06/17/13

An Essay on Democratic Dysfunction, the 2013 BC Election, Lack of Voting and Status Quo.

“Bad politicians are sent to government by good people who don’t vote.”
William E. Simon, philanthropist, businessman, and Secretary of Treasury of the US from 1974 to 1977 during the Nixon administration.

“In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”
Ernest Naville, 1865.

victoria legislature

One hundred and forty-two years after John Foster McCreight (1827-1913), an MLA (member of legislature) for Victoria City, was elected British Columbia’s first premier, of its first parliament, Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party of BC, which is not affiliated with the federal Liberal party in any way, shape or form, nor the federal Progressive Conservatives, and quite unlike the Provincial Conservative Party, but a little like the old Social Credit party, won BC’s 2013 provincial elections. They rejoice with their hands in the air, goofy soma-like smiles on their faces, yelling the sound-bite, “the people of BC have spoken,” and proud that they now have the mandate to govern as they see fit. While in actual fact not very many British Columbians had actually voted for them.

But for the fourth consecutive time, the popular vote within our current voting system has declared them a majority government, and it’s once again status quo, here we go. It is not so much the idea that not very many people have to vote anymore to achieve such status quo, it’s that unfortunately, here and elsewhere, when using the first-past-the-post system of the Westminster form of government, the majority of the people who do get out and vote don’t count.

Federally it’s just as bad. The current Harper Conservative government are an absolute majority government even though, of those who actually voted, only 39.6% voted for them, which meant over 62% of all eligible voters were pushed aside. The fact is that at all levels of government across Canada the norm is about 30% of the population have the majority of representation in the legislatures, while 70% of Canadians do not. And it’s been going on for quite awhile.

In 1972, in British Columbia, Dave Barrett formed the first BC NDP (New Democratic Party) government with just 39.6% of the vote. In 1991, New Democrat, Mike Harcourt formed government with 40.7% of the vote. In the next election, the NDP under Glen Clark received the majority of seats (39) yet were second in the popular vote, losing 12 seats to the Liberals, under Campbell, who had gained 16 seats with 41.82% of the vote, but only won 36 seats and became the opposition. In 1999, Glen Clark resigned over the “fast ferries” and bribery scandals, and the respected New Democrat Dan Miller, followed by Ujjal Dosanjh, adeptly stepped into the breach as interim leaders and ran the province until the next election in 2001, where the Liberals, again under Campbell, won all but two seats of the then 79 seat legislature, with 57% of all the votes. By 2009 the NDP under Carole James would get back up to 35 seats but still lose to Campbell’s 49 seats.

Since the sixties, the pattern has been that the NDP get about 40-41% of the vote, while the Liberals consistently get about 45% of the vote. There have been only two anomalies, in 1972, where the NDP under Dave Barrett earned 38 seats and in 1991 with the Mike Harcourt led New Democrats, winning 51 seats. The highest per cent age of voters the NDP have ever received was in 1979 with 46% of the vote, but still lost the election, while their lowest was in 2001 where they dropped to 21.65% of the vote.

After the election, Clark jubilantly announced, with that ever effervescent smile and giggle, as if she had just gotten high, “We can now change the future of our country. We can become the economic engine that drives Canada, and for the first time in the history of Confederation, we can step up and punch our weight in this Confederation. We can be the ones who lead this country for the first time in British Columbia’s history and it will be up to us, because British Columbians want that. That is what they voted for. They didn’t vote for perfection, they voted for hope.”

From here on in, I will be bringing up even more numbers, sorry, but we are talking politics here. Problem is once you bring up numbers and percentages, people’s eyes begin to glaze over. I see it all the time and get kidded by my friends when I bring them up. I am told in equal representation that the numbers are confusing me from seeing reality, that the status quo way of doing things, in this case, as to how our electoral process works, is “just the way it is”, and that besides, “it’s all we got.” I don’t buy that and feel such dysfunction is not written in stone, but is merely what’s been advertised as such, because we allow it to happen. With this I am told I’m being un-Canadian. But just like a great picture, numbers can also bring about a thousand words, though I shall not be so well winded. Though I must admit, far too often, my spinnaker is billowing out too forcefully in front of me to back off.

Though the Liberals were re-elected as the “majority government”, their leader, Christy Clark, lost her riding, and is currently not an elected official. In fact and oddly enough she has never been elected by the populace to be premier, but she is BC’s 35th premier, of its 40th parliament, and representing more than 4.6 million British Columbians. Of these, 3.1 million are registered voters, but only 1.6 million of them (54% of eligible voters) made the effort and voted, 706,240 (44.14%) of which voted Liberal, which gave them 49 seats, and a 58% majority of the 85 seat legislature. The NDP were given 34 seats, with 39.7% of the vote, the Green Party had 8.1% of the votes and gained one seat in Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, and the final seat went to re-elected Independent Vicki Huntington in Delta South, who received 4.8% of the total votes. Interestingly, other than the Green Party’s Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, this is exactly how the last election in 2009 ended up.

Born in 1965 in Burnaby BC, Ms Clark attended Simon Fraser University (SFU), the Sorbonne, in France, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, never graduating with a degree in anything. She was the MLA for Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain from 1996 to 2005, serving as Deputy Premier under Gordon Campbell in his first term as leader, from 2001 to 2005.

In 2001, as Minister of Education, she introduced changes that proved to be very unpopular, with teachers, parents and the public at large. The changes were challenged by the BC Teachers Federation through the court system, and eventually found to be unconstitutional. In 2002 Clark introduced Bills 27/28 forcing striking teachers back to work, and it would take the BC Supreme Court nine years to arrive at the decision that Clark’s decision to do so was also unconstitutional. During the BC Rail scandal, Clark was deputy premier, and though there were allegations that she participated in the scandal, nothing has been proven or tested in a court of law, and it was deemed that there was no need for a public inquiry.

BC Rail was a BC Crown Corporation and was promised numerous times by the government to never be sold. But after decades of shoddy and somewhat unscrupulous bookkeeping, and the public being told that it was always losing money, it was put up for sale. There were many bidding for the purchase, and the shady bookkeeping spilled over into shady dealings and lobbying. It ended up being sold/ leased for 990 years to CN Rail for $1 billion, though the actual track and other assets such as real estate and a marine division remain in public coffers. Miraculously, since CN Rail took control of the line, it generates profits of about $25 million per year.

In 2003, due to suspected improper conduct and corruption by government officials, including Premier Gordon Campbell, deputy premier Christy Clark, and their advisors, search warrants were brought about and executed on the legislature of BC. Among others, ministerial aides, David Basi and Robert Virk were charged in 2004 with two counts each of Breach of Trust, covering their nefarious behaviour, leaking insider information, and for receiving bribes. The next year Clark resigned her position and left politics to become a radio talk show host, after first trying to run for mayor of Vancouver, but losing to Sam Sullivan in Sept. 2005.

The Basi-Virk trial took six years to get underway. As the trial started in May 2010 a publication ban was put on it and then, the day before the trial was to end in Oct 2010, Basi and Virk both pled guilty to lesser charges and sentenced to two years less a day house arrest, with Basi being fined $75,600. With a straight face and hidden tongue in cheek, Premier Campbell angrily announces that “they’ve (Basi /Virk) spent the last seven years claiming to be innocent when they know they were guilty, costing taxpayers literally millions of dollars, when they knew they were guilty.” He punishes them, by of course not only having to pay his government’s prosecuting fees of $14 million, but also paying Basi and Virk’s $6 million in legal fees too. In Jan 2013, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed auditor general John Doyle’s application for government documents concerning the paying of Basi and Virk’s fees, because it would be an invasion of solicitor-client privilege. So we will probably never know what really transpired.

At the same time, Mr. Campbell was also feeling the heat and backlash of promising in the previous election that he would not bring about a consumption tax, called the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), but soon after he was elected he came out and indeed implemented it. He then dismantled the Children’s Commission, which pushed 700 unfinished child-death review cases into a dark closet.

In early 2011, a few months after the Basi/Virk trial ended, Campbell, leader of the BC Liberal Party for 17 years and premier for nine resigned his position. Six months later, in Sept. 2011, it was announced that he would be received into the Order of British Columbia, for “demonstrating the greatest distinction and excellence in a field of endeavour which benefits the people of BC.” The same month he was given the role of Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and moved to London, family in tow.

After Campbell announced his resignation, Clark pushes aside her microphone at the radio station and declares that she wants to be leader of the Liberal Party and premier, though at the time not even having a seat in the legislature.

At a Liberal leadership meeting in March 2011, the party membership voted for Ms Clark to be their leader and swore her in. Still needing a seat in government, a by-election was run in ex-premier Campbell’s old riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, and Clark beats New Democrat, David Eby by 595 votes. It’s the first time a governing party had won a by-election in 30 years.

David Eby is a civil rights lawyer, Professor of law at UBC, and a research associate with Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He has also served as president of the Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network and is the past executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. And tit for tat, two years later, in the election just completed, Eby defeated Clark by more than a thousand votes, leaving Clark once again with no seat.

In June 2013, re-elected Liberal MLA, party whip, and millionaire wine-maker, Ben Stewart stepped down so that Clark could possibly be elected in his riding of Westside-Kelowna in an up-coming by-election. Westside-Kelowna is a good location for Clark’s attempt to be elected. Stewart won this year’s election with over 58% of the votes, but the riding, a land of vineyards, retirement communities and a large Native reserve, also had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the province, with just over 40%. So all Clark needs is for two out of every ten eligible voters to vote for her and she’s in. Until such time, she is not permitted to enter the legislature, but oddly enough can still dictate policy, and still receives a paycheck. Because in 2007, all of the MLA’s at the time got together and implemented a new plan for severance pay for those who lose their ridings or retire. Soon after, everyone’s salaries magically increased 29% and their infamous gold-plated pension plans were restored. Five years later, amidst a recall vote over the HST mess, in 2012, the MLA’s at the time secretly met once again, and voted to extend the severance to also include any member who happens to be recalled for dubious behaviour.

Update: July 10th, 2013. Ms Clark wins by-election in Westside-Kelowna. With 46,000 voters eligible to vote, only 17,012 (37%) made the effort. Clark recieved 10,666 votes, 62% of those who voted, but only 23% of all registered voters (less than one in four of eligible voters). Great for Clark and the Liberals, not so much for democracy.

Eligible MLA’s receive their $101,859 base annual salary ($6,790 per month) for 15 months, while they look for other work. With Clark losing her seat, the transitional allowance automatically kicked in, but three weeks after the fact, she announced that she will pay back what has been paid to her since that time. Meanwhile she continues to be paid a $91,673 annual salary that comes with being the premier. Perhaps this is another reason she’s smiling all the time and so bubbly.

Two incumbents in the past election, New Democrats, Joe Trasolini and Gwen O’Mahoney, were on the job only 13 months and were defeated in their ridings, but both are eligible to continue receiving their hundred plus grand salaries for the next 15 months. As to just regular folk working as government employees, when their jobs are terminated they receive four weeks’ severance for every four years worked.

Of the three other major parties, the leader of the BC Conservatives, John Cummings was defeated in his riding of Langley, while the leader of the BC Green Party, Jane Verk, was defeated in New Democrat Carole James’ riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill. Currently the only party leader to actually hold a seat in the legislature is the NDP’s Adrian Dix, because enough people actually voted for him.

Mr. Dix was re-elected MLA for Vancouver/Kingsway, getting 57% of the votes in his riding. He has been the riding’s MLA since 2005. As a thirty-five year old, chief of staff to Premier Glen Clark from 1996-1999, he was dismissed for back-dating a memo, and went on to become a political commentator until 2005, when he first ran in Vancouver/Kingsway. Though not necessarily possessing much charisma, or a Clark smile, it’s been said he is deadpan funny man and thinks before he speaks. Fluently bilingual, having lived in France, Dix is afflicted with type-1 diabetes, and was born and raised in Vancouver. Married to a poet and writer, he studied history and political science at the University of British Columbia. He ran for the leadership of the NDP party in 2011 on a platform of rolling back reductions in the corporate tax rate, supporting the redirection of carbon tax revenue to pay for public transit and infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting an increase in the minimum wage rate, creating a provincial child care system, restoring grants to post-secondary students, reducing interest on student loans, and restoring the corporation capital tax on financial institutions.

A week after the election he addressed the media for the first time, admitting that he and his party simply did not do their jobs well enough, especially when it came to holding the Liberals accountable for the flaws in there definition of policy, and for taking the “high road” and not calling the Liberals on their attack ads and smear campaign. He promised a comprehensive review, stating “I can assure you this review will spare nothing and no one, least of all me.” Saying he is but a servant of his party’s caucus and members, he hopes the party will learn the lessons before them. Staying on as party leader until the mandatory leadership review in November allows his party to decide the future and direction in which they feel they should go.

Overall the BC election was of the vein of judging candidates by their charisma, personal charm, and personality, instead of the issues in our lives. Liberals were allowed to advertise any way they liked, even if much of it flew in the face of truth or reality. The NDP didn’t question or respond to the Liberals advertising, no matter how low they went, which in the end might have been what would have made a difference. The Liberals went with the “Strong economy. Secure future” as in securing their place as a party associated with business, capitalism, status, success, and wealth, no matter how much a pipe dream it has become, with climate change and the planet’s environmental crisis, never entering the picture.

For the most part the election campaign played out like a really bad reality show and often seemed surreal. It’s like you see their lips moving but just can’t pickup what they are saying, though you do notice their smile and what they are wearing and feel you know them because you have watched multiple times, the ads they produced and acted in. Learning about the candidates and not the issues, in ten second sound bites and then on game day, not even bothering to vote.

This is the problem with politics in most developed and supposedly democratic societies. As Bill Durodie, the program head of Conflict Analysis and Management Programs at Royal Roads University’s School of Peace and Conflict Management, has said, in many of these countries, especially at the local, municipal, and provincial/state levels, “none of the major parties could even manage 10 per cent of the available votes, and end up effectively representing nobody but themselves.” He believes society has become disengaged from politics, which we have, and that the fundamental problem for modern politics is that, “there are few with any resolute and identifiable principles anymore, either among the parties or the voters.” All over the developed world, the people that do vote do so based on their feelings about the candidate and their party and what is reported about them, with “image and style trumping insight and substance at every turn.”

As mentioned earlier, in this election 54% (1.6 million) of eligible voters made it their duty to vote and be engaged. Nearly one and a half  million others decided to sit this one out, meaning only 54 of every 100 eligible voters actually did so. Out of these 54 citizens, not even 24 of them voted Liberal. In all, 706,240 people voted Liberal, only 22% of all eligible voters, or about 6% of the population.  Breaking it down even further to make it more Orwellian, less than three out of ten eligible voters voted for the current majority government. Winning a popular vote with two out of ten people voting for you seems more like a dictatorship than a democracy. But once again, status quo, don’t you know. Interestingly enough, status quo comes from the Latin phrase “in stat quo res errant ante bellum”, “in the state in which things were before the war.”

Geographically, the interior and North East areas of BC, where the dams are built, the jobs are, where the pipelines hopeBCMapto run, the fracking for natural gas continues, and the fresh water supply becomes ever more toxic, voted Liberal. As to the 59% of BC’s population who live in the Lower mainland, Downtown Vancouver, East Vancouver, New Westminster and Vancouver’s eastern suburbs voted BC NDP, with the Fraser Valley, Richmond and parts of Delta all voting Liberal. Vancouver Island and BC’s coastline ridings were overwhelmingly, either NDP or the Green Party, except for the Comox Valley and Parksville-Qualicum, who voted for Liberal candidates.

On Vancouver Island, where 16% of the population of BC live, there are 14 ridings, eleven went NDP, including ex-premier Carole James, in her riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill, two went Liberal, and one went Green. With a population of 344,630, Greater Victoria and its city, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and where the legislature sits, will not have a voice at the government caucus table for the first time in 60 years. But then even in the upper chamber of the Federal government, in the appointed and not elected Senate, there is no one representing the 750,000 people of Vancouver Island, yet comparatively, Prince Edward Island has 145,000 people and four senators. New Brunswick has the same population as Vancouver Island and has 10 senators.

As to the exact goings-ons of our latest attempt for democracy in BC and how it all went down per individual ridings, those who gathered the most votes in their ridings include Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, in one of the largest ridings, Surrey-Cloverdale, with 59.46% (18,000) of the votes from a total of 51,000 registered voters, second was Liberal Rich Coleman, Fort Langley- Aldergrove, with 15,989 votes, and third with most votes, was Liberal Ralph Sutton, in West Vancouver-Capilano, with 15,777 votes.

As to the largest share of the votes in a riding, the just mentioned, Ralph Sutton was at the top with 67.03%, but was followed closely by NDP Jenny Kwan, with 64.32% of the votes in her riding, Liberal Andrew Wilkinson in Vancouver-Quilchena with 64.32%, NDP Katrine Conroy in Kootenay West with 63.04%, Liberal Bill Bennett in Kootenay East with 63.01 %, and NDP Bruce Ralston of Surrey-Whalley with 61.43%. Those close to 60% were NDP Shane Simpson of Vancouver-Hastings (59.46%) and Liberal Stephanie Cadieux Surrey-Cloverdale (59.46%). Interesting about the Kootenays, Kootenay West had the fourth largest share of votes in a riding and went NDP, while the fifth largest share of votes happened in Kootenay East, and went Liberal.

All parties picked up more votes than in the election in 2009. The BC Conservatives led, picking up 51,332 more votes, to go from 2% of the votes in 2009 to 4.8%, Liberals received 44,285 more votes, but dropped from 45.8% of the total votes in 2009 down to 44.1% this year. The NDP received 24,435 more votes, but dropped to 39.7% this year, and the Green Party had 11,991 more votes than they did in 2009, but went from 8.2% of the votes to 8.1%.

The top two ridings for voter participation were ridings where there was a strong Green candidate running. Most fully engaged was Oak Bay- Gordon Head with 71% voter turnout and where Green candidate, Andrew Weaver, was elected as MLA.

Mr. Weaver is one of Canada’s top scientists and is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria. In 2007, Weaver was a contributing member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and who, along with former US vice president Al Gore and others were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now deputy leader of Canada’s Green Party, since Jane Sterk was unable to land a seat, he and Green Party leader, MP (Member of Parliament) Ms Elizabeth May, are Canada’s only Green Party elected representatives.

Ms May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada from 1989 to 2006, was elected in 2011 in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, as MP. She is a respected environmentalist, writer, activist, and lawyer. Her permanent residence is in her riding, the town of Sidney, just up the road a bit from Oak Bay-Gordon Head. She was recently voted “Hardest Working MP” and “Best Constituency MP” by fellow members of the Federal government, which makes sense considering that though she alone sits representing her party, she seems to make more of a difference with her time in parliament than most all of the silenced backbenchers combined, especially the Conservatives. Being open and transparent, having moral rectitude, a backbone, character, and thinking before speaking in a language a non-politician can actually understand, goes a long way it seems.

Second best voter turnout was in Saanich North and the Islands with 70.02% of eligible voters making the effort. It was a very close race, with all three candidates picking up over 10,000 votes each, with the margin between first and third only 379 votes, and was between NDP, Liberal, and Green. New Democrat Gary Holman was awarded the seat.

Third in turnout was in Delta South, where independent Vicki Huntington won re-election with a 69.03% turnout. Of the top five highest turnouts, four were on Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile many of the largest populated ridings had the lowest voter turnout. And I’m just saying, but it could be because of language barriers and cultural differences. Worst voter turnout, at 43%, was Richmond Center, followed by Surrey-Whalley, Richmond-East, Kelowna-Lake Country, Burnaby-Deer Lake, Vancouver-Kingsway, Burnaby-Edmonds, and Westside-Kelowna, all having well below 50% turnout. Hovering at 50-51% voter turnout were Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Vancouver-False Creek and Vancouver-West End.

The Liberal’s list of promises during the election was lengthy and was never questioned enough, especially by the NDP. Most of the promises were based on the assumption, and myth, that capitalism and unlimited growth work will win the day. Her party’s platform is based on increasing natural resource development, especially liquefied natural gas (LNG), and holding the line on taxes, by not expanding the carbon tax, or instituting a capital tax on financial institutions. She also promised a five-year freeze on personal income tax, with the exception of the highest income earners, a $250- per child back-to-school tax credit for parents, a $500 tax credit for teachers who coach, dropping the small business tax from 2.5% to 1.5% as of 2017, dropping the corporate tax rate down to 10% by 2018, training more doctors, increasing hospice spaces, expanding the BC Training Tax Credit, opening a BC film office in L.A California, and to conduct annual forest industry trade missions to Asia.

After the Liberals won, Clark stated that her economy driven mandate will only work if her MLA’s start saying “no a lot more than they say yes.” She has promised economic security based on new jobs, infrastructure, investment and royalties. To build the province’s “new economy” the Liberals are banking on the LNG industry, and the revenues from which they say will pay down BC’s debt within 15 years.

The day after becoming an MLA, someone who knows a bit about the world’s natural resources, Green Party’s Andrew Weaver, declared that the current predictions of provincial revenues from natural gas are a “fantasy” and it makes no sense to invest in the expansion of natural gas with the intention to sell to Asian markets, because Russia, which has 20 times the natural gas resources of Canada, has just recently signed long term export agreements with China and other Asian countries.

There are of course plenty of other Asian markets that are perfectly willing to buy up all of our limited natural resources. Though the question remains, what happens to us when the resource is gone, forever, in 20 to 30 years? But then look at BC’s forestry business, where instead of more wood products, such as furniture or lumber that a British Columbian could actually afford, and not have to buy plywood from North Carolina or some other place instead because it’s cheaper, no, we chop down our trees, take off the limbs and send the whole log overseas.

Though I’ve got to hand it to Clark, after being elected, she did declare opposition to the proposed Enbridge oilsands crude pipeline, that would run 1600 km across BC, pumping 550,000 barrels per day to Kitimat, on the coast, then perilously make its way by tanker to open water and beeline for China. A parallel pipeline would run back to Alberta, carrying imported diluents, a flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, which will help the heavy sludge of oilsands crude flow along the pipeline. Clark declared there are simply too many unanswered questions about how Enbridge will respond to a spill. Though she also left the door open to see what Enbridge’s response will be to her opposition. Which is very noble and all, especially considering most British Columbians do not want the pipeline. But in reality, whether a pipeline is built or not in BC is not up to us, it’s up to the Harper Federal government. Clark and the Liberals gave up the right to have more influence in the matter over a year ago. In spite, I suppose Alberta could now decide to start charging BC for it’s already in place LNG pipelines, running from Northern BC across Alberta to the United States.

The centerpiece of the Liberal’s platform is debt reduction, and they have promised to dedicate half of future surpluses to it, enact more balanced budget legislation, and include penalties for ministers who do not meet their budget targets. But no matter what is promised as to balancing the budget or not, or controlling spending or not, the reality is that in most industrialized and democratic societies, the amount of debt and spending is over the top, and there is nothing more corrosive to the future of any economy if debt continues to accumulate through a succession of operating deficits. And as in most other industrialized countries, whether at the federal or local level, government is creating huge debt, and will continue to do so because they have all become so concerned and preoccupied with salaries, pensions and perks, instead of infrastructure and the needs of the people.

Over the past ten years, if you factor in both operating expenses and capital spending on schools and infrastructure, the BC Liberals have over spent $14 billion, bringing BC’s total accumulated operating and capital debt over the past fifty years to nearly $40 billion, or $8,300 per British Columbian, and which has been determined to have a 54% chance of defaulting within 30 years. Our current overall debt is more than $62 billion. Interest charges alone are about $1.9 billion per year, more than the entire budget for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. But Clark promises balanced budgets in each of the next three years. Great idea, except it will mean borrowing another $3.5 billion to do so.

Clark would later announce straight-faced, that the government’s budget will also be based on three themes, “giving children more opportunities than we had, caring for those who cared for us and leaving BC as beautiful as we found it.” Oxymoron doesn’t even get close to explaining this comment.

But then our economy is mostly determined by what happens elsewhere in the world anyways, no matter what three year plan the Liberals have, because nothing in government is long term. As we all know their wheel is geared to run for about three years then switch and spend the final year campaigning.

In the very near future, the economic reality for Canada and the world will have everything to do with the emerging countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, who today combined, represent a third of the world’s economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the international body which promotes policies that they feel will improve the economic and social well being around the world, estimates that in seven years, in 2020, these countries will be the second biggest driving force of the world’s economy.

Capitalistic democratic countries such as Canada, the United States and those in Europe, operate with such short term focus because they judge time quarterly, perhaps proving that the concept of living for the moment is actually something really irrational. Government is now big business, unfortunately it’s not run by business people, but by lawyers and bureaucrats, and without the profit part. They are also forgetting that life is about people and with continuing high unemployment and growing income equalities; you’d think they would worry about that. But then, heck, they even ignore the fact that the Earth is but one planet.

And yes, of course economic development is important, but it must also mean sustainable development that respects the wishes of all those who live there, and the environment in which they live in. With most of voters in the most recent election voting for either the New Democrats or the Greens, this obviously shows that the majority of people in BC want investment and jobs that produce clean energy. But if the goal is not to reverse the destruction of the earth’s ecosystems, all else, including life, becomes moot.

The only thing decided in the 2013 BC election was that we will be maintaining things as they were, with a few deciding its status quo for everybody. Just like most all levels of government in Canada, where we are ruled most often by simple reactionary governments run by despots, who possess far too much power for anyone’s good. Just like the Romans, you would have thought we had learned that lesson and gotten past it, silly us. Leaders who have their own mandates, and who keep their members in check and obedient by the unelected party whips, by being told how to vote, what questions to ask, and how to beg and bark like a dog. Their governments far too often, will only consider action on just about anything until the corporations, financial institutions or foreign interests, whom already own too much of Canada’s resources, say so.

The BC Liberals will continue to protect the existing systems of power and the future of the economy, they will promise accountability and sustainability and truly believe that capitalism’s economics will win over good sense and foresight when it comes to coping with any problems along the way, arrogantly believing that the ability of engineering and technology will save the day. Much like the thinking of CEO Rex Tillerson at Exxon-Mobil’s 2013 annual general meeting, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” obviously not aware whatsoever that a simple share dividend or larger market share, doesn’t mean anything, if it has no planet to survive on.

In reality the continuously expanding bubble is actually beginning to hiss and becoming a permanent contraction. The essential resources for economic expansion and survival, that are abundant, accessible and safe to obtain, are nearly all gone. Our government knows this, but will never admit it. But then we don’t want to admit it to ourselves either it would seem. For many it’s far too much to handle, we are overwhelmed. And is undoubtedly one of the main reasons of low voter turnout, and for the acceptance of our current voting system as “oh well that’s just the way things are.” More like it’s just the way the government likes it. There are alternatives of course, there always are.

More than 33 countries worldwide use the Westminster form of government. This democratic parliamentary system of government is where there is an executive branch which derives its democratic legitimacy from, and held accountable to, the legislature/parliament. Amongst these countries there are at least four different voting systems used.

In 2005, and recommended by the BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, 57% of British Columbian voters, voted to get rid of our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and replace it with the proportional voting system, the single transferable vote (STV). However, just before the final vote was to be taken, the majority government, who were elected as such with only 45% of the votes, and somehow gained 97% of the seats in the legislature, declared that a 60% minimum threshold was needed, so the idea was rejected. Another vote for STV was taken in 2009, and was nothing but a misinformation campaign, using words, numbers and grammar improperly and making it perhaps too complicated in its description for most people, and there was mass confusion, especially for non-English speaking citizens. It also failed.

Operating a first-past-the-post system, with just one winner in each riding means half of voters don’t actually elect anyone. In the 2011 Federal election seven million votes elected no one. In the 2008 Federal election nearly one million people voted Green, yet no one was elected, while in Alberta alone, about 700,000 voters allowed Harper’s Conservatives to gain 27 seats in parliament. In the Prairies, the Conservatives received nearly twice as many votes as Liberal and NDP combined, but somehow took seven times as many seats. In fact, that same year, more Canadians voted in the finals of the Canadian Idol TV program, than had in the election.

Thus our provincial and federal governments have no idea what the majority of Canadians need and want, nor who we are, especially with them also getting rid of the long-form census. Sadly, even if more people voted using our current voting system, it would still not create fair representation of the majority of the people.

Comparatively, in 2011, in Ireland, and using the STV system, only 18% of those who voted did not have a candidate that won. The same year in New Zealand, and also using the STV, only 3% voted for losers.

The STV system works with voters in combined local districts getting to elect anywhere from five to seven representatives instead of just one. On each ballet is listed all the individual politicians, from all parties, of that local area. A voter then lists these candidates by order of preference, 1st choice, 2nd, and so on. If your first choice doesn’t have enough votes to be elected and sure to lose, your vote is then transferred to your 2nd choice, and so on. Similarly, if your first choice has more than enough votes to win, your vote is transferred to your next favorite candidate, and so on. Each vote ends up where it’s most needed to get the group of representatives most wanted. No vote is wasted on a candidate that has no hope in being elected, and with every vote having an equal impact on the outcome, one can vote their conscience. All results would be totally proportional. The best person that represents the needs of the community is chosen, not the person who best represents their party. The legislature and parliament would represent nearly everyone, which is called a democracy.

Such proportional representation, awarding seats in the legislature on the percentage of votes received, equals fair representation. Over 80 countries use elements of proportionality in their voting systems. Australia has used such a system since 1918, and is used at all levels of government, including their senate. No candidate can win if they do not have a true majority of over 51% of the vote, and there cannot be a majority government with less than 51% of the vote. Compulsory voting was enacted in 1924, and began with an average of 95% of registered voters doing so. If one fails to vote and is not able to provide a reasonable explanation for not voting, they are fined $20. But like elsewhere, Australia has been seeing a drop in the numbers of those who vote. In the past few elections, some municipality’s votes are down to 80-85 %, which is still far better than Canada’s (50%) ,which ranks among the lowest in voter turnout in all the industrialized countries of the world. In contrast and besides Australia, Belgium and Denmark have 80% of the voters showing up.

According to Fair Vote Canada, if the proportional STV system, based on fair representation, was used in the 2013 BC election, the vote would have been 41 Liberal seats, 33 NDP, six Greens, and four Conservatives, instead of its outcome of 49 seats for the Liberals, 34 for the NDP, one Green, one Independent, and zero Conservatives.

Online voting, meanwhile, is a good idea because we’d then be able to be more informed, as an uninformed choice is not a choice at all, and we’d be able to vote on other issues as well, instead of just once every three to four years. But voting should never be taken for granted nor should it simply become an inconvenience, where in-between tweeting and texting friends every four to five minutes, answering e-mails, or playing with you new phone app, you have to take a second to vote, just to get it over with. Voting should be both, a right to fair representation and a duty to participate.

But whether proportional voting, first-to-the-post, online and/or mandatory, they are all simply systems trying to deal with the same problem, which is not enough people vote to properly determine our futures. Standing by and allowing a very few to make the decisions for us, and tell us what road we will travel, and how we are to behave is so bovine. If only but a few of us vote, the people elected, whether ruling or opposition, go to government and vote according to their party and their ideology, and not to the wishes of the constituents, who really, don’t number that many anyway. They decide what the interest of the people shall be. If this is the case, it is not a democracy but a republic.

It seems that British Columbians will occasionally, about every ten years or so, get riled up enough to go to the polls and hope for change or salvation. Unfortunately this is not the place where such things reside anymore. Another reason so few vote anymore is because we are busy in our own lives and place in society and have realized that voting doesn’t change anything, especially when over 70% of the population’s votes don’t mean anything when they do. We have become alienated and disaffected from the whole political process.

It also doesn’t help that the country to the south of us is so dysfunctional and spiralling down a toilet, and that whenever they speak, especially if it’s a Republican senator, it is filled with contradiction and ignorance, and everyone looks at each other, asking, did they just say that in their out-loud voice. They feel they can run around and try to control the world when they can’t even control themselves, while in reality they are controlled by an “intelligence community” and Wall Street. They make democracy something obscene; with the way their citizens have given up their rights and freedoms in order to feel secure and safe, but unemployed, dissatisfied with life, violent-prone, fat and hungry.

If we continue to become disengaged within our own communities, how on earth are we to become engaged in politics, when it has simply become another reality show, with really bad actors, using the same old script?

Integrity and character has been replaced with entitlement and personality, with too many politicians possessing the charisma of street walkers and used car salesmen, but unlike such working citizens, believing they are not accountable at all, and are so very far out of touch. They are often having difficulties with their expenses, which any politician has a right to claim, but they instead ignore the obligation of disclosure to whom pays the bills, which is we the people, and through it all, a never ending stream of scandal, with one abuse of privilege after another.

Consider those who vote the least, 18 to 24 year olds. Less than a third of them vote, while in 1980, two-thirds of the same age group voted. The difference is that today any expectations for “participation, self-realization and control over their lives” cannot be gained through our current electoral machine. Many see that besides the erosion of democracy, the basics of society, such as freedom of the press, having a system that is not corrupt, the right to peaceful protest, and having a rule of law which is the same for everybody, are being undermined, and they understand that ultimately elections do not usually affect such things.

We have become either not interested, too busy, or simply don’t care to vote anymore, by not being informed rationally or honestly, thus not being motivated to vote. This is good for the one party who operates within a system where, once again, as long as they get 2 or 3 people out of 10 to vote for them, they’re in. We’ve become disgusted with a politician’s behaviour, lack of scruples and integrity, sociopathic tendencies and sense of self entitlement. A sense of powerlessness pervades over us, but is kept at bay with a status quo of style over substance.

In BC and Canada, and other than the couple of Green members and a few independents, the leaders of both the ruling and opposition governments and their ministers, chiefs of staff and party whips, nearly every other MLA or MP backbencher, sit back like trained seals, occasionally roaring out “hear hear”, stomping their feet or pounding their desks. Their sense of entitlement gained from a, “set for life pension”, excellent pay and all the most lavish of perks, is actually the near rotten fish tossed their way, which they have eagerly gulped back.

The elite of the world and the governments they control are simply out of control. And really don’t care if the great curtain of Oz is lying on the floor like a dirty rag. Far too often the stench of blatant corruption, immorality, greed and a total lack of empathy permeate everything they do, say and touch.

In Canada the government mimes other capitalistic democracies by slashing guidelines for corporate behaviour, removing any accountability that they might have, and are ever more controlled by corporate lobbyists to micromanage the provinces and country. They would also like to privatize everything as soon as possible, which is not a bad thing, except the fact the privatizing is going to foreign interests. As to public service, it is becoming both private and secret.

Frustration reigns supreme above all else because the economic standing that a large lower-middle class, and working class once had has been slowly erased over the past thirty years. At the same time “the wealth and income derived from labor, which is how we citizens pay our way, has been transferred to capital, while the growth of productivity doesn’t translate into wage gains anymore”, because it’s usually transferred overseas.

Further frustration comes from the myriad of contradictions in government spending, such as, in BC, each MLA receives $19,000 a year for accommodation in Victoria when the legislature meets. Over the past few years, on average, they gather together about 40 days a year. Staying in a nice place on the inner harbour for 40 nights, using the “government rate”, costs about $8,000. Meanwhile a British Columbian living on disability income is expected to find accommodation with $4,500 per year; or that the chiefs of staffs and some MLAs are making upwards of $10,000 a month, while the majority of the province are trying to make do with $28,000 a year; or that BC has the lowest corporate tax rates in Canada, as well as having, for over ten years now, the highest child-poverty rate in Canada. In reality there is really no poverty per se, in any democratic country, just poor distribution of the wealth.

Our current democratic dysfunction is affecting the pulse of our collective consciousness. Instead of meaning and purpose it’s leaving us awash in a feeling of emptiness and unease. The distractions put in our faces are gladly taken, but deep down we are longing for change and reform. The distractions paralyze us to act for the now, not even wanting to think about the future. The only two roads being offered are either just sucking it up, turning ourselves off and pretending that everything’s okay, or standing up and acting. Unfortunately standing up and being heard can bring much to bear against you, too much than most people are willing to absorb and pay for, especially if it disrupts their daily lives or takes away any of their stuff. It’s why there is a lack of leadership in the world today. For anyone who is truly righteous and who stands up for others, we have a tendency as a society to marginalize, ostracize, defame and/or assassinate them, before they do too much damage to the status quo. And we must especially remember that whenever the word revolution is bandied about, there must be a very concise and exacting explanation for what that means.

Because our corporate governments are mostly being driven by capitalistic greed, the powers that be and who control them, will never allow their power to wane. Indeed many of the largest controlling institutions are, as they say, too big to fail. But capitalism gets away with its growing violence to both the environment and the fabric of our societies, much like the Bible got away with its extreme violence, degradation of women, and declaration that the planet’s resources are god given and meant to be used up as it see fit, because most times governments back it up, through repression of their people.

Far too many of us actually believe we can successfully, psychologically ignore and deny the planet is changing. Where escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms have simply become natural events, and we are more mesmerized by the latest fashion or phone app. But it has been proven that messages based on fear, such as climate change, can cause people to feel dis-empowered and less likely to take action at all. That is why governments always promote a fear of something, whether it’s the Huns, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, crime, drugs or other religions and races.

Those who have just given up, have not only given up on themselves, but have also damned their children and their grandchildren as well. We have raised the standards of living so high over the past fifty years, and so gorged on the earth’s limited resources that future generations have no hope in hell of living in similar high fashion.

There is also the train of thought that there is such low voter turnout here in Canada, and elsewhere, because it’s a sign our political system is stable and that nobody votes because we are all relatively happy with our government; that life isn’t so bad and people do not see much significance in what the government is doing, and as long as we can continue to cheaply fill our gas tanks, we’re good to go.

The only problem with people today going merrily on their way seeking happiness is that most often we are seeking it in all the wrong places. Deep down we are all so very terribly bored, and so we think by making everyday distractions important they become a part of our daily routine, which makes it easier to get through the day. As deep is the reality that, as a biological species we simply need food, water, a roof over our head, and to be loved. But as long as we keep giving ourselves over to booze, pot, pills, celebrity fascination, the hope of winning a lottery ticket, that our car defines us, and that as long as we are able to maintain all of the other material comforts of our lives, we’ll accept most things without complaint.

So it comes down to, people don’t vote because they are happy with their lot in life, as long as something doesn’t happen in their own backyard, or understand that elections don’t really change anything in their daily lives, unless one becomes ill, hurt, abused or assaulted, of course, and can’t pay for the repairs. Or people don’t vote because they don’t give a shit and usually live their lives as such. Or people don’t vote because they look at the candidates and their parties and nothing meaningful is there to vote for. This I feel is the biggest reason many don’t bother to vote, for though society is crying out for leaders, there aren’t any.

What is needed, especially today when decisions are often needed to be made quickly for our futures sake, are individuals who bring forethought to the changes needed in our modern society and changing planet, and who understand what it might mean for democracy and basic human rights. Leaders willing to do battle in the only war any civilization needs to fight today, the one between the public good and private profits. It’s too bad that very few politicians today draft and pass mandates with positive results, which become a part of their legacy long after they are gone from office. Needed are leaders who are willing to bring about reform, no matter how bumpy the road might be, nor how many arrows glance off their brows. Men and women who are willing to speak for all citizens, not only those that support them, and who understand the importance of transparency and accountability, and who will promote policies that will improve the economic and social well being of the world. Someone who doesn’t cheat, steal or lie would be a huge evolutionary step forward.

In the 2013 BC election there were many talented individuals who were able to gain a seat in our legislature. Many are very qualified people, with business degrees and political science majors, and who are accountants, lawyers, and managers. All I’m sure having the best of intentions, and are very intelligent, which is often the problem, because more often than not it’s the really smart individual that is needed instead. And yes, there is a difference. But of all of those elected, there weren’t very many leaders. Someone the true majority of British Columbians believes in.

Premier Christy Clark may be the leader of the BC Liberals by way of our current voting system, but is she really the honourable leader we need in this changing world, or just the CEO of the government of BC, who on the world stage is a somewhat charismatic, teen-like, bubbly, minor celebrity with a nice smile who may or may not make any difference at all.

No matter Ms Clark, or the Liberal party’s intentions, are they strong enough in their convictions to represent all British Columbians, or just the princes of capitalism, or will they succumb to the problem that has followed politicians around since the first civilizations, in that power nearly always corrupts. As the Greek historian, Herodotus, explained in the 4th century BC, “Even the best of men, were he granted such power would alter the train of his thoughts. Insolence will be engendered in him by the advantages of his position, and envy …With these two in his soul he is filled with every wickedness, for insolence will cause him to break into many acts of wantonness, and envy into many more.”

I’ll end this essay with the issues of our sense of being overwhelmed, and the common adage, why bother to vote when it won’t mean anything. In our current voting system this is true, as is the reality that whoever of the two or three mainstream parties are in power in BC, nothing will change. The Liberals will continue to sit in the back seat of the speeding capitalism high-end sedan, as it hurls towards the edge of the cliff, with them all fighting over who can sit up front, and the New Democrats won’t stray too far from the middle of the road in their mid size “working man’s” pickup truck. Neither is what we need nor want, for we need action and reform. Meanwhile the Greens will cruise along in the latest hybrid, giving sage advice and sound alternatives.

But at any intersection, with the light switching to amber, the Greens slow down and stop just as it turns red, and take a look around. The New Democrats weave around them, quickly look left, then right, and boot through the amber. A few seconds after the light turned red, the Liberal sedan comes racing through the intersection nearly clipping an elderly man using a walker, just missing running over a university student, and nearly t-boning a local beer truck, but without even a glance or acknowledgement continues on, leaving the chaos in their dust.

Over the past hundred years, societies have had to deal with many issues, each separate and distinct as they usually happened piecemeal, from world wars to civil rights, the right to vote, women’s rights and the environment. Today is like a perfect storm arising seemingly just off in the distance, while in actuality is closer than we think. Income and wealth disparity, lack of accountability, corporate generated repression, blind greed, entitlement, consumerism, endless war, too big to fail institutions, crumbling infrastructure and climate change, all blending into one all-encompassing planetary crisis. Issues that need to be confronted by strong leadership and a populace willing to change, not for our sake, for we will be dead before it gets totally out of control, but for our children and their children. It would be completely irresponsible, immoral, suicidal, and just plain mean to leave such societal and political dysfunction and a deteriorating planet to future generations.

Distractions indeed have kept us busy. Our repression of anxiety, anguish, grief, and our natural human instincts and feelings, have sucked any courage we might have had right out of us. We have become, what was once sung “comfortably numb.”

We must not lose sight of the concepts of one small step at a time, but at the same time admitting that we must also confront the issues before us rather quickly, and have the courage to do so. For every action there is a potential reaction, with the future not yet written nor known. We must never forget that you who are reading these words, matter, we matter, and we are never too old or young to act, stand up and speak. Most importantly we must remember that hope is harvested, not given nor elected.

 

Further perusing – Tom Englelhardt  “Acts Of Courage”   TomDispatch.com

 

04/8/13

Costs Of Living – Inequalities, Poverty Levels, and the Cost for one Person to live in Victoria BC

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity”  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


 

While we have been busy climbing ladders, wishing we were someone else and purchasing our personalities, the basics of life have become much more than simply the costs of living, and are in fact taking much more from us than just income and capital; it’s taking away the planet we live on as well.

To exist as a biological species we need safe drinking water, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, and sex. To be human we need someone to love, someone to love us, friendship, an individual talent which gives us self worth and the ability or opportunity to question. To keep humanity’s greatest resources, imagination and ingenuity, in proper context, we need what Albert Einstein called “the principles of free and responsible development of the individual so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of mankind.” To keep ourselves mentally healthy is to relish each one of these essentials. But each one of these essentials, especially over the past thirty years, has now become nearly entirely privatized, as we stare like deer caught in the headlights.

Today such basic needs and rights also include education, health care, parks and recreation and freedom of speech, all of which are now packaged into products to be simply bought and sold, with many of these rights easily taken from us. Obtaining them is now based on who can pay the most, because anything good, important, healthy or reliable costs more.

The cost of living before agriculture and civilizations was called life and death. Then about twelve thousand years ago, after seventy thousand years of our current mutation as modern humans; we began to domesticate animals and invented agriculture to feed them, eventually feeding ourselves as well. We also began to live communally in larger numbers, which rose exponentially after such villages became cities. The cost of living became income. At this time the characters bearing psychopathic tendencies, such as “self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure; failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour; lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another; exploitation is a primary means of relating to others; deceit; the use of dominance or intimidation to control others and misrepresentation of the self”, were finally able to rise to the top, feeding on their thirst for power, to control the food source, and demand tithe for doing so. Where once there was enough for everyone slowly became never enough. The seeds of inequality among humans began to quickly sprout and split into the haves and the have-nots.

At the same time, laws were formed by the individuals who controlled the wealth to control the public and soon the populations began to lose the opportunity to be noble or heroic, with everyone’s destiny and position in life laid out for them. Distractions such as literature, theatre and sports quickly followed, becoming the places where we could live out an honorable life, through someone else’s actions.  To further control the masses the elite created capital, usury, then debt, by imposing scarcity on their own populations, and any conquered ones, thus causing inequality which created poverty. To keep at least a wee bit of hope, religion was created.

Eventually the distractions and illusions became what they are today, sports heroes, movie stars, politics, and numerous economic theories that only exist on paper and which keep us focused on anything other than our own lives. Ideas such as GDP, which we base our economic worlds and societal success on, but which have nothing to do with our personal well-being or the planet’s. It operates under the illusion that unlimited growth under free market capitalism, operating on only one delicate and finite planet will work, and that a person’s well-being has all to do with material gain and how much one consumes. As it devours our social and natural environments it has us thinking that money will bring us happiness, where instead life should be doing that.

But we do not live in a world where the economy understands that there are now over seven billion people living on a single and finite planet and concerns itself with the importance of everyone getting along, the welfare of each individual, and having enough for everyone, even future generations, by caring for the earth’s resources. Instead we have an economic system, neo-liberal capitalism, which only generates extreme wealth for a very few individuals and is destroying the planets ecosystems by replacing the earth’s resources with waste, and controls the majority of the human race using nationalism, intolerance and oppression by economic means. For instance, if every country on earth were to consume resources and generate as much waste as the United States, we would need five planet earths.

Meanwhile we are extolled through the corporate government media machine that we should worry about events in far-flung places, rather than what’s happening in our own communities, ignoring the depravity within our own society by watching it happen somewhere else. More often than not, global mainstream media is not the real world; our everyday lives are not filled with horror, crime, and continuous bad news nor are they filled with the need to always exact revenge. Most all news stories are about things we cannot influence, and the daily repetition of such things we cannot do anything about, makes us passive. It is grinding us down and is undoubtedly one of the core reasons for the widespread disease of depression which is ravaging our societies. Media could and should, put life into better perspective though in many instances it is verboten to do so and now simply sticks to peddling the ideology of the corporate state.

We are further led to believe that lavish spending and waste makes one a better person somehow, to be a true human you need stuff, especially stuff you don’t need. That what one is wearing or what vehicle one drives denotes their personality and that money is everything. Even assets and debts are to be carried over, and still to be paid after we die. We are bludgeoned and brow beaten about debt and how much is owed, numbers in the billions and trillions on the national level and which we have no hope of ever relating to. On a more personal level we simply try to ignore the amount we ourselves are amassing.

We are also told that having a distinct personality is imperative to be the most powerful, invincible, admired, sexy and unique, yet our daily lives are interactive and interdependent worlds, as are most all species whether animal, bird or fish. No matter the distraction or how far one buys into it, the underlying questioning of what we are told to do, say, act and buy, goes against the reality of who we are. And it’s confusing the hell out of us.

For generations’ topics such as religion, politics, what one does for a living, inequality and sex were simply not spoken about or brought up. Climate change and the current economic crisis can also be added to this list. Yet these are all things we should be talking about, because they are the causes of the abuse we are doing to ourselves and the planet. We get upset when talking about such issues because it’s taken personally, thus we become emotional and offended. Talk about any other fundamental global issues today and people really get their hairs up and knickers in a twist, and either emotionally expounds their personal world-view at you or simply doesn’t want to talk about it and quickly changes the subject. The main reason for this is because it gets too close to the bone; we are hurt emotionally because our inaction, obedience to the system, and denial are complicit with the digression of our unequal societies and destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

It is getting harder and harder to differentiate between truth and fiction so we interpret reality through illusion, believe what we want to believe, and are quickly rid of anything unpleasant, instead of learning to cope. Our comfort zones have been separated from reality, with the media working their best for their corporate masters, to ensure that they shall never meet. The paradox today is that people have to be far enough out of touch with reality to function and yet acknowledge reality to survive.

The separation between reality and illusion is a thin veil and is creating so many contradictions in our lives that many people today, especially in the developed countries, simply can’t cope with daily life. Each year the United States and Canada consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants, the bulk of the global cocaine supply and have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Not to mention deteriorating physical and mental health. There is a reason for this.

We have become a public overwhelmed, numbed, and weary of the stories and realities of climate change, unwinnable wars, whether drugs or terrorists, and the ever worsening global economic recession and the strain it’s putting on our lives. No matter how much one becomes distracted, such issues weigh heavily upon us. For many, worrying about where the next meal will come from creates stress and worry, which affects our health, therefore also becomes one of the costs to live today.

Underlying our human madness is the reality of each day in an individual’s life and the fact that our basic, modern needs, and fundamental requirements to exist as a healthy biological species, along with, income disparity and the lowering of our morals, are all becoming more expensive and much more than we, as well as the planet, can afford.

It is estimated there are billions of people in the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Most are indeed poor, but then again there are also some peoples and places on the earth, where consumerism and capitalism haven’t become a belief system, nor has the surrounding environment been eroded or poisoned. In such places $2.50 a day is all you really need to fulfill one’s daily need for water, food and a roof over your head, with lives which are just as fulfilling, loving, rich and rewarding as anywhere else. But for much of the planet’s populations, one’s life is determined by how much money one makes and what you do with it.

Today the cost of living is based on what is called the “poverty level”, which is the minimum level deemed adequate to afford the essential resources an average human being needs to consume in one year. It is based on a human’s basic food and water requirements necessary to exist.  With food, a human’s health is determined by what’s called “body-mass index”, which is a human’s body shape based on an individual’s weight and height. The minimum “allowed” body-mass index is 16, although the more accurate and real body-fat % number is being used more often as the scale, with the highest percentages being in North America. The BMI is still used globally, with the lowest BMI scores, averaging 19, are found in many of the poorest countries, especially Eritrea, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The highest rates are Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa, with an average of 32. As a rule a BMI of over 25 puts one overweight.

Though there is no standard caloric intake list, a person needs a minimum of 1500-2000 calories of food per day. With the actual number of calories each individual needs depending on multiple different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, lifestyle, availability and metabolism, and that not all calories are created equal, so it depends more so on what kinds of calories you eat.

The minimum amount of water our bodies need, in a moderate climate and average activity level, is about 5 litres (1.3 gal) per day, while the minimum water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation combined is about 50 litres (13 gal) per day, per person. In perspective, Americans and Canadians use 250-300 litres (65-78 gal) of water per day per person for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and watering lawns. In the Netherlands, they use 104 litres (27 gal) per day, while in Gambia, in Africa, they use only 4.5 litres (1.17 gal) per day. The poverty level minimum water needs also states that every person must have safe drinking water available less than 15 minutes away. And although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, less than 2% of it is fresh water, of which only a few hundredths of a per cent is actually drinkable.

As for food and water, these minimums are scary as in many parts of the world they are still not being reached, and in fact are declining, with the supply of these basic needs being the most affected by climate change. The UN estimates that there are 925 million humans with insufficient food, 1 out of every 7 people, with over half of all the children in the world today living in poverty. Global fresh water is dwindling quickly, not so much from drinking, but from growing food, while the acidification and oxygen depletion of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers, drought, severe weather, glaciers disappearing and rivers drying up continue unabated.  We whine about what a litre of gasoline costs, yet are paying sometimes twice as much for the same amount of water in a plastic bottle. Heck, in Victoria we are paying fifty-cents to simply put air in our tires.

The poverty level provisions must also include proper sanitation for our biological waste, health care for serious illness, injury and pregnancy, and shelter, where fewer than four people live in each room with at the least a floor and a roof.  Next up is education, where each person is able to read and write, thus learn. Finally, the poverty level includes that everyone should have the modern essentials of having information at hand, whether in books, magazines and news sources, as well as access to services such as further education, health advice and care, legal assistance, social services, and financial services such as credit unions.

While in reality many of these minimum requirements can never be reached by someone actually living at the poverty level; with many of them slowly being erased or priced too high and out of reach for the majority of humanity.

Before we continue I would like to emphasize that I understand very well there will be a wide range of circumstances when further discussing the cost of living, and to some extent income inequality, but I’m just going for an average, ballpark figure of an average Canadian, with the odd comparison to the Americans. I’m not really comparing but generalizing, because there are so many variables, such as where one lives – city, small town or suburb. Are they male or female, single or have a large family, or two people sharing expenses and with a joint income of $40,000 and having a higher standard of living than two individuals living alone on $20,000 each, with all sorts of intangibles in between.

In Canada the after-tax poverty thresholds are $18,421 for one person, $34,829 for a family with two children. One in ten Canadians live at or below these levels; 3.2 million people, of whom 634,000 are children, with British Columbia continuing to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. In the US the poverty level is $11,344 for one person, and $22,133 for a family with two children, with more than one per six Americans living at and far below these levels.

Such income levels have not changed much over the past 30 years, though the actual costs of living and the income of the top earners have risen dramatically. Consider that in 1982 the median income of an average Canadian was $28,000 annually after taxes, while the income for the top one per cent was $191,600 after taxes, seven times higher. Fast forward to today where our economy has grown twice as large, the richest one per cent now report a median income of $283,400, nearly 10 times higher than the median income of the other 99% of Canadians whose median income has only risen to $28,500.

Income inequality is even more disturbing in the US. In 1980 the average CEO’s annual pay was 42 times more than the average worker. By 2011, their pay was 340 times more, regardless of business performance or shareholder value.  As to income growth over the past 45 years and adjusted for inflation, 90% of Americans annual income, has risen a mere $59 per year, while the top 1% of the top 1%’s annual income has risen to $18.7 million. To put this in perspective, for each dollar that an average household’s income rises, the household incomes of the top 1% of the top 1% rises $311,233 annually.

In Canada the top 100 CEO’s earn an average of $6 million per year, while the average minimum hourly wage in Canada is nine dollars, in the US its $7.25 per hour. The lowest minimum monthly gross income in Canada, working a 40 hour work week, is $1,631 per month. To currently live in Vancouver B.C. an individual needs to earn at least $18.81 per hour and work a 40 hour week. In 2012, the average weekly wage in BC was $860.57 before taxes, with an hourly average wage of $23.53. In a nut shell, more than half of all Canadians are living on less than $25,400 per year after taxes and would need to work one month to make the same amount a top CEO makes in one hour.

Out of the pie, 51.9% of Canadians make $29,299 a year or less, 48% make more than $30,000 per year, and the final 1% makes $169,000 or more a year, with 0.1 % of these individuals making an average of $30 million a year. Breaking it down further, if you make more than $60,000 per year you are in the top 19%; above $120,000 per year you are in the top 5%. As for weekly income, the top 10%, who are mostly just the managers of the top 1%’s industries, governments, corporations and wealth, and who are really just commodities themselves, average $6,000 per week. Their bosses make about $160,000 per week.

The disappearing middle class in BC have individual earnings between $40,000 and $125,000, while in the US their middle class is determined to be those earning $36,000 to $57,657 per year. In both countries it’s becoming blatantly clear, yet readily ignored, that the bulk of the populations of both are below middle class, with a few at the very top.

The latest employment reports show that since the economic downturn in 2008, 60% of all jobs lost during the subsequent recession paid middle income wages, while 60% of jobs gained are low paying jobs in the accommodation or fast food industry. Declining traditional middle class jobs include executive assistants and secretaries, construction laborers, carpenters, bookkeepers, accountants, telephone operators, general maintenance and repairmen, and reporters and correspondents.  With the biggest drops in employment occurring in utilities, public administration and especially manufacturing. Although actual manufacturing sales are rising, the higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing quickly, and being replaced with low paying service jobs. Staying stagnant are jobs in business, trade, and information, culture and recreation, while rising employment opportunities are in education, health, and as previously mentioned, the fast food and service industry, which is growing four times the overall rate. People are getting jobs but staying poor, because the increasing low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to live off of.

Besides income disparity, wealth inequality is equally outrageous. The richest 300 people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. In Canada, the top 1% possesses more than 45% of the wealth, while eight out of every 10 working Canadian share 7% of the wealth between them.  As for who actually has the wealth, meaning who has the share of money, gold, real estate, stocks and bonds, not very many. In 2012, Canadians with more than $30 million in assets numbered only 4,922 individuals, with a combined worth of over $148 billion. In 2010 the population of Canada was 43 million people, yet only 164,000 individuals made more than $250,000, while in BC there were only 18,810 individuals making that much, and once again, possessing nearly 45% of the wealth.

In the US, the Walton’s, heirs to the monolith that is Wal-Mart, are worth a combined $110 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. If Wal-Mart was a country it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $444 billion, $20 billion more than Austria’s GDP.

The problems with such growing inequality are that most of the wealthy do not even invest their wealth back into where they live; instead they move it offshore as quickly as possible. There is no trickle-down effect. Record profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages, but rather quite the opposite, less wages along with fewer jobs.

After all that, and taking a deep breath, we come back to how much does it really cost for somebody to live. In BC the average working stiffs, putting in 40 hour weeks, with no dental plan and no pension plan, other than what the Canada Pension Plan eventually pays when we are 65 years old, gross median annual incomes, range from the ticketed master carpenter making $50,070, to a construction labourer averaging $36,147, an apartment manager making $32,300, a bartender $23,198, to a waitress making $22,242, while a bookkeeper makes on average about $17.95 per hour,  a pharmacy technician, $15.91 per hour, and someone working in retail/fast food $10.25 gross per hour. Currently, the before taxes, gross median annual income in Canada is $30,800.

The poverty level mentioned earlier, supposedly is the least one needs to survive as a human being in a developed nation. In Canada, as earlier noted, it is $18,421 per year after tax, while one’s actual cost of living is determined by how much of a consumer you are and how much of the bullshit do you buy into. In Canada, in 2012, for every $100 an average Canadian family earned in disposable after-tax income they owed over $164 in market debt.  Why this is so, is in part because many of us are buying stuff we don’t need, and with stagnant wages for the past few decades the basics are costing so much more.

An example; a single male living in Victoria BC in 2012, pulling in $24,000 a year gross, whether $2000 per month salary or working 40 hour weeks for $12.50 per hour, is determined to be on the poverty level.  Off the top goes $3600 (15%) to Federal taxes, $1214 (5.06%) to Provincial taxes, $1080 (4.5%) to Canada Pension Plan, and about $360 (1.5%) for unemployment insurance. Using public transit with a bus pass costs $82 per month ($984/year) and living in a one-bedroom apartment costs an average $830 per month ($9960/year).  Cost of consumables such as food one only makes at home and personal care averages $280 per month ($3000/year). BC Medical (health care) is $55 per month ($660/year), $66.50 per month if you make over $30,000. Some sort of Life insurance, Critical Illness insurance or even savings, will cost at least $40 per month ($480/year), and that’s if you don’t smoke. Though I will not be adding such a cost to total when complete, a pack of cigarettes averages $9.30, a pack a day habit will cost you $279 per month.

Apartment insurance is about $15 per month ($180/year); the average cell phone costs are $71 per month ($852/year), though a basic land-line phone on one’s home runs about $26 per month.  Very basic cable is about $38 per month, including taxes ($456/year), while having an internet connection is about $40 per month ($480/year).  The cost of electricity for an apartment, with free hot water with heat registers, is on average $18 per month ($216/year), if it’s electric heat, $50+ per month. Entertainment is going out for a dinner for two ($50) once a month, grabbing the $10 burger and beer special once a week at the local pub, buying a bottle of cheap wine ($10), a new book ($15) and perhaps going to a movie once a month ($12), will total about $127 per month ($1524/year).

After paying these costs of living, the single person living in Victoria will be left with nothing, in fact they will be in arrears $1046, and still have to cover any clothing expenses, stamps, laundry, newspaper and occasional coffees, and emergencies. While the two week holidays one gets annually, never really includes an actual vacation. Such things as owning a car, paying for its gas, smoking, having a drug problem, eating out and being an obedient consumer is simply not possible. Though many cut corners and/or borrow to do so, a minority steal to do so. With over half of Canadians making less than $30,800 net per year, the poverty level is not so far away for the majority, and it is very true that “most everyone is a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”

Many people whose income is $60,000 a year are also living paycheck to paycheck. The more you make, the more you spend, most times on frivolous and disposable stuff that has no actual value, and on such things as a bigger car loan or lease, a mortgage, higher credit card debt, purchasing higher end stuff and more of it, such as phones, clothing, TVs and shoes, personal loans, eating out more often, expensive holidays, TFSA’s, RRSP’s and savings, maintenance of home and a higher standard of living. It’s all relative. Though of course, no matter how much a person makes still does not guarantee them happiness.

The proverbial wrenches thrown into the cost of living are the facts of life that drop in and disrupt our lives from time to time, the stuff that happens in between paychecks. One’s mother dies on the other side of the country. Can one afford to fly there and bury her? One breaks their collarbone in an accident at home and has to go on six weeks unpaid leave, or someone has the flu and can’t afford to take the time off work. The car needs new tires, or one who has no dental insurance needs a tooth pulled, a root canal, or heaven forbid needs a crown.  It is estimated that 60% of all the people in the States who go bankrupt each year, have done so because they had a medical crisis and huge medical bills and costs.

As it is, wages have been stagnant for thirty years, which we have compensated with debt. Our society is becoming ever the more insecure, living in fear of losing one’s job, not being able to provide for family and the worry of losing one’s stuff. Stuff which we have been programmed to believe that we simply could not get by without, but which has no value whatsoever. Yet our response to the madness continues to be, think me and mine.

We have been told to do things in our lives that make us feel important, more independent, vital and valued. Interacting in the world of my daily life, I see so much of it, where people have taken what should be self confidence and empathy, and instead have created a profound sense of entitlement and a drone like stare. But no matter the cape one wears, we are all having a hard time of it mentally and emotionally. Though we try to smile and coo that everything is alright, we are actually barely putting up with the arrogance and ignorance of our fellow human beings, including ourselves.  But then this should not be surprising considering its now three generations of people, in Canada, the States, Europe, et al, who have been raised by television, and we are never wrong.  History has also proven that the worse society becomes the more delusional they become.

Ever since television, the powers that be have worked very hard at selecting for us what decisions we make. Forty years on, most of our decisions are already made for us well in advance and the income equality and wealth distribution gaps have widened to a point never seen in all of human history. Meanwhile the majority of us are finding it ever more difficult in bearing the brunt of what the cost of living today is demanding from us.

With any society truly only “three meals away from a revolution,” the trigger point for change in how our economic and social worlds operate is nearing. But when people rise up because their child is starving and they themselves have no prospect of an advancement or job, because as our population grows there will never be enough jobs for everyone, will pharmaceutical drugs and the gods of consumerism replace the most powerful drug we possess, which is hope?

Extreme wealth and social inequality is nothing new, nor is the inability to afford the cost of living. It has happened more than a few times over the course of human history. Each time there was ever worsening of physical and mental health, shorter life spans and more criminal behaviour, especially among the wealthiest, because unfortunately, when life gets hard, living wrong is easier than living right.

But when we cannot feed ourselves or get access to drinkable water anymore, enough will then be enough. And there will be change. Such crises in the past have touched off revolutions, which more often than not are led by middle class, educated leaders, doctors and teachers; though the problem with revolution has always been that they are messy and very violent affairs. For to achieve true change, the system must not only be beheaded, the base has to crushed and swept away as well. Leaving it and just getting a new head, operating within the same system, same rules and regulations or lack thereof, eventually fails as well, because the system is broke, and has never worked. At that time the step will have to be made to cross the great divide between being aware of our current dysfunction yet only standing back and pontificating about it, and start acting on the dialogue about alternatives and solutions to the problems and becoming involved in its reform. It’s why many of the earliest civilizations had laws where wealth would be distributed anew and all debt erased every seven or so years.

Today I fear that I myself am caught up in the current age of myth and capitalism and that as a people we do not have the courage to rescue ourselves from ourselves anymore. It has become too easy to shut out the madness of our corporate governments and oligarchs with sports, movie stars and reality TV. I sit here and peck away on the computer analyzing, researching and giving an opinion about problems that thousands have already and quite often have done so more eloquently and intelligently, but I feel this is all I can do. Of course it is not.

The proof in the pudding will be when enough of us scream “time out”, get up from our couches, step away from our routine distractions, put one foot in front of the other, get out onto the street and make our voices heard, and come up with options and alternatives as to how we currently operate as societies. Instead of future generations cursing our names, we should at least give them the impression that we tried the best we could, and for once stopped thinking about me, myself and I. How can we expect any hope for our children and our children’s children if we do not?

The height of ignorance would be for us to continue to operate on self-denial, excess and self-indulgence and believe it’s all about us, with no thought to our children and grandchildren and what type of world they will be allowed to grow old in. The epitome of ignorance personified is to actually think the ecosystems and weather patterns of the earth, which we have greedily altered, care if we can cope or change our ways, or not.

After forty short years, the reality being proven in most developed countries is that in general, and not through a lack of trying or working hard, but because we are operating within a flawed system and have become distracted, we won’t do better than our parents, and our children will not do better than us. Heaven help our grandchildren.

 

 

 

10/2/12

CAMA? Say it isn’t so Stevie Harper.

Why does the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper hate science so much? I pondered.

Over the past year I’ve written many articles of my opinion or rather confoundedness, over the decisions made by the Harper government of Canada. Besides the ever quickening pace of trying to sell and export our limited natural resources as fast as possible, our government is also picking up the pace as to selling the companies that extract said resources, mostly to China. The government openly panders to the energy corporations, yet hinders working Canadians, all the while chiseling away at our basic human rights and civil liberties, especially women’s and children’s, and specifically dismantling most environmental protections and controls. At the same time our government gets rid of the jobs, shuts down the work and tapes shut the mouths of a world renowned, respected science community, especially in natural resources and environmental science and technologies. From constant barrages of omnibus bills to funding cuts to nearly every government agency that deals with the environment and people or the safety and care of both.

We pull out of the Kyoto agreement yet have no national plan to battle climate change and carbon pollution. Local environmentalists and First Nations are branded foreign radicals, with Greenpeace called a “Multi-issue extremist group.” The charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the governments environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels are threatened to be revoked, while journalists follow the lead of their corporate controlled employers by way of the Prime Minister’s office. Anything to do with safeguarding our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans has been gutted or dismantled, such as the Navigable Waters protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.

The incredulous concepts that are entering government policy making should be scaring the bejesus out of you, it does me. Each new decision the federal government makes gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has all seemed so confusing. But if you know history it is yet another remake of the chapter we’ve all seen before and which I will name at the end of this article.

We are already degrading our land and creating ever more inequality amongst people, what’s suddenly the big rush? What is taking prestige over reason? Why the desperate maddening pace and disregard for the earth? Why has reform become a dirty word to politicians? Why is the Harper government so adverse to science and rational debate?

But then a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had heard of CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, no I answered, having no clue. “Check it out”, he replied. And so I did. And the confusion I once felt is gone, now I’m seriously afraid.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, was formed in 1887 by the Canadian evangelical pastor Albert Benjamin Simpson. Simpson, born on Prince Edward Island in 1843, was raised in a strict Calvinistic Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition, though later he converted to Evangelicalism and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Canada and the United States and by 1880 arrived at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, in New York City, where he began to put together doctrine which emphasized global evangelism. Moving to what is known as the New York Tabernacle he began to preach his word and eventually his and others words would transform over the decades to become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. CAMA is based out of New York with a strong base of operations in Alberta. There are about 500,000 members in the States, mostly all Republicans and about 130,000 in Canada, mostly all Conservatives and mostly all living in Alberta. They have about three million members worldwide.

The tenets of CAMA’s gospel are; Jesus our savior, sanctifier, healer and coming king, as well as the “pursuit and promotion of the Higher Christian Life.” Their commitment is to promote a biblically-based world view centered on Jesus Christ.

Their values  include developing their pastoral and lay leadership; where women are strictly not allowed, nurturing the pastoral staff and their families, belief in Biblical conflict resolution, encouraging creativity and innovation in submission of spirit, empowering churches and strategic building of churches in all communities of the world. They also have an Environmental Transformational Plan, which describes their “life zones” or spiritual realities, but the plan has taken ecology completely out of context.

CAMA’s Church Planting Life Zone for instance believes in an environment perpetually growing, where “church planters and church congregations pregnant with new church planting ideas would be welcomed, encouraged and assisted in giving birth”, which means building a new church and finding new members is encouraged and would be supported by CAMA, and of course, “sources of funding would be accessed in order to provide a steady stream of resources for church planting opportunities.”  Further, in each Church Planting Zone, “multiplication-minded leaders are motivated and encouraged by catalytic events designed to expand their thinking and accelerate their passion.” Other life zones include the Global Seamless-Link Life Zone, Leadership Life Zone and Pastoral Health Life Zone, all placing much importance upon the church, its executive and the Second Coming of Christ.

Their core values begin with the authority of the bible, literately every word of it as it is written, and leadership, where they state that they intentionally identify and train “godly” leaders. They uphold biblical justice, minister to the poor and oppressed of only their communities, and encourage and strengthen marriages and families. Divorce is frowned upon and if caught as an adulterer one loses their right to ever remarry.

As far as stewardship of the earth they view “all our resources and possessions as God-owned and we use them with integrity, accountability and maximum effectiveness.” The world was created for them to use as they will, that God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage.

As to prayer they believe, “We do nothing until we pray”. The Canadian members pray for Canada and its government and that “Godly agendas are required through minority rule.” They pray for those “utterly unreached people group-those under the domination of Islam, closed Hindu and Buddhist nations, etc.” All non-believers of their doctrine are considered the “lost people’. They also pray for their church leaders, pastors and executive to receive the spirit of their God in “remarkable new ways” and for them to be “strategic in service.”

CAMA members truly believe the Second Coming is “imminent and will be personal and visible”. Much like the evangelical Jehovah Witnesses have believed that every year is going to be the last one, since 1870; where Jesus Christ will physically appear on earth and will reign for one thousand years and then there will be the Final Judgment. After which time, the universe, including the microscopic parts of heaven and earth, will be renewed to become a new and fresh heaven and earth. They also believe the world to be only 6,000 years old.

To survive the second coming they pray that their churches have the “budgets, decisions and staffing that reflect their kingdoms values.”  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be born again and “justified, sanctified and granted the gift of eternal life as adopted children of God.”

Fields of flowers, blue clear skies, cold crystal clean water and natural resources will be renewed and the chosen one’s will live on, to use the world to their will and a vicious cycle would seemingly begin anew. I know the Bible well, and unfortunately nowhere does one find a story about a Third Coming.

Other  beliefs of CAMA include that the free market is divinely inspired, with libertarian economics being God’s will and that God is opposed to government regulation or taxation for he created government for limited purposes only and whom should never intervene in the workings of a free market economy. They also oddly enough, though I am sure Charles Darwin isn’t their kind of scientist, seem to believe in the new social Darwinism, where the adage has been changed to the survival of the richest, not the fittest, will somehow benefit society and everyone else are simply lacking the motivation and ambition to help themselves.

Besides not having any regard for the environment and not putting any belief in science, they have utter contempt for homosexual relationships, abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia and the use of marijuana. They demand the complete loyalty of their members to their organization, possess extreme disdain for mainstream media, but then don’t we all in its current state, and believe wholeheartedly in the Dominion Theory, where humans were made to subdue and rule over all of creation. Because when it all collapses, no worries, God will fix it.

Because the Christian and Missionary Alliance do not put any faith in the notion of climate change due to human contribution and don’t think much of science in general, they are closely affiliated to another appendage of themselves in the Cornwall Alliance, a right wing coalition of scholars, evangelicals and economists, many who are Christian Alliance members, and formed in 2000 with the introduction of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. Their motto is Dominion, Stewardship and Conservation; they “aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.” Their main threats are science and anything to do with monitoring the environment.  They indeed have a very evangelical biblical view of the planet, but then as do so many other faiths and organizations. It’s why they all despise each other so much, would like very much to rid each other off the planet and to be just left alone, to be the only one left when human endeavor drives off the edge of the cliff. While extremists at both ends of the spectrum seem to have no qualms on creating an Armageddon themselves if they have to, just to prove their points.

Within the Cornwall Declaration are statements that were surreal to read, seemingly out of this world, time and place. I kept looking around, thinking someone was playing a joke on me or perhaps I was even being punk’d. The statements within the declaration include that policies to combat climate change would and are, destroying jobs. Besides, they say the trillions of dollars it would take to combat our affect on the planet would bring “no net benefits.” They also assert that any impediment on economic development such as raising energy prices, would take away the ability of the worlds poor to rise out of poverty, thus “so condemn millions to premature death.” They believe one of the worst things to do would be to continue trying to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, because it will only increase the price of energy and harm the world’s economies. In fact they flat out deny that carbon dioxide is harmful to the planet because it is “essential to all plant growth.” Believing the energy from their God’s planet must be abundant and affordable until the day he soon arrives, they feel fossil and nuclear fuels as being the perfect sources for this. Policies to control global warming they deem, “fruitless and harmful”, because the earth is “self  regulating and self correcting” and besides the earth was made to be used, so that humanity may flourish and display God’s glory.

As far as alternative and renewable forms of energy, they believe that such things as wind and solar power will only be good enough for either “poor or rural peoples.” Going further into the declaration; they do not feel that humanity is only consumers and polluters but instead we are producers and stewards. One of their main goals is to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of both, the earth’s resources and corporations, and if there is to be any collective action it must be taken at the most local level possible. They also wish everyone would just recognize their proper place in their God’s created order.

I began this article asking a few questions about the madness that seems to be enveloping Canada. The denying of science’s role in environmental and social decisions; cutbacks to fading social programs such as unemployment, pensions, health and welfare; the attempt to become a militaristic badass in the world;  the ongoing destruction of our basic human rights; the death of our will to vote; and the insane and desperate need for the status quo to continue.

The outcome of the last federal election, where 39% of those who voted elected a majority Conservative government, brought forth once again, the Harper government. It would seem we Canadians have a democracy problem. According to the Harper government’s agenda and policies, especially at the quickened pace as of late one can only surmise what’s behind such asinine decisions. Well surmise no more.

Yes, kept behind Oz’s curtain, glimpsed at only briefly, with nearly no one knowing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for nearly twenty years. He has always been questioned of perhaps having a hidden agenda. He does and it could very well be his God’s agenda, heaven forbid.

Other notable members of CAMA include many TV pastors and healing evangelists such as F.F. Bosworth and Clement Humbard; Billy Graham’s first African-American evangelist, Preston Manning; founder and former leader of the Reform party of Canada, and the now deceased, American Evangelist Billy Graham, who became a member of CAMA in 1933 but who was actually a Democrat and not completely on the religious right, once saying that Jesus did not have a political party.

Another long standing CAMA member is former Canadian Conservative cabinet minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Chuck Strahl, who in June 2012 was proudly given the chairman’s position of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the lone watchdog which oversees Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), by his close friend Stephen Harper. The sounds you should be hearing are the goose bumps bubbling out of your skin.

Is the Prime Minister of Canada really basing his decisions on what Canadians need and want today and tomorrow or instead on what was written by many and then translated dozens of times, two thousand years ago? His positions on research, statistics, protestors, journalists, First Nation’s people, women, children, pipeline opponents and climate change cannot but make one wonder what is exactly going on here. Though with his buddy Strahl now in charge of Canada’s Secret Service we may never know. Heck I could even disappear or be tagged as a radical dissident after this article is posted.

I am not anti-religious, I do believe in spirituality; the spark of energy every living thing on the planet possesses and that we all share. Most organised religions have made a lot of money and gained much power over the millennia trying to control that spark. Usually by making that spark of energy negative and flawed as it were born and the only way to bring light back into it is by sacrifice, devotion and fear of either one god or many gods. On the flip side, whatever belief system a person has to keep them feeling centered, their lives rewarding, fulfilled and honest is right for them, for the Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of religion, but it also protects our rights of freedom from religion. This is one of the reasons Canada is such a diverse place, where no matter one’s personal religion or race, its live and let live.

But if a Republican evangelical belief system enters the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, we Canadians should know about it, and seriously consider “the virtues of democracy over theocracy.” Remember, everyone not within the republican evangelical tribe are the “lost people” or “the others”, especially if you happen to be disabled, elderly, poor or a veteran.

More frequently, the Harper government’s policies are going against most Canadian’s values, with the words irresponsible, unethical, blatant and arrogant being bandied about more than usual. Any programs for promotion of renewable energy and home-energy efficiency have been thrown to the wayside. Yet in reality, investing in renewable energy will create more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could and the investment would be highly likely to pay off, it has to, for survival’s sake. Unfortunately the Harper government is continuing to rely on our economics to grow their way out of the problem of climate change and  haven’t realized yet that it will be too little too late and will not work. The earth does not care about economics. Instead of dealing with the causes of climate change it seems the world’s leaders would rather “watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”

The English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was often referred to as the “prince of paradox” for his prolific and diverse published works. He was a true radical, meaning he sought the root or origin of an issue, any issue and eventually became a Catholic to boot. Over seventy years ago he would write, “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” He felt government was going to operate in a way where, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”, quite astute that Gilbert, I do say.

Meanwhile we Canadians have another three years with PM Stephen Harper as our country’s leader. The question of where does his ideas come from, whether from fellow Canadians or from God, needs to be asked. Is policy, especially towards the environment, really being motivated by religious faith over reason? But then whether religion is a factor in government policies or just plain old greed, they are both of the same cloth. It is being proven daily that the diffusion of aggressive social conservatism based on evangelical beliefs is impossible to keep out of politics here or in the States. The difference is in the States they are oblivious to how ignorant they are to their ignorance and in Canada we just don’t hear about it and simply don’t ask. As far as the media and Stephen Harper’s religious affiliation goes it’s been mum’s the word.

The vision of a conservative society, where the privileged few would rule but understand the responsibility that came with such power, of being accountable to all citizens, whether they be poor or not, and who would act only for the common good, was held by many great leaders over the past century. Since killing off some of these great leaders in the late 60’s, the new religion that has become termed “conservatism” has arose, widening even further the inequality of our society, ignorant to any responsibility to the people or the public good, and is ego maniacal, quasi-psychopathic and greedy.

What will our environment and society look like in three years? Will we have sold off most of our resources by then and continue to ignore extreme weather and a ravaged oil soaked land and sea, as our infrastructure crumbles around us, with too high food prices, more starvation and ill health?  Will most social programs once supplied by the government be gone and communities will be more on their own and somehow funding themselves instead? Will homosexuality once again become stigmatized, forbidden and eventually against the law like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and protest of any kind could very well be?  Will a new private prison corporation build more prisons to house people who were either caught or even suspected of smoking a joint? Perhaps more fines, impoundments, licence removal and in many cases, jobs lost, because there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with the limit point oh oh. How far shall I go here? Switch over and start reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all over again to verify how much truth and foresight both authors spoke? Especially Orwell’s notion of “doublethink”, which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, which could be the Harper government’s problem believing in greed and God at the same time.

The Conservative right, on both sides of the border, may have abandoned truth and fact but we must not. The facts are the obligations to the things that matter in our lives, such as our health, meaningful work, family and our environment. One of the reasons our cultures are fracturing apart and decaying is because of our use of disengagement and distraction as an excuse for our ignorance; it is eating away at our souls. We continue to buy what corporate governments sell and lose value in the simple truth. While empathy, which has been taught over the past few decades as being “soft” and which is nearly extinct in many places, is actually as powerful as intelligence and knowing the facts in being a force with which to act. But we have been disengaged for so long we’ve forgotten how to drive standard.

First gear definitely has to be asking if indeed our future is being planned by ourselves and those who represent us or being dictated upon corporate ideology and make believe. Switching gears should be easier after that especially when more and more people realize that they are not alone. There are so many good things being done to better the planet and our lives, by many people, companies and yes, even a few corporations, the world over. Unfortunately the richest corporation’s ravenous quickening pace is leaving a diseased, spoiled wasteland behind.

I’d love to ask Stephen Harper; What if we destroy the ecosystems and non-human species of the planet, change the climate, melt the polar ice caps, acidify the oceans and rivers, use up all the earth’s resources and Jesus Christ does not arrive? No sign at all, no phone call, nothing, what then?

Ending this article as if I had included a drawing I did of Muhammad, I ask what of humanity in the scenario above? Would the laws that would have been put in place by then, which is not so far off as many think, be similar to the laws that became the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, released in Germany in 1935, by the degenerate psychopathic Adolf Hitler? The first law of this doctrine is similar to many documents worldwide, though in this case “kindred blood” sort of curls one’s nose hairs. But say the word “Reich”, was replaced with the Harper Conservatives of Canada, if indeed influenced by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the word “German” perhaps replaced with Evangelical. This could be the new Charter of Rights they desperately seek. The Republicans in the States would fit the bill as well and we know what carrot they are blindly following.

“A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who through his behaviour, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.”

And so it began. More laws were to be added, starting with the simple banning of homosexuals, Jews and most all religions, foreigners, undesirables, the homeless and poor and elderly, writers, dissidents, thinkers, artists and many other “lost people”, whether man, woman or child. The banning would then become incarceration in work camps, with the final step being the Jewish issue, which was taken care of a few years later when Hitler attached another law, a Conservative Harper, omnibus type bill, which was called the “Final Solution” and after the smoke cleared, more than14 million people, 6 million of them Jews, had faced their Final Judgment and would die, because they were not members of his tribe.

Do we not bring up such past evils and horror; so that we can make sure they never happen again? This time though, the earth will soon be incapable of handling the human drama of our egos, the way we live, think and treat each other and it. We must not continue on being dismissive any longer or go “quietly into the night”. The Second Coming is nearing, but it’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with us and our actions as a species today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Further reading;

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/religions-fair-game-if-it-motivates-politics/article4450326/

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20060220_121848_121848

 

04/10/12

Greed and the Climate

Through the first couple of weeks of March 2012, the weather over the east coasts of Canada and the United States was not it’s usual self. But then the weather is out of whack all over the planet. From March 12th to the 20th, over seven thousand, daytime high temperatures and overnight low temperatures, records were set or tied in the United States alone. The first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest on record, on all continents. This past year had the highest level of tropical activity on record, while flooding is becoming the most frequent natural extreme event. The mainstream media reports such things of course but they become simple sound bites alongside other news stories such as “human interest stories”; saving puppies, an individual doing a good deed, some sort of grief or sadness that brings tears to your eyes and another instance of injustice and crime, which most often happens in the board room and in the offices of public officials than in the street.

As to the odd weather in March, the senior climatologist of Environment Canada, Dave Phillips stated the reason as being because Canada and the United States have just had their warmest winters on record, the air was not refrigerated or chilled and that it is “blowing back in the same temperature it left.” The weather is headlined as being “weird.” Mr Phillips goes on to explain that, “It’s like a greenhouse that’s not letting warm air leave.” Wow, that is weird, if one was bent over and had just pulled their head out of the sand. The preceding page of the above article covers other interesting stories such as the University of British Columbia being cleared of cruelty in the death of four monkeys used in the research of Parkinson’s disease and a tragic barn fire in which 18,000 chickens died horrible deaths.

Scientific consensus, talking to an elderly farmer, the feeling in the air or simply looking out your window confirms the fact that human activity is warming the planet and therefore creating climate change. But oh my, how perceptions change. In 2007 a Harris poll found that over 70% of Canadians and Americans believed fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. In 2009 it was down to 51%. By June 2011 it had dropped to 44%. Why? The fossil fuel industries and big business have been able to shift our thinking over a very short time and are winning, accelerating in their drive to gain as much as they can before it all runs out. As Bruce Springsteen sang in 1974’s Born to Run, “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.”

We are so fixated on becoming consumers that breathing clean air, eating good food and drinking clean water have become an irritable need, both time-wise and having to pay for them, while our personal world view’s scope, with the speed of new technology, is overwhelming us.

Our personal world views are actually quite small though. They are the people we come into contact with, either daily or weekly, including friends and coworkers; On average about 35-40 people, the size of a small tribe. Our world view is also the community we live in and what one must do during a day to have a roof to sleep under, accessibility to clean water and nutritious food to eat. And how much is needed to pay for these basics has brought forth the concept where we pay our bills by accumulating debt. Now that is weird. We feel our daily routines allow us to keep some sort of sanity, but then it is easier for people to deny reality than to watch their world view being disturbed. And that is why too many of us do not really concern ourselves with the new elephant in the room – climate change, because we have been programmed to be always, too gosh darn busy. It scares the hell out of people, not because current Western consumption habits are not sustainable but because to combat climate change, to adjust to its effects, to allow the earth to heal and to save ourselves and our children and all the other living creatures, changes would have to be made now.

Both the free market and capitalism would have to cease to exist, which is not going to happen, because billions of people around the world want the same things, which many in the West and elsewhere have had and become over the past fifty years; a flat screen TV, excess consumption of all things, a fancy car and the ability to become fat. On the other side of the coin, state socialism was just as destructive to the environment as capitalism is.

The ruling elite’s privileges and wealth that the current capitalistic system gives them is made from corporations that are often doing the most ecological damage. Corporations who are the conspirators of the growing number of ecological accidents, have been doing the best since the economic collapse of 2008 and more often than not are paid subsidies by their home nation. While their corporate media controls us.

Reality is that most of the money being made today globally, goes to the very few. Their record levels of surplus cash goes to financial institutions and corporations. Their private fortunes are not devoted to serving society as a whole, saving the planet or their children and do not produce anything other than more money. Greed and profit have taken precedence over the world’s social needs. And the elite will defend such a system with all they have, including destroying the world. For climate change will not wait for anybody.

Naomi Klein’s article “Capitalism vs Climate” lists quite accurately the steps that would have to be taken to act now and also how difficult it would be to respond to climate change. The list includes the concepts of ; immediately reducing our emissions on a mass scale. Subways, streetcars and light rail built everywhere and affordable to anyone, with energy efficient, affordable housing along all transit lines ; having an active long range plan for each community and rebuild community spheres ; rein in corporations by regulation and taxation. Maybe even nationalize some. Have elections publically funded, strip corporations of their status as “people” under the law, reform patent laws and recognize our debts ; bring back localized production because international free trade is simply killing us. It has brought about an ever increasing amount of bigger cargo ships, bigger jets, heavier trucks and lost jobs ; actually tax the filthy rich ; and finally end the cult of shopping and materialism. Which will be a hard nut to crack considering that in ever expanding places around the globe and more than any other activity we do in our daily lives, we think shopping defines us. What you wear and what you drive. Cars, clothes and trucks are purchased, believing them to upgrade one’s status and personality. We seek our identities in stores and online, trying to fulfill our dreams by whatever manufacturers decides those dreams to be. Our desires are being created by others instead of from within.

We have been forced to worry so much about the current financial crisis and its recovery we have forgotten about the recovery needed of the ecosystems of the earth. We have always been controlled through fear, whether it is the fear of communism, drugs or terrorists. Now though, control is being accomplished by simply distracting us, making us blinded consumers. Keeping us preoccupied with achieving sustained recovery of sales growth and as Noam Chomsky put so well over twenty years ago, ” financial manipulations and our consumption binge creates little in the way of productive investment, instead it creates much in the way of debt, whether government, corporate and household debt or the incalculable debt of social needs that go ignored. We continue to periodically select representatives of the business world to manage our domestic and international affairs. All these policies are not rules of nature and the processes and institutions that create them could be and must be changed, but changing cultural, social and institutional processes will not be allowed to happen.” Those who hold wealth and privilege will not allow it.

The problems due to climate change will be supremely difficult to stop within our current system of how we operate, beginning with the ludicrous fantasy that it would be possible to get the nearly two hundred countries in the world to agree on anything let alone reforming and rethinking the global energy system. Many have been affected by the current global economic crisis, unsure and in debt, yet we remain addicted to oil, coal and gas. Nuclear power safety and costs are still very uncertain with many countries, including Germany and Japan, shutting down reactors. Hydroelectric power is geography limited and as it is, the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra, Colorado and Amu Darya water basins will not keep up with demand from their ever growing populations. Energy efficiency is still taking a back seat to limited but more profitable cheap fossil fuels. Case in point; in 2010, subsidies to the oil and gas industry in Canada, owned by some of the world’s most profitable industries, totaled $1.4 billion. Worldwide the fossil fuel industry received handouts and subsidies to the tune of $409 billion, while only $66 billion went to clean renewable energy. What is really scary about all these figures I’ve been throwing about is that of the top ten wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires of 2012, only a couple have anything to do with mining or oil, the rest have made their billions on either technological, communications and/or our vanity.

The richest man in the world right now is Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications mogul whose net worth is $69 billion, which is more than the world pays towards clean renewable energy. The rest of the top ten are into computers, diversified investments, luxury goods, fashion and Aldi, the discount supermarket corporation. The combined worth of the top ten richest is more than $395 billion. There are one thousand two hundred twenty six billionaires in the world, whose average fortune is $3.7 billion. United States has the most billionaires with four hundred and twenty five; number two is Russia with 96, then China with 95. Of cities, Moscow led with 78 billionaires, because that’s what you get with a corrupt dictatorship, followed by New York at 58 and London at 39. And how is the battle going against climate change in those countries and how are the citizens doing, with all that money lying around?

In Canada, the only action being taken on protecting the environment is at the local and provincial level. This is where we must start to create positive change. “We must pressure and discuss with our local governments to do the necessary research and display the necessary political will to make responsible decisions on behalf of citizens for the common good.” We have got to stop worrying about elsewhere, though the media will continue to keep us distracted. We must begin to focus more on our own nests and backyards. Clean up our own mess, within ourselves and our communities than fretting about something that happened, which we cannot control, halfway around the world. We must become more radical, not the bastardized definition that the ruling elites and the media have invented, putting it into the pile of words such as terrorist and anarchist, but the original definition, where one does not seek hyper-individualism, dominance or hierarchy but instead interdependence, reciprocity and cooperation. Radical is trying to understand the root of something, favoring fundamental and basic change in a social or economic structure. In mathematics a radical has to do with the root or roots of a number or quantity. In chemistry a radical is a group of two or more atoms that acts as a single atom and goes through a reaction unchanged, or is replaced by a single atom; normally a radical is incapable of separate existence. Modern society has also defined radical as “thinking outside the box”.

Che Guevara believed that a radical is nothing less than someone who tries to see and understand the roots of things, who will aid in their fellow man’s security and happiness and who shows empathy to others. If you are none of these things you are not a radical, but simply a consumer. A radical today is someone who bicycles to work and his or her family uses transit, owns a rarely-used fuel-efficient car, buys locally-grown organic food, avoids chemical-filled, factory-farmed meat and “processed” food, recycles, and engages in ecological research and activism.

University of B.C. community planning professor Bill Rees explains “If we’re going to be sustainable, we can’t do it through economic growth.” Adds Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun, “The commitment to conservation is both moral and it actually could make us more content. Decades of studies suggest that once a person reaches a certain basic level of financial security, there is very little correlation between a person’s financial wealth and greater happiness.”

As a society we must start being aware of our surroundings and the people within it. To seek out the truth and face up to our problems would be a good first step, instead of just letting others make our decisions’ for us and not being accountable for our actions because it’s deemed always someone else’s fault. As to the technology behind what we call social media, we are embarrassing ourselves in our flirting, preening and purchasing. In fact much of technology is making people anti-social. We have become a needy and wanting lot.

Another challenge is the need to instill in the population the truth in that scientific evidence of climate change is not a myth or joke or a problem that will just go away. Those who are in high school and college right now are called, as a group, millennials, and though we are leaving them an exhausted, depleted and dying environment they are the ones that can begin to make a difference. Unfortunately polling is suggesting that only about 20% of millennials believe it is important to be concerned and involved in cleaning up the environment. This is either because bling-bling and self-entitlement is more important or because most at that age are so well informed today that the task seems overwhelming and that there is no hope for revival. Some probably do not even believe climate change is real, while others would love to act and take on a leadership role. But who would be their mentors and role models?

Being smart is not just someone who can play on a computer, converse through texting and having the latest I-phone, thus being a mere cocoon, even when out and in public. It is being aware and cognizant of how society is and where it is going. It is the need and obligation to care for the environment. It is seeking out the truth, picking through the filtered information and preoccupation of being a consumer, and finding our preferred vision of a good society. Then standing up and making it so.

There is no difference between squatting in a cave, watching your children gasp for air, malnourished and starving from thirst than sitting in front of an 80 inch flat screen TV in a three thousand square foot house, having no gas for the Beemer or Ram-tough truck and watching your children coughing, malnourished or obese and starving for clean, fresh water.

 

 

Weird weather heats East, cools West, Postmedia News, Times Colonist newspaper, Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Douglas Todd, Is the future really so bleak? Vancouver Sun newspaper, Saturday, February 17,2007
Alisa Gordaneer, Shop till you drop, Monday Magazine, June 9-15, 2005.
Misty Harris, Environment takes back seat for today’s youth, Postmedia News, Times Colonist newspaper, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, 1988.
Noam Chomsky, How the World Works, Collection of Essays – 1986-2011, Soft Skull Press, USA, 2011
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/03/24-2
http://www.thenation.com/article/164497/capitalism-vs-climate?page=0,0
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/02/29-4