Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Anniversary Post and a Call for Political Advice

Pample the Moose is seven calendar years old today. I'm not sure how old that is in blog years. My posting has become more erratic in recent years, but I'm still committed to keeping it going for the foreseeable future.

So as to have some content here beyond a simple age statement, I'm hoping for a wee bit of advice in the comments section - and this is one of those rare occasions where I'll tolerate some partisanship. I'm making my end-of-year donations right now, trying to beat the deadline for tax receipts. I've figured out my charitable donations, but I had been considering making a political contribution or two as well this year. The trouble is, I'm not certain where best to donate. Over the last decade, I've voted for Liberals, NDPers and Greens, although to be honest my main consideration this year is Liberal vs. NDP. My dilemma is that both of the major parties are leaderless at the moment, and their future policies uncertain. I am an anyone-is-better-than-a-Conservative voter, and so like the idea of contributing to the efforts of the opposition parties during this post-election re-building phase. However, I'm not currently feeling energized by either campaign enough to want to take out a membership.

So, do I donate to the Liberals, the NDP, both or neither? Suggestions and rationales are welcome!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Long-form Census - Festive Edition

A random thought occurred to me today, as I take my first day off for Christmas vacation. The biblical-era Roman census, which required that Mary and Joseph return to his hometown of Bethlehem to be counted - finding no room at the inn, spending the night in a stable, etc. - certainly puts the inconvenience and intrusiveness into one's daily life of taking a couple of hours in the comfort of one's own home to answer questions about one's language skills, ethnic origin, income level, and other Canadian long-form census topics into perspective, doesn't it?

A pity I didn't think of that argument several months ago. Ah well.

Merry Christmas all!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Partisan dreck: Seat Redistribution Edition

The new seat redistribution bill recently passed the House of Commons, awarding new seats to Ontario, Quebec, BC and Alberta. Rarely have I seen commentary about legislation so thoroughly skewed by short-term partisan and regional interests, and it makes me ill.

I'll get my principles on the table. I favour representation-by-population in the House of Commons. If there are to be regional counterweights in our parliamentary and federalist system, they are supposed to be found in a Senate (which could be revamped) and in the provincial governments (which hold most of the key powers these days anyways). As such, I have no sympathy with the claim that Quebec's share of the House of Commons should remain fixed at a given percentage (a provision of the 1992 Charlottetown Accord that was widely denounced outside that province), and would have no difficulty with reducing the seat tallies of the Maritime and Atlantic Canadian provinces, overturning earlier legislation, if the appropriate legislative and/or constitutional changes were made. As such, there has been a lot for me to take issue with in the craven pandering that both the Liberals and NDP (the two parties I normally vote for) have been engaged in by objecting to this legislation.

And today, Twitter is abuzz with more partisan dreck in response to John Ibbitson's column hypothetically allocating these new seats according to the 2011 election results. This is not a "Conservative windfall". It's a long-overdue correction in an electoral system that has cheated urban Canada, and particularly Ontario, BC and Alberta of their equitable share of seats in the House of Commons. A decade ago the same allegation could have been made that such a change would have favoured the Liberals. Voting allegiances change over time, and seats are allocated based on population, not the party affiliation of the seats being divided and redistributed. It's not like the Conservative party is able to take the riding of Crowfoot (historically the site of some of their biggest single-riding majorities) and split it into 31 new ridings. And frankly, if you look at the Ontario provincial election, there is extremely good reason to think that new seats created in Mississauga-Brampton would be fair game for all three parties.

If our political discourse is devolving to the point where we refuse to engage in what should be routine corrections to the electoral map, then our system is completely broken. Perhaps the most ardent critics of these changes should openly admit that they are inspired by the political strategies of Maurice Duplessis, the Quebec Premier so well known for turning the rurally-skewed electoral map of his province to the advantage of the Union Nationale machine. It turns my stomach to watch one of the key principles of how Canadian democracy is supposed to operate being undermined for short-term political advantage and media soundbites.

Also, a word to the NDP and the Liberals. Do you honestly think that the Conservative Party of Canada is not keeping a detailed dossier for the next election of your quotes of why your party thinks Ontario, BC and Alberta don't deserve equitable representation in the House? How about making winning those new seats your priority, rather than trying to prevent their creation?

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Saturday, December 03, 2011


Just a quick post today to announce two new publications that I'm excited about.

The first is my new edited collection, Contemporary Quebec: Selected Readings and Commentaries, which I co-edited with Michael Behiels at the University of Ottawa. We've been working on this book for the last six years (yikes!) but it's finally in print. It's mainly intended for upper-year Quebec history courses, and contains thirty-one articles and 14 historiographical essays on various facets of Quebec history since the Duplessis era. Several of the articles are new or previously unpublished English translations, and all are situated within the broader literature in the introductory essays to each of the 14 sections of the book. We've also included bibliographies of further readings for each section (with an emphasis on English-language or translated scholarship) to try to assist anglophone undergraduate students doing research on Quebec history. I also have a previously unpublished article in the collection on the interactions between Canadian and Quebec language policies from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

The second publication is
Life After Forty: Official Languages Policy in Canada / Après quarante ans: Les politiques de langue officielle au Canada
. This new edited collection, put together by Jack Jedwab and Rodrigue Landry, came out of a conference held for the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, and includes contributions from a variety of academic and policy perspectives on the impact of this legislation. I have an article in this collection dealing with some of the key features of how this legislation was framed and implemented, particularly its ramifications for the education sector. The book was also the subject of a recent article in the Montreal Gazette.

Christmas presents for the Canadian/Quebec history geeks in your life, perhaps?

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