Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen and the HarperCons

As John Ivison reports in the National Post, “Stephen Harper trudged up the steps of the plane taking him to Copenhagen with the reluctance of a Jenny Craig client learning to love lettuce.”

And then sums up with, “Not only does Mr. Harper find himself obliged to support such a process, it sounds very much like he might have to sign up for a carbon tax to help pay for Canada's contribution to the climate protection fund.”

Well guess what. That’s what happens when you ignore your responsibilities and choose to follow instead of lead – you have no choice but to tread in the footsteps of the lead dog, and you don’t get to pick who that is.

The Harper Conservatives – and it must be said, the Liberals before – have done their best to ignore the climate change file as it is widely viewed in political circles as a no-win issue that will ultimately pit energy-producing provinces against energy-using provinces. This need not be so, but certain lobby groups have a vested interest in maintaining the big lie. And so, instead of assuming the lead years ago, Canada now finds itself in “me too” land, with no influence, no credibility, and no choice.

Way to go guys, you make us so proud.


“Pity the leader caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.” – John Gardner.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CBC, what hast thou wrought?

Broken CBCIt’s a few weeks now since the much ballyhooed facelift at CBC News. Although my first impressions were less than positive (to be charitable) I decided to give them some time to shake the bugs out and for me to get accustomed to the new shows and format.

Well CBC, your time is up, and if anything the more I see of the changes, the more I dislike what you’ve done.

What finally put me over the edge was watching The National last night. It was actually painful to watch Keith Boag, one of the CBC’s better parliamentary reporters, doing a fluff story on Tiger Woods’ indiscretions from LA. Tiger doesn’t even live in LA for Pete’s sake, so you can tell how much hard news there is for a veteran reporter to cover in the City of the Angels. Putting Boag on that beat is treading dangerously close to constructive dismissal in my opinion – but perhaps that was the plan all along.

And consider some of the other changes. Evan Solomon, a terrible interviewer who doesn’t hesitate to let his biases show, gets to replace Don Newman (another long-term, highly skilled veteran) on Power and Politics. Connect with Mark Kelly is a total dud in which his talents are sorely wasted. Local supper-hour newscasts now span 1 1/2 hours of the same stories being repeated over and over for those with short attention spans. And finally will someone PLEASE give Peter Mansbridge a chair!

Nope I’m not impressed. CBC you’ve created the Spruce Goose of network television news. Time to toss it on the woodpile and get back to focussing on content and quality rather than trying to be CNN north.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some people are put on this earth just to piss me off.

Was running short of cash the other day and so I stopped at the bank to use the ATM. There was no one in line and only one person at the machine… well actually two people, a woman and a child about 6 years old. So I expected it to be quick. What I didn’t know was that she was using this as a “learning experience” for her son.

As I waited… and waited… the conversation went like this.

Mom: “No sweetie, not that button. This button.”

Son: “Why” 

Mom: “Because we want to put this money in the bank. That’s what deposit means.”

Son: “Okay.”


Mom: “Now press the buttons to put in the amount. This amount. Here, on the cheque.”

{beep} {beep} {beep} …

Mom: “Okay, now press the Okay button. No, not that one…”

{beep} {beep} …

Mom: “Oops, that’s not right. Press the Cancel button… Here… Okay. Now we want to make a deposit, right?…”

And so it went for about 10 minutes as the line-up to use the cash machine grew longer, and longer, and the temperature in the small enclosed space rose considerably.

Finally, totally ignorant of the inconvenience caused to others, they finish and as they leave mom says to the boy, “There now, wasn’t that easy?”.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An unprincipled stand on Jordan’s Principle

On December 12, 2007, the House of Commons voted unanimously in support of a private member’s bill that became known as Jordan’s Principle. Named after a young Aboriginal boy, Jordan River Anderson, who died after 2 1/2 years in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments squabbled over who was responsible to pay for the services he needed in order to go home, the motion was intended to implement a child-first responsibility in jurisdictional issues. In other words, the welfare of the child was to be paramount; the bureaucrats could fight over who paid for what after the fact.

So two years later, how well have the Harper Conservatives done with implementing Jordan’s Principle? Not so well it seems.

On the CBC’s The Current this morning, Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society described how her organization has filed a human rights complaint in an attempt to force the government to implement Jordan’s Principle. The Harper Government’s reaction? According to Blackstock, it was to sic the lawyers on them.

Well, you know, they’ve fought it, right from the very beginning. They are challenging the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and in fact they’ve appointed lawyers from the Residential School Division to fight this case. They have spent literally thousands of taxpayer dollars to fight the case of equality instead of meeting the needs of children like Carolyn’s.

She goes on to say,

… these are services available to every other Canadian child. If this is where we are in this country, where our government thinks it's okay with any rationalization to racially discriminate against vulnerable children and their families just because of who they are, I personally think that we've hit a new moral low as a country and I think that we absolutely stand for better. That's why all those young men and women over the years have fought for those values of freedom and equality in such a dignified way, during the Second and First World Wars and in Korea and now we’re sending young men and women to do the same thing in Afghanistan, but we're not prepared to do it at home. I don't think that's right.

Listen to the broadcast here.

To be fair, the underlying funding issues that caused the Jordan Anderson tragedy (and others) were not created by the Harper government; it’s been problematic for generations. However it is the Harper Government that finally has a solution in hand and has had for almost 2 years, but instead of implementing the unanimous will of Parliament appears to be content to let the bureaucracy continue to fight Jordan’s Principle to the ongoing detriment of First Nations children living on reserves. It is truly unconscionable.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From the credit where it’s due file

Citizenship GuideSituations where I can muster up a grudging respect for something the Harper Cons have done are few and far between, but I have to say this latest Citizenship Guide (Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship) from the Immigration Minister is one such case.

Certainly it’s not perfect. From my perspective I would like to have seen a clear statement concerning the separation of church and state. And I think that even though some would argue that our national identity was forged at Vimy the military focus (especially the links to the web sites) is a bit overdone. But those quibbles aside I think it’s generally pretty well balanced and quite comprehensive.

As predictable as rain in April, folks from all walks of life and political bents are lining up to cast stones and criticize. Some have ranted that there is no specific mention of the legality of gay marriage, or that there’s a photo of a crucifix in the document, or there’s too much emphasis on the Christian origins of the country. Others have complained that the English is too hard for a non-English speaking immigrant to understand. Still others have moaned about the fact that our health care system isn’t splashed up in neon on every second page. About the only folks who haven’t weighed in is PETA protesting the Calgary Stampede photo (or perhaps they already have and I’ve just missed it because I’m inclined to ignore anything they have to say).

Let’s get real. To include every wish of every special interest group would have resulted in a massive tome unreadable by anyone but rabid historians and bureaucrats, so compromises were made, and I for one, am willing to accept the results.

No, it’s not perfect, but it’s a damned good start.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just doing God’s work…

I am at a loss for words about this story.

BlankfeinGoldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is reported to have said the following in an interview with London’s Sunday Times.

"We have a social purpose."
He is, he told the paper, just a banker "doing God’s work"

Now isn’t that just swell. I guess he means the greed and wild risk taking at Goldman Sachs and others that brought the global economy to its knees is all part of God’s master plan. And getting the big cash bonuses right now is just so much better than waiting for your reward in the great hereafter.

He went on to say that he understood people were angry with bankers' actions: "I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer."

Well at least he got that right.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things that make you go hmmm…

Congratulations are in order for Peter MacKay who just became engaged to ”his longtime girlfriend, CTV producer Jana Juginovic” in Boston this weekend. That should lead to some interesting conflict discussions in the newsroom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harper Conservatives give us all yet another reason to turf their sorry asses

According to this article in Healthzone, “A question about pregnant women and the H1N1 vaccine provoked a bizarre bout of heckling and laughter on the Tory benches in the Commons on Tuesday.”

Showing their class once again and reaffirming their disdain for Canadians in general and women in particular, the “Harper Government” shouted down Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett when she tried to ask a question related to the kind of vaccinations pregnant women should be getting.

“I "just was astounded," she told reporters after question period. "I don't know why these people think it's funny or whether it's just offensive or what it is. ... They were just heckling and laughing."”

Another disgusting display by the Reform-a-Tories.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bell Mobility, your time is up

No Bell Canada Bell touts its automatic top-up plan for prepaid cellular subscribers as a convenience, “to keep your account active”, and “not have to worry about your service being discontinued”.

Well that’s about as honest as a Conservative Cabinet Minister.

I enrolled in their top-up program a few months ago and all was well until today when the phone wouldn’t allow me to make an outgoing call. So it’s on the phone and then through 10 layers of auto-attendant hell before finding a menu option that would connect me to a real live person in some third world country speaking passable English.

The conversation went something like this… getting increasingly heated over time.

Me: “Hi, there seems to be a problem with my phone.”

Bell: “Yes sir. I see your funds have expired.”

Me: “But I have the automatic top-up feature.”

Bell: “Yes sir, but the time expired today.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Bell: “The time expired. Your last top-up was 60 days ago and it expired today.”

Me: “I thought the automatic top-up took care of that for me.”

Bell: “Yes sir. It will when they process the top-ups tonight. If you want I can process it for you now, but you’ve already lost your unused credit.”

Me: “WHAT?”

Bell: “Yes sir. You had $9.85 cents of unused credit that you lost when the time expired.”

Me: “But I have the automatic top-up so that won’t happen!”

Bell: “Yes sir, but when the time expires you lose your credits.”


Bell: “Yes sir.”

Me: “So let me get this straight. If I run out of money on the account, the automatic top-up kicks in another $25 and I’m good to go.”

Bell: “Yes sir. As soon as your balance goes below $5.00.”

Me: “But if my 60 days runs out before the funds do, I lose any unused money in the account.”

Bell: “Yes sir.”

Me: “AND, I lose the use of the phone for up to 24 hours between the time you steal my money and the time you top up the account with more of my money.”

Bell: “Yes sir, but it’s not usually 24 hours; it’s more like 6 to 12 hours.”


Bell: “Oh yes sir. I’m sorry if you misunderstood our top-up program.”


Bell: “Yes sir.”

Me: “Okay, here’s what you do. You cancel the top-up scheduled for tonight. I DO NOT WANT another cent going on that account.”

Bell: “Yes sir.”

Me: ”AND you can delete that number. I am cancelling your service.”

Bell: “Yes sir. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”


The only way these morons will ever learn is when people take their business elsewhere – and I’m slowly but surely eliminating Bell Canada from my life as soon as other options come available.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The nanny state gone wild

Well I for one am certainly glad that the Ontario Provincial Police are unstinting in their pursuit of crooks, villains, evil doers, criminals of the highest order, and assorted other ne’er do wells. Why just last week they stopped a trucker on the 401 and charged him with … not speeding, or improper passing, or dangerous driving, or having an unsafe load, or road rage. No, they stopped him for smoking!

According to this article in The Toronto Star, the driver was pulled over and given a $305 ticket for smoking in the cab of his rig.

The man, who hails from London, Ont., was headed for Windsor when he was pulled over Wednesday along Highway 401 and given a ticket under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

The law, considered a Canadian standard-setter when it was passed in 2006, forbids smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public spaces, including buildings, structures or vehicles worked in or frequented by employees, according to the government's website.

What makes this so egregious is that it is his own rig. He’s an owner-operator and it’s his property, his home away from home. Yet the long arm of the state still thinks it has the right to reach in and legislate what he can or cannot do in his own property.

What’s next for Ontario’s finest? Will they be raiding my home office to see if there’s an ash tray on the desk? How about busting the farmer flouting the law by having a quick puff in the cab of his tractor? Oh and don’t forget those dastardly real estate agents who might want a quick nicotine fix in their car with the agent’s name and logo on the side – clearly a workplace in need of protection.

And while they’re doing that perhaps they could, if they get a chance, keep an eye out for the guys who have broken into several homes in this area over the past couple of months, or find the hit and run driver who put a friend’s son in hospital, or maybe even try to find some of those many missing native women. That is if they’re not too busy with important stuff like this.

And they wonder why respect for the law is decreasing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Morning choices

Sun on maplesThe open window let in the chill of the autumn night. The air in the room is crisp, fresh and cool.

Through the glass I can see the sun shining on the colored leaves of the sugar maples, promising another beautiful fall day.

But my bed is warm and comfortable.

It’s decision time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It’s mine! All mine!

In yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen, Amir Attaran, Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development Policy called out the Harper Government on it’s mean and churlish attitude towards helping poorer nations fight the coming swine flu pandemic.

Here are a few excerpts from that piece. You can find the complete article here.

Last week, as Stephen Harper was tooling around Washington and talking up Canada's virtues, across town a more substantially moral leader, Barack Obama, announced a global plan to donate life-saving influenza vaccines to poor countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

Those donations are likely to be, for many countries, the only vaccine that they get. Heeding the World Health Organization's call, Australia, Britain, Brazil, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland also went along with the donation plan.

Canada, however, declined.

With 50.4 million doses of vaccine in Canada's entitlement, and 32 million Canadians, perhaps only half of whom want to be vaccinated, PHAC officials are certainly correct that we have "more than enough for any Canadian that wants to receive it."

The Harper government must do better than continue its mean streak. In this, and much else to do with international aid, poorer foreigners notice Canada's new beggar-thy-neighbour attitude, and wonder how a country once known for its generosity has fallen so far. The usual preening about Canadian internationalism is nonsense, where WHO has justly called on Canada to share a life-saving resource, and we refuse.

Well said sir, well said.

We’re back all right – at the back of the pack.

Remember this from two short years ago?

"The news is spreading throughout the world: Canada's back," Harper told the crowd of about 35,000 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday.

"Canada's back as a vital player on the global stage ... Canadians are citizens of the world and we're making a positive contribution in every field of human endeavour."

Well we’re back all right – at the back of the pack. Here’s what the United Nations thinks about our relative position in the world when it comes to ‘green’ stimulus spending.

The Global Green New Deal update for the upcoming G20 summit in Pittsburgh revealed the Harper government was spending the equivalent of about $77 U.S. per person in green stimulus, putting it in ninth place out of 13 countries evaluated.

Yup, we’re right there at the bottom with Spain, South Africa and Mexico. Disgraceful.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why do I want an election?

Because it will give the media something to talk about other than H1N1!

Just once I would like to open a newspaper, turn on the radio, or catch the TV news without being faced with yet another fear-mongering story about swine flu.

The media have taken what was, and is, a serious health issue and in full Chicken Little fashion have managed, through a constant barrage of inflammatory and sensationalist stories, to instil fear and near-panic in large segments of the population and raise everyone’s stress levels to the extent that we have so-called health “experts” shipping body bags off to First Nations reserves and regular folks with a head cold making funeral arrangements.

Can we not get a little perspective please?

swine flu

Friday, August 14, 2009



Sitting on the dock under the canopy of the Milky Way,

with a glass of scotch and a good cigar.

Trying to identify the constellations, and counting the falling stars.

The haunting call of a loon ruptures the silence.

The soul is at peace.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

“It’s discrimination.” Really?

no photo licenseAfter a lengthy legal battle, Alberta Hutterites have lost their bid for an exemption to Alberta’s laws requiring a mandatory photo on provincial driver’s licences.

Citing security and identity theft concerns, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned lower court decisions by a 4-3 margin, effectively saying that in this case broader social benefits trump religious rights.

"The negative impact on the freedom of religion of colony members who wish to obtain licences does not outweigh the benefits associated with the universal photo requirement," Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in support of the decision.

Not unlike the debate over the rights of Muslim women to wear the niqab, this decision will likely trigger controversy in some circles.

"It's discrimination, that's the right word for it," Wurz said.

Sam Wurz, manager of the Three Hills Hutterite colony, was quick to trot out the D-word – discrimination – as if this was legislation designed to target a specific religious community. By definition, to discriminate means to treat or favor one group differently. Ergo a special accommodation for one group, i.e. treating them differently because of their religious views, was the real discrimination here. And that has now been corrected by the Supreme Court’s decision that this particular law applies equally to ALL Albertans.

(Photo: Calgary Herald)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pay your own way? Good idea!

VIAIn a National Post column, Lorne Gunter makes the patently absurd claim that since rail cannot survive on its own, needing government subsidies to operate, Via Rail should be dismantled.

With a stunning display of ignorance, he says, "If you like to go by train, then you pay for it." It’s almost as if he thinks that the hundreds of billions invested in our roadways are a gift from some supreme being, and not paid for by Canadian taxpayers – even some who might (gasp!) prefer to travel by train.

Here’s a thought Lorne. Let’s let those who live in Calgary pay for Highway 1 so they can head into Banff for their weekend getaway in a taxpayer-funded national park. And they could also pay for Highway 2 to get them to a taxpayer-funded airport to fly to someplace where the testosterone and pickup truck exhaust fumes aren’t so thick as to cause brain damage. And that’s to say nothing about the taxpayer-funded interchanges, overpasses, and bridges Calgarians use every day in mad pursuit of their petro-dollars.

If you had to pay for all that, I expect you might just find yourself travelling by Red River cart whether you wanted to or not.

And by the way, it’s not just Albertans paying for all that largesse either – it’s Ontarians, Manitobans, Newfoundlanders – all Canadians.

You’re welcome. Now  stop being so damned stupid.

(Photo: Shaun Best, Reuters)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stephen Harper made me what I am today – a Liberal.

There’s no need to document Stephen Harper’s lies, divisive leadership style, political abuses, and general incompetence – that’s been more than adequately covered over the past 3 1/2 years by bloggers of all political stripes and the MSM – but what we don’t hear as much about is the damage that he has done to the Conservative brand.

In better times I would have described my political views as agnostic, not bound to any particular party’s ideology and willing to support whichever candidate and/or party offered what I considered to be the best vision for the future of my Canada at that point in time. If pressed, I might reluctantly have described myself as a red tory with a large dollop of libertarian thrown in – fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and of the view that people should be allowed to live their lives as unencumbered as possible by the nanny state in all its myriad shapes and forms. And except for the most rabid of tinfoil-party-hat-wearing partisans, I expect a very large number of Canadians, perhaps even a majority, would self-identify in a similar way.

But since Stephen Harper and his gang of Alberta and ex-Ontario Mike Harris Conservative sycophants came to power, I have had to get off the fence as it were and take a stand against their malevolent attacks on Canadian institutions, their laissez-faire attitude towards the meaning of Canadian citizenship, their fast and loose interpretation of transparency and accountability, their relentless destruction of Canada’s international image (everywhere except in the US administration that is), and their general disdain for the non-Conservative majority in this country.

That’s why I now financially support the party that I think is best able to get them all (or at least most of them) the hell out of Ottawa – and the sooner the better.

Stephen Harper has effectively destroyed the Conservative brand for many, many Canadians, and it will be a long, long time post-Harper before those non-aligned voters start trickling back to the Conservative Party, or what’s left of it when he’s done.

From the Truth in Advertising Department

PAIN Preparation - CTC

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lesson for Neo-Cons

As George Santayana so famously said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

NeanderthalAccording to The Guardian, a recent scientific journal suggests that Neanderthals met their demise not as a result of climate change, but at the hands of humans. As lunch. And to add insult to injury, the teeth of recently ingested Neanderthals were possibly used to make costume jewellery.


But the history lesson here should not be lost on the modern Neanderthal – the Harper-worshipping neo-con.

The article states, “modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction”, and “modern humans” will do so again. But this time I’d vote for letting them keep their teeth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A tale of two immigrants

Mikhail Lennikov (stories here, here, and here) is, by most accounts, a model citizen. He came to Canada in 1997 on a student visa. In 1999 he applied for permanent residency. He was honest in his application, never hid his KGB background, and even shared information with CSIS. Since then, while waiting for the wheels of Canada’s immigration system to grind on, he has lived and worked in BC, raising his family and fully integrating into his adopted community.

The Canadian government has now finally decided that despite Lennikov’s exemplary record as an immigrant over the past 12 years, his time with the KGB more than 20 years ago make him “detrimental to the national interest”, and therefore he must be deported. But in a grand show of compassion, they have agreed to let his wife and son stay in Canada. 

Farid Noedost (stories here, here, and here) arrived in Canada as a refuge from Iran and gained permanent residency in 2001. Since then he has been convicted of drug crimes, fraud, mischief and sexual assault. In 2007 he was sentenced to 3 years in federal penitentiary for trafficking in cocaine. In 2008 he received a 3-year suspended sentence on a sexual assault conviction involving under-aged females. Other sexual assault charges were stayed.

The Immigration and Refugee Board told Noedost The way you have conducted yourself in Canada is despicable. You are a danger to girls under 18. And then rolled out the welcome mat. Yup, this convicted criminal and sex offender, who authorities believe presents a continued danger to Canadians, is welcome to stay.

Mikhail Lennikov – DEPORTED!

Farid Noedost – WELCOME!

Is this a great country or what?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Deer – nature’s gluttons

Well it’s that time of the year again when our carefully planted and lovingly tended gardens become nothing more than a big deer buffet.


deer cartoon

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bell Mobility screws it up again!

If this isn’t the worst company I’ve ever had to deal with, it certainly comes close. Unfortunately out here in Canada’s wasteland (all of 50 km from Ottawa) I have no choice in cellular providers so I’m stuck with these idiots.

Suddenly our cell phone stopped working – outbound calls “could not be completed as dialled” and incoming calls received a busy signal.

A trip to the Phone Store confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the phone itself and the ever-helpful(!) clerk provided a couple of numbers we could call at Bell Mobility to get some technical assistance. 

Enter auto-attendant hell until some combination of buttons pressed in frustration result in a real live person, Jose Garcia, taking the call.

After the requisite identity check, Jose Garcia allowed as how our account was out of funds and that’s why the phone stopped working.

Me: “How can that be? We’re on an automatic payment plan.”

Him: “Yes, but we had a computer problem a while back and the automatic payments didn’t work. Do you want me to top you up now?”

Me: “Did it ever occur to anyone at Bell to advise their customers?”

Him: “No. They all have to call in.”

Me: “Gawd I hate having to deal with you guys.”

Him: “Yes sir. Do you want me to top you up now?”

I can hardly wait for Flaherty to come calling to use more of my tax dollars to prop up this sorry excuse for a business.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What the hell is going on?

Let’s just summarize the last few weeks:

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Dalton McGuinty’s provincial Liberals tag-team a $10+ billion bailout of GM and Chrysler. A significant portion of those dollars will be taken from the majority of Canadian taxpayers to top up the pensions of the few – the GM retirees. This in spite of vociferous denials by both levels of government that that would not be the case. Predictably all the other auto manufactures are now crying foul because they are now at a competitive cost disadvantage (a legitimate complaint).

A testy John Baird responds in Question Period to opposition claims that infrastructure funding is slow to get out by saying “It is moving 10 times faster than under any other Liberal government". This is undoubtedly the Freudian slip of the month and confirms what many neo-Cons have suspected for months now.

Lisa Raitt (Jasmine MacDonnell) leave commercially and politically sensitive ministerial briefing papers at CTV and apparently don’t notice them missing for weeks. Good thing they’re both on top of the portfolio.

John Baird tells Toronto to “fuck off”, gaining another 500,000 Conservative votes in Western Canada. Oh wait, he’s from Ottawa, isn’t he? 100,000 votes then.

Lisa Raitt (Jasmine MacDonnell) makes what could charitably be called injudicious remarks on tape, which then gets left in a washroom, delivered to the media, and subsequently published after a failed attempt by MacDonnell (really??) to get an injunction against their release. Deep Trough is on it and we’ll soon know who really paid the legal costs. The tinfoil-hat-wearing Tory bloggers are crying Liberal conspiracy. Ho-hum.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals decide to support the Cons tough on crime Bill C-15. This in spite of significant push-back from the Liberal grass roots and ample evidence that mandatory minimums never have, and never will work to reduce crime. But I guess when the alternative is more Cons “Liberals soft on crime” Howling_Wolfattack ads, policy adjustments must be made.

Alberta’s Stelmach Tories are musing publically that Ignatieff is more sensitive to many Alberta issues than Harper is. Jim prentice is not amused.

And then to top it all off, Molson retirees will no longer get their entitlement of 864 bottles of free beer a year and current employees will be limited to 624 free bottles a year (12 per week – that’s two a day except Sundays when they’re allowed to drink real beer).

It’s been like a month of full moons.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now that I own GM, here are my demands.

GOVERNMENT MOTORSAs a forced and reluctant shareholder in GM (I’ll never buy their product, why would I want their stock?) here are my demands:

1. Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty must explain in detail (use pictures and one-syllable words if necessary) why the ongoing demand for cars wouldn’t/couldn’t be met by other more successful manufacturers. People are still going to buy new vehicles, whether supplied by GM or others.

2. I want a letter of appreciation from GM pensioners thanking me and all other pension-less Canadians for the taxes paid on our depleted savings to top up their incomes so they don’t have to suffer the effects of the global recession like their fellow citizens. That’s the least they owe us.

3. A formal letter of apology to all taxpayers by the various levels of government which failed in their fiduciary duty to ensure that GM (and other corporations like it) adequately funded their pension plans, resulting in item 2 above. The letter is to be read out in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and in the Ontario Legislature by Premier Dalton McGuinty. Name names.

That’s all. Three demands. Satisfy those and I’ll quit bitching about this egregious waste of taxpayer dollars to selectively support one industry sector that just happens to be centered in a vote-rich area of the country.

Sadly, I expect I’ll be complaining for a while yet.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Any “other” Liberal government?

Did John Baird really compare the Harpercrites to “any other Liberal government” as reported in The Hill Times today?

baird 5"More infrastructure spending will have been completed this year than in any year in our history. It is moving 10 times faster than under any other Liberal government," Transport Minister John Baird (Ottawa West-Nepean, Ont.) said last week in Question Period, who is overseeing the rollout for much of the money promised in the budget, as a large part of it is going to "shovel ready" infrastructure projects.

If the quote is accurate, it would certainly confirm what many neo-Cons have long suspected about the Harper government.


I contacted the Hill Times for confirmation of the quote but received no reply, so I went looking in Hansard. On Monday May 25, Hansard records the following reply to a question from John McCallum about the delays in getting infrastructure funds out the door. “More infrastructure spending will have been completed this year than in any year in our history. It is moving 10 times faster than under any other Liberal government.” So it looks like John “Freudian Slip” Baird was reported correctly.

Friday, May 29, 2009

This is GM under government management

GM_logoI’m having a tough time with this whole notion of the Conservative government having a seat at the boardroom table of General Motors. Aside from the fact that I think we should be running, not walking, away from any taxpayer investment in this losing proposition, I can’t help but despair at the thought of a business (any business) being run by the same folks who manage to waste most of my tax dollars with such blithe ignorance of the concepts of accountability and value for money.

But the die seems to have been cast, so here are some of the implications of which you need to be aware.

GM Canada headquarters will be moved immediately to Calgary.

WallE bilingualThe company will be subject to the Official Languages Act. All documents, working papers, blueprints, etcetera will be translated into the second official language. All assembly line robots and senior level plant managers in Windsor must be able to converse fluently in French, English, and IRL (Industrial Robot Language) . 

All parts purchasing will now come under Public Works Canada, the department best known for its inability to get contracts in place in a timely manner – and for pissing off every potential supplier in the process. The “just in time” manufacturing methodology will now be known as the “just some time” manufacturing methodology.

All new model names must be vetted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to ensure that they are not potentially even vaguely offensive to any obscure special interest group that may or may not exist, now or in the future.

To help “new Canadians” integrate, an appropriate ratio of right-hand to left-hand drive vehicles will be built based on the percentage of immigrants arriving from right-hand drive countries.  Once they become citizens, their vehicles must be immediately converted back to left-hand drive, else the owners risk being labelled “not real Canadians” by Jason Kenney.

Regional benefits will be mandated. GM’s Canadian operations will be split up so that at least 50% of the jobs go to Alberta, 30% to Quebec, and the rest are divided up between the other provinces on a per-capita basis except Newfoundland which has no sitting Conservative MPs. When the Harper Conservatives are given the boot, the allocations will of necessity change with Alberta’s share dropping to 0%.

The product line will be changed to better represent the Conservative’s new WoodieCanadian logo – From Sea To Sea To Sea. Consequently the highest production vehicle will be the electric Woodie featuring pine beetle lumber from British Columbia, seats made from PEI and Nova Scotia seal skins (Newfoundland skins are too thin), and batteries from… well, somewhere, ideally up North. A hidden agenda will replace the glove box. It will be available in any colour but red.

On the plus side, GM’s corporate colours are already blue, so that won’t have to change. At least not until the next election.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The water is getting a bit warm….

Like the proverbial frog in the pot of water that supposedly doesn’t realize how hot the water is getting until it is too late and it boils to death, our respective federal and provincial governments (Conservative and Liberal – this is a non-partisan rant) are sitting in a hot tub of epic proportions with the auto bailouts.

Frog in pot (3)A mere 4 or 5 months ago, the total bailout amounts being discussed for Chrysler and GM were in the range of $3 to $4 billion dollars. And those amounts were greeted with howls of outrage from taxpayers and others.

Flaherty’s latest trip to the deficit cupboard was necessitated in part by a ballooning estimate of $10 billion required by GM and Chrysler from the Federal  and Provincial treasuries (i.e. taxpayers). And while McGuinty predicts that the current Ontario deficit should be able to handle the increased bailout funds needed, he also couches his confidence with this: “We're going to keep an eye on it.” In other words, expect to see us back for more later.

And none of this comes with any guarantees whatsoever. There’s nothing to say that $10 billion will be the end of it. GM will still likely go into bankruptcy, and will probably be broken up. Chrysler may yet end up consolidating operations in the US, leaving Canada with nothing but future loft condo properties where factories used to employ thousands.

Actually I misspoke. There is one guarantee, and that is that the taxpayer will never be repaid those billions in ‘loans’ to the auto industry. That you can bet on.

So one has to wonder what the current situation would be if the discussions back in the fall were about a $10 billion dollar (or more) bailout. Would our political ‘frogs’ have jumped right back out of the pot? Or would they have settled in for a nice, long soak?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

“Canadians know nonsense when they hear it.”

Flaherty 1Today on Adler Online, guest host Roy Green (true Conservative Blue pundit extraordinaire) tried to nail down ol’ Flim-Flam Flaherty on his stunning failure to accurately predict Canada’s budget deficit as recently as 4 months ago.

Green - But how do you miss the deficit numbers by as much as you did in such a short period of time?

Flaherty - Oh it’s not... But... But it’s not a significant change.

You got that right. Being off the mark by about 50% is “not a significant change”. Flaherty then proceeds to explain, one more time, just how we are in so much better shape than the US, the UK, Japan, never really answering the question (no surprise there).

So Green tries again.

Green - But Minister … that $50 billion still represents a huge change from what you projected in January. So where I’m going with this is how do you now stick with that $30 billion number for next year?

Flaherty - A large part of it Roy is the auto settlements. I have a pretty good idea what the General Motors arrangement is going to cost. It’s significantly more than was anticipated, so this is a one time, one year payment. It’s not a continuing deficit and it accounts for a good part of the increase in the deficit that I referred to yesterday.

Still no answer except that now we know that apparently the GM deal is going to cost way more than anticipated. Nothing to indicate he has clue one about next year’s fiscal situation, so Green tries one last time.

Green - Minister, what do you say to the Liberals and their finance critic John McCallum’s challenges that you’ve lost all credibility? What do you say to Mr. McCallum?

Flaherty - Well I look for credibility and all I see on the other side is hypocrisy quite frankly. We asked them for their ideas for the budget, they had none. Literally none. Not one idea for the budget. And the only idea that they’ve come up with the budget according to Mr. Ignatieff is that he has a plan to raise taxes. That’s their only idea. None of the opposition parties are saying to the government, please spend less. What they are in fact are saying is spend more, but don’t increase the deficit, which is nonsense. And Canadians know nonsense when they hear it. (emphasis mine)

No answer to the question, but finally something honest from Flaherty’s own lips. “Canadians know nonsense when they hear it.”  Let us hope that Canadians remember this nonsense when it comes time to vote in the next election and turf this ex-ambulance-chaser-cum-financial-wizard. He is an embarrassment. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

“Mr. Harper left his balls out West….”

GM_logoThe Globe and Mail reports that the GM/CAW agreement will, in fact, result in provincial and federal taxpayers forking over billions to protect the pensions of GM retirees. This in spite of Harper’s and Clement’s repeated assurances to the contrary.

In decrying the blatant about-face, Kevin Gaudet, federal director for the Canadian  Taxpayers Federation, provides one of the best quotes I’ve seen in a while, stating, “Mr. Harper left his balls out West when it comes to taking a principle stand…”. Truer words were never spoken.

I presented my thoughts on bailing out any pension plans in the following letter to the editor, published by the Ottawa Citizen April 27. It now appears more relevant than ever.

“While I certainly sympathise with retirees from Nortel, Chrysler, GM and others who are concerned that their retirement incomes will be impacted by the current state of their companies and the recession, I must protest in the strongest possible terms any government action to guarantee 100% payouts from those defined pension plans.

I am one of the vast majority of Canadians who never had a pension plan, who never had an employer making matching contributions (or better) to my retirement funds. Now retired, what I have to live on I saved from my own earnings. And over the past 2 ½ years, thanks to Jim Flaherty’s income trust fiasco and now the global recession, my retirement fund has slipped to slightly better than 50% of where it was projected to be today. To put it in even plainer terms, my income is now half of what I had expected. As a consequence many plans have been cancelled or deferred indefinitely, and total retirement remains elusive as part-time work supplements my modest retirement income.

There are many, many of us in similar situations, and to ask us to now use our tax dollars to augment the pension incomes of others is neither fair nor appropriate.

By all means provide support to those workers who might lose their entire company pension, but under no circumstances should we be topping up pensions that have unfortunately suffered a similar degradation in value as the rest of us have experienced.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

There’s an international banking problem alright

…and it’s not the overnight inter-bank rate.

We had to send 25 Euros to an agency of the German government. They would accept no form of payment but a bank transfer – no cheques, credit cards, money orders. It had to be a bank transfer to a specific branch and account.

So we paid our local TD Bank $30 in fees to handle the 30 seconds of paperwork (which itself is absurd in this era of electronic funds transfers) and waited for the transfer to work its way through the system.

When, after a few weeks, there was no response from Germany, we followed up to find that the recipient only got 5 of the 25 Euros sent. So it was back to our bank where we were told they “think” it’s because the transfer was handled by 2 banks in Germany, each of which took a 10 Euro fee, leaving just 5 Euros for the ultimate payee.

Our “helpful” banker offered to do some more research to confirm that, but indicated that would entail a further $10 service charge. Instead we could assume that’s what likely happened and just send the missing 20 Euros. For another $30 TD Bank fee. And keeping in mind that the German banks will skim off another 20 Euros when it gets there.

So at the end of the day, a 25 Euro ($40) interbank transfer to Germany cost:

  • Funds to payee – 25 Euros ($40)
  • TD Bank fees - $60
  • German bank fees – 40 Euros ($64)

For a total of $164!

Now there’s a problem I’d like to see old Flim-Flam Flaherty try to fix – the usurious fee structure on the international movement of money in this so-called global economy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

“The greatest government theft of private wealth in history”

So says columnist Gerry Barker in this article in the Guelph Mercury.

alfred_e_neumanBarker aptly likens Jim Flaherty to MAD’s Alfred E. Neuman (“What, me worry?”) and proceeds to articulate just a few of the boneheaded moves of this ex-ambulance-chaser now Finance Minister that make his judgement highly suspect when it comes to getting Canada through this recession with as little long-term damage as possible.

But the main thrust of his piece is focused on the Cons lies about income trusts. According to Barker, Flaherty and Harper were acting under pressure from senior corporate and insurance industry lobbyists whose companies were being negatively impacted by the growing popularity of the income trust investment vehicle. And so, without a shred of hard evidence and using highly suspect tax calculations, Harper and Flaherty reneged on a major campaign promise a mere 9 months into their mandate. As a consequence $35 billion or so of wealth in the  Canadian markets was effectively vaporized overnight, affecting thousands upon thousands of seniors and RRSP holders.

And the pain continues.  Now, current projections are that the government will lose billions in tax revenues annually as trusts (which were taxed in the hands of the taxpayer at rates of 40% or so) convert to corporations (which are taxed under the corporate tax laws at a maximum of 15%). However Flaherty still insists he made the right decision, and still refuses to provide the financial analyses that supported the decision in the first place. But let’s face it, he will never provide those figures for the simple reason that as soon as he does, everyone will see just how incompetent he and his “economist” boss really are.

As Barker says (MAD meets Pogo), “Alfred E. Flaherty met the enemy and, guess what? They is us!”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Danger lurks everywhere!

To prevent my cookie habit putting undue strain on the food budget, I started baking my own. And once I discovered that the number of cups of chocolate chips called for in any recipe is merely a conservative (of the non-political variety) suggestion, I was in cookie heaven.

But I needed new baking sheets because the ones we have all bake at a different rate so it’s 11 minutes on this tray or 13 minutes on that tray, and if you use them both at once an advanced degree in thermodynamics is required to figure out when and for how long each tray should be put in the oven so that all the cookies come out that perfect brown colour, crunchy on the outside with a soft, mushy inside.

So today I bought my new baking sheets. You know the kind - stamped metal, 12” X 20” or so, raised lip to keep the cookies from sliding off prematurely. They came with instructions. Detailed instructions. I’m not sure why we need instructions. I mean, they are cookie sheets. You put raw cookie dough on them, slide them in the oven, and then remove the tray of baked cookies after 12 minutes or so. But someone (or more probably, some LAWYER) decided that these baking sheets required instructions, which leads me to believe that it’s time we took some of those tax dollars out of law schools and put them back where they belong, in High School Home Ec classes. 

Anyway, once I got through reading the instructions (some men do, you know) I came to this warning. “Failure to follow these instructions can result in personal injury or property damage.” (“If you’re going to have instructions you’d better make sure they are followed” – another LAWYER.)

Personal injury? From a cookie sheet? Only if the spousal unit uses it to brain me after I take the last cookie out of the tin. (She too has a cookie problem, albeit not as serious.)

And property damage? There are no moving parts. It’s not flammable. Highly unlikely to explode. Not brittle. Unless I break the coffee table when falling after being brained – see above - what possible property damage could be done by a cookie sheet?

So now I’m worried because since I have been blissfully unaware of the potential lethality of these benign-looking baking tools, what else have I been missing that could, with extreme prejudice, prematurely terminate my cookie habit? Perhaps I’ll just go have a few cookies while I ponder that question and this one: How much chocolate in a chocolate chip cookie is too much?

Cookie tray

Politicians as business leaders?

As Randall Denley says in today’s Ottawa Citizen, “Events of the past several months have certainly made private-sector executives look incompetent, but the corollary is not that politicians are better at business.”

He then goes on to describe how the public and private sectors have different motivators and drivers as well as different reward systems.  In short, a properly functioning marketplace operates on a financial risk-reward basis, while governments operate in a no-risk environment where they control the resources, the laws, the money-collecting mechanisms, and the money-printing equipment to be used once the taxpayers have been wrung dry.

And the irony of it all is that we now have politicians taking control of large businesses like GM and Chrysler, not because the politicians have better business smarts (you only need to look at Jim Flaherty to prove that point) but because the businesses had themselves become too big and unwieldy. “GM is failing because it is bureaucratic, unable to make tough decisions, can't control costs and doesn't have a compelling plan for the future. In other words, it was run too much like a government and not enough like a business.”

With few exceptions (across all parties) I wouldn’t trust the fiscal ability of any politician to balance my check book, let alone direct the day-to-day operation of a multi-billion dollar corporation dedicated to profits and wealth creation. Yet that is precisely what they are doing.

If GM and/or Chrysler are going to fail, they will fail for reasons beyond the scope of this (or any) government to fix, so by dabbling in an area they know nothing about, the politicians are simply delaying the inevitable and incurring huge taxpayer obligations in the process.

"I don’t have the brains for business. I want to go into politics." - Mao Xinyou

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where “no” means “yes”

As I blogged yesterday, the Conservative Party’s riding nomination process seems to have something of a democratic deficit, to the advantage of sitting MPs. Well it gets even stranger.

vote fraudUnder the headline “Tories c all nomination rules democratic” The Calgary Herald reports today that Conservative party president Don Plett finds it “very, very strange that somebody would even suggest that this is not democratic.”

His comment follows an explanation that ballots were mailed out to 94,000 party members, and that ballots not returned were counted as no votes.

In what kind of a democracy does a non-vote get counted? Is this what the Harper Conservatives are planning to do to save their skin in the next federal election? If you don’t show up on polling day your vote will automatically be tallied as a vote for the Con candidate?

Mr. Plett, that is not how a democracy works.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“The party of the grassroots just dug up the lawn.”

This just has to be the quote of the day, offered in a comment to this article dig up lawnin the Globe and Mail about the Conservative Party’s latest affront to democracy whereby sitting MP’s are shielded from nomination challenges unless a minimum of 2/3 of the members of a riding association call for a nomination race in their riding.

According to the article, Tories claim the change is “necessary to ease stress on their MPs and allow them to stay focused on the onerous demands of a minority government.”  Yes, that would be the onerous demands of jeering and clapping in the House like a bunch of trained seals (By the way, where is the seal hunt when we could really use it?), memorizing and parroting back PMO-provided talking points, and staying well out of sight (and sound) unless trotted out by his Harpiness to answer legitimate but potentially embarrassing questions directed at any sitting Cabinet Minister. I can see why they need all their energy for that.

Of course the big winner in all of this is Rob Anders of Calgary-West. When Don Martin, writing in his home town paper, The Calgary Herald, says this about Anders, “Raise his name with Conservative MPs and they wrinkle their noses like they've just taken a big whiff of the stuff spring uncovers in an off-leash dog park.”  you’d think the Cons would be desperate to dump him. But no, this ruling assures him of yet another run at representing the fine folks of Calgary-West who clearly would elect a stump if they painted it blue and stuck a Suncor sign on it.

However there is a small glimmer of light in all of this as apparently the change has pissed off at least one well known grassroots nutbar. Chuck McVety is not happy, claiming “The democratic deficit in this country is already large enough. We don't need the governing party to be sinking deeper into ... a culture of entitlement.”  Uh, yeah.

Monday, April 27, 2009


The tall pines bow in obeisance to the force of the wind. Other weaker specimens simply lift from the ground, roots and all, or snap under the strain. The roar of air passing through branches at 80 kilometres per hour competes with the sounds of the cracking and crashing of trees and branches. Being in the woods is dangerous.

Trees uprootedOn the lake, usually placid, white caps froth and churn, racing the wind to the distant shore. Boaters stay off the water until the storm passes.

The flame blown out, the hamburgers are still raw on the barbecue.

Tomorrow the cleanup begins.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two less excuses

Every time I’ve had the insane thought that it would be cool to climb Mount Everest I trot out a long list of reasons why it will never happen. In addition to the blindingly obvious such as the exorbitant cost and a fear of heights, there are dozens more on a seemingly endless list destined to ensure that I will never, ever risk life and limb to go where only 2,700 or so people before me have gone and from which only about 2,500 have returned. (Yes, a 10% chance of dying is close to the top of the list.)

But even with my fevered imagination crafting one disaster scenario after another, the lack of cell phone service on the summit has never been a major concern. Nor has the absence of team sports at the base camp ever been a factor.

However if they were, I would now have two fewer excuses to stay down where the air still actually contains some oxygen.

According to this news item Nepal Telecom is going to expand its cell phone service to the top of Mount Everest by installing 4 more cellular telephone towers. Once that’s completed in June of this year, you’ll be able to take telemarketing calls to new heights (or should that be “at” new heights?).

And if a few weeks away from watching your favourite sport is all that’s keeping you from acclimatizing at base camp, the first ever cricket match has now been played at that dizzying altitude (16,495 feet).

So if either of those was all that was keeping you from strapping on the crampons and grabbing the oxygen bottle, you are  now out of excuses. Put $20 on Team Tenzing for me, and call me from the top when you get there.


“What’s up with Arizona politicians?” indeed


Only a couple of days after Napolitano’s ignorant remarks about the Canadian border and her assertion that the 9/11 terrorists crossed into the US from Canada, Arizona Senator John McCain tells Fox News, "Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know."

As Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”


The Mouth That Roared

When will world leaders get so tired of being lectured by our incompetent finance minister that they just turn around and very publicly tell him to “Shut the f*** up!”?

CANADA POLITICSNow I happen to believe Flim-flam Flaherty is right (for once) that the world’s  financial services industry needed a good shakeup and significantly tougher controls. But the abrasive arrogance with which he repeatedly delivers that message has got to be grating on those in his sights – particularly the US administration.

How many times will they stand for being told, “We’re better! Look at us! Why weren’t you guys as smart as we were? What’s taking you so long?” before they put him on their no-fly list and condemn Canadians to his presence evermore?

Of course we could always hope that his name goes on the list while he’s visiting Sudan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It’s official, spring is finally here.

At long last we have slipped from winter’s grasp and are now enjoying Mother Nature’s awakening.

DSC_4173Living in the city one is aware of the changes happening, most of all the longer days and warming temperatures. But out here, the transformation is observed first hand, up close and personal as it were, which makes it all that much more amazing to watch and enjoyable to experience.

There still remains some snow in deep, shaded forest areas, but the flora is pushing hard to get the most of a short growing season. EarlyDSC_4170 daffodils and crocuses are in bloom. The hyacinths are showing colour and the marsh marigolds have braved the icy waters to push up new growth and the promise of a bright splash of yellow along the lakeshore. The trees are in flower, the sap is running, and leaf buds are fat and juicy, waiting for just the right conditions to burst forth and clothe the naked branches.

Our seasonal avian visitors have also returned. Robins, phoebes and the other snowbirds are scoping out good nesting sites in anticipation of raising the next generation or two before the days again shorten and the southern migration begins.  The DSC_4143loons are on the lake singing their mournful mating songs and the hawks are hunting from the nearby trees. Even the turkey vultures are back, busily cleaning up the winter’s dead recently exposed by the melting snow.

And last, but certainly not least, human spirits are lifted with the higher sun and negativity is drawn from the soul. After all our natural habitat is not in these enclosed, sterile environments where we tend to spend the winter months, but out of doors surrounded by, and a part of, nature itself.

So that’s where I’ll be for the next few months, out of doors, making the most of our all too brief summer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The City of Ottawa is actually ahead of the curve on something!

The Associated press is reporting that the Navestock Parish Council (40 kilometres northeast of London) is proposing to leave its potholes in place as a means of reducing speeds on its roads.

Big deal. Ottawa has been doing that for years on Carling, Wellington, Baseline….

And you thought Ottawa City Council didn’t have an original thought among the lot of them.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My mind’s made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.

The Toronto Sun reports that the prison tattoo parlour program that was initiated on a trial basis in 2005 and later cancelled by the Conservative government was a “cost-effective success.”

According to a Correctional Service of Canada study, "Initial results of the initiative indicate potential to reduce harm, reduce exposure to health risk and enhance the health and safety of staff members, inmates and the general public.”

But you’ll never be able to accuse the Harper Cons of letting the facts get in the way of good ideological policies. “A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the government has no plan to resurrect the program.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

“On the rocks” on the rocks?

According to this story, “Between 20 and 30 young seals have washed up on the shore; their bodies in varying states of decay. Some had crushed skulls, others were missing their eyes.”.

Of course this immediately prompted a flurry of calls from the “concerned public”, but it turns out that the culprit was, in all likelihood, sea ice.

According to Allan MacLean of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, they were likely killed by sea ice that broke up and crushed them in the water. "Most often the trauma from ice kills is in the head area," [MacLean]said by phone from Baddeck. "This is not unusual — it happens really frequently in Cape Breton."

If further investigation reveals sea ice to be the true cause of death, PETA has vowed an international boycott. According to a spokesperson, “You don’t need ice to enjoy a good single malt.”

European manufacturers of refrigeration equipment have also announced the likelihood of further corporate losses should the boycott take hold. “This is all we need, to have a reduced demand for ice on top of the world economic challenges we are already facing.”

John Baird, Canada’s Environment Minister further opined, “This could be a good thing. A lowered global demand for ice will ensure that the Arctic ice cap remains in place for at least a few more years.” He added, “Unlike the Liberals who simply let it melt away, we’re getting it done for Canadians.”

Shining a light on the tar sands

Tar SandsI just finished reading Andrew Nikiforuk’s Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.

Heavily researched and well-written, Nikiforuk serves up a damning indictment of Alberta’s (and Canada’s) progression to becoming just another failing petro-state.

The book’s inconvenient truths will both educate the reader and piss him or her off, but they needed to be said and Nikiforuk does so in a very compelling way.

In my opinion, this book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the current state of Canadian and Albertan politics, as well as anyone concerned about the environmental disaster the tar sands represent to the people of northern Alberta, and perhaps to the entire continent.

For a more detailed review, link here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

GM’s Horseless Chariot

It may be too little too late for GM, but this latest announcement of a partnership  with Segway to produce the Puma is the kind of creative thinking the Big Three should have been doing for years.

GM SegwayObviously this is not everyone’s idea of the ultimate two-wheeler, but for the right marketplace it has the potential to be a low-cost, energy efficient, flexible means of transportation.

Unfortunately for North Americans, our governments will ensure that this innovative idea will never see the light of day in any of our over-crowded and motor vehicle congested cities. By the time they have legislated front and side airbags, impact bumpers, seat belts, crash guards, safety glass, crush-proof fenders, a dashboard full of idiot lights, strengthened door pillars, and a spare tire the Puma will be indistinguishable from this other GM product.


Except that the Puma driver (rider?) will probably be required to wear a helmet.

(cross-posted from

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


DSC_4097-2 webThe snow drops fight their way through frozen earth and a mantle of snow to prove that Spring has finally wrested control from Old Man Winter in this little piece of paradise.

The crocuses (crocii?)give us a splash of colour as they too appear from beneath the cast off leaves of the maples and oaks.DSC_4101 web

The spring garden is truly a wonder. It doesn’t matter who is at 24 Sussex or the White House. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the economy is. It doesn’t matter whether you are dealing with personal success or great tragedy. Year after year the plants sense it’s time, put on their flashiest outfits, stage the grand entrance, and grace us with their presence for oh such a fleeting time.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yeah, that would be it….

Every so often I get the desire to read some mind-numbing pulp fiction for a change. This time I picked up Terminal Freeze, by Lincoln Child. I had never read anything of his so I thought it worth a try.

The general premise is that a team of researchers discovers an ancient cat-like animal embedded in the northern ice. The block of ice containing the animal is cut out and stored in a locked wooden vault, to be shipped south. The cat is stolen from the vault by way of a hole cut in the bottom of the container. One of the researchers determines that the hole was cut from the inside and not the outside, leading to this dialogue:

Marshall glanced at Faraday. “You know what this means?”

Faraday nodded. “It means whoever stole the cat knew the combination to the vault.”

Child must be an Unger fan.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fox News?

With all the brouhaha over the recent Fox News Red Eye segment, this seemed timely.

Fox stupid

(Source: Page-A-Day Calendar, March 25, 2009)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No one gets out alive

It’s been a couple of years, so time again for one of my favourite rants.

Grilled_SteakIn today’s Ottawa Citizen  the lead sentence in a story about the health risks associated with eating too much red meat states, “Eating large amounts of red or processed meat increases the risk of dying.” Later on the reporter says that people who “eat about four ounces of red meat per day … had a higher risk for overall death.” Even the study’s author, a scientist who should know better, claimed that “the consumption of red and processed meat was associated with a modest increase in total mortality.”

Since the mortality rate for the human species is, as far as we know, 100%, that would be an increase to … what? 105% of all people will die? 110%?

Now obviously that’s not what the study’s authors intended. Clearly diet can affect longevity, and it can be a determining factor for disease and eventually the cause of death, but diet choices will never change your “risk of dying”.

I just wish that they’d get it right for once. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conservatives help you pay less tax.

Pay less taxIt’s true. And to prove it, I got this handy-dandy 14-page guide to tax savings in the mail today, complements of Cheryl Gallant, one of the more useless Con backbenchers on the Hill.

Basically it’s more Conservative Party propaganda touting their “Tax Cuts for Everyone” and “Tax Cuts for Hard Working People”. Every page assures us that “Families save with Conservatives” and lists as tax cuts such items as: medical expenses, child care expenses, GST tax credit, capital cost allowance for farmers, education tax credit, and other tax policies that were in place years before the Cons took power. Well it’s not the first, and won’t be the last, time they take credit for the work of others.

Calls in to Gallant’s constituency office asking if this was funded by the Party or by the Government have not been returned.


We awaken to clear blue skies. Even at 7 AM the sun warms the room and holds the promise of a beautiful spring day.

But those are simply appearances, wishes. The actual temperature outside is –10, driven to –20 with the chill of a brisk north wind. Snow remains deep on the gardens, and ice on the shaded parts of the driveway. But for the bitterness of the wind, we could still be skating on the lake.

It has been this way for days. Spring continues to tease and tempt, but so far has failed to deliver the goods. Discouraging, to say the least, for those of us suffering the symptoms of spring fever.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We are all connected

Oka photoIn 1990, a young news photographer, Tom Hanson, was covering the Oka Crisis in Quebec when he took this photo. The subject was Richard Nicholas, a Mohawk warrior waving his rifle while standing atop an overturned Sûreté du Québec police van. The two men never met.

On March 10, Tom Hanson, aged 41, collapsed while playing hockey in Ottawa and died shortly after. That very same day, Richard Nicholas, also aged 41, died in a motor vehicle accident in Quebec.

We are all connected in ways impossible to fathom, and last Tuesday one such connection was shattered by tragedy, 19 years after two very different men briefly crossed paths.

Photo: Tom Hanson