Thursday, October 31, 2013

Worth Reading - October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe’en all! Hallowe’en is my favourite holiday on the calendar. I could go into detail extolling its virtues, but I have to write this in between dishing out candy.

I do not consider myself a teacher anymore. I work in education but I do not stand in front of children and run a classroom or impart wisdom. However, I still like reading about education and have opinions about what the system should be doing and look like. This article best described, I think, what I would like public education to look like. 

From poor Detroit, a forest is about to appear within it. A for-profit forest, strangely enough.

Toronto City Councillor Karen Stintz announces her intent to challenge Mayor Ford in the next election. 

This was a very interesting piece. Richard Reep suggests that the type of protests we have seen in the Middle East and urban conflict elsewhere in the world might be a new reaction to globalization he calls localism. He cited Marxist social analysis, so I was intrigued immediately.

Sad news from home, Brampton has a massive budget shortfall this year. Mayor Susan Fennell wants to make draconian cuts to transit to fill in the gap. City Councillors want her to start with her own budget.

The United Kingdom prorogues their parliament once a year, but it is used entirely differently than ours. 

Conservative support has dropped to the lowest point in years, suggesting that the Senate scandal is wearing down the Tories’ core support. 

If you need a synopsis of the Senate scandal Robert Fife does a good job here. It definitely helps that he initiated much of the reporting.

Premier Wynne of Ontario floats the idea of green transit bonds. If it meant better transit I could definitely imagine investing in them. Seems like a great way for passionate advocates to show support.

The city of Mississauga continues to lobby for its independence from the Region of Peel

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our Teflon Prime Minister?

There is a certain beautiful irony that the same week the Prime Minister Stephen Harper (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) revealed that his government had made significant progress towards a European trade deal that the Senate scandal reared its ugly head. Mr. Harper is in his seventh year as prime minister of Canada. The natural length that party leaders stay in power is about ten years, which means that like many politicians he is seeking to enshrine a lasting legacy.

According to Paul Well, reporter with Maclean’s Magazine and author of the new book about Stephen Harper, The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Mr. Harper wants to fundamentally change Canada. He has tried to make Canadians comfortable with the idea of a governing Conservative Party and stave off the return of the Liberals. Interestingly, if you look at Canada’s history you’d see long periods of Liberal governance punctuated by brief-to-decade-long stints of Conservatives/Progressive Conservatives. To many (especially Liberals) this is the natural order of things. Mr. Harper would like to permanently change that.

The Canadian-European Trade Agreement, if accepted, will be definitely one of the items Mr. Harper is credited for long after he leaves office. However, much like the last Conservative PM, his trade deal may well be passed but his party could be run off on a rail.

As every major news broadcast and newspaper is reporting, Senator Mike Duffy, Senator Pamela Wallin and Senator Patrick Brazeau are fighting tooth and nail against a motion in the Senate that would suspend them indefinitely without pay. In a last move of desperation they have, understandably, turned against their former masters in the Prime Minister’s Office and decided to attack. Unlike previous incidents where an errant MP had been kicked out, Mr. Duffy and the others are mired in scandal, and they have paperwork to pull down their former comrades.

This has been the news for over a week now. On Monday afternoon Senator Duffy publicly released documents that revealed that the Prime Minister misled the public/parliament about his knowledge and actions related to this scandal. Last week in my Worth Reading I cited an article my Chantal H├ębert where she suggested the Harper leadership team is losing control of the caucus.

Now, this isn’t Great Britain or Australia and it is highly unlikely that Mr. Harper will be suddenly and unexpectedly removed from office, as Margaret Thatcher was. The next election is not expected until October of 2015, two years from today. Will the electorate’s rage simmer for that long? Will the Conservative’s popularity dip dangerously low?

Journalist David Akin tweeted this on Monday:

These numbers are incredible and reveal for the first time since Stephen Harper became their leader that they have polled third. It seems possible that the reek of the scandal has turned off enough voters to at least send them temporarily into the arms of the NDP and the Liberals. This type of scandal badly hurts Conservatives among their base. The NDP’s consistent message to abolish the Senate may be gaining traction.

I am too cautious to believe that this is the end of Prime Minister Harper. The man has weather scandals before, serious ones that challenge his credibility as a leader. This one is clearly a shot closer to home and more dangerous, but it is unlikely without a caucus revolt to send him out. Caucus could revolt, but with not obvious heir(s) apparent the Conservative MPs likely fear fracturing their party. For Canadian political nerds, we certainly are living in interesting times.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worth Reading – October 24, 2013

A collection of articles to stimulate the brain:

Developing sound approaches to cities is quite tricky. One of the big problems is the “one size fits all” idea. This article talks about why it is so hard to apply one city’s success to another.  

From the Kingston, The Whig (a paper never featured here before), apparently democratic engagement leads to a better sense of well-being. I can definitely appreciate why some of this might be true. Winning victories and feeling like you have input in the process is empowering and probably offers a sense of control.

Aaron Renn is one of my favourite urban bloggers to read, but I rarely feature his stuff because of the narrow context he often writes in. However, this week he had a post about how cities are ignoring the needs of those with the least to cultivate the upper-class of global urban residents in Chicago. Basically, the notion is that Chicago is taking public funds and putting them towards the well-off rather than supplying basic services to the disadvantaged.

The next two are about the developing Senate scandal.  From the National Post, Mike Duffy’s speech to the Senate revealing Stephen Harper’s (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) involvement in the cover-up. I hesitate to offer “the truth” about this story. I am heavily biased and think there’s a certain Shakespearean justice at play here.

Chantal Hebert of the Toronto Star says that the story here is more than just the Senate. The missteps of the Conservatives in the last few months illustrates that the Prime Minister is losing control of his party. I do not know if I buy that. Frankly it is a narrative that Mme. Hebert has been selling for over a year. If Stephen Harper’s party collapses around him history will bear her to be right, I’m sure.

It is with profound jealousy that residents of the troubled cities of Toronto and Vancouver must look at their peers in Alberta. Calgary and Edmonton elected new mayors of exceptional high quality in their local elections this week

I believe I have expressed my fondness for Myers Briggs earlier. I recognize its shortcomings, but I find the study of human personalities and temperaments fascinating. Researchers conducted personality tests and found certain types more common in certain geographic areas. 

Touching on one of the previous articles, this commenter says that Toronto needs more than an anti-Ford candidate, or a strong mayor like Naheed Nenshi (Calgary) or Don Iveson (Edmonton), but wholesale change in the political culture there

Journalists discussing the merit and usefulness of pundits and whether or not it has perpetuated lazy journalism

Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) has convened 36 panels to discuss numerous issues confronting my home province. I like Premier Wynne, but I wish she would take some bold actions, such as on the transit file, and stop passing the buck for fear of losing her government.

The magnificent CGP Grey has a new YouTube video out explaining what is a country?

A tweet I came across today that I thought I’d share.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Canada After Natural Resources

It has been a busy day in Canadian politics. It seemed big stories trumped each other one after another. The Alberta local elections, the suspension of the Senators, and then Senator Mike Duffy’s speech in the Senate this afternoon which kicked up a new firestorm. It made for a distracting day, that’s for sure.

It’s my policy not to discuss really recent news if I can resist. The scandals that continue to rock the Senate are too fresh for me to offer any meaningful insight. I do have a topic I want to write on though.

I had a conversation today with someone about the federal parties. I shared my preference and he shared his, and offered an explanation as to why. He cited the comments Tom Mulcair (NDP – Outremont, QC) made about the oil sands and proper pricing to include the pollution costs. The “Dutch disease” controversy, such as it was, gave this citizen a negative view of the NDP and he defended the West’s right to develop natural resources. Sadly for Ontario and Quebec he had the facts on his side that the natural resource sector was driving the Canadian economy.

The last point I couldn’t argue with. I have no intrinsic problem with the natural resources sector. Canada and her people should get whatever value we can out of our natural abundance. This is a particularly salient point here in the Northwest Territories. The entire economy of the NWT, as far as I can tell, is dependent upon the public sector and the natural resources industries. The shockingly obvious question is what happens to Canada when the market changes and these goods are no longer in such high demand, or, we run out. It’s as though our entire economy is predicated on very slow growing bubbles that no matter what we do are destined to pop.

It’s not as though we have not seen it before. Canada is littered with dead industry towns. The mine closed. The forestry moved on. The fishing quotas were imposed. The wells ran dry. I find it inexcusable that our entire economy should be driven towards industries that will ultimately cease to exist. I hate to sound like this type of lefty, but look at Europe, look at Japan. Japan has virtually no natural resources but has one of the world’s largest economies. Most of the European countries are also resource poor. Through a combination of manufacturing, and high services their economies are able to produce a very high standard of living. There is an asterisk there though, Norway has massive natural resource wealth from North Sea development.

I have not seen any obvious solutions. I am confident if there were any we would have heard them clearly articulated by now. It seems to me the big cities of Alberta have recognized that while the natural resources sector is very profitable it too may be fleeting. Therefore they have elected mayors who have promised to invest in their cities to improve the quality of life and turn natural resource wealth into a sustainable service and knowledge economy when it fades away.

In closing, I support the careful development of natural resources and stewarding them for the benefit of Canadians, but I would like to see some long-term thinking about what our country might look like when these resources are extinguished. Trying to predict and plan the economy is fraught with disaster, but more consideration for our ultimate destination is required at this juncture. We’re lucky that while our leaders in Ottawa preside over disaster some promising civic leaders are showing what can be.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Worth Reading – October 17, 2013

A few minutes ago I arrived back in Fort Smith from a brief trip to Yellowknife, the territory’s capital. I was there on a schedule so I did not get to do a lot of exploring, not to mention I was without a car so I traveled to most of my destinations by foot. Yellowknife is a city of about 20,000 people, which means roughly half of the people in NWT live there. The first thing that is apparent is that Yellowknife has a standard of living and quality of life very similar to cities in the south. The hotel I stayed at was beside a Tim Horton’s, a Mark’s Work Warehouse and a Wal-Mart. All the comforts of southern consumerism at my fingertips! I could have been in any small city in Ontario in the winter. It was -2 when I got off the plane. I also ate at a Vietnamese restaurant last night, which is not something I’m sure most readers from south of 60 think they can do here.

Here is a somewhat truncated list of what I thought was cool that I read this week.

I have been working on my own fiction this week, and it helps me to hear what other creative people are doing. Listening to a podcast someone mentioned this blog post. In it the author speculates what sort of minimum population you need to sustain modern life with all the amenities and services. It’s not at all scientific, but it is fascinating to think about the complexity and interconnectness of modern life.

In Tuesday’s post I referenced mega-projects and how the public is much more hesitant of ambitious government plans. The Atlantic Cities defends mega-projects here

Kady O’Malley, legendary Canadian politics tweeter/reporter, writes on some of the... issues with the Conservative response to a judge’s ruling on robocalls

This isn’t exactly timely, but it definitely is interesting. It is fascinating how different the political cultures of Quebec and English Canada are. The Charter of Values is a perfect encapsulation of this. Here is an explanation for how the Charter makes sense in Quebec

I’m not sure of the long-term impact of this, but on the face of it, I am very excited about the federal Tory’s plan to let Canadians pick and pay for individual channels. Let the revolution begin!

Jonathan Kay looks at the chaos in Washington D.C. and argues that perhaps it is a good thing so many backbenchers are spineless worms. Ok, that was strong... can’t say I want to edit it though...

In the crazy-Northern-story file, a man in the Yukon may have shot the largest moose EVER

This came to me courtesy of a friend on Facebook, ironically enough. It is about annoying Facebook statuses. Normally I wouldn’t post something like this, but increasingly I think a conversation will develop around social media/digital etiquette. Frankly, I cannot wait.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bring in the Technocrats

On June 11th of this year I wrote a piece called the “Failure of Leadership” where I highlighted the intense failures of government at all three levels in my home region, province and country. Having strong opinions on matters it is not difficult to feel disappointed in our elected leaders, but I expect that. I feel as though I can separate my partisan and political differences and appreciate good governance when I see it. When I look at jurisdictions around the continent it seems like people, above all else, desire competence over ideology.

Let’s begin with the looming American elephant. For over a decade now it appears that the governing class of the United States is incapable of running the country it is sworn to serve. I should be more specific, the federal government. The articles I routinely read about successful mayors and governors in the United States definitely offers hope. Sadly these leaders operate with the hindrance, not support of their federal peers. It is a popular tact for other orders of government to beat up on each other, it also makes for fine politics, but it seems remarkably true. Mayors struggle to build their cities into globally competitive, attractive locations because of antiquated federal government policies around transit, or economic policies that hurt cities.

The American deficit/budget crisis is really not that complicated a problem. A combination of spending cuts and tax increases will be required to counter severe budget problems in the long-term. Many moderate, sensible political observers note this with great regularity, but the American ruling class exists in a political climate where it is unprofitable to take such actions. A “cuts only” tact that the Republican want to take might work, if they agreed to return to the early twentieth century roots and dramatically slash military spending. Democrats could delay cuts to social programs if they were willing to propose bold measures like a national sales tax.

This is not the reality the United States finds itself in. Therefore instead of measured, thoughtful compromise, or long-term plan, the Americans are dealing with a shut down government.

Things are not much better here in Canada. Because I am a sucker for punishment I have been following the grueling saga over the Scarborough subway/LRT. While I write about transit a lot, and it is a passion of mine, I am not an expert. However, people who are considered experts say that Scarborough would be best served by light rail. However, because of politicking by provincial parties, the Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) and calamitous input from Toronto City Hall, a subway will be built (possibly). The proposed subway will serve less people, cost more money and take longer to build. Subways make for better politics and so there we are.

I imagine a great many people in the United States are very tired of their democratic government at the moment. It appears that our elected officials that supposedly speak for us increasingly represent narrow interests that unsurprisingly also serve themselves. If elected leaders are bad can anyone besides the voters be blamed? Perhaps it’s because politicians are ever only speaking to the ~50% who vote, or the under 25% who are paying attention (or will ever vote for them) at a given moment, but it certainly seems like we are getting less effective government.

In my moments of hopelessness I wonder if the public would be happier being served by technocrats. If the faceless bureaucrats, experts and intelligentsia just made decisions, accepted public feedback but never had to worry about elections would people be happier with government? If that were the case Toronto would probably have several fold more transit than it does today, and the United States would pass a budget annually, of that I am fairly confident.

During the heights of the Great Recession, when the West was feeling down on itself, eyes turned to countries like China that were accomplishing amazing things and using the economic crisis to spur recovery with incredibly projects. It helps that China is a totalitarian regime. We don't do many mega-projects like that anymore. The public won’t stand for them. As is oft quoted, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Is it citizens who are tired of democracy, and now politicians answer to the small number, such as myself, who are paying attention? The argument goes that public policy is too complicated to be carried out in mass media. Does a vote for one party in preference from another send any clear message? I think not.

I may be overly cynical at present as representative democratic governments from coast to coast to coast struggle. Competency, effective, predictable governance is critical to twenty-first century life and I worry how much the public at large cares about voting/participating to make it happen. If they don’t, well, bring in the technocrats. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worth Reading – October, 10, 2013

Francis Fukuyama wrote this week on the American government shutdown. Fukuyama, famous for his book The End of History points to the American constitution as the cause of the crisis.

On the other hand, Alison Loat of Samara Canada writes why a shutdown like the one in the U.S. is virtually impossible here in Canada. It’s a real “nuts and bolts” piece about comparing constitutions and how our system works (or doesn’t).

TVO’s Steve Paikin handicaps the race for Toronto’s mayoralty, and raises the question whether or not John Tory should seek the job. Paikin offers some interesting point, but I have serious doubts a candidate like Tory could cut through the noise of the 2014 election.

The Toronto Star had an editorial supporting a ranked ballot for the next mayoral election. This is an issue I have been thinking about a lot up here in the NWT because territorial elections mirror Ontario’s municipal elections.

The final boundaries for Ontario (and I believe the rest of Canada) are in. The maps and reports are available here. I haven’t had time to nerdily pour over every detail, but this definitely will shift our political landscape.

Devolution is a big story in the Canadian North. Devolution means the transfer of powers, authorities and responsibilities from the federal government down to the territories. This story from the CBC suggests that devolution may boost employment

The Cook Political Report offers a fascinating case study and analysis of the American political system.  It uses the example of the North Carolina 11th Congressional District to illustrate a serious issue. A conservative Democrat was redistricted out and replaced by a moneyed Republican who is much more conservative. Many of the Republican congressmen are inexperienced politicians due to similar trends.

I have dozens of links in my “Worth Reading List”. Hopefully the long weekend gives me time to read and purge them. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe

Over the summer I finally put aside some time and read Taras Grescoe’s Straphanger (2012). I say finally because it sat on my shelf for about a year while I spent my reading hours with my latest science fiction obsession or fantasy rabbit hole. Straphanger is neither of those things, which is why a review of it belongs on this blog.

Straphanger (Photo from Now Toronto)

Taras Grescoe begins with a simple premise, he is a straphanger, as are millions (or perhaps billions?) of others around the world. "Straphanger" refers to those who grip the plastic, metal, polymer or cloth ties hanging from bars or ceilings of our public transit vehicles and offer a huge number of people an affordable and effective way to move around our cities and regions. Grescoe explores the intersection of urban form, transportation and quality of life by visiting fourteen cities and offering case studies on public transit. Infused through the text is the argument that well-operated, well-considered transit can have tremendous social benefits to those it serves.

Grescoe’s quest is to find which city is doing transit the most effectively, and where the future of our urban environments might be going (or where we should be pushing them). It’s a remarkable survey of how the denizens of many of the great cities live their lives. The list includes places you’d expect: New York, Tokyo, Paris, Copenhagen, and Shanghai; and places that are perhaps less likely: Moscow, Montreal, Phoenix and Los Angeles are also held up, sometimes what to do and what to avoid.

Grescoe’s best work in the book is connecting urban form to transit and the emotional, social and romantic feelings associated with urban life. I have read drier texts about cities and transportation systems, Grescoe uses evocative writing and fascinating anecdotes from travel in these cities from the people who live there to bring the reader in. Perhaps it is because I myself have lived as a commuter that I can imagine the relative peaceful modernity of Los Angeles’ system, or that I have been squeezed into a subway car in Toronto, so the busyness of Moscow or Bogata’s transit systems are objectively imaginable. Everywhere Grescoe writes about it is clear that the landscape of the city is shaped by the transit system in use. Tokyo is a product of being built on rail networks, Phoenix the private automobile, and Copenhagen, now, the bicycle.

My biggest issue with the book as a whole is that Mr. Grescoe is clearly a trainophile or railfan. He loves trains. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, because my own bias causes me to favour them over the private automobile as well. However, he does emphasize them over other forms of transit, and in particular the bus. I found this particularly irritating given the position I have taken on this blog supporting bus transit and bus rapid transit. To be fair, Grescoe is not maligning buses, merely they come second in his preference for mass transit options, which is understandable in dense urban environments. I compiled a list of references to support this bias, but I feel now it would be ridiculous to highlight them. He does offer space to critics of transit in the book, and they are treated with sincere consideration. Their arguments though are picked apart, and with the possible exception of the Bus Riders’ Union of Los Angeles, their arguments are respectfully presented.

Three of the chapters focus on Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (though it shares its chapter with Portland, Oregon). This book offered an amazing insight into Toronto’s transit history, which I had not truly delved into. Grescoe, for interest's sake, lays the blame of Toronto’s transit stasis and the election of Mayor Rob Ford on amalgamation, which has greatly hindered development in Toronto.

As much as Grescoe’s book is a love letter to transit it is also a sonnet to human-scaled cities. His thesis is that the urban fabric should support human activities and the not automobiles. He makes a compelling case with fascinating stories of normal people around the world who live in their cities off transit. Straphanger definitely feels like a book where individuals find the environment that suits them, whether that means moving to a new country, city, or simply changing neighbourhoods to find the quality of life the desire. However, it definitely holds that cities’ transit systems come from the bones of their history. No system can be applied universally, instead the existing environment must find a transit system that matches it. An enjoyable read and definitely worth checking out if these topics interest you.

I hope you have enjoyed this book review. If you would like to see more reviews in the future please let me know as I have debated making this a semi-regular feature. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Worth Reading – October 3, 2013

Now that I am living a grown-up life I find it much tougher to keep up with the news. I monitor the news for my job, but that most means northern papers and education stories I dig up. Regardless, I end up with a giant pile of links, and not much time to read them.

Speaking of work, the school board I work for worked with the Government of NWT and Aurora College to host the annual Trades Awareness Program. Here is a newspaper piece on it.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of the biggest video games. It has a reach into popular culture more than the vast majority of its peers in the media. The New Yorker asked how evil games should allow us to be in response from some of the content from GTA V. It’s an interesting question given the interactive nature of video games as opposed to say film.

Stats can announced that Canadian population has exceeded 35 million people

Here is some Northwest Territories content. The GNWT has to wrestle with a big budget question. It is a problem few places on the continent have to deal with.

Former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has a book about his experiences in democracy, in particular losing in politics. TheToronto Star ran an excerpt of his work. It appears to be a highly sincere and emotional examination of politics and political life in this country. I’ll probably end up putting it on my Christmas list.

Infrastructure may be one of our most important public policy areas that you cannot get anyone excited about. The Globe and Mail offers four ideas to make Canada a better place through infrastructure

Despite all the talk about the Scarborough subway the National Post says that the real issue is Toronto’s Downtown Relief Line. This is particularly true given that the Scarborough extension will likely add to the burden on the Yonge line.

Back home in Brampton, Ontario the construction/renovation of city hall is causing quite a bit of controversy. This has led to one city councillor to refer to the project as a “fiasco”. I’m glad to see my home hasn’t changed much in the intervening weeks.

As was true with the Dalton McGuinty’s prorogation of the legislature and scandalous avoidance of accountability, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) style of governing has also spread to Quebec. I appreciate a modest amount of irony in all of this.

I’m not sure how far to trust this, but apparently the Scarborough subway plan will be determined by the City of Toronto after securing funding from the federal and provincial governments.  If this actually an intended, coordinated strategy it would have been quite  a coup for Ford and his allies.

Greg Weston of CBC asks incredulously whether or not it is believable that the ever evolving Senate scandal left no paper trail

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Politics in the North: Initial Impressions

Formal word is in, the Orange Tory blog is back in business. I am permitted to continue this project with the blessing of my employers, and certain reasonable restrictions.

Normally in my day-to-day encounters I do not talk to people about politics. It is my experience that it is wise to avoid discussing politics unless specifically invited to. Indeed, knowing me I could talk politics all day, so it is best if I keep silent until invited to express an opinion. However, when I do have conversations with the people I meet I try to get a sense of the political community I live in. I have come up with a few broad generalizations. I have no idea if it is supported by evidence, but these are some observations.

Like elsewhere in Canada, people up here are not particularly interested in formal party politics. I do not hear much mention of Prime Minister Harper (CPC – Calgary Southwest, AB) or Tom Mulcair (NDP – Outremont, QC) or Justin Trudeau (LPC – Papineau, QC). When news of the day is brought up people seem quite well informed. People tend to read the newspapers in the area and perhaps are better informed than peers elsewhere. I wonder if this is product of living in small towns.

Another observation I have made is that, while people may not be interested in formal politics, there is a great deal of passion about their communities. Citizens may not be fully aware that they are having “political” conversations, but they are definitely sharing ideas about policy at the local, territorial and federal level. Given the strong role of government in daily life here it makes sense that the communities are more aware of how their lives are impacted. Residents care about the fate of their hamlets/towns/cities. I wonder if this is an example of political cultures of small towns. Boosterism and pride are definite contributors to this. I’ve seen those factors in my hometown, but they seem much more widespread. Perhaps the fact that a place like Fort Smith and Hay River are so distant they must develop distinct identities and roles.

As for territorial politics. I must admit that I have a hard time understanding this aspect of my new home. In case you are unaware the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories is non-partisan. That means nineteen MLAs are elected without party affiliation. However, much like city politics back in Ontario that does not mean that people don’t understand their party affiliation. There are a lot of factions within the territory that do not easily break into right- and left-wing. In principle the government works by consensus, and the Premier has to build a cabinet from a small group of people that may not agree on every issue. Personality matters a lot here, but it definitely seems like politicians would have a hard time getting a big head here. They mingle in their communities with residents, and cannot hide from the public as other public officials do. They are also well-known, so they aren’t anonymous.

The trouble is that learning about politics here is a matter of learning the back story of individuals and political alliances, as opposed to a simple breakdown of ideology. It is definitely admirable, but makes it a bit daunting to tackle at first. Despite what I said about citizen interest, voter turnout here is worse than back in Ontario. In 2011 only 47% of residents voted for their MLA.

There are a lot of interesting and pressing issues here in the Northwest Territories that I hope to expand on in the future, but I will save that for a later post.