I’m going to give in and talk about the Canadian election a bit, and how it’s changed my attitude towards activism.
For those of you outside of Canada—and those of you who belong to the ~40% of eligible Canadian voters who couldn’t be bothered to vote—the Conservative Party, the most right-leaning of Canada’s major political parties, holds a majority of seats in Parliament after six years of minority rule. They only earned about 40% of the vote—thanks, First Past the Post—but they’re running the country more or less unfettered.
Now, I know this isn’t the end of the world. The Conservatives in Canada are probably farther left than the Democrats in the U. S. We’re not about to have abortion outlawed (probably), or gay marriage banned, or creationism taught in science classes, or our public health care system dismantled. On the other hand, though, we’re not about to have our terrible electoral system reformed or our greenhouse gas emissions reduced, and we are about to get some shiny fighter jets.
It seems that our political landscape is extremely economically focused. This is understandable: the economy’s been rough (or so I’m told; I’m a grad student so I wouldn’t know about these “job” things), and the Conservatives are good at talking about the economy in a way that makes capitalists happy, so they used that to their advantage in their campaign. This means that issues that are more important to me, particularly feminism/gender equality issues and environmental issues, are largely off the radar. So it seems to me that I shouldn’t be sulking about Canada’s rightward drift, because now more than ever I need to do something more than the occasional token petition-signing. Should I try to make a lot of noise to attract attention to these issues, and/or seek out organizations that are already doing this and sign up? Should I just take up local aspects of these issues, which are more likely to have actual results, even though I’m more than likely to be leaving town in the next (gulp) six months?
Two things that I will certainly be checking up on at the federal level: Bill C-393 and Bill C-398. The former will allow lifesaving drugs to be sent to Africa and the latter will enshrine protection against discrimination for trans people in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both passed in the House of Commons, but the (unelected) Senate didn’t get around to voting on them before the election. Because they’re private members’ bills, they will not have to be re-introduced when Parliament resumes; they’ll be back where they were left in the (unelected) Senate. At present, the Senate has a Conservative majority (elected by 0% of voters because the Canadian Senate is not elected). There have been concerns/accusations from various quarters suggesting that the Senate (did I mention that Canadians DON’T FUCKING VOTE FOR THEIR SENATORS?) will kill either or both of these bills. If you’re interested in following the fate of these bills, openparliament.ca is a good resource.
I’ll try to end on a more positive note. Our official Opposition is now the New Democratic Party for the first time ever, and we’ve elected our first Green Party MP. This is novel and therefore exciting! I’m curious to see how the NDP uses its time in opposition—what I’d like to see is some serious attempts to introduce legislation that a majority of Canadians supports but that the Conservatives oppose. When these are defeated, the disconnect between the composition of Parliament and the will of the voters will become more apparent. It’ll be fuel to the fire of electoral reform, and it’ll make the Conservatives look bad to boot.