All In A Day

We have heard a great deal in recent years about unemployment. Statistics. News stories. “Unemployment rises to 7%.” “Unemployment rate declines as people give up looking for work.” The word itself describes an abstraction, and the humanity of those affected is destroyed. Some people try to document the lives of people struggling to find work, for example Barbara Ehrenreich in her works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. Yet, we never hear from the unemployed themselves. Almost all the stories come from the United States, but our official rates in Canada are lower, and among the lowest in the country are in my home province of Manitoba. Does this affect the perception? I write this article to give one perspective.

Follow Your Dreams

Born in the early 1980s to a typical middle class family, I am at the front end of the so-called “millennial generation.” As a child, I, along with other children of my generation, was told that I was special. As a teenager, we were told that the secure “jobs for life” available to our parents were becoming a thing of the past, but that if we followed our dreams and made sure our skills were always updated, we would be all right. In my case, this ended up as studies in geography that concluded in my mid-20s. So I should be set for life, right?

It’s A Jungle Out There

Not so fast. I found it very challenging to find work, so I turned to resources, like career centres and reading books and articles that claim to provide reliable step-by-step instructions on how to find work. While I respect the commitment of those staff who are doing what they feel is needed to help people, a great deal of the advice they gave was unclear. For example, we’ve all heard the statistic that “80% of jobs are never advertised external to the company.” That statistic is generally floated as a self-evident truth, with no justification for how that statistic was derived, so that is problematic right off the hop. But let’s be generous, and assume that statistic to be true. How do you go about finding these jobs? They’re the “hidden job market,” that you find through “networking.” How does networking work? Basically, you talk to people and try and find out where the opportunities are. I know some people who can do this very well. There are others for whom this is a challenge, and they don’t know how to present themselves in a way that doesn’t come across to say, “give me a job because I need one.” Which begs the question, does finding a job depend on skill or personality type?

“Cold calling” is another technique, where you call places and talk to people you don’t know to try and find information. I have not found this particular approach to be productive. Often I’m directed to the company’s career webpage where I can stand in line like the rest of the people, and I get the sense that they really don’t know how to help me anyway and are trying to let me down gently. This is not to pass judgment on these people. If someone called you out of the blue one day asking for help on finding work with your employer, would you know where to direct this person? How would you deal with the tension of feeling this person’s difficulty and not having any inside information that would help? But don’t worry, you are supposed to “follow up” with employers. While I can see the logic behind a simple, “hi, I sent my resume, have you had a chance to take a look and what can I expect?” type telephone call, I find some of the exhortations to follow up to be ridiculous. Are the people making these decisions not adults who are capable of knowing who they do or do not want to talk to? I imagine that if I took that approach to dating that I would run the risk of being thrown in jail. But it seems perspective employers are ahead of the game anyways, with many explicitly asking for no contact and advising that they will only contact the people they are interested in dealing with.

Another thing that is suggested is that you “go where the jobs are.” How do you do this? Some advice tells you to search for a job in your target city, for example taking a vacation there. But do you really want to spend time away from work thinking about it? What about the resources you will need to stay there, and if you have the resources to be able to flit about the country like that, do you really need a job that badly anyway? I remember once asking to stay with relatives in a different city (one of these is in human resources), and was told, “you’re not going to get past the gate keeper,” and I had another consultant tell me that moving actually creates issues on top of the challenges of finding work.

You are also supposed to “tailor your resume and cover letter” to the job description. Unfortunately, several job descriptions are so specifically written that it’s impossible to imagine any one person meeting the criteria. So do you make a judgment call, or do you still send in the application even if there are several criteria you clearly do not meet? What are your odds anyways? One of the jobs I applied to I found out there were about 60-70 people, applying for one position. No matter how good your cover letter and resume is, your odds are terrible, and even if every single application matched the job description perfectly, there is no way all of them would be selected for interviews.

What’s worse is that so many companies have career sections of their website that scan the resumes, and if yours does not match perfectly, you do not continue in the competition. There are also privacy implications, as for many of these sites you have to give personal information including address and contact information just to be considered, and they may not even acknowledge your application.

The worst of this is the silencing effect this has on the job seeker. Most career consultants will tell you to stay positive, and several programs are designed on the idea that if you stay positive, good things will come your way. You have to banish negativity. Well, what happens when things don’t turn out as you intend? When people don’t acknowledge your application, they don’t call you back to let you know, or you have an interview that you feel went great only to find out you didn’t get the job? When did it become socially acceptable to treat people as if they don’t matter, the way job seekers often are? And how can you communicate the sense of frustration, and mostly betrayal, when you are expected to keep a positive spin on the situation?

These organizations also work on the outdated assumption that once you find a job then everything is all right, no matter that the job is only part-time or one to which you are not well-suited but you made that compromise because you have bills to pay. So your struggle continues, and while there may be relief because at least you have money coming in, there’s also added stress. Maybe the job creates problems with your personal schedule and having the time outside work to do things you enjoy. Perhaps you do not fit in with the company culture. Perhaps the stress is having a negative impact on your performance, tipping you towards that downward spiral where job loss is inevitable.

Unemployment: The Personal Impact

Lost in all of this is the impact on people who are unemployed. There are the obvious financial aspects, whether your income is reduced or lost outright. Certain sacrifices may have to be made. For example, what happens if you can no longer afford your vehicle but you need one to attend interviews? What if you lose your housing and you have no personal support system to rely on? It is especially hard since there’s an implicit determination of your self worth by whether or not you have paid employment. There’s the issue of the negative impact it has on your social circles, your relationships, or even potentially on your suitability to date someone. The longer this goes on, the more it hangs over your life, like a shadow, choking out everything else you find meaningful. Where has your life gone? What could you have done or accomplished with yourself had you had meaningful work for the last 6 months, the last year, or even the last few years of your life?

The Myth Of Re-education

One of the ways governments have tried to deal with unemployment is to offer retraining incentives for people to go back to school. This is problematic for several reasons. The main reason is that with the focus on training, it misses the point completely about the number of jobs available, and training people for jobs that aren’t there is a waste of time and resources. Another barrier that graduates often face is employers asking for experience.

Complicating matters is that many colleges boast of employment rates above 90%. Sounds good, right? That depends on how you count employment. [u=]Red River College in Winnipeg publishes an annual survey of graduates to track this very phenomenon. The employment percentages are derived from adding together those who are employed inside their field of training, and those who are employed elsewhere. What is the purpose of attending college if not to gain a skill set for particular employment? And what of what you studied in college if you found employment outside of your desired field?

The Road Ahead

People who struggle to find work do not need “sympathy” or “positive thoughts.” They need secure employment. While calls for more generous unemployment benefits are helpful in the short term and well-intended, this is only a temporary solution. Unemployed people do not want to sit around all day collecting from an income support program, they want to be our there contributing to society as their talents and skills suit them. So how do we go about fixing this problem? I honestly have no answers. Perhaps the Good Jobs Revolution or Generation Squeeze campaigns are good places to start. Whatever the solution is, we cannot rely on policymakers alone to fix this problem. Those of us who do struggle with unemployment need to be at the table influencing policy decisions, whether through existing organizations (for example, organizations that deal with discrimination based on race, gender, or disability) or through forming new organizations of our own. And I hope that by starting this conversation we can move forward and address this problem. I have added my voice, and so now I welcome yours.

Election Wrap 2014

On Wednesday October 22, Manitoba voters went to the polls. Lawyer Brian Bowman was elected the mayor of Winnipeg, while Rick Chrest defeated incumbent mayor of Brandon Shari Decter-Hirst. What factors led to the decisions that voters made? How can these results be used to advance a progressive agenda for these two cities?

Background On Winnipeg

After ten years, incumbent Mayor Sam Katz decided to leave public life. He was very unpopular by the end of his mandate, owing to such things as audits around city contracting decisions,problems with frozen pipes and snow clearing, and an unpopular decision to route rapid transit through an empty wetlandfollowing decades of delays on the project. One of Katz’ first acts of office was to cancel construction of a rapid transit line that had been approved by his popular predecessor Glen Murray.

Unfortunately, citizens of Winnipeg were not able to make a completely informed choice. The media tried to pigeonhole the candidates on a rigid left-right axis, with 2010 challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis on the left, and Brian Bowman, Gord Steeves, and Paula Havixbeck on the right. Consequently many forums did not include all candidates, which upset a few people, although a few did include all candidates. here is how they fared:

Up In Front: It’s Lonely At The Top With Nowhere To Go But Down

Judy Wasylycia-Leis was the favourite going into the race. She had name recognition from her previous run, the backing of the NDP and organized labour, and with Katz out of the race, she became the de-facto incumbent mayor. She counted on a vote split on the right and ran a cautious, don’t-rock-the-boat campaign and as the candidate with experience, although she offered a few select planks on issues of affordable housing,accountability, and active transportation. Her campaign team completely missed the surge by Brian Bowman, instead having focused its guns on former councilor Gord Steeves.

With Katz out, Steeves was the presumed standard-bearer for the right end of the spectrum, and the candidate seen as most likely to continue on with Katz’ policies. He ran a classic right-wing campaign, promising a property tax freeze, asset sales, and cancelling the unpopular rapid transit line to the University of Manitoba. The last item in particular he could have capitalized on, but his campaign went badly. He followed the right-wing strategy of avoiding debates put on by community groups. His plan for handling proposed developments sounded like what had been going on under Katz. But the most damaging thing to his campaign were racist comments made by his wife on social media. Disgusting in their own right, they struck a particularly bad note in a racially divided city hurting from mourning the death of homeless hero Faron Hall and murder of Tina Fontaine.His support dropped throughout the campaign, ending in the single digit.

Paula Havixbeck was a more marginal player on the right. A one-time Katz ally and member of his inner circle, she parted ways and became a critic, making a name for herself criticizing deals the city made. It was more a low-key affair focused on issues as infrastructure, snow removal, and 311, and was not able to gather much momentum or big endorsers, and she finished second last.

The Rising Stars

David Sanders, an NDP-affiliated former provincial bureaucrat, was a late entrant in the race. He had a history of attending city hall and asking tough questions. He opposed the rapid transit detour and focused his campaign on the issue of competent public administration. He was not able to gain much support, although he did finish higher than a sitting councilor.

Just as impressive as the mayoral face itself, aboriginal candidate and university administrator Robert Falcon-Ouelette inspired Winnipeg to come together and to dream and hope. He wrapped his campaign around the themes of hope, proposing ideas as moving rail lines outside the city to make way for light rail transit, taxing parking lots as if they were buildings to encourage downtown growth, affordable housing, and making Winnipeg a child friendly city. His personal journey, from homelessness to earning a Ph. D, also inspired people. Without having any formal experience in politics or a formal political machine behind him, he rose to a third place finish when the ballots were counted.

Despite being backed by the Chamber of Commerce (including an endorsement from Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman) Bowman was able to gain support across party lines and to paint himself as a fresh face. Tagged by many to be on the right side of the spectrum, owing in part to his proposal for a municipal sales tax, he out-flanked Wasylycia-Leis on several urban issues of concern to progressives including extend rapid transit throughout Winnipeg by 2030, ending homelessness, opening the intersection of Portage and Main to pedestrians, and funding the arts. His proposals were very heavy on dreams and optimism and light on practical steps to achieve them. This turned to his advantage, as Winnipeg voters were tired of being told no and embraced the idea of the city moving forward.

While the result of the race for mayor was not what the left had hoped for, they can take comfort in seeing hard-right councilors Thomas Steen and Grant Nordman go down to defeat. The representation of women also improved slightly, as Janice Lukesand Cindy Gillroy will join Devi Sharma and Jenny Gerbasi. A key test will be whether he follows through on his promise to allow council to elect members of his Cabinet. This cabinet composes almost half the votes in the council chamber, so if elected that removes the ability of the mayor to force votes to go a certain way. Bowman’s self-portrayal as wanting an inclusive government and governing by consensus provides a window of opportunity to advance progressive policies to make Winnipeg the viable city it can become.

Brandon: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Brandon has a history of electing business-friendly mayors, and the election of Chrest returned to that tradition. The NDP-backed incumbent, Shari Decter Hirst, had swept into office in 2010 on the sentiment that Brandon was an “old boy’s club” that wasn’t inclusive of the general citizenry. The overall record of Decter-Hirst’s administration was mixed. There were some worthwhile accomplishments, such as an affordable housing strategy,introducing Sunday bus service, successfully fighting major flooding in 2011 and 2014, and the arrival of regular air service to Brandon’s airport. She was also the subject of several controversies, including an accusation of conflict of interest,threatening a sitting councilor, scandals around failure to pay taxes on businesses she owned, a labour dispute with Brandon firefighters, and a failure to respond to criticisms from increasing property taxes. Even though property taxes were rising in other cities, the raises proved perfect fodder for her critics who wanted to paint her as a “tax-and-spend” NDPer, which hurt her at a time when the NDP government was losing popularity in Manitoba. As she took over from several generations of councils that had held tax increases to the bare minimum, she did not have political cover needed to raise taxes, unlike in Winnipeg where Katz broke a promise not to raise taxes in his last term. Chrest had an uninspiring platform, instead running on a back-to-basics approach, and on his reputation as a popular businessman. It worked for Chrest. Decter-Hirst ran an ambitious campaign, but Chrest’s popularity combined with her controversies cost her dearly, and she was handily defeated in all corners of Brandon.

Brandon council is a different story. Incumbent councilor Jan Chaboyer was joined by newcomers Vanessa Hamilton and Lonnie Patterson to elect a total of 3 women in an 11-member chamber, one of the best results for woman representation in recent history. Chrest spoke often of the need for teamwork, and has expressed a desire to speak with each councilor to help set priorities for the next session. This allows a window of opportunity for progressive issues to be addressed by a business-friendly council, and if taken advantage of, can leave this mayor and council with many worthwhile accomplishments beyond what the mayor-elect campaigned on.

Balanced Perspectives: Why Public Finances Matter

With governments running deficits and austerity being pushed as a means to deal with the shortfall, the issue of public finances has gained attention. Are these deficits necessary? What should the left-wing response be? When a left-of-centre party comes out in favour of balanced budgets, some have accused these parties of selling out. Yet I believe that short of severe economic downturns and severe national emergencies, for example a natural disaster, that the left should actually embrace balanced budgets. Why?

Balanced Budgets Or Social Spending? Pick One

People have to budget in their daily lives, and make choices about what’s important to them. Often, people sacrifice things they want but feel they cannot afford, for example going on vacation. The right understands this, and connects it to public finances. This works because even though increased program spending advocated by the left is popular, people think of the government having to live within its means, and that you can’t always spend on the “nice to haves.” Furthermore, when the right talks about the need to balance the budget and the left says, “we have to spend more on social programs,” it only serves to reinforce the dichotomy, to reinforce that you have to choose either balanced budgets or social spending. This is a false choice.
Allan Blakeny in Saskatchewan balanced budgets while expanding programs. Grant Devine cut these programs and still ran up deficits.

“Spending Problem?”

The left is always accused of having a “spending problem,” especially when there is a shortfall in revenue. What they conveniently forget is that reducing spending is but one way to deal with this. Another way to deal with a budget shortfall is to bring in more money. Conversely, cuts in taxes are every bit of an expense as if you spent the money, even though parties like to pretend it doesn’t cost anything. This is how the NDP can offer the most in program spending yet claim that their platform is the cheapest, because the NDP doesn’t offer as many tax cuts as other parties.

Who Is Better At It?

Anyone who pays casual attention to the media can be forgiven for thinking that the left has trouble balancing budgets. The reality is the opposite. When in power provincially, it is actually the NDP which has the best record on balancing the books. Fiscal conservatives should be especially unhappy with how the Harper government has racked up high deficits, with little to show for it.

Balanced budgets are the one area where the right-wing claims credibility, and it is on this one issue that they manage to trump the popular ideas of the left. Yet the facts do not support this claim, and if the left can shift the debate on balanced budgets, it will have dealt with a major obstacle it faces in the eyes of the common voter.

Benefits of Hiring Home Insurance Brokers

Do you want to hire insurance brokers? Ontario is in East-Central Canada. It’s also the province with the largest population in Canada. Hiring insurance brokers in Ontario ensures that you get the best home insurance quotes from insurance companies.

That’s compared to dealing with an insurance company directly. In this guide, we look at 5 benefits of hiring home insurance brokers.

They Are:


  • Insurance brokers ensure that you buy insurance with ease. That’s because they respond to your questions faster.
  • They also have a local address that you can contact them in the case that you want to change your cover. By offering personalized service, for example, through direct phone calls to you, they ensure that you purchase the best home insurance cover.


  • Insurance companies offer brokers better pricing on their coverage’s than when you buy insurance directly from them. That’s because by dealing with them, they ensure that they keep their risks at a minimum level.
  • Brokers ensure that you pay premiums that reflect your properties’ value. As compared to insurance agents, they are independent of those companies; they make sure that you purchase a policy that you won’t regret. To get the best quotes, you should consider hiring home insurance brokers Ontario.


  • Home insurance brokers Ontario ensure that they explain policy language to you in detail. They make sure that you understand what you are signing up for and also ensure you pay the correct premiums.
  • That’s compared to buying insurance directly from companies that lead you to pay premiums that do match your home’s value.


  • Home insurance brokers Ontario ensure that your insurance application process is quick. That’s because they carry out personal follow-ups to ensure that you get the best cover for your home.
  • Brokers depend on commissions from insurance companies. It means that they speed your policy application.

Personal Data

  • By dealing with insurance brokers in Ontario, you ensure that your personal data is safe. That’s because they are local companies.
  • That means that in the case that any of your detail gets used incorrectly, you can contact them using their physical addresses in Ontario.

What to Look Out For

  • Make sure that home insurance brokers identify themselves. That ensures that you are dealing with certified and licensed professionals.
  • Search for those with experience in home insurance. That enables you to lay claims as they have built up good reputations with insurance companies.


Dealing with home insurance brokers Ontario should be easier using the above guide.

The Legacy Of Jack Layton

Like many Canadians, I was horrified to hear the news that federal NDP leader Jack Layton had passed away from cancer on the morning of August 22nd. As the outpouring of emotion continues throughout the week, and his absence begins to sink in, I found myself thinking about the amazing legacy he left Canada, and how things changed in his 8 year stint as leader of the federal NDP.

His accomplishment is remarkable considering the shape the NDP was in during the early 2000s. Barely at official party status, it was marginalized by being the fourth party, and between the larger narratives of the Liberal-Reform/Alliance horse race, or the horse race between the Liberals and the Bloc in Quebec. Nobody gave the NDP much chance. In the summer of 2002 Layton, then a Toronto city councilor without much of a national profile, jumped into the race to replace Alexa McDonnough. Not having a seat in the House of Commons would prove to be an asset, as being on the outside allowed him to mobilize support and bring in the people who would lay the groundwork for big change at a time when the party craved fresh energy and ideas.

Layton’s hard work would pay off, as he won convincingly on the first ballot, despite not having a seat and Bill Blaikie having overwhelming support from the Caucus. And even though the NDP would remain small numerically, Layton was able to force the spotlight onto the NDP, first when the Liberals were predicted to win big under Paul Martin, then later on as the dynamic moved towards a Liberal-Conservative polarization federally, and his breakthrough in Quebec.

How did Layton pull this off? He put the tired clich� of “doing politics differently” into practice. He focused on the core issues that Canadians constantly tell opinion pollsters are important to them, but never implemented federally, bringing the “results oriented” approach to the federal scene, and to work with other parties to push forward the agenda, as is done at the civic level where formal partisan arrangements are often absent. When Harper and Ignatieff were asking for majority governments in the 2011 election, Layton knew that an NDP majority was not in the cards, was fine with that, and said so, and this earned him respect.

I argue that the seeds for the Orange Crush phenomenon were planted on April 21, 2005. The Sponsorship Scandal had engulfed Parliament Hill and was threatening the Paul Martin minority government. Martin took to the public airwaves to plead his case, and all the opposition leaders demanded responses. While Martin, Duceppe, and Harper all focused on the scandal, Layton touched on it but lamented that Parliamentarians were not working on the serious issues facing the country, and calling out the other parties for digging in their heels in their partisan trenches. I remember my respect and admiration for Layton going up, and Canadians were relieved by this breath of fresh air. Layton would go on to extract concessions from Liberal and Conservative governments. When the intransigence of the Harper government reached a head following the 2008 election, he played a key role in the coalition negotiations that proved unsuccessful at removing Harper. The inclusion of the Bloc showed Quebeckers that the federal Parliament was capable of putting their social democratic values into action, and that they could be part of the federal system to make that happen.

The road forward was a long, difficult slog, but Layton was very patient and committed. He pushed forward in the face of great odds, even when it didn’t apparently make sense at the time and the NDP remained stuck at the 15-20% range in the polls. His first test was how he would respond to not having a seat in the House of Commons. Rather than muscle aside an incumbent in a safe seat, he followed through on his commitment to his home community by waiting for the general election to run in his home seat. As this was held by Dennis Mills of the Liberals, there was a great risk, but he won in 2004, and was able to put a positive spin on a campaign that hadn’t netted as many seats as he had hoped. He was ridiculed for opening the 2008 campaign by asking Canadians to elect him Prime Minister, but came out of that election with MPs in 8 provinces, effectively cementing the NDP as a national party. Locally, I appreciate that this commitment took him to the staunchly Conservative rural Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette in the November 2010 round of by-elections. It never made a dent in the Conservative vote, but did vault the NDP as the clear alternatives to the Conservatives in that riding, and I can only hope that these efforts will bear fruit somewhere down the road.

Above all else, he reminded us of what was important, and taught us to dream, and encouraged us to break old habits.. I can think of no better summary for Layton’s legacy than his own words which concluded his final press conference:

“If I have tried to bring anything to federal politics, it is the idea that hope and optimism should be at their heart. We CAN look after each other better than we do today. We CAN have a fiscally responsible government. We CAN have a strong economy; greater equality; a clean environment. We CAN be a force for peace in the world.”

Yes Jack, you did. Thank you. Rest in peace.

The Consent of the Governed

I’ve take some criticism for describing the harpercon majority government as “illegitimate.” This criticism tends to come from empty-headed morons whose opinions I have as much regard for as I would a huge, steaming piece of dog-shit on my front steps.

There seems to be some inexplicable confusion regarding the justification for my categorization of stephen harper’s government.

I arrived at my conclusions about harper from my positive reaction to Brigette DePape’s protest in the Senate Chamber during the Speech From the Throne. You see, while I endorse the use of extra-Parliamentary tactics and occasional law-breaking, I’m actually very much a Parliament-respectin’ kinda guy. As flawed and compromised as our democracy is, it’s all we have, and we should work to improve it rather than tear it down.

So, why then, do I have an unvarnished sympathy for Ms. DePape’s action? She renounced her oath of non-partisan professionalism, took advantage of her privileged place at the centre of our political system, and expressed her partisan views before a national audience. What sort of democracy would we have if our Parliament was to be opened to everyone who wanted to storm out onto the floor and protest or pontificate?

What sort of democracy would that be?

Well, what sort of democracy do we have now? Let’s leave aside the capitalist class’s domination of our democracy for a second. Let’s focus on the kind of democracy stephen harper would give us:

Government power requires maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons. However, if the majority of the people’s representatives have lost confidence in your government, what you do is you turn to the anachronism of the Crown and ask it to shut-down Parliament before the people’s representatives can vote you out. You can do this whenever necessary.

We are governed by the Rule of Law and inspired by our respect for human rights. However, if you find yourself in a war, and you’re too cheap to provide proper prisons for your detainees, and you hand them over to the US-Americans until they’re found to have tortured and killed too many of their prisoners, forcing you to turn them over to another band of torturers, you must do the following:

– Accept no responsibility for as many prisoners as is possible. If you take some prisoners, make sure there is a representative of the torturing home government standing nearby and IMMEDIATELY hand them over to that person. No paperwork = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

– When you’re not able to do that, hand the prisoners over to the torturing home government and then delay, delay, delay, telling the International Committee of the Red Cross about them, so that they’re unable to keep tabs on their treatment. No evidence = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

– If you have pesky oversight bodies like the Military Police Complaints Commission, frustrate them at every turn and refuse to renew the mandates of chairpersons determined to do their job.

– If the fucking legislature of the pain-in-the-ass representatives of the people try to investigate this issue, call up the Crown and tell Him or Her to shut-down Parliament again, and then give the country some bullshit excuse for killing a year’s worth of legislation.

The US-Americans fought their revolution to a great degree based on the idea that there should be no taxation without political representation under the British Constitution. Members of the British Parliament at the time said that they were correct in that assertion. But here in Canada, we have a prime minister who believes that we can have representation, but it should be powerless when it comes to controlling what the government does with the taxation! Parliament should be a rubber-stamp for the government’s spending initiatives. If you find yourself with a pesky Speaker of House, who believes that it is Parliament that is the source of power in our democracy, and not the Prime Minister and Cabinet, shrug your shoulders and hope for a more compliant Speaker in the future. Then you can have your “Supreme Soviet” or your “Reichstag.” Rely on your shit-head supporters and a large bulk of the rest of the population to regard these essential fundamentals of democratic accountability to be arcane and “boring” details that only political geeks need to care about.

True democracy requires honest and transparent government. (Especially since promising that sort of Accountability was a huge part of your initial rise to power!) However, if the mood strikes you, you should tamper with official government documents to make them say whatever you want them to say, in order to justify whatever it is you want to do. If a Cabinet Minister deliberately lies to Parliament about this, well, that’s okay too. This time it was Bev Oda pretending that her staff recommended that KAIROS not be funded. Tomorrow it could be Vic Toews saying that violent crime is shooting through the roof and that the experts recommend the death penalty as the only effective deterrent. Whatever is necessary, once the principle of forgery and lying has been established.

So, that’s stephen harper’s idea of democracy in Canada. And, thanks to the apathy of almost 40% of the electorate who didn’t vote at all, and 26% of the electorate who either thought that such assaults on democracy were either cool, or boring, or who had no idea that any of that stuff happened at all, but like their parents always voted Conservative and whatever, … stephen harper has won a majority government. (Obviously, with the power of a majority government, harper won’t have to resort to such blatant abuses to get his way. On the other hand, with the power of a majority government, we’ll simply never know about his lies and abuses. It will all be a fait accompli.)

But, again, here’s the rub: If the guy who presumes to write the rules for the rest of us doesn’t respect the rules himself, why should we meekly acquiesce to his nonsense? If he was elected by people who don’t give a shit about our rights in a minority parliament, why should we give a shit about their rights in a majority parliament? If he was elected by people who had no idea what they were doing, and the results of their choice are going to be a disaster for us (to say nothing of conveying a patina of legitimacy to these assaults on the basics of our democratic system), why should we be bound to respect their ignorant choice?

This is not about sour grapes people. I despised the Chretien and Martin Liberals, and, even when they’d help destroy democracy in Haiti, I did not call their power illegitimate. I despised stephen harper’s minority government but I even said on this blog that we have to respect the legitimacy of his minority. It is stephen harper who has made himself unfit to govern us. It was stephen harper who trammelled all over the core of our democratic system. And a vote for such a despot is either a vote for despotism which can then make no claim on our respect, or it is a vote out of ignorance, which, given the stakes, likewise has no claim on our respect.

Drifting Towards Oblivion

I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Humanity (coerced or duped by our elites) is determined to continue along the path to ecological Armageddon. One of the worst offenders was Canada’s stephen harper government. And now he’s got a majority government. Extra-parliamentary protest is a sad joke. Tiny bands of the already converted unite to shout something for an afternoon and if the numbers get anywhere serious, highly-paid pigs are available to smash their skulls in.

The political awareness in this country is a joke. Except for the fact that the NDP, under the radar, appears to be gaining strength. The desperate economic climate, the naked amount of class warfare in this country (instigated by those at the top) must be having some sort of impact on the attitudes of Canadians, far from the editorial boards of the mainstream media, where whole departments are dedicated to providing “Lifestyle” news to the most affluent 30% of the population, besides blathering yet again for Canadians to be “patient” as the “progress” continues in Afghanistan.

Of course, the NDP, being what it is, will probably reinvent itself into some version of the Liberal Party. (Indeed, some people are arguing that this “pragmatism” is just what the NDP needs, and that those fools who made it a “religion” are going to be disappointed as the party leadership “matures.” The possibility that we might have to thank those “fools” and their struggling to keep the NDP as true to their principles as it remains, for attracting voters away from the unprincipled Liberals doesn’t even occur to them.)

I’m simply at a loss. In the 3-d world, I have, over the past month or so, tried to reach out to other groups to come together and discuss possibilities for resistance, only to be met with silence. (Or derision, as “left-wing” political groups turn out to be anti-union, anti-protester, pro-business, middle class dweebs.) I haven’t bothered with my local NDP riding association since two e-mails asking for a group meeting or online discussion in order to send a message to the party leadership have been met with silence. I’m not surprised that I’m expected to be a source of funds for the party and not so much a source of ideas. I am surprised at the depths of irrelevance of party membership though.

The reason I spend time in politics is because our present path is the path to species suicide, with social-economic meltdown as the appetizer. I have no illusions that had I dedicated my life to earning money (within the limits of my patience) that I would have amassed enough to insulate me from the uncertainty of late capitalism. If things are going to be made stable and whole for ordinary people, it is going to have to come from politics, not the capitalist marketplace.

Right now though, politics seems as barren a field as the job market.

Justified Civil Disobedience and Illegitimate Governments

I’ve said before that the environment isn’t my main focus. I hate camping. I hate flies and mosquitoes. I like cities, books, bars, … that sort of thing. Then there’s the science. It’s all I’ve got to grasp political-economy, … were someone to come up with some scholarly paper about soil depletion, global warming, ocean stocks, or whatever, I wouldn’t really know how to respond.

At the same time, I realize that without the planet’s life-sustaining properties, the human race, with its cities, books, bars, art, etc., would soon dwindle into oblivion.

So, given the fact that 99.9% of the scientists who have the right to an opinion say that global warming is real and that it’s caused by human activity, and that if the human activity that causes global warming isn’t left unchecked, civilization itself is threatened, I take it seriously.

And given the fact that the deniers of human-caused global warming are generally oil-industry shills and complete shit-heads, I take the crisis more seriously and treat the doubters with the massive contempt that they deserve.

And, therefore, given the news about temperature change and carbon emissions just released, and the increased calls for civil disobedience to try to save humanity (regardless of whether a festering pustule like Ezra Levant thinks it’s all a crock) is more than called for.

And, in this context of necessary civil disobedience, we, as Canadians, have an obligation given the fact that our country (besides being complicit in torture in Afghanistan, besides being a terrorist state that tortures its own citizens, besides being a racist, colonialist country that forces its unconquered First Nations to live in squalor and criminalizes them when they enter our cities, besides being a cruel, oppressive, squalid country that destroyed democracy in Haiti and forced the Haitians to live in grinding misery and starvation) is one of the worst offenders in creating this disaster.

Thankfully, the task of civil disobedience in this country is even more justified because the government that is going whole-hog to help destroy civilization is completely illegitimate. Our prime minister is a despot and he won his position as a result of an archaic electoral system, but, more importantly, he was elected by people who were either ignorant of the reality that they were voting for the party of despotism or they simply didn’t give a shit.

It’s those voters who didn’t give a shit that I’m interested in. These people viewed harper’s serial assaults on Canadian democracy and Canadian democratic institutions, because, in their warped minds, all of this helped their party maintain power while leaving the opposition to plead impotently by the sidelines yet again. It’s the mentality of the bully. When adults get together to work on some project, or, what the hell, play a board game together at a table at the cottage, if one party cheats their way to victory, the other participants will probably complain, but it’s not likely that they’ll take the offender and smash his head through the window. In a more serious context (like, say, a business arrangement), cheaters are taken to court. If the courts rule in the plaintiff’s favour and the cheater ignores it, with impunity, sometimes the plaintiff will complain about the courts and the injustice of it all. But here, we’re talking about the people who make the laws, and appoint the judges, and who write the rules.

The whole system is debased because of our toleration of this monster. The longer we endure his revolting, disgusting presence, the more will our political culture slide into total irrelevance and sick comedy, as in the United States of America.

We must unite, and we must plan, and we must organize, environmentalists, unions, intellectuals, teachers, students, voters, citizens, philanthropists, parents, children, workers, the unemployed, judges, lawyers, we must hit them hard, we must hit them everywhere, we must force this government to resign.

And the swine who voted for this piece of shit government, the bullies who were so happily contemptuous of democracy when it is their party which benefits by ripping up the rule book and all standards of decency? They have no right to be listened to. They have renounced their claims to fairness, to due process, to everything.

And, if they, a minority of the population, really want to get physical to try to protect their despotic government, they are more than welcome to try. Because that is what it has come to. That’s the significance of harper’s tearing-up the rule book. That book of rules existed so that power could be exchanged peacefully and that said power would act within certain constitutional-democratic limits.

It has come to this: We have an illegitimate government which the very existence of continues to debase our claims to be a constitutional democracy. The harpercons have beaten Canadian democracy to the ground (or did we all help them?) and now they’re pissing on its unconscious form.

The Liberals and the Centre

I think it was in the Martin or the Dion years, when, on Canadian Cynic, I told Ti-Guy that I wanted the Liberal Party of Canada to die, because they deceived progressive-minded Canadians and made them believe that they could have their cake and eat it too.

Ti-Guy replied something to the effect that by giving the centrist majority of Canadians a compromise between the extremist Conservatives and the loopy NDP. Without the Liberals, the majority of Liberal supporters would stupidly migrate over to the Conservatives (with whom they feel more comfortable).

At the time, I wasn’t sure that the thesis was worth the explosion in homelessness, in poverty, in the massive decline in our manufacturing sector, the occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent war crimes, the increase in inequality, the creeping privatization of health care, the dallying with missile defence, and on and on and everything that Liberal governance represented.

And what if it’s the case that “centre cannot hold”? I realize that for a long time I predicted economic collapse, sincerely believing that the debt-crisis, or the dot-com bubble’s bursting, or something else meant that our economic system had run out of steam, only to be proved wrong. But this latest crisis, I’ve waited, and hedged my bets, but there’s enough weakness, enough elite stupidity, enough hopelessness, that it looks like a collapse is inevitable. About a month ago, some dude was on a business news program, saying with all the confidence in the world “Demand will come back.” I could only wonder where it was supposed to come back from. Seriously, check out those links and ask yourself where demand is supposed to come from? And then, remember that “demand” as he’s talking about it, means “effective demand” to consume more and more useless junk, the production of which will plunder the world’s resources and destroy the environment. Their system fails on its own terms and in the bigger picture it’s going to kill us all.

If that’s the case, what do we need with some mewling bunch of neo-liberal, arrogant, elite dumb-fucks who helped bring us to this sorry pass?

There is going to be a reckoning. We have the worst possible political party in Canada in power to meet it with a majority government. Let’s make the choice for Canadians as stark as possible: the intellectual bankruptcy of capitalism versus the humanity of social democracy. The last thing we want is a political party lying to Canadians that they can “rise up” to the challenge with rhetoric and lies.

Time To Dream: Progressives In Crossroads

Do you dream of a better Canada? Maybe you don’t have a family doctor. Maybe you are concerned about homelessness and urban poverty, or the state of affairs on First Nations. Perhaps you are concerned about the decline of family farms and resource industries, which is killing off rural areas. Maybe you are frustrated with the gridlock that is paralyzing your commute while you continue to pay for gas prices that have already jumped well before the typical summer surge. You want to vote your conscience, and yet you are afraid that your vote won’t count, that you have to vote for someone else to stop someone you really don’t like. Will you ever be able to vote your beliefs?

Now is your chance. For the first time in 23 years, Canadians can vote for something. In a stunning turn of events, the NDP, once thought by pundits to be in danger of losing seats as the Liberals and Conservatives battled for top spot, is now in second place nationally and the Liberals dropping dramatically. The Liberals have long asked people to vote Liberal out of fear of what the right wing would do, only to follow through with many of the same policies. Yet their fear campaign against the Conservatives has fallen apart, and in an unusual twist of events, Harper is poised to win seats around (and possibly in) the liberal/left bastion of Toronto, while at the same time is nearly certain to lose seats in the right-wing bastion of Alberta. How did this come to be?

The seeds of this shift, showing up federally, can be seen in recent municipal elections in the cities of Toronto and Calgarythat happened within weeks of each other. There were similar dynamics. A long-serving incumbent mayor had stepped aside. A far-right city councillor challenged for the post. The main challengers were also right-wing, though not to the same degree. The best candidates, according to public opinion polls, were nowhere near contention.

That is where the similarities end. In Toronto, progressives panicked at the thought of Rob Ford being elected mayor, and loudly asked everyone to vote for the unpopular George Smitherman, who’s only reason for being in contention was that he apparently could win according to public opinion polls. Pantalone was blamed for splitting the vote, but in the end, retained a strong core support while Ford handily beat Smitherman. Regardless of how scary things seemed to be, too many Pantalone supporters saw no reason to choose between 2 right-wingers. Some things, they argue, are more important than the race for first place.

Calgary was a different scenario. Progressive voters, led by young adults, campaigned relentlessly for Naheed Nenshi and built up a base of support, despite a call for strategic voting by one of the marginal contenders. Their hard work paid off, and Nenshi was elected on a wave of high turnout.

Appealing to people’s aspirations proved to be far more effective than trying to scare them away from something bad. The question many progressives had in this election: do I vote strategically or do I vote my conscience?

Both. In 2011, the clear strategic choice is your conscience.

No Matter How Thin You Slice It, It’s Still Baloney!

If I really cared, I could just go over to Brian’s stupid blog and get the pro-war spin on NATO plans to bribe “moderate Taliban” to stop fighting. Or, I could go to Terry Glavin’s stupid blog, and get the same thing with a load of self-satisfied self-praise and idiotic trashing of anti-war types as being members of the leftist-islamo-fascist conspiracy.

But those guys are delusional dunces. They’ll just say that this is more of the same sort of successful policy like bush II’s “surge” and the resultant “Anbar Awakening” that saw Sunni Iraq repudiate the Taliban and stop fighting the USA. Of course, anyone who says that the USA’s occupation of Iraq was a success is nobody we should be expected to take seriously. The Sunnis accepted the reality that they were out-gunned and out-numbered and it therefore made sense to stop fighting in return for money, money, lots of money, from the USA. But Iraq remains a hell-hole and the government is employing the same torture and oppression as did Saddam Hussein’s.

All the media reporting on these overtures to “moderate Taliban” mentioned that the Karzai government’s corruption and incompetence drove these Afghans into the insurgency. Well, bribes from NATO to angry Pashtun farmers isn’t going to make Karzai’s government any less corrupt, incompetent, brutal or unelected. The existence of these “moderate Taliban” also shows the non-Taliban nature of the much of the insurgency.

I mean, can we, at long last, connect the dots here? Okay: NATO is hoping to enter into talks with “moderate Taliban” to try to get them to stop fighting the Karzai government. This involves paying them money not to fight. The media reports that these “moderate Taliban” are mostly driven by the “incompetence and corruption” of the Afghan government. Toss in brutality and criminality and there’s your whole picture right there.

“Oh that’s the wingnut, leftist, anti-American Guardian newspaper you’re quoting from!” bleat the delusional, pro-war idiots. Okay, fine. NATO wants to go into talks with “moderate Taliban” who only want to throw diluted acid into school-girls’ faces, who only want punish really, really unchaste Afghan women by throwing smaller rocks at them than the original Taliban did, and who only sorta want to impose a kinda totalitarian religous semi-fanaticism on their people and the rest of the world.

Nah, let’s go back to reality and sanity. The puppet-Karzai heads an unpopular, unelected government that is incompetent, corrupt, and brutal and which has alienated scores of Afghans (mainly among the Pashtun, the country’s largest ethnic group). At the end of eight bloody years, it is just as incompetent, brutal and corrupt as it was at the start. Being so unpopular, bloody and criminal, it has produced a growing insurgency comprised of people we admit we have no other quarrel with. That’s why we’ve decided to call them “moderate Taliban” and enter into peace-talks with them.

If they agree and only a sliver of support remains with the genuine Taliban, that doesn’t detract from the fact that for eight long years, just as us critics on the left have been insisting, we have been fighting and killing and dying for an ignoble cause. Not only that, but blithely, stupidly, betrayed our supposed values and become complicit in war crimes! Our governments could have spent more money on creating a stable, honest government in Afghanistan. Our governments could have spent less on killing Afghans and more on providing them with jobs and incomes (just as I was prepared to accept that we might, but correctly doubted).

If, after eight long years, our fearful leaders decide that they’ll change tactics slightly, and provide money to people abused and robbed by our incompetent and corrupt puppet-government, that’s no real cause for celebration. It’s an admission of complete failure. It’s an admission that the country was a mess, is a mess, and will stay a mess, despite our latest policy of bribing people not to fight. If only a sliver of the insurgency is genuinely fanatical Taliban, then we’ve driven tens of thousands of people into their arms through OUR brutality, corruption, and arrogance.

That means that those Western governments who were quite happy to have their soldiers fight, kill and die to defend a corrupt, brutal puppet-government are directly responsible for the sufferings and deaths of their military personell, because they could have (at any time!) stopped with the expensive air-strikes and other military “solutions” and instead addressed the genuine grievances of the people we are fighting. But the reasons they didn’t do this FROM THE START are the reasons why, after eight goddamned years, they’re doing such a half-assed job of things now. And that’s the reason the reconciliation will be only a partial, tentative affair. Our leaders are psychopaths, completely detached from the most obvious connections between their actions and their consequences.

And the fact that there existed throughout and exists today, a genuinely sane, rational, alternative viewpoint to this campaign of waste and slaughter, and that it continues to be denigrated as “unserious” and unfit for power, is a testimony to the complete insanity of our present political culture.