Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's time to stop beating up on Hillary Clinton and instead help her beat Trump (or Cruz)

Win McNamee/Getty Images
It's been quite a race so far for the Democratic Party nomination south of the border.   And a bit of deja vu.

Hillary Clinton again has been challenged by a surprisingly popular left-wing senator promising massive change.

The U.S. embraced change in 2008 and chose Obama.  I myself switched from Clinton to Obama, even though such support had little meaning as I'm Canadian and didn't vote.   With Obama elected president (as Clinton would also have been against McCain/Palin), I'd say the U.S. ended up getting pretty much the same kind of government that Clinton would've provided.  On some major issues like Guantanamo, drone attacks in the Arab world, Wall Street, Obama's been no real change at all.  Although Obama has a great liberal legacy with health care and hundreds of other initiatives.  His crucial place in history is cemented as the first man of colour to win the U.S. presidency.  He's going to be very popular in retirement.  

I think Hillary's the better candidate this year.  I just can't picture Bernie Sanders running the White House. 

I like that Bernie Sanders has managed to get his very progressive causes (like universal health care, free university tuition, getting the odious amount of money out of U.S. politics) onto the political agenda.  I can see why his message is so appealing.  I was tempted to support him in this race, for maybe about a minute.  Then I realized that Hillary is still the better candidate and shares many of the same policies.  Sanders has pushed Clinton to the left and now looks likely to get many of these great ideas added to the Democratic Party's platform.  That's a great thing! 

But the Democratic party seems split between idealists and pragmatists.  Hillary will want to bolster her populist appeal to disgruntled Caucasian voters and stop them from gravitating toward Trump in the fall.  If Hillary's smart, and she is, she'll have to consider making Sanders her running mate to unite the party and help ensure his followers come out to vote for her.  If not Sanders, someone else who will be sure to have great appeal with Sanders' supporters, like Elizabeth Warren perhaps, or someone with equal credibility with progressives.    

But Clinton's VP choice will depend entirely on how the Republican convention goes first.  I did hope that John Kasich would come on stronger but he keeps losing to Trump in the GOP primaries.  Thus it does look like Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination.  This is horrifying.  We'll see if Cruz can miraculously snatch the nod on the convention room floor.  We'll know better after the Indiana primary coming up soon if that's even possible.    

If Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee (and after winning 4 out of 5 primaries Tuesday night, it looks pretty much certain now that she will be), it's probably a good idea for progressives backing Sanders and others to lay off the personal attacks on her.  Those attacks have become more repetitive, even when information has refuted the claims.   I think history shows that Clinton's a decent person working hard and is motivated here to help people and make a difference in people's lives.  She's come a long way and I think she's ready for it.  I like her better than Bernie Sanders.  She's pragmatic.  I also think the symbolic importance of a woman winning the White House is something to celebrate the world over.  

To Bernie supporters, I say: "Hillary might not be your first choice, but against Trump, she's the best choice!  Please come over when you're ready."  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

New Gay Short Film Trailer - "Tri-Curious" (2016)

I'm very proud to release the official trailer for my new short comedy film, 'Tri-Curious'.

I cut it on the weekend and uploaded it to my YouTube channel.  The full film will hopefully be released at several film festivals this year.   I'll post regularly on this site about any such screenings.

In the mean time, please check out the trailer and hopefully it'll spur your interest in seeing the full short film in the near future.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rupert Everett's 'Judas Kiss' impresses at Mirvish Theatre in Toronto

Rupert Everett and Charlie Rowe.
I had the chance to see 'The Judas Kiss' by playwright David Hare now on stage at Toronto's Mirvish Theatre on Good Friday night.

Opening on March 22, it turned out to be the perfect week to see it due to the play's references to the infamous kiss of betrayal by Judas of Jesus Christ according to Christian folklore.

Directed by Neil Armfield, this critically acclaimed production arrives in Toronto after a sold-out run in London’s West End.  It'll move on to New York with this cast in May.

Originally staged in the 1990s, the play highlights two key days in the life of Oscar Wilde, played by Everett, first before his arrest and incarceration for 'gross indecency', and two years later in Italy where Wilde, out of prison, has ventured to reunite with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (or Bosie, as he's known), played by the beautiful Charlie Rowe.

Act One focuses mainly on Wilde's dilemma to either flee England and incarceration, or to take Bosie's foolish advice to fight the charges and perhaps see more of his young lover.

Why the ever romantic Wilde would choose to stay on a course towards self-destruction remains the play's central question.  It's answered in the same convoluted way the original decision was probably made by Wilde himself. 

Everett gives an astonishing performance as Oscar Wilde, owning the stage from the moment he appears until its last moments at the end of Act Two.   The supporting roles are also played exceptionally well, including by Cal McAninch as Wilde's longtime friend and former lover Robbie Ross, and Rowe as the petulant, selfish and naive Bosie.

It was interesting to see Rowe, only 19, play such a role so convincingly without making Bosie seem completely unsympathetic.  At face value, his character's actions are terrible, selfishly leading to the downfall of a great artist, someone he claimed to love.  The real Bosie seems like the perfect example of undeserving upper class nobility.

In other portraits of this infamous gay couple, Bosie has often come across as completely detestable, making Wilde's ongoing affections seem insane.  In this portrait, one can still see the affection and connection between the two men and why Wilde might find some peace and happiness in Bosie's arms.

The portrait of the foolish older gay man throwing his life away for a beautiful youth is perhaps one of the oldest tropes in gay male culture.  It mimics the similar, misogynistic trope of a powerful, older straight man whose affections for a younger femme fatale prove his undoing.

Indeed, the coupling of Oscar and Bosie may be the most famous example of this trope in modern gay culture, hence why that relationship continues to fascinate.  But ultimately, this is yet another example of an unhealthy gay male relationship, which is unfortunate as this seems to be how most gay relationships continue to be portrayed, even in art created by gay men.   If our relationships aren't depicted as negative, typically they're depicted as comical and clownish, like Mitch and Cam on 'Modern Family.'   It's rare that we see in art a healthy gay couple whose relationship happens to be incidental. 

As a filmmaker, I will say one of my hopes is to broaden the portrait of gay male relationships beyond this largely negative or silly portrayal and instead show the truth: gay men can and do form healthy, long-lasting relationships.  

Be warned, 'The Judas Kiss' contains full nudity by four of its actors, three male and one female.   Indeed, the nudity by the three young men, including Rowe, added a particularly welcome spice to the proceedings for me and wasn't gratuitous as it complemented the play's themes of repression, naked emotion and betrayal. 

Overall, I quite enjoyed it.  'The Judas Kiss' is a great work that deserves to be seen. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The depressing death of a dangerously reckless and bigoted man: Rob Ford dies

Tragically, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford lost his battle with cancer this morning.  

As anyone who's read this blog since 2010 knows, I always hated Rob Ford.

I hated his bigotry and his simple-minded ideology of privilege masquerading as "man of the people" populism.

Rob Ford divided the City of Toronto in life, so it's not surprising that he's dividing it in his death.  

Death by cancer is horrible.  Death at the young age of 46 is also horrible.

Rob Ford was robbed today of life.  His family, including his young children, are also terribly robbed of him, assuming of course their relationships with him were healthy and loving.

I can't even write a sentence proclaiming my sympathy for his wife and kids without adding the caveat that I hope his death doesn't represent the end of rumoured abuse. 

Such is the enigma of Rob Ford. 

As a progressive who abhorred all of Rob Ford's politics and was horrified when he won the 2010 mayoral election, it seems impossible to reflect on this moment today without being torn.

I want to show respect for the dead and sympathy to the family.  They are hurting right now.

But my respect and sympathy sort of ends there.  There are, no doubt, thousands of Torontonians who are also mourning his death.   Just check out Twitter for examples or read Sun Media for their pathetic coverage as they attack lefties for politicizing his death while they do exactly the same thing.

Rob Ford was no man of the people.   Rob Ford was a man out for himself who loved the retail side of politics and little else.  His whole political schtick was a fraud.  He'd show up at the apartment complexes of constituents in the inner suburbs, flash his card, pretend to listen and connect, winning many fans among the ignorant, but then head downtown to attack their interests with his votes and actions.

Many things tied together Ford Nation support behind the Ford brothers, including a truly disgusting and calculated level of homophobia, expressed through both actions and inactions, including refusing to show up at Pride Day every year he was mayor.

He spent a career attacking the rights of cyclists, spreading disrespect and promoting a sense of entitlement among motorists, which I still see often as I cycle to and from work everyday.

On cyclists' safety, Ford infamously said this: "Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

His fans now calling him a man of the people are simply indulging in their privilege being part of Ford Nation.  I can imagine how one could think him lovable if one had never faced his irrational and ignorant hatred.

There are some who today said that Karma finally did him in.  After causing so much pain to so many people, including humiliating his city on the international stage with his outlandish behaviour, he refused to admit any wrongdoing and never suffered political consequences for his actions.  He filled his body with no end of garbage, from unhealthy foods, to booze, to hard drugs.

I don't believe Karma did him in.  Plain old nature did.  You can't recklessly abuse a body for that long and not shorten your own life.  Combined with his own behaviour, Ford's family history of cancer did the rest.

It's all sad and pathetic.  Of course, no person is entirely terrible.  He must've had his good sides.  There was something endearing about his goofy realness.  I hope his soul finds peace and understanding that eluded him in life.  The saddest thing about this is, dying at the age of 46, merely two years after his reign of error ended, Ford has had no time to redeem himself or learn the error of his ways.  His life is cut short.  He's been robbed.  That's tragic. 

Can I forgive Rob Ford for what he did to my city and move on?  I'll sure try.

I take inspiration from one good friend who tweeted today, quoting Tony Kushner:  "He was a terrible person. He died a hard death. So maybe...A queen can forgive her vanquished foe. It isn’t easy, it doesn’t count if it’s easy, it’s the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet.  Peace, at least."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

“They don’t need our vengeance, they need our help.”

I was supremely pleased this week when the Trudeau Liberals announced they will end Canada's CF-18 bombing of Arab lands this month, and instead ramp up training, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to combat Daesh, or ISIS as many in North America still call them.

Where Harper's Conservatives, blinded by their far-right ideology and love of warfare, stood proudly next to Western forces intent on bombing the Middle East indefinitely, the Trudeau Liberals are charting a more effective course that will actually make Canadians safer. 

I wrote about this issue recently.  It's clear any bombing campaign, whether done by fighter jets or more precise drones, produces mostly innocent deaths and is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat radical Jihadism.  Instead, Western bombing efforts are exactly what ISIS want because they mostly kill ordinary local civilians.  Thus, producing new generations of Muslims who hate the countries who killed their loved ones.  Even if Daesh is defeated or somehow severely weakened, some other force just like them if not worse will come along to take their place.

The local issues are obviously extremely complicated.  But to put it in simplistic terms: If radical Jihadism is to be truly undermined, it's going to be mainly by the hands of moderate local forces and populations, with the support of Western countries like Canada, not through ramping up violent Western military action that inevitably kills mostly moderate Muslims unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire.  

Conservatives ignore this reality and instead focus on the satisfaction they feel knowing bombs are dropping on "bad people."  They don't really distinguish between Daesh and other Muslims, I guess.  

In ending the limited Canadian bombing mission, Trudeau said this week the people in Iraq and Syria who are suffering at the hands of the Islamic State “don’t need our vengeance, they need our help.”

This article today by Tony Burman is a great read for those interested in the best role Canada can play in this ongoing struggle. 

In it, Burman puts the Trudeau government's decision in proper historical context and Burman outlines the three major reasons why the government has wisely changed course away from the previous regime's bombing mission:

"One: Bombing is not the sole answer, and never will be.  
Two: For any long-term solution, only local forces can triumph.
Three: Canada needs to be laser-focused and strategic in its approach."

I couldn't agree more. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Indiegogo crowd funding campaign launched to help fund my short film 'Tri-Curious'

As I wrote last month, I've been busy the last few months working on a short narrative film called Tri-Curious, my first as director, producer and film editor.

The short film is a comedy-drama about a young gay male couple about to embark on their first threesome together when one of them has a last minute anxiety attack and wants to cancel.  Trouble is, it's 20 minutes until the "guest" is set to arrive at their apartment.  Tri-Curious explores issues around modern-day relationships, monogamy, and sexual experimentation in a thoughtful, light, and hopefully amusing way.

I'm proud to present a short clip from a scene in the movie below, posted on Vimeo.

Clip from the new short film, 'Tri-Curious' by director Matt Guerin from Matt Guerin on Vimeo.

I applied for but did not receive a film completion grant.  Thus, the film is currently being financed out of my own pocket.  As a first-time director without much of my own track record in the industry, I don't think there's much chance of receiving any other funding from Canadian funding bodies.

So today I launched my own crowd funding campaign at Indiegogo to try to raise some money to help with the costs, which now stand at approximately $3,800 CAD (including $2,100 for post-production colour correction, sound design & mixing, and final packaging.)   Most of the people who worked on this film have not received any compensation for their efforts on the film, while others received very little.  There are more costs coming including marketing costs and more festival costs. 

I would dearly appreciate it if you could check out the campaign page and seriously consider investing in the film.  The campaign runs for the next 28 days (four weeks).

Money raised in this campaign will go first to pay for the film's post-production work including colour correction, sound design and mixing, and final packaging.  After that, I will prioritize compensating members of the crew.

As an indie filmmaker looking to create my calling card short film, this is how it's done.  I made certain creative and production decisions to keep costs down without compromising my own artistic vision.  The result is a film I'm extremely proud of and I'm very hopeful that it will have much success on the film festival circuit this year and eventually on YouTube.   If you want to be a part of this exciting project, please head over to the Indiegogo campaign page and consider one of the various reward donations.   I'd be most grateful.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anti-ISIS coalition bombing campaign kills mostly innocent Muslims, yet one-track mind conservatives still support it...

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Canadian Press)
I saw a great documentary over the holidays called 'Drone,' by director Tonje Hessen Schei, which was originally released in 2014.

It's a balanced exploration of the ongoing use of military drones to target and assassinate alleged jihadist threats against America.  The film makes clear that the vast majority of people killed by drone attacks are innocent civilians including children and unidentified local people who were simply near the targeted individuals when they were struck by missiles.

The film states that in Pakistan between 2004 to 2013, the CIA estimates that between 2537 and 3646 were killed by U.S. drone attacks.   (Another 1128 to 1557 people were injured.)  Of those killed, only 49 were high profile militants.  Civilians made 416 to 951 of those killed.  Children killed were 168 to 200.  Unknowns were the big majority with 1904 to 2446 killed.  

It's safe to say these numbers are similar wherever drones are being used to replace fighter jets.  Plainly, the U.S. has no idea about the identities of the vast majority of the people they've killed in their ongoing drone war campaign.   But their families, friends and neighbours did, of course.  

Drone attacks are said to be more precise than anything dropped from fighter jets.  There's no doubt that even Canada, with its six CF-18 jets dropping bombs in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq, has likely killed mostly innocent civilians with our bombs.

Reliable reports last fall have put the number of civilians killed by the bombing campaign against ISIS as high as 600.  Of course, the U.S. defense establishment preposterously refused to admit any more than 2 innocent deaths after conducting only a handful of in-depth investigations.

The truth is the bombing campaign, while having uncertain effect on the strength of ISIS, is undoubtedly creating legions of anti-West haters among the survivors. If a country bombed and killed your loved ones, would you side with them? 

As Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, puts it in the film, “Tell me how we’re winning if every time we kill four, we create 10.”

The only two recent Jihadist attacks in Canada were themselves the acts of lone wolves, one of whom admitted that Canada's decision to bomb innocent people in the Middle East was the inspiration for his actions.

The more the West continues to bomb and kill innocent Muslims using its military might in the Middle East, the more enemies we will create.  It's a vicious cycle that's seemingly lost on most conservatives who cling to their simplistic, bombastic worldview that the only way to stop jihadist terrorism is to shoot missiles at random Muslims in the Middle East.

We ought not to be surprised by the one-track mind thinking of many conservatives.  Just like they cling to their stereotypes about Justin Trudeau (still often referencing Trudeau's willingness to take selfies as somehow an indication of his lack of gravitas), they continue to cling to many other stereotypes about how to beat back the jihadist threat.

For them, the answer is always simple: keep shooting bombs and missiles at any dark people in satellite feeds who appear to be threatening us and we'll magically be safer.

They argue the only way to combat violent jihadism is with more violence.  Using our military to train and assist local armies in the fight against ISIS isn't enough to satisfy most conservatives.  They want us to be tough guys dropping bombs ourselves.   It makes them feel like men, I suppose. 

Thus has always been the conservative answer to the jihadist threat: never-ending war.   Of course, this also profits the war machine which many conservatives also love.  What's wrong with a few high-powered business elites getting richer while we build more missiles and bombs and fighter jets?

The answer: everything. 

We've tried Stephen Harper and George Bush's way and it's not eliminated the threat.  Even Barack Obama has bought into the U.S. war establishment's thinking on this and we're not safer. 

This approach of bombing mostly innocent Muslims in the Middle East is having the opposite effect: it's emboldening the enemy and making it stronger.  Even if ISIS is weakened, there's no doubt that some other jihadist variation will take its place.  Anti-Western sentiment throughout the Muslim world is higher than ever thanks to the violence we continue to inflict upon the region.

If an approach is not working, why continue it?  Why ramp it up?  For me, it simply seems that many conservatives and others who support ongoing (presumably never-ending) bombing of Muslim targets in the Middle East are willfully stupid.   Most ordinary citizens have no real idea if this approach is working; they simply take the word of their leaders that this is the only way to undermine the jihadist threat.  Politicians are anxious to seem tough to curry favour with their voters, so they embrace the international military establishment's approach to this conflict, dictated by the U.S.

Even populists like Rosie DiManno are happy to side with the bombing mission.  Here's some advice for Rosie: maybe research how many innocent people have been killed by the bombing mission in which you demand Canadians continue to take part.  Sadly, the Toronto Star's research budget probably can't handle such a task.

Where is the evidence that our bombing campaign has weakened ISIS?  There hasn't been any released.  

The better way forward is to stop what we started and pull back from constantly intervening in the Middle East for the worse.  Intervening in Afghanistan had limited success for the west although it certainly did feel good attacking that country in the months following 9-11.   But today, Canada has little interest in continuing directly in this bombing mission, apart from making some allies feel better about us.  We've only taken part in recent years as part of Stephen Harper's warped sense of world priorities and his decision to chase the nostalgic dream of Canada as an international military player.

It's clear why the U.S. wants to intervene in the Middle East as the Americans see it as their mission to maintain control over the region to uphold its own economic interests.  The U.S. has engaged for decades in this and created a fervent and violent enemy that is a real threat to Americans.  They've made their own bed and now they have to sleep in it and spend trillions to do so.  And the military industrial complex gets richer.  

But Canadians don't have to get into bed with them. 

For these reasons, I support the Trudeau government's decision to pull back our fighter jets from killing dozens of innocent Muslim civilians, as well as maybe a few ISIS fighters.  Such actions create more threats to Canadians, not less.

The Trudeau government can be faulted for its lack of a coherent message around why it's ending the bombing mission. They continue to play their cards carefully, trying not to offend their allies or undermine their ongoing efforts with statements that would undermine diplomacy.  They're between a rock and a hard place.  It would be nice if Trudeau finally started to articulate what is underpinning his policy on this.  He might find that many Canadians support him.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How soon they forget: Harper's Conservatives changed electoral finance laws without a referendum...

The private conservative media (which makes up the vast majority of private sector media in Canada) has been giving a lot of ink lately to their cause of stopping any kind of electoral system reform.  This is but a small sampling just in the last couple days. 

Why?  Because First-Past-The-Post in Canada has served their narrow conservative interests well.  First-Past-The-Post is one of the last vestiges of old-style politics where the establishment elites of the country controlled its politics.  Granted, things are much watered down since the time when only white aristocratic males who owned property decided who could govern.  But First-Past-The-Post has the effect of ensuring only establishment parties with appeal to mainstream voters can walk away with 100% control of government with as little as 35% of the vote.  It's a fundamentally undemocratic system.  

It's worthy to note that whenever new electoral systems are implemented in emerging democracies in recent years elsewhere in the world, the West insists on implementing proportional representation systems.  That way, extremist parties that only garner about 30 to 40 per cent of the vote can't walk away with absolute majorities, as they would under First-Past-The-Post.  Proportional representation does ensure that all viewpoints (that receive support over a threshold of 5% or so of the vote) gain representation in the legislative body.  First-Past-The-Post almost always ensures that only big parties win seats.

It's easy under First-Past-The-Post for the Conservatives to win majority power in Canada.  It only takes a divided progressive opposition.  Even a conservative as polarizing as Stephen Harper was able to win a majority with just 39.6% of the vote.  He did so because his opponents nicely divided up the rest of the vote to allow his party to claim first place in 166 of 308 seats.

Harper didn't govern for anyone except his Conservative Party base.  His main political strategy was to divide and conquer - to maximize Conservative turnout, while doing everything he could to minimize voter turnout for his opponents.

To that end, he unilaterally used every trick in the book.  First and foremost, his agenda included trying to bankrupt his opponents by changing the country's electoral finance laws.  This was meant to ensure other parties would be simply incapable of mounting a campaign as well-financed as his own.

Harper first tried in 2008 after winning a second minority government to immediately end public subsidies for political parties, which used to provide $1.75 or so for every vote a party received.  When that attempt nearly cost him his government, he shelved the idea until the 2011 election, when he campaigned on it.  Having won a majority with 39.6%, he implemented his promise.  He didn't call a referendum on something he promised to do, even though changing how parties are financed is crucial to how democracies run, even more so than how we count votes which impact on all parties equally, I'd say. 

Harper also implemented other major changes that would deny the right to vote to thousands of Canadians, such as stringent new identification laws to purportedly fight fraud that didn't really exist.  The only real crimes that threatened elections were mostly conducted by Conservatives themselves by overspending or trying to trick opposition voters into going to the wrong polling stations.  But none of those issues were ever seriously addressed by Harper's reforms.  In fact, Harper made it more difficult for Elections Canada to even investigate such electoral crimes in his so-called "Unfair Elections Act" passed in the last Parliament.  

Expatriate Canadians also found their voting rights taken away.  None of these new rules, which fundamentally changed how we conduct our elections, were ever put to a referendum before being implemented.

And of course, I can't recall any conservative apologists in the private media ever demanding a referendum on these changes before Harper unilaterally imposed them.  

Neither did they call for a referendum on the obscene new spending limits that gave the Conservatives a tremendous advantage over their opponents when they called a 78-day campaign this year.  Of course, the Harperites blew that advantage by having no coherent message to sell with all that money.  The call for change was powerful and, aided by a knockout performance by Justin Trudeau in the campaign, won the day, despite the immense disadvantages the Liberals faced.   One major promise of the Liberal platform included making 2015 the last First-Past-The-Post federal election in favour of a new system that ensures that every vote counts, whatever that means. 

Still, when contemplating the future, it's clear that Conservatives are still nostalgic for the divide-and-conquer strategies of Harper and are fearful of any change away from the current voting system, under which they've found it most easy to win fake majorities.  Most Conservatives have long forgotten the politics of Bill Davis, whose inclusive approach to governing, straddling the centre of the political spectrum, kept his Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in power for decades.

The fact is that almost every Conservative politician and commentator is dead set against changing First-Past-The-Post because the status quo serves their narrow political interests best.

Moving to a new system like Alternative Voting, or Instant-Run-Off voting, whereby voters rank their choices by preference to ensure the elected MP has over 50% support in their riding, would force Conservatives to abandon their divide-and-conquer approach to politics.   It won't be enough to inspire just 35% of your riding, while demoralizing the rest.  They'll instead have to rely on second preferences from other voters to get over the top, were such a system adopted. 

Even worse for Conservatives, proportional representation systems would largely benefit parties on the far left which are currently underrepresented, especially the Greens and the NDP.   That's why those parties back moving to PR: when they have little chance to actually win, it's in their best interests to at least hold the balance of power. 

In truth, all parties are hopelessly biased on this question, favouring new systems or current ones that provide them with maximized power.   Their supporters in the media dutifully fall into line as well with the same positions.

I suspect that conservatives demanding a referendum are doing so because they assume any referendum would defeat any possible change.   Every referendum in Canada on the question of electoral reform has been soundly defeated in recent years, with the exception of the 2005 British Columbia vote.  In that 2005 experience, voters gave 57% support for change, without that change being fully fleshed out.  This followed the 2001 election there where the Liberals won 77 out of 79 seats with just 58% of the vote.  The flaws of First-Past-The-Post were glaring and possibly inspired that 57% result.  

But strangely that vote wasn't enough to implement change.  The B.C. Liberals, who had lost their love of reform after winning their huge majority, imposed a 60% threshold for approval.   And due to the indecisive nature of the 2005 result, the government held another referendum in 2009 to clarify, this time putting the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation up against First-Past-The-Post.  And the status quo won easily with 61% of the vote.

The results were similar in Ontario and Prince Edward Island when new systems of PR were put up against First-Past-The-Post.  I worked in 2007 on the Ontario referendum for change.  It was an eye-opening and frustrating experience.  Voters seemed greatly uncertain about switching to PR, particularly worried about the imposition of party lists of candidates, as well as the potential political instability of constant coalition governments going forward.

In truth, Canada has no history of multi-party cooperation that would be necessary for coalition governments and PR.  Hence, why Canadians have seemed quite dubious about moving to PR.  Hence, why conservatives are now demanding a referendum federally, hoping any proposed change the federal Liberals may want to adopt will be defeated.  However, it remains uncertain if a modest and reasonable change like Instant Runoff voting (or preferential voting) would face the same skepticism from the electorate.  Although I'm sure the private sector media would carpet bomb the public with negative coverage of any proposed change that threatened a return to conservative majority power. 

Personally, I'd like to see a change to our system.  I can completely live with Instant Runoff voting as it would greatly improve democracy in this country.  No longer would parties be able to write off the majority of the electorate in favour of their narrow base, as Harper did.  It would also eliminate the need to vote strategically in your riding.  Instead, you could put a "1" next to your top choice, then "2" next to your second preference, and so on.

Parties and candidates would have to compete for second and third preferences before the election.   If there are deals to be made, such as a promise by one leading candidate to prioritize an issue of a secondary candidate or party, those deals could be made public before the vote, not in the back rooms in secret after the vote (which would have to be the case under any system of proportional representation.)

It's foolhardy to suggest that Instant Runoff would only benefit the Liberals.  If the electorate were determined to knock the Grits out of power, they would do so just as efficiently, if not more so, under Instant Runoff as they would under First-Past-The-Post. 

I don't believe the Liberals are obliged to hold a referendum on any proposed change.  They have a mandate to proceed as they set out in their electoral platform.  As we see in this article, the Liberals are sticking to their guns so far. 

It'll be interesting to see how this issue plays out.  I have no doubt Justin Trudeau firmly believes that 2015 should be the last First-Past-The-Post election.  It remains to be seen how widely they consult on any changes and if they can get away with unilateral voting system change, particularly if not only the opposition parties, but also Fair Vote Canada (which only wants PR in order to empower the far left in this country) screams bloody murder about it.

On the other hand, I have found from recent posts on this issue, as well from my experiences in the 2007 referendum, that the public simply does not care much about this issue.  If the opposition couldn't inspire public outrage against changes imposed by Harper last time, I have major doubts conservative opponents of electoral reform today will be any more successful.   They clearly have their work cut out for them. 

This is definitely an issue to watch in 2016.

On that note, this is probably my last post of the year!  So happy New Year to all!  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The politics of contentment: Why I haven't been blogging lately...

Actors Rob Salerno and Trevor Ketcheson in 'Tri-Curious'
In recent months, I've been quite busy working on a personal project: a short narrative film entitled, 'Tri-Curious.'

I wrote the short script in the summer and went about producing it this fall.  I recruited two great Toronto actors - Trevor Ketcheson and Rob Salerno - to play a young gay couple about to embark on their first threesome together when one of them has a last minute anxiety attack and wants to cancel.  The script is a comedy that explores issues around relationships, monogamy and sexual experimentation in a thoughtful, light, and hopefully amusing way.  

Once a friend of mine, Nico Stagias, came on board as cinematographer (and graciously offered his own equipment for the shoot), the film was a go.  We shot most of it on October 24th, with a couple more scenes shot a couple of weeks later.

I've been diligently editing it since and I'm 99% finished the final picture cut.   After this, my composer will produce a musical score and a post production house in Toronto will give the film a polished colour correction and great sound mixing.

All of this is coming out of my own pocket.  In the early new year, I'll be launching a crowd funding campaign, likely on Indiegogo, to raise some money to help with these costs.   Despite all of the gracious volunteer help I've received, not to mention taking on the roles of writer, director, and film editor myself, I've still expended $1,300 to date.   That doesn't include the significant costs of the final sound mixing and colour correction.   

I'm hoping for a nice film festival run in 2016.  I've already sent it as a work-in-progress to 10 film festivals.  My fingers will be crossed in the coming months.

Thus, I've had little time to blog lately.  

But in addition to my busy schedule, I'm also feeling a huge amount of political contentment these days.  The election of Justin Trudeau's Liberals has eased my longstanding sense of anger. 

When I hear "Prime Minister Trudeau" on the news these days, I smile and cherish it.  We now have a Prime Minister who believes in diversity and espouses a political program that is progressive.  The move to stop bombing innocent Muslims in the Middle East (along with the rare ISIS leader), coupled with the government's decision to prioritize the entry of 25,000 Syrian refugees, sends a strong anti-racist message to Muslims around the world.   Trudeau's plan is far more effective for beating ISIS than the conservative options of constant bombardment and xenophobia.

In addition, we have a plethora of other progressive advancements on the horizon, such as cleaning up our environment, working cooperatively with First Nations, promoting innovation, enhancing the CPP, decreasing middle class taxes, and even legalizing cannabis.

These days, I find myself with little inspiration to blog because I'm so contented.  It illustrates clearly to me that much of my previous motivations for writing on this site came from a place of anger.  Many blog posts were attempts to deal with that anger and frustration through creative communication.  If nothing else, this blog gave me a place to vent and be heard. 

The Harper government represented one of the most regressive and damaging in our country's history: Harper's hostility to LGBT people's rights, his willingness to undermine all international efforts to fight climate change, his bizarre ideological obsessions, his hatred of public service, his hostility to science and basic facts, provided much inspiration for my words here.

But now that the great villain's gone, the relief is overwhelmingly awesome.  Sure, there will be issues here and there over which I'll disagree with the new regime.  But overall, the values underlining the new government make me proud to be Canadian.   We are in good hands moving forward and, for the first time in 10 years, the progressive views of the majority of Canadians are reflected in our national government's program.  

The dark days are over and sunny ways are here again!  Thus, I feel quite contented to get on with my life, to focus on the people I love and the tasks I love.  My film will be released in 2016 and hopefully more after that.  I will blog much less frequently as I continue to roll out 'Tri-Curious.'  Although you can definitely expect posts about that film and its progress, not to mention other films I love (plus of course political issues close to my heart.)   

I'm done with anger.  The politics of contentment are upon me.  It's nice to have my country back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I hope new Finance Minister Bill Morneau doesn't forget about the vulnerable local communities that elected him...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his new finance minister, Bill Morneau
Today marks the end of the awful Stephen Harper era, and the beginning of a new Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Writing that still gives me a special thrill.  It means Canada has a prime minister whose values are better aligned with the progressive majority of the country.  It means there are numerous policy areas in which real progress will be forthcoming, as long as the new government keeps its promises.

One of the first promises kept was to name a cabinet with gender parity.  Today, Trudeau appointed 15 men and 15 women to join him around the cabinet table.  

In years past, conservatives and others never complained about regional quotas, like appointing representative numbers of Western MPs, Ontario MPs, Quebec MPs and Atlantic MPs to cabinet.  They never complained about cabinets that included people who beared passing resemblance to the ethnic make-up of the country.

Yet today, many conservatives and private media types are attacking Trudeau's decision to appoint an equal number of women and men, you know, to make his cabinet more representative of the country's population than ever before.  

Conservatives like Tasha Kheiriddin simply will never understand how women, people of colour, sexual minorities, and many other groups need to be represented in our society in order for voices to be heard and for decisions to be made that take into account more than just white, male, privileged mainstream perspectives.   To most of the complainers, diversity is not valuable.  To them, it seems if we all acted like while, male, heterosexual, privileged elites, the world would be a better place.  They pretend that women bring nothing unique to decision-making, therefore it doesn't matter if women are underrepresented.  

I heartily disagree.  A cabinet table with equal numbers of men and women will provide more balanced and civilized government for Canadians.  The voices of women will be well-represented, not silenced and irrelevant as they largely were in the boys' clubs run by conservatives, who seemed to like it that way.

For a thoughtful take on this issue, check out Green Party leader Elizabeth May's column in the Huffington Post. 

As a resident of Toronto Centre, it's nice to see my newly elected MP Bill Morneau make cabinet as the country's new finance minister.

However, I have to say I'm worried that Morneau may focus too much on his new fiscal responsibilities and neglect his very vulnerable local communities that elected him.  I hope not.

For too long, Toronto Centre has been seen as a launching pad by high-powered Liberals for big Ottawa careers.  The former MP, Chrystia Freeland, seemed more interested in writing New York Times columns than attending local events after she won her 2013 by-election.  Before her, Bob Rae also had his eye squarely on bigger things in Ottawa than tending to the urgent needs of his vulnerable constituents. 

I remember knocking on doors in the 2013 by-election for Freeland and coming across an AIDS patient who demanded to know what "the hell" my candidate was going to do for people like him.  I couldn't answer him.   Sadly, two years later, it seems that Freeland didn't do much if anything for people like him.  She then vacated the area to run in nearby University-Rosedale.

The pro-Liberal trend in last month's election, in which promiscuous progressives got behind the Grits in order to defeat the Harper government, pushed all of these local Liberal candidates to Ottawa.   They got lucky.  But if they ignore the needs of their communities, they will have a much tougher time in 2019. 

I have met Morneau briefly on a couple of occasions.  He seems like a decent guy.  But I have to admit I was always disturbed by the fact that he wasn't from the riding, but instead from Don Valley West.   Now he's being described as a Bay Street millionaire.  That's hardly representative of his new riding.

Of course, that doesn't mean Morneau won't be able to keep the interests of his vulnerable communities always in mind.   His previous volunteer work for Covenant House and other charitable organizations shows he has a heart.

I just hope Morneau remembers who elected him to Ottawa as he takes on the great task of managing the new government's finances.   Toronto Centre deserves a local champion in Ottawa.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada frees itself from Harper's regressive grip and moves forward under "sunny," progressive leadership

I'm not sure I've ever been this proud of my country.   I'm even more proud than I was last year when openly queer premier Kathleen Wynne, armed with the best plan for Ontario's future, won a majority government against all odds in the provincial election.

But last night's majority victory for Justin Trudeau's Liberals confirms that Canadians are, above all, thoroughly decent people who can't be scared into voting out of fear and anger. 

Previous Stephen Harper victories made some sense when he was up against old Liberal corruption scandals, or woefully inadequate former Liberal leaders. 

But in Justin Trudeau, clearly Harper met his match and his time was finally up. 

Promiscuous progressives like me wanted badly to rid ourselves of Stephen Harper's regressive leadership and replace him with a government in line with progressive Canadian values like fairness, opportunity, equality, and justice.

Near the end, Harper pandered again to our worst instincts, fanning the flames of intolerance by pledging to use the powers of the state to control what certain women can and cannot put on their bodies during citizenship ceremonies.   Polls that allegedly pointed to widespread support for those discriminatory policies worried me greatly.  Furthermore, the Tories' snitch line against Muslim "barbaric practises," sent a chill down my spine.  There appeared to be nothing Harper wouldn't say to win this election. 

These past weeks, I hoped Canada would reject this regressive politics.  Many progressive Canadians hoped the same as well.  Yesterday, Canadians confirmed we are much better than Stephen Harper.  It was a victory thankfully in line with Kathleen Wynne's 2014 victory, as well as the smashing defeat of the Parti Quebecois in 2014 and its repulsive Charter of Quebec values. 

Tom Walkom wrote a nice column on this today in the Star. 

Although he tried to share his accomplishment with all Canadians, Justin Trudeau's victory could only happen thanks to his own determination, decency and, dare I say it, vision for the country.

"Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways," said Trudeau last night at the start of his victory speech, quoting former Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier.  Trudeau's positive leadership is a breath of fresh air.  

We are a country that wants to make peace with its Aboriginal citizens, not castigate them and spread racism against them in order to justify doing nothing much to improve their third world living conditions.  

We are a country that does support Israel's right to exist, but we don't offer unconditional support to Israel's right-wing government to do what it wants without any concern for human rights or basic dignity for Palestinians, as the Harper government did.

We are a country that sees itself as an honest broker on the world stage, not the right-wing militarists Harper wanted us to be.

We are a country that wants to play our part fighting the greatest threat to civilization: climate change.  We don't want to be saboteurs of those international efforts, as we were under Harper.

No, Harper was never a good fit for our country.  But he had good timing and a lot of luck.  That luck ran out big time this 78-day election campaign.  Designed to provide ample time for Justin Trudeau to screw up, instead the overly long campaign gave Trudeau the opportunity to shine and he did.

Canadians noticed and voted accordingly.

I do feel badly for the NDP which had the opportunity at the outset of this campaign to inspire and connect with Canadians.  But Tom Mulcair's somewhat prickly personality, coupled with his overly cautious and bland platform, failed to launch.  Once it became clear that Trudeau's Liberals would be the vehicle to defeat Harper, progressives abandoned the NDP en masse and pushed them back to historic levels of support. 

Should current seat counts be confirmed, the NDP's 44 seats still represent the second highest number of seats they've ever won in a federal election.  Mulcair's strength in Quebec no doubt helped save the 16 seats they won last night.  Another leader might've lost those too and pushed the NDP down even further.

I hope the NDP keeps the new Liberal government on its toes on issues like C51, privacy, human rights, the CBC, child care, foreign affairs, and many other progressive issues.  

As we move forward, I am going to enjoy the fact that our country's new leader goes out of his way to participate in Pride Day events, supports equality, and wants to bring out the best in us as human beings.   That's something we can all enjoy and cherish.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Private sector print media organizations mostly embarrass themselves this Canadian election...

Tweet by Ben Barnes mocking Globe's Friday "endorsement"
The importance of a public broadcaster like the CBC in today's media and political environment has again been reinforced amid the ongoing spectacle of private sector idiocy this week.  

The Globe & Mail's owners proved themselves more aloof and out-of-touch with reality than ever with yesterday's editorial calling for a re-elected Conservative government and Stephen Harper's immediate resignation soon thereafter.

Um, why would a leader in the real world who just won an election immediately resign? 

The Globe's suggestion reminded me of their editorial call for a "Tim Hudak minority" government in the Ontario election in 2014.  Um, how would voters seek to elect a minority government?  Carefully vote for NDP and Liberal candidates in 60% of the ridings to ensure the Cons can only take less than half?

There's no doubt the current leadership at the Globe & Mail needs to retire immediately from handing out political advice to the Canadian public.  If they insist on endorsing one party in the future, then please endorse that one party, including its leader.   Don't call for some hodge podge result that makes no sense in our parliamentary democracy in which voters can only vote for one candidate on their ballot in their local ridings.

The Globe's bizarre editorial did inspire much humour, including a couple Twitter hashtags. 

If you were frustrated with the trite printed yesterday in the Globe, check out this great column by former Globe editor-in-chief William Thorsell, shared by Paul Wells.  This is the editorial that the Globe should've published. 

The private sector shenanigans continued this week over at Postmedia and Sun Media where all of their local papers were clearly ordered to endorse the tired Harper regime.

But we are at least seeing some open rebellion from the journalists who work for those corporations, like this column today by Pete McMartin in the Vancouver Sun.  

Even Andrew Coyne is reportedly in the midst of a major disagreement with his bosses at Postmedia and a column he wrote contradicting his bosses may never see the light of day.   I'll be watching Coyne closely in the days ahead when he commentates on CBC and elsewhere, looking for hints for what he really wanted to say but was disallowed from publishing.

On the TV side, I have to say that the private sector did a much better job being fair this election.  Private sector TV networks do not traditionally endorse political parties and I continue to be thankful for that.

Previous pro-Conservative biases in CTV News coverage (like in the 2008 federal election when the decision to broadcast false starts in a Stephane Dion interview turned the election, and in the 2014 Ontario election when anti-Liberal bias, including broadcasting bogus "likely voter" poll results on the eve of the vote, was rampant) were largely gone this year.

Perhaps the ownership of CTV still felt stung by the incident in which owners tried to manipulate editorial decisions on the issue of CRTC regulations, but got rebuked by their brave employees.  Kudos to the journalists and producers who stood up to their bosses then.  

The integrity of those journalists working in the private sector is all we, the public, have to ensure a fair private media.  Clearly, that integrity is missing from private sector media owners.

Meanwhile, the CBC continues to set the standard on radio, online, and TV election news coverage including the most comprehensive across the country.   That scope keeps the CBC's private sector competitors on their toes and hopefully inspires all to be at the top of their game.

But going forward, Canadians should remember how poorly private sector newspaper organizations failed them in this campaign.  All let their political and ideological biases colour their coverage.

Recently, I decided to stop reading anything published by Postmedia or Sun Media to avoid being exposed to the blatant nastiness and manipulation of the pro-big corporate agenda.   I will continue to avoid those papers in the future. 

I will offer a bit of praise to the Toronto Star for at least publishing an endorsement of Justin Trudeau's Liberals that made sense, endorsing both the party's platform and the leader, instead of the half-assed, mind-boggling crap written by the Globe yesterday.