Category Archives: communication

Liars and tories and White Elephants OHMY!

So, I got a little reprieve today* because some social media driven public outrage forced my employer to back away from a really, really bad policy. My wings are slightly less clipped.

With in 30 minutes of the writ being dropped here in Alberta I received an email reminding me of the code of conduct for Alberta Government employees and outlining restrictions to my political involvement.

I first noted that I am not allowed to solicit donations. Which, to be honest, I am not sure is 100% justifiable. I see no reason why as a low/mid level public servant I could not fundraise for a cause I support. Ostensibly I am sure the reason is potential conflict of interest. However for the record I feel that the potential for perceived conflict of interest for the average government employee on their personal time and not acting on behalf of government doesn’t stand up to the reasonable person test. Unless I wore a badge declaring myself to be a public servant no one has any way of knowing who I work for. Even if they did know who I worked for, they know its election time and I think most people understand that public servants are enfranchised. What the conflict is in a public servant having an independent political opinion during an election I do not know. Certainly there is less possibility of conflict of interest in the public servant scenario than there is for a politician/elected member of government accepting or soliciting donations. Afterall, I don’t influence government policy, but they do. No one who donated to me would be currying favour, the same can not be said of those who donate in the other scenario.

ANYWAY…I was OK with no soliciting donations because it doesn’t impair my ability to volunteer based on my personal conscience.

I then noted in the email (but no where in the actual code of conduct) that I was advised that I should inform my supervisor if I am volunteering with an election campaign. This gave me pause. Before I elaborate on why I paused, I will further add that a few days later I was advised that not only should I inform my supervisor of any volunteer involvement on my personal time, but that I should also inform my deputy minister.

I immediately saw three problems:

  1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of conscience
  2. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of association
  3. There is both federal and provincial legislation giving me individual right to privacy

Now, I am not going to say I am in any way an expert, but I am capable of reasoning things through. I know that 1 & 2 are fundamental rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set outlined in it subject only to reasonable limits under law that can be justified.

Freedom of conscience is the freedom to have, hold and act upon beliefs. That covers political beliefs. [1]

Freedom of association also incorporates opinion, thought, belief, expression, conscience, religion, communication and peaceful assembly. That covers political party membership and activity.

I have the Charter right, regardless of who my employer is, to hold and act upon my own beliefs, to associate myself with others who hold similar beliefs, to have my own opinions, and to communicate and act upon those personal opinions. If it is my fundamental right, then what justification is there for having me report on matters of conscience and association? Most importantly, what justification is there for having me report to people in a position of authority over me who I have actual and real reason to perceive as having actual and real conflict of interest with regard to my personal beliefs?

Given that there is no possibility any member of upper management in the Alberta public service right now did become management during the reign of the PC government, I would not be unreasonable to suspect my boss may be a PC supporter. It would be reasonable for me to wonder if he/she would bear my non-PC association in mind when I apply for my next promotion. That is a real potential conflict of interest.

That’s 1 & 2 in brief. What about 3?

Again, I am no expert but I am interested in privacy as a legal concept and I have a year of course work on privacy legislation informing my opinions. The main point I took away from my course work was that the key to privacy is balance. Members of a group should give up privacy only in return for a tangible benefit to society, and the two competing interests (individual and social) must be weighed carefully.

I will leave it to you to look through Canada and Alberta’s privacy legislation, but I assure you that your employers right to infringe upon your privacy ends where your personal life begins unless they can prove a significant social benefit to eroding your privacy. [2] [3] [4]

There is a white elephant in the room. I will lay odds this policy was drafted by some upper level bureaucrat, but that still shines a light on a systemic problem. One party has been in place for four and a half decades. The entire bureaucracy has risen through the ranks under their thumb, and this inane policy just shows how horribly acclimated the bureaucracy is to the way the PC party has chosen to govern. The PC party has chosen to govern by repressing dissent, by portraying dissenting voices as ‘left-wing nut’s’ and ‘extremists’… by making sure everyone knows they are either with them or against them.

My reprieve came as knights in shining armour.  My beloved CBC, my beloved social media. It took only a couple hours of outrage for the errant policy to be rescinded. This was a victory. However, this arrogant sense of entitlement to the erosion of freedom to express dissenting opinion or support accountability was only a drop in the bucket, Alberta. Don’t leave the protection of progressive values to the media and twitter.

This is your power, Alberta, your infrequently exercised power. If you speak out, if you let it be known that your vote is not guaranteed, you can hold government accountable for what they do. If anyone tells you that you have no power to make progress a reality they are liars. Remember that on May 5. You decide how you will be ruled, which means in the end you make the rules. Unless, of course, you don’t vote.

[1]  http://rmcla.ca/blog/?p=252

[2] https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/index_e.asp

[3] https://www.priv.gc.ca/leg_c/r_o_a_e.asp

[4] https://www.priv.gc.ca/resource/fs-fi/02_05_d_15_e.asp

[5] http://www.servicealberta.ca/foip/legislation/foip-act.cfm

 * Written Tuesday night, scheduled for publication Wednesday morning…I write too slow…mostly because every 20 minutes or so one of my boys wanders into my office to ask what I am doing and I end up on my soapbox spewing political homilies…my poor boys

On Co-opted Conservatism and Responsibility Redistribution

Giddy-up Alberta. The writ has been dropped and the politicians are now (openly) wooing us, running six ways from Sunday.

AB all

Sadly, too much of of the wooing involves attempts to portray the alternative as ‘extremists‘.

Part of the way this slander works is by shifting the parameters of discussion in one party’s favour.

For instance, shifting terms of reference so that they appear to align with one group and then pairing that shifted definition with a term not tampered with to lend the shifted term extra credibility. Like linking the word conservative to the word responsible.

Prentice says

Conservative and responsible are not synonyms, and responsible governance is not the exclusive domain of conservative ideology (how we have not figured this out I don’t know). Alberta, you have been duped. You have been inundated with a 43 year feedback loop of tenuous credibility, and it has pasted a paper thin connotative veneer of responsibility and trustworthiness over all things conservative.

Here’s another much maligned phrase: tax and spend. Tax and spend is ACTUALLY what the government is supposed to do. Government collects your tax dollars, then spends that money on health and education and infrastructure. Your taxes are how government pays to keep your province running. Taxes themselves are neither good nor bad. What can be either good or bad is how your tax dollars are spent.

If you pay $100 in taxes and get $100 worth of services in return you have good government. If you pay $100 in taxes and get $50 worth of services in return you have bad government. If you pay $50 in taxes so the government can only afford to pay to provide you with $50 worth of services but you actually want/require $100 worth of services you also have bad government. It’s about value for the money, not about the (shocking) fact that stuff costs money.

Canada is a social democracy. We overwhelmingly support government redistributing wealth to provide universal services. Stop pretending that wanting government to pay for our health care and a good public education system is conservatism at work. It is social democracy at work. Social democracy is, by definition, is the way our government redistributes wealth to provide more equity between have and have not. Stop saying ‘socialism’ and sucking your teeth. You are a socialist. And that’s OK.

Let’s take back the concept of responsible government and divorce it from conservatism.

The real, actual, factual definition of conservative is resistant to change, and that is not a virtue. History is rife with examples of those rough patches when radical change was the best option. Look back through that history and see how awful conservatives look in hindsight. Sometimes the status quo is more a barrier to progress than a banner of pride.

If you keep telling yourself conservatism is prudent and socialism is an extremist idea that can come to no good, you haven’t thought it through. That lack of thought is keeping you from making constructive, progressive changes to how you are governed.

Change

Think Alberta…who is telling you that the conservatives are the only choice and the other options are ‘extremists’? Do they have a vested interest in preventing change? Change is usually opposed by those who have the most to gain from preserving the status quo. You only have to take a quick glance at the big supporters of the PCAA to see that illustrated – their big funders are the ones who weren’t asked to contribute a few more tax dollars to help keep things running smoothly. The status quo is them benefitting from what your tax dollars provide, with them not pay their share. Thats’ conservatism in a  nutshell. If that doesn’t sound right to you, you might not be a conservative. This conservative party maintains the status quo for the benefit of specific parts of society that have the money to fund this conservative government and thereby protect their interests with no regard for the greater good.

Redistributing wealth and power make our society more fair and to allow everyone the chance to participate fully in our society. That broader participation brings with it the benefit of new ideas and the adaptability that makes a nation strong in good times and in bad. Socialism advocates for the redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the entire society because democratic socialism is founded on the principle that progress depends on everyone contributing and being equally able to participate.

I am not arguing against conservatism as an idea. I am arguing against this conservative government and against Alberta’s stubborn and foolish refusal to admit that there are options and that the time has come to consider them.

Let’s take our social democratic values to the polls with us on May 5, leave behind our misconceptions about what is responsible and what is extremist, and redistribute responsibility to a new party with new ideas to help us deal with new global realities. If we want to move forward we need to elect the leaders that put us on the be on the road that takes us there.

cw4_1al_thru_traffic_merge_left

 

Oh, and Martha and Henry voted Social Credit. Can we drop that hokey crap already? Pet peeve.

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Corporate Taxation Effect

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said that “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”

This is a good preface to a discussion of corporate taxation, the costs and benefits of which are debated among economists.

A commonly heard criticism of all taxation is that taxes hurt the economy and that, conversely, cutting them will increase economic growth. This is most frequently heard in relation to corporate taxation.

A corporate tax is a levy placed on the profit of a firm, generally operating earnings.

To be fair, from a purely economic point of view, all taxes are ultimately paid by people. So to really assess the effect of a corporate tax we have to tease out who the cost of the tax is passed on to. It is definitely not all borne by the owners of capital because capital itself is mobile and because the burden can be shifted to other places in production –  onto other groups involved in production. The other groups we generally really care about are workers, shareholders and consumers. It is possible that lower profits manifest as lower wages, lower dividends and higher prices.

All of these are worth considering and should be part of the considerations, WHEN a corporate tax is imposed.

I say WHEN because I am of the mind that corporate taxes are necessary – largely for the same reason that I accept that personal taxes are necessary.

Ask yourself, why do any of us pay taxes?

We pay taxes so government has the money to pay for the provision of the public goods and services that we benefit from. In the same way that I pay the plumber to install the plumbing for the new shower my family and I will use, I pay the government to pave the highway that my family and I will drive on it.

Now ask yourself, do corporations benefit from the provision of public goods and services? Do they benefit from paved roads? Yes; yes they do.

If they don’t pay taxes, they haven’t paid for the good and services. That certainly meets the definition of a free rider problem. No?

Some on the right side of the political spectrum portray corporate taxes as a way that governments force businesses to subsidize spending on programs. They frame it as if all the benefit goes to some vaguely defined proletariat, and these nasty anti-capitalist socialists are just out to punish the hard working drivers of the economy.

It is not anti-business to expect business to contribute to the upkeep of the community they do business in. Corporate taxes are a way a business pays for government provided good and services they derive direct benefit from.

Roads are a perfect example. It would be hard to get your stuff to market without roads. Or education. Do businesses not benefit from access to a pool of skilled labour? I think they do. How about policing? I am pretty sure that businesses benefit from government maintenance of law and order. And health. Healthy employees are efficient employees and  health and safety regulations lend stability to workplaces by providing parameters to how business is conducted that are common across everyone in an industry.

There is a good argument to be made for corporations contributing to the cost of government in the jurisdictions in which they operate.

So, while high taxes may influence where a corporation sets up shop, good infrastructure will also influence that decision.

As for cost shifting, there are constraints on how much a corporation can shift the burden of taxation on the two really vulnerable groups – consumers and workers.

Prices and wages are both sticky; wages downward, prices upward. Both are, to some degree, elastic.

Like capital, skilled labour is relatively mobile. I am sure you’ve noticed the number of eastern Canadians working in Alberta. The skilled labour followed the higher paying jobs. So, while lower wages and employment can increase profit, there is a point at which they will drive away skilled labour and decrease the efficiency of production.

For the same reason that high taxes can drive away capital, high prices can lower sales. Businesses will only pay so much, but the same can be said for consumers – albeit the elasticity of prices varies quite a bit from product to product. Businesses cannot foist the entire cost of taxation onto the consumer without eventually chipping away at their own bottom line.

Obviously there is a point at which corporate taxation will harm the economy, but I definitely believe there is also a lot more inelasticity in corporate taxation than our government is making it out to seem.

In Alberta, and specifically in the oil and gas industry, there is a fair amount of inherent inelasticity. First, the oil sands are physically located here and they have significant infrastructure investments in Alberta so taxing the corporations involved in that industry won’t immediately make them pull up stakes and leave their primary input behind. They need to be here to get the oil.

I don’t feel like Alberta has settled at the spot on the curve where there is a balance. I don’t think we have reached the place where the dues paid by corporations cover the cost the organisation that our government is capable of, and should be, providing. If we had achieved balance we wouldn’t suffer as much from this boom and bust cycle that plagues us. If we all paid our share we would have a little extra to get us through the lean times. That would be balance. We have to provide basics when times are good AND when times are bad. We don’t have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem. We have a government enabled corporate free-rider problem.

 

 

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Progressive Taxation Effect

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: ‘I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.’

I think that’s a good way to frame this complex and emotionally charged topic.

How you are disposed to feel about taxation really depends on how you are disposed to feel about government. If you believe that government is a force for good then you probably are less opposed to paying taxes. If you believe that government is not a positive force in society then you probably resent every penny you pay.

I am, in theory, in the former camp. Tax= benefit. I say in theory because how much we benefit depends on how well we are governed, which is another blog…

The current fiscal situation in Alberta plays into the two major arguments against taxation.

  1. The tax system isn’t fair
  2. Governments can’t be trusted with our tax money

Alberta just came off a boom cycle. As quick as we busted, we were told to tighten our belts. That leaves me and many of my fellow Albertans scratching our heads and wondering, where did our tax dollars go? Personally, when I hit tough times I had income, and savings from that income, that I could fall back on. Why don’t we have anything put aside for a rainy day, Alberta?

We have two problems, income and fiscal management. Until an election is called I’m only going to tackle income.

Alberta has a flat tax. Ostensibly that seems fair. But it isn’t, and it deprives our government of valuable income.

Consider this flat tax scenario:

  • Government taxation exempts the first $100 from taxation and takes ten per cent from the rest.
  • Jane makes $110 a week. She pays $10 in taxes and has $100 left to feed, clothe and care for her family.
  • John makes $1100 a week. He pays $100 and has $1000 left to feed, clothe and care for his family.
  • The government collects $110 to provide public services for Jane and John.

A ten per cent tax imposes a significantly greater burden on Jane because it has a significantly greater impact on her ability to provide the basic necessities of life for her family. John has adequate money left to provide for his family, and even enough to save each month. Government has money to provide public services.

A flat tax is a REGRESSIVE tax because it places a greater burden on lower income earners.

That isn’t fair. Not in my books. No one should put their child to bed hungry. Ever. Every child should be able to afford education. Always.  If you don’t comprehend that from a moral point of view, I may at a later date discuss the dollar cost associated with poverty within society to help you quantify it.

Now consider a progressive taxation scenario, based on income; same Jane, same John:

  • Government taxation exempts the first $100 from taxation and takes ten per cent from earnings over $100 and under $200, and fifteen per cent on all earnings if the earner makes over $200.
  • Jane makes $110 a week. She pays $10 and has $100 left to feed, clothe and care for her family.
  • John makes $1100 a week. He pays $150 and has $850 left to feed, clothe and care for his family.
  • Government collects $160 government to provide public services for Jane and John.

Jane is a little better off and government is better off.  John, however, is worse off and might regret working those extra hours because it means that for every hour worked he now pays more.

A progressive tax system can act as a disincentive to earning. John may feel like the all effort he put into earning money was not worthwhile and he may choose to the minimum possible because it is hard to see how his tax dollars contribute to publicly provided services benefits from. We don’t want to dis-incentivize working.

What we want tax dollars to do is to provide a net gain to society.

There is a concept in economics called a ‘Pareto Improvement’. It occurs when resources are reallocated among members of a group so that the benefit, summed across members of that group, is greater than it was before the resource was reallocated.

Another useful economic concept is utility. Utility is measured in benefit derived. This helps explain why Jane’s money is not the same as John’s money. A dollar does not always have the same utility. The benefit Jane derives from her dollars is the ability to feed, clothe and educate her family – the ability to improve the quality of her life and the lives of her children. When those needs are met, and after that money is spent, things change. After John provides the same level of benefit to his family, his additional dollars start providing less utility. There is little gain in utility between a winter coat bought for $100 and a winter coat bought for $500. Both provide the same function. Function carries the most utility.

Marginal progressive taxes impose the higher tax ONLY on additional income earned. As income increases, each incremental increase is taxed at a higher rate. Only those who have reached the point where the utility of their income is decreasing, pay.

The two concepts of utility and pareto improvement are justifications for marginal progressive taxation.

Now consider a progressive marginal taxation scenario:

  • Government taxation exempts the first $100 from taxation, takes ten per cent from earnings over $100 and under $200, and fifteen per cent from income over $200.
  • Jane makes $110 a week. She pays $10 and has $100 left to feed, clothe and care for her family.
  • John makes $1100 a week. He pays $10 on his first income increment and $135 on his second income increment, for a total of $145, leaving him $955 left to feed, clothe and care for his family.
  • Government collects $155 government to provide public services for Jane and John.

Jane is better off than in the first scenario in two ways, she can personally provide for her family and she will have better access to public services to assist her in improving her quality of life. The government is only slightly less better off than in the second scenario but that loss in utility is offset by the benefit of avoiding dis-incentivizing John’s hard work.  John is less better off than under a flat tax, but better off than in the progressive tax. However in terms of society’s overall gain, John’s loss in utility is offset by the gain in utility for Jane. Additionally, he does derive some benefit from alleviating the poverty around him.

The sum of the utility in the third scenario is positive, and therefore a pareto improvement.

I vote for marginal progressive taxation.

 

 

 

 

 

#DearMe

Dear Me,

My 46 year old self wishes that I could tell you the things it took me 46 years to learn. Like:

The path of least resistance is not the easiest path. The people who resist you as you try to move forward, or mock you because your progress is slow? Ignore them.

Don’t stop questioning or challenging or arguing. Those are all signs of intelligence, they are not character flaws. Not questioning and following blindly are character flaws. ‘Bossy’ is a compliment.

Take physics. Take math. Don’t drop-out of art. Don’t stop writing. They all matter, you are capable of them all, and they will all help you find your own happiness.

Those ideas you have about yourself, they are dreams, and dreams are not signs of weakness. Follow them. Pragmatism is not the be all and end all, and being pragmatic is not incompatible with ambition. You just need to find other people with dreams that will help you learn to fly.

You can go to university without a plan, the plan will come. Ignore all the dissenting voices who ask what job that degree will get you. The job will come. What you need is knowledge.

Don’t give into the pressure to define yourself in relation to others, ever. Nothing good can be kept in a box. Everything good grows and changes over time. You are too big to be defined. You are more than what you represent in other people’s eyes. Don’t be for them, be for you.

You are loveable and capable of inspiring love and loyalty, you just have to find people who are loving and loyal. When you find them, (and your 16 year old self has already found some of them) never let them go.

all of us

#DearMe

http://www.tubefilter.com/2015/03/03/youtube-dearme-campaign-international-womens-day/

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Social Edition

I am going to keep saying this until it sinks in; Yes, government has a role in legislating morality.

We need to elect progressive, liberal minded representatives that understand why philosophical-esque ideologies clash over individual and plural rights in our communities. Look:

  • liberalism = commitment to balancing individual freedom and social justice.
  • conservatism = commitment to traditional values, the goals and ideologies of which vary.

The definition of social conservatism includes the caveat that traditional values vary between groups. In any society there are potentially multiple traditions, and potentially values may not align.

I hope you can hear me over the wailing right-wing nuts when I say this. Do try…

If we’re all going to live together, we need balance. Maintaining balance between personal and secular values isn’t a zero sum game.* Sharing a human right doesn’t eliminate it; or halve it, or quarter it, or reduce it by any fraction. Removing a tradition from the public realm doesn’t necessarily remove it from the personal realm. In fact a zero sum only happens when progressive liberalism governance is NOT present.

Herein lies the peril inherent in democracy. Votes are equal individually, but not collectively. The risk that a majority can run roughshod over a minority exists because there is considerable pressure for government to conform to majority held views.

But the role is government is not to pander to the majority, it is to rise above and serve the whole.

In a progressive liberal democracy we avoid the trampling minority rights by implementing reforms that protect the right to have personally different values. A progressive government implements reform where there is contradiction between current traditionally informed and non-traditional choices. Progressive governance mitigates inequality founded upon tradition.

The catalyst for this Personal Pedantic Political Peroration is the Bill 10 fiasco in Alberta. Bill 10 panders to the worst pockets of social conservatism in our society. I expect my government to enact legislation that makes it unlawful for any group to use tradition to deny rights to the others. I’m not alone either. Alberta is full of progressive liberal minded people.

I don’t care what any religious tradition says about homosexuality. I am not bound by other traditions. Everyone is free to be offended by LGBT people in any old heteronormative tradition bound way. However, finding something personally offensive does not give anyone the right to censure it. We are all free to disregard any tradition, or the word free doesn’t apply at all.

The right to challenge tradition has been asserted before, and it will be asserted again:

Well, Alberta, now there is so much racket that something must be out of rightness.

I think that between the social progressives in the cities and the reality of what constitutes a human right, the traditional bigots will be in a fix pretty soon. Let’s be honest about what we all are talking about.

The zealots over there say that LGBT students don’t need to be helped to feel safe, or given a place to share, and that they have anti-bullying protection already. Don’t ask don’t tell will help them, doctrine over compassion, because that’s what scripture says.

Was Delwin Vriend protected? Was he? Now look at his students. Tradition clearly allows them to be marginalized, or be punished for who they are, here in this system. Isn’t that bullying? You should look at the statistics and look at these children – maybe you’ll get it – LGBT students suffer your bigotry. Do they deserve it?  They all bear higher risk of suicide, and GSAs mitigate that risk, and aren’t their lives important – doesn’t god love even sinners? Aren’t you a sinner? I hear you all talk about this scripture or that – why use them to justify contempt? What’s that got to do with a moral life?

If you have the right to choose your religion, and you are choosing it freely, doesn’t that give us all the right to choose for ourselves which path to follow? All the small minded keep saying it was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve; how does your wife feel about Abram and Hagar? Which scriptures do you follow? Which ones are discarded? Use logic and reason for human rights. Your religion has nothing to do with it.

If we have already as a society made a clear distinction between church and state, and we have already agreed to allow our neighbours freedom of conscience, you few right-wing nuts rallying behind your irrational traditions shouldn’t be able to hold the rest of us back from moving human rights forward!

The progressives are speaking, and the government better start listening.**

 

* FUN FACT: Zero Sum one of my favourite pedantological terms, I slip it into every conversation I can.

** With all due respect for the great Sojourner Truth; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

 

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Fiscal Edition

Politics in Alberta. *sigh*

Before I launch into “Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Fiscal Edition” let’s get some definitions out of the way. We pedants love definitions.

  • [1] Conservatism = preference for the existing order and opposition to efforts to effect change.
  • [2] Fiscal conservatism = avoidance of deficit spending, reduction of government spending and debt, and commitment to balanced budgets.
  • [3] Democracy = government by all eligible members of a population through elected representatives.

The other day on twitter I asserted that the majority of Albertans who claim to be fiscal conservative are in fact not Conservatives[1]. I got a bit of push back on my assertion, and while I admit my opinion is based on personal observation and gathered anecdotal evidence, I stand by it.

There is no doubt that Albertans are resistant to change, I don’t know how else our current 43 year single party run can be explained. However, why this is the case is not certain. My theory is that it is because somehow a significant percentage of the electorate is convinced that ‘conservative’ and ‘responsible’ are synonyms[2].

Oh, Alberta. They aren’t synonymous – as proven by the woeful fiscal record of our 43 year Conservative dynasty. Alberta, do we need a remedial lesson in what is and what isn’t a synonym?

I understand, Alberta. We all want fiscal responsibility with reasonable avoidance of debt and deficit spending. That is the definition of responsible and can be achieved from any ideological location on the political spectrum; conservative or liberal or centrist or progressive… whatever name you want to give an alternative political placement.

The Conservative ideologues’ claims that they are sole party of fiscal responsibility seem to rely completely on the specific part of conservative ideology advocating reduction of government spending and low taxes, and this is what I think most Albertans are not actually in favour of.

Complaining about government spending is a sure fire way to gain fiscal street cred on gravel roads and secondary highways here in Alberta. But what does that mean really? Spending is not wasteful necessarily. Right? It depends entirely on what you get in return for your expenditure.

Yet our message to government is usually that they should spend less but (there is always a but) also provide the level of services we demand.

Between you and me, Alberta, I think what we mean is that government should spend; and tax; responsibly to provide the level of services we expect.

Alberta, listen, I say this with the best intentions, get your shit together. Stop voting Conservative because it’s just the way we do things around here and then lamenting their dismal performance on the fiscal issues we actually care about. Don’t vote conservatively. Vote responsibly.

Alberta, I have a dream.  I dream that even as we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow this province will rise up and elect a government true to the meaning of fiscal responsibility. I have a dream that my three boys will one day live in a province where they will not be haunted by the fiscal misdeeds of a former government, but live the Alberta advantage delivered by a government responsive to the needs of all Albertans. I have a dream that one day, here in Alberta with its vast resources and human ingenuity, with our Premier’s lips mouthing the words ‘this is not budgeting as usual’ that Albertans will join forces[3] and with their ballots declare ‘this is no longer government as usual’ but government for the better and for the future, governing so we will all see my dream together. This is my hope, and this is the dream that I will go to the polling station with. *

Dream with me, Alberta.

(* with the utmost respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I borrow out of admiration for the master)

 

Next up on Planned Pedanthood … ‘Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Social Edition’

Office relationship fail

OK … I admit my title is a little bit clickbaitish. I am not going to talk about office romances.

I describe myself to others as either a gregarious misanthrope or a socially adept introvert – it depends on my estimation of their vocabulary. This is a description I have become more comfortable with over the years. I am OK with preferring my own company most of the time.

Which brings me to office relationships, and at this point I will briefly graze the tips of the topic of office romance. Another thing I am is a flirt. It is how I cope with the world. I am a flirt, I am witty, and  I tend to be flippant and chatty , all only when I have to be and until I can scurry away.

This leads people (and yes, some men) on. The truth is I am not all that interested in socializing at the office. I am not here to make friends.

Which lends itself to another brief aside. My friend Lisa likes to point out at every gathering I host that almost everyone in the room started their relationship with me in a work setting. Damn … even my husband was only once removed from my direct office setting. I am not a hermit. I do form bonds with other humans.

Still, I really am not a fan of office relationships.

I like to spend my lunches reading or walking (or shopping). I take that coffee break walk to Starbucks to clear my head. I prefer not to sit in the lunchroom while I eat.

I will chat with you if you stop by my desk. I will make an appearance at the monthly birthday cake event. I will say good morning to you as we pass. If you are my co-worker I will hold the elevator for you. I will make small talk while the presenter sets up at the meeting. I will remember the names of your kids and spouse if you tell me. I will complement your fashion sense if your fashion sense warrants complimenting.

If I agree to the occasional coffee with you, you should know that I genuinely like you.

I know none of that sounds misanthropic or introverted. That’s the gregarious, socially adept side of me showing.

If you ask me to lunch more than three times and I make excuses as to why we cannot that’s your sign that I am simply not interested in socializing. Maybe we chat just fine, but that doesn’t always indicate a deeper connection. I could just be politely tolerating you and your hill-billy political views.

I don’t need four well-meaning people to stop by my office to remind me that the chili pot-luck is on now.  One of the other significant eccentricities I deal with on a daily basis is that I have food aversions. Statistically significant issues with food.  Specifically, with eating other people’s cooking. Particularly if I have never seen their kitchen. I am not going to eat your chili. I know you think I will because I politely took your wife’s cookie when you trapped me in the lunch room and I wasn’t quick enough on my feet to come up with an excuse not to. Don’t make me come up with some elaborate ruse to get out of eating the meal you are most famous for. We can be casual acquaintances without sharing food and without making extended small talk.

Office relationships are fragile, and I don’t want to fail at them completely. I just want to hide from them most of the time. Is that so bad?

 

The Pedanthood Monologues

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Eve Ensler wrote a fabulous piece of theatre called the Vagina Monologues twenty years ago. I saw it with a friend at the Meyer Horowitz theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It made me cry, it made me smile, and it made me think.

This recent article indicates that she, and the work, have been accused of not being ‘inclusive’.

This touches on a distinction that bothers me. It is appropriately a pedant issue too, because it involves the precise interpretation of two related words. High five for living up to my blog’s name once in a while. YAY!

It can also be directly tied back to my previous posts via one common rebuttal of feminism – “What about men’s rights” Low five for sticking to a theme? …

Here’s my issue: Just because something is not included does not mean it was excluded. Inclusion involves choosing what is IN a set. Exclusion involves deciding something should not be in a set. For reasons of pragmatism or availability of information or timing of message, IN choices can leave things un-included. But that does not mean they were deemed un-includable for broad purposes. They can be brought into discussion and can benefit from awareness generated about an issue even if they were not originally in the set.

Eve Ensler herself says “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.”

I am a woman. I also have a vagina. Specifically, I am a cis gender woman.

The Vagina Monologues addressed a specific issue, and for pragmatic reasons cis gender women were the IN set. The Vagina Monologues speak to me as a subset of humanity without denying the humanity of anyone not addressed by the specific words spoken on stage. This wonderful work is not called the ‘Woman Monologues’ and it doesn’t claim that the underlying themes are unique to women. Sadly violence, bigotry and intolerance are issues faced by many ‘sets’ within our species.

The issues faced by women and by LGBT people are similar, but not identical. All gender identifications face challenges when it comes to living their sexual identities. The set was chosen to give voice to one facet of broader human challenges. That it is applicable to a larger set of people and the challenges they face means that The Vagina Monologues can be used as the foundation upon which more discussion, change and progress can be built.

I am an ardent feminist, and logically by extension have also been an active advocate for LGBT rights. In my head one extends to the other; there is overlap and fluidity between the two groups and the challenges they face.

Bear in mind that when I talk about harassment of women or violence and sexual crimes against women I am speaking for myself from my own personal experience, but I would never dream of silencing your voice or minimizing your struggle. We are humanity, and we are in this together.

 

Women against feminism part four – the man update

(Maybe) this is the last time I will address women against feminism. I cannot say for sure because both women and men keep undermining the (human rights) cause(s) that are in their best interest.

For example, this sad example of women blaming women for our unwillingness to accept the status quo, where the status quo is not acceptable. Or this offensive example of trying to erase women from a global discussion.

Anyway…myth busting…

A woman who hates men is not a real feminist, she is a person with problems. I love you guys … when you treat me well, and when you don’t I don’t. A real feminist’s affection for men is a reciprocal affection.

Feminism is not about targeting any segment of the population for contempt. That would be misandry. Misandry is the b-side of a really bad record (the a-side be misogyny). True feminists do not march to that tune.

Feminists promote extending human rights to all human beings, not taking them from men. Human rights are not a zero sum game, rights shared are not rights diminished. Extending human rights to one more human does not in any way mean there are fewer human rights for those who already enjoy them.

Human rights are an infinite resource and hoarding them or restricting their possession to and elite group of humans can in no way ever be justified.

In fact, the one thing that restricting access to human rights CAN and WILL do is make those rights less certain for every last one of us regardless of gender.

Men can and should be self-identifying as feminists. Not for our sake; although I appreciate that sentiment; but for their own sake. What is universally available is very hard to take away.

Feminism is not a power grab, it is a method of solidifying prosperity and freedom for all of us whether we like each other on an individual basis or not.

Men have absolutely nothing to lose by feminism and a great deal to gain by  actively working in unison towards feminist goals. When women win we all win, and denying that men need to be involved or asserting that feminism is not fair to men is just not productive. We are stronger when we stand together.