Is This Progress? This Is Progress.

What Is Kaputall?

Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Thursday, 14 May 2015


There has been an absolute flurry of activity around FHRITP. A TFC fan, Shawn Simoes, was interpellated by a CityTV reporter on Sunday, confronted as to whether or not he was going to try to yell the viral phrase into her microphone. Hydro One released a statement that Simoes is no longer employed with the public enterprise. While this move was certainly justified, I don't feel like we're going far enough in dealing with sexism, in particular with street harassment.

Last fall I remember a viral video campaign about a woman who walked the streets of New York filming the men who approached her. You may also remember the Twitter trend #YesAllWomen from a few years ago. These all highlight the prevalence of women being victimised because men think it's acceptable to harass, intimidate, or otherwise insert themselves into situations with women. Sunday was merely the most recent example.

Interestingly, there has been another trend lately of employers having to fire staff who get embroiled in scandal. Consider the importance of behaviour online. Most social media has at least some component that is public, meaning that contributions (photos, posts, etc) can be viewed by anyone. Take, for example, Matt Bowman, a Toronto firefighter who was fired last November after he tweeted racist and sexist remarks. In this particular case, it was easy to tell that Bowman was a member of the city's fire department based on a cursary glance at his profile. This phenomenon is not limited to the public sector: Justine Sacco, a PR executive, was fired after making racist comments on Twitter.

Organisations will continue to be less and less tolerant of their employee's indiscretions. Pressure from the public is always instrumental in calling out these behaviours and then demanded action from the employer. Bad public relations from the mishandling of a scandal can cost companies their annual advertising budget or more.

Despite the fact that offensive behaviour in public or online can cause a wave of shame against those presuming to do wrong, it can also result in the victims being targeting. In the case of the FHRITP, it's evident that some people feel that Simoe losing his job has turned him into a victim. Others decry the feminisation of public space or the disappearance of free speech. Still more, people claim that the humour is not understood, that it's just a prank, or that we are taking things too seriously. Whatever the case, there are plenty of apologists.

Regardless, Simoe can probably now understand what it's like to be harrassed and victimised (not to insinuate that this is just) and hopefully he will have learned a valuable lesson. Surely this episode had to have been embarrassing for him, not to mention devastating for his career. I really hope, however, that instead of letting him take the fall, that we use this as an opportunity to reflect on what values actually lead people to saying FHRITP. The manifestations of sexism evolve and we will be finding ourselves “outraged” about another misogynist phenomenon in no time. Let's connect the dots instead of gathering to watch someone crash and burn.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Contextualising the NDP Victory in Alberta

Yesterday I awoke to a flurry of activity on the radio and social media - the Alberta NDP pulled off a spectacular and historic win. Not only did they win a majority government, but they unseated the Progressive Conservatives who have been ruling the province for 43 years. The NDP managed what would have only been unthinkable sixty days ago and the prospects for Alberta and for Canada have changed dramatically.

While it is important to note that the result has been characterised as less a PC loss than an NDP win, I think too much has been made of this argument. Yes, the election was largely a referendum on Jim Prentice, but have we already forgotten that in the previous Alberta election in 2012 that it was the Wild Rose Party that many projected would form a majority government? The truth is that the PCs have been managing to hold it together despite the fact that there was a growing popular sentiment that it was time for a change - though admittedly unsure of where that would go. The 2012 election illustrates that there was a desire to change, but that Albertans would not abandon the PCs without reason (there was too much risk, evidently). The line that the PCs lost this election is important to take into consideration, but it neglects the fact the the NDP and Rachel Notley made an impact on voters and spoke to their desires instead of their fears.

Despite the fact that the crowd at party headquarters reacted negatively when Notley announced that she was looking forward to working with Harper, I have few worries that Edmonton and Ottawa will fail to work in concert. Moreover, I think this plays into the hands of conservatives who attempt to make out the NDP as the antidote to a healthy economy. The NDP will not destroy Alberta's economy (not that the economy was not in serious trouble under PC management). There will be some concrete changes if the NDP follows through with leading platform thrusts like increasing the minimum wage and introducing new income tax brackets. While business leaders will claim that these changes will hurt Alberta industry, it's only a mechanism to ensure that people can benefit more evenly from the province's prosperity.

Given that this is a federal election year, the NDP win will no doubt influence the outcome in October. There impact has already been felt in Ottawa with the federal NDP claiming that the election has shown that Alberta voters can elect a leftist party. Moreover, Justice Minister Peter Mackay commented that caucus was like a “morgue” on Wednesday morning (also commenting that the province was now becoming Albertistan). With Orange Crush cans turning up across the country, there is no doubt that the NDP win is being felt.

However, there is the matter of the NDP tabling a budget in Alberta, something that must happen before summer. This means that Notley will have to demonstrate her capacity to actually run the province, not merely win the election. This includes selecting first priorities, working out the economics of the budget, and nominating a cabinet from a group of novices. This will be a true test: the party managing the day-to-day affairs of Canada's most successful economy in terms of GDP per capita.

Ultimately, I'm not holding my breath. There is a long stretch between now and October. While there aren't many certainties, it would be a safe bet to say that Canadians will be eagerly watching Alberta for the next few months.