Thursday, August 20, 2015


I will remember 2015 as the year I became politicized.
Not that I have been apathetic.  That would not be true, or even fair.

I have always been interested in politics and followed the actions of governments at all levels closely.  I listen to the news, I read, and, from time to time, I discuss politics with family and trusted friends.  I’m careful with people I don’t know well, just because politics doesn’t always bring out the best in people.  On occasion, I have voiced my approbation or my displeasure of government actions in letters to the premier or prime minister, and my MLA or MP.  And, I always vote.  Always.  But—that’s been the extent of my political involvement.

I haven’t ever taken the next step to take a public stand and get my hands dirty.  I’ve never been a card-carrying member of a political party, nor have I ever volunteered to work on behalf of a candidate or a party.  I’ve kept my opinions mostly to myself.

This time, though, for me, circumstances are different.    Many things bother me.  Decisions made in government are changing the very face of Canada, and not for the better.     The gap between rich and poor widens.  Bill C-51 curtails human rights in the name of security.  Protected wilderness areas shrink.  Canada lags on stewardship of the environment.  The CBC, our national broadcaster, who, through the century, has nurtured political dialogue and showcased Canadian artists, is being strangled.   First Nations struggle.  We are building more prisons, even as crime rates fall.  Scientists have been muzzled, under threat of losing their jobs.  Handlers vet reporters who have access to the Prime Minister, and the questions they are permitted to ask--all two of them.  Politicians are more adversarial than collaborative.   As a nation, we are losing our social consciousness.

Changes in the electoral process worry me, too.  They undermine the focus on governing that elected representatives need to have to be effective.   Prior to a fixed election date, politicians could concentrate on government for a few years of a new mandate, anyway.  Now, the election cycle has lengthened, and the unofficial campaign begins long before the formal election call.  This year, under this format, politicians shifted into hustings mode more than a full year before any election announcement.  Furthermore, the party in power has initiated an eleven-week campaign, the longest in one hundred years.  The long campaign is advantageous to them.  First, the ceiling for election expenses is pro-rated to adjust from six to eleven weeks, and, conveniently, the party in power has twice as much money as the opposition parties.  In addition, long campaigns tend to focus on the economy, another perceived asset from the perspective of the Conservative Party of Canada, that wants to promote the party as good managers and to make the citizenry afraid.   Steps have been taken, then, to give the incumbent an advantage.

The question is, as Stephen Marche asks in "The Closing of the Canadian Mind" from The New York Times, do we like our country like this?

Well, I don’t.  So, it’s time to mobilize.  The eleven-week campaign will be good for me.  I will have time to become more knowledgeable about all the issues, not just the ones that are important to me (Maclean's has prepared election primers on many issues).  Rather than complain about political ads and become so weary of election talk that I disengage,  I can do the opposite.   I can watch, analyze, remain vigilant, and, with a critical eye, make sense of what I see and hear for myself.  Even more important, however, I have to act.  I must refuse to be a victim of fear-mongering.  I can’t let anyone make me afraid of change. 

So much for the quiet involvement.  This time, I need to make my voice heard.  I must discuss, write, post, contribute, work, and not just in a partisan way to promote a particular view.  I want to urge all Canadians to be vigilant, to be informed, to dialogue, and, most of all, to get out and vote.  The stakes are so high, especially for the young.  We cannot leave the decisions to others.  This election is critical.  I must get involved.  All of us must get involved.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Friday afternoon at the national park campground check-in window,  we nose our old camper van behind six other rigs.  I have time to take in the new surroundings as, one by slow-minute-one, the attendant processes the reservations.  I see the park motto:  Leave no trace.  

I understand what the sign means—clean up after yourself, don’t leave a mess at the campsite or anywhere else, be wary of the bears and store your food in the vehicle and garbage in the steel bins provided.  Most of the time, I file the recommendations away to be pulled out of that compartment in my brain when I need them.   Today, though, the guilt feelings that have festered since the shopping trip the day before to stock the camper break the skin in bulbous postules.    True, if we are careful, the campsite and park may not be be scarred with pockmarks of our passage, but other sites in time and space will surely be.


We are camping without electricity this round, and convenience has won out.  I tucked 30 bottles of water into the camper closet  (unable, as well, to resist 30 bottles for $6.00).  At the very least, those bottles will consume energy to recycle, if indeed they make it that far.  Ditto for the plastic cups, plates, and cutlery we will be using to offset indirect access to hot water.  Five meals for four people:  at least twenty plates and corresponding utensils.   Add in the foil broil pans to cover the grill of the campsite fire spot.  Although I could technically reuse those a limited number of times, chances are, again for convenience, I will pitch them this time.  Factor in the Lysol wipes I have in stock to mitigate hot water issues, and the environmental toll mounts.

To that total, I could add the footprints from other moments in the day.  I start the morning with a shower.  As I scrub down, I wonder about the homes and hotels running multiple showers multiple times a day.  At the filling station where we stop to check the tire pressure, I have a clear view of the touchless car-wash.   One vehicle has entered, and a black half-ton waits its turn, on a non-descript Friday morning of summer, albeit after a torrential rain.  Pressurized hot water sprays every crevice of the vehicle.  I don’t want to estimate the gallons / litres consumed for vehicles that might use the service that day in our city times the number of touchless car-washes in our country, never mind on the planet. 

On the way to the park, we stop for a sandwich.  The travel stop is a busy place—line-ups at both food outlets.  To the garbage, my husband and I contribute two plastic bags,  two plastic cups, two waxed papers and a wad of napkins.  You used a tub and cloth bags for your shopping yesterday, I tell myself.  You just about never use disposable dishware.  Okay, true enough.  Still, somehow, that rationale just doesn’t seem to cut it.

I am overwhelmed by the toll our own lifestyle is taking on the planet, and how little a difference our efforts to be responsible might make in the grand scheme of things.  I am not surprised that animals whose habitat is compromised stalk landfills and campgrounds, that the oceans vomit garbage, that the carbon levels in the atmosphere confuse weather patterns, or that the earth cries out in death throes.  Frankly, I am amazed at the earth’s resilience over the four hundred brutal years since industrialization.  I am astounded—that the earth has endured for this long, that it has taken this long for its screams to be heard, and that the collective will to change our lifestyle paradigms is not yet galvanized.