Alberta Opening It’s Own Embassy to the US?

The Province of Alberta is beefing up their current trade mission to the United States with two ultra-expensive beltway elites.

‘At a cost of $40,000 a month, James Blanchard — the former governor of Michigan — and Paul Frazer — a former official at the Canadian Embassy in Washington — will begin lobbying Washington policy-makers as Canada and the U.S. begin negotiations around a clean energy policy, Stelmach said during the Premier’s Dinner last night.

“It’s important that Alberta has a way of ensuring the right information gets to policy makers and decision-makers so they’re dealing with fact,” Stelmach said.

“This is of critical importance to the future prosperity of Alberta and also to the country of Canada. We’ll use them until we get a good agreement in place. I hope it shouldn’t be more than a year.”‘

Oilsands flacks cost $40K/month — Calgary Sun

Put another way, Alberta is aware that the tar sands projects increase the short and medium term future of Alberta and decrease the medium and long term prosperity, health, social stability, national reputation and all-around survival of the country of Canada, and hence don’t trust Canada’s regular diplomats and trade representatives to represent it positively.

In other tar sand news, the government can’t pay oil companies enough to even build carbon capture pilot projects. You know, the technology which we’re assured is the any-day-now natural solution to the daily catastrophe that is fossil fuel production and processing.

On the plus side, somebody got paid to make a nice graphic:

Does it Matter that Canada’s Minister of Science is Creationist?

First off, the clarification. When asked later if he believes in evolution, he said:

“Of course I do….We are evolving every year, every decade. That’s a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

I’m not a fan of gotcha politics, the heart of which is taking comments out of context. But there’s a risk here of reverse-gotcha-ism. Some news outlets are reporting that the minister “ended the evolution brouhaha” with that statement, and the CBC carried only the first sentence. What I take from the full quote is that he believes in the word evolution. He believes things change over time, possibly in response to their environment. Things like shoes, and yearly change in response to “the sun”. Which is not of course the same thing as believing in the evolution of species and their traits over generations through natural selection of the fittest genes. Natural selection is the kind of evolution the minister was originally being asked about, and so far he hasn’t answered that question.

That could mean just a few possible things. One is that he didn’t understand that the question was about Darwinian evolution, and really thought the question was about general things like footwear changing over time, but that’s unlikely. Another is that he doesn’t understand the distinction, but nobody gets through a science-based degree (at Waterloo no less) without being vaguely aware that Darwin had a particular mechanism for evolution in mind. What seems more likely is that he is aware of the distinction, but figures the news-reading public might not be focused on it, and is using that confusion to avoid admitting that he really doesn’t believe in evolution.

So is it fair to ask a politician about their religion? Because creationism is a religious issue, he’s right about that, and that links a person’s views on the evolution of species to their religious views. As a general rule, I personally don’t think politicians should be asked about their religion. But sometimes the general rules get murky, such as when a science minister gets asked about an issue that bridges both science and religion. It’s hard to say, but in this case I think it probably was appropriate to ask him that, and I think he probably should answer, eventually.

He signaled the real answer by telling us that his views on evolution are tied to his religious faith. And unless he belongs to some hyper-rationalist religious community that I’m not aware of, one which has strong views say on punctualism versus gradualism, that pretty much means he thinks God settled the species.

So does that matter? Is it a problem for a Minister of Science to not believe in evolution? I don’t know. What does a Minister of Science do anyway? Not science, presumably. Some people seem to think he controls the balance between applied and pure research funding. Some people think that this minister is a fan of commercialized engineering over broader research. Well, okay, and if so that would worry me. Personally, I figure you need to spread research funding all up and down the applied:pure continuum, focusing especially on those areas of pure science which bear on those areas of applied science which bear on topics of significant worldly impact. That’s my opinion, and as far as I can tell, that doesn’t derive from my religious beliefs.

Maybe the unsettling thing about having a creationist Science Minister is just the sense that seriously religious types sometimes seem suspicious about science. There are lots of religiously faithful folks who are effective professional scientists, but I suspect that most of those are the sort whose religious perspective is such that it can be reconciled with adeterministic mechanisms like genetic drift. I have trouble seeing how those who adhere more closely to literalist gospel truth can simultaneously muster the disciplined intensity of respect for worldly truth that purest research science gathers around it.

Do we want a science minister who is suspicious of scientists? Yes, absolutely. Do we want a science minister who is suspicious of science? Maybe. Do we want a science minister who lets religion trump the most well-established, central tenets of scientific theory in his personal world view? All of this is to say that I’m just not sure, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a good idea.

Canada’s Minister of Science is Creationist?

During the American federal election, the joke around my office in Michigan was  “now that Canada is on its third conservative administration, are American conservatives threatening to move to Canada if Obama wins?”.

This doesn’t feel so funny:

“Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.”

Minister won’t confirm belief in evolution, Globe and Mail

The article notes that Goodyear is a chiropractor, possibly the least scientific of scientific-aspiring professions.

If X Wins I’m Moving to Y

So the joke around the office is, with 3 back-to-back Conservative administrations in Canada, are Republicans threatening to move to Canada if Obama wins?

Can You Do Terrorism On Infrastructure?

Fear, mixed emotions after B.C. pipeline bombings

“However, the Mounties have brought in their terrorism unit to help the investigation because the bombs targeted the province’s infrastructure.”

Are they an Infrastructure Sabotage Unit or a Terrorism Unit? It can’t be terrorism if it targets things but not people, pretty much by definition.

Jesse Brown Hosts Election Night

Jesse Brown, former host of the former radio show “Search Engine” remains on the edge of employment at the CBC, allowed out of his blog just occasionally to file a 3 minute segment on Sunday Edition, as long as it’s sufficiently watered down and regards little of import. I guess we should all be thankful that the tax-engorged technocrats at the CEEB see fit to let little Jesse host his “website” on the corporate servers at all.

But apparently they’re going to use him on election night. He reports, in his latest podcast, that tomorrow eve he’ll be tasked with tracking national response to the results as it appears on the internets: blogs, twitter, so on. Does that mean he’s going to be on TV? I don’t know, the Search Engine site is slim on details. Or anything else. He freely admits that he doesn’t know what he’s really going to do. And let’s face it, reporting on the election when it is by definition over, isn’t that great of a gig. Although I suppose his company will be all the big name anchors engaged in the same redundancy.

It’s remarkable that a radio show which only really existed for a few months and has been off the air for almost as long as it was on still manages to rank as the 7th result for a Google search of the fairly popular term “search engine”.

It’s also remarkable that a straight-ahead internet-affairs radio show/weekly podcast makes me laugh out loud more than just about any media I come in contact with. Jesse never winks.

not winking


Obama I Suppose, Hibma For Sure

It’s too late for to endorse Barack Obama in the Estados Unidos presidential election. I picked my candidate out a while ago, and I’m sticking to him.

I am however grudgingly backing Barack Obama as the “candidate most likely to be far better than the other candidate”, now that Kucinich appears an unlikely contender. So vote Obama, if you can. He did vote against the war when that meant something, and he does have a reasonableness which seems to escape federal politics generally.

Back when I was settling on Dennis as my true champion in the American arena, Esquire magazine of all magazines did a nice job of cementing my decision. Here’s Esquire again, on why you should probably vote Obama, but probably not be too giddy about it:

Esquire Endorses Barack Obama for President

By contrast, I’m downright excited to be voting in the Canadian election for Dick Hibma of the Green Party in the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding. I don’t know Dick, and I gather his chances aren’t especially good for beating the incumbent Conservative. But I gather he’s the best chance there is. And I’m told the Conservative candidate is in grand need of being beaten. The funny thing is, environment plays well in the rural counties. If you’re a farmer (and if you’re from Bruce-Grey, you probably are), you like that Lary Miller of the Conservatives is also a farmer. But you’re also concerned about development on the escarpment, about corporatization of family farms, about climate uncertainty, about regional wind power development, about the stability of fuel prices, about the fuelization of feed grains, and so on. And so apparently you might just vote Green because of it. When I mentioned to my father, some time back, that he should consider setting up for a run as the Green B-G-O candidate, he allowed that the Greens already had a strong candidate in the riding. So that’s another strong endorsement there.

See Dick Run - Green Party of Canada

All this assumes that my absentee ballot is going to show up in the mail soon. I sent in my application with weeks to go. It will come, right?

I could also have reasonably chosen to vote in Victoria BC, my other Canadian home. But I hear Denise Savoie of the NDP has become firmly established there. I hafta say, last time around it was a pleasure to vote for someone I knew and liked, and see her win. I’m glad she’s going to win again.

And with that, I am officially saturated on electoral politics. Let it all be over as soon as possible.

Canadian Election Polls

For Canadian political junkies (and I know you’re out there), Andrew Heard at SFU is aggregating national and provincial polls into a running graphic, as he did during the last federal elections.


He also breaks it down by region and has good visual info regarding the sources of the data. All located here.

Probably even more useful that the data itself is the extensive gloss provided on interpretation of electoral polls. Executive precis: don’t trust them.

“A fundamental problem with media reporting on opinion polls is that there is usually little indication in the initial reports of how soft the reported support is for each party, or how each polling company tries to probe for voting intentions. Polls results often loosely proclaim “40% of decided voters… etc” However, that final figure may be based on having to prod the respondents at least twice into expressing a preference: 1) “If an election were held today which party would you vote for?” and, if they say don’t know, then they are asked 2) “which party are you leaning towards voting for?” The second group are only leaning and should not be viewed as actual support, and yet most polling companies roll the leaners in with the truly decided.”

Thom King is Running for MP in Guelph

Fun. I know nothing about the race, except for this tidbit from

Our Pick: Frank Valeriote, Liberal Party of Canada

This is a riding where vote-splitting could easily elect a Conservative this time but it is very tricky to call. Liberal incumbent Brenda Chamberlain is not running again and the NDP candidate is high-profile Aboriginal broadcaster and writer Tom King. The Green party with candidate Mike Nagy has also shown strongly. Based on past results, it looks like the Liberal candidate has the only chance of winning however please check back close to election day for up-to-date information.

About Thom.

With Golden Shovels, No Less

Harper, Bush, Calderon, shoveling

Hai look, they’re treeplanting.

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