Hey Campaigners: F**k you

It’s the close of the first weekend since Canada’s most intriguing election since confederation kicked into high gear. That means you probably spent your time checking threehundredeight.ca’s  Up to date riding by riding election projections! … Wait you spent it partying? Drinking? Life having? Yeah well good for you. But while you gallavant away your troubles and your liver health, I’m here to break down this campaign with the bipartisanship and professionalism befitting Meet The Press: In a classy ass game of Fuck you. 

For the high brow liver conservationists out there, the rules to Fuck you are simple: everyone take turns flipping over a card from the deck and there’s a rule attached to each card usually involving the consumption of a beverage. So I hope this ‘adjusted’ set of rules will help you get a handle on what to expect from this unprecedented election, and laugh at last week’s debate. May your hangovers put the pain in Campaign. 

Next debate, and across the campaign trail, snag your favourite partisan lager and keep track at home! Cheers!

ACE: GIVE ONE- Every good party starts with a quick shot! Just like every good debate! The mudslinging came early and often at last week’s debate; I think it took Tom Mulcair all of 22 seconds to remind us all that our beer glass is emptying fast in the form of 8 STRAIGHT DEFICITS! (BOM BOM BOM BWAH) Meanwhile it didn’t take much longer into Act 2 to learn that Mulcair himself is secretly a separatist!! (Scandalous) Of course Harper the right and honourable has been dolling out shots since spring; with endless attacks against GQ’s best political strategist, Justin Trudeau. (Nice hair though) 

VERDICT: Everyone is drinking here. Well except for the few, the proud the May Greens; whose leader proved yet again at Thursday’s debate that she’s more than capable of sharing the big stage with her ‘more Prime-Ministerial’ counterparts, despite their best attempts to simply ignore her. 

TWO: SENATE SQUAD- When Harper flipped over his first “Squad card” upon election 11 years ago he vowed never  to use it! OK, well maybe his refusal to compel someone to drink whenever he does doesn’t quite fit the metaphor with the chamber of sober second thought. Nonetheless, he’s now appointed 59 members to his caucus squad, and his opposition, especially ‘Angry Tom’ are Letting him know

Honestly, almost anyone should be able to see the Senate as nothing but an archaic relic of a colonialist monarchy we chose to emulate. But the fact is that it’s part of our constitution, and Justin Trudeau’s realistic position that we shouldn’t get rid of the Senate because we can’t is probably the Correct one. Sad really.

VERDICT: Harper’s drinking big here, and so is the whole squad. But any Senate debate will always look bad on the incumbent because they really have a lot less choice in the matter of abolishment than the opposition would have you believe. 

THREE: STORYTIME- You know that guy who you hate doing this game with because he only ever says “penis?” Yeah, that’s debating with Harper for you. The object of this game is for the whole group to contribute words to make a continuous story without stoppages. Here’s a projection of how this one goes: 

TM: Johnny EM: went  JT: to SH: stability TM: a EM: mall  JT: with SH: stability.  TM: his EM: friends JT: and SH: stability TM: bought EM: a JT: shirt SH: stability TM: ‘scratches beard, huffs, puffs and walks out’

Verdict: Mulcair must drink, whilst being urged by handlers to appear more Prime Ministerial. He begrudgingly practices his best chipmunk smile. 

FOUR:  Give Two/ Take two: Let’s all just take two swigs to make my lame jokes funnier and my typos dissapear. In this game, any of these four popular media cliches will give you that chance. 

Green supporters: Every time a reporter comments on how ‘surprisingly’ smart your leader seems. (You know, for being a kooky, hippy woman???)

NDPers: Everytime a reporter brings up how ‘hillarious’ it is for a potential PM to sport such a gregarious facial accompaniment. #fearthebeard 

Liberals: “Nice hair though”

Conservatives: any time an angry blogging punk makes fun of his hair, his sweater vests, his cat photos or his commercials. Wait that’s me! Let’s all drink!

FIVE: NEW RULE CARD- “Clearly” Harper has been drawing fives all term. Hence it was well within his rights to institute the longest campaign period since the 1870s, strip other parties of funding opportunities and try to keep as many First Nations and homeless people from voting as possible!

Verdict: Everyone opposed to the “unfair elections act” drink up!

SIX: NEVER HAVE I EVER… We all know how this one goes. Put up three fingers ladies and gents…

EM: Never have I ever supported the Kinder Morgan Pipeline to go trough! Everyone lose a finger and slosh back a raw bitumen shot! 

JT: Never have I ever opposed the Clarity act! Take a shot of 50 + 1 proof Tom you ignorant separatist!

TM: Never have I ever supported Seperatism! “I… Have… Fought… For.. Canada… My… Entire… LIfe

SH: Never have I ever done literally anything, I’m the embodiment of manilla tag, dry cereal and UltraCuts sensibility – Harp puts on his sweater vest and drops the mic. It’s over

  

SEVEN: SPLIT YOU!  ‘Fuck you’ is simply ‘buzz’ for the angsty and angry. And nothing makes me more angry than Income splitting. Our PM constantly scares us by saying the other parties will abolish it, or even abolish seniors income splitting or the pension!!! Problem is: Income splitting should be abolished, and the rest are very unlikely to be cut. 

Income splitting allows high-earning ‘traditional’ single-income families to jump down a tax bracket by having the earner dump up to $50,000 on to his partner. It promotes out-of-date familial and gender norms, promotes people staying out of the work force, and takes tax break potential away from the poor and middle class. Abolish away! 

So, in ‘split you,’ you just yell ‘Fuck you’ every time our Prime Minister harps on about Income splitting, anything with splitting in it (Seniors pension splitting) or its multiples (Canada Pension). Ah, I feel better already…

EIGHT: PARANOIA- This is simple: Take a drink each time your candidate of choice gets slammed with one of these nice myths:

Green: “Elizabeth May is out of control, unprofessional and nothing more than a Loveable nut.” For the record I thought her “welcome home khadr” skit was hillarious.

NDP: “Thomas Mulcair is a crazy, bearded Seperatist!”

Liberal: “He’s not ready” 

Consecative: “it’s a toupe” 

  

NINE: DARE CARD-  ok, to be honest I’m just out of Ideas for my lame post, but I’m too far in to stop now! Thus, I shall plug myself, and “dare” you to join me and Sign the declaration for Proportional Representation! Also, feel free to read my piece (it’s below this one!) or read Andrew Coyne’s much better, albeit now dated, on why voting reform is so necessary!

  

TEN: DON’T GO CHASING WATERFALLS🎶… Yes, now I’m talking about the single thing that no one, NO ONE ever wants to see happen. Politicians with emotions. Take a pity swig every time Mulcair transforms into the Ice age squirrel, Harper takes a cat photo, Elizabeth May gets Bombed at a speech or The Liberal Leader turns in a Closing speech that courses through your veins as though it were written by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Trudeaus. Ugh.

JACK: RIGHTIES DRINK- Time to save the hefties for election night so you can kickstart your after-party, or drown your sorrows. Take a sip every time one of your ‘leftist, nudist, counterparts’ takes a riding from you.

QUEEN: LEFTIES DRINK- Each time your favourite Prime Minister takes a riding from your Left winger of choice, take a sip

KING: CO-ALLITION CUP- Canada is all about inclusion, and Harper is all about scaring the crap out of you with Co-allition talk. So, here’s the chance to celebrate togetherness and bi-partisanship at the end of the election with a parliamentary King’s Cup. Pour in your Greenie friend’s rolling rock, your Liberal bro’s Bud Light Apple, your (ok, My) NDP schock top and your Conservative’s tax dollar saving Pabst Blue Ribbon and toast to 5 more years of squabbling until next time! Yaaay! 

Here’s hoping that at least one of my jokes hit, and  you enjoyed my election primer. Enjoy the next eleven weeks, and come back often!

– Jakob Sanderson

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From the Ballot to the Hill

By Jakob Sanderson

— The 2015 Canadian Federal election will be the most competitive since our confederation, with three legitimate parties with a chance to govern. However, in my riding, along with many of yours, our vote will nonetheless be wasted as our local MP is widely expected to win in a landslide, rendering all alternative voters moot. With this historic campaign underway, I thought I would share an updated version of an essay I wrote in University this past year. Hopefully this is the last election under our current First Past The Post system. —

It is high time that Proportional Representation succeeds our out-dated and frankly un-democratic elections

Democracy at its core is the ‘power of the people.’ And a fair democracy is integral when ‘the people’ are as varying in ideals and needs as they are in Canada. This variance is not a bad thing. Canada prides itself on being among the most multicultural and diverse countries in the world. Unfortunately, its acting democratic body, our electoral system, is fundamentally undemocratic.

The out of date, and out of place, system we use to wage our elections has historically been nothing but a parliamentary see-saw between two centrist, populist sets of ideals. Canada’s elections have a great potential to mirror our multicultural and diverse regional makeup. There were five parties winning seats in last term’s election, and we have a history of regionally distinct and small, ideological parties. But our ‘first past the post’ system, or FPTP, overestimates the national significance of these regional parties that may poll highly in distinct areas, but don’t even run candidates country-wide. In contrast, our system punishes national alternative parties that have small, but consistent and relevant, support countrywide. The Green Party for example is rarely able to garner the most support in a particular ‘riding,’ despite having a very strong and vocal following nationwide. ‘Strategic voters’ may even shift support from the Greens to the lesser evil of the pluralist parties just to gain some semblance of a voice in the house. In the end, we are often left with duels between the ‘Tories and Grits’ that often represent far more seats in the house than they do proportions of the popular vote. By skewing the results of the popular vote to achieve a consistently pluralist parliament, our elections ignore smaller parties and their supporters, while overestimating regional influence and the centrist, brokerage parties. Initiating proportional representation, or PR, is the most democratic, accurate, and fully representative electoral reform for Canada.

‘If it Ain’t broke,’ Fix it? Proportional Representation is the Answer for Canada

In a country that is relatively stable with a historically strong record of leadership it is common to assume that our electoral system, if not flawless, certainly functions well enough. I don’t find that easily refutable, as our situation is undeniably better than many. However, there are major holes in our system that could easily be fixed by instituting electoral reform, in the shape of PR.

Others are more apt to fight without kid gloves on when discussing a system which, frankly, fails democratically and mathematically. “Politics is broken in Canada” (Coyne, 2009), states Macleans’ political columnist Andrew Coyne. And here’s why: a true democracy makes every vote count and count equally. However, in Canada’s last election “49.6 per cent of voters cast votes for candidates who did not get elected” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 141). That means half of Canada may as well sit at home each year re-watching Breaking Bad and updating their iTunes playlists instead of fulfilling their democratic duty, while having the same affect on our government. Any vote not cast for a winning MP candidate has no value at all, because of the winner-takes-all result in the FPTP system we use. To go further, a party could conceivably gain 20 per cent support in each riding across Canada and not have one voice of the 308 in the House of Commons. Un-democratic and mathematically befuddling predicaments like this happen more often than one would think or want to know about.

How to make Parliament Mirror the Country

So, what’s the ‘better way’ I’ve been talking about? Proportional Representation runs on “the principle that a party’s seat share should equal a party’s vote share” (Loenen, 2003: 57). There are many variations, but I would like to see a mixed-member plurality, or MMP, adopted. MMP simply means that we cast multiple votes per ballot as opposed to FPTP, which is classified as a ‘single member plurality,’ or SMP. In MMP “voters would vote twice: once for the candidate they want to represent their particular district, and a second vote for the party they prefer” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 140). The local representative would be chosen in the same manner as under FPTP. The other half of the seats would be decided by supplying MPs from a ‘party list’ until the percentages of MPs from each party matched the percentage of popular vote. This would solve many problems for voters: Because “elections hardly mobilize voters on the basis of (who would make) a better ombudsperson” (Pilon, 2007: 34), “voters are frequently faced with the dilemma of voting for a less preferred local riding candidate in order to support their favoured party” (Scott, Wherry: 2014).

In MMP, voters get to support their party of choice, while also voting for the person they are most comfortable with representing their riding. People may vote for two different parties if they so choose. That is why MMP is ‘the best of both worlds” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 141). Under MMP, every voter has at least one vote directly affecting parliament’s makeup, all parties get their fair share of the vote, and majority governments will only occur if a party actually gets a majority of the vote. As you may surmise, all of those situations are far from a reality under FPTP.

False Majorities and Ignored Minorities

Most majorities under FPTP are what we call “False Majorities,” or as the esteemed leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, calls them; “elected dictatorships.” The party in power makes up more than 50 per cent of the house, but does not have more than 50 per cent of the popular vote. We live under a false majority right now; Stephen Harper’s ‘majority government’ easily controls the house, yet only has the support of 39.6 per cent of Canada (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 143). As I said, this is the case in most majority governments in Canada. “In 1998’s (Quebec provincial

election), the PQ won a majority Government and 61% of the seats, with 42.9% of the vote, (even though) the Provincial Liberal Party (drew) 43.6% of the vote” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 144).

This case produced not just a false majority, but the wrong winner. More of Quebec voted for a Liberal Premier, yet they were rewarded with the separatist PQ. Unfortunately, there are multiple cases of ‘wrong winners.’ “In 2006, the governing New Brunswick Conservatives gained more support than in the previous election as well as more support than the (then) opposition liberals- and still lost the election” (Pilon, 2007: 44).

These cases show that the distortions of FPTP are completely un-democratic and in-tolerable. Why they occur so often is because our elections are run with as many as five seat-holding parties. This is a contradiction of Duverger’s Law, which says that only two-party states can support a FPTP system (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 143). The USA, for example, with only the Democrats and Republicans getting significant votes, would likely find MMP redundant. Canada, however, has a unique political and cultural structure that should be reflected and celebrated in our elections each year, rather than it being distorted or stamped out.

‘Bloc Party’: Why Alternative National Parties get shut out under FPTP

Of the oddities in the Canadian system that I have brought up, perhaps none is more prevalent when realizing the need to adopt MMP than our abundance of regional parties. It’s true that our brethren to the south once saw the likes of Ross Perot or the exclusively-southern George Wallace skewing election results under single member plurality, but Canada has consistently had doctrinal parties on ballots that often had only one region’s interests at heart. These parties often flourish under FPTP, because they gain huge support in their distinct area, while not wasting votes in the ridings where they wouldn’t win anyway.

The Regional Trap

The Bloc Quebecois party is the best, recent example. In the 2006 federal election “A million more Canadians voted for the NDP than supported the BQ, but the NDP won twenty-two fewer seats” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 144).

The NDP, until their recent contention, and the Greens, have often been the biggest victims of these parties. The antithesis of the regional parties, the NDP and Green Party have a national vision for the country but it is rarely shared by a significant enough amount of people that they find much success on a riding to riding basis. “In the entire country, where almost one million Green Party supporters elected no representatives in the 2008 federal election, an almost equal number of Bloc Quebecois voters in Quebec elected forty-nine members” (Couture, 2014: 7).

The ‘regional trap’ has not only applied to left-leaning parties throughout the years, particularly when the Conservatives split in two in the aftermath of Mulroney’s stay on Sussex Drive. In 1993’s Federal Election, “Canada’s oldest political party, the Conservative Party, received 16% of the vote but was reduced to two seats in the House of Commons (it would have won forty-six seats under PR). At the same time, the regionally based, right-wing Reform Party won fifty-four seats with only 18% of the vote and the “separatist” Bloc Québécois took fifty-two seats with just 13% of the vote” (Dyck, 2000: 266 as cited in Couture, 2014: 7). Here, the Conservatives who maintained a national vision were outright punished for not pandering to distinct regions of the country. It is unfortunate that a once-great historical democracy has been reduced to rewarding opportunism over national vision, but FPTP promotes just that.

One of the best ways to show the regional distortions of FPTP is by showing how many votes are needed to elect an MP depending on the region or party. For example, if 500,000 votes give a party 20 seats in one province and 5 in another you could say that province A requires 25,000 votes per MP, and province B requires 100,000. “In the 2000 federal election … it took fewer than 30,000 BC Alliance voters to elect an MP, while in Ontario, it took over half a million to do so” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 142). Clearly, due to the Alliance’s vast difference in popularity between the east and west, votes cast for the Alliance in that election were not of equal weight.

The Art of Disenfranchisement: Why FPTP Weakens National Unity

The difference in party popularity due to regionalism in Canada affects even the most populist parties. “In the 1980 federal election, the Liberal Party formed the government but did not win a single seat in BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 144). That’s a serious problem. Trudeau’s election disenfranchised Western Canada, as its residents had no say in their head of state.

The reality here is that Trudeau’s Liberals weren’t completely without support in the West. But they were not able to win an individual riding and therefore did not have a mandate to govern from a third of our country. Under FPTP, a party can gain power while completely ignoring a large portion of the country, certainly making their job easier when it comes endearing themselves to the regions in which they received a mandate. That is not to say Trudeau simply wrote off all of western Canada, but it is inarguable that “(single member) plurality gives parties an incentive to favour regions where they might receive large electoral payoffs, while ignoring other regions” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 144). When entire regions of the can be ignored it’s easy to see how separatist parties take roots under FPTP. By promoting disenfranchisement and separatism, FPTP fails to promote a united Canada.

A Parliament for the Pluralists: The Entrenched, Dug-in Drudgery of FPTP

As highlighted above, pluralist parties do not have to reach the entire country, or even the majority of voters to gain power. Thus, Canada is run exclusively by pluralist policy and there is very little power in the hands of doctrinal options. Again I will point to the idea of votes per MP to show the distortions of FPTP. This time we see that populist parties require far less national support to gain seats than doctrinal parties. “In 2006 every Conservative seat represented 43,339 voters while every NDP seat represented 89,296 voters” (Pilon, 2007: 35).

In the 2001 BC provincial election, the results were even more dramatic; an NDP seat was gained needing 171, 443 voters while a Liberal seat required just 11, 894 (Loenen, 2003: 51). It is natural that ideological, and perhaps ‘radical,’ parties will fail to win elections, but there is no reason that they should have to work twice, or even seventeen times, as hard to gain seats. That’s a result of so many votes being completely wasted in ridings where these parties are not victorious.

While we covered earlier that most majority governments in Canada are indeed ‘false majorities,’ there are still some instances where a party is so popular that it truly gains a majority of the vote. In the 1987 New Brunswick Provincial Election “Frank McKennna’s Liberal party won 100 percent of the seats with just 60 percent of the popular vote” (Hiemstra, Jansen, 2008: 141). Of course, if parties are this popular in a province, they have earned the right, and the mandate, to run a majority legislature. However, with 40 per cent of the voters still against them, it is hardly fair that any party should take power in the form of a constitutional oligarchy.

Because instances of true majorities such as McKenna’s are so rare, many opponents of PR systems state that the highly likelihood of minority governments makes PR systems an ideological pipedream that is chaotic and unstable in practise. However, that is simply not true. “Because (single member) plurality tends to over represent larger parties, there is pressure from political elites within the minority government to go back to the polls… and hope that, this time, their minority vote will be transformed into a legislative majority” (Pilon, 2007: 45). Just a small uptick in popularity can become a very large swing due to the distortions of SMP. As we witnessed under Harper minorities, PMs rarely shy away from going to the polls if they think they can gain a majority. Therefore, it is single member pluralities that tend to cause more frequent elections, and frenzied instability.

Omnibus Bills: An Ominous Sign of our Hypocritical Democracy

Furthermore, as loathsome as the constant votes and advertisement warfare that often come with FPTP minorities can be, it is the actions of the false majority governments that are far more egregious. “A government with a false majority can still conduct business as if it has a true majority by using techniques such as “omnibus bills”. This is a tactic that lumps together legislation that not only was not part of the original election platform that got that governing elected, but the individual elements of proposed legislation are not debated in the usual manner and, instead, voted on as a whole in a “take it or leave it” manner” (Couture, 6). One such omnibus bill is the controversial Bill C-51, that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals supported despite being on record as disagreeing with several parts of the bill.

With these types of bills, there is no room for democratic discourse, opposition, or any meaningful debate. The cabinet is simply whipped into voting on legislation that shapes our country, even if the majority of the people don’t vote for it, and the members of the party in power silently dissent. In fact “John Stuart Mill predicted as early as the 1850s that mass, extra-parliamentary parties would rob MPs of their independence. He was overjoyed when he learned of Thomas Hare’s invention- a new voting system, the Single Transferable Vote (another variation of PR)” (Loenen, 2003: 55). Canadian government however, prefers to drown in pluralist power-play than redeem our ‘democratic deficit.’

Again, it cannot be reiterated enough, that over 60 per cent of Canadians don’t electorally support our government. But it is no matter. Pluralism wins in FPTP, and votes for ideological, doctrinal parties are too often wasted. In our system, “parties serious about winning (must) adopt unprincipled and ultimately destructive behaviours and strategies” (Couture, 2014: 5). “The NewDemocrats suffered from this fear-based campaign pitch for years, and now the Greens are the main target of the argument,” writes Green-Leader and MP Elizabeth May. “Indeed if you (were) a Green voter, your votes might as well not have been counted at all (in 2008): 938,000 Green votes were worth exactly zero seats” (Coyne: 2009).

Ending the Apathy: A Need for Change

When ideals and principles give way to the perils of pluralism, democracy tends to disappear as well. Why would people bother to throw their support behind their preferred candidate when they know their vote is going to waste? Why would one support our rigid and un-democratic system at all?

Alexis De Toqueville, the famed early liberal, wrote in his masterpiece Democracy in America that “civic zeal seems to me to be inseparable from the exercise of political right” (as cited in Loenen 1997: 38). In fact, I’ve been a factor of FPTP-induced apathy in my own riding; Upon trying to volunteer for the NDP in my own riding, who now stand a great chance to govern nationally, I learned that they still don’t have a candidate in my riding, and when they do name one, they are unlikely to put forth any organized campaign, given Dan Vandal, the Liberal candidate is extremely likely to win. I was encouraged to volunteer elsewhere if I wanted to help Thomas Mulcair’s Prime Ministerial bid. With The dawn of proportional representation, in the form of mixed-member plurality, every vote would carry national significance. My voting NDP, Green, Cosnervative or Liberal would directly effect the governance on Sussex drive, even if my local riding is a landslide. This new era of politics could inspire a once-great democratic responsibility to once again take hold of the Canadian citizen.

Yes, Canada is un-broken in the way that it functions day-to-day. But a closer look has proved that we are suffering a ‘democratic deficit.’ The system we use to form our elect is highly flawed and not suited to our unique needs and political culture. Proportional representation is. With PR breathing fresh air into our proud parliament, once again Canada will be at the forefront of western democracy. Once again, Canadians can take to the polls with vigor and pride when we dawn a new era of Canadian parliament. And for the first time, Canadians’ votes will truly go from the ballot to the hill.

— I am ecsatic to say that three National parties running for election now support an adoption of Proportional Representation Elections at the highest level. The only one who does not are Harper’s Conservatives. Please do us all a favour and ensure that this is the last year of First Past the Post elections. —

References

Couture, L. (2014). Proportional Representation: Redeeming the democratic deficit. The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 19(11).

Coyne, A. (2009, May 7). A vote that really counts. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.macleans.ca/general/a-vote-that-really-counts/3/

Dyck, Rand. 2000. Canadian Politics, 3rd ed. Toronto, Canada: Nelson.

Folke, O. (2011). Shades of Brown and Green: Party effects in Proportional Election Systems. Stockholm: Columbia University.

Hiemstra, J., Jansen, H., & Wiseman, N. (2015). Is a Mixed-Member Proportional Electoral System in Canada’s Interest. In M. Charlton & P. Baker (Eds.), Crosscurrents (8th ed., pp. 136-165). Toronto, Canada: Nelson.

Loenen, N. (1997). Citizenship and Democracy. Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Press.

Loenen, N. (2003). A Case for Changing the Voting system and a Consideration of Alternative Systems. In G. Gibson (Ed.), Fixing Canadian Democracy (pp. 49-68). Vancouver, Canada: The Fraser Institute.

Pilon, D. (2007). The Politics of Voting. Toronto, Canada: Edmund Montgomery Ltd.

Wherry, A., & May, E. (2012, December 10). Elizabeth May’s proposal for electoral reform. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/elizabeth-mays-proposal-for-electoral-reform/

Wherry, A., & Scott, C. (2014, December 8). The Case for Mixed-Member Proportional Representation. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from http://www.macleans.ca/politics/the-case-for-mixed-member-proportional-representation

The War on Gender: A disclaimer for Antisocial Media 

– Oroginally Posted on http://www.thepundamentalinsanityclause.wordpress.com on November 20 –

Typically I use this space to fill the internet with bad puns, posts about the life of a complete stranger no one likes or cares about (yeah, that’s me) and generally irksome top five lists. But as an active user of social media there’s a real issue that seems to be coming more and more to a head everyday, particular in the ‘twittisphere’ and the online world. The ‘war on gender’ is becoming real. If I log on to my twitter page right now I’d be hard pressed to scroll for a minute and not see links supporting feminist groups; tweets some would call feminist activism,- others ‘male bashing’- and of course the oft maligned and equally oft retweeted @Meninisttweets.
Many would say that we are far closer to a society of gender equality now than ever, so why has this become such a hot button issue of late? Aside from the clear fact that there is still a large gap in certain areas between respect and empathy for genders, there is no doubt the influence of social media has only put fresh wood on the fire. Now there is lots to love about the technological age’s ability to spark important debate and progress in areas of crisis and inequity. The evolution of the Arab spring and movements such as ‘Occupy’ were undoubtedly aided by social media. But feminist ‘media movements’ such as #yesallwomen have been largely blackballed. Why?
I am far from an expert in social media tracking or feminist activism, but as a lifelong theatre kid I can say that a majority of my closest friends are of the female gender (yes, stereotype, but sometimes they’re true). This gives me the somewhat unique perspective of forming a ‘bridge of the river guy’ (yes, I’ll still make some puns) in the ‘gender war.’ With some of my best friends extremely passionate about the issue I feel that I can be more sympathetic to the female side of the argument than many. However, I still found myself getting somewhat defensive when I see these ‘man hating’ posts.
I was struck by a minor epiphany recently though, as I read one of the many twitter links raising awareness and accountability for the everyday instances of catcalling, the constant bypassing of pay equity legislation and deep-rooted persecution of women in human culture. It wasn’t that my views changed, but that my thought process towards these posts clicked into place.
I vehemently support pay equity, and gender equity within the workforce, the media and executive legislation. And while I cannot firsthand attest to the impact of catcalling and persecution women face, there is no justifiable reason why myself, or any other man, has a justifiable need to make our equals feel uncomfortable or persecuted against. So I realized, that core feminist values and movements are really nothing to be afraid of or feel defensive about, but highly reasonable pleas to abide by as humankind.
So why were some of these issues hard to get behind in the past? Perhaps a lot of it is me being part of an age-old story of the over-privileged white male holding on to what wasn’t ours to begin with and not letting go until Jackie Robinson stole it back, along with second base. But more of it perhaps lies in the aggressive and often unproductive way in which these debates play out over the social medium.
In a world of anonymity in blogging, it is easy to let stretched opinions fly for the goal of entertainment and sparking controversy. Even ‘tweeters’ that carry their own name find it far easier to hide behind the screen, saying something they may not otherwise believe when talking face to face. The lack of vulnerability carried through social media sometimes reflects in poorly thought or offensive posts which are found on both sides of the ‘feminism debate.’
True feminist activists I would imagine would join me in denouncing a sizeable portion of gifs, vines and tumblr reblogs that say to ‘promote equality.’ And these certainly bother a large portion of the males that would otherwise jump on board. Now many, I myself find to be funny- not productive- but amusing. Perhaps though, the point isn’t to make your post tolerable to one who isn’t as easily offended, as it is to reach out to those who are looking for a reason to join your movement.
Now this is where we get to the highly controversial ‘meninists.’ First of all, let’s be clear, there is no such thing as a meninist ‘movement’ if the ideology centres around eating sandwiches on the couch as a birth right. I realize that many of these are meant merely as sarcasm- and I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve had a few chuckles at some of them- but if these are men who truly feel that these posts are fair game by virtue of women’s previous antagonization, then they are missing the point.
Any progressive thinking, or competently thinking, male would agree with core liberal feminist values. Many, including myself for a time, feel defensive when confronted by radical or ludicrous statements that stray from ideals of equality for all genders, a cease of female persecution and discrimination, and firmly practised equal work for equal pay. If feeling antagonized is the problem, then the productive way to solve it isn’t to fight back with far more ludicrous statements, it’s to reach out to those that are trying to make a positive difference.
Feminism isn’t only for women in my opinion. If being emasculated is the issue in embracing it, let the male readers refer to themselves as ‘gender equalitarians’ from this point forward. For all of the years that women have struggled for recognition and respect, ‘uncharacteristic’ males have also been subject to social stigma and persecution. Gay rights have been fought for, and achieved legislative success, but continue to be abused. Transgendered, bisexual or even physically weaker and ‘less masculine’ males have been pigeon-holed to fit a mold that they don’t want to belong to. Feminism, or ‘Gender equalitarianism,’ at it’s core is a way to set an even playing field for all humans, and eliminate divisive tendencies in gender stereo-typing, something I can certainly get behind. Can you?

 Auf Wiedersehen everyone, Yakob

The ‘Fleet’ing Legend of the Purple Penis 

– Originally posted on http://www.thepundamnentalinsanityclause.wordpress.com on November 1- 

… None but a true demon barber could have laid such misfortune upon my innocent hands… err, my hair…
‘Twas the eve of all saints day, twenty aught eight- Or for the for less pretentious, Halloween 2008. A young man, inspired by the recently ‘Deppified’ Barber of Fleet street, was to embody the notorious Sweeny Todd. Fully Invested, and in vest, he was aiming to be crowned best costume at Windsor Elementary’s annual middle school costume contest.
One sweaty Friday afternoon, his smoky black hair, wandered into the gymnasium. The bleachers, smelling quite similar to human meat pies, housed zombies, devils, family guy characters and even a 12 year old playboy bunny. Soon after that misguided rabit’s eviction from our mansion, the motley crew of Mr. and Mrs. dress-ups meandered in circles around the basketball court providing the viewing excitement of a caution- flagged nascar race. One by one, the inferior were taken off the track until the best of the best remained. Our young barber raised his scissors to the sky with triumph as he was crowned ‘scariest costume.’ yes, ‘at that moment, he was infinite.’
However, as pumpkins were squashed, and the autumn leaves fell in this crooked little town, his once blonde locks were lost, and never found. The coal-coloured hair that had brought him so much pride just one day ago, was now to become the foundation of a less than endearing nickname- the purple penis.
How you ask? Well, knowledge of the under-priced, temporary hair dye colour wheel would suggest that on an angelic blonde canvas, an eggplant hue is left behind the charcoal masterpiece, and it won’t come off. Not even after the canvas lathers, rinses and repeats… and repeats. And so, this poor twelve year old walked in to school the next monday with hair that had transformed from ultraviolet gold, to just plain violet. Why he decided to wear a matching purple shirt is something known only to him. With the ‘purple’ portion of our nickname firmly established, all that was left to be added on was some junior high immaturity. Upon entering 9:00 AM science, a cry was heard from the back table that stated: “hey purple penis.” And so that became the first day of the rest of his grade 7 life. And ladies and gentleman, it wasn’t a pretty one. So let there be a lesson garnered from this momentous calamity.
*** Don’t use cheap hair dye***
Don’t do it- don’t you dye it from a box, don’t you put that in your locks, don’t use cheap hair dye on a train, don’t even use it on a plane. get rid of any inner Nike, and Just DON’T do it. Because if you do, then you may spend the first leg of All Hallow Tide, or for the less pretentious, Halloween, writing the sad tale of your ineptitude in a blog, rather than out dressing up embracing the holiday of the devil. Enjoy you’re candy, enjoy you’re parties, just as they are now. You don’t know how lucky you are.

Thanks for reading, Yakob