An Election Closes: Random Thoughts

The Conservatives can still win.  No that isn’t delusion talking it really can happen.  There’s a compelling argument to be made around their handling of the economy.  But a good economic record does not a full government make.  When you add in Stephen Harper and all the scandals, controversies, bad ministers, and bad Senators over the last decade the economic record lies in shadow.  A Conservative win without Harper becomes necessary if they’re able to form a government.The niqab as a wedge issue hasn’t worked.  But it’s shed light on the idea its significance is debated even within Islam

The idea of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister has become less scary than when the campaign first started.  He has grown into his role as party leader, and Canadians have picked up on that.  If he wins he needs to watch the “judgement calls”.  Having your campaign co-chair resign days before a vote doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  Neither do some of his candidates forced resignations after social media postings.  Should he win, he’ll be judged on how he handles himself in the role.  Parts of his platform may not stand up to the reality of governing.  Promising to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) is indicative he’s willing to be pragmatic.

The N.D.P.  are the victims of this campaign.  At the beginning they were set to govern.  Their campaign looked pretty sharp, and Mulcair got Harper to admit that Canada was in a technical recession at the Macleans debate.  The problem? He hasn’t repeated it since.  It could have been a kill moment for him that might’ve won it. Through the middle, and end it’s been a bit shaky. Some argue their financial numbers are suspect, and won’t work.  It’s a long-ranging platform with some vision to it, but with the possibility of a minority government they should’ve prioritized.

In Milton it’s felt like a dirtier campaign than others.  Signs have been destroyed, rumours started.  Conservative candidate Lisa Raitt has cleared the record on a few things to do with C.N.. The Liberals’ choice of candidate in Azim Rizvee may have shaken  free a few progressive votes.  It’s shaping up to be a battle between those two, where to use a cliché: every vote counts.  So get out, spend 10 minutes at your voting station and mark an “x”.

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Put all the Anti-Harper Posts Away: He’s done

The one thing that becomes clearer during the last week of any election is voting intentions.  We don’t see a clear winner coming out in the multiple polls, but we do see things crystalizing.

That’s true of this election as well. The common conclusion is that likely a minority government awaits us on October 20. It likely won’t be led by Stephen Harper regardless of the Conservatives’ fortunes.

Too much has happened under Harper’s watch.  There have been multiple supreme court rulings against his government over issues such issues as prostitution, where former Justice Minister Peter MacKay has proposed legislation. The residency of one of his own potential judges was challenged, and the candidate deemed ineligible.  There’s even a pending case on #C51 winding through the system.

Bill #C51 itself is another reason he’s likely done as a Prime Minister.  The anti-terror legislation has drawn criticism from every corner over the lack oversight for intelligence agencies.  Among the powers it grants is the ability to hold someone for 7-days without a warrant. During its passage, the R.C.M.P made a few terrorism-related arrests.  It begs the questions: Is new legislation warranted? Are there any measures already on the books to be broadened/ updated?

Harper allegedly muzzled scientists from talking about the uncovering of the Franklin Expedition.  Former journalist for the Toronto Star Paul Watson lost his job over it, and published this piece for Buzzfeed where he details the entire tale.  The scientists were muzzled to make the Conservative government look good.

Consider the criminal trials.  The image of Dean Del Mastro being hauled off in leg irons makes it hard to push a law & order agenda.  Bruce Carson, a former advisor to the Prime Minister faces allegations of influence-peddling.  And last, but perhaps most damaging is the ongoing Mike Duffy Trial.  At issue here is the question of if Harper knew Nigel Wright was paying Duffy’s $90 thousand in expenses.

It all makes it nearly impossible to win another majority.  And then you add in the man himself.  If half the media reports are to be believed Stephen Harper doesn’t like sharing.  He built toward his two majority governments with gradually increasing minority mandates.  To go from having the power to do virtually anything you want back to having to share isn’t something he probably wants to do.  His fellow party members would consider it a failure, and the knives would come out.

A Conservative minority mandate is possible.  If it happens it won’t be with Harper as leader. The opposition has said they won’t back a Harper-led government.  Everything  above is traceable back to him, and his ministers.  It sticks to  him and people remember it.  He’s done.

The Niqab debate: A conflict of values

Is-wearing-a-Niqab-compulsory-in-Islam

The Conservatives have announced plans to appeal a Federal Court ruling that allows women to cover their faces with Niqab while taking their oath of Citizenship.   It’s becoming a polarizing issue that could potentially could win them the election.

There’s a case to be made for a ban.  Yes there are charter rights to express yourself, and practise your own faith both of which are met by wearing the niqab.  There are also rights guaranteeing equality under, and before the law.  An accused person has the right to set eyes on their accuser.  And how can you do that if someone’s face is completely covered and refuses to testify by video link?

The use of the niqab to preserve modesty is  debated within Islam.  Some such as Raheel Raza believe it, and the burka should be banned in all public places.  She wrote a column advancing her opinion in the Toronto Sun.  “The niqab, and the burka have nothing to do with Islam,” she said.  She called both the symbols of ISIS, and called out the Canadian judiciary for “caving to Islamists.”  There’s also an argument that it’s cultural based on country, and what sect of Islam you belong to.  In banning it, we’d be standing up for our own cultural beliefs and establishing Canadian values as being an open, honest society that expects the same of its citizens.  Is that a bad thing?

It’s tough not to look at someone wearing a burka or a niqab and understand why someone would actively choose to wear it.  Canadian women have the entire world at their feet free to make choices, and express opinions the same as their male counterparts.  It’s a natural assumption that women who wear the niqab are potentially being forced to do this.  If it were banned we’d be forcing equality, which is also considered a Canadian value.

Democracy is where this argument falls apart.  Because in a democracy; especially one as tolerant, and open as Canada’s is you can’t tell people how to express their faith.  You can’t tell people what to wear either.  It could be argued that if Canada considers itself a true democracy then of course we can’t ban it.  Everyone should be free to do what they choose even if we don’t like it.  We’re free to express that dislike.

It’s a conflict of values. How far does tolerance go? Does it stretch to allowing a practise that many Canadians label oppressive and are unable to wrap our heads around?  Does it trump equality where men & women are seen as equal?

Election Digest: Weeks 7&8

Two for the price of one this week.

1.”Old Stock Canadians”: A curious turn of phrase from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper towards the end of that debate.  In a country built on immigrants what does it mean? The question is still unanswered.

2. Alex Johnstone: An N.D.P. candidate in Hamilton made waves as she admitted she didn’t know what Auschwitz was after an embarrassing Facebook post surfaced from 2008 in which she compared wired fencing to a phallic symbol.   She apologized, and is reaching out to Jewish groups.  Auschwitz is an infamous concentration camp used by the Nazis as part of their “final solution” during World War II.

3. How much will the N.D.P. platform cost? The New Democratic Party (N.D.P) become the first of the three major parties to provide numbers.  Included is a hike in the corporate tax hike as of January 1, 2016 from 15-17%.  Other numbers: The cost of the childcare plan rising from $694 million its first year to 2.6 billion in its third year.  The price-tag on post-secondary education aid rises from $140 million to $586 million.  Critics are saying it doesn’t add up.  Decide for yourself by clicking here

4. Promises made: The Liberals promised to help Seniors by boosting the C.P.P. and income supplement while reducing the eligible age from 67 back to 65 years old.  Conservatives meanwhile promise to cut payroll tax, and to create a net 1.3 million jobs by 2020.  The N.D.P. focuses on healthcare with a promise to add $500 million to hire new healthcare professionals, and add, as well as renovate health clinics.  Part 2 of healthcare is Pharmacare; a national drug plan priced at $2.6 billion over four years.

Meanwhile in Milton…

1.Sign mystery: Reports of signs belonging to all parties being vandalized or broken often with one side hanging off a post.  Remember this is considered a crime; report broken signs to candidates’ offices.  Contact Information: Lisa Raitt (Conservative) campaign office:  289-878-7590, email: info@lisaraitt.ca  Azim Rizvee (Liberal) campaign office: 647-889-3260, email: info@azimrizvee.ca  Alex Anabusi (N.D.P.): 416-558-3859, email: alexanabusi@gmail.com, Chris Jewell (Libertarian): 289-627-1951 email: chris.jewell@libertarian.ca

2. First All-Candidates meeting: The Milton Chamber of Commerce hosted the first all-candidates meeting. All five candidates attended discussing issues ranging from the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, to rural Internet and infrastructure funding.  There is a second scheduled for September 30, 2015 7-9:30pm at the Milton Seniors’ Centre.  Be informed, have your voice heard.

3. Milton R.A.I.L. (Residents Affected by Intermodal Lines) issues an open letter to all federal candidates of this riding regarding the Intermodal facility.  Read it here.

That rounds up the last two weeks.  Up next during week 9: A Foreign Affairs debate.  Did it finally inch the polls forward?

Globe & Mail Economic Debate Impressions

I didn’t watch all of last night’s debate so I only got small impressions of what was going on from quick peeks, and  checking Twitter.  We’re no further ahead than when we started.

If Thomas Mulcair’s intention was to be reassuring he may have achieved that.  He made a fresh pitch to Canadians, relating a lot of his answers back to his resume as if to say “I have the experience, I can do this job”.  But I’m still left with a some questions.  One is about the cap & trade: How much will it cost? The moderator asked that but he sidestepped the answer.  The other question is about the plan to raise the corporate tax rate. It is an increase, but isn’t the technical term a rollback when you’re using 2009 levels? Another question I had is: If he had to choose between a $15 minimum wage, and a $15/day childcare program what would he pick?

Someone tweeted that Justin Trudeau looked like an earnest undergraduate with Very Important Things to say.  That’s the impression I got of him too. There’s a fire, and enthusiasm that wasn’t there in debate #1. Sometimes it got the better of him. His opening statement sounded a little like a campaign ad.  And he kept stumbling over the word deficit.   Is it a smart move to run a $30 billion deficit over 3 years? It’s debatable; it might seem like good debt if there are accountability measures in place to assure this money is used for infrastructure.  But generally I’ve always thought it’s not a good idea to carry more debt than you can afford to pay off.  And then there’s the idea to tax those making over $200 thousand/ year.  It’s not a stretch to imagine some of those of people may own small businesses.  Wouldn’t that potentially encourage the behavior Trudeau is already accusing wealthier Canadians of; using small businesses for tax havens?

This should’ve been Stephen Harper’s debate to win.  At times he was defensive; a part of that is a normal.  He is the incumbent running on a 10-year old record.  However I got an impression he didn’t present many new ideas to compare to the other parties.  He also came out flat on the immigration, and refugee questions.  If I were the other leaders the question I would love to ask would be: If we cleaned up the process, how big of a difference would it make to our economy?  You have so many people who come here with professional degrees, yet are unable to find jobs.

Everyone is still in fighting form. And there are still plenty of questions.  To watch the Globe& Mail debate click here

Election Digest: Week 6

The first full week of September campaigning is done.  Here’s a taste of what happened

1.The Wonderful Wizard of “Oz“: Sagging poll numbers caused Stephen Harper to call in Australian fixer Lynton Crosby.  When asked by Reporters what Crosby’s role would be party spokesman Kory Teneycke responded: “We don’t get into that.”  Is the Conservative Campaign fixable? Stay tuned

2. The Interviews: CBC National Anchor Peter Mansbridge sat down with each of the party leaders for one-on-one interviews. Questions asked included what the first thing the candidate would do for the economy.  Justin Trudeau’s answer: “Call together the Premiers, talk about climate change, get to Paris at the end of November…” (Full answer here).  Thomas Mulcair’s answer: Well we would start by trying to kick-start the Canadian economy. We would start with the people who would create 80% of the jobs in Canada (Full answer here).  Stephen Harper was asked how he plans a surplus at the end of the fiscal year, and answered by turning it back on the N.D.P: “The N.D.P. is promising- we have cost it at $35 billion of annual spending promises.  Not even their high…” (full answer here).   Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was asked about her party’s place in a minority government.  She answered: “We’re talking about a Minority Parliament here where Canadians can have the choice between of fractious parliament sniping that doesn’t get too much done.  Or with enough Greens elected we could have 4 years… (full answer here).

3. Promises made: Liberals promise a $1.5 billion Youth Employment strategy. The money would be spread over 4 years, and used to create up to 40,000 jobs annually.  The plan includes a potential 5000 positions as guides, and Interpreters at Parks Canada.  The N.D.P. targets the automotive sector with a promise of more financial incentives including $90 million for a federal automotive sector innovation fund over the next 5 years. The Conservatives targeted Lobster Fishing in Prince Edward Island  promising $20 million over 3 years with $15 million on marketing, and $5 million on innovation.

4. First platform released: The Green Party became the first to release its platform.  HIghlights include a plan to abolish post-secondary tuition for those who can’t afford it, an expanded universal healthcare system to include prescription drugs, and repealing C51.

Meanwhile in Milton…

A fairly quiet week, as the door-knocking, and meeting with voters continues.

Up next: It’s about the economy, and a second trial.

Too late for the Conservatives?

Short Answer: No, it’s not too late.  As this campaign period demonstrates; anything can happen.  But there are things the party can’t change.  No amount of spinning can change  the fact Stephen Harper was the one to name Mike Duffy to the Senate, or that Duffy is standing trial for fraud, and taking a bribe.

Nothing can change the image of Alan Kurdi washing up on Turkey’s shore dead.  Or the subsequent exposure of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s incompetence on national TV.  Clips, and images stick in people’s minds, and the other parties are sure to have someone who can make use of both unchangeable facts.

The Conservatives can change their response.  Canadians are a notoriously generous people.  Manitoba, Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Quebec, and Ontario all now want to help take in additional Syrian immigrants.  “There is nothing stopping them from saying; any Syrians who are at Stage —- of the refugee claimant process get automatic acceptance.”  Harper also should back down from his pat answer of it being mainly a military problem. Arguably it’s the military that helped cause this mess.

Within the last couple of days national security has started to come up as an issue.  Liberals, and N.D.P. have been pretty weak on this subject, but C51 promises to be an equalizer.  Components of the controversial legislation are being challenged in court on the basis of its constitutionality.  The Liberals are in a worse position because the bill arguably doesn’t mesh with  “liberal values”, and supported it anyway.  The difference may be on the spin for the Conservatives.

If they don’t change now, they’ve lost.