Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Asshat of the Day - April 6th, 2011

Well, it's election time here in the Great White North, and so the campaigns, smear and otherwise, are in full swing. Expect more than a few AotDs in the coming weeks leading up to Canada's 41st General Election on the 2nd of May. But in the meantime, without further ado, today's Asshat of the Day is...

Quelle surprise! Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada!

The Conservative Party have had a reputation for not being friendly to people not connected to the CPC in some way. Over this election campaign however, this has started coming to a head:

On April 4th in Guelph, during a CPC rally, students from the University of Guelph organized a flash mob to let Mr. Harper and the Conservatives know, very simply and positively, "we're voting." The message was positive and non-partisan, and indeed, many of the attendees of the flash mob were planning to attend the event to hear Harper speak. However, those same students were barred entry to the rally, some simply told they weren't on the attendee list or even simply told to leave, despite having pre-registered and even producing the forms saying they had done so. Izzy Hirji was one of those students, and described the events of the day in a facebook post that can be found in the link.

Other incidents include a veteran's advocate in Halifax being ejected, two other members at the Guelph rally being barred entry for having engaged in environmental activism (something that has been anathema to Harper's politics, based on his behaviour at the Copenhagen and Cancun summits), and a man barred from the April 3rd event in London, Ontario for having a bumper sticker that read 'Don't blame me; I voted NDP.'

Perhaps most galling, however, is another ejection from that London event, that of Awish Aslam, a second-year political science student at the University of Western Ontario. Aslam was fortunate enough to have been able to see both NDP leader Jack Layton and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in person to speak, and was eagerly looking forward to hearing Mr. Harper as well, before voting in her first federal election. However, during the event, she was approached by an RCMP officer and asked to leave, being told that '[they knew] you have ties to the Liberal party through Facebook'.

If you're going by her Facebook likes, then she has ties to all three of the major parties, Liberal, Conservative, and NDP. Her father, according to articles written on both CBC and the Globe and Mail, state that her father is even a registered Conservative supporter. However, it seems that the key culprit may have been a photo from a Liberal event taken with Mr. Ignatieff.

So why is this such an outrage to me? Well, there are a few reasons. First is that in the last federal election in 2008, voter turnout hit an all-time low of 59.1%. Second is that the youth bracket, ages 18-24, had a turnout of only 37.4%. Third is that the Conservatives have shown contempt for dissenting or opposing ideas (see the Copenhagen fiasco, or the no-confidence vote in the Commons a couple weeks back precipitated by the government being held in contempt of parliament).

More than anything though, is that this was a young voter planning to do her civic duty on May 2nd and voting, and being punished for making a concerted and genuine effort to hear every leader out and cast an informed vote. And this is very likely a large part of the problem; the youth in Canada either don't relate to any of the candidates, or are being actively marginalized by them, and Harper in particular.

So in the weeks leading up to May 2nd, all the youth in Canada need to take ten minutes every day, read a little bit of the news about the election, do some research, and then on election day, get out and vote. There are somewhere between two and three million people between the ages of 18 and 24 that are eligible to vote, and if they all get up and get loud, those two to three million voters have the potential to break this election wide open and their voices can finally be heard. So get up and get loud.


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