Why I will not vote Stephen Harper, and then debated Liberal and NDP
This is my first time voting at the Federal level in Canada.
After being so heavily involved in Politics in the UK I needed time to recover. Most voters do not consider the cost to the citizens that make our democracy work. There is a high cost for politicians, their staff and all the people that get them elected. Let alone those that run our countries as civil servants.
When I first looked at voting (in the UK) and polices I voted Green (European Elections), the UK party that interested me was the Social Democrat Party in part because they were more favourable towards Europe (they merged into the Liberal Democrats). My political journey came out of student politics where I was an advocate for free education. It was interesting reviewing my policy journey and looking where I ended up now. I would say that I am Liberal in my outlook and believe in a balance of the needs of the community and the individual.
Trying to ignore politics
Canada makes it easy to not be involved, you are not allowed to vote until you are a Canadian citizen about 5-7 years, even though you pay taxes all the time.
In my opinion democracies and voting is a bit backwards. People are always talking about demanding more and better performance from elected officials, but when you get right down to it, shouldn’t a democracy demand more and better performance from the citizens who vote? If they do their job well (e.g. like research, understand policies, question candidates, volunteer), then the quality of those they elect will naturally follow..
Ok that failed
My first involvement I guess was working for Angus Reid, then helping out on the Startup Visa. My first vote was for Vancouver City Council, then next was the Vancouver Transit plebiscite. This led me to sit on the Vancouver Active Transportation Council.
“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
So what about the Conservatives?
The Canadian federal elections gave me the incentive to learn what is going in Canada’s politics. To choose a political party to get behind. I started by reading a couple books on Canadian politics and visiting a number of Canadian museums. Without a doubt the torch was A Party of One by Michael Harris. It both horrified me and made me furious. It walks you through some of the Conservatives major decisions and how they handled them.
The things about the Conservatives that bother me:
- The removal of debate in parliament and not providing details when correctly asked
- The removal of powers from independent Auditors/Boards who work to ensure no party politics
- The Nuclear Safety Failure – the CNSC under Linda Keen – they ignored her warnings of dangers
- The removal of protection of our environment. Harpers Navigation Protection Act removed the protection of 31,000+ lakes. Leaving just 97 Lakes protected and most of them are in Conservative Ridings. Under the act construction of dams, bridges and other protected structures would be permitted without prior environmental approval. The national energy board is now responsible for navigable waters.. wait what..
- Their relationship with the First Nations and “delayed” involvement in pipeline projects
- The lack of care of our Veterans and overloading of caseworkers that support them
- C23 – The unfair elections act – The changing of election laws that benefit the rich voters and suppress poorer voters
- The cuts to the CBC
- The muzzling of scientists and other civil servants by Stephen Harper and his office
- The abusing of omnibus bills – the act of combining budgets and laws – leading to lack of scrutiny
- C51 – its reduction of freedom of speech and groups gathering
- The approach to International Relations is arrogant and hostile.
- The way they use fear as an election tactic and the copying of US Republican campaign tactics
- The converting of Canada to be the extra 10 US States.
- Wide spread corruption for which they were elected to clear up
- The lack of “courageous truth” on the costings of the F35 and firing the Parliamentary Budget Officer when he told the truth
- The inability to admit when they got it wrong and then learn and become better
- The lack of funding transparency and management
The lack of information on spending and on results achieved for money spent is a common theme throughout Ferguson’s report, which includes 11 chapters in total.
And for all the claims about being better for the Economy, the Conservatives managed to get rid of the surplus that the previous Government had, selling off National assets to governments with questionable humans rights. They then claim a surplus in the elections (2015), of course what they had not told people is they underspent on Veterans ($1.1 Billion) and Migrants ($350 Million). I imagine in part this was created by the closing Veterans Affairs offices, leaving some Veterans several hour journeys to get to see their caseworkers.
Sad thing is bill C23 pushed through by the Stephen Harpers Conservatives reduced Elections Canada to enforce or investigate any voter suppression/ Robocalls scam, I wonder why..
They use fear as their way to get people to follow them. When I ask another Canadian to define what makes them Canadian they often say “We are not American”. Yet Stephen Harper is Americanising Canada and has enacted more US Republicans policies here in Canada then they could in the US.
This removed the Conservatives as a viable option leaving me with National Democratic Party (NDP) or the Liberals. I guess you could called me a Strategic Voter or anything but Conservative for this election.
So what about the NDP and Liberals?
I tried out a couple sites to look at issue/policy comparisons such as isidewith which was a helpful start, but maybe a little off. The was also a good piece in the National Post (yes I know its Conservative in its views, but also has some well written articles). The best for last though I Can Party.
Federally I was more inclined to vote for Liberals before I started my journey to understand the NDP and Liberals. This was in in part because I voted/supported and worked for Liberal Democrats in the UK.
Now I had some biases going into this — I did not like that the BC NDP had run a campaign against HST in BC (it was better than the current system). I felt they misrepresented the tax system. I get that people were angry the way it was implemented by the BC Liberals (which is fair) but process overtook a good improvement. I have also not been impressed with the BC Liberals and their ability to listen and learn.
This was partly countered by the NDP in Alberta who did many things, but very importantly they reduced the ways companies AND unions could contribute to election campaigns. This inspired me.
I do know political parties work very differently at federal and provincial level, I also had some biases at the federal level.
How do the political parties create their policies?
Most political parties have conferences where all the members submit policy ideas and the members vote on them. Each party comes with its people; So we think that the Conservatives are controlled by businesses, Liberals by rich people and NDP by Unions. Of course the truth is far much more complex.
So, I was also worried about the grip of the Unions on the NDP — are the Unions progressive enough? I was a member of a teachers union when I taught at BCIT. They never contacted me and it seemed like they considered me lower class when I spoke to them because I was part-time even though I was a paid member. That said, Unions are something I believe are necessary and could be a potential progressive force in our democracy. Also, upon exploring the NDP policy making structure, I discovered it is one member one vote, which is good as opposed to Unions having block votes.
A lot of pundits (i.e. pollsters and media) I spoke to said that the Liberals were a lot more controlled from the centre, similar to the Conservatives that candidates had to check in with their central HQ before doing polling or some messaging. They also mentioned, that year after year it was the same people you spoke to, where as the NDP you saw a respectable turnover. Whilst there is always a measure of top down it feels like it is greatest in the Conservatives, whose many candidates rarely attend all party candidates meeting so voters can see them debate. The next seems like the Liberals and then the NDP.
Trudeau spent a year traveling the country, meeting with Canadians, and talking with them about the values they thought were essential to the country.He then recruited people, created several policy groups, and gave them instructions to come up with polices that reflected Liberal values; and, then, to find the ones that were right for Canada, rather than the ones that would win an election. Trudeau took his party through an elaborate, three-year strategic planning exercise for Canada, driven by an overarching commitment to “get it right.”
At this point I had removed some of my misconceptions of both parties structures, policy making and started filling in actual facts.
Comparing policy documents
There are policies I like in both and some I felt were weak and need more input from respective stakeholders. For example I would like to improve some of the NDP thinking on Corporations and Startups. I felt the NDP had thought more about how to evolve economy to one that works with our Environment rather ripping it to shreds.
Initially I was frustrated by not being able to find NDP policies and costings, yet could find the Liberals and they were good. Eventually I found policy books for both. I read both and compared.
In terms of costings for all parties they are weak, not surprising really consider how much work it takes, in government you have an entire civil service to help you.
Where am I coming from when comparing these?
I feel I have been lucky in life: I have had jobs when needed. I am happy to pay taxes in order to help others, whether it be those with disabilities, single parents or our elders. We survive together. Education is paramount for our future as well as our environment. No Environment, no planet, no human race. We also need to define ourselves as competitive to other nations, and science should be a core part of that, other nations should know we are not just their gas tank or wood supply.
Looking at the policy spread I did not disagree with any of the NDP or Liberals policies in terms of what needs to be done, but when it came to the ‘how’ I had some suggestions.
What sets NDP and Liberals apart for me?
I do emotionally favour the Liberal policy of spending on infrastructure when the interest rate is low. I feel that Canada has to spend a lot of money on infrastructure for us to move to a more environmentally conscience country and to be ready for the lack of Gas and Oil in our futures. That said, it could leave debt for future generations. I was a little frustrated that the NDP was committing to a fiscally conservative budget for a few years – this is similar to what Labour (in the UK) did when they got elected in 1997. That said with flux with oil prices at the moment perhaps we should consider a more fiscal approach. The NDP have a fiscal approach.
One in five Canadians are raised by a single mother
Clear areas of difference existed around:
- A new election system – NDP Proposition Representation – Liberal vague commitment to something
- Civil Liberties/C51 – Harper and Trudeau both got into bed very quickly with each other on C51. When a law that questions basic freedoms and refuses to clarify its scope, people will come to expect the worst. The fact is they do not trust Canadians and Harper appears to be trying to turn us into another United States.
- Universal Childcare – For childcare, the Conservative and Liberals are just offering one system: the tax benefit. The NDP will support an additional one, by ensuring Childcare spots at just $15 days, keeping it affordable for all families and helping women have the choice about going to work.
- Prescriptions – NDP offer a solid plan where as the Liberals is a step forward but not enough
- Keystone XL Pipeline – Harper and Trudeau both had a pipe dream on the Keystone XL Pipeline yet both Hilary Clinton/Obama don’t want it. Is this the pipeline to nowhere? We need a Government that can work with others, like the Americans or the First Nations or even our environment.
- War and defence – Liberals would keep using our forces in an offensive role the NDP would not. We are a very small contributor in terms of ‘Allied’ forces. Would our money be better spent on solely ‘Humanitarian’ roles. In part the Conservatives have made us a target, and dropped our Peacekeeping vision to one of offensive and a target, thus needing more security..
- He let the Conservative budget in 2009, 2010 budgets pass unopposed
- And he voted with Stephen Harper on 70 confidence votes
Some will say that the Liberals wanted time to rebuild, for the new leader to establish himself and to save us from another immediate election after election.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline process
- C51 – Justin Trudeau voted with Stephen Harper on Bill C-51. He said – he didn’t want Stephen Harper to make “political hay” out of it.
- Approach to International Relations and the use of our armed forces
I reflect on the party in the UK (Liberal Democrats – Under Charles Kennedy) I used to be a member of and they would not have supported any of this Conservative acts that attack Civil Liberties or the Environment. The Liberals have a lot of history of campaigning on the left and governing on the right. I am having a hard time getting over the Liberals supporting C51.
Watching the first debate I felt Trudeau was robotic and off his game, Mulcair was good and Harper defended himself well, but was not entirely honest.
The second debate all party leaders did well, Mulcair was sharp, calm yet fast, Trudeau was very aggressive (I got a little tired of his interruptions) and Harper was solid – but clearly twisted some points from fantasy into fact i.e. That carbon emissions have gone down during is time – this is more to do with the reduction in the economy not his policies.
Trudeau feels like an emotive “connecter,” a nearly USA-style, touchy-feely politician. Without a doubt there is potential here, the campaign will allow us to see who he is. I found his book a bit cheesy at times, but informative and worth the read. I share a lot of his views.
Mulcair appears sharp, fast-talking, analytic, policy-focused politician. When he brings up his upbringing and personal history he does a bit of sociology about the meaning of coming from a big Catholic family in Laval, Quebec. Watching some of parliamentary speeches he was impressive. Two things single him out:
- He quit his job as Environmental Minister for QC Liberals when they told him to build in a National Park
- He joined the NDP when they were the fourth party and no where to be seen in QC
This to me, shows courage, and principles.
One other thing that makes a real difference for me is the willingness to work with other parties i.e. Green, Liberal and NDP. Possibly in a coalition. Trudeau has said he will work with the NDP but not Mulcair, that seems a little petty to me. Mulcair has said he will work with the Liberals.
The Liberals appears largely non-ideological, they tend to take a centralised, symmetrical and anti-Quebec nationalist approach to federalism, and most of the time they are to the Left of the Conservatives – but occasionally jump to the right with the Conservatives. That said they have some good policies out there, some are lacking details but the intentions appear good. They are very different from Liberal Democrats in the UK. Maybe they will what we hope for. Their policies target the middle class.
The NDP appears moderate, but still left-leaning, social democratic party that is ideologically committed to social justice, progressive social policies and egalitarianism in general (but they’re less socialist than they used to be).
The NDP remains committed to social democracy (a well regulated, mixed market economy with a strong welfare system), and they are uncompromising on social policies (abortion, gay rights, trans rights, etc.). Also, they’re more open to Quebec nationalism and the idea of asymmetrical federalism than the Liberals. Their policies target less fortunate people.
So they are different how?
The NDP has “modernized” (i.e. moving from a socialist party to a social democrat party) and has passion, it still recognizes that governing will inevitably means choosing between competing and contradictory interests.You can please some of the people, some of the time; but you can’t please everyone, all of the time.
Trudeau, appears to be all things to all people. He is a friend to rich and poor, alike. He is for the environment and First Nations while supportive of the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau’s vision does not require making any difficult choices, yet. It seems the Liberal Party has been about the pursuit of power, not ideals, and with Trudeau at its head the Party, it may avoid any stances that might upset the elite and established. I am interested to see how this changes through the campaign.
For both we often just have the past to make a judgement, and it can often be hard to really understand their potential. Either have the potential.
I think we need a Government who can upset the cart to transform us into a country ready for the future.
Listening to friends
Most of my Canadian friends had no idea, undecideds, something between Liberal and NDP, and a small number of Conservatives. Many wanting real change to the Canadian future, i.e. anti Conservative
Where can I help the most?
Swing Ridings are where all the tough battles are fought between parties and there is a likely chance of change or maybe the riding is new. Two groups make it easier to see where strategic voting will help:
I explored all the Vancouver ridings to see which had Conservatives leading or second, with another party close behind or leading. Vancouver Granville and Vancouver South seemed likely swing ridings (i.e. change seems in the realm of possibility). Vancouver South has a very strong Liberal candidate so no need to help there.
Lead Now showed that Vancouver Granville is close as NDP is in the lead with Conservative second. This seems like a fight 🙂
Vancouver Granville: State Of Play – August 15-18 LeadNow poll
- NDP 36%
- Conservative 30%
- Liberal 24%
- Green 10%
I have worked on a lot of campaigns, it is very possible to move a campaign by 10% locally but anything above usually needs some mistakes, exceptions or global shifts. For example if the national leader clearly outpaces the others in terms of perception, this will help local campaigns but not define it. In my own election we shifted the vote by 14%. I was really helped by a very successful national campaign and clearly very different types of candidates, combined with some successful issue campaigns in the area of electors. It makes sense to help the NDP candidate to ensure the Conservative does not get in.
On the point of polls, I have seen hundreds (working for a polling company and as a campaign manager) in most have not predicted the actual result. National Polls are even worse they often ask 3-5 per riding, so do not help on the local level. They are helpful for identifying issues and how they play. And seat predictors are very dangerous. I worry about their impact on people creating a self fulfilling prophecy, by following a leader rather choosing what is “right” in their perspective by policy and candidate comparison. I suspect that the national polls may be more important their candidates, policies, etc to voters
Let me clear Strategic voting could be useful, but should not be the whole equation, just one part. You vote for one candidate in your local riding, that candidate has to be good and they have to be a party that you can accept with policies that work for the place you want.
Meeting the local candidates
So with the goal of helping to shift the vote, I met both the Liberal (Jody Wilson-Raybould) and the NDP (Mira Oreck) candidates for the Vancouver Granville riding today. The campaign office NDP was faster to respond and it started with a long phone call with Mira Oreck and then a face to face meeting with her and her campaign team. The Liberal campaign was a little slower to respond and I was invited along to a “coffee meeting” at their office.
They are both good candidates. Very different candidates and teams. I asked a lot of questions and tried to see where I would be the better fit. I felt that Mira dealt better with my tougher more aggressive questions. Jody redirected some of my questions and relied very much on the national platform for her answers. Mira was more willing to share her personal feelings where Jody was a bit more standoffish. When I ask Jody what she thought of Mira, she said she had never met her. Which is curious because they had already being to at least one all candidates meeting. Mira was kind about Jody. I think that was a decider..
After I debated strongly: should I help the Liberals take Conservatives voters ensuring more of a fight between the Liberal and the NDP or should I help one to try to win outright.
Now I have to decide which one to help get elected. I will help one for the rest of the campaign so 3-4 weeks of volunteering.
What do I want from a Government
I would like Government to provide stability for our businesses (thus taxation allows us to provide services), guide us to keeping our environment healthy, help us as citizens find our potential, allow us to be different, find the right choice between our freedom and security. And I want it to protect the vulnerable and help them climb the ladder to a better place. Maybe I do not need as much help as others, but I want to know that the Government has their back. In terms of international relations I want us to be open to others and different cultures, and not enforce our culture on them.
Making a Decision
In the end we are judged by our actions, not our intentions. I felt the NDP in Parliament have done a better job than the Liberals in the last term (I feel that you should reward the behaviours you want to see). The Liberals seem to swing to right when uncertain. NDP seem to know who they are. Mira is a strong candidate in Vancouver Granville with clear principles.
After a time of having unprincipled leadership in Stephen Harper I feel we need a leader with core values, tested principles and a will to take us back to a compassionate, forward looking Canada. Trudeau’s support of C51 really worries me, and I am not ready to get passed. Yes we need security but at what price to our democracy or to our freedom of speech? Would we need this extra security if our international relations was done with more respect, tact and finesse?
I feel that Tom Mulcair at this time shows guts, experience, compassion, respect and ability to listen.
Thus I decided to support the Mira Oreck NDP candidate in Vancouver Granville, in this election. I feel she is one of the strongest candidates in Vancouver area and I feel she will be a strong advocate for both her riding and Vancouver. I will reflect after the election.
[Update] Watching the all candidates meeting (about 500 people turned up), I felt Mira did an amazing job with both the introduction and questions, the next best was without a doubt the Green candidate (Michael) he had a lot of courage and then Erin the Conservative (I did not like what he said but he presented himself well). Jody did well on a couple questions. Watching this debate it was confirmed for me that Mira would do right by this Riding, and achieve results in Ottawa for us.
What should you do?
I would would prefer you travel your own journey, learn about what is important to you, take time to understand the people and policies and choose the right candidate for you. Often people vote lazily i.e. they choose just the party, please don’t do this get to know your local candidates choose the representative for your riding and your beliefs. Every party is the sum of its parts and its individual members of parliament will impact on the “sum” or overall picture.
Action Plan for you
If you have not received a voters card:
- Get your postcode
- Know what riding you are in, go to this website (Elections Canada)
- Check to see if you are registered to vote here the deadline is Tuesday, October 13 at 6:00 p.m. (local time) you can do this online or at a local office
Find out who your local candidates are?
- Go to the Elections Canada website, on the right enter your postcode. New Page on the right click on “Who are the candidates in my electoral district?”
- Do a web search on each candidate looking for the next All Candidates meeting. Go and see them talk.
Understand what each of the parties will do?
- First write a list of things you think are important now.
- Then add items that are important to people you care about
- This site does a comparison of policies – I Can Party
- Then checkout each parties website, refer to your list, it may grow thats ok.
If you could read one book?
P.S. What about Greens?
I strongly believe if we don’t get a grip on the impact of us and our economy on the environment soon, we will move the planet to a point that it cannot heal from. I think environmental impact should be a part of every policy. I also felt Elizabeth May did very well in the first debate. But I want to get involved in actually evolving policy, in a party that has the ability to form a Government or a strong opposition. I imagine the Green Party will teach me many things and I will listen and learn.