Category Archives: Politics

Hump Day: Online tattling — Soon only hermits will dare run for elected office

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

It seems like every few days since the current federal election campaign started way back in 1834 (well it does seem long!), a candidate has been forced to drop out of the race due to comments made on social media. More often than not, the comments were made years go. For at least one younger candidate, the comments were made when they were a teenager.

Despite the fact that what they wrote was indeed horrible, this trend should send shivers down the spine of everyone who’s on social media. Let’s face it, anyone who’s been active online has said something dumb, rude or outrageous at some point. If you’re smart, you realized your error and erased it. If you didn’t however, you probably just forgot about it, leaving it online to linger until they were about to coronate you King of Moncton and someone rushes in just as the crown is one centimetre from your head and screams ‘Wait a minute! We just checked his Facebook profile!’

‘Six months ago, he posted to Facebook that Premier Brian Gallant has ugly toes!’ A collective gasp goes up from the audience. Two ladies in formal ball gowns look up from their fancy programs, scream and faint. Despite your plaintive cries that it was all just a joke, you’re stripped of the crown and forced to dodge cars trying to run you down as you work as a flag person on road construction work for the rest of your life. That will teach you!

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a tiny bit. I’m sure the premier’s toes are perfectly nice – as nice as toes can be, I guess. I also acknowledge that these candidates said much nastier things. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that there are municipal elections coming up in New Brunswick next year and that candidates will likely start announcing soon – perhaps as early as later this fall.

computer userShould they erase all their online accounts? Are we seriously going to start reviewing everything they’ve ever said online and hold it against them? Perhaps that’s fair play, considering they’re running for office, but at some point people evolve and change. What someone said many years ago is not necessarily what they believe today. Unfortunately,in social media,stuff sticks around for a long time unless you’ve been very fastidious about getting rid of it.

So, what happens next year when someone is running for councillor-at-large in Moncton and one of their opponents finds a Facebook post from 2008 that they would never post today and one which they don’t even remember writing? Depending on what they wrote, we should give them a chance to explain. (Obviously, there would be exceptions, especially if the post was particularly hideous, such as promoting racism or intolerance. Even so, people do change. Their more recent history should be what judges them.)

For instance, after this, I know I’ll never run for office. (Cue the wild applause!) I’ve been blogging since 2006, on Facebook since 2007 and have nearly 10,000 tweets on Twitter. At some point during that time, I most likely said something ridiculous that would get me in trouble in a campaign. But have I tried to be helpful? Yeah. I’ve promoted community organizations and other people’s projects and initiatives. I think I’ve succeeded in being more positive than negative. And I’ve certainly tried to be accurate in what I say. I don’t post hoaxes. I’m very careful about double-checking everything I post online.

The sheer volume of my activity, though, tells me that the odds are that there’s something buried deep in the bowels of the Internet that with 20-20 hindsight I probably wish I hadn’t have posted. The same goes for everyone else. What this means, then, is that the standard for running for political office these days is online perfection – being so careful that you say nothing.

In the upcoming New Brunswick municipal elections – often beset with low turnout numbers – we are in real danger of having only hermits throwing their hats into the ring; candidates who’ve never been online and who’ll only alienate young people even more by their lack of modern communications savvy.

The only people who’ll feel safe about running will be those who’ve led secluded lives, free of technology. Are those the best people to have out there leading us in a high-tech world? Our online presence evolves with us as we grow, mature and learn new things. If we start judging people on what they thought about a certain issue seven years ago even though they’ve since evolved, we’re going to all be in big trouble.

Hump Day: Lions, tigers and bears oh my! It’s election time in N.B.

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Lions, tigers and bears oh my! It’s election time in N.B.

The silly season is on in New Brunswick. A provincial election will be held on Sept. 22. This summer will be one of shaking hands, kissing babies, barbecues, fundraisers and New Brunswickers answering their doors to sweaty candidates out campaigning in the heat and humidity.

I’ve always loved ‍politics. In addition to mountains of strategy, you have to factor in personalities. While many politicians and candidates are perfectly nice people (in all parties), there are a number of them who aren’t fit for public office. I’ve written often that I’m not overly cynical about politicians. There are some tremendously intelligent and driven individuals who currently hold public office and who aspire to public office as candidates – again, from all parties. Like any profession, though, there are bad ones, too.

If you’ve ever sat in the viewing gallery at the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly, you’ll notice one thing very quickly – there’s usually quite a bit of camaraderie across the centre aisle. It’s definitely a myth that government and opposition MLAs don’t get along at a personal level. There are a lot of cooperative things that happen quietly in the background that would surprise many. It’s just too bad that it isn’t apparent more often. I think people would be pleasantly surprised.

Election campaigns, however, clearly don’t bring out the best in everyone’s behaviour. The gloves come off and it’s not a time to play nice. Normally (at least semi-) cordial relations between colleagues are often rubbed raw. Quite frankly, elections are like episodes of the old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom show that I used to watch on Saturday mornings as a kid. You have the gazelles at the watering hole fighting off the crocodiles looking for a quick snack. It’s vicious and the slowest one gets eaten alive.

Like election campaigns, the gazelle at the watering hole is not a candidate for mercy from the crocodile – and sometimes you just have to look away and wait for it to be over. After all, it’s nature. People may want the gazelles and crocodiles to be best buddies, but that’s just not possible. When gazelles get thirsty, they have no choice but to drink. When crocodiles get hungry, they have no choice but to eat.

If you’re looking for a summer of peace and calm here in New Brunswick, you might as well just accept the fact now that you’re going to spend the entire summer crying yourself to sleep into a pillow every night. Unless you’re a bit of a politics-loving freak like me, it’s going to be a painful next few months. Heck, I even watch televised election results from other provinces. The recent Ontario and Quebec elections were just like Christmas for me. I didn’t know any of the candidates, but I still watched every result right up to the end. I stayed up way too late – and loved every minute of it.

Especially painful during election campaigns is the complete evaporation of online decorum. It’s bad enough on a good day, but during election campaigns it’s time to batten down the hatches as insults and rumours fly on Facebook and Twitter.

Vote meThe #nbpoli hashtag on Twitter (the hashtag for discussion on New Brunswick ‍politics) can be rough at the best of times, but it’s going to be especially nasty from now until Sept. 22, particularly from the anonymous and spoof accounts. Let’s hope that reasonable people don’t start getting into arguments with these ‍trolls or retweeting them. It will only give them the credibility they so desperately seek.

I never understand people who try to talk sense with an online ‍troll, especially during an election campaign. Nothing good ever comes of it. At the very least, think of your blood pressure! ‍Trolls will say anything to get your goat, or should say your gazelle. Don’t take the bait and don’t give them any sense of credibility by engaging them. You may not like what everyone says online during an election campaign, but you have to at least respect those who use their real names.

‍Trolls come in all political stripes – blue, red, orange and green. Don’t feed the ‍trolls! Feed debate with real people if you want, but let the anonymous online political ‍trolls starve. They’re not harmless and they’re not nice. Trying to engage an anonymous ‍troll in an intelligent debate is a fruitless endeavour. It’s waste of time and mind power.

It’s true that election campaigns are not a time to play (too) nice. The attack ads we all claim to hate (but secretly watch anyway) will be out in full force. While it’s OK to play classy and not retaliate, every candidate needs to know that these ads often work – at least up to a point. Overused, they tend to make a party look ridiculous and like a bunch of bullies – but that threshold usually takes a long time to be reached.

There are exceptions, though. The infamous attack ad over Jean Chrétien’s physical appearance during the 1993 federal election backfired so badly and quickly that it sent droves of voters away from the governing Progressive Conservatives of Kim Campbell (among a number of other reasons) right into Chrétien’s camp. The attack ad asked, “Is this a prime minister?” and showed an unflattering photo of Mr. Chrétien. Well, be careful of the question you ask in an attack ad, because the answer turned out to be a resounding ‘Yes!’ and the government ended up getting slaughtered at the polls.

This summer will be a long and arduous one for those who aren’t into ‍pol‍‍itics. Just remember to keep your pillow handy to soak up those tears and screams of frustration. Whatever happens, we still need to be able to work together on Sept. 23 as the dust settles We don’t have much of a choice, do we? Let’s hope that not too many personal bridges get burned during this summer of passionate ‍politics in New Brunswick.

Moncton City Councillor Merrill Henderson dies

Merrill Henderson
Merrill Henderson

Along with other Monctonians, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ward 2 Councillor Merrill Henderson today. Merrill suffered a major stroke last week and had been hospital since then. He was also a dedicated Rotarian and was a ticket-selling legend who raised thousands of dollars for Rotary projects over the years.

I send along my deepest condolences to Merrill’s family, friends, colleagues on Moncton City Council, Ward 2 residents, and my fellow Rotarians in Merrill’s home club of Moncton West and Riverview Rotary.

Rest in peace, Merrill. Moncton will miss you.

Click here to read the news release issued by the City of Moncton.

Jeffrey Simpson to speak in Moncton on New Brunswick’s health-care challenges

Jeffrey Simpson
Click photo for a larger image.

One of Canada’s most respected authors and political commentators is coming to Moncton to speak on the challenges facing health care in New Brunswick. Jeffrey Simpson, national affairs columnist for The Globe and Mail for nearly 30 years, will be the guest speaker at the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club’s upcoming Distinguished Speakers Breakfast Series on Tuesday, March 26.

Last fall, Mr. Simpson released his eighth book, Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century, where he meets health-care head on and explores the only four options he sees to end the growing crisis in the industry: cuts in spending, tax increases, privatization, and reaping savings through increased efficiency.

The event will be held in the main ballroom of the Delta Beauséjour, 750 Main Street, Moncton, with doors opening at 7 a.m. and breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m. The event will wrap up by 9 a.m. Mr. Simpson will also be signing books following the event. Tickets are $40 per person and are available by contacting a member of the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club, or by requesting a ticket purchase form by emailing info@monctonsunriserotary.ca. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Kim Eagles at 506-854-7600.

“The Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club is excited about the opportunity to present Jeffrey Simpson to Greater Moncton’s business community,” said Russ Mallard, president of the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club. “This is the second in our Distinguished Speakers Breakfast Series, building on the excitement of David Ganong’s presentation last year.”

Mr. Simpson has won all three of Canada’s leading literary prizes – the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction book writing, the National Magazine Award for political writing, and the National Newspaper Award for column writing. He has also won the Hyman Solomon Award for excellence in public policy journalism. In January 2000, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In addition to his latest book on health care, he has written or co-written seven other books: Discipline of Power, winner of the 1980 Governor General’s Award for non-fiction (1980); Spoils of Power (1988); Faultlines, Struggling for a Canadian Vision (1993); The Anxious Years (1996); Star-Spangled Canadians (2000); The Friendly Dictatorship (2001); and Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge (co-authored with Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers) (2007).

Mr. Simpson has written numerous magazine articles for such publications as Saturday Night, The Report on Business Magazine, The Journal of Canadian Studies, The Queen’s Quarterly. He has spoken at dozens of major conferences here and abroad on a variety of domestic and international issues. He has also been a regular contributor to television programs in both English and French and completed a two-hour documentary for CBC to accompany his book, Star-Spangled Canadians.

He has been a guest lecturer at such universities as Oxford, Edinburgh, Harvard, Princeton, Brigham Young, Johns Hopkins, Maine, California plus more than a dozen universities in Canada. He was won the Arthur Kroeger Award for Public Discourse and the Charles Lynch Award for outstanding coverage of national affairs and the Pollution Probe award for contributions to environmental leadership.

About Rotary

Chartered in January 2012, the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club is the newest Rotary Club in District 7810 (New Brunswick and Eastern Maine). The club currently has approximately 30 members. Despite its young age, the club’s efforts have raised more than $17,500 for community and international causes, including Food Depot Alimentaire and the Boys and Girls Club of Moncton. The club may be found on Facebook or on Twitter. New members are always welcome. Email info@monctonsunriserotary.ca for more information.

Rotary International’s main objective is service – in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. The 1.2 million Rotarians who make up more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in nearly every country in the world share a dedication to the ideal of Service Above Self. Rotary clubs are open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations. For more information about Rotary International, visit www.rotary.org.

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Media contact:

Brian Cormier
(506) 388-5283
brian@briancormier.com

Social Media Matters: Fake copyright notice takes Facebook by storm

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, Nov. 30, 2012
Metro section

Fake copyright notice takes Facebook by storm

On Monday, a new version of an old hoax took Facebook by storm.

The well-known copyright hoax lures Facebook users into a false sense of security by urging them to post it to their profiles in order to supposedly protect their private information. Unfortunately for them, posting the “warning” is pointless and means absolutely nothing other than wasting space. The only things that can prevent your privacy on Facebook are your privacy settings — or not being on Facebook at all.

In part, the fake copyright notice reads: “In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!”

If you spend any time on Facebook, you’ve likely seen this or versions of it circulate from time to time. I have to admit that it’s well written and looks official. It even cites a bunch of official-sounding laws and documents. Because of this, some very smart people are being taken in by it and assuming it’s real.

Again, if you’re ever curious about what’s real or not, just cut and paste the first sentence or two of warnings such as this into Google. If it’s fake, it will usually show up at the top of the search results. The version out earlier this week was so new, though, that it hadn’t made it onto the hoax sites until several hours after it started to spread, leading some to believe it was authentic when it didn’t show up as a hoax in searches.

Twitter account makes fun of rednecks

If you spend any time online, you’ve probably seen photos posted of people protesting against immigrants to the U.S., people who speak Spanish instead of English, etc. Many times, there are spelling mistakes on their signs for which they are mocked by those spreading the photos online. The point is to shame them for urging others to “speak English” in the U.S., yet they can’t even properly spell in English themselves.

An anonymous Twitter account poking fun at anti-immigrant or anti-Latino tweets was created a week ago and had already amassed more than 12,000 followers by Nov. 27. Specifically, the Twitter account @yourinamerica seeks to shame those who make fun of non-English speakers but who also don’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your”.

The creator of the account searches for the term “your in America” and then proceeds to correct each Twitter user on the proper spelling, especially if their tweet bears hints of (or even overt) racism or intolerance. Some examples include:

1) It’s “you’re.” Also, we speak English. RT @TestCase2Try Your in America, so your supposed to speak American people;

2) I think you mean “you’re” in America. That’s embarrassing. RT @JOJO__circus: Speak english your in america omg;

3) “You’re” in America. Please spell properly. RT @MeggWeezie: Your in America please speak English;

4) That makes no sense but it’s “you’re.” RT @Dyllanboo If your in America and can’t speak English then you shouldn’t own a donut shop.

These are hilarious, actually, and point out the hypocrisy of these tweeters who criticize non-English speakers but who can’t even spell correctly themselves. Not sure if shaming them will teach them a lesson, but @yourinamerica is trying!

Justin Bieber loses YouTube crown

Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber has lost his crown as the King of YouTube videos. Until just a few days ago, Bieber’s YouTube video of “Baby (featuring Ludacris)” was the most-watched video on YouTube with more than 800 million views. Then along came South Korean pop star PSY with “Gangnam Style.”

Bieber’s video was uploaded on Feb. 19, 2010, and currently has about 806 million views, while PSY’s video was only uploaded on July 15, 2012, and already has about 836 million views. At its current rate, the “Gangnam Style” phenomenon will most likely become the first video on YouTube to read the one-billion views mark!

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Every week, I feature YouTube channels for you to check out. Statistics are current to Nov. 27. Have a favourite YouTube channel? Let me know and I may feature it here.

1) Dumb Ways to Die (37,815 subscribers): There are only two videos on this channel, including the namesake song, “Dumb Ways to Die.” At first, you think it’s just a novelty song with cute cartoon characters dying in terrible ways, but it’s actually a public service announcement for Metro Trains, the rail transportation system in Melbourne, Australia. Uploaded on Nov. 14, the ditty already has more than 27 million views, while the companion karaoke version has approximately 30,000 views. Created to raise awareness on train safety, the song went viral and spread very quickly. (Most popular video: Dumb Ways to Die – 27,038,447 views.)

2) The Canadian Beaver Band (317,214 subscribers): According to its channel description, “This is the official YouTube channel of The Beaver Party of Canada, featuring The Canadian Beaver Band, Canada’s most popular political satire band.” The channel’s 31 videos have a total of 317,214 views. Be sure to check out the very funny “Justin Trudeau Song,” too! (Most popular video: I Didn’t Do It (The F-35 Song) by The Canadian Beaver Band – 103,660 views.)