for more information contact skot@penguinstorm.com

I Am Skooter  So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
There are maybe 10 or 12 / things I could teach you / after that you're on your own
— A.C. Newman, There are Maybe 10 or 12
November 13, 2016
On Trump

Trump Election Win It’s old news by now, and more column inches of paper and bits have been spilled since the election about Donald Trump’s win than anything else this week—there’s not much to say and it’s certain that whatever I say will sail into a meaningless void.

Two short thoughts then.

First: I always argued that Barak Obama was elected because he made everybody he met feel like he was actually listening to them. Whether he was or not isn’t the point—he engaged people, and connected to them. That’s a powerful thing when you’re looking for 300 million votes. I ran an election for a candidate once who couldn’t remember people he’d met the previous week and who turned every meeting into something about him. He didn’t win, mercifully.

Donald Trump tapped into the same sentiment, but he did so without meaning. He essentially ran a campaign that was a straight line for people who were angry, and frustrated to vent every racist, misogynist and mean spirited thought on the national stage. He listened, and he parroted everything he heard.

That’s not leadership and it shouldn’t be rewarded.

Second: there are a multitude of those voices—almost 50% of the people who voted supported Trump (and, yes, almost 50% of Americans stayed home.) That means that almost 50% of the people who voted supported a buffoon, a tyrant, an egomaniac, an outright liar, and an overt racist and a man who so clearly hates women that it’s unbelievable that he had the nerve so even say “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

That, friends, is a pretty sure sign that America is a broken place—and I fear for its future because that hatred and loathing now has a voice and power that it hasn’t had for years. A world where Ronald Reagan now looks like a moderate, intelligent leader is a frightening world, and it’s not one I’m looking forward too.

Posted by skooter at 6:28 PM
Tags: Donald Trump

October 24, 2016
Bob Dylan - Wisdom is Thrown Into Jail


The current election climate in the U.S. may make Dylan’s 1980s masterpiece Political World more relevant than ever.

We’re living in times where men commit crimes / And crime don’t have a face

Posted by skooter at 11:41 AM
Tags: Bob Dylan, Donald Trump, Videos

January 5, 2015
This Hour Has 22 Minutes: Quebec and Canada

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

August 27, 2014
Major Depression on Vimeo

THE INSIDE STORY : Major Depression from mental health channel on Vimeo.

The death of Robin Williams has drawn a lot of attention to the topic of depression, again. The video above was posted by Spencer Tweedy to twitter and it’s worth watching—even if it doesn’t star a major Hollywood star. Millions of people live with depression in their lives: this tells one man’s story.

Posted by skooter at 6:15 AM
Tags: Depression, Robin Williams

November 11, 2012
Remembrance Day

Posted by skooter at 9:49 AM
Tags: RCAF, Remembrance Day, World War I

November 6, 2012
American Election Day

It’s election day in the United States. These days it seems as if that throws more Canadians into a frenzy than our own elections do, and that may be one of the problems with the country I call home.

It’s not that the American election result isn’t important in Canada: the leader of our monolithic neighbour and largest trading partner has a significant impact on our lives. I just wish Canadians would express as much interest in the leader they can vote for as they do in the leader they can’t.

Here’s a classic television piece on the electoral college. Americans have, in my experience, long lived under the fiction that they were voting directly for the president. Most recent elections—Barak Obama’s first victory excepted—have been close and electoral college vote distribution has been a major factor. This one’s going to be no exception, and we aren’t going to know until very late tonight.

Good luck President Obama. You deserve a second term.

Posted by skooter at 5:55 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Mitt Romney, Politics, United States

October 2, 2011
It's Civic Election Time: This is Your Candidate

It’s civic election time in Vancouver, a crazy event that happens once every three years. The last three elections have each seen a new Mayor (Campbell, Sullivan and Robertson) with substantial changes at council at the same time.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the NPA sees this as an open shot. I’m not so sure: I think Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver team’s popularity is pretty solid, though I do tend to interact with a group whose politics skew in that direction so I’m not sure it’s a fair measure.

More significantly, I think Suzanne Anton’s certifiably crazy. She always rode the NPA coattails onto Council until the last election, when she was the only one who made it (go figure.) She’s sort of a mayoralty candidate by default and not a very good one. I don’t think she has any coattails.

I know of the folks on “her team” as these things tend to be called. Some of them ran in 2002 when I was heavily involved. Dave Pasin? That guy’s not the sharpest pencil in any box you’re going to find. You don’t want him on Park Board, trust me.

George Affleck on the other hand is a very bright guy. A bit self absorbed to be sure, but a bright guy no doubt. The thing is, I sort of expect a level of maturity a little higher than this—sent just after the release of the report on the Stanley Cup Riots—from a candidate for city council:
George Affleck tweet

But there you have it: it’s off to the races, and if that’s the level discourse you’re looking for from council well…I for one expect more from candidates than jokes about a series of riots which have, frankly, damaged this cities reputation much more than some would like to admit.

I live in West Vancouver now, so the politics of Vancouver are over a bridge from me. My interest is a bit more abstract—I still work in the city—but I’m still hoping to see a rational, sensible council elected. It’s good for the region. In the end, I’m expecting Gregor Robertson back as Mayor but I’d be willing to be that the NPA slips two or three more people onto council. Only time will tell.

August 22, 2011
Jack Layton: 1950 - 2011

Jack Layton passed away this morning. I used to write about politics quite a bit more here, for the most part because I was involved in politics quite a bit more. I fled that particular rat race and it’s in no small part because there’s not enough people like Jack Layton in politics today.

Whether you agreed with him or not, and whether you were a member of the NDP or not, it was hard not to respect Jack. He was a man who stood by his convictions, who tried to fight for political ideals that he valued instead of just blatantly grabbing votes. In an election typified by the Harper campaign of attack ads and Michael Ignatieff’s desperate “vote for us because we’re not them” plea, Jack was the only person who seemed to be moving the discussion forward.

Much has been made on the news today of the fact that people tended to call the man “Jack.” In stark contrast to the other party leaders—no one’s ever called Ignatieff “Michael” or “Mike” and only George W. Bush ever called Harper “Steve”—Jack Layton was a comfortable presence. He was a man that people felt like they could sit down and have a conversation with.

More importantly, he was a man people could sit down and have a conversation with. He lacked the arrogance of his fellow party leaders, and it’s why he did so well.

He was rewarded, famously, in Quebec. Jack won more seats than any NDP leader ever had. That those seats were won by candidates who were unknown (and unqualified, though few could define the qualifications required to be an MP) speaks even more strongly to the strength of the man. When Quebec chose to abandon the Bloc Quebecois they chose Jack Layton’s NDP largely because it was Jack Layton’s NDP.

This leaves the NDP with an uncertain future, and only the Conservative Party of Canada with an established permanent leader. It’s going to be an interesting few years.

One thing’s certain though: it’s going to be a lot less interesting without Jack in the election. He was the only person who steered the last campaign to a meaningful conversation, and he won’t be there for the next one.

So long Jack. Thanks for being the only leader in recent memory who seemed to care more about the country than getting elected.

June 5, 2011
On the Joy of BC Ferries

I spend a lot of time on BC Ferries these days, moving back and forth between Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. It’s quite nice, but it’s amazing how quickly the beauty of a ferry trip becomes just another way to get back and forth from point A to point B. Most of the time, I’d rather just get there.

BC Ferries was officially privatized by the Campbell government in 2003 but it’s always been something of a farce. The ferries operate, at best, as a pseudo private organization still dependent on government money for a substantial portion of revenues. A couple of years ago Gordon Campbell himself announced that ferry fares would be cut by 30% leading anybody able to think clearly to wonder why the premier was announce a cut in prices for a private corporation.

I’m willing to concede that the ferries themselves can (and maybe should) operate as a private entity, but not without pointing out that the province made one huge mistake in doing this that effectively makes the entire process suspect: they gave the ferry corporation the terminals.

Such a bad idea, for so many reasons.

BC Ferries has existed for years, and serves as an essential link between British Columbia’s more remote communities and the Lower Mainland, which is the major economic centre of the province. Despite the fact that these communities are increasingly the domain of wealthy land owners using them as recreation properties, these links are essential. If nothing else, they establish territorial sovereignty over coastal waters.

One of the key jobs of governments is to tie the geography of their countries together: Canada itself is essentially the result of the Hudson’s Bay Company trading routes linking a huge territory togethe and a promise to build a railroad linking east coast to west. Roads, rail beds, air travel routes, radio frequency spectrum and ferry routes are all tools governments use to create a unified whole.

There are businesses in British Columbia’s remote communities that depend on links to the mainland: Salt Spring Island Cheese and the Salt Spring Roasting Company are good examples (though the roasting company has since relocated.) These businesses depend on ferry service being provided and in theory a competition based ferry service would provide them with the lowest possible cost of getting their goods to the mainland. They could fly their goods, but the cost of flying goods is quite a bit higher from both an economic and environmental standpoint.

Salt Spring has three ferry terminals, providing amples opportunities to get on and off the island but all four terminals are owned by BC Ferries. This means that if anybody wants to provide a competitive service they have two choices: secure landing rights and build a new terminal, or negotiate with BC Ferries before competing with them.

Seems a bit silly doesn’t it?

The terminals represent precious real estate located in bays and inlets that are sheltered and safe for landing. They have good and effective road infrastructure going to them, and that road infrastructure is paid for and maintained by tax payers. BC Ferries current terminals were constructed at tremendous cost to the tax payer, and given to them at a cost that doesn’t nearly represent what it would cost to build them from scratch.

This amounts to nothing so much as a private company having been given a total monopoly. There’s simply no way anybody can compete.

Maybe someone can explain to me how it makes sense the way the deal was structured, though I’m going to need more than a simple “the company wouldn’t have been worth it without the terminals.” It was given away: of course it would have been worth it. They had existing routes, and a head start with a fully prepared fleet. If the province had kept the terminals and established a standard landing fee BC Ferries could have continued to operate and paid the fees.

Another competitor might have emerged with similar or different craft: imagine a company operating a passenger only Gulf Islands Ferry with shuttle service to popular destinations once you got there. Such a service could operate all summer, paying the same landing fees but offering a service tailored to their passengers.

They might ever offer a boat with cupholders, a completely non-smoking service and maybe a place to store your bike (BC Ferries charges $2 for a bicycle, but no services in exchange—not even a rack to put your bike in.)

It’s never going to happen, because the BC Liberal Party gave the current BC Ferries the biggest subsidy in the history of BC Business, and guaranteed an eternal monopoly in the process.

Sort of makes you think about why they call the NDP socialists doesn’t it?

This was amended. The original post said Salt Spring Island had four ferry terminals. This has been corrected to three. Ganges is Salt Spring’s major town, but does not have a ferry terminal.

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.

February 1, 2011
Usage Based Billing: How the CRTC Failed Us Once Again

Usage Based Billing is a term that millions of people probably never expected to know anything about, but thanks to a recent ruling on the part of the CRTC the words are entering the consciousness of the general public. Even the acronym UBB is starting to be used, though I suspect that this will end.

Essentially, the CRTC ruled a while ago that Bell Canada was able to impose caps on the bandwidth used by its customers. In a more recent ruling, the CRTC allowed Bell to impose those same caps on its wholesale customers as long as Bell provides a discount of “at least 15%” Bell is free to charge more for users who exceed these amounts.

Remember when the CRTC said they weren’t going to get involved in regulating Internet usage? I do. Oh for a return to those glorious days.

The CRTC operates under a mandate. You can read it online, if you haven’t exceeded your monthly cap. This mandate notes, in part, that “The CRTC regulates and supervises the Canadian broadcasting system to ensure the objectives of the Act are met.” The mandate goes on to note that “declares the broadcasting policy objectives for Canada. Canadian content, its development and availability to Canadians, is the underlying principle of the policy.”

While it’ s not explicitly stated, the CRTC is the public’s agency, and it’s supposed to act in the public’s best interest. There’s certainly nothing in the mandate that says that the CRTC is supposed to protect the commercial interests of the broadcasters.

With this decision, that’s exactly what the CRTC has done. They’ve defended Bell Canada’s interests instead of the public’s. I’ll summarize some of the many ways they’ve neglect the public interest.

The CRTC Has Ignored a Conflict of Interest

Bell Canada long ago stopped being “just a network” and entered the content distribution market. It did so when it started Sympatico as more than just an ISP but also as an Internet portal. The subsequent of a satellite TV network put bell firmly into the business of distributing content directly to customers.

Simply put: Bell has an active financial interest in you having more than just a single Internet connection. They want you to have a BellTV account, a land line and a cell phone in addition to your Internet connection. Every major Internet provider is in the same position.

More and more entertainment is being delivered by streaming media through your Internet connection. Allowing Bell to charge by usage effectively allows Bell to arbitrarily tax emerging streaming media services such as Netflix, iTunes movie rentals, and the live streams of sporting events that are beginning to become more common.

These services all need bandwidth, and in some cases quite a bit of it. Streaming an a two hour HD movie is uses about 2GB of data. A household that watches fifteen movies a month—not unlikely for a family with two children—would quickly eat through half of the 60GB cap that my high speed plan includes.

All the while, Bell is selling a competing service. This other service means they have no incentive to lower the price they charge for each GB downloaded. They actually have an incentive to increase it, in order to sell you an entire other service based on an old model of media distribution.

Skype, Google Talk and Apple’s iChat allow people to make Internet based long distance phone calls much cheaper than the traditional land lines that Bell and Telus sell, let alone the rates they charge on their cellular networks. Usage based billing makes using these services—which, again, compete with your Internet provider’s services—cost more.

Ignoring this conflict of interest is a major failing of the CRTC.

Usage Based Billing Stifles Innovation

Services like Netflix are just the tip of the iceberg for services delivered over IP. Every day, more and more services are being delivered over Internet based networks. These new services don’t always require large amounts of bandwidth—Twitter requires hardly any bandwidth, but has become a major communications medium in a short time—but when people’s usage is metered they’ll be less likely to explore these new services.

These new services happen because of the low cost of entry required to deliver them online to a large audience. Imposing usage based billing on Canadians effectively erects a a barrier against both building and accessing these services. Small and innovative companies wanting to enter the online space will be faced with higher bills for Internet connections than competitors in other countries. Similarly, Canadian consumers will be less likely to dip their toe into new services at the risk of ringing up bills.

It’s a lose lose situation.

Usage Based Billing Makes the Internet Less Democratic

The Internet has acted as a great leveler in many ways. The music industry has been rapidly transformed, and small independent bands have been able to use online tools to build large audiences that would have been impossible for them to gain in the traditional label system. (Of course it also gave us Justin Bieber…everything has its downside.)

By levelling the playing field, the Internet has allowed relatively unknown artists, filmmakers, writers and others to gain new audiences. In a world where it used to matter who you knew, the Internet gave people who didn’t know anybody the opportunity to get their work out and gain an audience.

Usage caps could change all that, and return us to a world where being popular begets more popularity and who you know matters as much as it used too. In a world where each download of a new movie, album or streaming music carries a potential cost it’s much more likely that people will simply keep listening to U2 than a streaming service such as Pandora, Last.fm or Spotify that helps them discover new music. Mainstream Hollywood movies will gain as much attention as they ever have, while new filmmakers struggle against the cost of the caps.

On the flipside, entrenched power structures will be reinforced as investors become less willing to take on risk. A free, open and flat marketplace for ideas indulges exploring new things. A marketplace where each idea incurs a cost drives investment to the familiar and the known—it’s how we got 11 Star Trek movies, at least 6 of which are shining examples of mediocrity.

The growing careers of artists like Said the Whale, Dan Mangan, The Decemberists, Kurt Vile and a host of other artists are owed to online media. In many cases these bands have built significant followings using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and outside of the traditional star system. In a usage based billing system, you can pretty much expect more Bryan Adams music as people explore more conservatively.

Usage Based Billing Doesn’t Pay Artists

If usage based billing resulted in funds going to artists and if you could trust that the money was being distributed well I could possibly see justification for it. Unfortunately it doesn’t, and you can’t.

The potential argument here is that the fees could offset the loss of revenue caused by illegal downloading. It’s a silly argument that implies that every Internet user is a media pirate.

Usage Based Billing will enrich only the Internet providers. No money will go to artists. Not a cent.

Even if the commitment to create an fund for artists were made, there’s no reason to trust that the money would get there. The legacy of Canada’s Blank Media Copyright Levy is as clear a demonstration of that as any. The levy has been collected in some form since 1997 with no clear evidence of the money going to artists whose work might have been pirated.

Revenue from Usage Based Billing will allow Bell and other large internet providers to further protect their virtual monopolies.

Usage Based Billing Makes Us Less Social

With increasing numbers of people working online, in small teams and as freelancers access to WiFi has become critical. For many people, this means a trip to the local coffee shop. Places that provide WiFi have becomes hubs of creativity, meeting places for independent business people and community centres of sorts. Starbucks used to describe their stores as the third place—when you’re not at home, or the office you wind up at a Starbucks.

For some freelancers these visits to local coffee shops offer essential time away from desks and home offices. The stimulation that can come from these pseudo public spaces can be an essential part of the work process.

These third places aren’t new either. Intellectuals and artists have gathered in them for years, stretching as far back as Paris’ Left Bank. What has changed is the expectations of them. Writers no longer take block pads and pens but instead work on laptops with Internet connections.

With no control over what their customers are doing, these third places may face crippling Internet bills in Canada and be forced to shut down their connections. Even robust traffic filtering and blocking won’t be a guarantee against overage charges.

Losing these third places is a blow to the people who need them, and a significant blow to the modern economy.

Bandwidth is a Public Resource

Bandwidth, like broadcast spectrum, is a public resource. It should be treated as such. Bell, Telus, Shaw and Rogers were all granted virtual monopolies that allowed them to become the dominant players in their regions. Without the benefit of those decades long monopolies, they wouldn’t have the bandwidth they do.

Those government granted monopolies effectively make bandwidth a public resource, built with public funds. While I wouldn’t argue against Bell’s right to make a profit, that profit should not come with unreasonable restrictions on the use of the public resource.

Bandwidth Usage Has Nothing to do with Monthly Allocations

The notion of capping my monthly usage—even virtually, in the form of a surplus charge—has nothing to do with the way bandwidth is allocated and used. The speed of my internet connection does, but the volume of data I consume is peripheral.

Like most systems, networks are designed to work optimally under a presumed load. In the case of most Internet type networks that load is about 50% of the theoretical maximum capacity at any given time. Go beyond that capacity and the network’s performance starts to degrade.

Here’s the thing: you’re not using all that bandwidth at once. Surprising, I know, but it’s not as if every goes online at the same time and slams the network.

Even if they did the network is designed to accommodate the rush by allocating available bandwidth fairly. Packets can be prioritized so that real time services such as phone calls and video are higher priority, but the network will not grind to a complete halt. It might slow down, and you might get less than the speed you want but that has nothing to do with your monthly usage.

Usage Based Billing based on the data you use is all about fear, uncertainty and doubt. It has nothing to do with quality of service.

Billing based on network speed relates to quality of service, but the providers already do that: Bell, Shaw and Telus all offer different speeds of service at different prices, and that’s completely fair. If people want T1 connections to their homes they can pay for them. For most of us, standard DSL or Cable connections are fine.

Don’t Underestimate Fear Uncertainty & Doubt

Bell, Telus, Shaw and Rogers are all out there saying “Nothing’s changed. You can keep doing that you’ve always gone.”

This, of course, ignores the point. If we kept doing what we’d always done everybody would be sitting at home in front of oak cabinet televisions making calls from landlines.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Your internet providers are telling you to ask for faster horses instead of looking towards the future.

Technology is supposed to be liberating, and by and large it has been. The media world has shifted online and new tools and services have been—and will continue to—emerge. Trying to anticipate the future is dodgy at best when things are moving at their current speed, and imposing limits on the bandwidth available to Canadians is going to leave us sitting on the sidelines.

If it seems like the CRTC isn’t doing its job very well, consider this: Canada has amongst the highest rates in the world for mobile phones, and one of the lowest rates of adoptions for what is an essential tool of the modern economy.

So yes, I’d say the CRTC isn’t doing its job. its job is to act in the public’s best interest, not Bell’s profits. It’s about time they remembered that.

January 15, 2011
Ten Dire Straits Songs Better Than "Money for Nothing"

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council recently ruled that Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing, which includes the use of the word faggot in a satirical sense, can no longer be played on Canadian radio unless the word is edited out.

The fact that the song was recorded in 1985 and has probably had less airplay in the last fifteen years than any number of misogynistic and profanity laden pieces of popular music released since appears to be lost on the Council. The decision could lead to subsequent bans on songs like The Pogues Fairtytale of New York no more television airings of various Austin Powers movies, all the while allowing Ice T to scream Copkiller, Britney Spears to implore someone to Hit Me Baby One More Time and Biz Mark E to sing about Sittin’ on a toilet / Waitin’ for my bowels to move. Well played, CBSC. Well played.

The fact that a regulatory body has the time to waste something like this while virtually every other similar institution does nothing is astonishing. (Hello CRTC? Have you noticed that cell phone rates in Canada are amongst the highest in the world these days? Maybe you should get on that.)

The ridiculousness of the situation has generated tonnes of press coverage, all of which has seemed to gloss over a simple but critical fact: Money for Nothing is a horrible song. Dire Straits is a legendary band and Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing is astonishing to listen too (he was once described by Douglas Adams as having “…an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff drink.” but Money for Nothing is not his strongest work. It was a huge hit, and took the band’s popularity to new levels (particularly in North America) but there are at least ten songs that you should be listening to instead of it. Even Knopfler has said in the past that he’s not happy that the song has become the band’s best known legacy.

There are at least ten songs you should be listening too instead of Money for Nothing though, and here they are.

Telegraph Road


Epic and thirteen minutes in length when played live, Telegraph Road eschews the conventions of the rock and roll epic and remains beautiful throughout. The version on Alchemy: Live remains high on my playlist.

Brothers in Arms


The closing track for the album that opens with Money for Nothing this song couldn’t be less like that pop jingle. It was featured in an episode of the West Wing which gave it a boost of popularity in the late 1990s.

Sultans of Swing


Listen to that guitar. Listen to it again. You can thank me later.

Tunnel of Love

Romeo and Juliet

Once Upon a Time in the West


This is the first track on the Alchemy: Live double album. That the album only gets better from here is amazing, considering how good this song is live.

Why Worry


Another song buried in the Brothers in Arms album, Why Worry is a beautifully written and played tune.

Expresso Love


I’ve continued to overlook the seeming spelling error in the title of this song—I assume it was intentional on Knopfler’s part—because of its energetic brilliance.

Industrial Disease


As pop songs go this commentary on modern society’s addiction to our own technology has actually stood the test of time much better than Money for Nothing has. The fact that Sting’s not singing the backing vocal track is probably partly why.

Ride Across the River


Brothers in Arms really is an incredibly strong album. This song anchors the middle.

December 20, 2010
New Pornographers: Adventures in Solitude (acoustic)


Recorded in support of The New Gay’s contribution to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better initiative. Adventures in Solitude is a Canadian classic.

Posted by skooter at 8:59 PM
Tags: Dan Savage, New Pornographers

July 14, 2010
Hans Roling on Population Growth

“The role of the old west in the new world is to become the foundation of the modern world: nothing more and nothing less. But it’s a very important role. Do it well, and get used to it.”

Posted by skooter at 11:18 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Hans Roling, Population, TED

July 5, 2010
Salt Spring Coffee Asks How Much Carbon Is In Your Coffee

A fascinating video by Offsetters that provides some insight into the process of evaluating carbon impact. Salt Spring Coffee was the first carbon neutral coffee distributor in Canada. Not satisfied with this they wanted to know what the carbon impact of their coffee was through the entire life cycle. Salt Spring Coffee is now buying carbon offsets for the 2% of the carbon impact that their growers produce making them the first producer in the world to provide coffee that is carbon neutral from the moment it’s planted until it reaches the store shelf.

Everything after that? Well, that’s up to you.

July 4, 2010
Happy Birthday to America

June 26, 2010
Genetic Engineering Isn't the Solution for Troubled Salmon Stocks

Are we seriously considering releasing a genetically modified version of a crop that’s in trouble into the wild? Make no mistake: if these salmon are sold and raised on farms, they will escape into the wild. It’s inevitable. When that happens it’s effectively the same as introducing an invasive species, and we know how that goes.

There’s a legitimate question as well about whether all of the product of this salmon—and I refuse to call it meat—will be properly labeled in stores.

Salmon stocks are in trouble. Genetic engineering isn’t the solution to that trouble.

Genetically Altered Salmon Get Closer to the Table
By ANDREW POLLACK, Published: June 25, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.
Enlarge This Image

The developer of the salmon has been trying to get approval for a decade. But the company now seems to have submitted most or all of the data the F.D.A. needs to analyze whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials. A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

Posted by skooter at 4:52 PM
Tags: Genetic Engineering, GMO, Salmon

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 9, 2010
Michael Geist & Tony Clement on Copyright Reform

Michael Geist, Canada’s most recognized expert in online rights, writes thoughtfully about the government’s proposed copyright reforms in The Tyee.

Mr. Clement, Loosen Those Digital Locks!
Unfortunately, the legal protection for digital locks — unquestionably the biggest and most controversial digital copyright issue — is the one area where there is no compromise. Despite a national copyright consultation that soundly rejected inflexible protections for digital locks on CDs, DVDs, e-books, and other devices, the government has caved to U.S. pressure and brought back rules that mirror those found in the United States. These rules limit more than just copying as they can also block Canadian consumers from even using products they have purchased.

Interestingly, on the same topic, I received a response to a note I sent to CBC Radio’s Spark about their coverage of the copyright act which seems to suggest that Tony Clement hasn’t read and certainly doesn’t understand the act that he’s rewriting.

Surprised? Read on.

In an article titled Industry minister admits to breaking copyright law to build iPod collection the National Post quoted Industry Minister Tony Clement as saying this (the emphasis is mine):

“Well you see, you know I think I have to admit it probably runs afoul of the current law because the current law does not allow you to shift formats. So the fact of the matter is I have compact discs that I’ve transferred, I have compact discs from my children or my wife that I’ve transferred onto my iPod. None of that is allowable under the current regime,” Mr. Clement, a music buff who also legally purchases songs from iTunes to build a digital database that now stands at 10,452 songs.

The thing is, current copyright law in Canada explicitly allows the duplication of music for personal use. Section 80 of the current copyright act states:

80. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the act of reproducing all or any substantial part of
(a) a musical work embodied in a sound recording,
(b) a performer’s performance of a musical work embodied in a sound recording, or
© a sound recording in which a musical work, or a performer’s performance of a musical work, is embodied
onto an audio recording medium for the private use of the person who makes the copy does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the musical work, the performer’s performance or the sound recording.

The act is quite clear in providing the exemption, and provides it only for musical work[s] embodied in a sound recording. No such exemption is provided for video recordings or written works, though various court rulings have clearly extended the fair use doctrine to protect the latter. Photocopying portions of a book or magazine for research purposes has been explicitly recognized as legal by the Supreme Court while photocopying an entire novel for the purposes of reading it would likely be illegal.

The Canadian Recording Industry Association argued Section 80 didn’t apply to digital copies, and Geist commented on this in 2005, saying:

Second, CRIA recently argued that the private copying right does not apply to copies made to personal computers. A review of the legislative history of private copying provides little support for this interpretation, however, as the statute was intentionally drafted in a technology neutral fashion such that it could be applied to new copying media, including computer hard drives.

but the senior minister seems to have missed that.

The new proposed copyright legislation—Bill C32—is being sold to the Canadian public as ‘making legal what most people are already doing’ while protecting the rights of content creators and owners. In fact, it does exactly the opposite by making it illegal to break what’s being referred to as “digital locks.” Since there’s no such thing as a digital lock, it’s reasonable to presume that the minister is using this as an analogy to refer to encryption or copy protection in almost any form.

Music CDs are essentially the only digital format that currently ships without any form of encryption. The Compact Disc was, in fact, the first mass produced and mass marketed type of digital media. While software had long been sold with various forms of copy protection ranging from serial numbers to old tricks like inserting known bad sectors into legal copies (illegal copies that didn’t match the known bad sectors would fail) Compact Discs had no such protection. The industry tried to introduce new formats to replace the Compact Disc—Audio DVD and SACD were the most notable attempts—but failed. With little noticeable difference in sound quality, consumers didn’t bite. Every format introduced since (including digital downloads of music) has included a digital lock in the form of content encryption. They’ve all been broken, but the locks are there nonetheless.

Because the copyright act explicitly allows the duplication of music, including format shifting, the new provisions of Bill C-32 give the Canadian Public nothing and, in fact, may take away some rights that aren’t explicitly codified. I keep Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity on my laptop. I own the complete DVD set, but copied them—format shifting as Minister Clement would say—to make them easier to carry, and to serve as a backup copy protecting the original media.

Under the current copyright act this might be legal under the fair use doctrine, although it’s not explicitly legalized because its not a sound recording but a video recording the nobody’s lost anything here. It’s the same principle as copying my music for personal use: I just want to watch what I legally own in another format. What use is my iPhone if it doesn’t have Captain Tightpants and his crew on it?

Under Bill C-32 this would be illegal. The DVDs I copied them from were encrypted with a digital lock, and despite the fact that I bought them legally C-32 restricts my right to do what I did. It would require me to purchase them.

Tony Clement isn’t giving us anything, but he is taking something away. What annoys me most is that he doesn’t even seem to know this. I’d expect a senior minister to at least read and understand a piece of legislation before writing its replacement.

More Reading

Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights
Michael Geist
Lang Michener on Bill C-32
Bill C-32 as introduced in Parliament

Posted by skooter at 4:37 PM
Tags: CBC, Copyright, Michael Geist, Tony Clement

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 23, 2010
Michael Enright on Bikes vs. Cars

Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition opened this morning with a monologue on the issue of cars vs. bikes.

Enright points out the deteriorating condition of our infrastructure and raises the spectre of the suburbs in a way that seems to praise the role the automobile had in the development of them.

Cycling is derided as not North American and environmental issues are completely ignored, while the recent economic bailouts are passed over as if their impact should never be considered.

In the end Enright (a motorcyclist as well) chooses his car with—it’s worth noting—some enthusiasm.

This isn’t a war. It’s not a matter of us vs. them. There isn’t much of a choice here: unless we stop using fossil fuels to power even the smallest of transportation tasks, the natural environment on which we depend will continue to decline. Quite simply, North American transportation habits are pumping too many greenhouse gasses into the air for the atmosphere to contend with.

Not everybody has to get out of a car. A minivan with eight people in may be a reasonable choice; the same minivan with a single person is not. If all we could achieve was the elimination of the single occupancy vehicle, too often used for short trips, it would be a major leap forward. I’d like to see more, but this would be a reasonable short term goal.

When the media fails to acknowledge this, and presents an argument so short sighted I’m not quite sure what to do with it. Enright’s show is presented as an opinion piece, and not the official editorial view of the CBC but few are likely to make the distinction. Enright is among the most senior and trusted voices on the radio, and it carries weight.

I’ve transcribed his monologue below.

This past week the World Wildlife Fund, the panda bear people, released the results of a survey a bit off their usual radar. They asked drivers across the country how they felt about their cars.

The results are noteworthy but not really surprising. 36% of us say we would give up junk food before giving up our cars; another 14% said they’d give up coffee; 6% television; and 2% said they’d forgo sex rather than hang up their keys.

We love our cars, almost beyond reason. But at the same time we car drivers feel under siege in the era of goodness and greenness. We’ve had the war on poverty, the war on cancer, the war on drugs, even the war on Christmas. Now drivers complain we are in the midst of a war on cars. We see the enemy everywhere. Everybody from the oil companies who gouge us at the pump to the government who taxes us.

But the greatest threat, the enemy we fear the most is the lowly bicycle. We are ever alert to the forays and incursions the bicycle is making into our sovereign territory. Take Montreal and Toronto for example. Every time some city department makes a suggestion to convert a lane of car traffic into a bike lane, the car fanatics go mad. Giving up an inch of turf to cyclists is an appeasement to the enemy beside which Munich pales.

Handing over an entire bike lane to granola crunching, Birkenstock wearing, latte sipping downtown tree hugging lefties would be like Custer trying to negotiate with the indians. And the odd thing is the war on cars is over…has been for a long time, and guess what? The car won. Our cities long ago were designed for the car, not for people. The suburbs owe their entire existence to the car. Drive into any small town in the country and the approach is the same everywhere. Long lines of American owned junk food franchises and car dealerships.

Our major cities are choked, gridlocked by car traffic. Our roads have descended to the level of those in Soviet Romania circa 1955.

Nevertheless we keep turning out cars by the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year. That’s what I call winning the war. In fact, the victory for the car has been so stunning that we actually forked over war reparations in the form of auto company bailouts running to the tens of millions.

Of course, the car craze has suffered some minor retreats during the war. SUV sales for example are slipping. In fact, General Motors has cancelled the egregious Hummer, after trying to peddle the brand to the Chinese who were too canny to bite.

Incidentally I’ve always thought that men who bought the Hummer were trying to overcompensate for an inadequacy of their generative appendage, but that’s another another story.

Car drivers generally feel that if we cede any territory to the cyclists, we could wind up like Amsterdam—with bicycles everywhere. Cycling is somehow too…European. It lacks a certain element of North American robustness.

No, the war is over but we will still keep fighting to protect our turf. You can take away my junk food, my coffee, my TV watching and even my love life, but to get my car you’ll have to pry my dead cold hands from the steering wheel.

Posted by skooter at 5:16 PM
Tags: Cars, CBC, Cycling, Environmentalism, Urban Planning

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 13, 2010
Gordon Campbell Won't Run Again?

It seems that Gordon Campbell is considering not running in the next B.C. Provincial Election, despite insisting for years that he wanted to be B.C.’s longest serving premier.

His retirement, of course, won’t alleviate the effect of the HST decision on the B.C. Liberal Party at all leaving someone else to be tarred with the brush of loser as a result of the decision. This is a shame in no small part because the HST decision is one of the smarter economic policies that this government has implemented.

I wonder how the Kash Heed situation plays into this? Aside from questions of the Elections act violations and criminal chargers, Gordon Campbell has completed bungled it by reinstating Heed too quickly to cabinet only to have him out again the next day.

:Gordon Campbell casts doubt on fourth run at office
Ian Bailey, Published on Wednesday, May. 12, 2010 10:17PM EDT

For the first time, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is not being so emphatic about seeking a fourth term in the 2013 election.

“I’m 62 years old so I’ll have an opportunity to consider that, but first I’ve got to make sure we get our economy thriving,” Mr. Campbell told CTV in an interview Wednesday.

The comments were at odds with the Premier’s bullish talk since leading his B.C. Liberals to a third straight majority last May, that he’ll be at the helm for a fourth election in May, 2013. But as the anniversary of that election passes this week, the Liberals are under political siege.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 PM
Tags: Economics, Gordon Campbell, HST, Kash Heed

May 6, 2010
Television: A Poem by Todd Alcott, Interpreted by Beth Fulton

Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

Posted by skooter at 12:30 AM
Tags: Culture, Poetry, Television

April 28, 2010
Politics is no Place for Grownups

April 20, 2010
Sometimes Political Satire Can Go Too Far

I’m wiling to bet that if you asked the dog’s owner he’d claim this as an act of political protest of sorts. Something along the lines of “A dog could do as good a job as the politicians we’ve had” no doubt. Sometimes, however, you can take these things too far. Trying to register your dog as a candidate for mayor…yeah, that’s too far.

Dog ‘isn’t a person,’ can’t run for mayor of Clarington, Ont.
Posted: April 20, 2010, 1:15 AM by Kenyon Wallace

The municipality of Clarington, about 80 kilometres east of Toronto, says dogs aren’t welcome in local politics, after Genny, a three-year-old black Lab, was defeated in her bid to run for mayor.

Genny’s owner, Marven Whidden, says he tried to file election nomination papers for his friendly canine yesterday, but was told that Genny, pictured, “isn’t a person” so does not qualify to run under the municipal elections act. Mr. Whidden says he is contemplating putting together a petition or a letter-writing campaign to get Genny’s name on the ballot.

Posted by skooter at 12:02 PM
Tags: Ontario, Politics

April 13, 2010
This isn't Why Helena Guergis was Kicked Out of Cabinet

There’s something else going on. This is nothing, though it’s also entirely unsurprising.

A former chauffeur of Helena Guergis alleges the cashiered cabinet minister routinely let her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, use her government car and driver for his own personal use.

The allegation, which raises serious questions about the possible abuse of tax dollars, arrives as new information reveals that Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer were vacationing in the Caribbean when she was forced from cabinet last week.

December 29, 2009
Harper's Magazine Advocates a Protectionist Economy

I really can’t find any other way to read this month’s editorial at Harpers as advocating anything other than a return to good old fashion protectionism. It all just seems a bit weird.

Notebook: Up from Globalism
by Alan Tonelson

“…the full potential of the Buy American approach has been limited by U.S. treaty obligations under NAFTA, and by our membership in the World Trade Organization. Hence, at the very least, the United States should declare these obligations suspended until the economic crisis has been vanquished.” Harpers, January 2010, pp. 9

Oddly, they go on to argue against consumption taxes arguing that they give other countries a competitive advantage.

“Another gigantic but barely recognized barrier to balancing America’s manufacturing dominated trade flows is the use of value-added taxes (VATs) by virtually all U.S. trade partners. VATs are applied only to goods consumed domestically, and since the United States lacks such measures, foreign VATs clandestinely subsidize exports to the United States by subtracting the cost of foreign governments for everything that is not consumed locally.” ibid.

On the first point, it seems clear that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a globalized economy. In theory it promotes a level playing field amongst the world’s citizens and is responsible for the rising (albeit slowly) quality of life of many citizens of traditionally third world nations.

The notion that the United States can create a walled community in which all of its needs are met seems just patently ridiculous. The American economy can’t even provide its own food. As Harpers itself has pointed out

America’s biggest crop, grain corn, is completely unpalatable. It is raw material for an industry that manufactures food substitutes. Likewise, you can’t eat unprocessed wheat. You certainly can’t eat hay. You can eat unprocessed soybeans, but mostly we don’t. These four crops cover 82 percent of American cropland.

On the second I have difficulty seeing consumption taxes as a bad thing. As with any method of taxation the taxes need to be allocated and used effectively by governments. At heart a consumption tax means that those who consume more pay more tax, and its quite difficult to hide from them. Put simply: the guy who buys a BMW pays more taxes than the guy who buys a Honda Civic.

Given the sheer size of the U.S. deficit, and the enormous levels of household debt involved it seems clear that the current strategy of American taxation isn’t sustainable.

Something has to give, and perhaps a consumption tax would help to balance the equation a bit.

Posted by skooter at 2:05 AM
Tags: America, Economics, Oil, Recession

December 10, 2009
Take That Alberta

H2oil animated sequences from Dale Hayward on Vimeo.

Otherwise known as why the tar sands are not a truly viable source of oil.

Posted by skooter at 1:58 AM
Tags: Alberta, Environmentalism, Oil

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

November 14, 2009
When Insurance Companies Face No Risk

The latest issue or Harpers has an article called Too Big Too Burn: AIG Plays God in a Man-Made Firestorm on the rise of insurance companies operating private fire fighting companies for their own clients’ use. Leaving aside the fact that it seems offensive to view people in times of desperation purely in terms of profit and loss, the article offers up some interesting statistics on the American insurance industry.

In 1992, after category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and Louisiana, insurers paid out more than $23 billion in claims—$1.27 for every dollar of premium collected that year…In 2005 After Hurricane Katrina the first category 5 storm of the new climate era, they paid out more than $40 billion—but only 71.5 cents per dollar collected.

When regulators decline rate hikes in excess of 40% (that’s a single year hike) the insurance companies responded by dropping “tens of thousands of policies.”

A cynic might point out that insurance companies are supposed to defray localized risks across a broad policy base, and that the nature of the business would suggest that there will inevitably be years in which money is lost. Rate hikes of 40% do nothing to defray the rish, they simply punish localized policy holders for what are—ultimately—acts of god.

My favourite line was this:

Libeery Mutual’s Private Advantage Company Combo is the first policy to protect corporate executives from global-warming lawsuits.

Yes, even global warming is now just a problem to be solved by complex instruments of voodoo economics. Ridiculous.

Posted by skooter at 7:30 PM
Tags: Articles, Environmentalism, Insurance

November 7, 2009
Between Euphoria & Fear

Janice Gross Stein is more commonly a foreign affairs correspondent, but has an interesting article in the Literary Review of Canada titled Between Euphoria and Fear that looks at the financial meltdown and the role that emotion played in perpetuating it. Essentially, basic economic theory should have suggested that the market would “correct” itself as investors behaved rationally. This didn’t seem to happen, and behaviour was far from rational.

To complicate matters further, pioneering new research in neuroscience in the last 15 years by Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux, among others, demonstrates that emotion is primary and plays a dominant role in choice because it is automatic and fast. Damasio was able to observe closely patients who had suffered injury to those parts of the brain that process emotions, and, to his surprise, his patients were unable to make even simple rational choices even though their cognitive systems were fully intact. Rationality, he demonstrated in his clinical research, requires emotion.

The problematic behaviour happened, basically, when people lost money and feared losing more money. The money that was then withdrawn created a market contraction. Rationally, people should have taken the long view and left their money in there. There was a problem with this though:

Mainstream economics treats risk as judgements about variation over outcomes, judgements that are informed by probability theory. Psychologists see it differently. The propensity to take risk is in part determined by whether people have gained or lost in relation to some reference point.

People didn’t care if they had more money than they’d invested a few years ago: the face that they were still “up” didn’t matter—they were “down” relative to their mental reference point.

Posted by skooter at 8:38 PM
Tags: Articles, Economics, Financial Services

October 30, 2009
The Myth of National Healthcare

National healthcare is a myth in Canada. A convenient fiction. The reality is that healthcare is run by the provinces, leading to widely disparate policies and application. I’ve seen no better evidence of this in the recent past than the idea that British Columbia’s financially strapped healthcare system is considering “selling” surgeries to Saskatchewan. Somehow the claim is that all these healthcare professionals will be able to provide British Columbians with faster service…despite the fact that they’ll be busy working on the citizens of Saskatchewan.

In a true national healthcare system, the provinces wouldn’t be looking to each other as a revenue source.

Province Wants to Sell Surgeries to Saskatchewan
Parties spar over whether the plan will allow BCers to get operations faster.
By Andrew MacLeod, Yesterday, TheTyee.ca

People from Saskatchewan may soon be coming to British Columbia for surgery, if negotiations between the two provincial governments are successful.

B.C.’s health minister, Kevin Falcon, said selling surgeries will bring money into B.C.’s system and help British Columbians get care sooner. But New Democratic Party health critic, Adrian Dix, said the plan makes no sense when health authorities are already cancelling surgeries for British Columbians.

Posted by skooter at 1:49 PM
Tags: Gordon Campbell, Health Care

October 23, 2009
Return of the Star Candidate

I’m not sure the Liberal Party of Canada ever actually learns.A pot smoking snowboarder into a riding seems like a pretty dubious star candidate to start with, and Ross Rebagliati isn’t exactly the sharpest pencil in the box.

They don’t think anybody actually fell for that “second hand smoke” line do they?

Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati to take on Stockwell Day
Posted: October 23, 2009, 7:45 AM by Jeremy Barker
Canwest News Service

KEWLONA, B.C. — Canadian snowboarder and Olympic medal winner Ross Rebagliati plans to beat a new opponent: Stockwell Day.

Mr. Rebagliati will seek the federal Liberal nomination on Monday in the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding of central B.C.

Posted by skooter at 1:37 PM
Tags: Liberal, Olympics, Politics, Snowboarding, Sports

October 11, 2009
Commuting to Work for your Health

The first sentence of the article makes the key point here: even a minor increase in cycling as a mode of transportation can result in enormous gains in personal health. These personal health gains consequently lead to an economic reward for society as a whole through reduced health care and road infrastructure costs.

Research tells commuters: On your bike to lose weight
4:00AM Monday Oct 12, 2009
By Martin Johnston

If New Zealanders increased their cycling to the modest levels of the 1980s, they would burn off annually the amount of energy contained in 40 million cans of Coke.

And this is just commuter and local cycling at a relaxed pace - not a Hayden Roulston-style medal-winning sprint in lycra. Commuter cycling has collapsed since the 1980s and less than 2 per cent of people bike to work.

Posted by skooter at 8:14 PM
Tags: Commuting, Cycling, Health Care

October 7, 2009
It's Probably "the fact that I'm Albertan"

There are things I’m not fond of about Vancouver, and amongst the worst of them is the smug air of superiority people here have about the rest of the country. Whistler is worse.

I could be wrong, of course. It could be that some Whistler locals aren’t looking forward to the massive disruption to their lives that’s going to happen from February 1st to the middle of March next year. Honest though, I suspect it’s a combination of smugness and annoyance that Regan Lauscher is feeling.

Whistler lacks ‘Olympic fever,’ and she’s sick of it
‘Why the hate?’ athlete asks in controversial blog alleging resort town has been an unwelcoming place for Albertan athletes like her
ROD MICKLEBURGH
Last updated on Wednesday, Oct. 07, 2009 03:09AM EDT

“My biggest challenge at the moment is surviving life in British Columbia,” Ms. Lauscher wrote after training for less than a week in Whistler, site of the Olympic luge competition.

“To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the people in Whistler dislike more, the fact that I’m Albertan, or that I’m a participant in their perceived ‘Olympic abomination.’ “

Ms. Lauscher, a native of Red Deer, stressed that most Whistler residents are giving her “tons of encouragement.” But there was a “distinct group of people who haven’t caught that metaphorical ‘Olympic’ fever.”

Posted by skooter at 1:36 PM
Tags: 2010, Vancouver Olympics, Whistler

September 15, 2009
Wildrose Alliance wins Calgary-Glenmore byelection

This probably doesn’t mean much nationally: it’s neither a comment on the Harper Tories nor an implied endorsement of the federal LIberal party under Michael Ignatieff but this quote from the CBC’s article covering the Wildrose Alliance’s victory just made me laugh. The emphasis is mine.

“I’ve been a strong Conservative all my life like any normal Albertan,” voter Ellie Lucille Scott told CBC News. “But I think that people do need to be put on their toes a little bit and I think that’s the message I would like to see them get at this time.”

Posted by skooter at 1:14 PM
Tags: Alberta, Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper

September 10, 2009
Alan Turing: Father of Modern Computer Science

“Alan Turing” is the father of modern computer science, and a pioneer in thinking on the concept of artificial intelligence. He was also famously gay, at a time when such a thing was not allowed.

Great Britan has finally chosen to apologize to one of its most notable citizens.

“Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling” - PM”:http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20571

Number 10 door: PA copyrightThe Prime Minister has released a statement on the Second World War code-breaker, Alan Turing, recognising the “appalling” way he was treated for being gay.

Alan Turing, a mathematician most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes, was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 and sentenced to chemical castration.

August 26, 2009
In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, the Lion Sleeps Tonight

Senator Edward Kennedy’s earlier passing has ended one of America’s great political dynasties. A true Democrat has passed.

Posted by skooter at 3:56 PM
Tags: America, Democrat, Obituaries

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

June 11, 2009
The Harper Government Is Dead

Healthcare is always the top polling issue in elections. Well, it’s always one of the top three. Healthcare and the Economy (otherwise known as jobs usually flip the top two positions.) This will kill the already dead Harper government at the next election.

Canada was relatively self sufficient, and a significant player in the world market for medical isotopes. The Harper government has just killed it, and abandoned our health care security in the process (not too mention increased costs over the long term, in all likelihood.)

Canada to get out of isotopes game: Harper
David Akin, Canwest News Service, Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada plans to leave the production of medical isotopes to other countries — despite the fact that for a time last year, this country was producing nearly all such isotopes in the world.

June 9, 2009
Big Oil's Guilty Conscience

Shell has settled a lawsuit in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, issuing the standard claim that the settlement is not an admission of guilt and claiming that it had no role in Saro-Wiwa’s death.

Nonsense. Just nonsense.

Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case
By JAD MOUAWAD, Published: June 8, 2009

The announcement caps a protracted legal battle that began shortly after the death of the Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. Mr. Saro-Wiwa, Shell’s most prominent critic at the time in Nigeria, was hanged by that country’s military regime after protesting the company’s environmental practices in the oil-rich delta, especially in his native Ogoni region.

Shell continued Monday to deny any role in the death. It called the settlement a “humanitarian gesture” meant to compensate the plaintiffs, including Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s family, for their loss and to cover a portion of their legal fees and costs. Some of the money will go into an educational and social trust fund intended to benefit the Ogoni people.

Posted by skooter at 1:37 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Human Rights, Oil

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 13, 2009
Vancouver's Olympic Loan Problem

When information about Vancouver’s Olympic village loan leaked, there was quite a bit of debate over how it happened. The documents were apparently identified by a unique number and rumour at the time said that it was Peter Ladner’s copy that had been leaked.

Then mayor Sam Sullivan called for an investigation. The results are in and the crack investigators at the Vancouver Police Department have come up…empty. It just makes me laugh.

Vancouver police quit probe into leaked Olympic documents
BY JEFF LEE, VANCOUVER SUN, MAY 12, 2009
 
Vancouver police have halted an investigation into who leaked confidential information from city hall regarding a $100-million Olympic village financing deal.

Saying they were unable to convince everyone who had access to a confidential document to take polygraph tests, police said they have no choice but to recommend not proceeding with charges.

“After a thorough and detailed investigation involving interviews with numerous city councillors and staff, and a review of any existing evidence, we have decided there is insufficient evidence to recommend charges in this incident,” said Insp. Les Yeo.

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.”

April 28, 2009
A Crack in the Armour

There’s not much doubt that the B.C. Liberals will win the next election, but John van Dongen’s essentially forced resignation shows a lapse in judgement on the part of Gordon Campbell and his team.

B.C. solicitor general resigns over speeding tickets
Delayed resignation reflects poorly on premier, says NDP leader
Last Updated: Monday, April 27, 2009 | 1:00 PM PT

British Columbia’s top law enforcement official has resigned from the provincial cabinet following revelations that his driver’s licence has been suspended for excessive speeding, adding a new twist to the provincial election campaign.

Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety John van Dongen announced his cabinet resignation in a statement released Monday morning, but said he will continue to run as the B.C. Liberal Party candidate for Abbotsford South in the May 12 election.

The problem here is that van Dongen’s infractions related to his responsibilities. As the minister responsible for ICBC and driving safety, he should have resigned by choice the moment a court of law took away his driver’s licence. If he’d been (for example) the Environment minister…well, that would show terrible judgement but not create a conflict with his responsibilities and a resignation might be an option.

Posted by skooter at 1:13 PM
Tags: BC Liberal Party, Gordon Campbell, Politics

April 21, 2009
Too much Photoshop?

Photography: the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (as film or a CCD chip)

For years submitting photos to magazines meant submitting slides. Why slides? Quite simply, the slide is the picture. A print from a negative can be manipulated, and negatives aren’t really viewable (although in black and white it’s doable.) Slides were, generally speaking, unmodified (though you could get them duplicated easily.)

In the digital age (to which I do not yet belong in a photographic sense) it’s far easier to manipulate things. Digital cameras with white balance and easy exposure bracketing settings make it easier and cheaper to shoot more, which is what most people wind up doing. I know photographers with great eyes for composition who know nothing of basic concepts such as depth of field. Take the shot, put it on the computer, edit it in Photoshop and print it…somewhere.

There’s nothing wrong with it, but at some point an excess of manipulation makes it not a photograph anymore. It may not decrease an image’s relevance, or impact, or cultural significance…but it’s not a photograph anymore.

The international press is confronting the issue of how much manipulation is too much manipulation in its annual awards presentations.

Too much Photoshop? Judge for yourself

Three photographers were told to deliver their RAW-files for closer inspection, when the three judges in January were assembled to select the winners in Picture of The Year in Denmark. This is the first time in the competition’s 35-year history that it has happened. One of the photographers, Klavs Bo Christensen, has accepted to show his RAW-files for the readers of pressefotografforbundet.dk. You can also hear a recording of the conversion between the judges about the photographer’s story.

Photo journalist Klavs Bo Christensen just landed at Kastrup Airport after a long travel abroad, when his cell phone rang. It was a representative from the Danish photo contest Picture of The Year, who asked him to submit his RAW-files from his Haiti story to the judges.

Posted by skooter at 4:14 AM
Tags: Photography

March 28, 2009
Isn't Religion Supposed to be About Compassion?

If there was a single argument for the absolute separation of church and state, this fits.

Amid Abuse of Girls in Brazil, Abortion Debate Flares

The doctors’ actions set off a swirl of controversy. A Brazilian archbishop summarily excommunicated everyone involved — the doctors for performing the abortion and the girl’s mother for allowing it — except for the stepfather, who stands accused of raping the girl over a number of years.

“The law of God is above any human law,” said José Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop, who argued that while rape was bad, abortion was even worse.

In more than 80 percent of the cases, fathers or stepfathers committed the sexual abuse, doctors at the clinic said.

Posted by skooter at 4:45 PM
Tags: Human Rights, South America, Women's Rights

March 24, 2009
On the List of Things Not Likely to Help...

An agreement to share information seems unlikely to stop people from shooting each other in the streets of Vancouver. Presumably, the information to be shared was relevant several months ago.

Oppal and Mexican officials join forces to fight gangs
DIRK MEISSNER, The Canadian Press, March 24, 2009 at 3:52 AM EDT

VICTORIA — Criminal gangs don’t pay attention to international borders, a fact that spurred a meeting yesterday between the attorneys-general of British Columbia and the northern Mexican state of Baja California looking for ways to fight the transnational gang network.

Baja California’s Rommel Moreno Manjarrez and B.C.’s Wally Oppal signed a statement of intent pledging to share information to fight drug-trafficking gangs who kill to protect their turf.

The information-sharing statement could ultimately lead to B.C. justice officials working in Mexico to help catch and jail gang members, they said.

Posted by skooter at 1:14 PM
Tags: Gangs, Guns

March 23, 2009
The Phrase "Swedish Rocket" Becomes Less Confusing

Every once in a while when I refer to my car as the Swedish Rocket people ask me if I have a Saab. Another reaction I get on rare occasions is that it sounds like a foreign exchange girlfriend.

The most common reaction, of course, is just one of confusion. I’m used to that though (and frankly, it’s not only when talking about my car…)

Sweden is somewhat wisely deciding not to bail Saab out. This may result in a bankruptcy, but it does seems more rational than the American strategy of propping up businesses that have a failing history.

I do hope Volvo doesn’t die. I like that new XC60.

Sweden Says No to Saving Saab, a National Icon
By SARAH LYALL, Published: March 22, 2009

TROLLHATTAN, Sweden — Saab Automobile may be just another crisis-ridden car company in an industry full of them. But just as the fortunes of Flint, Mich., are permanently entangled with General Motors, so it is impossible to find anyone in this city in southwest Sweden who is not somehow connected to Saab.

Which makes it all the more wrenching that the Swedish government has responded to Saab’s desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

Posted by skooter at 3:49 AM
Tags: Cars, Economics

March 20, 2009
If the Chair of the Republican National Committee Say So, It Must Be True...

Nerts. The sad thing is this guy is part of the Republican leadership. People actually look up to this guy. I’m especially fond of his warming being part of the cooling process logic. That’s just brilliant.

Michael Steele: ‘We Are Not Warming’
March 20, 2009, 11:39 am, By Kate Galbraith

The Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, has weighed in on climate change.

In a March 6 radio appearance that is only now percolating through the blogosphere, Mr. Steele apparently fielded a skeptic’s question about global warming. As transcribed by the liberal blog, the Huffington Post, Mr. Steele thanked the questioner and replied this way:

“We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.”

Posted by skooter at 8:30 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Politics, Republican, Science

March 19, 2009
Vancouver's Loss, Delta's Gain

This move makes sense. It’s always better when politicians represent the ridings they live in, or as close as possible. It’s a loss for Vancouver though. Wally was a good MLA.

Oppal to run in new riding in May
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | 7:03 AM PT, CBC News

Attorney General Wally Oppal made it official Tuesday night that he would be running as a Liberal candidate in the Delta South riding during the May 12 provincial election.

Oppal’s move from his current riding had been anticipated, since Delta South’s current MLA Val Roddick said she would not seek re-election.

Posted by skooter at 2:34 AM
Tags: BC Liberal Party, Politics

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 14, 2009
Richard Florida in the Atlantic Monthly

The March 2009 cover of the Atlantic Monthly featured a series of “regional” covers highlighting an article by Richard Florida called How the Crash Will Reshape America. Apparently, the Atlantic considers Canada one region as the Vancouver area edition featured not Vancouver (mentioned in the article) and not even Seattle (the economic hub of our region) but Toronto. Yes…Toronto. 4000km away.

Although my feelings on Florida are mixed, the article isn’t bad. He addresses some good points and every time a hole in his logical circle poked up he managed to plug it like a good little dutch boy. Some excerpts.

How the Crash Will Reshape America
Richard Florida, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2009

“The world’s 40 largest mega-regions, which are home to some 18 percent of the world’s population, produce two-thirds of global economic output and nearly 9 in 10 new patented inventions…Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Raleigh, and Boston now have two or three times the concentration of college graduates of Akron or Buffalo…as globalization has increased the financial return on innovation by widening the consumer market, the pull of innovative places, already dense with highly talented workers, has only grown stronger, created a snowball effect…successful cities, unlike biological organisms, actually get faster as they grow older.”

“Perhaps no major city in the U.S. today looks more beleaguered than Detroit, where in October the average home price was $18,513, and some 45,000 properties were in some form of foreclosure.”

“In Chicago, for instance, the country’s 50 biggest law firms grew by 2,130 lawyers from 1984 to 2006…Throughout the the rest of the Midwest, these firms added a total of just 169 attorneys.”

“Bank of America has taken to the banking like a shopaholic with a new credit card; it has been bargain-hunting and cutting some astonishing deals. Bank of America will come out the other side far better than in any fantasy it might have entertained previously.”

“To an uncommon degree, the economic boom in these cities was propelled by housing appreciation: as prices rose, more people moved in, seeking inexpensive lifestyles and the opportunity to get in on the real-estate market where it was rising…Local homeowners pumped more and more capital out of their houses as well, taking out home-equity loans and injecting money into the local economy in the form of home improvements and demand for retail goods and low-level services.”

Posted by skooter at 4:06 AM
Tags: Articles, Economics, Politics, Technology

March 6, 2009
Going Meekly Into the Good Night

John Tory is a man who hasn’t found an office he wasn’t willing to run for yet, has hopefully for for his last office. I’m kind of surprised he’s waiting “…until Friday…” to discuss his future, although it’s only a day. After losing the general election and failing to win his seat in that election, it’s pretty clear what has to happen here.

Tory defeated in by-election
KAREN HOWLETT
From Friday’s Globe and Mail, March 6, 2009 at 12:13 AM EST

LINDSAY, ONT. — Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory was defeated in a by-election race Thursday night, leaving his political career in tatters.

“Obviously, I am very disappointed by the results today, but the voters can never be wrong in what they decide and I respect their decision,” Mr. Tory said in conceding defeat.

The sense of disappointment was palpable among his supporters, who had gathered in a Lindsay restaurant for what was to be a victory party. Mr. Tory, 54, was counting on a victory in the Lindsay-area riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock to pave the way for what was to be his triumphant return to the Ontario Legislature. With those hopes now dashed, he will have little choice but to bow out, marking a bitter end to his 41/2-year reign as leader of the party.

After delivering his speech, Mr. Tory abruptly left the podium without answering questions from the media. He plans to discuss his future at a news conference Friday.

Posted by skooter at 1:31 PM
Tags: Ontario, Politics

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 19, 2009
Faces of the Dead

The New York Times has created one of the most compelling memorials to American soldiers who have died in Iraq I can imagine. This is reminiscent of Life Magazine’s One Day Dead feature published in 1969, but the update uses current technology in an effective way.

Posted by skooter at 3:37 AM
Tags: Interaction Design, Iraq

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

February 13, 2009
Well, Duh!

One would think this would have been self evident by now. I’m just glad they didn’t create a Royal Commission to study this. The emphasis is mine.

Tasers potentially lethal, RCMP head tells MPs
Commissioner says stun guns ‘far, far less lethal’ than conventional firearms
Last Updated: Thursday, February 12, 2009
CBC News

A revised RCMP policy that restricts how officers can use Tasers recognizes the stun guns can cause death, especially when fired on “acutely agitated” individuals, the head of the Mounties said Thursday.

“The RCMP’s revised CEW policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals,” Elliott told the committee.

Posted by skooter at 2:58 AM
Tags: Police, Politics

February 10, 2009
Vancouver Cuts Downtown Ambassador Funding

Vancouver’s had these red clad Downtown Ambassadors wandering around, seemingly aimlessly, for a few years now. I can’t remember when I first started noticing them, but it was about three years ago that they started becoming more common.

I could never figure out what they were and who they were for. I sort of thought they were a summer tourist season thing, and presumably volunteer or summer students. I always thought it seemed like a decent way to create some employment at low cost.

It turns out I was wrong, and they were intended to be actual security guards, working on behalf of the business. As with any number of private security guards, the look of most of these ambassadors didn’t really inspire…confidence. It also turns out that the NPA led city was funding these security guards: your tax dollars going to work to create a private police force on behalf of the businesses downtown. Not police, mind you. A private force, not accountable the way police are. (Whether police are properly accountable is another discussion.)

Not anymore. The city’s cut funding in what seems like a rational, sensible move.

Of course with six shootings in Vancouver in the last six days, I hope they invest in policing.

Posted by skooter at 3:50 AM
Tags: NPA, Politics, Vancouver, Vision Vancouver

I.D. Interview with Majora Carter

My first exposure to Majora Carter was after viewing her presentation at T.E.D. just after they went online. She’s phenomenal.

I.D. magazine interviews her this month and the interview is available online.

Posted by skooter at 3:16 AM
Tags: Environmentalism, TED

February 5, 2009
The Ants Go Marching 10 by 10

Ten lanes. Sheesh.

There’s an upside to this, if you want to look at it that way. Two lanes will be dedicated bus lanes. These aren’t HOV lanes these are bus lanes. I’m not sure if there’s going to be an HOV lane as well. There should be.

That’s the upside. The current Port Mann bridge is too narrow to provided dedicated transit. It’s three lanes each way. The new bridge at five lanes each way could actually be defined as adding HOV and Transit capacity only: three lanes for all traffice, one 24 hour HOV only lane and one bus lane only. The new bridge creates the ability to finally provide mass transit with dedicated road space to the Fraser Valley.

But sheesh. 10 lanes, with a budget that’s just growing and growing. I hope this goes well.

New 10-lane bridge to replace Port Mann
BY KELLY SINOSKI, VANCOUVER SUN, FEBRUARY 4, 2009

_METRO VANCOUVER—_The provincial government has scrapped its plan to twin the Port Mann Bridge in favour of building a new 10-lane crossing over the Fraser River, at a cost of $3.3 billion.

Premier Gordon Campbell said the new bridge, which will be built to accommodate rapid bus service, expanded cycling and pedestrian lanes and a possible light rail line, will ease congestion clogging the crossing and commuter delays by about one-third.

Posted by skooter at 1:42 PM
Tags: Cars, Gordon Campbell, Transportation

January 22, 2009
The Slippery Slope

I kind of liked living in one of the only cities that didn’t have a Wal-Mart. Having taken over an old Costco location, Vancouver now joins that slippery slope.

Wal-Mart conquers Bastion Vancouver
By Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun, January 21, 2009
 
Just inside the front doors, there was a bin of navel oranges going for 44 cents a pound. Dozens of shoppers swarmed around the big pile, attacking it when they could, reaching in when they found an opening, then backing away, like a pack of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Only a fool would have waded into the middle of it.

Posted by skooter at 1:32 PM
Tags: Wal-Mart

January 21, 2009
Obamicons

I’ve avoided Obamicon until now. I can’t see how. A great way to kill 15 minutes at the end of my day.

Posted by skooter at 6:41 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Politics

January 20, 2009
Hope

Barak Obama sticker at a Construction Site

Posted by skooter at 3:58 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, President

January 11, 2009
What To Do With Israel

Naomi Klein outlines a controversial, but eminently reasonable, view on what to do with Israel. The South Africa comparison is not going to win her any friends, but is accurate.

Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction
By Naomi Klein - January 8th, 2009
It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Posted by skooter at 1:02 AM
Tags: Israel, Politics, United Nations, War

January 6, 2009
15 Days and Counting

On January 20th, 2009 Barak Obama will be sworn in as the President of the United States of America, the 43rd such man to hold the office.

Perhaps more significantly, it ends the tenure of George W. Bush, a conservative Republican who promised lower taxes and smaller government. So much for the concept of small government.

The result of deficit spending is debt. When President Bush took office, the national debt was $5.7 trillion. Now it is $10.6 trillion—and Congress voted in October to raise the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion, the seventh such hike since President Bush took office and the second since last July. If, as is quite likely, we reach the new ceiling by January 20, the outgoing president will have managed to amass more debt than all of his predecessors combined.

And even that number may be too small. When the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also assumed their $5.4 trillion debt. The accounting procedures used by the International Monetary Fund,
and endorsed by the [Congressional Budget Office], normally require that such debt also be taken into account…
- Harper’s, January 2009, pp. 33

History will not be kind. The emphasis was added by me.

Posted by skooter at 6:02 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Debt, George Bush, United States

December 23, 2008
A Modest Proposal (for Cycling)

It’s unfortunate, I think, that this article is not written in the sarcastic spirit of Jonathan Swift. A pitch for a $25 per year cycling registration fee in Seattle seems just ridiculous.

For starters, there’s not a jurisdiction in North America that funds road infrastructure purely from taxes paid by cars. Virtually every jurisdiction uses a portion of their general revenue to pay for automotive infrastructure, and in many cases various property taxes are applied as well. By extenstion cyclists—even those that don’t own cars—are paying for a road infrastructure that they’re not using as frequently as others.

Velonews’ Bob Mionske looks at other reasons in some depth.

I hope this is just a newspaper columnist trying to stir up some noise, because if it’s a serious proposal opposition needs to be built now.

Impose license fee on King County cyclists
By James F. Vesely
Times editorial page editor

Local government finances are so dire, it is time to consider — and enact — an annual fee on bicyclists.

A $25 annual fee for owning a bike is a natural outgrowth of the enormous amounts of trails, lanes and accommodations the region has made to cyclists. Those funds would be useful for local cities and King County. It would also make cyclists true members of the world of transportation, rather than free riders on the tax rolls.

Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities. Cyclists, known for their community spirit and exalted senses of self, should welcome this opportunity to help government support their activities.

Posted by skooter at 2:20 AM
Tags: Cycling, Seattle, Taxes, Transportation

November 30, 2008
Commuter Rail on Vancouver Island but not the Lower Mainland?

It seems strange to hear about the Provincial Government considering a commuter rail service on Vancouver Island and not in the Lower Mainland, stretching out towards the Fraser Valley. Twinning the Port Mann is all well and good, but without an investment in transit all it’s going to do is increase the amount of traffic.

In any case, one of the keys to success of mass transit if volume: you need to have enough riders to make it worthwhile. The population of the Lower Mainland is significantly higher than the Island. Of course we have the West Coast Express but it falls short of providing full service (and provides none at all south of the Fraser River.) An upgraded West Coast Express could be the equal of Ontario’s GO Transit system and could significantly reduce traffic all day long between the Valley and Vancouver.

B.C. considers southern Vancouver Island commuter rail service
Last Updated: Friday, November 28, 2008
CBC News

The B.C. government says it is considering upgrading the old E&N railway to create a new commuter rail service for southern Vancouver Island.

On Thursday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced he will commission a half-million-dollar study to look at the options for commuter rail and freight on the historic route.

Currently a VIA rail passenger train makes one daily run along the old north to south line between Victoria and Courtenay on the island’s east coast.

Posted by skooter at 4:37 PM
Tags: Commuting, Environmentalism, Transportation

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 19, 2008
Toronto's Bike Routes

A long long time ago, Bicycling Magazine voted Toronto the best city for cycling in North America. It slipped in the rankings quit a bit following that, but moves like this are a good way of getting that rating back.

I used to ride the Martin Goodman Trail in the snow quite a bit, and have fond memories of pedaling along the lakeshore while snow gently wafted around me illuminated by only the lights long the trail and the headlight on my bike. It was glorious.

Toronto plans to clear snow off major cycling routes Sidewalks also to get special attention in pro-active strategy
JEFF GRAY
November 19, 2008 at 4:50 AM EST

With up to four centimetres of snow expected to hit Toronto tomorrow morning, city officials - mindful of last season’s near-record snowfall - were quick to say yesterday that they are ready for winter and are even pledging to keep a pair of key cycling routes clear this year.

Councillors on the city’s parks committee will discuss a plan today to make special efforts to clear two east-west bike routes into the downtown, one along the “multi-use path” along Lake Shore Boulevard and Queens Quay from the east, and the other on the Queensway and King Street West.

The plan also calls for a study of how much it would cost to clear the waterfront Martin Goodman Trail for use by well-bundled cyclists all winter.

Parks committee chairwoman Paula Fletcher acknowledged that some residents of her downtown ward whose streets were left clogged with ice and snow last year might scratch their heads at the idea, but she said it is important to encourage all-season cycling.

Vancouver, incidentally, ignores cycling routes when it snows here. It doesn’t happen that often, and side streets in general seem to be ignored not just bike routes.

Posted by skooter at 1:36 PM
Tags: Cycling, Toronto, Winter

November 17, 2008
A Vision for Vancouver?

Ok, sorry. That’s about the most obvious and worst pun of a headline ever. I can’t come up with much else though.

Election results give Gregor Robertson the Mayor’s job in Vancouver, and every single one of his candidates was elected.

That’s the good news. Andrea Reimer made council, and it’s my sincere hope that she becomes mayor one of these days. Since living in Vancouver, there are few other people I’ve met who I’ve felt would be more capable of doing the job.

But what about our new Mayor, and the now unelected Peter Ladner?

Vision didn’t so much win this election as Ladner lost it. Generally speaking, the theory is that someone inside the NPA with nothing to lose from Ladner’s failure leaked Ladner’s copy of the Olympic loan documents to the media. Naturally, it couldn’t have been Sam Sullivan. Of course not. Citizen Sam showed Sam as a Machiavellian take no prisoners politician. Draw your own conclusions.

That $100 Million loan was the campaign’s killer issue, and it’s almost killed the NPA. With one councillor—the deliriously incompetent Suzanne Anton—the NPA will have a struggle ahead to remain relevant. Old habits die hard however, and I suspect they’ll be back for the next election (and shortly after adopt a policy of not allowing incumbents to be challenged.)

Gregor says he’s going to open up the talks about that Olympic loan. As I’ve said before, it would mean more if the four incumbent Vision councillors hadn’t voted with the council on the issue. It seems a bit hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is nothing new to Gregor. His sustainable juice business trucks tropical juices for untold miles to package them in Tetra Paks, which aren’t nearly as eco-friendly as the industry would have you believe in Vancouver. They’re shipped to China for recycling, the hyrdo-pulping recycling process is incredibly water intensive and much of the byproduct of that process goes to landfill. That one little hybrid company car driving around Vancouver doesn’t do much to make it sustainable (at least not in my books.)

Much has been made about Gregor’s lack of experience, a major concern of mine. A man who runs for provincial office and resigns before the end of his first term lacks both credibility and experience in my view. Some argue that Gregor saw the writing on the wall with no possibility of the NDP winning under Carole James, but Gregor ran with Carole James as his leader so that argument just shows a lack of loyalty. So he doesn’t have much experience, he lied to his constituents (by promising to stick around for a term) and he’s not loyal. Quite a guy.

Senator Larry Campbell was on CBC Radio One last night arguing that the days of requiring experience to sit as mayor were long gone, and citing his own bitter tenure as an example. Sure Larry: great example. You sat one term, had a divisive relationship with your own members which split the party into two, chaired meetings in an abrasive and aggressive manner, and then resigned saying you weren’t a political animal. Mere months later you accepted a political patronage appointment to the Senate—so much for not being a political animal.

You might want to come up with a better example to defend the lack of experience, Larry. That’s just my advice though. Take it with a grain of salt.

So, here we are in Vancouver with a new team at 12th & Cambie. I voted for Gregor, despite the fact that I’m doubtful the city will be better off in three years when we vote again. The thing is, I maybe be skeptical of Gregor’s ability to do any good for Vancouver, but I know that a Peter Ladner led NPA would just screw this city up more.

In this case, better the devil you don’t know than the one you do.

Good luck Gregor. You’re going to need it.

November 14, 2008
One and a Half Years

It was on May 14, 2007 that Cerberus Capital bought Chrysler Corporation from Daimler. That’s about one and a half years ago: only a moment in the lifetime of an investment of that magnitude; a brief interlude in the lifetime of a corporation.

What’s changed so dramatically in that scant 20 months that Cerberus capital wasn’t prepared to deal with? A recession? Decreased demand for products? The latter, at least, was already happening when the purchase when through.

Apparently now American tax payers are being asked to bail them out of their deal. Hardly seems fair does it. If America does this, Canada will inevitably get on board, or risk losing all those jobs.

Chrysler adds its voice to calls for U.S. bailout
GREG KEENAN
November 13, 2008 at 7:59 PM EST

A government rescue package and alliances with competitors are essential if Chrysler LLC is to ride out the storm battering the auto industry, the company’s chief executive officer said Thursday, shifting the focus of the Detroit crisis away from General Motors Corp. for at least part of the day.

Chrysler posted a video on its website late Thursday urging Americans to contact federal politicians and urge them to support assistance from the U.S. government for auto makers.

Posted by skooter at 1:26 PM
Tags: Cars, Chrysler, Economics

Those Crazy Markets

TSE, November 13th, 2008 Why it seems like only yesterday that CIBC promised us that markets had found their bottom, and would be more stable.

It makes me wonder how they’ll explain that big dip in the graph for today’s markets followed by the huge climb, gaining back yesterday’s losses and more.

Posted by skooter at 1:39 AM
Tags: Banking, Economics, Financial Services

November 12, 2008
Rock, Meet Hard Place

Having participated, if not led, the nationalization of the financial services industry, it’s interesting to see what will happen with the automotive one.

Democrats Seek Help for Automakers
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and CARL HULSE
Published: November 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were ready to push emergency legislation to aid the imperiled auto industry when lawmakers return to Washington next week for the first time after the election, setting the stage for one last showdown with President Bush.

It’s a tough choice, to be sure. The automotive industry is a massive part of North America’s economic well being. It employs tens of thousands of people, with the associated multiplier effect of those dollars in local communities. It is the heart of many communities, and devastates them when hard times hit and plants close.

So what to do?

The Democratic house leader is advocating for a bailout:

Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi have urged the Bush administration to help the major automakers, especially General Motors, which is fast depleting its cash reserves and seems to be hurtling toward bankruptcy. G.M. shares, pummeled for weeks, fell an additional 13 percent on Tuesday to $2.92, its lowest point since 1943. G.M. on Monday warned shareholders that it might not be able to continue as a “going concern.”

But I personally find it hard to see that as a good option. The fall of the North American automotive industry has been a long time coming: more of a gentle slide than a sudden thud. Bailing out General Motors at this point would certainly be good for votes (blue collar, union sponsored votes no less) but it would be bad for the long term health of the economy.

Capitalism thrives on risk: the same risk that creates the potential for failure also creates the potential for wealth. Bailing out General Motors sends a message that risk only applies to the small: get big enough, and the government will effectively eliminate your financial risk.

Many would argue that GM is too big too allow to fail. The simply fact is, if you’re too big too fail you’re just too big. The government has anti-trust powers, and they probably should have been used a long time ago in the automotive industry. Unfortunately, the automotive industry successfully lobbied against it.

I personal fall, I think, on the side of letting GM fall. It will lead to a stronger economy over the long run. If there’s room for an American automotive manufacturer, one will rise again.

Posted by skooter at 3:48 AM
Tags: Cars, Economics

November 10, 2008
Advance Polls: Again

Remember what I said about advance voting? Turnout in Vancouver has been high, which likely means our next mayor will be the mega-watt smile.

Controversial loan boosts turnout at advance polls
ROBERT MATAS AND FRANCES BULA
Globe and Mail Update
November 10, 2008 at 5:10 AM EST
VANCOUVER Vancouver voters are flocking to advance polls, with some saying they were inspired to cast a ballot by the controversy over the current city council’s decision to provide up to a $100-million loan to the developer of the Olympic athletes village.

Many surveyed at the city’s advance polls on Saturday said the controversy didn’t sway them from views they already had. Instead, it made them more determined to vote.

But some acknowledged that the news made them actually switch their vote, which could make the loan a deciding factor in what had been predicted to be a tight election.

Here’s the thing that bugs me. Gregor Robertson has been viciously critical of the NPA over this loan and the secret vote that made it possible, but four Vision Vancouver councillors voted in favour of the loan. His argument would hold a great deal more credibility if they’d voted against it.

I voted for Gregor, but I held my nose while I did it. I think it’s going to be close, and I desperately don’t want to see an NPA council with Peter Ladner in the mayor’s chair.

Posted by skooter at 1:20 PM
Tags: Gregor Robertson, NPA, Peter Ladner, Vancouver

Europe's Bike-Sharing Programs

The New York Times discusses the rise of bike sharing programs in Europe.

Among the most notable comments:

Copenhagen and Amsterdam have had devoted bicycling commuters for many years. But the new programs have created the greatest transportation revolution in central and southern Europe, where warmer climates allow riders to ride comfortably year-round. The shared bicycles in Barcelona, Lyon and Paris are heavily used, logging about 10 rides a day, according to officials in these cities.

I’m hopeful we’ll see a program like this in Vancouver sometime in the next few years.

Posted by skooter at 5:00 AM
Tags: Bikes, Transportation, Vancouver

Youssou N'Dour: Retour a Gorée

Playing in a limited engagement at the Vancouver International Film Centre, the film Youssou N’Dour: Retour a Gorée is well worth seeing. It shows one of the world’s greatest singers in his homeland, and a view of the history of the legacy of colonialism that is educational.

I had never heard of Gorée or its Door of No Return. They seem to have skipped over it in my history education. I’m not surprised.
Gorée's Door of No Return

Posted by skooter at 3:02 AM
Tags: Africa, Music, Slavery, Youssou N'Dour

November 7, 2008
Stocking Up: Would You Prefer a Gun Fairy?

I suspect that Gun Snatcher isn’t the worst name that will be used to describe Barak Obama. In my mind, it’s kind of a compliment actually.

I hope there’s finally a chance for reasonable gun control laws in the United States, but I suspect enough Democrats support the NRA that it won’t happen.

On Concerns Over Gun Control, Gun Sales Are Up
Michael Stravato for The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: November 6, 2008

DENVER — Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.

“He’s a gun-snatcher,” said Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett’s Guns and Ammo in northwest Houston, which was packed with shoppers on Thursday.

“He wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force,” added Mr. Pruett, a former radio personality, of President-elect Barack Obama.

Posted by skooter at 1:36 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Guns

November 6, 2008
Think About This the Next Time You're Pumping

From VeloNews

The price of gas, which was running $11/gallon in Italy in September, even with a favorable Euro vs. dollar exchange rate, has produced a heightened interest in bicycle commuting.

11 Euros is CDN$16.63 according to the Bank of Canada. With 3.8 litres per gallon that translates to CDN$4.38 per litre. It might be time to stop complaining (though I wish we had Europe’s rail system.)

Posted by skooter at 4:14 PM
Tags: Cars, Cycling, Gas, Oil

Gregor's Misstep

It was a stupid issue, but it was even dumber of Gregor Robertson to let this issue blow up the way it did. If he’d paid the fine earlier, the story would have been dead. I’ve called Gregor a hypocrite before for claiming his business is sustainable while packaging his juices in tetra paks that are shipped to China and only partially recycled. This is just another example that supports my argument.

Sadly, he might be our best candidate.

Robertson drops fare fight, pays up
Transportation minister has some choice words for mayoral candidate
Chad Skelton and Tim Lai, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, November 06, 2008

Would-be Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said Wednesday he has paid the SkyTrain fare-violation fine that has been embarrassing him this week.
By paying the fine, he avoids a traffic court hearing in December.

He may also be able to escape more of the enthusiastic tongue-lashings Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has been sending his way.

Posted by skooter at 1:36 PM
Tags: Gregor Robertson, Mayor, Vision Vancouver

November 5, 2008
Hope

A lot is going to be written about this day, for many years to come. Barak Obama has, of course, proven that he is more than capable of speaking for himself.

“I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

I’m not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”

- Barak Obama, July 27, 2004, Democratic National Convention

Posted by skooter at 7:11 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, President

November 2, 2008
John McCain & Tina Fey on SNL


Tina Fey truly does have that little Sarah Palin wink nailed. I’m gonna miss that after Tuesday (at least until 2012.)

It’s also nice to see John McCain displaying a seemingly good sense of humour about his current status:

I’m impressed, incidentally, with a Starbucks advertisement that ran before my viewing of the clip. On November 4th visit any Starbucks in the United States, tell them you voted and they’ll give you a tall cup of coffee. Cynics will point out that the actual cost on that cup of coffee is minimal, and the promotion will get written off as marketing: it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to do this, and if it encourages just one more person to vote—no matter who they vote for—it will be worthwhile.

Posted by skooter at 4:02 PM
Tags: Elections, Sarah Palin, SNL, Tina Fey

October 30, 2008
Early Voting is Usually a Good Thing

It’s a trueism of campaigning, that a high turnout at advance polls is a sign of impending change. Vancouver’s early voting set a record when voters roundly turfed Philip Owen from office in favour of that political maverick now known as Senator Larry Campbell.

The logic is simple: if people are happy with the status quo, they are complacent about voting and don’t rush out to do it before they are reminded by every media outlet they can find.

It makes me happy, therefore, to read this article in the New York Times:

The Decided Go in Droves to Vote Early

Among some of the 32 states that allow their residents to vote early without an excuse, either by mail or in person, the verdict is already in from a full quarter of registered voters — well into the millions. In some counties across the nation, the percentages are far higher. The early voting will continue for several days in most of the states, but in Louisiana it is already closed, and it will end on Friday or Saturday elsewhere to give time to update the books to prevent people from voting twice.

Change, in this case, would indicate electoral success for Barak Obama and that seems to be a good thing.

I never cease to be amazed at how easy it is to find a commentator ignorant enough to say something stupid like this:

Mr. Schuetz said he voted for Mr. McCain, a Republican, with enthusiasm. His wife, Linda, called the choice the “lesser of two evils.”

The article, of course, doesn’t go on to outline the ways in which an Obama administration could be evil. You can use your own imagination.

Posted by skooter at 4:58 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain, President

October 23, 2008
If BC Ferries is a Private Corporation...

it might be prudent to ask why the premier of the province is announcing a reduction in fares. (It’s possible that this Globe & Mail story is factually inaccurate.)

B.C. to accelerate income tax cuts
PATRICK BRETHOUR
October 22, 2008 at 9:32 PM EDT

VANCOUVER — British Columbia will accelerate income tax cuts to cushion the blow from the economic slowdown, Premier Gordon Campbell announced minutes ago in a province-wide televised address.

Income tax cuts slated to take effect this coming January will come into effect immediately - and be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008 - handing B.C. residents an unexpected windfall as the holiday retail season approaches.

The announcement was part of a 10-point plan announced by Mr. Campbell last night, which also include accelerated tax cuts for businesses and a temporary cut in ferry fares.

October 20, 2008
Possibly for the Last Time: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

But we can hope for more, perhaps on this week’s Thursday update.

The sketch itself was followed by more.

A Weekend Update segment with Sarah Palin is most notable for Governor Palin’s use of Tina Fey’s sign off line “Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.” The line was originally used by Chevy Chase in the 70s, but the tribute here is obvious.

It’s at least nice to see Governor Palin being self-deprecating. The moment where the moose gets shot was pretty funny.

Posted by skooter at 5:27 AM
Tags: Elections, President, SNL, Tina Fey

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 11, 2008
Congratulations Barak Obama

Barak Obama just won November’s election (as if the debates weren’t pushing it in that direction already.)

Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI
Published: October 10, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, a investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded.

You know, I always said Chrysler would be the first to go. Not that it was a hard call: they’re the smallest American car maker, after being dumped by Daimler. Either way…this is not a merger, this is a takeover. GM is large, Chrysler is small.

G.M. and Chrysler Explore Merger
By BILL VLASIC and ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Published: October 10, 2008
DETROIT — General Motors is in preliminary talks about a possible merger with Chrysler, a deal that could drastically remake the landscape of the auto industry by reducing the Big Three of Detroit automakers to the Big Two.

The talks between G.M. and Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns Chrysler, began more than a month ago, and the negotiations are not certain to produce a deal. Two people close to the process said the chances of a merger were “50-50” as of Friday and would most likely still take weeks to work out.

October 5, 2008
It's Almost Predictable Now

Once again, Tina Fey opens Saturday Night Live as Sarah Palin. What’s interesting is that I think that’s Queen Latifah playing the moderator, and she was neither the host nor the musical guest of the episode.

It’s a bit sad that these little moments will end on November 4th, 2008. It’s looking strongly like McCain no longer stands a chance.

I’m not sure if this is the best line:

“You know, we’re gonna take every aspect of the crisis and look at it and then we’re gonna ask ourselves, ‘What would a maverick do in this situation?’ And then, you know, we’ll do that.”

or this one:

Moderator: Governor Palin, would you like to respond to Senator Biden’s comments about Senator McCain
Sarah Palin: No thank you, but I would like to talk about being an outsider.

The first got more laughs, but personally I think the second was sharper.

Posted by skooter at 5:36 PM
Tags: Sarah Palin, SNL, Television, Tina Fey

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 30, 2008
I Swear I Thought I Was Dreaming

Having fallen asleep in front of the TV, I thought I was dreaming when I woke up to see Tina Fey on my TV. Happily I wasn’t.

The moment, about four minutes in, when she starts to explain about the economic bail out plan is just beautiful, and hits the nail a little too close to the head. “…and having a dollar value meal at restaurants…” Priceless.

September 27, 2008
More on those Tolls

Missed, in my reading of the initial coverage of the toll situation on Highway 1, was Gordon Campbell’s announcement that tolls on the Port Mann would be imposed for 35 years.

This is, of course, a meaningless announcement. By the time that 35 year agreement is up, the average person voting in today’s election will be in their seventies, and the promise will be long forgotten. Gordon Campbell will be 95, and won’t have to answer for an changes to that decision.

I recall seeing a documentary about the Lion’s Gate Bridge which talked about Vancouver City Council providing a 60 year timeline for the removal of the road through Stanley Park. I wish I could find the reference, but even if I did I wouldn’t fall for it.

I’m not opposed to tolls, incidentally. I think the Port Mann should be tolled. I’m not a fan of artificial promises, and I’m somewhat amazed that the news media has been letting this one slide.

September 26, 2008
The Great Debaters

Sigh. Another reminder of how much I miss Jim Henson and the Muppets.

The Bartlett White House Was Fictional...

but it was also idealistic in the best way. Maureen Dowd is possessed of a sharp wit and a sharp pen, and whether she actually talked to Aaron Sorkin or not, she’s written a pretty funny article called Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet

One of my favourite excerpts:

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

and another (I’ve added the emphasis):

BARTLET Well … let me think. …We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know … I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back.

The article drops a sly reference to 30 Rock as well. I swear that didn’t influence my opinion.

Posted by skooter at 4:53 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain, President

News That Contradicts Itself

What I love about this article:

Gas shortages reportedly critical in western N.C.
BY STEVE LYTTLE, The Charlotte Observer

Hundreds of cars lined streets this morning as motorists in the Charlotte metro region tried to cope with an ever-worsening gasoline shortage situation.
Some motorists waited up to five hours, and fights were reported as people accused other customers of cutting in line.

Some gas stations that opened this morning with what they thought were ample supplies ran out within a few hours.

Police were called out several times to break up fights among angry customers.

which is both surreal and entirely unsurprising, is not so much the article itself as it is these ads which appeared on the same web page.
Charlotte Observer

Every single ad is for an SUV.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 AM
Tags: Carbon Tax, Cars, Gas, Oil

September 24, 2008
I Don't Think I Can Wait That Long

I’m a bit impatient sometimes, so I’ve got some old Lego, some AA batteries and a bunch of old hard drive magnets I’m going to put to work:

Collider Operations on Hold Until Next Year
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Published: September 23, 2008

The world’s newest and largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, will not begin operations again until April, officials at the European Center for Nuclear Research said Tues

But last Friday the machine was shut down after an electrical connection between two of the superconducting electromagnets that steer the protons suffered a so-called quench, heating up, melting and leaking helium into the collider tunnel. Liquid helium is used to cool the magnets to superconducting temperatures of only about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above absolute zero. Stray heat can cause the magnets to lose their superconductivity with potentially disastrous consequences.

Posted by skooter at 4:00 AM
Tags: CERN, Geneva, Physics, Science

Some Things Never Change

The question is, will Barak Obama be any different?

From the New York Times

One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.
[McCain adviser Rick] Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.

Posted by skooter at 3:54 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, John McCain, Politics, President

September 23, 2008
When Capitalists Become Communists

That least Liberal of publications, Forbes magazine advocates for an even greater level of government intervention. At least they mention Marbury vs. Madison

$700 billion is not enough. It also doesn’t include the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has already committed in earlier actions to stem the tsunami flooding the markets. The bill for American International Group could consume a significant amount of the new request, and the balance sheets of other financial institutions are sitting on trillions of dollars of mortgage detritus.
The Bush administration’s request that the Treasury’s actions be immune from judicial oversight is unconstitutional. Unless Marbury v. Madison has been overruled while HCM’s attention was diverted elsewhere, all actions of the executive branch in this country are subject to judicial review. This request rings with the same troubling echoes of the most abusive aspects of the Patriot Act.

Wrong, Forbes. $700 billion is too much. Wall Street tied its own noose under the free market doctrine of conservatism, and now they’re asking someone else to untie it. Yet another example of changing the rules midway through the game.

Read some Naomi Klein instead. She’s thought the problem through more thoroughly than George Bush has.

Posted by skooter at 4:46 PM
Tags: Conservative, Economics, Republican, United States

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 15, 2008
Oh Tina, How Much You're Missed

Yet one more reminder of how the funniest woman on television once made Saturday Night Live a very funny show.

Posted by skooter at 4:31 AM
Tags: America, Comedy, SNL, Television, Tina Fey

September 9, 2008
No PST on Bicycles and Parts in British Columbia

The things you learn when you pay attention.

It was time for the annual chain change on my daily commuter bike, and when I wondered why the bill seemed smaller than I thought it should be, I learned that in British Columbia:

You do not charge your customer PST when you sell replacement parts. 

which means I’m going to be paying closer attention to bills in the future. A nice little incentive provided by the Campbell government.

Posted by skooter at 3:10 AM
Tags: Cycling, Gordon Campbell, Politics, Taxes

September 8, 2008
Rwanda

My end of summer reading was a book I stumbled across in a used book stor called We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. I’d read bits and pieces about the Rwandan genocide, but this book provides an in depth look at a situation that demonstrates how utterly completely the world ignores the African problem.

Of course, in North America the African problems doesn’t exist because we just ignore it.

Over 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi’s were slaughtered in 90 days by their Hutu neighbours. The world’s response wasn’t to do nothing, which is the popular view, but instead to send troops and pretend a genocide wasn’t happening.

Until it ended, and then what did we do? We set up refugee camps to shelter the Hutu’s who had killed the Tutsi’s, and then asked them all to live next to each other again.

In the aftermath of World War II, the nations of the west supported the creation of the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish population that had been methodically massacred.

In Europe, the vulnerable were given their own country. In Africa, the vulnerable were asked to live next door to the very people who’d killed them and just forget everything that happened. They were expected to just get along.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t make any sense at all.

Posted by skooter at 5:29 PM
Tags: Africa, Genocide

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.

September 3, 2008
David Emerson: End of a Career

When the Vancouver-Quadra electoral association of the Conservative Party of Canada refused to grant David Emerson a nomination, it was no surprise that this news was next.

Emerson won’t run again: sources
STEVEN CHASE
Globe and Mail Update
September 2, 2008 at 11:19 PM EDT
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, who defected to the Harper Conservatives 2½ years ago, will retire from politics instead of running again in the looming federal election, sources say.

Mr. Emerson’s departure will be a blow for the party.

I’m not so sure about the blow. A bright, but extremely arrogant man, Emerson could hardly be called a team player. With no hope of winning, he has taken the safe option and jumped out of the pool.

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 8, 2008
Beijing 2008

With David Emerson and his Conservative government afraid to rock the boat on issues that truly matter, it’s nice to see Irwin Cotler speaking his mind about the China issue.

I only wish I weren’t cynical enough to believe that if the Conservatives were speaking out about China’s human rights record, the Liberals would be telling Canadians that the Olympics were not a political event, but a sporting one.

Cotler blasts China’s human rights record
Last Updated: Thursday, August 7, 2008
CBC News

On the eve of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler sharply criticized China’s human rights record and called the awarding of the Games to Beijing a betrayal of the Olympic Charter.

The MP made the comments Thursday at a press conference in Ottawa flanked by journalist Beryl Wajsman, human rights activist and former Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam and former Liberal MP David Kilgour.

Posted by skooter at 1:07 PM
Tags: China, Human Rights, Olympics, Politics

July 29, 2008
New York Cop Smokes Cyclist and Loses his Badge

I have some political objections to Critical Mass (most notably, I’ve seen the flagrant breaking of traffic laws) but the New York City police department’s recent response to the event is just disgusting, and might be enough to make me start riding every month.

Posted by skooter at 7:25 PM
Tags: Critical Mass, Cycling, New York, Police

July 8, 2008
Coming Soon: The Federal Royal Commission

Given the history of Vancouver politics, I’m completely unsurprised by yet another delay. Paul Martin could make a decision faster than our civic government.

I’m expecting a Royal Commission followed by a judicial inquiry into it’s findings. After that, no doubt, the First Nations will launch a protest.

Stanley Park’s hollow tree gets reprieve
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | 1:35 AM ET CBC News

The Vancouver Park Board has decided to study options to keep Stanley Park’s famous hollow tree instead of axing it this week as planned.

Board commissioners voted in a regular meeting Monday night to give a 150-day reprieve to one of Vancouver’s oldest treasures. Park board engineers will study options to possibly keep the dead cedar.

Posted by skooter at 1:23 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Stanley Park, Vancouver

June 22, 2008
A Special Moment in History - The Atlantic Monthly

In May of 1998 the Atlantic Monthy print an article called A Special Moment in History

It beings with a caution to:

BEWARE of people preaching that we live in special times. People have preached that message before, and those who listened sold their furniture and climbed up on rooftops to await ascension

and then goes on:

And yet, for all that, we may live in a special time.

The rest of the article goes on to make several points with society, in general, has yet to fully aware of. The article’s well worth reading, and should lead to some careful reflection on the values of our world.

“…William Catton, who was a sociologist at Washington State University before his retirement, once tried to calculate the amount of energy human beings use each day. In hunter-gatherer times is was about 2,500 calories, all of it food. That is the daily energy intake of a common dolphin. A modern human being uses 31,000 calories a day, most of it in the form of fossil fuel. That is the intake of a pilot whale. And the average American uses six times that—as much as a sperm whale.

The emphasis is mine.

This is closely followed by another good point, particularly salient to my life.

“…Some scientists in Vancouver tried to calculate one such ‘footprint’ and found that although 1.7 million people lived on a million acres surrounding their city, those people required 21.5 million acres of land to support them—wheat fields in Alberta, oil fields in Saudi Arabia, tomato fields in California. People in Manhattan are as dependent on faraway resources as people on the Mir space station.”

Posted by skooter at 8:05 PM
Tags: Articles, Energy, Environmentalism, Overpopulation

June 9, 2008
Play It Again, Sam

…or not, as the case may be.

Sam Sullivan is out as the NPA candidate for Mayor of Vancouver, leaving him in office as a lame duck until November. Effectively, Peter Ladner is the mayor starting today.

Don’t believe me? Vancouver’s electoral system is not like those of most Canadian cities. There are no wards: all councillors are elected on a city wide basis, as is the Mayor. This makes the Mayor’s chair one of first among equals: every chair in that room has the same mandate. With Sam not running in the next election, he’s the worst kind of lame duck at the moment.

I’ve never been a fan of Sam, but I’m not convinced that Ladner’s going to be a huge improvement. He’s been lackluster as a councillor, and I see no reason to think this will change.

This city needs leadership from it’s Mayor, and that will only come with an overhaul of the structure of the city’s government. The appetite for that, unfortunately, appears to be a long time coming.

May 28, 2008
Tetra-Pak Recycling

The Toronto Star asks a very important question today.

How green is wine in a box?
Experts disagree on how much of a Tetra Pak can really be recycled
May 28, 2008 04:30 AM NANCY J. WHITE

While shoppers at Ontario’s liquor stores may soon be toting their own reusable bags, they still have an eco-dilemma: is it greener to buy wine in a glass bottle or in a Tetra Pak carton?

Most disappointingly, I also learned this;

Returned Tetra Pak cartons are sent by container ship to mills in China and Korea.
(A Michigan mill recently closed, and the Tetra Pak company is looking for recycling options in Canada, says Koel.)

That Michigan mill used to handle Vancouver’s recycling of Tetra-Paks, a fact that caused me to stop purchasing items when I had a choice. (Orange Juice and soup stocks are packed in little else these days.) That it’s now closed means, no doubt, that Vancouver’s Tetra-Paks now embark on the same worldwide journey.

It’s my view that the government should pass legislation requiring local recycling for manufacturers who choose packaging to provide a local recycling option where one is not available.

Refillable glass bottles. That’s a better way to go. Avalon Milk does it in Vancouver, and it’s the only milk I buy.

Tetra Paks are horrible, and I’m offended by the fact that wines like French Rabbit wrap themselves in an environmental flag without a second thought to the real impact of their products.

Posted by skooter at 1:46 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Recycling

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

May 23, 2008
The Problem with Cap & Trade

is that you’re just hiding from the reality of the situation. Everybody needs to pay their way on carbon emissions, not just the rich ones. A sliding scale for necessities makes sense (charge more for automotive fuel, less for home heating) but cap and trade doesn’t address this either.

Layton raises carbon-tax alarm
BILL CURRY From Friday’s Globe and Mail
May 23, 2008 at 4:56 AM EDT
OTTAWA NDP Leader Jack Layton launched a vehement campaign against carbon taxes yesterday and was quickly accused of alarmist pandering by prominent Canadian environmentalists.

Speaking to a fundraiser for an Ottawa homeless shelter, Mr. Layton said carbon taxes would raise home heating costs and hurt Canadians living on the margins. He said big corporations should bear the lion’s share of Canada’s climate-change tab and a federal ombudsman should ensure those costs aren’t passed on to consumers.

“With energy costs soaring in Canada, we’ve got to ensure that the solutions to climate change don’t aggravate an already dire situation for those who struggle to make ends meet,” Mr. Layton said.

Posted by skooter at 1:38 PM
Tags: Carbon Tax, Environmentalism, NDP, Politics

April 29, 2008
Eight New Universities in a Week

In what appears to be an attempt to remove all meaning whatsoever from the term university, the Campbell government has announced the eight university in just over a week.

Emily Carr to become university
Name change recognizes what the Vancouver art institute is already, president says
MARSHA LEDERMAN, April 29, 2008 at 4:26 AM EDT
VANCOUVER — From the comic strip sensation For Better or For Worse to Generation X to First Nations masks made out of Nikes, graduates of the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design have made significant contributions to popular culture - not to mention serious art.

Now the school can boast an achievement of its own: It will be granted university status to become the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECUAD)

Last week, the B.C. government announced it would grant university status to Capilano College, Kwantlen University College, Malaspina University-College and the University College of the Fraser Valley.

My personal favourite announcement was Capilano College. The Premier’s own commissioned report recommended against this change, based on the fact that both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia were too closely situated. Despite this recommendation, Premier Campbell designated Capilano a university.

The Premier’s sister is on the board of the college. Think that had anything to do with it?

Pretty soon, there won’t be any colleges left, and there sure won’t be any value in a university degree earned in British Columbia.

Posted by skooter at 1:37 PM
Tags: Education, Gordon Campbell, Universities

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

April 8, 2008
Tibet & The Olympics

Tibetan National Flag I’ve been mulling over the issue of Tibet, the Olympics and a potential boycott for a bit now. I don’t buy the argument that “the games aren’t political…” or that “the last boycott wasn’t effective, so why bother this time…” but it seems as if there’s no appetite for a boycott, so such is life. Welcome to the modern politician: no backbone.

So here’s a thought…why wouldn’t the Canadian Olympic Team give every Canadian athlete a Tibetan flag. When the team entered the stadium the athletes could raise them in support.

If every nation considering a boycott did this instead, this would be a massive show of public support broadcast into every corner of the world.

No discussion of boycotting Olympics’ opening ceremonies: MacKay
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | 5:24 AM ET
CBC News

The federal government hasn’t considered the possibility of boycotting the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, according to the defence minister.

Repeating comments made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week, Peter MacKay told reporters Monday the issue has not been addressed by the federal cabinet.

“Without having the discussion, we can’t rule anything out, so we’re not at that point,” MacKay said.

Posted by skooter at 2:15 PM
Tags: China, Olympics, Tibet

April 4, 2008
Early Morning, April 4 / A Shot Rings Out / In the Memphis Sky

mlk.jpg 40 years ago today Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

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 13, 2008
Looming TTC Strike

I bet this doesn’t last four months

TTC workers vote 99.2% to reject offer
AARON HARRIS/TORONTO STAR
Transit union chief had urged members to reject company’s bid for concessions on benefits
Mar 13, 2008 04:30 AM

Toronto Transit Commission workers voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reject a contract offer, less than three weeks before reaching a legal strike position.

Posted by skooter at 2:39 PM
Tags: Politics, Public Transit, strike, Toronto, TTC, Vancouver

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?

February 27, 2008
America in Isolation

In a world where America seems increasingly isolated and alone, it’s hard to imagine this advancing the economic cause:

Clinton and Obama vow to reopen NAFTA
Both Democrats make commitment in final debate before next week’s crucial primaries
JOHN IBBITSON
February 27, 2008 at 12:15 AM EST

WASHINGTON—Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would withdraw the United States from the North American free trade agreement with six months notice after becoming president, unless the deal were completely renegotiated.

February 17, 2008
Blame Canada

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: The hotter it gets, the larger the water crisis is going to become. When you ask people who are promoting development how we can go on, they think we’ll end up getting water from Canada, that these huge engineering projects are going to rescue us. That just isn’t realistic. If you had to go to Las Vegas and place a bet that we can rely on the Canadians to save us—well, it’s not a good bet.
—“Outside Magazine”:http://www.outsidemag.com/, March 2008, pp. 107

Kennedy’s right that there’s not going to be an engineered solution to the water problems of the American south (at least not one that involves transferring water, as opposed to preserving it) but at some point, sometime in the near future some senior American elected official will blame Canada for this, and push for a NAFTA related water transfer requirement.

Count on it.

Posted by skooter at 8:31 PM
Tags: Articles, Conservation, Environmentalism, Water

February 16, 2008
Lessons for Translink?

Could a regional (as opposed to municipal) transportation strategy for the TTC work? Could an increase in service levels increase ridership by creating a better experience?

Maybe. Could it work for Translink? It seems worth a try.

Premier backs TTC takeover
McGuinty’s vision: A regional authority operating ‘seamless’ transit across GTA.
Feb 15, 2008 04:30 AM
ROBERT BENZIE , TESS KALINOWSKI, STAFF REPORTERS

The TTC should be taken over eventually by the province’s new transportation authority to provide “seamless” public transit in the Greater Toronto Area, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Posted by skooter at 2:25 PM
Tags: Public Transit, Toronto, Vancouver

February 5, 2008
Yes We Can

Beautifully executed. I still think Hillary Clinton is the right choice for a democratic nominee, but moments like thist are rare in modern politics. Will.I.Am’s notes on the video are worth reading.

Whatever happens today, and in the next year, the Democratic Party will be making a historic choice: forging a new path forward. I only hope that all of my American friends vote, no matter who they vote for.

Posted by skooter at 3:45 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Politics

January 22, 2008
Like a Child in a Cookie Jar

Yet another long time Liberal with a culture of entitlement. It’s embarassing, frankly, and reflects badly on the party, the Senate and the legal community of which Mobina Jaffer is a part.

Law society opens investigation into Liberal senator’s accounts
Last Updated: Monday, January 21, 2008 | 9:24 PM ET

Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer is under investigation by the Law Society of British Columbia for allegedly overbilling one of her legal clients, including charging for 30 hours of work in a single day, CBC News has learned.

Jaffer has been called before the law society to account for more than $6 million in legal bills charged to her former client, a Catholic missionary order known as the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

CBC News has obtained forensic accounting reports filed during the lawsuit showing that Jaffer, on one occasion, billed 30 hours on a single day. Twenty-seven of those hours were for “finalizing accounts” — which means preparing bills.

The emphasis is mine.

Posted by skooter at 8:46 PM
Tags: Articles, Liberals, Politics, Senators

January 20, 2008
Win South Carolina, Win the Nomination

So goes the Republican maxim, and John McCain looks to be winning South Carolina, according to Campaigns & Elections

McCain Wins S.C. Primary

Sen. John McCain is the projected winner of the South Carolina Republican primary besting rivals Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, McCain has 33 percent of the vote, Huckabee 30 percent, and Thompson 16 percent.

The win holds the potential to put McCain on a serious roll heading into Florida Jan. 29 and then on to the 20 plus states voting Feb. 5

There’s a great line from an old episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon says:

“There is an 80% chance in the next election that I will tell all my friends that I’m voting for Barack Obama but I will secretly vote for John McCain

and therein lies the problem. McCain gives left leaning republicans a home, and has a lot of appeal to right leaning democrats. He trumps Obama on experience, is certainly seen as a man who speaks his own mind and is probably the only real threat to a Democratic win in 2008.

It’s a good choice: if you’re a Republican.

Posted by skooter at 4:40 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain

January 11, 2008
"Because It's There"

Sir Edmund Hillary passed away yesterday, a loss to the mountaineering community and the world of exploration.

Hillary was one of the first two men to stand atop Everest, never revealing whether it was himself of Tenzing Norgay who achieved the summit first. True class.

A long time ago—not one, but two lifetimes ago—I went to see Hillary speak on a first date. Hillary was asked about the famous “Because it’s there” quote at the event: he never said those words, and it’s one of the great misquotes of history…the truth hardly matters anymore.

Spending time in the mountains this weekend seems like a great way to remember the man.

Posted by skooter at 2:13 PM
Tags: Exploration, Obituaries, Outdoors

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

January 9, 2008
Hillary in New Hampshire

Were it not for California, New Hampshire would be my favourite state. What little time I’ve spent there has always been somewhat charmed by nature. Its mountains are granite, tall, spiky and snow covered (by contrast, Vermont’s mountains are rolling in nature.) Fall is beautiful and alive with the colours of leaves, winters are cold and crisp, spring offers the luxury of watching the world come to life again and summer presents hardwood forests to explore.

If that’s not enough, there’s those licence plates with that great Live Free or Die slogan, so at odds with the cliche image of New England liberalism.

And they appear to be voting for Hillary.

Results are still early, so we’ll have to wait and see. I’m hopeful on this one though: it’s an issue of electability, ultimately. Left leaning Republicans are more likely to go to Hillary, in my view, than Obama. The whole game changes if the Republicans choose McCain, who will give them the home they’re so badly looking for anyway.

January 4, 2008
Is Obama Electable?

Iowa results are in, with the New York Times reporting the following results with 91% or polls in.

Election Results—Iowa

DemocratsVote%
Obama82137%
66830
Clinton65930
Richardson482
Biden201
Dodd1
Others2

91% reporting

Clinton in third is very very bad: she will probably start to shed support slowly, although a solid performance in the next primaries could reverse it. Things don’t look good.

The main question with Obama in first (by a wide margin, it should be noted) is will the broader American public vote for him? Riding a wave of hype including the Oprah endorsement, the surge in votes is no surprise: I’m not convinced that anybody who voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election will change their mind and vote for Barack Obama as much because of his lack of experience (a legitimate complaint) as the colour of his skin (which should be irrelevant, but unfortunately will not be.)

The world needs a Democratic victory, not another Republican one.

Posted by skooter at 3:03 AM
Tags: America, George Bush, President

January 1, 2008
Red Mountain

Off to Rossland, BC tomorrow to snowboard at Red Mountain: my first outing of the season. It should be fun, although there’s no new snow forecast.

Pakistan continues to be a frustrating situation: that a woman who fought to advance the cause of democracy felt it necessary to appoint her son as a successor is a contradiction worth noting.

Politicians, of course, are noted for being hypocritical and contradictory. Benazir Bhutto is no exception, as evidenced by past and present actions. That she was Washington’s most recent choice is little cause to celbrate either.

That she was better than the current regime is the real problem.

Posted by skooter at 1:22 AM
Tags: Pakistan, Snow, Snowboarding, Vacation

December 29, 2007
Canada Loses in Hockey: Al Qaeda Blamed

The Swedes have ended our unbeaten streak: it had to end for one team—both were unbeaten.

Blaming Al Qaeda for the death of Benazir Bhutto is convenient, to be sure, and American media have dutifully repeated the story with not much in the way of questioning. While newspapers seem happy to question the account of how Bhutto died, there’s not much debate over who set the bomb.

Blaming Al Qaeda, of course, gives Pervez Mushareff a perfect excuse for canceling elections (civil unrest is assured with the World’s Greatest Terrorists™ responsible) and the U.S. government the perfect excuse for extending its mission in Afghanistan.

Surely, the theory goes, no one will withdraw from the Coalition of the Willing in the face of this latest blow against democracy.

Yeah, right.

Just make sure you still vote Democratic, Americans. Don’t be fooled by this.

Posted by skooter at 10:55 PM
Tags: America, Nuclear War, Pakistan

December 28, 2007
Of Pakistan and Vancouver Traffic

I joke, sometimes (often if you must) about Vancouver’s Radio Moscow. The truth is I love the CBC, and hate that the CRTC forces me to continue to listen on AM radio in the city itself. Ridiculous. Shades of the 70s, but without Venus Flytrap or Dr. Johnny Fever.

There’s something surreal, however, about leaving Kelowna and hearing about accidents in Burnaby on the traffic report. It’s not hard to avoid them from there, a five hour drive away. I’m not sure if this is regular schedule or a holiday thing. It’s the 27th: I’d think we’d be back to regular schedule.

Travelling snow covered, damp, icy highways in the Swedish Rocket is always a bit of a pleasure, but today’s trip was dominated by the news of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, sure to destabilize the region.

My money is that Pervez Musharraf, thug that he is, cancels the scheduled elections for January 8th and declares martial law, again. The chaos resulting from the assassination will be the facade: that Musharraf encouraged (and likely caused) the chaos will be ignored.

I’ve just finished reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. This is as good an example of its central thesis as any.

Perhaps the best example: stock markets around the world reacted with a shrug, nary a concern for those dead or the potential for one of the world’s nuclear powers to become a deeply unstable country, held together by the thinnest of threads and a madman.

Yes, friends, never let it be forgotten: Pakistan has nuclear weapons. It should also not be lost that Musharraf was an American ally first, before it was a world pariah. This is, sadly, a pattern that we have seen before.

Posted by skooter at 4:26 AM
Tags: Bhutto, Nuclear War, Pakistan, Traffic, Vancouver

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

November 22, 2007
Censorship in School Libraries

Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass has been pulled from school shelves in some Ontario catholic schools.

School board pulls ‘anti-God’ book
RON BULL/TORONTO STAR
Philip Pullman’s works have often been criticized by the Catholic church.
Halton’s Catholic trustees and staff to review fantasy that is `apparently written by an atheist’
Nov 22, 2007 04:30 AM, Kristin Rushowy, Education Reporter

Halton’s Catholic board has pulled The Golden Compass fantasy book—soon to be a Hollywood blockbuster starring Nicole Kidman—off school library shelves because of a complaint.

Posted by skooter at 3:38 PM
Tags: Books, Censorship, Fantasy

November 12, 2007
Bylaw City: Vancouver

This is my new favourite sign in the city of Vancouver. It’s better than that dog one out in Deep Cove, and it’s better than the other silly camel and moose crossing ones they have along the Seymour Highway.

The sign says (in case the flash makes it hard to read):

[No Parking] Except Residents of 1900 Blk. W. 47th Ave.

Why do I like this sign so much?

There is precisely one house in the 1900 block of West 47th Ave. It’s opposite Maple Grove school. There are in fact two residences, but one has an address on Cypress Ave. the corner, and the exit doesn’t front on 47th.

So there’s one house, but city council has somehow passed a bylaw that reserves this entire block for a single house.

That house, by the way, has a two car garage.

Posted by skooter at 2:51 AM
Tags: City Council, Parking, Vancouver

November 6, 2007
Pakistan Attempts to Crush Protests by Lawyers

That Shakespeare was no fan of lawyers does nothing to legitimize Pervez Musharraf’s actions

In all, about 2,000 people have been rounded up since the imposition of emergency rule on Saturday night, lawyers and legal and political analysts said. General Musharraf said in his emergency edict that he was taking the action as chief of the Pakistani Army, not as president, a fact that made his move akin to martial law, said Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington

Posted by skooter at 2:09 PM
Tags: America, Democracy, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

October 29, 2007
Millions of Canadian Taxpayer Dollars

Millions of taxpayer dollars go to Bombardier every year…you’d think they could building landing gear that would stay on a plane.

Scandinavian Airlines drops Bombardier Q400 turboprops
It’s ‘very safe,’ Montreal-based Bombardier says of aircraft assembled in Toronto
Last Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2007 | 4:38 PM ET
CBC News
Scandinavian Airlines System has decided to permanently stop flying Canadian-made Bombardier Q400 turboprops after a string of crash landings blamed on landing gear malfunctions, the airline’s chief executive said Sunday.

October 27, 2007
“I’m just a photographer; I don’t know anything”

Twice this week, I’ve mentioned the killing fields. I have a friend who’s visiting Cambodia as part of a long period of traveling.

A chilling reminder of what happened there in today’s New York Times.

“‘Look straight ahead. Don’t lean your head to the left or the right.’ That’s all I said,” he recalled. “I had to say that so the picture would turn out well. Then they were taken to the interrogation center. The duty of the photographer was just to take the picture.”

Posted by skooter at 2:55 PM
Tags: Articles, Asia, Killing Fields, Politics

October 19, 2007
The New York Times Review: Rendition

The New York Times somehow has managed to review the new film Rendition without mentioning the name Maher Arar.

This seems just…strange. You can read the review here

Posted by skooter at 12:59 PM
Tags: America, Articles, Media Bias, Movies, Terrorism

October 13, 2007
Recipe for Political...Success???
  1. Criticize your opponents for offering tax cuts and jeopardizing Canada’s social safety net.
  2. Promise to staunchly defend that safety net if elected
  3. Promise tax cuts if you’re elected

I’m not quite sure what Stéphane Dion is smoking these days, but this just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

Dion says he’d cut corporate tax rate
CAROLINE ALPHONSO
Globe and Mail Update
October 12, 2007 at 6:39 PM EDT

TORONTO—Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is offering deeper tax breaks to Corporate Canada to maintain the country’s global competitiveness, but won’t say how much until the next election campaign.

Posted by skooter at 4:50 PM
Tags: Liberals, Stephane Dion

October 12, 2007
Is This Even a Question?

John Tory didn’t win a seat in yesterday’s election.

John Tory didn’t win the mayor’s job in T-dot, despite spending quite a bit of money trying to do it.

John Tory considered running for the federal Conservative party’s leadership, but didn’t when he figured out that Stephen Harper was pretty much guaranteed to win.

John Tory has nothing left to run for.

Tory’s defeat ‘a tough blow’ to party
KAREN HOWLETT and PAUL WALDIE AND SIRI AGRELL
Globe and Mail Update
October 11, 2007 at 11:11 PM EDT

OTTAWA, TORONTO, FORT FRANCES, ONT. — Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s bitter election defeat this week leaves him facing an uncertain future as the soul-searching begins over how he squandered an opportunity to thwart a Liberal majority.

Posted by skooter at 6:16 AM
Tags: Conservative Party of Canada, Ontario

October 11, 2007
Is There No Shame?

I can understand manufacturers cutting costs by using the cheapest components possible when making toys for kids, but this time they’ve crossed the line. Don’t mess with the monkey!

Marvel testing Curious George dolls for lead

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | 4:27 PM ET

Marvel Entertainment Group Inc. said Wednesday it was testing Curious George dolls after a consumer advocacy group warned that the dolls contained unsafe levels of lead.

Posted by skooter at 2:35 AM
Tags: Articles, China, Curious George, Manufacturing, Toys

October 9, 2007
Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts to help some of the poorest people on the planet. His book is well worth reading.

Yunus points out what should be obvious, in my opinion: money need not be the only motivation for business. Businesses can be driven by social consciousness and impact as well.

1% For The Planet was started by Yvon Chouinard for this reason: to give Patagonia a social conscience.

The Mountain Equipment Co-Op is a member, and often trumpeted as a socially responsible business. Of course, their co-operative status means they don’t make the same business tax contributions to the Canadian economy as conventional businesses.

Do the positives cancel out the negatives in this case? Yunus might not agree: by skirting around corporate taxes, the Co-Op is undermining Canada’s network of social services.

A social conscience is a complicated thing, and there are no easy answers.

Posted by skooter at 4:30 AM
Tags: Economics, Nobel Prize, poverty

October 8, 2007
Michael Ignatieff Speaks Like a Dodo

Michael Ignatieff was hand chosen by Paul Martin, one of the most forgettable Prime Ministers in the history of the nation. Mr. Martin led a Liberal minority government that was ridiculously ineffective, short-lived and turned the Liberal Party of Canada into a shell of its former self.

This makes Mr. Ignatieff’s comments here all the more surprising:

Harper doesn’t want minority to work, says Ignatieff
Canadian Press
October 7, 2007 at 3:32 PM EDT

OTTAWA—Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he doesn’t believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper really wants the minority Parliament to work.

Mr. Ignatieff told CTV’s Question Period Sunday that if Mr. Harper was prepared to make Parliament work, it would be easy—just work with the Opposition to get Conservative legislation passed.

“All he has to do is pick up the phone and call the leader of our party and say, ‘Look I’ve got a number of bills, I’ve got a number of measures. How far will you come with me?’” Mr. Ignatieff said.

The Martin government was uncooperative and arrogant to the extreme, eventually leading to its downfall. Leveling these criticisms at the Harper regime seems disingenuous at best.

October 1, 2007
Wasn't This Entirely Predictable?

The government encourages farmers to grow a new crop, with the promise of a more stable future. Farmers plant that crop en masse. One year later, so many farmers have planted the crop that an oversupply problem means prices are low and that many farmers who moved to that new crop will be unable to recoup their investment.

Let’s not forget about the rapid rise in corn prices this particular boom caused and the hardship that resulted in Mexico, where corn is as much a staple of the diet as wheat is here.

Governments are supposed to learn from past mistakes, not repeeat them until they finally work.

Ethanol’s Boom Stalling as Glut Depresses Price
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
Published: September 30, 2007

NEVADA, Iowa, Sept. 24 — The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading.

Only last year, farmers here spoke of a biofuel gold rush, and they rejoiced as prices for ethanol and the corn used to produce it set records.

But companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it have not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks.

September 29, 2007
Naomi Klein and Capitalism

Is our economic model fundamentally flawed? Some food for thought in the new book by Naomi Klein

The average growth rate [in South Africa] has been a disappointing 5 percent (much lower than in countries in East Asia, which followed a different route); unemployment for the black majority is 48 percent; and the number of people living on less than $1 a day has doubled to four million from two million since 1994, the year the A.N.C. took over.

Posted by skooter at 5:21 AM
Tags: Africa, Capitalism, Economics, Privatization

September 24, 2007
The Man with the Horn

Whoever said music couldn’t change history never heard a man with a horn.

Miles Davis always had a reputation for being more abrasive. Louis Armstrong picked his moments more carefully.

Posted by skooter at 10:02 PM
Tags: Jazz, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Poitics, Racism

September 18, 2007
Three Elections and not a Liberal In Sight

If I were betting I’d still say the next election is going to be a Conservative minority, but this week’s results might lend some credence to a majority instead.

They certainly aren’t lending an credence to Stephane Dion, who I maintain was the wrong choice. Bob Rae would have been better, and that’s slim pickings.

September 12, 2007
Stephen Biko

One of the great joys of listening to BBC World News is the awareness that the rest of the world exists…that is, the portion that is not North America.

30 years ago today Stephen Biko died in police custody in South Africa, the victim of a terrorist state that used violence and economic oppression to entrench racism so deeply into an outdated colonial system that it wasn’t until 1994 that the majority of South Africans were allowed to vote for their own government.

It never fails to surprise me that people younger than me are unaware of a time when Africa was run by a white minority, and when racism was not just accepted but actively promoted by modern democratic governments.

You’d think that humanity would learn from its collective past, but apparently this is not true. At the very least, we shouldn’t forget it.

Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s one of the most powerful documents in the world, although most governments choose to ignore it.

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

September 2, 2007
Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove's Car

The Onion is one of the funniest reads on the web on a consistent basis.

Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove’s Car

WASHINGTON, DC—A confused President Bush broke free from the restraint of Secret Service agents this morning and ran in pursuit of departing deputy chief of staff Karl Rove’s car for several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue before being outdistanced by the vehicle

Posted by skooter at 10:06 AM
Tags: Comedy, George Bush, President

August 27, 2007
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales Resigns

This has been far too long in coming

WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had “lived the American dream” by being able to lead the Justice Department.

Gonzales typified the Bush presidency. This is presidency characterized by an utter disregard for the people it’s intended to serve. I once heard the Nixon presidency described as paranoid. It was that paranoia that led to Nixon and Kissinger’s propensity for keeping secrets.

The Bush administration doesn’t even have that excuse: instead, it appears to act out of pure selfishness and disrespect for those who both did and did not vote for them.

Thank god 2008 is coming soon…the only question is which Democrat will be president at this point.

Posted by skooter at 12:58 PM
Tags: George Bush, Republican

August 26, 2007
Moderne Burger

Moderne Burger is to the hamburger what Pablo Picasso was the world of art: a work of genius, so different from all else that it needs to be savoured in person to absorb the true impact. Once you’ve done that, you won’t be able to look at anything else in quite the same way.

It’s been closed for almost six months now, undergoing some renovations and doubling in size at the current location at Broadway and Larch. I haven’t had a burger in six months. (I discount fast food as “not a burger” and it’s not like I’ve eaten that many anyway!)

On Friday, I had the good fortune of bumping itnto Peter and Kathy who own the place while they were walking around Granvile Island. My excitement was obvious, and they assured me that they’d be open before the end of September. This is good since The Craving was getting so desperate that I swore I was going to go to the vastly inferior Vera’s Burger Shack chain on September 1st if they weren’t open. Now that I know, I can hold out until the end of September.

The holdup, by the way? City council and the permit process. Vancouver takes permitting to an absurd level, and I can only say that this is the one thing that I would consider more important than getting the garbage strike settled: Sam Sullivan, for the good of humanity get Moderne Burger open again!

Posted by skooter at 9:03 AM
Tags: City Council, City Hall, Moderne Burger, Vancouver

July 18, 2007
Despite the liability that is Stephane Dion

Now if only the Liberals had elected Michael Ignatief, they’d be ahead.

Harper failing to win country over
BRIAN LAGHI
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
July 19, 2007 at 1:05 AM EDT

OTTAWA — Discomfort with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives is deepening among women, francophones and wealthier Canadians, according to a new poll that puts the government in a dead heat with the Liberals in popular support.

Posted by skooter at 11:27 PM

July 3, 2007
Will The Real Skooter Please Stand Up?

The president’s power of clemency and pardon was granted by the constitution, and the constitution does not grant power lightly. Despite this, President George W. Bush the lightest president in American history—has adopted that power.

I spent the morning in a dental chair watching Tony Snow obfuscate and confuse reality in an attempt to justify an obvious act of political favouritism. It didn’t work very well. It was, in fact, a rather sad moment in the history of western civilization.

All I can say is no one…not once…has granted this Skooter clemency and I’m never going to ask.

Posted by skooter at 11:31 PM
Tags: America, George Bush

July 2, 2007
This is a Very Good Thing

Every once in a while somebody has the political will to do something that might be unpopular with business. This is one of them.

Ontario moves to curb speeding truckers
Canadian Press
July 2, 2007 at 11:00 AM EDT

TORONTO — Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield says big rigs will soon be travelling slower along Ontario highways.

Ms. Cansfield said the Ontario government is making it mandatory for large commercial vehicles to use speed limiters.

She said speed limiters would cap the speed of transport trucks and other large vehicles at 105 kilometres an hour.

Posted by skooter at 8:44 PM
Tags: Liberals, Ontario, Transportation

June 30, 2007
State of the (Media) Nation

To say I am not fond of CNN is to understate the problem: I actually blame CNN directly for the demise of quality news reporting. An article on Slate by the editor of US Weekly provides the best explanation of why I can imagine.

The editor of Us Weekly explains why she banned Paris Hilton from its pages. - By Janice Min - Slate Magazine

What I was unprepared for, however, was the apparent banning of Bush coverage from CNN. That day, as the Senate judiciary committee issued subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, the Justice Department, and the National Security Council in its investigation of the wiretapping scandal, the cable news network that bills itself as “the most trusted name in news” chose instead to devote two prime-time hours to the woman widely credited for inspiring Britney Spears to not wear underpants.

The emphasis above is my own.

I regret that the Canadian news cycle has been deeply affected as well, and while I do love CBC Radio One I find NPR and the BBC a better news organization.

Posted by skooter at 7:30 AM
Tags: BBC, CBC, George Bush, News, NPR, Paris Hilton

June 3, 2007
Lack of Civic Identity

An interesting article on the Canada West Foudation’s compares the booms in Calgary and Dublin.

To my eyes, the most interesting part was this:

The rich cultural identity of Dublin is steeped with names that have impacted the world — Yeats, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde — giving the city a confidence and maturity in dealing with social change.

The boom there has spawned a healthy public debate about the pros and cons of the new socio-economic reality.

The slightest whiff of economic prosperity has a tendency to give Calgary tunnel vision, often resulting in intoxicating booms and painful busts. Unlike Dublin’s open discussions over the new socio-economic reality, Calgary has pushed forth a dogmatic sense of boosterism, making critical comments appear unpatriotic.

A local geologist stated: “In Calgary, you are what you own. All anyone talks about is owning real estate, their job, cars and stuff. People are becoming very selfish.”

Vancouver, of course, suffers from a similar tunnel vision—perhaps worse, given the derision with which people in live in “Vancouver Vancouver” regard the more suburban areas such as North Vancouver or Surrey. By virtue of not being, simply, Vancouver they are regarded with disdain.

In general, I think Vancouver has not yet defined itself. More accurately, perhaps, this most “livable” of cities has defined itself primarily by what it is not rather than by what it is. Vancouver is not Toronto and it is not American…but what is it?

A friend said last week that Vancouver was becoming like a resort town, where only those who don’t need to but choose to can afford to live in the city while those who must can’t afford it.

I’m not sure this is a healthy future.

May 11, 2007
The NDP's Environmental Disconnect

The NDP consistently tries to portray itself as the party of the environment, which makes headings like this, from the latest e-newsletter, all the more astonishing:

Canadians pumping profits into big oil’s pockets

A new study this week confirms the NDP’s charge that ordinary Canadians are getting hosed at the pumps. For every litre of gas Canadians buy, 15 to 27 cents is being pumped right into the pockets of big oil and gas. The NDP is challenging Stephen Harper to stand up to his big oil buddies, set up a monitoring agency and launch a public inquiry to ensure fairness at the pumps.

Doesn’t this contradict the NDP’s environmental platform?

Cars are a favourite target of the environmental movement, sometimes unjustly. I own a car—it hasn’t moved in….six days, or maybe seven. I can’t remember, but it’s getting nice here so I’m cycling everywhere every day. Still, I haven’t given it up. At least I’m not buying gas needlessly.

Everybody knows fuel in North America costs dramatically less (even now) than it does in Europe. Historical prices of US$2.50 per gallon in the US fuelled demand for large, fuel hungry vehicles that are completely unnecessary. Fuel prices rise in the summer and fall in the winter and sometimes, although not always, they’re higher on weekends and lower during the week.

All of this is a perfect illustration of one of the most basic of economic realities: supply and demand. Quite simply, when demand is high prices rise. This is particularly true in the case of a finite resource such as oil: supply is constantly diminishing.

The problem is that to date, at least in North America, demand for fuel has remained fairly elastic. People love to complain about prices, but they keep buying more fuel.

There’s a really simple answer, and it doesn’t mean giving up your car: it just means driving only when you need too. Of course the word need has a slippery definition for some people, but the point is simple: if North America stopped driving so much, we wouldn’t be eating into our supply as quickly.

Walking doesn’t consume any fuel. Neither does cycling.

Posted by skooter at 1:23 PM
Tags: Cars, Environmentalism

May 5, 2007
Fixed Election Dates in Canada

Fixed election dates are not compatible with the Westminster Parliamentary system on which Canada’s government is built. They simply are not.

Why Stephen Harper has chosen to pass a bill—a meaningless, hollow bill—to implement them remains a shock to me. why the rest of parliament chose to help him in this agenda is equally surprising.

Simply put, the government can fall on a non confidence vote at any time. Fixed terms therefore don’t exist. Our constitution already defines a five yer maximum: the Harper government has, here, passed a bill which simply shortens that to four years without going through the process of a constitutional amendment.

Whether this is because the Harper government doesn’t respect the constitution, or because they felt that this was an issue not deserving of an amendment doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s invalid.

Unfortunately, i think it’s the former: I think the Conservative Party of Canada believes that parliament is supreme in all matters, and i only wonder at what point they’ll stop.

Our Constitution is supreme, our Parliament is fickle.

April 18, 2007
Life, Death and the Charter of Rights

The Supreme Court of the United States of America today upheld a ban on partial birth abortions and furthered the highly conservative agenda of the Bush government.

A similar conservative agenda supports ownership of hand guns by citizens in the United States of America and funds the National Rifle Association. Two days ago a mentally ill individual put a pair of handguns to their only intended use in Virginia, and hunted and succesfully killed 32 people on the campus of Virgina Tech.

Both of these rights — the right of the government to restrict women’s control over her body, and the right to own a weapon designed to hunt other human beings are drawn from the Bill of Rights in the American constitution.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document that transformed our nation at its core and guarantees individual rights to the citizens of Canada, something that most parliamentary democracies do not have. The supremacy of an unelected judiciary over the laws of an elected parliament isn’t uniquely Canadian, but it’s quite rare.

It’s days like today that I’m reminded of why I’m glad to live in a kindler, gentler nation than our neighbours to the south. It’s days like today that I’m glad to live in a just society.

On Partial Birth Abortions

You’ll note that if you follow that link on partial birth abortions the lack of medical information is quite startling: there is no strict definition of the term, according to most of the literature that I’ve read through the years. I’ve never heard a medical doctor admit to having seen one, and certainly never to performing one.

As with so many political arguments are these days, the abortion argument is framed in absolutes and sound bites. This is not an argument that has blacks and whites, or one that should be discussed in thirty second sound bites. The term partial birth aborition is a term used by lobbyists in order to sound provocative. Pro Life is a similarly provocative term: what’s the alternative…Anti Life? In reality these groups are Anti Choice but they would never dare call themselves by that most honest of names.

It’s also not an issue that should be decided either by a legislative body run by grey haired old men who are afraid to lose a single vote, or a court of similarly grey haired (but supposedly learned) old men sitting on a bench.

Put simply, grey haired old men have no business telling women what they can do with their bodies, and it’s offensive to use the Bill of Rights as a ruse to doing so is offensive and appaling to the core.

On Hand Guns and Gun Control

The hand gun has one sole purpose:to hunt and kill humans. An old marketing slogan, apparently, says:

God created men, but Colt made them equal

I once heard a story about one of Samuel Colt’s children (or grand children) who lived in a mansion of some size, paid for by the family fortune. Staircase after staircase was added to the mansion, all leading nowhere. The purpose, apparently, was to mislead the ghosts that haunted the house. She believed the soul of every person killed by a Colt handgun wandered the hallways, and the fake hallways were a way of misdirecting them.

There are a lot of souls in those hallways, and using the language of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to justify owing these killing machines has no place in a reasonable conversation.

32 people paid the price in one day, in one place. The appalling thing is not that these students died, but that their deaths hardly matter to the total. 30,242 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2002. 82 people on every day.

82 people.

On a day when 32 people were shot in a single day, 50 people were shot somewhere else in the United States.

50 people.

The hand gun has one sole purpose, and it has no business being in the hands of the average person.

A Boeing 737-400 seats 168 people. If a 737-400 fell out of the sky killing everyone on board the Boeing corporation would be out of business. Why handgun manufacturers are allowed to do the same thing remains a mystery to me.

But remember, planes don’t kill people…people kill people.

On the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I knew a lawyer once who, when I expressed my affection for the Charter and it’s father—Pierre Elliot Trudeau—said “Let me tell you how hard it’s made my job.”

Good, I said. Your job should be hard. The state should have the burden of proof, and every person should be guaranteed certain rights. These rights might be inconvenient, and they might create a financial burden on the state and its taxpayers. This doesn’t make these rights any less important.

There are any number of countries in the world that exist without them: Chile, Cuba, China, Afghanistan…the list goes on. Citizens don’t speak out against their government, and they don’t have any protection against the state. People are arrested without being told what the charges against them are; people disappear without their family even knowing what happened; people are killed in the name of the state.

These things may seem farfeteched to most Canadians, but they happen every day in some part of the world. It may not happen in Toronto or Halifax, but it happens in other places.

Fundamental human rights are violated every day in Guantanamo Bay, under the guise of “national security.”

It happens despite the fact that the United States is a leading signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of every Canadian young or old, male or female, native born or immigrant.

This is an important document, and one whose anniversary deserves to be remembered. This is the foundation of a just society, and it’s a much better document than what the American Bill of Rights has become.

The Charter gives me hope for a future, despite events like this week’s. Like the American bill of rights, it’s a living breathing document subject to the interpretation of the courts. Judicial decisions frame the specifics of the application of the charter, but the core will likely live for some time thanks to an extremely difficult amendment process.

This is as it should be, and it’s my sincere hope that our Charter doesn’t become subject to the kinds of political whims demonstrated by the events of the past few days in America.

It’s my sincere hope that Canada will always remain just, and fair.

Posted by skooter at 11:39 AM
Tags: Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Guns, Trudeau

April 9, 2007
Public / Private Health Care

From today’s New York Times

The effort, which lawmakers emphasize is still in its early stages, would exempt millions of people from the tax but would have to come up with a way to offset an enormous loss of revenue in the next decade. Measured in dollars, it would be far bigger than Democratic initiatives to provide money for children’s health care, education or any other spending program.

The emphasis is mine, and the health care issue is particularly pertinent in Vancouver today.

The False Creek Medical clinic has opened (again) and is offering pay for service medical care. The clinic was shut down once but has made changes intended to bring it in line with the Canada Health Act, the federal legislation that defines Canada’s public health reginmen.

Lost in the extremely polarized debate over health care in Canada is the distinction between children’s health care and adult health care.

I would never advocate for a purely private system, even if it were only applicable to adults. I do think it’s critical to recognize that we need a different strategy to deal with adults than kids.

This, of course, presumes that one recognizes that the health care system as it currently operates in Canada is not sustainable. There are still people who don’t…people who think the only option is a fully funded public health care regime.

Private care has a role in the system. More accurately, user fees have a role in the system. I have a genetic disposition to require eyewear that isn’t funded by the Canada Health Act. Extreme sports participants who repeatedly injure themselves are, however. This isn’t a great system.

I sincerely hope the Democratic party is succesful, if only becuase it will give Canadians another model and one that recognizes the importance of protecting children at all costs.

Posted by skooter at 7:46 PM
Tags: Democrats, Health Care

March 31, 2007
Putting Life in Perspective

From Stephanie Nolen’s column in today’s Globe and Mail:

“There are over 40 murders each day in South Africa, a country of 45 million people, three times as many reported rapes and 350 violent robberies or assualts. The daily death toll often equals that in Iraq.”

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of how good life is in Canada.

Posted by skooter at 1:51 PM
Tags: Africa, Articles

March 26, 2007
Death of the Gladiators

They are classic images, these ones, painted with the cold weather and blowing snows of the bitter Quebec winter. Thes images of men wrapped in wool overcoats steeled against whatever nature may bring their way.

These images form the backbone of a political generation. Donald Brittain’s The Champions documented the era on film. Enless numbers of books have been written on the topic, and many more will continue to be.

Rene Levesque and Pierre Elliot Trudeau were the great intellectual gladiators of a generation (or more.) That generation may be coming to an end today.

Quebec has elected it’s first minority government in 130 years, and Jean Charest is the first premier of Quebec who has failed to win back to back majorities in over 20 years. None of this matters in comparison to the truly significant event of the night: the Parti Quebecois has placed third.

Rene Levesque surged to power as the leader of the PQ in 1976. This cemented a relationship with the people of Quebec that has lasted until today—Quebec’s government has always see-sawed between Liberals and the PQ. Separatism was the fundamental dividing point and it had no greater champion then Levesque, lost to his people in 1987. Canadian Federalism lost its greatest leader later in life with the death of Pierre Trudeau in the year 2000.

These two titans were both great men, and true leaders. I say this though I disagree with one bitterly. The Parti Quebecois under the leadership of Rene Levesque seized the hearts of Quebecers—French speakers and English speakers alike—who wanted nothing less than a nation. The arena of politics at its best is this…a battle for the hearts of people fought with passion, strength and will. These two fought it better than any have in the years since in this country.

They were both building nations, and both included Quebec. One exclusively, the other inclusively.

Today, the voters of Quebec passed that mantle to Mario Dumont’s Action démocratique du Québec. The ADQ defeated the PQ today, and for the first time since the days of Levesque the PQ appears to be a limp political force lacking direction, and lacking a place in the hearts of les Quebecois.

Today is the begining of the end of the Parti Quebecois. A party founded by one of the greatest gladiators of our time. Only time will tell what the long term effect of the ADQ is, but one thing is certain: today is a sad day, and the rules under which we have played for so many of the past years has changed fundamentally.

Posted by skooter at 9:19 PM
Tags: Pierre Trudeau, Québecois, Quebec, Rene Levesque

Conservatives are Polling

The Conservatives are polling, which probably means they expect to get defeated on the budget.

I have never been a member of the Conservative Party. I only appear on their lists as a volunteer from a couple of campaigns. If they’re mining volunteer lists (from Ottawa, no less) you can bet that the election readiness team is in full swing.

Let the games begin! My prediction: another Harper minority. My vote: well, that’s a whole different story.

March 15, 2007
Turing Police

In Neuromancer William Gibson envisions a future Turing Police. Minority Report had the Future Crimes division.

This is not a movie, or a book — this is how a good portion the world’s population suffers from censorship, oppression and a culture of fear when it gets its information.

Welcome to China. Our partners in commerce.

Wired News: ‘Yahoo Betrayed My Husband’
By Luke O’Brien
12:00 PM Mar, 15, 2007

FAIRFAX, Virginia — Early one Sunday morning in 2002, a phone rings in Yu Ling’s Beijing duplex. She’s cleaning upstairs; her son is asleep, while downstairs, her husband, Wang Xiaoning, is on the computer. Wang writes about politics, anonymously e-mailing his online e-journals to a group of Yahoo users. He’s been having problems with his Yahoo service recently. He thinks it’s a technical issue. This is the day he learns he’s wrong.

Wang picks up the phone: “Yes?”

“Are you home?” asks the unfamiliar voice on the other end.

“Yes.”

The line goes dead.

Moments later, government agents swarm through the front door — 10 of them, some in uniform, some not. They take Wang away. They take his computers and disks. They shove an official notice into Yu’s hands, tell her to keep quiet, and leave. This is how it’s done in China. This is how the internet police grab you.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 PM
Tags: Censorship, China, Privacy

March 11, 2007
Political Sleight of Hand

Slate has a great article about a bit of sleight of hand played the Edwards campaign.

John Edwards’ Bad Edit

…when Edwards sent out a campaign video to 70,000 Iowa voters earlier this week, something caught our eye—a bit of video-editing trickery that made Edwards appear to be talking about medical care when he was really talking about Iraq.

Posted by skooter at 8:16 AM
Tags: Advertising, America

March 7, 2007
The Case for Liberalism, George McGovern

Written before the commencement of the Iraq War (or, as some prefer to think of it, Gulf War 2.0) this article by George McGovern appeared in Harpers Magazine in December of 2002. It’s been kicking around my house ever since. If you haven’t read it, you need to—especially if you live in the United States of America.

Some points I like.

“[As] William F. Buckley puts it in his book Up from Liberalism,

‘Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgment that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.’

The business of conservatism is, in other words, to cling tightly to the past…”
pp. 39

“With the cold War behind us, the U.N. is now free to become the great international organ for peace, development, justice and freedome that Franklin Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and others intended it to be. As the host nation, America should take the lead in calling for a strengthened U.N., a stronger World Court, and a modern, well-equipped international police force directed by the Secretary General of the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council rather than view such ideals as obstacles.”
pp. 41

“Most of today’s liberals are too intimidated for my taste. When I look back on my twenty-two years in the U.S. Congress, I don’t regret the questions I directed at policymakers; I regret the times that I didn’t ask questions when I should have. the way of a public critic is uncertain and difficult, especially when flags are flying and drums are rolling, but patriotism includes the responsibility, when the nation is following an unwise course, to call it to a higher standard.”
pp. 42

One of these points is a reminder of something that I’m constantly surprised by: the that United States remains home to the United Nations and yet continues to so blatantly undermine its role on the world stage is shocking.

Is it time for the United Nations to move?

January 23, 2007
Very Good Questions About CBC

A Globe & Mail article about Groupe Videotron caught my eye.

Videotron pulls plug on Canadian Television Fund payments


“We fail to understand why the public broadcaster CBC/SRC should, in addition, receive a significant contribution and guarantee from the Canadian Television Fund, which is funded primarily by the private sector,” Quebecor added in a release.

Videotron is suspending its payments immediately, the company said. It was not known whether Shaw has done the same.

These are very good questions, and ones that need to be asked. The sheer volume of methods the CBC uses to receive public money is astonishing.

Posted by skooter at 6:26 PM
Tags: CBC, Television

January 21, 2007
Pickton Trial

Tomorrow is the first day of the Pickton trial.

If the Gulf War(s) were the first wars with theme songs, and the O.J. trial was the first American trial with one, then this surely ranks as Canada’s first trial with one. It’s being sold as an event five years in the making on CTV, the trial of Canada’s worst serial killer everywhere else.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what the evidence brings to light, given that the mass media in Vancouver appears to have already come to its conclusion.

Posted by skooter at 10:00 PM
Tags: Media Bias, Pickton

January 17, 2007
Perspective on Obama

Slate Magaze puts some perspective on Barack Obama’s announcement and current status.

Barack (Almost) Jumps In
Dissecting Obama’s campaign biography.
By Andy Bowers and John Dickerson
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, at 7:28 PM ET

Sen. Barack Obama has launched his presidential exploratory committee…

He’s exploring. He’s not in the race yet.

I still say Hillary with Obama as VP. Obama has time to wait.

Posted by skooter at 12:36 PM
Tags: America, Clinton, President

January 11, 2007
An Inconvenient Apocalypse

Tragically, this is not a joke. The emphasis is mine.

Anybody who thinks the separation of church and state still exists in the United States clearly hasn’t experienced enough fire and brimstone.

Federal Way schools restrict Gore film
‘Inconvenient Truth’ called too controversial
By ROBERT McCLURE AND LISA STIFFLERP-I REPORTER

This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert “An Inconvenient Truth.”

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a PowerPoint presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists’ findings.

“Condoms don’t belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He’s not a schoolteacher,” said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. “The information that’s being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. … The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn’t in the DVD.

Al Gore’s speech at the TED conference is well worth watching.

What shocks (but doesn’t surprise) me about this is the criteria they’ve placed on showing the film. According to the article these are:

teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a “credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented,”

I was completely unaware that the bible was either credible or legitimate. As I recall Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water, was resurrected from the dead. In addition to this Moses parted the red sea and turned his staff into a snake.

None of these things are possible according to the laws science, and yet the whole book is apparently credible and legitimate.

Posted by skooter at 6:36 AM
Tags: Al Gore, America, Creationism, Environmentalism

December 26, 2006
Fred Bass for Mayor

According to the Georgia Straight

Former Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass says he wants to become the next mayor of Vancouver. In an exclusive interview with the Georgia Straight in a West Side coffee shop, Bass, a physician, revealed his intention to seek the 2008 mayoral endorsement of the Coalition of Progressive Electors and the Vancouver Greens. Bass, a keen environmentalist, ran as a Green candidate for city council in 1996, and was elected in 1999 and 2002 under the COPE banner. In 2005, he came 12th in the race for 10 council seats

Fred Bass would make a better mayoral candidate than Jim Green was.

Bass still won’t be able to defeat Peter Ladner, the likely NPA candidate.

Raymond Louie seems likely to get the nod from the Vision Vancouver folks, although his lack of experience and name recognition work against him.

Posted by skooter at 5:12 AM
Tags: City Hall, COPE, NPA, Vision Vancouver

December 2, 2006
Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Congratulations are due to Stephane Dion but even greater congratulations are due to Stephen Harper who seems destined, now, to form a majority government in the next federal election.

Several months ago, I said that Michael Ignatieff was the only hope for a Liberal majority government in 2007. Ignatieff was different enough to shake up the election, and the possiblity that Canadians would open up to it was real. Slight, but real.

Stephane Dion is a Liberal from the past, not a Liberal for a new future.

Gerard Kennedy did, indeed, play the role of kingmaker although he did so in way that I don’t think anyone predicted. Dropping off the ballot when he was so close to third—a hair separating him from Mr. Dion—was the shock of the day. Given the result, expect Mr. Kennedy to play a significant role in the next Liberal government, whether they win or not.

November 30, 2006
Sure Frank, but it Doesn't Mean Anything

I love when things like this start to happen.

Thursday Frank McKenna, the former Liberal premier of New Brunswick and Canadian ambassador to Washington, said he was supporting Scott Brison on the first ballot in the race for leader of the federal party.

Of course, this show of support from McKenna means nothing beyond regional loyalty. Because Scott Brison doesn’t have a hope on the first ballot, McKenna can publicly support Brison without alienating the person he’s truly loyal too.

It’s a dirty game.

Posted by skooter at 6:53 PM
Tags: Atlantic Canada, Liberal Leadership 2006

Advice From Howard Dean

Howard Dean addressed the Liberal Leadership Convention last night.

Grits get pep talk from Howard Dean
JEFF SALLOT
Globe and Mail Update

MONTREAL The most wide-open Liberal leadership convention in a generation opened Wednesday, with a pep-rally style speech in the evening by U.S. politician Howard Dean.

He told about 2,500 delegates at the Palais de Congres in Montreal that opposition political parties — such as his in the United States and theirs in Canada — can win elections by going after every vote.

“Whether it is the Liberal Party or the Democratic Party, we should never cede a single region or province, never cede a single state or city. Nor should we ever cede a single voter. Not a single one,” Dr. Dean said.

Amongst the permanently cynical, there’s a great deal of catty talk about Dean’s advice. Dean’s personal campaign is probably one of the most famous acts of self destruction in recent political memory.

Paul Martin’s pales in comparison. Noboby even knows where Canada is compared to the U.S.

Dean is the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and as such is basking in the glow of seizing both the House and Congress in the recent mid-term elections.

It’s important not to forget a key reality of politics: there are two ways to win.

The first is winning the honest way: getting out there and talking to people; shaking hands; kissing babies; engaging in a disussion of ideas; not resting on laurels, but really making a difference.

That’s winning. In the current context of a Liberal Leadership race I’ll call this the Pierre Trudeau Style of Winning. It’s a wonderful thing to watch happen, and fairly rare.

The other way to win happens because the other guy loses. There’s a big difference. I’ve recently begun calling this the Stephen Harper Style of Winning. Make no mistake, the Harper government is a result of the failings of the Martin government, not any sense of Conservative idealism.

The Democratic victory in the U.S. mid-term results, I suspect, fall into the second category. It occured in a political environment created by George W. Bush’s astonishing lack of popularity. The Democrats did nothing to create a culture of success: they scrambled in a culture of failure.

The Liberals, like the Democrats, currently lack focus and—figuratively speaking—leadership. It remains to be seen if the Democrats will coalesce into a coherent whole now that they’ve achieved power.

I certainly wouldn’t take Mr. Dean’s advice with a grain of salt until we’ve seen evidence that they can, and that this wasn’t an accidental victory.

Doing so could be a sure recipe for another Conservative led minority government.

Posted by skooter at 6:20 AM
Tags: Liberal Leadership 2006

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

November 8, 2006
Congratulations America

A Democratic congress is a good thing, assuming that the Democratic party can forge and pursue a focused agenda rather than the scattered one its members have been lobbying for over the past 12 years. It’s easier to be in opposition than it is to be in control.

Those who are applauding the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and the Republican defeat at the voting booths as a sure sign of change in Iraq should be more subdued: the executive branch controls foreign policy, not congress; the President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, not congress.

Iraq will not change much as a result of this. That will take a very brave Democratic President.

Posted by skooter at 10:45 PM
Tags: America, Democrat, Iraq, Republican

November 7, 2006
Death by Hanging

While procrastinating on some work, I found an interesting article about death by hanging over at Slate Magazine. The topic is in the news lately as a result of Saddam Hussein’s death sentence received only a couple of days ago.

I’m vigorously oppposed to the death penalty, and have been since my teens. There is no such thing as a humane death sentence—the chemical concoction used in most modern executions is no better than more brutish methods such as hanging or the electric chair.

What I find most surprising, is the fact that even in modern American jurisprudence hangings have been allowed to proceed.

The Army even has its own drop table. According to its guidelines, the last man to hang in America—220-pound Billy Bailey—would have required 5 feet of loose rope. On a windy night in 1996, the Delaware guards removed Bailey’s dentures, placed a black hood over his head, and then dropped the noose around his neck.

Posted by skooter at 7:49 PM
Tags: Death penalty, Law

November 5, 2006
Nicaragua's Elections

I will admit to having not followed the Nicaraguan election campaign all that closely. There’s not much news in Vancouver about it.

This article at the BBC is interesting for a lot of reasons. The one I find most notable is the fact that so many of the comments made by Nicaraguans echo those made by Americans in the run up to their elections.

Politicians make promises, but the results are very different.

I don’t know who I am going to vote for, or if I’m going to vote at all, because I still don’t have my ID card.

Rich people have become richer, and poor people have less opportunities and basic services available to them.

Posted by skooter at 12:01 PM
Tags: America, Elections

October 23, 2006
Still the Smartest Guy in the Room

Jeff Skilling has just been sentenced to 24 years in jail, a fact which should be entirely unsurprising given the earlier fate of Kenneth Lay.

Skilling and his friends used to refer to themselves as the smartest guys in the room according to rumour. Now that the room only holds one person, the distinction is substantially less significant.

Posted by skooter at 9:22 PM | Comments
Tags: Business, Enron

October 14, 2006
Lessons in Leadership

I’m disappointed in the Ignatieff campaign team’s tactics which smack of trying to rig a fight rather than going through the battle fairly.

The Liberal Party has already ruled in the matter of the memberships being questioned. The Ignatieff campaign is trying to revise an existing decision.

Any change will have no effect on the progression of the race — lacking a single candidate with more than 50% of selected delgates, the party goes to a convention. Disqualifying these delegates does nothing to move Ignatieff to 50%, thus the ploy is largely academic in nature.

I’m eqally shocked by B.C. campaign workers clams to have been in a celbratory mood in face of a rather poor showing in British Columbia:

In B.C., Mr. Rae took the largest share of delegates — almost 30 per cent. By contrast, Mr. Ignatieff had one of his weakest showings in the province, where he ran fourth with 17 per cent.

That last 20% is going to be very difficult to get, Mr. Ignatieff, and this protest isn’t going to bring it any closer.

October 12, 2006
Congratulations Bob Rae

Although I admire Michael Ignatieff in part because he speaks his mind, it’s things like this that will make Bob Rae the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and give Stephen Harper a majority government.

Furor costs Ignatieff key backer
CAMPBELL CLARK

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff’s comment that Israel committed a “war crime” in Lebanon cost him the support of a Toronto MP Wednesday and sent the Liberal leadership front-runner scurrying to deflect charges that he is gaffe-prone.

Posted by skooter at 5:33 AM
Tags: Liberal Leadership 2006

October 8, 2006
North Korea, Japan and Nuclear Warfare

Japan has united with the United States in protest over North Korea’s planned test of nuclear arms.

CTV News tonight broadcast a brief report which does as good a job as any of outlining part of the problem with the news networks today: the report speculated, explicitly, that such a test could lead to a new nuclear arms race with Japan building a nuclear arsenal.

Japan will never, of course, build a nuclear arsenal. The political will simply does not exist amongst the citiznes.

Japan occcupies a unique place in history: it is the only nation to ever be attacked with Nuclear weapons.

Another unique place exists for the United States: the only nation to deploy nuclear weapons in a hostile field of combat; every other detonation has been performed under the guise of test. The United States has detonated their weapons with the intent to kill.

North Korea arming itself with this type of power is undoubtedly scary, but a return to the Reagan era strategy of mutually assured destruction as a defence strategy scares me even more.

Posted by skooter at 11:03 PM
Tags: Cold War, Hiroshima, Japan, Nuclear War, United States

October 4, 2006
Seattle Terrorist Scare

An article in the Post-Intelligencer has an interesting comment…

Seattle-bound Ferry Gets Scare

“This is not the time in which you make any kinds of comments, or suggestions, about bombs,” said ferry system spokeswoman Susan Harris. “Especially on a ferry.”

I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to be making comments or suggestions about bombs, but it’s been five years since 9/11, and I’m wondering when it will be time to stop refering to this as “the time.”

Posted by skooter at 7:35 PM
Tags: Politics, Seattle, Terrorism

Storyeum's Five Week Reprieve

Storyeum has been granted a five week reprieve.

Why?

Is five weeks going to be enough to turn around a business that’s considered “not viable.”

This is just silly.

It’s interesting though — one of the things that seems to happen consistently in Vancouver is these short term businesses. Would a museum sized attraction open in Toronto and close within a year? The Victoria based B.C. Experience also failed in a matter of months, around the same time. Retail outlets open regularly here and close weeks later — in prominent, high profile locations.

It just doesn’t make sense that the capital to do this exists without proper planning for longevity.

Storyeum will die, and arguably it should.

Posted by skooter at 9:50 AM

October 2, 2006
Meet the New Boss / Same as the Old Boss

This past weekend was Super Weekend — at least it was if you’re one of the few remaining dedicated hardcore members of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The great party of Pierre Elliot Trudeau started the process of electing a new leader this weekend.

A long time ago — before he was a candidate — I went to see Michael Ignatieff speak and called him for next Liberal leader. If I were a card carrying voting member, that’s where my vote would go.

Ignatieff leads coming out of the first round about 10% ahead of Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario.

With a major push to stop Ignatieff, I now believe it likely that Rae will, in fact, eventually become the Liberal leader. Rae, Dion and Kennedy will unite with Rae as the leading candidate. It’s possible — although I think this is questionable reasoning — that Rae as Liberal leader will bring NDP voters in in Ontario. It’s certain that he will create a kinder, gentler Liberal party and after the fiscal conservatism of the governments in which Paul Martin played a key role, this is what the Liberal rank and file appear to be leaning towards.

Those NDP voters, by the way…where else were they going to go? You could vote Ken Dryden in as leader, and that soft-NDP support is equally likely to go to the Liberals. They’re certainly not going to go to the Harper led Conservatives or the increasingly marginalized Greens. It’s not the leader that brings those votes — it’s the overall tone of the election.

There an entertaining book by Po Bronson called The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest. Michael Ignatieff is about to find out that that first 30 percent was easy — it’s the next 20 percent that’s going to be tough.

Posted by skooter at 6:30 AM
Tags: Liberal Leadership 2006, Politics

September 27, 2006
The Political Process

The funny thing about the current situation with Storyeum in Vancouver (an excerpt from the article is below) is that the city is now saying the business is “not viable.”

Vancouver seeks to shut down Gastown tourist attraction
Tuesday, Sep 26, 2006
(CBC) — The City of Vancouver revealed in court Tuesday it wants a downtown tourist attraction that owes taxpayers $5 million shut down.

The owners of Storyeum, an entertainment complex located five storeys beneath the cobbled streets of Gastown, are in B.C. Supreme Court asking for an extension of protection from their creditors.

The company was granted a brief period of protection last month and Storyeum’s owners want to extend that to Oct. 28.

Storyeum owes the city nearly $5 million in back rent, loans and construction costs, in addition to $1 million the city says it has already written off.

When it opened, Storyeum boasted that it was a unique experience - a combination of live theatre and a museum where history came to life.

But a lawyer for the City of Vancouver said that Storyeum isn’t a viable business.

Of course, four years ago when the city was evicting long standing tenants from the Gastown neighbourhood to fast track the construction of Storyeum they seemed to consider it a viable business. The NPA bent over backwards to get this thing opened.

This is why politicians should stay out of business decisions.

Posted by skooter at 8:51 AM
Tags: City Council, NPA, Vancouver

September 21, 2006
First Amendment

“There are some people who say you shouldn’t mix politics and music, sports and politics. Well… I think that’s kinda bullshit!”
Adam Clayon, Rattle and Hum

Music and politics have been inexorably intertwined for centuries — from Shostakovich to Bob Dylan to Live Aid the link has been undeniable.

Religion and politics have been linked for even longer, with the notion of a separation of church and state being a relatively recent invention (and not an exclusively American one either.) It’s a powerful ideal, and most modern democracies subscribe to it on some level.

These comments, reported in last weekend’s National Post are even more appaling as a result.

Bush says he sees evidence of Third Awakening
Sheldon Alberts, National Post, Saturday September 16, 2006

George W. Bush, the U.S. President, said yesterday he believes the United States may be experiencing a Third Great Awakening of religious fervour

“It seems like to me something is happening in the religious life of America,” Mr. Bush Said.

“I’m able to see a lot of people, and from my perspective, people are coming to say, ‘I’m praying for you.’ And it’s an uplifting part of being the President. It inspires me.”

There’s nothing wrong with a president subscribing and celbrating his personal religious beliefs, but he shouldn’t be trying to convert others to them.

Posted by skooter at 7:13 PM
Tags: Music, Politics, Religion, U2

September 19, 2006
The Sun Rises in the East and Sets in the West

Some will say that this is the best thing Chrysler’s done in years just as Ford’s earlier move to slash production by 20% was.

Seeing Huge Losses, Chrysler Slashes Production
By MICHELINE MAYNARD
Published: September 19, 2006

DETROIT, Sept. 19 — Dogged by slumping sales of sport utility vehicles, the Chrysler Group said today that it would cut production by 16 percent the rest of this year, and it confirmed that it expected to lose $1.26 billion on operations in 2006.

I would argue that if your company — once a pillar of the economic life of a continent — has gotten to the point where slashing production by 16 to 20% is the best thing you can do your company has made far too many serious mistakes, and is resting on the precipice.

There may always be an American auto industry, but it’s not likely to be owned by Americans for much more than another decade or so.

Here’s the real question of the moment: how long can Toyota avoid being the number one seller in the United States?

Posted by skooter at 2:44 PM
Tags: Business, Cars

September 18, 2006
Election Day in New Brunswick

And thus Bernard Lord is free to succeed Stephen Harper

Posted by skooter at 7:22 PM

September 16, 2006
Carolyn Bennett & Bob Rae

Carolyn Bennett has dropped out of the 2006 Liberal leadership race and thrown her support behind Bob Rae.

I’ve said before that there is very simple math to be done here: if the Liberals select Bob Rae as their leader, Ontario will vote Conservative and the next government will be a conservative majority. There is no doubt.

On a related note, Don Bell the Member of Parliament for North Vancouver has officially endorsed Ken Dryden This will, I suspect, have no impact on anyone outside of Bell’s executive.

Ignatieff is the next Liberal leader. The question is whether he can return the party to power or not — that one’s harder to answer.

Posted by skooter at 9:56 AM
Tags: Liberal Leadership 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Sold

A good review at the New York Times of a book by Frank Rich called The Greatest Story Ever Sold

The central thesis of the book is that politics is more like the theatre every day. This should be obvious to anybody who’s paid close attention to modern political campaigns in North America — the Bush campaign isn’t so much ‘scripted’ as it is pre-recorded.

There’s much more than this wrong though.

That television — that cyclopean seductress of the thirty second attention span — has become addicted to the soundbite and sells political campaigns in the same manner as it sells pizza pops should come as no surprise. TV has long since stopped being good at communicating real information, at least in the current expensive production supported by advertising model.

What’s truly disturbing is alluded too by this comment:

Yet — and this is where Rich is particularly acute — most serious papers published the White House claims on their front pages, and buried any doubts in small news items at the back

The propensity for virtually all mainstream media to simply reprint what the White House calls news is a problem.

This is not limited simply to political news — open the business section of any newspaper, and check the content against press releases distributed directly by the company through Canada Newswire or PR Newswire. You’re likely to be shocked.

The days of Woodward and Bernstein have long since been left behind, and the news media these days is not much more than a machine for reprinting content.

Ask questions — it’s your duty always, but especially in the absence of effective news organizations.

Posted by skooter at 8:19 AM
Tags: George Bush, Reviews

September 13, 2006
Three Year old girls make the world go around

Today I woke up to what some — not I — would cynically call an atypical Vancouver day. it was sunny and clear with not a drop of rain in the sky, although it was in the forecast.

As I gathered myself up for work and headed out to grab my bike from the garage my favourite three year old was staring through the window. I grabbed the bike, waved, got ready to saddle up and the door opened and out came Georgia and her father.

“Why are you riding your bike?” she asked.

“Because I’m going to work, Georgia” I explained. “I usually ride my bike.”

She came down the stairs while we chatted for a moment and then she waved and headed back up. I started for the gate as she got to the top of the stairs. She paused for a moment and turned around.

“Wait! Wait!” her little voice was full of urgency. “I have to give you a hug!” She did.

So that’s how my day started, and I can’t imagine a better way to do it.

At about 11:00 Pacific Time, news came through cyberspace that a gunman had entered a college in Montreal and killed two people, and injured more. By day’s end exact numbers still hadn’t been confirmed but it appears that 1 woman is dead, 19 are injured and the gunman was killed by police.

Sometimes the world just makes me shake my head.

Posted by skooter at 5:43 PM
Tags: Canada, Georgia, Guns, Montreal, Politics

August 21, 2006
The Oil we Eat

America’s biggest crop, grain corn, is completely unpalatable. It is raw material for an industry that maufactures food substitutes. Likewise, you can’t eat unprocessed wheat. You certainly can’t eat hay. You can eat unprocessed soybeans, but mostly we don’t. Agriculture in this country is not about food; it’s about commodities that require the outlay of still more energy to become food.

The Oil We Eat Following the Food Chain back to Iraq, Richard Manning
Harpers Magazine, February 2004, pp. 43

Posted by skooter at 11:36 PM
Tags: Articles, Energy, Environmentalism, Oil

August 10, 2006
Honour.

It’s finding out information like this from the New York Times that always frustrates me about the middle east, and how the American government cozys up to these governments when it’s convenient.

How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide

BATMAN, Turkey — For Derya, a waiflike girl of 17, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy.

Reading past this paragraph is unnecessary to understand the problem.

Clothing the problem in religious differences does nothing to make it more acceptable on a human level.

This is not honour — this is shame.

Posted by skooter at 3:01 PM
Tags: Articles, Middle East, Politics

August 2, 2006
Israel vs. Lebanon

Although it may not be easy, it’s worth taking a moment away from considering the political impact of the most recent wave of conflict between Israel & Lebanon to consider the true cost in that which is most valuable on our planet — human lives.

It’s easy to see this as an illustration of the power of visual design as well, and this is how it was brought to my attention.

Don’t forget the point of the message while focusing on the visual.

Posted by skooter at 6:51 PM
Tags: Middle East, Politics

August 1, 2006
Records of Dubious Distinction

Ontario set a record today, although not one to be proud of.

Blackouts possible, operator warns. Overnight heat record broken
Aug. 1, 2006. 03:29 PM
TYLER HAMILTON AND AMANDA-MARIE QUINTINO
STAFF REPORTERS

As of noon Ontario hit a daily power record, despite pleas from energy authorities to conserve.
By 3 p.m., consumption hit 27,000 megawatts, well past the previous peak of 26,160 megawatts set last July. With a few hours left before peak time at 5 p.m., demand is expected to climb further.

The Independent Electricity System Operator predicts that before the day is over Ontario’s electricity system will peak at 27,225 megawatts, more than 1,000 megawatts above the previous record.

The emphasis in that article is mine.

Our weather here in Vancouver has slipped back into the distinctly cool category, after a few days of flirting with the low 30s. This, of course, makes it pretty easy to be comfortable and a bit smug about not needing air conditioning (even my car’s air conditioning appears to have given up the ghost in recent weeks, causing me very little stress.)

The reality is that Ontario’s growing population is a part of the cause of this: economies of a certain size demand a minimum of resources, and the City of Toronto is the engine that drives much of Canada’s economy. That it’s not as pretty to look at as Vancouver cannot change the basic economic equation.

The other reality is that it’s substantially warmer today than in decades. If you haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth it will open your eyes. Forget about your car — the largest cause of global warming in the world is emissions from buildings, not tail pipes.

If technology fails to reverse this trend, this planet we call home will only continue to get warmer and the need for power will grow. With nuclear power the only truly viable solution for increasing energy production without increasing greenhouse gas production, the consequences of failing to reduce our power consumption should be considered severe. While I’m not ethically opposed to nuclear power, there’s no doubt that it comes with risks and an attached environmental cost.

Here’s hoping this record of dubious distinction doesn’t fall again — although I have my doubts.

Posted by skooter at 7:49 PM
Tags: Energy, Environmentalism, Poitics

July 16, 2006
Semantic Hairsplitting

Concern over Olympic costs running amok are legitimate, given the lessons provided by history. Jack Poole’s continual assertion that no additional funding will be required for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics is almost comical on its face, considering the cost of construction in this city is sprialing out of control

It is, therefore, with little surprise that I greeted this news.

Wood roof to cover Olympic oval in Richmond
When construction of Richmond’s Olympic oval is finished in 2008, one million board feet of pine beetle lumber will cover the roof.
(Black Press) - Richmond will make the biggest statement of B.C.’s number one resource when the Winter Olympics come to town in 2010. The provincial government will announce it’s contributing $1.5 million toward the engineering and design of a wood roof for the Olympic oval.

Richmond’s $178-million oval budget included the cash needed for a steel roof. The province’s ante now gives the city what it really wanted for a community legacy facility.

“The wood design is not only unique, it is also preferable to steel in many ways, including superior acoustics and sustainability,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

The emphasis is mine.

This is semantic hair splitting of the sort that public accounting is full of. Jack Poole and the IOC gets to say that they requested no additional funding, thanks to the fact that this request comes from the City of Richmond. The City of Richmond’s white elephant gets built with an even higher level of provincial investment…an investment which, I still maintain, would better serve the community at Simon Fraser University where the original plan had this facility located.

This won’t be the last of this. and it’s not likely to be the most egregious. It’s important to keep an open mind and an eye on the big picture. Intrawest will, undoubtedly, be a major beneficiary; this is offset by the enormous contribution to Vancouver’s economy Intrawest makes (not to mention the fact that Whistler’s economy is entirely derived from Intrawest.)

I find it hard to imagine a big picture benefit from a wodden roof on a skating rink in the wrong location, and Mr. Brodie’s arguments have not been convincing.

Posted by skooter at 10:31 AM
Tags: 2010, Olympics, Vancouver Olympics

May 19, 2006
The Problem with Cars

From an online blog I stumbled on a while ago, a great illustration of why Hybrids are not the solution to the world’s problems.

Shockingly - not the Prius! My commute in my Jetta is 4 miles roundtrip.

I wish I could be shocked that anybody would drive (even a hybrid) for a four mile commute (especially in California) but alas, I am not.

The world would be a much better place if people walked (or cycled) four miles.

Posted by skooter at 8:31 AM

May 18, 2006
Income Linked Student Loans

The C.D. Howe Institute has come out with an entirely reasonable and perfectly logical suggestion for Canada’s student loan programs:

Introducing income-contingent student loans, whereby loan repayments depend on income or earnings after graduation from university or college, would allow students to reduce the risks associated with investing in higher education and increase access for students from low-income backgrounds, says a new C.D. Howe Institute Commentary.

The match is pretty simple really. Economies that invest in education for their citizens outperform those that don’t. This is particularly true of those that have accesible post-secondary education.

It makes sense, therefore, to extend access to post-secondary education to as many as possible. Since advanced education costs money, there is an inherent built in advantage for those from middle to upper income families.

Extending the reach of student loan programs is an important goal, but not if the funds are never recovered.

Tie repayment to income, make payments manageable and the benefits are multiplied significantly: not only are loans repaid with interest, the income is taxed.

Such a plan will, of course, never be introduced. Students don’t vote and all that matters is votes.

Tragic isn’t it.

Posted by skooter at 9:00 PM

April 30, 2006
Two Rich Minds Departed

This week has seen the departure of two of North America’s distinguised thinkers: Jane Jacobs and John Kenneth Galbraith. Both were erstwhile Canadians.

Jane Jacobs Death and Life of Great American Cities is a classic text to anyone interested in urban planning. It went against conventional wisdom of the time and, to this day, remains an insightful thoughtful viewpoint.

Jacobs called both Toronto and Vancouver home for extended periods of time, and was proud to have been associated with both communities.

John Kenneth Galbraith was one of the most influential liberal economists of our times. Born near London, Ontario Galbraith was a Harvard professor and trusted advisor to a number of democratic presidents. His influence over American monetary policy was significant, and serves as evidence that the decline of liberalism in modern American economic thinking may, in fact, be linked to the general decline of America’s economy and its political relevance in the world.

Galbraith’s The Affluent Society was republished to celebrate an anniversary, and I read it years after I’d left school. It’s worthy reading for anybody with an interest in modern economics, despite the fact that it was written many years ago.

Posted by skooter at 9:15 AM
Tags: Economics, Obituaries, Urban Planning

April 19, 2006
Scott McClellan

The most astonishing thing about Scott McLellan’s resignation is that he said more of substance on this single day than in any other press conference of the administration.

This man shut down the podium, and communicated in a manner that can at best be described as intentional obfuscation, and at worst as intentional propoganda.

White House press secretary resigns
Wednesday 19 April 2006, 18:26 Makka Time, 15:26 GMT

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, has resigned from his post in the latest reshuffle within the Bush administration.

Appearing with McClellan at a press conference on the White House lawn, George Bush, the US president, praised McClellan for his “class and integrity” in handling Washington’s often combative press core.

Posted by skooter at 9:37 AM

April 6, 2006
Thin Systems

Nicholas Negroponte is still thinking different even as the rest of the world does not.

Negroponte: Slimmer Linux needed for $100 laptop
CNET News.com

“People aren’t thinking about small, fast, thin systems,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit association, in a speech at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. “Suddenly it’s like a very fat person (who) uses most of the energy to move the fat. And Linux is no exception. Linux has gotten fat, too.”

Why does this matter?

First, the goal of a $100 laptop is an admirable one, even without considering the unique needs of the third world. Most people do not much more than email and surf the web these days — spending more on your computer than you do for your computer’s communication link makes not much sense.

Second, as Negroponte has long pointed out, there will always be a finite limit to resources in the world. This is as true of bandwidth and processing power as it is of oil, although the specific economics can vary.

The process of fabricating silicone is a wonderful example of doing more with the same resources. The single greatest impact on the increase in available computing power within current resources has come as a result of vastly increasing the density of the silicone to such a degree that we long ago passed what we thought was physically possible, and yet we still keep going.

The same cannot be said of bandwidth: as the number of people who have come online has increased, the solution to perceived bandwidth problems has been to simply install more. As a result, despite theoretical economies of scale your DSL connection still costs about the same as it did when DSL had no economies of scale.

Negroponte argued in Being Digital that the solution to the world’s bandwidth problem came not from laying more pipes ad infinium (although it was important to recognize that more pipe would be laid) but rather from doing more with what we have. Better compression codecs (h.264 anyone?) will be needed anyway, particularly as more and more of the world just keeps filling that crazy pipe with data.

Negroponte’s vision is the sort that keeps the world moving forward: it’s a shame that some haven’t yet learned that learning to do more with less is better done early when one can plan, than late when desperation sits in.

Posted by skooter at 2:43 PM
Tags: Conservation, Hardware

April 2, 2006
Sitting Here at the Hortons; so you know this is important

With the recent public offering of stock in Tim Hortons, there’s been much discussion of the cultural significance of the ubiquitous coffee shop to Canadians.

This got driven home today in a Toronto neighbourhood quite viscerally

Man blows self up at Toronto Tim Hortons

Toronto (April 2, 2006) — A man died Sunday after an explosion in the washroom of a Tim Hortons doughnut shop in downtown Toronto, police said.

They did not immediately confirm reports, by radio station AM-640, that a man had entered the washroom shortly before the blast with explosives strapped to his body.

Police said no one else was involved and there were no other injuries. They couldn’t say whether the dead man was a customer or an employee.

The blast happened at the shop east of Yonge Street and north of Bloor, one of the busiest intersections in the city, at around 1 p.m. local time. Traffic was tied up in the area and Yonge Street was closed in both directions.

Fire department spokesman Daryl Fuglerud said the man had burns to his body.

Posted by skooter at 12:50 PM
Tags: Articles, Coffee, Tim Hortons

April 1, 2006
King Ralph

Go softly into the night, King Ralph

Go gently, for if you do not your time in the sun will be forgotten in the face of an angry goodbye.

Who will replace Stephen Harper? I’m not at all certain that Ontario would ever vote for Ralph, but he’s a possible candidate.

Posted by skooter at 7:39 PM

March 29, 2006
Mr. Harper and the Media

As much as I had grown to detest the hubris and arrogance with which the Chretien/Martin Liberals were governing, I was always uncomfortable with the Conservative Party of Canada. I saw one decent hope in the city of Vancouver, and when it failed I could see the future.

Mr. Chretien may have been a thief, and a liar — playing fast and loose with Canadian taxpayers dollars — but at least he communicated with Canadian tax payers.

Mr. Martin’s brief (but too long) stint in the PMO set the stage for what Mr. Harper has now created — a PMO based on vagueness and a lack of communication.

This is no more evident thatn in the Harper government’s dealings with the media, which are few and brief. Mr. Harper, taking a lesson from the south, has not simply restricted his communication with those that elected him he has (in effect, as well as essence) shut down the podium. In doing so, he has denied that which is deemed to be the right of a modern democratic society: a press with free and (relatively) unrestricted access not only to government but also to question every step which that government takes.

In the past, governments which did not allow and encourage this were chasitised by those that did: the Soviet Union, the current regime of Vladmir Putin in Russia and the Chinese government stand out as examples, although extreme ones.

The difference, Mr. Harper, is one of degrees — the intent is the same. Control the message and control the lines of communication.

The next Prime Minister will be a man who demonstrates the opposite skillset: it will be a man who engages in a conversation with the nation, and allows Canadians to engage in one with its government. It will be a man who can stand up and speak from the heart and not from the script.

To date, I have only seen one of the many candidates who is able to do this effectively — I can only hope that I am right.

I do not want a Canadian government that mirrors that of George W. Bush in its fear of conersation.

Posted by skooter at 9:13 PM

March 24, 2006
Richard Cheney

So Dick Cheney is being mocked for his slavish devotion to Fox News.

Of course, the vast majority of Americans get their political news from comedians, such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, daily commuter newspapers or organizations such as CNN that produce news only in a heavily abbreviated format.

Is one better than the other?

Posted by skooter at 12:50 PM
Tags: Articles, CNN, Television

March 13, 2006
Miles Davis - Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Really, the words about damn time don’t even begin to describe this.

I heard a great story about Miles once, and one of his visits to the White House. As the story goes, after being welcomed and escorted to his table he sat down beside one of his dinner companions — a woman he’d never met. After a bit of initial small talk, the woman leaned over and said to MIles “So what did you do to get invited here.”

Miles looked back at her, with those whiter than white eyes staring from deep with his sockets, and calmly said “I’ve changed music three or four times. What did you do other than be rich and white?”

Gotta love Miles. The world of music is a less interesting, less prickly place without him.

About damn time.

Posted by skooter at 3:57 PM
Tags: Jazz, Miles Davis

March 11, 2006
America the Inward Looking

Even accepting that Americans are amongst the most inward looking people in the world (outdone, with certainty, by the French and perhaps the Chinese, although the latter’s rising place on the world stage suggests otherwise) I remain astonished at the sheer ignorance with which many Americans view headlines like this one in the New York Times:

Dubai Deal’s Collapse Prompts Fears Abroad on Trade With U.S.
By EDUARDO PORTER
Published: March 10, 2006

DP World’s decision yesterday to transfer a handful of American port terminals, rather than chilling interest in investing in the United States, may actually have made it safer for foreigners by relieving some of the political pressure that was building up against them.

But as part of a pattern of other antiforeign actions in Washington, fears remain that the United States is becoming a less welcoming place for investment from overseas.

“We need a net inflow of capital of $3 billion a day to keep the economy afloat,” said Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr., a former trade official in the Reagan administration who is president of the Economic Strategy Institute. “Yet all of the body language here is ‘go away.’

The main question I find myself facing is how America’s increasingly isolated position in the world affects Canada. The sheer volume of trade that moves between our border — unprotected for who knows how much longer — ensures that any change in United States trade policy will have a serious affect on our nation.

With both Asian and European ports quite a distance away, it’s hard to say whether Canada can (or will) succesfully build closer connections to these ports of call.

It may be that goods increasingly land in Canada for further transport to the United States, but I suspect that Americans would see through this and implement some form of change, the including Canada in its isolation.

I fear this isolationism, but have no doubt that it will be America’s natural response to the failure of its previous policy of globalization.

Posted by skooter at 6:00 PM

February 24, 2006
Stupid South Dakota

And you thought North Dakota was stupid when they wanted to drop the North because it made them sound cold.

South Dakota legislature attacks Roe vs. Wade
State prepares to pass bill banning all abortions except to save mom’s life

A direct attack on Roe v. Wade is coming from the South Dakota legislature. The new bill, which outlaws abortion, makes no exceptions, not for a pregnancy caused by incest or rape. It would only be legal — the only exception if it would save the pregnant woman’s life.

Stupid stupid stupid South Dakota.

Stop electing grumpy old men who think this is any of their business, or even appropriate.

Posted by skooter at 2:41 PM

February 18, 2006
Hudson's Bay Company (again)

A lengthy article by Peter C. Newman in today’s Globe and Mail waxes poetically about the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company

It’s informative, but I’m not sure that my read of the article is his intended message.

My read is of a company that has persistently failed to capitalize on its investments; a company that played a role in nation building, but failed to leverage its position.

It also raises the very valid question that if Canada can’t sustain the Hudson’s Bay Company, we may not have a role in global commerce, at least on the level of selling striped wool blankets.

I still don’t see this as a national crisis, although I do agree that it’s not a good economic sign of our times.

I don’t fear for this country’s future: I look forward to it.

Posted by skooter at 9:50 PM

February 13, 2006
CBC's Olympic Intros

Everybody knows I love the CBC, perhaps in inappropriate ways. I think my relationship with CBC Radio One might be one of the most meaningful ones in my life.

But what’s up with these Olympic intros on CBC TV. This crazy voice with the weirdest voice overs I’ve ever heard.

Go figure. Go Canada. Yay Torino.

Posted by skooter at 6:03 PM
Tags: 2010, Olympics, Vancouver Olympics

A Hypothetical Question

You’re hunting in the woods with Dick Cheney and you get shot. Dick says it’s an accident.

Do you believe him?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Cheney shoots pal in hunting accident
ALAN FREEMAN

WASHINGTON He may be humourless and totally lacking in charisma, but “U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney” has always prided himself on being a straight shooter, at least politically speaking.

Over the weekend, the avid hunter and poster boy for the National Rifle Association thought he had aimed straight while quail hunting on a southern Texas ranch. Only instead of a bird, he blasted fellow hunter Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Republican, hitting him with birdshot in his face, neck and chest.

Posted by skooter at 8:28 AM

February 12, 2006
The Tyee's Blatant Bias

The online only publication The Tyee is based out of Vancouver, and bills itself as an alternative magazine.

For some reason, alternative in this case means blatantly biased. Witness this link to an article about David Emerson crossing the floor.

What’s biased about this? It’s a link to another article — see that text I highlighted in yellow? The word sex doesn’t appear in the Globe and Mail article its linked to at all, and the only reference to Belinda is in passing.

A bunch of people label me as Conservative — wrongly, I might add. In reality, what I find offensive is people who assign some labels and treat them as dogma. People, in essence, who are unable to see alternative viewpoints. Radicals can come from the left or the right, but they’re still radicals.

The Tyee I find hard to read because it is so blatantly biased it’s not even funny. As demonstrated by the text above, they will do anything to emphasize a story against the Conservatives, including adding words that don’t even appear in linked articles.

Lest anyone think my personal bias enters into this, rest assured that my monthly reading materials are shaped by the highly lnformed publications that characterize Liberal viewpoints. I read — and have regularly subscribed too — Harper’s Magazine the Atlantic Monthly and The Walrus. The only radio station I listen too is CBC Radio One or Two and I don’t spend much time yelling at it, except when I hear Canadians slavishly following close minded viewpoints as they seemed to be doing in the last election.

I can’t read the Tyee, and that makes me sad.

Posted by skooter at 9:11 PM

February 7, 2006
Crossing the Floor

Much is being made about newly minted Conservative David Emerson’s crossing of the floow. To that end, some thoughts.

Mostly, to the Conservative Party of Canada be careful what you wish for. David’s not as nice in person as he might seem on TV — and he doesn’t seem that nice on TV.

Posted by skooter at 6:51 AM

February 6, 2006
David Emerson: The Liberal Party's Spartacus

Now that David Emerson has crossed the floor and joined the Conservative Party of Canada as a cabinet minister, I’m calling the Conservative election campaign I ran in 2004 — the year that saw David win his seat — a win.

Viva la revolucion, David.

Posted by skooter at 8:24 AM

February 3, 2006
Liberal Leaders all in a row

John Manley — down.

Frank McKenna — down.

Brian Tobin — down (forcing me to eat some crow.)

Allan Rock — down.

What do all of these people have in common?

They’re winners. These are not people who like losing elections.

I suspect that anticipation of the writing on the wall in the next go-round may have been a motivating factor.

Posted by skooter at 11:54 AM

January 28, 2006
Allan Rock for Liberal Leader?

Two words: gun registry.

He built it, and it spiraled out of control in the most unimaginable way possible.

Two more: legalizing marijuana.

Remember the experiment with “growing pot in a mine in Flin Flon”, in order to create a legalized crop?

Rock was responsible for the begining of both of these massively bungled programs. Don’t get me wrong: conceptually, I agree with both of them.

None of this matters: Rock is a guy with good ideas, and poor fiscal capabilities.

My money’s on Brian Tobin who has followed the Chretien pattern. Resign while on top, enter private life, make millions, re-enter public life.

Besides, those Captain Canada images are going to play as well today as they did a few years ago.

Posted by skooter at 5:36 PM

January 24, 2006
Quadra down, election over.

Results are in, with a very slim Stephen Harper minority government going to Ottawa. Losing seats in BC is reason for concern. Serious reason for concern — especially when seats in the Valley go Liberal. That’s Conservative territory.

Vancouver Quadra went Liberal once again, to my personal disappointment. Navel gazing has already begun — it will continue for some time.

Our solution? We’re going to the motorcycle show in Abbotsford this weekend. Time to look around. Add to this a new baby coming home today and it seems like there’s probably better things to do than go to Ottawa anyway — it’s -1 there, and 10 here. I know where I’d rather be.

I think.

Posted by skooter at 7:53 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006

January 20, 2006
Harper's Diminishing Lead

That this headline:

Harper’s lead takes a hit
With Tory Leader straying from script, poll shows support for his party waning

Should appear in the Globe and Mail should come as no surprise. A move to the Conservative Party of Canada is a big one, and Canadians are bound to be a little wary.

It does not matter: the lead will not close enough to create a Martin minority government, unless Mr. Martin inks a formal coalition with the NDP, something that has become virtually impossible given the sniping back and forth between the parties.

Il est un fait accompli: Mr. Harper is our next Prime Minister.

I still don’t know about Vancouver Quadra though.

Posted by skooter at 8:17 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Stephen Harper

January 19, 2006
Pierre Pettigrew: Down for the Count

The story out of Montreal is that Pierre Pettigrew is down with certainty.

Yet another Liberal who I had pegged as a possible leadership candidate.

Interesting question of the day: Harper will be the first Prime Minister since Diefenbaker to come from the West — sorry Joe Clark, but you just don’t count — what impact will this have on our nation’s vision of itself (particularly if he is elected for a second term.)

Posted by skooter at 9:12 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Liberal

January 18, 2006
Paul Martin's Public Image

Paul Martin’s voice is haggard, and rough. He’s unable to speak clearly anymore — sounding, instead, like he’s shouting into the microphone. The man is tired, and needs to be put out of his misery.

Keith Martin (no relation) on the other hand sounds like a desperate man. You’ll recall that Keith — the member for Esquimault-Juan de Fuca — was first elected as a Reformer. Like many others, he then supported the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Reform Party. Before the first election campaign run by the new Conservative Party Martin turned into a Liberal.

According to Martin, a leopard can’t change its spots and “if you scratch the surface of the party” it’s still the same old party.

What about the Liberals?

I suppose this means that the Liberals — the organized political party that’s been taking money out of your pocket for most of the last 12 years; the organization that calls itself the “natural governing party”, implying that Canadians aren’t capable of making a choice for anything else anymore; the party that is so unable to manage the fiscal coffers that surpluses have become the norm, without any reduction in taxes to minimize them — can’t change either.

That’s exactly the problem Mr. Martin. Hubris.

I called the last election a minority Liberal government a long long time ago, at the Liberal Party of Canada Caucus christmas party. I was mocked, and told that I couldn’t be more wrong and then…it turns out I was right. My rationale at the time: hubris and arrogance.

There’s no way I saw this coming though. Don’t believe me? Read what I wrote on November 24th.

He hasn’t won yet, but I don’t see any way this thing is swinging back to the Liberals at this point.

January 17, 2006
The Daily Show is Making Fun of you, Mr. Martin

Comedy Central’s Daily Show and Colbert Report are making fun of Paul Martin for bringing negative advertising and fear mongering to Canadian politics.

Yet another bad omen? Tonight’s Rick Mercer Report was pretty scathing too.

It’s much better to be laughing with the comedians — Chretien was very good at this — than it is to have them laughing at you.

Advance Voting

Conventional wisdom holds that heavy (relatively speaking) turnout at advance polls means a change in government — a rush for people who want change to get out and vote for it.

If this holds true, the current numbers do not bode well for the Liberals. Country wide - at a time of year when people are supposed to be less interested - 300,000 more people voted in advance compared to last year.

For what it’s worth, David Emerson appears to have given up and just thrown in the towel in Vancouver Kingsway. With it looking like an Ian Waddel riding anyway, why not? Who wants to go from senior minister to opposition in only eighteen months? He doesn’t have the temperment.

Posted by skooter at 11:36 PM
Tags: David Emerson, Federal Election 2006

January 16, 2006
The E-Campaign

The NDP is winning the e-campaign.

Posted by skooter at 9:54 PM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, NDP

Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, our neighbour to the south. A day when it’s important to remember that systemic racism is not long past, but a recent memory. A day to remember an American who felt things should change, and took it upon himself to change them through peaceful non-violent means. A day to remember an American who led millions of Americans, and showed the world that a society that preached freedom, integration and tolerance practiced anything but.

A day to remember a life lost in pursuit of a noble cause, killed in anger and hatred.

A day for pause.

Posted by skooter at 9:41 AM

January 15, 2006
Crazy Liberal Attack Ads

These crazy Liberal attack ads are playing in extremely high rotation. It’s weird.

What’s most shocking, is that they’re just such horrible ads.

My TV is on as I write this, although I’m paying little attention to it. The news is on, so I’m mostly just listening. (I’d prefer the radio, but there’s no news-cast right now to speak of, and I want my campaign news.)

These ads are all voice over, and music. The word Liberal isn’t mentioned once in the voice over. The one that’s been playing tonight ends with a line that says “The social safety net is a fundamental Canadian value, Mr. Harper.”

The thin about this is, if — like me — you’re not actually reading the screen and just listening, this ad does nothing to support the Liberal Party of Canada. It may succeed in leaving a negative impression of Mr. Harper, but it doesn’t reinforce anything about the Liberals.

For many people, impressions of the ads will be based on the media’s coverage of them. In this case, not very good. The news media has focused on one particularly heinous ad that was pulled, and has not been kind to the Liberals in general.

This tide is moving swiftly, and I have yet to see anything from the Liberals that’s pulling this one back.

I’m not sure I want too — my ballot’s already been cast.

January 13, 2006
LaSalle-Emard

LaSalle-Emard is the Montreal area riding that Paul Marin calls home.

Ok — not really, but it’s the one he represents in Ottawa anyway.

LaSalle-Emard is in play.

Posted by skooter at 11:10 PM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Paul Martin

Fixed Election Dates? Ugh.

Fixed election dates are a very bad idea, my friend. They are, essentially, impossible in a parliamentary democracy as well.

As for Mr. Martin’s response to the platform? Lukewarm and tragic really.

Posted by skooter at 11:04 PM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Paul Martin

January 12, 2006
Heard, in passing.

“It’s a look that screams ‘You Democratic jack-offs are no match for Zanex and Talbots!’”
- The Daily Show’s Ed Helms, on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s wife

Posted by skooter at 11:09 PM

January 10, 2006
Paul Martin's Hail Mary

It’s been much written by now — over twelve hours later — that Paul Martin threw a hail mary in last night’s debate by promising to amend the charter.

What a stupid, stupid thing to do for one major reason: Quebec.

Yes, Quebec retains its role as the perennial excuse in Canadian politics.

What’s Wrong with Section 33?

Quite a bit in principle, and not very much in practice. The notwithstanding clause, to make a very long story short, was added during last minute negotiations between the Trudeau government (including Jean Chretien) and the provinces to get the constitution passed. These rushed negotiations were triggered by Quebec Premier Rene Levesque’s challenge to Trudeau to put the constitution to a vote. Trudeau, and the other premiers, knew the vote would end in a victory for the federal government, and the provinces would be left in the dark.

Here’s a longer version of the story.

Section 33 means, in essence, that the government (any Canadian government) can pass any legislation that might contradict the rights guaranteed by the charter. Doing so requires that the legislation have an effective period of less than 5 years, therefore requiring a regular review if the intent is to have the legislation valid for perpetuity.

Is Section 33 Appropriate?

Section 33 is and was controversial, but has its roots in the view that Canada is a parliamentary democracy in the British Tradition, with the Parliament as the final authority and not the courts. This is quite distinct from the American Republic, which clearly defines the courts as the final authority on all matters within its field of responsibility.

It’s appropriateness is debateable: many feel that Parliament (which is, after all, elected) should be supreme as an expression of the people’s will. Others who feel that human rights are basic and fundamental (a category into which I would fall, by most definitions) feel that the judiciary — not subject to the fickle whims of the electorate — is the most appropriate venue for final review.

Both viewpoints have proponents and validity, but it doesn’t matter here — my problem with this has little to do with this argument.

Has it been used?

Section 33 hasn’t been used very much. Three times, in fact.

Quebec’s controversial sign law is the most notable use, requiring French on signs to be featured first and at least as prominently as English.

The other uses were far less cotroversial. Saskatchewan invoked it relative to back to work legislation. Again in Quebec to pass Bill 178 by the Quebec National Assembly following the 15 December 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Chaussure Brown’s and in Devine.

Back to the Point: What’s Wrong With This Amendment

Hypothetically, and in my view, the federal government should never use the powers it has under Section 33. It should be used only by provinces in cases where federal legislation may contradict provincial needs or authority.

The problems isn’t whether Mr. Martin’s commitment is right or wrong, it’s that it’s not realistically achieveable. Constitutional amendments are quite difficult to pass and the amending formula gives both Quebec and Ontario a tremendous amount of power.

Still, if the goal is noble enough pursuing an amendment could be necessary.

If it weren’t for the fact that this will destroy the country.

Quebec will, of course, leverage its power. With Mr. Duceppe as the elected leader of the Bloc Quebecois and Mr. Charest as the unpopular premier, Quebec currently suffers from a schizophrenic political personality. Duceppe a staunch separatist will use this opportunity to re-open Constitutional negotiations completely; Mr. Charest is a staunch federalist, and may play along with Martin’s plan but lose all of his extremely limited political capital in the process.

The vote would be a provincial one, and Mr. Charest’s majority government could pass such an amendment with ease. In doing so, two things would happen.

Charest would guarantee a loss in the next election. The Charest government is extremely unpopular as it is, and this would cement this due to its unpopularity with French speaking Quebeckers.

The myth of Quebec’s exclusion from the costitution will be renewed. I call this a myth based on my interpretation of events. In Quebec, the notion that Quebec was betrayed in negotiations plays well. The other provinces turned their backs on Levesque, the view goes.

The reality is that Levesque’s suggestion that Trudeau hold a referendum was out of the blue and unplanned, and betrayed the other nine provinces. With few other options and a weakened negotiating position, the other provinces assembled a deal.

Paul Martin’s Fatal Mistake

Constitutions are living, breathing documents. They are meant to change and evolve over time. While the view that Section 33 has run its course and is no longer needed may be true, our constitution is still very young. The potential damage that could be caused by reopening negotiations while a strong separatist mandate is in power federally far outweighs any potential gain from the amendment effort. The clause does little harm as it remains completely unused.

Mr. Martin has, in fact, promised to use it himself making this promise deeply hypocritical. It has little basis in reality, and will serve to do nothing other than rip at a tear in the fabric of our nation, perhaps permanetly.

I firmly believe Canadians aren’t foolish enough to fall for it. I firmly believe that if they choose to vote Liberal — despite the stealing, the lying, the corruption and the desperation — it will not be because of this.

I firmly believe in Canada as a whole, and want to keep Quebec in it. This does nothing to achieve that goal and may, in fact, push the raft even further way.

Posted by skooter at 6:23 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Paul Martin

January 8, 2006
Political Product Placement

From the Toronto Star. I swear I had nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing.

See the rear left of the photo.

January 6, 2006
Patronage? Only the Liberals? Nah.

Now I’m no fan of the current Liberal Party of Canada and the way Paul Martin hands out rewards like a pusher hands out crack cocaine, but are things going to be different under the Tories?

Not according to the Toronto Star

An article in today’s star speculates about a Harper cabinet:

Who’d sit in Tory cabinet?
Speculation begins as Conservatives gain confidence Harper will succeed Martin
Jan. 6, 2006. 05:20 AM
SEAN GORDON, IN OTTAWA

With the prospect of a Conservative minority coming into sharper focus, some Tories are quietly beginning to contemplate what a Stephen Harper cabinet might look like.
It promises to be a more youthful — and sparser — front bench than Canadians have become accustomed to in recent years.

Don’t get me wrong — a smaller cabinet is a very good thing. Under Paul Martin’s leadership the cabinet has grown to be a bloated misshapen beast.

The article goes on to speculate about potential members of the new cabinet:

Several sources said deputy leader Peter MacKay is assured a key post, veteran MPs Monte Solberg, Diane Ablonczy, Rob Nicholson and Jay Hill are likely to get the call, as are former provincial ministers Stockwell Day (who also led the Canadian Alliance) and Vic Toews.

In Ontario, with its 106 seats, a Tory government would have many more candidates from whom to choose.

Former provincial Tory minister Carl DeFaria could make the grade, as could incumbents Gordon O’Connor, Peter Van Loan, Bev Oda, Diane Finley and Nicholson, who briefly served as a federal minister in the early 1990s.

The emphasis above is mine.

And who is Diane Finley and what are her credentials? Reading her biography doesn’t provide much real insight: why would this woman in particular, representing a riding well outsie the GTA, be called into cabinet?

Because she’s married to Harper’s campaign manager, that’s why.

Don’t forget, incidentally, that Mr. Harper keeps promising that Canadians should be able to pay for their health care ‘with their health card, not their credit card’ (who isn’t these days?) According to Wikipedia Finley’s past includes this highlight:

Finley has promoted increased private-sector involvement in health services. She was the founder of Canada’s largest private-sector ambulance service, Canadian Medical Response, and has chaired the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships

Again, the emphasis is mine.

So this small-c Conservative is a huge advocate for privatized health care, despite Mr. Harper’s insistence that he supports a public system. Now I’m worried.

Posted by skooter at 6:16 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Stephen Harper

January 5, 2006
Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon’s health woes have brought back painful memories of my failed bid for the Palestinian Leadership in this last year; I thought I had put this past me, but the memories have come flooding back.

Whether you agreed with him or not, one cannot dispute the influcence that Mr. Sharon has had on this troubled region. An uncertain future looms ahead; a troubled past behind.

Posted by skooter at 11:27 AM
Tags: Middle East, Obituaries, PLO

Coffee: World's (2nd) Most Valuable Commodity

Many people don’t know, but coffee is apparently second only to Oil on the world market. It’s amongst the world’s most valuable commodities.

This, then, should come as no surprise.

Espresso Huts Are Target, and Barista Tips Police
By L. D. KIRSHENBAUM
Published: January 5, 2006

SEATTLE, Jan. 4 — The culprits were not after cappuccino, but baristas figured prominently in their robbery spree across the Seattle area - and in their apparent undoing.

Baristas at as many as 10 drive-up espresso stands, as ubiquitous here in the nation’s coffee capital as McDonald’s are, were robbed at gunpoint last month. In each case, less than $200 was taken and the victim was a young woman, the authorities said.

I was attending at these stands for quite a while: street-side coffee is to Seattle as a street Hot Dog is to New York. It’s not just coffee, it’s an icon.

Shame on these folks for preying on these young girls. They’re performing a public service, after all.

Posted by skooter at 11:11 AM
Tags: America, Coffee

January 2, 2006
Hedging my Bets

This, from today’s Toronto Star, is a good thing:

Poll finds little Tory fear factor
Jan. 2, 2006. 10:58 PM
JOAN BRYDEN, CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA Fear of a Conservative government is no longer a potent argument for re-electing the Liberals, a new poll suggests.

if it means that Canadians are taking a serious look at all the alternatives to the Liberal Party, rather than simply voting by default.

But what about those Conservative ads?

The Conservative Party has been running TV ads which can best be described as amateurish: these things look like they’ve been produced in someone’s basement, with antique hardware.

But I bet they’re effective.

The most recent of these - - and they can be seen at the Conservative Party web site — replays a number of clips and headlines from the last year’s news, all to scenes of “ordinary looking” Canadians sitting in bars, restaurants and Tim Hortons shops shaking their heads in disgust.

This simple approach works. Canadians have been doing this all year, and reminding them of that builds an effective ad. The message is straightforward, and not manufactured: these headlines have been playing in the Canadian consciousness all year.

There are worse things in advertising than low production values: in this case a key message is fiscal responsibility — these ads demonstrate it.

I haven’t yet seen very many Liberal ads. I expect this will change with a blitz in the next three weeks, and the airwaves will be overwhelmed. It will be very interesting to see if they work as well.

Right now, with the Liberal party failing to run any kind of effective campaign, I’m hedging my best. I think it’s still an outside chance, but Mr. Harper might just pull a rabbit out of this hat. Unfortunately, I expect this rabbit to come at the cost of an alliance with the Bloc Quebecois. The prospect terrifies me on one level, but I wouldn’t vote Liberal out of fear either.

Posted by skooter at 9:17 PM
Tags: Federal Election 2006, Stephen Harper

December 31, 2005
On The Record; Riding Predictions

I was chatting about the election last night, and made some riding calls. I’m going to put them on the record.

West Vancouver: absolutely Blair Wilson. There is no doubt.
North Vancouver: sadly, Don Bell is likely to hold this. Very slim chance for Cindy Silver but she’s a bit right wing…this might play well with seniors who dominate the voting population.
Vancouver Centre: Svend Robinson. The argument that Hedy Fry has held the riding for four terms, and deserves credit for beating Kim Campbell doesn’t hold water. Svend is a master campaignger, and the riding leans left anyway. He’ll take this one.
Vancouver East: Libby Davies is a shoo-in, until voters in this riding discover that the NDP has done nothing to make their neighbourhood safer, cleaner, or their tax dollar expenditure more effective. One day this riding will fall from the NDP, but this is not that day.
Vancouver Kingsway: Ian Waddel sadly. I’d like nothing more than to see David Emerson sit in opposition (a minority parliament would make it even more delicious) but his boiled dog head comment has handed the riding to Waddell.
Vancouver South: It’s my belief that Ujjal Dosanjh is going to hold this — I see nothing that will push Tarlok Sarblok over him.

In Vancouver Quadra my head and heart are conflicted, so I can’t truly predict. Stephen Owen seems likely to hold, but I’m doing as much as I can to make sure he doesn’t.

This means that I am, essentially, calling Vancouver an NDP city, not a Liberal one.

This surprised me at first, but it shouldn’t really.

Posted by skooter at 6:34 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006

Liberal Finance Ministers

144x75 Let’s review, for a minute here.

Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister who created the rules that allow Quebec to break up my country, appointed Paul Martin as his Finance Minister. In the dying days of that Government, it became clear that the “Liberal Party was deeply courrupt” including illicit financial dealings with public money. The Finance Minister claimed he knew nothing.

Fast forward that Finance Minister Paul Martin is Prime Minister Paul Martin who appoints Ralph Goodale as his finance minister. The income trust scandal breaks, the Finance Ministry is under investigation by the RCMP (Merry Christmas Mr. Harper) and once again the Finance Minister claims to have known nothing, while Mr. Martin has implicated his own office.

Remind me again why we have a Finance Minister, and particularly a Liberal one? These last two have apparently, by their own admission, been fairly lacklustre.

Posted by skooter at 6:26 AM
Tags: Federal Election 2006

December 30, 2005
33 Investigations? Priceless.

144x75 A nice list of 33 RCMP investigations related to the Liberal Party of Canada in the last three years.

Of course there was that investigation into Brian Mulroney; the one that went nowhere; the one perpetuated by the Liberal government of Jean Chretien; the one that Mulroney successfully sued the Canadian government over.

Posted by skooter at 8:40 AM

December 29, 2005
Whither Mr. Martin - Part Two

According to today’s Globe and Mail

Lawrence Martin
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
Thursday, December 29, 2005

In a year-end interview, CTV’s Mike Duffy asked Paul Martin whether he would be stepping down as leader of the Liberal Party if he did not win a majority in the coming election.

The Prime Minister parried the question while hunting for the right words. Then he spoke of the great future awaiting Canada and the big challenges of the changing world. Then he said, “I want to be there.”

To those who think Mr. Martin will go quietly, his message was clear: Dream on.

Here’s a question for you Mr. Martin - did Mr. Chretien plan on going quietly?

There will be a putsch. The choice of whether or not to go may not be up to you. Watch out for those long knives — they hurt deeply. While it may not be clear to me who is wielding it, it’s obvious that someone is.

Posted by skooter at 6:52 AM

December 28, 2005
Astonishing Levels of Debt

This is just astounding.

The Liberal Party of Canada is carrying more debt than many small nations. One of their campaign slogans — There’s Over 30 Million Reasons to Vote Liberal — takes on new meaning in this light: if they don’t get enough seats elected, how are they ever going to repay this money?

Why, in any event, would any bank — let alone 13 different ones — lend a political party this much money? Politics is a game on which ou place large amounts of risk money: it’s gambling.

Banks aren’t suppose to gamble.

Posted by skooter at 11:16 AM

Whither Mr. Martin?

There’s one extremely pressing question that I’m struggling with in this election:

Who’s going to replace Paul Martin after this election?

Like it or not, Mr. Martin’s career as a politician is over at the end of this election: if he leads this government to another minority, Liberals will be crawling out of the woodwork looking for his head. This man was, remember, supposed to be king. He was supposed to win the largest Liberal majority ever, and lead Canada on a glorious parade into the New Liberal Era.

He has not. The Martin government has stumbled and stammered — literally — it’s way across the stage through its first minority term, and is about to do the same in 2006.

The only person who can come out of this OK, at least by my reading of the numbers, is if — and I think it’s a dark horse possibility, but a possibility nonetheless — Mr. Harper forms a minority government. If Mr. Harper returns to Ottawa as our Prime MInister in any form, he will survive.

Otherwise, expect to see the next face off betwee two new leaders, with only Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe surviving.

So let’s start guessing? Who’s going to be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada? Will “John Manley:google and Alan Rock come back? Pierre Pettigrew? Belinda Stronach or Scott Brison — former Tories both?

Inquiring minds need to know.

December 27, 2005
I Told You So

From today’s Globe and Mail

Liberals may have success wooing NDP voters, a poll shows
By BRIAN LAGHI
Tuesday, December 27, 2005 Posted at 7:47 AM EST
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

Jack Layton’s supporters are the most likely group to change their votes in the current election campaign, according to new polling data that appear to shed light on the Liberal’s effort to woo the NDP.

Posted by skooter at 5:24 AM

December 23, 2005
Marbury vs. Madison

The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation, if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.

Chief Justice John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)

Note, Mr. Bush, that it is neither a government of God.

Posted by skooter at 9:40 AM

December 12, 2005
Strategic Voting is the Liberal's Friend

I told a Liberal candidate in a strong NDP riding that strategic voting was her friend - remind every NDP voter she spoke to that if they vote NDP, they may wind up with Mr. Harper.

This is undoubtedly part of the motivation behind this article in the Globe and Mail.

Liberals snatching NDP votes in Ontario

Posted by skooter at 6:07 AM

December 10, 2005
An homage to TV?

Stephen Harper has apparently started to crib his election policy from The West Wing

Tories announce cancer plan
Saturday, December 10, 2005 Posted at 10:46 AM EST
Canadian Press

Ottawa — Stephen Harper says a Conservative government would spend $250-million over five years to come up with a strategy to fight cancer.

And a note to Deborah Gray who appeared on “CBC Radio’s The House” this morning, as I was typing this: while persistently pointing out the gaps in the media’s coverage is a wonderful communications strategy, continually blaming the media for bias causingn those gaps is bound to alienate them even firther.

Posted by skooter at 9:37 AM

December 6, 2005
Riding up to the Internet?

Yes, in the Senate chamber today of The Greatest Nation On Earth™ Jack Valenti — the former president of the MPAA — spoke out against television and, as part of his blast, expressed concerns about any child’s ability to “go riding up to the Internet.”

Which is just odd.

Posted by skooter at 11:09 PM

The Source of Cynicism

This article from the T-dot Star outlines Mr. Martin’s new, improved childcare plan designed to trump Mr. Harper’s $1,200 child related tax credit (call it what it is Mr. Harper…call it what it is.)

No wonder Canadians are cynical.

This is like a good old fishing story; Mr. Harper pulls his smallmouth bass out of the water and a picture gets taken; back on shore, Mr. Martin says “Sure, that’s what he caught…but you should see what I caught! It was this big!” all the while holding his hands out to indicate a fish a few inches larger than Mr. Harper.

Mr. Harper, of course, responds in kind by suggesting that the camera ran out of film and the next fish he caught was even bigger than the one Mr. Martin claims. So it goes, ad infinitum.

Harper’s plan is horrible, because it’s open to abuse and a lack of responsiveness. It’s a simple tax cut disguised as somethig else. Mr. Martin had a plan in place, but now — facing an angry electorate in virtually every province — is upping the ante and laying more money on the table.

What Canadians should be asking is this: if it is such a noble cause, why wasn’t all that money put on the table in the first place?

The answer, I’m afraid, is that the Liberal party needed to bribe us with it during an election campaign; don’t fall for it. If you’re going to vote Liberal, don’t do it because of a bribe.

Posted by skooter at 8:24 AM

December 1, 2005
Team Martin's High Priced Advice

You can bet Team Martin paid quite a bit of money for their logo redesign, and yet they still missed the obvious potential for fooling around with it.

The Liberal Party has a rule, incidentally, according to people out here who know - the logo gets redesigned every time a new leader is elected.

So why this redesign now?

Posted by skooter at 8:54 AM

November 30, 2005
Quebec

Quebec is the sleeper issue of this campaign, in many ways. I’m waiting for the discussion to start.

Posted by skooter at 10:56 PM

November 29, 2005
Terribly Unconvincing, Mr. Harper

Heard, tonight on CBC Television’s Canada Now

Reporter: But I wonder do you love this country?
Stephen Harper: I’ve always said Canada is a great country.

Where’s the passion Mr. Harper, where’s the passion? Your response was lukewarm and unconvincing - cheese can be great; wine can be great — this country is more than both of those things.

This country goes beyond being great; this country is the best place in the world to live. I was born here, and it is a part of every fibre of my very being.

When I get in a canoe in Northern Ontario and paddle alone through those tranquil waters, I am Canadian and I’m paddling in the wake of hundreds of years of our national identity.

When I hike the Stawamus Chief in Squamish from bottom to top I am Canadian.

When I stroll the shores of Pacific Rim National Park and gaze west across a vacant horizon, I am Canadian.

When I stand on the shores of the Bay of Fundy and watch the power of the Earth’s tides at their greatest I am Canadian.

When I reach down and touch the earth and soil that this country is built on, I love it with every fibre of my being.

This country is so much more than great. This country is our home.

Posted by skooter at 6:14 PM

November 28, 2005
One, two, three strikes you're out...

Gentlemen (and I use the term loosely to describe both of them) — let the games begin.

Posted by skooter at 10:31 PM

Mr. Martin's Populatiry

Reading this reminded me of how vividly negative the reaction of the crowd at the Grey Cup was when Paul Martin walked onto the field. The crowd booed, noticeably.

I keep wondering why I haven’t read about this on any Canadian Liberal blogs.

Posted by skooter at 8:57 PM

Elections and Electoral Reform

On the night of the corrupt Liberal government’s fall, this is a particularly interesting developmet:

Electoral reform rejected in PEI
By CHRIS MORRIS
Monday, November 28, 2005 Posted at 7:21 PM EST
Canadian Press

Charlottetown — A proposal to reform Prince Edward Island’s electoral system was rejected Monday by a large majority of voters in a provincewide plebiscite.

Here in British Columbia, we trod down this road for a bit and it failed; despite this, we’re heading down it again.

Voters are, to put it simply, afraid of change. Proportional representation is a pretty big change, and a pretty scary one.

There’s an argument that the current minority parliament is working — getting things done. I don’t buy it personally…our entire government structure is based on an assumption of majority governments. The insertion of a minority government with a weak leader into the middle of the pattern has not been effective.

Proportional representation would, essentially, create a system which would result in a continual pattern of minority style coalition governments. It’s the nature of the beast.

This is part of what makes it a scary change, but the extensive deployment of proportional representation electoral systems throughout the world has proven one thing: coalition governments can work well, and often.

PEI has benefited substantially from being a “have not” province and, in the process, fed at the trough presented by a long series of Liberal majorities. $13 Million of tax money was spent to build a bridge to this island province with a population in the range of 130,000, while Vancouver waits for transportation upgrades to just about every aspect of its infrastructure. The persistent presence of a PEI cabinet minister all but assures that the province will benefit from some form of government largesse.

This makes it unsurprising that the voters of PEI would choose to retain a system which has granted them so much political favour: these are people who understand how to use their votes to manipulate dollars, at both the federal and provincial level.

This is also an Island with remarkably high voter turnouts in provincial elections — typically 80% or higher. These people participate in, rather than ignore, their democracy. Electoral reform is often cited as one way to increase voter turnout in other parts of the country — not a problem here.

Electoral Reform, like it or not, is going to have to be imposed from above I think. Voters are afraid of change, and persistent attempts to implement it with their input have met with failure. Electoral reform is, I’m afraid, the only way to destroy the currently arrogant and self-important Liberal Party of Canada. Only by facing voters in a system which doesn’t reward the tyranny of the minority with an effective majority will the current crop of Liberal thugs realize that they need to put forward ideas, and a vision, and leadership in order to truly lead Canadians.

Posted by skooter at 7:43 PM

November 25, 2005
Public Transit in Toronto

CBC’s Metro Morning is podcasted and I’ve been listening, which is really nice. A note from a November 10th interview with activists arguing for a Subway line in Scarborough shows why Andy Barrie is missed by those of us who used to live there.

“At the end of the day, is this really about politics rather than transit needs? We have a Sheppard line today - terribly, some would argue, underused - because Mel Lastman wanted one and that’s the simple political reality.”

That’s called calling it like it is. The always flamboyant Mel Lastman screwed up public transit in Canada’s largest city because of his ego.

Posted by skooter at 4:24 AM

November 24, 2005
Spending splurge...why not "Orgy of Spendiosity"

It’s quite surprising to me that more stories like this didn’t appear during the last election.

If Canadians abandon the Liberal Party of Canada en masse, it will be because of this - a habit which is not new. The Liberals practice the same pork barrel politics as well as they always have, but the barrels are delivered as press releases now.

Posted by skooter at 11:36 PM

Updated for a Winter campaign

Kate’s updated her sign generator

Posted by skooter at 11:25 PM | Comments

Mr. Prime Minister

122x100 Michael Ignatieff deserves your vote for Prime Minister if only because he’s able to enunciate a vision of Canada in a coherent and defensible fashion.

Anybody want to ask Paul Martin what he thinks defines our national identity? Mr. Harper, care to take a crack at that one?

Didn’t think so.

Posted by skooter at 9:45 PM

Perennial Also Ran?

Mr. Harper is about to learn that tabling a motion is a great deal easier than winning an election, I’m afraid.

“After 17 months in office the record of this government – or I should say in many instances its lack of record – has become unacceptable to a large majority of members of the House representing on overwhelming majority of Canadian voters…”

So on Monday our representatives vote, and we head to an election on an as yet undetermined date. This is one that I’m dreading at this point, in part because it seems so fatalistic on my part. It’s also 100% certain to set the stage for a referendum on The Quebec Question.

Mr. Harper you are — quite simply — wasting your (and our) time. It makes me sad.

though it hurts me to see you this way
betrayed by words
i’d never heard
too hard to say them

Posted by skooter at 8:23 AM

November 23, 2005
Let's all go to the...polls?

Whether the perception is justified or not, Ralph Klein has read the tea leaves correctly here

Klein says Harper seen as ‘too much on the right,’ predicts another Liberal minority
Last Updated Wed, 23 Nov 2005 22:05:30 EST
CBC News

Premier Ralph Klein is predicting another Liberal minority government - two weeks after he offered to campaign for his federal counterparts.

Posted by skooter at 9:02 PM

November 21, 2005
David, David, David....this kind of talk is what gets you in trouble.

From today’s Globe and Mail

Industry Minister David Emerson acknowledged political concerns were speeding up the rate of government spending initiatives.

I’ve long since stopped counting the announcements showing up in my inbox. David will never learn - this kind of thing doesn’t endear you to your government colleagues.

Posted by skooter at 6:11 PM

November 19, 2005
The Lunatics Are Down, But Not gone

Thank god for small favours.

People I’m not going to miss:

People I’m disappointed to see gone:

People I’m fairly pleased to see win:

People who I could do without:

Vision Vancouver is doing a great deal of griping about James Green stealing votes from Jim Green. Don’t buy it - yes, a straight addition of votes from James to Jim would put this over the top, but it’s highly doubtful that 100% of those votes for James Green would have gone to Jim Green; many of them were likely protest votes which could have been filed elsewhere just as easily. If your voters can’t find your name on a ballot, you’ve done something wrong. In any case, Mr. James Green has done us all a favour and deserves our thanks.

Posted by skooter at 11:02 PM

November 16, 2005
Liberals? Stealing money? No....

From Hansard, by way of Small Dead Animals

Mr. Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre-North, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Keeseekoose is a small first nation in Saskatchewan. In the time between 1995 and 2001, over $600,000 was systematically looted from its education fund. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has known about this since 2002 and this minister has known since he was appointed, but the minister refuses to help the new chief and council get to the bottom of this.

What is the minister hiding? Why will he not produce a forensic audit that shows who stole the Keeseekoose children’s trust fund?

And people keep voting for these guys? I don’t vote on ideological lines, but I certainly vote on competence.

Posted by skooter at 9:55 AM

November 15, 2005
Didn't We Already Make This Decision?

Dan Quayle Robin Williams was on the Tonight show once, and told a great joke about Roe vs. Wade.

It went along these lines: “Dan Quayle is so dense somebody asked him what he thought about Roe vs. Wade and he said ‘I’d rather swim.’”

It was pretty damn funny.

Expect the Liberals to trot abortion out again in an effort to run a fear campaign against Stephen Harper and all Conservatives soon. Expect Randy White to shoot his mouth off again - except this time he’s not running. I’m sure that tape’ll get aired again anyway.

This article on Slate makes a great point which is essentially that law students love this never ending debate. I suspect most Americans don’t even know what Roe vs. Wade is anymore, at least the younger generations. Those who lived through those trying times are probably still aware.

Abortion is not an election issue, and it is not an issue on which judges should be asked questions in their confirmation hearings.

Abortion is not an issue that can even begin to be discussed in a thiry second sound bite, and it’s an insult to women everywhere to try to do so, or suggest that it should be.

Posted by skooter at 10:50 PM

November 13, 2005
Hizzoner

On CBC’s Cross Country Check Up Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell just endorsed my long term gun control platform. Congratulations Larry - too bad you didn’t take your three years in office to pass a local bylaw. It may have been overturned by a court challenge, but it would have sent a message.

More problematic for the newly minted Liberal Senator, he just slurred the entire Indo-Canadian community.

Posted by skooter at 2:29 PM

November 12, 2005
The Lies that Politicians Tell

Everyone knows politicians tell lies, and the people who want to be politicians are worse than the ones who already are. Danieal Igali made Canada proud by winning a gold after immigrating to Canada.

Jesse Johl was fond of talking about how he and his family were Daniel’s first family when he came to Canada; I always thought it was a bit odd that Igali would never show up at any events, and that these guys couldn’t get ahold of him to save their lives.

With the announcment that Igali intends to open a school in his native Nigeria, this comes up:

As he struggled to adjust to his new life, Igali met his guardian angel - a mother and school principal named Maureen Matheny.

So I guess that answers it. More lies, half truths and omissions. Unfortunately entirely predictable.

Posted by skooter at 12:07 PM

November 10, 2005
That Giant Sucking Sound

One more head office says goodbye to British Columbia

This does not bode well for the future, although if the Cascadia idea ever launches we can all move south without going through immigration.

Utilities Commission approves Terasen sale
Last updated Nov 10 2005 05:54 PM PST
CBC News

A Texas-based company has been given approval to buy Terasen Gas. Kinder Morgan will pay nearly $7 billion for the company and its natural gas pipeline network.

The B.C. Utilities Commission gave its conditional approval despite a flood of letters from concerned British Columbians. The commission says it received 8,000 letters of comment about the sale.

Posted by skooter at 7:51 PM
Tags: Business, Economics, Politics, Vancouver

Vancouver 's Civic Government Slips Over The Edge

Tim Louis has always been a bit of a loose cannon, but this is just ridiculously over the line.

This from a civic government that can’t even keep homeless prostitutes alive.

Vancouver councillor calls for non-profit brothel
Last updated Nov 10 2005 08:39 AM PST
CBC News
Vancouver City Councillor Tim Louis’ suggestion that the city should operate a brothel had phones ringing off the hook at City Hall Thursday.

Louis made the comment in an editorial meeting with the Vancouver Sun newspaper

I’ve no doubt of the the people behind this brilliant and this needs to be said: this is not the solution to the problem, no matter how you define the problem.

Posted by skooter at 5:24 PM

Trooper? You've got to be joking

From today’s Globe and Mail

The boisterous debate has attracted all kinds of voices, including Ra McGuire, the lead singer of the rock band Trooper, known for the song Raise a Little Hell.

Mr. McGuire, who has been living in White Rock for 16 years, fiercely opposes the development.

“In Trooper, I play in every city, town and village in Canada,” he said. “There are so few places left like White Rock in the entire country.” It’s a “cool place” that shouldn’t change, he said.

Trooper? What’s next - Platinum Blonde in the federal cabinet?

My favourite part is that last comment about White Rock not changing. Of course it shouldn’t change - why should cities, towns and communities change? The less change the better, right?

Umm…wait a second…the average age in White Rock is something 60. North Vancouver suffers from the same problem. Change will happen whether Mr. McGuire wants it to or not: people are dying.

The funny thing about White Rock is people are either really old or really young. I like the town personally - great place - but there is a huge age gap noticeable when you drive around the streets. It’s just weird.

Posted by skooter at 8:58 AM

Sorry Marge, the mob has spoken.

Seattle’s monorail, which has been on 5 different Seattle ballots, is finally dead.

At least we can hope so. I’ve never taken the extremely short monorail system that exists in Seattle already. This plan was intended to extend the system to a reasonable length.

As the only public monorail system in North America, it seemed to make little sense: the cost of maintaining the system and building equipment was bound to be horrendous. Using a system that already has built in North American infrastructure seems more logical.

You don’t, after all, see very many cities installing cable cars a la San Francicso do you?

Seattle needs more public transit badly though—it’ll be interesting to watch what happens next.

Posted by skooter at 8:31 AM
Tags: Articles, Public Transit

November 9, 2005
Maybe California Makes Sense After All

From today’s New York Times:

Schwarzenegger Is Dealt a Stinging Rebuke by Voters
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: November 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 9 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was dealt a stinging rebuke on Tuesday by voters who rejected all four special election ballot initiatives that were the basis of his efforts to change the balance of power in Sacramento

I doubt this’ll last. I still feel like I’m taking some kind of hallucinogen everytime I see Schwarzenegger on TV.

Posted by skooter at 7:49 PM

November 8, 2005
Why vote at all?

This, according to today’s Toronto Star:

OTTAWA — Jack Layton sent the Conservatives the clarion signal they have been demanding, stating unequivocally today that he is committed to helping them bring down the government at the next available opportunity.

So why do we keep talking about an election?

Two things have surprised me in the last couple of days.

The first is that the media has just figured out that an election writ period in Canada can last longer than 35 days. That’s a minimum. Harper could drop the government today, and Paul Martin could call a vote for January 31st. There’s a practical upper limit, but it’s great to watch the media suddenly remember that this thing could run for longer than 35 days.

The second is the complete and utter lack of discussion about whether we need an election at all. Layton knows he’s not going to form government; Duceppe knows it too. These guys could get together, drop the government and put their confidence in the Conservative Party under its current leader.

Why wouldn’t they?

For starters, Deceppe is almost certain to pick up seats and is probably playing a game wherein securing yet another mandate for the Bloc helps his provincial allies in the Parti Quebecois with their goal of securing a mandate for a referendum on soveriegnty. Thanks guys - I’m thinking about moving to Montreal, and there you go sending the economy into the dumps again.

Whether Layton gains seats or not is a bigger question: I’ve only got a solid grasp of BC, and I could only see one Liberal dropping and converting to the NDP - that would be Vancouver Centre where Hedy Fry is vulnerable, and Svend Robinson is potential pickup. In Toronto, my picture is less clear. In the macro picture, I see a lot of soft NDP/Liberal swing voters voting strategically in order to avoid electing a Conservative - this means keeping seats in Liberal hands. I don’t think Jack has much to gain in the big picture.

So the answer, my friends, is ego. Hubris. Vanity. Pride. That most heinous of the seven deadly sins, an excess of which the Liberals are usually noted for.

It will be interesting to see whether a discussion about this last possibility emerges. It’s a possibility, but I doubt it. I think we’re going to spend that quarter of a billion dollars it takes to run an election in this great country of ours, probably around about January time.

Posted by skooter at 9:13 PM

9 Announcements

In the last two days, no less than nine significant annoucments from various Federal ministries have found their way into my inbox.

The last time this happened in this kind of volume was around May of 2004, with a federal election following almost immediately.

Quel surprise.

Posted by skooter at 6:51 PM

This is Sad

According to today’s Globe and Mail:

Liberal party snaps back
By BRIAN LAGHI
Tuesday, November 8, 2005 Posted at 8:01 AM EST

Canadians’ anger over the Liberal government’s role in the sponsorship program appears to have burned itself out over the weekend, allowing the party to snap back as the voters’ first choice just as it did last spring at the height of the scandal.

It makes me sad to think that Canadians are so cynical about the Liberal Party of Canada that they’ve already forgotten about every stolen penny; they’ve forgotten about the complete lack of accountability the organization has.

It makes me sad, but it does not surprise me.

Posted by skooter at 8:03 AM

November 7, 2005
French Riots

The French are storming the Bastille again, and Slate Magazine provides a great summary of how to torch a car.

Posted by skooter at 9:43 PM

A Highly Sensible Bicycle Law

Washington State has a highly sensible new traffic law, aimed at protecting cyclists. From today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

A new bicycle safety law is now in effect, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission points out. It’s now a traffic violation to pass another vehicle when bicyclists are approaching in the oncoming lane or on the shoulder. The law stems from a May 2004 crash near Walla Walla that killed a bicyclist. House Bill 1108 extended the legal zone of protection for bicyclists and pedestrians to highway shoulders and bicycle lanes. The law states that it is illegal to use the left-hand side of the road to pass when a bicyclist or pedestrian is within view and approaching from the opposite direction.

Posted by skooter at 6:20 PM

The Moustache Speaks

So Jack Layton - a man who has tried to launch a revolution in Canadian politics with his facial hair - has decided that he doesn’t have confidence in the government, giving Stephen Harper the votes he needs to bring the Martin government down. Layton has said that if a motion were on the table, the NDP would vote against the government.

So Stephen Harper - who could put such a motion on the table on November 15th - has said that he won’t do so, and that he’ll wait for Mr. Layton to put the motion out.

Huh?

The farther away we get from Gomery, the lower Stephen Harper’s chances are of forming government. I’ve written before about why I think it’s unlikely that he will in any case, but does this mean that he feels the same way - that is to say: does Stephen Harper finally realize Canadians are afraid of the Big Bad Right?

I doubt it.

I think that Harper just doesn’t want to get blamed for calling a Christmas election, and he’s afraid to pull the trigger as a result. We’ll likely have to wait until January to go the polls.

It would makes sense for Harper to trigger this thing to coincide with the release of the next phase of Gomery’s report. It’ll give him a big document to hold up and drum a finger on, even if it says the same things as the current one. The media loves fresh meat, as does a well run campaign team. Regretably, the former seems unlikely to support the Conservatives and the latter doesn’t exist in the party.

I still don’t see anything happening here other than another shaky Martin minority, and a bit more fuel thrown on the Bloq Quebecois’ referendum fire as a result.

Posted by skooter at 6:10 PM

November 6, 2005
Terminal City Weekly is Dead

Terminal City Weekly was followed closely by the political left, and not so closely by the political right. It’s death is a mere blip on Vancouver’s media radar, but one that should be noted on some level at least.

Posted by skooter at 11:01 AM

November 5, 2005
Conservatives In The Lead? Maybe on Paper.

According to today’s Globe and Mail the Tories are ahead of the Liberals in the polls.

It doesn’t matter, this is a blip and the truth is revealed to all brave enough to look, or at least read the rest of the article.

That most notorious pollster goes on to say this:

Opposition parties have begun contemplating whether to bring down the government this month, pre-empting Mr. Martin’s pledge to call an election 30 days after Judge Gomery’s second report on the sponsorship scandal, which is due in February.

“The temptation to defeat the government will be overwhelming,” Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg said.

The Tories have a very narrow window of opportunity here. It’s my personal belief that while they may be leadind a poll, they would fail to win a national election in any case. Canadians, faced with a concrete rather than abstract choice of Paul Martin or Stephen Harper will inevitably vote Liberal, despite the findings of the Gomery report. NDP sympathizing ridings stand to be picked up by Liberal candidates as voters vote strategically.

Mr. Gregg continues:

“They know that when this issue fades, their fortunes fade with it, so sooner is better than later.”

Mr. Gregg added that the poll demonstrates gains for all three opposition parties if a vote were held today

That last bit is really the key. The Tories have not really gained anything here, the Liberals have lost. In Quebec, they’ve probably lost more permanently - the Bloc will win additional seats in Quebec, without a doubt.

As for the lonely NDP, our perennial third runner, it seems likely that as their support base leans towards the Liberal party their seat count will remain about the same. There may be one or two pick ups, but Jack Layton has largely failed to inspire and isn’t likely to make any significant gains.

Sadly, this may be a symptom of Canada moving towards a two party system. I don’t think the NDP will ever disappear absolutely, but practically speaking people are increasingly viewing our politics through an American style lens held up by media. They are the politics of simplicity and opposition rather than the politics of ideas. Perhaps in my lifetime they will change, but it’s not going to help the NDP in this election.

So don’t bet on a Tory government, even if they do manage to tear down the government right away. It’s just not in the cards.

Posted by skooter at 9:03 AM

November 4, 2005
Why Parks Should be Free

One man’s perspective on why parks should be free and there is no such thing as an acceptable reasonable charge.

I’m onside with this one. The imposition of parking fees in British Columbia’s provincial parks has been little more than a cash grab, and made it harder for lower income residents to enjoy.

Posted by skooter at 9:37 PM

Salaries in Vancouver

The Cascadia Scorecard Weblog had a little tidbit about British Columbians and wages.

This refrain is not new - it is, in fact, one that is put forward everytime people speak about the differences between T-dot and Vancouver. The gist: people in Vancouver choose lifestyle over income.

I don’t see it as much of a choice. That jobs pay much less in Vancouver than in Toronto for the same career is simply entrenching the already enormous gap between the haves and have nots in this city.

Vancouver is home to the worst ghetto - perpetuated by the actions of our Mayor and City Council - in the country, known by that infamous acronym DTES (the Downtown East Side.) People buy condominiums in this neighbourhood in hopes that it will gentrify and their investment will appreciate. In the last 5 years that I’ve lived here, there’s been little movement. I worked in the neighbourhood - I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t face it.

A note on the comments made on the Cascadia Scorecard Weblog web site - people in Toronto are not unhappy. I guess this sort of punches a hole in the argument though.

Posted by skooter at 9:12 PM | Comments

Campaign 2006

Too much fun for far too long.

Posted by skooter at 9:23 AM

Health Care in the Real World

Anybody who complains about Canada’s health care system needs to read articles like this when they appear.

Our problems are not unique, nor are they unique to socialized universal health care. This doesn’t make them right, but critics need to be realistic as well.

Posted by skooter at 8:44 AM

November 3, 2005
Scooter

As usual, The Onion speaks what’s on the mind of news organizations around the world:

‘Scooter’ Libby Wishes He’d Ditched Nickname Before Media Coverage
November 2, 2005 | Issue 41•44

WASHINGTON, DC-I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, wishes he had stopped answering to his nickname before it was featured so prominently in the news, he confided Monday. “Scooter’s fine if it’s just the president or Mr. Cheney,” said Libby, whose involvement in the Valerie Plame case has made his name notorious. “But when I see it on CNN, I want to hide.” If implicated in the Plame leak, Libby could face up to 30 years in a facility where he would almost certainly be given a new nickname

Posted by skooter at 10:42 PM

Midway, British Columbia

Midway, British Columbia is home, in a manner of speaking. I’m from Ontario, but the family is from out here.

Like most small towns it’s not very economically diverse; like most small towns in British Columbia, it’s a one horse town. Now comes news that the only employer in town paying reasonable salaries is closing.

While Toronto fights against urban sprawl, this is British Columbia’s problem - sprawl of a different sort. The province is full of these types of places. They’re too far from the next town over - usually at least an hour - for it to be convenient and too small for any new employers to move to town. Old industries of the sort that moves atoms and not bits stays in place as long as the cost of keeping their atoms in place is cheaper than the cost of moving them.

Eventually, however, the scale changes and these employers leave these towns, and these towns become ghost towns, and little bits of history disappear along with the towns.

Posted by skooter at 7:26 AM

November 2, 2005
Rogue State?

You know, much as I love the United States of America - and there is much to love - there are times when I wonder how the world has let this rogue state grow to the power and influence it has today.

That an American regime that is so willing to hide its actions from its own citizens has managed to seize control of a country without having even the foundation of a domestic policy is appaling.

Posted by skooter at 8:26 PM

Whales and Dogs

There has never been a more blatant vote grab than this.

Vancouver has two types of people - dog people, and people who complain about dog people. I lean towards the latter, as I’m fairly ambivalent about dogs.

The dog people have complained for years about not having enough off leash areas but I’m goin to let our elected Park Board in on a little secret: they’re never going to be happy. There will never be enough off leash dog areas.

It’s the same problem as Annelise Sorg and her campaign to keep whales and dolphins out of captivity. Why are we wasting our time putting what is, essentially, a scientific issue to a public vote? If Annelise and her whale lobby lose, she will not stop complaining just because you held a referendum.

As for dogs, I’ve got no inherent problem with off-leash parks except that many dog owners tend to treat all parks as off-leash parks. What’s the point in creating these zones, if the rules and regulations aren’t enforced? I relize they are, but not to any great extent.

Dog owners need to be made responsible for their dog’s behaviour, and this responsibility needs to be enforced. Creating more off leash dog parks isn’t going to change anything. It’s a blatant vote grab in a city full of dog owners.

Posted by skooter at 8:20 AM
Tags: Vancouver, Whales

November 1, 2005
Vancouver news in Toronto

When the Toronto Star is able to find Vancouver on a map you know the news is big.

Posted by skooter at 8:50 AM

October 31, 2005
Gomery is in

The Gomery Report is in, and Paul Martin has a copy in his hot little hands.

Tomorrow should be a very enlightening day, and is almost certain to be not a good one for the current Liberal government.

With November 1st as the official release date, this puts us square in the middle of a Christmas election according to the Prime Minister Martin’s commitment in his address to the nation.

Posted by skooter at 6:07 PM

GST on Food? Why not just pay a fair price instead?

According to the CBC, farmers want the government to start charging GST on food and have the money remitted directly to farmers.

A brief excerpt:

Add GST to food, farm group says
The Goods and Services Tax should be applied to food, with the revenue given to farmers to help save the struggling industry, a farm group says.

The Agricultural Institute of Canada - a group dedicated to farming research and education - believes adding the seven per cent tax to what we eat will help farmers.

“Farmers produce way more than they used to … and yet they still can’t stay in business,” said Hugh Maynard, who has written a report on the issue.

Olives Growing in California

This is not the solution to the problem.

The government should not be acting as a revenue collector for farmers, nor should it be acting as a booster by providing subsidies.

Farmers need to be paid a living wage for the food they grow. This won’t happen by imposing a bureaucratic layer of government to administer the distribution of cash. Remember what happened to the levy on recordable media and MP3 players?

It’s a simple truth: we don’t pay enough for food. All you can eat buffets are $9.99 are not sutainable from the farmer’s point of view, nor are current prices on beef and produce in general.

Part of the solution is here, the 100 Mile Diet. 100 miles is probably not realistic for many people, but think about it the next time that you buy off-season apple’s grown in California or flown in from New Zealand. There are two fundamental questions to be asked:

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy the apple - I do - but you should at least be aware of the consequences.

Posted by skooter at 9:04 AM

October 28, 2005
Scooter Libby

With the resignation of Scooter Libby, I will resume my quest to become the World’s Most Famous Scooter (or Skooter, as the case may be.)

Posted by skooter at 2:48 PM

Harriet Miers Goes Down for the Count

You know, I was listening to a podcast this morning from KCRW World News and they pointed out that Harriet Miers told the LA Times that she thought that George Bush was a genius.

So, thank god for small favours as she withdraws her nomination:
Answered Prayers - How Bush lost the Miers fight. By John Dickerson

It’s also worth pointing out that Harriet Miers’ name was put forward by a committee which she was chairing; if you’d asked any lawyer in the United States who deserved this post, not one would have put her name at the top of the list, if they even put it on at all.

I seem to recall, shortly after Rehnquists’ death, Bush joking with Alberto Gonzales that he might make a good choice - what happened to that option? He was certainly more qualified than Ms. Miers.

That Miers chose herself as the candidate should come as no surprise given how Dick Cheney arrived as the White House Vice President.

The saddest thing about this blatant cronyism is that by the time Jeb Bush gets around to running, the American public will have forgotten about it and may expect something different. Why, I do not know.

Posted by skooter at 7:59 AM

October 26, 2005
Facts

Ontario's Highway 401 - not moving cars for over 10 years now In North America, the average family has gotten 1.8 times smaller.
The average North American home has gotten 1.8 times larger.

There are 1.9 cars in the Average North American household.
There are 1.8 drivers in the Average North American household.

Posted by skooter at 10:35 AM

October 25, 2005
Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks passed away last night. Rosa is best known as a woman who wouldn’t give up here seat on the bus.

I’m sure, to her family, she was more than this - a mother and grandmother…in short, a woman.

Times have changed, and while we pretend as often as we can that racism isn’t a problem anymore, most people know in their hearts that this isn’t true. Walk around any sizable city in the United States and you’ll experience exactly the same sentiment whispered quietly. In Canada, I’m ashamed to admit that the exact same thoughts are hurled in the direction of entirely different groups of people - Asian Canadians and Indo Canadians mostly.

It’s frankly amazing how little we’ve grown, or how much we’ve reverted.

Posted by skooter at 8:59 AM
Tags: 60s, Civil Rights, Death, Human Rights, Obituaries

October 23, 2005
Teachers Go Back to School

B.C. Teachers have apparently voted to go back to school to which I can only say one thing.

Yay.

Posted by skooter at 10:46 PM

October 19, 2005
Quebec Separatism's First Lady

Rene Levesque’s widow has passed away from throat cancer.

Posted by skooter at 11:03 PM
Tags: Obituaries, Quebec

October 16, 2005
Smurfaggedon

Smurfs™ are being bombed

Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers

A brief excerpt:

The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs™, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters’ village is annihilated by warplanes.

and a pithy description of the end

Baby Smurf™, who ends the 20-second public service announcement alone and weeping.

Posted by skooter at 7:40 PM
Tags: Smurfs, UNICEF

Radio Moscow: Broadcasting Again

CBC Radio 1 With some, although not much, fanfare Canada’s own Radio Moscow returned to the airwaves last Tuesday.

While many were ambivalent, my own personal sigh of relief could be heard for miles around. Nothing crystalized this more than waking up on Sunday morning.

CBC Radio One’s North by Northwest, hosted by Sheryl McKay, is the guiltiest pleasure to wake up too. Sheryl is conversational and intelligent, and wonderful to listen to almost all the time. Followed on the air by Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition , this makes every Sunday morning a great day to spend in front of the radio.

A few changes I’d ask for? Please start Podcasting The Sunday Edition show - I can’t always listen to it when it’s on. I’d also like to be able to download Paul Kennedy’s ideas lectures. The latter are available for sale on CD, but it strikes me that either making them available at minimum cost as downloads or for free would be a great way of allowing the content to proliferate. Ideas presents some of the best lectures that I’ve heard, many uniquely Canadian.

Yes. It’s true. Despite the derisive nickname, I love my CBC radio

Posted by skooter at 8:52 AM

October 15, 2005
Tax Cuts do not equal an election win

According to today’s Globe and Mail the

Tories think they’ve got it

Let’s look at this for a minute.

What’s almost laughable about this is that this has been, more or less, their proposal since the days of Brian Mulroney.

Of course, Brian Mulroney actually added that most heinous (but functional) of taxes - the GST - to the Canadian government’s portfolio. Somehow, he managed to get elected not once, but twice. Here we are with Stephen Harper floundering and the best he can do is pull tax cuts out.

Problem One: The Media Spin

Try as they might, the first problem the Tories are going to have with this is the media spin.

Rightly or wrongly, the media has a tendency to put its own unique slant on things. Smart politicians are always on the lookout for this - it can usually be anticipated. Paul Martin, for example, seemed completely shocked by the spin put on the last election that he was a falling king. Perhaps most surprising was the fact that exact same script had played out in the US earlier in the year, when Howard Dean (heir apparent) tumbled from grace. Paul should have seen it coming.

No matter how the Tories try to spin this thing, “tax cuts” will be reported as “American style tax cuts” as long as Mr. Harper is leader. Candidates will protest that this is not the case, perhaps quite rightly so, but the Canadian public will fear that this will lead to an American Republican style government.

Problem Two: Where’s the Passion

Trudeau won elections because he fueled Canadian’s passions - this was a major turning point in our history - essentially setting up the long term Chretien government as well.

Paul Martin certainly didn’t win the last election because of passion, but he did a better job of it than the previous one. That TV ads fueling the passion of hate were aired is a travesty, but it did appeal to Canadians’ feelings for their home and native land.

Tax cuts, as an election platform, appeal to the head not the heart.

Elections are won with the heart.

Stephen Harper is this country’s Tin Man - that he hasn’t found his heart yet, is part of his problem. The Tories, in order to win, need a leader who can appeal to the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Our economy is strong, joblessness is not as prevalent as it once was, and appealing to wallets does not make a winning platform.

Once more unto the breach, Conservatives - though certain defeat awaits you.

Posted by skooter at 10:49 AM

October 14, 2005
Urban Mountain Biking

This this is happening in Seattle, and not on Vancouver’s North Shore speaks to both the lack of availalble land here in Vancouver, as well as the rampant NIMBY-ism that characterizes our local political environment.

Posted by skooter at 8:52 AM
Tags: Cycling, Vancouver

October 13, 2005
Barn, Birch Bay, Washington

Barn, Birch Bay, Washington

I would like to salute
The ashes of American flags
And all the fallen leaves
Filling up shopping bags

Posted by skooter at 9:45 PM
Tags: Washington, Wilco

September 14, 2005
Folow the Money, as the saying goes

This article doesn’t make reference to it, but the same fund that paid for this bridge could easily have been used (and was requested) to pay for the upgrade to New Orleans’ levees.
Salon.com News | A bridge to nowhere

While it’s probably impossible to say whether an upgrade would have improved New Orleans’ chances, it’s certain that the lack of improvement had disastrous consequences.

Posted by skooter at 9:06 AM

September 12, 2005
Gomery Delayed?

Today’s news reports that the Gomery report may be delayed as far as February of next year. With Paul Matin’s standing commitment to call an election within 30 days of the release of the report, this puts the next federal election in the Spring of 2006.

Is anybody surprised by this delay? I doubt it had much to do with Martin - Gomery has shown little fondness for the man - but it was entirely predictable.

The government of Ontario’s rejection of the Muslim doctrine of Sharia Law will gain them more votes than it will cost them. In a modern, democratic and free societ such as Canada religion has no business shaping the laws of the country.

This is, in fact, one of my two beef’s with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms which enshrines “god” in the opening paragraph. Of course the American constitution does the same thing, but I’d like to think that the extra couple of centuries we had to write ours might have taught us a few things. Alas it’s there, and not likely to change.

Posted by skooter at 7:04 AM

September 9, 2005
Gavel to Gavel Coverage

I’m not making this up - NPR is promoting their coverage of John Roberts’ confirmation hearings on Monday as “gavel to gavel coverage.”

This is a great turn of phrase, uttered without a trace of irony. They’re promising to broadcast Roberts’ opening remarks “live, and uncut” as well.

And really, doesn’t this make sense? The future of the United States is in the balance here - isn’t this more significant than whether the Lakers win or lose by two points?

In other notes, China has blocked access to Skype, a great free internet telephony application that works quite well. Apparently, Skype’s been cutting into China Telecom’s long distance revenue. The same thing’s been happening here, of course, but our phone companies aren’t state run so they’re left a bit out in the cold.

To those who think that China is modernizing, what does this mean? A government that seeks to control its citizens access to information can’t survive - the Chinese government’s life has been extended in part by language isolation - not speaking a European language means a great deal of the world’s linguistic output is lost on Chinese citizens. It can’t last forever.

Posted by skooter at 8:51 AM

September 5, 2005
Judicial Independence in the United States

President Bush - the leader of a nation in the midst of a massive disaster on a scale never seen on this continent - has named John Roberts as hsi choice to replace Rehnquist as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This leaves me asking myself one serious question:

How can a judiciary remain independent and free of poiltical influence when the court’s highest job is chosen by the leader of the executive branch of the government?

I see an inherent conflict here - others might not.

Posted by skooter at 8:00 PM

September 4, 2005
Rehnquist is Dead

Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Rehnquist is dead at 80 of thyroid cancer. Coming on the heals of Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, this gives George W. Bush the opportunity to make not one but two appointments to the highest court in America.

Rehnquist was a conservative, and not a liberal. He voted with the majority that gave Bush the presidency in the year 2000, modified the Chief’s uniform and expanded the powers of the police by removing some of the court’s historical restratints on them amongst other things.

While Rehnquist may have been a conservative, I find myself now living in fear of the possibility of two new Bush appointees. Conservatism has, in the years since Rehnquist’s tenure, sunk to new depths and the court may never be the same again. Rehnquist will look positively liberal by the time this is done.

Whatever happened to the liberal, progressive courts that acted as an effective check against the tyranny of the majority that the legislative branch risks? If this is not the role of the highest courts, what is it?

Posted by skooter at 8:15 AM

September 2, 2005
Hey George - sorry for interrupting that vacation there!

George W. Bush is heading to New Orleans today, as part of a renewed federal government response to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. I’m sure the citizens are thrilled.

Now, George, thanks to the wonders of modern science we practically watched this thing land. Everbody knew it was coming, and we had a pretty good idea of how devastating it would be. The end result was entirely predictable.

So sorry you had to break into your 5 weeks of vacation to make this little visit. It just doesn’t seem right, does it?

Posted by skooter at 6:01 AM

September 1, 2005
Being Paul Martin

John Ibbitson raises a very good question in today’s Globe and Mail:


On Tuesday, with hurricane Katrina’s death toll rising, New Orleans inundated, tens of thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed, a million people displaced and costs estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, the Prime Minister issued a news release mourning the passing of Gus Cloutier, sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons.
That was it. Nothing else

What it must be like to be inside this man’s head I cannot possibly fathom.

Posted by skooter at 2:20 AM

August 25, 2005
Welcome to the New Iraq

Apparently Iraq’s new constitution is hinging on readiness. Yay.

With this in mind, a fitting tribute from The Who


We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Don’t forget the ever important last bit…

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

So, does anybody think anything’s really going to change here? A puppet regime put in place by an American government following the same realpolitik doctrine that’s been practiced since shortly after the end of World War Two.

This doctrine has been most transparent since the early to late 60’s, with history choosing to personify it most obviously in the paranoid presidency of Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

History is always better at hindsight - 20 years from now the old and new Bush presidency’s will have the same status, unless a further push to extremism occurs in which case we may be left wishing for the good old days.

Posted by skooter at 10:50 AM

August 24, 2005
Heehee - oh Paul, when is it ever the right time?

This choice little headline from the Globe and Mail brought a smile to my face:

PM will talk to Bush about lumber — eventually

because, of course, the question is when is it ever going to be the right time?

We’ve been waiting forever, and your Industry Minister is making dangerous comments relating to retaliation. It is, at this juncture, a bit premature to talk retaliation but it is definitely not too soon to have a conversation.

Unless, of course, you’re the most indecisive Prime Minister in my lifetime.

Posted by skooter at 9:03 PM

August 15, 2005
SES National Poll

Today’s polling press release includes this choice tidbit:

“The big Liberal gains were in Quebec where they increased their support from 21% to 34% while the Conservatives have dropped from 11% to 4%.”

This really doesn’t need much commentary, does it?

Posted by skooter at 6:58 PM

Calling Radio Moscow. Come In, Radio Moscow.

The CBC is, effectively, off the air with over 5,000 staff members locked out including Peter Mansbridge’s Huge Head.

(I say this, because having a large head is considered a key quality of a television news reader, and Mansbridge does a fine job, which I figure is largely because of his head. This all, of course, leaves me wondering why he’s making the big bucks and I’m sitting here in some office writing a blog. My head is enormous.)

Anyway, this morning I woke up and instead of the dulcet tones of Rick Cluff’s voice to wake me, heard some form of Native music being played in a constant loop. Not nice.

CBC has apparently decided to lock out workers and local morning shows have now been replaced with a national broadcast, which I suppose means those of us out here on the west coast should expect nothing, given that national really means Ontario and Quebec which really means that the broadcast ends at 0630hrs our time.

What’s an interested guy supposed to do? I cannot listen to CKNW…it’s horrible.

So here’s my message to the CBC:
Get Back to Work! The nation needs you!

Posted by skooter at 8:51 AM

July 24, 2005
Telus just crossed the line

This is censorship, and a gross violation of Telus’ subscriber agreement.

CBC News: Telus cuts subscriber access to pro-union website

What’s next? No access to pro-Muslim sites?

I thought this kind of thing only happened in the third world.

Posted by skooter at 8:43 PM

July 23, 2005
London: 2005

This is not good.”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/international/24london.html?ex=1279857600&en=1c18c8a4bebbf385&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

In London, police shot a Brazillian man who “was not connected to incidents in central London on 21st July, 2005, in which four explosive devices were partly detonated” because his actions were suspicious.

This is exactly the kind of victory terrorists can expect to achieve: a paranoid society and a law enforcement culture where suspicion alone becomes justification for shooting.

This is not the society that anybody would choose to live in. As Amadou Diallou found out, far too many big cities are already there.

I hope that this will not be the lasting impact of London in 2005.

Posted by skooter at 6:00 PM

July 18, 2005
Liquor Privatization: Again

A topic of perennial discussion in Canada is the privatization of liquor boards. This has been going on since I was slinging booze for a living, all those years ago.

Ontario has just rejected the notion, again, despite a government commissioned review that recommends it.

The Globe and Mail: Ontario rejects panel’s advice to sell LCBO

Private liquor sales are interesting, and an idea that I feel fairly ambivalent about. It’s long been my suspicion that either full or some form of partial privatization would result in a natural economic effect: those products that are immensely popular may drop in price, while those that are not are unlikely to be affect and if they are, are likely to increase in cost.

Part of this is a result of the LCBO’s status as one of the single largest purchasers are alcoholic beverages in the world: despite the fact that taxes on alcohol in Canada are prohibitive, prices are very competitive.

Basically, under a private model expect to see Canadian & Blue drop to next to nothing, while the price of Steam Whistle stays about the same. As a guy who cares what he’s drinking - I used to drink Upper Canada, until Sleeman bought the stuff and turned it into water - I see no advantage to this situation.

Market economics also dictate a reduction in selection in non-urban areas. No more stopping for that Uppder Canada or Inniskillin Pinot Noir at the liquor store just outside of Algonquin Park, in the middle of nowhere: these types of stores will likely stock strictly bulk brands - Canadian, Blue, Miller, Coors (Light? Blech.) and its ilk.

Beer at your coner store? Same selection likely. Gas stations in Newfoundland sell beer, but they don’t sell any good beer. There’s an immense difference.

Still, the government should, in my opinion, find way to let the private sector play a role, and reduce (if not eliminate) the barriers to entry.

The trickiest part is control and patrolling age limits: I was in line at the BC Liquor Store the other night when two staff members - one younger and smaller than me - were telling a customer that they weren’t going to sell them whatever they were buying because they’d “had enough for today.” I was shocked, and impressed.

Would private stores do the same? They have absolutely zero incentive to do so. Cigarettes are sold under a similar system, - but underage smoking is an enormous problem, and one that hasn’t been solved despite years of trying.

Alberta is the only province in the country with private sales (bastardized though they may be), and will likely remain so for sometime after British Columbia’s reversal of a privatization plan. I guess I’ll be buying scotch there on my way back from Saskatchewan at the beginning of August - just as an experiment, of course.

Posted by skooter at 1:22 PM

July 13, 2005
Big Canadian News Today

Hockey’s back, and a Sasquatch sighting in Teslin, Yukon on the same day.’ Only in Canada, eh? Pity.

The best part of the Sasquatch story, as reported on CBC TV, was the reference to one of the people who heard it “relieving himself outside” while the noise was happening, without even a trace of embarassment.

As for Hockey, Don Cherry is saying the owners have won. I’m not sure which group of multimillionaire I’m more sympathetic too, but a salary cap is a good thing, if it’s reflected in the ticket price. Salary caps, of course, don’t require revenue caps - greedy owners may turn out to be a bigger problem than greedy players.

I’m sure going to miss all those movies on Saturday nights though.

Incidentally, am I the only person who was surprised to find out that Phoenix had a hockey team? What have I been doing all these years - I gotta get me to some desert ice.

Posted by skooter at 6:38 PM

July 12, 2005
Oh that crazy Gurmant!

Remind me again why I ever associated with the Conservative Party of Canada?

Posted by skooter at 7:19 AM

July 7, 2005
London: July 7th, 2005

I couldn’t sleep last night - I was trying to sleep on my couch, which will serve as my bed for the next few days, and I tossed and turned all night.

Consequently, I spent most of the night listening to news from London where something like four bombs have been set off in the Tube and at least 45 people appear to be dead.

I can’t imagine being there, and I can’t imagine the sense of normalcy with which many Londoners seem to be treating this event. In a city that has dealt with the threat of IRA bombings for years (and no one seems to think this is an IRA bombing) everyday citizens in London seem to be taking this very much in stride.

Astounding.

I’m pretty happy today to be living in sleepy little Vancouver, where nothing ever seems to happen.

Laurie Anderson, on her Ugly One With The Jewels album, quotes Don De Lillo’s book Mao II saying that the terrorists are the only true artists because they’re the only ones who can surprise us anymore.

So much for liking surprises.

Posted by skooter at 8:25 AM
Tags: Books, London, Politics, Terrorism

June 30, 2005
Oh Larry, so sad to see you go

Or maybe not.

History will regard the Campbell regime as a momentary blip, and not much more. He claims to have gotten done what he wanted to do citing the Woodwards building, the Safe Injection site and the Olympics.

Of course he inherited the Olympics, and all he did was didn’t screw it up (oh so close though with that wacky referendum.)

The Safe Injection site isn’t done - it’s only just begun. This project has a long way to go before we know whether it works or not.

And Woodwards? Oh yeah. More social housing in a building that should have been condemmed is exactly what the Downtown East Side needs.

Thanks for taking the easy way out Larry - there’s a rough road ahead for this city still.

June 22, 2005
Yes, it's come to this

Our politicians are now so untrustworthy that they don’t even trust each other.

CBC News: BQ says it wants Liberals to promise same-sex vote in writing

This is not the first time the liberals have been asked to put a promise in writing to another pary.

What I can’t figure out is who this makes looks worse: the Paul Martin Liberals or the Opposition parties.

As the saying goes: a little from column A, and a little from column B I think.

On top of all this, three weeks of debate on same sex marriage. Three weeks!

Get over it already. It’s not the end of the world, or even the end of heterosexual marriage (there are plenty of heterosexual’s taking care of that themselves.)

There is not a single member of parliament who has not made up her or his mind about this already - you could vote on this today, and the result would be within a couple of vote of anything that might happen after any length of debate.

And three weeks? Did Missile Defense even get debated that long?

Posted by skooter at 8:24 AM

June 16, 2005
Momentous Anniversaries

Today, according to Wikipedia’s daily update, marks not one but two momentous political anniversaries.

The NDP was founded in Canada in 1961, and in 1972 “five men were arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel.”

The NDP
The founding of the NDP deserves to be celebrated - though they have never governed my country, they do fulfill a critical role in political discourse. With the direction the Liberal and Conservative parties are taking, the possibility of an NDP led minority shouldn’t be ruled out. This is highly unlikely, but the possiblity of another minority government with an even more prominent role for the NDP should not be discounted. They’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The NDP is Canada’s political heart and conscience, and we’d be a poorer country without some of the ideas that have come from their founding fathers.

Now if only they could figure out that their intimate ties to unionized labour are what is, and will continue to, prevent them from forming government, we’d all be better off.

To Pierre Trudeau - the most left leaning leader this country has ever had, and the NDP’s greatest friend!

Watergate
To some Watergate represents political scandal at its worst. To me, it’s much more.

At heart, Watergate represents a journalistic triumph. That the Deep Throat secret was kept for so long - rumour has it Woodward was still not talking in the hours after Mark Felt’s revelation was published - is an amazing tribute to respect for the unidentified source as a journalistic tool. In this day and age, this could not happen I suspect. The secret would have been leaked in an email too early, and this particular one was only kept so long because it started in a different era.

To celebrate this anniversary, I will likely down a pint of beer (or at least a beer like substance) at my local dive. There’s a more appropriate location for this, but I have no way of getting there right now.

And for those who know the geography, there’s a bridge that’s been christened the Felt Bridge; all it needs now is a sign.

To Watergate, and the paranoid presidency it helped to fell!

Posted by skooter at 5:31 PM

June 15, 2005
Is Vancouver the next Gotham?

Or perhaps Sin City?

These guys are patrolling the streets privately in some pathetic attempt for wannabe cops to become real ones. Is this justice, or vigilante justice? Is it time for every neighbourhood to get it’s own personal Batman to patrol the streets?

With a former cop and council candidate — Vern Campbell — on current staff and a current council candidate (or a prospective one, at least) as a former Business Development director you’d think they’d understand the implications of this. Policing is done for a public good, not a private benefit. Vancouver’s policing problem is not going to be fixed by a fleet of Smart Car driving cop-wannabee’s roaming our wealthy neighbourhoods.

Besides, this particular guy hires whores (yes, I watched him do it one night…quite possibly the most humiliating night of an overall humiliating election campaign.)

What’s the message here…certain types of crime are acceptable? Or is it OK for him to hire whores because he does it at 10th and Fraser, not in Dunbar. Keep Dunbar safe and secure, but let the ghetto go to hell? We know he thinks drugs are OK, because his friends keep them in his house.

With friends like this, our city doesn’t need enemies. We’re doing just fine taking it down from the inside.

I live in one of the city’s richest neighbourhoods, in a house that’s probably worth about a million bucks - twice as much as when it was bought only a few years ago. I work in the city’s poorest neighbourhood. I see this contradiction every day. I feel no need for private security in either one of these places, althogh I definitely know which one I’d rather have my kids playing in.

The citizens of Dunbar should do some research before they consider letting this happen in their neighbourhood — private policing has a poor history, and does little to improve the welfare of the overall community.

Now where do I erect those gates so that I can control access to the area? I wouldn’t mind collecting a toll. Maybe these security guys and I can start a racket.

Oh wait. That’s exactly what I’m arguing against. I almost forgot.

Posted by skooter at 12:30 PM

June 8, 2005
Oh Larry! Here we go again.

Larry Campbell is, apparently, officially supporting a recommendation that the Federal government leagalize marijuana.

There are many arguments for and against this - I think the primary one is tax based, and am more than happy to engage in a detailed discussion on demand - but this brings one thing to mind.

This is not going to help Vancouver’s image as Slacker City.

This is a serious problem - the rest of Canada generally regards Vancouver with disdain on this level, and the slacker ethic here is real. It’s just weird that our mayor is cultivating it, rather than fighting it.

Oh that wacky west coast. Here we go again.

Posted by skooter at 8:01 AM

June 5, 2005
Again?

How many times does this guy get to promise a new deal on cities without delivering?

The Globe and Mail: Another deal for cities

Posted by skooter at 10:57 AM

May 22, 2005
Oh, Belinda!

How this woman qualifies for Cabinet, I’m not sure.

CBC News: Sunday - Belinda Stronach Interview

Posted by skooter at 12:54 PM

May 17, 2005
election day

It’s election day in British Columbia - my second one.

Time to vote; time to make sure this backwards, weird province stay son a good track for the next 4 years at least.

Can’t wait the for the next one of these things - probably Thursday.

Posted by skooter at 6:58 AM

May 8, 2005
Vladmir Lenin

Nestled into a corner next to a Taco del Mar in Seattle’s Fremont neighbourhood stands this enormous statue of Vladmir Lenin. The statue was originally erected in Poprad, Czechoslovakia but was purchased by a Seattle resident teaching there at the time.

The statue weighs 7 tonnes, and the word enormous doesn’t truly do it justice.

Art or politics? I think a little of both, personally, particularly given the neighbourhood it’s located in.

Even if you disagree and (as some do) resent the politics of the statue, it’s an impressive piece of artwork.

Posted by skooter at 1:29 PM

April 22, 2005
Paul Martin's Largesse

The very morning after our Prime Minister liberated our airwaves to apologize for the corruption that is the Liberal Party of Canada”:http://www.liberal.ca/ I received no less than 5 press releases from Liberal ministers, announcing 71 new Canada Research Chairs.

Yes, that’s right - 71 in a single day. CDN$99 Million in funding released by Minister Emerson to establish these chairs.

I’m sure the timing was completely coincidental. There’s note a shred of doubt in my mind.

Of course, if this was an attempt to divert attention, it failed. Tomorrow’s newspapers will be the same as today’s I’m sure.

And for the first time in a very long time, I feel compelled to say shame on the Globe and Mail for such a softball editorial. It was almost embarassing.

Posted by skooter at 8:58 PM

April 17, 2005
Another Minority Government

With the Conservative party sending missives around indicating that they’re going to take the current government of Canada down on the 15th of May, Vancouver’s already busy political scene is all atwitter.

Predictably, Conservatives think they’ve got it nailed, and Liberals think they do.

None of this matters, of course, as one man’s career as leader will end and we will, naturally, end up with another inherently temporary minority government.

The Gomery equiry, while titilating, hasn’t revealed anything substantially new about the Liberal’s internal corruption problems: the inquiry hasn’tfound substantially more money missing and there has not yet been a smoking gun drawing a direct line to Paul Martin. Without either one of these things, the Liberals are, essentially, in exactly the same place as they were a year ago.

The Bloc, it’s clear (at least to most observers, including the Canada West Foundation) that the Bloc will pick up seats in Quebec, is there actually a serious threat to the cluster of Liberal red around Montreal? The Conservative took not a single seat in the province, and a repeat should be expected.

In British Columbia hopes are high for picking up seats, despite the fact that the Conservatives lost 300,000 voters last election - are these votes going to come back? I agree that there are a couple of strategic ridings that might be winnable again…Don Bell has been haunted by the landslide problems in North Vancouver, which his civic government may have aggravated. John Reynolds, on the other hand, very nearly lost his seat in West Vancouver, and if Blair Wilson runs again this is going to be a serious dogfight. Randy White is retiring in Abbotsford and while he will not be missed, this puts a very safe Conservative seat into play, and Canadian’s memories are long enough that the legacy of this ultra-conservative’s viewpoints will linger for at least a couple of elections. Bill Siksay in Burnaby is probably not all that vulnerable, and with rumours of Svend Robinson running in Vancouver Centre this puts a Liberal in jeopardy but doesn’t increase Conservative chances very much. I can’t see any of the Vancouver minister’s losing. Cadman will probably formally rejoin the Conservative party, but that’s only one seat.

Alberta could be an interesting clean sweep for the Conservatives - perhaps we’ll finally see the end of Anne McLellan that the Conservative campaign manager promised at the outset of the last election, but fundamentally we’re still playing a zero sum game here.

Have Conservatives become more palatable where it matters - Ontario? Somehow, with Mr. Harper as leader I doubt it. I suspect that Ontario will remain predominantly Liberal, and that perhaps Jack Layton’s NDP could benefit from the scandal, at least until the aforementioned stench of Randy White is gone from the electoral winds - those on the West Coast who don’t know anybody in Ontario don’t realize how much of an impact those comments had. It was serious.

So an election now? Liberal minority, as I predicted for the last one. It’s my sense that even if a formal Bloc Quebecois / Conservative coalition emerges, this rumoured election will retain Paul Martin as Prime Minister.

Of course, given the quality of polling I saw the Conservative party release during the last election suggests that Mr. Harper and his crowd don’t read it this way; I suspect that Doug Findlay is planting numbers - real or fabricated? - that suggest that Mr. Harper is a sure thing for our next Prime Minister.

Sadly, I suspect that Mr. Harper will believe every word, and that this election will happen.

I’m sitting it out - the future of my province is on the line in our own election, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that it stays healthy.

April 5, 2005
youth wings

Perhaps all the young Conservatives who have threatened (or already have) to quite the party over the lack of a youth wing should also resign from the Catholic Church, which also seems to lack one.

Ironic that the latter doesn’t let anybody over 80 vote for its leader, but the former does.

Posted by skooter at 7:48 AM

April 2, 2005
Pope 2.0

Ok. It’s not 2.0, but many people alive to day have known only one pope: John Paul II is the second John Paul, but there have been thousands of predecessors. Finding an accurate number is difficult, but these guys might be able to help:
The Pope Blog: Pope Unconscious, But Not In Coma

So, given the fact that for many people have never known another Pope, I’m going to call the next one Pope 2.0. It’s a new tradition. Get over it.

CNN introduces the Papal prospects I love this though: this is the first Pope chosen in the post-apocalyptic CNN era. I suspect someone will blog the election (and if they don’t I will) but this CNN video of Paula Zahn introducing the papal prospects makes me chuckle. Paula Zahn? Doesn’t she usually interview people like Bono and the dearly departed Johnny Cochrane.

We do live in an enlightened era.

My favourite list of Popes is this one.

Posted by skooter at 7:53 AM
Tags: Catholic Church, Pope

February 16, 2005
40 years of the Canadian Flag


Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Canadian flag - a flag I’ve known, and been proud of, for my entire life.

The flag meant something powerful 40 years ago: it meant that Canada was finally, at long last, one nation - sovereign. No longer a mere offshoot of the British Empire, our fate was our own to mould.

It’s been 40 years since then, and the nation is still wrestling with the same issues.

Quebec’s Quiet Revolution - then an emerging phenomenon - has not yet played out its full effect, although we’ve long since moved past the point of the revolution being quiet. The struggle between the single, central Federal government and the 10 separate but equal Provincial governments continues to this day.

This last struggle has come to a head in the last few days, culminating in Prime Minister Paul Martin signing a deal with Newfoundland (for it will always be Newfoundland to me, with Labrador an integral part) and Nova Scotia with respect to off shore resource rights that has the other provinces - particularly Saskatchewan and Ontario - questioning the fairness of the transfer payment system.

They’re right to do so: Prime Minister Martin, by virtue of his attempt to please everyone, is running the serious risk of loosening the ties that bind - making them so tenuous that the Federation itself becomes little more than a figure head; an entity that has so little meaning in their day to day lives that Canadians begin to consider themselves first British Columbians, or Ontarians and only after that Canadians - echoing the sentiment of Rene Levesque in the years when he led the Parti Quebecois.

This flag means a great deal to me - I cherish it, and I never take it for granted. It has given me a very privileged life, and it comes with responsibilities.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted by skooter at 6:59 AM

February 9, 2005
canada
“When all is said and done, the Canadian federation presupposes that, over and above our respective neighbourhoods, towns, cities and provinces, Canada is considered to be the homeland of all Canadians…Choosing to have feeble federal institutions would be to condemn ourselves to collective weakness in a world that will not be kind to nations divided against themselves. A country, after all, in not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity. And so it is in the hands of ever Canadian to determine how well and wisely we shall build the country of the future.” - Pierre Elliot Trudeau

It should come as no surprise to anybody who reads this that every leader we have had since Trudeau has lived in his shadow. Mulroney inked free trade and modernized our economy (in part with the GST) but could never enunciate a vision; he was barely able to define the problem he was trying to solve with the Meech & Charlottetown accords.

Chretien will not be remembered as one of this country’s great leaders: the length of his tenure and force of his majority is, in part, a result of the fissure that manifested itself as the Reform Party movement effectively denying the Progressive Conservatives the opportunity to rebuild effectively. He will not be remembered as a great Prime Minister, but - as his comments at the Gomery enquiry show - his tenaciousness made him an effective one.

Paul Martin is so weak, so lacking in the ability to lead that his story is already being written. A weak, ineffective leader and legislator Mr. Martin’s government lacks a vision of anything, and continues to disappoint. The son has not lived up to the father.

But Trudeau - love him or loathe him - had a vision, a dream, and the ability to create it. As a leader, his shadow is long. As a man, it is great. As a nation builder, the country he built is slipping away and disappearing.

I will not let this happen; they may not be much I can do, but I will do whatever I can.

Canada is my home first, Vancouver second. It will always be this way.

Posted by skooter at 8:08 AM | Comments

January 21, 2005
stephen harper & the house of commons

A while ago - about 8 months - I did an interview on national television and said that I supported Stephen Harper for Prime Minister because I thought that he was the smartest guy in the house. At the time I believed it.

Now this guy is actively campaiagning against same sex marriage. What the hell was I thinking?

This is a non-issue. No one anywhere is suggesting that churches—those bastions of goodness and all that is holy—be forced to conduct gay marriages. Marriage, as an institution, has evolved over time to adapt to changing societies: it used to be that women got married and didn’t work.

Besides, the institution is going to hell in a hand basket: with a divorce rate consistently hovering in the range of 50%, who’s saying the straights are any good at it?

So, what’s Mr. Harper up to?

Arguably, he’s just differentiating himself from the Liberals. This isn’t a bad thing, and there are only a few issues on which he seems capable of doing it. This shouldn’t be one of them though: the religious right in Canada is a population minority, and not likely to get you elected anywhere other than the places you’re already getting elected. Maybe Quebec (where there is a huge Roman Catholic population) but there are so many issues there that I doubt it. You’ll need more traction than this.

Gay marriage is happening, and the world hasn’t stopped turning. Let it go.

Besides, I’d love to see this issue off the front page of the newspapers so that we can get back to some real news, like how Brad is really in love with Angelina, which is why he’s leaving Jen or who Britney is marrying today and how many hours it’ll last. Let’s get our priorities straight.

I still, by the way, think Mr. Harper is smart. That doesn’t prevent him from being an idiot apparently.

January 10, 2005
the fight goes on

The infidels in the media are crowing about the victory of Mahmoud Abbas; this is premature.

While Mr. Abbas may be leading the campaign, it was a campaign of corruption; our team will be working to expose the corruption and lies for what they are, and we still expect to be leading the people of Palestine into the next generation.

Only then can we move forward, not backward as the media is saying we have now done.

This fight is not yet over; we will yet snatch victory from the apparent arms of defeat.

Posted by skooter at 11:13 AM
Tags: Middle East, PLO

December 28, 2004
Your Heroes at their Best


Far be it from me to dismiss the importance of collective bargaining and union contracts, but I could help take a picture of this - one of Vancouver’s finest banking while on duty.

And yes, that’s a fire truck stopping traffic on 1st Ave. - the busiest street in the city - so that this guy can pull cash out of an ATM.

Posted by skooter at 8:20 AM

December 15, 2004
The Minister of Privatization Capitulates to Quebec

“You cannot just look at a company that’s in a crisis point and say, ‘Well, we’re going to let it die, and live with the ripple effects…I for one am not going to stand by and watch that happen to a very important sector of Canadian Industry.”
- Minister of Industry, David Emerson on Paul Tellier’s resignation from Bombardier, December 14th, 2004

With this, the man who privatized BC Ferries (an essential resource, as the Supreme Court has designated the Newfoundland ferry system) and the Vancouver Airport (essential for entirely different reasons) has crossed the line from being a small-c Liberal to being a large-C Communist. Well, maybe not quite — but his mind has certainly snapped somewhere.

Paul Tellier sold the parts of Bombardier that were good at generating cash flow (recreation) and were relatively predictable: economy in the dump? Probably fewer snowmobiles being bought. Middle of the winter? Why do we still have all these JetSki’s - get rid of ‘em, next year’s half way here.

Instead, Tellier has focused on Bombardier’s “bid” business: the type of mega-project business that keeps lobbyists and upper management steadily employed, but not the guys in the factories. Sure it comes and goes — and when it comes, it can be very very good — but when it goes it can really go.

Building Skytrains and planes that freeze up too easily (Wait: isn’t this company based in Quebec? Shouldn’t they know something about ice?) is sexy business, but it’s also very risky. If Vancouver needs a skytrain line today you spend a lot of money bidding on it: get it and the infrastructure pays off for a while; miss it, and you just wasted a lot of time (and money) bidding.

Does this sound like the kind of company that should be getting government money? Especially considering that so many of the projects they’re bidding on are funded by governments? Bombardier — and Tellier — was essentially getting a double subsidy in many cases, and it wasn’t really working.

No, Mr. Emerson, now is not the time to ask the Wizard for that heart you’ve been looking for these many years. Now is the time to use your Iron Mask for protection. If Bombardier is as robust a company today as it was in the past, it will rise again — and be stronger for it.

Now, let’s talk about those ferries again? Why’d we privatize them when you’re offering up this subsidy? I know — BC Ferries should be based in Quebec! That’s the ticket.

Posted by skooter at 9:25 AM
Tags: David Emerson, Liberals, Politics, Quebec

December 14, 2004
Friends of Larry Campbell? Well, I guess there are a lot of coffee shops.

“I’m not leaving COPE; however it’s time to move forward in a direction that builds on the COPE legacy”

And with that, Larry waffled.

Is he in? Is he out?

Does Larry have any friends?

Pins and needles my friends; pins and needles.

Posted by skooter at 5:14 PM
Tags: Municipal, Partisan, Politics

December 5, 2004
I want to be in the Ukraine

I want to be in a country where people are passionate enough about their right to vote that 200,000 of them take the streets to protest a fraudulent election.

I want to be in a place where people know that the man they choose to lead their country is important, and can have a major effect on their lives.

The Ukraine must be an exciting place today.

Posted by skooter at 1:19 AM
Tags: Politics, Revolution

December 1, 2004
Pierre Berton has passed away

Pierre Berton has passed away, just days after the CBC selected their “Greatest Canadian” - a contest that might not have been possible without Pierre.

Canada is a young country, and Pierre was a big part of establishing our national identity. His books brought history to life for many (and put many others to sleep) and defined out history for a generation. Along with Peter C. Newman, Berton was one of our great storytellers.

I guess I’m going to have to read the National Dream next; it’s on a shelf here somewhere.

Posted by skooter at 7:41 AM

November 30, 2004
It's not April Fools, so it must be true

This headline features prominently in Today’s New York Times:

Wal-Mart to Cut Prices After Poor Sales

Apparently, after a single day of lower than projected sales Wal-Mart is slashing prices.

The obvious question is: how? Isn’t this the company that is supposed to have the lowest prices possible; the company that lowers the cost of living of every community it opens a store in? How can they lower their already unbelievable prices anymore?

The mysteries of the universe are lost on me; I hope that one day I can understand.

Posted by skooter at 8:54 AM

November 29, 2004
Tommy Douglas? You've got to be kidding.

Obviously a bunch of baby boomers overwhelmed the voting on this Greatest Canadian thing; that’s the only way I can see this happening.

This guy brought cheap and (relatively universal) health care to an entire generation and stuck us - their children - with the bill.

So I can only assume that is was that generation that voted for him.

In my heart, Terry Fox won this thing. This guy sacrificed so much for so little personally and his work has inspired and saved so many people.

Posted by skooter at 9:25 PM

November 26, 2004
One less opponent; one more infidel

Today’s New York Times has reported in public what I have know for weeks now:


JERUSALEM, Nov. 26 - Marwan Barghouti, a popular politician now in an Israeli prison, agreed on Friday not to run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, calling for Palestinians to support Mahmoud Abbas in elections on Jan. 9.

Mr. Barghouti has, of course, in part resigned due the success of our campaign. The writing was on the wall.

In conversations with Mr. Barghouti he had indicated that he would be supporting our campaign; the true campaign for the Palestinian people.

Mr. Barghouti is a traitor to all Palestinians, and not deserving of your support. When our campaign is succesful, we will ensure that worms will feed on the infidel’s flesh in his prison cell, and nowehere else. This is the price of opposing our campaign; there can be no alternative.

Remember: our campaign stands for peace, and in opposition to Israel.

Posted by skooter at 10:53 PM
Tags: PLO

November 19, 2004
King Ralph's coat tails

Quite a bit of polling going around Alberta right now, where a provincial election is scheduled for next week - the 23rd, specifically.

Most of this polling is showing a slip in Ralph Klein’s popularity below the 60% level, and in the Conservative’s popularity to below the 50% level. This happening in a province which pracitically bathes in Conservative cologne so that its citizens can carry the stench of Conservatism with them everywhere they go.

This quote from today’s Globe & Mail (who’s website is slipping increasingly into uselessness):

“I’m not supporting the Conservatives this time because of him,” said Pat Desaulniers, a 45-year-old Edmonton resident who traditionally supports the Tories. “He’s turned kind of flippant. He doesn’t care any more. He’s not even taking this election seriously.”

What I can’t remember, is when Ralph did take an election seriously?

I suppose from Alberta the view may have been different, but from the rest of the country Klein has never seemed to take the premier’s jobs too seriously. This has its benefits and its drawbacks: self serious, over-earnest politicians can be kind of annoying. On the other hand there’s real work that goes into governing a city/province or country and it needs to be taken seriously: Larry Campbell, are you listening?

Ralph has been around for a long time, and he’s probably finally worn out his own welcome. For a while now, he’s appeared to be struggling to come up with something interesting to say; his Conservative leanings have long since moved past the point where most Canadians could support them, and Alberta’s surplus is just a joke: why is the country’s richest provincial government the only one advocating that they get out of the health care business? If anybody can afford it, Alberta can.

Do the right thing Ralph: win this one for the gipper, and then pass the torch. You don’t want your Conservative party to slip even further do you?

Posted by skooter at 7:12 AM

November 18, 2004
get your friends to stay home after you vote

My campaign for the Palestinian leadership is progressing well; fundraising efforts are gathering steam, and the campaign is extremely organized at this point.

It’s my personal belief that the future of Palestine lies in peace. Only the Israeli’s stand in the way of this peace. It’s because of this that I’m adopting a pro-peace/anti-Israel stance in the campaign.

On election day I need your help to ensure we win this vote. There are two things you can do to help the most:
1) Get out and vote early. Polls open early in the morning, don’t wait.
2) After you’ve voted, arm yourself and ensure that your neighbours (if they aren’t supporters of our campaign) are unable to leave their house for the rest of the day. If you need munitions, contact our campaign office; we’ll do our best to arm you appropriately.

Preventing your neighbours from voting for anybody else could be the decisive strategy of this campaign: support our campaign for peace by using only the armed force that is absolutely necessary for us to win.

See you at the polls, and on the campaign trail!

Posted by skooter at 9:58 AM
Tags: PLO

November 17, 2004
This I Really Like

Even the persecuted Loyalists run out of the United States would, I think, agree with this one.

http://www.fuckthesouth.com/

Especially the part about not letting people visit the Liberty Bell (something I’ve never, incidentally, done.)

Here’s a suggestion: the 49th parallel is a little bit too far north for the real border - the undefended one, at least. Maybe the Mason-Dixon line could provide some guidance?

Posted by skooter at 5:03 PM

November 14, 2004
my campaign for the palestinian leadership

I’m taking this opportunity to offiically announce my candidacy for the leadership of the Palestinian state. It’s not an easy decision to enter this race, but I feel that I can really make a difference.

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve assembled a crack campaign team - the best in the business, in my opinion. Of course, in order to protect their lives I’d like to keep their identities a secret; they know who they are, and they know that I wouldn’t be able to achieve this without their support.

Over the next few weeks, our campaign team will be hitting the streets, the caves, the security barriers, the suicide bombing sites and anywhere a Palestinian voter might be to make sure you learn as much about me as you can. We’ll be slowly unveiling our campaign platform throughout the election: revealing it all now would be instant gratification, but we also might live to regret it.

Most importantly, I’d like to know what issues you feel are important? Are you tired of being taxed by Israel? Should the strategy of suicide bombing end, or should we be doing more of this type of thing?What do you feel the boundaries of the new Palestinian state should be, and why?

Let me know by emailing me a palestine_is_ours@penguinstorm.com

Check back here for more infromation in a few days.

Posted by skooter at 7:15 PM
Tags: PLO

November 10, 2004
Yasir Arafat is gone

Yasir Araft is gone, and I’m officially goine to embark on a quest to grow a beard like his in tribute.

The major question for the world at this point is does this move us closer or farther away from a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

I’m not going anywhere near that question. Not even close.

Now, onto that beard.

Posted by skooter at 10:38 PM

November 2, 2004
Bush vs. Kerry

As of this morning, I was saying that I figured Bush had this thing. I based this largely on my belief that the GOP would get more of its vote out.

At some point, I got my hopes up for Kerry and told somebody this. It was a feeling, and not a really strong belief. I flip-flopped.

It looks like Bush, which is probably good for the Canadian economy, but bad for the world. I’m not happy about this; not one bit.

There’s other depressing facts here: Barak Obama was elected - the rising star of the Democratic party. Isn’t this a good thing?

Barak will be the only black man in the Senate. This is not a good thing.

Not much of today is a good thing. Here’s to keeping your fingers crossed for the next four years.

Posted by skooter at 10:03 PM

October 29, 2004
Well, we lost

Turnout in the Surrey-Panorama byelection was low, but the left won nonetheless.

I attended a couple of functions with these candidate; the guy who just got himself elected knew less about these issues than anybody I’ve ever met. He was, quite simply, ill-informed.

This was a protest vote; the people of Surrey-Panorama ridge will regret this…

Posted by skooter at 1:01 AM

October 19, 2004
Resuls Ontario: The McGuinty Government's report

The McGuinty government in Ontario has released Results Ontario

The report is a collection of statistics, photos and testimonials on the status of life for the citizens of Ontario.

Naturally, this report glosses over the tax increase that McGuinty implemented, blatantly breaking one of his key election promises. Of course, election promises related to taxation are dicey at best: the inevitable re-evaluation of the books provides opportunities for wiggle room.

McGuinty deserves credit, however, for not making this a report on the McGuinty government’s Ontario. The report outlines a series of goals and strategies to achieve them, and does not have a single picture of McGuinty himself, and the word Liberal doesn’t appear at all.

Come to think of it, my province is running these “Best Place on Earth” ads right now, and they don’t seem terribly partisan either. The NDP is, of course, criticizing these ads bitterly and conveniently ignoring the fact that not only did they run blatantly partisan ads prior to the 2005 election, but they also took this province from 1st to 10th in virtually every national ranking and therefore had little reason to trumpet their own success.

I hope this means that politics is changing: I hope so, but I’m not yet 100% convinced.

Posted by skooter at 7:27 AM

October 15, 2004
Letter to the Georgia Straight

I sent this letter to the Georgia Straight in response to “this editorial about wards:http://www.straight.com/content.cfm?id=5670, which distorts the facts wildly.

To the editor, Georgia Straight:

I read with great interest your editorial in favour of wards. I was especially amused by the glaring errors.

Your editorial states that “For the first time in almost 70 years, citizens can create a city government that listens a lot more to average people and perhaps a little bit less to the political and financial elites.” This is obviously incorrect, as Vancouver voted on the ward system in 1873, 1978, 1982, 1988, 1996 and 1935. Perhaps the Straight is implying that these past votes were all undemocratic?

You go on to discuss the impact that higher turnout on the west side has on candidates elected. Much research has been done on turnout in Wards vs. Non-Wards systems, and the ward system has been determined to have little impact on turnout. It will likely have little impact on the type of candidates who get elected as well; Candidates with the most media appeal will continue to get the best coverage, and are more likely to get elected.

Your comments on the number of names on the ballot ignore the fact that school board & park board will continue to be elected in an at-large manner, and the ballot size will remain substantially the same. Your claim that candidates without name recognition will have a better change of getting elected is also not born out by evidence from Provincial & Federal riding races, where name recognition remains a huge factor (as does incumbency, which in part drives name recognition for those candidates who have been elected before.)

You suggest that the city’s gay community stands a better chance of “electing politicians who reflect the aspirations of the gay community.” This suggests that the “gay community” essentially votes as a block, which is far from the truth. My gay friends are as diverse as my straight friends, and none of them would vote for a candidate on a single issue: it’s an insult to suggest that this community feels this way. Alan Herbert represents his own views very well, but can no more claim to recognize the concerns of the “gay community” at large than any other single gay man. His failure to get elected in two subsequent attempts (one of which I worked on actively) had nothing to do with his status as a gay man.

Amar Randhawa (and his colleagues) deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his work on behalf of UNITED in fighting violence in the Indo-Canadian community; I have attended UNITED events, and think the work they’re doing is perhaps the single most effective way to effect change. I’m not sure what action Amar wishes the mayor & council would take or what impact a ward system will have on this; if the suggestion is that this is a problem being ignored because it is ethnic in nature, there will be little impact made by wards - the Indo-Canadian community is far from a majority in any of the ward boundaries, and is perhaps even less likely to elect a councillor in the ward system than in an at-large system. Again, I think the implication that the Indo-Canadian community votes as a united block is an insult, but it’s a moot point: without a majority (or anything approaching it) the community would have a modest effect on any ward in any case. I too wish civic politicians would support Amar’s work, but I feel that it will have little impact on the effect of that work itself.

I personally don’t feel that there is any inherent advantage in Vancouver with either system; this city is very small, and can be effectively governed by either system. The reality is that the current ward proposal suggests adding 4 more councillors to a government that is already sufficiently large, where councillors represent (theoretically) fewer citizens than in most other large Canadian cities. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages; it’s simply a choice of choosing your poison.

Vancouver’s government needs to be reformed - the GVRD is clearly dysfunctional, and amounts to taxation without representation - but bringing wards into Vancouver is not going to repair the problems that we currently face.

Posted by skooter at 7:31 PM

Peter Ladner needs an editor

Peter Ladner needs a new editor. Note the difference in the percentages.


THE CITY WILL LOSE MORE THAN IT WILL GAIN FROM A WARD SYSTEM

On Saturday, October 16, about 10 per cent of Vancouver’s voters will decide on a major change to the way this city is governed.

The change will likely determine whether neighbouring municipalities such as Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond also go for wards. Because the turnout for the plebiscite on wards will likely be small - I’m guessing 15 per cent, this momentous decision will be made by a few people.

Not a big deal, but Peter - aren’t you the editor of a newspaper? Isn’t this kind of embarassing?

Posted by skooter at 6:44 PM

October 11, 2004
Ashes of American Flags?

It’s a cliche to suggest that the Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the best album released a couple of years ago; it made virtually every top ten list in every publication. It probably missed Def Jam’s, but—you know—we won’t go there.

There was a great song on that album called Ashes of American Flags which rolled right into Heavy Metal Drummer. The former is the best song on the album, the latter is the most fun.

I was digging through old slides and found this, which I had completely forgotten about. This flag was hanging somewhere up north of Goderich along the shores of Lake Huron, and I wonder if its owner intended to make a political statement or not. If he did, it probably wasn’t much more than Rock and Roll Stops the Traffic or something like it.

The flag is, of course, inherently political. I’m not even sure that I recognize the band on here, but I think it might be Bon Jovi. I’m not sure that it matters. Maybe it does. Maybe there’s some meaning in the particular stars that are obstructed by the photo of the band, maybe not.

I would like to salute the Ashes of American flags, with all the fallen leaves filling up shopping bags.

Posted by skooter at 1:52 PM
Tags: Lyrics, Music, Wilco

October 10, 2004
Wards in Vancouver

In less then a week, approximately 15% of Vancouver’s voters will go to the polls to vote on the issue of whether or not the city should adopt Thomas Berger’s ward system.

My sense of this one is that the pro-Wards side is going to win, largely becuase of the lack of compelling argument on the no-side. The spokespeople that have been trotted out have been less than compelling, and the general perception is that Vancouver is the odd man out in terms of wards.

The sad truth is that wards or no wards, this is not going to solve the problems with government in Vancouver.

The GVRD is dysfunctional. More so than any other region I’ve ever lived in. The recent RAV fiasco was a wonderful demonstration of it.

Contrary to popular belief, RAV is not an example of why we shouldn’t vote for wards: it has little to do with it, actually. RAV never should have been a political issue, it should have been a TransLink issue. TransLink is a regional body working with a series of non-regional governments: the two have different priorities.

The GVRD as a region has a population of approximately 1.7 Million people and growh is faster outside of Vancouver than inside. Vancouver is the cultural and financial hub of the region, but it will not remain the population hub for very long. Economics dictate it: people are moving to the valley, not downtown.

At the moment there are more than 10 municipal governments forming policy for the GVRD region. Wards will do nothing to change this solution.

The Greater Toronto region had - prior to its merger - 2.5 million people and 7 regional governments: that’s approximately a population approximately 50% higher than the GVRD with half the number of regional governments.

If you take this down to a councillor level the situtation gets even worse: with 44 councillors, each Councillor in Toronto represents approximately 57,000 people. Compare this to the District of North Vancouver where 6 councillors represent (in an at large system) approximately 82,000 people or approximatley 13,600 each.

This is repeated throughout the GVRD: 6 councillors in Delta (encompassing Lander, Tswassen, and Delta) represent approximately 94,000 citizens; Richmond’s 8 councillors represent 168,000.

There is, quite simply, too much government throughout the GVRD and that government is too fractured: the proposed Ward system in Vancouver will actually aggravate the situation by adding 4 councillors to the City itself. At our current population of 560,000, each of our 10 councillors would theoretically be responsible for approximately 56,000 citizens: fewer than Toronto already has.

Why - this leaves me to ask - would anybody vote to make Vancouver’s government larger when the proposed solution still doesn’t address the fundamental problems with our region.

It’s popular to criticize the mega-citying (which is not a word, but it’ll do) of both Toronto and Montreal because of some of the logistical problems faced, but there is a solution to the problem: Vancouver should take the lead and work with neibouring municipalities to form a reasonable structure for regional government. If this means merging municipalities, this would make Vancouver the first bottom-up mega city: Toronto and Montreal both had mergers pushed down onto them by their respective provincial governments.

Don’t vote for wards unless you really think they’re going to result in better and more efficient use of your tax dollars: there’s no evidence that this is the case.

Push for a merged Vancouver; phone your councillors and tell them you want to work with your neighbours, not against them.

Posted by skooter at 10:31 PM

October 9, 2004
Cormorants require more maintenance than originally expected

So as it turns out, our Cormorant helicopters require substantially more maintenance than originally thought.

Were the Liberals right after all, way back in 1993?

I seriously doubt that Chretien had any knowledge of these issues in 1993 when he was first elected and cancelled the Cormorant purchase contract that had been signed by the Conservative government. It’s just not really believable that the opposition would have such detailed information at their hands to make a decision on.

Expect the Liberals to make hay with this at some point though.

This almost certainly was a factor in the recent decision to purchase Sikorsky helicopters rather than more Cormorants. The question is: why didn’t the Liberals release these numbers when that decision was made?

Had they done so, the Canadian public would likely have been more understanding of the decision that was made: to add yet another different piece of equipment to our already underfunded and over-stretched military.

So this isn’t so much a lesson in bad decision making as it is a question of bad politics: the Martin government has consistently bungled communications, and it’s hard to figure out why. This guy conquered the party, but he can’t put together a decent press release….

Posted by skooter at 10:10 PM

October 6, 2004
Big Daddy Chuck in the Speaker's Chair

It’s nice to see Chuck Strahl in the speaker’s chair. I like Chuck - he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the Conservative party, and very popular with his constituents.

This guy’s going to do a great job. Keep an eye on him.

Posted by skooter at 11:23 PM

October 5, 2004
The Martin throne speech

I shan’t go on at length about the throne speech - it was, I believe, fairly predictable.

There’s been a lot of talk about Martin’s need to appease the opposition, and I’m not so sure that this is what to do here.

Stephen Harper’s comment on this speech was that it’s “not the role of the Official Opposition to support the entire agenda of the Government.” While perfectly valid, Harper is basically saying that he’s playing a role here: it doesn’t matter what the speech says, it only matters that he’s supposed to oppose it.

Knowing that Harper is essentially opposing for the sake of opposing, what would you do?

Govern reasonably, put forward an agenda Canadians like and blame the opposition for being unreasonable when the government falls. Walk to a new majority.

I give it a year. Next fall. About the time Adrienne Clarkson’s term ends right now: why else was she given only a one year extension?

Posted by skooter at 6:13 PM

Condcordia ignores the need for free speech

From today’s Globe & Mail:

Concordia bans talk by ex-Israeli PM
By INGRID PERITZ
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Montreal — A Montreal university has barred former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak from speaking on campus, igniting a storm over whether the institution is curbing free speech in the name of keeping peace on its politically fractious campus.

In 2002, Benjamin Netenyahu was scheduled to speak and Concodia erupted in violence with a clash between Concordia’s Israeli & Palestinian student groups.

So much for French & English Canada being described as “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.” Based on what’s happening here, it seems like the Israelis and the Palestinians are never going to get along.

Chadi Marouf quite correctly points out that “Free speech is not unlimited in Canada” but ignores the fundamental truth that inciting violence is not an effective way to oppose free speech, and that’s exactly what happened here last time. It only serves to make those participating in the violence look intolerant.

Treating this as a microcosm of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict leaves me with little hope for a positive future in the middle east: I only hope that this is not the case, and that a long term peace will be sustainable at some point.

Posted by skooter at 9:05 AM

October 4, 2004
The Liberals won the X-Prize by taking off from Mt. St. Helens

It’s been an exciting weekend on the west coast, where everything old is new again. This of course all started on Saturday with the Globe & Mail’s printing of the news that the Liberal government set aside its own rules - less than 6 months old, and never applied - to hire the newly appointed president of Canada Post.

“Wait,” I know you’re asking, “Isn’t this what got them into trouble last time?”

The short answer is yes, although you can expect Paul Martin to provide you with a much longer explanation of the differences between this and the situation with Denis Jolette. This Prime Minister seems to like making excuses: it’s all he ever does.

John McCallum just hired a guy he used to work with for one of the top civil service jobs in the country, without even advertising the job and without hiring an outside search firm, both of which are required by the new rules. For this, McCallum should be kicked out of cabinet and they should be starting fresh with a hiring process. What’s the point of the rules if this doesn’t happen?

Mt. St. Helens has been rumbling for about a week now. I was hoping it would blow when we were down Portland way, but it didn’t. How inconvenient.

What’s shocking though is that last Friday the gaggle of geologists surrounding the volcano all figured that a single, mildly aggressive steam outbreak was the “event we’d all been waiting for.” On Saturday, after another major tremor, minds were changed. All of this technology, and nature still likes to surprise us whenever it can.

Paul Allen’s SpaceShip One project claimed the X-Prize this weekend too, a US$10 Million prize for the first manned spaceflight which required two succesful attempts within 5 days to be won. Allen’s team was the first to meet the two attempts rule, although others had succesfully achieved flight.

This isn’t really flight though; nobody’s orbiting - these are pretty much up and down gigs. I’m not saying this makes the effort any less impressive, I’m just saying that there’s still some room to grow here.

So almost 40 years after it was first achieved, man is flying in space again but without spending government money; 20 years after it last did, Mt. St. Helen’s is heading for an eruption; 6 months after getting elected, the Liberal government is breaking its own rules and promises.

As they say in France: plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

Posted by skooter at 11:29 AM

September 30, 2004
Adrienne Clarkson stays on as Governor General

Citing the instability caused by his minority government, the Martin government is apparently asking Adrienne Clarkson to stay on as Governor General for another year.

Is there going to be a salary cap imposed here? I doubt Mrs. Clarkson will be travelling the world in the same luxurious manner that she has been doing, but who knows.

Another question is if Mr. Martin has asked the Governor General to stay until next September, does this mean that we can expect the collapse of parliament sometime around then?

Better the devil you know, as they say.

Posted by skooter at 8:44 AM

September 27, 2004
Fort Lewis, Washington State


Driving past Fort Lewis I can’t help but think about how many of these kids have died in Iraq. Too many.

Posted by skooter at 10:55 PM

September 23, 2004
The Liberals ignored warnings about Groupaction

According to today’s Globe & Mail, the Liberal government received repeated warnings about Groupaction, but chose to ignore them; a senior bureaucrat describes teh experience of working with Groupaction as “wretched.”

My favourite, direct quote, from the email from Michael Calcott:
Why is the Government of Canada continuing a major contract with an incompetent supplier? Could I please receive a copy of the contract with Groupaction. There must be an escape clause somewhere.

Isn’t the answer obvious? They’re Liberals.

Posted by skooter at 11:01 AM

September 22, 2004
Larry Campbell wants a safe crack house

That slippery slope just got worse.

Larry Campbell is applying for a licence to open a safe crack smoking location.

But here’s my burning question of the day: Adrienne Clarkson toured the downtown east side yesterday, conveniently avoiding the seediest of locations but taking in the safe injection site.

So do you think Adrienne shot up?

Posted by skooter at 9:44 AM

September 21, 2004
Our safe injection site is working...

According to today’s Vancouver Sun, our safe injection site has “exceeded expectations” and is “making a difference” after only a year of operation.

Tell that to the people who live in the area.

Lately, I’ve been riding my bike down to the corner of Main & Hastings late at night; if the safe injection site is working, the problem must be worse than we ever thought it was. This place really is a war zone.

Vancouver’s drug policy coordinator Donald MacPherson says that “anecdotal evidence suggests that the site is a success” according to the sun. The great thing about anecdotal evidence is that it’s easy to make it match your expectations.

This is one of those issues where I agree with Randy White: there truly is no such thing as a safe injection site. While I tacitly agree with the principal of “harm reduction”, one of the major problems here is that safe injection sites have been equated with harm reduction.

The first question that needs to be asked is what are the goals of safe injection sites?

In my mind, the goal is to get people off drugs: this implies that the safe injection site needs to be referring people to counselling and tracking their progress. No matter how you shake the statistics, a one year time period is simply not enough to evaluate success on this measure. Drug addiction is a lifelong problem, and a year is far from a lifetime.

Many define the goal as saving lives: if this is the case, it may be impossible to define success. It’s impossible to know whether or not people are injecting because they have access to the clean room, and impossible to know who would have overdosed outside. Over a period of years it may be possible to build up enough statistical data to demonstrate an overall reduction in overdose deaths, but again a year is simply not enough.

Some might define the goal as education: this is a placebo, and not one that needs to be achieved by a safe injection site.

Pot smokers are now looking for a safe inhalation room; other drug users are looking for their safe rooms. Quite simply, if the act is defined as criminal this is a slippery slope for police and the justice system. How can we tell children that drugs aren’t safe when the legal system has a loophole that permits people to use them?

To be sure, my anecdotal evidence is as invalid as MacPherson’s, but as I said I’ve been riding through that neighbourghood: it’s not safe. If the last year represents progress, I’m not sure I want to stick around for the next few. I don’t like getting caught on slippery slopes.

Posted by skooter at 11:25 AM

September 16, 2004
Christy Clark resigned

British Columbia’s Deputy Premier & former Education Minister Christy Clark has resigned, citing “deeply personal” reasons.

Is anybody falling for this?

There are only a couple of questions here:

Was Christy pushed or is this the beginnning of a coup (remember Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance?)

David Basi was formally charged yesterday; Christy’s husband (Mark Marrissen) had his office searched in the early days of the Basi scandal. Is there there a connection here?

Where is Christy going to wind up next?

Christy is just too ambitious, too driven and too tenacious for this “deeply personal” thing to fly.

Something is afoot here.

If I were a betting man, I’d say she was pushed as part of a leadership review.

If I were a more risk taking better man, I’d suggest that this is part of a longer term coup.

Christy will be back.

Posted by skooter at 6:53 PM

September 14, 2004
Paul Martin gets frustrated

And it’s about time.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, Paul Martin had an emotional response to something related to his job. Martin has spent his entire time in government trying to appear as the great conciliator: by trying to be all things to all people, Martin has appeared as nothing to anybody.

So it’s about time we saw an honest reaction; about time Paul Martin looked like he had an opinion and an agenda.

Too bad it’s not one that’s working; too bad that it was caught on tape by mistake.

Anybody want to bet against the fact that Martin doesn’t realize this slip of the tongue was a good thing, and tightens up even further?

I wouldn’t.

Keep not governing Paul; it gives me hope for the future.

Posted by skooter at 5:32 PM

September 13, 2004
Ralph Klein wants $65 billion

Ralph has come up with $65 Billion as his number for the amount of money that the Liberal government needs to hand over to provinces for healthcare. This amount of money would bring Federal funding to 25% in the healthcare sector, at least by Ralph’s math.

Your NDP…er…Liberal health minister, meanwhile, is crowing because his party only promised $9 Billion and is now offering $13 Billion.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The problem here should be obvious; no one is asking what may be the most important question to ask: are we getting value for our money?

The provinces are taking their usual approach: ask for more money and paint the Federal government as the bad guy because they won’t hand it over.

The Federal government, meanwhile, is taking its standard waffling down the middle approach of not wanting to rock the political boat: yes we’re offering money, and the provinces aren’t being realistic. Yes we like health care the way it is and we’re going to defend it.

Our health care system is broken, and needs to be fixed. More money is a placebo, and may be a risk.

Here’s a wonderful example of an anomaly in the system which has an impact on cost.

Just for fun, get on a motorcycle and head up a nice twisy road like the one up Cypress Bowl. Fun, isn’t it? Now open the throttle a little more; the limit is 60, so let’s go about 100. Lean hard into the corner and wait for the wheel to slide out for underneath you. Go sliding along the pavement, break a leg (or two) and maybe an arm.

Now head to the hospital and give them your health card. After they take care of you and let you out, you’ll be fine. A bit worse for wear, but you’re not going to get a bill.

It’s not going to cost you a thing, even though the road was dry and you were well beyond the posted limit; the accident happened because you were riding unsafely, but I’m paying your bill.

Now the comparison: get born unlucky with weak muscles in your eye so that you have to wear glasses. Buy a new pair of glasses and send the bill to your government. See if you get paid.

So there’s the gap: I need glasses, and I have to pay for my own (or get private insurance to do it.) It doesn’t matter whether I’m buying cheap glasses or expensive ones, I still have to pay for them.

On the other hand, if I drive like an idiot the Canadian tax payers are on the hook.

Does that seem fair? Does it seem efficient? Does it seem like the federal government should be handing more money over for a system that permits this to happen?

These types of decisions are hard to make: what’s considered an “at fault” accident and what’s not, and consequently what’s covered and what’s not.

Making hard decisions is what government is all about. Let’s have a serious conversation about how to fix healthcare, and lets make sure that anybody who says “Give us more money!” is chased out of the room.

But first let’s elect a government that can make decisions, instead of vascillating between them constantly.

Posted by skooter at 6:07 PM

September 11, 2004
Canada's Minister of Industry slams free trade

David Emerson was the guest speaker at the North Vancouver Liberal Party Annual General Meeting today, and he just slammed free trade pretty hard.

Is this a good thing?

One of the many promises Paul Martin has made is to improve Canada’s relationship with the United States. Martin, it seems, doesn’t think the former Prime Minister did a very good job (or maybe it was the Finance Minister’s fault?)

Emerson today continually referred to the U.S. as protectionist and went on to list the issues as he sees it: the U.S. has adopted protectionist policies on softwood lumber & BSE and will do so in the future. Canada is the most reliant of all the G7 nations (Emerson apparently doesn’t acknowledge Russia) on trade, and 80% of that trade is with the United States. We can’t let this continue he says: the Free Trade Agreement isn’t really working.

I don’t remember reading that in the Liberal Party platform. In point of fact, the 2004 Liberal Election platform says:

The Liberal government is a strong proponent of vital international trade agreements and institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to ensure market access for Canadian products and services.

although it does go on to call U.S. trade practices unfair.

So much for improving that relationship: I wonder what the party whip is going to have to say about this?

Emerson also argues that investment money is consolidating, and that Canada’s economy needs to be put into hyper-performance mode in order to be competitive. If not, we’ll increasingly see investment money go to the United States. While acknowleding this is a good and important step in the right direction, David has conveniently forgotten that the last 11 years of Liberal government have gotten us where we are, and it still makes me wonder why pepole are going to trust these guys to fix things.

By holding up Canfor as shining example, the Industry Minister raises an interesting question: Canfor’s stock price has almost doubled since David left - is this what’s going to happen to the Canadian economy when we vote the Liberals out of office?

September 10, 2004
The Hidden Agenda doesn't exist...why bother hiding it?

Anybody with an active interest in the last federal election should read this “month’s issue of the Walrus.”http://www.walrusmagazine.com/

Tom Flanagan was the national campaign manager, and a long time associate and friend of Stephen Harper’s. The Walrus has done a profile on the man, and it’s extremely interesting.

Flanagan is portrayed as a very right wing neo-conservative who ran a very closed election shop. Not only did Flanagan not interact much with the rest of the campaign team, he also refused to create any space in his team for any branch of the party other than Harper loyalists, including those loyal to Deputy Leader Peter MacKay.

Flanagan has, in the past, advocated views which are perceived by many as racistand bigoted particularly with respect to Canada’s native communities; there’s an alternative perception that his comments would have been acceptable long ago, but not in today’s climate of excessive political correctness.

Doug Finley was the national organizer we saw the most of out here in Vancouver, and from what I hear his opinion is that the Vancouver campaigns were poorly run.

I leave it up to you to make up your own mind about whether or not this is a case of leading by example. Read the article. Buy the magazine. Subscribe.

Posted by skooter at 10:35 PM

September 7, 2004
Politics slips further in a Simpsons direction

I realize this will tag me permanently as a geek, but it’s too funny not to comment on.

There’s a classic episode of the Simpsons called Simpson Tide, wherein Homer joins the Naval reserve. For his first wargames posting, Homer’s commanding officer assigns him to a Nuclear submarine, based on his past experience in a nuclear power plant.

Homer promptly corrects his C.O’s pronunciation, saying “Nucular. It’s pronounced nucular.”

I’m officially launching the Homer 2008 campaign right now.

Posted by skooter at 10:42 PM
Tags: George Bush, Simpsons, Television

September 1, 2004
Unity and the B.C. Conservatives Merge

Two of our provincial political parties - the Unity Party and the B.C. Conservatives - have announced a merger today. This isn’t a total surprise, but the question is will it make a difference?

Unity ran candidates for the first time in the last provincial election, and failed to win any seats. In fact, the party failed to make any impression on electoral results at all, winning only 3.23% of the popular vote.

The B.C. Conservatives didn’t even do that well, and are lumped into the “other” category.

Which brings us back to our original question: if two weak political forces merge, do they make one weak political force, or does it count as a fresh start?

I seriously doubt if these two parties will gain any additional traction simply as a result of the merger - it’s just not in the cards, after the electoral drubbing that the federal Conservative Party took. With more British Columbians moving to the more moderate federal Liberal party, it’s doubtful that a provincial party made up of former reformers is going to get very far either.

The next government of B.C. will be a Liberal one again, and I’m guessing it’ll be somewhere in the low 50s in number of seats. I haven’t yet predicted who specifically will lose, but I’ll get to it.

In the meantime, the newly merged B.C. Conservatives seem likely to only succeed in splitting off some protest votes and possibly giving the Liberals even more seats by pulling them away from the NDP.

Posted by skooter at 7:04 PM

August 30, 2004
Athens is over; long live Vancouver 2010!

The Athens Olympics are over, and our country is wringing its collective hands over the results: 12 medals, 2 fewer than in Sydney.

Should we be spending more money on athletics? Maybe. The Olympics - and events like them - are an important national stage. It’s not all about money though, and it’s not all about medals.

Stephen Owen, our minister for sport, pointed out in a radio interview this morning that Australia - the most often held up model for Canada to follow - focuses a great deal of funding on 8 sports; swimming is good, rowing is not.

Our rowing team offers a good example of one of the issues with focusing on funding: no amount of funding could have made up for, or changed, the fact that this team had a really bad day (not just one, but a bunch in a row.) An incredible winning team of athletes lost every medal.

But Minister Owen failed to point out a key fact in this morning’s interview: Australia may be a bad example because while they do disproportionately well in the summer Olympics, they do quite poorly at the winter games; Canada does almost exactly the opposite.

Yes, I’d like to see more medals - medals are nice (and shiny) - but I’m also heartened to see 59% of our athletes finishing in the top 8. Focusing on the top 3 can create an artificial focus. These Olympics weren’t bad for Canada, we just didn’t get to hear our anthem often enough.

It’s a great anthem, so let’s do whatever we can to change this for next time.

Posted by skooter at 9:12 AM
Tags: Olympics, Sports

August 29, 2004
Jim Harris stays on as leader of the Green Party

Which sort of counts as news, if only because your tax dollars are now paying for the Green Party’s operations.

What’s really fun though is that only 25% of Green members voted in the leadership race, which featured 2 additional candidates. Fun.

Harris made it a point during the last election of talking about how the Green Party motivates voters: essentially his argument was that people who voted Green were often people who wouldn’t vote at all for anybody else.

I guess, in hindsight, only about 25% of them are though.

Posted by skooter at 11:26 PM

August 28, 2004
Online Lottery Ticket Sales for Charities are Banned

The Synergy Newsletter published by the Alliance for Arts and Culture in Vancouver had this note the other day:

2. Online lottery ticket sales banned
In other gaming news…
According to a recent report in The Vancouver Sun, BC gaming regulations have changed to prevent the sale of lottery tickets through the internet. The article reported that the Pacific National Exhibition, with its famous PNE Prize Home Lottery, expected to lose significant revenue as online sales accounted for 20 percent of total sales last year.

This, of course, is extremely interesting to me because of my involvement with the Earth Future Lottery which was intended to raise millions of dollars doing this very thing.

The note goes on to say that:

Derek Sturko, assistant deputy minister of the BC Gaming and Enforcement Branch said in the article that Canadian law doesn’t permit charities to conduct raffles or “other forms of gaming” through the use of computers, which includes the internet, and that “It has never been the case that they could sell lottery tickets online.”
Charities can advertise lotteries and raffles online, as well as provide info on how to get tickets, but cannot conduct a financial transaction (ie, purchase) via a computer, therefore eliminating the use of the internet. This regulation is part of Canada’s Criminal Code, section 207(4)c, which states that lotteries operated by charities can’t be “operated on or through a computer.”

When the Earth Future Lottery (EFL) was founded, an argument was made that the Lottery would be legal based on a technical reading of the “on or through a computer” aspect of the law, as well as the point of sale aspect.

It appears, in this case, that the B.C. government has decided to take the broadest possible view of this definition, in order to shut down what they perceive to be a problem: the online sale of lottery tickets. In fact, this decision may have a much more serious impact on charitable lotteries.

The lotteries that are being impacted here aren’t being criticized for trying to sell beyond their borders (one of the real and potential impacts of selling online); instead, the B.C. government is essentially arguing that the sale of tickets constitutes the operation of the lottery.

In the 21st century (and the late 20th, of course) virtually every charitable lottery ticket sold is entered into a computer database: simply put, the PNE keeps a record of the fact that you bought a lottery ticket and - particularly in the case of so called ‘registration lotteries’ - the ticket number. For lotteries that are well run, this database gets mined next year as a source of first round ticket sales; for many of these lotteries, more than 30% of tickets can be sold to the previous year’s purchasers. This is the power of database marketing.

By including ticket sales in the definition of operating a lottery and suggesting that the use of computers is not appropriate, the government may in fact be making this very activity illegal. Essentially, a definition this broad may mean that any charity running a lottery of any sort has to keep records on pen and paper only: welcome to the new world.

This isn’t really an exaggeration: a registration lottery means, essentially, that you don’t have to physically keep your ticket. Instead, you provide the lottery operator your contact information which is used - if you win - to both contact you for notification and to verify your identity. Better register with accurate information!

What this means, of course, is that looking up your information in the registration database is an essential part of ‘operating the lottery’; at least as essential as selling you your ticket. If this is so, then what’s the difference?

At the EFL we viewed the definition of operating as the actual conduct of the lottery drawing itself: in other words, a charitable lottery can conduct the rest of its operations as it sees fit, but cannot select the winning number using a computer. There are a number of reasons that this is valid, but suffice to say that choosing a random number on most computers isn’t truly random - in most cases, it’s based on clock cycles and so can potentially be manipulated, although it would be difficult to do so. Since it would be impossible to audit every line of computer code on every charitable lottery, best to prohibit this act. These guys know quite a bit about making things really random they’re Vancouver based too.

This is quite reasonable: it leaves charities with a large number of cost-effective methods of choosing winning numbers and/or tickets ranging from throwing tickets into a rotating drum to renting the type of ball selection machines that are common in state lotteries. These physical draws are easier to audit, and ensure that winner selection is fair.

The B.C. government has chosen too broad a definition here to be realistic and has created an enforcement nightmare for itself - the loser is the charitable lotteries in B.C. who may be faced with an administrative nightmare in their attempts to raise money. Lotteries will likely continue - they make far too much money not too - but our government gains nothing by creating such an unrealistic (and unenforceable) reading of how technology fits into our world today.

Posted by skooter at 8:48 PM
Tags: Charities, Lotteries, Technology

August 27, 2004
The words commitment & Martin don't belong together

This according to today’s Globe and Mail

MPs want nominations guarantee
By JANE TABER
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Ottawa — Liberal MPs, antsy about their re-election prospects and a quick election call, want Prime Minister Paul Martin to guarantee them their riding nominations now. Although Parliament won’t open until October, MPs are worried about the vulnerability of the minority government and the next election, which could come at any time.

“The concern is you can’t do your work in Ottawa if you’re worrying about what’s happening at home,” [Anita Neville] said. “And there were a number of my colleagues who expressed that as a concern.”

This falls under the category of stating the obvious, and leads one to wonder about the Liberal party leader.

It was well known that Jean Chretien put a rule in place that sitting MPs wouldn’t face nomination challenges. Mr. Martin refused to enforce this rule when he became the leader of the Liberal party, resulting in a number of needless (and publically embarassing) nomination challenges across the country: Hedy Fry was one, and the silliness that saw Tony Valeri face Sheila Copps instead of running in the neighbouring riding was another.

Mr. Martin says MPs were elected to govern, and on that basis is staying out of this discussion. This is patently silly - Mrs. Neville’s point is well made and accurate: it’s difficult to concentrate on Ottawa if you’re busy watching your back at home.

It’s this kind of silliness that makes me wonder how this many became leader of the party in the first place. Martin demands deep loyalty from his caucus, but isn’t giving anything in return. People couldn’t see this coming?

Most of us thought that after the last election the civil war inside the Libeal party was over, but it’s begining to look like we may have been wrong.

Posted by skooter at 7:07 AM

August 22, 2004
Premier Ladner?

Bill Tielman, in the most recent Georgia Straight, suggests that Peter Ladner may be interested in making a run as Premier when Gordon Campbell’s time in office comes to a close (prematurely or not.)

Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights of Mr. Ladner’s time in office.

The NPA’s own site lists a number of them - Ladner wants the city to crack down on such serious issues as urinating in public, loud car alarms, and - wait for it - cycling on sidewalks. Add to this initiatives which will allow police to lay fines for fighting in city streets, crack down on aggressive panhandlers, an annual water sports festival and a bizarre proposal to “the placement of glass awnings over downtown lanes to create new pathways between blocks” and I’m not exactly seeing signs of genius here.

These types of initiatives at a civic level are not what greatness is made of.

I haven’t yet heard Ladner (who many think wants to be the next Mayor of Vancouver) demonstrate a vision for the city, nor a proposed solution for any of the problems our city faces. Cracking down on public urination won’t help solve the homeless problem here, nor will blaming the provincial government; cracking down on car alarms isn’t going to help the car theft problem, and excessive enforcement of cycling bylaws isn’t going to encourage people to get out of their cars. How is Councillor Ladner going to help to create a more robust and diverse economy in our city - something that we desperately need.

When Peter Ladner provides a vision for Vancouver, he may earn a vote as Mayor; until then, can you seriously think of this guy as Premier?

I can only assume that Tielman is having some political mischief with the suggestion, as he’s been known to do. I just can’t find a way in my head to take this suggestion seriously.

Posted by skooter at 12:37 AM
Tags: NPA, Peter Ladner, Vancouver

August 19, 2004
Is It Civil Disobedience If You're Stoned?

The leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party has been sentenced to jail time in Saskatchewan for possession. What a surprise.

Marc Emery leads the Vancouver based (yet another surprise) B.C. Marijuana Party and runs regularly in federal, provincial and municipal elections.

Embarking on a national protest, Emery was traveling across the country smoking (toking?) up in every province. His point was, as always, pot should be legal.

Emery is now expressing outrage at his arrest, and condemning the Saskatchewan legal system for sentencing him. The real question is: does Emery seriously think that he shouldn’t be sentenced? This man has repeatedly broken the law knowingly and shoudl be prepared to serve the appropriate sentence. If he were arrested crossing the border, would he expect the Canadian government to assist his case on humanitarian grounds?

It’s a slippery slope when individuals who disagree with laws expect to be able to not have them applied. Robert Latimer killed his daughter and argued that it was compassionate because of her mental and physical retardation; he’s now serving a life sentence for the crime. Although some people (mostly German, in my observation) agree with what Latimer did, murder is murder and Latimer should have been ready to serve his sentence in full.

Democracy is a wonderful thing: citizens have a right to protest laws they feel are unjust and Emery is doing this. Many people have a tremendous amount of admiration for the man and his goal of compassionate use of marijuana (I am not one of them) but any citizen of a democracy who chooses to exercise this right of protest should be willing to serve his sentence. 3 months is a small price to pay, and if Emery truly believed in the nobility of his cause he would serve it without the kicking and screaming that he exhibited today.

Posted by skooter at 10:14 PM

August 17, 2004
Cormorants & Alaska go together after all

According to today’s Vancouver Sun, CFB Comox has twice dispatched Cormorant helicopters to remove passengers in emergency situations from Alaska bound cruise ships.

Traditionally, these rescues are done by airlift with the helicopter hovering over the deck of the ship, but on August 6th they did things a little differently:

“That was the first time a Cormorant has landed on the deck of a cruise ship and it was a good thing we did. The gentleman was oh, 300-pound-ish in size and a hoist would have been extremely difficult for him.”

There’s a lesson here, maybe two: first, if we’d had these Cormorant’s 11 years ago, think about how many lives might have been saved; second, there is such a thing as too many trips to the Lido buffet.

Posted by skooter at 6:18 PM

August 7, 2004
Is A Conditional Discharge Real Punishment?

So Svend Robinson managed to get out of jail for free. (If not exactly free then at least without spending an any time actually in a jail.)

This is great, becuase I’ve always wanted a collection of Tag Heuer watches, and if the only risk I’m taking here is 100 hours of community service and a conditional discharge, it just may be worth it.

I’m not suggesting that this guy is a career criminal - although there are persistent rumours that he’s been a well known kleptomaniac for years now - but I don’t think it’s fair that Svend’s “public embarassment” is being used as an excuse not to give him jail time - does our criminal code actually list this as part of its sentencing criteria? If so, does that time that my bathing suit fell down in Florida in 1976 count towards a reduction of my jail time? It was pretty traumatizing. The horror. The horror.

Maybe I’m too cynical, but when I see the excessive delay in actually laying charges against Svend combined with a sentence this lenient, it’s hard not to be.

Posted by skooter at 10:36 PM

August 5, 2004
an old letter about a candidate

I’m posting, long after originally printed, a letter about someone I know. This letter doesn’t even begin to touch on the many flaws and lies this person has told, and I won’t comment further here at this point. If you want to know more, email me. This was originally printed in the Vancouver Courier

Johl doesn’t represent this East Sider

To the editor;

I find it intriguing that Jesse Johl (Conservative candidate in Vancouver Kingsway) speaks with such condescension about Ian Waddell, the NDP candidate who Mr. Johl suggests is ignorant of family life based on the fact that he is gay. I met Mr. Johl recently, and as a result feel he has his own limitations (even beyond homophobia and living with his mom at age 32).

I met Mr. Johl when he dropped by a Kid’s Swap at Douglas Park Community Centre. As he was trying to chat up would-be supporters, he jovially told me that not only does he not have children, he is not married and the single life suits him fine. Are these the revelations that make me feel Mr. Johl understands my experience as a parent living in Vancouver Kingsway? No.

Although Mr. Johl is under the prehistoric and homophobic belief that gay men know little about raising children, he may be intrigued to learn that many gay and lesbian people raise children. Many live in his riding. Not that this matters.

Mr. Johl’s party could not care any less about the experiences and concerns of gay and lesbian constituents. Still, I think he may want to consider moving out of his mama’s house and learn a bit about the world and who lives (and thrives) within it.

Tracy Manrell, Vancouver

Posted by skooter at 11:48 PM

August 1, 2004
Who Needs the Gas Tax Anyway?

I like this one; I really do.

First, this is in response to slightly old news - as a wonderful comment on the currect of TV “news” - my most commons source in recent weeks - versus newspaper news; I had no idea this was going on.

By now the Paul Martin government - your government - the same one that promised to share gas tax revenue with municipal governments (going as far as suggesting that he would share between 5 and 7 cents per litre) is saying that this will happen NEXT budget ; not this one, and certainly not at the next sitting of Parliament.

That 5 to 7 cents by the way, not has to be negotiated because “We want the deals to advance public policy…” [Globe and Mail, July 29, pp. A5.] So much for 5 cents, or even 7.

Far be it from me to criticize - I’ve got an acquaintance who thinks the primary problem with Canadian Government is that the people who vote don’t know enough - but you voted for this guy, and you got what you asked for - more waffling, more indicivisness, and more of Paul Martin. Good luck in the next 18 months.

Posted by skooter at 4:09 PM

July 21, 2004
Canada's New Cabinet

Paul Martin has named his new cabinet, and in an entirely predictable move failed (once again) to reduce the size of cabinet itself.

He has reduced some things though: there are only 9 women in this cabinet, or about 25%. This is 2 fewer cabinet posts held by women than before. One of those gone is Hedy Fry (demoted to a Parliamentary Secretary), although this has barely raised a blip on the national media scale when compared to the attention paid to David Anderson’s complete dismissal.

B.C. is well represented by numbers (5) but perhaps not by talent: new ministers abound here, led by Ujjal Dosanjh and David Emerson. Emerson - my opponent in Vancouver Kingsway - is now the Minister of Industry, and while I’m concerned about such a critical portfolio being handed to a first time Minister, this is probably a good place for him. Emerson’s rampant drive for privatization makes him - in my opinion - poorly suited to be Finance minister but he should be in a place which allows him to put his talents to work improving the economy overall. Of course, Stelco just closed a rod mill in Hamilton and laid of 160 people, providing yet another example of exactly how much work there is to do here.

As for Ujjal - really, BC’s health care system is in such good shape this smacks of brilliance.
Sorry. Sarcasm doesn’t always work well here. At least he’ll fight against further privatization of the system, which is a generally admirable goal.

Mr. Martin has, meanwhile, announced that he’s going to reintroduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana. This is going to be very interesting. Leaving aside the obvious question of why the Martin government scuttled the thing in the first place (Anne Macllelan anyone?) the Liberals current minority status creates a conundrum. If this doesn’t pass, the Conservatives are going to look an awful lot like neo-Conservatives who want to restrict what the people of Canada can do and the Liberals are going to have a very easy time painting this picture in about 18 months. If the bill passes, with Conservative support, there’s a very real risk of alienating a key support base.

Aren’t minority governments fun? I can’t help but wonder how Mr. Harper is going to navigate this one, particularly given the party’s commitment to increasing the number of free votes in Parliament.

Posted by skooter at 11:00 PM

July 1, 2004
Canada Elections, 2004

Our federal election is now 3 days past, with Vancouver going largely Liberal except for those seats that are traditionally NDP held. There are some positives here - at least Ian Waddell didn’t win Kingsway - but generally, I had higher hopes for Stephen Harper as Prime Minister.

It’s Canada Day - the 137th birthday of our country - and Mr. Martin is giving the requisite speech in Ottawa alongside Adrienne Clarkson. I won’t call him Prime Minister Martin - make no mistake, this guy stole the job by taking over his party with a take no prisoners attitude.

Today is, I suppose, a day to be happy. I’m doing my best.

Voter turnouts for this election were at an all time low, in a country in which turnouts are already ridiculously low.

Burnaby Douglas had 61.1%; Vancouver Kingsway showed 58.9% and Vancouver South even less.

Pundits are, naturally, wondering why.

A few theories:

  1. The release of results in Ontario early makes it less likely that people will vote in the west, since they already know what the government will be.
  2. People don’t trust politicians - any of them - and don’t think their vote matters.

There are a couple of problems with the first of these theories. Firstly, voter turnout in Ontario was just as low, if not lower than it was in the west. Scarborough-Rouge River showed 51%; even Toronto-Danforth, with Jack Layton & Dennis Mills aggressively working to get their vote out, showed only 65.4%. Nova Scotia’s Kings-Hants had a 62.5% turnout with turncoat MP Scott Brison taking the seat.

So the argument doesn’t really hold water. These aren’t exactly stellar numbers from anywhere in the country, no matter what the time zone was. East Coast results, in fact, provide evidence that may point to the second answer being a real part of the solution: the turnout in Charlottetown was 66.5% for this federal election while the 2003 provincial election had a turnout of 85%, despite the fact that it was the day that Hurricane Juan struck the island. Timing certainly could have been a factor though: a summer election isn’t ideal, and many parents may have been on vacation with their children. 20% of parents though? I doubt it. 5% might have been a believable number to blame on the timing.

Further fuel in favour of the second argument; polling showed that Canadians overwhelmingly didn’t trust Paul Martin with respect to the sponsorship scandal and they still voted the guy back into office, albeit with a minority government. When people are voting for a guy they don’t trust, you can be sure that even more people didn’t vote for a guy they couldn’t trust. Of course, one of the many proposed solutions is that we implement a proportional representation system in order to create a different balance in parliament. This solution is, of course, proposed only by those parties that lose (as are fixed election dates.)

Jack Layton’s NDP & the Green Party haven’t ever actually proposed the solution that that Harper conservatives did: that restoring integrity & accountability to government might encourage people to participate.

And that’s why I supported the Conservative Party in this election.

Posted by skooter at 11:02 PM

June 5, 2004
Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan just died, and although I never truly respected him as a President (Voodoo Economics, anyone?), this is sad.

Our campaign office had a visit from a padre (named Paul) in the Army reserves yesterday, and he told me a story about a veteran who attended a D-Day ceremony yesterday. While standing there, in full uniform with medals, this guy collapsed to the ground with what appeared to be a heart attack. Paul held his hand on the ride to the hospital and gave him the last rites just before he was pronounced dead.

Our heroes are disappearing - I only hope that people keep remembering them.

Posted by skooter at 11:08 PM
Tags: Economics, Obituaries

May 17, 2004
Separated At Birth?


 

Far be it from me to point out similarities, but check the two photos above. One is Gomez from the Addams Family, the other is Don Bell - the Liberal Candidate for North Vancouver.

Now Don had an office opening the other day - yesterday actually. I’m still a registered North Vancouver Liberal, and I didn’t get an invite. Does this sound like a guy who’s going to win?

Welcome to the game Don. This is the big leagues now.

Posted by skooter at 10:01 AM

March 12, 2004
That New Logo's One Bad Motha...

Liberal Party of CanadaThere’s a new Liberal logo in town and to quote Isaac Hayes it’s one bad motha…

Unforunately, I don’t mean that in an ironic way. This thing sucks. The best part though is the commentary on the web site:

“There can be no doubt that the logo we updated served the Party well. It spoke to the strong links between the Party and the country. It reflected an institution that remains young and dynamic. Most importantly, it symbolized the collective character of the Party’s membership - a coalition of Canadians rich in heritage, from every walk of life…good logos often become the visual embodiment of our hopes and dreams. In time, our new logo will build on our pride and offer us new meaning.”

Don’t believe me? Check for yourself.

I guess we’ve had this all wrong the whole time: Jean Chretien wasn’t the previous Prime Minister, the logo was.

Posted by skooter at 10:04 AM

March 6, 2004
Sheila Copps and the Liberal Party


Sheila Copps has, just now, lost her Liberal nomination fight against Tony Valeri. While not surprising, it’s certainly shocking.

Sheila was always a scrapper - brilliant at running the classic ground war campaign. She was also a left-leaning Liberal, and certainly not a good fit with Paul Martin’s right wing views.

This if further fuel for my view that Canadian political boundaries (left . centre . right) are being redrawn; the old labels and the stereotypes that go along with them are dead. When the dust settles, the Canadian balance will be different.

I don’t think (as some do) that this is the death of Social Liberalism in Canada; this is still the party that brought the constitution home with the increasingly important Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

In fact, if I have one key problem with all three Conservative leadership candidates, it’s the suggestion by all three of them that parliament should be the supreme legal body in Canada: do you really want Ted White (or Stephen Harper) sitting at the top of the pile that determines your individual rights and freedoms? If this is a country which is supposed to be founded on the principle of the individual, an independent appointed judiciary is important (although the process by which this judiciary is appointed is certainly questionable.)

Social Liberalism has changed: the population in general is more fiscally conservative and won’t tolerate large government deficits in this day and age. I refuse to believe, however, that this country will - for the rest of eternity - view everything through an economic prism: there is a social fabric in this country; this contract will continue to change and evolve, but it will not disappear.

Got doubts? Watch how many seats Jack Layton’s NDP wins in the next election. This will lead to an inevitable shift to the left in the Liberal party.

In the meantime, despite the fact that I felt she was a bit out of touch with Canada’s shift, I will miss Sheila, and so should you. She served Hamilton well for 20 years.

Posted by skooter at 9:54 PM

February 2, 2004
Offshore Banking, Martin Style

Paul Martin's Sheila Ann

That boat out there—-although its hard to tell—is the Sheila Ann parked in the Burrard Inlet on January 29th; the Sheila Ann is owned by a little company called Canada Steamship Lines which is (sorry…was) owned by a guy named Paul Martin who is now your Prime Minister. Seemed to be riding a little low in the water: I wonder how much space $160 million dollars might occupy?

Posted by skooter at 10:16 AM
Tags: Boats, Liberals, Paul Martin, Politics, Vancouver

January 19, 2004
The Scream

One word for Howard Dean:

Ouch.

Posted by skooter at 10:19 AM
Tags: Howard Dean, Politics

January 12, 2004
Gun Control: A Modest Proposal

Warren Kinsella had this to say a couple of days ago:

According to the Globe, the gun control system is now being “targeted” - tell that to the 14 families who recall what happened at l’Éole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989. Tell the families of these women that Canada’s system of gun control is not, quote unquote, “a meaningful law.”

He followed this by printing the names of the women who were killed that day; this, of course, is very much a sensationalist way of getting a point across and doesn’t focus on the real issue: the list of people killed in automobilie accidents would be longer, but is unlikely to create the same sense of outrage among readers.

Two basic points to be made here: first, gun control is absolutely necessary - absolutely; second, the current system has spiraled out of control and is not a realistic way of implementing a system when it’s already too late.

I present here my basic platform for an implementable gun control system:

Don’t think this would work? Email me and tell me why.

Posted by skooter at 11:24 PM
Tags: Globe and Mail, Gun Control, Warren Kinsella

January 11, 2004
Blogging in the U.S. Presidential Campaign

Catching up on U.S. election news, the good folks at Campaigns Online provided a link to an interesting piece on NPR about the use of Blogs in the 2004 presidential campaign.

This - as often happens - sent my mind spinning in a number of directions, some relevant and others note. Here we go:

Posted by skooter at 11:26 PM
Tags: Blogging, CBC, NPR

December 30, 2003
Politics and Integrity may not mix

Well, yet another BC government is being investigated in a criminal investigation. OK, well - not the government, per se but a number senior staffers.

Premier Campbell—calling from his annual holiday and favourite photo shoot spot, Hawaii—has said that he doesn’t think the investigation will harm the integrity of his government.

Of course, with flip flops on privatization, a famously drunk premier, an education minister who barely finished high school, an increase in unemployment, a complete and utter failure to deal with the softwood lumber crisis and failed promises of tax cuts that would pay for themselves there’s an obvious question here:

What, exactly, does Campbell think his government retains in the way of integrity?

December 18, 2003
Welcome Home

Our country got richer today by several people, but only one that I know: welcome Jessica Yngvesson as a Canadian. It’s as much hers as yours now.

Posted by skooter at 9:51 AM
Tags: Citizenship, Friends

December 16, 2003
Conspiracy theories are really too much fun

Well now, here’s an interesting little situation.

John Manley has turned down Paul Martin’s offer of a Washington posting; no surprise there.

Today, it’s announced that he’s been appointed to chair an enquiry into what can only be described as a management fiasco at Ontario Power Generation.

Now, it just so happens that the appointment was made by Dalton McGuinty.

Dalton’s brother - David - is currently seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa South. As it turns out this riding is currently held by the soon to resign John Manley.

But I’m not saying there’s a connection here.

Posted by skooter at 12:00 AM
Tags: Conspiracies, John Manley, Paul Martin

December 11, 2003
If this is what it's like to be Mayor, why would anyone want to be Prime Minister?

I’m trying to dig up reviews of a book called The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and the Struggle to Save New York City to see if I should buy it, and I stumble across this quote from Lindsay:

[Being mayor is] like being a bitch in heat. You stand still and you get screwed, you start running and you get bit in the ass,” wrote John Lindsay in his 1976

This, naturally, leads me to wonder how Larry Campbell has been feeling lately.

Posted by skooter at 11:55 PM

December 10, 2003
Pink hearts, purple moons and lucky clovers!

Since Scott Brison decided he was going to switch to the Liberal party (ostensibly because he thinks that Paul Martin is “The Right Guy For The Job”™, I thought I’d do a little digging into where he’s coming from. Interesting things popping up all over the place.

Here we go:

Auditor General Sheila Fraser recently exposed some of the financial manoeuvres that the Liberal government has been undertaking…Imagine, this Liberal government misleading Canada!…when the government says that it has reduced the debt by so many dollars, this is not exactly the case, because really it’s money from the EI account that is being applied to a different account.” — November 18, 2002

Scott Brison, the Tory finance critic, agreed. “That is clearly the appearance and, you know, perception is reality. I think this is another example of Paul Martin suffering from an internal conflict of interest between his role as finance minister and his role as Liberal leadership candidate,” Brison said in an interview. “This fails any reasonable ethics test.” — April 7, 2002

And in a shot a Liberal heir apparent Paul Martin, but perhaps MacKay as well, Brison scorned politicians who “avoid risk and try to avoid saying something that somebody, somewhere might disagree with some part of.” — January 29, 2003

But really folks - really - this one takes the cake. This is the most precious thing this man has ever said.

“The Minister [Paul Martin] is obviously afraid of Parliament,” said Mr. Brison. “He continually demonstrates this lack of respect for, and in fact, a contempt for Parliament…He is hoping to detract and reduce levels of debate around the budget.” — December 6, 2001

I wonder how Mr. Martin feels about being called “in contempt of Parliament” today? Perhaps he and Mr. Radwanksi could double date?

December 5, 2003
I'm just so darned cute

Well, the Alliance’ has voted in favour of a merger with the Tories set to do so tomorrow. It’s a big day.

The picture is me - taken in 1973. Wish I still had that shirt.

Posted by skooter at 9:43 AM
Tags: Canadian Alliance, Skot Nelson

December 3, 2003
Maybe it actually is the Reform Party?

Ha ha. That’s funny.

Gilles Duceppe has called Bloc Quebecois MP Robert Lanctot an “opportunist” for switching sides and joining the governing Liberals.

So what - exactly - would you call the leader of a party that is - by its very definition - a regional protest party participaing in the national government of a country which it is, by definition, bent on destroying.

(And no, the answer is not “The Reform Party”)!

Posted by skooter at 9:52 AM

November 28, 2003
Are east coast ferries more important than west coast ferries?

According to a story on CBC Newsworld’s web site, the Canada Industrial Relations Board has just declared ferries that run from Port-aux-Basques, NF to North Sydney, NS an essential service.

(That sound you just heard - the distant one in your head - is BC Ferries’ union leaders collectively grabbing at straws.)

This now means that ferry workers can’t strike. Give that BC Ferries is currently in negotiations for a new contract, this is BIG news on the west coast (although I hvae yet to hear anybody talk about it.)

What impact the newly privatized nature of the BC service has, I’m not sure.

I’ve always proposed a simple solution to the problem of public transportation utilities and strikes - one that would apply to buses, subways, ferries and just about any other scheduled operation: when contracts are negotiated, the Union needs to agree to a holiday service level (say, 50% of normal service.) Any strike would be required to maintain this holiday service level at a minimum, thus avoiding the wholesale shutdown of critical services such as the TTC or the entire Translink service. Basically, the idea is that the worst case scenario is Christmas Day service.

I’m sure somebody will point out to me why this is unworkable for some obscure legal reason: phooey - it’s just a matter of political will.

Posted by skooter at 9:27 AM

November 16, 2003
If 10 years of experience is new, than I'm new to this internet stuff

Here’s what I don’t get: how can anybody in this country see Paul Martin as a new political force when he’s been a part - not just a small one either, but a big one - of the Liberal administration since 1988 (in opposition and government). For God’s sake, the guy was Minister of Finance from 1993 to 2002!

I mean - I’m a Liberal, but I’m also a pragmatist.

I also live in B.C., and don’t believe for a minute that Paul Martin is going to follow through with any real change that will indicate that Ottawa is paying more attention to the west.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe. I still say the guy is old news, and I’m amazed that the public is biting.

November 13, 2003
If only Mr. Martin could be this spontaneous

Just had the pleasure of listening to CBC’s The Current with Anna-Maria Tremonte; for my money, one of the best programs on the air.

Anna-Maria was interviewing Jean Chretien on this, the opening day of the Liberal leadership convention. It was a wide ranging interview with no specific topic, and Chretien was in fine form.

My favourite moment was when Anna-Maria asked him if he was going to remain Prime Minister until February, to which Mr. Chretien replied (after a moment’s pause for consideration):

“Possibly….Why you losing your time; I’m not going to slip on a banana peel like that.”

Posted by skooter at 11:53 PM

October 20, 2003
Toronto? Now there's a town that knows how to pick a mayor!

I must say, it’s enjoyable watching the insanity that is Toronto’s municipal politics from a distance. I’m in no way suggesting that Vancouver is perfect - I mean, nothing here really makes sense - but at least we’re moving onwards with resolutions to some issues. Toronto just keeps arguing about the same things.

So John Tory - the Mayor Apparent, from this vantage point at least - has released his “Green Light Plan” which suggests, in part:

Really, so much of this is laughable that it feels pointless to comment on this. In brief:

All I can say is voters usually get what they deserve, and in this case that looks like John Tory. Don’t forget: this man supported Mel Lastman aggressively.

Posted by skooter at 11:51 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Politics, Public Transit, Toronto

October 16, 2003
Merger, Sch-merger

Well, the Progressive Conservatives & the Canadian Alliance are finally getting together, right on the heels of the launch of my most recent mini-project. I’m not saying the web site had anything to do with it, but really: isn’t that way better than either of the ones they’ve been able to come up with.

I suppose as a loyal member of the federal Liberal party I’m supposed to be fairly upset about this: it certainly puts a wrinkle the plans for another 100 years of Liberal majority governments (although it’s likely to have only a modest effect on the looming 2004 election-cum-coronation of Paul Martin. Really, I can’t see this as anything but good: with real opposition, the Liberal government will be forced to do something - anything - to convince Canadians that the country (which has been fairly apathetic) is moving in the right direction.

All of the above is - of course- predicated on the fact that Mike Harris does not become the leader of any new entity. That’s just scary.

Posted by skooter at 8:28 PM

January 15, 2003
Friends of Larry Campbell? With friends like this who needs anymore?

Not my letter, but one written by a current Larry Campbell booster.

Politics may breed strange bedfellows, but consistency is important and this does not represent it well.

Larry Campbell’s monumental indecisiveness after only two months in office is paying worthy tribute to British Columbia’s long line of lacklustre leadership.

Campbell campaigned on a promise for an unnecessary referendum on the Olympics, apparently to properly gauge the resolve of Vancouverites. This promise then devolved into a plebiscite scheduled ten days before the IOC visits the city. Now to top it all off, Campbell has now indicated that the the will of the electorate is irrelevent, as he has pledged to sign the host city agreement regardless of the results.

Mr. Campbell knew all along that his campaign promise to put the question of hosting the Olympics to Vancouver residents was empty. This is only compounded by his missed deadline of January 1st for Vancouver’s first safe injection facility. Instead of biting the bullet and sticking to his word, Campbell is quickly eroding any credibility that he was bestowed with his decisive election victory.

In my opinion, it is the wrong Campbell that people are worried about in terms of jeopardizing Vancouver’s Olympic bid. Gordon might be hosed, but Larry is the one that is all wet.

Jonathan Ross
218-1001 W. 43rd. Ave.
Vancouver, BC
V6M 2B8

Posted by skooter at 7:53 PM
Tags: Flip Flop, Liberals, Municipal, Politics

November 2, 2002
New York 1, Vancouver 0

According to today’s New York Times, New York city is the official U.S. bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic games. This, in my view, officially negates Vancouver’s chances almost to nothing.

Posted by skooter at 8:31 PM

October 26, 2002
Carrot Juice is Murder

From the Terminal City web site

CARROT JUICE IS MURDER
On Tuesday night, Jon Ellis, a [vca]TEAM candidate for City Council, told an all-candidates forum on animal rights issues, sponsored by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), that plants, fruits and vegetables are sentient beings. Ellis, along with other council candidates, was asked if he would support an initiative to instruct City staff to purchase only free-range eggs for City operations that offer aborted fowl matter to Vancouverites. When two candidates told the audience they were vegetarians (one of whom opined that it would be prudent to explain to potential consumers that eggs come from a chicken’s ass, as a way of dissuading them from eating the cholesterol time-bombs) Ellis visibly shrugged. When it was his turn at the mic, Ellis stepped forward and told the animal lovers, “There is irrefutable scientific evidence that carrots scream in agony when they are cut.” Fellow TEAM Council candidate, Nancy Chiavario, was not available for comment at press time.

Yes, this is one of the people I am working with, and ostensibly supporting. Man am I proud.

Posted by skooter at 10:55 PM
Tags: Elections, Vancouver, vcaTEAM

November 1, 2001
Astaxanthin? If I can't pronounce it, should I really be eating it?
“When the fish near market size, farmers add astaxanthin, a pigment similar to beta-carotene, to their feed to give their gray flesh a salmony pinkish glow…The pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche, a leading supplier of astaxanthin to salmon farms, distributes a “SalmoFan” - kind of like a paint-store swatch - to let farmers perfect the desired hue.”
- "Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest", Bruce Barcott, Mother Jones, November/December 2001 pp. 45

Posted by skooter at 11:41 PM

October 9, 2001
Mel Lastman could screw anything up

Since leaving Toronto, I haven’t really been saying bad things about the place but I certainly haven’t missed it. On my last visit there, it finally struck me as a beautiful place in a very different way than Vancouver - particularly as night fell. There’s something magic about night falling on a city: the silhouettes of buildings offer a stark contrast against the sky, and the artificial lights begin to let off their glow.

The doors of the subway, as it left Warden station, shone like silver, masking the ugliness most people see within.

Now if only you could get rid of Mel Lastman.

Posted by skooter at 5:19 PM

July 30, 2001
Doughnuts Rule

bq.. I’m gettin’ off the grid man
I’m goin’ to the foothills of alberta with a gun and a generator
A great big generator ‘cause i’m gonna need lots of doughnuts

_- Connie, Prairie Correspondent, This Hour Has 22 Minutes_

Posted by skooter at 11:36 PM
Tags: 22 Minutes, Alberta, CBC, Prairies

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