Sunday, May 29, 2016

Conservatives are not the party of social justice progress

In my opinion, the Conservative Party of Canada, like all other similar conservative parties in the western world including the Republican Party in the U.S., fight primarily for the maintenance of establishment power.

Conservatives, by and large, always favour policies that will strengthen the powerful at the expense of those without power.  If you're rich and inherited tonnes of money or your daddy's business and have always had easy access to the power brokers in your community, the Conservative Party is your party.

If you don't fit that description, you probably shouldn't be voting Conservative as you're actually voting for a party that will never look out for your interests.   Why do conservatives still garner much support from middle class or working class people?  Bigotry, primarily.  Conservatives have loved to stoke hatred of "others" and we saw many examples of this in the 2015 federal election where Stephen Harper tried to stoke fears of Muslims to win votes.  Donald Trump south of the border - a billionaire lout - has done the same thing on a grander scale, actually convincing dummy poor people that he's on their side.

When it comes to social justice and correcting historical discrimination, conservatives have always stood in the way when it counted most.  If vulnerable people had long been denied their rights, it was conservatives who supported that discrimination and usually fought tooth-and-nail to keep it in place.

Think of the fight to end slavery.  Conservatives wanted slavery to continue because it profited their primary constituency.  Women's equality.  Conservatives also fought against it.

Every single social justice cause in history has been hampered by conservatives working hard to maintain the injustice.  Why?  Because conservatives believe in maintaining things just like they've always been.  If this group of people have all the power, they probably deserve it or worked hard for it, they foolishly assume.   In truth, most people with power achieved that power through unjust systems or pure luck.  Today, there remains huge swaths of people who will never achieve real power in our society no matter how hard they work at it.   But such facts are not the concern of most conservatives.

Yesterday, the Conservative Party of Canada finally voted to end its official opposition to marriage equality in Canada.  This is a good thing.   It's also 11 years too late and almost of no consequence to LGBT Canadians.   For me, it symbolizes perfectly why the Conservatives are not and can never be the party for people who truly care about social justice and true equality.   Conservatives are followers, not leaders, on issues of social justice. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Change to Proportional Representation, or don't bother changing at all....

Liberal ministers Dominic Leblanc and Maryam Monsef at presser today.
The Trudeau Liberals have fulfilled an election promise by today launching a special parliamentary committee to recommend a new electoral system and explore mandatory and online voting.

Already, the opposition is criticizing the Liberals for "stacking the deck" in the governing party's favour by appointing a majority of Liberals to it.

The opposition has a point.  The Liberals have total control over what the committee decides to recommend once this "consultation process" ends December 1st.

So far, many Liberals including Justin Trudeau, himself, have been making noise in favour of changing to a preferential balloting or instant runoff voting system.  Such a move would change the way Canadians vote in federal elections from marking one 'X' next to their one preferred candidate, to voters ranking candidates from top preference on down, starting with "1," followed by "2," and so on.

There are many positives to such a new system.  No longer would voters be forced to hold their noses and "vote strategically" in elections, meaning reject their first choice in favour of their least hated choice in order to stop a candidate they truly detest.   Many progressives agonized over which party to choose in the last election because of the current first-past-the-post system.

With preferential voting, progressives could be free to vote Green or NDP in constituencies where those parties have little chance of topping the polls.  Then they could possibly pick the Liberals as their second or third choice.   If no candidates receive over 50% of the vote in the first round, the candidates with the least support are dropped off the count, and the subsequent preferences of those voters are re-allocated until one candidate gets over that 50% threshold.

Such a system would force political parties to appeal to the widest number of Canadians as possible in order to win not only as many top preferences as possible, but also subsequent second and third choices.   Parties that play only to their narrow base and ignore the vast swath of mainstream voters, like the Harper Conservatives did for ten years, would find themselves quickly defeated once the majority of voters team up against them.

This would likely lead to a major change in tone during elections.  Instead of parties viciously attacking each other in order to secure a mere plurality of support, those parties would probably start to team up or go easy on each other as they'd be gunning for each others' supporters.  Parties or candidates might even make deals with each other before election day in order to try to secure second preferences to get over the top.

But the big downside of preferential balloting is it would shut out non-mainstream viewpoints from Parliament even worse than the current system.   Under the current system, at least it's possible that smaller parties can win seats with relatively low percentages of the vote.  Under preferential balloting, it would be all the more difficult as those candidates would have to rely on second and third preferences from more mainstream voters in order to possibly win.

The result would likely be a Parliament made up of only very moderate, mainstream parties.  Critics of instant runoff claim it's just a scam to elect as many Liberals as possible.  They too have a point.  In truth, it only seems that Liberals like the idea of switching to preferential balloting from first-past-the-post.

If this special parliamentary committee simply rubber stamps Justin Trudeau's preferred new system, it will be a political travesty that could backfire big time on the ruling party.  Voters tend to frown on political parties that try to manipulate democratic systems to their own benefit.   Even if the proposed change has some merit, voters are likely to not only reject it, but also reject the party implementing it if the public deems the reform process to be fundamentally unfair.

That could easily happen with this process, particularly since all opposition parties and voting reform advocates like Fair Vote Canada are likely to be dead set against moving to preferential balloting.

For me, if we're going to go to the trouble of changing voting systems, we should do the right thing and embrace some form of proportional representation.  Such a change would finally ensure that party representation in the House of Commons aligns with party support among voters, unlike the current system which distorts that support.   PR would ensure that laws have the support of parties representing the majority of Canadians instead of just the biggest plurality.

When new democracies have emerged in the world in recent decades, a PR voting system has been put in place precisely because it minimizes the chances of extremists taking power with as little as 30% of the vote.  Nowhere do they implement first-past-the-post in such new democracies, nor do they implement preferential balloting.

Having said all this, it seems unlikely that Trudeau's committee will recommend a PR option.  Any such system would likely need a lot of work to get it right, taking into account the need for regional and local representation.   Contrary to the propaganda spouted by many PR opponents, PR does allow for locally elected legislators.   A mixed member proportional system that utilized open party lists (meaning, the voters could decide who from a party list would be elected to Parliament, not the parties themselves) would be a welcome change.  So would some form of Single Transferable Vote, or STV, which allows for local representation through multi-member constituencies. 

However, I'm not holding my breath this will ever happen in Canada.   Before Trudeau promised to revisit our first-past-the-post system in the 2015 election, I had thought this issue was resolved.  Every referendum on this subject in recent years has resulted in affirming the status quo.  Even a referendum in the UK on preferential balloting was crushed with 69% voting to keep first-past-the-post.  Furthermore, the issue of electoral reform tends to bore the crap out of the public.  Few seem to care much about changing away from first-past-the-post.  Even the NDP when in power always keeps the current voting system in place.   

But the Trudeau Liberals seem intent on moving forward on this issue.  They've got control over what the committee will recommend.  Should the committee simply propose preferential balloting and the government moves unilaterally to change Canada's voting system in such a profound way, it will cause a big and well-deserved backlash.

Should the Liberals bend to opposition demands and hold a referendum on any change, such a backlash could be avoided.  But such a referendum is also likely to end in defeat for the proposed change.

Regardless, it will be very interesting to see how this issue continues to move forward. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Transgender Man and His Colleagues in North Carolina Call for Repeal of HB2

This is an incredible ad.  The perfect answer to ignorance is always truth.  This is a beautiful work as well as a powerful answer to the bigotry we've seen swirling lately in the Republican south.  I'm very happy to promote it here. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

My film 'Tri-Curious' gets world premiere at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival

I'm thrilled to announce that my short film 'Tri-Curious' is heading to Mumbai, India for its World Premiere at the end of May in the Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, known as KASHISH.

Organizers invited the film in mid-April but I couldn't announce it until the festival released its lineup on the weekend.

This is a tremendous honour as KASHISH is South Asia's biggest and India's only "mainstream LGBT film festival", now in its 7th year.   It runs from May 25 to 29, 2016.  The overall festival theme this year is '7 Shades of Love,' and organizers have invited 182 films from 53 countries to screen.  I don't yet know when my film will be screening, but I'll announce that when I hear.  The film festival will be held at three venues – Mumbai’s iconic art deco Liberty theatre, Alliance Francaise de Bombay and Max Mueller Bhavan.

The festival doesn't get much institutional or corporate support, I'm told.  Thus, they can't sponsor filmmakers to travel to attend.  Instead, funds raised go to putting on the event.  To that end, the festival is raising funds through crowd sourcing.  Please check out the details here. 

But what a thrill to have my little short film find an audience on the other side of the planet.   Congrats to everyone who worked on the film for this great honour!  Here's a YouTube video the festival posted with highlights from its 2015 festival.

Also, please take another look at the trailer to my film if you wish - the YouTube link is on the top right of this blog.  Glad to say it has almost 34,000 views so far.

I'll post more info on my screening and the 2016 festival over the coming few weeks.