Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fox News North - It ain't about making $$$

The consensus opinion among many of what I'll call the 'progressive' community is that Sun TV's news service (dubbed Fox North by a few) will prove a money pit for its owners. Well yeah, that may very well prove to be true, but ultimately I don't think that's the point.

From where I sit its all about shaping political opinion in this country. Much to the consternation of many business interests, Canada is still a very liberal minded country. Witness the lack of support for the war in Afghanistan, and our unwillingness to join the US when they invaded Iraq. War is big business, huge business...think of all the money that stood to be made by some had Jean Chretien ceded to Dubya's request for Canada to send troops there in addition to those who were already serving in Afghanistan.

Flash back to 2003 when prominent Conservatives in this country were trying to rally support for the US invasion of Iraq. Would they have been more successful in swaying public opinion with a dedicated news service designed to air views akin to the maple syrup version of someone like Rush Limbaugh?

This isn't about dollars and cents, if it were I'm sure Quebecor and like minded conservatives could find a lower risk higher reward for their capital.

Corporate taxes are being lowered and kept low under the guise of helping business expand and ease high unemployment. That puts enormous stress on a public treasury struggling to fund programs like health care, the Canadian Forces, infrastructure....basically everything citizens rely on.

We're fortunate in this country to have an excellent educational system, it isn't perfect but it is damn good. Canadians (not all, but plenty) know well enough to look beyond the news, and to research those who are behind its dissemination.

For a prime example look at the media universe in the province of New Brunswick where basically all the newspapers, radio stations and TV newscasts are controlled by Irving Media Corp.

Canada's housing bubble - When will it pop?

For those who think Canada's housing market is stable and no where near a bubble allow me to offer up this analysis. Bubble markets are rarely predicted ahead of time, certainly not by so called experts or politicians. Witness our most recent recession. and the lead up to it in October of 2008. Our economicist Prime Minister campaigned on a platform of balanced budgets and continued economic growth. That's not to blame Harper for a lack of foresight, history shows that he was simply following the recession play book.

Step one is to deny deny deny. Step two is to admit that there is stress but that IF there is a recession it will only be technical in nature, the so called "soft bounce". Finally comes the admission that we're in a recession and tough decisions are needed.

Its no different with the housing market right now. Pick up any publication that centres on finance and the denials of a housing bubble are everywhere. That in of itself should send off huge alarm bells for anyone contemplating the purchase of a home in this market. Who are the deniers? Government spokespeople, financial institutions which provide mortgage financing, the Real Estate industry itself, and anyone who recently jumped into the market.

Think of Nortel when it was $120 a share in the heady days of the tech bubble. Obviously people were buying at that price, while smart investors were bailing and taking their profits. The buyers were buoyed by forecasts of continuing share appreciation and spurred on by an industry that told them "now is the time to buy or you'll miss the boat".

Sound familiar? Its the same basic song that Real Estate bulls are singing now. Let's just consider the facts.

Interest rates are at all time historical lows, which has made home ownership cheaper and more affordable than at any other time in Canada's history. Increased buyers has meant increased demand which equals price appreciation.

Right now there's only one direction for interests rates to move. Interestingly every time rates nudge up a tenth or two the housing market starts waving a white flag and institutions have so far responded by easing rates back down again. But how long can this continue when borrowing costs for banks and the like are on the rise?

Demographics and our aging population. How many boomers need a huge 4 bedroom empty nest?

HST and bringing demand forward. With the increased cost of purchasing a home in Ontario and BC brought about by the Harmonized Sales Tax, how many buyers are still standing on the sidelines?

There are many other factors to consider of course. Our fragile economic recovery and the end government stimulus to spur the economy. Add to that the number of people who are leveraged to the hilt, paying $1,000 or $2,000 and in some cases even more just to service their mortgages each month. Just think what a jump of just 2 points in mortgage rates would do, taking a $1,000 payment and jacking it up to around $1,500 a month.

As to the question in the title to this entry: "When will it pop"?

That's the million dollar question and one to which I have no answer. My opinion is that it will pop, but trying to guess the timing is next to impossible. Too many variables to predict. Governements and exposed industry have many tools at their disposal, but my ultimate fear is that the more they do to artificially inflate an already dangerously overpriced commodity....the more damage they'll do when the inevitable correction takes place.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are New Democrats Canada's only democrats? Where's the Afghan Debate?

Life right now does not permit me to keep as close an eye on the news as I would like. With that being said it was impossible to miss the announcement that the Canadian Forces will be maintaining a presence in Afghanistan until 2014. This is a decision with which I am in full agreement, that's my personal opinion. And I am well aware that it is not an opinion shared by all, which is as it should be. Previous to joining the CF I was opposed to Canada's involvement, now I view it as integral on a variety of levels and for a myriad of reasons.

That's the joy of living in a participative democracy, we get to debate important issues, exposing them to public scrutiny before our elected officials make a decision.

Whoops, my mistake. Back to reality now.
Anyone who knows anything about this issue is aware that the decision was reached via what many are calling a back room deal between the Liberals and Conservatives. For those of us old enough to remember the debate over the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) its a case of déja vu all over again.

In that case then Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ran on a platform which said nothing about pursuing an FTA with the US, and during the election he repudiated the idea of negotiating a Free Trade deal with the U.S. After being elected however he changed course and his government inked a deal. The only thing that prevented Mulroney's government from ramming the legislation through was a Liberal dominated senate which forced Canadians into an election, with the FTA the only real issue.

The dynamics are a lot different this time around however. While a majority of Canadians voted for parties opposing free trade, our 'first past the post' electoral system allowed Mulroney's Tories to win a substantial majority. This time Stephen Harper and the Liberals are bed mates, with the NDP the only national party with seats in the House of Commons calling for open debate about extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Should people be surprised at this so called "back room deal" with the Liberals? Hardly, Harper has flip flopped on many issues, as most politicians do. Like Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien before him, Harper has often campaigned one way and governed another....appointing senators, taxing income trusts, government transparency, balanced budgets....its a long list.

So Canada will be staying in Afghanistan until 2014, okay. Its a policy I can support, and one I would be willing to debate. After all democracy is supposed to be one of the reasons Canada is in Afghanistan in the first place. The NDP seems to be the only major national party in favour of full and open discussion and debate. How about Conservatives and Liberals? Its beyond hypocritical to talk about the virtues of instilling democratic values in Afghanistan while squelching debate in Canada.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thinking of joining the Canadian Forces? Look here first!!!

When I joined the CF in March of this year I had never watched the reality show Basic Up, available on YouTube. That might have been a good thing, I don't know if I would have joined had I seen this first. With that being said, this show is incredibly accurate as to what you can expect if you decide to have a go at passing the CF's Basic Military Qualification course (BMQ).

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can you support the troops and be against the mission?

There is much debate taking place in the MSM right now as to what form, if any, Canada's role in Afghanistan should be post July 2011 when the current mission is slated to end.

This is a bit of a political hot potato right now given waning support for the war in general, particularly in Quebec where Harper's hope for a majority government will likely live or die. Unfortunately there is more being said by political pundits than by our Prime Minister or other elected officials, including opposition members.

The central question is: Will Canadians abide by an extension of the current mission irrespective of what form it takes?

For members of the Canadian Forces, the mission is all that matters. Members don't define it or argue its merits, we carry it out. It doesn't matter if that mission is in Afghanistan or in Haiti. Where our forces get deployed is a decision for politicians to make, not for soldiers.

Sometimes I think Canadians forget that we live in a democracy, which means our government ultimately represents the collective will of the people. As as a soldier in the CF I don't see myself serving the government so much as serving the people of this nation.
Obviously it is possible to support the troops while perhaps disagreeing with a particular mission such as the one if Afghanistan. And if it is a high enough priority citizens have every right to push it up the political agenda by contacting their elected officials.

I am actually hopeful of getting the opportunity to be deployed to that volatile region, to see with my own eyes the situation and to understand it better. That may or may not happen depending on the decisions that are made by the powers that be.

But ultimately it should be the will of a majority of the electorate.
Supporting the troops is about more than putting a sticker on your car or observing a moment of silence on the 11th of November. True support means engaging in the political process and ensuring that when CF members are called upon to participate and complete a mission, that the mission itself reflects on the majority will of Canadian citizens.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Are we overreacting to KKK costume at Legion?

Unless you live in a lighthouse, you've probably engaged in, or heard conversation surrounding the events in Campbellford Ontario where a man came dressed in a KKK costume with another man in black face trailing behind with a rope around his neck.

I'm not going to re-hash the story, if you're reading this then you most probably know all the details.

I have heard plenty of comments and read some commentary suggesting that, by and large, this story has been blown all out of proportion. The implication is that in our liberal, touchy feely society, that we've gone overboard. Okay, it may have been in bad taste, but let's not go crazy about it.

I don't know about that. I wonder if there would be suggestions about things being blown out of proportion had the costumes been offensive to a different minority?

What if it had been a man dressed as Adolf Hitler, with a rope around another man dressed like a concentration camp prisoner with a tattoo on his arm?

I wonder if there would be any suggestion that a police investigation and the temporary closing of the offending Legion branch was taking things too far? My overwhelming inclination is that the uproar would have been far worse had the insensitivity been Anti-Semitic in nature.

But then, offending blacks might be more acceptable perhaps?

Any discussion?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Toronto Sun Lost This Reader...

I've been reading the Toronto Sun for YAHRS...for longer than I'd care to admit. But no longer, not since I found out my favourite columnist has been shown the door after over 20 years of writing for the publication.

Eric Margolis, a Vietnam war vet and resident of NYC has been unceremoniously shown the door. I noticed his column wasn't gracing the pages of the Sunday editions, but that's happened before due to his taking time off. An IM session with a current employee however confirmed that Mr. Margolis was released a couple months back.

The Sun has changed, it used to be a free for all editorially, with all points of view given space. I guess that's no longer the case.

For those sufficiently motivated CLICK HERE to read a blog for former Sun employees.

Apparently all this went down under the watch of one Kory Teneycke. I realize that for hyper observers of all the goings on with Canada's far right neo-cons, that this is very old news.

For those unaware Mr. Tenecyke also had ties to Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and former Ontario Premier Mike Harris. (READ HERE)

The former lobbyist was spearheading the charge for Sun TV, or Fox North as some have dubbed it. I'm actually all in favour of yet another right leaning endeavour clogging the crowded media space. With other conservative minded news outlets bleeding red ink I would enjoy a little schadenfreude at the expense of those trying to hoodwink gullible (they think) Canadians into their failed political ideology.

Margolis would probably still be writing for the Sun in my opinion, had he dealt with issues involving Israel less even handedly.