Thursday, December 30, 2010

How others see us

The Gulf News is pretty brutal in its take on the “new” Canada under the Harper Cons.

Beginning with the statement “Prime minister's authoritarian approach has damaged its progressive outlook”, the opinion piece goes on:

Canada had rightly earned a status in the international community as a fair and open-minded country, willing to open its doors to all, willing to assist the needy, willing to embrace the downtrodden. It was always viewed as a nation willing to accept those fleeing political, religious and ethnic strife; its fabric enriched by the fact that one-in-three of its people were born elsewhere.

Sadly, this progressive outlook has changed.

Ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his right-wing Conservative government came to power, the veneer of civility has slipped. Politics in Ottawa has become polarised — it is Harper's way or the highway. Independent institutions such as Statistics Canada or the Atomic Energy Control Board have suffered from political interference from the Prime Minister's Office.

This is followed by references to Canada’s protectionism, stance on the Middle East, and even Omar Khadr.

And ends with, “That's why Canada's citizens need a visa.”

Pretty hard to argue…

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why the surprise?

According to this John Ibbitson piece in the Globe and Mail, the Cons, Libs, and NDP have quietly agreed to scrap Bill C-12. The proposed legislation would have increased the number of seats in the House from 308 to 338 and gone some ways towards rebalancing the provincial distribution based on current populations.

The Harper government and the opposition parties have agreed to quietly sink legislation that would have given Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta more seats in the House of Commons. As a result, urban and visible-minority voters will continue to be discriminated against in Parliament.

When any provinces (in this case BC, Alberta, and Ontario) gain more representation then, by definition, the other provinces lose relative power. So facing outrage from Quebec and strong pushback from the Maritimes, our honourable members caved.

Is this a triumph of cowardice over principle? Or simply a matter of political expediency? Both I would suggest. While the NDP don’t really stand much of a chance in Quebec, both the Libs and the Cons are looking to make some solid gains there come next election, and the last thing they want is to have a bunch of Bloc-heads trotting out the “humiliation” card.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inferiority complex? Not bloody likely!

So some flunky buried in the basement of that Sussex Drive monstrosity called the US Embassy doesn’t think Canada measures up to the US. And now, thanks to Wikileaks, everyone is reporting on Canada’s “inherent inferiority complex” as if it were a fact.

It’s true that the Harper Cons seem to operate in awe of the US and want to play with the big boys and their big toys, but I know of no Canadian who feels in any way inferior to our southern neighbours – except possibly for the fact they get to enjoy better weather.

If Canadians can be found guilty of anything in this regard, it’s that we can sometimes feel superior, smug in our social safety net as we look southwards at the current economic disaster our friends and neighbours are having to deal with. Now that’s something worth paying attention to – when we’re not busy reading the latest inane email from some low-level embassy staffer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to make government irrelevant

There’s a great story in The Ottawa Citizen that serves as a case study in how to make government not only ineffective, but ultimately irrelevant. It concerns the relatively mild (thankfully) earthquake that hit Ottawa on June 23 of this year.

The article provides a complete timeline of the government’s failure to respond to the public and media about the earthquake until some hours after the event. In fact the media had to rely on the US Geological Survey web site for timely information about the strength and the epicentre of the quake because Natural Resource’s phone lines and web servers were down and most civil servants were still standing outside their buildings waiting for the all clear to return to their desks and phones. (Clearly lots wrong with that picture and some real work to be done there.)

But the piece that strikes at the heart of government ineffectiveness is a description of the approvals process required before Natural Resources could host a media conference call to explain to Canadians what had happened.

The first issue is that it wasn’t until 2 1/2 hours after the event that someone decided a media conference call might be a good idea. But then it still took more than 2 additional hours before the call was held.

At 4:15 p.m., the department decided to hold a conference call — hopefully within the hour — to link its earthquake experts with all the reporters at once. Seismologists were standing ready in English and French.

But there was a hitch: a tangled approval process for notifying the media about the conference call. Even though the announcement was 75 words long (not including phone numbers), it needed:

- Approval in principle from an assistant deputy minister — but still subject to approval of “media lines,” a sort of script outlining the department’s central message.

- Approval from the office of minister Christian Paradis.

- Translating the announcement of the conference call.

- Approving the translation.

- Approval from the Privy Council Office.

- Posting the announcement on the Natural Resources website — and immediately pulling it off again, because media lines were not yet approved by the assistant deputy minister.

- Approving the media lines.

- Last-minute copy editing, literally. One minute before the call, someone felt the French copy should list the time as 18 h, not 18h00.

- Finally, at 6:24 p.m., sending out the conference call invitation on a commercial wire service — 24 minutes after the call began.

When the call was actually held (at 6 PM) only 3 media representatives were on the line, which wasn’t surprising since the advisory hadn’t even been sent out yet. So it was basically a waste of time as, in the final analysis, the media and the Canadian public got their information from other, non-Canadian-government sources.

But that’s what controlling the message ultimately gets you – irrelevance.

Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria’s Earth and Ocean Sciences School summed it up best when he said, “The prime minister believes that the civil service is there to work for him and his government, and not the Canadian public”.

How true.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Even a blind squirrel can find a nut now and then.

I have nothing but disdain for Tony Clement so it almost pains me to say this. But this time he’s got it right.

As reported in the Globe, Clement has come out quite strongly against any further taxes on smart phones and handhelds to compensate artists for file swapping.

Mr. Clement says it's up to artists to find a new way to make money in the age of Internet distribution.

ACTRA have long been lobbying governments of all stripes to implement various taxes and surcharges on commonly used items based on an assumption that they were being used to cheat its members out of their due rewards. As a result we have been paying a few cents extra on every blank CD and DVD purchased (and cassette tape before that), whether or not they were ever used to copy copyright materials.

Now as technology progresses they’re going after smart phones and handhelds.

I fully appreciate the frustration many artists must feel when the results of their talents and hard work are depreciated to nil because of illegal distribution. However as one whose MP3 collection consists only of the music taken from the CDs on my bookshelf or purchased through iTunes, I don’t appreciate being forced to pay extra on any products or devices (tiny though the amounts may be) because the industry still operates with a 1970’s mindset.

And if they are successful, what is the message being sent? Obviously that it’s okay to download music and videos because you paid extra for your cell phone/iPad/DVD recorder to compensate the artists for that very use. I can’t imagine that’s what ACTRA wants people to think, but it is a logical extension of indiscriminately imposing these extra surcharges/taxes on entire ranges of products.

So Tony, I agree with you. Just don’t let it go to your head.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

With a little help from my friends – Con style

A Barrie city councillor, Michael Prowes, ran out of money in his communications budget but still wanted to reach out to his constituents. There was, after all, an election coming up in a few  months and he wanted to be seen to be proactive on a particular development issue.

So he called his Con MP, Patrick Brown, who agreed to mail out the councillor’s literature using his (Brown’s) House of Commons free mailing privileges. (News flash to Brown: It may be referred to as “free”, but it really isn’t you know. The taxpayer (remember us?) is paying for it.)

Brown said he saw no issue with this but, ever the ethical Con MP, he claims he would have refused to mail out Prowes’ information had it been closer to the municipal election date to avoid the perception that he was getting involved in the municipal election.

Well Patrick Brown, to state the blindingly obvious, as soon as that flyer arrived under your letterhead you became involved whether you intended to or not. And just what in hell ever gave you the idea that you were entitled to use federal taxpayer dollars to publicly support a municipal councillor running for re-election in the first place?

This shit drives me crazy, and one can only hope the good residents of Barrie feel the same way come the next federal election.

Here for more:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Harper’s prison escapade

I’m always interested in the (usually unintentional) juxtaposition of news stories and the opportunities they present for comment.

This morning, National Newswatch ( referenced these two stories, linking to the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen respectively.

Prisons - Harper

While I am not in any way comparing what happened in the Prison at Lonsky with the imageCanadian penal system, I can’t help but think that Harper would benefit from touring a prison or two in his home country instead of just as a tourist abroad. Perhaps then the Harpercons might begin to understand the implications of their blinkered tough-on-crime agenda and the very real negative impact it has and will have on Canadian society as a whole.

C’mon Steve, visit a Canadian prison. Talk to the inmates. Learn something.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It’s MY MONEY dammit!

There’s an old expression that goes something like “Look after the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves.”

meeting room$24 Million dollars isn’t a huge amount as a percentage of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the government every year. But put $24 million for 4 temporary meeting rooms in the context of that old adage and it serves as an apt example of why governments and the highly proficient spendthrifts who work for them have absolutely no fiscal credibility.

I live in a rural area. We have a population of about 5,000 people spread over 1000 square kilometres. We have a Town Hall, arena, library, fire service, road maintenance, and all the other amenities you would expect in a rural area. And our municipal budget is under $6 million per year.

So the cost of those 4 temporary meeting rooms would run our township for 4 years, with some left over for decent coffee and really good doughnuts at the council meetings.

But someone in the upper reaches of the federal bureaucracy decided $24 million was a fair price to pay for 4 temporary meeting rooms. And someone at the political level (I assume) signed off on it.

Is it because when you are used to dealing in billions a few million here or there don’t actually show up on anyone’s radar? Are we all so inured to the $50 billion deficit and the multi-billion F-35 deal (numbers which no normal person can even begin to get their head around) that neither the MSM nor the politicos understand that $24 million is still real money?

Because all those billions are spent a few million at a time, and someone should be paying attention.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How better to motivate the base

than by stating you expect your opponent to win 2 of the 3 seats up for grabs in the November by-election?

In this story in the Globe and Mail:

A Conservative source told The Canadian Press the Tories expect the Liberals to take at least two seats.

If head office (the PMO) is worried, then every true blue Harper-worshipping Conservative will be sure to get out and vote. And the Liberal supporters? Well the PMO is obviously hoping they’ll view a Liberal win as a given and not bother to vote at all. Voila - 3 Con seats!

Some pundits have actually come out asking “What were they thinking?” with that announcement. Well it’s actually pretty obvious, and quite clever in a Machiavellian sort of way. Expect to see lots more “We don’t expect to win” messaging over the next 4 weeks.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cheap shot of the day

In today’s Ottawa Sun Joe Warmington goes on a rant about apparent special treatment afforded convicted killer Russell Williams at Kingston Pen. Warmington’s unnamed sources told him that Williams was met by the warden and given the “VIP treatment” on arrival.

If true, and if Williams is being given special treatment, then that is clearly an affront to everyone who is disgusted by his actions and applaud the fact he will spend the rest of his miserable life behind bars. The report would be more credible if Warmington had anything to offer as evidence other than information from an “outraged insider”, but he has succeeded in fanning the flames so the story was successful.

But then he goes on with this, an unfair cheap shot aimed squarely at Williams wife.

My source says stay tuned for the conjugal visit application which should come around the same time as the taxpayers pay Williams’ too silent wife Mary-Elizabeth Harriman $3,000 for the OPP disturbing her home while they searched for vital murder investigation evidence.

I can’t imagine anyone in their darkest hours would want to go through what Mary-Elizabeth Harriman has had to experience over the past few months. And just what did he expect her to do? Stand beside her man all weepy and supportive as in the “till death do us part” bit? Or create another media circus by publicly decrying the monster she didn’t know? Get serious. Silence was, and is, the best and only option for her.

And as for his unnamed “source” anticipating a conjugal visit any time soon, that’s clearly just another figment of someone’s imagination and unworthy of publication, even by Warmington’s low standards.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Note to Peter MacKay: Don’t buy this sub!

A few more florid than normal faces around the UK Ministry of Defence these days.

astute-class-submarine.jpgOne of their newest submarines, an Astute-class boat, somehow ran aground off the Scottish coast.

Now how on earth (or on sea) can a modern warship, with literally tens of millions of dollars of navigation gear, sonar, depth sounding technology, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, run aground? Well that’s what the MoD would like to find out. (One rumour is that the Captain was ashore replenishing his Scotch inventory when the tide went out, but that has yet to be confirmed.)

While the British are feeling very safe in their beds knowing that the Royal Navy is out there protecting their island home, the Ministry of Defence is putting together another offer of a “gently used” submarine for their former colony’s naval forces.

So I say to Peter MacKay, remember the Upholders and HMCS Chicoutimi.

Randy Quaid a refugee?

According to this story, Randy Quaid (yes, that Randy Quaid, of Brokeback Mountain and National Lampoon Vacation movies fame) and his wife Evi have applied for refugee status in Canada.

The article isn’t clear on what basis they have made application, but it did mention an outstanding warrant in California for “vandalizing a Santa Barbara home they lived in” and “allegations the couple defrauded an innkeeper in Montecito, Calif.”.

Randy and Evi QuaidRight now they remain in a Vancouver jail as designated flight risks while their application is processed.

With all the changes Jason Kenney is making to the various refugee acts to fix the supposed problems with the system, he should put a superfasttrack process in place that would have had Mr. and Mrs. Quaid on the first bus back to the US as soon as the word “refugee” came out of their mouths. That we allow this sort of crap to clutter up our refugee determination system is just plain nuts!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Air Canada nut-free buffer zone gets OK.

When I saw this headline I was quite relieved to know I‘d never again have to worry about having a Harper Cabinet Minister as a seatmate on any long-haul Air Canada flights. Or short-haul ones either.


But then I read further and discovered they were talking about real nuts and passengers who had severe allergies.

Too bad. I thought Air Canada was really onto something there.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why there’s a productivity gap.

A client recently had a requirement to purchase up to 4 high-end PCs for a very specific business function. We scoped out the requirement and approached 4 different local suppliers for quotes. To be fair it wasn’t going to be a huge order (under $10,000), but we were dealing with small locally-owned computer stores which, one would assume, would like the business. We got these results.

Supplier 1 initially told us they were interested in quoting but even after 2 reminders did not. Nor did they acknowledge either of the follow-up requests.

Supplier 2 quoted a system that did not meet one of the key requirements. The error was akin to quoting a pickup truck when the requirement was for a 4-door sedan.When this was brought to their attention they re-quoted with a station wagon.

Supplier 3 quoted a system which seemed the best solution. It was purchased but when delivered a key component had not been installed. It was on a minimum 2-month backorder, which the supplier neglected to mention beforehand.  The system was returned and the order cancelled.

Supplier 4 quoted a system that included several items not in the original specification because “we thought you overlooked them.” (We did not.)

In each case the supplier didn’t read the specifications and/or made unwarranted assumptions without contacting the client. As a consequence none of them got the business, nor will any of them ever get another opportunity to quote on  future business.

I expect this is not an isolated situation as I’ve heard similar stories from others trying to deal with small businesses. The lost productivity hours on this buy alone are significant. Multiply that by several thousand transactions per day and one gets a sense why there’s such a productivity gap in this country. And also, I expect, why small businesses come and go like mayflies in spring.

None of this is rocket science. 1. Read the specification. 2. Configure the system. 3. Verify it meets the specification. 4. Deliver the quote. 5. Win the business.

But for some reason even that basic checklist seems beyond the capabilities of so many businesses today. It’s actually quite depressing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just black and white please. We’re Cons.

Sometimes I wish I was more like the Cons and many of their supporters, able to view the world and the human condition simply in terms of black and white, yin and yang, with us or against us.

Let’s face it, life would be simpler if one never had to think in shades of gray – no nuance, no subtlety, no opinions other than your own to consider. No debate or intelligent discussion, just yelling matches.

I thought of this today when the news broke that maybe Omar Khadr would cop a guilty plea in the hopes of coming back to Canada to serve out his sentence. I expect that’s a faint hope, and it will happen only over Harper’s cold, dead (political) body, but that didn’t stop the wingnuts from commenting in their usual erudite fashion.

- “Terorrists(sic) don't have RIGHTS!!!”

- “I don't give a rat's @ss about this home grown terrorist. He should have been shot in the face back on the battle field.”

- “Personally I think he deserves to hang!”

The US military’s story on Khadr is so full of holes you could drive a Humvee through it. But regardless of the legality of the case and the guilt (or innocence) of this man, he is entitled to due process. And as a Canadian, he is entitled to it here, whether the Harperites like it or not.

But to understand that requires some thought, and thinking is in awfully short supply on the far right side of the political spectrum. Which is not so surprising because thinking is difficult and, done well, doesn’t always result in a reaffirmation of preconceived views. Heaven forbid considering another perspective or alternative viewpoint, that’s for elites.

And do I really wish I could see the world in simple black and white terms? Of course not. I can think of little that would be more horrible, more mind-numbingly dull, than not being able to consider multiple sides of a situation and be able to take a considered position based on a rational understanding of the facts rather than simply ideology and fear.

Money can’t buy class… or taste!

Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani, reportedly worth about $30 billion (yup, with a “b”), has built a new home for his family in Mumbai.

And this is it:

billion dollar homeWorth approximately $1 billion (also with a “b”), the home is 27 stories high, has a staff of 600, parking for 160 cars, 3 helipads on the roof (Don’t you just hate it when you have to wait your turn to land?), 9 elevators,  and a 50-seat theatre.

The family of 4 will live on the top floors so they can enjoy the best views of the Arabian Sea. And the slums of Mumbai, no doubt.

The only adjective that comes to mind is ugly!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Watch for heads to roll at HRDC

“The Conservative government wants to help unemployed Canadians find careers as strippers and for-hire escorts.”

This according to an HRDC draft policy memo concerning occupations acceptable for posting to the Job Bank.

To be clear, the Job Bank will not list prostitution per se, but, it is suggested, should include:

• Exotic dancer, erotic dancer, nude dancer, striptease dancer and table dancer.

• Escort, chat line agent, phone agent for personal services and telephone agent for personal services.

Not one of which professions is, in any way, shape, or form, illegal in this country.

Of course all the usual shrill voices have jumped all over this. Charles (“Chuckles”) McVety says “This is appalling activity by our government” and goes on to point out the hypocrisy of a Conservative government (this one in particular) taking this position after hounding Judy Sgro  out of Cabinet over a relatively minor breach of their Victorian morals some 6 or 7 years ago.

And you can also be sure talk-line radio will be all over this today, “coast to coast to coast” as they like to say.

Expect a strong denial from the PMO, heads to roll at HRDC, and McVety to claim victory once again over the forces of evil. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NHL hypocrisy in plain view

If there was ever any doubt about the NHL’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink approach to cleaning up dirty play on the ice, these two stories bring the reality into sharp focus. Clearly the NHL has NO serious intention of taking the steps necessary to protect its most valuable (and only) assets, its players. As a result, more and more fans are being driven from the sport, disturbed by the on-ice antics of some players and the Neanderthal attitude that seems to permeate head office.

In the first instance, the New York Islanders’ James Wisniewski gives an opponent the finger after an on-ice verbal exchange. The recipient of said gesture, (Sean Avery - himself no angel), is uninjured and continues the game but whinges and moans about the insult after the game.

Blackhawks Sabres Hockey In the second instance, Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson blind-sides Buffalo’s Jason Pominville and drives him into the boards. Pominville suffers a concussion and is carried off the ice on a stretcher. It’s uncertain when he will be back playing.

And the punishments meted out? 2 game suspensions in both cases.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is it still a Tim’s if they don’t sell Dutchies?

dutchieRunning into the city the other day I had a craving for a medium black and a Dutchie, so I swung off the Queensway and headed down to a Tim’s on Carling Ave. for my fix.

I pulled into the parking lot (I don’t do drive-thrus) and went inside only to find they don’t sell Dutchies at that location!

How can it be a Tim’s if they don’t sell Dutchies? It’s the iconic Tim Horton’s sugar-enriched, 360-calorie treat widely credited with hardening the arteries of an entire generation of Canadians. It was also, along with apple fritters, the first product ever sold by Tim’s. And it’s still one of their best selling items – at least at any outlet near where I live.

Clearly the universe is dangerously unbalanced and something must be done. Does Jimbo Flaherty know this? Maybe they stopped carrying Dutchies during the Chretien years, in which case it’s obviously the Liberal’s fault. Perhaps a few Economic Action Plan dollars could be tossed in Tim’s direction. (Note to PMO: Think of the photo op this presents. Against a backdrop of non-elites, Harper could scarf down a Dutchie while holding a double-double emblazoned with the EAP logo.)

It’s no wonder Ottawa’s going to the dogs. (Sorry, dogs, no Dutchies for you.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amateur hour on The Hill

According to this story at

“The Harper Conservatives injected partisan politics into their UN Security Council campaign, telling international diplomats Wednesday that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff puts his party before his country.”

lawrence_cannonForeign Affairs Minister Lawrence “Loose” Cannon levelled the charge at a gathering of non-partisan international diplomats, defying the normally accepted international protocols of leaving partisan politics at “the waters edge”.

If these guys weren’t such complete fools they’d understand there’s a reason why a country, no matter the politics at home, should appear united in the international political sphere. To do otherwise damages the country’s reputation abroad and brings into question the stability of it’s government, and hence it’s value as an ally and/or trading partner.

Is it possible they are that stupid? Or is this just another indication of the Cons seemingly insatiable need to destroy this country and all that it stands for, piece by piece?

“The audience of about 150 sat impassive and silent throughout the address offering polite applause at the end.”

Like Flaherty’s bombast a week or so ago, this is just another example of amateur hour, and I can’t wait for an audience, somewhere, to pointedly stand up in the middle of one of these inappropriate partisan diatribes and leave the room. And then watch Soudas try to spin it as a Liberal conspiracy.

Buffoons, the lot of them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

“It Can’t Get Any Worse”

tiriricaThat was the campaign slogan of Tiririca, an illiterate clown who was just elected to the Brazilian Congress.

Voters responded overwhelmingly to his platform, the main plank of which was a promise to tell voters what their elected representatives actually did on a day-to-day basis – a platform of transparency one might say.

And how could one not vote for a politician who’s honest enough to come right out and state that one of his reasons for seeking office was to help the needy, “including my family”?

It’s not a slam-dunk however as the Brazilian constitution requires lawmakers to be able to read and write, and there’s some dispute over just how illiterate Tiririca is. But should he take his seat I can only hope, for the voters’ sakes, that their illiterate clown does a better job than our illiterate clowns on the whole transparency and integrity  issue.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Conservative fiscal responsibility? An oxymoron.

Just as a matter of curiosity I went back a few years and took a look at the annual contributions to the national debt. Then I overlaid the party in power at the time.

83/84 was the last of the Trudeau/Turner years, followed by Mulroney/Campbell. During Mulroney’s reign annual debt contributions grew by nearly 100%.

In late ‘93 Chretien came into power and with Paul Martin began to turn things around. By 2005-06 annual debt had been reduced by close to 50% – almost to pre-Mulroney levels – and a $13 billion surplus was on the books, which would have reduced it even further.

Now we have the Harper Conservatives in charge, and guess what’s happened. The $13 billion surplus has been spent and the annual debt contribution is now in excess of $50 billion a year, far surpassing even Brian Mulroney’s profligacy.

And they have the gall to represent themselves as being the best custodians of Canada’s financial health? One can only laugh at the self-delusion.


Darwin contender

I’m always suspicious of those Darwin Awards that periodically cross the blogosphere and end up in my inbox, but here’s a real case that deserves special consideration as a contender. According to the Seattle Times, this happened in Dover, N.H.

A New Hampshire high school student shocked so severely in shop class that his heart stopped beating is suing his teacher, the school district and the city of Dover.

Kyle Dubois and his parents claim teacher Thomas Kelley did not warn Dubois and other students of the dangers of the electrical demonstration cords in their electrical trades class.

On March 11, Dubois attached an electrical clamp to one nipple while another student attached another clamp to the other. A third student plugged in the cord.

Dubois was critically injured.

The New Hampshire Union Leader says Dubois' suit contends he suffered permanent brain damage.

Kelley resigned from his teaching position about a month after the incident. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

I expect the brain damage may have been a pre-existing condition.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rob Ford – just 1 of 45

Rob FordIf there was ever any doubt about Rob Ford’s credentials to become mayor of Toronto, the fact that he is being endorsed by his friend Jimbo Flaherty should quickly put that to rest.

As an outsider I can stand back and smile condescendingly as the good burghers of Canada’s largest city all but acclaim Ford amidst the chorus of calls for sanity from the main stream media (except for the Sun, of course). But having seen Ottawa’s Larry O’Brien experience up close (which has many similarities, including a Sun endorsement, if I recall correctly) it’s worth remembering that Rob Ford has only 1 vote out of 45 on council.

So unless he’s a helluva salesman and can convince at least 22 fellow councillors he has the right answers he’s just going to be another angry white guy with a pulpit, doing little permanent damage other than providing the rest of Canada with 4 more years of entertainment at Toronto’s expense.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

How not to impress the boss

From today’s Toronto Sun, online edition. (

On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.

Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused to him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Well aren’t we sensitive.

Last Sunday, Ian Davey quipped on CTV’s Question Period that “It was once said about the Toronto Sun that it’s a newspaper for people who can’t read.”

Well that prompted a flurry of indignation from Sun editorialists and reporters (of which there are some apparently, when they’re not watching CTV) who failed to see the humour in Davey’s comment.

But instead of being a 1-day wonder, the story is still being reported in the Sun media empire days after the dastardly deed.

Of course the one common element is that in every story and editorial Davey is prominently linked to Michael Ignatieff, even though he hasn’t worked for him for about a year.

Today Lorrie Goldstein, in an open letter to Ian Davey also made the requisite link to Ignatieff, but at least contributed this bit of humour to the discussion.

“The Globe and Mail is read by people who think they are running the country but aren’t. The Toronto Star is read by people who know they should be running the country, but aren’t. The Ottawa Citizen is read by people who are running the country and don’t know how to. And the Sun is read by people who don’t give a damn who’s running the country, as long as she has big boobs.”

Now isn’t that a LOT better than being told you can’t read?

Welcome to Faux North.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“Scrap the registry” hypocrisy

The Toronto Sun reports today that the Conservatives are mounting a targeted ad campaign against those MPs who might vote against Hoeppner’s long-gun registry private members bill.

The huge 10-by-20 foot billboards will go up in the key ridings early this week, calling on constituents to pressure the local MPs to vote with the government and support Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill to scrap the registry later this month.

(I wonder who’s paying for those – Candice Hoeppner? The Conservative Party? Canadian taxpayers?)

Party deputy director Fred DeLorey said, in support of the initiative:

 "This will be a part of our plan to encourage the 20 Opposition MPs to keep their word to their constituents. These MPs need to be reminded they work for their constituents who want the long-gun registry scrapped, not their Ottawa bosses who want to keep it."

The hypocrisy is palpable. Is John Baird “working for his constituents” in Ottawa-West Nepean when he stands to vote for this bill? How about Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton)? Or Alice Wong (Richmond, BC)? There are numerous Con MPs representing major urban areas where the majority of the population has, and will continue to support the long-gun registry, and those Con MPs are most certainly NOT “working for their constituents”.

"Whatever the leader said, I stand behind what the leader said,"

toewsThis according to Vic Toews as reported in the Winnipeg Free Press. Reporting on the Quebec Conservative hockey arena fiasco (to be named the Stephen Harper Coliseum?), Toews is further quoted as saying "Manitoba has received, in fact … more than its fair share"  of infrastructure spending.

I don’t particularly care who got more or less of MY money (for it is, in fact, my money (and yours) the feds are throwing around to seed the Conservative vote garden) but that they are getting any of it at all – especially for commercial/professional sports facilities.

But the real point of this is that, yet again, another Conservative Minister has publicly admitted that he cannot or will not think for himself, but instead just blindly follows the orders of the supreme authority.

Say what you will about the so-called dysfunction in the Liberal and NDP caucuses where individual members sometimes take a principled stand on an issue, or publically disagree with their leadership, but I for one would much rather have thinking MPs in Parliament than just a bunch of bobbleheads doing what the boss tells them. That’s how Kim Jong Il operates and we’ve all seen how well that’s worked out.

The voters in Provencher should think hard about that come election time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What values?

This morning the Ottawa Citizen reports Majority of Canadians say Muslims don't share their values.

The poll, conducted earlier this week by Léger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the United States, found that 55 per cent of Canadian respondents and 50.3 per cent of Americans disagreed when asked whether "Muslims share our values."

This is such a breathtakingly stupid poll as to be laughable. What values are we talking about? When you broad-brush the question to that degree (i.e. lumping all “Muslim” values into a single question) you are going to get similar, if not more extreme results on just about any subject.

Ask mainstream Canadians if the “Conservative Party of Canada share our values” and you’ll get 70% or so who disagree.

Ask Canadians if the Bloc Quebecois shares their values, and you’ll get even higher disagreement numbers.

Finally, since the topic is religion, ask Canadians if the “fundamentalist Christian right share our values” and I’d be willing to wager the results would be very close to the question posed about Muslims.

No, this is nothing more than fear-mongering about those among us who may be different.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

“The state does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation”

That according to Pierre Trudeau in 1967. And, I would suggest, neither does the CBC.

The CBC has been twisting itself in knots trying to justify why it “outed” Lori Douglas, associate chief justice of Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench (family division).

Justice Douglas had the misfortune of having a husband who, back in 2003 at least, didn’t quite get the concept of discretion when it came to one’s (private) sexual relationships and practices. As a consequence she has now been cast into the spotlight by the CBC for what are personal choices that have absolutely no bearing on her performance as a judge.

Is she a good judge? I have no idea. But she is not automatically a bad judge simply because she and her husband have been known to indulge in certain sexual activities when she removes her robes.

The CBC claims that they are justified in running the story because of “a lawyer's duty to a client; the duty of other legal professionals to report matters of concern to the relevant professional associations; the duty of a potential judge to disclose pertinent matters in advance of his or her selection; and the responsibilities of judicial selection committees as they make their choices.”

In other words, the CBC has determined that a person’s sexual proclivities are and should be “a matter of concern to … professional associations”. What utter bullshit. Unless the individual in question is breaking the law, anything else they do in their free time is no one else’s business but their own.

And don’t even get me started on the lowlife that took $25,000 to shut up in 2003 and 7 years later decided to go public.


What price a few hundred votes?

The asbestos industry in Quebec has become a national embarrassment. The health risks from this mineral have been known since the early 1900’s and ultimately led many countries to ban the mining or use of asbestos. Not so in Canada where the federal and Quebec governments continue to actively support an industry that kills in those third-world countries and elsewhere where a ban does not exist.

According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related illnesses result in as many as 107,000 deaths a year. And since Canada produces about 10% of the world’s asbestos (virtually all of which is exported), 10,000 of those deaths could be directly attributed to this industry, and by extension, to the federal and Quebec governments.

The Chrysotile Institute maintains that the form of asbestos being mined in Canada, chrysotile, is significantly less dangerous than the amphibole types used in years past. On their web site they state, “they are much more less dangerous than amphiboles which were ban a long time ago” (all typos and grammatical errors included.) but then go on to provide a series of safe handling considerations which are all intended to help avoid the inhalation of fibres.

Some reports claim that asbestos mining accounts for about 700 direct (mining) jobs and another 2,000 indirect jobs – most if not all in the Province of Quebec. If those 10,000 deaths were all occurring in Canada you can be sure our governments would have reacted by now, but since they are predominantly in 3rd world countries like India and China one has to wonder whether the two governments consider 3 to 4 deaths per year a reasonable trade off for each of those Quebec jobs and votes.

“This is the stuff of … whack job conspiracy theorists …”

This according to Charlie Angus commenting on Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz’s statement that “[Police chiefs] won’t admit it, but it appears they don’t want Canadians to own guns. To that end, they need a database that will help them locate and seize those firearms as soon as a licence or registration expires.”

Well Charlie, you nailed that one – at least the “whack job” bit.

Now I have been opposed to the gun registry from day 1, not because I disagreed with the premise (You have to register your dog for Pete’s sake, why not a lethal weapon?) but  because I disagreed with the criminal sanctions associated with failing to register. Make it a misdemeanour punished with a modest fine and remove the draconian search and seizure components and I‘d be fine with that.

But MPs like Breitkreuz and even Hoepner with their over-the-top rhetoric  are clearly just pandering to the most hard-core of the tinfoil-hat wearing conspiricists out there. And sadly, that’s a pretty large segment of the Harper base.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Who will do the right thing?

Tony Clement is reported to have said in one interview this week that "There’s not a micron of difference of opinion between myself and the prime minister on this."

Now it appears from some reports that Clement actually argued, in Cabinet, against the change but was overruled by His Harpiness. After tugging at his forelock he then went out into the wider, more intelligent, real world and tried to sell what was essentially unsellable, using all the tools so readily at hand for the Reform-a-Tories – lies, obfuscation, denial, blame, misdirection, fear.

By all accounts Tony Clement is not a stupid man, and one whom I assume went into politics with honourable intent. But where is the honour when he so clearly checks his integrity at the Cabinet doors?  (And that’s not to pick on Clement. Think Poilievre, Baird, LeBreton, Day, and on, and on, and on – well some of them really are stupid, but you get the point.)

I’ve blogged on this before (, and like I said then, I just don’t understand how smart people can let themselves be manipulated and abused by a tin-pot dictator day in and day out without screaming “enough” and trying to salvage at least a small amount of their pride. I know many others who have quit more lucrative jobs (myself included) for far less reason, so what is their excuse?

I know some would say it’s easier to effect change from within, and that’s true to a point, but I would also suggest that when your boss tells you to lie in public it’s time to take a stand, and I for one, would hope that at least one or two of the principled people in whom we entrust the management of our country would stand up and be counted.

But sadly, in Canadian politics today, I can’t think of a single Member of Parliament that I would trust to do the right thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tony Clement – hoisted on his own petard

The news yesterday that the head of Statistics Canada has resigned over the long-form census debacle brought this bit of Tony Clement disingenuity into focus.

Speaking to Susan Lunn on CBC’s The House Saturday, Clement offered this gem:

... if you’re critics of the government you're not going to necessarily trust a member of the government and his point of view on this, but if you don't trust Tony Clement you can certainly trust Stats Can.

Now would he be possibly be referring to Mr. Munir Sheikh, the Chief Statistician, who resigned over Clement’s incompetent handling of this file?

As also quoted in the same Globe and Mail news item:

“With Dr. Sheikh’s resignation, Statistics Canada, and indeed the nation’s statistical system, has lost the committed services of a man of integrity and honour,” Mr. McKinnon said.

Of course Messrs. Clement, Harper, et al wouldn’t know “integrity and honour” if it hit them in the face, and in fact appear to have now mounted an attack campaign criticizing Dr. Sheikh.

This one’s a long way from over folks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

So explain to me again who’s winning the war on terror.

One doesn’t have to look too far these days to see that while the “terrorists” may not be winning militarily, they have still managed to inflict a flurry of body blows on the west. Whether it’s the economic impact on business caused by enhanced border security and air travel restrictions, the increased financial burdens for security (the billion dollar boondoggle in Toronto being just the most recent egregious example), or the curtailment of the most basic of human rights (ditto billion dollar boondoggle), western governments are now dancing to their tune.

And here is the latest example of stupidity on this file.

The federal agency in charge of airline security admits its staff were wrong to force the head of a non-profit agency off a plane at a B.C. airport and then detain her because they believed she was carrying too much money.

Wendy Toyer of the ALS Society of B.C. was carrying cash and cheques donated at the ALS Walk in Kamloops as she boarded a plane at the city’s airport last Saturday.

Wendy ToyerSo here’s a woman who hardly matches the profile of a terrorist, yet she was forced off a plane and detained because someone “believed she was carrying too much money.”

CATSA of course is all apologetic, as they should be, but only for forcing her off the plane in Kamloops. Instead they should be apologizing to her for breaching her privacy by reporting her to the RCMP in the first place. But here again individual rights are being tossed out the window under the guise of fighting terrorism and it’s poorer cousin, crime. 

Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Quentin Smith said CATSA shares information with the police under the Privacy Act where proceeds of crime and terrorism are concerned.

CATSA staff are asked to contact RCMP if someone is travelling with a large amount of cash although there is no law against doing so. (emphasis mine)

Read the full story here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The “Liberalisation” of the Reforma-Tories

The Harpercons won’t admit it, but they have always had a great admiration for Jean Chretien and are trying, not so secretly, to emulate the the previous Prime Minister in the hopes that by doing so they will be able to achieve that elusive (thank God for that) majority.

The latest evidence comes in this quote from Tony “Pork barrel” Clement. As reported in the Ottawa Sun, Clement explained the building of the University of Waterloo’s new environmental research facility in Huntsville with money from the summit budget as follows:

“The building of this building is made possible because we are taking $9 million from our G8 infrastructure fund and using it as a way to build the building, and so this fits into our organizing for the summit.”

Don’t believe me? Well Jean Chretien said it best himself.

“It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven.”


Thursday, June 3, 2010

The bizarre world of road race timing

Having a marathoner in the family one is exposed to the various rules and regulations associated with competitive running. Most make some degree of sense, but one particular rule is so patently stupid as to beggar the imagination.

According to the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Road Race Handbook, “The official time shall be the time elapsed between the firing of the starting gun and the athlete reaching the finish line. However, the time elapsed between an athlete crossing the start line and the finish line can be made known to him, but will not be considered an official time.”

So what this means is that race results are not actually based on the time a runner takes to go from the start to the finish line over a measured distance.

In a 100-yard dash, the runners all line up right on the start line, so it matters not, but in a large race, it’s not uncommon for competitors to be lined up 200 or 300 yards behind the start line. Once the gun fires, it can take those runners a couple of minutes to get to the start line therefore doubly penalizing them, first for having to “run” a longer distance, but also having to do that extra distance at a much slower pace as the runners in front get under way.

This can result in a situation where a runner who was actually faster over the measured distance places lower in the standings than a runner who was slower over the measured distance but was closer to the start line when the gun sounded. And that’s not fair, or accurate.

Runners today are all equipped with transponder chips to precisely determine when they cross the start and finish lines, thus giving a very precise elapsed time required to cover the measured distance. That should be the only “official time” as it’s the only accurate measurement of how fast the runner covered the actual distance.

It’s time for the various organizing bodies to move out of the 19th century and change this rule.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ontario knows what’s best for you (or not!)

samichlaus beerAccording to this story in the National Post:

Ontario's alcohol regulator has moved to ban an Austrian beer favoured by connoisseurs because its name, Samichlaus, means St. Nicholas in Swiss-German.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has decided the beer's label contravenes rules against advertising to children. It features the name of the beer, Samichlaus, a Swiss-German nickname for the saint behind the Santa Claus legend, and a small black-and-white bearded figure.

Now while that’s stupid enough, here’s the kicker:

A spokeswoman for the commission said the ruling dates from 2001, had lain dormant for years after the commission moved to complaints-based enforcement, and was only "reactivated" recently after a "single complaint from a private person."

A “single complaint from a private person.”

HobgoblinFirst of all I’d like to know who the idiot is that finds this product unacceptable. (In my opinion, all such complaints should be public and open up the complainer to the appropriate level of ridicule.)

But second, if the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario takes this sort of action based on a single complaint, I think I’ll go to the LCBO today and file complaints about every wine with ducks or kangaroos or little penguins on the label. Or how about wines with names like “Fat Bastard”. That offends me, even though I’m neither. And those British strong ales like Hobgoblin. Why they surely represent Halloween, and are obviously targeting children. The list is nearly endless for anyone with a common sense deficiency and an axe to grind.

fat bastardWhat do we need to  do to get the adults back in charge?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Personal responsibility

Although I’m no fan of Rogers, I have to admit I’m on their side (mostly) on this one.

A Toronto woman says the billing practices of Rogers Wireless Inc. led to her husband discovering her extramarital affair.

Now the woman, whose husband walked out, is suing the communications giant for $600,000 for alleged invasion of privacy and breach of contract, the results of which she says have ruined her life.

Supposedly this woman’s extramarital affair was exposed when her husband saw some suspicious calls from her cell phone statement which Rogers had bundled in with the regular family bill. The husband then phoned the number and spoke with the person there who confirmed the affair.

I may be a minority of one, but I don’t make it a habit of calling the numbers on my wife’s cell phone records to see who she's been talking with, and why. So I imagine there was already cause for suspicion and this was but one more indicator. That still doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it does suggest the marriage was already in trouble and a divorce was inevitable.

But more importantly, she was cheating and got caught. I make no moral judgement on her behaviour, but it does seem typical that these days, when one is caught with one’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar the first response is to blame the manufacturer for making the lid too easy to remove. That decision was hers and hers alone, and to try to lay the blame elsewhere just doesn’t fly.

As for Rogers’ behaviour, if the report is correct in that they “unilaterally terminated its cellular contract with the plaintiff that had been in her maiden name and included it in the husband’s account that was under his surname.” then they are, at the very least, in breach of any number of privacy rules and regulations. Other aspects of the claim against Rogers raise even more troubling concerns about their privacy processes which must be corrected if true, and so they have work to do.

But the bottom line, Gabriella Nagy, is that you made a decision that had unexpected consequences. It sucks, but that’s what accepting personal responsibility is all about. And laying a $600,000 lawsuit on Rogers just means you’re trying to make someone else pay for your own errors in judgement. I hope the courts see it the same way.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Well some things drive me to drink too.

Recently the Ottawa Citizen ran this story under the headline “Watching R-rated movies can lead children to drink, study finds”

According to the report,

“The researchers found that of children whose parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies, only three per cent had started drinking when questioned a couple of years after the initial survey. For children whose parents "sometimes" let them see R-rated films, 19 per cent had started drinking. For children who were allowed to watch R-rated films "all the time," 25 per cent had started drinking.”

And from that the researchers seem to have decided that, 

“… watching R-rated movies can lead to children drinking alcohol earlier in life.”

This reminds me of the “study” that was done back in the 60s that proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that breastfeeding your infant was the single biggest causal factor that led to later marijuana use because 90%+ of users were breast fed as infants. Something to do with oral fixation as I recall.

Did it not occur to anyone that perhaps parents who allowed their young children to watch R-rated movies weren’t particularly good role models themselves? Maybe there was already alcohol abuse/overuse in the household and the kids were just emulating mom and pop. Who knows what other factors were at play – the paper didn’t elaborate – but I expect the linkage is tenuous at best, despite the alarmist headline.

Rubbish then, and rubbish now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shorter Vic Toews: I haven’t a clue.

toewsOur illustrious Minister of Throwing Away the Key honoured us with his presence on the John Oakley Show (AM 640 Toronto) this morning.

The topic was the increased cost of all the ReformaTories’ proposed tough on crime legislation.

Responding to a series of softball questions (it was John Oakley after all) about the costs (now admitted to be $2 billion by the Cons) versus the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s estimates of $8 to $10 billion, Toews had these gems to offer:

“What I believe is going to be happening is there's going to be a shift in the expenses from the provincial coffers to the federal  coffers.”

“Now there will be additional expenses from some of the other legislation that we’re bringing in, but quite frankly I think it's worth the cost.”

“I'm quite frankly quite puzzled as to where he gets his numbers.”

“The cost benefit analysis is often difficult to estimate in straight dollars but I can tell you that the benefit to ordinary Canadians far outweighs the costs that our government is prepared to keep dangerous individuals in prison.”

All of which is to say that any cost estimates put out by this government are, at best, based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation over drinks at Hy’s, and will be spun in the general context of “it’s worth it” to “protect Canadians”. (And coincidentally, protect Con votes. But we won’t go there.)

And just in case there was any doubt as to who the good guys are, he threw out this little gem as well.

“Our Liberal opposition seems to think that ordinary Canadian citizens should be locked in their own homes and the dangerous criminals roaming the streets. We think the reverse should be true, that it’s the dangerous criminals who should be locked up and ordinary citizens should be entitled to walk the streets any time of day or night.”

Sure. Got it already. But “dangerous criminals roaming the streets” don’t scare me nearly as much as people like Vic Toews being on the loose in positions of authority.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dalton McGuinty – Yes! No! Maybe!

Dalton McGuinty finds himself in distinguished company, having flip-flopped on changes to Ontario’s sex-ed program faster than Stephen Harper could throw Helena Guergis under the bus.

The product of several years of consultation with experts in the field and parents’ groups, Ontario’s new sex-ed program was released back in January. No one paid any attention until this past week when some Christian conservative groups found out about the changes and threatened to protest.

Of course the media didn’t help either, with their, some would say unnatural, obsession with “masturbation”, “vaginal lubrication”, and “anal intercourse”. Reporters and news anchors couldn’t wait to say those words on air as they excitedly informed the great unwashed who apparently all managed to survive into intolerant and ignorant adulthood without having to learn all that nasty stuff in school.

These changes are not only timely, but necessary because while some parents are conscientious and teach their children the facts of life at an appropriate time, most children’s sex education occurs in the schoolyard or from watching porn videos on the cable channel or the internet. And presumably not even the incensed Christian lobby groups would agree that’s appropriate. (Although they would defer such education until well after the time it was needed by the kids, and eliminate most of the stuff they don’t agree with, absurdly rendering the whole exercise pretty much useless.)

Sadly this episode also shows Dalton McGuinty for what he is, an opportunist for whom principles are merely trial balloons to be floated to see which way the wind blows. This was not his finest hour. Instead of showing courage and doing what’s right, he ran.

But the highlight of this news item for me was when Sister Joan Cronin of the Institute for Catholic Education said, presumably with a straight (and very pinched) face, “The church disapproves of masturbation on any level”. Apparently it is even lower on the Roman Catholic acceptance scale than some other sexual practices that have recently (again) been in the news. To which I would suggest better sex education and a little (or a lot) of masturbation might be just what the Catholic Church needs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tanning beds addictive? Who knew?

According to this article in the Ottawa Citizen, tanning beds may be addictive.

Individuals who use UV tanning beds may meet the criteria for addiction, a study released Monday said. [Subjects] showed signs of tanning addiction, based on measures used to judge other forms of addiction, including substance abuse. "In addition to the desire for appearance enhancement, motivations for tanning include relaxation, improved mood, and socialization," researchers wrote in the Archives of Dermatology.

I especially like the rationale, being that motivations including “relaxation, improved mood, and socialization” constitute addictive behaviour. By that measure I am addicted to golf, motorcycling, sporting events, parties, and long lunches, so where do I go to apply for disability benefits?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tourism now a “human right” in Europe?

I thought the European Union pretty much made itself the laughingstock of the world when, 10 or so years ago, they came out with regulations banning the importation and sale of bananas with, as I recall the term, “excessive curvature”.  I expect the petty Euro-bureaucrats found them too hard to peel.

But they have now set a new standard for collective insanity that I certainly hope will be hard to surpass.

Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, has stated, "Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life". Not content with simply making tourism a “right”, Mr. Tajani goes on to present a plan that “would see taxpayers footing some of the vacation bill for seniors, youths between the ages of 18 and 25, disabled people, and families facing "difficult social, financial or personal" circumstances.”

Under a pilot program slated to continue until 2013, “The EU and its taxpayers are slated to fund 30% of the cost of these tours, which could range from youth exploring abandoned factories and power plants in Manchester to retirees taking discount trips to Madrid, all in the name of cultural appreciation.”

It probably goes without saying that Mr. Tajani was appointed to his post by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Perhaps the EU should send them both to an abandoned Manchester factory. One-way ticket only.

For more:

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Liberal strategy?

I was torn between titling this post “Quote of the day” or “New Liberal strategy”, which I finally used (as you can see). And here’s why:

“When asked how she felt about losing to a dead man, Brock said "I'll live."”

Apparently this small town in Tennessee was so upset with their mayor that when one of the candidates died during a recent election campaign the townspeople voted him in anyway. One voter was quoted as saying:

"I knew he was deceased. I know that sounds stupid, but we wanted someone other than her."

The Liberals have tried everything else, so why not give it a go? It just might work.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Plus ça change…

The ReformaTories have made an art out of trotting out the same crisis over and over again, each time with more high dudgeon and outrage, and each time with more shallow promises to “get the job done”.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always youth crime, or pardons, or environmental controls. Here is the latest crisis du jour and the typical Cons kneejerk reaction (which could be best characterised as walk loudly and carry a small stick).

Apparently they have just (re)discovered that some gasoline vendors are  overcharging at the pumps because their pumps aren’t properly calibrated. Horrors! 

"In some cases, customers were being charged an extra $1.50 to $2 on a normal fill-up. This is unacceptable. Families, individuals, and small businesses spend enough of their money on gas. They shouldn't have to pay a penny more due to inaccurate gas pumps."

gas pumpAnd so a Fairness at the Pumps Act is born, only to eventually, if past history is any indicator, either die on the order paper or disappear into the open maw of parliamentary committees.

And if this just seems to be  déjà vu all over again, you’re right. It was back in 2008 when Industry Minister Jim Prentice promised to “move quickly” to introduce legislation to fix this problem because 

"All consumers in this country need to know that when they go to gas up their vehicles that the pumps are accurate and they are getting what they paid for."

I expect someone in the PMO must have an issues list from which nothing ever gets removed. They just cycle through it every 2 years to gain a few headlines and maximum political benefit from the great unwashed who are too lazy or stupid to pay enough attention to realise we’ve heard it all before. Next up: bank fees!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Quebec question, again…

Today Sun Media is reporting the results of a recent Leger Marketing poll conducted on behalf of The Association of Canadian Studies.

According to the reports, the poll found that “A surprising 26% of Albertans and 15% of English Canadians believe Quebec would be better off if it were to separate” As would be expected the results varied widely by province with a high of 39.9% in Quebec supportive and a low of 5.3% in New Brunswick.

According to the reporter, Elizabeth Thompson, the exact question that was asked was whether respondents strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with the following statement: "Quebec would be better off if it were not part of Canada."

“Better off” how? Economically? Culturally? The poll doesn’t differentiate. I expect most Canadians feel that Quebec is better off economically within Canada if for no other reason that the equalization payments flooding in their direction. Would Quebec be better off fiscally without those? Unlikely. But culturally I don’t think there’s much question that Quebec would certainly be no worse off as a separate entity. They would still have complete control over their culture and language but would no longer have to answer embarrassing questions about English language rights within their borders or cultural and social initiatives that don’t fit within the broader Canadian multicultural framework.

But if the pollsters were really trying to get a sense of what Canadians think about Quebec staying in Canada they asked the wrong question. To get Canadians to tell you how they feel about Quebec as part of Canada, the question should be whether respondents strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statements:

- "Canada would be better off economically with a separate Quebec"

- “Canada would be better off politically with a separate Quebec", and

- "Canada would be better off culturally with a separate Quebec".

Now those results would be interesting. Any takers?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bring out yer dead…

Sometimes the connection between two weird news stories on the same day is just too delicious to ignore. Today’s stories come from Liverpool and Vancouver.

In one case, two women tried to carry a dead person on board, and in the other a dead (asleep) person was left on board.

In a scene reminiscent of Weekend at Bernie’s, a women and her step-daughter tried to bring the woman’s deceased husband on board a flight from Liverpool to Berlin. Insisting he was “just asleep”, his widow said “He was pale but he wasn't dead”. (Just pining for Germany no doubt.) Both women have been arrested.

Meanwhile back in Vancouver, a British law professor (and very sound sleeper) managed to sleep through an Air Canada landing at Vancouver International, taxiing to the terminal, deplaning, and towing the plane into the hangar where a maintenance person discovered him and woke him up some 1 1/2 hours later. So far no word on a lawsuit, but he’s not very happy with the airline.

So the lesson here is if you want to take a dead person on board a flight with you, pick Air Canada. You can be sure they won’t notice anything amiss.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And not a keffiyeh in sight!

This particular collection of non-Muslim terrorists are members of a Michigan-based Christian militia called Huttaree who have just been arrested on charges of conspiring to murder law-enforcement officers. The plan was to kill at least one police officer, and then use the funeral as an opportunity to kill even more in the hope that such a violent act would touch off an uprising against the US government.


Apparently these fine-looking human specimens feel that the US government is in league with Satan and therefore must be purged before the apocalypse – or some other such wingnuttery.

As Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post says,

“For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary and anger from the far right.

It is disingenuous for mainstream purveyors of incendiary far-right rhetoric to dismiss groups such as the Hutaree by saying that there are "crazies on both sides." This simply is not true.”

The number of home-grown militias have increased significantly over the past few years, largely in sync with the ramping up of the level of “incendiary far-right rhetoric” in some US media and a certain segment of the population. With that level of anger, assault weapons, and an infallible belief in God’s will, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another Oklahoma bombing.

So perhaps it’s time for the authorities to cast the net a little wider and target those who are inciting these groups. A couple of well-known faces included in the montage above might do wonders to lower the temperature of what constitutes political discourse in the US today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Flim-flam Flaherty’s Fiscal Failings

Just in case you needed any more evidence of Jimbo’s failings as a finance minister, Stock Day went to Parliament yesterday, hat in hand, asking for an extra $6 billion (that’s with a “B”) for “unforeseen costs” incurred in the current fiscal year which ends in 2 weeks.

It’s fair enough that Flaherty and his minions in Finance didn’t anticipate the Haitian earthquake, or the H1N1 pandemic, although one would expect prudent fiscal managers to have some contingency set aside in the event of such “unforeseen costs”. But I guess that’s just a quaint Liberal concept. The $13 billion (with a “B”) left by the Martin government would certainly have covered those costs and then some.

But let’s look at just a few of the other “unforeseen costs” as itemised in the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

$196.4 million for civil service salary increases. The civil service was not a surprise. They’ve been around for a while and their contracts are well understood (or should be) by Treasury Board. Anyone with a calculator and an extra set of fresh batteries could have calculated, almost to the dollar, what the salary costs would be for the year.

$192 million in extra costs associated with Old Age Security benefits. Ditto civil service salary increases. Did we all of a sudden import a few hundred thousand extra seniors eligible for OAS?

$83.6 million for police and security at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now this is but a tiny part of the billion dollars or so (with a “B”) spent on security for the “Canada owes the podium” games. But with a billion dollars (with a “B”) to play with, surely they should have been expected to stay within budget. Or perhaps this was just for the security required by the steady stream of Con MPs looking for photo ops in the hope that some of that glittering gold would rub off on them.

And the biggie: $5.5 billion (with a “B”) to cover the extra costs of providing employment insurance this year. This is a direct result of ol’ Flim-flam’s head-in-the-sand response (as mandated by Harper) to the financial crisis that hit in 2008 – long before the current fiscal year began, and in plenty of time to make appropriate adjustments to the budget. Instead the Cons were singing “Don’t worry, be happy” all the way into a major employment crisis, and are now professing surprise at the cost.

As I write this I am left wondering whether what we’re seeing is incompetence, or a conscious intent to mislead Parliament, and Canadians, by purposely leaving known expenses out of the budget to avoid awkward questions about the size of the projected deficit.  Sadly, with this government it could be either – and is likely both.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let her speak

Let me make one point very clear at the outset. I detest Ann Coulter. She is a hateful person, a shrill harridan, and generally a waste of perfectly good skin. But it’s undeniable that she has a following.

As part of a Canada-wide speaking tour, Coulter will be stopping at Ottawa U. to “talk about political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech”.

This tour is certainly not because she has a deep and abiding love for Canada. Here’s some of what she had to say about Canada back in 2004.

When you're allowed to exist on the same continent of the United States of America, protecting you with a nuclear shield around you, you're polite and you support us when we've been attacked on our own soil. They [Canada] violated that protocol.

They better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."

So it has to be the money – and you know what they say about people who do it for money….

Anyway, the point of this is that, as predictable as rain in April, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa has got its knickers in a knot over her visit. They have denied the organizers permission to put up posters announcing the talk and are now trying to have her blocked from speaking on campus.

Not only is that wrong, it’s also a mistake. People like Ann Coulter should be given a soapbox. It’s only when she opens her mouth that we can see the hatred, ugliness and intolerance that guide her life and the lives of her followers. And that helps us understand the scope of the challenge we still face in trying to develop a progressive, tolerant, caring society, and further encourages us all to redouble our efforts to marginalize the Ann Coulters of the world.

Voltaire had it right: “I may not agree with what you say but I'll fight to the death to defend your right to say it”.

Let her speak.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soudas de-friended?

I’m no fan of Dimitri Soudas, but I have to think it must have been a pretty slow news day for the CBC to think this story warranted any coverage at all.

Apparently some Quebec TV show (Infoman - which, it also seems, had nothing better to do and so let the pre-teens run the operation for a while. And why does it always seem to be a Quebec TV show?) set up Soudas by creating a fake Facebook account in the name of a man wanted for arson in Alberta, and then (quelle horreur!) got Soudas to accept this bogus person as a Facebook friend.

The show then dutifully dragged in Michel Juneau-Katsuya, the spook-under-every-bed, ex-intelligence guy to do his usual scare mongering, leading us all to believe that state secrets aren’t only left in girlfriend’s apartments, but also casually tossed around on Facebook pages along with pictures of family and friends doing family and friend kinds of things.

The end result of this hard-hitting exposé? Soudas kills his Facebook page.

Chalk one more up for gotcha journalism - and add another plank to the Duffster’s platform.

(See Kady O’Malley’s take on this here.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Duz spellng reely mater?

Of course it does!

While I have always been a stickler for accurate spelling I can appreciate the use of shortcuts in this age of texting and tweeting. For that reason I have, somewhat begrudgingly, come to accept the occasional “lol”, or 4 for “four”, or “are you” represented by “RU” in electronic communications as the inevitable result. But I still expect businesses to communicate in a proper, “professional” manner.

So you can imagine my reaction on receiving the following email message in response to a query about a pair of prescription sunglasses for which a new lens was being provided under warranty.

Hello This is (name deleted) im the optician that made your glasses unfortunately i can not just send you lense Du to my safty conserns i must install all lenses in our frames we would be liable if you injured  a eye if the lense wasent installed properly.

Please send your glasses to

The message then continued with a misspelled business name and street name to which I was to send my glasses for repair.

This email was all the explanation I needed as to why my sunglasses were incorrectly made in the first place. Clearly this person takes no pride in his workmanship if he’s prepared to attach his name to such a poorly written and sloppy communication. And if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a warranty repair I would be looking for a new supplier.

Such carelessness in written communications is becoming more and more common (although this is the worst example I have seen personally) and reflect directly, and poorly, on both the author and the business he/she represents. If a business can’t or won’t make the effort to represent itself professionally in writing, why would you think they will take any better care with the product or service you are contemplating purchasing?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It’s (well past) time to move on.

tiger woodsSome 80-odd days ago Tiger Woods exited his home in Florida in what could best be described as a spectacular fashion. And all of a sudden this golf icon (a title well and truly deserved) became the poster boy for everything wrong in sports and the lives of its elite practitioners.

What followed was nothing more than a hypocritical knee-jerk reaction by the media and society in general, with the only missing element being a congressional inquiry into sex as a diversion for our sports “heroes”. (And probably the only reason for that is the US Congress couldn’t withstand the spotlight of unfaithfulness being turned on itself, unlike steroid use which, as far as I know, hasn’t yet reached epidemic proportions in the halls of government.)

I’m not an apologist for Tiger Woods. What he did was wrong. Full stop. But what he did was no different, sadly, than uncountable scenes being played out every day, in every community, at every level of society, by both men and women. His “crime”, as it were, was his celebrity which, it should be said, was based on his prowess on the golf course and not between the sheets.

However, under intense media pressure to “do something”, Tiger  Woods has now made a full and public apology. But was that enough? Of course not. Not wanting to let this juicy issue go away the media are now crying that it wasn’t heartfelt, it was just spin, and staged, and that Elin wasn’t there, and they shouldn’t be blamed for following his children to school, and blah, blah, blah.

So to the media and the public who are keeping this alive, get a life, and move on. And to Tiger, sort out your personal problems in private and get back on the golf course where you belong.