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Tweedledumb & Tweedledumber

With the bigots back in power,
at least we'll know who the enemy is

Copyright 1995 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

Written immediately before, and published immediately after, the 1995 provincial elections in Ontario, in which Mike Harris's far-right Conservative Party swept to power.

f you're reading this, then the world hasn't ended.

However, we do, in all likelihood, have a new government. And probably not a particularly pleasant one, considering that as of this writing, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber are running neck and neck (note to non-Canadians: this refers to the centrist Liberal Party and the right-wing Conservative Party). So I doubt there will be any celebrations going on in queer quarters after this election.

My personal feelings about this are an odd mixture of depression, indifference, and a perverse sort of relief. The depression needs no explanation -- barring any sudden miracles, by the time you read this, there will be a brand new bunch of reactionary assholes in power just itching to not only refuse us the rights we've been fighting for, but take away those we already have.

The indifference can best be summed up in the anarchist slogan "Whoever you vote for, the government gets in." Try as I may, I can't really see that life got a whole lot better for anybody during the NDP's reign (additional note to non-Canadians: the New Democratic Party is the mildly leftist social democratic party which was in power in Ontario up until the election this column refers to). We fantasized that it would; we danced in the streets when the results came in; we waited breathlessly for the revolution when they assumed power. But it never came.

We wanted change, but we got more of the same lies, hypocrisy and backroom politicking we had under the Liberals, and the Conservatives before that. We wanted recognition of our rights, but we got a lame PR effort in the form of a bill that was deliberately designed to fail. Nobody was holding a gun to Bob Rae's head forcing him to call a free vote on Bill 167 (yet another note to non-Canadians: that was a controversial bill which would have legally recognized same-sex relationships, but was soundly defeated). If he had wanted the bill to pass, he knew how to do it. He deliberately chose not to. Deal with it, kids.

I realize that the previous paragraph is going to draw plenty of criticism from loyal NDPers who are still somehow under the impression that Rae's gang really meant well, but were just up against impossible odds. And if spousal rights was the only issue they'd screwed up on, I might almost be prepared to believe that. But the record shows otherwise.

Anyone who is still under the impression the NDP have any integrity should take a look at Temagami. Before the last election, Rae was arrested alongside the Teme-Augama Anishnabe and the Temagami Wilderness Society protesting the construction of a logging road and the planned clearcutting of one of Ontario's last remaining old-growth forests. Once in power, he engineered a "compromise" that would consign most of the forest to logging while giving the TAA a token voice on the planning council that would oversee logging in the area -- and then, according to one Native activist in the area, paid the TAA off to drop their opposition to the proposed destruction.

When the Rae/TAA compromise was overwhelmingly voted down by the Native population, the NDP negotiator simply refused to deal with the traditional people, claiming that they had no legal standing, and natural resources minister Howard Hampton handed over most of the area to be logged. No wonder environmentalists have taken to calling Rae "Forrest Stump."

So forgive me if I have to stifle a yawn over the prospect of the NDP being turfed out of power. The simple truth is that no matter how good a party may look in opposition, once in power they act exactly the same as any other, except for minor differences in PR strategy. Because ultimately, politicians don't hold the real power in this society, anyway -- business does. And when the corporations call the tune, politicians -- any politicians -- are only to happy to dance.

So much for depression and indifference. But what about relief? How could I possibly feel that having a bunch of right-wing goons who don't even make the faintest pretense of humanity in power could be a good thing? The answer is: very easily. I am sick to death of hearing otherwise sane people apologizing for the antics of a bunch of hypocritical, lying bastards. I am sick of the frustration of having actions like the one two local environmental groups had recently planned for Queen's Park fizzle because too many people felt bad about targetting poor innocent Temagami Bob.

I miss the good old days when you knew who your enemies were -- when activists could give their full passion to the causes they fought for without feeling guilty for embarrassing a government that pretends to care. I want the gloves to come off, and the fight to get serious. And if electing a bunch of utter slimeballs is what it takes to make that happen, then so be it.

The party is over. Now let's get to work.


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