Monday, August 3, 2015

The Fascination Of Politics

It always astounds me that more people are not interested in politics. Far too many dismiss it as an arcane pursuit that has no relevance in their lives, apparently confusing the recondite measures involved in the development of public policy with the human dynamics at the heart of pursuing and maintaining power. Greed, duplicity, manipulation, nobility, passion and compassion, all this and much more is at play. To dismiss politics is to dismiss any interest in the human animal. It is to sit on the sidelines of life.

That being said, I'm not sure that even as ardent a follower of human machinations as I am is ready for an 11-week campaign. The messages will get quickly repetitive, and the attacks will grow increasing dark and dispiriting. I may take the odd break from this blog to recover my equilibrium.

But since Dear Leader saw fit to visit the Governor-General yesterday as the prelude to spending even more of our money to try to cling to power, I would be remiss not to offer a few of the media's early observations. The Toronto Star sees the call as a blatantly cynical move:
Although Harper positioned the move as “fair,” designed to level the playing field for all parties at a time when the leaders were already out drumming up votes, it’s anything but. As the Conservatives well know, only they are in a position to fully capitalize on the much higher spending limits that come along with a longer campaign. Both the Liberals and New Democrats will struggle to keep up – and that of course is exactly the idea.

This shameless move is yet more evidence – if any was needed – that the Harper Conservatives are long past their sell-by date.
Despite the tremendous spending advantages the Conservatives have, the editorial reminds us of a few facts that no slick strategy can conceal for long:
Over the next two and a half months, voters will have a chance to consider Harper’s record and decide if they want more. Among other things, they should keep in mind:

The Conservatives’ regressive social policies, pandering to their “base” at the expense of the least well-off.

Harper’s absence of national leadership on such crucial issues as health care, aboriginal issues and climate change.

The government’s misguided “tough on crime” laws that do nothing to enhance public safety.

The Conservatives’ divisive approach on national security and the dangerous measures in its “anti-terror” bill, C-51.

There’s much more, and thanks to Harper’s decision to call a vote so early, lots of time to debate it. The real issue is what’s the best alternative to this badly flawed government.
Here in Ontario, a key battleground, Premier Kathleen Wynne is wasting no time in reminding people of the contempt with which Harper is treating the province:
Voters should turf Prime Minister Stephen Harper for showing Ontario “blatant disrespect,” Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne urged Sunday in one of her strongest attacks yet on the federal Conservatives.

Wynne accused the Harper administration of naked partisanship over refusals to smooth a path for her Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and for not doing more to help develop the rich Ring of Fire mineral deposit in northwestern Ontario.

She zeroed in on the pension plan, noting Harper’s government allows the Canada Revenue Agency to provide services to provincial pension plans in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

“For him to then turn around and say, ‘Yeah, well, we have agreement with other provinces through the CRA and we’re not going to do that for you’ … it’s blatant disrespect for the people of Ontario,” Wynne said. “That has to stop.”

There is much to consider in this election, and the fact that Thomas Mulcair is now leading in the polls is one indicator this will be a hotly-contested and vigorously-fought battle. But what is true today may not be true later in the campaign. Observes Tim Harper:
The test for the NDP this time is whether Mulcair has staying power — and the betting here is that he does — but the Conservative calculation is clearly that increased scrutiny will expose a leader of a party viewed with skepticism on the economy in uncertain economic times.
Finally, here is some good advice from Harper's main cheerleader, The Globe and Mail, about the campaign:
Be a part of it. Make sure to vote. Turnout in federal elections is inexcusably low in Canada: Almost four out of 10 people don’t bother. While the leaders are doing their jobs, make sure to do yours. You can’t control the weather, but you can choose your government.


  1. In the end, Lorne, this campaign will be won or lost not over the airwaves but on the ground.

    1. Voter engagement, Owen: the thing Harper fears the most.

  2. I was never really interested in politics until the mid-1990's. Up to then I felt like many that it was something that politicians, poli-sci majors, and pundits busied themselves with, and through glacially slow processes it worked its way into our everyday lives with little notice. I voted regularly - usually Liberal, though I did once vote for the PC's because Joe Clarke struck me as a decent man - but my votes were never party or issue driven.

    Then, in mid-1996 after having had to stop working due to health issues, I decided to take a new tack in my life and I enrolled in college to study commercial photography with the idea of making a new career where I could work at my own pace while doing something I enjoyed immensely, thinking that both would contribute to my overall well being. It was during this time, after just having moved into new digs in the town where the college was that I heard then Ontario Minister for Social Services, David Tsubouchi, say in an interview that people on welfare who couldn't make ends meet should dicker with their local grocery store managers over the price of low-end tuna. When I heard that - something I'd never heard before in Ontario politics - I knew things had changed.

    Of course, this was followed by other Mike Harris neo-con travesties and tragedies such as the Walkerton tainted water scandal, the fire sale of provincial assets such as the 407 highway, cancellation of rent controls. defunding of hospitals and the commensurate loss of doctors and nurses, cuts to education while corporations enjoyed grants and tax cuts, the OPP assault on OCAP protestors on the grounds of Queen's Park, and the murders of Dudley George and Kimberly Rogers.

    It was during this period of the Harris regime that I finally realized that politics can, and does, have a very real - and sometimes devastating - impact on people's lives. I also realized I could not go one without paying closer attention.

    Since then we've seen the horrors of the Bush-Cheney years, and that we now find ourselves in the midst of our own fascist nightmare with Stephen Ratfucking Harper, whose crimes against Canada, Canadians, and, by extension, the World are legion and so familiar to all of us here that they do not bear repeating.

    I still fear, however, that the fix is already in for this "election". With a needlessly early call that will stretch it out weeks beyond normal ot's clear that Harper's dirty tricks are already at work, aiming to exhaust the opposition's funding and wear down the public. That and his Karl-Rove-ian gerrymandering of electoral ridings in predominantly Conservative districts shows that Shit Head's "take no prisoners" attitude is still very much alive and well. This bastard isn't going to let the inconvenience of such notions as elections and democracy undo all that he's worked to create (and destroy) in Canada since he cane on to the scene. The Canada Health Act, tattered as it is, has yet to have the life choked out it by a death of a thousand funding cuts, and the doors opened to a privatized, for-profit healthcare system. And there are still privatized super prisons for protestors, pot heads, and the indigent to be built and sabres to be rattled at ISIL and Putin.

    I genuinely fear what what will be left of Canada if Harper takes the next election...or the next...or the next.

    He did promise we wouldn't recognize our lovely home after he was finished with it, didn't he? We're already more than half way there...


    1. Very passionately expressed, Neil. Your comments strangely echo something I was thinking about while out for a walk this morning and contemplating this election. I was thinking about how, on the one hand, voter fatigue with the current regime must be very real and a potentially potent force in this campaign. On the other hand I was thinking about how the Progressive Conservatives ruled for 40 years straight in Ontario, and fatigue was never a factor then. I think, as you point out in your reflections on the Harris years, the extreme polarization that has come to define politics today is the main difference. There is no more 'governing from the middle' as the PCs practised in Ontario for so long, no attempt to reach consensus, accommodation or compromise as in earlier days, and hence our reaction to the current disaster of a federal government should be strong and decisive.

      I do hope that this election will see Canada return to balance and sanity. We have suffered long enough under Harper.

      BTW, I am taking the liberty of putting up you comments as a separate post a bit later on today. I hope that is alright with you.

    2. I'd be honoured, Lorne, though you might want to clean up a couple of typo's I have in there; I'm notoriously bad at doing self-editing.

      I'm old enough to remember both John Robards and Bill Davis at the helm at Queen's Park. Things basically tottered along in Ontario quietly - and somewhat progressively - but that table was overturned with Harris. It's as though after Rae and Peterson the PC's provincially - just as they would be federally - were suddenly infected with a virulent, zombifying contagion that destroyed anything that may have existed in their party and replaced it with a bunch of unapologetic racist, bullies, know-nothings, and fascists. And despite their trouncing by Wynne and the Liberals, as well as advice from senior PC party members to move back to a more pre-Harris centrist position, they instead adopt Patrick Brown(shirt) as leader, a right wing martinet even more extreme than either Harris or Hudak. Hell, the guy even looks like he could extra in Riefenstahl's "Triumph Of The Will"...


    3. The ongoing deterioration in politics you describe, Neil, makes me wonder why such extremism found a receptive ear in the electorate, Sure, things were bland in Ontario for a long time, but as you say, they tottered along somewhat progressively until the advent of Harris. The same question could be raised, I think, about federal politics. Why have we permitted the likes of Harper? Do we place so little value in democracy today to let him systematically destroy it?