enjoying the foliage

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Since I turned 18 I have voted in exactly two elections. Being the age that I am, it’s fairly obvious which direction of center I have voted for, and I have no problem disclosing that information. The first election I participated in, I voted NDP in my university riding in a room on the first floor of the university centre – exactly a 15 second outdoor stroll from my first year residences. I chose NDP based mostly on health care and environment policy. As someone who was (unfortunately) raised on the Sun, I couldn’t see myself ever voting for the Liberal party. They had been in power so long! And there were all those scandals. They clearly couldn’t be counted on to form effective government. And while I respect their values, I do not hold much love for the Green Party and would never vote for a group of people who never intend to be elected. And unlike most other students I passingly discussed politics with, I do not hate Stephen Harper or the Conservative Party. I support many core conservative values that are not always reflected in how the party votes, such as fiscal responsibility or a tough on crime mentality. Also, I oppose almost every single policy they support – voting for them was never really an option.

I was not surprised when Liberal gay-marriage opposer Brenda Chamberlain won in my riding. While we are most definitely not a two-party system, in most ridings the showdown seems to be between the red and the blue. Not deterred, I was ready to vote again in the two-shakes-of-a-moose’s-tail that usually separates our elections.

I admit, from August onwards of this year I spent most of my headspace being entranced by the siren song of Barack Obama’s sensible liberalism, and wetting myself with hope that the US would elect a leader that we as a country could stand. I only really noticed that an election was coming up when a virus of plastic signs began to plague my summer commutes into the city of Guelph. Fast forward to election day because I was summarily ignoring Canadian politics in favor of the, let’s face it, more interesting stuff south of the border. 1630 Election Day I was running myself in circles on the Election Canada website, trying to find my polling station and not yet having decided who I was going to vote for. When I discovered that I was, in fact, not in the Guelph riding but two blocks outside of it in Wellington-Halton Hills, and that the Conservatives won in my riding with 60% of the vote last election, well, my decision had been made. I had never seen myself as a strategic voter, but then, I had never seen myself as living in a riding with an actual real-life Christian Heritage Party candidate. I voted Liberal to keep the Conservatives out of power. Harper won with 62% of the vote in my riding this election. No real surprises there. I sat in the library and streamed election results off my laptop. I shudder to think of the amount of money that was spent with the ultimate value of seven parliament seats in flux. What is the real value of elections to our officials?

Continue with my ignoring the state of Canadian politics to focus on other things. While I do not get the paper and have only a passing interest in the news, I assumed (perhaps correctly) that nothing was getting done as per usual. Fast forward yet again to Facebook rumblings of a “coalition” being formed by Stephane Dion and Jack Layton against Harper and the Conservatives. If you consider nothing but the way I have voted all my voter life, you would suppose I would be pleased as punch having my two favourite ladies become best friends and go on Atlantic City jaunts together.

For someone only half-following the state of politics through hearsay, it was easy to identify a knee-jerk visceral WHAT THE FUCK reaction among my fellow students. Admittedly none of us paid attention in Civics class. Come on. It was REALLY boring and we were fifteen. You can’t blame us. Our brand of Gen X/Internet/Cybertext or whatever the old folks are calling us these days immediately devolved into uses of CapsLock and the word “communism” which began spilling out into my Facebook Newsfeed. COMMIE LIBERALS!!! THIS IS A DEMOCRACY!! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND CANADIAN GOVERNMENT THEREFORE I AM OUTRAGED! Come on. We’re not fooling anyone. This coalition shit hasn’t been pulled since Borden, it’s safe to say it’s pretty new to most of us. But we all get to learn NEW FUN words like prorogue and then crawl up on our smartypants high horses and say snottily that we knew all this shit about our parliamentary system WHY, DIDN’T YOU?!? while other people that had no such knowitall pretenses threw around sentences they found haphazardly dangingly from McCain’s speeches on Barack Obama and his rampant socialism. Immediately lines were drawn all around and across what used to be counted on as being a fairly cohesively ultraliberal grouping. Suddenly everyone’s an expert on Canadian politics, and everyone has an opinion.

Well, here’s mine. I don’t care about how useless the Conservatives are in power. I don’t care that no one’s passed a bill since who-knows-when. I don’t care that we are the only ones not to have passed an economic stimulus package. I don’t care about Harper’s broken promises, words like “dictatorship” or Stephane Dion’s accent. I don’t care about the lies told to me by both parties on national TV. Here is what I do care about.

Currently, parliament has been suspended, so the EXACT definition of “nothing” can be accomplished. Harper has been instrumental in calling a useless election for our useless House, while Dion has been instrumental in doing exactly the opposite of trying to get shit done as he gathers a up a grassroots movement of left-leaners to “get stuff done that real Canadians actually care about etc etc” to maybe do stuff, in like a couple of months, if the guy with bad hair will get out of our way. So, at last count, NO ONE is currently doing their jobs.

I don’t care if you disagree. I don’t care if you think you can’t get shit done unless you play musical chairs with every fucking politician in the House. All I want is for everyone in Ottawa to take their collective dicks out of each others’ collective asses, stop pulling each others hair and get the hell back to work.

It’s going to be a long fucking year and a half until the the next election unless you jackasses can, somehow, some way, figure out how to do what the rest of us have to and negotiate with people you don’t necessarily agree with or like. Because that is, I think, the working definition of a productive politician – working being the operative word. And without a fundamental change in the mentality of Canadian politics, where we go from if you don’t like who you’re working with vote for an election, to, what can we accomplish with people who are different from us, there will be no real change in our government for a very, very long time.

I am SO RELIEVED. Things are going to be awesome, guys. Congrats Americans, you did it!

As you all know, I’m stuck in my wicked little town this summer because I have an internship with a major collaborative research initiative (MCRI) being run out of Queen’s called the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance project. Although I don’t do anything particularly original or academic, I got a really good sense of the kinds of things that other people are doing for the project this weekend when about fifty of us converged on the Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Kingston for two days for a workshop/conference called Assessing Territorial Pluralism. Comparative politics, constitution building, and empirical studies are really way beyond the scope of my interests, so I definitely got some exposure to things I’d never really thought about or heard of until yesterday or the day before. I just thought I’d share some of the things I learned that came out of the conference:

  • philosophy students tend to grimace especially when academics are accused of being so far removed from the real world, but then there are individuals like Richard Simeon and Marie-Joelle Zahar who were in Iraq in 2005 to advise the Iraqis in the drafting of their constitution
  • everyone is busy talking about Tibet, but Chinese ethnographers have officially identified 55 different ethnic minorities living within Chinese borders, and strangely enough, there are articles in the Chinese constitution that recognise the existence and rights of these nationalities. For the present, of course, all real power lies with the CCP, but these constitutional guarantees might come in handy in the future
  • Belgium is an incredibly divided nation-state that may in fact be in its death throes. Civil society, politics, and just about everything else are divided along language lines, i.e. as a politician, you’d probably speak both French and Flemish, but you’d have to decide whether you’d run as a candidate for the Francophone green party or the Flemish green party. There just isn’t any dialogue going on between the Francophone and Flemish populations anymore. [The chocolate of both societies, however, is still fabulous – I can attest to this personally.]