Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Don't sweat it Pope Francis, Jesus pissed off the rich and powerful too...

Pope Francis has recently been harshly criticized for bemoaning the imbalance that exists in our world, an imbalance between the rich and the poor.  Some, like Rush Limbaugh, have accused the Pope of being a Marxist, while demonstrating a total lack of understanding of what Marxism even is.

Good for the Pope.  I'm not a Roman Catholic, and some would say I'm not even a Christian because I don't swallow hook line and sinker every word printed in the Bible.  But I do consider myself a Christian, and I do believe there was a guy named Jesus walking around present day Palestine a couple thousand of years back who stirred things up.  Jesus rattled the apple cart, and undermined his society's power structure.  He spoke of the kingdom of God, he said there was a better way of doing things.  Things like us being our brother's keeper, loving others as ourselves.

We all know what happened to Jesus.  I would argue his message was warped and perverted to entrench the inequality he preached against.  We were told to worship Him, and to obey the dictates of those who wrapped themselves in his mantle.  

Nice to see a Pope returning to the message instead of just glorifying the messenger.   

Friday, October 25, 2013

No statue for victims of Canadian Capitalism in Bangladesh?

Our federal government, suddenly flush with cash it seems, has earmarked $1.5 million for a group called Tribute to Liberty so they can build a statue to honour victims of communism.  (Story Here)

As mentioned in the linked article, a twitter row ensued between the Green Party's Elizabeth May and Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney.  May wanted to know if there were plans to build a statue to honour victims of capitalism.  Kenney responded by saying that "Perhaps that's because no one was shot in the back while risking their lives to flee eastward over the Iron Curtain ".

No, perhaps not, but more than 1,100 people (including children) died six months ago when the factory they worked in for slave labour wages collapsed on them in Bangladesh.  The factory was making clothing for, among other companies, Canada's own Loblaws.  You can read about the tragedy HERE.  

Why are people...again, including children, working in conditions like this for wages equivalent to roughly $2 per day or less?  Well, that's unabashed capitalism for you.  The market is a competitive place, and a store that's able to sell things like t-shirts at a better price than its competitors is going to be rewarded with a higher market share and a better bottom line.  Consumers like it, shareholders like it and so we're all in some way responsible.  

So why are we spending money to build a statue for victims of a system Canadians didn't create while ignoring victims of a system we actually endorse?  Simple, its all about optics and feeling good about ourselves.  Its kind of like the millions being wasted on the Economic Action Plan ads, they don't do anything other than boost our self image. 

There have been victims of communism and victims of capitalism. But you don't get a statue if your cause makes people think and reflect, at least not in today's Canada it seems.     

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Québec's values charter, starting to win me over

Like anyone I can be prone to knee jerk reactions, its normal. When Québec proposed values charter was first put forth I was opposed.  I cheered when I saw an Ontario ad seeking to attract employees of the Islamic faith to Lakeridge health centre in Oshawa with the tag line:  

"We don't care about what's on your head, but with what's in your head"...or words very close to that effect.

The charter struck me as xenophobic and intolerant.  My view however is changing.

Religious extremists are anything but tolerant.  Men who insist their wives cover their faces, and in some cases their entire bodies, are not viewed as models of inclusion and open mindedness...quite the contrary. Religious extremists of any faith seek to subjugate anyone who doesn't adhere to their interpretation of the almighty's will.  

I still can foresee a myriad of problems with enforcing such a charter, but the debate it has created is very much worth while.  Bravo to my home province and to the Parti Québecois for having the cajones to put something like this out there for public discourse.  Other parts of Canada I think would be too timid for fear of offending.

Debate is a positive thing, and only cowards run from controversy.  

For those who can read French here's an excellent article from LaPresse, wondering what is the opinion of Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pépin, the only Muslim member of the Québec National Assembly.  Unfortunately while she has spoken out against extremism in the past, on the charter she is silent.

On aimerait vous entendre, Fatima Houda-Pépin

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are public sector unions a fair target?

I have no issue with workers organizing collectively to increase their bargaining power in an effort to maximize what they receive in pay and benefits.  

That's capitalism. Business seeks to maximize its return, so why shouldn't workers?

And if unions are perhaps too successful, and the wages and benefits being paid are more than the employer can bear, then everyone loses.  Mutual survival is a strong incentive at the negotiating table.  Ask for more than what the marketplace can support, and instead of standing on a picket line you'll be lined up for unemployment benefits.

But that\s the private sector.  What about the public sector?  

A different ball of wax entirely, the dynamics aren't the same. Unions aren't negotiating with a business that has to earn a profit when dealing with government.  Instead its taxpayer money and deficit financing that governments must rely on.  

Here in Quebec City the current mayor is running for re-election and is expending enormous political capital in taking on unionized municipal workers, seeking a mandate to negotiate major concessions in the area of pension benefits.  The point is made that with the current funding deficits, taxpayers with no pensions will be seeing their tax bills increase to pay the pensions of retired civil servants.  

There are no easy answers to this question.  Nobody likes to see gains made over the course of years lost, whether its in the public or private sector.  Private sector employees, many unionized, have seen their pay and benefits frozen, eroded, or even lost completely.

Everyone should share in the good times, but likewise when resources are limited no single group should be completely immune to economic reality. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Charter of Québec values - Racist or pro-feminist?

There's a bit of a divide in this Québec household, my wife and I disagree over Québec's proposed values charter.  Given that you're reading this I'll assume you know about the proposed law, so I'll refrain from rehashing it.  

My view is that this law is an ass and unenforceable, besides which it is inconsistent en tabernac. It allows the wearing of a "small" crucifix and does not include the removal of the very large crucifix hanging in Québec's National Assembly.  So a huge crucifix remains in a public government place, and I guess we'll have public employees going around with rulers to measure the size of crosses worn like jewelry. 

My wife views the wearing of a head scarf as another attempt by men to dominate women by forcing them to cover their heads.  I don't disagree with her, yet I know there are Muslim women who wear the hijab of their own volition.  My issue is with enforcement.

What if a woman working in the public service wears a head scarf because of hair loss due to something like chemotherapy?  Is that head scarf okay because it doesn't have any religious significance? Could a Muslim woman claim that the head covering she is wearing is about fashion and has nothing to do her faith?

Banning kippas and turbans?  I guess that was a requirement to avoid being totally inconsistent with this law. One couldn't very well ban head scarves on women without the same type of measure being applied to men.

My view is it takes time, that legislation of this type won't work. Women have been fighting an uphill battle to be treated equally for centuries.  Heck Québec women didn't get the right to vote until 1940.  Muslim women suffering from a male dominated culture need to take up the battle themselves, as women did here with the suffrage movement.  Having the government telling citizens what they can and can't wear on their heads is as bad as men doing the same thing with their wives and daughters.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Garth Turner finally admits he was wrong about real estate....

There are a couple of old bromides that circle around the investment community.  One is 'even a broken watch is right twice a day', the other is 'even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut'.  The meaning is obvious, keep saying the same thing, over and over and over....and eventually you'll be right, you'll stumble on that acorn.

Garth Turner, who has been predicting the imminent demise of Canadian real estate for over 5 years now, has finally admitted he got it wrong.

After years of saying things like, this will end badly, and this is your last chance to sell at the top of the market, Mr. Turner finally has woken up and smelled the Java.  

Don't expect too much humility when reading his blog though, he still needs to attract sheeple to his investor seminars after all.  And he may still turn out to be right, Canadian real estate may correct.

Who knows, it might go all the way back down to the levels it was at in 2008 when he first started warning that it was overpriced. Like that proverbial broken watch, it might be rolling around to that hour when the time is accurate. 

In fairness this brilliant self promoter makes some very valid points, but he didn't invent ideas like diversification, although after reading the blog you might think he did.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An eventful year - Canadian Soapbox back publishing

Hello readers, if there are any left after a long hiatus from blogging.  

I will be back publishing on a more regular basis, now that some major life events are out of the way.  Some were happy and others sad.

Last year in September I married a wonderful woman, I refer to her as the resident love goddess.  This September we welcomed a son to the family, (which means we didn't HAVE to get married).

Those were the big joys, but all was not good news this year unfortunately.  Back in June of 2013 my father passed away, and I'm still not entirely used to the fact that I can't pick up the phone and call him.

I'll be back commenting on those topics I consider of interest, thanks for looking in.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The United States will not default...

There is a lot of nervousness and anxiety out there, particularly in the capital markets over the US government shut down for one, but more so over the prospect that by failing to increase their debt ceiling the United States might default on some of its obligations.

Well, it ain't gonna happen.

For arguments sake, if the US were to default the consequences would be nothing short of disastrous, not just for Americans, but for the entire world.  US government debt instruments are close to the gold standard when it comes to investments sought for safety during times of uncertainty.  If Washington stops paying its bills, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 will look like a day at Disney Land as capital markets freeze with no hope of help from the government of the world's largest economy.

That is why it won't happen.

Does that mean the fight going on between Tea Party factions and Democrats supported by moderate Republicans is without meaning?  Far from it.  Tea Party types are adamant about derailing health care reform.  In doing so they are providing a big boost to advocates of the status quo.  The fact is the US has the most expensive health care system in the world, and while millions of Americans have no coverage (including children) the health care industry is doing just fine at making profits.  

Why would an industry making billions of dollars want things to change?  They don't.  

But whether a deal is reached or not, there is no way US legislators will tank the world economy, although we may get down to the 11th hour as zealots seek to leverage fear in an effort to gain concessions. 

If Obama and the democrats blink, the big winner will be the U.S. health care industry, at least in terms of their profits.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ottawa desperately trying to kill the housing Frankenstein

Remember that literary classic, Frankenstein?  Scientist Victor creates a monster, then realizing the mistake he has made tries desperately to kill the beast.  Seems an apt description for Canada's housing market and Ottawa's so far futile efforts to cool it off.  

This more modern story takes us back to the early days of the great financial crisis, when Canada seemed to be teetering on the brink of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. Back in 2006 and before, the housing market was pretty simple,you saved up some money for a down  payment and then applied for a mortgage with the bank.  Valuations increased in a nice slow and steady fashion, for twenty plus years a house was pretty much a rock solid investment, very maple syrupy, slow and steady.  

But with a minority government in Ottawa faced with the possibility of  being forced to go to the electorate with the country's finances in tatters a solution was needed.  The economy needed some steroids. And so the monster was born, sub-prime lending, Canadian style.

It had worked wonders in the US, inflating real estate values to astronomical values, making Donald Trumps of Joe Sixpacks and Sally Housecoats from coast to coast.  

Haven't saved up a down payment, and family not willing or unable to gift you the money?  No problem, zero down works.  Still can't afford to carry the mortgage, hell we'll stretch the payments out over 40 years, call it renting debt.  Afraid the bank still won't want to take on the risk?  Pfffffffffft, taxpayers have your back with CMHC insurance, we'll build the premiums into your monthly.

And it worked, boy howdy.

How much is that house, $200,000?  Is it worth it?  Who the Flaherty cares?!?!  It ain't our money!!!  Wait, are other people interested in buying it????  To hell with that, we'll outbid them.  We all know what happened, houses the size of bus shelters were seeing bidding wars in places like Toronto.

Which basically brings us to today.  Forty year mortgages have been dialed all the way back to twenty five. Down payments are again needed, with lenders no longer able to "rebate" the required amount.  No more tapping your HELOC for that kitchen reno if it eats away all your equity.

But still the monster won't die, and why would it, monsters don't die easily, ask Victor.  Go to Garth Turner's blog,  He's been calling the top since 2008.  One day of course, he'll be right.  

An American style crash?  I suspect, for some.  For amateur landlords mortgaged to the hilt I can see it getting ugly.  Likewise for those forced to sell for reasons of relocation or similar situations, if they bought near the top.  

But this isn't the United States, and you can't just drop your keys in the mail and stick the bank with a property that's declined in value.  The banks backside is covered.  If they're forced to sell your home for less than you owed on the mortgage, they'll stick you with the bill.  If that causes bankruptcy, insurance kicks in.

For owners of a single house, who can ride out an increase in mortgage payments and the ensuing buyers market, I think they'll be fine.

For those wanting or needing to sell, I think it could get ugly.  Higher rates brought on by a tightening money supply and tighter qualification standards mean decreased demand and lower prices for a number of years to come.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pro-Life or Pro Choice? The abortion debate is back March 28

CBC is reporting that Conservative MP Mark Warawa’s motion, calling on Parliament to condemn the practice of abortion being used to select the sex of a child, is tentatively slated to be debated on March 28th.

Its a thorny issue, and it certainly stretches the definition of Pro-Choice in my opinion. 

Pro-Choice choice after all, you can't have limits according to some.  In other words if the choice is made to terminate a pregnancy because the fetus is female, that's the choice being made.  Don't like it?  Well, some will tell you that if you're really for choice, then too bad. 

Personally I think the debate would be better served if we got rid of the terms Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, because let's face it, who is going to identify themselves as being anti life or anti choice.  Precious few people. 

Making it a battle between freedom to choose and life blurs the real issue.

And the debate coming up on March 28th (or close depending on how the Parliamentary calender plays out) is about the value Canada places on female children from where I sit.

If our Parliament makes the 'CHOICE' to value a female child the same as a male child, then condemning the use of abortion to terminate female pregnancies is a no brainer. 

As to where public opinion stands, I'm including an info graphic sent to me recently which shows the diversity in American opinion, and how much results can vary depending on the wording of the question. 

What We Think About Abortion
Source: What We Think About Abortion

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When I am elected Pope‏

With the Cardinals now in Conclave, (I thought St. Louis had their spring training in Florida) I figured it would be a good idea to outline the initiatives I will enact when I become Pope. Yes, I know I'm not Roman Catholic and my election will represent something of a miracle. But then aren't miracles what churches are supposed to be about?

Rome needs someone to lead, well Gordie is the man you need representing God. I will help the Vatican deal with many of the thorny issues it is now confronting.

Sexual abuse
Under my Papacy all those who bring forward allegations of abuse against RC priests will receive financial compensation. In fact I will take whatever amount is asked for and triple it. Some might scoff and claim this initiative will lead to bogus claims of abuse, and it probably will. But there was this guy a few years back who said something about giving to everyone who asks and to walk three miles when asked to go one. I think his name was Jesus. Will this bankrupt the church? Quite likely, and that brings me to the second plank in my Papal platform.

Cleaning up corruption
As everyone knows, money is always at the root of corruption scandals, even in churches. Get rid of the money and there's no incentive to engage in nefarious scheming. Emptying the coffers and selling off buildings, real estate, relics and anything else of value to compensate for priests who sexually abused children will mean there is precious little do ré mi left.

Back when the Bible was being written a prohibition on homosexuality made sense. God's directive back in ancient times was to be fruitful and multiply, which is hard to do for a species such as ours if those being fruitful are doing it in a, errr...fruity way. Now however there is no such imperative, and let's face it, in the animal kingdom God created, homosexuality is rampant. Even with Pitt Bulls:

God is supposed to be forgiving, and all those priests tossed in jail for molesting boys shouldn't have their punishment compounded by having certain leisure time activities behind bars labelled as sinful. And if a prison romance turns serious, shucks, I'll let 'em get married.

Birth Control
As noted previously, the be fruitful and multiply directive came out when the Earth's population numbered just two, Adam and Eve. Under my leadership the Holy See will declare 'Mission Accomplished' on this whole multiplying idea. At seven billion or so I think we've overachieved on God's plan, so condoms and birth control pills for all. Sorry but I don't know how to pilot a fighter jet, so I won't be able to do the GW Bush thing and land on an aircraft carrier to make this announcement. Instead well hang a vertical 'Mission Accomplished' banner from the obelisk in St. Peter's square, a fitting gesture given that its a phallic symbol after all.

So there ya have it boys, the new and improved Roman Catholic Church as led by Pope Gordie. I'll resign once the church is broke, provided you agree to replace me with a woman.

Shouldn't take more than a year or two.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Enough of the Economic Action Plan ads, buy Canadians a Tims instead

Sick of all those ads for the Harper government's Economic Action Plan?  You know what I'm talking about, the never ending spots telling Canadians what a great job the federal government is doing in building prosperity.  Its ironic that their first inclination when the global financial crisis hit was to do nothing.  It took the threat of a budget defeat and a loss of power to get them interested in fighting the recession. 

But fight it they did, taking their cue from the opposition parties they converted to the idea that government can take an active role in steering the economy.  In fact they're absolute zealots to the cause now, borrowing tens of millions of dollars to tell us all about it.

Listening to a CBC radio interview this morning, the cost of this....uhm, Adscam (?) is somewhere between $60 and $65 million. 

Even simple minded idiots like me realize all this advertising is little more than propaganda, designed to help Harper and his merry band win the next election.  All governments engage in this crap.  

What blows is that they're paying for it on the credit card, our credit card.  The feds haven't had a balanced budget for ages now.  Finance minister Jim Flaherty has replaced surplus budgets with massive deficits and has Canada sitting with the largest accumulated federal debt in our history.

So it occurred to me as I was listening to the radio and sipping my Timmy's this morning.  If the government is willing to borrow this kind of cash hoping that I and other Canadians will re-elect them in a couple years, why not skip the ad agencies and just buy Canadians some coffee from Tim Hortons. 

Sixty million will buy a lot of coffee, surely more than enough to give every person of voting age their java fix.  And with it being roll up the rim to win time, there are added spin offs with vehicles, barbeques and prepaid credit cards to be won.

Sure the ad agencies and broadcasters wouldn't like seeing the gravy train come to an end, but that's life.  Media types can vie for another prize in the form of cash for life the next time the Prime Minister starts cramming the Senate with friends for Pam and Mikey to play with.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

One Anglo-Quebecer's take on the language debate

The anglophone community has deep roots in Quebec, I however do not.  

I moved to Quebec back in October of 2011, so that's less than two years that I have been residing here in the provincial capital of Quebec City.  When it comes to opinions on Quebec's never ending language debate the views of anglophones are as varied as the community itself.

This is mine.

A bit on my frame of reference.  Prior to moving here I had already attained a fair degree of fluency in the French language.  I studied French throughout high school and into university, and I spent six weeks the summer I turned eighteen on New Brunswick's Acadian Penninsula taking a French Immersion course.

My facility in the language was  sufficient enough for me to find employment in customer service, sales and account management positions in the Toronto area.   I never, and still have not, attained what I consider perfect fluency, but I do consider myself more than functionally bilingual.

Suffice to say I place a high degree of value on bilingualism and have more than a bit of sympathy for those who strive to protect and promote the French language in Quebec.   I embraced the opportunity to move here, and I love living in Quebec.

The two issues dominating discussion of late are limiting access to English schools for Quebec students and the  removal of bilingual status from some municipalities.

It goes without saying that Quebec is a French island surrounded by an ocean of the English language.  If the French language is to survive and thrive in this environment, then barriers need to be constructed to protect it from being flooded.  The damn protecting la langue française is already showing major cracks on the island of Montreal.  A French speaking Quebecer can go into a west island convenience store and find they have to speak English at the counter.

The debate comes down to individual rights versus that of a society as a whole.

Quebecers have elected a government which places a high priority on protecting and promoting the use of French and is proposing legislation which reflects the direction in which they wish to take the society.

In terms of education, those parents whose kids are denied access to an English public school can still enroll their children in a private school that is English.  Some consider that unfair, and argue that they're being denied a fundamental right.  But does the overall society not have a fundamental right to defend itself from being assimilated?

Its a difficult question for sure.  The same issues apply to municipal governments losing their bilingual status which would result in the loss of English language services.

Our federal government  protects the entertainment industry with content rules that prevent our marketplace from being overrun with programming and music from the United States on our public airwaves.  Quebec is acting in similar fashion, but here it goes beyond programming and extends further in an effort to protect the language.

If the French language is to survive here, I would argue that it is needed.

Now for those who might point to the tenuous minority status of Quebec's  PQ government and the mere thirtyish percent of the popular vote they garnered, I would suggest a closer look at the numbers.  In addition to the Parti Québecois there are two other nationalist parties here, and combined with the PQ they garnered in the neighborhood of forty percent of the vote.  No where close to a majority certainly, but still significant.

Given the minority situation Quebecers will likely have a chance to pass judgement on Mme Marois' governance and initiatives sooner rather than later, that's democracy.  At that point it will come down to a decision about which direction Quebecers want this province to take, and on how much of a priority protecting the French language represents.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Macleans' weighs in on the stock market, screams BUY!

Today's trip to the mailbox brought me Macleans' magazine's latest edition, with the cover offering up a three letter, bold, all caps assessmet of the stock market, complete with an exclamation point.  


Citing the fact that markets have been on a massive bull run since March of 2009, the article cites 'experts' postulating that we "may" be entering a period of substantial and sustained growth in the capital markets, one that "could" run for another decade.  

Putting on my well worn cynics cap I focus on words like may and could.  That which may, may not.  Something that could happen, it stands to reason, also could not.  If prognostications prove faulty the authors of said advice can point to the fact that they didn't predict what will happen, only what might.

Kind of like reading a horoscope, not much difference really:  Today may bring lucrative opportunties, or it may not.

My market opinions tend to the contrarian side, that is to say when everyone says to jump in the pool, I have a tendency to look for my towel.  My views centre around simple market dynamics, that a market needs two things to function, buyers and sellers.  

If one person is buying then another must be selling, and vice versa.  People who were running scared from the markets back in 2008 and dumping their holdings, they had to be selling to someone.  And now with a publication like Macleans' screaming for Canadians to buy, it follows that there are others willing to sell. Quite likely some of the same parties who were bargain hunting when the herd stampeded out of the equity markets.

I'm not going to offer up an opinion one way or another.  I do hope we are in for a decade of market appreciation, our economy needs it, I'm just cautious and conservative about such things.  

A writer whose overall market analysis I respected was Joseph Granville.  He divided bull and bear markets into a total of six phases:  Early, Mid and Late for both bull and bear cycles.  He also divided investors into smart and dumb money, saying when the smart money is selling high the dumb herd is buying, and the reverse when stocks tank.

The trick of course is to know what cycle the market is in, and after a four year bull run I feel pretty confident in saying this isn't an early bull market.  In fact I think we might very well be a year or two away from an early bear cycle, maybe even sooner.

Things are tough, real estate is no longer providing the returns people became accustomed to over the past 20 or so years, interest rates for fixed income vehicles are pathetic, and now major media outlets are proclaiming a bull stock market after four year gains in the neighbourhood of 100%.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can the French language survive in Québec?

Bonjour mes chers lecteurs, greetings dear readers.  This blog posting comes to you from a Tim Hortons in the north end of Quebec City, one with wifi access.  I ordered myself a grande café with un crème and un edulcorant, I also had a beigne.  For those scratching their heads, that's a large coffee with one cream and one sweetener, and a doughnut.

French in this part of Quebec is very much la langue de la rue, the language of the street.  Oh I still would have gotten my coffee and doughnut if I'd ordered them in English, but it would have been difficult, and I probably would have sugar instead of a substitute in my coffee, but I'm not diabetic so it wouldn't threaten my health.  

For the here and now, the French language is a alive and well in Quebec.  But will it last?

You may have come across recent news about Québec's PQ government looking to strip some municipalities of their bilingual status.  Having that status allows local governments to provide services and things like newsletters in both English and French. Removal of bilingual status would leave uni-lingual anglophones constantly in consultation with their French - English dictionaries.

Is this needed?  As with many things, it depends on your perspective.

French has been spoken in Québec for over 400 years, although I doubt Samuel de Champlain would recognize the variety I hear on a daily basis.  Comment vas-tu 'la' Sam?  French has evolved and adapted to our changing world, as it must.  But as we travel further and further into the hyper connected information age I can't help but thinking that the French language is doomed in North America.  I'm not talking in my lifetime, or even the in the lifetimes of my children,  but maybe in another one hundred or so years.

I don't think it can be stopped, but it can be slowed.  Initiatives like the removal of bilingual status from some jurisdictions, or limiting access to English schools, that will slow the erosion of the French language certainly.  But stop it?  I don't think that's possible.

The Québecois of today are different from their ancestors. Quebecers aren't satisfied with being citizens of Québec, they aspire to be citizens of the world.  And given the provinces geographic position on the planet, its a 'nation' surrounded by the English language, and people are adapting.  

I've spoken to many parents who are worried about being able to enroll their children in an English school.  Like parents everywhere Quebecers want to give their children all the advantages possible in our increasingly competitive world.  And with the planet shrinking every day, parents realize that the door to opportunity opens easier with the language of Shakespeare than with that of Voltaire.

A candidate who speaks, reads and writes English perfectly will have a decided advantage over his French only competitor, although right now French is still essential in most of Quebec outside of Montreal.  

That's not to say that there isn't a value to bilingualism, it is a huge benefit.  Especially considering that French is going to be a fact in Quebec and in Canada for many years to come.

In this blogger's opinion the PQ is fighting the good fight, but its a battle ultimately doomed to failure.   

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Politicians afraid of the abortion debate - But are Canadians?

Many of Canada's elected representatives are scared to death of the abortion debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Federal minister for the Status of Women Rona Ambrose among them.  Both are on record as saying that Canadians don't want this debate re-opened, or words to that effect.

Uh huh, right.  Obviously they don't want any debate to take place, and its easy enough to understand why. Its a vote loser no matter what they say.

Come out in favour of any restrictions whatsoever and you inflame the Pro-Choice camp.  Advocate for keeping the status quo and you run the risk of alienating voters more closely aligned with the Pro-Life side.  A politician can't win, which has left our federal Conservative government walking a tight rope.

Much of the Tory base is socially conservative, and their votes will be needed during the next federal election.  How do you keep the religious right voting Conservative while at the same time not alienating the greater majority of socially progressive Canadians?  It helps that the NDP, Liberals and Greens don't offer much is the way of an alternative to social conservatives, but they could just stay home and not vote. 

So what to do?  You play both sides, carefully, that's how. 

Witness the recent vote, (defeated) about creating a committee to examine the point at which a fetus becomes human.  Or the upcoming vote which calls on parliament to condemn the practice of abortion being used to terminate female pregnancies.

Then there's the more recent letter sent by three Conservative MPs to the RCMP asking them to investigate possible 'homicides'.  These alleged homicides were the result of abortions which were conducted that resulted in a live birth.

Why is all this happening?  One reason is that Canada has no laws with respect to abortions whatsoever, unique among all developed nations.  In Canada a child has no legal rights at any point during pregnancy, and is not accorded any legal recognition until it has emerged alive from the mother's womb.

Politicians might be afraid unwilling to discuss abortion, but such is not the case with all Canadians.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Québec considers lowering voting age to 16?

Recent news is suggesting that Québec Premier Pauline Marois is intrigued with the thought of extending voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds.  -CTV STORY HERE-

Québec's first minister was in Scotland recently, where a vote on independence will take place in 2014.  Scotland will be allowing 16 and 17 year old citizens to vote in a referendum on separation.  There are many who consider the PQ's popularity among the youth of Québec to be strong, I am one of them, so extending voting rights to a younger demographic certainly makes sense in that light.

But what about the rest of our democracy?  Should our political parties consider giving high school students a say in more than just voting during a Québec referendum, but in other elections as well?

Teenagers voting???  Gimme a....wait a minute, this makes sense.

Think about it.  All you basically need to vote in Canada is a birth certificate saying you're over 18 and a pulse, that's pretty much it.  It doesn't matter if you can't name even  three of Canada's ten provinces, or if you think the Prime Minister of our country is George Washington Lincoln Gretzky, here's a ballot go mark your X. 

Why shouldn't older teenagers be given a say in determining Canada's future, be it at the federal, provincial, regional, or municipal level...oh yeah, let's not forget school boards.  Damn this country is so over governed.

If a 90 year old who is likely departing this world in the next few years has the legal right to vote, why not someone who in all likelihood will be contributing to Canadian society for the next fifty years or more?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Silent no more on 'Idle No More'

I haven't written anything on the 'Idle No More' movement yet, not because I haven't been following it, but becaue the issues at stake are incredibly complex and answers are anything but easy.

We're talking about treaty rights here of course, treaties that were signed back when Canada was in its infancy.  Obviously the world has changed a lot in the past hundred plus years.

I have to admit having a bit of a problem with individuals being assigned rights based on things such as race.  I keep thinking about that old saw about all people being created equal and how we should all be treated in the same fashion before the law.

Canada's Supreme court recently opened a can of worms, creating the possibility that Métis and other non-status Indians may be accorded rights under our Indian rights act.  Something some status Indians are opposed to, fearing they'll be forced to share limited government sfunding earmarked for native programs. 

Welcome to enlightened Canada, where your rights as a citizen can in some cases be determined by race.  Am I living in the twenty first century or nineteenth?

Some might argue I'm talking about assimilation, and perhaps I am.  I'm generally in favour of all races and all groups living in harmony with one another.  The result is a new culture that takes elements from all peoples.  Obviously when groups come together, no one culture remains intact, there is evolution and progression.

The `Idle no more' movement has had more than its fifteen minutes of fame and is quickly being relegated to the back pages of our newspapers.  Maybe its time to replace it with a discussion about bringing all Canadians together and ensuring equality of at least oppourtunity for all citizens. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Canada's prison plans - Following a failed US example?

It has fallen off the radar of late, our current government's plan to increase Canada's prison population by expanding the prison system.  Capacity is being increased substantially while laws have been changed to ensure more people are incarcerated and for longer periods of time.

Much of this happened without much in the way of debate or discussion, due to the Conservative majority win in our most recent election. 

Given our current Prime Minister's seeming love for all things American, I read with interest a recent article published in the Jan/Feb edition of The Saturday Evening Post:  Jailhouse Blues.

The article makes the point that the United States represents five per cent of the world's population yet houses twenty five per cent of the planet's prisoners.

Is this a model we're looking to follow?  Obviously Canadians have concerns about law and order, and we want our communities kept safe.  That obviously means removing certain members from the overall society.  But are we interested in returning rehabilitated individuals to society, or merely looking to warehouse people until they're released, giving them little hope of succeeding on the outside?

The issue is obviously complex, and almost certainly without a perfect solution.  But incarcerating offenders is expensive, whether they be violent or non-violent offenders. 

Given that our federal government is running large deficits year after year this is likely a discussion worth having.  For fiscal conservatives such as myself I'm not thrilled when I see hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars being spent to further an agenda based on what may very well be flawed reasoning. 

Check the article out and share your comments. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jodie Foster facing lawsuit for Honey Boo Boo remarks?

Unconfirmed, unsubstantiated and fabricated rumours eminating from this source are indicating a lawsuit by the handlers of reality TV star Honey Boo may be launched against Jodie Foster in the wake of her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards Monday night.

In accepting the Cecil B. Demille award Foster said in part:

''You know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No, I'm sorry, that's just not me. It never was and it never will be. Please don't cry because my reality show would be so boring. I would have to make out with Marion Cotillard or I'd have to spank Daniel Craig's bottom just to stay on the air. It's not bad work if you can get it, though."

Concocted members of the Honey Boo Boo camp are said to be up in arms and furious over the use of reality TV star Alana Thompson's nickname.

''Where does this Foster woman get off using Honey's name in her speech? Yer dang right Jodie Foster ain't no Honey Boo Boo. Jodie don't have half of Boo Boo's talent and those things about making out with another woman and spanking some guy, well that's just plain rude and if she's gonna dis Honey like that there, then she better watch her back...and her wallet.''

Further unconfirmed, unsubstantiated and fabrictated rumours have Foster's people considering an offer of pork rinds to mollify the Boo Boo camp.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bilbo tops Jean Valjean in holiday movies

Every Christmas there's an envelope on the tree with a gift card to attend the movies from my father, this year was no different.  And my children also gave my wife and I passes to attend a film.  It wasn't hard picking the two movies we'd watch during our visit to the Toronto area.  We opted for Les Miserables and The Hobbit.

Les Miz was an easy choice,I've seen the stage play three times in Toronto and watched the anniversary shows countless times on line.  I love the story and the music, and the stage production is absolutely awesome.  The most recent film version though?  Not so much.

Adapting a stage play to the screen obviously presents challenges, and while I don't think it could be done better, I have my doubts that it should have been done at all.  The singing is good, Hugh Jackman will probably not give up his acting career for a go behind the mic, but he does the music justice.  Anne Hathaway is even better, her acting and emotion while singing as Fontine is spine tingling.  Even Russel Crowe does the role of Javert credit.

But this is a stage production, it was not written for the big screen.  I've seen other film adaptations of Victor Hugo's epic novel which surpass this most recent effort.  If you ever have the chance to see Les Miserables on stage, definitely go.  If the film is the only chance you'll have, then its a distant second choice.

As for The Hobbit, no complaints at all.  Well, maybe one.  Peter Jackson is obviously milking this franchise,  stretching this story out to capitalize on three films when one would likely suffice.  But that's a small complaint, I'm already looking forward to seeing the remainder of Frodo's adventure.

Valjean's epic strength would no doubt overpower that of a diminutive Hobbit, but when it comes to which film