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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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.

Three-headed hydra eats Canadian democracy

This is a hijack, nothing more, nothing less. What is happening on Parliament Hill thanks to Canada’s opposition parties is exactly that, a hijack, is there a political anti-terrorism squad to call?

 

The spectre of the three-headed hydra of Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe taking power in Ottawa continues to grow thanks to a recent agreement they signed. The Dec. 8 confidence vote, if Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not prorogue parliament, will be a low day for Canadian democracy. This hydra is feasting on our democracy.

 

Let’s set one thing straight for the sake of this rant. I have never voted for a Progressive Conservative candidate. There have been Tory politicians I admired for their tactical acumen but as far as party ethos goes, I am about as far away from what a Tory party stands for as you can get. However, what is happening right now in Ottawa stinks.

 

This is a power grab because Harper continued his bully ways by trying to cut public funding of parties. This coalition is hiding behind the veil of the economic slowdown in order to steal power they could not legitimately secure in the last two federal elections.

 

Let’s look closely at how crazy the make up of this coalition is:

 

         Stephan Dion would be installed as prime minister if the coalition takes power. The very same Dion who led the Liberals to having their heads handed to them on a zero carbon footprint platter. A man whose leadership during the campaign was being questioned by his very own party supporters. A man who a majority of Canadians did not believe in enough to lead the country and his party is set to replace in May 2009.

 

         This coalition does not represent how the majority of Canadians voted in the recent federal election. You cannot count on the Bloc Quebecois numbers because they are skewed, having run candidates only in Quebec, they are not a national party…what are they again…oh yes, a separatist party. The Liberals and NDP will assume power thanks to the backing of a separatist party. You combine just Liberal and NDP election results and a majority of Canadians still did not choose them to govern.

 

         Our federal government, which represents the interests of all of Canada, will have its foundation of power based on a separatist party, a party which does not believe in the Canada the federal government is caretaker of. How is this logical and in the best interests of all Canadians?

 

         A weak Liberal party being propped up by the separatist Bloc. How will this help the future aspirations of the Liberal party ever registering a heart beat again in that province? This is a province where voters turn to the Conservatives before the Liberals as their distant second choice behind the Bloc.

 

There is nothing constitutionally wrong with what the opposition leaders are trying to do but make no mistake, it is greed and power feeding this three-headed hydra and nothing else. How embarrassing. How sad.  

 

Power Grab or Nation Saving?

Is the latest tactic by Canada’s opposition parties to wrestle power away from the Tories a case of nation saving or just a plain, old, dirty power grab?

Opposition parties claim the Tories have done nothing to save the Canadian economy. There has been no “stimulus” package announced. The Tories “do not get” what is happening to regular Canadians. They are “out of touch”.

Well, if the Tories are so “out of touch”, they “out of touch”-ed their way to a slightly larger minority government in the federal election this past fall. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is being lambasted for providing no “stimulus” package in his recent economic update. Historically, economic updates never have new spending deals in them- that is why they are updates and not budgets.

Sure, the Tories have not announced any new flashy, headline-grabbing spending announcements. Sure, during the recent federal campaign Prime Minister downplayed the growing economic slowdown. However, are Canadians expected to believe that the Tories, which have won the last two elections and had their hands at the nation’s till, is out of touch with its finances?

Is this nation supposed to be happy with a possible coalition government, which consists of the Liberals and the NDP, propped up by the Bloc Quebecois, taking power? Our national government would be headed partially by the Bloc, a party that fundamentally does not want to be part of Canada.

Harper has now pushed the confidence vote back to Monday, Dec. 8. He is trying find some breathing room, go on the attack, hopefully haggle behind the scenes and get Canadian public opinion behind him.

Will this delay save Canadian politics from going over the edge into some wild territory during a global economic crisis. Canadians have to ask, is this what we want happening in Ottawa as a recession continues to grow? 

There are issues the Tories need to address but would it not serve Canadians better to have the government which was recently elected have the chance to deliver their budget? There can be a confidence vote showdown then, like we are having now. Are the opposition parties afraid that there actually may be something substantial in it that budget that would leave crush their arguments?

Some could argue, may be it is the opposition parties who should be trying harder to work with the elected minority government, and not the other way around, they did win after all. Also, are big flashy spending announcements the Canadian way? The fact we are not in a total shambles is because we have been steady in our approach.

Canadians need to determine, is all this a power grab or nation saving?

When in doubt…around the horn we go!

When in doubt, go around the horn, throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Yes, also use the lamest cliches you can to justify the fact you are not inspired by solely one thing enough to write about it.

Proposed New Driving Restrictions for Ontario Teens

Though teenagers think recent proposed restriction are fascist and unfair, they are designed to protect them and the rest of us. Of late, there have been both serious and fatal accidents thanks to irresponsible and inexperienced teens behind the wheel. Accidents which involved young adults I am sure have some root in bad driving habits formed while people were in their teens.

The proposed restrictions would see teens with G2-class licences banned from carrying more than one passenger aged 19 and under at all times during the first year of their licensing period. The restriction is now limited to between midnight and 5 a.m. Teenaged family members, however, are exempt. There is nothing wrong with this, says here.

The restrictions also forbid teens from having even one drink before driving if they are 21 or younger – a zero blood-alcohol level is required. Longer licence suspensions, or cancellations of licences could also happen in serious cases.

The recent Throne Speech

Tough times usually call for tough measures. There was nothing groundbreaking in the recent Conservative plan but it is typically Canadian in these eyes. It is steady and progressive but not flashy. If the Conservatives can indeed reduce interprovincial trade and labour barriers, expand Canada’s international gateways and increase support to manufacturing and aerospace sectors, as a nation, we might be able to stem the tide of panic and chaos in this economic downturn.

A Short-Term Deficit

We have been enjoying some cushy surpluses since 1997 when Paul Martin balanced our books for the first time in years, we ran 27 straight deficits, thanks to Liberals and Tories, from 1970 to 1997. However, there has never been a global crisis and meltdown like that in the United States. To avoid a deficit Harper will have to deliver some serious program cuts and that could to make things worse for Canadians.

The rebound will be a long one in the U.S. and Canada will be going along for the ride, the life preserver provided by our commodity markets just won’t be enough. We have run a surplus for 10 years straight while nations such as the United States, France, Germany, Japan and England have been running deficits. A short-term deficit for long-term gain is in order.

Election Notebook: Green is in and Harper is a Fruit!

The Canadian campaign trail so far has produced some interesting moments, two highlights so far:

 

1. After the NDP and Conservatives finished playing their game of “I’ll do it if you do it …but you first” over the televised leader’s debate, Green Party leader Elizabeth May is now allowed to join the select filibuster club. At least her hot air will be environmentally friendly compared to the others. Who knew a little public pressure and some bad PR during a campaign could change minds….

 

2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is a fruit! Ok, ok, before anyone starts reserving a spot on his float for next year’s Gay Pride Parade, Harper is not coming out of a closet that he definitely is not in.

 

The prime minister said he would be a fruit when asked what kind of vegetable he would be if he were one. A reporter asked him the question as he was surrounded by good wholesome veggies such as carrots and cucumbers during a campaign stop. Give Harper some credit, how he answered the question was a neat little insight in his sense of humour and non-political side.

 

 

“I really don’t know how to answer that one. I’ve never been asked that question before and I have a feeling that I can’t win by answering that question,” said Harper. “Let me say this, I would choose if I had to instead to be a fruit. It’s just what I am, sweet and colourful.”

  

The PM brought down the house with that response. No reports if he also added to try the veal on Thursdays and to tip your waiter on the way out.