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Election speculation, 2020

Sigh. There’s just no limit to the depths to which politicians will sink. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic (if you’ll excuse the redundancy) and Canadians have elections or threatened elections left, right and centre. OK, three elections out of a possible fourteen federal, provincial and territorial elections isn’t exactly a lot, but if one does it, the rest of the politicians might follow … like lemmings, or a virus maybe. As Blaine Higgs — who was heading a minority government in New Brunswick, perhaps the “right” (in more ways than one) in the “left, right and centre” — succeeded in winning a majority in New Brunswick, half the rest of the country will pile on the bandwagon. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of every province and territory, but generally speaking they’ve followed science and their public health officers (unlike in certain other painfully obvious countries) and they are reaping the benefits in their poll numbers. Even Doug Ford in Ontario, if you can believe that!

Which bring us to the left (again, in more ways than one) of the country here in BC. Apparently John Horgan also thinks the time is right to convert his minority government into a majority. The speculation has reached a fever pitch, and for all we know we’ll see the writ dropped today, by some accounts. Horgan better hope that our COVID-19 numbers don’t get any worse than they are; schools have just gone back, and we still have to see how the Labour Day long weekend and the schools affect those numbers.

Which brings us to the centre. (Weird how the language works here.) Justin Trudeau also wants to convert his minority federal government into a majority. The aforementioned fever pitch hasn’t been reached in Ottawa yet, but the smirk on Trudeau’s face tells the story. The pandemic has been a boon for him and his friends, well, until his stupidity resulted in the WE Charity folding its Canadian operations last week. (No loss in my book. Why do people get excited about adults jumping up and down like idiots and demeaning themselves on stage?) His poll numbers, too, are through the roof, and he’d love to take on the new Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole. But he too better hope that the pandemic numbers don’t get worse before an election (he talks as if he’s had a handle on it since day one), as it seems that hypocrisy and material failures in his leadership don’t seem to stick to him.

Politicians behaving badly … as usual

Scheer and Trudeau and the UN Security Council vote

I think that Andrew Sheer confuses being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition with being the leader of a bunch of unruly children in a playground, bringing American-style ad hominem attacks to bear on the government Justin Trudeau. (Well, he is half American, so I suppose that’s no surprise.) OK, so Trudeau brought it upon himself by spending so much time and effort (and taxpayers’ money) on his pet project of getting Canada elected to the United Nations Security Council, but really, what the hell kind of measured, mature reaction is this?!:


Now, in all the fairness I can muster, I think Trudeau and/or the Liberals had the same personal dig at Stephen Harper when he failed in his same bid in 2010, so fair’s fair right? Meh, whatever. Politicians are almost all a bunch of self-serving opportunistic bastards; the only downside is that they have to inflict this crap on us, the suckers who pay their salaries for spending their lives acting like spoilt children.

At least the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Jack Harris, had a distinctly more statesmanlike response. He was neither complimentary nor insulting, but had some constructive criticism of Canada’s (and Trudeau’s) attempt at election, and forward-looking suggestions.

One thing that does amuse me abut Trudeau’s virtue signalling is when he talks about championing maternal issues in developing countries. As far as I know, that was (ironically) Stephen Harper’s pet project back in the day!

Champagne quarantine?!

In related news, I see that François-Philippe Champagne, our gallant Minister of Foreign Affairs, suddenly crossed the border and showed up in New York to cast Canada’s ballot in this election. What the hell?! I thought the border was closed to all but essential traffic?! If our UN ambassador was in New York, what exactly was essential about Champagne’s presence? And did he quarantine himself for fourteen days before mixing with all and sundry at the UN General Assembly?! Enquiring minds want to know.

Kudos for Scheer

On the positive side of Scheer’s ledger is this farcical two-minute exchange with Trudeau in the House of Commons that is a textbook example of doublespeak and not answering the question on the part of Trudeau:

Scheer questions Trudeau’s campaign for U.N. Security Council seat

My god! Even taking into account international diplomatic niceties, Trudeau makes absolutely no attempt to address the issues that the leader of the Opposition raises. In fact, the donkey show he puts on is as passively aggressive as is possible before the aggression crosses the line into a middle finger or active, physical aggression! It’s the legislative, “grown-up” (note the quotation marks!) equivalent of the playground, “I know you are but what am I?” that would get you a bloody nose in any other setting! It’s a wonder these politicians get anything done, and it’s no wonder they are mostly so reviled by the public. None of the rest of us would get away with anything like this in real life. Maybe I’m just an ingénue that doesn’t spend enough time watching videos of politicians being assholes.

Jagmeet Singh’s ejection from Parliament

I’m of two minds about what happened to Jagmeet Singh on Wednesday. On the one hand he moved a motion that, especially in the atmosphere in which the US and much of the world finds itself these days, was completely reasonable, and I can understand his surprise (and dismay) at even one vote of opposition. On the other hand, I can see the point of the Bloc Québécois who claimed that his motion prejudged an anticipated report of the public safety committee that would have addressed the points in the motion moved by Singh.

I don’t know the nature of the motion, and particularly whether or not it was binding or just some feel-good parliamentary fluffery designed to (as mentioned previously) be self-serving opportunism. Which it was has significant bearing on the matter, but I have not seen comment on this by anyone in the media. However, I can certainly understand Singh’s discomfit, especially at Alain Therrien’s alleged dismissive wave in the direction of Singh. Probably another example where, had I been involved, there would have been nasal blood (Therrien’s) spilled on the Commons floor!

The “new NAFTA”

I am amused that, despite its unwieldy new name — that some (mostly Americans) have tried to make into a single “word” — people are calling the “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement” the “new NAFTA”.

So I read that there is already bluster in the US that they’re itching to take legal action against Canada and Mexico as soon as the new agreement comes into force on 1 July. So what else is new? These are our “friends”! However, what sticks out for me in that article — besides the video of Deputy Prime Minster (and Intergovernmental Affairs minister) Chrystia Freeland’s rather smarmy (if unspoken) “fuck you” between gritted, smiling teeth aimed in the direction of the US threat — is the claim that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer makes that other countries’ plans to tax American-based digital services is a plan to “screw America”. Ironically, the very next day, I received notice from one of my digital providers that they would henceforth be charging my company and their other customers taxes levied by six US states, including the one in which my business is domiciled. I doubt the two actions are linked, but the Americans are busy screwing themselves with new taxes!

Canadian hostages in China

China has finally, after holding them without charge for eighteen months, charged two Canadian hostages with “spying”. Everyone and their dog knows this is tit-for-tat, gangland hostage taking (“hostage diplomacy”) by the Chinese government, except the tit (or the tat) that happened in Canada was a lawful arrest under international treaties. I think it is despicable the situation in which the US has put Canada to further their political agenda, but it doesn’t excuse thuggery on the part of China who have stolen the lives of two (and arguably four) Canadians purely for spite. And on top of that the prisoner in Canada lives in her own multi-million dollar house in a larney area of Vancouver, while the two Canadians rot in cells in China! The two — known in Canada as “the two Michaels” — are Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Even if they were released by China tomorrow, they’ll never get back the time stolen from them by the Chinese government. It is unconscionable!

Hopefully the world will one day, together, stand up to the bullying of China (not just against Canada, but other countries including Taiwan and [recently, with deadly results] India), but it’s questionable whether or not that will happen in time for them to be stopped from steamrolling all over the rest of the world. I think China already delivered yet another “message” to Canada earlier this week; it is alleged that China strong-armed African nations — whom they have quietly re-colonised over the last decade or two — into voting against Canada in the aforementioned United Nations Security Council elections.

Hero pay

In other news, Canadian grocery store operations are clawing back the raises given to their employees when they were (temporarily, apparently) “heroes” on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic — and all the other quasi-military terms used for them and similar low-paying occupations like cleaners, drivers, etc. Never mind that these companies made and continue to make a killing on elevated sales numbers (including as a result of hoarding). The hypocrisy is galling! If there was one thing I thought people would learn from the experience of the pandemic it’s that far too many people are terribly, terribly underpaid, and then they suddenly became “heroes” overnight! And for that they got a measly two bucks an hour extra! That’s all they’re worth! And now, they’re not heroes any more, they’re just schleps schlepping their way through a work day again.

I know that I don’t have any economic solutions for the massive inequities in society (in this country or any other), but you can’t, in good conscience, pay someone a meagre wage one day and the next day claim they’re heroes, pay them a pittance more, and then take away their hero status (and extra pay) on some arbitrary (and collusive) date in the future. Are they heroes or not? Look, nobody claims they’re heroes in the same sense as a person who defends or saves the life of another, but really, the hypocrisy really is galling. And the hypocrisy is galling not just on the part of the grocery chains — Sobeys, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Loblaws, etc. — but on the part of us, their customers. I’ve said for a long time that so many people want to strike for good union wages, then they want to shop at disgraceful places like Walmart. It’s understandable that we all want to optimise our revenue-to-expense ratios, but this is a big deal that needs to be addressed somehow.

While looking for an appropriate article to which I could link on one of the main news websites (that isn’t behind a paywall, like The Globe and Mail is), I came across this one: The End of ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers in Canada an Operational Necessity: Expert. It’s written by an academic (which is not always a knock) for a retail industry publication, and as a result is skewed towards being supportive of the pay cut. However, it does cover some interesting points that are critical of the retailers that I think are worth reading.

Jas Johal

Someone else who I think doesn’t quite get his position as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal. He was a half-decent television reporter, but man, the only time he pokes his head above the parapet these days is when he wants to be on TV again and has nothing constructive to say … about anything, ever! I mean, I get that his job is that he’s an Opposition “critic” of the current NDP government, but there’s a difference between the title “critic” and the adjective “critical”, and you can’t claim that the government — any government — of the day doesn’t ever get anything right.

His latest crap is to criticise and condemn the BC government for daring to consult the public on ways in which they might steer activities related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not exactly direct democracy in action, but we haven’t seen a pandemic in about a century, certainly longer than Johal’s lifetime, so what the hell downside could there be to initiating a consultation process that could very well have a positive effect?!

Give it a rest Johal! I think if you looked like a reasonable person once in a while instead of whining and complaining all the time you’d actually look like the Liberal leadership material for which you’re obviously trying to posture yourself.


Updated, 23 June 2020: Corrected my grammatical error. Of course you can’t make an ad hominem attack on a government!

2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite

Notranslinktax.ca Logo

Notranslinktax.ca Logo

I finally delivered my ballot yesterday, choosing to deliver it directly to a Plebiscite Service Office rather than entrusting it to the useless Canada Post Corporation at this late date. To get there I drove a car; I suppose I should have caught a bus, but there are only so many hours in a day.

At this late date I won’t be the first to pontificate on this subject but, if the “no” vote wins, the powers that be need to be aware of the fact that a no vote is not a vote against all (or any) of the wonderful goodies that are listed on the ballot. The greater Vancouver area certainly does need all of those things; we absolutely should have a “world class” (a term overused to describe the rather self-centred provincial town of Vancouver) public transit and transportation system. What we also need — conspicuous by its absence on the ballot — is intelligent and accountable management of our regional transportation system and the funds needed to run it.

This plebiscite is a boondoggle for several reasons, not the least of which are:

  • It is an abrogation of the responsibility of the officials we elected to make these decisions for us. (I’m looking at you, Christy Clark and co.) I am all in favour of democracy (even some measure of direct democracy), but we’re already paying elected politicians to run our cities, region and province, so why are they spending the money required to mount this plebiscite to offload that responsibility onto the people that elected them? I know why: It’s so that they can blame us (like Jim “Look in the Mirror” Prentice of Alberta fame) when we complain down the road about something to do with regional transportation or transit. The fact that this is being presented as a “take it or leave it” proposition by these shirkers is particularly galling.
  • We already pay taxes. The trend in recent years has been to make government “smaller” (or so politicians claim) by introducing “user pay” schemes — e.g., bridge tolls — so that those people who don’t use bridges don’t have to subsidise those of us wastrels who do. However, taxes still stay the same. (Someone should run that simple mathematical formula past your average numerate child and see what he or she has to say about it.) The fact is that governments take taxes from us. It adds up to a lot of money, and the citizenry needs to see some collective benefit from these taxes to feel that they’re justified. Increase the tax rate by half a percent here and half a percent there and you’ll soon find out at what point there’s a tax revolt. What service that we’re already paying for will the next plebiscite be about?
  • Taxes don’t go away. We all know the apocryphal story about how the first tax was a “temporary” measure. Even if the politicians promised that this tax would end on some specific date in the future, if nothing else a yes vote simply shows the politicians that there is room to increase taxes, and on that date (or shortly after it to allow a cooling-off period of unrestrained joy amongst the populace) the provincial tax rate would be raised to equal the former combined rate. What pet project would we be paying for then?

So, yeah, it’s probably not difficult for you to determine which circle I selected on my ballot.

Come clean, Christy Clark

As a tax-paying British Columbian, I should love Christy Clark. I should. But I don’t.

She is a divisive character in BC politics. She’s not the first, that’s for sure, but you’d think that people would learn. Not “we the people”, but the politicians themselves. Nobody likes a divisive leader. They didn’t when Bill Vander Zalm was around, and they don’t now, so what does Clark think she’s gaining by her divisive style of leadership that Vander Zalm didn’t back in the late 1980s? If she’s gaining anything, it’s only with her cronies in the BC Liberal Party, not with any members of the voting public. Is that really putting “[BC] Families First”?

I’m moved to write about this at this time because of the dispute between the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and BC’s public teachers. I could point fingers at both sides in this dispute for various reasons, but Clark particularly stands out for rebuke. I say that because no member of the British Columbian public really sees this as a labour dispute between a monolithic employer that doesn’t actually employ any teachers (the BCPSEA) and the BC Teachers’ Federation; it’s Christy and her sidekick of the moment in the education portfolio (Peter Fassbender as of this writing) versus the teachers. It’s an open secret that sealed court proceedings accidentally revealed by the NDP show that the current BC government — strongly led by Clark, so there’s no doubt who is driving this — has a policy to provoke a strike by BC teachers. Imagine! Any thinking leader — especially one with an alleged “Families First” agenda — would not set out to “provoke” anything, never mind the total disruption of the lives of BC’s families!

This won’t be a long post because I really want to get to what I believe is the crux of the matter here. This won’t address issues such as liveable wages in one of the most expensive places to live in the world, and a little thing called inflation. It also won’t address Clark’s contempt of the courts and her preference for fighting and defying their rulings on the legality of her actions dating back over a decade, actions that would get you and I thrown in jail!

Let’s look at Clark’s record with the education system. As Education Minister in the early 2000s she implemented changes that were unpopular with school boards and teachers. While it’s not my contention that popularity is the measure of success, popularity is the basis of democracy. And here we are, over a decade later, and the school boards are still struggling to provide services that are expected by the public and the provincial government on the pittance provided by the latter. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the dedication of those people on the ground — teachers, administrators and school board employees — the BC public school system would collapse. With her own child in a private school — a privilege affordable for only 11% (2012 figures) of BC pupils — one really can’t help but wonder if this is actually Clark’s intention.

But enough about that. It’s widely known that Clark’s father was a teacher, and one can reasonably assume that she herself attended at least some school. And here is where I get to the crux of the matter as I see it, and it’s the seldom asked question (at least publicly) on the tips of the tongues of just about anyone I talk to about the war between Clark and the teachers: What formative experience did Clark have — either with her father or one of her own teachers — that seems to put her at perpetual odds with educators? (By “educators” I include more than just teachers.) I’ve heard the term “daddy issues” used often enough to wonder if this premier’s divisive style of leadership — if you can call it “leadership” — is personally-driven rather than based on arguable ideology or coherent policy.

Is it, Christy? Is it time to come clean and excuse yourself from any involvement in the negotiating strategy with the BCTF or, for that matter, any of your government’s education policies that so negatively affect families and the education of their children? Is it time to put your son in a public school — like 89% of your constituents in this province, who feel their children are being used as pawns in a fight between grown-ups who should know better — and suffer with them through this labour strife that you have intentionally provoked?

The fickle American voter

As someone who doesn’t get to vote in American elections, I chastised friends and acquaintances for jumping on the Obama bandwagon back in 2008 and following it all on TV like it was some kind of daily serial. I do realise that what happens in America influences a lot of non-voters; just ask the Iraqis. However, there’s a difference between academic interest and fanaticism. But I was neither for nor against Obama; he may have said some thought-provoking things, but I am extremely cynical when it comes to politicians.

But if it wasn’t so serious, I’d laugh at the American voter. Here they elect a guy on a wave of popularity not seen, I believe, in the lifetimes of most American voters. Then two years later, because he hasn’t changed the world, brought about universal peace, cured all diseases for evermore, and put a million dollars in everyone’s bank accounts, they vote for the party that is diametrically opposed to him. Huh? Am I the only one who thinks this American voter is an idiot?

But it just starkly illustrates much of that’s wrong with the American political system. Black and white, for us or against us, commies and capitalists, red and blue, flip and flop, and simply no possibility of middle ground. Almost makes the Canadian two-and-a-half-party system look like paradise.

And I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say, because too many politically-correct people are too quick to blame something like … oh, let’s say, race … for one thing or another. But I do have to wonder if they all voted for him back in 2008 just because he is (half) black, and I do have to wonder if the Tea Partiers were so vocal and so successful for the same reason.

The American voter is both fickle and short-sighted. Then again, they’re no better in British Columbia, where the provincial government is trying to bribe people with promises of a cheque for $19.17 per month to vote in favour of the HST. And you know what? People will buy that … or rather, I should say, will be bought by that.