Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{January 20, 2009}   Congratulations, Mr. President

dr-beth-snow by you.

Just listened to President Obama’s inaugural address. I didn’t get to watch it live because the class I’m teaching is from 8:00-9:30 a.m1.  Pacific Time. It only occurred to me very early this morning that when they said the inauguration was at 11:30 a.m., they didn’t mean Pacific Time2. And that I’d still be teaching at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, i.e., 8:30 a.m. Pacific, a.k.a., way too freaking early to be teaching.

I wished my class “Happy Obama Inauguration Day!” at the start of class and right after class, I came to my office and watched the video of Obama taking the oath (so eager that he jumped in while the Chief Justice was still talking, which I thought was so cute). And then I watched his speech while toasting him with a diet Coke3.  Because I wasn’t invited to an inauguration oatmeal party, which would be more appropriate, I admit, for the ungodly hour of 9:30 in the a.m, than a can of diet Coke. (Did I mention I have to be on campus, ready to teach at 8 a.m. and that I now live on caffeine even more than I used to?)


1Who schedules class at 8 a.m. anyway? That’s just cruel.
2Maybe I have a case of eastern alienation?
3Because it’s really difficult to find diet Pepsi on campus.

Image credit at Obamicon.me

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This is why I’ve spent so much time lately explaining to dozens of people what a “constitional monarchy” and a “Parliamentary democracy” are.  A recent survey shows that:

Canadians don’t understand political system: survey

Only 24% of those surveyed knew that the Queen of England is Canada’s head of state (not the Prime Minister and not the Governor General [GG]).

A majority (59%) knew that the Canadian government is a “constitutional monarchy,” but that still means that 41% didn’t know that. (The survey doesn’t appear to have asked them if they know what “constitutional monarchy” means, which seems to me like it should be important!)

On the bright side, most people surveyed (90%) knew that the GG can refuse a Prime Minister’s request for a new election.

But then 51% thought that we directly elect the Prime Minister, which, of course, we do not.  This is kind of funny for two reasons.  First, 90% know that the GG can refuse a PM’s request for a new election, but only 49% knew that we don’t elect a PM directly.  So how, exactly, do the other 41%1 think we get a new PM without an election?  Second, how can people really think we directly elect the PM as, when you get your ballot on election day, you see a list of candidates for Member of Parliament in your riding, not a list of candidates for Prime Minister. And even if you are in, say, Stephen Harper’s riding, you aren’t going to see Stéphane Dion’s, Jack Layton’s, Gilles Duceppe’s or Elizabeth May’s name on the ballot, since they all run in different ridings.  So you can’t elect the PM directly since you aren’t given that option on your ballot!

But then, how can we expect the average Canadian to understand our system of government when the Prime Minister himself doesn’t.  He continues to say that the Liberal-NDP coaltion is trying to “”overthrow” the government” and that the NDP and the Bloc have been “planning to overturn the results of the election ever since election night.” (Source).  Unless the NDP and the Bloc were trying to remove the MPs who were elected (which even Stephen Harper isn’t actually saying), they weren’t trying to overturn the election results.  The election results only give you your 308 MPs – after that, those 308 MPs get to determine in whom they have confidence to run the government.  Sorry, Mr. Harper. You weren’t elected as Prime Minister by the people of Canada, because the people of Canada don’t directly elect a PM!

1i.e., the 41% who know that the GG can refuse the PM’s request for a new election but also think we directly elect our PM.



{November 27, 2008}   And speaking of Prime Ministers…

… could we possibly have a new entry in my Prime Ministerial series soon?  You would think, given that we had an election just over 6 weeks ago, that such a thing would be very unlikely.  But, according to the Globe & Mail1, we might be getting one sooner than you think.

Opposition parties are mad that Harper’s government has put forward a fiscal plan that (a) “offers no stimulus package to deal with the economic crisis” and (b) contains “a vow to scrap public subsidies for political parties that would financially cripple every party except the Tories.”  So they are talking about bringing down the Harper government with a  vote of non-confidence.

By putting this plan forward, Harper and the Conservatives* are betting that the opposition parties won’t dare force an election so soon after the last one, especially since the Liberals are still being led by lame duck Dion2.  But it sounds like the opposition parties are saying “hey, wait a minute.  There are more of us than there are of them.  Coalition anyone?” Apparently3 if the opposition parties can form a coalition, they could take control of the government without an election.

The plan goes to a vote on Monday.  Can the opposition parties form a viable coalition by then?  Will the threat of his enemies uniting against him to take his job scare Stephen Harper into changing his plan?  Stay tuned4!

Update #1 (28 Nov 2008): I just read in the Vancouver Sun that Harper’s plan “limits public sector wage increases to 1.5%, with the right to strike suspended.” They are going to take away people’s right to strike? How is that even legal??

Update#2 (28 Nov 2008): The Vancouver Sun now has an article on their website saying “The Conservatives don’t plan on backing down from a controversial proposal to eliminate subsidies for federal political parties, but the government says the measure will not be part of a confidence vote on Monday.”  This is really, really lame.  They ARE backing down if they are making it not part of a confidence vote!!  If they were to truly stand behind it, then why not leave it as a confidence vote??

1Props to Kalev for bringing this article to my attention!
2Apparently, “sources say former prime minister Jean Chretien has been approached for advice on how to massage Mr. Dion’s early exit.” Which is a little rich, given that Chrétien was “massaged” out of office himself.
3and I’m hoping Resident Historian and Chief Political Correspondent Sarah will pop by to explain to us exactly how this works
4Isn’t this way more fun that an system where the leader of the government only changes, predictably, every 4 years?



{November 27, 2008}   Represent!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Canada has never had a non-white Prime Minister (and nor have we ever had a contender for PM who wasn’t white) and it prompted discussion, some of which can be summed up by “Who cares what race/gender politicians are? I only care that politicians are capable.”  I argued that if all (or the vast majority of) our politicians are white and male, doesn’t that mean that there must be some kind of barriers in the way of non-white and female candidates becoming politicians?  And doesn’t it mean that we are missing out on people who would be amazingly capable politicians, if we are only drawing from the white male pool, leaving all the other pools virtually untapped?

Well, I just listened to this podcast, where philosopher Anne Phillips does a much better job of discussing this whole issue than I do.  Give it a listen!



150 years ago today the Colony of British Columbia was born!  Mind you, the Colony of Vancouver Island was born earlier than that (in 1849) and the two would join together in 1866 to become the creatively named United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.  But, no matter.  It’s Happy 150th birthday, British Columbia anyway!

Resident historian, Sarah, passed along the link to this article in the Globe and Mail – well worth the read if you are interested in the origins of BC.  It’s all American miners flooding into BC in droves for the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, wars with the “Indians” and “headless corpses float[ing] in the Fraser River.”  You know, as opposed to the severed feet we are used to seeing these days.

Me, enjoying the splendour of Joffre Lakes, BC

Me, enjoying the splendour of Joffre Lakes, BC

Fun facts about British Columbia:

  • the province covers 944,735 km2
  • we’ve got quite a variety of climates: from the coast of the mainland and Vancouver Island, which are temperate rainforest, to our desert regions in the Interior
  • our provincial flower is the Pacific dogwood
  • our provincial tree is Western Redcedar
  • our provincial bird is the Steller’s Jay
  • our provincial mammal is the Spirit Bear (a.ka. the Kermode bear)


{November 15, 2008}   It’s election day, again

Today is the day that municipal governments hold their elections in BC.

Across BC general elections are held every three years for mayors, councillors, regional district electoral area directors, school board trustees and Islands Trust trustees (municipalelections.com)

In Vancouver, we have to vote for a mayor, 10 city councillors, 7 park commissioners and 9 school board trustees.  That’s 27 people I need to vote for! Plus there are other questions about “whether to allow the City to borrow money for major construction projects (for example, re-build certain community centres, or extensive re-construction of water or sewer lines)” (City of Vancouver).

To be honest, it’s election day and I’ve only just now read1 through the candidate profiles.  The sheer number of candidates to consider has seemed overwhelming to even think about up until now – and I know that just reading the 150 words or less candidate bios isn’t really sufficient to make a truly informed vote but, given that the election is today, I think it’s the best I’m going to be able to do.  It helps that I’m a bit familiar with the major parties, but of course this means that the independent candidates are getting the short end of the stick.

For my non-Vancouver readers, the major parties in Vancouver politics are:

I mean, given that “partisan” means “of, pertaining to, or characteristic of partisans; partial to a specific party, person, etc.” (dictionary.com), doesn’t this mean that the Non-Partisan Association are the “Party that is not partial to itself”?

For school trustees, Airdrie just twittered a recommendation that people check out who their local teachers associations are endorsing and, as it turns out, both the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association and the Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association support the Vision and COPE candidates, which was in keeping what I was planning to do after pursuing those short candidate bios, so that makes me feel a bit better about my lackadaisical approach to this.

Darren also posted about his “near-complete apathy” towards local politics and now, in the spirit of the theme of phoning-it-in-edness of this posting, I’m going to totally steal his question: “Who are you voting for, wherever you live (assuming, you know, that you live in BC)?

1OK, skimmed.

Image credit: Photo by Theresa Thompson on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.



{November 9, 2008}   BC Premier#8 – John Robson

The 8th Premier of the Province of British Columbia.

Nice beard.

Nice beard.

Name John Robson
Born: March 14, 1824 in Perth, Ontario
Died: June 29, 1892 in London, England
Party: none
Held Office: August 2, 1889 – June 29, 1892
  • Robson Street in Vancouver is named after him (as is Robson Cove in Burrard Inlet and Robson, a town in Kootenays)
  • 1859: moved from Ontario, where he was a merchant, to the Colony of BC, to try to capitalize on the Fraser Valley Gold Rush, leaving behind his wife, Susan, and their 2 kids (Susan and the kids didn’t move to BC to join him until 19641864)
  • apparently he sucked at prospecting, so instead he helped his brother, Ebenezer, a minister, build a Methodist church in New Westminster
  • was known as an advocate for responsible government, became the editor of the British Columbian (a newspaper)
  • he was “briefly imprisoned” by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie for publishing a letter that suggested Begbie took a bribe; this didn’t do much for Begbie’s popularity
  • served on the New West town council and was later elected to the BC Legislative Council (the Council had some elected, and some appointed seats, and governed the newly united Colonies of BC and Vancouver Island).
  • moved his paper to Victoria, where it was bought out by De Cosmos paper Daily British Colonist (which still exists today as the Victoria Times-Colonist)
  • became an advocate for BC joining Confederation and so, along with De Cosmos and Robert Beaven, he founded the aptly named “Confederation League” which lobbied for BC to become part of Canada
  • 1871: was elected to BC’s first legislative assembly (seat = Nanaimo)
  • opposed his former ally, De Cosmos and the subsequent Premier, Walkem
  • was ahead of his time by advocating for female suffrage: “Although in 1873 he had claimed “respectable women didn’t want the right” to vote, he later had second thoughts, and by 1885 he was championing the enfranchisement of women because of their good work in voting for school trustees and their support of morality. Almost every year thereafter Robson introduced a private member’s bill to enfranchise women; each time the legislature rejected it.”1
  • like most of the politicians of his time, he supported racist policies against both Chinese and First Nations people; “He had been one of the first to call for a special tax on Chinese because they were “essentially different in their habits and destination,” did not contribute a fair share to the provincial treasury, and competed with “civilized labour.”” 1 and “Despite his belief that the native peoples would become “utterly extinct,” he argued that in the mean time the government had a responsibility to civilize and Christianize them. Thus they should be removed from the immoral towns and cities, protected from whisky traders, and made aware of the force of the law. He recognized Indians’ rights as the “original ‘lords of the soil’” but demanded that treaties be negotiated and reserves established so that Indians should not have more land than they could use well.” 1
  • received a patronage appointment with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for his support of Alexander Mackenzie in the 1874 Canadian federal election
  • 1882: returned to the provincial legislature (seat = New West)
  • advocated for constructing the CPR terminus at Granville, and he got the legislature to name the Vancouver as “Vancouver” when it was incorporation in 1886
  • during Premier Davie‘s long illness, Robson served as the acting Premier and, in 1889, was appointed Premier when Davie died
  • switched from representing New West (a really busy, growing riding) to representing a riding in the Cariboo to reduce his workload, as he was worried for his health
  • 1892: died of blood poisoning in office after he hurt his finger in the door of a hansom cab, becoming the third BC premier in a row to die in office

In summary, he died of hansom cab door-related mishap.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that rhymes with ickipedia.
1Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



Wikipedia is quick.  I took this screenshot just as Obama was starting his victory speech:

Also, I like that Obama promised his daughters a puppy when they move to the White House!



{November 4, 2008}   President Barack Obama!

Looks like my democratic blue shirt worked. =)



{November 4, 2008}   Babe for Obama

Sorry. Couldn’t resist that title after the title of my earlier post.

As you can see, I wore my democratic blue shirt today, in honour of Barack!

Just over half an hour left ’til the first polls close in the eastern United States and the results start pouring in.  To my American readers: thanks to all of you who voted for Barack Obama!!

In addition to the results of this historic presidential election, the results of a number of items on the ballots, including Propositions 8, 2 and 102 in California, Florida and Arizona, respectively, which, if passed, would ban gay marriage in those states, and Amendment 48 in Colorado, which would “define all fertilized eggs as full human beings with constitutional rights” (Source) are of interest to me.

Am hoping to get out to an Obama victory celebration tonight, but work is crazy busy, so we’ll see how productive I am in the next few hours!  Otherwise, I’ll be working this evening with one eye on the Internets!



{November 4, 2008}   Babies for Obama

In honour1 of today’s US Presidential election, I give you this: Babies for Obama:

I saw this over at Feministing, where I also read that in the U.S., if you bring in proof of voting, you can not only get free ice cream from Benny & Jerry’s, but you can also get a free silver bullet and sleeve1 at the New York and Seattle locations of Babeland sex toy store.

Given the pathetic voter turnout in our recent election, maybe Canada needs to look into this free-ice-cream-and-sex-toys-for-voters idea.

1Yes, I am spelling honour with a ‘u,’ even though I’m talking about the U.S. ‘cuz that’s the way we Canucks roll.
2I especially like that this particular model of sleeve is called “The Maverick”a
    aJust don’t picture John McCain using “The Maverick.”i
        iI *told* you *not* to picture it.



Good news for the federal Liberals – Ujjal Dosanjh1 retained his Vancouver South riding, which he has held since June 2004, following a recount. A former Premier of BC, Donsanjh won his federal riding in this month’s election by a mere 33 votes, prompting a recount. After the dust settled, he still won but with a vote margin of only 22 votes!

Donsanjh retaining his seat makes me happy for a few reasons (1) if he’d lost the recount, the seat would have gone to the Conservative* (and you know how I feel about the Conservatives*), (2) had the Conservative* won the recount, this would have given an urban Vancouver seat to them (and one of the small consolations of this election had been that the Conservatives were yet again shut out the 3 major cities), and (3) I like Ujjal2.

I also noticed in the CBC article about the recount that Donsanjh has “not ruled out a run for the party leadership.”  And as I read that, it kind of hit me – we’ve never had a Prime Minister who wasn’t white. I mean, you hear so much about the issues of race and gender in the US presidential election (what with the US being on the verge of electing a black president who beat out a women for the Democratic nomination). But what about us? Aren’t we supposed to be this great multicultural country? We’ve had one token female Prime Minister – who wasn’t elected as such but became PM very briefly when the rat left the sinking shipBrain Mulroney resigned and Campbell won the Tory party leadership. And we’ve NEVER HAD A PRIME MINISTER WHO WASN’T WHITE. In this election, there wasn’t a single party Leader who wasn’t white3. Same goes for last election – all white party leaders. What is up with that Canada?

It made me wonder if we’ve *ever* had a federal party leader – like one with a real shot of becoming the PM – who wasn’t white. I couldn’t think of anyone off hand. I even consulted with my Resident Historian, Sarah – and she didn’t know of any either, at least in recent history.  Does anyone out there know of any?  And if not, why not?  What gives, Canada?

1I don’t think he has enough Js in his name.
2At least what I know of him. I’m hesitant to say I really *like* a politician for fear that they will just let me down later (John Edwards, I’m looking in your direction.)
3I’m talking about the five big parties here. I suppose it’s possible that the leaders of the Marxist-Leninist Party or neorhino.ca (formerly the Rhinoceros Party) weren’t white, but I’m only talking about people with even a remote chance of becoming a PM.

Photo credit: Photo by Roland Tanglao, posted on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.



Tonight I baked a most delicious batch of “Go To Hell Stephen Harper” Apple Crisp:

Fresh baked Go to Hell Stephen Harper Apple Crisp

Fresh baked "Go to Hell Stephen Harper" Apple Crisp.

I got the recipe from my friend Rebecca, who baked (and, I believe, invented?) this delicious delicacy on election night.  In her words:

“Go To Hell Stephen Harper” Apple Crisp is made like normal apple crisp, but with added funding for the arts, social programs, and sensible health care reform 🙂

“Go To Hell Stephen Harper” Apple Crisp is best served warm from the oven with a scoop of “Don’t Vote for John McCain” ice cream.



{October 14, 2008}   Election Night

Been watching the election coverage all evening.  So depressing.  I mean, I’m trying to look on the bright side – at least it wasn’t a majority for Evil Stephen Harper.  And the polls were pretty clear that the Evil Conservatives were going to form the government, so I don’t know why I was holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, people would come to their senses and vote to keep the Conservatives out.  I don’t want a Conservative government. And neither do most Canadians.  But thanks to our first-past-the-post system, and our splitting of the vote on the left, here we are with something we don’t want.

Other thoughts on tonight’s developments:

  • After spending $300 million on an election, we essentially have the same Parliament.  Sure there was the shifting of a few seats, but we still have an Evil Conservative minority government lead by Evil Stephen Harper.  Evil Harper still can’t do anything without votes from at least one of the other parties.  He claimed to have called an election because Parliament was “broken.”  I’d argue that Parliament is just as “broken” now as it was 300 million election dollars ago.
  • The Conservatives still do not have a candidate in any of Canada’s three biggest cities – Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.  Leading Peter Mansbridge to ask, ““Are there any David Emersons1 out there for Stephen Harper to pick off?”  Let’s hope not!
  • There’s been lots of talk tonight on Dion’s inability to lead the party. I like Dion – I think he’s intelligent and I think he really does care about the country and about the environment. But I don’t think he can lead the Liberals to win an election. I think the Liberals need to regroup and pick a leader who will resonate with the public.
  • Jack Layton pointed out that, given this minority government, no party has been given the mandate to do anything without agreement from the other parties.  Personally, I don’t think Evil Harper is naturally inclined to compromise.  Apparently, he’s a terrible micromanager and doesn’t even trust anyone on his own team to do anything without him watching over the shoulder, so how is he going to compromise with the other parties?  Not to mention the fact that that Evil Harper is a righty-righty and the other parties are all centre or left of centre.  Is Harper likely to make compromises that will be acceptable to lefties? (Of course, the left parties had been letting Evil Harper continue to rule without making any real compromises up until now).
  • Why did Elizabeth May and Adrienne Carr – the two biggest names in the Green Party – run in ridings against very, very tough competitors (against Peter MacKay and Hedy Fry, respectively)?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to run in ridings where they have a good shot at winning?
  • The voter turnout for this election was the lowest in history.  Roughly half of the population voted. Meaning that roughly half of the population did notvote.  Lame, people. So lame.
  • Ian Hanomansing is hot. I’m just sayin’

1You know how I feel about David Emerson.



Hey, did you know that there’s a Canadian federal election on Tuesday?  I might have forgotten to mention it here on NTBTWK.  For those of you who love my special brand of political coverage, I hope you enjoy today’s posting . For those of you who don’t care about Canadian politics or Canada or, like, democracy and such, I shall return to other hard hitting issues, like how hot Rick DiPetro, goalie for the NY Islanders is, after Tuesday.  Mostly.

A while ago, Rebecca posted a summary of the candidates in her riding of Vancouver Centre. And I thought, “Hey, that’s a great idea! I’m totally doing for that my riding too!”  Then I got sick/busy/[insert excuse here]. Anyway.  I’m doing it now. So there.

Vancouver Quadra

  • encompasses the University of British Columbia, the Musqueam Indian Reserve No. 2 and Vancouver’s West Side.  West Siiiiide, represent!
  • population (according to the 2006 Census) of this riding is 119,627
  • created in 1947
  • has been represented by 7 different MPs over the years – 5 Liberals and 2 Tories
  • was represented by the Right Honourable John Turner, who was the Vancouver Quadra MP from 1984-1993 and was the Prime Minister for about 2 seconds
  • incumbenent is Liberal Joyce Murrary, who won a by-election earlier this year after former MP, Liberal Stephen Owen resigned.  Murrary beat Conservative Party* rival, Deborah Meredith by a mere 151 votes in that by-election.

The candidates, in alphabetical order by last name, are:

Barens, Norris – Libertarian Party

  • doesn’t have a website
  • there’s a link on the Libertarian Party‘s website to an email address for Barens, but no info about the candidate
  • I have yet to see a single lawn sign for Barens
  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Barens is not a contender

Caplan, David – New Democratic Party

  • shares his name with an Ontario provincial Liberal cabinet minister, making him a pain in the ass to Google
  • has been in the Armed Forces, a lawyer, a financial analyst, a freelance writer, a homemaker
  • has degrees in science, law, business administration and Chartered Financial Analyst
  • now wants to be a politician – I’m not sure if he’s really diverse, or doesn’t know what he wants to do1
  • there is little info available on Caplan, but in fairness he only took over after civil-liberties lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who had been the NDP candidate in this riding, stepped down on September 19 because he video smoking marijuana
  • his website, such as it is

Grice, Dan – Green Party

  • is a “new media and technology consultant” and appears to have a company that I have never heard of.  I mean, I like to think I know a fair number of the tech peeps in Vancouver, but I’ve never heard of “VanAlive Communications” – has anyone else?
  • He did his B.A. in Classical Archaeology and the History of Rome, Greece, and the Near East at UBC
  • He answers the question “Why are you running?” with “I want to help modernize our political structure and help move Canada to a low carbon economy. I come from a generation that values ingenuity and I feel that we need politicians to be more responsive and more concerned with fixing the problems of today rather than worried about their public perception.”
  • his website

Meredith, Deborah – Conservative* Party

  • evil
  • teaches at the evil UBC Sauder School of Business
  • likes to stick “tackling crime” stickers on her evil lawn signs

Murray, Joyce – Liberal Party

  • has been the MP for Vancouver Quadra since the by-election earlier this year
  • formerly an MLA with the (admittedly, evil) BC Liberals before she was defeated in the 2005 election
  • introduced a private members bill proposing to exempt bikes, bike accessories & repairs from the GST
  • did her MBA at Simon Fraser University
  • her website

As there was a by-election earlier this year where Murray beat Meredith by a mere 151 votes, many people suggest that this will be a tight race (and VoteforEnvironment suggests strategically voting for Murrary to keep out the Conservative*). The Election Prediction Project, which has a pretty good track record for predicting election winners, says that this riding is going to the Liberal.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they are right!

1I’ve been accused of this myself. At my interview, my eventual Masters supervisor, upon hearing I was doing a minor in Drama with my major in Honours Biochemistry called me “conflicted.” I told him I prefer to think of myself as well-rounded.



et cetera