Thursday, 29 August 2019

What Women Want: Canadian Election Edition

Seriously, right-wing dudes. You have to stop this. It is insulting to Canadian women that you imply we vote progressive because Justin Trudeau has nice hair. Or wears cool socks. 
We are not a bunch of adolescent girls voting for the cutest boy to be president of the student council. That's really offensive. We care about policy. We want a government that will offer the things we want for our society. 
We care about our children's future. We want strong environmental policy so our children and grandchildren have a future. The CPC is not offering that. Say what you will about debt going forward, it is irrelevant if the planet is boiling. 
We care about our public health care system. We want that to be in place for our parents, ourselves, for our children and grandchildren, and yes, even for you. You who would like to privitize so people have the "right" to pay for health care or die if they cannot. 
We care about education. The children are the future of our society. Education is not a budget line that can be cut when ideology or political thinking supposes it appropriate. 
School nutrition, good teachers, a sound, evidence-based, modern curriculum, all the aides and supports required, should be of the highest priority, not places to cut spending. This is our f*cking future as a civilization you are talking about. 
We care about our parents and everyone else's parents, being able to receive the care they need when they need it, in a kind and compassionate and caring setting. These people raised us, taught us, fixed our cars and our plumbing and our tonsils. Elder care is important. 
We care about the rights of LGBTQ+ people. They are us. They are our brothers and sisters and children. We demand that they be respected. 
We care about mental health. We care about those suffering from addictions, from trauma, from abuse, from chemical imbalances. Mental health has to receive the same status as physical health going forward. 
We care about women's reproductive autonomy. No one should have to incubate and bear a child they cannot afford, are not ready for, or simply do not want. Women have fought for our rights for generations. We are not prepared to go backward. 
We care about poverty reduction. Many of us are poor. We earn 75% of what men employed in the same fields earn. That is so wrong. And yet, here we are. 2019 and women are still way behind men in earnings. 
Poverty has been reduced by the Liberal government. I see nothing in the CPC platform to address poverty. Perhaps that is because the standard right-wing stance is that people who are poor deserve to be poor because of moral failings. I call BS. 
We believe in immigration and helping refugees. Women look at families struggling to take their children out of war zones, out of famine and we see what we would do, if we had to, to save our own children. How can you look at these people and not see humans, desperate to survive? 
We believe in gun control. Because every time the US has a mass shooting we see ourselves, our children and our loved ones, in that situation and our hearts cry out for those mothers who have lost everything. 
We believe in sound economic policy. We work hard for our money, just the same as you, even though we earn less. But austerity, cutting programs for the most vulnerable, is not sound economic policy. 
You need only look at many other countries, including the US, to see that cutting regulations, cutting social services, cutting education, healthcare, environmental laws, destroys people. 
I know I don't speak for all women. But I think I speak for a lot when I say, Justin Trudeau's socks and hair are not what makes us progressive voters. It is because we care about people. It is because we want a better society for our children, everyone's children. 
Right now, it is either the Liberals or the CPC who will win the next election in October. I wish there was more choice on the progressive side, but this is what it is.  The Liberals are the only progressive party that has a chance of forming government. We are facing an historic challenge about what it is to be Canadian. 
Frankly, from what I have seen (and I have been watching closely), if Scheer and the CPC win, we are looking at worse than the Harper Government. We are looking at the dissolution of what makes Canada different from the US. 
With the Liberals, we have a chance to retain our national individuality. We can continue to be the country that cares. We can continue to thrive and work towards a better future. For ourselves and our children and grandchildren. 
The CPC have a lot of well-financed allies. They want to convince you of things that are untrue. Don't be a patsy. Educate yourselves. Our country is worth some hours of reading and checking out reliable sources. 
Look at to figure out where the news you receive falls on the bias scale. Bear in mind that this is a US site and that US centre is somewhat to the right of the Canadian centre. Look at left-centre on their site to see what is mainstream Canadian news coverage. 
It takes a village to raise a child. Margaret Mead made that astute observation. Do you want a village that judges and hates some children? Or a village that wants the best for all children? Look to the right for judging and hating. Look to the centre left for acceptance. 
It is up to us. We have our one chance to determine Canada's future this October. Vote. Vote wisely. Vote with your heart. We can make a difference in Canada and in the world if we vote with our conscience and our compassion. 

Friday, 9 August 2019

Splitting the Progressive Vote - Part Two

I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not a lifelong Liberal voter. I do not work for the Liberal Party. I am just a Canadian, like you, who is very concerned about the things that have been important to Canadians for decades. Things like universal health care, excellent public education, protecting the environment, a strong and reliable social safety net, CPP/OAS at 65, EI working to help people who have found themselves unemployed as they transition to a new job, and less concrete values like fairness, inclusiveness, compassion, evidenced-based policy-making, peace-keeping, reconciliation, and equitable opportunity.

This blog is divided into three parts. The first addresses why the CPC would be bad for Canada, in case anyone is not yet convinced or needs some extra information. The second is why we need to vote ABC/strategically and how we might make that work. The third is some ideas of how we get out of this trap of having to vote strategically every time to keep the wolves at bay. So it's really three blogs in one!

Why The CPC Would Be Bad For Canada

I recognise that the CPC is a vastly different party from the Progressive Conservatives. They have purged the "Red Tories" from their ranks - those who believed in social programs and finding compassionate solutions to social issues. The new CPC wants none of that. They like to punish. They don't want to look at best practices from other jurisdictions for revamping of our criminal justice system. Instead they want to become more like the American system, which clearly isn't working. "Tough on Crime" is their mantra. Locking people up for longer and longer in worse and worse conditions does not make communities safer. These things do not reduce recidivism. We know what does - addressing the problems and skills deficits that caused the individual to commit crime in the first place - but the CPC don't want to see that.

They are not interested in addressing climate change because any effective action would negatively affect the bottom lines of their overlords, their corporate sponsors.

They are not interested in reconciliation. Murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls were not even on their radar when Stephen Harper was in power.

They lean towards privatisation of health care and education, and would like to dismantle these two fundamental Canadian values. And even if they say otherwise, they are giving signs that this is how they would proceed. Scheer promises to increase funding for health by 3% a year, hoping no one knows that the Liberals have already agreed and budgeted to increase it by significantly more, thus making Scheer's words a promise of a cut. This against the backdrop of Ford's cuts to Ontario's healthcare system and the CPC holding fund-raising events to talk about the "Business" of Health Care. Health care is not a for-profit business in Canada. We do not profit from the suffering of our fellow citizens.

Scheer has promised to subsidise parents putting their children in private schools, Ford has cut education funding, and suddenly an organisation whose mission is to promote private education has set up shop in Ontario. (update: Apparently Scheer has walked back on his subsidy promise. I imagine it wasn't polling well. Doesn't change anything, really. It could still turn up in a 400+ page budget down the road.)

The new CPC are not afraid to flaunt their religious views. Indeed, it was to some significant degree, the socially conservative faith community (most notably the anti-abortion organisations) that got Scheer the leadership of the CPC. Although he says he won't personally bring in any anti-abortion or anti-LGBTQ legislation, Andrew Scheer has told anti-choice groups that he will allow his MPS to bring such legislation forward.

The CPC like to continue the "tough guy" image with their ardent support for the military. They talk a lot about their support, but over the decade of the Harper Government, failed to accomplish much. Apart from closing Veterans Service Centres, making veterans cry at meetings, and lying to the country about fighter jets, Scheer, like his former boss, has an ambitious military agenda, but there are doubts about how he could accomplish what he says he would do.

Scheer would like pay for the privilege off having American nukes in our high Arctic. He says, effectively, that he would swagger around the world, getting tough with China and Russia, while getting closer to the US and Israel (he would move the Canadian Embassy to Jerusalem). He has also said the Liberal government has been very rude to Saudi Arabia over the murder of the journalist, Khashoggi, and he would work to build closer ties with the kingdom.

Andrew Scheer's policy on firearms would have Canada move away from a public safety focus on gun control and towards a gun lobby focus. This would bring Canada more in line with the close association between the GOP and the NRA.

Harper rolled back the age of eligibility for Old Age Security to 67. Trudeau put it back to 65. The CPC keep trying to tell us that the CPP is a tax and that it should be eliminated so people could be free to save for their own retirements. Now, those who can do that, should. It's a good idea to have some money put away and invested, because every bit helps when you are no longer drawing pay. But lots of people simply can't. And no one is going to live like royalty on the Canada Pension Plan monthly cheque, but they aren't going to starve either. Wanting to discontinue it is like having a car accident and going to your insurance agent and having them say, "Well, we've decided that all these premiums you've been paying for last 45 years are actually an unfair tax on you, so we're not going to give you any money. You now have the right to figure out what to do about repairs or a new vehicle on your own. It's only fair." This is why you will always see the CPC refer to CPP as a "Tax" instead of a retirement savings plan.

This pair of tweets gives a good idea of how Andrew Scheer views government-funded programs and initiatives, in general, and public/social programs in particular. And the fallacy of that view.

And this is why we can never have nice things when we have a conservative government.

Our socialised health care is much less expensive than health care in the US for 2 reasons. 1) The Americans have to factor in profit for all the various entities involved in providing health care because it is provided by private, for-profit corporations, and 2) when we pool our resources together we can use the power of volume purchases to negotiate lower prices on medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, etc.  And we never get billed personally for the care that gets us well and keeps us well.

I could go on at length about many other things the CPC have done and are very likely to do again, like muzzling scientists and attacking our judiciary... But maybe it is enough to point out that they lie.

- About NAFTA

- About the Canada Food Guide

- About the Carbon Levy

- About Climate Change

- About increasing funding for Health Care

Etc, etc...

Why We Need To Vote ABC/Strategically

In the recent Alberta election, Jason Kenney and his UCP won with a majority. Ever since, no matter what the UCP does, commentators say, well, most Albertans, or a majority of Albertans, wanted this party to govern.

But is that true?  Let's look at the numbers.

Yes, I know the meme says UPC, not UCP. Sorry. I didn't make it. I'm just borrowing it.

So, what is happening here? 1,040,001 Albertans voted UCP. That's only 35% of eligible voters. Another 29% voted for a different party.

64% of Albertans voted.

This means 36% of eligible Albertan voters did not vote.

We know that CONSERVATIVES ALWAYS VOTE. So, there's a pretty good chance that those 36% that didn't vote... probably most of them would not have voted UCP if they had gone and cast a ballot. We might have an NDP government still in Alberta if even half of those 1,055,065 people had gone and voted.

What do we learn from this?

First, Alberta has slightly higher than the national average concentration of conservative voters (35% vs 30%).

Second, every progressive vote counts. Let's say that together: Every. Progressive. Vote. Counts.

Third, It is reasonable to expect, statistically, that approximately 30% of every riding will vote conservative. Give or take 10%, depending on the riding. And they WILL VOTE.

Now, for the sake of argument let's say there are 100 people eligible to vote in a riding. 30 of them vote CPC. They go and vote. 35% planned to vote Liberal, but 2 of them get busy at work and miss the close of the polling station. 1 can't get a ride to their polling station. 7 of them decide they are mad at the Liberals but they don't like any of the other parties, so they don't vote, as a protest. So 25 people vote Liberal. 7 vote Green. 14 vote NDP. The remaining 16% don't vote because they couldn't decide who to vote for, didn't know their employer had to give them time off to vote, or they weren't aware there was an election on.  And, boom. The riding has a CPC MP.

A thing I always hear when I advocate for strategic voting to keep the CPC out of power is something like what one reader offered in a comment to another post:

This is a great concern to many people. "Yes," they tell me, "Yes. We had to get rid of Harper. It was ok to vote strategically then because Harper was destroying the country. But I want to go back to voting my conscience. I don't want to reward the Liberals for doing ______________ (fill in the blank) by giving them another term. I don't want the CPC to win, but I don't want to vote Liberal. We shouldn't have to vote for the lesser of two evils."

I agree. We shouldn't have to.

I would also like to point out that if you vote Scheer in, or allow him to be voted in, in four years you will be as desperate to vote him out as you were to vote Harper out in 2015. And there will have been four more years of degradation of Canadian institutions in the interim. Do you really need to do that, do you really need to put yourself and everyone you know through that, to be convinced to vote strategically?

It sucks.

As I said at the outset, I am not, in the usual scheme of things, a Liberal supporter.  But I am a pragmatist and I believe that a CPC government will so drastically change Canada over 4 years that we may not be able to ever get things back the way they were. Once things are privatised, it is very hard to make them public again. I am talking about health care and education, primarily, but there will probably be other things as well. Infrastructure, for example. Airports, bridges, etc. And we will get to pay for the privilege of using them.

Let's look at that scenario again.

100 voters. 30 will vote CPC, come hell or high water. 40 voted Liberal last election. But 12 are disillusioned with the Liberals and they decide to cast protest votes,5 for the Greens and 7 for the NDP. Another 7 were going to vote for the Greens anyway, so that's 12 Green votes. 13 were going to vote NDP, so that's a total of 20 for the NDP.  The other 10 don't bother to vote or can't get there.

CPC 30
Liberal: 28
NDP: 20
Greens 12

Once again you wind up with a CPC MP.

But, what if, what even a few people in the riding decided to vote for the candidate most likely to win that isn't a CPC candidate?

100 voters
30 will always vote CPC
13 would vote Green
23 would vote NDP
20 would vote Liberal
14 are undecided or not interested in politics

Now, if some of these people do some checking, talking to their neighbours, go to a town hall and try to gauge the mood, look at local polls and so on, and decide that the NDP has the best shot at getting the seat if people vote strategically, then there are some things they can do. They can try to convince others to vote NDP. They can volunteer for door-knocking. They can volunteer for "get-out-the-vote" either call with reminders, or diving people to the polls. Then we could see something like this:

NDP 34
CPC 30
Liberal 15
Green 9

And, Voila! A non-CPC MP. This comes of 5 Liberals voting NDP, 4 Greens voting NDP, and 2 non-voters being convinced they should vote (NDP).

Here is the reality:

Liberals and CPC are neck and neck. NDP is third with between 10 and 20% of the vote. The Greens are sitting with between 8 and 15%.

Realistically speaking, the Greens are not going to muster double the support they have now before October, and even that would not be enough to win. The NDP, likewise, are not going to increase their vote share sufficiently to form government. If we do the strategic voting thing very well, however, a coalition of NDP and Greens might be able to form the official opposition. If the CPC form government, especially with a majority, it won't matter much who forms opposition because the CPC will go ahead and do whatever they want. They aren't known for collaborating or considering other points of view. But, a minority Liberal government with Greens and NDP holding the balance of power... A government like that could really get things done.

It is essential that we do not elect a CPC government. They only represent about a third of the population. They should not have 100% of the power.

And we must remember that this election we are liable to see more and worse dirty tricks from the CPC. They have not won an election they have not cheated in. Furthermore, it seems we may be targeted for more voter manipulation and suppression this year, more than in the past.

It might interest you to know that some of those on the right also are making choices now that there is a second right-wing party at the federal level.  The Gun Blog offers some interesting insights, including this: 

But, how do we make it stop? How do we get off this merry-go-round of electoral cycles where our health care, our education system, our environment, our democracy are under attack? How do we get back to a situation where people can vote for what they believe in instead of having to hold their noses to avoid catastrophe?

How Do We Make It Stop?

I have been thinking about this a lot. We need to get off this ride.

We do not want or need a two party system. The problem of late is that the CPC is such a toxic entity. Even if you didn't like the PCs, when they won you would know that it would be tough but things would carry on. They would make things uncomfortable for a lot of people for four years, but then we could elect the Liberals and they would sort things out after a fashion.

Now though... The CPC, as I have said before, are not the PCs.

The CPC are an existential threat to a lot of people. LGBTQ+. women, seniors, veterans, the poor, Indigenous people, refugees, Muslims, people of colour, people with disabilities, anyone affected by climate change, anyone who might get sick or injured, anyone who might get caught in a shooting involving newly accessible firearms... A lot of people. The CPC are not our friends. They don't give a damn if we live or die. They are focused on getting elected and fulfilling their promises to their donors. And also bringing Harper's vision to fruition. Perhaps you have seen this quote from L'Actualite in Montreal...

We can't stop now. That would like being in a boat that's sinking and we've been bailing for awhile. And some people start saying, "This isn't right. We shouldn't be having to spend our whole time in the boat bailing. This isn't what I signed on for. I'm going to stick by my principles. I should not have to bail this boat. I'm not bailing this boat anymore." And, eventually... Well, you can guess how the story ends.

If the CPC win, Canada will be a sinking ship. Look what Ford has done in Ontario. Look what Jason Kenney has done in just a few months in Alberta. These guys are ready to harvest. They aren't going to waste any time with niceties if they win a majority. And even if Canadians take to the streets in protest and are kettled and tear-gassed, it won't change a thing.

We cannot let them win.

But, we need a strategy going forward to stop this crazy ride. We need to get out of the boat. We need to get off this ride.

So, assuming we are successful, how do we go forward?

I know in October 2015, after the Liberals won, many of us who had been fighting the good fight for a long time celebrated and heaved a collective sigh of relief, and we went back to our normal lives, basking in the glorious knowledge that the "bad man" was gone.

But he's not gone. And he's not even on the ticket but his fingers are still in every pie.

What do we do to stop this?

First of all, if we are very successful in out-voting the conservatives, who always vote, we will see a lot more Green and NDP faces in the House. And fewer conservative faces. This is contingent upon getting people who don't normally vote, out to the polls. This is contingent upon talking to people who are on the fence and convincing them to support the most viable candidate in their riding who could keep the seat away from a CPC candidate.

My riding is rural southern Alberta. The people around here like to boast that they "bleed blue". Many have never voted anything but conservative their whole lives. But, there are pockets of progressiveness. And in such a riding, some people may not vote because they don't feel their vote can make any difference. My plan is to go to town halls and ask the CPC candidate (if they show up, they rarely do) some hard questions. I will try to figure out which candidate has the best chance of beating the CPC and volunteer to door-knock for them.

But, if overall we are successful, then it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We need to advocate for changes in all three progressive parties. We need to write letters (snail mail physical letters get more attention than emails, I have been told - mostly because they are unusual). We need to show up at events. We need to take our party of choice to task about why they are not very electable. What is wrong with the Greens or the NDP right now that makes them the third and fourth choice across the country? How do we change that?

Maybe that means volunteering outside of the election cycle. Maybe it means putting your hat in the ring if you think you can muster the support in your riding. It means advocacy on a grand scale to make sure the message gets out there. Maybe it means pushing for a leadership review. Any party that is going to stand a chance of challenging the two established parties needs a visionary leader. Someone with passion and charisma.

This is how we upset the handbasket we are headed to hell in.

We need to become politically active.  We need to effect change from within the "minor" parties

But first, we need to keep the CPC out. Reduce their seat count. Advocate for electoral reform that gives much more power to the Elections commissioner to investigate and prosecute fraud and cheating and voter suppression. Advocate for reforms that make it easier for the marginalised people in society to vote. Advocate for changes to the third party spending rules and effective enforcement.

Eventually, this may lead to a discussion of alternate electoral systems. It would be amazing to actually be represented in my riding. That hasn't happened at the federal level since I have lived here (11 years). But we have a lot of other work to do first.

Just changing our voting system to an alternative to First Past The Post is not a panacea. Whether it benefits the country or not depends on which of a number of systems is chosen. And there are many opinions about which is the best. We need to educate ourselves on this subject so we can educate others and have informed dialogue about the options.

In short, this time around, win or lose, we can't put our feet up. There is a lot of work to be done to build up and protect democracy in Canada and preserve the institutions we hold dear.

A final thought:

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

What I Learned From Twitter

A few days ago, in the wake of two mass shootings in the US, one in El Paso, Texas, and the other in Dayton, Ohio, I posted a tweet thread about my fears that a CPC win would see more guns and more military style guns coming into the hands of Canadians. This fear is based on CPC leader, Andrew Scheer's platform which was online during his bid to become leader of the CPC. The platform was pulled down the next day. The supposition is this was done because what is palatable to the CPC membership may not be palatable to the rest of Canadians.

In his section on guns, he promises to take away RCMP powers to designate certain weapons as restricted or banned. He promises to repeal restrictions on magazines, which are currently set at a maximum of 5 rounds. He said he will put representatives of the gun associations, the NFA and the CCFR and possibly others, on the Firearms Advisory Council, a body which was formed to advise government on gun regulations. The Council currently has citizen gun owners on it, along with representatives of the police, the judiciary, women's groups, and members of the health-care community. The current composition of the Council emphasises public safety as the goal of gun legislation.

Scheer also promised to. essentially, forgive gun owners who do not renew their permits on time.

Finally, Scheer says he will create a Firearms Ombudsman, whose role it would be to ensure that all legislation is seen through the lens of the firearms community.

He goes on to say that "law-abiding Canadians should not have to justify to the government why they need a firearm." An important thing to note is the two gun organisations noted above have ties to the NRA and both advocate for laws that allow the use of guns for the defence of person or property. This is a radical shift in philosophy from what has been prevalent in Canada. The emphasis under Scheer would be keeping gun owners happy, rather than keeping the public safe. My analysis of this and some info on the gun organisations that will apparently be running the show is here.

So I posted this. I began my thread with a rather gory picture which I understood was a shot of a trauma room after a gunshot victim had been treated. There was a bed, empty, and a lot of blood on the sheets and the floor. Medical equipment and a couple of nurses could be seen in the background. You can see a blog version of my tweet thread here.

Definitely not the most diplomatic way to approach the subject, I admit. But on Twitter, sometimes you have to SHOUT to get people's attention. I got attention, alright. Now, several days later, several hundred a day are showing up to beak at me. Better than the thousand or so a day for a couple of days after I first posted it.

I got people's attention. There were quite a number of people who agreed with what I was saying. But there was also a storm of people who were outraged. I was able to observe several things from this.

1) Many people have very poor reading comprehension skills. It didn't seem to matter how I tried to explain what I was talking about, they just didn't get it. They would say things like, "Canada's gun laws are perfectly adequate. What are you talking about?" - completely missing the point I was making that a CPC government would change Canada's gun laws to be less than adequate.

2) Many people do not know how to interpret messages or read between the lines. Ever so many demanded to know where Scheer had said he would let more guns into Canada, where is the video or the citation for a quote?... And no matter how I tried to explain that while he is obviously not going to come out and say that word for word, one only needs to read his platform to realise that is what he means. The very fact that he has a gun platform, while barely giving a nod to climate change, is a good indication of where his priorities lie.

3) Several people were determined to prove the photo was staged or fake. This really puzzled me. We are talking about gun violence and gun proliferation and you are trying to prove that it can't be a real photo because the blood is too red? Really? Why? Were they squeamish? Did the message lead to such cognitive dissonance that they sought to find falsehood in the image so that they could dismiss the rest without thinking about it? Incidentally, there were responses from several ER/trauma doctors and nurses who said, yes, this is exactly what it looks like and I see it way too often at work.

4) Some expressed the opinion that getting rid of guns was not the answer. Longer, harsher sentences for gun crime was the answer. Tapping into that right-wing thirst for vengeance, rather than seeking solutions and preventative measures.To which I say, that is the wrong paradigm. In a mass shooting, even if the perpetrator doesn't die in the process, the victims will still be dead or maimed, no matter what sort of sentence is imposed. It's shutting the barn door after the horses have bolted. We need prevention. That means getting guns off our streets and curbing the ownership of potential weapons of mass destruction, even among "responsible, law-abiding gun owners" because guns get stolen. Guns get sold quietly. Responsible, law-abiding gun owners are responsible and law-abiding until they aren't. Many guns used in US mass shootings were obtained legally or "borrowed" from friends or family members. It also means combating the root causes of gang membership and violent crime. These include poverty, alienation, lack of access to quality education, violence in the home, and exposure to radicalising right-wing, white supremacist propaganda. The US has among the harshest "tough on crime" laws in the developed world, and the highest rate of multiple homicides. Longer sentences are not a deterrent. Especially if the perpetrator doesn't expect to survive their moment of glory. The CPC plan is to go the US route. When the only tool you recognise is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

5) Most who disagreed were insulting. They called me a "retard", a "liar", "scum", a "diseased toxic liar", and worse. They said I had no compassion or conscience. They called me a "Liberal shill", a "libtard", and  "lefty turd". They said it was horse crap, and fear-mongering, and using a tragedy to score cheap political points. Is it fear-mongering when there is a real danger and someone tries to warn everyone about it? I did not advocate for any political party, simply warned that loosening gun laws is in the CPC platform. If we don't want to become like the US, we should not vote in a CPC government.

6) Most attackers were conservative, either supporters of the CPC or the PPC. Almost all, in fact. Many have very few followers which, I am told, makes it likely they are paid trolls or bots. A few were also extremely religious. None offered anything to convince me that what I presented was wrong, other than "He never said that!" which they repeated even after being shown where and how he did say it.

7) Further to the inability to evidentially refute my premise, being presented with information that conflicts with what they believe seems to fill many with rage. There is no room in the ardent CPC supporter's mind to examine any evidence that does not fit their world view. It is a very curious phenomenon. Some might call it willful ignorance.

8) Some offered the argument that it didn't really matter what the CPC did because guns were already easy to get. One person who responded said it doesn't matter what they do with the 5 round magazine limit. It's totally easy to knock the limiter pin out. All you need is a power drill. I offered the suggestion that he had maybe just admitted using his firearms in contravention of the Criminal Code of Canada. He went silent.

Anyway, I am not bothered by their words. I have been called worse by opponents on the ice, holding a big stick and standing right in front of me. What I hear is, "I am a conservative. I have always been a conservative. I believe in the conservatives and anything they want to do is just fine. I will not listen to any other view. I will get very angry and abusive and try to silence other views. Because my leader, Andrew Scheer tells me that the other parties, especially the Liberals, are evil and destroying Canada and the economy and they lie all the time. Only Andrew Scheer and the CPC can be trusted to tell me the truth. Not most of the TV stations and not most of the newspapers. Andrew Scheer never said any of this, and if he did, he must have a good reason." And that is quite troubling.

However, it is generally understood that between 28% and 33% of Canadians will always vote "conservative", regardless of what the party is called or what they do. And they always vote. And if a conservative party is in power and does things that make these conservative voters' lives miserable, they will still love them. They will blame another party, or immigrants, or someone that isn't them. They are, as seen by the replies in my Twitter feed, so indoctrinated it seems impossible to reach them. Voters for other parties switch party from time to time, depending on how their current party of choice is behaving and what they are offering in the way of policy. Also, in recent years, which candidate in their riding can potentially keep a seat away from a CPC candidate.

The challenge, then, is to make sure those who are not voting conservative recognise that the threat from a CPC government is very real. That preventing CPC candidates from being elected at the riding level, outweighs any misgivings one may have about one party or another. If we do a very good job of this, the CPC could be reduced to third party status, with some constellation of Liberal/NDP/Green actually governing the country.

This is, of course, conservatives' worst nightmare.

From a sociological point of view, it is quite fascinating. There is this subset of the population that is quite anomalous to the mainstream Canadian zeitgeist. Their views are more American than Canadian. For this, I hold the inundation of Canada by American media at least partly responsible. An alarming number of Canadians don't realise that gun ownership is not a "right" in Canada. It is a privilege. They don't have any sort of clear grasp of how our systems of government work. They refer to DAs instead of "the Crown prosecutor". They want to "impeach" Trudeau. They think they can petition to recall elected members of legislatures or parliament. For this I also blame a substantial dearth of civics education, taught in an engaging and meaningful manner, throughout the K-12 school experience of Canadian children.

It is impossible to know, interacting with them online, if you are dealing with a bot or paid troll, or someone who is very low information, or someone who gets all their information from the CPC and the Rebel and The Sun newspapers. Or if they are so indoctrinated they can't comprehend any views or evidence that differs from their own views. Or if they just really can't, for whatever reason, cope with changing their opinion about anything, and so dismiss or fight against any challenge to their closely held views... I hesitate to say they are very nasty and irrational people, although they frequently present as such online. Presumably there are people in their lives they are kind and generous and compassionate towards. Wouldn't know it from their online presence, but, whatever.

So, that's what I learned from Twitter over the past few days.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Andrew Scheer's Plan for Gun Laws in Canada

It needs to be understood, and I believe it is not understood widely enough, that politicians who plan to do controversial things seldom spell them out in plain language. They say them, so supporters who have donated money to get their interests on the agenda know that they didn't waste their money. But they don't say them outright. It is important for citizens to learn how to parse political speak so as to better understand what to expect from each party or candidate.

Doug Ford didn't campaign on cutting support for children with autism, did he? He didn't say, "if elected I promise to slash OSAP", did he? No. He said he would find "efficiencies". I have no idea what voters thought that meant, but, here we are.

Andrew Scheer isn't going to say on the public record that he is going to remove or reduce many of our gun control laws. Not in those exact words, anyway. Further on we will parse his policy statement which was on his website while he was running to be leader of the CPC, but which was removed the day after he secured the leadership. But first, let's look at some groups he considers "major stakeholders" in this issue.

 First, the National Firearms Association (NFA).

The mission of the NFA is as follows:

It must be noted at this point, to avoid any confusion, that gun ownership in Canada is not a constitutional right, as it is in the US. It is a privilege. This is an important distinction.

The NFA has a legal support program to help gun owners accused of breaking gun-related laws.

The NFA acknowledges its political activism for fighting what its members consider bad gun laws:

And the NFA is recruiting new members, using an enrollment contest with guns as prizes.

The NRA is prevented legally from giving funds to the NFA, but it offers assistance in others ways; logistical and tactical support, advice, etc.

The NRA and the NFA share the view that restricting guns will do nothing to reduce the number of gun homicides or mass shootings.

Next, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR):

They also have a mission statement:

They also have a vision:

Again, they view firearms ownership as a right, which it is not under Canadian law.

As you may have noted in the vision, the CCFR is quite interested in "human rights", i.e. the right to defend one's person or property. Canada's charter of rights and freedoms and our laws allow for the use of reasonable force. If you read the memorandum of the CCFR on self-defense, you may note the CCFR advocates for a shift to lethal force somewhat before our courts have deemed such an action "reasonable".

Likewise, the CCFR has a policy memorandum on concealed or open carry that is closer to the American rules than what is currently allowed in Canada.

The CCFR vision for the transportation of firearms also is more American than Canadian. They advocate keeping firearms locked in the trunk if you are not in the vehicle. If you don't have a trunk, they urge placing guns somewhere they cannot be seen from outside the vehicle.

As for storage, they want a change in the laws that would allow people to keep a loaded gun outside of the currently required gun safe for personal protection. Current legislation requires keeping firearms locked in a gun safe, and ammunition stored separately.

Not surprisingly, the CCFR has an opinion about magazine restrictions.

Also, not surprisingly, the CCFR would like to see magazine limitations removed. They go to some length to argue that it is pointless because criminals will subvert the limiting mechanisms anyway.

The CCFR was also running a contest this summer. Entries were based on giving a $25 donation.

There are other groups and media outlets devoted to making guns more accessible. There's the online site and the Canadian Access to Firearms media outlet, just to name two.

Now let's parse Andrew Scheer's policy on guns, now that we are a bit familiar with some of the players. He calls this "Common Sense on Firearms" and you can find it here.

The preamble is all back-slapping "I'm one of the boys" stuff. He talks about how he "dropped a buck from 400 metres away".  This is a nod and a wink to gun-owners and hunters. He's saying he's one of them. He gets going out into the woods and killing animals for fun. No namby-pamby city boy here. No sirree!

The we get to the meat of the thing. He has an overview followed by 7 points.

Here he is saying he is going to do what the gun organisation say they want done on their web sites, a repeal of all firearms regulations that do not respect the rights of firearms owners. There is no mention of ensuring public safety. Zip. Nil. Nada. What he doesn't say speaks volumes.

The he gets into detail.

Scheer uses of the word "arbitrarily" which suggests the RCMP get all cross from time to time and classify a firearm as restricted just because they can. I seriously doubt that is how it works. I expect the RCMP takes data from front line officers' encounters with guns, looks at the capabilities of different kinds of guns, maintains a record of firearms seizures which gives some indication of what kinds of guns are becoming more common, and draws on the experience of police departments around the world. On the basis of this evidence, they may, from time to time, flag a type of firearm as a threat to public safety.

It is actually insulting to the firearms experts at the RCMP to say they ban guns on the basis of aesthetics.

Actually, the existing legislation does this already. For example:

This is a red herring aimed at low information voters who believe the Canadian government is keeping them from having a cool-looking gun because it's cool-looking. This is similar to Scheer promising the other day to increase health transfers to the provinces by 3% per year. People who didn't know that the Liberal government's commitment was already much higher got excited about this. In reality it is a $1.5 Billion per year cut to health transfers based on the current formula. This is who Scheer and the CPC are.

Scheer says he will replace the current legislation which says any large-round magazine must be altered to limit the number of rounds to 5. He says later on that he will take the advice of the firearm associations in forming the new legislation. Do you imagine for a moment that the CFA or CCFR are going to recommend lowering the number of rounds below 5? No, they will recommend not limiting the rounds at all. Go back and read the CCFR policy memorandum if you are unsure.

The use of the word "submit" is used to suggest a Canadian government who would go along with this is weak. The UN firearms protocol is designed to curb the illegal international arms trade. Can we all agree that the illegal arms trade is a bad thing? It is hard to fathom why the conservatives are so opposed. Scheer seems particularly opposed to the marking of guns by manufacturers and importers so that they can be identified and traced back through their history should they be used in a crime. If conservatives are all about catching criminals, why is this a bad thing? Is the fear that someone who stored guns illegally (i.e. not secured) was robbed and their guns were stolen then used in a crime or sold and used in a crime? Are they concerned that "responsible, law-abiding gun owners" might get in trouble for a) not storing their guns properly or b) not reporting the theft to the police because they didn't want to get into trouble for a)? If they aren't storing their guns properly, they aren't really responsible, law-abiding gun owners, are they?

Several countries and regions have been implementing the UN Firearms protocol. The programs are too new for definitive conclusions on effectiveness, but data is being gathered and outcomes will be assessed when enough data has been gathered.

Scheer has said he will strengthen the Firearms Advisory Council. The current council is comprised thus:

"The Committee consists of 10 members. Membership includes law enforcement officers, public health advocates, representatives from women’s groups, civilian firearms users, gun control advocates and members of the legal community. Members are appointed by the Minister for a maximum of two years."

The current composition reflects an emphasis on public safety, while including civilian firearm users. Scheer would remodel this council to allow the NFA and the CCFR and possibly other firearm owners rights groups more say in the decisions of the council. There are many questions raised by this. Would he maintain the committee size of 10? If so, who would be removed to make room for the gun association representatives? Or would he expand the committee to create new seats for the gun owners associations? Would such a large committee become unwieldy?

 Do these gun owners have problem renewing their driver's licences on time? Or car insurance? What about renewing their mortgage? Renewing their fishing or hunting licences? Dog licences? Life is full of things we have to do and some of them we only have to do once a year. Most of us manage. This sounds like Scheer would be excusing non-renewals, so why would people bother renewing? A better solution might be to send out email reminders and make it possible to renew online, just as they do with driver's licences in some provinces. What Andrew Scheer is proposing sounds like a slippery slope to no licencing.

Here he is saying that all new gun laws in the future will have to be in accordance with the wishes of gun owners and gun associations. He is shifting the focus from public safety to the "rights" of gun owners. This is a profound change that he is proposing. In light of what we see south of our border and sometimes in our own cities, public safety should be the number one concern.

I understand that First Nations and Inuit and Metis who live a lifestyle based on subsistence hunting need to be able to access firearms. I understand how farmers may need a firearm to protect their livestock from predators. Firearm use in Canada beyond those scenarios is recreational. Public safety should always come before someone's hobby.

A few additional bits of information...

Andrew Scheer gets an A from the CCFR for his gun policy plans.

A conservative MP declared his intention to make AR-15s easier to purchase.

A lot of gun enthusiasts say that laws won't stop criminals from getting guns. Except, they do, actually. Many guns used in crimes in Canada have been stolen from lawful gun owners. If those gun owners didn't have guns, they would not have been stolen and used in a crime. Or if the law was you have to keep your guns locked at your gun club. Because what do you need them for at home anyway? Particularly, urban dwellers will find it extremely illegal to be shooting things in their back yards. So why have the guns in the house at all? You can only use them at the shooting range. Keep them there.

Many guns used by criminals also come over the border from the US. Our government should be making greater efforts to prevent the illegal transportation of guns into our country. Certainly not adopting the sort of laissez faire approach Scheer seems to be advocating.

In the UK almost no one has guns. Some people out in the country, for hunting. But even the police usually don't even carry guns. Why is this? Because they have not allowed guns to become held in public hands where they can be sold or stolen. We should consider this carefully.

Some people argue that guns don't kill people, people kill people and that we may as well ban cars and knives and baseball bats...  Except, cars and knives and baseball bats have primary uses that are not killing. You could probably kill someone with a spoon, if you set your mind to it, but it is not nearly as likely as killing someone with a gun. Guns have one purpose. They were created for one thing, to kill. Some guns have been developed to kill many people very quickly. The shooter in El Paso Texas killed 22 people, as of 5 hours ago, and the death toll may still rise. More than 20 more were injured. A person with a knife can't kill and injure over 40 people in a matter of minutes. The availability of rapid fire weapons is what makes a bad situation into a massive tragedy.

The American second amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, was written when guns were muskets and loading them was time-consuming. If you were very quick you might be able to get a shot away, followed by another a few minutes later. They often jammed or misfired. No one was going into a night club or shopping mall or stadium or movie theatre and mowing down dozens of people in a minute. We cannot look  to the US as a model. We cannot let their gun fetishism affect how we formulate laws to balance the wishes of hunters, farmers, etc, with public safety. We are a different country. Canada is different. We must not allow ourselves to be turned into an annex of the US with American gun laws.

I have laid out as well as I can how Andrew Scheer and the CPC would impact gun laws and, consequently, public safety in Canada. I hope you made it this far. It was a long read. Great job! Please share with people who may need a bit more knowledge on the subject.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Mass shootings, Andrew Scheer, Gun Control, and Canada

Trigger warning: gory image below

There have been two mass shootings in the US in less than 13 hours. There are at least 29 dead and more than 50 wounded, some critically.

The first was in El Paso, Texas, in a shopping centre. The shooter drove 10 hours to get to his target because he wanted to kill Mexicans. Texas is an open-carry state. Chances are good most people in that mall were packing. Yet the shooter was able to kill and maim and was arrested alive. So much for that theory that the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is good guys with more guns.

The second was in Dayton, Ohio. A gunman killed 9 people and injured many more in a 30 second burst of bullets in a popular nightclub district before police shot and killed him. 

After the El Paso shooting victims were refusing medical help because ICE was waiting at the hospital to arrest Mexicans, or Mexican-looking people.

The US has a huge problem. People have been killed, randomly, while minding their own business, in churches, shopping malls, movie theatres, night clubs, concerts, businesses, and just out on the street.

The US has had more mass shootings in 2019 that there have been days in this year.

It is an epidemic. 

If people were dying and being hospitalised at this rate from a virus, there would be government action. There would be quarantines and protocols and everything possible would be done to bring the epidemic to an end.

But it isn't a virus. It's guns. It's white supremacy. It's hatred. It's people who think they are somehow entitled to kill people they don't like. It's a national zeitgeist that says "we can't interfere because 200+ years ago our founding fathers enshrined the right to bear muskets that could get a shot off every 5 minutes or so, and so now everyone has the right to own weapons of mass destruction".

It's a President and government who condone this sort of behaviour.

It's a National Rifle Association that has wealth and political power and owns pretty well all elected Republicans and some Democrats as well.

It is, although not a virus, a deep and terrible sickness.

And what is it that makes the US so susceptible to this sickness? It isn't this way in other developed countries. Only the US. So, what is different? Hint: Gun Control. But that could change if the CPC form our next government. The US mass shooting epidemic could creep over our border and inflict the violence and pain and suffering on Canadians too.

The CPC in Canada consort with the Canadian equivalent of the NRA, the National Firearms Association (NFA). They have an affiliated organisation, the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CCFR). These two groups lobby parliament over loosening gun controls in Canada.  CPC MPs and candidates have had shooting parties as fundraisers. Michelle Rempel was given a gun and gun accessories in thanks for her work to block further gun controls.

Andrew Scheer received an A grade from the CCFR for promising to repeal many of the gun ownership, usage, and transportation laws currently in effect in Canada. In fact, Canada's conservatives have a long history of wanting to open the door to mire firearms in Canada.

I would like to point out that guns can have a powerful impact on people without ever being fired. Women's shelter workers have plenty of stories of women who stayed with an abusive partner for years because he would threaten them, or their children, or their pets with his gun. Having a gun in the house can be a coercive force that makes battered women completely powerless to fight back or leave.

Guns are the most effective method of suicide. Having a gun available makes it far more likely a suicidal person will be successful in ending their own life.

Assault rifles like the ones used in many US mass shootings exist for one purpose, and one purpose only - to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. You can't hunt with them. You would blow a deer apart and be picking up pieces after. You might get your jollies shooting one at a shooting range, but you can probably get as much adrenaline and endorphines by riding a good roller-coaster. And your jollies shouldn't open the door to a trade in weapons that is killing hundreds and thousands of people. Your moment of Ya-hoo! vs a six year old's life. Can you justify that? Is your happy time worth more to you than people's lives? Really? Just how selfish are you?

I need you to see something. It's pretty awful, just going to warn you up front here.

This is an emergency trauma room after treating a victim of a mass shooting involving an assault weapon. Yes, it's horrific. Yes, it's real. Say no to Andrew Scheer and the CPC because they want to make weapons like this easier to access in Canada.

It's time to open our eyes. We need to take a stand. In the US there have been more mass shootings this calendar year than there have been days. And if we let it in, it will come here. We have to look the horror in the face and say NO.

This was posted by an ER doctor on Twitter. ER staff and trauma specialists in the US are begging the government to restrict assault weapons. They fire many rounds in a very short time and the bullets tear apart their victims. ER and trauma staff can't, and shouldn't have to, face this carnage over and over.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer and the CPC want Canadians to be able to buy whatever kind of firearm they want... We have to put our collective foot down and say NO. Canada does not become an abattoir. Not on our watch.