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

Canadians for Obama

So, I can’t recall if this usually happens in Canada or not, but The Globe and Mail just published its own endorsement for Obama

Isn’t the aim of an endorsement to help drive one’s readers to vote in a particular direction? At any rate, the vast majority of Canadians (this one included) would love to see Obama win. Although McCain actually seems to have a firmer grasp on Canadian issues, I think Obama will be great for all of North America.

Obama could really change many international perceptions of the United States, and that matters a lot. Last week, the 109 students and faculty on our Ottawa field trip had a 90-minute question and answer session with Dr. Michael Dawson, a Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Relations Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry. Fry, originally from Trinidad, spoke about how Pierre Trudeau and his vision of a “just society” caused her to emigrate to Canada and become a Canadian citizen.

This is a story one hears time and again from people who came to Canada from all corners of the globe during that era, inspired and energized by Trudeau’s vision of a just society — a national metanarrative that stay with Canadians to this day. I don’t think you’ll ever hear anyone say that about the philosophies of George Bush, Stephen Harper, or Paul Martin, for that matter. Someday, though, I think we might just hear American immigrants say that about Barack Obama, that they came here inspired by his vision of what America can become.

We are, of course, still several days away from what I hope will be an even more historic result to an already historic election in the US. We’re even further away from seeing what type of President Obama will become and whether his grand vision will be tempered by the demands of actually governing. People talk about Obama as potentially being like Kennedy. I, for one, think he might just have the chance to be America’s Trudeau instead.

And, if for some reason, he doesn’t win on Tuesday, I’d like to suggest that Barack join the many people who are talking about fleeing for Canada. We definitely have a job there ready and waiting for him.


October 30, 2008   3 Comments

Canada makes the debate

A couple of mentions of Canada last night in the US Presidential debate.

First off, FINALLY someone (and unfortunately it was McCain) recognized that America gets a great deal of its oil from Canada. All this rhetoric about eliminating the dependence on oil from foreign countries that don’t like America conveniently forgets that Canada is the top foreign supplier of oil to the US. Believe me, despite being an Albertan, I’m all for dramatically reducing North America’s reliance on oil. Let’s just be clear, though, that the US’s number one trading partner has the second-largest oil reserves in the world and it’s a friendly place.

The other time Canada came up in a way that really jumped out at me was in McCain’s denigration of the Canadian healthcare system. Here’s what he said:

Sen. Obama wants to set up health care bureaucracies, take over the health care of America through — as he said, his object is a single payer system. If you like that, you’ll love Canada and England. So the point is…”

Ummm… so the point is that you don’t want to be like a country where everyone has access to healthcare, where employers are not burdened with huge health insurance costs that drive up the cost of production and make them less competitive, where no one will go bankrupt due to medical bills, where drug prices are lower, where people live longer on average than Americans, where the rate of patient satisfaction is HIGHER than the United States, where people still can chose their own doctor and wait times for non-elective surgery are comparable to what they are in the US, where there are no co-pays, and where people can change careers or start their own businesses without ever having to worry about losing their health coverage to do so?

I’m glad McCain clearly knows something about Canada, but he’s got a lot to learn about Canada and the rest of the world if he thinks that a single-payer system is inferior to either his proposal or Obama’s. Canada’s healthcare system needs to be improved, and any Canadian will tell you that. The main problem in Canada, however, that our government only invests about half of what the US government already pays per capita for health care.

Sara Robinson’s two-part article on Mythbusting Canadian Healthcare (Part 2 is here) is worth reading for anyone who wants a second opinion on this. For those of us who’ve seen and lived both sides of the coin, we cannot understand how things could continue to be this bad for so many people in the United States. From my perspective, neither of these candidates has gone far enough in their proposals to make a huge difference in the lives of average Americans. This is something that could be solved for all Americans with the right leadership and vision.

October 16, 2008   5 Comments

What Canada’s parliament would look like today under a system of proportional representation

Thanks to wmtc for pointing me to these rather stunning stats published today by Fair Vote Canada, an organization whose mandate is to promote voting reform in Canada:

Conservatives – 38% of the popular vote: 117 seats (not 143)

Liberals – 26% of the popular vote: 81 seats (not 76)

NDP – 18% of the popular vote: 57 seats (not 37)

Bloc – 10% of the popular vote: 28 seats (not 50)

Greens – 7% of the popular vote: 23 seats (not 0)

The Fair Vote press release also includes these facts:

Green Party: 940,000 voters supporting the Green Party sent no one to

Parliament, setting a new record for the most votes cast for any party that

gained no parliamentary representation. By comparison, 813,000

Conservative voters in Alberta alone were able to elect 27 MPs.

Prairie Liberals and New Democrats: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives

received roughly twice the vote of the Liberals and NDP, but took seven times

as many seats.

Urban Conservatives: Similar to the last election, a quarter-million

Conservative voters in Toronto elected no one and neither did Conservative

voters in Montreal.

New Democrats: The NDP attracted 1.1 million more votes than the Bloc, but

the voting system gave the Bloc 50 seats, the NDP 37.

Perhaps seeing these figures will inspire Canadians to reexamine how we elect our representatives to Parliament. They certainly tell us a bit more about how Canadians actually voted than do the number of seats each party one.

If you’re interested, Fair Vote has a petition you can sign that calls for the development of “a more proportional voting system” for Canada. You can sign it here.

October 15, 2008   No Comments

Election day

It’s election day in Canada and tonight I’ll be glued to the television and computer to keep track of what’s going on. I’ll be twittering as well, but I was reminded last night of the law in Canada against publishing information about results in one part of the country before polls close in other parts of the country. This includes bloggers and, apparently, even Twitter. Needless to say, that leaves me to wonder if I will be breaking Canadian law by posting that information on my blog or on Twitter before polls close in Alberta and BC. Hmmm….

It’s been an interesting and, at many points disheartening campaign, as we’ve watched some of the most negative and childish ads in living memory appear throughout the media. Worse, the Conservative Party’s ads mocking Stéphane Dion started appearing on television long before an election was called. We’ve also watched as Harper seriously underestimated Canadians’ concerns about culture, the economy, and even the environment. The Liberals, too, have failed to persuade anyone, I think, that they are ready to lead the country. The “we must stop Stephen Harper” rhetoric of all the other sides have not persuaded anyone. I can see why people go that route, but Canadians are smart enough to make their own decisions about these things. Although Jack Layton has been mocked a bit for his earnest but unrealistic claims about running to be Prime Minister, I have to say that, although I sometimes cringe a bit when I hear him say that, I admire him all the more for taking that stand. He’s told us why he should be PM and I think has persuaded more people of this than Dion.

We’ve heard lots of people talking about the election over the last 37 days, but I think the commentator who has proven himself to be most in tune with how Canadians have felt about this election is Roy MacGregor. His column today, as with many of them over the course of this campaign, was superb. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the part I liked best:

This has indeed been, as pollster Peter Donolo of the Strategic Counsel puts it, a campaign of “failure.” Failure to impress. Failure to convince. Failure to connect.

And yet today it demands, and will receive, a decision.

And if that decision is minority government, it may be the first and only good thing to come out of this irritating exercise.

[. . .] There is opportunity here.

The reason for the visit to Pearson – he sits benignly atop a knoll backing onto the Ottawa River cliffs, his relaxed gaze aimed directly at the back of a bronze John Diefenbaker, who scowls off toward the East Block – is to be reminded of what can be.

Pearson headed two minority governments, in 1963 and 1965, and they are generally held to be the most productive the country has ever known. They saw the coming of medicare and the Canada Pension Plan – both with no small thanks to the prodding of a co-operative New Democratic Party – as well as a new flag, a unified armed forces and the auto pact.

If you listed the 10 greatest accomplishments on Parliament Hill since Confederation, at least three would come from those minority years.

So it can be done – but so, perhaps, can much more.

MacGregor goes on to call for a new era of civility in Parliament and in Canadian politics. Having watched Question Period in person once a year for the last four years on our programs annual Ottawa trip, I have to agree with him. I’ve been saddened by the juvenile displays I’ve witnessed in QP, mainly from a few members of one party in particular. Perhaps being faced with a new–and potentially even more tenuous–minority government will force everyone to work together in a more civilized and productive manner. One has to hope….

October 14, 2008   No Comments

Candidates I’d love to see win seats in the House of Commons

It was a nice surprise this weekend to discover in the NY Times a story on Tom King running for the NDP in Ontario. It was equally great to find that they included online a 20 minute excerpt from The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour. My students here are about to read his The Truth About Stories, so it’s nice to be able to point them to that article and audio sample.

Listening to that segment from Dead Dog, it’s hard not to be struck by the delicious irony of Jasper Friendly Bear’s radio serial called The Band Councillor in which King plays the white sidekick “Ottawa Bob.” If he’s elected, King will be anything but. It would be GREAT to see him in the House and to see what influence this all might have on the direction of King’s future writings.

As usual, both the Liberals and the NDP have managed to recruit some pretty great candidates. Two of the people I’d love to see win are Tom King in Guelph and Michael Byers in Vancouver Centre. For my own selfish reasons, I might be happier if they stayed home and got more time in to do their own work (Byers’ book Intent for a Nation is well worth reading), but these are two smart, smart people who could do a lot for their ridings and for Canada.

October 12, 2008   No Comments

Canadian Studies Ottawa Trip Itinerary

Here is the itinerary for our upcoming Canadian Studies Trip to Ottawa which runs from Oct. 23-25. This trip has been running annually since the 1950s and is one of the great traditions of our program here at the University of Vermont.

As I do have a few readers of this blog from the political sphere in Ottawa, I’ll use this space to put out a call for assistance. We’re still trying to finalize the list of MPs who will meet with our group on October 23rd. Needless to say, this is impossible to finalize before the election results are in, but if you are someone who could help us out once the election’s over, please get in touch with me.

This year, there will be 109 of us heading to the nation’s capital and this promises to be an amazing trip for students and faculty alike. The majority of this trip is funded through student fees, but we also get generous support from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, the James and Mary Brigham Buckham Fund from the Dept. of English, and from the College of Arts and Sciences.

You can find the complete itinerary by following the link below.

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October 10, 2008   No Comments

My American friends, is the US election getting you down?

If so, do I have a solution for you!

Just another part of my job here as part of the ELITE recruitment team.
(Thanks to Heidi for passing this one along…)

October 8, 2008   No Comments

Another historic vote for Canadians

Canadians, it’s time for another important vote. Election? What election? I’m talking about Canada’s Hockey Anthem Challenge!

I think many of us were skeptical about the whole contest, but the finalists are all pretty good and it really got Canadians’ attention. Kudos to all of you who submitted something for that contest.

Make sure to vote soon. I think voting closes on Tuesday. Personally, my vote goes to Colin Oberst’s entry. How can you go wrong with someone from Edmonton? The Edmonton Journal has a nice story today about Oberst, who teaches a grade 5/6 class in Beaumont.

October 6, 2008   1 Comment

In case you missed the VP debate, this about sums it up

October 5, 2008   No Comments

The debate(s)

I had a great time last night watching the Canadian leaders debate and twittering about it in real time. Connected to a few other people twittering about it, and got a few reactions to my posts from some of my Facebook friends. It was interesting, too, to discover that CBC was monitoring Twitter and reported on the reaction of microbloggers on The National news at 11:00.

I only gave in once to the temptation to watch Palin and Biden once. After the Canadian leaders started talking about crime, I briefly switched channels. After hearing Palin say “nucular” twice, I was happy to switch back to listening to Stéphane Dion, who’s more articulate in his second language than Palin is in her first.

I’ve yet to go back and watch the full VP debate, but fortunately I have Palin’s Debate Flow Chart to help interpret her responses. Brilliant.

October 3, 2008   No Comments