Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
I on a walk to Oak Bay Village sadly noted that Santa had taken a turn for the worst. Upon stumbling down the stairs of an Oak Bay home after drinking one too many glasses of rum infused egg nog and crashing into a festively lighted tree, he met his demise by being electrocuted.
Hopefully everyone received what they wanted before this fatality occured.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in Canada's capital this Christmas season. This isn't for any religious reason, they simply have not been able to find three wise men in the Nation's capitol.
P.S. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Changing the color of roofs and pavement worldwide could potentially offset nearly a year’s worth of global CO2 emissions, according to a study released this week at the Conference on Climate Change in Sacramento, Calif.
Painting a single 1,000 square-foot dark roof white would reduce carbon
emissions by 10 metric tons, according to Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory scientists Hashem Akbari and Surabi Menon and California
Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld. And changing the color of roofs and
pavement in 100 of the world’s largest cities could reduce global
emissions by 44 billion metric tons, the researchers said.
The world produced 49 billion metric tons of emissions in 2004, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"This simple and effective idea can organize the world into taking
measured steps to mitigate global warming,” Akbari said in a news
release. “Our findings will help city leaders and urban planners
quantify the amount of CO2 they can offset using white roofs and cool pavements.”
White roofs could cut energy use by buildings by 20 percent, the
researchers said. The equivalent energy reduction would save the U.S.
$1 billion a year in energy costs.
California has already adopted energy-efficient roofing standards. It
has mandated since 2005 that flat roofs on commercial buildings must be
In 2009, the state will expand the regulation to require
cool-colored roofs for flat and sloped roofs on residential and
commercial buildings, as well as retrofitted buildings. The state has
no similar regulations for the color of pavement.
And you can find the report here.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008
A documentary that takes a critical look at the oilsands is raising a big stink at the Alberta legislature.
It turns out that Downstream, by U.S. documentary maker Leslie Iwerks, was funded in part by the provincial government.
That's prompted the government to take a closer look at how films get funded in Alberta.
Downstream features the story of Dr. John O'Connor, who
blew the whistle on the health effects of the oilsands on residents of
Fort Chipewyan, a town downstream from the project.
The film is on a shortlist of documentaries nominated for an Academy Award in 2009.
Like Passchendaele, which recreated Calgary during the First World War, and the steamy love story of gay cowboys, Brokeback Mountain, it got financing through the Alberta Film Development Fund.
All the films that are approved under the fund are signed off by Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett.
Blackett told CBC News he may have to rethink how he approves films for funding.
"Even though all the projects come to me for my final signature, you
get a couple of lines as to what that film is and … we're looking at
now how do I get more information about it because — oh, it's a film
about Alberta, it's a film about the oilsands — but who knew what it
meant at the time?" Blackett said.
Blackett said he might have considered withholding funding if he'd known how critical the film would be of the oilsands.
Downstream comes at a time when the government is sinking millions into improving Alberta's reputation around the world.
However, there is no mechanism in place now that would allow him to deny funding.
The Alberta Film Development Fund offers money to films that use Alberta producers actors or technicians.
Now it's considering adding an element of creative control to the criteria.
"Because if I'm going to actually invest money on behalf of
Albertans into a film, the whole idea is to show Alberta in a better
light, to create an economic diversification to help them, so anything
that's going to be negative is only going to be a negative impetus on
this province," he said.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008
Harper will not discuss why it took two hours with the GG to get his prorogue.
This is still a poor decision on the GGs part. So we can expect the lie machine to go into overdrive for the next 7 weeks. No indication that any limits were put on Harper by the GG. harper doesn't sound the least humbled or understanding that he is in a minority situation. This guy really isn't the person we need for PM at this time--we might have trouble surviving him.
Harper is defending his decision to withdraw public funding from political parties. He indicates that he is still intending to remove public funding from political parites--why not just give up, Stephen, and put the corporate assholes in charge of Canada? We know you'd be happy with that.
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I don't think this was the best decision on the part of the GG. If Harper has received his proroguing, it means that any subsequent PM, facing a confidence vote in the house that s/he is expecting to lose, can approach the GG and, by precedent, get a prorogue. This means the primary element of democratic accountability will have been removed from parliament and, by extension, the Canadian public.
The GG may have set limits on what Stephen Harper can do during the next however many weeks--similar to during an election campaign when there can be no major spending or laws passed. We shall see. Harper is not known for allowing rules or laws to stand in his way....
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008
When the government no longer has the support of the parliament, the government falls and is replaced. The creation of a coalition of opposition parties to defeat and replace a sitting government is not illegitimate; it's how our system is meant to operate.
What it is, of course, is highly unusual in Canadian politics. Nothing like this has been done in the memory of most living Canadians. That doesn't make it illegal.
Canadians did not give Harper's Conservatives a mandate to run the country single-handedly. Canadians may be willing to let Harper sit in the driver's seat for a while, but after two elections they sure don't seem willing to let him have the keys on his own. Harper has spent the last three years forming coalitions; in a minority situation, the survival of his government has depended on it. Not one piece of his legislation could have passed the house without at least some opposition members voting along with the government. Harper may not have formed a formal coalition as the opposition has now done, but every piece of government business he presented to the House necessitated the forming of an ad hoc coalition with one of more opposition parties.
Harper's mistake is the age-old mistake of hubris. With Dion a lame-duck leader of the weakened Liberals, Harper believed he could push through with his damaging agenda, using a crisis to push through ideologically-driven economic measures.
Harper's economic statement originally proposed a three-year ban on the right of civil servants to strike, limits on the ability of women to sue for pay equity and eliminated subsidies for political parties. How does denying pay equity for women help stave off the effects of the worldwide economic meltdown? It doesn't, of course. It's just classic neo-conservative tactics -- use every chance to propel your ideological agenda. It's not about the economy, stupid; it's about using the economy to score every little political point you can.
Harper follows every page of the neo-con text book. He says one thing, but does another. Fixed election dates, anyone? He spent two years (and millions of dollars) on an ad campaign deriding Stephan Dion with personal attacks before the election was even called, despite his previous campaign promises on returning civility to politics. He accuses Dion of sharing power with seperatists, yet he and his party suck up to them in Quebec every chance they get. They have to, because that's the only group where he will get any support from in Quebec. His party has a long history of courting with the seperatists; it was Brian Mulroney's inability to control the seperatists MP in his Tory ranks that resulted in the formation of the Bloc.
In his acceptance speech this year, he said we work with the other parties in the House, yet his first economic announcement includes the cutting of party subsidies. How is this going to return civility to the House? Or more importantly, how does this help stimulate the economy when opposition parties have to lay-off low-level party workers during a recession? This is just petty nastiness.
And he lies, of course. He lies when he says that the coalition agreement was not signed in front of Canadian flags because of the presence of the separatist party (a lie - there were two Canadian flags). He lies when says he would never enter deals to govern the country with separatists. He signed a deal with the BQ to do just that in 2004, and his predecessor Stockwell Day arranged one with the BQ in 2000.
When confronted with criticism, he and his lackeys do not confront the issues, instead they issue personalize attacks on the messenger. How many Harper ads did you hear during the last campaign attacked Dion the person, yet how few did you hear actually debating the merits of Dion's proposals and presenting alternatives?
The crisis here is one of a reckless leader over-reaching for his dubious goals. It is a crisis of agenda, not process. You may argue that the Liberal/NDP coalition (with Bloc support) is fraught with dangers, and it is. They have matches and there's a lot of gasoline pooled about. But even that does not make their proposed actions any less legitimate.
And I'll take that over a leader who gives every indication of his intention to burn down the progressive house that we Canadians have spent 141 years building.
Percentage of Canadians who did not vote for Harper's Conservatives in the 2008 election: 62.4%
What I think is really amazing about this moment is whatever happens next - whether we end up with this coalition or not, we will have an extremely chastened Harper. So the attempted shock doctrine has failed. I think we can say that decisively.
Just to be clear, what I mean by the shock doctrine, as you know, is the use of crisis to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies. This bundling of a whole package of policies: denying the right of public sector workers to strike, the attack on public financing of political parties, with the economic program - that is what failed, and people were offended by the opportunism of it.
This is what so many of us were worried about during the election - the context of a Tory victory in an economic crisis, because we know that there is this pattern of using an economic crisis to push through policies that were nowhere during the campaign.
I am, I confess, something of a political junkie. Not quite hardcore enough to watch CPAC when the house is sitting, but certainly trying to keep up with much of what is going on in Ottawa at any given time. So the last week has been, well, a lot of fun for me.
The only current “crisis” that I see in the capital is that the Harper Conservatives have been humbled. That's pretty much it. That the current governing party may no longer be governing after the 8th of December, well, that's not a crisis. The circumstances may be almost unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and the uncertainty surrounding the current Prime Minister's ability to govern may be a problem, but this is not a crisis for anyone except the Harper Conservatives.
This has happened before: the King-Byng affair, as it is called, occurred when Mackenzie King's Liberals fell in 1926. They were a minority government supported by the Progressives and lost a confidence motion (based around a scandal). King moved to dissolve Parliament and go to an election, but Byng, the Governor General, refused King, and instead allowed Aurthur Meighen to form a government with the support of the Progressives. The coalition fell five days later on a motion questioning the legitimacy of the government and an election was then called, resulting in King returning with a bare majority (128 seats, with 127 for all opposition parties). To quote Claude Bélanger of Marianopolis College:
"The Canadian people had vindicated King who had claimed that Meighen and Byng had acted improperly and had undermined responsible government in Canada. The electoral decision might have been politically wise but it was constitutionally unsound. The Governor-General might not have acted wisely but there is no doubt that he had the right, given the circumstances, to refuse to follow King's advice. It is one of the royal prerogatives that, given certain circumstances [...] it can refuse to follow the advice of the Cabinet to dissolve Parliament and can choose an individual who has a reasonable chance to be supported by the House to lead the government. “
A Liberal/NDP coalition would be perfectly legitimate—even and especially because they would be formally supported by the Bloc, who would not be a part of the government, but have signed a formal agreement not to vote against the coalition on a confidence motion over the next year. What our current Prime Minister seems confused about (as do most Conservative and conservative commentators) is that in Canada we do not elect a Prime Minister, we elect a parliament. Prime Ministers are expendable and replaceable—witness Westminster where Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair without an election. Both were sitting members, but the party lost confidence in the sitting Prime Minister and replaced him. The government didn't fall (nor did the sky), just the Prime Minister.
The biggest problem faced by the country now is not the legitimacy of the government—that will be dealt with by a confidence vote in the House and, should the sitting government fall, by the Governor General—but by the attacks by the Conservative party on the legitimacy of the coalition. We will see and hear things like this quote (from the Sydney Morning Herald): “We will be fighting this with every legal means at our disposal," a senior government official said. "It's an attack on Canada. It's an attack on Canada's democracy. It's an attack on our economy.” This is, of course, total bullshit. A lie, if you will. A falsehood. A knowing misstatement of the truth. But a lie that will get traction.
When our current PM says: ''We will use all legal means to resist this undemocratic seizure of power,'' [Harper] told Conservatives at their annual Christmas party at an Ottawa hotel. ``My friends, such an illegitimate government would be a catastrophe, for our democracy, our unity and our economy, especially at a time of global instability.'' (quoted in the Miami Herald), he is lying. Such an action will be a catastrophe for him personally, as he will no longer be PM and, one assumes, very quickly no longer leader of the Conservative party as well, but the formation of a coalition government is neither illegitimate nor is it a catastrophe for the country. (Said coalition may be a disaster, but until it has had a chance to govern, it is an open question as to its competence). If anything, such a coalition could be seen as being more legitimate, as the member parties of the coalition will represent a larger percentage of the popular vote in Canada than do the currently-governing Conservatives. But what we face is not a crisis of government, but rather a crisis of truth from the Conservative propaganda machine in full panic mode.It has already begun—John Ivison wrote in The National Post that Canada's about to become "the world's coldest banana republic." What a load of horsecrap. The proposed coalition has been aboveboard (or at least as aboveboard as such things tend to be) in their decision. They have announced what they intend to do, have formally signed agreements about what the Canadian public can expect from the coalition, and have laid out in those agreements a division of powers and responsibilities ahead of their proposed action.
It should be noted that the BQ has no part nor representation in the proposed governing coalition. What they have formally agreed to do is to not defeat the coalition on a confidence vote for a set period of time. That's it. That's all. That there is a quid pro quo is certain--just as there was between the BQ and the Harper Conservatives during the Martin government. In this case, the BQ will expect a certain amount of input into plans made by the coalition—as it should. As should the Conservatives for that matter; a minority government cannot and must not govern from an ideological basis, but rather from one of co-operation and consensus building. That is one of the reasons why Canadians like and elect minority governments.
Most certainly, this is not over. Monday will prove to be a very interesting day—particularly for political junkies like me.
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Monday, December 01, 2008
I'm fully sympathetic to Conservative supporters who say, "darn, I never saw that coming!", just as they were understanding that I was disappointed that the Conservatives managed to hang on to another minority government (for a while anyway). We all have to put up with it when the majority vote against what we think is the obvious best policy. But to characterize current developments as undemocratic, or as a 'coup' or 'treason' is just, well, embarrassing.
The majority of us did not vote for Harper. He did NOT get the mandate from the people for a majority government that he had hoped for. Even then, he got his chance to form a minority government, but any minority government has to win over at least a few of the opposition MPs/parties each time to survive. Harper's mistaken belief that he could introduce any legislation he liked and that there was nothing anyone could do about it (because the other parties could not dare force another election) strongly suggests both an undemocratic stance (i.e., not valuing the fundamental Canadian value of compromise) and a dangerously arrogant/naive understanding of Canadian parliamentary procedure. But parliament is working exactly as intended. The majority of MPs, representing the majority of Canadians, are ousting a Prime Minister and cabinet that no longer hold the confidence of the House. This is how the system works, and has worked stretching back to before there was a Canada to British parliamentary precedents. How could anyone in this country graduate high school and not understand this?
They don't have to like the way things have played out, but they should at least be able to understand it.
January I get a new crop of Social Studies student teachers -- and they had better, by god, be ready to demonstrate that they take Social Studies seriously, not just a way to kill an hour between English and Mathematics. They had better be prepared to stand up and say, "No, you can't cancel Social Studies this week for school assembly because Social Studies is important. Can we cancel Phys Ed instead?" Or words to that effect. Because right now, it doesn't look like the previous crops have been doing their job.