Weekly Highlights from our Conservative Overlords

Weekly Highlights from our Conservative Overlords

Monday, November 2, 2015

Strategic voting (organizations) were a total waste of time

Update - Okay.  I changed the headline.  I didn't mean to hang all this shame on "strategic voting" as a whole.  This post is about "strategic voting" organizations that made a big show of things.  Myself, I voted strategically and I'm glad I did so.  This is meant to be an analysis of the "strategic voting" organizations.  So I changed the headline to better reflect that.

There was a lot of discussion about "strategic voting" leading up to the election.  And then nothing.  I guess that's what happens when the tight races lost due to vote splitting never appear due to one of the supposed vote splitters shitting the bed.

But still, I wondered.  And I was really bored last week so I decided to take a look.


There are hundreds of ways to go about this.  I decided to keep it simple.  I looked at the recommendations from the two major "strategic voting" organizations (i.e. the two that popped up when I googled "strategic voting Canada") StrategicVoting.ca and VoteTogether.ca.  Then I pulled the voting results from each riding from Wikipedia.  Then I made a few decisions on how to judge each riding:

Green = Right call in a close race and the recommended party wins
The "strategic voting" organization made the right call and encouraged voters to vote for the party that triumphed over the Conservatives, and the margin for victory was less than 5% of votes cast.  This is seemingly what the whole process was designed for.

Blue = Right call in a close race and the recommended party lost
As above, but the Conservatives won.  So...right idea but not enough.

Orange = Right call, not a close race and the recommended party wins
Just like "green", but the race wasn't close, with the winning party triumphing by a margin greater than 5% of votes cast over the Conservatives.  There's two ways to look at this one.  Either the campaign was so effective, the Conservatives got trounced.  Or the margin of victory was so large, the whole thing was a waste of time.

Pink = Right call, not a close race and the recommended party lost
Just like above, but the recommended party did not wind and lost by a whole pile of votes.  I feel more certain calling these a waste of time.

Now we get into the mistakes.

Yellow = Wrong call, but the Conservatives lost anyhow
So the "strategic voting" organization sent voters to the wrong party, but it didn't matter in the end.  Still...Not good.

Maroon = Wrong call and the Conservatives won
This almost needs further breakdown...maybe I'll take another look to see which races were tight.  Regardless, the "strategic voting" organization sent voters to the wrong party and the Conservatives ended up taking the win.  This is terrible.

I'll post the full results down below, but here is the summary.

Vote Together
Vote Together kept things tight, only making 29 recommendations.  That managed to make the right call (backing the party that either won or came in second to the Conservatives) 90% of the time.  Unfortunately, a full 7% of their calls were for the wrong party in a riding that the Conservatives ended up winning.  Ouch.  And 75% of the calls they made were in races that didn't end up being very competitive.

Strategic Voting
Strategic Voting made 141 recommendations in this election - that's over 40% of all ridings.  And it seems like their shotgun approach was not the right one.  They only managed to back the right party (the party that either won or came in second to the Conservatives) 84% of the time.  Still good for a solid B, right?  Hell no.  These jackasses had the opposite effect that they had intended 16% of the time!  Are you kidding me?  That's terrible.  And even when they did the make right call, 66% of the time it wasn't a close race!  Add those up, and 82% of the time they shouldn't have bothered.

Actual Close Ridings
Lucky for us, Wikipedia makes things easy and highlights the 10 closest races.
Note that in two of these races (Jonquiere and Hochelaga), the Conservatives did not factor in so "strategic voting" shouldn't have been a factor (Strategic Voting chimed in on Jonquiere anyhow - perhaps pushing the NDP over the Liberals as a result?).

I actually had to go back and look at this a few times, because it seemed pretty shocking.  Strategic Voting actually seemed to do okay here.  They made a recommendation in 7 of the 8 races they should have been involved in (and 1 recommendation in the two that they shouldn't).  However,  they did make the "wrong call" in one tight race, perhaps handing victory to the Conservatives.

Vote Together only managed to make a call in one of these races, and were nowhere to be found in 7 of the 8 tightest battles against the Conservatives.


You could really dive a lot deeper and make some more meaningful conclusions.  For me, the number of wrong calls made suggests that these organizations may have done as much harm as good.

A quick note to end on...there are undoubtedly some mistakes in here.  Feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to fix them up.  It was a lot of data and I'm sure I screwed up somewhere.

Full Data

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More and more

So I'm doing a really terrible job of not writing anything.  But I can't resist.

In the wake of the Obama/McCain election, there were some really great articles from reporters embedded with the campaigns.  I find it astonishing to hear the actual thoughts of the people that fed us bullshit for weeks and weeks (or years in the case of the US).  This is a great article from the Star.  Harper's campaign knew for weeks that they were screwed.  There's some tremendously cynical "hold on to votes at any cost" information in here.  And confirmation of Harper's "message control", even in the very end.  A less good article about the team behind Trudeau.

This makes me so angry.  Beyond angry.  The attack on Parliament Hill was used as the justification for Bill C-51, and we had several warnings of just such an attack leading up to it?  And part of the reason the attack was so successful was due to budget cuts that limited the number of security personnel?  That's just astounding.  That's some get-the-pitchforks out level of bullshit, if we hadn't already thrown the fucking assholes out.

Some wonderful schadenfreude, detailing terrible Conservative candidates who went down in defeat (and a couple that didn't).  This makes me remarkably happy.  Paul Calandra.  "Whities" guy.  Fake voter fraud guy.  Son of a holocaust survivor guy.  Still some bozos left, but good stuff!

I'm not diehard Liberal supporter, and I'll yell loudly when they screw up, but I'm really sick of this "they're not left enough!" bullshit.  The NDP could not/did not win the election.  The outcome we received is far, far better than the other possible option.  We're complaining that we only won $100,000 in the lottery, when there was a chance we may have won a $1,000,000.  And that $1,000,000 isn't the magical fairyland that people believe it is, anyhow.

Edit - A nice little summary/tracker of Trudeau's promises.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Aftermath

Is this the end?  I'm not sure.  I hope so.  I really don't want to have to make another logo.

I have mixed emotions about the result last night.  I still firmly believe that 39% of voters shouldn't hold this much power.  I hoped for a minority.  But at least this majority aligns better with my principals.

But wander on over to the Tyee and read the comments.  It's sad, but it kind of makes me feel okay about things.  We have a bit of an Obama type situation here, where both sides feel it is the end of the world.  Conservatives are freaked out that terrorists are going to take over Canada, sneaking in under the cover of the Niqab.  NDP supporters are freaking out that we don't have Proportional Representation enacted overnight.  Honestly people.  No to Northern Gateway?  Acceptance of Climate Change and Science?  Dismissal of the F-35?  Paul Calandra, John Duncan, Julian Fantino, Ted Opitz, Leona Aglukkaq, Chris Alexander and Joe Oliver all gone?  Steve stepping down as leader?  These do not feel like bad things.

There are a lot of great things set to happen and we need to at least give Trudeau a chance.  No?  I will admit that I gnashed my teeth in anticipation of what Steve was going to do four years ago.  But he told us he was going to do them!  And they came to pass!  Vilifying Trudeau for breaking promises he hasn't had a chance to keep is insane.

So hopefully you never hear from me again.  But we'll see how things look in a few weeks.

Update - No time like the present.  I thought it would be a good time to review the Liberal Platform.  Good stuff.  Highlights:

Electoral Reform:
We will make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting. This committee will deliver its recommendations to Parliament. Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform.

We will repeal the anti-democratic elements in Stephen Harper’s Fair Elections Act, which make it harder for Canadians to vote and easier for election lawbreakers to evade punishment.

Partisan Government Advertising:
The federal government should use advertising to promote government programs, not partisan agendas. We will appoint an Advertising Commissioner to help the Auditor General oversee government advertising. The Commissioner will review proposed messages to ensure that they are non-partisan and represent a legitimate public service announcement.

Watch the watchers:
At present, Parliament does not have oversight of our national security agencies, making Canada the sole nation among our Five Eyes allies whose elected officials cannot scrutinize security operations. This leaves the public uninformed and unrepresented on critical issues. We will create an all-party committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities.

too much detail here to discuss...We will repeal the problematic elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms.

Science and the Census:
We will appoint a Chief Science Officer who will ensure that government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions. 

We will restore the long-form census. Without accurate and reliable data, Canada’s communities cannot plan ahead. Everything from transit planning to housing strategies to support for new Canadians becomes more difficult. We will immediately restore the mandatory long-form census, to give communities the information they need to best serve Canadians.

Climate Change:
There is too much here to link to...We will provide national leadership and join with the provinces and territories to take action on climate change, put a price on carbon, and reduce carbon pollution.

And of course:
We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

2011-2015 Harper Government Wrap-up

The problem with writing about politics, is you generally find an audience that has already come around to your way of thinking.  That’s not a very good way to change minds at election time.

So I’m trying to shift my perspective a tiny bit and trying to think up ways to convince people that a vote for Steve is a really bad idea.  Of course, I’m never going to convince the diehards, but maybe there are some soft supporters that can be shown the value of voting for somebody else?  In order to do that, I need to try to understand their motivations.  Which is hard.  I’ve been so buried in this stuff for years and years, I can’t imagine a valid justification for voting Conservative.

So I will try to appeal to the people that haven’t been sucked so far into the weeds.  And I think if you talked to the average soft Conservative supporter, they would probably be drawn to one issue.  Taxes.  I’m not going to waste time arguing with you about the value of taxes, the progress of society and the greater good.  I’ll spot you this point and begrudgingly accept that there is an argument for paying less tax.  But I’m going to show you the cost of those tax cuts you so badly crave.

The other problem I am facing here is that generally when you’re against something, people assume you are for something else.  Life would probably be easier if I felt super passionately about either Mulcair or Trudeau.  Both have their moments, but I can understand the hesitation people are feeling.  But that is no reason to avoid change.  Either is a far better option that what we have now.  My best case is a minority featuring anybody but Harper, and then the country mobilizes to force some kind of meaningful electoral reform.  So please.  Read this post.  Visit the Threehundredeight riding projection tool, and vote for the candidate that has the best chance to unseat Harper.  And then write your MP and tell them to change this stupid system.

And I've been told to make things more interesting with photos, so I've gone a bit overboard.
They didn’t actually balance the budget

“Balanced budgets” are a big talking point this election.  Mulcair is promising them, and Steve speaks of them like they’ve been a regular occurrence over the last few years even though…well.  But everybody needs to be reminded…this government has produced precisely one balanced budget, and they resorted to a whole bunch of shenanigans to make it happen.

So ya, if you sell your house and rob your savings account, anybody can balance a budget.  Let us also remember that this “balanced budget” was delayed for months due to “unforeseen global events”.  How come every shock to the economy is a “global economic force that we have no control over” and every piece of good news is “sound financial management”.  The Cons have blamed all of the bad news this year on lower oil prices that nobody could predict…except for Thomas Mulcair who warned us about this years ago and was soundly mocked for it in a series of attack ads.

They didn’t really balance the budget.  They haven’t been that great for the economy.  If that is your reason for voting Conservative, you should really put some thought into it.
They’ve wasted a piss tonne of money

Of course, “saving money” goes hand-in-hand with “balanced budgets”.  The Conservatives are all about “saving you money”.  Unfortunately, this government has pissed away a lot of dollars.

To me, the most egregious of crimes is this fascination with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on self promotion (including millions just on Facebook ads).  The Harper Government has turned publically funded political advertising into an art form.  Literally hundreds of millions ($750 million is the last number I saw) have been spent on advertisements, many for borderline or blatantly partisan issues.

But they also seem to love lawyers.  We’ve spent another boatload of money ($7 millionish) defending (and losing) court cases brought against some of their awful legislation:

Want some more?

And the grand-daddy of them all…$3.1 Billion, just sort of up in smoke.

These guys aren’t for a “small government”.  They just have a more self-interested way of wasting your money.
They’re actively working against the collection of science and data

Knowledge, facts and data are all generally considered to be good things.  If you want to make sound policy decisions, you generally want as much (factual) information as possible.  And if you don’t know about a topic, you’ll consult an expert.  Unfortunately, this government does not agree with this methodology.

The war on government scientists is well documented.  From dismantling libraries with irreplaceable research to just making shit up about things to suit your purpose, the disdain for science has been talked about ad nauseum.  I’ll just leave you with some of links if you want to dig in to it.  HereHere. Here.

But what about the census?  The Conservatives caved in to their afraid-of-the-Gummint crowd and scrapped the mandatory long form census because it was “too intrusive”.  What has that done?  It’s destroyed our long term data tracking.  It’s resulted in StatsCan putting disclaimers on their dataIt’s impacted our ability to make good decisions.

But maybe that’s the point?  Maybe when your decisions don’t make any sense, you don’t want more pesky data pointing this out?  I mean…we’re “tough on crime” even though the statistics have been pointing in the right direction for years.  What’s the saying?  If it ain’t broke, change all sorts of shit?

But it’s not just data.  It’s a wilful disregard of experts.  We don’t want Insite, even though it has been proven effective.  The Kits Coast Guard Base wouldn’t have helped with the Vancouver oil spill, even though the former Captain says precisely the opposite.  They told the RCMP they have to keep using fur hats that they don’t want.  They told the Border Services they had to keep filming a TV show they didn’t want to be involved withThey killed a program that successfully re-habilitated sex offenders (because who wants those guys to get better, right?)  They rejected a recommendation to ban generic oxycodoneThey rejected a plea for increased legal aid fundingThey rejected research showing the harms of their prostitution policies.  Hell, they can’t even get their own “experts” to agree on things and have put out reports that contradict their own policies.  Nobody knows better than this government, even if it’s their life’s work.

Worse than this…is the appointment of political/partisan/compromised hacks to important postings.  A Kinder Morgan exec. gets appointed to the National Energy BoardThe Minister of Environment is a climate change sceptic.
If you don’t vote for them they don’t really want you to vote

The Conservatives decided that they’ve had enough with people cheating in elections, even though they’re the only people that seem to get caught cheating in elections.  And they came up with the “Fair Elections Act”.  I’m just going to crib directly from my 2014 round-up here: 

This is all bad enough, but then several of them started making up stories about rampant voter fraud to justify the changes (don’t worry, they looked into it and decided not to investigate themselves).  Then it came out that they didn’t consult with the Chief Electoral Officer before they wrote the bill (or the guy that will be taking over investigations from him), and they bastardized the conclusions of a report to justify their actions.  And then they decided to limit debate on the bill, because why worry about discussing such things? 
They’re xenophobes that have diminished our status on the world stage

Canada used to have a proud place in this world.  We used to be a place that the downtrodden looked to for safety.  Be it refugees, war torn countries, or just anybody looking for a sound, middle of the road view of the world.

Somehow, we’ve turned into a Xenophobic mess.  I talk a bit more about this in another post I put up recently.  We’ve turned into a country that goes to court (and loses) in an effort to deprive refugees of health care.  We’ve turned into a country where our Minister repeatedly refuses to answer questions about just how many refugees we’ve taken on and resorts to nonsense to defend his actions.  We’ve turned into a country where the Prime Minister resorts to nonsense facts and statistics to justify and hide his inaction.  We’ve decided that we’d rather let people buy their way into the country, even though it’s been proven that these rich immigrants provide less benefit to the country than refugees.  Always remember, this is what Conservatives think of refugees.
We’ve also decided that Israel is an ally above reproach and deserves our unconditional support.  We’ve literally started to label any criticism anti-Semitism and discussed making it a hate crime.

We’ve also decided that business trumps rights oversees.  We’re selling Saudi Arabia weapons and totally ignoring their human rights abuses.  We’re letting our mining companies do unspeakable things with no oversight.  We even argued that it wasn’t so bad to sell asbestos to third world countries.

Worst though is that the Conservatives are using all of this to stoke hatred and drum up support.  A “barbaric cultural practices” tiplineFurther expansion of the niqab banMore stripping of citizenship?  Unbelievable.  Un-Canadian.
They’re a band of fucking morons

Every party has their dipshit that they hide away in the back benches.  Unfortunately, this party is almost entirely dipshits.

We’ll start with Minister Leona Aglukkaq.  So awful, I’m just going to pull in what I wrote about her in January. 
She just can’t stop stepping in it lately, in loud, embarrassing fashion.  It’s difficult to even understand some of her spats.  Her most recent involves a spat with a Deputy Mayor in Rankin Inlet, after said Deputy Mayor suggested some people were so hard up in his community, they were foraging at the local dump for food.  Leona may or may not have phoned him and demanded an apology.  And she may or may not have threatened to sue him.  But she did most certainly read a newspaper in the House of Commons as debate over the incident swirled around her.  She actually apologized for this, which almost knocked her off the top of our list.  But alas, no.

I’ll remind you that this lady is our Minister of the Environment, and she is a climate change skeptic.  And doesn’t seem to give a shit about the environment.  Her response for why Canada doesn’t do anything about Global Warming?  Well, Canada only puts out 2% of Global GHG emissions, so why bother.  That’s 0.5% of the World’s Population putting out 2% of the emissions...but who cares about things like that?  She also just kind of tends to make things up when asked to defend ourselves.

Also amazing is that this is the woman who decides what makes it onto the Endangered Species List.  She doesn’t have a problem with hunting polar bears.  Or seals.  Seems to think there is no reason to block the international trade of 76 endangered species.  Or caribou.  And has terrible manners.  And seems to be delusional about our place in the world.   And uses her position to speak out against Greenpeace.

Or how about Senator Don Meredith, who has degrees from imaginary Universities.  He also flew to Washington for a prayer meeting after it was specifically not approved.  With his wife.  Business Class.  This was all before he was accused of having an affair with a teenager.

I’ll just post this photo here to remind you that Senator Mike Duffy exists and we don’t need to talk about him.
What about fall guy Michael Sona?  The only person convicted in the RoboCalls scandal.  Somehow.

MP Dean Del Mastro is a favourite of mine.  It started when he made a tearful plea to be charged or to be let off the hook for his election expense inproprieties.  So he was charged.  And found guilty.  But also found time to bully and intimidate witnesses.

And MP James Bezan also had some problems with his finances.

Minister Chris Alexander is terrible at his job, as has been fairly well documented over the last few months.  My favourite is when he hung up on As It Happens when they asked him some questions that he couldn’t answer.

MP James Lunney doesn’t believe in evolution.  “It’s just a theory”.

MP Wai Young suggested that Jesus would support Bill C-51, and also that if it had been in place the Air India bombing could have been prevented.  But then again...maybe she knows more about this than the rest of us do?

It wasn’t enough that MP Rob Anders fell asleep (repeatedly) on the job, including right in the House of Commons.  He’s also re-iterated his disdain for Nelson Mandela, claiming he’s nothing more than a terrorist.

Paul Calandra embarrassed himself in the House of Commons by refusing to come remotely close to answering a question, much to the delight of the clapping seals standing behind him.  His excitement was short lived though, as he was forced to apologize after getting hung out to dry by his party.  It did give us this though, which was awesome.
Minister Bev Oda lived it up in London with expensive hotel swaps and orange juice.  She also required a limousine when a minivan just wouldn’t do.  She is kind of a bad ass though.
MP John Williamson suggested that it doesn’t make sense to pay “whities” to stay home so that we could bring in “brown people” as temporary foreign workers.

MP Laurie Hawn “personally witnessed” voter card shenanigans in the 2006 election and used it as justification for the “Fair Elections Act”.  Unfortunately, voter cards weren’t used until 2008.

Minister Vic Toews thinks you “stand with the child pornographers” if you don’t agree with his e-snooping bill.  He also blamed the opposition for not fighting hard enough against a Conservative appointee who ended up being a criminal.

Even though the citizenship ceremony is apparently some kind of sacred ceremony in the eyes of the Conservatives, Minister Jason Kenney thought it would be a good idea to use staffers to pretend to be new Canadians for a citizenship ceremony stunt.


This is one of my favourite stories of the last few years, as it so perfectly represents where our society is going.  I’m pretty sure this is a real story, but I would accept it if you told me it was actually satire.  A Muslim gentleman sent a text message to his coworkers encouraging them to “blow away the competition”.  He was fairly quickly arrested and branded a terrorist.

Bill C-51 is of course the biggie.  There is so much to say on this, and many, many people have pointed out many, many problems, including a group of ex-PM’s who encouraged the government to take another look.

But why worry?  We have watchdogs to oversee that stuff, right?  Except that the newly appointed privacy watchdog spent his career drafting the laws that he’s supposed to be watch-dogging.

But what is everybody afraid of?  Well, maybe the fact that run of the mill protesters might be branded terrorists?  Maybe the use of the bill as a hammer to quell environmental resistance?  Seriously.  They’re really concerned about this and have spent a lot of time tracking protests and protesters across the country.  For me, the worst case is having the RCMP spy on Northern Gateway protesters at the request of Enbridge.

Why are Conservatives so for “small government” except for when it’s literally about the most intrusive government actions possible?  Oh.  Wait.  They used to worry about just such things before they came to power.  Rightfully so.  Facebook spying.  Mass data collection on Canadians that they denied and then dismissed concerns over and refused to investigate. This is some real Big Brother type shit.   

The hardest part of writing this has been weeding down 4 years of nonsense into one readable post.  If you have some time, I urge you to take a look at my 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 round-ups.  There’s a lot more stuff.

Honestly.  If you’re okay with all this stuff and still insist on voting Conservative.  Well.  Thanks for nothing.  My 2019 I-told-you-so won’t be so friendly.

Hungary and Canada and Refugees

I was hoping to have this posted somewhere with some actual readership but I ran into a bit of a brick wall.  So I'll just post it here.

I’m what you might describe as a Hungarian of convenience.  I’ll cheer for Hungarian teams competing in high profile international sporting events (which never, ever happens).  I cook Hungarian influenced dishes every once in a while.  I have even used my Hungarian-ness as a crutch to make conversation with attractive females.  In short, my identity as a Hungarian-Canadian has been a means to infuse a bit of excitement into an otherwise dull, white bread, middle class, North American upbringing.

Being half Hungarian has always felt a tiny bit special.  There it is, just next to Austria, but nobody seems to know anything about it.  It is just foreign enough to remain mysterious, but not foreign enough to inspire anybody to learn much about it.  There are no ski hills, no beaches and decided lack of tourist attractions.  So it is largely ignored, save for the odd person who has “discovered” Budapest and insists on raving about how amazing it is.  And it only enters mainstream discussion as a calamitous news story, once every few years.  An environmentally destructive spill here.  A horrifying election result there.  A ridiculous Internet tax to round out the crazy. It just kind of feels right that they’ve managed to insert themselves as the world’s villains, scapegoats and poster children for years of inaction on Syrian Refugees.

Even with my lifelong exposure, Hungarians are baffling.  Much of my extended family still lives in a small village, not quite a stones throw, but maybe a rifle shot from the Croatian border.  Indeed, we discovered some long lost relatives in Croatia during the Yugoslavia conflict, because back in the day, people just hopped back and forth over the border and nobody worried too much about it.  Travelling back to that village now is a somewhat sad proposition.  What was once a bustling little farming community is now full of homes in a state of semi-collapse.  The local industry is complaining.  And the average age is ancient.  This seems to be what happens to your country when you are used as the doormat to the USSR for 30 years.

Outside of the cities, it can feel as if there has been no progress since 1989.  Communist life in Hungary sucked, but relatively speaking, wasn’t so bad.  The borders were (relatively) porous.  Food was (relatively) plentiful.  The people (relatively) endured.   And then it ended and they didn’t know what to do with themselves.  Anybody who could run, swim, jump or afford a plane ticket had left in the preceding decades (the most famous and capable Hungarians seem to live nowhere near to Hungary – compare this list of famous Hungarians to this list of famousHungarian-Americans).  Those who remained had lost the structure that supported their lives, and there wasn’t trillions in oil money to swoop in and pick up the pieces.  It’s no wonder things are still a struggle.

I’ve spent the last few days looking at photos of Hungary, past and present.  I have found three series of photos that have left me confused and sad.  The first shows Hungarian soldiers eagerly, proudly, happily tearing down barbed wire fences in 1956, shortly before the Russians returned and expressed their dismay over such hasty actions.  The next, shows Hungarian politicians eagerly, proudly, happily tearing down barbed wire fences in 1989.  And the last, shows Hungarian soldiers eagerly, proudly, happily erecting barbed wire fences over the last couple of weeks (and of Syrian men, women and children wrestling their way through the fresh Hungarian iron).
What I can’t understand is how a country with such a long history of working to tear down the sharp and pointy fences designed to keep people in, is now so hell bent on building sharp and pointy fences to keep people out.  Full circle, but with a sad, ignorant and ironic twist of wilful blindness to one’s own history.

Of course, Canada and Hungary go way back.  According to Wikipedia, there are over 315,000 Canadians with some sort of Hungarian ancestry (Although less impressive than the American list, we boast of some pretty kick-ass Hungarian-Canadians.  Alanis Morrisette, people!).  Most famously, Canada took in around 30,000 Hungarian refugees during the time of the 1956 Revolution.  Planes and boats were chartered.  Politicians flew over to arrange things personally.  We rolled out the red carpet.  It was an amazing time and an amazing result, and at least 315,000 people will agree, a long term, net positive thing for Canada to have done.  This photo sums it up for me:
The caption reads “First Hungarian refugees with Immigration officer William A. McFaul at the former Montreal–Dorval airport, Montreal, Quebec,1956”

No red tape. No hiding behind false fears. Action, plain and simple.

This wasn’t the only time that we went above and beyond, though.  Over 10,000 Czechs in 1968.  50,000 Southeast Asians in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  In times of trouble, Canada, and the rest of the world, has responded.  So why is it so different now?  The situation seems as dire. We’ve proven that it isn’t about race.  Why aren’t we doing anything?  Does there need to be some sort of Communist hysteria for us to become interested?  With Russia ramping up in Syria, are the tides going to change?

Nearly 10 years ago, the Sopron Faculty of Forestry, of which my father was a part, celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their arrival in Canada and their establishment at UBC.  As far as celebrations are concerned, it was fairly low key.  They erected a monument at the University, and then retired to a hall in East Vancouver to drink a lot of wine and eat a bunch of stuffed peppers.  I don’t remember a whole lot from that evening, but one moment does stand out.  A UBC Professor, who is the son of a Sopron Alumnus/Former UBC Associate Dean (I mention these things just so you are aware that we weren’t trifling with lightweights), was responsible for the pre dinner speech.  He talked about the history of the group, their initial struggles, and then the tremendous contributions that this group made to the country.  And then he wrapped up the speech with an idea.  Canada had been so kind and so generous, and in the end had benefitted so much from taking on this group of refugees...why don’t we do it again?

Why don’t we invite another University Faculty that has lost their home over to ours, and welcome them and support them and bring them into the folds of Canada?  This felt like an astonishing idea at the time, and it is one that I’ve come back to many times since then.  But the night rolled on and the wine kept flowing and it proved not to be the start of the revolution.  There’s only so much you can expect out of a group of old and liquored-up Hungarians and we’re actually probably just lucky that they all made it home safely that evening.  But now feels like the perfect time to resurrect this idea.  But as beautifully balanced as the idea sounds, I don’t think it will be enough to just bring over one University Faculty.

Each and every day I feel worse and worse about this situation and my relationship to it and it is impossible for me to sit here and reconcile my existence with the current state of affairs.  The birthplace of my father has become an international embarrassment.  My own birthplace has shirked its responsibility and if attitudes were the same in 1956 as they are now, I would most likely never have come into existence. Best case, I’d be some angry Hungarian villager throwing rocks at some poor Syrians as they struggled to find their way through a haphazardly erected fence.

There are over 300,000 people out there, just like me.  Maybe this is our chance to do something to celebrate our own luck and fortune.  Maybe this is the time for all of those Hungarian-Canadians to speak up and create the ambition to bring in the next generation of lucky new Canadians.  60 years from now we might once again have a legacy to celebrate.  Right now, it feels like we don’t.