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, 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?