Pints & Politics – August 2013 Edition

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First off, an apology: I walked in wearing sunglasses last night, and kept them on for a good part of the event. While I recognize this is a douchey thing to do, they are prescription sunglasses. My normal prescription glasses are broken at the moment, hence the need for wearing my sunglasses indoors.

Yesterday’s Pints & Politics was a great affair. While, clearly, there was no consensus made about how to “pull together,” a good discussion got started and, at the very least, we identified some barriers that cause people not to get involved, among them:

  • Political parties themselves
  • How the most engaged members, and even elected leaders, representing political parties behave
  • A lack of understanding about civics among the populace
  • A lack of accountability for most elected positions
  • Facing the wrath of your party should you vote against party policy

These are the types of things preventing people from getting engaged in the first place. It’s not that the party faithful are necessarily part of the problem, but their fervent belief in everything their party does certainly turns many people off. Which leads to what, for me, is one of the biggest problems preventing people from working together: ideology. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go on and on about it again. Simply put: if you go into an argument believing what you believe, and going in “for the win,” you’ve already lost.

All that said, I came of PnP with a few ideas that would help make it easier for citizens to feel like they can, and should get involved, which I feel is the first step to solving the problem. Among them:

  • Ban negative advertising
    • Yes, ban it. No more. It’s not necessary, and it doesn’t answer the questions the electorate has. Not to mention that the majority of it borders on slander.
  • Stop grouping MPs/MPPs/MLAs along party lines in chamber.
    • This is a symbolic gesture, but it could help dialogue among those in power.
  • Bring in the ability to have a recall.
    • We have seen this play out in California several times, notably in the election that brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. We can make the barrier high enough so that the privilege isn’t abused, but it brings in a measure of accountability.
  • Proportional representation.
  • Better education for citizens about how government works.
    • Plain and simple. There are some local initiatives working on this now, but it really needs to be part of schooling. Kids must be taught how government works, how it got that way, how to get and stay involved, etc. at an early age.
  • Ban corporate and union donations.
    • I know a lot of people will be up in arms about this one, but corporate and union donations imply that everyone who works for a corporation, or is represented by a union, believes that X Party represents their best interests. That’s rarely true, so we need to let citizens decide for themselves who to donate to, if they choose to donate at all.

Those are some ideas I’ve had before, and were reinforced last night. What do you think? What types of things should be changed so that the average person feels they can get involved in politics, even if it just means increasing the number of people that vote?

Be Open to Changing Your Mind

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I just came across a blog entry from Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals (developers of online services Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire). Apparently Jeff Bezos came to visit, and shared quite the observation about people who are “right a lot.” When I read Mr. Bezos’ observation, I couldn’t help but agree enthusiastically. I’ve blogged about this issue before under a slightly different light, but the result is the same.

In business and politics, you have to be flexible. If the past of business and politics has taught us anything, it’s that a firm ideology yields poor (sometimes mixed) results. Believing the same thing today as you did yesterday, despite evidence to the contrary, will only lead to the worst kind of failure. Failing and learning is fine under normal circumstances, but when you’re dealing with the coffers, lives, and repercussions on a national scale, you must be paying attention to what others are saying about an issue.

Looking at the same issue in a different light inevitably leads to observations you simply hadn’t made before. Whether you’re deciding whether to launch a new product, or making changes to the criminal code, chances are there are people (and research) outside your bubble that will help you make a better decision. Unfortunately, especially in politics, this willingness to take in other people’s opinions and research, from all sides of the spectrum, is sorely lacking.

So please, do yourself, and those around you, a favour. If you’re a business leader, or a politician, listen to the opinions and view the research. You don’t have to take the advice/recommendations, but you may just hear or read something that makes a world of difference.

Keeping Track of the Candidates (EML)

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This Federal election, it’s easier than ever to keep track of what candidates are doing and saying. At least, it should be. Yesterday I showed you how to keep track of the candidates in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. Today, as promised, we’re going to be looking at the candidates running in Elgin-Middlesex-London.

Joe Preston – Conservative Party Candidate

Graham Warwick – Liberal Party Candidate

Fred Sinclair – New Democratic Party Candidate

UPDATE: Ryan Dolby dropped out and Fred Sinclair is in for the NDP. Both the Conservative and Liberal candidates have made themselves very available online on both big social networks, along with their own websites where more contact information exists. Fred’s on Twitter and Facebook, but his Facebook page currently has 0 likes.

Again, if there are other parties you’d like me to dig up the information for, please let me know. I know of the Christian Heritage Party, and other fringe parties, but we all know they don’t get many votes. However, I will still dig up the information if you want me to.

Keeping Track of the Candidates (LKM)

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This Federal election, it’s easier than ever to keep track of what candidates are doing and saying. At least, it should be. Here in the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, a mostly rural riding, it’s actually quite difficult to keep track of most of the candidates electronically. Of course you can purchase the Middlesex Banner or Strathroy Age Dispatch, but if you want real-time updates and don’t want to rely on /A\ Channel News possibly paying attention to the county, you have to rely on electronic methods.

As someone who is online throughout the day and evening, I thought I would help out my fellow LKMers by compiling a list of the candidates and how to keep track of them. The results were a bit disappointing.

Bev Shipley – Conservative Party Candidate

Gayle Stuck – Liberal Party Candidate

Joe Hill – New Democratic Party Candidate

Jim Johnston – Green Party Candidate

I must give props to Ms. Stucke for doing something different (BlackBerry Messenger Group) and Mr. Johnston for being available pretty much everywhere online. It’s disappointing that Mr. Hill and Mr. Shipley are making themselves scarce online.

If there are other parties you’d like me to dig up the information for, please let me know. I know of the Christian Heritage Party, and other fringe parties, but we all know they don’t get many votes. However, I will still dig up the information if you want me to.

Tomorrow I’ll post the information for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

* Updated April 26 with new information on Bev Shipley and Joe Hill.

Re-elect Bev Shipley? No thanks.

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Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Conservative MP Bev Shipley

Heading into Canadian federal election number 41, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada wants you to believe that they are on your side, that they are standing up for families, that they know the way forward, etc. I beg to differ. I have personally attempted to contact my MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Bev Shipley, several times over the past two years since I moved back to this riding from London West.

Unfortunately, Bev is unresponsive. Instead, his staff signed me up for his uninformative email newsletter, and his staff also just sent me a request for contributions in the mail this past week. That is not the type of MP I want. Ed Holder, the Conservative MP for London West, displays similar behaviour. He’s unresponsive, the polls on his website are very polarizing, and Ed’s Twitter account is nothing more than a self-promotion platform.

Since I live in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex now, I decided to actually take a look at Bev Shipley’s voting record. Given the statements that Prime Minister Harper has made about how he’s looking after Canadian families, I was quite surprised to see the results.

Bill C-343 makes it possible for people to take 52 week or 104 week (depending on the circumstances) unpaid leaves of absence, and receive EI, when catastrophic family issues take place like:

  1. child or spouse committing suicide
  2. child being physically injured and requiring care
  3. your child goes missing
  • Bev voted No on these ammendments.

Bill C-449 was intended to provide free public transit for senior citizens.

  • Bev voted No.

Liberal candidate for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Gayle Stucke

Bill C-304 was designed to help ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

  • Bev voted No.

Bill C-300 was introduced to enhance corporate accountability for foreign mining/oil/gas companies.

  • Bev voted No.

Bill C-469 established a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

  • Bev voted No.

Several motions from Bill C-9 (the 2010 budget) came up for vote in June 2010, conveniently when many Liberals and Bloc Quebecois MPs weren’t in the House of Commons. Bev voted No on almost every single motion, negating several budgeted items.

Bill C-501 is designed to strengthen pensions by amending “the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to ensure that the claim of a clerk, servant, travelling salesperson, labourer or worker who is owed termination and severance pay by a person is secured as of the date of the bankruptcy or receivership by security on the person’s current assets

  • Bev voted No at the Second Reading, and then was absent on a subsequent vote on March 9, 2011.

Bill C-234 removed the waiting period (typically 4 weeks) from EI claims.

  • Bev voted No.

NDP candidate for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Joe Hill

Does this look like the voting record of someone looking out for the average Canadian? I suggest not. However it isn’t as surprising as one would think once you find out that the budget for the Prime Minister’s Office was increased by $1 million as soon as Harper became Prime Minister. Why $1 million? Because the PMO employs a lot more employees than normal, all tasked with keeping an iron grip on what Conservatives MPs say, do, and think. Press releases are all written by the PMO now (not the norm), MPs are provided with “talking points” (Republican-style politics), and MPs are silenced from speaking their own mind. Just look at the votes of each party from HowdTheyVote.ca and you’ll typically see every Conservative vote the same on every Act.

If you’re not sure how to vote on May 2, I highly suggest you use http://federal.votecompass.ca/ to find out which party you align best with. As is typical, I lie somewhere between the Liberals and NDP, which is why I’ve reached out to the Liberal candidate for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Gayle Stucke, and already know there currently is not an NDP candidate in my riding that Joe Hill is the candidate for the NDP.