Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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So apparently there’s a provincial election coming up

When I asked “Does anyone even know we are having a provincial election in a few months” in the office lunch room the other day, I was met with one “I know, right?” and a chorus of “We are?” and “Really?” and one “I did not even know we had elections at the provincial level. I thought they were just appointed.” While that last one is an outlier of a response, the responses of surprise seem to be pretty widespread. This is probably because there’s been almost nothing in the news about it and no one seems to be campaigning whatsoever. I have’t seen a single lawn sign or flyer or anything. I mean, it’s not like I want a years long campaign like they have down in the states, but I feel like at 83 days and counting, I should be hearing something happening.

I just did a quick Google search to find out the exact date of the election (to write that last sentence with the number of days left until the election) and found this article about how the opposition party (the NDP) have only nominated 58 candidates for the election that is, did I mention?, only 83 days away.

Ok, now I’ve done more Googling and apparently the election period usually last only 51 days, so the writ won’t be dropped for another 32 days and I guess that means I’m totally jumping the gun on worrying about the fact that no one knows there’s an election coming up. I guess I’ll just have to sit tight for another month and see what happens.

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Random Whatever

So I decided to stay in tonight because (a) I’ve been doing entirely too many things lately and I’m freaking exhausted, (b) I still haven’t recovered sleep from last weekend’s hockey playoffs1 and (c) I have a bunch of end-of-term marking to do. And here it is 11:30 p.m. and I haven’t done a stitch of marking2 and I just realized that I hadn’t even blogged today! D’oh! Too bad I phoned in a blog posting so recently – so I can’t do that again! Instead, I give you a few random thoughts:

  • My sister was quoted in this news article about going to an organic spa as a preggo. They make a point of noting that she does not own a car. Hippy.
  • Looks like the riding I’m now in federally is a bit of a Conservative stronghold. Boo-urns.
  • Speaking of the Conservatives, this site is hilarious: http://www.stephenharperisatotallynormalguy.com/
  • Have you donated to the Longest Game for CF yet? The very first donation that was received in my name was from someone that I don’t know, but who I am pretty sure is one of my blog readers3. So thank you, blog reader of mine! Your donation is very much appreciated!
  1. seriously, who schedules games at the unholy hours of 10:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekend days?? []
  2. though I did respond to some student emails, so that’s something at least []
  3. As the donation amount was $24.20, something that I mentioned in my blog posting. []

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Did You Vote Yet?

I went first thing this morning.  Voted in the election and the referendum on BC-STV.

You should go too. Go now!

Unless you don’t live in BC, aren’t at least 18 years old and/or aren’t a Canadian citizen.  Then no election for you!  Otherwise – vote!

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Single Transferable Vote

So along with our provincial election, we are having a vote on changing the way in which we elect our provincial politicians.  Currently we use a first-past-the-post system – there are a bunch of candidates in your area (called a “riding”), you vote for one and then the candidate with the most votes wins the seat in that riding.  The problem with this system is that a lot of people’s votes don’t count for anything and a person can (and often do) win their seat even when the majority of people in the riding don’t vote for them.

Take, for example, the riding in which I lived during the last election – Vancouver-Quadra, which just happens to be the riding currently held by the Premier.  This is how many votes each candidate received in that riding in the last election:

  • Gordon Campbell – BC Liberals* 12,498 votes
  • Mel Lehan – BC NDP 10,248 votes
  • Damian Kettlewell – Green Party 4,111 votes
  • Yolanda Perez – Marijuana 138 votes
  • Tom Walker -Work Less Party 126 votes
  • Jeff Monds – Libertarian 44 votes
  • Gudrun Kost – Platnium Party 18 votes

To put it another way:

Votes for Gordon Campbell – 12,498

Votes for NOT Gordon Campbell – 14,685

(Votes for NOT Gordon Campbell if you only look at the 3 major parties – 14,359)

Simply put, more people in the riding didn’t want to see Gordo as their Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) than did.  And yet he won the seat.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system allows for more proportional representation.  For example, a party like the Green Party which tends to get a fair percentage of the popular vote (9.17% in the last BC provincial election) but no seats because they don’t get enough votes in any single riding could actually win some seats, meaning that the 9.17% of people who voted for the Green Party could have some representation.  And people like me – a lefty in a heavily righty riding1 – will have a chance for their vote to count.

The clearest explanation of how STV works that I’ve seen has been this little animation on the CBC website2.  There doesn’t seem to be a way to embed that animation here on my blog, but you should definitely click on the link and go watch it, because it explains the whole thing really clearly.  Go and watch it.  I’ll wait.

Did you watch it?  It all makes lots of sense now, right?  Good.

We actually had a referendum on the STV during the last election, but there was very, very little promotion of that fact, so many people showed up at the polls and were all “What? There’s a referendum too?  What the f is STV?” And since, as you saw from the animation that you just watch (you did watch it, right?), it’s not something that can be explained in 30 words or less, those people just tended not to vote in the referendum, which actually got 58% of the votes in favour, but needed 60% to pass.  But because a lot of people felt they weren’t informed enough to vote on it last time, they are having a do-over.  I haven’t really seen many ads or explanations of STV yet (although there are lawn signs, as Cath@VWXYNot? pointed out in her comment on my last blog posting and they were talking about it on CFOX radio this morning).  Anyway, this blog posting is my little attempt to get the word out.  So watch the animation and then vote in the BC-STV referendum, k?

*Not in anyway liberal.
1I’ve actually jumped out of the frying pan into the fire in that respect, having moved from Gordo’s riding into an even more staunchly right-wing riding where the incumbent BC Liberal* candidate won a strong majority of the vote.
2Props to Rebecca who had a link to this on her blog.

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VoteSmartBC EXPOSED

Here in BC, we are just a few months away from a provincial election.  Being TV-less, I haven’t seen the original ads, but apparently there are pro-Liberal*1 ads being run under the name “Vote Smart BC.”  And here, I’m providing you with the NDPs response to those ads:

We’re exposing the facts about the people behind the Vote Smart BC ads appearing around BC.

The Vote Smart campaign is run by the Independent Contractors and Builders Association, a lobby group that supports the BC Liberals and advocates to keep wages low and laws protecting working people weak.

Voters need to know the truth – and today we are launching a parody of their cartoon ad.

1Just like I put an asterisk next to the word “Tories” for the federal party (because they aren’t real Tories – they are the Reform-party-turned-Canadian-Alliance-who-stole-the-Progressive-Conservative-name), I put an asterisk next to the word “Liberal” for the BC Liberal* Party because they are anything but liberal.2
2Speaking of which – in May, vote Anything But Liberal (ABL)!
Read More

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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.

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The 44th President of the United States

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!

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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!

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The Candidates of Vancouver Quadra

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.

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Science and the Election

Note: This blog posting is going to be a long one. I’ve been writing it for days. But it’s so worth the read, if you are interested in science, education, the Canadian election, or hearing my ongoing rants about the Conservative* party.

Today Yesterday The other day, I read this story on the CBC: Researchers wonder: What’s the plan for R&D?. Some of the key things that jumped out to me:

  • “On Sept. 17, federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion did pledge a 60 per cent increase of funding for university-based research — to $500 million a year — and proposed a $100-million fund to enable scientists, researchers and graduate students to take on projects that extend beyond the barriers of their disciplines.  But the topic was soon buried under the larger issue of government spending, with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that same day calling the spending proposals of Dion and NDP Leader Jack Layton “mind-boggling” in size.”
  • The Conservatives have not issued their party platform, but neither they nor the other party leaders has devoted a speech to science-related issues outside the environment.”
  • Scientists “expressed dismay at political parties that want to build a knowledge economy but seem unwilling to contribute to it.
  • “Funding was the top concern: few scientists can complain about current funding levels, but some worry about the future of the funding while others worry those funds are becoming too narrowly focused on industrial spinoffs or favoured established programs at the expense of new initiatives.|

Few scientists can complain about current funding levels?” What? The Canadian Institutes of Health Research – the federal funding agency for research related to health and the agency with which I’m most familiar – has very depressing rates of funding: exact numbers depend on the particular grant competition, but it’s fair to say that you can expect ~ 25% success rate1,2 when you submit a grant application (i.e., 3 of every 4 grant applications submitted won’t get funded). And that’s not because the grant applications aren’t high quality.  They have a category called “Fundable, But Not Funded,” which basically it means that the proposed research is of high enough quality that it should be funded, but there’s no money for it.  According to a recent CIHR Operating Grant Program Analysis2, the success rate of “fundable but not funded” grant application is only ~30% – that means that 2 out of 3 high quality research applications submitted to the operating grant competition are not funded.

As I’ve mentioned before, the National Science Adviser to the Prime Minister was first shunted to the Industry Ministry (which shows how the Harper government views science – in their view, science is only important if you can make money from it) and then canned completely.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the Harper government is willing to completely ignore scientific evidence and oppose Vancouver’s supervised injection facility, claiming that there isn’t enough science to back it up (I suppose all the scientific evidence that they choose to ignore doesn’t count?).

Shortly after reading that article, my friend and scientist extraordinaire, Mel Kardel, sent me and some other colleagues a summary of each of the main political parties’3 stances on science and on students, which she created by going through each of their platforms and searching for “science” and “student”4. Would you believe that the Conservative* party platform does not include the word “student” even one time? Oh yeah, the Conservative* party *finally* released their platform. One week before the election. The election that THEY called. And after some people have already voted in advance polls. Anyway. The only mentions of “education” in their 44-page document were vague references to “provid[ing] practical help to Canadian families to assist them with higher costs of living, and protect them from unfair retail practices so that families can focus on the things in life that matter most, like buying their first home and saving for their children’s education.” Which basically sounds like “as for actually paying for education – you’re on your own!” Oh wait, on page 9 it says that they’ll let charities and NPOs create RESPs for kids. Isn’t this like saying “hey poor people, want your kids to go to college? You better ask a charity, because the Conservative* government isn’t going to help!” And then there’s the vague: “Improving Aboriginal education is crucial to giving young members of the Aboriginal community the opportunity to succeed.” No mention on *how* they are going to improve Aboriginal education. Awesome.

As for science, the only mention of science in their platform is the claim that they “made major new investments in leading-edge science over the past three budgets, which will increase support for science and technology by $850 million by 2009-10,” (with no indication that most of this was directed very specific, industry-focuses areas rather than the basic sciences), a claim that they will “make additional investments in internationally recognized science and technology projects in Canada,” (with no suggestion of how much that investment will be, or in what areas).  And there’s a promise to “build a world-class High Arctic Research Station that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development.”  And that’s it for education and science in the Conservative* party’s platform.  For real.

In contrast, the Liberals, NDP and Green Party all talk extensively about science and education in their platforms. I can provide you with the full details if you like, but in view of the fact that this blog posting has gotten quite long (!), I’ll just hit you with some highlights here:

Liberals:

  • increase in the indirect costs of university based research to $500 per year
  • increased funding for both CIHR and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to $1.275 billion/year (from $960 million) and for the Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) to $450 million a year (from $320 million), plus $100 for interdisciplinary research
  • an Education grant of $1000/yr for postsecondary students, plus a $250 tax credit for students who also work
  • increased grants and bursaries for students in need
  • an extension of the post-graduation interest-free period before you have to start paying off your student loan from 6 months to 2 years, plus lower interest rates on student loans (man, could I ever use that!)

NDP:

  • $1000 grant to students who qualify for student loans
  • more funding to universities and keeping tuition fees affordable (although I’d argue with the word “keeping” here, as tuition fees are *not* currently affordable)
  • reforming student loan system, including interest relief for students completing an internship after graduation
  • increased funding for research and for grad students (to keep the best and brightest here in Canada)

Green Party:

  • “Post-secondary education should not be a debt sentence”  Hee hee. Debt sentence.
  • forgiving 50% of your student loans when you graduate (holy crap! that would have amounted to a $35,000 grant for me!)
  • increased funding to universities
  • working with provinces to lower tuition fees
  • “Fund universities to create more tenure track teaching positions, regardless of perceived commercial value of the area of pedagogy.”

Now, I realize that the proof is in the pudding and we’ll only know if anyone will follow through with these promises once they get into power. But I also think it’s pretty clear that the Conservatives* have no intention whatsoever of doing anything for students or for scientists.  At least the other parties have promises for which we can hold them accountable.  Time to replace Harper!

1How to Prepare a CIHR Application, University of Western Ontario
2Operating Grant Program Analysis
3Not including the Bloc, ‘cuz we can’t vote for them here in BC.
4My friends rock.