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.
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Goodbye Gentleman Jack

Goodbye Gentleman Jack

Thousands of worthwhile words will be penned in these days and hours after the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton. These words will all have merit and they will paint a picture of man who transcended politics and connected with the common man. These words will still not be enough. Gentleman Jack, you were one of a kind.

Jack loved Canada, loved Toronto and ultimately, loved life and believed in the good we can all achieve. His political legacy will be the story of a fighter, of persistence and of wading political shark-filled waters with wit, optimism and savvy. Remember, this is an NDP leader who helped guide the party from the brink of obscurity to one which played wedge politics with decisive success. During Canada’s recent minority governments it was Jack and his NDP which carried the biggest hammer at times.

Then, the culmination of those efforts reached epic heights in the 2011 federal election…official opposition status. However, the  fates have a cruel sense of humour, this opposition status came with the Conservatives scoring a majority government. Nevertheless, it was the NDP and its “orange wave” which slayed the separatist Bloc Québécois menace in Quebec. Jack won by representing and connecting with the social democratic values of the Québécois. Jack won by being kind and genuinely enthusiastic. Jack won by being Jack.

In his farewell letter to Canadians Jack showed the political acumen which served him so well from city hall to Parliament Hill. It also provided that final brush stroke which helps define the man.

In his closing words he wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Let’s change the world indeed Jack for you changed ours.

Goodbye Gentleman Jack.

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.

NDP are Boy Scouts? Liberals grasp and Conservatives motor along

Here they come down the home stretch and what an interesting finish it will be.

Who would have thought the NDP and its leader Jack Layton could sustain their surge over the last couple of weeks since the English language debate. Where there is smoke there is fire and there seems to be something burning here with NDP support nationwide as the federal parties race to the May 2 election deadline.

courtesy of ThreeHundredEight.com

The great site ThreeHundredEight.com, as of April 26, is projecting the NDP to climb to 42 seats and 20.9 per cent of the popular vote. That is a six-seat gain for the NDP and the Liberals would drop to 75 seats from 77 with their popular vote hovering around 26.4 per cent.

“The NDP’s growth comes in both Ontario and Quebec, where the party is up 3.3 points and 7.3 points, respectively. In Quebec, the NDP has taken the lead forcefully, pushing the Bloc down two points to 25.2%. Note that the Conservatives are down to 14.7% while the Liberals are at a very low 13.1%,” finds ThreeHundredEight.com.

Obviously the smoke is serious enough when you look at the recent ads and focus Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals have directed at the NDP.

Ignatieff was recently quoted in a Campaign Notebook on the Globe and Mail as calling the NDP “bunch of Boy Scouts”. As the centrist power playground of the Liberals appears wonky for them to rely on, Iggy is lashing out…is it a leftover stinging from Layton calling out Ignatieff’s attendance record at the House of Commons? During the English language debate Layton noted that Ignatieff had missed 70 per cent of the votes held, a number Parliament Hill insiders have confirmed.

Look into Jack's eyes....courtesy of The Toronto Star

The Bloc are being chastised in some circles for running a shoddy campaign as the NDP appears gain favour in Quebec. The Liberals are desperately grasping for support from the left, support which is galvanizing behind a leader those supporters believe in- the same cannot be said in the fractured Liberal house. On the right, the Conservatives have remained steady and on point, the united right (which has governed closer to centre than some supporters would like) looks to be insurmountable with Canada’s fractured centre-left landscape to counter it.

What to make of it all? You tell me OnDeadline readers. Can the NDP make a serious push to be the official opposition? Can the Liberals in fact fall that far off the Canadian electoral map to end up in third? Will the Conservatives nail down a majority?

One thing seems almost certain, barring a cataclysmic collapse of epic European Black Death proportions; we will have a Conservative minority government again once all the votes are counted. This outcome must leave some of you wondering…was this election ever worth it?

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?

Prorogued parliament are perogies- all of them

Parliament has been prorogued, hope everyone is proud of themselves in Ottawa.

From Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his bully ways of trying to run a minority government as if he had a majority, to the recent asinine, power grubbing opposition coalition, affectionately called the three-headed hydra, our political leaders have done all Canadians a disservice. We likely would have been better off with actual perogies in the House of Commons, they would have tasted better and we could have eaten them to get rid of them.

Parliament won’t be up and running again until Jan. 27 when the Tories will table their budget. Now, what strategy the coalition will employ should be interesting, that is if it will actually exist by then. If this budget has the economic measures deemed necessary to help move Canada forward as the economic slowdown continues, will the power-hungry triumvirate still come together to vote it down?

In fact, is a coalition even necessary now? Each of these parties could simply just vote against the budget on their own accord, standing on their own ground to make their point. This coalition may represent a majority of parliament but it does not represent a majority of Canadians. Until the Bloc become a national party and run candidates coast to coast, they are not a party which has a national base.

Prorogation of parliament is the death knell of this hastily pulled together coalition. With a budget delivered in late January and Stephane Dion out the Liberal door by early May, the lone alternative, meek and weak as he is, for coalition leader will barely have time for tea before riding off into the sunset.

The opposition parties might as well just vote down the budget and get us headed to the polls so Canadians can actually choose, once again, who they think should govern them. This coalition came together quick and dirty and out of fear and anger, if anything, they can be credited with scaring the heck out of Stone Cold Harper. 

The upcoming budget now should have the measures that everyone is crying for. Then, we will really see what everyone in Ottawa is made of. Will Harper finally listen? Will the opposition leaders vote in favour of a budget which will help the economy? If this misguided coalition was in fact about the economy, they will vote in favour it. If they don’t and the budget is jam-packed with economic goodness, this will prove it is was all about power. If the budget  does not have the economic help required, Harper deserves to fall.

What a bunch of perogies, all of them.