Category Archives: Uncategorized

Niquab or not Niquab, that is the question, Canada


(hasty blog alert)

I admit to having an emotional first reaction to the niquab.

It is not of my culture, and it does, visually, represent to me all the things that I as a western feminist have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I know women who feel it is their right to wear skimpy clothes, show their bras as part of their ensemble, wear tiny skirts, and bare their cleavage.

I admit to having an emotional reaction to that as well. Dressing so skimpily represents to me all the things that I, as a western feminist, have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I choose to dress conservatively, but I would be livid if someone told me to wear a longer skirt OR a shorter skirt. Fundamentally it is my choice. I choose a hem length to balance what I want to say about myself and about how I view myself in relation to the world around me. I love clothes, and I love feeling attractive. But I most definitely do not like sensing that men are imagining me in ways that I would never in reality consent to. Naked. With them. In their sight at all, really. So I balance wanting to look like a beautiful woman with my distaste for being sexualized. And that balance is a very personal one.

That balance is a very personal one for every woman.

My choices are influenced by my upbringing, my dad, my mom, my Sunday School classes, my friends, my husband… But saying that the choice is influenced is very different from saying I do not have free choice.

I assume this is the case with almost all women. There are women who feel pressured to dress sexy for their significant others. There are women who feel pressured to cover up for their significant others.

But we aren’t going to mitigate that by being yet another party in that woman’s life to pressure her to conform to an outside (outside her own head and body) definition of what is, or what is not, acceptable when it comes to how she clothes herself.

My emotional reaction to her choices, her emotional reactions to my choices, do not matter. What matters is that logic dictates that the choice be hers.

Our laws protect her freedom to choose. What she chooses must always be left up to her. And to me.

…dee dee deedle deedle dee dee dee dee…

So Huffington Post has decided to put Donald Trump’s campaign coverage in their entertainment section as a way of indicating their refusal to take his parody of political discourse seriously.clown trump

Mother Jones is countering that the problem is that Trump is a serious contender. I agree. He has a frightening level of supportive.

They’re both right.

I understand what Huffington Post is doing. I one hundred per cent support refusing to give this …

trump ruprict

…a seat at the grown-up table. His ideas, beliefs and commentary are laughable. No intelligent, informed, mature person could possibly take his views seriously. America shouldn’t take him seriously. He has no place in serious political discourse. He shouldn’t be given any serious thought as a potential leader. Energy spent portraying him as a serious voice for the average American or as an advocate for the American way of life is energy wasted. While there is (sadly) a market for his kind of chicanery, that market demographic isn’t the intelligent thoughtful voter looking to cast an informed ballot.  He should be ignored for the same reason you don’t give in to your screaming toddler in the toy store.

I also understand what Mother Jones is saying. The right wing created the environment in which Donald Trump became a ‘credible’ right wing voice, and now the joke is on them. He and his ilk have turned the American political and social system against the best interest of America by cranking up the volume on the least rational parts of American society. The right wing is feeding on itself, eating its own tail in an ever more desperate bid to achieve conservative political immortality and defeat progressive liberalism. Trump represents the monster that the right wing allowed to grow out of the childish desire to never admit the legitimate, demonstrable constructive progress America is making in the absence of conservative rule.

No, the joke is on the whole society. Donald Trump could be the undoing of the GOP, or worse, the undoing of the US as a respected world power. Really.

Trump sets the bar dangerously low for the GOP. Pretty well any looney they choose to lead them into the next election is going look like a right minded competent human being compared to the alternative – if the alternative is Donald Trump. Sadly this just sets the race up to elect someone who sits just a smidgen to the left of complete asshattery who will appeal to the rabble but inevitably damage the GOP and, if elected, do real damage to the country. Let’s be honest; politics isn’t about finding the best person for the job, it’s about finding the least bad person. Often, and I am tempted to say always in the American 2 party system, casting a ballot is like deciding to settle on a rock or in a hard place.

Ignoring Donald Trump could have dire consequences. America is in a tough spot right now.cob over trump

On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.

Unfortunately in the US moderation has never caught on so they take everything they do to the extreme, often to the point of defying logic. Donald Trump for President is the result. As much as it hurts our heads, the world would be wise to listen to this man talk so we keep tabs on the crazy before it gets any more out of control because clearly the US hasn’t got a handle on the situation.


Precaution & Providence or Parsimony & Peril

(Preface: sometimes I think I started this blog as an homage to the letter ‘p’)

Every time that a story about Greece’s debt crisis comes up on the news I rant a little. My family is used to it.

Many people are, in my opinion, dead wrong on this. Even my husband seems to lean toward the idea that Greece is just a bunch of deadbeats that want to have 16 weeks vacation, retire at 50 and not repay their debts. That’s a fairly common perception. But it doesn’t take account of the root cause of the global (not Greek) financial crisis that precipitated Greece’s current woes. Which is not to say that Greece will not have to scale back their lives and roll up their sleeves, they will. What I am saying is that what the Greeks are being asked to sacrifice is extreme, and they are being asked to make do with considerably less than they could sustained had financial markets been better regulated.

It was not Greek excesses that created these messes.

No good can come of forcing Greece, and Greeks, to suffer more. Pushing people to the edge of an economic precipice has never yielded good results. People on the edge will grab and hold onto anything to keep themselves form falling. Pushing the post WWI Germans and the German economy to the limit of economic endurance and devastating the German economy was a significant contributing factor to the development of the political climate and social conditions under which Hitler’s Nazi ideology gained credibility.

What made John Maynard Keyes mutter under his breath as he stormed out of the Paris Peace Conference is eerily similar to economists are saying about Greek Austerity today. The potential for it to not end well is real. Economics and politics cannot be separated. Greece has some unstable neighbours and aside from potential internal civil unrest, they could be unstable enough to become a gateway into Europe for some unsavory groups.

greece marked

It will also not come anywhere near resolving the root problem or preventing similar crises in the future. The global financial problems were made possible by a few irresponsible/unfettered wealthy corporations, largely banks. It was not dissimilar behavior that contributed to the great depression; bad borrowing and lending, lack of oversight for banks, markets expanding beyond their ability to sustain the  growth. It was capitalism unchecked, unbalanced.

We, globally, must recognize that capitalism has no soul and no remorse and no conscience. For these reasons economic activity must be guided by regulations to prevent them from wealth accumulation at the expense of economic stability. No austerity or ideological doctrine of market efficiency will prevent unhappy history from repeating itself until we admit capitalism has limitations.

cap quote

Not that you need a degree in economics to see where this could be headed but to drive the point home, I will point out that some noted economists are saying this exact thing about the Greek debt crisis. Economics is one of those fields that people claim is subjective, almost more an art than science. This is true to an extent. What you see as the economic solution depends entirely on what you believe is the acceptable economic and social outcome. If you believe that the acceptable outcome is long term stability for the majority at the expense of short term wealth for the few, then you will agree with what I have said. If you believe that unfettered pursuit of wealth is a right and that the accumulation of wealth is in and of itself the goal, you will disagree.

However, there is also some science to economics, and it’s science worth noting.

Read this article by Joseph E. Stiglitz. He is a Nobel laureate in economics. He won for modelling how asymmetric info begs a larger role for government intervention in markets, and how regulation leads to pareto efficiency – the market alone is not efficient. There is no invisible hand guiding capitalism.

And read this articleMaybe you’ll recognize the name Thomas Piketty, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics and author of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ and current left-wing darling. The other signatories are Jeffrey D. Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik, and Simon Wren-Lewis. Looking them up is your homework.

Pedestrian Pedant

My last few posts were pretty politics heavy. But since Alberta got its  problematic preponderant politics out of the way I’ve had some time to exhale, and my inner voice is telling me to lighten up. So here goes …

I have a petty pedant pet peeve: the complete abdication of responsibility for locomotion.

What a wonder our modern world is. Never before have so many people had such access to the benefits of our collective, conscious, coordinated social constructs. We live in a world filled with wonderful inventions and innovations that we have used to make the benefits of our societies as broadly accessible as possible.

And that is great. I am totally on board with making the world attainble and accessible to the most people possible. But somehow some of us have chosen to adopt some the levelers intended to give others  a hand up as a perverse personal convenience – to our detriment.

What do I mean?


I mean stairs. Some of us legitimately cannot manage stairs . Most of us can though, and most of us need the exercise. In spite of how sedentary we have become and how long we sit every day hunched over keyboards staring at computer screens we, for some reason I cannot fathom, still opt to stand still and stare blankly off into space while an escalator or elevator takes us to our final destination.

I used to work in a building with 3 floors. 3 floors. The first set of stairs even rose up through a lovely garden next to a waterfall. Yet I would routinely see employees standing dumb by the elevator waiting to be carried up one floor.

Currently on chilly days I walk a nearby mall on my lunch hour. I find it frustrating to be stuck behind 20 perfectly fit looking people passively standing in front of me on the escalator that I only took because the mall offers me no alternative. (By no alternative, I mean there are no stairs in sight because clearly mall management doesn’t want me walking either) When I make a break for it and walk up the escalator, people mutter ‘sorry, didn’t know you were in a hurry.’ That’s the Canada passive aggressive way of  being annoyed at having to move whilst on an escalator-for-me machine. When did simply moving become so unacceptable as to merit passive  chastisement?

revlimid - lemming

Until about three months ago I worked in an office building for which the building management addressed the security threat posed by staff members without parking privileges being able to walk down to a parking garage that didn’t have their vehicle in it, by locking all the stairs. Of course we could go down in case of fire, but we could not opt to walk up. I could have had 6 flights of stair walking every morning and every lunch hour, but for that stroke of brilliance. Security, it matter. Fitness, meh.

stairwell lock

Enough enough. Take the stairs. Leave the elevator for people who actually need it. You need the stairs. You know the new mantra – sitting is the new smoking. Inactivity is literally killing us. Getting active is as easy as choosing the stairs. Don’t hide them from sight. Don’t lock them up. Don’t avoid them.

better choice


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.






 * 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.


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.



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

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.







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


Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Opposition Effect

I smell an election.  All the political parties are in full rut; wooing and catcalling all and any citizen that happens onto social media. In the midst of the flying oaths and dodgy declarations I keep hearing the stupidest thing.

“Don’t throw your vote away.”

This is my rebuttal to those people who proffer the warning that the ruling party alone is responsible for making sure that the wheels of government keep turning, and anyone not in the ruling party does nothing but take up valuable space:

Stop it already.

That’s not true, and in fact it belies a basic lack of understanding about how a parliamentary democracy works – about what is and what isn’t a sign of a healthy democracy.


  • Parliamentary democracy = democratic governance in which the executive branch derives its legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature.

Note the italicized words.

How much accountability is there really going to be if we elect one allied group of people? How much greater the opportunity for collusion and coercion when all members of the ruling party espouse and are aligned with the same ideologies?

Doesn’t accountability spring from fresh perspective, skepticism and asking new questions?

Who does that?

In parliamentary democracy, the party with the second highest number of seats in the legislature is given the OFFICIAL status of OFFICIAL opposition. That comes with an OFFICIAL function.

Our government enacts legislation on our behalf, and the opposition watches over them with a skeptical eye and reports back to us. Government runs things, and opposition makes sure they do it in an efficient, effective and legitimate way. They are the quality control.

Opposition is the steward of democracy. Perhaps not to rule, but to participate in good governance, is the nobler goal.

So, if you vote for the party that doesn’t form the government your vote is not a throw-away. If your elected representative is an opposition member then your elected representative is responsible for the health of our democracy.

This isn’t the race track, Alberta. Picking the winner doesn’t pay the highest democratic dividend. We complain about corruption among our representatives. It exists because we have handed unchallenged power to them. If we can’t muster the collective will to change things up once in a while the least we can do is to elect an opposition to mitigate the tendency of power to corrupt.

Alberta, we need to work together to oppose the behemoth on the right. Until we do that we have no hope of ever replacing the behemoth on the right and changing our boom and bust (hi)story.


This is the story of a place called Alberta. Alberta was a place where working people lived and played, were born and died. And they lived through booms and busts too.

They even had a legislature and every few years they had an election … used to drag themselves to the polls and cast a ballot. Some of them got tired of casting their vote and got caught up in the nets of some pretty big fish. Caught in rural ridings.

And every election those Albertans who did get to the ballot box just got used to electing conservative governments. A government made of oil loving wealth hoarding entitled bureaucrats.

Now, if you think it’s strange that Alberta should be electing bureaucrats you don’t understand the history of Alberta for the last 43 years, there is this fear of electing anybody other than cons.

Now, I’m not saying anything against a bureaucrat. They have a place keeping the wheels turning. They are the engine of Alberta, but they aren’t good as leaders. And the process and policies that bureaucrats just follow aren’t moving Alberta forward.

The laws and policies started to cater to the wealthy and gave them tax loopholes big enough that they didn’t pay a fair share. The policies and procedure started to focus so hard on one single industry that it slowed down the speed of change and growth in other areas so that one industry could keep its grip on the economy without too much effort.

Laws and policy are good things – for the status quo. But they are hard on a society that’s changing. The economic climate was getting harder and harder for new ideas and entrepreneurs. Yet, Alberta kept hoping with each election they would see some progressive change.

And finally they went en masse to the polls. They voted one conservative out and put another conservative in.

The conservatives had put on a great campaign. They said “vote for Ralph’s team” as if a new leader meant real change. As if when you put in the new leader the old party would suddenly be different.

So Alberta elected them again. And the new leader had the same cronies and enacted the same laws and policies as his predecessors. Life was as bad as before.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore they elected the old men out and split the right apart. Then they elected a woman leader ‘for progress’. Then they went back to an old man. They even ended up merging the right all over again. And they called that reunification.

They got a government made up of some progressives and too many regressives: there were even some that preached a lake of fire.

You see, the trouble wasn’t with the leadership. The trouble was with the lack of fresh perspective. There were no new ideas. And because government was always the same they naturally kept repeating the same mistaken financial management policies.

Finally there came a long a group who had an idea. Alberta, you should listen to people with new ideas. These people said we should unite the left, why do we keep electing conservatives and scattering the progressive left wing candidates? Why don’t we run together as one progressive left wing alternative?

No! Liberal minded Albertans said, we want it our way even if we lose! And they turned their backs.

I implore you, Alberta, you can be all for one, or one for all, but you can’t be all fighting one another and hope to prevail.*

(*with all due respect for the late, great Tommy Douglas)


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.