Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trying not to be a rant about the Canadian election

Yes, I know. That title just turned off all but my most die hard readers, all 3 of you. But none the less, I've been thinking about the election and want to put my thoughts before you. As many of you know I've ranted about politics in the past, but I'm trying to be serious here.

There are about 91000 voters here in Calgary Southwest that are the only people in Canada that can cast a vote against Stephen Harper directly. Everybody else votes for or against their local candidates. They may base their vote on what they think of the leaders, but they actually only vote the local candidates.

Before I go any further I just want to say this:
Get your ass out and vote!

Now that I've got that out of my system, let me resume. As you might have gathered, I'm not going to vote for Stephen Harper. Why not? Until fairly recently he had my reluctant approval. By and large he has governed pragmatically, and hasn't done as badly as he could have. There is no denying he is a very smart man, quite possibly one of the smartest Prime Ministers we've ever had. Pity about the dark side.

However, on the other side of the ledger there are some serious issues. Partisan politics are to be expected in our system, and that's all well and good. Harper takes it to a new level. There are credible assertions that he wants to destroy the Liberal Party. Not just remove them from power, but remove them from the political arena. This to a party that has governed Canada through much of our history, who's values have helped form us into what we are today. Such a course of action is beyond the pale.

There has been much talk from Harper about "a scary coalition", and he outright lied during the debate about how our government works. He knows perfectly well how it works, and it quite prepared to twist the rules to suit his convenience, whether it's by seeking a coalition to unseat the Liberals a few years ago, or to prorogue Parliament to avoid a vote he knew he'd lose. I don't want to get into the details of it, but coalition governments are perfectly legal, as is a government that holds less seats than another party.

He knows that even if he wins a majority, it's doubtful that he would get more than 40% of the popular vote. Yes, that's entirely possible. Our system rewards the big parties. The Green party got nearly a million votes last time, about 6% of the popular vote, and ended up with zero seats. There are 308 seats in Parliament, so they should have got about 18 seats. With only slightly more votes, about 10% of the popular vote, the Bloc got 49 seats. Harper wants to make it seem like an NDP and Liberal alliance or coalition would be dangerous and morally depraved at best, and illegal at worst. Bah!

There were other outright lies during the debate. He says there are no corporate tax cuts happening now. He actually cut the taxes several years ago, and the cuts are taking effect now. He says that canceling these cuts is a tax raise. Disingenuous at best. These cuts are going to the biggest corporations that already pay little or no tax, and it's been shown that such companies are not likely to use the money for job creation. It just goes straight to the bottom line, with some of it being siphoned off to reward the people at the top. If you're going to cut corporate taxes, they should be cut for small corporations. Like to zero percent.

He says that his government being found in contempt of Parliament is a mere nothing, just a partisan bit of bickering that is an artifact of not having a majority government. This is the first government in the history of Canada to be found in contempt, and we've had lots of minority governments.  It happened because he wouldn't produce documents required by Parliament, and it was done by rules that haven't changed since the country was formed.

He is campaigning in a bubble, taking only 5 questions a day from reports, and none from anybody else. He ignores questions he doesn't like. During his time as Prime Minister he muzzled everybody. Ministers, backbenchers, senior bureaucrats, senators, everybody. Saying something to the press that he hadn't authorized would get you fired. If you were part of an organization funded by the government, you would find your funding cut if you said something he didn't like.

One of his goons tried to steal the ballot box at the University of Guelph. A voting station had been set up to help the students vote. While it was slightly irregular, Elections Canada has said the votes will stand. Then the Conservatives tried to spin it as a defense of democracy. As if students voting was an attack on democracy somehow.

It goes on and on. I say Mr. Harper is unfit for office, and doesn't deserve my vote. I admit that leaves me a problem in deciding who to vote for. It is a puzzlement.

I always look at the independent candidates, if any are running. There is this time, and he qualifies as a fruit loop. He says, and I quote "I am running for the Christian Heritage Party for Calgary Southwest because it is the only Federal Party that is committed to the Supremacy of God's ethical laws in the crafting of federal administration and legislation." I happen to think that organized religion has little place in society at large, and no place at all in government. So he's out. (A person's individual spirituality is another matter entirely, and none of anyone else's business.)

There are NDP and Liberal candidates running, and I have problems with both parties. The Liberal brand is toxic in Alberta, after Trudeau and the National Energy Policy. That was nearly 30 years ago, and Albertans remember. The candidate herself seems acceptable, with a history of service and various public offices.

I haven't yet looked at the NDP candidate personally, but I think NDP policies in general are fiscally unsound. This is in spite of thinking that the leader of the NDP did the best at the debate by far. I was impressed, and that's saying a lot. If Harper and the Conservatives are too far to the right, the NDP are too far to the left. Even though I have opinions on the whole left right political spectrum thing, I won't get into it here. (For my American readers, translating our political parties onto your political map comes out like this. Our Conservatives would be considered soft and unsound Republican's, much too moderate to be trusted. The Liberals would be thought of as the socialist end of the Democratic party. The NDP would be thought of as out and out Communists. They would no doubt be astonished to learn there is actually a Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, and even more astonished to learn that it gets some votes. They'd probably resurrect McCarthy and fire up the House Committee for Un-american Activities.)

The Green Party candidate's main thing, only thing, is the repeal of the current cannabis legislation. Do that and all will be well, according to him. The Green Party platform overall has a few wonky planks but one could certainly stand up and reasonably compare it to the major party platforms. I've voted for them in the past because the parties got about $2 per year per voter, and I thought they could use the money. That may well be my choice this time, holding my nose from the odour of the pot smoke.
I suppose I should say that in general I'm in favour of de-criminalizing cannabis possession for personal usage. Hemp is an incredibly useful plant that can be made into a variety of products. But I still think that inhaling combustion byproducts is a bad idea.

Voter turnout has been dropping year after year. I hope that changes this year. I hope most of the voters turn out to cast a ballot. Harper has been deliberately trying to turn off the voters through the negative attack ads. They've been shown to piss off people and drive them to not vote. Which the Conservatives are counting on, because they've galvanized their supporters, what with all their fear-mongering about crime, scary coalitions, and the economy. To say nothing about the long gun registry.

Bah, I say, Bah. Harper didn't create the institutions that helped carry the Canadian economy through the recent economic turmoil. He did the right things (economic stimulus) only reluctantly. Coalition governments are a legal, and constitutional practice, if admittedly somewhat rare in Canada. Crime rates are falling. We have no need for a massive program of jailing people who disagree with Harper, I mean, criminals who have fallen afoul of the many new laws Harper wants to enact. He's openly talked about an omnibus bill of all the get tough on crime legislation that hasn't passed in the House, (including bills he killed), which doesn't impress me at all. Omnibus bills are a great place to sneak in little time bombs. Which he's done in the past. One incident was cutting off the funding for the other parties, and a pretty kerfuffle THAT caused.

So there you have it; why I'm not voting for Harper, and why I'd encourage you to not vote for your Conservative candidate. There are lots of other people doing this as well. The example I'm most familiar with is Edmonton Strathcona, where the NDP is currently the only non-Conservative MP in Alberta. The NDP candidate is very popular in the riding, has done well in Parliament, and is working her tail off to keep her seat. The Conservative admits he's losing. What's even more impressive is that the Liberals are essentially not contesting the riding, hoping to avoid splitting the vote. They don't say so of course, but given our voting system, it's only practical. If I lived in that riding, I'd be voting NDP.

You might not think your vote matters, but when you, and your neighbours, and fellow citizens think the same, we get governments that are even more not representative than what we deserve. So, like I said before:
Get your ass out and vote!

And now for the fitness stuff.
My run on Sunday really was harder than I thought. My legs were sore for several days after. Yoga on Wed was really good, and helped stretch me out. Then I was feeling lazy on Thursday and Friday after really busy days at work.

Today I got on the bike and had a great ride, indoors of course. It's snowing out. I did a good long warmup to get into the groove. Then 20 minutes in the second biggest cog at 90 rpm. 5 min easy, then 10 minutes same gear at about 93 rpm. Another 5 easy, and then 5 in that gear at over 95 rpm. Then 5 easy going into the next hardest gear at 90 rpm. After another 5 easy back into the easier gear again and cruised for 20 minutes between 85 and 90 rpm, feeling good. The easy parts had some easy spin as well, and some spin ups during the cool down. Two hours altogether.

I'm feeling much stronger on the bike, and much happier about it. Last year this time was brutal. Oddly enough, even though I'm not as active as last year, I think I'm at the same level or even better in terms of cardio fitness. I think I'm stronger in terms of core fitness. However, I don't think I'm as strong on the endurance front.

It's hard to find the balance between work and fitness activities, and I'm still struggling with it. I feel mild guilt about not working out as much as last year, but keep reminding myself that my priorities are different this year.


  1. Excellent post Keith! It shocks me that people still vote for Harper and the Conservative Party. No idea why Alberta is so blue. Does anyone remember the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties...I say coalition right there. I will be voting and it wont be for the Conservatives!

  2. I am a sucker for a good political rant Kieth....and nice transition to the "fitness stuff"

    I wish I had a pithy and clever comment to the political rant. Sadly, it seems that there are few good choices out there, and it's never satisfying to vote for the lesser evils, yet sometimes that's what it comes down to. I suspect if
    more of the electorate paid as close of attention as you do, this wouldn't be a problem... ((sigh))


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