Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Posts from — September 2008

Plagiarism scandal about to explode in Canada

I don’t know if this is, as the Conservatives suggest, a mark of the desperation of the Liberals who seem to be at risk of being passed by the NDP in this election. If it’s not, then I don’t see why they’ve been holding on to this for so long. In any case, this video might well become a classic example for schools, colleges, and universities across Canada of what constitutes plagiarism.

Ouch! Harper knows better than this, or at least I thought he did. I have to assume that someone wrote this speech for him and that he didn’t catch it. This reminds me of a case back in Calgary where one of my colleagues caught a student who submitted an essay that had been purchased off the internet. When confronted, the student, in tears, said: “But I didn’t plagiarize! I paid my roommate $20 to write the essay for me and he must have got it off the Internet!” That argument didn’t cut it for the student, and it shouldn’t for a politician in such a prominent position.

September 30, 2008   No Comments

Did you miss Friday’s Presidential Debate?

This one-minute summary from is interesting to watch. If one were to create a word cloud out of what was said on Friday, the words foregrounded in these clips would be some of the key words that were repeated over and over.

September 29, 2008   No Comments

The True North, Strong, and Freer

From yesterday’s episode of Marketplace:

As other people who commented on this story have already said, I don’t buy Wilkinson’s comment about Canada’s healthcare system. Other than that, though, I’m happy to see him raise this point. As an interesting series of articles in the NY Times in 2005 noted, social mobility seens to be more possible in Canada and Europe today than it is in the US. And, for those who tell me on both sides of the border that people pay higher taxes in Canada, I have to say that I’ve found the opposite to be true here, at least in my circumstance. I pay more here — it just comes out of my pocket a bit differently. Municipal taxes, for instance, are three times what I paid in Canada, and I get far fewer services here in return. And, I’m not even taking into consideration what my employer and I pay for my family’s health insurance or the deductibles I need to pay any time one of us goes to see the doctor. I’m not complaining, though. Life is good here for my family, and I’ve been given many great opportunities. Each country has its good sides and bad, but the argument that America is freer economically hasn’t proven itself to be true in my five years on this side of the border.

September 25, 2008   No Comments

In other wacky Canadian election news

Courtesy of The National Post:

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today released results of a national public opinion poll showing that by a two-to-one margin, Canadians are more likely to accept the validity of Bigfoot than they are promises on the campaign trail.

[. . .] The survey of 1,000 Canadian adults was conducted by Praxicus, a pollster known to have close ties with senior Conservative Party officials. The results are considered accurate to within +/-3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The question asked: “Which is more likely to happen … Politicians will keep their election promises or scientists will prove the existence of Bigfoot?”

58% said Bigfoot, while 27% opted for promises. 15% were undecided.

September 24, 2008   No Comments

Now this would be real change in Canada

September 24, 2008   No Comments

Cuts to Culture in Canada

As I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, the Conservative Party is likely a bit surprised at the vastly negative reaction across Canada to the cuts they made recently to cultural industries and artists.

It’s been really great to see how artists and cultural organizations have rallied to show Canadians exactly why these cuts are so potentially detrimental to our cultural (and fiscal) well-being. This latest piece on YouTube, though not safe for some workplaces or family ears, gets to the heart of the politically motivated cuts to vibrant and successful programs such as the one that supports Canadian artists touring abroad. It’s a brilliant and scathing critique.

(There’s also a YouTube version with English subtitles. One of the big parts of the joke is that the song is about “une phoque,” which in English means a seal. ‘tit is short for petit)

September 23, 2008   No Comments

The importance of voting

Things to do today:

1) Vote in the federal election. CHECK!

Get out and vote

Being from Alberta, I sometimes feel like my vote doesn’t count. Aside from a few ridings in my hometown and a few in Calgary in recent years, the province is a sea of blue (Conservative). And yet, I also once saw an election in my own riding in which the Premier of the province was turfed out of his own riding because everyone thought he’d win and didn’t bother to vote for him, while the opposition did a great job of getting the vote out. So, every vote counts.

So, I hope everyone reading this makes certain to vote in your own election this fall, whether you’re in Canada or the US. It’s worth the effort.

I’ve not watched it yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing Michael Moore’s new film: Slacker Uprising. He’s made the film freely available on the Internet so that more people can see it before the election. If young Canadians and Americans voted en masse, they could quickly change the face of both countries. You can tell how much that makes politicians nervous by how little they are actually doing in both countries to mobilize that demographic. Obama, Layton, and May are leaders on this front, but I think there’s still a long, long way to go.

One thing Canada could use, for instance, is an equivalent of Rock The Vote.

September 23, 2008   No Comments

New (and Improved) Canada

Speaking of how little some Americans know about Canada, the Wall Street Journal got our country’s name wrong TWICE in August. One article referred to it as “New Canada” while the other referred to the “Commonwealth of Canada.”

I truly wish that I could say that this surprises me. As Homer Simpson once responded when it took his kids 40 minutes to locate Canada on the map, “Oh Marge, anyone can miss Canada, all tucked away down there.” (Matt Groening’s dad, Homer, was born in Canada, btw)


Though I have met many Americans who have travelled widely in Canada and who follow the news there, I’ve also met many Vermonters from this area (40 minutes from the border) who have lived here their whole lives and have never been to Canada. When asked about this several of those people have told me that it had never really occurred to them before to go to Canada.

Anyhow, the comments thread on the Gawker story about the Wall Street Journal made me laugh. Lots of good names suggested for Canada there. I liked “New and Improved Canada.” Then I could be part of the “New and Improved Canadian Studies Program.”

September 17, 2008   1 Comment

A Canadian music challenge for you

PIcked up this great collection of Canadian music today at Starbucks to add to the Canadian Studies Program‘s media library. There are only a few tracks on here that I don’t already own myself, but I was enticed by the lovely packaging as much as by the fine choices of music made by Starbucks.

I also really liked their description of Canada and its music on the back cover: “United less by a common sound than a shared spirit, Canadians from the rock, jazz, and folk realms have made their mark with music that reflects the heartiness, humor and coast-to-coast diversity of their homeland.”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the list of tracks is a bit conservative, but I think they strike a good balance of artists with whom Americans are familiar and those who will be pleasant surprises to them. Here’s the track list for “Northern Songs”

1. Feist – “Mushaboom”

2. Pilot Speed – “Knife-Grey Sea”

3. Cowboy Junkies – “Sweet Jane”

4. The Band – “The Weight”

5. K.D. Lang – “Constant Craving”

6. Rufus Wainwright – “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”

7. Sarah McLachlan – “Angel”

8. Ron Sexsmith – “All in Good Time”

9. Kate and Anna McGarrigle “Entre la Jeunesse et la Sagesse”

10. Great Lake Swimmers – “Your Rocky Spine”

11. The Be Good Tanyas – “Ootischenia”

12. Broken Social Scene – “Swimmers”

13. Holly Cole – “I Can See Clearly Now”

14. Diana Krall – “Temptation”

15. Leonard Cohen – “Anthem”

As I said, this is a pretty good list. If I had to choose 15 songs to represent Canadian music, though, I’m not sure if any of these tracks would make the cut. As I ponder just what my list would look like, I thought I’d pass this along to you, dear reader. What songs would you pick if you wanted to create a compilation of Canadian music that represented Canada’s best and brightest while still representing “the heartiness, humor, and coast-to-coast diversity of their [or our!] homeland”?

Post your 15 songs in the comments below or, better yet, write about your choice on your own blog and link back here. Let me know you’ve posted on your blog, so that I can link to it from here as well.

September 16, 2008   6 Comments

Professor Jeff Ayres speaks to VPR about the Canadian election

Dr. Jeff Ayres, Chair of Political Science at St. Michael’s College and an adjunct Professor in UVM’s Canadian Studies program, spoke to Vermont Public Radio today about the upcoming Canadian election. Check out that interview here.

September 11, 2008   Comments Off on Professor Jeff Ayres speaks to VPR about the Canadian election