We asked Ryerson students to name their ideal prime minister
By Robyn Sheremeta
“Anyone but Harper” is scrawled across the social media timelines of many a disgruntled Canadian. There are websites devoted to ousting the current prime minister by voting strategically and a Facebook event called Stephen Harper Going Away Party, with more than 300,000 confirmed “guests.” But who would you choose to be PM if you actually could oust Harper?
We asked Ryerson students who they would elect, living or dead, Canadian or not, to lead our true north strong and free, and while some of the answers weren’t surprising at all (an overwhelming number of students chose Drake), others were more unexpected.
Not many students were willing to be photographed the Friday before a long weekend — probably because they’ve run out of clean laundry — but those who did had some insightful answers.
Ryerson professors sign letter accusing Conservatives of ‘hate-mongering’
By Arthur White
Three Ryerson professors have signed their names to an open letter blasting the Conservatives for what it calls an “unethical” campaign strategy based around the “politics of hate.”
Signed by at least 587 academics from universities across Canada, the letter claims that, by trying to make so-called “barbaric cultural practices” an election issue, the Conservatives are exploiting dangerous fears and pitting Canadians against each other.
Two Ryerson English professors, Andrew O’Malley and Nima Naghibi, signed the letter, as did David Hunter, an associate professor in the department of philosophy.
Naghibi told The Ryersonian that she believes strongly in the points expressed in the letter, which was written and circulated by McGill law professor Daniel Weinstock.
“I think Canadians have been deeply troubled by the ugly rhetoric embraced by the Conservative campaign,” Naghibi said. “It is undignified for the ruling party to be debasing a democratic campaign in this way.”
She said that her parents chose to come from Iran to Canada because of its “reputation as a safe and welcoming haven for immigrants.” But now she fears that Canada’s image is being “tarnished.”
The language in the letter itself is even more forceful than Naghibi’s criticisms, with Weinstock claiming the Conservatives engage in “hate-mongering” and bring “shame to Canadian politics.”
“The Conservatives seem to have been opting for a particularly nasty form of ‘wedge politics,’” the letter states, claiming their strategy is “cynically calculated to distract and divide citizens by insinuating that some law abiding and peaceful members of the community are freedom-hating barbarians who threaten Canadian society.”
“Like many sophisticated forms of vicious propaganda, the invocation of barbarism is meant to create fear and anxiety rather than to identify a real problem,” the letter says.
The term “barbaric cultural practices” was used in the title of a Conservative bill to target child marriage and forced marriage, as well as gender based violence. But as the Oct. 19 election nears, the Conservatives have brought other cultural issues to the forefront, notably by triggering a debate over whether Muslim women should be able to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies.
The niqab issue is one of the main tactics that has troubled Naghibi.
“The list of things that trouble me about the Conservative campaign is very long,” she said. “The amount of airtime that the Conservative campaign has devoted to condemning a very small percentage of women in Canada who choose to wear the niqab is another example of men telling women what they should be wearing.”
“In the name of freedom and democracy, the Conservatives are actually denying women the right to choose what they wear,” she added. “The fact that they don’t see this irony is astonishing.”
The Ryersonian contacted the Conservative party for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
Breaking Election Law: Easy as Pie
By Kira Wakeam
The RSU’s recent on-campus voting initiative may have violated elections law by rewarding voters with a sweet treat.
“Anytime that something tangible is offered in exchange for a vote of any kind, there is the possibility has violated Section 481.1 of the elections act,” says Dugald Maudsley, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.
Section 481.1 of the Canada Elections Act states that “every person is guilty of an offence who, during an election period, directly or indirectly offers a bribe to influence an elector to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.” For the most serious violations, an offender could be fined up to $50,000, receive a sentence of up to five years, or both. Even for less serious violations, the maximum penalties are a $20,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
According to Maudsley, the pie giveaway is a clear violation of the act but any complaints about the polling station have to be filed with the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
“The decision of whether or not this violates the act is entirely up to the commissioner,” says Maudsley.
The Ryerson Students’ Union handed out pie to those who voted at the advance polls Oct. 5-8. The polling station was one of several set up on Canadian campuses as part of an agreement between student unions and Elections Canada, according to an RSU spokesman.
The RSU’s vice-president of education, Cormac McGee, says that when he and other members of the student union came up with the idea as a way to encourage students to vote, people mentioned that it might be against the law. But he said he dismissed that concern because he “felt it meant more towards getting people out to vote in general rather than voting for a certain person.”
McGee says neither he nor anyone else at the RSU was warned that the pie giveaway might be breaking election law.
“The Elections Canada person who was running the station said he loved the idea,” McGee says.
“I never got any negative feedback or warnings that it could be an issue,” he says. “They knew what was going on and they never said anything.”
And an elections expert from the University of Manitoba says that even if it did constitute an offence, it would be too minor to lead to legal action.
“They are trying it make a bit more fun around the act of voting,” says Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the university and a member of the Elections Canada Advisory Board.
In an interview with The Ryersonian, Thomas said it could be argued that the pie-incentive encouraged voters to come out, after recent changes to voting laws in Canada might have discouraged them. “Because of the changes, some students might have been hard-pressed to find a place where they could vote outside their (home) riding,” he says.
The new rules to which Thomas referred are part of The Fair Elections Act, which came into law in June 2014. One of the most criticized changes in the law was the elimination of “vouching.” That allowed someone who didn’t have proper identification to vote, so long as another elector from the same polling area vouched for his or her identity. The new law also prohibited the use of voter information cards as valid identification.
“Presumably this (the pie give-away) was meant to counter some new discouragement from the new election rules,” said Thomas. “I don’t think you need to worry about Elections Canada police coming to round up students and organizers for this violation.”
Duff Conacher is a co-founder of Democracy Watch and a professor at the University of Ottawa. He says turning a blind eye to these violations can be a slippery slope.
“They bribed people using a piece of pie,” he said. “It may seem nominal, but to someone who is really hungry, a piece of pie is not a nominal incentive.”
“You don’t want to open that door because if you open the door to something small, you open the door to everything and you can’t do that if you want to have a free and fair election.”
Conacher says the law is drafted broadly in order to avoid loopholes at all levels and that an investigation of the polling station could be opened if a complaint is made.
Whether or they are taken to task for the violation, one thing is clear – the pie giveaway was a big success. According to McGee, the advance poll at the student centre saw more than 1,400 voters.
“By the middle of the week we had a higher turnout than all the other Toronto universities, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t end the week that way,” McGee says of the poll’s high turnout numbers. “The guy from Elections Canada told me he thought it was because of the pie.”
Four things we aren’t talking about this election and why
By Arthur White
In this long election campaign, debate has rapidly shifted from one issue to the next. First we had the economy, deficits and recession. Then, a moving photo of a drowned boy turned the discussion to whether Canada is doing enough to help Syrian refugees. Finally, in the surreal waning weeks before election day, it was all about the niqab.
But there’s a whole range of important issues that politicians have chosen to ignore — or that the media has opted to keep off the screens. We spoke to Ryerson professor Neil Thomlinson from the department of politics and public administration to figure out why.
Whoever takes office after Monday will have a few short months to decide what to do about a tricky moral issue that’s been making news since the early 90s, when Sue Rodriguez first petitioned the courts for the right to assisted suicide. In aunanimous ruling this February, the Supreme Court gave the government a year to come up with new legislation that gives patients in “grievous, unending pain” the right to access a doctor to help them take their own lives. That deadline is set to expire this February, and we’re no closer to a solution.
Strangely, this seemingly pressing, divisive, time-sensitive issue hasn’t come up once in any of the five debates. It doesn’t even appear in the platforms of any of the three main national parties.
Thomlinson says that assisted suicide is “today’s homosexuality,” an issue politicians don’t want to touch because it’s too divisive and reveals fissures in party membership. The Liberals and the Conservatives, in particular, have libertarian and social conservative wings that don’t see eye-to-eye on moral issues.
“The parties all hope the courts are going to come and sort it out for them and they’re not going to have to worry about it,” he said.
The same basic argument goes for prostitution law, another issue where the courts have forced the government’s hand. At least on the campaign trail, the NDP and the Liberals have shied away from challenging a new Conservative law that makes buying sex illegal. But Harper has recently tried to use prostitution as a wedge issue, accusing Liberal leader Justin Trudeau of wanting to legalize brothels. Thomlinson is near certain that the Conservatives made the same calculations for assisted suicide, but decided it was too risky.
“The tea leaves have been read, and they concluded they had more to lose than to gain,” he said.
Going back decades, almost every election has been fought with healthcare front and centre. When they first came to power in 2006, the Conservatives promised to shorten hospital wait times as one of their five top priorities. Poll after poll shows that the quality of our health system remains near the top of Canadians’ priority list.
This election has been different. Party platforms mention things like homecare and support for people with disabilities. The NDP promised to fund a few thousand new doctors and nurses. But there’s been no massive funding commitments or attempts to reopen the old public versus private debate.
Healthcare is in provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government contributes billions in transfers and oversees the Canada Health Act. Thomlinson says that the real obstacle is Liberal and NDP vulnerability. He calls the healthcare debate a “politically charged minefield” for both parties.
“It was the Liberals under Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien who gutted the system,” he explained, “so even though they’re saying they’re going to fix it, they don’t want to talk about their own past.”
The NDP, usually strong on healthcare, is also trying to overcome public fears that the party is fiscally irresponsible by promising to maintain a balanced budget. But, according to Thomlinson, that commitment makes it impossible to fund the big spending increases that would be necessary to fix the system, at least without significant tax hikes.
Much of the blame for maintaining the veil of silence falls on reporters, said Thomlinson, who criticizes the the media for always lunging at the newest issue of the day, like the niqab, rather than providing “sustained analysis and coverage” of longstanding social problems.
“The media always have attention deficit disorder,” he says, “It’s hard to write new and fresh stuff about the same issue day after day after day; It’s a whole lot easier when a new issue emerges”
This year was a key point in Canada’s relationship with First Nations. While many had heard of the travesty that was the Indian Residential School System, the summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought renewed attention to the harm suffered by people once stripped from their families and shut off from their own culture. The media began paying attention to the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women. All the while, many First Nations communities continue to live in dilapidated communities, without drinkable water or proper sanitation.
While the party platforms all have sections on First Nations, the word “aboriginal,” “indigenous” and “First Nations” were mentioned a grant total of ten times in the three English language debates, almost entirely on the subject of pipeline politics and Bill C-51. First Nations issues didn’t merit a single question from any of the debate moderators.
For Thomlinson, the reason is simple:
“The sad answer for that is that there are too many Canadians who don’t give a fuck about First Nations issues. You could go further than that and say that there are some Canadians who are hostile to First Nations issues.”
That problem is compounded by the very low voter turnout among aboriginals, a challenge some community leaders are trying to address this election.
“Until now many First Nations people have not voted,” Tomlinson said. “So there isn’t a whole lot to be gained by putting your neck out there and fervently supporting First Nations demands… and there potentially can be a lot to lose.”
Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe can be something of a wildcard in federal election campaigns, and this year he hasn’t failed to disappoint. In both French language debates, Duceppe brought up what should be a highly controversial issue: a $15 billion deal to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst human rights offenders on the globe.
None of the other party leaders, with the exception of Elizabeth May, bothered to respond with more than a few words. The issue didn’t come up at all in the English language debates. Mulcair tried to highlight how an NDP government would ensure that human rights were studied before such deals were made, but neither he nor Trudeau have made any firm commitments on what to do about the Saudis.
Why have the Liberals and the NDP chosen to ignore a topic that could help undermine the Harper’s claim, oft repeated, that he pursues a principled foreign policy?
One part of the answer is the geopolitical importance of Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier and longstanding U.S. ally.
But the bigger factor is probably domestic politics. The vehicles are set to be built around London, Ont., a key battleground city where both of the major opposition parties have a good chance of picking up seats.
Thomlinson says that domestic policy will always trump foreign policy, especially when jobs are at stake.
Catch our live election broadcast on October 19th
Join us on Oct. 19 for live coverage of the 42nd Canadian federal election. We’ll be broadcasting from The Ryersonian newsroom with running coverage of the latest results, joined by a panel of experts and party pundits to help you understand what they might mean, and who might form Canada’s next government. Tune in from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. right here on the ELXN ZONE main page.
Check out this video of what to expect:
The Issues: our interactive guide to where the parties stand
By Arthur White and Alicja Grzadkowska
Now that all four national parties have released their full platforms, we combed through the details to bring you an overview of where the parties stand on eight issues that matter for young voters.
Just hover over one of the issues and see a side-by-side comparison of the most important promises each party has made.
Long lines and two-hour waits for advance voting on campus
By Kira Wakeam and Leah Lalich
High voter turnout at advance polls in the Student Campus Centre caused long lines and wait times as long as two hours.
Polls opened Monday, when 241 people showed up in one day.
Throughout the week many students lined up for hours to take the chance to vote at the advanced poll, which closed Thursday at 6 p.m.
“[Wednesday] we were told that our station has the highest voter station turnout out of all the Toronto universities” said Cormac McGee, RSU vice president education. “They each have two, three polls, we only have one and we are killing them in turnout.”
According to McGee, Elections Canada staff said some of the enthusiasm might have been thanks to the free pie doled out for students voting at the station.
The Ryerson Students’ Union and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) collaborated with Elections Canada and the Canadian Federation of Students to create the first ever voting station on campus.
Sluts Against Harper bribes voters with nude pics
By Arthur White
An Instagram account is sending out nude photos to anyone who can prove they voted, preferably against Stephen Harper.
Votes4nudes, alternatively titled Sluts Against Harper, has picked up more than 8,000 followers in just two days of operation. According to an associated Tumblr site, voters need to send in a photo of themselves by a polling station to show they made it out.
The site offers “bonus points” for photos that feature slogans like “#FUCKHARPER.”
In return, voters will receive scandalous photos of men or women, according to preference. The sample photos posted on the account so far are censored, with winky faces or cut outs of Stephen Harper’s head blocking out female nipples and all genitals, but still overtly sexual.
“Harper kills my vibe,” says one user, who used middle finger emojis to block out her nipples.
“2 cute 2 vote 4 Harper,” says another.
For voting virgins: How to do it
By Arthur White and Bianca Guzzo
I’m new to all this voting stuff, how do I do it?
You might have received a voter identification card in the mail. If so, it should tell you when to vote, where to go and what to bring. Problem solved.
Wait! I didn’t get the card, am I screwed?
Nope. You can register to vote at the polls on election day, it just might take a tad longer. You can also register online until Oct. 13.
Hold on. If I don’t have the card, how do I know where to vote?
Just go to Election Canada’s Voter Information Service and type in your postal code, you can find your polling place by clicking on “Where do I vote?” on the right side of the next page.
What do I need to bring?
You need ID that shows your photo, name and current address. Your driver’s license will do nicely for all three. If you don’t have a driver’s license you can bring your student ID and a piece of mail with your address on it from a reputable institution (like Ryerson!). Elections Canada also has a list of all the ID they accept here.
When’s the election again?
Oct. 19. Polls will be open from 9:30 a.m. till 9:30 p.m. in Ontario. If you can’t make it, there’s also advance voting on Oct. 9, 10, 11 and 12.
What do I do when I get there?
Elections Canada staff will guide the way. But basically you just make a big X next to your preferred candidate. Most candidates will also have a party, which will be noted with their name. If you need help choosing, check out our candidates and issues sections.
Liberals plan to increase student grant funding by 50 percent
By Adena Ali
On Monday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced a plan that he says would make post-secondary education more affordable.
Trudeau promised to boost Canada Student Grants for full-time students by 50 per cent to $3,000 a year, $1,800 for part-time students, and make it easier for more students from “middle-class families” to qualify for Canada Student Grants.
He unveiled the last few points of the Liberal party’s platform in an 88-page plan to a cheering crowd of students at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.
Trudeau described the importance of students to the Canadian economy.
“We have a plan to provide direct support to students from low- and middle-income families, so that they can pay for a good education and keep their debt at a manageable level,” he said.
He also emphasized the struggle for middle-class families trying to save for their children’s education, taking aim at the Conservatives and leader Stephen Harper.
“The federal government spends billions every year on non-refundable tax credits that don’t offer direct help for students when they need it,” Trudeau said.
He added that a Liberal government would make the student loan repayment process more flexible by allowing students to wait to start repaying until they earn at least $25,000 per year.
The Liberal party also wants to invest $50 million in additional annual funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support program (PSSSP) to help indigenous students get a post-secondary education.