Saturday, April 23, 2011

The party for the perpetually angry

From the here-we-go-again files, Canadians with Liberal Party lawn signs are finding tires slashed, brake lines cut, and their property vandalized. True to form some Conservative supporters are trying to lay the blame on the Liberals themselves (“Knowing the Liberals, they likely slashed their own tires in a bid for attention.”), or the NDP. But until someone is arrested for this criminal behaviour (and yes, it would still be a criminal act if a Conservative supporters’ tires were slashed) we’ll never know the truth.

CPC logoBut one thing we do know is that Stephen Harper has changed the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada into the party of choice for haters and fear-mongers, a safe haven for anyone who views a political opponent as the Antichrist, and indulges and even encourages a fearful populace: We need jets because the Russians are coming. We need more prisons because criminals are running amuck. Immigrants are taking our jobs and bringing terrorism to our shores. The Liberals/socialists/separatists are out to ruin the country. Michael Ignatieff is smart. Jack Layton is a Taliban lover.

It’s an unrelenting message of fear - fear of the future, your neighbours, a coalition, your (“Lieberal”) friends, the new (and different) family down the street. And those message tracks resonate most strongly with the perpetually angry, those who feel disenfranchised in some way and want to even the score. It’s the Palin effect and it drives a certain behaviour, a behaviour which I believe is sometimes manifested in slashed tires because someone truly hates you for having a different political viewpoint.

That’s why I intend to vote for a message of hope on May 2. We can have a strong democracy and solid fiscal management. We can be compassionate without triggering a crime spree. We can defend our borders without writing blank cheques for jets and imprisoning refugees. And we can work towards a better life for our children and not just for the most wealthy and prosperous among us. But it won’t happen with the Harper Conservatives.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“That’s not true”: Stephen Harper channels Alberto Fujimori

FujimoriAccording to the Sun’s intellectually challenged editorial writers and various blogging wingnuts, Michael Ignatieff’s comment in the debate about letting flowers bloom clearly demonstrates that he is a closet Maoist intent on bringing communism to Canada. And that’s real bad, eh?

So here’s a counter-argument, applied to Harper’s most often used phrase in the last few months:

I guess if Stephen Harper needed a mentor to provide him with content for last night’s debate he could do worse than Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced Peruvian president.

“That’s not true” is a quotation widely attributed to the Peruvian strongman who, according to the BBC, “rode roughshod over the country's democratic institutions in order to preserve his hold on power.” Appropriate, no?

Fujimori was in power in Peru for 10 years, from 1990 to 2000, a period marked with controversy, including claims of unfair control over the media and using government resources to support his campaign.

In 2000 he fled to his native Japan and attempted to resign his presidency from abroad. The Peruvian Congress rejected his resignation and sought his extradition. In 2007 he was finally returned to Peru to face the charges against him.

In December 2007 he was sentenced to 6 years in jail on charges of abuse of power and banned from holding office until 2011. In 2009 he was found guilty of human rights abuses and sentenced to a further 25 years for murder and kidnapping. Finally, also in 2009, he was sentenced to another 7 1/2 years for embezzlement of treasury funds. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A gun registry primer

For the purposes of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Canada’s gun registry laws as presently enacted. I am not at all averse to licensing owners or registering firearms, but I do take issue with the criminalisation of those who don’t register or simply forget to renew. The punishment is, in my opinion, nothing short of draconian for what is essentially an administrative issue. (Thanks to Stephen Harper it’s now acceptable to refer to illegal acts as “administrative issues”. Thanks Steve.)

Having said that, I can’t believe the Conservatives continue to get so much traction on this issue as registering your firearm is the very last and by far the easiest step in the process.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process, here it is in summary.

So you want to buy a .22 to keep your rural property free of varmints – the 4-legged kind, not the Liberal canvassers going door to door during an election campaign.

First you need to take a Canadian Firearms Safety Course and pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course Test. The course takes a minimum of 10 hours to complete and the pass mark is 80%. Courses typically cost about $200. That’s Step 1.

Once you have passed the test you can apply for a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). The application form asks for more information than a passport application, including details on your mental health, your marital status, and criminal background, among other things. The application also requires the signature of your spouse (“Current Conjugal Partner”) and any previous conjugal partners (good luck getting those). 

PAL applicationA PAL costs $60 and is good for 5 years, after which time it must be renewed with reaffirmations of your mental health, etc. Failure to renew may result in charges under the Criminal Code. There is a waiting period of 28 days. RCMP background checks take a minimum of 45 days to complete, during which time the varmints are multiplying like crazy in your corn patch.

Once the authorities have deemed you mentally stable enough to own a firearm they will (eventually) send you your Possession and Acquisition License in the mail, and you have completed Step 2.

Elmer_FuddNow you can take your new license to your local gun store and purchase your .22. You fill out some paperwork there transferring ownership to you, and walk out with your rifle, all registered and legal and ready for varmint extermination. Step 3 and you’re done.

And it’s ONLY this VERY LAST STEP that is so objectionable to the Conservatives. They have no issue with asking personal questions far more intrusive than the long-form census. They have no issue with knowing all about your marital status, your mental health, and your financial health. But for some reason, knowing that you actually possess a weapon is a major affront to their sensibilities.

As Alexander Mackenzie once said, “Logic sometimes has very little to do with political action”.

How not to sell (me) a car

I was waiting in my dealer’s showroom last week as my car was being serviced and overheard this conversation between a young sales rep and a potential customer.

“Can I help you?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m thinking of buying a new truck.”

“Will you be financing or paying cash?”


“Okay, have a seat please.”

At this point the sales rep brought out a form and proceeded to interrogate the client. He had still not introduced himself.



“Own or rent?”

“How long at that address?”

“What is your annual income?”

“Where do you bank?”


The customer patiently answered every one of the questions. And it was only after all that the sales representative finally asked him what kind of vehicle he had in mind.

I can’t imagine this is how it’s taught in Selling Cars 101. Is meeting the clients need no longer the number one objective in the sales cycle? I would have been gone long before he got to asking whether I owned or rented my home, and the rep would likely still be wondering what happened.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Those of you know me know I’m one of the follicly challenged members of the species.

While not the stuff of Harlequin bodice-ripper covers or heart-throb movie stars it does have its advantages. For example, I have not had to replace a lost or broken comb for 20 years. Nor have I ever had to worry about no shampoo in hotel rooms as a bar of soap will suffice. And hair dryers? No need. Five minutes (30 seconds in a stiff breeze) and my hair is dry.

All of which is to say that hair care is not a matter that preoccupies my mind. Until this morning that is. There was a new bottle of shampoo in the shower – Fructose or something like that – so I tried it. And now my head smells like a mango. I think I’ll go back to soap.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

10 awesome things about spring

In no particular order:

  1. The first crocus pokes its head out of the ground.
  2. Putting away your winter boots. (And coats, and hats….)
  3. Your motorcycle is back on the road.
  4. Hot cross buns.
  5. Booking the first tee time of the year.
  6. Every day getting longer.
  7. Sitting on the deck with a cold beer and a good book.
  8. The furnace no longer runs 12 hours a day.
  9. Watching the last of the snow disappear.
  10. Maple syrup.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Setting the record straight

I have been accused in various online forums, and personally, of harbouring feelings of hatred towards supporters of the Conservative Party. “How can you sleep at night?” one person asked.

Well to answer that last question, I sleep just fine.

To lay all my cards on the table I will say this. Until Stephen Harper came along I was politically unaligned. I followed the campaigns and I voted for the candidate I felt would best represent me in Ottawa; sometimes that was a Liberal candidate and sometimes a Progressive Conservative. Stephen Harper changed that and, as I posted here, turned me from being undecided to becoming a vocal Liberal supporter.

And here’s why:

  • When campaigning, Stephen Harper assured Canadians, on numerous occasions, that they would never raid “Seniors hard earned assets” by taxing income trusts. Within the year they enacted legislation to tax trusts, taking billions out of the economy overnight, and have steadfastly refused to provide any financial justification for the move. I, and hundreds of thousands like me, will suffer the results of that betrayal for a very long time.
  • Stephen Harper campaigned on open and transparent government and has since led the least open and least transparent Canadian government of all time. Access to information requests are being held back and interfered with by political operatives. Duly elected members of Parliament are being refused access to budgetary information and details on international military operations – information to which they are fully entitled.
  • He has shut down Parliament through prorogation rather than being forced to address the legitimate concerns of the opposition parties.
  • His government has publically said they will not recognize bills duly passed by Parliament and the Senate (Bill C-377 for example). 
  • His government has managed to alienate enough of Canada’s previous allies that we were denied a seat at the UN Security Council. That’s another first for Canada.
  • He has said that a Parliamentary construct, a “coalition of losers” in his terms, is illegitimate. It is not, although he and his caucus persist in claiming it to be so; this in spite of his own well documented attempts to establish his own “coalition of losers” in the past.
  • His government has been found in contempt of Parliament – the first time that has ever happened in Commonwealth history. And not by a so-called cabal of opposition parties, but by the Speaker himself. And his response? It’s just a “distraction”, and “you win some, you lose some”.
  • The Conservatives played fast and loose with election funding to improperly gain almost $1 million in taxpayer rebates. And Stephen Harper’s response to $1 million in taxpayer money illegally going to party coffers? It’s an “administrative affair”, move on, nothing to see here.
  • When Stephen Harper closed the doors on Parliament and went hat-in-hand to the Governor General, John Baird publically said that if the GG didn’t do what they wanted, they would bypass her and go directly to the Queen.
  • On two separate occasions he has used Senate appointments as taxpayer-funded pre-election campaigns for Conservative candidates – Michel Fortier and Larry Smith. 
  • Senior civil servants and managers, when they tried to speak truth to power, were summarily fired or attacked: Linda Keen, Richard Colville, Munir Sheikh, Kevin Page, Robert Marleau, Marc Mayrand, Pat Stogran, Paul Kennedy, etc.
  • His government oversaw the largest abuse of civil rights in Canadian history with the G8/G20 fiasco in Toronto. And it cost the Canadian taxpayers somewhere between $1 and $2 billion for that 2 day photo-op.
  • In the current campaign, people are being turned away from his events because they also attended a Liberal or NDP function, or sported an NDP bumper sticker on their car, actions for which he blamed his staff – the usual response.

And the list goes on.

When I discuss any of this with my conservative friends (contrary to popular opinion I do have quite a few) the counter argument is usually some combination of: the Liberals were worse; Iggy isn’t a “real” Canadian; or the gun registry. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got. And I just don’t understand how that is enough to justify continuing the abuses of power we’ve seen over the past 5 or 6 years.

So no, I don’t hate Conservative supporters (although I do admit to despising Stephen Harper himself). But I am baffled by them.

Friday, April 1, 2011

An inconsequential, banal, silly word

Stephen Fry was being interviewed on CBC this morning, and the conversation turned to Twitter. According to the New York Times magazine, he is one of the world’s leading twitterers (tweeters?) with a number of followers that is approaching 2.5 million (yes, 6 zeroes after that). In the conversation Fry described how he views Twitter as a vehicle for personal communications, and said that Twitter is “an inconsequential, banal, silly word for inconsequential, banal conversation”.

Having been on Twitter for a few weeks now, I can agree with part of what he said, but not all. Certainly the content is sometimes inconsequential and banal, which I find surprising even though most of those I follow are politicians, political journalists or news broadcasters. Not to pick on Kady O’Malley, for whom I have great respect, but I really don’t care if her dog Berry (of course) has a new sweater or she wore the wrong shoes for standing out in the cold. I follow her for her reporting skills and her ability to cut through the political BS. Ditto Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells, et al.

Where I do have the issue is with Twitter being considered a conversation medium. Following someone may give the illusion of having a conversation -- tweets appear in your in box much like an instant message pops up in Messenger -- but that’s where the similarity ends. Twitter is a broadcast medium and about as conducive to having a “conversation” as trying to have a tete-a-tete with the guy on the podium who’s yelling through the bull horn when you’re in the middle of a crowd of five thousand. When the famous, almost famous, and the merely well-known can easily have thousands of followers, there is no way to engage in any meaningful way. If even one-tenth of one percent of Fry’s followers sent him a message on any given day, he would have to wade through 2,500 tweets, clearly an impossibility.

So the next time you fire off a tweet to Steven Harper (115,815 followers), Michael Ignatieff (78,102 followers), or even Kady O’Malley (9,598 followers), don’t hold your breath for a response, or even an acknowledgement. You’re in the crowd and they have the bull horn.