Thoughts on 19 October 2015

03 Nov 2015
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Courtesy of cbc.ca

A mixed (and in this case, late) response. But let’s start with the positives here, or rather the only positives here.

The so-called “Conservative” party was finally dislodged from power after nearly a decade of trying to impose its US Republican-inspired ideals on a country that’s fundamentally different in its founding principles, and with Stephen Harper’s resignation as the cherry on the cake. They were 10 years of actions, decisions and legislations that already or were going to significantly affect this country, its citizens and their affairs in a way never seen before — and mostly negative. Whether anything of the legacy of the founding father of the present Conservatives will remain is dependent on both his successors as party chief and Prime Minister.

After 10 years, we finally have a non-“Conservative” government. Indeed, there are many, many hopes that incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reverse many or most of the domestic and foreign policies of the previous government that gave Canada a reputation never before negative in its existence as a country, both to its people and to its global neighbours. And throughout his campaign, Trudeau managed to present the image of someone willing and able to do what the majority of Canadians desire. As for their fulfillment or disappointment, that will become clear in the coming few months, and later in this article.

The removal from power of the “Conservatives,” their leader’s resignation and the positive potential of the incoming Grit government are the only positives previously mentioned. The rest just left me disappointed, for lack of a better word. Let’s start with the “Conservatives.”

True, they’re no longer our federal overlords, but they’re now the Official Opposition even with only 99 seats (another plus from me). With Harper still remaining as MP, there’s no doubt, despite what experts might say, that he will exercise considerable and continued influence on his party, especially including his successor who will have to labour under his massive legacy and influence. But worse, perhaps, was the fate of the other parties.

The Grits are back, and with a majority of all things! It’s as if they haven’t learned from their past history of corruption, scandal and opportunism (this coming from someone who never experienced Grit rule). Rather, if there’s any lesson they learned from this election, it’s that a handsome face plus an effective campaign equals victory. It would’ve been better if they remained in third-place wilderness a little longer in order to learn about humility and what a political party should properly be. Now, with managing a leap from third place to government in a short time, for the first time (which would’ve been better appropriate for the NDP), the event of the victory going into their heads won’t be surprising. The corrupt interests have learned that good hair and saying all the right words can win power, without the need for introspection and subsequent action.

It looks to be the same lesson the New Democrats learned — in defeat. The party returned to its more familiar third place in this election, after that surprising and eventually short-lived “Orange Crush” in 2011 brought, also, by the leader’s charisma and effective campaigning. To those saying that the NDP would’ve won had Jack Layton lived, it would’ve been more of a split anti-Harper vote. What made this loss sadder for this infrequent blogger (and still does) was to see all NDP candidates in the three ridings near or within residence (Surrey Centre, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Surrey-Newton) swept out by la vague rouge. Perhaps the most painful was Surrey-Newton, where what could have been continued change and reform saw instead the return of an old politico who, from what I know, didn’t exactly have a credible and admirable record in his previous terms. It was only small consolation to see the two New Westminster ridings (another place where a personal connection exists) remain orange. Where does this leave the party? Would it learn from the perceived “rightward” drift under Thomas (not Tom) Mulcair? Even after choosing to stay as leader, will he remain for some time?

If anything, this huge disappointment was equalled by the disappointment with the Green party, no matter the spin. It hoped to win a few seats, mostly in B.C., with Victoria the most possible seat. Now, the only other Green seat in the House by the start of the campaign — Bruce Hyer’s Thunder Bay–Superior North which came about by floor-crossing — also went red. Given that we have a Grit majority, any hopes Elizabeth May and her supporters entertain of exercising an influence on the incoming government will be dependent on said government, regardless of the “cooperating” image Justin had during the campaign (the petition calling for May’s appointment as Environment Minister would’ve become more possible under a coalition government).

Never mind that it only got ten seats and failed in its goal to regain official party status (or Gilles Duceppe’s second resignation, I later learned) — le Bloc a retourné from its surprising loss in 2011; it would’ve been better had they retained their previous seat count or less. Does this mean the return of Québec sovereignism? For one thing, it has only taken other forms, and hopefully it will become one that will broaden its scope to include all Francophone interests on this side of North America.

So where does this all lead to? With a non-Harper majority for the first time, one hopes to see a complete reversal of all of the previous government’s policies. On the other hand, with the fact that the Liberals still haven’t learned from their not-so-completely great past as the “natural governing party,” and a few actions from the younger Trudeau himself such as support for TPP — not to mention that he strikes me as someone easily swayed over by more powerful forces — any hopes attached to him by progressives may either become pure disappointment or half-satisfactory laws.


“Just a good place to live”

01 Jul 2013

So said Donald Creighton in an interview with Charles Taylor for the latter’s 1982 book Radical Tories. Though I can’t answer on behalf of all recent immigrants to this country, not even those from my country of origin, I can do say that this phrase best describes my impression of Canada upon arrival – and I think, by extension, of other recent immigrants as well.

What was my impression of Canada? I remember reading a holiday destination guide back home where the section on Canada occupied a single page; it mostly emphasized nature spots in its pictures and destination choices. My mom thought, and still thinks, of Canada as a better place than the United States in terms of its healthcare system and the politeness/respectfulness of its people, and I share the same opinions as well. We thought of Canada as a better place than the United States, not in terms of comparing one country’s greatness with another’s, but on how better Canada is on internal things. We saw Canada as better than the United States in terms of healthcare than on military strength or international influence.

This is the impression that my family still has about this country, and the same can be said as well for other immigrants, especially those from poorer countries. For us, Canada is a land of opportunity, a place where we can do those things and achieve those goals that we’ll never do and achieve had we remained in our homelands. This is a country where one can feel secure, that no one will just barge in on their doors or fire bullets into their houses with impunity. In terms of corruption, Canada is still better compared to the countries where many of us come from. Politically, Canada is enviously stable. Economically, we see it as a First World economy. In societal terms, Canada is populated by people who are, for the most part, respectful, disciplined, polite and tolerant of each other. This country’s tenet of multiculturalism is an envy of the world, an example for countries torn by ethnic and religious strife.

This country is indeed a paradise for us.

Not until some time later did I begin learning more about this country beyond those rosy impressions. From the media and school, I started to learn about the Canada one will never know from the immigration agency’s brochures. True, it is well-off compared to other countries, but it isn’t a reason to rest on maple wreaths. More so than in previous years, Canada has experienced stress and conflict on a variety of areas. Economically, the country still continues to rely on natural resource exports as mainstay of its economy, despite all those “knowledge economy” proclamations – retail exists side by side with oil & natural gas development and export. Politically, scandals & other affairs have gotten worse on all three levels. Then there’s also the social and ethnic tension between the well-off and not, “visible minorities” and those who’ve been here for centuries. And let’s not forget the condition of the Aboriginal peoples.

I also learned about the history of Canada, that there are many interpretations of it and each has it own implications for this country. There are those who tell the Canadian story as a gradual process of independence from Britain and friendship with the US. There are others who talk about the neglected and suppressed voices of this story from minorities of various backgrounds. Then there are those who talk of Canada as an attempt at creating a different society from the US, the opposite of the liberal individualist Union. Each interpretation has its implications about the fate of Canada, the nature of its society and the degree of its independence globally. The story that guarantees the sovereignty and common well-being of Canada must be maintained.

Still, most of us – recent immigrants and those living for generations – see Canada as “a good place to live.” We never think of this country on grand terms, that it can be more than a country of politeness, respectfulness and gentleness. Someday, that day will come, but when, nobody knows.