Choose Your Stench

Like many Canadians, I’ve tuned out the election for a couple of weeks. I haven’t written much about it here over the holidays and though I’ve done some reading, I haven’t followed the stories too closely.

But this can’t be passed up. The Liberal campaign is in absolute shambles. If Paul Martin stood up and announced his favourite book was Hitler’s Mein Kampf, it would scarcely be worse for his fortunes than what’s happened so far.

The Adscam sponsorship scandal has been haunting the electoral battlefields from the very start. It set the context but didn’t define the campaign. The first real blow to the Liberals came from Scott Reid, the Liberal’s director of communications, when he criticized the Conservative child care plan to give families $100 a month by saying “Don’t give people 25 bucks a week to blow on beer and popcorn”.

Now simply called “beer and popcorn”, that major misstep was seized on by opposition party leaders and their supporters who savaged the Liberals. The Libs followed that up with another stunning self-inflicted blow by Mike Klander, executive director of the federal Liberal party in Ontario, when he compared Jack Layton’s wife Olivia Chow to a chow-chow dog on his blog. He posted a picture of her next to a picture of the dog titled “Separated at Birth” and captioned “Chow and Chow Chow”.

Klander has since resigned and his blog has been taken down, though it has been mirrored here. Another minor controversy erupted when Liberal Industry Minister David Emerson said Layton had a “boiled dog’s head smile”, an insult that sounds odd because it is Chinese (he learned it from his wife, who hails from Hong Kong). As a minor bit of mudslinging, this blew over quickly, though it hardly contributed to an atmosphere of constructive debate.

This is all old news for you political junkies, but a little context helps for those who’ve been tuned out over the holidays. The real bombshell was Wednesday’s announcement by the RCMP that they have launched a criminal investigation into the federal government because of the possibility of insider trading stemming from the Ministry of Finance.

Canadian bloggers have kept the fire burning under this issue ever since it was first reported. (Click that link if you want to read what started it all.) The RCMP investigation announcement comes after weeks of speculation and increasingly damning evidence that something stinks. Bad.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has refused to step down over the allegations and Martin has backed him up. Which is an admirable bit of political stupidity – admirable for his loyalty in backing up Goodale, stupid because I think Canadians want to see heads roll.

The odour coming from the federal Liberals is overpowering and the polls are reflecting it. Canadians are starting to hold their noses. Unfortunately for Canadians uninterested in Prime Minister Harper, those Canadians are turning to the Conservatives, not the NDP. Support for the NDP is flat while the Conservatives are now tied with the Libs in some polls.

Harper’s fortunes are also buoyed by the campaign the Conservatives have been running. I’m not going to let my dislike of the Conservatives stand in the way of pointing out that they’ve been running a competent campaign. First, they started by putting social issues like gay marriage out on the table to counter claims of a hidden agenda. Second, they focused on making policy announcements. Third, they have simply managed to avoid screwing up: no beer and popcorn statements, no trashy blogs, no criminal investigations.

Policies are what Canadians want to hear about in elections. This is an area where the Liberals should be strong, but they are getting creamed. The Liberal national child-care program policy is superior, I think, to the Conservative $100 a month idea, but beer and popcorn ruined that advantage for them. On the other hand, the Liberal handgun-ban policy is just plain stupid, and a Liberal Party staff member I spoke with admitted as much.

“It might appeal to some people”, he said, “but it’s just a stupid policy.” He works for a Liberal MP and he’s already looking for a new job, because he thinks his boss is going to lose.

As for the NDP, so far this election has played out like usual: the Liberals and Conservatives battle it out while Layton says things in the background that I just can’t make out, either because the media has his microphone on low or because he’s just not loud enough.

At this rate, a Conservative minority government isn’t just possible, it’s likely. This could, as Ryan pointed out before, “give them a chance to play nicey nicey with voters and give them a shot at a majority” when the next election rolls around.

Or perhaps, when Canadians realize the Conservatives smell as bad as the Liberals – a grimy industrial, chemical stench, more like slag pits than the rank cheesy whiffs coming off the decaying corpse of the Liberal Party – they’ll finally give the NDP a chance.


Our Bright Light

“Our bright light tragically scattered into darkness.”

Jane Creba

Jane Creba, 1990-2005. Murdered on a Toronto street. May you rest in peace.


“I Want You”

The Last Person

I met a young woman, perhaps 25, at a party. She’s a nurse who works in a busy emergency room that specializes in heart patients. People who have heart attacks and strokes go to her hospital.

I asked her if she ever spoke to people just before they died. She said yes, that it happened frequently. I asked her for a specific example. She said,

“A few weeks ago a man came in that had just had a heart attack. He told me that his wife had died a few weeks earlier. ‘I’ve been learning how to cook and clean and take care of myself’ he said. ‘I’m starting to get used to life without my wife.’ Then he turned pale and died.”

The last person we ever see in life could be a stranger.

But there are worse things than dying guided by a pretty nurse.

The Fighter

He is in his thirties. Old enough to be ugly from the battles but young enough to still have fight left. He is a native Canadian and he’s drunk, just like everybody else in the bar.

He’s a drunken Indian. At least that’s what the whites call him. The little group at the next table are the only ones in the crowd. He can’t hear it but he knows they say it, and other things, “chug” muttered under their breaths when they see his people. The First Nations.

He’s drunk and angry and he punches his wife. Hard enough to knock her back a few steps, send her stumbling into bar stools. One of the white guys stands up and comes for him, he balls a fist but gets hit in the face, hard, brutally.

Then several more times as he falls. He feels the crunch in his face as the bones crack, hears his wife screaming “stop!” over the shouting. He is powerless. Rage fills his eyes, his life of pain and frustration and hardship brimming up. Then he is unconscious.

The Lovers

Another year has passed. The couple sit on a couch in a warm living room. The tree is still sparkling. The remnants of a hangover still cling to them but this is not stopping them from having a couple more drinks.

The brain cells damaged in the previous few days have not yet regenerated which contributes to a mood of hilarity. Tickling, teasing, pet names and jokes that no one else would understand or tolerate are spread around liberally.

It’s fun.

“I love you”, she says, and he responds in kind. Then she starts to cry.

“I feel as though I’m going to lose you”, she sobs. “I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost you.”

He tells her that they have a lifetime to live together. But he knows he cannot guarantee it. What is a lifetime, anyway? Every one of us will meet our day, and time passes by so quickly.

He says their spirits will live together forever. “I don’t want a spirit”, she says, “I want you!”


Christmas Photo Tour

The problem with taking time off to rest and recharge is that for me, it has the opposite effect. The less I sleep and the busier I get, the more productive and energetic I am. All the relaxation and sleep I’ve been getting lately has me just wanting more. Why write when I could just rest my head on my desk and have a short – maybe even a long – nap?

Because I usually end up drooling on my desk is one reason. More importantly, I need to kick back into gear, because there’s going to be lots of stuff to talk about in 2006.

This is the end of the year, though, and that’s always a good time for a little reflection. To start, I present a brief photo tour of the last few days.

AngryPulling out the Visa over and over again can be a painful experience.

BizarreBut when it comes to making bizarre faces, wemi is in a category all of her own.

BonsaiWhen gifting a bonsai, care must be taken to dress appropriately.

Dirty Dancing“I’M HAVING…THE TIME OF MY LIFE! AND IT’S ALLLLLL BECAUSE OF YOUUUUU!” There’s nothing like the Dirty Dancing soundtrack to get the party going.

It's LoveSome pictures need no explanation.

Mirror 1They say taking pictures of mirrors is bad luck. Who knows what evil lurks here, what creepy weirdo this may awaken…

Mirror 2Uh oh…I think I see something…

Mirror 3Ruuuuunnnnn! Run, while you still have time!

ShuffleChristmas isn’t a happy season for everyone, as this man’s dispirited shuffle indicated.

BushOriginally a birthday gift, GW finally made it up on my office wall this season.

Weigh Inalevo is in fighting form as we prepare to face off over turkey dinner.


The Reason for the Season

Complaining about the politically correct versions of Merry Christmas is becoming more of a Christmas tradition than putting up lights or chopping down trees. This year it’s worse than ever.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read petitions urging government to abandon Season’s Greetings. I’ve seen people call for boycotts to punish retailers that say Happy Holidays. I’ve read countless complaints on blogs, watched celebrities like Jim Carrey mock the PC terms, and even heard it straight from the mouths of Christians.

The Reason for the Season is under attack. The meaning of Christmas has been stolen from the West.

But what is the meaning of Christmas?

Judging by what people do every Christmas – talk is cheap, after all – the meaning of Christmas is gluttony, alcoholism and hyper-consumerism. Roll that all together and you’ve got Consumption with a capital C. It’s appropriate that the most recognizable symbol of Christmas is a chopped-down tree.

With his simple message of love and moderation and his command that his followers give up all they have to follow him, it’s hard to imagine that this orgy of earthly riches is what Jesus Christ intended.

Perhaps the assault on Christmas isn’t led by politically-correct liberals but by mega-corporations intent on another big December. Maybe it’s not the Muslims, the Jews, the Hindus and those pesky PC liberals who are stealing the meaning of Christmas. Maybe it’s us.

And yet, in spite of the profit- and consumption-driven subversion of Christmas, it remains a special season of generosity and closeness with family and friends. Spending time with the people I love is my favourite part of Christmas. But generosity and closeness with family are not particular to Christianity, they’re values shared among religions and cultures everywhere.

Attempting to make the Christmas season more inclusive is admirable, but replacing Merry Christmas with Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays is not the way to do it. Instead, people from other cultures will become naturally included as they see that instead of being about Jesus, Christmas is really all about generosity, friends and family on the one hand – or about getting fat and drunk and buying lots of stuff on the other.

Just like Happy Easter is free of controversy because most associate it with chocolate bunnies instead of resurrecting deities, Merry Christmas is en route to all the religious symbolism of the word holiday: holy day.

Merry Consumption, everybody. Let’s get wasted.

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
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