. Nevertheless, you know we’re living in a qualitatively different world when there are “spiders” crawling about structure of your prose; when a strong writer could languish in obscurity on the web simply for not understanding Search Engine Optimization!
Anyway, I’ll say something less boring about that, Saturday or Sunday.
I have to write a short story about pylons now. It’s the fourth in a series of five that I have vowed to start this week. It was inspired by my drive to work this morning when I was sitting in traffic surrounded by the large orange and white pylons that mark off construction zones.
Montreal is full of them right now.
If you ask me, it’s a mafia racket. Construction projects seems to take twice as long here as they would anywhere else. And when they’re finished, the jobs are still lousy! Look at the crumbling highways! Look at the Olympic stadium! Consider the cracks in the Metro station last summer! If something heavy and concrete lands on my head, I am going to be even more irritated than I was earlier today.
That really is something to worry about.
It is a sensible idea to always have at least a little bit of money kicking around. How much is enough? Well, I’d say at least five dollars is a good start. How much is too much? I’d say anything over $200,000 a year is getting excessive. There should probably be a law against taking home any more money than that. Where are you going to find room for it all? If I became prime minister, I would impose a maximum salary of $200,000 per year. Anything above that would have to go to worthy causes.
Yesterday I found out I will be earning a little more money. So as you can see, I have money on my mind. After work, I went home and found a cheque from the govenment for $50. This unexpected bonus made me quite happy, so I went out to a cafe with Teena and Denis. There I proceeded to drink two and a bit glasses of sangria, and ate a wholesome dessert. I ordered the Anna Nicole Split, but there was no Anna Nicole left, apparently, on account of a shortage of the required fruit (bananas). So I had to settle for a James Brown. That’s OK, the James Brown was almost as good as Anna Nicole would have been
See the marvellous things money can procure.
By the way, I am ashamed of Stephen Harper today. It’s not for the first (or the last time) either. Harper thinks it’s A-OK to leave accused Canadian terrorist Khadr languishing in Gitmo indefinitely, despite ample evidence that the kid is being treated abominably. I think Harper is doing this in order to try and prove to everyone, especially macho Albertans, how manly he is. Well, Steve-O, I’m not fooled! I don’t think you’re manly in the slightest. Only the biggest coward believes in bullying people who are defenceless. I don’t care if they committed a crime or not.
I know my opinion is not going to change Stephen Harper’s ideas about anything, but I do feel better getting that off my chest.