Sunday, January 22, 2006

What Happens Now?

In less than 24 hours, we will know how Canadians have decided to shape their government. There are the main issues to consider as voters cast their ballots. Who will protect universal health care? Who stands for an independent foreign policy? Who stands for improving environmental protection? Who will improve access to post-secondary education? Who will work with the provinces to ensure adequate funding and standards are met for various social programs, as many of them fall under provincial jurisdiction? Who will stand up for First Nations and ensure that they can shape their own future? This list is far from comprehensive, and I could easily think of more questions if I was so inclined.

However, the important aspect which comes into play on the 24th is often unstated. By now, the campaign signs are down, the Prime Minister prepares to contemplate his or her vision for the upcoming session of Parliament, and the party leaders, workers, and volunteers get to sleep for the first time in weeks. Is that it? Will the parties and politicians pack everything away, waiting for next time?

There are several reasons, as mentioned in previous posts, why people feel cynical about politics. For many, the only time they hear from politicians is during an election campaign, and we've been conditioned to think of democracy primarily as voting every few years. It's pretty easy to not feel inspired by marking an X on a piece of paper. Yet democracy is about more than that. It's about the idea of citizens having a role in shaping policies affecting their lives. To that extent, politicians and partisans have an opportunity to play an important role. They have the opportunity to educate people about issues, to communicate to people what is happening and what the government plans to do, and to advocate for the issues the people feel are important. It's a call to making connections and building communities, and above all, showing people how their involvement in the process makes a difference at the end of the day. It's an ongoing process that must happen continuously, during both election and non-election periods.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Air Service Takes Off-Surprised?

Some time ago, Air Transat announced its intention to provide air service to Brandon. Flights between Fort McMurray, Alberta and Mexico, and it was intended to be a trial run over the winter months. The local business community was happy. They have been lobbying to bring air service to Brandon for some time, and I've heard many people talk about how great air service would be so that people wouldn't have to drive in and out of Winnipeg to fly.

Things didn't turn out as they sould have. Recently, Air Transat announced that they intend to cancel that service because of low numbers. This doesn't surprise me, but local opinions about air service in Brandon have me baffled. It seems odd for so many people to want air service, yet not enough use it to make it viable. But there are other things to consider as well. Brandon isn't a large community, and bringing air service to Brandon won't encourage more flights in and out of Brandon. Aside from the airlines not making more money by coming here, coming here would also drive their expenses up, as they'd have to pay airport landing fees at 2 airports instead of one. "Oh, but it's inconvenient to have to drive 2 hours to the Winnipeg airport," people say. Many large cities, however, take a long time to drive across anyways. When it comes down to it, airlines are businesses, and they are out to make money, and it's quite evident that they wouldn't make money by flying into Brandon. After all this, I still have a hard time understanding why some people keep lobbying for air service in Brandon, when it clearly is not viable.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006: Year Of Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The blogging break is over. Before posting on this week's topic, I would like to wish those readers going by the Gregorian Calendar a Happy New Year.

The end of the year is a time to reflect on the past. One major thing that came up this year was weather stories. Hurricane Katrina was obviously notable and was part of a record Atlantic hurricane season, but there are major weather stories happening now. Environment Canada released its top weather stories of 2005, and flooding in Manitoba was second from the top, behind flooding in Alberta. There are also current weather anomolies happening as I write. Brandon is basking in a heatwave lasting more than a week that has sent temperatures close to the freezing mark. Wildfires are causing problems in Oklahoma and Texas, and flooding is a problem in northern California.

These events point to a longstanding trend that has seen global temperatures rise dramatically as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol, drafted in 1997 in the Japanese city of Kyoto, came into effect this year when Russia ratified. The agreement calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 5% below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Even though more is needed to be done than called for under Kyoto, Kyoto at least sets a benchmark against which to measure progress and from which to make future plans.

But there is something that any reader of this blog can also do. The link to the Hunger Site on the right hand side of the page provides links to other websites whereby a simple click goes towawrds such things as rainforest and habitat protection. What better way to start off a new year and make a difference by taking just a few seconds each day?