Never before has a Canadian federal election felt so much like a referendum on one man. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spent the last decade as Prime Minister pushing against or ignoring: religious freedom, reproductive rights, arts funding, the disturbing number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, science, and the list goes on. And now everyone with any amount of influence in Canada has been called on to do something about it.
There's a change.org petition circulating to make Drake record a PSA encouraging youth to vote. Last month the Toronto Star ran an article about how Canadian musicians don't write anti-Stephen Harper songs. Staunch idealists are encouraging strategic voting. Even national newspapers are, somehow, endorsing the Conservative party without endorsing its leader.
Sure, novelty curios like "Harperman" are the ones hitting your Facebook wall, but it's unfair to say Canadian musicians aren't doing their part. There's a growing list of artists calling for change, whether that's encouraging young people to get out and vote or straight up calling Harper a murderer. They're out there.
So, in anticipation of Monday (October 19)'s election, we've compiled some of the ways Canadian artists are using their platform for change. Read, listen and watch below, and let's meet back here on October 20 for some (hopefully) good news.
Photo: Jeff Bierk
If things are going to change in Canada, young people are going to need to vote. July Talk are one of the bands trying to make that happen. If you're under 25 and can tag yourself in photographic evidence on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #julytalkvotes and email a screenshot to firstname.lastname@example.org with your digits, they'll call you up. Ignoring the fact that you've probably already spoken to July Talk on the phone (Peter Dreimanis might have sold a couch to your cousin on Craigslist once?) or that 18 to 25-year-old Canadians is the same demographic as the band's, it's encouraging to see a big ticket CanCon act getting youth to polling stations. And without even promising this... - Richard Trapunski
Grimes trades tickets for votes
Grimes may be spending most of her time south of the border now, but she's still doing her part to get young voters to the polls in Canada. Taking a similar tack to July Talk, but more pointedly non-partisan, she made a short video showing how to register and encouraging Canadians to vote. More specifically, she also encourages strategic voting, which, if your FB feed is anything like mine, is more contentious than any specific party's policies. Via her Tumblr:
It’s so important that everyone vote in the upcoming election. Harper threatens poor canadians, arts funding, refuses to look into the missing and murdered indigenous women and seems to have a deep allegiance to the oil industry (among a million other things). I know a lot of you don’t believe in democracy or voting, but so much of what we hold dear as Canadians is under threat.
An important part of voting this time is voting strategically, since the Liberals and NDP are splitting the vote. unfortunately, conservative government can win without a majority because the other parties split the vote.
+ Canadians :tag me on instagram with pic of u @ voting station, 3 people per city will win a pair of free concert tickets 2 sold out show!
— grimes (@Grimezsz) October 9, 2015
- Richard Trapunski
Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde, "Land You Love"
Hey Rosetta! is from the East Coast. Yukon Blonde is from the West. With "Land You Love," people from literally coast-to-coast are joining together to stop the Harper Cons. It's a folkie throwback of an idea: using tambourines and guitars to ask people to fight for the land they love. - Chris Hampton
Petra Glynt, "Murder"
On the evening of the first National Leaders Debate, Toronto singer/producer Petra Glynt took aim at Evil Steve's 10-year tenure with the song "Murder" and its chorus "Choosing the economy over our real future/ Call it what it is: murder." But what sort of murderer is our PM? The killer of social programs? Of the environment? The accomplice who says an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women isn't really high on his radar? - Chris Hampton
Uniting under the hashtag #ImagineOct20th, a cavalcade of Canadian musicians, artists, writers, playwrights, and activists have participated in events across the country, encouraging young voters to exercise their rights...and in the doing, turf Harper. With concerts from Halifax to Vancouver (and a few still to come), #ImagineOct20th has attracted performances by CanRock royalty young and old: Feist, Torquil Campbell of Stars, The Sadies, Dan Mangan, Lowell, Martha Wainwright and Hawksley Workman, just to name a few. - Chris Hampton
D.O.A., "Pipeline Fever"
Joe "Shithead" Keithley, frontman of Canadian punk legends D.O.A., will represent the B.C. Green Party in the upcoming Coquitlam-Burke Mountain by-election, but here, D.O.A. dips into federal issues. Canada's addicted to that black tar — some parties worse than others. - Chris Hampton
Blue Rodeo, "Stealin' All My Dreams"
Expert purveyors of Canadiana, Blue Rodeo, have spent 30 years imagining the Maple Dream and packing it into fireside strum- and stomp-ables. Their latest whittlings, "Stealin' All My Dreams," sounds the alarm: "The ship is lost. The captain's betrayed us. Mutiny!" Missing and murdered indigenous women ignored, the Charter violations of Bill C-51, the CBC gutted, another recession — this isn't the country Greg Keelor dreamt of and he's footnoted his grievances. - Chris Hampton
Justin Small, "All Those Endless Jeers
Justin Small of Do Make Say Think has been delivering subscribers a song a week for a buck a week. As he told us when his service launched, "Perhaps I'll go through a Big Beat phase. Garage rock? YES! Jazz? I'll try but probably not..." And, since he's checking things off his list, how about an election song with no words that still manages to convey the current state of political engagement in Canada? Sure!
With a skittering "Machine Gun" beat, Small's electronic soundscape mimics the story of the campaign trail: ambient talk about the actual issues before the tension rises between the "current criminal who's been leading this country" and the parties who are trying to oust him, desperation sets, people shout louder, out comes the racist fear-mongering, the pace quickens and the endless jeers become inescapable.
"We have the chance to unseat the current criminal who's been leading this country. So far his campaign has been fear-mongering and racist. And the other two (actually Four!) candidates seem content to spend their time discussing HIM! So he gets a lot of press. I see him all the time. All the candidates just endlessly jeering at each other."
"As this is a wordless song, it's a sad excuse for a protest song. Or for that matter a rally cry. It is however a statement. As we have the chance to truly make change in our country, I urge you to look past all the jeering static to the issues at hand. Vote with your heart. I have a anti-fear mongering, anti-racist heart. See ya at the polls." - Richard Trapunski
Paul Kolinski, "Vote That Fucker Out"
Toronto roots musician Paul Kolinski, joined by Dave Clark of The Woodshed Orchestra and The Rheostatics, does not mince words. The fucker's gotta go. This is really just a crude endorsement for strategic voting.