Left Wing Reaction to the Canadian Election

I can’t figure it out.  The NDP just scored a gigantic victory in yesterday’s election.  They went from a minor, anti-everything coalition of the disaffected to a bold, new national force in Canadian politics.  They gathered votes from just about everybody who wants to change the way we do business in this country.  They more than doubled their best election results to date and nearly tripled their parliamentary power.  They increased their popularity from a paltry 18.2% to 30.6% — which means nearly one in every three Canadian voters now supports the NDP.  And that’s not all.  Of overwhelming significance, Jacques, Le Tueur de Geants (Jack, the Giant Killer) did what no politician has been able to do for twenty years.  He separated the Sovereignistas in Quebec from the allure of separatism and convinced huge numbers of Quebecois to join in a federalist dream.  Not bad for a guy with a bum hip and a failing memory!  Yet, in the middle of it all, even before Mansbridge could choke out “C-C-Conservative majority,” the Internet was bulging with I Hate Harper tirades.  Did I miss an e-mail or something?  Is this the way one is supposed to celebrate the greatest night in the history of “progressive” politics?

In less than twelve hours, the anti-conservative forces in Canada went from bright-eyed political activists, working flat out for change, to a pack of snarling Harper-haters, spitting sour grapes.  Of course, hating Harper has been a leisure activity in Canada ever since he kicked Stockwell Day to the curb in 2002, but election night was way over the top.  It started with Mansbridge saying something like, Stephen Harper’s most cherished dream was to destroy the Liberals, and it just soared into the stratosphere from there.  There were the usual George Bush and Adolf Hitler comparisons, of course, but then it just got bizarre.  Harper was going to outlaw abortion, gay marriage and bright colours.  Harper was going to change all the hospitals into pay-per-view clinics.  He’s going to steal everybody’s Old Age pension cheques and buy fighter jets with the money.  He was going to shoot the homeless, abolish daycare and burn the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in front of cowering orphans and weeping widows.  As the night went along, Hell itself couldn’t hold half Harper’s nastiness and even Satan was sending the children out of the room.  Most of it was unprintable.

The last time anything like this happened was when the Republicans in America finally realized that Palin was an idiot and Obama was actually going to be President.  The venom was unbelievable.   Did that just happen here?  Are the “progressives” in this country taking a page out of the Republican playbook and starting down the yellow brick road to some kind of Canadian Cappuccino version of Tea Party Crazy?  Is there a left wing Canadian Glenn Beck waiting to emerge?  Do we even know where Harper was born?  Hold it!  Let’s just stop for a second and take a deep breath.

First of all, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government isn’t worth the name.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Blogging Tory Adrian MacNair has to say about it — here.  Harper and his crew are probably further left politically than “progressive” poster child, Barack Obama.   Hyperbole doesn’t work when you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Secondly, we didn’t just elect Louis XIV for God’s sake!  Despite CBC’s continuous assurance that the people of Canada have handed Stephen Harper “absolute power” he’s only the Prime Minister.  Nothing gets done in this country without the bureaucrats and the special interest groups taking their cut, so I wouldn’t worry about anything called rapid change.  Thirdly, last time I looked, Jack Layton was the only guy who didn’t campaign with a handful of mud.  He kinda wanted to talk about the issues during the election.  I would think the party faithful would follow his example and demonstrate that much-vaunted “progressive” tolerance we’ve all been hearing about, ad nauseum.

And finally, you lost.  It’s that simple.  You can yip all you want about shadowy corporate conspirators subverting the will of the people — or media bias — or abolishing reforming the electoral system.  Hell, you can even say Harper is a Manchurian Candidate born in Kenya if you want to, but that doesn’t change the facts.  More people wanted a Conservative government than wanted an NDP one.  Even though 60% of the voters didn’t vote Conservative, using those numbers, 70% didn’t vote NDP: case closed.  If the “progressive” message is so alluring, Jack Layton is now a Prime Minister in waiting, and he’s got four years to prove he can do a better job.  Get after it!

The vast majority of people in this country want to change the way we do things politically, and many of them demonstrated that by voting NDP.  Let’s leave the venom and the rhetoric alone, calmly sit down, compare blueberries and oranges, and see which Canadians want.   Then all we have to do is figure out how to pay the bills and learn to live with the result — without resorting to American-style nutsy.

It’s Sneaking Up On Us: Tax Time

It’s April, and I don’t care how many elections are going on Canadians are tons more interested in The Playoffs (In Canada, you don’t really have to say “hockey”) and taxes. Both come around every year, and both leave us vaguely disappointed.  Personally, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I think we get a lot of cool stuff for our tax dollars; actually, way more than we deserve given the level of participation we-the-people have in our country.  Don’t get me wrong: I still think the government — any government — squanders most of our money.  We could have a virtual utopia around here with the coin we shell out every year — if those circus clowns in Ottawa would quit paying for crap nobody needs.  But that’s the people, not the system.  I kinda think, in general, our tax system is relatively fair.  (How’s that for a qualified statement?)  I’m not just sucking up to Revenue Canada, either.  I’m still pissed that when you phone the 1-800 number, they never seem to understand your question, and, regardless, you never get the same answer twice, anyway.  There’s really only one major flaw in our tax system, and every April it drives me nuts.

My problem is, for the life of me, I can’t understand why the Federales make it so bloody complicated to take my money.  You can decipher Bohr’s Theory of Atomic Structure faster than you can figure out your Income Tax.  And it doesn’t have to be that way because — wait for it – the government’s already got your money.  In Canada, the majority of people who work, work for somebody else, and the tax on their income (thus, “income tax”) is taken off their paycheque before they ever see it.  Am I the only person in this country who thinks it’s beyond stupid to sit down every April and figure out how much money you owe the government when they’ve already got it?  They’ve had the cash for months; actually, they’ve probably already spent most of it.  But there we are — every April 29th — scrambling around with T4s, T4As, RRSPs, and on and on and on, trying to figure out which percentage of what amount from Box A goes on which line on Schedule Q.

This is insane.  Why are we even involved?  We don’t do that with the GST.  We buy something, they charge us 5% more than it’s worth, and everybody walks away happy.  We never think of it again.  Chances are good we never even thought about it in the first place.  Doing our own taxes every year is like getting robbed and the robber suddenly stops in the middle and asks for some assistance to put bullets in the gun.  Asinine doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I realize the entire spectrum of our brand of taxation without representation is a lot more complicated than this.  Modern taxation methods and applications are an integral part of any national economy.  For example, adjustments within the tax system can be used to stimulate growth or harness inflation and even minor variations can produce disproportionate effects.  There are also other factors that ordinary people seldom see — like depreciation, energy credits, exploration expenses, security option deductions, etc. etc.: all have a bearing on taxation levels.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  My point is most ordinary people never see these things.  Okay, if your name’s Lululemon and you need that kind of stuff – fine.  You’ve got a room full of lawyers and accountants who can handle it.  But if you work for Lululemon and get paid every two weeks, why does it even come up on the panel?

Honestly, 90% of the Federal Tax Package is useless to most people.  Besides, everybody already knows how much money you made and how much income tax you paid.  It’s on your T4!  It would be a lot simpler if the government just factored in all their phony-baloney expenses and deductions and came up with a real percentage.  They could deduct it off your paycheque — just like they do now.  Then, instead of dickin’ around with Schedules, Guides and Bulletins every April you’d be home and dry and watching the hockey game — your civic duty done – and everybody’s happy.

Here’s how Canada’s tax system should work.  There’s an average Canadian: we’ll call her Janey Canuck.  Janey has two dependents: Jane Jr. and Jack.  Janey works for Infinite Scoundrels Law Offices (It doesn’t matter where: anything from corporate lawyer to sweeping the floor.)  Janey owns a condo in a medium-sized city.  She takes the bus to work, and her kids go to public school.  That’s all you and I and the federal government ever need to know about any average Canadian like Janey.  Every April, Janey gets a letter in the mail:

Hi, Janey!

How are you?  Infinite Scoundrels Law Offices just sent us your T4.
You earned _________ dollars last year.
You paid __________ dollars in income tax, at a permanent rate of ______ percent.
Did you earn any other money we don’t know about yet?
If so, enter the amount here ___________.  If not, don’t worry about it, and skip down to the end.

Multiply that number by ________percent.
Enter that amount here___________ and send us a cheque.
Thanks, Janey.  See you next year.
Your friends,
The Federales
P.S. If anything changes, let us know.

By the way, if Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton wants to take the Express Bus to 24 Sussex Drive, believe me, all he has to do is make something like this the cornerstone of his party platform, and the election will be as good as won!

Our Olympic Anniversary

The reason the modern world has festivals and anniversaries is that, long ago, primitive peoples had such short, brutal lives that, every once in a while, they had to stop working themselves to death and have some fun.  In the days when people still toiled, these quick breaks were important to regenerate the emotional batteries.  It was an excuse to take the day off, get together with the tribe, get drunk and eat all the food that was going to go rotten anyway.  These events were usually local and also served to strengthen the common bonds of a town or village.  Today, February 11th, we celebrate the one year anniversary of one of the best festivals Canada ever had.  One year ago, Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic Torch and we partied like it was 2010.  Essentially, for 17 days, we forgot we were Canadians and became a primitive tribe marking out our territory in the world of winter sports — although it could just as easily have been a buffalo hunt or a successful raid for ponies.  For one brief, shining moment, we were citizens of our country — and we liked it.

It’s difficult for Canadians to be Canadian, simply because we have no single imperative to hang our toques on.  In case you haven’t been watching, Canada doesn’t work the same way as most countries.  We really don’t have a defining moment that stamps us out as Canadians.  There was no war of liberation nor a revolution that gave birth to our nation.  We negotiated our country into existence as an extra-territorial Britain, and then bought the rest of it — including a very confused native population — from the Hudson’s Bay Company.   Once a year, journalists try to shoehorn Vimy Ridge into our national consciousness, but somehow, it never rings as true with us as Bunker Hill does with Americans or the Storming of the Bastille does with the French.  Nor do we have an historical persona that identifies us; we were never Vikings or Cossacks or philosopher kings.  Our best effort was the Coureur de Bois (who was, in reality, a petty crook, trying to trade furs without a license.)  Besides, the plaid shirt and red toque has always been an object of fun — on both sides of the Two Solitudes.  Furthermore, we do not produce larger than life leaders, like Churchill or Gandhi — at least not since Sir John A. discovered single malt.  Nor do we lionize our military.  We have no collective cultural memory that leads us to exalt the art and architecture of our Golden Age.  Nor do we depend on cheese or cuckoo clocks to distinguish us from our neighbours.  Our cuisine consists of everybody else’s, and our national dress is probably a parka.

There is no single overwhelming ideal that guides us, no event that names us, no crisis that forged us.  Yet we are the people called Canadians, and for a brief moment last February, we knew why.

So what the hell happened last year?  The answer is easy.  We had something to believe in.  As our young people chased their young people up and down the ice and snow, we believed in them.  We wanted to win.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, fair play, good sportsmanship and camaraderie, but in the end we wanted the podium.  We want to stand one head taller than everybody else and hear our music being played.  We wanted to prevail.  And when we did (and even when we didn’t) we gathered around our totem – the red maple leaf – and celebrated our accomplishments.  We were no longer Canadians by accident of birth or immigration record, we were Canadians by the power of our deeds — a great northern tribe, jubilant in our triumph, dancing by our fires, far into the night.