Ban Campaign Promises and other Electoral Rants

Campaign promises. What are they good for. Absolutely nothing.

I wish we could get rid of campaign promises. If you are in government then a campaign promise is just something you think you should have done that you did not do. Maybe it is best not to remind the voters of that, especially if you have made the same promise election after election without delivering. Governing parties should run on their records.

If you are in opposition then campaign promises are wishful thinking. Once elected into government you might discover just how difficult implementing them might be, or worse yet that they really are a bad idea. Nothing politically good can come from breaking promises even when it is the right thing to do.

But the main thing about campaign promises is that they have become part of what has become elections as marketing and voting as shopping where the best candidate doesn’t win but the best marketing campaign does.

Sometimes I think would be better of without election campaigns. Just have all the candidates write essays (no ghost writing allowed) about the type of Canada they want and what they believe to be the best way to achieve that.

After all is not the idea of representative government to elect representatives we trust to take the time to study the issues and develop the best solutions to make the country a better place.

How well are we served by a process where all Members of Parliament do is vote the party line and implement predetermined polices rather than working together to develop the best policies for the country.

I actually remember a time when local all candidates debates mattered. How well served are we by election campaigns where the only people that count are the party leaders, and constitutional niceties aside, voters act is if they are voting for a President, not Members of Parliament.


How Should We Judge Historical Figures

Should historical figures be judged by the best things they have done or the worst. Should they be judged by the standards of today or of their time. Should some things like slavery or genocide be considered evil no matter when they may have occurred. These are legitimate questions to to ask and the answers likely differ according to the circumstances.

Let’s take two examples. One of someone who a few years before the American civil war publicly stated that:

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality ... I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman, or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. Source

And what of someone who freed the slaves, even if it just was to “save the union”.

And what if that was the same person. Should he be vilified or celebrated. History has already made a judgment on that question.

The second example is someone whose main claim to fame was to be the first leader of a new country, coincidentally during the same decade as the previous example, but whose administration was plagued by scandals and was responsible for implementing policies of genocide aimed at that country’s indigenous peoples. Celebration or shame ? History is just making that judgment now.


Follow The Fifth Columnist on Twitter Over The Summer

For the past two years I have kept to my goal of posting at least once a month but it seems this summer outdoors activities, mostly biking, have taken me somewhat away from The Fifth Column.

I still plan to try to keep to that goal but in the meantime you can follow my thoughts on Twitter which I still seem to get to on a daily basis.


Climate Change, The Pandemic and Multi-Use Pathways (MUPs)

The greatest long term threat to humankind is undoubtedly climate change. While the planet can no doubt survive anything short of a collision with a planet sized meteorite or asteroid, climate change has the potential to be be disastrous to human habitat.

In the short term the greatest threat to humankind is the COVID-19 pandemic.

While both of these threats are said to be non-discriminatory and many claim “we are all in this together”, that clearly is not true because while the threats may not discriminate, our societies and dominant economic system certainly do. Both climate change and the pandemic have a greater impact on the developing world than the developed world, and within the developed world a greater impact on poor and marginalized communities.

But what does this all have to do with multi-use pathways (MUPs).

Climate change has created multiple freeze-thaw cycles every year, rather than one each spring, causing excessive damage to cycling infrastructure, in particular MUPs. At the same time the pandemic has created an increase in outdoor activity and in particular much greater demand for bicycles putting much greater demands on cycling infrastructure including MUPs.

This is is the impact on a typical Ottawa MUP in Kanata.

Bridlewood Small Hydro Corridor Multi-Use Pathway (MUP)

We need to improve our multi-use pathway standards so that they do not completely deteriorate after one winter and connect the MUPs together to create a city wide system for recreational and utilitarian use, commuting, shopping, etc.

While considering this we need to keep these important facts in mind. Improving cycling infrastructure increases the number of people using bicycles for utilitarian purposes like commuting and shopping, which reduces the strain on roads and automobile infrastructure and reduces road traffic congestion. At the same time improving cycling infrastructures costs considerably less improving automobile infrastructure. Leaving the only reasonable conclusion that the most cost efficient way to reduce road traffic congestion is to improve cycling infrastructure.


The Argument for White Supremacy

It seems that the main argument of the white supremacists is that white western European countries would not have conquered the world if they were not superior societies.

Of course conquest and colonization involved looting, pillaging, plundering, murder, and rape. This theory assumes that societies that excel at violent conquest are superior societies. Interestingly these same societies demonstrate their violent priorities, particularly at times of financial crises, when cutbacks are made to education, health and social services while the military and police, the agencies of the state charged with violence, are prioritized and protected.

Indeed, perhaps the most successful (at gaining wealth and power over others) of these societies, while offering no right to education, health care or housing, provides a constitutional guarantee of the right to own weapons.

They say within every falsehood is a kernel of truth so I am willing to concede that perhaps the white supremacists, and the societies that they worship, may indeed be superior at violence.


The future of Laurentian University is in the hands of a flawed process and an anti-education government

When Laurentian University was founded it was not to create a profit making enterprise but to create an educational institution to serve the north, one that went on to include an important partnership with the Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous communities.

Using a mechanism (Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act) designed to ensure profit making enterprises can continue to earn a profit as a means to solve it’s financial problems is doomed to failure from the start. I fear greatly that this great institution will be damaged beyond repair by this process as our anti-education provincial government and “businessman first” Premier stand idly by and watch.

We now have a process based on making cuts to ensure profitability and prioritizing revenue earning programs rather than than prioritizing the programs most important to the institution and the community.

The first thing that should have been done to address Laurentian University's future was to identify the most important programs, particularly those that can only be provided by Laurentian University or provided better there than elsewhere.

At this time of reconciliation there is one program at Laurentian University that stands out from all others and that is the Indigenous Studies Program, and supports for Indigenous students and ties to the Indigenous community. This is a program that is historically important not just to Laurentian University but to all of North America.

A plan to save Laurentian University must have its indigenous component at the forefront. The Indigenous Studies Program should not only be preserved with no cutbacks but expanded. Retaining a few courses and slapping them together into a token program is the worst thing that could be done and would be about as disrespectful as could possibly be to the Indigenous community.

That, of course, should not be the only priority. Near the top should be programs and research in the social sciences that focus on Northern Ontario in particular and northern communities in general.

In the sciences and engineering sectors, programs, courses, and research dealing with the ecology and environment of the north should prioritized along with programs and research related to the mining industry.

As well, programs in the health sciences and professional schools designed to meet the particular needs of Northern Ontario, such as social work, nursing and midwifery, also need to be protected.

The traditional arts programs and courses may be easier replaced by programs at other institutions but courses relating to northern history and culture, including francophone culture and history, should be protected.

As an Honours Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) graduate (May 1973) I would be remiss if I did not mention the Political Science program, which in my time provided me with a unique education in both applied and theoretical politics with a particular Northern Ontario focus.

Only after it has been determined what needs to be saved to protect the unique Northern Ontario mandate of the University should an analysis of what should be done to solve the university’s financial problems be undertaken. Gutting the university is not the answer. Strategic investments are more likely to be succesful.

To be done properly this process would require extensive community consultation, impossible with the flawed process that has been chosen that puts the process in the hands of bankers and accountants rather than educators and community representatives.

With the ultimate decision making power in the hands of a provincial government that is anti-education and anti-community I fear for the future of Laurentian University.


Ontario’s COVID-19 Disaster in Five Words

The Ontario government would like to blame the behaviour of Ontario’s citizens for this disaster implying somehow we are so much worse than the citizens of other countries, and even other provinces, that are at the end of this crisis as we enter the worst of it. The fact is other jurisdictions acted quicker and stronger and got through the worst quicker because they put the health of their citizens first.

Ontario has from the start tried to get by with half measures because the government’s priority was protecting business interests, the sacred economy. Now the government is flailing about trying to appear to be doing something while failing to implement many of the measures recommended by public health experts, and implementing others that will have little impact beyond punishing the citizens of the province for the government’s inaction and ineptitude.

Indeed the priority of Premier Doug Ford is not protecting the health of Ontario. His priority is not even governing the province of Ontario. His priority is reflected in the five words he uttered so proudly “I’m a businessman first”.


So Why Would I Buy An E-bike

It’s not that I have anything against e-bikes. I think they are great for people who want to use them as basic transportation or for whom cycling would be difficult otherwise. But for me cycling has always been a recreational activity I do for exercise, so for myself, I have viewed an e-bike as cheating.

So what has got me to change my mind. Well first my wife Christine decided she wanted one and that got me interested as well, so we went looking at e-bikes.

The first e-bikes we became familiar with were the Cubes because a number of friends had them. To us they seemed bulky and heavy looking. I tried riding one for a short time without power and found it as annoying as those heavy Dutch bikes I once tried. No offence is intended here to light Dutch bikes. I am sure they exist.

But we were both looking for something lighter and less scooterish and more bikeish. We came across a Parkway Civia at a local bike shop and it looked exactly like what we were looking for and the description stated “We intentionally made the Parkway a bicycle first, and an electric bike second.” Sounds just about right.

But they also had a Norco Scene VLT, which though it looked heavier was actually only one pound heavier than the Civia, and it was a Norco.

Christine decided to buy the Scene early in March. She waited till the salt was washed off the roads to take it out and it has proven so far, after a few days at least, to be a great bike.

Now my ideal e-bike is a bike that I can ride as a regular bike with the availability of an electric assist if I should ever need it (for particularly strenuous hills or winds or longer rides). So I took the Norco Scene VLT out for a ride for an hour without electric assist and it proved to be as easy, if not easier, to ride than my Brodie Sterling hybrid.

So, at the very end of March, I decided to get one for myself but by then the shop we got Christine’s at had none left. I ended up getting the last one available in Ottawa at a different shop. Norco does not have any available to order direct from them either. I am now anxiously awaiting delivery.


The Unspoken Privilege – English Privilege

We all know what White Privilege is but no one seems to speak about English Privilege.

English privilege is simply the ability of English language speakers to get by practically anywhere in the world without learning another language. It brings with it a sense of entitlement. English speakers get annoyed when the have to read subtitles because everything should be created for them. They go bonkers when being forced to read French on cereal boxes.

English privilege is, of course, strongly aligned with White Privilege.

The world has English Privilege because of British imperialism and colonialism, “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. The British hordes scoured the earth looking for riches and in so doing pillaged and enslaved it’s peoples. Indeed the whole basis for the sense of Western European superiority is the idea that the societies most successful at warfare and in capturing and enslaving other people are obviously more advanced and culturally superior to the people they enslave.

This relates directly to the idea that societies based on living in harmony with nature are primitive and those based on dominating nature are civilized.

People willing to live peacefully in harmony with nature are obviously inferior to these more advanced societies, at least that is the rationalization the White Supremacists use to justify themselves.


Build a Better City – The Ultimate Reality Show

The worlds biggest reality challenge - two groups of 10,000 workers in 100 groups of 100 each face of to see who can build the better city on two separate plots of virgin land.

The first group has each team of 100 competing with the other teams each trying to build a better section of the city as quickly and least costly as possible. No collaboration is allowed and absolutely no social engineering is allowed. Shareholder rewards is utmost. This is the free market group.

The other group, the central planning group, has all 100 teams meeting and planning together before working on their individual sections where they communicate all lessons learned to the other group. Social engineering is required and the groups are required to consult with the people that will be living in the city in the planning process.

Who will build the better city ? Will it be the capitalists or the socialists ? Will the result be Ottawa or Copenhagen ?