I’m a loser baby…

Can someone please tell me how paying $3M to a business startup is not “picking winners and/or losers”? Especially to a company that was ALSO paid over $5M startup funding in Manitoba?
How many other business startups in the past eight years have received $10K/employee in training/startup funding? [looks out at dearth of hands being raised] That’s what I thought.
Couldn’t this money have gone to post-secondary institutions for workforce training? Maybe to Aboriginal bands to be used for training and education? Maybe to laid-off industry (mining, oil) employees for training in a different industry/job?
I just don’t understand how anyone can claim this isn’t cherry-picking. It’s also *completely* weird. Just like SPUDCO was. If the provincial government IS in the business of providing $10k/employee for training in startups, how do other businesses go about applying for this funding? Who do we talk to? What are the rules and guidelines?

Wealth, Taxes, and Citizenship

I saw this posted on effbook, from these folks.

LUCY PARSONS: “MORE DANGEROUS THAN A THOUSAND RIOTERS”: Eldine Gonzalez Parsons (born c. 1853 – March 7, 1942), described by the Chicago Police Department as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters,” was an American labor organizer and anarchist, born around 1853 in Texas, likely as a slave, to parents of Native American, Black American and Mexican ancestry. In 1871 she married former Confederate soldier Albert Parsons. Forced to flee from Texas by reactions to their interracial marriage, they settled in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1886 her husband, heavily involved in campaigning for the eight-hour day, was arrested, tried and executed on November 11, 1887, by the state of Illinois on charges that he had conspired in the HAYMARKET RIOT — an event which was seen as a political frame-up designed to cripple the 8-hour movement. In 1905 she helped start the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and began editing the Liberator, an anarchist newspaper that supported the IWW in Chicago. She organized the Chicago Hunger Demonstrations in Jan. 1915.

PREDICTING THE WAVE OF SIT-DOWN STRIKES that labor used in the 1930s, Parsons was quoted as saying: “My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.”

Lucy Parsons is pretty clearly an important person. I love the vague (well, sometimes very not-vague) fear people have and have had about “anarchists”. Generally the people who are terrified of anarchy are the same people who espouse personal liberty, which is pretty much the epitome of irony; the line between libertarianism and anarchism is very thinly drawn – right-wing-nuts tend to be libertarians and left-wing-nuts tend to be anarchists (although there are very left-wing libertarian philosophies (social libertarianism) and there are very right-wing anarchists (those fruitcakes who claim they’ve seceded from whatever country they live in and don’t have to follow civil law)). There are differences between the two ideologies, of course, and I encourage you to study both schools of thought. ANYWAY, Lucy Parsons is clearly someone who made a difference.

What I want to talk about though is the sentiment in the quotation attributed to her here: “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth”. I don’t doubt the veracity of that statement one whit. But here’s something I was talking about with #TheTeen, and something I’ve thought about ever since I first started thinking about what I would come to learn is called ‘socialism’ (I was *very* young, for the record).

This is something I struggle with, as a self-proclaimed socialist.Is the accumulation of wealth necessarily a bad thing? Is it right to *try* to vote away wealth? Put another way, is it right to elect a party whose platform is to “take away” their wealth?

One of the things I believe in very strongly is that those who have (whether it’s monetary wealth or other kinds of wealth) have a responsibility to help those who are less wealthy. At its very basic, this is indeed the concept of redistribution of wealth. It is the concept of “enough” – that is to say, if you have enough food to feed your family, you have a responsibility to help those who do not have enough food to feed their families (regardless of the reasons why they may not have enough). One of the problems I encounter when I talk about this is that people have this sense of what they *deserve*.

To “deserve” something is to earn it; to earn punishment or to earn reward (interestingly, the etymology of deserve is from the Latin for’ being entitled to something because of good service’, via Old French deservir). I have a problem with the idea of “deserving” something because of the sense of entitlement. Entitlement means you have a right to something; inherently privileged. When we talk about “deserving” wealth, MOST of us feel we are entitled to it because we’ve worked for it. There are, of course, people who have inherited wealth who may not have busted their rumps at a soul-crushing desk job or who may not have put literal blood, sweat, and tears into their land, their career, their job. Can you argue that people are “entitled” to – that they “deserve” – wealth they’ve been born into? Have they “earned” it?

It’s easy to argue that if you’ve earned your wealth through hard work, you ought to be able to keep it and choose what to do with it. There’s a proviso there, though, and that is the proviso of being a citizen. In order for you to even have the OPTION of being able to earn an income from your work, you are most likely a citizen of some kind (because there are very, very few places on the planet that are actually anarchist collectives or libertarian societies). The *benefit* of being a citizen is that you have the option of being able to keep some of your income, not that you are punished by having to give some of it to your government (taxes). The *benefit* of being enfranchised, in other words, is that you GET TO accumulate wealth. This hasn’t been the case for most of history (unless you come from a tribal culture that values collective wealth) for most of western (and western european-based) civilisation.

Remember that up until the French Revolution, most people didn’t have the option of keeping any of the money they made. There was no “middle class”. You either came from wealth or you were a peasant. You either owned land and had holdings, or you were indentured to those who did. You either owned a business or you lived in poverty. There really was no middle ground. The *benefit* of being an enfranchised citizen is that you *get to* keep some of the wealth you earn, not that you *have to* give some of your wealth up. Too many people think of this backwards.

Too many people think taxes are some kind of punishment. Some kind of punitive measurement instituted by the government to ensure that nobody gets too powerful, and to keep us all in our places (an argument I have heard from proponents of the anti-tax or minimal tax movements). Not only is this a stunning case of paranoia, it’s also ridiculous. You can argue that governments are corrupt (many are); you can argue that governments are not good stewards of public funds (some aren’t); you have the power to change the government. What is NOT a valid argument is that the government doesn’t have “the right” to tax you. Of COURSE the government has the right to tax you. The reason we HAVE an elected, democratic government instead of a monarchy or a dictatorship or any other kind of non-democratic governance model is BECAUSE it is the only way to ensure that the MAJORITY of citizens benefit from being citizens, including, but not limited to, being allowed to own property, being allowed to retain their earnings, being allowed to have basic rights, etc.. I could go on, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this.

Tax is not punishment. If anything, it’s a user fee. A subscription rate. An access fee. A membership payment. If you choose not to pay taxes (that are used to improve the lives of everyone in the country); if you don’t choose to use some of your wealth to make things better for people other than yourself, you don’t *deserve* to be able to drive on municipal, regional, provincial, or federal roads. You don’t *deserve* to have running water and sewage treatment. You don’t *deserve* to be tied in to any utility grids; you don’t *deserve* minimum wage; you don’t *deserve* subsidised oil and gas prices; you don’t *deserve* subsidised food prices; you don’t *deserve* subsidised health care; you don’t *deserve* to enrol your children in public school. If you believe you’re *entitled* to those things, including retained wealth, then you are also responsible to all other citizens of your country to make sure we all have access to those things, even people who, for whatever reason, don’t work as hard as you do.

But back to my original issue – nobody’s saying you can’t retain wealth. Nobody’s saying there’s a limit to how much you can own. You can own ALL OF THE THINGS if you want to. And if you’re a fan of conspicuous consumption and excess, go hard. However, you also have a responsibility, if you believe you are entitled to private ownership, to provide a portion of your earnings to ensure the betterment of all people. Even if you don’t like them. Even if you think they’re lazy. Even if you think they’re immoral. The strength of any community is in how the people who live in that community care for one another.

What gets me is that the some of the people who are most reticent of the idea of redistribution of wealth, at least in North America, are people who claim to be adherents of Judaeo-Christian-Muslim faith. This is mystifying. All three of those religions are ostensibly founded on the practice of charity (in Christian theology, the virtue charity has more to do with your relationship with God; this is separate from the *practice* of charity. Thanks for that little nugget of confusion, Aquinas). “Charity” means love and caring. The practice of charity is the act of giving to the needy. Not just money, either. You are expected to give your time, your expertise, your money, or other goods and services – this is considered to be one of the cornerstones on which a loving, faithful community is built (usually through the synagogue, church, or mosque, but not always). I’ve heard the most vicious, vitriolic rhetoric from people who claim to be faithful, about how they “give to charities” and “donate to the church” but still hold some kid of grudge against the people and groups the church and charities choose to help. I’m not going to go into here how important it is to have a separation of church and state, but there is an argument to be made that IN ADDITION TO donating to charities and your church (which do not, as much as you may want them to, form the government of the society in which you live, if you live in Canada or the US or most of the western world), you ALSO have to contribute to the well-being of all people in your society through your taxes (this also includes you).

So when it comes to ‘voting away someone’s wealth’, I think it’s too easy to dismiss as something a ‘crackpot anarchist’ would say. The problem is that the only reason we as citizens of the country in which we live HAVE wealth is BECAUSE we are enfranchised citizens (and at the time Lucy Parsons said that, she was not, in fact, enfranchised, which is actually, I think, one of the points she was trying to make) and that our DUTY as enfranchised citizens is to ensure the betterment of ALL citizens. So we’re not voting away your wealth; we’re voting in favour of continued enfranchisement, and in so doing we’re agreeing to contribute some of our wealth to the benefit of all citizens.

Elections, Campaigning, and Change

If you’re rebuilding a political party, you have to listen. You have to WANT to listen. And you have to listen to a lot of people. One of the best things that ever happened to me was Preston Manning coming to my high school to talk about his newly formed federal party, the Alliance Party. There was no way in hell I’d ever have considered voting for that party, but it got me engaged in politics long before I could actually vote. Why? Because Preston Manning was able to tell me why I should care about federal politics (because like it or not, the federal government makes decisions that you’re going to have to live by, and uninformed choices – or worse, no choice – are what makes a country weak and vulnerable). Preston Manning, in his weird squeaky voice and his even weirder, slightly dorky Mr. Dressup sweater vest, gave enough of a shit about a bunch of high school students in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, that he took time out of his schedule to come and talk to us about politics. Sure, I bet most of the people in that room didn’t care, but we sure talked about what he’d said for a long time. And more importantly than what he said was what he DID – *he* asked *us* what *we* thought.

He didn’t argue with us. He didn’t tell us we were wrong or stupid or silly. He listened to us. (And, for the record, most of us WERE stupid AND silly.)

If I were going to try to rebuild a political party that’s suffered from disengagement, disillusionment, and, frankly, resounding defeat after resounding defeat, the very first thing I would do would be to tell the people who *already* support me that they have a job too. Their job is to find someone whose political opinion they disagree with and listen to them. Not to argue, not to debate, but just to listen. Ask non-directed questions. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind; your job is only to listen.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) has been fighting a downward battle in this province since probably the late 90s. There are all kinds of things that people smarter than I am cite for this, but ultimately I think it boils down to one thing and one thing only: engagement. Certainly in the last eight years, the NDP has utterly lost the ability to engage with citizens. It’s not about their platforms and promises and budgets. It’s not even about vision and mandate and goals. It’s about relevancy.

For at least eight years, the NDP has been selling itself really hard to its own supporters. It’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you’re engaging and relevant when all the people you’re talking to agree with you. The CHALLENGE is in understanding what your DETRACTORS need and want and figuring out how to address those things without ostracizing them. The challenge, the very first challenge of engagement, is in learning how to listen.

By no means do I think the NDP, and socialist parties in general, are irrelevant. I mean, they’re irrelevant to people who are afraid of socialism and the political left, but for every ideology there is an equal and opposite ideology (Newton’s First Law of Politicodynamics, don’t ‘cha know). Hell, nearly half the country decided the Conservative Party of Canada was irrelevant in the last election, so it’s clear how that pendulum swings.

So this isn’t about whether the NDP still has anything to offer – it has a lot to offer. But it won’t win any more votes and it won’t gain any more seats until it figures out how to engage with the people. What the NDP used to be so good at was knowing what people needed. What they wanted. It figured out how to accomplish those things, and that was how it won votes. What we saw in the most recent election in Saskatchewan was what looked like a scared, emaciated party campaigning on fear and negativity, and that was unfortunate. Nobody wins an election when they talk about all the truly shitty things that will happen to you if you don’t vote for them. You can’t *threaten* people into choosing your party. It didn’t work for Harper, and it didn’t work for the NDP (not in 2011 and not in 2016).

Here’s what I wanted the SaskParty to do in the most recent election: I wanted them to campaign on their strengths. I wanted them to talk about all the things that have gone exceedingly well in the past eight years (regardless of whether they can ACTUALLY take credit for them). Instead, what happened was this George Bush-esque “stay the course, stay on target” stuff that worked, not because it was particularly inspiring or engaging, but because there were no viable alternatives to form and lead the government in this election.

The NDP *could have* started campaigning for this election on November 8, 2011, but instead, they had to fire Drain Lingenfelcher and then panic for a couple of years. Look, I’m not trying to be mean, here. I desperately wish, as should everyone who’s currently been elected for the SaskParty, that the NDP could get their act together so they could actually provide a solid opposition. Democracy only works when there are checks and balances against any one party having too much control of the system. Without a strong opposition, the SaskParty runs the risk of becoming complacent, of losing touch with the electorate, and of abusing its power. Yes, my more astute reader, just like the NDP did after fourteen years of nearly uncontested governance.

Maybe somewhere in the province, the NDP *were* listening and engaging. I can think of a few candidates who’ve actually done incredible jobs of being opposition critics (I’m thinking of MLA Trent Wotherspoon, MLA Danielle Chartier, MLA Buckley Belanger, MLA Cathy Sproule, and MLA Warren McCall in particular), and I think they won their ridings fairly handily – this indicates to me that they have engagement with their constituents. I think a real danger to any political candidate is the tendency, and I’m sorry to say that while Cam Broten is a lovely man, he has this tendency, to talk at people. To talk TO them, rather than to engage with them.

So what exactly is engagement? It’s more than just being interested in something. It’s more than just listening to a speech or reading up on a platform. To engage is to become active or involved; to attract; to captivate. Engagement is what happens when you read a book and you see yourself in those pages. It’s when you get so lost in the story that you don’t want to stop reading. It’s when you go to a party and get talking to someone and then the sun’s coming up and the birds are singing and you’re, “oh eff, I have to work in an hour”. Engagement is a discussion, not a lecture. It’s Q & A, not talking points.

The SaskParty wasn’t particularly good at engagement this time around, but the NDP were *abysmal*. If anyone made gains on the engagement front, it was the Liberal Party, riding high on the wake of the world’s most engaging leader sweeping the federal election. Seriously, the Liberals made shocking gains over previous years.

We all know what leads to disillusionment and disengagement (not listening to the citizens, making decisions that cause the electorate to lose confidence, acting like you know more than the people you serve, assuming you’ll get the vote because you always have*). Yet we come back again to the question of how to rebuild a political party? Pundits are talking about how the NDP need to “go back and rebuild”, and frankly, I think that’s utter rubbish. The NDP need to get the eff out of their own heads, to get the eff away from their own supporters, and start to engage with the people of Saskatchewan. NDP candidates and supporters need to have those discussions with people they don’t agree with – but they have to learn how to do it respectfully and honestly. If you learn what’s actually going on with someone, you can begin to form a plan to address it.

No political party, no government, will ever be able to address all the wants and needs of the people – that’s why we have democracy, in which majority rules. The majority cannot rule *properly* (nor, I believe, efficiently) without proper opposition, and that’s the truly unfortunate result of the past two elections. And no party can represent the peoples’ needs and wants without proper engagement. The best they can do is guess. It seems to me the NDP has been guessing a lot lately.

If I were rebuilding the party, which I’m not, I would be spending every available hour I had at town hall meetings, on coffee row, in high schools, at events, listening to people. I’d go to events organised for the opposition, and there’s no way I’d use them as a platform whence to crow my own opinions; I’d be there listening. I’d go to every publicly funded event I could. I’d go to everything I was invited to. I’d invite myself to things. I’d spend my time meeting people, listening to people, and connecting with people. I’d use social media not to broadcast my message, but to have conversations. And sure there would be people who’d be abusive and who’d make fun of me and who’d call me names and try to bully me. There’d be people who’d call me an idiot and a pinko communist and worse, and I would do my very best not to make fun of them because that kind of stuff says more about the person who says it than it does about the actual pinko (that’d be me).

If I were rebuilding a party, I’d challenge every one of my MLAs to be diligent in their opposition duties. I would insist that they learn, inside and out, the portfolios they’re charged with being critics of. I would send them to the government Ministries to meet all the people who actually do the *work* of government. I would send them to the groups and associations who benefit from public funds, who benefit from public subsidies. I’d stress again and again how important it is to know peoples’ names, to listen more than they spoke, to ask questions, and to find joy in all they do. I’d tell every one of my MLAs to learn parliamentary procedure in and out. I’m sure most MLAs do this already.

If I were rebuilding a party, I’d go on the talk shows of people who hated my party, because I’d want people who didn’t believe in my politics to know that it’s okay for them not to believe in my politics, but we can still have respectful discussions about politics, even if we don’t agree. I’d ask journalists to ask me the hard questions, because those answers are the answers more important to the people – that’s why the questions are hard. I’d listen to my advisors and pollsters, but not *too* much, because they have degrees in things like political studies and communications and PR and spin and I don’t want to speak to stats. Stats are meaningless unless you can hear the voices behind them. I’d stop paying buckets of money to consultants and I’d go back to paying attention.

If I were rebuilding a party, I’d invite people to write to me, to phone me, to come to my office and to tell me what their concerns are. And I’d mean it. They wouldn’t be meetings where I’d listen for three minutes or tell people they had five questions and then answer everything with a speaking point from a platform that’s been consensused so much that it’s pandering to the lowest common denominator. I’d find out what people find exciting, and I’d find a way to make that part of my campaign, which I’d start today.

But like I said, I don’t know anything about politics, and I don’t know anything about rebuilding a political party.

*incidentally, anyone who *couldn’t* see the downfall of the NDP back in 2007, but even moreso in 2011, should really brush up on their Greek tragedy. Things were starting to slide in 2007, not because the NDP were necessarily doing anything *wrong*, but because the SaskParty under Brad Wall’s leadership did it *better*. Specifically, they engaged the people. The NDP’s massive loss in 2011 could be chalked up entirely to hubris. That is, of course, far too simplistic a summary for something that has as many moving parts as a provincial election, but hey. My blog, my rules.

Hold my beer and read this

I was supposed to be making Easter dinner.

I was supposed to be cleaning the house and preparing for houseguests and being a good host.

Then I picked up this book. I rescheduled pretty much everything, because there was, simply, no way in hell I was going to stop reading for something as silly as eating. Or bathing. Or feeding my family.

It’s the ultimate journey in meta. It’s a book about books about books. It has everything for the slightly nerdy connoisseur: cults, bookstores, cryptography, architecture, typography, mystery, roleplaying games, programming, and characters, even the ones who walk on for a small speaking role and then walk off again, who you want to chase after and have a sit-down with to talk about what they were just talking about. It’s a book about the mystery of a book. About the key to immortality.

I found myself wanting to dog-ear every second page because Robin Sloan‘s language is at once engaging and hilarious and absolutely poetic. He has a rhythm that you can’t help but be drawn into. But best of all, he is a master – a MASTER – storyteller.

Here’s the worst part of this book: my family is hungry, I haven’t showered in two days, and I’m starting the book all over again. I was going to give it to my teenager to read (we share most books), but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll just have to buy him his own copy, because nobody’s getting this one.

View all my reviews

Vote Saskatchewan 2016

I’m sad.

I’m sad because usually, an election is an exciting time! Elections are basically the dating game for people who don’t want to have to dick around with online profiles, grocery shop introductions, and nightclub hookups. It’s like trying to find someone to spend the rest of your life with, if the rest of your life can be measured in four-year-stints. And trust me, sometimes a four-year-stint feels like the rest of your life.

It’s a weird dating game, though, because the way it’s *supposed* to work is that your parents/guardians get to see the list of potential dates, and they weed out the ones they deem undesirable – no snaggletoothed rednecks for my boy, Mother. Maybe it’s because even though EVERYBODY KNEW there would be an election this spring (that’s what happens when you mandate an election period), it’s like the New Democrats in Saskatchewan were all sitting around in the garage, making glitter glue posters and talking about how cool it would be when they were all in bigger offices, when they ought to have been screening their dates.

But that’s not the worst part (and believe you me, I ABSOLUTELY vote for whoever’s campaign poster has the most glitter). The worst part is that the Saskatchewan Party’s election platform, in its entirety, seems to be “OMGOMG YOU GUYS ARE SO DUMB! YOUR DATING OPTIONS ARE, LIKE, TOTAL FREAKS”.

Last week, the NDP dropped four candidates from its roster because of the stupid things they’d said on social media. Let us all take a moment to reflect on all of the stupid shit we’ve said, in our entire lives, ever, since the beginning of time. You there in the back, I happen to know FOR A FACT that you’ve said stupid shit, so you’d better be reflecting.

Right. All done? Now I want you to pretend you’re a teenager (if you are a teenager, this part should be easy) or a twenty-something (if you are a twenty-something, pretend you’re still a teenager; this part might be easier). I know the reason you use SnapChat is because you think those posts completely disappear after 24 hours. You’re wrong, but it’s cute you think that. If you’d read the Terms of Service, which I know you didn’t do, you’d see that you granted them license to use anything you post through their service for a number of things. That means your content has not disappeared. None of the content you post on the Internet disappears.

None of it. Not ever.

Someone, somewhere has a cache of everything ever posted on the net.

I have a growing sense of unease with the idea that if you ever even think you might want to run for public office, you have to start censoring yourself basically at birth because #Glob forbid you should say something insulting, stupid, or something that challenges social norms, manners, or taboos. Defend yourself at the VERY least. “Sure, I said something that sounded racist, but if you look at the actual context of what I said, you’ll see I was actually lampooning actual racists.”

So there are two problems with the Saskatchewan Party’s campaign plaform: 1) this whole “neener neener you’re running weirdos” isn’t actually telling me anything about what the Sask Party is going to do with my province for the next four years if they win; and 2) The Saskatchewan Party has spent the last EIGHT YEARS blaming the NDP for everything that’s gone wrong in the province with one exception.


That is the one exception where the Sask Party admitted that maybe they’d done something wrong (they hadn’t) when they legalized serving alcohol during strip routines. EVERYTHING ELSE that hasn’t gone swimmingly is the NDP’s fault. Why are seniors being abused in health care facilities? That’s the NDP’s fault. Why has there been no increase in educational funding for primary and secondary education (and in fact why is funding being cut)? Because NDP, that’s why.

I had so much more hope for the Sask Party. So much more. Although I’m a pretty hardcore socialist, I haven’t voted NDP since Drain Lingenfelcher roont the party (that right there is why I will never run for political office, my peeps). I don’t remember who I voted for in the last two elections; it might have been the Sask Party at one point. And while the Sask Party *has* made monumentally stupid decisions (axing the film tax credit which was actually a revenue generator for the province; rescinding legislation about drinking and stripping; selling off perfectly good crown properties to money-losing operations; putting all the budget eggs in the non-renewable resources basket…I could go on), I’ve liked some of what they’ve done. Granted, they had it pretty easy – they came in to power when people were starting to move back because oil and potash revenues were skyrocketing. Now that things are tougher, the BEST they can do to campaign is to point fingers at NDP candidates’ Twitter streams and Facebook pages?

The NDP isn’t blameless here; they should’ve screened their candidates, you know, at all. The NDP hasn’t done well to rebuild its party since ol’ Drain busted it up. In fact, I’d say they’ve monumentally failed. The NDP isn’t talking very loudly about instituting a living wage; about providing free housing for the homeless; about how they’re going to repair and enhance the primary and secondary education system given that their party centralized it and underfunded schools (less than the Sask Party has, but still, they did it) and hospitals. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to fix the rotten health care system that’s circling the drain in this province. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to husband our natural resources and increase taxes on them to generate more revenue for the province from corporations who SHOULD pay more. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to continue to support, and how they’ll increase support, for arts and culture. They haven’t really talked about much other than how they’re going to reinstate the film tax credit (which would be awesome) and then do some hand-wavey stuff with Creative Saskatchewan.

So as far as the dating game goes, BOTH of these parties are complete duds right now. The Sask Party *should* be campaigning on their strengths (“the province’s economy grew by X during the time we formed government” [had very little to do with the Sask Party and more to do with commodity prices, but so what? Campaigns aren’t for telling the truth, are they?]; “the province ITSELF grew by Y during the time we formed government” [again, population was increasing because of better and more jobs due to resource revenue but whatevs]; “we increased the personal income tax exemption” [you get where I’m going with this]). Talk about what you DID; don’t talk about what the other guy did EIGHT YEARS AGO, or, worse, what people who’ve never actually been elected before have said on social media. ESPECIALLY when there’s actual VIDEO of some stupid shit the leader of your party did in the 80s.

If I were the Lieutenant Governor, I’d shake my head and shrug and write a letter to whoever the LG writes letters to and ask for better parties. And no, I don’t think the Green party is a viable option; they won’t be until they have more seats (like, any). If people in the province can forgive the Liberal party for how badly they’ve screwed us in the past 100 years (we can’t), we might elect a Liberal in this election, but there isn’t a snowflake’s chance in hell that they’ll form government. And if anyone from the former Progressive Conservative party has managed to avoid prison time, I don’t see them running, so that’s not even a starter.

So we’re down to two truly awful choices: the NDP, whose party is limping along trying to steal votes away from the right (guys. You can’t do that. You are not a right wing party. Fundamentally, those people will NEVER vote for you. Just stop trying; it’s kind of sad. It’s like hoping that the captain of the football team is going to ask you to prom when he’s already asked the middle linebacker); or the Saskatchewan Party, who can’t seem to toot their own horn, which, frankly, is mystifying (this is the captain of the football team *unable* to get a date for prom because he keeps beaking off about how ugly everyone else is).

Sigh. Honestly. This election is like watching a train wreck. Except it’s one of those plastic kids’ wagons and it’s not so much wrecking as it is just kind of slowly tipping over, and all the people (who are much too big to be riding in it ANYWAY) just sort of flop out and crawl away through the mud.

[Go here to the Elections Saskatchewan page to find out where and when to cast your ballot. Just because there are no really good choices for leadership in the province doesn’t mean you shouldn’t voice your opinion.]


Shimmer: a blog tour


There’s about to be a second war on earth for the kingdom of heaven, and Gaby and her brother are the only ones who can prevent it. Or else they’re the ones who tried to start it. Things are a little confusing since it’s only been a week or so since Gaby found out she isn’t human, that her memories aren’t her own, and that there’s a whole army of half-angel/half-human creatures (the Rephaim) fighting to keep hell from breaking loose. Literally.

Gaby still isn’t sure she knows who she is since losing her memory when something happened to her and her brother Jude a year ago, but at least she has Jude back. She thought he had been killed in an accident, but it turns out that had been a lie. The entire last year of her life had been a lie. That she was a human teenager was, in fact, a lie. The problem is, Gaby doesn’t know who’s lying and who’s telling her the truth; every time she learns more about who she is and what she can do, it brings up more questions.

It’s only been a few days, but in that time, she’s been teleported from what she thought was her home in Pan Beach, Australia, to the Sanctuary in Italy where dozens of Rephaim live with a cloister of monks and Nathaniel, the individual who is – supposedly – protecting them. But if Nathaniel is truly a protector, why did he order her brought back to the Sanctuary? Why did he order her into a fight against a hellion – a creature that could easily have killed her?

“You know, before I met you I didn’t hug and I didn’t cry, and I didn’t have deep and meaninfgul conversations about my feelings

She smiles, and this one is all warmth. “Now you do all three – and kill creatures from hell with a shiny sword. You’re like the poster child for paranormal self-development.” – excerpt from Shimmer by Paula Weston

Gaby and her brother Jude hold the key to finding the Fallen, and the forces of hell will do anything to get it. The Rephaim will stop at nothing to make sure that doesn’t happen. But the line between holding the key to an ancient prophecy and being used as a pawn within that prophecy is pretty thin, and Gaby’s tired of being played.

She needs to find out what the truth is, and she needs to do it fast. Time is running out for Rafa, who Gaby can’t stop thinking about, and Taya, a no-nonsense half-angel warrior. They were abducted and are being held hostage in a special kind of prison – the kind that Rephaim can’t teleport out of. The kind of prison that shouldn’t be able to exist. Who built it? Where did they get the knowledge to block Rephaim for entering or leaving? More importantly, whose side are they on?

I lose time watching dirt and blood swirl down the drain. The water finally runs clear. I find the strength to stand, force myself to wash my hair and scrub my face, scrape the black grime out from under my nails.

This gleaming white bathroom is exactly like the one I almost drowned in last Monday. Am I ever going to have an experience at the Sanctuary that doesn’t involve me sobbing, fighting, or aching? – Excerpt from Shimmer, by Paula Weston

It’s tough to talk about the third book in a series without giving away too many spoilers from the first two; Paula Weston’s Shimmer is the third in the Rephaim series from Tundra Books (check out the other stops on the blog tour; they’re listed below). This YA series is a devilishly well-crafted maelstrom of lies, devotion, secrets, prophecy, and espionage.

From the first time you meet Gaby in the first book, Shadows, to the search for her brother Jude in Haze, to the madness and mystery of who’s telling the biggest lies in Shimmer, you’re going to hit a pace you won’t think Weston can keep up. So far, she has. Every time she reveals the answer to a question, there are six more that take its place. Every time you think the fight is over, there’s another fight right around the corner – this time with rocket launchers!

In terms of supernatural fiction, these books have many of the elements you’d expect to see – blood-spilling brawls, sexual tension, infighting, and intrigue. There are no simpering, swooning, love-lorn thralls here (there also aren’t any sparkly vampires, which is a Very Good Thing). The Rephaim is a YA supernatural series for readers who want mystery and betrayal and a clever plot with myriad twists and turns and secrets hiding in corners hoping you don’t look too closely at them.

Shimmer, by Paula Weston
Shimmer, by Paula Weston

It’s also a series that deals with insecurity, with self-doubt, and with the slow process of gaining self-confidence. It’s about friendships that can’t be broken, family that can’t be torn apart, and enemies who can never see eye to eye – or can they? Shimmer continues the story of Gaby’s quest to understand herself, and where she fits in, not just among her friends and family (what’s left of it), but among the kingdoms of earth, heaven, and hell.

Read previous centre of the universe blog tour posts for Shadows and Haze.

Visit the Talking with Tundra site for more information about the Shimmer Blog Tour:

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016
Lee at Rally the Readers
Jillian at centre of the universe: the dreaming
Michelle at Undeniably Book Nerdy
Juhina at Maji Bookshelf

Lynne at Words of Mystery
Laura at If It Has Words
Leanne at Author Leanne Dyck

Lauren at Love is not a triangle
Joy at Joyousreads
Krystal at Krystal’s Stellar Book Blog

Jaime at Fiction Fare
Liz at Midnight Bloom Reads
Crystal at Winterhaven Books
Andrea at Cozy Up With A Good Read

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2016
Jen at The Starry-Eyed Revue
Summer at MissFictional’s Books
Patty at Bookish Wanderlove

You can also follow @TundraBooks, @PaulaWeston, and the wonderful bloggers on twitter!

Support the arts and culture because art and culture support you

BEFORE YOU CLICK THE VIDEO: I see these things a lot in my feed: dancers or painters or singers or musicians – artists – doing something that ‘blows everyone away’ or ‘brings you to tears’ or is just generally amazing. I want you to think about something when you see these types of posts come up in your TL: this is arts & culture. The artists who perform for you in these videos, whether amateur or professional, have talent and skill and usually years and years of training.

But more importantly than that, every time you see one of these things come up in your feed, look at the language: “blows everyone away”; “amazing”; “inspiring”; “awesome”; “astonishing”; “WOW!”. You are inspired because that’s what art does. The people in the background of this video are awe-struck. That’s what art does. It puts something beautiful or amazing or colourful or inspiring into your life.

Support the arts and culture, because it’s arts and culture that support you.