Liberals win majority government as Ryerson profs lose in Toronto and B.C.
Photo: Liberal MP Adam Vaughan speaks to supporters after defeating Ryerson professor and former mayoral candidate Olivia Chow in Spadina-Fort York Monday night (Kira Wakeam/Ryersonian Staff).
By Arthur White
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party won a resounding victory on Monday in a political sea change that could deliver bigger grants and delayed interest payments to students across Canada.
By winning 184 seats out of the 338 in the House of Commons, the Liberals will form a majority government. From only 36 seats heading into the election, the party increased its representation more than fivefold in one of the most stunning comebacks in Canadian political history.
The Conservatives shed 60 seats, finishing with 99 nationwide. The party saw a massive collapse in support in the Greater Toronto Area, where the Liberals won 46 of 52 ridings. Stephen Harper delivered a concession speech in Calgary and will resign as leader of the party after nearly a decade as prime minister.
The NDP also had a tough night, dropping from 95 seats to 44, driven by a poor showing in their Quebec stronghold. The Liberals won 40 seats in Quebec, mostly in and around Montreal.
The Liberals ran on a platform that promised lower taxes for the middle class, massive investments in infrastructure and a new, more collaborative approach to government.
On post-secondary education, the new Liberal government has promised to increase Canada Student Grant payments from $2,000 to $3,000 and defer interest payments on student loans until graduates make more than $25,000 per year. Trudeau also promised to create 40,000 new youth jobs, invest federal funds in apprenticeship programs and contribute $2.6 billion over four years to aboriginal education.
The party also plans to legalize and regulate marijuana.
The Liberals swept every riding around the Ryerson campus, and across Toronto as a whole. Businessman Bill Morneau took Toronto Centre, while the old Toronto Centre MP and former journalist Chrystia Freeland won in University-Rosedale.
In Jack Layton’s old riding of Toronto-Danforth, the Liberals narrowly edged out his successor, Craig Scott. Olivia Chow, a former MP, lost to Liberal Adam Vaughan by nearly 15,000 votes in Spadina-Fort York.
Other candidates with Ryerson connections also had a bad night. Jacqui Gingras, a sociology professor running for the NDP in North Okanagan-Shuswap, lost to the Conservative candidate.
Recent graduate Linh Nguyen came in fourth place for the Greens in her riding of Mississauga Centre.
Compared to 2011, this year’s election saw a seven percentage point increase in voter turnout, which reached 68.5 per cent. No figures for youth turnout were immediately available, but before the election, Ryerson students waited up to two hours to vote in advance polls on campus.
Students in residence, some deterred by the long lines in advance polls, came back to vote at the International Living/Learning Centre on Monday. Elections Canada officials on site told The Ryersonian that everything was running smoothly as of Monday afternoon.
In his victory speech, Trudeau commended NDP leader Thomas Mulcair for his “vigorous campaign,” and paid his respects to the defeated prime minister.
“Stephen Harper has served this country for a decade,” he said. “And as for anyone who has devoted their life to this country, we thank him for his service.”
He said that the Liberals had run a positive campaign based on a “hopeful vision.”
“Politics doesn’t have to be negative and personal to be successful,” Trudeau said. “You can appeal to the better angels of our nature and you can win while doing it. Tonight, my very good friends, we proved that.”
In a campaign dominated — at least for a few weeks — by a debate over the niqab and what the Conservatives called “barbaric cultural practices,” Trudeau, in the final minutes of his speech, told the story of a Muslim voter who handed him her infant child and explained why she was choosing the Liberals.
“She said she’s voting for us because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life and that her government will protect those rights.
“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” he said.
With Files from Jordan Mady
Apathetic, indifferent or cynical: youth need to realize the power of their vote
By Nicole Abi-Najem
Rebecca Kogon is a Toronto-based publicist who says she has never voted in a federal election.
For Kogon, choosing not to vote isn’t about a lack of knowledge, or about sending a direct message.
“This is not something I’m proud about,” says Kogon, “I’m just fairly apathetic.”
Kogon is not alone.
The Council of Canadians’ website states almost two out of three young people did not vote in the last general election, making them the age group with the lowest voter turnout.
According to a 2011 Labour Force Survey published on Elections Canada, 30 per cent of youth between 18 to 24 said they did not vote during the 2011 federal election because they were not interested. Twenty three percent cited being too busy as their reason for not voting, and 11 per cent stated they didn’t vote because they were away or out of town.
Kogon says she took a quiz on the government’s website to better inform herself. The problem, explains Kogon, is that the questions weren’t targeted towards the general population.
“The quiz takes too long, around 45 minutes,” says Kogon, “and it was too specific. At the end, it said my values most aligned with the Green party, but I don’t agree … if it was catered to the apathetic voter, that would simplify it.”
Kogon says she plans on voting in the future, but wants to first educate herself about the parties’ stances.
Neil Thomlinson is associate professor in the department of politics and public administration at Ryerson University. Thomlinson says he isn’t buying apathy as the reason why young Canadians aren’t voting.
“I don’t think most youth are apathetic or indifferent. What they are is cynical. They don’t believe that there’s much difference between parties, local candidates, and leaders.”
“They don’t believe that their participation will make any difference,” he adds, “and they don’t really understand the system very well at all, so that the expressed cynicism is often a cover for their lack of knowledge.”
Thomlinson lists four main reasons for why younger people should vote:
- Most issues that affect everybody also affect young people, even if they don’t now, they will in the near future.
- “Almost all polls show a significant disjuncture between the political views of younger people and older people,” says Thomlinson. “By not voting, youth are letting the views of the older folks prevail.”
- Voting determines the country we will all have to live in. “Somehow,” asserts Thomlinson, “I don’t believe that young people don’t care about that.”
- There are issues that will affect youth personally, like post-secondary education, jobs, day care, and while Thomlinson says that that will affect everybody, it will affect young people more because “they’ll be around longer to enjoy – or suffer with – the consequences.”
Apathy, indifference, cynicism, whatever it is, Thomlinson says that young people just need to realize their power. Even if one vote won’t change the government, together, youth can have a radical impact on how our country is governed.
“The mathematical reality is that, if young people voted in anything approaching the same proportion as their elders, they would change the election result,” he says. “They would get a government that would deliver something closer to their policy preferences and, at the same time, they would piss off a lot of old people who would find their preferences ‘outvoted.’ One would think that combination of benefits is a pretty good incentive to vote.”
12 ridings we’re watching this election
By Arthur White
More than ten million Canadians in 338 ridings across the nation will head to the polls on Oct. 19 to help elect a new government. Every seat matters, but some contests are worth taking a closer look at. Several cabinet ministers, a few star candidates and even two party leaders might be at risk of losing their seats. We examined 15 unpredictable ridings that promise to be razor close, signals of broader trends or just plain exciting.
We used data compiled from local and national polls by threehundredeight.com, together with past results from elections Canada. Though some of our choices had wide margins in 2011, times have changed, and regional trends have closed what might have seemed like insurmountable gaps four years ago. Other races, like Etobicoke centre, where the Conservatives beat the Liberals by six votes in 2011, seem like sure things for the surging Liberals this time around. These 12 ridings are out best guesses for where you should focus your attention on election day.
Argyle Street in Halifax, N.S. (Courtesy Thorfinn Stainforth/Wikimedia Commons)
It might seem strange to pay any attention to a riding where the incumbent MP won by more than 12,000 votes in 2011. The NDP’s Megan Leslie captured more than half the ballots in that election and went on to serve as one of the deputy leaders of the party. But the Liberal vote, traditionally very high in the Atlantic, tanked in 2011. Now it’s back up to more than 50 per cent, while the NDP has slipped to about 30 points behind. Add to that Leslie’s troubles with expense claims for plane trips, and the NDP may be at risk of losing the seat that belonged to former party leader Alexa McDonough. Whatever happens, Halifax will be a good gauge of Liberal strength in the cities of the Maritimes.
Edmundston, N.B. (Courtesy P199/Wikimedia Commons)
Rural New Brunswick was a stronghold for the Conservatives in 2011, but as the red wave washes over the Atlantic provinces, Indian Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt could be one of the first casualties from the Conservative cabinet. Valcourt beat sitting Liberal MP Jean-Claude D’Amours in the last election, and now D’Amours is back for a rematch. With Valcourt attached to the Conservatives’ controversial handling of First Nations issues, and the Liberals showing strength in French-speaking parts of the province, the Liberals have a good chance of throwing him out.
Saint-Basile, Que. (Courtesy Harfang/Wikimedia Commons)
The suburbs and rural areas around Quebec City have always been more hospitable to the Conservatives than elsewhere in La Belle Province. If Conservative candidate Joël Godin can take this one away from NDP incumbent Élaine Michaud, in a mostly rural riding just north of the provincial capital, then they’re sure to have a good night in Quebec. A dozen or so seats here could help compensate for expected losses elsewhere in the country, and with NDP support well below where it was at the beginning of the campaign, they’ve got a good shot.
Place des arts in Montreal, Que. (Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons)
When Gilles Duceppe lost this riding in eastern Montreal to the NDP’s Hélène Laverdière by about 5,400 the veteran politician and strident Quebec nationalist resigned as leader of the Bloc Quebecois. But now he’s back for another battle, with riding polls published on threehundredeight.com suggesting a tight race. If the Bloc can’t win here, they’re unlikely to have a good night anywhere around Montreal. But if they do have a good night, Quebec could turn into a complicated, highly unpredictable four-way jumble.
Rue Bernard in Montreal, Que. (Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons)
Could NDP leader Thomas Mulcair lose his seat in the heart of Montreal? The fact that he ever won this riding, which had voted Liberal in every election save one going back to 1935, is something of an anomaly. Now, the Liberals are polling very high in the western part of the island, and local polls show they’re starting to make inroads in this highly urban riding just west of Boulevard Saint-Laurent, the historic dividing line between French and English. According to threehundredeight.com, Mulcair is less than three points ahead of his Liberal challenger. If he loses, it will signal likely disaster for the party.
Kanata, Ont. (Courtesty Jelsova/Wikimedia Commons)
The Liberals have brought in a soldier to take over this newly created riding in a Conservative bastion. Just west of Ottawa, it includes farmland and the booming suburb of Kanata, and was cut out of old ridings where the Conservatives led by over ten thousand in 2011. A retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Forces, Liberal candidate Karen McCrimmon was the first woman in Canada to command a flying squadron, and now she’s looking to take out businessman Walter Pamic. With the Liberals trending up across the province, this one could switch from blue to red. It should be a signal for what will happen in the suburban ring around the nation’s capital.
Ajax, Ont. (Courtesy P199/Wikimedia Commons)
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has had a hard run since coming into the cabinet. After sustaining criticism on the Syrian refugee file, he made matters worse during a horrific performance on CBC’s Power and Politics early in the campaign. Mark Holland, who lost to Alexander by just over 3,000 votes in 2011, is back for another round. Look to this one as a clue about Liberal strength in the seat-rich 905 region.
Downtown Toronto seen from the CN Tower in Spadina-Fort York (Courtesy Agunther/Wikimedia Commons)
This newly created riding on the shores of Lake Ontario is one of the most hotly contested in the country, with mayoral candidate and Ryerson professor Olivia Chow facing off against popular Liberal MP and ex-city Councillor Adam Vaughan. Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau have made frequent visits to this riding, which is at the heart of a battle for downtown Toronto. In the 2011 election, Chow beat her Liberal challenger by a whopping 20,000 votes. But when she resigned to run for mayor, Vaughan beat one of her protégés in a byelection. This time, the Liberals are riding high across the province. But in Spadina-Fort York, local issues and the force of personality make this one nearly impossible to call.
The annual Woodbridge Fair demolition derby (Courtesy Tom Stefanac/Wikimedia Commons)
Another signal of Liberal strength in the 905, this riding just north of Toronto could be the place where the embattled career of former Veteran’s Affairs Minister Julian Fantino finally comes to an end. Fantino, a former police chief, won by more than 18,000 votes here in 2011. But he soon become the lightning rod for the Conservative mishandling of the veteran’s file, notably after refusing to talk to the wife of a veteran. Financial analyst Francesco Sorbara could take this one for the Liberals. If he manages it, look for the Conservatives to be pushed out of this key area north of Toronto.
Calgary, Alta. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Can the Conservatives lose ground in fortress Alberta, even in Calgary, the heart of the beast? This would be the place to look, especially given the star power in the contest. The Conservatives are running Joan Crockett, a former executive with the Calgary Herald. The Liberals don’t have a single seat in Alberta right now, but they’re running Kent Hehr, a former provincial Member of the Legislative Assembly. Local polls on threehundredeight.com give Hehr a strong lead. Who knew Alberta could be exciting?
Burrard Inlet north of Burnaby, B.C (Photo courtesy Vranac/Wikimedia Commons)
This new riding in a suburb east of Vancouver is typical of the three way race in the region. Local polls have all three major parties trading the lead and within a few points of each other. The NDP are setting their hopes on Carol Baird Ellan, a former provincial court judge, while the Liberals are countering with a businessman and adjunct professor. This one could be one of the most unpredictable races in one of the most unpredictable provinces.
Richmond, B.C. seen from Aberdeen Station (Courtesy Grotskiii/Wikimedia Commons)
With a Trudeau victory on Oct. 19 looking increasingly probable, the Conservatives have started pulling out some dirty tricks in immigrant communities around Vancouver and Toronto, including an ad in Punjabi and Cantonese newspapers claiming that the Liberals would legalize brothels. This riding, with an immigrant population of about 60 per cent, could signal how well that strategy worked out in the end. Alice Wong, the Conservative incumbent and Minister of State for seniors, is battling local businessman Lawrence Woo.
Strategic voting: what is it and should you do it?
By Melinna Miranda
If you’re a first-time voter, choosing what party to vote for can be confusing. Maybe you’ve never voted because you thought your vote wouldn’t count. Strategic voting aims to make sure that no vote is “wasted.”
Strategic voting is exactly what it sounds like – voting for a candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat the candidate that you don’t want to win. This can mean voting for a party you don’t necessarily side with, but instead voting for one just so that the party you dislike doesn’t win.
Websites such as strategicvoting.ca and vote
With Canada’s current electoral system, first-past-the-post (FPTP), a candidate wins a seat in Parliament if they receive the highest number of votes in their riding. Candidates don’t need to have 50 per cent of the vote in order to win, and oftentimes win with less than half of the vote. This can result in vote splitting, where votes are divided between candidates that have similar platforms, thereby increasing the chance of the candidate with a minority of the vote to win. This is an issue because the result doesn’t necessarily reflect the choices of the majority of the population.
Voting strategically works to avoid splitting the vote. Websites like those mentioned above, encourage voters to choose the New Democratic Party (NDP), Liberal or Green party candidate in their riding that looks best placed to defeat the Conservatives. By inputting your riding, the website calculates which of those three parties has the most support and tells you to vote for that one.
Green party leader Elizabeth May told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday that strategic voting is “slaughtering” the Green party because people don’t vote for what they want. She encouraged voters to choose the candidate they want, and not the outcome.
But Daniel Rubenson, an associate professor of politics at Ryerson, says that there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with voting strategically.
Although Rubenson says it’s not an “ideal” situation, if people want to vote strategically without doing their research, it’s their right to be uniformed.
“It’s the beauty of the system in which we live,” he said.
Second-year new media student Katrina Trantau will be voting for the first time on Monday. She took a test online to see which party her beliefs sided with the most. She says that she rather vote for the party she believes in than vote for one she thinks will win.
“One specific vote isn’t gonna make a huge difference,” she said.
Whether or not strategic voting is detrimental or beneficial to the democratic process is open to debate. But for each individual voter, it could be something to consider when casting a vote Oct. 19.
The indigenous vote: has it changed the campaign?
Photo: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair speaks at an Assembly of First Nations forum (Courtesy @perrybellegarde/Twitter)
By Angelyn Francis
Improper housing, access to education, youth suicide rate, incarceration rates, unsafe water and missing and murdered women.
For indigenous voters in Canada, these are the main issues this election. This time around, each of the parties in the running have addressed many, if not all, of these problems in their platforms.
But up till now, a day before voting day, their points related to indigenous issues haven’t been heard quite as loudly through microphones on the campaign trail.
Nadine Cuneo, the financial director for the Indigenous Student Association at Ryerson, remembers watching a debate and not hearing indigenous issues being talked about at all.
In all three English debates, First Nations and aboriginal peoples were referenced briefly with regard to pipelines and Bill C-51 and once when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pointed out these communities “haven’t been talked about enough tonight” during the Globe and Mail debate. But none of the questions posed by moderators, nor the topics brought up in the open debate portions, related to indigenous issues.
“I think that’s to be expected, as a Native person,” Cuneo said. “We don’t expect them to talk about our issues and that’s why so many Native people don’t vote.
“Our issues are seen as small niche issues, but meanwhile as an indigenous person these are the main issues,” she continued.
Off the mics, however, indigenous issues have been addressed to various extents in each of the parties’ platforms. The Liberal party and the NDP have dedicated sections of their platforms that individually address closing education gaps in First Nations communities, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and opening an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
The Greens have presented a specific aboriginal policy, bringing up these major points as well. The Conservative platform mentions access to education, “social and economic development,” and looking at mental health and suicide among First Nations.
Scott Hillier, a Ryerson PhD candidate in policy studies, says that these mentions mean we are starting to see some of the parties take indigenous issues more seriously, but he agrees that they haven’t been highlighted on the campaign trail.
“We’ve spent weeks now discussing the niqab issue — an issue that is really a non-issue … when we have over 1,200 missing and murdered or missing indigenous women in this country, and yet we can’t seem to have that discussion on a national stage.”
The staggering number of drinking water advisories on reserves is another First Nations problem that has been written into platforms, but not really spoken about to voters.
According to Health Canada, as of July 31, 2015, there were 133 drinking water advisories in effect in 93 First Nation communities across Canada, not including those in British Columbia. Some have been in place as far back as 1999. The list states that many advisories have not yet been revoked.
Rick Harp, a journalist and clean water advocate in Winnipeg, is pleased that commitments regarding clean water on First Nation reserves have been mentioned as platform points for the NDP, Liberals and Greens. They’ve each specifically referenced the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the nation for which Harp advocates, which has been under a boil water advisory for nearly two decades. Both the Liberals and the NDP have committed to building a road to the community, which has been a significant barrier in terms of accessing necessities.
Harp said, however, that a newly elected government may be in for some surprises regarding the actual state of government finances.
“Promises are often made assuming a fairly rosy scenario, and when that doesn’t materialize aboriginal issues fall to the bottom of the pile, frankly,” said Harp.
“I think there’s a lot of well-earned cynicism towards federal governments when it comes to these kinds of promises,” he added. “It really is, ‘believe it when I see it.’”
According to Hillier, the status of their issues, as well as ideological beliefs — meaning that some Aboriginal groups participate only in their own First Nations and do not recognize the Canadian government as legitimate — have contributed to the low voter turnout from among the First Nations in Canada.
Based on data collected by Elections Canada the turnout for the 2011 federal election on First Nations reserves was estimated as under 45 per cent, whereas the national average was a little over 61 per cent.
Hillier noted that the Fair Elections Act may make it all the more difficult for First Nations peoples living on reserves to vote. The new act has made voter identification stricter by eliminating vouching, among other things. Hillier said many reserves do not have street addresses, so in the past, chiefs and band members would vouch for the voter and verify their identity and home riding. With the new changes, these voters will have to find another way.
For this election though, Hillier said he thinks he’s starting to see attitudes change toward voting.
“We’ve had many leaders in the indigenous community come out and say we must vote, we must make a change.”
This year’s Mrs. Universe, Canada’s Ashley Callingbull from Alberta’s Enoch Cree Nation, has been speaking out and urging First Nations to vote. The Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has made statements the importance of First Nations peoples “making an informed decision at the ballot box.” And in total there are 49 indigenous candidates vying for a seat in the House of Commons.
Post-election, Hillier said that people need to maintain pressure on the federal government to hold true to the promises they have made for indigenous communities.
How much do looks matter on the campaign trail?
Photo: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008 (Richard Burdett/Wikimedia Commons)
By Caitlin Martin Newnham
“Nice hair, though” is the catchphrase of Canada’s 2015 federal elections. But it’s not just the phrase used by the Conservatives to attack Justin Trudeau’s luscious locks. The phrase represents the importance that citizens place on appearances when deciding who should lead them.
The emphasis of physicality in politics is a convention common to both Canada and the U.S. throughout history. Nelson Wiseman, the director of the Canadian studies program at the University of Toronto, explained that “physical appearance is very important (and) comes right down to the colour of the tie you wear in the leaders’ debate.”
Harper proved this theory several times during his incumbency. For example, Wiseman said, “On the ‘Three Amigos’ summit (a meeting with the leaders of the U.S. and Mexico), he was wearing a safari outfit and some fun was made of that.”
“Since then he’s picked up someone who lays out what he’s going to wear,” Wiseman said.
Clothing is an important factor in the appearance of politicians, but this election has highlighted one highly criticized feature of the candidates: hair.
Facial hair has been a focal point of appearance controversy in politics, so much so that Wikipedia dedicated an entire page to listing whiskered former U.S. presidents.
Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States to have a beard. His decision to abandon his smooth face for a chin curtain was allegedly influenced by Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old who wrote to Lincoln before he was elected. Grace told Lincoln his face is too thin: “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be president.”
It’s clear that not everyone agrees with Grace because, as Wiseman pointed out, “Much has been written about Nixon’s five o’clock shadow during the presidential debate with Kennedy.” Kennedy was clean-shaven and composed in front of the cameras, whereas Nixon was uncomfortable and haggard-looking following his stay at the hospital for a knee injury. Kennedy won the debate.
Tom Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party, has a neatly groomed beard that would have been commonplace during the inception of Canadian governance. Out of the 25 delegates at the Charlottetown Conference, 19 sported facial hair. In the context of the last century, however, the last whiskered prime minister was Louis St. Laurent who only had a whisper of a moustache.
But Wiseman does not think Mulcair’s beard is necessarily bad for his campaign.
“Some women think beards are sexy,” Wiseman said, but some think facial hair is unpleasant. “(Mulcair’s) just being himself — if he changes people will ask, is he hiding something? … I think you’re best off being true to yourself, unless people say you look goofy.”
Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal party, may be clean shaven, but the hair on his head ignited the recent conversation about the importance of hair in politics.
“(Appearance) influences a lot subconsciously, and sometimes consciously,” Wiseman said. “The reason why the Conservatives in their ‘just not ready’ ads used a picture with Trudeau and his long hair is because of his youth.” The Conservatives intended to emphasize Trudeau’s youth in the attack ad’s photograph and strategically followed the image with, ‘He’s just not ready.’”
But there is no reason for Trudeau to get a trim. “If you’ve been to your hairdresser and you don’t like what they did, you’ll feel awkward for the rest of the day,” Wiseman noted. “You exude more confidence and poise when you’re being yourself.”
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.