We need a better reality show! Recently the minority government headed by Prime Minister Steven Harper announced an election for all Canadians because of the Unholy Trinity of the Opposition.
At least this is the message coming our way via the Conservative Party spin doctors. It is fear mongering at its best, reminiscent of the way the Republican Party made gay marriage the election issue of greatest importance to Americans a few years ago. One almost has to admire the Conservatives and their political acumen. They have learnt their lessons well since Mulroney was in power.
Still, one would hope the campaign would focus on some real issues of interest to First Nations voters.
For example, a friend of mine organized a demonstration in Ottawa a couple weeks ago for the over 500 missing and murdered women in this country. It was done under the Sister In Spirit banner. The Native Women’s Association of Canada asked them to not use the name because it might affect their funding. It seems the Canadian government was not happy with Sisters In Spirit becoming a rallying cry and brand name. The $15 million promised for this issue saw $10 million go to the RCMP to deal with the murdered and missing women. With the continued inaction on this shocking lack of justice, one can see Canada’s embarrassment slowly fading into the background.
Then there is the matter of safe schools. On the western side of James Bay, Attawapiskat finally has a guaranteed school after years of struggle. Many other communities are still left with inadequate facilities and funding for basic education needs.
The $10 billion that Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says the Conservative “tough on crime” agenda will cost could go a long way to alleviating the social problems contribute to crime. A fraction of that figure would largely solve the housing problems of many First Nations communities, for instance. It is not only the health problems associated with overcrowding but the social stresses involved that help inflate the disproportionate numbers of First Nations people in Canadian prisons.
Harper is found wanting when it comes to First Nations issues. The cupboard was pretty bare in the budget his government tabled, days before the election call, when it came to Canada’s Aboriginal population. His half-hearted apology to the residential school survivors, the nonbinding acceptance of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the killing of the Kelowna Accord leaves one wondering whether his words are more than meaningless rhetoric.
At times this election campaign feels more like an episode of Jersey Shore. The Harper administration was brought down as a result of lies and deception, becoming the first government ever to be convicted of Contempt of Parliament. They were hiding the true costs of important government initiatives, specifically the crime agenda and the new fighter jets for the Canadian military.
This isn’t the first time the Conservatives attempted to hide money, remember. Four high-ranking Conservatives, including Senators Doug Finley and Irving Gerstein, were charged under the Elections Act with moving more than $1 million through local ridings to help fund the party’s national campaign in 2008.
And this does not even touch upon the Freudian slip of the tongue when Harper confused election with erection during a speech in French. Do we really need to dwell on this embarrassing moment? After all there is so much more such as the fact Harper almost word for word repeated part of the speech of the evil emperor from Star Wars.
While we might not be thrilled or even mildly excited to vote, if you do not then you can’t complain when NATO doesn’t send in the jets to ensure your rights are respected, or if transparency in your government and democracy is no more than a buzzword. This is one reality show that, even if it is built on the same lies, posturing and bravado that we see on the tube, has real impacts on our lives.