Thursday, September 26, 2013

Worth Reading – September 26, 2013

Here are nine articles that have recently caught my attention.

I do not at all agree with the headline of this article. Maybe one day it’ll be borne out to be true, but in the interim it seems silly and counterproductive. From Probe International, smart roads could make mass transit obsolete. Pfft.

Still on transit, Atlantic Cities showcases the future of buses. Yes, I know buses aren’t cool, but I like transit stories.

Last transit article for the week, promise. An article explores the idea of fareless bus transit and the impact it might have on London, England. 

Fact: The British Columbia Legislature sits 36 of 579 days. How healthy is our democracy?

Another story of the central party and leadership interfering with a nomination contest. Diana Burke of Toronto is charging that irregularities blocked her from winning the nomination in Toronto Centre’s Liberal nomination. 

The National Post’s Steve Murray satirizes the Quebec Values Charter with other things that may be banned under its proscriptions

A reality check to parliamentary democracy romantics like me, Stephen Harper may be a control freak, but it is very unlikely that Prime Minister Trudeau or Prime Minister Mulcair would be substantially different. 

Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star highlights how the bungling of the subway portfolio will only cost Ontarians more money, and more time and leave the GTHA with poorer transit in the interim. 

Interesting article, and definitely applicable to my life experience and current home. Children with a more diverse circle of friends feel safer in life

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Getting Back to the Issues

I have been living in the Northwest Territories for over a month now, though that is sometimes a little difficult to believe. It is one of those things where it still feels distinctly strange and foreign to me, but I think of my apartment as home and increasingly think of my colleagues as an “us” or “we”, if you take my meaning.

The biggest hurdle to adapting to life in my adopted home is small town life. Why do businesses close at 5? It seems like if I want to do anything I have to take time off work to do it. It is my biggest objection at this time, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it after a while.

As for my blog, I think I can begin writing again on my usual topics. The official word from HR and my superior seems to indicate that with reasonable judgement I should be able to continue this project. There will be certain restrictions, of course. For the sake of my own professionalism I will not be commenting on education issues in the Northwest Territories (or most other places). The risk of conflict is simply too high. As for life in the Northwest Territories I hope to write about it, but I will be extra mindful of how my writing may be interpreted. You may have noticed the new disclaimer section of the blog. That should make it clear that this is entirely separate from my employer and the content is solely my responsibility.

I miss writing about politics, and I am worried I’m terribly rusty. Perhaps I’ll ease back into it with a piece I have been putting off for a few months. For those of you who have been checking in with my blog for personal accounts of my life in the North, I may try to work out a plan to continue that. However, most of my time is spent at work or in schools, and I cannot discuss those publicly in this forum, or share the photos I get.

So, The Orange Tory blog should return to form next Tuesday. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Worth Reading - September 19, 2013

Since I did not write a Worth Reading last week I have amassed a staggering amount of content to share. I probably have over fifty links to sift through to see if I have anything good. Let’s see what I can find.

The Toronto Star is reporting about Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Tim Hudak’s (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) difficulties in winning the premiership of Ontario . A strategist offers advice for Mr. Hudak, but I’m not sure much of it is useful or not blatantly obvious.

From The Atlantic Cities, why is voter turnout so pathetically low in local/municipal elections? I like some of the ideas here, and explanations. Definitely worth checking out.

Interesting piece in the National Post. Tom Mulcair (NDP – Outremont, QC) has been shifting his fire towards the Liberals attempting to bring down Justin Trudeau’s (LPC – Papineau, QC) numbers. Mulcair’s main attack is that Trudeau is all style and no substance.

Kelly McParland, also from the Post, has a pretty funny discussion about the types of questions Justin Trudeau is willing to answer.

While not at all surprising in a minority legislature, it looks like Premier Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) is readying for an election.

This Slate piece is about an experiment called “40 Days of Dating”. In it two friends agree to date. They had never had an outward expression of desire for each other, but they agreed to try and document their experience. The results are fascinating.

An editorial from the Toronto Star calls the proposed Scarborough subway plan a costly bungle. 

An intern’s death in Alberta is leading to loud calls for reform. 

In the National Post Dylan Jones argues that the obsession with Senate reform in Canada is a costly distraction from other, more effective reform that is much more attainable. 

More trouble for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. A prominent PCPO shadow cabinet member has been booted out after discrepancies in his accounts. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On the Shores of the Great Slave Lake

Last week I didn’t post anything for Worth Reading. Part of the explanation for that was because until very recently I did not have home internet. That has, thankfully, changed. The other reason I did not post anything was because I was out of town. On Thursday morning I boarded a small Cessna four-seater prop plane and flew with one of my bosses and a guest speaker to the community of Lutsel K’e.

Myself, standing beside our plane. 

The school board hired a guest speaker, Terry Small, to speak in all of the communities in the region. Small’s talks mostly focus on the human brain, how it works and how we can use how it works to better our learning and understanding. It sounds remarkably straightforward, but most of us don’t really think about it and how locked in many of us are to a certain way of thinking.
The Slave River flying out of Fort Smith.

Back to the trip. Lutsel K’e is the smallest community within the region and also the most difficult to get to. Unlike all the other centres and schools it is inaccessible by car. You can only get to the community by boat or by plane. I imagine it would take an awfully long time by boat/barge so plane is the only real option. The plane was tiny, definitely the smallest one I have ever seen in person. I am not normally a nervous flyer, and the flight was remarkably smooth. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, so I’m sure that helped.

Lutsel K'e appears on a peninsula from the aircraft. 
Lutsel K’e, sitting on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, reminded me a great deal of smaller communities in Newfoundland. The architecture, the way of life is not entirely dissimilar to the ones I saw a few weeks ago on vacation. Perhaps Labrador is a better parallel, but I have never been there. The smell was wrong though. Lakes do not offer the same rich smells of the ocean.

Lutsel K'e.

Lutsel K’e Dene School was very different from the schools I was taught in, and where I taught. The school only has a few dozen students. All the classes, as near as I can tell, are multi-year classes. The school is a critical part of community life. At the end of the day parents and family members zoomed to the school in ATVs and picked up their little ones.

Growing up in a city with a half a million people makes these experiences somewhat of a shock. Given that my family comes from Newfoundland I have a certain inoculation to these experiences and some familiarity and fondness for an otherwise alien way of life. There is something amazing about living on the shores of one of the largest fresh bodies of water in the world, surrounded by a vast, untamed wilderness. My brief visit to Lutsel K’e did not offer me any particular insights into what it is like to live there, but I am glad I got the chance to visit.
The vast Northwest Territories, filled with lakes, rivers and forests.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TVO's Millennial Series and Life in NWT

The last few days have felt like summer here in Fort Smith. A "heat wave" kept temperatures in the mid-twenties, but that has come to a screeching halt and it is now rather cool and rainy at the moment. As terrifying as the prospect is, snow is only a few weeks away here in Fort Smith. I imagine the first flakes have fallen up on the Arctic Ocean. Soon as September comes it is as though a switch gets thrown.

This week TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin is featuring a series called, "Dude, where's my future?" The series is about the problem that millennials are facing in the present economy, which has been ongoing for about six years now. Last night they featured a panel of twenty-somethings who are struggling in the economy and trying to eke their way ahead with more education or trying to find more experience.

For anyone familiar with me I, my story is similar to many of the people on the show. You can watch the broadcast here. Most of my friends know it too. However, watching the show I felt meddlesome so I offered to write a piece in response to the episode. The Agenda's producers agreed to post it, and it is available here. It's a tough environment and there are no simple answers, but given my recent change from "typical underemployed millennial" to a person with a stable job that I could chip in. I would highly recommend tuning in to the rest of the series this week.

In Northwest Territories news, it looks like I will be travelling to Lutsel K'e later this week. Lutsel K'e is the smallest community served by the South Slave Divisional Education Council. I hope the weather clears, I hear it is quite beautiful there.

That's it for now, my blog should be back to normal (fingers crossed) this time next week.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Worth Reading - September 5, 2013

I am writing this week's Worth Reading during my lunch hour. This puts some difficult constraints on me, but I think I should be able to finish in the time I have allotted to myself.

From the "That's crazy..." file, pictures of ghost towns in China. These are a bizarre combination of abandoned communities and settlements that simply failed to live up to their intention. It definitely gives off an apocalyptic vibe.

From the Globe and Mail, a political scientist has advanced the idea that the United States would have ended up in a war against Saddam Hussein even if Al Gore was elected president in 2000. Obviously a bold theory, but the way the author lays out the theory makes a compelling case. As a historian I like the idea that there are forces greater than any individual, even if he/she is the President.

The attitude people have towards renting and renters could use a serious adjustment. The Atlantic Cities has a great post this week about renters in suburban neighbourhoods. Emily Badger posits that landlords are definitely allowed off the hook for many of negative feelings surrounding rented properties.

New Geography is featuring an article from Forbes about the seven nations and three city-states of the United States and what we can expect in the future for each of them. As with many American trends, it parallels Canada quite interestingly. The boom in Western Canada and the relative stagnation in Central and Eastern Canada have analogues in the U.S.

This New York Times piece is deep-in-the-weeds-nerdy on the political nerd scale. It ponders the question 'how stable is the current Democratic coalition?'

The Ontario government has announce its plan for a Scarborough subway. It was mishandled, to put it politely. Transit commentator Steve Munro offers his thoughts on this policy at the Torontoist.

Finally, my employer, the South Slave Divisional Education Council held an annual conference and recognized the outstanding work and achievement of its teachers and partners. Part of my job was connecting the media to it, and here is the Northern Journal's article on the event.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Moving After the Move

I spent the entirety of this Labour Day long-weekend moving into my new apartment in Fort Smith. On Friday and Saturday I tied up loose ends at the hotel I was staying at and then on Sunday I moved in, along with the moving company delivering all of my worldly goods from storage elsewhere in town.

The moving company quickly dropped everything off into my two-bedroom unit and left me to my own devices. The unfortunate part is that my landlord did not have time to remove the furniture that was here before I arrived. He gave me an option to have it furnished or unfurnished. I chose the latter because my family and I decided to maximize the use of the truck the Government of the Northwest Territories provided. The way my apartment is set up one could move in with his/her clothes and be okay.

Needless to say the initial phases are and will be quite cluttered. The most obvious point is the couch sitting in my hallway, because there is really no where to put it. Luckily I managed to square most of it away pretty easily.

In case I failed to mention in my last post, autumn is definitely here in the Northwest Territories. By the technical definition autumn arrives the same time everywhere, but the weather has shifted and conditions are beginning to change. When I arrived in mid-August the cool summer Ontario and Fort Smith were having were basically identical. Since that time the leaves have begun to change, and the weekly forecast includes highs between 16 and 26 and lows between 2 and 12 degrees Celsius. My phone indicates that it is 8 degrees out at the moment and going down to about 1. The walk to work should be fun. It is pretty common for the morning to start off in the low teens or single digits and reach the twenties in the afternoon. It makes it hard to dress accordingly.

Today is also the first day of school. I am sure the process is basically the same here as it is elsewhere in Canada. As I’ve said to friends, how normal life is here has surprised me. It isn’t so different in Fort Smith than any other place I’ve been. I may begin to sing a different tune when winter arrives in November, but this is a far less alien place than I anticipated at first.

One thing I have already noticed is the prominence of a few personalities. If you’ve ever watched a TV show set in a small town it seems like a dozen or so people own everything, hold all the influential positions, and know everybody. While I’m still getting acquainted with the community I have already met about six people who fit that bill. For example, one of my hoteliers was the mayor for 15 years. In Hay River the MLA owns a whole bunch of the local businesses. Suddenly I can ease off on those shows for authenticity rather than weak writing, but only a little.

Sadly, the worst part of the move is the end of my internet access until the provider hooks me up (and the room service). I’ll do my best to keep posting until I get set up. Also, I hope to have a final answer about the future of my blog from HR this week. Fingers crossed.