Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Full text: Sex reassignment needs broader focus.

Letter to the editor published in the Telegraph Journal (paywall) September 29, 2015. (Titled by TJ)


Trans rights advocates in New Brunswick have been demanding that sex-reassignment surgeries be included in the province's schedule of publicly funded medical services. If you've paid close attention, you will have noticed a dramatic shift in how this demand has been articulated. Motivated by failure and inclusivity for non-binary and indigenous genders, trans rights advocates have shifted from the perspective that access to SRS is an equality claim to a harm reduction argument. 

The harm reduction argument for funding SRS is a refined logic that embraces the fluid reality of gender. Harm reduction also acknowledges that the negative impacts of gender non-conformity are unequally distributed along a socio-economic gradient. 

The Caitlyn Jenners of the world do not need public funds to mitigate their hardships; thus, income testing is a necessary component of a public SRS funding model.

Creating a dedicated budget line for needs-based SRS funding is not, however, the best policy response to reduce harm. This approach would be specific to a point that creates inequalities in access to health services. The complication is that body dysphoria isn't usually treated with surgery, except in the case of gender dysphoria.

Body dysphoria is a psychological pain resulting from deep discontent with one's body. Origins of body dysphoria are unlimited and specific to each individual. If non-essential surgery can appease body dysphoria caused by gender, why shouldn't it for disability or disfigurement? I refuse to argue whether a burn victim's body dysphoria is less worthy of compassionate non-essential surgery than a trans person's.

The prudent way to address the demands of trans rights advocates is allocating a budget for compassionate non-essential surgery. The administrators of this fund would assess impact and ability to pay of applicants seeking surgical remedies for all types of body dysphoria.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Full text: Libraries for a Smarter Economy

Appears in September 22, 2015 editions of both the Sussex Herald and King's County Record.


Today’s libraries are more than books. They lend tools, kitchen equipment, green screens, recording studios, professional creative software, and technical production spaces. This new wave of libraries articulates how libraries were never about books; they were about sharing. The sharing economy reduces consumer waste and removes barriers from tools and technologies that create culture and prosperity.

Tool lending can be a meaningful part of resuscitating the cultural value of trades, saving on energy costs, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Inefficient heating and cooling of Canadian buildings results in significant economic and environmental costs. Tool libraries provide the physical tools and skills necessary to make DIY energy-saving projects common practice.

Incorporating garden tools and kitchen equipment into libraries helps connect people to their food. This relationship is untended by many in Canada, where 37% of adults measure as overweight and 25% as obese. Fast and cheap foods are rarely nutritionally dense, so making gardening and home cooking accessible and culturally relevant is a meaningful way to address root causes of our obesity crisis.

As automation forebodes the elimination of low skill labour, creative and service sectors gain importance economically. Libraries can stimulate competitive creative economies in both rural and urban communities. Communalizing means of cultural, digital, and physical production allows communities to realize the full potential of their members.

Modernized libraries can also tap into the corporate sharing economy to guarantee their financial sustainability. Shared office spaces are an urban trend that allow businesses and self-employed individuals to save on rent and network with cognate enterprises. Combining profitable shared office spaces with libraries would benefit the tenants by placing them in proximity to creative and technical lending services. The arrangement serves the public by using membership and rental fees to maintain the library's services.

Let's invest in New Brunswick's libraries for a smarter economy.
Check out some great library innovations in Canada
Ottawa's Imagine Space
Vancouver's Inspiration Lab
Toronto's Makerspace
Tool Libraries in Halifax, Toronto (3), Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Cornwall, Hamilton, London,

Friday, September 4, 2015

Coming out as Bipartisan.

ABC? Not this time.

The Liberal party is living through an identity crisis. Trudeau has articulated the Liberals as a a second conservative party in Canada. Poverty is missing in their platform and talking points; their tax plan won't help you unless you're making ~45 grand a year; they want to ship Canadian jobs out of the country via raw bitumen export from the tar sands, and most egregiously, they supported bill C-51, eroding Canadian civil liberties for optics that read as tough on crime and terrorism. Meanwhile, the personal characteristics of Liberal candidates range from legitimately progressive all the way to socially conservative. The Liberal party is held together by nothing more than a desire to win.

All voting is strategic.

I have my own vision for Canada, and I encourage you to dream yours too. The choice to vote at all is "strategic"; you have to believe that your vote makes society better in at least some small way to drag yourself to a voting booth. (It does; please vote.) We vote in a broken electoral model, so least-of-evils voting and vote splitting are unfortunate realities of Canadian politics, but votes do more than elect winners and shut out losers. Look at your ballot and ask how it can move Canada from where we are to where you think we should be. Beyond electoral units, votes start dialogue and measure satisfaction with status quo politics.

Surprise to no one, my dream for Canada is closer to Green than NDP policy, but neither are a perfect fit. Both parties have strong commitments to social and environmental justice, but I'm drawn to the sense of urgency Green policy enshrines.

Elizabeth May is championing a number of principled innovative policies like basic income, national pharmacare, and a staunch commitment to environmental stewardship. Every Green vote is a vote a more mainstream party didn't get. The bigger the threat of the Greens become, the more seriously their policy proposals have to be taken. Every Green vote makes Canadian politics Greener, with or without electing MPs.

Not all votes are cast equally.

In Canada, we elect parliamentarians, not parties. This system has two important implications for voting. Foremost, local candidates matter. Second, post-electoral cooperation is a reasonable demand on our MPs. The Greens have announced their willingness to support a governing party (read: the NDP) in a minority parliament under four conditions. This willingness to cooperate advances the narrative that voting Green is a legitimate strategy to oust Stephen Harper, at least in the context of the few ridings where the Greens are competitive.

Local candidates matter. I can't overstate this fact. There are NDP candidates who deserve Green votes. The Toronto ridings that pit star New Democrats against incumbent Liberals are the best example. Jennifer Hollett and Linda McQuaig are in tight races, and every Green vote in their ridings helps elect Liberals.

(Jennifer Hollett left and Linda McQuaig right)

New Brunswick's three urban ridings offer a diverse range of possibilities. Without hesitation, I support the NDP in Saint John-Rothesay, where AJ Griffin is polling above the incumbent Conservative, and Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, which looks to be a three-way dog fight. Fredericton is a bit of an anomaly. The election of David Coon, MLA for Fredericton South and Leader of Green Party of New Brunswick, and the exceptional candidacy of (Dr.) Mary-Lou Babineau mean the riding could be a four-way race, depending on who can mobilize voters most effectively. The prospect of an Atlantic Canadian Green MP is an opportunity I wouldn't pass up, if I could vote in Fredericton.

(David Coon and Mary-Lou Babineau)

To take a page from a favourite MP, Niki Ashton, Canada needs new politics. For me, new politics mean less Conservatives and Liberals and more New Democrats and Greens. New politics mean we reach consensus on the problems and priorities of the country, but respectfully disagree on the details of solving them.

"Respectfully" is italicized because the partisan attacks between the NDP & Greens on social media are petty and destructive. The real enemies of progressive policy are the parties who've had their turns governing and led us into recession, scandal, environmental degradation, and the erosion of public service and civil rights.

I've got two horses in this race.