Farid just doesn’t seem to get it

Rick Mercer wants his friend, a new immigrant, to understand his election options. But he finds their little chats distressing.

Farid just doesn’t seem to get it

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

My friend Farid is from Iran. This will be the first federal election in which he is eligible to vote.

Being somewhat of a sap, and knowing what a hard-working new Canadian he is, I was immediately moved by this notion. I could only imagine that after a lifetime of persecution in Iran, after making his way to Canada with nothing, after receiving his Canadian citizenship, he would be overwhelmed with the notion of exercising his democratic right to a vote.

No dice. He is entirely underwhelmed by his choices. “Rick, if it was a choice between PC or Mac, that I could understand, but this election it seems the choice is one lousy PC and another lousy PC—why does it matter?”

Assuming the lousy PCs he was referring to were Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper, I suggested that he should look at the NDP. “It was the NDP,” I said, “that gave us universal health care. They are passionate supporters of the working man, which you are, and they fight for the little guy. Jack Layton is a good man,” I told him. “He walks the walk and talks the talk. He has solar panels on his barbecue.” I could tell by the look on Farid’s face that suggesting he vote NDP was akin to insulting his mother, his wife, or both.

I shouldn’t be surprised at Farid’s dislike of the NDP. While he did flee Iran with his life, he has an affinity for a stern hand on the tiller. During the municipal election in Toronto, Farid became a big supporter of now Mayor Rob Ford after Ford offered the opinion that there were too many people in Toronto and we shouldn’t welcome any more. Farid’s pet peeve is road congestion, so he figured the easiest way to solve the problem was to follow Ford’s lead and not allow any more new Canadians in the city.

Being a civic-minded Canadian, I informed Farid that Rob Ford could say whatever he wanted but that freedom of movement was a fundamental Canadian right and that no mayor, no prime minister, no police officer, no person could tell any citizen or landed immigrant where they can and cannot live.

Fine, said Farid, “then pass a law saying any new Canadian moving to Toronto should not be allowed to own a car.” Irony is lost on the man.

I find my little chats with Farid distressing, but I wanted him to fully understand the importance of voting and I wanted him to know that there were many other options available to Canadians. Sure, these other parties are less mainstream than the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP, but they are political parties all the same. One million people voted for the Green party in the last election, and say what you want, that is exciting. And it wasn’t that long ago that a handsome young Preston Manning announced the formation of the Reform party and changed the political course of Canada forever. Farid was dubious, and so I logged on to the Elections Canada website to prove it.

In the last general election there were a baker’s dozen of “fringe parties,” and their websites prove democracy is alive and well in this country. I learned a lot.

Did you know that Canada has not one, but two national Communist parties? There is the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada and the Communist Party of Canada. This is important to know in case you plan on sending a cheque to one and you get them mixed up. It’s a terrible feeling knowing you have put your hard-earned dollars toward the wrong Communists.

Both have long histories in this country—in fact, the Communist party slogan is “celebrating 90 years.” Our current governing party has only been around for seven.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada is somewhat of an offshoot of the original Communist party; its leader had a falling out with the other original group when China and the Soviet Union began squabbling in the seventies. They both took separate sides, and a divide took hold among Canadian Communists that to this day is not healed. They are sadly comrades no more. And so, like the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada of old, they continue to run candidates and split the Communist vote, making their dreams of forming a majority government even more elusive. At present both parties deny there are any ongoing merger talks.

Farid was fascinated to learn that the Bloc Québécois is not the only separatist party in Canada. Yes Farid, western Canada has xenophobes as well.

The Western Block party is led by Doug Christie, the same Doug Christie who has made a name for himself defending the rights of wannabe Nazis to be, well, wannabe Nazis. These days Doug has other priorities, namely seeing Western Canada split and form its own country, and of course lower taxes. A visit to his website indicates that the first act of an independent Western Block nation would be to stop spending money on sewage treatment plants because, and this is a quote from the party platform, “Nature already provides us with an effective, inexpensive and environmentally beneficial treatment system.”

It’s enough to give separatists a bad name; after all, the Bloc Québécois wants Quebec to separate but they have never suggested an added benefit of sovereignty would be the ability to turn La Belle Province into a massive toilet.

Thankfully, Farid is an engineer by trade and was baffled as to why anyone would be against sewage treatment.

Personally, my favourite new party on the Canadian political spectrum is also the one with the best name: the People’s Political Power Party of Canada, which I’m guessing is not affiliated with anyone with a speech impediment.

The platform of the party is laid out in a very sophisticated website, and I would suggest the founder and leader of the party, Roger Poisson, has perhaps the most honest and intriguing biography of any political leader I have read. It reads in part, “For the last 17 years, Roger has been working for no wages. He holds no bank account in his name and has no savings. He was learning how to father a nation.” I’d like to see Michael Ignatieff or Stephen Harper say that.

Mr. Poisson’s platform is extensive, but sadly it does not appear to be fully costed. Unfortunately for the People’s Political Power Party of Canada, that is a deal breaker for Farid.

Unfortunately the link for the Marijuana Party of Canada at Elections Canada is broken. I’m sure somewhere there is a well-intentioned young man who means to get around to fixing it, but with just days until the general election, really what is the rush? As it stands now, the website is nothing but a number of sponsored links to indoor hydroponic growing kits, natural lawn care companies and the NDP.

Without the benefit of a website, I can’t really say what they stand for, but I informed Farid that it was a safe bet that they are against the Harper plan of mandatory federal jail time for anyone caught with six marijuana plants growing among the tomatoes.

For those Canadians interested in these parties, there is a debate of the “fringe parties” scheduled to be held in Toronto on April 23. As I write this it is not clear which parties will show up. One thing we know for certain is that Elizabeth May, after being shut out of the main political debate, has refused to attend. According to her the Green party is a mainstream movement and has no place at the fringe table.

As a result Ms. May has announced plans to debate herself at some later date. I would suggest the first question she might ask is why she continues to run against cabinet ministers.

The leader of the Marijuana party has agreed to attend but only if someone pays for his ticket from Vancouver. I approached the publishers of this magazine suggesting they pay his airfare but they declined, citing the Marijuana party’s position on corporate income tax reductions.

At the end of this exercise Farid was more confused than ever, but amazed that Canada allows such parties to exist. Again, the concept of total freedom is one we take for granted. There is a bit of a learning curve when you spend all of your life in a country like Iran.

So when pushed, Farid decided that he was, like so many Canadians, an “undecided” voter. He would make his final decision on election day.

He admits that he likes Ignatieff and agrees he is a very smart man. “But,” said Farid, “he didn’t come back for me.” I didn’t bother saying, “How the hell could he? You just got here yourself.”

But my guess, if I were a magic vote compass, is that he is leaning toward the Conservatives, despite what he calls a lacklustre campaign. In fact the only thing Stephen Harper has done to impress him thus far was having the RCMP pull the little girl from his rally because of her Facebook picture with Michael Ignatieff—“Why the big fuss?” he said with a smile. “That reminds me of home.”

Like that was a good thing.

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