education life Politics travel

Bomb Blast in Trois-Rivières

Yesterday at 3am, a bomb went off at the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in Centre Ville, Trois-Rivières. Nobody was hurt. Catch the CBC’s coverage here.

I am in Trois-Rivières this month studying French.

CSI: Trois-Rivières

ethics friends Politics

Lethbridge Woman’s Space Funding Cuts

For the first time in 25 years, The Lethbridge Women’s Space was denied funding by the federal department for the Status of Women.

The CBC has the story.

We were status of woman funded for the last 25 years and we were very shocked when our application was denied because we have a very good relationship with Status of Women. We were [continuing] a previous project where we had served so many women with financial literacy services and we were shocked that it was denied because financial literacy has been identified as such a priority by this particular government.

A friend of mine, Shannon Phillips was interviewed on CBC regarding the loss of funding.

If you’d like to learn more about Womanspace, visit the Womanspace website. If you’d like to help, their site also links to those you could contact.

history inspirational Politics

Tom Brokaw Explains Canada To Americans

I love this:

Tom Brokaw Explains Canada to Americans – YouTube

P.S. Parliament has been prorogued during the Olympics so Harper’s little flag waving speech was actually given at the British Columbia legislature.

Art Politics

Naomi Klein on Q

Author/activist Naomi Klein on Q critiquing the Toronto Internation Film Festival’s spotlight on Tel Aviv. Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici takes up the other side.

A political and artistic debate is being waged at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. An open letter of protest from the Toronto Declaration protests TIFF’s City-to-City Spotlight, which is focussing on the work of Israeli filmmakers from Tel Aviv. The signatories, which include Q guest Naomi Klein, actor Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda and writer Rawi Hage, argue TIFF is complicit in Israel’s Rebranding campaign that aims to shift emphasis away from the occupation, especially in a year where the conflict in Gaza resulted in over 1,000 deaths of Palestinians. TIFF denies any ideological pressure was applied. On the other side of the debate, filmmakers like Q guest Simcha Jacobovici, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, and Robert Lantos argue that judging films by their country of origin rather than the quality of the artistic product, is a kind of censorship.

Noami explains that the letter is not about politics and censorship but about trying to separate the propaganda from the films:

“We’re not asking for anything—that’s what’s so amazing. The reports today, in response to the statements from Norman Jewison and David Cronenberg, are kind of amazing to me because they’re all denouncing censorship. I’m against censorship. I’m not trying to censor anything. None of the thousand people who signed this letter are trying to censor anything. Even on CBC, sorry to say, they are reporting that we have a problem with the ten films. We have no problem with these ten films. I have seen some of the films—I think they are terrific and I think they are so good they deserve to be part of the regular festival programming and not politicized as part of this celebration of the State of Israel, of the city of Tel Aviv, because that’s not about art, that’s about politics.

(Q: The Podcast for Friday, September 11, 2009)

Health Politics

Save St. Mike’s Health Centre

A friend of mine has written a heart breaking story about his father developing Alzheimer’s. The really brutal part of the story is the sinister agenda being played out by the government. As I’ve said before, the Alberta Health Super Board is bad for Albertans and needs to be stopped.

Here is his story:

A few nights ago, I discovered my 75-year-old father trying to eat his soup with a knife.

My father — a minister for over 40 years — has Alzheimer’s dementia. The bible he once knew by heart he now struggles with like a child with his first book. He can no longer write letters of prayer and encouragements. His powers of speech are decimated, yet even so,by tangents, fumbles and gestures, he tells us every day that he wants to minister and live.

My father cannot minister again, because Alzheimer’s is killing the reasoning powers and memories he needs to live without constant care. He is sometimes delusional or will turn on his caregivers. He escapes and sometimes wanders into traffic, climbs into a stranger’s vehicle, or falls asleep in a snowbank. He can’t bathe, feed or clothe himself without help. Lately, he has struggled to swallow — a frightening portent of the end. It has only been with constant attention, minute-to-minute care by my family that our father has survived thus far.

Recently, I brought my sick father and exhausted mother to live in my Lethbridge home, which is kitty corner from St. Michael’s Health Centre. Three weeks ago, a kind staff member of St. Michael’s gave me a tour of their locked dementia unit. It was perfect: beautiful facilities, friendly, qualified staff, 24-hour nursing care, secured outdoor gardens, a greenhouse, and even a chapel. My guide also showed me an empty bed.

With the right kind of help literally within sight, I immediately called the Chinook ACCESS number to begin the process of eventually getting dad into a long-term care facility, with St. Michael’s as our primary choice. The agent, however, replied that St. Michael’s cannot be our primary choice because for the last month there has been a directive to stop all referrals to St. Michael’s. She said the government is shutting down the long term care facilities at St. Michael’s as part of a transition of senior care to designated assisted living facilities.

I immediately called an administrator of St. Michael’s to ask why they would give me a tour of the locked dementia unit for my father, if there is already a moratorium on new placements to the facility. The administrator said St. Michael’s had not been informed of the moratorium, but she indicated she was not surprised, “with the way things have been going.”

I have since heard many reasons for this “re-purposing” of St. Michael’s: that assisted living facilities fall outside of the Nursing Act, and therefore, seniors would have to pay for extra nursing services; that the Super Board is shifting nurses from senior care to be able to say there is no nursing shortage in Alberta; that St. Michael’s is slated to become new private hospital in Lethbridge. When things are done so secretly, who can know what, why, or where this is going?

In the next few years, the Alberta government means to cut 7,000 long term beds necessary for dementia patients like my father across the province, as part of the Chinook Model for senior care, for which Lethbridge is the guinea pig. Meanwhile, I have found many reports warning of a looming epidemic of Alzheimer’s, with the most conservative estimates predicting rates to triple in the population in the next two decades ( The Rising Tide). The government is going one direction while the future is going the other.

This week after a disturbing incident, my father was certified and admitted to the hospital’s geriatric assessment unit where he will be treated and observed for 30 days while his placement options are considered. The wonderful nurses in the unit have already noted that dad cannot do the simplest things to care for himself; they, too, have seen him trying to eat his soup with a knife.

I will not allow my father — who has given his whole life to others — go some place where he will have no right to the 24-hour nursing care or protection he needs to survive, where he would certainly die before his time. I have 30 days to show Albertans what their government is doing to their parents and grandparents — that like my father’s dying brain, the Alberta Government is myopically choosing a knife where other tools are necessary.

Please help us remove the knife and keep St. Michael’s and the province’s other 7,000 long term care beds open. We have 30 days.


Virgil Grandfield

Brian Mason will be in Lethbridge on Monday speaking about this health care issue (pdf) at the Public Library from 7:00-9:00pm.

Health Politics

Super Health Board, Not So Super

About nine months ago the Government of Alberta decided to fire the boards of the nine regional health authorities in the province and create a new “Super Health Board” they claimed would better serve the public.

Critics of the move predicted that it was a giant leap toward privatization of our health services. It hasn’t taken long but already the new board has begun dismantling our working public system.

The Super Board has announced plans to replace the Cytology Lab at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital with a private lab. The current Cytology Lab has an excellent record with excellent staff. No one locally wants this change, yet our shameful government wants to push forward with its privatization efforts at the cost of women’s health.

From a letter by Bev Muendel-Atherstone:

Our current Cytology Lab was started in 1951 by Dr. Ray Bainborugh, who is still alive today. In fact on Monday, March 30th, 2009, he was waiting outside the CRH parking lot to speak with the two fact finders for the Super Board. Dr. Bainborugh was able to tell reporters that the lab samples were previously sent to Calgary and Edmonton provincial Labs when he first started.

However, there were so many mistakes made, that he requested to be able to do the tests himself locally in Lethbridge. This was granted. He indicated he saved a woman from a Mastectomy as he redid the analysis on results he deemed “suspect.” Why would we in Lethbridge wish to go back to a system that did not work 58 years ago? That would be retrogressive.

If that weren’t enough to get you outraged, perhaps I should mention that the new Super Board (remember, they’ve been around for less than a year) just voted themselves a 25% raise. They’ll now make around $50,000 annually, plus an additional $750 per meeting that they attend (they meet about four times a month).

Not only are they dismantling a working system, they’ll take more money to do it. How can I feel anything but outrage? Please Alberta, stop voting for the party that cares more about money than public welfare.

In the meantime, I hope the Super Board comes to realize that the people don’t want privatized medicine in Alberta.

Update: Some great news from the local NDP office. Yesterday, Monday, June 1st, 2009, the Lethbridge City Council voted to support the NDP’s presentation and will write to Premier Stelmach to request that the Gynocological/Cytology Lab remain in Lethbridge.

Mayor Bob Tarleck indicated that he has been very concerned about the erosion or services in the rural areas and the “hollowing out” of the rural areas with services centralized in Calgary and Edmonton.

Of course, this does not mean that this issue is finished. But now we do have the municipality on side. This moves the entire issue into a bigger political field with the city complaining to the province. The province must respond and then it is in the city’s court from there.

Photography Politics

Writer’s Praise Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

A collection of writers, including my favourite, Malcolm Gladwell, offer praise to the power and poignancy of Barack Obama’s inaugural address in this worthwhile LA Times article

Also, San Fransisco’s Bush Street gets an update:

Bush Street Update

Sources 1 and 2.


Understanding the Proposed Coalition Government

“Two months ago Canadians voted in a general election. They made a clear choice.” — “And they [the voters] certainly did not give either the Liberals or the NDP a mandate to govern with the Separatists, the very people who want to destroy Canada.”
Jim Prentice, Conservative Party MP, Calgary Centre-North, emphasis mine (full text)

“With less than two months since the return to power of the Conservative Party, the Liberals, NDP and Quebec separatists, have plotted to overrule the democratic choice of Canadians by forming a coalition lead by Stephane Dion, to replace the duly elected Conservative government of Stephen Harper.”

Rob Anders, Conservative Party MP, Calgary West, emphasis added (full text)

“Please help us make it clear that this is NOT what Canadians voted for on October 14 by signing and circulating the attached petition.”
Rick Casson, Conservative Party MP, Lethbridge, emphasis mine (full text)

It’s pretty clear that conservative MPs know that Canadians should get a legal government which follows the ideals that the majority of Canadians voted for— and one that doesn’t want to see Canada split with Québec.

I have news for you, Conservative MPs. You are MAKING the case for a coalition government.

FACT: The majority of voting Canadians, almost 62%, DID NOT VOTE FOR A CONSERVATIVE PARTY GOVERNMENT.
2008 Canadian Vote Distribution

The chart shows Conservatives won more votes than any other single party. It also shows that a larger majority of Canadians voted for the alternatives.

This next chart demonstrates the seat distribution between the parties.

2008 Parliamentary Seating Distribution

Notice how even though the Conservatives got 38% of the vote, because of the way our system is setup, they got 47% of the seats. That’s a difference of nearly 10% between the way Canadians voted and the power given to the Conservative Party. Doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?

That’s the system we have in Canada; Conservatives took a minority government and are the legal governing party. However, it’s possible to lose that status, legally.

Canadians vote for an MP in their own riding. Unlike our American counterparts, we don’t vote for a President, but our leader, the Prime Minister, is chosen when MPs gets together with other like-minded MPs, choose who should lead their party, and hold more seats than any other group of like-minded MPs (ie. other parties). If the Prime Minister maintains the confidence of the House of Commons then he gets to remain Prime Minister.

If the House has a vote of confidence, and the party in power loses, then it’s up to the Governor General to call an election or— (and this is where things get interesting), she can decide to allow the other MPs to form a coalition government—two or more parties working together to govern and though not officially combining into a single party, agreeing to set aside their differences.

In order for the NDP and Liberals to combine and form a successful coalition government, they need the help of the Bloc Québécois, without them they only hold 114 seats. With the help of the Bloc’s 49 seats, it gives the coalition a total of 163 seats and enough power (53% of the seats) to decide that they are not happy with Stephen Harper as Prime Minister.

Canadian Parliament Seat Breakdown Left vs. Right

As a combined force, the progressively minded parties have the power to run government the way most Canadians want. Since a minority government, headed up by the Conservative Party, was also elected in 2006, one might wonder why propose a coalition now? Primarily because of some radical changes the Harper government was proposing to make to the way government operates and a lack of action on addressing the global economic recession, but also for many other reasons.

Harper realizes the danger he’s in of losing control, so one of the fear mongering techniques that he and other members of the Conservative Party have been propagating is that the coalition government is giving too much power to “THE SEPARATISTS”.

The agreement that the Bloc has made with the Liberal-NDP coalition DOES NOT grant them any cabinet seats. Thus they’ve effectively agreed to take sovereignty off the table for the next 18 months. Note that, even if that weren’t the case, support for the separatist movement in Quebec is extremely soft right now.

<strike>Quebec Libre</strike>

So if there really isn’t a danger of Quebec separating, or reviving a separatist movement, then what does the proposed coalition government mean for Canada?

  1. The war in Afghanistan – The NDP, Liberals, and Bloc each campaigned on policies to end combat missions in Afghanistan. Conservatives (when they finally got around to releasing their campaign plans a week before election) have decided to “stay the course”.
  2. The Economy – The NDP, Liberals, and Bloc want to follow the lessons learned in the Great Depression (think Keynesian economics) while the Conservatives prefer a laissez-faire approach, essentially deciding to wait things out.
  3. The Environment – The NDP, Liberals, and Bloc all campaigned on platforms of attempting to meet the Kyoto Accord targets. The Conservatives have never shown interest in protecting the environment and refuse to consider the world’s long term future.

When the Conservative Party demands that Canadians deserve the government they voted for, I agree.

When the Conservative Party demands that Canada’s leadership follow the ideals that the majority of Canadians voted for, I agree.

When the Conservative Party demands that we watch carefully to monitor separatist sentiment, do our best not to encourage it, and attempt to resolve conflicts as they arise, I agree.

But when the Conservative Party claims that the proposed coalition government does not also agree with all these things, it is more than being disingenuous, it’s an outright lie.


Canada’s (New) New Government

The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement Monday to form a coalition government, ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper from power. If they are successful in forming their coalition, they have a pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois for the next 18 months.

A friend of mine wrote his entire contact list with this plea:

Putting Partisan politics aside for a moment. This coalition is not what we voted for 6 weeks ago. Please consider for a minute and think if you could be happy with a coalition that has to be supported by the Separatists Bloc Quebecois in order to survive. What is their price? I think that it could end up costing us our great nation. That is too high of a price. Even if you hate the Conservatives sign this petition and then go down to in your various locations on Saturday. We need to put partisan politics aside for the sake of our country. This is one of the most dangerous times since the 1995 referendum in my opinion.

A few points I’d like to make. First, when was the last time you heard the Bloc talk about separating? They are a mainstream party now, no longer focused on separating, but as being a uniquely Québécois party.

Honestly, I’m not sure a coalition government really is THAT bad. It worked here in Canada during the hard times of World War I and it will work during the hard times today.

Don’t fall for Harper’s fear mongering. The world isn’t going to end with Dion leading the way. And come May we’ll likely have Ignatieff leading the party, someone whom I’m much more comfortable with as a leader—mostly because Dion stumbles on his English, but the same can be said of Harper’s French.

I’m mad at the conservatives because they refused to tell the people their plans until a week before the election. Silly voters that don’t pay much attention to politics didn’t punish the conservatives sneaky methods instead they just voted for the status quo.

But pulling funding from the other parties is truly a sneaky, unjust, power hungry move that needs to be punished; you can bet Conservatives would be outraged if the shoe were on the other foot.

Harper’s made his bed, now he’s going to have to sleep in it. I don’t think we’re in danger at all, in fact I think Canadians should be excited at the prospect of getting leadership by a majority of MPs. They may not be from the same party, but they are MPs that a MAJORITY voted for.


Polling the World of Warcraft

I suppose there are going to be selection bias issues when polling players in the World of Warcraft, but nevertheless, the results are interesting and as election day is upon us, let’s hope that the election polls match all of the other polls we’ve been hearing about.

Hit play or watch Election Duel! at Youtube.

Oh and if you’re an eligible voter in the US elections, and have not voted today, STOP READING THIS WEBSITE AND GO VOTE!