September 27, 2009

Jack plays with fire? and we may all get burned, By Volume: 29, Number: 3 By Alice Klein, NOW Magazine, Sep 27, 09




September 15, 2009


Many of us are shaking our heads at the ironies that have boiled up this week in the federal arena.

Tomorrow (September 18), for the sake of the home reno tax credit, the “separatists” will save Harper’s bacon by supporting a budget-related confidence motion. In the following weeks, the “socialist” NDP is signalling it might keep the Tory government on the cooker in exchange for EI changes, after an unbroken string of 79 no-ways in a row. Let’s hope Jack Layton’s jump into the Tory fry-up is just the overheated appetizer before a strong non-confidence main course.

This country urgently needs an election, and despite the pundits who say Canadians don’t want one, there is a truly mammoth base of non-Tories who are in fact anxious to head to the polls before the winter.

Looking at the latest EKOS poll, EKOS prez Frank Graves writes, “Interestingly, there is a substantial number of Canadians – perhaps on the order of 10 million of them – who favour an early election notwithstanding the fact that it may not change much.”

“Not surprisingly,” he goes on, “most of them support one of the opposition parties.”

It’s true we are a minority. But let’s look at those numbers. Who wouldn’t answer “Some later time” if casually popped the election question? Add almost every Conservative-leaning person to the no-thanks ranks and then what’s left?

Take note, opposition parties. We, the 10 million election-seekers, are a significant body of your constituents (38 to 41 per cent).

And considering that in total, under 14 million of our countrymen (and women) voted on election day last year, we are doubly important because we election-lubbers are the ones most likely to haul ourselves out to mark our ballots.

According to Graves, hitting the election on switch is unlikely to cause a push-back from voters in the long run, even though it has cost the Liberals a few popularity percentage points in the short term.

“Voters are genuinely annoyed at the prospect of yet another election. On the other hand, this annoyance will probably not influence the final outcome of the election, since voters eventually turn their focus to the big issues that matter in their lives,” he says.

But if the Liberal penalty for forcing an election will likely evaporate, the price for the NDP of thwarting a fall election opportunity, as Layton currently threatens, could be a political stain that never fades among a large core group of the country’s most politically active progressives.

The climate conference in Copenhagen in December may not be big on John Q. Public’s political radar, but for many of us 10 million politicos on the pro-election watch, the fact that world leaders are gathering there to forge a new global agreement to contain climate-threatening carbon emissions registers big.

This week’s coordinated tar sands protests in Washington and Alberta were geared to send a pre-Copenhagen emission-control message to Obama during Harper’s visit. The actions included a Greenpeace dump-truck occupation that shut down Shell’s Alberta Albian Sands operation on Tuesday, September 15. They are the opening shot of what promises to be a concerted international campaign to raise the meeting’s public profile.

Jack, if you’ve forgotten about it, let me remind you. This gathering will mark a decisive moment in human history. The new Kyoto will have nothing in common with the toothless treaty our government has been flagrantly violating for years. Or, if we fail, we’ll all be sunk in the rising dead-zone ocean waves.

All of us need to do everything we can to keep our boreal-sucking Bush- in-Harper-clothing away from these delicate negotiations. This is a unique moment in time. Billions of people (and other life forms, as well) are counting on us. It just isn’t the time for self-serving strategic gamesmanship.

Perhaps the NDP will lose a seat here or there in a new election, but something larger is at stake. The planet itself is asking for the party’s help. Please give us a last chance to oust the one world leader who earned the Fossil Of The Year Award at the pre-Copenhagen run-ups in both Bali in 2007 and Poznan, Poland, last December.

But there’s so much more. Two issues on the table in Toronto right now exemplify the ongoing economic and social cost of the Harper government.

Just last week the federal infrastructure stimulus spending was announced for the city. I have no quarrel with using public cash for water mains, roads and building fixes. There’s even some money for subway stations. All good. But the whole affair is also a reminder that these federal dollars are flowing in only after the call for Transit City streetcar funding was shot down with expletives by Infrastructure Minister John Baird.

The whole incident is a symbol of the way the Tories have frittered away the opportunity to stimulate in the short term while also setting us up to meet our future need to reduce energy use. This isn’t some kind of marginal issue – our economic competitiveness and security depend on it.

This government’s stupidity is now rolled into deficit numbers that could have been paying energy dividends for years to come.

Instead, the shortfall will become fodder for even worse wrong-minded spending slashes as time rolls on. This country simply cannot afford to go through another budget cycle with the Tories.

On the social end of the spectrum, Industry Minister Tony Clement is still convincing no one with his denial again just this week that he revoked cabinet member Diane Ablonczy’s authority over the Marquee Tourism Events Program because she granted $400,000 to Toronto’s fabulous Gay Pride this summer.

He just can’t fudge the fact that Montreal’s similarly brilliant (though smaller) tourist magnet was cut off for no apparent reason right after the hubbub.

This is the same small-minded, prejudiced thinking that keeps Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr in Guantánamo Bay despite two federal court rulings that he must be repatriated, and that stranded Canadian Suaad Hagi Mohamud in Kenya.

EI is big. But there are many issues. Every day,

this government is following its mini-minded agenda in ways we know and ways we don’t.

The longer Harper is our prime minister, the bigger the price tag for dealing with the problems he ignores or exacerbates.3

alice@nowtoronto.com [alice@nowtoronto.com]

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