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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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