Tag Archives: jack layton

Goodbye, Jack

We forever hear that there aren’t enough good people in politics, and today Canada mourns the loss of one of its greatest Good People.

A consummate battler for social good and civic justice for well over 30 years, Jack Layton struck a chord coast to coast as he stunned the nation with a massive come-from-behind effort that split Canada’s left and delivered the Official Opposition to the NDP for the first time ever.

Layton was the kind of man more should aspire to be. He was a leader who truly cared about the little guy. People would tell stories about how he’d approach out of the blue on the street, or how he was as earnest one-on-one in private as he was in front of thousands. They talk about how he’d get chatty with his servers in restaurants, to find out what their biggest concerns were, or how he still identified with families, the youth, and the elderly.

There wasn’t anyone, it seemed, that Jack Layton wasn’t passionate about helping.

No matter who you were or what your politics were, it was hard not to see Jack Layton as a real guy who was doing something because he was genuinely moved to live in a better world than the one we have now.

When a good chunk Canada turned around and voted for the NDP this spring, they were voting for Jack Layton, because he said we could do it. Because he said there was hope and that we had to care more about each other, not just our tax return.

It’s yet another victory for cancer.

But Jack Layton’s life was a victory for decency. His legacy will be a victory for civic service.

It’s been a long, long time since a politician moved me like this on a personal level. I’m hoping that, today, kids are seeing the outpouring of passion for this politician and are thinking “I’d like to be loved like that,” and maybe, just maybe a future of change is being created in that young mind today.

Because, like Jack says:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

With that, we say farewell, Jack. You were the right man at the right time. It’s a national tragedy your time was cut short. We will remember, and love, you.

RIP Jack Layton. 1991 Star Trek Convention

Round Up: The Week That Was

I have worked every day for eight days, writing for a few hours on all my off days, so, the blogging force is not strong in me right now, Young Jedis. This may be the way of the Steff world for a while, but after so long running the financial tank on half-empty, I’m trying not to gripe about the opportunities coming my way. It’s a great change. Right? Sure.

But… there’s a lot going on in my/our world, and if I don’t stop to take a writing break, none of it will ever get my attention.

In such a blah news week, why not a quirky old picture? Celebrating what it is, a Beetle reportedly crossed the Irish Sea from the Isle of Mann in the '80s(?). Apparently sailed by Malcolm Buchanan.

So, the week that was, then, except for Norway because I’m still processing this because I’ve been working too much to follow it. It deserves more than a passing comment.

Amy Winehouse, Forever 27

I don’t know what it is about that age. Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Cobain, Janis Joplin, Basquiat, and now Winehouse, all dead.

I’ll confess I’ve never really listened to her. I have a hard time getting into people I fear won’t be alive long, since this reputation long preceded Winehouse’s death.

Russell Brand really said everything that needs to be said about Amy in this shockingly good blog post.

And I promise to spend a rainy night sometime learning about her music, thinking about the prices paid for having an artistic predisposition — since artists are more likely to overdose and/or commit suicide than most. Just another brilliant mind gone far too soon.

Jack Layton, Cancer

I’m much more upset by the news of Jack Layton’s second instance of cancer, a new kind too, than I thought I would be, and angry he’s so gaunt so soon. The Left needed a more energized and optimistic voice in Canada, and despite how badly the recent national election went, I was optimistic that Layton could bridge the divide between all the left-of-centre voices in this country for a stronger political opposition as time goes on.

And maybe he still will. But let’s be real, it’s cancer, and they’re not saying what kind. That’s probably not a good sign.

This itself is becoming a controversy. Are we, the public, entitled to know what the opposition leader’s specific cancer is?

You know what? No. Fuck it. Why? Why do we need to go there? We don’t. It doesn’t change anything. He’s stepping aside. Shut up and let the man fight his fight.

The media’s prying because they want the meaty story. What about all the stories on X-cancer and Y-treatment options? How in god’s name will the networks ramp up their viewership if they don’t have specifics?

Well, fuck you, media. I don’t want the specifics today. I want Jack to get well. I don’t want the public jumping to conclusions on treatments for X-cancer when others’ cases might be different. I don’t want cancer sensationalised or peppered over the news yet again.

Layton’s shooting for a return date of September 19th. With everything I have, I hope it works for him. I didn’t vote for him, but I greatly admire him, and he’s a great Canadian.

Yo, Vancouver, What’s the 311?

If you live in Vancouver and you haven’t discovered the 3-1-1 City Services number, it’s among the best “service-related things a civic government has done for this city in my lifetime, I would say. Put down the blue pages, don’t dare Google that number — if you have a problem with ANYTHING the City has a department for, call 3-1-1 and report it.

One number, every solution. It makes every corporation in Canada look like an asshat for making phone customer service so onerous (I’m looking at you, Telus and Fido).

Every time I’ve called, I’ve been helped in 5 minutes or less. In the last month, I’ve called about:

  • tubs of black mystery liquid abandoned in my alley (picked up by sanitation next day)
  • an eroding bike lane (fixed later that week)
  • a small “pocket” city park whose lights had blown out (called to say wiring had shorted, it got repaired that weekend)
  • finding a cockroach in my apartment (I called on Saturday, city inspector called me for details Monday, by noon)
  • an injured, possibly rabid urban coyote in a cemetery (they said a conservation officer would see if he could heal & carry on with life, or not)

So, when they say it’s a one-stop dial-in shop for civic services, the City of Vancouver doesn’t lie. Stop thinking it’s impossible to affect change at an on-your-street level because, clearly, them things they are a-changin’.

Pride Week

Here, in Vancouver, it’s Gay “Pride Week.” Click here for events scheduled.

While I’m not gay, I think it’s a great opportunity to remember that being yourself makes living your life a lot easier. Be honest about who you are, what you want, what you love, who you love, and how you want to live.

Life spend half-honest, or full of compromise, is a life left unlived.

For every person I turn off or push away by “being my blunt self,” it’s one less person I need to worry about pleasing in the future, and those who remain are further proven to be the ones I need be concerned with keeping.

  • Celebrate who you are.
  • Celebrate who others are.
  • Embrace diversity.
  • Encourage individualism.
  • Don’t apologize for being different.
  • Don’t tone it down.

And keep on keepin’ on, my fine, diverse brothers and sisters. You make life more fun, and you’re welcome in my world.

Emotional Hangover: The Morning After

A Conservative majority was elected in with barely 60% of the country’s registered voters caring enough to do their civic duty.

For all you cynics out there who bitch about governments then don’t vote, claiming “it doesn’t work anyhow,” you get the government you deserve: A government that legislates as it sees fit because too many of its residents are more pleased to whine and moan about policies than get involved.

It’s devastating.

I don’t know what I’m more angry about today — that some 40% of registered voters never showed up, never mind the eligible asshats who’ve never bothered to register — OR the fact that some ridings had, say, 70+% of residents voting for several LEFT-wing candidates, but because none could amass a sizable lead, a Conservative could win with less than 30%.

Our system is broken. It’s a fucking joke.

I’m forced to strategically cast a YES/NO vote because I’m more concerned with end-numbers and whose figurehead will get into power as our Prime Minister, because Canadians vote for one Member of Parliament for their little pocket of the world, a “riding.” The dude(tte) who wins the “riding” goes to Ottawa and represents that town/city/region, and their “seat” is counted into a total, and whomever’s party wins the most “seats” out of the 308 available then forms the ruling government. We don’t vote for a leader, just our local MP.

Minority/majority breaking point is at 155 seats. The Conservatives didn’t just win, they spanked the Left.

With 167 right-wing seats, there’s a whopping 26-vote lead over the 141-seat TOTAL opposition. That’s four political parties that somehow have to work together and still have about a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding at defeating measures that are likely to throw the Canadian social safety net’s sanctity into question.

I expected the Conservatives to win, and secretly wouldn’t have minded it. I didn’t want a majority. I wanted a weak minority, mostly because I do fear messing much with the national financial mix in a world where the global economy has the stability of hitching a unicycle ride with a drunk.

I’m not a fan of extremism in any form.

I was a profoundly religious child who grew up with bad experiences in the Catholic church, I’ve seen both sides of the financial coin from a first-person-life point of view, have paid for my own education and worked my way through school, have seen what abuse and addiction and crime can do to families, and how long even smart, capable people can be unemployed in hard times. My politics are absolutely shaped by my experience, but as sympathetic as I am to the left, I favour a more centrist view. Too bad that party got smoked like Bob Marley on a fatty last night.

I’m scared of a majority government that stands unsympathetic to most of the issues I hold dear, with a party run by a man who has shown tones of wishing autocracy was doable in Canada, and who is profoundly religious, and who I consider one of the SHREWDEST political tacticians Canada has ever seen.

I’ve said over the years that Harper was like a man on a tight-rope who understands to his very core what the advantage of balance was when faced with a minority government. Has he pushed his limits in the past? Yes, but not often.

Will he seek that balance now that he has nearly a 10% lead over the combined opposition? Heh. Insert cynical chuckle here.

I find it hard to believe a man who tried to rename the country’s government from “The Government of Canada” to the “Harper Government” is likely to squelch any ambitions now that he’s been handed a broad mandate.

I’d love to be wrong.

So, today I’m stuck here with this pretty sullen state of mind as I realize this is the shape of the government until October, 2015. Someone last night said “Cheer up, the Americans suffered 8 years with Bush and got Obama!” I countered with, “Yeah. We’ve suffered 7 years under Harper to get 4.5 more years of Harper. Great.”

Canada’s system is broken on several levels.

Our citizens, with their apathy and refusal to get involved, are a mockery of democracy. You people don’t even deserve to vote. You don’t deserve the advantages of a socialist nation if you refuse to participate in its operation. And that’s what you’re going to get, a lack of social systems, more prisons, and more defense spending, because that’s the platform you elected. You embraced the status quo by choosing to have NO vote.

So, you get what you apathetically chose, Canada.

My parents used to take me along on the odd election day. They said, this is what you do when you live in democracy, you vote. They taught me civic responsibility. Have you taught your kids? Or are you teaching them cynicism and that you have zero power to change the world? Are you okay with that? Are you okay with your friends raising kids that way?

People often say “Oh, we have no real power anyhow.”

Yes, you do. If you, and enough like-minded people, all believe and fight for something, you can get it. Sometimes it’s as easy as putting check-marks on paper.

It’s called voting. It’s powerful. It shapes laws that define everything from how much tax is on your bottle of wine tonight to whether your kid can afford university or whether your spouse will be struggling to pay medical bills after your death like Americans do, or just mourning you like Canadians usually do.

So, way to fuck that one up, you 40% who didn’t show up, and the countless others who’ve just never registered.

The take away I’m hoping to see grow into something bigger?

  • Justin Trudeau won his riding, and as much as he’s been a bit of an idiot in the past, the Liberal party is too important to his family’s legacy for him not to get a reality-check slap in the face and grow up FAST as far as developing a political acumen goes. He’s his father’s son, and I can’t see him not reading this election correctly and growing very quickly from the experience. If anyone can resurrect some of Canada’s dream for its left-of-centre roots, it’s a Trudeau–but the kid has a lot of savvying-up to do. (The whole family in fur coats on a Christmas card. Really, Justin? Sable farmers are a big electoral backer? Slick.)
  • The NDP are more likely to continue in an idealistic point of view, and I think the country needs that with all the crap going on in the world today, and given more time to campaign, they might have turned this election into something for the history books. They don’t have the economic know-how to get this country through tough financial times YET, but they have 4.5 years to really strap on those big-boy pants and get sound policies that embrace reality rather that fairytale finance.
  • A lot of people I see who are smart, motivated, and driven are now wanting to get involved politically, because it’s clearly not happening with the people we’ve got.
  • The chance of Canada’s political system melding down into fewer politics are stronger this morning than they’ve ever been. While I loathe the one-or-the-other system in the United States, the alternative in Canada hasn’t exactly floated my boat either. Maybe less is more in a frustrating political time like this.

This morning, I’m trying not to conjure my inner-Darth Vader and give in to the Dark Side, but it’s really hard to pretend to have optimism about Canada’s future.

Four and a half years… that’s a long-ass time, friends. That’s a big majority.

We need more anger in Canada. The passive-aggressive bend-over-and-take-it nature that seems to come with a Canadian passport really shows up come election time, and it’s tired and old.

We should expect more. We’re Canada, for fuck’s sake.

If YOU care, then you have 4.5 years to make your compatriots care.

No vote is a vote for the status quo.

You wanted it? You got it. Enjoy your government.

Me, I’m just getting started.