Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth May’


The Constitution Act 1982 does not speak of political parties, what it does promise is that at each level of governance Canadians are guaranteed peace, order and good governance. In fact it has been a transformational journey of our young Westminster Parliament compared to others, but we can still learn a lot from the “Mother” parliament of the UK, and other styled parliaments within the Commonwealth.

Australia Broadcasting Corporation poked fun at their system in the Fifth and Final season of Rake, that saw Cleaver Greene as a senator, and a rapid succession of Prime Ministers as the party caucus members that controlled kept cycling through to find the one that “worked”.

Canada has been seen as one of the most “party” controlled parliaments, in fact, more likely, Leader and their circle controlled. Now you can rebut and say party members elect the leader, yes, but after that what happens? What if the person in the House or Legislature is not up to the job? Do elected members have an ability to make a good change? How is the first minister chosen? We have defaulted to the leader of the party with the most seats.

Image result for turning parliament inside outAre there ideas for changing things? A multi-party work came out in 2017 that shone some lights on change: Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy (Douglas & McIntyre); editors: Michael Chong, Scott Simms and Kennedy Stewart. The book was forwarded by Bob Rae, Ed Broadbent and Preston Manning. It has submissions from Members of Parliament across party lines (including Elizabeth May). For most politico it is nothing astonishing, it is a solid collection of 8 ways to give power back to elected representatives and decentralize from the leaders (and by extension PMO in governance) office. The eight essays are easy to follow, well laid out, and easy to discuss for those involved in the systems of politics and those not.

For EDA’s; and parties I would encourage reading and discussion groups on the topics. For the non-partisan, get a few friends together to read and discuss the ideas. Even better is that it can be used as a starting point for discussions on what reforms (minor to major) that need to happen.

Such things as the “official party” seat number is just a function, not a rule. How are questions taken/answered in question period? How to get more people involved as candidates? And the list can go on.

What are your thoughts on Parliamentary/Legislature reform?

What steps can happen at the local level?

What can happen within parties?

The conversation of change that threatens power can be a scary one. Mostly because it comes down to the reality that moving forward there will be those accessing power, you were not allowed access to in the same moments of your journey. Yet for constitutional health of our nation, it is a conversation that leads to action that needs to happen.

And it simply begins with talking over a cup of coffee…like so many political movements that shaped our nation and world….

One cup. One conversation.

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We enter a social contract in Canada when we become citizens through whatever channel that takes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s it was dubbed the “Just Society”. But the rules are simply outlined in our Constitution Act 1982, Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and Canadian Laws. Over the past two decades the party’s that have formed Government have been bending and breaking the simplest of social contracts by not preparing for the lean times or the times of medical need. They have prepped our social safety net for health, not for what they are designed for. A prime example of this is Employment Insurance (renamed from Unemployment Insurance during Chretien’s tenure as PM). During the latest economic downturn Canadians have been hard pressed to access in a timely manner, thus driving up debt loads and creating a burden of poverty cycles upon citizens who wait or are denied that which they have paid into for their working life. These payments were for us in need, and our fellow citizens—our end of the social contract with the other end being from the government for prompt pay out when necessitated.

Part of this EI process is the medical portion, for a short 15-week duration so workers do not have to fear losing everything while this percentage of income comes in to cover costs of living while medical teams figure out what next steps are. This unfortunately has not been being dispensed promptly. I have waited 15 weeks for a 15-week payment program on a medical claim that has not been answered by EI yet, I have not been able to get through the call banks (which we know 70% of calls go unanswered). Below is excerpts from an e-mail communication I sent to the Members of Parliament listed, with Hon. Duclos being the minister over EI, and Hon. Hehr being the minister over disabilities. I encourage each person who has had an unanswered EI or EI Medical claim that has gone unanswered and is providing hardship to contact these ministers and your local MP to get answers and the support our social contact is to provide.

Please Note: This is not an ideological pissing match—both federal parties that have formed governments over the last 20 years have left EI ill equipped to fulfill its obligations to the citizen. This is about renewing the contract, and the other signee-the Government, respecting their end and ensuring the contract does not remain broken.

(once I have received my EI Medical there will be an update on lapsed time so others who need to apply can try to secure credit debt accordingly).

I also want to acknowledge being brain fog, stabbing pain into brain and undiagnosed seizure disordered subsided enough today for this communication-but how I paid after dinner for it (excerpts of e-mail sent January 16, 2018 to government):

_____________________

Dear Rt. Hon. Trudeau, Hon. Duclos, Hon. Hehr, Hon. Obhrai, and Hon. Angus:

October 2, 2017. That was 15 weeks ago when my employer filed for EI Medical coverage for me as I had to leave work due to stress induced unknown seizure disorder (40 noticeable events a day—that is someone else saw it happen to me) that was triggering neurological, physiological and post-traumatic stress disorder symptomology. It is only a 15-week program, so that is 15 weeks without income into my household. I am happily partnered with my wife who has health challenges; our two children (my daughter is termed “typically developing” and my son is blessed to experience life with tri-spastic cerebral palsy, legally blind, epileptic, and ADD with a global delay). We elected as a family to have one parent remain at home to aid with our son’s appointments and specialists, so yes, my wife is a stay-at-home Mum. But it was not my family’s personal stressors that brought me to need EI Medical (or even EI for the first time in my working life).

I serve in the non-profit sector attempting to eliminate homelessness within our great nation, have worked hard my entire life in peace, human rights, and poverty reduction—which has included work within dementia wards, youth outreaches, addictions/recovery, child sex trade (now called human trafficking) elimination on the front lines, emergency shelters, life and vocational skill coaching for persons with disabilities, and community and housing first housing programs. I have also taught post-secondary students from diploma through post-doctorate work and have mentored many a practicum student… I made a conscious choice to be on the frontlines in the working class to make change for those that fall between the cracks of our society….

How and why EI will not pay out what is owed? And they are unreachable (thanks to the CBC we know that 70% of calls go unanswered) …I await a prompt and positive resolution to my filing for EI Medical 15 weeks ago with the full back pay swiftly.

 


I know most people “review” books, but Tom McMillan‘s (2016, Nimbus) Not My Party: The Rise and Fall of Canadian Tories from Robert Standfield to Stephen Harper is not one for review as much as deep reflection on the course Canadian Politics has gone down. It could easily become a “partisan attack” work, by some in other parties, but they would miss the point of collective and personal self-reflection within their own context this can be used for.

The book itself at around 553 pages before foot notes is an investment, but a worthwhile investment that traces the author’s political career from the Standfield-Symons era up to the merger. He touches on service as an MP, Cabinet minister, consul to Boston, thinker…and whether or no he would accept it I believe an elder political statesman in Canada (much like Mulroney, Chretien, Martin, Broadbent, Clark and Manning amongst others are as well).

The intriguing piece for reflection though is the transformation from collective nation building, bridge building of inclusion, and the dance of holding together a spectrum of beliefs under one tent, to the drive that has happened since 2003-04 to push out those “not like us” or the us and them show down within parties that has bread into our country.

Look back historically, when policy was actually not only well crafted and well thought out, but also could be used to build conversations and dialogues. Upon my own reflections of the past, our parties have always shared the same centre of policy for the collective good in our Just Society and social contract, with flare differences dependent on the source.  Yet that evaporated post merger, and some say it is only a conservative story of the loss of this enlightened-inclusive-collective good drive.

Yet look to your own ideology, what matters more? The ideology (party loyalty) or a good policy/law/practice?

This is the beauty of McMillan’s journey and sharing. The core question to emerge, are we in our wonderful mosaic and diversity truly unified under one banner as Canadian?

Historically this has always been the story, continual building on what has come before, and for the last 10 years that halted. It is time to get back on track, but to get back on track, it is embracing the conversation, embracing the research-qualitative, quantitative, anecdotal and pragmatic–

and more importantly surrendering of labels of this is conservative, liberal or socialist— the key question that needs to be asked by the citizens:

is it good for all Canadians?

Parties are currently seeking identity through renewal, new ways to get members, new policy and leader conventions at all levels. They are seeking candidates to run..if you are on nominating committees seek a candidate that may be a bit different than the homogenized norm, to get the progressive/thoughtful flare to percolate conversation in your ranks. If you are feeling called to run, perhaps it is time to start reading those you normally don’t agree with on ideology to begin to understand the other, is still someone you are called to represent and what that needs to look like?

In Canada, we have freedom of thought and expression, but it is curbed by a responsibility to hold the collective health in that we speak (do no harm)…it is a cornerstone in building towards peace, order and good governance.

This is the reflection that struck me as a former policy wonk/writer, candidate, volunteer and activist on the political hustings. Renewal is through understanding, accountability, and seeking best for ourselves and our neighbour…

For truly someone, including yourself, is someone’s neighbour.


A non-Western-centric view of the spread of Christianity shows the tree branching out from the roots in the Middle East (Judaism), into a trunk that is Orthodox, to branches of many different flavours (i.e. Coptic, Mormon, Jehovah Witness to name but a few), from the Roman Catholic branch breaks out Protestantism, and then subdivides from there (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and on we go, then those break down more into the more esoteric-metaphysics movements such as New Thought, Christian Science to the spiritual-aesthetic ala Unitarian-Universalist).

As well off R.C.’s comes the religious life.

That is the beginning of the tree of Christendom. Yet there is two prevalent branches that happened in the Western World that is a thrown into the mix as overarching branches, especially in the microcosm that is North America, and more specifically the Untied States of America and Canada, that has back benched some shaping of national identity: Prosperity and Social gospels.

Now these may look at first blush as new movements starting late 19th-early 20th century.  BUT they are not, they actually can be found in the very root system of the tree. A cursory contextual-anthropological reading of the Hebrew Bible books of Judges-Prophets shows both systems at play.

  • Prosperity Gospel- Those who are in tune with God, and are blessed will thrive and grow in riches.
  • Social Gospel- A community centered movement to care for all of God’s children (widow, orphans, aliens, etc.) in a just world.

What would usually happen is that the blessed nation would get off track in the social gospel end, embracing the prosperity above all, thus creating the cycle of deserving/undeserving of blessing, and a judge or prophet would interject to get them back on track. The wisdom books tried to show the cycles of life detached from this ideal of prosperity being blessed, with the best example being the use of the Satan character to challenge the devout Job to show that bad things happen to good people, and it is what happens in the midst and how the community responds that matters. Are we a Job or his friends that scatter?

It is this dichotomy that can be seen within the religious movements that have shaped social policy in both Canada and the USA.  The official writing of the social gospel came from a writer in New York named Rauschenbush.  In later 20th century in America the movement would latch onto the idea of Red Letter Christians, in Latin America it would become Liberation Theology, still other dubbed theology of the margins would also crop up that would fall into the broad category of Social Gospel.

The Religious Right though would take the strong road of prosperity, and one just needs to look at how the social system of the U.S.A. has been developed, and barriers created to see that outcome. Especially in the battle for something as simple as universal health care, and acceptance of refugees. It underlies the drive of the meta-story of America of coming in to independently achieve the American dream.

In Canada, the Social Gospel really took root in church basements sprouting out labour movements, suffragists, and tied strongly into socialism which brought about politically Progressive Party, Labour Party, eventually convalescing into the CCF federally whose ideas so shook the status quo that it forced the two major parties to shift their focus onto just society, and yes labour rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights and universal health care.  It underlies the Canadian story of working together in a mosaic to create a home for the world.  Highlighted by such stalwarts as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, William Aberhart, Pierre Trudeau, the Famous Five and many others who should be named openly…and I would say continues with many most notably, Elizabeth May.

An aside of experience, is during the rise of the social gospel movement, the movement created a “Christian Flag” to rally behind in protests showing the lie the oppressive forces of the day chasing prosperity no matter the human cost stating it was “Christian” and “ordained by God”. The movement shook the establishment and walked with all to craft a different story.

Years ago in Arizona I was witness to a very fundamentalist church saying a pledge to the Christian flag. It was driven as a pledge with the underlying beliefs that they were to out breed the other religions. It was said as a pledge to support shooting the illegals crossing the boarder as the Gospel of Christ proclaimed. The rallying cry was used for exclusion to ensure their own prosperity would continue. I almost did not get out alive pointing out the history of this artifact and what it was meant for, the fact I was an “ill-informed” Canadian in their mind is probably what saved my life.

That is a small story that shows what happens in the extremes of forgetting who our neighbour is and what it means to love our neighbour and ourselves as we love our God. A very linked triangle that shows all pieces need to be in place for healthy self and society from a faith perspective.

The question in the dichotomous and dogmatic world we live in is one right or wrong? That is dependent upon one’s point of view. Yet is it worth being prosperous, if it means leaving behind many in poverty and pain where they need to decide on simple matters like food/heat or rent? Setting a broken limb of a child or homelessness?

There is shift’s happening, and yes, the prosperity mind set is taking root in the world, but should it? What is the counter? What changes if all move forward healthy and prosperous? What if, as has become a movement in our schools we move from ME to WE not just locally, but hold to our roots and truly live it?

You see, this is the underlying narratives within our nations, though not founded on “Christian principles” as many want us to believe, the stories crafted the narratives of expectations of the people. Now we are in a time when the narratives have allowed hate in some circles to over shadow love in the pursuit of money…

So, what choice will you make for yourself, your family, your community?

If you state you are of faith, what will you choose, prosperity or social gospel?

Individualism or community good?

To end, it is a question asked by Rev. James Shaver Woodsworth, when he was the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission that was the open doors for the immigrants and refugees to populate the prairies. It shaped his view, his founding of the labour church, his stance against the money-making war machine, and eventually to surrendering his vocation. It is a simple question for you to answer:

Who is my Neighbour?


Regular followers of my writing will know the last free e-book I tossed up centered on reflections around the Good Samaritan parable from the Christian Gospels. The ethos of the story is simple, a question given to reflect on: Who is My Neighbour?

In the early 1900’s it led J.S. Woodsworth who was superintendent of the Winnipeg Shelter to reflect on this, as his shelter aided immigrant and refugee resettlement into the Canadian prairies. It was the question that led to decisions to march in the General Strike and go to jail.

Now it is time to raise this question as a nation again. For one drowned Syrian boy has sparked outrage in the world about the refugee crisis in Syria. In contemporary/modern western world fashion it is not about vision and answering the call of our shared humanity, it is about managing the spin, the “economic and political cost”; what is the numbers game we should play. In some circles it is creating the divisive debate of whose taxes will pay? It is about choosing between refugees and our current Canadians living in poverty and without homes of their own.

But what if this ancient story held a deeper truth for us in building our national and local communities. Who is my neighbour? Go and do likewise… Provide aid, provide shelter, provide H-O-M-E. Cross international borders, drop stereotypes, and see that at our core we are a shared humanity. Quit stating the issue as helping our own first, and then possibly the other later. It is not that type of issue, or that type of answer.

Help both, nay, help all in need to have a home, and an ability to grow into a new hope, a new community, because of a simple principle of love in this global family.

The question for us as politicians avoid our door steps, a try to duck questions at debates, are we willing to hold the candidates to account to a higher level of dialogue, a higher level of vision…how are they going to build a New Canada where we do not FEAR but WELCOME the strangers at our shores? Where the neighbour in our community is helped before they lose hope and home?

What is the Liberal? Green? NDP? Conservative? Add your own political colour of the rainbow true vision for building a nation that will leave the world in awe for its wonder, inclusion, kindness, empathy, love and beauty? As Tommy Douglas once said, “dream no little dreams” Let us raise the level of debate in our great nation from one of management to one of vision and accountability as citizens of our city, province, country and world.


Yup you read that right. Now I know we are Canadians, and as such like to keep our politics, like our religion, on the down low. But as we move towards the 2015 Federal Election I do want to encourage an informed vote, for which ever local candidate one decides to support.

Some key points to remember under the Constitution Act 1982:

1) We do not vote directly for the Prime Minister, if fact this is not even a constitutional role, basically it is perfunctionary in that the party that wins the most seats’ leader becomes the first minister.

2) Know the local candidate more than the brand, because it is the local candidate elected to represent your local communities and be your voice. Ask yourself if they would adhere to an old Reform Party principle, current Green party practice, that the constituents will overrides the parties ideology of votes in the House of Commons. That is that the MP’s are not whippable (when all MP’s are informed by the party how they are to vote).

3) The only vote that can truly be an automatic no confidence vote in the House and send us back to an election is on the budget, unless the vote is called to be a non-confidence vote.

4) Currently we have a law on the books for a fixed election date every four years, but under the Constitution the Majority party can call for an election with consent of the Governor General within 5 years of being elected, unless having lost the confidence of the House.

5) The Loyal Opposition is not there to oppose outright, they are there as sober second thought within the House of Commons before the bill goes to the Senate, to improve the laws for the people. As are all Opposition parties.

6) Our government is not a label of the majority party it is not “Conservative” or “Liberal” or “Green”; it is The Government of Canada, speaking for all Canadians, and our constitution guarantees that it is to be one of “Peace, Order and Good Governance under God”

7) Do not let Religious or Ideology Fundamentalists state that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is anti these things, for it was written in consultation with all aspects of Canadian Society.

Informed Community:

If we as a nation are supposed to expect our politicians to move beyond ideologies and work together for the greater good, we must hold them to a higher standard. We must be anti-attack ad, anti-cult of personality, we must challenge for a higher discourse, one of ideas, one of wisdom, one of true leadership at the community level. These are the discourses that built our nation under the Greatest Generation.

And where did these discourses happen? In family homes, community centres, church basements. Whether they were gathered around televisions, radios, books, or simply cups of tea/coffee. These are conversations that changed our world, crossing ideological boundaries.

This is the informed community we need to rebuild, and what I want to encourage Canadians to do in their own homes. Whether it is documentary night, or a book and brunch, or just coffee clatches. But the idea is to let go of our ideological groundings and to open up a simple discussion:

What is Canada to us?

Which candidate best represents that?

Some great reads to inform these discussions I would like to suggest (and please in the comments leave other ones and some documentaries or websites) are:

Think Big by Preston Manning (2003, McLelland & Stewart)

Who We Are by Elizabeth May (2014, Greystone Books)

The Longer I am Prime Minister by Paul Wells (2014, Random House)

How We Lead by Joe Clark (2014, Random House)

Hell or High Water by Paul Martin (2009, McLelland and Stewart)

The Right Balance by Hugh Segal (2011, D&M Publishers)

Speaking Out Louder by Jack Layton (2011, McLelland & Stewart)

I would also encourage reading any works by the abover writers as well as Pierre Trudeau, Lloyd Axworthy, Peter C. Newman, J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, Lawrence Martin, Andrew Cohen, Chantal Hubert, Romeo Dallaire, and Donald Savoie.


Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Dear concerned Canadian,

I am writing to give you an update on my efforts to demand a full public inquiry into the use of illegal “robocalls” and misleading phone calls during last federal election. I have heard from tens of thousands of Canadians from across the country who were contacted by automated calls and live individuals providing false and misleading information.

As you know, these extremely worrisome actions are an attack upon our cherished democratic institutions.  This is far more serious than the sponsorship scandal and demands an immediate response.

Last May, I submitted a formal complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, regarding the numerous complaints I have received in regards to fraudulent robo-calls. More recently, I have condemned such actions in the House of Commons.

Several weeks ago, I wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, requesting an emergency debate on this issue.  While unsuccessful in persuading him, I have continued to be a vocal and informed voice on this issue, calling for a formal independent inquiry and changes to our electoral system.

On March 12th, I launched our own campaign to allow the voice of Canadians to be heard on this critical issue. By taking action at www.robogate.ca, you can help me turn up the heat on the Harper Conservatives and get the independent inquiry into this scandal our democracy so desperately needs.

Those who have conducted such egregious fraudulent calls must face jail time. Additionally, financial rebates for those specific elections must be cancelled and returned to Elections Canada if a political party if found to be responsible. (Political parties who obtain a certain percentage of the vote in a riding can receive up to 60% of their expenses refunded via Elections Canada, and 50% nationally. Combined, this amounts to tens of millions of dollars for the Conservative Party.) Only through such strong measures will we create a meaningful deterrent to these actions.

Lastly, I would love to have the opportunity for you to join my electronic mailing list, so I can keep you up to date on this and other issues that are important to you.  I encourage you to take a moment to sign up by visiting my MP website, and to fill out a survey on your interests.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

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