Friday, April 5, 2013

Student Contest Winners

Congratulations to our Student Contest Winners!

Daniel Mask, a second year student in Business Accounting, won first prize for the Creative category for his Chess board representation of Canada's Political Landscape. See image below.

 Cassandra Serre, a first year student in Business Accounting, won first prize for the Critical essay category, for her piece entitled: "Real-life politics through Fallis' satire. See her entry below.

Daniel Mask's winning entry:

Canada’s Political Landscape

My art piece entitled “Canada’s Political Landscape” features a chessboard map of Canada over a backdrop of the colours for the political parties of Canada. I was inspired to do this piece because of the frequent mentions of chess in the novel, and I also think politics draws many analogies to the game of chess. The first analogy that came to my mind was that politics and chess are both just games. The books demonstrates this point very well. In the book many actions by the parties were revealed to be motivated not by personal or party beliefs and morals but instead by trying to beat the other party in opinion polls (Fallis, 2007). The same can be said of individual politicians who try to cater to their voters in order to get reelected. Politicians aren’t trying to make a difference they are just trying to win the “game”. Another game- like quality of politics is seen in a section of the book where the main character Daniel is in a meeting with a statistician who is going over the local riding polls (Fallis, 2007). He is pouring over the numbers examining the possibilities just like a player trying to make his next move. In politics many analogies of the pawn chess piece can be made. First, I think the book describes politicians as pawns of higher ranking party members when the “group voting” mentality is revealed in a meeting (Fallis, 2007). This “group voting” is when the top officials determine how the rest of the party should vote on issues. This demonstrates the controlling nature of the party and the pawn nature of the politician. In politics the voters could also be seen as pawns for politicians trying to advance their careers. My chessboard pattern across the map is meant to represent Canada as a game board for the political game. I placed chess pieces on the board to represent politicians and citizens. I used coloured bases on the pieces to represent loyalties to the political parties (Blue- Conservative, Red-Liberal, Orange – NDP). As in chess, these ‘pieces’ are used to advance position, take over territory and sometimes sacrificed.

Cassandra Serre's winning entry:   

 Real-life politics through Fallis’s satire

Terry Fallis’s The Best Laid Plans is busting at the seams with Canadian content and political satire. It is a great novel, especially for Canadian youth. This novel inspires young Canadians to get interested and involved in politics. The Best Laid Plans shines a light on many important real-life issues in Canadian Politics. Three such issues are party rivalry before country, the political fishbowl, and corporate influence on the government.

An issue that plays a large part in the plot of this novel is the rivalry between parties that often causes problems when it comes to making the right decision for the country as a whole. In the novel we see Angus struggle against his own party when it comes to voting for the Throne Speech. Even though he is classified as Liberal Angus believes in the Conservative plan and votes for it. This conflict highlights the fact that most politicians have been trained to believe that if an idea is not from your party it must be wrong. The Canadian government pits the parties against each other which causes them to spend more time trying to take each other down than coming up with logical solutions for the country at large. Daniel is aware of the illogical procedure and he thinks “If a Liberal government had introduced the same Throne Speech, I’d have been proud to support it. But it was our arch rivals’ speech, not ours” (Fallis, 3054). This is exactly the kind of attitude that can be seen in the Canadian government and though it can keep politicians on their toes it also makes it very hard to accomplish anything in a minority government.

A major conflict illustrated, however comically, in The Best Laid Plans is that of the political fishbowl. Politicians live in the spotlight and are expected to be perfect in a whole country’s eyes. This is especially true in today’s society where social media is so important. If a scandal were to erupt involving a politician it would be able to spread quickly thanks to the internet and society’s interest in other people’s failures. It is no secret that people today just love to watch other people fail, just browse through YouTube and you’ll find hours of footage of it. With all of this in mind it is important to find the line between what is relevant to a politician’s ability to serve their country. In the novel an MP is cast out of government and basically exiled because of his personal sex life. This man lost his job and the respect of the whole country for practising a harmless fetish in the privacy of his own home. Eric Cameron was the victim of a fire that caused him to be caught in the throes of passion with another consenting adult and it ruined his life. The man was not committing any crimes, he was not married and had no intention of exposing himself to the public in any way. He was the victim of a house fire, public humiliation and even the theft of his personal DVDs but because of the society we live in he was deemed unfit to do his job. Eric Cameron may have had other faults but the reason he was kicked out of his party and lost the election was because he was caught being imperfect by the public. Though this is obviously a very extreme case used as satire, there have been many cases of politicians’ personal lives being turned into giant scandals. Canadian Politicians today are not as scrutinized and glorified as those in the United States but they still have to watch what they say and do very carefully. Bill Curry, a parliamentary correspondent for the Globe and Mail described the situation as follows.

Reporting on the personal lives of Canadian politicians isn't as rare as it used to be. The flood of political coverage feeding online blogs is partly the reason.

Some politicians are increasingly eager to showcase parts of their personal lives—such as B.C.Premier Christy Clark recently sharing photos of her watching her son's hockey game with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Defence Minister Peter MacKay also voluntarily released his wedding photos to a celebrity magazine in exchange for a charitable donation. (Yahoo! News Canada, 2012)

The constant media coverage can make or break a career and it is more and more difficult to keep personal and work lives separate the more well-known a politician becomes. Sometimes this can be a good thing but it can also ruin careers and draw attention away from what is really important- the issues. Terry Fallis wraps this idea up perfectly in the novel.

We wonder why we’re unable to attract to public life the calibre of people we’d like to see. Well, we pry into their private lives, put their every move under a microscope, and subject them and their loved ones to the most invasive and penetrating scrutiny imaginable. Then, when we find the slightest little thing that even remotely resembles and infraction no more serious than leaving the toilet seat up, we eat them. We get the government we deserve. Yes, we want honesty, transparency, and decency in our politicians. To attract such qualities, we need understanding, sensitivity, and sometimes forgiveness in our voters. (Fallis, 2479)

Corporations can affect the government in many ways, and they often do. In the novel Angus has a hard time with Mr. Haldorson from Ottawa River Aggregate, a branch of a Cleveland based aggregate company. This man wants to expand his factory but needs Angus to use his powers as MP to help him lie and cheat his way through the rules. Haldorson mentions that the previous MP always helped him out when the rules got in the way and expects Angus to do the same. The Liberal Party Leader also expects Angus to go along with the company’s plans. Bradley Stanton calls Daniel at one point to pressure them into moving things along.

Addison, it’s Bradley Stanton. Look, one of our more generous corporate donors is holding onto a big cheque for us until we clear up a little misunderstanding they seemed to have had with your boy, Angus [...] Just sort out this aggregate company’s environmental problem so they’ll release the cheque, okay? (Fallis, 4320).

These pressures existed even though they knew the “the environmental impact would profoundly affect the habitats of several indigenous species” (Fallis, 1068) and that the company was already trying to fight four occupational-health-and-safety-code violations (Fallis, 2008). This example is a bit extreme but this type of thing does happen in real life. In 1985 the minister of fisheries and oceans was pressured by lobbyists to release a million cans of StarKist tuna before they had been tested. The tuna ended up being “so badly spoiled that it wasn’t even fit to be turned into catfood” (CBC News Online , 2005). The minister eventually found a new job but the StarKist employees who lost their jobs when the plant shut down struggled for a long time to find work (CBC News Online , 2005). This is just another example of how corporations can bully and bribe a government into making rash and uninformed decisions.

The Best Laid Plans uses satire to make a usually dull subject, politics, jump from the pages. This novel is inspirational and educational and it addresses some tough subjects. The reader is made to think more critically about the way that party rivalry, the media and corporations affect the Canadian government.


CBC News Online . (2005, February 10). Up the skirt or in the till: Top ten scandals in Canadian political history. . Retrieved from

Fallis, T. (2008). The best laid plans. Toronto: Emblem Editions. Retrieved from

Yahoo! News Canada . (2012, January 20). Does the public have a right to know about the personal lives of politicians? . Retrieved from

Note: I used the electronic version of The Best Laid Plans on my Kindle so the page numbers will be different.