Sunday, 28 February 2016

Kuala Lumpur

We didn't get off the train at Kuala Lumpur.

"I thought about it," said my husband. "Maybe if we had got off the train at Kuala Lumpur, they would have figured out what was wrong with me."

The Kuala Lumpur train station was cool, I remembered. One of the many interesting sites I had seen from my train window on the journey from Penang to Singapore those many years ago. A lone man in a dugout canoe fishing in the mist. Miles of jungle. A journey where my husband slept and I ate a kilo of cashews and read A Tale of Two Cities. My husband had contracted malaria in Burma which was diagnosed in Phuket on Christmas Day. After he recovered somewhat, we made our way to Singapore and then possibly Australia via Penang. In Australia, I hoped, we could park ourselves in cheap hotel in Cairns and he could relax, lie on the beach, eat seafood, snorkel and gain weight. He could enjoy the benefits of western medicine. 

But instead he got sicker. A couple of trips to the hospital in Singapore. A return to Edmonton where an internal parasite was discovered. He got better. We resumed our journey with a trip to England in February. It was freezing, expensive and dull. We flew to Africa. A car accident. A return to Canada. A job far north. Babies who turned into kids who turned into adults. We have still not seen Kuala Lumpur or Cairns.  But a life. A life in a place we never thought of. Where we now walked along the frozen shore of Lesser Slave Lake with our dogs as we talked about our friends John and Janine currently in Kuala Lumpur.

"If we got off the train in Kuala Lumpur, " he said. "We wouldn't have had all of this." 

All that came after.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Guide to Alberta Politics:Political Parties in Alberta

As I mentioned in Part One of this guide, political parties play a major role in provincial politics.

Political Parties

Political parties are groups of citizens who share similar views about how the government and the economy should work. They develop platforms and policies and run candidates in elections based on their ideologies- ideas based on values and beliefs about the nature of human beings and the subsequent role the government should play in the lives of citizens. In Canada and most democratic nations in the world the government plays an important but not overpowering role. 

Ideologies are often put on what is called the "political spectrum" which goes from left to right, although they can also be placed on a grid which is probably more accurate.

Thanks to Calgary Social Studies teacher Kevin Gilchrist!

There are a couple of good websites that might help you determine where you fall on the political spectrum.  The Political Compass is one. Vote Compass is more Canadian.

There are nine registered political parties in Alberta. Five of them hold seats in the legislature. On the left is the New Democratic Party, more towards the middle are the Liberals and Alberta Party and on the right are the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose. With no seat in the legislature and less than one percent of the popular vote, the Green Party is somewhat to the left of centre with a strong environmental platform. 

Each party has its own constitution, by-laws, elected executive and leader. 

Constituency Associations

Parties also have constituency associations, groups of party members who recruit members, campaign for the party during an election, conduct fundraising activities and participate in decision making in a number of ways. Each constituency association must be registered with Elections Alberta and file financial statements. It has an executive elected by members in good standing. 

Nomination of Candidates Constituency associations nominate and elect candidates to run in provincial elections through a democratic process. Each party has its own rules about how this process takes place. On occasion the provincial executive may intervene in the nomination process-perhaps at their peril.

Membership Albertans can join political parties by paying a membership fee which varies from party to party. It is understood that when people join a party, they do so because they believe in the platform of the party although in fact people may join in order to influence policy or elect the leader or select a candidate to run for election. People may not join the New Democratic Party if they belong to any other party. Memberships may be revoked by the party for a variety of reasons although this is not common.

Conventions All parties hold regular conventions in which the members hear reports, present resolutions, vote on policy, elect officers and conduct leadership reviews. Generally, all members can attend conventions as observers but only certain delegates can vote. The process by which delegates are selected varies from party to party.

Leadership Every party has a leader who is elected by members in good standing at a leadership convention. Some parties hold leadership reviews during their conventions.If a leader loses the confidence of the party, he or she will resign and an election for leader will be called. Candidates for leadership must be members of the party. Generally, members in good standing may vote for the leader although there may be a time requirement as to when the membership was purchased depending on the party.

Forming a Political Party

You can form your own political party if you can come up with a petition signed by 8,351 eligible voters. Write to the Chief Electoral Officer at the following address:

Elections AlbertaAttn: Chief Electoral OfficerSuite 100, 11510 Kingsway NWEdmonton, AB T5G 2Y5

Monday, 8 February 2016

grace of God

6 a.m. I hear a noise. It's in the house. Something falling. Then a door closing. I slide my foot over.

My husband is asleep beside me. My sleepy mental inventory reminds me the only people who should be in my house right now are right in this room, in this bed.

"Get up!" I say. "There's someone in the house!"

"Are you sure?" He says. Then we hear another door close. No movement from the dogs. Into the hall. The door to my office and my son's door are uncharacteristically closed. I open the office door. Something isn't right but I don't know what. I wonder if my son came home unexpectedly from university. I call his name. Nothing. I open his door and turn on the light. A boy is in his bed.

Not him.

I think about my nephew who is having problems in a city far away. I wonder if it's him- he has the same colour of hair.

"Hey, buddy, get up! What are you doing in our house? We shake his foot. He moves a bit. A total stranger. "I'm sleeping," he says. "Why are you bothering me?"

"You're in the wrong house. You have to go home."

"Who are you?" My husband asks.

He looks to be about 13. "Where do you live?'  He's out of it but he's able tell us a name and a street number nearby. The dog finally wakes up and jumps on the bed. The kid pushes her away and then goes back to sleep.

I go back to the office. His clothes are lying in a heap, soaking wet. It hasn't rained in days. Did he fall into the nearby creek? I check the pockets of his tear-away pants. I find a flashlight. No phone, no ID. Nothing.

I call the RCMP. "My goodness " says the dispatcher. "My goodness,' says the RCMP officer. "Is he violent? Does he need medical attention?"  "He's asleep," I say.

"We'll be right over," says the lady cop.

My husband makes coffee. We check all the doors and windows. All locked but the gate to the back yard is open. He must have come in through the usually dead-locked patio door, locking it behind him.

A male and female police officer arrive in separate cars. They ask if we want to press charges, we say no. He's a kid, after all.  "You're calm," the female says. We shrug. 

They enter the room.

"Buddy, you're in the house of people you don't even know," she says. Eventually  they get him up and dressed although he protests. As he starts moving, the male cop tells him he's under arrest. He gets agitated. "Under arrest? What for, tell me straight up, what for?" Something tells me this isn't his first encounter with authority.

Off they go.

People tell us this boy was lucky that it was our house he broke into. 

They are grateful no one was hurt. 

I wonder, if we lived in a nation with a gun culture, how things might have ended. 

I think how lucky I am to live in a community where the police are readily available and treat people with respect. 

Most of all I think what if that had been my child out lost and confused and inebriated and soaking wet in subzero temperatures, how would I want that to end?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

It is tough to be a teacher these days.

There are all these ludicrous claims and conspiracy theories out there. So much misinformation. People with mystical ideas about how things work. Nonetheless I try to power through. My husband tells me I can't correct everyone who is wrong. He asks me why I bother.

Last summer I engaged with a fellow on Facebook who insisted there was an International Citizens Court that had determined Canada would cease to be a nation in July of 2015. He insisted that if I just visited this website, I would have proof. I argued with him but what was the point? At the end of the day, he was still wrong. 

A couple weeks ago I read the judge's ruling in the case of "Meads vs Meads" in which the "vexatious litigant" believed he could prolong a court case and by implication refuse to pay child support by using such tactics as adding double colons in and around his name. Mr.Meads believed this would give him some sort of magical identity above the law. According to Judge John Rooke, people like Mr. Meads are given legal advice by fake lawyers (or "gurus" as he calls them) who get paid to advise their clients of untruths to "disrupt court operations and to attempt to frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations, and individuals”.  Meads did prolong his course case, but he didn't win his battle.

Then we have Mr. George Clark, "Albertans First" and the Alberta Plebiscite Warriors. 

Mr. Clark is of the belief that if he gets enough names on his petitions against Bill 6 and the carbon tax, he can force the government to call a plebiscite which would lead to the democratically elected Premier and her political party being thrown out of office. And if the Lieutenant Governor and the Premier refuse to accept these petitions, he will present them directly to the Queen. So what if he doesn't realize the Lieutenant Governor's role is apolitical and that Mrs. Mitchell- and the Queen- are unelected figureheads who are not in the business of overruling democratically elected governments. He can say what he likes. He'll still be wrong. 

Clark's supporters feel these measures will lead to someone else becoming premier. Someone who will change the global economy and increase the price of oil and bring full employment back to Alberta. Lately his movement seems to have lost momentum and he's resorted to photos of dead birds under wind turbines.

Clark claims he has a "team of lawyers" working on these petitions, I can't imagine any lawyer advising him that his strategies have any legal bearing. Perhaps he is working with one of Mr. Meads' gurus. Or perhaps tilting at windmills is what he does best.

It must be easier to blame a political party for our economic woes than recognizing we are powerless against the real issues of global oversupply, decreased demand and a worldwide economic slowdown. 

It must be easier to believe the provincial government's minor increase in corporate tax rates and personal tax rates for the wealthy and the "drama" surrounding the royalty review have driven investors away rather than admit that a provincial government can't control the price of a global commodity or acknowledging this is a problem with no simple solution. 

As a teacher, I know people like simple solutions. Don't we all?  But they aren't out there this time and what is the point of being willfully ignorant about reality?

Deliberately and repeatedly misinforming the public about measures they can take to throw the government out of office distracts us from creating real solutions. Suggesting the government and the thousands who voted for it are the "enemy" is a mistake. And I have to wonder if all this talk is about using people with limited knowledge and those have lost their jobs to gain political advantage. Not about dealing with the truth or finding what is best for the people.

Yes, people have a right to their ignorance. But how does that help? At the end of the day, like Meads and Clark and the guy who believes Canada isn't a country, these people are still wrong. The teacher in me wants to change that.

People are hurting in Alberta. Magical thinking and willful ignorance won't change that.