Tag Archives: Party system

Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP agree: criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic

Image description: A crowd at a protest. People hold signs reading "Boycott Israel BDS", "Free Palestine", and "Free Palestine - Let Gaza Live!" (Image credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Image description: A crowd at a protest. People hold signs reading “Boycott Israel BDS”, “Free Palestine”, and “Free Palestine – Let Gaza Live!” (Image credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Yesterday’s vote in Parliament on a resolution formally condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement once again highlighted a massive shortcoming of the Canadian party system: on the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, as on many critical issues, Canadians have no meaningful representation in Parliament. And it’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that that’s a feature, not a bug, of the system.

The Conservative Party, of course, is continuing in its steadfast and unrestrained embrace of right-wing Israeli politics, in the tradition of their former Dear Leader Stephen Harper, who in a 2014 speech to the Israeli Knesset had some strong words about the BDS movement: Continue Reading

Jacob Kearey-Moreland on food justice, party politics, and strategic voting

Regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’ve been pretty disenchanted with the level of discourse spouted by most candidates in the ongoing federal election.

There’s an artificiality to the talking points and carefully calibrated messages rolled out by each of the major parties which is positively grating, regardless of how much I may agree or disagree with the policies that are being advocated.

And far too often, I’m left wondering why we’re spending so much time talking about such narrow issues that matter to so few people.

Which is why I’ve taken so much enjoyment in keeping tabs on the campaign of Jacob Kearey-Moreland, an unlikely Independent candidate in Simcoe North.

I first met Jacob at Occupy Toronto in 2011. (I can’t bring myself to follow the journalistic convention and refer to Jacob by his last name – he’s very much a first-name kind of guy. Even his election lawn signs say “Vote Jacob”!) I remember hearing him strumming his ukulele and singing a song about gardens, and going on to talk about his plans to create an organization called Occupy Gardens, which would take public gardens and use them to grow free food for their communities, and I remember being skeptical.

But sure enough, Occupy Gardens was a big success in the growing season of 2012. In 2013, I sat on the organizing committee for Toronto’s May Day rally, and so did Jacob, on behalf of Occupy Gardens. They were planning their most ambitious planting to date: a People’s Garden on the north lawn of Queen’s Park, just outside of the Ontario legislative building. It was, for me at least, the high point of that year’s May Day festivities. The planting was a rousing success; a large section of the lawn was dug up and several kinds of seeds were sowed. Jacob led everybody in a song with his then-omnipresent ukulele.

(For those curious about the fate of the project: The organization carefully tended the garden over the summer and fall. Then, just days before a long-planned and well-publicized harvest party, Parliamentary officers destroyed the garden and threw away the entire crop. It was hard to see their actions as anything but deliberately spiteful.)

Since I first met Jacob, he’s become a regular columnist for the Orillia Packet and Times, his hometown newspaper, on issues related to food justice and activism. Though our paths don’t often cross, I’ve found his online commentary on issues to be insightful and on-point.

I caught up with Jacob over the phone earlier this week to talk about his candidacy, and he did a lot to reinforce my positive perceptions of his candidacy when he started out our conversations by saying, “There’s a number of issues that aren’t really being talked about because these issues affect people who are unlikely to vote.” Continue Reading

“Fringe” parties and the Overton Window

This is the latest in an ongoing (and soon-to-be-concluded) weekly series on the question of voting and whether it’s worthwhile. You can read the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth entries if yer interested.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve looked at several reasons why voting is not a meaningful or useful activity most of the time. A lot of these reasons have boiled down to one of a few issues: namely, our dysfunctional party system and the strong influence of capital over our governments.

At the outset, I considered the fact that none of the parties likely to win this fall’s election intend to address the fundamental issues and injustices of our time, from climate change to systemic racism to imperial warmongering, and I posed the question, “Does it really matter who wins?” If all we’re going to get is different shades of bad (from not-completely-terrible orange to holy-hell-this-is-awful blue to a-kinder-gentler-but-not-meaningfully-differently-awful red), then what’s the purpose in engaging in the whole exercise?

From there, I explored the dynamics of lesser-evil-ism, and how strategic voting consistently plays to the interests of capital by helping to elect parties which are willing to sell out their principles for votes (and which demonstrate when in power that they’re also willing to sell out their principles for dollars). Continue Reading

The party system is undemocratic – here’s why

(This is the latest in an ongoing series on the question of whether voting is worthwhile. If you’re interested, here’s parts one, two, and three.)

Political parties are such a firmly entrenched part of our political system that it’s almost absurd to suggest, but I’ll suggest it – what the hell good do they do anyway?

Here’s the situation as it stands. Every four years or so, in your city or town or rural area, three or four wannabe politicians, having gained the approval of their party’s local riding association and (most importantly) of their party leader, swear absolute fealty to an incredibly detailed party platform and contend for your vote. If elected, they hew to that party line absolutely, speak when they’re told to (which is rarely), vote how they’re told to, espouse the views their leader tells them to hold, and occasionally come back to your city/town/rural area and get their picture in the paper saying that they’re standing up for your interests in Ottawa.

And that’s true regardless of the party they represent.

The majority of MPs are irrelevant to the process of governing this country. The government needs its MPs to show up for votes (and vote the way they’re told), but other than that, the majority of the caucus may as well be composed of mannequins:

W.S. Gilbert put the present Canadian political reality succinctly; “I always voted at my party’s call and I never thought of thinking for myself at all”. Canadian members of Parliament are essentially passive observers in the formulation and administration of most national policy. Indeed, Sean Moore, editor of the Ottawa lobbyist magazine, The Lobby Digest, told a committee of MPs in early 1993 that they are rarely lobbied by the almost 3,000 reported lobbyists in the capital because “elected officials play a very minor role in governing”.

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