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.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Predictions of a soft landing for housing a sure sign the jig is up

If you've lived through a couple of recessions or more then you know the value of so called expert advice.  When the economy starts to slow, financial professionals and politicians all talk about strong fundamentals and how a recession isn't in the cards.  Later when cracks start to appear they trumpet the 'soft landing', which is a sure sign the economy is about to tank.

The same script is being used in the housing market now.  The latest comes from Scotiabanks CEO:

At worst, housing market headed for soft landing: Scotiabank CEO

Not a good sign, not from here in the cheap seats.  For those who bought in over the last 5 or so years and don't need to sell, its only a paper loss.  But for those who have to sell their home, be it for financial reasons or because of a move...well finding a buyer will likely prove difficult for the foreseeable future.

Lending rules have been tightened and carrying costs are higher now because there are no more 30/35/40 year mortgages to be had.  Just the standard 25 year amortization that was the norm before the Harper government started puffing air into the bubble with insane ams and zero money down.  Add the lax lending standards applied by the banks thanks to government insured debt and it was a recipe for the meal that's just starting to be served.  

Those selling should prepare themselves for low ball offers, its a buyers market, something Canada hasn't seen since the early 90s when house prices were hammered.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rising from the ashes - Don't let life's setbacks define you

This dusty little corner of cyberspace attracts its fair share of email. I get all manner of messages suggesting topics to write on, causes wanting some promotion and books looking for reviews. I read every message in my inbox, and though I usually ignore them, I have reviewed one book.

A recent email asked me to review a book that isn't yet published. Jan Reuter and Dr. William Borgen are writing a book called 'Recession Proof Your Career'. Their PR firm contacted Canadian Soapbox asking for assistance in finding success stories to be featured in the book.

"It only takes one person's story to change someone's outlook and positively impact their financial future". 

That's one line from the email I received, and I agree with it. It's called a testimonial, I've seen it used many times and I've seen it make a positive impact on people's lives.  Hearing or reading a story about someone's experience in overcoming adversity can help another person going through a hard time.

There are all kinds of motivational speakers and writers out there, and suffice to say I know I'm not one. But regardless I am going to give it a try. I don't expect my story to become fodder for a feature film, nothing like The Pursuit of Happiness or anything like that. Still, I have overcome some challenges in my life, and sharing my story might have an impact with others facing similar difficulties.

I've come to realize that a lot of life is about momentum.

Have you ever created a whirlpool in a swimming pool? You start going around and around in a circle, trudging through the water, labouring to create a current. At first you find it difficult, your legs and arms pumping to move forward through viscous water. But after a short time it starts getting easier, the water forms the desired current and instead of trudging, your steps become easier as the water almost carries you along. 

Life can be like that a lot of the time. We create a current around ourselves and we go with the flow. If the movement is positive, we float along happily, employing a little extra effort when we want things to move faster, gliding along when we need a break. Sometimes though, life pushes the water in the other direction, and we find ourselves fighting the current.  If it gets too hard, we can find ourselves slipping backwards. And when someone is unable to find the energy, strength or motivation to alter the current, they can get turned around and lives start to unravel. 

That's what happened to me the year I turned forty. I was married, with two kids and had a promising new career. I wouldn't say the current in my positive little whirlpool was tidal, but it was comfortable. Sadly the current changed, and for a long time I found myself being pushed in the opposite direction. 

They say the three most stressful experiences in life are divorce, death and job loss. I was hit with all three in the span of about one year. Divorce tops the list of life's stressing events because in many ways its like a death. What makes it all the more stressing is that the funeral never ends. I won't go into detail except to say I had to deal with betrayal, not just once but twice. I was betrayed both by my ex wife and by someone I thought was a friend. 

The death that followed was that of my mother. The woman who bore me, who guided and taught me was gone. A wonderful lady who held my hand when she walked me to school, and taught me so much.

A few months after that, my promising new career was at an end as well. I was working on strict commission as a consultant in the area of personal finance and wasn't earning anything. My own finances were a mess.  Its hard to inspire confidence in potential clients when you're living on credit. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I was working the midnight shift for the LCBO as a shipping receiving clerk through a temporary employment agency. 

After the divorce I wanted to continue picking up my children every day from school as I'd done before the break up. Working midnights enabled me to do that. And thanks to the fact that I was living with my widowed father, they each had their own room on my weeknds. 

I was struggling along in my little pool of life, but the current was working against me, and I couldn't get it moving in a positive direction. I'd worked several menial jobs for about two years.  I was a general labourer, a janitor and I unloaded trailers in a warehouse.  I was taking any graveyard shift job I could find, so that I could continue seeing my kids during the week. 

Slowly I came to realize that the path I was on, or better yet, the river I was sailing, that it was emptying into a body of water that was nothing but a dead and stagnant lake. In another ten years I would likely be bankrupt, and I couldn't see my kids respecting their father. 

I had to make a change. I had to make some decisions.

Making a decision is an important step. If you're going on a vacation you first have to decide on a destination. Until that decision is made its pointless worrying about the mode of transport or what you're going to pack. If you're only going a short distance you might drive, or maybe you'll take a bus or a train. If the destination is hundreds or thousands of miles away you'll probably fly. What you pack is determined by the weather at your destination. 

My destination was a place of increased financial security, and it was a place where my children would be proud of their father.   I decided to look into the Canadian Forces.  

When I was around the age of eleven my room looked like an armed forces advertisement.  The local mall in Beaverton Oregon (I spent a lot of my younger years growing up in the U.S.) had recruitment centres for the U.S. army, navy and air force.  My friends and I would visit and collect old posters, decals and other stuff to put up in our rooms.  

Perhaps that's what made me consider the military, I honestly don't know where the idea originated, maybe from my subconscious.  It was certainly something out of the ordinary for a then forty two year old to be considering.  

I won't go into heavy detail, but it was a difficult transition, both physically and mentally.  Some friends and family were supportive while others questioned my sanity. My sister said that they wouldn't take me, and that even if they did, I'd never be able to pass basic training.  She was wrong on both counts.

Its now two and half years down the line and the water in my pool is moving forward again.  I have a nice apartment near the base here in Québec where I'm living with my financé.  We will be married soon.  

I wouldn't say my life is perfect, but I am certainly in a a much better place now than where I was.  And definitely better than where I was heading if I hadn't changed course.  

Obviously I don't see my children as often as I used to.  But I talk to big brother Basketball Star and the Princess Raspberry almost every day.  They spent two weeks here having a fabulous vacation. And whenever I am able I travel to the GTA on weekends and spend time with them.  This past weekend I hosted Raspberry's eighth birthday at my father's house.

But the bottom line here with my story is that I had started to let a tragic event, divorce, define my life.  I was Gordie, the guy who had gotten divorced.  Well, I've changed that narrative and now I'm Gordie, the guy who joined the military in his forties and who is getting married soon.  

Don't let events define who you are, take the action necessary to write a positive and affirming autobiography.  

The comment section is open if you want to share an inspiring story, or if you're seeking inspiration from others.  If you want to send something to the authors of 'Recession Proof Your Career' you can visit the website:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Barack Obama - From party crasher to invited guest‏

I don't often write on the American political scene. Oh, I touch on it from time to time, and I do keep a close eye on what's happening south of the border. But being Canadian my principal focus is on events this side of the 49th parallel.

I do however have my opinions on American politics certainly, and on how both the Democrats and Republicans choose their eventual presidential nominees. In the case of Barack Obama, I view him as an incredible candidate who basically broke the door down when he beat out Hillary Rodham Clinton for the right to carry the Democratic banner in 2008.

Money, power and influence permeate the political scene, both here in Canada and in the United States. Without the support of powerful and wealthy behind the scenes players, a potential candidate has little hope of gaining the traction necessary to vie for the White House once every four years. Note that I say little hope, not zero.

Back in 2008 the candidate who had that behind the scenes support was Ms. Clinton in my opinion. Of course she would have to go through the primaries and garner the delegates needed for the nomination, but from my perspective it was supposed to be little more than a formality. Call it theatre if you will, not completely staged, but corporate media would provide the required narrative so the great unwashed would believe she was their choice.

Sounds far fetched?

Look at what happened to Ron Paul in the recent Republican primaries. After coming second in Iowa, an early contest capable of boosting a lesser known candidate's profile, major media outlets wouldn't even mention the Texas congressman's name. John Stewart made great sport of it on The Daily Show, just take a look.

Ron Paul was advocating something very dangerous to entrenched and vested interests, a return to the U.S. constitution, ending foreign wars and more importantly, business welfare. He obviously wouldn't be the candidate of choice for the industrial military complex, that's for sure.

But back to Barack Obama.

How did he succeed where Ron Paul failed? How was he able to break down a door that Mr. Paul couldn't budge?

It started back in 2004 with his keynote speech at the Democratic national convention in Boston. If you missed it and haven't yet viewed it...well then you're probably not a political junkie. But if you have an appreciation for great oratory, if words can inspire you and send chills down your spine, then give it a look.

It was at this point that Barack Obama became the political equivalent of a rock star. He was given this prestigious slot to help him win a seat in the United States Senate. No doubt it helped him win in Illinois, but four years later it gave him the national profile he needed for a run at presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The way I see things Hillary was the establishment choice, the primaries a mere dog and pony show leading to a coronation. The problem was that Barack wasn't given a copy of the script.

Does that mean I think Barack Obama is anti-establishment? Not in the least, I think he's very much an advocate for the establishment now.  The current president has supported the same corporate welfare schemes and bail outs as his predecessor George W. Bush, has kept the Patriot Act on the books and not closed down Guantanamo Bay as he pledged (LINK).  

I do not believe Mr. Obama could have become president if he hadn't agreed to play ball with the wealthy and powerful puppet masters pulling strings beyond the curtain. Hillary would have danced to their tune as well, in fact I think her refusal to drop out of the race for so long was the result of a unwavering belief that she was 'the chosen one' of the American elites.

And from where I sit she was, until Mr. Obama came crashing through the door and demanded the opportunity to be co-opted the same way both Clintons were.

I realize this is a cynical and not too uncommon point of view among many observers of the political scene. Basically the idea is that the agenda is set behind the scenes, with politicians fighting over who will get to deliver (or sell) the pogrom to the great unwashed. Its all great sport, but all the players are all being paid by the same group. If you want to be noticed on the field, you better do as you're told. 

The question might then be asked: ''Why even bother with it, if its all basically rigged''?

Because it does matter in my opinion. There's still a piece of the pie left for Joe Six-Pack and Jane Wine-Cooler, although it seems to me that this slice is getting smaller and smaller. Sticking with the dessert analogy, imagine an apple pie (or pumpkin if you prefer) with one small slice carved out of it. That slice represents a political leader's wiggle room if you will. The rest of the pie has been spoken for.

Presidents and politicians can debate and argue over that small part, so long as the greater pie isn't touched, that big piece belongs to the elites, the behind the scene players..

My prediction for the coming US election is a Barack Obama re-election. Do I think it will be by a landslide or a nose? It doesn't matter, not in a winner take all system. Romney's role is similar to that of John Kerry or John McCain, fight hard and give us a good performance.

I will enjoy the show, but I'll put $100 on the Democrats holding onto the White House for another four years right now. Sitting as I do in the cheap seats, its all I can afford. After that, I think its Jeb Bush's ordained turn, unless someone else comes crashing through the door.

 One can only hope.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who wants to make a movie depicting Judasim as a cancer?

I saw maybe half of Sasha Baron Cohen's movie ' Borat', I thought it was ignorant and stupid. When his latest movie, `The Dictator' was released I watched the trailers and took a pass. 

Jokes and gags about racial, religious and cultural stereotypes aimed at marginalized segments of our society don't hold much appeal. 

Do you know how copper wire was invented? Two Jews were fighting over a penny. Ha ha, I bet that went over big in Germany seventy or eighty years ago. 

Given Jewish history of the past hundred or so years I would have hoped that members of the Hebrew faith might have some sensitivity over such things. 

Well, those hopes appear to have been wasted with likes of Mr. Cohen. And also with Sam Bacile who is in the news because of his film "Innocence of Muslims'', which he wrote and directed. It depicts Islam's prophet Mohammad as a fraud with insulting claims that he approved of sexually abusing children. Violent reaction to the film is being blamed for the murder of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens as well as three other Americans. 

You can read the full story here: Vancouver Sun Story

I wonder what the reaction would be if an American Muslim film maker wrote and directed a film claiming that Moses was a pedophile who faked the whole scene at Mount Sinai to gain political power over the Hebrew people and then used that power to make himself and his closest friends rich. 

Imagine the reaction if this film maker then gave interviews claiming he was merely exposing the evils of Judaism and expressed a belief that the Jewish faith is a cancer that needs to be exposed and eradicated. 

We've already seen how some Christians reacted to Martin Scorsese's `The last temptation of Christ'. And that movie was pretty tame in my view. How much stronger would that reaction have been if it portrayed Jesus as advocating sodomy among his disciples? 

Personally I don't think any one faith has all the answers. But I know many Muslims, Christians and Jews regard their faith as the one and only path to God and heaven. Still, I will pray that fervent Muslims will borrow from a teaching of Jesus, regarded is Islam as a prophet, and turn the other cheek. 

Gandhi put it best, when you fight fire with fire, all you end up with is more fire. Or even better, taking an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Memories of 9/11 the day three WTC buildings collapsed

Like everyone who was alive and of a certain age on September 11, 2001 I have vivid memories of that day.

I was at my office in downtown Toronto when I first heard of a plane hitting the north WTC tower.  I remember President George W. Bush saying that after seeing the first plane crash into the tower, that he thought it was a horrible accident.  I myself didn't see the first plane hit until much later, but regardless I too thought it was an accident.  And so I went to attend a meeting I had scheduled down in the financial district for around 10 am.  

Upon leaving the meeting I heard more of the news, the south tower had also been hit and flights were being grounded everywhere.  The reporting was a hodgepodge of news and conjecture and was very confusing.  Processing all the information was too much, I returned to my office and checked out for the day. I caught an early train out to the burbs where I lived and picked my son up from his day care centre.

Like many I was glued to the TV set, watching news of the crashed plane in Pennsylvania leaving a giant hole in the ground with nothing left bigger than a phone book according to first responders on the scene.  And of course the news about the Pentagon being hit by still another plane.  

It was a lot of news in such a short time.  The President of the United States sitting in a Florida classroom, the wreckage in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon with a huge hole in it.  Two planes crashing into the World Trade Centre's north and south towers with both collapsing along with building number seven later.

Often times when recounting events of that day I find a lot of people don't remember anything about the 47 story building number seven in the World Trade Center complex.  Its understandable I guess because of everything else that happened that day, and given the fact that it wasn't hit by an airplane.

Reports said it collapsed in on itself because of massive damage resulting from the attacks.

Here's how Fox news reported it at the time:

The lease holder of the WTC buildings in a later interview said that building seven was pulled.

Harper government fighting Québec's law and order efforts‏

The federal long gun registry is back in the news. 

Québec has just won an injunction preventing the federal government from destroying the long gun registry, and has given Ottawa 30 days to comply by handing over the data collected on Québec gun owners. Those employed in law enforcement are happy no doubt.  (CBC Story Here)

The Canadian association of chiefs of police had argued for maintaining the registry as it provides them with what they consider a very valuable tool. I find it hard to argue with our police on this point. When officers respond to a call for something like a domestic dispute, I'm sure they like to know ahead of time if there are firearms in the house. 

Is it perfect? Of course not, but information can be a powerful tool. And if that information can be used to improve the safety of law enforcement personnel and the public, then I'm all for it. 

One of the points against the registry has been the price tag, but I have trouble buying this argument. Reports say the cost is in the neighbourhood of $4 million per year. That's chump change compared to the billions Ottawa is commited to spending on new prisons, US style 'super jails' we're going to be building despite a rapidly declining crime rate. 

Then there's the millions being spent to clean up immigration fraud. I realize that the immigrants being investigated represent less than one tenth of one percent of the total, but despite the cost I like the idea of Canadian citizenship not being for sale. If the money is there to fight immigration fraud and to build more prisons, certainly we can find a few million to help those employed in law enforcement. 

And the Harper goverment won't be the ones paying for it anymore, it will be Québec taxpayers, and likely other provincial governments who are strong on law and order and in providing police with the tools they need.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time to stop stressing about Québec

We Canadians love to worry, we worry about the economy, about the weather, about the direction our elected representatives are taking the country.  When we've had Liberal governments in Ottawa, right wingers have worried about big government.  When its Conservatives on parliament hill we worry about Canada becoming a playground for business interests at the expense or ordinary taxpayers.

Worry, worry, worry.  And when we're not worrying, we're complaining.  Complaining about the same things we worry about and more.  We love to carp about long line ups and gas prices and all manner of things we really can't do much about.

And now, thanks to the recent Quebec provincial election we have something else to worry and complain about, a separatist Parti Québecois government.  

My advice, its time to chill out.

Yes the Parti Québecois has as its ultimate goal the removal of Québec from Canadian confederation, we all know that.  But it isn't happening any time soon, and probably not at all.  Pauline Marois and her party barely squeaked out a victory over Jean Charest's Liberals.  Even running against a tainted and tired government mired in allegations of corruption, the PQ couldn't even manage one third of the popular vote.  

Mme Marois is the sixth Pequiste first minister in Quebec's history. That's right, she's following in the footsteps of Levesque, Pierre Marc Johnson, Parizeau, Bouchard and Landry.  And Quebec is still here, still a part of Canada despite two referendums.

And I am certain that not everyone who voted PQ wants sovereignty.  Not when they've already achieved so much of what they've historically been looking for when the Harper government's recognized Québec as a distinct society.  

There are other reasons for Québecois to vote PQ.  The PQ has strong support with labour, and when unions do well the middle class is strengthened.  Limiting the amount of money that can be donated to political parties and eliminating the tax deductions that go with it is another.  

So relax English Canada, Quebec has elected PQ governments before and it very well may again, that's democracy.  Might I even dare suggest coming for a visit?  This is an absolutely incredible part of the country, and like many places in Canada, the people are warm and friendly.  

Don't wait for a referendum to show your love, take a trip and check out Montreal's nightlife, the Gaspé Peninsula with its incredible scenery, historic Québec City.  Drop in and offer up greetings, and if you really want to show some love, say bonjour instead of hello.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Confrontation over language on the streets of Montréal - Video

I wasn't sure whether or not to share this particular video.  It shows a confrontation between a French Quebecer  and his girlfriend with a group of Asian Canadians who had the temerity to be speaking English in public.  My hesitancy was due to the fact that it portrays what is now my home province in a not too positive light.  It lends credence to the perception of Quebec as a xenophobic and intolerant society.

Unfortunately, there is some merit to that point of view.

I have some sympathy for French Quebecers and for their desire to protect and promote their language.  I will admit that at times I have had similar feelings when I've been in Toronto, riding on a bus or subway and hearing a foreign tongue spoken loudly.  I never objected in any way, and certainly never confronted anyone.  

Of course the English language's dominance in the city of Toronto isn't even close to being challenged.  That's not the case in Montreal, I myself have been to places of business in that city and have been told that they don't speak French.  

Take a look and judge for yourself.  I'd be interested in any comments readers would care to share.

Is Canada's left on the rise?

Discerning trends and making forecasts on limited data is not always the best recipe for making accurate forecasts, just look at pollsters.  They take small snapshots of voter intentions based on some simple questions and then use the data to try and predict the results.  

As we've seen in Alberta and more recently in Québec, the results don't always line up with the data.  If it did we would have a Wildrose government in Alberta, and the PQ with either a majority or a very strong minority in Quebec.

Recent results, (not polls) from the bi-elections in Ontario and the provincial election in Quebec could easily lead one to surmise that the Canadian left is not only alive and well, but perhaps even on the rise.

Quebec voters opted for the left wing PQ (albeit with a bare minority), and Kitchener Waterloo just elected an NDP member to Queen's Park despite its reputation as a Conservative stronghold.

Are Canadians beginning to realize that the trickle down, supply side economic model espoused by the right is really just hammering the bejeebers out of wage earners?  Will our union movement, so long in decline, start to gain favour as people start to realize that when union membership grows so does the backbone of our economy, the middle class?

Too early to tell, but one can certainly hope.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No winners in Quebec's election, only losers

Its hard to discern any winners after yesterday's election here in Québec.  

Sure Pauline Marois' Parti Québecois will form the next government, but despite polling showing the PQ on the cusp of winning the 63 seats needed for a clear majority, they fell well short at 54 with only 32% of the popular vote. If they could have won even 60 or 61, Mme Marois' position would have been one of strength. Instead she's left in charge of a weak minority government that will have to placate either the Liberals or CAQ to remain in power. 

François Legault's CAQ party was looking for a breakthrough, and while 19 seats is a decent showing, they're right now very much a 3rd party. With the PQ and the Liberals holding 54 and 50 seats respectively the challenge will be for Monsieur Legault to attract the attention of voters and build on this result for a stronger showing in the next election. 

Québec Solidaire won the two seats most pollsters predicted for this nascent separatist party. But with the PQ in a weak minority position, at best all they can do is try to prop up an already wobbly table. 

And that leaves the Liberals, who went from majority rule to opposition with leader Jean Charest failing to hold on to his own seat. Had Monsieur Charest managed to win in Sherbrooke the Liberals could have put a positive spin on things by saying they substantially beat expectations. Hard to push that script however when the leader of the party doesn't even have a seat in the legislature. Obviously Mr. Charest is contemplating his future.

Perhaps a run at for the federal Liberal leadership?

So there are no real winners, except perhaps voters. With elected officials on a short leash hopefully we'll get responsible government.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Québec election asks more questions than it answers

So the results are in, we have a minority PQ government here in Québec, that is unless there are numerous recounts that result in a number of riding switching hands, which I somehow doubt.

My best guess was that the PQ would win between 60 and 65 seats, and if the 57 seats they're currently showing don't change, well I wasn't too far off.  I was surprised somewhat by the strong Liberal performance, (like many) but not shocked.  I opted for Québec's Liberals about two weeks ago, but was hesitant to consider Jean Charest getting a late push given that my own bias might be playing a part.

Of course now the question begs.  What comes next?

I can see a myriad of possibilities.  Will Mme Marois have cabinet positions to offer some members of the CAQ party as an enticement to cross the floor?  As the news unfolds I'll be checking to see how many former separatists were elected under the CAQ banner.  

I think a lot will depend on the final numbers.  Assuming support from Quebec Solidaire's two elected members, the PQ  will be tantalizingly close to the magic number of 63 needed to control a majority of the votes in the National Assembly.  Still, three is probably just out of reach in terms of luring members from the CAQ.

We shall see, as I say the final numbers will tell the tale.  In an election this close I expect there will be some recounts and it might be days before we have the exact final tally.  Then there's the possiblity of the CAQ either propping up Marois, or joining forces with the Liberals to force another election.  

The bottom line however is that Québec is stronger than the political process, as is the case with Canada as a whole.  Whether it ends up being a stridently separatist government, or one where sovereignty takes a back seat, Quebecers will endure.  

Perhaps the biggest result is the likely exit of Jean Charest from the political scene.  It says here he has nothing to apologize for and history will judge him a masterful politician.  

Quebec's good, bad and ugly or the corrupt the xenophobes and the bankrupt

So what's it gonna be Québec? Will it be the xenophobic Parti Québecois, or perhaps the CAQ with all those candidates who've filed for personal or business bankruptcy? Might you still opt for the devil you know, the Liberals with all the allegations of corruption surrounding them?

I will stick with my prediction of a PQ win with between 60 and 65 seats. And assuming the separatist Québec Solidaire wins the two seats pollsters are expecting, 61 gives the PQ a workable government, if of course QS is ready to lend its support.

I'm prepared to be surprised though, by a surge in either CAQ or Liberal support. Based on polling numbers and the firmness of voting intentions among supporters of the various parties I consider a Liberal minority still a possibility, with an outright win by the CAQ being extremely remote.

If I were making book on the outcome and calculating odds this is how I'd handicap the race.

  • PQ minority - 50%
  • PQ majority - 30%
  • Liberal minority - 10%
  • Liberal majority - 5%
  • CAQ minority - 3%
  • CAQ majority - 2%

After the results are in I will share my experience as a first time voter in a Québec provincial election.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Québec's election winners..Students

Everyone is chiming in with their predictions for tomorrow's vote here in la belle...err province.  At least its still a province for now.

Overwhelmingly the expectation is that Pauline Marois and the PQ will  form either a strong minority or a thin majority.  I concur and predict somewhere between 60 and 65 seats for the Pequistes.  But the Parti Québecois isn't the big winner here, not even close.

Its the students, like it or lump it.

Efforts by the Charest government to increase tuition fees resulted in massive student protests, and in some cases violence.  After repeated attempts at negotiation with a hodgepodge of student unions the Liberal leader finally drew a line in the sand.  Despite reducing the amount of the hike and stretching it out over a longer period of time to mitigate the impact, many students remained defiant.

And they have won.

Pauline Marois has promised she will rescind the increases, going so far as suggesting students not pay their tuition bills until after the election.  And this is at least one promise I expect her and her party to keep.  If not the result would likely be more chaos.

By caving to the street Mme Marois has put both herself and her government at the mercy of mob rule in my opinion.  If her government is forced into some tough decisions that don't sit well with any number of groups, the recipe is now clear, just do what Québec's students did.  Take to the street, block traffic, intimidate and bingo...the PQ government will give in to what you want.

The student strikes and tuition increases were not a major issue in this campaign.  But it says here that going forward this issue and the PQ's handling of it during the campaign and afterwards will demonstrate to Quebecers the kind of government they've elected.

Could allegations of robocalls help Québec Liberals?

The Québec Liberal party is alleging that robocalls have been made in the Québec City area, as well as in Laval near Montreal.

It is being reported that the calls are being made exclusively in English, targeting predominantly French speaking areas.  Voters are being asked to call a phone number, and calling that number results in an answering machine message which basically says, 'thank you for calling the Liberal Party of Quebec...please leave a message.

You can read about here HERE on the Montreal Gazette's site.

Of course robocalls were allegedly used by Conservative supporters during the last federal election.  To say Harper and the Conservatives aren't thought of too kindly in Québec would be grossly understating things.  As Québec Solidaire's Françoise David put it during the first leader's debate. 

"Attacking Harper is easy.  Just about everyone in Québec can't stand him".

Anyone using a strategy linked with the federal conservatives is treading on dangerous ground if you ask me.  Assuming the calls are being generated by opponents of Charest's Liberals, then the most obvious suspects would be supporters of François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec party as I see it.  The CAQ is generally perceived to be a right wing party, although only barely given the heavy tilt to the left of Québec politics.  

I have trouble envisioning it being the PQ, they would have little to gain from my perspective.  Turning voters inclined to vote Liberal  away would only drive them to the CAQ, and Monsieur Legault's party is the only one with any degree of momentum.

It is interesting that the calls are said to be only in English.  With protection and promotion of la langue française being such a hot issue during this campaign, I can see some French speakers being very alarmed at a party using automated calls only in English.

I am wondering though, if the reporting of these calls will generate some sympathy for the embattled Jean Charest and his floundering Liberal Party?  And I don't discount the possibility that perhaps they were employed for that very purpose.  Elections are becoming more and more like wars, and in war the first casualty is often the truth.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Will Québec plunge Canada into more constitutional wrangling?

We'll know the answer Tuesday night, will Quebecers choose the separatist PQ, take a flyer on the populist CAQ or will they instead opt for the devil they know in Jean Charest and the Liberals.

Right now its looking like the PQ with a razor thin majority based on recent polling.  Even if they fall one or two seats shy of the magic 63 needed, they can likely count on support from the even more strident Québec Solidaire.  While the PQ is unquestionably separatist, QS is even more hard line, separatists on steroids if you will.

I'll have my prediction up on Labour Day.