Panelists David DesBaillets and Stacy Drake discuss the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, nightlife gun violence in Toronto like the shooting at the afterparty for Drake’s OVO Fest and a rundown of stories since our last podcast in the Old News segment. Plus the Community Calendar.
It’s a phrase we hear often these days: eating is political.
In other words: we’re actors in food systems. Our decisions carry vast implications—the ethics of the brand we support, say, or the type of living beings we decide to ingest.
Yet now that elections are looming, it’s worth considering the literal sense of the phrase.
George Washington, after all, is forever associated with cherries: a symbol of humility and aversion to lies. François Mitterand had a not-so-secret addiction to caviar—anathema, said some, to his socialist past. Bill Clinton, of course, was the Prez of BBQ and fried chicken, indulging in the richest of Southern foods, it would seem, whenever opportunity arose. And we all know Obama’s love of quality burgers—especially In-n-Out Burger—frequent stops for him and his entourage that in some ways helped launch his social media persona.
If food is the way to the political heart, what do the eating habits of our Prime Minister candidates reveal?
Spoiler alert: a mostly opaque snapshot of dullness, disjointedness, and general disingenuity.* (*though if the candidates return my dinner party invitation, more may soon be revealed).
Where to begin?
Consider our dear Papineau homeboy Justin Trudeau. Though the Liberal leader has revealed little of his culinary personality, he gains hipster points for slagging off Schwartz and holding his latest presser in a retro Québécois diner (the latest foodie cult object, if you didn’t know). Sadly, however, Mr. Trudeau’s hipster swag is severely undermined by the generic grilled salmon meal he cooked as part of the Win a Date with Justin Trudeau contest, promoted by such gems as the snapshot below:
Popular opinion, however, is firmly in Mr. Trudeau’s favour when it comes to the culinary. An Abacus poll ranked him Canadian’s top choice “to have over for dinner with your family (43%),” as well as to “cook the best meal (41%)”. (Incidentally, he also outranks cat-loving Harper in the animal category, voted “most trusted to look after your pet (40%)”).
What of Mr. Harper, our teetotalling incumbent, who once famously said, “I don’t drink, except when I do.” What be the gastronomical keys to his heart?
We’ve boiled long weeks of exhaustive research on this question down to a simple answer: they’re dictated by his PR team each day.
Mr. Harper’s ubiquity in culturally-capitalistic food photos is matched only by his ability to appear lifeless when caught by the lens. Harper’s habit of seeming photogenically disengaged is so widely known that regular citizens have dedicated blogs to the phenomenon.
One, called Things Harper Does to Seem Human, captures Harper’s utterly unnatural food moments —captioning them with faux-naturalistic brilliance: “Buying candy from a machine. Everyone needs something to munch on while doing a little shopping,” says one.
While a posed Yellowknife shot says, “Just chilling round the campfire. Eating dinner. Getting ready to sing Kumbaya.”
Keenly aware of his poor “normalcy” index, Mr. Harper’s PR team recently crafted a Twitter campaign dubbed #dayinthelife. Yet besides beefing up his already prolific set of cat photos, the campaign’s thick veneer only served to reinforce his lack of humanity further.
The PM eats some unspecified breakfast which is dominated by Stanley the cat. Near noon, the PM’s “working lunch” is mentioned, though glossed over using lingo from generic dietary trends du jour; the suggestion is that it’s something similar to broccoli and fish (how perfectly healthy).
There’s no mention of dinner.
Yet there is one thing thing of substance we do know about the PM’s eating patterns. It’s a big one, as antithetical to his stony public image as the perpetual selfies with kittens. Journalists and aides both corroborate that hot sauce is Mr. Harper’s serious vice. He is said to regularly request the spiciest version of any available food, to add jalapenos to his mother’s lasagna and possess a voluminous collection of deathly-hot sauces in his own kitchen.
If Harper is intent on ingesting all manner of PR-friendly goods (while secretly mainlining hot sauce late at night with Stanley), Thomas Mulcair is just as intent on abstaining altogether.
So-called “angry Tom” has been trying (to mixed reviews) to turn his frown upside down. Yet he remains mad as hell at his food.
All of it.
There is simply no evidence Mr. Mulcair eats. Or that he has ever eaten. Surely not on camera. Even the Maclean’s portrait of the candidate, perhaps the most intimate yet, offers only one fleeting reference to consumption. Mulcair downs some quick hot chocolate (no food)—only after a grizzly daylong trek through the snow.
Even food-themed photo ops suggest Mulcair’s disdain for ingestion.
Consider Obama, Trudeau or Layton. Each one can be seen wolfing down diner fare at their rural campaign stops. Though Mr. Mulcair uses similar resto backdrops, he hasn’t been seen so much as sipping a cup of joe.
Yet no one can accuse the industrious NDP head of slacking off in the kitchen. Even when he slaves away at the pizza oven, as at the Brampton pizzeria where he announced tax cuts to small businesses, Mr. Mulcair didn’t indulge in a single bite from his labours.
Then there’s those pre-Orange Wave photo ops alongside the eponymous Mr. Layton. Just take a look below. Genuine though his smile may be, Mr. Mulcair conspicuously refuses to share in the pleasure of the bite; meanwhile Mr. Layton is in obvious joy with the food in his hands.
The sum of our findings… if they’re findings at all?
At best they’re useless – and at worst they are grim. For either these candidates are ashamed of their true passions (a bad sign), or their eating habits are impossibly dull and unconscious (even worse).
Perhaps there’s one candidate who proves the exception to this culinary rule. In the fiery vegetarianism espoused by Elizabeth May we see her natural fit with party ideals, not to mention the genuine, seemingly enjoyable relationship to food.
She’s known to haunt several Ottawa restos, is loved by the waitstaff, speaks passionately about seafood in her home province of Nova Scotia (though it’s unclear if she ‘cheats’ on the veggie diet), discusses openly her recipes and food thoughts with journalists, and even shows off her unvarnished love for the kitchen on this cooking show.
Let’s be clear: this is far from an endorsement of May (or her diet). Though I can’t help be moved by a politician that actually eats, actually experiences food, rather than posing with it: after all, that’s what humans tend to do.
Although it may feel like our federal politicians have been in election mode for a few months, Canada’s 2015 Federal Election was only officially called this morning, August 2nd. That’s eleven weeks away from Monday, October 19th, election day, making it the longest federal election campaign in recent memory.
I already know who I’m voting for. While sometimes I choose None of the Above, this year I’m going Orange and voting for my local NDP candidate, mainly because I want to see C-51 repealed.
That doesn’t mean that everyone involved with Forget the Box or our readers feel the same way. That’s why we don’t do political endorsements from the editorial team as many media outlets do.
Instead, we ask our readers, contributors and editors to decide who gets an endorsement, which I will write up, whether the result is what I want or not. You get a vote – one vote – but, just as with real politics, you can also campaign by sharing this poll with your friends on social media who agree with you. Believe me, if my choice isn’t winning a few days before the election, I will.
So here it is: FTB’s 2015 Canadian Federal Election Poll:
Who do you plan on voting for in the 2015 Canadian Federal Election?
New Democratic Party (NDP) (51%, 137 Votes)
Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) (30%, 82 Votes)
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) (4%, 11 Votes)
Green Party of Canada (Green) (2%, 6 Votes)
Bloc Quebecois (BQ) (2%, 5 Votes)
Pirate Party of Canada (2%, 5 Votes)
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (1%, 4 Votes)
There's an Election? (1%, 4 Votes)
Communist Party of Canada (1%, 3 Votes)
Libertarian Party of Canada (1%, 3 Votes)
None of the Above (1%, 3 Votes)
Other (1%, 3 Votes)
Marijuana Party (1%, 2 Votes)
Forces et Démocratie (1%, 2 Votes)
Rhinoceros Party (0%, 1 Votes)
Non-affiliated Candidate (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 271
You can vote above or in the sidebar of every page on the site. The poll closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time the day before electips day. The results and the endorsement post will be published the following day as people are voting for real.
We included as many so-called fringe parties as we felt our readers may actually consider voting for. If you’re planning on voting for a registered party not listed, you can either check the “other” box or let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.
Pros and Cons
To get this started, I have compiled a list of the pros and cons of each political party as well as the None of the Above option. Now, what is considered pro and con is entirely subjective, but given the progressive bent of a large portion of our readership, these should pass the test. Honestly, it was kind of difficult coming up with “pros” for some parties, but I did it.
Please feel free to debate these pros and cons in the comments below and, of course, debate the election.
Here goes in the order they are currently polling in the major polling firms:
New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP)
Against C-51: The NDP is the only party with a decent expectation of forming government that not only voted against Bill C-51, Harper’s so-called anti-terrorism legislation, but promises to repeal it if elected.
MMIW Inquiry: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has promised an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on the first 100 days in office.
No Community Mailboxes: The NDP has promised to reverse Canada Post’s decision to end door-to-door mail delivery and replace it with community mailboxes.
Energy East: The federal NDP doesn’t have a clear policy on the proposed trans-national pipeline project. In fact, Alberta NDP leader and premier Rachel Notley is actively campaigning for it.
Gaza: It took the party’s grassroots occupying MP offices to get Mulcair to offer a balanced approach to Israel’s attack on Gaza last year. Also, Paul Manly was denied the chance to run for the party’s nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, BC, supposedly due to his father and former MP Jim Manly, being on the flotilla to Gaza.
The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
What You See is What You Get: If you’re happy with the last four years of federal policy, then you can expect more of the same with Harper & Co.
Protest Recruitment: If you think mobilization on the streets against the government is the only way to achieve social justice, then there is no better recruiting tool then Prime Minister Stephen Harper (though it may be more difficult now that C-51 is law).
Band on the Backburner: The silver lining of another Conservative majority is four more years of Harper only rolling out his musical chops on special occasions. He’s really terrible.
What You See is What You Get: Omnibus bills, fear, second-class citizens, bromance with Bibi, Duffy, fraud, community mailboxes, muzzling scientists, muzzling charities, the list goes on
Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)
420: Trudeau supports the legalization of weed for recreational use. It worked for Colorado, why not for Canada?
First Nations: The Liberals also support Nation to Nation talks with indigenous populations.
Experience: While the CPC love to mock the Liberal leader’s lack of experience, quite a few of the candidates have considerable government experience.
Voted for C-51: How can you be against something and vote for it? Also, only promised to change it, not repeal it.
Pipelines: The Liberals may also be unclear on Energy East, but their leader went down to Washington to pitch Keystone.
Bloc Quebecois (BQ)
Against Energy East: This may be a wedge issue against the NDP. The Bloc has released ads against the pipeline project and presumed Dipper support.
Gilles Duceppe: Although he got his political ass handed to him in 2011, Duceppe is a consumate, likeable and ultimately progressive politician.
Conservative Vote Splitter: Harper had hoped to make inroads in rural and suburban Quebec. Some of those right-leaning voters may also be nationalist and a viable Bloc may just make those Con inroads impossible.
Electoral Math: The Bloc cannot form government, the best they can hope for is opposition.
Mario Beaulieu: Before Duceppe took over, the Bloc was attacking the NDP from the right, releasing xenophobic ads and pushing a Marois-esque message. Despite changing gears, the Beaulieu faction is still around.
The Green Party of Canada
Democratic Reform: While not the only party pushing to get rid of the First-Past-The-Post system, the Greens have made it one of their core issues.
Against C-51: They were the first party to raise the alarm about Bill C-51.
Clean Energy & Green Transport: One of the main planks of their platform is investment in clean energy. Another is investment in green transport.
First-Past-The-Post: The electoral system which the Greens hope to reform could be the greatest impediment to them being able to pull off any real change after this election.
Policies Adopted by Other Parties: Most of the best ones have been.
None of the Above
Record Your Displeasure: If you really don’t like any of the options, then not voting for any of them by scratching your ballot means your displeasure will be heard. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Why vote for evil?
Broken Promises: Party platforms are not written in stone. Politicians break promises all the time, even major ones if they become impossible in the current system (cough, Greece, cough).
The State: If you are fundamentally opposed to the state and would like very much to get rid of it, it makes sense not to perpetuate it with an endorsement.
The State Exists: While the Canadian state still exists, the winner of the election will be able to form its policy. By voting None of the Above, your only recourse against the one of the above that wins may be the streets.
C-51: With Bill C-51 now law, it’s a helluva lot easier to be labelled as a terrorist. With Bill C-24 people with dual citizenship could be deported after being labelled a terrorist for doing something as simple as protesting an injustice. With these laws on the books, taking to the streets may be considerably more difficult. For some, repealing C-51 is an “at all costs” sort of thing and None of the Above isn’t an option this time.