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Quote of the day

31 May

“A justification for constitutional bills of rights which I have always liked is that they provide ‘an appeal from the people drunk to the people sober.'”

(From Barry L. Strayer’s Timlin Lecture, “Patriation of the Constitution and the Charter: 25 years after”)

Guardian Comment of the Day

15 May

There were a lot of great ones on this article, but this one amused me most:

ALLDIEU
– May 14, 2011 at 13:32:21

Marxist Lennist ideology, (aka Ghiz and Casey) is alive and well on Prince Edward Island.

Why I am a conservative at 22 years old

10 Apr

I get asked often why I’d align myself with a party that very few people my age seem to (at least in Atlantic Canada).  I thought I’d blog about it to get things straight.

When I was in second year university, I moved back to PEI after working/schooling in Ottawa for a bit.  I had a job, but I kind of sucked at it, and eventually I left.  I slept on a mattress in a truly terrible apartment in Sherwood and I spent far too much money.  I ran up my credit card and overdraft trying to remain independent despite netting almost none.  It was dumb.  I was a bad roommate.  I was spending way out of my means and had the option to stop, admit defeat, and go home.

My mom bailed me out, and I suspect it cost about $1000… my minimum payment was well over what I was netting a month as a student.   I had no groceries or credit left (thank goodness they don’t give students much!).  My only saving grace was that I didn’t have any loans – that is the only reason I can afford to live alone even now, after school.  It was embarrassing and I moved home into her basement for half a year to get myself sorted out.

No government should behave the way that I did when I was 19.  But national (and provincial) debt keeps rising and payments per person are soaring.  But this time, instead of having parents bail us out, it’ll be the kids.  It’ll be my generation with far fewer social programs/support funding unless Canada with just as much, or more taxation.  The only foreseeable way of fixing this would be drastically increasing the industry of the country – i.e. the proposed corporate tax cuts by the Harper Conservatives.  Look, it’s hard to defend other things the government has done.  Being in contempt of parliament is shitty, though there is definitely argument that the Conservatives were just the only ones to get caught and that Question Period has been a lark since QP began to be filmed and aired publicly.  The jets wouldn’t be my ideal, though I strongly support military spending since it’s been cut and cut, putting the Canadians serving at risk.  The very-foreseeable future involves much higher taxation with much less available services for Canadians, or worse, further debt.

There’s a perception that only hicks of scary business suits can get behind this kind of thinking.  That makes no sense to me.  I know that arts spending and social programs are important to Canadian identity as well as the well-being of Canada as a nation.  I know that there are arguments that social programs go around and improve industry in an indirect, immeasurable way.  And I agree that we have to strike a balance.  But like the environmental deficit, constant spending will catch up with us, and when it does, it won’t be pretty.

Anyway, I welcome any challenging/diverging viewpoints ’cause I think political thought should be constantly changing rather than ingrained.

Student Union Elections: Who will win, and who should win

8 Feb

This is the first year that I’m not covering SU elections since third year.  I loved covering them, but I always lamented that I couldn’t comment on what was going on behind the scenes.  I look forward to these elections annually because they are similar to how I imagine Hobbes’ state of nature playing out.  Vicious, cutthroat, and without any real organization.

But because I covered them in the past couple years, I never really got to give my important opinion.  But this year I can!  So here you go:

President Contenders (incumbent: Rob Livingstone):
Megan Jennings
Rob Livingstone
Amanda MacKinnon

Who I’d pick:
Rob

Who I think will win:
Rob

Rob should take this.  I like both Amanda and Megan a ton, but Rob is an exceptional candidate/incumbent.  He’s a hard worker, he’s incredibly easy to talk to/get along with, he’s represented UPEI well so far, and he cares very much about improving the student union.  Rob rolls with the hits fluidly and fixes things as required.  He’s exactly what UPEI needs as a president.  Amanda and Megan both have experience in a leadership opinion – the former managed the wave and the latter does a host of things, but is most known for being NSO coordinator – and neither performed as well as Rob.  That’s not  a hit on either of them.  Rob is just outstanding.  /gush

The only way I can see Rob not winning is if Megan split Rob’s votes and Amanda came up the middle.  We shouldn’t rule that possibility out.

Executive Vice President Contenders (outgoing: Kyle Murnaghan)
Josh Coles
Ali Younis

Who I’d pick:
Josh

Who I think will win:
Could go either way – I will say Josh

Josh is clearly the better candidate in this one.  I’m not sure what Ali’s motives are for running – according to the cadre twitter, he doesn’t know what CASA is and this position is basically lobbying.   Unfair or not, Ali will be lumped in with the Younis reign of 2009-2010 and I think people are sick of that era of student politics.  He still has a awesome shot because if there’s one thing Shawn Younis and his friends are good at doing, it’s winning elections.

Josh, on the other hand, is the most committed UPEI student on campus.  He was great to work with at The Cadre.  As well, he’s creative, fresh (in all ways possible), affable, and well known.  He’d be a great representative for UPEI.

VP Activies Contenders (Incumbent: Logan O’Brien)
Logan O’Brien
Brittany Banks
Allan Corney

Who I’d vote for:
Brittany

Who I think will win:
No idea.

Ehn, I don’t know how this is going to go.  I’d vote for Brittany if I had the chance.  I like Logan and I don’t know Allan, but I’ve heard great things about the latter.  Instead, this is going to be a pitch for Brittany:

Brittany worked for me with The Cadre.  She had a thousand things on the go, but was prompt and thorough with her articles.  I like her a ton.  She gives 100%, is modest, is capable, and is committed to anything she’s in.  She’d be a great fresh face to livening up the campus outside the Wave – something that everyone’s said they’d do but no one has done since the mid aughties.

I guess things are going poorly at The Wave this year.  I don’t know how much of that is on Logan.  Probably not as much as people are going to think.

Other Field Notes:

-In all of these positions, there’s no clear winner.   That pretty much never happens.
-The success of this year’s UPEISU (and I would say they were pretty successful, minus being broke) kind of lies in the hands of Kate Vangerven and last year’s council.  I was against creating a position for VP Communications, but I think it made all the difference in the world having Kate update the website and do her stuff, like making synopsis videos after council meetings.

Also, I would love to hear some comments on what people think is going to happen.  this one is tough to predict, especially since I’m not on campus every day anymore!

The Punditocracy, my awful prof, and winning elections (a how-to guide from an amateur)

28 Jan

As we’re on the cusp of two elections – federal  and provincial – I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to win, who has the power, and what well-run campaigns have in common.  What caused NB’s Tory sweep?  Not just electricity issues.  Political organization and election readiness.  But was there more to it?  I haven’t figured it all out yet, I guess.  But with talking heads chomping at the bit for stories in slow-news January, election predictions have me thinking about pundits.  Are the people who write scathing editorials actually ruling public opinion?


On Tuesday night, I sat through a grating Public Policy class at UPEI.

“I hate Harper,” said the prof, “…he’s a dictator! People have said that he’s a dictator!  He has all the power and can do anything he wants.”  I grimaced instinctively because she sounded like a 2003-Bush-Basher.  Nine times out of ten, the Bush Basher was fairly correct in their bashing, but were unclear exactly what Bush did wrong.  I’m not a great Harper fan myself.  I didn’t vote for him, though I will next election because I support Donna Profit.  But, without sounding  like a self-righteous twat, I was kind of shocked by how this ‘educated’ woman was more or less repeating Liberal talking points.  Of course Harper’s not just going to wantonly run the country on his own personal agenda.  Of course he has advisors and a party and public opinion to be concerned about.  Her arguments sounded like the abysmal first-year Global Issues papers I used to mark.  Her politics were pretty self-evident throughout the class, which is fine, but I got the distinct sense she only half knew what she was talking about.  I might be judging too harshly, but Liberal talking points are free on the internet and I’m paying money to take that course..  Anyway, I left annoyed but vowed to stick with it so I can effin graduate, finally.

Not thinking much of it, a couple days later, my mind wandered back to a Summer day in Opposition Office with The Director.  We were talking about Federal politics and what it would take for Islanders to like Harper. It’ll never happen, he said, the Liberals were really successful in branding him as evil.   And he was so right.  The Libs had the longest party dynasty and very successfully used it to their advantage to negatively brand Harper in a long-lasting way that especially resonated in Atlantic Canada*.  But how much of that was the Liberal’s fault, and how much could be attributed to parroting talking heads?  As Rick Mercer says in this video(feat. the best Canadian attack ad spoof ever made), the Liberals built a political dynasty that was one of the longest in Canadian history.  They successfully branded themselves as ‘the’ patriotic party during a period of weak opposition. It was great politics.  And without diminishing the cleverness of pundits, the Liberal talking points paved the way for hundreds of articles on how Harper acts unilaterally, when, in fact, there is some evidence of this – but it’s wildly blown out of proportion.   There are so few ideological cleavages between the federal Liberals and minority Conservatives.   Anyone who argues differently works for a party or lives in Alberta (which is, more or less, working for a party.)

This Summer I was at a McKenna function trying to cajole my large extended family into voting for Olive at the Tory leadership.  Eventually, most did**.  But this particular week, Paul MacNeill of the Graphic fame had written something scathing about Olive, or her chances of winning, or why she ought not win.  I forget now, but it wasn’t complimentary.  I was in the middle of my Olive pitch, and one of my uncles said, “Lookit, Paul MacNeill might have a point! He knows this stuff inside and out!”   And then whatever I said was worth less because I had an agenda and he didn’t.  Which is fair.  I’m not debating the merits of Paul MacNeill, whom I’ve admired from my Semantic/Cadre days. I’ve strongly agreed and disagreed with  him(and not just on partisan stuff) throughout the few years I’ve been reading.  In this case, I’m more interested in the importance of Paul as a pundit.  As this Vanity Fair article highlights, news has lost.  Opinion has won.  Most days I check the National Post before the Globe because their opinion stuff is better.  If you can sway the pundits, then you can sway the masses  – especially, it seems, on PEI.  Anyone in the middle of an election will tell you that momentum matters.  Seeing the Liberal caucus out dining last Summer, video camera in tow, was a blow to the gut because that sort of stuff is invaluable to election time.  And impossible for opposition caucuses who don’t have full shadow cabinets.  Talking Heads aren’t oblivious.  Even without platforms or candidates, public opinion suggests that the tories have lost already – which I will indubitably be discussing later!

Why do pundits cause momentum?  I’ll propose two answers. One is the most commonly used: constituents want to vote for whoever will be in government so that their roads are more likely to be paved.  The other reason, I think, is that people want to feel like they’re informed.  You can read the news and absorb it.  You don’t necessarily form an opinion on it.  I’ve read every article on the Eastern School Board and have no idea what the right decision is.  But if someone tells me what to think, then forming an argument is easy.  That sounds condescending to the electorate, but think about it: you can swallow up news daily, every hour, or you can read a weekly column and, depending on the pundit, get relevant information and a solution or problem with it.  No wonder pundits have sway.  They’re impartial and tell you what to think.  They’re not looking for your vote.  Which is why it is kind of scary that PEI has so few, because – ironically – the pundits who preach that too much power is in the hands of too few are actually the people with the power.  But think critically: even if pundits aren’t biased, the people who inform them are. I’ve been a pundit, I’ve been the person who’s informed pundits, and I’ve listened to pundits to help form my opinion.  I’ve also listened to pundits in dismay as they get stuff wrong often.  But good communications people in politics can have a heavy hand in convincing commentators what to say, particularly when there’s a looming deadline.  So please don’t just repeat what you heard on CBC or read in the NationalPost.

Anyway, in my opinion, one of the only ways to counteract the pundit is to have politicians own voices intertwined in the discourse.  It’s no secret that I’m a fan of social media.  It puts a face and a voice to the press releases that parties send out.  The futureof politics is going to limit the use of traditional media.  And why not?  You can edit what you say online – you have little control over what lands in the papers.  It’s an easy way to disseminate information quickly and efficiently while still being somewhat personal.  Naysayers are morons.  Listen to me.  Now that I have a blog, I’m more or less a pundit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts though!  Am I completely off in left (or right, as it were) field?

Next blog post: in which the answer will not be ‘social media fixes everything,’ I promise

Footnotes______________________________________________________

*Not withstanding the PC/Reform/Death of Red  Tory sentiment that prevailed after the 2003 Merger.  Admittedly that probably had something to do with PEI’s Conservative shutout, though tradition, being a have-not province, having a lower-than-average income median – all those things didn’t help.  Talking in generalities, I guess.

** A success, since there were like, sixty of them there.  Go Team McKenna.  Catholic Conservatives since the boat ride over from Ireland.