Death of the party…

(Written January 2019)

The NDP was described recently as a complicated party(Ken Boon is the president of the Peace Valley Landowner Association and a director of the Peace Valley Environment Association quoted in an article in the Tyee:

No.  Once upon a time the NDP was a complicated party.  But that was a while ago.  It was a time when people joined the party because they believed in social progress. Many saw themselves as part of one or several movements – the union movement, the women’s movement or the environmental movement.  The struggle both within and without the party was to create and maintain a coalition of people who wanted to build,  in the words of Tommy Douglas, “a new Jerusalem”.    This was not easy because there were so many different and passionate views.  These were views of and from the left – socialist, not corporate – divergent on many issues but sharing a faith that good government served the interests of all of members of society, not just the rich, and anyone who believed in the possibility of a just and fair community (ie one which respected the rights of all people etc and the environment) were welcome to join.

The NDP was a coalition.  As successor to the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the NDP retained in parts of Canada a Christian (largely United Church of Canada) hue.  In the formation of the NDP, the priorites of the union movement were welded onto the CCF platform of equality for women and Christian regard for the poor and sick. The leadership of the CCF had always included women and Tommy Douglas as leader of the CCF had been instrumental in estblishing the single payer health scheme in Canada.  In 1970 Douglas and other members of the NDP voted again the imposition of the War Measures Act.  The NDP were long anti-war and the  party’s opposition to Canada’s membership of NORAD and NATO were long standing.  Members of the NDP even referred to themselves as socialists.

During the 1980’s the NDP lost several key provincial elections.  It became clear that BC would not escape the neo Liberal political tide. Elected after 16 years in opposition, the NDP government during the 1990’s struggled to prove that it was not a revolutionary or even radical party of change – but rather it was a competent manager of the economy as it was.  Big projects were out and good government was in.  But the standard for ‘good government’ was the economy – competence was measured by the business community. Carried by the neo Liberal economic tide and a deep desire for public approval (good polling data), the NDP moved to the centre of the political spectrum.  Unfortunately for the party, the business community (ie the right wing) were never going to vote for them and by leaving the aspirations of supporters at the door, the party destroyed its base.  Defeated in 2000,  took ten years to rebuild.  The election in 2013, like the election in 1983, was another turning point.  By 2017 the NDP had re-invigorated its base, energized the young and was ready to govern.

Sadly, it is now clear that the NDP had lied repeatedly during the last election.  With hindsight the lies seem so obvious, but the party argues that they were not lies, but  policy.   Party policy was open to interpretation.  Set out in a context of the NDP as the historic party – the party of the working class, the party of social justice and environmental action – supporters were willing to accept vague statements on key issues such as Site C, as commitments.  And some, like me, simply believed that an NDP would do the right thing.  We might not be able to rely on the party technocrats, but surely we could rely on the promises of our elected members.  How could such good people be part of a government which approved Site C and the Liberal LNG nightmare?   And why wouldn’t a government elected with the support of the union movement refuse to advance worker’s rights or reform the WCB.  Surely a government of the left would support electoral reform, address serious issues of fee for service in the health program and of access to justice.  But no.

Relying on reputation, a grand coalition of left wing movements, the NDP managed to get elected, albeit with support from the Greens.  The subsequent approval of Site C, the endorsement of the LNG program, the failure to campaign for electoral reform, the refusal to address issues at the WCB – all indicate that the platform was misleading.  The NDP could have simply stated  – “We will do what the Liberals are doing, but we will be nicer.  And if we can, we may even address some social issues.”

The result – the government is a bit nicer, although as time goes on people will forget how mean the Liberals were and begin to complain about the NDP as well.  The government may be less corrupt – issues with money laundering and casinos are being addressed.  Schools seem to have more teachers and so on.  But again, the objective is good government as defined and determined by the business community.  No structural or systemic reform which might displease the capitalist class are going to be risked.

The NDP was complicated once but now it is quite simple – do whatever is necessary to win the next election.  Betray your supporters, if necessary, because if you want to win, you need not just supporters but right wing people as well.   The problem for the party is that having betrayed so many of their supporters one time too many – they have destroyed the party.   The proud and noisy coalition of the left has died.

For me, it is sad – all that passion and work, for what?  Most people don’t care.  But they won’t know what they have lost because they have no idea that this New Jeruselum was once possible.


The Harvey Weinstein Story – starring every woman

Soon it will be gone.  Another story, maybe a war or forest fire will grab the front pages.

Still, as Polly Toynbee and so many other women have pointed out, Weinstein is just another guy who finally got taken down. She wrote, “I guess that this week all women my age have been mentally re-running the bum-pinching, grabbing, intimidating humiliations from men in power of our youth.”  Susan Moore added, “The experience of sexual harassment is not a one-off; it is ongoing – as I wrote last week. It’s the backdrop to many women’s lives. We are numbed by it because to think about it all the time would immobilise us.”  And Zoe Williams linked the story to Brexit, Trump and misogyny.    Of course, men piled on.  No one, save maybe Woody Allen, tried to defend the guy in any way shape or form.

Given that so many women have for so long suffered harassment, in all of its forms and severity, the questions which should be asked are  “Why Weinstein?”  and “Why now?”  What did he do that a guy like Trump didn’t do? Did he annoy some drug dealer or other powerful guy?  Or was it political, his financial support of the Democrats or women’s projects lead to his outing?  Or maybe it was personal?  He felt badly and tried to excuse his behaviour when confronted etc.  Certainly Trump didn’t seem to suffer any embarrassment from being shown to be a sexual predator.

The term sexual harassment is a bit distracting as the activity is more about power than sex.  Sex does often come into it – but most of the time it is about men using their power to abuse women in any way they can.  Sex makes the stories titillating but women usually look bad (cheap, stupid, naive, or worse) in  such tales.  So talking about sexual harassment without talking about power, who has it and how they use it, is fun, but not helpful.

The problem is misogyny. While there are many more women in the public realm than there were 40 years ago, the equality of women with men remains an idea which is not universally accepted.  Many people believe, perhaps unconsciously, that females are, quite simply, an inferior lesser form of human being to males. And it is a matter of belief.  The equality between any two people, whether male or female, cannot ever be ‘scientifically proven’.  And men still ‘run’ the world. Most countries are ruled by men, most armies are staffed by men, and nearly all sports are dominated by men – some men run and jump faster and further than any women. And most corporations are ruled by men and for men.  Very few CEOs are women.  The wage gap may be narrowing but that may be more about male workers being paid less, than female workers being paid more.  The brutal reality is that in the world as it is, women are not the equal of men.  Equal treatment is even seen at times as pandering to political interests.  Even in the west,  demand for equal respect is often belittled, labeled political correctness  Many, including many women, believe that men are more capable than women and the desire to treat women as equals is like being nice – not necessary when the going gets tough.  Putting down women is ingrained in our culture…  just look at honourifics – an honoured man is a Knight and a woman a Dame; a university degree is a ‘bachelor’ not a ‘mistriess’.   It is an insult to ’throw like a girl’ and so on….

It helps to listen to women talk publicly about their experiences with men because the stories reveal the insidious and ubiquitous quality of misogyny.  But to say that anything will change is to ask a lot.  Things can change but it would require men to publicly call out other men for their bad behaviour. And maybe this is what happened to Harvey Weinstein.  Did he make the mistake of harassing the daughter, wife or mother of someone even more powerful than he, who wasn’t prepared to accept his behaviour?   Or did he call the bluff of someone trying to black mail him?   Or was the male journalist who broke the story better than female journalist who tried to write about the guy a few years earlier?

Writing this reminds me of an email I sent to a journalist who was defending two male colleagues who had been fired for inappropriate comments to a young girl – on air. The two journalist were both well known left wing political commentators who were discussing the “Roast Buster’s Affair” – a tale of young men getting younger girls drunk in order to have sex and to take and post photos of the event on line.

November 2013 – outdated views?

To quote – “Against the rage of that pernicious culture’s opponents “the finer points of freedom” didn’t stand a chance. Willie and JT may be proud (some would say arrogant) men with an outdated and utterly insufficient grasp of the meaning and pain of Rape (and of how very easy it is to rekindle that pain through insensitivity and doubt) but they did not deserve what happened to them. There are better ways to correct ignorance; other ways to humble pride.” – Article by Chris Trotter published in the Daily Blog.  See more at:

What harm did these men suffer?  They lost a platform for their views – a radio show on which their ignorance could be made public and where, if not corrected, would help shape public opinion.  What harm did the young woman suffer?  Perhaps none as she didn’t have a public platform and her views were simply fodder or background noise against which the wit and wisdom of JT and Willey could be revealed.

These men were not jailed or stoned for their views.  In some places in this world women who are raped are jailed and stoned.

I suppose it is radical to suggest that women do not have equal voice in this society.   I condemn myself as a ‘feminist” when I ask when will the finer points of the freedom men enjoy be shared by women?  You could point to Helen Clark and say, “See.  Women are equal.”  Sure elite women seem to survive even thrive.  But how deep or enduring is this “equality”?  How many women only radio talk shows do you know of?

Can one ask the tough questions and get genuine answers?  What do men believe about rape?  Women set the tone…  men simply follow?  Consent is circumstantial –  implied by context?   Or simply, that rape is complicated?   And Willie and JT are simply confused about the right words to use?

Perhaps the confusion arises because it is very hard for women to talk about rape even with other women – once the issue becomes their own experience.  I know.  But it is only my own experience, anecdotal, unscientific.  No reason for anyone to believe me.  So I too remain silent.

And then maybe women just need to harden up – be able, like JT and Wille, to see rape as a bit of mischief.

So you, as a good man,  have stood up for for the rights of other good men.  You have used your public platform to be kind to your friends.  Good men do that – they stand by their mates.  Women see it all the time, even when the good mates have done something dodgy…

I accept that you believe that these men deserve better.  But I remember your column about Helen Clark in 2008.  You mourned the fact that the ‘lads’  had won.  And so, I ask you – is it any surprise that one of the lads so keen to see her go was JT?  She was after all a “front bump”… and while he may no longer refer to women publicly as front bumps, I am not sure that his views on women have changed.

You think that he should continue to be given a public platform – to say exactly what?



Looking south…


Several years ago I took this photo of Christina Lake.  It was just after dinner with light fading, the room was dark.  Mom was in her chair reading.  By chance I caught a faint reflection of my mother in the window.

It has been a year since I last wrote.  I was starting then and I am starting now.    It is time for the story to begin.


Starting again


Dawn or dusk?  Does it matter?  The sun continues its journey.  Oh for each day to be a new beginning.  Start over.  Do what has not yet been done.

So here I am.  I abandon blogging for 18 months.  Blogging is no longer what it was – so many words and so few readers?  But to write is not necessarily to be read.  Writing is a tool for understanding.  And there is a lot to be said for trying to understand.

“To apprehend what is is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason. As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes…. ”  Hegel, Philosophy of Right

Hegel also pointed out that even when one understands, it is not enough because the sun keeps moving across the sky.  New day, new reality.  So why not start again and again….


“Only one word more concerning the desire to teach the world what it ought to be. For such a purpose philosophy at least always comes too late. Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready. History thus corroborates the teaching of the conception that only in the maturity of reality does the ideal appear as counterpart to the real, apprehends the real world in its substance, and shapes it into an intellectual kingdom. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva, takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.”