Monday, September 28, 2015

What are YOU voting for?

It's election time here in Canada - the longest campaign in 90-something years at a whopping 11 weeks (compared to 5 from 2011). The three major parties are fighting tooth and nail for your votes in what promises to be a three horse race with a photo finish. The rhetoric is as thick as pea soup and the party leaders are shopping around their policies to anyone of voting age who will listen.

But, what if I were to tell you that none of that matters?

Let me clarify. Policies matter but there are a couple other (really important) items that we should square away before we go nitpicking over taxes and spending and other such things.

Here's our friend The Policy:



The problem is that policies aren't created in a vacuum. There is 'stuff' that comes along with it. A couple layers of really important stuff. Stuff that, if you put policies first tends to get put at risk. It's a delicate balance that is difficult to maintain .

So, what we end up with is something that looks like this:

Hey, if the top layers crumble at
least we have our policies, right?

It gets worse though. What we actually end up with is something that looks like this:

Once this starts to tip, the whole
mess comes tumbling down.

Either way, it's a precarious state. So by only looking at the policy part of the picture, what are you sacrificing? What's at risk because you're focused on a different part of the triangle?

Two things:
  1. Rights & Freedoms
  2. Democracy
Rights and freedoms are found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you are Canadian you are entitled to them. Full stop. They are not up for debate or vote. The Charter is upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. In a nutshell, these fine folks make sure our lawmakers and justice system stays fair and equitable. I've represented this as a layer called "Constitution":

The U.S. has one of these too. They're pretty serious
about it, as anyone with one should be

Democracy is all the wonderful stuff that happens in a free society. In Canada at the federal level, it involves Parliament (the House of Commons) and the Senate (the Upper Chamber, a.k.a. the house of "sober second thought"). Members of Parliment (MPs) are elected and Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister. These are all the fine folks who create or change laws and draw up all those wonderful policies everyone is such a fan of. I've represented this as a layer called "Government":

Democracy happens here
(or at least it's supposed to)

These two items are the very important layers on which policies are built, not the other way around.

This is how things shape up; the playing field for the most important game you're ever going to play:

Why can't we just have a nice right-side-up
triangle? Is that too much to ask?

So before you vote you should take a long, hard look at if everyone is on level footing. If one party breaks away and starts playing by a different set of rules, then everything they do afterwards is, in my opinion, not worth a squirt of piss.

Back in 2011 I blogged a lot about the election and I tried to keep a pretty even keel about it all. This time around things are different. Why? Because I've seen Canada's Charter disrespected too many times in the last 9 years to stay quiet any longer. Because I've seen our democracy whittled down to nothing. Because our foundation is cracked and our system is broken. Not all of that is the fault of the current government, but the lion's share of it is. 

So, let's take a look at the PM and his band of merry Conservatives and see how they have treated the bottom two layers of that triangle - the important layers - the foundation of our free and democratic society.

Constitution:



Not a very rosy picture. It doesn't take long to notice that Mr. Harper and his MPs don't exactly have a healthy respect for our constitution.
Grade: FAIL

Government / Democracy:

  • The only Prime Minister to ever be found in contempt of Parliament
  • Two separate Conservative convictions for improper election spending (2006 & 2008)
  • Conservative conviction for election tampering in 2011
One has to wonder what they have in store for 2015? 

This would be a good time to pull out a quote from Stephen Harper himself. He said this of Liberal leader Jean Chr├ętien in the wake of the sponsorship scandal:
"He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads."
Wow. If we put that statement to the test against the laundry list of crimes against democracy and Charter violations Mr. Harper has some explaining to do. The Conservatives have three separate convictions for crimes against our democratic system and Harper himself was found guilty of contempt of parliament. Now that's what I call leadership! 

But it gets even better:

  • The "fair" elections act. This gem actually makes it harder for people to vote and ties the hands of Elections Canada (oh, and takes polling station volunteer selection out of their hands altogether) 
  • Lack of meaningful debate and expert testimony for Bill C-51
  • Massive omnibus bills - lumping in completely unrelated legislation in together. Two, in particular, were several hundred pages and involved over 100 different pieces of legislation 
  • Oh, let's not forget about the misuse and abuse of the Senate
All of the above, and then some are wonderfully summed up by The Tyee in these two articles: 
Grade: FAIL
Can we just call the last 9 years a momentary lapse of reason? 

Remember, all of the above should be considered before we even talk about a single policy. Quite frankly, a government that behaves this way is an insult to democracy and anyone who actually votes for it might as well look their children in the eye and say, "It's okay to be a bully so long as you get what you want in the end." 

Wake up! The ends do not justify the means. 



Is it only a dream that there'll be no more turning away?

There is good news, though. If enough people vote together we can at least start rebuilding our democracy from a solid foundation. Elect a government that supports and encourages a strong, hard working democracy and it will implement policies that benefit Canada as a whole. Targeted policies implemented on top of a false democracy only benefit a privileged few. Maybe you're okay with that? I am not. I care too much about my neighbour to spit on his shoes and then lie right to his face and tell him it's raining. 

Don't spit on your neighbours shoes. It's a really shitty thing to do and it's very un-Canadian. 

This time around, make better choices. Me? I'm voting for the candidate in my riding with the best chance of beating the Conservative. Many others are doing this as well and there's a great organization out there that can help you make the right choice. Together we can change Canada for the better.

Most of all, be careful. It's dangerous out there:


Helpful links:

~ Andrew 

(Note: the views expressed here are my own and are in no way affiliated with any other individual or organisation)

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