Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today's Liberals Are Not My Father's Liberals

I was just reading a post over at Climbing Out Of The Dark, and in the comments section " "Mississauga Tom" told Hunter that 'today's Liberals are not your father's Liberals'. That really popped out at me because for as long as I can remember, my dad voted Liberal. It was always funny to me as a child and young teen because when an election came up, my dad would put up his Liberal sign and my mom would put up her PC sign. It made me laugh, not understanding much about politics at the time of course, and being involved in my own little world of teen-dom and not really caring to ask what the difference was. Now I kick myself in the butt over and over because I have NO IDEA why my dad voted Liberal. None. Zip. Nada. What I see going on today just doesn't mesh with how my dad raised me. My parents are both from very small towns in New Brunswick, but moved to Alberta in 1969.

My dad went out on his own in his mid-teens, then joined the army. He went on to Forestry School in NB and eventually landed a job in the Rockies out here. He was a VERY hard worker and did not accept aid for anything. He was never unemployed, we moved a few times to follow his job changes, and his last one was 16 years in a provincial park. When I was about 15, I wanted a new shirt from an expensive store and his response was that if I wanted it, I should go get a job lol. Same thing when I complained that they were buying me cheap jeans instead of Levi's - get a job. So I did. And I have worked ever since and never collected unemployment (unless you count the one time out of three kids that I took paid maternity leave). He complained about unions going overboard, he was a volunteer fire chief at the same time as working full time, he had a very strong work ethic. He did not like people getting free rides and wanted them to aspire to create their own wealth and make their own way in life. He was not in the Army that long, a few years but he still attended many Sapper Apprentice Reunions and one of his best friends was an army buddy living in BC and they visited when they could. So it's not like he joined the army and then hated what it stood for, he had the tattoos and still talked of his days in the army and I never heard a bad word about it (other than his ouch story of breaking his ankle in a parachute-jump-gone-wrong). As I got older, he encouraged ME to join the army, but I never did.

He donated to various things, and was a life long blood doner because he had Type-O, he volunteered for the Red Cross - but I remember when the 100 year flood was going to hit our city and he was p-d right off that people were not heeding the warnings and not preparing themselves. He was not impressed that so many were panicking at the last minute and expected everyone else to help them. We had warnings for 2 weeks that most ignored and he did not like that. In order to help them, he ended up stranded on the north side of the city when they had to close the bridges...he was not impressed. He did not walk around talking about social justice, increasing unemployment, increasing welfare, etc. He wanted people to get out on their own and pull up their own pants instead of expecting someone else to do it.

So I don't understand what he was so strong about when saying he voted Liberal. And I cannot ask him because he died at work in 1996. I was only 23 and was not interested in learning about politics. So I will never know what the deal was - what exactly it was about the liberal party that made him dislike the PCs so much. I wonder what he would think today because he would be 63 years old and would see his children doling out tax money left and right to countless programs and the country really struggling. What would he think of that, I wonder? But alas, I will never know what his true reasons were and if he really believed in what the party represents, or if things have changed since then.... ????

At his funeral we had countless calls for people wanting to give eulogies so we picked 3. All of them spoke of his drive to work, to bite the bullet and just get things done, how he inspired people to find strength in themselves to get out there and make their lives how they want it, his sense of humor (usually sarcastic and sometimes caustic lol), etc. Mostly about his strong work ethic and living his life by example. Three grown men crying while trying to read out their stories, reciting In Flander's Fields, gasping at some points while trying to make it through - but all about his strong work ethic. What gives? I have a letter from him that he wrote a couple months before he died, telling me that he has a quebec student working with him for the summer and making jokes about how he whines about hard work, doesn't know how to drive, etc lol. It was joking, but that's the kind of thing I heard all the time. He didn't want me to work at the park because he figured everyone else would think I only got the job because of him and he didn't want them resenting me and not seeing my true abilities. He knew I was smart and could do it and would love it, but he wanted me to make my OWN way by MYSELF. So this just does not mesh with what I see going on today and it confuses me to no end.


  1. This is a beautiful essay describing your Dad but you are right, his political affiliation did not jive with his life style. My guess would be that something resonated with him while he was down East and stuck. Either traditional, family voting patterns or habit.

    The Liberals have been moving away from your Dad's and your values for decades but especially moving West, specifically Alberta in 1969, one would think that the NEP would have been all he needed to switch teams.

    Despite any attempt to figure it, he was quite the Canadian and a great legacy to follow.

    I do think this is most certainly a problem for many Canadians that think they support the old Liberals but indeed support a memory.Unlike the Conservative movement that had courage and conviction to kick their party to the curb, today's Liberals stick with their poison and will drink any flavour of the koolaid.

  2. Thanks :)

    I think it is quite possibly a regional thing, where he grew up. But I think it also might be due to his conservationist and naturalist soul. Perhaps seeing the old times of factories and companies dumping crap into lakes and streams, heavier pollution, and himself directly involved with provincial and national parks in Alberta drove him away from anything smelling of 'capitalism'?? I dont know but that seems to fit. But I do not recall him talking about things like that. He had to help with a lake cleanup where many many birds and fish died, but it was a natural event, not from anything a big bad corportation did so who knows.

    He saved money for 20 years so he could make a downpayment on a house when our rent at the park got too high, and he owned two cars. He was remodeling the basement, he was a HUNTER (I watched him gut a deer in the backyard and what a fright that was lol). He often snuck down into the US with a buddy through a farmer's field (he allowed them lol) and would drive down to Tijuana for cheap stuff. About the only time I remember him talking openly about poorer people was after a mexico trip where he said you could put a quarter on your knee on the bus and a kid would come along and replace it with a chicklet (gum) and act like you just handed them gold. That seemed to make him sad but he didn't go into more detail about it. We did not live the high life by any measure of the scale, he only had one credit card when he passed away that had a $3000 limit. We didn't owe any money for anything other than the house which his insurance paid off. He made sure his family was taken care of, and that was that.

    So he was a hunting, fishing, hard working explorer who loved the outdoors, worked in the park but also hunted in the park, hung deer from the rafters in our garage, our neighbour was a taxidermist who put badgers and skunks in the deep freeze (another frightful discovery for me lol), but he also rescued a bat from an old house they burned down for fire practice and brought it home and made it a little home in a cardboard box to try to save it. I think he was a very mysterious multi-faceted man lol. Making deer sausage in the kitchen and then going out to check on his little bat (which passed away, sadly). He tried to hand feet it flies even, but then would go back to making his deer sausage with his own kill. Then go and vote Liberal. Me confused LOL.

  3. *hand feed the bat not hand feet whoopsy lol

  4. Bec is right about the NEP being all that was needed for an Alberta Liberal to change sides.
    I was a Quebec Liberal who moved to Fort McMurray in 1977 and when I left the city to move to Edmonton eleven years later I was very much a true blue Progressive Conservative.

    Mind you, when I left Edmonton some four years later I was a totally pissed-off PCer and was harbouring hope that the Reform Party would gain national acceptance.

    Your dad sounds a lot like mine. Liberal through and through but when he and my mother moved to McMurray to be closer to their children and grandchildren (my three sisters and I all left Quebec after the PQ took power) they too saw politics differently. The media shapes opinions and the Alberta media was not very kind to the Liberals.

    I think that when we were living in Quebec we voted Liberal primarily because a local 'boy made good' was our MP (and a Cabinet Minister) and he had a high profile in the community. He was always ready to go to bat for any of his constituents if one had a problem with the feds.

    Contrast that to my attempt some ten years ago to get a Liberal MP to stand up for me here in Ontario when I had a problem that I saw as decidedly unfair and his assistant called to tell me that it was my tough luck.
    I got the feeling that he felt I should have considered myself lucky that he called at all.

  5. One other comment, I also know very little about my what my mother and father were like as kids or through the war years and that had always saddened me.
    What I do now, and have done for twelve years, is keep a daily journal. Mostly boring day-to-day stuff but every few months I throw in a story from my younger days so that my kids will get an idea of what I was all about, and their mom too.
    Another reason I keep the journal is to settle any future arguments over who did the most housework as a kid or who was the least argumentative or whatever. My three sisters that I mention earlier have deluded themselves into believing that they did all of the supper dishes every night when we were growing up when I know very well that it was my chore and mine alone.

  6. that's a very good idea about the journal. I actually do scrapbooking and of course blogging, which may end up being around for many years if blogger survives, who knows lol. But I made pages about my dad, with stories, and pages about my youth, and I should do more that have much more detail in them so the kids have stuff to read. I do that because my dad was the photographer and hence he was usually BEHIND the camera, and not in the photos. so I don't have that many of him. But my kids won't have that problem, and I should follow your lead and extend it. A journal would be a great idea, no matter how mundane some entries might be, they would devour my words. I loved finding a few photos that my dad had scribbled on, just to see his handwriting if nothing else. At his old park I found some tree trunk slices from a Mountain Pine Beetle project where he had written the dates on them with his famous black pen so I took photos of those words to keep for the kids. It was a cool discovery. Finding a journal would be like finding treasure. I do have his scuba diving log book that is funny to read... so I need to leave more things like for my kids and grandkids.

    As for the Liberal times, my dad loved Trudeau. Like LOVED him. But I'm wondering if it was more about PET's 'in your face' attitude. Dad thought it was hilarious when he was giving everyone the finger in some speech I vaguely remember. But I've read several things over the years that Trudeau said and did doing those years, especially about the military, that I just don't understand. Why my dad put up with that guy and put him on a pedestal, I will never know. Maybe he liked his sarcasm or something lol. Beats me.

  7. I barely remember Diefenbaker from childhood, but he came across to me as a mean and nasty man. Now, that may be because at the time my uncle was a hero, and slated to be in the first squadron of Arrows.
    Pearson was bigger than life, and put Canada on the world stage.
    I think those two probably had a huge impact on forming peoples' political views in the 60's.
    I went to Ottawa to work in 73. I'd been a huge fan of Trudeau in University, but two things soured me for life on the liberals. The first was my superiors in the Civil service made a point of showing me a lot of the graft/questionable actions by the current liberal machine, and the second was knowing a very senior civil servant who enlightened me as to how Trudeau had changed an politically independent civil service into a branch of the liberal machine, a condition I think that still exists and is promoted by the libs today.

  8. My father is a diehard tory from Southern New Brunswick and wouldn't dream of voting for anything else. His sister on the other hand votes Liberal, following her husbands lead? Politics in New Brunswick is alot like religion. It's what you were born into. Or perhaps deeper, it almost seems genetic.

    My father had no problem supporting Joe Clark (a closet liberal) or now Stephen Harper.

    As Don Newman said of old time Politics in Ottawa and as still practiced in N.B. surely. It consisted of the INS and the OUTS. That is, the faces changed but policy remained the same. The new team just gets the opportunity to appoint their teams players.

    My father has complained to me about the former practice of everyone losing their government job when the benches switched. Something that would be illegal today.

    N.B. politics to me seems like an identity you carry within yourself, rather than an ideology you believe.

  9. Thanks for all the insight :) I guess I can think of the first time I voted in an election - I voted Liberal mainly because I assumed my dad knew more about politics than my mom did and didn't really think about it. It didn't help that the PC MLA for my area was a pompous arse and the Liberal guy seemed pretty friendly, but I just automatically put a check next to the Liberal candidate without having a single clue what he believed in or wanted for this province, my region, or the country. So I can see how many other people vote the way their families voted, and not even think about it.

    What's even more strange to me is my PC/Conservative mom. She was from a town of only 1000 and it heavily relied on the railway. Her father worked there for ages, her brother only just retired a year ago after over 50 years for CPR. Union through and through... but yet voting PC Conserve. My dad's family lived nearby in another tiny town, lived virtually the same lives (union jobs etc) but voted Liberal for the most part. It's just funny to me how they could be so different even though they came from families living mirror-image lives.

    NB is a funny place tho lol. I was there for the 200th birthday, and went to Loyalist Days in Saint John. Looking back, I had a lot of fun but now I think 'whoa wait a minute, what exactly was I helping to celebrate??' lol. I was only 12, I didn't know all the ins and outs of what happened between the british and the americans way back then. But I went there with family who at later times talked of how we should not be under 'the Queen' anymore and get her off our money,,, and then yet they attend Loyalist Days events. Ahem - who were they LOYAL to? Oh yeah - The Crown lol. It's just humorous to me now.

  10. Thanks for the link Kez! I have the same problem with my Dad, he is a die hard Trudeau Liberal just because he got a job with the DND as a firefighter. He worships Trudeau and does not realize that the party of Trudeau is dead. He's 82 now and will never change even though he is more Conservative then Liberal.

    I was raised with conservative values, like you were, so I was totally shocked when just a few years ago I found out my parents voted Liberal, I had always thought they were Conservative. They are Conservative in the world today, but they still think that Liberals are the classical liberals of years gone by.

  11. I suppose it's not much different than some people around here that I know who say they are conservative, vote accordingly, but then speak of supporting all sorts of social programs with our taxes, support tax hikes, want to keep our single-payer health care, etc. Perhaps being from Alberta, they automatically vote with the masses and don't really think about it. When you ask them what makes them a conservative, or what they think conservatism means, they don't really give an answer - just fumble their way through. Or some will regurgitate what they think the definition is, and not see how their other views don't match. What I find most is how they don't seem to understand that all of these programs are being supported with tax dollars, which are forced from each working person whether they like it or not. One recently said to me that he thinks alberta should continue with high royalties on the oil and gas companies because it's 'our land'. That we residents 'deserve' a piece of that pie because it's OUR land.

    I said 'okay well if this is OUR land, why do we have to pay property taxes on our homes? It's our land, us Albertans, so why pay tax on the land or risk losing our home if we don't?' He said we have to fund our municipal stuff, and then I said 'Did you invest money in the oil companies up north? did you help put millions or billions of dollars into the exploration, set up, drilling, trucking, or get in there with your own hands and help bring it all to the surface?'. He of course said no, so I said 'then why do you think you deserve a chunk of that money?'. I went on to say that by hiring people at these job sites, and then the people spend their money in Alberta, perhaps move to Alberta and buy homes, cars, food, etc we ARE getting a piece of that pie. Their tax dollars from the businesses and workers are going into the federal and provincial coffers to use for various programs, transportation, schools, healthcare, etc so are we not already getting something like a royalty from THAT?

    He did not have an answer for me. A simple yes or no would have sufficed, but he refused to say anything else. That confuses me just as much as my dad's voting pattern confuses me lol.

  12. Sounds like you had a pretty good upbringing from a fine man Kez. I actually never knew how my parents voted, no signs, but I can guess.

    We fled Quebec during the FLQ crisis, I know my parents dispised PET for declaring Martial Law that suspended civil Liberties. Brought too much to mind of those days during the war overseas where most of my family was from. Left a reallllllly bad taste in their mouths.



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