My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

20 Articles Tagged with “government”

  1. Racist op-eds need to stop, kthxbai

    Another day, another racist article in my local newspaper, The Chronicle Journal. This time it isn't an ignorant letter to the editor, though—it's an ignorant op-ed from a retired judge.

    I follow a lot of Indigenous people on Twitter, because I want to hear what they have to say. This article comes hot on the heels of a similarly stultifying piece from Conrad Black a few days ago, and it's one day after the news that another Indigenous teen (Brayden Moonias) has been found dead here in Thunder Bay, with police reporting signs of foul play.

    My city has a racism problem, and it is literally killing Indigenous people. But too many citizens refuse to acknowledge this, and now we're importing racist rants from Winnipeg when we should be standing together against opinions like this.

    So I wrote a letter to the editor responding to this piece. No idea yet if it will be published. Here is the letter in full:

    I wish I could say that I'm shocked that The Chronicle Journal ran Brian Giesbrecht's "System that rewards status Indians is spectacularly unfair" a day after Brayden Moonias was found dead here in Thunder Bay.

    Giesbrecht would

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  2. An Open Letter to My MP Concerning the Pipeline Approval, and Other Matters

    I can’t take it any more. I have to say something, say something more than just tweeting how disappointed I am and retweeting other people. This Kinder Morgan pipeline approval is the final straw.

    So what follows is a letter I am sending to my Member of Parliament, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women.

    Dear Minister Hajdu,

    I am writing to express my unequivocal disappointment in the Government of Canada’s decisions to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Petronas LNG plant, and more generally, its numerous failures to live up to its promises to renew the government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples and take action on climate change. I am writing to you as a constituent of Thunder Bay–Superior North, but more importantly, as a teacher of adult Indigenous students in this city and a young adult myself.

    At 27 years old, I have not had the opportunity to vote in many federal elections. I was not a fan of the previous government, and when the Liberal Party formed the current government, I was cautiously optimistic that for the first time in a decade voices of young people, and for the first time in … well, too long,…

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  3. I wish it were #NotMyCanada, but it is, so let's talk

    So it’s Canada Day. Whoo! PARTY TIME! Crack open those drinks, lay out the snacks, enjoy the sun—sigh.

    I can’t do it, guys.

    Look, if all you want to do with your day off is party, this blog post is not for you.

    I can’t just join in this year, for two reasons. Firstly, this year is important, because later this year we are having a federal election. Secondly, I can’t, in good conscience, blindly talk about how great Canada is when there’s a lot of problems we need to get sorted.

    What, Exactly, Are We Celebrating?

    When it comes to Canada Day, what do we celebrate, exactly? I’m confused. Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a big deal out of nationalism. He wants us to take pride in our nation, Canada, and talk about how great we are. He insists that it is important we celebrate our heritage. But which parts of our heritage?

    The wonderful and diverse cultures of the First Peoples, who lived here long before Europeans stumbled across this continent? I think not, given the Harper government’s ongoing disdain for aboriginal affairs and colonial attitude towards indigenous peoples.

    Surely, then, Harper wants us to celebrate Canada’s status…

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  4. An open response to “Teachers have no right threatening education”

    Dear Mr. Lavallee,

    You wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in The Chronicle Journal on Saturday, April 11: “Teachers have no right threatening education.”

    Your letter communicates a great deal of frustration with teachers, arguing that we suffer from a sense of entitlement, that we strike because we aren’t satisfied with how easy we already have it. You ask us how we “dare” to “hold our kids’ education hostage.”

    The truth is, the decision to strike is never an easy one. Striking is not easy. We don’t do it very often. We teachers are, by and large, passionate about our jobs: we love what we do, and we love being in the classroom with students. It’s true that the weather has recently taken a turn for the better—but I can assure you, we would much rather be inside, teaching, than outside on a picket line.

    It is because we are passionate that we consider strike action. It is precisely because you and I share a concern for our children’s education that we teachers require adequate working conditions.

    You seem to be under the impression that teaching is a cakewalk: we “make great money, have great benefits, two months…

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  5. Now we process our feelings

    This Monday, May 2, Canada had its 41st federal election, resulting in a Conservative majority government led by Stephen Harper. The results are somewhat surprising: though a Conservative government was likely, a majority was by no means a certainty. Perhaps the most interesting result of this election, however, is the effect it had on our other political parties. The NDP are now, for the first time ever, the Official Opposition Party in the House of Commons. They pretty much dominated Quebec, and they won 102 seats in the House. The Liberals were decimated, dropping from 77 seats to 34 (close to the same number the NDP had in the previous Parliament). Similarly, the Bloc Québécois went from 47 seats to 4. And for the first time ever, a Green Party candidate was elected--none other than the leader, Elizabeth May herself.

    So our election is filled with many historical firsts for Canadian politics, and our political landscape has changed dramatically. For a graphical idea of how much changed in this election, just take a look at these two maps of Canada depicting the results by riding: 2008 election and 2011 election. (These are from the respective Wikipedia articles on the…

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  6. Submission to the legislative committee on Bill C-32

    Today is the last day that the House of Commons legislative committee on Bill C-32 is accepting submissions regarding possible amends to Bill C-32, our latest attempt to amend the Copyright Act. What follows is my submission to them. It is definitely not very formal and contains no real proposed amendments--many more knowledgeable people have already made such submissions, and I defer to them in that area of expertise. Nevertheless, I felt that it was important to have my voice heard.

    Dear Legislative Committee on Bill C-32,

    I am not a pirate.

    Hard to believe, I know. The current draft of Bill C-32 seems to imply that piracy is rampant in Canada, and in particular among the demographic to which I belong, that of the 18–34-year-old university student. Curiously enough, this perspective corresponds to the one advanced by the industries who distribute music, movies, and media, the very industries who are now complaining that Internet piracy is destroying their business model. While I expect such heated, anti-consumer rhetoric from those industries, who after all are obligated by their shareholders to demonize and portray consumers as immoral beings who will only partake in legally-provided media if they have no other option,…

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  7. The federal government hates blind people and web designers

    Originally I was just going to tweet a link to this CBC news article and leave it at that. The more I thought about it, however, the more outraged I became. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's out of some need to feel vicariously oppressed, on account of the fact that I am a tall white male and thus systemically unoppressed. Maybe it's because, although I am not a professional web designer, I am familiar enough with the field to weep over the attitude displayed here by the government. It is 2011. Last December, the Web turned twenty years old. And we still can't support blind users? Seriously?

    That is what the federal government says. Apparently, rather than spend taxpayer money to pay web designers to update its websites, it would rather spend that money paying lawyers to appeal this court decision. Rather than offer equal services to blind users, it would rather go to court and spend our tax dollars to ensure it can continue discriminating. The government is making us accomplices to discrimination. And here I thought I lived in Canada, not the United States.

    I am taking a Philosophy of the Internet course this term, online of…

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  8. The census controversy: a travesty of Galilean proportion

    In 1633, Galileo was found "vehemently suspect" of heresy. His heretical opinion: holding and defending the belief that the Copernican, heliocentric model of the solar system was true in contravention to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life and forced to recant, verbally and in writing, any belief in the Copernican model. His book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was banned. All because the Copernican model contradicts Biblical scripture. Well, mostly that. The conflict between Galileo and the Church was as much political as scientific or religious. Galileo had made some powerful enemies, people who also opposed Pope Urban VIII, accusing him of being too soft on heretics. So Galileo was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Nearly five centuries later, the entire affair is one of the most stark examples of the conflict between science and religion.

    It was an unfortunate conflict, an unnecessary conflict. Whether science and religion are irreconciliable or incompatible is a much larger debate than I can discuss here, but in this case the conflict seems minor. Galileo was not a villain attempting to derail the Church; he…

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  9. Game Over: Would you like to play again? How Conservatives and copyright broke my spirit

    Last summer, the government of Canada held an open consultation on the issue of copyright reform. The result: over 8,300 submissions, over 6,000 of which expressed opposition to another copyright reform bill similar to Bill C-61. You can read my submission here.

    It turns out that I and anyone else who submitted to the consultation, wrote a letter to his or her MP, showed up for a meeting or rally, or participated in the Facebook groups or online discourse, have done this all for nothing. We've been wasting our time. Because we're about to do this all over again.

    What's sad is that it didn't have to be this way. Tony Clement is the Industry Minister now, and his attitude toward copyright reform is more sensible than Jim Prentice's. Apparently he was open to a different approach than the one Bill C-61 took--and considering how unacceptable Bill C-61 was, I'll take that. Alas, it looks like Mr. Clement and his fellow cabinet minister, James Moore have differing opinions. So Grandfather Harper intervened.

    The result will apparently be a "Canadian DMCA" that is, as Cory Doctorow puts it, a "goddamned disaster." While…

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  10. We Screwed Up

    The war drums are sounding once again, and another election looms. The Liberals, led by the accomplished but detached Michael Ignatieff, are channelling Twisted Sister and are calling Prime Minister Harper out. But Harper says that Canadians don't want an election.

    So what?

    I don't want to take yucky-tasting medicine, but I do it anyway so I get better. I don't want to pay more than $1 per litre of gas, but I do it anyway so my car will run. I don't want an election, but we should have one anyway so Parliament will actually do something. The whining electorate complaining about our frequent elections miss one important fact: we're part of the problem. We may not want another election, but at this point, we need one.

    Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200

    Much of the resistance to another election is purely about timing: there's a sentiment that we just had an election, and it's "too soon" for another. At first glance, this reasoning seems sound: the parties have not changed much in a year, and aside from one new leader--who, let's face it, really isn't that different from the old leader so far--it's the same…

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  11. I take it back

    Once upon a time, I expressed a desire to live in Iceland. Unfortunately, these tough economic times have been even tougher on Iceland, what with the government collapsing and all.

    Our government came close to dissolving. It looks like that won't happen, however, now that the Liberal party has a new leader who's decided he'll support the Conservative budget. Many people are upset with this about-face by Michael Ignatieff.((Especially Jack Layton: "Blast! My evil plans foiled again! Nyaaah!")) Since I don't understand economics and don't know how to manage money, the best I can do is shrug and hope that our government isn't planning to do anything silly.((Read: We are. So screwed.))

    Meanwhile, I plan to switch back to the barter system. Think about how much the barter system benefits from the digital world! I don't have to trade chickens; I can just trade electrons with you. It is, by definition, electronic currency. If you prefer a rarer commodity as a currency, you may also trade positrons. Be careful with those, however, as they are liable to annihilate electrons--so I'd keep my bank accounts separate, if I were you.

    Now that we are indubitably living in the End Times,…

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  12. State of the nation

    Now that everyone in Ottawa has some breathing room, what exactly is the state of Canada as a democracy and as a nation?

    With the decision to prorogue government, constitutional expert Errol Mendes believes that Governor General Michaëlle Jean has set a dangerous precedent. In the future, prime ministers who face confidence motions in the House of Commons may also request prorogation of Parliament. Mendes does suggest that Parliament itself could "pass legislation to prevent abuse of the prorogation in the future," so that's good news--except that our Parliament doesn't seem too eager to pass any legislation so far.

    Democracy Isn't Dead, Just Violated

    The good news is that democracy isn't dead: long live democracy. In fact, contrary to the spin being spun by both sides, the past few days have had nothing to do with democracy. Yes, it was a political crisis and an economic crisis; it was not a crisis of democracy. It's not business as usual, but everything that has happened has happened within the bounds of a parliamentary democracy.

    But that doesn't mean everything is fine.

    As mentioned above, the Governor General's decision does set precedent that will affect the operation of our democracy in…

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  13. Parliament takes a Kit-Kat break

    I will be the first to say that the Governor General's decision to prorogue Parliament is the worst of the possible outcomes we could have seen today. It is not a solution to the crisis. Rather, it is a stall tactic that delays a confidence vote--a vote Harper's Conservatives will likely lose. Moreover, how is this helping our economic situation, which is supposedly so dire that it needs immediate action? If Harper really thought the economy mattered more than his ego and desire for power, he'd seek a better solution--not necessarily yielding to a coalition, sure, but definitely not suspending our legislative assembly!

    That said, I'm glad that we now have a concrete decision, even if it's an ambiguous concrete decision!

    I respect that in our parliamentary democracy, the Governor General's role is to make a decision like this, and I do not envy her this responsibility. No matter what she decided today, she would have upset some Canadians and set a precedent for future governments. I disagree with her decision, but respect it as a democratic one.

    This is why I prefer parliamentary democracy to any other system, such as the American one. We have this check on…

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  14. A Copenhagen interpretation of Canadian politics

    At this point in the game, I feel sorry for small C conservatives. Part of the problem for liberal voters in the last election was that we had a choice for whom we could vote. Aside from abstaining, voting for a conservative independent, or voting for someone who is probably more left of centre than one's ideology would like, conservative Canadians are stuck with Harper. And that sucks.

    Stephen Harper has wrought considerable damage to the Conservative Party of Canada. He has tarnished its reputation and diminished its influence. The Conservatives had a real opportunity in the past years after the fall of the Liberals and the adscam; Stephen Harper squandered that opportunity. The result? There may be another election in a couple of months!

    In Question Period today, rather than try to address tangible disadvantages to a Liberal-NDP coalition--and there are such disadvantages, for sure--Harper led the Conservatives on a spurious, ad hominem attack round against the opposition parties. He accused the leaders of being un-Canadian because they refused to sign their coalition agreement in front of a Canadian flag--this accusation is also false, incidently. Of course, accusing one's opponent of being unpatriotic is the last defence of a…

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  15. A Coalition Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All

    I love this country, and I love our politics.

    Canadian politics are often not as exciting as American politics. And that's true--due to the two-party system in America, the political landscape is a vast minefield of polarized partisanship. In Canada, while we do have two major parties, we have two other parties who exert a strong influence in Parliament.

    But this is why I love Canadian politics: it may not be as exciting as American politics in general, but it can get exciting at any time. Due to our parliamentary system, the government can be defeated on any motion considered a "confidence motion". So in America while the President is elected independently of the legislature every four years, and is generally stuck in office for four years, our leader changes as the government does, and our leader can potentially change at any time.

    Last Friday, Canadian politics got exciting again. The three opposition parties announced that they were in talks to form a coalition government. That means that rather than any one party forming the government, two or more parties would work together to form the government and pass legislation. In order for this to happen, the opposition parties…

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  16. How I'll get through this government

    I have discovered how I will get through the next six months. Or year. Or two years. However long it is until Stephen Harper tries to get a majority again. I will watch CBC comedy news shows.

    What would I ever do without The Rick Mercer Report or This Hour Has 22 Minutes?!

    For my American friends, The Rick Mercer Report is similar to The Colbert Report. Mercer does a lot less in-studio, however, and has more clips where he goes out and meets people, politicians((Yes, I am implying what you think I'm implying)), goes to schools, and gets naked.((Really. But I won't tell you any more than this, because now you'll waste half an hour searching the Internet to find out. Muwahahahaha!)) He has a regular photo challenge on his site where anyone can edit a photo he posts, and he'll put them up in his gallery.

    I don't know what the American equivalent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes is. You've got a cast of news anchors who know no boundaries in "reporting" current events. When I was younger, I grew up on Royal Canadian Air Farce; I didn't watch This Hour Has 22 Minutes much. However,…

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  17. The afterglow of my first election

    The polls are closed, and the votes are mostly tallied. Last month, Stephen Harper called an election; this month, he was re-elected with yet anohter minority government--a stronger minority, but still a minority. In the ensuing chaotic coverage, some interesting trends have emerged. The new hot issues are Liberal leadership, government functionality, voting reform, and voter turnout.

    The Liberals lost eighteen seats (at the time of this writing), which is a blow for them. Still the official opposition, yet weakened. Additionally, Dion declared in his concession speech that he would be willing to work with the Conservatives on the economic "crisis" that we're facing. While I commend Dion for extending the olive branch, two questions come to mind: does this mean the Conservatives will have a de facto majority? And will this matter at all in a week or two when the Liberals get a new leader? For indeed, if there was anything the majority of pundits agreed that Dion is done. My opinion of Dion improved during this campaign; however, that still doesn't mean he's a strong leader.

    The next question is: will this government be functional? Harper's cited reason for calling the last election was that government no…

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  18. My Digital Wish List

    CBC radio show Spark wants to know what Canada needs to do today to become a major innovator tomorrow. This is an important issue with the election looming. In addition to interviewing technology experts, the Spark blog has asked listeners to submit their own "Digital Wish Lists". Here's mine:

    • Establishment of a Minister of Technology. I agree with Mitch Kapoor. We have a Minister of Health, a Minister of Industry--why not someone in charge of the country's technological infrastructure?
    • Better copyright reform. Bill C-61 has demonstrated that many Canadians care about copyright reform. Even if one is in favour of the copyright protection measures outlined in Bill C-61 (I am not), critics have pointed out numerous flaws that make Bill C-61 a poor piece of legislation. I want our government to have open consultation with the public to craft viable, enforceable copyright legislation that balances intellectual property ownership with the need for access to information.
    • More competition in the telecommunications sector. I am not a capitalist, but a lack of competition does mean that consumers have less choice. Here in Thunder Bay, we have one choice for cable TV service: Shaw. Until recently, only local TBayTel provided home phone

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  19. I do not support the death penalty

    ...but if I did, I'd make it as entertaining as possible.

    I do not believe that any human being is justified in taking the life of another human being. The death penalty does not make sense if you're an atheist, and it doesn't make sense if you're a theist. If you are an atheist, then you probably don't believe in an afterlife. In that case, you are depriving the murderer of existence without inflicting any form of punishment. Since all humans do eventually die, the murderer will die of natural causes eventually. Why not inflict as much punishment before then? Execution robs you of that. If you are a theist, then you probably do believe in an afterlife, which means a "hell" in which the wicked experience divine retribution. However, once again, if you execute a murderer, then he or she will go straight to Hell. And if you do happen to be wrong about the whole "God" thing, you've let that murderer off the hook. Now, since there is a zero per cent chance of the murderer living forever, then it makes sense to inflict as much temporal punishment as possible, then let the murderer experience eternal damnation upon…

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  20. Canadian Copyright: A Call to Arms

    Fair Copyright for Canada

    You often hear someone invoke the phrase, "As a __," in which he or she then goes on to name some sort of position or title that gives him or her the ability to voice an opinion on the subject at hand. "As a world leader...," "As a scientist...," "As a schoolteacher...," "As an evil overlord...." Here's something on which we should all have an opinion.

    As a person, I value access to information. Many people, especially those my age, do not realize how saturated we are with information (or if you do, you may not understand what that means in a historical context). Go back in time about 550 years. There was a new invention on the scene in Europe: the printing press. The printing press allowed people to do something that, until then, was a very laborious task: it enabled the mass transmission of information in a written form. Prior to then, books were copied out by hand--usually by monks--and few people knew how to read. Most knowledge was passed on orally. And most people had access to very little information compared to what an individual knows today.

    Fast forward 550 years back to present day. We…

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