Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Canadians Need To Vote In The Federal Election May 2

As you may or may not know, Canada is going to have a federal election on May 2, 2011. That's in like 2 days, guys. This election is very neatly straddling the line between "stupid" and "super important". Mostly it's stupid because we keep having elections and nothing has changed, and super important because, well, maybe it will.

There are all sorts of reasons not to vote, especially for young people. Politics can seem like this alternate reality in Ottawa where men in suits are really boring and money disappears and what exactly does it have to do with me? Maybe we don't realize the extent to which it does have to do with us because it feels like politicians aren't talking to us, aren't making policies for us, and just plain aren't taking us seriously.

Figuring out who to vote for and how the voting system works can be confusing, especially since most of that isn't taught in school. The Globe and Mail has a pretty decent rundown on the major parties and their policies, where you can compare their platforms. If you're not sure which party you align with the most, CBC has a vote compass to help you figure it out. If you're doing it and you don't understand or know which policies the questions are talking about, then that's a really good reason to look them up to see where you stand on these issues. Just because you're young doesn't mean you can't understand politics. Here are the ridings in Quebec. Find your riding, see who's elected now, see which way its leaning, and what's going on.


Elections Canada breaks down how our voting system works. Here's a quick explanation:

Canada's parliament is made up of two bodies: the Senate (appointed) and the House of Commons (elected). The government is made up of the House of Commons, ie, the people we elect. Canada is divided into electoral districts, known as ridings. One person from each party can run for election in a riding, as well as independents. We, the people, vote for one candidate in our riding. If that person gets the most votes in that riding, then they win a seat in the House of Commons and represent that riding as an MP (member of parliament).

Our Prime Minister is the leader of the the party with the most seats, or MPs, in the House of Commons.

So, for example, in my riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard, Bernard Patry of the Liberal Party is currently my MP. If everyone else in Canada elected a member of the Liberal Party to the House of Commons, then Michael Ignatieff, as leader of the Liberal Party would be our Prime Minister.

The system is a little bit messed up, in that we don't get to directly vote for who we want to be PM. If you happen to be in a riding that is extremely Conservative, then your Liberal vote doesn't actually go to the Liberals. Not to mention that the left is split into 4 different parties. This is how Stephen Harper was able to win a minority government in the last election despite the fact that about 60% of Canada voted for Not-Harper.

There are 5 major parties running in this election: the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party.


The Conservatives
Leader: Stephen Harper

These are some of my feelings, re: Stephen Harper:

+ He wants to spend $29 billion on fighter jets
+ He wants to build more prisons despite the fact that crime rate is going down
+ He has filled the government lobby with pictures of himself
+ etc, sorry can't provide an unbiased review of Harper & the Conservatives

The Liberals
Leader: Michael Ignatieff

Some things I care about re: Ignatieff & the Liberals:

+ learning passport: $1000 a year tax free bursaries for post-secondary students (for 4 years)
+ cares about our environment - especially cleaner oil sand development
+ possibly introducing online voting?
+ apparently care about women
+ is not Stephen Harper
Bloc Quebecois
Leader: Gilles Duceppe

To be quite honest, I find this party kind annoying. They take a fairly liberal stance on most things except that they want the separation of Quebec and Canada, which is basically reason enough for me to not vote for them. Aside from that, they will never have enough votes to become the government of Canada, though I understand the need for "Quebec to be represented".

Leader: Jack Layton

Jack Layton did a good job in the debates for this election and is gaining a lot of popularity in Quebec. Here is part of the NDP's platform:

+ hire lots of nurses and doctors
+ $800m transfer to provinces and territories to lower tuition fees.
+ reinstating federal minimum wage (actually not entirely sure what this would do)
+ ELECTORAL REFORM!!! but also they want to abolish the senate. not sure how I feel about that yet.
+ Be not-Stephen Harper

The Green Party
Leader: Elizabeth May

My parents said that Elizabeth May should be the leader of the Liberal party and that sounds like something I can agree with. The Green Party is a lot bigger in BC than it is in Quebec. Also I find it weird that the Bloc is invited to debates but the Greens aren't.

+ The Green Party is much more committed to the environment than any of the other parties, it is the foundation of their platform.
+ establish a $10 minimum wage
+ "$400-millon annual increase in funding of post-secondary education needs-based scholarships and bursaries"
+ reform the electoral system
+ are also apparently the only party to have a budget (it's at the end)?
+ not Stephen Harper


This is basically information I have gathered from each party's website in about 10 minutes. But don't trust everything I say! Reading and getting at least a small grasp on where each party stands doesn't take a long time, and you want to vote for what's important to you, not what's important to me. So one more time, here's the vote compass and here's the Globe's comparison of party policies.

This is what I have to say to people who are not voting: Why do you live here? Why not live in a place where you don't have to vote, like, say, China? I'm sure you enjoy your rights and freedoms here in Canada. Well, so do I. Just because the system might not make perfect sense, however, is not a reason to not vote. If you really think it's that stupid, then spoil your ballot. But don't sit at home not caring, because this is your life. Don't throw yourself around like you don't matter, because you matter, okay? And you know what? This is my life too. This is my country, too. So when you don't vote, you're taking a little piece of it away from me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So I'm Going to China This Summer

I might have told you already, but I guess it's time for me to "officially" announce that I'm going to China this summer!

This is what's going down:

It's an 8 week program with Concordia, kind of like an exchange except I don't think anyone is coming to Montreal. I'll be getting 12 credits, taking a 9-credit Mandarin course and a culture course. I'll be staying at the Communications University of China in Beijing with a bunch of other Concordia students and also other students from who knows where. The dates of my trip are May 20-July 16 so mark that on your calendars.

I don't speak any Chinese and I've never been to China so this is really exciting and I'm 95% sure I will start speaking to people in French when they don't understand me in English.

Because I'm going to China for 2 months, I'm also moving out of my apartment on May 1. I feel sad about this because I've really enjoyed living in my little room and living close to downtown. I'm happy to be closer to work for the next ~3 weeks until I leave, but doing anything besides work is going to suck because it'll take me an hour to actually get anywhere.

When I get back I'll probably live with my parents for the rest of the summer, or I might get an apartment for August. I'll probably be looking on craigslist again because I don't want to sign a lease, but if you know anyone who needs a roommate for the fall (in the Plateau area) let me know!

That's basically my life right now, besides working a lot because going to China is expensive and I have a lot of summer shopping to do.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Poem I Wrote On The Bus

"Realise tes rèves" the sign says
with a picture of the sky
because dreams are in the sky and the sky's
the limit
but we've been on mars so
that proves that mars exists
or something
or that we exist

are there dreams on mars
dreams people had but then forgot
when they woke up
is there anything else up there
my old schoolbooks
the other half of this pair of socks
my childhood perhaps
which i misplaced once
and never found again

much like
i assume
the people who left
footprints on the moon
and what about the moon-
what about the moon?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Were A Wild Thing

[lord huron - mighty]

This song is perfect. It makes me think of the jungle in The Lion King, which is another example of perfection.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things You Can't Do Because You Wear Glasses Or Contacts

Needing glasses is one of my least favourite things. Ever. Even more than having cowlicks. I am completely and totally dependent on wearing glasses or contacts just to go outside and behave like a normal person. Once my contact ripped at school and then I had to walk around blind and issue a warning to people in my workshop class that if they were making eye contact with me I wouldn't know. It was funny/terrible.

Things You Can't Do While Wearing Glasses
1. Go to a heavy metal dance party
2. Go swimming
3. Whip your hair back and forth
4. Get punched in the face without fear of having glass shattered in you eye
5. Have a serious make out session without getting kisses on your lens
6. Be outside in the rain and still see properly
7. Read books if you only need glasses to see far away
8. Sweat without your glasses getting all slippery all over your face
10. Play most sports

Things You Can't Do While Wearing Contacts
1. Have impromptu sleepovers
2. Read for long periods of time: if you, like me, need glasses to see far away, then possibly you, like me, have the problem of trying to read books close to your face while wearing contacts.
3. Fall asleep on the bus ride home

Things That You CAN Do With Glasses Or Contacts
1. see (most of the time)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Identity Crisis #3: Am I White?

This is a better written off shoot of one of my other identity crises. Despite being Chinese/having an "Eastern" background sometimes I still feel like I'm an Orientalist/appropriating other cultures.


When I look in the mirror I don't see a Chinese person. I don't see a Jewish person or a lesbian. I don't see a boy or a girl. I don't know what I see. I think I see someone who is just scared of being anything.

I was born in Canada to immigrant parents but to immigrant parents who themselves had been raised in Canada. My dad's family moved to Toronto when he was around 10 and my mother's family moved to Montreal when she was around 5. They were educated in Canada and have not lived outside of Canada in over 20 years or maybe ever (since they moved here)?

I was raised in the suburbs in a fairly white neighbourhood in a middle-class family. There was enough money for me to play sports and have toys and have food everyday and also pay medical bills because my mother was ill (though I didn't think of these things when I was a kid). I went to high school and there were, like, 3 black kids. I think there was one other Chinese kid in my grade. The "biggest" minority were the Jewish kids, about 5 or 6 in the sports program my dad had enough money to pay for. Everyone else was white. This is not to say "I'M SO OPPRESSED" this is actually to say I grew up in an extremely white setting -- so much so that I accidentally let slip "other white people" in reference to myself to Laura in February and she asked me if I considered myself white. And I've thought a lot about it since then.

This is the opposite of "I'm oppressed". When I fill out job applications and they ask me if I'm part of a minority group and list a bunch of options, I feel like I'm exploiting something when I mark off "Chinese" (I don't, however, feel bad about marking off "woman"). Being Chinese has, luckily, never limited my options, at least not that I know of. I don't think I've ever not gotten a job for being Chinese, though once I didn't get a job because I don't speak Cantonese.

I've lived my life in white neighbourhoods, gone to school with white kids, played sports with white kids, had as much money as the average white person, have been taught mostly the same values as non-religious white kids. If you went into my house without knowing who it belonged to, you would probably never guess "Chinese". You might guess "Jewish" if you search really hard and find our menorah, but then you would probably be confused by my step-mom's Christmas decorations. The Chinese food we usually eat is take-out. Just like other white people and Jews on New Year's eve (JKKK).

I have had the opportunities that white, middle-class people my age have had. If asked who I identify most with, between a Chinese person from China and a white person from North America, I would choose a white person from North America. But in some situations among non-asians I can't help but feel extremely Chinese. I've gotten weird questions like "Do you have statues of Buddha in your home?", or people will say something about China and might add in a "no offense" in there (what even?) or ask me if I know the answer (I don't). Someone once told my friend that she thought I was "pretty for an Asian". It used to bother me that people assumed I knew things about China because in my mind I was so clearly not Chinese that I just couldn't understand why people would think I would know. I understand better now (but that doesn't make it right). When the subject of China comes up I suddenly feel extremely conscious of looking like a Chinese person.

But I feel like an impostor in a half-Chinese person's body. I know very little about China. Before I took a class on China last semester pretty much all I knew about Chinese culture was that General Tao chicken is not an authentic Chinese dish. I didn't even know which city my family was from or which dialect of Chinese they spoke.

When I look in the mirror I don't see a Chinese person. I definitely don't look Jewish. I don't even consider myself a real Jew, in fact, my half-assed attempts to celebrate major holidays are probably an insult to real religious people. I consider myself more "queer" than "gay" or "bisexual" because I'm still trying to figure myself out, but queer people can look like anyone.

I don't see a white person either though. I know I'm not white, I just have white privileges, for the most part, right now. What does that make me? (Answer: confused).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Things Americans Have That Canadians Don't & Vice Versa

Things America Has That Canada Doesn't

1. Chick-Fil-A
2. Target
3. Hollywood
4. Biscuits
5. Cheap alcohol
6. Sarah Palin (ha ha!)
7. "do they put thousand island dressing on cheeseburgers in canada and call it 'special sauce'" - laneia
8. "specifically i'd say animal-style fries from in-n-out is a thing we have that you definitely do not have" - laneia
9. fried pickles
10. The opposite of the metric system

Things Canada Has That America Doesn't

1. Smarties (real Smarties, not those lame-ass rocket things), and Coffee Crisp
2. Good maple syrup
3. Bagged milk
4. The pretty side of the Niagra Falls
5. Thai Express
6. "A population of french people with indestructible arteries hardened by generations of eating poutine, tourtiere, and bacon" - terracottatoes
7. A place where people can still roller blade outside and not be judged for being in the wrong decade because Canada is actually just emerging from the 1990s now.
8. Degrassi
9. Nanaimo bars (Ok the US might have these now but they were invented in Canada)
10. Anne of Green Gables

I intentionally avoided political things like 'same-sex marriage', so don't suggest that, but please, feel free to make other suggestions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Could Lie And Say To You That This Would Soon Be Over

Sorry that I haven't posted anything in a while, I've been really busy being stressed about life. But here's a song to make you feel better (or maybe worse?) until I write something real.

[laura stevenson and the cans - master of art]

This song makes me cry/feel really sad and I'm not entirely sure why. But I really like it and maybe that makes me a masochist or something. It hurts so good.

It's about a woman who tells her boyfriend/partner/whatever to wait for her while she gets her Masters. WOW that's pretty feminist-y, right? I like that a lot. Maybe that's why it makes me cry.

I could lie and say to you that this would soon be over.
I could make a little shape for us to stay until we have to go away...