Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Original Song #12


How many times can you stand to fall over
How many drinks will kill this sober

Spending all your time

Losing video games

How many days must you sit by that window
Watching your dreams get covered up in snow
At least the seasons
Have the courtesy to change

You could’ve been something
You could still be something now
Only thing you haven’t beaten
Is that crippling self-doubt

You’ve got to help yourself out

How many days do you read your newspaper
Watch the TV for Dini and Oprah
Media placebos for your agoraphobia

How many times can you stand to fall over
How little changes as you grow older
Maybe do some chores
Check up on the sports scores

You’ve got friends you know
Maybe even give you a hand
Watching from the sidelines
This gem buried in quicksand

I do and don’t understand

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Debate #1 - Vive les tornades libres

Well apart from Jack Layton stumbling over his french and apparently refering to Quebeckers as "tornados" at one point, Debate #1 proved that it is still possible to produce television less stimulating than Alan Thicke. All four did well enough at getting their message out I suppose, with Duceppe looking the most nervous, and Harper looking off to the side each time he finished as if seeking approval from his school-marm.

Martin seems to have picked up a little wind in his sails from playing Captain Canada against the hapless U.S. ambassodor (Williams? Wilson? Wilkinson? Oh, who knows?*) I half expected him to show up in a cape after this week's histrionics. In fact, early on he gave the appearance he had just stepped off one of his steamships, he was swaying so much from starboard to port. He almost made me sea-sick watching him.

I thought Layton was the most convincing, partly because he has learned to be less dweebish in front of the camera. But he loses points for going over his time and getting duly chastised from the moderator.

I noticed Duceppe decided to downplay the idea that this election was the beginning of the road to another referendum on separation. You never know with him. Some days it's a major first step (especially if he's sharing a stage with Andre Boisclair in front of the faithful); other days, we get a back-pedaling performance like tonight's. Which is it?

Ah, and then there's Harper. He did not disappoint, calling the Liberals criminal with such verve he actually lost that shy new smile for a moment.

Perhaps the most illuminating thing was how Radio-Canada's post-mortem on its Le Telejournal news managed to completely ignore the fact that Layton was one of the participants. Their report showed a couple of minutes of clips of the other three, but had no time at all for the beleaguered chef du parti nouveau-democratique. Afterward, host Bernard Derome, perhaps the most respected broadcaster in Quebec, failed to direct the conversation to Layton or anything he'd said even once during a three-minute segment with a political analyst (forgive me; I didn't catch his name). The other three leaders got their due, which really left me scratching my head. As difficult as live TV is, this oversight was disturbingly unprofessional.

*check the 4:20 P.M. entry

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Our "Disappointing" Neighbour

The best that can be said of the recently concluded meeting on climate change in Montreal is that the countries that care about global warming did not allow the United States delegation to blow the whole conference to smithereens...

So begins the NY Times editorial that caught my eye with a link titled: "Shame in Montreal". The shame seen by the Times is heeped rather forcefully on the Bush administration, for its continuing recalitrance in facing up to its responsibilities on Global Warming. A good read.

Another good read is Stephen Harper's letter to the Moonie-owned Washington Times. In it, you will find some nice diplomatic language explaining his thoughts on such topics as whether Canadian troops should now be commited to the cause in Iraq:
On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Oh dear! So very... disappointing. Disappointing? I'm sure that word sums up the feelings of the dearly departed Iraqis quite nicely. For me disappointing is missing the bus, or not being able to find the DVD I'd hoped to rent. No doubt a good deal of thought went into the choice of that particular word (we don't want to ruffle any feathers now). But it's so achingly bending over to be diplomatic that it ends up being callously insulting.

Beyond that, Harper states his wish for the United States to respect NAFTA; his desire to revisit the gay marriage issue; his assessment of Kyoto as being "deeply flawed"; and a fairly strong-sounding statement about not initiating or supporting any legislation that would "restrict abortion" (although I wonder if he would be kind enough to qualify whether that is any different from restricting access to abortion).

But what I wonder most of all is when you were planning on making these thoughts clear to your own countrymen, Stephen? Or were you just going to refer us to this American rag to find that out?

- 30 -

Update: More disappointing news from the Washington Post. It seems another Iraqi Interior Ministry detention center has turned up evidence of torture that "appeared to have been more severe" than what was found last month in Baghdad. The line that sticks out for me:
Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for U.S. military detention issues, said American authorities had already been aware that the prison searched Thursday existed.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Original Song #11

Missing You

Hey there, how’re you doing?
I’m doing all right, I guess
I see you’re doing something different with your hair
You smile; you say I’m looking good
You smile like you’re a friend
Somehow I can’t stay mad at you
All the same, why do I miss you?
I’m missing you

Sometimes you don’t want to know
Sometimes that’s the way to go
Don’t think that you’ll be immune to the blows when they come
Stand up for your heroes
They may be a little tarnished
That doesn’t make them zeros
Time for a little hero varnish
And I’m missing you

First we’ll go and get some coffee
Then we’ll do a little window shopping
Paint the town red with snooker balls
Call one friend, then call them all
Playing poker with Boreales
Pictionary with brown cows
Put another log on the fire
But the wet wood dampens the desire

I’m busy discarding my crutches
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but
I’ve got to get better somehow before I buckle
And I quit smoking, and I quit drinking
But I quit quitting smoking, and I quit quitting drinking, too
Can’t quit missing you

- 30 -

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We must never forget

Geneviève Bergeron (1968-1989)
Hélène Colgan (1966-1989)
Nathalie Croteau (1966-1989)
Barbara Daigneault (1967-1989)
Anne-Marie Edward (1968-1989)
Maud Haviernick (1960-1989)
Maryse Laganière (1964-1989)
Maryse Leclair (1966-1989)
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967-1989)
Sonia Pelletier (1961-1989)
Michèle Richard (1968-1989)
Annie St-Arneault (1966-1989)
Annie Turcotte (1969-1989)
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958-1989)

It was 16 years ago this evening.

From the CBC archive:
For 45 minutes on Dec. 6, 1989 an enraged gunman roamed the corridors of Montreal's École Polytechnique and killed 14 women. Marc Lepine, 25, separated the men from the women and before opening fire on the classroom of female engineering students he screamed, "I hate feminists."

We, who abhorred this violence 16 years ago, if we didn't call ourselves feminists before, Marc Lepine, we surely became feminists on that day.

May your victims know eternal peace.

- 30 -

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Why a Harper gov't is Duceppe's wet dream

POGGE postulated the other day on the scenario of a minority Harper government, which opened up an excellent discussion, well worth checking out. I tried to comment twice there, but neither were accepted for some reason. So here's my take.

A Harper Conservative government would be a death-knell for the federal cause, partly because he burned his bridges with Quebeckers over Same-Sex Marriage; partly because he is too far to the right for us, and won't budge on anything substantial policy-wise, even for the Quebec wing of his own party:
Quebec delegates at the convention expressed dismay over the rejection of same-sex marriage and the Kyoto Accord, and the fact Mr. Harper vowed to restart talks on missile defence with the U.S. -- all policy positions that have little traction in Quebec.

Hasn't anyone noticed he has virtually no support here and little hope of electing even a single MP from this province? He didn't even care to introduce any of them to the media. One wonders if he even knows any of their names!

Layton has the same problem (support-wise) but has a better shot of being accepted here because his priorities and the BQ's are almost identical, save for the sovereignty issue. Also, the french media tends to pay the NDP short shrift, making it even more difficult for Layton to make any inroads here, despite being a native of Montreal with decent french himself.

That leaves the Liberals, so we'll just have to see if Quebeckers' feelings are still as hurt next month as they were in 2004.

- 30 -

Friday, December 02, 2005

Harper's healthcare proposal

As per the CP report:
“We will reduce waiting times,” Harper said. “We will hold (provincial) governments accountable.”

If patients can’t get speedy treatment in their own provinces, he said, they should have the option of going to another.

And he promised to work with the provinces to help universities turn out more doctors and nurses.


“We are going to do what it takes to protect the public health-care system,” he said. “There will be no private, parallel system.”

Let's brainstorm on this.

1. This sounds good on the surface. Every province would pitch in and there would be benchmarks for wait times set by healthcare professionals.
2.It could give a built-in incentive to provinces to reduce wait times so as to avoid the costs (I assume the province would bear) of sending the patient to another province for the procedure or tests they are waiting for.

1. Does a Kamloops, BC woman needing a hip replacement want to go to say, Calgary or Montreal for the procedure, depending on where the bureaucracy determines it can get done on time? Does she then get sent to say, Sudbury or Yellowknife for the timely physio needed afterward? Is that such a good option when her family and support network remains back home?

2. What if our patient is a unilingual francophone from Jonquiere, Quebec and she can only get the procedure and/or physio in Vancouver where she can't get french health service?

3. For this to work, Harper would have to go through the thorny problem of getting all provinces on board (think Meech Lake), and given Scenario #2 above, Quebec would have a lot of concerns.

4. It seems to me a new bureaucracy would need to be created (see Scenario #1 above) handling travel and shelter arrangements with various provinces, and determining: a) if the patient truly needs to go out of province for timely care; b) which hospital in which province can and will provide it; c) following-up to ensure the care was received in the correct timeframe (would be necessary to track this for each and every medical procedure carried out in the entire country, it seems to me); which leads to d) a mechanism for resolving disputes over the timeframe and quality of the care received.

5. What kind of wrench does all this throw into Equalization payments?

If I'm in the press pool, I'm asking all those questions.

- 30 -

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Duceppe scores on own net

Kevin Lowe, assistant manager of Canada's 2006 men's Olympic team, doesn't think much of Gilles Duceppe's idea of entering a separate Quebec team in international hockey competition — and he has company in the hockey world.

Lowe, who grew up in Montreal and is fluently bilingual, flatly rejected the Bloc Québécois leader's proposal, which was unveiled Wednesday as part of his party's election platform.

Sure, he's still got a big 8 to 2 lead with only 5 minutes gone in the first period. But it can't be good for your cause when some of your voters' biggest heros are unanimously saying your idea is stupid, and then they go on to wax patriotic about their country - Canada; not Quebec.

Of course they're going to react this way, given they all hope to play in the Olympics, and that means recognizing that the only way that can happen is if they chose to live in the real world, as opposed to some Quebec nationalist fairyland, where all the taxes ruthlessly vaccuumed-up by the Canadian government will become a glorious windfall of extra cash in our pockets after separation. Yadda yadda yadda.

Big gaffe for Duceppe. Makes you wonder if he feels his lead is so huge he can afford to coast through the remainder of the game. Ask any hockey player and they'll tell you you don't win that way. We can only hope...

- 30 -

Big Deal

Well, Harper's getting the headlines he hoped for (online anyway: see here, here, here and here as well), but the fine print shows it's just a 1% cut to the GST (currently 7% - would go down to six for the next five years, at which point it would go down to five).

This should take most of the attention away from yesterday's stumbles in Quebec City, as craftily summarized by Meaghan over at Somena Media, but it won't get him much traction in provinces like Quebec and Ontario - each of which have an additional 8% provincial sales tax piggy-backed onto the GST. What good will it do Ontarians, who presently calculate 15% in their heads while in line at the checkout, to only pay 14%? And then to have to look all the way down the line to 2011 before it drops to 13?

In Quebec (although it's still unbelievable to me that they got away with this in the first place), the GST amount charged is taxed by Quebec at 8% as well as the total, which would bring the current 15.56% to 14.48%, lowered presumably to 13.4 in 2011. And this is assuming the provincial rates stay where they are.

In Alberta, where there is no provincial sales tax, it's arguable this would be enough for consumers to notice the difference on their bill, but a measely 1% doesn't amount to a hill of beans for voters in the two provinces where Harper so desperately needs to pick up seats. I seriously doubt this will be a vote-swinging campaign promise, and if that's what the CPC braintrust is hoping for, they'd better have some juicier planks to come.

- 30 -

Update: I know I'm starting to sound like a Dipper, but I can't help but point out that Layton is showing a better understanding of what issues are priorities to Ontarians. (Any Ontarians out there who care to comment?) Now Jack: what about the pulp & paper industry?

A refresher on why the Martin gov't fell when it did

There is a good answer to Martin's charge that the NDP made an alliance with the Conservatives and Bloq to hastily take down the government against the wishes of Canadians.

Some folks I know argue that Layton made a mistake in pulling his support of the Liberals when he did, and that this counts as a flip-flop or some lack of integrity. Scotian (and other bloggers) took issue with his compromise proposal to spare us this Christmas-time campaign.

I think Layton would've lost more integrity going along with the Martin Liberals until Spring. Have we so soon forgotten what brought this on? The money quote from Layton's November 7th public letter to Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh:
(The Martin government's healthcare proposals) are in no way a satisfactory response to the values and needs of Canadians, and therefore do not provide a basis for our party to support the Government in Parliament.

When it became clear Martin would not meet Layton's demands that the federal government stop the creeping privatization of Medicare, that's when he declared the NDP would no longer support the government on a confidence motion. In doing so, he took a principled stand for the one issue dearest to the hearts of most Canadians coast to coast. It was the NDP precursor (Tommy Douglas's CCF) that created the first socialized medicine program first in Saskatchewan of course, so if the NDP had compromised on this issue, Layton would've been a disgrace to his party. And he would've been seen as turning his back on all those who voted for him in 2004, not to mention the raison d'etre of the NDP: fighting for social justice.

I don't think the timing is an issue any more if it means standing up for the universality of our health-care system. Layton would do himself a favour to remind us of that at each campaign stop.

- 30 -