Week Eleven: “We as a bar have so many other issues we should talk about.”

Have you heard the one about the prime minister, the bear, and the bar?

Tabatha Southey’s pitch-perfect column in the Globe, “A prime minister and his bear walk into a bar…,” is a must-read going into the final days of the 2015 election. Because in a way, it pushes back against the moments when we (I) have dismissed campaign distractions, and forces us to take a second, harder look at precisely what matters (and why).

In 2014, during Quebec’s provincial election, Quebecers were also faced with questions of belonging, and representations and rights of minority groups and religions. Reflecting this situation and the greater context of provincial politics, a group of independent media producers called their documentary about the Charter of Quebec Values “La charte des distractions.” Acknowledging campaigns may be trying to draw our attention away from other issues does not negate the need to critically analyze how so-called distractions work.

So while I may tend to agree with Southey’s imaginary bar patron who asks after the environment — or, for more clear perspective, the Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief quoted in this episode of The Current on CBC who notes the absence of clean drinking water in many indigenous communities continues to be overlooked  — I can’t look away, either. And so here are stories that take up both the environment, and questions of the niqab and citizenship rights, lingering on the challenges voters face:

  • In an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, a former B.C. attorney general argues that, faced with a range of political positions on most fronts — including the environment — that may or may not be so different, the question of whether voters will allow there to be “two types of Canadians” ought to be a determining factor this election.
  • The Independent, a London, U.K.-based newspaper, offers a lengthy analysis of the Canadian election under the headline, “Anti-Muslim prejudice is a nasty theme of campaigning as the liberal nation’s democracy loses its way”, while another U.K.-based newspaper, The Guardian, touches on issues of the niqab and the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline — as well as Canada’s responsibilities on climate change and our record on oil production — in this opinion piece.
  • Canadian author Joseph Boyden, in this radio interview and Maclean’s article, argues: “The real issue is the economy, which is wobbly right now. […] The real issue is the environment, which is screwed. The real issue is First Nations issues. The fastest growing population in our country are second-class citizens, and yet we’re talking about niqabs.” (If you listen to the radio interview, the interviewer goes to great lengths to play devil’s advocate on what would constitute “barbaric cultural practices” at the start of the interview, while taking a pass on the opportunity raised to talk about oil and the environment.)
  • This piece was published over a week ago, but highlights how Thomas Mulcair engaged oil pipeline and niqab issues when he was on Tout le monde en parle, and why this careful engagement is important in Quebec.

The other paddle

Pulling back, the last days of the election are not without a number of questions about how the economy will fare after Oct. 19.

On climate change


When I started this blog in August, I promised I wouldn’t tell you how to vote. And I still won’t tell you who I think you should vote for. (Chances are, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know.)

But, if you haven’t already voted in advance, do cast a ballot on Monday, Oct. 19. Here are some necessary details from Elections Canada.

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