Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Assessing Options for Canadian Political Movements and Parties Stuck in the Mud





To all of you out there waiting for someone else to come along and improve things, listen to this lady - "We don't need another hero"

 
With the death of Jack Layton, everything on the opposition side of parliament is suddenly up in the air.  There is  nobody who can immediately fill the void left by him, not only as leader of the opposition in Parliament, but as a legitimately elected leader who people across the nation are excited about and supportive of.  With the Liberals in disarray and being "rebuilt" by a former NDP Premier (?!), calls for the two parties to merge were coming out of many informed quarters even before Jack's death. Bob Rae, considering you will be forever haunted by the baggage of your tenure at Queen's Park, not entirely just baggage I am aware (see "Failed NDP Premier" conservative attack ads), why are you putting all your eggs into this doomed and irrelevant basket?  I'm not sure, but I am sure the people advising you are way more delusional than me.   

 
Ragging and ball-busting aside, the burning question surrounding these two political parties today, like two resolutely platonic single opposite sex childless BFFs in their late thirties is "Why the F not?"   It is clear that they would have won the election based on their plurality of votes had they been together, which is why I agreed with veteran Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella's declaration in the Walrus last month that merging was a logical and necessary step that needed to be taken.  But, it was not.  Whether that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.  All I can tell you is that scanning the headlines today across the country, business as usual will no longer cut it.  Jack's death and ensuing national mourning was a week long media and internet extravaganza for one reason: He didn't care what people thought of him.  Whatever you thought of the man's views, his personal life, his political calculations and his life, he is the only man in Canadian Politics right now who always said what he thought and wasn't scared to take on stuff most people didn't care about or were ignorant of.  What that got him was thirty plus years of relative obscurity and not even three months of glory which ultimately went unfulfilled. People noticed that.  A man who speaks his mind and communicates the plight of those less fortunate to the masses, not because its good politics but because he genuinely cares, is rare.  That is why media columnists and pundits who simultaneously scratch their heads at Canadian cynicism and apathy toward the political realm while they write non stop about politician talking points, focus groups, staying on message, tactics, strategy, and calculations didn't have a problem figuring out what to talk about this week.  The outpouring of affection and sadness even from unlikely quarters was due to this guy being real.  His life was laid bare and anyone could see it for what it was. For him it was never about figuring out what to say and what would look best in the paper and that is refreshing.  People have enough bullshit from advertising, society, their employers and the law telling them to keep their head down, stay in line, shut up, and consume.  Is it any wonder they gravitated toward an unpretentious, fun-loving guy who didn't have the look and charm of a lame ass middle aged stuffed suit reporting results to shareholders at a quarterly meeting like most of his colleagues?

 
It's not to say that the guy was the messiah or didn't dabble in the whole PR-marketing side of politics.  But the media and the government don't see the writing on the wall from all this.  It's over and now they're ready to see politicians re-enter the delusional, sad mental spheres they previously inhabited, in which they believe their success hinges on lying to people, talking trash, bribing the public and being generally remote, alienated and unavailable.  The only thing is that people have had it.  Not because their lives suck. Not because of social media.  And not because of one guy's death.  Because the kleptocracy or idiocracy or whatever you want to call it has been experiencing a slow slide to redundancy in the public mind.      Arrogant leaders who hand pick a small circle of trusted cronies, ham-fist through ill-considered and ill-advised policies, and expect their caucuses to be obedient batallions of yes men and women are about to become an endangered species in Canada, and that model happens to closely resemble the operations in the offices most visible premiers, the prime minister, and several mayors in Canada.

But what about the "massive majority" the Conservatives just won in May, you ask?  Or that Fordzilla in Toronto who has already kicked away light rail, the waterfront, community housing and who knows what else away like a bull in a China shop?  Haven't the gang of four Premier of Canada's four largest and most populous provinces all been vindicated with massive majorities since 2007? Aren't these evidence that people love the tough guy, the strong man, the clever strategy wonk who outwits his opponents to fight another day?

Not really.  The people in charge of the political system are confident and comfortable because it suits, well, them.  In a First Past The Post electoral system with voter turnout oscillating between 55 and 60% it usually ends up being something like one in five citizens who actually support a "massive majority".  People think we are so advanced but these results that do not reflect the will of the people are symptomatic of a system (Athenian democracy to Westminster Parliamentary to American bicameral) that has, with each succeeding system over the course of two thousand years, has managed to be a variation of whichever undemocratic and unrepresentative exclusive boys club that preceded it. A system originally designed for slave owners, property owners, males, and finally, “universal suffrage” is still undemocratic by refusing to follow up on the 35-45% of voices that repeatedly go unheard. A charge on the tax return would go a long way to discouraging abstention from casting a ballot and thus, eliminate a lot of the political discourse's farcical nature that has already kicked in full force with weird indecipherable attack ads in Ontario in anticipation of the Oct 6 provincial election.

What we are seeing outside of Ontario, however, in Canadian jurisdictions that are less inclined to care what the elite central Canada Ottawa-Toronto political business axis thinks of them, are moves to populist and citizen democracy. This is precisely due to alienation from arrogant and unavailable leaders who think it suffices to brush off reporters and citizens with dismissive, sarcastic and meaningless remarks every few days, and who think the sole purpose of the 100+ elected members at six figures a pop they are supposed to lead is to to be as small, invisible and submissive as possible. People see this and that is why in Quebec, there are now seven (7) upstart movements of cut from varying ideological cloths attempting to coalesce into broad-based movements to replace the sclerotic and tired provincial liberals, who despite having two majority and one minority mandate under their belts seem to oscillate between being grudgingly tolerated and violenty reviled in the province's media/public opinion.  B.C voters have just overturned the HST they got unexpectedly snowed with at the beginning of their now-resigned former premier's last majority government. The media has mocked them for this, because it is corporate run and obediently serves the “axis” I mentioned above. Citizens who stand up and say that they don't want to pay extra taxes so that businesses can be more “competitive” are dismissed as silly, stupid, and having lost their way. The real problem with the rolling back of the HST is that citizens made a decision for themselves, for better or for worse, in a democratic way, themselves. They were so outraged at having a decision that wasn't supposed to be on the radar dictated to them that they got it repealed. Although the globe and mail gravely cautioned against “rule by plebiscite” and assured its nervous readers that “this can only happen in BC”, it is clear that this is a big step to citizens rediscovering and reasserting their power.
 
I think you see where the need for this article comes from. Widespread cynicism, apathy, antipathy and dislike towards ruling parties and their cult leaders do not scare them. Radical change in the financial system, the way natural resources are extracted and distributed, and the organisation of education and communities is required, and we cannot count on a comfortable and disconnected political structure and class to give it to us. The media will continue to tell the public that they “must go through the proper channels” and “stay the course” but never in history has the government been more out of touch with reality. It's not a left-right thing - More people than ever are tired of stupidity, incompetence, and being told it is this way because it has to be this way without justification. They are also sick of the folly of being told that no sacrifice or pain will ever be required when they can plainly see that its not true. These people need a movement, and they don't need a messiah or a cult leader to come out of wilderness and start it for them. Start writing, talking, discussing and putting all the bullshit you see going on on the internet if you haven't already and when the time is right, we will all step into the vacuum. Its not about conventions and pep rallies and fundraising anymore. Work to change whatever you can in the system around you. Its not going to be much longer before the hollow pronouncements of our elected leaders turn into complete jokes.

I would not be as cynical perhaps if I hadn't seen the latest slate of Republican Presidential Candidate in the states. Or was gearing up to report on the dearth of talent and options in the upcoming provincial election. So now you know the subjects of my next two columns coming up very soon.

***Exciting News – You can now follow me on twitter at @lckingcrdenshul and I am going to be a community correspondent blogger for the Toronto Star for this fall's provincial election. I'm not happy about the twitter but I had to get it to apply for this position so frick off :) Thanks for reading***

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Eat, Pray, Love - McGuinty's malaise

I never read the ubiquitous bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert for reasons which I hope are obvious, but I believe I have picked up the gist of it through osmosis, after witnessing thousands of women power through it on public transit. A high-powered, successful, type-A, New York career yuppie childless sort of woman embarks on a year of travelling to explore sensory pleasures (food, Italy), spiritual pleasures (yoga, India) and some love story crap (Indonesia). It is hard to say what element of a book resonates with the zeitgeist to explode as this one did, but I suspect it was the mix of the pseudo-enlightened, the pseudo-spiritual, and the narcissist reality-based drama that you can see doing such brisk business in a variety of afternoon and primetime TV vehicles that the book contained. And it was successful despite a lot of self-justification, a lot of assumptions about the audience, and a lot of corny emotional appeals. These things, generally considered no-nos when you want to endear yourself to people, did not hurt the author's sales, but they may harm Canada's largest province's government's electoral prospects.

I see parallels between the Premier of Ontario and the author in that, in the past, they have both convinced millions that they are knowledgeable saviours worth listening to. I also think that the title of the book, which describes one way of dealing with an existential crisis, is an apt way to describe the Ontario government's approach to appealing to citizens and staying in power

EAT

The inspiration for this bit-of-a-stretch correlation came from the advertising that I've been seeing in increased volume the past few years trying to make local (as in local to our over 1 million square kilometre province) food seem like an important and vital part of everyone's lives. The effort is commendable, but the waste of taxpayer dollars is not. It is a waste because sadly, la gastronomie (the art of selecting, preparing, cooking, and dining on quality foods and superb ingredients) remains a hopelessly middle-upper class, bourgeois pursuit. No amount of advertising by the government will convince poor people to stop eating frozen pizzas, TV dinners, McDonalds and drinking pop; nutrition, like education, can only be fostered by a supportive and balanced home/family environment during childhood. As much as this do-gooder government would be loathe to admit it, there is effectively nothing in the North American marketplace to incentivize making healthy choices, and why would people renounce habitual consumption of foods that are designed to feed the brain's "reward centres" (sugar, salt, fat, starch) just because the government very subtly suggesting so, especially when they are so aggressively marketed?

Is the hopeless cynic at me glad that fruits and vegetables remain stubbornly unpopular among lower classes? Of course not. I am directing my cynicism to the government, who really are distributing these materials not to po' folks but to the educated classes, who they guess are the urbane, the sophisticated, the enlightened, in hopes that they will make themselves appear concerned and knowledgeable to them, because its their votes they desperately crave (not poor people's, who abstain from voting in much higher proportions than their more well-off counterparts). I suppose it’s better than not promoting local agricultural products, but choosing them whenever possible should go without saying. If you don't know that, is something that says "Paid for by the government on Ontario" right on it going to make you conscious of it? I'm inclined to think that it will not. Independent fruit and vegetable producers have enough trouble getting by and do not have the millions to fight conglomerates like McDonalds, Coca cola and everyone else on TV and on the billboards, so why doesn't the government take serious legislative steps to somehow curtail their activities (such as, not letting Nestle bottle its water for a pittance at Aberfoyle) instead of wasting money on a David v. goliath fight they cannot win. Probably because they are impotent and scared in front of these powerful interests and that is how they choose to be and how they want to be.

And that is why I am picking on this government today. Because their actions and their publicity, however well-intentioned, are not about improving the lives of Ontarians, or making hard decisions for the future, or making our province "green" and "modern". They are about perception and image. They would have you believe that they are hard at work doing these things but as soon as, the minute, anybody in McGuinty's entourage catches a whiff that they might be offending the status quo, business interests, or the suburban middle class, this government immediately does one of two things.

1) Reverse their position and backtrack on their initiative (which, hilariously, does nothing to placate the people who hate them in their first place while offending those who might otherwise be supportive)
2) Take no position at all and hope that it comes out in the wash (which just pisses everybody off)

PRAY

This is the part of the government's strategy I describe as "praying" because how else could they think that people could be so stupid not to see what they are doing and the pathetic hypocrisy and spineless relativism in their track record? In football, when a series of blunders have given your opponent an insurmountable lead over your team, the last-ditch, buzzer-beating play is known as a "Hail Mary". A prayer. Praying is what human beings do when were f***ed, except Muslims who do it 5 times a day. I can just see the Hail Mary huddle happening in Queen's Park right now.

"All right guys, four years ago we beat our opponent who wanted to treat all religions equally by funding all their schools by sticking with the status quo and only funding one religion's school board. Now, our task is much bigger. We've said we wanted to develop alternative energy sources but we snuffed out the biogas plant in Oakville at the first peep from NIMBYists. We wanted to reduce toxic chemicals in Ontario's water systems but we reversed the taxes on the most toxic products as soon as the public heard about them. We wanted to educate kids about sexuality in a way appropriate to 21st century norms and morals but scrapped it within 24 hours at the demand of conservative evangelicals and Charles McVety. We wanted to reduce emissions and gridlock but we cancelled a bunch of transit funding for Toronto because the Toronto Sun complained about the deficit which was largely caused by bailing out GM and Chrysler. We wanted to reduce wait times so we spent a lot of money telling people they had health care options near them even though 25% of them don't have a doctor and we have the highest (the highest) hospital bed occupancy rate in the developed world. We wanted to give the OMB power to reduce sprawl, yet the sprawl is worse than ever and municipalities have learned from Durham that they can openly flout the OMB. We wanted to decrease child poverty by 25% and instead increased it by 11%, while still finding the time every week to give speeches to the Conference Board, Chambers of Commerce, and Bay Street luncheons about what sound footing our province was on. And we wanted to be a transparent, responsible government that listened to citizens so we secretly passed 11th hour, unconstitional legislation to help the Prime Minister hold his billion dollar G20 wack off session."

"Now let's join our hands in prayer and implore our Catholic School God to brainwash the people of Ontario into thinking we really are a progressive, caring, honest, one size fits all best choice to govern them."

Those were all examples of #1. #2 would be refusing to comment on Muslim students holding massive prayer gatherings in public school cafeteria in Flemington Park, refusing to comment on the potentially explosive issue of Caledonia, refusing to answer why the province has double the ministries and bureaucracies and a fraction of the power to confront double the problems…

LOVE

Of course the government is counting on the public’s dislike/lack of awareness about its two opponents (Hudak Conservatives and Horwath NDP) to translate into love and votes for it. Believe me; I don’t want you to vote for either of these people any more than I want you to vote for McGuinty. If anything, this province would be well-served by a completely inexperienced, unknown bunch of deer in the electoral headlights who could do no worse than the waste and mismanagement we’ve seen under 16 years of McGuinty/Harris rule.
The real irritant for me about this government, though, is they want you to be in love with Ontario, not because your home, not its particular characteristics that only you as a resident can be truly acquainted with, but with this fabricated image of it created by them.

An example of this idealistic pandering is some hilarious ads I've seen about Ontario's creative industries, with the painfully lame and unhip header "We've Got it Going ON" (as in, the abbreviation for the province...get it?) Someone forgot to tell whoever made 80 thousand dollars to write that phrase that there is nothing hip or happening about the uniformly white, staid, middle-aged sanctimonious provincial liberal cabinet, especially when they use the title of a 1998 Backstreet Boys hit to describe our economy. But of course, again, their language and imagery ("books, movies, art, and music...and that contributes 300,000 jobs and 12.5 billion a year to the Ontario economy") demonstrate that they would like to have everyone believe (or rather, the well-intentioned, semi-enlightened middle-upper class people they really hope will vote for them) that Ontario is mostly powered by film festivals, rock singers, and really sleek and suave young people in downtown Toronto with ipads and skinny jeans working as graphic designers and independent publishers. Forget all thousands of enterprises and employees in Ontario manufacturing plastic, steel, cars, toxic chemicals and our daily burning of coal, gridlock commutes, and clear cutting of forests. Thanks to Ontario's government, we are working in a "knowledge" and "skills-based" economy! If you don't get your bread and butter from this overflowing abundance of bubbling creativity and wonder why you work at the Reitmans in the big box development beside your suburb for minimum wage, it's probably because the techy creative hip job that would allow you to afford local strawberries that cost 3 times as much as the ones from California hasn't trickled down to you yet.

I want a government in this province that is honest, hard working and lives within its means, not one that constantly glosses over this province’s challenges (and potential) with platitudes and bullshit. No wonder so many people were driven into escapism with Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel memoir. My jibes at her aside, she did take destiny in her own hands, a leap forward, and changed her fate for the better. Something this province, after eight years with this premier, is fundamentally incapable of doing.


Monday, 22 August 2011

Lacking Credentials Salutes Jack Layton's Contribution To Canadian Public Life

Jack Layton’s death has united the country in grief. He was a man who led by example and genuinely believed in his ideas. I found him to be an inspiration because he was true to himself and honest throughout his professional career, even if he occasionally crossed lines or was immodest. It was inspiring because his electoral successes and accomplishments only increased with time. I think we can all accomplish great things that are important to us if we persist at what is important to us with the same determination he persisted at politics from 1982-2011. Far from fatiguing of his demeanour and views after four election campaigns, Canadian voters endorsed his party to the tune of a record 30% of votes cast in spring 2011, despite the Canadian media's persistent and dogged attempts to paint the NDP as a “fringe” party. Whether people will work hard to maintain the party at its current nadir or whether it will stumble back into the relative obscurity it experienced before he took the helm remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – the New Democratic party, the Canadian Parliament, and Canada’s political class is weakened by the unexpected passing of this man who I admit, as many Canadians would, irritated me from time to time, but for whom I gained over a real respect, and whose party I regret not voting for in the last election.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Taking the Consumerist Douchebaggery Wind Out of Modern Left Wing Movements’ Sails



My father bought me an excellent publication for my birthday this year, a journal called New Politics. As easy as it is to waste as much time as we do reading stuff of variable quality on the internet, it is critical that as thinkers and readers we continue to support independent and radical journals and quarterlies, the publications that are often collectively referred to as the "alternative press". This is not to claim that the alternative press is not also subject to variable quality; in fact, this variable quality is one of the issues that will be addressed today. It is a qualifier so that the reader understands I am not attacking the idea of alternative press itself, and that I believe that we need these publications to counterbalance the mass media. At their best, these organs are supported through grassroots payments, thereby sustaining them and allowing them to contain way more real and relevant information than the big media conglomerates' content for a fraction of the cost and overhead. It is only by remaining independent, operating on shoestring budgets, and not shying away from controversial and contrarian viewpoints that these publications can remain relevant (and also by avoiding, as much as possible, abstruse academic garble). That sais I have a constructive criticism for the one that calls itself New Politics today, one that will allow this publication to productively address the frustration of its contributors over the disunity within the hodgepodge of groups that make up “the left”, and perhaps allow this hodgepodge to actually get taken seriously by the mainstream dominant culture machine these groups all pedal in different directions claiming to oppose. In case you haven't guessed what that tip is, it is in the title.

As someone who has evolved into a (I would like to think) post-ideological, post-partisan, non-dogmatic political thinker, and who continues to evolve, my patience with the pandering and lying of any of the levels/parties/branches of government in North America has grown perilously thin. However, if I must grudgingly choose categories or labels for myself, progressive social democrat is probably the most apt. New Politics is a socialist, left wing, radical publication of the first order, and the articles are well-written and decently argued. Here is where, though, I must diverge from certain people who are claiming to be my ally in name, because they really are in name only. An example of one article making shabby comparisons is the one saying the government workers of Wisconsin are the same people uprising in the Arab spring. Another one calling for a massive working group coalition of left-wing oriented working people in the GTA is beyond the pale to compare Toronto's garbage collection workers to its unemployed and homeless. It is bullshit to say "we are all in the same struggle" and anyone who does is either naive or delusional. Everyone needs to lower their expectations of what they are entitled to in life if the world is going to survive, not raise them to the level entitlement enjoyed by North American CEOs and government workers. Those who claim to be "progressive opposition" in North American must decide whether they want have cake or eat cake. The incoherence of the left is due to people of the "middle of the road" ilk belonging to it, while those who want to move beyond resource extraction, failed economic policies, and inequality are unjustly lumped into it. They are beyond even being identified with a part of the spectrum, but their message is too disruptive to the status quo so they are bundled in the least credible "tolerated" section of it, the one referred to as "The Left".

The problem is that there are a number of well-intentioned individuals who rail against fat cats, big banks and multinational corporations, which is all very well to do, but counterproductive when you don’t make any attempt to back up your words with actions. Let me explain. For those in Canada who feel that PM Stev-o is an instrument of these interests, and he is, I point them to Mister "Yes We Can" "Change We Can Believe In" Obama, who has become as much if not more of an "instrument" of the equivalent powerful lobbies in his country during his tenure as president. The "Left’s indignation is reserved for this political-business cabal who they blame for outsourcing, rising inequalities, and general anxiety and instability over the rich getting richer, real wages declining, etc. The only time this changes and they get behind the mainstream machine is during election time when, as in the instructive 2008 American example, a progressive, feel-good "saviour" is anointed only to prolong existing wars and start new ones, reduce tax revenue even more, and give even more power to the insurance companies that made health care so dysfunctional in the united states to begin with. Betrayed and disillusioned, professional leftists (unionized government workers), and auto workers (who now amount to the same thing) turn to groups that have nothing to do with them (anarchists, anti-capitalists, contrarian bloggers, and environmentalists) in a cynical attempt to expand their ranks, since their actual size reveals them to be what they are: A special interest group who, for all their rhetoric, don't really give a shit about the millions of poverty-line wage lifers making a go of it in the same society.

Their grievance is the "death of the middle class" but what they are really against is the end of a "middle class removed from reality." My major beef with Stev-o, Rob Ford, et al is the way they present the two car, consumerist, resource fuelled suburban lifestyle as a god given right to every man, woman, and child in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and beyond, who is willing to sell themselves into slavery to afford it, and the resources of the earth as exclusive property to be commandeered by Canada and put to the service of achieving of their utopia. Needless to say, this shameless and pathetic pandering has yielded electoral results that speak for themselves - the elusive and powerful "middle class" has found the voice through which it is logical to defend the unsustainable ground they have staked out and claimed.

This is why a true social democrat who advocates living within one's means, ending the expansion of credit, returning to the gold standard, and radically powering down the unsustainable amount of energy consumed by Canadian households and industry is ideologically homeless. Because the 2011 North American "socialist"s dream is to extend and constitutionally enshrine the lifestyles and accoutrements so ardently defended as inalienable from those who acquired them by Ford and Harper, to EVERYONE! This would make us broke and resourceless in the process.

Think about the NDPs sacred cows. WHY do public sector workers need inflation-indexed, defined benefit pension plans? Well, to guarantee them as "decent standard living" of course, negotiated in good faith through collective bargaining. But what is a "decent standard of living"? Government workers are earning 25 - 30 bucks an hour plus and six figure salaries in many Canadian communities (Brantford, Woodstock, PEI) where it is still relatively cheap to live. So, barring a coke addiction or a serious gambling problem, these employees will end up millionaires, with a guaranteed rising revenue stream, courtesy of Joe Taxpayer. In Revolutionary France these people were called the name befitting of them today, the "rentier-elite".

In the early part of the twentieth century, there were general strikes and the formation of unions because no protections or worker rights existed. Men were getting pennies to perform dangerous work for millionaire wealthy industrialists and had no rights if they were wrongfully dismissed, injured or killed on the job. Considering the extremity of the situation, of course worker organization and radical action were required for the times. But to posit that "decent standard of living" provision" as a logical extension of the rights fought for by the workers in industrialized countries of that time period is ludicrous.

Everyone knows what those four vague words mean in the parlance of our times. A 2,500 square foot house, more room the further away from downtown, smaller and much more expensive if closer. Two vehicles, any size, and the gas and overpriced insurance to power them. A big ass TV connected to the five hundred channel universe, bundled with two smartphones with data plans, high speed internet, and the kids smartphones. pets, vacations, indoor and outdoor renos, private schools, and of course, a guaranteed pension, so that not a wink of sleep is lost to anxiety over whether all of this is really worth it or if you really deserve it.

Many people have chosen this path in the private sector (minus the pension plan, which is obviously out of the question for them) and it is harder to fault them for their choices because they are, after all, convenient and appealing, and the four or five years we are running on now where awareness of their harmful nature has entered the mainstream the trend has not been reversed. Also, "the market" demanded what they earned the money to pay for those things doing, so it wasn't like they had to massage their PR about it being their god given right. Why would they have anyway, when the lifestyle is worshipped and validated in the mass media and during election campaigns?

But people who see this and want things to change are also are tired of gimmickry and exaggeration on the "official" left. The NDP can present itself as "relief" for ordinary, working Canadians but by dogmatically and stubbornly placing itself behind striking public sector workers who are picketing over losing the sick bank, they are glossing over matters at the heart of inequality and refusing to have the courage to see their logic through to its end. Sick days were originally fought for and won so employees who genuinely needed a day off could take it without fear of reprisal, not so that middle aged unskilled stiffs could cynically accumulate them for 35 years and then get paid out a huge liability. Take the damn days off (I'm pretty sure you don't need a doctor's note) and stop griping like you're an overstretched, exploited worker. You're the one milking the system and not taking the breather you're supposed be taking. This is called greed, and it’s the same principle you rail against when bankers take bonuses in bailout years, even though you lazily point to them to justify yourself rather than defend the logic in what you are fighting for when you are criticized.

When people are getting rich (yes, I think that is a fair assessment) on the taxpayer dime, and the acquiring of more money is typically associated with more consumption, bigger properties, and larger and faster cars, and these same people are claiming to be fighting and organized in the philosophical vein of Trotsky Lenin, WHY is environmentalism still synonymous with the left?! Probably because its focus on the collective makes it an anathema to those who convictions tell them that its an everyman for himself, take what you can get kind of world. In other words, treating the planet like a cheap slut you make a booty call to on Friday to get what you need, and ignore and blow off on Saturday for meals and quality time because you've got better things to do. Our relationship with the planet is all "us" and no "it," all "take" and no "give". So what environmentally responsible policies has the NDP been advocating? Bailing out the auto industry, the forestry industry, and taking the HST off of gasoline. This last one is the most hypocritical and outrageous decision that I think will eventually come down from the Conservative government on the inevitable day that gas prices become truly prohibitive - the direct subsidizing of consumers' gas purchases by the government - and yet it is coming from the government's supposed ideological opposite that decries its ties to the Alberta oil and gas industry. What a pathetic and utterly short-sighted political ploy. You want a meritocracy and fair society? How about rewarding the group of people who've decided to live without a car (It's not hard!). No, because again, you would scare away the people whose votes you are trying to buy. I can't live without a car, it’s my right to drive one everywhere I want to go. This is not a view representing 100% of the population, just the 65% of the most entitled, loudest part of it who also happen to vote in much higher proportions than poor old people, 18-24 years staring at smartphone and videogame screens, immigrants with language issues, and apathetic individuals of all ages. If you want to start winning people over, you have to start telling them the truth. The financial system is crashing into a mountain, were ruining the earth, and the leadership is too busy with trying to fit both their hands in the cookie jar to care. You will not win a lot of sympathy or votes in the short run, but people craving sense, purpose and meaning will come to you in the end, rather than watching this ridiculous pathetic battle over two sides of the same coin.

Climate change, species depletion and limited resources are far too serious of issues to be balled up with public sector contracts and peoples' selfish and entitled mentalities. Its time for people concerned about the environment to either make the demand that the left abandon its consumerist douche bag streak, and refusing to be lumped in with it any longer and make a genuine thrifty, accountable, realistic non partisan movement (The green party of Canada could be reformed in this way if only it could get rid of its narcissist, reality show contestant in chief, Elizabeth May). I suspect only the latter scenario is possible, and only it will present humanity with any new or serious real options in the 21st century.