Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dear Steve,

I know that you are indebted to Suncor et al, but really was it necessary to destroy a report from the parliamentary standing committee on Environment and Sustainable Development? What are you hiding? Don't the Conservatives have a majority on that committee? Could it be that even members of your own party have no other conclusion than the mining of oil sands will mean disaster for the watershed?

It was all on As it Happens:


As the anti-oilsands campaign mounts in the U.S., Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach should take a page out of the federal government's book. Just take the ads placed by his opponents -- and destroy them.

For eighteen months, Ottawa's Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has been investigating pollution caused by oilsands development. The Committee heard testimony from a number of experts -- including environmentalists, people in the oil industry, aboriginal leaders, and scientists with Environment Canada. MPs even took the time to travel to Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray to hear from witnesses.

What they learned wasn't good. But Canadians will never really get to know the full story. Because last month, the government took their final draft report -- and quietly destroyed it.

All we're left with now are the transcripts of the testimony. By law, the government is required to make them public. Andrew Nikiforuk, the author of "Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent", has read the transcripts. We reached him in Calgary.

For a peak at Mr. Nikiforuk's view of the tar sands, watch him here:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dear Canada,

In an age when we are facing increasing concerns about food safety, when the family farm is disappearing, when most of the food in our grocery stores is from another country - why is no one talking about Canadian farming?

It's not glamorous, but given a renewed interest in farmer's markets and local produce, it's time to think about our food. The NDP have created an extensive report, called Food for Thought: Towards a Canadian Food Strategy.

What could be more important than food? The next Governor General? The World Cup? An octopus named Paul? Some basketball player set to earn $100million for a season of play? Increasingly the topics in the news seem insignificant and irrelevant to my daily life.

Wouldn't it be great if politicians actually did something significant and relevant, rather than all of their bullshit posturing?

(While on the subject of farming, here's our local family-run farm...Cooper's CSA. That is Community Supported Agriculture, see link for details.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

I wish I had better news

I feel like Chicken Little, shrieking about the falling sky, but dudes the Empire is falling. I've said it before, sadly I need to say it again. The American Empire is ending and this lovely country is going to be sucked down with it.

Beautiful Charlotte, NC, the second largest financial centre in the USA next to New York city, headquarters of Bank of America and a little something called NASCAR, an economic leader in the American south, and now a shining example of the decline. The county has announced $81.1 million in cuts. They are closing three libraries in June with the potential to close a dozen more in July. Charlotte was in better shape financially than many areas of the US and this is what they have become. It makes me wonder what hope there is for the rest of America.

Libraries are great equalizers offering all people access to information - something that is vital for a thriving democracy. I could go on, but this article does it better. It all makes me wonder where is Bill Gates? Hey, Bill I appreciate you putting computers in so many libraries across America and the world (we won't mention that these institutions would later be required to purchase your software, which does rather make your philanthropy look a lot like self-interest). Will you step up and save these vital institutions? Do you actually care about increasing access to information?

It isn't just libraries that are being hurt by this economic crisis, some estimate as many as 300,000 teachers will be laid off across the US. No libraries, no teachers - even if America can pull itself out of this financial mire, how will they be able to compete in a global economy without an educated workforce?

Before we in Canada sit back, feeling smug that we aren't in their shoes. Dudes, we're getting there...Vancouver's school board is planning to close schools and Ontario continues to close schools.

Confused liberty with greed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dear Steve,

Are you f---ing kidding?

I've said it before, but clearly it bears repeating:
Access to contraception and abortions are cornerstones for maternal and child health. Period.
If you don't believe me ask Marie Stopes International. They will tell you that every seven minutes a woman somewhere in the world dies from an unsafe abortion. Don't call yourself pro-life because clearly you don't give a shit about the lives of women.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Ukraine,

Once again, I find myself praying for you. It is fascinating that at the same time as you are giving the Russians permission to retain a naval base in Crimea, the European Parliament is preparing to declare Holodomor a crime against humanity.

Reporter Mevlut Cavusoglu noted that his own fact-finding mission to the region leaves “no doubt that the Soviet regime bears the responsibility for the deaths of millions of people in Ukraine as a result of its actions and policies, and is guilty of the crime against its own people.”

Now here you sit ready to make nice with Russia and all I can do is pray for you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear America,

Have you ever heard of a company called Magnetar? No, me neither, but guess who made a fortune betting that Americans would default on their mortgages? A little hedge fund from Chicago named after the powerful magnetic field created in the last moments of a dying star/supernova. How perfect is that? They saw an opportunity to make money in the last moments of a dying empire.

It's quite a complex story, my understanding of it (and please read the ProPublica story linked above to get the full picture) is that Magnetar pushed bankers to include increasingly risky mortgages into CDOs. Magnetar would then sponsor the most risky portion of the CDO. The rest of the CDO would be covered by other investors - you know mutual funds, pension funds, everyday suckers like you and I. Then Magnetar would bet that the CDO sponsored would fail by purchasing "hedging instruments" called credit default swaps that covered the value of the entire CDO, even though Magnetar only had an interest in a portion of the CDO. Meaning that while the other investors in the CDOs lost their money, the people with the risky mortgages lost their homes, and the banks lost their money, Magnetar made billions (almost $6 billion).

It's the story of American ingenuity and a good old-fashioned fuck everyone approach. It's the sort of thing that made America great and exactly what is cutting short the American empire. God bless them all, but the dream is over. Ayn Rand was wrong, individualism and self-interest will not make a country great, but it will make a few selfish assholes a stack of cash. It's time to ditch the shoddy objectivist philosophy and attempt to salvage your country.

On a side note, I had the good fortune to come across the fantastic podcast, This American Life. The very first episode I heard was one called Inside Job, which lead to this posting. Give it a listen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Note to John McKay, Dan McTeague and Paul Szabo

Gentlemen, access to contraception and abortions are cornerstones for maternal and child health. Period.

Shame on you for voting against the motion put forward by Bob Rae. Shame on your cowardly cohorts who refused to show up for the vote.

"This is a moral issue for me and I voted based on my conscience," said Szabo.

My response to Mr. Szabo is to quote my beloved Helen Philpot:
Abortion has no business being a political game… a sound bite to make the evening news. It is a medical decision between a woman and her doctor. If you have a moral dilemma or a religious issue, then don’t have an abortion. It really is that simple. Trust me. I know.
Blessed is Helen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I knew it

Some time ago I noted that the new citizens' guide, Discover Canada, appeared to represent ideology rather than a balanced view of our country. Strikingly absent was any mention that same sex marriage is legal in Canada or any mention of equality rights. Now the news is out that there were sections covering these topics in early drafts and Jason Kenney blocked it.

Minister Kenney has consistently voted against same sex marriage and clearly has his own issues with homosexuality. I can't help wondering how much he has in common with a politician from California...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Canadian Voters,

Yeah you. Where have you been? It's not enough to join Facebook protest groups - you must stand up for your rights. Call your MP. Tell him/her that you want democratic representation, now. Opposition parties need a call to arms before they'll force an election. We need to tell them we're ready for a new leader.

This country needs real change. Our Fearless Dictator (OFD - the PM formerly known on these pages as Steve) cannot continue to lie about the state of the economy.His shiny, happy economic outlook is strikingly different than that of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. "PBO’s estimates suggest that the Canadian economy was operating significantly below its potential in 2009." This downward trend has been evident since 2000 and is projected by the PBO to continue in the foreseeable future. Strange that Jim Flaherty's outlook is that "Canada's strong fiscal condition going into the recession would be a bonus coming out and that a good chunk of the deficit would disappear when the stimulus spending stops by March 2011." Why would these two views differ? Who benefits from lying about the economy? Oh that's right the politicians. But they never lie!

If the economy continues to under-perform (and it looks like it will) government revenues will also be reduced. The Conservative budgetary projections, aka lies, will have my boy paying down our deficit when he's gray.

Rest assured OFD has been busy working at more than faking numbers, he's also been giving out patronage appointments. 1,500 of them since 2006. I believe he's well past any Liberal records in this department. My favourite so far is appointing a lobbyist from Pfizer to the Canadian Institutes on Health Research. Guess which drug company is about to rich on our dime? Pfizer stock, anyone? Mention that when talking to your MP.

If you need more convincing check out the links at the bottom of this post, Our Fearless Dictator has been very busy centralising power.

Help me, Canadian voters, you're my only hope.

PS to Jack Layton: Sorry about this. Now that your health challenges have come to light, I feel rather shame-faced for complaining about you. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. (However, the NDP should have a presence without Jack or is that ship a dictatorship as well? Apologies aren't my strength, does it show?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Democrats,

WTF? Where were you?

(And herein lies the problem with the left in Canada and the US. Is it complacency? Ineptitude? I can't decide, but man, am I tired of it. It's time to get off the sidelines and get in the game.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dear Reader,

In the past I've mentioned The Current's Request Count. The CBC Radio program tracked the number of requests for interviews with Conservative Ministers and number of interviews actually granted. It's pretty shocking stuff - 34 requests and only 4 interviews were granted. I had thought that Steve's death-grip on government communication was an example of micro-management at its best. After coming across this, I'm not so sure.

Is kind Uncle Stevie, with his sweaters and fake smile, actually a dictator? Do yourself a favour, check out some of those links. I found these ones especially thought provoking:

Canada slips in press freedom rankings

Has Canada entered a Bush-like vortex?

Democracy Canadian-style

Gov't program wants job applicants' views on Tory budget

Watchdog slams lack of transparency in stimulus spending

Siddiqui: Harper acting like an elected dictator

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hello Ukraine,

I'm wishing you all of my best on election day. May you elect a leader with integrity and vision; someone with the ability to walk the line between the West and Russia without falling into the mire on either side.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Dear Jack,

Where on earth are you? Steve and his boys are tossing out the tenets of Canadian democracy and the NDP is busy "formulating a thoughtful, reasonable response". Parliament was prorogued on December 30th, wasn't it? How long does it take to formulate a response? Goodness me! When we will see actual signs of leadership?

Meanwhile, Tony Clement (don't get me started on Tony) claims that only the chattering classes and elites are voicing concern about Mr. Harper's authoritarian move.

Yup, member of the chattering class, that's me. Let's see:
  • Suburbanite - check
  • Middle class - check
  • Stay-at-home mother - check
  • Knitter - check
Seems to me, I should be the Conservatives target demographic. So why are they going so far out of their way to piss me off? Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum we have the NDP pissing me off by continuing to do nothing.

Jack, it's time to get out there and act like you want to lead!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh, dear me (part 2)

There's lots of speculation in the Opposition and elsewhere (queue link to the charming, Canadian Cynic) that Steve has prorogued Parliament to avoid questions about Afghan detainees.

This time, I think Steve is actually telling the truth - it's not about covering up allegations of torture. He's quite happy to leave Defense Minister, Peter McKay, flapping in the breeze trying to deny or hide any knowledge of detainees being tortured. There's no love lost between the two men, in fact many have speculated that Harper gave McKay this portfolio to doom his political career. Steve would not shed any tears if McKay is forced to resign. (Could Steve ever shed tears? A question for another day...)

I suspect the real reason Parliament has been prorogued is to hide the fact that the federal finances are in far worse shape than Steve and his pal, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, would have us believe. Keep your eyes open for a report from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page next week. He may be our only link to the truth about our financial situation in these undemocratic times.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dear Kevin Page,

I like you. All too often bureaucrats don't get the thanks they deserve. Thanks! I'll be following your budget reports closely.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh, dear me

I truly wanted the charity piece to be at the forefront of the blog for a few days, but not enough to stay silent on the prorogation nonsense.

Nik Nannos claims that this issue won't have a "significant influence on voting behaviour". He hasn't done any surveys on the subject, apparently he doesn't need to - he's that tapped into the Canadian psyche. Impressive job, Nik.

I feel just as qualified to have a different opinion. I, too, haven't done any surveys on the subject. Who needs them? I looked on facebook and couldn't help but notice an ever growing group of dissatisfied citizens. The fantastic knitters over on Ravelry's forum Canadian Issues Debate seem genuinely PO'd, they are bandying about terms like undermining of democracy, abuse of executive power, and totalitarian government.

So who is more in touch with the zeitgeist of our nation? Time will tell.

Dear Canada,

Do you believe in government-provided social programs or in privately-funded programs? Pick one, because lately you've been doing neither and it stinks.

Successive governments, both federally and provincially, have cut taxes and programs, at your behest Canada. (Alberta, I'm looking right at you.) So you have more money in your pockets, and yet no less than the Fraser Institute is saying things like:
...the percentage of tax filers donating to charity fell in almost every Canadian province between 1997 and 2007...
You know what else they are saying?
If Canadians had given the same percentage of their aggregate income to charity as Americans had, Canada’s charities would have received an additional $10.1 billion in private donations.
Stop pretending to be the nicer version of our neighbours to the south, because baby it ain’t true. Wake up Canada you can’t have it both ways – low taxes and excellent services. It’s time to start showing some charity.

Other interesting facts:
  • A higher percentage of tax filers donated to charity in the United States (26.6%) than in Canada (24.0%) during the 2007 tax year. Similarly, Americans (at 1.60%) gave a higher percentage of their aggregate income to charity than did Canadians, (at 0.73%).
  • The Fraser Institute calls this a substantial generosity gap.
  • This generosity gap undoubtedly limits the power and potential of charities to improve the quality of life in Canada.
  • US numbers are actually larger than the stats above, because American tax law is such that some people may donate to registered charities but not be able to claim those donations on their taxes.
*All quotes are from here.