Polievre and the election wrinkle

It’s not exactly news that Stephen Harper and his merry band are willing to cut a few corners when it comes to getting democratically elected. It’s also probably not news that the party that has been found guilty on several occasions of major financial shenanigans when it comes to advertisements and campaigning has also found a way to potentially disenfranchise two voter blocks that are most likely to swing to the NDP or Liberals – natives and the young.

New rules put in place are designed to fix the “problem” of people voting with only a voter card, having been ‘vouched for’ by a neighbour or relative. Starting with the anticipated election this coming fall, all voters will have to provide identification that proves not only the name of the voter, but also their address. In the past, the voter card was considered enough to meet address requirement.

Having been a university student who traveled to another city to attend school, I know that the address requirement can be potentially difficult to prove – picture identification like passports or driver’s licenses are likely to show home addresses, not their current one. New regulations  found here require that all voters provide one piece of photo identification with the current voting address. Lacking that, the voter can opt to provide an  ID with their name and an additional piece of identification with name and address. Included in the list of valid IDs containing the address include utility bills with name and address, personal cheques with address, or income tax assessments.

Please make sure that you can meet these criteria before you head to the polls. I’d bring a few pieces of backup ID just in case something gets rejected for *any* reason.


“If I could increase it, I would”

These are the words  of Tim Brown, CEO of Nestle Waters, responding when asked if Nestle would decrease the extraction of ground water to supply its California bottling operations. He would increase it if he could. He doesn’t see the historic California drought as anything more than an opportunity – all of those who thirst are simply potential customers.

This is what privatization of public resources has resulted in. This is why we have governments. This is why we have governance. This is why the Conservatives are no longer in power in Alberta.

2015 Election

Vote Together

I’m all in favour of voting your conscience. I’m all in favour of voting for the person who best will represent your riding. However, in the screwed up system that we currently have, your ballot gets used to determine both MP and governing party. And, since a party in power will whip the vote to keep its members in line, I would say it’s obvious that the most important thing that your vote does is choose the leadership in Ottawa.

With the Liberals and NDP splitting 60 – 65% of the popular vote, it is obvious that a majority of the Canadian population is fed up with the Conservative government currently in power. Unfortunately, our screwed up first-past-the-post system could still elect a Conservative majority in October with only a few percentage points more than they have right now. We can’t let this happen.

Vote Together promises to keep you abreast of which candidate is most likely to defeat the Conservatives in your riding. Go there now and sign up – let’s organize to use the ridiculous FPtP system to return sanity to the government.

It would be no surprise to readers that I bleed a bit of orange, but if I have to vote Liberal to keep a Conservative out of my riding, I will, dammit. I have in the past and I will again if I must. I’ll plug my nose, make no mistake, but I will do it.

Go sign up at the link and make your vote a true ABC vote this time. They fucking deserve it.

Civil Rights

Omar Khadr Update

The Supremes have just ruled that Omar Khadr should be tried as a juvenile for crimes he may have committed in Afghanistan. This is no surprise as Omar Khadr clearly  was under 18 years of age at the time of his arrest and he conforms with the UN definition of “child soldier”, but the ruling is heartening nonetheless.


A troubling picture

A just-published report  (enhanced pdf) containing new measurements of global sea-level rise has some troubling news – the rate of sea level increase has accelerated over the past twenty years. What I would argue is the most troubling is the increased precision with which these measurements are made owing to new satellite techniques.

It’s like knowing to the millimetre how long the knife at your throat is.

The figure below is figure 2 from the paper and shows the measured change since 1900. Note that these are from a combination of satellite methods and tide gauge measurements. Note also, the decreasing uncertainty.

Let me put a finer point on it. Note the increasing certainty.


(h/t iflscience)


A simple question, unanswered

If the Trans Pacific Partnership is really the biggest game on the planet, why really is it okay to negotiate it in complete secrecy? Secrecy to the point that our elected representatives, who theoretically should have our best interests at heart (heh) can’t even see the thing? Why is it that the only details we can see are those that have been released via wikileaks?

Okay, there were a few questions there, but they are sequential and related. I consider them a unit.

Since we are well and truly in election campaign mode (really, when aren’t we?), why is this not the biggest single issue on everyone’s lips?  It basically affects every possible economic issue you can imagine.

At its core, the TPP is about promoting foreign investment and protecting investors. It has everything to do with competitive advantage, share price, profits, and nothing at all to do with jobs, the environment, or standards of living. It is therefore very important to anyone concerned at all with income disparity. Like her politics or not, Maud Barlow is absolutely right in describing this as a “deal for the 1%”. The information we have so far, some of which I cite below, is not hopeful. The sky might not actually be falling, but without any hard information, how are we to know?

The sky isn’t falling? Show me, prove it. Until then, here are a few little snippets teased out of the wikileak:

On the environment:

Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable. Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.

This means, fewer protections for the environment and few pesky regulations getting in the way of “commercial objectives”.

On jobs (note, this paragraph was written in an American context, but the Canadian situation is similar and may in fact be worse):

A leaked text revealed that TPP is slated to include the extreme foreign investor privileges that help corporations offshore more U.S. jobs to low-wage countries. These NAFTA-style terms provide special benefits to firms that relocate abroad and eliminate many of the usual risks that make firms think twice about moving to low-wage countries.

Under the NAFTA model, U.S. manufacturing imports have soared while growth of U.S. manufacturing exports has slowed.

Are you happy with the jobless recovery? Just wait, it’s gonna get even better!
On pharmaceuticals (note that according to this article, the Canadian government is fighting this, but we are a very small dog in this fight.):
We know from leaks of the TPP draft text that some governments are attempting to dismantle public-health safeguards enshrined in international law by extending the length of time that brand-name medicines are protected by patents to create new types of monopolistic protection. As a result, pharmaceutical companies will be able to charge unduly high prices for several more years, thereby restricting access to affordable life-saving generic medicines. This will disproportionately affect those who can least afford to pay.
Where are the political parties on this issue? It’s not that straightforward. Corporation-friendly regulatory regimes are right up Conservative Alley, but with all negotiations in secret, it is not easy to see where the Canadian government is in agreement and where it has problems. The Liberals and the NDP likewise have been wishy-washy about the deal, hoping I expect that it doesn’t become an issue that they have to debate openly. There are tough discussions to be had here, tougher for all the silence. I would love to change that.

Let’s make the parties talk!