Saturday, October 26, 2013

Candidates forum

So, Nunavut's election is on Monday and today was an all afternoon affair at the Francophone Centre. A little last minute scrambling by some dedicated volunteers led to a unique event - candidates from all four Iqaluit ridings had a brief, well, debate isn't the right word. It was a question and answer session, to be more accurate. A forum. Each riding got 90 minutes with the candidates. Questions were sent in and drawn at random and asked to the candidates.

I'm going to say a few words, which I assume I'm allowed to do. I have some empathy for Elections Nunavut during this voting cycle. They're being stuck enforcing some truly bizarre rules. The latest one is that all candidates must remove all social media presence by tomorrow. That means candidates are not allowed to have websites up, active Twitter accounts or any kind of group on Facebook. Why? It violates the rules passed in the recent Nunavut elections act. I'm sure there is logic to it, just none that I can see. So for all I know someone from Elections Nunavut might tell me to take this down in a few hours. I don't know if I might not get in trouble if I Tweet something about the election in the next 48 hours.

I assume whoever gets elected on Monday might want to look at going back and tweaking some aspects of that act.

So, onwards to the latest events.

1. In the end, five of the six candidates came to our doorstep. I spoke with four of them. The only one who didn't show up was Sytukie Joamie, who said he wasn't going to do any campaigning of any kind. Which is his right, I just won't be voting for him. It's easy to crap on people who want to get involved in politics, but I found the candidates I spoke with to be intelligent, knowledgeable about the issues and possessing a genuine desire to try and help. So I applaud them for getting involved and working hard to convince people to vote for them over the past month.

2. Also, got to say, it's refreshing not to be dealing with party platforms. Each candidate has issues they believe passionately in. There's considerable overlap, but there's no party platform trying to be adapted to a specific riding. There was no crapping on an opposing party. This is what each person believes in. You can like it or not, but at least you know what you're getting. A person, not a plank.

3. A friend of mine commented on Twitter that the nice thing about the Nunavut election is the lack of polling. Absolutely right. I have no idea how things are going to turn out on Monday. I have no idea how three of the four seats in Iqaluit are going to go, including ours. I'll be up late on Monday getting the results. I'm looking forward to it.

4. As for the event today, there's a lot to commend to the volunteers who put together a great event in a short period of time. It was well organized, there was simultaneous translation available in English, Inuktitut and French. It was broadcast on radio and they had dedicated people Tweeting out the questions and the candidates responses. Voters from all four ridings got to see their candidate speak on the issues at four different times. A remarkable job.

I put that out there so as to not distract from my two complaints. First, it wasn't a debate. Candidates were asked four questions, they all got a chance to answer. There was no debate or interaction. For our riding, the candidates were all very polite to each other. Which is grand and nice to see, but it also would have been nice to see them debate their differences in opinion with each other.

Secondly, I wish they had done a better job with the questions. They took them from the general public and drew them at random from a box. Not all questions are equal. The questions asked of the candidates in Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu were, at best, meandering and at worst completely irrelevant (one was on snowmobile safety in Iqaluit. It's a municipal issue). I wish they had done a better job of screening out weak questions or picked a different way to quiz the candidates. They should have just gotten Nunatsiaq News editor Jim Bell to ask questions.

So having said that, how did they do today? Well, I caution this is just my opinion. I also caution this is not an indication of how I'm voting or who I am supporting. I'm weighing factors other than four not great questions asked over the space of an hour. Having said that, this is my ranking.

1. Anne Crawford - She's the one who seemed the most comfortable with the format. She was the most concise with her answers and used her time the most efficiently. She spoke English, French, and Inuktitut. She also raised good points and offered up some interesting ideas. She did a good job.

The nitpicks. I'm not sure how many Inuit she wowed starting off her opening remarks in French. Also, while she speaks Inuktitut, I'm not sure how comfortable she was with it except for prepared remarks. A question about encouraging the use of Inuktitut was tailor-made to be answered in Inuktitut; she responded in English.

2. Jack Anawak. He offered up the best and more forceful opening remarks on what he wants to get accomplished. He also raised interesting points about the Inuktitut language and the need for greater training for Inuit, pointing out that mentoring programs are worse now than what they were in the 80s. He was well-spoken and is obviously passionate about issues as they relate to mental health. He's the one who moved up the highest in my regard after the candidates spoke.

The nitpicks. Not always the best at managing his time when talking. He ran out of time during his opening remarks. Also, I think he was trying a bit too hard sometimes to try and tie answers back to the issue of mental health.

3. Duncan Cunningham. A solid opening statement and he also tried to work all three languages in. He's obviously got a ton of experience and some good ideas. No one real shining moment during the meeting, though.

He wasn't so great at answering the questions in the time allowed. He seemed to get nervous and flustered and never looked 100 per cent at ease on the stage. He also wasn't 100 per cent comfortable using Inuktitut, except in prepared remarks. He's someone I get the feeling is much better at the policy and nuts and bolts of being in the office than in the campaigning to get the job.

4. Pat Angnakak. Oh, I confess this was a disappointment. I really quite liked her when she came to the door. Bright, engaging, well-spoken and lots of ideas. But the format clearly unnerved her. She never really had her composure until towards the end. She was nervous when talking and never got the clarity I think she was looking for when trying to answer questions.

She has one really quite good moment when talking about teacher/parent engagement, relating her own experience and also with her frustration that getting kids involved in school should be a community-wide effort (fair point, why do local businesses let kids into their establishments when they should be in class). I think she's better than she showed today, but it's bad timing to have an off day.

5. Sytukie Joamie. I think it's almost unfair to rate him 5th, simply because he's doing his own thing. He's the least polished politically of the six. That means sometimes he says stuff that leaves you scratching your head (making Nunavut into a province), but he also says stuff that is quite insightful. His reminder that Nunavut has a lot of positive things and is a good place was a needed, and refreshing, reminder that not everything is broken with Nunavut. In a discussion that so often focus on what's wrong and how to fix it, it was nice to hear.

6. Methusalah Kunuk. I didn't know much about him going into this forum and I still don't know much about him. It was not a great performance. He has a ton of experience in Government of Nunavut, but none of that was convincingly related when he spoke. He doesn't have a clear speaking voice in either language and not helping is that he never really seemed to clearly relay his ideas and what he stands for. You can scoff at some of Joamie's ideas, but at least they will get you talking. Nothing Kunuk said made an impression.

So there we have it. Crawford said it's too bad all of them couldn't win. And honestly, it's a pretty good field to pick from. No predictions on my part, and I'm not saying who Cathy and I are voting for. But Monday should be interesting. Best of luck to all of them

Last Five
1. We - Neil Diamond*
2. Man's best friend - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Make a little noise - Joel Plaskett Emergency
4. We walk - The Ting Tings
5. Confidence - Garbage

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nunavut elections

I haven't written anything about it, but Nunavut is in the middle of a territorial election. Old habits die hard, I guess. This is the second one we've been in Nunavut for. The last one was in 2008 and I was an employee of the Government of Nunavut, which meant I didn't feel comfortable writing about it.

Why? Well, I have a long-standing rule about blogging which is never write about work. It's begging, absolutely begging, for trouble. Now, I should be able to write about an election and the people running for the office when an employee for the GN. Reality was a little different. Social media, like blogger, Twitter or Facebook was something the GN was struggling to deal with. So, when in doubt with a new media, organizations like that tend to react in a hostile manner. I'm sure if I dug through the archives, I can find blog posts writing about bloggers being told to delete posts, or their blogs, if they wanted to keep their jobs.

You can debate if that's right. It was the reality. I understand the GN has a social media policy in place these days. I haven't read it, but hopefully it's a touch more...enlightened.

I don't work for the GN anymore, so I'm feeling a touch more liberated talking about the election. I'm not endorsing anyone because we're not sure who we're voting for yet. But I do love that it's going on. I'm a political animal. I was paying attention to the municipal elections in Newfoundland, so watching the territorial ones is fun stuff for me.

First, Nunavut elections are different. There are no political parties, which I find refreshing. I could explain how Nunavut's political system works, but I doubt I could do it better than Jim Bell did last month in the pages of Nunatsiaq News. Go here to read his explanation.

As for us, we're in the riding of Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu. Here's CBC's riding profile. Nunatsiaq has a bunch of stories about different candidates running in our riding, but I honestly don't have it in me to go and link to each one of them.  It's a bit weird as at six candidates I think we have the most running of any one riding in the territory. Also, none of the candidates ran in the last territorial election, which makes us unique in the ridings in town. There's no incumbent to bump off.

I've had a rule about the election, which has baffled a few people when I tell it to them. It's a simple one: if the candidate does not knock on my door he or she is automatically excluded from being in the running for our vote. I don't have to be here. If I'm out, well, they can't be blame for that (although I could make the case that a professional campaign would note that and make the effort to come back before election day).

For me, this is simple. It's a small riding. I'm going to use some simple, and not 100 per cent accurate math, but it'll be close enough for our purposes. If there are approximately 8,000 people in town, and we divide that by four, that means there are 2,000 people in each riding. And let's say at four people per residence (total guesswork) that means about 500 residences per riding. If you can't visit that many households in a month, you're not trying. It means you're making a minimal effort to convince me, or anyone else, to vote for you. And if you're doing that in an election, what kind of MLA are you going to be?

So far, four of the six candidates have been to our door. Sytukie Joamie has already said he's not going door-to-door, so he's out. Nor has Jack Anawak. Given that advance polls are now open, he's pushing his luck, but he still has a few more days to be in the running. Methusalak Kunuk came to the house Saturday morning, but we were out. He did leave a brochure.

That leaves three we've spoken to: Anne Crawford, Duncan Cunningham and Pat Angnakak. Cathy and I are still discussing where we're leaning. We like to try and vote as a block whenever possible, rather than vote split. Cathy's interested in educational issues, I tend to focus on infrastructure. That's not to say there aren't other important issues in the election: mental health, food security, housing, economic development and among others.

The thing I like to ask is "how?" Honestly, if you ever want to see a candidates eyes go momentarily wide, after they talk about what they want to do, ask how they're going to be able to accomplish that. I mean, I think a mental health/addictions rehabilitation facility in Nunavut is absolutely necessary. The question is where is the money going to come from to build it, staff it and run it each year. It's not as easy as waving your magic wand. People have wanted this for years. I note we still don't have one.

I will give one indication in which way we're leaning; unless we hear something extraordinary from one of the men, which hasn't happened yet, I'd like to see a woman get elected from our riding. I think there are going to be plenty of middle-age men from other ridings in Nunavut. It'd be nice to have a woman represent us. And both Crawford and Angnakak seem like intelligent women with ideas of what they want to once elected.

There's been some talk of a debate. Actually, for awhile today there had them scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but that seems to have been put on hold. I hope it happens. I'd like to go and see how they do in a public setting. There's still a week. Not much time, but I can always hope...

Last Five
1. My old man - Ron Hynes
2. Baby got going - Liz Phair
3. Bangs - They Might Be Giants
4. A good idea at the time - OK Go*
5. Instant crush - Daft Punk

Monday, October 14, 2013


There were days, back when eBay first started, where I thought that website might be the death of me. I'm pretty eBay resistant these days. I think I might have bought about a half dozen things in the past couple of years. But in terms of new temptations, Kickstater is doing a pretty good job.

I think Kickstarter has lured me into supporting about a half dozen or so projects so far, and there's normally one going on that I have to talk myself out of, just for the sake of the pocketbook. The big one we've supported so far was the Veronica Mars movie. Cathy and I are huge fans of the first two seasons of the show (we just pretended the third season didn't happen), so when there was an opportunity to support doing a movie...we were all over that one.

But one of the big lures for me have been some of my favourite comic book creators deciding to give Kickstater a try. So when Brian Q. Miller (writer of a beloved run of Batgirl) decided to launch a creator own series called Earthbound on Kickstarter, well, I'll give that a try. I like giving money directly to artists I like.

And then, well, Greg Rucka (dozens of superb books) launched Lady Sabre, well, that was another one. Then Amy Reeder came out with Rocket Girl, which looks like entirely too much fun, so clearly I needed to get that.

So yes, I have issues. This is not a news flash.

For most people I suspect these are probably not things that would lure your attention, although I think they're all excellent books (I'm past due for another graphic novel review post. Maybe later this week). But if you're Canadian, I'm going to point you in the direction of a Kickstarter worth taking a glance at. It's not only comic book based, but also Canadian and historical. So it's a solid trifecta.

This Kickstarter is for Nelvana of the Northern Lights. She was Canada's first superheroine and the story behind her creation and what happened to her is seriously fascinating. I mean, I knew of her existence, but not much more than that. I didn't realize, for example, that she was created in part because US comic books were banned in Canada during World War II, but that there was still a demand to read comic book stories. I also would have sworn there would have been a collection of some of kind of her comics already out there, but I would be wrong.

I could go on at length about this, but there are already two really good interview with the women spearheading the project to collect all of Nelvana's into one book. The more mainstream one came out last week in The Star. Go here to read it, assuming their firewall doesn't drive you nuts. You can also go to Sue's Tumblr called DC Women Kicking Ass and read her interview here.

As it stands, they've already made enough money to get the book made. They're into Stretch Goals now (If they hit certain goals, they offer up more items to go along with the book). And there are a few cool other things you can get, like posters, a calendar, original artwork, etc.

However, I guess due diligence requires me to tell you that if you are interested that this book does collect comics from the 1940s. They were a much different beast back then. I remember when I was younger picking up a copy of Batman Archives which collected the first couple of years of Batman comics from the late 30s and early 40s. I figured it would be something like the Marvel books of the 1960s. But no, it's not. It's a much more...raw and almost primitive version of the comics you will find today. It's not for everyone.

Still, I think what Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey is wonderful. It's an act of historical preservation, in a way. And I think people in Nunavut would find it interesting and worth taking a look at.

I also love the idea of updating the character and relaunching her. I hope one this Kickstarter is over they find the interest in an update. I suspect that'll be another Kickstarter I'll be interested in supporting.

Last Five
1. Let it be - The Beatles
2. Everybody's trying to be my baby - The Beatles
3. Knuckles - The Long Distance Runners
4. Bohemian like you - The Dandy Warhols
5. Back to the start - Lily Allen*

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Keeping my zen

I like to argue that I’ve gotten older, but not necessarily grown up. I think there’s ample proof of that if you walked into my geek den/man cave and saw a wall filled with comic book art, another with book cases filled with graphic novels and, the most recent addition, a quilt. Not any quilt, though; a quilt of Star Wars alphabet featuring artwork by a favourite of mine, Katie Cook.

No, I’m not kidding.

It’s not entirely true, however, the whole “I haven’t grown up that much” thing. I have moments where that hits home for me. Yesterday was one of them.

I had an…incident. I’m not going to go into the details, but let’s just say it happened and….it’s been awhile since I’ve been that mad. Understand, I’m not a get mad kind of guy. I get ranty occasionally, but seething rage, not so much. But earlier the week….I was that mad I could actually taste it. I assume in was adrenaline or something causing the reaction, but I could taste the hate I had going. It felt like it had been liquefied and was running through my veins. When I got back to my office I was physically vibrating to the point co-workers asked if I was all right.

Cathy, god love her, after saying a few consoling words, wisely gave me my space for a few hours. I went to the gym, worked out for about 90 minutes, burned out most of the hate, went back home and was fine. But man, that was an interesting few hours there.

So how is that a grown-up thing? Because my reaction 20 years or so ago would have been much different. When I was with the Muse at MUN, I was a source of amusement for my friends and the staff. I was very bitter, angry and ranty. In my prime, I could probably have given Rick Mercer a run for his money. It didn’t normally take much to set me off. A bloody student council meeting could get me going. The provincial government doing something stupid could get me going.

And once I got going, it was a thing then. I could stretch it out over days or weeks or longer (still not fond of a former MUN president for a number of reasons, so I guess you could argue decades, although it’s cooled from sincere and deep loathing to mild contempt at this point). If you had personally slighted me or someone I care about, then I would make your life miserable. I had the ability to be a particularly cutting bastard. If it was an organization I could write stuff that would make eyeballs bleed. My heroes were Hunter S. Thompson and V from the graphic novel V for Vendetta, just to give you an idea.

I considered this a good thing. My friends would laugh at my rants, which only encouraged me. I thought most of my best creative writing came out of being a proper bastard and ripping people and organizations in print. I actually won awards for it when I was a reporter with The Packet. I like to think I was a pretty good columnist back in the day. I was a bastard, but a bastard with a cause, which was all right in my mind.

Here’s the thing though. I don’t think you can do that forever. Well, you can, probably. I just don’t think you become a very nice person to be around as you get older. You burn so much energy with anger, hate and grudges that it becomes who you are. You have almost nothing else left for anything else. The people who were your friends when you were 22 are much less likely to find it amusing and charming at 42 (although Cathy tells me that some of them have said to her, privately, they do occasionally miss the snarky bastard version of me. I'm...touch?).

So that’s how I’ve grown up, I guess. I like to think I’m much calmer. My fuse is much slower to burn. Cathy gets deserves most of the credit for that. Maybe it makes me less entertaining, but I think it makes me a better person. But yesterday, oh yesterday for a few hours the 22-year-old version of myself was back. Oh yes. There would be fiery vengeance, my friends. I had creative uses for my new walking stick that involved bodily orifices, lighter fluid and matches planned out. I indulged in fantasies where I got to tell certain people, in graphic detail, exactly what I thought of them in ways that would have made their eyes bleed. It’s not that I was ready to burn bridges, you understand, for about three hours yesterday I was ready to burn cities, I was that mad.

It’s been awhile since I was like that. I concluded I didn’t like it. Didn’t like who it was turning me into. So after my workout, I drove home. Sat in the car before I went into the house. My iPod, which I am convinced is sentient, started playing the live version of Springsteen’s "Promised Land" which is one of my favourite songs. Took a deep breath. Realized it was in the past and that there are more important things to deal with. Got over it. Time to move on.

I guess that’s what you do when you’re a grown up. Probably less entertaining, but better for you in the long run.

Last Five
1. Radio Nowhere - Bruce Springsteen
2. You don't see me - Keane*
3. What if I can't see the stars, Mildred? - Matthew Good
4. Can't walk away - The Monday Nights
5. Living the dream - Sloan