I’m originally from Northern Ontario, a bastion of union representation, and blue collar workers. In every federal election, it was expected you’d vote orange. The North had always been an NDP stronghold, because the NDP was known to be the “working man’s party”, until they changed their agenda. When they veered away from the working class, they also lost their guaranteed votes in the North. Not that it really matters. There isn’t a political party in Canada that absolutely needs the northern vote to win.
I learned about this recently: see that red line in the picture below? 50% of Canadians live below that red line. If you’ve ever wondered why Canadian political parties are so city-centric (and Ontario/Quebec-centric), well now you know.
So, you might be wondering then: why the heck would a francophone minority, a lesbian, a science communicator, a professor, and a believer in climate change vote Conservative?! Let me explain…
In March 2021, 54% of Conservative delegates voted against an official acknowledgement that climate change is real. When I read that headline, I immediately went over to the Conservative Party’s website, and I joined the party. Why? Because to not recognize climate change is ABSURD. As I researched this further, I learned that most party members don’t become delegates, and most members don’t bother to vote. A small percentage of the party makes the policies because they’re the most engaged. (I imagine it’s like this for the other Canadian parties, too.)
I’m a firm believer in a strong opposition. We need healthy checks and balances, and in my opinion, we can’t have our biggest opposition stray this far away from Science. I wasn’t about to let the Cons get behind an agenda full of quackery. I haven’t told anyone that I’m a Conservative party member, but I’m telling you now, because I think it’s important to share my reasoning.
Fast forward a few months, and the Liberals introduce Bill-C10, an overhaul of the Broadcasting Act. If you haven’t heard about it, do your own research. Essentially, it would cripple independent creators, and give preferential treatment to establishment organizations (including the unions). The problem is, New Media belongs to everyone, and there are more independent content creators than there are unionized ones. As indies, we’ve kept up with the times, we’ve created the innovations, we’ve taken all the risks. Meanwhile, the institutions that lag far behind are asking for handouts, and more legislation to protect their interests. As independents, we compete on a global scale. I’m not a Canadian content creator – I’m a global one. My financial support comes from Americans, Europeans, Australians, and a small percentage of Canadians. You can’t simply draw borders around the Internet. It doesn’t work that way.
The Bill also allows for censorship on all online platforms. It would allow the CRTC to regulate user-generated content. And this is where I draw the line.
The Internet enjoyed a period of being like the Wild Wild West, where you could say anything, upload anything, access almost anything. Sure, most of the content was white, and male, but that was also a reflection of what happened in the 80’s. In the mid-80s, young boys were gifted computers at Christmas, while the girls continued to get dolls. There was a clear separation between what was a boy’s gift, and what was a girl’s gift. Naturally, when the Internet was introduced, young boys took to it like moths to a flame. (The history of women in computer programming is a fascinating one. I highly recommend this book in order to understand how, prior to the 80’s, there were far more women in programming than there are now.)
In the 90’s the corporate world hadn’t caught up yet, so there wasn’t the kind of social engineering that we see today. There was a ton of innovation, we tried things, we coded our own websites, and for a while, there was true anonymity in some online forums. I think this wilder period in history ended in 1997, when Microsoft bought Hotmail. And that triggered the age of acquisition of all the little tech companies, until we had just a few left to control the entire infrastructure. It’s funny because the Liberals don’t even need to pass this bill. Twitter and YouTube are already doing all the censorship (one has to wonder: is this at the behest of the US gov’t, or is the US gov’t now at the mercy of these tech giants?).
Nonetheless, the Liberals pushed and pushed for it. Thank goodness, it was temporarily halted by the Senate. Read Senator David Adams Richards’ amazing speech here. Here are a few excerpts:
I never finished university, never joined PEN International or The Writers’ Union of Canada. I was invited to one PEN International conference where people — mainly tenured academics from Toronto — sat on stage and shouted at each other about who should be allowed to write what about whom. They were the authoritative, cultural decision makers of Canada, many who had never written a book. I see them somewhat today in the angst over this bill.
There is a book in the centre of one of my bookshelves, surrounded by other books. Some of the books it is surrounded by have had an interesting history. They were banned in many countries for long periods of time: Dostoyevsky’s Demons, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle. In the centre of them is this book, which sits unobtrusively and inconspicuously for months at a time, without anyone noticing it: Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler — himself the banal and venal master of book burning. But if I begin with him, as venal as he was, where would I end?
Some years ago, I was at a dinner with some very important, famous people. One academic mentioned that he had given his entire life for Canadian literature. Others there applauded him for doing so.
When I was writing my fourth novel, we sold our 20-year-old car to pay the rent; and my wife, to keep us alive, was selling Amway door-to-door in the middle of winter. I believe she gave her life for Canadian literature as well, but she didn’t get to that dinner.
For that reason, in her honour, I will always and forever stand against any bill that subjects freedom of expression to the doldrums of governmental oversight, and I implore others to do the same. I don’t think this bill needs amendments; I think, however, it needs a stake through the heart.
As you may already know, I have a problem with authority. I’m not a fan of cultural institutions acting as gatekeepers. I’m especially not a fan of anyone telling me what content I can or cannot consume. I’m baffled by people who support this – is this really want you want, this uniformity of thought?
I have one rule when it comes to power: don’t support any extension of power that your enemies might have access to, later. We live in a beautifully liberal society right now, so why create an opportunity for a less than desirable outcome when these kinds of mechanisms get into the hands of not-so-liberal rulers? If you think it can’t happen, read a history book.
The Conservative Party is the only party in Canada that doesn’t support this bill. My, how times have changed.
So, that was the first nudge for me.
The other nudge came in the form of support for a two-tier medical system. The publicly funded medical system in Canada is in really bad shape. It will mostly keep you alive. But, if you suffer from any chronic condition whatsoever, you’re in for a rough ride. If you need a specialist, you’re in for a long wait. And if you need an MRI, well, you’re waiting even longer. I’ve used the private system in Quebec, and I’m about to sign up for a private side Family Doctor, soon. But, in some provinces, there is NO access to private care. PEI, where I’m moving to next year, doesn’t have access to private options. Meanwhile, many of its residents are going to Moncton, Halifax, Montreal, and Ottawa to pay for accelerated care. Some might call that unfair, but to a person who’s suffering from debilitating pain, it’s an act of desperation. We need greater access to a two tier system UNTIL we can fix the public side of things. You can’t ask people who are suffering to wait until the public system is fixed, just so they can be morally pious to your cause.
I just voted Conservative for the first time in my life, not because I’m a new fangirl of the party, but because their current agenda aligns best with my vision of a better Canada. And like any mature, skeptical adult, I know that all politicians lie. It bothers me that Erin O’Toole dreamed of being Prime Minister when he was in high school. Just for that, I don’t trust him. But, this is what we’ve done. We’ve made it so that career politicians are favoured over hesitant leaders with good ideas. Every single modern party leader has a deep thirst for power.
To be honest, I’ve actually never been so detached from politics than in the past five years. Everything is political these days. The fact that I’m writing an article about who I voted for feels a bit wrong. It feels like I’m participating in the circus. But, I hope you understand that I did this for a reason – I was ashamed. And to me, the minute we feel shame about something, it means that that ‘thing’ has become no longer socially acceptable. In this case, I don’t think that voting Conservative should invoke shame. If anything, it invokes a great amount of concern for what’s become of our two most liberal parties, the NPD and the Liberals, that a gay liberal chick from the North just voted Blue for the first time in her life. If that’s not a wake up call, I don’t know what is.