Tag Archives: Canada

Think Like a Stakeholder

The Bloc may have been Orange Crushed, the Green Party may finally have a seat, and the Liberals may be sitting in a corner thinking about what they did, but I get the sense that most of my friends are angry about last night’s election of a Conservative Majority.

It might have been the low voter turnout, it might have been the Liberal Party Platform of “Hey, what are you going to do, vote conservative?”, but Conservative Majority is a reality, and no amount of calling Harper a robot or “Bush Jr.” is going to change that. Calls for electoral reform only dissuade us from the real problem, which is that my generation does not understand the Conservative mindset.

I really think that we have this image of the CPC that’s made of more ideology than reality. We talk about Conservatives like they are an irrational race of hairy barbarians who enjoy beating anything smaller than themselves with hockey sticks. They want to divide up the country among the rich and powerful, destroy the environment, and execute mentally handicapped criminals. Any intellectuals, poor people and minorities who have a problem with that can suck it.

We take this view at face value and yet we ignore anything that conflicts with it. Why would they be popular with low-income voters if they only serve the rich? Could it be because they keep trying to lower taxes and make home ownership more affordable?

The Liberals and the NDP have been praised for offering us “Freedom from” policies. Like freedom from poverty, health care, or child care costs. While the Conservatives are determined to take away those policies, they want to instead offer ownership stakes. The idea is that if you own your own piece of Canada, you’ll work harder to make it a better place. Is this a better offer? Can the other parties match it?

Until we can fully appreciate what goes through the heads of the politicians and voters that have made up this government, we will be cut out of the national decision making process. Public health care, education and the environment will be subject to the whims of the Conservatives. While they have shown themselves to be capable, by no means do they have a complete picture of how to run this country.

Debate Hashtag Fail

Last night’s leader’s debate made for some mildly entertaining background noise. Sources say Jack Layton was the winner, though I think that was just because he was able to modulate his voice to sound vaguely human. Gilles Duceppe is once again permanently surprised by everything. It’s the same old set of issues they should have been settling in parliament instead of having to get us out of bed to say anything about it. Harper’s a criminal. Ignatieff’s an immigrant. Jack wants all your money. Gilles wants all your money for Quebec. Where are we going exactly, as a country? What purpose does parliament have beyond maintaining the status quo? You can’t make healthcare more free than it is this second. Cold War’s over. Sub-prime mortgage has all but taken care of the US. We’ve already had the Winter Olympics and won Gold for Hockey. Why not do something crazy, like go to Mars, or make Canada carbon neutral? We have a country that can make all of our dreams come true, and we’re entrusting it to an aristocracy of middle managers.

There’s not much point to an election in my riding anyways. Abbotsford isn’t conservative stronghold so much as we elect our officials based on two factors: One, their advanced age. Two, their ability to fend off large predators. I’m serious, the other candidates in the riding are trying to get votes based on “issues” and “reason”. It’s kind of pathetic to watch. Abbotsford respects strength! No amount of kissing babies is going to change that. If Madeleine Hardin decides to drop a dead coyote over her podium or something, then we might have an interesting election.

Immigration

A Thai ship believed to carry 490 Sri Lankan Tamils arrived in Esquimalt Harbour in Victoria, B.C. August  13, 2010.

Whether we liked it or not, the Tamil refugee ship docked in Victoria, and  the 490 passengers made it safely into the hands of the BC correctional system. Handling that many people at once isn’t such a problem for our border and immigration services. They see about 30,000 refugee claimants a year. It still made a lot of people think good and hard about how (and if) our immigration system works.

It’s clear that there are people-smugglers are involved in this, but I don’t believe that the Tamil refugees had many options other than that tramp freighter. While I haven’t met anyone trying to immigrate to Canada, my friend Tarra had to go through the US system to be with her husband in Seattle. It was expensive and a bureaucratic pain in the ass, but I imagine it was preferable to spending three months in a crowded ship with a suspect toilet. Sri Lanka doesn’t exactly have the best human rights record, and these are members of an ethnic group that just lost a major civil war. When the Tamils in Toronto speak to the media, they often hide their faces so that their relatives back home won’t get harassed by the authorities. It doesn’t sound like they could just go to the Canadian consulate in downtown Colombo and start the immigration process.

I think the government is doing exactly what it needs to do: investigate the refugees on a case by case basis, and prosecute any snakeheads or terrorists that they find. Liberal MP Keith Martin suggested that we set up refugee camps abroad so that we can undercut the people smugglers and put them out of business. Personally, I don’t think you should need more than a clean criminal record and an A on your TOEFL to get into this country.  We have so much room. Canada’s so depopulated it’s like we’re doing a dress rehearsal for the rapture or something. Immigrants also create jobs by using government and commercial services. Our sales taxes ensure that they provide revenue for the rest of us. Taking refugees also undermines repressive regimes that we don’t like, but don’t have the money to topple militarily. It’s easy to get angry when we see the government devoting time and money to people who aren’t citizens, but if we’re committed to human rights and democracy, I can think of no better way to put our money where our mouth is.

On Writing Letters to the Government

First, a little bit of background. The Canadian Board of Health recently appointed Bernard Prigent, Medical Director of Pfizer Canada. This presents a potential conflict of interest because the last time a Pfizer executive was appointed to a Government advisory committee, their recommendations included reducing support for generic drugs and doing away with drug research committees like UBC’s Therapeutic Initiative.

A friend of mine sent the Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq a letter explaining that appointing Mr. Prigent would skew the boards decisions in favor of Pfizer’s stock price rather than the Canadian People. The Health Minister’s reply was a single page of a two page letter, stopping in mid-sentence. (Click to Enlarge)

I wonder if the good people of the Health ministry are aware of their position here. To them, this might be a small office mix-up, but in the age of viral social media, word gets around. This one letter alone is not enough to start a revolution, but it raises questions about how the Canadian government communicates with people. Even if you disregard the missing page, it carries that passive aggressive tone of “we appreciate your concern, but you’re just an anonymous screwball, so there.”

So if were not going to rise up against the corporate plutocracy, what are we to do? For now, we’ll just make a note of it, keep an eye on the situation, and spread the word. This is just one example of the government acting callous, but if we come up with more of these, then we’ll start to see something happen.

Remembrance and Honour

Earlier this year I took a trip to Corregidor Island, one of the pivotal settings in WWII’s pacific theater. The shrapnel-riddled  buildings and bomb craters only hinted at the kind of scourge visited on the soldiers who fought there.The level of brutality seemed almost mythic. It’s almost impossible for a person of my generation to imagine the decisions that led to disasters like the Bataan death march, the concentration camps, or even the bombing of Dresden. Thanks to advances in global communication, countries and people who a short time ago were our enemies seem close enough to be neighbors. Still, there is a generation coming that has never known Canada at peace. My wife’s students were 4 years old when the war in Afghanistan started. I am now old enough to have both friends and family in the military. They’re putting their lives on hold so people like me can get their lives started. We owe it to them to do all we can to remember their predecessors, and to honour the work they do today.