96 posts categorized "soapbox"

April 27, 2011

You Were Asking? About Volunteer Work and Citizen Smear Campaigns

I've never had so many people express so much interest in my volunteer work as they have in recent days -- and I've been an active and committed volunteer for many years.

In the letter of complaint I filed with Elections Canada on Monday morning, I thought it was important to state my involvement with all local political campaigns. (I try to err on the side of transparency wherever possible.)

This is what I wrote:

"I have not contributed financially to any candidate's election campaign since 2008. I am not affiliated with any candidate's campaign, locally or nationally. I did offer to participate in a national event [as a volunteer] for the Liberal Party of Canada, but there was a scheduling conflict so I was unable to participate. I do intend to volunteer with the local Liberal campaign on May 2nd . I have had Liberal lawn signs at my home and office since the election was called. My office lawn sign was vandalized between Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning."

I should have also stated that I do not hold a membership in any political party. That has been the case since approximately December 2009, when the membership I held in the Liberal Party of Canada expired.

* * *

It is my hope that Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro will eventually see fit to moderate his message board and remove the libelous attack posts directed at me. Shortly after CHEX-TV interviewed me on Monday night, Del Mastro removed the attack posts that had been directed at me until that time. I expressed my appreciation to him immediately. Unfortunately, the attack posts resumed immediately and, 48 hours later, the new round of attack posts remains. The attacks have also spilled over to a number of related websites. I know things get nasty during political campaigns (and I hate that), but typically the attacks go from politician from politician. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned and I haven't caught up with the latest trends in our rapidly evolving political culture: the citizen smear campaign.

April 20, 2011

How Stephen Harper Changed My Life -- And How Ursula Franklin Spoke to My Heart

I never intended to become politically active. But after Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, Canada didn't feel like Canada anymore and I felt compelled to start taking action.

For a long time, I blogged here on a regular basis. During the 2008 election, I blogged many times per day in the rather naive hope that if I blogged often enough -- if I worked hard enough -- I'd be able to help convince my fellow Canadians that we needed a government that was progressive in its thinking (as opposed to the Reform Party of Canada rebranded).

It bothers me that approximately one-third of Canadians are willing to make trade-offs in order to keep Stephen Harper in power, because what they are trading off for lower taxes are rights and freedoms and the checks and balances that make for a healthy democracy.

 
I had no idea how much my life would change when I started speaking out -- how good it would feel to speak the truth about what I was witnessing and to form alliances with other Canadians who are just as disturbed by what has been happening to our country. At the same time, I also could not have predicted that I would be interrogated in my MP's office as a result of becoming politically aware and politically outspoken.

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During an unforgettable interview on the CBC radio show The Current last May, respected scientist and pacifist Ursula Franklin spoke about her time in a Nazi labour camp and the warning signs of democracy in peril. She sees some of those very same signs in Canada today and she is urging Canadians to be vigilant -- not to sleepwalk as many people do while their freedoms slip away. If you only watch one video (the interview is actually available on video) during this election campaign, I urge you to watch this one. It is powerful and unforgettable. You can find it here. (The interview starts at around the 27:00 minute mark in the video.)

* * *

We need to send a message to Ottawa through whichever candidate is elected in each of our ridings. We want voting reform now. Proportional representation would encourage the parties to work together as opposed to treating one another as combatants.

A Prime Minister who doesn't have respect for the basic rules of government -- who doesn't choose to acknowledge that the Prime Minister is accountable to the people of Canada through the House of Commons (not vice versa) -- should not be entrusted with the privilege of governing this country for one more day, let alone a period of months or years.

This election marks a turning point in the life of our country. We are at a crossroads. One arrow points toward a more progressive future -- the Canada we used to be. The other points to a future with Stephen Harper in control. It doesn't take much to figure out what kind of Canada that would be. I'm hoping enough Canadians will wake up from the nightmare of the past five years to put us back on the path to where we belong.

 

Note: I am participating in Mom the Vote -- an effort to encourage Canadian moms to think about the issues in this election and to vote. I will be voting in Peterborough Riding.

 

November 08, 2009

Hey, Big Spenders: Devolin and Del Mastro Rank in Top 25 for Printing Bills

MPs spending more on flyers - Peterborough Examiner - Ontario, CA.

The print version of this story contains additional information that the online version is missing. (It's a bit odd because it's not as if you have to crop online stories to work around space constraints. But whatever.)

Here are the key facts that are missing from the online version of this story, but that residents of Haliburton-Kawartha-Lakes-Brock and Peterborough Ridings should know:
  • Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin (CPC) spent $80,460 on printing in 2008-09 (ranking him eighth among all MPs).
  • Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro (CPC) spent $70,629 (ranking him 18th among all MPs).
It's a good thing the trees used to print these flyers aren't harvested locally or our tourist operators would be none-too-happy.....

November 03, 2009

Dean Del Mastro as the Patron Saint of Political Ad Spending

You would think that before Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro was invited to play the role of the Patron Saint of Political Ad Spending, someone might have posed the obvious question: is he the right man for the job?

Some folks in Peterborough Riding are shaking their heads, thinking about all those CPC-branded hockey pucks that were handed out at the United Way kickoff breakfast back in September -- and the annual Dean Del Mastro hockey tournament that is as much about scoring political points for the Conservative Party of Canada as it is about raising dollars for the United Way.

Raising funds for the United Way is a great idea, of course. But if you're doing it for the right reasons, why not leave the Conservative Party of Canada hockey jerseys in your hockey bag and invite politicians from all parties to get in the game. In this case, the reason is obvious: it's a branding opportunity for the CPC -- and you can't brand properly if there aren't any logos on parade.

And as for Del Mastro's intention to ask Sheila Fraser to investigate the sponsorship scandal? Given that Fraser has already done her job on this file -- her investigations led to the Gomery Commission -- Del Mastro comes across looking like another John Baird: a Harper wind-up toy who will carry out the will of the PM, no matter how foolish or facile.

[BTW -- Don't miss this deliciously snarky lesson in Parliamentary procedure, courtesy of Kady. I'm sure Del Mastro will be taking note of it in future.]

March 26, 2009

It's Not Like They Have Anything to Hide

Jobs are disappearing at a more rapid rate than the Harper stimulus package can create, notes budget officer Kevin Page.

But that's not even the worst of this story.

Page can't get the figures he needs from the Finance Department to analyze fully the implications of the weakened economy because the Finance Department is refusing to release key data to him.

Of course, it's not like they have anything to hide.

The Finance Department reports to the Ministry of Truth and the Department of Accountability, and so on.

January 28, 2009

Budget Bizarreness

The National managed to find the one Canadian working class family that actually believes that the extra $.33 it finds in its pocket each day is going to dig this country out of a recession. ("We spend this dollar. And then the next person spends this dollar.") It sounds like that 1970s shampoo commercial about telling two girlfriends -- but there's much more at stake than great hair. (Even the middle class, who were supposed to fall in love with Stephen Harper all over again via this budget, are getting $.67 a day, unless of course, they can take advantage of the home reno tax credit -- up to $1350 to do home renos or "build a deck at the cottage," as Jim Flaherty suggested.)

There are much more significant problems with this budget, of course. The budget doesn't address the need for EI reform -- even though 50 percent of unemployed Canadians don't qualify for benefits; and EI at least helps to break the fall as Canadians who are out of work try to regain their financial and employment footing.

One of the budget measures that will reward people on social assistance for working part-time sounds a lot like Mike Harris' welfare to work projects of the late 1990s -- except this time there are very few jobs to be found. So by not finding work in the midst of a recession, those social assistance recipients are, in effect, being punished for, what? Being social assistance recipients. This seems to tap into that deep-rooted belief held by many in the far right of the deserving and the undeserving poor.

To be fair, there are some positive initiatives as well. The investment in green initiatives. The investment in social housing. I'm sure if I read the budget line by line, I could come up with many others.

But, overall, this budget lacks focus and vision. By spreading the resources in so many different directions in order to try to buy political favor, this budget is $40 billion dollar deficit-producing budget is really $40 billion ado about nothing. It seems very wrong that you can spend so much money to accomplish so little.

A budget that offers something for everyone? Sure, I'll buy that definition -- as long as you accept that the "something" is politically-fortified crumbs.

On the other hand, the budget managed to tick off the Fraser Institute, and that's definitely something for a neo-conservative government. Bet they never thought they'd see the day.

Related:

Seating Plan for House of Commons:
Useful tool given that Parliament has only been in session five times since June.

January 05, 2009

Campaign Promise Countdown: 2 Down, 2 to Go

Battery plant runs down - Peterborough Examiner - Ontario, CA.

It's no wonder voters are so cynical.

As The Peterborough Examiner reported on Saturday, the battery plant that Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro announced with much fanfare five days before the federal election in October appears to have run out of charge. Some of us with non-battery powered crystal balls had predicted this outcome right from the get-go -- proof that it pays to invest in a crystal ball with a power adapter.

And it appears quite certain that the commuter train to Toronto -- another key part of the Del Mastro platform -- won't be running between Peterborough and Toronto anytime soon. The only train between Peterborough and Toronto that's even pie-in-the-sky at this point (see this November 28, 2008, Metrolink map showing that Peterborough isn't a priority for them now or anytime soon) is a route that would go via Orillia -- not exactly a convenient route for commuters looking for an alternative to the car.

But Del Mastro isn't about to see half of his campaign promises go up in flames three months after the election. (That would only leave him with his promise to change the Canadian constitution to safeguard landowner rights against government interference (a pretty tall order, that); and his election-eve announcement of a flashy plan to build a resort on Little Lake (one that might bode well for his family's tourism-industry RV business, but that isn't necessarily the best use of this key piece of land, given the kind of innovative approaches that other communities are taking to community planning these days). Del Mastro is denying that the battery plant idea is dead and he's insisting that the train is still a comin'. He's either the most optimistic man in Peterborough or....

I'll let you fill in the blanks.

December 11, 2008

Emily Berrigan, Political Whirlwind

Peterborough Green Party of Canada Candidate Emily Berrigan must dream political dreams at night. (Does she count political sheep as she tries to fall asleep?)

It's the only way she can possibly have time to come up with all these great ideas -- and do all the things she's already doing.


In a town that has more than its share of political dinosaurs/neanderthals, it's so refreshing to have Emily speaking the language of political change. Go, Emily, Go!

December 08, 2008

Dion vs. Harper

Partofcanadianflag It's no secret that I've always had a great deal of respect and admiration for St├ęphane Dion. A politician with his kind of personal integrity and long-term vision for what this country actually needs (as opposed to what it wants for itself over the short-term) doesn't come along very often.

Unfortunately for Canada, Dion had the bad luck to cross the political stage at the same time as another once-in-a-generation (or once-in-a-lifetime) politician: in this case, a mean-spirited, rabidly partisan politician who is willing to do anything to keep his bulldog grip on power, including creating a political and national unity crisis.

The contrast in personal styles or value systems between the two men couldn't be greater. Dion mapped out a vision that represents where we really need to be headed as a country, if we're to kick start the green economy and address the growing gap between the haves and have nots in this country (a root cause of much of the youth crime that the neo-conservatives bellow about so much). What prevented Canadians from hearing much of what Dion had to say was the bully who misled Canadians about what the man and his policies were all about.

I don't know about you, but I'm not proud to live in a country where the top politician in the land can savage a political opponent and get away with it -- and then go on to "hide behind the Queen" (as some Americans are putting it as they watch what's been happening in our country in amazement) in order to escape his own political day of reckoning. When George Bush was acting so outrageously a few years back -- and the American people went on to re-elect him, we Canadians looked smugly at one another and said, "That could never happen in Canada."

But, of course, it did: the neo-conservative way of thinking is alive and well and living in Canada now. And we're going to be stuck in this political twilight zone until enough Canadians wake up and realize that they are being lied to and misled by the party in power -- on a routine basis.

This is why parliament isn't working: the traditional rules about parliamentary conduct have been tossed out the windows of the House of Commons and replaced by the same U.S.-style political code of conduct that has made George Bush famous -- or rather infamous -- the world over.

Dion bore the brunt of the attacks from the bully-in-chief of the current regime. When history looks back on this time, people are going to be astounded that more Canadians didn't speak up and decry the McCarthy-like attacks that were carried out during this time -- and that the media was complicit in these attacks.

I feel proud that I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I spoke out against the attack ads, the campaign of misinformation about Dion and his policies (to say nothing of the Conservative Party of Canada and its record) and that I had the opportunity to let Mr. Dion know, on more than one occasion, how much I appreciated his efforts to hold the Harper government accountable.

Dion may not have been the most savvy politican our country has produced, but he is certainly one of our most dedicated. He has served his country well.

December 06, 2008

Don't Forget to Send a Rose to Your MP Today

The YWCA is asking us all to send a virtual rose to our MPs in order to lobby for a national action plan to address violence against women.Rosecampaign

If you wish to support the excellent work that the YWCA does throughout the year --in Peterborough and/or in your community -- you might be interested in knowing that this is the organization's tag day (an annual fundraiser).

If you didn't bump into a canvasser in person while you were out running errands this morning, no worries! You can donate to this very worthy charity in all kinds of different ways, either in Peterborough or elsewhere. (Note: I think very highly of this particular charity -- so much so that I serve on the Board of Directors for the YWCA of Peterborough, Victoria, and Haliburton.)

My MP may be quite surprised to get a rose from me -- but that's okay. Violence against women is an issue that crosses party lines. In fact, it's an issue that crosses all lines. And it can't be allowed to languish any more than it's been allowed to languish over the past three years.

P.S.

If you're looking for a gift for that impossible-to-buy for friend, why not make a donation to the YWCA in her name? It's the gift that keeps on giving -- and saving lives -- year round.