Mixed Nuts: Election Day in Canada 2015


I started this post the day before the election and since I don’t have the luxury of writing as the results come in (because: bedtime) I decided to start writing Sunday night. The unfortunate colateral result is that I will be writing in light of the most recent polls as opposed to the results of the elections. If the last campaign is any indication, those will be wildly inacurate. Why?

Uno. The “Shy Tory Factor” is something that is consistently throwing pollsters out of whack. I think that this opinion piece from The Guardian is accurate and the source of much handwringing and hangover the day after conservative electoral victories. On Tuesday, before you clutter my Facebook feed with your outrage, remember that I told you so.

Dos. Three years ago, when the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) started cranking out attack ads aimed at Justin Trudeau (the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada — LPC), I was working on Parliament Hill as a writer for a local Member of Parliament. Attacks ads went after Justin Trudeau’s vacuity, lack of substance and absence of platform. As a writer, I had to write a lot of things that annoyed me, such as explaining politely to a variety of Mrs. Lalonde’s that her federal MP could not help her with her hydro bill, school bus issue or culvert. I regurgitated my Grade 5 Civics more times than I care to remember. Yet, nothing was quite as repulsive as having to reply to letters criticizing attack ads. I had to craft a reply that communicated our concerns about Justin Trudeau without wholeheatedly endorsing the more puerile aspects of the ads. Thankfully my boss was ok with it, I’m not sure how I would have dealt with having to write a cheerleading endorsement of the ads. All this to say, part of me is secretely jubilant that Justin Trudeau and his team were able to play these ads to their advantage. If it wasn’t for the part where they were so successful they might win the election, I’d be cheering for them. But my husband is packing us up and moving to Texas as I write so…

Tres. How did Justin Trudeau turn the attack ads around? It’s simple. All you have to do with attack ads is to not prove them right. The challenge is that attack ads are not made out of thin air, they are rooted in reality. The image of Stéphane Dion as a weak, dithering, out-of-touch professor came from somewhere. As did the image of Michael Ignatieff as an oppotunistic, temporary leader. Both former Liberal leaders walked right into the sterotypes the Conservative ad machine had made them out to be. Justin Trudeau defied them because he kept his cards very close to his chest. His absenteism record in the House of Common was notable but allowed him to duck more than a few potholes on the road to the campaign. His refusal to lay down a party platform ahead of the election campaign was also criticized by friends, foes and journalists alike. Yet, it gave no new ammunition to the attack ads machine, leaving it to work with Justin’s hair and Justin’s car and Justin’s former job as a drama teacher. Not only did the attack ads run out of steam and credibility, but Trudeau was able to prove them wrong. Which wasn’t hard at all.

Cuatro. Why wasn’t it hard? Because 3 years of attacking his credibility with almost nothing to go on has lowered the expectation of the public toward Trudeau to such an extent that he exceeded them just by showing-up with his pants on. (If the image of Justin Trudeau strolling on debate stage without his pants on just made your day my work here is done.)

Cinco. Faced with a negative campaign about Justin Trudeau based on image, Trudeau’s managers were able to duck most of the negative characterization of their leader by running a very tight and disciplined image campaign. It was so good, it was bad. Kelly McParland explains why in this piece. As a student of political campaigns, I can’t help but take notes. That said, if you expect elected Trudeau’s handlers to feed him freely to the Parliamentary Press Gallery,  you will be sorely disillusioned when you realize that Stephen Harper’s tight media access rules were just the warm-up. The Conservative learned partisan politics from the Chrétien Liberals.

Seis. Does this mean that Trudeau-for-Prime-Minister is a done deal? Well, by the time you read this piece, it might be. But for now, my call of a Conservative minority with a NDP opposition still stands. If you looked under the hood of elections statistics, you might be surprised to learn that many close campaigns are decided by the advance polls. It is enterily possible for a candidate to lose election night and be bolstered over the wall by advance polls results. The NDP and the Conservatives can boast of the best and brightest committed voters. The Liberal appeal is to the mushy middle, the same people who don’t vote on election day. We have seen unprecedented levels of voter participation at the advance polls and while it might point to a higher voting rate overall, my guess is that this was the result of Conservative and NDP campaigns ferrying their committed  voters to the advance polls. You know what they say about a bird in hand.

Siete. All this said, this has been an exciting election campaign and last minute swing voters might brave the cold and the waiting lines to cast their votes. I’m not sure the charm of Justin Trudeau’s inexperience will last long under the harsh light of reality. Minority governments, which is the best the Liberals can aspire to, are long, frustrating, and unproductive campaigns. Minority is not a healthy state in Canadian Parliamentary democracy.

Posting this before heading to the polls. It will be an exciting, nail-biting, evening and while worried about the spectre of a Liberal government I am also very curious to see if some dead wood will be replaced and how.

(If you wonder why I wrote my numbers in Spanish, it’s because WordPress kept indenting my numbers. Drove me nuts. I’m one of those old people who believe that machines should do strictly what they are told.)

 

 

 

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Mixed Nuts: the Canadian election edition – In which I get to annoy all my friends in one fell swoop


You didn’t think I’d let you get away with a whole election campaign without sharing my pearls of insight, did you? After all, if the educated opinion of a mother of 9 is not worth having, what’s worth having I ask you? Hey, did you know that I am a former political aide and campaign manager? So there, educated opinion, but opinion nonetheless.

1) What can I say about the niqab? Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the historically left-wing, now more center-left, party took a principled and intelligent position, that is supported by Canadian law as confirmed by two instances of Canadian tribunals, and it looks like his party will pay dearly for it. That’s one thing about us Canadians, we like to make noise about hating negative campaigning, despising divisive politics and how nice it would be to have leaders who are more than talking points grinders. And I’m still looking for an example in recent Canadian history of a political leader who hasn’t paid dearly for doing just that. And don’t give me that whiny bullsh about people being victims of Conservatives attack ads. You can be a victim of many things — rape, pillage, treason, murder — but advertising? Get your big girl pants on and own the fact that people eat that stuff up. I don’t know a single Conservative MP who doesn’t despise their party’s attack ads. The only reason they keep turning them out is because folks, these hateful things work. And they’re about as subtle as my 4 year-olds: the victim card might be an overreach here. We love hating on our politicians  and we get what we deserve.

2) Speaking of the niqab, have you ever been close to someone becoming a Canadian citizen? Because if you have, you know that the process is neither simple, quick nor straightforward. By the time you are standing in a swearing-in ceremony with your niqab, you’ve been vetted through every orifice for about 5 years. You’ve filled-in your weight’s worth of paperwork and submitted it upward and backward. If you’re lucky, you didn’t suffer more than 2-3 setbacks due to misinformation given to you by the people who are paid to process your application. I know because I used to work for a Member of Parliament, where we helped near-citizens caught in the collimator of Immigration Canada. Hey, citizenship is a privilege, I get that. But if you are going to invest into getting the right people 99.9% of the way there, you’d think they’d be the kind of people we want as Canadian Citizens, regardless of what sits on their heads. “But Véro, you tell me, what if Ahmed get sworn-in instead of head-covered Fatima?” Ahmed would have had to show his face to an immigration official at the ceremony, just privately instead of publicly. Bait and switch is not the issue here, the issue is the coping with religious practices we find distasteful. So could we call it that please?

3) Speaking of religious freedoms, why is it that the people who campaign the most vehemently in favour of a prohibition of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies — or in general — are coincidentally the same ones who are concerned about the erosion of religious freedom and freedom of expression in Canada? Seriously, outside of the province of Quebec where everyone is a heathen, people who have every reason to be concerned about the erosion of freedom of conscience and religion are stubbornly not seeing the bigger picture. “But Véro, you say, the niqab is a barbaric anti-woman practice that goes against Canadian values of equality and relative liberty.” To this I will tell you that I’m a  Catholic woman who doesn’t use artificial birth control, which to many is a barbaric anti-woman practice. I disagree, just like I’m sure many Muslim women disagree with your appreciation of the Niqab as a barbaric cultural practice. Do you know how hard it is for women like me to find a doctor who will investigate the root causes of hormonal dysfunction rather than prescribe hormonal birth control as a matter of fact? I found one and he’s having his medical license threatened because of it. Both the Liberal and NDP parties don’t allow people with openly pro-life views to run for their parties or vote accordingly, even if said pro-life views are a reflection of the views of the majority of their constituents — which still happens in many older rural ridings. The erosion of religious freedoms: we’re in this together fellow believers. The secular world believes that religion is in the imagination of the beholders and it won’t stop washing away outward demonstrations of religious belief until our beliefs are indeed limited to the confines of our brains. As a believer, I feel a lot more in common with Zunera Ishaq’s fight than I do with those who’d prefer if she didn’t look so Muslim. To hear Zunera Ishaq in her own words — “Geez, we never thought of that!” — listen to this interview on CBC The Current.

4) Speaking of secular society, many of my Anglo-Canadian friends have expressed wide-eyed astonishment at the fact that the niqab issue originated from the small-l liberal Province of Quebec. Aren’t they progressives over there, they ask? After all, aren’t they the people with $7 daycare who made the federal NDP the official opposition? The answer is yes but no, where were you during the reasonable accommodations debates of 2007, 2011, 2013, not to mention the Quebec’s Charter of Value that became the defining election issue of the last provincial campaign? Quebeckers as a group — generally speaking — are not exactly progressive. They do not show consistency in their expressions of “progressiveness”. They look progressive on the surface but it’s a thinly applied veneer: you need only scratch a little to let the ugly come out. Quebeckers are not so much progressives as hedonists. Pleasure and self-indulgence are the highest good and proper aim of human life. I remember clearly hearing my French mother saying of the referendum campaign of 1980 that Quebeckers only wanted independence as long as they didn’t have to give-up their pools. When you cast Quebec Nation under the light of hedonism rather than progressiveness, their strident anti-clericalism and pursuit of their own individual rights — not those of others — come in clearer focus, I find.

5) In the end, it’s been 10 years of Conservative Government in Canada — where Conservative with a capital c does not always mean conservative with a lower-case c. The governing Conservatives are in some regards center-right and in way more others centre-left, depending of where the wind blows. My point is that the realities of governance are such as to erode most of the texture of political parties. Governing a country as wide — literally — as Canada forces everything to the centre, it’s just statistics. You can hang me for being an old disillusioned goat but man, sometimes when I hover over social media for too long I start hoping that October 20th will actually bring a change in leadership just to see the look on people’s face when they wake-up a year later and realize that very little has changed. They have the same Public Service, regulatory framework, law enforcement agencies and tax revenues to deal with. Because Canadians love the ideals but loathe the practice. We’re like that: we wax left-wing poetic about all the wonderful things we want to buy and shut our wallets tight like Scrooge on December 23rd when comes the time to pay for it. Change is not cheap, but we are.

Now:

Go forth and set the world on fire

 

Random Bullets


– Have you been following Senator Mike Duffy’s expense claim kerfuffle? The claim form confusion seems to be affecting many Senators and, if I may add, their staff. Because who are we kidding here? It’s not like Mike Duffy fills up his own claim forms. But a mistake was made and monies will be repaid. The same week Mike Duffy was ducking TV cameras and avoiding embarrassing questions, I received a letter at work. It’s a letter I receive all too often, coming from a desperate taxpayer who suddenly finds him/herself in the cross-hair of the Canadian Revenue Agency. They owe taxes, in small or large amounts. They got confused filing their forms, like the Senators. They never tried to evade the taxman and that’s probably why they are in such trouble: if they were professional tax-evaders, they would know how to stay out of CRA’s radar. But no, they paid their money, or rather what they thought was their money, and sent it to CRA with their home address and vital information. Only they didn’t send enough money. And last week, they received a letter asking them to pay their taxes before close of business or else. Or else. And the “or else” is not trivial. Unlike Duffy, they never had the option to repay. They are not only taxed but fined, threatened with a garnishing order – which in some businesses, like bank employees, means a loss of employment – or foreclosure. So make my day Mike Duffy. While Senators think they are doing the honorable thing by repaying pocket change and keeping their jobs, the bureaucracy is putting the tax base through the ringer. And nobody bats an eyelid.

– Speaking of taxpayers’ dollars, my city was hit by a major snow fall. The quantity of snow was significant and the mild, slightly above zero temperature, made it heavy and water-logged. More than 200 city buses got stuck and jackknifed in the white stuff.  Even my minivan with its kick-ass winter tires got (shortly) jammed in the fluff.

Two days later, it was time for the giant snow blower to remove the snow from the main arteries. I have readers in tropical climes — or so my statistics tell me — so let me educate you.

When a Canadian city is hit by a major snowfall, the roads need to be cleared progressively while the snow is still falling. The snow is first pushed to the sides of the road by snowplows driving up and down major arteries.

Snow plow pushing the snow to the side of the road.
Snow plow pushing the snow to the side of the road.

All this snow creates big walls of snow on each side of the road and must eventually be removed by a snow blower.

Snow blower blowing snow in a very big dump truck. It has a big, gas-guzzling engine.
Snow blower blowing snow in a very big dump truck. It has a big, gas-guzzling engine.

The snow blower blows the snow into several very large dump trucks who then take the snow to a snow dump.

Another day at the snow dump...
Another day at the snow dump…

Because it takes more time to make a round trip to the snow dump than to fill a dump truck with snow, several dump trucks take turns filling-up while the others go to the dump and come back. It’s like a giant snow-removal-tag-team operation. When the City removes the snow, cars cannot park in the streets. So the City puts snow removal no-parking signs to warn people. And people don’t pay attention and park in the streets anyway, hence the need to tow cars out of the snow blower’s path.

If the little no-parking sign doesn't make sense to you, this is what will happen.
If the little no-parking sign doesn’t make sense to you, this is what will happen.
Does this make sense to you?
Does this make sense to you?

Last week, I drove past 4 giant dump trucks idling on my way to the vegetarian restaurant.  As I got near the restaurant, I saw two more giant dump trucks idling behind the snow blower. The snow blower sat empty, on a forced coffee break, while the tow-trucks were towing one car after the other. And as if the waste of taxpayers’ dollars wasn’t mind bending enough, a pick-up truck from the City of Ottawa was accompanying the tow-truck, no doubt to deal with disgruntled car owners.  In front of the all-organic-all-the-time vegetarian restaurant, a Toyota Echo and a hybrid Ford Focus were being towed. How’s that for a lifetime of greenhouse gas savings blown away over lunch? I hope that the irony of having half-a-dozen heavy-duty diesel-powered engines idling while their energy-efficient matchbox dinkies were being towed away wasn’t lost on them as they digested their local organic kale.

– I started writing this post 3 week ago. That’s how slowly I write, in case you are wondering why I am posting about the last snow storm on a beautiful sunny day. Not only that, but why would I be posting about manly trucks on International Women’s Day? I listened to a few radio interviews today in between hosting a weekly meeting for my local babywearing group. Yes, women who choose to be attached to their babies as much as possible. From what I heard, Women’s Day is all about abortion and contraception and how hard it is to get either. Isn’t there more to being a woman than to be sexually available and artificially infertile? Because my experience as a woman who raised and gave birth to 8 children, running a home and occasionally a slew of volunteer activities is worth nothing in today’s economy. My degree is outdated, I am unemployable to most but the friend who gave me my part-time job, and I can’t even get a biology credit to return to University without going back to high school. As if I hadn’t learned more putting my kids through school than is required to enter the midwifery degree I so long to get. But hey, what is really keeping women down is not having enough pills. No: What is keeping women down is the belief that women have to be barren like men to succeed and that childbearing and child-rearing are impediments to equality. So that’s your International Women’s Day reflection from a women who is not using artificial birth control out of principle. And while I call myself a feminist for my radical view on the beautiful integrity of the feminine body, ovaries and all, I know that most feminists would be ashamed to count me as their own. Cheers!

Only in Canada…


Last week, a federal member of Parliament was removed from the plane he was riding on because he was too drunk to fly. Then the Winnipeg Chief of Police called on Winnipeggers of all faiths to pray for a better and safer city.

Would you like to take a guess at which one got in the most media hot water? Which one was taken to task publicly by an Opposition MP? Hint: it may not be the one you think…

I listened with dismay this morning as Acting Chief Clunis was questioned by CBC reporter Katie Nicholson. But the dismay grew into frustration when ethicist Arthur Schaeffer shared his angry bit about public officials using their functions as a “bully pulpit to proselytize”.

I was Campaign Manager for a candidate in the last Federal Elections. My candidate, who was seeking a third mandate, was very open about his faith and the fact that he was a religious believer. Despite repeated attempts from various political opponents to make hay of his outspoken principles, he was re-elected twice with increasing majorities.
During a 2011 mid-campaign debate organized by local media, a journalist asked the candidates about the separation of Church and State. Three of the four candidates gave answers that brought points I would like to make in response to the CBC interview with Police Chief Clunis and the intolerant – and disappointing given his stature in the academic ethics community – pronouncement by Arthur Schaeffer.

My boss, the incumbent Member of Parliament for the area said: “I have never been shy or deceitful about the Christian values that inform the conduct of my life. This is an integral part of who I am. People tell me they vote for me because I am honest, principled, caring and loyal and my value system is part of what people vote for when they vote for me.”
The NDP candidate agreed that his Christian values also had an important role in shaping his views on social justice and environmental stewardship, but since Church and State are separated in Canada, he didn’t understand the point of the question.

The Liberal candidate simply said: “There is no place for values in politics”.

Oh. Is there really? Why then do people say they are tired of political rhetoric, vacuous speech and meaningless points? Values and principles are the core of public service.

Arthur Schaeffer’s point that public officials should never let odors of religious beliefs emanate from the conduct of their duties shows an infantile understanding of religious beliefs and how intertwined they are in a person’s entire being, physical, emotional and moral. Arthur Schaeffer may as well have said that only atheist and humanist were fit for public office. Chief of Police Clunis cannot park his religious beliefs at the door any more than he can change the colour of his skin: they are an integral part of the rich personal tapestry of life experience that made him the best candidate for the job. A call for prayer is not an obligation to prayer; it is just an appeal to faithful Winnipeggers to put all the chances on their side for their City. If this does nothing for Arthur Schaeffer, nothing compels him to join the effort. As for me, I’ll take a principled Chief of Police over a politically correct doormat at anytime.

Faits divers du vendredi un lundi matin


1 Une motion qui promettait de faire couler beaucoup d’encre. Chose promise, chose due. La motion 312 présentée à la Chambre des Communes par le député Stephen Woodworth demandait la création d’un comité parlementaire afin d’étudier si la définition d’« être humain » du Code criminel devrait être élargie afin d’inclure le fetus. Si vous lisez les journeaux et partuculièrement les média sociaux, vous pensez probablement que le vote de la semaine dernière était sur la criminalisation de l’avortement. En fait, la plupart de mes connections Facebook pensent que le vote de la semaine dernière était directement sur la criminalisation de l’avortement. Vous ne lirez pas cette mise-au-clair souvent mais en tant que juriste formée en bioéthique il m’importe que les débats et discussions publiques sur les enjeux de cette envergure soient définis de manière claire, précise et non-partisane. La motion 312, qui soit dit-en-passant n’a pas été acceptée, demandait une réflection sur la définition d’être humain dans le contexte du Code criminel canadien. La ministre du Statut de la femme qui a voté en faveur de la motion 312 n’a pas voté “contre l’avortement” tel que plusieurs le pensent mais en faveur d’une discussion publique sur la valeur éthique et légale du fetus. On peut avoir des opinions bien ancrées sur le sujet, mais ça ne devrait pas excuser les pires accès de démagogie et d’aveuglement volontaire. Vous êtes tous des adultes intelligents. Évidemment. Puisque vous lisez mon blogue, he, he.

2 Deux nouvelles qui m’incitent à vous donner un petit cour de procédure parlementaire et un coup d’oeuil dans le fonctionnemetn d’un bureau de député. La semaine dernière, le ministre de l’Immigration et de la citoyenneté Jason Kenney a fait la manchette lorsque son bureau a envoyé un courriel vantant le travail du gouvernement canadien dans l’avancement des droits des gais et lesbiennes sur la scène internationale. Le email en question, qui ciblait les gais et lesbiennes canadiens, a été mal reçu, les récipiendaires se demandant entre autre comment le gouvernement savait qu’ils étaient homosexuels. Ceci me ramène à la deuxième nouvelle qui était en fait la première, la motion 312 et les “pétitions” demandant à un député ou ministre de voter pour ou contre quelque chose, de faire ou de ne pas faire quelque chose, d’avancer ou d’ignorer une cause ou une autre. Lorsque vous signez une pétition en-ligne, ce que vous faites en réalité c’est envoyer une lettre formulaïque contenant votre nom et votre adresse email à un député, parfois le votre (si la “pétition” vous demande votre code postal), parfois les 308. Une véritable pétition doit être soumise à la Chambre par un député après avoir été aprouvée par le clerc des pétitions pour sa véracité et sa conformité. Lorsque vous signez une pétition en-ligne, vous envoyez votre nom et votre adresse ainsi qu’un polaroid de la cause qui vous tient à coeur à des politiciens qui sont toujours à la recherche d’un moyen de se faire connaître et d’établir un contact avec l’électorat. En d’autre mots, Jason Kenney sait que vous êtes gais et que les droits des gais vous tiennent à coeur car vous lui avez dit. Et il peut vous rejoindre car vous lui avez envoyé votre adresse courriel. La pétition que vous avez signé disait sans doute quelque chose comme “Cher Ministre Kenney, je suis gai et les droits des gais me tiennent à coeur. Voilà pourquoi… bla, bla, bla…” Vous ne vous en rapellez sans doute pas car comme 200% des gens qui envoient ce genre de lettre, vous ne l’avez pas lue.Voilà. C’est simple, non?

3 Trois jours par semaine, 5 heures par jour, c’est mon horaire de travail. C’est tout juste faisable avec une grande famille mais évidemment, on ne peut soudainement perdre 15 heures à sa semaine sans en subir les conséquences. Le pliage des vêtements propres semble être passé par la fenêtre. Ouch…

5 jours de lavage propre pour 10 personnes, ça ressemble à ça.

4 Quatre pattes, non les jumeaux ne marchent pas encore. Et c’est parfait comme ça! (Mais ce ne sera pas long).

5 Cinq  doigts bien hauts (“high five”) si vous vous êtes rendus à la fin de cet article malgré la mention d’un débat sur l’avortement et du Ministre de l’Immigration. Vous démontrez une maturité et une ouverture d’esprit notable.  Vous vous méritez une petite visite de relaxation sur You Tube pour aller rire des frasques de mon fils aîné: