Category: Guest Blogger

My Australian cousin writes on electoral reform and the Australian system

My cousin LARRY, today’s Guest Blogger, was born in Canada where he lived for about 50 years. On retirement in 1990, he and his wife left Canada on a 10-year sailing voyage to Mexico, several South Pacific Island countries, New Zealand and Australia, with the goal of sailing past the Sydney Opera House. After 10 years of fun and adventure, they sold their 37-foot yacht to an Aussie couple. He is now an Aussie citizen and lives in winterless Australia.

Here’s Larry…

I have lived here in wonderful Australia for 16+ years. During that time, I have done some research into the Australian electoral system. The complication of the whole process boggles the mind and they keep tweaking the rules. So confusing is it, that in the lead-up to the last federal election in 2016, the Federal Electoral Commission even published wrong information regarding the rules of voting, causing much confusion at the polls which caused ballots to be ruled informal (not counted) when they shouldn’t have been. There is a rule that once a ballot has been ruled as informal, it cannot be changed to formal for any reason, so these ballots were never counted.

Australia has elections every 3 years for the Lower House and ½ the senate, (Senators are elected to 6 year terms). However, if the government of the day calls for a double dissolution, all seats become vacant including all senate seats. This is what happened in 2016 so ½ the elected senators only got 3 year terms.

Australia has compulsory, preferential, manually counted voting. It may sound like a good idea to force every citizen to vote but in my opinion, it isn’t

Preferential voting here means each person on the ballot must have a number beside it in the order of your preference or your ballot is ruled informal and discarded. The Political Parties will get together and make deals for preferences before the elections. The various parties will publish “how to vote” cards which are passed out to voters at the polls, to try to influence the voter to vote their preferences to benefit them, as per pre-election deals made with the other parties. Many people just grab the card from the party they support and vote like sheep as per instructed on the card. Others get boggled with all the ‘how to vote cards’ thrust at them as they line up to vote. We call the walk from the footpath to the voting room entrance, ‘walking the gauntlet’ and do not accept any cards.

No one needs ANY ID to vote! Many cases came to light after the election, where on Election Day; people were told their name was already crossed off so they couldn’t vote again, when in fact they hadn’t voted at all. Obviously someone else voted and used their name. Anyone could visit different voting locations and give any name out of the phone book if they desired and some reportedly do just that. The far Left Labor Party has the reputation of telling their members to “vote early and vote often”. True or not – depends on who you talk to. This needs changing immediately, in my opinion.

People, who think seriously about their vote, will vote intelligently, and would have voted even if they weren’t forced to. However the people who don’t care and normally wouldn’t vote if not threatened by a big fine, don’t want to be there, and are angry they have to stand in a queue for hours to vote. Many of these people will just number their ballots 1, 2, 3, etc. from the top down to get the process over as soon as possible. It is such a problem that before printing the ballots, the names of the people contesting the seat are drawn out of a hat, to set the order their names will be placed on the ballot paper. Usually, the name at the top gets so many 1’s and has a very good chance of being elected. The poor guy at the bottom of the list is disadvantaged and rarely gets elected. The result is decided by voters who could care less! It is not a good system and why I prefer the ‘first past the post’ system.

The Senate – A senator is a member of the Australian Senate, elected to represent a state or territory. There are 76 senators, 12 from each state and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Our Queensland senate ballot had 122 candidates listed alphabetically by Party, running for the 12 seats available. I made a computer print-out, listing them in the order I wanted to vote for them, which took several hours to research and put together at home. It took about 20 minutes to fill out the 4 page ballot, putting a number from 1 to 122 beside each name. Very few people would have taken the trouble to do this and many just put a number beside the 2 or 3 people they are familiar with and put any sequential number randomly after all the other names. Not good – bogus outcome! The results of the Senate vote in 2016 took over 2 weeks to compile and publish the final list of elected.

Assuming that Canada is about the same as Australia, I would guess that no more than 35% of the population actually give a damn about who their government is. In Canada, the 65% don’t vote, here they do vote and badly skew the results. Forced voting is not good. Preferential voting is not good. Be careful what you wish for!

I find it interesting that Trudeau would be tinkering with the electoral process. Usually when any ‘politician in power’ starts tinkering with the electoral processes, they are trying to tweak the system to their party’s advantage for future elections. I personally would be very leery of someone who wanted to do this.

back to top

The Season of Steph

Basketball playoffs start Saturday, so I’m delighted to welcome back Guest Blogger, JESSE KLETT, to post about his passion: BASKETBALL. Jesse is a personal trainer at the West End YMCA and he loves writing about sports.

Here’s Jesse…

 

Haven’t heard the name Stephen Curry? Where have you been for the past eight months? Even my mother, not a sports enthusiast, asked me just the other day, “Who’s this Steph Curry guy?”

If you want to be up to speed, let me give you a brief rundown on the young man who has evolved into the hands-down best basketball player on the planet, and possibly the most skilled of all time.

He’s the point guard for the NBA reigning champion team, the Golden State Warriors. He is also the NBA’s reigning most valuable player. Standing at 6’3″ and 180 pounds, he’s neither the biggest nor most imposing player in the league, and nothing particularly athletic jumps out at you, either. What sets Stephen Curry apart from the rest is his craftiness with the basketball, his IQ on the court, and the fact that he has the most unstoppable shot ever.

In my lifetime of watching basketball, players like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and, most recently, Lebron James have dominated the game. Not to mention Michael Jordan, who was in his prime just before I started following the sport and who is still considered the best ever. All these stars had pretty amazing skill sets, all different but each with the ability to take over a game. Shaq, with his power at 7’ 0” and 325 pounds, was a monster near the net. Kobe and MJ had all-world ability and were very special athletes who could literally fly and, with cold blood, carry teams and make game-winning shots. Most recently, Lebron is one of the biggest, fastest and strongest players ever to grace a basketball court.

What sets Stephen Curry apart is his ability to dominate the game from over 30 feet away from the net, a skill which terrifies opposing teams. He can shoot the ball like no one ever before. How he moves on the court, how he dribbles the ball, and, of course, his world-famous jump shot are all simply magical. When I watch him, no matter how challenging the shot, I believe that it is going in. Most people would agree. It’s the efficiency of his shots, and the distance from which he shoots that is more than impressive. He’s shattered his previous record for three-pointers made in a season, a record which he has broken for three straight years. And who’s to say he’s not going to get better? He is changing the game before our eyes and it’s damn fun to watch.

Curry’s team just set a NBA record this season for most wins ever, a win-loss ratio of 73:9. This is one game better than Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. And Curry finished in style, scoring 10 three-pointers in the record-breaking game. To put his shooting greatness in perspective, this was the fourth time in 2016 alone that he has hit 10 or more three-pointers in a single game. No one else has hit 10 more than four times in their entire career. Curry is undoubtedly going to win his second consecutive MVP award and the Warriors are favourites to repeat again as Champions.

Nothing I say can do this man justice. He is simply astounding. To see what I’m talking about, even non-basketball fans might want to tune into the NBA playoffs that start tomorrow to watch Steph and his amazing team. You won’t be disappointed. Catch a preview on YouTube.

back to top

 
 

Inside the Jewel Box: A Visit to the Aga Khan Museum

I am delighted to introduce my second Guest Blogger, RYAN CHURCH.

Ryan just graduated, with a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, from OCADU. He is the founder and CEO of BiomeDesign Inc., and hails from British Columbia. His website is www.biome-design.com.

Here’s Ryan…

Driving the Don Valley Parkway to the Aga Khan Museum does little to prepare you for what lies ahead. The complex includes the Ismaili Centre, a vast garden, and the sparkling white jewel box of the Museum. The jewels within the museum are just that, one-of-a-kind masterpieces that speak to the cultural richness of the Muslim world. The founder of the Aga Khan Museum wanted the museum to be a place where the Muslim world could be understood; its cultural riches, its crafts, arts, textiles, and knowledge made evident to the wider world.

As a designer, the first thing I noticed was the attention to detail. Every floor tile, every bathroom mirror, bejewelled seat cushion, window covering, and mural carries the same theme. No expense has been spared. Throughout, 99 variations on the word Allah and the theme of infinity done in a myriad of variations. All give a sense of unity and peace to the entire building. The geometrical and mathematical significance of these designs is not lost on those with elementary geometry – the square of odd numbers radiates and shimmers as light plays with shadow, day with night.

Entering the permanent collection, I was struck by the projections cast on the wall – the projectors themselves facing vertically and reflecting their images off mirrors; little slits in the wall, arranged just-so. Around the corner, treasures from the ancient world echo ancient and revered knowledge. A personal favourite is the famous Qanun, the Canon of Medicine of Ibn Sina from the mid 11th century. Within this velum volume is the medical knowledge of ancient Greece, that of Galen and Dioscorides, passed along the Silk Road as far as Iran where the Golden Age of Islam was flourishing. Beside it is a volume of Mansur’s Anatomy, the Tashrih-e Mansuri, complete with an illustrated full-colour image of our understanding of the human body at the time. We remember that much of ‘western’ medicine and knowledge was known in the near east for millennia before the Renaissance re-birth in the west.

Going further is yet another masterpiece, Ferdowsi’s epic poem, the Shahnameh, or ‘Book of Kings.’ Written at the beginning of the 11th century, this national epic of Iran spans some 60,000 verses. It tells both mythological and historical tales of the Persian Empire back to the beginning of time (570 AD, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad). The Museum has 11 folios of the most richly decorated of the manuscript, that of the reign of Shah Tahmasp (1524-1576). The rest, some 800 in total, are scattered around the world. These folios glitter with vibrant colour, ink and gold, and speak to the cultural richness of this museum. Among the 11 on site is the frontispiece of the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh, known as the “Mona Lisa of Iran.” It is currently in storage for preservation but will be on display in the future – what a treat that will be! In the meantime, visitors can view photos of this folio on iPads located near the others.

The museum itself is not large but, unlike most museums, it compels you to observe and rest at each image and artifact, and to contemplate its significance for the birth of the modern world – and not just the Islamic world. That, perhaps, is the point: why the Aga Khan chose Toronto as the home for such an important cultural collection. Canada is seen, at least by some, as a model country where cultures and races from all backgrounds mix, and carry on with what it means to be human. The Aga Khan Museum is an outward manifestation of that, and we are all the richer for having it here in Toronto.

Parking costs $10 for the day, but you get a voucher equal to the parking fee if you visit the gift shop or have lunch in the restaurant, which you will want to do. A visit to the Museum, and the gardens, is more than an all-day affair.

back to top

 

Batter Up… and Down… and Back Again

The baseball season began this week. Who better to post about the game than Jesse Klett? Jesse is a personal trainer at the West End YMCA, a young man with a passion for baseball and for writing.

I am delighted to introduce my first Guest Blogger, JESSE KLETT.
This could well be the beginning of a new tradition.

Here’s Jesse…

Few players in major league baseball have had the accolades, awards and accomplishments of Alex Rodriguez. Drafted first overall in 1993 by the Seattle Mariners, his talent was unquestioned. He amassed 14 All Star berths, 3 American League Most Valuable Player awards, 654 career home runs and was the youngest player ever to hit 500. Not to mention the fact that he made a nice amount of money along the way. Becoming a free agent in 2001, he signed the richest deal ever in major league baseball history: $252 million, for ten years with the Texas Rangers.

That year, however, he also made the biggest mistake of his career. Although we didn’t know it until years later. On the field, A-Rod dominated hitting, with a career high 52 home runs that season. The following year he hit 57 more. In 2003, his last year with the Rangers, he won the MVP award. He was the best baseball player alive. But Rodriguez had a little help getting where he was. Banned help. In 2003 he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Players had agreed to do the tests with the promise of anonymity. But another player, open PED user Jose Canseco, had already gone public with a book exposé. A black cloud of suspected steroid use hung over baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These allegations stained the reputations of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, all potential Hall of Famers whose careers could not recover. Lying to reporters, fans, and even to US Congress, took away their credibility, their popularity, and any hope of being named to Cooperstown.

Would “A-Roid,” as he was now being called, go down the same path? Of course. He lied to everyone about his involvement, looked at people like they were crazy, and became irritated by the same repeated questions. Like Lance Armstrong, he was sticking with his story, though the public and his peers had formed their own conclusions. Eventually, in 2009, he admitted to using PEDs from 2001-2003, during his most successful years. He did so only after opting out of his initial monster contract in 2007 and signing an even bigger one for ten years and $275 million with the New York Yankees. In January 2014, he finally came completely clean to the Drug Enforcement Agency about the scandal. He was suspended for 162 games, the longest suspension in baseball history, and sat out the entire 2014 season. His admitted drug use, his cocky attitude, and his lawsuits (which he later abandoned) against the Baseball Commissioner, the MLB Players Association, and even the Yankees, had made him the most hated man in baseball.

Now 39 years old, A-Rod is giving it another shot. Why wouldn’t he? He has three more years on his contract with the Yankees and the potential to earn $61 million. From here, he can only go up. And why walk away from 60+ million bucks? Undoubtedly, the Yankees’ management would love him to retire or fail another drug test. That’s not happening. After a year off, A-Rod has had something of a fresh start in spring training. He is battling for a position on the team like he was a rookie again. He appears to have a good outlook, and doesn’t seem washed up at the plate. This week, against the Toronto Blue Jays, he got a hit and was given a standing ovation by Yankees fans. With the skeleton out of the closet, perhaps he will have a productive season and redeem himself. People who didn’t like him before probably won’t now. But Yankees fans seem to have forgiven him. I’ve always been a fan, so I’ll be rooting for him too. And everyone loves a good comeback story.

back to top