Blog Round-Up: Things I Saw This Week

Tanya from Dharmage points out the very real and very frustrating problem of HR simply neglecting to follow up with you even after you’ve been in for interviews.

I have a hypothesis as to why this happens: After the final interviews are done, a decision is made within about a week or two. Then, the offer is made to the successful candidate. There is a period between the time the offer is accepted and when the candidate actually starts the job, which can be anywhere from immediately to a month, depending when their current job can release them. Until that new hire can start, HR cannot inform the unsuccessful candidates in the event the new hire is somehow unable to take the job. They may want to keep the runners-up in reserve. But by the time the new hire actually begins, they simply let the other candidates drop. Hence, the “ghosting.”

It is an HR practice that really needs to stop.

Hey, speaking of HR, I’ve had a few interviews in the past few weeks, both in person and over the phone. They’ve all gone well but I believe I’m in that zone between waiting to hear back and being ghosted myself.

I have another tomorrow that came together at the last minute. It would be in an industry that I’ve never worked before and doing a few things I’ve never, ever done like matter budgets. But they want to interview me anyway. It was one of those “invisible job market” things where someone I met at a networking group got on with this firm and suggested my name to them. So who knows? I’d be working downtown so there’s that.

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deadder

Cartoon by Michael de Adder.

I am terrible at predicting political outcomes but here goes nothing: If reality TV star Kevin O’Leary becomes leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can breathe easier in 2019, despite my own misgivings about his leadership. My family back in the Maritimes, who are generally Tories, are perplexed by O’Leary’s popularity. He’s done none of the work one would normally expect a successful leader to do: win a seat, become Opposition Leader, serve in a government, read the Constitution. Lisa Raitt, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Maxime Bernier, and Steven Blaney have all done, in most regards, have done that work. Even Kellie Leitch has done that work and she’s a nutty racist. What O’Leary doesn’t know about government would fill a book that he would never read.

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Former fellow YULblogger Frank went and lost a truckload of weight. That’s no small feat because for dudes in their forties, when that fat is on, it will fight every inch of the way to get off.

As I mentioned last time, I’m on a bit of weight-lifting kick so it’s harder for me to lose weight when putting on muscle at the same time. Still, as I’ve gotten better at the exercise part of it, I’m now seriously monitoring my food intake with my trainer. Apparently, you can’t just go lift 300 pounds and then go to Five Guys for lunch and expect your waist to shrink. And there’s nothing like doing a deep squat and seeing all that fat pool around your midsection.

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Finally, here’s “Once They Banned Imagine” by Drive-By Truckers. A song I’ve been listening to since, oh, about November.

Are you now or have you ever been in cahoots with the notion that people can change
When history happens again if you do or you did you’ll be blamed
From baseless inquiry
To no knocking entry
Becoming the law of the land
To half cocked excuses for bullet abuse regarding anything browner than tan

Cause once they banned Imagine it became the same old war its always been
Once they banned Imagine it became the war it was when we were kids

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Speaking of America in crisis, I finally started watching The Americans on FX, in which a pair of KGB spies go deep undercover in Reagan-era America. It’s so good, I have to put my phone down while watching it!

The_Americans

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On The End of Jean Charest

It’s hard to believe in this era, after more than one hundred days of protests, that Quebec premier Jean Charest was once a serious contender for prime minister of Canada.

He came to national attention in the 1980’s as youthful cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. He survived the shellacking that party received in the 1993 federal election that brought Jean Chrétien to power. He was returned to Parliament as one half of a two person PC caucus that included Elsie Wayne who was an odious little homophobe and my Member of Parliament while I was in Saint John. You’d think being chained to her for four years would earn him enough karma points for a lifetime.

When the 1995 referendum came along, he became the strongest voice of federalism in Quebec and a serious contender to replace Jean Chrétien. It wasn’t to be, of course. Charest would be the second last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party before it would eventually merge with the Conservative Party of Canada. Charest then jumped the provincial Quebec Liberals where he would soon become premier. At that point, it was evident that he was mainly about power.

I mention all this because I don’t believe Charest is going to survive this which is odd given the national profile he used to hold. It also reinforces my long held belief that the worst job in Canadian politics is Premier of Quebec (second worst is leader of the Parti Québecois). Should Pauline Marois become premier, she’ll have my deepest sympathies, if nothing else. But I don’t believe she will. However dissatisfied people may be with Charest, that has not translated into support for the PQ.

I think the PLQ still has an excellent shot at making government in the next election but Charest’s time as its leader may be at an end. It’s his own doing, of course. He handled the tuition increase plan so badly and Bill 78 is such a draconian, overreaching response to the protests that even many of those who were in favour of the hikes have turned against the government.

So nobody’s particularly happy about the guy and I’ve always felt there’s a natural lifespan for political leaders of about ten years. Charest’s pretty close to that. On OpenFile, Kate McDonnell correctly asks “Down with Charest, Up with Who?”. Let’s say Charest manages to win a fourth mandate, either in a majority or a minority. Either way, I think he may find himself losing support of his caucus. So who would replace him? Finance Minister Raymond Bachand? Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier? Immigration Minister Yolande James? Or perhaps someone form outside the government.

But no election has been called and we’re only watching the pre-election ads now. The latest, showcasing Pauline Marois awkwardly marching in a casseroles demostration is probably an improvement over the deceased spirit of Jean Charest addressing us from Heaven. Clearly, the creativity will only increase once the writ is dropped.


On the As Yet Unlaunched Liberal Leadership Race That Nobody is Talking About

It’s funny how quickly these things happen. The federal Liberal Party, which was for decades was the default choice of Canadians to form government, finds itself in third place behind the ruling Conservatives and the NDP. It seems sudden but perhaps we can trace this back to when Paul Martin was briefly prime minister. They never did recover from the sponsorship scandal and nobody who has been chosen to replace Paul Martin has been able to muster anything near the support they once had.

The thing that bothers me about the Liberal Party is their insistence that a high-born son (and certainly never a daughter) of a establishment family will be the one to take them out of the wilderness. Pierre Trudeau was born into a rich family. Paul Martin is the son of Paul Martin, the owner of Canada Steamship Lines. Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff were sons of privilege who attended Upper Canada College. And now, two of the rumoured candidates for Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau and Dominic Leblanc, are, respectively, the sons of a prime minister and a governor-general. Missing from the equation is Jean Chrétien who led the party to three consecutive majorities. But, like Brian Mulroney before him, he was born to working class parents in a small Quebec town. And yet for a while he maintained a level of popularity across Canada.

But the Liberals often seem to fall back on this idea that, as long as you have roots in what Peter C. Newman called The Canadian Establishment, you’re their man. And they wonder why they can’t shake this idea that they’re elitist.

I have no real opinion of who would best lead the Liberals or even if they’ll ever return to their national prominence. Right now, the fight is really between the NDP and the Conservatives. I have no beef with Justin Trudeau, except when he asks himself questions in the third person and then answers them. He’s a little grandiose for my liking but, still, kudos to him for winning his seat in a riding that nobody expected him to win. Marc Garneau is interesting as a potential leader as well because, you know, astronaut.

As far possible other contenders, there is one MP named Ted Hsu from Kingston who has a Ph.D. in physics, worked in the banking industry, was a stay at home dad, is into alternative energy, and uses WordPress for his blog. Maybe the Liberals could go outside their usual bubble for their new leader. While I’m on record as a (literally) card-carrying member of the NDP, I think Canada do worse than to have a Prime Minister who knows science, finance, sustainable development, child care, and good blogging platforms.

In Which My Political Career Is Discussed

For most of my life, my relationship with politics has been as an observer. It wasn’t really until high school that I started paying attention to it and that was thanks to my best friend, an ardent Canadian nationalist obsessed with current events. The day after the 1987 New Brunswick provincial election, in which Frank McKenna led his Liberal Party to a 58 seat sweep of the legislature, he met me in the school’s hallway and asked if I had watched the election returns on CBC last night.

Not wanting to let him down, I said I had and then nodded cheerfully in agreement as he recounted the excited coverage of what was, in fact, an historic accomplishment. One which I hadn’t seen because I was probably watching Moonlighting (which, according to Wikipedia, was on TV that night). But it was my friend who showed me how interesting Canadian politics can be and as a result, he was something of a good influence on me.

After that, I got better at paying attention to politics. A friend at university sent me to a Liberal rally in 1993 where Liberal leader Jean Chrétien reacted to a negative ad put out by the PCs (his reaction is about 30 seconds into the video). 1993 was also the first year I could vote federally. Because of this II was brought into a panel discussion of young, first time voters on the local CBC morning show. On the show, I took my then incumbent MP to task for failing to show up at one of the debates and eventually admitted that I would be voting NDP. For a guy who, at the time, was trying break into radio broadcasting, declaring my party allegiance on the public airwaves probably wasn’t the best career move. As you may have noticed, I don’t currently work in broadcasting.

I spent the 90’s political aware in as much as I went first to the politics section of the newspaper but never spent much time in party politics. Once while freelancing for a local alternative weekly, I attended a talk given by Stockwell Day who was running for the leadership of what was called at the time the Canadian Alliance. At the time, I thought he was a bit of an intellectual lightweight and didn’t think his social conservatism would play well in Atlantic Canada, which tends to go for the more measured Robert Stanfield style of conservative politics.

In 2002, I joined the NDP long enough to vote for Jack Layton as I was tired of seeing the party come in with its usual 30 or 40 seats and thought Layton would be the guy to change that. In the long run, it turned out to be correct but it took ten years and Layton would not live to lead the Official Opposition.

After he died, I decided to join the party. While I don’t agree with every one of their policies, overall, they’re the best fit for me politically. I harbour no illusions about party politics and the realities of governing. Should the NDP ever form government, its most ardent supporters will need to realize that compromises will need to be made if they wish to continue governing. The key part of it is that I would be more comfortable with an NDP compromise than a Liberal one. My initial goal is to work with the local riding association to get an NDP MP elected in my riding in the next election.

So I emailed them and asked if I could volunteer. Their representative emailed back and mentioned the leadership debate that was held last night at Concordia. I asked if there was anything they needed me to do but they never got back to me. I’m not really sure what happened there. They maybe just had the people they needed. If you follow my Twitter feed, it’s evident that I ended up going to Concordia to watch the thing myself.

I don’t think anyone would ever accuse the NDP leadership candidates of not being on the same page. It was the most cordial debate I’d ever witnessed. There was some disagreement between the candidates from rural Canada, Niki Ashton and Nathan Cullen, and those candidates from urban Canada: Peggy Nash, Brian Topp. The other front runner, Thomas Mulcair, was not in attendance due to a previous commitment.

But overall, it seems that the race is not about defining the party ideologically. That’s already done. It’s about selling that to enough Canadians to form a government and that involves finding the right person to make that pitch. I think that person will most likely end up being Brian Topp and I may well vote for him as leader. He satisfies a lot of qualities required for a national leader: fluently bilingual, from Quebec, lives in Toronto, but worked with NDP governments in Saskatchewan.

I was impressed with the youngest candidate: Niki Ashton. I’ve read a few condescending remarks concerning her age but I think people underestimate her at their peril. While, clearly, she’s not going to be leader, I can see her doing big things in the party further down the road.

Also, Ashton has the best campaign poster by a mile. I just can’t see Nathan Cullen pulling off that sleeveless black dress look.

So there it is. I went and joined a party. I even bought an NDP coffee mug so, clearly, this is serious.

Because nobody else is commemorating 9/11

On September 11, 2001, this story was published in the Globe and Mail (I’m linking to the CBC version as I can’t find the archived Globe version). It concerned the arrest of a man suspected in the 1971 highjacking of an Air Canada plane.

I read this story at my desk at work as I began my shift at the call centre. I thought how it was interesting that you never hear of planes being highjacked anymore.

And then the rest of the day happened.

In which I kind of feel badly for Gordon Brown


(photo by David Fisher of Rex Features, found here)

I’m not British and I don’t pay particularly close attention to their politics so perhaps I’m off base here but it can’t be easy to be Gordon Brown these days. He’s having a bad election and today, had a spectacularly bad day. Following a meeting a voter named Gillian Duffy who complained about immigration, an open microphone caught him privately calling her a “sort of bigoted woman”.

So he went and apologized to her and everyone seems to think this is the end for Brown.  I think the only way he’ll get over this is if Duffy announces her intention to vote for the British National Party and then there’ll be nothing “sort of bigoted” about her.

In age when telegenic grace and charm are everything in politics, the only word one could use to charitably describe Brown is, in your best Scottish accents now, “dour”.  It doesn’t matter how smart or capable he may be, he comes off as a too-serious civil servant who has to go deal with the plebes every four years or so.

But that must be awfully tedious, even for the most affable politicians. While most people, no matter which way they lean politically, are mostly engaged with the process and civil toward their elected officials, they’re not the ones who come out to pester their elected officials with every ax they can possibly grind. So when a woman tries to talk about immigration, even if her concerns may be valid, I can see a politician mentally translating that as “Oh, here’s another one, complaining about too many dark-skinned people on Coronation Street.”  It’s like reading a newspaper article, then the online comments with their 90/10 livid mouthbreather/reasoned critique ratio. It tends to skew your perspective.

So I guess the lesson from this is for politicians to be aware of that disconnect between the elected and the electors. And to turn the microphone off when you want to vent.