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I Am Skooter  So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
i wanna hold you in the bible black pre-dawn / you're quite a quiet domino
— Wilco, I am Trying to Break Your Heart
January 5, 2015
This Hour Has 22 Minutes: Quebec and Canada

Posted by skooter at 5:48 AM
Tags: Comedy, Politics, Quebec

August 5, 2012
Canadian Made


A very cute into to a new TV show (apparently…I remain blissfully unaware of these things.)

Also a very cute brief history of Canada.

Posted by skooter at 11:25 AM
Tags: Canada, Television, Videos

May 3, 2011
My Orange Wardrobe was Ahead of Its Time

I haven’t written about an election in a while. There’s a reason for that: after being heavily involved, I’ve sat a few out for a variety of reasons. Primarily, I needed to focus on work and not be distracted. It’s not a decision I regret at all.

I’ve been disillusioned by the party system for some time. There was a time when politics wasn’t run by focus groups, when politicians had personalities and ideas. Party discipline and toeing the party line has always been a reality but not to the degree that it is now.

Pierre Trudeau certainly ran a tight ship, but dissent was tolerated and probably—given the passion with which he pursued his ideals—expected. Chretien was less tolerant, but that Little Guy from Shawinigan schtick played well enough that he could shrug off internal problems pretty effectively (though they did rear their head at times.)

Paul Martin was a different breed. Paul Martin took over the Liberal Party in a palace coup. Those latter years questions about Chretien’s leadership? Those were the workings of a Paul Martin tired of waiting. He decided to take his own leader down from within.

This coincided with the rise of a reunited Conservative Party of Canada (note the lack of a Progressive title) under Stephen Harper, a man whose tolerance for dissent is low enough that even his cabinet ministers are rarely allowed to speak on behalf of their portfolios.

These two things marked the start of the current era of Canadian politics, and it’s an era that will end with the death of the Liberal Party of Canada and the rise of a new centre, probably in the form of a modified NDP.

Here’s why.

When Paul Martin took over the Liberal party he was burdened with two gifts by Jean Chretien: the sponsorship scandal, and major reforms in election financing. The first was a short term bomb, but not one that mattered last night. If you asked Canadians an unprompted question about why they weren’t voting for the Liberals in 2011, the sponsorship scandal wouldn’t have made the list. It was bad, but it’s past. It will come up after that fact amongst the pundits, but the average person has long since let it slip from their memory.

The electoral financing reforms were a bigger problem, because they hit the Liberal fundraising machine hard. If electoral reform hadn’t been in place, Paul Martin would have had the highest level of corporate donations ever. Instead of collecting large cheques from his corporate friends, Mr. Martin was required to collect a lot of small ones from individuals. The Liberals weren’t very good at this, and when Mr. Martin left the party’s coffers empty and the seat count down the party failed to build a culture of raising money to suit the new rules.

For three elections, this has been true and in each of those three elections the Liberals have run a different leader. The lack of donations led to a reliance on public funding and the lack of consistent leadership led to a lack of a platform with any content. They ran on the basis of not being Stephen Harper, instead of putting forward a vision. There were no ideas. There was no great leap forward proposed.

People vote for ideas. As Jack Layton said last night, quoting one of Canada’s great leaders from the past, “Dream no small dreams.” People vote for ideas and dreams. When there aren’t any dreams, they make the safest choice—usually that means the same old thing.

Stephen Harper has led for almost 10 years now, and in those years he’s generally been mostly harmless from the perspective of a lot of Canadians. His priorities aren’t those of mine and my friends, but he’s done a decent job of avoiding alienating people. He hasn’t legislated on abortion, he did try to kill the gun registry but failed, he’s lowered taxes (which everybody likes, even if they won’t admit it.)

Stephen Harper hasn’t exactly set out a grand vision for the future of Canada either, but he’s been mostly harmless.

Sure, people like to trot out that Contempt of Parliament issue and it’s significant but too many people don’t understand it and even more just see it as party bickering. In fairness, it was a bit of party bickering. I think the Conservatives hold my country in contempt, but I think a Liberal party that likes to refer to itself as the “natural governing party of Canada is equally contemptuous.

Until the Liberals drop that viewpoint, there’s little to hope for in the future. As long as they remain a party of entitlement, the party is on the way to oblivion.

Some good things happened last night: Elizabeth May was elected, putting the Green party in Parliament for the first time; Jack Layton’s NDP has taken much of Quebec and the Bloc Quebecois is certain to be gone, making Quebec a player in national politics for the first time in 20 years (though don’t be fooled by the media reports of the death of separatism;) orange is the new dominant colour of the centre, and that’s great for my wardrobe.

Some bad things happened: the news media keeps talking about a four year Conservative government, which suggests that they’ve completely forgotten to read the constitution (which defines terms at five years); a Conservative majority is almost certain to lead to the repeal of the gun registry and quite possibly a woman’s access to abortion; the arts are likely to be cut more savagely, and I have little hope that Canadian businesses will pick up that slack.

The worst thing that happened last night didn’t even happen last night. It happened on December 12th of 2003, a day that’s burned into my memory for a few reasons. As of now, it’ll be the day that Paul Martin was appointed as Prime Minister of Canada and the final nail was placed in the coffin of the Liberal Party of Canada. Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff helped but make no mistake: the funeral started on that day.

The Party of Trudeau, the party of my youth started suffocating and dying on that day and last night was its final breath. Oh sure, they’ll probably run candidates in a couple more elections but in the long term the NDP will move a bit closer to the centre and the left wing of the Liberal party will gravitate to where it wants to be: in power, with Jack.

Today, another Trudeau is being mentioned as a leadership candidate. Trading on nothing more than a name and a boost in personal fame that came at the funeral of his father, this Trudeau brings nothing to the party or the country. Not half the leader his father was, the frequency with which his name is mentioned is as sure a sign of the decline of the party as any other. Decline leads to decline. We’re far enough down this spiral that the way out is hard to see anymore. The longer they remain on the fringes out of power the harder it will be attract quality leadership as it gravitates towards the NDP.

Orange is just a lighter shade of red, after all.

March 3, 2011
The Harper Government Uproar

It seems that Stephen Harper’s decision to ask senior civil servants to use the phrase The Harper Government to describe the Government of Canada has caused quite the furor. The Globe & Mail now writes that Harper has been accused of shaping other language to suit the government’s political ends.

Offensive? Maybe. Surprising? Absolutely not. I’m more surprised that the media has kicked up a fuss.

This is what politicians do. They manipulate language and choose words to obscure hard truths and blunt the impact of messages they think will be unpopular. These linguistic games are have been going on for years: Barak Obama had the audacity to hope for just about everything; George Bush senior had his 1,000 points of light that appeared to shed little light on anything;Mike Harris’s “common sense” revolution conveniently ignored much that made sense;Trudeau’s “just society” while a noble goal masked a deficit spending addiction; troops returning from the Gulf War suffered from a “syndrome” instead of being shell shocked.

The line goes back much farther than that, but a detailed tracing of each point on it is hardly necessary to make the point. I can’t understand why the Globe is surprised: manipulating language is what politicians do. Stephen Harper’s just doing an extremely bad job of hiding it.

October 13, 2010
Douglas Coupland's Massey Lecture

Douglas Coupland delivered the Massey Lecture at UBC's Chan Centre The annual Massey Lectures are presented by CBC and since 1961 have featured a noted Canadian academic or scholar delivering a lecture on the topic of their choice each year. This year’s lecturer is West Vancouver’s Douglas Coupland, perhaps best known for his fiction writing but also a prolific artist and designer of all sorts of things (and a fan of platonic solids, I’m told.) His Digital Orca is a beautiful and welcome addition to Vancouver’s selection of public art. Coupland and I share a Lego fetish.

I’ve never been fond of Coupland’s fiction. Girlfriend in a Coma was the first book written by Coupland I read: it was horrible. It may be as simple as us having gotten off on the wrong foot, but I tend to think of him as writing witty dialogue wrapped in bad fiction. The slavish devotion of his fans to his wildly inconsistent body of work annoys me (though slavish devotion to anything tends to do so—it’s not specific to Coupland.) I’ve enjoyed his non-fiction and am particularly fond of pointing out that his role as an unrepentant whore for Vancouver and its charms is something I’m rather fond of.

I won tickets to see the lecture though, and so I went. He’s an engaging person in no small part because he sees the world through multiple prisms—including those platonic solids—and doesn’t narrowly define himself as a writer or a painter or a designer. Our world needs more of these people, before we develop too many silos.
Douglas Coupland delivered the Massey Lecture at UBC's Chan Centre

September 18, 2010
Rob Feenie and Eric Foskett of the Cactus Club

Chefs Rob Feenie and Eric Foskett of the Cactus Club Vancouver’s own Iron Chef Rob Feenie was at the Caffe Artigiano at Broadway and Cambie in Vancouver with Cactus Club executive chef Eric Foskett. They both very kindly allowed me to take their photo.

July 1, 2010
Klahowya Village in Stanley Park

Klahowya Village in Stanley Park Klahowya Village in Stanley ParkKlahowya Village in Stanley ParkKlahowya Village in Stanley ParkKlahowya Village in Stanley ParkKlahowya Village in Stanley Park The Klahowya Village is in the heart of Stanley Park, and celebrates the cultures of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations who once called the park’s lands home. There are more photos on flickr

June 20, 2010
RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293

RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293 RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293RDM Technology BV 105mm Howitzer Gun Serial #34293

Posted by skooter at 3:31 PM
Tags: Artillery, Canadian Forces, Howitzer, Military

June 14, 2010
Beaver Top Hat on Main Street

Beaver Skin Top Hat on Main Street, Vancouver A man needs beaver fur top hat. What more is there to say?

Posted by skooter at 9:14 PM
Tags: Beaver, Canada, Hat, HBC

June 13, 2010
Snoopy vs. the Red Baron at the Billy Bishop Legion

Currently my favourite piece of artwork in the city of Vancouver. It’s been here for years, and I’ve only just discovered it. My grandfather learned to fly in a Tiger Moth biplane so I sort of think of him as Snoopy.

June 2, 2010
Douglas Coupland's Pixelated Orca Statue

Douglas Coupland's Pixelated Orca Sculpture Douglas Coupland's Pixelated Orca Sculpture Douglas Coupland's Pixelated Orca Sculpture

Located on the western side of the new Vancouver Convention Centre, the Douglas Coupland created Digital Orca sculpture takes Coupland’s fascination with Lego to its natural extreme.

Posted by skooter at 1:54 AM
Tags: Douglas Coupland, Orca, Sculpture, Vancouver

May 29, 2010
Writing Honestly about Canadian Healthcare

Jeffrey Simpson writes a rare and honest article about the status of the Canadian healthcare system. I’ve added the emphasis.

We can’t afford to live in health-care denial
The public has been blissfully ignorant that budgets are growing at an unsustainable pace

For some years now, we’ve had a slowly worsening problem of financing health care. Many people, including university health-care “experts” who dominated a lot of public debate about the issue, denied the existence of a problem. The Romanow Commission of 2002 ignored the challenge entirely. Politicians knew a problem was emerging, but were scared to talk about it, fearing public reaction. A few lonely voices tried to alert readers or listeners to the looming problem, but they were derided. The public was blissfully ignorant that health-care budgets were growing at an unsustainable pace.

In the recent past I’ve had conversations with friends in the United States who were excited about President Barak Obama’s recent healthcare, but confused by the mechanics of its implementation. Many of these conversations revolved around what they really wanted which, it turns out, is a classic myth: free healthcare, Canadian style.

I pointed out a few of the many flaws and myths of the Canadian system: it’s not free, most provinces now have a monthly fee (in British Columbia it’s about $57 a month); waiting lists exist and are sometimes long, and those with sufficient wealth are often able to jump the line—I know of one politician who paid for an MRI during an election campaign and kept it quiet; elder care is an increasing problem, and one the system isn’t really dealing with; it’s not a national system in anything other than name, as it’s administered by the provinces who jealously guard their territory.

The single biggest flaw I pointed out, however, is the one that Simpson points out above: Canadians simply aren’t able to have a conversation about healthcare at all, because it’s such a sacred cow that the minute anybody suggests changing it, everybody runs scared. The new American system may be confusing to the average citizen, but at least there was a national conversation about it.

With an aging population bubble and healthcare budgets that are spiralling out of control, the time is now for having a meaningful conversation about the status of our public healthcare and how to fix it.

The only thing that’s preventing the conversation is fear: politicians are afraid of not getting reelected and Canadians are afraid to admit the system is failing.

We need to get over it.

Posted by skooter at 4:20 PM
Tags: Globe and Mail, Health Care

May 14, 2010
Lorne Guntner on Voter Turnout

Lorne Guntner writes in the National Post about a plan to effectively bribe people to vote by issuing a tax credit. He cites Australia as an example and then hits the key question right on the head (the emphasis is mine):

As voter turnout in our elections has slipped from 70% to 60% to 50% (in Alberta in the 2008 provincial election it was almost down to 40%), more and more of the hand-wringing, eat-your-peas poke-noses who dominate our public debates have called for a mandatory voting law, along the lines of the one in Australia, where non-voters are fined and turnout is often over 90%.

But why do we automatically assume the problem is with those who choose not to vote, rather than with those who have failed to inspire them to vote?

Why indeed?

Canada’s electoral system has essentially evolved—or devolved, depending on your perspective—to reward the middle. It embodies, in its very essence, that most Canadian of qualities: compromise.

Given this tendency towards the middle of the road, is it any surprise that people don’t vote?

Politics in Canada is about continuity more than innovation, and our three major political parties are closer than the media would have us believe. How do we get out of this rut?

Party Discipline and the Whip

Party discipline has gotten so extreme that getting a Conservative backbencher to even open their mouth in public is a miracle. Stephen Harper keeps even his cabinet ministers on such a short leash it seems like every time they talk someone gets in trouble. Couple this with a culture of secrecy—most recently and vividly embodied by the Helena Guergis fiasco—and it’s pretty tough to blame people for not knowing that their government is doing.

The point of using a riding system to elect our Members of Parliament is that each member is suppose to represent their riding. When the party whip cracks down, this doesn’t happen: the member represents the party, not their constituents.

This creates another problem: because elected members aren’t allowed to speak out, the circulation of ideas has been stifled. Members do nothing except toe the party line, which effectively limits discussion to three differing points of view.

An Effective Senate

Electoral reform is huge, and hard to do. This is in part because the structure of parliament is enshrined in the constitution, and in part because very people who need to implement the reform are the ones whose jobs are at danger.

Still…the senate. Useless and ineffective, the Senate has rarely played an active role in Canadian politics, and is fairly legitimately viewed as nothing more than a home for patronage appointments.

Start electoral reform in Canada by creating an effective Senate. Elect them, limit their terms, and make them responsible to someone who has to vote for them. It’s this lack of responsibility that’s especially galling. A government that’s not responsive to its electorate is a dangerous thing.

Proportional Representation

In keeping with reforming the Senate, it should be elected by proportional representation. This would allow it to serve as an effective check against the traditionally elected Parliament.

Proportional Representation creates a body that is freer to speak, less influenced by party discipline and more responsive to voters. All of these things are good.

By keeping the Parliament in its current structure the transition to proportional representation is eased somewhat. There’s a perception that proportional representation can result in an ineffective government that does nothing but squabble internally. The flip side of this is the unstoppable force that a majority government becomes under our current system.

Both of these notions have a kernel of truth to them, and both of these notions have advantages and disadvantages. Implementing both would create something in Canada that’s never existed: an effective check against the tyranny of the majority. At the moment, a majority government is effectively unstoppable. That’s not governing, that’s ruling.

There Are No Guarantees

There’s no guarantees here. Reforming the senate and making government more responsive and effective isn’t a magic bullet to increased voter turnout, and there are certainly other options to consider. Perhaps Canadians are just so comfortable and so complacent that nothing can make them care about their government.

As Guntner has pointed out though, it’s time to stop blaming the electorate exclusively. It’s time to consider the flaws in the system and the role they might play.

May 12, 2010
CBC Radio One Early Edition Mug

CBC Radio One Early Edition Mug Woohoo! I won a CBC mug!

Posted by skooter at 11:59 PM
Tags: Canada, CBC

April 19, 2010
Trenton

Scenes from Trenton, Ontario Scenes from Trenton, Ontario Scenes from Trenton, Ontario

Posted by skooter at 2:19 AM
Tags: Lake Ontario, Trenton

March 29, 2010
Calling it Like it is for the Liberal Party of Canada

As much as I want to like Michael Igantieff, he has yet to bring a vision to the Liberal Party of Canada that will draw voters who are content with the Conservative government away.

Robert Fowler called it as he saw it over the weekend.

‘The Liberal Party today is not the party that governed this country for 30 of my 39 years in public service,’ Mr. Fowler said. ‘Liberals have yet to present Canadians with a cogent vision, one with a fully articulated international dimension of where they stand and what they represent.’”:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/liberal-party-in-danger-of-losing-its-soul-ex-diplomat-says/article1515222/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheGlobeAndMail-National+%28The+Globe+and+Mail+-+National+News%29

Apathy towards politicians has given us a situation where Canadians are now willing to accept government that is “good enough” and that is truly sad.

March 3, 2010
Stephen Brunt - On The Olympics

December 8, 2009
National Public Radio's Best of 2009

Over at NPR listeners (including this one) have chosen their favourite albums and songs of 2009. I’ve got no major quibbles with the list, judged in abstract anyway. I never take the order of these lists too literally (aside from obvious large gaps of the “WTF do you mean Britney Spears ranks 10 higher than Wilco!” sort.) At least three of the top ten are on my list of favourite things from this year.

Most of what they missed is, frankly, Canadian and as such not entirely surprising. NPR listeners don’t get the Canadian content that CBC listeners do. It’s what makes CBC feel like home for me.

I’ll write more later.

Posted by skooter at 4:26 AM
Tags: Neko Case, NPR, Wilco

November 27, 2009
Follow the Leader

Both Barak Obama and Stephen Harper announced they weren’t going to attend the Copenhagen environmental summit, demonstrating a shortsightedness that one would hope world leaders would not exhibit.

A couple of days ago Barak Obama announced that he would attend after all.

Today Stephen Harper announced he would attend after all.

It seems as if Canada is, these days, playing follow the leader to such an extent that we’re not even willing to play in the sandbox until our friends ask us too.

That’s not leadership.

Posted by skooter at 2:50 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Environmentalism, Stephen Harper

August 14, 2009
About Damn Time

The Harper government’s handling of the Omar Khadr affair has been nothing short of a disgrace:

Ottawa must seek Khadr’s return, court rules

OTTAWA—The Canadian Press Last updated on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009 12:27PM EDT

The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling ordering the government to seek the return of Omar Khadr from a U.S. military prison.

In a 2-1 judgment released Friday , the court dismissed an appeal by the Harper government, which did not want to ask that Mr. Khadr be sent home.

Of course Michael Ignatief’s calls for Khadr’s return seem a little hollow, given his past support for the use of torture as a tool in democracies.

Posted by skooter at 6:25 PM
Tags: America, George Bush, Stephen Harper

June 13, 2009
Barak Obama Gets It

It’s called being a person not a politician, and the Democrats probably just got two votes for life.

I can’t help but think that Stephen Harper’s response to the father’s comment in that video would have been to criticize him for not having his daughter in school.

Even the National Post thinks the Conservatives are dead.

Posted by skooter at 5:09 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Stephen Harper

May 20, 2009
LIke Father, Like Son

Quite at random, both Brian and Ben Mulroney made the front page of the Globe and Mail. It’s not often that the worlds of politics and entertainment clash with such vigor.

Brian must be so proud of his son (though I always thought Brian was Canada’s Ryan Seacrest…though I have very little idea of who Ryan Seacrest is.)

Posted by skooter at 3:43 AM
Tags: Ben Mulroney, Brian Mulroney, Politics

May 18, 2009
An Inconvenient Talk

Everybody needs to read this article in the most recent issue of The Walrus. Whether the numbers are perfectly accurate or not isn’t relevant: the reality is that the end of the hydrocarbon is coming, and probably within my lifetime.

Critical points:

[Dave Hughes’] Talk is all kinds of policy-wonky. Your eyes could glaze over. You could even miss the two slides Dave always says are the only ones you must remember. The first is a single-line graph depicting “World Per Capita Annual Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel 1850-2007,” which climbs by 761 percent over its 157-year timeline and flips from 82 percent renewable biomass (mostly wood) at the 1850 end to 89 percent non-renewables (almost entirely fossil fuels) at the 2007 end. The second critical slide has three line graphs in horizontal sequence, all tracking curves that begin in 1850, around the time humanity started drilling for oil in a serious way, and then spiking impossibly high at the right-hand, 2007 termini of their X axes. Global population today: 5.3 times global population in 1850. Per capita energy consumption today: 8.6 times that of 1850. Total energy consumption today: 45 times 1850’s.

I personally think this makes the point rather well:

Even if you’re convinced climate change is UN-sponsored hysteria or every last puff of greenhouse gas will soon be buried forever a mile underground or ducks look their best choking on tar sands tailings, Dave Hughes is saying your way of life is over. Not because of the clouds of smoke, you understand, but because we’re running out of what makes them.

Emissions are the back end of the problem. They won’t matter when there’s suddenly nothing to emit. Of course our economy will collapse since the entire thing is based on hydrocarbon inputs.

Posted by skooter at 11:26 PM
Tags: Cars, Environmentalism

May 4, 2009
The Mayor of Sudbury...

Makes some very good points, and takes Heritage Minister James Moore to task.

Sudbury shows anger at CBC over nickel-and-diming in regions

An already cut-to-the-bone regional CBC outlet - so poor it has already lost most of its ability to travel in the north - is scheduled to lose eight of a very small staff in the cuts being ordered up to meet the broadcaster’s financial shortfall.

Toronto’s regional outlet, says the mayor, loses nothing by comparison.

“There’s no sharing of the pain,” Rodriquez says, “if that’s what they have to do.

“Toronto is well served by radio stations, but up here it’s what connects people from Timmins to Espanola. If there’s any place in Canada that CBC is getting value for its money, it’s Northern Ontario.

“But here they are, chipping away, chipping away…”

The irony has not been lost in this regional CBC operation, nor in others across the country, that the CBC is being forced to cut back services at precisely the same time that the private sector is bailing out of smaller commitments.

“And that,” says Rodriguez, “is the whole point. You can’t rely on the private sector. You have to have the government involved. Top management of the CBC is taking the first steps toward destroying all that the Broadcast Act stands for.”

March 18, 2009
Stephen Harper Moves to Cement his Control

Lost in the wilderness for years, the Conservative Party of Canada’s success can be largely attributed to the grass roots populist Reform movement started by Preston Manning (with a young Stephen Harper serving as the party’s first formal director of policy.)

Part of this populism meant putting a lot of power into the hands of riding associations. These associations did fund raising, community activism and had virtual carte blanche to choose candidates.

Candidate races are good for attention, sometimes. They also provide an incentive for people to get involved. They also, over the years, became not much more than popularity contests: basically the candidate with the most friends would convince them all to sign up for a modest commitment of $10 or so, and in return he’d lock up the race. Great for fund raising, but not great for true involvement.

Everyone was subjected to this, current status notwithstanding. It meant that anti-choice candidates like Russ Hiebert could launch campaigns to unseat sitting MPs. These were ugly fights, and caused fissures in the party. They gave opposition candidates great fodder for critique.

It appears that Stephen Harper has abandoned his populist beliefs, and these ugly fights are no more. From now on, sitting MPs won’t have to justify their seat to the local membership.

Conservative Party’s plan to acclaim incumbent MPs draws criticism
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | 4:15 PM ET, CBC News

The federal Conservative Party is moving ahead with reforms to its process of nominating candidates for elections that will mean incumbent MPs won’t have to fight for nominations in their ridings.

The proposal would declare incumbent MPs acclaimed as candidates in the next election unless two-thirds of members in their ridings ask for an open nomination contest.

I don’t think this is a bad idea, but as a fundamental shift it’s interesting. I suspect that the motivation pretty standard fare: tighten the circle, keep the people you know and trust already close by, make it a bit harder for new people to get in so the boat can’t be rocked. Pretty much every Prime Minister has done it: Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney and (perhaps most obviously and poorly) Paul Martin.

It’s exactly what dictators do too. It avoids dissent from within, and erects significant barriers to entry for new voices. It ensures that the guy in charge stays the guy in charge, at least until the opposition wins.

I suspect that’s going to happen in the next election. I suspect that Stephen Harper is nervous after having failed to achieve a majority government after four elections and that Michael Ignatief shows a lot of promise as a Liberal leader. This is a bit of a Hail Mary on Stephen Harper’s part.

I suspect it’s going to fail.

March 3, 2009
The Same Old Conservative Story

I’m not sure when the Harper government is going to figure out that they need to have ideas instead of just taking everyone else down. This strategy—the only one Harper’s strategist Doug Findlay officially opens up a clear path for Michael Ignatieff to walk to “24 Sussex Drive:google.

Ignatieff to be target of Conservative attack ads
Last Updated: Monday, March 2, 2009 | 11:29 AM ET

It appears Michael Ignatieff’s brief honeymoon with the Tories is over.

The Conservatives are preparing a series of attack ads targeting the Liberal leader by going through hundreds of hours of video clips of his speeches and interviews, according to the Canadian Press.

They hope to glean more fodder for their campaign by mining a lifetime of Ignatieff’s musings from his career as a public intellectual.

February 18, 2009
The Battle on the Plains of Abraham

I understand the sentiment behind why this was cancelled, but I can’t help but perceive this as political correctness winning over history. I had actually considered going to see this.

At this point, I’d like to see a modern day recreation with Rene Levesque leading the French & Pierre Trudeau leading the English side. These modern day warriors are deserving of a tribute, and I can’t help but think that rather than complaining about it happening Levesque would have had the event go forward, thumbing his nose at it the whole time and using it as a tool to remind the Québécois of their oppression by the English majority.

Plains of Abraham re-enactment cancelled
Safety, security concerns spur National Battlefields Commission to pull plug on controversial replay of 1759 France-Britain battle
RHÉAL SÉGUIN, Globe and Mail Update, February 17, 2009 at 2:18 PM EST

QUEBEC — A slugfest of insults between federalists and separatists that threatened to turn to violence led to cancellation of the re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham marking the 250th anniversary of the British conquest of New France.

For weeks a war of words erupted in newspapers, on the web and on open line radio shows where extremists on both sides threatened to use violence to either stop next summer’s re-enactment from taking place or protect it against disruptions.

It appeared as though a modern version of the Plains of Abrahams battle was in the making, which led the head of the federal agency known as the National Battlefields Commission André Juneau to back down from his idea to re-enact the 1759 French defeat at the hands of the British.

“Given the excessive language in the past few days and the threats mad through the media, we could not as responsible agency compromise the security of families and children who could attend the event,” Mr. Juneau said in cancelling the event. “It was odious and unreasonable to have suggested that the Commission planned to celebrate a military defeat.”

Posted by skooter at 1:59 AM
Tags: Pierre Trudeau, Quebec, Rene Levesque, Separatism

January 6, 2009
Best. Headline. Ever.

I just love the headline.

Giddy-up, morning commuters
Last Updated: Monday, January 5, 2009 | 2:16 PM

A lasso might have come in handy during Monday’s commute to work.

Eight horses roamed the streets of Halifax after escaping from a fenced-off area at the Bengal Lancers equestrian club in the central area of the city.

It seems a gate leading to a parking lot on Bell Road wasn’t latched tight enough.

“Horses are a little bit smart. Apparently they opened the gate and left,” said Jill Barker, Bengal Lancers manager and head instructor.

Posted by skooter at 1:43 PM
Tags: Giddy Up, Horses

November 27, 2008
Emerson snags plum Crown position

Wherever David Emerson lands you can be sure that he’ll look after his friends and not the public interest. He privatized B.C. Ferries (leaving me wondering why the Premier of the province announced a ‘rate cut’) and the Vancouver Airport Authority. During his tenure at Canfor David did very well, but the stock didn’t.

Emerson snags plum Crown position
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | 11:00 AM ET CBC News

Former federal cabinet minister David Emerson, who decided not to run in the October federal election, has a new job.

The B.C. Liberal government has appointed Emerson as CEO and board chair of the BC Transmission Corporation, a Crown corporation that works with BC Hydro to supply electricity across the province. He will replace chair Bob Reid and CEO Jane Peverett.

I’m willing to bet that despite evidence that a lack of government regulation is a big part of the current Economic meltdown of the world economy, David pitches a privatization plan for B.C. Transmission within two years. I’ll be glad if I’m wrong.

Posted by skooter at 1:14 PM
Tags: Conservative, David Emerson, Energy, Politics

November 12, 2008
Oh CIBC, Don't Tease Us

Given that CIBC was the Canadian bank with the single largest exposure to the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crises, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in this:

Market near bottom: CIBC
Eric Beauchesne, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
OTTAWA — The deep erosion of Canadians’ investment savings is likely near an end, a major Bay Street investment firm optimistically projected Tuesday, even as stock markets around the world were sinking deeper into bear territory and as the initial euphoria from the latest major economic stimulus announcement — China’s $586-billion US fiscal injection into its giant economy — continued to fade.

Posted by skooter at 1:27 PM
Tags: Banking, Financial Services, Investing

October 15, 2008
Whither Majority?

One loss followed by two Minority parliaments doesn’t seem promising for Stephen Harper, but he’s got the central machine wound so tight that I doubt anyone will seriously stage an uprising. I’m willing to bet that only a loss to the Liberals will prompt a new Conservative leader. Only that drunken Scotsman Doug Finlay knows.

The thing is, especially when you consider that Harper called this election in defiance of his own law mandating a four year term it doesn’t look good. Presumably, they called this thing because their polling said they’d win, and win a majority. When you create an optimal situation for yourself and fail, it seems disingenuous to play it as a win.

That being the case, I can’t imagine whey they’d hang onto this guy.

I, for one, am hoping for either Michael Ignatieff as a Prime Ministerial candidate next time, or a resurgence of Gerard Kennedy who has won his riding. Those are two men I could support. I suspect I’m not going to have to wait four years to find out.

Posted by skooter at 4:43 AM
Tags: Elections, Liberals, Michael Ignatieff

October 14, 2008
Canadian, and Ready to Vote

A good reminder in the Vancouver Sun of the significance of voting.

“Canadian, and ready to vote”: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=a4337f9c-1d62-4006-9031-51a034b13d05&k=97491
Darah Hansen and Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Burnaby resident Madan Lal Bassi has accomplished many things in his 63 years of life.

He is a husband and father, a veteran of the Indian Air Force, a speaker of at least four languages, a globetrotter, and proud new Canadian citizen.

Today, he will add “voter” to that list as he casts a ballot in the federal election for the very first time.

Posted by skooter at 1:28 PM
Tags: Democracy, Elections, Voting

October 5, 2008
Disconnected from Reality

Apparently a few years of watching from the political wilderness haven’t taught Paul Martin any more about political realities.

‘We will elect a Liberal government’: Paul Martin tells Calgary crowd
Last Updated: Friday, October 3, 2008 | 6:09 PM E

Former Liberal leader Paul Martin gestures at a heckler during a Calgary speech. (CBC)
Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin raised some eyebrows in the oilpatch when he predicted the Liberals will form the next federal government.

“When we took office in 1993, the Conservatives left us with a $43 billion deficit. Four years later, that deficit was gone, and when we left office 2.5 years ago, there was a $12 billion surplus and no other country in the world can match that record,” he continued.

“Let me simply say, on Oct. 14, we will elect a Liberal government.”

The emphasis on that last paragraph was added by me.

Posted by skooter at 2:12 AM
Tags: Liberals, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper

September 27, 2008
Listen to the Bell, Mr. Premier...It Tolls for Thee

Gordon Campbell today announced at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting tolls would be removed from the Coquihalla Highway as of 13:00hrs today. The Vancouver Sun provides sufficiently pedantic coverage.

The logic is pretty obvious here: the new Port Mann bridge is going to be tolled, which means this effectively just moves the toll farther up the highway. The route from Vancouver to the Interior will only be toll free for a short period of time. The Lougheed Highway provides an alternate, probably permanently toll free route to the Coquihalla but from Vancouver it adds quite a bit of time: for most people, it’s not practical.

The obvious question though, is what happened to the 2003 plan of privatizing the Coquihalla. At the time, Transportation Minister Judith Reed explained the decision by saying that:

“As the 17-year-old highway ages, maintenance and rehabilitation costs will grow. These improvements must be made in a way that ensures the 81 per cent of users from outside the southern Interior pay the largest share, and benefits frequent travellers - especially local residents.

The government—the same government—at the time insisted that privatization was the only way to keep the Coquihalla running effectively into the future. There was just no other way.

The government press release is archived here but I’ve excerpted it after the break in case that URL changes.

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
2003TRAN0031-000436
May 6, 2003
Ministry of Transportation

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW FUTURE FOR COQUIHALLA HIGHWAY

MERRITT - A new maintenance and operations arrangement to manage the Coquihalla Highway will improve services, reduce costs for residents who are frequent travellers and create new infrastructure for the southern Interior, Transportation Minister Judith Reid said today.

Under the new arrangement, the Coquihalla roadbed and right-of-way will remain publicly owned, while a private-sector investor will be sought to assume responsibility for the operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of the highway between Hope and Merritt. Legally binding service and safety standards will be set under a 55-year contract, ensuring long-term reliability and predictability in operations.

“The Coquihalla Highway is a major trade route for the southern Interior and has the potential to be an even stronger economic engine in the future,” said Reid. “As the 17-year-old highway ages, maintenance and rehabilitation costs will grow. These improvements must be made in a way that ensures the 81 per cent of users from outside the southern Interior pay the largest share, and benefits frequent travellers - especially local residents.

“By providing more efficient and reliable operations over the long term, the new model will help transform the Coquihalla to create new economic growth, improved infrastructure and new opportunities for southern Interior residents. The Coquihalla is a great asset. And it can be so much better, with new capital, new energy and a new focus on improved customer service.”

Tollroad News (a finer example of micro-marketing I can’t possibly think of) has an archive that includes a look at the economics of the B.C. governments proposal.

September 22, 2008
Sometimes You Can Judge People by Who They Associate With

You can draw your own conclusions:

PMO pressure contractor to remove ‘xenophobic’ jokes
Military equipment supplier’s website mocked Muslims, women, bilingualism
JOAN BRYDEN, The Canadian Press
September 22, 2008 at 4:49 AM EDT

OTTAWA — A company that supplies knives, flashlights and other equipment to the Canadian Forces referred to Muslims as “rag-headed, heathen, bastards” on its website as recently as yesterday when the federal government complained.

Gear Up Motors’ website was replete with other jabs at women and Liberals and mocked official bilingualism and concerns about global warming.

But with Canadian troops risking their lives in Afghanistan, the passage about Muslims was the most likely to raise alarm.

“Jihad? I’ll give you a Jihad you miserable, rag-headed, heathen, bastard!” said a caption posted over a photograph of a rifle-toting John Wayne.

September 20, 2008
It's Not Like They Didn't Know

The NDP absolutely knew about Kirk Tousaw’s past. I’d have more respect for them if they kept him running, frankly. Sort of a stand by your man situation.

It wouldn’t even be that hard to pitch the guy as a hopeless candidate (there’s no way they’re going to wind Quadra in this century) and argue that they want him in the race in order to prompt the discussion.

This being Quadra — with an average household income significantly above the national — the economic argument for legalization might even fly, or at least be interesting. Essentially I’ve always viewed this as an economic argument: a tonne of money is spent prosecuting relatively minor infractions. All of that money would now be saved. Add to that the potential for taxation of an illegal crop, and the NDP could argue that they’d fund social programs with the savings and revenue.

I’m not personally pro-legalization, but I do see the viewpoint.

Ah well, Kirk. Sometimes your past comes back to bite you. It’s not like you were going to win anyway.

Another NDP candidate quits in B.C.
Last Updated: Friday, September 19, 2008, 7:19 PM ET

The federal New Democrats lost another B.C. candidate Friday, the second to quit in a matter of days.

Vancouver-Quadra candidate Kirk Tousaw, a civil liberties lawyer and former campaign manager for the B.C. Marijuana Party, resigned Friday afternoon.

Tousaw has been a long-time advocate for the legalization of marijuanna and once appeared on Pot TV, a website run by party leader Marc Emery. He is also chair of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s drug policy committee.

Posted by skooter at 2:46 AM
Tags: Drugs, NDP

September 7, 2008
October / And the trees are stripped bare / of all they wear / what do I care

Stephen Harper went for a walk this morning, and came back with a writ of election from the figurehead Governor General.

Scott Shipway won’t be voting for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and it’s my suspicion that fewer Canadians than he suspects will.

Another Conservative majority government, a new Liberal leader (hopefully Michael Ignatieff,) a Conservative party in disarray due to a fear of choosing a new leader after what can only be called an electoral failure, Jack Layton remaining in place, if only because of the NDP’s acceptance of failure.

That’s what I think October 15th is going to look like, but I’m sitting this one out anyway.

August 29, 2008
One Business I Wouldn't Want To Be In

That Zoom airlines collapsed isn’t really a surprise. It’s really only a matter of time before Canada is back to having only Air Canada as a carrier. I doubt even Westjet will survive. The population is simply too small.

Then again, I may be wrong. We’ll see.

Posted by skooter at 1:42 AM
Tags: Airlines, Airport, Business

August 28, 2008
Smelling an Election in the Air

It’s well known, by now, that the media smells an election in the air. Stephen Harper is making his wish to go the polls the worst kept secret in Canada.

Another sure sign is the sheer number of email messages I’m getting from people who haven’t contacted me in four years. It happens every season. It’s not a good smell.

Don’t let Harper fool you, by the way. He promised fixed election dates, and passed the legislation. That he’s now weaseling out of a date he committed to is tantamount to a lie. If he hadn’t made the commitment, it wouldn’t be an issue.

August 12, 2008
The Rain in Toronto

The thing is, if people in Toronto weren’t complaining about the rain they’d be complaining about the heat and humidity. It’s always something out there.

Posted by skooter at 1:33 PM
Tags: Toronto, Weather

August 2, 2008
Edmonton

I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid going to Edmonton, but work had me there for three days recently.
A user group sponsored training course was the reason I was there.
Can-Cell industries hosted the training courses at their main warehouse.

Drinks at Joey’s only (we went to two locations.)
My first (and hopefully last) visit to the West Edmonton Mall. It actually felt remarkably small.
The view from the hotel. Stunning.

Posted by skooter at 3:43 AM
Tags: Canada, Edmonton, Travel, Work

August 1, 2008
So...um...yikes?

I don’t think I’ve been this shocked in a very very long time.

This particularly gruesome detail was the most chilling:

Then the incident became even more macabre. The attacker returned to the victim’s side and began sawing through his neck. A few moments later, he walked to the front of the bus holding a decapitated human head, displaying it to the 34 passengers and the bus driver standing outside.

Posted by skooter at 4:51 AM
Tags: Bus, Crime, Greyhound

May 28, 2008
Bernier quits cabinet post over security breach

Is anybody falling for this?

Bernier quits cabinet post over security breach
Foreign affairs minister departs ahead of ex-girlfriend’s TV interview
Last Updated: Monday, May 26, 2008 | 11:04 PM ET CBC News

Embattled Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has resigned from cabinet over a security breach involving classified documents, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters on Monday.

Posted by skooter at 1:46 AM
Tags: Conservative Party of Canada, Politics

April 30, 2008
Trippy, But Kind of Cool 2010 Mascot Cartoon

Posted by skooter at 5:59 AM
Tags: Olympics, Vancouver Olympics

April 23, 2008
Silly Silly Prince Edward Island

Canada’s smallest province has Canada’s highest concentration of golf courses. Why would a sensible government ban cosmetic pesticides but allow the largest offenders to continue to use them is a very good question.

Any pesticide ban should exempt golf courses: committee
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | 9:10 AM AT

A legislative committee looking at the use of cosmetic pesticides on P.E.I. is recommending that any ban implemented should cover the whole province, with the exception of agriculture and golf courses.

The committee was not asked to look at whether a ban should be put in place; only at how one might be implemented. It presented its findings in the legislature Tuesday.

Posted by skooter at 1:48 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, PEI

April 10, 2008
Surprising, But Rational

I think the surprising thing here is that this decision came from a supposedly pro-business free market Conservative government. It’s a pretty rational decision though.

Federal government blocks sale of MDA space division
Last Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2008 | 8:24 AM ET CBC News

The federal government on Thursday blocked the $1.3 billion sale of the space technology division of Vancouver-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates to a U.S. firm.

In a letter this week to Alliant Techsystems Inc., Industry Minister Jim Prentice said he is not satisfied the sale will be a net benefit for Canada, the minister confirmed Thursday.

Posted by skooter at 1:59 PM
Tags: NASA, Space

March 26, 2008
This Is Not News

Let’s not pretend the Liberals and the NDP haven’t been doing this for years. Why it’s suddenly news because the Harper Conservatives are is a mystery to me.

Conservative headquarters scripting calls to radio shows
ALEXANDER PANETTA
The Canadian Press
March 25, 2008 at 6:15 PM EDT
OTTAWA — Next time you’re listening to your favourite radio phone-in show, those pro-Conservative opinions you hear from callers might not be as spontaneous as they sound.

Some of those apparently ad-libbed musings are actually being choreographed at the Conservative Party of Canada’s national headquarters.

The governing party has produced talking points for grassroots supporters on a variety of issues, feeding them lines on everything from climate change to child care.

The technology angle is nice though. In the past, these types of talking points have gone out by email, usually by back room organizers.

March 20, 2008
The Two Canadas

From Foreign Policy, Number 81, Winter 1990—1991 published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Written by Jeffrey Simpson. It’s interesting how much this post-Meech pre-Charlottetown paranoia has simply evaporated from the political system, despite the fact that Quebe politics continues to be dominated by le Bloc Québébois

Twenty-five years ago, a royal commission investigating relations between English and French-speaking Canadians warned that “Canada, without being fully conscious of the fact, is passing through the greatest crisis in its history.”…

Today, despite myriad institutional and policy changes over the past two and a half decades designed to smooth relations between French and English-speaking Canadians, the commission’s words still aptly describe Canadian reality…in the aftermath of the June 1990 collapse of a constitutional accord desired by the French-speaking province of Quebec.

The failure of the so-called Meech Lake accord…and especially the bitter debate outside Quebec has pushed support for Quebec independence, or at least increased sovereignty, to its highest levels ever.

…today many Canadians—and certainly a majority of the English-seaking ones—have not fully grasped how and why the Meech Lake trauma left Canada so badly shaken.

…Quebec is slightly over-represented in the Conservative party government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, himself a Quebecker. No policies of the national government are considered so iniquitous or injurious in Quebec that the province should leave the country on their account.

And yet the threat to Canadian unity has never been more severe than in the aftermath of the collapse of Meech Lake…It is a crisis that envenoms further what the French observer André Siefgried…called in 1907 the “fears and jealousies” between English- and French-speaking Canadians. it is a crisis of confidence about whether Canada, after 123 years as a federal state, is still worth the effort.

The Meech Lake Accord was both cause and victim of these “fears and jealousies.”….

Meech Lake…crystallized a debate between two fundamentally incompatible views of Canadian federalism that Canadian politicians of every stripe had frequently attempted to fudge: the view in Quebec that the province deserved special recognition and particular powers because of its French-speaking identity; and the view elsewhere that all provinces must be constitutionally equal…This outdated idea left behind both multicultural Canadians, who now represent nearly a third of the population, and Canada’s aboriginal peoples, who felt excluded from the debate.

A poll by the Globe and Mail or Toronto and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation taken four months before the collapse of Meech Lake showed that 71 per cent of respondents knew little or nothing about the accord, yet a similar number professed strong or very strong views about it. A poll by the same organizations just after the accord’s demise showed that, despite months of media saturation, 62 per cent still knew little or nothing about the accord but a similar number had strong or very strong views about it.

Meech Lake had its political roots in a 1984 campaign speech given by [Brian] Mulroney…He promised to bring Quebeckers into the Canadian constitution with “honor and enthusiasm,”…

…For more than 20 years before the referendum Quebeckers had been debating their role in Canada; the referendum seemed to clinch their adherence to federalism. Mulroney perceived that if certain modest constitutional changes were made, moderate French-Canadian nationalists, including many who had campaigned for sovereignty-association, could be reconciled to federalism for a very long time.

…By promising to offer Quebec constitutional changes, he made the conservatives the preferred party for almost all French-Canadian nationalists.

Quebec presented five basic demands…Meech Lake was duly signed by the prime minister and the ten provincial premiers in the early spring of 1987….When Quebec’s National Assembly became the first legislature to approve Meech Lake on June 23, 1987, the three-year time clock began ticking.

At the time of Meech Lake’s negotiation and for some time thereafter, the accord scarcely touched the nation’s consciousness.

The first blow against Meech Lake was delivered by the father of the 1982 constitutional changes, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In a series of scathing public criticisms, he tore into the accord, claiming it would eventually grant Quebec special status…

Subsequent provincial elections in Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland brought to power premiers who had not signed the original Meech Lake accord…Attempts were made for a year to find a solution to the impasse through public debate and federal provincial meetings culminating in a marathon six-day, closed-door meeting in June 1990.

…Nothing was more damaging in English-speaking Canada than a decision by the Quebec government in December 1988 to ban outdoor signs with advertising in both English and French…the Supreme court hinted that a law that gave French a predominant position on outdoor signs with another language less-prominently displayed, was acceptable.

…[Quebec Premier] Bourassa, worried about an upsurge of nationalist sentiment, invoked the “notwithstanding clause”…

The premier’s decision brought about the resignation of three respected English-speaking cabinet ministers…To [moderate English-speaking Canadians] the decision signaled Quebec’s apparent indifference to attitudes elsewhere in Canada, an indifference that hardened attitudes against what Quebec was seeking: the Meech Lake accord.

With Meech Lake the focus of Canadian attention, old grievances toward Quebec where aroused. In Manitoba citizens bitterly recalled a decision of the Mulroney government to grant aircraft maintenance contract to a Montreal company, despite a less costly and technically superior bid from a Winnipeg firm. In Newfoundland, citizens remembered a reprehensible hydroelectric deal by which Hydro Quebec took power from the rivers of Labrador for a pittance then resold it at a huge profit to the United States…

Since 1968, with two very brief exceptions, prime ministers have come from Quebec…The next election will also be between parties led by Quebeckers: Mulroney and Jean Chrétien, the new leader of the opposition Liberal party. Some of the popular resentment in English Canada can be explained by imagining the reaction in America if every president since 1968 had come from the northeastern part of the country.

…the more interesting and difficult question is, What does English Canada want?

The mutual misunderstanding that often bedevils relations between French- and English- speaking Canadians reflects the traditional, and quite erroneous, view in Quebec that the rest of Canada…resembles Quebec: a relatively homogeneous bloc of people that can easily come to a national consensus…English-speaking Canada is nothing of the sort…Approximately 50 per cent of the children in the Vancouver elementary school system are of Asian descent; in Toronto white Angl-Saxon Protestants are now a minority.

…Canadians face three concerns that have plunged English-speaking Canada into a crisis of identity…First, the Mulroney government has pursued an agenda of deficit-reduction, privatization and trimming of social programs….

Second, the free-trade agreement with the United States severely divided English-speaking Canadians…A slim majority of English-speaking Canadians opposed free trade, many of the bitterly and passionately…the French-speaking population harbored no fears of cultural assimilation or loss of political sovereignty…

Third, Meech Lake once again forced English Canadians…to accomodate themselves to proposed constitutional changes beneficial to a province whose chronic restlessness and indifference toward the rest of Canada made it a source of profound irritation…If Meech Lake passed, many English Canadians concluded, Quebec would simply use the accord to demand even more powers and gradually achieve soverignty-association.

…In Manitoba…One politician—Elijah Harper, the only aboriginal politician in the legislature—used procedural tactics to prevent debate…

The defeat of Meech Lake has changed Canada’s future. The constitutional status quo is finished, though no one knows what will take its place…

In Quebec…Eight members of parliament—six Conservatives and two Liberals—resigned from their parties to for le Block Québécois in the House of Commons and a candidate from the new block trounced the old-line parties in a summer by-election in Quebec…

A year may pass before the political battle lines are formed in Quebec…During the referendum campaign of 1980, the overwhelming majority of business leaders in Quebe were hostile to sovereignty. Many are now willing to accept whatever political option Quebec chooses…

The free-trade agreement has encouraged Quebeckers to believe they are no longer dependent on the existing Canadian federal system for economic prosperity….Quebeckers assume that if they opt for independence, they could easily negotiate a similar deal with Washington…

…After nearly 15 years of deficit-financing, the country’s national debt consumes about one-third of every tax dollar sent to Ottawa…

Canada’s prospects after Meech Lake are complicated by the erosion of the national arties’ ability to build bridges between the two major language groups and among far-flung regions…as le Bloc Québécois is grabbing natinoalist votes in Quebec, a new formation called the Reform party is making important gains in Alberta and British Columbia…

Canada, in its own modest way, has represented a noble political experiment that a country could be formed in defiance of the enormous economic and cultural pull of the United States…

At the core of that distinctiveness lay an accommodation between French- and English- speaking Canadians and a mixed economy in which government plays a more interventionist role in society than it does in the United States…the Meech Lake accord shattered, probably irrevocably, the possibility of a harmonious accommodation between French- and English-speaking Canadians.

March 15, 2008
For An Independent Quebec

For An Independent Quebec appeared in Volume 54 of Foreign Affairs in 1976. It was authored by René Lévésque.

Launced in 1967—68, the Parti Québécois, whose platform is based on political sovereignty, now fills the role of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition in the National Assembly—as we nostalgically designate our provincial legislature.

The next election might come any time now; this year in the fall, just after the Montréal Olympics, or at the latest in the fall of 1977…The present provincial government, a branch of the same Liberal Party which also holds power at the federal level under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is obviously on the way out. It has been in power for six years, and ever since its send and Pyrrhic victor in 1973 (102 seats) it has been doing steadily downhill.

Throughout the next hundred years…French Québec…held on obstinately, according to its lights and as much as its humble means made it possible, to those two major ingredients of national identity—land and language.

Small and impotent though it was, French Québec never quite forgot the potential nation it had once been…Now and then, there were stirrings: a writer here, a small political coterie there; a great upsurge of nationalist emotions, in the 1880s around the Riel affair…

Inevitably there had to be a spillover into politics. More than half of our public revenue and most of the decisions that count were and are in outside hands, in a federal establishment which was basically instituted not by or for us…about 80 percent of Québec savings and potential investment capital ends up in banks and insurance companies whose operations are none of our business.

…while this dialogue of the deaf was going on and on, the idea of political independence reappeared as it had to. Not as a dream this time, but as a project, and very quickly as a serious one…and finally to a full-fledged national party in 1967-68. These were the same two years during which, by pure coincidence, Mr. Trudeau was just as rapidly being elevated to the heights as a new federalist champion from Québec.

…Our aim is simply full equality by the only means through which a smaller nation can reasonably expect to achieve it with a large one: self-government.

We do not accept the simplistic domino there, where Québec’s departure is presented as the beginning of a fatal dislocation…

Either-Ottawa-or is very simply inspired by prejudice, the origin of this nonsense mostly to be found inspired by prejudice, the origin of this nonsense mostly to be found in the tragic month of October 1970 and the great “crises” which our political establishments, under the astutely calculating Mr. Trudeau, managed to make out of a couple of dozen young terrorists, whose ideology was a hopeless hodgepodge of anarcho-nationalism and kindergarten Marxism, which ad no chance of having any kind of serious impact…A great spectacle produce in order to terrorize the Québécois forever back into unquestioning submissiveness, and, outside, to feed the mill of scary propaganda about how dangerous this tame animal could nevertheless be!

In brief Québec’s most privileged links, aside from its most essential relationship with the Canadian partner, would be first with the United States—where there is no imaginable reason to frown on such a tardy but natural and healthy development…The Québec would look to other Francophone or “Latin” countries as cultural respondents, and to France herself—who would certainly not be indifferent to the fact that this new nation would constitute the second most important French-speaking country in the world. In brief, such is the peaceful and, we confidently hope, fruitfully progressive state which may very well appear on the map of North America before the end of the decade.

Posted by skooter at 4:44 AM
Tags: Pierre Trudeau, Quebec, Rene Levesque, Separatism

March 14, 2008
Canada Votes for Separatism

No…not now, but back to 1978 again. From The Economist, October 21, 1978, Vol 269.

Canada Votes for Separatism
If Quebec still rejects the tories while the rest of Canada turns sour on Mr. Trudeau, the coming general election may break the country

Canada now stands poised for a fateful choice: a choice that will determine whether it continues to exist. Monday’s mini-election…revealed the perilous weaknesses both of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government and of the opposition Progressive Conservatives… [Mr. Joe Clark’s] own party, while triumphantly capturing no less than five Ontario seats formerly held by Liberal minister, failed once again to penetrate Quebec.

…the separatist tide that had swept Mr. Lévesque into office came up against a formidable barrier: the existence in Ottawa of a strong Liberal government. headed by a Québécois, committed to righting French Canadians’ ancient grievances….They held four fifths of the Quebec seats in the house of commons; his party held only three fifths of the provincial assembly seats, and it had won them on a minority (41%) vote.

…this is no time for Mr. Lévesque to beat the big drum. it is a long time since he has used such words as “independence” or “separation.” His party’s formula is “sovereignty-association,” and when he expounded this in the Quebec assembly on October 10th he emphasised that “We do not want to break our union with the rest of Canada, but rather to transform it radically.”

March 9, 2008
Quebec Separatism circa 1977

From The Economist’s February 12, 1977 edition (Vol. 262) a survey of the country prepared by Roland Bird, on the eve of that great referendum that fired passions as few political events have since.

Must the Unthinkable Happen?

Canada can never be the same after November, 15th….

Before Quebecers are consulted on whether they want to stay in Canada, the Lévesque government has a stupendous job to put Quebec’s finances straight, to get its economy moving, and to deal effectively with labour movement…

[Mr. Lévesque’s team] conceivably represents the best in ability that has ever been installed in provincial government throughout Canada’s history….he deals in an endless stream of political philosophy and of equivocal French concepts, rather than administrative practicalities.

He sees himself…as having some sort of “national mandate”, independent of any English vote or of any big business support.

…Now a country still largely governed by latitude rather than longitude is threatened by a possible economic and political breach that could—and almost certainly would—destroy it. It is really inconceivable that Canada could survive as three chunks…A sovereign Quebec would almost certainly be a protectionist Quebec.

…Bullying Quebec will serve no purpose except to encourage the separatists.

Canada is not a unitary country and never has been; it is Mr. Trudeau’s tragedy that he has failed to make it one…But he is the best prime minister Canada has got. There is no greater Canadian and no leader of greater intellectual ability, and he could grasp the country and its people and bring them into a new mood of greater self-confidence.

If Quebec Goes it Alone

René Lévesque did not sweep the Parti Québecois into power on November 15th by concentrating on separatism…_[he]_ went on to slaughter the Liberals with charges of bad government and scarcely another word about separatism.

…The Pequistes are committed to secession and will seek a mandate for it two years from now. Meantime they will show Canada and the world how much better they can run Quebec than the “corrupt” Liberals…Separatism is no longer the subject matter for some exciting romantic seminar…It is touch verismo policy, and if he were to show the slightest sign of backing off from it (which he will not) there are determined assocates in the part who would quickly get rid of [Lévesque] and do the job themselves.

…there is a crisis of decision, not just for Quebec, but for the whole of Canada…Would the Parti Québécois be acting illegally, as the prime minister has asserted, if it took Quebec out of confederation?

At a stroke, the Parti Québécois has mauled Mr. Trudeau’s power base, which is Quebec itself.

Before the Quebec election turned Canadian politics upside down, it was assumed that Mr. Trudeau might wait until the autumn of 1978 before calling a federal election. That timetable is by no means so certain now…For the time being, Mr Lévesque has a fistful of trumps and it is difficult to see Mr. Trudeau ruffling many of them.

The anti-Quebec feeling west of Ottawa was epitomised in the resignation of Mr. James Richardson last October from the ministry of defence…for many Canadians his was a voice registered against Mr. Trudeau for giving Quebec too much.

…_[Quebec]_ is as prosperous as it is, as self-confident as it is, as able to get so hideously close to deserting the rest of Canada and so destroying it, because of what Canada has done for it…Mr. Lévesque’s line has always been that independent status for Quebec would not mean total separation so much as a common association between two “countries”…

The Unhappy Trudeau

The opinion polls in September gave Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government a mere 29% support…Mr. Trudeau has always been a fascinating mixture. His arrogance can be crushing. His intelligence is unmatched among Canadian prime ministers, with the possible exception of Louis St. Laurent…Yet he can be humble too, as he was after being re-elected by a gnat’s whisker in 1972.

…When he lost John Turner early last year, a wave of apprehension swept the country. Finance ministers do not resign lightly…There is noboy to match him as a potential rival for the prime minister’s office, nobody whom the party caucus would rather choose as a future leader of the Liberal party, if Mr. Trudeau were to go.

…Liberals do not go in for public assassinations, and certainly not of a Quebecer whose knifing would imperil the party’s standing in Quebec.

…After all Ottawa’s efforts to suppress the instinct for separatism in Quebec, the Bourassa government…has been swept out of office, and a government pledged to offering separatism installed with 70 our of 110 seats.

It must be tempting, when federal help on such a scale has manifestly failed in its political purpose, to withdraw it with the idea of chastening separatist aspirations…smacking a child when all that it has said is that it might be naughty would be an act of heavy handedness as silly as it would be ineffective…Either line would seem to be more helpful to Mr. Lévesque than to Mr. Trudeau: if he is bullied by Ottawa, he would convert more Quebecers to separatism; if he had more of the federal assistance that did not prevent his election, Quebec could take it and still go separatist.

…Other provinces may not love Quebec fr its ability to get its own way with ottawa, but they are in the same business themselves and would not see Quebec put down by Ottawa for the simple reason that it might happen to them next…separatism is a long way short of a burning commitment in the popular mind. It is no longer a revolutionary call, as it undoubtedly seemed in 1970, at a time when it had a hideous by-product of violence…

More practical notions are abroad today…a redistribution of power…If [Mr. Trudeau] asks Canadians for a mandate to fight separatism before it has been clearly defined by Mr. Lévesque and endorsed by the Quebec electorate, he would be taking on a constitutional cockshy. And conceivably worst of all must be the possibility that referendum and federal election will fall almost simultaneously in the autumn of 1978. Could he resign in order to lead the Quebec Liberals (he once said he would, if Mr. Lévesque ever got in) leaving Mr. Turner to take over?

March 7, 2008
A Sensible Decision (at last)

I’ve never understood why anybody is allowed to ride without a helmet, which happens in B.C. As usual, Ontario makes quite a bit more sense.

Judge rules against Sikh challenge of helmet law
Last Updated: Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 10:57 AM CBC News

A judge in Brampton, Ont., rejected a human rights challenge to an Ontario law on Thursday, ruling that motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding because safety concerns outweigh religious rights.

Posted by skooter at 12:51 AM
Tags: Articles, Helmets, Motorcycle, Safety

February 19, 2008
I Want My Family Day!

It was Family Day in a whole bunch of places today (and Louis Riel Day in one) and i want my holiday!

It took me a while this morning to figure out why I didn’t get any mutual fund update yesterday, and why my monthly withdrawal didn’t happen. It turns out, Family Day in Ontario means the Toronto Stock Exchange was closed, so no trading.

Blërg. I think this thing should be national, just so that we don’t lose track of these things.

Posted by skooter at 1:51 PM
Tags: Holidays

January 10, 2008
Decaying Infrastructure

Remember this the next time your government (federal, provincial or municipal) tells you that privatizing assets such as highways or bridges will help to maintain infrastructure better.

Streets closed after sign blows off Toronto skyscraper
Last Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2008 | 7:24 AM ET
CBC News

Sections of downtown Toronto were closed to traffic early Thursday morning after high winds blew parts of a sign from a highrise building.

Portions of a sign near the top of the CIBC building blew off during the wind gusts, falling 58 storeys onto Bay Street on Wednesday evening.

No one was injured.

Posted by skooter at 2:14 PM
Tags: Infrastructure, Urban Development

December 10, 2007
The Seedy Downtown Eastside

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has a solid reputation for being one of the seediest neighbourhoods in the country…the nation…the world really.

Today that reputation got one person smaller: Robert Pickton has been found guilty of second degree murder on six counts, with a further twenty charges potentially waiting. Pickton isn’t likely to see the sun again.

It’s not enough: the neighbourhood is as bad, or worse then it was when Pickton prowled these streets. Much more is needed.

This part of Vancouver will not, I think, be welcoming the world in 2010.

Posted by skooter at 2:17 AM
Tags: Vancouver, Vancouver Olympics

December 7, 2007
On What Basis?

The entire article from the Globe and Mail, copyright be damned.

Latimer should be pardoned, civil liberties group says
The Canadian Press
December 6, 2007 at 5:21 PM EST
Regina — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says Robert Latimer’s continued imprisonment is nothing short of a “national disgrace.”

Association lawyer Allan Borovoy says it’s time for the federal government to step in and grant the Saskatchewan farmer clemency.

Mr. Latimer, who is currently serving a life sentence for the second-degree murder of his severely disabled daughter, was denied a chance at day parole Wednesday.

The National Parole Board said he has not shown remorse for his actions.

Mr. Borovoy calls that ruling sanctimonious and says the parole board should be focused on risk assessment, not contrition.

The civil liberties association has used Mr. Latimer’s case as an example of how mandatory minimum sentences don’t work.

On what basis should a pardon—the ultimate in forgiveness—be granted?

Regardless of his motive. Robert Latimer took a life. Arguments for compassion aside, you can’t run a civil society where people are allowed to walk around killing other people. The right to life is the most basic of human rights: a society that doesn’t protect this as an absolute can’t be called a just society.

Early parole I might be convinced to agree with: the parole board acknowledged, apparently, that Latimer was an extremely low risk to reoffend. On this basis an early parole would seem reasonable.

But a pardon? That would reduce the meaning of Tracy Latimer’s life to nothing…less than zero…less than human.

Surely no one wants to live in that society?

Posted by skooter at 2:09 AM
Tags: Articles, Crime, Politics, Supreme Court of Canada

November 28, 2007
Chocolate? What about gas!

A sure sign that the government has it’s priorities a little skewed: the chocolate industry gets investigated by the competition bureau while the automotive gas industry…doesn’t.

Chocolate bar makers probed over prices
PAUL WALDIE
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
November 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM EST

Is there something underhanded going on with the price of Kit Kat, Snickers and Caramilk bars?

Federal regulators have launched an investigation into allegations the Canadian divisions of Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey, Mars and others have teamed up in a price-fixing scheme in the multibillion-dollar Canadian business of chocolate bars.

The Competition Bureau served search warrants on several major bar makers this week requiring them to turn over reams of documents on their pricing arrangements.

Here’s the puzzling question of the month on gas: gas prices went up as oil prices rose. Oil is priced in American dollars. The Canadian dollar is up 30% against the American dollar. Why haven’t gas prices in Canada gone down?

Gas is typically more expensive in Vancouver than Toronto due to a lack of refineries, but the rising dollar should still have benefited consumers here.

Posted by skooter at 1:45 PM
Tags: Conservative Party of Canada, Economics

September 20, 2007
Shocking. Unbelievable. The news of the century!

Ummm…or not, as the case may be. I wonder how many people read this article in the newspaper?

More Canadians getting their newspaper fix online
RICHARD BLACKWELL
Globe and Mail Update
September 20, 2007 at 9:02 AM EDT

An increasing number of Canadians are reading their newspapers online, according to the latest readership numbers released yesterday by the Newspaper Audience Databank Inc.

The figures, gleaned by NADbank from surveys conducted in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa in the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007, show that for many newspapers Internet readership is growing faster than for their print versions.

Me? Daily news online, but I do still enjoy curling up with the Saturday Globe & Mail and doing the crossword puzzle in a coffee shop. It’s the tactile nature of it I like.

Posted by skooter at 8:42 PM
Tags: Globe and Mail, News

September 5, 2007
If you were a God, would you create John Tory?

John Tory just demonstrated exactly how much of an idiot he is. God help our children if Ontario elects this man:

Creationism raised as Ont. election issue
CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND TENILLE BONOGUORE
September 5, 2007 at 3:56 PM EDT

TORONTO Publicly-funded religious schools would be allowed to teach creationism and other theories, says Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.

Tory has managed to perform one miracle though: he’s left his former supporter Warren Kinsella speechless.

September 3, 2007
Ottawa considers electronic leash on truckers

From today’s Globe and Mail comes a store about Ottawa considering national legislation to limit the speed of trucks to 105 km/h.

The excerpt:

“I see that as a great opportunity for accidents,” said Barry Prentice, a professor and head of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba. “We’ll have all these other yahoos trying to pass trucks left, right and centre, especially on two-lane roads.”

The federal and provincial governments are jointly studying the idea of requiring all large trucks to have their engine microchips permanently programmed not to exceed 105 km/h. One study, to be launched this fall, will look at whether these “speed limiters” would put Canada at an economic disadvantage with the United States, which has no plans to slow down trucks.

I’d like to ask Professor Barry Prentice one question: can you find me a two lane road where the speed limit is higher than 100 km/h. Since the limit on most of these roads would be 80 km/h, it would seem that the 105 km/h limit would be more than enough.

Posted by skooter at 9:09 PM
Tags: Politics, Transportation

January 21, 2007
Online Passport Applications

It seems like I may be in imminent need of a passport, and the Canadian government is reporting significant delays thanks to new U.S. Travel Regulations.

Using the online system to complete an application is now recommended, as it ensures that applications are properly complete.

Unfortunately, the online application system doesn’t work with the Macintosh.

I’m long since used to what is often called Mac marginalization — the reality that online content often doesn’t work with the Mac.

Why does this upset me more than most?

First, this is a government service that shoudl be as universally accessible as possible. It’s been translated into French at significant cost, and it’s been promoted as the best method. Despite this, it remains unavaialble to a significant portion of the population.

Second, the application reportedly works with Mozilla on the Windows platform. Since Mozilla for Windows and Mac share a common code base, there’s no compelling reason why it shouldn’t work on the Mac.

Third, the application doesn’t even let me try to use it. There’s a browser check that kicks me out before I even see a page — it may well work on Mozilla, but I have no effective way of finding out. I could change my browser agent, but I’ve got no way to ensure that my information is received.

Fourth, the general usability of the Government’s web sites is horrible and this is just symptomatic of a larger problem. If the government’s agenda is to increase accessibility to services, they’ve got a long way to go. Navigation is a nightmare.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

It’s off to the passport office for me. Soon.

Posted by skooter at 7:24 PM
Tags: Information Architecture, Usability

November 26, 2006
Congratulations Monsieur Duceppe

According to CTV news

Duceppe says ‘nation’ motion plays into his hands

Updated Sun. Nov. 26 2006 2:17 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe says he wasn’t caught in his own trap when Prime Minister Stephen Harper recognized Quebec as a nation this week, instead he said it was a big step forward for sovereigntists.

Tomorrow—November 27, 2006—our country proceeds down the slippery slope towards breaking apart, with our Stephen Harper giving it an extremely vigorous push.

You can bet that if it’s good for the separatists, it’s not good for the rest of Canada.

In the immediate future, this is why:

Canada is the first country recognizing the Quebec nation — that Quebecers form a nation — and in the near future other countries will do so.” [said Mr. Duceppe.]

Question Period co-host Craig Oliver pointed out that the motion, which is expected to be approved by the House of Commons on Monday, gives no new powers to Quebec and is simply an opinion of the House.

Duceppe responded that the Bloc will use the wording of the motion to its advantage, and will attempt to force the government to address concerns passed unanimously by the National Assembly of Quebec.

The long term effect will be more severe. The National Assembly of Quebec has been empowered, as have its citizens. The questions that we’ve been wrestling with since the days of the quiet revolution do not stop tomorrow, they only get worse.

Posted by skooter at 5:33 PM
Tags: Nationalism, Stephen Harper

November 23, 2006
"A Nation Within Canada"

According to Merriam Webster, a nation is:

nation

Pronunciation: ‘nA-sh&n
Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English nacioun, from Anglo-French naciun, from Latin nation-, natio birth, race, nation, from nasci to be born; akin to Latin gignere to beget — more at KIN

1 a (1): NATIONALITY 5a (2) : a politically organized nationality (3) : a non-Jewish nationality b : a community of people composed of one or more nationalities and possessing a more or less defined territory and government c : a territorial division containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterized by relatively large size and independent status

2 archaic : GROUP, AGGREGATION

3: a tribe or federation of tribes (as of American Indians)

According to Stephen Harper, Quebec is a nation.

The slippery slope to Canada’s demise has now crossed the tipping point. Why I have to lose my nation to support the political amibitions of a few is lost on me.

I was reeling last night when I heard this. As reported in the Globe and Mail this morning, Mr. Harper has:

“…introduced a motion that ‘this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.’”

This is problematic, and has effectively destroyed a country that many hold dear. This is a country that is the envy of the world on so many levels, and yet our Prime Minister has given it all away.

Supported “enthusiastically” by other parties and Michael Ignatieff, Québec separatists now have the means to claim recognition on the world stage; they have the ability to claim that Quebec is now deserving of “independent status” as a nation.

This is wrong on so many levels.

Canada is a bilingual nation. In recent years this bilingualism has grown more and more imbalanced, although this is not historically true. As Michael Ignatieff himself is fond of pointing out, 150 years ago while this nation was being carved out of a rugged wilderness, French was the language of commerce in the west—not English.

Canadians who speak French as their primary language live throughout the country, with significant population centres outside of Québec. New Brunwick’s Acadians and Manitoba’s French speakers are good examples of this.

Giving Québec special status—calling it a nation in any context—leaves Canada as a country divided. It leaves us as a country torn in two by naked political ambition. With little support in the province of Québec the Conservative Party of Canada has chosen to build their political base in the short term at the expense of the greatest long term sacrifice that could possibly be made.

Dictionary.com defines nation as:

nation
na‧tion[ney-shuhn]
–noun
# a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own: The president spoke to the nation about the new tax.
# the territory or country itself: the nations of Central America.
# a member tribe of an American Indian confederation.
# an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, often speaking the same language or cognate languages.

Québec is not an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, but it is not long until it will possess “a government peculiarly its own.” It already calls it’s provincial Legislature the National Assembly.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a nation as:

na·tion (nshn)
n.
A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.

The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.

The government of a sovereign state.

A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality: “Historically the Ukrainians are an ancient nation which has persisted and survived through terrible calamity” (Robert Conquest).

A federation or tribe, especially one composed of Native Americans.

The territory occupied by such a federation or tribe.

The stake into the heart of Canada has been driven by Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff. I can’t believe this is happening.

November 21, 2006
A National Event

Given the glowing coverage of the CFL in general and the Grey Cup specifically (for obvious reasons) in British Columbia, I was somewhat surprised to read this in the Toronto Star.

Grey Cup not only thing broken

Nov. 20, 2006. 12:44 PM
DAMIEN COX
WINNIPEG - Snapped the 97-year-old Grey Cup in half, they did. Left the national treasure being hoisted by the joyful victors in two separate pieces, a large silver saucer and a well-dented, headless torso.

That, one supposes, was a fitting conclusion to the CFL’s championship contest yesterday, for it nicely symbolized a formerly enthralling brand of football that appears curiously broken at the moment.

How broken? The lowest-scoring Grey Cup “classic” since the dud in Toronto 15 years ago won’t have anybody outside of British Columbia talking about this one past, well, today.

Posted by skooter at 6:56 AM
Tags: CFL, Football

November 18, 2006
Canada's Gay Marriage Laws in the New York Times

It’s not often that Canada makes the New York Times, so it’s always worth noting when it does.

Gay Marriage Galvanizes Canada’s Religious Right

OTTAWA — It was a lonely time here in the capital for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in the early days of the gay marriage debate in 2003.

Of the scattered conservative Christian groups opposed to extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, it was the only one with a full-time office in Ottawa to lobby politicians. “We were the only ones here,” said Janet Epp Buckingham, who was the group’s public policy director then.

But that was before the legislation passed in 2005 allowing gay marriage in Canada. And before the election early this year of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative and an evangelical Christian who frequently caps his speeches with “God bless Canada.”

Today across the country, the gay marriage issue and Mr. Harper’s election have galvanized conservative Christian groups to enter politics like never before.

Before now, the Christian right was not a political force in this mostly secular, liberal country. But it is coalescing with new clout and credibility, similar to the evangelical Christian movement in the United States in the 1980s, though not nearly on the same scale.

Not only is this a contentious issue, the article is a wonderful demonstration of stereotyping.

The idea of Canada as a “mostly secular, liberal country” is somewhat disingenous and even misleading. While it may be true that Canada’s major cities are secular (and that most Canadians live in these urban centres,) our wide open spaces in between are strongly religious places. It’s easy to forget how recently Quebec’s quiet revolution transformed the face of that province and the Roman Catholic church’s role in it.

Canada is, by and large, not much different than the United States when it comes to religion. The existence of publicly funded Catholic schools could actually be used to shape an argument that Canada is less secular than our southern neighbours.

The article does make a statement with respect to the Harper government that creates a fairly realistic portrait of the left/right balance that has been struck in the current minority parliament.

Mr. Harper’s government has not introduced an avalanche of socially conservative measures, but has instead shifted subtly to the right, one policy at a time.

The article nicely reminds people that it’s not the Reform Pary that’s causing a shift to the social right—we’ve seen this before with a supposedly gentler, kinder Conservative government.

In 1989, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney introduced legislation banning abortions in cases where the health of the mother was not at risk but the bill failed in the Senate and never became law.

An interesting ommission from the article which could have been made is the fact that the United States has a constitutional separation of church and state, while Canada does not. There is a de facto separation that exists (with some notable exceptions) but it is not a matter of law.

November 10, 2006
National Film Board of Canada

Anybody who was raised in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s cannot help but have been exposed to the National Film Board of Canada and its productions. They were a staple of the classroom—those reels of film turning through overheaded projector bulbs across the country were a pretty special sound.

A huge archive of materials is available online, and I stumbled upon two classics.

The Sweater explains hockey and its role in Canada in a way that lives on forever.

The Legend of the Flying Canoe is an ancient Québec folk tale. The same tale inspired the label of La Maudite which remains the best beer produced in this country to this day, at least since Sleeman bought the Upper Canada brewery.

Enjoy, and I sincerely hope these tales are available for a very long time.

Posted by skooter at 5:04 PM

December 20, 2005
Wayne Gretzky's Mom

That the death, earlier today, of Wayne Gretzyky’s Mom, is national news speaks to the respect with which Canadians treat one of our nicest heroes. That Gretzky lived in Los Angeles for many years, and now coaches (and owns) the Phoenix Coyotes means little: he remains — and always will — the consumate Canadian kid, who flew home to Brampton, Ontario a couple of days ago to be by her side.

Our nation’s collective heart is with Wayne and his family now, in what should be a time of happiness for his family.

Posted by skooter at 6:17 AM
Tags: Hockey, Obituaries

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