Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 Post-Election Thoughts

After a marathon of an election campaign that turned out to be more surprising than expected, I thought I'd post a few thoughts here as the 42nd general election becomes part of the history books.  Having lived in quite a few places in my working life and maintaining ties to a few of them I found myself paying attention to not only my own riding but a few others as well.  Then of course we had the Conservative implosion, the NDP evisceration and the Liberals rising from the dead.  Rather, than write too many paragraphs, I've decided just to focus on a few points that have occupied my thoughts.  

1.  David Yurdiga wins in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake - No real surprise here.  This is Alberta after all.    I found myself making many secret predictions as the campaign wore on and this was the only one that was a sure bet.   Obviously I'm no Yurdiga fan and would have loved to see a different result. But the people of the riding have spoken.  Interestingly, after the provincial election earlier this year, this leaves our region with both an provincial government and a federal government that runs against a long history here of voting for Tory.  It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  Just how much influence Yurdiga will have now in Ottawa is anyone's guess as I would argue that he was just as useless during the last Parliament but time will tell.

2.  Cracks in the Tory's Alberta fortress? - I suspected the Liberals would pick up a seat or two here but the provincial NDP's gains here simply didn't translate onto the federal scene.  I think perhaps many Albertans saw what had happened in the provincial election and, sensing Liberals gains in other parts of the country, decided to vote Tory to counter-balance this.  At least, that's my interpretation of it.  At least we can be confident that the province won't be shut out of Cabinet in the next Parliament.

3.  Liberal majority - I'll leave the analysis to the pundits and political scientists but as late as a week ago, the concept of a majority, and especially a Liberal majority, never registered with me.  It's actually still sinking in for me as for the longest time I would have bet the farm on either a Tory or an NDP minority.

4.  When people vote, Canadians win - It was wonderful to see from media reports that the number of Canadians who voted in this election was the highest in 20 years.  Our riding here is notorious for having low voter turn outs.  In last years by-election, the participation rate was a ridiculous 15% and in the 2011 election it sat around 40%.  This year, however, just over 60% cast ballots.  I love to see people exercise their democratic freedom to vote regardless of whether I agree with their politics.

5.  Bye-bye Leona - Another riding I followed aside from my own was the Nunavut riding since of course I used to live there prior to moving to Alberta.  I knew Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq wasn't very popular their and would be in a tough race to win re-election against a strong bid from Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo.  As an aside, I can say that I personally met both candidates while I lived up on Baffin Island.   In such a small population this is bound to happen but I still found it a pretty neat experience.  I remember Tootoo as a very effective MLA during Nunavut's first governments after splitting from the NWT in 1999.  The riding will be well-represented.

6.  Eastern Ontario surprises - If I had a "WTH" moment during election night, it would definitely have to be in regards to a trio of eastern Ontario ridings voting Liberal.  Granted, its been 15 years since I lived there but growing up this tended to be very strong Tory country.  Perhaps the boundary re-distributions had something to do with it, or people were just fed up and wanting change.  The Tories seemed to have a pretty commanding lead at the start of the campaign in Northumberland-Peterborough South, Peterborough-Kawartha, Bay of Quinte and Hastings-Lennox and Addington but blew huge tractor tire on election night.  The Liberals taking Peterborough-Kawartha I'm sure had a lot to do with the Dean del Mastro nonsense but seeing a big red blotch painted in the blue sea between Toronto and Ottawa is something I'm not used to seeing and wouldn't have predicted.

7.  Windsor/Essex stays NDP - I lived more or less permanently in Windsor, Ontario for 7 Herb Gray's old riding of Windsor West as a matter oaf fact.  There's no question the NDP are very strong here (and coming from small-town conservative Ontario I felt like a fish out of water, politically speaking) so I tended to keep my head down.  No real surprise the NDP did well here though I thought for awhile that neighbouring Essex County would vote Tory along with much of the rest of rural south-west Ontario.  I remember it always being a tight race between the NDP and the Tories and fortunately (if you are an NDP at least), the party was able to wrestle this seat back from the Conservatives.  Which was a good thing for them especially because.............

8.  NDP Evisceration - I expected the NDP to take a hit but I didn't expect them to fall this much....all the way to 44 seats.  While I'm not NDP fan I was hoping that they would at least be able to finish off the Bloc Quebecois and finally put them out of their misery but alas it was not to be.  I don't envy Mulcair and senior party leaders who are now faced with rebuilding the party almost from the ground up.  Certainly the loss of some long term MP's will be felt for some time.  They will still be a force in this next Parliament I'm sure but definitely not on the scale they were following the 2011 election.

9.  The rise of the Libertarians - As one who voted for a small party, and is interested in seeing it grow and thrive, I was great to see a big increase in the Libertarian vote.  While the party attracted some support back in the early '80's and billed itself as Canada's 4th party mainstream party, the rise of the Reform Party attracted a lot of it's right-wing away and pretty much killed off the Libertarians for a couple of elections.  This year, the party saw a whooping 522.72% increase in votes, from roughly 6000 total voted in 2011 to a little over 37,000 votes in 2015.  Yes, it's small, but I feel the party did a much better job at getting its message out and much of the party's success can be attributed to party leader Tim Moen, who actually used to live right here in Fort McMurray until recently.  I've always been interested in the formation and growth of small political parties and the entire process behind that but that is a whole other topic.

10.  New Prime Minister - And of course I couldn't complete this post with at least some thoughts on the Prime Ministers.  In an attempt to be as non-partisan as possible, I think Harper's wooden style just didn't work for many Canadians (and then there is a whole slew of Tory policy on top of that I'll just leave aside for now)  Clearly, Canadians were looking for change.  Will see this with Trudeau?  That remains to be seen of course.  I got the sense that Canadians went a little bit too American during the campaign and there was too much focus on the leader....the hold "cult of personality" vibe.  Leaders are important of course but they aren't the only component of a political party or a government.  I think that in the end, this focus on personality really came back to bite the Tories.  While there is much Liberal policy I disagree with I'm willing to give Trudeau an opportunity.  After all, the Tories under-estimated the guy and we saw the result of that the other evening.

Monday, October 5, 2015

David Yurdiga, The Wrong Choice for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake

Well.  I tried.  I honestly did.  I really was hoping to get through this federal election campaign without giving it too much mention.  But I now appears that I can no longer do that.  Recent unanswered queries on social media to my current MLA, David Yurdiga, have compelled to say something on the blog and not remain silent any longer.  Mr. Yurdiga has failed to inspire and I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I truly wonder just how interested David Yurdiga is in hearing from constituents when he fails to show up to candidates debates (in Cold Lake as well as Fort McMurray) and can't even be bothered to answer questions.  Recently I posed a few questions to our local candidates to gauge their position on some matters.  I did hear back from our NDP MLA as well as the candidate running for the Christian Heritage Party and while I won't be voting for either I did appreciate their feedback.  The CHP actually admitted he wasn't up to speed on the one issue regarding Nutrition North and while that's obviously not going to compel me to cast a vote for him, I will freely admit that his complete honesty was a breath of fresh air considering the dishonesty I'm used to seeing (If perchance you read this, you have my thanks, Mr. Roeloff).

Anyhow, back to Mr. Yurdiga.  It seems to me that he is merely following the Conservative playbook by dodging concerns and not making himself available at public forums.  While he maintains he wants to focus on door-to-door canvassing I can't help wonder if he wants to avoid situations where he is not in control.  If he meets an unreceptive response at the door he can just move on.  The only ones who knows about it are himself, the homeowner and and hangers-on who might be with him.  In a public forum of course, he can't control the questions asked and there are many other people in attendance as well as the media.  If studying politics has taught me anything it's that it is VERY important to control the message.  And yes, I'm aware that Mr. Yurdiga has had to take time off the campaign to aid an ailing wife.  I can empathize with that as my mom went through a battle with cancer over the past year. BUT, this issue of ducking out on debates preceded his hiatus and was even an issue noted here during last year's by-eleection.

I have questions regarding the country's (increasing) debt, the Conservative Party's weird fetish for focusing on wedge issues, Nutrition North, Senate reform and many others.  And yet, Mr. Yurdiga can't be bothered to address them.  I think this is absolutely shameful and disgusting.

Mr. Yurdiga, this is pathetic.  You will NOT be getting MY vote.  You don't deserve it.  You have taken a party that I grew up for voting and turned it in to a complete shambles and circus.  You have demonstrated through your action (or in this case your inaction) that you DO NOT care what constituents have to say.  Feel free to spin it however you wish but your sad attempts at justification fail to convince.

All your government's talk of "accountability" is downright laughable.  How appropriate that he was raised on a farm as the man was obviously born in a barn when it comes to manners.  Mr. Yurdiga, I don't know about YOUR so-called Conservative values but I was raised to believe that you own up for your actions and that you account them.  You have failed to do this.  I've even had an provincial NDP MLA drop me a message admitting his party made a mistake.  While supporting the NDP is too much of an ideological leap at least he manned up and admitted he was wrong.  I respect that. I really do.  But I have absolutely NO resect for a man who tried to pass himself as having his constituents' best interests in mind when all I've seen is the exact opposite.

Mr. Yurdiga's government likes to talk a lot about accountability but simply fails to deliver.  If you can't be bothered  to take FIVE minutes out of your day to answer even one question and address a concern you don't deserve my vote.  Clearly, you have seem to forgotten exactly who you work for.   You are a public servant.  I help pay your salary.  Therefore, YOU work for ME.  I shouldn't have to chase you down to get an answer.  If you don't like this simply reality than I strongly re-evaluate why exactly you are running to be a leader.  That's not leadership, Mr. Yurdiga.  It's an outright sham.   So do me a favour "sir".  Don't bother stopping by my door.  Don't bother to claim that you hold small town Conservative values.  You don't.  Don't bother claiming to represent me.  You don't.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rejecting Fear

For someone who's always taken a keen interest in politics, I know I've been remarkably silent during this election campaign.  Yes, there have been a few times where I've felt compelled to write something, usually out of outright frustration and yes, even anger.  I've held back though mainly because commenting on social media about something while angry usually isn't a very smart idea (as a few federal party candidates have by now discovered) and let's face voice is only one of several during this campaign.

I do have to say that I find it interesting how certain parties tailor their message to a certain audience. A few days ago, I came home to a political flyer in my mailbox.  It mentioned the oil sands, which is fine.  It IS a major employer here.  But that's ALL it mentioned.  As if there was nothing else that I might be interested in and that's all that matters to my community.  This party didn't seem interested in addressing other issues....I'm guessing this is because they are politically damaging to them and wold rather see them shovelled under the rug for the time being.  This is nothing new, I suppose.  Political parties have always done this.  But it seems to me that with so much social media out there that we are continually being fed a whole host of wedge issues that only serve to distract (or attempt to distract) from other issues.

With all the nonsense we've been fed regarding certain religions and the threat of crime and terrorism and "old stock" Canadians I felt compelled to speak out on my Facebook page.  I can't think of a better way to really put what I said here on the blog so I'll just quote verbatim what I wrote there...

"My brother is gay but it doesn't affect my life. He isn't trying to "recruit" me. One of my sisters is Christian She isn't trying to "convert me." Another sister is a hunter and firearms owner. She isn't a "gun nut". A guy at work is Muslim. He isn't trying to terrorize me. The guy with the locker next to me at work has a shaved head and looks like a gang member. He's taught me lots about the trade and is a soft-spoken guy who calls his wife during every break. She's a lucky woman. I work with a 6'4" Congolese guy who could fold me into an accordion if he wanted to but he has an awesome sense of humour and always asks me how my day is going. According to politicians, these are all scary dangerous people in one way or another. But if I followed their logic, my life would lack the richness and diversity that it has BECAUSE of these people."

And while I'm not blind to the fact that bad things happen I can't help but feel somewhat insulted by the constant stream of fear-mongering I've seen during the past several weeks.  I should add (and here I give away some  of my political biases) that I've always been somewhat Conservative and I've tended to vote that way in the past.  I grew up in small-town eastern Ontario where voting blue is pretty much part of your DNA.  The difficulty I've always had is their veiled sense of nativist and I dare say racist bs that to me, has only seemed to become more overt.  

I really wish the politicians that peddle this type of crap would get out and meet people.  Understand that every group is comprised of INDIVIDUALS.  (Which is a given that Conservatives like to pound away at the fact they are so pro-individual.) They are not all the same.  As I've discovered for myself, once you break out of your little cocoon and experience the bigger world, you will find all sorts of people who will enrich your life.  I know I have.

I think the one think that has made this election campaign the hardest for me is that while I fancy myself a fiscal conservative I am very much a social progressive, which makes for a certain level of cognitive dissonance in terms of how my views currently line up with what the major parties are peddling.  Thankfully, I have found a ideological home in a smaller party and while I don't agree with everything, its enough to make me want to vote for them and gives me hope that there is another way other than the garbage espoused by the traditional parties.  Anyhow, I digress.

As it stands, our current MLA will most likely be re-elected.  I could run my cat, a goat or a small screaming child (which is what most politicians seem to act like these days) under that party's banner and it would win.   I am heartened by the fact that we may very well end up with a minority government so he won't have it all his own way.  I suppose, the fear-mongering and negativity does motivate me in a way, just not in the way that a political party intends it to.  My MLA may not know who I am, but I can guarantee that he will know who I am as I have every intention of keeping the heat on him over the issues I care deeply about.

I don't appreciate a politician who ducks out on political debates. I don't appreciate a politician who apparently sees my community as a one-horse town.  I don't appreciate a politician who blatantly lies to me in an email response....and I certainly don't appreciate a politician who engages in fear-mongering.  We can do better than this.