Today I celebrated with the biggest pride parade in Saanich-Gulf Islands, and the third biggest in British Columbia. On tiny Salt Spring Island, population 10,000, we have an annual Pride Parade that attracts thousands. It has music and costume and floats. What it doesn’t have is a corporate sponsorship, large flatbed trucks with blaring music.
As we marched and sang and danced, my daughter who has been with me in many big city Pride Parades, noted “how nice that they are throwing flower petals. I always worry about the garbage left behind in other parades, but this is beautiful.”
The Green Party volunteers and supporters were out in force, marching in our contingent and on the sidelines holding green banners and cheering. All in all, it was the most fun day of the campaign. We gathered at a friends’ barn for a volunteer appreciation party with corn on the cob picked three hours earlier. No doubt, the best I have ever tasted.
When we celebrate LGBTQ-Trans rights and the progress of inclusion and achievements, we are celebrating community. And community is the heart and soul of civilization.
The experience of the Mansbridge One on One is always fun for me. Maybe I am too relaxed about these things. I enjoy Peter Mansbridge and his conversational interview style.
In hindsight I wish he'd asked another question: "what issues do you think are important that are not getting attention in this election?"
That would have been my best chance to raise the issues the others are ignoring. With Harper and Mulcair together (whether intentionally or not) operating to keep Greens out of the debates by risking the CBC English language leaders debate being cancelled, the One on One was likely my only chance to speak directly to a national CBC audience before Oct 19.
Issues that are MIA?
1) How Harper sold us out in the Canada-China Investment Treaty and how we can respond to a disastrous treaty that binds governments for the next 30 years.
2) The imperative to act on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Huge priority!
3) Our health care system - how to protect it. How to expand it...
4) The stressful challenges for Canadian youth - from students to young families (check out "Gensqueeze")
5) The urgency to develop a plan and policies to support Seniors (Housing, Health care, Aging in Place)
6) The dangerous decisions being made by the PMO - including using orders in council to sign treaties with no public disclosure
7) Beyond refugee policy, how do we restore Canada's reputation in international affairs - from peace-keeping to development assistance?
8) Yes, let's support the middle class - but let's eliminate poverty in Canada.
All worth talking about -- if only in this 11-week campaign there was going to be one nationally televised English language debate .... shame on Mulcair and Harper for working to get the CBC-CTV-Global debate cancelled.
I flew to Toronto straight from our platform launch in Vancouver and spent all day today racing from one media interview to another. We had such a positive reaction to releasing a real plan with a solid budget. From a crack of dawn start at Canada AM to wrapping it up at 8:30 at night with Steven LeDrew and CP24 we had a great chance to share details of our platform. By tomorrow night i'll be home on Vancouver Island for a rally in Parksville. We are past the half-way mark and the momentum keeps building.
Intensity of campaigning the last 24 hours cut out my time to write even a brief blog. We left Saanich-Gulf Islands early yesterday for the 7:30 AM ferry to Mill Bay and the drive up island for a press conference on investor-state agreements and our plan to reduce the damage caused by Harper’s ratification of the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Since then we have had multiple events in Nanaimo and Vancouver. I write this from the middle seat, row 14, on the Air Canada flight to Toronto.
Highlights – At Berwick on the Lake I had dinner with two razor sharp ladies -- one 100, the other 102. I told them I would come back after the election to have a longer chat. “I hope I am still here,” said Marion with a smile.
Our town hall/rally in Nanaimo had an overflow-overflow crowd of somewhere between 900-1000 people. No one had ever seen anything like it in Nanaimo. Paul Manly was on fire. #fun.
At the Pan Pacific Hotel this morning, we launched our platform. It was a huge success. Our brilliant candidates were pumped. A round of media interviews and then made it to the plane.
Meeting people in droves at the Saanich Fair is a great way to get a sense of what is on peoples’ minds on the Labour Day weekend in my riding. And for the first time people are concerned about how we can step up to help Syrian refugees. I was asked to start an on-line petition as is happening in Iceland, campaign to open up our own homes and for churches to take in more families. I am heartened by the compassion of so many Canadians.
No one (except Stephen Harper) believes we help refugees by bombing one side in an ongoing civil war. The truth is the refugees are not escaping ISIS. They are escaping a war that has been raging for four years while the world stood by and did nothing. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator. You never hear Stephen Harper mentioning him. That’s because ISIS is engaged in a war to depose him. ISIS is one of a number of violent quasi-military forces allied against al-Assad, but ISIS is also a lunatic fringe religious cult. Al Qaeda operatives and al-Nusra are more or less with ISIS in opposing al-Assad. Hezbollah supports al-Assad. Can anyone imagine Canada wants any of these factions to be victorious? In the middle are the suffering and desperate innocents.
To get more refugees to Canada, we start by revoking all the changes made to Canada’s refugee laws under Harper. We need to accelerate the process, including by sending military planes or vessels to help get people to safety. We should work with the United Nations and allies to place a no fly zone over Syria, work for a cease-fire and an end to hostilities. We need to assist in the on-going drought, one of the pre-conditions to the crisis. Syrian refugees don’t want to leave Syria. They are escaping a violent conflict. When it ends many will want to go home. Humanitarian responses must include the quest for peace.
Debate update. Saanich-Gulf Islands is the riding of lots of debates. Healthy democracy. High voter turn-out. In 2011 we had 13 All-Candidate Meetings. We are currently at 16 invitations locally.
Meanwhile, the national leaders’ debate picture is bleak. Not a healthy democracy. This may be the first election campaign in over 30 years in which the national debate broadcast by CBC, CTV, and Global may not take place. With both Harper and Mulcair boycotting, it may simply be cancelled. When Mulcair pulled out of the debate on women’s issues, it was cancelled.
Meanwhile Mulcair and Harper have accepted the private corporate debates – Globe and Mail, Munk and TVA. All exclude the Greens. Amazingly TVA includes the Bloc even though we had the same number of seats at dissolution of the House.
So, it comes to this: I will be in lots of debates – in my own riding. I will be in one more national debate – Sept 24 in French on Radio Canada. And Canadians should start pressuring Mulcair and Harper to respect the voters and agree to show up for the national English language debate. It’s the main event. In 2011 ten million Canadians watched it. Come on guys. Show up!
Cross-country campaigning involves a lot of time zones. I will get home tonight to my own bed for the first time since Sunday. Monday, before dawn, my daughter and I headed out for the flight from Victoria airport to Nova Scotia. Since then we have held events in Halifax, Charlottetown, PEI, Fredericton New Brunswick, Quebec City and the Bellachasse – Lac-Etchemin area, and today Montreal. Four provinces in four days is not a bad run as tours go and we will be back across Canada again next week.
As for time zones, we got up at 4:30 am Quebec time to catch our train to Montreal. And that translates as I fly home to Vancouver Island to having been awake since 1:30 AM BC time and home by 9 PM... in other words -- a long day. And yet, I am having fun. Our campaign is picking up steam. Everywhere we go, people come up to me to say they are voting Green. I know that does not happen to Stephen Harper -- because no one is allowed to just come up to him on the street. And it is the fun of it with people stopping us, thanking me, and being happy about having a party they can vote FOR! – that makes this fun.
Greens are just moving ahead, knocking on doors and waving at the drivers in morning traffic. We are putting up lawn signs and making phone calls, sitting at country fairs in our bright green booths and answering questions and working for change. And across all those time zones and all those miles, we are a movement of people with heart and hope who will pour all our energy and love and courage into taking back our country.
The day was dominated by the outrage across Canada over our failure to respond to the refugee crisis. I have become friends with an amazing woman who lives just outside my riding, but I work for her and her extended family as though she was a constituent. We managed to get two young Syrian men to Canada who had escaped Syria to Jordan. Their wives had made it to Canada ahead of them. It was a struggle to get them here, but at least they were out of Syria and able to apply. For most of the Syrian refugees with links to Canada they cannot get themselves in a position to be helped. I have had family members of my Syrian friend actually get out of Syria and, with their children in the backseat of their car, have made it to the gates of the Canadian embassy in Beirut only to be turned away by security at the gate. Despite repeated attempts to get an interview or begin the process, the family headed back over the border to Syria. It is a nightmare.
We have tried from my constituency office to match up qualified refugees with groups allowed to sponsor them under the complicated and bureaucratic process set up under Stephen Harper. It’s as though the Conservatives think there are lovely refugee waiting rooms around the world. “Take a number, we’ll get to you when we can...”
To get a sense of the hurdles to sponsor a Syrian refugee go to the Immigration Canada website. Here is the “take a number” paragraph:
“Considerable time can pass between the time an application is made and the time the refugees arrive in Canada. The selection process for these refugees can fluctuate with the volume of applications received at the visa offices. Processing times in each visa office for the past 12 months are available online. Sponsors are encouraged to consult this link regularly to help them plan for the arrival of sponsored refugees.”
Sponsoring organizations must prove financial ability to cover all the costs for an extended family for a year. All family members, even those not coming to Canada, must be listed and the sponsors able to cover all costs."
There is no compassion. There is no sense of urgency. This is NOT how Canada responded in the past. This is not the same system that welcomed the “boat people” of Vietnam. We need to get rid of this Conservative administration and start being Canada again.
A story that needs more attention was published in iPolitics today. Reading it as we moved from a seniors home to local canvassing in Fredericton, I felt a sense of increasing shock. It may be hard to get Elizabeth Thompson's meticulous research to make headlines anywhere. Missing orders in council is not the stuff of tabloids.
Orders in Council are decisions by Cabinet. They are posted to a website by the Privy Council Office. She went through 21,000 such decisions. She noticed discrepancies. A number skipped here and there. Did the missing number mean a decision was made and never posted? I had not realized until I read her article that such orders do not require an actual Cabinet decision. The PMO can send someone around with a document and with the signatures of 4 cabinet members Canada can sign a treaty. I wonder if that's how the Canada-China Investment Treaty got through. I always thought we had a few allies in Cabinet worried about selling out our sovereignty.
Elizabeth Thompson for iPolitics discovered 25 gaps equaling 25 secret OICs never posted. Not listed even to say a decision has been made and classified secret. No Parliamentary oversight. No public knowledge. One man rule just got even more chilling.
I have been digging for agreements Canada has made with Ukraine. I wonder if those decisions fit in some of the gaps discovered by Elizabeth Thompson. And I wonder if Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair find this as disturbing as I do. If so, they better say something. This is abuse of power. It's not rhetorical "one man rule." It is actual one man rule.