And all the Best for 2012

All this ranting at the Blue Meanies can be a bit draining so, I expect this will be my last blog of the year.

Commentators were all a flutter, near the end of this year's sitting, about Justin Trudeau using unparliamentary language in the House of Commons even though what he said was much less of an obscenity than the statement by the scud stud's older and less credible brother, that he was reacting to. Shame on you Peter Kent.

I will leave the last kick at the cat to blogger Rob Shirkley who takes a look at the troubling Irwin Cotler incident. He has a few things to say about the Speaker of the House, Saskatchewan's own Andrew Scheer although. Few of us expected any truly mature rulings from the boy speaker but this pretty much takes the cake. After this, people here might find it more useful to send him back  from whence he came.

   That done, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012.


Pinocchio Peter Strikes Again

You have to admit, it does look a bit like our Defence Minister
I am no fan of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation but the media seems to love the right wing lobby group these days. Probably because the CTF does the digging journalists don’t seem to have the time for these days.

To be honest I usually find the CTF annoying and I usually think they should be left alone. If they aren’t going on about what the First Nations communities have done with the money, they are attacking public pensions or the cost of social programs. They are generally not nice people.

So you know, when they go after one of Harper’s gang of thugs, he must have done something, way over the top.

We all were a bit shocked when Peter McKay called up the helicopter flight, so he could leave an exclusive fishing lodge in Newfoundland to attend a photo-op in Ontario. He actually had the nerve to call it important government business. He tried to hide all this by claiming it was a search-and-rescue training exercise. No one bought that one and Peter’s nose grew a little longer..

Now, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has released new documents showing MacKay stayed in uber luxury hotels during trips to Germany and Turkey. During one stay in Munich, Mackay's bill was $1,452 per night during a two-night stay then in Istanbul MacKay's paid $770.00 a night.

Oh sorry, we old retired guys on pension, paid for it through our taxes, not Peter.

McKay also spent $4,752 for a pair of Executive Class tickets from Toronto to Edmonton so he could go to the grey Cup game. He had to be there to wallow in what most of us saw as the military's excessive presence in that event. 

Air Canada must have been jumping for joy. Those tickets booked in advance are about $700.

It was also revealed that young Peter spent $3,167 on a trip to Boston for a seafood show. The CTF commented "Again, Minister Mackay regularly attends this event, although the usefulness of a senior Canadian minister attending a “seafood show” is even more debatable than attending the Grey Cup," Who can blame him? I’d love to go to Boston and eat seafood but I wasn't invited. I just don’t think Peter could pass up those free oysters.


Is Gerry Ritz above the Law?

Need I say more?


Have we Lost our Way?

I have been reading a good deal about bullying these last few weeks and we all are, or should be  aware of some recent tragic cases of teen bullying. The thought that continued harassment at school and in the community has pushed some kids to decide the only way out is to take their own life is an appalling statement about where we have arrived as a society.

Schools ignore it or when it does become known, the other kids circle the wagons making it difficult for educators and parents to deal with. 

Some Governments have concluded that the crisis has become so acute that they feel legislation is the only answer.  Legislation is probably the easiest answer but I am not sure it is the best.

In my view, what we need is a huge shift in what we value as a society and I am not hopeful.
  • I am shocked to read that Christian and Jewish groups are fighting against the Ontario legislation because they see protecting gay youth against bullying as condoning homosexuality. 
  • Kids’ coaches think it is appropriate to yell at 11 year olds, belittling them publically when they don’t play their best. 
  • NHL teams pay millions of dollars to thugs whose only role is, not to score goals, but to intimidate talented players in the ice. Players hold workshops designed to teach them how to fight. Canada’s National Sport has deteriorated to such a degree that when a fight breaks out so called fans stand and cheer. 
  • Workplaces can be just as bad. There is good reason why “going postal” is an accepted term for someone who goes off the edge after becoming so frustrated at work, they can't take it anymore. 
  • While media columnists be may among those speaking out against bullying the “If it bleeds it leads” approach to news if still quite prevalent.
  • YouTube videos featuring school yard fights are common, shared and laughed about. 
  • Try Goggling “Why psychopaths make good CEOs” 
  • Our current Federal Government thinks they are above the law. 
While I would agree with some that we really don’t need to continue to puzzle over the question “What does it means to be a Canadian” there might be real value in asking ourselves “What the hell has happen to us as a people?”


Politicians with Conscience?

I have been thinking a lot these days, about politicians, the people who we elect to lead and shape this country of ours. About who they seem to be, what must motivate them and how they respond to issues.

Seeing them at work, generally isn’t a very pretty sight. Think of Peter McKay. It is embarrassing.

Then, yesterday, listening to the radio, I heard a story about Italy’s Minister of Welfare. When during a press conference, Elsa Fornero began to announce a rise in the age the people will be eligible to draw on their pensions and that many pensions will no longer be adjusted for inflation.

Ms Fornero said “We had to … and it cost us a lot psychologically … ask for a …” before she could not continue, breaking down in tears. Prime Minister Mario Monti had to step in to finish her sentence, with the word “sacrifice.”

I thought, how refreshing, a politician who actually gives a damn about the people she was elected to serve.

In contrast, with winter coming on in the Northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat, families are living in tents, un-insulated shacks and abandoned construction trailers, children are sleeping on mouldy carpets and there is a decided lack of running water and sanitary facilities. When the Stephen Harper Government was finally embarrassed by the media into reacting to the shocking conditions the PM’s first reaction was to absolve his government of any responsibility and blame the situation on financial mismanagement by the community.

How refreshing it would be to have our elected leaders taking part in the dialogue, speaking from the heart and working with us to find solutions. I am sick of scripted responses, talking points instead of speaking from the heart. I want politicians who do more than cover their asses when things get messy.

Sometimes I despair.

A Sad Commentary

I am generally not a big supporter of armed conflict. I distrust military leadership and I am appalled by this new move by our Prime Minister to insert the military into Canadian life these days. Everything from citizenship ceremonies to the Grey Cup game.

I have mixed feelings about Remembrance Day. I see in it, too much celebration of the military and not enough thought about the futility of war. I do not wear a poppy in November and I don’t attend cenotaph services but I probably think about the sacrifices made by young men and women more than most.

This year, I was saddened by the Harper Government’s small-minded move to block the members of the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois to say a few words in the House of Commons during the time set aside to honour the war dead.

As a result of the Conservatives’ petty response to the request to be allowed to say a few words I wrote the same e-mail message to 94 Conservative members of Parliament, including my own MP Tom Lukiwski, several cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister.

I said:

My father served in the Canadian Army during the second world war and when I was a boy was sent to Korea to take part that dispute, again as a member of the Canadian Army.
When I was 17, I joined the Canadian Navy and served on Canada’s ships and submarines for several years.
Given my background, I am sure you can imagine how upset I was to hear that when the House of Commons honoured our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen. Your party twice denied the representatives from the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois the opportunity to say a few words in the house honouring those brave young men and women.
From my perspective, this action by the Conservative Party of Canada was beyond the pale. It was unconscionable.
Too many young men and women died, and continue to die to uphold the democratic principles, which seem to mean very little to you and your party.
You should be ashamed.

I received 16 responses. Most of them simply said “Thank you for writing, We appreciate the feedback” This e-mail from MP Bruce Stanton is typical.

Thank you for your email.
Bruce receives a large volume of email correspondence every day; it is difficult to respond to every piece in a timely manner. As such, Bruce prefers to make the correspondence of his constituents his first priority.
If you could please provide your civic address that identifies you as a constituent of Simcoe North, I would be happy to forward your correspondence to Bruce for his consideration and response.
Thank you for understanding and for taking the time to write.
Kind regards,
Ashley Brown
Parliamentary Assistant

Just one, Ed Komarnicki, actually responded to the issue saying;

Thank you for your note and for bringing the issue to my attention. I understand your frustration and upset.
Although I wasn’t part of the decision making, nor privy to the considerations that led to the decision, I do know that the consideration went beyond simply whether they could speak in the House of Commons on this issue or not. Each of the Bloc and the Green Party are not recognized as having official party status in the House.
Everything being equal and not having regard to these considerations, your desire to see them included in the speaking order is understandable.

It is a sad commentary on the democratic process.


So, In Saskatchewan Politics. Just Who Pays that Piper

Just in case anyone thought the news media in Saskatchewan were neutral and unbiased.
this is a list of the corporate media contributions to the Saskatchewan Party over the last few years.

Anyone surprised?

565509 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Doug Rawlinson) — $113,098.36
629112 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Elmer Hildebrand) — $4,089.98
Access Communications Co-operative Ltd. — $48,037.99
Argus Corporation Ltd. — $25,000.00
CanWest Global Communications Corp. — $516.00
CanWest Mediaworks Inc. — $5,000.00
Central Broadcasting Company Ltd. — $272.00
CJWW/Hot 93/Magic 98.3 — $515.28
CTV Television Inc. — $11,547.15
Dekkerco Holdings Limited (Northwestern Radio Partnership) — $5,000.00
Global TV Network — $297.20
Harvard Broadcasting — $6,002.93
HDL Investments Inc. (CKCK Regina) — $6,151.69
Jilltd Investments Ltd. (Lana Jill Rawlinson) — $25,000.00
News Talk 650 — $295.80
Ravelston Corporation Ltd. — $25,000.00
Rawlco Capital Ltd. — $19,254.00
Rawlco Communications (Sask.) Ltd. — $7,300.23
Rawlco Radio Ltd. — $71,846.96
Regina Cablevision Co-operative Ltd. (Access Communications) — $500.00
Regina Leader-Post — $10,312.82
Rogers Group of Companies — $3,410.02
Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association — $1,517.64
Saskatoon Media Group — $1,502.40
Saskatoon StarPhoenix — $10,000.00
Shaw Cablesystems G.P. — $329.14
Shaw Communicatons Inc. — $10,458.22
Western Producer Publications — $360.00
Total: $412,615.81


I've Quit Trying to Figure it Out

I live in the heartland of Canada’s gun culture. I don’t think there was an area of Canada that supported Stephen Harper’s move to get rid of the gun registry more than right here in Saskatchewan. People who would never even flinch at lining up to register their marriage, their car or even their dog balked at filling out a bit of paperwork to register their guns.

Saskatchewan gopher rifle
Filling out a form was characterized as some soviet style intrusion into their private lives. Nothing would lather up a radio call in show like the topic of gun control. Farmers after all need their guns to shoot gophers and to keep marauding packs of coyotes at bay lest they eat their grandchildren or worse still, their Pekinese farm dog.

Gun control is just an issue for bleeding heard Liberal and NDP city dwellers anyway. Isn’t it? Us folks out here in the country don’t have our firearm problems.

I frankly found it all quite unnerving.

Looking at the Regina leader post just this morning I noticed:

  • A man on the Cowessess First Nation was charged with careless use of a firearm, possession of a weapon dangerous to the public, unauthorized possession of a firearm, unsafe storage of a firearm and uttering threats as a result of a situation there. It took up to 40 RCMP officers to resolve the issue.. 
  • A Regina man was charged with uttering a death threat, assault with a weapon, pointing a firearm, careless use of a firearm and possession of a firearm contrary to a court order. 
  • In Earl Grey, two men either killed each other, or there was a gun related murder/suicide yesterday.
  • And, there was a letter to the editor about a person who after threatening his former girlfriend had his firearms taken away said. He then told his former friend, “If you feel safe now, don’t. I have more guns hidden away on my farm” or something to that effect.
All that in one day.

Bear in mind, this is not big city violence. That is something else all together. Harper's law and order agenda will take care of all that.

Now if we follow these home grown cases, I am sure we will find out these people who were charged are all upstanding members of their communities. Good people who just, somehow fell into the wrong crowd and lost their way or that they didn't really mean to do those things but were driven to it by unique circumstances.

I for one would feel a lot better with effective gun control.


The politics of ruthlessness

He Knows he's Right
This article by By Dan Gardner appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. It is worth reading

Not for the first time, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have puzzled many pundits.

They won an unassailable majority. Their party is united. They face an opposition that is weak, divided, leaderless. Their dominance is complete and while it’s possible to dream up challenges in the future, they are only the stuff of imagination.

Here and now, nothing can touch them.

So why do the Conservatives continue to act like the elbows-up, stick-swinging, trash-talking goons who bullied their way through five years of minority government?

Public safety minister Vic Toews has repeatedly accused those who oppose the government’s omnibus crime bill of being “pro-crime.” Environment minister Peter Kent said NDP MPs who went to the United States to voice opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline had behaved “treacherously.” Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the minister of heritage, publicly suggested Liberal MP Justin Trudeau isn’t a good Catholic and shouldn’t be invited to speak at Catholic schools.

Each time the tone seems to have reached bottom, down it goes again. When the House of Commons marked Remembrance Day, each party stood to say a few words honouring the dead, but MPs from the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois needed unanimous consent to speak because they are not officially recognized in the House of Commons. They didn’t get it because some Conservative MP, or MPs, objected. The next day, with the support of the NDP, they tried again. Again the Conservatives blocked them.

Blocked them. From saying a few words in honour of the dead. Why? Who knows? The Conservatives never bothered to explain this shameful deed.

More substantively, the Conservatives have been imposing time allocation and closure — shutting down debate — at a faster rate than any government before them. The opposition is livid. It’s undemocratic, they say. And it’s hypocritical because the Conservatives furiously denounced the Chrétien government for using the same tactics more sparingly. In response, the government sneers. Literally. Peter Van Loan, the government House leader, has an impressive repertoire of smirking facial gestures and cutting insults.

All this is obvious to anyone who looks. But why is it happening?

Parliament has been a particularly nasty place for years but that was a consequence of minority government, many pundits said. The government was always in danger and so the Conservatives behaved as if they were in a non-stop election campaign. A majority would change that, the pundits said after the election. The Conservatives will calm down, drop the nastiness, and deliver a more statesmanlike government.

But that hasn’t happened. Puzzling, isn’t it? Well, the pundits say, that must mean the Conservatives are struggling to adjust to the new reality. They’re like a dog that has been chasing a car, wrote the Star’s Tim Harper. “Just as the dog has no idea what to do if it ever catches the car, the Conservatives seem unsure of what do with a majority after years of chasing it.”

Maybe. But I’ll venture another hypothesis.

It is who they are: They are the party of Stephen Harper.

Tom Flanagan recently described the prime minister’s personal interests. “He doesn’t really care much about money,” Flanagan told the Hill Times. “He likes to watch hockey and so on, but he doesn’t have a lot of active interests that he wants to pursue. He doesn’t play golf. He doesn’t play tennis. He doesn’t care much for travel. He doesn’t paint. He doesn’t fish. You know, he loves politics.”

Indeed. Stephen Harper has been obsessing about political power his whole life. It’s what he does. It’s all he does.

The same is true of many of the top people around him. John Baird, Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Peter Van Loan. They’ve spent their entire lives in politics. It’s all they know.

But Harper is more than a political obsessive. He’s a passionate obsessive. Almost frighteningly so.

As Conservative strategist Rod Love told author Lawrence Martin, Harper and other Reformers seethed — and rightly so — at the way the Chrétien-era Liberals framed them as the lunatic fringe. “Others got over it,” Love observes in Martin’s book Harperland. “Harper? It was just burned in his psyche. So when he came to power it was payback time. This wasn’t just about going after someone in the Commons in the day, then going out for a beer at night. This was about destruction.”

The same description surfaces over and over. Stephen Harper doesn’t want to beat the other side; he wants to destroy them. They’re not opponents; they’re the enemy. As for the depth of his ideological feelings, the prime minister’s colleagues use the word “hatred” to describe his antipathy to liberalism.

When politics is everything, when opponents are enemies, when there’s hatred in your belly, certain things follow. Ruthlessness, for one. Personal attacks. A refusal to accept the legitimacy of different views and to work with those who hold them.

Stephen Harper is only one man, of course, but unlike every Liberal prime minister his dominance of his party is total. He effectively built it from the ground up. It is his party. And its personality mirrors that of its creator and master.

The Conservatives did not behave the way they did in the past because they had a minority of the seats in the House of Commons. They behaved that way because they are the party of Stephen Harper. They still are. And so they still behave that way.

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. It would be better for everyone if the Conservatives would relax and govern with a little more dignity and respect for parliamentary tradition. But I fear they won’t.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/politics+ruthlessness/5751628/story.html#ixzz1eZExaEpE


Do you suppose they are lying to us again

It is difficult  to watch your country change in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. That is exactly what is happening to me. It makes you feel a little sick to your stomach.

Perhaps what is more worrying, is realizing that most Canadians don't seem to give a rats ass about it.

After years building a reputation as peacekeepers we got ourselves embroiled in Afghanistan for no reason other that to appease the Americans who were still annoyed at us for justifiably sitting out the Iraq war.

We lost too many young Canadians just to prop up a corrupt and ungovernable country. We did it in the name of building schools and educating girls. It was a failed mission.

Our Government lied to us about our reasons for getting involved in Libya. Our Defence Minister swore up and down that out involvement had nothing to do with regime change until we changed the regime and we helped take credit for it.

Now, emboldened by our "successes" that same Defence Minister and his boss Stephen Harper are musing about getting involved in a conflict with Iran. Make no mistake about it. They are sending out trial balloons to see how Canadians react.

It is all about the issue of Iran perhaps, building toward having the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Before we all rush in, remember all the lies we were fed about Iraq having "weapons of mass destruction" There weren't any. The Americans had them and so do the British, the Russians and several other nations but not Iraq. It was a all a big ruse put in place to justify the unjustifiable.

It is all more than a bit depressing.



1960 Protest

I have been sorting through old things of my mother's these last few days and found, folded  and tucked between pages of  her brother's old bible, this old photograph.

In the late 1950's the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, acting in accordance with a clause in the NORAD agreement, deployed 56 American-made Bomarc missiles in Ontario and Quebec. Initially, the government did not see fit to tell the Canadian public that the intention was to fit the missiles  with nuclear warheads. This fact became known in 1960 causing quite a controversy.  

My friend, Ivor Bigalow's parents were quite active in the Canadian Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. We were encouraged by them to get involved and we did. It was 1960 and I was 15.

I spent quite a bit of time getting signatures on a petition demanding that the Government refuse to allow these nuclear warheads onto Canadian soil. I went door to door and stood outside churches on Sunday morning asking people to sign our sheets. We gathered quite a lot signatures but in the process we got chased off a few church properties by priests

My mother's younger brother and favourite sibling was killed when his bomber crashed in Scotland while on a training mission in 1944. It was right after I was born. Mum was pretty much a pacifist after that so she was pretty cool with my involvement.

On the other hand, my father was a sergeant in the Canadian Army. He wasn't very encouraging.

That spring my buddy and I marched with other anti-nuc protesters in downtown Montreal and we managed to get our pictures in the newspaper. Even though my face was obscured by the guy in the balaclava, My Dad wasn't very pleased and it made for interesting supper time conversations.

Interesting to note that we won the day, if only temporarily. Under pressure from Canadians, Diefenbaker reneged on the deal with the Americans and blocked the installation of the warheads causing no end of tension between Canada and the USA. By 1963 the Liberal government under Mike Pearson bowed to pressure from the Americans and agreed to let the nuclear warheads in.    


The Real Brad Wall

I will begrudgingly admit that Brad Wall impressed me with his performance during his victory speech Monday night. Like him or not, you have to admit he knows what to say and how to say it. With an engaging mix of Republican style family values and prairie humility, he had the crowd, and the Province, eating out of his hand. He played his audience like a pro.

The next day however, we saw another side of Brad Wall when he took a rather petulant shot across the bow of the trade union movement.

Wall complained that the SGEU had imposed an extra 1% dues increase on their members. The sole goal, he claims, being to defeat the Saskatchewan Party in the election. He said he was considering legislative changes, which would make it easier for union members to to better scrutinize how their unions dues are spent. Any changes the government intends to force on unions he said would be meant to provide greater transparency. "We're not going to be looking for arguments but if there's opportunities to increase accountability and transparency for union members we're going to pursue those,"

I thought the comments were interesting as he had already said that the members were told what the increase was going to be used for. No lack of transparency there.

All trade unions I know of, are required are required by their own constitutions to generate annual audited financial statements, which are available to their membership. I will agree that they are not any easier for the average worker to sift through than the average corporation financial statement but that, is neither here nor there.

It makes me wonder what Wall is up to. The Saskatchewan Party people really don’t understand trade unions. Being mostly small business people they have no experience with organized labour and have very little understanding of how they function. That bunch only know, they don’t like unions. No ands, ifs or buts.

When the Saskatchewan Party was first elected one of the first things on their plate was to pick a fight with organized labour. There was no reason for it except for a deep-seated visceral dislike for unions, particularly the SGEU.

The view, even within the Labour community, is that the SEGU leadership are not very likeable, they are not the sharpest tools in the shed and they can’t even get along with their own staff. The fact that the government doesn't like the union that represents the majority of their employees was no reason to bring in the punishing anti labour legislation, when a few tweaks would have solved the “problems.”

So what is next?

Wall wants changes in Labour legislation but will he stop a minor adjustments? History suggests not and he has already given us hints about where his thinking lies when he mused during the campaign that he might look at changing legislation so that dues would remain mandatory but unions would become responsible for collecting their own money.

The small business were all over that like a tent, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business spokesperson Marilyn Braun-Pollon, made it clear she and her members would support that. It is something they are already lobbying for. She said if unions had to collect their own dues, it might make them more accountable to their members.

Accountability is a good thing particularly at election time. I think everyone should remember it wasn’t the lack of trade union accountability that triggered the Global economic crisis.

So, stand by, yesterday was just a glimpse of the real Brad Wall.


Saskatchewan Election

Now That is Depressing
I spent yesterday afternoon and evening working in a poll house trying to hustle up votes for Sandra Morin, making sure known NDP supporters got out to vote.

We all knew the New Democrats were going to take a drubbing but, we didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was.

Sandra lost her seat along with some other very good people. The challenge is to find the silver lining in all this.

The decision to elect Duane Lingenfelter to replace Lorne Calvert as party leader was a bad one. It was driven by the wrong headed dinosaurs  who still populate the NDP back rooms. They rejected the new blood who could rebuild the party and instead chose to remain with their feet firmly planted in the past. People who did nothing but bad mouth Lingenfelter as he left the party and moved to Alberta'a oil industry, supported his leadership just because he was a link to what they saw as, the good old days.

Now, the NDP will have to give the newer, brighter and younger MLAs, Trent Wotherspoon, Warren McCall, Cam Broten and Danielle Chartier a chance to lead and to rebuild. They have their work cut out for them but, I think they are up to the task at hand.

The Saskatchewan Party may have 49 seats but, most of them are lightweights who simply rode the green wave. Let's be honest, not many are Cabinet material.

It will be another interesting four years.


Scrapping Keystone is OK with Me

Many of us tried to stop the whole idea of shipping tar sands bitumen to the US via the Keystone Pipeline and others before it really got off the ground here in Canada. We thought that shipping an unprocessed resource from Canada to the USA did nothing to create jobs here where the oil is produced.

You know the old question. Are we doomed to be tillers of wood and drawers of water while foreign owned corporations ship our raw materials out of the country for processing, creating high skilled, well paying jobs elsewhere?

 For a large part our concerns fell on deaf ears in Ottawa. Big Oil has a lot of clout here in Canada and our National Energy Board is not much more than a large industry rubber stamp.

Now it is the American's turn and they are having more success that we did here at home. They are raising quite a fuss about the pipelines. They just might block the whole idea and they have quite a few good reasons for doing so.

The American, National Wildlife Federations Says “The Keystone tar sands oil pipeline -- which would pump nearly one million barrels per day of dirty tar sands oil right through Nebraska and five other heartland states, putting the whooping crane at risk of a devastating oil spill.”

Many Americans call the State Department’s review of Keystone a sham suggesting “...the process...is a crime in progress.”

And the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, whoever they are, says Tar sands oil is amongst the dirtiest and carbon-intensive fuels on earth with a carbon emission three times that of regular oil.
  • The use of this tar sands oil could accelerate climate change at a time when we so desperately need to slow it down and return earth to a stable climate.
  • The Keystone XL pipeline will carry toxic tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through the middle of the US heartland on its way to the Gulf. The pipeline would cross the massive Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water in 8 US states, and irrigation for millions of acres of farmland that supply the nation’s food. 
  • We've already seen the damage the thick tar sands oil laden with volatile compounds can do from the spill in the Yellowstone River last month and the Kalamazoo River a year ago.
  • Tar sands oil is more abrasive and corrosive than conventional oil and current regulations and safety standards are not fit for the transport of this kind of oil. 
  • The first Keystone pipeline, developed with state-of-the-art technology, has already spilled 12 times in its first year in operation. 
  • Canadian towns near the tar sands production are already reeling from the impacts of this dirty fuel. They have lost valuable Boreal forests releasing stored carbon and it has destroyed vital habitat for endangered species along with other large populations of wildlife. Waters have been polluted, wildlife has died, and health problems are increasing.
  • We can not allow the foreign corporation TransCanada to jeopardize America's drinking water in the name of profits for private industry. 
  • The pipeline would keep our country addicted to this unsustainable and highly polluting fossil fuel even longer. 
  • Denying the permit will send a powerful signal that the United States is boldly taking action on climate change and clean energy by refusing to be tethered to the energy sources of the past. 

The Americans have never had much of a problem buying their oil from oppressive and dictatorial regimes as long as those countries were prepared to keep the US arms industry flush with orders for newer and better weapons but whooping cranes? That is another matter.

But, the big push in the US is starting to get under Big Oil’s skin. This week they are starting to push back saying if Keystone approval doesn’t come soon, they’ll simply ship this product to Asia opening up new big markets for Canadian oil.

Frankly, that is ok with me. I never was a fan of Keystone, and at least there is no free trade agreement with Asian countries which would demand that we continue shipping them oil at a fixed rate no matter what domestic demand in Canada happens to be.

Before we do that however, what I suggest that we do,  is something that should have been done years ago, assuming we had any leaders in Ottawa, with backbone. That is to start the long overdue process of building pipelines around the Great Lakes and into Eastern Canada. Dig up those pipelines and insert a sharp left turn east of Regina and ship our own oil east. We then could open up some of those mothballed refineries east of Montreal and end our dependence on foreign oil.


Happy Birthday CBC

Today was the CBC's 75th anniversary and to celebrate the nut bar who sits as a Conservative Member of Parliament in Harper's Government filed the following petition Monday calling for the de-funding of the CBC.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to present a large number of petitions from Canadians from coast to coast. The petitioners call upon the government to de-fund the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. They would particularly like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Government of Canada funds the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the sum of $1.1 billion per year and that the vast amount of the Government of Canada funding gives the CBC an unfair advantage over its private sector competitors. The petitioners call upon Parliament to end the public funding of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville) generally out of touch with most people but I suspect that these guys do very little that isn't endorsed by Stevie himself. Now they have made their gun control move and are working to dismantle the Wheat Board, I suspect the Corporation is next on the hit list.


How about a little Transparency

A Secret Society?
Ok, I admit it, I find the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pretty annoying. Don’t believe for a moment that they, as they claim, speak for Canadian taxpayers. From where I sit they seem pretty much like a right wing lobby group.

They describe themselves as a non profit organization funded by Canadians. People like you and me. Somehow, I doubt it.

So where does their money come from? They describe themselves as a non-profit organization. What credible organization has no Annual General Meeting? They do have a Board of Directors although there isn’t any sense, judging from that list, that the organization is anything but a wing on the Conservative Party’s right flank.

They have a staff of 10 to 15 people who can afford suits and have offices, or at the very least a desk, in Ottawa, Toronto, Regina, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec and Halifax. Not cheap.

They are not a charity so no contribution tax credit if you donate to them.

Most groups offer a bit more transparency than the CTF. What do they have to hide I wonder. I have never, ever come across any person who admits to being a member. Pretty shady I figure.

What annoys me more than anything else is that Canadian media outlets are constantly parroting the organization’s rhetoric along with the that from the Frontier Institute for Public Policy and the Fraser Institute, taking their research as gospel truth. They take their media releases at face value and uncritically spew them back at us on the public airwaves. I know it is cheaper that paying for research or giving your reporters a little time to dig around themselves but dammit, it ain’t right. I for one would like to hear a bit more from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Enough of this secret society stuff.


Ten ways to recognize a booming economy, the Saskatchewan way

  1. Unless you are on a four-lane highway if there is any pavement at all, it is crumbling. 
  2. The Provincial Recreation Areas offer almost nothing in services and are maintained, if that is the word, in an appalling state.
  3. Small towns are getting more and more run down, and smaller every year. Abandoned houses prevail.
  4. The infrastructure is breaking down everywhere.
  5. The government’s twisted logic boasts about the fact that it raised the minimum income at which its citizens had to pay taxes thus taking 114,000 people off the tax rolls altogether.
  6. With rents increasing as much as 75% Low-income workers and students can’t afford housing and first time home buyers can afford to get into the market.
  7. A significant number of students take six and seven years to get a four-year degree because they can’t afford to go to university full time even thought they live at home. 
  8. Thirty Seven percent of your First Nations people live below the poverty line and 20% percent of children under six, live below the poverty line, the worst level in the country. 
  9. People can’t afford to travel so with no comparator, they actually think Saskatchewan is booming.
  10. Still too small for Ikea to even consider coming here


I have a Compromise

Canada's Favorite Rodent
Senator Nicole Eaton, a Harper appointed Conservative senator, is urging Canada to dump the beaver in favour of the polar bear as an official emblem of Canada.

Eaton, says the beaver is yesterday’s animal announcing that it is time to replace the a “19th-century has-been for a 21st-century hero. The polar bear,” she says, “with its strength, courage, resourcefulness, and dignity is perfect for the part.” She calls Canada iconic beaver “ the dentally defective rat” and suggests that it is a “nuisance that wreaks havoc on farmlands, roads, lakes, streams and tree plantations,”

I say, “Not so fast.” I like the beaver and even though I have spent more than one Canada Day trying to dismantle a beaver dam which often caused our Lake to rise and partially flood our dock, I prefer that to having a hungry, 600 kilogram bear lurking about the woods and around our cabin, gobbling up anyone who might linger on their way to the outhouse.

As a compromise, I suggest keeping the beaver and scrapping the senate.


What Me Worry

What does the Premier of Saskatchewan
have to worry about
The most important issue in the election campaign for Brad Wall yesterday was to help out the province’s tourism industry by moving the school year start to after the Labour Day weekend. The industry evidently lobbied Wall and, what business wants here in Saskatchewan, business gets.

Apparently, no consultation with teachers or school boards was necessary. If it is good for business, it must be good for Saskatchewan.

All the while, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reminds us that:

  •  115,000 people are living below the poverty line here in Wall’s backyard. That is about 12% of the population. 
  • Aboriginal people fare far worse, with 37% living in poverty. 
  •  Saskatchewan also shares the dubious distinction with British Columbia of having the worst early childhood poverty rate in the country, with close to 20% of children under six years of age living in poverty. 
  • It’s also no secret that the province has an acute affordable housing crisis, with low vacancy rates and lack of regulation allowing rents to sky rocket by as much as 75% percent in some regions.  
  • Saskatchewan currently has the third greatest after-tax income inequality in the country. 
Don’t expect anything from Wall to address those pressing issues. The premier and his cronies figure, if those people would just get off their rear ends and find jobs they'd be all right.

Next thing, we’ll be talking about will probably be daylight saving time. 


Here we go Again

Sometime I wonder who starts these fights. No matter what, PostMedia seems determined to put themselves right into the middle of it. No doubt, they figure, a good dust up sells newspapers.

A deer rifle?
Now the Stephen Harpers, the Maurice Vellacotts and the Tom Lukiwskis of the world have pretty much won the ban the gun registry fight, the gun nuts have moved on to the next battle, stopping any attempt to restrict semi automatic weapons. Despite the fact that Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews tells them not to worry. Just wait. The campaign is just getting started.

Just in case a stranger comes to your door?
We have moved from “farmers need to protect their grain from deer, their cattle from gophers and their grandchildren from marauding packs of coyotes” to “our fine fighting men and women back from war torn Afghanistan need to keep their skill fine tuned.”
For shooting gophers?
You might ask, who can we thank for all this fine mess? If you asked me, I'd say it sits firmly in Stephen Harper's lap. I don't know how the nerdy economist got so pulled in by the gun nuts of the world but he did. 

And of course, one for the ladies
If you want to figure out who loves these weapons, spend a little time on some of the Canadian gun forums on-line. So, to be frank, I wouldn't trust most of those guys with a butter knife. It doesn't make me feel more secure knowing that all the guns on this page are available from your friendly Canadian gun dealers, down the block.While little Stevie cozies up, I get more and more nervous.


I am Finding the News Media More, and More Annoying

When did the European Common Market or the EU become the Euro Zone? Sounds kind of hip doesn't it? So kind of," in crowd" All reporters, not wanting to be seen as one of yesterday's journalist have abandoned the terminology we were all used to and are going with the new phrase.

The other term, and I think this has only surfaced in the last couple days with the awarding of the new federal ship building contracts is,  "combat ships". A week ago they were "warships" but I'd guess that Stevie didn't like the message that term was sending and sent to the PMO scrambling to find something softer. Something more like a video game. Reporters, in lock step, picked up the term from the government handout and started using it.

It is a bit scary really. OK men and women in the media, pay attention, they are warships.

As I was driving back to Saskatchewan earlier this week I found the CBC's Morning show's treatment of protesters camped out in Victoria park more that a bit distressing.

The corporation sent out a reporter to find out what it was all about. They found a kid who, although he knew it was important and wanted to be a part of something big, spent the night in a tent in Victoria Park. They got, what I am sure they all thought, back in the newsroom, a bit of fun with him. He hadn't had media training and when asked what his goals were for the protest, he really couldn't articulate them.

A bit later in the show, a couple of old farts called up, mocking him which host Shelia Coles found quite funny. You know, I am getting old too but, I saw it all quite differently from the crotchety old buggers who called in and the host who understanding her audience, climbed right up on the mocking bandwagon..

To me, it didn't really matter that the young mad wasn't really able to articulate the issues. He understood that the protest, which took place all over the world was important. He wanted to do something. To take some sort of action to establish his presence as being on side with the protesters.

Good for him! Much better to do that than to sit home in your warm house, complacently watching a "majority" government dismantle the Canada we know and love, watching the global economy crumble and mocking the people who are actually trying to do something about it, as ill defined as their protest may be.

I've been busy

Epson R3000
I feel kind of bad, not posting for almost three weeks now but I have been busy.

I have been doing a bit of consulting with a group in Saskatoon. I enjoy the work but, it does take up time I generally put to other things.

Then I bought a new photo printer. An Epson R3000 inkjet. It will produce very high quality, 13x19 prints on all kinds of different papers, art prints, glossy photographs and poster board.

It also consumes more ink than Oliver Reed did scotch and it is a bit time consuming, as I figure out the finer points this printer offers. It produces stunning prints out of the box but, as with everything, we strive to make them even better.

Back Country Lake
I also spent a few days in Banff and in the Kananaskis back country taking photographs. I love being in the mountains this time of year. It is getting colder. Ice is beginning to form on the lakes but, it is generally clear and sunny.

So, to make a long story short, that and other projects are taking the time I normally use for blogging. But hopefully, I'll be back at it soon.


I apologize. I am feeling a bit Cranky

I think my blood sugars are out of wack again because I am feeling a little ornery this morning.

First, I think they have thrown away the style guide at the CBC. It is getting so bad that the news readers, reporters and sports commentators on the CBC can't seem to pronounce Montreal's hockey team properly. The way it is usually pronounced "on air" by people who should know better is,  Canadi-ennes which might work if it was a woman's hockey team but, I'm sorry, not for the Habs.

It drives me nuts.

It might not be politically correct here in Saskatchewan to speak out against the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. At the first word of criticism you risk being labeled a raciest. Kind of like speaking out against Israel.  But, those of you living in here must be appalled at the latest turn of events at the FSIN. The organization could give lessons on how to set up and maintain an old boys club.

We have all watched how the organization  almost destroyed the First Nations University. Then when a Guy Lonechild, a reformer was elected Chief, they tossed him out of office and when the newly hired chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) started to look to closely at the Board's out of control expenses they tossed him out too. The FSIN claimed that the chair had a conflict of interest although no is willing or able to explain what the alleged conflict might be.

It was reassuring yesterday to hear some of the chiefs speaking out against the feeding from the trough and the abuse of power but, when it came time to vote on a motion to uphold the firing of the SIGA chair, not one of them would vote against the motion. My sense is break ranks and you'll never see another dime.

I believe in First Nation's self government but again and again the same old boys bring discredit to their own people. Some advice to the rest of the chiefs struggling to make things work. If you want to find your own worst enemy, look within.

Finally, it is interesting to see how much the CBC news and public affairs crews must be chomping at the bit to start election coverage.

Yesterday the Premier staged a press conference to announce that he was going to make an election announcement Monday. With fixed election dates, the announcement was pretty much a non event but that didn't seem to stop everyone at the CBC slathering over this latest bit of "news".


The Globe goes over the top on the Ontario Election

I know that the Globe & Mail likes to think of itself as Canada’s only National newspaper but they are still pretty focused on an area within 100 km of Toronto.

To the G&M’s editors the Toronto International Film Festival is an annual event that we all should really care about. After all, how could we survive out here in the boonies, unless we were told about “who rocked, and who flopped, on the red carpet.”

We can suffer for weeks out here in the depths of winter, enduring wind chills of -50 without it being noticed in the centre of the universe but, as soon as it hits around -15 on Hogtown’s Younge Street, they will let us know how they are all suffering.

It is even more so what it comes to provincial politics. Oh sure the re-election of the PEI Liberals got a few column inches and the NWT election did get a short mention but they are obsessed with the three way race in Ontario which pits the Liberal, same old McGuinty against a knuckle dragging, right winger, PC leader Tim Hudack.

The Globe seems to be terrified that the New Democrats might hold the balance of power in what may be a minority government and they are doing everything they can to undercut their share of the vote.

This morning, John Ibbitson looks at the NDP platform and asks about the NDP leader, “What kind of Ontario would Ms. Horwath make, if she had the power to make it?” He goes on to say, “Populist pandering, impossible promises and fictional accounting are the stock and trade of minor parties the will never be allowed anywhere near the lever of power. But after the next election, M. Horwath could have the power to decide whether and when the government of the day falls, which means at least some of those NDP fantasies, could become dangerously real.” Ibbotson closes by saying that although there won’t be an NDP government, a minority of either of the other parties might see their leaders “...struggling to stay in power by keeping Andrea Horwath happy while doing as little damage to Ontario as possible.”

Margeret Wente on the other hand says that the NDP’s Andrea Horwath “...doesn’t really have a platform, but she is basking in the glow of Jack Layton’s halo.”

And, just in case anyone in Ontario was thinking of voting for the New Democrats, the Globe really comes into its own in this morning’s editorial however. The editorial writers tell us that “An interventionist and protectionist NDP holding the balance of power in Ontario would be a disastrous election result. Behind Andrea Horwath’s pleasant, amiable personality are policies that would send Ontario into a tailspin, undoing years of progress into a tailspin, undoing years of progress toward interprovincial free trade and violating trade agreements.”

It reads like a guest editorial written by Stephen Harper which I suppose isn’t all that surprising considering that the same editorial board endorsed the Harper Conservatives before the last Federal election.

I wish they would just butt out.


It is Comforting to Know that Labour Scares the Hell Out of Harper

Harper’s Blue Meanies would have Canadians believe the New Democrats as the Official Opposition, is not much more than flash in the pan and something that doesn't worry them much at all. Their actions tell a different story.

I find it interesting that when Jack Layton died. Stephen Harper was falling all over himself saying how much he respected Jack but, now that the time has come to find a successor, he is back to treating the NDP as if they very scary. The barbarian horde camped just outside the gate.

What it shows, in my opinion, is that Little Stevie is much more afraid of the New Democrat’s than he ever would like to admit.

A case in point.

One of the leadership hopefuls in the bid to replace Jack is Brian Topp, a backroom strategist who worked here in Saskatchewan with Roy Romanow, back when Roy was the big cheese. The Harper spin doctors have gone to great lengths to characterize Topp as a “union boss” and raise the spectre of “big labour” taking over the NDP and potentially having labour control Canada’s agenda.

Anyone who understands “big labour” if there is even such a thing in Canada, would understand a few of things:
  • “Big labour” in Canada couldn’t get its collective act together enough to control anything outside it’s own narrow domain. 
  • Topp as the Executive Director of ACTRA’s Toronto Branch, is an employee, and not a big player on Labour’s National scene. 
  •  ACTRA is a small player within the labour community and is certainly never thought of as one of the Labour heavyweights. 
So, all said, it is good to know that labour scares the hell out of Stephen Harper.


Doer on Keystone

I must confess that I was a bit disappointed in Gary Doer this week.

 I met him at some point before he was elected as Premier of Manitoba and have always been a fan. He struck me as one of the good guys. After Harper appointed him to be Canada's U.S. Ambassador, I  figured Gary was still OK in my books.

He was in town at the University of Regina talking up Trans-Canada's Keystone Pipeline and when criticizing the negative American reaction to the pipeline, which will carry Alberta Tar Sands bitumen to Texas to be refined, I was surprised to hear him say, "Would they rather buy their oil from Gaddifi?". It was as if saying no one in their right mind would buy oil from a dictator.

I agree with him on that front but, that is not the reality. Gary would, or should know that the Western World doesn't seem to mind compromising their principles for oil. In fact, Petro-Canada and now Suncor worked in Libya for years during the Gaddifi regime developing oilfields. At this point with the war quieting down, Suncor is chomping at the bit to get back at it.

Why would Canada do that when we have so much oil of our own?  We don't need to import oil at all. 

It is fairly simple. 

Most of Canada's petroleum industry is owned by Americans. Those companies along with the Canadian corporation I must admit, are very keen to ship our oil including the tar sands product to the USA. Simply put it is a more lucrative market that Eastern Canada. There are shades of the old "Let those eastern bastards freeze in the dark" which, considering where the eastern oil comes from, was always a hollow threat. 

So, Canada's pipeline people are building Keystone and other pipelines to ship our raw product to the States. American refineries are producing diluent, a thinner, and then shipping it north, via converted gas pipelines. Then, once it gets to Alberta, they dilute the thick tar sands bitumen and ship it back south to be refined. The government, those guys in Ottawa who are supposed to be looking after our interests, could insist we refine the raw product here in Canada and create jobs here but...the Harpers of the world and the Liberals and the PCs before him never saw this as an important issue. Or, dare I suggest,  they are all afraid of big oil.

Canada in the mean time is importing oil from the North Sea and the Middle East.

Even more amazing, there is no pipeline running north around the great lakes. Why? It isn't, as many would have us believe, because it is difficult to do. They are building them through the Rockies after all. It is simply because the multi nationals make more money shipping it south.

 What is good for business sometimes isn't good for Canada. It is just good for business.


Chasing Balloons

The CTV balloon had a slightly ungraceful landing,  tipping the basket.
Yesterday was another of those amazing days we seldom get in fall. Not warm but hot. Not what you'd generally expect for the end of September.

About 6:00 as the sun was getting lower in the sky a couple of hot air balloons slowly drifted by.

It was a spur of the moment thing. In minutes we were in the car, heading north and west, cameras in hand chasing balloons down grid roads, along farmer's dirt tracks and across the prairie trying to figure out where they were going to land.

We pulled on to the edge of a farmer's freshly harvested field, in behind the chase trucks, just before they landed and just before the sun slipped over the horizon.


Keystone Protest - Too little, too late

I notice with interest the kerfuffle in the USA and Canada about the Keystone pipeline. After some considerable length of time, people are finally starting to think about this project. It is nice to see people taking notice but in truth, it is to little to late.

The truth is that Keystone is just one of many pipeline projects which will soon be pumping our natural resources south to be processed and to feed the hungry American market.  

The controversy over these pipelines isn't new. In June of 2007 I wrote the following letter to the editor about the issue for my employer at the time. 

Too bad no one paid any attention back then when it was still stoppable.

As the Multinationals get rich shipping Western Canada's raw materials south to feed the American market, Canada still imports a majority of the oil it uses from off shore, mainly the North Sea and the Middle East. There is no talk of building east-west pipelines to supply eastern Canada with western crude.

Is anyone in Ottawa paying attention?
Leader Post readers may have seen a notice placed by the National Energy Board (NEB) about an application filed by Enbridge Pipelines dealing with their “Southern Lights Project.” As we read through our morning paper, the NEB notice is the sort of thing most of us skim over, but we would benefit from taking a closer look.

The application, in part, asks that a pipeline which now moves crude oil south into the United States be converted to transport ‘diluent’ north to Alberta. Diluent is basically a thinner used to dilute heavy oil and reduce its viscosity for easier transportation.

Coincidentally, in the same edition of the newspaper, Enbridge announced it is holding an open house in Grand Coulee to explain their Alberta Clipper Project: A new pipeline designed to transport an increased capacity to the USA.

Using names like Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights, Enbridge makes these projects sound like some grand adventure instead of what they really are. These projects and similar ones by several pipeline companies are part of a grand scheme to move massive amounts of our unrefined natural resources south of the border for processing.

The diluent, produced in the USA, will be pumped from American refineries to Alberta, where it will be used to dilute bitumen, which has been extracted from the Alberta Oil Sands. When the huge new Alberta Oil Sands expansion projects are up and running, millions of barrels per day of diluted but unprocessed bitumen will be pumped south to the United States where it will be refined. This new source of oil will create thousands of jobs in the U.S., as refineries are expanded to deal with this new source of product. As well, several billions of dollars in building and upgrading facilities to handle the bitumen will be spent in the U.S. instead of in our own country.”

In the meantime, the multi national oil companies have mothballed a large number of refineries in Eastern Canada. These refineries could be upgraded and brought back on line if Canada insisted.

If Canadian citizens don’t speak out, all of the new jobs – other than a few short term jobs created during the construction and conversion stage – will be created in the United States, instead of here at home.

Although Canada produces more oil than it needs, if we continue to export to the United States in this way, Canada will continue to be an importer of crude oil and petroleum products. As demand increases, we will be buying our own resources back from the USA in the form of gasoline, if they choose to sell it to us.

The NEB doesn’t care, our Governments don’t seem to care but Canadians should. We are speaking out and challenging the National Energy Board policy. We urge you to do the same.


A few Short Political Notes

Parliament is back this week which never has a positive affect on my blood pressure but what the heck...It gives me something to write about.

I see my friend, and newly elected MP Mike Sullivan (York South-Weston) got his picture in the Globe & Mail this morning. Mike is, quite appropriately, the first person on the left. He and about 50 other newbies were attending an orientation seminar on The Hill. I have a lot of time for Mike and think we'll hear more from him in the coming months.

The Blue Meanies are loaded for bear and the New Democrats have their hands full.  Say good bye to the Long Gun Registry, a majority of wheat and barley farmers will see their wishes ignored as the government winds down the wheat board, stand by to get "tough on crime" and of course the government will most likely interfere once again in the collective bargaining process and order the Air Canada flight attendants back to work, should they exercise their right to strike.

There should be a few interesting debates about spending too. The Chief of Defense Staff thinks it is OK to spend $1.5 million using government jets for travel. He thinks he is much too important to travel on commercial aircraft. In fact he got quite uppity about it all.

Much of it was travelling to and from hockey and football games where we would take part in tributes to the armed forces. This is all part of selling the conflicts we, to an increasing degree, getting involved in since Canada, under this Harper Government, has moved from our long tradition of peacekeeping into a much more aggressive role. I understand the Chief of Defense Staff was in his role as a shill for government policy but, not at that price.

The PM will be working on strengthening his ties with Israel this week as Canada takes a strong position against the recognition of Palestine as a state by the United Nations. This time Harper isn't just parroting the American position but following his own blind support for the Israeli government. It all strikes me as odd. Once again it puts us out of step with most progressive nations. So stand by for Canada's currency to take another hit at the UN.


The Ritz Cracker Ignores Farmer's Wishes

The Harper Conservatives made it very clear. Give them a majority, and the Wheat Board's monopoly as a single desk seller for wheat and barley would fade into history. Notwithstanding that, and with typical rural tunnel vision the farm communities pretty much voted as a block for the blue meanies.

Why the surprise then that Harper plans to follow through with his promise to "Give farmers the choice."

Former ostrich farmer, now Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz, or as he is fondly known, the Ritz Cracker, is once again carrying the torch for Harper on this issue. I heard him yesterday going on and on about democracy and how they won a majority so clearly Canadians support dismantling single desk selling. That is the democratic process he was saying.

Gerry however doesn't give any credence to the very direct democratic vote undertaken by farmers who actually use the Wheat Board. Given the opportunity to vote on the issue 400,000 farmers cast their ballots  in favor of keeping the single desk. That overwhelming support for the Wheat Board doesn't mean a lick to Gerry. "Our government is committed to giving Western Canadian wheat farmers the marketing freedom they want and deserve" he said while questioning the legitimacy of the plebiscite.

The Wheat Board might not work for farmers close to the American market with low transportation costs but doing away to a cooperative approach to marketing, without question, will slam most farmers hard in the pocket book. You have to ask then, what were they thinking? Those agricultural communities were once the backbone of the New Democrats out here but, corporate farms brings big business thinking. It is everyone for themselves.

The one thing Gerry Ritz and I can probably agree on is "They were warned.". Harper and his cronies made it pretty clear. Did those farmers give a moment's thought about the consequences when they cast their ballots in the last election? My sense is they voted for doing away with the gun registry without thinking about the Wheat Board.

What a trade off.


I Always Liked Ottawa

People like to slag Ottawa but I like to think they are just wrong about it, pushed into that mindset by their disdain for Stephen Harper or for the whole process of government. I like the place.

It is the sort of city you can walk in and if you ride a bike, even better, you can bike your heart out for days without repeating your route. Even downtown streets have dedicated bike lanes.

There are plenty of places to walk but, I love the walk along the river below the Parliament buildings ending at the stair step lock on the Rideau Canal. I can spend days exploring the museums and it is a photographer's dream.

I can't think of another Canadian city with a whitewater kayak course, a stone's throw from downtown.

After years of offering less than spectacular dining the restaurant scene is getting better and better. The Whalesbone is a favorite and this time we ate at Aroma a little Mediterranean mezes place. Quite good although their Retsina  only comes in 500 ml bottles.

Give the city a try. Get out of the conference rooms, walk around a bit, get beyond the Byward Market and enjoy what the place has to offer. You won't be sorry.



Montreal is still one of my favorite Canadian Cities. You can forget how busy big cities are after living a few years somewhere smaller. The hustle and bustle was particularly noticeable for someone who had just spent a week on a Laurentian lake.

I love walking through the throngs along St Catherine Street Saturday morning or for that matter closer to midnight. The place always seems busy.

We wandered down and along, past the refurbished St James United Church, as far as The Main and savouring the smells of the small markets and restaurants down through Chinatown we headed to Old Montreal. The place still has so much old world charm,  that film production companies often have it stand in, pretending to be some European location.

Get passed the overpriced restaurants on Place Jacques Cartier and ignore the junky souvenir shops and there are treasures here. Tiny bistros hidden away on side streets, streets paved with cobble stones sent over from Europe on sailing ships from Europe as ballast, great old stone buildings, artists tucked up in alley ways and buskers.

We walked back to Pointe St Charles along the Lachine Canal bike path, part of an urban revitalization project that is turning old abandoned factories and work yards into condos and parks. 

Apportez Votre Vin

One thing Montreal, and Quebec for that matter, has going for it is its liberal regulations regarding the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Bars are open very late and you can pick up beer and a good selection of wine at your local corner depanneur. That is a convenience store for the uninitiated.

But for me the most progressive part of all that is that a culture of restaurants which don't have a liquor licence but that allow you to bring your own wine has really come into its own. This way you can afford a great meal without feeling ripped off by that $40 price for the $15 red you are drinking. You can afford to bring something nice and the restaurant provides full service including opening the wine, supplying the glasses and if you are drinking white or rose, a cooler to keep it chilled. If you don't finish it all. Pop the cork back in a bring it home to drink at lunch tomorrow.

There are thousands of restaurants to chose from pizza joints to creative and modern French cuisine.

We went out to Le Pegase located in a hundred year old former residence on Gilford Street. I am sure the place doesn't sit more than 30 people, including the outside deck and has two sittings at 6:00 and at 9:00.

We brought a nice red and a rose which went really well with the pan seared scallops in a curry cream reduction and the stuffed rabbit that I had but the chef's special the night we were there was venison. It was all very good.

No question, it is time for the rest of Canada to catch up. Bringing your own wine is a really civilized approach to it all.without the bar, restaurants can focus on the food and you don't feel ripped off by the gouging markup we usually pay for restaurant wine..