Monday, February 28, 2011

Breaking news–Alberta gets less than fair share of Order of Canada medals!

OOCIt must have been a slow news day in Ottawa; the Ottawa Citizen actually assigned someone the responsibility to do an analysis of Order of Canada recipients to determine if there was a geographic bias in their rewarding.

And of course they found one because there wouldn’t have been a story otherwise.

The writer provides a grade-school level analysis and speculates on why such a bias should exist, (I won’t go into details; you can read it all here) but really, it’s irrelevant. Unlike Senate seat awards (which I’d personally much rather have) for which the only current requirement is that you be a failed Conservative candidate willing to prostrate yourself at the feet of the Great Leader, there is no constitutional mandate for regional balance in the awarding of civilian honours.

Let’s face it, the Order of Canada is a nice piece of bling to hang on the office wall to prove you are really a “somebody”. But aside from the recipient him/herself, who cares?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Conservatives lying? No, it’s just being very precise with words.

On Newfoundland’s VOCM Backtalk Tuesday, Vic Toews said, in response to a question about a federal penitentiary in Newfoundland:

“I have to say, without getting partisan, I'm rather surprised given the position that all of the Liberal MPs have taken against the expansion of prisons that they would even want one in Newfoundland and Labrador. I mean they've made it very clear to me they don't want one.”

pop weasel2Well, as it turns out, that may be a bit disingenuous. (Quelle surprise!) According to Toews now, the fact that  a formal request was made by Liberal MP Scott Simms to his predecessor Stockwell Day doesn’t count. It had to be made to Vic Toews personally in order to be legitimate apparently. And if you don’t buy that load of steaming crap, the Liberal leader has also changed since the request was made so that means it doubly doesn’t count.

I’m tempted to call him a moron, but I think weasel is more appropriate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CSA to define Metis status?

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is apparently confused about who is/isn’t/should be/shouldn’t be Métis. It seems that the determination of Métis status has been somewhat haphazard, with various provinces having different processes and systems ranging from simple self-identification to the provision of rigorous genealogical proofs.

This drove the minister and his minions a little bit crazy. So like the good bureaucrats they are, they decided a standardized system was required and initiated a competition through MERX to “identify a set of conditions, standards and means of verifying those standards to a level that provides the government with confidence as to what constitutes a satisfactory membership system”. In other words, design a protocol that will assure the government that anyone identified by any Métis association as Métis really is Métis and is not just a poseur, perhaps a refugee from Ford’s Toronto, who thought it would be cool, or some such thing.

So far so good. While the benefits of being designated Métis are, at present, pretty much limited to having pride in your heritage, there’s certainly value in having a consistent model across the board – a point not lost on the Métis leadership who have been working to define just such a set of standards for some time now.

But what has got the Métis people (or Métis Nation, if you prefer) just a bit riled is that this all happened without any consultation with them. In fact they only found out by accident.  And then to put the icing on the cake, the contract was awarded to the Canadian Standards Association. Yup, the same folks who approve your toaster for sale in Canada are now in the business of deciding how the Métis get to prove they are, or aren’t who they claim to be. Riel CSA(Rumour has it if they do a good job on this, Jason Kenney will use them to help decide whether Iggy is a real Canadian… or not.)

But silliness over having CSA-approved Métis notwithstanding, one has to wonder at the motivation of this government in taking this step. The Métis are starting to flex their muscles in terms of land claims, hunting and fishing rights, resource rights, and so on. And so it’s clearly in the best interests of the federal government to limit their exposure by limiting the numbers of potential recipients of any negotiated deals. But imposing a national protocol will be no easy task, especially since the Supreme Court has already ruled that in order to qualify as Métis an individual must meet these three broad criteria (source: Wikipedia):

  • self-identification as a Métis individual;
  • ancestral connection to an historic Métis community; and
  • acceptance by a Métis community.

Speak No EvilAnd so is the new protocol intended to simply refine these criteria? Or is it to replace them and set up a challenge to the Supreme Court? Only Stephen Harper knows for sure, and he’s not talking. But whatever the motivation, it’s just more of the same with the Harpercons taking unilateral decisions, sowing division across the land as only they can. The mess the next government will have to clean up just keeps getting deeper and deeper.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Whoa Nellie!

Driving-while-distractedRecently Ontario followed many other jurisdictions in banning the use of hand-held devices while driving. As a victim of a texting teen driving into me at a stop light, I support such a ban, and in fact would go one further and ban the use of any cell phone, hand-held or not, while driving.

But has the government created an unintended consequence by this ban? Twice yesterday, in the space of about 15 minutes, I had the car immediately in front of me slam on the brakes and dive for the shoulder of the road – no signal, no shoulder check. As no road hazard was obvious, it could only be because they’d dropped their lit cigarette between their legs, or it was a Pavlovian response to a ringing cell phone.

Fortunately I was able to avoid any unpleasantness due to good road conditions, little traffic, and my own attentiveness, but it got me to wondering if the authorities have seen a hike in rear-end collisions since the imposition of the ban. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who are these people

who have absolutely no concept of value for money when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars?

It’s a trivial thing, and a trivial amount as far as governments go, but this is the kind of thing that really burns my ass (as reported in The Ottawa Citizen today):

As Canadians dug into their pockets for donations to Haiti last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs spent nearly $27,000 on backdrops used at a ministerial conference to co-ordinate response to the earthquake. According to recently released documents, the backdrops were used only once, when Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon hosted the Ministerial Preparatory Conference in Montreal on Jan. 25, 2010. The department paid $26,534 for the backdrops. The banners were in Conservative colours -medium blue, with red highlights -and bore the slogan, "Strength in union."

$27,000 is but a drop in the bucket when it comes to making ministers look good (and let’s face it, Lawrence “Loose” Cannon can use all the help he can get) but to spend even that much on a throw-away prop for a pol’s photo-op, especially one dealing with a huge humanitarian crisis that could have used that $27,000 for something useful, just shows how out of touch with the real world most of these ministers’ handlers are.

The problem is that when you and I see $27,000 we envision a large number of real dollars and consider it in terms of whether we should save all or part of it, or how to spend it in the most productive way. When a civil servant sees $27,000 they just see numbers on a page.

Sadly it was ever thus, and I don’t expect to see any changes in my lifetime. But it still pisses me off.