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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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: 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.

Riding profile: Milton

Milton Riding is one of 15 new Ontario ridings.  Its boundaries echo the Town of Milton, and includes parts of northwest Burlington as well north of Dundas.

Current M.P.:  Lisa Raitt.

Candidates (in alphabetical order)

New Democratic Party (N.D.P.): Alex Anabusi

Green Party: Mini Batra

Libertarian Party: Chris Jewell

Conservative: Lisa Raitt

Liberal: Azim Rizvee

Issues:

  • Economy: Target’s closure struck a double-blow to Milton with job losses at the store, and in their warehouse.  Sobeys’  has announced plans for restructuring, and this may affect their Milton warehouse as well.
  •  Infrastructure: Milton is one of the fast-growing communities in the country With a  population projected to be well over 200 thousand by 2031.  With the growth   comes infrastructure needs including new and repaired roads, as well as transit.
  •  Immigration: Anecdotally there are enough stories of  badly filled out forms, and declined claims to indicate there is something worth looking at.  Whether it’s how to make the process easier, or standardizing it.  The Refugee system could use a closer look as well.
  •  C.N.: Canadian National Rail (C.N. Rail) has plans for a 400 acre Intermodal facility in the south end of Milton.  The company has chosen to ignore the proper planning processes set out in provincial legislation.  Because rail is a federally regulated industry  it’s moving on with a federally regulated process set-out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (C.E.A.A.). The approach has ruffled a few feathers because the land was already designated for strategic employment by the Town of Milton, and Region of Halton.  Both Halton Regional and Milton Council oppose it.  Two citizens’ groups have formed: Milton Says No, and Milton R.A.I.L. (Residents Affected by Intermodal Lines).

Election Digest: Week 2

A trial, A Toronto Sun cover, and candidate moves.  It’s week 2 in the 42nd general election.

1) Duffy Trial: Mike Duffy resumed his trial on fraud charges, and taking a bribe.  Since last Wednesday former Chief-Of-Staff Nigel Wright has been on the stand.  It’s made this the controversy hard to ignore for the leaders’ on the campaign trail.

2) Policy Announcements: Liberals announce $2.6 billion in funding for First Nations’ education.  The money will be spread out over 4 years, with an additional $500 million over the following three years.  Media reports Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau vowing to “make up for 10 long lost years.”  More about the promise click here

3) “Caring” about the economy: Meanwhile Trudeau wants toCMSZu4xUYAALBSJ “grow the economy from the heart outwards.”  I think that means the middle class outwards? Or Ontario outwards? Possible translations aside it prompted numerous jokes on social media, and the Toronto Sun to create this cover.

4) Candidate moves: The N.D.P. lose one candidate in Atlantic Canada to the Green Party.  They name a former Finance Minister of Saskatchewan Andrew Thomson to run against Finance Minister Joe Oliver in Eglinton-Lawrence.

Meanwhile in Milton…

1) Azim Rizvee:  The Liberal candidate opens his campaign office at 7500 Derry Rd.  For those that don’t know it’s the old Fire Hall along Derry Road west of the Sports Centre.  Conservative Candidate Lisa Raitt’s office is on Main St near Martin.  The N.D.P. Green Party, and Libertarian Party have yet to open one.

2) C.N:  The federal government has officially sent the Intermodal project to a review panel.  The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is making participant funding available for those who wish to take part.  For more information visit this link.

Coming up:

  1. Wright’s testimony: Duffy’s defense lawyer Donald Bayne continues the cross-examination.

Election Digest Week 1:

Week one of the campaign is in the books here’s a snapshot of what it was like:

  1. The writ dropped: Sunday August 2, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Governor-General David Johnston and asked him to formally dissolve Parliament.  This triggered the 42nd general election or as it’s known on Twitter #elxn42.  Harper spoke, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair spoke, Green Party Elizabeth May spoke.  Justin Trudeau was on a plane flying to Vancouver.

2. The First Debate: Macleans Magazine held the first debate of the campaign on Thursday.  It was more spirited than such things usually are.  Harper was weak on the economy leaving Mulcair an opening.  Mulcair was weak on National Unity leaving Trudeau an opening.  May showed off her knowledge on the issues.  Here’s a funny  look at the debate from Buzzfeed on all the hand gestures.  To watch the debate visit youtube

3. Promises Made: Conservatives have promised to make the home renovation tax credit permanent if re-elected.  Home owners will be able to claim up to 15% of ‘substantial’ renovations between $1000-$5000 allowing a rebate of up to $600/ year.  Conservatives ended the week promising to make it illegal for Canadians to travel to places with Terrorist regimes   Liberals promise to cut income-splitting for families, put a price on carbon pollution, and stop the bombing mission in Iraq.  For a full breakdown check out this link from the Ottawa Citizen.

4. Milton Riding: 1,2,3,4 Hey everyone it’s a sign war.  Within minutes of the campaign period becoming official Milton Conservative Candidate Lisa Raitt had signs up.  Followed by Liberal Candidate Azim Rizvee.  Halton Regional Council passed a bylaw banning election signs from regional roads. Read about it by heading to halton.ca. and searching election signs.  Stay tuned to this space for more about Milton riding

Looking Ahead:

  1. The Ghost of Senate Appointments Past: Mike Duffy’s criminal trial resumes this week.  Former PMO staffer Nigel Wright is testifying.  How will his remarks influence the election? Will Prime Minister Harper be called to testify?

2. Strength of Conviction: Thomas Mulcair launches his autobiography today.

Macleans’ Leaders’ Debate

Mulcair: “We are one month away from a technical definition of a recession.” 

Harper: “I’m not denying that…” 

If I had to pick a winner last night it was Thomas Mulcair of the NDP.  His moment came in that exchange.   It’s a blow  because the Conservatives have been trying so hard not to mention the economy, and Mulcair got him to admit it.  It might not have been the knockout blow but it wounded him.

A close second was Elizabeth May.  She punched well above her party’s weight, and managed to project a diplomatic air.  Her knowledge of climate change policy, and the environment went largely unchallenged. Is her shift to a team-first approach a nod to a possible credibility issue stemming from her performance at the recent Press Gallery dinner?

Third is Trudeau.  He showed some promise last night.  He got blows against Harper over the environment, and Mulcair over unity.  But he didn’t do much in terms of forwarding his own party’s agenda, or even stating it.  Fairness to the middle class is important, and fits extremely well with the failing economy.  But he failed to provide specifics.  C51 remains his achillies heel. He didn’t offer a convincing answer on why he supported it.  His closing remarks were odd; he repeated the Conservative attack ad labelling him as “not ready.”  The party’s ad responding to it is perfect and should’ve been left to speak for itself.

Last was Harper. The impact of Mulcair’s comments on the economy won’t be known for a while yet, but the fact Harper admitted to a technical recession is pretty big. Especially when you consider the lengths to which the Conservatives have gone not to talk about it.  Harper over-used the phrase “Let me be clear”, or let’s be clear in one segment.   It sounds too much like Nixon’s “Let me make one thing perfectly clear: “I am not a crook.”  With images of Senators on trial, and former MP’s being hauled away in handcuffs, this isn’t the best line to even use once.

To watch the debate click here.  Tweet me your picks for winners, your comments on this blog.