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

One more thing about the election for today

Stéphane Dion has really been given a tough time by the media and by the Conservatives. In fact, it would not surprise me to learn that the puffin episode and Harper’s pulling of that from the website was thoroughly planned by them. After all, it’s interesting how this suddenly was big news this morning, bringing more attention to the Conservatives than it did the Liberals.

As I’ve seen a few others say today, the Liberal’s new website about Dion is something they should have been doing months ago. I’m not sure if it’s too late, but it’s certainly a good place for them to start. Although my sympathies often lie further to the left, I like Dion and I think he could be a good Prime Minister.

September 9, 2008   No Comments

Meanwhile outside of the US

I know that most of the world is focused on the upcoming US election and critical issues such as whether Sarah Palin tried to fire the local librarian for not banning books or someone else for not firing her brother-in-law, but there is political turmoil in other countries that is far more serious!

As my pal and colleague Philp Baruth points out today on Vermont Daily Briefing, the Pooping Puffin Scandal is big news in Canada. Okay, well the CBC doesn’t seem to be covering it, but it’s the top story at the Globe and Mail at the moment. Apparently Harper has pulled the ad suggesting that “Belittling images are not fair game.” The Puffin could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, in Thailand:

Thailand’s prime minister was forced to resign along with his cabinet on Tuesday after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had violated the constitution by hosting TV cooking shows.

His supporters vowed to bring him back to power, indicating that Thailand is still not free from its deep political crisis that has virtually paralyzed the government, spooked the financial markets and scared away tourists.

September 9, 2008   No Comments

Speaking of contests

I’m not usually much of a fan of Canadian Idol, and even less so of American Idol, but I’ve been really taken by Canadian Idol this season. They’ve had a ton of great contestants and it’s now down to the final two. One of the things I enjoyed about this season is that most of the finalists are also musicians and that we’ve seen lots of the contestants this year playing their instruments. Canadian Idol doesn’t really have much, if any, of the cheesy showmanship we find on its American counterpart. The band is also much more front and centre than we see in the US show which, as a musician, I love to see.

My favourites this year have included Mookie Morris (check him out doing Valerie and Magic Carpet Ride), Earl Stevenson (who did a completely memorable version of With a Little Help from my Friends), Amberly Thiessen (she got voted out too early, but did a beautiful version of Redemption Song that stuck with me for days, as did her vesion of Everything I Own), and Theo Tams (he’s had very few performances that didn’t work, but his best include Collide, Heaven, and You Had Me, when he surprised everyone by finally stepping away from the piano).

Stevenson, Thiessen, and Tams are all from Alberta (go Alberta!) and so I think that split the vote a bit among the Alberta voters and gave Thiessen in particular an earlier exit than she deserved. In any case, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more to come from at least two or three of these people. As for the final result goes, I don’t see how it can’t be Theo who wins. He’s been great.

September 9, 2008   2 Comments

Revealing my true colours

Go Jack! I’m not sure how well a lawn sign would go over in my neighbourhood though… I think it’s safe to say that the NDP will get more votes from my neighbourhood than any other political party. Unless there are some other Canadians in the area that I don’t know yet.

September 8, 2008   No Comments

The Elections Are Upon Us

As expected, today Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to dismiss Canada’s parliament and has called a snap election for October 14. Sadly, this means the 100 students I’m taking to Ottawa one week later will miss out on seeing Question Period and meeting with MPs, both of which are typically the highlights of our students’ experience in Ottawa. (It’s true! Canadians, stop shaking your heads now)

What will be adding a great deal to our trip and to my courses this semester is the rare chance to see the electoral process in action in both countries at the same time. What a great opportunity for the students to compare and contrast the two systems, the media’s role in the elections, and, of course, the choices of leaders that are being presented to both countries. Canadians have, or so it seems from my vantage point just south of the border, been swept up by Obama’s campaign and were they voting for President, he would win in a landslide. It wouldn’t be remotely close.

On the surface, the Canadian leaders we have to choose from are much less dynamic than those Americans have this time around. As Rick Mercer wrote, way back on “Super Tuesday,”

And speaking of Hillary, when it comes to casting, we can’t touch them. Here we are, we think of ourselves as this progressive, diverse nation and yet there’s big bad backwards America and who’s running for the big job? A woman, a black man, a Libertarian, a Mormon with big hair, and some dude who was in a bamboo cage in Vietnam for five-and-a-half years. Meanwhile in Canada, we’re gearing up for yet another race between a pudgy white guy and a skinny white guy and some other white guy. Which may go a long way to explain the other big difference between Canada and USA politics these days: in America in this race, young people are engaged. In Canada – they’re choosing none of the above.

As Mercer himself pointed out in this weekend’s Globe and Mail, though, I think there’s still enough drama in this campaign to keep most Canadians more interested in their own state of affairs than in what will happen in November in the US. For one thing, and you can be sure that Stephen Harper factored this in his decision, the limit to the length of campaigns in Canada means that Canadians will have already voted and chosen their next government weeks before the election in the US. Seeing our neighbours to the south choose Obama could well have had an impact on how Canadians would vote.

For those of us who follow politics more closely than we do any sport, elections are like the World Cup, or the Stanley Cup Playoffs (note that the NHL takes longer to decide on its champion than Canada does its next government). They’re also a gold mine for comedians, television networks, and, of course, bloggers. Although I’m trying to keep my head down more than usual this semester to finish my book, there will be days like today where I can’t resist passing on links like this one and this fabulous clip from John Stewart regarding Sarah Palin and the gender card.

For those of you who haven’t been following Canadian politics of late, the Harper government casually announced over the last couple of weeks that they were eliminating $40 million in culture funding, some of which went to support Canadian artists touring abroad. I’m sure the Conservatives thought that most Canadians might not notice or if they did that it certainly wouldn’t be much of an election issue. In fact, many Canadians have reacted strongly against these cuts and this could well turn out to be a major election issue in Canada. I have a feeling that most governments worry more about ticking off big business and or senior citizens than they do artists and people who watch Canadian films or have season’s tickets to the symphony. This clip which has surfaced on YouTube might make governments think twice in the future about angering filmmakers in particular….

September 7, 2008   No Comments