The Cable Citizen

By Jonathan McQuarrie

Let's Talk TVFollowing their “Let’s Talk TV/Parlons télé” initiative, the Canadian Radio, Television, and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is compelling TV providers to alter how they provide content to Canadians. In March 2016, Canadian TV watchers will have the option to select smaller bundles or individual (or a la carte) channels, which viewers will be able to do by December 2016, although they will still have to pay $25 for a “skinny basic” package of channels, including CBC, CTV, and Global. These changes have been widely welcomed for offering reduced prices and providing an opportunity for people to reduce their cable bills.

Despite the potential savings, some in the media industryhave raised multiple red flags. The Canadaland podcast presented the opinion of an unnamed industry representative who contended that television industry has become even more conservative in their willingness to fund Canadian content, as they anticipate lower subscription rates and revenues. (Intriguingly, the anonymous representative notes that CBC is an exception to this, likely as they became more optimistic with the change in government). Jesse Brown, the Canadaland host, also references wide sentiment that the upcoming changes to CRTC regulations will lead to the end of a number of niche channels.

Further, a Nordicity report commissioned by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists (ACTRA), Canadian Media Guild, Directors Guild of Canada, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, and UNIFOR painted a grim picture of the ramifications of the CRTC changes. The anticipated loss of revenue from the new system, the report warns, will lead to a $970 million decrease in revenue for Canadian specialty and pay services by 2020, and estimates that the decreased revenues will contribute to the loss of some 15,000 direct and spin off full time jobs. The report in part contended that the great cable cut off is exaggerated, particularly since sports fans and news watchers continue to keep cable, and that radical alterations to the financial model were not necessary. In effect, the report contends that the convenience for consumers to pick their few favourite channels would lead to catastrophe for Canadian film and television workers. It is difficult to verify the claims made by the report, although it did succeed in getting some media attention.
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Bridging the Gap Between Historians and the Public

Active history is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

This week, Christopher Moore, a member of our opening plenary round table at the New Directions in Active History Conference, discusses what he feels active history means, and how it is applicable to bridge gaps within the profession of history as well as historians and the public. Moore lays out his perspective on how this can be accomplished through historical blogs and social media that engage with Public Policy.

Real American Hero? Military experience in U.S. presidential politics

Oscar Winberg

 George H. W. Bush displays his son George W. Bush’s officer’s bar on his Texas Air National Guard uniform, circa 1968. Credit Getty Images

Fighting presidents: decorated veteran George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush in his Texas Air National Guard uniform, 1968. Getty Images

In mid-December, Senator Lindsey Graham threw in the towel and dropped his struggling campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The South Carolina senator had struggled to gain any traction in the crowded Republican field where Donald Trump continues to hog a disproportionate amount of the news coverage and a large lead in the polls. Graham’s exit was neither surprising nor particularly significant for the wider race, but it did mark the exit of the last candidate with any military experience (former Texas Governor and veteran Rick Perry left the race in September). Since the nation’s founding, political power and military service have often gone hand in hand. The days of a military-political aristocracy, akin to the Lees or Harrisons of Virginia, are long gone; yet even in the modern political age personal experience of the armed forces has been the norm for presidential hopefuls – not since 1932 have the main candidates for the Republican Party’s nomination for president been people without any military background. Continue reading

Hidden Messages and Code Words: Bill Alldritt’s Letters as a Prisoner in First World War Germany

By Robert Alldritt

Alldritt 1

William A. “Bill” Alldritt.

During the First World War approximately 3000 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner in Europe. As both Jonathan Vance and Desmond Morton have noted, Canadian POWs typically experienced a combination of monotony, drudgery and depression, often coupled with a sense of shame at having been captured. Accordingly, many POWs felt a driving need to escape, despite the threats of punishment they would receive if they were caught; perhaps evidence of the same spirit of duty and adventure that led them to enlist in the first place.

One prisoner with a strong desire for freedom was Sergeant William A. “Bill” Alldritt, DCM. Sgt. Alldritt was a YMCA Physical Director employed in Winnipeg before (and again after) the war. He enlisted as a member of the 8th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (90th Winnipeg Rifles), and distinguished himself as a machine gunner during the Second Battle of Ypres, where he was captured on April 25th, 1915. As a POW, Sgt. Alldritt wrote home prolifically. His letters document life in the camps and work kommandos (work parties detached from the main camps) where he was held captive.

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‘Tis the Season (for Social and Economic Change): Depression-Era Christian Socialism and an Alternative Meaning for Christmas

by Christo Aivalis

If one peruses their televisions, computers, and streetscapes, they can’t help but forget that we have been in the throes of the Christmas season since November. But this form of Christmas celebration, tied so deeply with capitalism, belies the transformative optimism Christmas provided working-class socialists in the Depression, and still today. Much as Pope Francis’ criticisms of capitalism and consumerist Christmas celebrations amidst war offer a call to change, so did the Christian Left seek a new social order in the Great Depression via the message of Christ and Christmas. For them, the egalitarian and socialist ideals of a 2000 year old Humble Nararane Carpenter spoke the society they wished to build.

While much has been written about Christianity socialism among ministers-turned-politicians like Tommy Douglas, J.S. Woodsworth, and Stanley Knowles, less has been said about Christian socialism among Canadian workers and trade unionists. Yet if we look back to Depression-era trade union newspapers, we see a movement utilizing Christian scripture and imagery in order to agitate for substantive political, economic, and social reforms. After all, numerous contributors argued that Christ was not only God reborn, but was God reborn as a humble Nazarene carpenter: a workingman sent to bring a gospel of justice and equality for the downtrodden. Christ came not as a king, but as a pauper, and in so doing showed his allegiances. This identification with Christ as a radical workingman led many to propose a Christian social order that struck at the core of social and economic inequality, private property:

A theology which teaches that God is Mammon’s silent partner would necessarily be suspect in an age of folk upheaval…. Property needs not God to protect it…Jesus announced “Good News”[:] namely, that Heaven is passionately on the side of the people against the despotic tendencies of property; and under that leadership a messianic passion for men is announcing itself. The trouble is the working people at large have not yet come to behold The Carpenter.[1]

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“‘Tomorrow Sunny’: The Rise and Fall of Solar Heating in Canada, Part 4”

Henry Trim

In the final part of this series on solar energy we will examine the unhappy results of solar advocates’ overreliance on optimistic simulations and the difficulty of commercializing economically marginal technology. Tragically for development of renewable energy, neither solar technology nor the energy market developed as projected.

Generous federal funding combined with the installation of solar collectors on government buildings set off an immediate boom in solar in 1979. The Canadian solar industry was almost non-existent when the government announced the program a year before. New solar heating companies quickly appeared and the few existing worked feverishly to expand. Although funds often seemed to arrive too slowly for the needs of these fledgling companies and government analysts complained about problems with companies’ paperwork, the program generated the interest in solar and the rapid expansion it hoped for.[1] This expansion, however, came with problems the WATSUN computer model did not predict.

The most serious problems were with the many new companies. Continue reading

Pork Cuts: The Sharp Edges of Nativism in Southern Europe

By Aitana Guia

NoKebabToo many political leaders are banking on politicizing migration today. Culture has become a fertile battlefield. Food represents familiarity and safety. Eating is a daily activity that connects parents to their children, to their schools, and to their extended families. Social life in Southern Europe revolves around food and food rituals.

Donna Gabbacia, a historian of the American immigrant experience, explains that the “choices people make about eating are rarely trivial or accidental. Food is a central concern of human beings in all times and in all places.”[1]

Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) knows it. Continue reading

Further Writing on War, Loss and Remembrance: Reflections on In Flanders Fields: 100 Years

By Christopher Schultz

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields,” Dec 1915

My high school had an award-winning music program. I know this, in part, because I was the only one of my friends not in one of its many bands and ensembles, having given up the clarinet owing to complications arising from an acute case of brace-face. School fundraising went almost exclusively toward an event so important it was capitalized: Band Trip. This was a national competition; ours were among the best musicians in the country. Music featured prominently in school and public life, from assemblies and sports, to city concerts. Those of us with harp-strings across our teeth rather than our fingers, with grunge rather than jazz in our ears, were appreciative listeners and admirers. We bought tickets, ate chocolate bars and ordered Florida oranges to finance their cross-country treks.

We did our bit. Being out of pocket these small sums was rewarded by the tales my friends returned with—the stories of drunken chaperones, who made out with whom, which unfortunate attendee missed curfew, hot tub hijinks—as much as the hardware adorning the school trophy cases. It was easy to swell with pride, an orchestra of emotion. Continue reading

The European Extreme Right Yesterday and Today

Alban Bargain-Villéger

Logos of 11 extreme right parties. leftfutures.org

The “Europe of Nations and Freedom”: 11 extreme right parties. leftfutures.org

Studies on the European ultra-nationalist right are not exactly rare. Over the last couple of decades, many a tree has been felled and much ink has been spilled on the extreme right in our day and age and its connections (or lack thereof) with the fascist movements and parties of old. But despite the abundance of works on that topic, the ideological nature of the ultra-nationalist right, its medium-to-long-term plans, and its very location on the extreme right of the political spectrum are still subject to controversy. While not engaging directly with the debates surrounding the essence of fascism, this post focuses on some major genealogical links between several far right European parties and central facets of pre-1945 fascism.

First of all, it should be noted that the all too easy equation of the contemporary nationalist right with fascism has been rightly qualified by many eminent specialists, including Robert Paxton, whose seminal Anatomy of Fascism (2004) has opened up fresh perspectives on the subject. Continue reading

Tomorrow: Sunny’: The Rise and Fall of Solar Heating in 1970s Canada, part 3

By Hank Trim

In the third part of this four part series on solar energy we will continue to examine an integral part of energy history: computer simulation. Faced with the combined uncertainty of a unstable oil market and a desire for new solar technologies, the government searched for and a means of managing these risks. In this situation, computer models provided policy makers with a foundation, albeit a shaky one, for their decisions.

The Meadowvale Solar Home in the winter of 1977. This experimental home was built to test the application of solar heating technology in Canada. While a success, it provided heat far less efficiency than the WATSUN model calculated and experienced many more technical problems than the model projected.   Picture Provided by: B. E. Sibbett and H. Jung, Performance of the Meadowvale Solar System (Ottawa: Division of Building Research, National Research Council, 1981)

The Meadowvale Solar Home in the winter of 1977. This experimental home was built to test the application of solar heating technology in Canada. While a success, it provided heat far less efficiently than the WATSUN model calculated and experienced many more technical problems than the model projected.
Picture Provided by: B. E. Sibbett and H. Jung, Performance of the Meadowvale Solar System (Ottawa: Division of Building Research, National Research Council, 1981)

Two engineers, K.G.T Hollands and J.F. Orgill from the University of Waterloo devised the computer simulations that determined Canada’s plans. The work of these two engineers highlights the diverse support that solar technology and environmentalists’ calls for alternative development received in the 1970s. The two were members of the Canadian Solar Energy Society, which formed in 1975 to support solar development. Intrigued by solar technology’s bright future, this group of scientists, engineers, and business people studied the technology, shared information, and generated interest in solar and other renewables. The society had a substantial impact on solar development. It counted a number of ministers among its supporters and attracted a stream of government analysts and advisors to its annual meetings and workshops throughout the 1970s. Continue reading