Saturday, May 19, 2007

Someone's choking

And I guess that would be us Leaf fans.

Nevertheless, there's no reason for us to lose faith in Ottawa's potential to blow it in the finals. After all, they came by this win on a cheat. If that rascal Comrie hadn't pulled that stunt and knocked the net off with about three minutes to go, the game wouldn't have gone to overtime. Buffalo would have won it right then and there.

I'm hoping for an Anaheim/Ottawa cup final and an Anaheim cup win.

For those of you who think I'm anti-Canadian for not cheering for the only Canadian team left in the playoffs:

Detroit has 8 Canadians
Ottawa has 14 Canadians
Anaheim has 19 Canadians
Should Detroit make it to the finals rather than Anaheim, I will justify cheering for Detroit because of my visceral hatred of the Senators.

At this time of year, it's less about being a Leaf fan and more about being an Ottawa hater. Yes, they have great players -- probably the best. But they also dive and cheat. Don't you be telling me that the Leafs do those things. I can't hear you.

I don't know what it is about Ottawa that makes my blood boil when they win. It isn't that I hate the city -- Ottawa. I've never even been there.

Maybe it's the red. Liberals are red. That must be it -- because there's just no way that it's sour grapes.


* Edited for correct spelling of that rascal Mike Comrie's name.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What we have here

is a failure to communicate.

The shocking news isn't that the Conservatives have strategies to get their way or to manipulate committees -- it's that they would write a playbook -- and then allow it to become public. That's careless and stupid.

The methods described by Don Martin in today's National Post are nothing new, nor or they exclusive to the Conservatives. They've been employed to great effect by other parties when the opportunity or need arose. The difference is this time is there is a blueprint, so it looks calculating and manipulative.

Ordinary citizens are led to believe that we can expect our politicians to be 'above partisan politics'. We are duped into thinking that they should be above partisanship -- but the fact is, politics is an adversarial business. Each party has priorities and plans, and much as we'd like to believe otherwise, consensus is not always possible.

The Shane Doan incident, the stalled committees and the Kyoto implementation plan are excellent examples. There should have been no concensus about calling on Hockey Canada, and there can be no consensus on the Afghan detainee issue, the Court Challenges Program or Kyoto. The other parties are fairly solid in their positions on these and so long as the Conservatives have a minority in the House and on committees, it stands to reason that government is going to try to block ideas and issues that potentially go against national security, against their principles and against all reason. While compromise is often necessary, conversion would be required to support the opposition ideas in these areas.

Of course you can't govern like a majority when you're in a minority parliament. The Conservatives had to expect the Opposition would oppose -- that's their job. At least some of the obstacles to success on committees have nothing to do with the opposition working against the government and everything to do with the government's lack of success selling its position to the public.

Take the Shane Doan/Official Languages Committee fiasco.

The Conservatives had a minority on the committee. The motion to call Hockey Canada in front of the committee would have passed without their support. Chong's lame explanation that they were 'giving Hockey Canada a chance to tell their side.' is just asinine. If Hockey Canada doesn't need to justify to parliament its choice of Captain-- why would the Conservatives vote for the motion, when a 'yes' vote gives credence to the notion that parliament has a right to challenge the decisions of Hockey Canada?

I have no doubt that the Conservatives were not in favour of recalling Shane Doan or of hauling Rob Nicholson in for grilling -- but rather than bravely voting against the motion, or even meekly abstaining, they voted in favour of the farce and allowed themselves to be painted with the same brush as the other committee members who were pushing for Doan's ouster and disparaging his character.

That is bad strategy.

As for the Afghan detainee thing --- why try to hide mistakes? When you own up, people respect you. When you obfuscate, they know. Where is the upside in lying? Canadians can understand that it takes time to rectify some problems, but they don't understand why it's so hard to admit to errors and to the lag-time in correcting your errors. If you're up front about your mistakes head on, the issue dies. If you try to deny, you'll be caught and that becomes the story.

Bad strategy.

With the Court Challenges Program --- there is reasonable justification for shutting this program down, but what about a grandfathering clause, allowing cases already in the system to proceed? Or actually explaining (without a sneer that says anyone who doesn't agree is an idiot) why the program isn't necessary.

And the Kyoto Implementation bill -- Given the circumstances around the time this was first presented, they could have fought an election on that issue and won. They missed a golden window of opportunity they won't get back.

That's bad strategy.

If the Conservatives are losing ground, it's because they are losing touch with the people. Not just their 'base', but the people.

We don't care about committee procedures or who's the Chair -- we just want to know that our government is doing the right thing and when they don't, that they've got the fortitude to admit it and take the heat.

You've still got time before the session ends. Show some character.


Arabic immersion?

Why don't we try to get all of our kids to learn to speak and read proper English first?

The Windsor Public School Board has decided to offer Arabic 'immersion' classes. From the tone of the article, this doesn't sound like the taxpayer funded 'Heritage Languages' program here in Toronto, where the TDSB pays for Cantonese, Farsi or other foreign language classes, usually on Saturdays. This sounds like the Board intends to offer regular school day education, in Arabic.

Nice precedent, don't you think?

Surely it makes more sense to fund more programs and include more participants in classes that would facilitate the learning of one of our two OFFICIAL languages.

Apparently the experts don't think so. They say that kids 'literate in their first language are more adept at acquiring English or French.' and that 'if children of immigrants do not feel alienated from their family's language and culture, they adapt most readily to Canadian culture and values.'

Really? I would have thought being immersed in English would help you to learn English, and that participating fully in Canadian culture would help establish and cultivate Canadian values. Silly me. Better to ghettoize and then when they're ready, let them mix.

Oh, I know. These kids will be inside public schools, ostensibly learning the same curriculum and participating fully in school life, but don't imagine for a moment that there won't be two solitudes within those schools. If you have kids in Special Ed., you'll know what I mean.

Rather than funding another expensive social experiment with our school systems, why don't we just admit that we haven't managed our English as a Second Language programs effectively. ESL in the public school system in Toronto is a joke, and I doubt it's much better in Windsor. Here in TO, kids whose first language is not English, but who were born in Canada, aren't allowed to participate. They speak their parents' mother-tongue at home and are expected to just 'pick up' English in the school yard I guess. The program ends around Grade 3 with limited support in the higher grades. And Windsor wants to spend money teaching kids in a foreign language? This is another stupid idea that will find its way to Toronto no doubt.

Many Ontarians are keen throw out our heritage and to stop public funding of Catholic schools because it's 'unfair' and 'too expensive' and here is the Windsor School Board trying to justify Arabic immersion. In some areas of Scarborough more than 60% of kids don't speak English as a first language -- what should we do for them? There are several different language groups here and English is the minority. Maybe we should create several learning solitudes. Or maybe we should only fund the language groups where numbers allow, regardless of the language. In some places, that would mean both English and French are out.

The answer to integrating people into Canadian life isn't to educate immigrant kids in their native language. Doing so can't possibly advance their participation in community life -- unless we plan for them to stay within an exclusively Arabic-speaking community.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

In case there was any doubt

Yesterday in the comment section here and at Dust my Broom, stageleft questioned the authenticity of the email I received from Garth Turner on Monday. He thought the actual email address sounded iffy because it's unlike any parliamentary email address he'd seen before.

I suggested he should send a message, which he said he did. He promised to get in touch if he heard back. I still haven't heard from stageleft again, but no matter. Soon after, one of my kids decided to send an email to and she received a reply almost immediately.

Here is the response. I have blocked out my daughter's email address, but other than that it's as it was received:

As for the forgiveness offered by "Garth Turner" in the comments section yesterday:
I forgive you. Now you need to take some lessons in sarcasm.

The profile links to nothing, but given that the comment ended with a slam, I figure it's legit. Phew!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An open letter to Garth Turner

This weekend, I committed a blogging sin and now I am compelled to repent.

While visiting The Prairie Wrangler I made an unsupported allegation about Garth Turner, without the obligatory qualifier "I believe". I am deeply ashamed for this omission and am publicly withdrawing my accusation.

Over this past fifteen months since Garth began making such an (alleged) ass of himself that I actually noticed his existence, I have written about him many times. In those posts, I suggested (among other things) that Garth is:
alienating, arrogant, a blabbermouth, a bore, disloyal, divisive, gossipy, idiotic, indiscreet, malicious, nasty, petulant, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, smug, spiteful, whiny, vengeful . . . you get the picture.
But this time I went too far. I accused Garth of (prepare yourselves) . . . comment fraud.

The following email was sent to me by Garth, warning of the dire repercussions if I did not provide proof (or I suppose -- if I didn't take it back):

I swear I thought a bolt of lightning might shoot through the computer screen given the biblical proportions of his threat. What a dramatic and ominous articulation of intentions. It's like he's made a covenant. Garth Turner vows to make me -- 'suffer the eternally discrediting consequences' of not submitting to his will. 'Suffer' is such a harsh word to use and rather ill-advised by an MP in these circumstances. Shocking that someone in Garth's position would be so reckless in his use of language. And who's he going to discredit me with? My readers? His readers? The government? My boss? God? If Garth has the ear of the Almighty . . . I shudder to think.

Garth's 'or else' blustering was a bit easier for my children to grasp, spending so much time with other kids as they do. They still recall the simple art of verbal sparring at the 'Am not! Are too!' level, which I've long since forgotten. My youngest daughter suggested I use her favourite retort: "make me!" but I certainly don't want to
'suffer the eternally discrediting consequences' he promised. I've seen what Garth has done to his own credibility -- there's just no telling what he'd do with someone else's if he got a hold of it.

My offending comment was an off-handed remark, really. It's probably inaccurate anyway, because like my kids said after they finished laughing -- other pathetic publicity-hounds like Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have groupies -- why not Garth Turner?

When I first read his menacing email,
I was so disturbed that I contemplated committing blogicide, but then I realized two things -- first, that I could feel better by going public, and second, that Garth had paid me a huge compliment by trying to intimidate me. By threatening to discredit me, The (allegedly) Honourable Garth Turner, was in fact saying that I am 'credible'. I blush! What flattery! And from such an unexpected source.

In the end, I make the following
I, canadianna, humbly repent and do earnestly beseech thee, most ridiculous MP, to forgive me my transgression against thee. Amen.
*** Note -- The above
petition is made on the off-chance that Garth comes by his (alleged) God complex, legitimately.

Oh, and Garth -- I'm just a blogger and not an iconic one at that. I have a relatively small readership, no fancy titles, no prestigious office, no groupies. The only people I care to have 'credibility' with are my kids. They respect me. They scoff at you. I'm fine with that, thanks.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Veteran's trust

Our soldiers have to know that even long after they've finished their duties abroad, they and their families will be well served by our government. They put their lives on the line, and they hope that the people back home will support them --- not just their missions, but them. They need to be certain that the government will not turn its back on them or their families should they be disabled or should they die. It's a matter of trust.

Due to a clerical error at the Department of Veteran's Affairs, Annie MacKenzie didn't receive her husband's disability pension after he died in 1968. The Department insisted Melvin MacKenzie was not disabled, despite having
in its possession, information that he was. Unfortunately, that information was ignored and then never transferred to computer. Mrs. MacKenzie was left to raise their six children on her own, without the financial assistance to which she was entitled.

The government doesn't dispute that they got it wrong for nearly 40 years, but Federal laws governing the Pension Act only allow for retroactive payments going back five years. The family is appealing to today's government to hand over the full amount to which Annie MacKenzie and her family were entitled.

It's shameful that governments can erase errors and ignore commitments, simply by legislating a time-limit clause. Mrs. MacKenzie and her family have been fighting for this pension since 1968. It isn't as though the family just discovered it was owing and are hoping for a windfall. These payments were due, and despite years of attempting to get Veteran's Affairs to rectify their error, nothing was done. No fault lies with the family, so why should they be penalized for a governmental failure?

How this case is handled will serve to show today's soldiers what they can expect from Veteran's Affairs in the future. If we want our troops serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere to have confidence that we support them, and will continue to support them when they come back home, showing respect for our WWII & Korea Vets and their widows would be a positive indicator.

Harper should step in and right this wrong, making the payout retroactive to when the mistake occurred.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who's calling the shots at the RCMP

To hear Greg Weston tell it, it's Stephen Harper.

Weston apparently believes the RCMP takes its marching orders from the PMO, which is why they used a hammer to smash an ant when they hauled in Jeffrey Monaghan for questioning the other day. Likening this to a police state, Greggie supposes the Conservatives would love to do the same thing to more people, both bureaucrats and reporters. And yet here we read an insulting accusative story about the government -- Greg, you're so brave.

Of course, the absolutely non-political RCMP couldn't possibly have its own agenda for making the sitting government look stupid or high-handed. And never has any individual or group within the RCMP made errors in judgment, appeared overzealous or acted disproportionately. It must be all Harper's fault.

Environment Minister Baird's suggestion that the arrest was "
a signal to other government employees that leaks of information wouldn't be tolerated" and his conclusion that "obviously (the RCMP) feel it's serious enough to lay charges" which proved to be erroneous, seem to be the smoking gun for political commentators. Baird's first statement was in defense of having called in the RCMP to investigate in the first place, not an admission of political interference. His second was a reaction to an apparent arrest. And had the detainment been politically directed, Baird likely would have got that point right, and the episode -- so public and so over-the-top, would have likely resulted in more than a conversation. But let's overlook the obvious if it makes Harper look bad.

It's far juicier to imply government conspiracy than to assume that the RCMP acted rashly. It also fits in much better with Weston's personal antipathy for Harper. If it's the RCMP running amok, it fits in with the larger issues that pre-date Harper's governance. But if it's political direction, Harper and his nasty band of not-quite-conservatives can be castigated with impunity without ever having to prove any involvement on their part. This works much better with Weston's ongoing hypothesis that Harper is the puppet master to whom everyone demurs.

Weston's bizarre accusation is part of a pattern. He and pal Don Martin are a scrawling dynamic duo, who will stop at no cliche and leave no insinuation left hanging in order to ascribe blame to Harper personally in any awkward or unflattering situation, regardless of how unlikely his involvement. Whether it's the way Harper dresses or unfounded political innuendo, the two columnists share such bitter contempt for Harper, they never mind setting aside credibility in order to get in a good dig.

Just an observation, Mr. Weston: The RCMP does a pretty good job of screwing up all on its own.

That huge chunk of animus on your shoulder is probably impairing your vision.