Archive for June, 2006

Reading and Arithmetic for Bruce Strachan

Thursday, June 15th, 2006


In his column in today’s Prince George Citizen, entitled Math and Grammar for Teachers, Bruce Strachan complains that the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has got their math wrong in reporting that 85.2% voted to strike “if the government is not willing to negotiate a fair and respectful collective agreement”. He calculates that the true figure is 67%. He obtains this figure by dividing the number of yes votes, 25,698, by the number of BCTF members, which is 38,000. 100 * 25,698 / 38,000 = 67.626. This actually rounds to 68%, not 67%, but that isn’t the main thing wrong with his calculation.

The results of votes are virtually always reported in terms of the percentages of those voting. As a politician and political commentator with several decades’ experience, Mr. Strachan surely knows this. According to the BCTF press release, the number of votes cast was 30,202. Of these, the 25,698 yes votes comprise 85.08%. The BCTF got it right.


In my riding, Prince George-Peace River, according to Elections Canada, a total of 37,423 valid votes were cast in the last election, in which incumbent Jay Hill was reported to have won with 22,412 votes or 59.9% of the vote. The riding actually has a population of over 100,000 people, so quite a few more people were eligible. The overall turnout for Canada was 67% (significantly less than the 79% the BCTF got), so roughly 18,000 eligible voters didn’t vote. Does Mr. Strachan think that Elections Canada should have reported that Jay Hill won with 100 * 22412 / 55855 = 40% of the vote? Or is he deliberately misleading his readers into thinking that the BCTF is lying or incompetant?

A Selectively Strict Interpretation

Monday, June 12th, 2006

Under Treaty 11 Canada is required to distribute to those Indians signatory who continue to fish, trap, and hunt equipment to the value of three dollars. According to the CBC, the West Point First Nation in Hay River has returned the $216 cheque it received to Ottawa on the grounds that the payment is ridiculously low.

Linda Molner, a spokesperson from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs says the amount cannot be negotiated because the treaties cannot be changed.

It’s funny that Indian Affairs should have such a selectively literal interpretation of the treaty. If one takes the treaty literally, Canada is not entitled to make a cash payment at all. The actual language of the treaty is:

…there shall be distributed annually among the Indians equipment, such as twine for nets, ammunition and trapping to the value of three dollars per head for each Indian who continues to follow the vocation of hunting, fishing and trapping.

Canada is clearly obligated to provide the equipment itself, and moreover, is responsible for transporting the equipment to Hay River. Furthermore, the treaty does not provide for a payment of $3 - it provides for the distribution of goods to the value of three dollars. The value is of course the buying power of $3 in 1921, which, according to the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator, is now $31.97. It looks to me like a strict interpretation of the treaty is that Canada should be providing equipment worth $2,301.84, and that, should the band choose to accept cash rather than the goods themselves, they are entitled to the cost of carriage to Hay River as well.