Alvin Ma's Blog

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


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:


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.

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).


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.


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

Communicating towards a Common Future: A Canadian’s CHOGM Commentary

“Who the hottest in the world right now, just touched down in London town.”

Ten years before Commonwealth Youth Ambassador Prince Harry’s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle, British singer Estelle paired up with American rapper Kanye West for this chart-topping song “American Boy.” It was around that time that I participated in my first Commonwealth Essay Competition. My essay was a fictional story detailing the hardship of an Iraqi refugee claimant to the United States. Since that time, I have read many more factual accounts of difficult journeys from one place to another and, on a daily basis, I interact with people who have left their homelands to pursue better lives in Canada. I have also visited countries spanning four continents the past few years to communicate my research in the presence of academics and global leaders, most recently at the Commonwealth Youth Forum – a component of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

While the guiding theme is “Towards a Common Future,” the reality is that significant disparities exist in the present-day world. It is therefore a tremendous privilege to go through the border security checkpoints with a Canadian passport in my hand, travelling for relatively leisurely purposes as 65 million people in the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Billions more – including the citizens of many Commonwealth countries – have strict visa limitations by the accident of birth location even if they gather the funds to travel. I have written another article about the need for more open borders in order to build strong, flourishing communities. Looking beyond the simple economic indicator of tourism revenue, short term visitors also provide vibrancy and, in the case of forums and conferences, communicate valuable insight.

It is unfortunate that in the leadup to CHOGM, several prospective Commonwealth Youth Forum delegates voiced disappointment about their United Kingdom visa application rejections. While the rejections are out of the control of conference organizers, it is disappointing that they could not communicate their knowledge in person. It is also unfortunate that one Canadian friend who enjoyed his occupation at a London airport needed to vacate his flat and return to Canada right before I arrived in London after multiple unsuccessful attempts to secure an extension of his work permit. Needless to say, migration was a major topic of discussion in light of the British government’s official “hostile environment” policy towards “illegal” immigrants and the wrongful deportation of residents who arrived in the United Kingdom during the “Windrush” era.

One highly-anticipated event for which thousands of delegates queued before the doors opened was the joint plenary session featuring (Dominican-British) Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, British Prime Minister Theresa May, (American) founder of Microsoft and philanthropist Bill Gates, and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness. May’s speech appeared to be progressive regarding the environment, public education, LGBT+ rights, and the desire for international cooperation in halving the cases of malaria in the next five years. As agreeable as her justification for enforcing an “international rule-based system” in the context of intervention in Syria might sound, it was nonetheless a foreign affairs policy direction that raised many questions, particularly since May carefully omitted Brexit in her speech. Although there was a form on the CHOGM online portal for asking questions, it was disappointing that the plenary session panel promptly left the room without answering any questions.

The panel did not even stay to listen to Dr Karlo Mila – who dared to be critical of the Commonwealth’s flaws in her poetic presentation immediately following Holness’s speech. While invited foreign guests generally refrain from publicly critiquing the host country in keynote speeches, I was surprised to see Holness not only allude to the Windrush issue but also look in the direction of May and say, “We note your undertakings and look forward to the speedy implementation” of a “speedy, thorough, and fair” solution that contributes to Commonwealth subthemes of prosperity, sustainability, security, and fairness. Central to my article last month, Holness also spoke about the potential of sport in realizing sustainable development goals. Distinguishing myself to influential diplomats as the educator and researcher who believes Zumba could be a useful tool to achieving world peace, I am proud to find sport mentioned in three different points of the Commonwealth Youth Forum Declaration and Action Plan.

Sometimes people are frustrated with the slow pace of diplomatic resolutions, and actively engaged citizens justifiably protest the conditions negotiated with regimes accused of corruption and serious human rights abuses. Communication comes in many forms – be they the protest messages chanted outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre or the roundtable discussion ideas generated inside the venue by global leaders. The street where protests were held was turned into celebration with cheering crowds under the hot sun in the last stretch of the London Marathon, urging on runners such as my 60-year-old uncle who finished the 42.2 km route in under five hours. Communication can occur on the streets themselves. On a day trip to visit my former students in Poland, we saw graffiti of the Warsaw Uprising symbol painted on top of other text with extreme political ideas. A few days later, I saw the solidarity of Toronto residents in writing words of encouragement in many languages at a makeshift memorial after a van attack killed ten people along the same road my current students and I walk daily to go to school.

Coming together does not mean that we have to refrain from constructive criticism, for questioning and protest are legitimate forms in communicating towards a common future. While a memorable moment for me was standing mere metres away from Prince Harry during a lunch break, the challenging questions that fellow Commonwealth Youth Forum delegate Angelique Pouponneau boldly poses in her article regarding the future of the Royal Family and the Commonwealth resonate in my mind just as powerfully as the drumming of the “Commonwealth Resounds!” group (composed of members from all 53 Commonwealth countries). Hopefully the drumbeat of progress will resound as we look ahead to CHOGM 2020 in Rwanda.

Don’t Listen to Me

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

Nashville vs Colorado – 5 games
Winnipeg vs Minnesota – 6 games
Vegas vs Los Angeles – 6 games
Anaheim vs San Jose – 5 games

Tampa Bay vs New Jersey – 4 games
Boston vs Toronto – 5 games
Washington vs Columbus – 5 games
Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia – 4 games

Nashville vs Minnesota – 5 games
Los Angeles vs Anaheim – 5 games
Tampa Bay vs Boston – 7 games
Washington vs Pittsburgh – 5 games

Nashville vs Anaheim – 7 games
Tampa Bay vs Pittsburgh – 6 games

Nashville vs Pittsburgh – 6 games