Sunday, December 15, 2013

The #DecemberTree: Too PC for @UrbanDictionary

Yesterday, I had a stroke of politically correct genius: the December tree. Yup, not Christmas, not holiday: December tree. It rolls off the tongue nicely, it opens up the tree market to people of diverse beliefs and cultures, and I'm of the mind that surviving December in Canada is totally worth a celebratory tree.

I'm thinking win-win-win, right? So obviously, I submit to Urban Dictionary, only to have my entry rejected. (boooooo!)

This was the text of post that didn't make it:

December tree

A better non-denominational name for a Christmas tree than "holiday tree".

I decorated my December tree with edible ornaments this year.
The Rideau Centre spent a lot on December trees this year.

by StackedHouse on Dec 15, 2013
tags: Christmas tree, Holiday tree, December tree, Non-denominational, Multi-faith

I clicked on the website to see what the extra info is, and I found out it's just a random peer-approval system. I picked out some blatantly problematic ones as I clicked through. For example:

I guess some random pro-censorship Christian just blew up my lexicography. When December tree catches on, I'm going to shit-tweet Urban Dictionary so hard. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

@Carleton_U still needs #Feminism

Today, I'm blogging in response the "I Need Feminism Because..." campaign a small group ran two weeks ago in the Carleton University Centre Atrium. Participants were asked to complete the sentence on a white board and pose for a picture. This post isn't about the campaign; it's actually about two instances where I saw Carleton's real need for a shot of feminism shortly after participating in the campaign.

Firstly, my classmate (@EvelynIsABoy) and I finally heard back from our EMCP (Enrichment Mini Course Program) proposals. EMCP is a week-long university-lite course designed for students between grades 8 and 11. Instruction is paid, and the application process is open to professors and graduate students. We decided to generate two proposals together and share the instructing duties if only one was selected.

The proposals we submitted were for a course on political literacy and activism (The Revolution Will be Tweeted) as well as a feminist take on sex ed and healthy relationships (Advanced Sex Ed). The latter was refused. The organizers were understanding of our purposes, but were cautious to present an option with mature content because of parent reaction to film (we don't know which) shown the previous year. We received the suggestion that we re-submit the proposal the upcoming year in a health framing.

I'm just angry that no one seems to want to give youth any straight talk about sex and gender. The sex ed curriculum is years behind the times, and the Ontario Miss G Project's efforts to get a high school women's and gender studies course have only manifested as an elective thus far. We are failing to prepare youth for the complicated sexualized and gendered realities of Canadians.

My second observation of Carleton's continued need for feminism happened yesterday at exam proctor training. After being explained the (painfully cis-sexist) bathroom sign-out policies, I raised my hand and asked what the protocol was if a student requested a gender neutral bathroom break. The response I got was: "It hasn't come up, yet." and the promise of a follow-up. I find it really hard to believe that a since Carleton started (1942) not a single gender non-conforming student has had to use the washroom during an exam; anyhow, I await the email with the official policy.

That there feminism, she's still kicking.

(I need feminism because masculinity is conflated with violence.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Pet Care Revolution

With all the media attention and funding being invested into social innovation, it surprises me that we have yet to see a revolution in pet care. Social innovation is in it's most simplistic explanation an incentive for creating products with compassionate capital, the added value of the "feel good" product story. I am not convinced that this gesture can achieve a less problematic distribution of wealth, but social innovation does push the private sphere to be more reflexive about their practices.

(Roommate's cat, Rain. Affectionately referred to as Snugs.)

CBC did a pretty in depth Marketplace episode on veterinary services in Canada, and it got me thinking about compassion. People love their pets, there's a cat purring next to me as I type this.. Canadians shouldn't have to be financially exploited for wanting to care for their furry families. By situating pet care in the market place, clinics naturally charge the most they can for their services. 

It doesn't have to be like this. 

The non-profit model actually makes much more sense for pet care. Assuming that most veterinarians go into the profession for the love of animals, not the income, a non-profit corporation governed by volunteer board directors could hire salaried staff and offer at-cost services. Staff veterinarians would have no incentive to up-sell and could execute the best courses of care without mixed motivations. 

(Cousin's cat, Lola. Acts like a raccoon sometimes.)

I hope animal lovers take this idea seriously and work in their communities to transform Canadian pet care into compassionate at-cost services. #Teamcats 

(Info-graphic from CBC)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

RE: @cupe4600 Bargaining.

Dear CUPE 4600* Executive,

I write today as Teaching Assistant and proud CUPE 4600 member concerned with bargaining. Specifically, I am writing to address the proposal discussed at the Sept 26th General Membership Meeting that would grant preference to international students for TA positions where all other qualifications are considered equal.

In truth, this proposal is not one I can support in good conscience. While I understand that international students face additional bureaucratic and financial barriers to their progress at Carleton, I also acknowledge that a single criteria is incapable of describing need. Parental or family status, (dis)ability, health, wealth, and other factors structure the need of TA applicants in significant ways that are not captured by citizenship.

I suggest that the proposal be reconsidered to factor need rather than citizenship as the deciding factor between equal applicants.

In solidarity,


*Teaching Assistants & Contract Instructors at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. The union is currently bargaining a new collective agreement.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rant: The #ArmyRun

Today, my social media streams are brimming with support and excitement for Ottawa's Army Run, a race day fundraiser for Soldier On and the Military Families Fund. Given the title of this post, you should surmise this post will in no way resemble those musings.

I start with credit where credit's due. There are two elements of the Army Run I like: fitness promotion and the integration of traumatized and wounded soldiers into mainstream culture. End praise here.

The political economic reality of the Army Run articulates the event as a shining example of neo-conservative politics in Canada. The Army run achieves two neo-conservative goals: the militarization of culture and the privatization of veteran's care.

If Canadians think veterans and their families have a right to care, then the government should assume the responsibility of providing consistent quality services. Instead, millions are cut from Veteran's Affairs, and charities are tasked with the care services required by the veterans and families who have given the most. Charities are structurally incapable of offering services as efficiently as a government agency; their resources must be partially diverted to perpetual fundraising. The Army Run is both a consequence and celebration of the privatization of veterans' services.

Blatantly, the Army Run also celebrates militarism. That we live in a world that requires armed forces and embraces the cultural production of violence for "our own security" is a tragedy. I am not saying that it's realistic not to have armed forces, but I think it's not reaching too far to ask for consensus on moving beyond the need for armed forces someday.

If the project of human existence is to proceed indefinitely, global resources need to be curbed away from the production of violence toward the development of sustainable social and physical infrastructures.To achieve this end, the knowledge system that permits military violence to punctuate history must be meaningfully challenged. The Army Run suggests that cultural pride in our military can substitute duty for our veterans' post-service care, and I couldn't disagree more.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

In Memory of Barry King.

I don't normally use this blog for personal reflections, but today is my Uncle Barry's funeral. I'm from a tight-knit Atlantic Canadian family, and he died at only 64. The proceedings will occur in Sussex, New Brunswick later today. Unfortunately, logistics and finances precluded my attendance this afternoon, and I'm heavy with both loss and placelessness.

With a dry wit, a strong sense of duty, and kind heart, Uncle Barry crafted a life full of love and laughter. I'm blessed to have been part of that life.

Admittedly, closure will evade me for sometime. I'll watch my family adjust from afar, and wait for the tonne of bricks that will hit me when I'm home next.

I will honour this great man by carrying my memories of him in the part of my brain that gives me strength to be the best version of myself. I promise that the love I had for him will not cease to exist, it will turn inward and make me a more whole person.

Uncle Barry, you will be missed and remembered. Rest in peace.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I finally have a bone to pick with @ElizabethMay.

I was slow to warm up to Elizabeth May after supporting sitting Ottawa City Councillor David Chernushenko's bid for Federal Green Party Leader in 2006. Seven years later, she's one of Canada's public figures I respect most. Relentless, principled, and poignant, Elizabeth May has been the Green Party's solar-powered Energizer bunny.

Full disclosure, I held a Green Party membership for the first five years of my voting life; I embraced pragmatism living in the Niagara Region 2011 and volunteered for Malcolm Allen to stave off a Conservative win in the Welland battleground riding. I supported Nathan Cullen during the NDP leadership race, but I remain unimpressed with the ONDP and will vote Green Party of Ontario as long as they are the only party to prioritize adopting a single secular school board.

Elizabeth May is usually very much in line with my thoughts on politics, but she finally said something regarding the proposed East-West pipeline I have to vehemently disagree with: build more oil refineries.

(Irving Refinery, Saint John, New Brunswick)

Her rationale, which has a lot of merit, is that it is safer to pump a more refined product across the country to ports of departure. My counter argument to this predicament is that building refineries in Alberta will only artificially increase the longevity of the fossil fuel industry in Canada. The point of the pipeline is that you turn it off when it's no longer economically viable.

An expedient shift away from fossil fuels, especially their import, is high among my priorities for the Canadian economy. Because I aim for the shortest distance to sustainability, I do not support the billions in subsidies the Canadian government hands oil companies, and I do not support the expansion of the refining industry in Canada.

Based on economic logic, we should export oil as long as there is world demand sufficient to generate profit without requiring government subsidy. As clean energies become more economically viable, the market will shift, and fossil fuels will will be too expensive to take out of the ground by comparison. The economy is already shifting toward clean energy, and the private sector in Canada is showing no appetite to build more refineries.

Building new refineries in Alberta would only create jobs with a planned expiry date and pit labour interests against environmentalists when it's time to close the facilities' doors. Using the oil industry to create jobs in Canada makes it harder to choke our reliance on fossil fuels out of out public policies.

By maximizing the resources and facilities Canada already has and re-prioritizing government assistance toward clean energy grids, we can reap the benefits of a robust energy sector and start planing post-oil politics. At the end of it all, I'm just not convinced building refineries to fill the pipeline with a safer product is worth anchoring Canada in the fossil fuel economy any longer than necessary.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Holy #PinkWashing, @CapPride!

I recently found out that Ottawa’s Great Canadian Cabin will be hosting an “Ally Party” as part of Capital Pride 2013
"Queer Ally Party

Presented by Queer Ottawa

The Great Canadian Cabin, 95 York St


Queer Ottawa is proud to be hosting the first-ever Ally Party for Capital Pride 2013. An ally is a heterosexual person who stands with the LGBT community to support and push forward the movement for social equality. Become our ally by attending this inaugural celebration!"

(Copied from Capital Pride Event Listing)

My knee-jerk reaction was: WTF? This is the Pride party for the “allies” seeking a segregated mostly hetero party? And isn't the entirety of a Pride festival an “Ally Party”? Is it not the congregation of diverse peoples in the names of minority inclusion and solidarity that defines Pride? (Maybe I'm being too idealistic with that last assertion)

At the end of the day, the thought process behind an “Ally Party” is not one that strides toward social justice. The notion (re)creates an “us” and a “them”, rather than a “we”.  

I greatly prefer the language of solidarity to allyship. I see too many people relieving themselves of culpability within complex webs of power by misguidedly situating themselves outside of a given injustice. Solidarity recognizes the confluence of struggle across axes of oppression; better language choices include any combination of the following: ‘straight in solidarity’, ‘cis in solidarity’, or ‘settler in solidarity’.

Language politics aside, I would hope all of Ottawa’s bars and clubs would treat queer people with respect on any given day. A straight bar hosting an exceptionally tolerant straight party during Pride isn't a special event; it’s pinkwashing, and no amount of glitter or vodka could convince me this party is a good idea. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

RE: #Thorium Desalination Projects

Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development
John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs


I write you today after much reflection on energy politics in Canada following the explosive tragedy in Lac M├ęgantic, Qu├ębec. I write to suggest a targeted foreign aid program with the potential to bolster both Canadian and developing economies; specifically, I suggest sizeable investments in Thorium desalination projects. These projects feature small-scale nuclear reactors that power the energy-intensive processes purifying sea water; some Thorium desalination projects are engineered as dual-purpose facilities, which produce energy for commercial and residential consumption as well as potable water.

Thorium desalination projects are strategically valuable to Canada for several reasons, foremost, as a means to advance research toward large-sale, safe, and emission-free Thorium power generation. The generation technique uses molten salt rather than heavy water (composed of heavier isotopes of hydrogen), which means it is safer in the event of a power loss, and near impossible to weaponize.

Directing foreign aid support to Thorium desalination projects adheres with economic reality that desalination will only become increasingly common as natural fresh water supplies are depleted. The decentralized small-scale desalination/generation model also holds value for the sustainable development of the environmentally sensitive Canadian North. 

Imagine if our foreign aid programs were able to contract Canadians to build a secure and responsible energy future, while dramatically increasing access to clean water in the world's poorest parts. 

Minsters, this ideal could become a reality within the next budget cycle. There is already a Canadian company, Thorium Power Canada Inc, blazing the trail managing two projects in Chile and Indonesia, the latter a generation-only project. 

Thorium research is a big part of solving the global energy crisis, and Canada should be a leader in this effort. I implore you to research and champion Thorium investments as priorities for foreign aid spending in the next budget cycle. 



(This is a T-shirt you can buy from Snorg-Tees)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Letter to Editor Published in the KCR

I got the following letter published in the King's County Record in Southern New Brunswick. It's paywalled web content, so I figured I should re-post. (I ranted pretty extensively about that paywall in the Moncton Free Press, but I can't search it any!)

What if we Rethought Canada Day in Sussex?

As I watched the fireworks crack and fizzle in Monday’s rainy skies, the fumes of burning chemicals filled my lungs, and I had a thought. Isn’t there anything better than fireworks we could be celebrating Canada with?

Fireworks are an expensive flash in the pan, literally. Then consider all the gnarly compounds they pump into the air; I had the misfortune of being downwind this year.

So what if we did Canada Day in true Sussex fashion, with a hot air balloon moon glow?

When we spend $10,000 on fireworks each year, that money just evaporates. With three to five years of that funding re-directed, the Town of Sussex could buy their own hot air balloon that could be used whenever The Town sees fit. Free balloon rides could be given to residents at the Balloon Fiesta, and night skies of Canada and New Brunswick Days could be lit up. 

Further, a balloon purchase could get the community engaged through design consultation and an online vote for the final product.

I'm not suggesting a bleak next few years celebrations; we can act now and amortize the purchase taking advantage of hot air balloons having a depreciation value. A balloon purchase would be an investment for Sussex.

The only thing needed for this idea to become a reality is political will. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

RE: Waste Management in #OttCity

To: Maria McRae, Chair, City of Ottawa Environment Committee
CC: Scott Moffatt
Jim Watson (Mayor, ex-officio)

Dear Environment Committee Members,

I am writing you today in suggestion of a waste management strategy the City could enact as a means to achieve environmental and financial sustainability. I offer New Brunswick’s Wet/Dry waste management scheme and discuss its applicability to Ottawa.

New Brunswick’s largest metropolitan area, the Greater Moncton Area (GMA pop ~140, 000), introduced voluntary Wet/Dry waste separation in 1999 and required citizen’s participation in 2006. More than 51% of residential waste collected is recycled or composted; meanwhile, Ottawa’s solid waste diversion rate sits well below Moncton and just under the Ontario median of 36.8% at 32.3%.

The Wet/Dry program’s success is in its simplicity; residents use two transparent garbage bags, blue for dry and green for wet. Dry waste includes all refuse that is not wet or soiled, items that can be easily rinsed or wiped clean, recyclables and non-recyclables, all types of paper, cardboard, bottles, cans, etc. Wet waste includes all food items, soiled food wrappers, hygiene products, yard waste, tissues and paper towels, as well as any other soiled item that would contaminate the recyclables. Household hazardous wastes (batteries, paint cans, etc.) are collected at regular intervals during the waste collection schedule or any time at drop-off centre, and a sorting facility diverts recyclables and separates compostable waste from what will enter a landfill.

The principal benefit of the Wet/Dry program is that citizens’ responsibility to properly and consistently separate waste is mostly taken up by staffed sorting facilities.This shift would help the City’s bottom line by stabilizing the supply of waste diversion products (compost soil and recycled materials), a problem that has dogged the Green Bin program in Ottawa. Additionally, the Wet/Dry approach creates permanent low-skill jobs. 

The GMA Wet/Dry program provides more than 70 jobs for the local economy and recovers and sends over 30 different products to recycling markets.

I hope some of the ideas I have brought to your attention strike a chord with your sensibilities and that your committee decides to study the feasibility of a Wet/Dry program in Ottawa. 



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RE: Accessibility at #GGGS


This past Saturday I attended the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale. While, I didn't find the Scrabble board I was looking for, I enjoyed the ambience and the food! I write to you today because I witnessed several instances where the event failed patrons in wheelchairs.

Observably, parking infractions and the encroachment of sale tables onto side walks were the main culprits on Saturday. In response to these concerns, I implore the Glebe Community Association to create and enforce an accessibility guide for participant vendors when planning 2014’s edition of the Great Glebe Garage Sale.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Gendercide Awareness Project

Yesterday, I attended an Evolving Topics in Reproductive Justice panel and lunch hosted by the University of Ottawa Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession and Canadians for Choice. It got me to thinking that, with Thursday's March for Life quickly approaching, I should probably turn my little corner of the internet toward a serious topic in reproductive justice. Thus, I write my case of how feminist language has been flagrantly misused to support causes calling for an end to sex-selective abortion.

The theme of this year’s shamelessly anti-choice March for Life is: 

a thinly veiled attempt to appropriate feminist language to justify constricting reproductive freedom! 

The March for Life and their righteous concern for female gendercide couldn't be further from “the feminist agenda”. Point one: the creators of the campaign entirely conflate sex and gender (Sex is the biological body we’re born into, and gender is the social identity we perform). The notion of fetal female gendercide uncritically pairs a cis sex-gender designation onto an unborn subject incapable of intelligible gender performance. Based on their pre-social definition, the unborn are only possibly subject to discrimination by biological understanding (sex); thus, gendercide in a fetal context is an impossibility, by definition. 

An accurate tag line would read: “End Fetal Sexism” or "End Fetal Femicide" (if you like alliteration), but neither option sounds enough like genocide, the pre-eminent theme anti-choice groups invoke to shame abortion seekers. We should also be critical of how the March for Life's approach serves to ignore and erase the possibility of children that will grow up to self-identify as trans or gender variant. 

What’s mortifying about this particular theme is that sex-selective abortion is gender policing's most extreme iteration. Inflexible expectations about the specific performance of binary gender place carrying some pregnancies to term outside the realm of possibility for some child bearers. Motivated by the economic rationale that a girl couldn't possibly meet the social or economic value of a boy, gender discourse is reshaping demographics in China and India to reflect “missing women”. While sex-selective abortions aren't anywhere near statistical significance in Canada, their existence alone has conjured outrage. 

Anyway you spin the rhetoric, it means the same thing; anti-choice advocates don’t want Canadian citizens making decisions over their own bodies. They think laws that would deprive child bearers the sex of their unborn, information about their own bodies, and tougher access to abortion will help Canada resist heathen ways.

Why is it that controlling reproduction and limiting individual freedom are the response to the injustices that created the reality of sex-selective abortion? We should be asking: why do we permit poverty, patriarchy, and cis-hetero-normativity to coalesce in this way that (re)produces injustice? 

The Bible doesn't say anything about sex-selective abortion, but it’s pretty clear about poverty. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Integrating Youth & Technology Into #NDP Policy Making

This Winter, I had my first partisan policy proposal experience. The venue: Ottawa Centre NDP Electoral District Association’s (EDA) pre-convention policy meeting. It was something; that's for sure. Fact one: I was the youngest person in the room, at 25. Fact two: this wasn't exactly a place where people went out of their way to include outsiders (especially when you’re a vocally pro carbon tax New Democrat).

Anyhow, I got to talking to another NDP member at my table, and we exchanged our frustrations at the limitations of the policy process. There is too much ego and not enough substance; people constantly fail to recognize their positions of privilege, and my own observation: a stark disengagement from youth.

An old fashioned policy process is conduct unbecoming of a party with such a vibrant young caucus of MPs. If the NDP are to form government, we’ll need to be the party of awareness and change. Policy making needs to be dragged (kicking and screaming if need be) into the 21st century, with all the bells and whistles of tablets and smartphones.

The traditional policy process was created as a structure that could produce legitimacy for policies written and supported only by a disparate fraction of the total membership of a political party. Policies best represent a membership when there is an uninterrupted two-way flow of information between party leadership and individual members. The removal of barriers to this ideal is an ongoing process for partisan bureaucrats.

As Gen Y ascends to the political helm, we must ask how the technological collapse of space via internet communications can be embraced to improve the process whereby policies are democratically legitimated. We’ve already seen leaders elected online, so when will the policy process catch up?

The shift to OMOV (one member, one vote) during the 2012 leadership convention that crowned Thomas Mulcair removed a barrier to participatory democracy. For the first time, technology allowed party members to transcend standing institutions of power within the NDP (unions, EDAs, internal party structures) that had the capacity to distort democratic opinion within the NDP’s previous delegated leadership contests.

Delegated conventions severely restrict who can participate in policy decisions. It makes no sense that a whole membership is consulted on a leader but not for the formation of the policies that leader is tasked with championing. Policies enacted through an OMOV live online voting system would be a far superior representation of the membership's will.

Let’s ask ourselves: why can policy proposals not be nominated directly to convention by member petition? Are the institutions of EDAs, unions, and established commissions adequate means to reflect the policy agenda of an immeasurably diverse membership? Why doesn't the NDP policy process recognize issue-based self-organized digital communities as legitimate sources for policy proposals?

Beyond embracing OMOV live voting for policy making, EDA’s can also benefit from digitizing elements of their policy process. Moving even part of the conversation online engages many more people, especially youth, in the important discussions that define New Democrats. Policies submitted to EDAs by members could be posted to an online discussion board for a period of debate preceding the policy meeting. This accommodation would facilitate meaningful exchange of complex ideas and supporting sources beyond what is possible at a physical meeting. Hosting a digital debate also allows for participation from persons with scheduling conflicts, accessibility concerns, discomfort speaking in public, child care requirements, etc.

Our unfortunate reality is many interests vested in the maintenance of youth apathy, and the traditional policy process is as relatable to today’s youth as a 3.5 inch floppy disk. The NDP has an opportunity to embrace youth, but we’ll need to do it through the platforms that enable their digital lives.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

NB's Nuclear Silence. #NBpoli

Energy politics are at the centre of all developed economies, and New Brunswick is no exception. Unfortunately, the energy portfolio has been unforgiving in the picture province; many more fumbles than accolades mark recent memory.

Straddling environmentalism and realism, I admit the province is in a lot of debt, and energy inaction is not an option. With proposals for fracking and piping Alberta bitumen to Saint John taking shape, the province has much to consider, including being mindful of over reliance on hydrocarbon production.

As technological efficiency inevitable improves, oil and gas dependent economies will lag as the world around them makes smarter energy choices. An important fact foregrounding the energy debate is that New Brunswick hydrocarbon production may not hold competitive advantage for long. Consider that the US is quickly becoming self-sufficient for fossil fuels, and Australia just discovered a huge reserve of frack-able hydrocarbons, much closer to Asian markets than Canadian products.

New Brunswick needs to invest in an energy project that is both profitable in the short term and sustainable for decades to come.

If Big Oil can afford to get tar sands bitumen to Saint John without a dime of public money, they are more than welcome to do so, as long as they respect environmental standards and Aboriginal rights. But why are we talking about fracking and oil pipelines without talking about nuclear power? Yeah, Point Lepreau’s been dogged in the news by overrun costs and deadlines, but Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant was built with the possibility of adding a second reactor in the future. Over the years, interest in a second generator has ebbed and flowed; most recently, Alward shelved a Graham-initiated feasibility study shortly after assuming office in 2010.

The ideal energy grid is 100% renewable, but I acknowledge that’s likely not the Canadian reality of my lifetime (I'm a late 80's millennial). Atlantic Canada has energy needs that cannot yet be cost-effectively met with renewable energy technologies; a transition to sustainable energy economy needs to be prioritize safe nuclear technology over traditional hydrocarbon production.

By coordinating university research and college training investments with the regional energy projects of the West-East pipeline and a second generator at Lepreau, Saint John has an opportunity to become a Canadian and North American energy leader, providing for substantial energy demands from the New England states.

UNBSJ could become a leading institution in nuclear research and engineering. Specifically, the research into Thorium power generation will be of particular value; Thorium is speculated to be the next clean energy breakthrough. The generation technique uses molten salt rather than heavy water (composed of heavier isotopes of hydrogen), which means it is safer in the event of a power loss, and near impossible to weaponize. Thorium power generation could potentially cost less than coal and creates zero emissions and waste products much less toxic than from commercial generation. (Check out

At the end of the day, I find myself more satisfied with the safety standards of nuclear power generation than fracking. Combine that feeling with wisdom against strapping ourselves into the oil economy, and a Lepreau upgrade starts looking a viable option for getting New Brunswick’s finances back on track.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

RE: #FeministAdvice for @OttawaHumane.

Dear Ottawa Humane Society,

Hello, I am writing to you today as a concerned supporter and feminist. I believe that the language chosen for the website reaffirms a problematic conflation of sex and gender.

The issue in question is that the moniker “gender” is applied to adoptable animals. The two reported options within this category are “male” and “female”, which are in fact both sexes rather than genders. The important distinction here is that sex represents a biological phenotype (male/female/intersex bodies) and gender represents a social identity (man, woman, genderqueer, two-spirit, or any other self-determined gender identity). 

I think you’d agree that assigning the social identity of man or woman is an inappropriate descriptor for a pet. Further, the conflation of sex and gender advances uncritical cis-sexism by erasing the possibilities beyond binary gender.

I do not think any ill intent motivated the language choices on your website, but I do ask that in light of this understanding, the website will be updated to include sex rather than gender descriptions for adoptable pets.



(Actual adoptable cat!)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Small Cities Need Big Ideas

By no one’s account is municipal electoral reform as sexy as it is for federal and provincial politics. For the most part, Canadians seem happy with their municipal electoral systems, but I'm of the mind that new thinking can improve community engagement and advance small cities.

It is important to understand that the two factors informing any electoral policy are the competing representations of ideas and areas. Small cities have political characteristics that predispose them to benefit from a certain style of government; their geographic experience is much more homogeneous than those of large cities. Consider the 2001 amalgamation of Ottawa, which annexed whole former suburban cities and surrounding rural villages.

If small cities can remove the need for geographic representation from their political systems, they can create a politic based on ideas and strategic development. Maybe it’s time to borrow a few pages from the Left coast.

Vancouver’s city council is made up of a partisan mayor and 10 council members elected at-large by the whole city. Parties may nominate up to a full 10 council candidates as well as a mayoral candidate. Their party system also extends to the representatives of the Vancouver Park and School Boards.

Optimistically, I see municipal parties as a way to encourage like-minded citizens to get together and generate comprehensive plans to move their cities toward sustainability and prosperity. The exchange of coherent ideas is inherently good for democracy, and having municipal parties would discourage single-issue and ego-centric candidacy. Save for communities with glaring geographic segmentation, partisanship has real potential to invigorate municipal politics.

I don’t personally see the need to extend partisanship to park and school boards, but small city councils across Canada could do themselves well by tapping into the ideas of their citizens.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ahead of #lpcdb8, all eyes are on @JustinTrudeau, @JoyceMurray.

Today, there are 2 opposite groups lurking the Liberal leadership debate who will decide the fate of the race: the ultra and the post-partisans. The die hard Liberals are seeking their next boat to Sussex Drive; meanwhile, the Project Democracy/LeadNow/Nathan Cullen crew are waiting to see if Joyce Murray is a candidate we can get behind.

In reality, post-partisan progressives are the grand prize for non-Conservative parties. We are the people who critically engage with difficult conversations and let logic rather than allegiance decide our vote. My beliefs in progress transcend any plans for advancing a party as we face ecological, financial, and social crises that cannot withstand Conservative rule beyond 2015.

In truth, as a progressive it’s hard to see much difference in the values of the Liberals, Greens, and New Democrats. On paper they stand for the same things, but their policies show the real contrast. Given that policies change relatively quickly, especially after new leadership is chosen, it makes sense that progressives would be more mobile between parties.

Critics bemoan that we use a broken electoral system, which I agree with, but it must too be criticized that most parties are not using the electoral system to their best advantage. The party best suited to FTFP (first past the post) elections is the Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc strategy emphasizes the geographic rather than ideological nature of representation in Canada, something left-leaning parties have been slow to realize. The crowded Canadian left consists of three hungry dogs scrapping it out for the moral high-ground.

Unfortunately, our electoral system doesn't align with this discourse. In Canada, we ultimately elect a Parliament of individuals, not a party. By vilifying strategic voting, partisans and pundits misrepresent the nature of a Canadian election ballot. Now that the per-vote subsidy has been abolished, there is absolutely no shame in strategic voting in FTFP elections.

Ideally, Canada would adapt an electoral system that embraced both geographic and ideological representation (my thoughts on that matter were already blogged here), but we aren't going to get there with Stephen Harper in office.

Electoral cooperation is not a long term solution to Canadian politics, and it is not a pretext for a two-party system. The idea is a democratic means of confronting Conservative over-representation in the next federal election, and it is a pretext for electoral reform.

These conditions are why the race is between Justin and Joyce. Justin's youth, last name, and hair make him a relatively easy sell to Canadians, buy every pundit is salivating for his campaign to implode. There is nothing interesting about a political coronation; besides, we've already seen how the CPC has been collecting unfavourable footage on Trudeau.

While the Trudeau campaign is has now raised more than any NDP leadership candidate was even allowed to spend,  Joyce Murray’s got an ace up her sleeve that no other candidate will manage effectively, clicktivism. The LPC actually created the perfect storm to elect Joyce Murray; they made voting free, online, and non-delegated. 

By including an unlimited number of new supporters in their leadership contest, the race has evolved beyond reductive punditry saying the process is a "referendum on______________". That blank is usually filled by "Trudeau" or "the economy", but it could be equally be a referendum on electoral cooperation. 

More than great hair and market-friendly policies, Canadians want a sure-fire plan to prevent another Conservative victory. We need to create a political culture where minority governments are expected and expected to work. Minority governments require cooperation and policy compromise; they facilitate dialogue and create opportunity for Canadians to have more input into their legislatures.

Check out all the candidates and stream today's 4pm (EST) debate: