I've seen a number of images and video on the theme of last night's election, but there's only one image—though it has failed to gain the traction that shirtless!Trudeau has managed—that can adequately sum up how I feel about the results.
That's from the cyberpunk masterpiece Transmetropolitan
by Warren Ellis, and if you haven't read it, what are you doing reading my blog? This comic is so much better, and astonishingly prescient. In my favourite arc, the current President, known only as The Beast (even to his children) is challenged by a telegenic, liberal-seeming politician nicknamed The Smiler. At first, Spider Jerusalem, our cynical journalist hero who is in no way Hunter S. Thompson, grudgingly admires him—insofar as he can admire any politician—until he discovers that while The Beast, who is in no way Richard Nixon, is an authoritarian monster, the Smiler, who is in no way Tony Blair, is hiding something much worse.
I don't need to tell you what happens next. You've read a dystopian book or two.
I swear, if I see one more "congratulations Canada!" post, I am going to fucking hurl. It's bad from Americans, as you guys don't really understand our political system or major parties, but it's worse from Canadians, who don't understand our political system or major parties. While I'm as happy as anyone to not have to use this icon anymore—
(You get to see it one more time though. Sorry.)
—there is no cause for celebration. And here's why.
Justin Trudeau is indistinguishable from Harper on most things that count, except scarier because no one seems to understand this.
I would ask all Canadians who "voted strategically"* or caught themselves saying "anyone but Harper" to ask themselves why they hate Harper.
Is it because his economic policies favour the rich at the expense of the poor? From a friend's post (since I'm too exhausted to dig up more authoritative sources, but trust me, this is the Liberal fiscal plan):
1) A tax increase on the rich 1%, in order to give the upper 50% a tax cut. People making over 100k, but less than 200k will be looking at a tax cut amounting to $600. Those who make 50k a year will get $80 dollars, those below $45k get nothing.
2) GST cuts for land developers who build "for profit" rental housing -- make a profit, get a tax cut plan. Mike Harris tried, and failed to promote affordable housing using "tax incentives", and the Liberal plan will also fail.
3) Cuts to EI payroll tax, further reducing available funds available for unemployed workers. In the 70s, 70% of the unemployed were serviced through EI (UIC), today only 30%. The Liberal plan continues this trajectory.
4) Expansion of the "baby-bonus" system instituted in 2006 by Harper in place of a daycare plan. Extremely wasteful use of government money.
Okay, math is hard. How about the environment? Trudeau's not quite so bad there, but he supports the Keystone XL pipeline
and I'll bet you anything he flips on the other two.
Do you like jobs? Freedom of speech and privacy on the intertubes? Transparency when it comes to trade deals with other countries? Well, Harper negotiated that stuff away in secret with the TPP, but fortunately there's Wikileaks
and come on
people, if it were a good deal for Canada, they'd have told us what was in it. Instead, the Conservatives held out spilling details before the election, so everyone who doesn't keep up with trade deal acronyms was left in the dark as to how hard we'd get reamed.**
Trudeau doesn't know what's in it. But he's for it.
Most important to me personally, though, is the Harper government's attacks on our civil liberties. That would be Bill C-24, which takes the unprecedented step of allowing the government to strip the citizenship of any Canadian who is eligible for dual citizenship. This includes me, if you were wondering. If someone decides I'm a terrorist (more on that in a sec), I can be deported to Israel. Imagine. The Liberals supported the bill.
Even worse is Bill C-51, which is a mass surveillance, thought crime, and arbitrary arrest bill, loosely defining terrorism as "whatever we don't like," the sort of thing that they used to write dystopian literature about before dystopian literature became a manual for policy writing. The Liberals voted for that one, too. Except Trudeau; he didn't think the skullfucking of our most basic human rights was worth showing up to vote on.
Now, the one nice thing I can say about Liberals is that I appreciate their ideology. They have none. They crave power, and only power; their sole political aim is to get elected and stay there. This is kind of cool because it means that they're by and large not bigots. One voter-unit is the same as the next, and they don't care what your gender or sexual orientation or ethnicity is. So things, in the short-term, might
suck slightly less for the Muslims who are getting assaulted on our streets by Harper brownshirts.
Oh, but shit, yo
, Trudeau also
voted for Bill S-7, the—I'm not fucking making this up—"Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act," which makes things that were already illegal more
illegal if you do them while brown. So while I don't think the Liberals are racist for ideological reasons the way the Tories are, they'll be racist if it'll make them popular. And as the whole niqab debacle and the aforementioned brownshirts illustrate, Canadians are pretty fucking racist.
So tell me why I should be happy today. Other than that my inevitable "Prince Justin is a Twat" icon is going to be nicer to look at than my Harper "Fuck the People" icon. Seriously.
The other bad news is that the Liberals' gains come mostly at the expense, not of the Tories, but of the NDP, who while far from being proper socialists, at least voted against all of the shitty things I just mentioned. We lost a bunch of really great MPs to strategic voting. Just to give one example, Dan Harris in Scarborough Southwest, a hardworking progressive who is just a wonderful guy, lost to Bill Blair, former Chief Pig, who supports carding despite the fact that it's racist and doesn't work, and who presided over the vicious police state that Toronto became during the G20. Or awesome Olivia Chow losing to career sleazebag Adam Vaughan. Or punk-rock-as-fuck Andrew Cash losing to "who the fuck is she?" Julie Dzerowicz. (Seriously, what does "held senior leadership roles in the private and public sector" mean?)
Or, in the campaign I worked on, Matthew Kellway, who lost to some guy who no one knows anything about except that the name "Trudeau" was on his sign. (Note to my countrymen—we vote for MPs, not the fucking president; learn what your MP stands for and don't just vote based on the party leader.)
Now, I don't even say this as an NDP ideologue, because I'm not one. I only joined the NDP very briefly, to try to keep Mulcair from winning the leadership after Layton's death, and left when they took the word "socialism" out of the party platform. I volunteered with Kellway's campaign out of outrage over Bill C-51 and support for the only political party that had convictions and a commitment to democracy. I'm glad I did, exhausting and depressing as it was. I'm hoping that this defeat leads to a reexamination of the NDP's Blairite direction, perhaps even an exodus of the rightward elements like we've seen in the UK. One hopes the correct lessons have been learned.
In any event, I was despairing last night, as Canada swapped a kitten-eating robot for a born-to-rule pretty boy with more or less the same political leanings but better hair, and backslapped and rejoiced and called it "change." I felt a little less despairing when I woke up and remembered:
1) This is basically the political configuration of my youth, with a Liberal majority, a Tory opposition, and the NDP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. (The Orange Crush in the last election was an aberration based on Quebec's weirdness and Layton's charisma; the NDP should never have expected to build on Quebec as a base.)
2) Electoral politics has never been the main thing that I do; among other reasons, I'm far to the left of anyone electable.
3) As someone who writes a lot of dystopian fiction, I would be at a loss for inspiration if I ever actually liked the government in power.
4) Having canvassed once or twice a week, every week, for almost three months, my ass is looking really fine.
Sadly, though, Canadian media has no one like Spider Jerusalem to expose the truth, and those of us who value silly little things like freedom and democracy are left to muddle through as best we can. I hope we can rebuild from this, but it's easier to take rights away than it is to gain them, and there's more work to do with a populace that thinks it's free than one that knows it isn't. We must be at once—and I hope the NDP understands this, because historically it hasn't—both principled and ruthless.
Good riddance, Beast, and welcome Smiler, and the rest of you can hold your fucking congratulations until you see what he has in store.* Note, remember next time that anyone who tells you to "vote strategically" is telling you to support the Liberals. The NDP were winning at the outset.
** I'd say they deserved it for not educating themselves, but I have to live with the results of their ignorance.ETA:
The Beaverton, as usual, has the best coverage: Nation groggily wakes up next to Justin Trudeau
“Really, the C-51 guy? The guy who’s friends with Bill Blair?” said New Zealand, over Snapchat. “Tell me he at least doesn’t have a douchey native-inspired tattoo.”