NaMo and me: Thoughts on the Indian election

ModiThe Indian electoral map is now covered in a swathe of orange (my favourite colour, the irony…) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi (NaMo) prepares to become the first single party majority government since 1984. Their victory was enabled by a big swing away from the ruling party, and a first past the post election system that leaves them in absolute power with less than a third of the electorate voting for them. This post is not about numbers and electoral analysis, there’s plenty of of that elsewhere.

As a left-wing, non-religious progressive sitting far away from India, I am dismayed at the power the BJP will have to make things difficult for minorities of all kinds, non-Hindus, the GLBTQ, and more. The BJP has made noises about “simplifying” environmental clearances, which only means more mines, more coal and more displacement, especially of poor people and tribal communities. Fundamentalist acts of violence may also increase, Kafila has already compiled a number of incidents of Hindu aggression towards mosques and Muslims. This parliament will have the lowest Muslim representation in a while, with not a single Muslim BJP representative.

Pankaj Mishra writing in the Guardian has a good summary on Modi, the BJP, its religious cadre the RSS, and more…

Boasting of his 56-inch chest, Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of non-violence, with Vivekananda, the 19th-century Hindu revivalist who was obsessed with making Indians a “manly” nation. Vivekananda’s garlanded statue or portrait is as ubiquitous in Modi’s public appearances as his dandyish pastel waistcoats. But Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress’s haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country’s biggest corporations. His closest allies – India’s biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced


So, what happened?

India party-wise election resultsThis NDTV article is a quick and basic summary of why Modi and the BJP won. On the negative side for the congress, the atrocious corruption, a reluctant leader (5th generation placeholder of a once “great” ruling family), a prime minister who has to sit in the upper house because he can’t win elections, a country with infrastructure gaps and poverty greatly in odds with the aspirations of its people, and general disgust with the status-quo. I would have been dissatisfied with the congress as well.

On the positive side for the BJP, their party was well organized, they had a big ground advantage with the RSS and more, Modi’s long tenure as chief minister of an outwardly successful state (Gujarat’s success predates Modi by more than 10 years, but why let facts get in the way) helped, and the cult of personality around his “decisiveness” was built by the BJP and amplified by the media. India is of course a very complex electorate which requires very different messages to the different groups. But the overall message was simple, Modi rocks!, we’ll do better, Rahul Gandhi is an idiot, and the congress is corrupt.

What next?

I find it hard to believe the unqualified declarations, like this one on live mint, that this is some kind of “capitalist” revolution. India has been here before. There seems to be a collective amnesia on the previous BJP-led administration that was in power between 1998-2004, made very much the same noises, albeit with a moderate face in front, Mr Vajpayee, and made a big show of development in cities, “business friendly” (code for crony capitalist) policies, nuclear chest-beating and more. All this culminated in the infamous “India shining” election of 2004, where the BJP’s triumphant march to re-election was upended thanks to the utter failure of trickle-down economics to actually better the lives of the millions without basic infrastructure and a route out of poverty. While India’s upper class celebrated victory, rural India unexpectedly returned the congress to power. The BJP would do well to remember this. They can’t ignore basic income/food support to the poor, or ignore the vast inequality, riots will break out. So, it will be a hard slog. I also don’t see any answers on how the BJP is going to transform India’s institutions to provide its people with their basic needs, because this is not about who is in power, this is about the quality of a country’s institutions (What I learned from “Why Nations Fail”).

How do I feel?

I have not lived in India for more than 15 years, so I have missed most of this, and when I visit, I live in a state that is generally doing well, one where regional parties dominate, and where the BJP won one out of 39 seats. I also avoid the shouty political media when I’m there. I was born into an elite-caste middle class community with much privilege. Indian politics left me cold and disgusted when I lived there, so anything I say needs to be clearly filtered as coming from one who was an outsider then, and even more so now.

While I am disturbed, I am not sure what many other progressives dismayed by the results would have wanted instead. Yes, the conservative BJP will treat its minorities atrociously, people may die, and their so called market reforms are likely to only exacerbate India’s already unacceptable inequality. But I don’t see what alternative the voters had. The ruling party was corrupt, disorganized and bereft of vision and inspiration, the various left of centre parties fragmented, inexperienced, and generally shut out. A change was coming, and the BJP was the only party positioned to take advantage of that change. I can’t bring myself condemn the Indian electorate for going with a message of change and good governance (true or not). The gap is in the inability of progressive Indian polity to build an alternative. While the Aam Aadmi Party and Kejriwal has made progressive and populist noises recently, and even managed to win state elections in Delhi, they are young and in Kejriwal, they have a rather unpredictable leader. They were not ready, and voters can’t be expected to trust inexperience.

Going forward, there are many routes for a left of centre progressive movement to take hold in India. The AAP, and other smaller parties would do well to look to countries like Brazil where worker and peasant movements slowly built and organized their way into power, and are still doing well by making their countries’ institutions better. India deserves a good progressive political option and one that is able to provide good governance without abetting pogroms against minorities, a low bar, but one both the BJP and the congress has so far failed to meet. I don’t know if the AAP is the answer, they performed reasonably well first time out with a 2% national vote percentage (not much, but good given the party fragmentation in India), and has room to grow as long as they can attract good people and build from the grassroots. They will have plenty of time before the next election to get better organized, more experienced and be a bigger force. And who knows, maybe the congress could reinvent itself as a centre-left Gandhi family-free party of good governance, stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, I hope (with little evidence) for everyone’s sake that the BJP concentrates on good governance and building institutions, and gives its chest beating and macho Hindutva glorification a rest (yes, asking a lot). The people of India voted for change and a better life, not more violence, military aggression and fighting with Pakistan. I hope that in my naiveté, I am not being blasé about the ascendance of a very dangerous administration. But I remain a strong believer in the power of the Indian electorate to stick to basics and put authoritarians in their place, not like it did not happen before.

PS: The really nice picture of Modi tattooed (temporary I hope) is from this Jacobin magazine article on Modi,  his “neoliberal orthodoxy and violent Hindu nationalism.

Hey, comment on Victoria’s Cycling Master Plan!


The City of Victoria is coming out with a master plan for biking . They would really like to know what you think about biking in the city and what improvements you like to see in their master plan. Here’s where you can contribute. Look at the poster above for places where the City’s holding consultations and workshops.

If you’re looking for some ideas, the Greater Victoria cycling coalition recently released their thoughts on the city’s master plan (pdf) (disclaimer I am on the board of the Greater Victoria cycling coalition, though my contribution to the report was mostly proof-reading) . Some highlights for you in case you need some ideas to contribute to the city:

  1. Improvements to neighbourhood arteries such as Haultain, Vancouver, and more
  2. Protected or buffered bike lanes on heavier traffic roads such as Pandora (The city is currently planning a one-way track on Pandora).
  3. Clearer road markings on intersections, and the use of “bike boxes” at traffic lights so people on cycles can safely and visibly get ahead of traffic

There’s more. Read the report, it’s not very long.

Here is some of my personal feedback (beyond everything in the report) based mostly on the parts of the city I cycle in,. and the parts where I feel changes would make a big difference.

  1. Protected (buffered) lanes, or cycle “tracks” downtown and beyond: Lanes where cyclists are not buffeted by cars and buses have the potential to increase cycling among those hesitant to ride in traffic. The city is planning to build a buffered lane on Pandora from Cook all the way to Wharf. This is a good start, and needs to be doubled, either with a two way lane on Pandora (which the city is very hesitant to do), or a corresponding cycle track on a street going east. Also, View street is already not a convenient throughway for cars, wonder if a buffered bike lane would fit there.  
  2. Vancouver street: Vancouver is a nice and peaceful street to ride on, wide, only one lane of car traffic each way, residential and mostly flat. Vancouver is already a widely used bike way for people going North-South, especially from Fairfield and Cook street village and North Park. But, there are some difficult stretches. Firstly, Caledonia, where cyclists need to pass a busy street with speeding cars. While cars are not allowed through north on Vancouver street past Caledonia, my near misses and my friends’ similar stories tells me that many car drivers don’t listen. Let’s fix this, either with more enforcement, or actual physical barriers to slow vehicles down/stop them. Also, there are a number of stop signs on Vancouver that result in a choppy cycling experience. Changing these stop signs to allow through traffic on Vancouver would improve the cycling experience. There is marginal car traffic on those east-west roads anyway, so I think this would be an easy fix. While we are at it, changing car speed limits to 30 kph would calm Vancouver down even more. Vancouver’s connection past Bay is also currently a bit klunky and needs improving.
  3. Haultain. This is my favourite street to cycle on in Victoria, and one I use regularly. Haultain, while not on Victoria’s current official cycling network, is well set up for biking, with physical barriers preventing through traffic both at Shelbourne and Richmond, leading to a fantastic cycling experience from Cook street all the way into Oak Bay. From my perspective, Haultain mostly works, but connecting it west past Cook and making an easier path for cyclists coming off the Bay bridge would be useful. The turn onto Cook from Haultain also needs some attention, it’s difficult in peak hour traffic. Also, while bikes are supposed to trigger the Shelbourne light, this seems to not work for me much of the time, which means I wait a while for this light to turn, especially unproductive when there’s little traffic on Shelbourne after peak hours. I wish this light could be turned in to a simple stop/yield, with an optional bicycle/pedestrian triggered light to be used in times of “heavy” traffic on Shelbourne.
  4. portland_bike_boxRight turn lanes and cyclists. Many of our streets without bike lanes, Johnson is a prime example have this feature where the right-most lane becomes a turn-only lane. This may be convenient for cars, but it means cyclists have to keep merging left into traffic, stressful even for experienced riders in traffic and disruptive for motor vehicle traffic as well. It’s here that painting bike boxes could be very useful. But they won’t help when traffic is moving. Cook and Johnson now have a marking where the right-most lane is right-turn only except for buses and cycles. So, when traffic is moving, cyclists could just pedal through, but when it is stopped, they could use the painted bike box. The city should do this at every intersection.

Many more thoughts, but please contribute. The city especially needs to hear from the people I think constitute the heart of cycling in the city, those who cycle, but would not identify themselves as cyclists per se (human is the preferred identity!). You know who you are, speak up (It’s an election year, BTW).

The gas leaking monster of Marcellus, but at least they measure it

PulltoReleaseCO2British Columbia, listen up, wise up and measure methane leakage! Natural gas’ reputation as a clean alternative to coal relies heavily on the drilling and fracking companies being ultra-cautious and preventing the methane from leaking. A leak rate of anywhere >3%, and the methane supercharges climate change due to its high global warming potential.

“A survey over hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania revealed drilling operations releasing plumes of methane 100 to 1,000 times higher than what the EPA expects from that stage of drilling, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Via the Washington Post, here’s more data that drilling companies are allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere at far higher levels than claimed. This data adds to earlier measurements by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder that showed high leakage rates in Colorado and Utah. This also adds to the body of work from Cornell University (Howarth et al. showing high leakage rates. It is pretty clear that escape rates vary from area to area, and also on the ability/willingness of fracking companies to control emissions. What is BC doing about this? As DeSmog pointed out last year, nothing. We assume that our leak rate is 0.4%, best in the world. While BC’s companies are required to “report” methane emissions, they are based on modeling, not measurement. It is pretty clear now that these numbers are not verifiable or reviewable.

Float On


All refrains "float on", except the 9th one, which is "even if things end up"

All refrains “float on”, except the 9th one, which is “even if things end up”

Sometimes, learning lyrics is hard, and making a table out of it seems to help (disclaimer: I do not use pie charts for anything serious)

Call Direction Response
We’ll all float on Up All right, already
We’ll all float on Up Now don’t you worry
We’ll all float on Down All right, already
We’ll all float on Up All right, don’t worry
We’ll all float on Up, hold All right, already
We’ll all float on Down All right, already
We’ll all float on Down All right, don’t worry
Even if things end up up A bit too heavy
We’ll all float on Down All right, already
We’ll all float on Up All right, already
We’ll all float on Down Okay, don’t worry
We’ll all float on Up even if things get heavy
We’ll all float on Down All right, already
We’ll all float on Up don’t you worry

(Direction refers to whether float is higher in pitch than all, or lower)

Stalking my walking.


Google Now tells me I have walked 74 km in February (one of the last meaningful acts of my phone before it passed away). That’s mostly me walking from my bus stop to work and back, 3.6 km everyday, something I don’t consider exercise to the point that I undergo serious bouts of self-criticism about “not exercising enough”. I post this because I, like many around me, am very concerned about the amount of digital surveillance in our society. Everyday, Snowden’s document dump brings new revelations. Yahoo webcam images, anyone? But the benefits of benign surveillance are potentially big. I would like my phone to remind me that I am exercising, that my bus is scheduled to arrive in 5 minutes (of course, BC Transit does not have real-time information, so this is theoretical), that I am near a grocery store that has my favourite cereal on sale (this would need open data on retail prices), that my neighbour on the bus is reading the same book that I am (okay, too much!).

Cellphones are now intelligent, location and context aware. They can do a lot of good. Hell, I’ll even tolerate the use of some of my metadata for advertising and information gathering as long as it is transparent. But the data is also used by governments non-transparently to track my movements and actions, and I am deeply uncomfortable with it. Till now, my gee-whizness and fairly high belief in the value of a trust-based open information commons keeps me from closing off these data streams. If we stop trusting in the good of an open internet and stop contributing, the internet is seriously harmed.

Book Review of Serious Men by Manu Joseph: Why the misogyny?

SeriousMenI have been meaning to read Serious Men by Manu Joseph for a while now, and I really wanted to like it as well. I did get my hands on a copy finally, and, what a disappointment. Serious Men is billed as a story of class struggles and politics in a government run university, very similar to the one I attended. And on those aspects, it mostly delivers, albeit with a heavy dose of unrealistic narrative moving incidents strewn predictably at all the right points in the plot. The class divisions in the book are real, and ones I was privileged not to really notice when I attended those institutions. The professors were mostly upper class, the lower/mid level administrators mostly other castes. The author brings these divisions out, and uses them to make what could have been an interesting and enjoyable story. But, don’t read it unless you like your women characters one-dimensional and devious.

Spoiler alert

Why all the should haves and could haves? The book is unfortunately steeped in a misogyny so deep that I wonder what Manu Joseph was thinking. One of the narrative movers is the accusation of research fraud levelled by a woman scientist Oparna against her fellow upper caste supervisor and institute head Dr Acharya. See, Oparna gets very attracted to Acharya, makes her intentions clear to him in a fairly unrealistic way. Their interactions culminate in a two week affair when Acharya’s wife Lavanya is out of town. Lavanya hears very quickly of the affair and confronts Acharya, who immediately ends the affair, while still continuing to work with Oparna on his dream project. Oparna’s character throughout this period is reduced to her looks and her demeanour around Acharya and at work. The juxtaposition of her sexual awareness and honesty during the affair, and her complete turnabout into a “scorned woman” after is unbelievable.

Yes, the book is a satire and as such, the author has additional license to exaggerate differences and character flaws, and little need for plot realism. However, an author has a conscious choice in whom they choose to satirize, privileged male authors violate my (soon to be trademarked) “poke fun upwards” guideline on safer humour by writing one-dimensional female characters and making them the objects of satire.

While the author makes both Oparna and Acharya question Oparna’s attraction for Acharya (it’s all about the projection of his charisma and power, never mind his age or his supervisory position), the unlikeliness is not explored further. Fine, young women do have affairs with older men in positions of power. But it’s a terrible stretch for Oparna to deliberately contaminate a sample in the glow of the affair “so he can feel happy about a positive result”, then once the affair ends, claim in public that he forced her to falsify the results. The use of a scorned woman trope  in a book that is supposed to be about class distinctions in academia mostly ruined the book for me. India’s gender disparity means it is a minefield of sexual harassment and terrible power differentials in academia. This book fails completely at understanding the links between gender- and caste-based discrimination. There are three women characters in this book. Two are dutiful “wives”, no other role required, the third, Oparna we already talked about! Oparna is reduced to just her womanly essence, in the end, becoming an unprofessional “liar” for the sake of advancing the plot, which incidentally involves the lower-caste protagonist Ayyan helping the “good brahmin” Acharya against the other “bad brahmins”

Yes, this is a work of fiction and Manu Joseph is free to populate his book with very poorly written female characters and win prizes. But. as this reviewer points out, do you want to read books with passages like these?

“Free love, Ayyan knew in his heart, is an enchanting place haunted by demented women. Here, every day men merely got away. And then, without warning, they were finished. The girl would come and say, like a martyr, that she was pregnant, or would remember that all the time she was being raped, or her husband would arrive with a butcher’s knife. Such things always happened in the country of free love. Ayyan Mani had fled in time from there into the open arms of a virgin. But Acharya had fled the other way.”


“She wondered how women would have handled this situation. What if the jury had been comprised of menopausal women? That was a disturbing thought. They would have butchered her in a minute. But this jury of ageing men was going to be easy.”

Even more

“She would wander through life beseeching men to love her, frighten them with the intensity of her affection, marry one whose smell she could tolerate, and then resume the search for love. And she would suffer the loneliness of affairs…”

Ugh, don’t bother.

My alma maters take a stand against India’s anti-homosexuality laws

377On January 28, 2014, India’s Supreme Court declined to review its terrible decision to re-legitimize India’s colonial era laws against “unnatural sex”. I am disgusted by the judges’ decision to use “judicial restraint” to mask their prejudice. I wholeheartedly endorse this message from the Indian Institutes of Technology against the ruling. The IITs I attended in the 90s were misogynistic environments, with the student bodies being >90% men, with the women present being subjected to either constant attention or unbelievably nasty talk (mostly behind their backs). We received absolutely no guidance on how to treat women well. There was no dating culture, and given that I knew very little about homosexuality or queerness then, I shudder to contemplate what anyone not conforming to 100% heteronormativity went through. This blog post from 2012 appears to signal that not much has changed. The large number of people (including me) who felt deeply uncomfortable in this environment were mostly silenced. I remember speaking against the entrenched misogyny occasionally, but I also remember being silent often. I am glad that so many people associated with IITs all over India signed on to this statement condemning the Supreme Court. Do read their statement in full at the link below.

Where the Delhi High Court’s ruling was a bold effort to give life to the promise of Indian Constitutionalism, the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse it is a deceptive attempt to use judicial restraint as a cover for its refusal to critically interrogate the social effects of legal provisions. Ignoring the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in India altogether, it argues that Section 377 merely penalizes certain acts and does not stigmatize a class of Indian society based on sexuality and gender identity. By failing to recognize the fact that the law exposes LGBTQ people to illegal extortion, harassment and persecution, and by suggesting that the rights of LGBTQ individuals are less worthy of protection because of their “miniscule proportion”, the Supreme Court has failed to perform its constitutional responsibility and betrayed the trust of the Indian people.

A 2014 Reading List

We circulated a flash card around friends gathered to celebrate the start of 2014 and each one contributed the name of a book that you should add to your reading list soon. Here they are, in no particular order.

I’ve read six of these, and liked them all, which bodes well for the rest of them.

Indian Supreme Court refuses to strike down anti-homosexuality laws

In a major setback to gay activists, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that homosexuality or “unnatural” sex between two consenting adults under Section 377 Indian Penal Code would be an offence and this provision did not suffer from any constitutional infirmity. I am appalled, disgusted and feel for the millions of Indian LGBTQ. India’s laws against homosexuality (section 377) were written by British colonizers in 1860 (pdf) and no parliament since has bothered to strike them down. They are not enforced with vigour, or at all, perhaps, but the very presence of such a law silences, intimidates and oppresses the people of India, and in fact, anyone visiting as well. The LGBTQ in India suffer from oppression and silencing for reasons that go well beyond the presence of a law, but changing laws is often the first step in societal change in India. The Delhi High Court in 2009 did the right thing (and politicians a favour) by ruling the law unconstitutional. The supreme court had other ideas, apparently. The court argues (very disingenuously) that they find nothing nothing wrong with a law that the Delhi court found violated Article 14 of India’s constitution, and that the onus is on the legislature to repeal the provision. Given the idiocy of defending laws that clearly discriminate between different types of sexual activity between consenting adults, who is to blame here?

  • The British: Thanks for imposing your morals on India, no one asked you to.
  • The Congress-led ruling coalition, which initially opposed the Delhi verdict, then supported it, then mounted a tepid defence at the supreme court (like Obama on gay marriage in the US). They had the opportunity to strike the law down legislatively in 2009, and could have used their majority to do so at any point in time, they did not.
  • Indian fundamentalists. The Christians, Muslims and Hindu fundamentalists launched a united front against the ruling and argued in court together.
  • Civic organizations like Prayas, who seem to think that sex between consenting adults has something do with protecting children.
  • The Delhi Commission for protecting children? This is a governmental organization tasked with preventing child abuse. Again, they seem to think that sex between consenting adults and abuse of children are somehow connected. Sexualized abuse of children in India is terribly common and primarily perpetrated by family members,
  • The Supreme Court in India, which by law should not always be deferential to legislative process, especially when the constitution is concerned. It is well within the court’s jurisdiction to look at laws enacted before the Indian constitution and void them if they violate the constitution. The fact that they decided in this case to pretend to “see nothing wrong” indicates that they made up their mind and found a rationalization.

rainbowWhat next? India’s election is in 4 months, nothing will happen then. Given the congress coalition’s recent weakness, and the BJP’s resurgence, India may be looking at a right wing coalition led by the BJP coming to power. Given their close ties and identification with Hindu fundamentalism, and their social conservatism, the law is likely to stand for a while longer. It will oppress millions.

Fun with maps: BC Smart meters and the 2013 election

SmartMeterVotingMapI have been MOOC’ing this summer and learning how to do maps. Geography as an adult is much more fun than my 10th grade geography class.

Chad Skelton over at the Vancouver Sun intrigued me with his data retrieval and mapping of British Columbia’s Smart Meter uptake. if you’re not from BC, here’s a short intro (#BCpoli-aware feel free to skip the next two paragraphs).

BC Hydro is the government owned (Crown Corporation) utility that produces and distributes electricity for the province of British Colombia in Canada. In 2011, BC Hydro announced its intention to spend $$$ upgrading all its electricity meters to “smart meters”. These meters are capable of being read via wifi by meter readers, and potentially also give BC residents the ability to monitor their electricity usage in near-real time.

Many concerns were raised about the smart meters. One was about the costs of the program vs. perceived benefits. The others, which gained traction were around an emerging movement in BC connecting wifi, cell signals and wifi-enabled smart meters with a whole variety of health effects. While few, if any of these health concerns have been actually causally linked to smart meters, or even to the amorphous descriptor “wifi radiation”, these health concerns have gained traction even among official bodies such as the Union of BC Municipalities, municipal councils and school boards. The BC provincial election in 2013 was a chance for people to voice their concerns. The opposition parties all brought the issue up during canvassing.

For my peer assessment mapping project, I wanted to see if areas of relatively high smart meter refusal were correlated or co-located in any way with voting against the ruling BC Liberals.

This is the map I made, my first ever map not scrawled on paper.

View Larger Map

Reading the Map

The electoral districts are colour-coded by BC Liberal Party percentage, darker means higher vote for the BC Liberals. I chose this rather than “who won” because I was looking more for an anti-BC Liberal effect. I will, at some point in time, try to overlay “who won” as well. The smart meter refusal data is in three different coloured and sized circles. Large and red means higher refusal, and small and green means low refusal. This is a hybrid of a graduated circle symbol scheme and a diverging colour scheme. Clearly, using points to represent areas is a big limitation, but it is sufficient for a quick peek.

Anything to See?

  • An overwhelming majority of people had smart meters installed, > 90% in most places. So, BC Hydro’s brute force, no options, default installation plan was mostly successful
  • Places of higher than normal refusal tended to vote against the BC Liberals. I believe this had more to do with existing anti-BC-Lib tendencies influencing smart meter refusal rather than the other way around.
  • Urban centres like Victoria and Vancouver had relatively low rates of refusal. Is this because of higher apartment proportions, or because smart meter refusal was restricted to a small number of high information, highly motivated individuals whose number varied by location and whose numbers in places like Victoria were muted by larger populations?. Note that my home area of Victoria had the most (7300) rejected smart meters, even though the percentage is small. The ageing white (l)iberal enclave of Saltspring Island (Ganges), aka hippieville, Canada had by far the highest refusal percentage. So, is this smart meter refusal map mostly a hippie population distribution map?

The take home message for me was that the anti-smartmeter movement had little influence on the election, which was most likely won on the usual and mundane issues of the economy, trust and corruption.


  1. I downloaded data on smart meter refusal from the Chad Skelton’s post and Tableau public
  2. The data from BC Hydro is categorized using their division of BC into distinct geographical billing areas. I used billing area names to geotag the information. The site has a feature where addresses can be uploaded in bulk via a text interface, and the site returns the place, and latitude longitude. I added province and country to the place names, and edited ambiguous names to make the search more effective.
  3. I uploaded this table to arcgis to form one layer. Arcgis is a big and expensive GIS software, with a limited free online playpen where this map is displayed. I used graduated circles and natural breaks to represent the different levels of smart meter refusal. A big limitation to this approach is that the BC Hydro billing areas are just that, areas, not points on a map. However, the area boundaries are not available as a shape file, and geographical areas vary widely. So, the points correspond to the centre of the nearest big population area mentioned in the BC Hydro billing area description
  4. I downloaded BC electoral district shape files from Paul Ramsey of Open Geo. These shape files are an improved version of those available from Elections BC, again, thanks to Chad Skelton for pointing me in this direction
  5. Elections BC lists 2013 provincial election results information by party by district. However, there is no publicly downloadable mapped source for the election data results. I used the open source GIS desktop software QGIS to open the shape file and add the attribute of BC Liberal percentage to the shape file. I uploaded this shape file to arcgis and layered it with the smart meter refusal rate graduated circles to look for patterns.

Maps are fun to play with, and I know very very little about them, which is a great combination. Every minute I spent making this map was a learning experience. Comments and feedback, please. I think I will slowly incorporate mapping into my skill set. But I think I will use open source/free solutions in the future.