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Brazil, Austria and Switzerland, all have something in common. Yes, they are each countries in the western hemisphere. Two out of three are firmly within the group better known as “western democracies”, but they also share another characteristic. Each of these three countries all share some form of a lower voting age. Brazil allows 16 year olds to vote, and considers it mandatory for citizens over the age of 18 to vote. Switzerland has a voting age of 16 for some regional votes, and in Austria, the legal voting age is 16. Recently whilst in the midst of our own election campaign, the issue has arisen in our election discussions. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? There are many points for and against, and I will take a stab at a few of them here.
One of the first points made in defence of a lower voting age, is voter turnout. The Federal election in 1988, which was a big one, centred on the Free Trade discussion, 75% of voters turned out, giving Brian Mulroney a huge majority. Since then, we have not been over 70% voter turnout and had a low of 58% vote in 2008. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, won a minority government, with 37% of the votes cast, but 37% of 58% is a small number. So, one of the arguments for an earlier voting age, is to teach our youth to vote, and care about voting and how important it is, at an early age in order to create life long voters.
Another argument for the lowering, is based on the world we live in. With our interconnected world, information is at our fingertips, and our youth can educate themselves about the issues so much more efficiently than in years past. It is also argued, that with the changes in education over the last several decades, the growth of information, that our youth are ready. We give them motor bikes, and cars and snowmachines to drive at 16, but do not give them the opportunity to reflect upon those who are going to put policies in place, that in a few years, they will have to live with.
Retractors to the point, use the obvious arguments. The first, is usually that most 16 year olds are not knowledgeable enough to make an informed choice, and will vote either on a whim, or as a result of parental influence. To that, I ask, how many parents find they are able to influence their teens’ opinions on anything? But to the question of voting on a whim, I agree that may be the case, but what better way to learn about politics, than to vote on a “whim” or on one issue, only to find that representative or party let you down? Many would argue, and I agree, that this would be a lesson that would only increase participation in the political process.
There are many who constantly thrash democracy. “There is no one good to vote for”, or “they are all crooks”, and other somewhat populist thoughts and memes all over social media. The fact is, that is exactly what a democracy is. The alternative is not so good. Look at current authoritarian rulers, or historical ones, where democracy was eroded then obliterated. Are we really so badly off, extending voting rights to 16 year olds?
And, as a last thought, as parents, we are responsible for teaching our kids a lot things. Why not how to vote responsibly and teach them, that like anything else, if they do not use it, they seriously risk losing it.
So, I say open it up. I also believe that in our fractured world of multi-party elections, first past the post is arcane and we need proportional representation…..but that is for another day, and maybe, just maybe, our 16 and 17 year olds will demand it. Much like the old adage of “build it and they will come”, perhaps if we “give them the vote, they will use it”.
Please remember the election is on Monday, October 21st. Please vote and participate in a process that billions around the world, will never have the chance to.
As of late Thursday evening, the news has broken, that Andrew Scheer is a dual citizen, carrying both Canadian and American Citizenship. Andrew Scheer is campaigning to be Prime Minister. I will say first and foremost, that I am not opposed to dual citizenship. I am a son of an immigrant, and have been fortunate enough to travel some parts of the world. I consider myself a globalist and believe that small, narrow national views of citizenship are not positive for ourselves, or for the greater world.
That being said, if the Conservatives win a majority and Andrew Scheer becomes our Prime Minister, I have no issue whatsoever with his dual citizenship. However, I do have an issue with the hypocrisy and seemingly somewhat clandestine nature in which all of this came to light.
In 2005, Mr. Scheer was front and centre in criticizing Governor-General Michael Jean for having dual citizenship. Similarly, the Conservative party was quite boisterous in criticizing and using publicly, both Michael Ignatiev's time spent in the US as an academic and Stephane Dion's dual-citizensip as well.
At the end of the day, does it make a difference? Probably not, however, Andrew Scheer knew at the beginning of the election that he was a US citizen and had filed income tax returns in the US. He has begun the process to renounce his US citizenship, at the start of the election, however knowing how critical he was of his opponents who were also dual-citizens, and how he chose not to identify this in the campaign, it certainly raises some questions of honesty, integrity and transparency.
I do hope, when everyone votes, that they take into account the actions of all candidates, and that everyone gets out the vote!!!
Have a great weekend!!!!
Orange Shirt Day
Today, Monday, September 30, 2019 is Orange Shirt day. As there are a lot of days associated with different colour shirts, or ribbons, all intended to bring attention to a worthy cause, today we will explain a little bit about Orange Shirt Day.
In a nutshell, Orange Shirt day is a day to recognize the suffering of our First Nations’ People, as a result of the Residential School System in Canada. Wikipedia explains it as such:
Orange Shirt day is an event that started in 2013. It was designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. It is held annually on September 30 in Canadian communities with students and staff being encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school that day.
Many Canadians, especially before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, knew very little about the Residential School System and its affect on First nations in Canada. For generations, we have been quick to point out the inhumanity of the Nazi regime, the Communist regimes around the world, the Khmer Rouge, etc, but were woefully unaware of our own history of colonization and genocide.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was struck to bring to the front of our consciousness this tragedy in our history, and to set goals for moving forward with our First Nation communities in a partnership to continue to build this country. The Orange Shirt day is part of this process.
Why an Orange Shirt you ask? The base of the story comes from a survivor experience from Phyllis Jack Webstad, who on September 30th, was taken away from her parents and put in a residential school. She vividly remembered that on that day, she was wearing an orange shirt, and it was taken away from her, and this memory served as a reminder to her, of the attempted process of assimilation and cultural genocide. She recounted this story in 2013 and the Orange Shirt Day was born.
So, today, and many other days in the year, at school, we wear Orange. Not that wearing orange will undo the damage done in years past, but it will show that as a society we are committed to recognizing the damaging events of our past, and more importantly, that we will move forward to ensure our relationships move forward in a positive manner.
Below is a link to a Wikipedia article, as well as a link to The Truth and Reconciliation.
Fact, opinion and falsehood
Many things have changed since I was an undergraduate student at Western University in the early 90’s. For one, the internet! Not only did we create the largest compendium of human knowledge in the history of civilization, we created devices to allow us to check on it, if necessary, while fishing on a lake.
If, in 1991, I had envisioned this world, I would have been excited! As a novice “academic” who was learning the world of academia and how it operated, I would have been very interested in having access to a database of all of the world’s knowledge, in one simple place.
However, I am thinking about this in terms of the reality of the academic world in 1991, and the reality of the greater world. In 1991, knowledge, truth, facts and opinions were clearly delineated and they each resided in their own space and kept to their prospective spaces, for the most part.
The academic world, the world of universities and research and deep learning, were, and still are, to some degree institutions unto themselves, still in many ways, closed loops of learning. The process of being an academic has not changed. One works their way through a Bachelor degree and learns, and perhaps does a bit of research. However, by the time you arrive at the PhD level, you are creating new learning, and basing all of your assertions on hard data, hard analysis and if your statements and assertions are not provable, they are not considered fact. However, what is the most crucial aspect of this reality, in the academic world, is the judges of your assertions and your ability to prove them are your peers, who are similarly skilled and educated in those fields. They are experts. There are no hurt feelings in academia. There are no lovely platitudes of “you tried”, there is just cold, calculating examination of your assertions, and then either acceptance of all of your findings, some of them, or none of them. And if you fail miserably to convince your colleagues of your assertions, you go back to the drawing board and try again, with new data, new ideas and new proof. This, is the academic world, that produces the knowledge we accept in our society. A pHd candidate, can have his ideas flatly rejected and crushed by a colleague, and then go out for a drink with her moments later. The following day, he will get back at the data and work on proving his theories, or accepting that his assertions are simply not fact. There is nothing in between.
As an academic in the pre-internet age, this was the world you lived in, and if you were a non-academic or a person looking for fact, this is where you went. If you wanted a more recent analysis of the Russian Revolution, you went to a current historical journal and read current research and analysis done by experts. You may even purchase a recent book, or borrow it at the library. We knew where the facts were and we could be reasonably certain of them, because of the rigourous standards these assertions had to go through, or would go through once published, we could have certainty that they were accepted as being truthful and fact. It almost reminds me of the old toothpaste commercials: “3\4 dentists recommend”. The statement making clear that there was a consensus among experts about a fact.
What is also important to understand, is that the areas in which this research is published, academic journals, university publications and general publications, were not open to the average person. In order to get published in The Canadian Journal of History (published by the University of Toronto Press), one had to be an academic. As much as I tried, I could not get a paper of mine, about the early days of Hornepayne and Fitzback, published in this forum, as it was and is, a rigorous academic publication, and to be honest, my level of education, a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in history, just does not cut it.
However, the internet changed it all. Completely. Totally and forever. In a very brief amount of time, everyone one of us, had access to a publishing system that could reach millions of people, and had zero requirements for what we could publish. We can and do publish anything we want. There are no rules about standards for what we say, to whom we say, how we say it or what value it might and might not have. I can share a public space with Jack Granatstein, a renowned Canadian historian, and my thoughts and feelings and assertions, regardless of their merit, can stand right beside a renowned and respected historian. It has created a dynamic, which is almost Orwellian, in the sense that it becomes very difficult to separate fact from fiction, conjecture and rumour from truth. And, what happens then, is the eroding of truth and fact and its intermingling with nonsense.
Social media, is one of the greatest examples of this challenge. Daily, I see assertions, usually in the form of a shared meme, that are ridiculously wrong. One of my favourites, or pet peeves, is one that circulates claiming to be a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, reflecting on immigrants. It is not true. They are modified words from Teddy Roosevelt, not Laurier and are blatantly anti-immigrant and bordering on racist. However, people see it, believe it is from Laurier and forward it along. I see so many of them, and I know I cannot respond to them all, and in another challenging aspect of our society, I cannot either, because everyone is so often so easily offended when one points out errors. In a rigorous academic world, there are no hurt feelings. So, I ignore many of them. I ignore the meme that claims in a graduation speech, Bill Gates made these 10 points. I ignore that one because while the source is incorrect, the message is good.
However, the battle for truth and fact is playing out in front of our eyes every day, and those who make baseless, outrageous claims, often do so with flash and pizzazz, often framed in some sort of “anti-establishment” message and they resonate more so than the facts and the truth. However, if we have learned anything from the internet, it is that more than ever, as a society, we need to be ever more vigilant in questioning what we see. That, in itself, is one more legacy of the academic world. Academics question everything. Nothing is taken as fact, until it is resoundingly proven to be so, and even then, it is always open to interpretation. Remember, it once was prevailing thought that the sun revolved around the earth. It wasn’t until Copernicus, a great Polish astronomer, actually proved it that it reluctantly became accepted as fact. Today, it is as much of a fact as is water is wet.
The irony of the internet, is that a system that was supposed to put all of the world’s knowledge in our hands, has instead created a platform where true facts, knowledge and cutting edge research, competes on the same plane as conjecture, conspiracy theory, bigotry and opinion based in nothing more than outrageous prejudice. The current battle over vaccinations is a classic example. Our world, through science has eradicated hundreds of dangerous diseases that kill thousands of people all over the world, yet the anti-vax movement has flourished, in part promoted by an actress who believes certain ideas about vaccinations that are resoundingly false. However, her fame has allowed her to peddle nonsense and children are being hurt as a result. Millions in the developing world, would give anything for access to vaccines to prevent millions of children from dying prematurely, and we allow Facebook memes to drive us away from the science.
So, in closing, I will leave you with a quote from an American statesman, who lived in a time long before Facebook and infomercials, but was able to clearly express the reality of fact. At www.hornepayne.com, we hope to ensure his words remain true.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams.
Welcome to the new www.hornepayne.com! Before I go any further about the plans for this site, let me first thank Ginger Potvin-Latoski for her work here for the last several years, and her willingness to assist me as I go forward with www.hornepayne.com! Without Ginger’s work, this site would not exist today, and without her help, I would not be able to go forwaralso thank her from the bottom of my heart, for her confidence in me, to be able to take www.hornepayne.com forward. I truly appreciate it! As we all know, Hornepayne is a special place. How many small towns, can you speak about in Union Station in Toronto and have someone close by, look at you and say “Hey, are you from Hornepayne?”? In 2014, my wife was in the Air Canada Centre watching a hockey game (the Leafs beat Boston….:D) and she struck up a conversation with people beside her, who low and behold….knew where Hornepayne was, and had spent time here snowmobiling. Just last week, in Ottawa, on a river cruise, she also ran into someone who knew all about Hornepayne. From CN Rail and VIA, to fly in fishing, to snowmobiling, and many other experiences, Hornepayne is known to the world and is a special place. I hope, in the coming few years, to continue with this site and have it reflect the great community that we have. Yes, we have challenges, and we are facing them, but I want very much to make this site, a “go-to” site for our community, and our many ex-pats out there, who live in all corners of the world, not to mention the host of family and friends we all have, all over the world, who are connected to, and interested in Hornepayne!So, what will www.hornepayne.com become? I would like to take a few moments to outline for you, the vision we have for this site in the next several years. There is a well-known quote, that says: “change is the only constant” and nothing reflects the reality of our world more than this quote. The digital revolution, the economic shift from manufacturing to services, and the increasing polarization of our world, are all realities that are not blips in history, but a real change in the way our world operates. As a society, we need answers for a changing world, a future that no one can predict or plan for. Hornepayne, along with the rest of the western world, is planted firmly in this reality and it is up to all of us to find answers and solutions to our challenges. www.hornepayne.com sees this reality, and wants to create a site for all who have a connection to Hornepayne, world-wide, to inform and provide a forum for thinking and problem solving. At the risk of using an old, bygone cliché, www.hornepayne.comsees itself as a “one-stop shop” for information about Hornepayne, within the broader global context. In Hornepayne, we can often turn our eyes away from the provincial, national and international forces primarily as a result of the good economic opportunities that exist here. However, I believe, we have to increasingly look outward and enjoy the benefits we have in our community, but look further and more globally to build a strong future for our community. If we want Hornepayne to be a viable option for our children, grand-children and great grand-children, we need to look outward and be open to change and progress. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has an old nick-name of Hogtown, because at one point in its history, it was famous for its hog pens. Toronto today, obviously, has no hog pens within the city of Toronto….Many years ago, people in Toronto saw that the future of Toronto was no longer hogs, and they built the world-class metropolis that is today Toronto. The citizens of Hornepayne, who currently hold sway and make political decisions, have to think the same way and embrace the future, whatever that is. Perhaps even more importantly and more crucial, we need to build this future, and keep our minds open to whatever the future may bring, to make our community vibrant and progressive. We believe, that if, in 25 years, Hornepayne is pretty much as you see it today, we will have failed. Now, that being said, the future needs to maintain our strengths: our natural environment, our sense of community and our fun-loving nature, but if we do not evolve, we will stagnate.As a final thought, I am going to get on my proverbial soap box one more time. I have a vision for www.hornepayne.com, but it is a vision that allows for flexibility and innovation. Perhaps, what I see will not happen, and something else will take its place. However, there is one thing that www.hornepayne.com will not become, and that is a forum that feeds into the current political environment of hyper-criticism, character assassination and conspiracy theories. This is a site to work towards our future, to provide information about what is going on in Hornepayne, and to provide information that is factual and based in reason and where necessary, accepted science. This is not going to become a site that allows unfettered criticism and character assassination. Unlike many social media sites and comment sections of other online papers, this site will not become a cauldron of hate for those who rarely, if ever contribute to the better good, but instead criticize from the sidelines, while enjoying the benefits provided by those who work hard for our community. If, that format is of no of interest to the greater Hornepayne community, including its diaspora and global connections, then www.hornepayne.comwill cease to exist!And one further comment. While our main goal is to provide an online platform for all of those interested in what is going on in Hornepayne, it is a business model. It is not, of course, free to run a website, or to run a business, and as such, www.hornepayne.com will feature advertising, like all other online and print publications. This is in part to help pay for costs, but also allows local businesses to advertise their products and services to our community, and to provide residents with a space to learn about those products and services.
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