Archive | October, 2011

Martlet: Donors undermine progress

28 Oct

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Donors undermine progress

In Copenhagen, Canada earned a reputation as the “fossil of the day” in climate change. Our inability to meet the conditions of the Kyoto Accords has earned us global scorn.

One only needs to look at B.C.’s political landscape to get an idea of how Canada got to this point. Just examine the B.C. Liberals’ contributors list and you begin to see the problem.

In last year’s election, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, an Albertan oil and gas exploration and development company, donated $7,000 to the Liberals. Terasen Gas doubled that with a $15,000 donation. Another large contributor was Teck Cominco. This mining company donated $75,000 to the Liberals. In the past two years, Teck has been involved in two major court cases for illegally dumping waste into rivers.

In one case, they had to construct a $120 million wastewater pipeline to settle a lawsuit filed by the Inupiat Eskimos, whose drinking water had been fouled by dumping. In another, they were forced to pay a Native band in Washington $1 million for dumping into the Columbia River. That dumping occurred in B.C. under the Liberal government in March 2009.

On Sept. 22, 2009 the NDP reported that the Liberals made a renewed push to lift the ban on coastal drilling, despite Campbell’s government saying in April that they would be addressing climate change and creating jobs in the “green” economy. This story received limited attention from the public, who were distracted by the potential Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Granted, these serious issues are not directly related to those discussed in Copenhagen, which focused on reducing carbon emissions. Thankfully, the Liberals don’t have any well-funded special interest groups to protect in that area. Oh wait. The largest contributor the Liberals in 2009 was The New Car Dealership Association of B.C. This association represents hundreds of new car dealerships across the province and gave an astounding $229,700 to the Liberals. The association made sure to cover their bases though, as they were also the NDP’s largest non-union contributor.

What does this mean for the future of green initiatives in B.C.? Considering the strength of the Liberal Party, and the financing of the party, it will be difficult for them to lose power.

Maybe we should take a closer look at the message in Copenhagen. It’s time to stop protesting HST and start protesting against offshore drilling and waste dumping. It’s time to demand better public transit to offset driving. It’s time to care more about the health of our country and planet.

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Martlet: Vikes start divisional season off with a hot streak

28 Oct

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Vikes start divisional season off with a hot streak

While most of the student body is just settling in for the academic year, the UVic women’s soccer team has been training for months to get in shape for a season that consumes their first few months back at UVic. Expectations are high for the Vikes this year, particularly the women’s soccer team.

“Win the national championship? Of course, that’s always the goal,” said coach Tracy David, who has been coaching the Vikes since 2002 and has led them to their only national championship in 2005. Last year the Vikes won the CanWest title and were a favourite going into the nationals. They reached the semi-finals only to lose in penalty kicks to rival Trinity Western, who went on to win the nationals.

Going into the 2009 season, the Vikes are still among the top contenders for the title, along with their main rivals Trinity Western and UBC.

“Our program has recruited well but so have both of theirs,” said David. “Every year it’s pretty close.”

Already a third of the way into the season, the Vikes are a solid 4-1. Fifth-year forward Kendra Flock has been a star this season, scoring nearly half of the Vikes goals so far. But, as with every season, there have been a few speed-bumps.

“We’ve been really unlucky with injuries,” said David. “This team really needs its fifth-year players to step up and be leaders for the newer players.”

The Vikes have recruited lots of young players this year — on the 31-player roster, 12 of the players are in their first year.

First-year midfielder Kelsey Blake has had a good start to the season, scoring her first goal as a Vike after coming off the bench in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Dinos on Sept. 19. Blake, a Victoria native, joined the Vikes for her first season after graduating from Lambrick Park Secondary School in 2008.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was five years old,” said Blake.

“When I was 12, I went to a camp that Tracy had put on and when it was over she said, ‘Hope to see you as a future Vike.’”

While Blake was at Lambrick Park she played for their provincially-ranked soccer team. She wasn’t convinced she wanted to go to UVic, going as far as writing her SATs and going to an identification camp down in Santa Barbara.

However, with a little convincing from David, she eventually decided to stay in Victoria and become a Vike.

“She’s a really great coach,” said Blake, “One of the best I’ve ever had.”

The Vikes’ next home game is at noon on Saturday, Oct. 17, against Fraser Valley. Tickets are available at the gate.

Martlet: Canadians fail their civic duty

28 Oct

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Canadians fail their civic duty

Canada has been regarded as one of the most educated places in the world, one of the best countries to live in and a country that contributes generously to poorer nations all over the globe. But, judging by the latest Stats Canada results, Canadians have begun to neglect their most basic of duties and rights. That is to say, voting.

According to Elections Canada, voting numbers took a sharp downward turn in the last election — though the numbers weren’t exactly encouraging in the previous few elections, either. Roughly 60 per cent of registered voters participated in the past three elections (2000, 2004 and 2006), which sounds high, until it’s noted that only a little over half of all Canadians are registered voters. That means that only about 35 per cent of the population voted, giving the federal government power by well under half of all Canadians. How serious is this?

“[Voting rates] are definitely a problem” said Denis Pilon, a Political Science professor at UVic.

Pilon says that Canadians are not alone in this recent trend. Other industrialized nations around the world are experiencing similar declines in voting numbers.

In the 1970s, Canada drew 70 to 80 per cent of its registered voters to the polls. In the 2008 federal election, that number dropped to 58 per cent — a six per cent decline from the previous election, and the largest decline in the past decade.

According to Pilon, the problem lies in the younger generations.

“[Historically], young people in their 20s have never voted in large numbers,” Pilon said. “But as people came into their 30s, they began to have a better interest and understanding of how voting affected their lives, and so they started turning up to the polls. That’s not happening anymore. What was once a cyclical aversion to voting has become more permanent.”

Pilon says this trend is not as obvious in the middle-upper classes, but is very apparent in the working class.

“People in the upper classes feel that they are qualified to vote, even if they know very little about the issues. Working class people feel that they are not qualified to vote, so they don’t go to the polls,” said Pilon.

Pilon went on to explain that over this last half century, politics had slowly shifted toward TV and away from personal connections. Where parties once went door-to-door in force to try and encourage people to vote for them, they now use commercials, press conferences and media coverage to spread their messages.

“The problem with that [technological] change is that TV is harder to recap, it’s not written down, so you can’t go back and confirm what you heard,” said Pilon. “People who rely on the TV for information aren’t learning nearly as much as they would if they could sit down and talk to someone face to face.”

Another issue is that most political stories you see in the media are scandals or smears, making people less likely to trust politicians and more likely to develop a general feeling of hostility toward politics.

Combine that with the feelings of insecurity or confusion many Canadians have toward politics, and it’s no wonder most don’t vote.

“It’s not so much that the product is bad,” Pilon said, referring to the political parties. “It’s just that people don’t even know what the product is.”

The only way to get people back to the polls, Pilon says, is to enlighten them and make them feel like they do know enough to vote in elections.

The best way to do this: go back to the tried-and-true method of personal contact.

Door-to-door canvassing by political parties preaching their message, and by the government encouraging people to register and then vote. It sounds so easy, but will it happen?

“If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have told you it wasn’t going to happen and that we’re all going to hell in a hand basket,” said Pilon. “But then Obama came along and won the American election. That changed a lot of things.”

U.S. President Barack Obama did have a well-oiled campaign machine that involved a lot of door-to-door canvassing by volunteers. Ironically, a large percentage of the volunteers were students in the 20s — the candidates who historically are the least likely to vote.

Pilon says the success Obama had in bringing younger voters to the polls may change the attitudes of political parties in countries like Canada, and perhaps the necessary mobilization will occur.

“But it’s too early to tell yet,” he added.

Canadian politicians may be forced to take a long hard look at the U.S.’s historic election in order to learn from it and bring around a much needed change in Canadian attitudes toward voting.

Martlet: The fastest sport you’ve never seen

28 Oct

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The fastest sport you’ve never seen

Badminton’s bad rap blocks the sport’s full potential

Take 100 random athletes from across North America and ask them what sport they play. You’ll hear a lot about the big four: hockey, basketball, baseball and football. You’ll probably hear a bit about cross-country, swimming or track. But I doubt you’ll hear badminton mentioned.

Most North Americans considers badminton a “backyard” sport, something they played in gym class back in junior high. But, in fact, statistics show that badminton is the second most popular sport in the entire world, complete with national rivalries that evoke enthusiasm that could challenge European soccer or college football. Badminton’s amazing athletic grace, complete with its breathtaking dives, superhuman reflexes and massive jump-smashes clocked at over 320 km/h make it the fastest sport in the world, and, arguably, the most difficult.

Not convinced? Look at the facts.

As far as racquet sports go, tennis is by far the most popular in North America. However, when compared to badminton, tennis doesn’t seem to earn its popularity in athletic terms. A comparison between two famous matches, one badminton and one tennis, produced some interesting statistical differences:

Time: Tennis, 3 hours and 18 minutes. Badminton, 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Ball/shuttle in play: Tennis, 18 minutes. Badminton, 37 minutes.

Rallies: Tennis 299. Badminton, 146.

Shots: Tennis, 1,004. Badminton, 1,972.

Shots per rally: Tennis, 3.4. Badminton, 13.5.

Distance covered: Tennis, 2 miles. Badminton, 4 miles.

Hardest tennis serve ever recorded: 155 mph

Hardest badminton smash ever recorded: 206 mph

The badminton players competed for half the time, yet they ran twice as far and hit nearly twice as many shots. It’s clear this sport does not deserve the “wussy” stereotype it possesses in North America. And, badminton already receives recognition as a world-class sport in other parts of the world.

Badminton commands a massive following in Asia, and at its debut in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona it attracted 1.1 billion viewers worldwide. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, badminton was the first event to sell out. However, in the U.S., badminton is seen as a recreational activity rather than a world-class sport. The fact that the U.S. Badminton Association (USAB) has only 2,700 members, and that only 503 high school badminton programs exist in a country filled with millions of young athletes, is shocking to say the least. Considering our love of fast-paced action and shocking athletic ability, why have avid sports fans and athletes in North America not yet seen badminton as a world-class sport? Unfortunately, the problem is not an uncommon one, nor is it easily solved.

American sports are controlled by a very powerful influence: corporate money. In the case of badminton, the problem is ensuring sponsors. Badminton does not have a strong history in North America, and sponsors are unwilling to pay to advertise at events that may not draw a large crowd. Badminton also does not have a set time length, which makes it difficult to televise. Without TV exposure, sports aren’t seen by the public, and don’t have a chance to win over fans and athletes to their cause.

Another problem is the lack of financial incentive. There is a lot of worldwide travel involved in badminton, and there is very little government support, as well as no guaranteed money, unlike contracts in basketball or football. A baseball player who signs a contract in the MLB is guaranteed about $500,000 a year, even if he does not play a game with the team. For a badminton player to make that much money, they would have to be one of the top 15 players in the world.

The other problem is competing with the Asian badminton powers such as China, Korea and Malaysia. American Olympic badminton player Bob Malaythong came from Laos to the U.S. when he was 8 years old, and knows how different badminton is in Asia.

“The talent pool in Asia is amazingly large,” Malaythong said in an interview. “They go after badminton all or nothing there, and for every one player on a team, there are 1,000 players who didn’t make it. Badminton is more than just a sport in Asia, it is a chance for a better life.”

Keith Anton, local coach in Victoria and ex-national team coach and player says that an unfortunate combination of low exposure and financial incentive coupled with serious competition from another market makes badminton a tough sell in this part of the world.

“I could make more money playing satellite tennis, which is not even professional level, than I could playing professional badminton. And I was better at badminton,” Anton said.

However, there is hope for die-hard badminton fans. Despite the lack of corporate support, perhaps with more exposure it will become easier to secure sponsors for badminton events. Anton offered his expertise in predicting the potential growth of badminton in North America.

“At the moment, it’s one of the fastest growing sports. There are a lot more qualified coaches available to athletes and, with the recent rule changes, badminton is going to be much easier to televise,” he said. “Within a decade we could see badminton as a major sport in North America.”

Introduction to Professional Profile

28 Oct

This is the first post on the Professional Profile of Riley Trottier. This blog will contain all of my writing, which will fit into several different categories.

1. All of my articles from writing in the Martlet, the student paper for the University of Victoria

2. Some examples of my articles from writing for North West Sports Beat, a sports blog.

3. All of my articles for Freedom Writers, a political journal.

4. Several reports that I have written for non-profit organizations.

5. A copy of several of the newsletters that I published for non-profit organizations.

6. Several papers from my fourth year at the University of Victoria