Carbon Tax Rant

Commentary, Politics, Rants, Society
carbtax

My Facebook feed strikes again

I’m actually sharing this post not because I agree but because it’s kind of a terrible idea, and I’d like to explain why I think so.
It misrepresents what the carbon tax is.
 
The carbon tax isn’t revenue in the same way that something like income tax is. The money collected from the carbon tax MUST go towards paying for initiatives to combat climate change and reduce Alberta’s dependence on oil and gas. This money doesn’t go into their larger government pool to spend on whatever government things they want.
Maybe you think the NDP should be funding energy innovation from their regular revenue, or maybe you think they shouldn’t be funding such innovation at all. I think that since continued government funding on innovation in oil and gas is what allowed this crazy profitable industry to get started in AB in the first place, maybe it’s that industry’s turn to fund the next innovation.
I think we should keep the tax. It’s only fair that industries that have profited so immensely for so long while contributing to climate change also now contribute to repairing the damage and building a more sustainable future. To be fair to these industries, it seems like a good number of oil and gas companies are willing to step up to the plate in this regard. It’s just Conservative politicians and media who are having a hard time with it, and spreading shit like this around so that you’ll vote for them instead of the NDP in the next election.
 
It misrepresents what federal equalization payments are.
Transfer payments don’t work like this, and people need to stop sharing stuff that propagates this misconception. It’s dishonest at best. This makes it sound like the Government of Canada takes money from the Government of Alberta and gives it to the Government of Quebec. What actually happens is this: the Government of Canada collects income and business taxes from ALL Canadians, and some of those taxes get distributed to poorer provinces so that they can maintain a minimum standard of public services.
Stopping transfer payments doesn’t give more money to the government of Alberta, it just leaves the Federal government with more money, and all the provinces with less. Maaaaybe if the Feds also lowered income and business taxes at the same time (good luck with that), it would result in some individual Albertans having a tiny bit more money in their pockets at the end of the year, but the people who would benefit the most from such a move are the people who need it the least (i.e. super wealthy people who pay higher percentages and larger sums of tax). So you would be giving money back to mostly wealthy people across the country and taking services away from mostly poor and middle income people in have-not provinces. And the government of Alberta would still have to find the money to support their economic and climate goals from somewhere, so in this plan nobody’s goals get accomplished and almost everyone is worse off. Well done. *slow clap*
I disagree with stopping transfer payments because I have this crazy notion that as long as we’re united as a country, we should continue to have a minimum standard of healthcare, education, and social security across ALL provinces, not just the ones with lots of oil.
Also, can we just stop shitting on Quebec all the time? It’s not a good look, Alberta. 1. They’re not the only ones who accept equalization payments. 2. Asking for some of the tax revenue to offset the risk of having a pipeline run through your province is not unreasonable and doesn’t make them the bad guy here.
They’re raising a straw man to distract you, which helps no one.
 
To all my conservative-voting friends and family – they’re just building up a straw man for you to take down. Most of the stuff they say to demonize the NDP is distorted, exaggerated, or outright false. The NDP surely aren’t perfect, but they’re no worse than the PCs were, and some of their initiatives stand a really good chance of actually working and making life better for Albertans. They’re willing to take risks and try new things in a way the PCs haven’t been for a long time, and that’s very much what we need right now. Give them a chance.
While some individual PC and Wildrose politicians are good representatives who are on your side, each of those parties as a whole is most definitely not. They don’t care about whether or not you have a job in the industry, they only care about winning the government and propping up their corporate friends. Don’t buy into it and share their bullshit oil vs. NDP propaganda. Do your research, understand the issues, and demand that they do better by you as voters. Challenge them to stop the fear and hate mongering and instead build a conservative party that is actually conservative and actually cares about your bottom line. Engage in meaningful debate, consultation, and advocacy with the current NDP government to have your voice heard. Ignore the strawnotley.

Gender Parity in the Cabinet

Commentary, Politics, Rants

Stephen Harper had an extremely unstable cabinet, shuffling ministers around regularly and often making appointments that were questionable at best. Remember the environment minister who was a climate change denier in his spare time?

This isn’t unique to Mr. Harper. Patronage has been the method by which most of the top positions have been chosen in Canadian politics for most of our history. For some people, this has been a consistent concern, particularly when Prime Ministers make terrible choices like the example I gave above. But the vast majority of Canadians don’t really care. I’ve often seen them claim with an indifferent shrug of their shoulders that those ministers must have been chosen for a reason. There’s a general feeling of trust that a mostly male, arbitrarily appointed Federal Cabinet is probably somehow qualified to do the job. When they prove themselves to be unqualified by doing a bad job, they’re judged individually on the merit of their work, not collectively on the reasons they got the position the first place, and the country gets on with its day.

Introduce gender parity as Justin Trudeau just did, and suddenly people come out of the woodwork and decide they give a MASSIVE shit about merit-based minister selection.

Prime Ministers overlook qualified female candidates in favour of their friends all the time and few even notice, but introduce even the slightest chance that an even slightly better male candidate may have been overlooked in order to make the cabinet look more like the actual Canadian population, and suddenly it’s a problem. No one even stops to consider that maybe we have gender parity not because Trudeau is throwing out qualified male candidates, but because he’s actually bothering to consider female candidates in the first place, something that previous PMs rarely seemed to do.

Few people have bothered looking at how qualified the new ministers are: they see a news headline about gender parity and jump to the conclusion that most of them must be unqualified because they must have been chosen on the basis of their genitals alone. It’s assumed that men got their position because they’re qualified, and that women or minorities got it to fill a quota. The widespread assumption that men are automatically more qualified results in more qualified women being turned down in favour of less qualified men all the time. It’s a problem that Justin Trudeau set out to overcome, and he seems to have succeeded.

Everyone is suddenly clamouring for merit-based appointment over representativeness-based appointment, but hiring is more than a simple, objective checklist that can be equally applied to anyone and everyone to come to a 100% guaranteed best conclusion. I’ve done this kind of appointment work before, where you’re given way too many qualified candidates for a limited number of positions, and have to find a way to organize them into those positions. In these processes, things like representativeness and interpersonal ability/circumstances become really important. You’re putting together a team that has to work cooperatively to effectively represent and serve a diverse social landscape.

When you go into this kind of process, you create an image in your mind of how you want the group to look as a whole once it’s formed, and then balance that against how you want each individual position to look. Sometimes you get lucky with the perfect group and the perfect candidate for each position, sometimes you have to make small sacrifices to one in order to improve the other, and that’s okay. Attempting to apply complete objectivity to people’s so-called “merits” to pick the exactly most “qualified” person for each position would overlook an important fact of humanity: humans are not work experience robots, and you can’t slot them into positions in the same way you would choose which smart phone to buy or which accounting software to install for your business. They’re complicated, and their ideas, work ethic, interpersonability, and yes, even their representativeness, all matter. Those things are all part of their “merits”. If you’re looking at specific work experiences alone, you run the risk of creating a dysfunctional and incapable team.

People complain about representativeness being chosen over qualifications, but when it comes to a representative body like a federal cabinet, representativeness is a qualification. This should go without saying, but a cabinet that’s more representative of the population will do a better job of representing the population. Ministers do more than just lead their individual ministry, they also do a lot of team work to create policy, and an unrepresentative cabinet cannot hope to make representative policy.

It’s also worth mentioning that in a government where policy is determined by a team and ministers have access to massive support and staff structures, underqualification does not have to be the end of the world. Most of Harper’s cabinet ministers were woefully unqualified for their specific positions, but Canada kept chugging along.

Look, I’m no fan of Trudeau. I have many misgivings about him and the Liberal party, and I don’t trust them any more than all of you nay-sayers. However, forced gender parity in the cabinet is not the massive problem all these people seem to think it is. If anything, it’s a step up from the “appoint your old, white friends and a token minority or two” system used by previous PMs, because at least this one is relatively representative of the population. So stop your complaining. If you’re bothered about a specific minister’s lack of specific experiences, then be critical in that way, but don’t jump to the conclusion that the ministers must be unqualified just because Trudeau had the audacity to actually seriously consider some female candidates for once. Try to treat our gender-equal cabinet the same way you treated the mostly-male one: judge them individually on their level of experience and the quality of their work, rather than assuming they just got the job because they happen to have a certain set of genitalia. If you were fine with previous ministers getting their position because they were white men who were chummy with the PM (and all evidence suggests that this could be the only reason many of them got it) then you have no right to complain about the possibility that this time around, maybe some were more strongly considered for a ministry because they were women.

How to vote strategically (actually)

Elections, Politics

Strategic voting refers to voting for the candidate most likely to beat the one you don’t like in order to make your vote count for more. There are all sorts of websites set up to try to make this kind of voting as easy as possible for you. However, a really good voting strategy involves a little more complexity than just choosing the most popular lesser evil.


The first thing you want to do is figure out the popularity of each candidate in your riding. Even though your vote no longer contributes to parties’ election funding, showing your support to the party you like by giving them your vote can still help increase their legitimacy, and that’s worth quite a lot – your vote always counts, even if your candidate won’t win because of it. The more of the popular vote they manage to secure, the more seriously other parties have to take them – this is particularly important for historically smaller parties like the Green Party, which frequently gets left out of debates and interviews. If you know that the candidate you dislike is unlikely to win anyway, then go ahead and vote for the party or candidate you like the best! Sometimes “strategic voting” isn’t necessary.

 

If you find that strategic voting may be necessary in your riding, then you can consider voting for the most popular lesser evil, but donating to or buying a membership for the party or candidate you actually like. More registered members means more legitimacy, and more campaign money means better advertising and lobbying efforts so that their policy ideas can reach more minds and have more influence over the more popular parties’ actions.

 

You can also write to the candidates and their party leaders, and pressure them to consider the platform points you support from the party you wish you could vote for. Even if a candidate is not going to win, their ideas, if popular enough, can still influence the behavior of other candidates and their parties, during the election and after. This kind of citizen lobbying can do a lot more than you realize, especially if a lot of people engage in it! It’s also free – all you need is an e-mail address.

 

Candidate Popularity

 

There are a few ways to figure out candidate popularity, and I recommend using them all for the most accurate results.

 

1. Look at polls – multiple ones, since a single poll is rarely accurate on its own.

 

2. Take a walk around your riding and see which way it’s leaning based on lawn signs. Anyone with non-PC signs, or signs supporting CBC, public libraries, or other publicly funded operations, probably won’t vote PC (for example). If there is almost no signage supporting the party you dislike (or its policies), then they’re highly unlikely to win that riding and you can feel pretty safe voting for whoever you want.

 

3. Consider your riding’s demographics. Is it mostly old white people? Mostly students? Young families? Immigrants? Old and/or well-off white people and fundamentalist Christian families tend to vote for the most “conservative” candidate available (sorry for overgeneralizing, old white people and Christians). My riding growing up was mostly young families and students, and that riding has been pretty strongly held by the NDP for a pretty long time. My current riding is mostly professionals, immigrant families, and low income/single parent families, so it’s unsurprising that the Liberal party has held it for some time, and since the Liberals have been slowly falling out of favour with their historic voting base at other electoral levels, I wasn’t much surprised when they were ousted and replaced by a NDP candidate in the recent Provincial election. Demographics can tell you a lot about how your riding will vote.
*Remember that new seats have been added and federal riding boundaries have changed this year, which could change your riding’s historic demographics, and therefore it’s historic voting habits.

 

4. Check out the parties or platforms of other successful politicians in your riding. In Edmonton, we had provincial and municipal elections fairly recently, so their results can serve as a good test for how your riding votes – who is your MP, City Councillor, and School Board Trustee? The kinds of platforms they ran on will tell you how your riding likes to vote. Sometimes you can even see how many votes each candidate received, so you can tell how close (or not) their particular race was, although the 2015 Electoral report for the Provincial election hasn’t been released yet so you’ll just have to settle for knowing who the winner was.

 

Register

 

How do I Truth and Reconciliation?

Politics, Rants, Society

Some time ago, I stumbled across a Facebook post claiming (either on the post or through a shared article, I can’t remember now) that Aboriginal cultures and languages were dying a natural death, that their inferiority/primitiveness/etc. meant that they could never survive and be useful in our modern world, and that all the efforts being undertaken to keep these cultures and languages alive and functioning were a waste of time and energy (I could say the same about social Darwinism). A young woman of Aboriginal heritage responded in a justifiably irate, hurt, and defensive way. She was basically just told that she was destined to die due to her inferiority anyway so there was no point in trying to protect or preserve her. It’s horribly dehumanizing to have such ideas hurled coldly at you by strangers over social media, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she were to tell me that she has to endure that kind of thing on a regular basis. The original poster, predictably enough, came back on the defensive, told her all the ways in which she was wrong to think she was worth keeping around, using every racial stereotype, sweeping generalization, and piece of misinformation about Aboriginal cultures available in society’s racial arsenal to belittle her pain and anger.

In my own frustration at this person’s inability to conduct a simple Google search, in my horror at his lack of empathy towards the woman he was talking to, and in my inability to refrain from compulsively correcting anyone and everyone when I think they’re wrong, I gave all his misconceptions a lengthy debunking, and after a bit of an exchange he began to relinquish some of his previous viewpoints. Although he still refused to acknowledge how terrible his original comments had been, and wouldn’t entirely let go of his careless and dehumanizing attitude towards Aboriginal peoples, at least he was listening more and being less defensive. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. A few days later, he private messaged me to thank me for explaining everything so thoroughly, to say that I had given him a lot to think about and that his opinion was beginning to change, and to ask how I had learned so much and where he could go to do the same.

This seemed like quite a victory. How often does one manage to change the mind of someone else over social media, over an argument in a comments section? And if I had to change anyone’s mind about anything, I was glad to encourage someone towards greater tolerance and a desire to learn more. It wasn’t until much later that I thought of something that really should have occurred to me right from the beginning of the exchange.

When I started my political science degree, I could see the terrible conditions faced by Aboriginal peoples in this country and wanted to help fix them. I had grand visions of coming up with some genius solution that would end their troubles for good. To that end, I tended towards classes and chose research projects directed at learning more about Aboriginal history, politics, and policies in Canada. If you know me personally, and you’re thinking, “I didn’t know she had goals like that”, it’s because I never talk about it, because in hindsight it feels pretty stupid and offensive and like most people, I hate having to admit that I’ve done or thought something stupid or offensive. As I learned more, and spent more time listening to Aboriginal voices on the problems they uniquely face, it became apparent that as a white person it really wasn’t my place to take centre stage and play the part of some kind of saviour, and the idea that I could do such a thing was silly and naive at best. I simply lack the cultural, societal, and political experience and context required to truly understand the full extent and causes of the problems, and therefore to determine and implement the most appropriate solutions to them. I do, however, possess the ability to learn, listen, and empathize. I discovered that in order to really make a difference, my efforts were best spent listening to and supporting Aboriginal people as they attempt to explain their problems and implement solutions. Though this may be a supporting role rather than a lead one, that doesn’t make it small or unimportant or not worth doing. However, white people are so accustomed to having a highly valued voice, the idea of taking a back seat on an issue often doesn’t even occur to them, and when they’re asked to, the request can seem strange, unappealing, or even threatening (even though it isn’t in reality). This is a serious barrier to real progress on issues of inequality. Good people who could be making a positive difference are actually contributing to the problem by digging in their heels, refusing to listen and understand their part in the whole thing, and thereby holding back any progress that could be made.

When that fellow from Facebook asked how he could learn more, my answer to him was that I did so by going out of my way to put myself in situations where I could read and hear the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples and those who study their culture, their history, and their current circumstances. And that’s what bothers me so much today about my exchange with him then. Listening to Aboriginal perspectives is exactly what neither of us did during that conversation. An Aboriginal perspective was offered almost immediately, and he shot it down just as quickly. And instead of supporting her perspective and encouraging him to be a better listener, I offered my own and was readily accepted while her participation in the conversation gradually decreased and finally ceased altogether.

It shouldn’t take a white voice to educate white people on Aboriginal issues when so many more experienced voices are so widely available. Although I would dearly love to go on a debunking spree, complete with amusing gifs, to whitesplain the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to those fellow (mostly white) Canadians who’s negative and dismissive responses have been so frustrating and disappointing to me, I’m not going to. I would be making the same mistake now as I did back then, and while my lengthy debunking wasn’t necessarily wrong, I hope you can understand how that whole situation was extremely problematic. If you want to know which opinions need debunking, Google them yourself. Or you could, just, you know, actually read the Commission and take the time to think it over before jumping on the defensive. This is a time for listening, empathizing, and supporting. Your needs and desires can take a back seat for a little while without your world coming to an end, so get over yourself and try to spend some time listening and attending to someone else’s needs for once. It’s not actually as difficult or as scary as you think it’s going to be. Take the recommendations seriously and consider ways in which you can contribute. It’s really not going to hurt you, and it can make a world of difference to someone else.

I appreciate you reading to the end and listening to my story, but my story isn’t the one you should be listening to right now. Take the time to explore some perspectives less familiar to you, and do so with an open mind, a respectful attitude, and a restrained ego.

http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=893