Canada: The Liberal to the North

By Kyle Wilmar ’17

Americans have long seen Canada as some sort of socialist paradise to the North. However, Canada has been far removed from socialism for the last eleven years under a majority government and prime minister from the Conservative Party of Canada. Only in the recent 2015 election has the Liberal Party of Canada gained control with a majority government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Following the recent election, talk of Canadian politics has drawn the world’s eye. With the new management of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party, we can expect a drastic change in Canada’s domestic and foreign policy that will be nothing like those of the conservative party before him. These influences will change their global relations with the rest of the world and the way Canada interacts with foreign powers.

Some have called the return of the Liberal Party in Canada a return to traditional Canadian values. When most people think of Canada they think of a more liberal government than the U.S., with Canada’s universal health care, relaxed border control, and more open drug laws. You would expect that Canada would have a liberal government, but for the last decade, the conservative party has had control over Canada. Now with Trudeau taking over, there will be a return to the liberal policies that most people associate with our neighbor in the north. For decades, Canada has also been a supporter of American military action in foreign conflicts from Korea to Iraq. However, as one of Trudeau’s first actions as Prime Minister, he vowed to stop Canadian involvement in U.S-led coalition bombings of ISIS. If Trudeau continues to instate isolationist military policies in future actions, this will mark a major loss for America in foreign combat operations. Although Canada will still be very much involved in foreign countries, they have chosen to “Engage in a Responsible Way” and will be implementing more humanitarian efforts in the future. For example, Canada has pledged to help the refugees of Syria and Iraq through sending more supplies and training local forces to combat ISIS while America continues to ramp up military campaigns against ISIS. In the past, Canadian policy would have been joining us in these escalations. However, with Trudeau’s more liberal policies Canada will no longer be our sidekick in military action in foreign countries.

What does this mean for us as Americans and world citizens? The period of foreign involvement by world powers is slowly coming to an end. With more countries promoting diplomacy and humanitarian action in the Middle East, there is increased pressure on American foreign policy to take less aggressive military actions. Now that Canada, a major ally of the United States, has opted out of supporting U.S. military actions against ISIS, our grip on the Middle East has loosened. If more countries follow Canada’s example and opt out of military involvement in the Middle East, the Middle East may become more stable and self-reliant as countries are not left with power vacuums from world power interventions. Canada’s change in the way it engages with the Middle East may ultimately impact U.S. strategies as it goes forward without Canadian military backing. The United States is forced to make up for Canada by increasing our own involvement or accepting less military actions in the Middle East. While the U.S. and Canadian involvement in most Middle Eastern countries will hopefully lessen as a result of Canada’s change in foreign policy, one thing that will not change is the United State’s dedication to the state of Israel. As Trudeau has hinted, if Canada continues support for the state of Israel, so shall the United States.

Some have speculated that Trudeau would decrease Canada’s support to Israel. Shortly after the polls ended, Trudeau received a call from Netanyahu to congratulate his victory in the election, and a spokesperson for Trudeau described the call as an affirmation of Canada’s support for Israel. Power shifted to a liberal party in the election, but unlike most Canadian policies, support for Israel will remain the status quo. However, Palestine should be somewhat optimistic that Trudeau voiced opinion on the campaign trail for his desire to create a stable Palestinian state. Moving forward, Trudeau may continue to support Israel but with his party’s more pro-Palestinian platform, Canada may need to adjust its relationship with Israel in order to make support for both groups possible to maintain.

Although relationships between states may still change, Trudeau has already brought significant change to his cabinet members. In a bold move demonstrating his value of equality, Trudeau’s cabinet will be the most diverse cabinet Canada has ever seen. The cabinet will be made up of 30 members with 15 men, 15 women, 2 aboriginal politicians, 2 people with disabilities, and 3 Sikhs. With this diverse pool of cabinet members, Prime Minister Trudeau and the liberal party will bring changes to Canada and its place in foreign policy. With time, we will see the true results of Canada’s return to liberal government.



Lightning Fast Pizza!

Come on down to Skogland Gym, tomorrow at 7pm to support your men’s basketball team at their home opener. At half time SAC is sponsoring a lightening game. The last 7 participants will win a hot & fresh pizza and one lucky winner will also receive a coupon for an additional Pause Pizza! Stop by and support your fellow Oles!

Featured VN Org: Stitches For Peace

Stitches for Peace is rather low-key as far as Volunteer Networks go. Members meet on Wednesdays in the Mellby Lounge to knit and crochet; it is a good time for people to gather and unwind. The products our members create are then sold during the year at events, like the Ole Bazaar and during the Christmas Festival.

All of the proceeds from sales are donated to Heifer International, a charity organization dedicated to bringing sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas in poverty. Animals are given to families in need, providing them with a means of income and self-reliance. Stitches for Peace may be a small organization, but its members are dedicated to helping a greater cause.

Not a Minute Too Late: Free Speech on College Campuses

By Griffin Edwards ‘17

I’m disappointed in you, Oles.

After hearing about what’s going on at Mizzou, hearing of schools with safe spaces, students silenced in class and online, socially marginalized for their beliefs, I   was quick to say, “Thank God I go to a place like St. Olaf, where all  views are respected and free speech is so open. Oles    are better than that.” Granted, I’ve heard a few students tell others “You can’t think like that” or “You can’t say that.” But overall, I strain my memory to find a time when I have been silenced. Previous articles that have been published here are have been challenged, but the counterarguments have largely been thoughtful and respectful. I encourage my readers to send me a Facebook message or email if they wish to discuss any issues I raise in greater detail, and I get a few responses each time I write. The worst that has happened to me personally was a Yik-Yak post reading “F— Griffin” (censorship mine).

Imagine my dismay, then, at the response of Oles- my friends, fellow students, and neighbors- to a series of blog posts by a close friend of mine.

My friend, who shall remain nameless- runs a blog where she espouses her beliefs freely. I believe that it is a good outlet for her, where she can be free of criticism and the cynicism of many Oles who bring different ideas to the table. She’s very conservative, but anyone that knows her personally knows that she is a genuinely kind, gentle, and respectful human being (not that being conservative means you are automatically a horrible person, despite what many Oles may say). I don’t agree with her, but I at least respect her as a rational human being, of the same value as myself. Which seems like a stretch for those fighting against her, even though it should be a basic assumption.

When members of the St. Olaf community stoop to such lows as online bullying, trolling, and hateful Yaks, I am repulsed. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk to them. Multiple times on her blog and in person she has made it clear that she takes the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach. Is this hateful? To say that I hate something for being immoral to me, does that make me hateful? If I believe robbing a store is immoral, do I automatically hate all robbers? If I said I hated that people robbed stores, would you brand me as a robber-phobe? A robber-ist? Silence me? Say I’m a terrible person because I don’t like robbers, even if all I said was that I don’t like that people rob stores?

Isn’t it someone’s right to disagree with you without you being mean to them? Talking about them as people behind their backs? Calling her just dead wrong without even giving her views a serious chance? Does it make sense to bully someone into believing what you believe?

You can disagree with the ideology. No one will fault you for that. “I think she’s incorrect because of X, Y, and Z.” But it is absolutely inappropriate to say that she is, as a person, hateful, ignorant, or misguided. I’d be willing to bet that as someone whose values are not widely shared on this campus (when she says she’s a minority on campus, that’s what she means, and it’s true), she’s delved more deeply into these issues than the average Ole. It’s easy to go with the grain. It takes real courage, real fortitude, real conviction, to say something unpopular.

We don’t have a natural right to free speech to talk about the weather. We have it to tackle tough issues. An appropriate use is to discuss tricky ideas. Police brutality, abortion, wealth inequality. St. Olaf prides itself in producing students that are willing to take on hairy issues and make good of them. But I fear that the college has failed to produce decently respectful human beings, who instead inappropriately- and hypocritically- would attack someone for their beliefs. You attack someone for so-called hate speech with your own insults? You are therefore guilty of your own accusation. If they truly are hateful, show them why. Don’t just dismiss it as misguided.

I’m disappointed, Oles. We talk a good game: we preach open-mindedness, respect, and integrity. We say that we provide a friendlier community than other schools. But we don’t walk it. And that’s a shame, that we can’t leave someone be and respect them, even if we disagree with them.

You say you want diversity. You say you like talking with people from different backgrounds. You say you want a global perspective.

Do you?

Because it seems like you want more of an echo chamber than anything else.

Developments in the Capital Punishment Debate

By Gabrielle Simeck ’18

In recent years, capital punishment has become a contentious issue in the United States due to lethal injection drug shortages and international pressure  to shelf in the institution as a whole. Both the UK and all European Union member-states have outlawed the death penalty and the export of lethal injection drugs to the United States for execution purposes. As a result, state governments have been under extreme pressure to locate and acquire drugs necessary for lethal injection procedures. Lethal injection became the preferred method of execution in the 1990s in large part to its reputation for painlessness. However, following a series of botched lethal injections in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona over the past two years, the formerly pristine reputation of lethal injection is beginning to erode. Although SCOTUS has repeatedly upheld capital punishment as constitutional since the 1970s, new legal challenges have begun to undermine the execution method of choice: lethal injection.


In 2015, the Supreme Court accepted its first case on capital punishment since 2007. In a 5-4 decision, the court upheld Oklahoma’s lethal injection practices in June 2015. The case, Glossip v Gross, brought forward by a group of Oklahoma death row prisoners, argued that a drug used in lethal injection would cause immense amounts of pain during execution. In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “[f]irst, the prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain, a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-of execution claims. […] Second, the District Court did not commit clear error when it found that the prisoners failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of a massive dose of midazolam in its execution protocol entails a substantial risk of severe pain.” The majority’s ruling involves a key intersection between capital punishment legislation and constitutional law. Typically, lawyers seek to challenge the constitutionality of capital punishment by invoking the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the Eighth Amendment. However, to do so successfully, the case attorneys must provide an alternative punishment method as well as prove that the execution practices cause inhumane amounts of pain. According to the majority, these two conditions were not met and, thus, the court upheld lethal injection as a humane method of execution.


In contrast to the majority, the four dissenting justices claimed that the death-row inmates were facing an unconstitutional punishment. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayer described the majority ruling’s limitations, writing that it “leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.” According to NPR’s Nina Totemberg, Justice Sotomayer argued that under the majority’s ruling, “it would not matter if the prisoner was being ‘drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake,’ as long as there was no more humane method of execution available. The Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment does not permit that.” Justice Sotomayer’s dissent was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer.


As SCOTUS re-evaluated the constitutionality of lethal injection from a federal perspective, individual state governments have also been seeking new alternatives to the three-drug method. Most recently, California state officials proposed a new lethal injection protocol. Under the new proposal, any one of four barbiturates — amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital, and thiopental — will be able to be used in lethal injection procedures. The drugs are commonly used to euthanize dogs and other animals. Unlike the other drugs, thiopental was frequently used as part of the three-drug protocol.


Whether it’s the Supreme Court or individual state legislatures, both federal and state government officials are considering how to implement capital punishment in the 21st century. For now, SCOTUS continues to uphold the death penalty as constitutional, and 32 state constitutions support the practice. However, shortages of lethal injection drugs have made executions far more difficult to carry out. Perhaps these consequences will force our country to expand the dialogue regarding capital punishment and consider, as Justice Breyer asserted in his dissent in Glossip v Gross, whether the “death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited ‘cruel and unusual punishment.”

Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

By Adam Kaiser ’19

If you’ve been paying any general attention to the news,  politics, and the presidential debates, or even happen to flip on a TV lately, you’ve probably heard about the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) by now. Every politician, pundit, and armchair analyst is ready to sing the TPP’s praises or condemn it as a corporatist scheme. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership is poised to be the crowning achievement of Obama’s second term, and this appears to be his follow-up of Bill Clintons NAFTA moment. Depending  on whom you ask, the TPP is either a symbol of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill or a perfect example of executive overreach. Hillary Clinton helped design it but flipped her position. Most Republican candidates have expressed tentative support for the deal while Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have both joined Clinton in voicing extreme criticism. It’s confusing, complex and just might turn out to be one of the defining issues of the 2016 election.

So what exactly is it? The Trans-Pacific Trade agreement is a deal between member nations to foster trade and improve relations by lowering tariffs, quotas, and strengthening intellectual copyright enforcement throughout members. There are also are a number of provisions that attempt to even the playing field between state-owned monopolies and private companies, reduce corruption, improve transparency, and enhance regulatory coherency.

However, the TPP is not without detractors. People from across the political spectrum have attacked the secrecy of the negotiations. Even congress wasn’t privy to the negotiations. There are also the usual suspicions that the TPP will lead to mass outsourcing of American jobs. Another major concern is the strengthening of intellectual property protections across the member nations, drug patents in particular. Due to mandated patent extensions critics claim it will greatly hinder the development of cheaper generic drugs in developing countries. Environmentalists also have a bone to pick with the deal. For example, environmentalists are upset over the projected increase in US energy exports especially natural gas and corporations new ability to sue governments over perceived unfair regulations. This is something they believe will lead to a weakening in environmental laws.

So how will it all shake out? The closest comparison for the TPP might be the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Similar to the TPP, NAFTA lowered trade restrictions between the US, Mexico, and Canada. NAFTA faced much of the same resistance from people fearing job loss and environmental destruction. However, comparing the 11 years before and after NAFTA’s implementation we see that unemployment dropped from 7.1% to 5.1% and real GDP rose 48%. As for the environment, almost none of the catastrophic predictions were realized. NAFTA is one of the closest things to an undisputed success as there is in economics.

However, one must be cautious with such a comparison. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a far larger and more expansive agreement then NAFTA. As with any deal that big and comprehensive it’s not perfect. So coming into this election season, don’t let your eyes glaze over and zone out when the candidates speak about “that one big trade agreement”. Pay attention and get involved because the one thing that’s guaranteed about this deal is that it will affect you.

The Minimum Wage: Fact and Feelings

By Griffin Edwards ’17

Let me begin with a little disclaimer.

I don’t hate “the poor”. I believe that, as a human being, I am a brother to every other human being on earth, a member of the same global family. And I think a lot of people think that way too. Ask anyone, and I guarantee you,  most- if not all- would agree that, yes, it’s good to help  the poor. The only ones that might respond in the negative probably keep a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead on their bedside table; but even the most miserly people generally agree that helping others less fortunate than oneself is usually a good thing.

So: we all want to help the poor.

That being said, raising the minimum wage is not a good way to help the poor. Or the middle class. Or even the upper class, for that matter. Really, it’s detrimental to just about everyone, despite what Bernie Sanders and his legions of angsty college students and old-school populists would have you believe.

“Why?” you ask. “Isn’t more money in the hands of the poor a good thing? Isn’t this the least we could do to better those less fortunate than our privileged selves here at St. Olaf College?”

The short answer is simply that it causes unemployment. Like any good, raise the cost of human labor, and the demand will drop, as fewer people can afford it and firms make do with less. To answer this in more depth, however, we can turn to a real-life case that solidifies basic economic theory: Seattle.

Seattle has long been a bastion of American progressivism. Host of the world’s largest cannabis festival, the first US city to equip its police force with bicycles, and home to a 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Lenin, it’s definitely an American anomaly. So it should come as no surprise that in early 2015 a new law was instituted raising the city’s already pretty high minimum wage from $11 per hour to $15 per hour. The raise would take place over a long period of time to as to mitigate possible economic shocks. At first, unemployment decreased by 1%- same as the rest of the nation. However, by August, when January-June unemployment numbers were published, it was estimated that some 1300 food-service jobs were lost in the Seattle-Tacoma area in the first half of 2015: the sharpest decline since the 2008 recession. It’s now estimated that on average, a restaurant in Seattle employs 14 people- lower than 17, the nationwide mean.

Restaurants are usually hit hardest by minimum wage hikes because of their low price margins. In layman’s terms, restaurants have a hard time turning a profit even in places with lower minimum wages, and it’s even harder when your labor costs (usually the most expensive cost in running any business) increase. As a result, restaurants have had to hire and retain fewer employees, even though restaurants and other foodservice companies employ a lot (over 50% of minimum wage workers in the US, according to a recent BLS report) of minimum-wage workers. Effectively, sources of minimum wage jobs began to dry up as rates of low-income employment dropped.

Put yourself in an unskilled worker’s shoes. Granted, some workers are retained. For them, they’ll enjoy their $15 an hour. But for others, they may lose their job, or, if already involuntarily unemployed, it’ll be even harder to find one, as firms will be more conservative when hiring. The already disenfranchised are now in an even worse situation than they were before.

Now move yourself one step up on the socio-economic ladder. Imagine now that you are a small business owner in downtown Northfield, MN. Let’s say you own an artisanal mayonnaise store. Business is okay, and since you started the store yourself, and your personal finances are closely tied to its success, you usually make about $20,000 in profit every year, which goes towards your own living expenses as well as annual investments in the store (gotta order the 2016 aioli flavors, repair the damages from the pipe that burst last year). Assume store investments are $5,000- now you’re living on $15,000 a year, roughly a little less than federal minimum wage (keep in mind Minnesota, like other states, has a higher state minimum wage than the national level- $8 rather than the federal $7.25. After all, price levels can differ by region- goods in Northfield may be less expensive than in downtown Minneapolis). So already you personally make less than minimum wage as the owner of this small business. Let’s say you have two other full-time workers who help in the store, whose pay comes out of the running expenses- not the $20,000 a year you make. Suddenly their wages increase such that they each make $5,000 more a year, each. You now only make $10,000 a year. If $5,000 of that money remains in store investment, you, the owner of a store, are only making $5,000.

You could raise prices. But that could make you uncompetitive. No one wants to pay $30 for a jar of mayo, so you’ll have to keep prices at $10 a jar (Not to mention that, on the macroeconomic level, if everyone raises prices, inflation will increase, further lowering the purchasing power of your now meager income). You could let one of the employees go, but you really need the help. But it’s unreasonable for that small business owner to live on $5,000 a year, even as those employees enjoy a higher income. You’ll be forced to either shutter your business to work somewhere else- sad, since you spent all this time and money making it into what it is today- or try to run the business single-handedly, at the expense of two jobs.

Blow this up into a larger scale, and you can see for yourself what the consequences can be. “But that’s not true,” you say, “What about big corporations? What about the Walmarts and the Apples and the Exxon- Mobils of the country? Surely they could pay their employees more.”

Yeah, they probably could. But chances are, if they’re paying you minimum wage, they really don’t care about losing a few employees here and there. Wage increase? They could do it, but a couple more expendable employees could be nixed in doing so. Or, alternatively, they could institute more automation. Several McDonald’s locations now have automated ordering, and I’m sure we’ve all seen and used (maybe unsuccessfully) automatic check-out machines at a grocery store. They have to keep profits up, and although the margins may not be as tight as our friendly neighborhood mayonnaise store, if they have to pay their workers more, it will behoove them to have fewer. That’s how the world works, sadly.

Or think of it this way. Imagine you work at a position at a tech firm where you make roughly $60 and hour (you’re probably salaried, so that’s an estimate). In your state, let’s say minimum wage is originally $10. Therefore, theoretically, your work is roughly six times more valuable than the guy washing dishes (that’s how prices work). If the minimum wage increases to $15, suddenly your work is only four times as valuable as the dishwasher. Has the value of your work decreased? Chances are you haven’t worked less, or the quality of your work declined.

Some use the counter-argument that only 2% of people make minimum wage. Since I’m not a utilitarian, I find this number irrelevant. But you can bet that if the minimum wage rises, more people will be on it: if the wage rises to $15, suddenly EMTs (for instance) are making minimum wage (the current average hourly wage for an EMT is $14.84). If we connect this to the above example, suddenly the work of a highly-trained medical professional- and a common St. Olaf outcome- has a theoretical value of work equivalent to a dishwasher. This is not to say that a dishwasher is less of a human being than an EMT; simply that, by any measure, the work done by an EMT is, in most cases, more beneficial to society as a whole than that of someone washing dishes, so the value of said work ought to be higher.

At the end of the day, there are lots of ways to help the poor. Help out at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, donate money, provide education. Be a good human being. But at the end of the day, I think most would agree that it’s better to have a low-wage job than no job at all. Does minimum wage have a place? Absolutely. But raising it higher and fighting against the market forces will do nothing to increase the station of the impoverished; if anything, it will further marginalize those on the bottom, hitting minorities and the underprivileged the hardest, the same people a wage hike purports to help. Be wary of political snake-oil and honeyed words, especially as the election season continues to heat up.

Win Leftover Flex Dollars For Your Org!

This year, Volunteer Network will choose which student or volunteer organization will receive the leftover flex dollars at the end of the semester. In the past over $500 dollars have been given back to the community. We encourage you to apply! Applications are due November 23rd at 5 PM. Selected organizations will be asked to make a short presentation on November 30th at 7 PM to the VN Committee. Three finalists will then be given the opportunity to promote their cause to the student body the week of December 7-11. Students will vote for orgs in a penny war competition! The organization with the most money will receive the flex dollars. However, the other orgs will get to keep the money donated to their org in the penny wars! As always, if you have questions do not hesitate to contact Rachel Hoverstad (, Amanda Spitzenberger (, and Erin McHugh ( You can apply at

Harry Potter Night in Holland!

Calling all Harry Potter fans! On November 21st from 7-9 PM SAC and The Quidditch team will be hosting a Harry Potter night in Holland Hall! Come experience a magic filled night in Holland! Wear your best Potter Attire and enjoy a night of movies, trivia, games, and of course butterbeer! Bring your fellow wizards and witches to this magical event!


SAC Member of the Week: Sophie McMonagle!

Shout out to this weeks SAC member of the week, freshman Sophie McMonagle! Sophie is a freshman from Maine who loves to hike, bike, and ski! She’s interested in studying environmental economics and conservation here at St. Olaf. In addition to SAC, she is involved in rockclimbing, swing club, and plays the ukelele in her free time.