29 May 2009

So Fingerprint Me!

Here's another advantage to typing up to fourteen hours a day - or bricklaying, or working with lime, or handling paper constantly, or taking a common anti-cancer drug: you'll either have no fingerprints at all or they'll be too shallow to be definable. That is, you'll have fingertips just like mine!

Found out about my smooth digits six years ago when I applied for a new ID document. As part of the requirements, had to visit the local RCMP detachment to get my fingerprints taken. Submitting the application didn't have to wait on the results, so I mailed it off pronto.

Well, lo and behold!, during the intervening period I received a letter from the RCMP that stated the following:

We were unable to verify the fingerprints submitted due to their poor quality...

Your fingerprint characteristics may not be conducive to reproducing high quality impressions. Therefore, in the absence of a certified fingerprint verification, we have conducted a name and date of birth search only against the Canadian Police Information Centre. This name and date of birth search was negative.

Given that my new ID document soon followed in the mail, I surmised that the "negative" mention in the RCMP report meant my name hadn't triggered a hit in their police records.

Which is embarrassing. After all, I'm almost 59 years old, a child of the sixties, a former ward of the state, etc., etc., etc., and I've NEVER caused enough of a ruckus to have come to the attention of police?!

Clearly, there's work to do and I've the smooth fingertips with which to do it! However, should I begin a life of 'crime' (one need only protest the status quo or mention "Homeland Security" to get on said department's shriek! list), it will not involve crossing borders or flying airplanes.

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Now Grow Some Grain

Yes folks, you too, can grow your own grain. It is happening in a neighbourhood near you.
You don’t need much space to raise at least some grains. A normal yield of wheat grown organically would be at least 40 bushels to the acre. So you’d need only 1/40th of an acre to produce a bushel. That would be a plot of ground 10 feet wide by about 109 feet long. A really good wheat grower with a little luck could get a bushel from a plot half that size. Wheat yields have been recorded as high as 80 bushels per acre and even higher.

Here, in the Cowichan Valley, we have some dedicated farmers growing enough grain to supply not only themselves, but a bakery, with enough wheat for both.

The True Grain Bread bakery, located in Cowichan Bay, produces loaves of Red Fife bread from the local growers for sale to the public.

Read the whole article, roll up your sleeves, dig in, grow your own grain (or find a local farmer who is growing grains) and become part of the solution to food security in your hometown.

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27 May 2009

CTV and Mike Duffy (Live) Found 'Guilty'

OK, it's not quite that, but they have been found by the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council to have breached journalistic ethics when they broadcast or re-broadcast outtakes of the St├ęphane Dion interviews.

The CBSC's Atlantic Regional Panel examined the CTV Atlantic broadcast, while the National Specialty Services Panel adjudicated the Mike Duffy Live broadcast. The [Atlantic] Panel observed that the phrasing of [Steve] Murphy's question was "confusing, and not only to a person whose first language is other than English. In the strictest grammatical sense, Steve Murphy's question mixes not only tenses (present and past), but also moods (subjunctive and indicative)," so "blame for misapprehension cannot simply be laid at the feet of the interviewee."

The Atlantic Panel also concluded that the broadcast breached Article 8 of the RTNDA Code because CTV had committed to not air the false starts and its decision to override that commitment was "discourteous and inconsiderate [...]. The Panel ... considers that restarts and retakes are a common, not a rare, occurrence. The decision to extend such a courtesy was neither unreasonable nor even unusual. The Panel considers that this courtesy was the moreso justified in light of the poorly framed question."

With respect to the Mike Duffy Live Prime Time broadcast, the majority of the National Specialty Services Panel shared the view of the Atlantic Panel about the poorly-worded question and concluded that the rebroadcast of false starts on the Duffy program was unfair and contrary to Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. The majority also found that Mike Duffy's repeated misrepresentation of Liberal M.P. Geoff Regan's views on the matter constituted a breach of that same clause.

The Panel's views of the pertinent issues was that "the Liberal leader and his team had every reason to expect that the restarted matter was, in effect, “overwritten” or banished from use. The Panel considers this the moreso reasonable in light of the imprecision of the question and the confusion resulting from the failure of the interviewer to ever render what he sought clear. Had the question been articulate and well-framed, the Panel might have expected the Liberal leader to wear some responsibility for the confusion that ensued. That was not, however, the case. Even had the question been properly put, though, the broadcaster’s commitment to permit the restarts would likely have put the filmed content off-limits. In the circumstances, the question was bad and the commitment was made. The Panel views the broadcaster’s actions in the rebroadcast of the outtakes on the Duffy show as an unfair and improper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial."

And now CTV is rumoured to be about to get a handout from the Harper Conservatives. Nothing like rewarding the worst of the worst, now is there? GM, Chrysler, Canwest, CTV...

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UPDATE: Local Green Candidate Looking Good for 2013

See email response from Simon below...

The 2009 Student Vote stats for the recent BC election reveal that Simon Lindley, Green candidate for Cowichan Valley, placed second by only two votes to first-place finisher, Bill-not-Doug Routley.

These numbers bode well for Lindley in 2013, given he was among the few candidates who substantially improved the Green vote in his district in an otherwise lacklustre election, and his commitment to stay here and build a strong Electoral District Association.

EDA: I wrote an email to Simon, telling him of the results of Student Vote 2009. The following was his response:

It’s wonderful news, and a point about how vastly different the vote would be if long-held habits and attachments were stripped away in favor of informed decision-making.

Our youth understand very clearly the challenges the future holds for them, often more so than their parents, who may not look beyond their day-to-day wants to view the true state of the earth and the conditions they are leaving to their offspring. There are statistics that unfortunately speak to this. The average parent spends 11 times the amount of money on entertainment and non-essential items than they do on their own children, including education savings and trust accounts. The ecological and economic credit card is being racked up for our children to somehow pay off. I constantly hear children say, “well, why don’t we just stop doing all these bad things?”

Their vote is the most valuable. Too bad their parents aren’t always listening.

Over the course of the next four years, I will work even harder to connect to the Cowichan Valley, bringing out guest speakers and hosting workshops, but a large focus will be with our youth. In four years, many of them will have the power to vote, the ability to make profound changes. I only hope they remain as inspired for change then as they are now.

I may never win a seat, but I will never abandon my goal of bringing about the necessary changes our good earth so desperately needs, if not for my own generation but for theirs.

Have heard rumours of leadership potential. As long as Simon remains in this district, fine. Otherwise, go look for your leader elsewhere.

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Security, Terrorists and Paranoia

It all makes a person just want to stay home; or at least restrict her travel to trains, ferries and buses - until, of course, security goons start manning those entry points too.

Seriously. Daphne and I decided after our latest flying adventure that we'd had enough. The 'terrorist' fear-mongering has all got so out of control and silly.

Macleans' John Geddes makes a good point when he asks:

Didn't I read that the four suspects arrested last week in that plot to bomb synagogues in New York were all American-born? And, casting my mind back a bit, weren’t the 2005 London bombers native Brits, not immigrants?

So what to do. Maybe what would “make sense” would be to impose onerous, costly border-security restrictions between all nations, until they can sufficiently show that they’ve not only halted the flow of terrorists into their jurisdictions, but also restricted the breeding of terrorists within them.

A better solution would be for everybody just to stay home. We'd reduce our collective carbon emissions by billions of tonnes and be more invested in developing green, sustainable local economies.

We might even get to know our neighbours!

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24 May 2009

Well, that was a Bust - P5

Did I mention airport security? And how much it has, over the course of several trips, made me rethink flying altogether?

No? Well, consider it mentioned.

Since 9/11, Canada has become paranoid about 'security' and 'terrorism'. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

Daphne and I were appalled by the way security at Calgary International Airport handled outgoing travellers. A seasoned globetrotter told me it was fairly innocuous compared to other places he had been. Rather than assure me, his revelation only added to my disgust.

From now on, if I must get to B from A, then it will have to be by bus, ferry or train. If those methods are out, then so is that destination.

That May 22, 2009 was my last flying adventure makes me sad. But while I thrill to flying and love the hustle and bustle of airports, no way will I present myself to airport goons anymore or be a player in Transport Canada's paranoid games.

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I'm Tired

I'm tired of the same old, same old. I'm tired of the endless talk. I'm tired of speaking and not being heard.

The forum/conference Ocean and I attended in Calgary this past week was more of the same. Talk, talk, talk and more talk. When our patience ended we went to the mike together to talk some more, hoping to be heard.

We do not want pity, money, band-aid solutions, more education or low paying jobs. We do not want more conferences, forums, get-togethers with labour leaders, policy makers, stake holders or not-for-profit agencies. Nor do we want more money dumped into sinking-ship social programs.

We want fundamental, positive change to the democratic institutions and processes which run this country.

We want to be invited to the table to enliven debate, to be included in the decision making, to be involved in policy building, to be taken seriously.

Above all, we want action. Now.

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23 May 2009

Well, that was a Bust - P4

Events like the Canada Social Forum have among their goals that participants examine their assumptions and re-evaluate the direction of their work.

For Daphne and I, the CSF helped solidify a sense of dissatisfaction we'd been experiencing over the past two to three years, in terms of the focus of our activism.

We don't want to do poverty anymore. We live it. That's enough. We don't want to continue butting our heads against a brick wall of good, but often hopelessly misguided intentions.

We want to move forward in our activism, as we've already begun to do, to focus on the one issue that is key to all others: democratic and electoral reform.

We will still write on this blog about the things which speak to our hearts and cry out for comment - such as war, propaganda, animal cruelty, drug prohibition, the lives of street people - but any presentations we do from this day forward will have as their focus that which must change before anything else will.

Until we reform our democratic institutions, the political will to address issues of interest to other than a certain 25% (or less) of the electorate will effectively be zero. We can talk about poverty and solutions to poverty and create initiatives such as Dignity for All until we're all blue in the face. Nothing will change.

Twenty years ago, there was a resolve to wipe out childhood poverty. It didn't happen. It won't happen.

You want change? Then start advocating for democratic and electoral reform. For the foreseeable future, it's the only advocacy that might actually make a difference.

Part 5 - Airport Security

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Well, that was a Bust - P3

So perhaps it was a tad counter-productive to have blasted that (very large) room with my rant. But one does get so tired of having to precede one's comments with "we know everyone here means well and has the very best of intentions," and to be constantly mindful of the potential for hurt feelings as one continues speaking. It's not so apparent that researchers have been as cognizant of the harm they have done to single mothers on welfare, for example, as they've exploited them in the pursuit of advancing their own knowledge.

It could be that the Canada Social Forum wasn't as bad as Daphne and I perceived it to be. It may be that it just provided the cap to a series of events, all of which were a disappointment to us, more or less, and for different and some of the same reasons.

Though to be truthful, I really don't think so. So many things seemed wrong in Calgary (not the city - we had a lovely post-event afternoon walking along the river).

One incident on the last day epitomizes the entire event for me.

People had collected around the coffee urns, as they are wont to do, most chatting with one another. I'd come up to get some hot water and overheard two men just in front of me discussing the need for democratic reform.

Ah ha!, thought I, as I proceeded to insert myself into the conversation with the two high mucky-mucks.

That is what one is supposed to do during "networking breaks," is one not?

Have never been impressed or dissuaded by titles, degrees, class differences, pretensions of grandeur, etc. Ergo, I wasn't intimidated by the man whose credentials would be known by anyone if I mentioned his name. So... Thinking the men may not have been present during my moment of celebrity the previous day, I introduced myself, then launched into why the women of WISE had made democratic and electoral reform their number one goal.

The eyes of the high uppity-up glazed over, became distant and cold. The body language was one of withdrawal as he turned toward the other man and worked to remove said person from my offending presence.

I wasn't saying anything bad! Honest! I was excitedly talking about an issue which I'd supposed was also dear to this man's heart. I thought he'd be interested that a group of low-income women had come to the conclusion that reforming our democratic institutions was critical to advancing the goal of poverty reduction.

Another man, who had also been present, turned to me and took up the threads of my now floundering one-sided conversation. I told him how shocked I was to have been rebuffed that way. He made the observation, which helped summarize much of what I'd seen and heard over the three and a half days: some people prefer the sound of their own voices.

That's a big part of the problem. As long as other voices crowd the arena, the voices of the marginalized are but whispers from the cracks of the foundation.

Part 4 - Decision time and a new direction.

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Well, that was a Bust - P2

OK, so maybe if we'd been properly fed, friend Daphne and I would have slept better and we'd have been in a more conciliatory mood. But we weren't and we didn't. Ergo, our vomitus.

Shall leave Daphne to report what she said when at the microphone (if she's so inclined). Here's what I said to a room which had suddenly fallen silent.
My name is Chrystal Ocean and my household income is less than $8,000 per year. I founded and coordinated a group managed by and for low-income women. Now defunct due to changes to Status of Women Canada, the group grew into a national movement. Now Daphne and I use social media to keep our activism alive.

We do not ASK to be at the table, we INSIST on it. We insist that at least 50% of those making the decisions about poverty be people like us, those living on very low income, because WE are the experts of our own lives. Not YOU.

I would also like to see an event like this turned upside down, where WE are the keynote speakers, WE are the plenary speakers, WE are the presenters - WE, who live on the streets or who fear each day we soon will be; and YOU (pointing at the podium and around the room) sit in the audience, SHUT UP and LISTEN to US.

My message: that poor people are only without money; as a group, we are no more without strength or ability or leaders as people of higher income groups are.

Over the course of the previous two days, I'd got so thoroughly sick of hearing about the work and ideas of the various "stakeholders" - namely, "community leaders from social development, public health, environment, community safety and recreation." Slides presented during the event indicated the partners to be government, nonprofit organizations and business.

WHERE were members of the target population? Yes, some of us had been funded to attend the event and a token few actually participated in presentations. But the target group was excluded in the list of stakeholders. Tokenism just doesn't cut it.

The event seemed entirely focused on what the do-gooders could do for us and what their vision was of a new Canada without poverty. But we want to do for ourselves and we want to craft our own solutions. For those who like to trot out the word 'empowerment' that, at least, should be easy to grasp.

Even the initiative launched and press-released from the CSF, Dignity for All, may well not have been so ill-named had 50% of the target population been included in the process from start to finish. My life is no less dignified without than with a decent income.

Part 3 - Of voices.

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Well, that was a Bust

We're baaaaack!

As I'd written the day of our departure, Daphne and I were excited about attending the Canada Social Forum, which was held in Calgary May 19th to 22nd.
It will not only be an event with lots of opportunities for networking and inserting our persnickety views, it will also be four days and three nights of getting spoiled!

Yea, well, not so much on the networking or the spoiling, but we did inject our persnickety views in a decidedly loud, direct manner on Thursday morning. By that point, with neither of us having slept well and the censors in my head gone on vacation, we didn't so much express as vomit up what we'd been trying to keep down. May write about this later; am still too angry and disillusioned to do it now.

As for the "nutritious and bountiful food," that was a bust.

Daphne and I are vegans. We'd indicated such in our registration info. The organizers at the on-site check-in gave us little cards with "Vegan" and our names on them; we were to give these to the wait staff at the hotel who would fetch our specially prepared vegan meals.

Such a system was not in place for the continental breakfasts, which consisted of sugary muffins and cakes, jams and butter. (Yours truly doesn't respond well to sugar.) Although we asked for them, no bagels and peanut butter were provided for two out of the three breakfasts; on the last day, bagels were included, but again no peanut butter. On that last day, the omnivores got protein - scrambled eggs; the vegans didn't. Of the two lunches to be provided by the hotel, the first came to us without a protein component - no tofu or lentils or chick peas or other legumes.

In other words, out of the five meals prepared for us by the hotel as part of the event, three lacked the necessary protein component of a vegan diet. This is not unique to this event or to the Hyatt Regency in Calgary. This has been our experience at every hotel we've stayed at in the past several years - in Vancouver (3), Whitehorse, Kamloops, Toronto and now in Calgary. Doesn't matter how fancy the hotel; their highly-paid chefs appear to be unaware that vegans need protein as much as omnivores do.

We don't fault the organizers for the food situation. They did their part and they provided us cash to pay for the suppers and travel-day lunches not included as part of the event. The fault is with the people at the hotel who were in charge of meal preparation. As usual, the least-paid staff, those serving the food and taking care of the rooms, performed their tasks in exemplary fashion.

Part 2 - Ocean's rant.

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19 May 2009

We're Off to Calgary!

Daphne and I will be away for the next four days. We'll be away from our computers, away from Twitter, away from our blogs. Eeek! Don't know how I, for one, will be able to cope.

Anyway, we have been provided a full bursary to attend the Canada Social Forum in Calgary, hosted by the Canadian Council on Social Development. The focus of the forum this year is poverty.

For Daphne and I, it will not only be an event with lots of opportunities for networking and inserting our persnickety views, it will also be four days and three nights of getting spoiled!

We get to fly on an airplane! We're staying at the Hyatt Regency!

There'll be nutritious and bountiful food. Television and radio. Our beds will be made for us. We'll have nice smelly stuff for our baths and showers. Soft lotions for our skin. Gentle shampoos and conditioners for our hair.

We return to our homes late Friday and will likely be back online Saturday.

[Cross-posted at Non-voters Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform]

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18 May 2009

"This book had better be banned in the PMO"

This book should be read by all high school students. The Liberal and Conservative backroom boys won't like it though.
Renowned electoral scholar Lawrence Leduc makes it clear that if history and the experience of other democracies is any guide, it's likely, and even desirable, that "[a] coalition government would certainly be more stable than a minority that lurches from one parliamentary crisis to another … [it] would also represent a wider spectrum of opinion than any single-party minority government, and even some majorities."

He concludes with a clarion call certain to cause collective heart failure in Ottawa’s Langevin Block: "Best of all, [a coalition government] would be more faithful to the principles of representative democracy." This book had better be banned in the PMO.

You can rest the rest of this book review in the (gasp!) National Post. (To be fair, they do sometimes publish good articles.)

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17 May 2009

Unrepresentative Party System Also Blameworthy

It is not just the electoral process but the state of our party system which is causing our democracy to go off the rails.

Representative democracy doesn't appear to work as well in countries as geographically diverse as ours. Along with geography can come cultural differences; place does matter and can have a profound influence on people's values. Add in global travel and the mass movement of people and cultures and the Canada we see today has gone far beyond its WASP roots (for which I, for one, am grateful).

With such diversity, an electoral system which doesn't - and a small elite class which won't - accommodate diverse perspectives will ultimately fail, as we are seeing ours do.

And it's not just members of that elite class who would shut out perspectives other than their own and thus prefer a less than fair system. I was struck by comments from both the host and listeners on a radio program which aired the day before the BC election. There was a lot of talk of "I don't want the Greens in" and fear of "fringe parties" or "wingnuts."

A guest on the program, Shoni Field, pointed out that the Greens were supported by about ten percent of the population. That didn't matter to these listeners or to the host. She also pointed out that with STV, parties unable to garner a decent number of votes wouldn't be able to win seats. That wasn't good enough for these folks either and I was frankly shocked. No matter how much anyone may dislike a party, how can anyone who believes in democracy support a party's exclusion IF it has support of more than five percent of the population?

It's not even about getting candidates of the existing major parties elected either. Many bloggers I've read have done the Political Compass test and been stunned to learn how far the existing parties are from their own values.

Not only is our electoral system failing us, it appears that our party system is too.

[Also at Non-voters Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform.]

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I Hate (Long) Weekends

Contrary to the Monday to Friday, nine to fivers, I do not celebrate TGIF. Instead, I celebrate the arrival of Mondays, or the days after a long weekend is over.

Weekends (and worse, the longer ones) are but mini versions of the winter holiday break, the time when just about everyone - atheist, agnostic, Jew, gentile, observing and non-observing, etc. - gets caught up in Xmas and later, New Year celebrations.

Even "news" takes a break.

From the perspective of someone living alone and deep in the poverty well looking up, it can feel like the cover of the well has been pulled over. All is darkness and even the walls of the well are too far distant to touch.

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15 May 2009

Non-voters' Alliance Starts Up Blog

Who says we don't care?! Who says we're apathetic?! Who says we're LAZY?!

Not to let grass grow under our feet, the Non-voters' Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform - which was formed mere hours ago - already has its own blog, its own Facebook group and its own Twitter account (@nonvotealliance).

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P2: Non-voters' Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform

Well, a couple of hours ago, the Non-voters' Alliance for Democratic and Electoral Reform (NADER) had one member. Now it has four five. Anyone else interested in joining this Alliance should email me with your full name and contact info, including snail mail address.

NADER also has a Facebook group to which members of the Alliance are welcome to join.

To my earlier post, someone couldn't resist dropping off a comment which included the usual arguments. While it was politely worded and I appreciate that, I'd warned that such comments wouldn't be welcome and would be deleted.

Anyone notice the utter failure of those arguments to turn non-voters around or to prevent more people from joining them?

Most non-voters, certainly myself,* have heard all the arguments before. In fact, I used them. The arguments don't work. If anything, they antagonize people further.

Worse is the tendency of voters simply to shut their ears. They do not do what I finally did: stopped yakking and started listening to what non-voters were saying.

Part 1

* I haven't actually not voted yet. My decision not to vote federally anymore was made immediately after the October 14th election. At that time, I also decided I would not vote in BC anymore should the referendum on STV fail.

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Non-voters' Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform

Yep, you read that right. There's a new organization in Canada, just formed, with a current membership of one. The President of this new organization - me - predicts that by day's end, the membership of the Non-voters' Alliance for Democratic and Electoral Reform (NADER) will have ballooned by at least 100 percent....

And I'd no sooner finished typing that when my Gmail notifier dinged. Friend Daphne has just signed up.

Certainly, by the number of tweets, Facebook comments and blog and forum posts I've read, it's reasonable to surmise that the informal membership of the non-voting public has grown substantially since, well, Wednesday. And it's not just in BC that this phenomenon is manifesting itself; there's a quiet uprising of voter resistance from all across this country.

Now if anyone feels compelled to stop by and harangue non-voters for being "apathetic" or "lazy" or "failing to honour those who fought and died for our right to vote" (they fought for freedom, not for voting) or otherwise berate us for not partaking in the farce of Canadian elections, don't bother. Your comments will be deleted.

Shall write more on this topic in the coming days, weeks, months and years; in other words, for as long as it takes. For now, just wanted to get the news out.

More to come!

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Now Eat Your Greens

Locally grown food is a commodity everyone says they want. People tell me they don't mind paying a few extra coins to purchase freshly harvested, organic produce.

In the Cowichan Valley, there are a burgeoning number of hard working farmers busily raising animals for food, establishing vineyards and orchards, planting beds of luscious edible plants and tending colourful flower gardens. All with the intent of sustaining themselves and providing an alternative to the mainstream food supply.

You'll rarely find this type of fare in the usual places. You may have to seek them out at the weekly Farmer's Market, roadside stands, directly from the farmer, or in special stores that cater to consumers who want only the best locally grown organic produce.

Too much trouble? It is well worth your time and the small extra cost to invest in your health, the environment, in supporting the grower and in encouraging local food sustainability.

Now, eat your greens!

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14 May 2009


That headline must have you scratching your head, but on Vancouver Island, Shaw Communications provides the best darn high-speed Internet service around. Anytime I've had a problem, which has been - oh, maybe, TWICE in the past eight years - they've worked their butts off trying to fix it.

NOW the company is offering its customers the chance of opting out of Fox News!
Some Canadian viewers still steamed over the Canadian military being trashed on a Fox News show two months ago will be able to exact a little revenge. Shaw is allowing customers to get rid of Fox News and opt for another cable channel.

The Fox show "Red Eye" caused a national uproar when its participants took turns trashing Canada and its reliability as an ally in a segment that aired just before four Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan.

Fox is beamed into the homes of about 700,000 Shaw customers.

"We've made changes to how we offer Fox News. There have been recent inappropriate and disrespectful comments on the channel regarding the Canadian Military's efforts in Afghanistan, comments that were found to be offensive to our customers," says a notice on the Shaw website.

"In response to the concerns expressed by our customers, we are moving the channel to an opt-in service starting May 19."


Shaw is contractually obligated to offer Fox News to customers on its news package so cancelling the channel was not an option said Bissonnette.

Phone calls to Fox News asking for comment were not returned.

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Is It Still Legitimate to Leave System Fixing to Voters?

While the logic in this article in the Times-Colonist is flawed, the conclusion is not.
The message from voters was clear. They prefer the current electoral system to the single transferable vote method proposed by the citizens' assembly.

About 61 per cent of those who voted cast ballots in favour of maintaining the status quo.

Since only 48 percent of eligible voters (50 percent of registered voters) cast ballots in the referendum, no more than 29 percent of them could be said to have favoured FPTP.

A good chunk of that 29 percent can be attributed to the party faithful of the NDP and Liberals, the people more likely to vote in the interests of their parties rather than in the interests of all British Columbians. (Some may even think these interests coincide).

That number would also include people like CKNW's Bill Good and some of his listeners whose expressions of concern on his radio program centred on dislike for having Greens elected.* In their lights, the ten percent or so of Green supporters don't merit representation.

Fortunately, not everyone thinks that way.
This should not end the examination of our electoral system. Poor voter turnout signals a continuing problem. So does the fact that some 125,000 people who backed the Greens are again without an elected representative....

Given the support for the current system, it is difficult to imagine a form of more proportional representation that would not face objections from some voters.

Perhaps the point we should take away from this is that a referendum (or an election) in which a voting system (or a party to lead the government) is chosen lacks legitimacy when less than half of eligible voters participate in it.

* Visit CKNW's audio vault and check out the episode for May 11, 2009, 11 a.m. The program begins after the news, about seven minutes in. The relevant conversation begins around the 19:00 mark.

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13 May 2009

Carole James: In Her Own Words

Here is Carole James, (not) responding to direct questions I'd asked in the second of two emails, this one sent in December 2008:
Dear Chrystal Ocean,

As I wrote before,* I think this crucial debate is too important to get mired in partisan politics, so I will not be commenting on STV prior to the referendum.

However, I am firmly committed to implementing STV if the referendum passes. And, if it does not pass, I remain committed to offering British Columbians the opportunity to vote on MMP.


Carole James, Leader
Official Opposition

Congratulations! Your failure to support BC-STV has effectively helped kill any electoral reform in this province for at least a generation. The next time your party** forms the government, it will not credibly be in a position to implement a new voting system, not after this massive defeat of BC-STV at the hands, no less, of two talking-head, back-roomers of your party's close acquaintance.

As for topics being "too important to get mired in partisan politics," the environment doesn't qualify? I ask because such considerations didn't appear to concern you regarding the carbon tax. Your opposition to it was unconscionable.

* You can trace our conversation here.
** NDP apparatchiks like to complain that I never target the BC Liberals on this issue. The Liberals don't pretend to be a progressive party, now do they? It's the hypocrisy of today's NDP which so stuns the mind.

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Fear, Lies, Innuendo, Now Hypocrisy

The No-STV campaign claimed to have among its proponents not only people who supported first past the post, but also those who supported mixed member proportional representation "or some other alternative."

Well to anyone in that camp who allegedly did or does support MMP or some other system, Congratulations!

You've effectively killed off any chance at electoral reform in this province for at least another generation. No credible government could go through with implementing a new voting system - or setting up yet another referendum, this time favouring MMP - with the populace so clearly having trashed the idea. Additionally, for those in your camp who favoured MMP, that you used the larger ridings as one of your fear tactics would work against you. Because, as you so carefully avoided admitting, MMP requires larger ridings too.

Now, to add insult to injury and a hefty dose of hypocrisy, on the day of the referendum Bill Tieleman writes an article advocating compulsory voting.*

As I wrote in reaction to this on Twitter: "We're to take Tieleman's advice re compulsory voting? The same man who worked so hard to maintain FPTP? No thanks."

The NDP back-roomer and talking head, the man who championed the defeat of British Columbians for STV, a democratic grassroots movement which had virtually thousands more volunteers than the No-STV organization of which he was President, arrogantly supposes to instruct us on democracy. I think not.

* For articles written by Bill Tieleman or David Schreck discussed in this blog, readers will have to find the links themselves. This blog will not be providing them.

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12 May 2009

Getting Out the Vote

Went to the library (in the same building where voting is taking place), trundling my little shopping cart behind me, suitably decked out in my BC-STV t-shirt and buttons, with my cart containing flyers and more buttons. As I approached I did put on my coat. (Didn't want to be thrown out!)

Passed by one young man on my way. Spotting my t-shirt, he shouted "I voted!"

Once at the library, left the last of my flyers (8) there. Yea, sneaky. But taking an important step toward improving our democracy is worth it. Besides, people going to the library expect to find information.

After leaving the library, walked over to the back of the food bank. People tend to congregate there, soaking up the sun and enjoying having a full belly for awhile. Met a young couple, neither of them having voted before. Got them excited about changing the system. As I was leaving, they were walking over to the voting place.

Then almost home, as I was walking along a back laneway, I began chatting over the bushes with a man who was doing some beautiful landscaping in his back yard. Near the end of our conversation, he slapped his forehead and exclaimed: "I almost forgot! Your t-shirt! I've got to vote! - And I'm going to vote for that."

All in all, an hour well spent.

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UPDATE - Watch, Learn, Distribute Widely

UPDATE: Last night, I sent the link to this video to ALL my contacts on Gmail. Didn't bother with filtering, so it would have gone to Staples, the Upton Tea Co in the US, etc. etc. Just got this response from someone I've not been in touch with in years: "Hello Ocean. Thank-you for sending this my way. I have listened to it and am passing it onto family."

Makes it worth my likely being removed from some people's contact list.


If you haven't seen this video yet and you're still unconvinced that this province needs the democratic reform which BC-STV would start, then watch it now. It's of former Deputy Premier Christy Clark speaking on CKNW last week. She openly confesses why she voted against BC-STV in 2005: her personal interests as a politician were best served by first-past-the-post.

CTV last night reported that the tide is turning in favour of the reform, with online polls showing over 60 percent support of BC-STV. We CAN win this. Let's do it.

Please distribute the video, or forward a link to this post, to everybody you know, regardless of whether they live in BC - their friends may know people in BC... This really IS a small world.

Other must-see videos: The Choice, Fair Results, BC-STV in Action.

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Victoria News Reporter Endorses BC-STV

She adds a different perspective and some interesting observations.
While travelling through Tehran, I met an Iranian woman in her early 20s in a teahouse.

We shared a hookah stuffed with sweetly scented banana tobacco and talked politics while lounging on big, woven pillows. She was well aware of Iran’s limitations and pitfalls and was fiercely craving change.

Then our conversation switched to Canada. I explained the different levels of government and the voting system and when I finished, she asked one simple question.

“So is it truly democratic?”

The question blew my mind.

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From Dedicated BCCA Alumnus to Campaign Letter Writers

... of which, by last count, there were 568!!
Thank you so much for the tremendous effort that you have all put in letter writing over the last weeks, months, dare I say years for many of you!

In the last seven weeks of daily media tracking positive letters accounted for 70% of all STV letters. In these times of distrust in the political process hearing the opinions of friends and neighbours in local papers makes a huge impact.

I know that for every letter that got published there were dozens more that didn't - those letters also made a difference. They told editors that there was a huge public interest in BC-STV and it warranted more coverage. They told editors to think twice about running a negative editorial that would be out of step with their community. They told editors they should keep their eyes peeled for what the BC-STV campaign was doing, because it was a rapidly growing grassroots movement.

Thank you for all your letter writing, media monitoring and call ins to talk shows. I know for many of you, your contribution extended far beyond this as you donated, mainstreeted, canvassed, put on public forums, put up lawn signs and helped in dozens more creative and inspiring ways. We are all be very proud of the positive, energetic and unifying campaign that we ran. Thank you very much for all your work to bring British Columbians together.

Now go vote! (And of course if you can put in a last effort handing out brochures - you can download and print yourself if you have none left - just remember that the only restriction on Election Day is that you cannot campaign within 100 metres of a polling station entrance.)


(Emphases mine.)

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Les Leyne, Times-Colonist, Endorses BC-STV

More and more endorsements coming in. Here's Les Leyne, in his own words:
My own make-or-break issue is voter turnout. Despite a marginal uptick last time, the number of people disengaging from politics and tuning the whole thing out has been increasing for years. When just over half the eligible voters are bothering to take 15 minutes out of their day to vote, we've got a problem.

STV seems to maximize the value of the vote. Listing several preferences on a ballot, rather than going all-or-nothing with one candidate or another, might hold some appeal for voters.

And both camps seem to agree that the different system would open the door for more parties. If that shakes up establishment politics, if it freshens up the game and brings more people into the political sphere, then it's worth giving it a try.

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Tales from the Trail 3

This is lovely...

From an email I just received:

Yesterday, my wife Jayne, delivering brochures, came to a home with a No Junk Mail sign which she always honours. However, she noticed a garden ornament nearby with the words "Plant Your Hopes Here.”

She promptly left her brochure right there

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11 May 2009

I want my, I want my, I want my STV!!

This Dire Straits song has been playing in my head all day. Here they are, performing live in 1985 at Wembley Stadium.

I want my STV!

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Funnies from a Naysayer

Commenting over at The Tyee, I wrote:
I'd rather a complicated system that delivers a better democratic result than a simple system that fails to represent more than half of voters. Besides, if the naysayers are claiming BC-STV to be too "complicated," "confusing," even "baffling" to them, why should anyone believe their interpretation of that system?

Subject heading of a follow-up comment from a naysayer:
Spoken like a true banker/mortgage lender.

Gotta go! My stockbroker's calling!

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Another Major Endorsement

Sean Holman, of Public Eye Online, has today endorsed BC-STV.
Do you prefer politicians who put their party ahead of their principles? Do you like legislators who only represent your interests behind closed doors - if at all? Or maybe you want to live in a province where democracy is treated like a Christmas ornament - taken out to be admired once every four years and then stuffed back into whatever box or closet it came from. Because that's what a vote against electoral reform means.

Our present first past the post system may not be the cause of all these ills.... [But] our politicians seem to have come down with a case of lockjaw. And the only way to cure that disease is to change the way we vote - adopting a system where free thought is less likely to be shackled. So please, consider casting a ballot in favour of electoral reform on election day.

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Gordon Campbell on Motion for Citizens Assembly

'Tis interesting to go back in time to see what our politicos said and did. Historical records are such useful things.

When Gordon Campbell introduced the motion to form the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform back on April 30, 2003, it was a momentous occasion for the province and Canada. Not only was the proposed motion backed unanimously by all three of BC's major parties, but the BCCAER would be the first such body ever to be created in this far-ranging land.

It was a proud moment and important words were spoken.

Here are some choice comments from that speech which I encourage all politicians and political insiders to review, especially those fighting to maintain the status quo and against the change recommended to British Columbians by the BCCAER.
[I]f you go back to 1858, this is the first time in 145 years we are actually giving the people of British Columbia a direct say in how they should elect the MLAs that are meant to serve them. After all, in a democracy, we should remember we are here at the service and the pleasure of the people of this province....

There is no more fundamental tenet that we agree to as we seek office than that in a democracy, the rules of the democracy should be designed by the people they serve, not by the power brokers who may wish that the democracy worked in their interests. It is by turning to the people and trusting the public that I believe we can re-establish the critical link between our democratic institutions and those that they are supposed to serve.

Full speech is over at Dan Grice's place.

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Citizens Assembly Alumnus Speaks from the Heart

The following presentation was by Brooke Bannister, a former member of the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the BCCAER and conference on BC-STV which took place January 2009.

Hope. My dictionary defines it as "to intend with some possibility of fulfillment." It’s been written about, talked about and sung about since we inhabited this great planet.

Emily Dickenson wrote
Hope is the thing with feathers;
That perches in the soul;
And sings the tunes without the words;
And never stops at all.

Joseph Addison quipped: “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.“

And from Christopher Reeve: “Once you choose hope, anything's possible.”

So, when I think of all the things we’re trying to do at this Conference, I think it’s mainly to sell hope to the BC voter. It’s hope that from May 13, 2009 on, voters will have a more direct say in what our politicians do … before, during, and after an election.

This is why this campaign is so important. And why we must have the following focuses when tackling this job: more positive action and less negative distraction … more on the future and less about the past … more focus about how many spirits we’re going to rise as opposed to how much money we’re going to raise … more about the Citizens’ Assembly and less about the Legislative Assembly. We need more passion and less inaction … more information about Ireland and less about any other land. We need more Shoni Fields and less Bill Tieleman. In other words, more yea-sayers and less nay-sayers.

Once we do all of these positive things, democracy will prevail on May 12. Then we can promise ourselves and fellow British Columbians a future with much more than greater choice, fairer results, and better local representation. We’ll get legislatures with greater proportion and less distortion … more democracy and less hypocrisy … more optimism and less cynicism … more diversity and less perversity … and more independents and less co-dependents … government by coalition instead of constant competition … and maybe best of all, more women and less men.

When I wake up May 13, I want to feel like our democracy was given a new lease on life. This is our chance to make history … not just for British Columbia, but for all of Canada as well. (Do you have any doubt that when BC votes for a unique, new voting system, the rest of Canada will be watching and taking notes?)

The BC-STV Vote isn't just a referendum for an electoral system. This is our Barack Obama, our Nelson Mandela, our beacon of hope from a world scarred by political misuse and mistrust. Somehow we've lost respect for the process and the people in it, and I sincerely hope this is a way to get it back.

We’re not doing this for ourselves; we’re doing it for our kids and grandkids, and their kids and grandkids. Let’s make them proud. Let’s give them hope.

This, my Dear Friends, is a battle we can’t afford to lose.

The world is watching.

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How to Show Your Support for BC-STV

The following are 1-minute ways you can show your support online.

1. If you live in BC and are an eligible voter, update your Facebook status with this message: I’m voting for BC-STV on May 12 - You should too!
    If you are not eligible to vote in this BC election, update your Facebook status with this message: I support BC-STV. If you live in BC, vote for BC-STV on May 12!

2. Change your Facebook profile photo to one of these (right-click to Save, or drag and drop to your desktop):

3. Post this BC-STV television ad to your Facebook profile and/or embed it in your blog.

4. RSVP the BC-STV vote day event on Facebook.

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Northern Politicians Endorse BC-STV

... including the mayors of Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.

They've added their names to the growing list of BC-STV supporters.

According to Fort St. John mayor Bruce Lantz, the new voting system will allow us to move away from the antiquated party system and vote for the person, not the party. He calls it democracy in its purest form and says it will ensure our political representation will be more fair and equitable.

Dawson Creek mayor Mike Bernier says that, after looking into the proposed change, he too thinks it will offer all British Columbians the opportunity to ensure they have proper representation in the BC Legislature.

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MUST SEE - Watch, Learn, Distribute Widely

If you haven't seen this video yet and you're still unconvinced that this province needs the democratic reform which BC-STV would start, then watch it now. It's of former Deputy Premier Christy Clark speaking on CKNW last week. She openly confesses why she voted against BC-STV in 2005: her personal interests as a politician were best served by first-past-the-post.

CTV last night reported that the tide is turning in favour of the reform, with online polls showing over 60 percent support of BC-STV. We CAN win this. Let's do it.

Please distribute the video, or forward a link to this post, to everybody you know, regardless of whether they live in BC - their friends may know people in BC... This really IS a small world.

Other must-see videos: The Choice, Fair Results, BC-STV in Action.

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10 May 2009

Paul Wells, Macleans Magazine, Endorses BC-STV

Andrew Coyne, National Editor of Macleans and a champion of electoral reform, did so previously. (Here's the shorter Coyne, if that's too much for you.)

Paul Wells, editor senior columnist of the magazine and a fairly new convert to electoral reform, agrees with Coyne:
Let me take this chance to endorse his argument entirely. But I also want to add two other broad arguments of my own.

Go read the rest of it. I especially like Wells' second argument. Hint: It's something to do with chickens.

ETA: More Coyne and to correct Wells' position at Macleans.

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Show Your Support for BC-STV

Click box to the left of this landing page and learn 1-minute ways you can show your support online.

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Good Article from The Canadian Press on BC-STV

Good explanation. A bit is included from proponents of the status quo - which gets a quick, neat rebuttal from the messengers of the bright side.

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Read ASL (Sign Language)? BC-STV Explained in Two Minutes

Yet defenders of the status quo - almost all of them politicians or political wannabes - say the system is "confusing," even "baffling."

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David Chudnovsky, NDP MLA: Last Speech in BC Legislature, March 2009

Excerpts below (emphases mine); full original text here.

... Madam Speaker, I've spent four years here, so it seems to me I have the right and, I think, the responsibility to say some things about this Legislature and how it works — or doesn't work. If the people of the province actually spent some of their time watching us here, they'd be appalled. Every one of us knows that. It's not just that we heckle and yell at one another. It's much more fundamental than that.

They sent us here to govern, and we don't. Everybody who works here knows that the real governing takes place in the Premier's office with a few handpicked friends and advisers. That's not just this government. I'm not talking about just this government.

We here in this chamber are a kind of sideshow — an important sideshow but a sideshow nonetheless. We're part of the show that results in the choice of the next Premier in whose office the small group of advisers will again make the important decisions.

Who's winning question period? What's the tone in the Legislature? Who's made the best quips this week? Add those questions to the results of the latest polling and the opinions of a few pundits, and presto, we have what passes for politics in British Columbia. Rather than substance, this chamber is filled with sound and sometimes fury, but it signifies not very much.

The people sent us here to listen to one another, but we don't. They sent us here to negotiate with one another, but we don't. They sent us here, every one of us, to advise government, to take the debate seriously and to be taken seriously, but we don't. That's mostly because the debate hardly matters.

The people expect that when the opposition asks a simple, straightforward question, the government will give a straightforward answer. But that's not the way it works. Here again, I'm not talking about this government. I'm talking about the government of the day. Instead, we've created a system where the questions become the politics of question period, because there are never any answers. How pathetic.

Solutions Chudnovsky proposes:

But it's not enough to bemoan what is. What could we do to make it better? Here are a few modest suggestions. The Legislature should have a committee structure that matters. All-party committees should study and make recommendations on emergent and ongoing issues. Consensus decisions should be required, and recommendations should lead directly to draft legislation, and then you can vote how you want to vote.

Party discipline should be enforced only on matters of confidence and on proposed legislation that was committed to specifically as part of the platform of a party during the previous election.

Question period rules should require a specific answer to a specific question, and the Speaker should enforce these rules strictly. When the Minister of Education, for instance…. Here I don't mean to centre out the Minister of Education. It's just that education is my stuff. It's what I care about the most. When the Minister of Education answers a detailed question about cuts to education service to children — our children — with her irrelevant dirge that more money is being spent than ever, she does the province no favours.

She could say: "That's all the money we have" or "That's all the money we choose to spend, because there are other priorities" or "That's as much as we think is necessary." Any of those answers would generate a real debate about education, and that would be good for our province.

It will take a Premier and a government with real courage to make such a change, but until it happens, question period will continue to be a poor excuse for a reality TV show rather than an opportunity to improve our province.

Every MLA should be required to hold three or four town hall meetings in his or her constituency each year. These should be widely advertised and should be part of the budget allocation for constituency offices.

We should institute a form of mixed-member proportional representation so that every vote is meaningful and every significant point of view is represented.

Learn more.

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BC-STV Supporters: Vote NOW in CKNW poll!

Go here. Vote in that CKNW online poll. Do it NOW because it's unlikely to be up there for long. Distribute widely.

Since Christy's program, people are changing their minds in favour of BC-STV. We need to keep up the momentum.

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Mothers: Take Back the Day

Flowers. Gifts. Sentimental greeting cards. Dinner at a fancy restaurant. These are the trappings of the modern Mother's Day. One special day to honour your Mother.

Where did this "tradition" come from? What's behind this "special day"?

It sure isn't about thanking Mum for baking apple pie, ironing your favorite shirt or being home when you arrive from your adventures in the larger world.

It is about ending war. It is about proclaiming peace. It is about WOMEN gathering together to be heard and heeded. Read the Mother's Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Today, more than ever, Mothers around the world are unified in calling for an end to the unnecessary deaths of our children.

If you love your Mother, let her know and help her Take back the Day.

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09 May 2009

I am LIKING this new leader of the BC Greens!

Gutsy, bold, telling it as she sees it.
Green Party of BC leader, Jane Sterk has responded to the recent statement by NDP leader, Carole James that Greens should vote NDP to stop the Liberals at all costs.

"It is an act of desperation to blame the Green Party for the failure of the NDP to attract voters." said Green Party leader, Jane Sterk today from her campaign office in Victoria.

"We think NDP supporters should vote Green this time to stop the Liberals and to take real action on the central issues of our time: climate change and the economy."

"How can the NDP lay any claim to being truly Green? Their campaign has been nothing but a greenwash: first the Axe the Tax campaign, then the pathetic Green Bond, the flip flop on the Port Mann gateway project, and support for Site C on the Peace with no plan for renewable energy alternatives.

"Green votes belong to Green voters, not to the NDP. The NDP has to start taking responsibility for being an ineffectual opposition and having been a chaotic former government," said Sterk.

Yesterday, an anonymous commenter spewed the same spiel that voting Green was essentially a vote for the Liberals. Do people not know how insulting that is to those who have chosen to support a Green candidate? Do they not realize how desperate they sound? And how arrogant?

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What if Mothers Reclaimed Mother's Day?

Guest post by Deb Maike.

My mother was born in 1920. For the first nine years of her life she was a Canadian but not a 'person' under Canadian law. Thanks to the women of HER mother’s generation this injustice was rectified and thanks to the struggles of subsequent generations of women, many of them mothers, demanding the right to work in 'non-traditional' jobs, women of today can be anything they want in Canada… except Olympic ski jumpers.

Men can be anything they want… except mothers. They simply don't have the wherewithal. The role of motherhood is enormous, far greater than anybody lets on. Apparently too great to teach in school… oh, we get the 'whatever you do don’t get pregnant'; 'here's how you put on a condom'. It is the role and responsibility of every mother to raise an independent, productive, confident, educated child but in our society mothers are inclined to coddle, to make sure that their children's lives are 'better than theirs had been' by ensuring they have their every want if not their needs satisfied. Ours is a privileged culture.

Can you imagine being a mother in Darfur, Afghanistan, Congo, Cambodia, Pakistan and the plethora of other countries where the rights of women are diminished? Can you imagine giving birth to a child of rape and having no reserves to produce the milk to keep this innocent child alive? Can you imagine gazing into the eyes of your newborn and fearing that when she toddles she may be blown apart by landmines left over from long ago wars?

Do you imagine that any mother suckles her child and says ‘I will raise you to be a killer.’ Do you imagine that any mother provides the education, to load an AK-27 or RPG or make a roadside bomb, that her newborn may already have by the age of ten? Do you imagine any mother who has less than less, wanting even less for her child?

That’s just not the way of mothers. Mothers want more for their children. Some simply want clean water, enough food, a safe place to live, and an education for their children. In our culture we have these things in such abundance they are taken for granted. Most of our kids are housed, clothed, fed, watered, and educated without a sense of the value of these basic human rights.

One only need look at the places in 3rd world countries where the responsibilities of life are demanded of very young children; they tend goats, gardens, and pigs; they learn to sweep and cook and gather water. When, through assistance, these children are provided with their basic needs they are EAGER to be educated. they know their responsibilities and yearn to explore their abilities; they understand and appreciate what our children have yet to learn. Motherhood is a razor’s edge; a juggle to maintain the balance between, survival and coddling. Raising an independent child is an education unto itself.

What if the mothers of the world ALL stood up and said ‘Enough is Enough’ and say to their sons ‘I did not teach you to kill’; and say to their daughters ‘You will not teach your children to kill’?

What if all mothers stood together and said: ‘Together we will share responsibilities; together we will drink of clean water and eat enough food; together we will learn; so that our children will know peace.’?

What if Mother’s Day referred more to Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870 than the cards and flowers of today?

What if mothers reclaimed Mother’s Day?

What if mothers were truly celebrated and supported on a daily basis for their roles as nurturers and educators?

Hug your mother, if you have one, and look at her through a mother’s eyes.

Oh, and, what if women ski jumpers win their rightful place in the arena of their choice, the Olympics? What if at least one of them is a mother?

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We Can Win This Time. Here's Why.

Over the weekend, we may see polls showing BC-STV to be well below the 60 percent mark. Some polls may even have it under 40 percent. But consider the following:

a) The polls were wrong last time, and they're wrong again. The pundits told us in 2005 that BC-STV could never win - that it would take a "miracle" to get to 60%. The polls said it was going to lose badly. And we all know what happened. The majority voted YES to change. YES to fairness.

b) The BC-STV team is winning this campaign. Any way you look at it. Any way you measure it. Visibility, signs, volunteers, donors, endorsers, momentum, facebook groups, online videos, twitter, T shirts, letter-writing, canvassing, etc. We've got the pro business-as-usual camp beaten on every single measure.

c) Referendums are different than elections. Huge swings can happen in the final days. There is no equivalent to party allegiance in a referendum. The proportion of undecided or swing voters is huge. Most voters have probably made up their mind about the parties. But over the next three days, they'll talk to their friends and family about STV. And those discussions will be informed by the fact they saw a sign that we put up. They'll read a doorhanger that we left at their home. They'll read the pamphlet that we put in their hand, on the street.

d) These polls are out-of-date as soon as they're published. Any poll published this weekend was probably taken before the Christy Clark endorsement, before the 2nd BC-STV TV ad hit the air, before Andrew Coyne's two-page endorsement in Macleans and before BC-STV boosted its radio ad presence across the province.

e) The only poll that matters is the province-wide poll on May 12. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Proponents for BC-STV must not let up. Let's show the pundits, once again, that British Columbians won't fall for these tricks. Let's spread our positive message, and push this vote up to where it belongs: 60%+.

I've been out the past three days delivering flyers door to door, in addition to writing letters to newspapers, commenting online and blogging. My already bad hips and back are aching. BUT IT'S WORTH IT. People respond to me on the streets. They thank me for the information on BC-STV; they'd been wanting it; they'd been looking for it.

If you support BC-STV and are in BC now, download and print this flyer. Then get out, get some exercise, meet the neighbours and hand them the information they need to have to make an informed decision on May 12th.

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My Vote Does Count !

I've always believed that politics is personal.

I trust that the person I vote for will listen, hear and act on my behalf. I trust they will conduct the policy and affairs of our province with thoughtfulness and respect to all.

I'm convinced this will be the last time in BC we will have first-past-the-post elections and that I'll have a voice when the STV is in place.

I will vote GREEN and I will vote YES to BC STV.

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Hey Google! Check Your Assumptions!

From an email I received this morning:

In an effort to protect the accounts of Google AdSense publishers, we've starting using automated telephone number verification to ensure that your information is accurate and up-to-date. As a result, you should see a Required Action on your Payment History Page to 'Please verify your phone number' after you log in to your account. To initiate this process, click the 'Please verify your phone number' link and follow the instructions.

I haven't a phone.

Bye-bye Adsense.

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Editor of North Shore News Endorses BC-STV

This is heartening.
I truly believe that the BC-STV referendum is the last best chance British Columbian voters will have for electoral reform.

I respect Premier Gordon Campbell for giving electoral reform another chance, but wonder whether his heart is really in it with the threshold for adoption set so high. I doubt we will see electoral reform back on the ballot in four years time if it fails next week.

And we desperately need change....

I have moderated two all-candidates meetings this week: one for North Vancouver-Seymour electoral district, the other for West Vancouver-Capilano. Each meeting drew an intelligent, respectful audience of approximately 150. But I have previously moderated political meetings in both locations that drew twice that number.
Fewer and fewer residents are willing to give two hours of their time to learn more about their candidates. This trend is hugely disconcerting....

Our current first-past-the-post system leaves the majority of British Columbians being governed by a party they did not vote for.

That political alienation has been compounded by an increasingly ugly trend to circumvent the legislature wherever possible and to centralize policy and power in the office of the premier. And when did "political debate" in Victoria become a cheap-shot sound bite in Question Period played for the suppertime newscasts?
I want my government to be creative, to be caring, to be responsive to the will of the majority. If it can't or won't be that, I want a system that will force it to listen.

That system is BC-STV.

There's more. Read the full article.

Word is that other community papers are coming out in support of BC-STV. Might it be they've been flooded with a disproportionate number of letters supporting the reform as opposed to those supporting the status quo?

Early on, local papers were clearly trying to maintain 'balance' by printing one letter in favour of STV, another in favour of FPTP. Yet such practice effectively deceives people into thinking it reflects the reality.

In the past two editions, more pro-STV letters have appeared in the local papers of the Cowichan Valley - on a scale of not less than 3:1. I hope this phenomenon is occurring in other communities, since I KNOW letters sent to community papers in favour of BC-STV have vastly outnumbered others.

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08 May 2009

UPDATE: Outstanding Four-Part Series on BC-STV in Community Paper


It's challenging to uncover a single article in today's media, let alone a series of articles, that so thoroughly presents a topic and makes it understandable - even to those who claim to find the topic "complex" and "confusing." Ray Grigg, writing for the Courier-Islander (Campbell River) has done just that on the subject of BC-STV.
  • Part 1: Why a Referendum on Electoral Reform
  • Part 2: BC-STV - Selecting Candidates
  • Part 3: Election 2013 - How STV Could Work
  • Part 4: Understanding STV, after the first STV vote

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Published: STV will give voice to margins

Contrary to those who enjoy debating electoral reform and prefer keeping emotion out of it, for people like me who still vote and for those who no longer do or never have voted, reducing the inequities of our electoral system is crucial to our engagement in the process.

We feel the need for this reform wrenching deep in our guts.

Literally. We feel starved to be involved and to be meaningfully consulted and heard.

We are of the demographic to which politicians pay lip service every four years. We are people who live in the lowest decile or quintile of household income.

We are people who are homeless or who fear each day that tomorrow or next month we will be joining our brethren on the streets. We are people who live in poverty because disability limits our employability. We are people who have been marked as different and hence bear the stigma of society's discomfort or scorn.

We are the unheard, and we are the experts of our own lives and conditions. We are the people with stories to tell and solutions to propose.

We are the people nobody wants to hear; not even by politicians who claim to be champions of "the poor," "the needy," "the vulnerable" or "the less fortunate." Not unless our voices echo their own.

Many of us have been turned off from the political process, never were part of it or, like me, feel such anger and alienation that we will disengage from it if, on May 12th, we learn that BC-STV 'failed' the 60 percent requirement to pass. Once again, the result will have shown how unfair our present political institutions are such that a government which formed on the basis of less than 50 percent of the vote could write legislation that imposed a super-majority on a referendum, thus treating the two sides of the question unequally.

We know all about unequal treatment.

If British Columbians for STV realize their goal, then expect to see a new phenomenon beginning in 2013: people coming in from the margins who have hope in their eyes and an eagerness to participate in the electoral process.

If the goal of the campaign and the hopes of people like me are not realized, expect 2013 to see a further drop in voter turnout.


Published in Cowichan Valley Citizen today.

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Funnies from Campaign Trail - Craigslist Singles Ad

Hi, I'm single. And I'm a transferable vote.

I'm modern, fair, responsive and accountable. I'm a good listener.

You can look at pictures of me here: www.stv.ca

I'm looking for someone who can make me feel real. Right now, I often feel like I'm only an idea. If you believe in me, and support me, I know I can come alive and make a difference in your life.

I'm new to Canada, but I'm friendly and I'm hoping I'll fit in here. I've made many friends in Australia, Ireland, Malta, Scotland, New Zealand, Cambridge and Minneapolis.

Your current partner probably doesn't listen to you or respond to your needs. But I will. I'll listen, I'll give you choices, and you'll get what you want.

Let's meet up. How about Tuesday May 12th?

Location: BC
It's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests.

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It's of former Deputy Premier Christy Clark speaking on CKNW yesterday. She says that the referendum on electoral reform is the most important vote British Columbians will cast and she is open about why she voted against BC-STV in the last referendum: for reasons of personal interest as a politician who benefited from FPTP.

Please distribute the video, or forward a link to this post, to everybody you know.

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BC-STV Wins at All Candidates Meeting

At the ACM which I discuss in this post, a question about BC-STV came up. Of the five candidates present, four either said they didn't know (Refed), didn't support it (Conservative) or, as in the case of Bill Routley (NDP) and Cathy Baskin (Liberal), wouldn't say due to wanting to "leave it up to the citizens."

Audience reaction happily surprised this passionate supporter of the reform.

To the Refed and Conservative candidates, the audience was politely silent, though a tad restive. To the responses by the NDP and Liberal candidates, there were groans, mutterings and louder rustling. To the response by Simon Lindley, the Green candidate, there was an outburst of loud and sustained applause.

Lindley was the only candidate who said he and his party fully support BC-STV.

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Candidate Endorses Other Candidate

Bill Routley, NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, at the end of an All Candidates Meeting: 

"Simon is so well researched and articulate.... He should be running for the NDP!" (Instead of you, Mr. Routley?)

Simon Lindley, running for the Green Party, was the candidate who consistently got the most and loudest applause during the 90-minute debate, which was attended by over 300 people.

It was the most revealing and entertaining ACM of the many I've attended. Five candidates were present: Jason Murray (Conservative), Simon Lindley (Green), Cathy Baskin (Liberal), Michial Moore (Refed) and Bill Routley (NDP).

Murray and Moore admitted to being out of their depth, so the night really came down to the Green, Liberal and NDP candidates.

A couple of highlights:

On a question about endangered species legislation, first to answer was Lindley. He said that BC was the last jurisdiction in the world NOT to have such legislation already in place and that YES, the Greens would correct this. All candidates but one reiterated a similar position.

Baskin was the single naysayer. Looking grim, she answered with a blunt "No." For several moments, it appeared that she was going to leave it at that as the audience sat stunned. 

I heard a Liberal supporter behind me muttering, "well, SAY something." Then came a sigh, followed by, "she's losing this."

Baskin did eventually say more, something about support for hunting rights.

A number of paramedics were in attendance. In the midst of tense negotiations for improved pay and better working conditions they, together with many laid-off forestry workers, helped drive home the interrelation among many of the issues that came up. Highlighting these relationships is just one of the areas where Lindley outshone the other candidates.

Another highlight...

At the podium Baskin was beginning her closing statement by explaining that she was running "to be part of a party that values cooperation, compromise and" conciliation? concensus? - can't remember. At which point someone yelled out: "Then yer in the wrong party!"

The audience broke out laughing. Took us awhile to settle down before Baskin could proceed.

Lindley surprised right from the opening statements. It was clear he impressed not just me. I'd never heard him speak at this kind of event, having met him only once in person at his campaign start-up celebration. At the ACM, he came across as personable and friendly. Over the course of the evening, a buzz could be heard as it became obvious to all but the most diehard partisans that Lindley was the most knowledgeable candidate of the five: about the issues in this community, about who we are, about where we are hurting and what our strengths are, and about issues which go beyond but yet affect this community.

Expect Lindley's May 12th numbers to surprise, if the reactions at this ACM are any indication. While few people bother going to ACMs, those who do talk to those who don't. Word will get out. Certainly Lindley will achieve more than the nine percent Green vote which the federal Greens got last time - their best yet for this area, federally or provincially. There's no question that he deserves to win the vote, since he would so clearly champion local interests; but this is NDP territory and the lock that party has here, thanks to the first-past-the-post system, is virtually impossible to break.

Speaking of which... (See my next post, on reaction at the ACM to BC-STV.)

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07 May 2009

If you've any doubt about BC-STV

... then you should read this, written in Macleans Magazine today.

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The Headline Says It All

Globe and Mail: Scientists weigh in, urging strategic voting.

Advance polls are now open. Reform the system. VOTE BC-STV.

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If You Want Access to the Latest Online Faux News

... you'll have to pay for it.
Rupert Murdoch expects to start charging for access to News Corporation's newspaper websites within a year as he strives to fix a "malfunctioning" business model.

Encouraged by booming online subscription revenues at the Wall Street Journal, the billionaire media mogul last night said that papers were going through an "epochal" debate over whether to charge. "That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal's experience," he said.

Yea, well we're not all Wall Street types. But keep up with the program, Mr. Murdoch. Your beloved market will decide your company's fate.

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VIDEO: Who Opposes STV?

Certain politicians - there ARE some enlightened individuals - and those who want to control them.

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That's My Kind of Candidate

... one who speaks up for women.

At an all candidates meeting at which both invited Liberals were absent, Refed candidate Linden Shaw puffed out his opinion that "the pendulum of society in a lot of ways has swung the other way and with men’s and women’s issues certainly has swung too far one way.... The feminist lobby has undue sway with our government and a lot of men are being discriminated against in our province and our country."

According to this report,
Shaw’s remarks sparked a response from Green Party candidate [Dirk] Becker during his opening address.

"We've got a long way to go in terms of women's rights and working with men like myself so I can become a better nurturer and a better father and a better community person," said Becker. "We need a system that is much more fair and balanced where men and women are working together harmoniously."

Thank you, Mr. Becker!

No one denies that some men are having it bad these days. But Shaw and his ilk want to blame that on "the feminist lobby"? Feminists are the cause of the current financial mess, which began: i) in the US, ii) due to the sub-prime mortgage idiocy, ii) which was dreamed up by the boys working above the glass ceiling?

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06 May 2009

That Was an Experience!

Just back from my first time, ever, sign waving.

In the cold. In the rain. Without rain gear. Without waterproof footwear.

But boy, was it fun! LOTS of happy faces... LOTS of waves... LOTS of honking... at the nuts by the road who stood energetically waving at cars and pumping their signs up and down (which helped the devotees retain some of their body heat).

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And There It Is

I've been telling people that the anti-STV campaign was led largely by those who fear loss of a rigged system (FPTP) that enables them to gain occasional power with less than majority support. This report exposes some of those interests.
While the NDP may be officially neutral on STV, the two main media spokespeople for the No BC-STV Campaign Society have strong NDP backgrounds. President Bill Tieleman was an adviser to NDP Premier Glen Clark and Secretary-Treasurer David Schreck was an NDP MLA and strategist.

The B.C. chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees also has a position against STV and is telling its members that in pre-election phone calls.

Schreck and Tieleman are also regular NDP pundits or, as I prefer to call such things, talking heads.

Clearly, some progressives aren't all that progressive. They'd rather first-past-the-post or business-as-usual, knowing that a failure of this referendum could ring the death knell for electoral reform for decades, than support a system which would transfer power from parties to voters.

A true progressive would be excited about increased voter choice - both at the ballot and among MLAs after their election - improved local representation and increased proportionality. These 'progressives'? Ya gotta wonder.

Sure, they argue that if the NDP forms the government, it will: design its own Mixed Member Proportional system? merely legislate one into being?, ask the Citizens' Assembly to assemble again and design a MMP system?, hold another referendum on the party's favoured MMP design?

WE DON'T KNOW, because Carole James has avoided answering such direct questions.

Moreover, MMP was REJECTED by the Citizens' Assembly in favour of BC-STV (by a whopping 146 to 7 votes) and one or other form of MMP has been REJECTED by voters in other provinces.

Fortunately, not all NDP members have lost their principles. In fact, most haven't, including two NDP candidates who have come out in support of BC-STV.
“I don't believe in making perfection the enemy of the better,” said Mike Bocking, the NDP candidate in Maple Ridge-Mission. “My personal vote will be for STV....The first-past-the-post system has more warts on it than STV.”

Vancouver-Langara NDP Candidate, Helesia Luke, also said she will vote for BC-STV.

As for Tieleman, Schreck, and the leadership of BC CUPE, do they all suppose that British Columbians are STUPID? If BC-STV 'fails' to pass 60 percent this time but achieves clear majority support, expect a voter uprising. It won't be lost on voters which special interests were behind the axing of the reform.

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