Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our veterans deserve better

There’s a disturbing story coming out of Ottawa concerning the issue of family violence and post-traumatic stress in returning veterans. The CBC is reporting that incidents of family violence were being reported by the military police at five times the normal levels for those members returning from serving in Afghanistan. These numbers are also consistent with reporting by the local detachment of the OPP in Petawawa.

What is the Canadian Forces response?

"We found, unfortunately, some methodological flaws in the way some of that military police data was collected and analyzed," said Col. Jean-Robert Bernier, Deputy Surgeon General with the Canadian Forces.

And,

"… this is new research that needs to be investigated," said Col. Suzie Rodrigue, head of social work with the Canadian Forces.

While any increase in domestic violence is disturbing, what is most outrageous about this story is the military’s cavalier dismissal of the problem. This is not a new issue. It’s been recognised with returning veterans as far back as the First World War, and probably earlier than that. The Americans first started to really study the phenomenon of post traumatic stress and its impact on “normal” relationships when the Vietnam vets started returning home and domestic violence incidents spiked. We saw it again after the first Gulf war, and then the second, and now Afghanistan. In fact it was an issue with returning peacekeepers as well, but the numbers were much lower and so didn’t tend to hit the radar so to speak. No, this is a very old issue.

And Col. Rodrigue says “… this is new research that needs to be investigated”!

The time for research is over. This is a problem that needs action. Now!

Surely if the Canadian Forces can afford billions for new jets, a few hundred million dollars to restore the mental health of those who we send into harm’s way cannot be an insurmountable financial challenge. To do anything less is, in my opinion, nothing less than a breach of trust by those in the senior ranks of the Canadian Forces and the government of the day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”– Albert Einstein

I was just thinking about the first 2 days of this election campaign and all the lies, half-truths, and innuendo spouting from the mouths of the various leaders and candidates.

A common metaphor for running a country is that it’s not unlike running a large business. You have employees and customers (taxpayers), a revenue stream (taxes), a product (services), and Cabinet is the executive team.

To take the metaphor a step further, an election campaign then becomes like a new stock offering where the executive branch trot out the financial status of the company, their future plans, and other details intended to entice investors (voters) into the fold.

But that’s where any semblance of similarity ends.

Imagine the CEO of a major corporation standing in front of shareholders and saying things that he knows to be untrue a major financial change in the business. Or how about the CFO intentionally misleading investors over several fiscal periods, and refusing to provide line item details. Or what if the COO knowingly understated the costs of a major departmental expansion? If they were lucky they’d only be fired.

However that kind of lying, deceit, obfuscation, and downright unethical behaviour have become de rigeur for our elected representatives. And instead of holding them to account as we would business people (in which case they’d all soon find themselves roomies with Bernie Eberts or Conrad Black) we give them a free pass.  We have come to expect them to lie. We have come to expect them to cheat. We have come to expect them to be ethically challenged. And they do not disappoint.

This could all be passed off with a cynical observation that you’ve got to tell the public what they want to hear (and there’s some truth to that), but at the end of the day how can these men and women sit down at a dinner table across from their families and be proud of their day’s labours? “Yes I lied on national TV today son, and let me tell you it felt damn good!”

Sadly, it seems that’s exactly the kind of person a significant portion of the population deems most suited to the highest offices of the land.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Time for a new leaf

Spring is the season of renewal. As the sun rises in the sky the snow disappears and the earth awakens to start afresh. It’s a time to reflect and prepare for the upcoming year.

It’s in that context that I have been reconsidering my blogging experience.

When I first started this blog 3 years and a few hundred posts back the intent was for this to be a generic blog, a means of sharing my thoughts and ideas with anyone interested enough to read and/or comment. Unfortunately over the past year or so it has evolved into primarily a political blog, a development with which I am not particularly happy as it has been my experience that political blogs tend to be angry, written for an audience that is already in agreement, and subject to moronic commentary by trolls who hide behind their keyboards to insult, belittle and otherwise demonstrate their lack of intellectual maturity.

And I’m sick of it. So it’s time for a return back to the roots of this blog.

I will still comment on politics on occasion because I’m interested in it, but I will also be making a conscious effort to expand my horizons beyond the narrow-mindedness of Canadian politics these days. And although I have requested to be dropped from the various political aggregators that carry my blog, I will still be checking in periodically to see what I’m missing, especially over the next few weeks as election rhetoric heats up.

Now please excuse me while I try and think of something positive to write about for a change.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Duffy’s X-Ray vision penetrates NDP caucus

duffy2Mike Duffy was on CFRA yesterday afternoon explaining why we were going into an election. Here’s his take on it.

The buzz here is that Layton was going to let the budget pass, tell his caucus: let it go, and in a couple of months when I'm feeling better we’ll pull them down on a supply motion; there'll be other chances – basically once a month they have a chance to vote non-confidence - in a couple of months when I'm feeling better we’ll do this and go to an election, and if I don't feel better in a couple of months what I'll do is I'll quietly resign, set a convention for around Labour Day to choose a new leader, let the new leader come in and get settled. And then we'll have an election a year from now after those who were elected in 2006 qualify for their pensions.

January 23 or 25th 2012, the class of 2006 will become pensionable, including Olivia Chow, Jack's wife. Now, in other words this is a scenario that would work for everybody. It would work for Jack and his health problems. It would work for the class of 2006. Let's see what happens as we go down the road. That was the buzz that was supposed to happen. Then all of a sudden Jack changes his course 180 degrees and we have to go to an election. Why? Because we are told that Thomas Mulcair has told our colleagues from Qu├ębec in the media, former colleagues, that he put the gun to Jack's head and said we have to go now. There's no way. And they pressured Layton into backing down from what was his inclination was to give it time to see how his health worked out, and they forced him, the hotheads in the NDP caucus and in the rank and file, have forced Layton to do something that he didn't want to do and now we’re in an election that nobody needs.

He also stressed that labour loved the budget saying how CLC leader Ken Georgetti came out in support of it. Apparently Duff didn’t get the message (here) nor did the obsequious Rob Snow who came across like he had a school-girl crush on the big man.

And so the lying begins continues.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wag the Dog

In 1997 the movie Wag the Dog was released. Starring Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman, the movie’s premise is that the president, besieged by scandal, uses the media to manufacture a war that he can heroically end, thus restoring his honour and his chance of electoral success.

Stephen Harper’s “act of war” performance last week immediately brought this film to mind. Hounded by scandal at home, what better way to deflect attention from his failings as a leader than to stand up to a tin-pot dictator on the world stage?

There’s no question that Gadhafi needs to go, but our trifling commitment of 6 CF-18s and one frigate will not be a significant factor in whatever the outcome eventually is in Libya. So make no mistake, Canada’s involvement in this war is nothing more than a timely and welcome distraction for the prime minister to be able to appear statesman-like.

So far the writer has been unable to confirm rumours that every copy of Wag the Dog in Ottawa video stores has been commandeered by the PMO.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Head shots

March 8 – Zdeno Chara lays a life-threatening hit on Max Pacioretty and gets a light slap on the wrist.

March 10 – Stephen Harper weighs in, saying “I don’t think that is good for the game and I think the league has got to take a serious look at that for its own sake.”

March 15 – NHL General Managers decide not to ban head shots saying, “We don’t want to slow down the game.”

March 16 – Jason Kenney releases Version 3 of the Canadian Citizenship Guide which list “head shots” as one of the barbaric cultural practices not acceptable in Canada.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Con appointee laughing all the way to the bank

As the Globe and Mail is reporting today, Christiane Ouimet is walking away with a sweet half-million dollars for quitting after 3 years of questionable service to the Crown. Along with other benefits her deal apparently includes about $120,000 in severance pay.

In what Bizzaro world does one get severance pay for quitting? Instead, in Ms. Ouimet’s case, the government should be suing her for breach of contract as she quit, without notice, before completing her term.

According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s own web site, Christiane Ouimet is definitely NOT entitled to severance pay.

Are You Entitled to Severance Pay?

Severance pay is a monetary entitlement (compensation) that is intended to provide financial support to ease your transition from one place of work to another.

{……….}

You are not entitled to collect severance pay if:

  • you have been dismissed for just cause;
  • you quit your job;
  • you did not return to work after your employer recalled you from a layoff; or
  • you were entitled to a pension under a registered pension plan, the Old Age Security Act, the Canada Pension Plan and/or the Quebec Pension Plan on or before ceasing to be employed.

(emphasis mine)

In response to an earlier boondoggle involving severance pay (and  a Liberal appointee), Stephen Harper is quoted as saying:

"There is no common law saying the government has to pay severance to someone who voluntarily quits. That may be the common practice of the Liberal Party, but it is not the common law," Mr. Harper told the Commons in October of that year.

"Given that there is no requirement to pay severance to someone who quits voluntarily, and given that Mr. Dingwall received hundreds of thousands of dollars he should not have received, why is the prime minister contemplating giving him any money at all?"

So why has the Harper Government agreed to pay Ms. Ouimet such a sum? According to federal labour standards and the Prime Minister’s own statements they are under no obligation to do so. Hush money perhaps? Whatever, it sure stinks to high heaven.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Repair the broken windows and the rest will follow.

The local news tonight covered a story about some Carleton University students who had figured out a way to obtain laundromat services for free. A lot of them took advantage, which isn’t all that surprising really since I don’t know any university student who wouldn’t try to get something for nothing if they could. Not only are budgets tight, but let’s face, there’s a thrill associated with doing something you know is wrong and getting away with it, or “putting it to the man” in 60’s vernacular.

But what was surprising to me were the number of students prepared to go on television and say publicly, yeah, I defrauded the University (or the laundromat franchisee) and I have no intention of paying up.  They are basically admitting that, yes I stole some money, and no, I’m not going to pay it back. (The amounts aren’t trivial, in the hundreds of dollars for some students. The University is however going after the money, for which there is now mucho howling and whining from the perpetrators about how unfair that is.)

Is this the same sense of entitlement at play that says it’s okay to download stolen, or pirated, movies without paying for them? broken-windowOr music? Or 3rd year term papers?

I don’t know, but when I see our prime minister stand up and defend illegal funding actions as “accounting disagreements”, or justify tampering with signed government documents as “administrative issues”, it becomes significantly more difficult for society to take a moral stance and challenge the ethics of those who see nothing wrong with such behaviour.

We have a lot of broken windows to fix.