Opposing the Conservative majority

An anti-Conservative spokesperson and a political pirate joined in discussion with community members on May 26 to contest the recent federal election. The Waterloo Region chapter of Fair Vote Canada, an organization which advocates for electoral reform, hosted speakers Steven Scott of the Kitchener-Waterloo Pirate Party, and Gary Shaul, a representative from the national Catch-22 campaign.

Scott focussed his address largely on a series of bills which the Conservatives aim to pass within the first one hundred sitting days of Parliament. As a self-described “internet issues party,” a major goal was to raise awareness about online-based privacy issues. Scott referred to one particular initiative which will extend police powers to obtain information about individuals from their internet service provider without a warrant.

“Eliminating the requirements for these requests fundamentally lowers the bar of privacy in Canada,” Scott said passionately. “This is not a tool, but a violation of your privacy.”

Scott emphasized that information being gained in this manner would allow police to draw hasty conclusions, possibly drawing associations without a complete understanding of the context.

“It cannot be that the data is innocuous and essential; that requests are justified and that warrants are an obstruction; that your privacy is respected and violated,” Scott argued.

Shaul followed with a politically-driven agenda, explaining how the Catch-22 organization had worked in select regions across the country in an attempt to prevent a Conservative government. Evidently, only mild success was attained.

He informed listeners that the plan during the election was to focus on democracy-related issues and try to raise awareness among voters about Harper’s bullying and abuse of power. Volunteers from any (non-Conservative) party were able to join in the effort.

“Conservative governments like that, the Mike Harris government, the George Bush government, the Stephen Harper government … they thrive on having enemies,” Shaul said, with support from the audience. “They can only exist to tear things down that others have tried to build up.”

The crowd appeared to be mainly composed of those in concurrence with his anti-Harper sentiments, but not all went uncontested.

Catch-22’s emphasis on the apparent necessary evil of strategic voting caused what Kitchener-Waterloo Green Party candidate Cathy MacLellan described as a “torturous” campaign. She claimed that many did not vote their conscience, but still did not achieve their desired goal.

“I would argue with you and say please don’t do it again,” MacLellan remarked. “It doesn’t promote democracy, it doesn’t promote people thinking about the issues.”

Scott was also in agreement.

“Smaller candidates aren’t recognized in any way, not even in a ‘please vote for somebody else’ way,” he commented wryly. Strategic voting has been criticized for creating less of an issues-based campaign, as voters do not necessarily engage with the varied platform parties.

With an intrigued audience and enlightening speakers, the evening concluded with plans to continue discussion on a later date with other MP candidates from the Kitchener-Waterloo riding.

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