Canadian politics


I was chatting recently with a friend, who has teens the same age as my own and will be heading off to university next fall. We were both fuming about the recent attack by our provincial government on funding for post-secondary education, and the tuition hikes and staff cuts that have resulted.

“I was talking with my mom about this, and she reminded me that we will be fine. Between them and our own efforts, we can make sure our kids get their degrees,” she told me.

It wasn’t until a few days later I started really hearing what she said.

We’ll be fine.

Famous last words of the entitled and very true.

We are solidly in the professional class. We have degrees of our own and the ability to plan ahead for our children’s education, save when we can, and make whatever budget adjustments in the moment that are necessary. Our kids will be fine.

Not that it won’t be an inconvenience, or mean readjusting expectations for our own lives and retirements even perhaps, but my teen and her teens will go to university and graduate with a minimum of debt. In today’s world, the only bigger advantage would be having parents who can foot the bill entirely.

But the more I thought about “we’ll be fine” the more it angered me.

Why is my kid going to be fine, but some of her classmates not so much?

And from there, I went on to assess current events in Canada and in the United States and realized the “we'[ll be fine” mantra is the root of more issues than not and has been for a long while.

I won’t blame the Boomers. Entirely. They were taught this bit of selfish. They didn’t invent it. But they, and their parents in the Greatest and Silent (what an aptly named bunch) Generations certainly perfected it and embedded it deeply within our societies and our politics.

We’ll be fine is what stops the privileged from taking the extra step or stepping into another’s shoes in the first place. It allows people to pretend their known outcome requires so much of their time and resources that nothing is left to spare for others who aren’t going to be fine no matter what they do.

It’s why people vote their conscious or agitate for revolution. When you’ll be fine, the unintended consequences and collateral damage to others really doesn’t matter.

Best example today of “we’ll be fine” is the Democratic primary in the United States. Where two groups with different visions of what fine looks like largely ignored a substantial base, their issues, and a vastly different idea of what fine means in real time.

In Canada, this same mantra has morphed into people who are fine trying to convince people who are slowly getting to fine to give that fine opportunity up because it’s not fine enough.

A cousin on Facebook today lamented the discord not feeling fine creates on their feed, but instead rolls by in a steady wave of discontent. Why can’t we all just appreciate the bits of fine flotsam and jetsam in our lives? And while the point about appreciating what’s right in front on you is well taken, I can’t help but wonder if the maybe the veneer of fine is wearing as thing for others as it is for me?

On a personal level, I have no complaints. Not really. Irritations maybe. Normal worries. But serious discontent? No. Those days are so far in my rear view they seem like a life someone else lived.

But I am not okay pretending “we’ll be fine” – because it’s true – is a good enough reason to not rage at the machine, which makes sure this isn’t the case for everyone.

Why should I turn a blind eye to racial injustice preventing people from voting and being represented by folks who could improve lives and communities? Why not point out the stubborn resiliency of misogyny? Or how inequity in education access is a waste of human potential that could benefit all of society and not just individuals in pursuit of material gain?

Why should I keep silent when my elected officials are greedy and corrupt? Or not remind people Google is their damned friend when they are sharing garbage websites written by weaselly trolls and fattening their own purses in the process?

I am supposed to sit silently by? Like the people who watched Jim Crow terrorize black communities? Like the people who did nothing when their drunk friend was led away to a bedroom at a frat party, knowing what was going to happen? Like the coworkers who say nothing when the usual suspects make racist or misogynistic jokes?

There’s that poem, right? They came for X but I was Z – and just fine – so I did fuck all.

Easter on the horizon reminds me of the horrible Passion. I can’t even remember anymore how many times we had to read that during Holy Week. Father was Jesus. The congregation played the crowd. The crowd who shouted for him to be crucified.

“Cruxify him!”

I never said it. It incensed me. I didn’t even pretend to mouth the words.

Once my dad chastised me for it, and I told him, “I would never have said that.”

He didn’t correct me. He never brought it up again.

I feel like that now. That I am part of a crowd giving tacit consent to something that I don’t consent to whenever I stay quiet.

My privilege is part of the problem. I understand this. But I don’t know what to do about it other than refuse to stay silent.

I told my teen I need another outlet than annoying my cousins and high school friends on Facebook.

“Maybe I should write angry fan-fiction about a Prime Minister who is a secret superhero ridding the world of injustice?”

She grinned wickedly, “Do it.”

If only I could draw. It could be a graphic novel. I can only draw stick people however. This might be a problem.

I still have Twitter, where everyone speaks up, so like Hamlet in England, our madness is not much noticed.

I know one thing. It’s nothing is fine right now and people will not be able to hide from that much longer.


Horwath is spot on. Brown’s leadership is up to his caucus and they, who know him, won’t have him. That speaks volumes.
According to the news trickling out, Brown’s reputation for preying on young women is well-known, and reporters have been trying to piece together leads for a long time. This is not as sudden as the apologists and conspiracy nuts would like everyone to believe. And we need to remember there is never an upside for women who come forward. Never. Which is why women don’t make accusations public lightly because they are victimized for doing so.

The inspiration for allegations these days is Me Too and Time’s Up. Women see positive responses and real action being taken and they feel more secure. They know more and more people are going to finally believe and support them.

Whether women come forward the day before an election, or two years before one, isn’t the point or the problem. Our political system is rife with systemic issues of sexual harassment and assault, and it’s time for a close examination of who our parties are presenting as candidates when some of them come with baggage of barely concealed patterns of abuse of power.

 
And it’s disgusting when the default for some is still “women are liars”. Brown’s own right hand people quit. Just quit. His party tossed him within hours. Does anyone think there’s nothing to the allegations when that’s the response? Who skips carefree away from a leader they chose to follow? Thought was the answer to whatever the problems were. Who does that? No one.
 
Contrast the Ontario PCs with the Alberta UCP’s now. Their response to Jason Nixon, leader Jason Kenney’s top lieutenant in the legislative, is informative in the Me Too era. Nixon fired a woman in his company back in 2005 when she reported being sexually harassed. A claim that has been proven valid. The UCP? Crickets mostly until they trotted out the “he was young” and the “times have changed and he certainly wouldn’t respond like that today”.

Of course he wouldn’t but most likely because he couldn’t get away with it, and that’s just depressing. Doing the right thing because not doing isn’t a viable option is not an inspiration.

VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE I DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN I KNOW I WILL GET CAUGHT IF I DON’T

For too long that has been one of the foundation stones of politics. These bad actors hide in plain sight in our parties and in our governments. The bar couldn’t be lower.

Me too is not just something Americans struggle with. It’s coming for Alberta. Sooner than later. Just watch.


On Saturday, January 20th, women marched. Again. With them were men and children, friends, neighbors, coworkers, strangers. People with whom they agreed on varied issues, and people they didn’t agree with so very much.

Women all over North America planned and organized marches and rallies that drew millions in total.

But not everyone saw the point.

 

There is a lot to unpack in those few sentences, and between their lines, but we’ll stick to the words.

In the United States, unlike Canada, women are not specifically included in the Constitution or The Bill of Rights. An attempt was made to add women as women rather than “all men” back in the 1970’s, but anti-feminists successfully fought that in a lengthy state by state battle, and it’s not been revisited since.

Women’s rights in the US are largely a series of court rulings, between the line readings of the Constitution, and individual pieces of legislation that are only as good as those willing to enforce them. They exist on paper but could disappear with the stroke of a pen.

Men and women have always had the same right to rights, but the reality is that women’s access is fairly new and not everyone is keen about that.

The election of an openly sexist man to the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, was a wake up call. Complacency, which should never have been an option, cannot be a comfy corner of denial any longer.

And women marched. It was a rallying point. One that has launched more women than ever into politics and activism.

There isn’t a single purpose because women’s lives are made up of more than single issues, but there is an overarching theme. Time’s up.

Time is up on sexism in the workplace, education, religions and their institutions. No more hiding behind reasons that never made any sense or had much validity in the first place.

Time is up on misogyny. The casual violence of words used to silence, defame and wound. The physical violence that is still too often dismissed or ignored. The use of sex as a weapon to demean, instill fear, and dominate.

Time is up on the exclusion from politics and governance via systemic sexism which everyone can plainly see, but even in 2018, we still accept for reasons that have no validity if we really do believe that men and women have the same rights.

It takes fire in the belly to organize a march once, but doing it a second time requires clarity. Acknowledging that a year has gone by with successes and failures and with still much to be done. Being able to create an atmosphere that allows anyone who wants to participate the space to do so.

Organizers and marchers, by the millions, all across the continent showed up, marched, spoke, connected and became for a moment in time peaceful communities. They acknowledged each other and the importance of the many aspects of democracy and community activism they’d been involved in since the last march. To insinuate this lacked clarity is a bit of an insult.

But I understand where that impulse to dismiss comes from because once upon a time, I shared a disdain for the need to be a feminist. I wouldn’t call myself one. I played that silly word game of “I believe everyone is equal, but I’m not a feminist”. Except I was.

I can think of dozens of examples in grade school alone where I all but stood atop a desk and declared war on Sr. Walter Marie’s attempts to make a “proper lady” of me. I could never have been other than a feminist.

But as a young woman, all I could see was the hard work of being a feminist compared to the seemingly more cushy existence of not, and it wasn’t until I was out working on a career and running into roadblocks that my male peers weren’t that it dawned on me that feminism was just this. It was the blatant unfairness of being passed over for jobs that I was the most qualified for in favor of a male colleague who golfed with the principal or coached the football team of a superintendent’s son. There were too many boys’ clubs in too many aspects of life and being the most accomplished or hardest worker was never going to grow me the penis I needed for entry.

Privilege, and I never forget that I have a lot of it these days, makes agnostics of many. The need to believe and fight isn’t so much when bias and bigotry don’t affect your existence all that often. And so many girls are still brought up as objects rather than individuals with dreams and talents of their own that the acceptance of everyday sexism has to reach deafening levels to break through that training.

It’s hard to understand, but there are women who preferred the old way because they believed it benefited them more, and they were willing to make the compromises and personal sacrifices to play along with that game. There are still women who are fine with it and would like to turn back the clock regardless of how that affects other women.

In North America, we like to say that we all have the same rights. We are all equal in the eyes of the law. We all have the same opportunities. Even though we know this isn’t always true because of bigotry and bias, we are mostly united in the belief that we are striving towards that and making good progress.

The Women’s March was born out of the angry realization that we’d erred in our belief that good progress was good enough.

Women’s March of 2018 was clearly stating that we know there is more to do, and we are still committed to doing it.


With the exception of kindergarten and my undergrad years, I attended Catholic schools my entire life. Religion. Religion. Religion. Even in university, I fulfilled my humanities requirements with religion classes. As a result, I am pretty well grounded in the ideas that motivate a lot of conservatives.

In the Canadian province where I live, the government turned over from 40 plus years of conservative rule to a social democratic government a few years ago. One would have thought – given the wailing and gnashing of teeth – that end times were upon us. The concern came from a somewhat genuine place as the province was sliding rapidly into an economic downturn that pounded the province financially and conservatives, being who they are, never feel safe even in good times with “lefties” at the wheel, so the angst was raging at eleven most of those early days.

But, the new provincial government went with the tested and true method of taking on some debt and not drastically cutting anything and now, nearly three years on, things are really looking up.

Looking up is never a good thing for conservative parties who are out of power. They don’t have much to offer citizens in good times. So, they fall back on what they do best – social issues. And understand, when I say “do best”, I don’t mean they are offering great ideas. I mean they are incredibly efficient at stirring up bitterness, bigotry and outrage because say what you will, those things absolutely work with the disenfranchised, ill-formed and people who get all their talking points from a pulpit.

Where I come from in the US Midwest, and was a teacher for many years, curriculum updates are normal and slightly boring for non-educational wonks. They are undertaken at regular intervals to little fanfare.

Here, they are seen in the farther reaches of conservative-land as communist agendas made flesh. Zombie flesh that will devour the souls of good little future conservatives by distorting the cold hard facts of life with unicorns, rainbows and puppies. Children who might have entered a solid trade are rendered useless university students by a social studies curriculum that doesn’t spend significant man hours on Bahamian British troops sacking the White House during the War of 1812 or the importance of Canadian soldiers being used by the British as cannon fodder at Paschendale. Important factoids, don’t misunderstand, but less important than children understanding that we live on treaty land, our obligations as a society and how our parliamentarian system works and what our Charter Rights actually are and how they differentiate us from our southern neighbor.

The feeling among the “concerned” conservatives is that the provincial government is using the curriculum update to instill thoughts and feelings in students that will keep them from voting conservative as adults. It’s brainwashing for future votes.

I attended a school system where “brainwashing” was a primary mandate. In theory, I should be a Catholic rather than an atheist and militant feminist, so anecdotally, I roll my eyes a bit. Even my school mates who still consider themselves Catholic are cafeteria at best. Having gone to  agenda laden Catholic grade school and high school, I am super dubious about the brainwashing potential of social studies or science.

When I look back, I can pinpoint the moment I began to doubt and my usefulness as a future member of the Women’s Conservative Auxillary probably ended. It was grade two. I announced I wanted to be a priest. I was told, “But you’re just a girl, so you can’t.”

The beginning of the end.

We like to believe children are blank slates, and what fills them up is what we actively write on them, but that isn’t true.

My Dad sent me to a Catholic school because he wanted me to be a conservative really. Like he was. But if he’d truly wanted that, he’d have lived a conservative life and been more aware that he really wasn’t as conservative as he thought he was and with his own upbringing, never really stood a chance at being one anyway.

Yes, he was a sexist and voted against the ERA. He was hurt by my anger when I found that out because he never  thought that his vote would impact me because he raised three daughters to be independent and able to take care of themselves. He never told us we couldn’t do things because we were girls. He expected us to do well in school. In math. He didn’t think we needed to marry and never offered his opinion on our dating or living arrangements. He thought in his Depression Era influenced way that this was enough.

He taught me the basics of politics during the Watergate crisis, and when I was 12 and wanted to volunteer at Jimmy Carter’s campaign headquarters in our town, he drove me there. He was proud as hell of me. When Carter won, he assured me that my volunteering had mattered in that win.

Dad was a democratic socialist by actions. He believed we had a duty to our communities via taxes and volunteering. He helped found the first credit union in our city. He was on the board of directors for 40 years, and I remember going along with him when he went to talk with people who’d fallen behind on their loan payments. He was helpful and understanding. His family was wiped out during the tulmultous years leading up to the Depression. His baby sister died in childbirth because they couldn’t afford a hospital birth and they grew up shuffling from one relatives farm to another. Charity cases. He understood being that poor, and what a credit union represented to people and could do for them.

He sent me to a Catholic school believing that it would teach me to be a Christ like person and conservative. In school I heard one thing and watched the nuns and priests be something else.

And all the while I had a front-row seat for hypocrisy in school, I had a Dad who volunteered for church groups, pray lines, tutoring at the alternative high school, Meals on Wheels, read the newspaper from front to back to stay informed and modeled a commitment to casting his ballot in every election long after he stopped believing in partisan politics because he believed his vote could add up with others and matter. Not every time but enough times to make a difference over the long haul.

If a person is worried that their child might not grow up to think, behave or vote in ways they’d prefer they didn’t, it’s not the schools they showed be worried about.

Dad could never figure out why I wasn’t conservative  but of course I wasn’t because he didn’t raise me to be.

Schools don’t raise children. Parents do.


2017 arrived on a sleigh of smoking turds pulled by the four horseman of biblical fame, and still, we made it to 2018. Don’t ask me how. Last year was a blur. The world reeled, staggering from one shallow foxhole to the next with the various status quo in flames all around.

It reminded me of my favorite scene from that stink bomb of a psycho-drama The Birds.

Crows have just attacked the school, and the adults are huddled in a bar (kinda fitting) discussing a complete and terrifying turn of the table by Mother Nature (well played by the way) as though there was something rational to be found, if they just used their indoor voices, with town drunk – the only rational voice in the room – punctuating the discussion with occasional “It’s the end of the world”.

Is it though? Really? The end of the world.

Probably more reasonable to take our cultural reference cue from REM. It’s the end of the world … as we know it.

Because that happens throughout history, and if we are really ready to be honest, it’s happened more than once in living memory.

Someone on Twitter today had a list of all things that didn’t exist in 2003. On that list was pretty much the entirety of the internet as we use it today. Certainly most of our communication devices. The way we interact socially has been completely altered by social media.

Generation Zed knows nothing about an existence before hand held devices. They’ve literally been born and grown along with them. Our world is basically a teenager entering the end stages of puberty. And that, explains a lot.

So it makes sense that a political and economic world that our great-grandparents would still recognize and feel comfortable with simply can’t adapt. Things are giving way. It’s not like there are other options.

And okay, I will grant that the nuclear code rattling by America and North Korea could maybe sort of bring about an Armageddonish crisis, but I am going to throw caution to the wind and bet on us still being here in a year. What I will not claim is that the world will have settled down much. The current version of Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t transform itself in a couple of years anymore than the last Rome did. Change takes time even when it feels like the exact opposite.

Happy New Year then. Congratulate yourself if you aren’t a Nazi or one of their enablers, yet, and remind yourself that whatever is coming, you are not the only one going through it. Look around your neighborhood, workplace, gym, school, community and find those like-minded, who are out there, and connect a bit more than you currently are. There is safety in numbers, but also laughs, joys and fiendish plots to thwart those bags of dicks who thrive in the chaos of change.

Bring it 2018. If the world could survive 2017, it’s ready for you.


 

The latest silliness in Alberta politics disguised as concerned activism stems from the announcement by Earls restaurant that they will be sourcing the beef for their meat laden menu only from suppliers that are certified “humane”.

Given the apparent lack of “humanely” procured raw meat in Canada, this means that Earls will be looking to our southern neighbor for the dead animals it needs to keep the ravenous consumers sated.

The official opposition party, Wildrose, which never misses an opportunity to lustily engage in drama and antics that most people lost interest in when they grew up, decided to support a boycott of Earls’ chain. Never mind that they were choosing one group of Albertan workers over another, or that as a political party perhaps their efforts might be better spent calmly assessing the situation and thoughtfully offering a solution for the ranchers and farmers who now appear to need to new certifications to compete with American producers.

No. A boycott is the go to. A gold standard move.

Politicians shouldn’t be expected to think any harder than the average toddler about issues that arise. Gut reactions and mindless pandering is what has made Alberta – indeed all of Canada – the superpower nation it is after all.

Boycotts as a political tool generally are about highlighting social or rights issues and forcing change by striking at fiscal bottom lines.

Increasingly, in Alberta anyway, boycotts are grounded in the notion that change is bad, and no one should ever have to do it for whatever reason.

Just to disclaim a bit, I’ve eaten at Earls two, maybe three, times. Ever. Red meat is the staple of their menu, and though I enjoy a burger or piece of steak here and there, I have never been much of a red meat-eater. Earls is just not on my radar.

If I were to boycott it though, my objections would be about the sexist way it expects its female wait staff to dress. I frown a lot about chains which put the servers on the menu as though they were a meat dish too.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I am finding the whole #BoycottEarls to be yet another cynical move by an increasingly desperate right-wing conservative movement to remain relevant.

Because connecting with people and inspiring them with real ideas and policies that speak to life in 2016 and a future that is sure to be different from our parent and grandparents is a lot more work than fanning (or creating) frivolous outrage in the current news cycle.

And who wants to work hard?

Let’s leave that to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Such a fool. Look where paying attention, giving a shit about everyone and working hard has gotten him, eh?

There’s everything consumer oriented with a business wanting to let customers decide about products on offer. It’s capitalism, as I understand it. And personally, I like knowing what I am consuming. So Earls is just following the growing interest of customers who aren’t as inclined to mindlessly shovel shit into their mouths anymore.

That said, it’s just as okay for people to decide not to eat at Earls because it offends their delicate sense of privilege or their politics.

But let’s not pretend that this boycott is about anything of importance. No one’s rights are at stake. There aren’t any great social issues in play.

#EarlsBoycott is another minor skirmish in the Alberta poli-war, which is important in its own way but certainly not worth jeopardizing the employment of Earls’ kitchen and wait staff.

In an atmosphere where Alberta is still shedding jobs, it begs a query as to why the Wildrose Party would so eagerly play partisan politics with the employment of some of the provinces less affluent workers. It seems to be a game to them, and Albertans should be wary of political parties that see jobs and citizens as pawns on a board to be played with in such an off-handed manner.


If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t have a nice world. One that runs well and works for most everyone most of the time. It’s because of partisan bullshit. This deeply seated need too many of us have to pick a side and stick to it right, wrong, whatever because “GO TEAM!”

I have meandered all over the partisan map.  At some points half of my beliefs have been in opposition to the other half even.

However, most of the time I straddle the center line with the occasional tight-rope walk just to spice things up.

So when I am confronted with blind lemming followers of this or that, the best I can muster anymore is “Well, good for you. At least you care enough to sort of pay attention.” Seldom do I add “If only you’d bother to think for yourself and apply a bit of pragmatism and common sense.”

But you can’t have everything, right?

There are people who want to be involved and immerse themselves in doing their little or lot bit for the cause, and so what if they mostly don’t understand how their cause fits into the bigger picture? They care. Deeply. That matters. Right?

And it’s better than apathy. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Last night my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets about Ayn Rand’s personal failings.

The tweeter is not someone I follow. He’s a pompous ass. He only interacts with the adoring throngs because he isn’t interested in any sort of conversation that might show him up or disprove his preferred view of reality.

That’s fine. Twitter is kind of about building your own little tunnel vision and sharing it with those who are similarly blinkered.

But the gist of his argument boiled down to “Ayn Rand took amphetamines and had serial killer fetish, therefore her theories about capitalism are bullshit.”

I got a D in Logic and Reasoning back in the day. In retrospect I should have gone to class more than I wouldn’t have had to pull an all-nighter to get a B on the final and hold onto my pathetic D.

However, poor background aside, I am fairly sure that Ayn Rand’s rambling nonsense on all things the far right-wing loves is crap because it’s crap and not because she was a questionable human.

If you wanted to apply the questionable human equals someone who is full of shit logic, it just so happens that Thomas Jefferson, that great American Founding Father, would tumble off his pedestal too.

After all, how can the father of personal liberty hope to escape judgement given that he was not only a slave owner but he forced his 15-year-old sister-in-law into a sexual relationship with him because he owned her.

Yes, Jefferson’s long-time intimate companion Sally Hemmings – who bore him six children – was not only his sister-in-law and his slave but, according to some accounts – was the doppelgänger of his dead wife.

Creepy and worlds of wrong barely begin to cover this situation and yet, Jefferson is revered. His ideas are seminal in terms of American political world building.

Personally, I think Ayn Rand’s appeal is that most people who bother to read her dirge of a novel, Atlas Shrugged, are young adults or teens when they do. The themes are appealing to the young, and who really ever goes back and re-reads the “great” novels of their youth? Hardly anyone. The fuzzy memories are always better.

Randian love and worship is a sign that you’ve not quite grow up yet. At least in your political world view anyway. It’s like people who cling to the idea that pure socialism will save us all. An immature idea that refuses to incorporate the reality that life is complicated because “people”.

Even though Rand’s idea are simple-minded, her personal failings and quirks are just human. Humans can be awesome. They can completely suck. But for the most part, they are somewhere in the middle. None of these states of being detract from the things people can accomplish.

For all Rand’s faults, she wrote a novel decades ago people not only still read, but they find things in it which push them to think and learn, and let’s be real, not everyone who reads Atlas Shrugged gets stuck in the limited world view.

I fear there is no way to cure for the world of side-taking or the inevitable outliers who live and die in the absolutism that makes the world a less nice place for us all.

Personally, I am done pretending to care about the fringes. Feigning politeness rather than rolling my eyes. I am part of the problem if I don’t.

Sometimes the other side is right. Sometimes the middle path is the best way.

And sometimes people need to calm the fuck down, grow up and spend some quality time in the real world with real people who don’t reinforce every blind prejudice they learned as a child.