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January, 2011:

Rob Ford: now where’s that number for the Army?

“I’m sure that damned socialist Lastman left it around here somewhere. Maybe Cherry knows.”

The Big Smoke and environs is due for another 20-30 cm of army-inducing snow tomorrow. Madness will ensue. Civic officials will publicly fret. Rob Ford will declare an emergency when his fave Timmie’s drive-through is blocked by a snowplow and he is unable to get his double-double and honey cruller.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, we might get an inch or two. But Parliament is back in session, so that makes up for it.

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Blog of the week

This week, I am profiling a blog that is all about living and consuming while being sustainably-minded.

The Mindful Merchant, always has some good insights on how to turn just thinking about our environment into actions that might mitigate our environmental impacts. Acting sustainably is a tough thing to argue against no matter where on the political spectrum you plop your behind.

Take this recent article on alternatives to rock salt, for example (for those readers in warmer climes, rock salt is used on driving and walking surfaces to melt ice in order to make surfaces less slippery and much safer.) Clearly, The Mindful One has done loads of research on this post, as is the norm for her.

Another post from last summer is one I have periodically directed folks toward when questions of product labeling arise. Even I, as someone who works in the environment field (loosely speaking), did not know that the label or term “non-toxic” was an industry devised-marketing word and means diddly squat. I really thought that Health Canada or Industry Canada or someone monitored this stuff!

Go on over and visit the Mindful Merchant sometime… you might just learn something!

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Egypt

Democracy seems to be catching.

But I am more than a little worried that this may not turn out well in the end as Mubarek desperately clings to power.

From this G&M report, it sounds like anarchy reigns at the moment in the streets of Cairo. Cell phone service is sketchy. SMS capability has been cut off. The Interweb has been shut down. The government is doing all it can to keep protesters from communicating with each other and organize protests. But it doesn’t seem to be working. More riots, more looting and more uncertainty.

Almost all businesses have remained closed today, except for those cleaning up from the overnight attacks by roving gangs of looters. The posh Arkadio shopping mall near the World Trade Centre and beside the Fairmont Hotel was looted and set ablaze last night. In early afternoon, black smoke continued to pour from the building.

Today, a couple of fighter jets did a low and slow fly-over of the protesters.

Surely they wouldn’t turn their guns and bombs on their fellow citizens, would they?

And which Arab nation is next?

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Over-the-top and out of context attack ads. And potties.

Attack ads “drag the political process right down into the toilets.”

Nice rant by Rick.

Common household toilet AFTER having been exposed to political attack ads.

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School system choices: one parent sums it up nicely

I have often lamented Ontario’s wasteful 4 track education system – especially the non linguistic based dualities of the Public and Catholic Boards of Education. I firmly believe that most if not all of the financial ills that face our system of publicly-funded education could be cured not by first looking to private sector alternatives like Charter Schools, but by eliminating religion-based education.

And I would dearly love it if a high level politico at the Provincial level would have the guts to make this a ballot box issue. But I am not so naïve to believe that this will happen any time soon.

But it will happen eventually. It must.

Anyhoo…

Megan Cornell runs a nice blog where she opines on a number of things, but many are education or childcare related.  She, like my wife and I, will be seeing her child enter JK this fall. And she, like my wife and I, considers this to be an important step in the development of her child.

In Megan’s latest entry she talks about having to choose a school and school system. This was not ever an issue for me. Because of my wife’s upbringing, we could have sent either of our children to one of the four Boards in Ottawa. But for us, it was really a no-brainer – the OCDSB was the only choice possible.

Here’s how Megan described her decision:

Next up: the Catholic Board.  Here’s the thing: I fundamentally do not believe that our publicly funded schools are the place for religion of any type to be taught.  I was raised going to Church and our family currently are members of a Church and attend regularly.  I believe that religious education should be delivered by family and religious institution, not the state.  Full stop.  I also believe that there are compelling financial reasons for there to not be four school boards in Ottawa.

Well put, Megan. It is good to hear a community leader like yourself making strong and accurate statements like these. It will take a groundswell of opinions like these to make a difference and bring about real education reform in Ontario. Religious education should NOT be delivered by the state.

Hopefully, someone is listening.

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Evil Empire sending more Death Stars to Canada!

Oh goody.

Just the news I like to see on what is already a dreary and grey Ottawa day.

Walmart is planning on opening 40 so-called “supercenters” in Canada by year’s end. They claim it will generate 9,200 jobs.

Having never set foot inside one of these dens of phthalates and underpaid labour,  I really have no idea what a “supercenter” consists of?

Super-sized customers?

Super-crappy products?

Supercilious managers?

Superficial adherence to basic health and safety requirements?

Or the fact that these blue boxes plopped in the middle of everywhere are a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious blight on the landscape.

Sigh.

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Death penalty poll – is this for real?

The Sun media group is all over a poll released today by Abacus Data that 2/3 of we meek and mild Canucks are in favour of killing people to show that killing people is wrong. It is is also noted, however, that less than half (41%) want it formally reinstated.

Putting aside the clear statement of ambivalence expressed by the respondents to the poll – 66% of Canadians support the death penalty “in certain circumstances,” but only 41% want it brought back it back a punishment for murder – I have a few other issues with these numbers.

First, it was a poll of randomly selected adults from an online panel of over 400,000. Web-based polls have an inherent bias that should be acknowledge in any analyses of the results.

I looked at a similar question that was asked by EKOS in March 2010 (sample size of 2,302, phone survey), and the results were more closely aligned with those 40-odd percent who indicated in the Abacus poll that they would want it brought back in legislation.

Forty-six per cent do not support the reintroduction of capital punishment while 40 per cent do. Another 14 per cent said they had no opinion.

Data from 2000 suggests that opinions on this issue have remained relatively unchanged in 10 years. In June of 2000, 43 per cent disagreed with capital punishment while 44 per cent agreed with it.

Those who support the reintroduction of capital punishment tend to be Conservative supporters (53 per cent), residents of Alberta (48 per cent), men (43 per cent), seniors (45 per cent), high school grads (48 per cent) and college grads (46 per cent).

Which begs another question…

Second, where is the regional breakdown in the Abacus poll? There isn’t one. And why is that? Because the sample size is not large enough. A sample of 1,100 will yield you good results at the national level but won’t get you anything provincially. And THAT is where the interesting results would be seen.

For example, will anyone dispute that the likelihood of someone in Alberta supporting the death penalty is greater than someone in, say, Ontario. No, of course not. And where is the CPC base?

Now, I’m not throwing the Abacus polling results out the window. All I am saying is that with polls such as these, one should be very careful about drawing conclusions. The CPC would love everyone to believe that indeed most Canadians are behind Harper after he muses on being “personally” in favour of the death penalty. While in fact, these numbers may be more a case of strong regional bias coupled with the bias inherent in a web-based panel.

Just sayin’…

Of course, a Harperite who reads this will accuse me of liberal bias or some such nonsense… go ahead… throw it at me…

And in case you haven’t noticed, I am. for the record, not in favour of the death penalty.


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Gable’s editorial cartoon in the G & M

Related to yesterday’s post. Nice one Mr. Gable!

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L’équip «votez pour les Conservateurs!»

Now THIS is going to be interesting!

As reported by ThreeHundredEight.com, all 5 of the CPC’s Québec City area ridings are at risk if they choose to not fund a new arena for the City – and thus prop up their chances of regaining and NHL franchise.

The poll shows that the Tories are not even secure in their “fortress” of Quebec City. But, the poll (quite excellently) asks how voting intentions might change if the Conservatives decide to fund the planned hockey arena for the city.

The Conservatives could potentially put all five of their seats in the region at risk if they don’t fund it. Fully 23% of Conservative supporters in and around Quebec City would vote for another party if the funding doesn’t come. That would drop the Conservatives to only 22%, and likely mean they would be swept from the city.

However, if they fund the arena 24% of people planning to vote for one of the other parties would switch to the Conservatives. Assuming they keep the support they currently have, that would bump them up to 46% in the city and almost certainly mean a sweep of all seven ridings.

I would love to see a team there… as I would in Winnipeg. They should never have lost the Nordiques and the jets in the first place. But times were different then – what with the 65 cent dollar and all.

But the fun part of all this will be how the CPC dances around this issue knowing full well that their absence at the funding table may well mean no majority government. Five seats could easily swing the pendulum either way.

They really CAN’T support sports “welfare” without looking totally hypocritical! The Opposition Grits and Dippers would pounce on it! Hell! They don’t have anything to gain in that part of Quebec!

But the Bloq would have a field day, wouldn’t they?

The SH government hasn’t had a lot of lose-lose situations in the past 5 years. It will be interesting to see how they spin this.

Stay tuned!

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Volunteers and the school community

My family and I returned about an hour ago from a function at my daughter’s school. One of the parents (and a friend of ours) organized a Multicultural Potluck Dinner night – and what a success it was!

Like many schools in Ottawa, ours is home to families from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.  It was thought that it would be nice to present everyone with an opportunity to turn a dreary January evening into something a bit more special by having a potluck dinner reflective of their own particular background. The results was an enormous variety (and quantity) of scrumptious dishes from around the globe! Irish stew, spanakopita, Afghan rice, cabbage rolls, samosas, an Israeli apple and noodle dish, Somali chicken… you name it!

(For the record, I wanted to bring KD with chopped up hot dogs sprinkled with a generous helping of curry power – but the Resident Love Goddess nuked the idea.)

Annyyywaaayyy…

What always blows my minds about these cooperative volunteer efforts is the degree to which not only the main organizers dedicate themselves to the task at hand but how others put their shoulders to the wheel as well – without being asked.

Case in point this evening. I, along with a few others had indicated that we would stick around after the dinner to break down the tables, stash away the chairs, etc., etc. But we, in fact, didn’t need to work as nearly as hard as we expected because just about everyone – upon realising that the evening was coming to an end – pitched in. what would have taken more than an hour for 4 or 5 of us was accomplished in a fraction of the time. Carrying tables and chair back to their homes,  dodging kids who were chasing each other, packing away food and drink, picking up garbage… and all worked like a moving symphony. It was great to see.

But that’s the thing about a community, isn’t it? We don’t really need potluck dinners and School BBQ’s and Christmas concerts and book sales to come together as a school community. We do it anyways. But events like the one tonight give us the opportunity to openly celebrate our community – and its importance to we families who comprise it.

And what a great thing for me to write about instead of the shameful shenanigans of our so-called political “leaders”. Harper, Ignatieff and the rest could learn a thing or two from little functions like this… not a gram of cynicism, hyperbole or vitriol to be found; just a community coming together and sharing some good food.

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