Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's all fun and games...

My preoccupation with stacking lots more books than I could ever read next to my bed recently got worse when, over at Samara, we created the List of Great Canadian Political Writing, and had over 75 recommendations in 48 hours.

To foster a greater engagement with Canadian politics, we've launched a contest where you can enter to win a book of your choice from the list. By guessing which MP said what quote, you too can add to your own stack of reading pleasure.

Details are here. This week's contest is here. Enter to win, and tell your friends.

More on the census

Over at Samara, our fab intern, Grant Burns from UBC's J School, has created some good discussion with a series of two blog posts on the media's coverage of the census issues.

You can see post one here, and his follow-up, where he addresses some of the criticisms post #1 received, here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another census theory to ponder

Below is a slightly different take on the reasons behind the Conservatives long-form census decision then any I've seen written, courtesy of a friend who prefers to remain nameless, but has given me permission to post here. The upshot is that the census decision was a way of distorting the picture of Canadian society for electoral benefit (rather than a more fundamental ideological reason, as others have posited).

Below is his thinking. Please note this is only an idea so hasn't been researched, but I'd be curious for others' POVs.

As has been well-reported, a voluntary survey tends to under-represent certain groups, often those who "most need society's help." According to the former head of StatsCan, this includes groups such as "aboriginals, low-income earners and immigrants."

My friend wondered if the Conservatives, in thinking they were making a small change no one would notice, were in fact looking to then use the 2011 census data to prove that social and possibly economic conditions were improving under their watch. This may be short term - i.e., in anticipation of a 2012 election (October 15, 2012 is the date set by the Canada Elections Act, assuming the GG doesn't dissolve the House before) - or longer term in anticipation of prolonged period of minority or majority Conservative government rule.

The short term application of course presumes that the collection and analysis of the data would be completed in time for a fall 2012 election (which the timing of the 2006 census analysis suggests is possible), and that the Conservatives could hold the support of the House until then as well.


Monday, August 02, 2010

On the bookshelf

Followers of this blog know I love to read, and always wish I had time to do it more.

Here's what's stacked on my bookshelf right now (all in various stages of consumption):
  • Michael Lewis' The Big Short. His report on the 2008 financial meltdown, as seen through the eyes of a handful of misfits who profited from it. The choice of my largely MBA-type bookclub, and a wise one too. With a securities lawyer, a private equity guy and an ex-Goldman employee, we talked about this book longer than most of the others.
  • Tony Judt's Ill Fares The Land, on what we should learn from the 20th century. I'm halfway through and can't put it down. To give you a sense of its direction, here's the bit of poetry from which the title is derived: "Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay."
  • Christina McCall's My Life As a Dame. I found this while searching for a copy of her no-longer-in-print Grits, the choice of one of the winners of a little contest we have over at Samara. For a long time I wanted to be a journalist, and she was one of the best from her era.
  • Sebastian Junger's War. I heard him speak at a surprisingly poorly attended lecture at the Toronto Reference Library earlier this spring. Junger lived among a platoon in Afghanistan for 15 months, and this is his report on that time.
  • Andrew Potter's The Authenticity Hoax. I'm reading this one slowly because there's so much in it, it should be read that way. It's a cultural criticism of modern society, and as you'll see from following Potter's blog, rarely a day goes by where its themes aren't echoed in the media.
  • James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds. I love his column in the New Yorker, and the thesis appeals to the anti-McKinsey part of my personality.
  • Michael Edward's Civil Society. I make my students read his 2008 critique of modern philanthropy in my course, and I really need to finish this before the next school year begins.
  • Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I know, I should have read this already. But I haven't.
  • David Smith's The People's House of Commons. I'm a devotee of Ned Franks' The Parliament of Canada, and wish more people read it. This is a slightly newer version.
  • Audrey Niffengegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. A former beau told me this reminded him of our relationship. I have no idea what this means, although will soon find out.
  • Adrienne Clarkson's Heart Matters. I had the pleasure of serving on the CEO search committee for the NGO she founded after her GG-ship, the Institute of Canadian Citizenship. I enjoyed getting to know her and am curious to understand her better.
  • From Penguin Canada's terrific Extraordinary Canadians series, Daniel Poliquin's Rene Levesque and Nino Ricci's Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I'm dying to watch the three-part series The Champions, which details the debates between these two men over the future of Canada (back when people debated on such matters). One day I want to work through all the E.C. books... I loved Andrew Cohen's on Lester B. Pearson from the series. It was so well-written that I got a little teary at the end, when Pearson died, even though I knew that was going to happen.
  • And finally, a compendium textbook, Open Government, which features an essay by my friend Dave Eaves called "After the Collapse: Open Government and the Future of Civil Service." I'll likely use it and others from the book in my course next year.
And, of course, the always-present stack of yet-unread New Yorkers.

At this rate, I'll never leave the house, but suggestions of great reads are always welcome!