The Youth Vote

Last Friday on BC Almanac (a local CBC show) the topic of the call in show was centered on what we need to do to engage youth so that they vote. I have to say that I was stupefied by some of the callers. What came through was a complete lack of responsibility for their democratic obligations.

At least two of the callers said that it was the responsibility of schools to teach them about politics. I don’t know where they went to school but I certainly learned about politics in high school. I also learned that it was my responsibility to vote. I can remember always being engaged in politics.[1] Once I was older and had learned about the various political parties and their platforms there were almost nightly political debates at dinner. Growing up in 1970/80s Alberta when Trudeau was in power, the National Energy Program (NEP) was  always a topic of conversation. My parents were in the oil business peripherally and the NEP impacted their business.

One caller said that youth were too lazy to vote and the solution was to make it easier by introducing online voting. It is so hard to reconcile the protests that have been gripping so many countries as people, mostly youth, agitate for the right to vote. Complacency is a big problem amongst the youth. It also does not help that the national parties do not try to engage the youth vote. They realize that the youth would likely support more left wing and environmentally friendly parties like the NDP or the Greens. Perhaps that was part of the reason Elizabeth May was kept out of the debates?

If we are to engage youth to vote, parents must start at home creating a culture of political participation. This of course means that the parents have to be voting as well. Political education starts at home. Youth also need to take responsibility to make sure they are educated about politics so that they can exercise their democratic obligations. Clearly this cannot just happen during election campaigns. The electorate needs to engage in the political process between elections so that they are able to vote at elections with knowledge and confidence.

[1] Right down to watching the Watergate hearings on TV as a young child.

Federal Election 2008: Thank you Quebec

Thank you Quebec. We have you to thank for preventing a Conservative majority government. Thank you for saving us from 4 (or perhaps more depending on whether Stevie decides to follow his own law) years of an arrogant, right-wing dickwad running roughshod over our rights. Stephen Harper has proven that he has the ability to control his candidates – no one really said anything too nutty. This time the gaffes were left to his Highness and his staff.

So, what did we learn? Well, we confirmed that Stephen Harper really is a control freak. How else do you keep the rabid right-wing nutbars from saying something stupid other than keeping them under your thumb? The CBC was reporting earlier that many of the Cons candidates were very hard to talk to at anytime. They singled out Dona Cadman as one of the most elusive candidates. Clearly the Conservative candidates were kept on tight leashes and party ‘stalwarts’ were trotted out to spew the doctrine according to Stephen. Lucky for us he made some key mistakes in Quebec particularly around funding for the arts.

What did we learn about Stephane Dion? Sadly, nothing. He can’t lead. He is a policy wonk who cannot speak perfect English. Someone pundit pointed out that it is acceptable in Canadian politics for English speaking leaders to get away with bad French but not the other way around. It is too bad that Stephane cannot express himself better in English and that we English speakers are not patient enough to listen. I suspect he has great things to say but his message is lost in the delivery. The backroom henchpeople are no doubt sharpening the knives to a very fine point even as we speak.

If there is one bright spot it is Jack Layton. The man is charismatic and he has something to say. He is passionate about Canada returning to a peace-keeping role, strengthening families, medicare and pharmacare. The NDP has increased their number of seats and are now within striking distance of the 43 won by Ed Broadbent at the NDP’s height. This is the best showing for the NDP in many, many years. I am buoyed by this result.

So, at the end of this very costly election what has changed? Not much. Just as I predicted we still have a Conservative minority government (I bow down to Quebec in gratitude) and the NDP made gains. The Cons made some gains too but not enough to put them in majority land. Merci bien Province de Quebec!

PS: Thank you Vancouver Central for re-electing Hedy Fry and sending Lorne Mayencourt packing back to his hell hole. Plus, to make Hedy’s victory even sweeter, Mayencourt had to resign his provincial seat to run!!

Federal Election 2008: Don’t forget to Vote

Tomorrow is the election. I hope everyone remembers to vote. I suspect when all is said and done there will be little difference in the make up of the new Parliament. If there are gains made, I suspect they will be for the NDP and not the Liberals or Conservatives. At the end of the day, this was an election we did not need nor want and in fact it was against the law passed by the Harper Cons fixing election dates. I guess he figures he can ignore laws as well as Canadians.

I also think that once the US election is over a lot of this financial turmoil will die down. It seems somewhat contrived to me.

Federal Election 2008: Planet Liberal

Ok, I don’t know about you but I am really frustrated with the Liberals. It seems like they want to lose this election. This morning, on the radio, I heard a very excited Stephane Dion talking about injecting funding into the arts at a time when the economy is on the brink of recession. His reason? We need to have more movies, books and theatres so we can have fun! This doesn’t work for me. There are valid reasons for injecting money into the arts, for example, it keeps people employed and helps to generate spin-off benefits. Yes, it may be a bit about having fun but a leader of a major political party should not be justifying policy in that way. Memo to Stephane: sounding like a 12-year old boy who just got a new toy is not going to win you any votes.

Stephane has other issues he needs to deal with immediately if he has any hope of not being banished to the political wilderness.  He needs to understand that not everyone is a policy wonk like him.  Even those of us educated in Canadian political history and political science can’t understand what he is saying half the time. He needs to slow down and give people real information upon which they can form an opinion. Presenting policy ideas without explaining how and why he has arrived at them does not educate the public. We need to know why he thinks a carbon tax is a good thing in language the average voter can understand.

I have been following the Liberal Tour updates on Twitter. I really think they are living in an alternative universe. It sounds like their campaign is going great and Dion is speaking to very large groups of voters. They seem to think they are making gains. It does not seem this way on the ground. They (I am not sure who is doing the posting) post things like: “700 people! Standing room only! Everyone proud of responsible, costed Liberal platform. Dion performed brilliantly” and “Candidates are joining Dion on the train.Lots of laughs.By far, we have the best team. Politics is about working together, not a solo effort.” They got that right that it is not a solo effort but has Dion figured that out?

In my riding, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, I have not seen one Liberal campaign sign. Not one! I don’t even know who the candidate is or even if they are running one. I see Cons and NDP signs but that is all. So where are the Liberals?

Dion and the Liberals need to pull it together and quickly before we are saddled with a Cons majority.

Pet Peeve: Control Freak Bloggers

I keep running across (or into, as the case may be) with bloggers who heavily censor or don’t post comments. I posted before about a blog I was banned from because of comments posted that did not agree with what the author had to say. Another blog I read, Our Green Year,  which chronicles the journey of Craig and Layla Baird as they undergo a personal green tranformation. They have started a companion blog called the Our Green Year Journal where they catalogue the green things they do on a daily basis. They are not allowing comments on this blog as they state it is only a ‘journal (look towards the end of the entry).’

This makes no sense to me. The point of this blog and I assume the accompanying journal is to educate and to provide an example of all the green things they do everyday. I began to notice some inconsistencies between what they say they do on the main blog and what they list they do on the journal. The first major thing I noticed was the reference to chicken, turkey and ham deli meats when they said that they if they were eating meat it was bison. So, I asked the question about the deli meat and questioned how green it was and if they thought it was sustainable. Instead of posting my question they just added it on, in red, at the bottom of the post. It does not matter that, according to Layla, they are only using these ‘deli’ meats to ‘supplement’ their diet. The bottom line is they said they were only eating bison. Besides assuring me that the deli meat is organic they did not address the question of sustainability.

I also have other questions. For example they say that they are going to reuse everything before they recycle it. Yet in their journal posts they just talk about recycling packaging materials. They also talk about bringing plastic containers for things like take out – why don’t they do this for their deli meat that they have wrapped in paper? On Day 39 they talk about reusing items that can be recycled first. Yet almost every entry on the Journal says ‘packaging materials recycled.’ Where is the reusing? On Day 49 they talk about re-using receipts before recycling them yet the Journal does not indicate this activity either.

The burning question I was really hoping the journal would answer is how they find time to do all of the ‘green’ things they have stated they have incorporated into their lifestyle – here is a list of only some of the things that have yet to show up on the Journal:

Day 7: They volunteered with the Green Party. With a Federal Election underway the Journal has not reflected this activity.
Day 11: Layla started to make tin can pen jars to sell through the blog. Has she made any since the Journal started?
Day 21: Apparently the Bairds receive lots of books in the mail and need to recycle (or in their case, re-use first) a lot of packaging material. The Journal has not been up for that long so perhaps they have not received any books or reused any packing material.
Day 23: The Bairds commit to mowing the lawn with a manual push mower. Perhaps their lawn does not need to be mowed even though it is still quite warm.
Day 26: Craig and Layla commit to 5-minute showers with an egg timer! They dutifully record their showering times on the Journal (although, I have to secretly wonder if one of them ever cheats and takes a 6.3 minute shower, but I digress…). They also commit to catching the water that is run before the temperature is correct in a bucket and using it to water the garden. This activity is not recorded. What are they going to do with that extra water in the winter?
Day 27: Are the Bairds still drinking coffee the ‘green’ way?
Day 28: and what about that dandelion tea?
Day 29: composting inside – is this still happening?
Day 34: Saw the end of the dryer in the Baird household. Yet the journal does not indicate them hanging their clothes out to dry. Perhaps they haven’t done laundry yet as they were going to wear their clothes a little longer as they explain in a future blog.
Day 48: Have we been doing any container gardening in the house to clean the air inside?
Day 49: Perhaps the Bairds are not eating much bread. They committed to making their own on this day and this activity is not reflected in the Journal.
Day 56: are they still carrying around their portable bottle composters wherever they go?
Day 60: Craig posted about making their own soda pop. I guess they don’t drink that much as they have not made it yet according to the Journal.
Day 64: I guess you don’t use that much body wash if you only take a five-minute shower.
Day 69: How are they doing on the ‘one-bag’ challenge?
Day 72: I guess they don’t eat much yogurt either.
Day 82: One of my favourite days! I think the Bairds jumped the shark here…now they are going to wash their clothes by hand!!!! But they are having trouble finding a washboard. There has not been any laundry being done on the Journal. I guess they have a lot of clothes!
Day 85: Have they had the scythe out lately? Or maybe the grass and weeds don’t grow.
Day 90: Craig and Layla are now collecting the morning dew!!! Are they doing this every day? You sure can’t tell from the Journal.
Day 100: For people who claim not to eat much meat, almost every entry into the journal sees them buying some sort of meat. None of it was bison.
Day 114: Another post on how little meat they eat. Personally, I don’t care if you want to eat meat. However, when you say you are not eating much meat because of its impact on the environment and then eat meat almost every day there is a bit of a credibility gap. The claim to be almost vegan yet they buy locally sourced eggs and organic cream for butter. Why the disconnect?
Day 122: Eating cold food and another reference to deli meat.
Day 129: Having given up potato chips on another day, the Bairds are now making their own pita chips.

Now, here is my question, with all those ‘green’ tasks they have undertaken when do they find time to work or sleep? I am not sure what their goal is besides writing a book. It is certainly not education as evidenced by their refusal to publish reader comments and questions on the Journal blog. I have also posted similar questions to the main blog and they have not been posted either.

I began reading the Our Green Year blog as a way to learn about some things we could possibly do in our house to reduce our impact on the environment. Many green blogs out there are great. They talk realistically about the challenges and pitfalls of going and staying green. It is a shame that the Our Green Blog and the Our Green Year Journal do not fall into this category.

Federal Election 2008: Lorne Mayencourt

Mayencourt’s candidacy in Vancouver Centre is not sitting well with me. I am not sure how he can justify running with a party that is as blatantly homophobic as the Cons. Seriously, these people would repeal the same-sex marriage legislation (if they thought they could get away with it and the Supreme Court would let them). What self-respecting member of the LGTBQ community would willingly put themselves in such a hostile environment? It was bad enough when he ran for the BC Liberals and was elected. However, the BC Liberals do not seem to openly hate the LGTBQ community like the Cons do. Does Little Lorne think that Stevie is going to let him play in his sandbox? Does he think he is going to get a cabinet position if he should with (which, in all likelihood, he will not)? Vancouver Centre seems to have a love-in going with Hedy Fry and it is likely she will be re-elected.

I really do not understand what Lorne thinks he has to gain from this candidacy. Is it show that the Cons are not bigots? Sorry, that won’t fly as they have shown themselves to be bigots many times. The cancellation of the Court Challenges Program was one of their first acts and a way to muzzle critics. Does Lorne think, if he is elected, that the Cons will get together in caucus and sing “Its a Small World” to welcome him to the party? It is more likely than not someone will call him a faggot, kick him and run away. Is Lorne so desperate for the limelight that he will put himself in bed with the enemy? Sadly, I think that is the case. I also think Lorne may have a case of internalized homophobia – why else would he support a party who would turn the clock back on LGTBQ rights?

Really, the only one who stands to gain from a Mayencourt victory in Vancouver Centre is Tim Stevenson.

Federal Election 2008: It just got worse

I just found out that Lorne Mayencourt, yes the author of the “Safe Streets Act” and member of the BC legislature is running for the Cons in Vancouver Centre. Now the Cons have a gay candidate. How on earth can Mayencourt justify running for a party that is fundamentally opposed to LGBTQ rights? What on earth does he think he can accomplish? With his penchant for being an outspoken maverick how does he think he will fit into Harper’s despot-like regime? Going up against Hedy Fry will also be incredibly difficult – just ask Svend Robinson who tried in the last election when he ran for the NDP.

H/T to Slap Upside the Head

Federal Election 2008: Harper is a fruit

Well, Stephen Harper shows he has a sense of humour. While at Winnipeg produce terminal he was asked what kind of vegetable he would be and he responded that he would be a fruit. Now that is funny.

In other election news a little earlier in the news Harper announced that the Cons were running one campaign. He said this in defense of accusations that he was not allowing his candidates to speak to the media until later in the campaign. I believe he is trying to limit the potential for off the cuff right wing nutbar comments that could potentially derail his campaign. Just as he has kept most of his cabinet ministers on a tight leash to kept everyone on ‘script’ (the little despot that he is) he is now doing the same thing with his candidates. One would think that anyone who has been vetted as a candidate should be allowed to speak her or his mind on the issues, as they understand them.

Harper has also had to apologize to Dion for an ad that ran on the Cons party website. Apparently, they had a graphic of a bird defecating on Dion’s shoulder. Some (overly enthusiastic) staffer put it up and it was not vetted by supervisors. It would seem that the little despot has his work cut out for him as potential saboteurs are everywhere! This could be one very interesting campaign!