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