Walking on broken glass

Today, is a week later….

The week after an election.

The week after months of stress and turmoil.

The week after we were supposed to see this amazing movement change the political landscape in Nova Scotia forever.

The week after the same government we have complained about for 3 years, took another majority at the polls.

And my feet hurt. As do my heart, my pride in this province and many other things.

In February 2017, the birth of a broken glass voter movement started taking shape in this province. It was a reaction to months of labour disputes that illuminated big troubles in our education system, our health care system and opened the doors for deeper observation in what is obviously a corrupt and broken government. This broken glass movement was supposed to respond to the fact that our province was in trouble. Our seniors did not have the care they deserved, our hospitals are crumbling down around our sick. Our future leaders were not getting to where they needed to be in our schools, to break through and lead, nurse, teach and create for our future generations. Money was flowing into all the wrong places. We were supposed to pick the best choice in each riding who could take out every last Liberal MLA, and make sure none of them saw another tax payer funded paycheque.

But that did not happen.

Sure, there were a few seats lost. And there were some tight and stressful close calls. But the Liberal Government maintained a majority and will continue to govern the way they wish for another 4 or 5 years.

Why?

The first observation I can make, is that while every riding consists of  12,000 to 20,000 eligible voters, the group pages were only small percentages of those totals. Ours, was 644 out of just under 15,000 total. The main page was around 4,400 members, there are 748,633 eligible voters in the province. So when you only see .6% of the whole population taking part in the broader cause, you are bound to be misled by what activity there is.

My second observation is the selection process. Who does each riding get behind? Speaking about our own riding, the candidate of choice was decided without input from anyone except a junior high teacher, his friends and the party of choice. All the other groups and concerns were left out. So it should be no surprise that when the candidate of choice turns his back on most folks, and since there had never been any real opportunity to commit freely to a choice candidate, those other groups said, “No thanks.” When the candidate had cited to me inappropriate and incredibly xenophobic opinions, presented as knowledge garnered from his career in the RCMP, there was no way in hell I was giving him my vote. His environmental stance was disturbing and beyond misinformed. But this other junk he spewed about our First Nations people? It hurt. It made me angry. I felt his hatred.

When I tried to speak out about my concerns, I was ignored. Then I was attacked on a level like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was never so disappointed in anything, as I was in the ability for complete strangers who, in many cases, knew neither myself nor the candidate, who could from afar, due to nothing more than party allegiance, determine my worth in the world. I was told I was disgusting and a low life. Called a liar. On and on. Revenge was promised. Others were attacked for sharing my story. It was an ugly and destitute statement as to who supported this man. He threatened me and a webmaster with legal action, and while I never received the official letter from his lawyer, it took a few days to get my own legal advice, and so my quiet observance in the meantime, was mischaracterized as a retraction. I was reading and crying over the false and hurtful things being written about me, and I was walking on broken glass in my own neighborhood, where it appeared the candidate and his team were lurking, placing signs without permission while no one was looking, trying to send some kind of message, but really just appearing antagonistic and menacing.

A junior high teacher, a guidance councillor actually, who was front line supporting this man, had met me only weeks before the election was called, only ever spoke to me once in person, but he determined that he could speak for my ethics and motives and slammed and berated me, sent me messages to let me know I was going to regret this. He didn’t seem to remember that he had had an opportunity to help fix this before hand as he was one of a number of people I related this story to earlier, and in his written threats admitted he didn’t care about anything but beating the incumbent. It was twisted and sickening. An unhealthy obsession. I heard from many people about their own experiences and concerns. My disclosure was not news to many, nor was it the most severe of allegations that eventually were shared in closed circles. But this junior high teacher was leading the charge against me, to ensure his guy would topple his arch enemy. That certainly didn’t help make people like the candidate more. Within the BGV group, if anyone dared speak about the reasons why they were not in favour of the candidate, they were attacked in fine social media form. Many gave up trying to express themselves to keep their sanity.

I don’t regret speaking out. I stand behind my words. And I will continue to do so. While I expect I am the target for blame in the candidate’s failure to win the seat, I and many others were relieved he lost. Relieved even though it means the government will continue to roll over us for a few more years. Most people have been quiet on the issue, even maybe gracious when they spoke out about disappointment on that morning after, but along came the guidance councillor and spewed hatred and cursing on the anonymous numbers of people who screwed him over, and yes, that is exactly how it was presented. Screwed him over. He ranted and railed over the split vote. Several people spoke up and told him, they voted for their choice, as was their right, and stated in some cases, he and his behaviour toward others may have been part of the reason the seat was not taken. Others, were thinking the same way I was. This guy is a junior high guidance councillor, and this is how he talks to people? Dear God, that is a major concern.

So the day after the election, when the BGV movement had failed, as some say, the finger pointing began. The politically loyal don’t admit that they really didn’t care about the teachers, or the health care system, nor did they care about the environment. They got on the band wagon because they were party loyal. The Liberal loyal never were part of the movement, so we don’t know how many of them there were and how we could ever beat them. And there are those who played both sides of the fence so no one would really know who they were rooting for, while others were so psychologically opposed to discuss options, every question was met with a barrage of insults, name calling and rhetoric. And those opposed to hearing all sides because of their preferred party, were consistent in their accusations about anyone who differed in opinion not being a real BGV. In hindsight, it was juvenile.

For this particular voter, I simply wasn’t willing to sell my soul. At first Anything But Liberal (ABL) was sufficient, but it soon swirled into attacks and hate-filled diatribes when anyone felt they had something to say. I was able to recognize the local Liberal incumbent was still a human being, and I did not like the way he was being treated by some members of the BGV group. Anger is one thing, but it was a full on character assassination and was going way beyond the point. While the party leader and his inner circle were obviously at odds with multiple groups across the province, not everyone felt the loathing was justified at the full on level of intolerance being displayed. And not everyone felt they owed it to the teachers to do as they (or in reality a self-appointed spokesperson) demanded. We still cared about the local quarry fight, we still cared about the track record of the party leader and his roots. We still had trepidation about the environmental concerns all over the province. And while all agreed the Liberals had to go, I was not able to put my “x” next the name of a man who was so obviously ready to turn his back on his obligations to the indigenous people of this province that he would mis-characterize their plights. I wasn’t doing it. And I was also not willing to treat a kind and quiet man, who just simply wasn’t a strong voice, in such a vicious and hateful manner. He had always been kind to me and my family from the day we first met him, long before he was ever elected. While I never voted for him, I did not treat him any differently than I would anyone else who I met in my community. Making memes and playing recordings of the incumbents to provide evidence of their failings or make fun of them, especially those who were deceitful and dishonorable is one thing, but the obsession in this riding was over the top. He was surrounded in his own home by nasty and angry neighbors, who never shied away from boasting about the revenge they sought. Many mornings, he would wake up to the sign on his own property, damaged and needing some small fix.

This one teacher, or guidance councillor, the incumbents very own neighbor, was quite vocal and quite charged in his loathing of anyone who did not do as they were told, essentially. He cursed us all the morning after the election. And I am waiting for his revenge on me, promised on behalf of every teacher and their supporters by this angry, vengeful and self-serving character. It strikes me as ironic. The demand for everyone to toe the line, or suffer abuses and attacks….. because “we” were supposed to get rid of the fellow… who had toed the line.

This weekend I attended a Peace and Friendship meeting, with members of various communities around Nova Scotia, and specifically members of Sipekne’katik First Nation. I have been coming to these meetings for over a year now. They are fighting for the Shubenacadie River, and are trying to stop Alton Gas. They are fighting for their treaty rights and for the water, the fish and the environment. But in that room, there was one woman who told us the river was her lifeline in a lifetime of hurt. Her story, sacred to the circle, is not unfamiliar to other grassroots grandmothers and their families. Family history, residential schools and deeper pain caused by things out of her control, the river was her safe haven, where the moving waters carried her through desperation and tragedies. And it was in that moment, that I knew this effort I had made to speak out, to stop further harm, was not over. This world is bigger than me or my neighbors, and it is certainly bigger than getting even with an elected official who didn’t actually do anything evil.

As we talked about my experience at the meeting, I was filled with a sense of grief. I told my story. And the room was alive with acknowledgements that my experience was not really news to them, but they truly appreciated my speaking out. They knew I told the truth, because they have lived with these types of stories. They have been victims to these ideas and shame and abuses all of their lives. They have been and will be criminalized for protecting the water, the rivers, the land. They will be characterized as everything bad, for simply caring about the health and well-being of all of us. Yes, all of us.

The election became, for many of us, a countdown to being over rather than being a change. We didn’t see the polls really providing true hope for change, and we knew that the PC Party was not going to be the answer to making our province a truly healthier and more vibrant place. We knew the NDP were promising much of what we needed, but there was an inexplicable shadow of unforgiving and disgust over one prior term served by the party, where most of their good was overshadowed by an irrational sense of single mindedness about the bad or insufficient. 4 years out of 150 cannot, and must not bind us forever in the back and forth between two parties who have engage in nepotism, collusion and corruption, benefiting the very few rather than the greater good. For me, fairly early on, my hope became to create a minority government, that I hoped did not include the local PC candidate. My actions did not benefit me, but rather the greater population, as it was an action of informing. It made my life incredibly difficult, and sad, and perhaps lonelier in the moment, but I am enriched by the fact that my voice was heard. Enriched by the fact that I told the truth, and did right by members of my society who deserve and need our support, respect and an unbiased willingness to lift them up rather than break them down, just as we should and would do for our own family and friends.

Telling the truth and speaking out is a right and an obligation. I and many others reached out to the PC party and its leader, to try to get through to them that this candidate was not what we needed or wanted as representation in this province. We were clear about the fact that my story was true, and this was not going to change or go away and now none of us will ever vote for the party that chose a maliciously flawed and arrogant man over the population of this province. The leader chose to ignore the biases and unacceptable disparagement of the First Nations people in Canada, and a person who had spoken nothing but the truth and in doing so in my eyes he has proven he is not a suitable leader in this province or anywhere in the country. I will work hard to enlighten people in the future about the position this party has taken, by turning a deaf ear to those crying out about this abhorrent behaviour, and I know I am not alone in this next part of the journey.

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