DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Smell the Lilacs

My lilacs are in bloom. I love them. They make a great display and smell so nice.

(click on photo to enlarge)

A bouquet I brought indoors to make the room smell so fresh and pleasant.

I have two mature bushes, on either end of my verandah. The one above gets morning sun and is on the east side of the verandah. It has smaller blooms which are slower to fully develop.

This is the more fully emerged bush on the west side of the verandah, which I must pass to enter the house. There are many more blooms than last year.

To sit on the porch on the swing with Heidi is always pleasant but now we can also smell the lilac sand watch the pair of hummingbirds darting around to feed at the feeder.

I have two smaller bushes which be a couple of more years before they put on much of a show.

One is white and the other is another blue one.

It is a lovely day today. The warmest so far. It may reach 30 C. Might I be tempted to go for a swim. Humm! the water will still be quite cold. It will be painfully refreshing. I may wait a couple of weeks. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Freedom Riders Reunion

This past week a group of Freedom Riders reunited for the 50th anniversary of their challenge to the Jim Crow laws in the Southern United States. I became aware of the Civil Rights struggle as a result of these dramatic events. From Canada, many watched with interest. Some even found their way to the US to directly participate in civil rights demonstrations.

(If you want to follow the events of the reunion meeting in Jackson Mississippi you can watch a video here . )

African Canadians, were inspired to demand more fully their rights and challenge discrimination in their communities. There roots ran deep in American as many came to Canada prior of the Civil War, via the Underground Railroad. They stayed in Canada while many of their friends and relatives returned to the United States full of hope of change during Reconstruction. Little did they know their lot would be worse before it got better 100 years after the Emancipation.

For me this was the beginning of my religious convictions of pacifism and the power of civil disobedience and direct action as a political strategy to changed laws. I had decided that there were things worth dying for in a struggle which did not require you to kill others.

It is inspiring to seen students and other using non-violence against violence in Arab states: Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Bahrain in particular. By confronting the evil of violence they have lost their fear. Some have died of their convictions but others continue to be inspired by their example. Such was the model of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others.

The bus of one of the first groups of black and white students trying to desegregate the interstate bus facilities in the South. It was set on fire by the KKK outside of Anniston, Alabama.
The other bus came under attack in Birmingham, Al.

(click on photo to enlarge)

The routes of the Freedom Rides

The video below was made a few years ago when a group of college students followed the route of the Freedom Ride in an attempt to understand it's significance. It is worth watching to remind us of a time past and the progress that was made as a result of the courage of a few, who believe in non-violence and who where called to accept the risk of their lives to achieve, equality and justice.

I am surprised that this 50 Anniversary of the Freedom Riders was not a widely celebrated event in the United States. It did make the news on some networks but it is fascinating to me that the best article I read on it was one in the British Manchester Guardian newspaper.

During the time of the Reunion President Obama was seeking his Irish roots, which he only knew about because of some dogged geneologists. While he is an American of African heritage he certainly is not an African American with deep roots in the American historical experience.
Otherwise, he would have been present at this event in Jackson Mississippi.

At a time in the United States, where there are some efforts to roll back some of the gains of the civil right struggle, it is important to remember those dramatic events of the 60's. I was surprised to learn that this history has not been taught in the schools in Mississippi until recently. It makes me wonder how well history is taught throughout the country. I know Canadian history is very badly taught in Canada but when I went to school it was given less time that American and British history. Only by knowing the history of one's country can one be an effective and intelligent citizen.

I shall always remember the lessons of American history I have learned and partly lived through in the civil rights era. I continue to study it and try to understand it's significance for then and now.

These days I am thinking of my black seminary friend, Johnny, who lived through the early civil rights struggle in his home town of Jackson, Mississippi. His minister and Mentor was shot and almost killed for his stand on civil rights in that community. He was inspired to go into the Unitarian ministry. His minister saw that he got to Boston to study.

I recently, located Johnny living in Durham, NC. One of these day I hope we may get together again and remember our years together in Boston. I know the history of the Freedom Riders and the struggle for civil rights were part of a reality that shaped his life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Victoria Day

"The twenty fourth of May is the Queen's birthday,
If you don't give us a holiday we will all run away!"

As a child, I remember chanting the above couplet. It is a holiday in Canada that we celebrate Queen Victoria's Birthday. It has also become a day when we also celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's birthday. I never understood then that it was a unique Canadian tradition. My friend Lynne tells me that they cannot believe that we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday in Canada.

It was always a special day for us as children. There was often a street party with fireworks.
In a real sense it was also a celebration of the end of Winter and the beginning of Summer, for the warm growing season has arrived. Even now those in the southern part of Ontario, believe that the risk of frost is so minimal that one can begin planting the garden. For children, we knew that the end of school was close. In a month, we would be enjoying summer vacation which for us as children seemed to go on and on before we would have to begin back in school for another year. For some, there would be camp and for others, off to the cottage, and all the joys of these summer delights. Those less fortunate, there was also the adventures in the neighbourhood: biking, visiting friends houses, evenings on the street in front of our house playing games until the light faded and there were trips to the river and lakefront to see what fun we could make for ourselves there (if only my mother knew, she would have worried more than usual.)

We knew little about Queen Victoria other than she was famous way back when and we were thankful for the holiday. I think we also know she was our Queen, the Queen of England and she had had 9 children and dressed in black of all they years she lived after her husband died, at age 42.

Queen Victoria ( reigned 1837-1901)

Queen Elizabeth II (reigned 1953-present

It is interesting to compare and contrast these two duty bound royal women. They both did not expect to become the British Monarch when they were young. Events beyond their control put them in line for the throne. Both inherited the throne at a very young age (18 and 25, respectively). They married members of their extended families, Victoria married Albert, a first cousin and Elizabeth married Philip, a third cousin, related through Queen Victoria, who had 9 children who married into most of the royal families of Europe.

It has always amused me that the British Royal Family were really Germans as were many royal families in Europe. They are of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha . Through two world wars they found themselves on different sides with other members of their family. They changed their name to Windsor, to distant themselves from their German roots.

As a foot note to history, Princess Diana, had deeper noble British roots than the Royal family, being a Spencer. No wonder her brother spoke at her funeral with distain for the British royals.

Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have reigned a very long time. It appears that Elizabeth will surpass Victoria in the longevity of her reign. Queen Victoria reigned during the rise of the British Empire culminating with her becoming Empress of India.( the jewel of the Empire) Queen Elizabeth has reigned over the dissolution of the Empire, which has been reduced to the Commonwealth of Nations, with some in Australia and Canada, who believe that the ties with the Monarchy should be broken, having their countries become Republics. I for one think to do this would be the loss of some great and unique traditions of Canada. Queen Victoria was our first Monarch of Canada with Canada beginning as an independent country in 1867 and in a way Queen Elizabeth completed this process with the repatriation of our Constitution, signing the Constitution Act of 1982 I like to think the longevity of these two Monarchs as well as those in between have been a steadying influence on Canadian political and social life institutions over the years.

Queen Victoria saw Britain rise to the heights of the Industrial Revolution. It was a time of growth and prosperity. The stress of the World Wars and the Depression hurried the demise of a great Empire. (Should this be a warning for our militaristic neighbour to the south which seems to have Empirial ambitions?) The age of Empire of over. Queen Elizabeth has graciously brought dignity and respect to the adjustments of the Commonwealth. Many former countries of the Empire have continued to support one another in the evolution of their democratic nations while being head together with a mutual respect for the British tradition in social and political governance.

I think there is much to celebrate in the lives of these two great Queen. It is good to remember our history and the contributions of their reigns. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

Friday, May 20, 2011

" Now is the End, Perish the World"

It is at times like this that I think of the skit of the Beyond the Fringe satirical review entitled,"The End of the World". It has always made me smile and in a way gave me hope. I recommend it to you. I regret that it is not one of the skits posted on You Tube so you could see and hear it performed.

In our family, we grew up on Beyond the Fringe and a couple of other British satirical reviews.
We, as a family, listened to the records of them over and over again. It got so we knew many of the reviews off by heart, so much so, throughout our lives when a situation prompted us we would quote a phrase or line from one of the skits and the rest of the family would laugh being reminded of the humour of the the whole skit. It became a form of our family language code. I wonder if other families have coded language they enjoy?
There are some You Tube videos available of part of Beyond the Fringe. My favourite skit, if one can have a favourite, when you still laugh out loud at them all, is the one by Alan Bennett, "Take a Pew".It is a parody of a sermon. It became even funnier to me when I came to try to craft sermons for a living. Here it is for your enjoyment, while you are waiting for the end of the World. Perhaps, you will find meaning in it as to how you should have been living your life. :)

Needless to say, I don't put much stock in the idea that the World is about to end. but just in case I have it wrong this time, and this will be my last post I want you to know how much I have enjoyed keeping this blog and getting to know, enjoy and even cherish you, my circle of blogging friends. My only regret is that we never have, and never will, if predictions come true.

The end . . . . . . .or to be continued. . . . .

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Number Two and Trying Harder.

A couple of those comparative studies that fascinate me indicate that Canada is"the second happiest country" in the World and Toronto is "the second best city world wide" (behind New York City). Who would have thought it? As one who is always aware of the shortcomings of my country and the city I grew up near, I wonder if this is as good as it gets for surely we could do a lot better. And what about all those other countries lined up behind us, who need to do better for their citizens. It is depressing when you think too hard about it. How bittersweet a reality it is for this Canadian.

Oops! I am supposed to be a happy Canadian and want to move to Toronto. I forgot for a moment.

The study on happiness of countries is interesting. I am genuinely surprised that Northern Countries with the challenges of weather would be the happiest. I guess challenge in life is not a negative factor. Denmark is the happiest country and several other Northern Countries are among the top group. What surprises me is Venezuela , with all it's social problems is sixth seemingly out of place in the list and ahead of the United States in twelth place among the nineteen counties that are above 50% in the "thriving" category. I correspond with an email friend in Venezuela who has made me aware of life in that Latin American country with 80% of it's population being poor and 20 % being privileged. (They are the ones who can afford a car and enjoy state subsidized gas at 14 cents a gallon). There are large Barrios that house the poor in the hills around Caracas, a city that has a record of gun violence that rivals the most dangerous cities in the United States. Under the political leadership of Hugo Chavez, that my friend despises and I admire, the country's politics is volatile as grand social experiment in improving the lives of the poor. Is it in spite of or because of, that they rank high on the happiness scale.

As I have come to expect in these studies, the United States is lower on the list. Americans like to think they are doing OK and some even claim to be the best country in the World when on almost any scale in various studies they are not. As an admirer, (and critic) of the United States, I know it has the potential to be so much better than it is if it could only start pragmatically tackling its problems rather than ideologically deny them. The United States and Canada, to a lesser degree, are moving in the direction of Venezuela with a very large underclass and a small privileged class. Perhaps, the growing awareness of this explains the lower "Happiness" position in the "thriving" category for the United States. This study is fascinating to read and dissect to understand the reasons for the differences. I leave that for those interested in such things.

Here is Toronto's modern day skyline. I find the virility and productivity (fertility) of the city symbolized in the iconic phallic CN Tower and the egg shaped skydome beside it, respectively.

I like Toronto and think it is a wonderful city with much to offer but seeing it ranked as the second best city in the World is a little startling when I think of all the great and historic cities there are. As a city, Toronto is an upstart. It has only become a Metropolis since 1950. It was not even the largest city in Canada in that year. It had just over 1 million people ( Canada had 12 million then). It now has about 5 million (Canada is at 35 million.) All of this in my lifetime. It has been a great transformation.

Until the early 50's Toronto had been a largely provincial city shaped largely by English protestant values (held over from the Victorian age.) It was called "Toronto the Good" back then.(Need I mention; few restaurants were open on Sunday and bars had entrances for "ladies and escorts). In so many ways it was hardworking, pious and dull. Often Toronto was contrasted with "Montreal, the Bad", which by contrast was French-Canadian Catholic, fun loving and had a vibrant "joie de vie"; home to a rich jazz scene and night life, where African Americans could come and find an acceptance they did not enjoy in many of their own cities. Toronto has come a long way in the past 60 years. It is a culturally rich city, with a very diverse population made of up large groups of people from virtually every country of the World. Somehow the ethnic mix of the city works, groups getting along and add to the rich cultural mix. Few cities are as cosmopolitan, as safe and as clean. I am not quite sure why. The transformation has been dramatic and Toronto stands as a testament to the great contribution immigrants make to a city which embraces them.

Speaking of Toronto the Good, here is an article by an American who moved to Toronto from sunny California and her positive impression, "Try Great"

Before I get too strong in my praise there is another study that says Toronto is the "most miserable" (unhappiest) city in Canada. It scored 4.15 out of 5 on the scale of this study while the happiest city Sherbrooke ( the city that just sent a 19 year old student to parliament as it's MP) scored 4.37 out of 5. The only explanation of this is that the study failed to differentiate very much between the highest and lowest on the scale. It seems that Toronto is made up of the unhappiest people in the the second happiest country, but not a great deal less than Sherbrooke, the happiest city.

This is the skyline of Toronto, in my youth, in 1950. It had a lower profile in many ways then. It greatest claim to fame might have been the Royal York Hotel, once the tallest building in the British Empire. It is now dwarfed by not only the CN Tower but also all the banking skyscrapers and even the downtown condominium apartments. In its short history there have been many changing views of the Toronto Skyline since 1980.

I hope Canada and Toronto will always be number two in the World as a country and a city. This recognizes them as something to be proud but also something that can do better. There is much room for improvement to make our country a cherished place for all the generations yet to come and our great cities as places which meet human needs and enrich our lives as well as house of bodies. As for me, I will continue to find the countryside as a place to feed my soul while still enjoying the occasion sojourn into the wonderful city of Toronto.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Feels Like Spring

When the daily temperatures rise to double digits celcius consistently day to day and my lilac bushes begin to swell their blooms, I feel I can really say Spring is here. Some root crops could be planted in the garden and in a couple of weeks crops that can withstand a light frost can also go and then in early June the rest of the garden can be planted.

Heidi and I went for a walk to see the river.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Heidi enjoyed getting her feet wet and have a long drink of the cold water.

Looking back across the plowed field you just see the house.

Looking across the river there is the cabin. I don't often walked down from the house and get this view of it.

The river is full after some recent rain and the final melting of the snow in the bush in the Temagami highland area up stream. You can see the cabin downstream from here on our bridge. (click on photo to enlarge it)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Death of a Man

Since the beginning of the week I have been wanting to write about my response to the death of Osama Bin Laden. I was feeling strange because my response seemed to be so different from so many reported on the news.

My immediate response was "how sad and dreadful" as I do for any man who I read about who dies violently or tragically. For in the words of John Donne," any man's death diminshes me" always spring to mind of such occasions (the result of too much education.) Then of course, I assured myself that maybe it was a necessary evil since he would no longer be able to lead a movement that has been the sources of so much death and destruction. Of course, his martyrdom would remain a sources of inspiration for others. So what has been gained?

I found myself out of step with so many others, particularly American's whose news dominates the airwaves. People poured out into the streets at night in places like Washington and New York to celebrate in a riotous outpouring of bravado and jingoism that degenerated into drunken vulgarity as if a sports team had won a victory. It all seemed so inappropriate over a death of a man.

Of course, even for my favourite sports team I would only have a smile and polite applause so maybe it was me being inappropriate.

Slowly other more sobering opinions were being expressed. I w as pleased that no Canadians who lost loved ones on 9/11 expressed ecstatic joy. Many were pleased but saddened for they had to relive all those memories over again. One response in particular affected me. A Canadian woman who lost her husband that day and shortly after gave birth to their son reported telling him the morning after in straight forward but sketchy details that American soldiers attacked his home in Pakistan and killed him. The child's reaction was, " what gave them the right to do such a thing and kill the man." Awe from the mouth of babes!

As the news continued to come out the story modified. At first, there was a fierce firefight and a helicopter was shot down. Then the story changed a little; there was at least one person who shot back and was killed and the helicopter had problems and the soldiers had to destroy it because it had high tech aspects to it that they did not want others to learn about. We also are told that Bin Laden's wife attacked the soldiers and that Bin Laden was reaching for a possible gun.
Who knows where this story will end. Such is the fog of war.

It seems Bin Laden was unarmed and killed by two bullets, one the the body and one to the head. There was not great firefight. Several others where killed included possible children. Bin Laden's 12 year old daughter witnessed her fathers death. Does not seem like such a heroic Rambo style military adventure to me.

In fact, the mission was to kill Osama Bin Laden or bring him back alive if possible. ( the second half of this is public relations). The mission was to murder a man, to be blunt. The greatest military country in the World, had to resort to a murder, an assassination, an extra judicial killing. The shot to the head might have been that final shot to finish him off ( a war crime on the battlefield) so he could not be brought back alive.

One article I read described the special forces team that carried out this raid as the military equivalent of "Murder Incorporated" ( a Mafia group that killed people for profit). It turns out, while Americans are willing to celebrate this military event as a great victory it was nothing more than State sponsored murder outside the law. Most Americans like to think it was a legally justified event when in fact, in international law, it was quite illegal.

I find this quite chilling. It seems to say the American government believe it has a right to go anywhere in the world to kill anyone they want and it is legal. Does this mean that other countries should also have the same right in the name of national security? Might they claim the right some day to kill fellow citizens who disagree with the government in such a way) George Bush, Jr. claimed this right but, now Obama!! I used to have a higher opinion of Barack Obama, who has actually studied and taught the law but now they are no different.

Slowly more sober people have been commenting on this. Today I read that the Archbishop of Canterbury find this very troubling. Earlier in the week, I read that a religious scholar had misgivings. And there are others in you care to look for them.

I feel somewhat reassured my view is not out of step. I belong to a denomination that is not always included among the Christian Churches and I, with may qualifications might call myself a Christian, but not always. I do though believe in what I understand as Christian morality. This in itself may allow me to consider myself a Christian. I am often reluctant to be identified as a Christian because I have great respect for "true Christians" and consider myself unable to attain such a high standard. I certainly to not want to be identified with those who very self righteously claim to be Christian when in fact their behaviour is any but.

With the death of Osama Bin Laden I kept hearing Christian moral lessons in my head. "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord." Love thine enemy". Lot offering up his daughters in place of giving up the strangers, his guests, to the rabble outside. etc,,

As a pacifist, I take it serious that "thou shalt not kill." How a society can claim to be Christian and have the State "legally" or illegally kill people I have serious problems, whether it be war, extra judicial killings or legal State sponsored killing in the form of Capitol punishment.

For me the celebration in the streets should have been occasions of somber reflects and prayers for forgiveness for the State deciding, in our name, it was necessary to kill a man.

I doubt if any church opened its doors to such a service. I would like to think some peace church did. Shame on all those that didn't, they have failed to learn the Christian lessons.

There has been much discussion of the historic nature of the photo in the White House situation room as deciding group watch in real time a streaming video of the attach in Pakistan. Historically it is seen as significant because it shows for the first time a black man a the "protector of the Nation" and two women among the powerful. I don't don't know if it is all that historically significant. Time will tell. My reaction when I learned what they were watching was. "How ghoulish!
They were watch a video of a man being killed. Is this not the same as a "slasher film where a person is in a drama in which they are supposed to be killed, and they are actually killed. What ghouls watch these! For me the President looks small and powerless with an anguished look on his face (perhaps I am being generous and hopeful), Hilary Clinton has her and over her mouth as if she is trying to not cry out in horror at the scene in front of her. Vice-President Biden has largely his back to the screen as if he does not really want to watch. The rest in the room are stone fast appropriate for the cold blooded killers they are.

I hope I shall always feel badly when another person dies violently, particularly at the hands of the State in my name. My native neighbours, out of their native spirituality show game animals they kill for food respect. They offer up gifts of tobacco to the spirit of the moose, bear, deer etc, and ask for forgiveness for taking their "brothers" life so they may live. They believe they are related to the spirit of the animal and thus owe it respect. Should we not, likewise see ourselves in all men and reduce no man to an object to be disposed of first by taking his life and then by dumping him in the sea like so much garbage off the stern of a cruise ship.

How we treat others, no matter how badly they have behaved, in not a judgment on them but a judgment on ourselves. May we be forgiven for our short comings.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The People Have Spoken

It was a bittersweet result in the election last night. The most important thing to me was to deny Stephen Harper a majority government. Most of the polls indicated that it would be a minority but they were wrong. The polling numbers were not all that wrong but they failed to predict how the distribution of seats would turn out. This is hard to do in a multiparty system.

Some seats are efficient with votes and the win is just by a few votes and other riding get a win with a large number of votes for the winner, which is inefficient. Popular vote levels do not measure this. As it turned out with vote splitting between the Liberals and New Democrats and the abandonment of the Liberal party for the Conservatives and not the NDP, the Conservatives got more seats than expected. I won't comment more on this except I grieve for the damage the Conservative Party can wrought on Canadian culture. They intend to drag the social and political culture to the right so that the Conservatives are the centrist party, which most often forms the government, the position held by the Liberals historically. Years ago Stephen Harper said he wanted to destroy the Liberal Party so that Canada would be a more or less two party State with one on the right, the Conservatives and one on the Left. This is now the New Democratic Party as the Official Opposition. Perhaps, sometime I will write about why I think the Conservatives are so dangerous to Canada. Even with there victory here they still are only supported by 40% on Canadians. Such is the nature of our "winner take all" multiparty system.

The sweet for me in this election was the unbelievable expansion of the New Democratic Party.
I have supported it all by life. In it's 50 year existence it has been the conscience of the parliament, a gadfly and often a power broker in minority governments, when it held the balance of power. It dreamed of some day being a governing party but saw that happening a long way down the road. There was a time when it was a feared "socialist" party. Many years ago, it abandonned it's more radical socialist ideas such a nationalizing major industries and moved to the right. (I have personally never been happy with this but I continue to support it as the best choice) In doing this it crowded the center which was occupied by the Liberals and to some extent by the old Progressive Conservatives. In the years since, attitudes have changed and people have become more accepting of the New Democratic Party, particularly when many provinces have had good NDP governments without the sky falling in.

Well something happened that was unexpected and will transform Canada and the NDP. The people of Quebec, decided they wanted to participate in federal politics by supporting a federal party rather than continue to park their vote with the regional separatist party the Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe put it in terms of Quebec wanting to give Federalism one more chance. It was as if they decided with one mind all of a sudden.

The NDP had been working for and hoping to make inroads in Quebec for many years. Quebec is very social democratic in it political and social culture. They finally won one seat in a by election a while back. They were hoping to gain two or three more this election. That would have been a hopeful sign and a beginning to build on. The NDP only ever got a couple of percentage points in the popularity polls in Quebec so there would be a long process of gaining acceptance.

Dramatically, as if out of no where a CROP poll reported that the NDP was polling higher than the BQ. This was two weeks before the election. One April 21, Justin Trudeau, a Liberal MP from Quebec, was informed of the results of this poll and his reaction was that the NDP would get only their one seat and there was some doubt about that. I am sure he wishes he could take his remarks back. Such denial!!

He was not the only one. Even the NDP could not believe their good fortune. They were still talking about a great victory of maybe 6 seats. The polls continued to hold and hope rose but it all seemed unreal. No one could predict how it would translate into actual seats. The NDP always ran a distant third. Well when all was said and done the NDP won 58 seats and reduced the BQ to a rump of 4 from their 43, in the last parliament. They also reduced the Conservatives from 11 to 6. This is more seats than the BQ ever had in its hay day.

The growing enthusiasm for the NDP was contagious and other parts of Canada saw increasing support for the NDP. There was great hope for 80 seats, an historic high. The most they had ever gotten was 43 and there was a time they had so few they almost lost their party status.

At the writ coming down the NDP had 36 seats. Well the results in Quebec and in other places in Canada saw the NDP end up with 102 seats, beyond belief, let alone expectations. The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats. The leaders of the Liberals, Michael Ignatieff and the BQ, Gilles Duceppe lost in their own ridings and resigned as the head of their parties.

I have been wondering about who these 58 Quebekers are who did not expect to win and now find they are members of parliament. Parties often find candidates for ridings where they cannot win who are just filling a space. This is where women used to get a chance to run. They are not serious candidates. Where a party has a chance to win they find a well qualified person with a lot of local recognition who has been involved in local politics or agencies of change or help. Well virtually all the Quebec NDP candidates fall into this category. They had no expectation of winning. They may even be new to the party. Most probably have not met the leader Jack Laydon. He in turn knows little or nothing of them.

The new Quebec MP's for the NDP will probably not fit the usual mold of a member of parliament. I began to search some of them out. I wish I could find a place that listed them and their biographies. So far they seem to be teachers, social activists in their communities, trade unionists, civil servants. There is one woman who is a young nurse who had served in the military. There is a retired teacher. There is a young woman concerned about rescuing abused animals. there is a brick layer, . etc. Ther are four university students; one only 19 years old. There are some quirky situations too. There is the young woman, an assistant manager in a restaurant, who decided to go to Las Vegas prior to the election date. She also does not speak much French. There may be others who do not speak much French which is required and expected in that Province. There is the Martial Arts enthusiast, a federal researcher and former member of the Communist Party. He defeated an important Conservative cabinet minister. I have not found many businessmen or lawyers. Thank God!

Most seem to be fairly well educated and young. I did read about a 71 year old woman who won and no one seem to be able to locate her. (I trust they did not run any dead people. That would be embarassing). Many of these candidates are women. The NDP encourages women to run. The NDP will have 40 women MPs more than all the other parties combined. (This is good). Parliament will definitely have a different look, at least on the Opposition side.

It will take a great effort to get the new NDP member in shape to serve. They need to get to know everyone else in the caucus. They need to learn how parliament works and how to organize an office with a staff. Some may find themselves taking French lessons. Usually, an experienced parliamentarian is assigned to mentor a new MP. with only 36 or less (we lost two NDP member here in Northern Ontario) each experienced parliamentarian may have two of more inexperienced MPs to mentor. It will be a busy time for all. I wish them well and we should be glad there is a majority government so that there will not be another election for at least 4 years. It will take that amount to time to turn a large inexperienced, never before Opposition party, into a solid credible effective unit. ( A good place to find the statistics on the election is here.)

PS: I was pleased that Elizabeth May finally won a seat in parliament after three tries. She is the first and only Green Party member. I like her. She will make a distinctive contribution to the Ottawa political scene. I hope the NDP mentor her a little. She will end up with a seat in parliament with the four rump member of the PQ, in the wilderness.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Voting Day

I have been waiting with great anticipation for today. This is particularly true in the last couple of weeks when my party, The New Democratic Party, NDP, appeared to be doing exceptionally well. Half way throught the election season (about five weeks long) since the writ was dropped after the opposition parties defeated the government on a motion of non-confidence. it being found in contempt of parliament, the NDP showed some real life and strength. It began with a CROP poll in Quebec indicating the NDP was displacing the Bloc Québécois (the regional separatist party), in attracting the largest popular vote.

The race was on. For reasons, analysts will be arguing over for years to come, the citizens of Quebec decided to no long withdraw their partipation in Federal politics by parking their vote with the PQ and vote for a federal party. This is good for Canadian democracy. Quebeckers generally are social progressives so they dislike the Conservatives. The Liberals, under Trudeau, are still blamed for defeating the sovereignty referendum, oh, so many years ago, so the NDP was the party left to vote for. Jack Layton having been born in Quebec and being a charming person who easily mixed with people and obviously enjoyed it became the Everyman one could trust and thereby vote for his party, the NDP.

With the Quebeckers showing the way the people of the Maritimes, Ontario and British Columbia decided to join in. Many were waiting to vote for someone "other than Harper and the Conservatives." Even the Prairie provinces showed increasing support for the NDP. It looks like the NDP will have seats in every province and territory this time out. It will be a truly national party.

I have been following the polls carefully every day. Checking them sometimes twice a day to see if they had changed and if the increasing support for the NDP was continuing. I particularly liked the EKOS polling which seem to be more slanted toward the NDP,.The NANOS poll , one of the TV Networks depends on, along with a Toronto newpaper, was not bad. The Compas polling made me really nervous as it favoured the Conservatives strongly.

Last night I got out of bed and came to check to see if the final poll was in before voting day, today. (It was then that I learned of Osama Bin Laden's death. I started out to write something about it today but I was having trouble sorting out my thoughts. I may try again in a day or two.) There is a site that tries to amalgamate all the polls and make sense of them It is
Three Hundred and Eight . Com Here is the latest EKOS poll. In the popular poll they have the CPC (no that is not the Communist Party of Canada in is the Conservative Party) 33.1%, The NDP, at 31.2%, LPC (Liberal) at 21.0%, Green Party at 6% and BQ, at 6.4% (only in Quebec).
What I like about this poll you will notice if you visit it, they predict Elizabeth May, the head of the Green Party will win her seat. I hope so. The NANOS poll showed an similar outcome. CPC, 37.1%, NDP 31.6%, LPC, 20.5% BQ, 5.7% and Green, 3.8%. There are other polls but they all are telling a similar story just before election day.

Of course, the only real poll is who actually comes out to vote. This depends of the enthusiasm of the supporters of a party and the strength of the party machinery to get the vote out. This is what makes me nervous for my party. While they are doing twice as good the best federal showing they ever had when they got 45 seats they may not turn the votes out to the maximum. They enthusiasm is high but they do not have much of an organization in Quebec to turn out the vote.

Since the NDP popular vote dipped to a low of 14%, it has made a steady climb until last night where it was over 30% with room to grow today.One phenomena I am hopeful for is party switching at the last moment. On the basis that 60% on Canadians do not like Harper and the Conservatives (they have failed three times to get an majority) and the Liberals are in a big decline, more Liberals will switch to the NDP to stop the Conservatives from getting a majority. They Conservatives after five weeks of trying have not increased their popular vote. They have few people who see them as their second choice so they have no way to grow their numbers. On the other hand the NDP has been increasing its popular vote count right up to the end and they are indicated as the second choice by the largest number of any party. Strategic voting and "anyone but Harper efforts " may see the NDP do well and block the Conservatives from gaining a majority. There are lots of ways you can analyse the figures from national, provincial and riding levels, and it is fun to do so. But now it has come to stress me out.

They best estimate now is that the Conservatives will not get a majority. They will fall short of the 155 seats necessary for that. They will form a minority government. The NDP will win the second largest number of seats (a record high for them) and the Liberals will be reduced to the status the NDP used to hold. The BQ will have fewer seats. How many is the big question. It could be so low they lose their official party status and all the perks that go with that. I hope there numbers will be so low that if the NDP and the Liberals withhold their confidence in the Conservative government, they will be given a chance to form a coalition, formal or informal, so that they may form a government without having to depend on the BQ. In any case, we certainly are having a lesson in parliamentary democracy with this election.

When all the smoke clears, in a year or so, Jack Layton may be the only leader of a party left.
Harper will lose support from his party as he could not lead them to a majority after four tries. We are not a far right country and the Conservatives have been too rigid and ideological.
Ignatieff, the Liberal, could not sell himself or his party to the electorate in spite of great personal credentials. Elizabeth May, the Green, Party leader, if she fails to get a seat will have tried three times in three different provinces to win a seat and come up short. She may move on to some other environmental cause. Gilles Duceppe of the BQ was ready to retire soon anyway and his party will be a shadow of its former self. (I like this former communist who became a skilled politician did well for his Province within Canada.)

As you can see, this can be an historic election in any number of ways. Tomorrow we get to rehash all the results of the voter's choices. right down to the local ridings. Lynne and I will have to find something else to talk about on the phone in the evening. . . . . . . . . We can always talk about American politics, which go on all the time, year after year, after year.

Voting is the most important thing a citizen can do. It is not a choice it is a duty to vote. In Canada the number of people getting out to vote has been falling off. The last election it was down to 59% where for years it was consistently up around 70%. Perhaps, this is a year when interest is high and there will be a big turn out of voters. I hope so. Of course, the statistics show that when there is a higher turnout with lots of young people voting it is good for my party, The New Democratic Party.