Tuesday night’s BC election was supposed to be an in-the-bag victory for the NDP. Instead, it turned into a cautionary tale of Canada’s altered political landscape.

Adrian Dix, BC New Democrat frontrunner, will perhaps go down in history as the suffocated canary who somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

According to Angus Reid, a forecast before the election showed New Democrats were the party of choice with 45% of decided voters and leaners. Liberals were in second with 36%. On Election Day, however, Liberals won 44.4% of the popular vote with the NDP trailing at 39.5%. This translated into Liberals winning 50 of BC’s 85 legislature seats ― an increase of five seats.

Unlike Quebec PQ premier Pauline Marois, Christie Clark’s supporters should not hail Clark as the Iron Lady of the West. Premier Clark failed to secure for herself a seat in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. An MLA elected in a Liberal stronghold will likely surrender their seat so the party leader can run in a by-election.

Liberal Premier Christy Clark first sworn in by Clerk of the House E. George MacMinn as BC’s 35 Premier on March 14, 2011.

Postmortem assessment will likely uncover ‘leadership’ as the underlying cause of the BC NDP losses. BC’s election may have had more to do with Dix’s incompetence than Clark’s popularity.

Polls definitely showed that while federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s popularity rose, Clark’s popularity declined. Neither her nor Dix inspired province-wide confidence.

Indeed, Clark’s only saving grace was her ability to stay on message as the only viable candidate to stabilize BC’s economic sector and create jobs. BC Conservative leader John Cummins, shared similar policies with Clark but ultimately, his skepticism about global warming proved incompatible with BC voters.

An effective strategy for Dix would have been to prime Northern Gateway and frame it as a political clash between BC’s populous left against its irreconcilable right. Dix did no service to the party by clouding his position on Northern Gateway with qualifiers while Clark had indicated willingness to do business with Alberta if the price was right. An uncoordinated effort to attack the right in cooperation with the Greens also proved devastating.

What happened  should give NDP brass in Ottawa pause. Party leader Tom Mulcair, who had openly campaigned for Dix and saw this election as a potential warm-up for the next federal campaign, has already pledged to apply the lessons learned here in 2015.

This result was also bad for Dix’s campaign manager Brian Topp, also Jack Layton’s former chief strategist, a member of the NDP old guard and last year’s federal NDP runner-up to Mulcair. Topp’s miscalculation shows signs that the Orange Wave is regressing. Its effect could prove fatal to the federal campaign.

mulcairBC’s election represents the largest NDP experiment since the 2013 Montreal convention rejected creating a provincial party in Quebec. It may soon be the NDP’s Spanish Civil War before World War II.

Clark’s negative attacks on Dix and Dix’s unwillingness to be nasty in return, shirking away from confrontation at the televised debate, proved lethal.

Is the negative attack strategy no longer just a Harper hallmark, but a matter of political survival? Canadian politics may have not only shifted further into negative campaigning, but proved it is here to stay.

New Democrats may have to commit sacrilege against their fallen hero whose dying breath was of love being better than anger and optimism being better than despair if they want to win in 2015.

Liberals always seem to squirm a little bit when questions of religious freedom come into conflict with other rights that they cherish (i.e. gender equality), the way they did last week when the British Colombia Supreme Court handed down its epic reference on the legality of polygamy in Canada. I suppose the situation is bound to cause some cognitive dissonance in those of us who generally support multiculturalism and the bedrock civil and political rights that, for the most part, are reflected in our Charter of rights and freedoms.

Certainly freedom of religion is not a right that should be curbed by the state lightly. Yet, as is the case with so many monumental legal battles, the courts are almost always called upon to engage in a balancing of different competing rights. And, as is the case more often than not, the judges, at least where the Charter is concerned, seem to have gotten it right this time.

First of all, let’s examine the key facts of the reference. The provincial government of British Columbia basically posed the following question to the court: Is section 293 of the criminal code, which prohibits polygamy, compatible with article 2(a), which provides for freedom of religion under the Charter?

Allow me to cut to the chase here: Yes. However, the reasons elaborated by the court deserve a slightly more profound analysis, and involve one of the most extensive studies ever undertaken in a court of law on the subject of marriage.

Children playing in the Polygamist Mormon community of Bountiful, BC

At issue here was the practice of a rather obscure little Mormon sect of Bountiful nestled in the heart of interior BC. They call themselves The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they are as God fearing and backward as their name would suggest.

For those who might be tempted to sympathize with this group, may I point out the cynicism with which they and other religious organizations often use such human rights cases. By this I mean, does anyone actually believe, even for a second, that these people who conveniently hide behind the protection given them by modern, secular, liberal and democratic laws, actually subscribe to any of them in their daily lives?Or do they respect only one law in their personal lives: God’s? Not to mention, they boycotted the whole proceedings and thus the court was forced to appoint an Amicus Curia (friend of the court) to speak on their behalf.

No matter, Judge Bauman had a field day in his incredibly detailed opinion. According to the judge, this is the first time in Canada’s history that a trial court, as opposed to an appellate court, was able to hear a reference case. Apparently this unusual preference by the government was on account of its desire to submit evidence (as a rule, appellate courts do not allow any new evidence to be heard in court) in the case.

What kind of evidence, you ask? The judge began with examining the origins of monogamy in western civilization, all the way back to the olden times of Plato and Julius Caesar, and finished with a history of polygamy in Canada, all the way up to modern times. Little wonder this opinion required 335 pages!

But much of this was contextual and the final opinion rendered was largely based on the notion of harm and how, in this instance, it could effectively limit a person’s freedom of religion under the Charter. The judge employed the reasonableness test in article one and deemed that it saved the legal measures in the criminal code outlawing polygamy.

Though the provision offends the right to practice ones religion under the Charter, such a restriction was, in the language of article 1, “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” because of “Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.” These well-documented harms include, poverty, neglect and physical and emotional abuse suffered by both women and children who find themselves trapped in such families.

This case is based on sound reasoning, exhaustive empirical research and all manner of expert witnesses who testified to the court. I encourage anyone who is looking for an opinion on how modern complex liberal democracies should strike the correct balance between fundamental human rights and the common good of society, to at least browse the opinion.

Hats off to Judge Bauman on this legal tour de force!!!

* Images: timeslive.co.za, mercatornet.com, canada.com

Last Friday in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that prohibiting Insite, the safe injection clinic, to operate under an exemption from drug laws would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the ruling said “Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation.” The SCOC ordered the federal minister of health  Leona Aglukkaq to grant an immediate exemption to allow Insite to operate.

The court said similarly that if Insite wasn’t allowed to operate, it would prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered at the facility, threatening their health and their lives. The bottom line: to deny access to Insite is to deny access to health care. The ruling paves the way for more safe injection clinics to open up across the country without the fear of clients and staff being arrested.

The ruling comes as a slap in the face to Prime Minister Harper and his anti-crime agenda. The Conservative government has been trying to shut the site down since it came to power five years ago. Aglukkaq said Friday that the government’s investments are targeted at prevention and treatment, but that fact runs contrary to the Conservatives’ crime bill that would introduce tough new laws for simple possession.

If Harper and his Conservative Government were actually committed to prevention and treatment they should have supported clinics like Insite from the get go. In Insite’s surrounding neighborhoods during its eight years of operation, addicts that have started seeking treatment have gone up 30%. It is far more altruistic and cost effective to treat those trying to quit than to lock them up and throw away the key.

Regardless of what people’s opinion might be on the treatment of drug addicts, the Supreme Court made it quite clear that the main issue was safety. In Canada, healthcare is considered by most to be a basic human right; therefore the government (provincial and federal) should be compelled not only to support safe injection clinics, but to help fund them as well.

Inside Insite

Over the past eight years, Insite nurses have overseen more than a million safe injections resulting in 1400 overdoses, but not one user has died as a result. What cost can you put on fourteen hundred lives? According to Health Canada, Insite costs about $3 million annually to operate or $14.00 per visit. 80% of visitors go for safe injections and 20% for counseling.

If you think $3 million dollars a year is excessive, consider this; according to the US National Library of Medicine, if Insite were closed, the annual number of incident HIV infections among Vancouver IDUs would be expected to increase from 179.3 to 262.8. These 83.5 preventable infections are associated with $17.6 million in life-time HIV-related medical care costs, greatly exceeding Insite’s operating costs.

To summarize; safe injection sites save lives, saves money, reduces the spread of disease, keeps the streets cleaner and helps those who are trying to quit. How could any God fearing conservative be opposed to such an economic and ethical cause as Insite? I’m at least pleased to see that the Supreme Court of Canada can still put logic in front of ideology, unlike some of our politicians.

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The lights of life seem to shine most brilliantly when they illuminate adventure. Don Quixote, man of La Mancha, is a man who is fed up with the cheap track lighting of reality. He seeks the bright big time lights of knight errantry. A world he discovers through total immersion in the realm of renaissance literature. Who’s to say if he has what it takes? Does it take the man or his mind to make a knight errant?

The show opens sparsely with Don Quixote (played fantastically by Peter Anderson) at his home switching speedily from book to book, never letting the audience see his face. Once he shows it to the audience it is strangely beautiful, a mixture of man and his mask. It seems to scream of missed opportunities and missed news. A man under too many pressures awakes to find a world ripe for the taking. He grabs the armor of his great, great, great, great grandfather, straps it on and sets out.

Quickly realizing a knight errant needs a squire, he teams up with Sancho Panza, who is plagued with a wife who resembles the blunt end of a garden hose and 6 young children Sancho is only too happy to abandon. Their first fight finds them in an inn (mistaken to be a castle), where they fight with peasants and through an odd turn of events ends in Don Quixote being knighted by the inn keeper. Their second adventure pits them against the famous windmills he takes to be giants. The brilliant and giant windmill drops down from stage right fantastically. (Windmill and set design by David Roberts) Don Quixote, in midst of a song, sings his way towards it and jumps on the windmill. He draws his sword, fighting the windmill who he believes to be a giant. The windmill turns, taking him up to the ceiling, along its arm and once the smoke clears, back down to the floor. The windmill is the most impressive stage prop in the whole show and the company definitely uses it to its full advantage. No giant can contain him.

Michel Perron & Peter Anderson. Photo by David Cooper

Having a few battles behind him he decides he needs a woman. He remembers a neighboring farm girl, Aldonza Lorenzo, and claims her as his lady love, the Dulcinea del Toboso. Now with a muse, squire and a few fights behind him, he seeks a challenge worthy of a knight. He soon fights a barber and his son who kick his ass after he slays all there sheep believing them to be worthy adversaries. He gets caught and thrown in prison.

Act two opens and he breaks free thanks to a beautifully positioned escape rope. He gets sucked into a royal party once he is recognized. Understanding that his exploits have now been written about, it puffs him up and his ego blinds him to the fact that his hosts are making fun of him (a la Diner de Cons). His last battle is a real battle, one deemed worthy of a knight errant. He is blindfolded at the dinner, placed on horseback and fighting gallantly against the Knight of the Mirrors he loses, maybe because of a loose saddle, maybe not. The fight is a beautiful slow motion scene which stands to be reviled this year on stage. His final battle leaves him a broken, dejected and defeated man. He returns to his homestead in La Mancha and dies with dignity, a knight returned from his adventures, in a real bed.

The play was a brilliant one. Directed by Roy Surette, and written for the stage by Colin Heath and Peter Anderson it took a new take on an old story. It was composed and produced by the Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company a co-production with the Axis Theatre Company, both from Vancouver. The lighting schemes together with the original props created a gorgeous, surreal situation unmatched this year in English language theatre. And finally, the masks designed by Melody Anderson were used to their fullest potential, and gave this familiar story a unique twist. The masks really allowed the actors to integrate themselves into the fantastical situations in which they were engulfed. Cheers on a great production.

4 stars baby!

Tomorrow Canadians, Americans and citizens from around the world will take to the streets against our Conservative government’s decision to have Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery extradited to the United States where he will be jailed. Rallies are even being planned in Berlin Germany, Auckland New Zealand and Lapu-Lapu in the Phillipines.

Marc Scott Emery: Successful Businessman. Marijuana Activist. Former Vancouver Mayoral Candidate. Disgraced US Prisoner? MarcEmery.ca

Whichever side of the marijuana legalization debate one falls under, we should all realize that Marc Emery has broken the law.   The problem here is that Marc is facing jail time under foreign laws in a foreign country for crimes he committed at home, here in Canada.

Apparently requests for punishment from United States government agencies have now succeeded in usurping Canadian law.   Granted Marc has pled down his sentence from a possibility of life imprisonment down to five years, he has still not been punished for these specific crimes in Canada.

Back in the day, Marc Emery opened a book store in Vancouver.   He had an entrepreneurial spirit which is what Canada and the United States are supposed to be all about and kept using his entrepreneurial spirit his whole life.

Along the way, Marc Emery developed a very keen liking of the marijuana plant.   He used our global capitalist system to develop a business selling marijuana seeds over the internet and through the mail to all over the world.   This is the very system that the neocons in Washington and Ottawa developed to expand our economy.

Marc Emery of course has helped expand the Canadian marijuana economy a great deal.   This has pumped countless dollars into the Canadian economy even before we count illegal activities such as sale of actual marijuana.

When things started getting big, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stepped in. Their decision to pursue Marc for having the seeds he sold into the US has now reached its pinnacle.

Marc is of course by no means a drug dealer.   Seeds are considered by most law systems to be different than actual pot.   In Canad,a if he was charged with these offenses he would have been likely made to pay a fine.

It is also important to note that Mr. Emery declared his income from his businesses and paid taxes on this income.   This is possibly millions of dollars he contributed to the Canadian government for our common good. And our government has decided to ignore this and hand Marc over.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson signed Marc’s extradition papers last week.   Since then he has had to have his home telephone number re-routed to police after that number was leaked onto the internet and he was inundated with calls from angry Canadians.   And so be it. What business does the DEA have policing Canada with their American laws, and our national justice minister not only allowing this but being complicit in it?

According to the marijuana activists Emery is associated with, the DEA is trying to shut him down because he has done so much for the movement to have marijuana legalized.   In fact many of the police raids against Marc and other Vancouver pot-friendly businesses were only carried out due to requests and pressure from the DEA.   Looking back ten to twenty years, head shops, selling of seeds and marijuana-devoted magazines would have still been considered rarities by the establishment.

While Marc Emery, saint to some and pest to others, may be a law-breaker, he is not a dangerous man to any person and is actually a very charismatic leader in his own right.   I’ve seen him giving talks and in documentaries and he does bring up some important points even without a joint in his hands.   Whether or not we should disobey unjust laws, I’ll leave to another debate.

The main conclusion I can reach from all of this is that vocal opposition to Conservative policies and values may put one at risk of deportation from Canada and jail time in foreign countries in accordance with foreign laws.   This is not the Canada I think any Canadian wants to live in.

In Canada we have a legal system that is clearly explained in writing and laws that are available on public record.   Yet the Conservatives in Ottawa seem to have proven here they would rather pamper to special interests and requests from foreign government agencies and allow them to police our country with their laws.

By the way, you can find your local rally and links to more information at http://freemarc.ca/group/freemarcca/free-marc-emery-world-wide-rally.

Salt Spring Island a place that can fit in the palm of your hand but so vast with interesting characters that have a good thing going and live life on their terms.   People intertwined with nature on their island home and not only aware of the possibilities the universe has to offer but tuning in making the world around them a better place.

Not just nice scenery, but a real scene: Salt Spring Island

Here are but a few of SSI’s bright and shining. In this article I will give you but a bite in a pie that is growing everyday as people flock here from all over the world.   From street people generous enough to give us free beer just because we talked to them for a few minutes, to legends that just came here to slow down or retire.

David Stone, a hair dresser who writes movie scripts living on his boat, has been here for seven years only intending to be on SSI for two.   He fell in love with the place and decided that he would postpone his departure but as you will see in this article it is a normal story here on SSI.

Julia Ducharme Nuffer moved from Quebec a few years ago because her whole family moved to SSI.   Coming from a background in music, circus, performance arts and a fire spinner, Julia can often be found at various parks on SSI singing, playing various instruments or spinning fire, always trying to perfect her art.   She also makes jewelry and sells it at the famous SSI Saturday Market.   Always surrounding herself with creative people trying to make a difference in some way, shape or form.

Which brings me to her partner Randy Lavigne, political activist and a man trying to wrap his head around making things move instead of just discussions around a table.   He has spoken against the system and lead people to take action against their government and make a difference.   His fight has brought him up against the Quebec, Alberta and now BC is going to hear about this young man.

Daryl Chonka: one of the many artists who call Salt Spring Island home

Daryl Chonka from Brandon Manitoba, a musician internationally known for his original blend of world and folk music, not to mention the albums being recorded in his studio overlooking the ocean here on SSI including Oona McOuat, Lane 31, Stephanie Rhodes.   He has worked with the likes of Valdy, Bill Henderson and renown Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzing Tsewang who also lived on SSI until Aug 13th 2006 where he moved on from this life. (R.I.P)

A few of Daryl’s productions have been recorded at his studio Old Growth Music and have been mastered at The Barn, Randy Bachman’s studio.   From what is spread through the grapevine here whether you are working with him or just hanging out Daryl is just a real easy going good guy.

What list of SSI Talent would be complete without mentioning Randy Bachman and his recording studio called The Barn.   Randy Bachman, the man behind The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and countless other credits moved to SSI and opened The Barn.

Randy Bachman now takes care of business at his studio The Barn on Salt Spring Island

With top notch gear and a collection of over 400 guitars, there are great sounds coming out of The Barn but with Randy would you expect it any other way?   A multi award winner, Randy Bachman, now officer of the order of Canada, the highest civilian award given in Canada, has gold records and a track record a mile long.   If you don’t know Randy Bachman you are probably not North American, because everybody and their grandmothers know “Taking Care Of Business”

Robert Bateman, born in Toronto, world reputed artist and conservationist that has worked on countless books, films and of course paintings, lives on SSI which would explain his love for painting birds and wildlife.   As on SSI, there are over 90 species of birds not to mention seeing wildlife on a daily basis his keen eye and steady hand have produced many fine pieces of art. With paintings in the collections of royalty along with honorary memberships and awards that are too numerous to count, inspiration runs high on SSI as you are beginning to see.

Harry Warner well known Irish folk musician, performance artist, political activist and farmer, also came here looking for the right environment and now is known as one that helps the less fortunate traveler and rents to them make shift cabins which are much appreciated thanks to their low price.   Harry is a legend in these parts known as the anarchist musical farmer that helps and votes most often for the underdog.

Everywhere here there are souls who strive for more but more not in a sense having more material items but more in a sense of living their art and politics at a more local level, defining their own definitions of success and living their own dreams in a happy place.   Don’t get me wrong, there are multimillion dollar homes in the North end and retreats being built for Japanese business men, the Island is growing in population and is growing with millionaires and big money.

The north grows and the south creates: map of Salt Spring Island

They say that the artistic community lives in the South end of the island with the farmers and most of the artists grow their own food anyway, as the North grows the south creates.   These are but a few of the characters you will meet in the following months by reading SSI Artist & Activist Adventures!   Some of the people you just read about will be featured with interview excerpts not to mention more of the unique characters here that have been drawn by the call of Salt Spring Island.

From the West coast Mundafar bids you farewell and says, “Come on down if you need some inspiration”

This is the first in a series of articles that will be published bimonthly to let everyone in on one of Canada’s best kept secrets, “Salt Spring Island” aka: SSI. SSI is a cornucopia of great artistic talent from all over the world. People flock to SSI from the far reaches of the planet, find paradise and never want to leave.

So far during my stay I have met many musicians, film producers, painters, pottery makers, glass blowers, sculptors, clothing designers, fire spinners, circus performers and the list goes on and on.

Fulford Bay – By Mundafar Lussier

The one thing that makes this place special is that almost everyone is on the same page when it comes to sustainable and ecological living and most importantly what we can do individually and as a group to make it a better cleaner world to live in.

There are over ten top notch recording studios here for people looking to record their music in the peace & quiet of SSI and want to be in a friendly help your neighbor atmosphere while they work on making a living out of   what they love to do. With the likes of Randy Bachman (from the famous Canadian band BTO) making SSI his home base and building his own studio and Oprah saying it is one of the most beautiful places she had ever been, SSI in the past few years has become a place not only known because of its artistic and organic agricultural community but for the likes of the rich and famous coming by and falling in love. Much of SSI has been bought up by rich outsiders but it has still been able to retain its sense of uniqueness and thrives on local businesses making a good living seasonally.

This summer a local musical landmark gets resurrected with new owners and a new staff ready to try to bring back the Fulford Inn to its former self. This has always been the place where people go to see a live show in the south end of the island.

I Mundafar Lussier am now in charge of booking all the events and entertainment at the Fulford Inn, so if you are part of a rock solid project and want to play at the Inn just contact me through my website. We really want to get top notch entertainment and get the Fulford Inn back on the map.

Fulford Inn
The Fulford Inn

As a Writer/Musician meeting many people along my travels is part of the job and especially part of the excitement. SSI has an affect on people here that tries to ground you with the earth and the artist inside you trying to emerge from the shadows into a world that needs artists who care about much more than their wallets. Its a local community that really supports each other and the old “word of mouth” and personal connections still are King here.

In the summertime the population doubles due to tourism and everyone instinctively works together with a smile and it permeates through the whole island as everyone gets ready for another busy summer in paradise. One thing is sure: as the weeks pass the artistic community starts to become alive again after a long winter of preparing like our ancestors have done. Honing our skills, creating our art and planning their next steps towards a positive creative year ahead.

The flowers are blooming, the sailors are smiling, the farmers are getting gardens prepared and planted for the season to come. The SSI local farmers market has opened officially which brings people to SSI from all the surrounding areas, a market filled with not just great local food but great local artisans trying to make a simple living selling their hand made goods from jewelry, to cloths, to woodworking and more not to mention musicians bringing music to the streets!

So if you’re on the West Coast this year come on down to Salt Spring Island on Canada’s Pacific to discover a world of artists that care and need your support. Be sure to check my bimonthly article called SSI Artist & Activist Adventures.