Flashbacks: September 2013

I know solstices and equinoxes are actually supposed to break up the flow of seasons, but let’s be real: Summer ends when September begins, and this is especially true in any place that fills up with college and university students. Unfortunately for all the newcomers, the St. John’s harbour has been fenced off by Big Port Authority and their puppets on city council, extinguishing freedom in the city forever. Excuse me while I pour out a 40 of gin over this burning Republican flag.

Anyways, it’s been a wild few months. A small town in Quebec exploded, it is now illegal to be gay in Russia, and Pamela Wallin may turn out to be an even bigger sleveen than Mike Duffy. Syria remains a delightful tourist destination. Calgary was briefly underwater, and the survivors were punished for it with a Nickelback concert. The US Army whistleblower formerly known as Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) was sentenced to 35 years in prison for exposing American war crimes, which is approximately infinity more years than any of the exposed perpetrators will actually face in jail time. And, of course, Hydro-Quebec is finally on the litigation offensive over water management rights to the Churchill River, which means local Muskrat Falls cynics might finally get some Pyrrhic vindication if (when?) the province loses in court. If it wasn’t for a killer new Kanye album, this would have been a pretty depressing summer.

But all this is in the past now, so jettison it into the abyss in wait beyond the 30-second margins of the postmodern attention span. Speaking of memory loss, smoking dope is now a major issue in federal politics after Justin Trudeau not only came out in support of ending marijuana prohibition, but admitted to blazing up himself since becoming a sitting MP. Stephen Harper’s press office was quick to point out that his asthma prevented him from ever smoking anything, and the federal NDP disclosed that while Thomas Mulcair is cool enough to have gotten high in the past, he would not be disclosing the last time he smoked nor the identity of his supplier. This is a refreshing look at how the Canadian Left has adopted the sort of media defensiveness that wins elections in this country.

“Just say no to drugs other than alcohol!” — John A.

Personally, I’m inclined to greet Trudeau’s admission that he puffed on a joint three years ago with a giant disinterested shrug. Conservative commentators, of course, argue the exact opposite. ‘The law is the Law,’ they say—nevermind that a pan-Canadian group of police chiefs just decided at a conference that slapping people with possession charges for less than 30 grams of weed is a waste of time and money, that a majority of Canadians favour legalization, and that most policy studies demonstrate prohibition is a failure. Getting mildly stoned at a barbecue makes him a terrible role model for children, and it’s blatant disrespect to the Parliamentary legacy established by John A. Macdonald, noted sobriety enthusiast. Spending this much time courting the ever reliable stoner electorate might be a losing gamble on the Liberals’ part, but I doubt sparking up that fated spliff is what sends Trudeau up in smoke.

“Excuse me, but this cheeseburger has Bill 29 on it and I asked for no Bill 29.”

Of course, the grass is always greener on our side of the harbour fence. Hydro-Quebec’s lawsuit against Nalcor notwithstanding, it’s been a pretty quiet season on the home front, and no news almost always means good news for the ruling Tories. NDP MHA Dale Kirby was fortunate enough to wring a fulfilled Access-to-Information request out of the government containing all the correspondence from the public to the Premier’s office about Bill 29. It’s posted online, and worth a read. Not surprisingly, no one seemed to be very happy about scaling back Freedom of Information. But more interesting—to me, at least—is the way the emails shine a light on the ways people address ‘the government’ as embodied by the Premier. Some people treat talking to the government like debate club. Some, like a prayer of supplication. Yet others like the guy in the McDonald’s lineup having an emotional meltdown because he wanted his cheeseburger without onions. There’s no wrong way to non-violently express your discontent with a bad political decision, but the spectrum of attitudes people take is illuminating. This is an idea worth running with in a term paper. Steal away, students.

As for the Party of Smallwood, its five leadership candidates are up to their entrails in campaigning. You want to talk about attitudes: a good chunk of the August 22 debate in Gander was a shouting match. Other than agreeing that “Boo Dunderdale!” and “Vote Liberal!” there where some awfully sharp disagreements. Dwight Ball openly questioned whether or not Cathy Bennett is a ‘real’ Liberal, which, given the party’s performance over the last decade, might actually be one of Bennett’s strong points. It’s also unclear whether any of the candidates attacking her for supporting Muskrat Falls would actually put the kibosh on the project after even more money is sunk in by 2015. This timeline didn’t phase Danny Dumaresque—he was pretty emphatic about scrapping the “sinkhole called Muskrat Falls” and using the money to fund, among other things, an underwater tunnel to Labrador. Say what you will, but it was Einstein who said that imagination is more important than knowledge.

Last but not least, it’s municipal election season across the province, and the contest in St. John’s is shaping up to be pretty good. Municipal politics are simultaneously the craziest and the most effective place for making your voice heard (these two things are probably related). This feels like a crucial election insofar as it will determine whether the city gets a little greener, or whether most of downtown turns into a parking complex and the outskirts sprawl down into Conception Bay. If there was ever a place where your involvement and your vote actually mattered, it’s a municipal election. That said, the current crop of candidates seems unlikely to get involved in a crack smoking scandal. This is the only issue I really care about, so I’ll stop here.