October 20, 2015 18:10 +0000  |  Canada Conservatives Liberals Stephen Harper 0

Update: This Luke Savage article says it all better than I ever could

I'm optimistic. Really.

Like most Canadians (and as it turns out, most of my multi-national office), I'm absolutely thrilled that the Stephen Harper decade is finally dead. I have no doubt that the Liberals are capable of salvaging what is left of the country to restore us to who we should be, and on many things, I think they might even be willing to do that work.

There's a lot to do though:

  • Getting us back on track with our international environmental commitments.
  • Repealing C-51
  • Restoring the long-form census so we can start making fact-based decisions again.
  • Restoring benefits to veterans and seniors.
  • Funding the massive infrastructure deficit in our cities.
  • Letting our scientists talk to the public again.
  • Investigate and prosecute those responsible for the 1186 missing or murdered aboriginal women.
  • Welcoming the thousands of refugees we should have brought in years ago.
  • Repealing the "Fair Elections Act"
  • Restoring funding to the CBC
  • Restoring full citizenship rights to expats and dual-citizens
  • Reforming the Senate
  • Reforming the electoral system so that we never again have to suffer through a decade of autocratic rule propped up by 38% of the public.
  • Undoing the culture of hate and fear the Conservatives saddled us with.

This is off the top of my head. There's so much more to do.

I'm still worried though. With a majority, Justin Trudeau has effectively been given a blank cheque to do with the country as he sees fit. When it comes to who we are as a people, I'm confident that Trudeau will put us on the right track, but when it comes to things like climate change, civil rights, and international trade, his record is worrying.

The Liberals still deny the science of climate change in their support for oil pipelines out of Alberta, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we'll sign onto TPP on a Friday when nobody's watching, after which our government will be compelled to act against the interest of Canadians if it means losses of potential revenue for private companies. TPP also governs important 21st century subjects like copyright and digital rights management, that will shape the nature of public discourse for the next century.

The Liberals also supported Harper's insane "Barbaric Cultural Practises" act, as well as the abomination that is C-51, which outright violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Reforming the Senate is going to be an uphill battle (if it's fought at all), and restoring the funding for the CBC was never a priority of former Liberals, so I'm not sure that it will be one for this government either.

But much of the damage will be undone, which fills me with such joy -- Seriously, it's as if I got my Canada back today.

October 20, 2015 18:07 +0000  |  Canada Conservatives Democracy Liberals NDP Stephen Harper 0

I'm both thrilled and disappointed with the outcome of this election. On the one hand, the Cancer that was Stephen Harper was finally cut out of the country like the rotten tumour he is, but on the other, we managed to do so only by putting all of our faith in yet another autocratic situation. We've elected another majority, doing away with all accountability in the House. Given where this election started, this is a gross disappointment.

I suppose that it's a question of faith really. Do I have faith that Trudeau, with all the power of the PMO (that his father pioneered) and a majority government elected through first past the post, will actually introduce proportional representation? Are these Liberals really all that different from the corrupt, entitled, double-speaking Liberals that came before them? Indeed, many of the candidates elected today are the very same people who held the same positions under Chrétien and Martin.

It kills me that to remove Harper, we had to stick a knife in the NDP, a party that, no matter how much I criticise them, represents a much closer vision of my Canada than the Liberals ever will. It's also deeply frustrating to see how very poorly the NDP managed this campaign.

From their gloating, passive, condescending demeanour in the early days of the campaign, to their weak-kneed, dispassionate stance on Harper's divisive Islamophobic platform, the NDP left the country desperate for leadership, vision, and passion for what we value as a nation. Trudeau was clumsy, but he shared a vision for Canada that resonated with people. His passion was infectious and painted a picture of the Canada that should be, in stark contrast to what Harper would have us become.

This could have gone another way. We could have had an NDP-lead minority or even a majority, but they screwed up, and now we have to hope that Trudeau really meant everything he said -- because no one will be able to hold him to it if he changes his mind.

October 06, 2015 17:02 +0000  |  Canada Democracy Environment Green Party NDP Politics 0

A dear friend asked me over Twitter today why I think she should vote Green and not NDP. I started with 140 characters, then switched to a direct message, and then I wanted formatting... So I wrote a blog post.

So Theresa, this is a short, but reasonably complete list of the reasons I couldn't bring myself to vote NDP this election. Which is a pity really. I'd like to live in a world where a party like the Greens didn't need to exist because the mainstream parties actually did the Right Thing.

...but they don't do the right thing, and they shouldn't be rewarded for that.


The Tar Sands

If there is one fact that should be obvious to anyone who claims to know anything about climate change, it's that the carbon reserves that we have in Northern Alberta need to stay in the ground. The NDP are against Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, but they do support Energy East. So, either the NDP don't believe the millions of scientists who have stated that this stuff has to stay in the ground, or they're pretending to support the oil sector in an effort to get votes.

Either way, the NDP position is suspect and speaks to either their scientific literacy or their authenticity. I'll let you decide which is more egregious.

Carbon Tax vs. Cap and Trade

The NDP has taken a cap/trade position (to the exclusion of a carbon tax) against the advice of every prominent environmentalist and economist. This is quite clearly done for political reasons, to separate themselves from the Liberals and Greens who favour a carbon tax.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that every reputable environmentalist group will tell you that a carbon tax is the best way to affect the change needed, and that cap/trade is a market non-solution. In other words, the NDP is choosing its platform based on what it thinks will win them power over what is right for the country. You may sense a theme developing.

The Senate

Their position on the senate is untenable, impractical, and dishonest. Ignoring for the moment that almost all of the countries on the planet with a single governing house are what you and I might refer to as banana republics, an upper house is a crucial check on the power of the lower house, and in a parliamentary system like ours that vests so much power in the hands of a single person, the prime minister, this is a Very Bad Idea.

On top of that, abolition is quite impossible as it would require support for all of the provinces and every constitutional lawyer in the country will tell you that there's no way you'll ever get everyone on board with abolition.

No one is saying that the Senate shouldn't be reformed, but the NDP position of abolition is not good policy. Once again, they're writing policy based on what they think will play better with the public (abolition is much easier to grasp than reform), as opposed to what would be good for the country.

Proportional Representation

After the 2011 election, the NDP, who had been talking about electoral reform months earlier, suddenly came out in favour of first past the post. I distinctly remember listening to CBC's The House, where the NDP MP steadfastly supported FPTP with the typical platitudes of "it's worked for the country for so long" etc. etc. None of this is surprising since it was first-past-the-post that gave them that "orange wave" in Québec.

Then, just last year, they showed up late to the party on electoral reform and did a big blitz where they told everyone that if elected, they'd "make this Canada's last unfair election". Then, as they rose in the polls, all of that rhetoric evaporated, and now their issues page makes absolutely no mention of it.

The Consortium Debate

Thomas Mulcair started this campaign saying he'd gladly debate anywhere, any time, and he's finishing it having backed out of the one debate that was guaranteed to have the most viewers out of the entire Election.

You can't claim to want to lead the country if you're going to run away from debates with your opponents. It doesn't matter that Stephen Harper refused to participate. In fact, Mulcair's refusal simply puts him in bad company, with arguably Canada's worst Prime Minister in history.

The Consortium Debate could have been an opportunity to reach more than 10 million people (as opposed to the paltry 1.5 from the Maclean's Debate) and publicly shame Stephen Harper for abdicating his responsibility to the democratic process. Instead, through his actions, Mulcair legitimised Harper's position and drastically limited the level of political discourse in Canada.

This reason alone would be enough to keep me from the NDP.

Wrap Up

I want to make it clear that I still think that the NDP are better than the Liberals and Conservatives, but I also think that they've fallen far, far from their roots as the sensible socialist alternative. They've become a party of pragmatists, shifting their principles toward whatever they think will win them votes, and for me this is an unforgivable sin.

If you want to lead my country, I expect you to have ideals and principles underlying your positions, policy that's supported by those principles, and a leader that stands behind them. The CCF was that kind of party, Tommy Douglas, Elizabeth May and Jeremy Corbyn are that kind of leader, and voters can smell the stench of an impostor. They smell it on Thomas Mulcair, and they certainly smell it on Justin Trudeau.

I voted Green because they're still the party of principle out there. They take sometimes unpopular positions that are vested in principles as stated by the party members. I don't agree with all of these positions, but I can live with what I see as bad policy if it means that I can trust the party to follow through with everything they say they represent:

  • They called for a carbon tax more than a decade ago, when the science was in but the public was strongly against it. They've never wavered on this.
  • They've always opposed the tar sands because it's bad policy to support an industry that's trying to kill everyone on the planet.
  • They routinely call for order and respect in the House of Commons.
  • They support the reduction of powers of the Prime Minister, because we shouldn't be electing de-facto dictators, and for the increase in power of MPs so that they can do the work of local representation.
  • Their leader is an accomplished lawyer, parliamentarian and diplomat, dedicated to her role as MP and advocate for a safe environment.

I also think that their position on the senate is silly and impractical, and that their opposition to GMOs is anti-science and idiotic, but as it's clear that neither of these are priorities in the party, I'm unconcerned given their positions on real issues that actually matter.

When it comes time to vote in this election, who would you rather support, a party that stands by what it says, or a party that has demonstrated that their ideology and even their science will bend to pragmatism?

September 27, 2015 09:35 +0000  |  Canada Conservatives Democracy 1

I opened my mailbox yesterday to find something both astounding and infuriating, it was a letter from the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Centre:

Dear Friend and Neighbour!

You are on Elections Canada's international Register of Electors as a non-resident entitled to vote in Vancouver Centre, BC in the October 2015 Federal Election.

You can vote by mail. Elections Canada has already mailed your special ballot voting kit to you. If you have not received it please contact Elections Canada.

[Elections Canada contact info]

More information on how to vote by mail can be found at the Elections Canada website - Ways to Vote, Vote by Mail, Vote by mail-apply now -- Voting by Canadians living abroad.

I am writing to ask you to vote for me as the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Centre. I am a business woman with over 20 years of experience in executive management in the non-profit social services sector and a long-time resident of the West End. I have an MBA and Communications degree and I am running to bring accountability to all areas of government. On the reverse side of this letter there is more detailed information about my background and qualifications. More information about me and the Conservative campaign is available on my website:

Please complete and mail your special ballot today to ensure that Elections Canada receives it by the deadlines set out in your special ballot voting kit. If you have not received your special ballot kit, forms are also available at any Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate, or by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or collect at 613-949-7502.

I need your vote to win this riding and to ensure that Canada continues to have a stable, secure, Conservative government lead by Stephen Harper.

Thank you for your support.

Elaine Allan Conservative Candidate Vancouver Centre, BC

Take a moment to appreciate the hypocrisy of a party writing letters to expats asking for their vote when that party has worked so hard to remove that expat's right to vote at all.

I'm fast approaching the 5-year mark in my expat status. As a result of the Conservative Party's fight to strip me of my rights, this could very well be the last vote I'm permitted to cast in any Canadian election.

For someone like me, this is a crushing realisation. I've been neck-deep in Canadian politics since I was a teenager: canvassing for candidates both in Toronto and Vancouver and even running for a seat in BC, and the Conservatives have decreed that I'm insufficiently Canadian to be permitted to participate in our democracy after this election.

The audacity of a party that would ask me to support them today, then strip me of my rights tomorrow is at the heart of the Conservative Party. It's their ideology of consumption: use up whatever you can and move on. You see it in their environmental and economic policy, and now you see it in their electoral strategy. The fact that their candidates don't see it, that they can live with themselves writing letters like this, tells you just what kind of people they are.

I'm thinking I might give Ms. Allan a call. If you have any suggestions regarding what I might say, I'd be happy to hear them.

September 20, 2015 23:01 +0000  |  Family Grandpa 0

I want to take a minute to rewrite my eulogy for my grandfather. There was something bugging me about that first draft, the one that was eventually read at his funeral that didn't sit well with me, and a few days later Jane finally helped me figure it out: I wasn't writing it for me.

Instead, I wrote it in an attempt to reflect how we all interacted with him, and for such a polarising person, I simply don't have the talent to express something that even-handed as well as talk about what he meant to me. So that eulogy feels empty to me. This one is better.

I loved my grandpa. He was a difficult man to love sometimes, but I loved him anyway. He was, to me at least, the Caretaker of the family. The one who looked after me and helped me on my path -- whatever it was -- but he always required convincing.

Taking on a new career? I had to prove to him why this path was good for me. Moving to a new city? A new country? He wanted to know what kind of work I would find there, and when I was going to meet a nice girl and get married.

"Women want to see three keys" he used to say. "One for the house, one for the car, and one for the safety deposit box". My grandfather was very old-fashioned, and sexist, often dismissive, and almost always self-important and a little bit delusional about how the world worked, but he loved me, I'm 100% sure of it. How? because the man slipped me 100 bucks whenever he could.

This is how Grandpa showed you how he felt: he helped you in whatever way he could. He didn't have a lot of money, but he knew that when I was getting started in life, I had a lot less than he did. He would give me a hug whenever I'd come to visit, then offer to shake my hand -- a brown bill squeezed between his fingers. It didn't happen every time, just once in a while, when he could afford it, and no amount of objections would be accepted. He wanted to help his grandson and that was the end of it.

He spent much of his life compiling video footage of the family. I've seen video clips of my mother as a child, a teenager, an adult, and a mother. There's a video of my brother showing off his basketball skills, of a big Easter dinner celebration, of my brother and me opening presents on Christmas Day. My grandfather would watch these videos on his own time, whenever the mood struck him, first on high-8, then on VHS, finally on DVD, he migrated all of it by hand. He would insist on sharing them with girlfriends I brought over. It was his way of preserving the family, of remembering the life he'd led.

I'm going to miss my grandpa. He was crochety and pointlessly argumentative, and in his old age, even abusive, but even with all of that, I'm going to miss him because he was a good person who loved me and only wanted to help.

September 17, 2015 18:42 +0000  |  Django Python 0

I ran into something annoying while working on my Tweetpile project the other day and it just happened to me today on Atlas. Sometimes, removing code can cause explosions with migrations -- even when they've already been run.


  • You've created a new class called MyClass.
  • It subclasses models.Model
  • It makes use of a handy mixin you wrote called MyMixin:

    class MyClass(MyMixin, models.Model):
        # stuff here
  • You create a migration for it, run it, commit your code and congratulate yourself on code well done.

  • Months later you come back and realise that the use of MyMixin was a terrible mistake, so you remove it.
  • Now migrations don't work anymore.

Here's what happened:

Creating a migration that's dependent on non-Django-core stuff to assemble the model (think mixins that add fields, or the use of custom fields etc.) means that migrations has to import those modules to run. This is a problem because every time you run migrate it loads all migration files into memory, and if those files are importing now-non-existent modules, everything breaks.


It's an ugly one, but so far it's the only option I can figure: manually collapsing the migration stack. Basically you make sure you've run all of the migrations to date, then delete the offending classes, delete all of the migration files, and recreate a new empty migration:

$ cd /project/root/
$ ./ migrate
$ rm -rf myapp/migrations/*
$ touch myapp/migrations/
[ modify your code to remove the offending fields/mixins ]
$ ./manage makemigrations myapp

Now run this in your database:

DELETE FROM django_migrations WHERE app = 'myapp' AND name <> '0001_initial';
UPDATE django_migrations SET applied = NOW() where app = 'myapp';

The new single migration created won't be importing the removed classes, so everything will be ok, and you have the added benefit of not having so many migrations to import. Note however that this may cause problems with migrations from other apps that may have been created dependent on your now-deleted migrations, so this may start you down a rabbit-hole if you're unlucky.

I hope this helps someone in the future should this sort of thing present itself again.

September 10, 2015 22:38 +0000  |  Family Grandpa

Grandpa was an impossible man -- both in that he was difficult to be around at times and in the amazing life he led.

Here was a man who was not only 100% confident that he had the answers to everything, but he was going to do you the immense favour of pointing out everything you're doing wrong -- you know, for your benefit.

I remember a particular Christmas gathering at which he persisted in his argument with his two atheist grandchildren that "God" created everything: "Who made this?" he would ask, "and who made this?", repeatedly pointing to random objects in the room. There was no winning an argument with him, you could only hug him and say "I love you Grandpa".

This would usually buy you a few minutes.

One of my earliest memories as a child is that of my father's disapproval of my grandfather's spending money on my brother and me. His refrain "Money is for spending!" will forever be a part of me. I think that deep down, Grandpa was a bit of a hedonist, but it was the simple things in life that did it for him. He loved his car, his boat, that obnoxious talking fish, and of course, he loved his family.

It's easy to forget in this era of smart phones, but we all owe a great debt to him for the hours and hours of home videos he took of all of us as we grew up. There are videos of my mother as a child, my parents getting married, the many barbecues and Easter gatherings -- all painstakingly preserved, transferred between formats over the years. This was a labour of love for him: the preservation of memory for three generations. How sad it is that he should leave us all such a gift when he himself appears so seldom in the frame.

Take a moment to consider what he accomplished in his lifetime:

  • He escaped Communism with his family to start a new life in a country where he didn't even speak the language.
  • He then proceeded to found multiple businesses across Canada employing dozens of people.
  • He supported every member of the family, either financially, with skills training, or simply with a place to sleep when one of us needed it.

He was undoubtedly an egoist and a pain in the ass, but he was also unabashedly generous and unconditionally loving.

Grandpa was an unyielding force in this world, and we are all so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of his life. He will forever be an inspiration to me.

True to form, Grandpa died on his schedule and no one else's. The world may be a lot quieter without him in it, but there's no doubt in my mind that it is also greatly diminished.

He'll wait for us right here.

My grandfather died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday night. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, three grandsons, and one great-granddaughter. He was 91.

September 03, 2015 08:27 +0000  |  Canada Politics 3

The body of a child, washed up on a Turkish beach

I'm posting the image here for all to see. If this bothers you, good. This is exactly the sort of thing that should bother you. Your reaction proves that you are a good person, capable of empathy.

If you're anything like me, feelings of grief and sadness were followed, after some wallowing, by a deep sense of helplessness and anger. This image, and the issues behind it are terrible -- what can I do about it?

The honest answer is that I don't know. No one thing, no ten things I can think of doing would even begin to solve the problem of finding these people a safe place to live.

The problem at this juncture, from what I understand, is two-sided: political will on the receiving end, and in some cases (at least for that of Turkey), an unwillingness to be decent human beings when it comes to the treatment of refugees. In other words, the problem is political: people need to get out of Syria and the rest of us won't let them. Instead we're collectively sitting idly by while bodies wash up on beaches.

It seems to me that the solution to all of this is to remind everyone of our collective capacity for empathy. If our cowardly leaders won't move on this issue it can only be out of a lack of empathy, and they therefore should be replaced. This is why I'm posting this photo: because we need to be upset about this.

This is a solvable problem. The number of refugees coming out of Syria are great, but manageable: 7million. If Europe alone were to accept all of them tomorrow, this would represent a mere 2% increase in population, and there's no reason that Europe alone should have to bear the strain of such an influx. The United Nations has asked Canada to accept 10,000, and I can only assume that other countries have had similar numbers asked of them.

It's time to make our voices heard on this issue and step up to help. We're a human community after all and that is a dead child on a beach.

August 09, 2015 19:26 +0000  |  Christina 13

It's hard to get around to everyone when you know people all around the world. I've already called one person and woken them up because I got the timezones wrong, and these days, most of us don't even use phones. I've broken the news to all of my immediate family at this point, so I guess it's about time for a proper announcement: Christina and I are going to get married.

A brief FAQ if you will:

What? When?

We're not sure yet. Hell, I just proposed yesterday. The reality of our move to the London in November along with the end of her PhD and her starting a new job at the same time dictates that we won't be having any sort of shindig until well into 2016 at the earliest.


Because it's Christina. It's always been her. It just took me this long accept it. Thank the gods she's so patient.

What's the story with the proposal?

Some time ago, Christina mentioned in a rather off-hand sort of way that she always imagined that when she was proposed to, it would be on a hill. This sat in my brain for a good long time, in no small part because we live in the Netherlands, where hills are at a premium.

She also told me in no uncertain terms, that if/when I got around to asking, she wanted to pick her own ring. Whether this is a remark on my taste in jewelry, or her own investment in lifetime-hardware, I leave that to the reader to decide.

With these two bits of information in hand, I decided to put together a little jewelry box with a piece of string, knotted into a circle to look like a ring. I then convinced her that we needed a day off from work, and that we would best burn that day off, at the old fortress around Naarden -- also the site of our (sort of) first date. We made sandwiches, chilled out under a tree (atop a man-made hill), and that's where I gave her the box.

Was she surprised?

Yes. Which surprised me. I was sure she'd seen all of this coming.

Is this because you need visa help entering the UK?

Absolutely not. In fact, we won't be hitched until we're settled in the UK anyway. Besides, from the looks of things on the visa front, our marital status won't really help us.

Where is it going to be?

My Grandmother asked that if I did get married, that it'd be in Greece, so she'd have an excuse to go there. That, coupled with the fact that we both love Greece, and that it's the kind of of place that could really use the money right about now, are two very compelling reasons to hold it there.

Obviously, it's way too soon to settle on anything at this point though. We've got time to work out the details and I'll keep you posted at our fabulous new domain name (It redirects to this blog post for now).

Can I come?

Sure! Probably. It depends on who you are, how big the wedding's going to be, etc. etc. I hope so.

May 26, 2015 17:27 +0000  |  Canada Politics 2

Canada's Senate has been getting a lot of flack lately from the suspended/disgraced former senators like Conservatives Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to most recently, moves by the Senate to block/amend/rewrite the Reform Act, a bill I personally think is long overdue.

Every party has a different idea of what to do with the Red Chamber. The Greens want to reform it by electing senators, the Liberals simply kicked all Liberal senators out of their caucus, the Conservatives want to elect them, but aren't interested in actually going through the process of getting provincial approval, and the NDP wants to outright abolish the Senate -- though they've been unsurprisingly silent on exactly how they'd do that in the face of a constitution that guarantees the Senate's existence.

How it Works Right Now

For those of you who don't know, this is how the Senate currently works in relation to your vote:

  1. You vote for a candidate to represent your riding in the House of Commons.
  2. The winner in your riding goes to Ottawa to represent you, and whichever party holds a plurality of votes after an election forms government, with the leader of that party given the role of Prime Minister.
  3. The government does it's thing until one day a Senate seat becomes available by way of only five options:
    • A senator dies
    • A senator reaches the age of 65
    • A senator leaves the Senate of their own volition
    • A senator is kicked out of the Senate
    • The House of Commons votes to increase the size of the Senate
  4. When this happens, the Prime Minister can put anyone (s)he wants into that Senate seat. Typically these are "friends of the party", or just friends of the Prime Minister.
  5. That senator sits in the Senate and votes on bills coming from the House of Commons until they die, reach 65, leave, or are kicked out.

When Party A is elected, the Prime Minister appoints 10 senators over the course of her term. When her party is ousted by Party B, the new party now has to contend with people in the Senate who might oppose anything too extreme, since they're from a different party. This is what is lovingly referred to as "sober second thought".

What the Parties are Suggesting

On the face of it, the Senate seems like an insane tool for democratic governance, and I won't deny the fact that there's a lot of room for improvement, but I want to go on record saying that I think the positions of all the major parties are deeply flawed here, and in the case of every party, self-serving:

  • The Green Party want a proportionally elected senate. Given that the current system currently offers the Greens exactly 0 seats, elections make sense for them. Additionally, proportional elections serve the Greens well because their vote is spread wide across the country.
  • The Liberals kicked the sitting Liberal senators out of caucus, but know that this was more about optics than anything else. These senators are still loyal to the party, to the ideals of the party. They lose nothing, and nothing is gained for anyone but Liberals.
  • The Conservatives want an elected senate, which fits with their mantra of "more responsible government". The only problem is that their own actions over the last decade have shown that they use the electoral process to reduce voter turnout and drive up wedge politics, and then strong-arm the political process to get their way. In a fully elected system, there'd be nothing in the Prime Minister's way to do everything (s)he wants.
  • The NDP want to abolish the senate, a move that works for them since they've never had a seat in there anyway. Given the nature of our constitution, it's also a pipe dream that they can market as something the public can easily comprehend and support. It does nothing at all to ensure appropriate checks on power in our system.

I want to make the case that the senate is a good thing. That for all of its flaws, the purpose it serves is just too important to abandon (as the NDP would suggest) or politicise (as the others have stated).

Why Elections are a Bad Idea

The typical solution of "just elect them" is one that's already been tried and found wanting. For the test case, you need only look South to the United States where they elect:

  • A President
  • Congressmen
  • Senators
  • Judges
  • District Attorneys
  • Sheriffs
  • ...and many more

The result is a deeply polarised society, with judges and senators less concerned about their jobs than they are about getting re-elected. A sheriff's sex life, rather than their track record is made relevant to whether or not they can enforce the law. There is no concept of "sober second thought" because every time a congressman or senator votes on an issue, they have to worry about "how this will play with the voters".

This isn't to say that all elections are bad. They are after all a pillar of democracy. No, I'm arguing that just as an elected governing body is crucial to democracy, a sane political process also requires the existence of a body that is not beholden to the whims of the public. The public is fickle, emotional, and historically grossly uninformed. Purely elected bodies are measureably less stable, more erratic, and more polarising.

This was the idea behind Canada's Senate, and it's still a good one: a place where people can come together and debate, amend, approve, and reject bills passed by the elected House. It's a check on the power of the House, which is beholden only to the electorate.

If you introduce elections to this equation, you undermine the whole value of the senate: the lack of fear in decision making. Worrying about re-election means worrying about the whims of the short-term: anti-science, religious nutbaggery, and war-mongering. All of the emotionally-charged issues underlining every political action based on recent events, presented outside of the broader historical context. This is is a recipe of instability and a tyranny of short-term thinking.


If we shouldn't abolish the Senate, and we shouldn't elect it, then what alternatives do we have? I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but if someone were to make me Emperor for a Day, I might propose something like this:

  • Candidates for Senate seats are nominated by sitting members of the House of Commons
  • One nominee proposed per MP
  • Nominations are secret so party whips can't manipulate MPs.
  • Whenever a senate seat is made available, one is randomly selected from the list of 308 candidates.
  • Senate terms should be 20years to allow for long-term policy making, while allowing for gradual changes over time.
  • Violations of Senate rules (citing the Duffy and Wallin cases here) should be met with investigation and/or suspension and public trial if need be.

I'm curious about what others might think about this, and would invite other proposals -- anything to preserve the ideals of the Red Chamber while working to root out the cronyism we're currently saddled with.

One thing's for certain though, all of the major parties are making recommendations that are bad for the country in the long term, and unsurprisingly, they're all recommending policy that works best for them.