Tag Archives: canada

Why I’m Voting NDP

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Advance polls open this weekend and I’m ready to cast my ballot for the NDP. There’s a number of reasons why.

  1. I hate strategic voting – it encourages the media to focus on polls instead of platforms and politicians to take boring, centrist positions. I want to be able to vote Green because I agree with their ideas without fear I’m wasting my vote. The NDP is committed to bringing in proportional representation before the next election, which will ensure the Conservatives never again get a majority with 38% of the vote.
  2. Climate change action – next to the Green Party, the NDP has the best environmental platform. With MPs like Tom Mulcair, Megan Leslie, Nathan Cullen, and Linda Duncan, you won’t find a more dedicated core of environmentalists in any other party. I trust them to take action more than the Liberals, who have a horribly vague plan and a history of not delivering. They signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 but did nothing to reduce GHG emissions. I want real action.
  3. Progressive policies – I like the NDPs promises to fund public transit, affordable childcare, a national pharmacare program, and interest-free student loans.
  4. Principled leadership – You can count on the NDP to make the right choice even when it’s not popular. They opposed Bill C-51 when it was still popular, and they’ve rallied against the Conservatives racist policies targeting Muslims, even though it appear to be hurting them in the polls. I appreciate a leader who stands up for what he believes in.
  5. Great local candidate – The NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre is former Parks Board trustee Constance Barnes. She’s an avid cyclist and passionate about urban issues. My current MP is Hedy Fry, who I can’t stand.
  6. I want real change – If Canada ever had a chance to break out of the Liberal-Conservative cycle and try something new, this election is it.

There are a few things I like about the Liberal platform. I agree with increased infrastructure funding, especially for public transit. I agree that marijuana should be legalized. And the Liberals have committed to bringing in electoral reform, although they’re vague on the details and I wouldn’t be surprised if they renege on that promise if they win. I just don’t trust the Liberals to deliver, and it bothers me that Justin Trudeau is leader solely because of who is father was. That’s how George W. Bush became President, and we know how that turned out.

Vacation to Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Sunset Panorama
Emily and I are back from our great Newfie adventure. 9 days exploring the other side of Canada and dipping our toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

Parts of Newfoundland looked a lot like BC, with the ocean shoreline and deep mountain fjords, but the skyline felt bigger. The weather was also colder, the mountains smaller, there’s a lot less people, and hardly any vegan food. I think we made the most of our trip. We saw an iceberg and a moose, picked fresh dewberries, visited a viking settlement, hiked their biggest mountain, skinny dipped in the ocean, and listened to Newfie speak whenever we could. We spent most of our time in Gros Morne National Park but also drove up the top of the Great Northern Peninsula where there were icebergs and lots of whales.

Whale Rocking Iceberg
My biggest tip to someone looking to do a similar trip: bring binoculars!

Top Activities

  • Hiking the Green Gardens Trail in Gros Morne. We did this as a day hike, but I regret not doing an overnight hike. It was a gorgeous area.
  • Waiting for the sun to set from Cape Onion.
  • Seeing whales from the top of the Santana Trail in St. Anthony.
  • Skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean. It was cold but it felt good after hiking in the sun.
  • Watching an amusing play at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre – Sherlock Holmes and the Nazi of Bonne Bay.
  • The 360° view from the top of the Lookout Trail in Gros Morne.

Ready to Ascend Ocean Skinny Dipping Red Chair Lookout I'm a Viking

We also did two boat tours – one from St. Anthony and one in the Western Brook Pond. I wasn’t overly thrilled with either. Seeing an iceberg up close in St. Anthony was cool, but the whales were just as easily spotted from land as from the boat. The Western Brook Pond area is too similar to the BC coast to really get excited about.

Newfoundland Travel ExpensesCost
9 days in Newfoundland cost more than a week in Hawaii. Luckily I had a free Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Deer Lake, which saved us $950. Our rental car cost over $700 plus $115 in gas, but it was a necessary expense. We logged over 1200 km driving. There was a Japanese pair staying with us in Woody Point who were trying (with limited success) to explore Gros Morne car-free. They were very grateful when we took them site seeing for a day.
View from the Discovery Centre

Accommodation in Newfoundland wasn’t cheap, but it was offset by the 3 nights we spent camping in the park and our cheap food costs. We only stayed in places with kitchens so we could cook our own meals. We spent $210 on on activities, with the boat trips ($65 each) being the most expensive. Our 7-day pass for Gros Morne ($44) was the best value considering how much hiking we did. The theatre show was $23 and well worth it.

Pictures
Full Set on Flickr
Newfoundland Panorama
Continue reading Vacation to Gros Morne, Newfoundland

I Won a Free Flight to Newfoundland!

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I can’t believe it. I won a free round-trip flight to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. It almost sounds like a joke. Who gives out free flights to Newfoundland? My first reaction when I received the email was to assume it was a hoax. I almost marked it as spam, but then I remember I had entered Air Canada’s Around the World in 750 Stories Contest a few weeks ago and picked Deer Lake as the my preferred destination for a free flight anywhere in the world.

I never thought I would win and immediately regretted choosing Newfoundland, of all places, but I had my reasons. Air Canada gave away 750 free flights – 386 to Canada, 99 to Asia, 98 to Europe, 86 to the USA/Central America, 51 to South America, and 30 to Australia. I figured more people would choose exotic, overseas destinations. So, I played the odds and picked a Canadian city.

Newfoundland 2006 - 103.jpgI’m lucky to have seen more of Canada than most Canadians. I’ve travelled east to St. John’s, north to Churchill, west to Prince Rupert, and to visited every province except PEI. But there are still lots of beautiful places in Canada that I’ve yet to visit. I eventually settled on Newfoundland because I’ve never been to Gros Morne but I’ve heard great things about it, and flights from Vancouver to Deer Lake are as expensive as flying overseas.

Here is what I wrote for Air Canada’s contest:
Mount Gardner Double JumpI love to spend time in the outdoors. My wife and I have hiked and trekked in far away places like Peru and Vietnam, but there are large parts of Canada we’ve never explored. I’d love to spend a week hiking through Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. There are so many beautiful places in Canada, and Gros Morne is at the top of my list for places to explore.

I can use my free flight almost anytime before December 15 (except around Easter), so we were thinking of going in the summer. Anyone have any recommendations of sights or hikes in the park?

Photo of Gros Morne by David Ooms.

How the NDP Found its Green Mojo

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The NDP has always had strong environmental credentials, but in the past decade it has sat back and let other parties lead the charge. Although Jack Layton was a committed environmentalist, it often felt that environmental issues took a back seat to health care, education, and pensions during his leadership, and it was painful to watch the NDP oppose carbon taxes in BC and federally. As a result, people like me sometimes voted for the Green Party. But that’s changing.

The BC NDP now supports the carbon tax, and, more importantly, promises to use some of the proceeds to improve public transit. They’ve also strongly opposed the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat, arguing not only against the environmental costs but the economic risks of the project to BC.

Federally, Thomas Mulcair has started pushing sustainable development in a big way, arguing that polluting industries need to internalize the costs of dumping pollution into the air, water, and land, including the oil sands. The ‘polluter pays’ principle. He’s also making an economic argument for protecting the environment.

I think it’s a smart strategy. Up until now, the debate has always pitted the environment against the economy. And when push comes to shove, the economy always wins. However, Mulcair is arguing that our zeal to export raw resources is harming other sectors of the economy, like manufacturing – the so called Dutch Disease. By framing sustainable development as an economic issue instead of a environmental one, Mulcair is creating a sharp contrast to the Conservative budget, which focuses on destroying the environment for economic gain.

And it looks like the Conservatives are scared. The last 3 polls have all shown the NDP in the lead, but the economy is the Conservative trump card. If Mulcair can convince Canadians that the Conservative’s approach to the environment is in fact harming the economy outside of the oil patch, the NDP lead will continue to grow. This interview with Mulcair explains his ideas in his own words. It’s worth watching, and I’d embed the video but CTV’s video player sucks.
Continue reading How the NDP Found its Green Mojo

NDP Leadership Candidates – The Bald, Beard, & Brains

I’m still trying to decide who to vote for in the NDP leadership race. I didn’t know much about the candidates before, so I’ve been watching the debates and following the blogosphere. My criteria for leader – charisma, inspiration, and the ability to defeat Stephen Harper. Here’s who’s impressed me the most.

Nathan Cullen1. The BaldNathan Cullen
More than any of the other candidates, Nathan Cullen thrives in debates. Why isn’t he on tv more? He’s exciting, knowledgeable, and funny. Electoral reform and the environment (whoot!) are his top priorities, and he’s been a strong opponent of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Lastly, he wants to beat Stephen Harper so bad he’s willing to consider joint nominations with the Greens and Liberals in some ridings. Most progressives I know would applaud him for this, but within some NDP circles the idea is kryptonite. I was a bit skeptical at first (as a voter I like having choice), but the plan has merits.
Strengths: Environmentalist, amazing debater, and willing to be bold.

Thomas Mulcair2. The BeardThomas Mulcair
More than any of the candidates, Mulcair looks like he should be Prime Minister. It’s the way he speaks. He’s normally calm and reasoned, but he can also be extremely passionate. His environmental credentials are top-notch, but he is often questioned about his commitment to the NDP because he comes from the Quebec Liberal Party. Personally, I think the NDP needs to widen its base and Mulcair is a good example of that. The real question is can the NDP transition from a great mustache to a great beard?
Strengths: Environmentalist, articulate in both languages, and passionate.

Brian Topp addresses supporters3. The BrainsBrian Topp
Brian Topp is considered the brains behind the NDP’s breakthrough in the past few years. He’s a smart guy and he’s reasonably charismatic, especially if you compare him to Stephen Harper. On a policy front, his priorities are fairer taxes and increasing funding to social services. The left-wing side of the NDP love him, and he’s received the most high-profile endorsements. His youtube channel is full of slick videos and celebrity endorsements, but he doesn’t excite me as much as Cullen or Mulcair.
Strengths: Smart and progressive.

If you want to get a better sense of the candidates, the debates are online. Here’s a collection of short youtube clips starting with a funny one from 22 Minutes.

Continue reading NDP Leadership Candidates – The Bald, Beard, & Brains

Strategic Voting – #hashtagfail

Strategic voting sites were all the rage this election. Websites like Project Democracy used advanced seat projection models and the latest polls to determine what ridings would be close and how progressive voters should ‘strategically vote’ to stop the Conservatives.

What an utter failure (or ‘hashtagfail’ as my buddy Jack would say). Pundits Guide warned us that Conservatives love strategic voting sites, but few people listened. The promise of having your vote count in a system where so many votes are wasted was too strong to resist.

If you look at the closest races in Canada involving the Conservatives, all of them decided by less 2% of the votes cast, the ‘strategic’ recommendations were horrible. In the 10 races where strategic voting could have been effective, Project Democracy got 5 of them wrong, and the Conservatives won all five of those ridings.

Riding Result PD Strategy Verdict
Montmagny – L’Islet – Kamouraska – Rivière-du-Loup Cons +1101 +10 over NDP Vote Bloc FAIL
Nipissing – Timiskaming Cons +14 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Etobicoke Centre Cons +25 over Libs Safe Liberal Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Yukon Cons +132 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Elmwood Transcona Cons +284 over NDP Safe NDP Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca NDP +406 over Cons Vote NDP PASS
Bramalea – Gore – Malton Cons +538 over NDP Vote Liberal FAIL
Don Valley West Cons +639 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Mississauga East – Cooksville Cons +661 over Libs Safe Liberal Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Lotbinière – Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Cons +777 over NDP Vote NDP PASS

1 – vote difference in Montmagny reduced to 10 after counting error detected.

Unfortunately, in a first-past-the-post voting system, only 2 parties can be viable alternatives. Strategic voting is a failed coping mechanism. We need to either change the voting system or get ready for polarized American-style politics with the Conservatives battling the NDP across Canada. Even as an NDP supporter, it’s not a prospect I’m looking forward to. I’d rather have more choices.