Dear son, about your Canada

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Dear Son,

Canada is set to turn 150 and I figured I’d leave you a note about the Canada I’ve grown to love during my life. What will Canada be in 25 years when you are 27 and it celebrates its next major anniversary milestone of 175 years? What will it mean to you? Will the things I love about it be relevant in 25 years? Will its dark issues and warts be finally set right or improved? In the end, what will you ultimately love about it and be disappointed in?

I must admit, this was originally meant to be a short note…then it became an essay it seems. However, the more I edit it the more I realize that exploring what Canada is, through my eyes, could become an opus-like novel. Maybe that’s a project for another day.

Canada is always home and it has definitely always felt like that for me after I have travelled abroad. I’ve been lucky enough to see countless countries, epic cities and quaint small towns across three continents beyond North America. No matter how inspired I’ve been by the places I’ve seen and experienced, when I’ve touched Canadian soil upon my return, I’ve always been happy to be home.

Canada can be what you want it to be but I really believe, to understand it better, you need to see a lot of it. What Canada means to a Torontonian is very different than what it means for someone in Charlottetown, Quebec City, Winnipeg or Jasper.

Visit Canada’s great cities and you get a sense of how layered The Canadian fabric can be. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are awesome cities and examples of some of the things that make us great: tolerance, efficiency, passion, sensitivity, multiculturalism, art, music and civic pride. Now realize, there is a laundry list of issues in these cities too, just like all major world cities, from poverty to racism to traffic.

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Visit Canada’s smaller towns and you will also see what makes it great. From Bell Island, N.L., to Cobourg, Ont. or Tofino, B.C., these places are just as important to that Canadian fabric I mentioned. The sense of community, tranquility, history and pace in these places will never disappoint and can surprise you.

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As with many things you will experience in life, you can find poignancy and nostalgia in many things if you allow yourself to experience them that way. For me, Canada is watching a sunset on the Pacific Ocean, while near Tofino with two of my dearest friends, after driving across the country. Canada is standing on North America’s most easterly point, Cape Spear in Newfoundland, in a fog so thick that besides it being blinding it seemed deafening too in a strange way. It’s about trying to order in French while in Montreal or Quebec City and usually getting a friendly or disdainful smile…be prepared for either and roll with it. Canada is also about experiencing a variety of world cultures and food by hopping on and off Toronto’s streetcars and subways in only one day.

The greatness of a nation can sometimes even be measured by the structures it builds and Canada has some iconic ones to be proud of. The CN Tower, the Confederation Bridge, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Rogers Centre, the CPR railroad, the St. Lawrence Seaway and I’m just getting started here, are examples of Canadian vision and construction excellence. Our gothic revival Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are beautiful and their story is a “Canadian one” in many ways. You will learn about all these in time.

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Know this too, Canadian stereotypes of us being a bunch of puckheads (hockey fans), being ultra-polite (we always say sorry even when it doesn’t apply), we say “eh” a lot and that we are always “nice”, have been around since I was child. I suspect they will be around for quite awhile still. Some of these are rooted in some truth…once again, just roll with it.

Canadians are fierce fighters too. When provoked or when the need to get into the fight arises, Canada answers the call valiantly. Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Passchendaele, Dieppe, Ortona, Kosovo, the Korean War and Afghanistan, these have been some of our greatest battles, in some, we bled badly but Canada showed the world we will fight when called upon. Our peacekeeping initiatives are just as worthy as well.

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Please note, we are not a nation of rainbows, puppy dogs and ice cream, though some Canadians are blissfully always like this. We have dark mistakes we have just started to atone for. What our country did to its indigenous people, in particular through the residential school initiative, is awful. Slowly and just recently, Canada has begun to accept this horrible past and has apologized for it but the road ahead is very long. Respecting treaty rights and helping support the indigenous people of this land is something Canada has failed at. The state of many reserves are atrocious and rival third world nations and…most Canadian do not even know it or acknowledge it. I really hope that by Canada’s 175th we will have made some inroads to better help and support the indigenous communities that need it…I really hope and pray for this.

In the end, Canada is a wonderfully diverse, tolerant, accepting and passionate country. It is has welcomed millions from around the world, no matter their race, religion or socio-economic status. A drive across its massive landscape and how it changes from province to province is awe inspiring. In fact, in the end, Canada is incredible in how it has managed to make itself work. It gave your Italian grandparents an opportunity at a new life and helped shaped me into who I am. Canada will shape you in ways you may not notice for awhile and I hope you will be passionate about this country we call home.

True North strong and free forever.
Dad

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The 11 of 2011

Hello blogosphere, it sure is nice to visit again. No excuses for my sporadic care and attention to you – life is busy, passions get re-directed and ultimately, when you have spent your life writing, having another beast in the lair of your mind to feed might be one extra beast too many.

However, rest assured, though my fingers did not dance as frequently across this keyboard as before, while blogging like no one is watching,  it did not mean I was detached from the lovely, recession plagued, one per cent driven, 99 per cent wailing, Arab Spring jumping planet of ours.

What will 2012 hold? Who really knows but some things are assured: economies will remain tight, atrocities will still occur, politicians will still confound, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not win the Stanley Cup and you, the constant reader, the internet nomad, the blogging rogue, will still be out there. Happy travels and I hope you return.

For your review, by the warm glow of your tablet, smart phone, laptop or desktop, during this frigid January, is our humble submission for top stories of the year called The 11 of 2011. Better late than never….

THE DEATH OF JACK LAYTON

Who could have imagined the incredible public outpouring after the death of Jack Layton, NDP and official opposition leader, here in Canada. Gentleman Jack, as we fondly remember him, motivated and stirred passion among the Canadian voting public in the 2011 federal election. He WAS the Orange Wave that swept through Quebec and in other parts of Canada, pushing the New Democratic Party to unparalleled and likely never to repeat again heights.

The big screen at St. Andrew's for the state funeral nearby. Photo By: Vince Versace

Sitting in Toronto’s St. Andrew’s church to watch his state funeral on the big screen was a touchstone life moment. The celebration of his life in that church was an emotional rollercoaster I had never felt before for someone who was not an immediate family member or friend. From poignant audio and video clips, to rousing, almost Baptist-revival-like music and performances, Gentleman Jack’s memory was truly celebrated. He is still missed on our political landscape and for us political junkies, in our notepads and hearts too.

THE VANCOUVER STANLEY CUP RIOTS

An example of the public outcry after the 2011 Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

Stupid is as stupid does. That best describes the neanderthals, hooligans and thugs who ripped up downtown Vancouver after their Vancouver Canucks lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals against the big, bad Boston Bruins. No one likes losing but someone has to in sport. However, tearing up your city on national television is no way to vent.

A common refrain after the Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

We were on the ground in Vancouver the day after the riot as volunteers and normal citizens tried to reclaim and clean up their city. What had occurred just 24 hours before had left that community in shock. Watching and then reading the outpouring of emotion by citizens as they wrote on sheets of plywood or on homemade flags and banners, denouncing the idiots and proclaiming their civic love, was a moving sight.

FINISHED READING PARIS 1919

Every have a book you just can’t put down but at the same time, you cannot speed up to read through? Welcome to my life and the relationship I had with the book Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan. I LOVED THIS BOOK! However, before you rush out and buy it, take note, it helps to have interests in history and politics to read it. This is a dense, fact-filled book which is wonderfully researched and written.

A wonderfully researched and written book, perfect for the history-politico junkie in your life.

I learned so much, chapter to chapter, about the decisions and players that influenced and ultimately crafted the world we currently both enjoy and shake our heads about. The genesis of our mistakes, messes and some of our recent darkest hours, as a global community, can mostly be found in this book. If you do not like to read to learn, or do not enjoy history and politics, stay far away and go read another Twilight novel.

FORDVILLE  aka TORONTO

So, the mayor everyone loves to hate, in the heart of Toronto that is, is still apparently roundly loved by his suburban power base. Mayor Rob Ford rode to office with promises of eliminating the so-called “gravy train” at city hall. The head-shaking moments during his first year in office vary but one strikes us as troublesome, his war with the Toronto Star.

Mayor Ford refuses to be interviewed, let alone release his press releases and itinerary, to one of Canada’s largest dailies. He is still looking for a front page apology from the Star over a story he disagreed with. The mayor’s office is a public office paid for by the taxpayers…the same taxpayers who Mayor Ford holds dear (and I do believe his sincere care for them). They deserve to know the office they entrust to run the city is open to all…including media that the mayor may not agree with. Kudos to the Toronto Star city hall reporting team who have been doing an incredible job considering the obstacles in their way. Mayor Ford says he  respects the taxpayer, are the employees and readers of The Star taxpayers not worthy enough of his respect?

Seven other notable stories:

  • The Norway massacre in which 77 people were killed in two separate attacks orchestrated by a crazed gunman. So much youth and innocence lost to a madman.
  • NASA’s space shuttle flies its last space flight. Thank you for all the space exploration, spirit, innovation and memories on those majestic big birds.
  • Canada’s federal Conservative party secures their long elusive majority government on Parliament Hill. Like them or hate them, at least some work will get done.
  • The beating up of President Barack Obama. The American president has been besieged by his critics and wing nuts who would not survive a day in his shoes under such relentless and unfair scrutiny. He is still a good man who simply needs to lead like he can and throw some haymakers along the way.
  • The death of Osama bin Laden. For some Americans, this provided both real and symbolic closure. President Obama’s cool walk after making the announcement was priceless.
  • The 10th anniversary of 9/11. A heart wrenching day burned into most of our minds. Hard to believe 10 years have passed.
  • The “occupy” movement, from mere embryo initiative in New York to worldwide phenomena in mere months…what were its tangible results? Not sure…plenty of awareness? Possibly…that is if you were interested in listening.

REMEMBER TO VOTE CANADA!!!

One simple message:

GET OUT AND VOTE TODAY FELLOW CANADIANS!

It is a privilege we enjoy in this fine democracy we complain about and sometimes ignore. There are people literally dying worldwide today to even get a sniff of democracy in their homelands, let alone a chance to vote.

It does not matter what political stripe you are- JUST DO IT!!!!

OFF YOUR DUFFS, GRAB A COFFEE AND VOTE!!!

Ghosts, Rhinoceros and an Orange Wave, Canadian election has it all

From ghost candidates to fringe parties, here are some scribbles from the notepad as the May 2 vote approaches.

GHOST CANDIDATES

The Toronto Star recently brought to light several local instances where federal parties have listed candidates in ridings but they are simply nothing more than names on a piece of a paper- better known as “placeholder” candidates.

Party organizers say it is hard to field a full slate of candidates in 308 ridings nationwide and to do so; a “placeholder” candidate is a necessary evil. They also say, in some ridings, they do not stand of chance of winning, so they just file a name and leave it at that.

This is a disservice to the party and voters in that particular riding. How can a party gain any traction or stature in a riding if it does not have an official candidate getting out there knocking on doors and appearing at all-candidates’ debates?

How about the voters in that riding who lean towards that political stripe? If they see no candidate signs or signs of a pulse for that matter, it comes across as the candidate and party are not willing to work for their vote or potential new ones. Better to have someone run and have their butt-kicked than have a ghost candidate.

ORANGE WAVE

The Orange Wave of NDP support is real it seems. Why so? The Conservatives and Liberals have not dismissed it even as May 2 approaches. In fact, with the Conservatives turning their guns on the NDP, as if they are their main rival now, it has legitimized the Orange Wave. We could be in for an amazing result by the morning of May 3. Michael Ignatieff may rue the day he resoundingly dismissed Jack Layton and the NDP in the leader’s debate saying they would never form a government. Which party is starting to look like a real national party now, eh Iggy?

THE FRINGE PARTIES

Do you feel like the five federal parties are not speaking your language, feeling your mojo or are hard to identify with?

May be one of these smaller fringe parties are for you. Depending where in Canada you are, it is quite the buffet to choose from, they are:

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

Canadian Action Party

Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Communist Party of Canada

First Peoples National Party of Canada

Libertarian Party of Canada

Marijuana Party

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Pirate Party of Canada

Progressive Canadian Party

Rhinoceros Party

United Party of Canada

Western Block Party

Click here to find information on the above mentioned parties.

FAVOURITE ELECTION AD: “Our Country” by the Conservatives

Say what you will about the Conservatives, but this ad hits every patriotic Canadian note there is. If you hate Stephen Harper, just imagine Donald Sutherland or hell…even Don Cherry voicing it. The writing in it is top-notch, I didn’t know if I should stand up, salute and sing O’ Canada, bodycheck someone into the corner or run to Tim’s and buy an extra-large double-double.

Canadian election fever…what’s that smell…tacos?

The election made me do it.

After an extended hiatus from the blog…once again…here I am with some observations on our current federal election campaign in Canada.

What to think of a $300 million election no one really wants? Will Prime Minister Stephen Harper secure his long sought after majority or will minority rule, under Tory blue, be the main course after the May 2 election?

Can Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff galvanize a Liberal base that appears still divided or uninterested in him, the party or a bit of both? Can Ignatieff and his Liberal red machine make much-needed inroads in the west (anywhere in western Canada really) fight off the Conservatives in some hot Ontario ridings and make even a dent in Quebec?

What to make of gentleman Jack Layton and his NDP party? By far the most likeable of all federal leaders among pundits and insiders, his goal is simple, hold on to the 36 seats the NDP have and see if they can inch closer to 20 in Ontario. Respectfully Mr. Layton, you are more the mayor Toronto needs than the prime minister we require on the Hill.

Jack Layton, a political zen master.

For Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc Quebecois leader, maintaining his party’s stranglehold on federal seats in La Belle Province is top priority and knocking off Justin Trudeau in his Papineau riding would likely be a wonderful feather in his cap.

For Elizabeth May and her Green Party, she needs to win in her riding if the party is to gain any serious respect and grow. Sure, just over one million people voted Green in the last election but I am convinced that is simply a masked protest vote.

How many people do you know that can tell you what the Green Party stands for besides the one easy answer of the “environment”? Win a riding, get into Ottawa and then we can talk. If one million people can vote for the party coast-to-coast, surely a majority in a riding can believe in that party’s leader.

Some random thoughts on what else we have seen so far on the campaign trail:

  • Can opposition leaders continue to make hay of the G8-G20 spending boondoggle reported in an Auditor General draft report leaked to the media?
  • Can Ignatieff continue to grow his leadership profile (he certainly has improved) and make his pleas for democracy on Parliament Hill stick and translate into votes?
  • Can we start hearing some serious discussion and not just sound bites on the issues of: Arctic sovereignty, the soon to expire Canada Health Accord, equal health and education growth rates for the First Nations, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities and electoral reform?
  • The most likeable leaders, for their honesty and candour from this end of the keyboard, are Layton and Duceppe. Why? Because they have nothing to lose and can be themselves, one just needs to hold on to 36 seats and the other a Quebecois fiefdom.

Lastly, we’re slowly becoming convinced social media does not contribute anything of substance when it comes to a campaign and an election. Sure, news hits get out quick, in pithy little ways, but once the 24 hour cycle chews up all the social media cud, it is on to the next series of tweets, blogs, digs and farts, with little true discussion or dissection of an issue.

Feed the masses and move on, phew…who had tacos for lunch?

Hole in My Jacket – Remembrance Day 2010

Hole in My Jacket – Remembrance Day 2010


That poppy, it’s worth the hole in my jacket and more

Weathered old hands hold a box of vividly red poppies

The young and old pass the veteran, he stands proudly and waits

“Buy a poppy?”a passing kid says, “I don’t want to put holes in my jacket.”

 

From Vimy Ridge to Kandahar, that poppy’s glow grows

From dusty boots in Afghanistan to the muddy shores of Juno Beach

Young souls lost, greater causes fought for

That poppy, it’s worth the hole in my jacket and more

 

From small town to big city Canada they serve

Under one flag they fight, under that same flag they perish

An enemy we never see they face, an ultimate sacrifice given

That poppy, it’s worth the hole in my jacket and more

 

A silhouetted soldier at sunrise salutes

Another comrade dead, another life taken too soon

On foreign soil they fall, what hell those final moments must be

That poppy, it’s worth the hole in my jacket and more

 

Flag draped coffins walked off hulking military planes

Brothers and sisters in arms salute, proud families tearfully wait

From highway overpasses the words “thank you” rain down

That poppy, it’s worth the hole in our jackets and more

 

Remember that poppy

 

Remember

 

 

– Vince Versace

The American “Sandwich Generation” has less bite: survey

Canadians between the ages of 50 to 64 are less worried about the future than their American counterparts, according to an Alberta researcher.

“The Americans were generally close to a panicked state,” said Susan McDaniel, a sociology researcher and demographics expert, in a Newswise release. “Essentially, they were saying ‘I’m feeling I’ve lost control, I can’t plan’.”

McDaniel has been working on a comparative study of Canadians and Americans between the ages of 50 and 64. She shared her survey’s preliminary findings during the 2010 Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Montreal’s Concordia University.

Survey researchers were surprised to see such an almost helpless attitude which “runs counter to the image of Americans” as being independent people responsible for their lives and their future, said McDaniel. Meanwhile, Canadian survey respondents were “worried” but not panicked and felt they had some control over their lives.

The “sandwich generation” is typically recognized as the 50-to-64-year-old age group which often still cares for elderly parents, is still responsible for their children and is trying to save for its impending retirement. Consider this description in the American recessionary landscape since 2008…can you blame this generation for its sense of unease?

On Deadline wanted to share McDaniel’s initial survey findings because we know that among our constant readers, quite a few are Americans in their early 50s. This post is far from the inferiority complex driven type of Canadian drivel (which we find incredibly tiring) that bounces about in the “look, we are better than them” realm.

“…it seems that the old age/retirement experience of our grandparents is long gone in the rearview mirror, no matter which country you call home”- On Deadline

What strikes us about these initial survey findings is they point to a very different “old age” experience for people living on either side of the 49th parallel. Frankly, whatever the survey’s official findings conclude, it seems that the old age/retirement experience of our grandparents is long gone in the rearview mirror, no matter which country you call home.

McDaniel and her research team coincidentally started their research as the recession hit two years ago. She explained that the housing bubble burst and stock market decline had the sandwich generation worried “that their plans for retirement were shot. Health care was another major concern, particularly for people who feared they might lose health insurance if they lost their job.”

No specific survey rationale was yet available on why Canadians felt more at ease but one does not have to look too far beyond how firmly our banking sector has survived and our free public health care network.

The study also found that more middle-aged Americans than Canadians are living in multi-generational households. McDaniel said she was not able to identify why this was the case but wondered if it was a ripple effect result of the housing bubble- more American children who lost their home had moved back in with their parents.

– with files from Newswise