What if we had a Prime Minister who cared

The Terrible Trio

I have been thinking a lot about politics these days. We might just be moving into an election soon and all in all, it is pretty depressing.

As much as I dislike the Stephen Harper government I feel pretty secure that, as long as they stay as a minority, they cannot really make fundamental change to our country. They are moving in a direction I dislike and appealing to sensibilities I am uncomfortable with but, it is incremental and they can only go so far.

I think what bothers me though is what next? Would I be much happier with Michael Ignatieff. Truth be told I would probably feel a bit more comfortable but, some of my biggest battles over the decades have been against Liberals and Liberal policy.

And lets be honest. The NDP are not going to assume power. Why pretend? I Like a strong left leaning voice in Parliament but I am not sure that these days we even have that.

When it comes to elections the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for” always creeps out from the recesses of my mind.

All this has given me a bad case of the “What if’s”

Just imagine a Prime Minister with a real vision for Canada's role in the world.

So, what if our Prime Minister was a strong supporter of the peace movement?

Imagine a leader who re-established Canada’s role as a Peacekeeper instead of putting us on the front line of a shooting war. Working for peace doesn’t give you swagger but I’d trade a thoughtful, cerebral leader for one who likes playing dress-up with generals, in a heartbeat.

Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize six years before becoming Prime Minister for his key role in developing the predecessor to the United Nations peacekeepers of today which helped to resolve the Suez Crisis between Israel and Egypt while he was working as a diplomat.

It was a good start but we’ve moved out of that track these last few decades.

What if our Prime Minister was an environmentalist?

On both coasts we are pumping raw sewage into our oceans, most of our electricity comes from coal fired power plants, fertilizers and pesticides are poisoning our ground water, sour gas is poisoning cattle and people and the tar sands projects have made our environmental targets impossible to meet.

Instead we support with billions of dollars Canadian, climate change producing, "ethical oil". Oil that isn't produced by cruel tyrannical political regimes. But just the same we get oil produced by the same oil companies that do support those regimes, but we'll just ignore that for now.

Just imagine a Prime Minister who instead of considering global warming left wing propaganda was prepared to stand up and say, “Ok business, we have to find ways to produce clean energy.” Someone who will say, “Yes, it will cost money but, for our future generations it has to be done.” Someone who would be prepared to make Canada’s environmental standards the highest in the world.”

What if we had a Prime Minister who believed in and supported our arts and culture. Someone who saw culture as more than a political opportunity, a gala at which, to the media’s delight, he could play a few bar on the piano?

Imagine a leader who saw the value of investing our tax dollars to support our writers, our poets, our artists and musicians instead of hockey rinks and business, business and more business.

What if we had a Prime Minister who understood that poverty, homelessness, desperation and crime are a part of the same equation. Some one who understood that the solution to that sticky problem is not, hiring more police officers.

What if we had a Prime Minister who believed that Canada should be a world leader in education and research?

What if we had a Prime Minister who valued democracy, human rights and transparency.

What if our Prime Minister was prepared to fix our broken electoral system

What if our prime Minister actually believed in and supported out public broadcaster.

What if the leader really believed in healthcare.

I could go on and on.

Ok, what would it give us?

To start with it would raise Canada’s reputation internationally. It would begin to help us start to rebuild our values and it would make me proud to be a Canadian once again. It could make us a great country. A world leader.

So Stephen, Michael, Jack and Gilles - well I guess not so much Gilles – if you want my support, there it is in a nutshell.

Don’t be afraid now. Give it a try.


CRTC Betrays Canadian Public Again

CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein
The news out of Ottawa this week is that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is proposing a regulatory change that would give Canadian TV and radio stations what some are describing a  free reign to broadcast false and/or misleading news.
The regulations now prohibit broadcasters from putting any "false or misleading news” to air but apparently the commission thinks the ban is too onerous. 
The new proposed regulations propose a ban on the broadcast of “any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.”
That of course would make it perfectly acceptable for a broadcaster or a reporter to make up the news and to put that news to air with impunity. As long as no one's health and safety was endangered. 
The CRTC quietly posted notice of the proposed change, which is slated to go into effect on Sept. 1, on its website last week. The commission has also limited the public's ability to respond to this proposed change. They will only be accepting comments from the public until Feb. 9.
You too can raise your objection to this very questionable decision at the CRTC Website. Scroll down until you get to 2011 - 14, The subject  is Call for comments on amendments to the Radio Regulations, 1986, Television Broadcasting Regulations,
I have lost count of how many CRTC hearings I have testified at over the years. I lost any faith I may have had in that bunch years ago.
I worked in television when the CRTC started to blur the lines between “news” and “public affairs” programming. As the definitions became more and more fuzzy, reporters and cameramen were assigned to an increasing number of what we used to call, “bobbing for apples” stories and away from the harder news which required extra time, cost a little more and for which some actual research might be required. Seasoned reporters found themselves working as purveyors of info-tainment instead of real news.
So, thanks to the CRTC, news today is less relevant that it once was and fewer reporters are out there working the beat. Now truth in news is going out the window. If you are looking for that elusive silver lining in this story, there may be more jobs for creative writers in broadcast news rooms in coming months. Researchers need not apply.
The timing of this decision, just a few months before a right wing Canadian  “FOX news style”  channel is preparing to go on the air is very interesting to say the least. This latest betrayal by the keepers of the “public airwaves” is probably the last nail in the coffin of broadcast news, such as it is.


A Naval Adventure

In 1962, when I was seventeen my high school suggested that I not bother coming back in the fall. They weren't teaching me a hell of a lot and I was fed up with the whole process so by some sort of mutual agreement, I moved on and joined the Royal Canadian Navy.
Three Frigates alongside in Halifax
After several months of ritual humiliation the armed forces calls basic training I was sent to serve on a Prestonian Class frigate, HMCS La Hulloise.
I remember turning up carrying  my two kit bags across the quarterdecks of other frigates. My ship was the third one in.  The La Hulloise looked well past its prime. In fact they all were. I had been hoping for a new destroyer escort  and I wasn’t all that impressed. As it turned out the old bucket of bolts had quite a history.
During the second world war it saw service pounding back and forth across the Atlantic, protecting convoys and on July 7, 1945  the La Hulloise along with two other Canadian warships, managed to sink German U-Boat 1302 in a depth charge attack in Georges Channel between Ireland and England. No mean feat considering how primitive the sonar was in those days.
Decommissioned after the war these old ships were eventually upgraded a bit and renamed Prestonian Class frigates in the 1950’s at put back into service.
So there I was, 18 years old, an Ordinary Seaman, un-trained and clearly at the bottom of the pecking order. We slept in the forward mess deck. Right above the sonar dome with its reeking smell of hydraulic fluid and the only thing between us and the pointy end was the paint locker which stunk of varsol and paint.
Not the most comfortable
We spend that first winter pounding around the North Atlantic, most of the time in anti-submarine exercises.  So I spend hour upon hour in the small sonar room with old bakalite headphones on listening to the reverberations echoing back to us, hearing the odd whale and to my memory never ever hearing the echo of a submarine contact despite the restrictions we put on the old Royal Navy Submarines that were acting as targets.
The rest of the time we did other meaningful things, like gunnery practice which didn’t really involve me and of course we scrubbed floors, polished brass, painted and took part in other navel activities.
The officers did other important things like learning how to sail the ships in a straight line. Sometimes one after another and sometimes in a straight parallel line.
I remember one afternoon we were in the Gulf Stream north of Bermuda and our squadron commander was putting the junior officers through these important drills choreographing things from one of the other ships. The seas were really rough and the ships were pitching heavily. When the bow of the ship next to us would come through a wave and pitch up, we could see right under the bow, back as far as the sonar dome. No wonder it was tough to sleep at night. Our messdeck was above that dome.
I was on watch as the lookout, standing on the upper bridge, exposed to the elements. The officers were all in the lower bridge, inside keeping warm and drinking coffee.
From where I was I could see that the constant pounding was beginning to tear away at some of the metal shielding which protected the gearing on the mechanism which was used to haul up the anchor chain. I dutifully reported all this to those in charge below. The deck officer was summoned and he came up to where I was and surveyed the damage.  He figured it had better be fixed quickly or even more damage would be done so, he summoned a few  able seamen, the ship was turned so the waves were not coming head on and once we had stabilized, the crew along with the deck officer went up to the fosc’le to repair the damage as best they could and lash everything down.
Meanwhile the squadron commander, a pompous old begger, looked over and saw that our ship was no longer sailing parallel to the others. He immediately got on the ship to ship radio and tore a strip off the officer of the watch who panicked and immediately turned the ship back into the wind and told the engine room to put on a bit more speed to get us back in line as soon as possible.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The revs on the prop cranked up and the ship turned to starboard. The bow rose high into the air and the fo'c'sle plunged down deep into the next wave.
When the spray cleared, there was no one on the forward end.  I ran over and started yelling into the tube of brass that was our intercom system and we quickly turned back to port and a more stable course.
Incredibly no one went over the side. The deck officer was picked up and slammed into a bulkhead hurting his back and a couple of others were washed down the deck scrambling and grasping for anything to hold on to. That is the most frightening feeling. I know how they felt,  it has happened to me a few years later. But, they were ok.
The last guy was slammed into and the force of the wave pushed him across the heavy gearing on the capstan. He was cut up, quite badly.
La Hulloise at Sea
There were no doctors on those ships, just a medical assistant, a leading seaman with basic medical training and a knowledge of first aid. His advice to the captain was that we head for the nearest post and get our guy stitched up properly. The squadron commander said “No.”  We were on important exercises.
That night in sickbay the injured and delirious seaman tore off his bandages and ripped out stitches. By mid day were turned south and steamed toward St Georges, Bermuda where our buddy was taken off by helicopter and rushed to the hospital in the American air base there.
I ran into him months later. He still was in quite a bit of pain and more than a little bitter. He left the navy after his first term was up.
There was no inquiry. I guess it was all put down to unpredictable seas. No one ever asked for my version of events and I am the only one who saw it all happen.
So don’t bother asking why I don’t have any faith in military leadership, why I seldom believe what they say and why I don’t trust them much at all.
Been there, Did that. Wasn’t impressed