Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Recent Survey Shows "Canadians Don’t Understand the Political System"

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.

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Why Have We Never Had a Prime Minister Who Isn’t White?

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.

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The best line in the English federal leaders’ debate…

… goes to Jack Layton for saying to Stephen Harper: “Where’s the platform, under the sweater1?”

Is anyone else dismayed by the fact that Harper has not issued his party platform?

How, exactly, can you run an election campaign without letting the public know what your plan is?  Even more mind-boggling than that is: polls show the platform-less Harper is in the lead!

1The “sweater” comments refers to the fact that Harper is wearing sweaters in his campaign ads to “soften his image.” You know, his image as a compassionate-less robot would would ignore someone who just fainted.

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The Canadian Federal Election 2008

As the election1 approaches, I’m starting to get a little frightened. Polls are suggesting we may end up with a Conservative* majority.

George Strombo invited all the party leaders to be interviewed on his show, The Hour.  Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper has REFUSED to go on the show.  Harper appears to be frightened by the thought of people hearing what he or his party members say unless it’s under very tightly controlled circumstances. He avoids talking to the media (other than handpicked reporters who will ask the questions Harper tells them to) and the public as much as possible.  Strombo is an excellent interviewer – he cuts through the bullshit and asks some really direct questions – and I’m sure Harper would be way too terrified to be asked real questions.

If you are at all interested in the federal election, be sure to check out the interviews with each of the leaders EXCEPT scaredy cat Harper (and possibly not Gilles Duceppe):

And you definitely have to check out this clip of Strombo inviting Harper to come on to The Hour:

A few random interesting things I learned from these interviews:

  • Jack Layton’s great granduncle was a Father of Confederation and his dad was Conservative minister under Brian Mulroney.
  • Elizabeth May was an adviser to Brian Mulroney’s government!2
  • Elizabeth May is working on a degree in Theology.
  • I’ve heard this before from a number of sources, and Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion both allude to it in their interviews – Stephen Harper is a micro-managing control freak.  In response to Conservatives’* accusation that the Liberals plan to raise the GST, Dion said: “Mr. Harper wants to control everything, to the point that he would like to write the Liberal platform.” Dion states that the Liberals won’t raise the GST, nor will they go into deficit.  Their plan is to lower income tax and replace the difference with a tax on pollution.

Also worth watching is this video showing Stephen Harper giving a speech that was plagiarized from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and comparing it to Howard giving the speech:

Astonishing.

Another interesting site worth checking out is Vote for the Environment.  As shown there, if people were willing to vote strategically, we could avoid a Harper government at all (let alone a Harper majority):

If those of us who care about the environment don’t work together across party lines, the pro-environment vote will be split as it was in the last election and Harper will be re-elected.

We are the majority. But our electoral system hasn’t kept up with Canada’s changing political landscape.” (Vote for the Environment)

The site will show you “which candidate in your riding supports action against global warning AND has the best chance of winning”3

Rebecca recently posted a summary of the candidates in her riding, Vancouver Centre, and has inspired me to do the same.  So look forward to a summary of the Vancouver Quadra candidates here, probably on Monday.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Canadian federal election?  Are you going to be voting strategically?

1The Canadian federal one. The US presidential one, Vancouver municipal one and then, not too far after those, the BC provincial one, are all also approaching, of course, but first up is the Canadian feds.
2What’s with all the lefties having ties to Mulroney?
3There’s a video on the site explaining “how it works” and this quotation is taken from that video. To watch the video, go to their site and click on “Vote smart so the majority wins – FIND OUT HOW HERE.”

The * is there in recognition of the fact that Stephen Harper’s “Conservative” party is not the real “Conservative” party… it’s the Reform-Party-cum-Canadian-Alliance-in-Tory-clothing.

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Stephen Harper is a Dick – SPIKE

Watch as someone on stage with Stephen Harper faints and Harper shows no compassion, no human emotion whatsoever:

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.706302&w=425&h=350&fv=flvbaseclip%3D2769726]

more about “Stephen Harper is a Dick – SPIKE“, posted with vodpod

 

Robot, much?

And why didn’t I see this in the news?

UPDATE: VodPod FAIL!!! Using VodPod to embed the Harper clip isn’t working – it keeps embedding some random weatherman! For the real clip, go here.

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P.M.#23 – Dr. Stéphane Dion

Name Stéphane Maurice Dion
Born: September 28, 1955 in Quebec City, Quebec
Died: not
Party: Liberal Party of Canada
Best known for:
  • he was named Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs by Chretien in January 1996, before he was elected to Parliament. He was elected two months later in a by-election.
  • Dion presented the Clarity Act to the Parliament; the Act stated that a referendum on separation needs to use a “clearly” stated question (where “clear” is in the judgement of the Canadian House of Commons) and the separatists would need a “clear majority” (not “50% plus one” majority) in order to separate.
  • he was dropped from Cabinet when Paul Martin took power, but was later brought back into Cabinet by Martin as Minister of the Environment
  • he became the leader of the Liberal Party, running a campaign on the issues of social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • His father, Léon Dion, co-founded the department of Political Science at Laval University in Quebec, where Stéphane Dion got his B.A. and M.A. degrees
  • His father’s name is Léon Dion… tee hee.
  • As a teenager & university student, he was a Quebec separatist activist, but his support of separatism “ended during a five-hour, rum-and-Coke fuelled discussion with a federalist household while he was going door-to-door” for the Parti Québécois.
  • He received his doctorate degree in Sociology from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and then taught public administration & organizational ansalysis and theory at the Université de Montréal (1984 to January 1996).
  • He has a pet dog named “Kyoto.”

If you are just dying to read more about P.M. Stéphane Dion, check these out:

Image credits:

  • Photo was accessed from Wikipedia and is used under a Creative Commons license.

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P.M.#22 – Bush Lite

Name Stephen Joseph Harper
Born: April 30, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario,
Died: not
Party: Currently the “Conservative Party of Canada”
Formerly:

  • Canadian Alliance (2002-2003)
  • Reform (1987-1997)
  • Progressive Conservative (1985-1986)
  • Young Liberals (c.1974-early 1980s)1
Held Office: Feb 6, 2006– present
Best known for:
  • he was a key player in the Reform Party: gave a speech at their founding convention, became the party’s Chief Policy Officer, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1988 as a Reform Candidate, and then ran successfully in 1993
  • he defeated Stockwell Day for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance party (what the Reform Party turned into) – during the campaign he said he wouldn’t work with the Progressive Conservatives as long as they were led by Joe Clark, he supported parents being allowed to hit their kids and he said his potential support base was “similar to what George Bush tapped” (hence the nickname of “Bush Lite”)
  • he merged the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservative Party (then being led by Peter McKay2 to create the “Conservative Party of Canada” (notice that this party likes to keep changing its name).
  • recent reports suggest that Harper gave approval of an attempt to bribe Independent MP Chuck Cadman to vote with the Conservatives on a May 2005 attempt to bring down the Liberal government; Harper is suing the Liberal Party of Canada for libel in relation to this accusation
  • he became the P.M. when the “Conservative Party”3 won the Jan 2006 federal election
  • shortly after the election, while dropping his kids off at school, he shook the hands of his then 9-year-old son and 7-year old daughter.  Shook their hands?  No hug?  “Wtf?!” cried the nation!
  • since becoming P.M., he’s not been very forthcoming with the press – often telling the media at the 11th hour about his trips so that media can’t be there to cover it, and insisting on hand picking which journalists get to ask questions at press conferences
  • he’s a closet Leafs fan
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he’s the first P.M. since Pearson to not have gone to law school
  • he’s the first P.M. since Pearson that isn’t Catholic (he’s an evangelical Prostestant)
  • he resigned from Parliament in Jan 1997 to take the VP position (later Prez) of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), a conservative think-tank and advocacy group.
If you are just dying to read more about P.M. S.H., check these out:

1This is from Wikipedia, listed as “citation needed,” so I have no idea if it’s true or not.
2McKay had made a deal with PC leadership opponent David Orchard that he would not merge the PC Party with the Alliance if Orchard agreed to step down in the leadership race. Then McKay merged the PC Party with the Alliance. Nice.
3I have trouble referring to this party as the “Conservative Party” as such without the quotations marks. To me, the “Conservative Party” was really the Progressive Conservatives, whereas this party is just the Reform-Party-turned-Canadian-Alliance in sheep’s clothing.

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P.M. #20 – My fav Chrétien quotation: "A proof is proof"

Sorry this is a day late. I’m going to blame the holiday weekend (Happy BC Day, everyone!), as that seems like as good an excuse as any.

Chrétien Gets All the Girls at Vic by Joe Howell. Name Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien
Born: January 11, 1934 in Shawinigan, Quebec
Died: not
Party: Liberal
Held Office: November 4, 1993 – December 12, 2003
Best known for:
  • he has the same birthday as me. And Sir John A. MacDonald
  • he used the nickname “the “little guy from Shawinigan,” referring to his humble origins
  • the left side of his face is paralyzed due to Bell’s Palsy (he would refer to this in his first Liberal leadership campaign, saying he was “One politician who didn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth.” The Conservatives would try to use it against him (by using unflattering photos) in the 1993 election, to disastrous results.
  • he held a number of Minister positions, including his stint at the first ever francophone Minister of Finance
  • he placed an important role in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution; he was the chief negotiator of the “Kitchen Accord1
  • Upon becoming P.M. in 1993, he had been in every single Liberal cabinet since 1965.
  • In order to clear the massive debt left behind by Mulroney, Chrétien’s government made deep cuts which, while they resulted in eliminating a $42 billion deficit & $36 billion in debt, results in significant cuts to government services, including health care.
  • Promising to scrap the GST2, but then not following through, saying that the state of Canada’s finances were worse than they had expected after they took over from Mulroney
  • He & his wife were at home at 24 Sussex Drive when an armed assailant broke in, and they locked themselves in the bedroom until security came; I’m not sure why everyone knows that Chrétien armed himself with an Inuit carving in case the assailant broke through the door, but we do.
  • After protesters at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the University of British Columbia were pepper sprayed, Chrétien famously said, “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.”
  • He choked a protester in Hull, Quebec
  • The sponsorship scandal: a “sponsorship program” was created to raise awareness about the Government of Canada’s contributions to Quebec, in the face of the Parti Québécois promotion of separatism. Widespread corruption was discovered in this program in 2004 (e.g., ad firms being paid large sums of money, but not doing any actual work). The Gomery Commission cleared Chrétien himself of any wrong doing.
  • He was, shall we say, pressured to retire in 2003 so that Paul Martin”3, the heir apparent could take over as P.M.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he was 18th of 19 children in his family (10 of 19 did not survive past infancy)
  • during the October Crisis, with respect to invoking the War Measures Act, he told Trudeau to, “act now, explain later.”
  • he retired from politics in the mid-80s, after losing the Liberal party leadership race to John Turner (and the subsequent Liberal loss of the 1984 election); he returned to political life in 1990 when he won the Liberal Party leadership after Turner resigned
  • one of my alma maters, McMaster University, granted him an honourary degree in 2005

And here is my favourite Jean Chrétien quotation, in response to a reporter’s question about what type of proof Canada would require before joining the US war on Iraq:

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”

Some people mocked this statement saying that Chrétien wasn’t saying anything at all, but I personally thought this rocked. There was no proof of WMDs, and Chrétien was pointing out that, hey, if they can prove it, well, go ahead and prove it already!

My second fav quotation, on the decriminalization of marijuane: “I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand,”


If you are just dying to read more about The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, check these out:

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable
Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and
Right Honourable Joe Clark.

e002213543.jpg


Signing of the constitution
, 17 April 1982 in
Ottawa, ON. (In the photo, left to right) Gerald Regan,
then Minister of Labour; Jean Chrétien, then Minister
of Justice; The Right Honourable Pierre E. Trudeau,
then Prime Minister of Canada; André Ouellet, the
Registrar General; Her Majesty the Queen; Michael
Pitfield, then Clerk of the Privy Council

a115289.jpg
Jean Chrétien – the Member of
Parliament for Shawinigan
, then
Minister without portfolio. (Look
how young he is!) Apr. 1967

Image credits: Photo of Chrétien at the University of Toronto, surrounded by women, reproduced under a Creative Commons license, posted by Joe Howell on Flickr. Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use. The “Signing of the Constitution” photo is also from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use, credit: Robert Cooper / Library and Archives Canada / PA-140706. Photo of a young Chrétien has its “copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron;” Credit: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada/PA-115289.


1Basically, negotiations on the Constitution which, as the name suggests, took place in a kitchen. Quebec premier Rene Lévesque wasn’t in this kitchen, so he walked into the premiers breakfast the next morning and was told a deal was done without him; Quebec nationalists refer to this as the “Night of the Long Knives,” with their feeling that they had been stabbed in the back)
2Although Wikipedia assures me that he didn’t actually promise to scrap the GST, but rather that the Red Book (a 112-page document outlining the Liberals platform) promised “to replace the GST “with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal cooperation and harmonization.” Does anyone remember reading the Red Book? Is this true??
3For how well this worked out for Martin, you’ll have to wait ’til next week’s entry on P.M. P.M.

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P.M.#19 – I’ve delayed this posting almost as long as she was Prime Minister

After much delay, I’m finally bringing you the latest installment of my Prime Ministerial series. In fairness, I was on vacation for both three Sundays ago (Sun Peaks) and two Sundays ago (San Fran) and this past Sunday (i.e., yesterday) was hockey playoffs. It’s summertime, so one must expect some delays and disruptions. But now, on to P.M. #19.

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell was our, as of yet, one and only female Prime Minister. She wasn’t elected as the P.M., but took over when the aforementioned rat left the aforementioned sinking ship that was the Progressive Conservative government of 1993.


Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and Right Honourable Joe Clark.
Name Avril Phaedra Douglas “Kim” Campbell
Born: March 10, 1947 (1947-03-10) in Port Alberni, British Columbia
Died: not
Party: Progressive Conservative
Held Office: June 25, 1993 – November 4, 1993
Best known for:
  • being the first female Prime Minister of Canada
  • being the second female Head of State in the G8 (after Margaret Thatcher of England)
  • in the Mulroney government, she was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1989-1990), then Minister of Justice (Canada’s first female in this role) and Attorney-General (1990-1993), then appointed the Minister of National Defence (again, Canada’s first female in this role) in 1993.
  • She became the Prime Minister in June 1993 after Mulroney announced his retirement from politics, beating out Jean Charest for the party leadership. The election in fall 1993 was disastrous for the Progressive Conservatives, with the party winning only 2 seats3; Campbell lost her seat to Liberal Hedy Fry. There was probably not a single person who could have taken over the reigns after Mulroney and managed to win an election mere months later, but there was also a big ruckus caused by the Tories running attack ads against Liberal leader Jean Chretien, including an ad that appeared to make fun of his Bell’s Palsy.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • Canada’s first baby boomer P.M.
  • her name isn’t actually Kim, it’s Avril. She gave herself the nickname “Kim.”
  • She started a doctorate degree at the London School of Economics, studying Soviet Government, but didn’t finish it. Instead, she went to the University of British Columbia Law School and obtained her L.L.B.
  • She currently lives in Paris, France, with her common law husband
  • She was unsuccessful running for a seat in the provincial legislature with the BC Social Credit Party1 (the “Socreds”) in ’83, then unsuccessfully ran for the leadership of the Socreds in ’86, then won the Vancouver Point-Grey riding2

If you are just dying to read more about The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, check these out:

Image credits: Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use. I was unable to find any other photos of Campbell that were free to use.

1Don’t let the word “social” in their name fool you – the Socreds were conservatives.
2That’s the riding where *I* live!
3I remember this joke going around after that election: What did the waiter say when Campbell entered the restaurant? “Kim Campbell, party of 2?”

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Do You Go By Your Real First Name?

While working on my Prime Ministerial Series, I’ve noticed that several of our Prime Ministers go by something other than their real first name:

  • Wilfrid Laurier’s name was Henri-Charles-Wilfred
  • Lester B. Pearson went by the nickname “Mike”
  • Pierre Trudeau’s name was really Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott
  • Joe Clark’s first name is Charles
  • Brian Mulroney’s first name is Martin
  • Kim Campbell’s first name is Avril (she gave herself the nickname “Kim”)
  • Jean Chrétien’s name is Joseph Jacques Jean

That’s 7 of 22.  Or 32% for you mathophiles.  Is it just me, or does that seem unusually high?  What percentage of the general population goes by something other than their real first name?

I’m particularly aware of people not going by their own first names because I’m one of them.  My name, as many of you know, is Mary Elizabeth, but I’ve been referred to as “Beth” since the day I was born.  I think I was in kindergarten by the time I found out that Beth wasn’t actually my name.  My parents named me “Mary” after both my grandmothers, but then thought it would be too confusing to have a third “Mary” running around, so decided to refer to me as Beth.  Because, you know, having documents say your name is “Mary” when everyone knows you as “Beth” isn’t confusing at all. </sarcasm>.

My ex-husband also goes by his second name, as he shares his first name with his dad and his parents had the same “it would be confusing to have two Williams” excuse.  My grandpa is Charles Desmond and goes by Des, one of my cousins is Desmond Andrew and goes by Andy1. My good friend Therese also goes by her second name and, to further complicate things, both she and her sister share the same first name (Grace Therese and Grace Elaine). When my sister was pregnant, I told her that I didn’t care what they named their baby, so long as they called her whatever her name actually was2.

So, the questions are: Do you go by your first name?  If not, why not?  Would you give you kid one name and then call them something else?  If yes, why oh why would you do that?

1I also have three cousins named Robert, but that is neither here nor there.
2For a little while after she was born, we actually referred to my niece Madeline as “Meg” as her initials are “M.H.Z.” or “MHz” – megahertz, hence the short-form, “Meg.” But then my sister decided she better start actually referring to her as “Madeline” so she would know what her real name is!