Science *Is* a Girl Thing, and Doesn’t Want (or Need) Your Pink!Lipstick!Sexyposing! Branding

The gender gap in science is the cause of much gnashing of teeth and the development of all sorts of programs and campaigns to reverse decades of insistent, persistent, and continuing “math and science = boy stuff = not girl stuff; stay away” messaging towards girls and women. Some of these efforts are great (like the day program for Grade Six girls run by the local supercomputers’ administration I volunteered at a few months ago), but some of them not only wildly miss the mark, but wind up reinforcing the notions they’re ostensibly battling against.

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101 (or so) Ways to Overhaul a Nation in One Easy Budget!

It’s budget voting time! The breath-takingly sweeping omnibus budget is currently being voted on, and the opposition parties have put forward hundreds and hundreds of amendments that all need to be voted on before the budget itself can be passed. Considering that this budget has enormous ramifications for everything from Old Age Security to environmental vetting processes, here’s a brief list of some of the most noteworthy clauses of the budget.

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Parliament Roundly Denounces Motion to Examine When Life Begins

Private members’ bills are a bit of a mixed bag in Canadian Parliament. Most of them are sensible business from the opposition parties, like calling for a national transit strategy (which is sorely needed), but it’s also the airing ground for bills from the fringes of the governing party. Last Thursday, Conservative MP for Kitchener-Centre Stephen Woodsworth’s bill calling on Parliament to form a committee to talk to experts about when, exactly, life begins.

Faaaaaaaaantastic.

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Alberta Votes, Will Almost Certainly Elect First Elected Female Premier

I live in Eastern Canada, and I’ll admit that I read a lot more news about Eastern Canadian politics than Western Canadian politics. But Alberta is having a provincial election shortly, and with both the Progressive Conservative party and the Wildrose Party headed by women, Alberta is almost certainly going to elect a woman for the first time.

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Finally, the NDP Has a Permanent Leader and Can Get On With Things

Okay, before I talk about the outcome of the NDP leadership race, I should say that the federal budget was released last week, and it’s predictably slashing funding left, right, and centre. Notable among the cuts are the CBC, Elections Canada, and the Chief Electoral Officer (the only officer of Parliament to have funding cut). I’ve not had time to read the whole thing, but from what I’ve heard, it’s regressive and generally terrible.

Anyhoo! Let’s talk about Thomas Mulcair.

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Québec Tuition Protests: Things Are Getting Ugly

For the past few months, Quebec university and CEGEP students have been protesting the Quebec government’s plan to increase university tuiton by $325 a year for the next five years. For the past few weeks, there’ve been protests almost daily in Montreal and Québec City. And this week, the protests will ramp up even more, in anticipation of the provincial budget, which is expected to be released today. More than 100,000 students across the province are on strike, either with a limited or unlimited mandate, and some classes have been suspended (especially at CEGEPs, where most of the students who’re on a unlimited strike are enrolled). There’ve been confrontations with the police (a student has lost an eye from shrapnel from a flash grenade police used to disperse a crowd), and things are generally tense.

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31,000 Complaints to Elections Canada Can’t All Be Wrong

So things’ve taken an interesting turn in the land of Canadian politics: the Conservatives have been accused of all-out election fraud, in the form of misleading phone calls directing voters to incorrect or non-existent polling stations, impersonating Elections Canada officials, and posing as Liberal or NDP staff while making harassing, annoying, or otherwise unwanted phone calls (ie, calling people in the middle of the night, calling people repeatedly, etc). The first two are illegal under the Canadian elections act, while the third is in murkier legal territory, it clearly falls under the category of Scumbag Tactics.

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#TellVicEverything: A Peculiarly Canadian Sort of Protest

I hate writing politics posts about specific bills, because invariably with this government they boil down to “augh, this is terrible, ineffective, and profoundly uncanadian, and I’m embarrassed that these yahoos are running our government,” which while accurate, doesn’t make for much of a read. So, new tack this week: let’s talk about the (hilarious) reactions to it, and see what that says about us as a nation. Continue reading

Should the Opposition Parties Collude To Try to Oust Harper in the Next Election?

Having the progressive political views that I do, I am on the mailing list of Lead Now, a non-partisan Canadian organization dedicated to building a better, more progressive government and democracy. I (and presumably everyone else on their list) got an email last week titled, “Maybe the most important question we’ll ever ask you,” and the question read:

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Roya Shams: Future Afghani Politician, If She Has Anything To Say About It

So the House hasn’t been sitting for quite a while now, and there’s not a lot of interesting hoopla going on in the vaunted halls of Parliament other than that bit about Gilles Duceppe paying a party manager out of House of Commons money, to which my sum reaction is, “Dude, that was astoundingly stupid, and also illegal.” However, there’s a remarkable story out of the Toronto Star this week, and it involves a pretty badass Afghani girl named Roya Shams who wants to become a politician in Afghanistan, once she has a law degree.

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Public Broadcasting Has Cultural Significance Beyond Hockey

Public broadcasting gets a bad rap in Canada. Shows produced by the CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for the non-Canadians) are often written off a boring dreck by the general viewing public. The CBC is generally acknowledged to do news, hockey, and some very specific stripes of comedy (ie, Rick Mercer) very well, but beyond that, in my opinion, it doesn’t have a lot of pan-Canada cultural clout.

Part of this is simply because that in the early days of radio and television, the CBC was the only national network, whereas now there are considerable numbers of competing networks and stations crowding the airwaves. Part of it is that the CBC operates on a comparatively shoestring budget and can’t put on the razzle-dazzle that for-profit media conglomerates can afford. That razzle-dazzle is what draws in eyes in a visually saturated cultural environment, so the CBC has become sort of the staid uncle of the airwaves: not exceedingly cool, but reliable, relatable, and while maybe you wouldn’t admit it to your friends, someone you like hanging out with.

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Crosspost: Today in Ill-Defined Questions: Is Marriage Relevant?

M’colleagues and I at Interrobangs Anonymous are big fans of Jian Ghomeshi, so it’s not at all meant as a snipe at him or his work in general when I say that I’m a bit disappointed in the debate he had on Q asking whether marriage is still a relevant institution. The debate was broadcast about two weeks ago, but I’ve spent the past bit traipsing around various parts of Canada for Christmas, so I’m just getting this all down in electrons now. The audio (~20 minutes) is at the link, and this post will probably make considerably more sense if you listen to it first.

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Sometimes you Just Need to Cuss Out the Environment Minister

I can empathize with Justin Trudeau. Sometimes government MPs say truly galling things, and sometimes all you can do is to let loose a cuss to let the steam out of your ears.

Last week, Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Accord, to no-one’s great surprise but everyone’s collective shame. Megan Leslie, the NDP’s environment critic, was taking Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, to task about his conduct at the Durban climate meeting (in which he, as always, did absolutely nothing useful and stalled and hindered much progress). Kent then starting railing about Leslie’s lack of attendance at Durban, saying that if she was so concerned about what went on, she should’ve been there herself. Continue reading