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Politics

Updates on the female candidates – Elizabeth May and Sarah Palin

I post this using the plural because I want to cover developments in both the Canadian and American elections.

Canada

In Canadian Politics, quite a lot has changed in the last few days.  Elizabeth May, the only female leader of a national political party will now be allowed to enter the TV debates, despite earlier reports.  Originally, the leaders of both the NDP and the Conservative Party had opposed the inclusion of May in the televised debates.  Stephan Dion, the Liberal Party leader, comes off looking very well after being the only major leader to openly support her inclusion.

The general public seemed quite upset, especially with NDP leader Jack Layton.  Intense pressure from supporters resulted in Layton backing down.  Once that happened, Harper immediately changed his tune and removed his opposition to May’s inclusion as well.  This will mark the first time the Green Party is included in the televised debate, and is a major shift in the Canadian Political landscape.  The big “fear” from the Conservatives and the NDP is simply that her and Dion will team up and represent some of the same platform points.  It’s a bit unfounded, because the NDP also shares many of the same platform points as both the Liberals and the Greens, and yet no one is worried about t heir inclusion.

America

In other news, Sarah Palin continues both to impress and anger at the same time.  She is also a pretty strong public speaker, but her speeches so far have been laced with more than a few examples of inflamatory rhetoric, and also more than one lie.

The big one?  Her purported opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  She claims she said “thanks but no thanks” to Congress when they offered her $200 million dollars for this bridge.  However, local politicians from both major parties have come out against this.  The truth of the matter is that she was a major supporter and lobbier on behalf of this earmark, and once the money was received and the political winds changed, she changed her mind and said “no”.  But then she kept the money. That’s right.  This Yahoo! News article has much more information on some of the fiscal scandals plaguing her.  The other big issue is her opposition to a Federal oil profits Windfall tax (which Obama supports), while in her state she has done just this.  Alaska has had a major oil tax, but Palin rejigged the whole thing to make the state receive more of the income.

There is also a growing fear of Palin’s theocratic tendencies.  While faith in politics has been a major factor in American politics for the last two elections, here it becomes even more curious.  Over and above the accusations of Obama being a secret muslim, there are more serious accusations about Palin.  Juan Cole of Salon.com has written a scathing article.  Here’s a short piece: “But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Cole goes on to compare Palin’s positions on abortion with a variety of Islamic countries, and notices that herr position lines up nearly identically with that of Iran.  Cole even notes that Tunisia allows abortion in the first trimester, while Palin vehemently argues it is always an “atrocity”. She’s also let it be known she doesn’t believe that climate change is man-made, which is diametrically opposed to the views espoused by both the Obama campaign and her own running mate, John McCain.

Despite these…questionable attitudes on certain subjects, Palin has been a huge source of strength to the McCain campagin.  As a staunch conservative, she has re-energized an unimpressed Republican base and has been a great source of funding for McCain.  Obama’s campaign has actually begun to fall behind in terms of fundraising in the weeks since she has been announced.

For a more detailed (and sligtly more balanced view) of Palin and some of her policies, check out this Newsweek article.

Conclusion

Overall, two strong women are participating in national politics in North America.  This is less of a “big deal” in Canada, which has already had a (albeitly short-lived) female Prime Minister.  However, this is still something to be proud of.  In both countries, this is likely to be one of the most interesting and engaging political races in modern history.

Featured Politics

Canadian Electoral Politics: What you need to know

The upcoming Canadian Election is major news, but only for Canadians.  It’s absolutely overshadowed by its much bigger cousin to the south, and frankly isn’t getting the media coverage it deserves. And, frankly, Canadians are probably sick of elections.  This is the 3rd federal election in 4 years, and the last two both resulted in minority governments.

So here’s the first annual 4080Records Guide to Canadian Politics.

The Parties

Canada has a unique four (sometimes five) party system.  There are more, obviously, but there are four main parties that seem to actually have influence.

The Conservative Party of Canada

Led by Stephen Harper, this is the party currently in power with a minority government.  Having only recently emerged from the mess that was the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties, this past election was the first Conservative win since the Mulroney/Campbell fiasco of the early 1990’s.

Their record over the past year has been somewhat positive, fulfilling a few of their campaign promises (including increased military spending).  In recent polling, things are looking rosy for the Conservatives, with some estimates even projecting a majority for them.

The main issue here is the public perception (as always).  In this case, Harper has very strong polling figures as a “leader”, but the Conservative party itself does not get all that much love and respect.  So the focus of this election has been on playing up Harper’s virtues and virtually ignoring the party itself.  In fact, the new party slogan is “We’re better off with Harper.”

The Conservatives, whether you like them or not, have also taken a rather negative approach to the campaign to date.  Beyond the ‘positive’ messages playing up Harper’s virtues, the other tactic is an extreme set of attacks on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s alleged inability to lead.  From launching a website (http://www.notaleader.ca) aimed at young voters (you can play Flash games mocking the liberals) it also once featured an animated ad of a puffin pooping on Dion.  I kid you not.  It’s kind of a low-brow attack considering much of the focus seems to be on the Dion’s less than great grasp on the English language.  But hey, that’s what the site’s all about.  They also take aim at completely ludicrous things, including the fact that Dion allegedly ate a hot dog with a knife and fork.  Big deal! One of the better moves is their use of Dionbook, a Facebook satire that will probably get them sued in the end.  It’s somewhat funny.

Harper has also been instrumental in excluding the Green Party from the televised debates.

Major Platform Points

  • Arctic Sovereignty – insisting that northern territorial waters be respected, and that ships using the pathways must first report to Canadian Authorities.
  • Increased Military Spending – more troops in the standing army and better equipment.
  • Better relations with the United States
  • Cut the tax on jet fuel and diesel
  • Oppose Kyoto

Some actions as the Government

  • Reduced GST by 2 percentage points (down to 5%)
  • Cut court challenges program
  • Commissioned the creation of a new deep-water vessels for Arctic patrols
  • Introduced childcare benefit
  • Introduced legislation creating fixed election dates.  (then called a snap election)

The Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal Party is often referred to as Canada’s governing party.  They’ve remained in power for the majority of time in the past 50 years, at least until the 2004 election.  In fact, they’re still facing the political fallout of the sponsorship scandal which is pretty much what swept them from power.  Paul Martin, Liberal leader before Dion was not successful in maintaining his minority government.  After his failure to lead the Liberals to victory in the 2006 election, there was immediately a Liberal leadership race to try and choose someone more appealing to voters.  Somehow, the Liberals chose Stephane Dion.

He was, by many pundits opinions, the least likely of the the three main contenderrs to win.  Somehow, he came through with it and has yet to impress.  His voting record has been spotty and he hasn’t done a good job of demonstrating his ability to lead with strength.  This is the focus of many of the Conservative’s attack ads, and  what will probably be the hardest thing for the Liberals to overcome.  Unlike Harper and the Conservatives, the Liberals have a strong party brand image but a perceived weak leader.

To counter the Tory website, the Libs have launched Thisisdion.ca.  It’s a much less flashy site and also remains slightly more positive (but equally as silly).  The focus of this is to showcase just how ‘rugged‘ Stephane Dion truly is.  They’ve also done Scandalpedia.ca, an attempt at a wikipedia entirely based on Conservative party scandals.

[Source: CTV]

Major Policy Points

Specific Proposed Actions as Government

  • Double childcare benefit for low-income families
  • Reintroduce court challenges program

The New Democrat Party

This party has more in common with the Conservatives than they would like to admit.  Self-professedly a ‘party of the left’, the NDP has been a bulwark of pro-union and quasi-socialist activity for many years.  And yet they’ve only begun to obtain mainstream acceptance under the stewardship of Jack Layton (pictured left).  The NDP is also relying heavily on the strength of their leader (an absurdly charasmatic individual) to prop up their party.

The NDP has been rather successful in provincial politics, having run governments in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario at various times.  Federally, however, they have been much less successful.  The previous two elections (2006 and 2004) have been their best yet, winning 29 seats in 2006 and 19 in 2004.  In fact, in 2004 they were key in bringing down the Liberal government but were also paramount in propping them up for several key votes.  As the keeper of the balance of power in parliament, the NDP has recently enjoyed an unprecedented amount of influence.

This is likely to change.  Much the same way Nader is often blamed for the Gore’s election loss, many die-hard Liberals blame Layton for keeping Martin from achieving a Liberal majority back in 2004.  There are some who are predicting now that those less keen on the Liberal brand may feel their ‘protest’ votes had their intended effect and may now return to the Liberal fold.  I’m not convinced of this, but it will be interesting to see.

Main Policy Points

  • Shut down further tar sands development in Alberta
  • Fixing immigration backlog (recognize foreign professional creditionals)

The Bloc Quebecois

This party deserves (and will get) a rather short note.   Since they only run in the province of Quebec, and those outside of Quebec cannot vote for them, they are indeed a mainly regional party.  However, since Quebec has such a huge number of seats, they must still be reckoned with.

At one time they were a soverigntist party, attempting to encourage Quebec to secede from Canada.  This has largely fallen away in the past few years, and instead they have become focused on keeping Quebec’s unique status within federalist Canada.  Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have made considerable inroads into Bloc territory in Quebec, and the Conservatives especially seem poised to take quite a few seats in the province.

Policy Points

  • Promote Quebec identity
  • French language (equality with English as a national language)

The Green Party

The Green Party is, sadly, a bit of a joke.  Despite receiving nearly 5% of the national vote in the 2006 election, they won no seats.  Elizabeth May, their leader, has been raising some ruckus lately because she will be excluded from the televised debate in a few weeks.  This is not the first time this has happened to the Green’s, and likely not the last either.

Somehow people don’t seem to take them overly seriously, and apparently everyone except the Liberals were against them being in the public debate.  What’s especially upsetting for Elizabeth May is the fact that they are finally represented by an MP in parliament.  Thanks to the quirky rules of politics, a Blair Wilson, a former Liberal-turned-Independent-turned-Green MP, they Green’s would have finally had a voice.

May seemed to think that having this representative would guarantee her a chance to participate in the TV debates.  Something she has no doubt been hoping to do for a long time.

Campaign Points

  • Reduce poverty
  • Tax-shifting (similar to the Green Shift plan, they hope to shift taxes from income to discourage use of harmful things)
  • Reduce environmental impact

Conclusion

And there you go.  Everything you needed to know about Canadian Politics for the election.

Just in case you skipped over all the stuff above, here are the links to the party sites.

Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, Bloc.