Elizabeth May on the Sidelines

by matttbastard

For most of the day on Monday, the front page of Progressive Bloggers was absolutely dominated by one topic: the decision rendered by the consortium of Canadian broadcasters to deny Green Party leader Elizabeth May a spot in the national leadership debate.  The consortium, a coalition of 5 Canadian broadcasters that controls participation in the debate, claims that despite the Greens having reached the bar set last election (having a sitting MP, controversial former Liberal candidate, Blair Wilson, in Parliament), 3 of the 4 other parties have threatened to pull out of the debate if May is allowed to participate.  The Globe quotes NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne as stating “[The NDP] said we would not accept the invitation to participate because the Greens did not have an elected [emphasis mine] member of Parliament and that Ms. May had endorsed [Liberal leader Stephane] Dion as prime minister”. 

The Conservatives offered a similar line of spin: May is running in Nova Scotia (specifically, in star cabinet minister Peter MacKay’s riding) unopposed by a Liberal candidate, and, according to the Globe, “could throw her support to [the Liberals] at the end of the campaign.”  Indeed, as noted by the Globe, May has already raise some eyebrows by sending out a mass email in which she pledged support to a Liberal candidate running against Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Regardless, the Greens are, obviously, fuming at what they see as the latest round of Calvinball on the part of Canada’s broadcast gatekeepers, with May calling yesterday’s announcement “anti-democratic, closed door, backroom decision making” while astutely pointing out that the other national party leaders and broadcast executives involved “are all men”–a sharp jab at the blatant disparity in gender on display among the principles involved, optics that may play more of a factor in today’s post-Clinton/Palin political landscape than in recent electoral contests.

Yours truly has in the past been critical of May and the Greens’ own arguably ‘anti-democratic’ maneuvers to gain a foothold in Parliament, be it by courting Wilson or via friendship arrangements made with Dion and the Liberals.  With that said, the other national leaders (including Stephane Dion, who, despite his party’s claim of support for the Greens’ inclusion, said yesterday that “I would like her to be there, but I will not participate if Stephen Harper is not there”–not exactly a ringing endorsement for “fairness”) are betraying obvious fear of what may be the wild card party of the 2008 election campaign.  Support for the Green Party has been steadily increasing in key ridings, and could provoke a split on the left (and, thanks to the Greens’ classical liberal economic platform, potentially bleed Conservative votes in environmentally-conscious BC) if the party can successfully court Canadian voters beyond the Greens’ standard constituency. 

As former Liberal strategist Scott Reid observes, “[i]f [May] successfully assembles a coalition that adds disaffected voters to her environmentalist basse, she could become a green Ross Perot–stealing support from others, altering the campaign’s core narrative and unpredictably affecting the result.”  May claims that she doesn’t care who Canadians vote for, as long as they vote, but it goes without saying that she is going to fight to get as many votes cast her way; it makes sense, then, that the 4 other party leaders want to limit May’s national exposure as much as possible.  However, by placing May and her party front and centre in what has fast become the first media firestorm of the 2008 election campaign, the scheme seems to have backfired spectacularly. 

Whatever happens, it seems apparent that Elizabeth May has emerged as a serious political player, and, come October 14th, may indeed prove to be, in the words of Reid, “the most dangerous woman in Canada.”

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Spare Me.

by matttbastard

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Sarah O. in comments over at we move to canada passes along this “explanation” from everybody’s favourite Dipper-in-name-only Peter Stoffer:

Just wanted to let you know I spoke to my MP, Peter Stoffer this afternoon. He explained why he voted for this bill, and said that his vote was consistent with his approach to private members bills (This is true – he has 38 on the go right now, for instance). However, I still strongly believe he should have made an exception to such an incendiary piece of legislation.

Stoffer puts a lot of emphasis on private members bills, and likes to send as many to committee as possible. To paraphrase to the best of my memory, he said he was aware of the concerns about this bill, and expects the committee to address these concerns, by either letting it die in committee or amending the heck out of it. And he also emphatically assured me he is pro-choice, and will continue to be.

Well, doesn’t that just warm your bleeding heart? Happy fucking International Women’s Day from Mr. Integrity. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Also, my kingdom for some Liberals who have some principles (if not backbone) — I mean, really, is “OMG BUT WHAT ABOOT TEH DREADED SOCON RUMP?!!11” the best excuse you folks can come up with? Yeah, cos everyone knows one occasionally has to toss uppity bitches under the red and white campaign bus as a blood sacrifice to the snarling regressive hindquarters of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Bravo Darren, who, in this “Dear Jean” post explaining his reasons for leaving the Grits, hits the problem with this Parliament squarely on the head:

Who is it in the Liberal party who actually thinks that allowing Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to continue governing is good for the party? But more importantly, who is it in the Liberal party who actually thinks that allowing Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to continue governing is good for the country? If they’re as corrupt and scary as the Liberals make them out to be then it’s just as scary that the Liberals keep something like that propped up.

Please spare me the “Canadians don’t want an election” lines too. When was the last time anyone wanted an election? Do you think Canadians wanted to trudge to the polls a couple of years ago in the bitter January cold? No! But they did and they voted for change two years ago. Apparently the party is now “waiting for the perfect time” to topple this government. Is that for the best interests of the country … or the party? Hmmmm.

There are a number of great Liberals. There are some who I hope can turn the party around and help it find it’s backbone again. Those are the ones who should start speaking up and take the party over and they should do so quickly.

[…] I don’t plan to vote Conservative or NDP either. I don’t even know if I could vote Green. The truth is every single leader needs to be replaced at this point. Stephen Harper hasn’t been able to win a majority government and he’s been Leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister for almost six years!

I was patient with Stephane Dion but it’s clear it isn’t working. Jack Layton has been leader of the NDP for five years and he hasn’t exactly shown too much promise either. It’s safe to say I won’t ever vote for Gilles Duceppe or his party.

We have four grey haired guys with as much charisma as a snow shovel running the bickering show here in Canada and we wonder why we have stagnant minority governments, voter apathy and low turnout at the polls? There are record turnouts south of the border where they have a woman, a black man and a war hero running for their highest office. Ladies and gentlemen, we need new leaders to step up to the plate.

At the very least, we need a government committed to maintaining Canadian values, not one hell bent on incrementally implementing a socially regressive agenda that brazenly pisses all over everything that makes Canada Canada. And we especially need an official opposition that isn’t afraid of its own shadow.

When are the Grits going to do their fucking jobs and stop allowing this minority government to rule with impunity?

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More On The NDP And Bill C-6

by matttbastard

[cobbled together from various comments/forum posts, edited substantially for coherency]

Ok, so we’ve heard from the NDP (sort of). And if the NDP kills the bill, great.

But upon reflection (thanks, skdadl) I think my last post was itself too mealy-mouthed in reaction to what amounts to awkward damage control by the Dippers. The NDP dropped the ball and still hasn’t picked it up–period. Some may be comforted by Dewar’s non-response, but, rather than clarifying the Dipper position on C-6, I find it further muddies the water.

Dewar’s letter, and the response from some hardcore NDP partisans, rubs me the wrong way. “Muslims see this as a non-issue” was initially the preferred talking point of some Dipper apologists (we’ll leave aside the crass notion of Muslims in Canada holding monolithic views). But this is a misrepresentation of what has been said by some (some) leaders in the Islamic community who have spoken out in regards to the (non) issue. Here’s an example courtesy the Halifax Daily News:

The veiled voting controversy is a tempest in search of a teapot, says Saleem Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia. Framed in the context of “reasonable accommodation,” a national firestorm has been raging over the issue of whether Muslim women can vote while covering their faces with veils.

“It’s just the hypocrisy of the government,” Ahmad says.

“There was no controversy. The Muslim community never complained. The women would gladly take off their veil for a woman official.”

He points out that no one is required to show photo ID to vote, and postal voting does not require photo ID. Further, he estimates that 300 women in all of Canada wear the veil.

Hamzah Mangera, the imam at the Dartmouth mosque, agrees it is a non-issue. His wife, who wears a veil, happily removes it in private for female officials when using her passport to cross borders.

Mangera says the row points to a deeper issue of fears over cultural integration, as illustrated by the “code of conduct” produced by Herouxvile, Que., which informed newcomers that stoning women was prohibited and that women should show their faces in public, apart from Halloween.

Ahmad blames an outburst of xenophobia against Muslims, led by “that idiot down south” (U.S. President George W. Bush) and a lack of nerve among Canadian politicians to say it is not an issue, “rather than courting an easy vote.”

What has stirred up the tempest is Bill C-6, not the outcry against it. Face saving or not, the fact that some members of a purported social democratic party feel there’s even room for discussion is highly disturbing. The last thing we need is New Labour North.

Sinister Greg asked some pertinent questions yesterday that still deserve an answer:

Was Godin freelancing or did he have reason to think the party was behind him? Why did they sit on this for over 24 hours? Where is Jack Layton? Usually he can’t run to the microphones fast enough, why is he silent now? Why does Dewar say the party has not taken a final position on Bill C-6? Why not? Do they think they can somehow spin shit into gold? I think it is a bit rich too, for Dewar to say this bill was introduced for political reasons, when the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc egged the government on with their craven attacks on Mr. Maynard. Trying to slam the barn door now is just a laughable attempt at damage control.

pogge has some questions of his own:

There was no ambiguity at all in the Globe and Mail‘s headline: NDP supports show-your-face bill. And the story supported the headline. And there is, as of this writing, no correction attached to that story.

So what gives? Did Yvon Godin miscommunicate? Did someone else? Did the Globe reporter screw up?

Bill C-6 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. On its own, it may be a ‘non-issue’, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when taken in context with today’s increasingly xenophobic political culture where Muslims have been singled out for attention (especially in Quebec). As any person of colour can tell you (*waves*), it’s easy to shrug off blatant attempts at othering when one is privileged to be a member of the majority culture.

Now, to be fair, though ideologically I’m a social democrat and have only ever voted NDP (both federally and provincially), I hold no love for Jack Layton. I do try to restrain myself from reflexively ‘piling on’ out of spite when it appears he’s giving the Stephen Harper Party a pass (even though admittedly the temptation is ever present). But this issue in particular should transcend partisan loyalty (or lack thereof).

Should.

Over the past several years our neighbours next door have provided an all-too-visceral example of what happens when unapologetic nativism is allowed to be mainstreamed. I for one refuse to remain silent as this country continues its incremental-but-increasingly-apparent shift to the capital ‘R’ Right; the potential consequences threaten everything that makes (post ’67) Canada Canada. And when the party that best represents my ideals helps contribute to fascism’s creep (whether deliberately or unintentionally) I feel obligated to speak out, goddamn the optics–especially when those purportedly on ‘my side’ have reflexively defended the indefensible with privileged apologia like this.

To quote the ever-quotable skdadl:

The issue here isn’t ID by face. The issue is a neocon assault on voters’ rights, spun for the neocon base on sexist, racist, and paranoid-political grounds, and if Canadian leftists haven’t wised up enough yet to recognize this kind of Rovian shit and call it for what it is, then we are in trouble … srsly.”

Bottom line: why won’t the NDP take a definite position against legislation that is both (admittedly) unnecessary and (IMO) deliberately inflammatory?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Layton Gets Up-Close And Personal With His Colon

by matttbastard

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Way to play wingman while Uncle Steve flirts with nativism, Jack.

h/t pogge and Sinister Greg.

Update: Found the following delightful dispatch at a private forum; apparently it’s making the rounds as an email forward. Who knew Bryan Adam’s manager was a racist sack of shit – and that his unrepentant bigotry would strike a chord with ‘real’ citizens:

WE ARE CANADIANS

Bruce Allan [sic] is on the 2010 Olympic Committee and new Canadians (specifically Hindi’s / Indian’s) want him fired for his recent comments outlined below;
Our National Anthem: I am sorry, but after hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Hindi – enough is enough. Nowhere or at no other time in our nation’s history, did they sing it in Italian, Japanese, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German, Portuguese, Greek, or any other language because of immigration.
It was written in English, adapted into co-founding French, and should be sung word for word the way it was written. The news broadcasts even gave the Hindi version translation which was not even close to our National Anthem. I am not sorry if this offends anyone, this is MY COUNTRY – IF IT IS YOUR COUNTRY SPEAK UP —- please pass this along.

I am not against immigration – just come through like everyone else. Get a sponsor; have a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your taxes, live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past and LONG LIVE CANADA!”

It’s time we all get behind Bruce Allen, and scrap this Political Correctness crap. His comments were anything but racist, but there are far too many overly sensitive ‘New Canadians’ that are trying to change everything we hold dear. ARE WE PART OF THE PROBLEM! Think about this: If you don’t want to forward this for fear of offending someone,will we still be the Country of Choice and still be CANADA if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries who have come to live in CANADA because it is the Country of Choice? Think about it.

IMMIGRANTS, NOT CANADIAN’S, MUST ADAPT. It is Time for CANADA to speak up. If you agree – pass this along.

Is that the sort of dangerously exclusive sentiment our political elite wish to further cultivate in Canada by legitimizing othering and outright xenophobia? Because misguided sops to the lowest common denominator like the so-called ‘show-your-face’ bill only encourages the dubious celebration of cultural homogeneity. Like Greg says, “[i]f they think these kinds of actions will not have consequences for the health of our society, they are wrong.”

 Update 2: Dr Dawg has an ultimatum for the NDP: vote this bill down or forever lose his support.  Count me in–even though I haven’t been a member since 2003, I’ve never voted for any other party other than the Dippers. But I can’t in good conscience continue to support them if they allow this bill to pass.

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Of ‘Political Stunts’ And Squeezing Lemons

by mattbastard

I’m certainly no fan of Jack Layton, but methinks that Steve V. is being too hasty by assuming that the Canadian Press included a full and accurate quote of the NDP leader’s comments re: Liberal Defence Critic Denis Coderre’s unofficial trip to Afghanistan. [Update 10.07 10pm EDT: Jack Layton was quoted accurately. Layton was even asked if he thought the refusal was out of fear that Coderre would ‘upstage’  Bernier and Oda, but deferred from answering, instead claiming he didn’t wish to speculate – mb] That said, I agree with (*gasp*) Don Martin (phew, the universe didn’t implode*exhales*):

It should…be noted Mr. Coderre is among the greatest of all parliamentary publicity hogs, a man who would walk through Taliban headquarters wrapped in an American flag if there was a media scrum on the other side.

But he does serve as official Opposition defence critic and is a member of the Privy Council. As such, Mr. Coderre has a lot to learn about Canada’s most important military mission in 50 years which, in my view, legitimizes a first-hand look at a mission his party hopes to disband in just 16 months.

[…]

It seems only fair that Mr. Bernier [have found] a seat for his official critic on the government plane. The Afghanistan deployment is clearly the defence decision of the decade, if not the last 50 years, and non-partisan eyewitness input can be useful.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that this has to unequivocally rank as one of the most asinine spin-doctoring jobs by a Conservative this year:

According to the Canadian Press, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda went before skeptical Afghan journalists and said roadside and suicide bombings indicate that the insurgents have made a shift in tactics. She said that shows the success of the NATO mission.

Oda said that she spoke with senior Afghan officials and they “identified that the difference in the challenge in Kandahar today can be seen as, to a certain extent, success.’

Oda said that such that although suicide bombings and roadside bombings were common in southern parts of the country, their shift to the capital shows that insurgents have become desperate.

Yes, it’s quite evident how a similar “desperate” tactical shift several years back has improved the security situation in Iraq. Takes a lot of chutzpah to try and portray the import of asymmetrical guerrilla tactics as a positive development (mmm, tasty lemonade!)

[mb: edited to add Martin quote, which, for whatever reason, disappeared during the initial proofreading stage. Oops.]

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