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. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

I voted Liberal today

I voted Liberal in advanced polls today.  Wholeheartedly.

My reasons: I'm ready for the kind of leadership that Justin Trudeau is offering the country.  He's a positive, progressive leader who will do right for Canada and for Canadians.

Should the Liberals form the government after Oct 19th, I look forward to feeling good about my federal government and good about my country again, after so many years of being ashamed of Stephen Harper's regressive leadership, not only in this country but in the world.

I had my doubts about Trudeau at the start of this campaign, no doubt influenced by the Conservatives' propaganda machine and the critical opinions of friends and family.

But once the campaign began, Trudeau came alive with passion and inspiration that had been missing earlier and policy clarity that spoke perfectly to the mood of the country in these dire economic times.  Trudeau's positions in favour of more spending now on infrastructure, cutting middle class taxes, and legalizing and regulating marijuana all won me over.  On top of that, Trudeau's longtime promotion of diversity is the perfect antidote to the disturbing xenophobia from the Harper campaign. 

Now polls show the Liberals inching into a clear lead in most polls.  On October 19th, I'm predicting the Liberals will pull off a win.  

It's been a bit of a roller coaster this year politically, with the Liberals down and then back up, the NDP up and then back down, and the Tories still in the game but deservedly stuck around 30 percent.

Last December, I made a bold, early prediction about this federal election that the Liberals would win.  I had a feeling that Justin Trudeau would bring it in a big way once the election started. But as the months went on, I felt more and more stupid for having done so as circumstances changed.

In the future, when I look ahead at future elections and assess chances, I will remind myself I'm a pretty good prognosticator! 

Here is my prediction from last December again.  It's not completely correct, but it now seems surprisingly prescient: 

"If Stephen Harper runs again as Conservative leader (which I think he will), I'm predicting he'll at best be reduced to a minority government. But there is an excellent chance Harper will lose outright to a Liberal minority government.  If Justin Trudeau performs near perfectly and coalesces the anti-Conservative vote behind the Liberals, including in Quebec, he'll win a majority. 

We've already seen the polls change a bit in Harper's favour this fall.  He's been in full re-election mode, doing everything he can to get his numbers up, acting the conservative statesman on the international scene, the tough guy taking on ISIS and standing up to Vladimir Putin, while also stepping up against homegrown terrorists and in favour of working parents.  It's a cunning, toxic caricature that Harper has perfected after years in power.  He's come a long way from his days as head of the National Citizens Coalition.

By re-taking a narrow lead in the polls of late, making the 2015 election a real race, the dynamics of the pre-campaign will change.   Instead of focusing on Justin Trudeau, voters will instead contemplate the question: "Do we really want another four years of Stephen Harper?" 

This is actually good for Trudeau's Liberals, in my mind.  They'll continue to unveil their own compare-and-contrast campaign, focusing on Harper's considerable weak spots, which have been glaring ever since he cleared out the truly talented people from the PMO thanks to the Mike Duffy scandal.   If the Liberals are smart, they'll also soon start describing themselves as the "underdogs" in this federal election, reminding everyone that they are the humbled third party, that they've done their time in the penalty box, that they've learned the hard lessons of defeat and have developed a fresh new team with a clear, progressive vision for the country courtesy of a lot of "hope and hard work." 


Trudeau has succeeded on numerous crucial fronts since winning the Liberal leadership in the spring of 2013.  He's managed to replace Tom Mulcair's NDP as the unofficial opposition in the minds of Canadians, despite the fact the Libs have only one third the seats.  Repeated by-election results have confirmed that trend and most of the media now believe only Trudeau's Liberals can knock out Harper's Cons.  And they're right.

One of Trudeau's most senior advisors, Gerald Butts, previously worked wonders for Dalton McGuinty in 2003, helping to design a platform at the time that perfectly spoke to the concerns of Ontarians after 8 years of provincial PC rule.  It was an unabashedly progressive agenda and would set up the themes that would win power for the Ontario Liberals.  Those themes - ensuring quality public education, health care and other public services including infrastructure - continue to resonate and keep the Ontario Liberals in power today.  I'm seeing many echos of that successful strategy in many of Justin Trudeau's pronouncements, including on infrastructure, the middle class, tax fairness and even marijuana.  Trudeau's also talking about banning government advertising that is clearly partisan, which was another major plank in the 2003 Ontario Liberal platform.   And Trudeau lately has been criticizing Harper's penchant for secrecy and centralization of power and control.

Trudeau is setting himself up to be the great antidote to 9 years of Harper rule.   If his platform is convincingly progressive enough, he may be able to win more NDP votes than previously thought. 

Still, Trudeau is just 43.  To many, he will appear green on the hustings.  He may even spit out some uninspiring or worrying nonsense in a scrum or two.   The media will have a field day over such moments, of course. 

At the same time, I predict NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will largely unimpress outside of Quebec.  When most Canadians get to know Mulcair better, they'll find him to be what I've always thought of him: generally unlikeable, even occasionally irritating.   He's certainly no Jack Layton.   We'll know Mulcair is merely trying to save the NDP furniture should his platform continue to tilt far left.  Then, he'll be able to credibly say to progressives: vote NDP to ensure you get the government you actually want, instead of a mushy centre-right-left government under Justin Trudeau.   Mulcair will get in his blows.  He'll be aided by conservative media commentators who will declare him victorious in the debates just to try to undermine Trudeau.  But ultimately, none of that noise will matter.

Harper's campaign will be impressive, but will for the first time take several major hits from his opponents.  His support will sag and the Conservatives will run neck-and-neck with the Grits in the polls throughout most of the campaign.  If Trudeau performs as well as he wants, the Grits will surge ahead.  The NDP will vacillate between the high teens and the low-20s and back to the teens again.  Quebec will consider abandoning the NDP to vote Liberal to beat the Tories once and for all.  

A lot of what may happen depends on how well Trudeau can perform, how clearly and succinctly he lays out a realistic and progressive agenda, and how well he dispels worries about his readiness to lead the country.  For Trudeau, there are many variables yet to be defined which make predictions extremely difficult.  I, like most fair-minded, progressive Canadians, believe Trudeau will eventually get there and lead a federal government that again makes us proud to be Canadian.  I'd love it to happen in 2015.   It's certainly possible.  

Will Trudeau perform when it matters most?  Or will he fall on his face and force Canadians again to choose Harper as the allegedly safer option?  My gut tells me we'll see something like what we saw when Trudeau took on then-Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in the boxing ring in 2012.  Greatly underestimated, Trudeau will fight a disciplined battle and surprise everyone, especially the Conservatives. 

The end result: I think we'll be seeing a Liberal victory in 2015 in Canada, probably a minority government.  If Quebec swings hard behind the Liberals to stop the Conservatives, it will be a majority.  In answer to the ballot question, "Do you want another four years of Harper?," the answer will be, "No."   The country has had enough of the Harper show.  We're tired of him.   Efforts to soften his image and promise something slightly different will prove unconvincing.  After an inspiring campaign that hits all the right notes and, to the shock of the "commentariat," makes few mistakes, Canadians will give the younger Trudeau a chance to chart a path that actually reflects the realistic and progressive values of the majority of Canadians, not the conservative minority for whom Harper governs. 

That's what my gut is telling me.  I could be wrong.  We shall see"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yet another anti-gay dinosaur found on Stephen Harper's Conservative Party ticket...

This is gross, especially since this candidate is running in a winnable riding for his party. 

"A Conservative candidate (pictured in the blue turban) in suburban Toronto is defending therapies that attempt to turn gays straight, having penned an editorial that referred to homosexuality as "unnatural behaviour" and heterosexuals as "normal." 

"Jagdish Grewal, running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial in the Punjabi Post earlier this year entitled, 'Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?' 

Grewal was responding in his editorial to a new law passed in Ontario this year that banned the discredited and barbaric treatment.

I hope Grewal's dropped right away from the Conservative slate, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sadly, I fully expect Stephen Harper to do his typical thing and fully tolerate this bigotry in his party because he sees the upside letting homophobia go unchallenged (kind of like he sees the upside to letting Islamophobia flourish.)

It would be too late to replace him this late in the election game, after all.

It would be nice if the mainstream media took up this issue and demand Harper defend the practise of "curing" gays espoused by his local candidate.


The Tories have dumped this guy from their ticket.  Although as it's too late to replace him, Grewal's name and party will remain on the ballot in Mississauga-Malton.   However, this all but ensures a Liberal victory in the riding and one less seat for the Conservatives, who won the area in 2011. 

It's interesting that this kind of blatant homophobia would see a Tory candidate dumped while other more subtle forms of homophobia, like attacking the new Ontario public school curriculum for even mentioning the existence of LGBT persons, as many federal Conservative candidates across Ontario have done this election campaign, continue to go unpunished. 

Clearly, the Conservative Party has miles to go before it grows up.