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November, 2009:

The Middle Kingdom may never be the same

I’m off on an adventure tomorrow as I take flight on a 12 day business trip to China.

I am very fortunate to have a gig where I get to travel every now and then… not too much but just enough to scratch my itch.  Too much travel would mean too much time away from the kids, and that would suck.

Provided there aren’t any serious problems with access to my site, I’ll be posting updates from Beijing – as time allows. This is, after all, a business trip and the schedule is pretty packed.

I am all a-twitter as a school kid thinking that in just a short while, I will be experiencing the sights and sounds of a world that is purportedly much different from my own. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, the Olympic facilities and all of the other sights and sounds will be fascinating!

I’ll post a short entry in Toronto during our 2 hour layover at Pearson, and then the next time you’ll see something scribbled in this space, I will be in the Middle Kingdom!

Hmmm…. I wonder what the Chinese will think of a bald, goateed white guy walking around in a Leaf sweater?

(1033)

I really like this Colton Orr fellow…

Hee. Sens suck.

(697)

Thanks Jim

Once again, Canada is a world freakin’ leader when it comes to environmental policies.

ESPECIALLY  those policies that may help keep Halifax’s Citadel Hill from becoming Citadel Island.

NOT!

And this moron is our ENVIRONMENT Minister?

The Conservative government has promised to cut Canada’s emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels by the year 2020. Prentice said he’s optimistic that despite these delays, Canada will still meet that target.

Woo-hoo! We rock.

We used to, anyways. Now we just suck.

I’m ashamed.

(1005)

Do as I say, not as I do – The curious tale of Randy and Scott

Over at Cowboys for Social Responsibility, the author has commented on how a local council has reacted to Federal and Provincial interference in the planning of an important local infrastructure project.

Folks in Lanark County are well known in Eastern Ontario for their Back Off Government signs dotting farms and villages throughout the area. They aren’t too keen on politicians of any stripe – most of all, outsiders. In general, they find a home under the vermin-infested ReformCon tent hearkening to the small government rallying cry that is popular among their adherents.

Conservative MPP and former Ontario Tory leadership candidate Randy Hillier and his pal Tory MP Scott Reid have found themselves in some political difficulty at home by interfering in a Council decision on how to upgrade the local sewer and water system.

Hillier and Reid are proposing a make-shift and cheaper plan.

It’s an option doesn’t satisfy the township council or the district health unit. They say it doesn’t not address the sewage half of the problem or guarantee all residents potable water.

The Randy and Scott Show want to install filters on the pipes of affected households water pipes. Really? Why not just buy each household a jug of Javex?

Furthermore, they are calling for a community referendum to force the duly elected Council into changing their plans.

Whatever happened to Big Government butting out, Randy?

This is a really good example of how political this whole infrastructure thing has become.  It really hits the fan at the local level where the local councillors, by and large, honestly do want the best for their constituents and don’t try to play a partisan game. Yeah, yeah, I know that pork-barreling is part of the game regardless of the party in power.  But interfering in the local decision-making process has not been part of this dance in the past with other parties.

Remember how John Baird interfered in Ottawa’s transit plan?

I can relate to all of this.  While a municipal councillor in Ontario during the Harris years, I and my fellow Councillors were quite worried about saying anything that would piss off our PC MPP.  Don’t upset the apple cart or else that funding promised to upgrade the boards in the hockey rink? Well, that may just not happen.

Wink, wink.

(429)

Nik on the Numbers and Harper’s best options

As someone in the information collection industry, I tend to look to look at polling numbers with a bit of a critical eye. Sample sizes and distributions, question wording and order and the presence of absence of any group (e.g., political) affiliation always plays on my mind when I see the “latest numbers”.

That being said, I have the utmost respect and admiration for how Nik Nanos goes about his business. He is informed, employs scientific, robust methodologies and has no apparent vested interest in the results that he produces.

This is why I don’t really give any great cred to most of the other polling firms. Most but not all (Environics and Decima are also respectable) have an agenda biasing their research that is more often than not funded by a political master or someone beholding to a political master. Not so with Nik.

I have the latest Nik on the Numbers emailed to me as soon as they are available and are often the highlight on my data-filled day.

Yes, I am that lame.

From collection ending Nov. 10:

Looking at which of the party leaders Canadians believe would make the best Prime Minister, Stephen Harper now leads by a significant, 17 point, margin over over Michael Ignatieff. This represents the widest gap since Ignatieff was elected leader of the Liberal Party.

Factoring the advantage in the ballot box and on the best PM front, the Conservatives currently have the upper hand. The dilemma they face is that their numbers are strong but it is difficult to take advantage of it politically because of the Harper communications mantra that “this isn’t a good time for an election”.

Likewise, with a defeat in parliament at the hands of the opposition parties not imminent, it is hard for the Tories to plead the instability or unworkability of parliament.

Dead on.

Harper is in an enviable situation. The economy is on the upswing. His MPs haven’t done anything way too moronic lately. He is looking less like a robot and more like a cyborg.

And there is really no serious opposition. The recent by election results have confirmed this.

The Grits are in big trouble as Iggy has yet to define himself in any meaningful way. I’m sorry Warren et al, but he just hasn’t done it for Canadians yet. This lack of an identifiable Opposition leader has given the ReformCons ample opportunities to slip in their agenda relatively unopposed because they know that if the Opposition were to bring the Government down on a confidence motion at the moment, a Harper majority – and possibly a large one – would be the result.  Then the Harperites could go back to pleasing their base of the support (western social conservatives) by passing legislation that will have little appeal outside of the West or rural, backwoods ridings. But it won’t matter at that point since he will have been given a firm mandate for 4 years and damn the bleeding hearts to hell if the abortion, capital punishment, anti-drug issues are back front-and-centre and environmental initiatives and social programs are shelved.


I have warned the Grits before
that if they did not get down to the business of having Iggy grab an issue – any issue – and running with it, then the Cons would continue to frame the debate to their advantage. And they have.  This could have been mitigated if Iggy had:

  • Not been invisible last summer
  • Stood up as the champion of the Canadian health care system while it was being assailed south of the border. Even the Albertans would have applauded this!
  • Clearly enunciated a distinctive environmental policy that would move us toward lessening our GHGs
  • Fill in any other example you can think of

So what is Harpy to do? In my mind, he is correct from a strategic perspective to not force an election right now. Canucks are too preoccupied by the Piggy Flu, the onset of cold weather and how much the Leafs are sucking this season.

His chance will come in the spring when the economy has picked up a bit more steam, the flowers are blooming and Canadians from coast to coast emerge from their annual winter funk. Around the beginning of April, I reckon, Stevo will introduce poison pill legislation that none of the 3 Opposition parties can stomach.

And unless the Cons stumble badly over the winter, we’ll be looking a predominantly blue HoC by June.

(2320)

The cost of maintaining a charade

I have commented a couple of times about Canada’s attachment to the archaic institution that is the monarchy of the United Kingdom.

The Ottawa Citizen says that:

Canadians pay about $50 million a year — about $1.53 per person — to maintain the monarchy, a figure on a par with the $1.43 we pay for the National Gallery of Canada, and significantly less that the $2.45 each shells out to keep the Senate warm.

Robert Finch, the Dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, argues that the monarchy brings political stability to Canada.

“It’s an institution that has given us a good system of government for generations and also provides us a symbolic sense of unity. That national unity and political stability that comes with it should be reason enough alone to want to maintain it.”

Finch points to last year’s parliamentary stalemate — when the Governor General agreed to Prime Minister Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament rather than allow a coalition of Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois govern.

“Having that non-partisan head of state in the Queen, represented by the Governor General, was kind of like a neutral referee,” he says. “That’s the perfect textbook example of a monarchy working. The system stood the test.”

Finch calls this figure “peanuts” and “a drop in the bucket.”

“I’m a tax-paying citizen as well,” he says, “and we always begrudge spending money, but $50 million is not a lot.

It is often misleading to break down large expenditures to a per capita number. It is used primarily to either control for population – like what you see in solid waste stats, for instance, or to diminish the importance of a given number.

But I don’t know about you, but $50 million is not exactly “peanuts”, as the Monarchist League fellow claims. Figgering $200 K a unit, that money would set up 250 low-income houses. It would set up thousands of Canadian kids with hockey equipment. It would feed thousands of hungry families for a year.

The list goes on.

Finch crows with pleasure while stating that last year’s parliamentary crisis was a perfect example of the usefulness of the monarchy.

Poppycock! Any duly elected parliamentary president could have served the same function. And at a far lower cost than the 50 mill that the monarchy is costing us! In any case, having an appointed representative of a foreign monarch making critical, nation-changing decisions spits in the face of democracy.

Charles and the royal consort have met with some opposition during their visit here over the past couple of weeks.  And while I despise the Bloq and the separatists with every thread of my soul, their anti-monarchist statements ring true…. though I’m disgusted by the egg throwing and general rowdiness.

Maybe we Canucks will someday cut this cord to a bygone time. But I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. In the meantime:

Long Live the Republic of Canada!

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When did Canada become so militaristic?

So tomorrow is Remembrance Day, right smack in the middle of Veterans Week.  In the past few weeks, there have been interviews with ex-soldiers on CBC and elsewhere. Rick Hillier’s book is doing well. Afghanada is a radio serial on the MotherCorp and by all accounts is listened to by, if not legions of CBCers, at least a battalion or two. I’ve caught a couple of episodes… good stuff.

Don Cherry cries on the air every Saturday night when a soldier falls.

Red ribbons are everywhere. Many wear red on Fridays. There are public debates on whether the Feds should make Remembrance Day observance mandatory by businesses and schools instead of voluntary, as they are now.

When did this augmented sense of militarism happen. Did I miss the memo? Veterans Week? How long has that been around?

Any reader of this blog will know that I am very much a peacenik. I do not believe in war. At all – with VERY few exceptions.

I do not believe in the military, but know that at this stage of human evolution, military forces will continue to exist for a long time to come.

I do not diss soldiers and certainly wish them well but do not believe in what they do. I admire that they believe that their job is important and that they willingly put their lives on the line in this belief… I simply don’t share their beliefs.

And the fact that my point of view and those of others like me is becoming increasingly marginalized really disturbs me. Canada as a quiet peacekeeping nation was tolerable for a peacenik like me. Canada as a boastful, über-patriotic, militaristic, American-like nation is not.

But how and when did this happen?

It is generally agreed that there has been a marked move to the social right of the political spectrum in this country. The current government in particular, with it’s roots in western social conservatism, has been actively supporting a guns and god agenda. The more that a citizenry feels allegiance to the “flag”, the more likely it will be to turn a blind eye to policies that they may otherwise find distasteful. I’m not saying that Harpy is completely behind all of the renewed rah-rah, but he is a keen strategist who is seizing upon the rightward shift and the tangential increase in support for things traditionally supported by the right – e.g., the military.

There is also the lingering 9-11 effect. I think Canucks, like our southern neighbours, felt more than a bit threatened by the events of that day. We retreated into a comfortable cocoon where we called on the comforts of bygone years to assuage our fears. We, even a bit, looked to the folks holding the guns to protect us from the perceived threat. And when we were not hit by a terrorist plot (at least not yet), we gave an appreciative nod to the cops and the military for a job well-done.

I find that as I age, I am becoming more set in my ways when it comes to my basic belief systems.  For example, I feel much more strongly now than in my 30’s that opposition to war in almost any case is a morally just stance and that there is almost NO moral justification to take up arms. Too much suffering – both by those actively participating in a conflict and by those caught in the cross-fire (civilians) – and, IMHO, to little morally justifiable end.

I do not think we should be engaged in foreign conflicts and believe that it is a completely unnecessary waste of young and talented lives. I mourn these men and women while simultaneously condemning the governments that sent them into harm’s way.

Again, I do not demean these brave folks. But what about those men and women who also put their lives at risk for their country or community? What about the cops? Firefighters and other emergency professionals? Do they not at least merit equal treatment? Many die in the line of duty in acts that are moral and just by any measure. There is seldom ambiguity – especially in the case of firefighters.

I know I’m going to catch some flak for this post. Yet the main reason I have a “blog” is to express my unsolicited opinions and ideas openly and freely and I should not be held back by the prospect of being flamed.

And yes, I will wear a poppy. But only on November 11. And while I am silent for that minute or two, I will think about John Lennon’s words in the hope that no more young Canadian lives are lost in a place where we really shouldn’t be:

“Give peace a chance.”

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War. What is it good for?

Frankie says:

Oh no-there’s got to be a better way
Say it again
There’s got to be a better way-yeah
What is it good for?

War has caused unrest

Among the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die?

War-huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War-huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Yeah

War-I despise
‘Cos it means destruction

Of innocent lives
War means tears
To thousands of mothers how
When their sons go off to fight
And lose their lives

I said
War-huh

It’s an enemy of all mankind
No point of war
‘Cos you’re a man

[Repeat]

Give it to me one time-now
Give it to me one time-now

War has shattered
Many young men’s dreams
We’ve got no place for it today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord, there’s just got to be a better way

It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War
Friend only to the undertaker
War

War
War-Good God, now

Now
Give it to me one time now
Now now
What is it good for?

(509)

OC Transpo fare increases… not as bad as it looks

There has been much gnashing of Ottawa student teeth, and Ottawa seniors’ gums, over the past week concerning the OC Transpo fare increases to be put into place next summer. Students are crying “poor us… why won’t anyone think of the children!?” And grey-hairs are croaking “dag-nab-it! we’re entitled to lower fares than everyone else! We went through WW2 and the Great depression, you know!”

Now, I am NOT one to defend the increases or essentially anything that OC Nogo proposes, but in this case I have to (gag!) set that aside.

Planning future revenues is essential to any business and the better the projections the better informed the business decisions. The Ottawa transit goofs are no different.  They need good information on ridership to be able to make decisions on everything from capital investments to staffing.

Plus, single tickets and monthly passes mean higher administrative costs than those associated with passes of longer durations; say annual or per semester passes.

As the handy-dandy table below illustrates, there is an attempt to get commuters to commit to a transit pass of longer duration. Thus the fee adjustment are lower for the annual and semester passes and higher for single tickets and monthly passes. This is not new. OC Transpo, and I suspect most public transit organizations, have been moving in this direction for quite some time.

faresLook at the bottom of the scale and you can see that student passes (in yellow and senior passes (in grey, of course) are increasing only marginally. all of the other increases fall somewhere between the two (my pass is coloured green in the table above).

While I don’t think for a moment that the increases in costs will result in better service, I can appreciate why OC Transpo is structuring their fee increases in such a manner. Sure, it is a bit harder to come up with the higher up-front annual fee – especially for those on fixed incomes – but the City is giving everyone about 8 months to put aside the money.  A senior need only save $50 per month in order to purchase an annual pass next summer.

Even for most pensioners, that’s really not much to ask, is it?

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Congratulations to Ottawa Public Health!

Just a quick tip of the cap to everyone involved in the delivery of the H1N1 vaccine at the Jim Durrell Centre yesterday.

Expecting chaos yesterday morning at 7:45 am, I packed drinks, snacks, reading materials, ensured my mp3 and cell was charged, dressed warmly for the inevitable wait outside in the cold and flurries… etc. I was prepared for anything!

Except for an efficiently-run process…

After all of the media accounts I had heard and read in the past few days, I had expected disorder to reign, a long wait and cold feet. But what I got was, chronologically:

7:45 am : a nice greeting at the door, shown to a seat inside (?!!)

8:00 am: told that wristbands would be distributed shortly

8:15:  moved to another waiting where wristbands were distributed by a very enthusiastic and funny gentleman

8:45: given wristbands and, after staff ensured that they were firmly affixed to my wrist, I left the building.

Total time elapsed – 1 frickin’ hour!

So fine, they got the wristband thingy right… surely things wouldn’t be as smooth at the appointed time of 5 pm?

But again, I am happily surprised. We walk into the arena at 4:55, are greeted with a smile, documents checked and all-injected and outta there after the obligatory wait in the designated area by 5:20.

Wow.

This whole business may be a bit wheezy elsewhere, but on this particular day and in this particular place, they sure knew what they were doing!

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