Friday, October 30, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Scary movies aren't what they used to be.

Sure, the body count is higher, the gore is gorier, and the special effects are better at showing you exactly what the inside of a human body looks like. But while all this has made horror movies more horrifying, they have somehow become less scary. And less fun.

Paranormal Activity is the perfect antidote to a decade of vapid 'dead teenager' and 'torture porn' sequels: an old fashioned ghost story that reminds you just how much fun a good scare can be.

Shot on a budget that could have been financed with a couple of credit cards, the movie has a cast of four and takes place entirely within one house. There are no visible monsters, no serial killers, and very little blood. And it's the scariest movie I've seen since The Blair Witch Project.

Four and a half stars out of five.

(I told Murray I'd try to find something he'd hate this time. It worked.)

What are they, twelve?!

I remember an episode of some 'Law & Order'-type show in which the prosecution (or maybe the defence) requests documents under discovery, and the opposing side responds by dumping box after box after box of paper in their office.

It seems John Baird saw that episode too.

The Harper government has dumped three boxloads of information about its efforts to stimulate Canada's sputtering economy on Parliament's independent budget watchdog.

Kevin Page had asked for more information, complaining that the sketchy data provided up to now made it impossible to tell whether $12 billion in stimulus spending is having any impact on the economy.

But rather than provide an easy-to-analyse spreadsheet listing infrastructure projects and how much money has been spent on each of them to date, the government flooded Page Thursday with 4,476 pages of documents.

...[Baird] made no apologies for not delivering the information in a more user-friendly form. He said 200 officials at Infrastructure Canada have been "working flat out" to get 7,600 projects up and running and that has to be their "first priority."

"The parliamentary budget officer has asked for a significant amount of information. We've given him a significant amount of information," Baird said.


Tell you what. Next time Canada's Not-So-New Government asks for you to pay your taxes, why don't we all drive up to Jim Flaherty's office in Ottawa and dump it on his desk. In pennies.

That'll show 'em!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Colin Horgan on 'Canada's Frozen Political Waste'

I have nothing to add to this, other than to delight in the fact that it comes to us via The Guardian:

Down is the new up: Canadians suddenly like Stephen Harper, but for the wrong reasons.

Michael Ignatieff's announcement on Monday that his Liberal party will not "actively seek to defeat" the Conservatives "by proposing their own confidence motions," was an almost direct contradiction to his resounding cry in September that Harper's "time is up". The Liberal threat to dismantle the Tory government is now effectively dead, and many Canadians couldn't possibly care less. We like Harper now. Unfortunately, it will get us nowhere.

The biggest political story of October hasn't been Ignatieff's troubles or the widening poll gap between the Tories and Liberals, or even some Tory MPs slapping their names or their party logo on government (read: taxpayer) stimulus cheques. Instead, it's been Harper's performance of the Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends at a gala benefit at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It sparked an immediate response and softened some of his harshest critics. The media cooed, and Harper – formerly known for his wax-like public persona – became a YouTube hit.


'Wax-like persona'. Heh.

Really, go read the rest. The last three sentences are the killers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Three Perspectives on the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Environment Minister Jim Prentice is going out of his way this week to lower expectations for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December.

Citing Canada's "faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure", Prentice is continuing to insist that Canada should not be held to the same standards as, say, Japan or the E.U. when it comes to emission targets. Moreover, he is presenting something of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum regarding Canada's plan, or lack thereof:

... Ottawa will not release its detailed climate-change plan, including its proposed emissions caps on large emitters such as oil sands and power plants, until there is more clarity on how the United States intends to proceed in global climate-change talks in Copenhagen in December, and on what an international treaty would look like, the minister added.

“Copenhagen is a very significant factor in how matters will be approached continentally, and how matters will be approached domestically,” he said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ethics to Lisa Raitt: "As long as you promise to never, ever do it again!"

UPDATE: This story actually made it to the front page of the Milton Champion today! No mention of yours truly of course (or of Impolitical, who graciously tossed me the original link). But given that there's been no mention of Lisa Raitt's 'Compliance' anywhere else, and given that the writer peruses this blog on ocassion, it's not outside the realm of possibility that he found out about it right here.

Yep. I'm just your friendly neighbourhood muckraker. You know... in a good way.


_____________________________


Big H/T to Impolitical for embarrassing me on Twitter (in an entirely friendly way) over my recent lack of Raitt-related blogging, and for pointing me towards this fascinating little document, signed on October 9th by Lisa Raitt:

Conflict of Interest Act

AGREED COMPLIANCE MEASURE

I, Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, have agreed not to participate in matters involving the Cement Association of Canada (CAC), or Mr. Michael McSweeney acting on behalf of the CAC, in order to prevent any conflict of interest, and in particular not to give preferential treatment to Mr. Mc Sweeney or the CAC. Any dealings between CAC and the Department of Natural Resources will be addressed by the Deputy Minister or such other person as may be designated by the Deputy Minister.

Signature Original signed by
Name: Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.
Date[YYYY/MM/DD]:2009/10/09


That would have been... lessee... eight days after the story broke and the NDP first asked the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to look into allegations that both the Toronto Port Authority and the actively lobbying CAC were involved in promoting a purely partisan Lisa Raitt fundraiser.

Horse. Barn door. You get the drift.

I still want to know what she paid the Toronto Port Authority $354.93 for under her election campaign 'Other Office' expenses. Business cards? Party room? A teeney-tiny severance package?

Runesmith, Girl Detective, is on the case. Never fear.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Canada's 'Buy American' Negotiations: The Devil's in the Details

Mayor Rick Bonnette of Halton Hills has become something of a local hero in my neck of the woods, ever since he started his 'mouse that roared' campaign against 'Buy American' provisions shutting Canadian companies out of bidding on U.S. stimulus projects.

It all started with one business owner complaining to Bonnette and the Halton Hills Town Council. Instead of patting him on the head and saying there was nothing they could do, Council took the unlikely step of starting a tiny trade war with the U.S. government by passing their own 'Buy Canadian' resolution on municipal contracts.

A similar resolution was later adopted and passed by the much larger Halton Regional Council, then endorsed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and finally taken up at the federal level where, it seems, they are now dropping the ball.

International Trade critic Scott Brison sheds some light on what is really going on with the government's efforts to gain a Canadian exemption for U.S. 'Buy American' provisions:

According to U.S. ambassador David Jacobson, Canada and the United States are using the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules for government contracts as the basis for these negotiations.

Currently, Canadian provinces and municipalities aren’t covered by such rules. Under the deal, this would change. And in exchange, Canada would get access to U.S. contracts under existing WTO rules.

This seems fair, until you read the fine print.

Buried in the WTO rules are more protectionist policies for the United States, including a separate Buy America clause and additional U.S. safeguards for a large number of U.S. projects and states in important areas such as transportation and construction. On top of this, American municipalities are completely protected under the WTO rules.


In other words, holding the U.S. feds to WTO rules doesn't change a thing because individual states and municipalities - which do most of the 'buying' for these projects - can still discriminate against Canadian suppliers.

I've never been a big fan of free trade agreements in any form, mostly because they are designed to protect business interests without any consideration for what benefits the society or its citizens. But on the rare occasions when such agreements work, they work because both sides are treated fairly, with equal rights and equal protections. Such has rarely been the case in the long history of U.S./Canadian trade deals, and from the looks of it, that isn't going to change any time soon.

I guess Mayor Bonnette is going to have to go back to throwing stones at Goliath.

bonnette

(crossposted from Canada's World)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging...

My dad recently asked me to explain the "Local TV Matters" / "Stop the TV Tax" ad wars to him. I developed brain lock and suddenly couldn't remember any of the information I'd read over the past few months regarding the CRTC hearings and the complex fight over fee-for-carriage.

Tonight I'm sending him the link to this op-ed in the Montreal Gazette, written by Robb Wells of TPB fame. Impressive. He's managed to summarize the entire ludicrous battle in two or three easily digestible paragraphs, while at the same time drawing our attention to the real elephant in the room:

Ever wonder why we have Canadian cable companies and Canadian broadcasters, if all they air is American programming and still charge us a fortune? Couldn't we just cut out the middle-man and pay NBC directly for their TV shows?

... Being able to tune into Canadian TV drama and comedy is critical to the cultural health of our country. How do we know what it is to be Canadian if we can't see and share our experiences, our own lives, our communities, our heroes, and our history on TV, the most popular and pervasive cultural medium in history?

So what can be done to make sure Canadian TV is actually Canadian?

Revenues from fee-for-carriage must be seen on the screen in the form of new, original local, dramatic and comedic programming - broadcasters can't be handed a bag of money to take on their L.A. shopping sprees.


Indeed.

When I started this blog almost three years ago (!), it was with the intention of discussing matters such as the disappearance of Canadian television dramas and scripted comedies. Shows like Da Vinci, The 11 Hour, ReGenesis, Made in Canada, The Newsroom, Wonderland - I loved them all, and one by one I watched them die after not nearly enough seasons.

Such is the life of a TV fan. But instead of being replaced with other Canadian dramas and scripted comedies, they were all replaced by American police procedurals and Canadian clones of U.S. talent shows.

Today, there's nothing left. Even Corner Gas is gone. CTV still has 'Flashpoint' for at least as long as CBS keeps paying for it, but will probably drop 'The Listener' now that NBC isn't. CBC has nothing new this year except for more reality show knock-offs and the Ron James Show, which is sorta, kinda scripted comedy. Global has 'The Guard'.

And that's it. Literally. Even if you count reality TV (I don't), that's two hours of prime time Canadian content per week on Global and three on CTV. CBC is legally bound to run something like 80% Canadian programming, but even they manage to get away with only 5 1/2 hours of scripted comedy / drama per week - and that's counting The Tudors, which as far as I can tell has no actual Canadian content whatsoever.

All of which brings us back to Robb Wells' opening question: if the Canadian commercial television industry produces nothing, creates nothing, and simply serves to re-package and re-broadcast another nation's stories as expensive backdrops for their clients' advertisements, what exactly are we paying them for?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Dufferin-Caledon FLA Member Speaks Out

Yes, I'm still blogging about the ignoble end of Garth Turner's candidacy in Dufferin-Caledon. Why? Because people aren't playing by the rules, and it's pissing me off.

So.

Today, I asked one of the board members of the Dufferin-Caledon Liberal Association for their take on the situation. Although they have identified themselves as one of the 'pro-Garth' camp, this person had already been involved in D-C riding politics long before Garth Turner showed up.

With that in mind, here are a few of the things they told me:

"The DCFLA Candidate Search Committee did due diligence in their search of over 25 viable candidate-prospects up here & Garth was the only one who emerged from that search willing to stand - the Report was accepted unanimously by the DCFLA in August & by LPCO thereafter. Consequently, there was no spectral 'other candidate' in the wings at that time. If one has come to the forefront in the last two weeks or so, then that is news to everyone I know!


As it happens, that spectral 'other candidate' emerged today in the pages of the Orangeville Citizen - Alton businessman Bill Prout. My contact knew nothing of this, but has informed me that this person has "no profile in the Association & will be hard-pressed to garner anything more than the paltry 8,000 votes won by Rebecca Finch in 2008."

"Ms. Rosenstock gave us the number of 170 in June/09 after consultation with an unknown LPCO official - I took that to be gospel, perhaps naively. At the time, the issue was exactly how many "Laurier Club" members we have in the Membership. Under such designation, the FLA is actually allowed multiple- memberships based on some arcane formula that LPCO has (ie.) 1 Laurier Club Member = 5 virtual memberships for the Riding Association. Ms.. Rosenstock has never clarified for us how many of these mulitple-memberships we indeed have: I believe it to be 4; she has argued that we have only 2."


Ms. Rosenstock is either confused or misinformed. The number 170 happens to be exactly 2% of the Liberal votes from the previous election, which is the threshold required for a riding with a sitting Liberal Member of Parliament. However as a riding with NO current Liberal MP, they would only be required to meet the one and a half percent membership threshold.

Also, there is no minimum required number of Laurier Club Members (those who donate the maximum in a given year). There is, however, a minimum number of Victory Club Members (those who donate $10 a month or more). That number is equivalent to 10% of the minimum membership requirement. However, a Laurier Club Member does count as 5 Victory Club members.

The rules are quite clear on this. All anyone had to do was look them up.

"At the August meeting of the DCFLA, we had representatives from LPCO, who assured the association that we were 'close enough' to the 170 (using the Laurier Club factoring) to request a Nomination meeting date, which we did by motion, for August 28th. At that time, it was ambiguous as to how many members we actually had, since Ms. Rosenstock could never remember clearly when asked & there was always a reason why she could not get a clear update from downtown. Nevertheless, we took the LPCO officials at their word & requested the meeting for the 28th."


This focus on the Laurier Club numbers makes me wonder if the real issue was the number of Victory Club members and not the total members. I've emailed the relevant person at LPCO for clarification.

"Amidst all the innuendo I see on the blogs & in the newspapers, let me try to be clear.... the association never would have been permitted to request a Nomination meeting by motion if we were not 'close enough' to meet the membership threshold...whatever the number was! We were encouraged to request this meeting (a) because electoral urgency permitted it (b) we understood that we had the blessing of LPCO by virtue of their two reps. sitting there & (c) we had a candidate green-lit, approved by the DCFLA Search Committee & ready to go!

"If there is a reason for the reluctance to grant us a Nomination meeting, then I do not know it. What I can say is that some people (Ms. Rosenstock & Jeff May) have been opposed to a Garth Turner candidacy in this riding, for whatever reasons they may have. Until recently, I have had no reason to suspect their motives, but when I read things they have said on Steven Janke's blog or in the local papers, I am led to be suspicious."


This might all seem to be nothing more than a petty internal squabble over an admittedly controversial local candidate. But I'll leave you with this thought for now:

If it should turn out that this riding association really did follow all the rules and meet all the requirements to select the candidate of their choice, what does it say about the application of those rules that they were still prevented from doing so?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Garth in D-C: Curiouser and Curiouser

There appears to be a difference of opinion between Garth Turner and Janet Rosenstock, the Membership Chair of the Dufferin-Caledon FLA, regarding the number of members required to hold a candidate nomination meeting.

As a lawyer's daughter, I personally despise this kind of discrepancy on such an easily resolved issue. And since nobody else seems keen to sort out fact from fiction in this case, I guess it's up to me.

To quote Ms. Rosenstock:

Every FLA must have a certain level of membership before a nomination meeting can be granted. The Membership level is lowered during what is called, 'Electoral Urgency.' Our 'Electoral Urgency' number is roughly 175. We needed about 12 more members.


In a later interview with CTV she claims that Turner was only 9 members short, but in any case, where did this magic number of 175 come from?

The Liberal Party does indeed have specific requirements for membership levels in these cases. Here's what the rules say:

“Minimum Membership Threshold” means, in respect of each Electoral District Association, the lesser of:
(i) 300 EDA members; or
(ii) a number of EDA members equivalent to one and one half per cent of the Liberal vote in the last federal Election, provided however that in no event shall this reduce the required number of members to less than 100;


In the case of D-C, the number of Liberal votes in the last election was 8,495. 1.5% of 8,495 is 127, which would be considerably below either the 166 or 163 figures mentioned by Rosenstock.

But what about this "Electoral Urgency" situation? Well, that gets a little more dicey. I won't quote the entire section of legalese, but here's the rub:

In any such state of electoral urgency, the National Campaign Chair or his or her designate may alter the time lines and procedures fixed by these Rules in such manner as he or she, in his or her sole and absolute discretion, may see fit, for any Electoral District(s), provided that any changes to these Rules so enacted shall forthwith be communicated in writing to any affected EDA president and to any Potential Nomination Contestant (of whom the National Campaign Chair or designate has knowledge) who may be affected. The failure of any such person to receive such notice shall not invalidate the declaration of electoral urgency.


In other words, all bets are off.

I'm waiting for further clarification of this from our own riding officials, but common sense would seem to dictate that any situation of 'Electoral Urgency' would only have existed before Ignatieff and Harper agreed to strike an EI reform panel on June 17th, and after Ignatieff announced his intention to vote against the government on August 31st.

Rosenstock claims that Turner was informed of the current membership requirements on June 18th.

The other problem is, Ms. Rosenstock was quoted as saying, "The Membership level is lowered during what is called, 'Electoral Urgency." Which could not possibly be the case in this case, since the number of members she's claiming would be required is higher than would normally be the case.

Don't get me wrong - I'm well aware of Garth's ability to place himself in a favourable light in any given situation. But there's definitely something rotten in D-C.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Garth Turner's Out in Dufferin-Caledon (Updated)

Wow. Just when you think Garth Turner can't surprise you any more, he goes and does something like this:

After being recruited to run for MP in the Ontario riding of Dufferin-Caledon, and having my candidacy approved by the Liberal Party last July, today I informed the leader of my resignation.

My hope in returning to Parliament was to help clear the path to a viable economic future. Stephen Harper’s $56 billion deficit and profligate spending are massive threats. But also threatening is a lack of debate about viable options and an honest conversation with voters and citizens on the looming consequences.

Therefore it’s hard to see what the coming election will be about if we’re not prepared to discuss the options in the wake of the Harper fiscal disaster. Economic growth alone won’t wipe out an historic debt load or the need for spending cuts and tax hikes. The looming HST in Ontario and BC is likely but a taste of medicine to come. This is what Canadians need to understand.

A year ago Stephen Harper said there would be no recession and no deficit. That was untrue. Now he says there will be no consequences of our record shortfall. Also untrue.

In my financial books and writings I’ve warned of the need for families to invest wisely, use debt carefully and live within their means in an uncertain world. Rather than tell voters interest rates and taxes won’t rise nor spending fall, leaders should guide us all into realistic choices. Sadly, that doesn’t win elections.

In Dufferin-Caledon I have been the only nominee for MP candidate since August. I’m interpreting the leader’s failure to allow a nomination meeting as a signal my views are unwelcome.


The views he's referring to are, in this case, expressed in his post against the HST, and in another in favour of honestly discussing the fact that tax increases and/or massive spending cuts are going to be required to get us out of deficit. And yeah, I can see that not making him any friends when the Liberal Party is desperately trying not to take a solid position on either of these things.

What puzzles me is this. Dufferin-Caledon is regarded by most as a fairly safe Conservative riding. So, assuming that rumours are true and nobody at Liberal HQ likes Garth Turner or wants to see him elected again, wouldn't it seem the perfect solution to banish him to just such an apparently unwinnable riding?

And yet, if Garth's interpretation of events is correct, the leader of the Liberal Party has gone out of his way twice now to thwart even the faintest hope of Garth Turner ever attending another Liberal caucus meeting - once in Halton by appointing a candidate, and again in Caledon by leaving him in indefinite limbo.

I have no idea how likely any of this is. As with all things Garth, I am sure there's some combination of martyrdom and unspoken intrigue at work here. Still, the idea that an uncontested candidate could be blocked from being nominated in this way points once again to the potential for manipulation in the system. And that's something that should concern us all.

Meanwhile, the good people of Dufferin-Caledon are still without a candidate, and now they'll have to start from scratch to find one. Good thing we're not having an election any time soon.

UPDATE: Steve Janke, doing his 'Full Comment' over at the National Post, has a quote from Dufferin-Caledon FLA Membership Chair Janet Rosenstock:

"I am not sure Mr. Turner's reasons for leaving are indeed his reasons for leaving. Another candidate for nomination had come forward and was in process. Perhaps Mr. Turner did not want to face a fight for the nomination. As far as Mr. Turner's feeling that the Leadership would not grant him a nomination meeting is concerned, there are rules that must be followed. Every FLA must have a certain level of membership before a nomination meeting can be granted. The Membership level is lowered during what is called, 'Electoral Urgency.' Our 'Electoral Urgency' number is roughly 175. We needed about 12 more members. Mr. Turner and his supporters were told repeatedly that a nomination meeting could and would be held when the required level of membership was reached. Two and one half months later, Mr. Turner and his supporters had failed to sign up a sufficient number of members."


Two things about this: a) Janet Rosenstock is no fan of Garth Turner's, but b) It does have a ring of truth to it, given Garth's aversion to contested nominations.

Wheels within wheels.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We are professionals. Do not try this at home.

Susan Delacourt sounds like she's getting a little defensive over criticism of her non-story story:

Q. Is it possible that the Conservative source made up this story to make "mischief," as Liberals allege?

A: Yes it is. But our usual practice is to "out" the source if we find out it was a deliberate lie, so stay tuned. Seasoned political people know that you only get to lie once to a reporter.

Q: Who are the possible defectors?

A: No names were given. And that's the beauty of it for Conservatives, as one of my colleagues pointed out. Now every Liberal will be wondering if other Liberals are going to jump.


So let me get this straight. A single, unnamed, partisan source hands her an unsubstantiated rumour that she acknowledges may well be a total fabrication, and then not only does she run it as a legitimate news story but then decides to attach the name of a random Liberal MP to it that sorta kinda sounds plausible based on no evidence whatsoever... and THAT'S journalism?!?

I'm going to remember this one the next time a journalist makes a snide comment about bloggers.

Why Canadian Cynic is Still my Favourite Guilty Pleasure

Whenever I'm feeling down or discouraged, or I just need a bit of a laugh, CC is always there to cheer me up:

BREAKING NEWS: Pierre Poilievre is an obnoxious little turd.

Hey, don't take my word for it -- even a Blogging Tory thinks so.

Whenever you see that little shit, don't you have an overwhelming urge to stuff him into a locker?


Yeah, it's petty, it's juvenile, and it adds absolutely nothing to the the political discourse. But it's oh so very, very true.

Thanks, CC. I needed that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How Denis Coderre might just save the Liberal Party from itself

I generally try not to pay too much attention to the endless internecine warfare that is Quebec Liberal Party politics, but it's hard to ignore what's been going on this past week.

What is it they say... "every problem is an opportunity"?

The Coderre Affair has taken issues that most party members and riding associations have grumbled about privately for years and brought them out under the hot lights of public scrutiny. And lo and behold, what appears to be emerging from the smoking ruins is some sort of consensus that, while we certainly need more women in Parliament and while there continue to be issues with the local candidate selection process, having the party leader - directly or through a 'lieutenant' - arbitrarily foist his selection upon a riding is NOT the way to solve these problems.

These are hardly new issues. Democratic party reform has been discussed, debated, and defeated repeatedly within the Liberal Party for decades. Former Liberal national director Sheila Gervais actually wrote an extraordinary paper five years ago on the history of these failed attempts and laid out a prescription for real change entitled "The Democratic Deficit in the Liberal Party of Canada".

Since then, very little has changed. Despite all the lip service given to "grassroots participation" and the passage last spring of 'one member, one vote', candidates continue to be either arbitrarily appointed by the leader or elected by busloads of largely temporary 'insta-members' in highly manipulated contests.

Today, Gervais continues to speak out on democratic reform - only this time with the recent fiasco in Quebec serving to fully illustrate her point.

“What happened in Outremont is indicative of a much larger problem — that members of the party have once again had their right (to select their own candidates) taken away from them,” said former Liberal national director Sheila Gervais.


Gervais has also been busy pushing the cause of greater female representation in Parliament, which at first would seem a contradictory aim. After all, nominating more women is exactly why we're being told that it is essential for the party leader to maintain his (his!) prerogative to appoint candidates.

Rubbish. As Gervais points out, there are other methods that are at least as effective - and far more democratic - than meeting candidate quotas with appointments.

So what does any of this have to do with Denis Coderre? Well, as damaging as his public tantrum may or may not have been for our fortunes in Quebec, and as embarrassing as the whole sticky mess might be for the party in general, it does present an opportunity.

Just as the circumstances of Stephane Dion's election as party leader pointed out the flaws in the delegate system and led, finally, to the passage of One Member, One Vote, so too could the Coderre affair prove to be the final kick in the ass that moves the Liberal Party to do away with candidate nominations and make the other reforms needed to make it truly democratic and reflective of the values of those who comprise the membership.

That movement isn't likely to come from the top. But recent events may have softened the ground there just enough for pressure from the bottom to have some effect.

This might all sound very inside-baseball to those who simply want somebody they can feel good about voting for. But when you examine all the problems and complaints about the Liberal Party over the past decade or two - the lacklustre leadership, the factionalism, the petty regional dictatorships, the disconnect between party policy and the values of the membership - all of these are essentially symptoms of a system run from the top down.

Take the legendary Martin / Chr├ętien schism for example. How many average party members had or continue to have any interest in that particular feud? Not I. Not any of the people I know in our riding association. No - this is an issue solely amongst party old-timers and their elite advisors, and because they are the ones making all the decisions, their problems becomes our problems.

Imagine, instead, if decisions on policy and strategy were made by those legitimately and wholeheartedly supported by the grassroots of the party. Imagine if candidates and party leaders were chosen on the basis of their ideas and values instead of their perceived ability to win. Imagine if party membership meant something more than ten bucks a year into the party coffers.

I have been a member of the Liberal Party of Canada for three years now. I volunteered during the last campaign, I sit on the board of directors of our riding association, I have attended our national convention as a delegate, and not once - not once! - have I been permitted to vote for either the candidate or the party leader of my choice.

This has got to stop.

It won't be easy. Institutions are notoriously resistant to change, especially when the status quo is so beneficial to those in positions of power. But when the membership of the Liberal Party of Canada actually manages to draw a straight line between Outremont and the Party's current malaise in the polls, we might just have a revolution on our hands.

El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!

Who's with me?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Love Happens

'Love Happens' is a romantic comedy that manages to be neither romantic nor comedic. In fact, all the funniest lines go to the cockatoo.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what was wrong with this movie besides the endless travelogue shots of Seattle and the painfully obvious product placements. It started off tolerably well as a rather lightweight 'love/hate at first sight' story, and Eckhart at least showed some promise of depth.

But as the story grew more serious, I kept expecting the emotional stakes to get a little higher. A tragic setback. A dreadful secret. Something.

Instead, every sharp corner had been removed. The tragic setback is easily averted, the not-so-dreadful secret is revealed and resolved in three minutes flat, and everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

There. I just saved you an hour and forty-nine minutes. Two stars. Go rent 'Away We Go' instead.

(Murray didn't think much of it either. We've got to stop agreeing like this.)

What Personality is This Blog?

Wow. That's actually kinda spooky.

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.



(go try it out at Typealyzer)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lisa Raitt's Old Friends

Your daily schadenfreude:

Political event for Raitt organized from office of Toronto Port Authority
Oct 01, 2009 04:30 AM
Richard J. Brennan


OTTAWA–A political fundraiser for Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt was coordinated out of the office of the president of the Toronto Port Authority, a federal agency Raitt once headed, the Toronto Star has learned.

Critics say it is just further proof the port authority has been supplanted by Tory faithful and has become little more than a partisan arm of the Conservative government, but a port authority official says it was all a simple transgression.

Janet MacDonald, executive assistant to acting port authority president and CEO Alan Paul and who also served Raitt when she held the job, sent out invitations on port authority email inviting people to attend the Sept. 24, $250-a-head fundraiser at a downtown Toronto restaurant.

"Hope you are well. Would you please let me know if you plan on donating/purchasing ticket so I can keep tally and inform organizer of event," MacDonald said in the invitation.

MacDonald refused to talk to the Star.


No kidding. And now the NDP have called on the ethics commissioner to investigate.

Oh, and we may have yet another Lisa Raitt boo-boo to report once we check with Elections Canada. Stay tuned!

Dr. Carolyn Bennett sets the record straight for the U.S. Senate

I was fortunate enough to hear Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett speak on health care and social infrastructure at a town hall forum here in Milton last week. I was tremendously impressed with her passion and her depth of knowledge and understanding on these issues.

So I was thrilled to hear that Dr. Bennett was in Washington this week testifying before the Special Senate Committee on Aging, explaining how the Canadian health care system works and how we manage equal or better outcomes than the U.S. while spending nearly a third less per capita.

Carolyn Bennett

Why Dr. Bennett was there and not our current Health Minister is a separate question.

There was a rather entertaining exchange between Dr. Bennett and Sen. Bob Corker in which Corker accused Canada and other countries of being "parasites" on U.S. pharmaceutical R&D:

"One of the things that has troubled me greatly about our system is the fact that we pay more for pharmaceuticals and devices than other countries, and yet it's not really our country so much that's the problem, it's the parasitic relationship that Canada and France and other countries have towards us," the Tennessee lawmaker told Carolyn Bennett.

"Meaning that you set prices and unfortunately all the innovation, all the technological breakthroughs, just about, take place in our country ... you benefit from us and we pay for that and I resent that."

...[Bennett] seemed puzzled by Corker's remarks, reminding him that drug pricing was a global concern, not something limited to Canada.

"It's the drug companies, sir, and they're multi-national -- it's nothing about the United States of America," Bennett told him.


Aside from the offensiveness of Corker's assumption that all the great medical innovations happen in the U.S. (uh... insulin? stem cells? remote surgery?), perhaps someone should remind Mr. Corker that the profit incentive in the U.S. system has meant that the vast bulk of R&D investment there goes towards drugs and procedures that serve the fat and wealthy West (Lipitor, Viagra, heartburn remedies, MRIs, gastric bypass) and nearly nothing towards treatments for the things that actually kill the most people in the world, like malaria, diarrhea and TB.

Video of the hearing can be found on the Committee viewer. Dr. Bennett starts her opening remarks at 41:06; questions start at 65:50, with her exchange with Sen. Corker at 71:55.

(I love what she's wearing, too!)

(cross-posted from Canada's World)