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.