lenaaprilxo said: Haha well I'm Lena!! I live in North Bay too. I asked who you are because I automatically assumed you were my friend Dave since he also has a tumblr and used to live there. Do I not know you? Guess not. I like your blog though :D

Hey thanks, I’m glad you like it. 

I don’t know any Lenas (I don’t think so anyway), so we probably don’t know each other.  Might as well try though eh.

lenaaprilxo said: Who are you? :D

I am Dave, who are you?

Congratulations Canada you’ve finally lost your marbles

The misinformed masses in American politics are nothing new, as evidenced by the recent claim by presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s claim that Barack Obama apparently grew up in Kenya. However, while Canadians might look smugly upon such complete and utter stupidity and assume that things north of the border are more sane, the same breathtaking ignorance is increasingly an ever present reality in Canadian culture.

Take the recent news about “Ford Nation”, Rob Ford’s rise to the lead of Canada’s largest city, based on claims that the City was spending too much hard earned taxpayer money. Now that he’s realized that there really isn’t any gravy at city hall, he’s moved on to beg for money (gravy?) from the Province of Ontario. And the people, as if on cue, buy it hook line and sinker. Nobody apparently understands basic math: Ford’s promise to lower taxes and maintain services has meant the city needs to search out other sources of revenue (i.e., the Provincial government). But its not the Province’s fault that Toronto voters eliminated important sources of city revenue such as the vehicle registration tax while promising to freeze property taxes. Hypocrite in Chief Rob Ford who claimed in his campaign that the “city has a spending problem, not a revenue problem”, is now begging for Provincial money to make up for his failure to find savings (gravy) in his own back yard. The hypocrisy is breathtaking, but apparently it has gone un-noticed by the population of the City. The rise of “Ford nation”, the popular support for Ford’s calls for money from the Province, and the continuing popularity of the mayor is proof only that most Toronto voters suck at math. The same people apparently outraged by government spending, are clamouring for the province to make up for the fact the city’s revenues have been hollowed out by themselves. But do these people want an income tax hike from the provincial share of their taxes? Of course not. A dog was electrocuted on a sidewalk in Toronto the other day because of faulty TTC electrical infrastructure, and a blogger on the Toronto Sun website stated that Rob Ford should fix it. Well yes, he should, but he won’t, because fixing it would mean an increase in city spending which Ford Nation thinks is bad (unless that is, the Province fixes it). Why should the Province fix Toronto’s money problems when Ford has only worsened them since taking office? The Province has said “there’s no more money”, which sounds a lot like something Rob Ford himself would say given that he is looking underneath every carpet in the City to find “gravy” to save. The twits promoting “Ford Nation” have no problem talking about the need to stop government spending on the campaign trail, then beg for said spending once in office, its pathetic, but not as pathetic as the voters who bought this obtuse rhetoric.

The problem of the apparent inability of most voters to do basic math is not unique to Toronto. Here in the North, I’ve overheard people refer to things like hydro rates and the HST and say completely unfounded things like “Hudak will fix it”. Hudak also claims to want to lower taxes and get the government out of people’s lives. Hudak, whose party failed to properly invest in hydroelectric infrastructure would apparently do a lot better or so the faithful sheep believe. Hudak however, won’t tell you what it is that he would do differently, and lucky for him, the voters of Ontario as a whole appear to be about as math-impaired as their friends in Toronto. So will Hudak fix our electrical price woes presumably by building more coal fired power plants thereby increasing the amount of money that is spent on air-quality related health problems? Or would he subsidize hydro bills (which would come from, you guessed it my mathematically impaired Ford Nation friends, taxes!)? Or, perhaps he would do what Harris and those before him did and just let Ontario’s public infrastructure deteriorate (although transit infrastructure is still deteriorating under the McGuinty government), perhaps resulting in more freak tragedies like the aforementioned dog death. And then there’s the HST, invented by the federal Tories, and sold to the provinces by many of the same snake-oil salesmen who once made up the Ontario Progressive Conservative party (enter Jim Flaherty). Why do people assume that once elected Hudak would break with a policy that is so popular with the big business conservative interests that support their party so significantly?

People want low taxes but high quality services, and politicians of all stripes are all too willing to tell us we can have it all. Parties of all stripes have been guilty of giving in to this nonsense but the Conservatives have especially excelled at promoting this myth. Hudak promises low taxes, but claims the government should stop meddling in peoples lives. He thinks the education system should “let parents give their kids whatever they want”. Hudak is on record for calling the policy changes to promote healthy eating in school as “a bizarre obsession” (Toronto Star, October 19, 2010). Yes Tim, its really bizarre that anyone would think Ontario children are getting fat and unhealthy by eating timbits and pringles for lunch, but more bizarre is that Timmy can’t figure out that the status quo means higher health care costs for addressing a childhood obesity and diabetes epidemic, to be paid through those horribly dreadful taxes. Hudak also voted against the Smoke Free Ontario Act, another expensive and hypocritical move for an apparent fiscal conservative but this makes perfect sense to those on the right who think you can have a good province without having to pay for it. And then there’s the Province’s ban on pesticides, where, surprise surprise, Hudak feels the Province is meddling by trying to prevent kids and pets from rolling around and playing on their neighbours pesticide drenched lawns. Perhaps Hudak just doesn’t believe all those ‘elite’ health scientists who warn us about the linkages of common pesticides like 2,4,D with increased risks of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hudak thinks apparently that the government should just back off, it has no business trying to make the Province a healthier place, we should feed our kids as many potato chips (perhaps gravy?) and pour whatever we want on our lawns, there will, as the conservative fantasy goes, be no increased costs to health care (my high school math teacher gives you an epic fail!). Oh, and we should stop shutting down all those valuable coal plants too, since they apparently have no effect on our health whatsoever, so at least one provincial Tory has claimed (Julia Munro) (which is strange, since their party started the process of shutting down the plants in the Harris’ government’s dieing years). Perhaps the answer to the question of why the Tories think of all public health policies as a burden, is related to the fact that many of them don’t even believe we should have a publicly funded health care system in the first place.

And then there’s the federal government. Much like the poll numbers for Rob Ford, which increased every time a new revelation about something from his past (i.e., drunk driving), the federal government (I mean, the “Harper Government”) has shown that it can do whatever it wants, and break as many rules as it wants, and it can get off scot free with no voter backlash. In fact, their poll numbers usually go up right after they sling mud in the face of Canadian democracy.

The Harper Tories came into power on a promise to clean up government, promptly installing government watchdogs and auditors which they have since ignored time and time again. Harper promised that only the elected would serve in his government, then promptly welcomed floor crossing David Emerson into their cabinet days after the election itself. While normally floor crossing is frowned upon regardless of who does i t, it especially slapped his own constitutents in their face as very few people in Emerson’s urban Vancouver area riding had voted conservative in the first place. Their vote was lost so Emerson could achieve his own personal ambition.

More recently, the government prorogued parliament to avoid being toppled by opposition parties furious with the self serving policy directives from the federal government. And Canadian voters, with apparently no knowledge whatsoever about the functioning of a parliamentary democracy, bought the Tories argument that the “coalition” was somehow anti-democratic. This coming from the same Conservative Party which had made agreements with the NDP and the Bloc in the past to topple the Liberals. Apparently it was also different in 2004 when Harper, as leader of the opposition, along with the NDP and the Bloc wrote to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to ask her to consider permitting the three parties to form government in the event the government falls. The hypocrisy is incredible but goes un-noticed by the electorate (at least the ones who pick up the phone when pollsters call).

Oh, and lets not forget Harper’s promise for an elected senate, only to appoint 38 senators to senate under his watch. Or the fact that he routinely instructs staff and ministers to evade subpoenas to appear before House of Commons committees.

Being from Parry Sound myself, my favourite Tory sleazeball is Tony Clement. No matter what tomfoolery he pulls off, like gutting the long-form census, he thinks he can maintain popularity at home by using his riding as his own personal slush fund, especially during the G20 summit (how’s that G20 gazebo in Orrville working out, did Nicholas Sarkozy appreciate it?). He clearly thinks his constituents are bribe accepting dimwits, I hope they prove him wrong in the next election.

How about Bev Oda, who lied to parliament with no recourse whatsoever. There was once a time when lieing to parliament was seen as a punishable offense. Not anymore. The government has protected Bev Oda from what should be her fate if parliament was run in any sort of democratic manner. And the voters care not, as shown by polls showing an increasing support for the Harper government in the days following the Bev Oda affair. Conservative mouthpieces and columnists instead took the line of “who cares”, referring to the Kairos organization as undeserving of funding because it was apparently “left wing”, as if helping citizens in third-world countries is somehow purely a left-wing phenomenon. If that’s the case, count me in.

How about the tough on crime Conservatives like Stockwell Day announcing last year that more prisons are needed for all of those ‘unreported’ crimes. But once again, its only tough on crime when its someone else letting rapists run free on the streets. Last week, Harper appointed Judge Dewar let a rapist off the hook with probation and blamed the victim for dressing in an attractive manner. If a Liberal judge had released this rapist, imagine how the right-wing sheep media would react?

And then there’s the charges faced by the Conservative Party of Canada in regard to the “in and out” party fundraising scam in which Conservative senators and MP’s exceeded their campaign spending limit by more than $1 million, permitting candidates to gain 60% refunds from the government for spending that didn’t happen.

And enter, the Harper Government. Public servants have now been directed in certain ministries to replace the term “Government of Canada” with “The Harper Government” in federal communications. Again, news of these changes have had no effect on polling numbers. Canadians don’t mind the slippery slope towards autocracy at all.

Oh, and Jason Kenney using public funds for his own campaign fundraising in “ethnic” neighbourhoods? The hordes have already forgotten (but probably weren’t paying attention in the first place).

Perhaps the phenomenon which explains the polling success of right wing parties in Canada can be explained by Robert F. Kennedy’s recent article in the Huffington Post, in which he writes that Canada’s CRTC (the telecommunications regulating body) has resisted Harper’s attempt to abolish the “anti-lying” provision of the Radio Act, which prevents the type of dishonest and overly partisan rhetoric from being communicated as news, as happens regularly with Fox News in the United States (although I would argue that certain Canadian news outlets are already quite effective in this department). Kennedy writes that ”Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News’s notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.” (Huffington Post, March 1, 2011).

Other attacks on Canadian democracy by the Harper government are many. I was going to list them, then I realized it would take up the rest of my day. Instead, other bloggers have already compiled such an inventory here and here.

But by and large, most Canadians could care less. Conservative support remains at about 40% of poll respondents. Perhaps that’s not all bad news, as there is a sizeable population who do not have land line phones and therefore will not be reached by pollsters. However it is still cause for concern. In a country that prides itself on its democratic values, 40% seems like far to high a percentage of people who apparently don’t mind the country’s slope toward authoritarianism. Hudak also seems to be looking like the would-be winner according to Ontario polls, in large part I fear due to the same phenomenon that is creating “Ford Nation” (the premise being that if Toronto doesn’t get the Provincial money, Ford will help Hudak win the election).

I wish just once, a politician would say “hey, I’m going to raise taxes if I have to, in order to pay for more doctors and nurses and get a handle on wait times, and to hire more teachers so our kids aren’t stupid, and to close coal plants so we won’t all suffer from horrible respiratory diseases…”. Politicians of all stripes have been jumping on the anti-tax bandwagon, shown by the recent anti-tax rhetoric from Ontario’s own NDP, and we have all suffered because of it. A sign of how self centred our society has become is that its now totally normal for people to utter about the sad state of services and how much they hate taxes in the same breath. We have now totally lost touch with reality, congratulations Canada.

The hypocrisy of wind opponents

While listening to the lisitener talkbacks this morning on CBC’s Morning North, I was confronted with the hypocrisy of those who simply don’t care where their electricity comes from.  People assume they just turn on a switch and the electricity magically pours in.  Or if they know where it comes from, they’d just prefer that someone else has to deal with the consequences (hello coal fired air quality related deaths and heavy water leaks in Tiverton).   Or perhaps these people would prefer we flood their front yards and turn their homes into part of a massive hydroelectric proect.  I’m not sure, but my guess is that most of them don’t want to live anywhere near the source of their electricity.  Furthermore, many of the wind opponents I see and know are major users of electricity.  Take a drive down any cottage road near Kincardine, Ontario and you’ll notice all the anti-wind signs in front of huge 4,000 square foot “cottages” (although you’ll also notice one ironic “Stop the waves they’re noisy” sign from someone similarly exasperated by the anti-wind rhetoric).

The wind projects that people protest in Ontario are far more innocuous than the implications of any of the other standard forms of electricity we have traditionally used in this province.  With two thousand air quality related deaths in Ontario per year we can not afford to continue to rely on coal.  Meanwhile it is unrealistic (and expensive) to assume that new nuclear plants can just be thrown up wherever there is water.  It is far easier, safer, cleaner (and quieter) to invest in wind energy, but tell that to the people who whine and complain everytime a wind project is proposed.  Fine, wind opponent friends, we’ll take down those wind turbines and put a coal fired electricity plant right in your front yard, how do you like them apples? 

Some photos of around North Bay

Some photographs of a recent sunset over Lake Nipissing while skiing along North Bay’s waterfront

Some photographs from cross country skiing at the North Bay Nordic Ski Club.  The trails are fantastic and are located only about ten minutes from downtown North Bay.  I took the 5 k trail.  The first three kilometres are a fairly gruelling climb (for me anyway) but one is then rewarded with a beautiful downward slope for the last 2 ks through a gorgeous mixed forest.

Sudbury’s Water Tower Debate

Sudbury is a great city with  a lot of potential.  Surrounded by beautiful wilderness, thousands of lakes, and all the urban amenities that one would ever need.  And the City is making steps towards realizing this potential through downtown revitalization projects such as the downtown Sudbury master planning process.  In recent years new restaurants, coffee shops, a bookstore and several other new businesses have opened up on Durham and Elgin Streets.  There is a healthy artistic and theatrical community in the downtown despite the loss of its historic Grand Theatre. The City has formed a heritage committee in order to start the process of designating and saving the what remains of its inventory of historic buildings.  However, while making breakfast and listening to CBC’s Morning North, I was disheartened to hear that a very visual symbol of that City’s landscape is being privatized, and citizens will have no choice but to see the tacky advertisements of Vale Inco and….cough….the Conservative Party of Canada when they look up above their downtown.

Sudbury Water Tower

Every once and a while, something seems to happen which seems to set the City back from reaching its true potential.  One such thing, in my opinion, is illustrated through the recent debate on the billboards that are being put up on the Pearl Street water tower which overlooks the city’s downtown.  I’m not just disappointed that the advertisements that have been chosen are for the Conservative Party of Canada and Vale Inco (although maybe I’d be less upset if the ads were for….well…something else), but most disappointing is that the decision to put up billboards on the tower seems to have been the alternative of tearing down the ageing structure altogether (a further decimation of the City’s historic landscape), or privatizing the tower (and the city skyline). 

Surely preserving heritage structures can come without selling ones soul, and tackifying the City’s skyline.  If the City put the money spent on self-defeating road expansion plans (or at least the studies of those plans) into preserving heritage, it might help the City to achieve other goals such such as increasing economic development (by increasing the overall attractiveness of the community). 

I truly hope the presence of billboards on top of the Pearl Street tower is a short lived hangover, and that the City is able to come together to find an solution to saving this symbolic feature of the City’s skyline without detracting from the aesthetic appeal of that very skyline.

Some photographs from snowshoeing up on top of the escarpment including a woodpecker-like bird which I forget the name of.