Monday, November 16, 2009

3 weeks after the H1N1 vaccine and all is well

As of tomorrow it will have been 3 weeks since I received the H1N1 shot, and I'm happy to report that all is well. I haven't blogged in a while, but that had nothing to do with getting the vaccine, the only side effect I experienced was a sore right arm.

In earlier entries I'd expressed doubts about the need for the vaccine, which may have regular readers of this space wondering...'Why the change'?

Allow me to explain.

My ex-wife and I had discussed whether or not to vaccinate our two children. Given their excellent health we didn't think it was necessary and were going to take a pass. That all changed with the news of Evan Frustaglio death from the virus, the 13 year old hockey player from Mississauga.

I can't even begin to imagine the pain and anguish associated with the passing of a son or daughter, but I know that this one child's passing had a tremendous impact on parents all over the country. Because the vaccine wasn't available when Evan fell ill, his parents never had the opportunity to have him immunized. For my ex and I, we had a decision to make.

Buddy and Raspberry's Mom called our family doctor and she was told there would be a clinic at the Pickering Town Centre that Tuesday evening, October 27th . Tuesdays are one of my days to pick up the kids and give them dinner, so she called me and said the clinic would be open from 4 PM to 8 PM that evening. Our discussion didn't last long, while we agreed it was unlikely that either would get seriously ill from swine-flu, it wasn't a chance either of us was willing to take.

As far as I'm aware that was the very first date public clinics were being opened, and there was no talk yet of shortages or priority lists. Given that we would be having the kids roll up their sleeves, it only seemed fair that Mom and Dad should do likewise. We couldn't very well tell the kids that they had to endure a needle, but that Mom and Dad wouldn't be doing likewise.

Given the amount of skepticism about the need for the shot I didn't anticipate a huge response, so I asked Mom to pick us up around 6 that evening, after dinner. Boy was I wrong! When we arrived the line snaked all the way around the large food court, and had been cut off at the two hour wait point. We were directed to an overflow line, and we were told that someone would let us know whether or not the clinic would be extended.

Ultimately the clinic stayed open until 10 PM and we were told that everyone currently in line would be seen, and that's how long it took. In point of fact it was probably about 10:15 before we'd all received our shot, short and almost totally painless...even according to a 5 and 10 year old.

Of course if we'd known there were going to be shortages of the vaccine my ex and I would have taken a pass, but I'm confident we still would have had the kids vaccinated. For those still wavering on a decision I can tell you that all of us are fine, nothing to report aside from the aforementioned sore arms.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why aren't YOU getting the H1N1 Vaccine?

Back on the 8th of October I conducted a highly unscientific poll, asking readers if they'd be getting the flu shot or not. Of the forty two people who identified themselves as being low risk, thirty one said no (74%). Even among the fifteen who said they were in a high risk group, ten out of fifteen said no (67%).

Those numbers match up pretty well with more reputable polling I've seen, and has left me wondering why.

The government and various media outlets have been conducting what I consider to be pretty much of a full court press in an effort to convince Canadians that just about everyone should be rolling up their sleeves. But unless the overwhelming majority of us are lying, most won't bother.

Why not? I think there are likely a number of reasons.

A lack of trust in government and the drug companies. For those of a conspiratorial bent you might enjoy reading what Rense.Com has to say, here's a snippet:

Some are concerned that the clinical trials aren't enough to ensure the vaccine's safety. The H1N1 shot has certainly been delivered at break neck speed, and some wonder if a few weeks is enough to properly gauge the potential for adverse reactions.

Still....I suspect that there's a bigger reason at play for the vast majority who will refuse to be immunized. Call it the "OW" factor. Let's face it, there are many who just plain don't like getting a needle stuck in their arm and will avoid it at all costs.

Here's another poll, let's see those reasons:

Why aren't you getting the H1N1 shot?
Lack of trust in government and/or drug companies.
Not enough testing
Ow!!! I hate needles!!!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Debate on global warming heats up - And misses the point

The global warming debate has been raging for a while now, with many arguing over the impact man made carbon emissions are having on the planet and climate. Those in the Al Gore camp contend we humans need to drastically cut our carbon footprint or face an environmental catastrophe. Others say the science is flawed and that any changes in climate are the result of normal cycles, periods of cooling and warming that this planet has undergone for aeons.

So which is it? I for one don't really care, I just want to see a cleaner environment for my children.

Has the planet's climate changed during my lifetime? There's no doubt in my mind. Growing up in the seventies my mother never worried about covering me from head to toe in sun screen when I was outside for fifteen minutes. Sunburns were de rigeur during my childhood summers. Newscasts were about fires and murders, not the shrinking polar ice cap.

Oh we were concerned about the environment back in the day, but not globally. We had more simple worries back then. You know, things like smog polluting our air, clean water, endangered species and contaminated soil. There were plenty of tree-huggers around reminding us about what we were doing to the planet, but they had trouble holding our attention. In our consumer driven society new cars and newer toys were a lot sexier than saving whales or pandas.

That all changed when the threat of global warming took hold. Suddenly words like 'clean energy' seeped into the collective vocabulary. People started worrying about going green, recycling and composting became the norm. Almost everyone was willing to do their part to stop us from frying ourselves and destroying the planet that is our home.

Now some are suggesting that our efforts may be useless, that this big green movement has been a hoax. Efforts to cut the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere are openly questioned, with many worrying about the effects on our economy.

And that's a shame.

Even if global warming is not man made, concern over its effects had people engaging in efforts that were reducing smog, cleaning up the water supply and eliminating contamination from our soil. I know I'd much rather live in a world with clean soil, air and water, even if there has to be a period of negative impact on our economy.

If Canada's woodland caribou had a voice in the matter I'm sure they'd be hoping for continued concern on the environmental front. I'll be writing later about the debate over allowing logging in Ontario's northern boreal forest, logging which could severely impact the 5,000 animals still living there.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy 30th Birthday to Hip Hop...damn I'm getting old

Hip hop, rap, house...hard to believe its been about 30 years. BBC is heralding this as the 30th anniversary of Hip Hop because it was 30 years ago when Rappers Delight by 'The Sugar Hill Gang' topped the charts.

You know you're getting old when the music you grew up qualifies as nostalgia. Enjoy the video, and just think...many of the people dancing are now collecting Old Age Security, and some are even grandparents.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mortgage rates creeping up, a sign of things to come...

If you've been listening to the news then you know that posted mortgage rates at some of Canada's biggest banks have edged up .35 %, you can read about it HERE AT CTV. To put it in more tangible terms that equates to about a 7% increase in carrying costs as compared to current rates.

Our fragile economic recovery hinges on the ability of consumers to take on debt, and with rates climbing that means more money going to interest payments and less circulating in the general economy. In layman's terms....this ain't good.

Where do you think housing prices will be next summer in a climate of increased taxation (hello HST) and higher mortgage payments? The U.S. economy started its slide as many American homeowners woke up to find themselves owing more on their homes than they were worth. The technical term is negative equity...more common language used by underwater property owners is "holy sheet, we're screwed".

Canada's real estate markets are just coming off a steriod induced buying frenzy the past 6 months or so, with bidding wars taking place among frantic buyers worried that they would be missing out on the buying oppourtunity of a lifetime. Not much different from people who invested in oil last year at over $100 a barrel or the tech stock geniuses of the late nineties.

Interest rates don't have to climb into double digits for our housing market to take a nose dive, even a modest climb to just 6% will have 'For Sale' signs popping up like dandelions. A mere 10% drop in equity will have a significant number of home owners owing more on their homes than the property is worth.

Higher taxes, higher debt payments, higher might just be time to legalize marajuana, at least that's a high that can be enjoyed.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Taking the time to give thanks...

The harvest is in, the food stored up for the approaching cold, and so we reflect and give thanks. Thanks for the bounty we’ve enjoyed, and thanks for that which has been put aside to sustain us through the coming dark days of winter.

I’ve often thought that an essential part of the Canadian character is our propensity to complain. We complain about the weather, about our governments, about our hockey teams…especially those of us who cheer for Toronto’s blue and white.

We have so much to be thankful for, both individually and as a society. But perhaps it is our vast wealth that spoils us. Having so much we crave even more.

Those with strong family ties think little of the countless people on this planet whose families have been torn apart by famine, disease, conflict and poverty. We moan about the coming onslaught of winter, forgetting that the change of seasons gives us brilliant fall colours, the sweet smells of spring and the languid days of summer. We may not like the people who govern us, but our leaders are chosen from among us, and we have the right to replace them unlike many corners of the globe.

We have lots to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my children, a son and a daughter who brighten my days. For a father who has always been there for me, and who always will be. For a recently passed mother, the memory of whom has sustained me through many a dark hour. I’m thankful for my sister and brother and their spouses and their children, my niece and my nephews. I’m thankful for my family, a circle that grows stronger as it expands.

I’m thankful to my special lady and to my friends. We live in a busy world, and often there isn’t as much time as we’d like to have together. But the time we do have is cherished, and for that I am grateful.

I’m thankful for this country. We have peace and we have prosperity, and where’s there’s conflict and want we have people working to see these blessings extended to all. I’m thankful to the people who stand along the 401 when fallen soldiers pass by, even though many are opposed to the conflict in which this nation is engaged, we honour their bravery, commitment and sacrifice.

I’m thankful for all that has kept me going, and all that has been stocked up for the journey ahead.

Enjoy the feast, enjoy your family and enjoy your friends. And when gathered together, if conversation turns toward some complaint or minor grievance, don’t forget to also give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will you get the H1N1 vaccine? (Poll Question)

Reports are out telling us that the much discussed H1N1 vaccine will be out in November, the question remains though, will Canadians be rolling up their sleeves.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, is reported as saying that approval is expected later this month, with clinical trails being done to determine whether one or two doses will be needed. And we're still waiting for confirmation that the regular seasonal flu shot may actually increase a person's risk of getting Swine Flu.

So, when it comes to the H1N1 vaccine...will you be getting the shot?

I won't, but then I'm one of those guys who typically avoids trips to the doctor unless its absolutely required. In fact I don't think I've ever had any sort of flu shot, not in the last twenty plus years anyway.

I'm also something of a contrarian thinker, meaning efforts put into convincing me to do something tend to have the opposite effect. If health officials really want to persuade people like me, they'd do better with a little reverse psychology.

Don't bother with the flu shot, you probably don't need it.
-Now that would get me thinking -

Of course this isn't the regular old run of the mill flu, or so we're being told. For regular influenza high risk groups typically include seniors, those under five years of age and people with underlying health conditions.

With H1N1 we're being told that older individuals may have a built in immunity. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control is saying that people aged 6 months to 24 years are actually higher risk for H1N1 than seniors.

Health officials are trying to combat many of the fears concerning the Swine Flu shot, a major concern is the speed with which its being developed. That has some worried that public safety could be comprimised. And of course there's the conspiracy crowd who are suspicious of any government controlled program being foisted on the general population.

I'm interested in reading as many comments as possible, and in seeing the results of the poll. According to CBC news those at high risk are:

-People with chronic medical conditions under the age of 65.
-Pregnant women
-Children six months of age to under five years of age.
-People living in remote and isolated settings or communities.
-Health-care workers involved in pandemic response or who deliver essential health services.

Will you be getting the H1N1 vaccine?
I'm in a high risk group - YES
I'm in a high risk group - NO
I'm in a low risk group - YES
I'm in a low risk group - NO
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remembering the bad old days of balanced budgets and a growing economy...

Attention spans aren't what they used to be, anything that happened 24 hours ago is already old news. You see it everywhere, people have trouble remembering a conversation from just ten minutes earlier. When I go to Tim Hortons and order an UNtoasted bagel, I pull away and check the bag to find that...yeppers...its been toasted.

Now all of a sudden Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are sound managers of the economy. Our economist PM, (who incidentally has never worked one day as an economist) bloats the size of government to its largest size ever, racks up the biggest debt in the nation's history, and can't provide a budget forecast that stands up to scrutiny for more than 5 minutes.

This is sound economic policy?

What are the solutions to a recession wreaking havoc with the economy and government coffers bleeding red ink? Red ink that at least partially resulted from increasing government spending while systematically reducing government revenues while times were still good.

Borrow, borrow...and then borrow some more people, just like your government.

Interest rates are set at historical lows, meaning consumers can load up on cheap debt to buy houses and finance expensive home renovation projects. Take your old car and get a new one with wads of government cash as an incentive to rack up even more debt.

Who cares that in the coming years many individuals debt servicing costs are going to climb higher and higher. Instead of having money for things like groceries or vacations, Canadians will be seeing more and more of their $$$ going toward paying off mortgages and loans as interest rates climb.

Just look at the recent news from Australia.

What's that future Canadian, leveraged to the hilt? Your mortgage is up for renewal and your carrying costs have doubled? Thank the Harper government of a few years back. What??? You don't remember Stephen Harper? I'm not surprised.

In a few years time the concept of discretionary spending may very well be joining 8-Track tapes on the trash heap of history.

Our dollar is again climbing sky high, meaning our manufacturing sector will continue to bleed jobs. More people in the labour market means more concessions from employees, and lower wage demands in an increasingly competitive job market.

And all this is happening as retirees worry if their pension funds will be able to sustain the mass exodus of baby boomers from the work force.

Oh yeah...Stephen Harper and his gang are doing a great job.

Hard to believe that just a few short years back we were paying down the accumulated debt, not adding to it in record numbers. Does anyone still remember when our Prime Minister was busy pursuing increased trade with emerging economies like China, instead of doing interviews for U.S. media outlets? Are there more than a dozen people out there who can recall our period of unprecedented economic growth, when unemployment was half of what it is now?

Thank goodness we came to our senses and switched direction.

If there is any justice in this world Stephen Harper will be manning the window at my local Tim Horton's in a few years time. And I just know he'll toast my bagel, the same way he's toasting Canada's quickly fading prosperity.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

U.S. facing a bigger threat than terrorism - Oil trade moving to other currencies

There can be little dispute that in the post WWII world, the United States has been the world's preeminent economic power. Its no coincidence her economic strength came in tandem with military might, empowered to ensure the protection of American business interests around the globe.

Living in the shadow of the world's only current superpower, (with China quickly gaining ground) our news often lacks a truly global perspective. Such is certainly the case with reports about Arab nations teaming secretly with China, Russia and France to move away from the US dollar for trading in oil. You can read about it HERE in the UK's Independent, I haven't seen anything on CNN, ABC/NBC/CBS or CBC/CTV.

Those who might be quick to dismiss such news don't fully grasp the significance of global money markets and the potential for a seismic shift in the world's balance of power should such a move come to fruition.

Because almost all of the world's buying and selling of oil is transacted in US dollars, the greenback's valuation has an almost iron clad backstop against catastrophic devaluation. Countries trading in oil must keep huge deposits of US dollars in reserve. Moving to other currencies, (the Euro, Ruble or Yuan) would mean nations divesting themselves of Benjamin Franklins on a massive the trillions of dollars.

What effect would this have on the US dollar?

The results would be devastating. Contrary to the knowledge of many, there is no gold or silver standard backing up the valuation of America's currency. There are no underground vaults with stores of precious metals, no concrete tangible commodity...nothing holding up the currency's valuation aside from the normal pressures of supply and demand. The U.S. dollar, and the Canadian dollar for that matter, are "fiat" currencies.

With just about all the world's oil trading being conducted in the greenback, this assures there is always plenty of demand for American money.

It should be noted that prior to the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had started demanding payment for Iraqi oil in Euros or Rubles, not US dollars. Iran as well has announced that it is moving its cash reserves from dollars to euros, this after opening their "Oil Bourse" for the trading of petroleum products based mostly in the European currency.

For those who believe that almost all conflicts between nations are borne out of economic considerations, this should provide extra food for thought with respect to both the Iraq war and the current sabre rattling in the direction of Tehran. It certainly lends credence to a view expressed very well by Eric Margolis, that the U.S. is being less than honest about the discovery of Iran's "secret" uranium enrichment plant near Qum, a plant that has been a known quantity for more than two years. (READ ERIC MARGOLIS' COLUMN HERE)

The economy of the United States is already under severe stress, a mass dumping of U.S. dollars on the world's currency markets could very well be seen as a fatal blow. With a massive trade deficit, all the products Americans currently import would very quickly succumb to hyper-inflation. Of course the products Americans sell abroad would dive in price, but therein lies the problem...the U.S. has not been a net exporter for ages.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on, but it requires looking beyond corporate American media. A quote from the above linked article by a Chinese bank official says all we need to know about the significance this move could bring:

"America and Britain must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate."

The denials are already out, here's one from Bloomberg.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Like it or not, Harper is on a roll....

Those who took great delight in the travails of Stephen Harper over the summer are likely none too pleased with more recent developments. The blogosphere tends to be extremely partisan in nature, and objectivity is often a scarce commodity.

But love him or loathe him, the fact is Harper is on something of a roll.

I'm not going to suggest that a run of good press and good optics is going to suddenly convert legions of detractors into fans....the news hasn't been that good. But for the majority of Canadians who are more interested in hockey and reality TV shows than politics, recent events likely have them feeling at least a little more warm and fuzzy about Canada's Prime Minister.

Back in July I wrote about Harper's Summer of Discontent, detailing the numerous blunders and scandals that were plaguing the Tories. Wafergate was hardly anything major, but it did cast the Conservative leader in a negative light. More damaging was the mess over the funding of GLBT -Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender- events across the country. It harkened back to the days of the "scary" Reform/Alliance parties. Soon thereafter Harper was going all pitt-bull over a quote misatributed to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff while on the world stage at the G8 conference in Italy.

Then, to top it all off, came news from Parliament's budgetary watch dog Dale Orr that Jim Flaherty's budget projections were totally out to lunch...again. Others like Kevin Page of Economic Insight, supported Mr. Orr's numbers, while dismissing the Conservative Finance Minister's forecasts.

Of course all that happened during the summer, when people are at the cottage or the trailer. I don't know that its yet been scientifically proven, but I strongly suspect that the smell of meat on a BBQ greatly diminishes the ability of the average citizen to digest any meaningful news.

So what has changed for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in the past few weeks, as summer faded into fall?

Polling has shown support for the Tories to be very resilient, with their numbers hovering in and around 35% nationally. While that doesn't quite put them in majority territory, it does suggest that the electorate hasn't fallen in love with either Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton. Given a summer of bad press, that had to be seen as a big positive for those on Canada's right.

I don't think its unreasonable to think those numbers might get a boost should news come out that Canada has been exempted from 'Buy American' measures as is widely speculated. The CBC, Globe and Mail and CanWest are all reporting that serious progress is being made in this regard. Its hard to see how developments in this area could have anything but positive results for Stephen Harper's Conservative government vis a vis their standing with Canadian voters.

And it would be folly to underestimate voter animosity toward Ruby Dhalla's private member's bill, proposing to shorten the amount of time immigrants need to be in Canada before qualifying for certain aspects of Old Age Security. On a personal level I have yet to encounter one individual who thinks positively about this proposed legislation, and that includes new-comers to Canada.

Finally, worst of all for those of us who would like nothing better than to see Stephen forced into a new career, comes the PM's touchy feely performance at the National Arts Centre.

Those who are quick to dismiss Harper's performance on stage, tickling the ivories while warbling not too shabily to the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" don't understand politics in this modern era of sound bytes and video clips.

Bill Clinton jammed on Johnny Carson with his saxophone, Obama danced with Ellen. While these antics have no inherent value...they do resonate with many voters. Harper's public personna has always been very stoney and contrived, and like it or not, his little turn on the piano will go a long way to softening that image.

Of course momentum in politics can be fleeting, governing during a time of increasing expenditures and declining revenues is not typically a time when sitting governments perform well with voters.

When the election writ is finally dropped, Harper is going to need all the help he can get.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Note to the Liberals and NDP, give it a rest

bully 1 Pictures, Images and Photos
Hypocrites calling hypocrites hypocrites, while the governing hypocrites sit back and smile. That, in a nutshell, is Ottawa these days.

Its all been said before, I'm just adding a little kindling to the fire.

The Liberals propped up Stephen Harper's for months, while the NDP chided them about forming a coalition with the governing Tories. Now the Liberals have withdrawn their support and are pointing fingers at the NDP for doing what they were doing for more than two years. Harper rails against alliances with socialists and separatists, conveniently forgetting his own wheeling and dealing with the same parties just a couple of years back.

Give it a rest guys, Canadians aren't stupid. We know this is all gamesmenship, so tone down the rhetoric and ease up on the hyperbole.

Here's a newsflash for Misters Ignatieff and Layton, polling still indicates that a majority of Canadians oppose the Harper government. With that being said, even with just 35% or so support of decided voters...that makes Stephen Harper king of the castle. All Mike and Jack are doing is pushing each other down the mountain, leaving the Conservatives relatively comfortable.

Jack and Mike don't have to work together, all they have to do is focus their attacks accross the aisle instead of on each other. We'll have an election when time and circumstance place the opposition parties on the same page, or when Stephen Harper decides to pull the plug himself...and not before.

Waiting things out a little longer may prove wise, given that cracks are already showing in our fragile economic recovery. A short lived spike borne of cheap interest rates, cash for clunkers and home rennovation tax credits is already losing steam. Take Harper and his cronies to task over their many failings, and leave each other alone.

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Will Tories get the flu today?

Speculation has been rampant as to whether the NDP will vote confidence in the government today, or perhaps simply have enough members absent to tip the numbers in favour of the Conservatives.

Another thought occured to me this morning. What if a significant number of sitting Conservatives called in sick and tipped the vote in favour of the Liberals? I don't know that it has any chance of happening, but it makes for interesting speculation.

Many figure that Harper is just itching for the chance to go to the polls, if only the right trigger could be found to push his numbers into majority territory. Engineering a defeat of a confidence motion might seem extreme, but I wouldn't put anything past our Prime Minister if it boded well for a chance at majority rule.

The Liberals could be blamed for forcing an unwanted election, with Harper going into full rant about this being the last thing Canada needs, even though its probably the thing Stephen most wants.

Just some idle speculation on the first day of October. Any thoughts?

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

If Ontario can sue tobacco companies, can smokers sue Ontario's government?

smoking blond Pictures, Images and Photos

You may have seen the news today that the government of Ontario is planning to sue tobacco companies for $50 billion dollars in an effort to recoup the costs related to treating smokers. According to the lawsuit tobacco companies inflicted harm on the citizens of Ontario by disregarding public health through the promotion and sale of cigarettes.

Alrightee then, let me take a deep drag and think this one through.

The government of Ontario regulates and generates revenue from the sale of cigarettes, in effect making them a party to any wrongdoing, at least in this blogger's not always so humble opinion. In fact, in the above linked Globe and Mail article, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco refers to the government of Ontario as a, "senior partner" given the billions generated in tax revenue over the years.

Sounds about right to me.

Politicians are well versed in the sport that is sucking and blowing at the same time, but this takes the practice to an entriely new level. If the government is successful in its efforts then smokers should be able to sue the government for compensation as well.

Why the hell not?

Tobacco companies knew their products were harmful to people's health, but sold them anyway. Government knew about the risks as well, but allowed cigarettes to be sold. Before launching any lawsuits, governments should first ban the sale of smokes. I'm not employed in the legal profession, but it strikes me as pretty weak for the government to be suing over something it both condones and profits from.

What possible argument could government lawyers have to contradict claims by smokers? Were politicians aware of the health risks associated with smoking? Of course. Did they enact legislation banning the sale of this harmful product? No. The tax revenues were just too damn appealing to pass up, as attractive as the woman in the picture above.

Make smoking illegal, then after the government is done having their lawyers pick over the carcasses of the tobacco companies, smokers should then be allowed to go after the government.

If there are any lawyers out there thinking of a class action suit, feel free to contact me...I'll have my pen ready.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blogging Tories go hunting for the hundred acre wood...

At first I found it somewhat amusing, that some bloggingtories were fixated on finding out where the back drop for Michael Ignatieff's woodland commercial came from. Christian Conservative has taken it over the top, certain that Chief Water Buffalo Pubah Stephen Taylor has correctly identified the stretch of forest as being in Toronto's Cherry Beach.

Check the pictures yourself, (linked above) they look similar but I wouldn't bet on them being the same...not even close. Not that it matters, Harper's Conservatives have never let the truth get in the way of some good spin.

I've got an idea, put Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on the case. He won't be able to tell us where it is with any accuracy, but maybe he can provide a guess that will be within 5,000 km. He couldn't be any worse looking for a section of greenery than he is at provding financial least I hope not.

If you don't like the message, go after the messenger. And if that doesn't work? Uhm, look at the back drop.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Understanding the Conservative mindset - Go to an Amway meeting

For those wishing to understand the mindset of Harper Conservatives, I think it would prove useful to attend a meeting where they’re pitching Amway. For those unfamiliar, Amway uses a multi level marketing strategy (MLM) and sells just about every household product available. It’s a network marketing strategy wherein individuals build pyramids under themselves, collecting points and earning commissions from everyone under them.

The most successful reps hold frequent meetings to energize their followers, motivating them to continue purchasing Amway products, and encouraging them to bring more and more people into the network. I’ve known a few people who’ve tried it, but none who’ve been successful. When approached I’ve often heard the line, “I’m going to retire with Amway”, to which I typically respond, “I think its harder to retire FROM Amway, than it is to retire with Amway”.

I should make a distinction here, I don’t think ALL of Harper’s base are of this type. There are of course the Über wealthy who have no need of schemes to make money, but their numbers are so small that they border on insignificance. Hence the need to bring in another less affluent but more numerous demographic, the trailer park conservatives.

Basically these are the middle to lower middle class, not particularly wealthy themselves, but they aspire to wealth…and that is the key point here, aspiring to wealth or riches.

This fixation on wealth is extremely important, some would argue it is the basis of our entire economy. Your neighbour gets a new granite counter top, and you want one. You see a new Mercedes in a driveway on your block. Don’t you deserve one as well? How come everyone else seems to have a plasma flat screen in their trailer?

While some are content to have a car that is paid for, and for a home that is affordable, others want to exude affluence. Go to an Amway convention and you’ll hear ‘testimonials’ from those who’ve made it big, talking about their homes, their cars and expensive vacations. I’m not very religious, but I understand the button being pushed, in the Bible it is referred to as being covetous.

And there at the top of the Conservative pyramid are the Über wealthy, telling the great unwashed how they too can have all the things they’ve been unable to attain through Amway or other MLM schemes. They have the answer to all those who’ve watched ‘The Secret’ and countless self-improvement gurus who’ve drilled it into their heads that they deserve it all.

The answer? A Harper led Conservative government that will slash taxes and useless government programs, programs that won’t be needed because these new initiates to wealth will be able to afford it all themselves.

Why do people look at their pay cheques and see so much money being siphoned off by various levels of government? Why are we forced to fork out even more of our after tax dollars for the goods and services we purchase in sales taxes and surcharges?

Its because of things like the gun registry, official bilingualism, entrenched multi-cultural programs, funding for women’s groups, gay groups and just about every special interest lobby imaginable.

Here’s the real skinny folks, it won’t work. We could reduce taxes down to levels not seen since before World War I, and it wouldn’t matter. The balance of rich and poor would not be altered in the least. This is something the Über rich understand well, but they’re counting on the greed of the Julians, Rickies and Bubbles of the trailer park.

We’ve evolved from societies which extolled the virtues of self reliance, preferring low taxes to a collective effort to elevate society as a whole. It brought us child labour, work houses, health care available only to those who could afford it.

An individual who aspires to wealth can still make it big in this country, with our current system of government and with the same levels of social programs available today. That fact is proven out every day, every week and every year.

Eliminating the gun registry, ending official bilingualism, taking our health care and moving it to a private model will do nothing to improve the lives of the vast majority of Canada’s citizens. Taxes might drop, but ultimately the biggest beneficiaries would be those who already have the most…and just like their trailer park cousins, the rich want even more.

But they can’t get more unless they’re able to convince Canadians to elect a government that will give it to them. Here's hoping enough of us are smart enough not to.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

When did Socialism become a bad word?

My children attend public schools, paid for by taxes and run by the province of Ontario. When I go to the doctor or hospital, the services I'm provided with are invariably paid for out of the public purse. The police who enforce various laws, and the courts and justice system which uphold them...the entire apparatus is financed by levies, charges and taxes collected by various levels of government.

And yet I am constantly being bombarded with messages about the evils of socialism.

The U.S. media is full of them now due to Obama's continuing efforts to reform the world's most expensive health care system, a system which leaves tens of millions with no health coverage whatsoever. Well, costs may be out of control and millions of American children may not have access to even basic medical care...but at least its not "socialist".

I want to be clear on one point here, I do not view pure unadulterated socialism as a panacea for all of society's ills, far from it. Likewise I don't consider unfettered capitalism the answer either, we've been down that road before with work houses and child labour. There are areas of vital public importance that are best removed from the sphere that is dominated by the need for profit. And there are entities under government control that would benefit from the discipline market forces impose.

So why is our Prime Minister fanning the rhetorical flames against socialism, while at the same time making modest improvements to EI, a social program? Why is socialism suddenly an evil word? the case of Stephen Harper, he only seems to speak his mind when the doors are closed or when the microphones are off. Thankfully in this modern age some of his musings sneak through the cracks, I say thankfully because so many of his public utterances are little more than political pandering. Candid remarks seem only to come when the Conservative leader believes his words to be safe from public scrutiny.

Such was certainly the case recently when he railed against separatists and socialists at a closed door rally. And also back in 1997 when he was VP of the National Citizen's Coalition, speaking to a right-wing U.S. think tank called the Council for National Policy. It is thanks only to this neo-conservative group that the Prime Minister's words have been saved for posterity, and can be read on CTV's website:

That speech offers a wonderful little window into the mind of Stephen Harper, and given the lack of microphones or media scrutiny I assume these words to be a much more accurate reflection of his views. I would suggest anyone with even the slightest interest in Canadian politics to give it a read, here a few direct quotes:

Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.

But the important point is that Canada is not a bilingual country. It is a country with two languages. And there is a big difference.

What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college. Imagine if the electoral college which selects your president once every four years were to continue sitting in Washington for the next four years.

The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.

(Of the LPC) In the last Parliament, it enacted comprehensive gun control, well beyond, I think, anything you have. Now we'll have a national firearms registration system, including all shotguns and rifles. Many other kinds of weapons have been banned. It believes in gay rights, although it's fairly cautious. It's put sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act and will let the courts do the rest.

(Of the old PC party) They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially -- what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country.

So there we have our current Prime Minister's views, spoken in private...away from cameras and microphones. No doubt they resonate with a small but committed core of Conservative party followers, which is why they're only spoken when the doors are closed. Give Harper a majority mandate however, and I suspect we would see these ideals being positioned more prominently.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Conan's brilliant Gaddafi spoof....

FIXED LINK on Feb. 22/2010

I've been a bit too busy to blog of late, but couldn't resist the temptation to pass this little gem along. If you saw Muammar Gaddafi's rambling speech at the United Nations you'll appreciate this even more...his ranting reminded me of a late night coffee shop denizen.

Can you help?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

So the recession is over? Just don't tell the unemployed....

Watch the TV, pick up the paper or flip on the radio for news these days and you're hearing how the economy has turned the corner and that we're now out of recession.

Maybe...but I'm reserving judgement for the time being.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and while we're hearing that tepid growth returned to the economy in June, (0.1% being reported in the Globe and Mail) you'll pardon me for sticking with cheap beer instead of more expensive libations.

Why am I cynical about all the so called 'green shoots' being reported in the media and by government officials? Simple, because our economic prosperity hinges on the willingness of consumers to take on debt.

Car companies, appliance manufacturers...any business with products to sell, they desperately need consumers feeling optimistic. And media outlets hungry for advertising dollars have been hitting us with lots of feel good stories about the worst of the downturn being over. Canwest site had this story out today: What ever happened to the Great Recession?

We're reading how the banks and government officials are all signalling that a return to growth is imminent or already underway. Banks need people willing to borrow money, and with the U.S. heading into midterm elections, to say nothing of Canada's current political climate...elected officials on both sides of the border are eager to tell us what a great job they've been doing.

But then we have news out that the OECD is predicting that our unemployment rate in this country will be checking in around 10% next year. We haven't seen double digit unemployment in Canada for a long time, but still that means 90% of us are working. Making sure the 9 out of 10 still lucky enough to be in the work force are optimistic about future prospects has become the cause celebre of government, banks and big business. The consumer is king, and so we're being told that the garments representing our economy are brilliant and sure beats telling us we're naked.

Even if someone has been forced into a lower paying position, and/or found it necessary to work two or three jobs to make ends meet...its important people feel that the good times will soon be rolling again. Otherwise consumers might forgo that home purchase, leveraging almost the entire purchase price thanks to record low interest rates. Elected representatives may find themselves hunting for a job if voters believe things aren't as rosy as we're being led to believe.

The Kool-Ade stand is open for business, but I'm going to wait another six months to see how well it settles.

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Now its just Peter and Paul - Rest Peacefully Mary

This year might just go down as the year of celebritry deaths, Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Patrick Swayze...and now Mary Travers of folk music trio Peter Paul and Mary.

Being one who grew up listening to everything from Arlo Guthrie to The Weavers, I thought I'd take this oppourtunity to share a little known song by the famous trio. No, its not 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' or 'Puff the Magic Dragon'...its called "All Mixed Up".

Sometimes one can look at the world and see things as being incredibly mixed up, without a doubt. But looking at it another way, maybe that's the way things are supposed to be.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harper's photo-op in Washington flops...

Today saw Stephen Harper meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, obviously punctual because with just 40 or so minutes of face time there isn't a second to waste.

While the meeting does absolutely nothing for Obama in terms of gaining or losing political points, for Stephen Harper the chance to be seen on newscasts from coast to coast in the US capital had at least the potential to boost his fortunes at a time of heightened political instability back home.

The U.S. president was perhaps so committed to limiting his time with Harper that he didn't even bother to greet him upon his arrival, as CTV news is reporting.

I did see Harper on NBC news this evening, there was a video clip of Obama being peppered with questions about former President Carter's comments on racism at the Whitehouse. Harper was sitting there and to my eye he was looking like a wall flower at the prom, all decked out nicely and just hoping someone might notice him. I haven't found any video on that yet, but I'll add it here if it becomes available.

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Conservatives to "fast track" immigration for hundreds of Afghanis

Listening to CBC radio last night I heard a report that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is opening up a "fast track" for Afghanis who have been supportive of our war effort in that country and who've worked for the Canadian government for 12 months or more. The National Post is also reporting the news HERE, quoting Mr. Kenney as saying there is the potential for "hundreds" of Afghan citizens who would be offered a quicker path to Canadian citizenship.

It will be interesting to see how much play this gets with Stephen Harper's religious right Christian base. Personally I'm a big fan of immigration, with Canada's low birth rate its not simply a matter of humanitarism and multi-culturism, but of economic need. Still, many fundamentalist Christians I know are quite hostile to the Islamic faith, viewing it as something of an "evil" religion.

I wonder how many will choose to settle in Calgary?

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Harper promises no new taxes or spending cuts. He's lying...AGAIN

There's a very simple method for those who wish to discern whether or not our Prime Minister is lying, watch his lips. When they're moving, be on guard.

To be fair Stephen Harper is far from being the first Prime Minister to say one thing and then do another. Pierre Trudeau ridiculed wage and price controls, then implemented them. Brian "Brown Bag" Mulroney dismissed the idea of pursuing a free trade agreement with the U.S. before being elected and negotiating one. And of course Jean Chretien feigned amnesia about his repeated pledges to axe the GST.

With Stephen Harper there are a number of choices which spring immediately to mind when it comes to Olympic flip flopping. There's the promise he made in the last election but one (I think it was a couple weeks back) when he said a Conservative government would "never" tax income trusts. Then there was his promise backed up by legislation to eliminate snap election calls, a promise he broke when he last sent us to the polls, (that was a few days ago if memory serves).

And then of course there was his pledge not to stack the Senate with partisan cronies...a promise broken with flair as Mr. Harper unseated the likes of the aforementioned Messieurs Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien to become Canada's all time patronage champ.

Apologists for the Prime Minister are quick to offer up excuses or course.

Finance minister Jim Flaherty had no choice but to tax income trusts they say, because leaving them tax exempt would have decimated the federal treasury. In other words Paul Martin's Liberals were telling the truth while Harper lied to garner votes among seniors worried about protecting their retirement nest eggs. Well done, it helped give Pinocchio the keys to 24 Sussex.

As for last year's (yes, I know it wasn't a few days ago) snap election call, that was necessary because parliament was dysfunctional according to the spin masters. This despite the fact that the Liberals under former leader Stephane Dion nearly set a Guinness Book world record for sitting on their collective hands. Last year's election was a blatantly obvious attempt to attain majority status, to rid Harper of the need to be conciliatory...something he's horrible at.

He had to break his promise not to stack the senate because...uhm, well everyone else does it. Assurances that there would be no recession and no deficit, well...even if CTV's Craig Oliver saw it coming...uhm, nobody else did...and like things are really really bad.

Anyone who believes Stephen Harper please sign a copy of the Fixed Election law and have Mike Duffy deliver it to me.

While past performance isn't always an indicator of future results, it can be used as a pretty decent measuring stick when trying to decide if Harper is telling the truth or just piling on more lies in an effort to win votes. The big lie now is that the Conservatives will be able to bring government revenues back into balance without any funding cuts or tax increases. Anyone who believes Stephen Harper please sign a copy of the Fixed Election law and have Mike Duffy deliver it to me. I'll redeem it for a 100 units in a tax exempt Income Trust.

The Liberals under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were able to finally slay the deficit beast by slashing transfer payments to the provinces, transfers that pay for things such as Health Care. They also reneged on the promise to eliminate the GST, using the windfall from a booming economy to swell government coffers into repeated surpluses.

I doubt Harper would endorse major tax increases, but I can certainly envision the Conservatives taking a scythe to a whole host of government programs...the "socialist" ones Harper so detests. Health Care? Harper has never been a big fan of socialized anything, and that includes medicine. Programs to help the poor and needy? Get a job, or a better one.

Just give Harper his coveted majority and you won't recognize this country...of course if you're among Canada's most wealthy, you probably won't mind.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fire Gary Bettman - Something all Canadian hockey fans should agree on

At the risk of offending a dozen or so Phoenix Coyote hockey fans, I'm going to use my little cyber pulpit to wander off the political path and write about some shinny. Specifically about the way the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is taking hockey loving Canadians for granted.

Back in June I started an on-line petition calling on Canadians to boycott all NHL licensed products until Canada gets a 7th franchise, with Hamilton being the obvious choice. While there are only 35 signatures so far, I have gotten some positive feedback for my effort. The most recent of which was an email from a gentleman named Ken. He's started his own petition which calls for the firing of Gary Bettman, after a nanosecond of deliberation I signed it.

Putting a team in Hamilton would be a no brainer if the NHL had a commissioner who was interested in viable franchises and growing the game. I'm no Rhodes scholar, not by a long shot...but it doesn't take an Ivy league genius to know that sticking hockey teams in places with no attachment to the game is a recipe for failure.

If you're the commissioner of a major sports league the last thing you want is teams playing in front of a bunch of empty seats, unless you're Gary Bettman, who seems to prefer it. Why else have teams in places like Nashville, Atlanta and Phoenix?

You want people clamouring to join your ownership club? How about showing potential suitors arenas filled with rabid fans!!! That's what you'd have in cities like Hamilton, the 'Peg and Quebec city. Instead we have teams in Florida practically giving tickets away, while puckheads in southern Ontario have to take out a second mortgage to go and see a crappy Leafs team.

Part of Canada's national character is that we're 'oh so polite'. Protesting and signing petitions isn't really our thing, but I suggest its time true hockey fans get angry. Stop buying products licensed to the NHL and sign the petition to have Gary Bettman fired.

Click here to sign the 'FIRE GARY BETTMAN' petition.

Click here to sign the 'BOYCOTT NHL LICENSED PRODUCTS' petition.

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Canada's Best Political Blogs - My new aggregator

I've created a new blog aggregator which I've branded "Canada's Best Political Blogs". As regular readers will be aware, I like to take in varying viewpoints from the political blogosphere. There's no point reading only those who share one's partisan slant, not if you're seeking a deeper understanding of the political landscape in this country.

I only have seven blogs listed currently, but I expect that it will grow over time. For those who author a well written blog I invite you to hit the Add My Blog button so that I can review it. I don't promise inclusion, but I won't exlude blogs based on partisan leanings, already I've got Liberals and Tories and Dippers, oh my. The description says:

"The best of Canadian Political Blogs. Opinion and commentary from a variety of sources, well written and representing the full spectrum of political thought".

Of course this blog is included...and measuring it up against the others I've already added, well consider this the minimum standard.

Bloggers who have their site added are welcome to add this widget:

But its not a requirement.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stephen Harper - Running Canada like a Nortel CEO

A common analogy favoured by conservative business types is to compare the job of a Prime Minister to that of a corporate CEO. In this scenario the leader of Canada's governing party is equated to the head of a major business concern, with voters representing shareholders.

As analogies go its not without merit, Canadians are stakeholders after all, no different from shareholders in a company like Nortel. In the market a CEO's performance is reflected in a myriad of ways including: growth, share price, dividends and the balance sheet. A CEO who delivers increasing returns, a strong balance sheet, a robust share price and increasing dividends...that CEO can be expected to have the support of shareholders.

Likewise a Prime Minister who delivers on election pledges, lowers or holds the line on taxes and balances the books...or better yet delivers a surplus, that PM should expect to have the backing of the electorate.

So how is our Conservative Prime Minister performing?

Well...that depends. Are we looking at job performance or polling results? If we look at the polls the verdict could be seen as tentative approval. If we look at the actual results though, the picture is anything but pretty.

Just three and a half years ago Mr. Harper lead the Conservatives to a minority victory in Canada's parliament. Part of his campaign platform was to never tax income trusts, and he did it with panache. Even for those of us skeptical of political promises, this Calgary MP's conviction seemed truly genuine. Watch for yourself.

Notice how convincingly Harper lied back in that campaign, its absolutely masterful. I'd rate it right up there with Jean Chretien's repeated promises to scrap the GST.

Fast forward to our last election in October of 2008. With the same unwavering and reassuring tone, Harper pledged that Canada would avoid recession, and that there would never be a need for deficit financing under his watch. Again, if you missed it or forgot, here's the video:

I could cram this blog with more videos I guess...I could include pledges made by our Prime Minister not to stack the Senate with partisan cronies and about all the failed budget forecasts. I could include Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's laughingly absurd assertion that "nobody" saw this recession coming. Oh, what the's our forecasting challenged Finance Minister making a fool of himself in front of Canada's Senate...although it probably doesn't matter.

Polls right now show that a sizable number of Canadians either aren't paying attention, or they don't care.

There's much truth to the political axiom that voters prefer a tasty lie to an unsavoury truth. That's something Stephen Harper seems to understand very well. But like a CEO who keeps making rosy promises amid declining returns, eventually reality slams stakeholders in the face.

I just hope Canadians realize it before this country turns into the Nortel nation state, a one time corporate champion reduced to penny stock status...then sold off in a foreign takeover.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 - The Mother of conspiracy theories....

With this being the 8 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks I feel it something of a necessity to offer up some thoughts.

Like many people I spent the day relating and listening to stories centred around: 'Where were you on September 11, 2001'? For my own part I was in downtown Toronto, first at my sales office and later at a meeting around King and Bay streets. I went to the meeting knowing the first plane had hit, and left the meeting after hearing the news of the second. I remember weighing the options of heading back to Yonge and Dundas either through the bank district, or up University. Given the that the US consulate is on University I opted to pass under the shadow of Canada's bank towers.

It was because of 9/11 that I started investigating 'alternative' news sites: whatreallyhappened, prisonplanet, rense among them. While I prefer gathering my news from more respected sources, I found the mainstream media sadly lacking when it came to investigative reporting. Instead of seeking answers to many unanswered questions, the MSM became simply a conduit for government statements.

What were those unanswered questions?

-Why did World Trade Centre building number 7 collapse when it was never hit by anything? As far as I'm aware this is the first time in history a steel framed building imploded due to fire.

-Why are the images from the plane striking the Pentagon so crappy? I thought the Pentagon was one of the most watched buildings in the world in terms of video surveillance.

-What caused the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania to almost completely disintegrate? I've seen photos of plane crashes before, with large sections of the plane strewn about, parts of wings, engines etc. According to emergency workers on the scene in Pennsylvania that day, there was nothing left bigger than a telephone book.

-Why was golfer Payne Stewart's plane tracked so quickly years back when it went off radar, yet on 9/11 the US military was unable to get planes in the air to intercept the hijacked planes?

-Why did the Secret Service let G.W. Bush stay at Booker T. elementary for so long? Given that the president's itinerary for the day was on the White House web site you think the best course would have been to remove him as quickly as possible.

-What was the source of all the short interest on companies like UAL in the days leading up to 911? Shortly after the event reports were given that in some cases short interest had climbed as much as 2,000% over historical norms.

-Was there ever any investigation of the early warning messages received by WTC employees of instant messaging company Odigo?

-The anthrax laced letters that started appearing around Washington after the attacks, that later turned out to have originated from a US military base. Why were the perpetrators trying to frame Muslims and what was the motivation?

That's just a sampling of questions, there are probably at least twenty or thirty more. Like the Kennedy assisination I think we'll be asking questions for years, with few answers forthcoming.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harper's Conservatives - The vast left wing conspiracy trumps incompetence

Leaders of Canada's opposition Liberal, NDP, Green and Bloc parties have a monumental task ahead of them in unseating the Harper Conservatives from the seat of power in Ottawa. Monday's Globe and Mail reports that polling indicates the Tories have opened up a 5 point lead nationally on the second place Liberals. The Strategic Counsel poll pegs the Conservatives at 35% and the Liberals at 30, with the NDP and Greens at 14 and 9 respectively.

Stephen Harper has assumed the mantle of Canada's Teflon man, nothing sticks. In his first mandate the Prime Minister broke his promise to "never, NEVER" tax income trusts, still Canadians returned the Tories with an increased minority. In calling an early election last October Harper may have even broken his own law respecting fixed election dates. A judge will now decide if that election call was illegal instead of just politically self serving.

Despite such a short tenure as Canada's ruling party, the Conservatives have done plenty to raise the ire of the voting public. Promises of balanced budgets have joined the tax exempt status of Income Trusts on the trash heap. Jim Flaherty's laughingly inept budget projections should definitely give Canadians cause for concern about the running of the nation's finances.

Add to that Lisa's Raitt's salivating at the 'sexiness' of cancer patients having treatment delayed, the boondoggle of funding for GLBT events in Toronto and Montreal, Harper breaking his promise not to engage in patronage politics to become the all time patronage champion with Senate appointments...its a long list for a party with so little time in power.

And yet despite financial mismanagement and scandal after scandal....Harper's Conservatives continue to lead in the polls. Why?

Simple, Harper's socially conservative base in convinced that there has long been a conspiracy afoot to rob Canadians of certain God given rights. There is a pervasive belief that a "Liberal Elite" is bent on ramming through an agenda that extols the 'dubious' (sic) virtues of things like multiculturalism and equality of the sexes.

The challenge for the likes of Ignatieff, Layton and May is to energize the roughly ten million Canadians who didn't bother voting last time around. Shaking the Conservative tree in hopes of diminishing Harper's core base will yield slim pickings at best. Stephen Harper can run the economy into the ground, break almost every election promise and prove himself the epitome of hypocrisy...and it won't matter to roughly 25% of Canadian voters.

I do believe the Liberals are off to a decent start with their chosen theme of "We Can Do Better". But its going to take more than a catchy slogan to reverse Mr. Ignatieff's fortunes and propel him to 24 Sussex Drive.

The fact that the Liberals are finally willing to state their intention of fighting an election at a time when their polling numbers are less than robust nullifies any appearance that their strategy is opportunistic. When Harper broke his own fixed election law last summer in an attempt to garner a majority mandate, that was political opportunism at its most blatant.

Canadians do deserve better government than what we've been getting recently, but Harper's socially Conservative base will be doing its best to blur reality. Its Machiavellism at its best and worst, Harper is their lesser evil.

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