Thursday, November 29, 2007

Robin Sears got it right

Sorry Warren, but Robin Sears got it right.

For months in advance of the campaign they fed reporters with anonymous quotes about "unhappy Conservatives" and supplied YouTube with nasty videos and their canvassers with slippery doorstep lines. As the damage to Tory began to show up in public polls, they raised the pressure with egregious performances by Dalton McGuinty fretting about creating a "segregationist" Ontario, and suggesting that Ontario would suffer the same fate as "London and Paris" if the policy were adopted. In a clear appeal to Islamophobia they successfully ground the Conservative numbers down by nearly ten points in less than three weeks. At Toronto dinner parties one heard “progressive” downtown Liberals muttering quietly that Tory’s policy would fund "some crazy imam’s Mississauga madrassa."

Update: Warren responds in the comments:

Steve, with respect, a question:

Do you think that the hundreds of thousands of Onatrians who voted for McGuinty are also bigots? Or that they are dummies, and so easily manipulated?

I look forward to your answer, as always, with interest.
Warren K

And my rather long-winded response:


One of the things I have always admired about your work is your courage in drawing attention to the real bigots in our midst. I commend you for writing about the seamy underside of white supremacists and skinhead thugs. These guys are scum whose ideas need to be exposed and discredited.

But that is what makes your willingness to tap into such prejudice for political ends so incomprehensible. Here we have a party that exults in its inclusiveness, yet is willing to jettison such principle for electoral advantage. It is a dangerous game that will have repercussions for years to come.

You know as well as I do that we are all bigots in some way. The key is to recognize one’s prejudice. One of the things that makes Canadian society great is that despite our inherent prejudices, we tend to treat each other reasonably well and don't usually don't let our prejudices rule us.

What I found so reprehensible about Liberal tactics in the last election is that the party had no inhibitions about tapping into such underlying prejudice. The intent to tap into prejudice was clear. And it worked.

Did people consciously vote Liberal because they don’t like Muslims? I am sure that some did, and at the margin that is what wins elections. But I suspect the preferences of many more were shifted subconsciously by an underlying, mostly unfounded, discomfort about Muslims.

If anyone should know about manipulation, it is you. For the most part, elections are not won or lost on policy. If they were, then the Liberals would have lost since, beyond bland generalities, they did their best to avoid talking about policy. For election strategists, policy is simply another hook on which to ply their trade.

The past Ontario election was not about policy. Concern about faith-based schools was not even on the map for the vast majority of Ontarians before the election commenced. Yet somehow it became the central issue to the exclusion of all else. Other important issues – poverty, productivity, competitiveness, energy security, the environment, etc. – were largely ignored. But your tactics helped secure another Liberal majority government. I hope it was worth it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Eric Lindros rehabilitates his reputation

I always thought Eric Lindros was a jerk. I never gave him a second chance after he dissed my hometown when he refused to play for the Soo Greyhounds because he thought he couldn't get a good education in Sault Ste. Marie.

Funny, the schools seemed good enough for Wayne Gretzky, who actually went to my high school. For the most part, the quality of the schools would have been the least of Lindros' problems since from my recollections the players were hardly ever in class.

In retrospect, my high school was probably the exception. It was a good public high school. In general, however, the schools in Sault Ste. Marie suck, falling well below provincial averages. Lindros had a point, even if I did not want to listen to it at the time.

Lindros also partly rehabilitates my opinion of him with this announcement:

Lindros saved one of his biggest assists for last, announcing that he's donating $5 million in support of the London Health Sciences Foundation, which includes the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Peter Fowler, who was being honoured along with Lindros at a dinner last night, treated the hockey star throughout his career and became a good friend and mentor.

Cliff Nordal, president and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre, said he'd done some research and believes it's the single largest donation ever by a Canadian athlete.

Even for a star hockey player, that's real money. But if Lindros really wanted to make amends to the people of Sault Ste. Marie, he should have also considered donating money to their schools.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The rest of us would have had to wait

Some might call it luck. I'd call it privilege.

It was pure luck that former prime minister Jean Chrétien was part of a Monday golf foursome that included Montreal cardiologist Dr. Guy Pelletier. Chrétien, 73, told Pelletier about chest pain he had been experiencing. Pelletier advised him to see a doctor, since the pain could be related to his heart.


But the next day, with his chest pain worsening, he listened to his daughter, France Desmarais, who urged him to get treatment immediately. He cancelled a trip and went to the Montreal Heart Institute. There, emergency quadruple-bypass heart surgery was carried out successfully. His prognosis, his doctors say, is excellent.

No hospital waits for him. He shows up in the morning and has a quadruple bypass before the day is out. Somehow I don't think that is the standard of health care service the rest of us can expect. We would have had to wait.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Waiting for cancer treatment

These conclusions don't seem all that surprising:

Does Canada's publicly funded, single payer health care system deliver better health outcomes and distribute health resources more equitably than the multi-payer heavily private U.S. system?


We find a somewhat higher incidence of chronic health conditions in the U.S. than in Canada but somewhat greater U.S. access to treatment for these conditions. Moreover, a significantly higher percentage of U.S. women and men are screened for major forms of cancer. Although health status, measured in various ways is similar in both countries, mortality/incidence ratios for various cancers tend to be higher in Canada. The need to ration resources in Canada, where care is delivered "free", ultimately leads to long waits. . . We also find that Canada has no more abolished the tendency for health status to improve with income than have other countries. Indeed, the health-income gradient is slightly steeper in Canada than it is in the U.S.

While this study is not necessarily an argument to adopt "US-style" health care it does cost a lot more the results skewer more of the myths about Canada's health care system.

h/t: Marginal Revolution

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Global warming – bring it on

David Warren offers his observations on the benefits of global warming:

As I’ve written before, the solar cycle appears to be reaching the end of its manic phase, and we should not be surprised by the onset of rather crisp global cooling over the coming decades. But even supposing the warming trend were to continue geometrically, in obedience to doomsday rhetoric, why on earth would a Canadian Conservative be alarmed?

For IF this were true, it would be Canada's lucky day. We should be gloating! The world will be starving, while we are farming the Hudson Bay lowlands. The world will be parched, while we are guzzling the fresh glacial run-off. Bring on the sun!

Moreover, a quick atlas check persuades me that there is a fairly close demographic relation, both in Canada and USA, between height above sea level and the propensity to vote gliberal (i.e. Liberal and NDP, or Democrat). Such that, a sea level rise of just 50 feet would give us a Conservative majority up here, and put the Republicans back in charge of Congress down there, while guaranteeing that neither Hillary nor Chelsea Clinton ever becomes President. (The submergence of Prince Edward Island alone would cost our Liberals four seats.)

Anyone for some beach-front property on James Bay?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Let's raise taxes for Jews and Muslims

What if a political party proposed to raise taxes for Jews and Muslims? The public reaction would surely be one of outrage. And I am pretty sure that outrage would not be limited to Jews and Muslims. Even those of us who might pay less taxes as a result of Jews and Muslims paying more would find the idea unacceptable, if not morally repugnant.

So tell me, what is the difference between a policy that would give preferential tax treatment to some religious groups and current education policy in Ontario? With a straight face, Dalton McGuinty rails against John Tory's proposal to equally fund faith-based schools of all religious denominations, yet defends the current system where Catholic schools are publicly funded and the schools of Jews, Muslims, Anglicans and Hindus are not. Parents of other faiths who desire faith-based schooling for their children too must pay thousands of dollars in tuition per child per year, while their tax dollars fund the schooling of children in Catholic schools.

There are two ways to go here: one, end all funding to Catholic schools and convert existing separate school boards into non-denominational boards, or two, equally fund all faith-based schools.

To defend the status quo is simply out of step with the values of our "multicultural" society. If the constitution is an obstacle to implementing fairness in education policy, then we should change the constitution. It is simply intolerant to champion the discriminatory treatment of other religious groups.

Shame on Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My question for Dalton McGuinty

The CBC invites us to submit our questions for the Ontario leaders to be asked in the leaders debate on September 20th. Here's what I submitted:

Mr. McGuinty, you appear to have taken a very principled stand against public funding of faith-based education in Ontario. Does that mean you are advocating a single, secular public education system? And if so, will you be proposing a constitutional amendment to establish non-denominational school boards in Ontario, similar to what was done in Quebec?

I would be very curious as to how he might reconcile the inconsistencies of his position with his own faith-based public education and that of his wife and kids.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Once a pirate

One hundred and fifty years ago, even America's closest trade partners were despairing about our cheating ways. Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842, was, like many Britons, stunned by the economic ambition of our nation's inhabitants, and appalled by what they would do for the sake of profit. When he first stepped off the boat in Boston, he found the city's bookstores rife with pirated copies of his novels, along with those of his countrymen. Dickens would later deliver lectures decrying the practice, and wrote home in outrage: "my blood so boiled as I thought of the monstrous injustice."


In the literary realm, for most of the 19th century the United States remained an outlaw in the world of international copyright. The nation's publishers merrily pirated books without permission, and without paying the authors or original publishers a dime. When Dickens published a scathing account of his visit, "American Notes for General Circulation," it was, appropriately enough, immediately pirated in the United States.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

McGuinty opens door to constitutional change

There is no other way to interpret this:

"If you want the kind of Ontario where we invite children of different faiths to leave the publicly funded system and become sequestered and segregated in their own private schools, then they should vote for Mr. Tory."

"If they think it's important that we continue to bring our kids together so that they grow together and learn from one another, then you should vote for me."

But it might be a good idea to take it up with his wife first:

Some proponents of change, however, disagree with the Premier's position. Mr. McGuinty, his wife, Terri, and the couple's four children all attended Catholic schools. Ms. McGuinty continues to teach part time in the Catholic system. York University professor Eric Lawee said he sees "tremendous hypocrisy" in Mr. McGuinty's opposition to extending funding to religious schools.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SPP Conspiracies

I'm not a conspiracy theorist and neither is Stephen Colbert. Which makes me think the protesters at the Montebello summit could be on to something.

Still, I don't quite get what they are going on about. Wudrick is puzzled too and has a great post on the incoherence of their rage. Not to belittle their cause, for many it was a good opportunity to get some fresh air, show off one's piercings and, to keep things lively, throw things at the police to see if they would strike back (which they did). In the end, however, it leaves me doubting whether the protesters have thought these issues through.

Despite what some claim, there is really nothing that secret about the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have had informative websites on the initiative for some time. Mexico probably does too (although I'm not inclined to search for it). There is more than enough to debate and discuss without making stuff up.

For the most part, it is hard to argue against a cooperative approach to trade and security issues. In the end, if Canadians don't like what the Harper government agrees to, they will eventually have recourse at the polls. There is nothing anti-democratic about that.

Of course, Harper will have to be on guard against U.S. efforts to load the SPP with extraneous commitments. Michael Geist points out how the U.S. managed to slip in its intellectual property priorities in the final agreement. I'm not too keen on Harper giving in on that. Still, the SPP provides an indispensable forum to address common issues and, ultimately, to protect our economic interests. It would be foolish not to participate.

Update: New source of video provided as previous source expired.

Venezuelan poor getting relatively poorer

Hugo Chavez pictures himself as the champion of the poor. Yet, the Venezuelan poor are getting relatively poorer.

Hugo's friends must be doing very well indeed. How come I'm not surprised?

h/t: Marginal Revolution

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hurtling toward have-not status

Dalton McGuinty is now arguing for more social program spending by the federal government.

Canadian premiers foreshadowed a coming clash with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday over his pledge to diminish Ottawa's role in creating national social programs, warning that poorer Canadians could suffer.

"I'm a bit concerned about it. Are we talking about preventing the federal government from at some point in the future setting up social programs like daycare or pharmacare? Because I don't support that," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said as the premiers wrapped up their annual meeting.

Not long ago, McGuinty was complaining about Ontario having to pay the bill for other provinces.

Upcoming election or not, this apparent change of heart would seem to reflect the expectation that if the Ontario economy continues to slip relative to the rest of the country, it won't be long before the other provinces are on the hook to pay Ontario's bills.

Isn't equalization wonderful?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ode to the (multicultural) mall

We do have something in common after all. We like to go to the mall.

We might not want to admit it but the best place to see Toronto is at the mall. Where else does a nearly complete cross-section of the city exist in one spot? On those rainy, overcast Sundays, when melancholy blankets the city, I like to ride the Spadina line out to Yorkdale Mall and walk in circles with some of the up to 70,000 people who head there on weekends. Apart from being anonymous in the only crowd available, I see all sorts of Torontonians I don't run into on Queen West, the Annex or even Harbourfront – all those places we might prefer to see them. Women in hijabs parade past shellacked Holt Renfew-bound ladies, who brush by the guys who wear the baggy shirts that go to their knees, who follow the teenage girls with impossibly visible thongs, who are dragged away by weary moms into the Gap to “buy something nice.”


With its recreated streetscapes and multicultural and class mix, Yorkdale's hyperreality may be where the reality of Toronto's celebrated diversity actually exists in one place.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Blogging Weenies

Kathy has a point:

Blogging Tories are pathetic, cowardly weenie-heads

Thank God not every corner of the Canadian conservative blogosphere is inhabited by sucky baby lawyers and other grasping, careerist wimps.

But there are enough of them out there to be an embarrassment to any principled person[.]

I know Stephen Taylor is just covering his ass. No one wants to pay legal fees. But the Free Dominion case is about the most fundamental principle of our democracy: the freedom of speech. If as bloggers we cannot stand behind this principle, then what are we blogging for?

It was not long ago that individual Blogging Tories stood up for the right to publish the Danish Muhammad cartoons to protest Muslim efforts to censor the press. Even Stephen Taylor had some words on the subject:

If a modern Martin Luther had published the 95 Theses in a blog, would German embassies be burned across the "Catholic World"? More troubling is to ponder if the press would be successful in sheltering the population from these transformative messages. In the case of the Muhammad cartoons, the message is hardly transformative, yet the defiance of organizational dogma certainly is.

Is this what power does to us?

Bush has nothing to do with it

Despite wishful thinking on the part of the Toronto Star, general contempt for George Bush has likely had little effect on increasing immigration flows from the United States to Canada.

An analysis of immigration statistics done by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies showed the number of Americans who moved to Canada in 2006 hit a 30-year high, almost double the number who moved north in 2000 when Bush was elected for a first term as U.S. president.

The analysis also showed the southward brain drain is being narrowed somewhat, and most of the American migrants are highly educated people who may be moving to Canada for quality of life and social reasons.

The numbers were not huge – 10,942 Americans moved to Canada last year, far smaller than the influx predicted when bogus maps of the United States of Canada began hitting the Internet in the waning days of the 2004 campaign.

Sure, the number of U.S. immigrants almost doubled. But we are talking about an increase of only 5,000 people. That would hardly be a story even if every single one of those immigrants came here explicitly because of George Bush.

If you want to go down the path of spurious correlations, one could just as easily say more Americans are moving here because Canadians have finally come to their senses and elected a Conservative government. Undoubtedly, that will motivate some Americans to overcome their reservations about moving to high-tax, socialist Canada.

That interpretation, of course, is anathema to The Star. It is far easier to interview one gay, antiwar, labour organizer from Seattle to make the case of Canada as a progressive nirvana providing refuge against the Republican fascists:

For 34-year-old labour organizer Tom Kertes, the move last April from Seattle, Wash., to Toronto was based on human rights.

"The words 'human rights' are foreign words in the U.S.,'' Kertes said.

"They only apply to other countries.''

He moved to Toronto with his partner Ron Braun and the two plan to marry, something they could not do in Washington state.

He also cited the war in Iraq and the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans – and the failure of the Bush administration to clearly disavow such practice – as contributing factors to what is a major decision.

Much has happened since the year 2000. The election of George W Bush coincided with the bursting of the technology bubble. Several people I know (Canadians all) who moved down to the States have since retreated back to the land of free health care after being let go by Nortel and other technology firms. They made a lot money while it lasted. And the fact that U.S. income taxes are low and the Canadian dollar was trading at 67 U.S. cents made it seem like even more.

Today, the tables are turned. Resource industries such as oil and metals are going gangbusters, while the Canadian dollar is trading a little shy of par. The unemployment rate is the lowest in more than thirty years.

With the Canadian dollar having risen more than 30% over the 2000 to 2006 period, Canadian salaries look much more attractive to any American considering the possibility of working here, even taking into account higher personal income tax rates in Canada. That is tantamount to a 30% raise.

It is a real stretch to try to read anything political into the latest immigration statistics. Economic factors are driving migration flows, no matter what Toronto Star editors might believe.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dominion Day

I put my Canadian flag up earlier today. It looks good, so I might just leave it there.

We didn't really do much to celebrate. Anything we could have done would have paled in comparison to last Wednesday's Dominion Institute's 10th anniversary party. It was quite the bash. My daughter brought her camera along. A few of her pictures can be seen below.

Mark Warner (CPC candidate in Toronto Centre) and I talk to William Thorsell.

Chatting with Bill Graham.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Kyoto and only Kyoto

I should know better than to try to engage Liberals in an honest debate about climate change, particularly young Liberals. The ultimate futility of debating with Stéphane Dion's young kool-aid drinkers is amply demonstrated in the exchange below on YouTube.

BalancedApproach (1 week ago) marked as spam

Ha ha ha! A tax credit on life preservers! Typical idiotic conservative thinking. Genius! The Young Liberals really hit the nail on the head. What a sharp crew. Awesome commercial. Well done.

comfyfur (4 days ago) marked as spam

Ha ha ha! One tonne challenge! Spend a bundle on advertising and wait for people to voluntarily cut carbon emissions. Absolutely brilliant. Only problem is our GHG emissions went up 27%. The Liberals were never serious about climate change. In contrast, CPC policies might actually work. Will we hit Kyoto? Not a chance. It was never possible. But now, at least, we are putting in place policies that will lead to real cuts in GHG emissions in the coming years. The Liberals should be embarrassed.

BalancedApproach (4 days ago) marked as spam

Nice try. The reality is that the Liberal plans on the environment were very progressive, but were put in place in 2005. So while they were very progressive, the tories cut them before they were able to do much.
As for the tories, they have little place suggesting others should be embarassed. After all, this is the party led by a man who called Kyoto a socialist scam and who has continually denied the existence of climate change. He might as well deny that the sky is blue.

comfyfur (2 days ago) marked as spam

Progressive? WTF? Liberal climate change policies were all rhetoric. Moreover, Chretien sabotaged Kyoto by agreeing to hugely unrealistic targets given Canada's population growth, climate, large land mass and resource-based economy. Add to that the fact that they wasted a dozen years consulting to defer any substantive action. It is really not surprising that industry did nothing while waiting for the government to get its act together.

BalancedApproach (2 days ago) marked as spam

Nice try, comfyfur. There's just a little something standing in your way: the facts. Look up Kyoto sometime before you trot out unresearched Conservative rhetoric. The Kyoto protocol was ratified by Canada on December 17, 2002 and came into force in February 2005. So the Liberals couldn't have wasted 12 years as you claim. Heck, the protocol wasn't even in effect for 12 months before the Conservatives took office! Sorry to expose your argument using the dirty trick that is Historical fact.

comfyfur (2 days ago) marked as spam

BA, hardly a dirty trick. For someone purportedly "balanced," you seem to have chosen sides. The Liberals had loads of time to show their cards on climate change. They were talking of it well before Kyoto was signed. Negotiations began in 1997. Since that time, all we got was rhetoric and snoozefest consultations. I sat through enough of them. The important thing is that we now appear serious about taking action. It is the right thing to do, whatever your political stripe.

BalancedApproach (2 days ago) marked as spam

I am glad that you agree that my exposing your partisan lie for what it is using historical fact is not a dirty trick. My saying it was of course meant tongue-in-cheek. That said, the fact remains that the protocol was not signed until 2002 and didn't come into force until 2005. The Tories took power 11 months later and have yet to do anything. I agree it's time to something. Now tell Harper that.

comfyfur (2 days ago) marked as spam

Ah yes. Don't debate ideas. Call people liars, or bullies. With a bit of googling I found a Sierra Club report card on Liberal climate change policy. Here are the Liberals' grades:

1993 Grade: D,
1994 Grade: C+,
1995 Grade: D+,
1996 Grade: D-,
1997 Grade: F.

Climate change is not Kyoto. The Liberals have been pretending to deal with the issue for a long time.

BalancedApproach (2 days ago) marked as spam

What is about Conservatives that whenever they get called out on their inaction and their lies, the only thing they can say for themselves is "But the Liberals did/didn't do this!!!!". Guess what, the Cons are in government now and they have been for the majority of time Kyoto has been in place. Either do something substantive (which they haven't yet) or get out of office for someone who will (Dion).

comfyfur (2 days ago) marked as spam

It all comes down to following Kyoto, no matter that that is unattainable. There is no other course of action. Dion says he will do it nonetheless. All aboard Dion's green train. He will deliver us unto Kyoto.


The issue is a lot more complex than that.

BalancedApproach (1 day ago) marked as spam

The simple fact of the matter is that Kyoto is not unattainable. That's a fairy tale the Conservatives under the disgraceful "leadership" of Stepher "Der Fuhrer" Harper have been spinning. Sorry buddy, but that dog won't hunt. The facts and the science is against Harper, just as it was against him when he tried to deny climate change. It's time he stopped dragging his feet. Dion and his Liberals are willing to do the job. If Harper won't do it, he needs to step aside for some real leadership.

comfyfur (1 day ago) marked as spam

You are absolutely right BA. Technically, Kyoto is not unattainable. But no politician in his right mind would attempt it. At this point, you'd have to shut half the economy down to achieve it.

Now, if Chretien had committed to only an 8% increase in emissions, rather than a 6% reduction, to reflect Canada's unique circumstances, we might have had a chance. However, the folly of his commitment totally paralyzed the government. The Liberals didn't do the job. Is anyone really surprised?

BalancedApproach (22 hours ago) marked as spam

More Conservative fear mongering followed by blaming the Liberals. Once again, the fact remains, Harper is in government now. Either he puts up and does something or he shuts up and lets a real leader like Dion do the job. Green economics can be insanely profitable, especially if we get in the game early. As ususal Harper isn't interested in losing his big oil, cowtown base. Canada includes 9 other provinces and 3 territories though. Time he learned that.

comfyfur (12 hours ago) marked as spam

You simply cannot reduce the amount of heating oil you use by half overnight unless you are willing to freeze. Similarly, to improve your gas mileage, or to switch to a public transit alternative, requires you to invest in new, more efficient equipment. That takes time.

Unfortunately, we have lost precious time, under both the Liberals AND the Conservatives. Now, at least, it looks like most people are on side with the need to do something.

BalancedApproach (10 hours ago) marked as spam

The potential solutions to the problem are more various and more involved than simply reducing heating oil and improving gas mileage. It is through making use of this varied response that we can indeed reach Kyoto. While time may have been lost in the past, it is the Conservatives that continue waste time now and deny that Kyoto can be met at all. We cannot as a nation accept this defeatist attitude. Either they get on it or they let the Liberals do it. It just makes sense.

comfyfur (6 hours ago) marked as spam

Reducing GHG emissions is about changing the way we do everything: heating and cooling our homes, how we get to work, the food we eat, the products we consume.

For much of what we do, we have been locked in by previous choices. To evolve to a less-profligate, GHG lifestyle means reorganizing how we live and eventually replacing most of what we have now. You cannot snap your fingers or pass a law to change things overnight. You know that. Dion knows that. So get real.

BalancedApproach (5 hours ago) marked as spam

More basless attacks on Kyoto instead of action. Typical Tory. Kyoto has never been about trying to change over night. Nice try, though. It's about incremental, but meaningful change and looking toward green technologies. Closing your eyes won't make the problem go away. It's time to act. Stop blaming the Liberals. Stop dragging your feet. Stop saying it can't be done. Just DO it!

comfyfur (59 minutes ago) marked as spam

I give up BA. There is no need to attack Kyoto. It is already dead. But I do question how you have framed your argument about climate change to be Kyoto and only Kyoto. That is not moving anything forward. It is pointless rhetoric.

We missed the target. To hit it now (i.e., cut average GHG emissions by 2008-12 by more than 30%) is virtually impossible. It is simply delusional to think we could achieve that. We would not be any further ahead if the Liberals had stayed in power.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Model of diversity?

Apparently not.

He's a tall white guy and I'm a short brown girl, but our experience of diversity at Woburn Collegiate and Toronto as a whole is similar: in his words, “There's an idea of a multicultural paradise, but it's unenforced.” Or, as I'd put it, this city is home to a lot of people who look different and speak different languages, but don't intermingle in a meaningful way.


Geographic diversity is crucial in sprawling Toronto. More and more, the outer suburbs are increasingly marginalized, home to the newest Canadians. Whole groups of Torontonians never bump up against each other – and so have no understanding of each other's basic needs.


It's time for diversity to become a real goal, and that means talking about things that can make us feel icky.


My Toronto can include you, white guy – if yours can include Etobicoke, strip malls and events where you stand in an audience that looks nothing like you, cheering for a stranger with whom you have nothing in common.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Marching with the Hollywood jackboots

Hollywood is on a mission to change Canadian copyright law to its benefit. It continually misrepresents statistics, calling Canada a haven for piracy, and has engaged the U.S. government at the highest levels to do its bidding. Regrettably, Stephen Harper has fallen in line.

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Mr. Schwarzenegger in Ottawa Wednesday, the Conservative government gave official notice to the House of Commons Wednesday night that it plans to table a bill to combat video piracy. A new federal law will target the growing ranks of video pirates with camcorders who copy first-run films at movie theatres. Officials said the law will go beyond existing copyright protections to make camcording a crime.


Canada's copyright laws prohibit selling unauthorized copies of films. But theatre owners say police will not arrest individuals caught copying films because it is almost impossible to prove they intend to sell illicit copies.

For two years, Doug Frith, president of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, has railed that the theft of intellectual property is treated as a “soft crime.”

Yesterday, Mr. Frith said this “is really the first step – not only for the movie industry – where the government has shown it will seriously address the whole area of intellectual-property theft.”

The piracy issue heated up in January after The Globe and Mail reported that Fox's Hollywood-based president of domestic distribution had sent a blistering letter to Ellis Jacob, the Toronto-based chief executive of Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's biggest cinema chain. Spitting mad after pinpointing Canadian theatres as the source of illegal camcording, Fox threatened to stop sending copies of all its films to Cineplex's 130 movie houses, or push back Canadian release dates.

“All of us in the Canadian film industry have been working together to get the laws changed,” Mr. Jacob said yesterday. “We are obviously delighted to hear the news that the government is acting to put a stop to film piracy and make it a criminal offence.”

Canadian copyright law already provides the tools for Hollywood to assert its intellectual property rights. If the movie studios think camcording is such a threat to their revenues, why not take a few of the vendors of these shoddy, camcorded DVDs, available at flea markets and other questionable venues, to court? The legal remedies are already at hand. This is nothing but special treatment for Hollywood.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good thing we have Kyoto

In recent years, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide—one of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—have been increasing at a rate of about 0.5 percent annually. Because anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions of carbon dioxide result primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy, energy use has emerged at the center of the climate change debate. World carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase steadily in the IEO2007 reference case, from 26.9 billion metric tons in 2004 to 33.9 billion metric tons in 2015 and 42.9 billion metric tons in 2030, an increase of 59 percent over the projection period [emphasis added].

From 2003 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries grew by almost 10 percent, largely because of a 17-percent increase in coal use in non-OECD Asia, while emissions from the OECD countries grew by less than 2 percent. The result of the large increase in non-OECD emissions was that 2004 marked the first time in history that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries exceeded those from the OECD countries—although by only about 8 million metric tons (Figure 7). Further, because the projected average annual increase in emissions from 2004 to 2030 in the non-OECD countries (2.6 percent) is more than three times the increase projected for the OECD countries (0.8 percent), carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries in 2030, at 26.2 billion metric tons, are projected to exceed those from the OECD countries by 57 percent.

From the U.S. EIA International Energy Outlook.

Not enough MBAs

Yeah right.

This is what's known as talking your book:

Canada is experiencing a serious gap in management talent that is a major contributing factor in its lagging prosperity compared with the United States, says a new study co-written by one of the country's leading business school deans.

The study, produced by Ontario's Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity and co-written by University of Toronto management dean Roger Martin, says Canada is placing undue emphasis on science and technology talent, while neglecting management skills that are in short supply.


One shortfall is the lack of MBAs at the top of major Canadian companies, the report says. Figures for 2004 show that 37 per cent of CEOs for the 100 largest U.S. companies had MBAs, compared with 24 per cent of CEOs for the 100 largest Canadian companies.

To that, all I can ask is what if Bill Gates got an MBA instead of starting Microsoft?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What to do about high oil prices

With those greedy oil companies gouging us at the pumps again, what are poor consumers to do?

While there is always the temptation to let the politicians "solve" the problem (after all, they did such a good job with the gun registry), perhaps we could fix things ourselves.

I don't know, maybe we could try:
  1. driving less;
  2. switching to smaller, fuel-efficient cars;
  3. riding a bicycle;
  4. taking public transit; and
  5. moving closer to work.
If none of these ideas help, then let's just put all our pension savings into oil stocks.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A good reason to buy a Honda

I bought a new car last fall. Although I've owned a Honda before, this time I went with a Toyota Camry. I just thought the styling was fresher. Still, there is little doubt that Honda builds high-quality cars.

My choice might have been different had I known this:

[Honda] is also one of the few auto makers that does not accept government financial assistance to finance plant construction.

No subsidies! That is quite something. With Buzz and the Detroit-based automakers continually pleading for help, and usually getting it, Honda focuses on designing and building good cars, and people snap them up.

I think my next car will be a Honda.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Foreign Takeover of Canada

Cardinal47 is not alone in worrying about a possible foreign takeover of Canada. There has been a lot of hand wringing about it of late. But really, is "Where is Pierre Trudeau when we need him?" the best we can come up with?

If you look at sheer numbers, you could probably make the case that Canadian firms are taking over more foreign firms than the number of foreign takeovers of Canadian firms. However, since Canadian takeovers tend to be considerably smaller in size, in dollar terms, it is probably the other way around.

Now the curious thing about all this is that Canada is running a big surplus on the current account, which means we are exporting capital. The problem is that Canadian foreign investment tends to be of the portfolio variety, not direct investment which gives one effective control.

What is it that makes our corporate elites so timid and risk averse? I would suggest it is past policies like FIRA and other measures that have shielded our businesses from competition. As a result, we just aren't very good capitalists.

Raising the shields is not going to make us better. Quite the opposite. However, in bringing down the barriers, we are likely to get a little bloody. It won't be pretty at first. But we are going to have to learn to compete globally or get used to being second rate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Free offsets for your carbon-profligate lifestyle

Feeling guilty about your carbon-profligate lifestyle?

Thought not.

But if you do, there is no need to buy carbon offsets from yourself like Al Gore. Now you can get your carbon offsets for free at Free Carbon Offsets.

From their FAQ:

We at feel strongly that carbon offsets should be available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. We will take the steps to see that the offsets that you acquire through us are properly channeled. We can do it because we care.

Q: What exactly will you do for my carbon offsets?

A: There are several steps we will take to do our part to help the environment, based on your level of participation:

  • 1-100 offsets: We will try our hardest to turn off the water for an extra ten seconds while we brush our teeth.

  • 101-1000 offsets: We will think about possibly using one less square of toilet paper every time we use the rest room. So you don't have to!

  • 1001-10000 offsets: At this level, we will think about not going out to lunch for one day. Gas savings, plus savings on one less burger made that day!

  • 10000+ offsets: Premium offsets. We will consider not taking a shower for a whole week!

h/t: Versus The Mob

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Justin Trudeau is right about segregated schools

The National Post takes Justin Trudeau to task for his recent criticism of segregated schools, suggesting he read the charter of rights.

...Justin Trudeau's Friday outburst at a meeting of New Brunswick academics raises a more bizarre possibility: that even a child of the Charter's chief architect may not know what is actually in the document.

How else can one explain the incredible timing of Mr. Trudeau's rumination? If you had to choose a venue in which to suggest that the existence of separate anglophone and francophone school systems was obsolete, divisive and costly, you'd be halfcrazy to even put New Brunswick on the list. It's a place where the surviving linguistic minority was not only conquered, but terrorized and dispersed. It's the only province where linguistic equality and linguistically separate school systems are guaranteed explicitly in the Charter -- a document that devotes more of its length to language rights than it does to due process or voting.

Yet despite Trudeau's apparent ignorance of the charter's provisions on linguistic school boards in New Brunswick, fundamentally he is right. Whatever it says in the charter, segregating public school students on the basis of language is as objectionable as segregating students by race.

You can teach French in English schools and English in French schools, but most kids will finish their schooling functionally unilingual without sufficient exposure to native speakers of the language they are trying to learn. Consequently, most of the money we spend in this country on English and French second-language training is wasted.

Why not put the French and English kids together in the same school and teach them to become proficient in both French and English as Trudeau suggests?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In the rain with Trudeau and the Queen 25 years ago

It was raining that day on Parliament Hill when I and countless other proud Canadians stood in the rain to witness Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II sign the Constitution. Canada had at long last broken free of its colonial status.

Thrown into the bargain was a controversial Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although one of Trudeau's few real achievements, the charter has, nonetheless, been a disappointment. Intended to enshrine individual rights in the constitution, the charter has in many ways come up short.

First, the existence of that pesky notwithstanding clause means that governments can always override the charter if they see fit. While the argument for parliament supremacy is compelling, it is little consolation for non-francophones living in Quebec where the provincial government has repeatedly used the notwithstanding clause to circumscribe minority linguistic rights. We should not be surprised that majorities sometimes act like majorities. That's why we have a charter. Too bad that when it really counts, the rights of minorities can still be sacrificed.

Second, the charter has proven to be quite a malleable instrument in the hands of activist lawyers and judges, and has been used in ways that parliament never imagined, let alone intended. A constitution is a living document, the interpretation of which will evolve over time to reflect changes in broader society. Yet it is a fine balance between reflecting societal change and inducing it. I would argue that rather than being pulled by those changes, the charter has often been doing the pushing.

Finally, many people mistakenly believe the charter is about individual rights. It is not. We are not all equal before the law. In many cases, group rights trump individual rights. Consequently, if you are an aboriginal, a catholic or a francophone, to take three examples, you may have "rights" that the rest of us don't. In effect, individual freedom still sits at the back of the bus.

All the same, I think Canada is better off with an imperfect charter of rights and freedoms than without. For that, Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party deserve our appreciation. But please, spare me the mock indignation of Paul Martin and others that our rights are somehow threatened by a Conservative government. The charter is there to protect the rights of all Canadians, not just the favoured causes of the left. Until it does, do not be surprised that some of us do not hold it up on a pedestal.

Friday, April 13, 2007

So he goes

Kurt Vonnegut has left the planet. I hope the Tralfamadorians treat him well.

I grew up with Kurt. While my friends were reading Lord of the Rings, I was devouring Cat's Cradle, Sirens of Titan, Player Piano and Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt's fantasy world just seemed so much more real.

Given my conservative political leanings, it may surprise you that Vonnegut is my favourite novelist. In my view, however, it is a mistake to consider Vonnegut a leftist as many, including himself, do.

Vonnegut regards himself as a man of the left, but I've met many libertarians, conservatives, and objectivists who admire Vonnegut's work. Libertarians admire him because he's antiwar and distrusts government. Objectivists mostly enjoy his atheism and Bokononist satire of religion. And conservatives discern a patriotic nostalgia for small town America in some of his work. While I think that's especially true of his short stories, I've met one conservative who was taken with Vonnegut's midwestern family history in Palm Sunday. Ralph Nader has praised such "true conservatism," distinguishing it from corporatism or empire building.

Player Piano illustrates in devastating fashion the ultimate inhumanity of the welfare state, while his classic short story Harrison Bergeron unmasks liberal pretensions to equalize the human condition. Vonnegut undoubtedly cared about his fellow man, but he was not naive.

To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine,” summed up his philosophy:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

There is nothing inconsistent with conservatism in that. It is a philosophy to live by. I'll miss you Kurt.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

So much for budget secrecy

The Ontario government will bump the minimum wage to $10.25 an hour by 2010 in the provincial budget tomorrow, the Toronto Star has learned.

It comes after weeks of pressure on the government from poverty activists and the New Democrats for an immediate hike to $10 an hour from the present $8 an hour.

Instead, the increase will be phased in over three years, sources say. Next year it will jump to $8.75; in 2009 it will go to $9.25 an hour; and in 2010, to $10.25 an hour.

The cautious approach will be backed by a study to be released by Finance Minister Greg Sorbara tomorrow that warns of heavy job losses if the government were to immediately increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The truth which upsets governments

Al Gore is sticking it to the man. At least that is what they teach our kids in school. With An Inconvenient Truth on the grade 7 science curriculum, I suppose a question on my daughter's science test like this is to be expected:

Dans « An Inconvenient Truth » quelle est la vérité qui dérange les gouvernements de la Terre ? / What is the truth which upsets the planet's governments in "An Inconvenient Truth" (my translation from the original French)?

Feeding it back to them, my daughter got full marks by answering:

Que c’est notre faute que la terre est pollué assez (trop de CO2) pour réchauffé notre habitat et causé des changements qui vont finir en catastrophe si ont n’agit pas. / That it is our fault the planet is polluted enough (too much CO2) to heat up our environment and cause changes which are going to end in catastrophe if we do not act (again my translation).

Her cynicism amazes me. (The last couple of evenings she actually asked me to put on Al Gore's movie to help her sleep.) Of course, she is only telling her teachers what they want to hear.

I could not imagine myself at her age responding in a similar fashion. But then, I don't recall my teachers attempting to manipulate my views like that when I was in elementary school. That is not to say they did not attempt to inculcate shared societal values in their students, but nothing so overtly political as Al Gore's "truth". Teachers once knew where to draw the line.

While I applaud my daughter for her ability to resist and adapt (thanks, in part, to the Al Gore vaccine), it concerns me that we are effectively conditioning our children to discount anything and everything that is said by anyone in a position of authority, whether their teachers or their parents. Is it any wonder we find ourselves in a relativist morass when our kid's values and beliefs are considered fair game to be manipulated and shaped to fit some teacher's agenda?

Everything is spin. Even science. Al Gore knows it. Our kids do too.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Vaccine for An Inconvenient Truth

I was a little concerned when I learned my 13-year old daughter recently viewed Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in her grade 7 science class. It seems the film was presented as fact, without a hint of doubt about its content. Somehow I'm not surprised.

Fortunately, my daughter had been vaccinated against the Goracle plague that is sweeping the country, having previously watched the Manbearpig episode of South Park.

I asked her what she thought about what Al Gore was saying about global warming. She replied, "I think he's exaggerating Dad."

Smart kid.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Gerard Kennedy leaves Liberal ladies on sinking ship

As the S.S. Stéphane Dion heads into the reef, Gerard Kennedy has pushed ahead of the Liberal ladies of Parkdale-High Park -- Sarmite Bulte and Elaine Flis -- to hop into the sturdiest lifeboat available to take him to dry land. Despite his purported progressive credentials and entreaties from his leader to increase the number of women Liberal candidates in the next election, it seems Kennedy is only too happy to leave the woman behind.

There had been speculation that Kennedy would seek a federal seat in Western Canada (he was born in Manitoba and ran the country’s first food bank in Edmonton), to give the Liberals a strong candidate in the Conservative Party-dominated West, but in the end it was his roots to his previous constituency that were the strongest.

“If I’d been leader I’d have had a different kind of look at this perhaps, in the public interest,” he said. “[But] in my heart of hearts, this is the riding that I know best.

What else can he say? The rest of us know the real reason: under Stéphane Dion, Kennedy's prospects of getting elected in Western Canada are slim at best. Watch for other "star" Liberal candidates to similarly retreat to safe urban-Toronto seats.

Kennedy's decision to run in Parkdale-High Park, however, must be immensely disappointing to Elaine Flis.

It has been reported that Elaine Flis, the daughter of former Liberal MP Jesse Flis (who represented the riding from 1979-84 and 1988-97) would also seek the local nomination. Kennedy claimed to have spoken to Ms. Flis earlier in the year and promised to take nothing for granted in the nomination process.

I spoke briefly to Flis and she indicated she will not contest the nomination, so Kennedy is likely to be acclaimed. Getting elected, however, might not be so easy. NDP MP Peggy Nash is a tireless worker and is firmly entrenched in the riding. Ultimately, Parkdale-High Park may still be represented by a woman MP after the next election, just not a Liberal one.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The end of DRM?

Steve Jobs may have made Bev Oda's job easier. Balancing the different views on digital rights management (DRM) has been a key factor holding up Oda's legislation on copyright. DRM is used to protect music, movies and other digital content. In a recent essay, Jobs envisages a world without DRM. He makes a convincing case:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

All the music on my iPod is DRM free. Virtually all of it is ripped from my CD collection. My experiences with protected content have not been positive. I refuse to buy it. I only buy CDs.

I do have two DRM-protected tracks (Iggy Pop's I'm a Conservative and Vaccination Scar by the Tragically Hip) on my computer that I once downloaded from PureTracks with a digital coupon I received with some cheese I bought. Unfortunately I have been unable to play them. I've "refreshed" the licence at least three times, but they no longer work. That is far too much trouble to play something for which I own the rights. DRM has got to go.

Steve Jobs is on the right track. DRM is not worth the hassle for consumers, and its ability to protect the rights of creators is seriously in question. I hope Oda is listening. Protecting DRM has no place in Canadian copyright leglislation.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Culturally assertive

It seems that the people of the town of Herouxville, Quebec have been reading Mark Steyn's new book. Not only are they showing confidence in their culture, they are being downright culturally assertive.

A code of standards sent to the federal and provincial governments last week by Herouxville's municipal council has put the town of 1,300 inhabitants, about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal, at the centre of Quebec's increasingly divisive debate over integrating minorities.

Among the information the municipality asks federal and provincial officials to distribute to potential immigrants:

  • It is forbidden to stone women, burn them alive, throw acid on them or circumcise girls.
  • Consumption of alcohol is common in Herouxville, as is dancing. "At the end of every year, we decorate a tree with balls and tinsel and some lights. This is normally called 'Christmas decorations' or also 'Christmas tree.' "
  • Boys and girls swim together in public pools.
  • Veils are not welcome. "The only time you may mask or cover your face is during Halloween."
In another time, this would not need to have been said. My how things have changed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Knock knock

Nobody's home. Or so it would seem.

RightGirl has been knocking. I should probably answer, but I've been a little distracted as of late. No need to get into it here. But point taken. I need to get blogging again.

So let's ease into it by starting with this:

This one's easy, since it's all about you and since it requires you to write the very first answer that comes to mind. Simply copy and paste the following three questions then answer them on your blog or, if you don't have a blog of your own, answer them in the comments here. Bloggers should then tag three other people to answer the questions as well, and be sure they know who to blame (Me!).

1. My: You've heard the saying "I'd give my right arm for". So, what would you give your right arm for?

2. Me: What's one word that describes how you want people to see you?

3. Meme: If you could be any blogger, which blogger would you be? and why?

1. After reading Mark Steyn's America Alone over the holidays, I'd give my right arm to return to my ignorant pre-911 state, completely unaware of the Islamist threat to our way of life. Although Steyn makes an unbelievablely good case as to why we should be concerned, I am still resisting it. It makes me too uncomfortable. Make it go away and tell me it's all a dream.

2. Who cares what others think? That's what I tell my 13-year old daughter. All I can hope is that people see me for what I am, not what I am pretending to be. In any event, I'm not a particularly good actor, so what you see is what you get.

3. Of all the great bloggers on my blogroll, I admire Andrew Coyne the most. After reading his columns and posts, it almost seems redundant for me to blog.

Still, Coyne does miss his target from time to time in order to give me a shot at it. His latest column is a case in point. It is one thing to be principled, but sanctimony can wear thin. Power without principle is dangerous, but principle without power is next to useless. Ultimately, democracy is built on compromise. Without a majority mandate, Harper is simply doing what he has to do. While it may not be conservative nirvana, we are still all better for it.

Now its my turn to tag someone. How about I wake up a few other dormant bloggers? Chandrasutra, Jason Bo Green and Toronto Tory, wakey wakey, it's your turn.