Monday, October 2, 2017

Jagmeet Singh will change federal politics and Canada for the good

New NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
Just a short note to express my happiness with Jagmeet Singh's resounding victory in the federal NDP leadership yesterday.

I did have a sense a couple weeks ago that Singh would prevail easily and that turned out to be the case. 

Singh is a star but he also seems to have all the goods needed for leadership success, including policy chops, vision, compassion, supreme communication skills, and charisma.  He commands attention and when he receives it, he impresses.

Like I wrote a couple weeks ago, I think many Canadians including many Quebecers will give Singh a chance and a listen and most will be impressed.   His turban, as a practising Sikh, ought not to offend anyone who listens to and understands Singh's story as to why he chose to wear a turban in the first place - as an act of rebellion in favour of social justice.

Some critics have written him off as a silver-spooned socialist who likes the finer things in life.  On that, I say, "So what?"  His description of his choices to dress impeccably well, as well as earn a law degree and even learn mixed martial arts, all fit in with a member of a visible minority who was "arming" himself against racism and oppression.  Singh's description of his personal history rings true to me and I find him extremely sympathetic.

Now, Singh will get the chance to challenge underlying / sub-conscious racism that still exists in Canadian society.  Just by standing on the leaders' stage, he'll confront old prejudices. 

In the end, his power as leader may indeed end up one day or year soon truly challenging Justin Trudeau's Liberals and Andrew Scheer's Conservatives for government.  He brings to this considerable strength and promise. 

I'm looking forward to watching him over the next several years as he begins the process of challenging for power in Canada.  It's true that Justin Trudeau's Liberals have disappointed many progressives and clearly stand too closely with the Conservatives on too many issues that need real action today.   Singh's NDP will provide a viable threat to the Liberals on the left and force them into action on progressive issues, or risk defeat and huge losses of support to their left-wing rivals in the next election.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Coming out of the closet: I joined the NDP and I'm voting for Guy Caron

NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron
I wrote last week about the future of the New Democratic Party, as well as the future for progressive politics in Canada.

Since then, I've done a lot of thinking, including watching yesterday's NDP Leadership Showcase online from Hamilton.  After a great deal of reflection, I have some confessions to make:

1) I'm coming out of the closet as a card-carrying New Democrat.   Yes, this follows having joined the Conservative Party of Canada earlier this year and participating in their leadership race.  I remain a pragmatic progressive who cares deeply about the shape of our Canadian democracy.  For me, joining these parties including the Liberals in the past is the equivalent of voting in open primaries in the U.S.  More Canadians should be engaged in this way, as far as I'm concerned.  I, of course, quit the Conservatives after the regressive Andrew Scheer won that close contest.  

2) Up until last week, I was most attracted to leadership candidates Charlie Angus (for his passion, authenticity, and clarity) and Jagmeet Singh (for his passion, charisma and similar authenticity, as well as the fact that his victory would be an important breakthrough for people of colour in Canada.)  I had come to think poorly of Niki Ashton whose ambitions to lead a renewed "movement" of socialists didn't seem to ring true to me.  I also didn't think much of Guy Caron, who seemed like a nice enough guy but hadn't yet reached me emotionally or intellectually in this campaign.

3) As of yesterday, I've done a complete switch.  Guy Caron's stellar showcase presentation yesterday impressed me greatly, including the heartwarming introduction by his wife.  Suddenly, Caron's very well-thought out plans on basic income, proportional representation and many other issues are resonating with me.  Yesterday, he even clarified that he opposes the Quebec government's proposed plan to tell religious minorities what to wear when they provide or receive public services; he simply respects the jurisdiction of the Quebec legislature, which frankly so do I and anyone else who respects Canadian federalism.  Caron has also been showing his charming and humorous side of late.  He's clearly a likeable guy, much more likeable than Tom Mulcair could ever be.  He's no recent recruit to the NDP cause in Quebec like some other pseudo-separatists; he's been fighting for the NDP in that province for decades and his federalist credentials are clear.   Add to this Caron's ability to speak both official languages fluently, he offers a truly credible option to not only hold on to the NDP's base in Quebec but also to build on it (and deny the Bloc Quebecois a comeback anytime soon).  None of the other candidates can offer that, so he's suddenly skyrocketed from being my last choice to my first.

4) I still think highly of Jagmeet Singh and I think he'd be a fine leader who will easily engage with young people across most of English Canada.   He may even be able to similarly connect with Quebecers, I suspect, although that will be a struggle at first as his French language skills, as we saw yesterday in his showcase speech, remain merely adequate. 

5) Niki Ashton has been passionate in this race and her drive to renew the NDP as a movement is well-timed after it lost those roots under Tom Mulcair.  Her speech yesterday was solid, showcasing her decent French skills.  Furthermore, it's now clear to me that her youth and her clarity on the issues puts her in a great position to connect with millenials.    

6) Charlie Angus is still a great man and leader.  I've been inspired by his passion and clarity in this race.  However, when it comes to his weak French skills, or his ability to connect with the next generation of voters, I suddenly have major doubts.  In him, I saw someone a bit charming and older in the same vein as Bernie Sanders.  However, Angus has yet to show the kind of passion needed to inspire young people the way Sanders did.  While the other three candidates might quite naturally or easily connect either to young people or to Quebecers, Angus will have a huge struggle on his hands.  In him, I see flashbacks of Howard Hampton, another earnest and well-meaning NDP leader from Northern Ontario who ultimately failed to have much of an impact.

Thus, to my shock, I will soon fill out my online ballot in the NDP leadership race in order: 1) Caron, 2) Singh, 3) Ashton, and 4) Angus.

Yes I've changed my tune big time since last week.  I felt it important to clarify my new position.

A stronger NDP will keep the Liberals on their toes and force them to protect their left flank.  For me, I want a viable NDP that challenges for government, not just third-party status.  While the Liberals have done some good on the progressive front, if they become complacent about their progressive support, that'll spell trouble for many of the issues we progressives care about and want real action on.   And if the NDP can become strong again, should the Liberals falter, we'll have a decent and clear alternative to whom we can turn. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to beat those Liberals and Conservatives? My prediction in the NDP leadership race.

Ever since the horrible Donald Trump conned his way into the White House by winning working class support in the American Rustbelt, I've been consumed by the question: What mistakes have progressives been making that led to this and how can progressives do a better job preventing right-wing idiots with or without fascist tendencies from ever winning the votes of working class folks again?

It's clear that establishment Democrats in the U.S., and Liberals and even New Democrats in Canada - those who love playing the insiders' game of politics, rubbing shoulders at elite parties, barely distinguished in style or substance from typical conservatives - lost the confidence of many working class people long ago.

Support for establishment forces like the big banks and Wall/Bay Street badly undermined claims by liberal politicians that they were on the sides of ordinary people, who've struggled more and more over the last 30 years as their incomes have stagnated while the wealth of the top 1% has skyrocketed to obscenely historic levels.

Ordinary folks in the U.S. lacked confidence that anything would change under Hilary Clinton, so they narrowly opted for a guy who at least was not aligned with the same powerful forces that surrounded the Democrat.   It was a lesson for progressives: when you abandon the interests of your working class base, be prepared to be defeated.  In retrospect, the progressive messages and authenticity of Bernie Sanders were the better option over Hilary Clinton.

In 2017, we've seen the U.K.'s Jeremy Corbyn use a message similar to Bernie Sander's that proved to be remarkably effective in winning new Labour Party support; he almost tied the Conservatives in June's national election.   Also, in British Columbia's provincial election last spring, the New Democrats ran on a similar message, as did the Greens, and together they managed to form a coalition government.

For me, the answer isn't narrow partisanship, particularly in Canada where we have two big parties on the centre-left at the federal level: the Liberals and the NDP.   I'm truly pragmatic and not naive about the realities of our politics.   It's entirely possible that a Liberal could authentically embody genuine progressive policies and do the right thing for people in government, just as much as a New Democrat.

On some issues, I've been a bit disappointed that Justin Trudeau's Liberals haven't been progressive enough (ie. abandoning electoral reform, introducing legislation to possibly undermine defined benefit pensions, not doing much to take on the big banks, cell phone companies or big oil).  But on others, like marijuana legalization, or promoting carbon pricing, or Finance Minister Bill Morneau's proposals to close corporate tax loopholes used by wealthy individuals to pay less tax than the rest of us, the Liberals do occasionally fight the good fight.

At the Ontario level, only Kathleen Wynne has pursued an unabashed progressive agenda in government, including proposing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to provide free university tuition for more students.   This while NDP leader Andrea Horwath sits on the sidelines fighting for the ability of folks to burn more fossil fuels without restraint. I really don't like the choices Horwath has made as leader, which has led to some residual resentment against Jagmeet Singh, at least perhaps undeserved. 

While Labour is the sole credible choice in Britain for beating Conservatives, and the Democrats remain the only true option to stop Republicans in the U.S., our choices as progressives in Canada remain more complicated, depending on where you live.

The federal NDP had second place firmly in its possession from 2011 to 2015, yet it slipped away because Tom Mulcair played it too pragmatic and safe.  Ironically, the Liberals outflanked the NDP on the left with their 2015 platform and the rest is history.

Yet that history also makes clear that progressive Canadian politics is fluid and that, given the right circumstances, the fortunes of our two progressive parties could switch again.  Perhaps Justin Trudeau will get into a major scandal and cause his party to collapse again.   Part of me does long for a more consistently progressive governing option instead of the Liberals, one that routinely takes the side of ordinary folks in the face of an ever-powerful conservative/business elite that has the worst plans for working people in their sights (beware mass automation of the economy.)

That's why it's important to see what path the NDP takes this year in its leadership race.

On the far left, we have the somewhat unconvincing Niki Ashton, who claims to be the champion of a social justice movement.  I haven't bought it; you can't just stick a "movement" label on your campaign and have it magically be a movement.  Still I applaud her tenacity and her drive.  Were she to win, she'd be a new mother at the same time.  It would make a great story.    

Generally charming and intelligent, Guy Caron, has also annoyed me with his deference to the xenophobia of Quebec.  Should Quebecers feel the need to use the power of government law to destroy the basic human rights of minorities just to feel more secure in their secular mainstream culture, I want my federal leaders to stick up for all human beings.   Special message to Quebecers and everyone else: if your culture can only survive by purposefully suppressing the rights of other peoples, your culture isn't worth saving. 

Is it possible always in politics to be 100% pure?  100% consistent, never wavering from one's ideology in the face of new complicated realities?  I don't think so.  I've never thought so.  That's why I became a Liberal, because I understood that while we generally must tack progressive left, on occasion, a bit of conservative common sense makes sense.

The most important things in politics: authenticity and clarity.

Progressives who come across as phony and inconsistent will lose to conservatives who appear genuine and authentic.  Every time.  Despite what elitist snobs sometimes think, the public is generally smart and can see through liars and frauds.  They are more than capable in our mature democracies to sift through the nonsense and make decent choices considering their priorities and who they feel has their backs.

If progressives can prove to the working public that we are the real deal - that we will actually implement policies that will help, not hurt them - and we communicate a vision and a plan that the public understands, victory will be ours more than not.

Charlie Angus has run an incredible and inspiring campaign.  I've toyed seriously for most of the campaign with supporting him.   He is super clear when it comes to his vision and the value he'd add to Canadian politics were he the NDP Leader.   He's walked the walk and talked the talk.  He's passionate.  As leader, he'd try to drive important issues too long on the back burner like Aboriginal rights.

His only problems: he can't really speak French well and he seems to have the inability to develop colour on his face either tanning or burning.  He has this dead looking complexion.  At 54, he doesn't represent the next generation, at least superficially.  But he's passionate and a firebrand, he'd connect easily with average Canadians.

Jagmeet Singh is a sensation who's lit his community on fire, politically speaking.  He also walks the walk and talks the talk.  He talks like a surfer dude and is charming, compassionate, and super-smart.  In many ways, his rise to national leader, the first of a non-white person to such an achievement, would be an incredible story.  He can probably more easily reach new voters the NDP needs to win if it's ever going to break through, especially in Ontario.

One note of criticism of Singh: For a man who claims to be all inclusive now in his leadership campaign, it didn't quite seem that way a few years ago when Ontario was updating its public school curriculum, including its sex-education curriculum.  Homophobic parents were spreading misinformation about the changes in many communities, often times in various languages targeting Toronto suburbs including Singh's territory of Bramalea-Gore-Malton.   Despite the fact the new curriculum finally acknowledged the existence of LGBT people and went through a thorough consultation as per any curriculum update, Singh told a local Sikh audience the Liberals were to blame for the controversy surrounding it for not communicating the changes clearly enough to various communities in various languages.  The Liberals of course had spent a lot of money communicating the facts of the curriculum update including in multiple languages.  It was a partisan swipe from Singh, the kind of which most opposition politicians make from time to time against governments.   While I do believe Singh when he says he's in favour of equality for all people including sexual minorities, I just wish he had shown more leadership in supporting the changes instead of just blasting the government. 

Overall, I can't blame Singh for Horwath's flaws.  And he's leaving her team, after all.

My prediction: New Democrats are going to put Singh over the top easily in this leadership race.  I love Charlie dearly.  But sadly it's not going to work out for him.  Caron and Ashton will trail far behind.  Not sure if Singh has the numbers to pull off a first ballot win, but it's possible.   We'll see how it goes next month.

With Singh as leader, they'll struggle in Quebec in the short term, but I think Quebecers will be listening to hear what he has to say.  He'll also be listened to by Canadians right across the country.   I think he's going to impress.

I'm totally looking forward to it.  Somehow I think Singh could possibly go the whole way if he's lucky and Trudeau and the Liberals self-destruct one day.   Anything can happen.  With a relatively underwhelming Conservative leader in Andrew Scheer, Singh's brilliance will shine all the more brightly. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

U.K.'s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers...

U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Just a quick note about yesterday's election in Great Britain.

Called by Prime Minister Theresa May to grab a huge majority, she instead found herself and her Tory party reduced to a minority government.

Why?  Her arrogant campaign inspired few, it seems.   Polls showed her party started the campaign in April 20 points ahead of Labour.  She ended up barely two points ahead last night, and now her leadership has been badly damaged.  It's unlikely she'll lead the Tories into another campaign, I predict.    

But the main reason why: Jeremy Corbyn's highly effective campaign.   Where May's Tory campaign bored Britons, Corbyn's campaign to govern "for the many, not the few," resonated.   His longtime activism and obvious integrity connected with Britons looking for major change.   Although he didn't win outright, he emerges from this campaign stronger than ever.

Corbyn's campaign was the latest example of a left-leaning leader inspiring the public with an unabashed progressive agenda designed to help the working and middle classes in these trying economic times.  

This follows similar success in British Columbia where the provincial NDP ran a similar campaign and reduced the governing conservatives there to a minority government and now seem poised to form a NDP minority government with the support of the Green Party.

This article by Owen Jones in the Guardian nicely sums up the state of affairs for the left: 

"This was about millions inspired by a radical manifesto that promised to transform Britain, to attack injustices, and challenge the vested interests holding the country back. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. People believe the booming well-off should pay more, that we should invest that money in schools, hospitals, houses, police and public services, that all in work should have a genuine living wage, that young people should not be saddled with debt for aspiring to an education, that our utilities should be under the control of the people of this country. For years, many of us have argued that these policies – shunned, reviled even in the political and media elite – had the genuine support of millions. And today that argument was decisively vindicated and settled."

Bernie Sanders was clearly on to something with his campaign in the U.S. last year.  It's too bad Democrats didn't embrace him.   I'm now of the opinion it's highly likely he would've prevailed against the insidious Donald Trump had Democrats not picked the flawed Hilary Clinton to lead their presidential ticket.  

There are some major lessons here for progressives that need to be absorbed.  Serving elites and insiders against the interests of ordinary people will get you defeated and your party destroyed.  Justin Trudeau better take note.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Victorious thanks to social conservative lemmings, Andrew Scheer has zero appeal to Canada's progressive majority

New Conservative leader Andrew Scheer
While following the now-finished Conservative leadership race, I always felt supremely irritated when listening to Andrew Scheer speak.  The same kind of irritation that hits when being forced to listen to youngish know-it-alls who are just spinning their bullshit ideology as common sense fact.

So sadly, I'm going to probably feel a lot more irritated in the years to come now that Scheer has narrowly won the federal Conservative leadership.    And not just because his face reminds me of someone who could've starred in the 1984 Stephen King horror film "Children of the Corn." 
Stephen King's 1984 horror "Children of the Corn"

I have a confession to make: as a pragmatic democrat, I decided to actually join the Conservative Party as a member to vote in this race.  I had been extremely concerned about the chances of a Trump-style idiot like Kellie Leitch or Kevin O'Leary taking over one of Canada's main parties that I decided to put my money where my mouth is.

However, the exercise proved ineffectual in determining the outcome as my choices were, in order: Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Erin O'Toole and Deepak Obhrai.   That support for Chong hung in until the 10th ballot, after which it swung behind O'Toole.   I had toyed with possibly picking Maxime Bernier as my fifth pick, but his policies on health care and the CBC were simply unacceptable to me.  So any influence I had on the final result evaporated for the final count which put Scheer over the top (not that my one vote would've changed the outcome.)  If any social conservatives get wind of my actions, I'm sure that last fact will be comforting to them. 

The support for the two social conservative nobodies on the Conservative leadership ballot - Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost and former MP Pierre Lemieux (who lost his seat in 2015, begging the question why would someone who can't win their own seat be considered a decent leader for the party) - was disturbing, if not surprising.

Trost was a joke of a candidate whose only major contribution to the debate was to emphasize how much he hates gay people.  That seemed enough to garner him almost 15% of the entire Conservative membership on the 11th ballot, putting him far ahead of other leadership candidates who actually brought some leadership ability to the table.

That reminded me of the disgusting rise of Ontario MPP Sam Oosterhoff, who, despite being 19, home-schooled, with almost zero adult life experience, decided he was MPP material and signed up hundreds of fanatics from his local fundamentalist church in Niagara region to support him.   That was enough for Oosterhoff to push aside seasoned veterans for his local nomination and elect him MPP in a safe Tory seat.

It seems that the only qualification that matters to these social conservatives is shared hatred of gay people, among other issues that continue to drive a wedge between them and the vast majority of Canadians.   Only in the Conservative Party do these folks have influence, demonstrating how truly out of touch the Conservative Party is from the rest of the country.

“Frankly, looks like my voters were part of [what] put [Scheer] over the top,” said Conservative MP Brad Trost.

“Me and Pierre Lemieux had about 15 per cent of [the points] on the first ballot. That’s the hard core social conservative [vote], and they cut disproportionately to Mr. Scheer. Had they even split 50-50, he would not be the leader today. So, that tells you pretty much how this thing went down.”

Scheer is also a social conservative, but more in the Stephen Harper mold of being a politician willing to flirt with other social conservatives but never actually implement their extreme agenda into government policy.  In that sense, I don't fear Scheer re-opening old social issues.  But nevertheless, I find little comfort in a politician who hates my guts just because I'm gay and wants to deny me full citizenship in my own country, but simply won't because he's afraid of the political consequences.

That's why I disliked Harper so much and why I dislike his successor too.  Scheer is very much just a smiling, younger version of his predecessor.   Nothing else is changed: he still sounds arrogant discussing Harper's so-called "principled" foreign policy, such as unconditional support for every single thing the Israeli army does to Palestinians.

Special memo to Scheer (which I'm sure he'll completely ignore): the progressive, Canadian position supporting justice for all, including Israelis and Palestinians, is actually more principled than your ideology.

Let's face it: Christian fundamentalists like Harper only supported Israel simply due to their religious beliefs that Israel must remain in Jewish hands until the Rapture finally happens (at which point, all Israelis will drop dead and shuffle off to the Christian hell while true Christian believers ascend into their glorious Heaven.)  Or something like that.  
 
This compromise winner who only garnered 50.95% support on the 13th ballot to clinch victory I suspect will have a very difficult time beating Justin Trudeau in 2019.   Especially if he starts throwing little bones to his social conservative base in the party as thanks for putting him over the top.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

BC election proves unabashed left-wing messages can win wide voter support

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan on election night
I wrote last weekend about how the progressive/socialist left needed to start winning elections in order to prove they (and not wishy washy centrists) should be leading the charge against conservative opponents. 

After so many disastrous electoral battles which saw left-wing candidates trounced by conservatives posing as the "safer" option, particularly when it comes to managing the economy, I had my doubts about the electability of leaders like Bernie Sanders.   Hence, why I and many other moderate progressives felt more comfortable backing Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination last year or Justin Trudeau for Prime Minister in 2015.   

But Clinton's defeat including her inability to win over angry, middle-class white voters in rust belt states gave credence to Bernie Sanders' message: progressives need to do a better job at connecting with working class peoples' lives and shed the stench of elitism that has taken over too many party establishments.

We'll never know if Sanders might've been able to win over those votes Clinton lost to Trump.

But Sanders' message and progressive or, dare I say it, socialist policies designed to diminish the gap between the rich and poor, not ignore or widen it, and help out the working and middle classes instead of governing just for the top 1%, may have much wider appeal.   

The British Columbia New Democrats under leader John Horgan just this week did something that party has failed to do in 16 years: connect with voters and almost topple the conservative B.C. Liberals.   At the same time, the B.C. Greens also pushed policies of fairness, equity, and democratic reform, including removing the stench of big money from politics.   Together, both parties increased their support in B.C. from a combined 48% in 2013 to a combined 57% this week and now they hold the majority of seats between them, barring recounts in the very tight election.

Despite B.C.'s buoyant economy and Premier Christy Clark's message not to shake the boat, B.C. voters did some major shaking.

So while the NDP didn't take it over the top, they made big gains and may indeed find themselves in government there soon as I'm sure Horgan will continue to push his message that province needs a government more in tune with ordinary people's needs.   This is instructive for progressives going forward.

The B.C. result followed the massive victory in France last weekend of centrist reformer Emmanuel Macron over right-wing racist Marie Le Pen.  Yes, centrists have long proven their ability to beat conservatives.

But now the B.C. NDP and Greens have taught us that unabashed left-wing platforms can also win wide support and topple nasty, elitist, out-of-touch conservatives, or at least reduce their power too.

If Jeremy Corbyn manages somehow to turn things around for his Labour Party in the U.K. ahead the June 8th election, it'll redefine what's possible for progressive, left-wing parties the world over.   I'll be watching very closely. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Far left progressives need to put up or shut up when it comes to beating Conservatives in key electoral tests

French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron
Last year, we heard often from Bernie Sanders supporters and other sympathizers that the Democratic Party had forgotten about their poor and progressive base.   Choosing Hillary Clinton, the great centrist, part of the family machine that first defeated conservatives after a long period of dominance under Reagan/Bush Sr, was said to be a mistake that alienated ordinary, angry white folks who then turned to Donald Trump.

Far left progressives or socialist types have long lectured pragmatists who've learned to put some water in their progressive wines about the alleged errors of their ways.  They've often chastised such pragmatists for accommodating or cozying up to business interests and resembling some of their establishment conservative opponents.   We know there were many far left activists who saw no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Now, of course, the U.S. and the world are suffering greatly because of those real differences. 

I agree that the partisan establishments of centrist parties like the Liberal Party in Canada, or the Democratic Party in the U.S., or even mainstream New Labour types in the U.K., are largely distasteful to most ordinary progressives.  I worked in politics - I know how sleazy backroom politics can be.  Many in the left rightfully yearn for progressive political leaders who are rebels, who can rescue us and rid societies of longstanding economic and cultural injustices.  The list of injustices sadly runs long.  Such progressive folks rightly suspect the establishment which has largely taken over the Liberal and Conservative parties will never on its own relinquish its power over them.  So the program and populist message of Bernie Sanders resonates.  But it's never been tested, at least not recently, in the current context which is seeing right-wing populism, or outright racism enjoying a renaissance.

We know that centrists can beat conservatives.  Justin Trudeau is the latest example of a moderate progressive who could beat conservatives.  Ironically, he bested Tom Mulcair and the federal NDP by veering far left, as Mulcair moderated himself into a typical centrist and blew the 2015 election.

Is it easier for a centrist Liberal to win by veering left and beat conservatives?  Or for a Socialist to win by veering to the centre?  Who can do that with greater credibility?  Who's had more success?

The British Labour party has rarely beaten the U.K. Conservatives over the decades and looks right now to be facing another massive defeat under leader Jeremy Corbyn, the hero of the Far Left if there ever was one.  After two years of lacklustre press, Corbyn is unleashing some passion in this campaign.  He's a firebrand socialist with obvious convictions promising to shake things up.   If Bernie Sanders was truly on to something with his populist message of reaching out to disaffected white people, then Jeremy Corbyn should win the U.K. election for Labour.   But so far, Theresa May's Conservatives seem to be far ahead in the polls.  The U.K. votes June 8.  

British Columbia also votes on May 9th in a provincial election which pits the 16-year reign of the B.C. Liberals, which are essentially a conservative/blue Liberal coalition, against the NDP under John Horgan, their main challenger.  Horgan has been channeling Bernie Sanders too with arguments that the incumbents are in bed with their big donors and the top 1%.  He's calling for political finance reform.  He wants the B.C. government to do more to make housing more affordable.  He's promising to implement a stronger plan to fight climate change. 

Meanwhile, the B.C. Greens are also attracting a lot of support in this race, polling around 20% in several polls.   It remains to be seen how many seats that vote gains.  Many think the Greens are taking votes equally from both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP.   Some voters tired of Christy Clark's Liberals who aren't willing to vote NDP might choose the Green option this time, putting all kinds of seats in play.

By any standard, after 16 years, the BC Liberals probably need a time out.  I'd like to see the NDP win this one and put in place a government in B.C. more in tune with ordinary people's needs.   Horgan has come across this election as a passionate, hard-working guy many would like to have on their side in government, a welcome relief after Christy Clark.  In some ways, this is another big test for a Bernie Sanders type at beating down a conservative foe. 

France votes even sooner this Sunday with a presidential run-off between far right fascist Marie Le Pen and centrist progressive Emmanuel Macron, a globalist who wants to cut taxes on business and individuals.  But he's had a difficult time getting some far left types to back him to stop Le Pen.

Those far lefties need to kick themselves and vote against the one candidate who can stop their country from dissolving into a racist hell hole a la Trump.  I agree with this Guardian writer that Macron is the person they should support this weekend.

So we have three major electoral tests coming up: one with a French centrist facing down a hard right conservative opponent, and two with a socialist party - the NDP in BC and Labour in the U.K. - as the main opponents to conservative incumbents. 

If the far left is to have any traction in leading the fight against conservatives, it has to start winning.   If the BC NDP get swept back into opposition, or Jeremy Corbyn's passionate defense of his policy agenda leads to a historic defeat by the Conservatives, while Macron wins, it'll be clear to me that the Bernie Sanders solution was not much of one at all.  

This won't mean that centrist pragmatists need to do nothing to win back the support of progressives who rightly want major policy changes, especially when it comes to dealing with economic inequality, and demand their leaders and progressive parties to do a better job helping average people.   Centrist leaders and parties most certainly need to do a better job of that as failing to do so is giving rise to dangerous right-wing populism. 

But more defeats for far left heroes will mean that pragmatic, moderate progressives are far more successful against conservative opponents and actually implementing any kind of moderately progressive agenda. 

You can't always get exactly what you want when you want it, but as long as progress is being made toward it, rather than regression under conservatives, isn't it a better option?   In my opinion, yes.   I'd rather live under a moderate liberal doing some good things rather than some conservative fascist. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Anti-gay horrors in Chechnya need to be investigated and stopped!

Putra Kurniawan/EyeEm/Getty Images
After various reports in minor media outlets or websites about this story, the Guardian has finally published about it.   Still, questions remain:

Just what is going on in Chechnya?  Are Chechen authorities "rounding up" gay or gay-suspected men and putting them in concentration camps to face violence and even death?  

As the Guardian reports: "Journalists at the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the story, say they have incontrovertible evidence that at least three gay men have been killed since the operation started, and believe the full death toll could be much higher. Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic, and there are fears that some gay men may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities." 

Of course, the despicable crew of folks running Chechnya and Russia deny the reports, claiming no gay people exist in Chechnya.

I hope more international media pick up this story and find out the truth. 

I'd also really like to know what my national government is doing to stop this outrageous treatment.  No doubt, our federal government is not particularly friendly with Russia these days, so I hope they are taking action to try to stop this.  

I've signed an Amnesty International petition.   I urge everyone to do the same. 

Let's not let this story disappear like so many other atrocities being experienced in our world have been.

********UPDATE********

Glad to see Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, speak out yesterday against the anti-gay violence in Chechnya. 

Here's another petition from OutRight definitely worth signing.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trudeau Liberals keep major promise by introducing marijuana legalization bill

Thursday was a good day for Canada.   The legalization of a banned substance far more innocuous than dozens if not hundreds of other fully legal substances or activities has now been proposed in federal legislation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a major step to keep one of his signature promises, which is good because he's broken too many of them already.   Had this one been abandoned like electoral reform, it might've caused a complete collapse in his support among cool progressives who voted Liberal in 2015, who'd probably no longer care much if Trudeau beats out the next Conservative leader in 2019 (as there'd clearly be little difference between them.)

Now New Democrats won't be happy because those cool lefties will not be pissed at the Grits.

Conservatives won't like legalizing pot, but conservatives don't tend to like the good things in life much at all, so who cares?

The pathetic caution and unease of certain commentators I'm seeing today is definitely annoying.  The media largely continues to err on the side of hysteria, producing alarmist "news" reports on today's legislation that often quote unproven "facts" about the use of marijuana, proving how out of touch they are with the public. 

There are some fundamental truths that make this legalization move the best way forward: organized crime, which has benefited for decades from the ban, will lose massive profits when the underground pot market shrinks to near nothing.  Profits from other drugs that remain illegal will be considerably smaller as other drugs will never be as popular as marijuana.  Plus, a regulated regime will ensure that legal pot growers and sellers on the market become accountable.   Those who have embraced pot but don't grow their own will now be able to know and understand what's in their pot, how it was grown, unlike today where thousands of users simply don't know.   This move today is a win for public health.  

Will this legalization lead to an increase in use?   No.   I can say that with confidence as I truly believe, as all should believe if they're honest, that most human beings are always attracted to that which is "banned" or "taboo" by greater society.   Ban something, you increase curiosity about it.  Legalize it and put it in boring, brand-free packaging, and make it as commonplace as beer, you take away one of its greatest appeals.  Those who like pot will use it legally, the majority of Canadians who don't like pot will continue not to use it (but will at least benefit from the tax dollars raised from the legal sale of it.) 

Years from now, we'll laugh about how silly it was that marijuana was illegal for so many decades.   It's a shameful legacy based on lies and bullshit thinking.   I'm glad we have a government that knows that and is finally prepared to do something about it.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

History made as 'Moonlight' becomes first LGBT-themed film to win Best Picture Oscar

What a beautiful shocker!

I'm thrilled this morning after last night's win by Moonlight as the surprise Best Picture winner at the Oscars, which is now the first LGBT-themed film to take the top prize ever!

It's also the first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture at the Oscars!  Bravo! 

After previous disappointments, especially Brokeback Mountain's sad loss to a far lesser film in 2005, one might have assumed a queer movie would never earn the consensus of a body of voters known for their traditional choices and love of grandiose epics.  But last night that changed as the best film of 2016 prevailed, as far as I'm concerned.

We can also probably thank the Academy's preferential balloting system which allows the film with the most widespread support in the Best Picture category to rise to the top with subsequent ballot counts over polarizing or flawed front runners.   It happened last year when Spotlight beat out The Revenant.   And it happened last night too. 

It's also wonderful that this win is shared both by people of colour and queer people together.  That was the magic of Moonlight as it presented African-American characters that are marginalized in our society, including the LGBT community itself, and made their struggles and loves universal.   This is exactly what the world needed at this moment of increasing and alarming hatred and ignorance. 

I'll soon buy a copy of this classic film.  Maybe I'll even go see it again in the theatre to celebrate.  If you haven't enjoyed the poetic beauty of Moonlight, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My short film "Tri-Curious" reaches over 50,000 views on YouTube!



I've mentioned before my side gig as a filmmaker. I finally decided to make my own film as director in 2015 and recruited some talented friends and artists in Toronto to make Tri-Curious, a short film that explores the awkward and anxious moments between a couple about to embark on their first threesome together.

The whole conflict between between traditional, strict monogamy versus more open-minded, experimental relationships intrigues me greatly.

I tried to embed a bit of that conflict in this film with this couple, along with some humour.  It was my first film as director (as well as full-fledged producer, writer and editor.)  I learned much from the experience and I look forward to making many more films.

Tri-Curious played in a handful of film festivals in 2016 and early 2017.  It also got picked up by U.S.-based, LGBT-focused streaming service Dekkoo.

But it was always my plan to put it on YouTube for the wider world to see it for free.   I posted it on January 30th and I'm proud to say that it's garnered over 50,000 views since then, and counting. 

Please check it out and let me know your thoughts, either here or on the YouTube page itself.   I hope you enjoy it!

And remember: if you want to get into movies as an artist, learn the craft and start making them yourself!   

Friday, January 27, 2017

Screw the police after this week's abysmal behaviour



I've tried to be a moderate person in my writings here and elsewhere, trying to respect both progressive and conservative sides of the political divide, while staying true to my own liberal values.  Perhaps some have thought that makes me wishy-washy or a little too compromising.

But lately, especially since the grotesque election of Donald Trump, which followed my choice to endorse Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders (not that that matters too much as I'm Canadian), I've been re-thinking my whole "centrist" schtick.  I want to stop compromising with those on the conservative side who show zero or little respect for those of us on the left.  It's time to stand up for what I believe in again.  If that offends easily offended conservatives, too bad.

Previously, I criticized the decision by the vast majority of (mostly Caucasian) members at the recent Toronto Pride annual general meeting to put the issue of Black Lives Matters onto the agenda without notice and pass a resolution endorsing all of their demands made last year during the Pride parade.

I want to take that back.  In discussions, it's been pretty clear that members did have the right to amend the agenda and overrule the chair of the meeting to do so.  So the vote was valid.

Furthermore, I can no longer take the side of the cops.   The incident captured in the widely seen video above was perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  That comment from the ignorant and sadly representative male cop, threatening the videographer with AIDS from "spit" from the arrested person, was simply disgusting.  

That cop reminded me of virtually every under-40 male police officer I've encountered in recent years in Toronto: bullying, drunk on his own power, happy to lie to get his way.  And that's just been my personal experience as a relatively innocent looking white man (usually on a bicycle, which might explain the disdain with which I've always been treated by police in Toronto.)

But of course my experiences are nothing compared to my fellow queer people of colour community members, who've experienced harassment and intimidation from the police for years.   A couple of decades ago, white LGBT folks consistently received the same kind of mistreatment.  Even today, the police are still targeting gay folks where they suspect the heterosexual majority don't approve of their behaviour, like recently in an Etobicoke park

Now the police and their supporters are outraged that Pride members would vote to ban police from future Prides?  Screw them.

I don't believe for a moment that Toronto Police have seriously tried to change the culture of their force.  If anything, the culture has become more brutal and bullying in recent years in terms of how cops treat ordinary members of the public.  All the P.R. talk from Toronto Police about "teaching moments" and implementing sensitivity courses are simply bullshit.   

In my opinion, the entire force, especially the under 40 male cops, seem to believe they are above the law like a bunch of storm troopers.  It's time they face consequences for that.  

We are living in a time in which the top cop in the U.S., James Comey, literally intervened in the recent presidential election at the last minute to try to sway the vote in favour of the grotesque conservative, Donald Trump, and Comey got away with it.  The time to stand up to police power is now.  

I support shutting the police out of Pride.  Perhaps we could make the ban on police last for 5 or 10 years.  After that, the community can decide if the police really have changed and can be welcomed back into Pride.   If not, the ban should continue.  

We'll call this the latest "teaching moment" for the police.  Clearly, nothing else has worked to change them.  

The LGBT community must put all of its members first, including its many people of colour.