Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Procrastination Post

I did say that I might post more than usual to avoid my work. Well, here's one. Two major issues on the table today.
  1. The Middle East Peace Conference. There are something like 50 groups represented at this thing. There's two big ones missing: Hamas and Iran. The press has been about Iran and while there relationship with Hezbollah in particular does not help matters, Hamas is the far more important player left out in the cold. Bush must think he's Alexander the Great and he can just leave the disagreeable Spartans out of the picture while he negotiates Greece's surrender. The Spartans, however, did not control half of the country and have a legitimate claim to the whole territory by right of democratic election. Hamas does. A peace deal without Hamas will be, in all likelihood, a useless waste of time.
  2. The C-22 fallout. Kudos to Premiers Charest and Doer for backing Ontario on this one. Apparently half the country is being small-minded. With Doer and Charest we now have all three major federal parties represented. Time for Stephane Dion to pounce on this wounded gazelle and end this farce. Oh, and will the increasingly disgraced minister resign?!?!
That's all for now folks.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday... the work continues

With two major papers due this week, blogging may be light. Then again I may use it as a means of procrastination which means it will be heavy. Anyhoo, Monday thoughts
  • I am really curious to see whether anyone is paying attention to this C-22 fiasco.
  • Congrats to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the province of Saskatchewan on the Roughriders Grey Cup win. There have been better Grey Cups but at least it wasn't a blow out.
  • Soccer Canada's first task in getting to 2010? Beating Saint Vincent and Grenadines. Go Canada Go!
  • Any guesses on who the Republicans are going to nominate? Anyone?
  • Obama is claiming momentum and thinks he's ready to caucus Clinton out of Iowa, we shall see.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Intelligence Wasted

I often wonder what would happen if Stephen Harper didn't subject his brain to political considerations. Some of the things would be awful, no doubt. Others, like this gem, would be a refreshing change. From the oft-quoted speech to the American Council for National Policy:

"For years, we have given concessions of various kinds of the province of Quebec, political and economic, to make them happier. This has not worked. The sovereignty movement has continued to rise in prominence. And its demands have continued to increase."

I don't mind politicians having a change of heart (Chrétien on free trade for instance). I do mind politicians selling their souls for a couple of votes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Could Someone Please Get Out a Calculator

So, the furor over bill C-22 continues to grow. Peter Van Loan and co. claim the bill will give Ontario ten more seats. The media is trumpeting this as fact. My post here shows my math. Given current data Ontario would get all of two additional seats. In order for Ontario to deserve 10 additional seats its population would have to skyrocket. Around 850,000 people by my calculations. to get to 116 (ten more than the existing 106). That calculation also presumes that the population of the rest of the country remains stagnant which is highly unlikely. Nothing in the bill changes how Ontario calculates its seat total. Would the media or the opposition or somebody please challenge the Tories' new math on this one?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things I Think

I always have issues titling my quick thought posts. I try to avoid repetition which can prove difficult. Anyway, here are my thoughts to start off the week:
  • The Robert Dziekanski affair is tragic. However, the discussion should be about police protocols on force not on tasers in particular. Tasers are used because they provide a simple, hands-off means of subduing a person - no broken bones from being tackled to the ground. I think what we really need to be asking is why the RCMP felt it necessary to use force in the first place. By the way, I'm no fan of tasers but I don't think this incident substantively changes the debate.
  • Also tragic is the loss of two more brave Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. To quote Dylan, "how many deaths will it take 'til he knows that to many people have died?" We need to get out of Kandahar province and we need to get out now. Note: I did not say Afghanistan. We can do reconstruction somewhere else.
  • Banning cell phone use makes sense but misses the point. There are a dozen things that distract drivers. Cell phones are a weapon, not the criminal. Much like I support gun control but don't think that is an adequate crime prevention strategy, I support this type of ban but don't think it solves the problem.
  • Apparently my city councilor wants to convert a few houses in my neighbourhood from public housing to a parking lot. I'm no fan of parking lots. However, the Danforth does need more parking. This is particularly true during Taste when streets become so overparked, locals are trapped in their houses. I'd actually have liked them to install underground parking at the green P lot beside Broadview station. However, given the endless (four years now?) construction there I can't really advocate more. Underground parking would make more sense as it does not blight the landscape.
  • Great post on the NDP and poverty here.
  • The C-22 story is starting to take off. One of my favourite columnists, Ian Urquhart has a good column here. My handy-dandy C-22 explainer is here. I still don't get how the Ontario getting ten seats thing works with the calculus. I guess that's just the population projections for 2011. If someone has a better theory, please, clue me in.
  • The Vanier Cup will be Manitboa- Saint Mary's.
  • The Grey Cup will be Winnipeg- Saskatchewan.
  • My conclusion from the above two statements: there are going to be more Winnipegers in Toronto next weekend then in Winnipeg.
  • Can we just give the Pats the Super Bowl now? I guess that would mean foresaking the best ads of the year.
That's all for now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Air Conditioning

I've determined that air conditioning is the biggest challenge in terms of solving the climate change crisis. Look who is meeting its Kyoto targets: Northern European countries that do not have a large proliferation of air conditioner use in their countries. Who has failed? The US, Canada, Australia and Mediterranean Europe who need air conditioning in the summer. Am I oversimplifying?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Quick Thoughts

Some quick things to muse over for the weekend:

  • Are the people of York-Simcoe listening to what their MP is saying about their province? Whoever the Liberal nominee there is needs to pounce on this for the next election. Peter Van Loan may have just put himself in jeopardy of losing.
  • Nice to see Liberals doing better in national polls. Doesn't mean a thing though.
  • For that reason, no, Elizabeth May does not 'deserve' a place in the next debate. As I've said before, any party that wins seats should be in the debate. It's the standard that we've had for a long time. Win a seat, Greens, then we'll talk. One, out of writ poll does not entitles someone to a place
  • Hillary Clinton planting a question is really not a big deal. It's an old political trick that everyone uses. The fact that her plant wasn't loyal is embarrassing. There is a major difference between that and the fake FEMA press conference.
  • More Hillary, this is Hill-arious. I am kind of surprised that Bill's that front and centre.
  • Having just defended her, I will say that she needs to come out with some straightforward positions.
  • Sarkozy's attempts to fix France are interesting to watch. I hope for the sake of France he succeeds.
  • Kind of want to see "Redacted". Looks interesting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bill C-22 Explained

Okay, so there's a lot of discussion about representation. Harper's rewording the elections act to give more seats to Alberta and British Columbia. Here's the legalese. Here's how it would work (or at least how I read the legalese). First you take the population of Canada's provinces and divide by 279 (the divisor prescribed in 1985). So (population data taken from wikipedia):


Then you take the population of each province and divide by the quotient above giving you:

Ontario: 108
Quebec: 65
Alberta: 29
Manitoba: 10
Nova Scotia:8
New Brunswick:6
Newfoundland and Labrador:4

That would be the Canadian parliament under pure representation by population basis. However, three clauses of the election need to be implemented. First, no province can have less seats in the house than it does in the senate. Second, no province can have less seats than it did in 1988 (the coming into force of the 1985 revision).

Leading to this:

ON: 108 (unchanged)
PQ: 65 to 75 (1988 level)
BC: 37 (unchanged)
AB: 29 (unchanged)
MB: 10 to 14 (1988 level)
SK: 8 to 14 (1988 level)
NS: 8 to 11 (1988 level)
NB: 6 to 10 (senate-based minimum)
NL:4 to 7 (1988 level)
PE: 1 to 4 (senate-based minimum)

Here's where C-22 changes things. Under bill C-22, if a province does not benefit from the readjustment above, and a larger province does, they get to recalculate their seats. The applicable provinces - BC and Alberta - get the same member to voter ratio as the larger province - Quebec - meaning in this case one member for every 102,677.4267 people. This leads to:

BC: 37 to 43
AB: 29 to 34

So, basically the only province that doesn't get a boost is Ontario. No wonder Dalton's pissed off. Basically, this gives the West the special treatment that they resent Quebec for getting. Not a bad deal for them. Aside from McGuinty's valid complaints, this system guarantees that the house will expand ad infinitum. The Conservative Party of Canada: Delivering Bigger Governments Since 2006!

In all seriousness, we should have a system which limits the size of the house. We should eliminate the clause that requires that a province's seat count cannot shrink below a certain level. Leave in the senate thing to ensure adequate representation out East. This would allow Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador to shrink (as their share of the Canadian population has) and give us a stable number of MP's.

Side Note: Those advocating an equal senate should take a long look at the clause above. An equal senate (10 senators a province) would mean an increase in the house delegations of both PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador to ridiculous levels. PEI would have one member for every 14,000 people. Ontario would have one member for every 118,000 people. Yikes!

Solidarity um... Line!

You may have noticed when your favourite late night talk show went into reruns last week that the Writers Guild of America is on strike. The strike centres on the issue of internet downloading and DVD sales. See, whenever a show airs on television, the writers of that show get a small cut of the revenue. However, when the show is streamed over the internet on the company's website replete with advertisements, the writers get nothing. The writers' take on DVD sales is miniscule. This is why the writers guild is on strike. They want their cut. This is not an unreasonable demand and my guess is that eventually they'll get it. The reason this is even an issue in my view, is the ever shrinking pie that they are looking to get a cut from.

The movement of many TV shows to streaming internet video is an attempt to regain a lost market. Increasingly, young people, like myself, are relying on free internet downloads to watch their shows and movies when they want to. Of course, this practice is illegal and there is no profit taking involved. While some people may be willing to pay a few dollars for the show on iTunes, the vast majority of people who download will continue to do so. This represents a significant market reduction for networks for their shows. The problem is made all the worse by the fact that the people who download shows are the exact market advertisers crave: young men and women. The attempts by networks like Comedy Central to meet people half way (streaming video on their websites with ads) has been, in my view, the most effective way of countering this problem. Sure, people complain that you can't find Stewart and Colbert on YouTube anymore but you also will have a hell of a time finding a pirated version to download (check out your favourite torrent site). This isn't because nobody wants to watch those shows, but because there is no reason to wait for a download that will take up hard drive space when you can access the entire library of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on their website. The streaming option works well for those shows partially because Comedy Central can break the shows into segments and run short ads before each segment. A show that was not so segmented may encounter more problems trying to stream. One of the appeals of downloading is that you are not forced to watch a billion commercials that disrupt the flow of the plot. If the show is segmented, there is no plot to disrupt. If you try to apply the same model to drama you may encounter a problem. However, it is probably the only way for networks to save their shows and the writers should get a cut.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Thoughts

Some quick thoughts to start the week:

- The Schreiber affair is bad news for the Tories. But, I mean the Tories of Brian Mulroney. I don't really see this being Harper's scandal. I mean he wasn't even in the same party at the time. Then again, I have no gauge for how the public judges scandals so who knows. That and the appearance of a cover up is great for the fodder.

- The whole thing seems almost to surreal to be true. I find it hard to believe a PM could be that stupid.

- The Dion poverty plan is nice. I like the policy diversification. The all Kyoto, all the time thing was driving me nuts. I could make a long argument about how "eliminating poverty" is an unrealistic goal. However, the steps proposed by M. Dion should do well to mitigate and alleviate the impact of poverty if not doing the impossible and eliminating it. Let's leave it at that.

- I wish I could go see Gerard Kennedy speak about an enterprising Canada down at Ryerson on the 19th. And for all you conspiracy hacks out there, this is Gerard's job NOT a continuation of his leadership run.

- Chantal Hébert continues her cheer leading for Mr. Harper in the Star today. I don't know that there is a more blatantly partisan columnist out there today.

- This post marks the 201st for this little blog. I would have marked the 200th but I thought it an inappropriate accompaniment to the poetry of Dr. McRae.

- Anyone understand the San Diego Chargers or the New Orleans Saints? Anyone?

- For that matter, anyone get the Pittsburgh Penguins?

- The writers' strike down south is fascinating to me. In fact, I think I'll skip commenting here and devote a whole post.

- As much as I dislike the media's love affair with Québec, I agree that it is the most interesting political story in the country these days.

- Although, Saskatchewan is pretty interesting itself. It's not everyday a government loses during an economic boom.

- The Toronto Raptors need to get the consistency thing down. They have the potential to be a really good team.

- Go Argos! The Grey Cup needs the host city to play if it is going to be a real success. This might not be true out West, it is in Toronto.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

On days such as these words fail me. So, I leave the words to others:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- Dr. John McRae

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Okay, so there are people upset with me suggesting that Harper should bail out Canada's struggling cities. They argue it is unconstitutional. First of all, you can read the constitution in a lot of ways. For instance section 92.10 c states that local works and undertakings are a provincial responsibility EXCEPT :
"(c) Such Works as, although wholly situate within the Province, are before or after their Execution declared by the Parliament of Canada to be for the general Advantage of Canada or for the Advantage of Two or more of the Provinces."

To me this is a fairly broad exception and could certainly be applied to a whole host of things in Canada's cities. I could argue that ensuring the security of the Toronto Stock Exchange is in the "general advantage of Canada" and therefore the feds should pay part of the cost of the Toronto Police Force. I could argue that investments in public transit which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions are in the "general advantage of Canada" and therefore deserve federal funding. Hell, why not throw in literacy (public libraries) and public health (recreational facilities, garbage collection)? The Canadian economy needs healthy educated workers.

Even if you don't want to get picky, there's are a lot of things that fall under federal jurisdiction, particularly in the GTA. "Naturalization and Aliens" falls under section 91. Money for ESL programs, please and thank you. The feds have a responsibility in our cities. The provinces don't mind the intrusion. In fact Dalton McGuinty is begging for it. The constitution was framed by men like John A. Macdonald who that the provinces would wither and die within a few decades. We can certainly afford to cross some lines in light of modern circumstances.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Harper's Walking on Thin Ice

Harper's attitude towards the municipalities of this country is deplorable. They are in a major fix and the federal government refuses to help. Now Harper finds himself at war not only with Ontario's recently re-elected premier but with its most popular mayor, Hazel McCallion. Harper needs the suburbs of Toronto if he wants his majority and pissing off Hazel is not a good way to win votes there. This isn't the wacky socialist mayor of Toronto, this is the no nonsense mayor of Mississauga. There's a big difference and Harper may learn it at the polls.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hooray for Infrastructure!

As promised, a post on infrastructure. There is a lot of talk today about how pointless the federal government is. The argument is that the provinces and municipalities provide most of the essential services and yet the feds collect most of the money. Well, here it is folks, what the feds could do with all that money that is distinctly their responsibility. Infrastructure was what united this country in the first place. The railroad built this country in a whole slew of ways. The railroad is also the future of this country. This country desperately needs cheap, fast train services. In particular, this is necessary in major corridors. Two immediately come to mind. First, the place where a huge number of Canadians live, the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. Why is it that the best way to get from Toronto-Ottawa is by car? Planes are expensive and you have to spend hours getting to and going through security at the airport. The current trains are not much faster than a car (particularly if you exceed the speed limit) and are ridiculously overpriced. Imagine if you could make the trip from Toronto-Ottawa in about 2 hours. This is possible. It is done all over Europe. There are high speed trains that go well over 200 km/h. Now, I have heard that the Canadian climate could be a problem. However, I believe that this is an obstacle that can be overcome. The higher speed would also knock down the costs of running the trains (or at very least offset any increase in the cost of operating the faster trains) because you would be paying for fewer hours of labour. Not only do we need fast trains but we need train service in more places. The Calgary-Edmonton-Fort McMurray corridor would be a prime target for trains. Kitchener-Waterloo needs to be train accessible as well. Fast trains would reduce traffic congestion, reduce pollution and increase productivity (less hours spent traveling is a good for business).

The second major infrastructure the feds could make is in our airports. If you want to make sure Canada is open to business in a globalized era, you must reduce the ridiculous landing fees which exist at Canadian airports. By making a larger contribution to the upkeep and expansion of our airports, the federal government would make travel cheaper for Canadians and Canada more competitive.

Is there more? Of course. Our population has outgrown our network of highways. Many of our existing roads and bridges need repair. These are all matters that the federal government can help in. It is time for us to invest in infrastructure.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stephen Harper is not Always Wrong

I guess this post should be titled why the senate should be abolished. Let's review our options on the Canadian Senate:

The Status Quo:

An unelected senate/ or quasi-elected (Harper's appointment of the senator from Alberta) senate with almost as much power (on paper) as the House of Commons. The provincial distribution of seats is based on population data from when provinces entered confederation and designed to provide a regional balancing act that no longer makes sense. The West should not be equal to the Maritimes. This is not a good thing for the Canadian system to hold on to. The pros of the current senate? Sober second thought? An interesting idea. Most of the real work that the senate does is in fixing legislation to make it legally better. That work could and really should be done in the House. If you want an unelected body to review legislation, we have a federal bureaucracy. Reports on major issues of the day? Well, there are some reports we might pay attention to (reports on health care). However, most are simply ignored. Did you know the Canadian senate recently put out a report on aid policy in sub-Saharan Africa? Is it a good report, I couldn't tell you, I haven't read it. Could we have it done by a committee of the House of Commons or, a Canadian tradition, a Royal Commission? Absolutely.


Now, I know there isn't a perfect consensus on Senate reform, so I'll look at the most popular: the triple E senate. I don't mind (in and of itself) the elected part. Elected officials are a good thing. However, the other two parts make me cringe. Equal? Are you joking? The idea is to give every province ten seats. PEI would be equal to Ontario. I have never understood the logic. The only reason seems to be that the Americans do it. That does not make something good or desirable. The third E however is the kicker. An effective senate would lead only to endless legislative gridlock. You would have butchered version of American democracy. We have a House of Commons, we don't need another body like this.

The only reasonable conclusion is to abolish the upper house as was done across the country in province after province. It is a redundant relic of history. I agree with Liberals like Dalton McGuinty that it is time to end this farce.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sports for a Monday

So, being completely annoyed with federal politics, I think I'll devote a post to something less serious. So, my quick thoughts on the weekend sporting events.

- The Pats are amazing. Brady has a poor game by his standards and they still come from ten points down to beat the far and away second best team in the NFL.

- Will someone please give my now .500 Buffalo Bills some respect? This team is a couple of inches from being 6-2 (last second losses to Dallas and Denver). Sure, the teams they've beaten have combined for eight wins but the teams they've lost to have combined for eight losses.

- How much do the Michigan Wolverines wish they could replay that game against Appalaichan State?

- Nice to see the always consistent Oregon Ducks back on top of the PAC 10.

- Western continues its hot streak through the OUA. I'm pissed off they beat my Golden Gaels. I feel a little better since they beat Ottawa.

- The Raptors are good. Really good. Losing in overtime to one of the best teams in the east when your top two players spend the first half ice cold? That's one impressive off night.

- The Maple Leafs are horrible. JFJ has got to go. MLSE knows how to build a winner (see above). They have more money than God, spend it on a top level GM and the best scouts in the business.

- The Argos are one win away from playing at home in the Grey Cup. The ownership must be thrilled.

- Sports can be disillusioning. Case and point: Martina Hingis was one of the few tennis players I respected.

- Congrats to Calgary's Stephen Ames for his win. Why did the Canadian boys get hot when the season is ending?

- What is going on with the Pens? The team of the future is not looking very good in the present these days.

More politics later on. Probably a post on infrastructure. I'm interested in the dullest things aren't I?

Friday, November 02, 2007


Some quick thoughts that have crossed my mind:

- The Dems made a mistake in not allowing Stephen Colbert to run in South Carolina. At this point the Democratic nomination is going to be a snooze, a Colbert candidacy would keep people watching.

- The Canadian dollar continues to soar. Prices are starting to come down. Sometimes the free market actually does work, it does require some patience though.

- Stephen Harper's "new" government is apparently "new" for the 1930's. How else to explain the decision to let Canadians be killed in the United States. Our opposition to the death penalty in this country is a moral choice. We should fight for it everywhere in the world. Do we "respect" the laws of all of our friends? Funny, we don't seem to respect Chinese law regarding Tibet...

- So the Tories have taken to ousting candidates. I understand getting rid of candidates you don't like. I particularly understand it when you have another candidate to replace them. However, in an acclaimed nomination race in a riding you can't possibly win...

- In what universe do you think you can get away with stealing a baby in this country? There's morally repulsive and then there's morally repulsive.

- Repeatedly rolling over won't help you stand up M. Dion. What's the new YLC slogan I hate? Challenge everything? Well, you don't have to do that, but for the love of this party, please, challenge something. Oh, and by something, I don't mean the GST cut. Is it stupid? Yes. Is it political suicide to oppose it? Yes. Oh, on a lighter note I do approve of M. Dion's Laurier outfit.
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