More or less the centre: the Liberal leadership debate in Vancouver

29 Jan 2013
Courtesy of National Post

Courtesy of National Post

The following was originally written for The Other Press, but unfortunately failed the deadline. It has been since edited and posted here for your reading pleasure. Here’s an exception to the rule I mentioned in the previous post.

 

Let’s start with an anecdote on timing: I intended to buy a general-audience ticket to the federal Liberal leadership debate in the days leading to the event at the Westin Bayshore hotel (which I confused with the one near Canada Place). Unfortunately, all the tickets were sold out, perhaps months before the event, and the only tickets available were the ones for the post-debate reception only. It was thus a fortunate thing that this first in a series of debates between candidates for the leadership of the current third party in the House were broadcast en direct on the major news networks, including the not-much news-oriented CPAC, on which I mostly watched the debate.

Now that we’re done with this attention grabber, the debate can be summarised as mostly located on the centre, with little bulges to the left and right. The nine candidates – four women and five men, five relative knowns and four unknowns – faced the audience and each other on questions around Aboriginal issues, Pacific trade, electoral cooperation, social housing, electoral reform and resource development. For the most part, the candidates’ responses showed the classic centrist commitment to combining ideas from the left and right, though in some cases clear left-right positions showed, more notably perhaps in the case of two women, Joyce Murray and Martha Hall-Findlay.

If there was any stark difference that came up between the candidates, it was on the issue of electoral cooperation with like-minded parties against the Conservatives. Alone amongst the candidates, Murray advocated and prioritised electoral cooperation with the NDP and Greens to defeat Harper in the next election, while the rest insisted on the capacity of the Grits to defeat both the current government and the Official Opposition, whether through its abilities of inclusion and fielding a candidate on every riding. Nearly all of them supported electoral reform, mostly in the form of preferential voting. Concerning Aboriginal affairs, most of them expressed support for the Kelowna Accord, which surprised me. Consultation and partnership with Aboriginal peoples, the need for their economic development and government support for the latter prevailed in the discussion, with Hall-Findlay and Deborah Coyne calling for the abolition of the Indian Act. Some of the candidates cited Idle No More and its positive impact.

The topics of social housing, Pacific trade and resource development dominated the debate and provided for interesting comments. One heart-touching highlight of the event was a woman’s story of how social housing helped her recover in life. The need for a national housing strategy, review of current housing programs and provision of affordable social housing were mentioned, with Justin Trudeau citing economic growth as an important step towards the latter. Support for increased economic ties with the Pacific by some candidates was tempered by others’ expressed desire to protect Canadian sovereignty and interests, most notably by Murray. On resource development, ideas mentioned included disincentives and incentives in favour of sustainable energy, “greening” of oil sands products and domestic oil processing. Some of the candidates, such as “tech” candidate George Takach, supported a carbon tax, with Justin wisely avoiding to call it as such.

As mentioned earlier, Murray and Hall-Findlay represented clear left-right positions during the debate, more so for Murray. If she was alone on support for electoral cooperation and marijuana legalisation, Hall-Findlay was alone on support for a Western pipeline. The two differed also on the issue of open markets vs. sovereignty, not to mention Hall-Findlay’s emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Overall the event was a largely cordial affair, with polite exchange of views and a bout of nice banter between a few guy candidates involving science.

What can be said of all this? Personally, there is no problem with being a centrist, as long as it benefits the Canadian people most. Of the candidates, I liked Coyne and Murray the most due to their nationalist positions. Word of that day: “evidence-based policy.” And did I say Justin sounded a little to his dad’s right?

 


Of Fascists and personalised politics

27 Jan 2013

Greetings! A couple of my latest articles from Douglas College’s paper, The Other Press, can be accessed here and here, concerning politics as a mirror of the person and Fascism, respectively.

To anyone even reading this blog, there won’t be any updates here until the summer (with the exception of posts from The Other Press). Stay tuned for the season, then.


A poem about Canada

03 Dec 2012

The following poem was first performed at the Book Launch & Open Mic event at Renaissance Bookstore, New Westminster, 2 Dec 2012:

Beyond Snow and Maple Leaves

There before me

The snow country stood.

Lifeless, thin branches supported by

Equally thin, hollow trunks.

The leaves of maple lying on the ground.

What to think, what to feel?

What to see beyond all these?

Is there more to this land than snow and maple leaves?

 

Are we all guys and gals who

Skim before the rink like swans with metal feet

Bearing long downward pikes

Prepared to hit the rubber cookie back and forth

Like some preordained play

Armoured we are with padding and helmet?

 

Are we brothers

Donning toques and thick jackets

Sitting in a log cabin

Atop some sofa

Talking to a camera

On how buffoons and self-deprecators we are, eh?

Laughing at ourselves and not taking us too seriously

To the point where self-respect disappears gravely?

 

Are we more than just moose, beavers, geese?

Are we more than the mountains, wheat fields

And lakes that surround us?

Are we more than a certain brand of beer,

Are we just those polite guys up the border

The ones the union of the south tends to forget frequently?

 

Can we be more than stereotypes?

Can we be more than just multiculturalism

And globalism?

Can we be more than acommodating

And towards cooperating?

Towards cooperation and the common good?

Towards the welfare of all and the history of all?

To a land that does not forget the past

But cherishes it and learns from it?

A place where it’s not just your culture

But the culture of this land.

This place where we just find ourselves to be.

In awe of it than taming it?

 

I rest, before the snow.

The leaves strewn beside me and above me.

The blank-gray sky stares before me

Asking me what I to do

What I believe in.

What kind of dominion or puissance I believe in.

I said, yes I believe in.

Believe in what is the good of all and the past of all.

On what values we cherish,

More than just Parliament and Charter.

A land of nature, place and time

A land where the good of all is the good of you.


Remembrance…

13 Nov 2012

The following is a poem I first performed at Renaissance Bookstore‘s Book Launch and Open Mic this past Remembrance Day. The stanzas in normal font are meant to be spoken in a Western accent and the italicized ones in a Filipino accent, with the underlined ones without accents:

Two Wars

Fires fly over the air

As we in tin hats huddle behind the rocks

Clutching our rifles, the guarantors of our lives

Waiting for the chance to break out and charge on.

We came from a distance,

From our homes and fields and loves

Here on this dusty and stony land

To fight and defeat the fascist foe,

Challenger of freedom and all we held dear –

You hold dear –

Thousands of us fell on this place we are not rooted into and will fall.

Soon we will make our homes in the stony, forsaken ground.

You may shed tears for us

Lay flowers on our graves.

But know and remember this, those who are to come:

No good cause is ever too great to spend one’s life without.

When the sky turns dark

As long as the sun has not fully gone out

Never waste your time in cowardly inaction

Rather pick up your rifle and tin hat

And with fear and trembling, charge.

 

It may be night

But this is no time to waste it.

Twice quick we march

On this muddy and stony road

Without shoes, without anything against the cold air.

The rifles we have just mere antique

Against the modern, murderous machinery

Of the bowl-legged ones.

But what else can be done?

Are we to leave our loves to they who lack mercy?

Who, for the sake of the Sun, butcher

Even the most hapless baby?

Oh, we may be a tattered and corroded lot

But we refuse to see more of our blood shed.

For freedom and life no fear we will allow

In the name of courage and independence

This awful menace we will quench.

 

The bugle calls

The drums ring noisily

The ranks file in.

Every soul in this whole line accounted for.

Flames burn like masses of furious smoke

As we stride forth armed.

Why are we, simple folk who tend to farms and forests, here

Parading to our eventual deaths, you query.

We are here to defend our way of life.

Peace and order, the things we cherish

Threatened from the other side by the columns of chaos

By the forces of rebellion and unrest.

Not the fall of the world we permit,

Neither the liberty of man’s passions we consent.

To run forth and seek to halt havoc is

A privilege worth paying for.

 

The forest our fort

The grass our shield.

Revolvers primed as the phalanx walks on the dark road.

We do not hesitate once the chance arrives.

Bandits and brigands they might call us –

You might call us –

But never for all time will we doubt that

Providence is on our side.

Too long has the whip scorched our backs.

Too much our labour sent to the ones above us.

Our women violated, our men chained and beaten

The orphans left to be used by crafty minds and devious hearts.

No longer will our servitude continue

No more will the upper ones gain from our suffering.

With our bolos and revolvers in hand

Nothing but fortitude and hope as our strength

We roar and assail like wounded eagles.

The light of a brighter future

If not for us, for our children

From a distance greets us

As the dawn, our dawn, rises.

 

For order.

For freedom.

Against Nazis.

Against the Japanese.

Through the years and ages

For what we believe as true

Against armies that seem too great for mere humans to defeat

We soldiered on, we fought on.

With sweat but not giving up

With bravery but not without tears.

Hoisting high our tattered red flags

Conscious of our peoples’ fate on our shoulders

With ragged faces and fatigued knees

We only simply fight.


Distress

24 Oct 2012

Distress covers me like a blanket

A blanket I cannot escape from.

It wraps and wraps itself around me

Showering me with her embrace

So suffocating and comforting at the same time.

Where is the peace,

The reality of things to come.

I’ll wait for better things to arrive,

As soon as thy comfort arrives.


On “Tory nationalism”: a (very) belated rebuttal to Mr Bondy

19 Oct 2012

In his 21 July 2011 article in the Guelph Mercury, Matt Bondy spoke about a new type of Canadian nationalism propagated by the Conservative government. This kind of Canadian nationalism, Bondy argues, revolves around three elements- “military, monarchy, and — maybe counter-intuitively — French Canadian nationalism.” The first element is symbolized by the recent government sponsorship of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The monarchist element is represented by recent royal visits, while the inclusion of French-Canadian nationalism can be represented by the Commons-wide resolution to recognise Quebec as a nation within Canada. Bondy finalizes his article with this:

“If the Conservative party is successful, after the next four years these conservative cultural and political values will have so decisively marginalized the alternative, liberal nationalisms made available at election time that the Tories will be the so-called natural governing party.”

The Conservative nationalism described in the article is problematic on all three aspects. On the military aspect, government emphasis on the military’s role in the country is part of the change in our foreign and defence policy from one oriented towards peacekeeping, diplomatic solutions and relative non-taking of sides to one of participation in (mostly US-led) policy initiatives against “enemy states” (like the Islamic Republic), lack of hesitation to use military force if necessary to achieve diplomatic goals, and a renewed alignment towards the West (particularly with the US and Great Britain). There is no problem with the emphasis on the monarchy in Canada – after all it forms a part of the heritage of this country, and one that separates us from the Union – but to elevate one aspect of the Canadian heritage to the relative non-elevation of other aspects of that heritage (not that the government doesn’t talk about it if important) like that of the First Nations and French-Canadians, is one-sided and partial. Yes, those 1812 ads really do include First Nations (Tecumseh) and French-Canadians (de Salaberry), but they are both “unified” under the monarchy. While the monarchy is important, it isn’t the sole important thing in Canada. As for the French-Canadian aspect, that resolution might have been made for political purposes, and in any effect may have lost its importance in the Conservative ladder of nationalist themes after its victory in Ontario during the last federal election.

The type of Canadian nationalism Bondy describes, and perhaps supports, in his article is problematic for Canada. It shifts us away from an independent type of nationalism that puts the needs of country and people first to a type of nationalism that not only is militaristic but also US-inspired. The importance of the military and “monarchy” effectively the Canadian version for “country” in the US – the “Conservatives” of today are bringing us ever closer to become like the US.


A proposal on Canadian foreign policy

09 Oct 2012

Anyone who has lived in Canada long enough will be conscious of this country’s traditional conflicted relationship vis-a-vis the United States. Anyone who has studied in college or university, who has taken up a course that has something to do with Canada, will know that not only the U.S. but other core industrialised countries have taken advantage of this country’s preference for natural resources export over domestic industrialisation, making Canada a source of their raw materiel and market for their manufactured goods. In this matter, Canada has become no different from other nation-states and regions of the periphery, exploited for the prosperity, well-being and security of the core region, despite the First World nature of this country not to mention its own possibility for, and indeed active, global exploitation. Due to this almost-similarity in political and economic conditions, an idea comes to mind when it comes to Canadian foreign policy, which traditionally aligns with the First World.

Canada must realign or reposition its foreign policy in favour of developing countries.

At first sight, this won’t appear as shocking. Hasn’t this country provided numerous amounts of aid to those developing countries? Has it not advocated those countries’ causes to the world stage, both as country and through the efforts of its globally active citizens? What I am speaking here is the whole realignment of Canada’s foreign policy with that of those countries it shares the most political and economic conditions with. Canada and the so-called developing countries are natural resources exporters and manufactured goods importers. Any domestic industrial base is almost, if not wholly, foreign-owned, even if it may be domestically-operated in Canada’s case. Internal and external politics is influenced or controlled by the bigger countries. Such a similarity in conditions necessitates that Canada realign with those places it shares the most when it comes to exploitative experience. Canada is the “Third World” of the First World.

Changes have occured since the term “Third World” appeared; it is now a much-denigrated term. Countries that have once been categorised as such have now risen to positions of global influence – the so-called BRICS as well as other nations mainly in Latin America and eastern Asia – and are now challenging the established developed nations for political and economic influence on this world. Should Canada unite ranks with the First World in the face of such a challenge? Well, no. Rather, it should develop an independent foreign policy that would depend on its sovereignty and values. Alignment with those economically and politically oppressed, who might share the same history with Canada even though not the same poverty, is part of such a policy.