Monday, July 16, 2007

Don't Bogart that joint, mon ami .....

Now it’s all starting to make sense. A few days ago, I posted an item related to Quebec’s productivity gap with the rest of Canada. In it I quoted a newspaper article by a Quebec-based writer who talked about the economic impacts arising from the fact that the average Quebecer works fewer hours and has more vacation days than most Canadians, but the writer didn’t go into much detail about why that should be.

Today it all becomes clear. According to an
article in the Montreal Gazette, “marijuana use in Quebec is running 12 per cent higher than the national average”. This gives Quebec the dubious honor of being first among industrialized nations in marijuana use. No wonder their productivity is lagging.

Perhaps Jim Flaherty should send some munchies along with those fat equalization checks.

Power tool drag racing

Many years ago my younger brother heard a radio item about a new pastime called belt sander racing. Now this was a sport (?) he could get into – cheap and just weird enough to be interesting – but first he had to give it a try. He had an old commercial grade 4” belt sander and a smooth concrete floor in his garage so once he cleared a path through all the clutter he was good to go.

Unfortunately he missed the part of the broadcast where they said these belt sander racers did not carry a rider/driver.

He put on a course grit sanding belt, duct-taped the trigger closed, balanced himself on the sander, and reaching back, plugged it in. He later said that the only thing that saved him was the fact that his garage was about 20 feet longer than the cord on the sander, so most of the trip was un-powered. Nonetheless he still managed to hit the garage door with enough force that his knees and forehead left dents. That’s when he swore off belt sander racing.

It now turns out that decision may have been premature. Not only is belt sander racing still popular, but it has now morphed into the broader pursuit of power tool drag racing, complete with dozens of You Tube
videos of racing action. The New England Belt Sander Racing Association has published rules, scheduled events, and even press releases on their web site. If you want to be competitive, there are racing consultants who, for as little as $10, will tell you all you need to know to be in the winner’s circle at your next event. If you don’t want to race just your belt sander, how about your skill saw? Or your angle grinder? Chain saw? Now there are classes for power tool (well, they might have been power tools once) powered vehicles with riders, but I’d want to be sure that that 10” saw blade spinning at 7200 RPM was well separated from my more sensitive nether regions as we howled down a 75 foot track under minimal control. And don’t despair if your newest hobby starts getting too expensive because there are even corporate sponsors to be had.

I hope Greg still has that old sander around.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Curse you Walt Disney!

This is the second summer we have tried to have a garden in our little piece of Eden here in rural Ontario and all I can say is, IF THERE HAD BEEN DEER IN THE ORIGINAL GARDEN OF EDEN THERE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ANY DAMNED APPLES LEFT!

I was looking forward to a feed of fresh garden beans, carefully tended behind a 5’ tall fence. Now I’m searching the internet cooking sites looking for bean stalk recipes. Stripped clean they were, under cover of darkness. Cowards!

Our favourite perennials, lovingly transplanted from the last house, are apparently all delicacies which no self-respecting deer buffet would be without. Every morning, the first trip outdoors is to the garden to see “what the bastards got last night”. And judging from the damage, our garden must be high on the list of free culinary delights catering to the discriminating browser, as they keep coming back for more.

In a desperate attempt to grow something – anything – they won’t eat, I even bought a guide book. Deerproofing Your Yard and Garden cost me $21.95 plus tax and seemed like a good deal until I realised that the bloody deer haven’t read it yet. Recommended deer resistant plants like hostas – chewed to the ground; parsley – yum, yum; goatsbeard – oooh, tasty; lily-of-the-valley – got any more of that?

Plant marigolds they say. Deer don’t like the smell they say. Well our deer must have olfactory issues as they stand in the marigold patch as they eat the peas. Nothing works.

Curse you Walt Disney! Until Bambi came along, they were food – end of story. Now thanks to you, everyone has this image of deer as the cute spotted fawn instead of what they really are, a pest. They are a scourge on the landscape. They destroy crops. They cause untold damage in vehicle collisions. And they eat my beans!

I may be discouraged, but I’m not waving the white flag just yet – not as long as there’s the option of electric fencing or a Winchester 30-30.

Come to think of it, the freezer is getting a bit low. Here deery, deery. Come on girl …..

Quebec's productivity gap - pay up sucker!

Janet Bagnall writes for the Montreal Gazette, and in a piece published in today’s Ottawa Citizen she discusses the so-called productivity gap between the population of Quebec and the rest of Canada.

This is the same productivity gap that Lucien Bouchard was referring to when he raised the hackles of les Québécoises last summer by pointing out the fact that the average Quebecer works approximately 32 hours per week compared to 34 in Ontario and 37 in the US. Bagnall goes on to state that “Quebecers have, on average, 16.2 paid vacation days a year” compared to 12.2 in Alberta. Now some will argue that hours worked is only one measure of productivity, but learned economists are also quoted who have estimated that “62 per cent of the prosperity gap between Quebec and the rest of Canada is explained by the fewer hours worked here.

Then you hit the last paragraph of her piece: “Quebecers have chosen, often primarily for social reasons, to work fewer hours. We must accept the fact that that decision has economic consequences. If we’re willing to pay them, fine. If not, well, it’s something we’ll have to act on – maybe even before we’ve used up our 16.2 days off.

The problem here is that the economic consequences of which she speaks are not borne by Quebecers alone. If they were, fine – I kind of like the idea of a shorter work week myself – but reduced productivity in Quebec results in a greater prosperity gap, which lowers the fiscal capacity of the province, which results in higher transfers from the federal treasury. Bottom line – we in the rest of Canada are funding the average Quebecer’s desire to work less and, presumably, play more.

Kind of makes you wonder why everyone is moving to Alberta. Instead let’s all head to Quebec where we can work less and enjoy the same (or better) benefits than we’d get pretty much anywhere else in Canada. We’re all paying for it anyway, so why not take advantage?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Canadian citizenship - brought to you by The Royal Bank of Canada

The CBC is reporting that, for the first time ever, a private corporation has sponsored the swearing-in of new Canadians.

Now it would be mighty generous of The Royal Bank of Canada to host a welcome party for new Canadians, but to actually sponsor the citizenship ceremony itself seems, well, unseemly. I just can’t shake the image of a new Canadian being handed his or her Citizenship Certificate, rolled up with an RBC mortgage application form. It doesn’t sit well.

Obtaining one’s Canadian citizenship should be a joyous occasion, but it is also a very serious event as it represents reciprocal commitments being made between Canada and its new citizens. For many, it also signals the start of a new and better life away from poverty, persecution, civil strife, and war. It is a serious occasion and one which must be treated with respect. It is not a marketing opportunity.

However Canada’s Now Slightly Used Government clearly doesn’t see it that way. What’s next - advertising in Canadian passports?