Thursday, March 31, 2011

State of the City Address

Sometimes cities experience bad times - not only economically, but also crime rates, which can sometimes spike for no apparent reason. Edmonton, however, is experiencing a complete anomaly. Three times last year's homicide rate, two fatal police shootings in as many months, and a police service that has to go public just to find a suitable chief candidate when the previous chief quits for family reasons.

It is possible the lack of strong direction from the force is a motivating factor, especially at such a critical time in Edmonton's development. The only notable statement from the acting Police chief has been a public apology to the Somali community for complaining about the lack of helpful witnesses to a shooting, but a strong head, especially one taking over a force, should make a noticeable entrance to ensure the continuity of service. It was not long ago that Mayor Mandel felt compelled to post fliers denouncing the high level of violence in the city, and imploring people to feel more loyalty to the city, and stop being such idiots. This type of tactic occasionally works, but the city seems to rely on it too much (this was similar to their tactic on car idling, which failed) and the downside to the tactic is that it can be undermined if there is an external motivating factor provoking the behavior that people don't want, or if the "instigator" of the change loses face. It is possible the "stop violence" campaign worked while Mandel was a new Mayor, active enough to lead the city, but now that he is no longer a novelty, and we have no strong direction from the Police Chief, the progress that we enjoyed has been undone.

The Edmonton Police Service's annual police report indicates one of the main areas of attention this year is an emphasis on reduced crime and victimization, manifest by a 4% reduction in the eight major areas of crime (Assault; Homicide; Robbery; Sexual Assault; Break and Enter; Theft from Vehicle; Theft of Vehicle; Theft Over $5000) No numbers are available for the other areas since they are less publicized and reported, but the outrageous increase in homicide could effectively undermine any other drop in numbers. The chief of police is listed as the primary instigator for this initiative, but since he is listed as such for many of the initiatives, it is likely this is purely symbolic.

Some people might suggest that this increase in fatal police incidents is due to lack of training, but the police report for 2011 indicates that all officers were given a level of force training refresher (level one and two) during the months of January,February and March. It is possible this either led to a "priming effect", whereby violence is suggested in the minds of the officers through the training, and they misjudge situations to be more dangerous than they actually are, because of the preconditioning, or the use of force model itself needs to be re-evaluated. Since April, May, and June are earmarked for note-taking refreshers, it should be possible to check for priming effect.

One thing is for certain: Something has to change, preferably soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wryagra: Curing your Electile Dysfunction

I am assuming the election fun has started, as evidenced by the massive conservative banner hanging out by the highway turn-off for my hometown, but other than paper signs, I can see no indication that a genuine struggle for the 'throne' is underway.

What do you mean? There's been dozens of talking points!
Nothing really serious though.
The conservatives started off with a promise to maybe introduce income splitting for families with kids, possibly, if they can balance the budget, but the very notion is designed to benefit the upper middle class society where one parent works for a very high wage, and the other stays at home and raises the kids - it's enough to make one wonder if we have a population drop in Canada. "C'mon Canadians! Reproduce for Harper!"

The Liberals, not to be outdone in treating voters like they are idiots, announced that, if elected, they would offer a $1000 non-repayable cash 'gift' to students, which sounds like a pretty good idea because, hell, I'd love a cool thousand! In order to do this, however, they would be cancelling the tuition and textbook tax credits, which lowers the overall actual financial gain dramatically. Not to forget the gift would come off the amount students would be allowed to take out as a student loan. Obviously it would be more profitable to simply transfer money from a loan to a gift, but considering the credit issue as well, it just means this boon has its serious downside.

The green party is starting at a minor disadvantage since their leader is a woman (Females are still showing a marked discrepancy in political activity), but they exacerbated the problem so fragrantly by having her promise 'greater civility in parliament' that she has been effectively hamstrung by her own good intentions. It's true parliament is nasty, brutish, and long, but a lot of people, maybe even the majority, associate that kind of 'can-do' attitude with success and ability. Her dithering about the second-class treatment she received for the debate has certainly not helped matters.

The Bloc Quebecois is fighting the current Canadian exasperation at Quebec's antics, but they'll still likely get a decent showing for their regional affinity. Probably no point to memorizing "Prime Minister Duceppe" though, rumors of his departure after this election is undermining the strongest point they have - his experience.

As for the NDP, well, I'll just leave this here:

Needless to say, I have been following the election in the same way a mother follows her small child who is carrying around their full potty. It's possible they're just proud of themselves for what they have produced, but it's more likely they are going to smear everything until we are all neck deep in shit.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rejected: Political Satire

Many years ago I was introduced to perhaps the first Internet meme I had ever encountered: Don Herzfeldt's "Rejected"; a series of commercials he had produced for products that were "never aired", as the film tells us with the only written 'raised eyebrow' tone I have ever encountered as if to say, "isn't that interesting..." while further affixing its tinfoil hat. It has taken me almost a lifetime to unpack the heavy political implications of this piece, nearly driving me mad in the process, but now, for your perusal and approval, I submit: "Rejected: Political Satire".

The darkened introduction, somber tone, and grandiose music should have tipped us off to the ground-breaking work we were about to witness, but we had merely giggled in complacent ignorance. The first scene displays the homunculus of the common citizen plaintively outlining his struggle, as a small bowl of food lies at his feet, that "[his] spoon is too big". The discrepancy of resource to available transmission source is clearly evident by the exaggerated utensil and diminutive dish. One of the problems pervasive in current politics is finding the best way to deliver products and services to the masses, and this is clearly demonstrated in the man's situation. He repeats this exhortation, helpless in his plight, as the typical citizen is in situations of such structural disorder, until he is joined on the scene by a gigantic banana, who declares, "I am a banana", representing the typical citizens' groups who have taken NIMBY (not in my backyard) too far, and now use BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone). This scene mocks the conventional political groups' impotance to alleviate the average citizen's distress by their stubborn adherence to protocol.

The next scene shows two average people discussing daily schedules. One reminds another that "Tuesday" is coming, and inquires if he has brought his coat, which can be read to mean an election is forthcoming (Tuesdays are popular election days), and the man wishes to know if his compatriot will vote - to which he replies that he lives "in a giant bucket", symbolically asking the man why voting would matter in such a desolate situation. At this moment a hideous growth forms from the voter's head, spouting meaningless invective, symbolizing the dominant party's incomprehensible rhetoric and near strangle-hold on the typical voter's thought process. The non-voter cusses in response, which is the average non-partisan response to the typical garbage spouted by thoughtless party supporters, and a pig flies by, meaning the day the average citizen becomes cognizant of their greater obligations and powerlessness in the face of political parties will be a day the impossible happens.

Mr. Hertzfeldt continues his relentless criticism of political parties in the next scene, where a group of bored-looking individuals stand around doing nothing, while wearing ridiculous and extravagant hats underneath a sign that commands "Silly hats only", representing the arbitrary and preposterous rules assigned to party affiliation and the length of tomfoolery to which the average politicians will go simply to gain a vote. An average man, represented by his mundane head-wear, wanders onto the scene, to the astonishment of the present people.It appears, initially, that all is well, the man has penetrated the sacred hall of politicians, until we uncover the product logo to show the man being horrible beaten by the special-hat-wearing crowd; thus is the fate of uninitiated interlopers in the conventional political system.

The next scene begins when Mr. Hertzfeldt addresses us directly, telling us that we are watching the [PRODUCT REDACTED] Channel, and now "angry ticks fire out of [his] nipples", whereupon we observe a group of typical children being harassed by a large cloud of angry ticks that have flown out of the chest of a larger man. Again, even new, unsuspecting voters, are tyrannized by the passionately political majority, to their detriment and subsequent removal from the voting scene.

Political debates are examined in the next scene, which shows two average men discussing ordinary things, even though their voices clearly do not match their mouth movements; the real arguments and political struggles are hidden from the average viewer in favor of ridiculous discussion that are mentally accessible to the average person. The two then begin to scream horrifically at each other, and are drenched in one party's blood, suggesting that Don feels any obvious 'victor' in political debates must have been predetermined and a set-up to placate the masses while appealling to man's savage nature.

A common feature of political fear-mongering is the fear of 'foreigners' or 'strange ideas' which are represented by a literal alien in the next scene, who comes down simply to steal the eyeballs of an average man standing on the scene.  The average man then walks into the most mundane of objects, a yield sign, displaying the obvious ridiculousness in politician's suggestion we would become insensible to even the most normal of situations should we admit foreign people in. The rampant crime and murder that is often suggested as a side effect of immigration is displayed in the next scene as a man rips the stomach out of another and beats him to death with it, then declares he is the "Queen of France". Mr. Hertzfeldt seems to suggest we should confront these absurd beliefs about crime, immigration and political policy. Furthering his assessment of political policy (skip this one if you are sensitive to child endangerment) he displays the extent to which we are beholden to building regulations (and more generally, frivilous bylaws) that are insensitive to the average person's situation, and may even destroy precious moments, such as a child's first step, by showing a baby tumbling down a never-ending set of stairs.

Unfortunately the next scene is in some unfathomable language, showing a man speaking to his child and representing the incomprehensible system by which political power or ability is passed from parent to child, never allowing in other people, and the rampant nepotism present in our society.

The strain of this political environment is clearly too much, according to Mr. Hertzfeldt, as he shows the world beginning to descend into anarchy and chaos, with massive structures crumbling and the whole system dissolving into madness, which is obviously the fate of the man who gazed too plainly into the truths of the political reality facing us in modern times, as he himself, represented as a small rabbit-eared man, gazes sky-ward in horror, while the scene crumbles into nothing around him. We should pay tribute to the strength of a man who sought to bring us face to face with the horrible nature of the political system as it relates to our powerlessness. Bitter films, indeed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Parliamentary Hot House

I sometimes run parlivu in the background while writing posts, and it is a plodding, soothing, sort of background murmuring, with the occasional heckle or thump, but today this could not possibly be pushed out of the limelight; people hollering, slamming desks, and generally getting their raucous fervor up so furiously that the government might need to pass a bill authorizing a bowl of heart medication to be passed around the house like popcorn. I even wish I was bilingual enough to not need to listen to the translators, since you tend to miss heckling that way (there was also one point where the screaming was so loud the translator simply said "Inaudible").

The situation? The government is so close to being found guilty of contempt that it keeps knocking it's elbow on it; the opposition has made a motion of non-confidence which is, as we speak, hotly debated in the house, and it's look like we should gear  up for an election in probably May, barring some form of Deus ex politicum machina. The fighter planes the conservatives desired have their first target of fire: the Conservative government. It may be their last target, however.

The conservatives are screaming to have their defense heard over the shouting, stomping, hollering, and what sounded at one point (I actually had to check) like a riot. The main defense they are hiding behind, like I did as a small child under my covers, is that Canadians purportedly do not want an election, conveniently ignoring the fact that they also don't want a shitty government.

The government takes a surprising tact, pointing out the fact that the Liberals, NDP, and bloc said they would not form a coalition, but are now working closely together.

Carson is being used as a talking point as well, "being investigated by the RCMP" is definitely not a good point for the Conservatives. But so far my favorite rhetorical question: "Can the Prime Minister take the oil sands out of his eyes?"

Rona Ambrose (her mouth looks so strange when she talks) placidly defends their decision to remove customs tariffs on importing ships, a move unfavorable in southern Ontario where a large part of the economy is based on shipyards.

The Prime Minister's decision not to attend today, with his previous decisions to prorogue government during times of hard questions, makes it seem like he is disposed towards  running away from problems.

This unscientific CBC survey seems to suggest people, or at least CBC readers, are 50/50 in favor of an election. Poll: Do you want there to be a federal election right now?

It was surprisingly closer than I had thought, but the vote of non-confidence in the Conservative government was passed (despite a "nay" Del Mastro / Dykstra fist-bump [now called "the fist bump heard 'round the world"]) at 12:22, March 25th, 2011. Quoth Rosie Barton: "This House is done."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You got Your Religion in my Education!

Donna Hunter, from my very own town of Morinville, doesn't want her children to receive a catholic education. The problem is the only public school in town is catholic, and they ignored her requests for secular education. So she went to the school board, the supposedly impartial overseer of education, and they offered her (in their own words) 7 solutions; 5 of which involve something called a 4X4 (I have no idea how this would help), and the other two involve busing her children to a different school district in a different town so they could attend secular classes. She balked at the request, preferring to remain active in her children's education and let her children learn in the town they live in, so she went to the minister for education, Dave Hancock; his response was that she should continue to talk to the board, that they should "work it out".

When she asked for a census, to see if the demand is present for a separate school, they denied her that as well, although I can understand their rationale - a board can't jump at every request with a census, they are awfully expensive and occasionally ridiculous. But that just means it is up to us, people who actually care about the education their children will get, to write in to demand a census, once it is obvious there is a reasonable demand for it, the board should do further investigation

Their rational for offering only faith-based education is that 46% of  Morinville residents identify themselves as Catholic, and that 30% of students identify as such, so it makes sense to aim their education at the majority of attendants. 

She made the request in January and is only now, at the start of the school year registrations, being told that her request is denied, so she has no time to try anything else - it's another school or another year of religious education for her kids. If this bothers you like it bothers me:
Contact Dave Hancock, Minister of Education or Lauri-Ann Turnbull, chairwoman for the Greater St Albert Catholic School Board and ask them to at least look into providing secular education for this area. As someone who hopes to send her kids to school in Morinville one day, I would be awful upset if the school board ignored my wishes for my children.

Dear Dave Hancock;
As a resident of Morinville, and a citizen in the area of the Greater St Albert Catholic School District I would like to press upon you the growing need for secular education in this area. Please encourage the school board to recognize the needs of all of its constituents, not just the Catholic ones, with a census to determine the demand for a secular school.
Thank you for your time.

Dear Lauri-Ann Turnbull;
As a resident of Morinville that hopes to have children in the Greater St Albert Catholic School Division one day, I would like to press upon you the growing need for secular education in this area. The notion of continually busing the children of dissenting parents to other school divisions is unfeasible in the long term. Please conduct a census to determine the demand for a secular school in this area, and then act accordingly.
Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Budgety Hands at Arm's Length

So you are running a country, and the next election might be a close one; you really have to make sure you get everyone out to vote because polls seem to suggest you have the majority, you just need to widen the lead.
What do you do?

Ramp up controversy and spin the "election" buzz for as long as possible.
The budget isn't anything special; just a variation on the same song and dance we've seen every year. More money here for this and that, growth, long-term assets, etc. The difference is just in the focus, not the strategy. The only object is one of location, rather than anything substantial. (To be honest, I would rather if they didn't focus so much on job creation; we were accustomed to the exciting job market of the years before the recession, but it's unlikely to get that way again, trying to force it to be so is just going to result in problems. I can at least appreciate the incentive to doctors out to rural areas, the tax breaks for firefighters, but I have yet to see the breakdown for the fighter jets, so no matter how hard we focus on the economy in the budget, we're still throwing money at an expenditure that will not, no matter how much we want them to, yield any sort of fiscal return.) Even Alberta's finance minister says it's a boring budget. The only purpose being served by the "excitement" is to help Canadians feel like they are more part of the political process (which, of course, we barely are), and rouse some nationalistic feeling that doesn't carry the heavy stink of cynicism.

Cynicism is something Canada is almost proud of. We look at the typical American's flag-waving political joy and sneer inside, even just a little, that we aren't so jingoistic or easily led. But it does mean we have set predictions for our politicians, and they have gladly obliged. The "hands in our pockets" joke has become so old hat that we expect a certain amount of pillaging, but we don't even get to live in New York. The Obama fervor that swept through the states would never get off the ground here; "Change? Now they want our pocket change?" we would chortle, while relegating the starry-eyed politician to the dustbin, "Hope? I hope no one gets elected."

The royal wedding was intended to spark some Royalist excitement, a bit of good feeling (we have a Queen; who doesn't love her?) but unfortunately, rather than reminding us of our noble roots and exciting heritage, it was treated like the latest celebrity scandal, and so evoked the sad distaste of "campy news".

The saddest aspect to this is that Canadians are beginning to value cold intellectualism (51%) more than decency (20%) or compassion (8%) in a national leader. While it is true a leader who stands there wringing his hands over the plight of every citizen is likely to drive us into the poor house, the gross favoring of understanding to empathy leads us to wonder if we have not adopted a "blood at arm's length" stance; if politicians' souls are already damned, why not let them make the unpleasant decisions we really want?

Monday, March 21, 2011

PROC part 4

I woke this morning like a little kid on Christmas, bright eyed to see what the committee had brought us Canadians for our political stockings, but after I was forced to shift my focus to my Anthropology midterm, I came back to what looked more like Hallowe'en when the only candy gathered by the ruddy-haired tots were raisins and those horrible peanut marshmallows.
I wish I could exaggerate the amount of word nitpicking that was enacted for a full four hours today, but I could not possibly do so, even if I used some, several, a minority, a number of examples. They were literally moving through, page by page, to approve every page as written. I can understand the why, it just seems ridiculous when every third page has a word or two that offends someone. The chair is maintaining good humor, but as they rounded page 35 (recall this was originally theorized to be two pages long), there was some debate about whether he had skipped pages.
This is all quite exciting, still, when considering it like a puzzle that one is putting together since we don't actually know what the report says, but in the same way as watching a blob of spit trail from your mouth, down the side of a building toward a busy doorway; there is the possibility of excitement at the end, but for now it's just gravity. 
It just occurred to me, listening to Mr. Scott Reid (CON) talk about the budget requirements for the second reading of bills, that without more stringent requirements for going over budget, few positive results will be garnered.

The end of the report outlines four options for the committee to consider:
Option A:  Find the government in contempt; many options
Option B:  Find the government delayed unnecessarily to provide documents; finance dept. investigates
Option C:  That the mid-week document dump constitutes compliance; there would be no further action taken
Option D:  Government was blameless; No further option taken.

I feel strangely elated to be 'present' for this moment. Option A held after a vote, it seems the committee recommends holding the government in contempt. The government will apparently be submitting a dissenting report. This must be what history feels like.

Here is an amended copy of the report they debated; the dissenting report from the government is at the very bottom, whiny accusations included. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: MS and Running

I followed a link on my facebook to this site:, and was tearing up by the end of the first paragraph. It is a blog written by a marathon runner with Multiple Sclerosis (some literature), and although you hear often about the run for MS, it rarely takes the same emotional root as it does when you hear someone's life story. Perhaps it affected me more deeply since I am the age he was when he was diagnosed  with this disease that slowly paralyzes him by eroding tiny holes in his brain and spinal column. His writing is very accessible, and occasionally poetic, but he approaches his medical challenges with good humor, grace, and strength.  

He lives in North Vancouver, and includes some details about running trails in that area, as well as reviews of running shoes, but I hope he inspires everyone to run, even just a little bit, since it really is a gift. I hope to include more running inspiration on the weekends, and perhaps run my own marathon sometime.

Friday, March 18, 2011

PROC part 3

Today is the unofficial roast of Bev Oda; this committee is brought to you by the word "Stipulate" and the number "0", which is precisely how many straight answers we garnered. I can't help but feel that if we had a much less patient chair, this would be much faster. Joe Preston is great, very fair it seems (Edit: had been prior to today), but also has a slightly disinterested air, as though answers are not that integral.

We have at least seen the face of the physical addition of the NOT, but she is now sitting with a different office. There are some pretty heavy questions about whether the decision to cut funding was provoked by a speech given by Jason Kenney that called KAIROS "anti-semitic", but Oda denies it and further proof is hard to come by.
I actually really hate the Bloc's line of questioning about why KAIROS was denied funding - whether she had the right to deny it's funding and the method she chose to indicate her denial are the issues at stake, her judgement, if it is her call to exercise it, should be examined in a separate committee. Either she has the right to determine it, or she does not; the nature of it's viability should not be in question.
When asked, she has no answer as to why she did not initial the NOT, which would have eliminated a lot of confusion.
Beverly Oda refuses to offer a suggestion about how often the auto-pen is used, i.e. if it is common practice to use it.The pen itself is stored in a small office where it is apparently locked and only two authorized public servants are able to use it, but the time limit interrupts the explanation of how it's use is put into practice.

There is some discussion about whether she misled the opposition through omission or commission, and Pat Martin raises and excellent point that she has "knee-capped" her senior officials, which is truly the case if she has taken the whole privilege of decision on herself. One would wonder why the requirements for funding should not be more strict, perhaps reducing these problems to an issue of "valid or not".

She closes by insisting that she has answered everything truthfully. She twiddles her fingers habitually.

Biggs from CIDA confirms at a question from Terence Young that the type of paper being discussed is often considered a memo for approval from the minister. He lobs her an easy question about what would happen if she approved every application- which no one really cares about, but this smells like a fillibuster. This idea was pretty well confirmed when someone raises a point of order that there is no time for additional questions with the time being taken up for conservative questions. Scott Armstrong follows the questions with some random flirting about how polite he is and how he plans on giving her ample time to answer - read, "Regurgitate the garbage you've been spewing". Bev Oda says her ministers are good but, "the buck stops here", indicating herself. You hear that, world? She is the DECIDER.
Armstrong: "Things are so hard for you, aren't they?"
Oda: "So hard!" *plaintive look*
She follows this up with the reasoning that there is no point to build a school in Haiti because it will just be destroyed anyway. I like when she later suggests that the government is made up of committees like a transformer.

Marcel Proulx says the chair is unfairly favoring the conservative. Preston seems to have been saved by the clock, since he was being pretty pointedly questioned about fairness, etc. Someone has objected that he was treating all the opposing parties like one big party, and I am inclined to agree with them. They gratefully break for an hour lunch.

Upon returning Mary Corkery, head of KAIROS, is being interviewed; Although I would rather if KAIROS was funded, no one cares that they have been funded in the past, or that they have a good relationship with CIDA. They have no obligation to fund them. It was a little heartless that KAIROS was informed over the phone that they were not being funded - they were cited that they did not meet CIDA priorities - but there are more gentile ways of breaking up with organizations.
KAIROS is made up of a gathering of smaller 'grassroots' organizations, but a minister wondered why the individual groups don't apply for funding; Mary's answer outlined that they are too small (lacking the administrative clout) to independently apply for funding. The committee noted how odd it was that they had only a few hours notice that they had been cut from funding, with no transition funding or such, but I am not sure if that is supposed to have higher ramifications or such.

A large amount of arguing about contempt and intention follows here, with the highlight being, in my opinion, that those who love and support parliament could never support diluting the word "contempt" with frivolous findings of such.
Pat Martin wonders if we should hold ministers to a higher level of truthfulness.
John McKay suggests that Bev Oda could have saved herself a lot of grief by holding herself to a higher standard and fully answering the questions, which just proves he hasn't read the rules of the game.

Harold Albrecht: received an apology from David McGuinty who was referencing Wikipedia for his information about Mr. Albrecht's relationships with members of churches.
Tom Lukiwski objects to yesterday's motion about the two page conclusion with no evidence. 

At the end they have carried the motion, a two-page draft report regarding the conclusion of the committee. Tommorrow shall see the decision about whether it will be made in camera or not, which if the report does not contain any evidence, as it is outlined to, will mean we, the people, get to open our mouths and shovel in whatever finding the committee horks up. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

PROC part 2

After some agressivly boring back and forth nattering ("You have to give us those!" "No we don't!" "Yes you do!"), the committee starts to heat up after lunch. The afternoon starts with a history lesson from professor Ned Franks who, in my opinion, is really the star of today's show, about the 8 previous cases of contempt in Canada, none of which involved cabinet members or the government itself, but this is kind of irrelevant fluff. The only part that I find myself disagreeing with the endearing Professor Franks is when he asserts that parliament should somehow 'constrain itself' by knowing which documents it can ask for or not. The notion itself seems ridiculous, but the alternative - the government saying what is too sensitive - is even more ludicrous. He reconfirms that the government does not have the right to say what it will and won't give the parliament.
To correct this problem from happening again, he suggests five points of reform, but when asked whether he thinks the government should be held in contempt or not he balks, saying it is for the committee to decide, but the best course of action is to prevent a similar problem from happening again.
The five (I didn't catch one) points being:
Parliament and government should work together to determine what is considered 'confidence' or not
All legislation should not pass first reading without a projected 5 year budget
Some official (that I didn't catch) should get their own interpretation of the finances
The House should undertake an inquiry into the House's ability to police papers
It is a pretty good assessment of how to prevent this from occurring again, and I respect his opinion, but I am not sure how quickly it could be instated.

Professor Franks believes that if parliament weighs a crime bill against an immigration program, cost must be considered; the house of commons must include a budget assessment at the second reading of any legislation, even considering the increased expected rate of expenses, which he feels an be accommodated for by skilled economists. When he outlines it so rationally, it makes me wonder why we have not included this idea before.

During the subsequent question period, it feels like the government is trying to undermine his authority by asking if he's written anything prior, but he asserts that he has dealt with similar circumstances before. The government continues on to say that just because papers are being hidden, doesn't mean they're anything bad, but the point is irrelevant; if I find my husband has a second bank account I don't care what it's for (Except for surprise vacations), I care that he's hiding things from me. The proceedings get bogged down at this point because the conservatives are really focusing on the dynamics of the budget estimates that would be attached to the second reading of every bill, which could be hashed out if and when the government ever decided to include them.
When asked what he, Ned Franks, thinks the government should do if the committee concludes the government is guilty, he replies: find them guilty, find them guilty and put them in jail, or just ignore it. He doesn't understand how, short of reading  all the submitted paperwork, the opposition can come to any conclusion, short of finding a way to ensure this doesn't happen again, a way to live with the government. The fact is, he says, that governments tends to keep information to themselves and this needs to be balanced by a higher power who can force them to be overseen and accountable.
McGuinty tries to act like the Liberals would be a happy, healthy, open government, but Franks functionally says, 'don't blow smoke up my ass, every government is the same - we should give parliament more power'. I really like him.

After dancing in and out of the room (camera, non-camera, camera)  for a bit, it seems a motion was put forth to make a draft that contains the conclusions of the committee in process, but with drafts not longer than two pages in both official languages. Everyone is losing their minds about it but I'm not sure why this is a big deal, or why the members think all Canadians should read it. It does require that no evidence be included in the draft, but it must still come to a specific conclusion, which is a waste of all those witnesses and scintillating debate. The motion is now to be distributed and they are adjorned. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping tonight, go grab a copy of the motion - it's not long, but it is boring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

PROC part 1

I'm just going to jot a quick update to hold this spot for when something exciting happens in the Government's contempt trial, which is scheduled to run for three days starting today, but with all the baying for conservative blood that has been happening, I won't be surprised if the proceedings grind to a halt after a day and a half when someone just goes for Harper's throat. Carpe Jugulum.

My initial thoughts, however? Bev Oda is not going to be held in contempt for her ridiculous bit of equivocation about the errant extraneous "NOT", but since the will fail in this arena, the committee may feel obligated to throw them a bone and hold the whole government in contempt for failure to disclose cost estimates for the tough-on-crime, fighter jets, and corporate tax cuts, which I personally feel we have a right to know. Even if they fail, which they are not expected to, a contempt court looks terrible on a party resume.

From the sound of it, the conservative strategy is to minimize and distract; Public Safety Minister Vic Toews apparently stated that the point of the committee was to discuss the cost of being 'tough-on-crime'. Close, Mr. Toews; but only in the same way that I get mad at my husband when I find lipstick on the collar of his shirt because I'm concerned about the stain. Then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson assured everyone present that some costs just couldn't be estimated, which is scary when it is coming form your kitchen contractor, and terrifying when it comes from your country contractor.  

Just for anyone keeping notes the total bill for the proposed changes, including the fighter jets, is $631 million. I think we might be getting low-balled. Where's the ref when we need him?

I feel so lucky to be present for this bit of preposterous-court history. If they are found guilty I am going to pretend to be a Liberal and rub this in Victor's face so hard...

The rest of the process runs thusly:
-Childish sniping about binder size and whether or not it matters (size does matter, but content matters more)
-It seems pretty conclusive that, despite the verbose nature of the binders they do not, in fact, provide the necessary information - there are threats about the government's fitness to withstand contempt.
-There is some debate as to whether the fighter jets were intended to be included in the budget or not.
-Apparently the two days process will not include any defense witnesses.
(Both these details are scuttled with the observation that  Laurie Hawn was intended to take the stand, and would be able to answer questions about the F-35's on the defense's behalf, but it is unclear whether he will attend or not.)
Finally everyone agrees how much of a bargain it is that this fun is apparently costing only $8900.
Can not wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not a Drop to Drink

Back on March 8th of this year the government settled with a corporation, AbitibiBowater, to buy back its water permit, as though it was a complete asset, since the company was restructuring, closing the Ontario factory, and effectively moving  its focus further south to Delaware, where it was incorporated (their head office is in Montreal). It is on these grounds that it is claiming to be an American corporation and may therefore file a grievance under the NAFTA, since the government 'pushed through' a legislation that prohibited the company from taking the water permit with them. The original agreement with the mill from 1905 stipulated the permit was contingent on the company operating a factory in the province, and so when the company moved, the province seized the permits (water, timber, etc.)

The reason for the restructuring, closing, and all this hub-bub is a court-ordered directive to prevent the company filing for bankruptcy; the fall in the newspaper industry hit the company hard.  Therefore, I am inclined to be gentle on them, since they aren't just closing the factory to be dicks (like previous companies I have worked for) - they are doing what they need to survive and we set the society that values a corporation's survival over its employees (not that I'm bitter), we can't fault them for playing the game we built. When the Newfoundland government expropriated the permit, the company sought reimbursement.

The Newfoundland government denied them, but the company appealed the process and the government ruled that they were entitled to reimbursement for the lost permits to the tune of $130 million. Many Canadians are upset about this ruling, saying that it is setting a precedent for companies to regard natural resources as private firm's property, even petitioning the government to indicate their displeasure. Many people are pointing out that water in its natural state is exempt from the NAFTA, but that this ruling ignores that.  It has been suggested another reason for the payout is to maintain good will with the company, since they are also in a case in Northern Ontario, where the company is attempting to sell a few hydroelectric dams that supply cheap power to another factory (owned by AbitbiBowater as well), the closure of which would seriously hamper the local economy. The most hilarious part of this situation is where the government asks the company to "ensure the public interest is protected". The sheepherder will look after his flock's "interest" until it is no longer profitable to shear them, then the menu calls for mutton.

I  am not sure I agree with the public's assessment that this is damaging to Canada's control of its natural resources; the ruling is more contingent on the value of the permit, rather than the ownership of the water. Selling the permit back does not give the company the right to sell the permit (and certainly not the water) to anyone, or any company, other than the government from which it originated. To be honest, ensuring the water permit does not travel outside the country when permit-holding companies cease operations in Canada helps us keep our water closer to home; I would rather have less water permits in circulation than more.

On the other hand, if companies realize that the permit can be considered an asset that can be returned for its value at the end of the business transaction, it will encourage greater sales of permits, but also greater foreign business, so that might be a zero sum deal.

The final say is that this sets the precedent that we can no longer rescind permits without offering fair compensation for them - this could become a liability in cases where it is in the public interest to do so. To which I respond "Good". So our government will have to think harder before issuing permits to use our water and possibly leave it in a ruined state - I like that. Anything that keeps our water more under our control, or jacks up the price of permits, considering the higher risk of permit selling - is a good thing.

We'll revisit this issue on September 14th, when the board evaluating AbitbiBowater's financial fitness rules whether it is fiscally viable or not. If they rule otherwise, we're off the hook for the $130 million, so cross your fingers!

Monday, March 14, 2011

"People that are supposed to be counsellors"

Trigger warning for child abuse

Although I tend not to complain about court sentences, since I typically regard those involved as closer to the situation and able to better assess the whole dynamic (such as criminal's remorse, etc.) CBC has been covering a story lately that pissed me off intensely.

Jason Keough was found guilty of possessing child pornography, copying voyeuristic materials, and voyeurism early this January and sentencing is scheduled to occur on May 6th. Two aspects of this case caused me so much anger that I spat my cranberry juice all over my netbook.

How did Keough obtain the child pornography (Or child sex abuse material, as it is currently under review to be called)? Simple; he set up a camera, then recorded as underage children, who were apparently living with him, had sex in front of it. The court has ruled, however, that this is apparently not "making child pornography", despite the facts that: he was found guilty of possessing child pornography, the tapes were considered child porn, and he created the tapes. There were further cases where he coerced the underage kids to make the porn themselves, by threatening to put the girl into foster care. (Incidentally, perhaps we should look hard at a system of "helping kids" that is apparently so bad a girl would rather make porn than be part of it)

The other thing that bothers me is that the crown is seeking 15 to 18 months in prison, while the defense is asking for a 45 day sentence. Take a look at those numbers. This man exploited children, three young couples, repeatedly, over three years, while being in a position of authority as a child care worker, for his own base gratification, has been described as showing no remorse, and the courts believe a year and a bit will 'fix' him. It is my informal assessment that this man is a pedophile, that his voyeuristic taping could be considered "child molesting" and that this man should be scheduled for either intensive therapy or a needle. I hope his sentence includes a ban from pornography and video cameras, and registry on Canada's sex offender list. 

It is ridiculous to me that such blatant abuse as voyeurism is not classified as sexual abuse. This case makes me sick. 

Friday, March 11, 2011


When it comes to bills that might provide a better supply of life-saving drugs to Africa and other epidemic-stricken countries, the government is about as speedy as a dead turtle. When there is the possibility of seizing foreign money, on the 'request' of the foreign state, and the 'permission' of the public, however, we can see bills pushed through in under a month. 

Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, was tabled March 3rd, and passed its third reading in the House of commons on March 10th, the same day it was tabled in the Senate, passed its first reading and was given its second reading. At this rate, it may come into force by the time I finish writing this post.

The press release that was given about this bill included the explanation that:
“Recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa have shown the world how important it is to have legislation in place to allow for a quick response to ensure that foreign dictators cannot hide their ill-gotten wealth in our country,”  The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
but this justification is sickening when you consider that Canada is only authorized to do so on the request of the foreign state that the official originates from. That means 'foreign dictators' can still 'hide their ill-gotten wealth in our country', it just means when the world becomes aware of it, and it is no longer profitable to do so, we can pretend we were on the winning side all along, and gain some sheckles for it.

An even larger implication of this bill is when we examine the tools by which Canada may "freeze" foreign assets; including enforcing an economic sanction against the country. The government makes some nice mouth noises about how this would not be preferable because it could hinder a growing  nation, but I am completely convinced that if the choice was between allowing a country to grow and protecting Canada's own interests by enforcing random sanctions, the country would be locked up so tight we wouldn't be able to buy things off E-bay from it.

The final cherry on the cake is this line:
"It would permit such an order without requiring evidence of criminality or specific identification of assets"
Happen to share a name with a ruthless dictator? Whoops, was that your house we seized? Sorry!

Either Canada is a non-moral, non-judgemental entity that acts solely on its own financial best interest, or it is not, but pretending to disapprove of unscrupulous foreign politicians while conducting business with them up until the point that the mobs are beating down their door is just sleezy.
Anyway, I wish all bills could be pushed through this fast.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dora the Elector

I assume some of my Dear Readers have children. Some of these children may even be teen-aged, and so it is to these people, or even to anyone who closely associates with teenagers, that I address this next post.
Take a look at your kid, that scruffy-haired, high-school aged boy or girl that you've been raising (or working with or knowing), and imagine they may soon be old enough to vote.
They grow up so fast, don't they?
Nope, what I am referring to is Bill C- 634 which aims to give 16 year-old kids the vote.

Bill C - 634, introduced just yesterday into the House of  Commons, cites several countries in its text, including Brazil, where the voting age is at 16 and boasts 100% voter turnout. Of course, voting is also mandatory there. The idea that activities done during youth are continued through life as steady habits, is what is motivating the private member's bill, introduced by Mr. Don Davies the NDP member for Vancouver Kingsway. In observing the behavior of students who vote in High School elections, even some personal experience observing the voting behavior of University students (voting in an election for four seats where only one is contested) there is nothing to suggest that youngsters will have a higher voter turnout than the general population, or even vote differently than their parents, thus only heightening the current voting dynamic between parties (Sure it's a minority government, but it's a HUGE minority).

Some people argue that since they pay taxes they should be allowed to vote, to which I must reply that since I paid municipal taxes, I should have been allowed to vote in Municipal elections, but until that matter is addressed, taxes do not equal a vote.

Low voter turnout is an adult problem, perpetrated by adults, within an adult system. There is no reason to place extra stress and obligation on teenagers to try and correct a problem that shouldn't be on their plates yet. They should be focused on their education and building their future.

Incidentally there will be no repercussions against Beverly Oda for inserting the "NOT" into the KAIROS report, but whether or not funding will be returned to KAIROS remains to be seen (it is not looking good).

UPDATE March 11, 2011
As if we needed more proof that children are barely able to handle complicated political issues: between 12-15 or 35 students (the number fluctuates depending on who one speaks to) were sent home from a public Catholic school for refusing to remove a piece of green tape that said "Choice" on their shirts. They adopted this symbol in response to a set of students wearing pieces of red tape that said "Pro-Life" on them. Not only are these kids risking their future on a meaningless gesture, this kind of 'demonstration' just demeans the entire debate. Politics should not be given the same consideration as the latest Jersey shore episode.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hydra at the Beginning

I would like to, very carefully, bring it to everyone's attention that Dr. Raj Sherman, Independent MLA for the Alberta provincial government, was invited to speak at the University of Alberta on March 8th, 2010, on the topic of "Free Speech: Use it or lose it". Since it was not freely advertised until this week, and I first saw a poster for it today, I was unable to attend, but believe me, if there was a way I could trade an arm to attend, I would be dubbed "Lefty" faster than you can shake a stick.

Last week Dr. Sherman spoke in the legislative assembly about how over 250 patients had been neglected to the point of their death while on the provincial transplant list, and that Doctors who raised concerns were either "punished or driven out of the province, were paid out in millions to buy their silence", and he continued on to alleged that the money that was used for this was "buried in the books under the former Capital Health Region". These are some pretty big allegations; as an Albertan, I have a vested interest in knowing our Doctors can speak freely about the system they work with and under, although a tinge of disbelief tainted my credulity - the notion that hundreds of people could die, without a wiff being scented to the mass media, or even the Internet, is hard to swallow. Dr. Sherman promised proof to back up these statements, however, and I was excited. If there was corruption in the Health Care system it would make it easier to solve - root out the corruption. If there was none, however, we are back to the tedious, plodding, thankless work of restructuring what is apparently a flawed system from the inside out.

On Monday,  Dr. Sherman strode into the building and tabled the documents that he feels supported his allegation, but the recipients were apparently underwhelmed. The dominant opinion appeared to be that it was simply illustrating problems  they had known all along, with nothing so excited as a "second set of books", a phrase Dr. Sherman never actually used, but many observers have. The alleged 322 cases of neglect are now in debate - Dr. Sherman insisting he has the proof and will provide it to a proper investigation; the government insisting he has no proof and will insist on seeing some before they launch an investigation.

So who loses in this detente? We, the citizens, of course. We would like to trust and follow Dr. Sherman - he had the guts to stand up when it seemed health care reforms were being ignored - but if he has no proof, we can no longer trust him. If this case is true, we need to see how far the ichor-filled rabbit hole of corruption goes or any costly changes we make to our health care system are doomed to fail. To be honest, when he brought forth no proof, I had crucified Dr. Sherman in my mind, but when Mr. Zwozdesky was willing to simply move on from the allegations so quickly, I began to wonder if he was hiding something. What I am saying is I believe Dr. Sherman needs to stand up, stand for free speech, and provide the real proof of these allegations. As risky as revealing your hand in cards may be, the stakes are too high to play hold 'em; it's time to show what you've got, and hope it beats all.  

The title is from Victor Hugo: The book which the reader now holds in his hands, from one end to the other, as a whole and in its details, whatever gaps, exceptions, or weaknesses it may contain, treats of the advance from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsity to truth, from darkness to daylight, from blind appetite to conscience, from decay to life, from bestiality to duty, from Hell to Heaven, from limbo to God. Matter itself is the starting-point, and the point of arrival is the soul. Hydra at the beginning, an angel at the end.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Politics of Hypocrits

Since I don't watch television, I have been sequestered from the venomous attack ads that have been plaguing the Canadian airwaves this season, and I usually consider myself fortunate for that. But given the controversy that is coming in hot on the ads' heels, I find myself at a bit of a loss for information regarding the content and nature of the ads. (Good luck trying to find them on YouTube - without a solid idea of what I am looking for I am bogged down with ridiculous home-made attack ads that have all the sense of a bowl of noodles) I understand that they are largely ridiculous (here meaning 'focusing on ridicule'), and the few I have seen focus on taking quotes out of context and portraying decisions in the worst possible light which, since some decisions can be mighty unpopular despite being necessary, is sort of like stapling fish to the bottom of a barrel before shooting them.

Luckily the Green party has offered us Canadians a breath of fresh air; they have introduced their own attack ads.

Feels pretty good, doesn't it? I am tired of the mudslinging! By Golly, I am a little disgusted with the state of Canadian politics! Holy smokes, what can I do? Save me, Green party!

Right there, right at that second, is where they lose me. They imply the Green party is not part of Canadian politics ("What,us? No, we just got here....honest...") and so they are some new, different, party that will bring back the "good-ole days" of politics (Catch the retro 50's T.V sets?). The essential irony, and I hate this, is that they are using an attack ad to promote themselves. They inform the viewer about a contentious problem in Canadian politics today that the public have voiced distaste for, display (through the familiar attack ads) the parties they feel are responsible which is every party except for themselves, then offer only one possibly solution - vote for their party, which they imply will not indulge in the same behavior as the previous parties, despite the fact that they are doing so right at that very moment. They offer no solution like, "Demand reforms for the limitations on acceptable campaign commercials" or "Become properly informed about the issues that matter through reliable sources (Hi there!)"; the only recourse we Canadians have is to vote for a new party. That's not a solution, that's just business as usual on the hill. The main difference, and what we should demand from further party ads is their focus. If we wish to uphold the higher image of Canadian politics, we should demand that ads be focused on what the party will do, focusing inwards, rather than focusing on what other parties are doing/not doing. But these make less of an impact, and so are less cost effective. The system is the essential problem breeding these ads - they work, and that's why parties use them. The best solution we have as Canadian citizens, is to become educated about the real issues and why they matter, so when we vote, we won't vote for whatever party flashed their pearly whites at us last.

Incidentally, this whole dynamic is reminiscent of the fact that whenever someone writes - on a forum, in a letter to the editor, anywhere in a public space - to criticize a previous writer's spelling or grammar,  99% of the time someone else will write in to point out the "irony" of the writer's bad spelling/grammar, even if it was better than the original writers, until things spiral downwards in some sort of infinite regression. These issues make butt-heads of all of us.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name

I was going to take a sick day today; I missed my classes, phoned in to work, slept in, and just generally had written today off as "Non-productive" save for the fact that I polished off seven episodes of Mad men and a pint of ice cream. But then I realized calling it a "sick day" would undermine the importance of my earlier desire to not give a crap all day, and would threaten my unique view of recuperating for a day. So I'm taking a "Not doing work due to illness" day. I feel this greater difference is reflected in the new title, so please remember, as you read this, I'm not "sick", I'm taking a "day off due to illness". It sure makes me feel better.

Two stories in the news lately reflect this ridiculous focus on titles; The news that the Conservative government is re-branding itself as "The Harper Government" and that Quebec is no longer "multicultural" but "intercultural". The first story has people both in a  histrionic fury and a wildly apathetic slump. Some insist that this new 'rebranding' is a common-place occurrence, reflecting the head of leadership, while others go so far as to suggest that since the title "Harper government" is not a recognized entity under the constitution the office should be legally required to cease and desist all use of the phrase. The second story, put forth by Quebec's brain trust to reflect Quebec's french heritage and its impact on current day immigration policies, has opened up the typical debate about whether or not Canada should be required to cater to foreigners or whether they should just "become Canadian", which I can only assume implies buying a plaid flannel and gaining +5 cold resistance. It is a shame this story has simply opened up a second hole in an already rancid can of worms, since the opportunity to lampoon people for believing there is actually a difference between these concepts is so welcoming that I felt a bit faint when I first read it.

There is an advantage to re-branding; the Harper government stands to disassociate itself from icky things like taxes, election scandals, and a rapidly dropping system of upward communication. We scoff at this, but the fact we should realize is: it will probably work. With voter motivation so largely finicky and suggestible, there is a very good chance this new name will provide at least some of the benefits they are looking for, at least on a visceral, subconscious level. Even without realizing it, people will react more positively, assuming they don't have a powerful hatred for Harper, but the party might be calling those people a lost cause anyway, and focusing instead on those who are still undecided.

On the other hand, there is no point in trying to dissociate Quebec from the bad press about its cultural intolerance; especially when you are simply debating the word for what you are ignoring. There is no chance that people are going to become so confused about what the word "intercultural" means that they will assume whatever Quebec does is in line with its new mandate - the word will just start to become synonymous with culturally intolerant practices. The Harper re-brand will work because they just need to dissociate until the end of the next election, but Quebec needs to be presenting its best face all the time to adopt a better public image. So unless this is simply a childish power play to force Canada to acknowledge one more way in which Quebec is unique from Canada, then hopefully drum up enough momentum for a separation referendum, they are just spinning their wheels. The sad thing is that this is the best Quebec's intellectuals could come up with: some ridiculous new nonsense word to try and dodge accusations of cultural intolerance.

Sometimes you can change a name and gain a lot in terms of public perception, but sometimes you are just putting off the inevitable for a little while. The trick is in knowing when to use it.

Friday, March 04, 2011

EI Supports Cracking Head, but not Books

In honor of my sister's birthday today, and also because she just lost her EI appeal, I hope to bring attention to a a particular form of inequality that we in Canada are suffering from. My sister recently went on employment insurance payments while she returned to school last year. After graduation in May she returned to her job for three months, then went back on employment insurance scant days before having her second child in August and taking maternity leave (Shout out to baby Gareth!). 

Since she had worked for three months during the course of her EI term, and the ruling stats one is entitled to "up to 50 weeks of EI between regular and maternity benefits", she assumed that it would be added to the end of her maternity leave, allowing her to stay until May, but she was informed by the employment insurance bureau that this was not allowed, and that her benefits would be cut off in March (Et tu, EI?). Even after writing a letter of complaint and appealing the ruling she was denied, and so is forced to return to work months earlier than she and her husband had anticipated.

The worst part, the part that really chafes, is that if she had been on employment insurance because of prison, she would be allowed to stack the full time together and stay until May, which implies that it is not so much the money involved, but the notion of women bettering themselves that they disapprove of... (She's going to school? Scandal!)

As a tax paying individual, if I could have any say in where my money goes, number one would be to support people who are already going through challenging life changes (Not to say they are bad changes, just big ones) like school and new babies. Number two would be bouncy castles in all parliamentary offices, but my MP won't email me back on that issue. 

Private member's bill (See what I mean? PM Bills are sssssmokin'!) C- 378 is seeking to redress this stupidity by legislating an increase in the maximum amount of benefits obtainable when combining benefits and special benefits, but like everything useful these days, it seems to be still on First Reading. To be precise, it just received its first reading yesterday, so Happy Birthday to my sister and the bill!

Also to anyone who is following the "right to die with dignity" debate, Bill C-384 outlining the right of medical practitioners to assist someone who has outlined their free and informed desire to die has just been voted down 59 to 228.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

One-Step for Generics, One Giant Leap for Africa

It's rare that a bill catches my attention from three different sources, but Bill C-393 rocketed into my field of view (which is usually only big enough to cover whatever bacon is in front of me and the location of my next coffee) like a firework; I could not possibly ignore it. The bill itself amends the Food and Drug administration act in the hopes of loosening the drug patent act enough to allow the export of generic drugs for humanitarian efforts overseas.

One of the main arguments against the bill is the idea that we cannot be sure the drugs will be used for humanitarian purposes, rather than being sent into the black-market. A common argument against people owning handguns is that unlike rifles, which are primarily used for hunting, handguns have only one purpose - to kill people. The flip-side of this argument, pertaining to Bill C-393, is that whatever happens to medicines that are sold through the black market, it is hard to picture anything they could do other than be used for their AIDS/HIV/Tuberculosis controlling purpose (Is there a large, underground, anti-retro-viral-snorting community?). It is true, we run the risk of people being exploited for a higher price for drugs, but we can at least count on the fact that anytime people can get a drug for cheaper, they would certainly do so - therefore they will obviously only be paying the higher black-market cost if we are unable to supply them with drugs anyway, and it is a hard call to insists they should not have access to drugs if they do not come straight from us ("Sorry you're dying, but that guy is a felon!"). Personally, the notion that we can subvert the black-market enough to use it to promote medicine is a rather tasty piece of irony.

The main consequence I can see that does not appear to be getting any press time, is the fact that with the drop in income that is expected for pharmaceutical companies, given the increased availability of generic drugs - thus causing increased competition, and the loss of income from people in other countries that would have otherwise bought brand-name drugs, is going to result in a loss of research spending, even considering the royalties that generic drug companies will be required to pay the holders of patents they are utilizing . As much as we hate to admit it, we rely on drug research done by  big companies, and so if this bill is adopted (which I support) we must lean on the government to increase research funding for universities and health care facilities to make up the drop in drug research, which I would rather have the theoretically impartial government conducting research on drugs, rather than companies which may have alternate agendas.  

The other consideration is that the generic drugs will be held to the same standard as drugs have been held previously, which is going to require a lot more time, effort, and money to test constantly, and to ensure the standards, once met, are upheld, but it seems a pretty happy problem to have (too many life-saving drugs to test, as opposed to too few).

The bill has only passed its first reading and should be entering its second reading after a series of debates on the subject. The previous time it was promoted, it was killed in the second reading by the conservatives - I don't like to point fingers at political parties, but it was 114 "nays" to 12 "yeas", with every other party voting yes. I emailed my MP to ask him to vote yes, since he voted no last time it was available. (Want to know how your person voted? Want to know who your person is?) Another private member's bill that is creating a lot of waves - it seems they are in vogue lately. Another one to watch with interest until it starts to fidget uncomfortably.  

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Bill to S - 8 my Anger

Today birthed the dawning of a sight I thought I would never see: my Hippie-Love-Shack pants coming out of their dark bureau drawer to grace my legs in the burning light of day. It is true, Dear Reader, I am Happy.
Yesterday, while I struggled for a topic, Vic suggested I use the example of the Canadian senate, a poster child for "good idea gone horribly wrong" if there ever was one, to enlighten my readers to the unfairness caused by the current senator appointment practices.

He outlined how the senate was intended, at its inception, to be a "sober second thought". Back when people were worried the thick-skulled common man would screw up the government process with his big, clumsy, working-man hands,  they reasoned the best way to avoid total dumbing-down of the state was to include a group of intellectuals as a safety valve; educated people who could be counted on to vote for the side of reason and sanity so the average pleb did not vote in a "Beer, Steak and Monster Truck Monday" bill. Despite this noble beginning the senate fell in esteem until such point that today it is largely considered a pit for people the government likes who can be trusted to vote appropriately (read: with the party that favored them). The only positive step we can take to save the senate, rather than just turf the whole institution a la Jack Layton, is to institute representation equal to each area (say, two per province) to balance out the tyranny of the majority (read: the east in Alberta, The West in Ontario) and promote equal favor for each location.

I sort of balked at the idea; I prefer the blog to stay away from being a sort of Politics 101 and assume that my Readers know what is going on in the Canadian government system enough to follow the bouncing ball of my brain (or at least ingest the vast quantities of hallucinogens that are required to follow my Herculean leaps of paranoid reasoning) . But today I hit upon a fabulous compromise; I can talk about the problems with the senate and still present novel information by talking about bill S - 8. This bill is aiming to introduce a system of election for senators where each province will be fairly represented by people from each province. Obviously simply voting in people would defeat the streamlined purpose of the senate, so the process is that the average voter can cast a ballot for a person they like, and all the votes are then sent to the Prime Minister for his recommendation for the position. A bit convoluted, but when has jury rigging a series of tubes, recommendations, and people of strange and confusion positions ever gone wrong?

The only downside to the whole process is that if we cannot convince people to come out and vote for the man running their city, it is even less likely they will come out to vote for a guy who may not even be considered to do a job they barely understand, let alone follow. Hopeful, once we badger people out to the polls enough it will become second nature to vote - then the plebliscites can begin. 

It should be going in for its second reading soon having been debated nine times, which is more times than I debated having a career as a professional money truck, but it is hard to picture the Senate approving a bill that could conceivably cause a change in the process they are comfortable with. They will certainly have to share more seats with the icky other party. We will watch this bill with interest. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Awake on my Airplane, my Skin is Bare

The government this past June was observing children at play, noticed the infamous "I'm not touching you, can't get mad!" maneuver, and felt the need to address this power imbalance. So they leaped into action to amend the Aeronautics Act.

The act outlines circumstances where the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act can be waived to offer information about the passengers on aircraft who are landing in foreign states in cases where the state demands information about those on board flights without first obtaining their consent. This is apparently no longer stringent enough and the act is under consideration to be amended to include states that are being flown over,  enabling foreign states that one will not even set foot in to request information about the people present on aircraft in their airspace.

Security issues aside, the biggest impediment to this successful implementation is that it requires the full, fool-proof backup of the "No-fly" list; otherwise the problem that we are already experiencing with people being disallowed to board aircraft simply because they share a name with a terrorist will be exacerbated. Also considering that we as passengers are typically not allowed to include input about what path a flight takes, this can create even more tricky situations for people who may be anxious to avoid certain governments. It would  be nice to say that those kind of people are obviously only terrorists, but occasionally systems go awry and good people are put in compromising positions.

This bill is apparently all the way up to its third reading and, to be blunt, if it passes we pretty much have the go ahead to ignore any future parliamentary arguments about "needless amendments", such as what was leveled at the Private member's bill C-389 -the motion to amend the discrimination law to include gender identity, since this is just about the most  ridiculous amendment ever. I have no interest in the United States knowing when I am traveling to Mexico, and unless I plan to set foot on their sovereign soil, I feel they have no right to know my movements. If we effectively control who we allow on planes, there should be no need for every random country that sees our shadow to know who is going where.

The title is from Filter's song "Take my picture".