Green Bolt

We’re full on into silly season in the House of Commons, which is normal for every year this time of year. But when you add COVID and a pending Fall election, things have been sillier (or more painful) than usual. Just today, the Conservatives started to do their best to stop the Liberal government from moving their agenda through multiple delay tactics. They’re doing this just as the Liberals say that the House is getting dysfunctional and likely could use an election. With these moves today, they’re basically making the governments point for them. It’s all short-sighted and doomed to fail.

But while that piece of unproductive goofiness is happening inside the House chamber, a big piece of news is breaking outside of it that affects most parties in the House. It’s a big shoe to drop that will not only have an effect on the current house, but on the next election whenever it does come:

Well, that’s something that caught a lot of people off-guard. That might be mostly because with everything that’s happened in this Parliament, we haven’t seen a normal number of floor crossings. But this is a big one on a few levels that will have the potential shake up the next election. This seems to be the natural consequence of the infighting and troubles that have been plaguing the Green Party for the past months. It felt like something was going to break here, and in this case, it’s the brightest new star in the Green Caucus.

Jenica Atwin’s victory in Fredericton back in 2019 was a huge moment for the Greens nationally. It was only their 3rd seat that they had ever won, and was their only one off of Vancouver Island. It was a big breakthrough on the Federal side to go with their provincial breakthroughs in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This defection undoes a lot of that, making another win in Fredericton for the Greens highly unlikely and makes them look bad across the board. For a party trying to get a breakthrough elsewhere, this is devastating.

Add to this the fact that Atwin herself is a very impressive MP and someone who has a very bright future in front of her. She is exactly the kind of MP any party would want in their caucus, and the Greens were quite fortunate to have her there. So to see her bolt hurts that much more, turning someone who was a great asset to their caucus and turned her into a motivate opponent. For the Green team, it’s the worst-case scenario in this case, at maybe the worst possible time.

For the Liberals though, this is a coup of the highest order. They didn’t just gain some anonymous backbencher of no importance or skill. They gained someone with the abilities and stature of Atwin. Winning her over to your side is not only an affirmation of your government’s direction, it’s also a “seal of approval” of their approach to the environment. For a Green MP to go to this government automatically does that, and expect Atwin to feature prominently in that way.

Some will say for the New Democrats this is bad news because she didn’t cross to them, but I wouldn’t agree. The NDP has been clear on it’s policy about floor crossers needing to run in a by-election before joining their caucus, so that wasn’t going to happen at this time. I’d hope thought that situations like this will spark a debate in the NDP caucus about undoing that policy because it simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

But for the Greens, this is devastating, period. They already are struggling to get any traction nationally, they have had bitter infighting now for months and now this. It’s all bad news and there is no good in this for the Green Team. How exactly they will recover from this, I really don’t know. They were the party with the least margin for any error of any kind, and this loss is a very big one. I’ll be curious to see how they spin this and how they respond, because that will give us any clue to if they truly have a chance to turn this around. In the meantime, I feel that I can safely say that Jenica Atwin will have a longer career in the House of Commons than the Green Party will at this point. If that isn’t going to be the case, the Greens have a lot of work to do to make that happen. But if they were really in a position to do that, I doubt that Atwin would have left for the exits. Stay tuned folks, silly season is staying true to its name.

Notwithstanding This Crap

It’s been a rough three years in Ontario, and that’s before you factor in the hellish 15 months, we’ve had with the COVID pandemic. The one constant in all of this has been the leadership of Ontario’s Conservative Premier Doug Ford. He’s shown a constant inability to lead in a credible manner, an unwillingness to follow process and flat-out refusal to show the bare minimum of respect for those who have the temerity to disagree with him. We’ve seen this through his premiership, and even during the pandemic.

It’s for that reason that many Ontarians are looking forward to next years provincial election and the chance to vote Doug and his crew out of office. But Doug has never been so concerned about playing clean or treating our politics with the respect that it deserves. He’s always been of the mind that “the ends always justifies the means”, and has acted accordingly. He did it with his attacks on the Trudeau Liberals through his gas-pump sticker campaign leading into the last Federal election, and was only reigned in after the courts told him that his law forcing that action was unconstitutional.

You’d think that one might learn from cases like that one that you just can’t trample the constitutional rights of Ontarians just because it suits your political whims. But if you thought that, you don’t know Doug Ford. Earlier in the year the Ford team passed Bill 254, the so-called “Protecting Ontario Elections Act”. As you might expect from such a bill, it was a partisan attempt to tilt the playing field in the Conservatives favour for the 2022 provincial election. Nora Loreto of Passage wrote a good piece on this at the time, pointing out the problems with this bill that went far beyond the usual bill that might regulate political financing. This bill went so far as to do the following:

  • Changed Ontario’s pre-election period for third-party financing rules from six months to 12 months, while barely raising the amount those groups are allowed to spend.
  • Registered third parties will no longer be able to use the same vendors as other registered third parties “that share a common advocacy, cause or goal.”
  • The Bill made it illegal for third parties that have a “common advocacy, cause or goal” to “[share] information” with each other, with no definition as to what “information” or “vendor” actually will mean.

These are actions that took direct aim at unions and other third-party groups with one specific goal; make it harder for these groups to legally participate and oppose the Ford Government. These groups have effectively opposed the Conservatives for years and this is a blatant attempt to kneecap those who might oppose them. They are not only trying to quiet them, but trying to dictate who they can and can’t do business with, which is quite the twist for the “Open for Business” party. That’s one of the reasons why just yesterday Ontario Justice Ed Morgan struck it down, ruling that several sections of the bill infringed on rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Again, another Ford law struck down as unconstitutional by the courts. But this time instead of adjusting his political strategy or respecting the decisions of the court, Ford decided to go in an historically dangerous direction that no Premier in Ontario has ever gone before:

Folks, I can’t understate just how much of an abuse of power this is from the Ford Conservatives. This is literally the nuclear option in our Constitution, which is basically to ignore it. This clause has rarely been used and no Ontarian government had never done it before and for good reason. It’s the heaviest of heavy hands and was created only for the most rare and impossible of situations. The whole point of it was to almost never be used, and it clearly wasn’t intended for this purpose. You can just imagine how this was responded to:

Let’s be clear, using the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian constitution to deliberately abuse and infringe on the Constitutional rights of Ontarians in the democratic process is far beyond the pale. This clause was never intended to be used on matters of electoral law or to help a governing party tilt the democratic tables clearly in their favour. And if there was any doubt as to the fact that this is what this was all about, this polling just happened to come out today:

Funny that, lookie there. The Ford Conservatives have the NDP hot on their heels with a year to go until the next election. But doing this now, bringing back the Legislature and trying to use the nuclear sledgehammer of the notwithstanding clause, Doug Ford can buy himself an extra 6 months of gagging and knee capping his opponents. It’s anti-democratic behaviour of the worst order, but it’s also amazingly hypocritical. As Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pointed out during her press conference this afternoon, the Ontario Conservatives are legally registered as a third-party group federally right now. Those crap TV ads about COVID-19 attacking the Trudeau Liberals that have been bombarding your hockey playoff games? They’re paid for by the Ontario PC Party and running what is likely a few months before the next election. He’s running ads in Ontario against Ottawa that, with this anti-democratic move, would be seriously limited and made harder to do against Ford in Ontario today, almost a year before the next election his faces. If the Trudeau Liberals, or any union, or the Working Families Coalition decided to run their own “Doug Sucks!” ads, this law would muzzle their ability to do that, which is exactly the point. That’s exactly why the courts struck this down and that’s exactly why this is so abhorrent and undemocratic.

What makes it worse is that Judge Morgan pointed out that the idea of having limits on third-party spending were just fine in principle. He just ruled that Ford went too far in what he was trying to do. If Ford wanted to amend the legislation and dial it back, he could easily have done it and never needed to touch the notwithstanding clause. Other provinces all around the country have legislation that do exactly that, and they never needed to drop this bomb to make it happen. Essentially by doing this Doug Ford is openly saying that the goal of this legislation is to suppress the Constitutional rights of Ontarians, period. If what he wanted to do didn’t run afoul of the Constitution, he would need to invoke the notwithstanding clause. But by doing this, he is telling Ontarians that his need to win the next election is more important that your constitutionally protect rights to free expression. And if you don’t believe me, ask Judge Morgan, because it’s his ruling saying that it was unconstitutional that brought us here.

Of all the things that Doug Ford has done since rising to office in 2019, this is right up there on the list of the worst things that he’s done, which is saying a lot. It also says just how far he is willing to go to try to stay in power, a prospect that Ontarians cannot ignore. If he’s willing to abuse and ignore the Constitution to win the next election, what else will he do? That normally wouldn’t be a reasonable question to ask but with this action today, Ford is forcing our hands to think in such stark terms. Because never in Ontario’s history has a Premier decided to crap all over the Constitution strictly for his own personal gain. And if that leads Ontarians to question what else Doug Ford might do in that end, he and his caucus members have no one else to blame but themselves.

Back to the Start in Alberta

It was just a couple of months ago that I wrote a piece here about Alberta UCP Premier Jason Kenney and his fall in his province. As I put it then, Kenney went from being invincible to vulnerable in an amazing short period of time. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a scene play out anywhere in Canada, going from Golden Child to the political outhouse just like that. Kenney went from the guy who many thought would be a contender for Prime Minister after Stephen Harper retired to where he current sits.

Many spoke of Kenney’s political brilliance and his organizational strengths, yet the past months have managed to strip that veneer and left Albertans with a clear view of how little was under it. Yet somehow since that time, things have managed to get even worse for Kenney and his party. That was typified by the big news from last week, and the evidence found in this picture:

Source: Edmonton Journal

This patio dinner might go down in Canadian political history as one of the worst own goals ever. To go out there and flaunt public health measures so blatantly would be a certain level of bad. Doing it in the Sky Palace of all places, the place that literally brought down a Premier and became the symbol of Conservative disconnection was next level bad. And to top it off, Kenney spent a week denying he did anything wrong. He called his nice whiskey “budget” whiskey. He did everything he could without apologizing, before finally apologizing a week later after members of his caucus started to go public against him.

Those were hardly the action of a political savant and more like the actions of a government that was long in the tooth and acting very arrogantly. The fact that Kenney’s government is only a couple of years old just adds to the stunning nature of this, as they’ve managed to achieve that level of arrogance in such a short period of time. It’s all something that’s kind of breathtaking to witness because one of Kenney’s masterstrokes was the creation of the United Conservative Party, through the merger of the old PC’s and Wildrose parties.

Kenney was trying to do in Alberta and Stephen Harper had done federal, bring together to parts into a new whole, a combination of voting power that would ensure conservative dominance in the party for generations to come. Watching Conservatives lose their first election in 44 years to the NDP made this all the more imperative in their minds. Similar to what happened federally, they decided to bury the hatchets and come together. Yet unlike Harper, Kenney has struggled to keep this all together. By all accounts he’s lost complete control of his caucus, during a once-in-a-century global pandemic to boot. While he doesn’t have control of them, most of them are still in the tent. The UCP seems to have held for now. But some interesting polling out today speaks to the precariousness of Kenney’s current situation and is frankly quite interesting:

Imagine having gone through all the work to merge two parties, all that came with that, just to basically end up right back where you started? Well welcome to Jason Kenney’s world right now. Not only is his UCP solidly behind the NDP, but he also has the Wildrose Independence Party nipping at his heals and stealing his thunder. It wouldn’t shock me if MLA’s that he tossed from his caucus like Drew Barnes end up in the new Wildrose formation sooner than later, which would just add another log to that tire fire that’s currently burning.

Now to be fair, this is the first poll where we’ve seen the WIP this high up, but given everything that’s happened so far, it’s not shocking. There are a lot of Alberta conservatives on the further right who were already mad at Kenney and likely looking for somewhere else to park their votes. So to see that 20% figure isn’t a shock. Yet it’s still very noteworthy because of the context that got us here. Jason Kenney managed to rope all these Conservatives into that blue UCP tent, but two years later he’s not just losing some, but a lot of them. Stories like the “Sky Palace Whiskey Dinner” remind those same voters why they turned away from the old PC’s towards the Wildrose back then. It motivates them to move and not come back.

Jason Kenney’s only saving grace right now is that he’s two years out from the next election and a lot can happen between now and then. Given that Rachel Notley’s NDP are out-fundraising Kenney’s UCP by a 2-to-1 margin right now, it might not be much of a saving grace, but it’s time that Kenney needs. In the meantime, of all the things that have changed in 2021, it makes me chuckle to see how Alberta’s political scene has basically gone back to where it was just a few years ago. After all of this, it seems that Jason Kenney’s masterwork has gone up in smoke and another layer of that veneer has been stripped away from a politician who was once seen as invincible.

Talking Ontario’s Re-Opening Plan with Andrew Pinsent

Yesterday I joined Andrew Pinsent on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ontario’s Re-Opening Plan, the move to re-open a few days earlier, the pace that this should continue at going forward, the value of taking a cautious approach, Prime Minister Trudeau’s call for the Pope to apologize for their role in the Residential schools, why it’s clear that the Pope won’t do that and why it’s now clear that Canada must take a stronger stance with the Vatican on this. You can listen below starting at the 16:00 minute mark.

MB Podcast – Interview with Hon. Joe Jordan

The latest episode of the Magpie Brûlé podcast is now live. In this episode, I interview the former MP for Leeds-Grenville, Hon. Joe Jordan. We talk about the current state of the 43rd Parliament of Canada, the likely Fall election to come, being a progressive politician in rural Canada, how progressive parties can bridge the divide between rural and urban & the unique experience of following the footsteps of family going into political office. You can listen to it below, download it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download the finest podcasts.

Failure to Practice What You Preach

In talking and writing about the discovery in Kamloops this week, I’ve tried to make a point that while I hope for better and for those responsible for those institutions in the current-day context, I couldn’t have too much hope. I’ve said that I want to believe and hope for the best, but bitter experience has taught me otherwise. This is especially true when it comes to the role of the Catholic Church in this genocide.

The Catholic Church wasn’t the only church to participate in this system, but they remain the only one who have refused to formally apologize for their role, nor cooperate with investigations into what took place. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission even went as far as to aim a “Call to Action” from their report, calling on the Pope and the Catholic Church in “Call to Action” number 58. 58 through 61 clearly talks about the role of the different churches in healing, yet still the Catholic Church has refused to do any of this.

It was with that in mind that some thought that maybe a glimmer of hope was coming. Yesterday news broke that the Pope met separately with Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the only two Vatican-based Canadian cardinals. Some thought that maybe Pope Francis was about to do something different, that maybe a change was afoot. Well this morning Pope Francis used his Twitter account to answer that question, and it was one that was simply not good enough:

And there is exactly why I refused to get my hopes up all this week. That statement, full on verbiage and input from the Vatican’s lawyers but short on empathy or apology, is as status quo as it gets. It’s simply not good enough and is embarrassingly weak from a Pope who has made his legacy about being more empathetic and speaking to those who have been left behind. As someone who is Catholic, who went to school in the Catholic system and even taught in it, it’s maddening for me.

As retired journalist Jim Coyle put it on Twitter, you would think if the Catholic Church could get anything right it would be confession and atonement. Heck, one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church is confession. It’s the only Sacrament that you do over and over, as the others are one-time events. That speaks to the importance of the concept of confession and seeking absolution for mistakes. I remember going to confession in high school and asking for forgiveness for using the Lord’s name in vain, or lying to someone, or just not thanking someone for something they did for me. Those were all things that the Church taught me that we should apologize and seek absolution for. Yet when it comes to the Church itself, it won’t offer an apology for acts that involved 215 dead children found in a mass, unmarked grave?

Hypocrisy doesn’t go far even to describe this and it’s all so anti-thetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of those teachings is that even the Pope is human and is not infallible. Only God is infallible in the eyes of the church. So if the Church itself admits in its own teachings that the Church and its clergy make mistakes, doesn’t it make sense that they should bloody well apologize when they do? You’d think that would be the bare minimum here, but nope, we get this crap instead. What maybe makes this worse for me is made clear in Call to Action 58 itself, which states the following:

“We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada”

Source: Truth and reconciliation Commission calls to Action

Yes folks, the TRC’s request was not some unreasonable or outlandish ask with no precedence to it. Back in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for years of physical and sexual abuse suffered by Irish children at the hands of priests. Later Pope Francis himself apologized in person in 2018. Both made apologies and the TRC pointed to that as a model the Catholic Church could borrow from. It also made a simply point; if you could apologize to victims of Church abuse in Ireland, why not to Indigenous victims of Church abuse in Canada?

And that’s where we’re at now, the same place where we’ve been for generations. In the face of all of this, after what came out in these past two weeks, we’re still getting the same crap coming from Rome and it’s far from good enough. And that’s where my mind is now; enough is enough. The Catholic Church has decided to obstruct and stop true reconciliation in Canada from happening because they don’t want to face the consequences of their actions. As a Métis person, a Catholic and based on the teachings I learned within the Church, I cannot accept this kind of crap anymore. The Church is in the wrong and the time as passed for Canada to give deference to this obstruction from the Church in Canada and Rome.

It’s time for Canada to put its full legal weight behind compelling the Catholic Church to do the right thing. It’s time for the government of Canada to force the Church to release all of their records regarding this program and these institutions. It’s time for Canadian politicians to go beyond making public statements trying to shame the Pope and the Church into doing what’s right. It’s time for Canada to use its diplomatic levers and recall our Ambassador to the Vatican. It’s time to do all of that and more if Canada is serious this time. This is the “put up or shut up” moment for Canada, our government and political parties. If they’re serious about helping families have true closure. The Church doesn’t get to “talk out the clock” on this and delay forever. If this statement today teaches us anything, it’s that they never intend to do what’s right, and we shouldn’t wait any longer for them to come to the right conclusion and act accordingly. The Church has made a choice and now should come the consequences for those choices. Enough is enough and if our political leaders are sincere in their words and outrage in this moment, it’s time for Canada to put its foot down. The families and survivors of those institutions and Canada as a whole deserves no less.

Magpie Brûlé Podcast Season 3 Episode 1 – Reconciliation and Closure

After some time away, the Magpie Brûlé is back with a new season. In this episode, I go into the news of the past week from Kamloops, the reaction nation wide and in Ottawa, what we all need from our political leaders right now and how this past week reminds us why reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples cannot truly happen without closure. You can listen to it below, download it on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you download the finest podcasts.

Hinting Towards #ELXN44

For months now media, pundits and many Canadians have been speculating about when the next Federal Election may come. Some thought it would have come already, pinning their bets on a Spring 2021 campaign, but COVID had something to say about that. Personally, I always had my money on the Fall of 2021 at the earliest, with COVID always holding the hammer about if it actually happened. Yet still, there has been lots of speculation and reading of tea leaves about when this might come to pass.

As the end of the Spring session of the House of Commons gets closer, we’re starting to get more clues about what might come on this front. Interestingly we got two very good clues on this front today, that point to the future of the 43rd Parliament. The first came straight out of the House of Commons itself, with something that might have flown under the radar of some out there:

Whenever a Parliament is coming to its end, its normal to see MPs give their farewell speeches if they are retiring or not running again. It gives everyone a chance to say their fond farewells, thank their staff and constituents and normally is a warm hearted and collegial moment in a place that can quite often be the opposite of both. So with the rumours of a Fall election, it’s not shocking that this would come now.

The detail that jumped out at me was the date attached to doing this, which is Tuesday June 15th. Normally this take-note debate takes place very close to the end of the session, because normally there are many bills that need to get passed. That’s especially true this time around, with the budget, the COVID-election changes bill, the governments net-zero carbon emissions bill, and a few other items of policy importance to this government still to get passed through the House. After today, there are a maximum of 14 sitting days left on the Parliamentary calendar. With three opposition days left to go, that leaves all of 11 sitting days at most to get all of that done.

The point being, with so much left to do, every day you can have counts if you intend on getting everything passed. So to me seeing these farewell speeches happen so soon seemed odd if you were going to sit right until June 23rd, the last possible day. So for me, with that development it wouldn’t have shocked me if the House rose on Friday June 18th. But it was a piece of news that came out of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that gave the second clue to build on:

Yes, that’s very interesting, there’s that June 18th date again. This committee has been in a full-on Liberal filibuster for three months on a report about the Liberals prorogation of the House over the summer. That action alone could tell you about how badly the Liberals don’t want these details to come out. But in finding a truce to this not only will the Prime Minister be invited back again to testify for an hour, but the final report of the committee must also be tabled in the House no later than Friday June 18th. All committee reports, for them to become final and a part of the record of the House, must be accepted in the House of Commons. If the House didn’t come back after the Summer and went to a Fall election and that report wasn’t tabled in and accepted by the House, it would disappear down the memory hole. So that deadline is noteworthy that it would mark an important piece of business being wrapped up.

But why negotiate that? Why not just continue to filibuster and let it die if you’re going to an election anyway? Well if the Liberals want to rise earlier, they need other parties to help them do it. We have a minority government after all. So negotiation is a must to make it happen, and I find it interesting that it was BQ House Leader Alain Therrien who moved the sub-amendment to the motion to propose this specific date. Do they have a deal in place to move things along? Hmmm, inquiring minds want to know.

When it comes to the election speculation front this tells us a few things. Firstly, that the parties are actively planning for end of this session being the end of this Parliament. They are clearing the decks, giving retiring and leaving MPs the chance to say their final goodbyes, they’re getting some (but not all?) important outstanding legislation taken care of and getting ready to be home in their ridings for the run up to St. Jean Baptiste. If this comes to pass, and the House does rise on Friday June 18th, that will have consequences. You can’t take away three days from the Parliamentary calendar and get everything done unless you have the support to do it, which likely means they have a deal with someone in place. And if there is a deal in place, that means they’ve liked agreed to what bills will get passed before the 18th and which ones will be left to die on the vine.

We’ll see where this all leads but if we’re reading these tea leaves correctly, it looks like we’ll be going to the polls this Fall at some point. Or at least, it will take something big to stop that from being the case. After months of speculation and rumours, this is the realest it’s all become. So if you need your fill of seeing your MPs fighting it out in the House, get it over the next couple weeks. Because if this plays out the way it’s looking, you’ll likely be waiting until sometime in November to see them in that chamber again.

Graduating to a New Level of Confusion

Yesterday in Ontario we got some big news about the state of our fight against COVID and one part in particular; schools. Schools in most of the province have been closed for at least two months, while they’ve been closed longer in hot spots. That’s lead to a lot of extra stress for students, teachers, administrators and parents. That’s lead so many to wonder when schools would return in person, a legit question to ask given that right now Ontario is the province in the country where kids aren’t doing school in-person.

So when it was announced yesterday by the Ford Conservatives that they were not going to reopen schools before September, understandably lots of people weren’t happy. Personally, I think that a decision to keep schools closed until September could have been defendable, especially with a Premier who has shown a willingness to thumb his nose at the risks of COVID at many points through out this crisis.

Yet somehow Doug Ford managed to find a way to make what could be argued was the right decision, and made a complete hash of it all by himself. Sure his theatrical exercise of writing everyone under the sun asking for consensus, only to ignore it when he got it was bad enough, but that wasn’t what pushed me too far. Nope, it was this last little nugget that Ford just threw into the mix that left me shaking my head in disbelief:

Okay folks, let me get this straight. Doug Ford is arguing that it’s safer for kids to stay at home for now and if kids go back to in-class learning, it could lead to a spike in cases (which is a reasonable position), despite the fact that he spent the last year saying that having schools open didn’t lead to more cases in the community and that schools were/are totally safe. Hmmm, that’s a total contradiction, but it’s not a new one. It’s just basically admitting he was BSing us for a year. But again, that’s almost par for the course with this government.

But on top of all of that, on top of saying that bringing kids into schools could create a spike in cases, Ford wants all schools in the province to hold graduations for every single student in the province? He wants to bring all these kids, their parents and loved ones together in a mass event? Yes, outdoors is safer but the current public health rules put a cap on the size of outdoor gatherings at what, 10? Even if you lower those restrictions, there will still be limits on the number of people you can have at an outdoor gathering and given that any graduation for a class of about 25 kids, you’ll be starting at about 75 people attending. That would blow away whatever restrictions would still be in place at that time. And yeah, you’re going to replicate that over a dozen times, over a few days (if the weather cooperates)?

Oh, and don’t forget the fact in a regular school year, only a small minority of students have a graduation ceremony. Depending on the school, you typically have a “graduation” ceremony for kids who are graduating out of the school, and some do it for kindergarten too. So you’re going to take something that might involve two or three classes in a school, and create ceremonies for every single student? And you’re choosing to do it during the middle of a global pandemic? Predictably, the response from folks in the education sector has been telling about how well thought out this all was:

“Given no notice”… “Surprised”…. “Simply not possible or practical”. That last one came from the Ontario Principals Council, which was a surprisingly blunt and stark comment coming from them. As they pointed out, schools have already been planning for virtual contingencies, including ““drive throughs,” virtually recorded sessions or other events that do not involve large social gatherings”. That’s because in the best of times, graduation ceremonies take a lot of planning and time. They just don’t happen on their own at the snap of a finger or with a quip in a press conference. So asking schools to scrap those plans, re-plan to do massive in-person events with next to no time to make it happen, and with no funding to cover that extra cost (because arranging a massive outdoor event will cost big money), is just not unrealistic, it’s just straight out disrespectful of Ford and Co.

Seriously, if I’m being extremely generous, I could say that his heart may have been in the right place on this. But wow, his head was firmly up something else. Pulling this crap-covered rabbit out of his hat, when making one of the hardest decisions his government had to make in a while, didn’t help one bit. In fact, it just made it worse. No matter what they decided on the schools, there were going to be a lot of upset people. If this was some kind of way to try to lessen that pain, it totally failed. Not only did it completely undercut the rationale for keeping schools closed in the first place (you know, protecting public health), it just opened more legit questions about his decision-making process. Simply put, it made no damned sense. None.

At this point, it seems that Doug Ford can’t get out of his own way when it comes to these things. It just keeps happening and that’s really no one else’s fault but his own. There’s no one else he can blame for just throwing something like this out there, making a difficult decision for many to accept even worse. It’s those kinds of things that push people to vote governments out, those are the things that really gnaw at people’s sense of right and wrong. While you could argue that keeping schools closed was the right call, adding this whole graduation gambit just added fuel to those who disagreed with the decision. It makes this government look unserious, unwilling to follow expert advice (even after making such a scene of asking for it) and unable to government. Those are impressions that don’t leave peoples minds, and that’s all of Ford’s own doing.

The Moment for Action

It’s been almost a week since news broke in the media of the discovery of the remains of 215 children in an unmark, mass grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School. Since the news broke, I’ve been struggling with what to say about this. I’ve wanted to scream, swear, rage against the colonial machine that brought this about. I’ve commented on the radio about it, but haven’t been able to find the words to type that I felt properly explained how I felt or expressed what I felt needed to be said.

I guess that part of that comes from having been down this road with our political leaders too many times. After spending a decade on Parliament Hill, I’ve had my fair share of moments where pain came, followed by hope that Canadians were finally pushed to act, only to be followed by more of the same a few days after that pain vanished from the news cycle. It’s a cycle of its own that’s played out for generations in this country, so when this story broke, I couldn’t forget cycle. As much as I want to believe the best and hope for better, that history doesn’t allow me to.

That’s a major reason why I haven’t written this piece before now. Not only have so many others said things so much better than I could, but I also didn’t have it in me to put down my two cents. It wasn’t until watching Question Period today that I saw something that compelled me to write. It was the exchanges below that pushed me to write what comes next:

I haven’t wanted to get my hopes up that this time could be different because that would involve our political leaders doing something that they rarely do; put aside the partisan crap and actually act. In this moment of urgency, I didn’t want to hear partisan cracks about past terrible track records or none of the “I won’t take any lessons from…” lines. This wasn’t the time for that, it just wasn’t, yet that’s exactly where Justin Trudeau went.

The Prime Minister was faced with calm, respectful and a serious suggestion by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, he replied with the usual partisan hackery lines and looking stunningly tone deaf in the moment. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also presented the PM with a concrete, tangible action that he could take, and he replied with more talking points. It was exactly the kind of crap that I feared would come, almost as if Trudeau couldn’t get over himself in this somber moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust Erin O’Toole or the Conservatives on this file. It was only months ago that O’Toole’s own awful comments on the Residential Schools came into public view and the Conservative record on Indigenous rights. It’s true that the Conservatives denied a mere $1.5 million to help families find and identify these dead children, while spending many times more on “priorities” like gazebos in Muskoka or snowmobile trails in Quebec. It’s also true that the Conservatives killed Romeo Saganash’s UNDRIP Bill in the Senate with procedural crap and are vehemently opposed to the government’s version of that same legislation now.

All of that is true, and there is a time and a place for that to be brought out and litigated. But guess what? This wasn’t it! This wasn’t the time for that sh*t. Just as it wasn’t the time for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to opine on Sir. John A. and “cancel culture”, this afternoon wasn’t the time for Justin Trudeau to try to score some partisan digs at the Blue Team. This wasn’t it! The Conservatives crap record on Indigenous rights does not excuse or make Liberal inaction fine by comparison. Trudeau was tone deaf, craven and somehow made O’Toole look far better than him.

Why is that? Because while O’Toole has a freight trains worth of baggage that he and his party carries around on Indigenous issues, he actually got the right read of the moment and was actually trying to be constructive. The fact is that Indigenous leaders from across the country are calling for the Federal government to move fast on funding the searches of Residential School sites to help families and communities have closure. It’s about closure, finally giving these families the chance to know what happened to their loved ones and try to help the healing begin. Suggesting that Trudeau announce a plan to fund this work before Canada Day was not an unreasonable suggestion. In fact, I would argue with how this government can turn things around when they’re motivated, asking for this to be done in a month is completely reasonable and the right thing to do.

And it’s the right thing to do because actually acting can break this damn cycle that I’ve spoken about above. The only way that cycle is going to be broken is for all of Canada’s political parties, who all own their own shares of the blame and history of Residential Schools, is to stop with the usual partisan finger pointing and sh*t, grow up, suck it up, face history and act. Today in the House, I saw both O’Toole and Singh doing that. The Prime Minister brought the opposite, and it was as striking as it was disappointing.

When it comes to those who represent the side of the Canadian Government in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, there is no one who comes into this with clean hands. Yet those are the people we have to address this and there is no way they can address this if they are too concerned about polls, score political points on their opponents and reducing everything to “they’re worse than us”. They have to stop finger pointing long enough to actually get this done. The path of reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples is a long one, and this moment is just one step towards that. In order for us to move forward, that will require Canadians political leaders to grow the Hell up and stop this usual crap. The families and survivors deserve nothing less, yet as today showed us, that appears to be too much to ask for.