Two Big Shoes

Ever since we saw the big flurry of events at the end of March/early April that led to the expulsions from the Liberal caucus of two well-regarded and like cabinet ministers, all of political Ottawa and Canada have been wondering; what will they do? What will be the future for Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott? Well it looks like at around lunch time Monday we’ll have our answer:

Monday morning in Vancouver and Markham we’ll see the next scenes in this political drama play out. Both have seemed to keep their cards very close to them and haven’t given any major hints about where they might end up. The only things that seem to be certain here is that both will run again in some capacity, in some way and that they won’t go to the Conservatives. Given everything they’ve said and the issues that they’ve stood out on and cared about, it’s clear that they aren’t going to walk away from political life right now and they don’t match up with the Scheer Conservatives.

So where will they land? Honestly your guess is as good as mine on this. By timing their announcements the way that they are, I’m led to believe they will both be going in the same direction though. Its never been a given that both would go to the same place or take a similar decision, but of the things you can read into this turn of events for Monday, the fact that they are both announcing within minutes of each other in such a coordinated way is a sign that they are probably going together.

Regardless of the choice that they make, this is will have huge impact on what happens in the Fall for the parties out there. Let’s face it; both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott have far more credibility in the eyes of the public than any other leader in the campaign to come. By joining with any other party, that part will gain a great deal of momentum from that credibility choosing their team. Conversely, having been passed over by Wilson-Raybould and Philpott will go a long way to sapping other parties and will hurt them. This decision will have the chance to be rocket fuel for the party that they join (if they do join a party), and will potentially put cement blocks around the ankles of the party that is passed over. When the news of this pending announcement broke, you already started to see the kind of sentiment that this could set loose:

If I’m the Liberals and I’m counting on trying to push progressive voters back into their fold in the upcoming campaign with the usual “Red door or Blue door” argument, this should frighten them. Monday is a day of reckoning that has been coming for a while. The only question remains who is going to be the ones to benefit from that reckoning.

Over this weekend I expect the fine folks in the Parliamentary Press Gallery will be trying to read all the tea leaves they can find, checking the where certain party leaders will be on Monday and looking for every clue they can get. We have another 48 hours or so to ponder and wonder but by the time that Question Period comes on Monday, we’ll have all of our answers and the new reality will start to settle in. Monday promises to be a big, watershed day for sure and will be a big landmark in the run up to the Fall election. After these two big shoes drop, it’s hard to say there are any bigger ones out there waiting to come down to Earth.


A Week in the Life of the Ford Conservatives

As we have been noting here, the Ford Conservatives have been dealing with a lot of blowback from decisions that they have made. We’ve been seeing more and more manifestations of this unhappiness and growing anger about many of these decisions and cuts as they have been trickling out. It’s been striking to see for a government that hasn’t even reached the one-year mark in this mandate. It was with that in mind that we saw another such manifestation, from another place that one wouldn’t have expected:

A week after Doug Ford got booed at the Special Olympics, the Premier manages to get booed at a tech conference? Seriously? This is another venue where you don’t expect to see a politician get booed, but that’s part of the Ford Conservative experience. Given their cuts to AI research funding, totaling $24 million, it’s a booing that was more than warranted. Still it’s striking to see another group of people speaking out so loudly against this government “For the People”.

What’s been just as fascinating to see from the Blue Team has been the ham-fisted way they have been responding to these expressions. One Conservative MPP whose been particularly fascinating to watch on this is Sam Oosterhoff, who if you remember called the police on a group of book wielding seniors who dared to protest cuts to library funding. I’m sure that was so very, very scary for him and his staff.

Then this weekend we saw a massive protest outside of an event he was hosting in his riding, where people were protesting not only the Conservative cuts, but also Oosterhoff’s comments about wanting to outlaw abortion in this country. Young Mr. Oosterhoff has proved to not only have an amazing ability to make himself a human lightning rod for protests, he’s also proved himself to be amazingly thin skinned and unable to deal with the idea of people potentially expressing the opposition to him or his ideas. With that in mind, it seems that Mr. Oosterhoff has taken a new tact when it comes to dealing with potential protests, one that TFO uncovered:

As TFO reports, Oosterhoff was supposed to do an announcement at l’école Jean Vanier in Welland. That lead to students and the student council raising concerns about this, about his views on abortion and moved them to protest. They even put this up on an Instagram account voicing their concerns:

This seems to have taken off in this school community and it really shouldn’t be surprising. Given these comments by Oosterhoff, added to the attacks on the Franco-Ontarian community that the Ford Conservatives have been doing since getting elected, this community of youth is paying attention and not afraid to stand up to this government. And this MPP wanted to use their school for free publicity and to push their program that much more? It’s no wonder that these students stood up and said “Pas dans mon école”.

Yes, it turns out that Young Sam has turned to the “Sir Robin” approach and has run away from the potential “danger” of protesting high school students. When faced with that determined opposition, Oosterhoff cancelled; he ran away with his tail between his legs rather than face the youth (who are only a few years younger than him, so are pretty much his peers) who have raised very serious concerns. That’s so very “for the people” right? And I repeat that we’re not even finished their first year yet. That means we still have another three years of this train wreck of a government, and I doubt that people like these students are going to stop speaking out against the Ford Conservatives. This has been quite a week in the life of this Ford Conservative government, and folks, it’s only Thursday morning.

A Moment That Sticks in the Mind

Politics can be an amazingly fickle thing and in our history as a country, we’ve seen moments happen that have changed the course of campaigns in ways that we wouldn’t have foreseen. When I think of this, the best example that comes to mind is Brian Mulroney, Solange Denis and her “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment.

These are moments that stick in the mind of the public, speak to a greater truth and cut through all the noise. In short, they are moments that leave many people saying “yes, that’s right” or “wow, that’s so wrong”. The example of Solange Denis was so powerful at the time because it was caught by television cameras and beamed into the homes of millions of Canadians via cable and satellite. People got to see it, hear it, hear her voice, see her expressions, Mulroney’s reactions, all of it. It wasn’t the same as reading it in the daily news paper and had a deeper effect.

Living in the digital age that we live in now, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how different this age is for that. Today someone can record something on their phone and post it to social media for everyone to see and react to in minutes, giving the same potential for that kind of visceral reaction. So while seeing more of these images and videos, that doesn’t mean that everyone will have the “Goodbye Charlie Brown” effect on the public. But some still do, and they have the potential to drive home a bigger message in the public consciousness. Yesterday I would argue we might have seen such a moment, outside of a Liberal Party fundraiser in Vancouver:

Wow folks, wow. When I first read the story about this incident without seeing the video, I had one impression. But then seeing it, hearing it and taking it all in, that impression changed. For starters, the written story starts by describing this person pushing “a man dressed in a suit”. If you look closer at that video, it appears to me that the person in the suit seems to be a member of the RCMP detail that protects the Prime Minister. I say appears because the pin on the mans jack seems similar to those I’ve seen those members who are a part of the PMs detail wear before. So if that is correct, that’s not just some random citizen pushing back and that’s an important detail.

But beyond that is the response. The woman who pushed didn’t push very hard, but the shove that came in response was quite hard and sent the woman flying to the ground. And this wasn’t a young person either, as the story tells us this woman was 74 years old. A strong, healthy young man pushing a 74-year-old woman hard to the ground. In what circumstances would that series of events be seen as alright? The response from that man was hardly proportionate and the video shows that clearly.

And why was this woman there? She was protesting, exercising her rights in a free and democratic country. You can argue with what she was there protesting for, that’s fair and reasonable. But the response was not reasonable or appropriate here at all.

During the Harper years I saw my fair share of protests on Parliament Hill and marches on various topics. In many of those protests, you saw elders and seniors taking part in them. It wasn’t a surprise to see big police presences at those protests either. That was the time, that was that governments approach and that was the only outlet that many people had to be heard.

Justin Trudeau saw that like we all did, and promised to be different, to be better and to listen. That was what got him elected, that promise of better. As his years in office have gone on, we’ve seen more of that promise get washed away, bit by bit, to the point that lately “Sunny Ways” has turned into more of a punchline than a promise of hope. But that video from yesterday, wow, that is a different level and given the tensions out there in the public, it may not be a good sign of what’s to come in the campaign ahead.

Will this video be Justin Trudeau’s “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment? It’s hard to say. But when you see that video, you see that elderly woman shoved to the pavement in Vancouver with force, left prone on the ground; that sticks in your mind. It hits you in the face and is not something that is easily forgotten. But given where we are today, I think that video has the potential to crystalize the thoughts of many potential Liberal voters going into the Fall, and not in a way that I think the PM would hope.

An Apology That’s Needed

Working in political Ottawa as an Indigenous person can be frustrating and hard at times. Let’s face it, the system that exists here in Ottawa wasn’t created for Indigenous people, and it surely wasn’t made with taking the opinions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples into account. Over time though, that has started to change for the better. Being Métis and having worked on Parliament Hill for closer to a decade, I saw that bit of improvement before my eyes. But despite that, there is still a long way to go.

It’s through that lens I try to look when I take in various commentary and opinions that I read, especially from the growing list of Indigenous writers who are taking part in the discussion. One such writer whose pieces I look forward to reading is Robert Jago, a member of the Nooksack Tribe and Kwantlen First Nation in BC who now lives in Montreal. He’s taken on many big topics from the Indigenous perspective and has brought a lot of light to big issues.

So it was with great interest that I came across his newest piece last week, which was printed in The Tyee. With the rise of the Green Party in Canada, many people are looking at them and their policies, asking questions and seeing what is there. That is what Mr. Jago did, looking specifically at the Greens policies around Indigenous peoples, and came away with some interesting observations. That brought on attacks on him, followed by a weird rebuttal piece from the Greens, followed by another rebuttal from Jago himself, which further laid the Greens bare. Here is the Twitter blow-by-blow:

I am personally surprised by the Greens response here, because really, in theory, they have the easiest excuse in the book; they’re a small party and need to work on their policy books. Despite policy towards Indigenous peoples that’s got as many holes as swiss cheese, admitting to that and promising to get it right would be a decent thing to do. But instead, Jago’s observations received indignation. Not very promising.

But of all the things that Jago raised in his piece, one thing really jumped out at me and surprised me. Jago quoted a question from Question Period that Green Leader Elizabeth May asked, using language and comparisons that stunned me. It stunned me so much that I had to go and find it for myself, because I almost didn’t believe it. I thought maybe I was misreading it or there was a typo of some sort. Then I found it, the question in Hansard, along with the video of said question, and it was just as bad as when I read it:

Yes folks, that’s Elizabeth May using Residential Schools to try to score some rhetorical points on pipelines. Seriously, what in the Hell? Now I’m not surprised this went mostly unnoticed at the time, September 25th, 2018 to be precise; it was the last question of the day to be asked and usually by then most of the Press Gallery has move onto writing their stories for the day. But still, hearing those words and that comparison is just so amazingly offensive to me. Why in the Hell drag Residential Schools into an answer on pipelines and why try to use that horrible crime of an experience that still affects families across the country to this day to score a cheap political point? Not only is that offense, that’s a serious lack of judgement on Ms. May’s part.

And for me, that really ties back to the Green policy document, the mistakes there, some of the attitudes in there, the responses from their supporters that Jago shared on Twitter and the bigger problem here. It’s one thing to make mistakes, we are human and we all make them. But it’s another thing all together to wilfully ignore those mistakes and then turn on those who dare to point them out. Furthermore, I would argue that using the genocide perpetrated against Indigenous peoples as a rhetorical device to bolster your point on pipelines is just disgusting and wrong on a whole level of its own. I would call on Ms. May to apologize for those words, but they did happen nine months ago and if it hasn’t occurred to her to apologize for them now, I don’t feel so hopeful this piece will do it today.

Now I don’t hide my biases here, as you’ve seen in my writing. And I don’t hold myself out to be some paragon of virtue and perfection. But I do my best to call a spade a spade when I see it. The fact is that I know Elizabeth May and have spoken with her on numerous occasions. Her office was literally across the hall from mine for my last two and a half years on Parliament Hill and I’ve had many nice, friendly discussions with her and her staff, who are good people. But despite that, those words that she said back in September are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

The crimes against Indigenous peoples and the pain it’s caused are not some tool to be used to score points for others, let alone anyone who leads a national political party. I hope that Ms. May sees the wisdom in apologizing and vows to learn from this horrible mistake. In this time of their rise in the polls, the Greens should look at correcting these mistakes in their Indigenous policy, in their statements, in their other policies and do so with some humility. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

“I Wish They’d Stop Complaining”

We’ve only reach mid-May and we still have reached the one-year anniversary of the election of the Ford Conservatives in Ontario. I say that because it has felt a lot longer, given the steady stream of news of about cuts, fibs and downright crazy stories that has come from this party in power. Remember that crazy story from a month ago about the late-night phone call one Ontarian got from the Premier? Yeah, so very 2019, right? Well if you thought that one was good, we might have a better one that’s come out on social media today:

For a short voicemail, there is a lot to unpack here. For starters, I’m quite amazed that this Premier left a voice message saying what he said, as if he had no clue that it would come out or would go over poorly. But beyond the gobsmacking nature of the fact that there is even a recording of this call is the content itself. In it, Ford continues to tell the outright lie that “no teacher is getting laid off”, despite the fact that thousands of teachers across Ontario have already received redundancy notices. Teachers are getting laid off, that is a verified and well reported fact, and more boards still need to make their announcements.

But the Premier didn’t stop there, he kept going. He then uttered words that I guarantee are going to be ringing in the ears of teachers all across Ontario, when he said “I Wish They’d Stop Complaining”. He then makes a bit of a veiled cheap shot, when he says that “a million people would love to have the teacher’s job”. I say it’s a cheap shot because previously Ford has made comments about teachers, saying they have it great because they get months off and have it so easy. That’s the kind of comment we hear when teachers are getting attacked, called lazy and such, but also ignores the reality that teachers face, who work long hours outside of school, on weekends, on their holidays and spend a lot of their summers upgrading their skills and taking courses. Teaching is very hard work, and comments like Ford’s play into an incorrect trope that undermines and undervalues the work that teachers do.

But it’s not just that kind of disregard for the profession that has teachers upset these days. Remember the snitch line the Conservatives put in last year? The attacks on Sexual Education? And now the mass lay offs happening? Those are all good reasons for teachers to be upset but yesterday news broke of another thing that is sure to add to that frustration and anger:

Yep, they are looking at going after teachers’ sick days. Not only have teachers already had that allotment cut by half by the previous government, it looks like Ford and crew are looking to scale that back even more because people are using what they get. Yep, more salt in the wound. But what makes this worse is the overall effect this is going to have on the school system. This government is already scraping class size caps, so you’re going to have bigger classrooms, more kids with special needs in those classrooms, and no extra supports for the teachers there. That is going to lead to much more stress for those teachers, stress that those sick days can help to alleviate. But now that the Ford Conservatives have decided to crank up the pressure on these professionals, you’re going to take away part of what will help them deal with that pressure? That’s just not on and is going to make what was already going to be terrible contract negotiations this Fall even worse.

So far, the “Ford Experience” in Ontario has been rough, there is no doubting it. That also helps to explain why teachers are complaining. But the thing is, it’s not just teachers that are upset these days, and that is something that became clearer this week too:

Again, I repeat we haven’t even reached the first anniversary of this government. That’s bad polling for them, but given everything that’s happened, it’s far from shocking. The Ford Conservatives ran on balancing the books with no pain, saying that no one would lose their jobs and that everything would be great. That was completely unbelievable at the time and today we’re seeing why. And if Doug Ford is wishing that teachers would stop complaining because “they’ve got it so good” under his rule, I wonder what he’ll say in the next voicemail about the next group he feels is voicing too much displeasure. I doubt it will be good, but I feel safe in saying that somehow it will be recorded in some way and we’ll see it or hear it.