It was Sunday afternoon. We were driving back home after a day in the country when I heard myself asking, “Am I starting to rant?”
Please understand…I’ve been trying to be good. I had a plan — unplug, recharge the batteries, reconnect, travel, contemplate the things that are important and should matter for this next phase of life, and then, after Labour Day, roll up my sleeves and get to work on various projects and noble causes. (In other words, basically goof off for the summer)
It was never part of the plan to ignore politics or the news generally….just not to get too caught up in it. Because, summer. And for the most part, that was working just fine — until a few days ago.
Now, suddenly, there are all kinds of things about which I feel compelled to comment, and some — but not all — of the reason is the looming federal election. (Okay, it’s not really looming. But because everyone knows the election is going to be held on October 19, they’re all acting as though the campaign is already underway.) So here are the things that are sticking in my craw today:
1) Steven Harper’s taxable Universal Child Care Benefit: He quietly cancels the Child Tax Credit while trumpeting the UCCB. He sends parents a fat “Christmas in July” cheque 12 weeks before the election. Then next April, 6 months after the election, they’ll discover they have to pay most of it back in taxes. Can we not go back to my grandfather’s time in Nova Scotia, where they bought your vote with a bottle of whisky? There was more integrity in that.
2) That Ontario Court of Appeal ruling denying Canadian citizens the right to vote if they’ve been living outside the country for more than five years: This ain’t some snowbird’s health care we’re talking about. (You risk losing your health care coverage if you stay down south for more than 7 months). This is the right to vote! Once you’re of legal age, there is no more fundamental right of citizenship. Siding with the Harper government, the court’s rationale was, in essence, “Well, if you’ve been away from home that long, you really don’t have any skin in the game so why should you have any say?” Look, I agree that Canada was far too lax for far too long in granting citizenship to foreigners who had no intention of making a life or a permanent home here. They wanted the convenience of Canadian citizenship and we fell for it. But you do not address that problem by attacking expatriate Canadians whose careers have taken them abroad but who remain engaged, connected citizens of Canada. These are some of our best and brightest and — leaving aside the fact that there was no opportunity for them here because Conservative economic policy strangles innovation, the knowledge-based sector, culture, science and the liberal arts because you don’t need none of that when you’re just gonna hew wood, draw water, and pump oil — we ought to at least stand in the possibility that someday they may bring their expertise home with them and therefore not go out of our way to p*** them off! The law should be clear — if you renounce your citizenship, you lose the right to vote. Otherwise, you retain that right. If the right to vote really is conditional — in other words, a privilege, like a driver’s license — then why do inmates have a vote when the very notion of incarceration is the denial of certain privileges as punishment for crimes committed? You’d think tough-on-crime Steven the Enforcer would get that.
3) $1.5 billion in federal funding for the C-Train Green Line: Boy, the Conservatives must really be in trouble if they suddenly see the need to throw that kind of promise at Fortress Calgary so close to the election. I was going to write “that kind of coin”, but there’s no money yet. Just a promise. And you know what they’re worth at election time. Mayor Nenshi — don’t count on this one until the cheque has cleared and the money’s in the bank. And should that happy day ever arrive, even then, make sure you’ve read all the fine print in the contract. That said, the Notley government ought to be stepping up to the plate and pledging an equal amount, and they’re not doing that yet, and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Brian Mason won’t say why, exactly. (More about that issue in point 5, below.)
4) Alberta Unite the Right silliness: Defeated PC cabinet minister Jonathan Denis seems to be the one flogging this dead horse the hardest. Look, it might happen. Someday. A long, long time down a long, long road of contrition and soul-searching — two qualities few PC candidates, defeated or elected, seem capable of spelling, let alone pursuing yet. For now, there’s no upside for the Wildrose in being seen at the dance with the likes of them.
5) Where’s Waldo, Alberta edition: I’m having a hard time picking the Notley New Democrats out of a crowd — and so are a number of people with whom I’ve spoken in the last couple of weeks. They were painfully slow out of the gate on the Nexen pipeline spill. They’ve apparently abandoned their promise to shut down their PC predecessors’ carbon-capture-and-storage program, and they haven’t said why. There’s the question of why it has taken so many newly-elected NDP MLAs so long to get their constituency offices up and running. (I remember, it looks like a daunting task when you first get elected, but it’s not, really. There’s lots of expertise and assistance available. Besides which, it’s an important daunting task because that is your point of contact with your constituents and you need to be seen to be open and available, even if you don’t know what you’re doing yet.)
And there’s this issue of the C-Train Green Line and Brian Mason’s vagueness in attempting to justify why the province hasn’t stepped up to pledge its share of the funding now that both the feds and the city have. He said, in essence, that the Harper Conservatives went behind the province’s back and so the Notley New Democrats now have to study this. Well, Brian Mason knows as well as I do that it’s not news that the feds went behind the province’s back. That’s the sort of s**t Harper and his minions pull all the time. Just ask Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. My Spidey-sense tells me the people of Alberta aren’t interested in federal-provincial wrangling. They’re interested in seeing that the provincial government gets the job done, or else communicates a clear and reasonable explanation for why you’re not doing it — or not doing it the way you said you would. That’s why we elected you guys after all those years of watching the PCs not do their jobs.
Thus endeth the rant.