Tag Archives: Canadian politics

Using Socialism to Finance a Transportation Revolution in Canada

Our last attempt at high-speed transport in Canada: the Turbo Train, 1973 - not the work of the author.

The People have a right to move.

So too, does the State – it’s vital that the State have the ability to move large amounts of people and materiel to support the People, really, whenever the People call for it. And the People and the State are one – given that the State would not exist without the People. I find it odd that I would have to go through this diatribe, but given the state of political discourse in this country, this world, it is vital too that the people recognize the State – in a democracy – must work in the service of the collective. Yes, our society is based on Socialist principles.

A populist appeal, a vision for strategic State economic-planning and the real threat of losing our national sovereignty compelled John A. Macdonald, our beloved drunken-buffoon of a first Prime Minister, to work towards completing Canada’s first transcontinental rail link. It was done as a means to encourage British Columbia to join Confederation, not to mention that a transcontinental link was necessary for continued economic expansion and would further solidify the foundation of the fragile young state. Despite a near chronic lack of funding and the Pacific Scandal, the link was completed by the mid-1880s, and Canada was bound in a railway. Canada today has not one, but two major international rail carriers; they are in fact among the largest transportation companies and networks in the entire world.

But when it comes to moving people in Canada, well, we’re coming up short. That’s being overly polite – we’ve shat the bed. Canada, once a world leader in railway design and associated technologies & services, is today considerably behind the times. We have no high-speed link – none – nowhere in Canada do trains travel in excess of 200km/hour. In fact, most don’t go faster than 150km/hour, and that’s painfully slow given that speed of modern trains. Compared to a growing list of nations, such as France, the UK, Germany, Japan and China, Canada lags behind without something largely becoming vital to a first world transportation system – a high-speed electric train. What’s worse is that we have the technology and the industry – least to mention the wide-open expanses – to build a system that could link the nation in incomparable ways. And it would make sense that we ought to have one too – except that time and time again, the Canadian People choose the path of least resistance, and choose the party that looks best on camera. This party, whether wearing Grit Red or Tory Blue, has no real plans for high-speed rail in Canada because they exist in a state of perpetual TV-readiness; prepared to argue, never to act.

It would seem that the Canadian People, much like our American cousins, have lost sight that they have a responsibility to demand progressive action from their elected representatives. Whom they elect, they elect to fight to build what is missing, provide what is lacking – instead, our political battles aren’t over projects anymore, they’re over nuances in policy, in personal attacks and the promotion of an endless cavalcade of wars on apparent immoralities. Who has time to build a world-class high-speed train network when you’re caught up fighting for abstinence-only sex education in some rural backwater middle school, right?

There was once a time when the Prime Minister felt a personal responsibility to build a transcontinental rail link – as a means to connect the whole country though also to propel the development of smaller provincial and city networks as well – so that all Canadians could easily move around our great nation. Today, trying to do the same on VIA – if you want a berth that is – will cost you thousands of dollars and take several days. The only people who seem to be able to afford the privilege of crossing our country by rail are retired middle-class types who think it might be romantic. Good lord! Are you telling me there’s no practical need?

I think it’s obvious our country has to invest in affordable high-speed rail transit, and provide all Canadians a quick and efficient means to get across this vast nation. I think it’s a right shared by all of us, and the State has a responsibility to provide it to us. But we’re clearly going to have to make it a priority for them. Once again, the State works towards the benefit of the People – always.

Consider what your life would be like if you could hop on a regularly scheduled bullet train from Montréal to Toronto and the trip took less than three hours, was perfectly comfortable, and cost a fraction of a current regular fare ticket. A high-speed line serving the Windsor-Québec City corridor would attract large numbers of riders based on novelty and geography alone – and in so doing, just such a system could potentially move massive quantities of people throughout this region each day. If the distance from Montréal to Toronto is about 600km, and some French and Japanese bullet train models currently travel in excess of 350km/hour, then it is foreseeable that a future high-speed network in Canada may reach even higher speeds. Imagine a ten-hour trip to Vancouver from Montréal? It’s technically possible now, and the sheer volume of people that could be moved by just such a system would allow significant savings for travelers, which in turn would pay back the initial investment. What’s more, a high-speed link connecting major cities across the country could itself spur the development of new provincial systems to allow even greater rail coverage.

Rail seems to me to be an inherently socially conscious means of transit. It’s big, it’s fast, it can move a lot of people, who in turn share the limited space within. Most importantly, it can be ecologically and economically sustainable, and was initially instituted in this nation because our elected leaders felt they owed it to the People to link up as many small towns and big cities to the same, shared network.

There’s no reason not to invest in rail. We need to establish a far better degree of inter-connectivity in Canada, and should further encourage people to abandon more polluting technologies in favour of the State-sponsored socially conscious alternative. We need to make it easy for people to get out and visit the country – we don’t do this nearly enough, and it isn’t getting any easier. Canadians need to realize that their nation is massive and diverse, and if it was cheap to get around I’m certain many more of us would jump at the opportunity to get out and explore it. But it will take the will of the People to elect a State that seeks to invest in itself, as that is the best method to encourage new growth and a stronger economy. We need a transportation revolution in Canada to improve all our lives, but we must also be willing to pay for it, and recognize that strategic planning does not bestow much instantaneous gratification. And perhaps this is why so few of our politicians promote it – they likely won’t be around to reap the benefits of their petitioning as their political career is a mere stepping stone into the world of corporate governance.

And that is the great sad truth of our era, and something I hope we’ll one day do without, because I’m getting sick and tired spending seven-ten hours traveling to Toronto on the Megabus. Seriously, what’s up with that twenty minute mad-dash at the Kingston Bus Terminal Tim Horton’s anyways?

This article was originally published on Forget the Box.

Orange Crush

NDP Leader Jack Layton embracing his wife, MP Olivia Chow - not the work of the author, possibly the work of the Toronto Star

So we’ve all had a few weeks to digest the election results, and here’s the bottom line:

1. The percentage of Canuckistanis who got out to vote was still a dismal 61%, only 3 percentage points higher than the record low of 2008.

2. Jack Layton brought down two rival political alternatives to the Conservative Party of Canada; both the Liberals and the Bloc Québecois lost their leaders in the process, neither of whom were able to get elected in their own ostensibly safe ridings. In the process, the NDP created a viable national alternative to the CPC (consider that there are NDP ridings held in practically every major urban centre in Canada, with Montréal leading this Orange Crush.

3. The Tories have their much coveted majority, but it is a tenuous majority at best. Why? Simple – though there’s been much fear as to the prospect of a Tory majority, a quick look at the CPC’s power dynamics and structure reveals that the voter base is detached from the brains of the operation. In effect, the CPC is a party which is led by a Western Bloc (old Reform/Canadian Alliance territory out West) of social conservatives while the brains of the operation still lie somewhere between Bay Street and the 905 Area Code, ie – the ostensibly fiscal conservatives who were expertly terrified into voting Tory as a backlash against supposedly liberal NDP spending. In other words, Bob Rae. Should the Tories try to push forward the socially conservative agenda we all fear lies at the heart of their voter base, they may sufficiently alienate themselves from the more socially liberal Tories of Southern Ontario. And it is precisely these 905 voters who may just as easily vote Liberal the next time around. That being said, I doubt Harper will push through anything overly draconian on the Canadian public, lest they want a repeat of 1993 in five years time.

4. The NDP Caucus is one of the youngest and most diverse in Canadian history, and it’s about fucking time. I fully expect this Opposition to doggedly attack the CPC on every single piece of legislation put forward. Herein lies the strength of the NDP; I think the NDP will probably act far more in unison than the CPC, and that’s as a result of the leadership accepting diverse and differing opinions amongst the elected representatives. While the Tories attempt to stifle independent thought by tactlessly badgering the membership into towing the party line, the NDP does not. Which do you think will give way first? It’s difficult to become egomaniacal in an environment that thrives on difference of opinion and a pursuit of common ground. In other words, the NDP may be able to convince other parties to vote their way, and may be able to convince so-called ‘red tories’ on the other side of the aisle to pursue a more socially-responsible agenda. Again, this is an NDP strength; they are stronger for representing a broader potential electorate. We can’t get caught up in a fundamentally incorrect view that only the CPC will be pushing forward any new legislation; the NDP will do this as well.

5. The biggest issue is Québec, and Québec has spoken in a fashion as distinct as the culture represented therein – a massive push for a federalist, though intriguingly sovereignist (read – individual sovereignty), social democratic party. In other words, Harper’s attempt to unify two competing ‘thought-blocs’, the Western and Québecois, has failed miserably. This was key to Mulroney’s breakthrough in 1984 and has been part of Conservative thinking for some time, as both rural Québec and the rural West share similar socially Conservative views. Well, not any more, Québec has taken a major gamble, and it is unlikely Harper will do anything to provoke any sort of political reaction from a province and people now diametrically opposed to CPC ideology. Rather than make us weaker (by not having many Tory representatives), the CPC will likely have to pay special attention to the NDP as champion of the Québec vision for Canada.

In any event, just what I think moving forward, let me know what you think. As you can tell, I’m still pretty optimistic.

Lambasting Larry Smith

Apologies for the delay, glad to say I just finished exam season and have a lot more free time. And wouldn’t you know it, the Irony Gods threw me a solid. Larry Smith became a senator, announced his intention to run as an MP, and put his foot solidly in his own mouth, all in the span of the last week. Quite an achievement indeed.

You see, our dear Mr. Smith, ever the everyman, announced publicly he views the $132,000 he’ll make as a Senator, a dramatic, catastrophic pay cut. I can only imagine the kind of money he made as coach of the Alouettes.

If you’d like to make a charitable donation to help Larry make it through this tough holiday season, visit Save Larry Smith.

If you’d like to publicly humiliate Mr. Smith for his egregious statement, possibly via tar-and-feather method, the intrepid appointed Senator has stated he won’t just waltz into cabinet, as some suspect. He believes he must earn a spot in Cabinet and so will run as a Tory candidate in the Lac-St-Louis riding.

Hmmm, so he’s got a problem with being appointed to Cabinet, yet no problem with being appointed to Senate. is it me or is this guy completely unaware of the world he lives in?

Montréal needs more Conservative representation like a hole in the head. Moreover, it’s been solid Liberal turf for more than twenty years. While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win next election, I would hope that most West Island residents see this for the ploy it is. Its clear right out of the gate that Mr. Smith is not an appropriate representative of the people of Montreal’s suburbs. The Tories are remarkably absent from representing Canada’s major urban centers, and with mouthpieces like Larry Smith, they only further spoil their image and demonstrate the vast differences between them and the overwhelming majority of Canadians. That they have the balls to call Liberals or NDPers elitist is simply beyond the pale. Yet, I’m not pessimistic as many Canadians are, and I’m hoping this holiday season for a Tory defeat comparable to the disaster of the 1993 federal election.

As the video points out quite clearly, nepotism is ripe in the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Senate is more and more of a joke with every appointment. They’re driving themselves into the ground. I couldn’t be happier.

A Montréal MP makes a lot of sense…

Montréal MP Justin Trudeau

On the October 24th episode of CTV’s Question Period, Montréal MP Justin Trudeau slammed Tory “Know-Nothing” Rick Dykstra on the issue of forthcoming Tory-proposed anti-illegal immigration and human smuggling legislation. Trudeau’s attack is handily crafted – there are no “cue-jumpers” among refugees, and this element of Canadian refugee policy is now under attack by the same mentality that would have Arizonan’s build a security fence in response to ‘headless bodies in the desert‘. Dykstra, ever the Tory, attempts a feeble and half-hearted parry with his stubborn refusal to admit Trudeau may have a clue. How much of this Tory policy is a response to a bunch of Tamils blocking the Gardiner Expressway, and holding rotating protests for several months last year around American consulates in major Canadian cities?

Either way, this Dykstra fellow is out to lunch on the realities of international conflicts, not to mention our own demographics and history – just the kind of people you want running your country eh?

If there was ever a reason for Québec to have a completely independent immigration policy, I would argue it ought to include a clause stating the Provincial Government would never refuse refugees with a legitimate claim. And if they are being smuggled into the country, then we’ll ensure we go after the smugglers, and not the people who very easily could have perished along the perilous journey to Canada. The idea that these poor people would be trying to jump in front of legitimate immigrants demonstrates the heights of callousness the Conservative Party of Canada is willing to go to to entertain their redneck, regressive and ultimately racist voter base. Dykstra, to his credit, is masterful at speaking to his befuddled electors.

I’m glad Mr. Trudeau made his point emphatically and didn’t really bother to entertain the polite politics and faux amity of these types of discussion programs. Hopefully, he’ll continue to do so. I had my concerns that the young Papineau MP was little more than a pretty face, but with this particular position, and the strength of his defense, well, I can only hope he’ll push this issue as far as it can go. Whether the Canadian people will choose to give a damn is an entirely different matter…