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And I don’t ever really understand all the things we say but I try to anyway anyhow — Collective Soul

  • Wow, photo finish to the regular season! Let's hope this gives them some traction into the playoffs. ,
  • Because the Conservatives are messing with our most basic right as citizens -- the right to vote. This is not... ,
  • Far from "soul-searching", it seems like the PQ is still completely oblivious to the reasons for its loss.... ,
  • Icing on the cake this week: A major court defeat for the OQLF, right on the heels of the PQ's defeat at the... ,
  • Hypocrisy, much? ,

Posts Tagged ‘liberal party’

On being a minority

pauline-marois-pq_sn635Just once, I would like to know what it feels like to be in a majority.

Normally, I embrace my outsider status. I’m the liberal in a room full of conservatives, the conservative in a room of Liberals. I’m a Jewish person among non-Jews and an atheist among Jews, a bilingual Quebecer in the RoC and a federalist anglo Canadian in Quebec.

I’m accustomed to being the dissenting opinion, the devil’s advocate. I love to debate and I admit I sometimes emphasize the differences just to challenge preconceived notions. In a single day, I can go from seamlessly defending the federalist position to my sovereigntist friends, then meet up with my parents for dinner and try to explain where sovereigntists are coming from and that they have some legitimate points. Even in cases where I am part of the majority, I do my best to pull myself out of the context and take up the dissenting argument, sometimes for the mental exercise and sometimes because I think it’s important. I don’t always succeed in seeing things from the other point of view, but I sure as hell try.

See, the thing is, I abhor echo chambers and mob mentality. I think we humans have a natural tendency to gravitate towards those who think and believe like we do, and in doing so, we fail to truly understand one another or to see things from one another’s point of view. And that’s dangerous. Very, very dangerous. Green Day said it best: “Down with the moral majority; I wanna be a minority.”

But sometimes, you know, it gets lonely.

Now we have Pauline Marois, who has just been elected — by the slimmest of margins — to lead a minority government. She will have to get her agenda past at least one of the opposition parties in order to prop up her government and avoid triggering an election. She spent the entire campaign trail vilifying minorities, spewing racist and xenophobic hatred against anyone with a different skin colour, ethnic background, national origin or — most of all — mother tongue. How ironic (and poetic) that after preaching so much hatred of minorities, she now gets to lead one.

In her victory speech, she appeared to have grasped the implications of this minority government situation rather quickly. Sounding amazingly conciliatory in contrast to the tone she had taken during the campaign, she congratulated the other leaders (which was met with a chorus of boos in the crowd, I might add), tempered her agenda by speaking of cooperation, and even did the unthinkable and spoke a couple of sentences in English. I don’t trust her further than I can throw a truck, but I’m sure I’m not the only anglophone who was watching last night and was actually kind of impressed.

(What happened afterwards was a horrific tragedy, appears to have been the act of a lone crazed gunman, and should be roundly and unequivocally condemned by all decent human beings no matter their political leanings. Violence has no place in politics. We settle our differences at the ballot box, not at gunpoint. Not that this post has anything to do with that. But it needs to be said, with emphasis.)

Anyway, as it turns out, my minority wasn’t as lonely as it seemed during the campaign, where all I would have to say to anyone was that I was voting for the Charest Liberals, only to be greeted with dirty looks and “you WHAT???” I joked to a few people that I would be the only person in my (solidly Péquiste) riding voting Liberal this time around. Turns out, I was one of over 5,000 in my riding… and one of 31% in the whole province. That’s right, the PQ only won 0.7% more of the popular vote than the Liberals did, and their victory hangs on a measly 4 seats. The “silent majority” that Charest had heralded months ago did not materialize, true, but the “silent minority” was much bigger than any of the pundits or pollsters predicted. Sure, many of those people held their noses and cast their vote — myself included. I’m not thrilled with the Liberals. But I think they were a damn sight better than any of the alternatives. And it might’ve been nice to feel during the campaign period that this level of support existed.

I’ve voted for the Charest Liberals when they won a majority government before. So yes, I was technically part of a majority then. But even then, I was a minority — an anglophone, a take-for-granted vote, someone who, I’m told, doesn’t “get” Quebec despite living here my whole life.

So if I’m not a majority in Quebec, surely I am in Canada, right? English-speaking, federalist, born here, not part of any visible minority group… I’m basically the definition of majority when it comes to Canada, right? Not so much. In May of last year, I watched with dismay while the rest of Canada, province after province, went Tory Blue. On that night, I felt a wave of sympathy for Quebec sovereigntists because Quebec clearly chose another path and I could understand how they felt. How we felt. Disconnected. Disillusioned. Not a part of this. A minority within our own country. I’m a heck of a lot more connected to my Canadian identity than to my Quebecois one, but I don’t understand the direction that our country has chosen to turn, and I feel increasingly out of step with it as well. A member of a centre-left minority whose political party of choice was essentially wiped off the political map last May.

It’s a curious facet of the human experience, this instinct we all have to define “us” and “them”, to create artificial divisions and to seek out those among whom we feel comfortable, secure and like family. It’s a defensive reaction, but it’s an understandable one. At heart, most of us revert to our five-year-old selves when we’re afraid. All we really want is someone to say “I understand you. It’s okay.” So we form political parties and social alliances and groups, and we band together and we find common causes to band against, and sometimes it gets really ugly, but sometimes it feels really great, too. I was disgusted by those who threw smoke bombs on the metro, but I could understand those who were out with the pots and pans this spring. I didn’t agree with them, but I understood their desire to feel like they were participating in something bigger than themselves, to feel like they belonged.

Quebec is my home. I was born here, my parents and grandparents were born here. But it often feels like there’s no group for me here. There isn’t a single political party in Quebec that truly represents my views, or even comes close. The Liberals are sort of the best-of-the-worst alternative. But it’s hard to deny that I’m very often out of step with the discourse around me.

Normally, that’s okay. Vive la différence, and we are normally (again, with the exception of the terrible events of last night) very good at having not-always-polite-but-usually-respectful political discourse. I’m happy to debate, to educate or be educated, and to agree to disagree when it’s all said and done.  I’ll even happily go out for a beer afterwards.

I’m tired, though. I’m tired of always focusing on how we differ instead of on all the ways in which we’re alike. And there are so many ways, but they always seem to get ignored in politics in favour of emphasizing those differences for political gain. I’m tired of always being an outsider, never part of the group. Never part of the “nous” that Pauline Marois referred to in her campaign, no matter how long my family has been here or how much French I learn. I’m tired of scanning Twitter and reading the many thousands of posts that overwhelmingly reflect the exact opposite of how I think and feel, and I’m tired of the sense of alienation that comes from the feeling that I will never, ever get to experience what it feels like to be part of a majority in this province.

And then the sun rises the next day, and I pick myself up and I remind myself of all the reasons why it’s good to be a minority. Why it’s a strength, not a weakness.

Welcome to being a minority, Mme Marois. I don’t think you’ll necessarily enjoy it. But I hope you learn something.

Quebec political donations: By the numbers

Polls are one thing; money is another. What can we gauge from the fundraising of the major Quebec political parties, and what can it tell us about the possible election outcome?

According to the Directuer général des élections du Québec, there have been 33,547 donations in 2012 to date to Quebec’s political parties, totalling just over $5.3 million dollars.

Read the rest of this entry »

High-ho, high-ho…

…it’s off to the polls we go. Quebecers will vote in the provincial election that some are dubbing the “tuition election” on September 4th.

While it’s true that Charest has always been better at campaigning than at governing, after nearly a decade in power, it’s likely to be somebody else’s turn at the helm. And while Quebec public opinion can turn on a dime (just ask the NDP), all indications are that the “somebody else” will be Pauline Marois and the PQ. And in this election, the anger against Charest’s Liberals — over the tuition hike issue, over the corruption scandals, and over various ills, perceived or real over the years — will be tough for him to overcome with mere campaign promises.

Marois, for her part, has done a good job of positioning the PQ as the de facto alternative for those angry with the status quo. The party was in freefall and chaotic disarray a few months ago, but by falling back on their two stalwart issues — language and unions — they’ve managed to rebound impressively. The student movement claims it will remain neutral, but in reality, it has no love lost for the CAQ and its plans to also hike tuition, and the Quebec Solidaire is unlikely to form a government. So the PQ, with its red-square-wearing stunts, becomes the default choice. The students rarely vote in droves, but the union folks do, and we can expect a lot of separatist rhetoric combined with chants of “solidarité” in the streets over the next few weeks.

Will a PQ government mean another referendum? Not necessarily. Marois is promising a lot of fighting with Ottawa but is remaining coy on the r-word, perhaps recognizing that people are tired of talking about the issue. Still, though, there is less support than ever from the ROC for Quebec staying a part of Canada, and with nearly two decades gone since the last go-around, anything can happen.

But I for one am not panicking. Life will go on. Quebec is unlikely to separate, even with a PQ government. Ironically, the rights of anglos and minorities sometimes do better during a PQ mandate, while they’re busy governing, than during a Liberal mandate, when the PQ can snipe from the opposition sidelines.

Prediction: PQ minority government.

Good news, bad news

The bad news? Bob Rae is the interim Liberal leader.

The good news? He can’t be elected as long-term leader.

Top 10 reasons why tonight’s results are bad for Canada

Well, the votes are in, and Stephen Harper has his majority government.

  1. The right moves further to the right. The Tories, after spending five years walking all over Canadians as a minority, now get to walk all over Canadians even more as a majority. Harper believes – as he should, with these numbers – that he has a mandate from Canada to impose his agenda and move the government rightward. Forget the Shit Harper Did; what about the Shit Harper will do?
  2. The left moves further to the left. The official opposition is now the NDP, not the Liberals. The same NDP who has campaigned on anti-Israel platforms; who cozies up to the labour unions; who believes that quota systems will provide equality.  The NDP is positioning itself as the de facto Tory alternative, and with nearly three times as many seats as the Liberals, it clearly believes that it is the voice of the left – or the potential leader of any merger or move to unite the progressive parties. Ironically, the jubilant Layton doesn’t seem to grasp that he had more power in fourth place in a Tory minority than he does in second place in a Tory majority.
  3. The middle disintegrates. The Liberal party is in shambles. They lost over half their seats and most of their star MPs. They lost official opposition status. They will have to regroup and rebuild. And the common sense centre, the great balancing force against polarization, is severely crippled. Moderation is what suffers in this outcome.
  4. A weaker official opposition. A Harper majority is a scary enough prospect. But now 102 NDP MPs – many of whom are complete political rookies – will be heading to Ottawa to serve as the official opposition. Even seasoned Liberal MPs would have had a hard time keeping the Harpers in check. There’s no way that inexperienced political neophytes from the NDP will be able to pull it off. Harper’s now got a majority with no strong opposition; he can basically do whatever he wants and get away with it.
  5. Bloc collapses, but sovereignty gets a boost. The big news of the night was the Bloc Quebecois’s collapse from 47 seats to 4 amidst the Quebec “orange crush”, and Duceppe’s defeat and resignation. It should be good news for federalism? Right? Wrong. I’ve never seen so many Quebecers feel disenfranchised and alienated from the rest of Canada. This is going to provide a huge boost to sovereignty. I’m about as staunch a federalist as it gets, but even I have to admit that I see their point. Quebec voted overwhelmingly left-wing progressive NDP; the rest of Canada (except for Newfoundland) voted overwhelmingly Conservative. Is there any point in arguing that we’re not different here in La Belle Province?
  6. Human rights? What human rights? With as many as four Supreme Court seats opening up to be stacked by Harper-crony Conservatives during this term. Abortion rights, gay marriage, rights of women, rights of minorities, immigrants’ rights… you name it, it’s on their agenda for attack.
  7. No more funding for arts and culture. That is, unless the Calgary Stampede is your idea of a cultural event.
  8. Technology and innovation? Not on Harper’s watch. With important issues facing our country around telecom consolidation, internet billing and metering, privacy, digital rights management… the only party who didn’t respond to Canadians’ concerns about internet and digital policy is the one now holding a majority in Parliament. Four or five more years for the rest of the world to advance while Canada lags behind? Will we even have an economy when Harper is done with us?
  9. Canadians get slapped around; claim we fell down the stairs. We have a government who ignores us at every turn, walks all over us, and breaks the law with impunity. We get a chance to toss it out on its ear. Instead, we go crawling back to it. Domestic abuse on a grand scale, anyone? Basically, we’ve just sent Harper a message that he can get away with anything. And he will.
  10. Harper plans to reward his “base”. The Alberta-native social conservative movement has been waiting a long time in minority to get rewarded for its efforts to put Harper in power. All this time, he didn’t revisit socially conservative issues because he didn’t have a mandate and knew that the opposition wouldn’t let him get away with it. Now, all these interest groups want their pound of flesh. Our flesh.

The silver lining is, it’s only 4 or 5 years. The question is, will we recognize Canada after all that time?

Vote smart; read the platforms

What does your party believe? I’d venture a guess that only a small number of Canadians who vote actually bother to read their party’s platforms… or the platforms of the other parties.  Even if we concede that politicians break campaign promises all the time, shouldn’t you know what your party is promising before casting your ballot?

Read the platforms here:

Then, when you’re done, check out the candidates in your writing. Read up on their voting records, if they are already MPs. Read their blogs, find their  Facebook pages, check out anything they’ve written or published. Make sure you know who you’re voting to send to Parliament on May 2nd.

An uninformed electorate gets the government that it deserves. So get informed.

Too little, too late?

The Liberal bill introduced in the House of Commons today to reinstate and entrench the long-form census, after the Tory government callously and summarily ignored an opposition motion on the same subject yesterday. But is it too little, too late?

But there is little chance a private member’s bill would be able to get through the Commons and Senate by the time the 2011 census process starts in March.

I’m not sure which is the saddest part of the story here: The Conservative disdain for and lack of understanding of the far-reaching implications of their decision? The fact that this is the first time in years that I can remember that the Liberals actually did something I can support? Or the fact that our government apparently can’t get even a single thing done in five whole months?

Update: Rae drops out

With Bob Rae’s withdrawal from the Liberal leadership race, looks like it’ll be Michael Ignatieff by acclaimation.

A strategist more than an idealist, Ignatieff doesn’t arouse much excitement among disillusioned and disenfranchised voters. He’ll be painted as a neo-con and Harper wannabe by the left and as a boring academic with no new ideas by the right, and his three decades spent in the US don’t exactly bolster his credentials to lead Canada.

The Liberal party’s saviour? Hardly. Better than Rae? Absolutely.

These foolish games…

The inevitable result of the petty political squabbling has occurred: Parliament has been shut down to stave off a no-confidence vote that would have been scheduled for Monday, where the opposition was trying to take over the country in what essentially would amount to a bloodless coup.

Looks, it’s quite simple: You don’t have to like who’s elected, but you have to respect the will of the electorate. A power grab “just cause we can” is the last thing that the country needs.

Dion, Layton and Duceppe need to back off from the brink, cool off, and find a way to at least give the Conservative minority government a chance to work. For the good of everyone. Because Harper may have been elected by a minority, but that’s more people than the zero who voted for the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition.

Now that Parliament has been suspended, maybe it’s time to lock all four of them in a room together and force them to work out their issues and get back to the task at hand: Running the country.

Dion hangs on

They’re calling for his head on a platter from all sides, but Stephane Dion won’t quit yet:

The Toronto Star had cited Liberal party insiders who said Dion would make the announcement on Thursday and then stay on as leader until a successor is chosen.

But a spokeswoman for Dion said the Liberal leader would make no such announcement on Thursday and that her office would inform the media when Dion is ready to speak.

[ . . . ]

The paper quoted one well-connected party member as suggesting that if Dion didn’t announce his departure promptly, the party should move the furniture out of his office.

“How do you do a putsch on a guy who doesn’t understand he’s being putsched?” the Globe quoted the unidentified Liberal as saying.

Erm… Milton?

Seriously, though, while I think that Dion knows all too well that his days as Liberal Party leader are over, I think it’s disgraceful how he’s being treated by the media and his own party. He led a bad campaign, was the victim of circumstance, and unfortunately has the charisma of a turnip, but I don’t think Dion is a bad guy.

Dion took on the party leadership at a difficult time and dared to lead an environment-based campaign in a time when people were voting with their pocketbook. I think Dion was an ineffective leader, but is overall a smart man, and deserves a lot better than what he got.

Even he knows his time is up, though. This stand is just for the media. I doubt he’ll keep it up for longer than a few days.

(Via Damian Penny).

Update 10/20: That didn’t take long. Dion has announced his resignation.

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