Which right wing Canadian party would you rather vote for?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stephen Harper defends Mulroney's Bribery

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper is defending Brian Mulroney's stint in international bribery and its not helping his minority government which recently lost 5% in the polls.

Harper is trying to distance himself from Mulroney's past which has just refused to stay in the old Tory closet, but at the same time has been trying to help out the Tory patriarch. Ultimately however Harper can't afford the liability of getting involved in a scandal which could hand the Liberals a majority government.

Harper announced Friday that he would commission an independent probe into allegations of Mulroney's business dealings with controversial businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, and attempt by Harper to sever ties with his former mentor and distance himself from the scandal.

"I think it will be incumbent on me and also upon members of the government not to have dealings with Mr. Mulroney until this issue is resolved,'' Harper told reporters.

That could be easier said than done.

The new Conservative party is an intricate mixture of Reform members, Canadian Alliance members and Progressive Conservatives, perhaps not completely cohesive after only a few years of co-habitation.

Late Friday, some Conservatives were privately wondering what the reaction would be from Tory Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton, who has been a passionate defender of Mulroney's as a former aide and as a friend.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is another Mulroney booster. Other senior Conservatives, including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's Chief of Staff, Paul Therrien, also hailed from the Mulroney era.

Harper's pointman on his transition to power in January 2006 was led by Derek Burney, a former Mulroney chief of staff.

The decision to cut Mulroney loose could not have been an easy one for Harper, said some insiders, who said Harper owes much to the elder Tory.

Mulroney was instrumental in helping smooth the way for a merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance, and in the process became a confidante of Harper's. This was no small feat for a man whose negative image split small c-conservatives in the first place, giving rise to both the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

Stephen Harper alluded to the rehabilitation of Mulroney in a glowing public speech last April.

"I am delighted to be here with you this evening to pay tribute to a man who is increasingly recognized for all his achievement as prime minister,'' Harper said, later mentioning Mulroney in the same breath as Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan for his efforts to end communism.

Mulroney's role in merger

Faron Ellis, a longtime watcher of small c-conservative politics in Western Canada, said Mulroney served Harper's purposes in helping to merge Canada's right wing and later assuage the fears of Progressive Conservatives in the new party.

His designation by an environmental group as Canada's "greenest prime minister'' also helped lend a modicum of legitimacy to the new Conservatives.

But Ellis said the Reform/Canadian Alliance element in the party never really warmed up to Mulroney.

"There will be no love lost for most Reformers, and most of them would even say it serves to remind our new brothers and sisters in arms what kind of trouble Mulroney was,'' said Ellis, of Alberta's Lethbridge College. "You people were with him, so watch your step.''

Still, insiders from the PC side of the family were downplaying any effects the probe would have on relationships within the party.

"The Conservative Party that Mr. Harper has built with former Progressive Conservatives like Peter MacKay and (Industry Minister) Jim Prentice is very, very strong and very respectful of the strengths that both sides bring to the table. That won't be at all at risk,'' said Geoff Norquay, a former Mulroney staffer and ex-communications director for Harper

Ellis says some Tories would likely see the logic in Harper distancing himself from Mulroney. He was, afterall, the man largely to blame for the party's drubbing in the 1993 election that left them with only two seats, Ellis added.

"The PC members of this coalition are not stupid. They know that Mulroney was problematic for their own causes and reasons, and in a certain sense most of them now would probably say, let's get beyond the guy. He's last century's news.''

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Budget freeze endangers wildlife agency, scientists say

Worth Repeating:


A year in which Canada geese forgot to fly south and bears failed to hibernate is not the time for the federal government to cut funding and begin dismantling the country's national wildlife service.

That is the message leading Canadian wildlife biologists, many of them working in Quebec, are delivering to Ottawa in emails and letters protesting against drastic budget cuts to the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Since the creation of the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1947, the Quebec scientists note, hundreds of endangered birds, animals and habitats have been identified and saved from extinction.

The wildlife service's budgets have been frozen, travel cancelled and research put on hold until the end of the fiscal year, March 1, 2008.

For their part, Environment Canada officials in Ottawa maintain it is business as usual for the agency and its work.

Gregory Jack, manager of ministerial services for Environment Minister John Baird's office, said the service is simply "re-evaluating" its priorities.

Privately, however, biologists working inside the department and many on the outside, have another take on the funding freeze.

Although staff at the wildlife service have been ordered not to speak to the media, emails obtained by The Gazette reveal the federal government wildlife biologists fear the agency is being gutted.

"Despite the green wave that has hit Canadian politics, I have never seen morale so low in this outfit in the 15 years I have worked here," one senior research scientist wrote.

"There is going to be a profound impact on wildlife," said David Bird, a McGill University professor and incoming president of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists.

In addition to research and monitoring programs, he said, the agency also enforces Canada's Environmental Protection Act and various international commitments, including the Migratory Birds Convention and the Canadian Wildlife Act.

Canada can't afford to stop monitoring bird and wildlife species now, many of the alarmed scientists are saying, especially since they also serve as an early-warning system of climate change and its impact on both the environment and humans.

"We need to understand the population dynamics of these species," said Jean-François Giroux, a wildlife biologist and professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

The waterfowl specialist signed a letter sent last week from the 400-member Society of Canadian Ornithologists urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Baird to reconsider the budget restrictions now undermining the department's historic mandate.

He argues that the recent freeze of the wildlife service's field and research programs could jeopardize dozens of scientific projects, some with human health ramifications.

Among the projects in Quebec:

A study looking at ways to control Canada geese in urban areas and based on the 30,000-strong colony now exploding on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River near Varennes.

Continued satellite tracking of and monitoring for the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza in snow geese, a migratory species. More than a million snow geese travel over Quebec each year from the Canadian Arctic to the eastern United States.

Monitoring for avian cholera of the colony of 30,000 common eider on islands near Quebec City.

Lynn Miller, a wildlife biologist at Concordia University, said she is concerned what will happen to public education on several serious wildlife concerns.

For the agency, Miller has prepared online updates on bird flu, West Nile virus and other issues that workers in wildlife rehabilitation centres across Canada must know about if they handle dead and injured birds.

"We can't afford not to keep our eyes open to what is happening with wildlife," she said.

Paul Milot, a communications director in the Quebec City office of the wildlife service, said that in Quebec there are between 40 and 45 people working for the agency.

However, he said, he was unable to say anything more about the cuts and directed queries to Ottawa.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Canada Sending Troops in Afghanistan Faulty Equipment

Before patrolling the dirt roads that snake around their base near Kandahar, Canadian soldiers grab uniforms that feature special dyes and fibres designed to help them blend into the night. They also pack QuikClot, a chemical powder that can be poured into seeping wounds to staunch blood loss.

Troops may soon be able to add yet another high-tech gadget to their growing arsenal: X-ray vision.

Later this month, Canadian Forces officials are scheduled to review a device that promises to allow soldiers to literally see through concrete walls.

"It's a radar for finding people," says Robert Judd, president of Virginia-based Camero Inc.

The device is called Xaver and it sends and receives radio signals through walls up to a foot thick. Those signals are then converted into rough images on a small video monitor.

In another era, Judd might have had trouble coaxing Canadian Forces personnel to even meet with him.

These days, however, the military's doors are wide open to defence contractors. In 2005-06, the most recent fiscal year for which statistics are available, Canada's defence-related spending was $14.7 billion, 44 per cent more than the $10.2 billion spent in 1997-98.

"The war may not be good for innocent Afghans, but it's been a bonanza for companies," says John Pike, an analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, a non-profit research centre in Washington.

It's also meant a bonanza of new gear for Canadian soldiers, but some fret the rapid spending increase may be leading to rushed, ill-advised buys.

Purchases are approved so quickly that there's little long-term consideration, says Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps, a military magazine.

Canada already has some 66 Leopard tanks, Taylor says, yet has agreed to buy more from the Dutch, some of which require major retrofits, and lease still more from Germany.

"Our troops may be out of Afghanistan by the time we finish retrofitting some of the German tanks," Taylor says. "What do we do then? Send them down the streets of Haiti or pay for them to be sent back to Germany, if they'll take them back?"

The list of the Forces' recent acquisitions is lengthy and, by military standards, impressive.

Late last month, officers in Kandahar were showing off the Husky, an oversized tractor-like vehicle with electronic and metal detectors designed to find and blow up deadly roadside bombs.

Some Canadian troops have assault rifles equipped with so-called "holographic sights" that allow soldiers to shoot on the run with improved accuracy thanks to a video screen the size of a cellphone display atop the rifle.

"They don't have to shut their eyes and squint to see their target," says Major Pierre Caron, a Canadian Forces weapons expert.

Ottawa's Dew Engineering is refurbishing LAV 3 vehicles with improved armour plating and designing a new seat that promises to better absorb the crippling shock wave created by detonating roadside bombs.

"When a bomb goes off, it's not just the shrapnel that kills, the percussion of the blast moves the organ around," says Tim Page, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries, a trade group. "The seat absorbs that percussion."

But some of the recent purchases are not working exactly as hoped.

Canada bought four unmanned aerial vehicles for $33.8 million in August 2003, through Oerlikon Contraves Inc.

The four-metre-long, French-made Sperwer aircraft were equipped with cameras, parachutes, inflatable crash bags and computer circuit boards.

But it had never been flown in extreme heat or in altitudes as high as Afghanistan. There were immediate concerns the new units would fail. Those worries were dismissed by an Oerlikon spokesperson.

Yet, four years on, Canadian soldiers now complain the Sperwer units have limited range and endurance and are struggling to cope with the Afghan heat.

The defence department is now planning to spend as much as $100 million to buy improved unmanned aerial vehicles.

A string of emails in April 2003 shows that some officers at the Canadian Forces Experimentation Centre – it tests new equipment before purchase – were concerned that Canada's first UAV purchase was being done hastily.

In an April 28, 2003 email to two colleagues obtained under the Access to Information Act, Lt.-Col. Stephen Newton wrote that he was worried about the fast tracking of the UAV purchase.

"It does not appear that anyone is quarterbacking this event and what is worse is that whoever is doing it is basing all their efforts on outdated procedures and criteria," Newton wrote. "At this stage of the game I am beginning to believe that the request for a tactical UAV is coming from the two staff instead of the operators. That is the only way I can explain such a lack of thought..."

Despite such misgivings, Dan Ross, the assistant deputy minister for materiel and the person in charge of major military purchases, said in an interview he wants to make the approval process faster still.

"Before I was hired in May 2005 it was not uncommon for (documents outlining) new project requirements to be 60,000 pages long," Ross said.

In 2004, an internal report suggested it took 107 months to procure equipment. Ross said he wants to pare that to 48 months.

But at what cost? Not testing the equipment properly could result in more deaths than the equipment could save.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harper's 2007 Budget

Stephen Harper's GST cuts are supposed to be combined with higher taxes on corporations.

The idea is to give more money to consumers so they can spend more, and tax the corporations a higher rate for their increased revenues. That way Canadians have more money and the economy is boosted, corporations see a rise in profits and Canada maintains tax revenues by simply changing the source of the revenues.

Except Harper hasn't increased corporate taxes. Instead in the 2006 budget Harper cut income taxes for Quebec (bribe for the PQ) and cut income taxes in Alberta (bribes for the Alberta oil industry where Harper enjoys a 76% approval rating). He raised incomes taxes in the rest of Canada and lowered them in Alberta and Quebec.

Talk about playing favourites.

And now in the 2007 budget (which passed thanks to help from the PQ) Harper has stolen billions of Atlantic Accord money from the Atlantic Provinces, for which the federal government is going to be sued for breaking contracts. But what else does the 2007 budget do?

  1. There was a very non-controversial 50% increase to capital gains exemptions on income taxes.
  2. $409,000 to help support and promote Canadian horses for sale overseas. The funding will be matched by equine industry execs dollar for dollar to boost and support Canada's equine industry.
  3. The budgets ignores the Atlantic Accord in lieu of a fatter equalization payment. The Atlantic Accord give the provinces full control over their resource revenues, but Harper is breaking that contract and effectively stealing money from the Atlantic provinces with a measly increase to the equalization payment (which is supposed to be there anyway).
  4. The budget also steals resource revenues from Saskatchewan's tiny oil/gas industry.
  5. $4.5 billion to clean our air and water, reduce greenhouse gases, combat climate change, as well as protect our natural environment.
  6. A a new Working Income Tax Benefit of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families. This will reward and strengthen incentives to work for an estimated 1.2 million low-income Canadians, helping them over the "welfare wall."
  7. $45 million over three years to contribute to the cost of improving physical accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  8. $6 million per year to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking.
  9. $10 million per year to combat elder abuse and fraud.
  10. $10 million per year to Status of Women Canada towards real action in key areas such as combatting violence against women and girls.
  11. $400 million for Canada Health Infoway to support early movement towards patient wait times guarantees.
  12. $300 million for a vaccine program to protect women and girls against cancer of the cervix.
  13. Etc, ect. See more at www.budget.gc.ca/2007/overview/briefe.html
The new budget is not controversial for the most part. The biggest concern is Harper's theft of Atlantic Accord money in exchange for equalization payments.

Note: H
arper promised during the last election campaign not to clawback equalization payments because of oil dollars. He does manage to keep this promise, but at the expense of stealing money from the Atlantic Accord.

The budget passed with 157 votes in favour and 103 against. 48 MPs didn't even bother to show up.

There was never any doubt that the Conservative minority government would survive the final budget vote. The Bloc Québécois was going to see to that so many MPs didn't even bother to show up.

This budget still needs to be approved by the Liberal senate, which could send it back for revisions, and might insist that the Atlantic Accord be upheld (negating the need for the Atlantic provinces to take Harper to court).

If it is approved and the Atlantic provinces take Harper to court we might see a tipping point in Harper's approval rating in Atlantic Canada, which has dropped 10 percentage points.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Electoral Reform

Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon are getting ripped off in elections.

And here's why:

Prince Edward Island has 34,000 people living there and 4 electoral seats.

Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have 3 times the population of tiny PEI, but only have 3 seats (a single seat per territory).

If we're going to be fair Canada's territories should be treated on the same basis as PEI. They should get 4 seats each, bringing their total to 12.

They're not the only ones getting ripped off.

The maximum quotient for a MPs seat is 107,220 people. Any number over that and that area is supposed to be split into smaller sections and gain another seat.

Ontario has an average of 107,642 people per riding. They should be entitled to an additional 1 seat to bring their average down below the quotient. Likewise British Columbia has an average of 108,548 voters per riding. They also are entitled to 1 additional seat. Alberta currently has an average of 106,000. In a couple years (depending on population growth) they may deserve an additional seat.

Some provinces see their votes count for more in the legislature. Depending on what county and province you live a couple hundred votes is all it takes to make a difference.

Q: How is the Quotient determined?

A: The calculation is done by taking the minimum 282 seats and subtracting the three territories to equal 279 seats. The population of Canada is then divided by 279 to equal the electoral quotient.

N.S. Premier in Ottawa to battle Harper's lies and corruption

Nova Scotian premier in Ottawa as battle over resource revenues continues.

June 12th 2007.

OTTAWA - The premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland kept up their attacks on Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday as the House of Commons prepared for a final vote on the federal budget, a document the Atlantic premiers have denounced as a betrayal.

Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald took his fight to Ottawa, where he met with Harper in a last-ditch effort to resolve a dispute over offshore energy revenues before the vote, scheduled for 5:15 p.m. ET.

In Nova Scotia, MacDonald's minority government placed newspaper ads urging residents to call on their 11 MPs to reject the bill because it effectively negates the Atlantic Accord, a federal-provincial agreement that was supposed ensure the province is the "main beneficiary" of its offshore energy sector.

"The 2007 federal budget effectively rips up the accord and breaks the deal made with Nova Scotians," the ad says, echoing sentiments expressed by Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams.

"The federal budget comes to a vote this week. Contact your member of Parliament now and demand that the federal government keep its agreement - and its word - to the people of Nova Scotia."

The federal government was set to limit debate on the contentious bill before the vote.

MacDonald said he hopes to enlist the aid of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and some senators in fighting the change.
Harper has responded to the latest salvos from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan by challenging the provinces to bring the dispute before the courts.

Williams took to the airwaves to describe the prime minister's behaviour as "childish."

"Stephen Harper is the de facto leader of this country ... and it's about time he started acting like one instead of trying to pit provinces against each other," Williams told CBC.

Williams said Harper's suggestion that the matter should be settled by the courts was a blatant bid the make the issue go away.

"The federal government has badly mismanaged this. Their communications strategy has been an absolute disaster," he said, suggesting that the federal Conservative caucus is now bitterly divided as the party's popularity plunges in Atlantic Canada.

Meanwhile, a Nova Scotia municipality has passed a resolution that confirms its support for MacDonald's stand.

Truro Mayor Bill Mills is calling on other communities to do the same, saying the province should be united in its fight against Ottawa.

Mills said the changes announced in the March 19 federal budget amounted to "knocking the legs from underneath us."

Saskatchewan threatens to take Harper to court

June 12th 2007.

REGINA - With Prime Minister Stephen Harper daring provinces to take the federal government to court over its equalization policies, Saskatchewan Government Relations Minister Harry Van Mulligen said that just might happen.

Speaking to reporters at the provincial legislature on Monday, Van Mulligen said Premier Lorne Calvert will lay out the Saskatchewan government's equalization strategy within the next two weeks.

The premier recently mentioned the possibility of legal action, and Van Mulligen said that's one of the options on the table.

"I think that would be a primary consideration for us," he said.

Saskatchewan has called on Harper to live up to the Conservative campaign promise to exclude non-renewable resource revenues from the formula for equalization funding, which it says would mean an additional $800 million in federal cash for the province annually.

The Conservatives say they kept their promise because the March federal budget allows provinces to choose a formula that would pull non-renewable resource revenues from equalization. However, it also put an unforeseen cap on payments, meaning Saskatchewan gets $226 million this year and is slated to get no equalization funding in 2008-09.

Saskatchewan has been joined in its unhappiness over the Conservative budget by Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, which had signed the Atlantic Accord side deals with the previous Liberal government. Those agreements excluded offshore energy revenues from the equalization calculations for those provinces.

Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative Premier Rodney MacDonald, who has called on all his province's MPs to vote against the budget, says the new equalization formulas violate the Atlantic Accord. But Harper said Monday if MacDonald believes that to be the case, the province should take the federal government to court.

"I am concerned about this allegation that we've broken the accords," Harper said at an Ottawa news conference.

"We've done no such thing. It's a contract. We don't break contracts. We respect contracts.

"Normally I expect that if somebody says you've broken a contract, they're going to follow that up by going to court to make you abide by the contract, but I don't see that happening. It's an allegation without substance."

Van Mulligen took exception to what he called the prime minister's "belligerent attitude."

"It's Mr. Harper's tone -- that 'If you don't like it, lump it' attitude and 'Take us to court' and so on. That's no way to run a country."

Van Mulligen said while Saskatchewan's strategy hasn't changed, the tough words from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and the possibility that a second Nova Scotia Tory MP will join MP Bill Casey in voting against the budget, undermine the Conservative argument about the budget's benefits.

The Saskatchewan government has been tight-lipped about a potential legal challenge since Calvert mentioned the possibility a month ago. Van Mulligen declined to provide further details Monday.

Harper embarrasses Canadians at G8 Summit


With the recent G-8 summit now behind us, many Canadians are feeling embarrassed and disillusioned. Until recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his team had refused to even acknowledge that climate change was happening and only took action when public demand left no alternative. Harper's attempt at the G-8 summit to try to sell the world on the merit of intensity-based emissions targets, when the world needs deep overall emissions reductions, is not only irresponsible but also reneges on our international Kyoto commitments.

In the area of foreign aid, Harper is also failing, falling well short of reaching the Lester Pearson-envisioned target of 0.7 per cent of the GDP, despite a flourishing economy and a hefty budget surplus. Harper's alleged attempt to sabotage G-8 advancement on its Gleneagles agreements on increasing foreign aid is beyond reprehensible.

Despite campaigning on the concept of accountability, Harper seems only to be accountable to the five-year plans of Big Oil and the foreign policy objectives of the U.S. – neither of which are meeting the needs of his own country or the world at large, but instead serve only the US economy and not Canada's.

As one observer noted: "Mr. Harper does indeed seem to be out of touch with the people of this country." It is now up to Canadians to demand true accountability from our government.

Harper Kicks Casey Out

Casey at the bat: three swings and he's out

Harper Conservatives can't say they weren't warned in vote against Budget by well-liked Nova Scotia MP.

Bill Casey with Truro councillor Raymond Tynes and Harper in happier daysBy Stephen Kimber

Federal Tories couldn't have been surprised when Bill Casey stood in the House of Commons on principle — and against his party — in last week's budget vote.

In truth, the veteran Cumberland-Colchester- Musquodoboit Valley MP has been out of step with Stephen Harper (and in touch with his own constituents) from the day the former Reformer was sworn in as prime minister.

That grand occasion also marked the first day Casey publicly questioned the PM's wisdom — for welcoming yesterday's Liberal, David Emerson, into his cabinet.

In February, Casey was deep in the doo-doo again after he criticized Harper for currying favour with Quebec voters by handing out aerospace contracts to firms in that province when companies in his own riding didn't get a whiff of the lucrative work.

All of this, of course, has always played much better in Casey's home riding — where he's been re-elected in four straight elections — than it does inside the Conservative caucus in Ottawa where leader loyalty is the sine qua non of promotion. Which is why he isn't in the caucus anymore.

"Our association to a person is supporting Bill," local riding president Scott Armstrong told the Amherst Daily News.

"He's been a wonderful MP for our riding and we support him."

Others in the riding agree — at least if you believe reader responses on the Amherst paper's website.

"The Tories don't realize what they have lost," wrote Shawna Richardson.

"I know that (I and) a lot of others voted for Bill, and not necessarily the party... Whatever party is in power makes no difference to me. But who represents my interests in Ottawa is very important and, therefore, as long as he is in politics... Bill will always have my vote."

"Mr Casey remembers where he comes from and, more importantly, who put him in Ottawa," explained Jennifer Boyce from Pictou. "It wasn't Stephen Harper."

Although he insists he's made no decisions about his long-term political future, Casey mused last week that "even I was surprised that I didn't mind sitting as an independent."

All of which raises an interesting question. How will Harper ever win his elusive majority if he keeps alienating his own supporters?

Answer: He won't.

Stephen Kimber, Casey at the bat: three swings and out, The Daily News, June 10, 2007
Casey's budget vote a surprise, MacKay says, CBC News, June 7, 2007

Harper's Trigger Happy Gun Panel

Harper's Gun Advisors are Trigger Happy Wackos

OTTAWA – The Conservative government's firearms advisory committee, appointed and operating in virtual secrecy, is made up almost entirely of pro-gun advocates opposed to the firearms registry.

Its dozen members include a man who argued that more guns in the hands of students would have helped in the recent Virginia Tech massacre, in which 32 people were killed, and another shooting aficionado who described a weapon used in last September's Dawson College killings in Montreal as "fun."

The committee's pro-gun tilt lends to the perception that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is out of step with urban concerns on firearms violence – especially in Toronto. Jordan Manners, 15, was killed last week in a school shooting, days after philanthropist Glen Davis was gunned down.

Over the Easter weekend, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day quietly extended a long-gun amnesty program to allow those firearms owners yet more time to register their weapons – pleasing registry opponents but angering those fighting for tougher laws.

In background research obtained and confirmed by the Star, members of the Conservatives' committee have shown themselves to be vocal proponents of gun use.

"If even 1 per cent of the students and staff at Virginia Tech had been allowed to exercise their right to self defence, then this tragedy would have been stopped in its very beginning and dozens of lives would have been saved," Dr. Mike Ackermann, a Nova Scotia physician, wrote in a letter to the Ottawa Sun in April. "There are never any mass killings at shooting ranges; only at schools and other so-called `gun-free zones.'"

Gary Mauser, a Simon Fraser University professor renowned for his work opposing gun laws, wrote an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun in February: "Firearm laws divert scarce resources from alternative approaches that might actually improve public safety."

The Public Safety Minister's office recruited the panel members but did not, as has been the practice in previous governments, issue any public announcement about the appointments. Nor does it seem to have included any panel members with expertise on suicide or sociological factors behind gun crime, as previous governments have attempted to do.

The only apparent acknowledgment of the committee's membership was found in a letter by MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton Melville) to constituents in which he pointed to the makeup of the panel as evidence of the Tories' intent to be more gun friendly.

"In October, the minister's new firearms advisory committee met in Ottawa for the first time. The difference between the Liberal government and the Conservative government is obvious by the people that make up the committee," Breitkreuz wrote in the letter dated Dec. 15, 2006. He named Ackermann, Mauser and 10 other members:

Tony Bernardo, Canadian Institute of Legislative Action.

Linda Thom, Olympic gold medallist in pistol shooting.

Alain Cossette, Quebec Wildlife Federation.

Greg Farrant, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Linda Baggaley, firearms expert and dealer from Alberta.

Stephen Torino, Quebec firearms expert and dealer.

Louis D'amour, New Brunswick firearms expert.

Gerry Gamble, Sporting Clubs of Niagara.

Robert Head, former RCMP assistant commissioner.

John Gayder, Niagara police.

Murray Grismer, Saskatoon police.

Mauser, reached by the Star, said panel members do have disagreements, though he did not want to elaborate on their discussions or advice they've given Day after their meetings, which he said occur every few months. Panel members are not paid but travel expenses are covered.

"I can't tell you what that advice is ... and I certainly can't tell you whether they followed it or not," Mauser said in a phone interview.

At least some committee members have ties to the National Rifle Association in the U.S.

NRA president Sharon Froman spoke at an annual gathering of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association last November, for instance, noting her admiration for Torino.

Torino was also on the committee when Liberals were in power. At that time though, as when the panel was set up by former prime minister Kim Campbell, there was more of a balance between pro-gun and anti-gun advocates.

"Steve was one of the beacons of hope in a room full of enemies determined to eradicate your gun rights," Froman told the conference as she described working with Torino at a United Nations meeting on limiting the spread of firearms.

Froman praised Bernardo in that same speech, recalling work they have done together on the international stage. Bernardo appeared in a Canadian Press story, discussing the type of weapon used by Kimveer Gill in the Dawson College shooting.

"It's very accurate. The firearm is just one of those firearms that's just a lot of fun to spend a day at the range with."

Inquiries to Breitkreuz and the Public Safety department were referred to Day's office, but Day was travelling and his officials responded with only general information.

Harper threatens Atlantic Provinces

Stephen Harper Breaks Contract with Atlantic Canada
Provinces Prepare to take it to Court.

June 12th 2007.

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is threatening to take the Atlantic Provinces to court to rebut critics who say he is breaking his word and shortchanging Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

"We don't break contracts; we respect contracts," Harper told the Commons yesterday in reply to sharp criticism from Conservative Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald on the heels of months of protest from Newfoundland's Danny Williams, and the ouster last week of Tory MP Bill Casey.

Another Nova Scotia Conservative MP, Gerald Keddy, planned to meet with the Prime Minister last night to discuss his concerns about the dispute.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," said Keddy, who hinted that his support for the government's March 19 budget was wavering.

"I'm not going to make any decisions until I get a chance to talk to the Prime Minister," he told The Canadian Press.

Harper disputes the charge that his government breached the Atlantic Accords, and broke an election promise to let those provinces keep 100 per cent of their offshore oil and gas revenues without suffering hits to their federal-provincial equalization payments.

Yesterday, a combative Harper first dared the provinces to take him to court if they are serious.

"That's a serious allegation: the federal government's breaking the law. We're not breaking the law. And if Nova Scotia believes that they would take the appropriate action."

Harper added he was still open to talks to resolve the dispute as voters expect leaders to do, "like adults." But Harper said there would be no more "side deals" with provinces.

Then, Harper – who has long held that courts should not intervene in political decisions – said if the provinces don't do so, he would put the whole question of whether a contract was broken to some kind of judicial review.

"I don't think we can let this stand. At some point, we'll consult the courts to see if we've respected the contract," said Harper.

It prompted his political opponents to denounce Harper's descent into a war of words with the provinces, less than three months after federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty declared that "bickering between provincial and federal governments is over."

"When the finance minister announced the end of federal-provincial bickering, he did not say that meant `We will sue you if you disagree with us,'" Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said in the Commons.

It also prompted a warning from MacDonald, Nova Scotia's Conservative premier, that Harper's threat of court action could backfire on the federal Conservatives because emotions are running high in his province.

"The most important court is the court of public opinion, and I can tell you that the court of public opinion in Nova Scotia is that the federal government has broken a deal," MacDonald said after a private luncheon speech to Bay St. executives.

"There will be a political price to pay in Nova Scotia unless they honour the agreement," he predicted yesterday.

"We may be a small province in Nova Scotia, but we will not be bullied by the federal government."

On Sunday, MacDonald called on Nova Scotia MPs and senators to follow the lead of MP Bill Casey – ousted from the Conservative caucus for voting against the budget over his belief it broke the party's promise on the Atlantic Accords.

Casey yesterday echoed MacDonald's warning about the party's Nova Scotia prospects, saying voters there have shut out political parties in past elections to show their displeasure.

Moreover, Casey disputed Harper's contention that there are no "side deals" to be discussed, saying he was involved in talks to achieve just that, up until last week's vote and his eviction from caucus.

MacDonald said his call on federal Conservatives to vote against the budget was not an easy one. "As a Conservative premier myself, this is a major stand."

It came after closed-door talks between federal and provincial officials collapsed last week, and following publication Saturday of a public letter by Flaherty in a Halifax newspaper declaring there would be no side deals, and that it was an "urban myth" that Ottawa was not respecting the Atlantic Accords.

That letter was the straw that "broke the camel's back," said MacDonald.

He said all Canadians have a stake in how this matter is handled because the federal government's reputation for keeping its word is at issue.

"It's in the best interest of the country because if any of my colleagues from any province or territory is going to be signing agreements we need to know they're going to be kept.

"This goes to the very principle of Confederation."

Nova Scotians are angry, and talking about it "on the streets, in the stores, in their workplaces and at the supper table," said MacDonald.

"The offshore agreement was an agreement which Nova Scotians saw as an opportunity to move forward, to be a `have' province, to contribute to our country.

"And now that is being taken away," the premier said.

MacDonald said he last spoke with Harper on Sunday night, but would not reveal details of their conversation.

Harper insists his 2007 budget gives the provinces a clear choice between keeping their non-renewable resource revenues under the 2005 accords and the old equalization formula, or choosing a new equalization formula, which he said gives Nova Scotia an extra $95 million this year alone.

But Dion said Harper is "trapped" because he made a promise he that could not keep – to not claw back the Atlantic provinces' offshore energy revenues when calculating their federal-provincial wealth-sharing transfer payment under a newly-revised equalization program.

Accord primer

The governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia are accusing the federal government of undermining their versions of the Atlantic Accord.

Q: What is at stake?

A: The two provinces had long complained they were being penalized under the federal equalization formula, which offered smaller payments to both provinces as they earned more money from their burgeoning offshore oil and gas industries.

In 2004, on the eve of a federal election, the previous federal Liberal government agreed to update the Atlantic accords to help each province overcome their "unique economic and fiscal challenges."

The revamped agreements, signed in 2005, gave each province 100 per cent protection from clawbacks of equalization payments.

That protection applies until 2011-'12, as long as the provinces continue to receive equalization.

Q: Does the federal budget affect the Atlantic accords?

A: The provinces say the March 19 budget undermines the accords in that it requires them to give up their full protection against equalization clawbacks in order to participate in a new, richer equalization formula.

That formula includes non-renewable resource revenues in equalization calculations, as well as a fiscal cap.

Both provinces say despite the larger equalization payments, the new arrangement could hurt them in the long run because the clawbacks returned and the fiscal cap puts a limit on what the provinces can receive from Ottawa.

But the federal government says the budget doesn't affect the accords because it offers each province a choice: either stick with the original agreement or opt into an enriched equalization formula.

The provinces say the federal government had pledged an improved equalization formula, so offering the status quo is far less than what was promised.

Q: Why is Saskatchewan also angry over the federal budget?

A: Saskatchewan has charged that, with the new formula, Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke a promise to fully remove resource revenues from new equalization formula calculations, costing the province hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer payments.

But Harper says the budget actually offers more money to the province, and that the budget restores the equalization formula to a principle-based program that treats all provinces fairly.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Stephen Harper = Normal Guy

Stephen Harper is actually a pretty normal Canadian guy.

Like most normal guys Harper is: Christian, homophobic, stuck in his ways, stubborn, has 2 children and is an avid hockey fan. He also collects records of AC/DC and the Beatles.

If anything Harper is... quite boring. And very nerdish. He worked as a computer programmer during his 20s for an oil and gas company and later studied a masters degree in economics.

So he knows his numbers. He's a bean counter and he still maintains his close ties to the oil and gas industries.

He didn't even really want to be Prime Minister of Canada. He preferred to be the puppet-master telling old Preston Manning what to say and do and wrote speeches and ideologies for the Reform Party in his early days in politics.

A strong economy needs 3 things: Safety/Stability, cheap and ample supply of food for the masses, and affordable transportation for transferring goods/foods and people to and fro.

Oil and gasoline does play a very important part in Canada's prosperity. As a cheap commodity (thanks to subsidies it costs less to buy a litre of gasoline than it does for a litre of water). It allows us to transport food at cheap costs and bring cheap food quickly and easily to the masses.

It also allows us to transport other trade goods such as automotives, fashion, furniture and the like. Keeping the prices low = less cost for the consumer and more profit for the seller.

So logically one would think that using hybrid cars to keep costs down seems like a logical conclusion. Assuming of course that the car in question is affordable, has very good gas mileage and only marginally more expensive than a regular car.

For example if you were driving a 450 horsepower Lexus GS Hybrid and paid $77,000 for a new one you're not really saving any money. Its got a tonne of horsepower and torque that a lambo from the 1980s would be jealous of.

On the other hand you could also buy a 187 horsepower Toyota Camry for $31,000, still get tonnes of umph for your pleasure and the same fuel efficiency as a tiny Yaris.

As a typical boring nerd Stephen Harper probably doesn't know a lot about cars. He may know a fair bit about oil, gasoline and economics... but methinks he doesn't understand cars very well.

I lean towards Jaguars, Aston Martins and Mustangs myself. I've long had a dream of owning a gas guzzling 1970s powerhouse of a car... and sticking a hydrogen fuel cell engine in it to prove a point.

My father has a 1973 Plymouth Duster in green (he didn't like purple or orange so he went with puke green) that has been rotting in his shed since 1985. The car hasn't run in over 20 years. Fortunately he filled the engine with diesel to preserve it so it doesn't rust. It just needs to be cleaned out, replace anything that has been ruined, a lot of bodywork and a new paint job... that photo on the right is not the same car, but it is what it would have looked like when it was brand new.

For me however I'd be very tempted to just toss the engine out. Sell it for scrap. Fix the car up, stick a hydrogen fuel cell engine inside it, paint it cherry red or glossy black... and then take a vacation across Canada with it.

My reasoning? Thanks to the previous Liberal government there is a growing network across Canada of hydrogen fuel cell technology and ways to refuel a car that runs on that technology. Basically the idea is that people will be able to refill their cars with fuel anywhere they can find electricity.

Because all that is needed to collect and store hydrogen is electricity and water.

So the only real trick to this is how much will it cost to refill the car using hydrogen gathered using electricity, and how much will the electricity itself cost? And where is that electricity coming from? Coal plants?

Coal-burning electrical plants are the cause of roughly one quarter of Canada's greenhouse gases. More coal plants would hardly be good for the environment.

An important point is that coal isn't cheap. It cost the Ontario government 9 cents per kWh to make coal power, but they only sell it for 6 cents/kWh. Ontario taxpayers pay for the other 3 cents. Other sources of power are comparatively cheaper.

My hope is that someday I will be able to drive my "gas guzzling" car from the 1970s across Canada thanks to a network of cheap/environmentally friendly electricity.

Which I admit makes it sound like I'm some kind of freaking hippie. But I'm not. Like Stephen Harper I also like hockey, economics and I am a little homophobic (most guys are). But at least I'm not too stubborn and stuck in my ways to realize change is coming whether I like it or not and I am willing to embrace that change.

So when I say I hate Stephen Harper the truth is I don't "hate hate" the guy. I just don't like how stubborn he is and I don't agree with a lot of his policies. Especially his more wacko Christian ideas like bringing prayer back to public schools.

In short... I miss Brian Mulroney and the old Progressive Conservative party. At least then we'd have a government which was progressive with the environment instead of trying to ignore it.

I'd vote for Mulroney again given the chance.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Parties Threaten to oust Harper if he doesn't ratify Kyoto

Coalition threatens election over Kyoto

June 6th 2007.

MONTREAL - With Prime Minister Stephen Harper trying to persuade European politicians he has the right plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, four federal parties and Quebec environmentalists teamed up to call for his environment minister's head and threaten an election.

"It's not impossible that we will get to that ( an election on Kyoto)," Quebec Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez said in reference to Conservative stalling tactics in the Senate to block Bill C-288. A private member's bill piloted by Rodriguez, the bill is designed to ensure Canada honours its Kyoto protocol commitments despite the minority Conservative government's opposition to the accord.

Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras added that the critical moment, as far as he's concerned, will come if the government fails to take action in the 60 days after the adoption of Bill C-288.

"If it does not, it is clear parliamentarians will have to assume their responsibilities," Bigras said in a vague threat.

The two politicians made the comments at a Montreal news conference where they were joined by representatives of the New Democratic Party and Green Party in upping the pressure on the Harper government to end its filibuster on the bill.

They said the Conservatives are using their minority in the Senate to block final adoption of Bill-C-288. Also attending were members of a pro-Kyoto Quebec group and an industry representative from the Cascades paper giant, which has been reducing its emissions for years.

"He (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) is doing what he promised he would never do," said Rodriguez. "He is using his minority in the Senate to go against the will of the elected majority in the House of commons.

"We are here to send him a clear message. Respect the will of Quebecers. Respect the will of the majority of Canadians. Do it for your children and grandchildren."

In Ottawa, the Liberal majority in the Senate is threatening to sit through the summer in order to pass the bill.

At the Montreal meeting, Quebec candidate Thomas Mulcair said Harper's efforts to thwart Kyoto prove the Conservative government never had any intention of respecting its international obligations.

"Mr. Harper, all of us here today are giving you one clear message: stop being such an international embarrassment, start respecting our international obligations."

The four parties are also calling for federal environment minister John Baird's resignation in an open letter to be published in the Montreal media Wednesday.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The How's and Why's of getting called a Cunt

Most women never deserve to be called a cunt.

Most women are generally nice people and deserve to be treated with Respect.

But when you go out of your way to mean to other people there are specific instances when I think those particular women deserve to get the C-word as a response.

Here's two examples wherein I have personally called a woman a Cunt and I feel in those circumstances they deserved it.

I was in Toronto, at the Yonge/Bloor subway station carrying a box of breakables and I was walking parallel to the train rails (right on the yellow line for anyone familiar with the TTC subway) and this 30-something woman ahead of me was walking the opposite way carrying nothing but a purse.

Had she been pushing a baby carriage, or been pregnant, disabled, or carrying an even bigger box I would have stepped aside and let her pass. Nope. She was carrying nothing but a purse, so I kept walking in a straight line figuring she would have no trouble stepping to one side.

But she did have trouble with it. Apparently "I" got in her way. So when she did finally step to the side she took her time to say "Asshole."

I was immediately shocked that she could be so rude to a man carrying a box, but I was quick witted enough to very quickly say "Cunt."

And I feel she deserved it.

In the second example I was standing in the line at Tim Hortons (an instance all of us Canadians have done at some time). It was a long lineup and I was waiting for 20 minutes, possibly going to be late for work. Just as I near the counter the woman in front of me starts letting not one, but ALL of her co-workers (about 5 of them) to butt in front of her.

At which point I politely asked "What are you doing? What about the rest of us waiting here?"

"Well these are my co-workers and she's going to buy me a coffee."

"And what about the rest of us waiting here? Are your co-workers planning to buy us all coffees?"

She just laughed at me.

I was so furious I very nearly punched her. She got off lightly with being called a Cunt.

So yes, I think you will agree, there are women out there who are so rude that they deserve to be called a Cunt. If the particular instance warrants I fully agree with people using the word.

Bitch just wouldn't satisfy the full gravity of the situation.

Only Cunt is the proper word to express in certain situations.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Wussification of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is for wussies and here's why:
  • Controversial topics inherently end up going back and forth between conservative and liberal arguments. There is no middle ground but instead a constant polarization of information.
  • It centralizes information on the internet, but that information is flawed, biased, incomplete, frequently open to abuse, has little or no authority to back-up many of the claims, has incomplete or improper references and is prone to misguided editorial-activism.
  • Students and academics researching a topic should NOT use Wikipedia because its information is inherently flawed and unreliable. Plus its the LAZY way of researching a topic. If the modern grade school student uses wikipedia for ALL of their research they will end up with an essay or research paper that is inherently biased and incomplete. My advice for teachers? Make it clear to students that they must research other sources and that Wikipedia should be considered the last source to check.
  • Google Scholar is a far better resource for genuine research purposes as it contains only those articles by professional writers and researchers. Yes, those writers/researchers may still be biased (we all are) but at the very least it will be well-researched and contain proper references, notes and bibliographies.
In much the same way Wikipedia is DEFINITELY the modern equivalent of a regular set of encyclopedias. When I was back in grade school we had strict orders from our teachers not to use any encyclopedias as references for essays and projects. We were told to go straight to the primary sources such as non-fiction books, scholarly articles, magazine/newspaper clippings and quote those instead.

There is, I've noticed, no universal online archive of old and recent newspaper/magazine clippings. Such an archive could contain clippings from the last 100 years easily and include sources like the New York Times, People Magazine, the Rolling Stone, the Toronto Star, etc. It would take a combined effort on the part of numerous magazine and newspaper companies to create such an archive.

But imagine the advertising revenues generated from what would be a popular site for both research and entertainment. We could look at movie reviews for films that came out 30 years ago and see what people back then thought of them.

Don't get me wrong, I think Wikipedia is still a great idea. Its just a flawed one to expect things to even out. C0ntroversial topics such as abortion, the war in Iraq, the JFK assassination, conspiracy theories about 9/11 are simply bound to rife with biases and flawed research. Its basically the fault of the general public for being largely uneducated.

Which is ironic because Wikipedia is meant to be an educational tool, but if its used for spreading misinformation how can it really be a viable tool? It will inherently be wrong or inaccurate 90% of the time.

Think for example of Wikiquote.org... any idiot can go on there and add quotes purporting to have been said by some famous celebrity or politician or whomever. No guarantee it is true or not. It makes me almost pity George W. Bush with all the times he's been misquoted or had quotes applied to him that he didn't actually say. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve the bad attention but lets at least quote only things he actually really said.

Therefore there is two major flaws with wikipedia:

  1. False information by people who don't do proper research and are there to support some bias;
  2. People quoting the false information on other websites, in news reports, research, etc.
Lets stop and consider the amount of media attention that is given to Wikipedia. I don't think media personalities should be quoting Wikipedia as a source. If we tune into CNN do we really want the news anchor quoting articles from Wikipedia that are likely inaccurate and false?

Furthermore, Wikipedia could be used to destroy a person's career or personal life. If for example the latest gossip on Mr and Mrs Famous gets published on Wikipedia and then repeated countlessly then that gossip has just become "fact" insofar as the public is concerned. The general public doesn't care whether or not its true, but once its out there that famous person or group of people could very have their career, marriage or personal life destroyed by simple gossip.

And in that respect Wikipedia is no better than the National Enquirer. We don't quote the National Enquirer on television (unless its for a documentary on aliens or some other conspiracy theory) so why would we do for Wikipedia?

Its because Wikipedia attempts to be authoritative, but that authority is not to be respected. Its dubious at best.

So please people. Think twice before quoting Wikipedia. If you're a teacher make it clear to students they should not use Wikipedia (or any other online encyclopedia) as their sole sources of research. Do not respect Wiki's authority for its no better than a news rag on the street.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How to deal with Quebec Separatists

My short answer?

You don't deal with them.

Instead we need to be making road blocks to make it extremely difficult, indeed impossible, for Quebec to separate from Canada.

I also think we should be cutting funding to federal political parties devoted to one province only. Separatist/local parties should be limited to the provincial legislatures only.

And its not just a matter of separatism.

For years now Canada has been suffering under an impasse between the Conservative and Liberal parties... consecutive minority governments are stagnating progress. If it weren't for the BQ Parti there would be no minority government currently in Canada.

If we can remove the BQ from power then we can finally have a government that is progressive again instead of maintaining the status quo.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stephen Harper's "Do Nothing" approach to School Shootings

Stephen Harper is currently over in Afghanistan trying to boost support for Canada's troops in a country that is deciding whether or not to vote foreign forces out of the country.

Meanwhile in Canada a 14 year old boy was shot at C.W. Jeffereys Collegiate Institute in Toronto and died this afternoon. The Grade 9 student, Jordan Manners, was shot in the chest.

After the Virginia Tech incident only weeks ago Stephen Harper was pressured to increase gun control in an attempt to get guns out of the hands of children. Harper however resisted the pressure and instead backed the rights of Canadians to own guns, denying that gun control would do anything to curb the violence.

This is what I mean when I refer to Harper's "Do Nothing" approach to politics. Global warming? Do nothing (or almost nothing). Shootings in our schools? Do nothing.

Terrorism in Canada and the USA? Send more troops to hunt for bin Laden. As if catching bin Laden would make the problem go away. Fives years and counting on a mission that won't stop an international group of 1000s. Chop off the head of Al-Qaida and it will just sprout a new one.

Canada is in massive national debt? Give tax cuts to the rich.

Quebec threatening to leave Canada? Offer to recognize Quebec as a separate country within Canada.

Notice a pattern here? He does the opposite of what he should be doing. That or he does nothing.

Because doing nothing is the least controversial thing of all.

The question is, who would vote for a prime minister who does almost nothing?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Harper's Green Policies just a Tax Grab

Stephen Harper's so-called green policies are essentially just a tax on carbon gases. It won't actually reduce greenhouse gases, but it will fatten tax coffers... by a relatively tiny amount.

So just how green is Harper's policies in the long run?

Answer: They aren't.

So its no wonder that other political parties and key environmentalists like David Suzuki and Al Gore are saying Harper's policies are inept and worthless.

So what is the solution?

Harper needs to put his money where his mouth is. He needs to step forward and commit funding to solar and wind renewable energy and ELIMINATE coal-powered electrical plants in Canada... and not by 2050. He needs to set a date which indicates action is being taken NOW, not 40 years from now. A logical and feasible date would be 2010.

Such an initiative would show environmentalists that Harper is taking environmental issues seriously.

Coal-powered electrical plants are responsible for 1/4 of Canada's carbon emissions. Eliminating coal plants would reduce Canada's emissions by approx. 25%.

In Ontario coal power costs more to the government to make than the amount they receive from the public. Currently Ontario electricity users pay 5.9 cents per kWH, but the cost of Ontario producing that energy using coal is actually 9 cents per kWH. Ontario taxpayers pay the difference and therefore coal-power is a constant drain on the tax coffers.

Switching to renewable energy (and placing more emphasis on nuclear energy) would be more cost-effective in the longrun and would create a robust industry in Canada to build and maintain renewable energy.

Canada has vast swaths of land that is unusable for farming but would be ideal for fields of solar panels and windmills.

Wind power in particular would be perfect for isolated northern communities which use gas-powered generators (which is extremely expensive) for their source of electricity. Approx. 6% of Canada's population lives in isolated communities.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Belinda Stronach Quits = Flakey

Former conservative MP Belinda Stronach has quit the Liberal Party and is not seeking re-election.

This just proves to me that she was flakey from the start.


Can't make a decision.

Not politician material.

In other words, a complete waste of time and a vote.

Shame on her for wasting Canadians' time and votes.

I have to wonder if her primary goal was just to raise the stock value of Magna International, her father's manufacturing company.

Maybe she deserves to be charged with insider trading?

Conservative Government Dismantling Multiculturalism Program

For Immediate Release
April 11th, 2007

Ottawa - Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government is quietly making unprecedented funding cuts to Canada’s world renowned multiculturalism programs, charged Liberal Critic for Multiculturalism, Colleen Beaumier today.

“This government has done everything it can to keep this quiet, including burying the numbers, but there’s no getting around the facts,” said Ms. Beaumier. “Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government is dismantling Canada’s Multiculturalism Program.”

A careful analysis of Department of Heritage forecasts shows a trend of steady cutbacks. For the 2006 fiscal year, the Department records show it will have spent no money on Multiculturalism programs intended to promote inter-cultural understanding—down from $16.2 million the year before. In 2007 and 2008, Canadian Heritage again plans to spend nothing on these program activities. After a nominal increase in 2006, Canadian Heritage also plans to spend less in 2007 and 2008 on Multiculturalism programs promoting participation in community and civic life.

“The same minority Government that is planning almost $24 billion in new spending and tax breaks is cutting funding to Multiculturalism programs,” said Ms. Beaumier. “Clearly, multiculturalism isn’t one of Mr. Harper’s Conservative priorities.

Introduced in 1971, Canada’s Official Multiculturalism Policy requires the government to assist all cultural groups to develop and contribute to Canadian society, to overcome barriers to full participation, and to promote cultural interchange amongst all Canadians in the interest of national unity. Today, the Multiculturalism program, administered by Canadian Heritage, administers a number of programs, including Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism, which are meant to meet the obligations of the policy.

“This is no surprise coming from this prime minister. When Stephen Harper was the leader of the Alliance Party he publicly reconfirmed the Reform Party’s expressed goal of eliminating all funding for multiculturalism. Whatever lip service the Government may now pay to multiculturalism doesn’t change the fact that key members of his party have always called for its abolition.”

More information:
Sterling Lynch
Office of Colleen Beaumier

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Should Canada send troops to Iraq or more troops to Afghanistan?

Canada's forces are spread thin. Right now we have as many troops as we can spare in Afghanistan... and contrary to popular belief, we do actually have Canadians in Iraq too... but they're enlisted as American soldiers.

America is so desperate for extra troops they are now recruiting Canadians to fight for them. When the Iraq War first started there was a small number of Canadians (including police and Canadian armed forces) who went south to the states to sign up and enlist. The Americans gladly welcomed them.

And thats not the only route to Iraq. The Canadian and British military have exchange programs in place so our troops can train and learn from one another. Canada's "exchange student soldiers" are also over in Iraq.

Our primary focus has been to keep our eye on the target: Osama bin Laden and his forces in Afghanistan. The problem is the question of whether we should be sending more troops over there in an effort to try and catch Osama?

Actually its a bit sad that this goal has been left to Canadians. The Americans are so preoccupied with Iraq (and now Iran too) that they've almost completely forgotten about old Osama.

IF Canada had more troops available, where should we be sending them? Iraq? Would they do any good there? Or should we send more troops to Afghanistan in an effort to catch Osama and cut off support for terrorism?

I don't think troop pull out is an option. We're going to need to keep troops there for another 10-20 years at least until the political climate stabilizes. There is also the possibility of building permanent Canadian forces bases in the country (we need the bases for training in desert conditions) and Afghanistan would be an important ally for the future as democracy grows.

Except when I ponder all the options of putting more troops on the ground I conclude its probably not a good idea... what we really need is a fence (with motion sensitive spotlights) between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Right now its nothing but mountains and hills. A natural border, but not a hazardous one as the Taliban crosses the border back and forth easily.

The solution? Guard towers along the border with snipers aiming both ways. NOBODY should be crossing those borders except at designated checkpoints and only during the daytime. Even if Pakistan doesn't agree to the towers we could simply build the towers on the Afghan side of the border. Lay out a series of 3 barbwire fences between the towers, and voila! Terrorists now have to crawl through 3 barbwire fences past sharpshooters packing rifles with scopes and spotlights.

Hiding in mountain caves may be a way to evade troops for awhile, but eventually they're going to need to smuggle food in past the fences and towers...

Which brings me to an important issue: Where is Osama getting his food? Is it trucked in to a secret location? Carried on donkey or camel?

Nope, I have a hunch Osama is nowhere near the fighting.

Afghanistan has a variety of warlords who squabble over land and territory. They live in nice safe estates/bunkers and basically avoid contact with the military except to shake hands and exchange pleasantries.

Like the warlord to the right shaking hands with Stephen Harper.

These warlords have several goals: Increase their power, their wealth and their land. Keep their little private armies under control and happy. Destroy their enemies and gain more power, wealth and land.

If just one of those warlords has made a secret deal with Osama bin Laden in exchange for hiding him and gaining terrorist support for operations that involve attacking their enemies...

Well then we have a serious problem. A rogue warlord who could hide Osama and his terrorists indefinitely... and be a constant thorn in our efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

And we can't just get rid of the warlords. Kill one and another just takes his place. No, the only way to change these problems permanently is with economics.

If the common people see that working for themselves or for companies is better for them instead of joining up as a soldier for the local warlord then eventually the warlords will run out of troops and run out of power. (Unless of course the warlords start building their own companies and eventually international corporations, but thats a 007 scenario and a bit unrealistic.)

But how would Canadian soldiers improve Afghanistan's economy?

Short answer: It won't.

What Afghanistan needs next is a school of business which can teach young Afghanistan entrepreneurs how to make money.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Harper Clings to Power

Stephen Harper has clung to power, managing to get his budget passed thanks to $700 million in kickbacks for Quebec, in return for the Parti Quebecois voting in favour of the new budget.

What do I think about this?

I think it will backfire disastrously and spell the end of the Conservative Party for at least 4 years after the next general election.

Harper's continued favouritism towards Quebec is not a popular idea in the rest of Canada. I predict Harper's continued ignoring of environmental needs and the needs of Canada's other provinces will eventually cause many Canadians to vote Liberal to spite the Conservatives.

Plus there's the matter of overspending... Harper has spent more in this years budget than any previous Canadian budget. To paraphrase comedian Rick Mercer on the issue, "Harper is spending Canadians tax dollars faster than a drunk liberal."

Conservatives should be spending frugally and not breaking the bank like Harper is currently doing in vain attempts to win votes in Quebec.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hey Big Spender

Mr Harper's latest over spending on the budget is coming with a price tag attached.

He's raising income taxes 16.5%.

That means Canadians will be paying an extra $1.4 BILLION in income taxes.

The overspending includes $700 million in income tax cuts for Quebec, and tax cuts for oil-rich Alberta.

So the rest of Canada is having their income taxes going up, and Quebec's income taxes are going up.

If you could see my face right now you might have a better understanding of how ANGRY this makes me.

The budget also includes tax savings for parents, roughly $310 per child.

"We made a choice," Harper says. "We chose to support hard-working families."

What he should say is that he's trying to buy votes from families, Alberta and Quebec.

So big spender, how about spending a little more on British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Labrador, Newfoundland, PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the territories? Why only give money to Alberta, Quebec and "families"? What about the poor, the elderly or students?

Hey big spender, you'll get no votes from me.

Memos raise questions on Stockwell Day's nomination

Mar 22, 2007 05:56 PM

OTTAWA – Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's journey into the House of Commons nearly seven years ago faced renewed allegations of impropriety Thursday, with the Liberals asking the RCMP to investigate the circumstances.

The Conservatives shot back by saying the Liberals were engaging in a "drive-by smear," a favourite phrase these days in an increasingly acrimonious Commons.

Liberal MP Mark Holland said documents the party discovered last week raise new questions about whether Day's office negotiated payment to a sitting MP in exchange for his stepping aside in a B.C. riding, something prohibited in the Criminal Code.

The RCMP made some initial inquiries into the issue six years ago but said then that it would not launch a full investigation.

The force said Thursday it had received the documents and is reviewing the matter.

Holland says he believes the RCMP would not have seen the documents in question, which were found among old files in the opposition leader's office.

"Given the gravity of these allegations and the clear nature of the documents presented, will the minister of public safety, the minister responsible for Canada's national police force, do the prudent thing and step down until the RCMP is finished its investigation?" Holland said during question period.

Back in 2000, Day was the newly elected leader of the Canadian Alliance but did not have a seat in the Commons. MP Jim Hart stepped aside in July to allow Day to run in a byelection in Okanagan-Coquihalla, which he won handily that fall.

The main document released Thursday, a fax penned by Hart, outlines the agreement he believed he had negotiated with Day's then chief-of-staff, Rod Love. In it, Hart notes that he would be compensated for lost severance, income and pension benefits for resigning his seat early, an amount totalling about $62,000.

At the time, party officials said Hart had already decided to quit the Commons for another job and left early to help out Day. They said the compensation was negotiated months later because Hart's job offer later fell through.

But Hart's first letter to Love detailing a compensation deal was dated two days before his actual resignation. He also made note of the job he was to start three months later, and states that he wouldn't have quit if compensation hadn't been agreed to beforehand.

"Please realize that I took this step of resigning in good faith," Hart wrote. "I could have remained in office until the general election, finished my term and not experienced these losses. My resignation was contingent upon this negotiation."

Hart, who now lives in the Republic of Georgia, could not be reached for comment. Day defended him in the Commons.

"The only problem with drive-by smears is that innocent people get hurt," Day said. "Mr. Hart is being hurt in this process. In every conversation I had with Mr. Hart from the time I knew him, he has only been honourable about this. He deserves an apology."

Another key question around Hart's resignation is whether public funds were involved in the transaction.

Two documents penned by Canadian Alliance party officials say there was an understanding that the party would pay for half of Hart's living expenses amounting to roughly $20,000. A motion approved by the Canadian Alliance's Fund board, marked carried, says ``the intent is to get half of this amount from the OLO (Office of the Leader of the Opposition) and half from the party."

A fax cover letter from party executive director Glen McMurray to Day's office, attached to Hart's pleas for payment, reiterates the understanding and tells the office to "figure it out."

The budget of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is paid for through the House of Commons.

At the time, Day's director of communications Ezra Levant said the payment was not an issue for the leader's office because it had been made through the party.

There is no evidence in the documents that any payment was made by Day's office. Hart eventually took the party to court to recoup his money and later settled.

Senior party officials mentioned in the documents, including Love and his deputy Hal Danchilla did not immediately return calls. Peter White, former director of the Canadian Alliance fund, said he would not speak to reporters.

Former Canadian Alliance party whip Dick Harris, now a Conservative MP, would also not respond. Neither Day's office nor the prime minister's office would answer specific questions about the documents.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said the case had already been closed.

"There is absolutely nothing new here," Van Loan said. "The RCMP investigated this matter. It looked into all the things that (Holland) has alleged and concluded that there was no wrongdoing."

During the last federal election campaign, the Conservatives called for then finance minister Ralph Goodale to resign over the leak of information into the government's income-trust policy. The NDP referred the matter to the RCMP.

Goodale's name and that of other Liberal politicians was cleared earlier this year, and a finance department bureaucrat charged in connection with the leak.

Harper's generosity to Quebec backfires

Provinces angry after Charest uses equalization payment to cut taxes
Mar 22, 2007 04:30 AM

OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to mend strains in the federation appeared on the verge of backfiring after the Quebec government earmarked $700 million in new "equalization" money from Ottawa to cut Quebecers' income taxes.

The promise by Premier Jean Charest is stirring an angry reaction and more criticism of Monday's Conservative budget, which is pouring an extra $2.3 billion of federal cash into Quebec annually.

About $700 million of this federal money, intended under the "equalization" program to allow Quebecers to enjoy social programs equivalent to that of richer provinces, is being channelled into income tax cuts by Charest, who is in the final days of a hard-fought election campaign. Coupled with Charest's earlier promised tax reductions, it would allow a couple in Quebec to save about $750 a year.

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Andrew Thomson said this development has Westerners fighting mad.

"We had feared all along that that was exactly what the Prime Minister was going to do – use western oil money to buy votes in Quebec," he told the Toronto Star. "But none of us expected it to be so blatant."

Many provinces are complaining about being shortchanged in the budget. But Saskatchewan, along with Newfoundland, is accusing Harper of betraying a promise not to include non-renewable resources in the Tory-created formula for determining how much provinces receive under the federal-provincial wealth-sharing program.

The provinces say that Harper's equalization plan is a "sleight-of-hand" scheme that has cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues.

Thomson said people in Saskatchewan are even more upset "to see that in the budget this week, that there were no tax cuts for Western Canadians but tax cuts for Quebecers delivered through the equalization program."

Federal Liberals, though rooting for their provincial cousins in the March 26 Quebec election, nonetheless expressed outrage over Charest's decision to use federal money meant to equalize social services in Quebec to finance tax cuts.

"We want Charest to win but we didn't think we would have to pay for it like this," snapped Liberal MP Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North), who said he was appalled by the Quebec premier's decision.

In the Commons, the Liberals charged that Harper's approach to federal-provincial relations, far from winding down long-standing tensions between Ottawa and the premiers, is threatening national unity.

"A prime minister is supposed to unite and not divide, and a federal government is supposed to act on behalf of all Canadians," deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in the daily question period.

"The people of Saskatchewan, B.C., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador are wondering today, `Why don't we count?'

"Why did the government introduce a budget that so obviously divides the country?"

Harper countered that his government's overhaul of federal-provincial wealth-sharing arrangements was based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the previous Liberal government.

"Every single province gets more money under this budget and a lot more money as the years go by, $39 billion more," the Prime Minister said.

"This budget rewards families, it rewards seniors, it rewards truckers, it rewards farmers, it rewards soldiers. I could go on and on. The one thing that unites members of the Liberal Party is they are voting against all of them."

The blow-up over how various provinces were treated in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget appeared increasingly divisive.

In Newfoundland, radio station VOCM reported that, in an interview, Conservative MP Fabian Manning (Avalon) said he had lobbied to have non-renewable resources taken out of the equalization formula, but if he votes against the federal budget, he's as good as out of the party.

And another Conservative MP joined in the verbal jousting between the Harper government and Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert over the equalization issue.

"The premier's lying through his teeth," outspoken Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott told Canadian Press.

He added that Calvert, an NDP premier, is a socialist who would rather keep his province "on the federal dole" than achieve prosperity.

Calvert responded by saying that the federal Conservatives, having betrayed the provinces, can only resort to name-calling.

On the election campaign trail, Charest was unapologetic about his decision to apply his $700 million federal equalization windfall toward tax relief.

"We are making decisions in our areas of jurisdiction, and we have the full power to make decisions according to our priorities."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hybrid Cars Suck! Buy an Audi A8!

Actually hybrids don't suck.

But they're not spectacular either.

Not when you compare them to cars built using traditional aerodynamics, a more fuel-efficient engine and are built to be lightweight.

Cars like the Audi A8.

Not too long ago Jeremy Clarkson of the popular BBC television show "Top Gear" drove an Audi A8 from London England to Edinburgh Scotland and then back to London again... all on a single tank of gasoline. (It took him a day to drive there and another day to drive back. People usually fly or take the train there because its such a long hilly drive.)

Now THAT is fuel efficiency. Not even a hybrid can achieve that. A Smart Car would be able to do it, but a Smart Car is really more like half-a-car so its really no wonder. But an Audi A8 is a regular car.

Better yet, its practically a sports car.

So its sexy AND efficient.

Why spend so much money buying a hybrid car with its extra heavy electrical/gasoline engine and extra heavy batteries to run the electric half of the engine?

Granted, not everyone can afford an Audi A8, but then again most people can't afford a hybrid either. So if you're rich enough to buy a hybrid, why not use that money to buy a normally fuel efficient car? If you compare the actual fuel efficiency for the hybrids and the other normal fuel efficient cars I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Also, why aren't they building hybrid SUVs? People keep complaining about their fuel consumption why not just build SUVs that are more efficient?

Myself I'm a classic british car fan. I'm saving up to buy a 1976 Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

Sure, like all cars built in the 1970s its not very economical in terms of fuel efficiency, but I don't care. The '76 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a thing of beauty. Its a work of art. I'd stick it on a platform in my living room as a sculpture/loveseat and then only drive it on special occasions.

The primary problem with cars from 1970s is that they really were designed for looks. They looked fabulous and futuresque, but they drank gas like a turbo charged ice cream truck.

Which begs the question: Do fuel efficient cars have to be ugly?

No, I don't think they do.

And the very sexy Audi A8 proves my point.

Best of all if you buy an used Audi A8 I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the price.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Homelessness in Canada

As a Christian I find it appalling that Canada treats its homeless so poorly and ignores them so much.

Nobody wants to be homeless. There is a stereotype that homeless people take a "vow of poverty" and "like being homeless". This is simply not true. Regardless of what TV may teach you about homeless people NONE of them actually want to live in the gutter.

And it isn't a matter of laziness. If homeless people were lazy they would be on welfare, inside and safe, content on leeching off the rest of society. No, homelessness is really a combination of bad luck and governmental neglect.

Some people also say the homeless are "crazy", but if they are crazy its likely also because some of the homeless people really belong in an old age home, but due to senility wandered off and have since become missing persons.

Which in my mind means that senior citizen homes should be held accountable and should be SUED when the people they are hired to take care of wander off and get lost.

Its difficult to track Canada's poverty. There is no official census of how many homeless people there are on the streets. Soup kitchens and street missions may try to keep track of how many people use their services but the fact of the matter is that nobody really knows how many homeless a particular city has and how many there is overall in Canada.

Also there is a lot of debate about how to fix the homeless problem. Some people argue in favour of ignoring them, cutting funding to soup kitchens/homeless shelters and even "arresting" homeless people for vagrancy. Others argue that we need more action helping these people find work and getting them into a safe/warm place.

I agree with the later. It is a Christian Duty to help those less fortunate.

And I have an idea on how to accomplish at least part of the task.

You know how Alberta is always looking for workers and can't find enough people to do even the simplest of jobs? So much they are recruiting in faraway Newfoundland?

Well, how about they start recruiting on the streets of Toronto and Vancouver? Find homeless people who are willing to relocate and work in Alberta, help them get to Alberta and set up a program to help them find jobs there.

That is not just a great idea, its a BRILLIANT idea. It solves two problems with one program (which means its more efficient and saves tax dollars).

We would also need a 2nd program to track old homeless people, find out who they really are and reunite them with their families so they can live in the safety/security of a senior citizens' home (or with their family).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Did Charles Moffat really destroy Stockwell Day's career?

During the Winter of 2001 one man from Ontario played a major role in the downfall of Stockwell Day: Charles Moffat.

Charles Moffat is many things. An art historian, an artist and a behind-the-scenes political activist. He is the guy who painted the now famous "United States Censorship" painting which has been plastered all over the internet in recent years and even made its way into an American documentary about censorship.

Apparently in the Winter of 2001 Charles Moffat started to play a prank on Stockwell Day, a prank which would involve an embarrassing interview/biography of the then leader of the Canadian Alliance party. But then Moffat thought about his intended goal and aborted his plan, but not before writing a scathing letter to every seated MP of the Canadian Alliance party and urging them to revolt against Day's horrible leadership gaffs.

And revolt they did.

Led by MPs Chuck Strahl and Deborah Grey (central figures in the old Reform party) the party almost collapsed from internal bickering and the revolt eventually toppled Stockwell Day from power.

Which led to Stephen Harper's rise to leader of the Canadian Alliance, the merger with the Progressive Conservatives and the forging of the Conservative Party of Canada, which won a minority government in 2006.

Indeed, without Charles Moffat's prank Stephen Harper would never have had the opportunity to run for leader when he did and he never would have become Prime Minister of Canada.

Stockwell Day is now Public Safety Minister, a less important post.

So Charles Moffat's prank did ruin Day's chances of becoming Prime Minister, but it didn't entirely ruin his career.

Overall Moffat's prank was very good for the right wing of Canada because it allowed them to finally unify under one banner and finally win a minority government.

As a firm Progressive Conservative myself I still can't find myself to vote for the new Conservative Party. They are TOO right wing for my tastes and not progressive enough. I miss the old days of Brian Mulroney and I'm much more likely for Trudeau junior than I am to vote for Stephen Harper (whom I consider to be a heartless bean counter).

In the next decade (after Stephen Harper is gone) I predict the Conservative Party will become more progressive and lean more towards the centre of politics. Maybe then they will get my vote.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Should Canada get rid of its Welfare System?

Isn't it time Canada eradicated poverty by replacing its welfare system with a "Canadians with Disability Program", a "Workfare Program" and a "Training & Apprenticeship Program"

There are jobs out there that need doing, plenty of them. Roads to build, houses/apartment buildings to construct, rivers to be bridged over, data that needs computing, paperwork that needs to be processed and filed. It may not be the most exciting work to do, but there is a lot of it.

The problem is finding people with the proper training, the skills and experience required.

There is also people out there who want jobs, but lack the proper training and experience to do them. How do you gain experience if no one will give you a job in the chosen career?

Thats why Canada needs a Workfare Program, coupled with a Training & Apprenticeship Program. Together these two programs could finally eradicate poverty in Canada.


First, lets explain the Training & Apprenticeship Program.

Essentially this would be a government operated service which helps Canadians to train and learn a variety of work-related skills that aren't taught in highschool. Such a program would place more emphasis on college and university education (higher education is pretty much mandatory these days to find a job that doesn't pay minimum wage).

There are existing programs in Canada that are similar to this, but many Canadians don't take advantage of them. These programs need to be more strongly promoted so that more Canadians are aware of them and will take advantage of them.

Next, the Workfare Program.

For people having difficulty finding work and paying their rent/feeding their family Canada needs an alternative to the welfare system. Essentially this would be a combination of labour jobs and clerical work, stuff that needs to be done but no one has thought to do it. The jobs would be reasonably well-paid and its workers would benefit from a much higher living standard than they would be on welfare.

Scrapping the welfare system and replacing it with a "Canadians with Disability Program" means only people who are legitimately disabled would benefit from it. However, that doesn't mean they can't still be productive members of society. The program would facilitate training the disabled for careers they can do, and helping them to achieve that goal so that eventually they are not a burden on society. Most disabled people don't want to be a burden and want to contribute to the rest of society and "stand on their own two feet" so-to-speak.

Canada is also suffering from what I call a "Ghost Town Effect". There are small towns scattered around Canada where vast numbers of the town's residents are on welfare. The people refuse to leave the town and so go on welfare just so they can stay. Despite the fact that the town has little or no industry and is essentially a Ghost Town they stay because welfare gives them the ability to stay. As is expected, such towns also have abnormally high crime and suicide rates. This is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Canada needs a Workfare program in those towns, along with an Entrepreneurial program to help start up new businesses and industries. Once people start working again the towns will flourish and people can indeed stay where they are if they desire to do so.

One Example of an Industry in Canada that needs Improvement: Greenhouse Products.

Canada has a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables (especially in the winter). We import many such fruits and vegetables from the USA and other countries, but in reality we have the ability/technology to be growing such plants here in Canada under the warm windows of greenhouses.

Best of all, greenhouses don't need fertile soil. They can be built on rocky ground that is useless for anything else.

Family-owned greenhouses can sell their products to the local grocery store (or open their own grocery store).

Wait there's more!

Canada also has a shortage of bakeries, buying a lot of their bread from factory-style bakeries like "Wonder-Bread". Despite the advent of breadmaking machines people prefer to buy bread from their local grocery store. But if small bakeries started up right next to the grocery store and people had a choice between so-called Wonder-Bread and freshly made bread in 20 different varieties and zero cost of shipping... well, personally I'd pick the fresh bread. It just tastes better.

Basically whenever you see a product that is shipped to Canada from overseas (or made in some big Toronto factory), stop and ask yourself: "Couldn't we make that here in our little town?"

Years ago (and still today according to some people) stone houses were considered the epitome of what a good house should look like. Stone houses simply look more beautiful, they are well insulated (which saves on heating costs), they have a better resale value, they last a lot longer and are less likely to burn down in a housefire.

But stonemasons as an industry has almost entirely disappeared. Almost everyone has switched to brick or aluminum siding. And yet becoming a stone mason is really a quite simple task. Everything you could ever want to learn about stonemasonry can be found either online or in your local library.

Furthermore, stone and mortar are relatively cheap compared to brick. Its the amount of labour required that is the problem. Stonemasons must be physically fit and able to lift stone on a constant basis, and as such usually command very high wages (due to a combination of supply of demand, there is a shortage of stonemasons hence higher wages, plus only rich people seem to be able to afford to buy stone houses and thus they can afford to pay the stonemason).

Over the past 20 years a lot of stonemasons have retired, hence there are very few left at all. There's also no college programs in it, which means people seeking to learn stonemasonry must either teach themselves (which isn't too difficult, but will require some trial and error to learn the basics) or apprentice to somone who is a stonemason (which is difficult because there's a huge shortage of them).

My suggestion: If you own a house that has aluminum siding now is your chance. Renovate your house and reface it with stone. Get together with a few hardworking friends (or other people interested in stonemasonry) and start your own stonemason company. Renovate all of your houses with stone until you've gained enough experience doing it. Afterwards you have a choice: Work for other people renovating their houses, build new stone houses or buy crappy houses, fix them up, reface them with stonework and sell them for a profit.

If stonework isn't your thing, take notice of the greenhouses above. There is huge potential in Canada for workers who build greenhouses (possibly even out of old recycled glass to cut costs). My parents have a tonne of glass windows and doors stored in their barn that has been sitting there for years. Given the time and opportunity I would love to build a greenhouse out of the pieces (possibly even using stonework for the flooring and base of the building). Sadly my mother doesn't see the point of building a greenhouse because she doesn't like tropical plants and has no interest in growing her own tomatoes and citrus fruits.

I know some of the ideas I've mentioned above seems pretty left-wing for a conservative eccentric like myself, but lets face it: Getting rid of the welfare system is VERY RIGHT WING. The problem is that if we do get rid of the welfare system we have to make certain that all those people currently on welfare are somehow provided for (either through the disability program or the workfare program). If we don't provide jobs and encourage people to start up their own businesses then they will eventually resort to crime to feed themselves.

And the last thing we need is soaring homelessness and crime rates.