How to lose an election

Alberta’s election continues to be far more entertaining than the one here in the UK.

Amid his party’s plummeting polling numbers, Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice needed to re-connect with voters and rebuild trust for his party during the leaders debate last night.

Instead, he told the only woman on stage that “I know the math is difficult…” in a discussion around tax increases. Very soon after #MathIsHard started trending in the province and NDP leader Rachel Notley was able to remind viewers that this is the leader who doesn’t want Albertans to “worry their pretty little heads.”

There’s an adage that governments typically lose elections, rather than opposition parties win them. In this case, I think Prenctice just lost it and Notley has a truly unexpected chance to win it.

For more on the debate, read Don Braid’s analysis in the Calgary Herald.

Edmonton Journal grants space to debunked anti-WiFi conspiracies

Some parents in Alberta are trying to get schools to ban wi-fi on baseless fears and scare-mongering. The kicker: these same parents are fine with wifi in their house. 

It’s not so much the parents who bother me in this story as the Canadian Teachers Federation, the local school councils, and particularlu the Edmonton Journal who all give far greater space to these conspiracy theories than to sound science and expertise.

Continue reading Edmonton Journal grants space to debunked anti-WiFi conspiracies

I get email – Human rights and Climate change

Recently, I wrote about a ruling against APEGA, Alberta’s professional association for engineers, by the province’s Human Rights Tribunal.

Low and behold, the defendant in the case, Ladislav Mihaly, emailed me with a follow up request for help. Continue reading I get email – Human rights and Climate change

Discriminatory engineers?

One of my undergraduate classmates linked to an article on a recent Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal finding that Alberta’s professional association for engineers (APEGA, formerly APEGGA – which it’s referred to in the decision) discriminated against an international applicant. APEGA is already planning to appeal the decision.

The 67 page decision is available on the APEGA website.

So what happened?

Continue reading Discriminatory engineers?

Albertans choose progressive mayors

After a surprise victory in the 2010 purple wave, Naheed Nenshi became one of Canada’s most popular mayors during his handling of severe floods in Calgary earlier this year.

Few predicted any chance of him losing his position in yesterday’s election and perhaps the only shock was the size of his victory, with 74% of the city voting for him.

Meanwhile, Edmonton saw a heated race as popular incumbent Steve Mandel opted to retire on a high note (rather than be unseated like most of his predecessors). Three councillors stepped forward to challenge for the seat, with Don Iveson’s ‘policy wonk’ campaign taking over 60% of the vote in the end. Iveson’s campaign drew on his time at the University of Alberta and engaged a number of my friends.

Both mayors have promised to slow urban sprawl by investing in urban density, mass transit, and bicycle lanes. This approach is familiar and popular in Vancouver, where Gregor Robertson is equally popular.

The results aren’t too surprising for anyone who closely follows Alberta politics. Despite the province’s tendency to vote overwhelming for Conservative provincial and federal parties, the cities tend to be more liberal and many mayors of both major cities have been further to the left than their provincial and federal colleagues.

Meanwhile, a right-wing slate of candidates for Airdrie’s city council was rejected in favour of the incumbents.

And congrats to my aunt who was re-elected to the Rocky View Municipal Council.

Sex Workers to MLA: Buy local

Some stories you can’t make up.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Alberta MLA Mike Allen was charged in the summer with prostitution while on a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota. He left the governing Progressive Conservative caucus and currently sits as an independent.

He has been consulting with his constituents on whether to resign his seat and has attracted the support of an unlikely source:

…sex workers in Mr. Allen’s riding of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo want him to continue as their MLA.

The press release also states “that his activities in Minnesota would be lawful, private and welcome in Alberta, where Sex Workers are pleased to consider respectful requests for personal services.”

Finally, perhaps as a nod to the small-c conservative spirit of much of Alberta, they close:

Most Alberta Sex Workers function successfully as Independent Small Businesses. They demand that their occupational choices be respected.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with your children in that kind of milieu, don’t send your students here.”

Following up on the religious proselytization and abstinence-only sex education occurring in Edmonton Public Schools comes a quote from Orville Chubb, candidate for the Edmonton Public School Board, from his time as executive director of Meadowlark Christian School Foundation.

Chubb was asked in 2011 about a proposed anti-homophobia policy at the Edmonton Public School Board (which was passed). As head of the school, Chubb stated in an interview about his school:

It’s not that we are anti-gay in any way, shape or form. We just need to be able to articulate the moral element to all Christianity … and our Christian community is not able to accept that homosexual acts are not immoral. If you don’t feel comfortable with your children in that kind of milieu, don’t send your students here.

It’s worth noting that since 2004 Meadowlark Christian School has been operated as an Alternative Program within Edmonton Public School Board. This means that despite parent’s paying up to $1,600 in tuition for their child to attend, the school still receives public funding and can discriminate against staff and faculty who aren’t Christian enough. Furthermore, it means that Chubb’s 2011 comments represented a desire to violate a proposed policy of their own school board.

When asked by local blogger Daveberta about the comments, Chubb argued the views were those of the parents and that

My position now, as it was then, is that you cannot legislate belief. I am a firm advocate for freedom of speech and conscience. I staunchly defend those who are discriminated against in any way.

Perhaps Chubb was just doing his job but the argument that “some” students should not be sent to some schools offered by the Public School District only highlights the discriminatory nature of permitting faith-based schools within a public system.

Edmonton voters, it’s up to you to push for a secular school board. Get informed and vote wisely.

Anti-choice Christian front promotes abstinence-only sex ed in Edmonton Schools

Anti-abortion Christian groups are notorious in Canada for setting up “Crisis Pregnancy Centres” as fronts to proselytize to women facing a pregnancy scare and are unsure whether to exercise their legal right to terminate it or not. The Centres are often filled with deceptive anti-choice propaganda and mislead women.

One such front group in Edmonton, Alberta offers a program called “WAIT! Let’s Talk Sex!” to local schools, with a strong emphasis on abstinence-only based education. Education that has been demonstrated time and again to fail students, leading to higher rates of dangerous sex, teen pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections.

The program is designed to fit the provincial curriculum for grades 7 through 10 and they claim to have reached 14,000 students in Edmonton and area. Edmonton’s ostensibly secular public district has about 80,000 students and lists the centre as an “approved vendor.”

There is a petition circulating to get Edmonton Public Schools to bar these ministers from proselytizing to students and to instead teach comprehensive sexual education, as mandated by the Alberta curriculum.

Sign and share it now.

If you live in Edmonton, make sure you contact your Public School Trustee candidates and have them pledge to keep Edmonton Public Schools secular.

(H/t Luke Fevin)

The Atheist Census–obnoxious and obscure marketing?

Update: Make sure to read the comments for discussions that include AtheistCensus.com founder Lucas Matheson who responds to some of the criticisms of his project.

Atheists tend to be a very skeptical bunch – at least those who participate in online communities, so when an email arrives in my inbox titled “AtheistCensus Mailing List – Action Required” when I never signed up for such a thing, my skeptisense gets tingling.

Thank you for your interest in www.atheistcensus.com. We are reaching out to the world and getting atheists and agnostics on the same page. Please opt in to receive our emails on our progress.
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Continue reading The Atheist Census–obnoxious and obscure marketing?