Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turner Revisits SPP

It's like pulling teeth, but Garth Turner has finally posted another blog entry about SPP - specifically, the Super Secret Summit in Montebello next month. It seems he's still taking an agnostic position, but he appears to be warming.

I'm still trying to convince him to carpool with me and my son as we attend the festivities. I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

(Belated) Blatant Self-Promotion

A few weeks ago, Diane over at TV, Eh? asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for her first ever Canadian TV Podcast. Being a Leo and therefore never one to decline an invitation to make a public fool of myself, I said, "Sure!"

The podcast made its debut on July 17th HERE, and features segments by writer boys Denis McGrath and Alex Epstein, the Beachcomber's Jackson Davies, blogger and industry maven Caroline, and myself. Definitely worth a listen. Alex is particularly eloquent in his defence of Canadian culture. Bev Oda, Jim Shaw, and the head of the CRTC should be locked in a room and forced to listen over and over again until they get it.

Anyway, I would have let you know earlier, but I had to get a friend to download it for me and burn it to disk so I could listen and make sure I didn't sound like a complete idiot first. DAMN YOU, DIAL-UP!!!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Civilized Civics

I just received another political communique in the mail, this time from our Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh. I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, don’t get me wrong here - I think Chudleigh’s a dick. I could cite a couple of specific instances of his being a dick (that Caledonia thing springs immediately to mind), but it’s mostly just my completely irrational reaction to the man. I mean, look at him:


Still. This is what he sent to my home:

That’s it. A couple of photos of Smilin’ Ted, a list of all the wonderful things he’s doing at Queen’s Park for his constituents, and contact information on the back. Professional. Subdued. Informative.

Now compare that to the histrionic missive from the Federal Tories I took exception to in my earlier blog post. Notice anything different? I did. Specifically, there is NO party logo and NO mention of McGuinty or the Liberals anywhere on Chudleigh’s flyer. And remember, this guy is part of the Opposition!

Wow. I had almost forgotten what civilized political conduct looked like.

Why do I keep bitching about this? Because we’re paying for these things! Regardless of what party they belong to, these guys work for us. That includes keeping us informed about what they are doing, but it doesn’t include using our money to endlessly trash their opponent’s party. After all, their constituents include members of ALL parties, not just theirs. Even Garth Turner is guilty of this. As much as I enjoy his weekly evisceration of Harper, Flaherty and company, after a while it can get tiresome - more so, I'm sure, for those who support Harper.

I’m not saying that an MP’s communications to their constituents should never say anything negative about the other guys. Ok, maybe I did, but I think that might be asking too much. So once in a while, sure, take a swing. But the primary focus has got to remain on what YOU are doing, not what the other guy is doing wrong.

Just watch some American campaign ads next election to see why.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Blow for CanCon

Remember when Jim Shaw had his little tantrum last winter over how much money he had to pay to the Canadian Television Fund to help pay for stupid Canadian shows like Trailer Park Boys?

The CRTC responded almost instantaneously, and recently published the recommendations from their CTF task force. None of it's good for Canadian television. I won't get into all the gory details here - let Denis over at DTOS explain it to you.

In summary, the task force recommends that the CTF be split into two parts: a 'Canadian Heritage' component that would fund 100% Canadian, 'cultural' productions for the CBC and other broadcasters, as well as aboriginal and educational productions, and a more 'market-oriented' fund for commercial productions that would only have to be 80% Canadian.

Two problems with this:

1) Separating 'cultural' from 'commercial' television productions is like picking the green peppers off your pizza and asking a three year old to eat them. They're presenting Canadian Content like it's some nasty vegetable that nobody wants to eat, when in fact it's very tasty when cooked right.

2) The 8/10 CanCon point system for the second, larger fund? Given past history, chances are excellent that those two points will be handed to American writers. And there goes the creative control.

The CRTC is accepting public comments on this proposal until July 27th. The boys of the Writers Cabal are all over this one - Will Dixon explains where and how to submit your own comments here, and McGrath posted his own submission on his blog today. It's long, passionate, very detailed, and states the case far better than I ever could. Read it.

I'm not in the business and not nearly as well informed (or as eloquent) as Denis, but for what it's worth, here's what I sent in today:
As a Canadian and a devoted viewer of Canadian television, I am alarmed at the CRTC task force’s recommendations regarding the CTF. Splitting the Fund in the way that has been suggested and handing the bulk of the money over to productions that will likely have no Canadian creative input at all will take an already bad situation and make it infinitely worse. Despite what the private broadcasters and cable companies might be telling you, trying to generate ‘commercially successful’ television by allowing American writers to assume creative control through the proposed 8/10 point system can only have the opposite effect.

It should be apparent to anyone looking at the success of shows like Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Trailer Park Boys, Degrassi, or Da Vinci’s Inquest, that when given the choice and something good to watch, Canadians love Canadian television. The immense popularity of these shows illustrates quite clearly that the key to success, however elusive, does not lie in the presence of American stars, or in emulating generic American shows. Each of these shows is unique, well written, and 100% Canadian in their production and their perspective. They are also selling extremely well in the U.S. and international markets, precisely because they look nothing like American shows.

If the CRTC goes forward with these recommendations, shows like these will be replaced with more Canadian copies of American reality shows and more bad, generic sitcoms and detective series. At best, we might be treated to the hideous spectre of ‘CSI: Vancouver’ starring Luke Perry.

This is NOT what Canadians want. It is only what we will settle for when there is nothing else to watch.

It is the mandate of the CRTC to protect the interests of the Canadian public. By putting these new recommendations into practise, the Commission will only serve to protect the short term interests of private broadcasters and cable companies who do not, in fact, need any protection at all. In the long run we will all lose, because nobody will be watching at all. We’ll be downloading all those wonderful BBC shows instead.

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Smith
Milton, Ontario

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SPP: Move Along, Nothing to See Here

Given my abiding interest in continental integration issues, and the Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative in particular, I was looking forward to traveling to the site of the next SPP Summit in Montebello, QC this August to express my displeasure. I was especially excited about taking my teen-aged son with me to give him an education in political issues and a taste of activism at work.

This might be harder than I thought:
RCMP, U.S. Army block public forum on the Security and Prosperity Partnership

The Council of Canadians has been told it will not be allowed to rent a municipal community centre for a public forum it had planned to coincide with the next Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec on August 20 and 21.

The Municipality of Papineauville, which is about six kilometres from Montebello, has informed the Council of Canadians that the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the U.S. Army will not allow the municipality to rent the Centre Communautaire de Papineauville for a public forum on Sunday August 19, on the eve of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership Leaders Summit.

"It is deplorable that we are being prevented from bringing together a panel of writers, academics and parliamentarians to share their concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership with Canadians," said Brent Patterson, director of organizing with the Council of Canadians. "Meanwhile, six kilometres away, corporate leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada will have unimpeded access to our political leaders."

As well as being shut out of Papineauville, the Council of Canadians has been told that the RCMP and the SQ will be enforcing a 25-kilometre security perimeter around the Chateau Montebello, where Stephen Harper will meet with George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón on August 20 and 21. According to officials in Montebello, there will be checkpoints at Thurso and Hawkesbury, and vehicles carrying more than five people will be turned back.

I’m stunned. Twenty-five kilometres?! You’ve got to be kidding! Even the G8 Summit in Alberta in 2002 only had a 6.5 km security perimeter - and that had eight world leaders, not just the Three Amigos. Additionally, the G8 Summit was expecting hordes of anti-globalization and other protesters from around the world. This event isn’t likely to attract anywhere near the numbers, or the potentially violent passions. After all, we’re Canadians!

Also, what the hell does the U.S. Army have to do with security on Canadian soil? The RCMP, the SQ - even the Secret Service I can see being involved. But the U.S. ARMY? Did someone mis-speak? Or was this the real purpose behind Harper deciding to start letting armed Americans into our country?

This just pisses me off, to the point where I’m more determined than ever to make the trip. And I suspect that once I give my son this latest bit of news, he will be even more anxious to come with me.

Who’s with us?

(Update: This story actually made the front page of the Ottawa Citizen! Wow - you mean that somebody other than me and a few other bloggers is following this? Good luck keeping us out now!)

Gettin’ My Geek On

I spent a lovely couple of days this past weekend at The Convention Formerly Known as Toronto Trek, a.k.a. ‘Polaris’. Just for the record, if anyone thought this rebranding was an indication that this convention was no longer the very acme of geekdom, they would have been immediately disabused of this notion upon encountering the Kingon handfasting in the lobby on Saturday.

Despite what my parents and sister think, I consider myself only a minor geek. I read some science fiction and fantasy, but only rarely. I don’t read comic books, or even graphic novels. I do not dress up as characters from my favourite movies or TV shows, although I did borrow my husband’s lab coat with the Dharma patch because I was chilly. I do not wear a tail, or vampire teeth, and the only 'collectible figurine' I own is my Buddy Christ. 'Cause that's cool.

I do love my genre films and TV shows. I also love Canadian TV, which is why I’ve been anxiously waiting to see ‘Blood Ties’, the new show based on Tanya Huff’s series of vampire / P.I. novels set in Toronto. I haven’t actually read any of the books yet, but I have been following scriptwriter Denis McGrath’s blog posts on the production and the show sounded intriguing.

On Saturday I got to attend the Canadian premiere of the first two episodes, which were followed by a Q&A with Tanya and showrunner Peter Mohan. Mr. McGrath didn’t attend, which is just as well since I spotted a group of fanfic writers roaming the halls with torches and pitchforks shouting his name.

‘Blood Ties’ is fantastic. Comparisons can and have been made to other shows, but the characters are so strong and complex and the writing so sharp that the show stands firmly on it’s own as a unique take on the vampire genre. Vicki Nelson, the kick-ass cop-turned-private investigator (Christina Cox) is perfectly cast - beautiful without being overly ‘pretty’, mature, tough, flawed and funny. In fact, Tanya mentioned later that when she first wrote the novels ten years ago, she had mentally cast Cox as Vicki based on her work in 'F/X: The Series' - only thinking of her ten years older.

As for Kyle Schmid as Henry Fitzroy…

Oh. My. Gods.

There was actually an audible gasp from the women in the audience the first time he appeared on screen. And he’s not just gorgeous - he smart and intense and witty enough to more than hold his own against Vicki.

If they play their cards right, this show has the potential to be huge.

The Q&A offered some intriguing insights into the problems involved in Canadian television production. One person asked why, since the novels and the series are specifically set in Toronto, the vast bulk of the shooting was done in B.C. The answer? Money. Toronto just doesn’t come close to offering the kinds of financial and tax incentives that B.C. does, and they simply couldn’t afford to shoot here except for some second unit exteriors and file footage of the CN Tower.


One question that nobody dared ask was what effect the recent sale and split-up of CityTV and Space to might have on the show’s future. The series was initially sold to Lifetime in the U.S. (also sad), which is currently airing the first season. It was then picked up by CityTV to be aired this fall, and was supposed to have been given a secondary window on Space. Now that plan is probably in the crapper, and while CityTV is still committed to the first season they bought, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether their new corporate overlords will want to pick up a second season.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, July 6, 2007


It is almost impossible to separate a Michael Moore documentary from the controversy that inevitably accompanies it. Accusations are made, supporters leap to his defense, and the pro- and anti-Moore camps prepare for battle.

None of which has anything to do with ‘Sicko’ as a movie.

I believe that a documentary should inform, entertain, and make you think. ‘Sicko’ succeeds on the first count, although I suspect that there is more new information here for an American audience than a Canadian one. As for entertainment, you may find Moore’s style either amusing or annoying, but he is rarely dull.

‘Sicko’ definitely made me think. Not just about health care but about the broader social issues Moore raises. What are our priorities? How much responsibility are we willing to accept for each other’s well being, and what does that say about us as a society? As Moore asks in despair of his fellow Americans, "Who are we?"

It’s a question we should all ask ourselves once in a while. Four stars.

(for Murray Townsend's opinion, check our column in the Milton Champion)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Dirty Pool, Part 2

First, I would like to thank everyone who kindly explained to me what a 'ten-percenter' is. What can I say - I’m new at this.

For those who, like me, were unaware of the procedures governing the distribution of MP communications, there are apparently two main types: a ‘householder’, which can be sent out four times a year to every household in the riding, and a ‘ten-percenter’, usually smaller and cheaper, which can be sent out to ten percent of households in a riding.

Two facts regarding these publications came as a bit of a surprise to me:
1) they are paid for with taxpayer dollars as part of an MP’s communications allowance, and

2) an MP can send ten-percenters to households in ridings other than their own as long as they make it clear it’s from them and not from that riding’s MP.

Both of these types of mailings are intended to allow an MP to communicate with their constituents about what’s happening in the riding, what they are doing for them on Parliament Hill, and to get feedback on specific issues. This would seem to be a reasonable thing to be covered under a government-paid allowance.

They are NOT supposed to be used for electioneering or partisan politics. That sort of thing is supposed to be paid for by the party being promoted.

Unfortunately, the rules governing MP communications are sufficiently vague that all parties have taken to using this particular form of junk mail to trash other parties, smear other MPs, and even collect names through thinly veiled ‘surveys’. I would love to cite these rules verbatim, but the document in which they are contained (the "House of Commons Members' Allowances and Services Manual") doesn’t appear to be available anywhere online. Maybe some MP can help me out here.

This is not the first time the issue of misuse of ten-percenters has come up. Two years ago the matter was brought up in the House and was referred to Committee for review. The issue was discussed in June and again in November when a motion was brought forward to severely limit the partisan use of ten-percenters and end the practice of mailing them into other ridings. The motion was defeated.

I should point out that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this particular flyer if it had come from someone I liked. However, let me be clear: I object to this abuse of my taxpayer dollars REGARDLESS of who is sending them.

You’re all guilty. Stop it.

This really should be a no-brainer: taxpayer-sponsored communications, whether they be by mail, radio, television or internet, should be non-partisan. How can you tell? Well, if it has a party logo or mentions a specific party (yours or the other guy’s), or if it says something unkind about your opponent, it’s partisan.

If you are not my elected MP and you want to get your message to me, then get your own damned party to pay for it. If you are my elected MP and you want to toot your own horn or talk about what a great job the Government is doing, fine. But don’t be using my money to trash your opponents or promote your party here or in other ridings.

There. Wasn’t that easy? Now, go play nice.