Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: 2008

August 16, 2008

Is Canadian Culture Important? Harper Says NO

Apparently our PM Stephen Harper, who likely enjoys paint by numbers and took lessons as a child to learn how to play the radio, doesn't recognize the economic and other benefits of investing in the arts.

I'll tell you what's wrong with cutting funding for Arts and Culture.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy.

The arts and culture sector employs as many people as the combined sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil, gas and utilities.

Green Party: Harper's disrespectful attitude towards cultural expression will damage Canada's reputation

"Slashing funds for cultural activities, both domestic and abroad, is damaging to the fabric of our country and further jeopardizes Canada's international reputation," said Ms. May. "This move appears to be more about extending the government's long tentacles of control into the area of cultural expression, but this move will backfire on Canada. Mr. Harper is slashing the arts in cynical attempt to win votes from a base he mis-reads. Most Canadians want to support a vibrant arts community."

CBC: Cultural groups blast additional federal arts cuts

After mostly silence (save for brief statements from department spokesmen) this week, Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the Trade Routes and PromArt decisions in an interview with the French arm of Canadian Press on Thursday.

"What's being considered … is to examine how we can create a new program or new avenues that will be more efficient and with a stronger impact for our culture abroad," Verner said.

This quote above is interesting. The Cons Heritage Minister says they are seeking better efficiency, but dismantling a working program to possible recreate it at some point in the future seems fairly inefficient to me. Tories cut five more arts programs

"The opposition seems to be accusing us of having an agenda to see that the arts is funded to a lesser extent on an ideological basis, and I can say that's not the case (because) we are spending more on the arts than the Liberal government," said Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications.

The above quote is typical of the Harper Tories. Defend their actions by saying the Liberals are worse. This redirect won't work this time, because cutting tens of millions of dollars in funding can't be defended by implying that Liberals might cut even more. They aren't the ones in power cutting funding. The Harper Tories are, and no amount of blame-shifting or weak excuses will change this.

National Post: Frustration builds over federal cultural cuts

"These cuts are shocking and short-sighted, and they certainly aren't business friendly," wrote Waddell in a statement. "Support for arts and culture are among the most efficient investments a government can make. "

Investing in the arts stimulates the economy. Let's say an artist receives a grant to tour. They then need to rent vehicles, buy plane tickets, pay for meals eat at restaurants, stay at hotels and so on. Their shows are at venues which employ people. The public gets dressed up, maybe in nice new clothes, and drive their vehicle (or even better use public transit ;) and pay for parking to go out for dinner and a show to see the artist. I could go, and I know I'm missing some steps, but I think you probably get the picture. Ottawa to axe five more arts and culture programs

Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the cuts saying the government only wanted to help arts and culture organizations in a more efficient manner and those being axed failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested.

"Culture is an essential element of the identity of a nation and in that sense, will always have its unfailing support," she said.

So it's like that. "I'm hurting you because I love you." If this is what the Harper Tories call "unfailing support", I'd hate to see what they call closed-minded, ideologically based pigheadedness.

Defending these actions on the basis that a program "failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested" is ludicrous. The government has done no studies to confirm that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested. Due to the supposed failure to demonstrate, the Tories think they then have a right to act without investigating or checking if their assumptions are correct. Shouldn't this action be based on something more substantial? If they actually proved that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested that would mean something, but there's no proof of that. Instead they say there was a failure by the programs to prove their worth. Shouldn't the government have to prove the inefficiency of a program before they axe it? This is sort of a "it's your fault for not proving your worth to us" kind of an angle.

Tories decimating culture funding

Asked to explain the cuts, the Prime Minister's spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, suggested some of the funding choices made by the programs were inappropriate, and said money was going to fringe art groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive.

The government is cutting cultural programs to please its ideological base. The Conservatives still don't understand that in a free and democratic country, artists should be able to create without fear and what they deserve is help from our leaders, not threats.

During the Conservative tenure, arts and culture has seen its importance diminish and be marginalized by cuts or ideological attacks over and over. Funding for cultural infrastructure, like community museums and cultural promotion has suffered, but freedom of creation has also been under attack, as seen with the debate on bill C-10 and censorship.

We are witnessing true Conservative ideology at work here. They are cancelling, one by one, programs that don't fit their mindset and culture is taking the biggest hit. Worst, hundreds of artists, creators and organization are left in the dark as to which programs will be cancelled next.

July 8, 2008

Letter - Living Room plans worry south end residents

The following is a letter I've written to the local papers about VIHAs plan to couple transitional housing with a failed addictions program. I have some experience working in this area.

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VIHA's Living Room attempts appear disorganized and remind some south end residents of a salesperson trying to remarket the same old failed product. Unfortunately, we are the ones who have been paying for VIHA’s learning curve.

The past incarnations of the Living Room, as hard as they were to manage, were in commercial areas. Now they want to put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood, adjacent to transition housing for those trying to get away from the street. Is there some study showing this might actually work, or was this decision simply motivated by dollars and cents?

At the south end community meeting, a VIHA spokesperson said, “we see it as a good thing to have the Living Room coupled with the residence.” No study was offered to back that up. Does the VIHA operate on gut feeling and intuition alone? I thought these services were supposed to be spread throughout the city. In fact there are studies showing that over concentration of these services can have a negative effect.

Because we’re not getting any answers about how our safety will be ensured or protected, I’m uneasy about this planned project. The list of rules we were given by VIHA were both naive and directly solely to the inside of the building.

If I were asked to place money on this venture as a positive thing for our community and those on the street, I think I’d keep my wallet in my pocket. On the other hand, if I was asked to invest in this as a real estate venture, this might be profitable. Maybe that’s where VIHA's heart is at.

Cameron Wigmore
Nanaimo, BC

July 7, 2008

Stop Cable Bay boundary extension before Aug 5th

I recently phoned city hall about this controversial development and “negative option” approval process being used to bypass voter involvement. To be clear, the actual development isn’t what’s being voted on; the expansion of the city boundary to include this resort and golf course is the subject. It’s the developer who wants the city boundary expanded and our council has basically made sure that the developer will get their way. This is a big deal because it allows further sprawling of the city, and shows that Nanaimo isn’t serious about sustainable development and urban renewal through increasing population density.

It will take a decade to get proper transit service (as the RDN suggests) if the city doesn’t invest in building up the residential, commercial and industrial areas that already exist WITHIN the city limits. By expanding city limits and allowing developments to GROW our city, they prevent our central Nanaimo population from being concentrated enough to support ½ hr bus wait times instead of the current hour long wait between most busses.

If you wish to get more information you can call Bruce Anderson, Manager of Community Planning at 755-4483. Contact your city council to let them know what you think of this:

Click on the link below to get the elector response form that you can print and submit, or phone city hall at 250-755-4405 to have them mail it to you.

In the news:
City Deserves Better Effort

Residents hope to stop project

June 20, 2008

Nanaimo Transit Better Service Now

I recently overheard a young man on the bus speaking with his friend about gas prices. "Well," he said, "I'm taking the bus because it's gotten to the point that I have to choose between feeding my kids or my truck."
When we consider this reality, we must ask why our city isn't hurrying to invest in our public transit services.

From the citizens point of view, there needs to be a viable alternative to driving our own cars. Currently the bus service is too sparse to properly serve the people of Nanaimo. If our city invests more in this green form of transportation, we will see increased ridership, less congestion on the roads and less pollution. By avoiding the costs of running our own vehicle we can choose how to spend the money saved instead of feeling like a slave to our gas tanks.

Upon reviewing the 2008 Nanaimo transit plan I noticed that while the plan seems appropriate, the timeline for implementing service improvements is far too drawn out. On the RDN transit web page it states that "The projected addition of more than 90,000 annual service hours would result in nearly doubling the conventional transit service level in the Nanaimo region over the next decade." Ten years is a long time for us to have to wait for reasonable service so that we can realistically consider commuting to and from work on the bus instead of by car.

It is shown that the net cost for the RDN to implement all short term options (2009-'10) would be $692,000. These improvements include ten new busses offering an additional 24,500 hrs of service. While this is a good start, I think it can be implemented faster.

Where I really want to see faster implementation of the decade long plan is in the medium range service options. Proposed to be implemented by 2018, these increases include 24 vehicles running for an additional 65,900 hrs, at a net cost for the RDN of $1,609,000. When I consider how much our city council went over budget on the PNC, I have to wonder why our city isn't investing in our transit system right away, rather than over the next decade.

I ride the bus. I have asked a lot of people what they'd like from our transit system, and they always remark that more frequent service on existing routes is needed immediately. This transit plan will offer that, but over the next ten years. That's too long to wait. As a member of your city council, I would be a strong advocate for better service now from our public transit. Our transit system isn't up to par with the rest of BC. I will help get it there, and I'll work to make it an excellent example of how a city can really make it's transit system work for its citizens.

June 12, 2008

Decision to Run for Nanaimo City Council

(this is a copy of a letter to the editor I recently sent to my local papers)

It was inspiring to learn that NALT (Nanaimo and Area Land Trust) has made a call for council candidates to address sustainability and environmental issues. After speaking with a number of community members, and with their encouragement and support, I have decided to run for city council.

A green development option would be to invest in creating a complete picture for Nanaimo communities, reducing the need for us to go across the city for work or shopping. Devoting lanes to busses and cyclists instead of expanding roads is an effective way to reduce congestion and encourage greener forms of transportation. It’s also less expensive and more sustainable than adding evermore lanes to our roads. I understand that our transit system is considering doubling service within the next decade, but I don’t think we should have to wait that long. The cost savings are considerable for individuals using transit instead of driving, and that money can be spent in our communities rather than pouring it into our gas tanks. This is a case of “build it and they will come”, and I know many people who would commute by bus if routes would run more frequently.

Efficiency and conservation are two of the most powerful tools in our efforts to run a city sustainably. We can strengthen our economy by conserving our ecology. Over the long term these efforts can reduce water, energy and transportation development costs significantly. Experience has shown me that to achieve ecological sustainability and well-being in our community we need to work with local businesses. As a member of city council I would be consulting the residents, community groups and business owners of Nanaimo frequently, rather than paying costly consulting firms to make decisions. I define a fiscally responsible city council as one that keeps a close eye on its budget so it doesn’t have to resort to raising property taxes as a result of overspending. Other local concerns I'm aware of include drug and homelessness problems and development strategies.

Having run for a federal political party, and having served on the national council for that federal party, I know that I have the experience and insight to get things done in our city. I recently attended a Nanaimo city council meeting and realized a strong desire to get directly involved at a local level. Knowing that groups like NALT are encouraging participation in our local political scene gives me hope that we can keep Nanaimo on a sustainable path.


Cameron Wigmore

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UPDATE! (August '08)

I'm sad to announce that I will not be running for municipal council in the fall.

In late June I suffered a herniated disc in my lower back and had to be taken by ambulance to Victoria for emergency surgery. It'll be a few more months before I'm back up to full speed, but it does seem like I'm on the path of full recovery.

What this means to my campaign is that I've lost a lot of momentum that I would have been building over the summer. Something I learned when I ran in the last federal election for the Green Party of Canada is that for a campaign to be successful it needs good planning including volunteers and fundraising. I have not been able to devote the necessary time and effort to win, and I know that while I'm in rehabilitation I'll be moving too slow to chase down Nanaimo voters on the street.

Thank you for all of your support!

Cameron Wigmore

April 3, 2008

Seeing Through Spin and Making Messages Stick

Framing, messaging, communicating, debating and spinning. Like a trip to the dentist, this is stuff that most of us average everyday cats would rather avoid, but once it's dealt with we become better able to chew up those who would try to use these tools against us.

This blog post has been created in an effort to help you to see through the spin; to understand how to communicate purposefully through frames that will help your messages stick.

When I first became involved in electoral politics I discovered that one of the things I loathed most about politics and politicians is their use of frames to message. They can do it so effectively that it's difficult to argue against their message, even when you disagree completely. As I learned how they do this, I became better able to spot the spin in daily news. I became more at ease in discussions about subjects and issues with people who disagreed with me. I may not be able to win every debate or convince every person to agree with me, but I now know how to counter spin and avoid frame traps.

Framing is the practice of influencing how people think and feel about issues by encouraging them to think about them in a particular way. This is done with language that conjures up and appeals to images and values that people know and understand deeply. By that definition it is different from 'spin', which can be defined as a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favor, of an event or situation, made through selectively presenting supporting facts or quotes. To be clear, this definition of framing has nothing to do with the murder mystery novel character who is always accusing the other guy of 'framing' him. "I was framed!"

The website has a great summary of the idea of frames and how the political Right-wing uses them at this link here.

Good ol' Wikipedia also has an entry about political framing, of course.

Rather than bore you with my own rambling about frames, I would like to offer up an interview with George Lakoff exploring the ways that conservatives use language to dominate politics.

In this excerpt he gives us an example of framing:

GL: The phrase "Tax relief" began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush's inauguration. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for "relief." For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add "tax" to "relief" and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.

"Tax relief" has even been picked up by the Democrats. I was asked by the Democratic Caucus in their tax meetings to talk to them, and I told them about the problems of using tax relief. The candidates were on the road. Soon after, Joe Lieberman still used the phrase tax relief in a press conference. You see the Democrats shooting themselves in the foot.

BP: So what should they be calling it?

GL: It's not just about what you call it, if it's the same "it." There's actually a whole other way to think about it. Taxes are what you pay to be an American, to live in a civilized society that is democratic and offers opportunity, and where there's an infrastructure that has been paid for by previous taxpayers. This is a huge infrastructure. The highway system, the Internet, the TV system, the public education system, the power grid, the system for training scientists — vast amounts of infrastructure that we all use, which has to be maintained and paid for. Taxes are your dues — you pay your dues to be an American. In addition, the wealthiest Americans use that infrastructure more than anyone else, and they use parts of it that other people don't. The federal justice system, for example, is nine-tenths devoted to corporate law. The Securities and Exchange Commission and all the apparatus of the Commerce Department are mainly used by the wealthy. And we're all paying for it.

BP: So taxes could be framed as an issue of patriotism.

GL: It is an issue of patriotism! Are you paying your dues, or are you trying to get something for free at the expense of your country? It's about being a member. People pay a membership fee to join a country club, for which they get to use the swimming pool and the golf course. But they didn't pay for them in their membership. They were built and paid for by other people and by this collectivity. It's the same thing with our country — the country as country club, being a member of a remarkable nation. But what would it take to make the discussion about that? Every Democratic senator and all of their aides and every candidate would have to learn how to talk about it that way. There would have to be a manual. Republicans have one. They have a guy named Frank Luntz, who puts out a 500-page manual every year that goes issue by issue on what the logic of the position is from the Republican side, what the other guys' logic is, how to attack it, and what language to use.

Take notice! That's the same Frank Luntz who advised Harper and the CPC on how to message. It was big news about two years ago, and Harper has been working with this tool ever since. Messaging through framing, that is.

See more from HarperIndex on how they frame issues related to war. (There is a list at the end of the article linked to above that offers ways to reframe the subjects. Check it out and use them liberally.)

Click here for the full story about Harper and Luntz.

Harper and the CPC have been learning how to frame the issues so that their political opponents have to play by their rules in their logical sandbox, and they've also been using a guidebook helping them to strategically paralyze Parliament to their own advantage.

Harper takes this stuff very seriously, as does the 'right-wing' of the political spectrum. They are way better at framing their message than the 'Left'. They spend more money on their efforts to win our minds than the other political parties, and if we don't pay close attention we'll fall for their spin.

One think for those in the business of messaging that is very important: if the Right tries to use a frame and the Left picks it up, the Left will lose every time. Quoting sundog, one of the people who commented on Luntz and his strategy report (available for download and study):

Luntz's tools ARE words and frames, but do not be deceived: most of the tools he talks about are crafted with a very specific purpose and will only hurt us if we try to pick them up.

Luntz's mission is to hijack the english language. This as a way of robbing his opponents (us) of their most important weapons: ideas. Words, after all, have meaning. And Luntz wants to make sure the important words are moored to right-wing ideas.

Look at his advice on "fairness" for example. "Fairness" is a word with strong progressive identifications, it is an idea that consistently and reliably evokes liberal values. If you're a neo-fascist, this is troubling; "fairness" is a weapon liberals have been able to rely upon.

What's Luntz's solution? Redefine fairness. "Remove that [weapon]," he says, "and you will have the majority for a generation." Disconnect "fairness" from the more progressive ideals of justice and morality. Connect it instead with the more 'rightie' ideals of ownership, personal responsibility, etc.

Fairness is an issue we can win on, but sunscribing to Luntz's definition will only hurt our cause. It's a feint. Beware of adopting his prescriptions. Some of the stuff is about beating the other to the punch, some of it's plain poison.

Here's more on Frank Luntz and the language tricks he uses.

Back to Lakoff. Here are a few links to more usefull information.

Linguistics professor George Lakoff dissects the "war on terror" and other conservative catchphrases

Book excerpts: Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think by G. Lakoff

I imagine you either knew about this stuff already and are excited to have access to all of this information, or maybe you just discovered it and are a bit overwhelmed with the whole situation. It could be that you support the CPC, describe yourself as conservative, liberal, eco-socialist, libertarian or some other spot on the political spectrum. No matter what your political leanings are, you can benefit from this information. We're all people, and we all need to recognize and understand when someone else is trying to manipulate us.

More useful links:

Rockridge Institute

Golden Lake Institute

How to respond to conservatives

Making Environmental Messages Sticky

Two posts here and here by a fellow who says Lakoff is 'a brilliant guy' but argues that there's more the subject of frames and framing than Lakoff can offer.

Straw Man - know your enemy!

Political Spin - know their weapons!