Tag Archives: stephen harper

Who are you voting for on October 6th?

I’m usually pretty opinionated when it comes to politics. I like following political debates and knowing the different candidates’ platforms. But even though I like to consider myself ‘informed,’ I still have no idea who I’ll be voting for on October 6th.

In the past few elections, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to choose a candidate I truly admire. It seems like all the parties are offering similar things and if they’re not, it doesn’t matter anyways because campaign promises are so often broken. Yes, I would like to see an Ontario Premier not raise taxes, as per Tim Hudak’s platform. But why should I trust him any more than Dalton McGuinty?

In the past, I’ve considered myself a “Conservative” and voted for the Conservative Party of Canada federally. But I’ve become increasingly disheartened and unimpressed with the federal Conservatives that makes me question my support for the Progressive Conservatives provincially. Today, media outlets revealed that Harper paid a consultant over $90,000 a day for a total cost of almost 20 million dollars to help the government figure out where they can cut costs. Let me help you: I can save you about 20 million to start.

That’s just one issue among many that bothers me about the Conservative party and I know I’m not supposed to base my vote provincially on those views, but it’s hard to separate the two.

So why will Tim Hudak be better than any other politician making empty promises, wasting taxpayers’ hard earned money? He vows to put more money in our pockets and guarantees to offer the services we need. But at the end of the day, what does that mean?

Every other politician I’ve believed in has let me down. Why would this be any different?

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Perspectives: A Close Call with Plagiarism

Last week, I submitted an article to the McGill Daily. (Just broadening my horizons, not switching turfs.) When the editor told me that I had used too many of another’s words and as a result, the article could not be published, I was shocked. Had I really crossed the line to plagiarism?

A 2009 study at the University of British Columbia found that students who plagiarize or cheat have “dark” personality traits, most commonly psychopathy. The study’s author, psychology Professor Delroy Paulhus, recommended that universities should treat plagiarism as a mental disorder.

Me? A psychopath? It doesn’t match my personality traits or my strong ethical values. I still can’t come to terms with the fact that laziness and sloppy work resulted in a close call with plagiarism. I am reluctant to even talk about this incident because, like many other students, I’m hesitant to admit that I came so close to cheating. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Apparently, I’m not the first. Researchers at Guelph University and Rutgers University revealed in a 2006 study that over 53 per cent of Canadians admitted to plagiarism and 18 per cent to cheating on tests at post-secondary schools. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper was accused of plagiarizing his 2010 throne speech from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Harper was also accused of plagiarizing a speech he gave as opposition leader, urging Canada to send troops into Iraq. His speechwriter eventually was forced to resign.

The fact that plagiarism is so widespread-among politicians, students, and even professors-makes me wonder why it’s so appealing. Is it laziness, or is it a deeper societal problem?

One issue is that students often don’t realize they are cheating. Letting your parents edit your work (or write it for you) is plagiarism. Working in groups to solve a project, when the professor has forbidden it, is cheating. A survey of 20,000 students compiled by the Canadian Council on Learning found that students of our generation are more likely than those of others to cheat, and less likely to call it cheating.

Another problem is the accessibility of cheating. Internet-based cheating increased by 81 per cent between 2003 and 2006 according to a survey conducted by the CCL. Copying and pasting from an article has never been so easy.

But the biggest problem is our failure to value our own words and work. People cheat not because they are unethical or too busy to come up with their own ideas, but because they don’t value their own opinions. The thoughts of supposedly reputable others seem more important; one’s own original thoughts seem not to measure up in comparison. While discussing ideas for a class paper, my Shakespeare professor didn’t just tell us not to plagiarize. He told us not to disrespect our own intelligence.  “Borrowing” an idea from someone else only means that we don’t believe sufficiently in ourselves.

An organizer of the Rutgers/Guelph study said the best way to deal with plagiarism is to implement an honour code in schools. But students know cheating is wrong. It’s more important to encourage them to develop their own ideas and take them seriously when they vocalize those ideas.

The excuses are endless but at the root of cheating lies an under-appreciation of your own self-worth. Rather than just inserting the section “McGill values academic integrity” onto every syllabus, it would be more effective if professors and students discussed what academic integrity really is: an understanding that my ideas can only be authentic if I work hard to ensure that they’re my own.

Perspectives: A Loss for the U.N.

After two rounds of voting last Tuesday, Canada withdrew its bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, a seat which it deserved to win. It was the first time in over 50 years that Canada did not win its campaign for a seat. Canada not only lost prestige by losing the election, but also a chance to use its foreign policy record as a supporter of human rights and democratic regimes as an example for other member states.

The seat is supposed to go to a country that has made significant contributions to international peace and security. During Canada’s last stint on the council, in 1999-2000, it led the fight against blood diamonds, promoted the creation of the International Criminal Court, helped protect civilians caught in armed conflicts and promoted smart sanctions against uncooperative regimes. Canada used its chairmanship of the G8 to reach out to leaders from Africa and the Americas and to secure an agreement to enact the Muskoka Initiative for maternal newborn and child health. Canada clearly has the necessary skills to steer the UNSC in the right direction. During its campaign for the seat this time, it made particular mention of its leadership in Afghanistan as evidence that it can take a leading role in international affairs.

In the last 10 years, Canada has become a new presence in world affairs-a shift from its previously passive image. Canada has condemned the nuclear ambitions of Iran and helped promote sanctions against it. In early June, Canada agreed to implement the measures outlined in UNSC Resolution 1929 and confront the Iranian nuclear threat. With a seat on the Security Council, Canada might have had the opportunity to encourage the international community to follow suit.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said last month that he didn’t think that Canada deserved to win the election for the seat. He is wrong. If there is one country that has earned the right to be on the Security Council, it’s Canada.

Ignatieff fails to recognize Canada’s efforts in the international arena during the last 10 years. Increases in Canadian aid to Africa, efforts to improve the health of mothers and children, and working to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are only a few of Canada’s recent accomplishments. As a potential future leader of Canada, Ignatieff should be the first to proclaim these achievements and support Canada’s increased involvement in international affairs, no matter who the current government is. It is a sad day for Canada and for the UN when a chance to bring open discourse, transparency, and a re-focused agenda is taken away.

Successive Canadian governments have said that the integrity of the UN must be maintained through a process of reforms to eliminate its debilitating partisanship. In December 2004, Canada encouraged General Assembly members to focus on more constructive resolutions rather than focusing on a single area: the Middle East. This would enhance the credibility of the UN and make its organization more influential globally. A year later, Prime Minister Paul Martin vowed “to eliminate … the annual rite of politicized anti-Israel resolutions” at the UN. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also pledged to pursue UN reform to make the system more transparent, accountable and effective.

The potential to implement such reforms has disappeared along with Canada’s bid for the Security Council. It is a serious loss for Canada, and even more serious a loss for the UN.

This was published on the McGill Tribune as part of my bi-weekly column, Perspectives.