Archive for election
Well, the Liberals won. And hallelujah, and praise be to the Lord. Of course it is good that the Harper Conservatives are out. But let’s not get carried away. We have a lot of work to do.
Because, as bad as the Harper government may have been, and was, and as much as it needed to be defeated, we cannot let the Liberals slide through the next four to five years: because they have shown such weakness, that that is an impossible stance for the public to take, to simply support them blindly. I know, the vast majority of Canadians have more passion about bacon, or doughnuts, than about politics, but this is the fact. And this statement about the Liberals is vastly too understated. I am being polite here. Maybe I should not be.
A Liberal win is just the beginning. We have seen a turn from Liberal to Conservative governments, and back and forth, over and over again. The people get fed up with the Conservatives, and then they vote in the Liberals. Then they get sick of the Liberals, and they vote in the Conservatives. How about we hold pressure on the government, whichever party it may be, and make them uphold policies that the people want?
Enough of voting in this or that monarchical power. How about the people taking the power back? Enough self-evisceration. Take your power back.
The media wants to portray Justin Trudeau as the savior. We have seen that before. I think he looks like an inexperienced kid, riding on his father’s coat tails – or, as David Suzuki said, a “twerp.”
Let’s not get too giddy about the defeat of Harper. Yes, he had to go. That does not mean that the all-knowing Queen Mom, or a white knight on horseback – depending on your ideology, or fantasy – is what we have in response.
What we have, by all indications, is a Liberal party in Canada that is ostensibly run by a child, with a party machine that is controlled by big oil and big business.
That is the reality of the Liberal Party in 2015. And it is a far cry from what most Canadians would hope for – and something they will likely tolerate for only a very short time.
Yes, it is good that Harper is out. But that does not mean that we coast, in true Canadian style, in apathy and passivity, until the next election.
I know, it is a lot to ask, considering everyone has such pressures on them: but hear me now – if we do not stand up for what we believe, and not just what we are opposed to, our country will drown, and we will, most certainly, drown with it.
This is only the beginning. Where we go from here, is entirely up to us.
Here are the criteria for sound and responsible government in Canada at this time – this is the critical test:
1. Shut down the tar sands. Every major environmental group on the planet says this has to happen. The tar sands amount to 2% of Canadian GDP. We can do better. The multi-billions spent on the tar sands in subsidies can be spent on green energy infrastructure, with more jobs and a stronger economy as a result.
2. No to NAFTA-based “free trade” agreements, such as CETA, the TPP and FIPA. Surrendering supra-national powers to large, trans-national corporations is not only anti-democratic, and foolish, but it is in violation of Canadian law – and the surrender of the powers of Parliament to a foreign power is the one law and transgression on the Canadian books punishable by the death penalty, as high treason, to be clear about the gravity of the action. Such deals are a definite no.
(See my articles on this subject elsewhere – I do not want to repeat myself again.)
3. Proportional representation – with no squirreling out of it, by way of obfuscating, disingenuous politics. If the Green Party, for example, gets 5% of the popular vote, then they get 5% of the seats in Parliament, and no less. Proportional representation without sleazy manipulations – period.
There is a serious popular movement with regards to the third point. There needs to be a much greater one with regards to the first two. But in any case, these are the three points upon which any government, Liberal, Conservative, NDP or otherwise, should most centrally be judged.
If the Liberal Party cannot deliver on these three points, at the very least, then we have cause for revolution. I know, the tepid thing to do would be to give the NDP a chance to also betray us – but we have no more time for that. Both the NDP and the Liberals have shown their allegiance to corporate powers. Surely, we can stand now.
I know, the Canadian habit is to suck on a soother, and hope for the best, but that is no longer acceptable.
Surely, after all we have been through, and seen, Canadians can not, any longer, take a back seat to politics, and complacently elect a new government that will do as they like for the next four to five years. Surely, we have seen enough, that we realize we must be involved. This is the least we can ask, and the least we can do. In a country steeped in apathy, surely, the call can go out for this much, if not much more.
I have faith in this country, and this people. We can do more than stand by, and watch our country burn to the ground.
Legalized marijuana, a slight decrease in middle class taxes, and a slight increase in taxes on the richest 1% – that seems to be about all that we got out of this election, and very little more. And it would require a very big bong for Canadians to be satisfied with that.
Justin Trudeau says Canadians “chose real change” in voting the Liberals into power. That would be hilarious, if it were not so sickeningly deceitful and hollow.
This is why I was furious last night, while the media talking heads and corporate poodles were euphoric and all a-gush over Trudeau Jr’s (or Jr, for short) win. Harper was a disaster. The Liberals will be only slightly less of a disaster. It’s good to see Harper go. But a win for the Liberal party is nothing to be jubilant about.
Harper was defeated. That is a good thing. But we cannot afford to be complacent in the face of this new Liberal government, which remains pro-pipelines, pro big oil, pro tar sands, pro free trade, and pro-corporate. On all of these points, the Liberals are a disaster in the making. We will have to push them hard. Extra-parliamentary politics have never been more important than now.
Forgive me that I am not with the media circus, in decrying Trudeau Jr. as the next saviour. I think we, as Canadians, are smarter than that. Let’s show strength. Press this new government on the issues that matter. This is not the end, but merely the beginning.
October 20, 2015
The ever-lucid Tom Walkom takes apart the rhetoric of the major parties with regards to the economy. (Walkom holds a PhD from York University in economics and is a long-time veteran journalist with the Toronto Star.) In short, all three major parties are a farce when it comes to the economy. They will have to be pushed hard on this issue, as with many others.
This Election Wasn’t About The Economy – Tom Walkom, Canadian Dimension
Where the parties stood on the issues at the eve of the election:
Voter’s Guide – Council of Canadians
Frankly, only the Greens have shown any spine, vision, integrity, or even basic sanity. The other three parties are supportive of disastrous “trade” deals, or more accurately, corporate rights deals, and in favour of tar sands development and pipelines. The first destroys our economy and our democracy. The second destroys our land and the earth. So the big three parties, including the Liberals, need to be pushed hard, if they are going to have any chance of doing the right thing. The battle has just begun.
Whether you volunteer, write, canvass, talk to friends and family, or in some other way engage in, and promote, democracy in Canada, please do be involved.
Vote, encourage others to vote, talk about the issues, and let’s see a massive turn-out today, along with a lively, and much-needed, thoughtful discussion.
This is our country, and our future is at stake. If you’re not involved, get involved. It matters, and it’s never too late.
The work for peace, for justice, for environmental sanity and for democracy, is, and must-be, on-going. But today is a particularly important day. Make your voice heard.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. You either use your democratic rights, or you will surely lose them.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a walking disaster. He is the most reviled Prime Minister since Brian Mulroney, and one of the most loathed in all Canadian history.
Harper’s record is abysmal. He has been an utter disaster with regards to the environment, health care, social programs, the economy and democracy in Canada.
Stephen Harper has the worst economic record of any Prime Minister since WWII. He continues to attack and undermine environmental and social programs and standards, and seeks to eliminate and destroy all of the protections of the people and the environment which have been won over past decades and generations.
Worst of all, Stephen Harper is quite literally waging war on, and demolishing, democracy in Canada. He has to go. His big-oil, pro-corporate agenda has been a slow-motion train-wreck for this nation. He must be removed from power, and now.
Youth in particular need to vote. Millions of youth do not vote, and the majority of them are opposed to the Harper Conservatives. We need to get the youth engaged. They will inherit this country. Let us hope there is something left for them to inherit. And there may not be, if they continue to be apathetic and involved.
Spread the word: get everyone out to vote – especially the youth.
Today is the day. Let’s make it count.
October 19, 2015
Here is a letter from Avaaz – they are not always in the right, but they are right on this: urging all Canadians to make their voice heard.
A handful of razor-close ridings will determine who runs our next government. Person-to-person conversations have the strongest influence on how and whether people vote. Join us in a country-wide call-in to key ridings and help us take back the Canada we love.
Real change for Canada is within our grasp, but it could still slip away – Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won a majority last election with less than 40% of the vote and they could win again this time.
This election will swing on a handful of razor-close ridings across the country.
We need to win these ridings to win Canada — so let’s come together for a country-wide call-in, telling Canadians where the Conservatives stand on key issues and urging them to vote for a different party instead.
If we want to win back the Canada we love, all of us need to step up. Sign up for a session using the link below and we’ll give you all the information you need to help:
Research shows that person-to-person conversations about shared values have the strongest influence on how and whether people vote. With these ridings likely to be decided by hundreds — or even dozens — of votes, it’s no exaggeration to say that every connection we make could have an impact on the future of the country.
On the day of the calls, Avaazers across the country can log-in to a website that will have all the information you need to talk confidently to voters. All that’s needed is a computer and a phone (and don’t worry, no long distance charges!).
Voting can feel very personal and it can feel scary to talk to someone in a totally different part of the country about unfamiliar issues, but by our own small actions right now we can literally change how our entire country is run. The Avaaz community is about working together to courageously close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want. If we let our courage triumph over fear, we can help win back a caring Canada, with a stronger, sustainable economy — one that reflects the hopes and dreams of a real majority of Canadians.
Let’s make it happen:
The Conservatives have been in power for 10 years. We’re in danger of another 5 years, but not if the country pulls together in key ridings, and makes sure that locals elect candidates who will help us take back Canada. There’s no time to lose.
Danny, Ari, Emma, Ricken, Melanie, Evan, Ben, and the rest of the Avaaz team
Authorised by Avaaz
(Go to Avaaz or other sites to see which ridings are most pivotal. But wherever you are, speak up and speak out!)
And here is a letter from the Council of Canadians, urging everyone to vote, and giving details about how to vote, where, and what you will need to be able to vote – as well as giving excellent background information on major issues, and why the Harper government needs to be defeated:
Millions of people are voting for change.
In the last election, just a handful of voters made the difference in electing a majority government for the Harper Conservatives. This election could be even closer.
The power to decide the outcome of this election is in your hands. Be a voter, and bring as many other voters as possible with you to the polls.
What to vote for
The Council of Canadians is non-partisan and does not endorse any parties or candidates. But if you haven’t yet made up your mind on who to vote for, our voter’s guide highlights where the parties stand on key issues.
After nine years of job losses, health care privatization, falling wages, environmental neglect, eroding democracy, and cuts to public services, it’s time for change. But that will only happen if you go vote for it.
How and where to vote
Remember, because of changes brought in by the “Fair” Elections Act, it’s best to make sure that you have the ID you’ll need to vote.
If you’ve received a Voter Information Card in the mail, you can’t use it as ID to vote, but you can use it to find your local polling station. You can also check with Elections Canada to confirm your polling location.
If you’re not yet registered, you can do so at your polling station. Just bring the same ID you would need to vote.
How to defend your right to vote
Changes brought in by the Fair Elections Act mean it will be more difficult for some people to vote this election. If you’re having problems, be persistent. A friend or neighbour can attest to your address if your ID is inadequate. You can also ask to speak to the Deputy Returning Officer or the Chief Returning Officer.
If you witness anyone being prevented from voting, or if you’re unable to vote yourself, you can report it at our new election monitoring service, VoteWatch. We’ll follow up after the election to discuss your voting experience.
It’s time for change. Be a voter and you can make it happen.
Our democracy is counting on you.
With hope and resolve,
P.S. After you vote, take a “voter selfie.” Share a picture of yourself on social media with a sign about why you voted, using the hashtag #ivoted2015.
An economic and political analysis of Canada, neoliberalism, and the world
Get a cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of wine, and settle in – this is not sound-bite commentary. We are going to dig deep.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
It pains me to say it, but I was wrong. Strategic voting, at least in this election, is simply necessary – loath the practice as I may, and I do, that is the fact that I have been forced to come to.
Actually it doesn’t pain me at all to say that I was wrong – that was simply a figure of speech. Anyone who is pained to admit that they were wrong is engaged in foolish egotism. Everyone is mistaken some of the time. The intelligent thing to do is to admit it, correct the error as best we can, and as soon as we can, if not completely and immediately, if and whenever possible, and move on. The ego is a trivial and trifling illusion. We should not let it bother us, cloud our mind, or hamper us in any way – especially when it comes to the pursuit of truth, the speaking of truth, or the guidance of compassion, justice and love.
But let’s skip the philosophical asides, or end them for now, for the moment at least, and get to the point. Is strategic voting a legitimate, or even, a necessary option, in this particular election? I said, “No,” before, but have since changed my view.
After thinking more about Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, in light of the fast-approaching 2015 Canadian federal election, I have to say that Harper poses too great a threat to democracy in this nation to be permitted to remain in power any longer – and even if we must vote into power a party or a coalition that is far from our ideal, we must do so, because Harper simply has to go.
I am generally averse to strategic voting, although I certainly believe there are times and places, moments, when strategic voting makes perfect sense. My general feeling that is in most cases, strategic voting means voting for the lesser of evils, and that is still voting for evil, and hence, unconscionable, as well as foolishly self-defeating. But the Harper government pushes the boundaries of the normal, even beyond the normal insanity of contemporary politics, and exceptional measures are called for, because this is an exceptional case and time.
Reading further and more deeply about the Harper legacy to date, and the actions of the Harper government over the past nine years, it becomes clearer than ever that the Harper government is not only pro big-oil, pro pipelines, pro free-trade, pro corporate interests, and even, pro corporate rule, as well as neck-deep in an orthodoxy of neoliberal/neoconservative fundamentalism, which is, and has been, disastrous to the country, the economy, the Canadian people and the environment, just as it has been disastrous everywhere it has been adopted (as Naomi Klein vividly pointed out, in her excellent and extremely lucid book, Shock Doctrine). No, there is more than that.
If these were the only problems with the Harper government, they would be appalling, and he should be removed from power immediately. But, and here was my “but” – if these were the only problems with the Harper government, I would have to say, that the other major parties, the Liberals and NDP, seem to me only marginally stronger on all these counts, and have no real strength or vision when it comes to the environment, the economy, or democracy for that matter.
If these grave problems with the Harper regime were the only problems, then I would say, yes, this is an appalling government, and it should be removed from power – but the major opposition parties, the Liberals and NDP, are so weak, so feeble, and offer such little in the way of alternatives, that I would find myself unwilling and unable to support them or vote for them, even if it was only in order to remove Harper from power.
My argument was, and is, that the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the (tragically flacid and embarrassingly spineless) NDP, are all parties that have surrendered to the agenda of the big corporations. The Harper Conservatives are simply the most blatant and gleeful about it.
The Harper Conservatives, as with the Conservative Party ever since Mulroney, have completely abandoned the Conservative tradition in Canada, and have become a neoconservative party – a party defined above all, by a ruthless and blinkered defence toward, and service to, the agenda set by the largest domestic and foreign corporations.
Austerity, loss of rights and freedoms and political franchise and power for the people, with subsidies and tax breaks, an above-the-law status and full enthronement for the large corporations and the international business elite who control them: that is the core of neoconservatism. The racism, sexism, xenophobia and militarism are outgrowths of this central policy of putting corporate interests above the people, or retrograde ideological appendages to this central objective.
Neoconservatives pose as conscientious populists and fiscal conservatives, who’s central goals are to limit the powers of government, curtail excessive spending, balance the budget, eliminate deficits and debt, and restore and maintain accountability and sound government. But their real agenda is to enhance state powers in the service of the corporate elite, to transfer ever further powers to a supra-national elite who are above the government and above the law, and to further the entrenchment and expansion of a welfare state for the corporations and the rich, with austerity for everyone else. It is stark class warfare, in the name of corporate powers and corporate profits. The rest is window dressing, spin, or crass manipulation of the people by way of exploiting their fears and their baser impulses.
This explains why Harper campaigned on sound economic management, but has had a worse economic record than any other government or Prime Minister since WWII. The “sound economic management” sound-bite is a ruse. Only 25% of Canadians voted him into power, so the indication is that the majority of people do not buy into the hollow, and frankly Orwellian PR. But in a nation with an archaic first-past-the-post electoral system, such charlatans and posers can and do get elected, as we have seen, and may see again.
What is neoconservatism? Margaret Thatcher was the first to introduce it in the Western world, followed by Ronald Reagan. Brian Mulroney, Canada’s most loathed Prime Minister, first introduced it to Canada. And the Bush I and Bush II regimes, along with the infamous and most heinous Cheny, Rumsfeld, Woflowitz/PNAC cabal, cemented it in US politics.
(Bernie Sanders represents a firm rejection of both neoconservatism and neoliberalism – which is, in short, the agenda of the billionaire class, the corporate elite; and he may well win the US election, and begin to turn the country around, and rebuild an economy and a nation in tatters which now faces economic as well as social implosion. Let us hope so. Hilary Clinton represents Wall Street, as she herself admitted in the Democratic debate, on October 13 – she is committed to the neoliberal agenda, as her actions have repeatedly shown.)
Scholar, journalist, author, and former Wall Street Journal editor and US Treasury Assistant Secretary, Paul Craig Roberts argues, quite convincingly, and with abundant, undeniable evidence, that Obama embraced the neoconservative agenda of the Bush/Cheney/PNAC regime, and accelerated its two-fold key policy objectives, which were, and are, expanded wars of empire abroad, and a war on democracy at home – both serving to increase and expand, and to safeguard and consolidate the powers, the wealth, and the dominance and hegemony of the corporate elite who effectively rule the United States, along with most of the world.
This is Harper’s heritage, his ideology and his agenda. Harper is not a traditional Conservative. He is a neoconservative. It is a war on the people, in the name of corporate profits and corporate power. It is crass, and stark, class warfare, as Chomsky has described the general patterns of neoconservatism and neoliberalism (which are two sides of the same coin) globally. The business elite want it all, and Harper is eager to assist and serve them.
Neoconservatism, like its mirror image of neoliberalism, means “free trade” aggreements, such as the FTA, NAFTA, CETA, FIPA and the TPP, which are in truth corporate rights agreements, which grant powers to corporations that supersede and over-ride the powers of parliament.
It means other things, like tax cuts for the rich and the large corporations, privatization, attacks on unions and labour, austerity measures for the 99% who are not among the economic elite, cuts to social programs such as health care, pensions and education, and the evisceration and dismantling of such programs, deregulation, the gutting of environmental, labour and health regulations, and on the list goes. But the core objective is to open the economy to the free flow of corporate capital, making it easier for corporations to enter a country and extract wealth, and to move the profits to offshore accounts, or to move jobs and manufacturing to low wage, low regulation regions, and to generally do as they please in all regards; and it means granting the large corporations the right to sue democratically elected governments for any legislation which negatively affects their profits, thereby gutting and over-riding democracy, and creating a de facto corporate rule. This is neoconservatism. This is Harper’s ideology and agenda. It is, “Power to the corporations – and the people and the environment be damned.”
The Liberals and NDP, by contrast, have become the leading parties in the nation for the advancement of an orthodoxy of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the mirror image of neoconservatism, its political-economic and ideological twin. Neoliberalism is simply neoconservativism, with a kinder, prettier, gentler face.
The neoliberal agenda may lack the social conservatism, the racism, sexism, xenophobia and religious fundamentalism which tend to accompany neoconservatism, but it shares every other element – and every major, or central element.
Neoliberalism means, in effect, corporate rule, and a corporate agenda, but with a liberal face. As neoconservatism is the path to full neo-feudal corporate rule by way of the iron fist, neoliberalism is the path to the very same neo-feudal, anti-democratic, corporate agenda and corporate rule, with a velvet glove, and a generally better, and more slick, PR machine.
The Liberals and NDP, from all indications, are now the Canadian parties of neoliberalism: which means, in short, that the corporations make the rules – and the neoliberal parties put a pretty face on it, and make the poison more palatable, by covering it with sugar.
It does not matter whether the Liberals pretend to be centre-left or the NDP pretends to be social democrat – neoliberalism means catering to a corporate agenda, and the rest is either rhetoric, or PR gestures, designed to pacify the people. Of course, most people in these parties and most people who support these parties do not want corporate rule, or a corporate agenda, but the party leadership has caved into these dark trends, whether the party members and party supporters like it or not, or even realize it, as most clearly do not.
The majority of Canadians seem to act like this is 1975, and the three big parties still have their traditional roots, and some degree of remaining integrity – but it’s not 1975, and they don’t.
That was my analysis of the three major political parties in Canada, the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP, and I stand by it. What I do believe I was wrong about, however, was my response to this situation, in regards to this particular election.
I now believe this election forces us to vote for the lesser evil – something that I have never been willing to do before. The stakes are too high to do otherwise. But, and this is a very important qualification, we must be very clear as to what we are doing, and realize, that even if we do defeat Harper, this is only the beginning of the fight.
The acid test for any government, whether a coalition or a single party government, and the acid test for the Liberals, NDP, and also the Greens, is where they stand, or fall, on the corporate rights agreements now being pushed through, as well as those already implemented – the TPP, CETA and FIPA, along with NAFTA, all of which must be firmly rejected. Trade is good. Promoting trade is good. But we must be intelligent about what kind of trade, and what terms of trade, it is.
If we want trade – and trade is, or can be, a very good thing – we should, naturally, have something to trade, and not just trade away and sell off our natural resources. That means we need to make things, we need a manufacturing base, so that we have something to trade and to export. Selling off our resources, through an economic policy that is focused on resource extraction – such as the current Harper focus on the tar sands and oil exports – is economically foolish and short-sighted. Selling off our natural resources, rather than using them conservatively to foster the development of industry and manufacturing, is like selling off the family jewels.
A resource-extraction model for the economy is essentially a drawing down and a depletion of our capital assets. This is foolish, as I say. We need to use our capital and our assets more wisely – more conservatively, in fact – and invest them in the country so that we can, essentially, live off the interest, and not the capital. Business people and economists should understand this immediately. But we are pursuing the opposite agenda: we are liquidating our capital, and depleting it rapidly. And we will only make ourselves the poorer for it.
All Third World nations, as they were formerly called, or “under-developed” nations, when they have succeeded in building up their economies and raising living standards, have invested heavily in value-added industry, and shifted consciously and deliberately, and with great passion and determination, away from a resource-extraction economy.
South Korea did exactly this, and raised the average income from $82 a year in 1962, to $30,000 a year by the 1980’s, by precisely these methods, along with tariff protections for developing industries, and subsidies and investments in domestic industries – as every economically successful nation has done since the time of the Roman empire and the ancient Greeks, as Chomsky has pointed out, as as every honest or sane economist knows, or should know, ideology aside.
The “Washington Consensus” of neoconservative/neoliberal, “free market”, Friedmanite, Chicago School of Economics hogwash, is an economic theory, orthodoxy or ideology which works only for the corporate giants and the rich – but is disaster for the economy, as well as the vast majority of the people. Naomi Klein, Greg Palast, Noam Chomsky and many others have pointed this out, and made it clear. If we still refuse to listen, it is at our peril, and it is deeply unwise.
Canada is now doing exactly the opposite of what it takes to develop a nation economically, or even maintain its current wealth and standard of living. We are de-industrializing, and returning to the status of hewers of wood and haulers of water (except that now the emphasis is on oil), with a resource-extraction economy that is setting us back 100 years or more. The economic foolishness of this cannot be overstated. We are following a Third World model of economics, and the result is that we will become a Third World nation if we keep this up.
The IMF, WTO, World Bank, ECB, EU, Washington, WEF and the big corporations love this model, and are forcing it on the world, including Canada, the US, UK and Europe, because it benefits the global corporate elite. But if we have any remaining sense at all, we will reject this neoliberal/neoconservative economic model entirely, and now.
We need a manufacturing base if we want intelligent trade, and the promotion of exports in an intelligent way, and not deplete our assets, our working capital, by focusing on resource extraction. But NAFTA destroyed our manufacturing base, as it did for the US, and the majority of our manufacturing was sent to low-wage, low-regulation countries, such as Mexico and China. If we want trade, and we are intelligent about it, we will, therefore, need to rebuild our manufacturing base, through serious private and public investment.
What we surely do not want to do is to sign trade deals that are modelled after NAFTA, and which will further demolish what little remains of our manufacturing base and our export capacities. CETA, the TPP and FIPA are exactly the kind of “trade deals” that we don’t want. They benefit the rich and the large corporations, while further eviscerating the economy and wiping out jobs. They represent a foolish and utterly failed economic model, the model of neoconservatism, or neoliberalism. Or more accurately, they represent shrewdly designed agreements which benefit the large corporations and the financial elite, and are intelligently designed for that purpose, while severely harming everyone else.
More over, and more critically, signing “trade deals” which undermine public health, labour and environmental standards, which threaten and undermine health care, education, pensions and other social programs, and above all, which effectively over-ride and undermine democracy, and which give corporations powers over and above parliament, can in no way be supported, or tolerated. This is the line in the sand. This will be the central battle line.
The political parties which have surrendered to the utterly failed, yet still reigning orthodoxy, or better said, the ideological hegemony, of neoliberalism, such as the Liberals and NDP in Canada, are the slow boat to full corporate rule and the destruction of democracy – albeit, a boat bedecked with a big brass band and festooned with ribbons and bows. Harper wants to take us in exactly the same direction, and to the same destination (which, possibly, the Liberal and NDP party leadership fails to see is precisely where they are heading). He simply wants to take us there at light speed.
So no, from all we have witnessed, the Liberals and NDP present no genuine alternative to Harper. They are neoliberals, whether they realize it or want to admit it, or not. The destination is the same in the end. If they succeed in toppling Harper, that is good, but we will still have to fight them, in order to get them on a saner track, or they will erode and slowly dissolve the nation, but simply at a slower speed, and with a hollow pretence of righteousness.
But to return to the element which divides the Harper Conservatives from the other major political parties in Canada…
The other element that the Harper regime has brought in, along with a corporate-driven neoconservative agenda, is something that can only be called crypto-fascism. I know, that is a very strong term, but when you look at Harper’s sustained and viscous attack on democracy in Canada, there truly is no milder term for it that is appropriate.
I won’t speak of other nations here, but there are clear parallels in other nations and regions. The thing that divides Harper from the Liberals and NDP is the level of Harper’s attack on democracy.
The Liberals and NDP plead the case that they are the parties of the middle class, the parties of the centre-left, or what have you. But they are the parties of neoliberalism, and neoliberalism represents disastrous policies, in terms of the economy, the environment, in terms of social programs across the board, labour standards, wages and benefits, pensions, health care, education….and the list, again, goes on. Neoliberalism, like neoconservatism, puts corporations, not the people, in the driver’s seat, and shapes the nation’s agenda around corporate, not public interests. As I say, disastrous is the only word for it.
The Liberals, and even more so, the NDP, will adamantly assert that they are not parties of neoliberalism – or rather, the few people in those parties who know what the word means, will assert it – but their defence rings hollow.
Every Liberal government that has come after the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau – who was the last of the traditional Liberals – was a neoliberal government, just as every Conservative government beginning with Brian Mulroney, has been a neoconservative government. Plead your case until the people are deaf, and sick of it, but your actions have spoken more loudly than your words ever can.
The last traditional Liberal government in Canada was that of Pierre Trudeau, and the last traditional Conservative government, with Joe Clark. Since then, for the past thirty years, we have had a succession of neoconservative and neoliberal governments, as corporate power laid siege to the major political parties and the political process, and the corporate take-over of Canada began in earnest.
Harper is simply the last in line in a succession of neoconservative and neoliberal governments that have placed their loyalties to corporate powers above the people. Harper represents the highest ascent to date of corporate powers, and the lowest ebb of Canadian democracy. But the other two major parties have followed close behind, in the race to the bottom, and in the service to trans-national corporate rule.
The NDP has slid so far to the right, along with the Liberals and the Conservatives, and the entire political establishment in the nation, since 1980, that they have essentially positioned themselves as the New Labour party of Canada. The new NDP wreaks of New Labour. And I am sad to say it, and I most definitely hope I am wrong, but Mulcair strikes me as the new Tony Blair – the corporate lapdog and the poodle of Washington.
I have near zero faith left in the NDP. They have sold their souls to corporate powers, from all that I can see, and pay only lip service to working people, social democracy, or anything that might serve the people of Canada in more than meagre piece-meal ways, while the country is dismantled by the very corporate powers to whom they have bowed down. Tommy Douglas would be appalled, and ashamed, I must say. The NDP has come a long way – down.
But as abysmal as neoliberalism is, and as abysmal as our options may be, and as abysmal as the Liberal and New Democratic Parties have become, a starkly anti-democratic and authoritarian crypto-fascist, such as Harper, who has shown nothing but contempt for the public, for public input or political engagement, for transparency, parliamentary process, science, public disclosure, free and open discussion and debate, and for democracy, is decidedly worse. The neoliberals are better.
So, as much as it sickens me to say it, I believe that, at least in swing ridings, where the Conservatives may or may not win, we should vote Liberal or NDP, or Green – depending on which party and which candidate has the best chance of defeating the Harper minion in that riding.
In ridings where the race is not remotely close, and where either a defeat or a win for the Harper Conservatives is virtually assured, then of course, vote your conscience. But in swing ridings, I do believe it is important to tip the balance, and, hopefully, remove Harper from power, or at least limit him to a minority government.
As I say, my analysis of the major parties in Canada, I stand by as generally correct – though I would love to see the Liberals and NDP find their spine, and become loyal defenders of the people and the land, instead of loyal pawns to Bay Street and corporate powers. But my refusal to vote strategically, which I still feel is generally best, in this case, should be set aside. Neoliberals are better than fascists. Harper has to go.
We will deal with the neoliberals next – and either force the Liberals or NDP, or both, to reject the neoliberal agenda of ceding vastly excessive powers and privileges to large, and typically foreign, corporations; or, if we fail to shift the alliances of one or both of these two major Canadian political parties, then we must abandon them, and seek other means of positive social change.
But first, let’s remove Harper from power. This man is more than a bad Prime Minister. This man is a menace, and a very serious threat to democracy in Canada.
My basic view is this. There has been a corporate coup in this country, and around the world, in the US, in Europe, and in most nations world-wide, and that corporate take-over of the political process and the governments of the world is on-going, and it is escalating. There is a full-scale corporate assault on democracy which is world-wide. Harper is gleefully in support of the rising corporate powers and the corporate oligarchy, and is eager, by all indications, to accelerate the demolition of democracy. The Liberals and NDP have shown no indication that they will seriously oppose or halt the corporate assault on democracy, or the corporate take-over of the nation – they lack either the integrity, the presence of mind, or the courage, at least to date. There is no reason to have any confidence in them whatsoever. The only reason to vote for them, is to remove Harper from power. And the best that we can hope to come from that, is that the Liberals or NDP, or a coalition of the two, would take a slightly slower path to full corporate rule. And that may be critical. That buys us time to build a pro-democracy movement in Canada to reclaim our democracy.
That we need such a movement, and urgently so, is not in question. And that added time that we gain by defeating Harper and removing him from power, may make a very big difference. This is why I now think, in this election, strategic voting is a practical necessity.
We have to slow the destruction of democracy, and slow down the corporate take-over of the nation, so that we have time to build a movement to stop it completely, and to restore democracy in more fundamental ways.
Vote Harper out. Then, we must prepare for the fight of our lives – for the fight will have just begun.
J. Todd Ring,
October 18, 2015
Revolution, reform, stagnation – or worse?
It is sometimes difficult to say what would be best for a given nation at a given time in history. There are things that would be desirable, of course, or which seem desirable, and things that are quite clearly, urgently needed – but in what way they should best be brought about, can be very difficult to say. There are many unintended consequences in life, and sometimes, good things turn out badly, or terrible things end up generating good responses, and good results in the end – though no one would wish for it to have come about in the way that it did. Ethics and compassion should rule our actions and guide our choices, but predicting what, precisely, is the best course, is virtually impossible. We simply have to use our best judgement, and go with that. Some things are clear, some not so clear. But we can say a few things with reasonable certainty.
We should remember that everything is subject to change at all times, and open to change, but one thing that appears to be clear, at least for the moment, is that the Canadian federal election is, by all indications, a non-event, since the three major political parties have either lost their courage, or lost their integrity, or both, and are all on-board with a pro-pipeline, pro big oil, neo-liberal, pro “free trade” agenda of de facto corporate rule – and the only party with any integrity, vision or courage has such little support that they are unlikely win. At the federal level at least, things look pretty bleak at the moment for Canadian politics. Harper has to go, without question; but the alternatives look very uninspiring, to say the least.
I will vote my conscience anyway, as always; but the election seems very uninteresting, and is likely to change little. Big oil and big business will, in all likelihood, continue to run the nation – and run it into the ground, and off an ecological cliff – while the majority of the people remain passive and apathetic, as their rights, civil liberties, democracy, freedom, social programs, environment and country are slowly bled away, and bled dry.
“Not with a bang, but a whimper” – maybe this should be the new Canadian motto, or even the chorus for a new national anthem. Where are the likes of Tommy Douglas when you need them?
We stand on guard for what? Oh, right – Tim Horton’s, and the television remote control. Who says hockey is the nation’s favourite past-time? Clearly, that spot is reserved for a most devoted tradition of public apathy. The courage seems to have gone out of this nation some decades ago, and has yet to return.
The US is in a similar state to Canada and other “leading” industrial nations in some ways, but is far more unstable, and could go in one of several very different directions – and, unlike the up-coming Canadian federal election, the US federal election which approaches could be decisive, and of profound import, with far-reaching consequences, not just for the people of the United States, but also, for the world.
In the US, if Hillary Clinton wins, and becomes the next president, then the majority of the people of the United States are likely to think, “Well, we should give her a chance, and see if she does anything positive” – and then yawn, and collectively go back to sleep.
So that would be nothing short of a disaster, to my mind, if she wins – to say nothing of her unwavering loyalty to Wall Street and her eagerness to start a war with Iran – which, by the way, is positively insane, since Russia and China have economic and military alliances and agreements with Iran, and attacking Iran, as Russia has made clear, could very well trigger a nuclear confrontation between the great powers, and quite literally start WWIII.
So a win for Hillary “bomb-em-now” Clinton would mean stagnation and no real change, at best, when what we urgently need is major change, and now; and it could mean the worst imaginable scenario – something infinitely worse than mere stagnation and inaction in a time of great, and growing crisis. For these reasons, I would have to say that a Hillary Clinton Presidential win would be disastrous for the nation, and, quite possibly, disastrous for the world.
If Donald Trump, or another of the far-right lunatics from the Republican Party, somehow manages to win, then we could see, not only the further looting of Main Street by Wall Street, exactly as Hillary would preside over, and as George Bush and Barack Obama presided over, and aided and abetted; and it would not only mean a probable, and even eager launching of a war that could very well, and very easily, lead to WWIII – also, in lock-step with the Hillary agenda – but we could also see the nation explode into civil war, by the hatred and tensions that could quickly come to a boiling point, and overflow in mass chaos and violence.
So if Hillary means stagnation at best, and disaster at worst, a Republican win would mean, most likely, disaster, or worse disaster. Neither Clinton or the Republicans are acceptable to any sane person. Both Hillary and the Republican candidates must be rejected.
But, on the other hand, a far-right Republican government that pushes the US over the brink, and into civil war, by further fuelling and igniting racial, class and other tensions, might well explode itself into the very grounds that give birth to a revolution. Some would say this would be a good thing. We should wish, however, if we are at all sane, that revolution would come about in better, and more peaceful ways. I would not say that this is a course of history we should wish on anyone. So heaven forbid that either Hillary, or one of the Republican representatives for the billionaire class – as Hillary is as well – end up in the White House. Either one would spell very real and great danger for the nation.
That really leaves only one contender in the race, and that is, the independent, democratic socialist from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders is a grassroots populist – in reality, and not just in rhetoric and PR spin, unlike Hillary – and has fought consistently, for four decades, for the middle class and the poor, and for progressive politics that will benefit all the people, and not just Wall Street, the corporate elite and the super-rich.
Sanders is now the front runner in key primary states, and leading in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, 10 and 20 points respectively, ahead of the former front runner, Hillary Clinton. He is drawing the biggest crowds of any candidate. He is generating a wave of excitement across the nation – even in died-in-the-wool conservative states.
Bernie Sanders has raised more money than any candidate – despite having rejected the billionaires’ money. He has, so far, generated over a million individual donations, averaging $24. And he has raised a million donations faster than any other candidate in US history, again showing the massive groundswell of grassroots support that is rallying behind him.
And he has a message, a vision, and a policy platform, that resoundingly resonates with the great majority of the people of the United States: get money out of politics and make the government represent all the people, and not just the rich; make elections publicly funded, so that they are free and fair; make the richest 1% and the large corporations pay their fair share of taxes; make health care and education free for all – up to and including college and university; stop the wars, invest in America, and rebuild the nation – and with an emphasis on fairness and a decent life for all. As one astute commentator put it, Bernie Sanders is what Obama pretended to be in 2008. And that is why he is loved. And that is why he just might win.
If Bernie Sanders does win, what would happen? It certainly would not spell revolution, and in fact, it could forestall a revolution. Senator Sanders would help to heal a broken nation that is on the edge of fiscal insolvency and civil war, and take it in a bold, positive, new direction. But it would not spell revolution. It would be bold, powerful social change, in a direction that most people would consider very, very positive, and very inspiring and hopeful, but it would not be revolution.
I’m not a capitalist, and I think there are better ways to organize human society, such as those outlined by Chomsky, Kropotkin, Bookchin, Michael Albert, Rudolph Rocker and Bertrand Russell; and I also think that it is clear that capitalism is intrinsically anti-democratic, exploitative, oppressive, dehumanizing and degrading, and limiting of human potential, by its very nature. But if one insists on keeping a capitalist system, even for just the short term or the present, then at least it has to be regulated, and its worst injustices and brutalities kept in check, while its benefits are more equally shared. That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is proposing to do, and it is hardly radical – it is simply a matter of common sense, basic ethics, and basic sanity.
There is still a great deal of red scare ideology in the US – that is clear. But fortunately, it works only on an uninformed, and misinformed, and shrinking minority. Look at Denmark, Sweden or Finland – these are democratic socialist countries with capitalist markets, and they work quite well with their mixed economies, and are also free and democratic. (Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, according to global polls – far above the US.)
In fact, these democratic socialist, mixed capitalist economy countries are much more democratic than the United States, which has descended into an oligarchy, as a recent Princeton study confirms, and is now ruled, not by the people, but by Wall Street.
Bernie would start to put a dent in that corporate oligarchy, and begin to bring the power back to the people, where it rightly belongs. And some people are afraid of that. Some are terrified of that thought – and these are the same business elites who now rule the nation.
Some are simply misinformed – others are working for the same corporate elite who don’t want their power or privileged position to be challenged. Ignorance, greed, egomania and power lust are the main sources of opposition to policies such as Bernie would bring in – and sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, these obstacles will be overcome, and defeated. At present, the majority of people in the US support the policy proposals Bernie Sanders is making. The minority who do not, seem to be living in an earlier era, namely, the McCarthy era.
The rest of the world no longer lives in 1955. It’s time for America to get with the program, and catch up with the rest of the world. Bernie will help the US to do just that.
The Founding Fathers of the United States were very alert, for their time, but they were not perfect, nor were they omniscient. In fact, as Chomsky has pointed out, the majority of them, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, despised what most people today would consider democracy to mean. The majority of the Founding Fathers believed in what John Jay said, that, “The people who own the country ought to govern the country.” That is to say that, aside from Jefferson, the Founding Fathers believed that, “We the people,” meant, “We, the rich, white, male slave owners” ought to rule the land. So reverence for the Founding Fathers expresses a basic ignorance of history.
(I admire Thomas Jefferson, but even he was a slave owner, which, of course, is unconscionable, and showed even his great weaknesses and contradictions.)
Democracy has evolved a great deal since 1776, and that is a good thing. Bernie Sanders would simply carry that evolution of democracy a further step forward – principally, by challenging the ruling corporate oligarchy that has high-jacked democracy, exactly as Jefferson warned would happen, 200 years ago – and by returning the power to the people.
If power to the people is something to be feared, then we really are lost. This is not something that should be feared, but embraced. And the majority of people in the US are ready for it, and support exactly the kinds of policies that Bernie Sanders is proposing, and urging.
The time has come for real change. And Bernie Sanders may well prove to be one more major drivers of that change. All indications are that he is precisely that: a driver of powerful, positive social change. The majority are ready for that, even if the oligarchy and a shrill minority will scream, and do.
The basic structures of capitalism would remain intact under a Sanders presidency – the benefits and working conditions derived from and experienced within the capitalist economy would be more widely and more fairly shared, more humane and more tolerable, but the capitalist structure would remain in place. For some, this would be seen as a good thing, to preserve capitalism. Others do not see it that way. I would say that, while Senator Sanders might delay a much-needed revolution (for example, delaying a radical shift in the control or ownership of the means of production, such as decentralized, community-based, democratic worker ownership, through worker co-ops, on a nation-wide scale – something along the lines of what Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Bertrand Russell or Peter Kropotkin have recommended), Sanders would, most likely, set the country on a better track, and steer it away from the implosion and sheer disaster to which it is presently heading – and that would be a very good thing. It is probably better to steer the ship away from the approaching cliff, then to watch it go over (or push it over) and try to rebuild from the wreckage. Dr. Strangelove may disagree, but I think this is the saner path.
Revolutionary change can wait – maybe not for long, but for a little while – in order to bring about some healing and recovery for a nation that is rapidly spiralling toward self-destruction: economically, socially, environmentally, and possibly politically as well. Bernie could be the person who can bring stability to a nation that is currently set to implode. While this might not be as idyllic an outcome as some would like, it might be the best thing we can hope for at present – and it is certainly infinitely better than the immediate alternatives on hand, such as Hillary or one of the Republican zealots would bring.
In fact, if Bernie Sanders does win, he just might inspire and unite the people of the United States enough, that they can bring about, not just much-needed reforms, but in the end, a much-needed social, political and economic revolution as well.
Certainly, having a true populist democrat and progressive as the next President of the United States would not instantly change everything and right all wrongs, but it would be a start, and a very good start at that, I would say.
I believe it is possible that Bernie will win. I certainly hope so. And if he does, then yes, that is only the White House – but that is a powerful office, of course, and inroads could be made from there towards making real change.
If nothing else, Bernie could use the White House as the world’s most powerful podium, and from there, inspire the people, through popular movements, to create the changes that are needed on the ground, and to put the required pressure on Congress, and on Wall Street, to make further, bigger changes.
So the White House is a starting point for bigger things – and a powerful starting point. And I think he’s going to do it. I think he’s going to win.
In conclusion, I would have to say this. In the US, Bernie Sanders deserves support, and deserves to win. Certainly there are no other major candidates that are remotely supportable. It’s Bernie, or Wall Street candidate A, B, C or D. The choice should be clear.
In Canada, the situation is much less exciting, but the election is still extremely important. Harper has to go, and if that requires strategic voting – something that I normally am strongly opposed to – then I now think that this election warrants it. Harper’s assault on democracy is simply too grave for us not to use every peaceful means at our disposal to remove him from power. Do vote. And vote strategically – and get Harper out.
J. Todd Ring,
October 18, 2015
Election 2015 and Strategic Voting: Madness, Or Practical Necessity?
An economic and political analysis of Canada, neoliberalism, and the world
CNN’s own polls show Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential debate last night, Tuesday, October 13, 2015, hands down. When CNN polled, and asked “Who won the debate?” 83% of people said Bernie Sanders. 83%. Yet, CNN headlines are splashing the big, bold message, Hillary wins debate by landslide. Can the media be any more Orwellian – and blatant about it? Better said, and more to the point, can they be any more disgusting?
Not only is CNN completely distorting, misrepresenting, and flatly lying about the public response to the debate, proclaiming, utterly deceitfully, that Hillary won – when their own polls show the opposite is undeniably true; but they are shamelessly and blatantly slathering support on Hillary, in an open demonstration of extreme bias. The corporate spin in favor of the (Democratic) candidate for corporate America could not be more stark, or more brazenly obvious.
This is why, by the way, CNN has been hemorrhaging viewers, along with the rest of the corporate media – because more and more people see through the propaganda, spin and distortion, and are sick of it.
By the way, C-SPAN also reports that its own polls indicate Bernie won the debate by a landslide.
So it is clear: Bernie has a tremendous and rapidly growing support from the people – far more so than Hillary, who is widely viewed with suspicion, and deep skepticism, and as a Wall Street hack – which, of course, she is; but the corporate media, surprise surprise, don’t support the populist candidate who has declared a war on Wall Street, and the billionaire class who have taken over the political process (as well as 90% of the US media). The network media supports the candidate most favored by big business and corporate America, the candidate who is awash in corporate political “donations”, Hillary Clinton.
None of this should be surprising, but the popular support which is confirmed, and unequivocally confirmed by the public response to last nights debate, for Bernie Sanders, is heartening, and hopeful; while the pathetic display of manipulation, spin, and sheer corruption of the media, is dismal indeed, and in fact, deeply sickening.
The Republican candidates are fringe candidates, frankly, and it is hard to deny – they are lunatics from the extreme right wing of (corporate-driven) American politics. And they have only a slim support among the people. On the Democratic side, three of the candidates have now destroyed their chances of winning after last night’s debate, leaving only Hillary and Bernie, effectively, in the running.
83% of Americans feel strongly about the need to get big money out of politics. It is the single hottest issue in the country. And that includes an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats who feel this way. Bernie’s central message, and his central campaign platform, is to reign in Wall Street, break up the “too big to fail” banks, which the great majority of the American peole also support, and get big money out of politics. So Bernie is resonating with the American people in a deep and broad, powerful way – and with people from across the political spectrum, including liberals, conservatives and progressives. Meanwhile, Hillary is widely viewed as just another politician: a poser, a mouth piece, a shill, a PR machine with a hair-do – not all that dissimilar to Donald Trump (another hawkish war-monger and cheerleader for the agenda of corporate America the billionaire class), but more polished, and with a better hair stylist and PR handlers.
“We have seen a rapid movement in this country toward oligarchy, toward a government owned and controlled by a handful of extremely wealthy families. We need public funding of elections [as Norway has, for example], which will enable any candidate to run for office without being beholden to powerful special interests.” – Bernie Sanders
Hillary has picked up a good deal of Bernie’s talking points, and is now trying to paint herself as a progressive, but the polls show that people remain sceptical about her – and rightly so. Hillary is awash in corporate money. Any talk she makes about getting big money out of politics would be supremely hypocritical and hollow, and everyone knows it. As the Christian Science Monitor said, prior to the debate, all the candidates have something to prove. Hillary had to prove she has integrity and honesty, Bernie, that he is electable. Well, the polls showed clearly, after the debate, that Bernie is definitely electable, with 83% of CNN poll respondants saying Bernie won the debate. Hillary, on the other hand, blurted out in the midst of the debate, “I represented Wall Street”. Her credibility and integrity in the eyes of the people remain shaky at best, and more likely dwindling.
As I say, Bernie’s message of getting big money out of politics is resonating with the people across the nation, while Hillary’s trustworthiness is seen as questionable at best. This is why Bernie’s support has soared, from him being virtually unknown across the US just six months ago, to leading Hillary in key primary state polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, to clearly winning the Democratic debate by a landslide, according to CNN and C-SPAN polls, while Hillary loses ground the more she opens her mouth, and the more the people get to know who Bernie Sanders is.
The tide is turning. I would say, in fact, that it has already turned. The first true populist President of the United States in a very long time, the first true President for the people, and not for Wall Street and the super-rich, in a very long time, is about to arrive. His name is Bernie Sanders.
Go Bernie. The groundswell of popular support will not be stopped, no matter how hard the corporate media tries to kill it.
J. Todd Ring,
October 14, 2015
Update, October 22, 2015: CNN has now deleted its own poll from its website