Thursday, July 30, 2009

Does shooting an abortion doctor qualify as an "honour killing"?

I've continued making the rounds at Blogging Tories, soaking up what I can of conservative commentary and opinion. For many right wing thinkers, the alleged "honour killing" of four Muslim women in Kingston must seem like manna from heaven.

There's a pervasive theory making the rounds that the Muslim world is attempting to infiltrate western society, much like a Trojan horse. The argument goes that through heavy immigration and a disproportional birth rate, that Muslims will eventually wield enough political clout to remake Canada into an Islamic nation. Like many conspiracy theories it reeks of paranoia.

While immigrants often have difficulty in assimilating with the broader culture, subsequent generations have always gravitated away from the customs of their ancestry. My forebearers were Irish, a bunch of dumb Micks if you will. My great, great, great grandfather was likely considered a 'lyin', thievin', drunkin' idolater'. In Toronto signs with "Irish Need Not Apply" were not uncommon.

Any excuse to cast immigrants in a negative light is always seized upon by those who are small minded. When an Irishman murdered someone a hundred years ago, it was seen as justification for racist and intolerant attitudes towards that group. "See...I told you that's what the Irish are like"!

This tragic event in Kingston has given the conservative element a lightening rod to rage against Islam and its adherents. In today's Toronto Sun, columnist and bloggingtory Monte Solberg took full advantage with a piece entitled: Deaths put spotlight on Muslims

An opportunity to cast Muslims as villains is not to be missed, especially for those with an axe to grind. And so this former Reform/Alliance MP and Conservative cabinet minister makes no apologies for taking the widest brush possible to the entire Islamic faith, and the culture to which many of its adherents belong. Here's a sampling:

In this case the question isn't whether honour killing is sanctioned in the Qur'an. The question is whether honour killing is an unpleasant but acceptable practice for many Muslims...(emphasis mine)

Mr. Solberg attempts to turn this into a broader debate, one which will permit a closer examination of the Islamic faith. That in of itself certainly sounds reasonable. But why use the horrific deaths of four Muslim women as the basis for this discussion?

There are definitely aspects of Muslim faith and culture with which I, (like many others) take issue, particularly the treatment and status of women. But these concerns are not the sole purvey of Islam. Orthodox Judaism is certainly rife with inequality, as are many sects within the Christian faith. When will I be reading a column about Mormon women being forbidden from taking leadership roles within the LDS church?

When Scott Roeder murdered abortion doctor George Tiller, I didn't see media types like Solberg using that tragedy as a sounding board to encourage discussion about intolerant attitudes among many fundamentalist Christians. Muslims aren't alone in having adherents who disregard western laws and values, particularly with respect to the treatment of our female citizens.

Sadly there are all too many stories about murder and abuse of women. Muslims do not have a monopoly on misogyny, there are many women who have been killed by both current and former spouses, and even family members. But when the alleged murderer is Canadian born and bred, examination of the accused's religion is almost never an issue.

If we banned Muslims from entering Canada, would that mean an end to sexism? Hardly.

Canada has a system of laws, and those accused with the murder of these women will bear its brunt if they are found guilty of this crime. No different from the Clifford Olsons and Paul Bernardos currently residing in our jails.

Is Islam an intolerant faith? In my opinion yes. But no more intolerant than Christianity or Judaism in this blogger's opinion. Every faith has its extremists, its zealots...who believe illegal actions can be justified in the eyes of God. Thankfully the extremist element is not as large as some might think. We don't read about honour killings or abortion doctors being murdered every day.

But that won't matter to the xenophobic. It didn't matter a hundred or so years back with the Irish, and little has changed. Ain't progress grand?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stephen Harper's tyranny of the minority and U.S. war resisters

Almost 200 years ago a Frenchman decided to visit the United States, with an eye to learning about the experiment taking place with democratic government in America. Alexis de Tocqueville later penned a book entitled 'Democracy in America'. In this work the French scholar expressed concern that majority rule could lead to tyranny, that those more numerous could use their political clout to persecute those in the minority.

In Canada we have no need for such concerns, it is tyranny of the minority that should worry us.

The Toronto Sun recently published a point counterpoint column debating the issue of deporting U.S. war resisters, versus letting them remain here in Canada. It sparked a lively debate as evidenced by the letters to the editor the paper received.

Obviously this is an issue which stirs a lot of passion, and that's good. But in the end a decision must be made. In a democratic society, with elected representatives responsible to their constituents, decisions should be based on the principle of majority rule. Some might try to argue that some decisions are too complex to be left to the whim of the electorate, or their duly chosen agents in government. But obviously anyone taking that tack does not believe in a democracy.

Which brings me back to the issue of U.S. Iraq war resisters and their efforts to seek asylum in Canada. Proponents of deporting these individuals back to the U.S. make some valid points, as do those who advocate for letting them stay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but in the final analysis any decision should be based on democratic principles and practices.

That's not what is happening in Canada.

Its not my wish to rehash the debate here, its been going on for a long time and both sides are pretty entrenched in their views. But whether you're for or against granting these people refuge in Canada, I think that we can all agree on the virtues of upholding democratic principles.

Just last year our House of Commons was presented with a motion which called upon the government to:

“...immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada.”

Individuals are free to agree or disagree, but the simple fact is that this motion passed with majority support. The same majority support in our House of Commons that allowed Harper's Conservatives to go back on promises about fixed election dates and taxation of income-trusts. Majority rule, don't have to like every decision, but we should cherish these ideals.

There's a lot of things I don't like about Stephen Harper, that's par for the course with any politician. Some people will like certain members of parliament, while other will not. But at the end of the day our democratic institutions are more important than any single individual, regardless of the office he or she holds.

Even those who agree with Mr. Harper on the issue of U.S. war resisters, they should be concerned about our PM giving the finger to democracy. Isn't that one of the reasons we're fighting in Afghanistan?

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why put your child in French Immersion? Points to ponder

As regular visitors know, I like to state my biases up front, so readers will understand a bit about my frame of reference.

I have two children, both of whom attend a French Immersion school. "Buddy", the elder of the two, is going into grade 5. His sister, the Princess Raspberry, is going into senior kindergarten. They both attend the same school, however it should be noted that the kindergarten program is English only. The rest of their school, grades 1-6, is all French immersion.

My son didn't attend a FI school when he was in kindergarten, instead he went to Montessori . The rationale was pretty simple, and while its not easy to admit...the reason was snobbery. My ex-wife and I were of the mindset that the public or Catholic boards, that while they may do a wonderful job, parents are the key to how a child does in school in a majority of cases. And whether public or Catholic, there are parents who view school as a form of daycare.

By enrolling Buddy in a private school we felt assured that the parents of his classmates were very much concerned about learning. Peer pressure counts for a lot, and like many parents we wanted to put our son into a school where he would have the best chances for success.

But when it came time for grade one, we began weighing options. My brother, who's a teacher, suggested French Immersion. Given that I am fairly fluent in the language he said it was a no brainer. Bro said we'd get all the benefits of a private school, without the tuition costs. Obviously parents enrolling their children into a program that will teach them a second language....there's little question about the value they place on education.

We attended an information session at the FI school, and heard their pitch. The principal and some of the teachers presented a very compelling case, and what they talked about is reality.

Firstly, French Immersion is not for every child. School is not just about learning, its a place where children gain social skills, form friendships and learn about life outside of the home. The bottom line though is that children should enjoy themselves at school. Perhaps not all the time, but on balance they should look forward to their days Moday thru Friday, from September to June.

Here are some general guidelines that might prove helpful to parents contemplating whether or not French Immersion is right for their child.

Children who are typically outgoing do better in French Immersion than those who are more introverted. Learning a second language means making mistakes....lots of mistakes. Extroverts tend to be risk takers, while introverts prefer to hang back. But I have seen exceptions, for Buddy's first 3 years I helped out in the classroom once or twice a week with reading...and I know of one very shy and retiring kid who excels.

Is the child excited about learning? From where I sit this is a major factor. Children are far more capable of picking up a second language than adults, their brains are sponges. But if they don't enjoy learning, if the attainment of knowledge doesn't excite could point to problems later.

Another factor is their facility with English. Does the child enjoy language, is book reading a chore or something to be relished? Kids who enjoy tongue twisters and word play will likely be better suited to a FI program.

That's a pretty good starting point, and its one the school shared on orientation night. Students who are outgoing, who enjoy language and reading...and learning in general...there are no assurances of success, however these indicators are a decent barometer. But I'll come back to enjoyment. If after enrolling a child in FI, if he or she hates it...I believe strong consideration should be given to putting her or him into the regular English stream.

For those who think their child might be a good fit...I'll offer up some big advantages.

Some fear that a child learning a second language, that their English will suffer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Learning a second language enhances an individual's ability in their native tongue. Kids in FI gain an understanding of grammar and syntax that English stream children don't learn about until years later. Constructing sentences in French makes children aware of how the English language works.

In English we typically put adjectives in front of the noun, while in French the noun usually comes first. In English we might say:

"I saw a big, red, ancient...."

You don't know what I'm writing about yet do you? It could be a tree, a car, a don't know.

In French one might say:

"J'ai regardé une maison grande, rouge, vieille".

Some consider French more precise because words that modify a noun come first, making it more clear. As Voltaire said: "Si ce n'est pas claire, ce n'est pas francais".

I don't have the stats at hand, but I've been told that FI immersion students score better on provincial English tests than children in the regular stream by grade 6...and I absolutely believe it.

Buddy speaks English better than many kids in high school, and already is aware when the word "like" is overused.

So like, I hope you're, like enjoying this blog, cause like, you know I like really like writing it.

Another benefit is that students with behavioural problems are practically non-existent. While it may seem unfair, its simply unrealistic to expect a child with attention deficit disorder, (ADD) or other challenges to pick up a second language in an immersion environment. Students in FI are lucky in that their teachers don't have the same degree of problems with student management as in the regular stream.

But English or French, regular stream or should enjoy their time learning. I've seen a number of parents pull their kids from FI for this very reason. One of Buddy's classmates is a hyper over achiever, which irks my son to no end...and a mother who is incredibly supportive. But this classmate has a younger brother, who simply hated going to school. His parents made a wise choice in my opinion. They kept their daughter in FI, and moved their son to an English school...and now he is excelling.

Not everyone has an aptitude for languages, that's reality, it doesn't mean one is smarter than the other. Children should be given every opportunity to explore their talents and to seek achievement in things they find fulfilling.

I'm not a big fan of forcing kids who don't like French into wasting a high school credit learning a few words and phrases they'll forget by the time they turn 16, I wrote about it back in January. But French Immersion is a wonderful program that will enrich their entire lives. It isn't for everyone, no different than something like music, but for those its meant for...its wonderful.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anatomy of a recession...Deny, deny, deny...

So the recession that Jim Flaherty says "nobody saw coming" is already over...uh huh. Anyone believing today's news from Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, probably believed forecasts of continued surpluses last fall.

In fairness to Mr. Carney, while CBC's headline announces: "Recession over, Bank of Canada says" the governor of Canada's central bank is actually on record as saying:

"We are on track for the recovery both in Canada and globally".

Being 'on track' and actually arriving at a recession free destination are two entirely different things. In financial circles this would be called a 'forward looking statement', something that should not be relied upon.

I don't recall a prediction from the Bank of Canada telling Canadians that our financial train was heading for a recession anytime last year, so I'll take Mark Carney's predictions with a big grain of salt. We'll need to see two consecutive quarters of economic growth for the recession to be officially declared dead, with the bank predicting that will occur late in 2009 and early into 2010...we'll see.

Recessions typically follow a fairly predictable pattern. You'll recall last fall, when concerns about a looming slow down in the economy first started making the rounds. Was there immediate acknowledgment from our political leadership that we were headed for a slow down? Nope...stage one is denial.

When the first signs of recession appear, government officials, (no matter the party in power) typically talk about the fundamental strength of the economy. They have to, to suggest otherwise is to signal to the electorate that 'hey...we messed up'.

Stage two is when recession is being reported as a near certainty. At this point government officials will finally admit that there is stress, but again we'll hear more about the fundamental strength of our economy (we're doing a good job, its not our fault). At this point newspapers start listening for the R word, anxious to hear an admission. The first utterance of the dreaded R word comes with predictions that if there is a recession, that it will be technical in nature only...that we'll have a 'soft landing' and that continued growth can be expected sooner rather than later.

Stage three is the final admission that yes....we're in a recession. But the culture of denial still pervades. There's no denying a recession's existence once the economic data (the last two quarter's economic activity growth vs. decline) has hit the street, now its all about predictions. And the predictions continue to be for a quick return to growth.

The last stage is capitulation, owning up to the reality that the economy is in the toilet. Now is when we finally hear about painful decisions being made, necessary to fight the recession beast. Higher taxes, cuts in services...that sort of thing. And this is actually good news, because it means we can finally expect to see growth again within the next six months or so.

We're nowhere near that point yet.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking a break for my birthday...

July 24 is my day folks, and I'll be extending it through the weekend. Thanks to everyone who's been visiting and commenting, this has been a good month. It started poorly with a contract position I held coming to an end, but its ending with the start of a new contract back with the LCBO.

And who knows? Maybe now that management has reached a collective bargaining agreement with the union...perhaps they'll start hiring directly. If I was to be offered a full time and permanent position, I might have a decision to make. I'm leaning strongly toward making a radical change in my life, regardless of what happens with me at the LCBO.

I'll be back posting again next week as a 43 year old, so please come back often.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canada's real estate bubble...poised for collapse

I can already hear the chatter, emanating from home owners and real estate agents far and wide.

"Bubble?!?! What bubble??? Canada's Real Estate market is doing fine, prices aren't rising out of control, they're up only modestly or holding steady. Pick up the paper and read what industry professionals are saying, our housing market is poised for bigger and better things in the years ahead"!!!

Uh huh, I know...every time I've discussed Canada's housing market in the past month or two, the reaction to my view is always the same. About a month ago I blogged on this topic, relating a conversation with a colleague who's going through a divorce. I had suggested to "Bob", that once the marital home is sold, that he'd do well to hold on tight to his cash and rent...with an eye to getting back into the market in another year, if not two.

Bobby didn't listen, I knew he wouldn't. The last words in that blog posting were as follows:

"Bob said he'll think about it...but I just know the media whores are going to get him".

In the final analysis, it wasn't really the "media whores", instead it was Bob's own prejudice towards owning versus renting....ah well.

Bob opted to buy a $220,000 detached little walk up in the same area as the marital home. He's plunking down a whopping $20,000, and amortizing the mortgage over 35 years. He better pray I'm wrong, and I could be....but I don't see how. There's always the chance a gold vein will be discovered on his 30'x90' plot of land, and that he won't soon slide into negative equity. There is always the unforeseen, and in the case of a home purchase...the unseeble offers the only chance of a bullish housing market, because everything we can see is scary.

$220,000 for a small home, barely 1,100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, no dining room, one and one half baths...basement unfinished. Am I the only person in Canada who thinks this is overpriced for a community about one hour north of Toronto? I feel like the guys who were bearish on tech stocks in and around the year 2000.

Look, I realize purchasing a home is about more than dollars and cents. It is quite likely the most emotional purchase an individual can make, with the possible exception of a middle aged man engaging the services of a 'professional' to revive his flagging libido. And that's the key word here, emotion.

When a young couple goes looking for their first home, thoughts about finances can fly quickly out the window. Money concerns are quickly replaced with visions of the family kitchen...of the child's room soon to be occupied by a little one, with a crib and a changing table. It doesn't take long for fear to set in. What if someone else buys "our home"??? Already in their imagination the couple has planned the garden, the furniture, the backyard BBQ parties.

For the sake of simplicity let's focus in on that little detached job north of Toronto that my friend closes on in about a month. While its a divorced father buying it, it could just as easily be a young couple purchasing their first home. Twenty thousand isn't chump change, although it is less than 10% of the purchase price, $220,000.

A mortgage with a 35 year am is going to carry for around $800 per month. Then there's property tax which I'll guesstimate at say $250...add in heat, hydro and insurance, and we'll say the cost of occupancy is $1,200 per month...being generous to the low side. Bob told me an acquaintance of his was looking to rent out a town home, slightly bigger in size...for $1,100 with heat and hydro included. I would wager that for $1,200 or so per month one could find decent rental accommodation an hour north of the big smoke, so there are other options.

Now obviously when someone buys a home, they're typically not looking to flip it in the short term...I'm not talking about RE speculators here. The idea is to live in it and build equity, and given that this is a small move up in the market in a few years. Okay...sounds reasonable. But is there legitimate reason for worry here?

You bet!

Bob is in a similar situation to a young couple buying their first home, depleting almost all his savings for a down payment. There are any number of situations which can cause a person to have a sudden need for cash. With the economy being what it is, job loss is certainly a possibility for many. Or what if the something happens to the car, or the roof. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but sound financial planning dictates the need for a rainy day fund that's accessible.

And when you take a close look, $20,000 worth of equity in a home valued at $220,000 is really no equity at all. If a sudden catastrophic need for cash arises there is always the possibility of selling. But with real estate and lawyer fees you're looking at 'at least' $15,000. All of a sudden that $20,000 in equity is whittled down to just $5,000.

And that $5,000 won't even be around when the air starts coming out of the real estate bubble.

Yeah, yeah, I hear ya....

"Again with the bubble
, there is no bubble!!! CANADA'S HOUSING MARKET IS NOT A BUBBLE"!!!

Yes it is.

Back in the fall of 2008, when Canadians were busy going to the polls to elect a new government (well some of us anyway) fear took hold of the Canadian economy. The bubble that was the energy market collapsed, with the world price for oil plummeting from a high of $140 a barrel all the way down to around the 40 dollar mark. Remember all those people who said that oil would still be cheap at $150? They're probably the same ones now telling us that the housing market has stabilized and that its geared for growth.

Back in the fall housing sales fell off the map, and prices did start to dip slightly. Amid fears of depression and bank failures Canada's government (in tandem with other nations) moved boldly to repair the hole in our housing market. The solution? Dirt cheap credit. Rates were dropped so low, the only way they could drop further would be if lenders paid people to borrow.

And it worked, the housing market recovered. I'm not talking about a market boom like the late 70's and very early 80's...housing was already grossly overpriced when prices started to dip. Just stabilization and even some bidding wars in hot spots like Vancouver.

So why am I predicting a market "collapse"? Well...firstly, collapse might be too strong a word, although it probably got your attention. Collapse though is a matter of perspective. I do think the broader Canadian real estate market will see prices falling by around 10% come next spring/summer, and dropping perhaps as much as 25% in the year following.

For the real "Bob" and the fictitious young couple buying that $220,000 walk-up, this could be seen as a catastrophe. A ten per cent drops wipes out all their equity, and a drop of 25 puts them deep into negative equity...owing more on a home than what it's worth.

Canada's economy is bleeding jobs, this is a fact. Interests rates are at their lowest levels EVER, and that means there is only one direction for them to move, UP. As rates climb affordability drops, and combined with rising unemployment we're looking at the perfect storm for housing prices to drop like they did in the 80's when interest rates started climbing.

On top of all this, these 35 year mortgages being handed out to buyers putting down very little, or nothing at all...they're being insured by our government through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing). Thanks to the AIGs of the world, everyone now understands the dangers of toxic debt, the threat of 'asset backed commercial paper'. Our government can say all it wants about maintaining services without raising taxes, anyone with half a brain knows that's an impossibility.

Bob is like investors who borrowed money to buy into oil after it hit $100 a barrel and kept climbing. Will it get there again? Absolutely, and for those who were smart and waited for the collapse the rewards will be huge. Same as they will be for home buyers who keep their emotions in check and wait out the market over the next 12-24 months.

One last note. If you wish to question my predictions, that's fine. I'll just ask that you wait until January of 2010, bookmark this post if you wish. In the near term markets can be volatile, no matter how fundamentally flawed a particular commodity may be. Even a lousy hockey team can go on a 5 or 6 game winning streak. But that doesn't mean they're going to make the playoffs.

Talk to you in January and beyond, I'll be bragging.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harper looking to God, hoping the Christian Right stays on side.

I was planning to write on the pending collapse of Canada's real estate bubble, but came across something a bit more current. I still intend to offer up some analysis about why home values are poised to drop, but I don't see that slide being truly evident until later this year and into early 2010.

What caught my eye? Another surfing session at bloggingtories lead me to reading "Business. Church. Politics" Kevin R. Bourne's blog. His most recent posting is titled: "Christian Heritage Party of Canada- A Viable Option? It reminded me of something I'd written about in February: Will Christian Right Stick With Harper's Conservatives?

I'm not interested in going over the same ground again, so rather I'd like to approach this question from the perspective of a fundamentalist Christian, also frequently referred to as born again or evangelical.

I believe readers deserve to know of an author's biases up front, so here are mine. While I identify myself as being Christian, I in no way consider myself to be an Evangelical, or a fundamentalist. With that being said I have attended numerous Churches such as Pentecostal and Baptist which typically identify themselves as being 'faith based'. As such I believe I have a pretty strong understanding of the Christian frame of reference.

Is the Christian Heritage Party a viable option? That's the question being posed by Mr. Bourne, who incidentally lists among his many accomplishments that of being an ordained minister. In his writing, Reverend Bourne opines that..."they should consider a partnership with the Conservative Party". I must disagree, not from a political perspective, but rather from a religious one.

In his blog the author offers up the Old Testament story of Joseph and the Pharaoh, for those less familiar with Biblical teaching you may wish to reference Andrew Lloyd Weber's ' Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat'. Joseph brought solutions to the problems facing Egypt, and as such was able to attain a high political post, courtesy of a grateful Egyptian monarch.

But Joseph did not seek out high office, it was granted to him because of his faithful adherence and belief in the God of Abraham. Joseph never compromised his beliefs or his faith. The questions a fundamentalist Christian voter should be asking in my opinion, are these.

Do I compromise on my religious beliefs, and vote with a larger party that has a more legitimate chance of attaining power?

Rather than vote for a party which is true to Christian teaching, should I vote for a larger party that comes closest to them?

Pastor Bourne seems to think that political expediency should trump faithfulness to one's beliefs. Obviously the Conservatives, as currently constructed, have a better chance of electing sizable numbers when compared to a party like the CHP. But is that what Christianity is about? Did Jesus instruct his disciples to ignore His teachings so as to obtain power and influence?

Canada's fundamentalist, evangelical Christian population has certainly found a home with Stephen Harper's party. But if significant enough numbers remained true to their faith and voted with the CHP, this small fringe party might very well be able to elect enough members to have the Christian voice heard in government. Like Joseph with the Pharaoh, Christians remaining faithful to their core beliefs and to the teachings of Jesus might very well be blessed, as Joseph was blessed.

What issues are of importance to Canadians who believe strongly in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible? One that is certainly front and centre right now is that of homosexuality. For those who accept Biblical teaching as literal fact and absolute truth, it must be very disconcerting to see their tax dollars being used to celebrate that which is considered a sinful and unnatural lifestyle.

Already Stephen Harper's Tories have funded Toronto's Gay Pride festival, as well as similar events in cities across Canada. Sure they denied funding to Montreal's Gay Arts festival, but they have not repudiated their earlier decisions. In an effort to avoid controversy Montreal's organizers were simply told there were too many events applying for funding.

To me it reeks of hypocrisy, something Jesus was none too keen on. Like the Pharisees of the Gospels, Harper and his ilk seem anxious to appear devout, but in reality it strikes me that they're merely paying lip service to their socially conservative base. I strongly suspect Montreal's funding would have gone through had it not been for Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost taking the issue to a socially conservative news service.

With news out that Stephen Harper's Conservatives were doling out big cheques to festivals and such across Canada, festivals that celebrate: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) lifestyles....damage control was needed. Montreal had its funding denied and Diane Ablonczy was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

That's the operative word here in the final analysis, 'expediency'. Firm adherence to Christian beliefs and principles has never been Stephen Harper's political forte. If it were I don't see how he could have fired the first stone in Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's direction during his trip to Italy. Stones thrown without provocation, ...striking back at the cheek of an academic who questioned Canada's relevance at the G8...not those of the Liberal leader.

Am I suggesting that Michael Ignatieff is more of a Christian than Harper? Absolutely not, in my opinion they are both cut of the same cloth...they're both politicians.

So again I'll return to expediency. Are voters who identify themselves as believers in the true Gospel going to continue to support Harper? Or will they turn to the Christian Heritage Party, a political party in keeping with Evangelical tenets?

In the final analysis some will choose to serve two masters. Some will proclaim fidelity to their Christian beliefs, while holding their noses and voting for Harper's Conservatives in the hope of attaining political power. While others who opt for the CHP will refuse to compromise on their faith.

The only question is: Will Canada's true Christian party garner enough votes to elect any members? Christian voters who refuse to compromise can be thankful that federal funding of political parties is still in place. At least then, even though the CHP may not elect many (or any) members, they'll at least receive increased funding to make their message heard.

I'm sure many Christians would rather see their tax dollars being used to spread the Gospel as opposed to promoting Gay lifestyles.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stuck between a rock and hard place, Conservatives cancel funding to Montreal gay arts festival

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives can't win right now. They're stuck between placating their religious right base, and reaching out to more liberal minded urban dwellers.

Its pretty much a foregone conclusion that without the Bible thumping crowd, their chances at forming a majority in a future election is toast. Hence this news that Montreal's gay and lesbian arts festival was denied funding under the marquee tourism program should come as no surprise. Irrespective of the fact that they met all the requirements and had been led to believe the funding was in place.

Paul Girard, the festival's government relations and marketing director, is quoted in the above linked article as saying that when he phoned to check on the status of the funding, that he was told the program had received so many requests, 'the government simply had to make a choice'.

Uh huh. They had to choose between losing support from the evangelical crowd, or losing votes among French homosexuals.

The French queers lost...big surprise. Like the Tories were really going to score big with that constituency in any case.

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Big government, small government, which is better? That depends on one's perspective

I've taken to scanning some sites listed at bloggingtories because I like to see what issues are being discussed, and to read varying points of view. As with just about any blogging group, I've come across some that I believe to be very well written and reasonable in terms of approach. And I've seen others that have very little to offer, aside from jingoism and juvenile partisan banter.

Most though fall somewhere in the middle, with Gerry Nicholls' blog 'Making Sense with Nicholls' being a prime example. Nicholls, for those who aren't aware, is a former colleague of Prime Minister Stephen Harper from their days with the National Citizens Coalition. The NCC is a neo-conservative think tank which opines on many issues, such as health care, through a decidedly libertarian lens. Nicholls is also the author of, Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCC, a book frequently referenced by political commentators.

In a recent posting Mr. Nicholls offered up his views on the virtues of smaller government. The Toronto Star published a column extolling the virtues of "progressive conservatism" with government playing an active role in Canadian society. Stephen Harper's former colleague responded to the column with a letter to the editor which the Star ran. He provides his readers with that response, which says in part:

Big government, after all, means high taxes, burdensome regulations and bureaucrats meddling in the private sector, all of which hamper productivity, retard economic growth and undermine our standard of living. True progress only comes when government is small and when it respects the freedom of entrepreneurs to innovate and create wealth.

I don't agree with Mr. Nicholls, but my disagreement is probably the result of having a different frame of reference, or perspective. I do think Gerry makes some valid points, but the conclusion he draws from them is off the mark for the majority of Canadians in my opinion.

Does bigger government mean higher taxes? Of course it does, the creation of agencies and programs requires funding by way of taxation. Do these agencies with their bureaucrats meddle in the private sector? Yes they do. And it is certainly reasonable to suggest that this meddling does in fact hamper productivity.

But does it retard economic growth and undermine our standard of living? Is government only progressive when it is small, respecting the freedom of entrepreneurs to innovate and create wealth?

Not from where this blogger sits.

I can give a current example, that of locked out and subsequently terminated Cadillac Fairview employees. According to the news I've seen on the subject, unionized workers at the Toronto Dominion Centre have filed a grievance with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, saying:

"I didn't think this company's tactics could sink any lower..."

We'll have to wait for the actual hearing as well as possible appeals before a decision is rendered of course. But that is irrelevant to the debate over bigger versus smaller government. A labour relations board is obviously an example of what Mr. Nicholls calls..."burdensome regulations and bureaucrats meddling in the private sector".

Without the "burden" of having to answer to a government agency, supported by our tax dollars...companies like Cadillac Fairview would be able to dismiss employees with impunity. Fired workers would have no recourse in this NCC world of progress. Business corporations and entrepreneurs would be free to chase wealth and profits without fear of repercussions.

Those of a libertarian bent might try to argue that with smaller government and fewer regulations, that the wealth being created would surly 'trickle down' to the lowly hourly waged workers. That argument holds very little water, 'trickle down economics' does not work. Wealth stays concentrated at the top and wage earners see their standard of living eroding and their lives regressing...not progressing.

Business is hyper competitive, and the power of the all mighty dollar unfortunately trumps more humanitarian concerns. Like old Fezzywig of Scrooge fame....those who treat their workers well and espouse the view that 'money isn't everything' soon find themselves out of business. Their former employees forced to seek employment elsewhere with leaner and lower paying competitors.

As I stated at the beginning, its a matter of perspective and frame of reference. For an entrepreneur seeking bigger and better returns on a business venture...smaller government with less regulation would be an absolute boon. From this narrow viewpoint it could be seen as progressive. But for the larger part of the population, the vast majority in point of fact, it would be incredibly regressive.

Maybe the hyper successful Scrooges, like those with Cadillac Fairview, would have a dream induced epiphany. But in the end it was government regulation and control which brought increased prosperity and progression to the Tiny Tims of this world.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Lots of lame excuses for not voting

Canada is a democracy, for most that means citizens are able to select the individuals who represent us in government, be it at the federal, provincial or municipal levels. In point of fact Canadians have five levels of government, in addition to the aforementioned three, there are also elections to select regional representatives and school trustees.

Western style liberal democracy typically assumes certain rights and freedoms, including the right to vote. Of course its not a perfect system, we've all heard the oft recited bromide that goes something like 'democracy is the worst form of government, but its better than all the others'. That's a statement with which I whole heartily agree.

For me the central point, the cornerstone, the supporting column of our participation. Participation can take many forms, from placing one's name on a ballot and actually aspiring to elected office, to simply taking the time to go behind a partition and mark an X. Canadian citizens have the right to join established parties, or to found their own. We can run as a candidate, or volunteer to help elect an individual we think worthy. Or we can simply vote, the choice is ours.

But as many are aware by now, nearly 10 million Canadians decided not to participate in our democracy at the federal level this past October. Over 40% of Canadians made the decision to not vote at all.

Why? How is it that the so many Canadians didn't take the time to partake in our democracy's most fundamental privelege?

In my last blog entry I had the temerity to express an opinion, that with Canadian soldiers fighting and dying on the other side of the world, that those of us safe at home had an obligation to exercise our franchise. I went so far as to say that not voting is akin to spitting on the graves of our fallen soldiers, with 125 now having made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

Then the excuses came.

Anonymous commented that the choosing of candidates is imprecise. That candidates frequently lie, or are beholden to special interests who bankrolled their campaigns. This non-voter then went into a long winded analogy about shopping, about how she/he wants to be able to pick and choose on the issues...the same way one puts only the items they want into their shopping cart. Ergo if no one candidate matches your views exactly, then not voting is reasonable.

Bull Sugar!!!

Have we become so self centred that compromise and reasonable accommodation is impossible? Societies such as our's never would have come into being with this degree of narcissistic behaviour. This "I want it all" mind set is the height of greed and reeks of the way spoiled children behave. If I can't have exactly what I want in a candidate, then I'm not voting at all.

Parkadeboy took exception to my use of our fallen soldiers...saying:

My brother in law is currently serving in Afghanistan in the Canadian Armed forces. He is 28. He has NEVER voted in his life!! He says that he doesn't trust politicians! He is there because he has a keen sense of adventure and his tour of duty has nothing to do with his desire to bring 'democracy' to the Afghans.

My response is this. Citizens in our society are fortunate to have the right to decide whether or not they wish to join the military, a right that does not exist in many countries. An individual can decide to join, or not to join...that is the right of the individual held up by our constitution, supported by our courts and enshrined in law by our elected officials. There are many rights and freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of this great nation, but sadly many take them for doubt some of our soldiers fall into that category as well.

I won't appolgize for, "flag waving rhetoric such as spitting on the graves" parkadeboy. Those individuals wearing our nation's uniform represent us, they do so proudly and with honour. They represent our beliefs, institutions and ideals...and Canada is a democratic country, shaped by the laws and policies of our elected officials.

To Chrystal Ocean who said in part:

...half of us choose not to vote for reasons including disgust with politicos and disgust with our representative democracy whose voting system ensures it is in fact NON-representative.

COcean, Canadians can help vote a politician into elected office, and we can help to vote him or her out as well. As for our system being "non-representative", I'll get to that in a bit as its a theme touched on by another blog dog.

Skinny Dipper chimed in with this:

If we get rid of our antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system and change to some kind of proportional voting system, I would be happy to vote. Canada's voting system is bogus; I refuse to participate in the charade of voting just to please some dead soldier.

"Some kind of proportional voting system"??? Okay...what kind would you like? What if it doesn't fit with what spoiled brat 'Anonymous' wants in his shopping cart? Maybe we could have millions of different voting systems, and then settle it by rock paper scissors? Of course our system isn't perfect, nothing constructed of human hands or ingenuity ever is. Hearing comments like this makes me wonder why some don't move to a country ruled by a dictator. We love our freedom of expression, but thumb our noses at the institutions which created and protect such freedoms.

ADHR had this to say:

If someone gives me something, then it becomes mine. I can do what I like with it. I can treat it badly, I can treat it well, I can use it effectively and decently, or I can set it on fire and smash it to pieces. That's what makes it mine. If I'm still obligated to someone else, if I have to take their views into account, then it's not really mine: it's theirs.

My response ADHR is this. That which can be given can also be taken away...and has been throughout the course of human history. Canadians are lucky to have been endowed with something very precious, the right to vote. If we treat it badly, set it on fire and smash it...then we never deserved it in the first place.

Skinny Dipper then chimed in a second time bemoaning a lack of true representation, as Ms. Ocean had before...saying that:

The autocrats run Canada. And they want to pretend to call Canada a democracy.

The autocrats can try to run Canada, that is their right. Those of us opposed to Canada being governed by certain elites or interest groups can mount our own soapboxes and make our voices heard about the way we want Canada run, that is our right. Everyone thinks they're right and the other party is wrong, well maybe not 'everyone' but certainly a lot of people. Sometimes you'll win, sometimes you'll lose.

Democracy is a never ending battle, but when we stop fighting...and stop voting...that's when we lose. Some have tossed in the towel, I haven't.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Every person who doesn't vote is spitting on our soldiers' graves...

I've already expressed my opinion on the war in Afghanistan, that the U.S. led invasion is more about resources and geopolitics than democracy and human rights. But my view on the war's ultimate purpose in no way diminishes the high regard I have for our men and women in uniform. I do believe we are in Kandahar province because that region is of vital importance for a long planned gas pipeline. And while all the soldiers I have spoken with are aware of this fact, that's not the reason they're serving.

Our soldiers ARE there to improve the lives of the Afghan people. Our soldiers want to see girls attending school. They are proud to be working toward the establishment of a democratic Afghanistan.

And in doing this job on behalf of all Canadians, 125 have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet in this country, where we hold our democratic ideals in such high regard, nearly 10,000,000 people didn't even bother voting in our last federal election. That is a joke!!! In fact its worse than a joke, it is the ultimate in disrespect.

If our fighting men and women are willing to travel to the other side of the world to uphold the virtues of our democratic society, we citizens remaining safely behind can at least have the decency to honour their commitment by taking an hour or so out of our day to mark a ballot.

I don't care if one's leanings are right or left, libertarian or Marxist, hyper political or a-political. Canadians have a responsibility to inform themselves of the options available, and then to make a choice and exercise their franchise.

Every citizen of this country who is eligible to vote, and doesn't...they're spitting on the graves of every soldier who has died in the service of our nation's armed forces.

If you have friends, family or acquaintances who've told you that they don't vote, send them this. Cut and paste it, email it, share it, whatever...I don't care. Its disgusting that anyone should have to be shamed into exercising a right that many on this planet have died for, but if that's what it takes so be it.

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Bloody well done old man, Tom Watson - British Open runner up

I couldn't resist blogging about golf after Tom Watson held the 2 day lead at the British Open. After Friday's round I offered up the opinion that I believed Watson could contend right through til Sunday with a legitimate shot at winning, and the old guy proved me right.

British Open golf - C'mon Watson, win one for us old warriors

It was all right there for him on the 18th hole, a one shot lead and a perfectly placed tee shot in the middle of the fairway...only needing an 8 or 9 iron to reach the putting surface. Some might suggest he choked, but I don't think so. He went with the 8, and even at 59 years of age there's adrenalin pulsing through the veins. The 8 was too much combined with that adrenalin, and while the ball was near perfectly struck, it went long. I was praying the 8-9 footer he'd left himself for par would go in...and that the championship would be his, but it wasn't to be. Instead I'd have to endure watching him in a 4 hole playoff against Stewart Cink.

I won't bother recapping the 4 playoff holes, if you're a fan of the game, then you saw it. It was painful to watch, not because Watson embarrassed himself or anything...just because I was pulling for him so hard.

The television commentators mentioned a few times over the course of Saturday's and Sunday's rounds that some were questioning golf's legitimacy as a sport, when a 59 year old man can compete for a major championship. That's a load of rot. Golf is unique, and while it is not as physically demanding as almost every other is not a country stroll either. Players walk about 5 miles each day of a tournament, and while one or two of those marches aren't too difficult for a guy near 60, I'm sure that by the 3rd and 4th day he was getting tired.

Golf is physical, its mental...and even a little bit spiritual. In the final equation Tom Watson had enough of the latter two components, but physically its a lot to ask of a guy in his 60th year.

But he held it together for 4 days, and it took a playoff to beat him...when he shouldn't have even been there by any measure of logic. Well done, see you next year at St. Andrew's Tom.

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Stephen Harper's strategy - Counting on voter ignorance

Stephen Harper is turning into the Homer J. Simpson of Canadian politics. Avid fans of 'The Simpsons' may recall an episode where Homer decided to run for the position of Sanitation Commissioner. The incumbent was more than competent, but Homer was able to win in a landslide by using the slogan:

"Can't Someone Else Do It"

Springfield's resident moron promised to beef up garbage collection with sanitation workers doing all the icky jobs people hate. And he delivered on his promise, bankrupting and utterly destroying the town in the process.

Of course 'The Simpsons' is just a satirical cartoon. But good satire is based at least on some fact. And just as Homer was able to play on the ignorance of voters, Stephen Harper is hoping to do the same's worked for him before.

During the last election Harper and company ignored the economic storm clouds on the nation's horizon. We were promised continued surpluses for the federal treasury, and continued reductions in our taxes. That he only managed to win a minority shows that Canadians aren't as dumb as the Prime Minister was hoping.

He was more successful playing to the ignorant amongst us when his government was facing defeat late in 2008. With the prospect of a Liberal NDP coalition taking his place Harper went into full rant telling everyone that: 'You don't get to be Prime Minister after losing an election'. He didn't stop there, he referred to the potential partnership of his political rivals as 'a coup', an overthrow of a democratically elected government.

That none of what he said was true didn't matter, enough people bought it, and public support for the coalition tanked. Readers who aren't in need of a remedial civics lesson know that Canadians don't elect a Prime Minister. We elect Members of Parliament to represent individual ridings across the country. Even the people in Harper's Calgary riding didn't elect him as PM, they chose him as their local representative.

The party with the most seats after an election forms the government. And the person chosen by that party's members as leader assumes the office of Prime Minister. If the governing party has a minority of the seats, then they have to garner the support of one or more of the opposition parties to ensure a working government. If they're unable, the government is defeated, and two possibilities exist. An election can be called, or the Governor General can call on the leader of another party (typically the one with the second most seats) to form a government, provided they can demonstrate that they have the confidence (or support of the majority) of the house.

That's all history now of course, and totally moot in any case. Harper was able to whine and yell loud enough that the GG granted his request for Parliament to be put on time out. Ignatieff came in as leader of the official opposition and quickly put the notion of a coalition to rest. Which leaves us in our current state, with Harper governing as if an election is coming any day now.

And that brings us back to the original Homer J. Simpson comparison, and how Stephen Harper is playing to the ignorance of the voting populace.

Stephen is telling us what he thinks we want to hear, that government services won't be cut, and that taxes won't be raised. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? Too bad its irresponsible and dangerous. The Conservatives aren't trying to run the country responsibly, they're trying to get re-elected, the consequences be damned.

Expenditures are up, and revenues are down....that's why we're going to be looking at a deficit of some $50 billion this year. And it just keeps piling on, 5 years down the road projections have that total swelling to $150 billion, and possibly even more.

But do Canadians really care? Stephen Harper is banking on enough of us being ignorant to the long term consequences of his "plan". Of course it really isn't a plan at all, unless he's intentionally trying to destroy the country.

Imagine a single income family with no savings and tons of bills. The bread winner comes home and says he's been forced to take a 25% cut in his wages. Fearful that his wife will leave him he says:

"Don't worry honey....we're going to maintain exactly the same lifestyle irrespective of our financial situation".

If the wife in this scenario is smart she'd give serious consideration to packing up...that or looking at some therapy for her spouse.

Here's the script the Tories will be following in the coming months, borrowed heavily from John McCain's failed bid for the U.S. presidency.

Get ready for Harper to start decrying Michael Ignatieff and the other parties as tax raising spend thrifts. When we're not hearing some quote of Iggy's from 10 years ago, we'll be hearing about the Liberal leader's acknowledgement that taxes may need to be increased down the road because of all the debt we're racking up now.

Again I'll ask the question. Do Canadians really care?

Are we so self centred and detached that we fail to realize that we belong to a society? Do we understand that when politicians promise things like increased military spending, more money for health care, a beefed up law and order agenda...Do we get that these things cost money?

Harper is hoping that Canadians will believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. That he can deliver the world, without it costing us an extra dime. And if he succeeds Canadians will go back to seeing ever increasing portions of our tax dollars going into the black hole that is interest charges.

Do Canadians really want to see 25 cents and then 30, 40 and 50 cents of every dollar we give Ottawa...doing nothing except paying for the excesses of an ego maniac consumed with maintaining power?

My faith is that Canadians are smarter than the residents of Springfield.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cadillac Fairview locks out union employees, then fires them. Where's the MSM?

I came across some news about a month ago, that Cadillac Fairview had locked out a number of its unionized employees after contract negotiations had broken down. It wasn't on radio or TV, and I didn't read about it in the paper. I found out about it through the social networking site facebook. At the time I did a search for a news source on the Internet, but came up totally I forgot about it.

Today I received another message on facebook, this one telling me that the locked out unionized workers had been terminated. Included this time was a CNW press release from the employee's union: The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).

The press release says in part:

What I find very interesting is that Cadillac Fairview is wholly owned by the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan, they bought the commercial property developer back in 1999. Given that Ontario's teachers are unionized themselves, I wonder how they'd feel about a contract offer that called for job cuts and for teachers to re-apply for their jobs.

As regular readers will be aware, while I try to be fair minded and sympathies typically lean toward honest working stiffs. I have no issue with employees organizing collectively to enhance their bargaining power and to achieve a better standard of living. As a side note, I used to work in a CF building, one of the Toronto Eaton Centre office towers (TEC Towers). Its going back a few years (2000-2003) but in the two plus years I worked there, the buildings were extremely well maintained.

There's not much else to go on right now, and few sources for information. I've joined the worker's facebook group, and I found a blog called The Real CF News. There is a hearing scheduled for the end of the month with Ontario's Labour Relations Board, and I'll be keeping an eye on this.

If the union's allegations are proven true, I'll be altering my shopping habits. Cadillac Fairview owns a ton of shopping malls in Canada, in addition to the Eaton Centre their holdings include: the Erin Mills Town Centre, Sherway Gardens, and a host of others across the Greater Toronto Area. Cadillac Fairview is a multi billion dollar corporation, and this trend toward replacing decently paid unionized workers with contract employees making survival wages and no benefits concerns me.

I'm sure the Neo Conservative right wingers will be all over this in no time...they seem to love seeing union workers losing decently remunerative jobs that provide some security and a dental plan.

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British Open golf - C'mon Watson, win one for us old warriors

Regular readers of this blog can be excused for thinking that the only thing I really care about is politics. While I do admit to being a political junkie, I do in fact have other interests.

One of those interests is sports, both playing and watching. I've played hockey, baseball, basketball, a bit of rugby and some football. I used to play a decent game of tennis and I've even tried curling on one occasion.

But the sport I'm going to be focusing in on for the next couple of days is golf, specifically the British Open. I haven't had my sticks out for a couple of years now, but watching Tom Watson these past two days has me thinking about cleaning them off for a go at the driving range.

Why am I finding this year's British Open so captivating? Well...naturally there's the thrill of watching the world's best golfers challenge for the claret jug at the birthplace of the game. But its more than that this year. This year its about Tom Watson, 59 years young and leading after play on Friday.

Its not just about Tom Watson the golfer, its more about Tom Watson the metaphor. No matter what the sport, I've always enjoyed watching the aging warrior, reaching back into his bag of tricks, trying to sneak one past father time.

I was in Exhibition Stadium the first game knuckleballer Phil Neikro pitched for Toronto. He was somewhere around 48 years of age, up on the mound trying to confound hitters with a flutter ball. He was picked up late in the season by the Jays in 1987 as a fifth starter. That night at the old ballpark something like 40,000 fans showed up to watch him work. I remember him being quoted in the paper the following day, saying something like, "I can't believe that many people came out to watch an old man throw floater balls".

But they did, for the same reason that many people will be drawn to the British Open on Saturday and Sunday if Tom Watson can stay in contention.

Why are we so fascinated? I think the reason is simple, its because we're all mortals. The moment we draw our first breath is the moment we start dying. I don't mean to sound morbid, that's not my intent. But we're all 'on the clock' as it were. Trying to squeeze as much as we can out of the time we have on this Earth.

Seeing someone of Tom Watson's age, competing with men much younger...some old enough to be his grandchildren, its exhilarating. If Tom can do it, dammit so can I...and you, and you, and you. Sure he has an artificial hip, and maybe he hasn't won a major championship in something like 30 years. But maybe...just maybe.

Logic dictates that this is just an aberration, that reality will eventually set in during the final two rounds. But life isn't always logical, sometimes life is spiritual.

The human spirit operates beyond the calendar, it can soar in a 90 year old and whither in a teenager. Age isn't everything, that's something we all know but have trouble believing. You hear it all the time, "age is just a number". But numbers are real and tangible things, and very hard to ignore. Can Tom Watson ignore his age over the final two days?

Golf is a physical game certainly, but more than most other competitive pursuits, its a mental game. Can this ancient warrior forget about his birth certificate and summon up the spirit to contend and possibly win come Sunday? I think he can.

I've played sports, and there have been moments when everything just clicks. When the brain shuts off and its like you're watching the game as an outsider. But its you making an unbelievable pass, a brilliant deke, a perfectly executed shot. That's the spiritual aspect of sports, when you connect with something and find yourself doing things you didn't think you physically could.

Tom Watson seems to understand that, he's quoted as saying that the spirits are with him this year, and I think he's right. I know my spirit will be with him, along with many others. Forget the numbers Tom, just play the game.

For those of you who aren't fans of the game of golf, but who read to the end regardless, I'm going to leave you with a little treat. Its a video of Robin Williams explaining the origins of the game of golf. Chances are anyone who's ever played the game has seen this clip, but if you haven't its priceless.


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Friday, July 17, 2009

Now is the summer of Harper's discontent...

Ahhhh summer! A time to kick back and relax, weekends spent at the cottage or camp site, burgers and hot dogs on the bbq. A time to leave our problems behind as we bask in the warm sun.

Stephen Harper's summer got off to a glorious start. Michael Ignatieff had backed himself into a corner by threatening to topple the Harper led Conservatives. The Bloc and NDP were on-side....the puck was on Iggy's stick, all he had to do was shoot. But then the leader of the official opposition back tracked, deciding to cycle the puck rather than taking a shot on net.

It made Iggy look weak, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. He'd threatened the governing Tories with defeat if they didn't address his concerns. Harper said no, but tossed a small bone to the Liberals in allowing them to sit in on discussions about the future of EI. The summer was looking almost perfect for Conservative supporters.

Stevie was off to Italy for the G8 meetings, a chance to look all Prime Ministerial on the world stage for the hosers back home. A stop at the Vatican to visit the Pope would make for a great photo-op. All was going according to plan. Soon the Liberals would be knocked back in the polls, the result of Iggy's failed ultimatum and Tory attack ads making the rounds.

Why did that priest have to offer him a communion wafer at Romeo Leblanc's funeral? In fairness to the PM this should really have been a non-issue. Did he eat the wafer or pocket it? He says he ate it, okay. But doesn't he know communion in the RC church is only for confirmed members? Why wasn't the priest properly instructed? Okay, there was some damage....but like a rainy day in July, you know the sun is coming out soon. And besides this wasn't a downpour, more of a light drizzle.

Then the heavy rains came, and kept on coming.

Toronto's Gay Pride festivities received $400,000 in stimulus funding. Big deal. Well...for Harper's Religious Right base this is a very big deal. Backbench MP Brad Trost went running to a socially conservative news service to assure the Bible thumpers that the government wasn't going to let something like this happen without there being some consequences. Diane Ablonczy, who was handling the file, had her responsibilities stripped for handing over the cash according to this Saskatchewan MP.

Out the window goes all the effort at appealing to Canada's moderate urban voters, nice job Brad. It reeked of the old Reform/Alliance days when Ontario proved a wasteland for Canada's conservative movement. Worse, it makes the Harper Tories look like a house divided against itself. You can just picture Liberal strategists salivating at the prospect of western reformers and eastern progressives within the party gouging each other's eyes out.

Okay...okay, its been raining for a week now, but surely the sun is coming out soon!

Sorry Stephen, the next gaffe was all your own. A misattributed quote caused our pit bullish Prime Minister to froth at the mouth in front of the world's cameras in Italy. Harper couldn't resist the opportunity to attack Ignatieff over comments made by some academic...only thing was, the academic in question wasn't Ignatieff. Even if the words had been Iggy's, the G8 conference was no place to launch a partisan attack. The fact that the words weren't Ignatieff's only made matters worse.

Talk about Chevy Chase 'Vacation' type material. I doubt many would have blamed our Prime Minister if he packed up the station wagon and headed back home. Strap Aunt Edna to the roof and don't stop driving til you're back at 24 Sussex Steve.

Thankfully he got a bit of a reprieve from the republicansforignatieff website, but not much. Tom Flannagan chipped in by calling the Liberals a bunch of whiners. Maybe, just maybe the sun would finally come out?

Uh uh....the rain keeps pounding.

The press is full of economist projections about how the Conservatives are managing the economy, and the projections aren't good. While finance minister Jim Flaherty was busy trying to tell the street that "all is well", others like Dale Orr of Economic Insight were backing the words of Kevin Page, parliament's budget watch dog. Page is warning Canadians that the deficit the Tories are plunging us into will be systemic, that we'll be stuck borrowing billions for years longer than Flaherty is projecting. Even TD bank's chief economist is on side with the Mr. Page in snubbing Flaherty's numbers.

Now there's talk that Harper may or may not be making a stop in Canada's north. It was reported a few days back that the Prime Minister would be heading up to Nunavut. The purpose of the visit being the announcement of a northern economic development agency for the region. Now it seems the trip is up in the air according to CBC reports, with nothing having been confirmed.

Who can blame the poor guy? I can just see Harper chastising his caucus right now.

"Can't I go away for a couple of weeks without you guys wrecking the place? Yes, I know I screwed up when I blasted Iggy back in Italy, but I wouldn't be so damn edgy if you guys weren't giving this country's liberal press so much ammunition".

Go up north Stevie, take the wife and kids. Lock the liquor cabinet and put duct tape over all your member's mouths. And if you're asked to eat a raw seal're on your own. These days, you can't win.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stephen "Deficit" Harper - What a Joke

Yet another Stephen Harper commitment has gone the way of the Stanley Cup in Toronto.

Sorry to pick on the big smoke's hockey fans, but they can likely identify with Stephen Harper's supporters. Loyal Tories want to believe their leader's promises, every bit as much as die hard blue and white puck heads want to see Lord Stanley's mug make another trek down Bay Street. And while the possibility for both always exists, realists know that chances are least in the foreseeable future.

During the 2006 election Harper promised Canadians in the strongest possible terms that his government would never, "NEVER" tax income trusts. It would be a crime and an assault on the retirement plans of seniors we were told. Yadda, yadda yadda....thanks for the votes. We all know what those strong words were worth.

Then came the promise of fixed election dates, with legislation to back it up. But our Prime Minister wasn't serious about that either. The law had about as much backbone as Harper's caucus, and so we were back to the polls yet again in October of 2008 so 'Wonder Boy' could try again to get his majority.

And let's not forget the senate, long a lightening rod of dissatisfaction with many western voters. Harper had pledged to leave empty seats vacant until the chamber could be reformed. Steve stuck to his guns for a couple of years, then caved faster than Mike Duffy on a hunger strike. Not only did the PM stack the senate, he broke the record for most appointments in a single day.

Which brings us to recent news. We all know that Conservative pledges about keeping Canada out of deficit are long gone. The PM did talk a good game for a while, but with the global economy tanking, Canada had as much chance of keeping the books balanced as Jim Flaherty has of completing a tomahawk dunk on the basketball court.

Okay, there's going to be a deficit...we've had them before. How big and for how long? Those are the questions being asked right now. For a while Harper and company did a good job of keeping a straight face while spinning the numbers. $35 or so billion this year, then slowly dropping until we're back in surplus in another 5 years.

Hands up everyone who believed those assurances? Put your hand down Flaherty, I can barely see it anyway. No Ms. Raitt, this isn't about a new "sexy" cabinet posting for you...please sit back down.

The news just keeps getting worse if you're concerned about seeing your tax dollars going to debt repayment instead of actual services. The figure this year has been revised up to $50 billion, and Harper and company have given up trying to fudge the numbers. Instead of returning to surplus in another 5 years we're looking at 10 years or longer of continued deficit spending.

Its all over the news:
And that's just a sampling of what's out there today.

So its back to the Trudeau/Mulroney years, watching more and more of our tax dollars going down a black hole. Instead of bolstering health care, improving our military, building infrastructure or helping out vunerable citizens....we're going to be seeing more and more of our money being used for interest payments. Lovely!!!

Harper has laid out his vision...just read the news. He won't raise taxes, or cut he'll just keep hoping the spending limit on the nation's Visa card gets lifted higher and higher. Great plan.

Harper is trying to get re-elected in the next election, the Leafs are hopeful of sneaking into the playoffs. Canada deserves sound fiscal management, the same way long suffering Leaf fans deserve a contender. The Leafs finally got wise and turfed a lousy GM after too many screw ups, its time for Canadians to do the same with this PM before he does even more damage.

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The New Canadian Catch Phrase - "Stephen Harper Is a Joke"

Like most Canadians, in the last election I did not vote for the Conservative candidate running in my riding. I was with the majority in rejecting a party led by a man who's politics and partisanship run counter to the way I would like to see my country run.

I believe my judgement has been vindicated, all I have to do is pick up a newspaper.

Harper embarrassed Canadians by using the world stage as a pulpit to attack a political opponent, over things that opponent never even said. The Conservative finance minister is definitely out of his weight class in fighting this recession. Jim Flaherty's deficit projections don't last a month before they're being revised upward. The Prime Minister surrounds himself with ministers like Mme Raitt, she who thinks people having cancer treatment delayed is 'sexy'. And a competent minister is hung out to dry for funding an event that the Religious Right finds offensive.

In short, Stephen Harper is a joke. And that's how I think ordinary Canadians can help bring both him and his government, down.

Harper and the Conservatives have succeeded in reducing Canadian politics to a game of branding, buzz words and catch phrases. Ignatieff is 'just in it for himself', Dion last time around was 'not worth the risk'. Well here's the buzz for the next election....


Practice it. It rolls nicely off the tongue doesn't it?

Now that we have the phrase, its time to look at putting it in the minds of voters. Do the opposition parties need to spend wads of cash on media spots to drill it into the collective conscience a la the Conservatives? Nope, we can do it in a more cost effective way than that my friends. All we need to do is scan the news when we're surfing.

You know all those stories reporting on our wonderfully inept Prime Minister? Whether its serious or mundane, weighty or fluffy. The ever increasing deficit, or Stevie missing another photo shoot. Wafergate or breaking a promise about stacking the senate.

When we find yet another on-line article or opinion piece showing Harper in a negative light, SHARE IT!!! Hit that little button or icon after the article and post it to your Facebook page, tweet it to all your twitter friends, put it up on Myspace. Use social networking like its never been used before.

And when introducing the news to your friends, family and acquaintances through all this wonderful social media....put in your own little comment. STEPHEN HARPER IS A JOKE!!!

It would be nice if Harper and his Conservative lackeys would indulge this nation's citizens in serious conversation about the issues. Sadly that's not to their liking. Tories seemingly prefer branding over brainstorming, slogans over serious debate. And with their war chest and a bevy of supporters willing to put up endless websites and such, its time for those of us who've tired of this small man to beat him at his own petty little game.

The plan is simple for the majority of Canadians who didn't vote Conservative. Read the news, then remind everyone that STEPHEN HARPER IS A JOKE!!!

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