Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why I Might Vote Liberal This Election

It's been four years since Canada's last federal election. Four years in which Katya and I were apart while we waited for her visa, I lived in Halifax and then moved to Victoria and started working on boats at sea. Four years since I blew my knee out on a boat and then brought Katya to Canada.

Back then, in 2011, Prime-Minister Stephen Harper won his third election and the Conservative Party of Canada destroyed the long-ruling Liberal Party for the first time in Canada's history while the New Democratic Party became the Official Opposition for the first time in its history.

It's been a long four years. Now we have another election on our hands.

Because Katya doesn't have citizenship yet, she's not eligible to vote, which means the vote I cast this year will be on behalf of Katya, Maxim and I. We have weighed the options carefully and as it stands right now both Katya and I are coming out on the side of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, and here's why:

For a while I wasn't sure who to vote for. I'm not one of those rabid anti-Harper left-wing loonies who thinks that as soon as Harper is gone all my problems will vanish and rainbows will shoot out of my nose. There are some things I respect and admire about the guy and some of his policies have been good.

He managed the Canadian economy, especially the banks, rather well during the world financial collapse of 2007-2008. As an educated economist and natural leader he knows where he stands and he doesn't put up with bull. He's also an incredibly savvy political scrapper and brought down the greatest political party in Canada almost single-handedly. Despite the rhetoric from the "hate Harper" brigades, he has governed pretty much from the middle much like Jean Chretien before him.

On the other hand, there are the underhanded scandals including attempts at election fraud during the last election. There are the Senate scandals with millions being pilfered by Conservative Senators and the Prime-Minister's Office attempting to cover it up. There's the secret trade deal with China that was somehow signed but never ratified by Parliament. Then there's the current miserable state of Canada's economy, with a stagnant market going into recession, unaffordable housing prices and more people out of work now than anywhere else in the G7. These are signs of bad decisions at the top.

Tom Mulcair and the NDP are historically the home of the Harper-Hate Bandwagon. The NDP is Canada's democratic-socialist party which is normally modeled after northern European parties of similar bent. It's the party of big unions, soft Marxists, progressives and social justice warriors. Under the late Jack Layton they surged on a wave of popularity dubbed the "Orange Crush" and won the second most seats in Parliament, forming the official opposition. After "Friendly Jack" passed away, "Angry" Tom Mulcair was elected the party leader.

Their plan to cut small business taxes, bring in a national affordable child care strategy and increase the federal minimum wage to $15 all sounds nice, and Mulcair definitely has a charming and enigmatic personality. In fact, of the three main contenders in this election, I think Mulcair the man would make the best Prime-Minister. He's politically savvy and experienced and not afraid to scrap. He's well-spoken and intelligent and has that lust for power that a Prime-Minister requires. He is, in short, another politician.

That's what I don't like about Tom Mulcair. I don't trust him. He used to be a Liberal cabinet minister in Quebec, then tried to join the Conservatives when they were surging, and then settled on the NDP. His plan for Canada, although nice-sounding, is basically the same as Harper's: a bunch of boutique goodies to woo voters with no real substance and no real concrete plan to fix the problems Canada is facing.

Then there's the rabid left-wing loony bin side of the NDP. Tom Mulcair's personal chief of staff told the Pope to "F**k off!" in a public tweet. The NDP candidate for a Toronto riding blogged that Canadian World War 2 veterans were "bourgeouis, rapist scum fighting other bourgeouis, rapist scum.". The NDP candidate for my own riding here in Guelph put a meme on his Facebook that said "Christians are mentally ill."

It's hard to vote for a party that condones such out-of-control actions from it's candidates, and despite Mulcair's attempts to make the NDP a softer centrist party, its membership is still filled with Marxist groupthink loonies who repeat the same tired old social justice talking points.

Which brings us to Justin Trudeau and the humbled Liberal Party of Canada. I was a card-carrying Liberal for many years under Jean Chretien and again when Bob Rae was interim leader after the 2011 election disaster. I used to believe in the centrist, fair and historic position of the party. I loved how they were on the left on social issues and on the right on economic issues. The Liberal Party was in power for 90 years of the 20th Century, managing the Canadian Pacific Railroad, two world wars, the Cold War, two Quebec separation referendums, the 1990's, gay rights and multiple balanced budgets running massive surpluses while the rest of the G8 was in deficit.

When Justin Trudeau, celebrity son of famous Canadian Prime-Minister Pierre Trudeau, was elected leader of the Liberal Party I wasn't too impressed and saw it as a mistake, so I let my membership expire and have since been non-affiliated.

But during this long election campaign Trudeau has risen steadily in the polls and the fortunes of the Liberal Party are looking quite good. I was surprised to see the Liberals topping the Conservatives in the polls for the first time since 2004, and so I checked it out, and I liked what I saw.

The Liberal platform is classic Liberal. Tax cuts for working Canadians and small businesses, so people will actually keep more of their paycheque, while increasing taxes on the top 1% to bring it up to the same levels as other G7 countries.

Get rid of the various different childcare programs, which are currently taxed, and create one national child benefit program that will help families with the cost of child care, including daycare, based on their income.

Protect the oceans and coastal waters by allocating 17% of it as off-limits to fishing, commercial transport and development.

Tackle housing costs by eliminating taxes on development of rental units and end offshore property speculation in Canada.

My favorite, and what I've been saying needs to be done for years, is a massive $60 billion transit infrastructure program across the country. Modernize highways, create more rapid transit, subsidize and lower the cost of public transit, relieve gridlock in Toronto and Vancouver. It would be the biggest infrastructure project in Canadian history since the railroad was built to the Pacific.

Trudeau is also the only one telling Canadians like it is: deficits will need to be run in order to invest in the economy. When in recession is not the time to bring in austerity measures (I guess it depends if you believe in Keynesian economics or not), and while interest rates are low is the time to borrow.

As you can obviously tell, we're backing the Liberal platform. It is the only one that we believe is honest and, most of all, will actually bring about long-lasting change to the country.It's about as centrist as any party, which is exactly where I like it!

Polls as of September 14 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015


On September 6 at 5:30 in the morning my son was born. Maxim Drescher came into the world weighing 8 lbs after a fairly easy pregnancy and a fairly easy labor.

On Saturday morning Katya woke me with a cute smile. "I made crepes for breakfast!" she told me. I got up and put on a pot of coffee and prepared the juicer to make some fresh orange juice.

As I was getting out some oranges, Katya, who was hovering over the stove cooking crepes, suddenly said "I'm leaking." I wasn't sure what she meant and for the past couple of months of what I called "deep pregnancy" she was always complaining of aches and leaks and other annoyances, so I pretty much ignored her.

She went to the toilet and came back a minute later. "I'm leaking a lot of clear fluid. It won't stop."
The six weeks of prenatal classes came to me. Clear fluid? "Does it have an odor?" I asked.
"No, it's just like water." Katya replied. It occurred to me that today was the official due date.

We decided to go to the hospital, but Katya wanted to eat her crepes first. Sitting at the table, leaking amniotic fluid, she gobbled down a plate of crepes with berries and whipped cream, then we got dressed and went to the hospital.

I have to tell you at this part of the story that we didn't believe it was labor yet. A few days before Katya had leaked some blood and we had gone to the hospital. Guelph General has the Family Birthing Unit up on floor 6, complete with their own triage and nursing staff and on-call OBs. They checked her out and told her she was fine. This time around we thought it would be the same deal. After all there were no contractions or other signs of labor. We didn't grab the hospital bag we had prepared because we thought we would be home in a few hours.

So we went to the hospital and parked around the block (free parking) and made out way up to the sixth floor.

At the triage desk Katya said "I'm leaking clear fluid". The excellent nurses there already had the file for every mother who was due at that time ready on the counter. They took us to a room and made Katya put on a hospital gown. They hooked up the baby heart monitor so we could hear his little rabbit-like heartbeat. The entire time the nurses were friendly and talkative and explained everything as they did it.

"I'm just going to swab you. If this stick turns purple that means amniotic fluid." The nurse swabbed Katya and held up the stick as we watched it turn from cotton white to neon purple. "Congratulations! Your water broke!" the nurse said, genuinely happy.
"What does that mean?" Katya asked, rising panic in her voice. The nurse calmly replied "It means you're having a baby today!"
"I can't!" Katya exclaimed, distraught. "My app says not until the 9th!"

They hooked Katya up to a pennicillin IV (with no amniotic fluid the baby was at risk of infection) and told her to walk around the hospital to get the contractions started. We went and got coffee and donuts at the hospital's Tim Horton's, and we paced up and down the hallways. After a couple of hours Katya began to notice a mild tightness that came and went, deep inside her. "If these are contractions then this is easy!" she declared. If only it were to be.

Katya hooked up to an IV, roaming the halls of the Guelph General Hospital.

I left her for half an hour to go home and get our hospital bag, her tablet and my phone charger (damn Nexus 5 won't hold a charge for more than a few hours). When I got back she was starting to feel real contractions. "These hurt." She said during one increasingly intense contraction.

Six hours after we had first arrived at the hospital Katya was being tortured from the inside. The contractions came just like they said in the prenatal class, as a wave. I had to remind Katya to breathe through each one, which went from lasting 30 seconds to a full minute. The public health nurse in our classes had told us to concentrate on breathing as a way to focus your mind off the pain. It worked somewhat for Katya but she couldn't completely avoid it. The public health nurse had also told us that breaking a bone was way worse pain than contractions, but as I watched Katya struggle through another contraction I thought it wise not to bring this factoid up.

One of the triage nurses took us for a tour of the birthing unit floor. We saw the room where they would move us once Katya was ready for the epidural and stage 2 (the "pushing" stage), and we saw the room where we would stay for the next few days after the baby was born. Katya had to turn back to her triage bed partway through the tour because she couldn't walk anymore.

The pain increased for another two hours. "Rub my back!" "Don't touch me!" "Blow on my forehead!" "Don't come near me!" "Say something!" "Stop talking!" 
My understanding is that there is no way to get comfortable when labor is in full swing, so I did what I was instructed to do in the classes: whatever the woman in labor tells you to do.

Eventually, just as Katya started crying and feeling nauseous, the triage nurse told us that it was time for the epidural. Katya was instantly relieved. 

We walked to the birthing room and the anaesthesiologist (even the nurse couldn't say it correctly) brought his cart in. He gave Katya a local and then did a bunch of stuff to her spine. I don't know what. I hate surgery shows and definitely wasn't watching this part of the fun. 

The epidural took a few minutes to kick in but the pain from each contraction subsided until Katya could only feel a tightness. They hooked her up to a monitor to check her contractions and the baby's heartbeat. The nurse showed us what it looked like on the monitor when a contraction was in full swing. After an hour she was smiling and chatting with the nurses, and asking me "Am I having another contraction?"

The "Contraction Contraption" (copyright 2015). The pink number is the baby's heartbeat and the blue is the contraction. During the last part of labor the blue was up to 98 and Katya was saying "I feel something". Also interesting: during the contractions the baby's heartbeat would slow down as he was squeezed from all sides, which you can see on the printout.
Around 1 am I got a message that my mother had arrived. She had raced down from Ottawa when I told her that it had started. The nurse told me that no other people were allowed in the delivery room so I went out to meet my mother and let her know what was going on. 

In the hallway I was surprised by my sister, brother-in-law and little nephew! They had driven my mother down from Ottawa in only 5 hours! 

It then became very awkward as my mother wanted to go into the delivery room but the nurse (and Katya) said nobody else. I ended up racing back and forth from my wife in one room and my mother sitting on a bench in the hallway, trying to keep everybody comfortable and happy. Eventually my aunt Joyce came to join my mother and keep her company and I was able to spend more time with Katya. 

Time flew by. I didn't even realize how long we had been in the hospital. We had arrived around 11 am on Saturday, September 5 and by 5 am on Sunday morning we were still there, but thankfully Katya had only been in severe contraction torment for only a few hours (not like some of those lunatic women who chose "natural birth" that we heard later on, screaming and hollering for hours on end). My mother and aunt eventually went home to sleep (there's no good waiting area for family at the Guelph Family Birthing Unit).

At around 5 o'clock the nurses suddenly declared "The baby's head is right there! He's knocking at the door!" and they called the OB, who glided casually in and sat down in front of Katya. 

One of the nurses then explained to Katya and I what was to happen next. 

"Okay, so push like you have to use the toilet really bad. When we say push, you do that. Daddy, you hold the pillow behind her head while she's pushing so she has some support. Okay, ready? Now push!" 

Some people push for up to two hours. For Katya, it was only 20 minutes of pushing that seemed like two minutes. She only had to give four good pushes and then, although I had promised her I wouldn't look at the nasty business going on "down there", from the corner of my eye I saw a little head coming out and I had to watch. With a slithery sound like a jelly fish sliding across a boat deck, a little human just slid out onto the table at the end of the bed!

I was spellbound! I couldn't even breathe! 

He laid there for a moment, covered in white vernix, and then with a jerk of his arms and legs the baby squirmed and then let out the cutest little "Meeeow" I've ever heard, followed by a little wet holler. Katya burst into tears and the nurses lifted the baby up and placed him skin-to-skin with his mother while the OB snipped the cord. 

Our baby was quiet but squirming, moving his little arms and legs in spastic swimming motions while Katya cried. It was the coolest and most amazing moment of my life.

After about an hour of skin-to-skin time, the nurse took the baby and weighed him. The vernix had mostly absorbed into his skin so he was starting to look pink. Then she swaddled him and handed the little guy to me. I held my son for the first time!

My son Maxim, an hour after he was born.

The nurse took us to our family room, wheeling Katya on a weird cart with no seat thingy, while I carried Maxim. The rooms here are private and large and include a washroom with shower and a little fold-down bed for partners to sleep on. 

Over the next couple of days the nurses were on call for anything and everything. Katya and Max had a hard time figuring out how to latch on for feeding, and Max was becoming angry, but the nurses and lactation specialists were there to calmly help out. They were friendly and professional and chatty and always so nice. Katya and I were blown away by the quality of patient care at this hospital. 

Over the next four days they taught us everything we needed to know. How to change diapers, how to bathe him, how to breastfeed, how to swaddle him and keep him warm, and on and on and on. Never once were the nurses curt or exasperated. I've travelled the world and ended up in a hospital in pretty much every place I've been, and Guelph is by far the best damn hospital in the world.

Katya's amazing private room, courtesy of Canada's universal health care!
The main entrance to Guelph General Hospital. This building has been here since 1887 and has had many additions and renovations. The sense of history is on display in the little museum.
On Thursday, four days after Max was born, I proudly helped mummy (that's Katya's name now) into the car and then put Maxim's car seat into the base, facing to the rear in the backseat (duhh), and drove home to start a new life!

Baby Maxim Nathan Drescher in his crib for the first time.