Friday, 7 August 2015


Last night while preparing dinner with a friend, I was asked what I would not write about in my blog. I pondered this for a few minutes, knowing that there are likely a number of things I would not feel comfortable discussing publicly. However, my list was fairly short:
  1. I wouldn't blatantly personally attack or cast negative feedback towards an individual or organization - particularly as it relates to employment opportunities.
  2. I wouldn't write about relationships, which shouldn't be a problem given the high probability of my being a future cat-lady.
  3. I'd refrain from writing anything too political - not because I'm not interested or don't want to engage in political conversations, but because I don't want to set myself up for unwanted attacks about my political views (i.e. criticism made without intention of adding to a welcomed thought-provoking/intellectual discussion)
But, you see, this morning I woke up and found myself eagerly searching for the (first?) debate of Canada's current federal election. This was surprisingly difficult to come by, given my not quite awake, coffee deprived state. I watched the first hour before getting ready to make my move to the Learning Commons (aka my new diggs) to work on the final touches of the first draft of my dissertation (where I'm currently sitting and NOT working on my dissertation!). Aside from the stiff, slightly unpersonable, yet most likely nervous demeanour of the debate's host, I was intrigued and found myself yelling at my laptop and jotting down notes both angrily and enthusiastically... which basically means, I had to write a post about it.

Before you read my comments, I strongly encourage you - particularly if you are a Canadian citizen!! - to watch the debate first (I know, it's long - but it's important!). In fact, I think it's an appropriate time to mention just how pleased I am with the number of Facebook posts I have seen related to this election over the last couple of days. My friends of all ages, from all across the country have been sharing articles and opinions, which has left me feeling refreshingly optimistic about voter turnout (I hope!). I also think it's important to note that the level of conversation surrounding these posts has been for the most part intended to stir up some meaningful discussion. One friend, in particular, even chose to post a fairly controversial comment, citing support for a fairly unfavourable candidate, specifically with the intention of seeing how people would react. The result? One of the best political discussions I have read in such a platform! People really seem to be engaging in this election - so let's hope this can translate to improved voter-ship come poll time!

Well, that played out like one of the best weekend morning infomercials I have ever seen! Seriously. You know the one's, with the corny acting, hoping to sell you on those 'but wait! there's more' 2 for 1 blenders! It's polite arguing, which is so stereotypical of the Canadian way. Pretty much the only way to make Canadian politics any more Canadian, would be if party leaders drank maple syrup during the debate, while being moderated, of course, by a beaver. 

The debate itself, let's just say, is fairly superficial. I mean, there is no way to have a meaningful discussion about the big issues in two hours. Elizabeth May pointed that out in her closing remarks, stating that they'd only scratched the surface. This was clearly marked by the absence of questions related to social policy and inequality, for example. I also found myself surprised at the lack of discussion on Bill C-51 - which, yes, was discussed very briefly - or the latest amendments to the immigration process. 

Some of the highlights, at least for me, concerned the question surrounding the proposed pipelines, which brought about an interesting discussion on the emphasis of economy over the environment. Again, I need to reiterate, none of the topics covered within the debate were in any great detail. But, LizMay (as I like to refer to Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May and with whom I've had a few conversations with in the past) owned this one. This country, along with most of the world, is focused on the immediate, and often fail to recognize the need for long-term efforts that see past the instant gratification of economy focused objectives (i.e. how our political systems are made up). The reality is, when concerning naturally occurring resources at least, that placing an emphasis on deriving economic stability through the sale/export/dependence on said resources will only last as long as these resources are at our - for lack of a better word - disposal. This will undoubtedly become one of Canada's greatest challenges, particularly if it continues to be under the dictatorship leadership of Stephen Harper.

To this point, Tom Mulcair annoyed me by repeatedly using the ambiguous and essentially empty term "sustianable development."* I mean, what does that even mean? When you're using it, just throwing it out there, what exactly is meant by this term? But, then he called Stevie-boy out for trying to suggest the best way to tackle large scale projects, such as the pipeline projects, is to follow the environmental assessment processes that are in place. The very processes he dismantled a few years ago, which took away a crucial component of Canada's EIA system - the federal side, which placed an additional element of accountability to a given project's report. Harper's point was also moot, by insisting it was based on a scientific approach, which, it is, BUT, the fact that he has been discrediting and eliminating scientific research since his reign he took office 10 years ago, makes it hard to listen him trying to justify the "scientific component" as his argument. Justin Trudeau... MIA for this one. 

Other highlights included discussion of the senate and whether or not it should be part of our political system. The elections processes (again being dismantled by Harper), which now make it difficult for many to vote. For each of these points I, reluctantly, give credit to Justin for his handling of the topics. But LizMay deserves the credit for calling out another of the most fundamental conversations we need to be handling not only within this election, but in the electoral processes in general across the country, and at all levels of government - voter turnout. LizMay is 100% correct - vote abandoning, as she calls it, is WORSE than vote splitting. It is appalling that we even have to have this discussion. Why it is not illegal to NOT cast your vote in Canada is beyond me. There is no excuse for not doing so, even with Harper's more stringent rules concerning voter registration and 'voter fraud prevention.' I mean, one of the greatest privileges we have as Canadian citizens is the ability to vote. As I said to a friend this morning, if all of the vote abandoners actually did have their say, even if it's just to say that none of the options work for them, the impact that would have on the future of Canada would be incredible!

(Original source unknown - taken from Facebook)
And related to that whole can of worms, was the discussion on whether or not Canada should adopt a system of proportional representation. This came up within the talk about the potential abandonment of the senate. Here, Harper made a good point - doing so removes us from our current British way of electing leaders. However, it could change the outcomes significantly, which I'm sure frightens him a bit. I don't know that I have a sound position on this topic, as I see both sides.

The final set of questions related to foreign policy, which really wasn't overly interesting, as it's just a rehashing of what is usually said. Brining up the recent attacks by ISIS in Canada** led to a surprising, yet welcomed point by Harper who emphasized that the 'war' against ISIS is not a fight to eliminate Muslims - a point that all to many seem to forget. He highlighted that this was an extremist group, and that fighting against the movement was not only about protecting the lives of Canadians, but Muslims (the most significant group of victims of the ISIS movement) all around the world. The point was well taken, by me at least, but I honestly can't say I believe much of what comes from that smug smile of his.

But perhaps the most disappointing part of the debate was the closing remarks. In order of speaker: Harper emphasized that this election was about keeping Canadians safe, the economy strong and that that could only be done by proven experience. Mulcair opened up with a thick layer of cheesiness. For such an otherwise well spoken man, this came off as extremely fake. LizMa, as I mentioned previously pointed out the additional issues that were not touched on. And my personal favourite closing remark - Justin. Oh Justin, how you are not your father. The first 15 seconds of that speech were obviously taken straight from the pages of the cliché dictionary. I think I threw up in my mouth...12 times***.

So, who won? There appears to be a good debate about this in both news and social media****. For me, I think LizMay held her own. She's sharp, intelligent, and I just really like her. Unfortunately, being the spokesperson for the Green Party, I think, hurts her credibility. But overall, I have to say, I was intrigued by the level of composure by all involved. That all were able to keep calm, for the most part, throughout, was quite impressive. Do I know who I'll vote for based on this one debate? No. But it made for a great opening week of the 2015 election.

-the Orange***** Canadian

*Yes, I'm well aware that my undergraduate degree is partly in 'Sustainability.'
**Can I just say - I'm not sure how far the "Ottawa shooting incident" is a fair point in relation to threats of terrorism to Canadians. Yes, it was a horrific event. Yes, an innocent life was/lives were lost. But, it was also proven that the shooter in that event was suffering from some severe mental-illness. I'm not sure how easily one can distinguish between acting in cohoots with terrorists, and being manipulated into doing something as the result of untreated mental illness. AND I'M NOT opening up a debate here about mental-illness!
***And I guess, I just threw topic I wouldn't discuss #1 out the window... But, these are truly not meant to be personal attacks. The only one of the four leaders involved within this debate that I have actually interacted with is Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May. These comments are based on their political personas, not their character as individual human beings, outside of the political arena.
****For interests sake, the YouTube upload of the debate by Maclean's had a viewership of 100 474 when I began watching this morning. By the time I'd finished watching, that number had jumped to 144 531 views. Now, upon finishing this post, it has been viewed by 148 466 people. I hope these numbers continue to increase and that the momentum carries forward in the weeks leading up to the election!
*****Orange for my hair colour, not my political allegiance! 

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