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Category Archives: canada

the hell just happened?

Jeffrey Simpson has a good essay in the Globe today, summarizing how we got to this past week of politics in Canada. I will say, this is pretty entertaining political theatre, though more the bloodthirsty backstabbing of Pátra Richard III than the noble self-sacrifice of Henry V, if I may get all English major for a sec.

I will also say, I have absolutely zero sympathy for any of the key players. To quote a discussion I had in a Thai restaurant, Harper is an asshole, Layton is an asshat, and Dion is just an utter ass. Michael Ignatieff, probably the only national figure I haven’t yet totally given up on, once again proved himself to be the smartest man in the room by half-heartedly joining the high-fives and then quietly backing away while the coalition started handing out fantasy cabinet posts to each other.

Still, can you imagine if this shit were happening during, say, a critical period of a massive global economic meltdown that was expected to cripple the country’s economy for years? Oh, man, that hypothetical situation would suck!

And on that happy note, if you haven’t already seen it, here’s Wednesday’s pre-recorded video address of the man we’re supposed to think should be leader of the country. I can’t help but wonder what the rejected takes look like for this to be the one they went with.

my blatantly ill-informed predictions

Coalition replaces the government. Harper stays on as leader of the opposition, survives a leadership review. Ignatieff becomes unelected PM. Economy worsens. Coalition falls apart. Grits take most of the blame, because nobody really expected anything better from the NDP or Bloc. Election late 2009/early 2010. Grits lose seats, Tories and Bloc gain. CPC is in power again in 2010.

I think I’ll revisit this post in a year and see how spectacularly right and/or wrong I am. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments.

Oh, and also, the scenario I would *like* to see? No coalition. Ignatieff elected as Liberal leader. Grits defeat Tories in a proper election without the support of the NDP and Bloc.

Caribou wins Polaris Prize

Okay, I’m a little late on this, but it’s pretty cool news. On September 29, Caribou’s album Andorra won the Polaris Music Prize. I’m not much of a fan of the first couple of Polaris winners, which I think were not bad, but maybe more conceptual than enjoyable. I mean, does anybody really, truly, in their heart of hearts think that Patrick Watson’s Close to Paradise is a better album than The Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible? And has anybody ever listened to Final Fantasy’s He Poos Clouds all the way through a second time?

But I love Andorra. If you don’t already own the album, you probably need to pick it up, and if you ever have a chance to see Caribou in concert, go.

And so, in honour of Dr Dan Snaith’s achievement, here’s the video for Andorra‘s exquisite Melody Day, a song that gives me goose bumps every single time I hear it. And it’s not even my favourite song on the album.

Canadian Indie-Rock Primer

arcade_snip.jpgDon’t you love it when two awesome things come together? My fave pop-culture web site, The A.V. Club delivers a cool primer — complete with tons of videos — on the Canadian indie music scene, which has just been going from great to Ubergreat for the past few years. It’s a pretty cool introduction to give to your non-Canadian and/or non-indie friends, even they do skip the post-rock stylings of Do Make Say Think and Godspeed You Black Emperor, and the offbeat hip-hop of Buck 65 and Kid Koala.

Once you read and watch all that, you’re gonna have to get your hipster-geek ass over to CBC Radio 3 for the podcasts (I recommend starting with the laid-back cheerleading of the endearingly dorky Grant Lawrence).

“what a drag”, indeed

On the Canada Day theme, I just want to harp on one of my favourite targets: bad statistics in the media. The Globe and Mail has a prominently featured article, Canadian citzenship and the generational divide, which claims that something called “The Dominion Institute” has found there are “remarkably different attitudes among those between older Canadians and the younger generation”.

The most startling difference in attitude was found when respondents were asked why they thought Canada was a successful country. Nearly three-quarters of older Canadians agreed with the suggestion that it was because Canadians share common history, heroes and national symbols. By contrast, 37 per cent of the those between 18 and 34 said it was because there was no “strong national identity that individuals and groups are expected to adopt.”

The message here is that the former opinion is held by the older generation and the latter by the younger. But the statistics in this very paragraph actually contradict it. In fact, the great majority of the “younger generation” — 63% — reject what the article calls a “postmodern” national identity. In fact, 37% isn’t really very much like “nearly-three-quarters”, and comparing them is kind of, you know: stupid. Which, of course, would be apparent even to the most oblivious skimmer if instead of “nearly-three-quarters”, they had actually given a number. I looked at the Dominion Institute web site to find out what the number actually was, and if there were other answers respondents could give, but they don’t bother to say.

The article goes on:

The Maple Leaf flag is important to those 55 and over: 63 per cent of their households own a flag and a similar percentage of that group displays it in a window or flies it from a pole. By contrast, just one in two Canadians under 35 owns a flag and only 38 per cent of that group fly it.

Two points here. First: 0.63 * 0.63 = 0.40. So 40% of households fly the Maple Leaf? I’m sorry, but what the fuck? I’ve been all over Canada, and if you told me 4% of households flew the flag, I’d be skeptical. Second, show me another Western country where 20% of people under 35 fly their country’s flag. On campus at UBC, the Maple-Leaf-stitched-to-the-backpack is ubiquitous. You don’t see this in the US or Australia or New Zealand. This is supposed to be evidence that the flag is unimportant?

Anyway, the source of the problems in this piece of journalism quickly makes itself apparent. The Dominion Institute co-founder, Rudyard Griffiths, was apparenly interviewed extensively. So extensively, in fact, that it is, shall we say, “easy to speculate” that the writer of the article simply presented Griffiths’ interpretations rather than actually looking at the numbers and drawing his own conclusions. Apparenly the poll results

saddened Mr. Griffiths. He said the views of young people have been shaped a “culture of rights” in which they were raised. As a result, they have little idea of the obligations that a country sometimes requires for its survival. … He suggested that the reaction by many younger Canadians to demands placed on their grandparents 60 years ago would be to say “what a drag” because it would curtail their freedom to do what they wanted to do.

Given that pretty much every other under-35 I know is concerned about climate change, acknowledges that doing anything about it will involve sacrifices, and is willing to make them, I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on this. I’m also gonna go way out on a limb and speculate that Stephen Harper’s long-time climate change denial and then insistence that it couldn’t be dealt with because it would raise gas prices and harm pensions was perhaps targeted ever-so-slightly toward those born before 1952. Isn’t the media supposed to call people on things like this? Or at least present another opinion?

I don’t, by the way, think this is a case of “right-wing media bias”. I suspect this is just pure laziness and incompetence, combined with rather clever spinning by this Griffiths fellow.