Good Sunday Morning – February 25

Good Sunday Morning!

I am in Ottawa and will get to church this morning before joining the Green Party virtual general meeting, starting at 1 pm Ottawa time and 10 am at home in BC. With out of town staff in Ottawa to help run all the technology for the virtual meeting, we decided to have a “watch party” so local Ottawa Green volunteers can visit with JP and me and others who are rarely in Ottawa. We started yesterday and I am so grateful for the dedication of our members who are showing up for a very long Zoom marathon over two days. I keep trying, so far without success, to persuade the council to let us hold an in-person general meeting. I would love your feedback – is the convenience of zooming in from home a huge plus for you? Or do you long for the “old days” with hundreds of Greens working together, in small groups striving with Green Rules to find consensus? I do not think it has to be either – or.  A hybrid GM with some of us in person and some online would be a great way to rebuild and develop strong working relationships before next year’s expected general election. A member has put forward an emergency motion to allow in person meetings. I sure hope it carries.

My craving for in-person gatherings to reinvigorate the party is being satisfied through our cross-country Green Leaders’ tour, with JP and me getting to every province before summer. The stops this week, in Guelph, Durham, Toronto and Kitchener, have been so encouraging.

As luck would have it, in Kitchener, my visit overlapped with one from Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre. I appeared on the same radio show as Poilievre the morning after he was interviewed. I listened carefully to his interview to be prepared to rebut his claims. It was a great opportunity. In Parliament I never get a chance to take apart Poilievre’s arguments. There is no mechanism for me to question him other than very rarely in response to one of his speeches… and then a very limited 30-second chance.

I wanted to put them down in writing right now to try to figure out how we confront and expose the falsehoods on which Conservative slogans are based.

Here is their new slogan, more of a chant, and honestly not particularly catchy:

“Axe the tax, Build the homes, Fix the budget, Stop the crime.”

Try saying it fast a few times and then see if it can even be remembered. Actually, don’t try to remember it!

The first step is not “Axe the tax”… it is “Axe the facts!”

Speaking of the carbon tax, Mike Morrice and I voted against more carve-outs in carbon pricing when the federal NDP MPs joined with the Conservatives to vote against the climate. Thanks to Green and Bloc MPs, the Conservative motion failed, even though the NDP MPs, all of them, voted with the Conservatives. And the same thing happened this week in Queens Park. Premier Doug Ford introduced his Protecting Against Carbon Taxes Act, 2024. It is part of his larger “Get it done” Act, (I find it so offensive when legislation is named with slogans, like Harper’s “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Practices Act”!)

On Thursday the Ontario NDP MPPs voted with the Conservatives, and new Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie claimed to have no position on the matter, so provincial Liberals abstained. Only Mike Schreiner and Aislinn Clancy, the Ontario Green caucus, voted no.  JP and I were so thrilled to be in Queens Park on Tuesday, Aislinn’s first day on the job! We were the first people she introduced from her new seat in the legislature. We both worked hard to see her elected in the November Kitchener Centre by-election. What a win and what a hard-working duo fighting off Doug Ford in Ontario!

Back to Pierre Poilievre and his misuse of data. One of the things he cites over and over again is the claim that the same 40 people were arrested 6,000 times by Vancouver police in one year. He said it on the Kitchener radio interview, He says it a lot – despite the excellent work of the Toronto Star in disproving it.

Like all effective disinformation, there is a grain of truth to the statistic. Reminds me of Stephen Leacock’s great line, “In ancient times they had no statistics, so they had to fall back on lies”.

The truth was cited in a letter from BC Mayors in response to a question from David Eby when he was AG. But the way Poilievre deploys it makes an untrue claim. It is true that people with a history of property crimes (non-violent) have multiple interactions with the police. So it is true that 40 people had a total of 6000 contacts with police (not clear from the source if this was in one year or not)?  Contacts – “interactions” can include being considered a suspect to having a conversation. But the contacts were not “arrests.”

The Toronto Star quotes noted criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt: The notion that 40 individuals could be arrested that many times in one year is “impossible.”

An even bigger leap is to say that these 40 people are not in jail because of Justin Trudeau. Who knows if their interactions or petty theft offences, if arrested and if prosecuted would have resulted in long prison sentences.

There are solutions. Visiting Winnipeg last year I met with social entrepreneur Shaun Loney. Among the many non-profits run by his efforts in Winnipeg is BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Development), a home-building company only employing former convicts. They are good workers and the employment keeps people from going back to crime. He has been in conversations with the Winnipeg police. They all know that the same people getting in trouble over and over again are a drag on police time and budget. He has actually opened discussions with the police that he would like to split the savings with the police for the people his non profit converts from repeat offenders to builders of social housing. Such brilliant ideas! Here is a clip from his website:

“Police Chiefs across the country are telling me that the vast majority of what they are asked to do is not connected to crime. We’ve reached the point where the majority of 911 calls are responding to people in recurring crises caused by poverty, unemployment, mental health challenges and addictions.  Indigenous people and people of colour carry, by far, the greatest weight of these social problems. This is a contributing factor to the real problem of tensions between police and frustrated members of the public.”

Poilievre’s “solution” is another slogan (and again, it rhymes!)  “Jail not Bail!”

Never mind that jails continue to be the most expensive way to house a person, over $200k/year!

Another one of Poilievre’s repeated targets is safe supply and harm reduction. I was the first federal party leader to call for decriminalization of drugs, not legalization, but decriminalization. I have been educated by one of my constituents, Pender Island resident, Leslie McBain. She lost her much beloved son to the opioid crisis and went on to form a very effective and well-informed group – Moms Stop the Harm.”

Through Leslie I came to understand that most of the deaths referred to in the media as “overdoses” are actually drug poisonings. To save lives we need to have safe supply. It is a matter of life and death.

But according to Pierre Poilievre these are programmes to use tax dollars to give opioids to addicts who turn around and sell them to kids.

Easy talking points if one is willing to ignore that this national crisis requires that we save lives.

Poilievre of course repeated the claim on Kitchener radio that the safe supply efforts of the BC government and federal support just means addicts get free drugs and sell them to kids. A double-barrelled dog whistle.

Here is one report with details from the CBC: “Corey Ranger, president of the Harm Reduction Nurses’ Association, helps run the PSS program at AVI Health & Community Services, a Vancouver Island-based non-profit.

“The goal in prescribed safe supply is to stop deaths by the unregulated drug supply,” Ranger said.

“These programs are being rigorously monitored and surveyed and evaluated … yet the myths and misperceptions, rhetoric and intentional politicizing of safe supply is causing a deep amount of harm and is likely driving the de-prescribing.”

When Kitchener interviewer Mike Farwell asked about NATO, Poilievre saw his opportunity to attack overseas development assistance.

He described the dwindling dollars Canada sends to international aid as “giving money to dictators, terrorists and bureaucracies.”

Poilievre would cut aid dollars and increase our military spending. To meet the NATO target of 2% of our GDP would cost “an additional $20 billion/year.” Last year Canada dedicated $6.9 billion to foreign aid, a cut of 15% from the previous year. Never mind it was Canada that established the global target to eliminate poverty, known as the Pearson target after Lester B Pearson who, as our former Prime Minister. chaired a United Nations process that led to the pledge that donor nations should commit 0.7% of our GDP to aid. If I could have squeezed it into the interview I would have pointed out the closest we ever came to that goal was in 1992 under Brian Mulroney when we hit 0.45%. It is down around 0.2% now… This is yet another clear example of what was lost when Reform Alliance cannibalized the Progressive Conservative party. Conservatives lost more than an adjective and Canada lost a party that had a heart as well as a calculator.

Really disturbing is the increased ferocity of the right-wing attacks on trans rights, and this turned out to be one of Poilievre’s favourite talking points. In his interview he went on and on about women’s bathrooms. As if washroom access is a national crisis? A major issue that trans women have access to bathrooms. Really? I do not think that women fear each other, and trans women are women. I recall Margaret Atwood’s comment: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” The violence against women and our deaths in Canada and around the world are overwhelmingly due to cis gender heterosexual men. The attack on LGBTQ+ rights is growing, and the point of entry is trans kids and schools. It started with New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs and has spread since then to other Conservative premiers Scott Moe and Danielle Smith. And now, undeterred by there being no federal jurisdiction over school sex education or scrutiny of women’s washrooms, it is now part of Pierre Poilievre’s sloganeering.

Now more than ever we need to ensure trans kids feel the love and acceptance from the world around them. Sometimes they do not get that from their parents, but can from a teacher.  As Greens we are keen on ensuring that where there is federal jurisdiction, such as the Criminal Code and the Charter of Rights we work to protect trans kids and women from this kind of hate.

In case you want to hear his interview, here it is:  at 1:02 in: The Mike Farwell Show | CityNews Kitchener

It all reminds me of the derivation of the word “slogan”.  It comes from the Gaelic words for “war cry”.. sluagh-gairm or sluagh-ghairm (sluagh = “people”, “army”, and gairm = “call”, “proclamation”) and it sounds in Gaelic exactly like the word in English “slogan!”

So let’s hope when Pierre Poilievre raises his bugle or kazoo to issue his war cry, the people en masse turn away and decide to follow the cry for peace and harmony and healing and love. In other words, they follow us.

By the way, some Greens are sponsoring a motion this weekend in the general meeting to change our stance against nuclear energy. Here is a very timely article from Australia’s minister of energy on why nuclear makes no sense and is an obstacle to climate action. Worth a read!

Hope you are having a lovely weekend. In Ottawa it is brisk but sunny. A lovely wintry day.

Enjoy your Sunday wherever you are…. and maybe I’ll see you online this afternoon as the General Meeting continues. Next weekend, the national tour takes JP and me on Saturday to Campbell River and Sunday to Nanaimo!

Love and deep appreciation.



Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens