Thursday, October 6, 2011

What can be so hard about maintaining an accurate voters list?

Today was election day in Ontario and, as any good citizen should, I did my duty and cast my ballot.

But first I had to prove my identity and place of residence because I am still not on the permanent voters list for this riding, to which I moved in 2006.

In 2007 I voted in the provincial election and completed the form to have the register updated.

In 2008 and 2011 I voted in 2 federal elections, both times completing the form to have my information updated on the federal register, which also serves as a source for the provincial register.

In 2005, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, and ‘10, I filed income tax returns dutifully checking off the box asking for my information to be added to the permanent register.

On 9 (count ‘em – 9!) separate occasions I have provided this information so some useless bureaucracy (bureaucrat?) somewhere can do nothing with it. And I am not confident that the 10th attempt, completed today, will be any more successful.

So, Gazebo Tony, if you want to reduce the size of the civil service there’s a real good place to start.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ethical oil

Anyone following the latest news on the Keystone Project is aware of the heavy and very public resistance to the project in some parts of the US and Canada. To counter that resistance, the Canadian government and oil producers are advertising heavily in the US, touting the fact that Canadian oil is “ethical” and buying from Canada means the US isn’t shipping greenbacks overseas to support dictatorships, terrorism, social inequality, and so on.

It’s an interesting argument that’s gaining some traction in the US: buy from a democratic friend and you won’t have to deal with those other suppliers with questionable social standards and political objectives.

But there’s an interesting (and disturbing, if you’re a Canadian) twist to this argument.

According to Stats Canada, in 2009 Canada produced 5.4 million terajoules (890 million barrels*) of crude oil. Canada exported 3.1 million terajoules (519 million barrels) of oil, primarily to the US, and imported 1.8 million terajoules of crude oil (300 million barrels).

Oil stats

While Canada produces sufficient oil to more than meet its own energy requirements, our heavy export commitments to the US mean that Canada must also import oil to meet its own needs. Typically the imported oil is used in eastern Canada, while the US exports come from western Canada.

And where do we get the oil we import? Statistics Canada’s Energy Statistics Handbook lists our primary sources, in order: Algeria (18%),  Norway (15%), the United Kingdom (11.5%), Saudi Arabia (8.8%), Angola (5.4%), Nigeria (4.1%), Venezuela (4.1%), Iraq (3.2%), Mexico (2.8%), and Russia (2.3%).

Note Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Angola, Iraq, and Venezuela on the list. These are the very countries that we denounce in selling Canadian oil to the US markets, the countries that produce the “unethical oil” that we warn our American friends about, yet which constitute more than 40% of Canada’s foreign oil imports.

So in order to sell “ethical oil” to the American market, Canada imports “unethical oil” to meet its own needs. And, to my knowledge, not a single politician of any stripe, or at any level, has stood up to say there’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

* 1 terajoule is roughly the energy equivalent of 164 barrels of oil

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Conservative debating tactics

I recently entered into an online Facebook discussion over the recent Supreme Court Insite decision. This person (whom I don’t know personally - a friend of a friend) opened with “Promoting illegal drug use and the spread of disease ..... are you kidding me?” And it kind of went downhill from there. She claimed Insite was “giving them fixes” and eventually stated that “the police and the mayor are against these places” (which they aren’t, not in Vancouver at any rate).

Each time a patently false statement was repudiated she would come up with something else until, eventually running out of so-called “facts” to support her position, she reverted to the tried and true Conservative technique of when faced with a reasoned, rational response to go on the attack: “I gather you don’t believe in rehab.”

That totally missed the point, and intentionally so I suspect. This has been an effective technique, honed to a keen edge by the Harper Conservatives. If you question the economic and social impacts of tossing someone behind bars for several years for growing a few pot plants, you’re “soft on crime”. If you express concerns over Canada’s treatment of prisoners in a war zone you’re a “Taliban lover”. If you question Israeli government policy you’re an anti-Semite. In other words, when you no longer have an ethical, legal, or factual position go on the offensive, no matter how specious or irrelevant the counter argument.

Which probably explains why, whenever I get drawn into one of these facts versus ideology discussions, I think of this clip and the Black Knight, no longer with a leg to stand on (pun intended), finally resorting to simply name calling: “You yellow bastard.”