RIP Electoral Reform (and Real Democracy in Canada)

The hopes of Canadian electoral reform died peacefully on the afternoon of Feb. 1, 2017. Although many of us remained skeptical that it was dead on arrival all along, it remained propped up on life support until Trudeau’s popularity peaked high enough with his strong response to Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” that he felt safe enough to order the hit on one of his most direct campaign promises. Am I being too cynical? Perhaps. But no matter how sinister or longstanding the electoral reform conspiracy goes, it does not change the final outcome. This is not a four year setback. Electoral reform will not happen in Canada as long as the two major parties continue to be in power.

Some have said that all the awful going on in the world these days, it is out of touch to mourn for the loss of something so trivial. But on behalf of voters who see electoral reform as a top issue, we would prefer not to be the metaphorical can you kick down the road when the going gets tough. Trudeau talked about the potential a referendum on proportional representation has to divide the country at a time when we need unity. I agree we need unity, but to achieve that we must have a government people believe in and one that help all voters feel heard- not just those we agree with. First Past the Post (FPTP) has long served as a centrifuge by which the political diversity that enriches our country is diluted. In our elections, most votes are wasted on unelected candidates, while 39 per cent of the votes transforms to 55 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power, as was the case with the previous Conservative government and the current Liberals. Many centrists cite this as an appeal of FPTP since it keeps out radical extremists. These scare tactics used to put down proportional representation are simply uniformed.  A threshold on the minimum percentage of votes required to gain a seat could be levied to keep extreme parties out of parliament unless they attract significant support, and even if they do get into parliament, major parties could choose not to put them in their coalition minimizing their influence.  Regardless, democracy is not designed so that politicians can ‘protect’ a wayward citizenry from the top down. Democracy is supposed to be a value neutral system; its purpose is to thoroughly represent the will of the people. While concerns over the likelihood of coalition governments are legitimate, these would only enhance likelihood of parties being forced to compromise and work together, something most Canadians would surely prefer to our polarized system. I would happily watch our parliament ‘suffer’ from a little deadlock if it meant our government would match our political culture. After all, conciliatory minority governments are how we got universal healthcare.

The excuse Trudeau used to 86 the preposterous thought that every vote should be counted equally was even more enraging than the decision in the first place. He blamed us. Even though Canadians voted overwhelmingly for parties that campaigned on ending first past the post, Trudeau wasn’t convinced enough to follow through on his promise. He decided he needed more proof. Why? Is that not the point of an election? You put forward a list of policies you want to enact, and if the public votes for you, you have a mandate to pursue them. Still, he had a multitude of options to test this public support, none of which he seemed interested in pursuing. Polling showed that Canadians’ top two priorities for a new system were proportionality and local representation. In other words, the public wanted Mixed Member Proportionality or Single Transferable Vote. But instead of pursing that directly by, say, having a referendum to determine the national preference, or even asking specifically which system was preferable through a direct survey, Trudeau sent former Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef into the House of Commons to dismiss a multiparty committee report with a calculus flash card and a BuzzFeed survey, turning his promising, young female minister into an international meme. Perhaps the reason Trudeau couldn’t find consensus is because he did everything he could to avoid looking for it.

Over the last 16 months, I learned electoral reform was far more than my personal pet project. Many friends, politically motivated or otherwise, reached out to me about electoral reform. When I was door knocking during the last election, numerous people cited it as a top issue. I went to Minister Monsef’s Winnipeg town hall, where a packed gymnasium of young, old, rural and urban voters put their voices forward, largely citing local representation and proportionality as priorities. The polling, aside from the slanted and useless results, speaks for itself. I truly believe if a non-list proportional representation system had gone to a referendum, it would have passed – which is why it never did.

Trudeau’s sabotage of electoral reform was akin to a first year university student trying to make an argument for his paper, looking at google scholar for three hours trying to find a stat to back it up, not finding anything, then just saying, “Screw it, I’ve got cute hair, the professor likes me” and handing it in anyway. It would have been easier to take, and probably less politically damaging, for Trudeau to have stood up one week after he was elected and just say “we said we liked electoral reform to grab a few left wing votes, but now we have a false majority to protect. You got played, see ya in 2019.” It would have been less insulting to the intelligence of Canadians than the way it played out. Instead, as Andrew Coyne said, the Prime Minister chastised us: “You didn’t step up. You failed to show leadership. You left the hard work of governing to the government,” was the message parlayed to the public.

I alongside many other Canadians watched electoral reform get chewed up by the Liberals and unceremoniously spit out 16 months after the fact. We cannot forget this moment. It is clearer than ever that electoral reform will never happen as long as the two main parties are in charge. The current system benefits them too much. So to my fellow Canadians, I ask you to prove Trudeau wrong when he says you don’t have the appetite for reform. Write your MP, flood the newly-minted Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould’s inbox, or best of all, consider whether or not the party you vote for in 2019 will listen to Canadians when they ask for electoral reform. Because when it comes to ending first past the post, nobody believes you Mr. Trudeau.


Bernie or Bust: Why the Political Revolution needs Donald Trump

Dear progressives of the United States,
My name is Jakob Sanderson and I have a problem. There is a large part of me that wants Donald Trump to win the presidency in November. I apologize for this, and I understand that this may put me in a class of human mostly populated by racists, islamophobes, fear mongers and the depressingly uninformed. Nonetheless, I believe there is a case to made that true progressives would be better served in the long run by a Trump White House.

To begin, I must make a few things clear. First, being a Canadian, I cannot say with 100% confidence what I would do if I were faced with a ballot that could define my country and way of life, rather than commentating from a distance. This layer of security allows me to take the long view. Second, I do not, by any measure, believe that Donald Trump would make a better President than Hillary Clinton, in fact that distinction is central to my case. Finally, I would never endorse voting for Donald Trump, instead I am asking that progressives, who do not support the establishment politics and centrist policies of Hillary Clinton and those who buoyed her candidacy, do not hold their nose to vote for a candidate they do not support out of fear. Instead, if like me, you do not approve of either nominee from the major parties, vote for a candidate you may approve of such as Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, write in Bernie Sanders, decline your ballot, or stay home. I believe that the political revolution you have been clamouring for can only take root within the establishment of the Democratic Party, and the United States, if you show the world what would happen without your compromise.


This letter is not intended to sway supporters of Hillary Clinton away from her. There is no charge I can bring, no criticism I can levy, that you have not already heard. If you still support her, you have a fundamentally different set of political values for which I cannot judge you for, nor ask you to abandon. This is to those who supported Bernie Sanders because they are tired of establishment and special interest interference in democracy, tired of supporting policies by ‘third way’ democrats that only go 80 per cent as far to the left as you would like. It is to those who have compromised for too long and want to know that one day, they will get the chance to see a candidate who truly represents them on a presidential ticket. It is to those fellow idealists who care more about principle than policy, about movement than platform, that I ask to consider, if in 2016, you may care more about precedent than president.

I have, on numerous occasions, been accused of putting uncompromising idealism ahead of sensible pragmatism. I say that with great pride, because when the minority eschews their ideal goal to avoid the possibility of disaster, our revolution becomes a mere whisper. (And not like in the Tracy Chapman song) It has happened to us over and over, and yet we never learn.


Perhaps it is because we inevitably outsmart ourselves. You may garner up the courage to shout “Bernie or Bust” outside the Wells Fargo Centre this week, but will not ultimately hold to it by November. You remember McGovern ’72, when for all the joy you got out of the primary triumph, you were sent home that November with only a ‘Kiss My Ass’ Button and the sate of Massachusetts to show for it. You know that the Clinton and Obama presidencies were never quite all you hoped for, but it was better than holding out for a hero and hearing the state of the union address from Bob Dole or John McCain. However, this time it’s different. This is not ’92, when you had suffered through 12 years of new public management. It is not ’08, when eight years of Republican leadership put you and the world through a global financial meltdown. And, for the first time in four decades, we watched a true progressive candidate have a realistic chance at stepping into the White House. Bernie Sanders may not have won, and he will likely never be president, but there will be others that follow in his footsteps, and we must show that we stand by the political revolution that he began. This is the time, not to pick the lesser of two evils, but to stand by your conscience.

Yes, the platform has conceded some ground to Sanders’ policies on health care, and especially the funding of public colleges and universities. Because of this, Hillary Clinton and the DNC elite will promise you that they have your interest at heart, but they do not. They just need your vote in November. None of this is even to delve into the corruption of Clinton in regards to her e-mail scandal, charitable donations or speaking arrangements. The bottom line is that even if she were as trustworthy as they come on all these side-issues, she is a hawkish foreign policy presence, and a member of the New Democrat Coalition which is avowedly fiscally conservative and pro trade.

There is nothing inherently wrong with those stances, but if it does not represent your values, as it does not represent mine, you should not feel duty-bound to vote for it out of fear, as Clinton would compel you to do. If she truly wanted to demonstrate that she is on your side, beyond her promises and speeches, she would have appointed Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders himself, or even Cory Booker or Tom Perez, as her running mate, rather than Tim Kaine, who is another economically conservative party insider (former DNC chair), with many ties to wall street.With no disrespect to Kaine, who by all counts is an excellent man and senator, it is a slap in the face to progressives, that she thinks she can defy our economic values and still take them for granted as votes in November. Further, the 2016 platform is standing by the Trans Pacific Partnership that Bernie Sanders opposed as a pillar of his campaign. The agreement is rejected by a vast majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle, and is only included in the platform as an attempt to not embarrass Barack Obama on his way out.

If your policies match with those of Hillary Clinton, by all means vote for her. But if they do not, then do not compromise when she has refused to. Vote your conscience, for the person who best represents your values. Do not trick yourself into thinking that is Donald Trump, it most certainly is not, and if there is no candidate on the ticket who you approve of then do not vote for any of them. If that cedes Donald Trump the White House, that is the result of your Democratic party not earning your support, not you betraying them. They will soon come to regret that error when they realize what the result of the election will be when you are on the sidelines.


There are lessons we can point to from across the aisle that our idealistic rebellion this November could pave the way to a brighter future for progressive Democrats. In many ways, I am jealous of the fortitude of our comrades in the base of the GOP. While the Tea Party movement is a horrific step backwards in social progress, i find myself in stoic admiration of the way that the racists, rubes and bible thumpers that make up the fervent base of the American political right has stood their ground against a Republican establishment attempting to guide their party back towards the realm of sanity and electability. Bravo whack jobs, take a bow. Their candidates have slowly climbed the ladder from school boards to state houses to congress and dominated much of the 2016 Republican Primaries and platform. Establishment candidates “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Scott Walker were unceremoniously bounced from the race before Super Tuesday, left to watch Tea Party messiah and RNC pariah Ted Cruz rack up caucus victories across many traditional Red States. The only man who could defeat him was of course Donald J. Trump. While he is far from a classic Tea Party candidate, he, more than anyone, tapped into the anti-immigration, anti-trade, anti-establishment, ‘America first’ rhetoric that currently dominates the GOP base.

This didn’t happen over night. It was the result of a decade long process of hard-fought down ballot primaries, rebellions against party leadership, and eight years of a Democrat white house. But in absorbing these punches, they have sent the message that merely placing an R and an Elephant beside a policy or candidate is not enough to earn their vote. This year, even despite many in the establishment’s best attempt at the onset, they have a candidate who rose from their populist base, and a platform which represents it. It is the most homophobic in a century, opposes free trade, and most importantly, forms a massive middle finger to the party establishment of the last twenty years. Their grass roots are undoubtedly full of weeds, but they have proved to be strong. Stronger than those of the democrats.

So why spend two paragraphs speaking so glowingly of a movement that I am personally offended by on every level? Because it is proof the grass roots can outgrow the status quo, even in the autocratic bureaucracy that is American party politics. If the gun toting confederates that we so joyfully mock can assemble a powerful political revolution on their side of the aisle, surely we can find within us the resolve to do the same. Because political parties can ultimately be changed by one thing and one thing only, electoral results.

The DNC does not care about you. They will make impassioned pleas for unity as they talk glowingly about Bernie Sanders and his supporters and how welcome you are under their big corporate tent. But do not be fooled. These are the same people who were now proven to be fixing the primaries for Clinton by targeting Sanders’ religion. These are the people who defended a system of super delegates so that party elites can block insurgent candidates riding the will of the public. Sure, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has now been forced out, but Hillary Clinton offered her a job as a campaign surrogate and honourary co-chair, citing that Schultz has “always had her back.” That level of smugness and corruption can only be reached by either a blatant disregard for your concerns, the assumption that you aren’t informed enough to find it out, or the acknowledgment that if the other alternative is electing Donald Trump, you really do not have any other choice but to vote for her no matter what she does. The Democratic elite have installed a multi-million dollar defence system to block you out at every level, and they will not stop, because they know that you will ultimately fall in line. It’s like they have you locked in an emotionally abusive relationship. Sure, you will complain, you may threaten to leave, but you will always come running back, and since you do, why would they change? There is only one way, and his name is Donald Trump.

Sure, a Clinton presidency is far preferable to a Trump one in the near term, but let us look at the long view. Even with a Clinton victory, by 2020 you’re probably looking at a Republican White House anyhow. Not since the Truman/Roosevelt Democrats in the 1930s and 40s did one party control the White House for more than 12 years. The Republicans, embarrassed by 3 straight electoral defeats and allowing Trump to hijack their party will be focused and energized in 2020, and will rally around a candidate who has the best chance to usurp Hillary Clinton. Let’s say this then leaves us with eight years of Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Susana Martinez or Tom Cotton as commander in chief. By then, the embers have the 2016 political revolution will have been snuffed, its supporters exhausted and middle aged. 2028’s Democrats are more likely to nominate someone on the principle basis of perceived electability out of exasperation at Republican control of the presidency. Now is the time to fight for our revolution because it may be another four decades before the time is right again. Just take a look back at the history of ideological change within the Democratic party.

In the 1968 Democratic nomination process, Populist candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert F Kennedy, who was assassinated during the campaign, were stifled by then Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey who won the nomination without competing in a single primary. Riots erupted at that year’s Chicago Convention which carried a fatal cloud over the ultimately unsuccessful Humphrey Campaign. Seeing that the corrupted nomination system disenfranchised their members and possibly cost them the election, the DNC changed their nomination rules to mandate primaries and caucuses in every state. The grass roots that backed McCarthy in ’68 continued their fight in to 1972 when the aforementioned George McGovern was nominated. Only with a loss in the 2016 election will the Democratic Party again realize that it needs to adapt to its flawed system in order to unite the party going forward. And with what is expected to be a close election, if the 43 per cent of Democrats who voted for Bernie Sanders voted third party or declined the presidential portion of their ballot, a massive loss would be assured.

Yes, I know McGovern ’72 was ultimately a disaster for the party, but that was a different time. His hardline anti-war stance that labelled him a Communist sympathizer at the time and cost him many moderate votes would now be seen as a major boon for a Democratic nominee. In fact, McGovern’s platform of ’72, which was remarkably ahead of its time, could easily take the white house in 2016. But in the face of the cold war, the perceived steadiness of Nixon’s white house was seen as a much smaller risk to those outside of McGovern’s base. That’s the biggest reason why this time could be different. No one has ever accused Donald Trump of being steady, and the Democrats will trot out any candidate they can to defeat him after the assured disaster what will be four years of Donald Trump tyranny. If Bernie Sanders supporters abandon the Democratic party this election and allow Donald Trump to ascend to power, The 2020 DNC would surely do everything they could to court the progressive base’s support to correct the wrongs of the 2016 election, and I imagine the result could be an Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker presidency by 2020.

The DNC will only make that change if they lose, and lose big. After McGovern’s defeat, and the succeeding period of 4 Republican Presidents in the next 20 years, the party took a turn to the centre, with the creation of the New Democrat Coalition, of which the Clintons were vocal members. They realized that a switch to pro-trade economic policies mixed with social liberalism was their best chance at pulling back Reagan Democrats to their side. This time, the party will be forced to flow to the populist anti-trade, anti-establishment themes that populate the base they have ignored, to ensure they get back on the road to electoral success.

Yes, four years of Donald Trump’s tiny fingers on the nuclear code is a fearful proposition, but voting your conscience this fall, and allowing Hillary Clinton and the Democrat establishment to falter is the only way to send a message that will be received in the future. There has been no revolution before tyranny, no light before darkness. Only Donald Trump’s election could make such an impact that the Democratic Parry and the American populous has no choice but to step on board the political revolution. If you continue to compromise you will be forgotten. Instead, stand on the sidelines, and let the country find out what a mess they will put themselves in without you to keep it on the rails. Your vote is your conscience, but it is also your leverage, and you can never get the revolution you want without exploiting it.

Sincerely, Suicidal Young Marxist working at TGIFridays (what centrist twitter calls us Bernie folk)

Read me next time to hear the case for unity in the Democratic Party.


Hey Man! 100 Years in Suffragette City, So what?

100 years ago yesterday, women’s suffrage began in our city and country, which makes me wonder if we should be celebrating how far we’ve come, or gawking at how far we have to go until we reach true gender equality in Canada.

In 1916, women were more appendage than person within the workings of a state that is now looked at as one of the most progressive and peaceful in the world. Thanks in large part to the unbreakable resolve of many such ‘appendages,’ Canada can now boast a century of women’s suffrage (if you ignore indigenous women, which we disturbingly tend to do quite well), a closing wage gap, multiple female Premiers and a federal cabinet with gender parity. Hooray for Canada! Hooray for Winnipeg! That has been the tenor of many editorials, tributes and celebrations in the City that bears significant responsibility for the many achievements of the women’s suffrage movement, and for good reason. There is no doubt we live in a state that is unquantifiably closer to gender equality today than in 1916, and we should be sure to take some time to reflect on all the great things women have accomplished to make Canada what it is today, ever since they gained the opportunity to take part. However, it is also critical to consider how much farther we have to go, and how much greater our society can become for all of us if we get there.

For every man who acknowledges that we are still a far ways off from gender equality in Canada, there are likely a half-dozen who will say we have already arrived at, or are very close to, an equal state. They will point to many statistics that support this notion, such as federal wage equality legislation, increased efforts towards gender parity in government, including the aforementioned Trudeau cabinet, a perpetual increase of two-income households and of course the universal suffrage of all Canadian citizens. It’s not a ludicrous argument, but nonetheless a shallow one. A deeper look into cultural norms, and beyond statistical trends, shows that we still live within a patriarchal structure, which does not benefit anyone.

While I could name hundreds of examples of misogyny within our culture, and any of you could likely come up with hundreds more that I don’t even notice, I see most falling into the following categories: i) Systemic patriarchy,  ii) Cultural patriarchy, iii) Authoritative misogyny and iv) incidental misogyny. I believe that misogynistic tendencies at each of those levels has led to an atmosphere which represses women, and treats them as a dependent and second-class group within society. I classify this as a trickle-down model, in which a historical tradition of male dominance has led to systemic patriarchy that manifests in a cultural patriarchy ingrained within society. One part of this cultural patriarchy is the relatively harmless, when in isolation, ‘incidental misogyny.’ The more insidious wing is what I call authoritative misogyny. As I will dictate, the key to solving the continued abuse of women in our society lies at the most basic levels of our every day life.

The systemic level describes the historical dominance of males in positions of power within a nation that manifests in a societal patriarchy. Political bureaucrats, governing officials and judicial authorities, who are largely responsible for the management, legislation and identity of a state have traditionally been roles filled by males. During the confederation of Canada, women were not consulted to negotiate the baseline of what is still the constitution of our country. After indigenous treaty negotiations ended in the late 19th century, indigenous woman were barred from federal political participation until 1960. The charter of rights and freedoms, ratified in 1982- a document designed to protect minority rights within Canada- was primarily negotiated by a Prime Minister and ten Premiers, all of whom were white males. To clarify, this is not meant to criticize those men in particular, in fact the charter has gone a long way in supporting the rights of traditionally oppressed groups of all kinds within Canada. Also, the trends I discussed earlier would suggest we are closing in on the equality of governing bodies within the foreseeable future. While that is a clear step in the right direction, the tradition of male dominance that looms over the governance of our country, and our world system, has resulted in a patriarchal manifestation at other levels of society. Even when we reach gender equality at the governing level, which I sincerely believe we will, male dominance has been ingrained into our society for so long that it has caused a systemic patriarchy which frames our every day life, even if we don’t always notice it.

While an encouragingly increasing proportion of males are willing to work towards statistical parity between men and women across the country, there is a significant lagging when it comes to males willing to work beyond that level.  Many think that post-modern feminists who preach the need to break down systemic attitudes towards women and gender roles at large are overreacting, or simply seeing something that is not there. It is easy for humans to look towards different societies and eras with disapproval, but it is disconcertingly rare for people, especially those in an advantageous societal position, to recognize the failings of our present. You can see this within attitudes towards the systemic racism that haunts our judicial system. It is quite common to hear Canadians criticize the Americans for the clear prejudice in their legal system’s prosecution and treatment of African-American cases, however we are immediately offended if someone brings up the gross neglect of missing and murdered indigenous women in our judicial system. I do not pretend to bring something new to the table as far as recognizing the indisputable existence of systemic repression of women and other minorities in the western world. Here’s the scary thing though: women are not a minority. They are, in fact, the majority of the Earth’s population. And so it makes it all the more disturbing that women are constantly abused within the world system. That sad fact is proof that solving sexism is about more than just numbers. Unless you believe that women are naturally inferior or submissive to men, (in which case there is likely not much I can do to dissuade you of your perversions) then the explanation is that societal culture is controlled by males in such a way that women are systemically prevented from achieving equality, resulting in cultural patriarchy.

I define cultural patriarchy as the embedded bias of social and linguistic norms that frame women as a dependent and lesser partner to a dominant male. As I said earlier, this is exposed in two ways: Authoritative and incidental misogyny.

I define Authoritative misogyny as the active desire of a man to dominate women in a coercive, repressive and possibly violent manner. There are countless examples of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and emotional abuse that fall under this category. Of course, the vast majority of society rightfully finds these acts repugnant and criminal. As such, many of these acts are accounted for under the criminal code, and are eligible to be prosecuted. What’s most disheartening is that while the level of such crimes against women is viscerally stunning, the proportion of offenders who are sternly punished, convicted or even indicted is correspondingly very low. That doesn’t even include the number of these crimes which go unreported by victims that are emotionally eviscerated, embarrassed and have no faith an inherently flawed system to effectively prosecute crimes that are notoriously difficult to prove and define. Many won’t see crimes such as rape or domestic violence as part of a cultural patriarchy, but as isolated offenses in which the blame is to be laid solely upon inherently violent people who commit them. Of course the blame should be primarily placed upon the criminal actors, and it is ignorant to believe that we can rid the world of violent criminals who exist within all sexes, races and religions. However, women, and especially minority women, have by far the highest rates of becoming the victims of a sex crime. I strongly believe that a concerted effort to stop misogynistic attitudes at the non-violent level will lead to a reduction in violent crime against women, and a safer environment for victims to report, and seek the prosecution of, their offenders.

It is my opinion that there are two root causes for the inflated amount of, and lack of accountability for, sexual misconduct and sexual violence in society. Firstly, sexual crimes are notoriously hard to prove. This is likely the most difficult problem to solve. The majority of sexual assault or rape cases come down to a “he said/ she said” proposition, in which it is often impossible to know with absolute certainty what happened. No jury member could have an easy decision putting someone in jail for a significant amount of time without knowing exactly what happened. Scientific upgrades, especially DNA, have helped mitigate this issue- but it is still impossible to prove whether sex was consensual or not, if both parties agree that it happened. The second cause, is societal attitudes towards gender, which have enforced the notion of male dominance over, and ownership of, women. This is where addressing cultural patriarchy, through incidental misogyny, will decrease crimes of sexual violence and misconduct.

All around us in society we see signs of Cultural patriarchy which are not meant to actively repress women, but contribute to a societal framework of misogyny. This is what I refer to as incidental misogyny. Incidental misogyny covers three escalating themes about women’s interaction with males that lay the groundwork for authoritative misogyny, as well as systematic inequality.

The first theme is the shallow perception of women. Many men feel that cat calling is harmless, and should be taken as a compliment. It’s not an outlandish argument, part of me would likely feel flattered to be called out on my looks, but I ultimately have no valid opinion on it, other than to say that I don’t get to decide whether cat calling is harmless, because it does not happen to me. What I can interpret, is that it articulates a major problem with the societal treatment of women. The cat caller does not know anything about the woman he is squawking at other than her looks, which is part of an overarching narrative that women are judged on a more shallow scale than men.

For instance, there are a multitude of male actors, who could be classified as average at best in appearance but have nonetheless gone on to highly successful careers do to their immense skill set. However, female actors who have gone on to long, successful careers without a sterling appearance are much fewer and farther between; those that do are almost never cast in leading, or romantic roles. On news television, you consistently see expert panels made up of middle-aged to elderly men gathered together to discuss politics, finance or sports while women serve as the amiable host who is often decades younger and styled-up extensively to be perceived more for her looks than her knowledge. In politics, women are often treated as lightweights by the media and are consistently questioned by society on whether they are strong enough to make tough decisions. If they are complimented on their strength or intellect it is often qualified as them being a “strong woman,” or “independent woman.” You would never hear such ‘compliments’ for a man, of which such virtues are expected. (Agnes Welch, Mary)

The second major theme of incidental misogyny is that of perceived female dependence.  There are a multitude of unspoken covenants regarding hetero-normative relations that express a perceived female dependence on males. For instance, the social rules of chivalry which encourage men to make the first move in pursuing relations with a female, to pay for her meals and to pick her up for dates all express that females should be content to rely upon male support. The flip side of these covenants is the third, and more dangerous, them, of incidental misogyny, which is perceived male ownership. Occasionally, males, incorrectly and criminally, take for granted that if they act chivalrously, they can expect to get anything they want from the woman. (Robert, Alana) This paints a picture not dissimilar to prostitution, and one that is disturbing, but all too real. When men feel their actions constitute gaining ownership over women, this results in Authoritative misogyny, sexual misconduct and rape. While the majority of men are reasonable enough to act chivalrously without breaking the law if they are turned down, the mere tradition of female dependence in relationships is concerning, and reflected throughout our language.

Why is a 25 year old male always referred to as a “25 year old guy,” rather than “boy,” but a 25 year old female is often referred to as a “25 year old girl,” not “woman?” Why do relationships often feature terms of endearment such as “my girl,” to describe the woman as though they are a possession? Why is it that if a group including females and males walks into a room, you can say “hey guys,” without thinking twice, but saying “hey ladies,” would be sen as a slight? When women get upset they are described as “bitchy,” and are rarely taken as seriously as an upset man who is “angry.”  We have all likely used one or all of these conventions of language without trying to be sexist in the least, but nonetheless, these and many other turns of phrase are inherently misogynistic by dictating that women are some how lesser than, shallower than, or dependent upon, men. Even if the actor in each of these circumstances is being completely harmless, any societal ritual which leads to patriarchal norms is complicit in creating a repressive atmosphere. Even the mere fact that “woman” and “female” are extensions of, rather than separate entities from, “man” and “male” suggests primary dependence on the male. Of course that is one example of a tradition which is unlikely to ever change, but others should be done away with. I personally do not believe in marriage, as we no longer live in a time in which men can or should actively own women as property; therefore it is absurd that women are, by ritual, ‘given away’ by their fathers and newly decreed as ‘Mrs. Husband’s Name.’ I would happily confirm my love to someone with a ceremony one day, but I refuse to engage in a process that is rooted in outrageously sexist behavior. If you believe that these acts of incidental misogyny are truly harmless, its your prerogative to say I am overreacting, but I personally believe they make a significant difference. At the very least, we should all recognize the existence of a systemic, ritualized patriarchy, and the problems it poses to society.

In summary, I am thankful that in the 100 years since women were granted the right to vote, we have come this far as a nation towards reaching gender equality. However, to truly honour the women who poured their heart and soul into making gender equality a reality over the last century, I plead that we make the next 100 years about the ability of men to stop embracing the cultural patriarchy that has characterized modern society, and to do our part in destructing the rituals which make up a cultural patriarchy. We can only go so far in addressing the statistical gender gap that has plagued Canadian government for its entire history. To go deeper, men must be as willing as women to stop incidental misogyny, to rebel against traditional gender norms, and stand up against against sexual violence.

I am a white male, one that many would argue has benefited from the patriarchal society we have been built, but to that I would disagree. I have been the victim of very few stereotypes in my short life, but there is an undeniable pressure that exists within all men to be strong, to be composed and to be dominant. At times, I, like anyone else, am none of those of things. And at a younger age, confronting that reality lead to a high level of social anxiety, and extremely low self-esteem to the point that I would hide from people I knew to avoid unplanned social situations which were especially stressful. My fear of not being able to fulfill my predestined role as a male, was likely because I had no choice of what roles I was expected to fill. In my opinion, it is every bit as crucial that men are liberated to be able act in anyway they please as an equal human being, as it is that women are not systematically repressed because of how they were born. Years from now, I do not want to talk about differences in gender norms, I do not want to talk about a lack of gender equality. I likely will not be here in another 100 years, though one can hope, but when my child, my grandchild, or anyone who is on this Earth in 2116 is asked to talk about gender, I hope more than anything they have nothing to say.
















Islamophobic Elephants: A Tragedy

Extremist, Islamic Terrorism… So close, but unless your name is Meatloaf, two out of three is bad- especially when you hope to hold the most important office in the world within 14 months. You’ve heard my first three words pasted together so many times lately, you’re likely about as skilled at figuring out which one of those is not like the other as you were as a three year old watching sesame street. However, ‘Islamic’ truly has nothing to do with the other two words I’ve listed; as a former United States President once said, “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.” In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. Islam is peace.” [MacDonald,CBC News]

No, that president wasn’t some socialist wingnut like Roosevelt or Clinton- that was George W. Bush. (If he fooled you… shame on… well you know… just Shame) My point being, a President with one of the most easily picked apart records of middle eastern foreign policy has more common sense than seemingly eighty per cent of the Republican primary field in 2016. Islamophobia is an epidemic, and it’s growing. 

The vast majority of that field have stated their revulsion at President Barack Obama’s refusal to say “Islamic Extremism.” I have no idea why. Islam is a religion of peace, the overwhelming majority of people who identify as Muslim have no roots to any sort of terrorist activity- and there is no reason to believe that a Muslim person is more likely to be violent than a christian, atheist, or even a swede.
“If you’re fighting a war,” the former Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker says, “you’ve got to identify who the enemy is loud and clear, We’ve said it repeatedly: It’s radical Islamic terrorism.” [Terkel, Huffington Post] Well, as long as we’re paraphrasing bad Green Day songs, I think I have one in mind… To be fair, the former presidential hopeful does believe that a “Handful” of Muslims are reasonable. 

Despite its oh-so-thinly veiled racial prejudice, even those who agree with Walker’s assertion, should see that there is no practical reason to group an entire religion in with a vile organization of terrorists. All that accomplishes is two things, each with considerable consequence; first, it furthers a feeling of oppression for a select group of disenfranchised youth, that are most able to sympathize with groups such as ISIL if they feel resentment towards a Western leadership that is openly combative against their beliefs. As repugnant as ISIL is, they thrive off of a recruitment base that has been given reason to feel disdain towards North American ethics. Oppression is the fertilizer of extremism. Secondly, a potential U.S. president calling out an entire religion gives validation to Islamophobic extremists who feel patriotic in their racism and bigotry, which can have toxic, and occasionally lethal, consequences on a society that once prided itself on religious freedom. This abhorrence is highlighted at a recent Trump rally where racists now believe they have a candidate who is on their side.

However, Trump and Walker are far from the only presidential hopefuls to have displayed an inherent disregard for sensitivity or logic when it comes to their crusade against a falsified perpetrator. Mike Huckabee -whose social policy includes only appointing supreme court judges who don’t support equal marriage rights, the mother’s right to choose or, you know, the law- feels that our problem in the war with ISIL is that Barack Obama favours Muslims too much “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel,” Huckabee said on “Fox and Friends.” “The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.” [Brietman, Politico]

Yes, how tragic that a group of law-abiding people who are experiencing a great stain on their religion and way of life have the support of the commander and chief. I suppose Huckabee thinks our conflict would be solved if we persecuted every peaceful follower of the Qur’an while inspiring domestic racism and perpetuating borderline extremists to consolidate against us. In addition to a mass persecution, Republican hopefuls such as Ted Cruz also think the answer is to “bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age.” [Beinart, The Atlantic] That’s smart, because airstrike intervention in middle east conflict has traditionally worked out extremely well for resolving tension at home and abroad. Oh wait, it hasn’t.

Thankfully, Cruz has plans to stop ISIL by cutting them off at the source: Mexico… Yup, “First and foremost,” the Senator says, ‘Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border.” [Beinart, The Atlantic] As Peter Beinart writes, “Cruz is particularly incensed by the Obama administration’s failure to recognize the threat of an ISIS attack across the Rio Grande. [Cruz believes] America’s “foremost” priority when it comes to ISIS should be neither Iraq nor Syria but Mexico.” So now Mexico is not only bringing rape and guns, but ISIL too.

It’s truly unfortunate, and frankly tragic, how humorous some of the remarks from this fall’s divine comedy of a campaign can be. These thoughts are constantly spread every day by media, an ignorant sect of the public, and now by people who want to run a country- and it’s getting worse. On Sunday, Dr. Ben Carson caused a well-deserved uproar for saying that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” [Pengelly, The Guardian] While it’s, unfortunately, only hypothetical at this juncture, despite there being more than twenty candidates remaining, the fact that Carson “would absolutely not agree with [a Muslim president,]” should be utterly galling. Furthermore, it is undeniably in conflict with a constitution, held in such divine regard by the United States, that promotes the freedom of religion.

Dear Dr. Carson, Islamophobia is an epidemic in the Western world and you are spreading it the best you can with reckless and thoughtless comments like this. It is your right as a citizen to advocate and not advocate for what you wish, but as a president you are beholden only to the constitution of the United States. If you are going to serve as a standard bearer for the putrid movement for religious bigotry in our world, than I cannot advocate for you as president of the United States.

I, being Canadian, obviously don’t have a say in the upcoming election, but for those that do, I plead to you to stop Islamophobia at the highest level and vote for someone willing to support every citizen and religion in your country.

Thank you for reading, Jakob Sanderson

Debates are awful: Let’s have more

There was plenty of controversy over Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper’s decision to skip ‘Up for Debate:’ a forum to bring women’s issues to the forefront of the campaign. I could easily make this post a rant about the tragedy of suppressing women’s issues in an election year that directly corresponds with a much-needed social revolution on gender equality. However, in this case I’m going to talk about the massive fleecing of debates this election. The MacLean’s Debate is likely to be the only televised debate featuring all national leaders, as Harper and Mulcair also look to be out of the staple media consortium debate. Many people are upset about this, and they have a point, they just may be missing the correct point.

I’m upset that we will be seeing less debates this year, but it is definitely not because I will miss out on the pleasure of watching three potential Prime Ministers compete to find out who can ‘not answer questions in a way that makes them look like they’re answering them’ the best. Watch Elizabeth May debate, and you’ll see how truly thoughtful a prime ministerial candidate can be… when they have no chance of being prime minister. As for the others, they simply prove what we all subconsciously know: debates are  awful. I’ll say it again. Debates are absolutely awful. They are awful, because they are barely political debates in the first place.

Televised leaders debates are simply trumped up reality shows featuring political figure heads spouting the same assortment of catch all phrases and buzz words with very little mention of policy or substance. Leaders are put on the spot with grandstanding interrogations, only to ignore the questions. They are mercilessly attacked by their contemperaries, with highly circumstantial evidence. They shout over each other about how sick of the incumbent they all are, and why they are the only alternative. At best, we can hope for one of them to land a catchy one-liner and deliver a clamouring of ooh’s and ah’s from the twitosphere.

Take this year’s MacLean’s debate; the first, and possibly only, debate with all prime ministerial candidates present. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, garnered many rave reviews for his performance. However, in my opinion, he often spoke in vague summaries meant to draw on your heart rather than head, most notably during his concluding address. His best line, and maybe the debate’s best line, was a repeated “Nobody believes you Mr. Harper.” It seemed more akin to a line that wins a schoolyard spat than a Prime Ministership. However, those lines win debates. Hence, this is why debates are awful. Yet, even worse and more contrived are reality shows like Big Brother- and I’m currently watching it as I write this.

There’s a reason there are more people who vote for winners of American Idol than heads of state. There’s a reason why Bachelor in Paridise will always get higher ratings than Meet the Press. They’re more entertaining. And when it comes to politics, debates are the closest thing to reality television there is, and hence the largest source of entertainment for the causal voter. It’s a sad truth, but a truth after all.

A lack of debates, and a lack of exposure is the last thing this election needs, but especially the last thing Thomas Mulcair needs. Canada’s left-leaning youth can say all they want about the Conservatives, and their base. You hear all the time from Twitter happy milenials (Hi me!) that their base is close-minded and anti-progressive, but that base also votes. The CPC can count on their supporters no matter what debates Harper does or does not participate in.

The NDP and Liberals can’t say the same. They have fervent poll support and a rush of vocal youth to go along with their smaller, and far less entrenched, base. But the youth vote that could possibly push either party over the edge is easily influenced- and frankly- lazy. Take this 18 year old, who started this post when it was actually relevant last week, before finally posting 10 days later. We’re as easily distracted as the ice age squirrel, and Justin Trudeau is appealing to us more the Mulciar is the last couple of weeks.

Personally, I’m not overly offended that Thomas Mulcair skipped ‘up for debate,’ although I wish he hadn’t. It’s a political maneuver, which I disagree with, but it hardly means he doesn’t care about women. In fact, he has more female MP candidates than any other party, and it’s not close. It does not shift my stance on him or the NDP, and I, for one, hope he is the next Prime Minister of Canada. However, it does mean we miss a chance to see a man, who could easily lead our country on October 20th, present his ideas to a large audience. That’s unfortunate given he is by far the least known of the three candidates, despite his lead in the polls.

Most of all, his decision, and Harper’s, to cut down on debates, whether it’s a good strategy or not, will keep more Canadians out of touch with the election and less involved in the forming of our own government. No matter your voting allegiance, or fondness for televised shouting matches, that is a true tragedy.

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’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

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. —


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

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

Wherry, A., & Scott, C. (2014, December 8). The Case for Mixed-Member Proportional Representation. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from

The War on Gender: A disclaimer for Antisocial Media 

– Oroginally Posted on 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 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