The end of the government of Canada.

So it’s official. There is no longer a government of Canada. There is now the Harper Government. It’s appearing on the letterheads now.

Though Harper himself has proven unable, in the face of popular outcry, to push this through in its entirety, the fact remains that he has tried. And will try again.

I’m glad, in a way. It draws a useful distinction. It helps us remember that this isn’t our government. This isn’t the Canadian state. This is something else entirely.

For me, at least, It makes it easier to realize that this band of old creeps has nothing to do with me. Or my country. It helps me to look people from other countries in the eye and tell them the truth, which is that I increasingly no longer recognize my government. Not in some petty ideological sense, but in the most fundamental way. I want nothing to do with it.

I once dreamed of a career at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade. Of representing a country I was genuinely proud of. But that was a different time. I was young. Idealistic. I had faith that I would be doing something worthwhile.

Not shilling Alberta crude in Washington. Or working for John Baird. I’d honestly rather turn tricks. I’d feel less filthy at the end of the day.

Gradually it became obvious that government work in today’s Ottawa would be like wading knee-deep into congealing cement. Pointless, boring, and ultimately stupid.

I didn’t want to be so cowed by my obstreperous, rude, and in some cases clearly rather stupid political masters that I wouldn’t feel able to speak out against something like this idiotic name change  ‘for fear of retribution’ as the Globe and Mail rather drily noted that most civil servants are in today’s Ottawa. I value my  integrity and my pride.

I didn’t want to watch as my funding gradually receded under the unthinking axe of some idiot minister, enslaved by a paleolithic ideology, and animated ultimately by a contempt for everything I hold dear.

And above all, I didn’t want to help them do what they’re doing.

I didn’t want to help them build bigger and more expensive jails to hold the waves of new ‘criminals’ they’re incarcerating. I didn’t want to be party to the mass beating of the peacefully demonstrating citizens of Toronto in their own streets with the unthinking fists of thugs from out of town at the G20. I didn’t want to lie through my teeth to the rest of the world about the wonders of the ‘oil patch,’ or ‘ethical oil,’ or any of the other thousand and one euphemisms we’re now obliged to call the tar sands.

I’d rather work for the Government of Canada. I’d rather be an active citizen of a country I can still be proud of.

But I will never work for the Harper Government. Not so long as it bears this stupid name.

There’s so much we can be proud of as Canadians. We’re peaceful, we’re tolerant, we’re compassionate, and we’re friendly. We mean well. We really do. We just find it hard to care about politics right now, because they’re so dispiriting, petty, and low.

Which is, of course, something Harper doesn’t care about. Or at least doesn’t mind. The more apathetic and tuned out the Canadian public becomes, the more we are lulled and fattened by the gushing fountain of petro dollars keeping our economy afloat, the easier his job becomes.

The easier it becomes of him to rob us of our hard won social protections. Or to pointlessly glorify our military. Or to suck the damn oil out of Alberta as fast as he possibly can, no matter what gets destroyed along the way.

He thrives off the fact that we don’t pay attention.

So I will no longer ever refer to the Government of Canada in reference to the actions of the Harper clique. I will call it what he doesn’t have the courage to do. The Harper Government. Something distinct, alien, and terrible.

Not something that has anything to do with the country I love.

Trudeau, Harper, and how a real statesman treats terrorism.

This is how you deal with terrorism.

Openly, reluctantly, and in the broad light of day. In defense of the spirit of freedom.

Watch it. In it’s entirety when you have time.. He treats Canadians as grown-ups. As people who can understand his reasoning, and follow it. He explains that he is only shouldering the sweeping powers of the War Measures Act with the greatest reluctance, and will rescind them as soon as it’s within his power to do so. And he did.

Now with that in mind, stop and look at what the Harper Government has announced will be the next order of Parliament’s business.

It’s Bill C 7. It allows the government to arrest you before you’ve committed a crime, and to hold you for up to three days without charge or trial.

It also allows the government to hold you for up to a year without trial if you refuse to answer questions put to you by a judge in a so- called ‘investigative hearing.’

It’s a bad bill. It shouldn’t pass.

And nothing that has happened this week will change my mind. Indeed, if anything, I will note with gratitude that the RCMP seem perfectly capable of doing their jobs and isolating and apprehending terrorists without this legislation. They’ve done good work this week.

Though the Globe and Mail may, in the light of recent events, feel that somehow the situation has been changed politically by this attempted attack, and that Harper’s legislation is now praiseworthy and considered, I am less…malleable on this issue than they.

Proponents of the bill claim that it merely restores certain fundamental legal tools necessary if we are to combat terrorism. Tools that were originally passed into law under a Liberal government.

That’s true. I remember being aware of the debate at the time. I was 12, so much of it was over my head, but I remember where my sympathies lay then, too. And it wasn’t with the governing Liberals.

It was in the hysteria after 9 11. You remember those days. The fear, the hatred, the panic. Not one of us was thinking clearly. And even in our angered fervour, we still felt it necessary to sunset some of the more controversial parts of the legislation. Because we felt they were excessive powers that the state shouldn’t possess.

And I’m sorry, but two foreigners looking at a train doesn’t feel like a reason to give the state those powers.

Trudeau was faced with his friends and colleagues, in the case of Pierre Laporte, men he’d known all his life, being kidnapped. Unbelievable rumors were flying around Montreal. There was talk of more kidnappings, of a provisional government preparing to overthrow Premier Bourassa, of apprehended insurrection. If he had only believed half of them, he’d still have felt it was his responsibility to bring in the War Measures Act.

And, I repeat this, he rescinded the powers it gave him almost immediately after the situation had stabilized.

The Harper Government, and in fact most governments around the world at this moment in time, are bringing in sweeping powers to arm the government forever against a nebulous, abstract concept.

We always just seem to accept this. We seem to tolerate a definition of ‘terror ‘that could be, and indeed has been applied to a diverse group of peoples around the world, including the Irish, the Tibetans, the South Africans, and, indeed, the Canadians, who at one time or another, have resorted to violence to achieve an end.

Terrorism is unique, because it is uniquely a crime against the state. It is the state that feels most directly shaken by an act of random violence against the population. Because it undermines the essential claim the state makes; that it is there to protect its citizens. If it can’t do this, what’s the point in having it?

My essential point is this. In Trudeau’s Canada, rights were temporarily suspended to deal with an unprecedented and dangerous situation that threatened the very fabric of Canadian Confederation.

In Harper’s Canada, rights are joyfully stripped from the statutes under the pretense of defending us from the abstract concept of terror. From something that is always hypothetically possible, but which scares us so much we can’t be rational about it. And the government uses and exploits that fear to cow us into a scared silence as our rights under the Charter are taken from us.

There’s more than a cosmetic difference.

Joyce Murray Revisited: Electoral Cooperation and Defeating Stephen Harper

It occurs to me that it may have been rather rude of me not to mention the other candidates in my blog a few days ago. I chose not to on the principle that if I was just going to rubbish them with my reasons for not voting for them, it was better to say nothing at all.

The truth is, I have nothing but respect for all of them. They’re liberals who have put their lives on hold because they want to serve this country. And they should be honoured on that basis alone. Martha Hall Findlay put it best in the first debate. This is one hell of a shadow cabinet.

Having said that, I’m not going to get all valedictory and praise each candidate’s merits in turn. They know that they’re in this for real. They don’t need my praise. I certainly hope that George Takach is going to run as an MP, because we could really use him in parliament, and the same goes for Bertschi, MacCrimmon and Coyne.

Indeed, I’ll point out that most of my favorite candidates in this race have not been sitting MPS. That’s a testament to what’s been happening. It turns out the race really did revitalize the party. It turns out we really did have an honest, strong discussion about what our future is as a party. It turns out the old establishment have been overturned for good, and the party is back in the hands of ordinary Canadians. It turns out that large portions of the Canadian media are looking a little stupid today.

I’m not going to write sweet nothings to the sitting MPs in the race. They’re all far more substantial than I, and don’t need my praise anyway.
I am, however, going to outline why Joyce Murray was at the bottom of my list. And why she’s now third.

Joyce Murray I was afraid I just in good conscience couldn’t vote for. I thought, and still suspect, that the Cullen/Murray cooperation plan was cynical, divisive, and just bad politics. I thought it reeked of the kind of self-righteous entitlement that lost us the trust of Canadians in the first place. It smacks of the same flawed logic that made people honestly believe that a coalition with the NDP and Greens was somehow a good thing. That it wouldn’t have been annhilated in the election that probably would have happened within weeks.

You can rage all you want about the fripperies of first past the post, which I’ll admit are absurd, but if you truly loathe Stephen Harper and all he stands for, as I feel many Liberals rightly do, you have to beat him. You have to stand up, and you have to beat him. You can’t just fiddle with the rules to try and finagle yourself the power you feel you rightly deserve.

You have to earn it. And you have to earn it from the new Canadians, and the workers in Alberta who fear for their jobs, and the population of Quebec, and all those who have begun to feel either that perhaps Harper isn’t so bad after all, or that someone else is better equipped to beat him than we are.

Because, and this is the truth that the Murray campaign recognizes, we’re not the only ones who want him gone. We know what he is. We’ve been following his insidious demolition of everything we love about our own country. We know how it feels now, to hang our heads in shame on the world stage.

And though blowing smoke about his ‘hidden agenda’ has become tiresome, as he’s quiet, and bides his time, and certainly doesn’t appear to be dismantling the liberal state, but the fact remains that there is something deeply sinister happening in Ottawa today. A secretive, clubby, repressive, and authoritarian clique increasingly dominate the city, and Canada is being ruled as a series of fiefdoms by a federal government that is completely disengaged from the broader life of the nation.

and Joyce Murray, to her credit, cares about that.

Perhaps I could vote for Ms. Murray, if I truly understood the logic behind the cooperation plan. Perhaps I’m painting it in too negative a light. Perhaps the truth is that definitions like Liberal and Socialist and Conservative have ceased to have the meaning they once did. I should confess that calling myself a liberal these days has increasingly begun to feel like I’m calling myself a Chartist, or a Bonapartist, even. It feels somehow outdated. As though that fight is over, and a new one has begun.

Perhaps the nature of the game has changed, and we need to acknowledge that we’re facing a different, far more sinister opponent than just the Tories. Perhaps we’re facing the organized power of a particular segment of private enterprise, that is seeking to unfairly influence and dominate the rest of the country. And without being coy, I’m talking about the tar sands.

Yes, the tar sands. It’s what the rest of the world calls them. Because it’s what they are. You’ll just notice the media doesn’t call them that here.

Perhaps the trouble really is that the country is being run with one interest in mind; that of the oil barons of Calgary. Perhaps ‘screw the west, we’ll keep the rest’ has finally come back to haunt the ‘Laurentian Establishment,’ as John Ibbitson calls them, and it really is Alberta calling the shots now. Perhaps social conservatism, heavy-handed, authoritarian government, and a crueller society all around are our future. Perhaps, as Thomas Homer-Dixon recently pointed out in an article in the New York Times, we really are beginning to exhibit the warning signs of being a ‘petro state.’ Perhaps Harper is just our vicious right-wing version of Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A petty despot living on oil revenue and using it to impose his will on a country that for the most part hates him.

The thirty percent of voters who are consistently in lockstep for Harper’s Tories represent a tiny fragment of the population. One that you can be sure does, in large part, well out of them, or they wouldn’t be voting for him. To continue with the petro-state analogy, so does the Saudi Royal family and those close to them. So do the people who fell in line with Chavez’ United Socialist Party. So do those Russians who toe the line and vote for United Russia and praise Putin to the skies. So do the clique of clerics and their friends who currently run Iran.

It doesn’t matter what twisted ideology you import to justify your slow seizure of the country’s resources, as the above list demonstrates. Harper’s is a hodgepodge of the dumbest kind of US republicanism, the slightly nutty fixations of the old Socreds, the straight-up bigotry of the old Canadian Alliance, and the crumbling relic of what was once the Progressive Conservative party.

John Duffy once wrote, in a book I no longer own, which I thus can unfortunately not source, called Fights of our Lives, that historically, western Canadian fringe parties generally get gradually absorbed back into the eastern mother party.

But for the first time in our history, that hasn’t happened. The Canadian Alliance staged a coup in the conservative movement. They took it over. The eastern establishment PCS fell in line because they were promised the fruits of power. The Albertan nutbars like Stockwell Day we spent the 90s laughing at are at the controls. Because one of them, it turns out, is a calculating, devious, and ferociously brilliant sociopath. And he’s ruining everything.

He’s building thousands of new prisons to incarcerate a population he barely cares about. He has no trouble watching his own population be viciously beaten in the streets of Toronto by testosterone-crazed loonies from out of town. He doesn’t give a damn about how Israel treats the Palestinians because he knows he can lock up a series of Toronto ridings by slavishly supporting a right-wing kleptocracy that has taken the dream of Israel hostage, and used it to savagely oppress another people.

He’s shutting down government sponsored science. Mainly because it keeps coming to inconvenient conclusions about global warming. But also because he just doesn’t care. About science, or global warming. Neither fit in his monomaniacal vision.

He’s lulling Canadians to sleep. One day we’ll wake up to find the country we loved gone. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Unless we beat him now.

Perhaps Joyce Murray and Nathan Cullen are the candidates who acknowledge that stopping Canada’s Republicanization is more important than any petty rivalry the NDP and the Liberals may have had in the past. Perhaps they acknowledge that what is now being undertaken by the Harper government is so fundamentally abhorrent to Canadian values that it needs to be stopped at any cost. Perhaps they are the new left. The bold left. The visionary left that will stem the tide of corporate influence in Ottawa, restore reason and sanity as the bases of pariamentary policy, and banish the reactionary ideology of the Canadian Alliance to it’s long deserved electoral grave.

Or perhaps it’s that cooperation is the shortest route to power. I don’t know. I’m curious to find out. So I’m going to put Joyce third on my ballot. Just to make it interesting.

How I’ll be Voting in the Liberal Leadership Race, and why.

So it’s come to this. After months of struggle, schmoozing, debates, meet and greets, and snide remarks from the media, Liberals across the country are choosing their next leader.

Not some cloistered stadium full of delegates and hacks, but real people, across the country, with an interest in restoring Canada’s promise after the long years of Tory skulduggery, small-mindedness, and venality.

And you know what? More people have just voted for one of the six Liberal candidates than voted for the NDP in 2011.

The party is back.

I’m currently trying to cast my vote, but am experiencing difficulties. Mainly because I can’t access the help phone lines because they’re completely jammed.

I’m happy to wait. They’re busy, and they deserve to be. But in the meantime I’m going to explain publicly who I’m voting for, and why.

Some people like to keep this a secret. Others find it rude to even be asked about it. Personally, I’ve never understood that mind set. Of course, a secret ballot is integral to democracy, and it’s something people are perfectly entitled to keep to themselves, or not, as they choose.

And I choose to tell people what I stand for. Because I’m not ashamed of it whatsoever.

So I’m going to explain, partly for my own purposes, to clarify my thinking, and partly because I don’t care who knows it, who I’ll be voting for in the preferential ballot I’m about to fill out.

A word on preferential ballots: They’re an absolutely brilliant way of ensuring that the majority of voters’ preferences are registered, and the candidate who has the broadest base of consensus support takes the cake at the end of the day. No chicanery, no absurdities like the ones that we all know first-past-the-post can create. Just the will of the people. Clearly stated.

What I’ll be doing in a few minutes is ranking the six remaining candidates by order of preference. My first preference vote will be noted, applied to my chosen candidate, and so on down the line. Candidates will gradually be knocked out of contention, and the ballots they collected passed on down their lists of preferences until eventually a winner receives a majority of the ballots cast.

In case you’re interested, for whatever reason, here’s how I’ll be voting.

My first preference vote will be going to Deborah Coyne, and my second will be going to Justin Trudeau. Bronze medal goes to Martha Hall Findlay, fourth to Karen MacCrimmon, with Martin Cauchon and Joyce Murray bringing up the rear.

To some, that may require explanation, or even justification.

I worked on Deborah’s campaign. Admittedly not as hard as I should have, for a number of personal reasons, and perhaps not with the greatest deal of expertise, but with a certain raw enthusiasm for her and her ideas. She’s a wonderful woman.

I came back to Canada recently from several years abroad, and found myself in a bit of a political vacuum. I had viewed Canadian politics through the prism of the foreign media for four years, and while glad to be back, was a little under informed. But I bought my Liberal party membership, which I had been meaning to do for some time, and set about learning about the candidates.

I had little to go on but their websites, and so started there. Being interested in public policy myself, I scoured the various candidate pages for evidence of the new ideas and new thinking that I was convinced the party needed.

Which, in fact, we desperately still need. We’ve effectively lost our way in the years since the death of Pierre Trudeau. Since the waning days of the Chretien administration we have offered little but economic competence and federalism to Canadians as a justification for the right to govern we seemed to simply claim, with some arrogance. I won’t comment in detail here about past mistakes, as it isn’t the place, but a number of them were made, and Canadians turned away from us. Which we deserved.

So I was particularly hungry for policy that day as I searched for the person I thought would do the best job as leader. And Deborah’s website was a revelation.

There were ideas. There was vision. There was a comprehensive approach. There was a blueprint for the country’s future that I could get on board with, and which I’d still really like to see happen. You can still find it on her website. It remains incredible.

She’s spent her life thinking about this country, and how it could be better. She’s Pierre Trudeau’s  intellectual heir. The muscular federalism, the concern with social justice, the belief that Canada is at its best as one country, and not as a ragtag collection of interest groups and disparate provinces, it’s all there. If you believe in the legacy of Pierre Trudeau, and love the country he gave us, Deborah Coyne is the one who understands where it goes from here.

She’s one of the brightest minds in the Liberal Party. And would give Harper a run for his money in any election. So she gets my first choice. We’d be lucky to have her as PM.

But the majority of the party wants Justin. And frankly, I understand why.

He’s young, he’s personable, he’s articulate, he’s effortlessly bilingual, and his hair is perfect. Just perfect. He may also have what it takes to be a truly great Prime Minister.

I should concede that I have my criticisms of him, and have been far from uncritical in my assessment of him. I’ve called him a featherweight. A hairdo. Someone who can’t be trusted with the leadership of the party.

But I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my time, and most likely will continue to.

The fact of the matter is, he’s not a bad guy. In fact, he seems like a really good one. And he’s built the sort of grassroots, modern campaign architecture that the party needs to be competitive today. To say nothing of the fact that his ascendancy, and that of the bright young turks around him, spells doom for the old fuddy-duddies who have brought the party to the brink of ruin since the Chretien-Martin years. This is a new party now. And it’s Justin’s.

The Tories are calling him the Liberal’s ‘pretty pony.’ Let them. A pony looks a lot less pretty when it’s kicking you in the face.