Manitoba Family Law Textbook

Getting married? Getting divorced? Both? We have created a resource for you to get through this tough time in your life. Family law can be charged with emotion and very expensive, so remember to keep your cool, remember what’s important, and hold on to your integrity.



Division of Property


The PST: A Lesson in Externalities

The PST: A Lesson in Externalities
Do you know what the nose game is? For those who are self-employed or study in isolation, the nose game is a juvenile way of determining who, within a group, shall perform a less than desirable chore or task. I learned the rules of this game the hard way. I couple of years ago, my amazing colleague, John Robinson, was going on sabbatical. This meant that we needed someone to teach the Grade 12 economics course. Guess who lost the nose game? 
So there I was – forced to teach micro and macroeconomics – never having taken an economic course in my life. Although the task was daunting and difficult, I soon fell head-over-heels in love with economics. I would come to each class and exclaim “Guess what! I just learned about…!” My students were very kind and were gracious with my new enthusiasm.
One of the most interesting concepts that we discovered was the notion of externalities, or costs or benefits of an activity that are not taken into account in the analysis of an economic activity. Take for instance car emissions. These emissions are a cost, but to date, we don’t deal with these costs effectively, or at all. This would be an example of a negative externality in this case. Uncontrolled negative externalities (like the burning of fossil fuels), if not dealt with properly, are a giant nose game, if you will. 
In Manitoba, we are starting to understand the cost of not dealing with externalities. Each year, we spend millions of dollars on climate change in the form of floods. Recently, the provincial government instituted a 1% increase in the PST in order to help mitigate some of these costs. This, naturally, caused a huge uproar throughout Manitoba, as people view this minor increase in a consumption tax as an affront on personal liberty as it is an inconvenience for the wealthy, and could very well be a deal-breaker at the end of the month for the most vulnerable. The official opposition is having a field day with the PST. But I have to wonder, given the wilful blind-eye we turned to the costs of climate change, what are the alternatives? How do you deal with the externalized costs of climate change without increasing taxes or cutting services? Something has to give.
If the concept of externalities is taught at an early age, however, perhaps our ability to deal with floods and other issues related to climate change will improve. Or current federal government contains the biggest deniers of all, setting a massively damaging economic, social and environmental example for children. There is an irony in this as well, as part of the Harper Conservative brand includes their claim of being good money managers, but how can this be so when they ignore one of the largest costs ever to confront Canada and its economic future? 
And not only are we ignoring costs when denying climate change, we are failing to capitalize on the next great market opportunity. Ramez Naam, in his book the Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, suggests that China will greatly surpass North America in economic growth, not because of traditional practices, but because of investment into green technology. Joseph Stiglitz, in Globalization and its Discontents, suggests the same. We however see limited leadership in Canada on both local and federal levels in this area. 
Tom Mulcair has been the only one to suggest that “global warming is a real issue.” The Federal government on the other hand, has made the idea of externalities and carbon taxes a bad word in Canada. This position is nonsensical, as someone will end up paying for the production of carbon and other greenhouse gases – likely the most vulnerable in our society. The cost may be assumed by our species, other species, and the biosphere – something that has not been discussed fully within the K-12 system. Canadians watched Stephan Dion get bullied over this same idea by his own party, even though he was onto something with his Greenshift, or Pigovian tax idea.
Instead, we complain that we get flooded out each year or that taxes go up. This paradox demonstrates our inability to understand externalities, or costs that are not accounted. What I have found is that students pick up on this really quickly. 
What if common costs were part of a curriculum designed to make our citizenry ecologically literate, as opposed to consumers addicted to buying Flipflëiners at Ikea. What if our citizenry contemplated the unaccounted costs associated with driving to the suburbs in an SUV and buying a coffee table made from Siberian lumber? What if we all grew up and truly accounted for  the costs of our consumerist habits? Unfortunately, we can’t seem to move beyond the fact that the coffee table will make our living room look complete and how fulfilled we will be. This is where schools come into play.
In 2002, George Bush’s administration finally admitted that climate change was a reality and his administration came out with a policy of adaptation. This seems to be what we are teaching our students: Don’t worry about it, things will work out, we’ll adapt. Unfortunately, the cost of climate change is only going to increase, both in terms of dollars and human costs. We cannot create meaningful solutions, however, until we move past populist rhetoric and honestly account for the consequences of our economy’s energy source. Part of this means paying for our past inaction. 
This large-scale nose game will pin the cost on all of us. The PST is a necessary, though reactive, way to deal with climate change. And though any reasonable economist who understands externalities could have forecasted this budget move, we have to recognise that it does not get to the root of the problem. To control carbon, or this uncontrolled negative externality, we need to direct public policy and education to effectively mitigate climate change. Otherwise, if the majority of scientists are correct, we will be facing an adjustment of accounts that will ask much more of us than a simple percent increase in a provincial sales tax. 

Teachers Need to be their Own Resource

Students at Legislative Building

I don’t know about you, but I love getting out of the classroom. As much as possible, I like to take students to archives, conferences, legislative buildings, museums, and even on walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes “place” can be the curriculum. I love getting out so much, that I suspect I annoy colleagues who are trying to plan assessment tools and wrap things up at the end of a term. For this, I apologize – sort of.

Place is just one resource that many teachers use as a means for making the learning experiences educative, meaningful, and transformative for students. Many teachers use authentic and global events to direct the learning that goes on in their learning communities. Others collect real-life resources through guest speakers – an easier feat given new technologies and a shrinking world. There are still amazing history teachers who I adore who use their stories and storytelling abilities to make learning about imagination, empathy, and progress. Desmond Morton graces us a few times a year, and we could listen to him all day.

What all these strategies come down to is the idea of teachers collecting their own resources to make the teaching and learning process as exciting and engaging as possible. Two recent events started me down this path of how it is we create resources for and with our students. The first was an article printed in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled Human Rights Lessons not Easy. In this article, it was revealed that almost 50% of teachers across Canada do not feel that they have the resources to teach about human rights.  

Immediately, I had a few issues with these findings. The most alarming was that there are teachers out there who feel that their schools, divisions, and provinces should be creating resources for them on any given topic.

Part of being a professional is doing research, not only on teaching and learning, but on what you are supposed to be teaching. In the case of human rights,this might involve going to a library and reading a book, looking at Aljazeera, or as my teacher-friend Marc Kuly said, “driving through Winnipeg with a video camera.” Isn’t the onus on teachers to know, deeply, about our subject areas? This practice, for me, involves getting rid of my cable, not watching the NFL or the Bachelorette, using Spring Break for study and not Vegas and actually participating in discussions related to the fields that I teach. The excuse of “not enough time” is played out. Make time.

The second event which was a catalyst for this reflection about resources was the release of the viral video which involves a student in Texas telling his teacher that simply putting packets of worksheets together is not teaching. His outburst is a cris-de-coeur and clearly he is an engaged learner who is frustrated by mediocre teaching. My heart broke for this kid, Jeff Bliss, because we have all been there. My Grade 11 Canadian History class in 1993 was not much different – I just wish I had the gumption to challenge teachers whose notion of teaching was slapping together random “resources.” The student in the video demands excellence from this teacher and this excellence comes down to sound pedagogy, subject matter knowledge, passion, and a joy with connecting with young people through the curriculum. all of these elements are resources which we must think deeply about.

As teachers, we need to strive for excellence, even though on most most days, I know for myself, we shall short. Part of this journey, however, depends on research, thinking, and hard work in order to amass resources, tools, and ideas that engage students in the learning process and the joy of knowledge we are creating and contributing to.

The alternative is to complain that we don’t have enough resources and that it’s someone else’s fault. We can no longer moan and groan in staff rooms about how governments, administrators, and parents “don’t get it”; that we’re too busy. Teaching is hard work, demands sacrifices, and consumes almost all our energy. We also get paid very well to do it.  Jeff Bliss, the kid in Texas is right: “You want a kid to change and start doing better, you gotta touch his freakin’ heart…You gotta take this job serious. This is the future of this nation.”