We always serve Tourtiere at Christmas.

One of the best things about having a crowd for Christmas is the cooking challenge it offers. It isn't just the turkey either. Over the next few weeks I know Morgan and I will be trying out new recipes to serve and reworking old ones in an effort to offer a tasty variety of meals and to fine tune our cooking skills, adapting to a larger group than we are used to.

One of the things I always make Christmas time is a meat pie which has it's roots in Quebec called tourtiere. The arguments go on and on about it origins and what the best ingredients are.
I use ground pork, ground beef and sometimes a bit of ground chicken but often venison was used. Some people add potatoes, often mashed but, others use pieces of boiled potatoes. Some claim that there are as many tourtiere recipes in Quebec as there are families. That is probably a fair assessment.

Historically Quebec was a very traditionally Catholic society so, particularly in small rural communities, everyone went to church Christmas Eve. Traditionally, Tourtiere is served after Christmas Mass. I make them and freeze a few and cook them for an easy evening meal.

I put the recipe onto one of my recipe blogs. Try making this dish it is easy and fun to make not to mention, very tasty.

You can find the recipe by following the link on the left hand side of this page which will take you to my main cooking blog, Gord's Kitchen or simply follow this link.


I could give the Blackberry Mead a Miss

You know what it is like to find a bar that you think of as your own? In the UK it would by my "local" or simple "the pub." It is the kind of place where you can go for lunch, settle in for a pint after a game of badminton or with a gang after floor hockey. A place where the staff get to know the regulars, a spot where you feel comfortable, somewhere you can linger over a couple of pints and talk. For me that sort of place is Bushwakkers.

Bushwakkers has character. It is in Regina's old warehouse district and the old square rough sawed posts that hold the roof up must be 2 feet square. They were probably shipped in by train from B.C. The floor creaks and the decor could use an update and if I was the chef I'd update they menu and bring back the potato skins, but it is comfortable.

It is a brew pub with a line of beer with good prairie names like Stubblejumper Pils, Sodbuster Brown Ale, and slough Shark Ale. I always have a chuckle when people order a pint of Mother-in-law - half a pint of bitter and half a pint of stout.

The only drawback about the place is that, around this time of year, Bushwakkers introduces Blackberry Mead to the drink menu. The place fills up every night with rowdies who have come to drink up the mead as long as it lasts. There are those who are there for the taste but without question, many are simply there for the high alcohol content.

My favorite place turns into a zoo for a few weeks each year. Friday evening when the forecast was for an overnight low of -49 with the windchill there was a lineup out the door and not a chance of getting a table for eight. After our weekly floor hockey game we had to go somewhere else for beer which for us was a giagantic break with tradition.

I hate to sound like a Grinch but, at least when it comes to Bushwakkers, will be happy to see then end of the holiday season.


We put up the tree

It is another cold one, -49 C last night with the windchill. Perhaps in January that would be ok, but December is a bit early.

With weather like that we just didn't want to go out today so, we got to it and decorated the tree. Things are beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The first of our visitors arrives this week. We are counting the days.

It should be lots of fun this year.


Are you ready for Christmas?

I have decided that as embarrassing as it might be to be represented by this Harper Government, I'm just not going to blog about it until the New Year. I need a break from it frankly.

So, are you ready for Christmas? If you are anything like me probably not.

My excuse is that we have been hovering around -30 for several days, which just doesn't seem right for early December. I just don't feel like freezing my rear end off.

With friends and family coming in from Saint-Hyacinthe, Ottawa, Lennoxville and Alaska, this year will be very special. It will be a a time for board games, crokinole, sitting around the fire, candles, good wine, cooking challenges and conversations.

I may not be ready yet but I will be and I can hardly wait.


This Torture Scandal Just Won't go Away

I thought for a while that I should just shut up about the torture scandal but, isn't that what the Harper government wants, for everyone to stop talking about it?

The latest of course is that former Canadian Ambassadors continue to add their names to a letter which criticizes the Harper government's shoddy treatment of a credible long time member of Canada's diplomatic service, Richard Colvin. By then end of the day it is expected that up to 50 of these retired diplomats will have signed the letter. Their action is unprecedented.

Today, Norman Spector, who was at some point Brian Mulroney's Chief of Staff, criticizes the former diplomats in a rather confusing piece in the Globe & Mail, saying that their letter is "a red herring" because at this point there are more Canadians that believe that Elvis is alive, than those who actually believe the Government on this matter. He says the ex-ambassadors really should be annoyed at that cocky, retired general Rick Hillier. He is the one who Spector says, trashed Colvin personally and "shredded" his testimony.

I am not sure Spector is right. That is not quite the way I remember things anyway.
  • Hillier as, I recall, suggested that he had never seen the Colvin memos, questioned their accuracy and suggested that Colvin wasn't credible. Hillier came away from that testimony looking like retired army thug and Colvin, in my eyes anyway, wreaked credibility.
  • Peter McKay, in an effort to discredit Colvin, as I recall, suggested that Colvin was getting his information from the Taliban instead of using credible sources.
  • Some of the Conservative MP's on the committee aggressively questioned Colvin asking if he was sure about what he had said. Had he seen torture take place? Was he positive it had happened?
Colvin told the committee of MPs that many of the former prisoners were not Taliban but innocent farmers who just happened to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. He testified that had talked to many former prisoners and that he had seen much physical evidence of torture after the fact.

The Tory MP's were inclined to believe that these former prisoners had acquired these wounds in circumstances which would be the equivalent of walking into a door, not at the hands their Afghan jailers.

The government's conduct in this matter is shameful. Can McKay survive? Will this hurt the Government come election time? Who knows.

The Canadian electorate has proven time after time that they have memories like goldfish. Perhaps that is what Harper is banking on.

So come election time keep your eye out for fireside Steve. You know, the "good" Stephen Harper. The one we only see after the writ is dropped. He'll tell you everything is fine. You'll probably believe him.


Saskatchewan Winters

I hate to complain but -32 on December 8th is too damn cold

Canada's political institutions are the most dysfunctional among Western democracies

There has been a great deal of talk about the state of democracy in Canada in recent months. Most Canadians are very dissatisfied by the state of affairs in Ottawa but very few seem to want an election, unwilling to replace one dysfunctional government with another or to risk the fact that a party with 40% support could form a majority.

In an article just published in the Canadian Journal of Opinion - Inroads Dr. Henry Milner argues that Canada has replaced Italy as the prime example of unstable and ineffective political institutions.

He says, "Political science undergraduates used to learn about Italy as the model of dysfunctional political institutions, characterized by frequent elections and constant uncertainty under minority governments at the mercy of shifting political alliances. Italy transformed its electoral institutions in the 1990s, and while hardly perfect now – as the antics of Signor Berlusconi demonstrate – it has lost its place as model of dysfunctionality among stable democracies to, of all countries, Canada.

Dr. Milner is one of Canada’s leading academic authorities on electoral systems. The complete article is available here.

This all begs the question, "Why aren't we talking about electoral reform?"

Peter McKay's nose grows even longer

I have been intrigued by the coverage of the scandal in Ottawa over the exchange of Afghan prisoners by Canadian soldiers to the Afghan authorities where many were apparently subsequently tortured by Afghan secret police.

Here in Saskatchewan, a veritable hotbed of right-wing Tory support you would hardly know there was an issue at all considering how little coverage appears in the local media. I get the sense that the editors at the Leader-Post buy into the crap pumped out on a daily basis by Harper's spin doctors. You know all that stuff they say. "Taliban Jack and that anti Semite Ignatieff are just being unfair to young Peter McKay. Peter never, never even heard about torture and neither did those nice generals."

I thought therefore I should include part of a Canadian Press story which was issues earlier today in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Federal officials assured the Red Cross in 2006 that Canada would take an active role in monitoring the fate of Afghan prisoners -- but for critical months behind the scenes did little more than manage the political spin, secret memos show.

The records, examined on a confidential basis by The Canadian Press, show the Harper government placed a greater emphasis on drafting "key messages" to the public and preparing "approaches" for embarrassing disclosures than on dealing with the human rights of prisoners.

Throughout 2006, when Canada took on its combat role in Kandahar, the International Red Cross pressed Ottawa to take more responsibility for prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers.

At the time, federal officials were receiving warnings about torture in Afghan prisoners from Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. The Red Cross also met directly with a military lawyer, an RCMP officer, as well as another foreign affairs staffer in Kandahar.

And on Nov. 20, 2006, Foreign Affairs officials drafted talking points meant to assure officials of the humanitarian agency.

The first step in trying to solve this problem was to get the spin doctors working. It goes on. You can read most of the story at the CTV site by following this link.

This government makes my head hurt.

I'd say. "Time for an election" if the Liberals actually had a leader.


A Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister:

I think it important that you know that I am dealing with some real mixed emotion these days. I also think it is important that you understand that my emotional state is shared by most people I know.

It has always been easy for me to be a proud Canadian. My ancestors came to Canada with General Wolfe as Fraser Highlanders. After they served in Quebec they were given land grants and settled in there. My roots here go way back and I have always felt that I have a stake in this country.

I am not a regional Canadian. I think that I have a pretty good sense of what our country is all about. Over the years, work brought me coast to coast to coast and I have lived in six different provinces during my adult life.

I served eight years in the Canadian Armed Forces. Back when I served it was still called the Royal Canadian Navy.

I have worked in a variety of jobs over the years and I guess it would be fair to say that my family and I are a part of that large Canadian middle class.

I tell you all this because I think it is important for you to know that I am not just some nut.

Prime Minister, I feel compelled to let you that I have been very disappointed in how I see my country changing under your leadership. I fear that you are undermining the very fabric of our country turning away from our long established traditions as a country that cares about the underprivileged, that will pull above it’s weight with foreign aid and a country that sees its role as a peacekeeper, not just another oppressor.

Perhaps most of all, I have to tell you that I am ashamed at how your government, no, my government, has reacted to the information regarding the transfer of Afghan prisoners by Canadian troops. It is no overstatement to say that the conduct of Peter McKay and others, has been shameful.

I really do believe that the only reason that you are refusing a public inquiry in this matter is that you have something to hide. If not, I am convinced that you would be as open as possible. Even if you do, it is not too late to correct matters. The political damage you incur by bringing it all into the open now would be nothing compared to the scandal created by information which is brought to light piece to piece until the final puzzle is revealed.

I urge you to listen to the many Canadians who want to see these matters brought to light through a public inquiry. Every day you delay makes things look worse for you.

To be frank Prime Minister, we seldom see issues eye to eye but, I can respect someone who has a different opinion that I do, assuming that they are approaching issues with an open and honest mind.

Unfortunately what I have seen from your government is not that. You cloak issues in secrecy, mock people who hold views which are different than your own and while you are not the first Prime Minister to act like a bully, you should know that the way you act, diminishes the very office you hold.

Please Prime Minister, if only for the sake of the country I hold so dear., take a good hard look at the state of affairs and begin to act in the open and honest manner you argued for in opposition.

Yours Truly

Gord Hunter


What gives with Stimulis Spending?

Ever wonder why Canadians are cynical about our governments these days. There are actually a long list of reasons but, let's pick one. Have you ever tried to get a sense of how all this stimulus spending is doing besides racking up debt at the rate of $1200.00 a second. Just reading about stimulus spending is enough to make your head spin.

  • Harper said yesterday, on his way to China that 97 % of stimulus dollars have been committed for this fiscal year.
  • The same report Harper was referring to says 40% of the projects have been started. (By "started" the government means they have gone out for tender which makes you wonder about all those "shovel-ready" projects we heard about at the start)
  • The Liberals are pointing out that the same report shows that as of today, only 7% of the stimulus projests have been actually started (useing the definition most of us use) which has to make you wonder. If we are as deeply in the red as even the government says we are, where are we going to be by the time this money is actually spent?
  • Curiously only 1% of a $1.9 billion fund for social housing has been spent
  • An additional $1.5 billion of social housing money has been just trickling out the door and other funds which were earmarked to improve social housing are stalled and pretty much the same level.
  • Harper claims that Canada leads the world in economic recovery
  • The Liberals say there are questions about the effectiveness of Harper's economic stimulus program as new GDP numbers show that Canada’s economic recovery is the second worst among G7 nations, lagging behind Japan, Germany, the United States, Italy and France.
  • The Liberals say that of the 1000 projects they tracked, only 12% were actually generating jobs.
  • Harper claims that his government's spending will create 220,000 jobs.
  • Senior bureaucrats overseeing economic stimulus spending told MPs recently that the government isn't tracking how many jobs are being created by projects that are supposed to kick-start Canada's economy.
Confused? It is no wonder.

According to the TD Bank the combined Federal and Provincial deficits equal $90 billion. Represented by a stack of dollars, placed on it side that amount of money would be large enough enough to circle the earth almost four times.

According to the government we don't have to worry about rising taxes to pay down that deficit either. Following Tory tradition the payback plan most likely will entail lowering business taxes and royalties. In fact, Tories never really have the worry about paying back what they spend while they form government either. They never really stay in power long enough to have to concern themselves about it.

That will be the Liberal's problem.


A lesson from Germany

I read in the paper this weekend - no silly, not the Leader Post, The Globe & Mail - that in Germany, a cabinet minister resigned after admitting that he had not read an important e-mail about Afghanistan.

In contrast in Canada, Peter McKay, the Minister responsible, who admits he didn't read important e-mails about the torture of afghan prisoners by Canadian troops thinks that was ok and has attacked the person who brought it all to light.

Not only that but, to help in the young Peter's defense the government has trundled out a couple of retired generals who were responsible for things over there and who also who brashly admit that they didn't read the e-mails either.

The Generals got quite huffy. Of course Generals are well known for not accepting and criticism well. That is just the way those military guys are.

Lessons from Germany anybody.

Pay Attention Boys and Girls

Ok all you Saskatchewan boys and girls.
This weekend taught us all a good lesson.
Numeracy is important.
I hope you were paying attention.
Now if our finance minister learned that lesson too, we'd all be better off.


Why not Protect Wild Horses.

A Saskatchewan Party member of the legislation, Tim McMillan , recently introduced a private members bill in an effort to protect a herd of wild horses in the Bronson Lake area of Northwest Saskatchewan. Evidently there is some evidence that this herd may go back as far as the early 1800's. There is even some speculation they may be linked to horses used by Spanish explorers. DNA samples have been sent to Texas to try and see if that link is possible. Who knew?

With the introduction of the bill, there has been some media interest - limited at best - in the herd which has been reduced from 300 plus to about 125. Harsh winters and wolves play some part in the reduction of the herd but what is disturbing is that local yahoos have been going into the back country on their quads and are shooting the horses for fun. They don't use the meat they just leave it to rot. At times, horses are shot and stacked up as bear bait so these idiots can shoot black bear.

I confess that I don't understand this need to kill.

According to media reports, McMillan has his work cut out for him and has "many hurdles yet to overcome" in getting this bill passed in the legislature. I can't for the life of me understand why. Surly the NDP are not going to stand up and insist that this right to shoot horses be maintained. Who would defend such practices?

So good luck Tim McMillian. If anything your bill doesn't go far enough. Killing any living thing for fun, just doesn't cut it in 2009.


When the Government is afraid of truth, we should be very afraid. of them

What most reasonable Canadians have to be asking this week is "What possible reason would Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin have in speaking out to the Parliamentary Committee, except to let Canada know the truth about our nation's complicity in the torture of Afghan prisoners."

Our government has done everything it can to prevent this truth from surfacing at all. They have interfered every step of the way in in an effort to stop Colvin and others from testifying, even going so far as to threaten legal action if they did.

If the Harper government and the Canadian Forces have noting to hide, we should be asking, what is this government afraid off.

Colvin is obviously a very brave man. His actions will undoubtedly stop any chance of advancement he might have had within the diplomatic corps.

I don't think I have ever in my life been so ashamed of my government as when I heard the Conservative Party members respond to Colvin's testimony. From Defense Minister Peter McKay on down they tried, unsuccessfully to undermine his credibility and to question his motives. Even that tired old war horse Rick Hillier got into the act.The manner in which it was done cheapens the process.

The crass braying from Harper's donkeys was no match for Colvin's quiet, articulate and through testimony however. What he had to say rang true and was very disturbing. .

This is a sad day for Canada.

Another Step Backward

The Government of Saskatchewan, not the most enlightened group, has just put a bounty on coyotes. Yup, now farm kids can earn Christmas shopping money killing coyotes and cutting off their paws. All four paws have to be presented before the bounty will be paid. I assume the government must think that cutting off just one paw, like the right front paw, or something like that was just too complicated for these rural folk.

This new initiative was recently announced by Agricultural Minister Bob Bjornerud. He calls it the Saskatchewan Coyote Control Program. The program will pay $20.00 per coyote and some Rural Municipalities are adding another $10.00 or so to the bounty.

This all raises the image of guys driving around in their pickups, with a rifle, a case of beer and a bag of coyote paws in the back, looking for more Christmas money.

As one would expect wildlife and environmental groups are up in arms but, in the eyes of these farmers and ranchers, environmentalists are mostly pinko city folk, so nothing for this Saskatchewan Party Government to worry about. That same bunch who wanted to keep the long gun registry in place.

So Merry Christmas rural Saskatchewan.


Government Ethics. An Oxymoron?

For years most of us have marveled at how business leaders learned that they can can seemingly divest themselves of responsibility when it comes to losses, lawsuits, union contracts, or monies owed to creditors by simply splitting their company into small subsidiaries. That way the small entity is wholy responsible for the problem and the parent company is insulated from any fallout which may occur during tough times. It is a kind of shell game business loves. The average person knows it is a scam but, ya know, we don't write the law.

In the last day or so an interesting story has hit the news in Saskatchewan. Big Sky, a hog producer, has filed for court protection from its creditors. Big Sky apparently owes several thousand dollars to farmers who provided the company with pig feed and it is reported, to other small companies doing work around the plant.

The farmers, quite justifiably are incensed. One guy is owed $47,000 for nine semi trailers full of barley he delivered and Big Sky won't pay up.

Here is the hook. The Saskatchewan Government owns 64% of Big Sky. So the Saskatchewan Government is shirking its responsibility in this matter and is stiffing its own citizans. Good work.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud apparently told the media that the government has no obligation what so ever in this matter. Give your head a shake Bob, I think perhaps a course in ethics 101 is in order.

Brad Wall, a true believer in the old, bread and circuses principle, is on the front page of the Leader Post this morning, posing with the Saskatchewan Roughrider flag and a couple of Riders football players in front of the legislature and the Big Sky story doesn't appear until page B7. So, it is working.

Now if the Riders lose the Western Final this Sunday, Brad may have to pay up. If they win, the Farmers might have to wait a while for their money.


Southey on Sarkozy

I live in a city with a newspaper, the Leader Post which can only be described as marginal. I wouldn't want you to think for a moment that I am slagging everyone at the LP however, they do have a few good journalists but, working for a CanWest paper they are starved for resources and I am not sure there is an editor in the place.

Saying that, I really do enjoy the Globe & Mail. Over the weekend I was reading Tabatha Southey's piece on Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to put himself into the frame when the Berlin Wall came down, even though he was in Paris on the dates he claims to have been in Berlin. You can read it here. It is quite funny.

In the column Southey notes that people have been making fun of Sarkozy on the net, putting him into the frame in other historical events including the Kennedy motorcade which I have included in the blog.

That gives me wonder if Stephen Harper is really at all these events that the PMO insist be covered only by an "official" photographer excluding the working press photojournalists or, if he is really sitting with his feet up at home. I am sure the PMO can afford PhotoShop too.

That gives us a challenge I think.


Tear Down Those Walls

It has been an interesting week in the news. I was particularly interested in the coverage of the anniversary of the taking down the Berlin Wall. I am in my mid sixties so I lived through that cold war era and I read all those Len Deighton books - Game, Set, Match etc - written about spies that moved back and forth, from west to East, across that barrier, and back.

Much was made of the pressure put on the old Soviet Union by the west and by the end of the week I was getting a bit sick of hearing clips from that old fool Ronald Reagan saying "Mickel Gorbachov, tear down this wall."

All this got me thinking about the walls being built today by the Israelis and by the Americans. Questionable solutions to complex problems.

Just saying...


Private Wine Store Update

Not very long ago the Saskatchewan Government announced their bold new initiative. They were allowing the opening of a privately owned specialty wine store.

Let me say, up front, that I am not opposed to the idea of having a good, privately run, specialty wine store here in Regina.

I've now been to the store a couple of times and I am so far not sure it was worth the bother.

A specialty wine store, for me at least, congers up all kinds of images. Staff that are knowledgeable about wines, a selection of interesting vintages, tough to get here in Saskatchewan and an different sort of atmosphere, a bit more sophisticated than Government liquor stores.

What we got was a shop in a fairly low end strip mall, a half stocked store without a really exciting variety in product, much of the stuff you can already get at the liquor store, and a staff who might as well be working in Best Buy.

I asked specifically about B.C. wines. British Columbia is a couple of provinces west. They make some very nice wines both red and white. The store's selection is appallingly bad. The staff don't seem to know much about what they are selling and don't seem to care. They don't know they intend to bring in a better selection and if they are, when.

To top it off of the two clerks it took to process my selection, one was standing behind the counter eating his lunch from a Tupperware container and the other seemed more interested in continuing her cell phone conversation with her boyfriend.

The government store clerks are much more knowledgeable about the wine and are certainly better behaved. They don't have much to worry about, I'd say.

Panem Circenses

I am no economist but, there wasn't a surprised bone in my body when we here in Saskatchewan were told earlier this week, that economically, things have turned out to be, not quite as rosy as the government had predicted.

Funny that the economic update was made just days after the Premier was once again bragging about the new covered stadium he and Mister Booster himself, Regina mayor Pat Fiacco want to build. I am told that method of trying to hoodwink the public is so old that it has a Latin name, panem circenses. Basically it is, in this case, when government tries to keep the population's attention diverted away from the real issues (The Government's failed economic policies) and instead get them thinking about how much fun it will be watching football games in a domed, heated stadium, without freezing their asses off.

It was interesting to see how this all unfolded.

The Potash industry was going mad. They were making money hand over fist. So what did they do? Instead of being happy with the huge profits they were making they decided to artificially push up the price of Potash, so they laid off staff and stopped mining.

They were right. That pushed the price up. It pushed it up so high that the third world countries they were selling to couldn't afford it any more.

Then the recession hit. No one could afford potash, so sales plummeted. The potash industry became a victum of their own corporate greed and the Saskatchewan government, that expected to capitalize on that greed through royalties, saw their economic plan slip through their fingers like quicksilver.

So despite all the crass bragging, the strutting around like a randy roosters and the unrestrained boosterism here we are. Saskatchewan is on the cusp of a recession. Those resource based economies will bite you on the bum every time.

So wait for it. Expect more announcements of grand projects but also get ready for the inevitable trimming of back of programs and the cutting back of services.

So, don't expect much bread with the circus.


Shorted Sighted Sick Leave Policies

I was a bit put off, but not surprised, to read in the G & M this morning that the Alberta government is instructing employees that during this swine flu season, they no longer will have to provide a doctor's note, after being sick for three days or more. They will however have to swear, in front of a commissioner of oaths, that they were indeed sick.

What was clear from the article was that the Alberta Government, has joined several other unenlightened employers, in making it policy that, in normal times, an employee off sick for three days or more must provide a doctor's note.

I used to argue with employers that such a policy really amounted to an abuse of the health care system and served little else that to intimidate employees who were sick, to come to work. The result is that they spread whatever they have around the workplace making more employees sick.

These last few years when governments claim to be struggling to make sure that a proper level of medical service is provided to citizens, that same government is clogging the system by forcing employees to see a doctor who can do very little more than write a note which says "This patient attended my office and has told me that he/she was sick last week."

The policy is very prevelant in the hotel and restaurant industry which as a matter of course has very little paid sick leave available for employees who are ill. They normally come to work in their jobs as cooks or servers in the restaurants we eat in, sick or not, very efficiently spreading the diseases that we are supposed to be trying to contain.

If governments were really interested in containing potential pandemics, they would mandate, an adequate amount of paid sick leave for every employee in their province.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that.


Gun Law Stupidity

OK, let me be up front. I don't like guns!

So, I cannot find words to express how disappointed I was in the fact that several NDP members voted in favour of abolishing the long gun registry. The Liberals, I expected to go both ways on the issue but the NDP. No excuse.

The private member's bill to abolish to long gun registry was put forward by Conservative member Candice Hoeppner, from of all places, Morden Manitoba. That was after years of budget cuts to the department responsible for the registry to assure they couldn't do their job efficiently.

Let's be clear what we are talking about here. The legislation didn't ban long guns. It didn't restrict long guns. It only said that if you were going to own one, you had to register it. We are told that rural Canada was up in arms - ok perhaps a bad choice of words - about the issue and were refusing to comply. That was when Harper and his gang did away with the penalties for non compliance with the registry. When they did comply anyway they were really pissed off about it.

As an urban Canadian, I confess, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why this is an issue;
  • If I own a car, I have to register it with the province where I live.
  • I have to pass a test and buy a driver's license if I want to drive it.
  • We register our marriage and the birth of our children
  • If I want to build a garage on my property, I have to buy a building permit
  • Fishermen need to buy a license before putting a line in the water
So what is it about guns? I know that the Conservatives rely on the rural voters to get elected but how hard can it be to comply?

It make me a bit nervous when I wonder what it is they are trying to hide. Here in Saskatchewan, bumper stickers with the slogan "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" are a bit too common here for my liking.

The registry is accessed by police departments in Canada 9000 times a day. Frankly, if I was a cop, as a starting point, I'd like to be able to look up, on line somewhere, if that guy who is having a bad day and is holed up with a gun taking pot shots at his neighbors, has a bunch of weapons in his closet.

I support the gun registry and tougher gun laws 100%. Guns only really serve one purpose and that is to kill things and to be honest killing things isn't part of my cultural experience.

Oh yeah, if you in the NDP are paying attention. I will remember your role in all this election day.


Who Should Carry the Can on Swine Flu

I wonder how long it will be before people really start to get annoyed about how the Harper and his crew are handling the H1N1 flu shot program. They have been lucky so far but a slight turn in direction could probe disastrous for this minority government.

For months Canadians were told, "Don't worry, there will be vaccine for each and every person that wants it." The media were sidetracked by issues such as the shipment of body bags into northern communities, "Just in case" and of course all the anti-vaccine activists got lots of air time and, "Do Canadians really care about this vaccine anyway" and, "What pandemic?"

Even little Stevie can't get the message right. Asked if he intended to get a shot, he answered, "If that is what is recommended." The federal medical people have been saying everyone Canadian should get vaccinated for weeks now. I guess Harper must have other things on his mind.

So here we are

As compared with other countries, Canada is about six weeks late in rolling this vaccine out at least partially because the government didn't order the stuff for several months after the outbreak was labeled a pandemic. (This strain surfaced in April, the government ordered the vaccine in mid August) So, we are, well into flu season and despite all the assurances, by the Feds, that there would be lots of vaccine to go around, the provinces which have to distribute the bloody stuff are just discovering that they will only be shipped a small fraction of what they were promised.

All this will be fine, the federal Government will ride it through as long as this flu outbreak doesn't suddenly blossom into a crisis and they have to shut down schools and businesses. As long as the weather stays nice and as long as the death toll stays low. You know that if things go bad, even Harper's buddies like Brad Wall won't take the blame.

But, you never do know. In Saskatchewan, the weather can turn in a day and we could find ourselves up to our knees in snow with temperatures well below zero. Block long lineups of "at risk" people waiting for flu shots in a blizzard, the rest of us, getting the sniffles and having no idea when we might get ours, people wearing masks and a few more H1N1 deaths could turn even the hardest nosed Saskatchewan Conservative into an NDPer in a flash.

Maybe we'll all get lucky. Then again......


That Cable vs Television broadcaster debate

My good friend Ian Morrison at the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is urging all of us to get involved in the great cable vs broadcasters debate. We have all seen the ads. How could we miss them, both sides have spend a small fortune in advertising.

To be honest, as I have said in earlier posts I find the television Broadcasters position a bit galling since they have done so much to undermine local television programming themselves over the last 30 years. But, some of the facts in this argument need a second look.

  • Cable companies pay nothing for the CBC, CTV and Global signals they distribute. They earn a good deal of revenue distributing that same product.
  • Television station in smaller communities are marginal at best and those that have survived so far, are on the verge of shutting down all together.
  • TV Broadcasters are loosing money hand over fist. CTV lost $100 million this year, CBC has a $171 million shortfall and CanWest Global...well, they are in a league of their own and may not survive at all.
I urge you to follow this link and visit the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting site Read the info and use their automated link to write to the CRTC. It just takes a few seconds. The CRTC isn't known for making bold decisions and needs to hear from Canadians on the issue.

Saskatchewan Specialty Wine Stores

Here in Saskatchewan we are all watching a campaign by the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union to urge us all to speak out against the privatization of Saskatchewan Government liquor stores.

To be honest, I am not sure where I am on the issue. I have mixed feelings. A couple of years ago I'd have voted for privatization but selection in the Saskatchewan stores have improved dramatically and I am all for paying the staff a good wage. I suspect many private stores are sweatshops and we certainly don't want to go the route most American states have gone.

Generally these campaigns warn us about becoming like Alberta where liquor stores were moved into the private sector years ago. I never quite understood that argument since most of us take advantage of Alberta's cheaper prices, great wine selection and better choices when it comes to single malt scotches, every time we make the drive west. Sure, there some run down hole in the wall stores in Alberta but, I don't shop there.

Meanwhile the Saskatchewan Government has approved the establishment of two private specialty wine stores. One in Regina and the other in Saskatoon. I was just told the other day that the contract for the Regina store at least, has been given to someone living in Alberta. Now, to be honest, I am not surprised. The government in power is mostly run by small town and rural rubes who don't know much beyond running a dairy Queen much less a specialty wine store.

I'm willing to bet that no one on the Saskatchewan Party pork barrel list can tell a white Zinfandel from a Gewurztraminer so they thought the best thing to do was to consult their buddies in Alberta. A bad move. A specialty wine store is a sure winner and I'm willing to bet that someone here in Saskatchewan with a few bucks to invest knows his way around a vineyard.