Friday, December 05, 2008

Forget politics!

O.J. Simpson is going to jail!!!

For 15 years!!!


That almost makes up for prorogation!

Recommend this Post

Dump Dion?


Of course.


That video wasn't even the last straw. It was, like, the straw that comes three straws after the last straw (and I love Dion!).

However, who to install, Iggy or Rae? There's a lot of people it seems calling on the Liberals to dump Dion and install Iggy, but I wonder if they've considered one thing (and perhaps they have!):

Iggy="Bye bye Coalition"

It appears that Rae is fired up and ready to fight, and is about to go coast to coast campaigning hard for the coalition, and the notion that Harper MUST be removed at this point, asap, by the coalition.

From Iggy and his supporters I get a distinct "Maybe this coalition wasn't such a great idea and we should leverage what power we still have vs. the Tories, get what we can out of Prime Minister Harper... and then just move on" vibe.

Both are legitimate positions, but it seems to me they're also diametrically opposed.

So, sure, by all means dump Dion.


I don't see how that's remotely avoidable now unless you want to pull a Toronto Maple Leafs and suck for a season in order to totally rebuild in order to start a comeback in 2010. (and I say this as someone who loves Dion!).

However it seems to me that it's not just "Rae or Ignatieff" any more. It's "Rae and the Coalition and making every effort to take out Harper in January" or it's "Iggy and probably not the Coalition, and lets cool our jets and be sensible".

I don't know if this changes who'll win the game, but it does change the game, doesn't it?

Recommend this Post

Monday, December 01, 2008

If you support a Progressive Coalition Government...

Consider joining the Facebook Group of Canadians for a Progressive Coalition.

Also, go to their website and sign their online petition.

It's change we can believe in (lol).

ETA: And add the Coalition Bloggers Button to your blog!!! (Thanks Erin, Scott and Kelly!!!).

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Conservatives win another election...

and the stock markets go down the tube again.



Recommend this Post

Who won the election, "progressives" or "conservatives"...

This will no doubt cause much controversy as to just who counts as "progressive" and who doesn't (and, should Andrew Coyne stumble upon this post, who counts as "conservative" and who doesn't) but in light of my earlier post on how broken our electoral system is, let's look at last night's election in terms of "conservative" versus "progressive" shall we?

For my first illustration, let's look at "progressive" as being the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens. One could argue that the BQ are much more "progressive" than the Conservatives too (heck, one could argue they're more "progressive" than the Liberals, and maybe even the Greens) but let's leave them aside as the whole separatist thing obviously skews things.

So, using this formulation, how did "progressives" (Lib/NDP/Green) do in last night's election?

Progressives: 7,087,812 votes (51%)
Conservatives: 5,205,334 votes (38%)

Of course, how does our system translate that into seats in the House of Commons?

Progressives: 113 seats
Conservatives: 143 seats

So, sure, arguably "progressive" candidates received more than 1.8 MILLION more votes than "conservatives" last night, they nonetheless end up with 30 fewer seats in the House of Commons.

Just as galling, look what happens if you take out the Greens (and ignore the 940,000 Canadians who voted for them - which, let's face it, is basically what we'll do now):

Progressives (Lib/NDP): 6,147,065 votes
Conservatives: 5,205,334 votes

So, despite having received more than 900,000 more votes than the Tories, the Liberals and NDP are nonetheless outnumbered by the Tories in the House by 30 MPs. 30!

So, in case anyone's wondering, in Canada:

5.2 million votes gets you 143 seats.
6.1 million votes gets you 113 seats, and
0.94 million votes gets you squat.

So much for the "will of the people", eh?

Recommend this Post

Our electoral system is still totally broken....

So, first, congrats to the Tories on the big win last night. I maintain that the Tories have now found their ceiling, while the Liberals have found their floor, so I wouldn't bee TOO excited if I were a conservative, but still, a win is a win.

Now, on to a discussion of how messed up our system is. Last night, the Conservatives won 46.4% of the seats in the House with 37.6% of the votes. The Liberals got 26.2 % of the votes, but less than 25% of the seats. The poor NDP got 18% of voters' support, and only 12% of the power.

Look at it another way.

The main federal parties each got a seat for every X votes they received, as follows:

Tories: 1 seat for every 36,400 votes
Liberals: 1 seat for every 47,763 votes
NDP: 1 seat for every 68,029 votes

Bloc (an anomaly obviously): 1 seat for every 27,791 votes.
Green Party: 0 seats for every 940,000 votes

Our electoral system is totally broken:

  • Our electoral system turns an 11 point spread at the polls into a 21 point spread in Parliament (Liberals to Conservatives) and a 19 point spread at the polls into a 34 point spread in Parliament (NDP to Conservatives).

  • It results in a party which gets over 940,00 votes lacking any representation in Parliament whatsoever.

  • Today, the Tories are 12 seats shy of a "majority" government, and could probably get there with the support of about 500,000 more voters - but they're over 1.7 million votes shy of actually getting 50% of the vote.

  • Worst of all, the Tories outnumber the Liberals and NDP combined by 30 seats in the House of Commons. But the Liberals and NDP combined received over 940,000 more votes than the Tories. It's totally insane.
How can it be considered just or democratic that the representatives of two parties that received 6,147,065 votes can be outnumbered by a large margin in the House of Commons by the representatives of a party that received 5,205,334 votes??? You'll forgive my incredulity, but by my reckoning, "progressive" candidates received over 51% of the votes last night (and I'm not even counting the BQ as "progressive" just the Liberals, NDP, and Greens) yet today, that MAJORITY of Canadians is represented in Parliament by 37% of MPs, and the 38% of Canadians who voted conservative get 46% of the MPs. Again, it's totally insane.

Here's the Parliament our system gives us (minus independents):

Tories: 143 seats
Liberals: 76 seats
NDP: 37 seats
Bloc: 50 seats

Here's the Parliament as determined by the parties' actual share of the vote (arguably, the Parliament Canadians as a whole actually voted for):

Tories: 117 seats
Liberals: 81 seats
NDP: 56 seats
Bloc: 31 seats
Green Party: 21 seats

Not that our politicians will do anything to fix this (though if they were going to do so, now would be the most likely time) but it still bears repeating. Our electoral system is totally messed up. It results in Parliaments that don't represent the will of the people (nor even, really, attempt to) and leaves millions of voters effectively disenfranchised. If we were governed by the will of the people, we'd probably have a coalition government today representing over 50% of Canadians. As it is, we're stuck with another minority government where 38% of the people are just shy of having 50% of the power.

It's totally insane.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Election Prediction...

OK, so, I haven't written anything in a while, but I have been paying attention. So, I'm gonna roll the dice and give some actual numbers for an electoral prediction.

Here's how I figure the House of Commons will look tomorrow:

Conservatives: 129
Liberals: 88
Bloc: 52
NDP: 37
Independent: 2

There'll probably be an independent or two nominated, I don't know who, but I threw in two for the sake of argument. However, there'll be no Greens elected, I don't think.

So, basically, VERY little movement from the last election, and once again our cabinet and government generally will be made up by a party that roughly 62-66% of Canadians voted against (and this time, the Tories having been in power for the last 2.5 years, I think we can say that a SIGNIFICANT majority of Canadians will vote AGAINST them).

We'll see how long THIS minority lasts.

Frankly, I just don't know what the Tories can do going forward. I mean, sure, I disagree with almost everything the Conservatives stand for, but even I can acknowledge that two and a half years of Tory government wasn't THAT bad. And the Liberals, politically, were pretty darned inept under Dion. And Layton's pulled about as many votes as possible from the Liberal ranks. And the Greens, while they're not going to win a seat, are polling at HISTORICALLY high levels, and May was actually IN THE FEDERAL LEADERSHIP DEBATES this year, and didn't do badly at all.

What more can the Tories ask for? Reasonably effective experience at governing. A weak, money-tight Liberal party with a good, but many would say ineffective leader. A historically strong NDP. Pressure on the Libs from the Greens and a surprisingly resilient Bloc. Is the Tory strategy going forward basically going to be "just watch, Dion will get even WORSE!"? 'Cause I don't buy that. Or do they think they're going to govern so effectively, and impress Canadians so much that they can turn things more to their advantage through the strength of their governance (and wasn't that the plan in the LAST minority? And didn't it utterly fail?)

I just don't see where the Tories go from here. They've hit their ceiling. In their best dreams they'll get 40% of the vote in some future election, and get a TINY majority. But as far as I can see, things just can't get better for the Tories then they have been. There's just nowhere to go but down. Don't get me wrong, the prediction above would be pretty bad for the Liberals too, but at least they can look at it as having found their basement. They can console themselves with "we've hit rock bottom, what do we do to turn this around?". For the Tories, it seems to me that this is the high. This is it. Maximum altitude achieved. Nowhere to go but down.

It'll be interesting to see how many more minority govenrments we'll have until that downward trend begins in earnest.

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

81% not willing to vote strategically??? (warning, 105% of polls don't tell you what they say they're telling you)...

This poll claiming to show that 81% of voters wouldn't change their vote in order to help stop a Harper majority is almost meaningless imho, unless it's been totally misreported (which is possible of course, but it doesn't seems so looking at the poll itself).

So, 81% of voters won't change their vote to stop a Harper majority. SOUNDS like a lot of people aren't really that worried. But let's break this down.

First off, about 39% of that 81% are people who are planning to vote Tory according to the same poll. So, d'uh they're not going to change their votes to stop the Tories... they LIKE the Tories. So that leaves 42% of all voters who say they wouldn't change their vote to stop a Tory majority. If you're going to try to gauge how many voters would switch their vote from their preferred party to another in order to stop the Tories, you really need to factor out the voters who actually want the Tories to win!

Now, of those 42% of all voters who apparently say they wouldn't change their vote to stop the Tories, how many of those people are already voting for the party most likely to stop the Tories in their riding, and therefore changing their vote would be counterproductive? If I plan to vote Liberal, and I live in a solidly Liberal riding (or a riding where the Liberals are most likely to come in second), then I don't plan to change my vote to stop the Tories, but not because I don't want to stop a Tory majority, but because I'm already doing everything I can to stop a Tory majority. If I'm an NDP voter in a solidly NDP riding (or a riding where the NDP are most likely to come in second), same thing. How many of those voters who want to stop the Tories won't change their vote in order to do so because changing their vote would actually help the Tories?

So, the 81% figure is TOTALLY bogus. Hell, even saying "42% of voters won't change their vote to stop the Tories" is bogus. If the intention of this poll is to measure how many people would vote strategically to stop the Tories it ignores one very big question. How many voters are ALREADY planning to vote strategically in order to stop the Tories, plus, how many aren't "voting strategically" but are voting out of pure conviction for the party for whom they would need to vote strategically if they wanted to vote strategically, and therefore don't need to change their vote in order to do what they're already doing?

Long story short: silly question, meaningless figure, doesn't tell us ANYTHING.

If the headline of this poll was "1 in 4 'progressive' voters plan to vote for whichever party they need to in order to stop the Tories" wouldn't that seem like an awful LOT of strategic voting!?!? (16% of all voters is roughly 27% of "progressive" voters). The fact that a Liberal in a safe Liberal riding or a Dipper and a safe NDP riding don't plan to change their votes to stop the Tories is meaningless if their vote is already being used to maximum effect to stop the Tories.

Really pollsters. This isn't rocket science is it?

Recommend this Post

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Strategic voting is the only way to stop the Tories now... (not that I'm holding my breath...)

Given all the recent polling (which, really, hasn't moved around much at all, despite all the excitement among the "nothing better to do" class - myself included) I still think these are the top 5 most likely outcomes of the current federal election:

1) A Conservative minority (larger than the current)

2) A Conservative minority (about the same as the current)

3) A Conservative majority

4) A (tiny) Liberal minority

5) Armageddon (may, technically, be the same as #3).

To me, the only thing that could stop Harper now is a concerted ABC (anybody but Conservative) effort. Now, it's not gonna happen ('cause both Liberal AND NDP partisans are too interested in taking charge themselves, as opposed to stopping Harper from being PM again) but theoretically it COULD do the trick, and I'm utterly convinced that it's now the only way to stop a second Harper led government from being elected.

As much as Liberals will tell you that the only party other than the Tories that can form a government is them (and that's correct) what they WON'T tell you is that they can't possibly form a government without NDP support. The ONLY non-Tory government possible at this point is a Liberal minority, and I just can't see how the Liberals could POSSIBLY (in my WILDEST imagination) pull even that off without strategic help from NDP voters.

However, if (and it's a huge and HIGHLY improbable if) "progressive" voters really voted strategically, a second Harper term could be avoided. If Dippers in ridings where the Liberals have the best shot at beating the Cons, and Grits in ridings where the NDP has the best shot, were willing to swallow their pride and vote for the other party, Harper could be stopped. We all know that won't happen in the numbers needed to make an impact, but wouldn't it be nice?

Ironically, if it did happen en masse, it would benefit BOTH parties. Both the Liberals AND the NDP would gain more seats than they would if everyone just voted their partisan preference. I HIGHLY recommend you head on over to and check out their tabulations on how the election is most likely to go down if it were held today, and how it COULD change (theoretically) if a true ABC strategy was implemented by voters.

Here's their assessment:

If the election were held today and we ("progressives") split our votes:

Cons 147 Libs 76 NDP 34 Bloc 49

If "we" voted "smart" (i.e. ABC)

Cons 97 Libs 109 NDP 46 Bloc 53

Now, ask yourself which Parliament you'd prefer to see. I fully understand why Dipper partisans don't like the idea of helping Dion become PM, and why Grit partisans don't like the idea of asking for Dipper help to win the election. However it seems to me that in both cases that's all about those partisans deluding themseleves into believing that they can win without the other (or, not caring that they can't, and that their failure will elect the Tories, again). Because alone, neither party can win this time around. Layton will never be PM (sorry). Dion will never be PM without Layton's help.

Harper will almost certainly be PM again.

Thems the facts.

Now, I admit, I say all this from the comfort of a "safe" Toronto riding. I can afford to vote for whomever I please (probably NDP as in the last couple of elections) because my riding is almost certainly going Liberal anyway. However, if you're interested in trying to stop Harper, go to and check out their nifty "Find your Candidate" tool on the right hand side. Just put in your postal code and the system will give you some information to help you try to stop Harper. The system will recommend your best strategy to help stop Harper (either "You choose" if you're in a safe riding, NDP if the Dipper's got the best shot, Liberal if the Grit's the best challenger, etc...).

Again, I highly doubt this will effect anything. Everyone's just going to go merrily along deluding themselves (Tories included, who are deluded in thinking that, after literally years of never REALLY getting into majority territory in any polls, they're suddenly going to win a majority) and Harper's team is gonna win.

But at least some of us could TRY to stop him.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin and the bridge to nowhere...

As you may be aware, there's been plenty of controversy in Alaska over federal earmarks and the so-called "bridge to nowhere" (though in Alaska, particularly on the islands the bridge was meant to link, at least some of the controversy surrounds having their community called "nowhere"!). Saying no to the "bridge to nowhere" was a huge part of the Sarah Palin unveiling, and I find the whole thing fascinating.

The first thing, not terribly shocking or impactful but humorous given the historical context, is that Palin was for the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it.

Funny. (though again, probably not terribly important...).

What I find absolutely fascinating though is that while the construction of the bridge was cancelled, the state of Alaska STILL GOT ALL THE EARMARKED MONEY! As Republican (and former Palin campaign coordinator) Mike Elerding put it, "She said 'thanks but no thanks,' but they kept the money." So, Palin standing up to the bridge is not exactly the great crusade against federal earmarks that it appears. She stopped the BRIDGE. Her government still GOT the money.

And what did they do with the money? Well I'm sure a lot of it went to useful infrastructure improvements (still, arguably, a waste of federal dollars... giving federal funds to a state rolling in oil and gas royalties so they can build roads on the federal dime while dolling out rebate cheques to their citizens from the state's bulging coffers... but at least it's not a "bridge to nowhere").

However, what's truly great about the story is that Palin spent tens of millions of the ear mark, wait for it... BUILDING THE ROAD THAT'S MEANT TO LINK UP TO THE BRIDGE. I mean, at least the bridge didn't LITERALLY go nowhere. It was meant to connect two islands. The road on the other hand just stops where the bridge was supposed to be. It LITERALLY goes nowhere. And why are they building it? Well, because unlike the money for the bridge, which Alaska gets to keep even if they don't build the bridge, the money for the access road would have to be returned to the federal government if it wasn't used for the road.

So they built the road.

It's classic, and hardly the vision of a principled stance taken against federal largess. Palin decided to stop the bridge after campaigning for Governor on a "build the bridge" platform. Then, she kept the earmark from the feds to spend on other projects. And the parts of the earmark she wasn't allowed to redirect elsewhere? She kept that too, and spent it on things like the road it was originally earmarked for.

A "road to nowhere".

Recommend this Post

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fixed Election Dates... From the mouths of the Horses...

The Globe and Mail has a great picture slide show today of quotes from various Members of Parliament for the Conservative Party of Canada about how terribly important the fixed election dates law they passed is, and how crucial it is to remove from the Prime Minister the power to call an election at a time of his or her choosing (not to mention selfless... don't forget how selfless they were being!!!).

Some of my favourites (all quotes from Hansard):

"We have an opportunity to take one of the primary tools that past prime ministers in the country have used like a club. They have gone to the people before their five years were up and every political party has suffered from that. I think the Parliament of Canada has suffered from it. ... This is the first Prime Minister who is willing to give up that huge tool in his tool chest..."

Gerald Keddy

"I think that common sense is having an election every four years and not on the whim and call of the prime minister."

Carol Skelton

"It improves governance by removing power from the prime minister's office and devolving it to the people, as it should be."

Russ Hiebert

"As I indicated, we have passed Bill C-16 on fixed election dates through the House of Commons. Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives."

Peter Van Loan

"The increased electoral fairness through Bill C-16 ... will ensure that elections occur once every four years, not when the prime minister chooses to call them..."

Scott Reid

"We have seen, for an example, very important democratic reform initiatives such as fixed election dates which is Bill C-16. It passed and has come into force. It states that the third Monday of October 2009 will be the date for the next general election unless of course by some strange occurrence the combined opposition determines that it wants to have an election before that date. That was the first initiative that we brought in to try to ensure Canadians that there would be some consistency and regularity in the timing of federal elections."

Tom Lukiwski

Yeah... what they said! (and I do mean SAID... it's seems they've all conveniently changed their minds now!).

Recommend this Post

Thursday, August 28, 2008

He's quiting before we have a chance to fire him...

With Prime Minister Harper set to dissolve Parliament before it even goes back in session (on the specious reasoning that the House of Commons, which isn't even sitting right now, is too dysfunctional to allow it to come back from recess) I think the opposition parties would do well to explain the PM's actions to the people of Canada in a manner suggested by Jack Layton.

Basically, the Prime Minister suspects he's about to be fired by the House of Commons, so he's decided to quit before the House gets the chance. It's the classic case of "You can't fire me, I quit!" and I think the opposition would do well to explain what's going on to the people of Canada in those terms.

Recommend this Post

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pretty darned good Olympics for Canada in 2008!

Well, it looks like Canada will probably end the Summer Olympics ranked 19th (ranked by Gold medals) or 13th (ranked by total medals). Pretty much as expected, though a little higher (I believe the COC was shooting for 16th place, and around 16 medals).

18 medals would be our third highest medal total ever (I'm not counting the boycotted L.A. Games for obvious reasons) and it's in a sense tied for second, though in Barcelona we won 7 Gold (and 18 overall) making Beijing our third best effort ever behind Atlanta and Barcelona. Not bad at all, and there are definite signs that London 2012 could end up being our best non boycotted Games ever (it'll probably be a while before we get near the 44 we won in the L.A. Games, but I wouldn't be surprised to see our 22 medal performance from Atlanta be in jeopardy at the next Olympics!).

Very good showing by our athletes, and despite all the hysterics of the first week, there were some really good signs for the team beyond the medals. Our much derided swimmers for instance may have only won a single medal, but in Beijing our swimmers made 10 finals, and broke something like 25 Canadians records... a HUGE improvement over the last Olympics where our swimmers only made two finals, and didn't medal at all (plus, we have an EXTREMELY young and inexperienced team this year... it's a good bet the team will continue to improve and do much better in London). I'll focus on the swimmers for a moment, 'cause they took a lot of what I consider to be undeserved grief last week.

Another point of comparison regarding our swimmers that I think is worth noting concerns our men's 4x100 meter freestyle team. Our team placed 6th, but consider the following:

  • The winning team (Phelps et al.) set a new world record, DESTROYING the old one.
  • Every single team in the final (ALL EIGHT, including Canada) swam faster than what had been the Olympic record coming into the Games.
  • Canada's time (3:12.26) was a new Canadian record.
  • Canada's time (3:12.26) was faster than the world record that stood coming in to the Olympics (3:12.46).
  • Three of the eight swimmers of the first leg set new national records for the 100m (one of which was Eamon Sullivan's opening WORLD RECORD time), including Canada's Brent Hayden.
  • Canada's time was FOUR SECONDS faster than the time that won the gold in 2004, a 2004 final that Canada didn't even qualify for.
So sure, we came in 6th, but when every team ahead of you swims under the world record, and your country didn't even make the final four years ago (and yet you swam a time in 2008 that would have won the gold four years ago) that's a pretty stunning improvement!

Another good swimming story? Julia Wilkinson. She came into the Games ranked somewhere in the mid 20s internationally. She made the final of the 200IM and placed 7th, and she and her teammates finished 8th in the 4x100m freestyle relay (setting a Canadian record), an 7th in the 4x100 medley... not bad considering Canada didn't make any of those finals 4 years ago.

Now, is there room for improvement? ABSOLUTELY. However the point is that here's a young team (I'm talking about the WHOLE swim team here) that's improving by leaps and bounds, and is on track for a great Olympics in London.

Anyway, Congrats to all of our Olympians. Keep working hard, and let's see if we can build on this improvement moving in to London.

Recommend this Post

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New 100m world record, 9.69!!!

And he didn't even run full out!!!

Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100m gold medal in China just now, and he pulled up at about the 80m mark and stopped using his arms (he was well ahead). He crossed the line slapping his chest and STILL broke the world record!

AMAZING performance.

This guy could run below 9.5, and he's still young, so I'd bet he will.

Recommend this Post

Three medals in a hour...

Well, some of our Canadian athletes shut up those people acting as though Canada's time in Beijing would end up amounting to our worst Olympics since Rome.

In the span of an hour today, Canada won 3 medals at the Olympic games, one of each colour.

Congratulations to Tonya Verbeek for her bronze in the 55 kg women's wrestling event, and to Dave Calder and Scott Frandsenfor for their silver in the men's pair event in rowing.

And a HUGE congratulations to Hazelton B.C. native Carol Huynh on her GOLD MEDAL in the women's 48-kilogram wrestling event where she beat a very tough opponent in last year's silver medallist!

Great job one and all. Today ought to give some inspiration to the rest of the team!!!

Recommend this Post

Friday, August 15, 2008

Colin Powell to endorse Barack Obama???

Now, normally I'd never link to something at Faux News, but do we think this is remotely possible?

And if so, what impact does everyone think it'll have? I usually think endorsements don't really count for much, but COLIN POWELL??? The Iraq/UN debacle was embarrassing, to be sure, but Powell's taken responsibility and called it the low point of his career, and I think people mostly still respect Powell, and feel he was used by the White House.

Would this endorsement (if it came) be a big deal?

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russia to the U.S. "Choose between us or Georgia"...

Condoleezza Rice: We'll take Georgia thanks.

Her exact words: ""As to choosing, the United States has made very clear that it is standing by the democratically elected government of Georgia"

Well, good.

And LOL.

Recommend this Post

Olympic funding...

So, a lot of people are complaining that we haven't won any medals yet at the Olympics.

And a lot of people are complaining that the athletes should shut up already about wanting more funding.

But please, don't do both.

How are our athletes supposed to compete against athletes receiving many times more money in funding from their governments? Let's compare ourselves to Australia, a smaller, but nonetheless similar country.

Canada's funding for Summer and Winter sports combined is $40 million.

Between the Australian Olympic Committee (10.5 million a year) and the Australian Sports Commission ($151 million a year) Australia spends over $160 million a year. (That's ON TOP of their government's $2.1 billion for sports and recreation... don't even get me started).

Now, it's true that Australia's funds are focused mostly on the Summer Olympics (giving them an even GREATER Summer advantage over Canada) but even if Australia divided their money roughly evenly between Summer and Winter Olympics they'd STILL be out spending us 4:1 in the Summer, and 4:1 in the Winter (actually, MORE than 4:1 on a per capita basis, as Australia has only about 2/3 of our population).

And what about the "Own the Podium 2010" program that everyone talks so much about? $110 million spread over 5 years. It's a supposedly "big" investment in doing our best ever at Vancouver, and it basically amounts to spreading less than 1 years worth of Australia's Olympic funding, spread over half a decade.

Way to go Canada.

So, if you want to complain that we're not winning enough medals, fine. If you want to complain that we shouldn't increase funding for Olympic sports, fine (there's an argument to be made there). But for God's sake don't do both.

We spend around $1.20 per person funding our athletes while our comparable competitors spend about $7.50 each (while crazy spenders like the Chinese were well over $25 per person this year!). That's not our athletes fault. They're not "whining" when they point out that they receive less than a quarter of the funding most of their competitors are receiving, they're simply trying to defend themselves. They're reacting to Canadians constantly whining that they're not doing well enough, and they're trying to point out to Canadians that it's not easy to beat the New York Yankees if you only spend $50 million a year on your players. And at least the Washington Nationals only have to worry about beating the Yankees, Red Sox, and maybe a couple other "out of their league" spending teams. Every once in a while you can overcome those odds. Our Canadian Olympic athletes on the other hand are asked to compete against probably a DOZEN or so New York Yankees teams (and a couple of teams like the U.S. and China spending WAY beyond even that).

Forget winning a lot of medals. With that kind of disadvantage, I'm impressed they're not curled up in the fetal position whimpering in a corner somewhere after their events.

Recommend this Post

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crime statistics matter. Sometimes. Depending on who you ask.

Dan Gardner had a great article in the Ottawa Citizen today about the recent stats released showing that in most areas crime rates in Canada continue to fall. Mr. Gardner goes through all the ways in which such statistics are trumpeted and lauded or ignored and derided depending upon such variables as the political leanings of the the commentator, the policy objectives of said commentator, and the price of tea in China.

A few highlights (go read the whole article lazy bones!):

"When national crime stats decline, everyone rushes to take credit...

My favourite reaction to last week's news was the line worked up by some spin monkey in the office of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien: "New chief, new mayor, new approach. It works." Of course, this is utter nonsense -- not only did crime decline in cities across the country, the decline in Ottawa was actually less than the national average -- but Mr. O'Brien is a politician and in politics neither logic nor modesty is a virtue."

"The reaction of the justice system's critics to crime statistics depends entirely on the direction in which those statistics are headed.

If statistics show crime is rising, the statistics are a perfectly accurate reflection of the frightening reality.

If they suggest crime is falling, they are so transparently flawed that only fools, Liberals and criminologists would believe them."

"When serious violent crime rose a couple of years ago, Mr. Harper, then the opposition leader, waved the statistics about like a bloody shirt. Homicide is up 12 per cent! Guns, gangs, and drugs are out of control!

But then the stats turned around and Mr. Harper started warning people not to be bamboozled by numbers. 'Some try to pacify Canadians with statistics,' he scoffed in a speech earlier this year."

"'Mind you,' rejoined (Claire) Hoy, 'one in five homicides in Canada occur in Toronto but hey, when you count murders as a percentage of the overall population instead of counting them as dead bodies, it's easy to brag about how "safe" the city is.'

Mind you, by Hoy's logic, a village with a population of 50 in which one person goes on a rampage and kills the other 49 is safer than Toronto because the hamlet's body count is lower. I suspect the population of the village would dispute that interpretation. Or they would if they weren't all dead."

Go read the whole article. It's spot on.

Recommend this Post

Monday, July 21, 2008

Christian Bale is NOT the best Batman...

So, I saw "The Dark Knight" last night and let me just start off by saying yes, it's really that good.

Ledger's Joker is spectacular (it's a terrible shame we'll never get him as the Joker again, and also that there can't be a Joker in the next two or three Batman movies... 'cause no one should have to follow THAT!). I won't be at all surprised if he gets an Oscar nomination, and I think he'd be a more than deserving winner.

The movie is dark (for a movie rated 14A), both in tone and in visuals (the former more than the later... there's a great hospital scene in broad sunny daylight). There's lots of action and also nuance and subtlety and I think it's the best Batman movie yet (better than Batman Begins, which was really good!). The performances are all good (EXCELLENT in Ledger's case, very good in the case of Bale and the other main leads (what do you expect with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and the excellent Gary Oldman in supporting roles?). I didn't love Aaron Eckhart's performance, but it was fine, and my opinion of it is probably jaded by the phenomenon that was Heath Ledger's Joker. Definitely not to be missed. Go see it in theatres early enough to still be able to see it again if your decide you have to (which you might!).

All that said, I saw at Macleans just now a poll on who was the best Batman. I can't link to it as it was just an embedded poll on the page, but here are the responses.

Who's the best Batman?

Christian Bale 46%
Michael Keaton 30%
Adam West 14%
George Clooney 5%
Val Kilmer 5%

Now, I'm sorry, but no. Michael Keaton is the best Batman.


Don't get me wrong, Christian Bale is excellent, and I'd even agree perhaps that his two movies are the two best movies of all of them. However, I think the last few pre-"Batman Begins" Batman movies (which were abominations) really soured us all on the franchise, and made us forget how good that original Batman really was. As I said, I might give you that the last two movies are the best two (though I think I'd rank them 1. "The Dark Knight", 2. "Batman", 3. "Batman Begins") but that original Batman was the ORIGINAL, and I don't think you ever get "The Dark Knight" without Keaton and Bassinger and Nicholson setting that bar (nor do your probably get the X-Men films, or a dozen other comic book/ superhero flicks of more recent history).

Michael Keaton was a bit of a surprise casting to be the Dark Knight (Mr. Mom's gonna play BATMAN!?!?) but he was an inspired choice and a truly excellent Batman. Bale's great and all, and the two movies he's been in couldn't have been as great without him (you can't have a great Batman movie if you've got a sucky Batman) but Keaton is the best Batman, and we shouldn't let Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Chris O'Donnell in tights wipe from our memories how good the first Batman film was, and how good Keaton was.

Now, who's the best Joker?

Cesar Romero, hands down. (Did you see that coming?)

But for movie Jokers is it Jack or Heath?

Tough call. Very different performances in many ways. Today, I'm leaning towards Ledger.


Recommend this Post

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When Johnathan Kay wants Khadr freed...

... just how much of a right wing nut do you have to be to disagree?

Today's headline of note from the National Post: Free Omar Khadr.

And what crazy left-wing moon-bat suggests this?

Johnathan freaking Kay.

Nicely written Mr. Kay.

Recommend this Post

It's not that what's happening to Omar Khadr is particularly shocking....'s that it's happening to this particular person, for the particular crime he's accused of.

The release of the Khadr interrogation tape isn't particularly shocking to me in what it shows (more on that in a sec) and personally, I don't even think he's been subjected to anything that we should prohibit as a general principle. However (and it's a big however) that this is all happening to Omar Khadr IS pretty damned shocking.

Just to be clear, Khadr is ACCUSED of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. medic. No witness saw him throw the grenade, and the person who, frankly, is more likely to have thrown the grenade is dead (he was shot several times, Khadr's lawyers would say right after he threw the grenade). What's more, every other non-American involved in the fight is dead too (and I don't disagree particularly with those of you who just said "good riddance"). Now, maybe Khadr threw the grenade, maybe he didn't, but to me it seems at least possible that the reason he's the one who's been accused of throwing the grenade is that he's the only one left alive who can be accused of throwing the grenade. I often wonder, if Khadr hadn't survived the two gun shot wounds to the back would anyone have said after the firefight "I bet that kid's the one who threw the grenade that killed our medic". There's really precious little evidence to support the accusation, which is the first point worth noting.

That said, if Khadr threw the grenade he's (arguably) a murderer. Many will say that's not the case; that you don't need to be in uniform to fight back at armed foreign soldiers attacking your village, but I'll gladly concede that point for the sake of argument. He's a murderer (allegedly) and should be held accountable for that crime. However, there's a system of justice for these types of things, and on the crime itself, there's no reason, imho, to set aside due process and natural justice just for that.

But what about "intelligence"?

The problem, as I see it, is that we're (the U.S., but by extension, us) not keeping him locked up without due process because he has valuable intelligence either. Even if he did, don't tell me they haven't broken him in 6 years, or that after 6 years locked up in Cuba, this guy who was 15 years old when he was captured still has intelligence to give up that is of any use half a decade later.

And, for the record, I don't have a general problem with sleep deprivation either, nor do I think it's torture (Abuse? Maybe.) But to be clear, I wouldn't particularly object to such a technique being used on a bin Laden, or an al-Zhawahiri, or a Saddam Hussein. I certainly object to torture, but in the right circumstances, I think what;s allegedly been done to Khadr could get a pass from me. There was nothing in that video, or in the description of Khadr's treatment, that shocked my conscience, or that I would consider particularly reprehensible. However, the point is, why are we using such techniques on a kid like Khadr? I don't think a 15 year old like Khadr is worth using sleep deprivation on. After a couple of years, just what the Hell was he still going to give up? The kid may be a criminal; he may even be a terrorist; but he ain't bin Laden. What exactly is it alleged we’re going to get out of this kid interrogation-wise? More to the point, what actionable intelligence can we get from someone (anyone) whose been locked up in Cuba for 6 years? Even if he knew something worthwhile (which I kinda doubt), how could the first few years of interrogation not have broken him, and what could he possibly know that’s still useful 6 years later?

It seems pretty clear to me that they're keeping him in Gitmo because even a military tribunal couldn't actually convict him of anything if they wanted to. They're keeping him in Gitmo because the only other alternative is to let him go entirely. Now, many will argue that he deserves to stay locked up forever without ever needing to be convicted of anything whatsoever. Fine. But let's at least be honest that that's the argument that's being made. We're keeping him locked up without a trial because we can't convict him of anything if we hold a trial. It's really as simple as that.

What is happening to Omar Khadr wouldn’t be shocking, imho, if it were happening to someone else. But as it’s happening to Khadr, it is pretty damned shocking. He's a fifteen year old kid (or, he was the last time he was outside of a cell) accused of throwing a grenade at a soldier. For this we give up due process and the rule of law? This kid's such a threat that we need to keep him locked up forever without a trial? (and that's what it's gonna take... not even a legally dubious, Supreme Court defying, military tribunal is going to be able to ever convict him of anything).

If Omar Khadr needs to be kept locked up forever without a trial, and it was necessary for us to use sleep deprivation to squeeze as much intelligence out of him as we possibly can, then we're screwed. If we set aside due process and use dubious interrogation techniques on some 15 year old kid accused of throwing a grenade at an attacking military unit, no matter how bad he is, it's already over. If a little punk like Khadr is really worth all that; if we're really that desperate - we're never going to win.

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A week under our (proposed) new copyright regime: Day Three....

Professor Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa) continues his series explaining all the things you probably think you ought to be allowed to do that will suddenly be illegal if the Tories new Copyright Bill passes.

Day three of a planned five day week. (Day 1, Day 2)

Start saving now, this could end up costing you a LOT of money!

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another day under our new (proposed) copyright regime...

Michael Geist continues his series on a week in the life of the Canadian DMCA with Day Two where ten year old Rona's love of American Idol leads to her family becoming unwitting criminals by doing the sorts of things thousands of Canadians do every day.

Recommend this Post

A day in the life of the new copyright law....

So Michael Geist is doing a series on his blog taking us through various days in the life of our (proposed) new copyright legislation. Professor Geist takes us through a typical day of a suburban Canadian family and then breaks down all the things that family did that day that would be illegal under the proposed law.

Here's DAY ONE.

Suffice it to say almost everyone I know would be liable to be fined under this law for something they've done that no one would have thought would ever be illegal.

If you're upset by this turn of events, take action! At the very least join the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook Group (64,407 members and growing fast with the introduction of the legislation). Also, write to your MP to complain! Don't let the government turn you into a criminal for exercising your rights as a citizen and a consumer.

Recommend this Post

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hockey Night in Canada? It's Wednesday.

Well this is GREAT! I'll miss hearing the Hockey Night In Canada theme song on Saturday nights, but I think it's AWESOME that CTV (read: TSN) just bought the rights to the song. BRILLIANT. And, HILARIOUS.

TSN will apparently use it for its hockey broadcasts (pretty much every Wednesday night starting this season) and CTV will use it for its Olympic hockey coverage too.

This is just too funny.

Update: TSN (of course) has more.

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Weather from Mars...

Here's the latest weather report from Mars.

Why am I posting it?

Because I can.

It's from Sol 7, and we're actually up to Sol 10 now in the Phoenix Mission.

Maybe the people updating the website are busy watching the lander dig a hole on Mars. Hopefully, we'll get more reports posted soon.

Additional cool piece of this story (what? that's not cool enough for you?) include the fact that when Odyssey goes into safe mode and stops transmitting, it barely matters. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter just takes over.

Why is that cool?

C'mon. We've got spy satellites (plural) constantly spying on Mars.

What's NOT cool about that?

Recommend this Post

Hillary Clinton to Suspend campaign on Friday...

Senator Hillary Clinton will apparently hold an event in Washington D.C. on Saturday to express her support of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's nominee for President.

Well, not that it wasn't true Tuesday, but congratulations to Senator Obama on securing the nomination (officially).

Obama/Whoever '08!

Recommend this Post

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Clinton really, really, REALLY can't win...

OK, time to play with delegate numbers again!

Thanks to CNN's handy dandy delegate counter, it's once again time to play with the numbers and see what Hillary Clinton needs to do to win the Democratic nomination.

As of yesterday's DNC ruling, the new threshold for the win is 2118 delegates. How can Clinton still win? Well there are several scenarios (all equally fantastic and impossible mind you, but there are several). Here's my personal favourite.

Maybe Senator Clinton will win 100% of the vote in the three remaining primaries. 100% of the vote in Puerto Rico, 100% of the vote in Montana, and 100% of the vote in South Dakota.

Now, that alone is not enough for Senator Clinton to win. She's well past the point where something as mundane as winning all the remaining votes can get her the nomination. No, she'll still need to rely on the superdelegates even if not a single eligible voter votes for Obama in the next three contests.

The good news for Senator Clinton is that if Obama doesn't receive a single vote between now and next Tuesday, she'll only need to attract 75% of the remaining super delegates to (barely) win the nomination.

So, all she needs to do is win 100% of the primary votes remaining and the support of 75% of the remaining super delegates.

Good luck with that Senator.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A new weather report from Mars thanks to Canadian Technology!

So, I was just watching the daily news briefing on the Phoenix mission from NASATV and it turns out that our Canadian built meteorological station is up and running. The CSA site doesn't have Martian weather reports up live on their site yet, (though there's a space for it on the page!) however at the press conference they did have data from the station, which is up and running now, and the scientists did give the first weather report from Mars.

Very cool.

Also very cool is that we now have basically real-time satellite surveillance of the surface of Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a picture of the Phoenix lander parachuting to Mars, the first time a picture has been taken of a human vehicle actually landing on another planet.

Again, very cool.

I love that we're back on Mars, but I also love that we're now at the point where we have satellites orbiting Mars that can take pictures of us landing on Mars!

Did I mention how very cool this all is?

UPDATE: The CSA's site now has the weather report on their homepage (left hand side, about half way down the page). Today's forecast calls for a maximum of -30 degrees (C) and a minimum of -80 degrees (C) (put on a sweater!). Currently, it's sunny and clear, the pressure is 8.5 millibars, and the wind is coming out of the NE at 20 km/h.

Very cool.

Recommend this Post

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Playing with Primary numbers again...

Well, Kentucky and Oregon are done, and now the Democratic nomination race comes down to Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota (and a bunch of Democratic Party big wigs). So, as has been my tradition lately, let's go to CNN's handy delegate counter and play with some numbers.

Today, I've decided to give Senator Clinton a landslide. Large victories in all three remaining races, and a veritable STAMPEDE of super delegates to the Clinton camp. I have her winning the last three races 70-30 and taking the remaining super delegates by a mind-boggling 80-20. What's that add up to?

Obama wins by 25 delegates.

So, if Hillary wins every race left by a larger margin than she's won any single race to this point (OK, besides Arkansas, which she won 70-26) and takes the remaining superdelegates 4 to 1, she STILL LOSES.

Now what about Florida and Michigan you ask (because you're a Clinton supporter and you now have an ENTIRELY different opinion about the Florida and Michigan races than you did back in February).

Well, yes, counting Florida and Michigan as they voted would be a substantial benefit to Clinton, though only if you count ALL of the Michigan votes for her. If you give Clinton 55% of the Michigan votes (her share of the votes cast) and Obama none (since he WASN'T EVEN ON THE BALLOT) and give Clinton 50% of the Florida delegates to Obama's 33% (again, based on the ballots cast in a state where no one campaigned) then Senator Clinton is... STILL LOSING. That's right. Give her Michigan and Florida straight up as voted and the race STILL has Obama in the lead (2031-1968). It's a much closer race then, but she's STILL 63 delegates behind, and it'd be more if Obama's name had been on the ballot in Michigan (where 40% of voters chose "uncommitted" rather than vote for Hillary in an unopposed race).

Senator Clinton pulls into the delegate lead if, and ONLY if, you give her all 157 Michigan delegates (utterly ignoring the fact that Clinton only got 55% of the vote, that 40% of voters voted "uncommitted" on the ballot, and that the ballot didn't include Senator Obama's name at all). I'm willing to concede though that if you give Senator Clinton 100% of the Michigan delegates and 50% of the Florida delegates you get a race that shows Clinton at 2039 and Obama at 2031. So there you have it, an 8 delegate lead and all one has to do is give 100% of Michigan's delegates to a candidate who only got 55% of the vote in a vote where her main rival was not even listed on the ballot.

However, we all know there's just no way that the party seats Florida and Michigan delegates based upon vote totals in races where there was no campaign, or worse yet where leading candidates didn't even appear on the ballot. Even if they do though, Obama's STILL WINNING. He's got an over 60 delegate lead WITH Florida and Michigan counted. That means Clinton would need to win 73% of the remaining 86 delegates (with no movement from the supers) to come out of the campaign tied, IF you include Florida and Michigan and give Obama zero Michigan delegates. Well, she's not getting 70-30 splits in the last 3 races, so I don't see how a candidate can be losing after all of the races have been decided (EVEN INCLUDING FLORIDA AND MICHIGAN) and still argue that they should be given the nomination. Not that Clinton supporters won't try.

"Vote for me, I'm more electable" is a great slogan, but it loses some punch when the person you argue is "less electable" than you has won more states, more delegates and more votes than you. If Obama shouldn't be the nominee because he supposedly can't beat McCain in November, what sense does it make to give the nomination to Clinton, who can't beat Obama now? Well, no sense whatsoever, which is why I hope this tedium is over soon.

Recommend this Post

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So, has anybody else linked to a CNN story lately...

... and found a bunch of American commenters suddenly appear to talk about your post?

Well, my last post on the Edwards endorsement of Obama is up to 12 comments (OK, 14, but two of those are mine) which I realize for most of you is peanuts, but for me that's a lot of comments for a post that's only up to 9 votes at Progressive Bloggers. Plus, none of them were from people I usually see commenting on my blog, most seemed to be from Americans, and a large number of them were anonymous. It was all very strange to me at first. What gives? Where did all these people come from? Did someone somewhere link to me? Is there a big story about Progressive Bloggers on CTV or something?

Then, I went back to the CNN story that I had linked to about the endorsement. And low and behold, right there on CNN (the most trusted name in news) was a link to the post "Nail, meet coffin" right here at good old "Lord Kitchener's Own". I've somehow hit the (automated) big time. CNN is linking to me.

Am I unique that my reaction was at least partly, WTF?

As I said in the comments to that post when I realized what had happened, it is simultaneously amusing, strange, and mildly worrying. I know many people would be thrilled with increased traffic (especially those making money off ads on their blogs) but I wonder if CNN has ever considered that a casual little blogger like me might not absolutely love the idea of being linked to from a huge international news network.

Of course, it's CNN's prerogative to link to anyone they please, no question, but still. Do the majority of bloggers realize that the new "From the Blogs" feature of CNN means that by simply linking to a CNN story suddenly a link to their blog may very well appear on the CNN site? It certainly took me by surprise.

Again, not that it's not their prerogative, but isn't there a tangible difference between me linking to CNN and CNN linking right back to me? Is there not an inherent power imbalance that's a bit off-putting? Of course, by posting on the internet I'm throwing my thoughts out to the world, technically, but posting my thoughts on my blog is a bit different from posting them on CNN's site isn't it? (and if it isn't, should it be?). And does anyone else find it to be a bit strange that CNN has taken me from Point A to Point B without me even being cognizant of it until a bunch of Americans started commenting about a post they'd otherwise never have seen.

Not that I particularly object to being linked too, but I can't say it was a pleasant surprise either.

Frankly, it's a bit creepy.

One things for sure, I'll think twice before linking to a CNN story again. Do I want my story to appear to readers of If not, I guess I'll send anyone who reads the post to the Globe and Mail for more information. I don't think they've started linking right back to their readers.


Recommend this Post

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nail, meet coffin.

John Edwards to endorse Obama.

You fought a good campaign Senator Clinton, and I for one think you're going to be Senate majority leader in t
he very near future. Best of luck in all your future endeavours.


The story I'm linking to hasn't been updated yet, but it's official. I've got John Edwards playing at the Obama rally from CNN's live online feed right now in the background. "The reason I am here tonight is that the Democratic voters in America have made their choice, and so have I... There is one man who knows in his heart that it's time to create one America, and not two, and that man is Barack Obama" (crowd goes nuts...)

Recommend this Post

Hillary Clinton wins West Virginia, and it couldn't matter less...

So, Hillary had a "big win" last night in West Virginia. She beat Obama, as expected, 67% to 26%.

Let's take a stroll through the other big wins this primary season shall we.

Races Obama won by 60% or more:
the District of Columbia

Races Clinton won by 60% or more:
West Virginia

Total net delegates gained by Clinton in her huge win in WV last night: 10
Delegate lead for Barak Obama this morning (CNN): 165

So, I guess all Hillary needs now is 17 more West Virginias, or for more than 77% of the 214 remaining super delegates to move to her camp (or some combination thereof).

In other words...

Nothing to see here.

Move along.

Recommend this Post

Monday, May 12, 2008

Clinton simply can't win. Period.

I think Hillary Clinton's really got to start thinking seriously about how she wants this all to end, because she can't win the Democratic nomination for President. Not convinced? Look at the graphic below from CNN's handy dandy delegate counter. In the hypothetical scenario below, I've given Clinton 70-30 wins in West Virginia and Kentucky, and 60-40 wins in Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico. A clean sweep with huge to sizable wins for Clinton. I've also given her the lead in super delegates 60-40 (even though Obama has recently pulled ahead in super delegate support). The results of this fantastic hypothetical for Clinton? She loses the race to Obama 2046 to 1983.

A 63 delegate loss from arguably the best, most spectacular scenario one could possibly fathom for Hillary Clinton. Anyone want to argue she can still win?

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Clinton is DONE...

Not to be overly harsh, but the former first lady is toast.

I just went to CNN's handy little delegate counter to confirm my suspicions.

Go the the counter and give Hillary 60-40 victories in EVERY REMAINING RACE. Then, put in that the super delegates ALSO go for Hillary 60-40. You'll agree, I think, that this scenario is IMPOSSIBLE for Clinton to achieve, but take a look at the results.

60-40 Clinton in all the remaining races, AND among the super delegates gives you:

Obama 2039 delegates

Clinton 1980 delegates.

So, if Clinton does the impossible, she'll only lose by 59 delegates.

Good luck with that Hillary.

Recommend this Post

Thursday, May 01, 2008

OK, now this is just getting ridiculous....

The Tories are now threatening to make Bill C-10, the freakin' movie tax credit Bill, a matter of confidence!!! Now, leave aside the merits of the Bill (which proposes to deny tax credits to films that are "offensive" where the government gets to determine what constitutes "offensive") what really grinds my gears here is how obvious it's become that the Tories are using "confidence" motions as a sledge hammer.

Any time the Tories feel there's the smallest chance that a bill might not get passed (or in this case, not even that, just the chance that the Bill might be AMENDED has them foaming at the mouth) the Tories will proclaim the Bill to be a matter of confidence and dare the Liberals to do something.

And they won't.

Canadians elected a minority government so that the parties would be forced to compromise, and come up with better and more balanced legislation for all Canadians. Well, "screw that" say the Tories. We'll do what we want, and if you even think about amending the bills we propose we'll make you force an election over it.

And it's working.

At this point it occurs to me that the Liberals are keeping the Tories from being elected to a majority position in the House by simply GIVING THEM majority power in the House, without the need for anything so awkward as an election. The strategy, so far as I can tell, is to save the village by burning it down. We can't risk an election, because then maybe the Tories would win majority power, so we'll give the Tories majority power to prevent an election from happening.

So, this is me getting on the bandwagon with those who want to quit this inanity and just rip off the band-aid. Sure, maybe Harper and the Tories would win an ensuing election. I'd be mildly surprised, but not shocked. But SO WHAT??? At least then all the things they're doing would have some democratic legitimacy. At this point they have all the power, and none of the veneer of legitimacy. How is that BETTER than allowing the people of Canada to decide whether they WANT the Tories to have a majority or not??? Why is giving it to them by default better than letting the people decide???

Knock it off already.

This is just a farce.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Elections Canada fun...

Hmmm, according to Wells, the Bloc has introduced a motion in the House of Commons:

"That this House express its complete confidence in Elections Canada and the Federal Elections Commissioner" (Wells' translation).

This ought to be fun!

Recommend this Post

"Essential Service"??? Maybe it is that, but we'd be better off not to acknowledge it....

So, there are calls afoot throughout Toronto to have the TTC declared an "essential service" and limit the workers right to strike.

"Hell no", says I. "HELL NO!"

However, I disagree with the idea of making them an "essential service" for very different reasons from so many bloggers who are opposed.

I don't think we can afford it.

History shows that in most arbitrated settlements the union ends up getting MORE than they would have received through regular negotiations. Often, even more than they'd get if they'd gone on strike.

I'm with Andrew Coyne and the National Post on this one.

Some of my favourite quotes:

Coyne: "It won’t put an end to strikes, for starters: making strikes illegal, at least in this country, only brings on illegal strikes. The transit workers’ last walkout was illegal, as was the last teachers’ strike".

NP: "When Toronto's largest union went on strike in the summer of 2002, the city was trying to roll back concessions made in 1999 that promised a job for life to city staff who had more than 10 years on the job -- a majority of the work force. That provision made it impossible to save money by contracting out services and laying off high-priced union workers. Soon after the province sent workers back to the job and appointed an arbitrator, the arbitrator called a press conference, scolded Toronto officials for not "buying into improved [labour] relations," and by November had awarded the union almost everything it was demanding".

Coyne: "But even if [making the TTC an "essential service"] did achieve the goal of ending service disruptions, all that would ensure was uninterrupted TTC service: slow, infrequent, obstructive and unpleasant".

I've got to say, I've thought about it and I now firmly oppose making the TTC an "essential service". We can't afford it, and if we ever do it we'll be giving up hope until the end of time of ever fixing public transit in the big smoke.

Nope. Keep the status quo. It's the only way we'll ever change things.

Recommend this Post

The problem's not between the Union and the TTC, it's between the Union, and the Union

As many suspected it seems there's nothing but trouble within the executive of ATU Local 113. Apparently, there's an internal battle going on within the Union (an attempted "coup" the Globe and Mail calls it) and the Toronto Star reports extensively on the battle. That Star mentions the "venomous atmosphere" and several pamphlets floating amongst the membership (apparently distributed by the Union executive's dissidents) which misstated the nature of several provisions of the proposed contract, such as language on contracting out and benefits.

It really seems as though the rank and file has been HORRIBLY served by the leadership of their union.

The result?

Well, City Council can't "ignore" the TTC anymore which might sound good, but post-strike, union-friendly Mayor Miller and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone aren't nearly as opposed to making the TTC an "essential service" as they once were.

Finally, in case you're wondering just what exactly the union voted no to, the G&M provides a handy chart, with comparisons to the top wage rates for unionized transit workers in North America:

And if you wonder why I'm focusing on wages, and not "contracting-out" issues, it's because it's pretty clear to me this morning that the "contracting out" stuff was a mirage meant to attack Bob Kinnear. As one of the G&M's union sources says "We've got the best contracting-out language anywhere. And they've been told that by our lawyers and everything." Leave aside the GTA. The contract they rejected would have made the TTC's drivers among the best paid in North America, and it's mechanics the second best paid, all with some of the best job security anywhere.

Seems to me as though the Union was doing pretty good until the executive (apparently) turned on each other.

Recommend this Post

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm afraid perhaps TTC drivers are having a bad day today...

As promised, I tried to be extra nice to my driver this morning when I got on the bus. Sadly, although it was still early(ish) in the morning (8:30) I have to conclude from his response that he was already having a horrible day. I basically got a look somewhat akin to the look Darth Vader gave Obi Wan Kenobi right before he chopped him in half.

The ride was a bit of a slice too (fast, fast, fast, BREAK AT THE LAST MINUTE, fast, fast, fast, KNOCK PASSENGERS OVER WITH THE BREAKING) but that could be totally unrelated. Sometimes you just get a driver who drives like that, and you have to hold on tight.

Anyway, maybe it was the weather, maybe my driver was getting towards the end of the shift, maybe it was totally unrelated to the strike. But my driver was not at all a happy camper this morning. I'll be extra nice again tomorrow though. And hopefully my driver will have a better day tomorrow.

Recommend this Post

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Toronto Transit workers ordered back to work...

Well, the legislature just unanimously passed legislation ordering TTC workers back to work, and the TTC has announced that some service will be back up and running within hours.

I've been quite critical of the strike, but allow me to take this opportunity to encourage those of you who take the TTC every day (like me) to be extra nice to your drivers, operators and collectors tomorrow. Even if you feel the need to express your displeasure, please keep in mind that PLENTY of people in the GTA are going to be giving these workers a hard time tomorrow, so there's no need for you to add to their bad day.

I certainly intend to be extra nice to my driver tomorrow morning (not that I'm not always nice!), and give an extra smile, and an extra cheerful good morning, and I encourage you to do the same. They're bound to take a lot of crap tomorrow no matter what you say or do, so you might as well be the bright spot in their day.

This is assuming of course that they'll all return to work, but I imagine that's a no-brainer. Refusing to return would be the labour negotiation equivalent of shooting yourself in the face, so I'm quite certain the buses will be running tomorrow.

Hopefully it won't be too horrible a day for the drivers.

Recommend this Post

Ask me who I have sympathy for...

the generally well-paid, benefit-rich workers of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, or the mostly poor, powerless people they're screwing with, and I'd say my answer is pretty clear.

I plan to be extra nice to my bus driver on Monday morning, and I'll bet he or she will need it, 'cause I'm in a TINY minority.

Most people I know are truly incensed.

Recommend this Post

As with most things public transit related, I've got to agree with Steve Munro...

I think Local 113 may well be out of their minds!!!

Recommend this Post

Saturday, April 26, 2008

TTC on strike...

Can you freakin' BELIEVE THIS????

They just went on strike effective midnight.


Imagine for a moment that you're waiting for a bus in the middle of the night all alone.

And waiting.

And waiting...

The safety implications alone are STAGGERING!!!!

It's like they're BEGGING the province to declare the TTC an essential service and take away their right to strike forever. And I can't imagine many people would argue against it.

I'm a big time union supporter, generally, but after this?


Recommend this Post

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Conservatives were NOT "doing what everyone else does"...

People, really.

The in-and-out scandal is not that complicated.

What you CAN do: Transfer money from the national party to local candidiates so that the local candidates can spend that money on local advertising.

What you CAN'T do: Buy a national ad campaign, and then temporarily (and I mean for mere hours here in some cases) transfer money from the national party to the local candidates and RIGHT BACK AGAIN to make it SEEM as though the candidates had paid for local advertising within their local spending limits, when we all know what happened was that the national party exceeded the national spending limits and then tried (incompetently to boot) to cover their tracks.

It's not rocket science people.

Local candidates can't have been "buying local advertising" with the money when most of the candidates only knew that money was going to appear and then disappear from their accounts at the behest of the national party for Pete's sake. If you never saw and ad, never approved an ad, never got an invoice, and have never heard of the advertising company that produced the ad then you didn't buy the advertising!

It's totally transparent for God's sake!!!

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The "In and Out" scandal....

First, let me ask if we could rename this scandal slightly to the "Inside and Out" scandal, so that it can have it's own theme song! And, with all due respect to the Bee Gees, I mean the Feist version:

OK, that task completed, let's get to the scandal. There are any number of places you can go to learn more, but allow me to point to a few of particular interest.

First, from the G&M, there's: "Spending scheme raised eyebrows within Tory ranks". This is a great 3 page article on the scandal, including lots of information about how uncomfortable many TORIES were with the financial maneuvering, how little local Tory campaign officials knew about a supposed "local" ad buy, and how at least two Tory candidates outright refused to go along (good for them, I say!).

Second, there's this articles from the Globe and Mail: "Search Warrant suggests Tories overspent by $1 million". Here's my favourite passage:

As the probe expanded, Elections Canada reviewed other questionable invoices that were provided by Conservative candidates and related to Retail Media, the Toronto-based firm that made the ad buys for the national party. Of these invoices, 15 allegedly included the names of individual candidates on Retail Media letterhead, even though Retail Media told Elections Canada it dealt only with the party and “did not generate invoices to candidates or electoral districts.

For instance, one invoice in the amount of $39,999.91, filed on behalf of Steve Halicki, candidate for the Ontario riding of York South-Weston, was on Retail Media letterhead, the affidavit states.

When executives with the company were shown the invoice, one said “the invoice must have been altered or created by someone, because it did not conform to the appearance of invoices sent by Retail Media to the Conservative Party of Canada with respect to the media buy,” the affidavit states.

Barbro Soderberg, Mr. Halicki's official agent, told investigators she did not provide written authorization to anyone to incur expenses on behalf of the campaign and that she had no knowledge whatsoever of Retail Media, the affidavit states.

Ms. Soderberg said she was approached by Conservative Party campaign manager Rom Cimaroli, who proposed a deposit of about $40,000 into Mr. Halicki's campaign account. The funds would be immediately transferred back to the party and recorded as an advertising expense, the affidavit states. Despite some misgivings, Ms. Soderberg said she was reassured by party officials that the transaction was legal.

“I had contacted the Conservative Party in Ottawa and was reassured that this was okay,” Ms. Soderberg told investigators, according to the affidavit.

As a bookkeeper I know that sometimes you have to use creative accounting between two small companies, but I found this move was being a little too creative.

- emphasis added -

Paul Wells finds the (allegedly) faked invoices particularly funny. He also gets credit for this post, titled "Books the Tories will wish again and again had never been written" and his post on how this isn't the first time the Tories have been caught in "election-time fancy footwork". He also hilariously suggests that if this is their form of chess, perhaps the Tories should switch back to checkers.

Then, Mr. Wells' commentary lead me to Mr. Aaron Wherry's blog at Macleans, where he's diligently reading through the warrant for interesting quotes. I was going to post the most interesting (read "damning") quotes, but this post is already horrendously long, and there are a lot of them. So, beyond "Reading the Warrant: Part One" may I also suggest checking out:

Part Two

Part Five

Part Seven

Part Nine

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen

Part Seventeen

and Part Nineteen.

All of that in the first 56 pages of an apparently 700 page document.

This is gonna take a while.

Thank God for Feist.

Recommend this Post