US Elections in the last stride

The latest accusation against Obama is that he is a “redistributor of wealth,” something that would perhaps not raise many eyebrows here in Canada.

Rick Mercer interviewed former Prime Minister Paul Martin last night. Rick asked if his father had been a great influence on him. Paul Martin said yes, and that his father’s core belief rested on an understanding of government as a force of good in society. It all comes down to individual freedom. How do you achieve that if you were not born in a family of privilege? So the government’s responsibility is to guarantee that every person has the chance to achieve that same freedom independently of his background. So the government is there to provide the things we cannot provide for ourselves without a great deal of wealth – health, education, public security. How that goes against anybody’s freedom is beyond me.

Dion

©CBC.ca
©CBC.ca

By announcing his departure, Dion signalled the end of a noble experiment in Canadian politics where a principled politician could concentrate on ideas and policies, rather than imagery and advertising. But his formidable intellectual credentials, his political coourage during the national unity debates, and his impressive commitment to saving the environment and fighting poverty failed to impress voters.

Toronto Star editorial, 21/10/08

Student vote

Remember when I mentioned the lack of engagement among students with the electoral process? It seems that not all is lost. Today I ran into a good friend of mine who got a new job – she works for Student Vote, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the habits of democratic citizenship among young Canadians. Whenever there are Canadian elections, the organization work with affiliated schools across the country (there are currently over 4,000 schools in the program) so they can duplicate the entire election process in the schools. Students learn about the parties, candidates, debates, etc, and Student Vote sets up election booths so that the students can vote in a parallel election. The results are announced on CBC, on the night of the elections.

Here’s a blurb from their site:

In 2003, a young couple set out against the odds to reverse the trend of declining youth voter turnout – with a basic idea:

Practice makes perfect.

If we want young people to vote, why not give them a chance to practice first?

The Student Vote parallel election initiative was designed to give students an opportunity to develop and practice the habits of democratic citizenship during official election campaigns.

The initiative was designed for students to discuss and deliberate the current issues, parties and candidates in class and with family and friends.  The exercise would culminate in an authentic voting experience where students voted on the real candidates.

In the fall of 2003, a largely volunteer team launched their trial program to coincide with the Ontario provincial election.  More than 1000 schools registered to participate; received learning materials, electoral supplies and campaign support.  Over the course of the campaign, hundreds of candidate debates took place and political discussion was on the menu at dinner tables across the province.

On October 2nd, students took on the roles of election officials and organized a vote in their school on the candidates running in their electoral district.

More than 335,000 Ontario students cast a ballot from all 103 electoral districts.

The Student Vote results were reported live on CBC television on Election Night and printed in twenty regional daily newspapers the following day.

Since 2003, more than 1.5 million students have participated in Student Vote’s flagship parallel election project.

Student Vote is also responsible for pioneering civic engagement exercises that have occurred outside of elections.

Isn’t it cool?

Food

Traveling, for me, means trying different foods. Most of my research and preparation before a trip is focused on learning about local foods, restaurants, markets and my main memory about a place is always related to its food. The same applies to my childhood memories. If you are like me, you’ll enjoy Time’s photographic series on what the world eats. It’s pretty cool.

My favourite foods/cuisines are always changing but during this past summer I was into an Italian/Mediterranean kick eating lots of tomatoes, basil and bocconcini. That was mostly because of the availability of amazing produce and a couple of inspiring meals at a Sicilian friend’s place near Barcelona last June. Last winter I was into thai and Indian food – lots of freshly made curries of all kinds. I’ll probably continue that trend once the weather cools down.

What about you? What kinds of food are you into at the moment?

Exciting Canadian elections

Who said Canadian politics couldn’t be exciting? After weeks at the top of the polls inching ever closer to a majority and distancing themselves from the Liberals, who were second but sliding, the Conservative party has lost a lot of support in the week after the televised debates and final week of campaigning. The latest polls have the Conservative party with 32% and liberals with 27% (the difference was something like 40% to 21% before).

I can’t help but admit that I’m very excited by this turn of events. There’s much about Stephen Harper and his conservative party that troubles me and this campaign has just confirmed my worst fears. During the whole campaign, Stephen Harper avoided any contact with the public and appeared only in made-for-tv rallies with pre-selected audience. He has used the RCMP to keep the media away from him and conservative candidates all over the country have avoided public debates when they would have to answer questions from the public. It is almost as if they are afraid of answering questions about their policies and platform. But maybe it is because they didn’t have a platform until two days ago and were afraid people would notice? I don’t know. But it troubles me to see our Prime Minister avoiding the people he works for. This is nothing new. During the past three years, the PM has not only avoided the press like the plague but has muzzled members from his own party.

He has also imported a practice that might have marked politics south of the border but was never really prominent here in Canada, which is practice to personally attack political opponents. Canadian politicians and the electorate have for long been very pragmatic in their politics, often discussing issues and skills rather than making political opposition personal. The personal attack ads against Stéphane Dion that were aired days after he won the Liberal leadership two years ago are a case in point.

But I’m still hopeful that Canadians are going to recognize that they are being manipulated. Make your voice heard! Vote on October 14th. Remember, if you are Canadian, you do not need to be registered to be able to vote. Just find your electoral district and show up with appropriate IDs and proof of residence on election day.

I have never seen anything like it in Canadian politics.