Category: Politics

Cooperation Over Conflict

Well, not much has changed. Parliamentary crisis, I mean. Just waiting. Stephen Harper was on TV tonight addressing the nation and sounding not one teeny tiny bit willing to change his tone to conciliation. He probably thinks he IS being conciliatory, for heaven’s sake. Stephane Dion had his usual trouble with English, but I still like this guy. Cooperation over conflict. Listen, if someone’s willing to try that mode of operation, let’s go with that.

At our house, we like to strive for cooperation over conflict. I get that it’s hard. I get that sometimes even three-year-olds cannot bring themselves to say those really powerful words: “I’m sorry.” I get that sometimes six-year-olds are “just so mad, I couldn’t help myself, Mommy!” I get that sometimes seven-year-olds “don’t know why” they did what they did. I get that these emotions belong to all of us, even as we grow older and attempt to grow wiser. Sometimes sorry really sticks in my throat, too. But you’ll never even inch toward cooperation if you can’t take responsibility for at least part of the trouble you find yourself in. That’s been my mantra around the house these past two days: yes, I get that you’re upset with (fill in the blank) because it’s not fair … but let’s think a little harder here. (I am now thinking of a specific incident, walking to school, and having to share the sidewalk with a lot more snow, and therefore the kids plus stroller plus me are getting squeezed; Apple-Apple was infuriated because things had changed and she didn’t like it). Let’s find a plan that will work for everyone. It won’t be perfect. You might not get to do everything you want. But you have the power to make changes, even small ones, to better your lot. And hitting doesn’t count as power.
Babe’s awake. I’m outta here.

Prorogue, and Other Words You Didn’t Think You’d Need to Know

Calm morning with Fooey and her playdate actually playing together, while CJ napped long and hard (he woke at 6am crying, perhaps from a nightmare, and couldn’t settle after that). I cooked a tomato sauce for supper and shopped online. I keep meaning to blog about our attempts to continue to source local food without the help of our summer CSA box, and Nina’s buying club, but truthfully, I haven’t been able to find satisfactory replacement. It feels very cobbled-together. As mentioned before, I often order groceries online for delivery (for a modest fee), but the supplier isn’t particularly locally-oriented. The main pull of that service is the delivery of bulk items not easily hauled home in the stroller, not to mention the convenience. It’s a huge time-saver. Aside from that, we’ve been using the Saturday Kitchener market as a local-food source; but when Kevin’s working on the weekend that’s not feasible (no, I’m not heroic enough to take the bus with four children to the market in order to haul home fresh meat, carrots, eggs, and cheese!!!). I also frequent our local organic store, Eating Well, in uptown Waterloo; but they don’t always carry local foods either. The big grocery store within walking distance has improved recently, often labelling local produce as such. There should be a variety of local vegetables still available despite the cold weather … hot house tomatoes and cucumbers; those tough greens; carrots, potatoes, beets, turnips, cabbages, winter squashes, onions, leeks (??), help me out here, I know there are more. Parsnips, sweet potatoes.

Cold cellar update: The onions we so carefully stored this summer did not all survive … we lost a few to rot. I think the basement is too warm for their liking (they aren’t in the cold cellar because they aren’t supposed to be stored with potatoes, which we have in abundance–those are doing fine). We also have a whack of garlic stored in there, and a giant pumpkin that needs dealing with.

But, really, what’s on my mind tonight is this parliamentary crisis. I actually started to feel anxious about it tonight. I fear Stephen Harper’s ruthlessly divisive nature, and worry he will say and do anything to stay in power, even if it means inflaming incendiary tensions between fellow citizens–gee, not “even if”; I think for him that’s a means to an end. Right now, he’s painting a whole bunch of people (the majority of voters who voted) as commies and separatists, and claiming a coalition government would be illegal. It’s not. It’s not necessarily a great idea, but that doesn’t make it illegal. It’s hard to imagine this unlikely coalition coming together without being goaded into action by Harper’s tragic personal flaw, which is his utter lack of grace. He couldn’t quite believe the election hadn’t handed him a majority. And he behaved as if it had. Instead of seeking common ground between parties and creating stability (in everyone’s best interest, including his own), he kicked a little sand.

I thought I’d be all for this coalition; but I’m not, exactly (not exactly against it, either; horribly waffling). I think they’ll have a tough time getting along with each other, which will make it hard to create and sell coherent policy, and that could really turn citizens against the left. It would require us all to be quick studies in how coalition governments work (likely messier than what we’d become accustomed to with that string of majorities), and I’m guessing Canadians won’t have the patience for that, what with this full-blown “Global Economic Crisis.” (Is anyone else really really sick of that phrase?).

My best-case scenario would be that this stagnation jumpstarts the move toward proper proportional representation–genuine electoral reform. And that Stephen Harper steps aside as leader, say, tomorrow, and the Conservatives present us with someone who is conciliatory, gracious, and eager to work with opposition parties. If the infuriated, abusive, downright frothing at the mouth Conservative MPs I’ve been hearing on the radio are representative, that’s a fantastically tall order. (Jim Baird??? James Moore?? Even Tony Clement sounded like he might blow a gasket). I hear Jim Prentice is the best they’ve got.

The coalition has gotten along in theory and in practice so far; but let’s be brutally honest, the divisions are plenty, the Liberals are in the midst of a leadership race; it would be crazy hard to pull off long-term. If Harper doesn’t personally step aside, they’re the best chance we’ve got for stability, and they should have the chance, but … Yah. I’m a little anxious. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. It seems to be changing by the minute.

The good news is that the American ambassador to Canada (Wilkins) doesn’t even plan to brief his president (W.) on these goings-on; so it’s small potatoes in a world of crisis.

Barack Obama Makes Me Weepy

Obama. At around 10pm last night, briefly considered doing the responsible thing and going to bed, but tossed that notion right out the window because there aren’t many moments in a life when you get to sit on the couch and experience history as it is being made. That sounds grandiose, and I generally shrink from anything resembling idolatry, but there it is. When Barack Obama came onstage, I felt myself gasp. All evening long, it seemed too much to hope for, that at any moment something could wrong. There was Henry Champ (CBC) at the White House reporting about a sudden and unexpected mob of young people running down Pennsylvania Avenue, chanting for Obama and against Bush, and it felt, briefly, like something terrible was about to happen–a riot, a display unsuitable for the moment that could potentially ruin it. But, no. It was only students coming out of their dorms from nearby universities, using their (as Mr. Champ put it) “text message machines,” to call each other to a spontaneous and, thankfully, peaceful celebration. John McCain’s speech was gracious, better than his entire campaign, and perhaps redemptive. And, then, finally, there was Obama walking onstage with his beautiful family in a park in Chicago, and the impossible was suddenly real.

I fear for this man. I fear for his safety. I fear for him because he is symbolic, because he embodies the hopes and aspirations of a country, and of a world. I don’t know whether Americans can fully appreciate how stunning his victory is for the world. I don’t know whether Americans know how far their nation has fallen in the eyes of the world under the governance of George W., but the overwhelming popular turn-out, the line-ups hours long endured by voters, the grassroots support of Obama’s campaign, culminating in his victory, changes the way the world sees America. It renews faith in democracy. It legitimizes the American dream. A bi-racial man who never knew his dad, who has a foreign-sounding name, whose background is unusual, exotic, not privileged, who has not spent decades building backroom political allies, rises in his 47 years to the most powerful position in the country. I am genuinely proud to be American, in a way I never imagined feeling. There: I know it sounds grandiose. I can’t help myself.

Okay, I know he faces a crazy, impossible task, trying to set the broken economy straight, working within straitened budgets, two dismal wars underway, and all the rest of it. But he has a quality that’s rare: the ability to involve ordinary people in the processes of power. When people feel their voices aren’t heard, or that they, as individuals, don’t matter, they check out of the system. It seems like Barack Obama has the ability to bring people in, to inspire them to work together, to think of something other than themselves, other than immediate gain. Does that make him sound like a socialist? Well, where’s the balance? Individual responsibility, and collective gain. Does that fit with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Patriotism is a sense of belonging, isn’t it?

Clearly, speechifying is not for me.


Another freakishly hot day, so I hung two loads of laundry. Seems wrong for November. I’m baking a batch of Amish Friendship Sweet Bread, with my own improvised alterations to the original recipe. Yogurt, chocolate chips, less oil. It rose up beautifully. Tonight our family is heading to Toronto for my brother Christian’s art opening at the Steam Whistle gallery. We’re very excited and proud. This morning, AB said, “He’s a real artist! And you know him even better than we do!” Oh dear, baby CJ is muttering to himself in the baby monitor, suggesting he’s ready to get up and get busy.

Election Day, USA

Need to hang laundry because it is bizarrely hot today. Walking home from school this morning, it felt like a pleasant spring day with buds about to burst from the bare limbs of trees, and I thought about Barack Obama. It seems impossible, after this long race, that today has finally arrived and Americans are at this very moment voting in their next president. It’s been George W. for as long as my children have been alive (in fact, I was working at the National Post when he first “won,” and I remember sitting up late waiting on the results, which were so disputed that no one could call it). I hope I won’t have to stay up quite so late tonight.

We talked about democracy and voting all the way to school. I found myself getting quite emotional. There’s almost too much to hope for.

Overseeing a playdate here, and, as mentioned, the laundry awaits. And after that, a cup of coffee. We’re having a beans-and-rice-themed week, so suppers are easy-peasy. Big pot of black beans served with brown rice last night, cabbage salad on the side. Tonight I’ll fry hamburger with a bit of cumin and onions, and serve with beans and rice fried together, lettuce salad on the side. And that will leave me with at least one more meal, likely a bean soup. Best of all, when we eat this simple food, it takes me to another country altogether, back to Nicaragua, where we hope to return again soon.

Election Hangover

Oye, yoi, yoi, today I’ve got election hangover. Our “safe” Liberal seat was lost by 72 votes, and the “safe” Kitchener Centre Liberal seat also went down in flames, both to Conservatives; though in the country overall it’s hard to pick any real winners. Conservatives are back with yet another minority (apparently we don’t like them quite enough). Liberal support tanked, but is obviously still out there–they finished second overall in seat-strength. The Bloc was strong again in Quebec, proving that the Conservative ploy to buy Quebec votes failed sorely. Dippers made some gains, including taking a seat from a prominent Conservative in Alberta. Greens won nothing. Gloomiest of all, voter turn-out was at an all-time low. Conclusion: Real change ain’t a comin’ to Canada any time soon.

I think it’s time for our government to move to proportional representation, or at the bare minimum to some model of governing that favours real cooperation between parties. The minority parliamentary model we’re working with now, with its confidence votes and playing chicken, is really just a big pissing contest. It seems invented to create failure, not success; in other words, we the people are supposed to recognize this “natural” dysfunction and, shaking our collective heads in disgust, vote in a majority next time. Except that’s virtually impossible with five legitimate parties scrabbling for our votes. Majority parliaments work because they’re based on a two-party system. Canada no longer has a two-party system. I’m tired of people having to worry about splitting the vote if they vote with their hearts.

Can someone give me some good reasons for not going to proportional representation as a governing model? It can’t just be because the big parties have too much to lose. I wonder whether there are some ideological uncertainties about it too: does it make the country more fractured, does it entrench regionalism?

I’m writing this in a rare moment of quiet this morning. Woke with supper dishes still unwashed and cluttering the countertop, with supper needing to be made in advance due to Beckett lesson this eve, with diapers in the washer, a pile of dirty clothes on the basement floor, two laundry baskets overflowing with clean, unfolded clothes in the living-room, F with a playdate here this morning to supervise, and baby CJ with a hankering to crawl everywhere, eat everything, then get frustrated and demand to be carried about in a sling. Plus we walked out the door thinking we were late for school (we weren’t). I’ve only conquered a few of these problems so far, but things are temporarily looking up. Laundry’s hanging on the line. The girls have played beautifully together all morning. Baby CJ went down for a nap. Dishes got washed. I’m cooking up a black bean and grain stew. Is there any way to fry quesadillas in advance? The 6pm music class is proving hairy to get to, and we’re dashing out the door still chewing our food, despite what seems like pretty good advance organizing.

Oh, my squash refused to soften last night. I roasted it for ages, but in the end gave up and discarded it. I’ve never had this happen before. And our CSA sent us gobs of chard and kale yesterday, and yet more beets, so I need to get organized and cook something out of this stuff before our fridge turns from jungle to swamp.

Writing Morning v. Laundry

Writing morning. So obviously I’m hanging laundry on drying racks indoors instead, wondering whether I’ve crossed the line from earnest to obsessive. But for this indoor hanging system to work, I have to do a load of laundry every day (in addition to diapers) or else too much piles up and there isn’t room to hang it inside. It doesn’t look great, either, which is another downside to the system. Dampish underthings on racks about the house, with the overspill hanging off chair-backs, and over railings. Welcome, guests. Make yourselves at home. Dry your socks. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I actually like the new system. Getting the clothes off the racks and into drawers is much easier than getting clothes out of baskets and into drawers.

I’m determined not to blog after my writing day. If it’s been a good writing day, I’m way too interior, and if it’s been a bad one, I’m wracked with self-doubt, either of which results in less-than-pleasant belly-button-pondering. I therefore vow to keep navel under wraps.
On late-night-canning with neighbour friends: I am a sad failure. Though I chopped and seeded half a bushel of roma tomatoes in company last night, I was zombie-like in my need of sleep by 10pm, and left said neighbours stirring a giant vat of tomato puree (with garlic, onions, basil, parsley, and grey salt), estimated cook-down time: three more hours. Actually, they sent me home. Not much point in three people standing around observing the evaporation process. Canning was to take place this morning. Apparently, the saints did decide to preserve on my behalf. The fate of that second half-bushel remains undetermined, though at the very least, I can be thankful it is not waiting mournfully upon my kitchen floor. 
Tonight’s debate is: which debate to watch? And why would our broadcasters pit the Canadian leaders against Sarah v. Joe? There will be some channel flipping in our house tonight.
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