Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Politics edition

I started this posting ages ago, but haven’t gotten around to finishing it until now. So it’s pretty old news at this point, but I am posting it as part of my chronicling of the stuff I’m learning this year. #YouHeardItHereLast

So eighty billion years ago, we had a provincial election in BC. Politics in BC tend to be weird, and I think we may have outdone ourselves on the weirdness front this time. There are a number of things that I already knew about how our government worked, but the weird situation provided the opportunity for me to learn a few new things!

The BC provincial legislature has a total of 87 seats, which means in order to have a majority, a party needs to win 44 of those seats. On election night, the results ended up being:

  • 43 BC “Liberals”1
  • 41 BC NDP
  • 3 Green Party

BC LegislatureThis meant that no one had a majority and this situation is referred to as a “hung legislature” (this term is the first (#1) thing I learned). But there was an additional weird thing at play – after the votes were counted on election night, there were several very close ridings, including one where the BC NDP won the riding by only 9 votes! But any absentee ballots and ballots cast in the advanced polls are not counted on election night, and with thousands of those ballots outstanding, it was entirely possible that the numbers of ridings could change. If that riding with a 9-vote margin were to end up going to the BC Liberals after the final count, they would have the 44 seats needed for a majority. But if other close ridings changed, it was theoretically possible that the NDP could gain a few seats and end up with a majority (although the odds of that were slim, as the other close ridings weren’t nearly as close as 9 votes). To add even more weirdness, the riding with the 9-vote margin includes a military base (and any deployed personnel would have had to have cast absentee ballots) and the BC “Liberal” candidate in that riding was the former boss of that military base. As one TV commentator put it on election night, the election could end up being decided by whether or not this group of people liked their boss.

IMG_4772At any rate, we then had to wait two weeks for the absentee ballots were counted. This leads to the second (#2) thing that I learned – why it takes so long to count these ballots! When I heard it would take two weeks, I thought, “It’s only ~180,000 ballots. Get a team of volunteers and you could count those up in a day!” But what I didn’t know, and only later learned, was that every advanced poll and absentee ballot has to be sent to its riding (e.g., if you live in Vancouver, but happened to be miles away in another town during the election and voted in a poll there, your ballot would have to be sent to your riding in Vancouver!), where it is counted and then checked manually against the records to make sure that no one voted twice. Because you could imagine a situation where someone votes in by absentee ballot and then shows up at their own polling station on election day and votes again. Hence the manually checking.

After all the ballots were counted – and in some ridings, recounted – the results stayed the same with a hung legislature. What happens in this situation – and this is something that I already knew – is that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) (who represents the Queen of England, who is the head of state in Canada) asks the leader of the party with the most seats if they will be able to maintain the confidence of the house – i.e., will they be able to get enough votes to pass legislation, including budgets, and win votes of non-confidence (where someone in the legislature basically says “I don’t have confidence in this government, who is with me??” and then the legislature votes and if there are a majority of votes in favour of “no confidence”, the government falls. If that leader feels they can get enough votes from the other party/ies, the can say “Yes I can!” and then they can try to govern and thus test out that theory. If they don’t think they can get the other side to vote with them, they can say “No, I can’t” and basically resign, which can either end up as the LG asking another party leader if they can govern or the calling of an election. So the LG asked the leader of the BC “Liberals”, Christy Clark, if she will be able to maintain the confidence of the house. During the time where all the votes were being counted, both the BC “Liberals” and the BC NDP were negotiating with the BC Green Party to see if they could strike a deal to get their support. If the BC “Liberals” could get the Greens to support them, they would have the majority of votes (43 + 3 = 46) and if the BC NDP could get the Greens’ support, they would have the majority of votes (41 + 3 = 44). After negotiating with both sides, the Green Party agreed to a “confidence and supply agreement” with the BC NDP. What is a “confidence and supply agreement” you ask? That is what I asked as well, and it is thing #3 that I learned – a “confidence and supply agreement” is where a party (or individuals) strike an agreement with a governing party (or, in this case, a party that will become government) to vote in the government’s favour on votes of non-confidence and on budgets, ensuring that the government will be able to continuing governing. This other party (or individuals), don’t become a part of the governing party, nor are they in a coalition with the government. They merely agree to vote to keep the governing party in power. In exchange for this agreement, the governing power agrees to stuff that the other party (or individuals) want. So by entering into this agreement, the Green Party effectively demonstrated that the BC “Liberals” would not have the confidence of the house and the BC NDP did. So when the LG asked the leader of the BC “Liberals” if she could govern, she should have said “no” since she knew she would lose the vote 44-432 (and she herself admitted she knew she would lose a vote of non-confidence), but instead she said “yes”, waited a while before she called the legislature into session, and then called the legislature where she lost the vote of non-confidence. She then had to go to the LG’s house to say “My party does not have the confidence of the house so I can’t govern”. She is then supposed to make a recommendation – either that the LG ask the party with the next most seats (i.e., the BC NDP) if they can govern or to call a new election. She went to the LG’s house insisting that she would not make any recommendation because she was not going to ask for a new election and that the LG should decide for herself. The LG told her she *had* to make a recommendation so she recommended a new election, but the LG asked the BC NDP if they could govern and they said “yes” and now we have a BC NDP Premier. Of course, he has a slim one seat majority of votes, but another wrinkle to the whole situation is that one of the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) has to be a speaker of the house and thus doesn’t vote unless as a tie breaker  (thing #4 that I learned – I didn’t realize that the speaker of the house doesn’t vote3 – I feel like I’d be upset if I voted for an MLA to represent me and then they didn’t get to vote on stuff!) and traditionally when they do the tie breaking vote, they vote to continue debate up until the last vote, at which time they vote to “keep the status quo” (or vote against proposed new legislation). So effectively you’ve got a government that has 43 votes in favour and 43 votes against. This, of course, assumes that no one is sick, away, has to resign due to a scandal, chooses to resign to run in an election in a different level of government, or any of a myriad of other possible reasons for being absent. Since the new NDP government has been sworn in, they’ve been busy working on a number of things, but the legislature won’t sit until the fall. Should be interesting times!

Image Credit: Photo of the BC Legislature building was posted by David Gasson on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. The “voting place” sign photo is my own.

  1. For the uninitiated, the “BC Liberal” party has nothing to do with the federal Liberal party, nor are they liberal. They are actually conservative. There is a BC Conservative party, but they run few candidates and don’t win anything. []
  2. Assuming all members of the legislature were present to vote []
  3. I feel like this is something that I should have known. []

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Campaign Curling

On Sunday, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years1 – I learned how to curl! It was all part of a FUNdraiser for my friend, Patrick Johnstone, who is running for New West City Council in next month’s municipal election.

Ice at the Royal City Curling Club
Ice at the Royal City Curling Club, waiting for us to start our curling lesson!

The event took place the Royal City Curling Club. We got a chance to learn some of the curling basics – how to throw the stone so it goes where you want it to go, how to sweep the ice to get the stone to go further and straighter, how to walk on ice without falling – all the important curling skills2! After practicing all of this stuff – which was far more complicated than one would expect just from watching the game – we got to play two ends, with a little bit of help from a coach (because honestly, I had no idea how to tell if the stone was going fast enough to get where we wanted it to go (and thus we shouldn’t sweep) or if it was going too slow and sweeping was needed). Our game was a close one – my team won 3-1 after the two ends3.

Curling 5 Oct 2017
Group shot of all the curlers for the day.

I have to say, curling is a lot more fun to play than it is to watch and as with many things, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the sport now that I’ve tried it myself4.

After all that, there was delicious food from Re-Up BBQ and beer from Steel & Oak – two fantastic local New West businesses – and a chance to chat with other New Westies.

Untitled
Delicious cake decorated like one of Pat’s campaign buttons

Most importantly of all though, this was a fundraiser, and it was really great to see a sold out event in support of Pat’s campaign for city council. I’ve been helping out on Pat’s campaign5 in the form of door knocking with him6, because I think he’ll make an excellent city councilor. He’s really passionate – and extremely knowledgeable – about New West. And I really like his approach – as we’ve been out door knocking, he’s asking New West residents what their concerns and ideas for the city are. He listens to people and he answers any questions they have for him in a direct and transparent way7 – and when he doesn’t know the answer to a particular question he says “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.” He bases his position on any given subject on reason and evidence – and when there’s not enough evidence available he says “We don’t know enough to make an informed decision. X is the evidence we need to make an informed decision on this and Y is where we’d need to get that information” That’s the kind of approach that I would like to see in my government – receptive to the publics concerns, reasoned and evidence-based decision making, and transparency in the process. Anyway, if you are a New Westie, I encourage you to check out his campaign website for more information on his campaign and to donate!

  1. And which I inexplicably didn’t include on my “101 things to do in 1001 days list”. []
  2. Everyone already know how to yell “HURRY HARD!!!!” – no coaching required on that front. []
  3. No thanks to me, I have to say. I was OK at throwing the stone in practice but sucked pretty badly during the actual game! []
  4. I’m still not going to watch it when it’s on TV and I still think it would be better if there was a 3 second shot clock between when one stone stops and the next one must be thrown – watching people stand around and think for several minutes is SO BORING! – and it also needs 200% more yelling. But I have more appreciation for the skill required having now tried doing it myself. []
  5. Item #57 on my 101 list! []
  6. Though with other tasks still to come! []
  7. I’ve learned a lot about the city just by going around door knocking with him and listening to his answers to people’s questions! []

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Another reason to love the Canucks

NDP could win big if voters catch Canucks fever

And speaking of the election, I’ve now seen a few lawn signs popping up.  Unfortunately, since I live in the riding of an incumbent, who happens to be a Cabinet minister and it happens to be a pretty well-to-do riding1, so I don’t really have a hope in hell that the NDP will win the seat here. But I have at least seen a NDP lawn sign2,3, so at least I know who my NDP candidate is now.

On a related note, I’m still taking suggestions on creative ways to destroy the BC-in-name-only-Liberals brochures I’ve received in the mail. So far the best suggestions I’ve recevied have been to line a cat litter box with them and to blenderize them.  I’m leaning towards the latter because, although I do have access to a cat, I really like the cat and wouldn’t want to subject him to looking at that icky brochure, even if it is when he’s taking a poop.

1Note that I am a basement dweller and not someone who even dreams of affording one of the well-to-do homes in this ‘hood.
2On my very own block, no less.
3Have yet to see a Green Party sign though.

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Wanted: Method of Destruction

With the BC provincial election just more than a month away, there’s been surprisingly little said about it. I haven’t heard much in the news, I haven’t seen a single lawn sign and I don’t yet even know the names of the candidates in my riding1.

So it was very much to my surprise when I arrived home today to discover not one, but *two*, packages in the mail from my local neocons-that-call-themselves-“Liberal”-party candidate:

icky by you.

They lose points2 with me for sending me identical packages – such a waste of paper! – and even more points for addressing one of those packages to me with my ex-husband’s last name. Double ick!

However. You may remember from the federal election campaign that I have a penchant for destroying Conservative* brochures. So double packages of brochures means double the destructive fun!

To recap, I have used the following methods to destroy, or attempt to destroy, Conservative* election brochures in the past: shredding, burning, burning while doused in rubbing alcohol, soaking in vinegar.  I’m now taking suggestions for methods by which to destroy these BC (Not-In-Any-Way-)Liberals brochures.  I’ll pick the two best (feasible) methods of destruction and use them, recording the results for your enjoyment.

Let the suggestions begin…

1I figure I have enough time to find out who they are and what they stand for now that I have a bit more free time.

2Who am I kidding? As if they had any points to lose with me!3

3So now they are even more in the negative with me than they were before4.

4What is less than negative infinity anyway?

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Vancity BoD Elections – Time To Vote!

I received my voter card for the Vancity Board of Directors election in the mail today!

I’m a big fan of Vancity – I do almost all my banking with them (except for my student loans, which I can’t take out of the RBC without them losing their “student loan” status1 and some savings with ING2).  I have my chequing and my main savings account with them, plus my RRSPs (through their ethical mutual funds).  Should I someday be in the position to buy a place3, Vancity is where I’d be looking first to get a mortgage.

So, given my love of Vancity and my love of voting for things, I’m excited to be voting for the candidates on the Action slate for Vancity Board of Directors: Tod Maffin, Jan O’Brien & Hugh Legg.  You should check out their website!

1There’s two benefits to keeping the loans as “student loans” – one is that the interest you pay on student loans is tax-deductible. The second is that if you fall on hard times and can’t make your loan payment (and with so many people losing their jobs lately, it’s not unimaginable), you can apply for Interest Relief from the government (where the government pays your interest for you until you can get another job).
2ING had a promotion where they paid out double the interest from Oct-Dec 2008 if you put money into what would become a tax-free savings account effective Jan 1, 2009. And that deal was just too good to pass up!
3You know, like when my dad wins the lottery as he keeps telling me he is going to.

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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 Do Americans Have to Register To Vote Over a Month Ahead of their Election?

I saw it mentioned on Evany’s blog that voters in Missouri have to register to vote by today, Oct 8, in order to vote in the November US presidential election.  I also noticed this in the celebrities-telling-people-to-vote video posted on Rebecca’s blog – if you don’t register to vote in the US presidential election by whatever deadline your state sets, which may, as in the case of Missouri, be over a month in advance of the election, then you lose your right to vote.  What is up with that?  Here in Canada I can walk up to the poll on election day with my ID and proof of my address and register right on the spot.  I’ve done it many times.  It’s that simple!  Doesn’t it seem problematic to take away people’s right to vote because they didn’t register over a month before the election?  Is there some rationale for this that I’m missing?