Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Culture of Me

There’s a disturbing trend that’s seemingly reaching every corner of the globe. A veritable tidal wave of populism, nationalism (particularly of the white variety), and protectionism is crashing down on the United States, the United Kingdom, and yes, even here in Canada.
At the root of the problem seems to be this notion that it’s every person for themselves That somehow if only everyone else would just get their shit together that everything would be okay. There are myriad problems with this attitude, but the first thing I notice it is that it does a wonderful job of highlighting a person’s privilege. There’s this attitude of, I’m okay, so why aren’t you okay? I got what I wanted, sorry about your luck, with an implied or sometimes even whisper-spoken “sucker” tacked onto the end.

Is this what we’ve become?

There’s a hole blown in the middle and everyone seems to have been forced to one side or the other, ready and primed to vote for the candidate who promises the loudest and with the most fervor that not only will you get dinner before sex but you’ll get a cigarette after as well. One thing is certain, someone is getting screwed and you don’t have to be a member of the party “for the people” or a very stable genius to figure out who.
True to my prediction in my last post, Doug Ford (a.k.a. Trump North, Trump Lite) took power in the province of Ontario and true to form he and his supporters have been wreaking havoc and showing their true colours. For the uninitiated, Doug Ford is the equivalent of a state governor (though how he got there is a little different and how the government behaves is a little different as well). Presently, he’s invoking the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document in which there is a bevy of rights bestowed to all the citizens of the Great White North. 
By Marc Lostracci [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
via Wikimedia Commons
However, in order to get the damn thing ratified back in 1982, there was a notwithstanding clause added. This allows a federal or provincial government to essentially override the Charter for some (but not all) of its guarantees. If invoked, it only applies for five years (during which time there will be an election) but it can be re-invoked after that indefinitely. Québec has invoked it a whack of times, but they were never on board with the Charter in the first place. 
In Ford’s case, a judge ruled that he violated a section of the Charter and that his legislation was therefore unconstitutional. He’s invoking the notwithstanding clause to get around the ruling he doesn’t like for legislation that no one voted on and he never even mentioned once on his campaign. You would think that if a citizen’s rights were being stripped it would be over something pretty egregious. You would think it would only be used in extraordinary circumstances. In #DoFo‘s case, you would be wrong. He wants to reduce the city council in Toronto by almost half – weeks before an election. Say what you want about the judge that ruled that by doing this he is violating a section of the Charter, using the notwithstanding clause to override this decision is akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a thumbtack into a sponge. 
In other words, he’s being a colossal ass hat. 
On top of that, he has promised to use the clause at every opportunity in the future. The clause shouldn’t even be a thing and should never be used. But, since it is and since it does, it should be used in the rarest of occasions. Is the size of Toronto’s city counsel extraordinary? Not even close. Do Ford or any of his lackey members of parliament care? Nope. They’re getting what they want and t’hell with the rest of you. If you are part of the 60% of those who voted (and the 75% of the total electorate) who didn’t want anything to do with them, I have a newsflash. They don’t care about you, and they sure as shit don’t care about your rights and freedoms.
As everyone knows, down in the U.S. it’s worse. You can’t even go 48-hours without hearing about how some level of government is abusing their power and giving a large portion of the population the shaft. For cryin’ in the sink, the Senate is all set to confirm a Supreme Court judge FOR LIFE who likely perjured himself during the confirmation hearings! For the love of God, I can’t figure out how anyone is okay with any of this, let alone millions of people.
Kevin McCoy [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speaking of God, religion always seems to make its way into these conversations at some point, with those using The Good Book as a defense all trigger happy and ready to whip out a selection of examples that “prove” their point. 
Well, I can do that, too:

  • “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
  • “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7
  • “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
  • “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5:14

Funny how you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the bible verses they cherry pick. And people wonder why atheism is growing at such a fast rate? When did caring about your neighbours become a bad thing? When did experiencing happiness over another person’s success give way to resentment? When did selfishness become the norm? When did we start allowing ourselves to be governed by such ineffectual, petty swindlers?

Shealah Craighead [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
By Andre Forget – Andrew Scheer
[CC0] via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve recently joined several Facebook groups dedicated to my immediate community. It’s a small village of a few thousand that sits within a bigger city of over a hundred thousand that sits within a bigger region of close to half a million people. These groups provide links to garage sales, buy or trade opportunities, local businesses, share success stories of the people that live within a few kilometers of me, give alerts to petty crime and other activities of concern, and are generally used as a forum to connect people who already share a small geographic space.

At first, the only posts I noticed were the ones that made me feel good about the community I choose to call home. After a while, however, it became clear that there will always be those who either don’t care, are ignorant (willfully or otherwise), or are generally insensitive and unempathetic toward anyone that doesn’t fit their specific definition of a model citizen. The bad news is those people tend to be loud. The good news is they also appear to be in the minority.
So, I’ll be doing my part in these groups to hopefully return the notion of being neighbourly to the mainstream consciousness, at least locally, but if you want an example of a community doing this on a larger scale, look no further than the Bangor Maine Police Department on Facebook. They are a shining example of community and compassion and if even a few people from all our neighbourhoods took a page out of their book we’d all be better off.
~ Andrew

Trump North Strong and Free

Ontario is having a provincial election on June 7. For my American readers, this is much like a state election where you would vote for your Representatives in the state legislature and Governor―only a little different. We elect Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and the leader of the party with the most MPPs in parliament becomes the province’s Premier (we also split our province up into what we call ridings, not districts).

Those who have read my blog around the time of previous election cycles know that I am not shy about voicing my opinion but I’m going to take a slightly different approach to this post. Listen, I am no fan of any of the choices that I have in this election. I’m actually finding it hard to decide on what to do. So, rather than focus on what I don’t like about Doug Ford, Kathleen Wynne, Andrea Horwath, or the system in general, I’m going to explain how I think it’s going to play out, and why. Are you ready for it? Here goes:

Premier Doug Ford

You best get used to hearing that on the radio, watching it on the news, and reading it in print. The tell-it-like-it-is brother to the disgraced (and now deceased due to a losing battle with cancer) former mayor of Toronto is the leader of the “Progressive” Conservative (PC) party. A party that is poised to take back the reigns of Ontario and ride us into the sunset on a wave of populism, then over a cliff and into an abyss from which it will take decades to escape.

(Okay, fine. I threw in a little editorializing and hyperbole, but I couldn’t resist. There’s more where that came from, too. So keep reading.)

You heard it here first. Well, maybe not first, but from what I can tell the liberal, #FakeNews media sure aren’t raising much of a stink. Not one that’s going to matter anyway. That makes me wonder if they’ve resided to the fact that the Donald Trump of the North is going to win and there’s not too much that can be done about it.

“How? Why?” you may ask. Well, it’s really the culmination of a few things. A perfect storm, if you will.

  1. Electorate Fatigue and Long Memories
  2. Populism, Wedge Issues, and Donald Trump
  3. An Antiquated (Broken) Electoral System

Let’s look at each one in turn.

Electorate Fatigue and Long Memories

Canadian voters are an odd bunch. Because of the way our system is set-up, we can have minority governments. This forces the parties to cooperate and elected officials to actually compromise from time-to-time. As a byproduct of a minority government, the longevity of the government is shortened, and we’re usually back at the polls in less than two years. Instead of being excited for the opportunity to actively participate in our democracy, people tend to assume an, “Oh no, another election?” attitude. Voter turnout plummets and we ultimately end up with a false majority government that in no way represents the views of the people they represent.

More specific to this election cycle and why Doug Ford and the “Progressive” Conservatives are going to win, the governing Liberals have been in power, either with a minority or “majority” government for almost fifteen years. That’s a long time to be holding the reigns. Even if their track record were pristine, they would have a giant target on their backs, and their track record is FAR from pristine. So far from pristine. Corroded and crumbling is probably a more accurate description.

The leader of the Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne, is almost universally disliked, if not hated. Strong words, indeed, but with approval ratings hovering below 20% and showing no signs of improving anytime soon, to say that she’s in trouble would be a gross understatement.

There are a lot of reasons for Ms. Wynne and the Liberals being in this position, most of them self-imposed, but at the root of it is fatigue. If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you get, and a lot of folks aren’t thrilled with that they’re getting.

“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”― Mark Twain

An observant person would look at the above and wonder why the scales would tip toward Doug Ford as opposed to Andrea Horwath and the third major party in the race, the New Democratic Party. Well, this is where the long memories of Ontarians come in.

Back in 1990, Bob Rae oversaw one of the most surprising electoral victories in Ontario’s history. He led the NDP of that time to a majority government with a whopping 37.6% of the popular vote. The NDP increased their seats in parliament from 19 to 74. It was amazing and no one predicted it and Bob Rae and the NDP cocked it up in a big way.

With a vague economic plan and a bunch of promises that went unfulfilled, Bob & Friends lost the next election to the Mike Harris “Progressive” Conservatives in a landslide, losing all 55 seats they gained five years earlier plus two more. Their popular vote numbers dropped 17%. Even though those days are almost thirty years behind us, still many a person can be heard muttering, “Not again.”

Populism, Wedge Issues, and Donald Trump

Ever since Donald Trump ran for and was “elected” president there has been a rise in populism in America. It has spilled over into the Great White North as well but been somewhat tempered by the fact that we have a leader in Justin Trudeau that is pretty much the exact opposite of Trump. Still, the seeds of hate have been sown, partially because they’ve always been there and partly because Stephen Harper left behind a legacy of divisive politics, anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-equality, anti-democracy supporters that are a little more than pissed that Trudeau unseated the mighty King Steve.

This mentality is more pronounced at the provincial level since the politics are more localized. Those little pockets of deplorable alt-righters are enough to swing a riding. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s a winning tactic hasn’t been paying attention to what happened in the United States. Donald Trump redefined the word “elite” using divisive politics, wedge issues, and “dog whistle” sound bites. In doing so he did one better than convincing the world the Devil didn’t exist by convincing them that he came in the form of Hilary Clinton.

Doug Ford already has the Devil we all know in Kathleen Wynne so he’s hard at work with the next phase. Lying and misinformation. Doug Ford says things that are verifiably false and his supporters don’t care.  As an example, little Douggie likes to claim that parents were not consulted about the new sex ed curriculum that Kathleen Wynne imposed on the province to “push her liberal agenda”. The fact is that more than 2,000 parents were consulted. He’ll say things like he won’t personally open up the abortion debate again but is open to one of his MPs doing it (an argument that’s been settled in Canada for a number of years). He makes disparaging comments about people with autism, no doubt playing to the anti-vax, Dr. Google crowd at the heart of the measles outbreak in Toronto a few years ago.

It’s all just sound bite after sound bite. Sound bites with no bite, no substance, and nothing relevant or factual to offer. But that’s okay because there are people who don’t care that it’s not factual and those people are going to vote for him just like millions did for Donald Trump. Kathleen Wynne is evil. He is not Kathleen Wynne. Anything to the contrary is #FakeNews. Did I mention he’s not Kathleen Wynne? He’s not. She is a bad, evil, elitist liberal who will “tax anything that’s not nailed down”. He won’t. No really, he won’t. Everything will be perfect under Doug Ford. No one will suffer. No services will be cut. Drain the swamp. Lock her up.

“But her emails!”  Trumpists

Doug Ford has openly supported Donald Trump. He’s made excuses for his repugnant behaviour toward women. He even went as far as to suggest that Trump was taking a page out of the Ford NationTM political handbook. You have to pull off some impressive mental gymnastics not to see the similarities. Still, he tries to evade the comparison. He likes the tactics because they are the ticket to the big time, but he knows when push comes to shove, Ontarians don’t want a guy like Trump in charge. We may be bigoted, racist, sexist, ableist, and every other kind of “-ist” you can imagine, we just don’t want it out on display for the rest of the country to see.

Just like with Donald Trump and the ass-backward Electoral College, Doug Ford knows this isn’t a popularity contest. His party’s candidates need to just win one more vote than everyone else in half of the ridings plus one. That’s 63 ridings if anyone wants to do the math. What’s great is he can do it with a tiny fraction more than a third of the popular vote.

Which brings us to the final reason (on my list, anyway) that we’re going to be hearing (ad nauseam, no doubt) “Premier Doug Ford” on June 8.

An Antiquated (Broken) Electoral System

This comes up a lot in Canadian elections, both provincial and federal. It was actually a key campaign promise that Justin Trudeau made in 2015 when he defeated Stephen Harper (don’t get me started on how pissed I am at JT for breaking that promise).

The first thing supporters of this system usually do is point out the flaws of any other proposed system. My system may have flaws, but yours does too, and since they’re both flawed it’s best if we just keep the current system because of… reasons or something. Rather than go into all that here I’ll just simplify how it currently “works” (Yes, I’m using lots of sarcastic air quotes in this piece. I have no choice.)

First-past-the-post was adopted by a bunch of high-on-themselves white colonist men back in the day. It has received virtually zero updates since then and is quite easy to explain:

  • Split the region of interest, in this case, Ontario, into roughly equally populated parcels or districts. Call each one a “riding”.
  • Allow provincial parties to run candidates in the riding. There are rules for this but they’re pretty lax, which is why we end up with three for four major parties (PC, Liberal, NDP, and a distant fourth, Green) running alongside the Go Vegan party and the None of the Above Direct Democracy Party.
  • Hold a vote. If you’re 18 years of age or older, a Canadian citizen, and a verifiable resident of Ontario you’re good to go. 
  • Declare winners in each riding. This one is simple. Count the votes for each person. Whoever gets the most, wins. There are recount rules and blah blah blah, but determining the winner is the same. Get more votes, even by one, than the other people and you’re now a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).
  • Count up the winners of all the ridings for each party. Whichever leader of the party that won the most ridings is asked the question of whether or not they think they can form a government. This is where it gets a little flaky. 
    • IF the party who wins the most ridings wins 50% + 1 of them (=63 in Ontario’s case), then that is considered a majority government. Any vote along party lines will result in a pass if the party in charge votes for it. They have 100% of the power for the next four years even though they are usually only mathematically represented by a little more than a third of the popular vote. 
    • HOWEVER, since we have more than two parties, and more than two heavily favoured parties, this creates a situation where oft times the government formed will be a minority government (i.e. fewer than 50% + 1 of the ridings but more than any other party). 
    • When this happens, the party forming government has to weigh whether or not they think they can actually get legislation passed. If after discussions with other party leaders they think they can cobble together enough other party support to get stuff done, then they go ahead and govern. 
    • This usually has a shelf life of about two years before one or more of the opposing parties can’t take it anymore and everyone but the party in charge votes against something big (like a budget). This is called a vote of non-confidence and if the ruling party doesn’t get 50% + 1 of the votes, then the government is kaput and we head to the polls again.
    • BUT WAIT, what happens if the parties that lose the minority government scenario team up and form a coalition? Well, this has happened in Ontario before and it was a moderate success. There are a couple of ways it can be done, but typically one party (the third place finisher) agrees to provide voting support for another party (the second place finisher). However, if the gap between second and third is reasonably narrow, it’s possible that cabinet members from both parties will be chosen (think of this as more of a more “pure” coalition). 

Confused yet? Don’t worry, most voters in Ontario are as well. How does this favour Doug Ford? Well, he just needs to game the system to get 63 of the 124 ridings to swing in his favour. Between the ones that “always vote Conservative” and the ones where the Liberals are on the outs (most of the others) all he needs to do is ensure one more person in each of those ridings votes PC instead of someone else. Entirely possible given all the reasons I’ve explained above.

How Will it Play Out?

If you believe me, as well as literally every poll that’s out there, you will see that the chances of a majority government for Doug Ford are amazingly good. It’s not quite a statistical certainty, but it’s close. So, my first prediction is four years of Doug Ford. After that, the chances of him winning a minority government are virtually guaranteed. This is where it gets fun though, because of the aforementioned coalition government possibility. However, given that the way the Liberals and the NDP have treated each other over the past few years I see that as being a remote likelihood at best.

“Make Ontario great again, eh?”  Ford NationTM

When it’s all said and done, whether it’s a misread on Mr. Ford, the other candidates, the other party leaders, or the electorate, no one would be more pleased than me if I were to be proven wrong. So, if you’ve got thoughts on this please don’t hesitate to share. Most importantly, if you’re an Ontarian who is eligible to vote (or think you are), check your registration status at www.elections.on.ca and get out there on June 7 and mark an “X”. If you could help prove my prediction wrong while you’re at it that would be fantastic.

~ Andrew

Would You Like Epinephrine With That?

Dear McDonald’s Canada,
I’m not sure where to start. I find your recent decision to not just introduce nut allergen-riddled products to your restaurants but to also avoid the containment of said allergens baffling. My son has a potentially deadly nut allergy so I have been thinking about this quite a bit since the news came to my attention. So far, I’m left with more questions than answers. The first of which is:
What were you thinking?
My instinct is to answer that question on your behalf with, “You weren’t,” however I know for certain that this was not the case. You had signs and posters made up, for crying out loud. This wasn’t an ad-hoc decision made at some corporate retreat. This was a deliberate, strategic decision that contained forethought and planning and no doubt myriad changes to the corporate employee handbook.
Speaking of employees, you haven’t just ruined dinner for hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Canadians. You have now made the conscious decision to make your work environment unsafe for any employees with nut allergies. What had previously been a safe workplace is now potentially deadly. Another question that immediately came to mind was, “Did you take this into consideration when you made the decision?” If you did, I hope this was communicated well in advance and I trust you also more than adequately compensated the employees that were affected.  
McDonald’s used to be a restaurant you could count on, for families on the go, for travelers, for kids looking for their first job, and you have just pulled the rug out from under a good portion of those people. 
What were you thinking?
My family has seen first-hand all the good work you are doing with Ronald McDonald House. We take great pride in supporting a company that makes such a profound difference in the lives of families living through unspeakable circumstances. But now you’ve turned around and slammed the door in the face of not just hundreds of thousands of your customers, but throngs of supporters as well.
Is it worth it? Tell us, multi-billion dollar faceless corporation, how much more money do you think you will make with these new products? How much more is it compared with how much you think you are going to lose from angry families like mine? The difference should be in the millions of dollars. Seriously, you must genuinely think you will come out on top to the tune of millions. If not, I can’t imagine how this decision was ever made. 
What were you thinking?
How much more would it have cost to deliver new menu items in a manner that was allergy safe? You already have pre-packaged peanuts. Would providing a similar alternative in these cases really have hurt your bottom line that severely? I keep coming back to the idea that this wasn’t thought through, but your actions thus far show this was not the case. You knew what you were doing. 
What were you thinking? 
This does not seem like the action of a restaurant chain that cares about its employees and customers.  This seems like something Donald Trump would do and in my mind, his approval rating is higher than yours right now. On behalf of all the individuals and families who live with nut allergies in this country, I implore you to re-think your decision. 
Make McDonald’s great again.
Sincerely,

Andrew Butters