Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not sure where you stand?

I am a self-professed political nerd, and even I find myself a touch bored with this campaign. I would rather the government had stayed in Parliament and worked on finding a solution to the current economic mess in which we find ourselves. However, I'm still following the race, and finding myself for the first time since I was of legal voting age, unsure of who I will vote for. Also, given that I work full-time and help my wife raise two very busy little boys, I do not have time to read party platforms. Luckily, other uber-nerds get paid to do such things and distill out the good stuff. CTV.ca has two great pages, one outlining all campaign promises made so far, and another outlining where each party stands on various issues. You can also do a neat little quiz where you pick which quote you agree with most and after a few quotes, it tells you who you like most. I got Stephane Dion which immediately invalidates the quiz, but it is fun nonetheless.

The joy of parenting

I spoke to a man roughly my age today who was going through the first days of parenthood, desperately searching for some Ovol to calm his baby's colic. I spoke with him at length about how gas and the ensuing discomfort (and vocal registering of that discomfort) is very normal at the newborn stage, gave him some advice on how to more effectively burp baby (we tend to be a touch timid as new parents!) and proceeded to inform him that it will get better, sleep will return, albeit gradually, and the remarkable miracles he will experience every day will erase any memories of difficulty. It was obviously a welcome discussion, because he very firmly shook my hand as he left and graciously thanked me for all my advice.

It got me to thinking about these years. Sometimes I fear that I might be doing things wrong (as if you could care too much for your children) but than heed the advice of my very wise parents: the young years pass much too quickly, and do what you can to enjoy them. My wife and I somewhat subscribe to a philosophy gaining ground in North America known as free range parenting (likely to gain more ground after appearing on Dr. Phil today!). It doesn't mean complete infantile anarchy. What it means is letting your child explore their own creative instincts, resist the urge to put knee pads on your crawling baby, and let them do a header into the coffee table once in awhile. This is how they learn. They don't need five nights a week of structured after school activity followed by structured homework. Some of the most brilliant ideas of our time arose during quiet reflection or while reading a good book. And so, I present to you, exhibits A and B of my free range parenting feature (it's not really a feature, all I have is two exhibits, but every good museum starts with something).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dire predictions?

As Andrew Steele reports on his blog, latest polls are showing the Conservatives inching toward a majority. Pollsters explain that Canadians are looking for firm direction in this shaky economy and feel the Conservatives are the best to provide that direction, certainly not any flaky left wing nuts like the NDP (note sarcasm). An interesting side note is that the NDP are drawing near even with the Liberals nationwide and now Jack Layton is pushing himself as the only viable alternative to prevent Harper from gaining a majority. Even though Stephane Dion is mind numbingly intelligent, he also has a surprising inability to make you excited about supporting him. How he ever rocketed his way to the Liberal leadership I'll never know. Anywho, I digress. What I really wanted to say is that polls are very often wrong. As Andrew Steele astutely points out, the Conservatives have not nudged outside of their margin of error from the beginning of the campaign while the NDP have gone significantly up and the Liberals, well, significantly in the other direction. I turn to a more reliable source, the Election Prediction Project. This website uses feedback from locals in all of Canada's ridings to make predictions on the electoral result in each riding. In the last 3 federal elections, they have a prediction rate of 90%. That is amazing. That means that if that were to hold true this time around, they would only guess 30 ridings incorrectly of 308. Wowsers. At this point in the game, they have 65 seats considered too close to call, but if patterns hold, the election will end up as such:

Conservatives: 150
Liberals: 91
Bloc Quebecois: 37
NDP: 28
Independent: 2

So the Conservatives are indeed inching closer to a majority. Does this scare me? Yes, in fact, it does. It actually scares the living s&%t out of me. I'm not sure why. I can't actually pinpoint the reason, but I very much hope it does not come to pass. As much as Harper is pushing himself as the only worthy pilot to guide our economy through the current turbulence, I am not convinced.

As many have noted, Harper's handling of the current situation has already been terrible. Mind you, he has had to deal with a minority government, but it has really presented no impediment. Everytime he wanted to push something controversial through, the Liberals just stayed home instead of voting. Let us look at what has happened to the economy while Harper was in office:
*from http://cupe.ca/economics/harper-no-manager*
  • The ratio of household debt to income has increased by 15%
  • The federal government had a surplus of $13.2 billion when Harper came to office. But the Conservatives have recklessly squandered it by pushing through expensive tax cuts. The surplus is now expected to shrink to $1.3 billion or lower in 2009/10. This would be the worst fiscal balance for the federal government in over a decade.
  • When Harper arrived in office, the economy was growing at a healthy rate of 4.2% a year. Economists expect that Canada’s economy will grow by only 1.1% this year. This will be the slowest rate of national economic growth in 15 years—since the 1992 recession.
  • Harper is the first Canadian Prime Minister in modern history under which economic productivity has actually declined. This demonstrates just how ineffective his tax cuts and privatization policies have been.
If you want to download what looks to be an excellent book on the Harper record from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, click here.

I'm sorry to lay bare my bias, but I just cannot stand the man. I think he is taking our nation in the wrong direction and sincerely hope that Canadians do not give him the "strong" mandate for which he is asking.

I love our new life

I must say, I adore our new life here in Peace River. My job is great, the town is wonderful, and we are having so much fun with the boys, especially now that we are so close to grandparents. I also must say that I am blown away by the sheer beauty of the Peace River valley in autumn and still slap myself every time I drive home, totally incredulous that I actually live here. Check out the pictures and see for yourself.

Killer cough medicine?

For any of you who may have received a dire e-mail from a friend telling you to stay away from cough and cold medicines with phenylpropanolamine because someone died of hemorrhagic stroke some years ago, be not afraid. PPA, as it is known in pharmacy, has not been available in Canada since 2001 after Health Canada removed it from the market due to aforementioned adverse effect.

Stephen Hawking's Catholic????

No, he's not, but he is a sitting member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, something I learned about while reading my September issue of Discover Magazine. The Vatican has an academy of highly distinguished scientists whose job it is to decipher current topics in science and debate issues that arise from modern scientific research. It started many ages ago and over time has come to include a roster of the most cherished scientists of our times (Max Planck, Neils Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, and Stephen Hawking). They don't have to be Catholic to sit on the Assembly and new members are chosen by the current members and vetted by the Holy See. You should really read the article. It is actually quite remarkable. I've always been one who sees no discord between religion and science and feels you can be religious while also appreciating and deeply studying science without producing any cognitive dissonance whatsoever. For those of you who disagree, or even for those who just couldn't care less, this article is worth a read. It has some surprising insights, especially if you equate Catholics with Creationists.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad apples

It seems there are bad apples in every bunch. According to CBC News, some pharmacists in Vancouver (remember that we are normally considered the most trustworthy professionals) have been paying crack addicts $10 cash per week if they agree to allow the pharmacist to fill their methadone prescription daily so the pharmacist can collect higher dispensing fees. Just so you know, $10 cash buys you a dose of crack in Vancouver, or so they say.

Appalling. I hope these pharmacists have their licences taken away and are not just slapped with remedial courses or some garbage like that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What the frick?

So I can understand why the Green Party of Canada was not included in previous debates. At first, they were not running candidates in every riding. Then even though they were running a full slate, they did not have any sitting MPs. It presented a difficult chicken and egg conundrum, but at least the other parties had some sort of objective standard to fall back on.

Now, the old boys club in Ottawa has prevented the Greens from entering the debates again. Not only are they running a full slate of 306 candidates, but they actually have a sitting MP. Elizabeth May, the popular leader of the Greens, convinced sitting independent MP Blair Wilson to become a Green. This was only a short time ago. So what is the big deal? They are now a legitimate national party. Heck, at their lowest point, the Tories only had 2 seats in the House of Commons and they were still always allowed in the debates.

Who caused this? Well, Harper the baby, for one. He only plays nice if he gets to set the rules, as Andrew Steele of the Globe and Mail stated. For whatever reason, he feels threatened by May and so basically told the broadcasting consortium in charge of running the debate that if they let May attend, he would not show up. What a freakin' baby.

But the thing that depresses me most is that Jack Layton, the leader of the party I support, decided to back Harper. Both of them stated that because Ms. May has shown support for Stephane Dion and the Liberals in the past means that if Dion is in the debate, than by association, Ms. May is represented anyway. What?

No wonder Canadians are cynical. What a joke.

I will still vote, but I am currently reconsidering my support of the NDP due to this ridiculous decision.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Long absence

As you can see, I have not posted for a month and a half. A lot has happened since then. Sacha turned 2 and has started using a potty. Not fully trained yet, but we're getting there. We are finally settled in our house and I am starting to figure out how to do my job! It has been busy, but we love our new life here in Peace River.

As for my reason for writing now, it's because I'm super excited. Today is a political junkie's dream: Harper called an election.

Although I do not agree with his reasons for calling the election, which were by and large self-serving, nor do I agree with his outright violation of the fixed election date law he championed and his own party supported, I cannot resist loving election time! It's like crack for me.

I will likely lean toward the party bearing the colors of my ancestral homeland: orange! And I will most certainly vote. There is no valid excuse for not voting. If you are reluctant, here is some info to help.

1. Find your riding here
2. Candidates lists are not up yet, but you can look at the individual party sites. They are below:
a. Conservative Party of Canada
b. Green Party of Canada
c. Liberal Party of Canada
d. New Democratic Party of Canada

(NDP last because of alphabet, not because they suck, Dave).

3. Make sure you are registered as a voter. You can call Elections Canada to find out.
4. Follow the campaign. As much as I want you to vote, don't just vote for a guy because your parents do, or because you like their signs. Learn the issues. Find out where the parties stand. Follow your local candidates by reading the local newspaper or watching local television. An informed voter is a responsible voter. However, don't just scoff your responsibilities. We have a responsibility in a democratic society to use the privilege we've been given. Otherwise we just insult all those worldwide who fight with their lives to obtain what we were born into.
To follow the campaign, watch The National on CBC every night, read the newspaper, or if you really need a fix, check out Globe Politics. It's like a safe-injection site for political junkies.

Not sure where you stand on the political spectrum? Take the test at Political Compass and compare yourself to the Canadian parties.

And if you really want a challenge, find your local riding association of the party you support, and volunteer to help out with the campaign. I did it once. It's pretty fun. I'm going to try and volunteer for my local candidate this time as well. We'll see how it goes!