Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time for Marois to show some leadership

I'm an anglophone Quebecer, I do speak French, however given that English is my mother tongue I am obviously most comfortable expressing myself in Canada's other official language.

When out and about with my wife we invariably default to English in our conversation.  The resident love goddess is just starting to learn French and will be beginning full time classes in the new year. We've never had an issue or a confrontation, in fact I often have to ask politely to be spoken to in French.  

With that being said, it is obvious that recent events here in Quebec are causing me some concern.  This evening's news had a story about a woman who, along with her young son, were hit with eggs, apparently for speaking English.

This comes after a recent story and video showing pro-separatists driving over, and wiping their feet, on the Canadian flag.

I haven't blogged on this before because Quebec is my home, and I find the vast majority of Quebecers to be warm and inviting people.  There are bad apples in every bushel and Quebec has a few certainly.  But  I didn't think drawing attention to the few bad apples would serve any purpose, other than to stir up anti Quebec sentiment, of which there is too much already.

Unfortunately stories like this are becoming too common, and its time for the political leadership in Quebec to take a strong and principled stand.  Je parle à vous Mme Marois.  Réne Lévesque had his flaws like everyone, but he knew how to stand up to extremists.  Does Pauline Marois have it in her to be a true leader like the founder of her party?

Sadly politics in this country has degenerated into a marketing strategy.  Polling the electorate and identifying the issues important to a core group of supporters large enough to get you elected.  Leadership used to be about outlining a direction for a society and then convincing people  that you're right, polls be damned.  

Mme Marois needs to show this type of leadership.  She has to be forceful in repudiating the actions of some of her most militant separatist supporters.  Is Quebec a modern and enlightened democracy that believes in tolerance, or a xenophobic hateful society?

The PQ's slogan during the most recent election was "C'est à nous de choisir".  Alors Mme Marois, c'est maintenant à vous de choisir! Are you going to pander to fear and intolerance?  Or do you have the royal jelly to be a strong and forceful advocate for the principles of inclusion, tolerance and ultimately democracy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A final word on internet dating

Its been a long time since I've written anything about dating in general or internet dating in particular.  There's a reason for that, on September 22nd of this year I took the plunge and am now happily married to a wonderful woman.

While I didn't meet my resident love goddess via The Internet , I know several couples who have formed lasting relationships after meeting through a dating site, some of whom have gone on to get married.  And let's face it, Internet dating is here to stay.  While there might have been some stigma attached to it in the early days, now that social networking has become such an integral part of everyday life, using an on-line introduction service is becoming the norm.

Recently I was asked my opinion on Lifemates Canada, given my experience with on-line dating, and I must say I like their approach.  Unlike many sites Lifemates does not come across as being all about numbers, getting as many registered users as possible.  Rather they seem far more interested in engaging their customers through innovative and thoughtful offers.  For example they partner with restaurants so that their members get special treatment.  

Another positive aspect is that they actually invite complaints on their review and complaint pages.  Now that's being proactive.  By encouraging their customers to list their issues it enables staff to address and rectify problems and make improvements.  Getting out in front of challenges is the best way to handle them and goes a long way in satisfying customers.

Speaking as a newlywed who's thrilled to be in a committed relationship, and as an individual who had his share of being single, I would encourage anyone sitting on the fence to get out there.  There is plenty of competition among various sites offering introductions to prospective partners.  Find a site that meets your needs and expectations, you've got nothing to lose, the love of your life might be waiting for you.  

Here's one last link for those looking for an independent site that reviews different introduction services:  Genka Dating Reviews

Get out there and start enjoying life.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why do a majority of Canadians want abortion back in the criminal code?

Canadians, thanks to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have certain rights.  Almost all, however, are not absolute.

We have the right to assemble, provided it is peaceful.   We are protected from search and seizure, unless the grounds are deemed reasonable.  We have freedom of expression, but it is limited in that we can not exercise that right if it promotes hatred.

By and large, Canadians are okay with this.  Being a mature democracy most citizens recognize that very few things in this world are absolute, except for death and taxes.

Maclean's magazine's most recent issue has an article about Canada's most contentious absolute right, abortion.  It details a legal case about which I was not aware, Regina v. Ivana Levkovic. The case reportedly involved the discovery of the body of a newborn baby girl on an apartment balcony after the accused had vacated the building and was no longer residing there.

The legal fun centered around what to call the 'baby', for the simple reason that pathologists were unable to determine whether the 'baby' had been born alive or dead.  This is important because in Canada a 'baby' has no standing in law until it is fully emerged from its mother, and alive.  

Canada's Supreme Court reserved judgement on the case just two weeks prior to parliament voting on a motion to study at what point human life begins.  As pretty much everyone knows, that motion was defeated.

Anyone who is interested knows the history, Canada has been the only western democracy in the world without any restrictions on abortion for going on 25 years.  Abortion was removed from the Criminal Code when our Supreme court ruled in favour of Dr. Henry Morgentaller in the case of R. v. Morgentaller:

"The precise point in the development of the fetus at which the state's interest in its protection becomes 'compelling' I leave to the informed judgement of the legislature".  

That was written by Bertha Wilson, considered one of the most progressive and liberal of Supreme Court justices.  Justice Wilson left it to our elected officials to determine that point.  Canadians are still waiting.  

The Maclean's article cites an Ipsos Reid poll done just this past July that says 60% of respondents, and 62% of women, would support legal restrictions on abortion during the last trimester.  

That's a pretty significant majority of Canadians, a lot more than any of our governments ever get elected with.  And why do they support putting abortion back in the criminal code?

I think cases like R. v. Levkovic are the reason.  Or the story from 1996 about a pellet gun being fired into a womb in an effort to kill an unborn fetus/child/thing.  Thankfully cases like these are rare, but sadly they do happen.  Laws are made, not for the majority of law abiding citizens, but for an incredibly small percentage of the population who engage in activity the majority considers criminal.  

Most Canadians are reasonable, we recognize that individuals should have rights and freedoms, but we also recognize that these rights don't always have to be absolute.  Abortion is a taxpayer funded medical procedure after all, and as with all things paid for out of the public purse, Canadians are entitled to their opinions.

You can read the full article here:  THE RIGHT WORDS

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beyond The Power of Your Subconscious Mind - Book Review

Before undertaking to read and review C. James Jensen's book, 'Beyond The Power of Your Subconscious Mind', I had already read many books of a similar nature, titles like 'The Magic of Believing' and 'The Secret'.

I had already formed the opinion that people are very much like ice bergs, that what we perceive as our potential is but a fraction of the power that lies below the service.  In human beings that potential rests within the subconscious, and whether its used actively or passively, its power is immense.

We're all using it every day.  Sometimes we use it actively by imprinting a message of health, wealth, happiness and prosperity. More often though we use it negatively by letting ingrained and programmed feelings of doubt limit and keep us from achieving our true potential.

Mr. Jensen has updated a 50 year old book by Dr. Joseph Murphy: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.  Obviously the world has changed a lot in the past half century, but the message of the original book and the updated version by Mr. Jensen represent what I consider to be universal truths.  This new book however brings new light on the subject and includes information that was not yet available to the original author.  

Fifty years ago we didn't yet have the ability to measure things like the frequency of human brain activity, now we do.  Not only that but we can measure and quantify at which times our brains are most receptive to receiving messages, messages that can overwrite all the negative programming that was ingrained in us at an early age.

- What's wrong with you?
- You never do anything right!
- All good things must come to an end.

Parents unknowingly are handicapping their children every time they repeat negative bromides like these.  We all know people who have achieved more than others despite a seeming inferiority.  I'm sure everyone knows of at least one person who has overcome obstacles to achieve success.  Obstacles can come in many forms, maybe a lack of education or the absence of financial resources.

Why do some people succeed despite lacking in areas such as finances and education, while others who have all the advantages still fail?  

I put it down to one thing, belief.  But for belief to truly work it has to have taken root and flourished, not just the conscious mind, but in the subconscious mind first and foremost.

C. James Jensen's book will help those dedicated to tapping the hidden power deep within themselves.  This is one of those books you will likely want to go back to time and again.  Old habits die hard, and old personalities die even harder.  By using and applying the teachings of 'Beyond the Power of Your Subconscious Mind' over and over again I truly believe that anyone can make a marked change in any and all aspects of their lives.  

Full disclosure as always, I received zero compensation for the writing of this review.

To order a copy of this book you can visit: Amazon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11th - Did you remember

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Did you remember?

Did you take a minute or even just a moment to reflect on all the Canadians who have gone to war and didn't come home?

Did you think of the children who've waited for a mother or father, a brother or sister, to return home, who are still waiting?

Did you take time to reflect and possibly offer up a prayer or an affirmation that perhaps one day human kind will find ways other than armed conflict to resolve their most serious differences?

Remembrance day isn't a day to glorify war, its a day to reflect, to honour sacrifice, and to hope that someday all nations will join together and put an end to war.

I remember, I won't stop.  I will pray, and I won't stop.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Safe powerful policy for Justin Trudeau

I will be taking a break from blogging for the next month or so, but before taking my leave I will part with some, (in my not so very humble opinion) sage advice for Liberal leadership aspirant Justin Pierre Trudeau.

Conservative commentators and pundits have been clamouring for something substantive in the way of policy  from the Papineau member of Parliament.  Showing political acumen perhaps beyond  his years, Mr. Trudeau has been wise not to oblige.  After all this is not a general election, merely a contest to determine the leader of the third party in the House.

But Justin appears to be very much the gentleman, an individual who carries himself with poise and with class, something long missing from the Canadian political scene.  As such I'm sure he must be itching to give his detractors some steak to go with all the sizzle.  

It would be unwise to make any bold statements this far in advance of the next election in 2015.  After all, who knows what the issues will be?  Why corner yourself on something that the Conservatives will try to hang you with in three years time.  

That doesn't mean you can't outline some powerful policy initiatives however.  And here are four ideas for starters, complete with annotations, just click each point.  

I will suggest that Justin tell the Liberal party specifically and Canadians in general that a Trudeau led Liberal government will not:

My favourite in all those is the stylist that Canadians taxpayers footed the bill for, not for Justin but for Prime Minister Harper.  Conservatives love mocking Trudeau for his gorgeous 'pretty boy' locks, but at least taxpayers aren't asked to foot the bill.  

See y'all sometime in November.  

Everyone is talking about Trudeau

Ever since he became Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has dominated the Canadian political scene.  Love him or loathe him, any discussion on federal politics has started and ended with Stephen Harper.  

There's a famous quote attributed to PT Barnum:  

"There's no such thing as bad publicity, as long as they spell your name right".   

And in today's age of hyper connectivity and constant news, Stephen Harper has probably been getting more publicity than any politician in Canadian history.  

Until now.

Much, (I am sure) to the consternation of die hard Conservatives, Justin Trudeau is now the dominant subject of political discourse. And the reaction one sees, be it from right wing news outlets or neo-con posters commenting on the web, seems to say....HOW DARE HE!!!

Right wing loathing of Trudeau was already rampant before Justin even declared his intention to run for the Liberal leadership.  It is starkly evident from the Sun TV broadcast of Justin's boxing match with Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau.  Calling JT a 'Shiny Pony' and deriding him as a former drama teacher, you can almost taste the acrimony Ezra Levant has for the Papineau MP.

If you watch the post fight interview though, notice the class Trudeau exhibits with Mr. Levant.  Class, and respect, something we haven't seen enough of lately in the political arena.  Even after the Conservative champion has gone down to defeat, Levant can't summon up the class to be gracious.

Ratchet that loathing up a notch now, and throw in a measure of fear.  Yes fear, Justin Trudeau represents a very real threat.  

And with wall to wall coverage the young Trudeau has been able to do something that Monsieurs Ignatieff and Dion were incapable of. Justin is introducing himself to Canadians, on his terms.

Crisscrossing the country he's already been to Calgary, Mississauga and Dieppe New Brunswick, with more to come. Should the Big Blue Machine  start smearing him with Rove style attacks at this early juncture, they might appear desperate.  

And the simple reality is, while JT may not be the reincarnation of his father, he is every bit as much a lightening rod for public attention.  

It doesn't matter whether the media is left wing or right wing, Sun TV or CBC, they're just filling demand.  And what people want to hear about right now is Justin Trudeau and not Stephen Harper.

A nice change if you ask me.  

Who's to blame for NHL labour problems? Dumb Canadian fans

We Canadians can be a pretty dense lot at times.  Oh we love to complain, to bitch and moan, but then we just roll over, and we never even expect breakfast or a call the next day.

Take the latest NHL lockout, the third in less than ten years.  How can the NHL treat their fans so badly?  Why are the two sides in this dispute so willing to dig in their heels?

Simple, both sides know that Canadians will be back in droves like they have after each previous work stoppage.

Drop the puck and they will come, spending hundreds of dollars on tickets, back in front of their TV sets watching the game and buying all kinds of crap with their team's logo on it.

The money will be rolling in as soon as the owners and players can decide on some way to divide up the billions, disportionately coming out of Canadian pockets, that fans pony up each year.

Forget the American teams.  With rich TV deals from the CBC and other Canadian networks the NHL doesn't need to worry about stuffing teams in places like Florida and Phoenix, Columbus and Nashville.  The owners of those teams get to share in revenues that wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets, Leafs , Senators and Canadiens.

When a Canadian team like the Nordique wants to leave, hey...no problem, Gary will help you pack up the trucks.  But when a team like the Coyotes has trouble drawing a quorum to a regular season game, the league steps in and is prepared to lose millions every year rather than give Quebec City back a team, to say nothing of Hamilton.

Why are Canadians treated so shabbily?  

Simple, we are idiots.  If we were smart, when this latest dispute ends we'd stay away from the arenas, stop watching on TV and stop buying those flags for our cars and a host of other merchandise with NHL logos on it.

We'd still get our hockey fix by watching junior and/or minor games.  Instead of paying hundreds we'd only be paying $40 or $50 for a couple of seats.

That's what Canadians would do if we were smart.  But of course we're not smart, we'll cheer like morons and empty our wallets when the players and owners finally decide how to divide up our money.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Some YouTube movie recommendations

I still don't have cable or satellite at my residence, so the internet remains the chief source of entertainment.  Thanks to the resident love goddess however we now have a modern flat screen thingie. LCD or LED, or is it LSD?  No wait, that's acid, never mind.

Anyway,whatever it is, there's a cable that hooks up to the computer which allows us to watch these movies on the semi-big screen.  

I've already shared some good old TV shows like WKRP in Cincinatti that are availabe on YouTube, now I will share a few classic and awesome movies.

I realize that there are many "youngins" out there who think there's no such thing as a good movie made in a year starting with 19.  I of course will beg to differ, in fact four out of five of the movies I'm going to recommend pre-date my existence on the planet.  

I'm not going to embed them the way I usually do, or provide a hyperlink.  Instead I will just provide the URL and you can cut and paste it.   The reason is because I find a lot of good movies seem to get removed, probably because they were uploaded without permission.  Oh, if you don't know how to cut and paste the URL then you're even more of a Luddite than I am, and you have no business even using a computer.  So turn it off now.

The Great Escape :

This movie is an absolute classic, about WWII prisoners escaping from a POW camp.  Based on a true story, the plan was to blitz 250 prisoners out in one night.

West Side Story:

If you are a fan of musicals then this one is for you.  The language is dated certainly  "Daddy-O" and I doubt anyone ever used the word "buggin", as in....'we own the entire buggin' street'.  Its Romeo and Juliet meet NYC street gangs, with the Jets and Sharks taking the place of the Montagues and Capulets.  

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner:

Interracial marriages are nothing unusual now, my wife is originally from Sri Lanka.  But back in the 60s at the height of the civil rights movement, well things were different.  This awesome movie stars one of my favourite actors, Spencer Tracy.  Of course with Sideny Pottier and Katherine Hepburn in it as well, there's no shortage of star power.

Twelve Angry Men:

Starring Henry Fonda this is the film adaptation of a great play that has twelve men arguing in the jury room over the guilt or innoncence of a young man charged with the murder of his father.  I love Henry Fonda's voice and demeanor, that calm but serious tone he effected so well.


All four of those movies can be viewed in their entirity without interruption.  I will suggest one more that has to be viewed in 11 installments.  That's maybe not a bad thing as it breaks things up if you need a bathroom or snack break.


Peter O'Toole is a brilliant scientist dedicated to cloning, or as they refer to it in the movie "growing" his dead wife.  Muriel Hemmingway is awesome as is M*A*S*H star David Odgen Stiers better known as Charles.  

If you have some time over the Thanksgiving holiday, hook up the TV to your computer and enjoy some great classics before they get removed. 

If you know of some others I'd love to hear about them, you can leave a comment or send me an email.

What are you thankful for? Justin Trudeau doesn't count....

I have a lot to be thankful for, oh I have minor complaints like everyone, but focusing on all the good things in my life does wonders for my outlook and my health.

Fall has long been my favourite time of year, I'm not sure exactly why, it heralds the coming of winter, my least favourite season.  But I love the fall the colours, and living as I do in the shadow of the Laurentian mountains here north of Quebec City, they are spectacular.  Maybe I love the fall because its a time of harvest, a season to look back and enjoy before the cold sets in.  

This year I am particularly thankful for my wife.  Oh, I haven't told you yet dear readers, I got married to a wonderful woman on September 22nd of this year.  The resident love goddess is a fantastic person with infinite patience, and she is saving another woman somewhere on this planet a lot of grief.  

Back in 2009 I wrote a Thanksgiving post of which I'm somewhat proud. Here it is again with some editing:

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 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 the Maple Leafs

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 of us with strong family ties sometimes forget 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 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. For my mother no longer here in body but very alive in spirit  the memory of her has sustained me through many a dark hour. I’m thankful for my sister and brother and their spouses and their children, my nieces and my nephews. I’m thankful for my family, a circle that grows stronger as it expands.

I’m thankful for 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 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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Justin,its thanks to your Dad that I speak French

In my lifetime Canada has had Liberal and Conservative governments.  But really, how much difference does it really make in an individual's life whether its a Tory or a Grit occupying the Prime Minister's office?  We still go to work and school, still pay our taxes and live our lives in relative peace and security no matter who's living at 24 Sussex Drive.

I can't help but thinking, though, that it is thanks to governments led by Pierre Trudeau that I am capable of  speaking and understanding the French language.  Prime Minister Trudeau made official bilingualism the law of the land back in 1968, at which time I was only 2 years old and living in New York.

Needless to say I wasn't aware at that early stage of my development what an impact it would have on my life.

Fast forward to 1978.  My father had moved our family back to Canada permanently and I, although born in Ontario, had gone through most of my schooling in the United States, with zero instruction in the French language.

I was going into grade seven and for the first time French was a required class.  Ugh, I don't know how well I did, but I'm pretty sure I failed, if not I scraped by with a bare pass.  The same thing happened in grade eight, either failing or barely passing.

Thankfully I was heading to grade nine, and in my era Ontario didn't not require students to take French in high school.  Thank God!!!   I filled out my electives, leaving French off the list and handed it to my father to sign.  One problem, French wasn't on it and he refused to endorse my selections. 

I had to take French.  Canada is a bilingual country, I was told, with two official languages and my father wanted me to have at least one French credit in high school.

Ugh.  I was only fourteen, so what could I do.  I changed the form and was back learning French again in September, and doing miserably.  However in February my teacher left to go on maternity leave, and was replaced by a new teacher only just graduated from teachers college a year or two before.  

I realize this might come across as somewhat sexist, but she was gorgeous with a propensity for wearing skirts which showed off the legs of a tennis player.  I wasn't in love, but I was definitely infatuated, and my French mark rose accordingly, settling at 68% by the end of the year if memory serves.

I found out I liked learning French, and continued with it throughout high school, having some excellent teachers along the way.

After grade twelve I applied for and received a bursary to attend a 6 week French Immersion program offered through the federal government, (merci Pierre) and spent a good chunk of that summer in a French community improving my French to the point where holding down conversations was possible.

Obviously it took more than that to improve my French.  I had gotten it to a level strong enough that a few years later I was able to get a job in customer service and sales using French on a daily basis.

And now I'm living in Québec City, and while my language skills still aren't perfect, I have zero difficulty in navigating my way through any conversation.

Would I have learned la langue française if Canada hadn't made bilingualism an official policy?  Might I still have picked up enough without the aid of a government sponsored program?  I highly doubt it.

Pierre Trudeau was in many ways a polarizing figure, some loved him and some loathed him.  I don't think he did everything right or everything wrong.  But I do think he wanted to create a more unified country, and programs that helped bridge the language divide were very beneficial in that regard.

Government can have a major impact on the direction in which it moves a society.  Many cynics think it doesn't matter, that they're all a bunch of crooks who will lie and flip flop, doing anything they can to win power.  Maybe so, but politics does matter because it sets out a direction and strong leaders can inspire people to make Canada a better country.

Je sais bien qu'il y avait des benifices surement dans ma vie, et je suis égalment certain, dans les vies d'autres aussi.  

Soapbox Mail: French Immersion is not for every child

This blog is nearing three years old, and on a fairly regular basis I receive email from people commenting on, or asking questions about, something I've written.  I've had a few questions from people thinking about joining  the military later in life, and I've answered them directly.  

One came in very recently from a Toronto woman about her daughter, who is enrolled in French Immersion.  Rather than summarize I will share it with you:

We read your article posted last year regarding you enrolled your two little ones to French Immersion. In the article, you stated the benefits of staying in FI.

Our six-year-old daughter, ######, is now in Grade 1 in FI program in Toronto as we took the opportunity to put her in. My husband is a strong supporter of FI, but unfortunately we are not agree with each other. He refers your article to show me the benefit of staying in FI. I read it and very glad that your two sons are success in FI program. However, on the other hand, I don’t know how to reconcile your situation with ours.  Here is our background: We immigrated to Canada from China in 2005, and my daughter born in Canada in 2006, she didn't learn any English till Junior Kindergarten as our parents took care of her at home. She speaks Chinese very well but not good in English. Till now, her oral English skill is still at beginning level. She transferred to FI School at Senior Kindergarten, and she learned some basic French like numbers, colors, some name of objects. Now she is in Grade 1, the teacher requires her to read a French book each day which we have to ask our neighbor’s daughter for help as both of us don’t know any French. Also, she has weekly assignment. Also, her ability to communication with her peers is not good, plus she is not that open. I worry about it will affect her interaction with her peers. The last concern I have is still around her English skills as we live in an English society, so English is a must. I think that focus on English in Elementary school is very important for her. If she conquered English, French can be learned in Grade 4 in Extended French Immersion Program. 

In opposite, my husband believes she will excel in English, French, and Chinese but he can't provide enough evidence to convince me. He also states that the qualities of average student in FI are better than ones in English Program and it is hard to get a spot in FI program.

Now, I am really struggling and frustrated. I don’t know if I can get some advices from you? Also, may I ask if you have same background with us, will you keep her in FI?

Thank you very much and very appreciate your help!

The bottom line question...given the circumstances these parents are in, would I keep my child in French Immersion.  Probably not.  I sent a reply to this woman's husband and this is what I wrote.

Dear Sir,

With the greatest respect, I think it is fantastic that you want your daughter to be able to speak both of Canada's official languages as well as your mother tongue Chinese. You obviously place a great value on education, and for that you are to be highly commended.

I gather from your wife's email to me that your child's situation is somewhat unique.  She is already somewhat bilingual, speaking Chinese very well thanks to the time she spends with her grandparents.

It seems from what I have been told that ######'s English is not as strong as her Chinese.  Living as you do in Toronto, obviously you are aware of how important a strong foundation in the English language is.  Most of her interactions in Toronto will be with people who speak English only, and many people will judge an individual by how well or how poorly they speak and write in English.

When I wrote my article on the benefits of French Immersion, it was written with the thought that people reading it would be parents of children who already have a strong foundation in the English langauge.

In my view sir, the greatest gift and biggest advantage you can give your daughter is to ensure she has a strong and solid foundation in the primary language of the place where she is living and where she will grow up.  In Toronto obviously that is English.

I don't want to discourage you about French, and I should tell you that I now live in Quebec and am fluently bilingual although I didn't start learning French until I was in grade 7, at 12 years of age.

I know its a difficult decision and that you are very interested in giving your child all the advantages possible so that she can succeed in life.  In my opinion the most important thing for her is to establish a strong foundation in English, and after that is firmly in place I have little doubt she would excel in learning French or any 
other language.

No matter what decision you make I wish you much luck.  Your daughter is very lucky to have parents like you and your wife.

Kindest Regards,

I don't know what this couple's ultimate decision will be, but I hope things work out regardless of whether their daughter stays in FI or not.  Given her parents commitment to education I think she already has a lot going for her.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Spoiled Ontario teachers don't like the taste of their own medicine

I had some sympathy for Ontario's teachers, after all I have two siblings and a best friend all employed in that profession in Canada's most populous province.

Note, I said 'had' and not have.  My sympathy is gone because of what the Ontario Teachers Pension fund did to Cadillac Fairview workers a few years back.

The fund, commonly known as 'Teachers', wholly owns Cadillac Fairview Corporation.  But when CF was locking out and then terminating unionized employees back in 2009 nothing was said.

Ontario teachers are moaning and looking for public support right now because of the manner in which they're being treated by the McGuinty government.  

Suck it up whiners, you weren't there when a company your pension owns was locking out and then terminating skilled union workers, including those on sick leave and permanent disability.  

I've done my homework, here are the references, first from Cadillac Fairview's own web site:

That's right purchased back in 1999, you can look that one up yourselves seeing as you have the time after cancelling everything from clubs to sports that make education enjoyable for many students...remember them.

Bottom line, Ontario teachers should be ashamed.


Justin needs to use his boxing skills outside of the ring

I've often compared politics to chess, or at times a hockey game.

Now the appropriate metaphor appears to be boxing, given Justin Trudeau's ring defeat of a heavily favoured Conservative Senator, a fomer Canadian Forces member and a karate blackbelt. Young Mr. Trudeau didn't beat three opponents, just one. Tory Senator Patrick Brazeau had those seeming advantages and the calendar on his side to boot, being 38 to JT's 40.

Despite being a three to one underdog, Canada's dauphin stunned everyone by scoring a technical knockout when the referee finally halted the fight in the third round. That was after several previous stoppages to ensure the Senator was fit to continue.

Boxing and politics, both contests where opponents try to land their gloves on one another while at the same time defending against attack. Not always an easy task, take a reckless swing and you can leave yourself ungaurded against a big punch.

Just ask Stephane Dion, he of the ill fated but bold Green Shift.

The former Libeal leader tried to land a haymaker by proposing an overhaul Canada's tax system, advocating the reduction of income taxes while raising them on carbon production. Dion's gaurd down, he was pummelled by Harper and the Conservative machine with a flurry of punches about the Liberals looking to 'tax everything'.

The Conservative won that fight on points, returned to power, but with another minority.

Dion bloodied, the Grits turned to Michael Ignatieff. But before the former Harvard prof could even get between the ropes he was getting hit left and right over his long absence from Canada's shores. The highly intellectual and new savior wasn't able to mount any offence whatsover and was knocked out cold by the Harper machine. The Liberals were relegated to thrid party status and Iggy failed to win even his own seat.

Of course young Mr. Trudeau hasn't yet won his party's leadership, although it looks like a foregone conclusion. Right now he's in training and working out hard. But if things play out the way most are expecting he's just getting ready for the main event when Canadians next go to the polls in 2015.

We're still waiting to see if any big name sparring partners will step forward, Marc Garneau seems the most likely. The Conservatives will be watching carefully, this is an open session after all, the gym doors aren't closed. Stephen Harper and his advisors will be putting JT under a microscope to discern any weaknesses that can be exploited down the line.

And if the Montreal area MP is as cagey as he appears, he won't give them any.

Justin's boxing skills were, at least in part, learned from his late father Pierre. And the elder Trudeau was very skilled at using boxing tactics outside the squared circle. Pierre Trudeau loved the Socratic method, the intellectual version of counter punching. Goading his opponents into defining a position on a given issue, the elder Trudeau would find an inevitable flaw in their argument, rip it wide open, then hold it up for all the world to see.

That's what many Conservative commentators are doing right now with Justin Trudeau, calling for him to outline concrete policy initiatives. In boxing its called jabbing, a sharp quick thrust, not meant to inflict any real damage but rather to illicit a response. The dominant hand is kept close, gaurding against attack, while the non dominant hand is thrust quickly but with no real weight, toward the oppoent.

Pretty boy - but no depth, nice hair - but no substance, famous name - but no resume....JAB JAB JAB.

The undisciplined fighter gets annoyed with the glove of his opponent constantly flicking him in the face, and he responds strongly, going for the big blow and leaving his chin exposed.

If I was in JT's corner this would be my advice:

You're winning on points, the National Post released news of a poll that shows Conservative support tanking with you as Liberal leader. No need to go for the knock out, keep moving, bobbing and weaving. Be ready for that right, and if you see an opening and want to try a left-right combination, be damn sure your opponent's defences are down.

It worked on Brazeau I know, but now the stakes are higher and the opposition tougher.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trudeau has the Conservative base worried

I've been reading a lot of the news on Justin Trudeau's 'non-news' announcement that's he's running for the leadership of the Liberal party.  Obviously everyone already knew, I blogged about it on August 30th...and if I knew then everyone not living in a cave knew.

Say whatever you want about Canada's Johnny Depp look-a-like, but there's no questioning that he's grabbing people's attention. According to my google news feed there are over 400 articles available on the aspiring Prime Minister, and that's just in the last 48 hours.

More interesting than the articles though is the comments these stories are generating, and from Conservatives the reaction is very telling.   Bottom line, they're worried.   

A common theme emerges in these comments. Characterizing young Mr. Trudeau as a political lightweight with a thin resumé, a pretty boy riding on his daddy's coat tails.  That's fair commentary certainly.   Were his last name anything but Trudeau the chances of him running would be slim and none, and winning his party's leadership would be all but impossible.  

After that though the comments take an uglier turn.  Anger over past Liberal programs like official bilingualism and multiculturalism for starters.  I've seen the word 'ecotard' used a few times, which suggests some Conservative diehards think that anyone who's concerned with protecting the environment must be mentally challenged.  The Conservative/Refrom base is really showing its true colours.  

Such venom indicates a real and palpable fear among grassroots Tory supporters.

If westerners celebrating Halloween really want to frighten the neighbours, send the kids out in Justin Trudeau costumes.  Nah, that might be a bad idea, they might get injured.  

Justin Trudeau understands social media...

Nice touch, hopefully young Mr. Trudeau can get Canada's youth excited about politics again.   Its been a while.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stephen Harper is Sooooo unpopular that.....

I'm not going to put any stock in a recent poll that suggests the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau would easily win a federal election if one were held right now, because there's no campaign going on.  

But it does say something about how Canadians  feel about Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.   All Justin Trudeau brings to the table at this juncture is a famous name, good looks and a perfect boxing record.  But that's all Canadians seem to need to tank Conservative support at the moment.  

Of course the Conservative attack machine hasn't yet fixed its cross hairs on the son of Canada's philosopher king.  Assuming JT wins, that will most assuredly come.  

The Harper Conservatives' political success hasn't been built around convincing Canadians that they're the best party to lead the country so much, but rather by scaring us about others who: 'Aren't here for us'.  Or who are 'not worth the risk'.  

Any thoughts for an anti JT slogan?  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sex-selection abortion - The perfect wedge?

The abortion debate, such as it is, is dominated by the extremes. While polling indicates a majority of Canadians hold a nuanced view, hard liners believe in either a total ban or complete and unfettered access to the procedure.

According to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, fully 60% of those surveyed would support the introduction of a law which would place some limits on when a woman can have an abortion.  (STORY HERE)

Right now of course there are no legal restrictions whatsoever. For the extremists in the Pro-Choice camp, that is exactly where things should be.  Their argument is that the Supreme Court settled this issue when Canada's abortion law was struck down in 1988 as unconstitutional.  They forget (perhaps conveniently) that the court called on Parliament to craft new legislation that would pass constitutional scrutiny.

Those who believe that life begins at conception have been fighting an uphill battle ever since, with little success.  The most recent effort was a vote on a motion put forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth.  The motion called on Parliament to create a committee which would study at what point human life begins.  This past Wednesday it was resoundingly defeated, 203 to 91.  

Had the motion passed it opened up the possibility that a fetus could have been given legal standing at some point prior to birth, and as such been afforded some protections under Canadian law. In other words there would likely have been restrictions placed on abortion procedures.  With the defeat Pro-Life advocates were left to look for another opening to forward their agenda.

And they may have found it.

Another Conservative, MP Mark Warawa, has put forward a new motion calling on Canada's Parliament to condemn the practice of abortion being used when the fetus is not the desired sex.

The actual wording of the motion should be noted.  Mr. Warawa is asking our Parliament to:

"...condemn the discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination".  

And the simple (and inconvenient for Pro-Choice extremists) fact is that taxpayer funded abortions are performed in cases where couples want a child, just not a girl.  The Globe & Mail, in a recent story, cites both a documented study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and a CBC investigation, illustrating that sex-selective abortions do take place.

This is what makes this issue a potentially perfect wedge.  How can an individual trumpet women's rights on one hand, while condoning the termination of a pregnancy based solely on the unborn child being a girl?

We Move to Canada is a blog I follow and it is written by a woman I respect, although I disagree with her on this issue.  A recent WMTC post had this to say:

It brings up an important question, and illustrates why the passing of this new motion would likely be just what Pro-Life zealots have been looking for.   Condemnation is all well and good.  But if taxpayers continue to fund the termination of pregnancies based on the fetus being female, then what good is it?

Actually, withholding the information on the sex of the fetus wouldn't work.  As the Globe piece indicates, there are private clinics that would perform the task for a fee.  

The only option would be placing some restrictions on when abortions can take place.  Which interestingly is in line with the majority viewpoint of Canadians.  

Of course some restrictions aren't enough for the extreme element of the Pro-Life movement, their goal is a total ban.  One can only hope that if we do start down this slope that it doesn't become so slippery that we go back a time when pregnant woman had few if any rights when it came to reproductive choice.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Leading or aspiring to lead? Invest in 'The Power of Communication' - (Book Review)

Author Helio Fred Garcia, Executive Director of Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has written an important book for individuals who are in positions of leadership, and for those aspiring to leadership roles.  

This excellent work has already received some pretty hefty endorsements and positive reviews from business leaders and luminaries such as: Jeffrey Bleustein - Retired Chairman and CEO, Harley Davidson Inc and Amy C. Edmondson - Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School...among numerous others.  

I hardly think the opinion of Canadian Soapbox warrants comparison, but regardless I am more than pleased to suggest that reading this book will provide those committed to improving their leadership skills with invaluable tools and insight.  

There are many books that can help seekers of success: The 7 Habits of Successful Highly Effective People, The One Minute Manager, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Art of War.  That's just a few titles and there are many more.  

Helio Fred Garcia's 'The Power of Communication - Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively' belongs on the same shelf for those looking to hone their leadership skills.

Mr. Garcia uses examples from politics, business, entertainment and the military to illustrate how leaders in today's world require not just effective, but outstanding communication skills if they're to succeed at winning the hearts and minds of stake holders in our hyper connected world.  Using the USMC's publication 'Warfighting' as his template, the author applies the Marine Corp's philosophies on military engagement to teach readers how to prevail in situations where leadership and communication are key.  

Effective communication has always been important, but in today's digital age with so many tools and avenues available it is beyond essential.  This book provides more than just insight, readers are given practical tools and checklists to assist them in their quest for improvement.  

It doesn't mater whether you're the CEO of a multinational corporation, the manager of a small sales force, or even coaching a sports team.  Effective leadership requires effective communication skills.  You can have all the know how and expertise in the world, but if you can't get buy in from individual stake holders, then you're operating with a serious handicap.  

The best athletes practice their craft constantly, those interested in being the best possible leaders need to do the same. Reading and applying the lessons in The Power of Communication will provide serious aspirants with invaluable tools to help them excel at communicating and ultimately leading.

Full disclosure as always.  I received zero compensation for the writing of this review, only a copy of the book which I intend to revisit again and again.  

If you'd like to purchase the book you can visit this link:


Pro Choice abortion advocates can breathe easy...for now‏

On Wednesday Canada's Parliament voted down a motion put forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth that called for the creation of a committee to study at what point human life begins. Had the motion passed it opened up the possibility that a fetus could be given legal recognition.  In turn that could have led to restrictions being placed on when an abortion can take place. 

For those who believe in a woman's right to access abortion services under any circumstances, for any reason and at any point during pregnancy, they can relax.   But not for too long.  

A new motion was put forward by Conservative MP Mark Warawa which asks Parliament to condemn the practice of abortion being used for sex selection. If this new motion does comes to a vote, it won't be for another year or more. 

The obvious question is whether abortions take place in Canada for reasons of gender. The Canadian Medical Association thinks so, having recently suggested postponing the disclosure of a baby's sex until after 30 weeks based on statistics that suggest some ethnic groups are terminating pregnancies only when the fetus is female. 

Pro Choice militants will undoubtedly be all over this. Condemning a woman's right to abort a female fetus runs counter to the preferred status quo where there are no legal restrictions on abortion whatsoever.  Delaying the disclosure of the sex of a fetus takes away choice.  And it could mean a dangerous delay for those wishing to abort a fetus based on gender.  Its common knowledge that if an abortion is chosen, it is best performed early in pregnancy and not later.  

The issue of abortion is a divisive one certainly, even for members of Harper's Conservatives. Of the 91 votes supporting Mr. Woodworth's motion, 87 came from the Tories, with 10 cabinet ministers breaking ranks with the Prime Minister and voting in favour. 

Pro abortion status quo advocates have reason to be concerned in my opinion. The potential for Mr. Warawa's motion to garner even greater support is very real. There are people who are generally supportive of the Pro-Choice argument, but still have issues with abortion being used for reasons like sex selection. 

The Pro-Life anti abortion lobby obviously does not have an ally in Canada's Prime Minister. If the PMO uses its power this new motion will never see the light of day and things can remain as they are now. Pro-Life Conservatives may not like it, but Pro-Choice advocates would be able to breathe easier and for a longer period of time.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Harper government's growing say-do gap

We Canadians are a forgiving lot, we elect governments all the time that back track and flip flop on election promises...then we elect them again.

Pierre Trudeau campaigned against wage and price controls, then brought them in.  Brian Mulroney  said he had no interest in pursuing a free trade agreement with the United States before negotiating one.  And Jean Chrétien of course pledged to erase the GST before leading the Liberals to power.

No matter that all three said one thing and did another, Canadians re-elected them.  All three however were smart enough to go out on top, resigning their leadership while occupying the  Prime Ministers office.  Eventually Canadians get fed up with hypocrisy, and long stints in power often sees ruling parties becoming both tired and arrogant.  

Which brings us to the Harper Conservatives.  

Our current Prime Minister hasn't yet enjoyed the longevity of Messieurs Chrétien, Mulroney or Trudeau.  And it might just be the gap between Mr. Harper's rhetoric and the actions of his government that will keep him from repeating past electoral success.

Canadians have already witnessed a large separation between the words and actions of Harper's Conservative governments.  

He promised to leave income trusts alone, sounding off on the Liberal plan to tax them, then after getting elected...yep, he taxed them.  (Article Here)

After riding to power on a wave of voter disgust over Liberal waste with the Ad-Scam scandal, the Conservatives turned around and built a $2 million dollar fake lake during the G8 summit.  (Article Here)  

More recently they were found to have doled out  close to a million bucks to a meat processing company to help them buy new equipment that will keep sausages from exploding.  (Article Here)

There's more of course, turning a large surplus into a massive shortfall after pledges to never engage in deficit financing.  Or becoming the king of patronage after deriding the Liberals for so long about Senate appointments.

Will Canadians reach the tipping point over the next four or so years?  Hard to say, its a long  time.  

In the interim they can consider the Prime Minister's pledge to let science make the decision regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline.  Stephen Harper 'says' science will decide.  But what does he do?  He guts the very agencies charged with conducting the science so that it can't be done.   (Article Here)

We Canadians are a forgiving bunch, but eventually we do get fed up.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Canada's housing bubble bursting 'right now' - CBC story‏

Robert Shiller of Yale University predicted the US housing crash in 2005, a year before it happened. He is quoted by the CBC as saying that he is worried that we're now experiencing a slow motion version of the US crash.

The same article cites Don Drummond, a former chief economist at TD bank as saying the Canadian bubble is bursting right now. You can read the whole story here: 

Timing the market is difficult at the best of times, if not entirely impossible. That's because economics is as much about psychology as it is about number crunching. So long as people are convinced that real estate prices are going to keep climbing, they'll dive into the housing market even while bitching that prices are insane. Then the worm turns and buyers choose to sit on the sidelines and wait out lower prices.

Here in Quebec City I drive past condos where for sale signs are sprining up like dandelions. I don't doubt that many of the units were built pre-contruction by speculators looking to make a quick buck. That's life, when you play the market...any market, there are risks. Given Canada's demographic make up with so many baby boomers heading into their depends years I'm thinking it might be another 20 years before we see real estate providing good value as a vehicle for investment.

Warnings of a Canadian housing bubble have been around for at least the past couple of years, but its been on the fringes with most government types and so called market experts calling for contiued price appreciation or the so called 'soft landing'. 

By the time experts weigh in with bearish forecasts its likely too late for those who bought in over the past few years, paying top dollar and mortgaging themselves to the hilt.

Sometimes its worth reading pathetic little blogs.