Monday, June 28, 2004

Harping on Harper: Why you Should Not Vote Conservative Today

Today is V-Day here in Canada and across the country, polling stations will be stuffed to the brim with about 65 percent of eligible voters. In the days of old, votes were bought with free pints or cash prizes. Current election rules limit such freebies so we're destined to be charmed with grandiose election promises, most of which will never make it past the House of Commons.

Changing things in Canada is like trying to accelerate the gradual movement of a glacier; you can push all you want but things will crawl along and there is a good chance that you'll see snails and wheelchair-bound grannies whizzing by. Still, we have a vital parliamentary system that allows for several parties to play a role in governing our nation. This gives more Canadians a voice in governance since they're not faced with a "lesser of two evils" choice like our neighbours in the USA.

I realize that this is the last minute and all, but please bear with me. I'm not going to ask you to vote NDP, even though I did--they're not going to win in my riding of Chateauguay-St.Constant but neither are the tories--but I will make one small request. If you have any love for this country and all we've achieved, please don't vote for Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

You might be wondering why I'm so concerned. First of all, he has no respect for minority rights or for the disenfranchised in our society. He wants to offer major tax cuts to the wealthy like his distant cousin George W. Bush (hopefully soon to be once removed) and we all saw what this did to the US; it created major deficits that will cause future generations to suffer and inevitably bear the burden in the decades to come.

Stephen Harper also wants to build up our military and to support our American allies on their global preemptive warfare policies. This would mean invading Syria or Iran (which one is next on the Neo-con list? I imagine it would be whichever one has more oil) and also tarnishing our reputation as a nation that admires peace and diplomacy. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have a military but I don't think Canada should become another Great Britain, docile and always eager to please the Right-wing hawks of Washington. Let us keep our hands clean and let them take care of their own illegal invasions, thank you very much.

Harper also wants to sign on to the American Missile Defence Shield, and this would be another big mistake. Missile defence of this kind is illegal by NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) standards and would be sending the wrong message to the rest of the world, since the US will still have thousands of ICBMs pointed at other countries but would be nearly invulnerable to missile attacks. One could even argue that this could lead to a world war because the mutually assured destruction theory would go out the window. I'm sure most Canadians don't want to be caught in the middle of a global nuclear arms race.

The Conservatives not only disagree with the Kyoto Accord, they want us to pull out of it. This short-sighted view will hurt our ties to the European Union, a major trading block and potential market for Canadian exports. They are solidly behind Kyoto and a British MP has reputedly warned that Canada will look silly to pull out of the accord now, especially when Russia is on the fence and waiting to see who else backs it.

If I haven't convinced you yet, Stephen Harper doesn't believe that gays should be allowed to marry. This is a form of discrimination according to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which he says is fundamentally flawed because it might offer protection to pedophiles. This is pure bullshit because our criminal laws already cover sex crimes and nobody is arguing to change the laws themselves since they serve a valuable purpose; keeping our children safe from exploitation. Harper and his Albertan base are just using the sexual predator issue to ban gay marriage, a completely different issue altogether.

Ontario, I don't mean to single you out but you're quite influential and populous, so it is important that we understand each other. I have many relatives living in your beautiful province and a couple of them have expressed interest in voting Conservative. If it's just for the tax breaks, you should remember that you're going to pay more in the long run if the Tories win. Their tax cuts will be erased by increased fees for government services, increased tuition for students, and most Canadians won't even save all that much (it will only affect people who earn enough to pay a large amount of tax). I don't have any exact figures, but by reading the Tory platform, you can see that they will have to eliminate some of the programs that we know and love if they want to avoid running a deficit.

They've already talked about scrapping the Atlantic Development Agency which will stab the Maritimes in the heart by depriving their lackluster economies of badly-needed investment. This will mean more maritimers being forced to rely on social assistance, and that will be paid for by guess who? Ontario, Alberta, and BC, because they are the wealthy provinces who pay more in Federal tax than they receive in transfer payments.

The Liberals may have their weak points and they've definately made some mistakes, but they are still a better choice than the Conservatives. Like Joe Clark so eloquently warbled (paraphrased...), "Better the devil you do know than one you don't. Vote Paul Martin before you think of going with Stephen Harper."

One last point to ponder is that Canada is proving that it is a very left-wing nation. The Green Party, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP (all left-leaning parties) command over 65 percent of the vote, meaning if the left was united like the right (the Canadian Alliance swallowed the Progressive Conservatives, remember?), the choice would be clear. Instead, we're splitting our vote 4 ways and the Conservatives are the odds-on favourite to steal this election (with a minority government).

Locate your Electoral District.

If you believe in peace and prosperity, if you don't want us to become a virtual 51st state, if you have any friends or relatives who happen to be gay, if you believe in legalization of marijuana, if you believe that the church and the state should be separate, then voting for the Conservative Party is the wrong choice! (To get a better understanding of your political leanings based on the party platforms, visit Who Do I Vote to do a nifty little test that will give you an unbiased measure of which party really floats your boat.) Or, just vote liberal or Bloc or NDP and talk to your friends. It isn't too late to save Canada from the Blue Menace of Stephen Harper's Conservative Party; the polls close at 9:30 PM EST.

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