views from canada’s left coast

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sometimes you have to vote for the person

I am voting for Spencer Herbert in the May 12, 2009 BC election. Many people would assume that I am a supporter of the NDP. Spencer Herbert is after all and NDP MLA. In fact, I am not a supporter of the BC NDP. I am particularly opposed to their Axe the Tax campaign. I think that the carbon tax is one of the only good ideas the Campbell Liberals have had and I think that we need a carbon tax, perhaps even at the cost of having to stomach four more years of rule by the BC Liberals. I am still voting for Spencer Herbert though. Many people just do not know enough about their local candidates to base their voting decisions on those individual people rather than their party. I think that I know enough about Spencer Herbert to know that he is about as good a representative as the West End could ever hope to have.

It does not take much time to learn about a local candidate. You can find a lot of information on their personal website. You can find opinions about them on blogs like the one I am writing right now. You can also simply go and meet them. Spencer Herbert is routinely on the street talking to whoever is willing to take a minute or two to stop and chat with him. He is not selling himself or his party to the public. Rather, he is listening to people and what they think are the issues that should be of the most concern to Spencer and to the government. In larger ridings it would be harder to bump into your MLA on the street, but you can easily email them, probably even talk to them on the phone and give them a piece of your mind, or give them a go at convincing you as to why they deserve your support.

I hear from a lot of people that they will not vote NDP because of how terrible they were in government the last time around. I tend to agree in large part with those people. I think that the NDP is a big risk in a time of extreme economic uncertainty. At the same time, I know that there are many very good people running for the NDP. People who deserve a deeper look than their party does. People who are relatively new to the party, with little or no associations with the last NDP government. These are people who will bring new ideas and new energy to the party, and perhaps to government should the NDP manage a victory in May. So while I am not so sure about the NDP overall as a party, I am sure enough about enough of their MLAs and candidates to know that at least in some ridings it is perfectly safe and sane to vote for the NDP candidate.

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March 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

we need more naive youth in politics

About a week ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine about our mutual desire to some day go into politics. I brought up how naive we both are about the whole process, and the chances of ever getting elected, but we both agreed that being a little naive, and extremely idealistic is something that politics could use more of. There is a huge problem with young people not voting, but who can really blame them when there is pretty much no one representing their interests in politics. Old people vote, old people run for political office, issues important to an older population get most of the attention.

Recently in my provincial riding of Vancouver-Burrard Spencer Herbert won a by-election under the NDP banner. I believe Spencer is 27 years old, turns 28 this year. He is quite young, but not without some political experience (3 years on Parks Board in Vancouver). Spencer is a prime example of what I am talking about. He is young, he does not have a lot of experience, but he has energy, ideas, and the naivete to believe that he can really make a difference if he works hard enough. I am not saying that older, more experienced politicians do not think they can make a difference, but they seem so much more cautious in their approach, and they only go for ideas and issues that they are pretty certain they can make an impact in/on. We need some new ideas, with some fresh new minds working on them.

So what do we do as young people to elect more people close to our own age? I do not really know. You still have to be able to convince mostly older voters that youth and inexperience can be positive attributes. It is possible for a highly organized group of young people to join a political party, sign up as many people as they can in their riding and take over a nomination process. If you could manage to win nomination for a dominant political party in a riding then you have a very good chance of getting elected. The problem is that the highly winnable ridings tend to have either highly entrenched incumbents, or have very stiff competition in the nominations process.

The key though is to try. Young people need to get invovled. Poeple like me need to stop thinnking about it, stop talking about it, and start taking action. Young people are underrepresented because we simply do not care enough, or are too lazy to actually get active in our political process. I am clearly a hypocrit. It is unlikely I have the drive or the energy to really get involved in the process. But just writing this is a step in the right direction. It is evidence of my laziness, and evidence of my idealism.

Some day, maybe when I’m older, more experienced, wiser, then I will get involved.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Politics | | 3 Comments

Prorogation is a good result but could set a bad precedent

I am pleased that the Governor General agreed to prorogue the House today. I think that all parties need some time to think things over and to re-establish communication between the opposition parties and the government. It is not at all clear whether or not the Conservatives will be able to survive a confidence vote in January, but at least they have now been given the opportunity to make amends for their extremely poor choices over the last couple of weeks.

I still think that Stephen Harper should resign. I know he will not resign, but he clearly has shown that he cannot work well with the opposition parties. Harper is a bully, he tried to utilize the economic crisis as a cover to financially cripple his opponents. Since Harper will almost certainly not resign, he instead needs to do some very serious soul searching. He needs to rethink and reshape his dealings with the opposition. If Harper hopes to avoid a defeat on the budget he should get started right away on negotiating a budget with the opposition that will address their major concerns. I do not think Stephen Harper is capable of working with the opposition in a collaborative manner. I think he simply cannot change his bullish attitude.

While I think that prorogation was not a bad option, it could potentially have set a terrible precedent for Canadian politics. What happens the next time a government is certain it will lose on a confidence vote. Will the Governor General consider delaying confidence votes in other sorts of situations? Clearly this was a unique circumstance. There was an election less than two months ago. The government had not passed any legislation in the new sitting. There is an alternative government in waiting. It is unlikely that a situation such as this will ever occur again.

Perhaps the decision to prorogue Parliament this time can be seen as a positive though. If the Governor General had instead forced Harper to face the opposition’s confidence motion, she would have pretty much had to accept the coalition government’s offer to form a new government. If that had happened, then the next time we end up with a minority government, the opposition parties may quickly unite and defeat the government and form their own coalition. I think that it is important that the party that wins the most seats be given every opportunity to govern.

Clearly Harper had no regard for his opposition. He must have assumed that they did not have the stomach to oppose him on the fiscal update. Harper has rightfully backed down on the worst proposals in the fiscal update. The opposition claims that they have the right to defeat the government because there is no immediate economic stimulus package. It is not entirely true to say that there is no economic stimulus package, there just isn’t much of one. It is not entirely unwise for Harper to wait until January to announce any major economic spending. It will be more clear in late January what actions the US government is going to take. Announcing major spending for the Canadian auto sector, only to find that the US is going to do little or nothing about the problem, would mean that the Canadian government had completely wasted any money given to the auto sector. While perhaps something should have been done immediately to help the economy, the time for massive spending is in late January or early February of 2009, not immediately.

The government and the opposition now have the time to work out a compromise on the budget. I think that it is incumbent on all parties to do their utmost to work together. Canada needs strong and decisive leadership right now, not just from the government. I fear that due to the personalities involved, particularly that of Stephen Harper, there will be no great compromise. Come January 26, 2009 we could very well see the opposition moving to defeat the government. It is unclear however, depending on what is in the budget, whether or not the Governor General would dissolve Parliament, or allow the proposed coalition the chance to govern.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Stephane Dion is not worth the risk

I would like to start out by saying that I consider myself to be a Liberal supporter. I do not always vote Liberal, and I have never been a member of the party, but generally I like the party and what it stands for. I also want to say that I was at first quite excited about Dion as leader of the Liberal Party. I did not think, and still do not think, that either Michael Ignatieff, or Bob Rae, would make great leaders. Having seen Dion do such a terrible job of leading his party in an election, and now having seen him completely butcher an extremely important address to the nation, I am convinced that he could not possibly be a good Prime Minister.

Regardless of his substance, Dion just cannot communicate effectively in English. Clearly, Dion did not connect with Canadians, he led the Liberals to their worst electoral result since 1867. Communication is extremely important for the leader of Canada. Heading into what is likely to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it will be extremely important for the PM to work together with other leaders around the world. The only leaders that Dion could hope to communicate with effectively are those that speak French. More importantly, it will be necessary for the PM to effectively communicate with the Canadian people, to avoid the kind of panic that could truly cripple our economy. If he were to become Prime Minister, Dion would surely be the worst communicator to ever hold that position.

For the record, I also do not think that Stephen Harper is the right person to lead Canada in these troubling times. It was Harper who decided that it was a good idea to gut public financing for political parties and to remove the right to strike for public employees. It was Harper’s terrible ideas that led to this political crisis. If the Conservative government manages to survive the next couple of months, the party should look to replace Harper with someone more willing, and more able to work with the opposition.

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | Leave a comment

If Harper loves his country he will resign as Prime Minister

I am horrified by what is going on in Ottawa right now. Stephen Harper deserves to be punished for his attempt to use an economic crisis to cripple funding for the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc, and for the proposal to remove the right to strike for public servants. I am not particularly upset that the economic update did not have any sort of stimulus package. The time for a full fledged stimulus package will be in late January or early February once it is more clear what the Obama administration is going to do in the USA.

Harper has rightly backed down on the idea of cutting public financing of political parties, and on removing the right to strike for the public service. They were terrible ideas, driven by ideology, not by any sort of economic savings as Harper tried to frame the two. Having backed down on those two points, I cannot see any reason for the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc to continue with their bizarre scheme to bring down the Conservatives and form a government comprised of three parties that can agree on little except that they do not like Stephen Harper. The policy positions of the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc are different enough that I cannot see them passing more than one budget. Even one budget may do enough damage to the credibility of the Liberals to ensure that in the next election the Conservatives will finally win their majority.

It seems fairly clear that Dion, Layton, and Duceppe are now committed to the coalition government course of action. Relations with Stephen Harper are so damaged that I cannot see how the House could function effectively. Stephen Harper seems to be the root of the problem though. It was apparently Harper’s idea to throw in the cuts to public funding for political parties. While I do not like the Conservative Party generally, I do think that Harper more of an ideologue and schemer than most of the Conservative caucus. I think that if Harper loves his country, and wants the best for his party, he should resign as Prime Minister. Whoever the interim PM is should then put forward a strong economic stimulus package to the opposition. Should the opposition still not be interested in working out a deal with the government, then the interim PM should let the opposition defeat the government and ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.

I think that if the proposed coalition had rejected a strong economic stimulus package, put forward by someone other than Stephen Harper, then the Governor General could, and should, order that Parliament be dissolved and Canadians once again go to the polls.

Harper created this mess, and he can probably fix it, but it will mean the end of his political career. The Conservatives needed to be thinking about whether or not Harper was the right leader for them even before this mess, and it is clear now that his style of politics is not what is going to lead them to a strong majority mandate from the people of Canada.

I want to make it clear that I am not in any way a supporter of the Conservatives, or of Stephen Harper, but I simply cannot see how a three headed government, led by a man clearly rejected by the Canadian public, can be a good option for leading the country through what could be the worst economic times in nearly 80 years. We need strong leadership, we need prudent but aggressive government intervention on the economy, and we need to work closely with the rest of the world on any economic stimulus. How can we expect a three headed government, led by Dion, to be able to instill any sort of confidence in international leaders. It will be unclear for other leaders exactly who holds the power in Canad. Dion will be Prime Minister in name only. He cannot possibly take any bold actions. The Liberals won only 26% of the popular vote, and hold less than 25% of the seats in the Commons. That is hardly the kind of support necessary to instill confidence when dealing with this economic crisis.

December 2, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | 1 Comment

maybe Harper is the best we have to take on a protectionist America

While I am certainly not happy that Stephen Harper was re-elected last month, now that Barack Obama is president elect, and Congress is strongly held by the Democrats, Harper may be the best person to take on a Democratic US government.

The Democrats are known to be far more protectionist in nature than the Republicans. Obama made comments during the primaries that he would re-open NAFTA to better protect workers in the USA. While NAFTA is certainly not perfect, it has become such an important part of the Canadian economy that we cannot afford to have it tampered with in any drastic way. I think that Harper, more than any other Canadian leader today, will not be afraid to stand up to Obama on trade issues.

Harper does not seem too concerned with who he angers, both at home and abroad. While I am sure that Harper will work hard to establish a good working relationship with Obama, I also do not think he will worry about clashing with Obama. It is clear that Harper and Obama do not share much of the same ideology. Harper can afford to be seen to oppose Obama as Canadians who vote for Harper are not politically that similar to Obama.

I guess I am just searching really hard for something positive about Harper and the Conservatives, but I honestly hope that I am right, and that Harper stands up for Canada in trade negotiations with the US.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

two observations about the US election

Firstly, the win was not that big. Obama won comfortably, but I would not say that he blew McCain away. The states that were expected to be close were for the most part quite close. It was expected that Obama would win, he won convincingly, but the Republicans did surprisingly well in my view. George W. Bush is as unpopular as any sitting US president has ever been. It would have been unthinkable for McCain to actually win given how unpopular the Bush regime is. The Democrats also did not exceed expectations in the House or the Senate. Sure they picked up seats in both houses of Congress, but they did not win by a landslide.

Secondly, gay people in the USA lost big time last night. California and Arizona passed bans on same sex marriage. Florida also passed a constitutional ban, even though there was already a law in place banning same sex marriage. Perhaps most depressing of all, though not surprising, is that Arkansas passed an initiative prohibiting gay people from adopting children. The rights of gay people in the US took a major step backward last night, at the same time that the nation says it is taking a major step forward by electing the first black person president in the history of the nation. While it is laudable that Obama, a black man, has won the presidency, the state of gay rights in the US just highlights how strong bigotry still reigns in many parts of the USA. Hopefully Obama’s victory will usher in a new era of race relations and America will finally being to truly confronts its horribly racist past, and its still racist present. Hopefully while healing the wounds of racism, Americans begin to look at other people in their society who are not treated equally.

So while I am happy that Obama won, I think that the night was terrible for gay Americans. I also think that Obama’s victory was not as big as it should have been given how charismatic he is, and given how unpopular the Bush regime is. I have faith that Obama will be a good president. He seems to be very intelligent, very careful, and very calm, all qualities that are lacking in George W. Bush.

After nearly two years of campaigning, and nearly non-stop coverage for the past year, I am glad to be done with the election. I am also very glad that I am Canadian. Not only do we have a much more sane political system, we also protect the rights of all minorities, and not just those with substantial political power.

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

“The good will overcome. Trust in that.”

The title of this post is actually a quote from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I am never sure why, but certain movie quotes stick in my head and I think of them often. Good will overcome is a very nice sentiment. Such a simple statement gives me hope. At the same time, I do not really believe in evil, which is usually considered the opposite of good. I do believe in something that I will call “better.” This means that there is no right and wrong, but there are choices, ideas, etc. that are better than others.

With that strange and disjointed introduction, I want to write a little bit about the upcoming USA election. I am hoping that “The good will overcome” this Tuesday. I do not think that John McCain is evil, in fact I think he is a great American and in other circumstances he may have made a great president. Right now though, given the past 8 years of Republican rule in the White House, I think that it is necessary for the “good”, or as I prefer, the “better”, to have Barack Obama and the Democrats control the US executive for at least the next four years.

I do not think that George W. Bush is a bad person. I actually think that he is motivated by a great internal will to do “good.” I think that George W. Bush is simply too simple to be a good leader. He views the world in terms of good and evil and the world is just not that simple. The Bush approach to foreign affairs, and to the economy is just far too simplistic and destructive. The United States, and the world as a whole, needs a US president who understands subtlety. Barack Obama may be relatively inexperienced, especially compared to his opponent John McCain, but he is also clearly a very bright person, with a sophisticated view of America and the world.

I am hoping that Obama does not just win on Tuesday, but that he absolutely obliterates McCain. I am hoping to see 60 Democratic senators and a strengthened majority in the House of Representatives. I would like to see Obama win around 380 electoral college votes. I want to see such a strong mandate for the Democrats that no one can say they do not have the authority to introduce the type of change that America, and the world needs. US foreign policy needs to change drastically. US economic policy needs to change drastically. The US health care system needs to change drastically. To make the kind of change that is needed the Democrats need an overwhelming mandate. The past 8 years have done such great damage to the US both domestically and internationally that strong, swift, and decisive change is needed. That kind of change can only come with Barack Obama, and with a strong Democratic congress.

I have little doubt that “The good will overcome” on Tuesday. I just hope that enough Americans realize just how important this election is, just how important it is to bring about change. The world needs someone like Barack Obama to lead the US during these trying times.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

on to the next fight(s)

As depressing as it is to see the Conservatives win a strong minority government, there are other battles to be fought, and right away.

First, there are two provincial by-elections in Vancouver on October 29th in Vancouver Burrard and Vancouver Fairview. I live in Vancouver Burrard and I am very excited about the NDP candidate Spencer Herbert. Spencer is young, progressive, and queer, three things that we need more of in Victoria. His Liberal opponent is Arthur Griffiths, who has a great deal of name recognition, but really has only ever ran his family’s business and you could make a strong case that he did a rather poor job. I think that it will be a close hard fought race in Vancouver Burrard. I hope that voters realize what a great chance this is to elect someone young, with new ideas, but who also understands the issues that are most important to the residents of Vancouver Burrard.

There are also municipal elections across BC on November 15th. Vancouver has the chance to elect a progressive mayor and council with a very strong Vision Vancouver/COPE slate. With Harper in Ottawa, and Campbell in Victoria (at least until May ’09 anyway), it would help the conservative/progressive balance to have a progressive mayor and council. I think that Gregor Robertson stands a very good chance of winning the mayor’s office, and with his strong personality and leadership the Vision/COPE candidates for council should also do quite well.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

looking ahead

I was very saddened at the results of last nights election. I do not like Stephen Harper, I do not like the Conservatives (though as a whole they are not as bad as Harper is). I like Stephane Dion, but I thought before, and now it is totally confirmed, that he is not a strong enough leader to become Prime Minister. I voted strategically in my riding, I held my nose and voted for Hedy Fry, and it turns out that was the right choice. I most wanted to vote for Adriane Carr, but as she finished a distant fourth it would have been a wasted vote. Lorne Mayencourt surprisingly came in second. I would have been totally crushed if I had voted for Adriane Carr and the Greens and the result was a Lorne Mayencourt Conservative victory.

I do not really have much to say about the overall election results. I am upset that there are going to be fewer progressive voices in Ottawa. I think that the whole country is lucky that the Conservatives did not win a majority. I think that the results also mean that the Liberals need to do their best to work with the Conservatives for at least the next couple of years. Voters are clearly not comfortable with giving the Liberals back the power that they abused in their last reign. The last Parliament was partly dysfunctional largely because the opposition parties failed to find common ground with the Conservatives. I think that the leaders should have face to face meetings and work out an agenda that they can mostly agree upon. I think that the Liberals in particular need to show that they are above partisan politics and they need to support economic initiatives and work with the Conservatives on a compromise environmental plan.

Most importantly for the Liberals I think they need to replace their leader. I like Dion, he comes across as honest and highly intelligent, but he also fails to stir any great emotion in his audience. I think that his English is a liability, but so was Chretien’s, the difference was that everyone could feel Chretien’s passion, while Dion comes across as what he is, an intellectual. It would be nice to see a search done for a new leader. I am not interested in Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff becoming leader, though both would likely fair better than Dion. I am not sure who is out there to possibly run for the leadership, but I am sure that there must be at least a few reasonable candidates. It seems that John Manley does not really want the job, but I still hold out hope. There had been talk in years past of Louise Arbour possibly running, I think she would be great. She is bilingual, and she is a she. Her international reputation is outstanding and her work as a Supreme Court justice would look very good to Canadian voters. She might also be above politics at this point in her life though.

I hope that this Parliament focuses on solutions rather than the partisan fighting that ruined the last Parliament. There is serious work to be done about the international economic crisis. There is work to be done on the justice system. There is a great deal to be done about Canada’s climate change plan. While ideas are sure to clash, it is incumbent upon all parties to work hard to find the common ground and pass legislation that will benefit Canada and Canadians.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | 1 Comment