Thursday, 6 August 2009

Summer Updates

I have some time to blog again as all my projects seem to be in order for the moment. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to once a month blogging in September if my ducks will stay in a line.

Here are some links to interesting items concerning Network Theory that I have been compiling over the last bit:

1) The World Class University Project at Yeungnam University

First off, Greg Elmer and the Infoscape Research Lab are partnering with other informational politics researchers on the World Class University Project to explore media information focusing on elections. Information about the project can be found here:

2) Canadian Political Science Association On-line Politics Papers

I was at the CPSA Annual Conference in Ottawa in May, and I attended the informational politics panels there. It was good to see that there were a few sessions at the CPSA, which is a new thing from previous years. It is a sign that interest is growing in the area, and informational politics research is not strictly a Communication scholars’ concern anymore.

Here are links to papers from those sessions:

> Raynauld, Vincent, Giasson, Thierry and Darisse, Cynthia

Constitution of Representative and Reliable Web-based Research Samples: The Challenges of Studying Blogs and Online Socio-Political Networks

Their paper is a great review of methodological problems for tracking “blogs”, and it was interesting to find out that the Quebec political blogosphere is rather small with only about 100-125 bloggers.

> Smith, Peter (Jay) and Chen, Peter John

A Canadian E-lection 2008? Online Media and Political Competition

> Bastedo, Heather, Goodman, Nicole, LeDuc, Lawrence and Pammett, Jon H.

“Facebooking” Young Voters in the 2008 Federal Election Campaign: Perceptions of Citizenship and Participation

> Milner, Henry

The Internet: Friend or Foe of Youth Political Participation

3) Internet Law and Politics Conference

Friend and Colleague Ismael Pena Lopez helped to organize an interesting Internet Law and Politics Conference.

> Link 1:

> Link 2:

Ismael also recently defended his dissertation – Congrats Dr. Lopez!

> Another SDP alumni Daithi Mac Sithigh blogged the Internet Law and Politics event:

4) Global-Village Theory

Another SDP alumni Cindy Shen posted a link to an interesting counter claim to the Global-Village Theory -- “E-mail Traffic Data Casts Doubt on Global-Village Theory”:

“If you think e-mail is making geographical distance less important, think again. A new analysis indicates that the opposite may be true”:

5) Richard Rogers at

Zach Devereaux posted some of Richard Rogers’s work from

6) New Books

Here’s a new book on The Internet and National Elections: A Comparative Study of Web Campaigning by Nick Jankowski and Kirsten A. Foot, among others:

Also, Manuel Castells has a new one out on Communication Power

7) Robot Aggregating Sites

Lastly, more robot sites are aggregating blogs these days – here’s one I stumbled upon in checking out links to my own work - I was wondering why traffic had actually picked up to my site recently even though I've had no time to post things:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Canadian Firearms Registry

Well, we’ve started a bit of a political ballyhoo with some research at Ryerson. I want to affirm here from the beginning that I am an independent researcher, and my research is not out to target or support any single Canadian political party. I am simply a concerned Canadian citizen, and I do not share who I vote for (like most journalists) in order to be as objective as possible in my research.

Working with Wendy Cukier, Neil Thomlinson, and Zachary Devereaux (three Albertans in total on the article including myself!), we went looking to better understand the merits of the Canadian Firearms Registry and what we should do now that it is here, despite its costs running so high initially.

A link to the original newspaper coverage of our study is available here -- "Study shoots holes in $2B 'fabrication'" by Rob Linke:

The main point of the article is that anyone who says the registry cost "$2 billion" is lying to the Canadian people and has not done their research. Officially, the registry has cost near to $1 billion over ten years (Auditor General of Canada, 2006).

Our paper at the Canadian Political Science Association (May, 2009) was cited in the article, and a copy of the paper can be found here:

Some pertinent details include the following:

1) The old registry system cost $30M / year (over ten years = $300M), which would not have had any of the benefits of the new system. The system was definitely in need of an upgrade, which the initial Progressive Conservative Party Bill C-17, a revised version of Bill C-80, under then Justice Minister Kim Campbell, was attempting to provide in 1991.

2) Police consistently maintained that the registry system is an important tool for police, who use it nearly 10,000 times a day according to Steven Chabot, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (“Public safety will be at risk if gun registry is dismantled,” Toronto Star, 10 April 2009: A23).

3) Public health analysts maintain that gun-related deaths have decreased in Canada since the new Firearms Act became law (Snider et al., 2009; Cukier & Sidel, 2006).

4) Ian MacLeod is the author of the Ottawa Citizen article that describes how police had confiscated 3560 guns nationally in one year, which “would have been more difficult, if not impossible, to locate and confiscate” without the registry:

Source: MacLeod, I. (2009). 92 handguns collected in city since fall. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from

I don’t know about you, but after doing my research, I was quite swayed to go with what doctors and the police think about the registry rather than the non-authoritative accounts.

Contextualizing Costs of the Registry

How can we contextualize the cost of the registry? How much should public safety cost? Yes, the registry went over cost like other IT endeavors – for example, the current Harper minority government’s support of Secure Channel – another $1 billion information technology “boondoggle” – that has gone mostly unnoticed [see: “Government to replace $1B online service ‘boondoggle’” (Ottawa Citizen, May, 2008)] -- but how much should the registry cost now that it is here? What do we do with it?

Here are some numbers to consider:

1) A Canadian Medical Association article placed the costs of gun death and injury in Canada at $6.6 billion (1993 Canadian dollar value) in 1991 (Miller, 1995).

2) The Geneva Small Arms Survey states that productivity losses due to firearms are $1.6 billion annually in Canada (Small Arms Study, 2006).

3) Comparison to other safety investments: A Coalition for Gun Control report “Continued funding for the Firearms Program is essential to public safety” (2004) provides the example that $400 million was used to fix a stretch of road in New Brunswick where forty-three lives were lost between 1996 and 2000. By comparison, Canada has more than one thousand gun deaths every year.

4) Per Capita costs of Other Government Programs: Legal Aid spending in Canada per year (2008, Thursday, July 31), which arguably is very low compared to other Western nations, totalled $583 million (02-03) and $659 million (06-07). The per capita cost was $18.59 (02-03) and $20.19 (06-07) (Tyler, 2008). By comparison, the gun registry costs every Canadian $2.81/year at its current cost.

5) Canada’s Passport Office costs $125 million a year (over ten years = $ 1.25 billion) to register travelers.

Lastly, I’ve also attached the estimated costs of registering guns today from the Canada Firearm Centre:

While the CFC has a budget of $82.3M a year, actually registering the guns is $15.7M, and scrapping the long gun registry would save $3M (according to some estimates). These costs are in fact lower now than the older registry.

However, the only people who seem to want to scrap these things are Conservative politicians linked with the gun lobby and a few rural MPs.

I want to hear more from other people about this, because I really do see the value of the registry at this point after doing the research, and I think citizens shouldn’t take it lightly that MPs Breitkreuz and Hoeppner are lying about public accounts in the House. A $1B error in fact…

All of my Albertan friends who own guns that I have talked to have say a registered gun can kill a moose just as easily as an unregistered gun – in other words, they feel that the registry did cost too much, but now that it’s here we should agree with the doctors and police who argue it is needed for public safety issues.

I was interested to see what happened to the story on-line a month afterward -- Here’s what others think about the story in the blogosphere:

> The reader’s comments on this article from MP Breitkreuz are interesting:




Lastly, just to alert some people to the potential consequences of independent research: Some anonymous user named “BigUglyMan” (no word of a lie) on the password protected “Gun Nutz” website profiled me as a “joker” and “a disciple of Wendy” within minutes of the original Rob Linke article being posted. Obviously, I don’t have a brain of my own to make up my mind about the gun registry, and I’m not a concerned Canadian citizen with a right to my own voice…

Michael Ondaatje’s words here are humourously poignant “I was always a private man. It is difficult to realize that I was so discussed” (The English Patient, p. 138), but I guess it comes with the territory of researching issues and networked politics. A member of my family joked that a gun registry is needed simply because people like that exist…

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments!