Thursday, December 27, 2018

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Canada’s Arctic Today
Click here for the original edition as published in Trent University's alumni magazine, fall 2018


Bill Templeman
The challenges facing the residents of Canada’s Arctic tend to escape our notice in the information-saturated south. We may see a news item online about a dramatic search and rescue, or read a post about the impact of climate change on Northern hunters, but the kaleidoscope of the 24-hour news cycle quickly scrambles our impressions, and our moment of insight is soon lost. If we could get beyond the tweets and the video clips, what would Northerners tell us? What is actually happening in the Arctic right now? What are the top priority issues for the people who live there? How are we, as a country, dealing with these challenges? Are we seeing any successes? And what can we learn from our efforts that might help Northerners as we move into the future? We have to keep wrestling not only with what to do, but overcome our biases about how we work with Northerners. Past governments have had a tendency to develop solutions to Northern problems here in the southern parts of the country, then ship those Southern solutions to the North, only to scratch our heads in puzzlement when the solutions don’t work as planned.
TRENT Magazine reached out to Trent alumna Sarah Cox ’85, who is the director, Circumpolar Affairs Directorate of the Department of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade in the federal government, as well as the head of the Canadian Delegation for Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council. We hoped to draw on Sarah’s extensive experience in project collaboration with Northerners to find out what all Canadians can do to help Northerners discover their way forward in very uncertain times. Where do we all stand right now? As a nation, how are we doing in our stewardship of the Arctic?

Sarah Cox (SC): 
It is important to understand that while I have worked on Northern issues for 8 years, worked in partnership with northerners and I have travelled up there, I am not a Northerner. First of all, there is the sheer vastness of the place. There are about 200,000 people in the Arctic, yet it represents 40% of Canada’s landmass. There are four Inuit regions in Canada’s Arctic. While everyone has heard of Nunavut, there is also Inuvialuit (the northwestern part of the Northwest Territories), Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador), and Nunavik (Northern Quebec). All four are settled land claims, which is pretty progressive.TRENT Magazine (TM): 64% of Canadians live within 100km of the US border—and the vast majority of Canadians live closer to the United States than the Arctic. While we consider ourselves a northern nation, most Canadians don't have a firm grasp of life up North or the issues that Northern Canada is currently facing. Could you give us snapshot of the North as you know it?
The cultural reality of the Inuit is that they lived in seasonal camps until the 1960s, which means there are a lot of middle-aged people who grew up in these camps, not in communities with houses and streets as we know them in the South. Of the 53 permanent communities, most of them are fly-in only. There is no road access. The Inuit travel between settlements on snowmobiles; these trips can take two days or more. The cost of living is 80% higher than in the South. There is a very short ocean shipping season. Inuktitut is the strongest Indigenous language in the country; this is important because we know that language is a major anchor for culture. The median age of the Inuit is 18 years younger than the Canadian median age, so there is a burgeoning youth population.
The North is so diverse in terms of landscape, language, and people. There are a lot of different dialects. The Northwest Territories is treed, whereas Nunavut is above the treeline; these are very different landscapes. One of the things that strikes you is when you fly into Nunavut, you are flying over ice for a very long time. The remoteness of the Arctic is truly dramatic. That’s my snapshot of the North; it’s very beautiful in a very unique way. While you might call it rugged, in the summer you can walk across the tundra and fill your belly on blueberries. I am completely enamoured of the North, having travelled up there quite of few times.
TM: What are some of the current hot-button Arctic issues for the people who live there?
SC: Obviously a no-brainer is climate change; we all know that the Arctic is an early indicator of climate change. We all know about the melting sea ice. Hopefully every Canadian knows that the Arctic is facing serious challenges because of climate change.
Reconciliation is another top issue. While reconciliation is a big issue for the federal government, this reconciliation must go far deeper than government policy statements; all Canadians need to get involved in this reconciliation dialogue with the Inuit and First Nations of the Arctic.
Mental wellness and suicide prevention are huge issues. Suicide rates are very high in the Arctic, approximately 12 times the rate in Southern Canada. Our minister has described suicide in the North as an epidemic. Everyone in the Arctic knows someone who has committed suicide. From my perspective, one of the challenges is to discover how Southerners can collaborate with Northerners to support mental wellness. What works, what doesn’t work and how do we know? This is something that will take generations. There is likely nothing more important than this in terms of collaboration. There are so many issues driving this suicide rate, such as colonization, relocation of Inuit families in the ’50s, and the impact of the residential schools.
Housing is a huge issue for sure. There is overcrowding, which contributes to a lack of mental wellness, an inability to do homework and poor health. One person catches a cold and the whole house gets sick. Other issues include connectivity, better infrastructure, and that the whole North depends on diesel. This technology needs to be replaced. There is a lot of interesting planning going on with renewable energy.
Another issue is education outcomes for high school graduates. The curriculum that is being used needs to be looked at. The government of Nunavut has developed some very good curriculum that is more appropriate for the North.
There is also a steadily growing international interest in the Arctic. How we manage this interest is a discovery process. How do we manage that interest in a way that is beneficial to Northerners? A lot of states that you would never think might be interested are getting involved: China, Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany; they are not Arctic states but they’re very interested in Arctic research. Some of this interest is related to resource extraction, but not all. There is research interest in traditional ways of life and in pure scientific research. There is also research interest in shipping routes.
How, as a country, are we dealing with these hot-button issues?
SC: That’s a huge question! There are postgraduate programs on this topic and books have been written, hundreds of books. There are so many government departments that are doing innovative work in collaboration with Northerners. The ministries of the environment, fisheries and oceans, natural resources, emergency preparedness, and intergovernmental affairs, plus others, have extensive programs in the North. The development of a new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in partnership with territories, provinces and Indigenous governments helps to provide a useful context. This policy framework is precedent-setting, in part because it is the product of co-development.
Another concern is that Canadians really don’t have access to the North. It is so wildly expensive to get there. If you are faced with a choice between vacationing in Costa Rica, Europe or the Canadian Arctic, the Arctic will not win very often. But it would be great if more Canadians could get up to experience the Arctic. Canadians have to stop thinking of the Arctic as an uncharted frontier. The Inuit have lived up there for thousands of years. They know the landscape, the environment and the culture extremely well.
TM: What is working well right now?
SC: I can’t speak to the work of all the other departments of the government. The amount of detail would be huge. But I can speak to the work of the Arctic Council. The Council is an intergovernmental body that promotes the environmental, social and economic sides of sustainable development in the Arctic. One of the keys to success of the Arctic Council is that it is a consensus-based organization. A second success factor is the fact that the Council has six Indigenous organizations from across the global Arctic as permanent members, so deliberations are always grounded in the lived reality of the people for whom all projects are intended to serve. A third success factor is the practice of integrating local knowledge and experience into all decision making. The Arctic Council is not about Southerners telling Northerners, “This is what you have to do…”. The Council is all about generating Northern solutions for Northerners, not Southern solutions for Northerners.
Canada plays a vital role on the Arctic Council, a role for which all Canadians, regardless of where they live, should be proud. If Canada was not at this table, we would be really missed.
One of the Council’s six working groups focuses on sustainable development in terms of living conditions and how to improve the lives of Arctic residents. This group, the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), is evolving from doing a lot of best-practice work and research to designing and running projects that actually make a difference for Northerners living in their communities. One of my key functions is to serve as delegation head for the SDWG. My role is to work with the eight member states and six circumpolar Indigenous organizations to improve the lives of Northerners. We deal with the social sciences, not the natural sciences.
One of SDWG’s current projects is the Arctic Renewable Energy Network Academy (ARENA). Every community in Canada’s Arctic is dependent on diesel fuel for heat and electricity. One of the goals of ARENA is to foster the development of renewable-energy-literate community members. These advocates can go back to their communities, assess their local situations and determine which alternative energy solution might be best. These graduates of ARENA have the tools to get a local project set up and find out who they have to partner with in order to get renewable energy into their communities.
What is happening now that is very encouraging is that there is a growing awareness that many projects have a long time-cycle. Particularly in areas like mental health, the project cycle needs to be long, maybe ten years or more. Another exciting trend is that the six-member circumpolar Indigenous groups are beginning to put their own project concepts forward. This is fantastic, because now we can follow their lead.
We also have strong relationships with a number of academics. These relationships open up the possibility of new project ideas and the sharing of successes across all the groups.
Another successful SDWG project is a suicide prevention program focused on developing a digital resource of Inuit youth experiences with suicide. This project, which is run by youths across the Canadian Arctic, takes full advantage of the emergence of a talented pool of local filmmakers and videographers. The output of this program provides youth with a powerful, digitalized resource, created by people their own age, in their own language, and of their own culture.
We are using the power of networks or clusters to build sustainable change. For example, food security is a huge issue across the Arctic. There is a shortage of food that is nutritious and affordable. So we are developing networks of people who are working on food issues and coming up with ideas and solutions they can share using the traditional foods.

SC: 
Another huge question! We need to collaborate more and enter into equal partnerships with Arctic residents. Above all else, we need to listen. Gone are the days where “made in Ottawa” solutions are shipped north for implementation without extensive input from those for whom these solutions have been designed. We need to learn more about the Arctic, and if possible, go up there. The Arctic Council and the SDWG need to do a more thorough job of communicating with Northerners and with the rest of Canada about the challenges and successes that are coming out these efforts. Southerners and others who are working with Arctic residents need to remember to always respect local experience and to value local knowledge. The Arctic needs Southerners to be ambassadors for them.TM: What more do we need to do?
Another positive development to keep track of is the growth of programs at universities like Trent that concentrate on the Arctic. These university programs lead to growth in career options for working on the full range of issues in the Arctic. Grads shouldn’t eliminate the possibility of working on northern Arctic issues. It is so engaging. The North is really a microcosm of government. Every portfolio you can think of—health, housing, education, employment, social services, economic development, resource management, environmental protection—they are all here. Whatever your interests are, you could find a way to work on them in the North.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pints & Politics: The Little Peterborough Podcast that Grew



Like many of my projects, this one started out high on ideals and low on practical details. Back in April, I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to interview candidates for city council, and produce podcasts that they could use in their online campaigns?" Then I heard a Trent Radio ad looking for summer programmers; I pitched my idea for a show on local politics. This would let me contribute to the election debate. Five months later, this modest little project has turned into an all-consuming monster. I recall a novelist saying that "This book started out as a playful diversion, then it became a habit, then it turned in a chore, then it became a job, and finally, it morphed into a master to whom I am chained as a slave."
Trent Radio liked the idea enough to let me try, although they made it very clear that they had a CRTC license to uphold and fundraising campaigns to run, so my program must give equal time to all sides and not become a bully pulpit for my pet causes. No partisan jabs at pro-Parkway candidates. I decided to call the show Pints & Politics after the modest weekly gathering of pundits I host at the Garnet pub. I was admonished to not advocate beer-drinking on air. The talented volunteers at Peterborough Independent Podcasters showed me how to convert the recordings of my shows to podcasts. I was ready to launch.
I sent out an email note to all the declared candidates at the time. Zach Hatton bravely volunteered to be first. Zach and I went live to air on May 1; he graciously stifled his laughter as he watched me fumble with switches and sliders on the control panel. More than once I forget to turn up the microphone volume so that I was mumbling through a profound question that only Zach, and not our listening audience, could actually hear. While the sins of live radio are there for all to hear, only the listening audience actually hears them, then they are gone.
I soon discovered that I was able to edit such bloopers out of my podcasts, much to my considerable relief. Hence my fascination with podcasting. All my verbal miscues could be swiftly excised from an audio file with a few clicks of a mouse. Never a smooth public speaker, the technology covered up the worst of my bumbling incompetence.
My next candidate was Dave McGowan. Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I discovered that Dave is a veteran broadcast journalist, having worked in radio and television for many years across Ontario, including a stint with CHEX Newswatch. So there I was, perched awkwardly in a broadcast studio I did not understand in the least, while across from me sat the broadcast equivalent of Wayne Gretzky.
Dave speaks effortlessly with none of the mumbles and stumbles that come out of me. He was completely at home in the studio, while I, the putative host, was utterly in over my head. Switches were forgotten, volume levels were not checked and there were frequent patches of dead air when I forgot to adjust inscrutable levers on the control panel.
The half-hour radio broadcast was a total shambles, but thanks to the aforementioned editing software, I was able to produce a 16-minute podcast. Dave still smiles broadly when we run into each other at campaign events; he has been my most patient and forgiving guest.
Of all the 27 registered candidates for the municipal election, I interviewed 21. The other 6 chose not to be interviewed; I have to respect their decisions. Municipal elections are won or lost at the doors; door-to-door canvassing is the sine qua non of election campaigning. Radio broadcasts are not. And podcasting may still be too geeky for mass appeal. There are now 33 episodes on the Pints & Politics website. In addition to the 21 candidate interviews, there are panel discussions on local politics, and campaign launch speeches from Therrien and Bennett.
My conclusion in talking with these 21 candidates is that Peterborough is blessed to have so many smart and accomplished citizens willing to run for office. I interviewed candidates I was thoroughly prepared to dislike because of their perceived political allegiances; I discovered they had much to teach me. My only regret is that now I wish I could vote for two candidates in every ward. Contrary to Doug Ford, I believe we need more councilors, not fewer.
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Bill Templeman is the host of Pints & Politics, a Trent Radio show on 92.7 FM every Wednesday at 9 p.m. This show is also available anytime as a podcast at https://pintsandpolitics.ptbopodcasters.ca/

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is strategic voting dead in Peterborough?

GUEST COLUMN: Politics, next to hockey, is the closest thing we have to a blood sport in Canada




OPINION Aug 17, 2018 by BILL TEMPLEMAN GUEST COLUMNIST

https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/opinion-story/8842941-is-strategic-voting-dead-in-peterborough-/

Strategic voting is viewed with contempt and hope, often by the same people. We hate it and love it, all at once. As political debate in Canada becomes more polarized, and the prospect of more minority victories at all levels increases, the need for voters across the political spectrum to cooperate becomes ever more urgent. Right-of-centre voters unsuccessfully tried strategic voting in the '90s, only to discover the necessity of merging under Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party in 2003. Left-wing voters voted strategically to defeat Harper and elected the Liberals in 2015.
Is this why strategic voting still around? According to Tim Etherington on the Pints & Politics podcast of June 27 (https://pintsandpolitics.ptbopodcasters.ca/podcast/edition-8-debrief-ontario-election-etherington-fraser/), strategic voting becomes an attractive default when…
(1) …voters on either side of the political spectrum think they must unite to defeat a common adversary. This happened in Peterborough federally in 2015 as some Green and NDP supporters voted for Maryam Monsef
(2) …it represents a means to an end to bring in electoral reform. For those voters, strategic voting is aimed at achieving electoral reform
Strategic voting is a consequence of our first-past-the-post electoral (FPTP) system. If we had some form of proportional representation, strategic voting would disappear. Did strategic voting make a difference in the local 2015 federal election? Monsef probably would have won without it. The test will be in the October 2019 federal election, when Green and NDP enthusiasm for strategic voting — voting Liberal — will be diminished. Which brings us to this June's provincial election results:
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives won this riding with 22,939 votes. The NDP came in a close second at 20,745 votes, only 2,194 votes behind, while the Liberals came in a distant third at 15,029 votes, almost 8,000 votes behind the Conservatives and 5,716 votes behind the NDP. The Greens came in fourth at 2,055.
Eric Grenier's Poll Tracker, the most reliable aggregation of polling data available (https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/onvotes/poll-tracker/), showed the PCs and the NDP trading the lead from May 25 to Election Day. On June 6, Grenier's projections stood at 38.7 per cent for the PCs, 35.5 per cent for the NDP and 19.6 per cent for the Liberals. Clearly the strategic vote in Ontario to stop Ford had to be NDP.
But that's not what happened. Just over a week before the election, the Ontario Liberal Party issued a directive to all their candidates to release the following claim. In our riding, this directive took the form of a letter signed by Liberal candidate Jeff Leal: "One thing is absolutely clear — here in Peterborough-Kawartha the race is going to be tight ... Internal numbers show our riding is a race between the Liberals and the Conservatives ... it's going to come down to progressives uniting behind my candidacy to defeat Doug Ford…"
Was this letter persuasive enough to convince 2,194 undecided voters to throw their support behind the Liberals? We'll never know. With this letter, the Liberals claimed to have the one thing that undecided voters were searching for: Hard data on which to make their difficult strategic voting decisions.
Which party had the best chance of stopping Dave Smith and his PCs? What methods were used to collect these "internal numbers?" How many people were polled? What did the local Liberal team know about the development of these "internal numbers?" None of these vital details were ever released. The local Liberal campaign team claimed that they had talked to 30,000 voters and knew their voting intentions. Their posts on social media are still there. What happened?
There are only three explanations: (1) the polling firm — or campaign workers — who came up with these numbers were wildly incompetent, (2) many voters changed their minds in the polling booth and voted NDP anyway, or (3) these internal numbers were fabrications.
Leal's letter was enough to make NDP supporters who held their noses and voted Liberal federally in 2015 absolutely livid. But extreme partisanship can be a dangerous drug for anyone, regardless of party affiliation. Liberals felt just as angry, for different reasons: "We are the Natural Governing Party in Peterborough! How dare you NDP dimwits claim to be the only option? If you had voted strategically, Jeff Leal would still be our MPP and Ford would not be premier!" Their Twitter hashtag was #itsgottabejeff. It wasn't Jeff. It was never going to be Jeff this time. Not by a long shot.
To be fair, this is what all campaign teams must do. Every campaign team on earth needs to believe that they will win, especially when all the evidence shows that they are going to lose. It's a tough game. Politics, next to hockey, is the closest thing we have to a blood sport in Canada. There is tripping, holding and fighting in hockey; there is deception, dishonesty and lying in politics. If you want to play either game, don't say you weren't warned.
Local campaign teams must believe the directives that come from head office. Nonetheless, these tactics may have discouraged some undecided strategic voters from shifting their votes to the NDP.
Where does all this leave us in Peterborough- Kawartha? Is strategic voting dead? Perhaps. Strategic voting in our riding usually means "vote Liberal." On June 7, the shoe had to go on the other foot. Not enough Liberal and Green voters tried to put it on. When the call goes out from the Liberals in the fall of 2019 to rally around Monsef/Trudeau to defeat Skinner/Scheer, how many strategic voters will stand up to be counted?
Or is this the wrong question? Is strategic voting not only a wrong game plan, but by placing our faith in elections, are we all playing the wrong game? Are the major issues our day — economic disparity, job losses due to technology, resource depletion, and climate change — really going to be resolved by governments, or are they going to resolved by self-organizing citizens from across the political spectrum who come together because they know their governments are incapable of making long-term changes that stretch far beyond the 4-year election cycle?
In 50 years, when future historians sit down to explain the politics of the first two decades of this century, what will they make of the arcane election strategy we call "strategic voting?" A key to solving world problems or an outmoded reaction to a dysfunctional electoral system?
Bill Templeman is a local writer and consultant.