Posts tagged ‘2011 canadian election’

April 13, 2011

2011 Canadian Election: Debate winners and losers

Here’s a look at who won the debate in English language on Tuesday as the May 2, 2011 election nears:

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF (LIBERALS)
Best moment:
He did what he had to do: Win the one-on-one debate with Stephen Harper. Up until that point, Harper’s calm and collected demeanour made him appear in command while Ignatieff and the other leaders seemed to lack authority and the way to wear it. Ignatieff stripped him down, beginning with: “You haven’t earned a majority. Majorities are things you earn when you earn the trust of the Canadian people.” In that succinct moment, Ignatieff encapsulated Harper’s plight and, perhaps, his legacy. Minutes later, he hammered at Harper’s imperiousness when he told the Conservative leader his contention that the Canadian people were sick of Parliament’s “bickering” was dead wrong. “This isn’t bickering, Mr. Harper this is democracy,” and added that Parliament wasn’t “some pesky little interference that gets in the way of your power.” From then on, Ignatieff pulled himself level with Harper in terms of holding a commanding presence on stage.

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April 11, 2011

Margaret Trudeau talks 2011 Canadian Election

Margaret Trudeau

Margaret Trudeau jokes, "24 Sussex is the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system." (Julia Pelish photo)

If you want to get inspired about Canada, about Canadian politics, about the qualities that make so many of us proud to call this country home, forget the people running for election and go listen to Margaret Trudeau speak.

On Sunday afternoon, I attended a fundraiser in Kingston in which Trudeau was the headline speaker. Bubbly, warm, radiant, hilarious and tear-provokingly candid, Trudeau showed more spirit in one half-hour than either Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff has demonstrated in two weeks.

In describing her fight with bi-polar disorder, she told the audience at Kingston City Hall about hitting “rock bottom” after the deaths of her son, Michel, in 1998 and then her “beloved Pierre” two years later.

“I wore a mask, so many of us wear masks to hide who we are, and it was so much effort to keep that mask on,” she said in a moving account of her struggles and triumphs over mental illness.

She declared herself to now be “joyous and happy,” and genuinely looked it.

Married at 22, the wife of a Prime Minister, the focus of a nation and now a grandmother, cheerleader for her politician son and staunch advocate for the mentally challenged, Trudeau wants action. When I asked her why mental-health isn’t a topic of conversation among the candidates for the May 2 Canadian federal election, the reply was blunt.

“They’re all staying away from the mental-health issue, which they always do,” she said. “It’s just not a sexy issue. Yet one out of three Canadians will suffer depression in their lifetime. Every family is affected by mental illness. The help that is offered is wonderful but it’s not enough.”

While promoting her bestselling memoir, “Changing My Mind,” Trudeau, 62, took a few minutes to answer some more questions about the upcoming election and her past. Here are her statements, some of them given to me, others to the audience at the Horizons of Friendship Fundraiser, which benefits developing communities in Central America and Mexico.

On her son Justin Trudeau’s chances of defending his Parliament seat in the Papineau, Quebec riding: “Oh, he’s going to do wonderfully. He works very hard in his riding. He’s a fighter.

“I wish more young Canadians will get into politics and change the face of politics. I hope Justin will be able to do that.”

On hearing that I plan on not voting for the first time: “I’m so sorry to hear that. If we don’t vote, it shows a level of apathy and lack of engagement in our society and in fact that’s what we need more of. On a community basis, we need people to care.”

On life as a Prime Minister’s wife: “I have always said that 24 Sussex is the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.”

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March 27, 2011

2011 Canadian Election: Why I won’t vote on May 2

I won’t be voting on May 2. And I won’t be alone.

The 2011 Canadian federal election will likely go down as the most unpopular in history in terms of percentage of voter turnout. In fact, it’s a given that less Canadians will cast a vote for representation in Parliament than will have watched some part of the Royal Wedding three days earlier.

Even when I lived in the U.S. for 10 years, I never missed a vote. I made sure to send in an absentee ballot for the elections in 1997, 2000 and 2004, voting each time for Liberal Karen Redman of Kitchener Centre. This time, my riding is in downtown Toronto and I’m not coming out.

According to a study from Simon Fraser University, the country witnessed a drop in voter turnout for four consecutive elections from 1988 until 2006, when there was a 3.8-percent uptick to 64.7 percent as Stephen Harper managed to rally the Conservative Party and win a minority government. The trend reverted in 2008, which marked the first federal election when fewer than 60 percent (58.8, or 13.9 million) of registered voters cast a ballot. Should the initial polling results play out on Election Day 2011, it’s conceivable Harper could win his long-sought majority government with a minority turnout of registered voters. (Since not all adult Canadians are registered voters, we’ve already had federal elections where more adults eligible to vote have opted not to do so than those who did.)

READ ‘5 WAYS TO GET ME TO VOTE’

If you’ve decided to stay away from the polls on Election Day, get ready for the name-calling. We’re going to be labeled apathetic by media and chastised by political wonks for not performing our civic duty. Few people who are into politics in this country will admit that the topic of their keen interest is, these days, banal, monotone, more dull than a senate committee hearing on the benefits of beaver crossing signs (bilingual, of course) in national parks and, most damning of all, spectacularly inconsequential.

Canada is orderly; it’s principled, it’s a good and decent country with enough checks and balances in place to keep it so. Canadians are, if not content, generally okay with how things are working, partly because we’re doing better than many in the States.

Harper will take credit, some of it deserved, for steering us clear of the worst of the Great Recession and winning our banking industry applause from around the world. He’ll run on the economy and Michael Ignatieff will run on being a Liberal, because he’s got nothing of substance on which to base a campaign. To win, he must convince us his red is warm and fuzzy and Harper’s blue colours are evil. And, thanks to such rhetoric, many of us will just run to something more interesting than the bickering of this pair. No, Jack Layton, that doesn’t mean you.

READ ‘5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR STEPHEN HARPER’

Our nation’s politics are boring. Our two leading politicians, and the parties they lead, are so similar they would each slap you for suggesting they’re alike. Even worse, our politics have become clannish to the point where many of us don’t recognize ourselves in our Members of Parliament or our interests in their debates in Ottawa. Were many constituents in Northumberland-Quinte West really clamouring to see the detailed outline of the Conservatives’ federal crime bill? No, but the failure to disclose costs related to that bill is part of the reason the Harper government was declared in contempt of Parliament, sending millions to the polls for the third time in five years.

READ ‘5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR MICHAEL IGNATIEFF’

This election isn’t about that bill, of course, or a budget (which was immanently passable). It’s about gang warfare, the Parliament Hill way. That means lots of subterfuge and self-serving banter that does nothing to further the policy debate in our country or improve the well being of the poorest of us or the ability of the richest of us to expand upon success.

Not only is this about Liberal vs. Conservative, it’s Liberal vs. Liberal: Those who want Ignatieff out even if it means sticking taxpayers with a bill of $300 million (what the 2008 election cost) pitted against those Ignatieff supporters, a dwindling number who stand by him for who-knows-what reason. It’s also about Harper sensing opportunity, both for a political kill and to exercise the most contemptible aspect of his personality: a vindictiveness that alone scares me away from siding with him. But about 5 million of the 13 million or so who will vote will put a check beside a Conservative Party candidate.

So, two days after he celebrates his 52nd birthday, Harper could be prime minister with a majority mandate and potentially five more years in office. I won’t vote for that election result, but I would bet on it and, if that becomes the case, Canada won’t be significantly different on May 3 than it is today, and that’s neither good nor bad. It’s okay.

READ ‘5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR JACK LAYTON’

Harper’s right, we don’t need an election. What we need is a politician to energize us, to motivate us to secure the health of the environment and help us capitalize on our abundance of resources to realize fantastic economic prosperity in this century. Sadly, he’s not such a force, and neither are the alternatives.

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