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Updating the Oath

Canada is a country that has immigration as a big part of its history. Every year in this country, thousands of people complete their path to citizenship at ceremonies from coast to coast to coast. As a part of that last step, new Canadians must recite the Citizenship Oath, and it is a solemn part of that ceremony. Today the Liberal government proposed an update to that oath, one that brings forward an important update:

This is a good move by this government, even if it is coming a bit late in this term, potentially too late for the legislation making this change to actually become law. But we’ll see and we’ll leave that matter for another day. In my view, this is an important step and one that I think that’s time has come.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission submitted their recommendations back in 2015, they included 94 Calls to Action covering all aspects of Canadian life and government at all levels. They helped to provide a roadmap forward for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country, one that offered positive and tangible ideas. At the very end of that list, under the section “Newcomers to Canada”, came Call to Action number 94, which stated the following:

I remember at the time when I first read the recommendations about how good an idea this was, one that hadn’t necessarily came to mind right away. When you look at the citizenship oaths that most other countries have, they make references to loyalty towards their constitutional documents and structures. But in Canada, the oath as it existed had a major exclusion; the treaties and Aboriginal rights of the Indigenous peoples of this land. The fact is that the treaties signed with First Nations and Inuit in Canada are not just agreements; they are essentially constitutional documents that give Canada legal legitimacy in those territories in which they are signed. Thanks to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canada wouldn’t exist as a country in a legal sense without those agreements.

So when it comes to accepting new citizens into our country, it makes sense that not only should those new citizens be taught about those constitutional documents (as Call to Action 93 calls for) and be asked to swear an oath to them, just as they to do our Head of State and to obey the laws of Canada. To me, this makes so much sense that I truly hope that it won’t be opposed by any party in the House of Commons.

All of the Calls to Action in the TRC Report are important in their own right, but for me this one is different in the sense that it’s forward looking and the way that it can help to bring greater reconciliation in this country for decades to come. By being up front with new citizens from coming elsewhere about our history, the treaties and their obligations, those new Canadians are able to help be a part of the solution regarding the relationship between Canada and the Indigenous nations that call Canada home. It’s also letting these new citizens know the history and legal responsibilities that they are inheriting by becoming Canadians. Even if you just arrived here, by becoming a citizen those people are going to be a part of being responsible for the relationship that existed long before they arrived here.

My hope is that seeing Calls to Action like this being enacted will help create more understanding of our shared history, create more knowledge of it and will in turn, create more empathy for the people who are living with the consequences of that history. It’s a good step along the road to reconciliation, one that I hope will get quick passage before the end of this Parliament with full support of all parties across the political spectrum.

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Third-Party Engagement

In Canada over the past decade we’ve seen the continual growth of the phenomena of the “perpetual campaign”; when the campaign never seems to stop, running one into the next until we end up with this non-stop campaign cycle. In the age of social media, that has continued apace. It’s mostly coming from the fringes of the right, or at least the most successful groups have. Those groups have tended to use social media to spread some pretty vile and misleading stuff and have gotten great penetration in the public doing so.

On the progressive side of the fence, there haven’t been as many successful examples to point to. You can look at “PressProgress” from the Broadbent Institute, but they are closer to a news/opposition research service than what is seen on the right. We haven’t really seen a progressive third-party campaign on the Federal level have that kind of success, something that has always left me wondering. It was with that in mind that this came across my Twitter feed today:

That ad from Engage Canada came up, promoting their website and starting their campaign against the Scheer Conservatives. And I’ve got to say I don’t know what to make of the ad; something about it just struck me as so different in tone and language, and not in a way that make me think “what a great ad”. Seeing a progressive group use words like “Hell” in that way or even “weakness” is just very different; honestly, it’s strong language that kind of runs counter to the polite and normally positive ads progressive groups run. Even the bobblehead image seemed a bit crass to me.

That being said, maybe that’s where the mood of the public is. We know that things are tense out there and people are quite unhappy. Probably dropping a few “Hell”s might seem to fit the bill in this environment. But is that the way to go? Is that what we want this campaign to be? Let’s face it folks, many progressives have lamented the tone coming from the further and fringe right. We’ve called it toxic and damaging to our democracy. Do we really want to head down that path? I ask the question not to judge, but out of genuine curiosity. Is that where we are today? Maybe that’s what it will take but I’m not convinced of that today.

Regardless we know that most people have been predicting a rough campaign in the Fall, and that ad falls right in line with that. It’s not even June yet and that’s the ad that’s running. What will that look like in late August or October? I don’t know if that’s what we want or if that’s the best way to go. Either way, that really jumped out at me and if I were someone who was thinking of voting for Andrew Scheer, that’s not the ad that would have persuaded me to do otherwise. We’ll keep an eye on Engage Canada and see what their approach will continue to be going forward, but if it wasn’t clear before, the campaign is now on in earnest, at least in the third-party campaign space. And the permanent campaign continues.

Independents Day

The day that many in the Canadian political scene has been waiting for has come. Both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott held press conferences in their ridings, announcing their intentions for their futures, what they would do and where they might land. The answers that came back were interesting, in not exactly what was assumed to happen:

If we had betting on everything under the sun like they do in the United Kingdom, we would say that the bookies had this one called wrong. The speculation that was taking hold out there was that both former Cabinet Ministers would join up with the Green team, running for them in the next election. And despite kind words of friendship for Elizabeth May, both decided to say no to them. They ended up saying no to everyone, deciding to go out on their own and try to get their re-election that way. It’s an approach that is the more unconventional route, one that is probably the least likely to succeed, but there is an honesty to it that I will come back to later.

For the parties though in the House, this news is a mixed bag; yes neither MP landed in their caucuses, but they didn’t land in someone else’s either. So, no party gets the boost that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott would give to their parties going into the election, but their decision to go it alone also sends a message to those parties as well. Being snubbed isn’t a good thing, because it’s basically a rejection of your party.

For the Greens, being rejected does fly in the face of the momentum they’ve supposedly had. Obviously there was something there to keep either or both MPs from joining with them; maybe it was a policy difference, maybe it was the election of an MP with discredited and vile opinions. We don’t know and to say otherwise is to speculate. For the New Democrats, this rejection is another brick in the wall when it comes to their current state. What’s probably worse is that in the whole discourse around where there two members might go, the NDP was hardly mentioned at all, less than an afterthought in the discourse. That’s bad, especially when typically the NDP would be the most likely party an MP in their position might join.

For the Liberals, while this move might be good because it won’t boost another party and hurt their standing further, the bad news comes on the local level in Vancouver-Granville and Markham-Stouffville, where their odds of holding those seats just went through the floor. In Vancouver-Granville, Wilson-Raybould has a good shot of holding that seat and a strong showing by Wilson-Raybould would surely mean that even if she didn’t win, it wouldn’t be a Liberal winning the seat. In Markham-Stouffville I would argue it’s even worse. In that riding, it’s typically been a Liberal/Conservative fight, with no strong third-party presence to speak of at all. If Philpott and decided to run for the Greens or NDP, she probably wouldn’t have won, but she likely wouldn’t have given either party a big boost in their result. Running as an independent though, she is more likely to be able to draw a bigger slice of the vote as she’ll be able to run on her name and not have the partisan baggage. But even with that advantage, I’d argue that the likelihood of her holding the seat is slim and the betting odds are that her Independent candidacy will likely swing the riding for the Conservatives.

Really the only party here who is coming away from this smiling is the Conservatives. No only does Markham-Stouffville because a big target to swing into their column, the decision to go independent makes it easier for them to speak of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to bolster their case against the Liberals. If either or both had joined another party, it would have been harder for them to use their names and examples to go after the government because they would then be boosting another party. Now that they will stay as Independents, that barrier will be gone and will open the flood gates. Finally for the Conservatives, the fact that neither MP joined another party makes it less likely that disgruntled progressives will coalesce around a single party. That will likely mean a more fractured progressive electorate and a better chance for the Conservatives to form government. If either Wilson-Raybould or Philpott had joined another party, that would have been a big signal for progressives to support that party and give enough clout to go up against the Conservatives. But that didn’t happen here, and that has to make the Blue Team happy.

But as I said above, this was probably the most honest answer they could have given. If you watched their press conferences, you could tell that they were ready to trade in one party for another, so to do so would have been harder to explain. And while I respect their decision, I have to say that I came away from their press conferences disagreeing with a big part of the rationale behind it. Both made comments about “not perfectly fitting” in a party and that partisan politics is flawed because of that. Personally, I have to disagree with for a simple reason; it’s impossible for any party to perfectly match all of someone’s beliefs and it’s impossible for any MP to present all of the views of each and every single constituent all the time. The same is true with governing for a whole country.

In the end, we need to be able to compromise to some level to reach a consensus; that’s true of being a member of a party, being in government and being an MP. That’s also true in life in general. In the end, it’s not a matter of if you need to make some compromise but a matter of how much compromise do you make? In this case, I believe that both MPs were right in not compromising in the SNC-Lavalin scandal; that was an extreme case. But I don’t agree with the comments they made today that not finding a party that perfectly fits them is a bad thing. Being in a party is not always easy, but that doesn’t mean that parties are bad. Parties can be better and they need to do that.

In the end, while today’s big news won’t have the big impact that it could have, it will still be of note in the political history in Canada. Over 10 years later, we still remember the likes of Chuck Cadman, who proved that Independents can have a big impact on our politics. But to do that, they need to get elected first. That just became a harder task for both of these MPs as they go out on their own. We’ll see if they will be able to buck history and earn their way back to the House of Commons after the Fall election.

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.