Alvin Ma's Blog

Rants about politics, sports, and the politics of sports.

Don’t Listen to Me

The title is a homage to my post last year. Also see my 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 predictions.

Calgary vs Colorado – 5 games
San Jose vs Vegas – 6 games
Nashville vs Dallas – 5 games
Winnipeg vs St Louis – 6 games
Tampa Bay vs Columbus – 4 games
Boston vs Toronto – 4 games
Washington vs Carolina – 5 games
NY Islanders vs Pittsburgh – 6 games

Calgary vs Vegas – 6 games
Nashville vs St Louis – 7 games
Tampa Bay vs Boston – 5 games
Washington vs Pittsburgh – 7 games

Vegas vs Nashville – 6 games
Tampa Bay vs Washington – 5 games

Nashville vs Tampa Bay – 5 games

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A Connected Commonwealth: the Role of Sport for Development and Peace

Dame una de azúcar
Dame dos de azúcar
Dame tres de azúcar
Blanca y morena, blanca y morena

The above lyrics to the chorus of “Azukita” roughly translates to “give me one sugar, give me two sugar, give me three sugar, white and brown.” The singer Daddy Yankee says it’s supposed to refer to racial and cultural unity, and this incredibly catchy song is a Zumba instructor favourite in multicultural cities such as Toronto and New York.

I was in New York this week not only to do Zumba, but to attend an event at the United Nations Headquarters regarding sport and the Sustainable Development Goals in advance of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace celebrated every April 6th. I represented the Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace (CYSDP) Network, which is made of regional focal points around the world, with plans for expansion to have local focal points in all 53 Commonwealth countries. The 2019 theme for the Commonwealth organization is “A Connected Commonwealth,” and I generally still hold the same nuanced youthful idealism from 2015, the previous time I visited the United Nations when the Commonwealth theme was “A Young Commonwealth.”

Many of the speakers at the event this week shared that sense of idealism. The speakers ranged from the permanent representatives from Qatar and Monaco and senior officials from the Peace and Sport organization, the ESPN / espnW sports network, the UN Mine Action Service, the International Paralympic Committee, and (my hometown NBA basketball team) Toronto Raptors. It had an aura similar to the World Economic Forum in Davos, and while I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the speakers, my educational background in the sociocultural aspects of sport has ingrained critical thinking about some of the claims made.

For example, H.E. Hasan Al-Thawadi (Secretary General: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of the 2022 men’s FIFA World Cup) appeared on video addressing the conference, stating that his country is committed to “accelerating positive change for the workers that build our infrastructure.” It was likely carefully scripted to omit recent reports that critique problems regarding worker deaths that occurred in the first few years of constructing these new football stadiums. Perhaps it was also convenient for him to miss the event when Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch Director of Global Initiatives, stood up and directed a question to the other speakers in the short question-and-answer session. As I stated in my previous article about the 2018 Commonwealth Youth Forum, we need to have people who ask, in respectful ways, difficult questions that challenge our thinking.

While we need to recognize that there have been (and there still are) numerous controversies surrounding mega-sporting events, my fondest sporting memory was attending the 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony. In response to Worden’s question, International Paralympic Committee board member Juan Pablo Salazar discussed the Kazan Action Plan and the necessity of generating indicators that monitor and evaluate the success of development initiatives (the Commonwealth has done extensive work on this matter). Agnès Marcaillou, Director of the UN Mine Action Service, also added that it would be “misconstrued and misleading” to say that sports can cure all problems and that for issues such as converting mine fields to play fields, the onus is on the 193 United Nations member states to do their part.

It’s the year 2019 and these 193 UN member states (and 53 Commonwealth member states) have the power to be more connected than ever before due to virtual meetups anytime. Electronic communication is the norm – for example, fellow CYSDP executives Richard Loat and Jacqueline Njeri wrote about esport being the next major undertaking – and in developed, industrialized countries, there’s an expectation that everything would be available electronically. In my other day job, I am a teacher and guidance counsellor at a private high school, and I am proud to see two students receive offer letters to attend a university in Manhattan. Because there was (surprisingly) no electronic way to accept their offers and pay the deposit, I decided to take their signed acceptance letters and cheques directly to that university and also speak with the university admissions office about other logistical issues in the morning, before the UN meeting took place in the afternoon.

It was around that time that I received an email from the United Nations potentially offering me time to speak, depending on question-and-answer time allotment. Unfortunately, I did not check that email (and subsequent messages from the CYSDP Network) in time. By missing this potential opportunity (even though there were many raised hands in a short 9-minute audience feedback segment), I not only disappointed myself but likely let down many people who worked hard to ensure that, on the record, I appropriately represented the CYSDP’s goals and missions.

But this is where I suppose being involved in sport helps as a tangible tool for social development. Many people in competitive sport will face disappointment, but the method of knowing how to handle disappointment is important. For me, I’ve maintained that the first goal, in sport and in life, is having fun. And looking back at my short trip to New York, I am happy to be part of a supportive CYSDP Network that strives to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. Together in the 53 connected Commonwealth member states and 193 United Nations member states, hopefully with the collective zeal and energy seen in Zumba group fitness classes, I long to see continued serious discussions of sport beyond one calendar day of the year so that we all can, to quote Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed, “Score 17 goals for humanity.”

2018.

Happy New Year! Yep, this is a long-belated post (though not as long as last year), and the title simply continues a long tradition. See 2017., 2016., 2015., 2014., 2013. My goal for 2018 was to inspire and be inspired. So how have I changed or grown?

I’ve told many students in the past week to create or update CVs for easy reference of their life experiences – not only for my business leadership course but also for university supplemental applications and oral interviews. It’s not easy to make long-lasting reflections in the era of stories that disappear after 24 hours, but I suppose my life has changed by actually making Instagram posts. My first post occurred minutes before flying out of London at the end of an inspirational Commonwealth Youth Forum. I’m not the biggest royal fanatic but it was incredible to stand mere metres away from Prince Harry, who had this to say to youth: “You are the most optimistic, connected generation the world has ever known.”

Indeed, the 2019 Commonwealth theme is “A Connected Commonwealth”, so I suppose my goal for 2019 is to be connected. This goal carries much ambiguity, similar to my other continual mission to be a better person every day through lifelong learning. Looking back at the inspiration goal of 2018 in the context of developing better people, I’ve frequently told my students that the biggest learning outcome is not measured in terms of being a good student, but rather by being a good person.

One example that comes to mind is the reconciliation initiated by a student towards those who have caused her emotional distress. Her rationale was that there’s no point in infighting within a small ethnocultural community, when honest conversations lead to conflict resolution. This mature, reconciliatory act by a teenager in the connected generation can and should inspire adults to do the same.

In 2019, I expect to be connected across international borders once again, building on the 60 airplane take-off count. I’m not sure where and when – but perhaps I’ll be connected enough on this blog and social media to provide updates.

2018 Toronto Election Endorsement

I’ll keep this post relatively short: I endorse Jennifer Keesmaat for mayor, Ana Bailão for city councillor of Ward 9, and Stephanie Donaldson for Toronto District School Board Ward 9 trustee. Here are my Vote Compass results:

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It’s intriguing that there’s no real left-right spectrum, which I appreciate. (You can see where I place in the 2018 Ontario election endorsement, 2015 Canadian election endorsement, and 2014 Toronto election endorsement posts.) I know it takes more time to do research on the true policy positions of independents, and there are many politicians who say the same thing (particularly in Willowdale, where so many candidates are vying for election and at least three candidates have illegally campaigned inside Finch Station), but I trust that with the lack of solid stances, we can all work together to build a better Toronto. I endorsed these candidates not necessarily because polls show competitive races (they don’t), but because I like their policies. I’m a cyclist at heart. Yes, I biked down to the local advanced polling station last week.

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Jennifer Keesmaat would be proud of me, I suppose. She should be proud of what she accomplished during this campaign even though I don’t think she stands a chance of winning. I know that she has stated that she’s “not a politician”, whatever connotations that may have. But generally, I appreciate this relatively friendly mayoral election where genuine ideas are presented rather than ad hominem attack ads. I know that Keesmaat can continue to work well with John Tory in the future. My opinion of John Tory is that he hasn’t necessarily done much for better or for worse – which I suppose is good because he’s a relatively scandal-free background figure who allows for more decisions to be made by council consensus. Compared to Rob Ford, John Tory should be proud of who he is – a relatively bland former CFL commissioner who also plays tennis surprisingly well, alongside his other answers on the no-politics mayoral candidate questionnaire.

As for “centre-left, maybe centre” incumbent Ana Bailão, she’ll probably win with over 90% of the vote in the ward. I have not seen any other campaign signs other than her signs in my neighbourhood. I have only seen a handful of Steph Donaldson signs, but none for any other school board trustee candidates. Even upon searching up names of those running for school board trusteeship, I counted only four serious candidates with active websites and social media pages. Out of these choices, Donaldson is the best candidate to work with other trustees to improve the TDSB. Even as a teacher (and occasionally acting principal) at a school in the private school board, as someone educated in the public school system starting from kindergarten, I value strong public education.

Overall, I’m glad that candidates in this municipal election, for the most part, don’t act like kindergarten students. I don’t expect high turnout (though Vancouver’s election yesterday with many independent candidates created long lines), but as I tell my students who cannot legally vote, civic action is not simply performing a civic duty once every four years, but taking steps daily to create a better society.

2018 Ontario Election Endorsement

Happy Victoria Day! It might be a holiday, and Canada Post might not deliver mail this long weekend, but it’s intriguing to receive political advertisement from (the door-knocking volunteers of) Marit Stiles and Cristina Martins (alongside standard Gino’s Pizza flyers).

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This upcoming week’s chapter in the business leadership textbook teaches students to be cautious regarding their public posts on social media, as potential employers will do background checks this way. I suppose it’s wise for me to shy away from political endorsements and politics altogether, but it doesn’t make sense for me to become more cowardly as I get older. I could probably lighten up my commentary with teacher memes à la David Red, but I’ll trudge through this article on the 2018 Ontario election with a perhaps unconvincing rationale of my political viewpoint.

I’ve long stated that democracy is far more than checking a box once every four years, and that mixed-member proportional representation is the best solution. That hasn’t changed. To stop myself from repeating the same drivel, you can view my 2015 Canadian election endorsement, my 2014 Toronto election endorsement, and my 2014 Ontario election endorsement.

What has changed is the political environment. If the polls hold, Doug Ford is likely going to lead the Ontario Progressive-Conservative Party to a majority government. I’m prepared to work with this reality, as well as the likely obliteration of the Ontario Liberal Party. Having a change in government after 15 years isn’t bad. In fact, I welcome this change despite my decision to…well, want to re-elect Cristina Martins from the Ontario Liberal Party as the MPP for Davenport.

You might be confused at why I joined my Malaysian friends in rejoicing after a historic incumbency government defeat and in the same month chose to support a (perceived) corrupt incumbent government (yeah, some of the negative messaging from Ontario Proud is relatable). Part of my rationale is my Vote Compass result, where I’m more aligned as a political moderate:

2018-05-09 (1).png

Another similar reason is that I don’t want centrist (or I suppose centre-left) parties to disappear, and I actually want the NDP and Green Party to continue pressing for progress instead of abandoning their bases of support. I wouldn’t mind seeing an NDP – Green – Liberal coalition (actually, that’s the government I’d prefer). A two-party system with polarized politics, while better than a one-party system, isn’t the most ideal.

We can still learn some lessons from de facto one-party dominant systems, however. Beside Malaysia, Singapore has boasted of corruption-free politics by simply paying politicians high salaries but, similar to Malaysia, historically made it difficult for the opposition to win any seats. Singapore has even offered Non-constituency Member of Parliament seats, essentially a mercy tool given to the opposition because Duverger’s Law Upside Down states that the governing party won’t actually change the system that made it successful.

There was a referendum in 2007 in Ontario to change the electoral system to mixed member proportional representation (which failed). And yes, the Ontario Liberal Party has benefited from this failure in the past decade, though that is likely coming to an end in a couple weeks. On the topic of mercy, I suppose casting my vote for Cristina Martins is an act of mercy in a riding where the Liberals still have a chance to avoid a complete wipeout from the Ontario legislature.

Maybe there is a minuscule chance that the Liberal Party will be the kingmaker in a minority legislature, but I’m already prepared for the next Progressive-Conservative government. If young diplomats at the Commonwealth Youth Forum last month could socialize at lunch with Boris Johnson, I suppose Ontario residents can do the same with Doug Ford. But because politics is more than checking a box once every four years, I encourage everyone (Canadian citizens and short-term visa students) to get involved in civic society. Literal thought about not underestimating strength: I just accidentally broke my toothbrush and chopsticks.

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Because Dufferin Mall is closed, I might order pizza instead.