Tag Archives: Canada Votes 2011

When Make Believe Is All That Remains

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
– Richard Feynman

I’ve mentioned in a previous post the one of the benefits of being a writer is you get to make stuff up. There is a serious problem, however, when wordsmiths of a different kind resort to making stuff up a tad more often than they should. I’m speaking of the scientists, the government, and the media – the ones who synthesize, distill, and report findings; who direct funding for research and make policies; and who relay information to the masses.

When Canada voted against science I was right there standing up and crying foul. Like many others my initial impulses had me all a Twitter (and a G+ and a Facebook). This is an outrage! Will no one come to the defence of science? At the very root of my anger is my belief that objectivity and truth still exist and not enough people are fighting for them.

I turned almost immediately to Gordon Bonnet, who, along with being a science teacher down in the States, also writes a great blog called Skeptophilia. In a matter of hours he turned around a much less knee-jerk response with the message that data, in of itself, cannot have an agenda. The problem is politicians and media outlets do, and I would assert that out of self-preservation (and the fact that they are human) scientists have one as well. However, the scientific agenda is normally kept in check through critique and review by one’s peers. When that process gets handcuffed, well, all bets are off.
“The only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
A friend with whom I like to debate such matters pointed out that “the human soul is corruptible.” Indeed it is, but that’s a sociopolitical discussion for another day. He also pointed me to this Maclean’s article which happens to be a a very level-headed take on things. The author, Julia Belluz, sums it up by suggesting that scientists raising a stink in the form of 60’s style protest aren’t doing themselves any favours, and on this I have to agree. 
Everybody involved appears to be approaching it all wrong. I am left to wonder though, if that’s the wrong way, what the hell is the right one? As the maxim goes, if insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then what happens when you’ve tried every approach you can think of and still nothing changes?

It seems that people on both sides of any argument go though this eclectic transition of approaches. The precise order and length of each one is impossible to determine, but the following popped into my head as a plausible chain of events: 
  • Start with the presentation of pure facts. 
  • If that doesn’t work, involve your peers to provide supporting information and try to open a dialog. 
  • If that doesn’t work, then compare and contrast opposing ideas in the form of debate. 
  • If that doesn’t work, then start removing facts and bring in “expert opinion” and hype. 
  • Finally, if that doesn’t work, resort to pure, unadulterated propaganda and rhetoric. 
  • If all else fails simply resort to sarcasm and ridicule (enter social media).  

This is pretty much where we’re at right now, and quite frankly I think this tailspin makes a complete mockery of it all and just ends up dragging everyone down to the same subhuman level, leaving slander and lies as the only pieces left on the board.

“The great thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Maybe I’m naive to expect more out of professional conveyors of information, but when it’s all reduced down to a contest over who can out crazy who it makes you wonder if the people who make stuff up for a living aren’t the sanest group in the whole lot.
Next election I’m voting for a writer.
~ Andrew

Nothing to Hide?

I’m finding it very hard to write this post and not come off as some sort of nut job who is all anti-government, anti-legislation, and anti-this-that-and-the-other-thing who is just sour because the election didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

I have perfectly valid reasons for my disenchantment with the state of the Canadian government right now and nothing sums it up better than the tabling of Bill C-30 (formerly Bill C-51). Leading up to the last election this was just the sort of thing I was afraid of, and now it’s happening, and if we don’t do something about it it’s only going to get worse.

Bill C-5130 is usually summed up with the words “lawful access”, which is exactly what it is. It’s a bill that will grant authorities lawful access to your internet history, your email, and countless amounts of personal information – without a warrant. The cherry on top of this is that in order to be in a position to collect and store this information in case the Feds demand it, Internet providers will need to spend dollars – lots of them – upgrading their systems. Now what are the chances those costs won’t get passed along to the the consumer? I’m guessing slim to none, and slim just left town.

In summary: Bill C-5130 will allow for unfettered access to your internet and email without a warrant and you will get to pay for it.

A while back this government tried to make our Internet more expensive and as a country we went absolutely bat shit crazy by the hundreds of thousands. How there aren’t millions of Canadians going bat shit crazy over Bill C- 5130 is beyond me.

Sign the petition. Demand your MP put a stop to this, and let the Canadian government know that this bill is not OK. Not one bit.

Here’s a CBC news report:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLlY4n-17uc]

Some very well done videos to put things into perspective (and a sample for your viewing pleasure here):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqIYHwRcxY]

…and if you have 15 minutes, a mini-documentary:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyHnOCDewuQ]

Anyone Else Feel Like This?

Monday night I went to bed later than usual, with this feeling that I had just left a teenage boy alone for the weekend, with my keys to the car, my credit card, and the liquor cabinet unlocked. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

I could come back on Sunday night and find the car in the driveway, the keys on the table, the floors swept, and the boy finishing up his homework. However, it’s just as likely I come home and half my house is blown to smithereens, the boy, my car, and my credit card are nowhere to be found, and the cops are on the front lawn taking statements from the neighbours.

Welcome to the moments after Canada’s latest federal election.

As you read this, there are literally tens of thousands of people smirking in their [right] wing back chairs dismissing more than 60% of the voting population with a casual wave of the hand. “That will be all now. Thank you, and good night. Gladly go fuck yourselves for 4 years“. Some other comments include, “You lost. Get over it” and “It’s called democracy”. Nice touch with that last one (democracy should be in quotes though).

I, for one, was not surprised in the least. If you follow me on Twitter (@andrewbutters) you may recall this tweet.

“It’s all about who wants it more. Is the desire to not lose greater than the desire to win? #elxn41 #NHLPlayoffs”

What many people not paying attention may have missed was the #elxn41 hashtag. This election, much like many of the great hockey games played in the NHL playoffs, was just as much determined by the team with the most to lose – and their desire to not lose it – as it was by the skill and principles and desire to win for the team desperately trying to avoid the dreaded “Participant” ribbon.

The Conservatives and their faithful, with everything to lose, would rather die than let the Liberals (or anyone else) rule the house. The left was well…left over. Bickering with themselves and trying to figure a way to just get their toe back in the door and working the mathematical models like some freaky autistic savant. “Majority is 155 seats. Definitely 155. Gotta win Southern Ontario and Quebec to prevent a Tory Majority. Definitely.”

After the votes were counted I was disenchanted with the result (see previous post), but I was not entirely shocked either. Anyone who asked me to predict the outcome would have received a “strong minority or majority Conservative parliament” response. They wanted it more, they were more organized, and they got the right people off their asses and out voting – for them. Which is more than we can say for just about everyone else with the exception of Quebec. The rest of the country didn’t want it badly enough (which is common), or didn’t think it was possible (which is understandable), or just didn’t care (which is sad).

Silver lining time.

Those of us not thrilled with the result have a good 4 years to figure out how to beat the system.

I think this guy summed it up really well. Harper has one chance to not screw this up. The system is broken and now we’ve got 4 years to figure out how to work around it. A party that receives 9% less of the popular vote received almost 50% less representation. The Conservatives were in the same boat not too long ago and they united their side of the political spectrum and now one of theirs – the rightest of the right wing even – is Prime Minister. Has been for 5 years and is safe for another 4.

Some options for the rest are to unite the left or find away to turn 15-20% of Conservative voters that the colour orange is that much better than blue. There may be other options, but don’t count on electoral reform being one of them. The only thing in that area that we’re going to see different is a possibly title change from Prime Minister to Supreme Overlord.

The Bloc is gone!

They lost official party status by dropping down to only 4 seats and there are a TON of Canadians that are especially thrilled with this. Don’t get too excited though, the NDP (who replaced the lions share of the Bloc incumbents) has the same amount of time with Quebec as Harper has with the entire nation. There is some hope that the Bloc is gone for good though. Several of their newly elected Memebers of Parliament are first timers and are so young they can’t legally drink in the US or even rent a car. When you kick someone out who has been representing you for 20 years and replace them with a bunch of newbies that’s sending a message. Hell, they even elected a non-French speaking person who ran their campaign while on a trip to Las Vegas! Now that’s REALLY sending a message.

A member of the Green Party was elected!

One really good thing was that Elizabeth May showed that with a little forethought and a bit of help from people who know how to work the system that you can accomplish something remarkable. Okay, maybe not remarkable, but still quite good. Parliament will be better with her in it.

So, in summary, we have:
  • a government run by a guy who has done all this 
  • 40% of all those who voted supporting him
  • 40% of the voting population still finding something better to do on election day
  • a severely wounded Liberal party
  • an extreme left wing opposition with more than double their previous best representation
  • the (almost) birth of an environmental social conscience in Canadian parliament
  • the (almost) death of the most polarizing party of the past 2 decades.
And six weeks ago people thought that this election was going to be boring.

Canada Votes 2011 #3 – What Canada Do YOU Want to Live In?

If you’ve used Vote Compass like I have you’ll see where you sit on the political grid (or where the CBC thinks you should sit). I sit smack dab in the middle. Pretty much equidistant from both the Conservatives (CPC) and the rest (ABC: Anything But Conservative). In some ways I appreciate and (somewhat) benefit from one side, and in different ways I appreciate and (somewhat) respect the other.

Sadly, the first-past-the-post system we have in place at the moment pretty much guarantees that it doesn’t matter what I do. Every vote is counted, but not every one matters, and even that’s questionable. Call me crazy though, but I think regardless of the party in power most Canadians will get screwed over on the actual issues at one point or another.

With the election is less than 3 days away I have to say I’m genuinely conflicted. Up to this point I’ve tried very hard to keep my political cards close to my chest (I’m more than happy discussing certain issues, or democracy in general with anyone, but discussing politics? Not so much). However, with voting day looming it’s time I figured it out. Here’s how I feel about it, and I’m hoping that there are comments coming from the 8 people that read this.

For many people in the country this election is a two horse race between the CBC and ABC (minus the Greens). What makes this tricky is that even a majority ABC will result in a minority CPC House of Commons. So, either the ABC is too fractured or the electoral system in place is horribly broken. I believe it’s a little from column ‘A’ and a little from column ‘B’. A separatist Bloc party getting in the way does not help matters either, but that’s a rant for another day.

I happen to be in a riding that, after the Liberal plummet, switched over to the Conservatives and hasn’t looked back. It’s not even close actually (last election it’s one of the few ridings where the winner garnered about 50% of the votes, and the projection for this year seems to indicate more of the same). Apparently the sponsorship “scandal” was too much for this lot, and a united right wing seemed to be a favourable alternative.

So the conflicting part of this for me is that for a couple years (since I moved back to this region) I have been seeing the benefits of the CPC right in my backyard and there are many little things that give me hope that my local candidate speaks loud and clear for the people that voted for him. I would love for these things to continue as they are now (or in some similar and just as noticeable way), but the problem is that a CPC government does not, for me at least, represent what I think a Canadian government should be.

I recently read this article by Margaret Atwood. Having grown up in Canada her stuff is pretty much mandatory reading from birth. Generally speaking I have mixed opinions on her work, but this article really resonated as I read it. She writes about the kind of country she would like to live in and she’s voting based on which party she thinks would bring those qualities to the forefront. For the undecided this is a great way to go about it, and let’s face it folks, the people who knew who they were voting for the instant the election was called aren’t changing their minds now.
I’ve been leaning one particular direction but keeping an open mind, paying attention and reading articles from a variety of sources and forming an opinion based on what matters to me. Much like Ms. Atwood I have my own paper napkin and here it is (in no particular order):
  • Honest
  • Hard working
  • Approachable
  • Transparent
  • Empathetic
  • Innovative
  • Creative

Sadly, I would argue that at any given moment neither the CPC nor any part the ABC simultaneously exhibit all of these traits. It is also my honest opinion that the CPC doesn’t exhibit any of them – and they never will – and what’s worse is I don’t think they ever want to.

What Canada do YOU want to live in?

Canada Votes 2011 #3

On the heels of the English language debates there has been much chatter about who won or who made the greatest impact. I might be cynical, and I am definitely biased (at least when it comes to being against the Bloc), but what I saw was a debacle. Stephen Harper stood tall and remained calm, while the other three “leaders” ran around bickering and throwing barbs this way and that. They needled each other, they mostly needled Harper, and they got on my nerves. All of them. Especially the God damned separatist ass hat Gilles Duceppe, though I will give him credit for a) having the most knowledge about Canadian politics; and b) providing the greatest humour to low blow ratio (Harper had no low blows but was about as funny as a root canal. Leighton was 3rd and Iggy was dead last, taking pot shots at anyone who’d make eye contact). I can’t help but think that had Elizabeth May been able to participate we would have seen something much more civilized and much more productive.

What we witnessed was akin to three grade school kids launching a barrage of “nah-nah-na-boo-boo’s” and “you’re a stinker-face” at the school bully.  They all want to play road hockey and it just so happens that the bully is the only kid with an orange hockey ball, and guess what? He’s taking his ball and he’s going home. He’s been doing it for 5 years and he’ll do it now. He has more than enough support from the folks living on his cul-de-sac, and those sitting on the white picket fence are just tired of the bickering. So they’re going to let him have the ball for the next 4 years and not allow anyone to do a damn thing about it. 

It’s exactly the type of thing that happens when you have an outdated electoral system like the one Canada uses. Someone on Twitter wrote something about Canada not having a single election but 308 simultaneous ones. It’s true, and it’s depressing as hell because as much as I want to make an informed decision and vote with my brain, I know it won’t matter. I’m not in a riding where there’s even a hope anyone but the incumbent will win.

Every election, millions (yes millions) of votes are cast for candidates that will not win. In fact in 2008 an overwhelming number of people voted AGAINST the party that won. I’m sure it seems fair in some weird cartoon laws of physics sort of way, but if you think about it what is really happening is that your candidate will only win if you and a boat load of people who live near you are all drinking the same Kool Aid. Seems less fair when you consider that a party can receive 10% of the vote nationally and not have a single candidate elected. Seems fair until you consider that a party whose goal it is to separate themselves from the country can hold the balance of power in a minority government.

This isn’t about or encouraging people to vote one way or the other – do not mistake this for a sales pitch or any kind of sneaky trickery to sway your opinion. This is only a reminder to think before you vote. Vote for the right candidate such that you have a better chance of seeing the overall outcome you desire. Conservative? Good for you. Vote for them. Conservative in a predominately Liberal riding? You still have options available, both in the short term as well as the long term. Short term, consider the following:
It’s not illegal (it’s not – look it up) or immoral (debate that on your own time) and I’m actually surprised I haven’t heard more about it until recently. Especially since the concept of strategic voting is in the news today, and has been for a while.

    I’ll be using vote pair and hopefully voting for someone in my riding that I would not normally consider, so long as somebody somewhere else in a closely contested riding agrees to vote for for the party of my choice. Hopefully this will tip the balance in favour of my desired outcome in that riding and not affect the riding I’m in in a direction that is unfavourable. We’ll see how it goes.

    For a longer term solution, on May 3 (the day after the election) start writing to your elected official (regardless of party status) and ask the federal government to consider a new voting system.

    More than 80 countries around the world use a system much different than the one Canada uses today. It’s called proportional representation, and it’s the only way every vote is going to count. No strategic trickery involved.
    At the end of the day, I don’t care which name you put the ‘X’ beside. In fact, most of the general public, your friends, and your family don’t either. Really. They don’t. So just think about it, and then do it.

    Canada Votes 2011 #2

    Einstein is often attributed with coming up with the following definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    I had a post all queued up on Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, and some of the options available for Canadians who don’t think the current system provides a proportional representative result.  I intended on drawing a parallel between Einstein’s definition and Canadian political history.

    Then this happened: May not welcome in leaders’ debates: networks

    Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party. Ms. May is a card carrying member of a federal party that received almost 10% of the popular vote in the last election. Further to that, the Greens run candidates in EVERY single riding. Further to further to that, the Greens actually promote what they think are in the best interests of the entire country, not just a subset or niche element of it, all the while considering the fragile ecosystem Canadians are known for and call home.

    Now I’m not saying that every party running needs to be represented at the leadership debates, there has to be some reasonable criteria. The networks have decided that their criteria is that the party must be represented in the house of commons. In the last election, the Greens had a candidate in the house – by way of a defection from another party (they weren’t elected as a Green). This time, not so much, so out they go.

    Doesn’t that just seem, I don’t know, WRONG? Getting almost 10% of the vote across the nation and running candidates in every single riding is a big deal. I think that cutting them off at the knees by imposing such a restriction is not in the interests of Canadians. In fact, I would argue that it’s incredibly UNdemocratic.

    So instead of Elizabeth May it would seem that we will have a leadership debate in which one of the featured candidates represents only a single province in the confederation and whose party’s main purpose is to separate from the country.

    I think we might just have a new definition of insanity.

    Canada Votes 2011 #1

    A vote of non confidence in Canadian parliament has resulted in the Prime Minister dissolving government and an election date has been set for May 2. 

    I have many thoughts on the upcoming election, many opinions to express, and many reservations about sharing them with anyone, let alone the general public. 

    So rather than even attempt to go down that path I’d prefer that people pay attention, get informed, and VOTE.

    So here are some links to get you started, and from time to time I’ll be chiming in with some interesting (hopefully non-partisan) thoughts to get you thinking:

    Party Websites – In Alphabetical Order:

    Bloc *

    * Only in Quebec, and even then it’s questionable they belong at  the grown up table (OK, sorry… I couldn’t resist)