Partisanship I’ll Never Understand

It’s been a week since the World looked on and saw the insurrection at the United States Capitol and a lot has happened in that week since. Today is a prime example of that, as the United States Congress is debating the second impeachment of Donald Trump, an action that is appropriate and right given the circumstances. We’re seeing reports about potential violence and worse in the capitals of all 50 states and in Washington itself ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden.

It’s all very serious and very dangerous, as we’re seeing democracy being shaken at the foundations in real time. If you want to see how serious things have gotten, you only need to look at the images from inside the Capitol buildings this morning. They are sobering, striking and at the same time, necessary. After what we saw on Wednesday, it makes sense that we would see sights like these:

As someone who worked for a decade in our capital, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I’ve seen a thing or two. I always had great respect and affection for those people who protected the seat of our democracy and I still remember vividly the day in October of 2014 that our people’s house was invaded and shot up by a terrorist. That feeling really rushed back to me strongly when I saw this video clip late last night:

I can identify with the fear of being in that moment and what might happen, and all the thoughts that run through the minds of elected people and their staff at that time. But after it passes, I can’t imagine just how bad things are to be afraid to even post on social media to loved ones about it, out of fear that it might out them and put them or their families at greater harm.

I can’t imagine the sustained and continual fear created by the toxin of lies, conspiracy theories and dangerous, blind partisanship that those people are living under now. After the shooting on Parliament Hill, security changed for good. We saw more armed officers around the Hill. We saw greater checking of people going into buildings. We saw good measures taken that while necessary and right, were still jarring to see. They had to be taken and I was glad they were, but it was still a shock to the system to see it happening, that we had arrived at that point.

But despite that experience of mind, I have to admit that something else that I saw happening last night in the United States Capitol really made me upset, especially given everything that’s happened in this past week. We saw an ugly spectacle in the halls of that home of democracy in the US, one that shows that the illness of extreme partisanship, boarding more on unyielding selfishness and self-centered thought. These Tweets speak for themselves:

I can’t folks. Seriously, I just can’t. I can’t imagine or identify with the selfish, moralizing and downright obstinate attitude that leads elected officials to rage at the idea of having to pass through a bloody metal detector to enter such a hallowed chamber, especially less than a week after it was stormed, and shooting happened inside of it. The indignance and privilege showed by those people was beyond the pale, especially given the way that so many of them berated and simply ignored the Capitol Police officers who were simply doing their jobs, which is to protect their elected rear ends.

All of that childish crap happened while those National Guard troops were getting into place, again to protect their privileged rear ends. They slept on the hard, cold, polished floors of the Capitol last night, doing their duty to protect the seat of their democracy and to uphold their oaths to the constitution of their country. And at the same time, some of those who the people elected couldn’t be bothered to partake in a process that literally every American has to go through on a regular basis to do everyday things. You want to get on an airplane in the US? You have to go through a metal detector. You want to go to a public school in too many communities? Same thing. Want to go to an arena to watch a basketball game or a concert? Ditto, more metal detectors. University campuses, stadiums, train stations and so many other places, all of them have metal detectors to help save lives. In all of those places, those same elected officials would have to pass through those things yet now that they have to in order to vote in the Capitol, days after it was stormed, now it’s an affront? Give me a bloody break you selfish children in the bodies of middle-aged adults.

If you want to see how broken, how toxic and how bad things have gotten in the United States with some on the partisan edges, that scene playing out last night was a prime example of why it’s so bad. It’s that kind of uncompromising hypocritical behaviour that’s become a feature of the make up of too many of them, not a bug. Not everything is politically motivated or some attack on whatever issue you hold dearest. Asking you to go through a metal detector to vote days after that very same chamber was ransacked and attacked is not some attack on your constitutional rights. It’s downright reasonable to ensure that your gun toting rear end gets to go home to see your loved ones in one piece. Christ, is it really that hard to understand or accept?

In the US in too many communities it’s normal for kindergarteners to go through those machines every day. It’s normal for those same kids to grow up with active shooter drills, to the point that many of those same political staffers last week used those same skill to survive the insurrection that was happening around them. How perverse is it, that no one bats an eye at that yet when some Republican politicians are asked to go through a metal detector inside the people’s house, that is just a scandal? I’ll never understand that, and I’m glad I won’t. Our American friends and neighbours have a very hard week ahead of them, and if they get through that, many hard years ahead. Last night was a prime example of the challenge they have before them and if what happened last Wednesday wasn’t enough to shake those of their hyper partisan stupor, I don’t know what will.

The Self-Defenestration of Andrew Scheer

As this week has started, it’s been interesting to watch some in the Conservative movement on social media as they react to what has happened over the past week. Between the events in Washington and the appropriate actions taken by some social media companies removing certain accounts from their services, it’s been interesting to see how that side of the political spectrum has reacted. Some have appeared to be more upset and concerned about losing followers on social media or pointing the fingers at others rather than dealing with the fact that an insurrection happened at the US Capitol from far-right groups or dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s all been a bit much, something that I personally wasn’t going to comment on. But then something happened this afternoon that pushed me to write, something that left me bemused, bewildered and stupefied. It all came from one Canadian politician trying to get a political opponent in a “gotcha moment” and yeah, that went as well as you thought it might have given the person involved:

Look, I admit that I did a double take at the use of the word “defenestration” because really, who says that these days? I even looked it up before I took to writing because it’s not a word that’s a part of my everyday vocabulary. But as someone who studied languages in university, I knew that some words could have multiple meanings. I didn’t need to go to university to learn that, as I learned that in elementary school too. And in elementary school I learned how to use a lovely book that can tell us what certain words mean. You know, a dictionary. Thankfully in this Google-fied internet age we can look at those without pulling out those massive tombs of information, and here is what I found when looking for a definition of said word:

Yeah, this all adds up, doesn’t it? Folks, I know I’ve said here many times who the Conservatives in our Parliament love to tweak, torque and overplay their hands when it comes to their over-the-top language. That was a hallmark of the Andrew Scheer leadership, facts be damned as long as you can act indignant enough. Yet this is embarrassingly bad, even for Scheer or whoever is staffing his Twitter account. Like this is amateurishly bad. As Supriya Dwivedi pointed out on Twitter with this, it makes sense “that the guy who picked a fight with Teen Vogue and Paw Patrol doesn’t know what defenestration means or that Gerry (Butts) left the PMO two years ago”.

I can laugh at this because it’s just that bad, but seriously this is just bad political work. Andrew Scheer is going to be ridiculed even further for at least a few days because someone didn’t take 30 seconds out of their day to pull out their phone and Google “defenestration” to read the full definition. Having done that would have saved him this well-earned embarrassment. And if he did know that this word had two means, one which was used correctly in the context of that email without violent connotation or malice attached to it, and still decided to go ahead with this crap, then that’s just political malpractice of the worst kind. If he actually did that, then he deserves that much more ridicule and scorn and I hope that people don’t spare him it.

It’s alright if everyone doesn’t understand what that word meant, or that it had two definitions. It’s alright if we’re all not walking dictionaries and need to look these things up. There is nothing wrong with having a bigger or smaller vocabulary, so this is no judgement of that at all. What upsets me about this story and this situation is that Andrew Scheer tried to make other people believe that something nefarious and wrong was happening here, playing on people’s vocabulary levels or at the very least, their distaste of this political figure or that one. That’s crap politics, it’s childish and it’s exactly the kind of thing that led to Andrew Scheer becoming a failed leader of his party. Also, it’s the kind of thing that the party was supposedly repudiating when they defenestrated him, electing someone who ran on supposedly doing things differently. This stunt by Scheer surely didn’t help that cause, and reminded everyone what they didn’t like about the Scheer years. At least it gave the rest of us an exasperated chuckle at his expense, which is as sure as sign as any about how failed a gambit this way.

Talking New COVID-19 Measures Coming to Ontario & Fallout from US Capitol Insurrection with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Jason Lietaer & Lindsay Maskell. We talked about the impending implementation of new COVID-19 measures in Ontario, the state of the response to the virus in Canada, the expected bad modeling numbers, the large number of people who aren’t following the rules, how to compel them to comply, the fall out from Wednesdays events in Washington and what to do about Donald Trump. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 19:00 minute mark.

Talking Last Week in Washington & Rising COVID-19 Case Numbers on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed last weeks events in Washington, the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases here at home, how these events are all mixing and becoming entwined, the potential fall out and impeachment of Donald Trump, the likely new COVID-19 measures coming to Ontario and if that wasn’t enough, we also talked about a possible Spring federal election. You can listen to it all below.

The Last Thing Canadians Need This Spring

Last week was a watershed for so many reasons, none of which sadly seem to be any good. We saw the insurrection at the US Capitol and the damage that created to the very principle of democracy, which all by itself would leave many shaken. But we’ve seen that play out in the middle of a global pandemic, one that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and infected over 20 million worldwide. You can imagine the toxic brew that putting those two things together can bring, as a note from the attending physician of the US Congress which said that “people in the safe room during the riots may have been exposed to the coronavirus”. Because of course that happened.

Here at home our numbers are rising fast and primed to get worse, especially here in Ontario where media reports are telling us that we’re facing forecasts “putting the province on track to report an average of 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily before the end of January” and “mobility data showing a spike in movement by Ontarians in the days just before Christmas”, which was right before Doug Ford’s Boxing Day lockdown. Remember, that “urgent” lockdown he announced five days priors, yet told everyone they could wait until Boxing Day, ensuring that so many would get together with their families at Christmas.

It was one of the most predictable things that could have happened this year, and yet Ford is quoted saying on Friday that “when you see the modelling, you’ll fall off your chair”, as if none of this was foreseeable. No, my butt is firmly glued to my chair because this awful news was something most people saw coming when he deferred his lockdown. Anyway, needless to say things are bad overall and most likely getting worse. We’re heading for record COVID-19 numbers, record hospitalizations, full lockdowns and curfews and the foundations of democracy in the neighbouring US shaking. And of course what does all that call for in the minds of some in this moment: a snap FEDERAL ELECTION!!!!

Look everyone, if these were normal times, with normal circumstances, the idea of a snap federal election 18 months into a minority government wouldn’t bother me. That would be quite normal frankly, and we would deal with it. We could then talk about the machinations of who caused it, who overreached, who is going to win, lose and all of that. But clearly these are not normal times. That is bloody obvious and the last thing the Canadian people need right now is a six-week national election campaign. We need our political leaders dealing with this worsening crisis, not getting around the country trying to win your vote.

And honestly, given the public health crisis that we are facing, it’s unclear how you would run a general election in all parts of Canada right now. In the places where we saw provincial elections in the Fall, they were in either relatively small jurisdictions, like New Brunswick, or in provinces with large cohorts of densely populated areas, like British Columbia. All of those didn’t involve the travel logistics and such that come with a federal campaign. Also those provinces had legislated provisions in place that allowed them to run the election itself, something that Elections Canada noted later last year. That concern actually led the Liberal government to introduce legislation to deal with that, for whenever a COVID election came:

If you look at Bill C-19, you’ll notice some very logical provisions for helping run a COVID election if it had to happen. Some of the things this bill would do, if passed, would include:

  • Extending the Chief Electoral Officer’s power to adapt the provisions of that Act to ensure the health or safety of electors or election officers;
  • Authorize a returning officer to constitute polling divisions that consist of a single institution where seniors or persons with a disability reside, or a part of such an institution, and to set the days and hours that a polling station established there will be open;
  • Provide for a polling period of three consecutive days consisting of a Saturday, Sunday and Monday;
  • Provide for the hours of voting during the polling period;
  • Provide for the opening and closing measures at polling stations;
  • Set the days for voting at advance polling stations;

In introducing such a bill, it’s clear that the government appears to grasp that running a general election during this pandemic is a serious matter not to be trifled with. If you go to the trouble to introduce a bill that changes the elections act to respond to the unique challenges of a COVID election, you’d think that you’ve recognized that it might not be a good idea to force one. But I’m left to question that because the Bill itself also includes the following section, which speaks to when this bill actually comes into force. It states that Bill C-19 will “come into force on the 90th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent unless, before that day, the Chief Electoral Officer publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette that the necessary preparations for the bringing into operation of those sections have been made and that they may come into force accordingly, in which case those sections come into force on the day on which the notice is published.”

That’s a long way of saying that unless the government pulls the plug early, this bill and the necessary changes within it won’t come into force until 90 days after it becomes law. This is a bill that hasn’t even had a minute of debate yet and is nowhere close to passing yet. We can assume that that government won’t go to the polls without this being passed because why else would you introduce this? That 90-day provision is important, because why else would you include that here if not to give the people at Elections Canada the chance to make the changes need to run a proper election? If Elections Canada could pull this off at the drop of a hat in the Spring without extra time, there would be no need to include that.

So that leads me to two conclusions when it comes to this talk of a Spring election. First is that if the Liberal government forces a Spring election, it will be too soon because of where we’ll be at with COVID and Elections Canada will likely not be in the best position to ensure that the election would run smoothly. And secondly, If the Liberals are sincere in their recognition of the dangers and legitimate concerns about running a Spring election during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t try to hold an election until the Fall at the earliest. That would still fall within the timelines of this new legislation, allowing Elections Canada the time to get everything in place to ensure that our strong elections procedures remain strong and unquestionable and allow Canadians and our political leaders to focus on what matters most right now; the bloody pandemic.

Sending Canadians to the polls in the Spring would be one of the worst things our elected leaders could do right now. I understand that in a minority Parliament parties always need to be ready in case it happens, having their candidates nominated and raising funds. But that is different than angling for or trying to force an election. Right now, that would be a dereliction of duty and I pray that those who are pushing for it will come to their senses. Or at the very least, that they will think first of the legitimate concerns that their own legislation brings forward. We’ll see what happens but like so many things so far in 2021, I have a bad feeling about this.