Why I Couldn’t Vote Conservative

I’ve been asked a lot in the past two weeks how I’ve felt about the outcome of last month’s election. I have been asked who I voted for and have taken some flak for my neutrality during the campaign. Every time I’ve injected myself into a debate (argument) as the potential voice of reason, I take hits from both sides of the political spectrum. But now that the dust has settled and Justin Trudeau has been sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister and all the temper tantrums about both his victory and his choice of cabinet are over, I think I can safely explain why I couldn’t vote Conservative.

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WHIPPING BOY

JUSTIN TRUDEAU STICKS HIS FOOT IN THE HEADLINES AGAIN, INSULTING CANADA’S MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM AND CASTING DOUBT ON HIS WORTH AS A LEADER

            Oh Justin, Justin, Justin.

No sooner had I called out right wing wackjob and Sun Media “editorialist” Ezra Levant for being a juvenile ass hat and insulting your family (including your late father) then you turn right around and make a juvenile remark about Canada’s potential involvement in the international coalition against ISIS/ISIL in the growing powder keg that is the Middle East. Yep, this is what we in the sarcasm business refer to as a face palm moment.

The Honourable Mr. Trudeau made the remark in question last Thursday in front of a Parliamentary audience while criticizing the Harper government’s plan to dispatch Canadian fighter jets to the military quagmire that is Iraq (and to a lesser degree Syria). Trudeau Jr. referred to the Conservatives’ plan as “just trying to whip out their CF-18s and show how big they are.” Yes, to sum up, Justin Trudeau, leader of the federal Liberal Party and an eventual candidate for the Office of Canadian Prime Minister, compared contributing to a dangerous and lethal international military operation to a penis-measuring contest.

Oy.

So let’s approach this from another angle shall we Justin? ISIS or ISIL (their acronym themed name changes daily) is a terrorist organization that was too extreme for Al-Qaeda. Y’know, the guys who, in their infancy mind you, threw the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan at the height of the Communist empire’s might and have held the American juggernaut of a military machine to a stalemate for over a dozen years, yeah ISIS was too out there for those guys. And ISIS isn’t exactly a collection of pushovers, no matter what we would like to think or what our leaders tell us. This is a collection of radical barbarians who are well organized, well lead, very well equipped (most of their weapons still have their Made in U.S.A. stickers), well trained, battle hardened and is arguably the most well financed terrorist organization in the world, collecting up to three million dollars a day through heinous and nefarious criminal activities. Al-Qaeda doesn’t just find these guys extreme, but there are plenty who will tell you that Osama Bin Laden’s old crew are just as afraid of ISIS as anyone else. And they are just itching for a fight. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, these guys are goading the rest of the world into a fight with a smile on their faces. And you’re making dick jokes about sending Canadians to fight them?

Sigh. Really Justin?

You see Justin; this isn’t just about ISIS, though that should be scary enough. Canada is weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight and bleed and die in foreign lands. We gave more then our fair share of blood and treasure in Afghanistan, fighting in a war that is increasingly looking like it was fought for nothing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t join the fight against ISIS, I’m not qualified to make that assertion right now, but what Canadians want, what they need, is intelligent, reasoned debate on how heavy a cost we will pay for getting involved in this war (because make no mistake, a war is what it will be if the West and its allies want to achieve their goal of destroying ISIS, and it will be long and bloody) and what you’re giving them instead is low brow, South Park locker room fare. In a little over a year you’re going to be asking Canadians to vote for you to lead this country, and there’s a very good chance Canadian soldiers will still be risking their lives in what was once Iraq and could be anything at that point. Will you sound like you haven’t graduated high school then too?

Make no mistake Justin, if this was about tax beaks or deficits or any of a thousand other things, I’d enjoy a chuckle or two right along with you. I mean who doesn’t enjoy a good phallic joke at the expense of a stodgy government every now and then? But these are soldiers lives Justin, and if you’re neither smart enough nor mature enough to understand the difference, the significance, then why should I or anyone else vote for you next year? So far, your brand has proven immune to the Conservative strategy of pre-emptive attack ads and thinly veiled smear campaigns that effectively neutered your predecessors before they even made it to their respective elections, yet you seem happy to provide your eventual opponents with bullets to use against you when Canadians head to the polls in twelve short months. Because make no mistake Justin, when the first Canadian falls in this fight (and I fear there will be more then one, another reason for a grown up discussion on this issue), your enemies and detractors will make sure this wretched little joke comes back to haunt you. And unlike when Sun Media slandered you and your family, I and many others, will let silence defend you.

Shayne Kempton

SUN BLOCKED

JUSTIN TRUDEAU GAVE EZRA LEVANT AND THE FAILING SUN TV NETWORK WHAT IT WANTED WITH HIS REACTION TO THEIR INSULTS LAST WEEK

 I totally sympathize with Justin Trudeau’s recent decision to boycott Sun Media over Sean Hannity wannabe Ezra Levant’s recent tirade against both him and his family. Last week Ezra Levant, Sun Media’s resident radical right wing nut job, threw a five-minute temper tantrum on his Sun Media TV show The Source about Trudeau’s recent photo bombing of a wedding picture where he planted a kiss on the bride’s cheek (turns out he’d actually been invited by the wedding party and got the groom’s OK before the peck in question) and referred to Justin’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre (you may have heard of him) as a “slut” and claimed his mother, Margaret who suffers from bi-polar disorder, rarely “wore panties” and was pretty much the same. After a week of patting Levant on the back and making excuses for the “editorialist,” Sun Media posted an apology yesterday on its website. Levant said nothing during his show.

Make no mistake; if someone who’d been forced to apologize on his show for racist remarks (as Levant has) called my father a slut and implied my mother was the same, I’d be pretty pissed. In fact, the first conversation I’d be tempted to have with such a defective individual would with my fists as I played his rib cage like a piano keyboard. So the fact that Trudeau said he simply wouldn’t talk to Sun Media’s English outlets until parent company Quebecor (recently run by enthusiastic separatist Pierre Karl Peladeau) addressed the issue or Levant apologized is probably a little more civil then my initial reaction would have been. But that doesn’t change the fact that his decision to boycott an entire national news organization was wrong, but for different reasons than have been observed by just about everyone else.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a Justin Trudeau fan and while most of my personal politics are progressive, I am not a card-carrying member of any political party (I still have no idea what Trudeau’s stance on most policies are, outside of supporting legalized marijuana). I haven’t voted for any of Canada’s “Big 3” parties, either federally or provincially, for the past ten years, preferring independent candidates instead. I steadfastly believe that a free press is a healthy democracy’s immune system against tyranny, meaning I disagree with Trudeau on principle alone. And I’ll also contend that the Sun newspapers, which operate daily tabloids in Ottawa, Toronto and other major markets across Canada, are vastly different from Sun Media’s televised arm; the Sun News channel seems little more then far-right, big business loving, anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-immigrant propaganda that quite frankly gives Conservatives a bad name (which is probably why their ratings are so anemic). It also bears mentioning that the people denouncing Trudeau for his decision to shun Sun Media were in full support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford when they decided to be very selective about which press they spoke to, usually favouring Conservative leaning outlets (in Ford’s case, there was a brief period when he would only speak to the Toronto Sun).

This isn’t the first time Levant has been in trouble or that Sun Media has had to apologize for his overzealous mouth and defective brain. Last year he was forced to apologize to Romanian Canadians for racist remarks he made about them on air. Levant’s apology came six months after the offensive remark, only after his arm had been twisted by a team of Sun Media lawyers (a CRTC hearing on their application for mandatory carriage was looming) and his pseudo-apology was about as genuine as the proverbial three dollar bill. The fact of the matter is Levant is a grade A, class one ass hole. Sun TV tries hard to be Canada’s version of Fox News and Levant works his little heart out to be the Great White North’s Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck, not realizing that Canadians, for the most part, don’t have the same appetite for hate and fear mongering as Americans.

Both Levant and Sun Media TV are usually beneath comment. The controversial little news channel averages 7900 viewers despite reaching over 5.1 million Canadian homes. And while they’re constantly preaching that free markets are infallible, they begged the CRTC for mandatory coverage in 2013, meaning they’d be included in most Canadian providers basic cable packages (at an additional cost to the consumer). In August of last year, the CRTC rejected Sun Media’s application as it continues to move closer and closer to a pick and pay format for Canadian cable subscribers.   Sun Media, launched by Quebecor in 2011, loses around 17 million dollars a year and admits it can’t sell advertising. Despite constant railing against CBC’s billion-dollar annual subsidy (an argument I’ll admit has some merits), Sun Media has hypocritically collected millions in government subsidies (some claiming as much as 500 million, though I’m a tad suspicious of that stratospheric figure). Even videos of Levant bashing Trudeau (and just about everything else) receive almost no views on YouTube, the only exceeding 1000 hits is the one where he’s being grilled by the Human Rights Commission. To sum up, despite having the promotional support of dozens of newspapers across Canada, in both French and English, Sun Media’s News channel is failing. And that’s the point.

The reason Trudeau (or anyone else for that matter) is wrong to boycott Sun Media is because it gives the dying network exactly what it desperately needs; publicity. Levant is a spoiled little child throwing a temper tantrum, hoping and praying it gets him a few more precious viewers in a country that is largely ignoring him and his employers. A few days ago most Canadians had no idea who Ezra Levant was, or that Sun Media had a news channel (reflected by their toilet dwelling ratings). But now that’s changed. Sun Media’s fan base is eating it up and the company has labeled Levant and “editorialist” instead of an actual journalist, and that he doesn’t reflect the diverse collection of individuals working under the Sun Media banner (though until yesterdays online exclusive apology, no one at Sun Media called Levant out or said his tantrum crossed the line). No, if I were Trudeau, I would have handled it a bit differently. I’d have come out swinging, mentioning the times Levant found himself under the scrutiny of the CRTC for his racism. I’d point out that Sun Media and Levant are watched by just about no one, pointing out that the channel was bleeding money as a result. I would have brought up the fact that while Sun Media likes to claim that it reaches millions of people a day (a bogus number; the combined daily circulation of their seven biggest newspapers is around 650,000 and as we’ve seen, there is a severe scarcity of eyeballs seeking out their television channel), what they don’t like to talk about is that their newspaper readership is slowly eroding and ad revenue continues to drop year after year. I’d wonder (out loud of course) how much of their declining circulation depends on the bikini clad “Sunshine Girl” in the Sports section or the ads for “Adult” services in their classifieds despite the fact that so many of Sun Media’s talking heads like to champion family values.   I’d ask Ezra directly what it was like working for the country’s biggest separatist.

Then I’d challenge him to a fight.

A charity match where proceeds go to the cause of the victor’s choice, similar to the boxing match Trudeau had-and won-against former Conservative Senator, current strip club day manager and future inmate Patrick Brazeau in 2012. I’d even offer Sun Media TV the exclusive broadcast rights for the match (they aired his bout with Brazeau) which would easily be the highest rated program in the failing little channels’ brief history. And then I’d sit back and quietly let those around me mock Levant’s inevitable cowardice (if there’s one thing I can smell, it’s cowardice and Ezra reeks of it, even through a TV screen). In essence, I would deny Levant and Sun Media the attention they so desperately need and crave and serve them up a healthy dose of humiliation, because if you can’t finish what you start, you deserve nothing else.

Shayne Kempton

JUSTIN TRUDEAU SET OFF A FIRESTORM BY ADMITTING THAT HE’S SMOKED POT.  WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO

English: Justin Trudeau promotional photo take...

English: Justin Trudeau promotional photo taken by Jean-Marc Carisse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OUTGROW OUR HYPOCRISY ON EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE WEED?

Well Justin Trudeau ruffled a few feathers last week, didn’t he?  While discussing the legalization of marijuana in Canada, Liberal leader and Papineau MP Justin Trudeau admitted that he’s smoked the cannabis in question five or six times over the course of his lifetime, including once after he was elected a Member of Parliament in 2008 (unlike tricky Bill, it turned out Justin did in fact, inhale).  Many of his critics joined with members of the Conservative government (who expect to be campaigning against Trudeau in the next federal election) to pounce on the admission as a reflection of his shortcomings as both a leader and a man; not only did he consume a controlled substance, he did so as a member of Parliament, bringing disgrace and shame to the noble House of Commons and the Institution of the Canadian government.  OK, I’m embellishing a little, but suffice to say, there were more than a few people who were genuinely miffed that Trudeau Jr. had partaken of the Mary Jane, and while they might be able to forgive him if it was all youthful indiscretion, the fact he did so as an adult (and father) seemed to be an even more unforgivable crime.

The debate around legal marijuana was already occupying headlines here in Ottawa as police and municipal authorities have found themselves in a sort of unofficial tug of war with a new marijuana dispensary that opened in the Nation’s Capital in June (called the Greater Ottawa Health Advocacy Centre), and there’s been no shortage of legal acrobatics as a result.  And last month, a group called the Ontario Safety League petitioned the provincial government to crack down on convenience stores and mom and pop shops selling marijuana paraphernalia like pipes, bongs and roach clips, claiming it’s availability sends the wrong message to children.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest both the Conservatives and the OSL relax a little and grow up a bit.  Maybe they should, you know, try a joint or two themselves.

For the most part, Canadians rate pot pretty low on their daily list of things that may kill, mug or otherwise violate them.  Canada has a pretty laissez-faire attitude when it comes to enjoying a reefer or two (or four or five) and the use of medicinal marijuana is pretty much an accepted fact of Canadian life.  Even the United States, a country whose movement on social issues often makes glaciers look hyper-active, has seen a shift in popular attitudes on weed, with more and more states legalizing it’s medicinal use (though there are still plenty of states that consider it a toxic enemy of both Jesus and the almighty State and have unleashed SWAT teams on places they suspect may be harbouring a plant or two). CNN’s popular medical guru, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reversed his long-held opposition to the use of medicinal marijuana, describing his previous position on the matter wrong and ill-informed.  Even President Barack Obama experimented with marijuana during his college days (and my oh my, didn’t FOX news and the Breitbart Report have a ball with that little nugget).  Now in Trudeau’s case, there is a definite element of hypocrisy.  In 2009, he voted in favour of legislation which would have  introduced mandatory minimum sentences for possession of marijuana, and this would have been around the last time he toked up.  Now while the Conservatives current attack strategy on this front failed (most Canadians dismissed the issue as a non-starter and some polls suggest Trudeau’s approval ratings-already higher than the Prime Minister’s according to some national number crunchers-got a bit of a bump), Canada’s Tories have proven nothing if not agile, and you can expect Stephen Harper’s camp to spin the pot issue as more of an hypocrisy and leadership one then a legal one moving forward.  Some more hardcore members of Canada’s conservative media have tried painting this as a contemporary Adscam scandal, digging up “evidence” and dates in an attempt to draw some sort of elaborate conspiracy of, well, no one really knows.  Failing that, they have criticized him for trying to score cheap political points with Canadian voters (don’t any public statements made by any politician, Liberal or Conservative, try to score political points with voters?  With cheap ones being the best kind?), but the only Canadians to take their attempts seriously is the small fringe tribe who would hate the cure for cancer if it came from anyone who wasn’t a Conservative.  If anything, Trudeau’s very, very rare (according to him) penchant for enjoying a joint now and then should be far less concerning then Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s increasingly common episodes of public drunkenness, as well as his occasional attempts to cover his missteps up before being confronted with concrete evidence.  And that’s to say nothing of his (possibly unfounded) allegations of crack cocaine use.  Personally, Trudeau’s admission doesn’t change my perception of him any.  Mostly because aside from his support for legalizing marijuana, I have no idea what his policies are or where he stands on major issues.  Has he offered an opinion on possible Canadian military involvement in Syria, for instance (or a concrete alternative if he opposes it)?  What are his ideas for the economy and jobs?  How does he plan on addressing the challenges our public healthcare system faces in the near future?  What does he think of unmanned American drones in Canadian airspace?  The atrocious and unacceptable conditions most of Canada’s First Peoples live in?  Arctic Sovereignty?  Quite often, his default stance seems to be whatever puts him squarely opposite of what the ruling Conservatives are saying.  Those are the things that influence my decision when I’m casting my ballot, not if he indulged in a harmless hobby nearly a decade ago.

As for the Ontario Safety League, I’d be inclined to take them more seriously if they invested as much energy to remove tobacco products from stores as well, because let’s be honest folks, having kids smoking cigarettes is more likely and far, far more dangerous.  And you can add alcohol to that list as well if you’d like.  A lot of people refuse to believe it, but marijuana is a far more benign substance (though much more tightly controlled) then the products that Big Tobacco or your favorite brewery produces.  When was the last time you heard of someone dying of marijuana cancer?  Or being killed while toking and driving?  Don’t confuse my sarcasm with mockery of serious tragedy, but the fact remains that cigarettes and alcohol are far more addictive (why do you think Big Tobacco in the US has been paying out billion dollar settlements for the better part of the past two decades?) and each can kill you in a hundred different ways with a dozen different breeds of cancer.  And if you have any doubt about behavioral influences, just ask your local police force if they’d rather be called to a domestic dispute involving alcohol or marijuana.  What do you think the answer might be?  At best, weed may give someone a bad case of the munchies, little more.  And when was the last time you heard of a doctor prescribing a medicinal cigarette or screwdriver?  I rest my case.

The majority of opposition to marijuana is based on a very old, very obsolete and very hypocritical ideology, one that is slowly eroding in the face of growing awareness and acceptance.  I myself believed it was a drug like many others until I began to think for myself and learned that most of what I’d been told about the substance was about as legit as Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins.  Do I honestly care if a politician tokes up now and then?  Not in the slightest?  But do I care if he gets hammered more than occasionally?  You betcha, because an addiction to alcohol doesn’t just pose a far greater threat to the addict in question, but to those around them as well (MADD has some pretty grim statistics on how many Canadian funerals take place every year as a result of drinking and driving).  What I do care about is that public figure’s candor about the issue.  And if a public organization decides to publicly wade into a debate, then they need to understand that any scent of hypocrisy is going to cost them serious credibility (quick query, if the OSL is so concerned about the well-being of our children, when was the last time they issued a public message on sugar, the 21st century’s new tobacco?).  And when it comes to marijuana, the government already provides Canadians with more hypocrisy then they can stomach.

And you can rest easy mom.  I, like President Clinton, have never inhaled but not for fear of the potential consequences, but rather because I couldn’t handle the smell (seriously, the stuff does reek).  It’s the same reason I don’t drink coffee or tea (plus, can you honestly imagine me on caffeine?  Didn’t think so.).  But that time, during my slightly botched appendectomy, when there was a lapse of communication at the nurse’s station and I got an injection of painkiller as well as three or four pills?  I’m not going to lie, THAT was pretty sweet.

Shayne Kempton

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