Oh Canada! Where Art Thou?

With each passing day I find myself asking the question – what has happened to Canada during these Conservative years. It’s been said that Tory times are tough times, but considering what we have in power now, I’d gladly take the real Tories like Joe Clark, David Orchard and yes, even Brian Mulroney. While I couldn’t and wouldn’t always agree with them, at least you knew where they stood and for all their blunders, at least they left some meaningful legacies behind. The ‘Tories’ of today on the other hand, seem to have delved into a bizarre world where up is down and wrong is right. And as for legacies, I struggle to find one meaningful thing that a majority of Canadians could agree upon by this government.

For over the past few years Canada is now a place where:

  • We have replaced experimental lakes with fake lakes.
  • Gazebos equal security.
  • Transparency and openness have transformed into appointed officials taking the government to court to see requested documents.
  • Government information ads have turned to non-stop propaganda – paid by the taxpayers of the nation.
  • Increased duties mean tax cuts.
  • Questioning the government means you are a radical or a supporter of pedophiles.
  • Omnibus budget bills of 20 pages are a problem but ones 20 times larger are not.
  • A per-vote subsidy is a bad thing, but 28 illegal campaign contributions is just an oversight.
  • A single junior staffer can run a country-wide electoral fraud campaign.
  • Scientists are to be seen but never heard.
  • Smaller government means a historically large PMO.
  • Fiscal responsibility means $16 glasses of orange juice and massive deficits and debt.
  • The root cause of terrorism is terrorists.
  • Robocalls are just a way of helping Canadians to the polls.
  • Attack ads and character assassination are go-to campaign materials.
  • Blue-washing government website portals is streamlining.
  • Supporting the troops means denying and delaying benefits.
  • Fishing and lobster feasts equal search and rescue training.
  • A medical isotope shortage is sexy.
  • Set election dates are not really set.
  • Senate reform includes appointing party faithful.
  • And on and on.

And before anyone claims I am only hard on the Conservatives – I’ve been writing on politics for over a decade now and I was as hard or harder on the Liberal Party under Chretien and Martin. The Liberals were not always open and transparent and at times seemed intent on selling Canada to the lowest bidder via trade deals not in our favour, but they knew how to run an economy and govern for the majority most of the time. That cannot be said now. This current government really could care less about the majority or how they always say one thing than do another. They refuse above all else to ever admit to being wrong.

Sorry to say, but a party born out of deceit stays in deceit. Stay strong Canada, the light at the end of tunnel is approaching. And if the Greens, NDP and Liberals find a way to work together come election time, that light will be a glaring spotlight of change.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

Peter Penashue – Deception or Ignorance?

With the case of Conservative MP Peter Penashue’s overspending, donation irregularities and airline write-offs one must ask as disdainful as it is, was he being purposely deceptive or was he just plain ignorant of the rules? In response to the allegations before him, Penashue hid away from the opposition and media and later reappeared in his home province where he released an online cop-out where he blamed his official agent for any mistakes.

Penashue’s official agent for the 2011 campaign was Reg Bowers who responded to Elections Canada at one point by stating, “Given the circumstances, record keeping and budgeting did not get the top priority. In the beginning we had very limited funds, we couldn’t get internet connection and, as mentioned, very limited help so there was a lot of wasted time running back and forth using my own computer and resources. We had to make the most of what we had and what we knew and I got advice wherever possible.”

In response to being blamed by Penashue, Bowers stated, “When it left my desk, it was under the cap.”

Bowers was removed as official agent for Penashue after being replaced by the Conservative Party’s chief financial officer. For his work Reg Bowers was rewarded with a golden position as a federal appointee on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

So with the overspending and irregularities in his electoral campaign return, including possible corporate donations, the question of deception or ignorance is a valid one. Penashue seems content to blame the official agent yet every single candidate for election in Canada must go through the same procedures in order to run for office and at the end for their candidate electoral campaign return. Penashue ran for the Conservative Party of Canada – the same party that likes to brag about their deep pockets and top-notch campaign team, yet this combo failed to stay within the rules and when caught out – flail about with blame.

So how is that candidates for the parties with no seats like the Christian Heritage Party or the Canadian Action Party who neither have deep pockets or election winning campaign strategists, managed to fill out their forms correctly and stay within the rules, but Penashue could not? They also had rookie official agents and candidates, and also had to wade through the same Elections Canada literature, regulations and forms – but with one glaring difference – they appear to have got it right and stayed within the rules.

Penashue should also explain how and why he signed his name to the following without knowing that everything was correct and within the rules:

Elections Canada form EC 20120 (all candidates must sign this declaration)

I hereby solemnly declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief:

– the information contained in this return is correct;
– all election expenses in respect of the conduct or management of the election have been properly recorded;
– no money, goods or services have been provided by way of loan, advance, deposit, contribution or gift during the election, except as appears in this return; and
– no other person or entity has, on behalf of the candidate made any payment or given, promised or offered any reward, office, employment or valuable consideration or incurred any liability on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of the election, except as specified in this return.

I make this solemn declaration conscientiously, believing it to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act.

To all of this Penashue has managed to say, “I’m not quitting, I’m not quitting. It’s very important to me that my constituents understand the allegations and the comments being made.” We would all like to understand how Penashue signed his name to the EC 20120 declaration without knowing if it was correct or not. Someone wishing to take on such an important role as MP should ensure that anything they put their name to is above-board and factually correct. Is that too much to ask?

So if there was no deception intended, was it down to just ignorance of the rules? Outside of Parliament each of us is held to our actions and in our places of work if we managed to bungle something so important and then sign our name to it – most would be facing the unemployment line. The least we can do is hold our elected officials to that same standard. PM Harper thus far is standing by his man.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

New Federal Politics Journal Starts Today

Today marks the start of the new Federal Politics Journal. We have begun work on the website and social channels.

The Federal Politics Journal will include writers and video bloggers from Canadian federal political parties and their supporters. Members or representatives of federally registered political parties in Canada are encouraged to sign up and have their voice included.

Supporters of the various political parties or those looking to write, create videos etc in a general political sense are also encouraged to create an account and be part of the new Federal Politics Journal.

Please stay tuned for more and if you want to sign up please create a new account or contact us for more information.

Alternative Political Protests

This year at the annual 420 event in Vancouver where everything marijuana is celebrated and observed including the political scene around its use – it took on special meaning. With as many as 10,000 locals taking part in the event and thousands more looking on or passing by the very busy location at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the political message for this event was rather clear even if the air was not. At this alternative political event enemy number one was the Stephen Harper lead Conservative Party. With the Conservatives making strong overtones towards taking a harsher stance on marijuana use, those in support of marijuana came out and made their voices heard.

There were representatives that were spotted by the FPJ staff from the NDP and Green Party. There may have been others but we didn’t come across them. We expected to find the Marijuana Party but try as we might, we couldn’t locate them and nobody we asked could remember seeing or hearing from them. Which isn’t wholly surprising considering the amount of consumption going on. The Green Party Youth were handing out leaflets explaining the Green Party position on marijuana as found in their party platform.

There were other groups like those behind WhyProhibition.ca also using the event for spreading a political message. The leaflet they were handing out read in part – “You wouldn’t let your grandparents choose who you date – then why let them choose your government.” With the crowd most made up of under 30’s, this type of message was the norm for the day.

Jodie Emery made a speech to the crowd between live bands to talk a little about her husband Mark who is currently serving time in a US prison for selling seeds to American citizens and to rally the crowd towards voting based on the issue of the day – marijuana. Across Canada there will be political rallies held at all types of events but none quite like this one. You can view her speech below:

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May Denied Spot In Leaders’ Debate

Just like the last federal election, the broadcast consortium has decided that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will not be allowed to address the nation in the debates. And just like last time – expect there to be an uproar and upwelling of support for Elizabeth May and our democratic institutions. It wasn’t only Green Party supporters who rallied to get May into the debates in 2008, there was also much support form non-Green voters because they realized the ramifications on our very democracy. When a party that fields candidates in every riding and qualifies for our tax dollars is not allowed in the debates – something is terribly wrong with our democracy. We should be working as hard as possible to open up our democratic system and have more involvement but this decision smacks that very notion down.

Now of course, just like in 2008, the biggest supporters of the ban are the Conservative party and their followers who are already trembling with excitement at the thought of one less voice against their party. What they fail to realize is that this action polarizes our national stage and ensures that some undecided voters will not go to the Conservatives this election. Maybe they don’t care, or maybe they figure they have enough support without the undecided voters, but either way, these actions will stick on the party name. The Conservatives are already having a hard enough time playing nicely inside our democratic model without being seen as just doing more of the same.

At this point nearly 1 million Canadians who voted Green last election may not get to hear their chosen party speak. Youth who make up or would make up a significant portion of the Green Party vote are going to be further turned off our democratic model and this comes at a bad time when so few vote as it is. Why is it that the media consortium believes that a party that can field candidates in every riding is not worthy of being heard? Their cop-out answer – they don’t have any seats. If Canada had a modern voting system like most of the world the Greens would have seats – a couple dozen of them, but saddled with the first past the post system, they get shut out even though their vote count nearly echoes that of the Bloc. And speaking of the Bloc Quebecois, many Canadians outside of Quebec are asking why they have to see the Bloc leader whose party they cannot vote for, but the party they can vote for who will run a candidate in their riding cannot. It makes little sense.

The Federal Politics Journal would like to see a cut-off set high that would be the threshold for the debates – 90% of ridings must have a candidate fielded to have the party leader in the debates. Anyone familiar with the rules around our elections will know that is no easy feat. And any party that does meet that threshold should be heard by all – seats or no seats. Democracy is only healthy when it is not caged or constrained. Or in the case of the broadcast consortium – based on some formula they refuse to tell. How does that help democracy in Canada when an unelected group representing corporate interests get to decide whose voice is heard and whose is not? And if that doesn’t dispel the notion of a “left-wing” dominated media in Canada nothing will.

Two things remain – will Elizabeth May and the Green Party rally enough support to be included and will the other political parties say or do anything to help?