Just spent the weekend surrounded by poets and poetry again, a nice change from all the news of late, not that the odd mention of tsunamis and war (does it really matter which one(s)? didn't make it into some of the poems we wrote. So much strife in the world. So much cold and terror and sadness. I can't pretend to make sense of it all. And now, after months and months of unbelievable posturing by ALL parties, The Harper Government has fallen to a non-confidence vote by the other three parties (and this time it's not about the budget, but because THG has been found in contempt of parliament) and we're headed for a spring election. So not much poetry chat this time. I'm mad as hell, and I'm gonna talk about that.
I'm in Canada and I know some of you are not, so here's how our political system works to the casual observer, which I guess I am. We have a provincial government in each of our ten provinces and three territories and a federal one that oversees the provincial ones to some extent and is supposed to be more involved with foreign affairs. The one we'll be voting on presently is the federal one. We don't vote for the actual Prime Minister (unless we live in his riding), but for our own regional representatives called Members of Parliament. Where I live we have Alex Atamanenko who is a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP). I vote for Alex because he works hard for his constituents and tends to be on the same side of political issues as I am. He even (thanks, of course, to his able assistants, people like Ann Harvey) acknowledges emails you send him. A nice touch, that. Sort of like a two-way dialogue.
Over the years, I have voted both NDP and Liberal in federal elections. I moved to Ottawa in 1967 and I licked envelopes for John Turner in the Liberal Party leadership convention of 1968 that was won by Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In the early, early 80s I lived in the Annex in Toronto and did some door-to-door calls on behalf of Dan Heap who was running for NDP MP for Spadina, a position he won and held from 1981-1988, whence it changed its name to Trinity-Spadina and he carried on as MP there until 1993. Wow, just looked him up, and he's 85! So I've dabbled with both parties. I don't think I ever voted for the Progressive Conservative Party, although I wouldn't swear to it. All the parties do things that piss me off sometimes, and how I vote depends on how much and who and how close to an election.
Things that piss me off sometimes...just like in any family. For that's what we are, in relation to our various governments in this world of ours. Part of a family. Sometimes it's like we're all equals. Sometimes there's a distinct parent-child relationship, and when this is the case, hopefully the one in charge isn't abusive, or vengeful, or greedy.
As far as numbers go in the big political scheme of things, the NDP, with its leader, Jack Layton, comes third. In second place in this rather lopsided polling popularity contest is the Liberal Party with Michael Ignatieff at the helm. Once the darlings of progressive thought in better economic times, the Liberals fell from grace after the sponsorship scandal was uncovered in the early 2000s. Blue Tory (The Conservative Party of Canada, which is really the Reform Party that became the Canadian Alliance after one of those wiped out the Progressive Conservatives) madness swept the country, but not quite, and we've had a minority Conservative government since 2006, headed by Stephen Harper who campaigned on "open, accountable government", among other things, and then proceeded to muzzle his minions and start nipping at post-secondary education, health care, and the still nervously two-stepping arts and culture budget while promising to spend what THG says is $18 billion and other reports insist will likely be more, on F-35 stealth fighter jets. Oh, and Harper's tough on crime, wants to build more prisons. That's a tad over-simplified and I know I've left out lots of issues, but stay with me here.
The other night on the news (CBC) there was a piece about a town in northern Manitoba where the majority of the houses have no running water and no sewage. There were pictures of men out on the ice chipping a hole in it to get through to the lake water below. $33,000 per home would provide running water, a sink, a tub, a toilet and a little room that would offer privacy for the latter. And this election is costing what? And those F-35s cost what? It just seems to me we could be spreading this kind of money around a little more magnanimously.
So. Conservatives, Liberals, NDP are all in the running, but there are two other parties we can vote for, at least in some parts of Canada. There's Elizabeth May's Green Party and Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois. Elizabeth May is smart, articulate, and I really wish she was involved with either the NDP or the Libs, because either party could use her and having a Green Party (which, dammit, they ALL should be, shouldn't they?) splits the vote. The Bloc's mandate, interestingly, is to push for a separate Quebec, yet because of the way the voting system works, the BQ gets to eat a lot of votes that could feed a government interested in trying to keep Canada together, not splitting it apart.
"A coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a coalition," said Michael Ignatieff back in December, 2008, paraphrasing Mackenzie King's "conscription if necessary..." speech in 1942. Well, ladies and gentlemen who are serving the public, it might be time to think about it. All of you. There's a bigger picture here than your own petty "I want this bridge" or "You have to fix this part of the highway with this money or you get nothing" or "no, you can't have (pick one) a hospital/school" sort of mentality that seems to be emanating from far too many of you far too often.
Harper, of course, is trying to make it sound like a coalition of the lefties would be the worst thing since WWII. Here's an interesting old video of him talking about the subject before he was PM. He must be thinking about it, though. In a speech the other day he used the dreaded C-word 21 times.
Oh please, oh please let it be another minority government. I fear it's the most we can expect.
Finally, here's a link to "Vote Compass" where you can (supposedly anonymously) answer a bunch of questions in order to figure out with which political party you are most aligned. Apparently, I should be voting Liberal. I'm not. I'm voting for Alex.