Why Justin Trudeau should be watching the #TripleDelete scandal

Freedom of information laws exist in every province in Canada and federally. We have them so that the public can peek behind the controlled messaging of government and see what’s going on. These laws are routinely used to expose government excess, wrongdoing and corruption; stories ranging from Allison Redford’s “sky palace” to the Afghan torture scandal of the early Harper years have been aired in public only because someone was able to request the damning records from the government itself.

So yes, like any other leader, Justin Trudeau should be afraid of freedom of information.

But governments should ignore these laws at their peril. In B.C., a government staffer is being investigated by the RCMP after he “triple deleted” (permanently deleted) emails that should have been provided in response to an FOI request. Nobody in their right mind believes this is an isolated incident. Meanwhile, the former Conservative government was consistently blasted for its undermining of freedom of information laws – ironic, since FOI reform and government accountability was something that Harper once campaigned on following the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Instead of following through, he undermined them, tightened control, and kneecapped the public’s ability to keep him accountable.

After two decades of neglect The Freedom of Information Act is a joke. Anyone requesting information from the federal government must cut a $5 cheque (who still uses cheques?) and mail it to Ottawa with a letter (a pre-email form of written communication) asking for the records. It’s like writing to Monsieur Eaton to ask for a Canadiens sweater. If he or she is lucky, a few months later a stack of papers or a CD containing photocopies of printouts of documents will arrive – not the original electronic files in any searchable form, but photocopied pages that could number in the hundreds or thousands. After months of waiting for the Canadiens sweater, wouldn’t you know it, the bastard sent you a Leafs jersey.

This must be the least efficient way of accessing government data that could ever be devised, and to some degree I imagine that’s deliberate. But it’s 2015, we have have a new government with a new mandate, and it’s time to fix it.

The Trudeau campaign made a lot of promises to a lot of people, but his promises on open access and freedom of information reform are some of the most critical. An accountable government is something Canadians have been waiting for since well before Harper, and ensuring the public’s right to know is the first step to bringing that back.

Syrup Trap: Western world horrified to learn there are Syrian children

Three years into the Syrian civil war, citizens of western countries were appalled this week to discover that there could be children among the war’s mounting casualties.

The image of drowned three-year-old Aylan Kurdi galvanized the public to do something about Syrian children, who definitely exist, and who are dying after they make it outside the country, which appears to be when they become humans.

“I knew it was bad over there,” said Janet Kwan, a Vancouver nurse. “But nobody told me there were kids in Syria.

“I thought places like that were just all dudes in their mid-20s with guns.”

Read more here

Syrup Trap: Government of Canada pledges $30 million to ignoring science


In what observers are calling a cynical attempt to score political points with the Conservative base, the Harper government announced an infusion of more than $30 million into its efforts to ignore science on Monday.

“This is clearly pandering to critics of the scientific method,” said NDP science critic Rose Papworth, referring to the title of the press release circulated by the office of the prime minister earlier today, “The Scientific Method: In Over Its Head.”

Read more at The Syrup Trap

Syrup Trap: Corb Lund euthanized after breaking leg at Calgary Stampede show


Popular musician Corb Lund was euthanized at the Calgary Stampede on Sunday after the singer fell and broke his leg during a performance.

“A doctor was on scene immediately and determined that Lund had suffered from a broken right leg — specifically a fractured cannon bone,” organizers said in a written statement. “He was euthanized on the spot.”

Read more at The Syrup Trap

Syrup Trap: Justin Trudeau announces 2008 Green Party platform

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at a Liberal Party rally after today's National Winter Caucus meetings, Tuesday January 20, 2015 in London, Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS//Dave Chidley
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at a Liberal Party rally after today’s National Winter Caucus meetings, Tuesday January 20, 2015 in London, Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS//Dave Chidley

OTTAWA (The News Desk) — Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that his government will eliminate the first-past-the-post electoral system if elected, quoting a Green Party announcement from 2008. The Liberals will instead bring in a system of proportional representation, an idea that was brand new to Canadian politics when it was first proposed nearly a decade ago.

Read more at Syruptrap.ca

Syrup Trap: Alberta NDP shall not repeat the mistakes of the past, Notley announces from golden throne

This first appeared on the Syrup Trap


EDMONTON (The News Desk) — The next four decades in Alberta will not be like the last, according to the new premier.

“Big changes are coming to the way we run things in this province,” Rachel Notley announced Friday, lightly stroking her gilded sceptre. “It’s time to say goodbye to the waste, corruption and arrogance that marked the Progressive Conservatives’ reign.”

Notley’s swearing-in ceremony did break from tradition; for example, 1,000 doves were released instead of the usual 1,000 great horned owls, which some are calling a snub of the province’s official bird.

Furthermore, upon entering the official premier’s residence for the first time, Notley was overheard remarking to one of her assistants that “the gardener looked at [her] sideways,” and that he should be fired immediately. Later that day, Notley was observed flinging a handful of silver candelabras out the third-storey window, screaming, “Disgusting!”

Notley later swept through the legislature, tearing up anything blue and demanding that it be replaced with orange. Among the newly orange elements of the building are the legislature seats, the library carpet and the security guards’ uniforms. One clerk was advised to “Get a new pair of eyes if you want to stay in this building.”

“This province is a mess,” said Notley in a hastily convened press conference in the northwest garden of her estate. “My cabinet has been alerted that the decadence of the previous government will not be tolerated.

“We need better decadence,” she added.

This Amazing New App might ruin reading forever

If you haven’t heard of Spritz yet, you clearly haven’t spent too much time on the Internet lately and I congratulate you. It’s a reading app that finds the Optimal Recognition Point in every word and balances the word on your screen depending on that point, in order to let you read faster. Which is great, if you want to read faster.

Fun, right?

But reading isn’t about reading as quickly as possible. Reading shouldn’t be a chore; when was the last time you heard someone lament that she couldn’t get through her latest novel quickly enough? Just because we can do something, in other words, doesn’t mean that we should. A 2007  study found that most Americans spent about two hours a day watching television, and seven minutes reading for pleasure. Does that sound like we really need to cut that reading time in half?

After trying the app for a few minutes, I have two conclusions: first, that it works. I got up to about twice the maximum normal reading speed with no problem at all. Second, I don’t want to live in a world where it’s the primary way that reading is done.

The sensation of reading Spritzed text is akin to shotgunning a beer. It gets a large volume of beer inside of you, quickly. It rushes in, and all you taste is cold and carbonation. Take that as opposed to the experience of sipping a pint: you miss out on the flavour, the complexity, and the enjoyment of consuming it. But yes, you do get drunk quickly.

An author, writing words on a page (or an e-reader or a computer screen), has great control over the pace at which the reader will read those words. He can write infuriatingly long sentences with no punctuation that just seem to go on and on but because you’re a good reader you just keep on going and eventually you reach the end of a paragraph and realize you’ve been holding your breath for thirty seconds. He can stop. You in the middle of a sentence; or gracefully transition to the next. Spritz doesn’t allow for that; it force-feeds the words at an optimal pace for consumption and comprehension, but not for enjoyment.

I don’t need to do more things more quickly. That is not a problem I have right now – I’m not limited by the amount of words I can cram into my head. I am limited by the amount of time I take away from my devices to enjoy something slower. Sip on a pint, as it were.

Reading books, even the electronic kind, is one of the last things that I do where I am not trying to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s not a problem I want to solve.