Category Archives: Politics

Looking For The Positive in Canada’s 2019 Election

I am a regular columnist for a regional Manitoba newspaper called The Carillon.  Several weeks ago a fellow writer for the paper penned his entire column about why Canadians should definitely not cast their vote for Justin Trudeau in the upcoming election. That column inspired me to attempt something different. Despite my own clear and established political preferences could I look at the major candidates and parties and find something positive to say about each of them? Canadians have consistently rated Elizabeth May of the Green Party the most ethical and trusted party leader in the country. She wants to bring more civility and collegiality across party lines to the House of Commons. I am so glad a woman is running for prime minister. It is high time Canada had an elected female prime minister especially in 2019 when every provincial leader is male. No other party takes climate change as seriously as the Greens, but they also have concrete plans for improving the lives of Canadians in areas like housing, LGBTQ rights, justice, and health care. Elizabeth May has a theology degree and the United Nations has named her one of the world’s leading environmentalists for her work as a politician, author, and environmental lawyer.
Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party has a wealth of political experience. He was elected to the House of Commons in 2006, 2008 and 2011. He was the Speaker of the House for four years. Scheer’s party has promised $1.5 billion to buy more MRI and CT machines for medical facilities. This is important to many Canadians. As someone who rides the bus almost daily, I appreciate the Conservative initiative to provide a tax credit for folks who buy passes for public transportation. Before he entered politics Andrew Scheer worked as a waiter. I waitressed my way through university so I know few professions teach you as much about human nature. That knowledge would serve a prime minister well.

According to a recent article in the Atlantic magazine Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party has kept 92% of his 2015 campaign promises, the most by any Canadian government in 35 years. He has instituted a carbon tax, a strategy more than 3000 economists have endorsed as an effective way to reduce carbon emissions. Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership in 2018, Canada settled more refugees than any other country in the world. Statistics Canada reports that the child poverty rate in our country has declined thanks to the child benefit instituted by the Liberal government in 2016. Justin Trudeau appointed the first gender-equal cabinet in Canada and presently the jobless rate in our country is the lowest it has been since 1976. It sounds like in many ways Justin Trudeau has done a very good job.
Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party has detailed plans for instituting national pharmacare, childcare, and dental care programs. These are vital services. One has to admire the poised professional way Mr. Singh responded to racist comments he received recently while campaigning in Montreal. Mr. Singh’s autobiography Love and Courage describes how he rose above a challenging childhood to become a respected criminal lawyer and member of the Ontario legislature. In a CBC interview, Jagmeet Singh gave many examples of older male House of Commons representatives in the New Democratic Party stepping aside to allow young women to run for office and then lending these new candidates their support. This kind of change is of great importance in Canadian politics. 
Although we all have our own convictions about which leader and party would be best for Canada I think it is helpful to acknowledge that all our leaders have some positive qualities and each party has some plans and promises we can applaud. In a campaign that has sometimes been far too negative, we might do well to think of something positive we could say about each person who has made the sacrifices needed and had the strong convictions required, to run for political office. 

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C’mon Conservatives

I was with a group of people on Thursday night and we were talking about the various issues that will be important in the American election next fall as well as which Democratic candidates seem the most promising to us. One member of our group interrupted and said, “C’mon. Listen to us. Canada has an election coming up in just about a month and all we can talk about is the American election.”  I was properly chastised and went home to try to learn more about the issues in my own country’s election. I started with the Green Party. As soon as I opened their site there was a big bold invitation for me to read The Green Plan.  I clicked on it and there were eight banners with their eight main initiatives, each with several subheadings. It was easy to find issues I cared about and see a concise, colorfully illustrated statement about what the Green Party planned to do about it. Next, I checked out the New Democratic Party. Right under a big picture of Jagmeet Singh was a headline Our New Deal For People. I clicked on the ‘learn more’ button and seven key promises came up- each with an appropriate graphic. Each of these had a ‘learn more’ button.  When I clicked on the one in the Reconciliaition section for example, up came ten points succinct and clear about steps the NDP will take towards reconciliation. 

I moved on to the Liberal Party site.  As soon as I opened it I saw in big bold letters Our Plan.  When I clicked on ‘learn more’ up came six key initiatives with great photos.  Each had a ‘read more’ button that led to a full description of that initiative. At the bottom of that was another button ‘backgrounder’  and if you clicked on that you got even more information. Last I opened the Conservative Party site.  If I watched the banner at the top change and pressed on one of the banners before it disappeared, I could find an opportunity to donate or connect after reading an action plan to get pipelines built or a promise not to cut social programs or a statement of intent to cut taxes but………… there was no clear set of platform policies presented in an easy to access way like the other party sites provided.  Maybe it is coming. I hope so.  

Both the CBC and Macleans magazine provide easy to understand formats where they compare the country’s parties on a host of issues.  But I have become somewhat wary about trusting news sources to be totally fair and unbiased, so I prefer to hear about what a party believes straight from them. So far the Conservatives aren’t making that nearly as easy as the other parties. 

Other posts…….

We Both Talk With Our Hands

Should Women With Young Children Be Politicians?

Could I Join the Conservative Party?

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Thanks For Voting

I votedI went to a medical clinic on Friday morning and hadn’t realized I still had my voting sticker on my jacket.  The nurse who did my assessment before I saw the doctor greeted me and then said, “Thanks for voting. “

She told me couldn’t believe that with so many pressing issues, including health care, facing our province, only 55% of eligible voters even bothered to go to the polls in the election on September 10. In fact, Manitoba had one of its worst voter turnouts in decades.  

So why didn’t Manitobans vote?  Were they disillusioned with politics and politicians? Were they just not interested enough?  Did they feel like their vote wouldn’t matter anyway because a certain party was sure to win their riding no matter how they voted? Did they feel they didn’t have enough knowledge to cast an informed ballot? Was it because it was the end of summer and people were just too busy with the start of a new school year and hadn’t really been paying attention to the news while making the most of our province’s short summer? 

I am as troubled as my nurse was that more people didn’t exercise their right to vote.  What can we do to change that for the upcoming federal election?

Other posts………..

Are You This Determined to Vote?

Vote Nation

Why All These Old White Men? 

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Why All These Old White Men?

Women make up slightly more than 50% of Canada’s population. 30% of Canada’s population is not white. The median age of people in our country is 40. Now check out the faces of the premiers of Canada’s ten provinces.  In order to be representative of the people they serve, at least half of those faces should be female, four of them should be from diverse racial groups and a goodly number should be under 40.  What does it say about us as a nation that the people we elect to represent us are all old white men?

I’d like to know what motivates people to vote for leaders who are all the same and don’t represent the rich and diverse human landscape of our country. Why don’t more women, young people and people from minority groups run for office?  Why does a poorly-qualified man like Doug Ford win a party leadership race against two extremely capable, experienced and qualified women?   Is it because old white men still control the money in our country and although we live in a democracy it is those with money who have the most power? Is it because people have just given up on the political system or has politics become so demanding and demeaning that few people besides old white men have a desire to enter that world?

Why do you think ten old white men lead the provinces in our country?  Do you find that troubling?  I do! What can we do to change that? 

Other posts………

Women in Politics

Knock Down the House

The Matilda Effect

 

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Hyphenated Lives

Sun-Poe by Reena Saina Kallat. The sunbird is the national bird of Palestine and the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel

The drawings look like something you would see in zoology or botany textbooks.  Hyphenated Lives is a collection of art pieces by Reena Saina Kallat that depict hybrid specimens of birds, animals, trees, and plants. They were created by merging two species that are the national emblems of countries that have at some point been politically partitioned. The purpose of national symbols is to unite people but these drawings merge symbols from countries that have been separated. The artist illustrates that not only people but also elements of the natural world are interconnected and also suggests that sometimes nature can defy the barriers set up by politicians. This is the Sees-Yal tree.  On the left, you see the Sessile Oak the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. On the right, you see the Royal Oak an important symbol in England since legend has it that Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.   In 1921 Ireland was partitioned, with southern Ireland becoming independent and eventually a republic and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Although the relationship between northern and southern Ireland is relatively peaceful right now from 1968-1998 there were thirty years of terrible conflict between the two that resulted in thousands of deaths. Some of the Hyphenated Lives pieces, like this one, feature electric cables. They are a symbol of the way ideas and information can be transmitted bringing people together.  Often however Reena Saina Kallat has them morph into barbed wire barriers.   Behold the Ti-Khor. On the left, you see a tiger, the national animal of India and on the right the markhor, an endangered species of a wild goat that is the national animal of Pakistan. In 1947 a provision of the Indian Independence Act which separated India from Great Britain also separated Pakistan from India. This partition created along religious lines- Pakistan largely Muslim and India largely Hindu- created a refugee crisis and stirred up large scale violence that resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to be a troubled one. The Edel-Lip is a hybrid of the Edelweiss the national flower of Austria and the tulip the national flower of Hungary. Austria and Hungary both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 but after World War I became distinct and separate European countries.  In 1945 the advance of communism in Hungary and the erection of the Iron Curtain which Russia used to separate its European allies from the West created a barrier between Austria and Hungary and Austria took in thousands of refugees from Hungary. The Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and in 2007 an agreement between Austria and Hungary allowed citizens to move back and forth freely between the two countries.

This art piece is called The Jordan River. The  Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 in an area previously called Palestine that was home to Arab Muslims who became displaced refugees when Israel was established.  Adjacent to Israel to the west of the Jordan River is an area called The West Bank that holds many sites of cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and there has been a long history of violent conflict as both Israelis and Palestinians have tried to claim this territory. The Jordan River is the primary water source of the area and so it has been at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Pea Yel bird is a combination of the peacock which is the national bird of India and the doyel or magpie robin which is the national bird of Bangladesh. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 divided the province between India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu West Bengal became a state of India and predominantly Muslim East Bengal which would later become Bangladesh became a province of Pakistan.  

Hyphenated Lives is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Vision Exchange exhibit that features artists who have their roots in India. I find Hyphenated Lives very thought- provoking as I try to envision other combinations of living things that could illustrate the establishment of a relationship between countries or groups of people that have barriers real or imagined between them. 

Other posts………..

Animal Wisdom

Nature’s Artwork

The Book of Creation

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, Nature, Politics, winnipeg art gallery

Knock Down The House

Last Sunday over dinner my son and I talked enthusiastically about a movie on Netflix we had both just watched.  It is called Knock Down the House and tells the incredible story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and how she defeated ten-term incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Crawley to become a candidate in the 2018 election and subsequently was elected to the American House of Representatives.  Although Crawley was a prominent member of the Democratic caucus, was backed by big business interests, and spent nearly twenty times as much money as Ocasio-Cortez did, she still won.  Everyone knows this story but it is chronicled in exciting personal detail in Knock Down the House

What I learned while watching Knock Down the House that I didn’t know before was that AOC, as she is affectionately called, was one of many new candidates for office sponsored by the Justice Democrats an organization that formed after the 2016 election to promote Democratic candidates that were not in the pocket of big business, candidates that were not funded by wealthy individuals or major corporations. The movie details the bids of three other women besides AOC who also tried to defeat established corporately funded candidates to be nominated in their congressional districts. Although they didn’t win their primaries their stories are also inspirational.  

In Nevada, Amy Vilela ran for nomination inspired by her twenty-two-year-old daughter who died because she didn’t get the medical procedure she needed due to confusion over whether the young woman’s health insurance would cover it.  

In West Virginia Paula Jean Swearengin a coal miner’s daughter ran for nomination inspired by the poor living conditions and low wages of coal miners and her concerns over the environmental damage caused by the industry including the high rates of cancer among her neighbors. 

In Missouri Cori Bush a registered nurse, ordained pastor and community organizer ran for nomination inspired by her own experience as a single parent having to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. She wanted to change a justice system that over-incarcerates, an education system that under educates and was disturbed by the fact that millions of American children live in poverty. 

Some critics say Knock Down the House would have been a better movie if it had just focused on the story of AOC but I think it is stronger for also showing us the other candidates, equally passionate, equally bent on changing America, equally dedicated to giving government ‘back to the people’, but women who ultimately did not have the success AOC did and were defeated by corporately backed candidates. 

My son and I talked about what we agreed was the most moving scene in the film for both of us.  After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is elected to Congress she visits Washington DC  and remembers how her father who died in 2008 once took her there and showing her the great monuments in the capital said, “These all belong to us.” 

We have an election coming this fall in Canada and Knock Down the House is a good reminder that indeed our government belongs to us and that we each have an important role to play in determining our country’s future.

Other posts………

What Happens When A Women Take Power?

Women in Politics

Difficult Women

 

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Where Does She Get Her Energy?

I have started following quite a few of the candidates for the Democratic leadership in the United States on Twitter.  These people give me hope.  Whether it’s the intelligence of Peter Buttigieg, the faith of Corey Booker, the joy of Kamala Harris or the honesty of Kristin Gillibrand it is heartening to know there are people out there vying to be President who have nothing in common with the man who currently holds the office. But no one impresses me like Elizabeth Warren.  What I admire most is her energy!  She is four years older than I am and there she is going, going, going all day long- out shaking hands with folks as she takes an early morning walk, making speeches to packed arenas, visiting a brewery, hugging children, hiking through a National Park, talking to supporters on the phone, taking selfies with fans, chatting with the thousands who come out to her rallies, issuing new policy statements. Where does she get her energy? As I have aged my energy levels have definitely gone down.  A full day of work usually means an evening  on the couch with Netflix and a glass of wine for me. But not Elizabeth! She’s a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a senator and a candidate for President.  And for me she’s an inspiration that no matter how old we are we can make a difference in this world in a more powerful way than we may think. Just watching Elizabeth in action gives me a burst of energy and the impetus to get out there and get going!

Other posts………

Sacagawea, Pocahontas and Elizabeth Warren

She Persisted

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