Posts Tagged ‘canada

I never voted for Jack Layton, but did, when I was young, vote NDP. I was a union organizer, and in that capacity met many hard-wired NDP members. The NDP is unique to Canada, its loyal membership recognizing that party gave us socialized medicine, stood up for worker’s rights, and consistently and solidly stood by their beliefs come hell or high water.

Layton impressed, even so recently, as so healthy and so strong, even with that cane in the last election, as he recovered from hip surgery, which may have weakened him enough that his prostrate cancer was given enough chance to spread. In a shocking television appearance in which he appeared gaunt, defeated, and sickly, his eyes had the death look of late-stage cancer patients. His great confident voice was gone. It was a shadow voice as he announced he had to take time from work to get better. I seemed to be one of the few who had the dread that he would never return to work at all.

Jack Layton impressed with passion and dedication. How cruel to have won the keys to Stornaway, taking the New Democratic Party to become Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition for the first time in its history, and just three short months later to lose his life to cruel cancer. Our thoughts are with his family. Jack Layton impressed as the one man in Canadian federal politics that was on your side, come hell or high water.


Someone, God knows who, bought my breakfast this morning. I went to pay and the waiter said, “It’s covered.” I have no idea who paid for it. Thank you, whoever you are. You made my day. It’s been a great morning.

I drive a lot to write.

From home, 3 1/2 hours north, hoping the weather is good, so it takes only that long and not more. Last week a 2 1/2 hour trip I take regularly became a six hour slog. I gave up at one point and pulled over for a sleep until the blizzard quit. I watched small cars and larger trucks, most with hazard lights blinking, as they powered through the flurries. Across from me, on the rural intersection, a commercial haul truck did the same thing I did, pull over until the flurries calmed. Why take a chance? I slept for an hour or so. When I woke the snowstorm had passed. I took to the road again.

When there is snow on the road, light snow whips up every time a heavy truck goes by. It makes seeing the highway impossible for a few seconds. Two or three trucks in a row make it harrowing. You can’t speed. Some do. I don’t know how they do it. Speed, and it will catch up to you. Once, years ago, I counted 27 cars and trucks in the ditch in a a half-hour stretch I’d driven a thousand times. Winter driving is different.

Yesterday the roads were good for the entire drive, no snow fell, and for the most part the roads were clear. Only on  a few sections did light snow swirl up and make seeing impossible for those precious few too-long seconds when the highway cannot be seen.

I came up to take a single photograph. There is more to that, a story I could  tell another time, perhaps, but how it was taken is simply the way things happen in the communities I cover. Then, after talking to people I knew, jotting things in my small notebook, taking a few more spontaneous photographs, I drove another hour and a half to an office to type and to download my photographs to the print shop where they were published this morning. It was a sparse day’s work: four stories and a half dozen photographs. I started late, 7:00 a.m., and finished the day at 11:30 p.m. First days of the week are typically long.

It will be another long day today. I’m chasing stories all day. I have a municipal meeting in this community at 7:00 p.m., then I’ll be writing it up right after.

It is -36 Celcius in the community I just left yesterday. Here, an hour and a half south, it doesn’t feel that cold. But this morning it was at least -30. I could tell by the clear clank when I closed my truck door; it makes a different sound when it gets cold. When it is warmer it is a much fuller sound.

It’s almost noon. The Environment Canada website tells me the temperature outside is -29. It’s a beautiful day. No cloud. Full brilliant sun. Gorgeous virgin-white snow covers everything, everywhere. It is the sort of day you thrill to be alive just to see it.

And now, back to work.

Anti-democracy mobs burned Canada's parliament on the 25th of April, 1849.

Canada had its own Tahrir Square, its own rebellion that won democracy. It happened, not on January 25 (#Jan25) but but on April 25. The year was 1849.

A hotly debated bill was passed in the Canadian legislature, then in Montreal. A rebellion a dozen years before, in 1837, had damaged property of residents of Lower Canada, now Quebec, like today, largely French-speaking. The bill promised money to repair damages from that rebellion. The bill passed, infuriating the English of Upper Canada. It was democracy, but those against the bill would have none of it. Their last hope was that the Governor-General would not sign the bill into law. He did, and rioting began.

Those who were against the bill believed those who rebelled in 1837 were traitors to Queen Victoria and should never be compensated. They were loyal to the Crown, and not to democracy. They were the elite of Canada, wealthy, many owing their positions to their pedigree. True democracy, responsible government, was not supported by them, and here was an example of what democracy could do. Furious, they burned parliament to the ground.

It happened quickly. A large mob gathered, further fueled their anger with speeches, and marched to the parliament where government members were debating. The mob angrily broke the windows of parliament, used a ladder as a battering ram and entered, overpowering those inside. After they burned parliament five days of rioting followed, damaging other property. There was looting. A coup was feared, local militia were armed. Trust was gone. A leading government minister, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, was attacked by mobs and rescued by soldiers. Both the government and the head of the Canadian armed forces, Lieutenant-General Sir Benjamin d’Urban, said they would not fire on the rioters.

It took great restraint. Lord Elgin, the governor-general, the highest ranking government official, the representative of Queen Victoria, was attacked  by a mob in his carriage. The mob stoned it. Elgin, surrounded, was rescued by soldiers as well.

The members of parliament bravely walked through the streets for a meeting at a hotel, a temporary parliament. The mob blocked them, stoned them, threw anything they could. Soldiers separated the two sides. The government met, and there Elgin said, “A free people…can discover…the best security..for their rights and liberties.”

The mob was not through. When Governor-General Elgin left the meeting, the mob attacked him again, and nearly destroyed his carriage. For four months he was under guard while tempers cooled. Elgin would continue to use the same near-destroyed carriage to open parliaments for the rest of his term of office, as a reminder of how dear democracy is, and how near it came to being lost in Canada, just at its birth.

Eighteen years later, July 1, 1967, Canada was born, with the asserted stance that  parliament, and therefore the people, were supreme.

Every free people faces a moment that determines how much they want democracy. Ours began on the 25th day on a month long ago.

Some news items become household conversation, then at work,  fodder for water cooler grazing. These issues are bigger than themselves. They are elephants released from envelopes and cannot be stuffed back in.

Helena (not just Helen) Geurgis, the former beauty pageant contestant and mall soap peddler sued her pageant way back when. Now she’s a federal cabinet minister. Reportedly she aimed legal sights at Air Canada somehow thinking she was victim after she yelled at airport workers and called the PEI community she was trying to fly out of a “shithole”. She was “working her ass off” for us, she said, apparently. Must have been hard work indeed as she yelled at a staffer to fetch her shoes. Must have been so tired. I wonder if she still wears that beauty pageant crown or just abstractly feels its on her head still. It must be tight.

There’s more written about and said about Miss Simcoe-Grey, sorry, it’s Mrs. but more about that in a minute. I mention all this only because one must. Otherwise, those who scan these things would think it’s not an issue at all if I didn’t write about it.

While we’re at it, let’s quickly pen in her husband, too, Rahim Jaffer, former MP, again Conservative, somehow walking out of court with a cocaine possession charge tossed out. Again, it’s been written about, in is it really-us-and-them fashion. But, that’s what good lawyers are for, I suppose.

Again, apologies all round, I only mention it all because if I didn’t, someone perusing this blog might think, well if I didnt mention it there’s no issue.

And actually there is. This blog is written in Alberta, the bastion of Conservatism.

Here’s a prediction for you. If Guegis isn’t tossed overboard with the garbage, crown and all, Rahim Jaffer will only be the first Alberta Conserative MP to lose his or her seat. This issue is that big. Actually, I take that back. It’s bigger.

The pair really are beyond words, but so soon after her husband should have laid low, Miss Simcoe-in-grey really illustrated to us peons who’s important around here. One would think we couldn’t vote.

That and I haven’t mentioned the letter writing. My goodness. There is something rather gallling about that. But skipping nearly to the end, it was a newspaper response of sorts to it all that could only come from a Conservative source. The gist of it was, the Liberals have done it, too.

Really, now. Not being a Liberal, I’d still venture to say at no time in Canadian history has there ever, ever ever, I mean, ever, been anything quite like this.

And with all that ugly mess mentioned, I’ll wash my hands. The anonymous staff-praises-Helena (not just Helen) Guergis through coordinated letters to newspapers after being ordered to fetch her shoes must come later.

Michaëlle Jean, the immigrant Port-au-Prince born beauty and later tele-journalist who now holds Canada’s highest government office, has, as nature thankfully intended for her good looks and graces, no balls.
In fact, to verify such recognition of her official potential pin-up status, early on as Governor-General she declared, “I am hot!” to an Ottawa MP-press annual dinner where the government officials almost ritually make fun of themselves.
This past week the reins of government were thrust into her small hands to determine if a just-elected prime minister’s government will live or die.

One option provided her- in banana replublic style- just shut down parliament altogether to the PM can avoid a vote of non-confidence. Another option- grant a tri-party coalition of the second-best (declared so in the national election just six weeks ago) get to run things.

Not to second guess Her Excellency, but it was an opportunity to show the importance and necessity of a strong, wise and precedent-aware Governor-General.
First, no prime minister should be able to shut down parliament to avoid a vote of non-confidence. Now that it has been done, and G-G Michaëlle Jean has granted the prorogue sought by Prime Minister Harper, future prime ministers can use the same tactic citing historical precedence. Not a good thing in a parliamentary democracy.
There was, however, no doubt that Michaëlle Jean would grant his wish.
Her Exellency is hot indeed, but strong-willed she is not.

Her eyes are light as a bird, searching for safe perches of approval. In one photograph of her with Harper, she looks more nurse than Governor-General, her eyes full of compassion and concern.
Her role was to tell Steven Harper to face his music.
She should have gathered all the leaders at Rideau Hall, and read her decision sprinkled with history and precedent so future G-Gs, hot or not, will have a blue print to go by.
Her third decision to be made was whetherto grant the tri-party coalition the government benches.
That’s a tougher decision.
The sitting prime minister of Canada is a trained economist and disciplined leader who has just lead one of the longest-lived minority governments in Canadian history. Not a bad choice during a world financial crisis. The alternative is an opposition leader who has already declared he is leaving the leadership of his party, and who would lead, only for an interim period til March, two left of centre parties with the support of a third party whose sole purpose is to promote the independence of the only province it runs in. The coalition announced plans to spend millions right away as an national economic stimulus package.
The recent announcement that 71,000 jobs have been lost in Canada includes Southern Ontario’s automobile manufacturing woes and Elections Canada layoffs. Take away those elements and Canada looks like an oasis of economic stability compared to the United States. Why the hurry? Why not wait for the January budget?

The mother of all G-Gs, the aging Queen Elizabeth II, is filmed as she visits her horses, a kerchief ’round her hair and tied up under her chin. She wears a longish unflattering coat. She doesn’t look like a queen in this garb. She looks very ordinary, like a charwoman, more dressed to clean the stable than to rein it. But as a Queen, day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, she does a remarkable job at the pointy end. Her decisions are right. History will be kind.

Meanwhile, her representative in Canada, Michaëlle Jean, has reduced her Governor-General’s role to charwoman. She has declined to take a strong stand that would provide a historical corner-stone of precedent. Instead she cleaned up after Harper made his mess, an unelected official shutting down Canada’s elected parliament, following the opposition outcry to Harper’s attempt to take away millions of dollars in government grants away from federal political parties. A good idea, but the timing and lack of consultation revealed him to be a mean and petty man. It was an observation made long-ago by the opposition, now apparent to all. The actions of the opposition leaders following that decision (that was certain to provoke) has destroyed Harper’s once statue-like image of a strong, disciplined leader. He is wounded, and so is Michaëlle Jean, and in fact, so are they all.
There is a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps it is this. Never tell a socialist they can no longer have free money. You’ll damn well pay for it, and Harper has.

And perhaps one more lesson. If we continue to have a Governor-General, and it is an old post, older than the presidency of the United States by more than a 130 years- going back to Augustin de Mesy who began his term as Governor General of New France in 1663- it should be an elected position if the powers include shutting down an elected House of Commons. Ten years before the term of de Mesy began, the original House of Commons in England was shut down by a man named Oliver Cromwell, whose ambition included replacing even the monarch. The shutdown in that instance lasted seven years. The shutdown in this case will last seven weeks. You’d think parliamentary democracy would have evolved somewhat more in 355 years.

I’ve seen a lot of Conservative ads on television, beginning two weeks before Prime Minister Steven Harper asked Governor-General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve parliament. However, I can’t remember one single Liberal ad since the campaign began on September 7. I had to turn to You Tube to find one.

I hope the ad was not supposed to be endearing, because it’s not. It does look like it is supposed to be a wake-up call. Nothing wrong with a wake-up call, but where is the motivation to vote for these people?

The message here is not a statement of concern. That’s the problem.

Political messages manage, if successful, to fall in line with concerns of the viewing public. The clapping hands (I really hate to use this as a comparison, but it came immediately to mind when I heard it) sound like storm troopers marching. I was puzzled at first, then a bit reassured when I saw Stephane Dion (beside him Bob Rae and Michael Ignatief, and in a later shot, Ken Dryden) joining in on the Russian clap-pause-clap-pause-clap theme.

Yes, yes, I’m sure everyone cares about the whole God-damned global warming thing.

But this ad is even more irritating than Rich Mercer and his supremely smug presentation in those “one ton challenge” ads he was paid handsomely for.

I get it. Global warming is a problem. Species are threatened, the earth is warming, we’re oil addicted, and we could eventually turn this planet into a Venus look-alike. Yeah, I get it, but I still have to drive to work, keep warm in winter and I still want to fly in a jet once a year to somewhere else. All that costs money. (A ton of money.) Taxing my doing it is not a welcome thought. Sound harsh? I know I am spewing carbon. Saying Stephane Dion and his M.P. friends each heat a bigger house than I do is a poor answer but it’s still there as a thought.

I may be becoming immune to listening to crisis warnings. In my life I’ve been informed we could blow ourselves up with a button push, turn Earth into a toxic desert, turn the oceans into giant dead zones, kill a species a day, and create planet-eating black holes with the Hadron Collider. I’m crisis-proof. I don’t need more doom messages. I need ear muffs so I don’t have to listen to more doom messages.

The Green Shift plan of the LIberals hasn’t been explained well. Tell me that I’ll play less in income taxes and I’ll be taxed on carbon outputs instead, and maybe it’s a sell. Maybe. But don’t clap your bleeping hands about it.

The Libs should have sold the strong points of their Green Shift plan. Lower income taxes.

By contrast we have Steven Harper in a sweater vest who hasn’t shown much sympathy at all for global warming, but he sounds like a regular guy. And you know, that’s the whole key right there. It’s like the pilot of a plane in turbulence. You know he wants to land the thing safely just as much as you do. You’re in it together. He understands you want someone in control who knows the regular guy fears and can fly the plane. Here is the Steven Harper sweater ad:

It starts off patriotic. The flag waving. Then the ad makes patriotism equal to love of family with three words superimposed on the heart-warming scene of that slow-waving Canadian flag: family is everything. There is not one word of policy or politics in the whole thing. The whole message is one ordinary people understand. Love of country and love of family. Full stop. Steven Harper as a regular guy.

The regular guy theme may be a chief reason in the United States Sarah Palin raises such excitement. Though obviously not a guy, she is “one of them” in being a self-proclaimed hockey mom and former small-town mayor who says she has a record of kicking crony ass. She lives in an ordinary house, drives an ordinary car, has ordinary kids, has a husband with an ordinary job.

Staying with the U.S. election for a moment, one right-wing columnist’s blogsite, Michelle Malkin, has had featured a small bumper-sticker-like cartoon of Barak Obama with one four letter word, SNOB. I believe the charge is damning this year, in either Canada or the U.S. This is the year of regular folks. This is the year of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Experts can’t be trusted. There have been Enrons and Bear Sterns enough. Ordinary folks, people we understand, have to be in charge.

The sweater-wearing Harper talking about his family is reassuring and definitely not the image a snob. (Actually Harper has come across a supreme snob which is why the whole flag-sweater-family thing smells so much of gimmick even though it works.) Stephane Dion performing a Russian hand clap among shots of foxes and snails and polar bears along with a glance at the ever-snobbish face of Ignatief spells SNOB with capital letters.

In the U.S. the mantra is “change”. In Canada, the mantra is “trust”. That sweater vest of Steven Harper is meant to make the man look cozy (or at the very least warm a cold heart). Cozy equals trust. It means come on over for coffee. It’s okay. You’re welcome. Really. Clapping hands loudly means lets get this damn game started already, or, wake up, you big stupid cow and get off my lawn.

What in the name of our warming earth possessed the Liberals to think this Russian hand clap ad would either raise enthusiasm or get a message of trust across?

Who knows? Maybe it didn’t run. I haven’t seen it on tv. Maybe the ad is only a reject from a ad company who only suggested it. If they suggested it seriously, they should be fired. Harper’s sweater may be the most obvious gimmick since the prize in Cracker Jacks, but it worked then and it’s working now.

Now here is something useful.
Save Cell Communications, a Toronto company, is in the business of saving you money on your cell phone bill.
Apparently, says Jamie Chadwick, the managing director of Save Cell Communications, wireless providers in Canada have thousands of plans, most of which are not advertised.

I became aware of Save Cell Communications today when I managed to catch a bit of the interview of Chadwick by Howard Green of Business News Network (BNN). When I saw the look of suprise on Green’s face I started taking notes.

“Don’t the cell phone companies hate you guys?” he asked.

I just caught the end of a portion of the interview where it was being explained Save Cell has a site for questions being answered that has either registered 900,000 hits or has 900,000 resgistered users. The site was created as so many people were asking the same questions.

How does Save Cell make money?

This is the rich part.

Save Cell Communications makes money from your savings from your present cell phone plan. That’s how they get paid, either 60 per cent of what you save in the first six months or 100 per cent of what you save in the first three months.
Everyone knows Canadians pay through the nose for cell phone plans. Our rates are much higher than the rates in other countries. I could turn the air blue with my experience with cell phone providers. While Save Cell is a Canadian company, the operate North America-wide so Americans, I guess, can save, too.
What Save Cell Communications require is your last two or three statements from your wireless provider and an your okay to let Save Cell find a plan that’s right for you. Then you start saving.

Here’s the BNN schedule, a July Globe and Mail story on Save Cell Communications, and the Save Cell Communications website. The website is a disappointment, its basically a sign-here form with the barest of information, but I trust BNN.

Thank you for reading Aardvarkcola



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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence