Things I Saw This Week April 14

mst3k

In the late 90s, before the days of torrents, Netflix, and YouTube, if you wanted to watch something that wasn’t available in your country, you had to rely on an underground network of people willing to tape it onto VHS and pass it around. That’s how I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Now it’s back and perfectly accessible on Netflix with a new cast but the same concept: a man in a jumpsuit is forced by mad scientists to watch bad movies with his robot friends and hilarity ensues. Now that I’m not a university student who runs on irony, we’ll see if the appeal is the same.

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This week, the Trudeau government unveiled plans to legalize pot by July 1st of 2018. It seems ambitious to meet that date, especially as it will be up to the provinces to figure out how to enforce the laws. But most Canadians are on board and few politicians on the opposition side seem willing to go against the proposed law. I worry that once it’s in place, those who do indulge will go so over the top with it that Canada will just smell like one big summer music festival for a year or two until everyone calms down.

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Because bombing always, always works President Trump dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan this week. The weapon used is called the “Mother of All Bombs,” or the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. And now terrorism is over forever. The end.

Russia has a bigger one which they call the “Father of All Bombs” because #masculinitysofragile.

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coe

I’m currently reading the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I’m a late arrival to the detective genre. Perhaps because I find the subject matter too gruesome, I’ve just avoided it. Rowling doesn’t avoid the gore here but it’s handled well and she doesn’t revel in it. The books are character-driven and well-plotted enough to keep me coming back.

8th

Last summer I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not one for self-help books or management books and I heard the author was a devout Mormon. I had this idea that the book was some kind of lesson in financial success while being a good Christian. It’s nothing of the kind, of course. He does, from time to time, touch on his faith but really, it’s about being an honest, principled person. The 8th Habit is a follow up for the contemporary age.

 

aftermath

Because I want something light to read on the train to my new job downtown.

Yes! I’m burying the lede but I’ll be starting a new job on April 24. It’s for a law firm. It’s a manager role in an emerging field. I haven’t updated my LinkedIn or said anything on Facebook yet. I’m waiting until I’m actually in the office and they haven’t decided they’ve made some terrible mistake.

But I’m working again! Hooray!

La Meute

Rather disturbing, if not entirely surprising, story at CBC today about the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant groups in Quebec.

The question of Quebec identity has come up in this province from time to time whenever new customs are introduced into the majority culture. It came up with Charter of Values two years ago and now it’s manifesting itself into this group called La Meute or, “the Wolfpack.

Aligning themselves more France’s Marine Le Pen of the Front National than Donald Trump, la Meute, according to the CBC, “hope to become a lobby group of sorts, dedicated to making Quebecers aware of the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism.” Generally, I’ll assume your political movement is bad news if it has “Front” in the name.

Of course, they seem mostly based in rural Quebec where few immigrants actually live but anti-immigrant sentiment is often highest.

Over the past year, with the refugee crisis in Europe, as well as with the election of Donald Trump, it seems as though people, egged on by fake news designed to whip up hatred, are now emboldened to act out against those who are different.

We need to guard against complacency and smugness in Canada because we’re not so different from the rest of world.

In Which I Dream About Justin

Warning: This post contains the recounting of a dream, which is officially the boringest thing one can talk about.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of The Canadian Press

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of The Canadian Press

Last night, I dreamed about a family reunion in which I was reunited with my long lost cousin Justin Trudeau. We had a good laugh about how long it’s been and he gave me a good natured ribbing about my support for the NDP and I, in turn, gave him a good natured ribbing about how, the last time we met, he had hair like one of the Musketeers.

People asked how we were related and, as it turns out, it was on both of our mothers’ side as one of my uncles married the sister of Margaret Sinclair.

We had such a good time at the family barbecue that I forgot that I gave bad directions to a friend who ended up parking her Yaris on Wolf Island (not Wolfe Island), a small circular land formation in the middle of the Bay of Funday which can only be accessed by land for one hour a day, thus stranding her there for the night.

I awoke in the middle of the night trying to figure out if I was in fact related to the leader of the Liberal Party. No, I only had one uncle on my mother’s side and he married a woman from New Brunswick who is no relation to Margaret Sinclar. Then I began to wonder if I was going around telling people that I was related to Justin Trudeau and a slight panic began to set in as I was sure I had and people would think I was a liar or a fantasist. It took a while for me to calm down long enough to remind myself that, no, I haven’t been making up stories about famous relatives before I would fall asleep again.

On a related note, I am attending a creative writing class at the local library tonight. I may be asked to leave.

When is the Next Election?

About five minutes after a Conservative majority was declared in the 2011, that was the question that first popped in my head.

Left-leaning Canadians like me have long wondered when the popular support for Stephen Harper would finally drop. During the last election, I thought it was impossible for Harper’s Conservatives to ever gain a majority. Another minority government for Harper would have meant a leadership review while Ignatieff would quit the leadership of the Liberal Party and Layton would finish his last campaign as NDP leader as he wasn’t likely to move any seats. What happened, of course, was a majority for the Conservatives, a historic routing of the Liberals, and Official Opposition status for the NDP and then, just after their greatest success, they lost their leader.

And now, two years later, could the government he named after himself be brought down by a $90,000 cheque?

Well, one lives in hope. Current polls show Trudeau’s Liberals leading the Conservatives with enough support to perhaps win a minority government or even a majority. But polls two years from a election are as meaningless as, well, polls the day before an election.

Still, it’s a thing to consider: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It takes getting used to. I think he’s an intelligent man and, I think, smarter than others give him credit for. Certainly, invocations of his father’s name as an argument against his credibility aren’t much of an argument at all. He will stand or fall on the value of his party’s platform, his own ideas, and his ability to convey those ideas (although "I’m not Stephen Harper" will probably get as much mileage).

So what is the platform? Well, we won’t see the full one until the election but it will likely include legalizing pot and the words "middle class" a lot. So if you’re a pot smoking middle class, or aspiring middle class, Canadian, Justin is your man.

NDP Leader Mulcair has shown he’s the better Opposition leader by asking short, pointed questions that catch Stephen Harper off-guard (when he shows up) but will years of experience and party-building beat awesome hair?

I said eons ago that I though the previous election would be Harper’s last but, as it turns out, it was for the wrong reasons. I was convinced he’d never win a majority and the party would ditch him for it. I still think the previous election was his last not because of Mike Duffy, nor Robocalls, nor his weird aversion to science, nor indifferent relationship to First Nations peoples, nor the prorogations.

I don’t think it’ll be any one scandal or a combined number of scandals that will bring him down.

Nor do I think he will be brought down for writing a book about the fucking Maple Leafs.

I think it will be simply that he’s been there too long.

He has two years to make up his mind, of course, but I think we’ll soon be looking at what a post-Harper Ottawa will look like before he even makes an announcement. What we may end up with is Harper stepping down to write that sequel to that hockey book we all want and he, along with the rest of us, will watch some current minister get Kim Campbelled in 2015.

History has a way of telling leaders when it’s time to go.

Why I’m Voting Green This Election

So I had this plan all week to write a dense, point-by-point argument for voting for the Parti Vert du Quebec. But then I remembered that my ability to write long, intellectually rigourous blog posts began to wane, oh, about four years ago. Did I mention my kid’s fourth birthday in a week?

But, for what it’s worth, I’m voting Green this time. Here’s why:

Have You Noticed How Freakishly Hot It’s Been?

Yeah, we as a species did that. And I don’t believe exploiting shale gas or pulling more oil out of the north is going to help matters. The Parti Vert du Quebec proposes the most serious and ambitious environmental platform of all the parties.

And I’d like to live in a society where our stewardship of the environment takes priority above all else because, well, I’d like to leave a smaller mess for my own child to clean up.

The Liberal Government’s Record

The Quebec Liberal Party is liberal in name only. A liberal party does not throw money at an asbestos mine to export a substance known to cause cancer. A liberal government doesn’t legislate things like Loi 78.

I used to like Jean Charest. Or, rather, I liked the guy who stood before a massive Montreal crowd in October of 1995 and gave a spirited defence of Canada. They used to think he was going to be prime minister of Canada. Whatever happened to that guy?

But the fact is, I’m a centre-left progressive kind of guy and the Liberal Party of Quebec has never really fit that bill.

There is More Than One Federalist Option

Let this be the election where we can forever bury the idea that federalist anglophones vote as a block for the Liberals for lack of any clear alternatives.

I have considered Quebec Solidaire. While Quebec Solidaire may have much in their platform that I like, the fact remains that they’re an explicitly pro-sovereignty party and I’m not pro-sovereignty. It’s not just that I’m a federalist. It’s that I’m Canadian. In Nova Scotia, I feel at home. In Toronto, I feel at home. In British Columbia, I feel at home. In Montreal, while, yes, it’s different, I still feel at home. And all of that is something I want to continue. My conception of my country is that Canada includes Quebec and Quebec includes Canada. Now, I do like Quebec Solidaire’s more inclusive approach to sovereignty than that of the Parti Québecois. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re sovereignist. I’m not.

The PQ, QS, and ON all see Canada as something they want to opt out of. It doesn’t matter how relevant or possible a sovereignty referendum is in the next four years, I will always vote for the party that wants to stay in Canada. To change that would fundamentally change the way I view my own citizenship.

All that to say: we have choices. And they’re not between order and chaos, as Jean Charest would have us believe. All we have to do is choose to make them.

Some Thoughts on the Quebec Election

It has been an excellent summer for nerds: They made a movie starring The Avengers, Alien got its prequel Prometheus, the Batman trilogy came to a very loud conclusion, and they even managed to make a fourth Spider-Man movie in ten years.

This morning a Wil Wheaton quoting robot landed on Mars.

And for political nerds we are going to the polls in my adopted province of Quebec. I love a good election, me. Well, how were we to know that Jean Charest would dissolve the National Assembly in the middle of a construction holiday?

Still, M. Charest wasted no time at all in casting his chief rival, Parti Québecois leader Madame Pauline Marois, as a bit of riff-raff who engages in street politics. To take a woman who sold her palatial home on Ile Bizard for $7 million and redefine her as a heroine of the working classes is a masterstroke in a brilliant chess game that, clearly, only Jean Charest can see.

But today’s Québec is different place from that of our ancestors. Instead of the Liberal/PQ – Federalist/Sovereignist split of yore, we have that plus the welcome addition of the “Possibly-Sovereignist” Coalition Avenir Québec (with their delightfully livid campaign slogan) and “Sovereignist-But-Not-In-That-Way” Québec Solidaire who are so left-wing that they reject the concept of a “party leader” and just go with spokespeople. Also they abuse beavers.

I’m not entirely sure who thought abusing the symbol of Canada in a cute YouTube video was a good idea but there it is.

But I have to say I like the cut of M. Legault’s jib. Not only does every Quebecker get a doctor with a CAQ government, but rumour has it, we all get super-powers.

It’s difficult to read the tea leaves to see who shall sit on the Aluminium Throne* in Quebec City. In the old days, the winning party was the one that offered the most drives and bottles of rum to the electorate.

Such dirty tricks would never do in today’s open and transparent government.

In reality, I think Charest should have resigned sometime during the lest mandate as I just don’t see the Liberals forming the next government. But who knows, maybe they have some internal polling that we just don’t see. Or they’re counting on both a low voter turnout and a split vote among the other options to win. I may stick my vote with the Greens this time but I’m not sure. I wish there was a provincial NDP to vote for but obviously that’s not going to happen in this election.

My gut feeling is that we’re in for some kind of minority government but then, last year I didn’t think Stephen Harper would get a majority with an NDP-led Official Opposition so my gut is never really to be trusted.

*Shoehorned Game of Thrones reference

On The End of Jean Charest

It’s hard to believe in this era, after more than one hundred days of protests, that Quebec premier Jean Charest was once a serious contender for prime minister of Canada.

He came to national attention in the 1980’s as youthful cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. He survived the shellacking that party received in the 1993 federal election that brought Jean Chrétien to power. He was returned to Parliament as one half of a two person PC caucus that included Elsie Wayne who was an odious little homophobe and my Member of Parliament while I was in Saint John. You’d think being chained to her for four years would earn him enough karma points for a lifetime.

When the 1995 referendum came along, he became the strongest voice of federalism in Quebec and a serious contender to replace Jean Chrétien. It wasn’t to be, of course. Charest would be the second last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party before it would eventually merge with the Conservative Party of Canada. Charest then jumped the provincial Quebec Liberals where he would soon become premier. At that point, it was evident that he was mainly about power.

I mention all this because I don’t believe Charest is going to survive this which is odd given the national profile he used to hold. It also reinforces my long held belief that the worst job in Canadian politics is Premier of Quebec (second worst is leader of the Parti Québecois). Should Pauline Marois become premier, she’ll have my deepest sympathies, if nothing else. But I don’t believe she will. However dissatisfied people may be with Charest, that has not translated into support for the PQ.

I think the PLQ still has an excellent shot at making government in the next election but Charest’s time as its leader may be at an end. It’s his own doing, of course. He handled the tuition increase plan so badly and Bill 78 is such a draconian, overreaching response to the protests that even many of those who were in favour of the hikes have turned against the government.

So nobody’s particularly happy about the guy and I’ve always felt there’s a natural lifespan for political leaders of about ten years. Charest’s pretty close to that. On OpenFile, Kate McDonnell correctly asks “Down with Charest, Up with Who?”. Let’s say Charest manages to win a fourth mandate, either in a majority or a minority. Either way, I think he may find himself losing support of his caucus. So who would replace him? Finance Minister Raymond Bachand? Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier? Immigration Minister Yolande James? Or perhaps someone form outside the government.

But no election has been called and we’re only watching the pre-election ads now. The latest, showcasing Pauline Marois awkwardly marching in a casseroles demostration is probably an improvement over the deceased spirit of Jean Charest addressing us from Heaven. Clearly, the creativity will only increase once the writ is dropped.