Posts from our progressive community

Senategate: Most Canadians Believe Stephen Harper is Lying

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 06:30


As we all know Stephen Harper has a lot of other problems to worry about. 

The economy is tanking, and so are his polls.

And as we know he has other fish to fry...



But he should also worry about his drowning credibility.

Because when it comes to the Senate scandal most Canadians think he's lying.
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Colossal Stupidity

Northern Reflections - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 03:30
                                     http://zorro-zorro-unmasked.blogspot.ca/

The CBC has obtained a review of Canada's retirement system which was done for the Privy Council Office. The document has been heavily redacted. But its conclusions are clear:

"In 2010, Canada spent 5.0 per cent of GDP on public pensions (OAS/GIS and C/QPP), which is low compared with the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of average of 9.4 per cent," it noted.

"The OECD projects that public expenditure on pensions in Canada will only increase to 6.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – much lower than the 11.6 per cent of GDP projected for OECD countries on average."

The document also says Canada's public pensions "replace a relatively modest share of earnings for individuals with average earnings" compared with the OECD average of 34 countries; that is, about 45 per cent of earnings compared with the OECD's 54 per cent.

"Canada stands out as one of the countries with the smallest social security contributions and payroll taxes."
The Harperites claim that they are making up the gap with Tax Free Savings Accounts. But the review raises serious concerns about the overall efficacy of TFSA's:

The document notes that participation rates for TFSAs rise with income, with only 24 per cent of those making $20,000 annually or less contributing, compared with 60 per cent in the $150,000-plus bracket.

The review also acknowledges "it is still too early to assess their effectiveness in raising savings adequacy."
The report is another example of the Harper government ignoring its own expertise. If the information falls outside Stephen Harper's ever shrinking frame of reference, it is ignored. Benjamin Perrin reminded us this week that Mr. Harper does this to his own detriment.

John Ibbitson writes admiringly about Mr. Harper's force of will. Others might call it colossal stupidity.

Remembering Jack Layton and the New Orange Tsunami

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 02:06


It's hard to believe that it's now been four years since Jack Layton died, and the hopes of so many turned to sadness.

And yesterday evening, when I returned from the island to the ferry dock named after him, I paused for a moment before this statue in my neighbourhood.



I didn't stay long because I pass the statue almost every day. Anything I had to say I said long ago. Like thank you, or how cruel life can be.

But I did stay long enough to think that wherever that happy warrior's spirit roams, it must be singing. 

Because the orange wave he created in Quebec, is now becoming an orange tsunami. 
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The National Post blows up in its own face

Dawg's Blawg - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 17:10
Here’s the Canadaland expose of this unprofessional, clownish farce. In brief, a noted Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, submitted a piece to the NP, a satirical piece about the role of hair in the current election campaign. A couple of minor... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Changing the tune

The Regina Mom - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 16:50

Today is the anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. In 2011, I was at the Banff Centre, part of a Carolyn McDade and friends recording project with about a hundred women from different places in Canada and the USA. As I headed to breakfast that morning, one of the women from our group was in tears. When I asked what was the matter, I learned that Jack was dead.

I was shocked, went to tell another woman, and the rest is a blur. I know that we honoured him and his work with a moment of silence in the recording studio. And I remember the women from the USA asking about Jack and listening to our stories about him as well as the history of the NDP, the CCF, and the Farm and Labour parties that preceded them.

On the day of his funeral we recorded “Now You Can Go On”, one of four songs Carolyn wrote based on the words of the poem, You, Standing There Reading This: Stop, by William Stafford. It was such a fitting song for that day.

Later, my USA roommate, Ginny, and I sat in our room in Lloyd Hall, crying, as we listened to Stephen Lewis deliver Jack’s eulogy. Everyone, from both north and south of the border, was deeply moved. That deeply emotional experience made its way into our recording. The CD, Widening Embrace, is more powerful as a result.


Fish Man Harper and the Latest Con Whopper

Montreal Simon - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 16:46


Gawd. If Stephen Harper wasn't such a monster you'd almost have to feel sorry for him.

He just can't do ANYTHING right these days, and his massive propaganda machine just keeps making him look like an absolute IDIOT.

Just the other day they ran the wrong picture of a couple to promote adoption in Canada...



And now in an ad to promote BC's salmon fishery they've done it again.
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Bits and Bites: August 2015 Not Belated Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 15:20
It's sometimes a tough call on whether or not we should discuss certain individuals on the blog. There are those like "the Goudreau" who seem to court any sort of attention, positive (rarely) or negative (much more frequent) as if the attention validates their importance. Usually the significance that individual places upon himself is in inverse proportion to the actual significance the individual actually has.

Such is the case of Ron Banerjee who, as the head (and likely only member) of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, has been able to fool a number of conservative media types into treating him with a degree of deference that would not necessarily be afforded to him if they realized how insignificant he really is.... to say nothing of the really disgusting things he writes and says about Muslims, Sikhs, LGBTQ, women, and a host of other groups an individuals.

Case in point, last week Banerjee and other members of Rise Canada, the newest hate group that Banerjee has created, protested outside the building where Olivia Chow accepted the NDP nomination to run in Spadina—Fort York.

But to refer to "members" of Rise Canada is perhaps a bit generous of us:


Yep. Two. That's all he was able to muster.

Banerjee later posted a video of himself (or at least the dulcet sounds of his slightly slurred voice) and the other dude harassing the folks entering the building. We won't play the entire video, but this part is somewhat interesting:

Read more »

Juxtaposition

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 14:17
Stephen Harper plays chess:
Sources say Conservative planners did factor in testimony by Wright and Harper’s former legal counsel Perrin. Once the testimony was over, they calculated, the sting would fade, and those voters who were inclined to believe Harper’s version would continue to do so. Those who never believed him would never vote for him anyway.Just one problem with his strategy:
The vast majority of Canadians do not believe Stephen Harper is telling the truth about the Mike Duffy Senate expenses scandal, a new poll has found.
Some 56 per cent of respondents do not think Harper has come clean about a controversy that is dominating news coverage in the federal election campaign, according to the Forum Research survey.Only 22 per cent said the Conservative leader has told the truth about his role in the Duffy affair, while 22 per cent don’t know.So the Cons' entire campaign plan was based on pursuing a pool of voters inclined to believe him regardless of what came out in the Duffy trial. And that pool now consists of...22 per cent of Canadians.

We can only hope the Cons were right in figuring that "(t)hose who never believed him would never vote for him anyway".

Stephen Harper's new pet

LeDaro - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 13:38
Harper used to have a cat. He has added another pet. They look happy.

On guiding influences

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 13:30
Adam Radwanski points out in his latest column that several weeks into the election campaign, it's hard to see what message might be used against Tom Mulcair and the NDP to any meaningful effect. But let's note that the factors working in the NDP's favour - and the challenges for the competing parties - are even stronger than Radwanski's column might suggest.

For example, for all the talk of a polarized electorate when it comes to policy, all indications are that Mulcair has a huge advantage over his competitors over a range of issues.

On every single one of the 15 issues polled by Abacus, Tom Mulcair's judgment is seen as at least more acceptable than that of Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. And more voters see him as more likely to make good decisions than both of his opponents on 9 of those issues, including the budget, tax levels, ethics and the manufacturing sector. So on policy, the theme is that the NDP is stronger both in terms of core support and broad acceptability.

How about potential party growth? The NDP's voter universe and combined first/second-choice support each extend to well over half of the voting public, offering significantly more plausible target voters than any of the other parties can claim.

And the NDP's positioning at the top of the party standings leaves the Libs with no hope of using their typical strategic voting appeals to any substantial effect.

Mulcair's approval then represents just one more element of the same picture. He enjoys higher positives and lower negatives than either or any of his opponents, and there's no significant previously-established line of messaging for the Cons or Libs to draw on in trying to take him down at this point.

Of course, there was one trap set for Mulcair from the moment he won the leadership. But as I noted then, the "Angry Tom" theme was always one which could be avoided easily through plans which Mulcair was likely to pursue anyway. And he's has indeed managed to make his opponents look foolish for continuing to harp on what's at best an obsolete concept.

With all that in mind, the largest problem for the other parties is this: while the NDP enjoys a slight lead in voter support, it has even larger advantages in the other factors which tend to shift voter support during an election campaign. And while we should always allow for the unexpected (and should never take for granted the amount of work the NDP has to do to build on where it stands now), it's hard to see who can overcome those advantages before election day absent some major external events.

On twisted outcomes

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 12:57
At the moment, plenty of Canadians are looking forward to waking up on October 20 and finding that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost the election, to be replaced by a government determined by the MPs elected by voters. And we should certainly be hoping for, and working toward, that outcome.

But imagine if the electoral process worked differently, potentially rendering all of our efforts useless.

Imagine if the Conservatives could dictate that incumbents would keep their seats unless they were defeated by some amount which was never stated in advance. Stephen Harper could then retroactively set the required opposition margin of victory in just the right place to nullify any desire for change even while his candidates were defeated by competitors in a majority of seats based on raw vote totals.

What's more, imagine if the Conservatives could determine after the fact that there hadn't been a clear ballot question, so nothing would be permitted to change regardless of how the vote turned out.

I trust we can see how asinine and undemocratic that system would be when it comes to voting for a government. Which raises the question: why do the Libs insist on defending it, and indeed attacking the NDP for proposing an alternate model, when it comes to a possible future vote on sovereignty?

As others have pointed out, the real question we might face in the event of a future referendum is what it means to negotiate if a vote meets a threshold to trigger negotiations. But there's nothing to be gained (other than entirely-justified resentment) by playing silly bugger in determining what threshold will apply in bringing the federal government to the table.

It's utterly counterproductive to declare in advance that a major vote will be subject to Calvinball rules - that nobody except the people currently in office will have any say in determining what, if anything, the vote means, and that they'll be under no obligation even to hint at what standards might be decisive until after they know how they want to spin the results.

We wouldn't want Stephen Harper to be able to change election rules and standards after the fact to nullify our votes. And based on that recognition, we shouldn't pretend that model is acceptable in a referendum either.

C'mon Christie, Give Us a Break.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 12:53
Christie Blatchford doesn't like covering the Mike Duffy trial. She finds it a burden. To Christie, Duffy's defence counsel, Donald Bayne, is wasting everyone's time, or at least hers, demolishing the Harper PMO's narrative which forms the foundation for the most serious charges faced by Bayne's client.

She doesn't think what Shifty's Bad Boys did has any bearing on Duffy's guilt or innocence. Why is there any need for a defence at all?

Tedious as Blatchford is determined to be, if she's going to be doing video clips could she not just up her game - just a bit? All she would have to do is ditch the ricebowl haircut and those trailer park serial killer glasses. Nobody should go around making themselves look that grotesque.


And, for Christ's sake, stop the perma-scowl.

David Phillips' Weather Whiplash Warning

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 12:33
It snowed yesterday in Alberta, just to the west of Calgary. Canada's rainforest has turned tinder dry. The east has experienced a curious summer that seemed unable to make up its mind - wet or dry, cold or hot.  Let's put it this way: things have changed.

EnviroCan's senior climatologist, David Phillips, warns our municipalities remain unprepared for what's coming leaving Canadians vulnerable to "weather whiplash."

In the last five years, Canadian cities have been buried in record-breaking snowfall, scorched by unprecedented wildfires, blasted by tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning strikes, limping from one natural disaster to the next as the bills for emergency repairs climb.

"You've got to keep pace with it and we haven't kept pace with it," David Phillips said in a recent interview.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is calling on the next federal government to invest an extra $1.5 billion a year in infrastructure, says that's easier said than done.

"Municipalities are ready, willing and able ...What we need is stable, long-term funding sufficient to cover off these costs that we know are already in a deficit position," president Raymond Louie said Friday from Vancouver.

1.5-billion dollars sounds like a lot but it's actually just a drop in a very large bucket. Some experts believe Canada needs to be spending hundreds of billions of dollars - now - on rehabilitating, reinforcing and, where necessary, replacing core infrastructure to meet the challenges of a far more demanding climate.
That sounds ominous to a public that thinks they need more tax cuts and prefer their politicians to share their enthusiasm for paring government to the bone. Too late will they discover that a defunded government is incapable of providing core infrastructure without which there'll be no modern economy and precious few jobs.
My little town is a classic example of municipal dysfunction. They're still planning (only planning mind you)  for 1-metre sea level rise by 2100, a polyanna-ish forecast that's now hopelessly out of date.  You can spend a lot of money preparing for 1-metre of sea level rise that will be largely wasted if that prediction turns out to be grossly understated.  Meanwhile, even as residents are beset by severe water restrictions due to drought, the municipal council plays chamber of commerce to happily churn out building permits to all and any who apply.  The notion that if you can't provide water security to your existing residents maybe you should put a moratorium on explosive growth until you get the water problem resolved is considered heretical.
I wish we could see the light but we might have to open our eyes first.


Wherein John Ibbitson Explores the Darkness that Lurks Within Stephen Harper

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 10:29


Let's be blunt. John Ibbitson is probably the most prominent journalist in Canada totally in the bag for Stephen Harper.  Note that I used the word "journalist," a noun that eliminates most of the hydrophobic scribes at PostMedia.

When it comes to Harper you can trust Ibbitson never to put the boot in. Which is why reading excerpts of Ibbitson's new Harper biography, "Stephen Harper, The Making of a Prime Minister," serve as a powerful yardstick for considering Harper's fiercely concealed role in the Wright-Duffy scandal.

There are disagreeable aspects to Stephen Harper’s personality. He is prone to mood swings. He can fly off the handle. He goes into funks, sometimes for long periods. He is suspicious of others. The public is aware of these traits mostly through what’s written and reported in the media. In public, Harper is almost invariably calm, measured, and careful in what he says and how he says it. Yet none of us, watching him, have any difficulty believing that this closed, repressed personality is capable of lashing out from time to time. We all get the vibe. His personality also comes out in the tactics that the Conservative Party uses against its enemies, both perceived and real – which are, in a word, ruthless.

As with most of us, Harper’s character flaws are the reverse side of his character strengths: One would not exist without the other. He has been Prime Minister for a decade not despite these qualities but because of them.

...He can descend into rages, sometimes over trivial things, at other times during moments of crisis. A former aide to Harper recalls a time during the 2004 election campaign when things suddenly started to go very badly for the Conservatives, for reasons we’ll examine later. Harper was on the campaign bus, in Quebec, leading a conference call with senior campaign staff back at headquarters in Ottawa. “He was very, very angry,” the former aide recalls. “It was: ‘We are fucking going to do this, and you are fucking going to do that and I want to see this fucking thing done right now.’ And then he paused and asked: ‘And why does nothing happen around here unless I say ‘fuck’? ”

Harper’s temper manifests itself in different ways. Some days, he just gets up on the wrong side of the bed. Other times, he flies off the handle when confronted with bad news. That’s when the decibel level goes through the roof and the f-bombs start flying. Harper’s reaction when he was told in April, 2008, that the RCMP had raided Conservative Party headquarters in connection with the in-and-out affair, carrying out boxes of material past the TV cameras, was wondrous to behold.

...Another of Harper’s less attractive qualities is a perceived lack of loyalty toward others. One-time political adviser Tom Flanagan points out that Harper has betrayed or estranged many in the conservative movement who were at one time senior to him – Joe Clark, Jim Hawkes, Brian Mulroney, Preston Manning. This, Flanagan believes, is the product of Harper’s need to dominate whatever environment he is in. “I think he has this very strong instinct to be in charge,” he said. “He really wants to be the alpha figure, and he’s achieved that. So part of that is to dispose of anyone who might be considered to be a rival in some sense or another.”

Flanagan also asserts that “there is a huge streak of paranoia in Stephen. And he attracts people who have a paranoid streak. And if you don’t have one to begin with, you develop it, because you’re constantly hearing theories.” At its root, “looking back, there’s a visceral reluctance to trust the motives of other people,” Flanagan concludes. “He often overcomes his initial suspicions and will sign on to other people’s ideas. But the initial response is always one of suspicion.” Flanagan believes Harper is prone to depression. “He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia,” he wrote in 2014, “at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions.”

...Some leaders like to micro-manage; others prefer to delegate. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. But Harper’s determination to grasp all of the levers, and even the widgets, of the federal government is matched by an equal determination to control the flow – or rather, the trickle – of information coming out of the government. Bureaucrats are prohibited from speaking to reporters. Scientists are prohibited from releasing the results of their research. Ambassadors have been ordered to obtain permission from the Centre before representing Canada in meetings. (The mantra from the PMO, as diplomats bitterly put it, is: Do nothing without instructions. Do not expect instructions.) Access to Information requests are routinely held up for so long that by the time the information is released, it’s no longer of any use, and the pages are mostly blacked out in any case.

Although they are in fact separate issues, this general air of secretiveness gets mixed up with the Conservatives’ willingness to demonize opponents. In fact, the Tories don’t have opponents; they have enemies. The Leader of the Liberal Party is an enemy. Judges who strike down their legislation are enemies. Union leaders are enemies. Authors and other artists who criticize the Conservatives are enemies. Journalists who cast a more-than-occasional critical eye on the government are enemies. And toward his enemies Stephen Harper bars no holds.

The Conservatives’ autocracy, secretiveness, and cruelty, critics accuse, debase politics to a level that threatens the very foundations of Canadian democracy. “Hardly anything in this world hints of Putinism more than Harperism,” columnist Ralph Surette of the Halifax Chronicle Herald opined.

...From his boyhood in Leaside, Harper learned not to trust those beyond the inner circle of family and close friends. That circle is not much larger today. Relations with those outside the wall can be cordial, but they are rarely based on implicit trust, an emotional resource that Harper invests in only a very few. And his encyclopedic memory includes not only the history of maritime border disputes, or who starred in what film; it also includes every act by every person who has slighted, offended, or betrayed him. Such acts are never forgotten and only rarely forgiven. Stephen Harper holds grudges.

He has never successfully cultivated the social skill of pretending to connect. He has difficulty feigning interest. His associates talk of him sometimes simply turning his back and walking away from them while they are in mid-sentence. He rarely displays much ability or desire to be collegial, or even polite. This tendency toward abruptness gets worse when he is tired or under stress.

...because his suspicion of the intentions of others is so overt, those who serve under him inhabit an environment of suspicion, and are, or become, suspicious as well – the culture of paranoia that Tom Flanagan observed when he worked for Stephen Harper. The reservoir of goodwill in the Prime Minister’s Office is shallow and quickly drained.

That said, if Harper is suspicious about the world around him, he has reason to be. As Joseph Heller famously said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Harper sees himself as an outsider because he is an outsider. He is from the West, but most of the country lives near the Great Lakes or St. Lawrence River. He is from the suburbs, but the Laurentian elites generally live downtown. Harper is hostile toward these elites, and they are hostile toward him. He is contemptuous of progressive academics, and they reciprocate. He distrusts the judiciary, and the judiciary has vindicated that distrust by striking down parts of his law-and-order agenda. The gala-goers he derides spit out his name in the foyer at intermission. When Stephen Harper rejected the University of Toronto, when he rejected the life of a Tory political aide in Ottawa, when he embraced the West, he fled from the commanding heights of the Central Canadian academic, cultural, and political landscape. He is the embodiment of alienation. 


What comes through is that Ibbitson, while seeking to describe Harper's character, in actuality documents his psychopathy.  Ibbitson's "this is the way of great men" apology is fine if by great men he means the likes of Caligula. What he describes is more akin to a high-functioning psychopath.
Now, assuming that Ibbitson hasn't depicted Harper unfairly or inaccurately, how does this relate to the Wright-Duffy scandal and the already preposterous claim that Harper knew nothing despite what the documents indicate and despite the revelations that his entire staff of top aides were well and truly in on it?
Harper is this profound control freak determined "to grasp all of the levers and even the widgets" of government except, we're asked to believe, when it came to the blossoming scandal of Mike Duffy.  In this case, and this alone, Harper simply left it to his footmen to sort out.  In this one moment in time the cloud of suspicion, distrust and paranoia lifted off Harper's shoulders.  Harper was magically released from "his need to dominate whatever environment he is in."
Harper's smokescreen would be difficult, if not impossible, to accept even from an emotionally stable prime minister.  But emotionally stable is not Stephen Harper. He would have required sedation to the point of near unconsciousness to let Wright-Duffy, in its minutest details, escape his control.  And none of that happened, did it.

Champion Liar: Harper vs. NIxon

LeDaro - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 10:13
Harper wins the liar championship.

Stephen Harper: Liar, liar your pants are on fire

LeDaro - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 09:41


Not so good a GIF. My programs are not working properly.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 09:21
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses how increased development of the oil sands fits into Canada's economic future - and how it's foolhardy to assume that one necessarily equates to the other:
A new and effective global climate agreement to avoid hitting the 2 degree increase would mandate a large, phased in shift away from carbon fuels through greater energy efficiency, and a major transition to renewable sources of energy. But there would still be a role for carbon fuels in the transition.

Here in Canada, a 2009 study (funded by the TD bank) by Mark Jaccard and Associates for the Pembina Institute modelled the economic and emissions impacts of a comprehensive set of policies as part of a global effort to avoid the catastrophic two degree temperature rise. The package included putting a high and rising price on carbon, tough energy efficiency regulations for buildings and cars, and major public investments in transit and in the electricity grid so as to transition away from power generation from coal and natural gas.

The key finding of the study was that there would be no overall impact on job growth or the overall economic welfare of Canadians. While growth would be slightly lower in Alberta than under a business as usual scenario due to a reduction in the rate of growth of the oil and gas industry, petroleum extraction output would actually continue to grow before tapering off.
...
The truly “crazy economic policy” for Canada would be to double down on fossil fuel led development at a time when the world is finally starting to take seriously the need to deal with climate change, and at a time when the downside of our over reliance on crude resource extraction  is becoming ever more apparent.

There is a role for the oil and gas industry in Canada's economic future. But a comprehensive plan for environmentally sustainable development must give priority to the needed transition to a post carbon world.- Adnan Al-Daini explains how Jeremy Corbyn's campaign offers a full social democratic response to failed laissez-faire dogma. And Matt Kieltyka reports on the success of one aspect of an effort to ensure broader prosperity through public policy, as New Westminster's living wage plan has managed to raise wages for city workers and contractors with virtually no difficulty.

- Marvin Ross laments how the symptoms of mental health problems all too often result in people getting dealt with as a matter of criminality rather than health.

- Brian Kelcey rightly slams the Cons' regulation-slashing gimmicks which figure to endanger the public without doing anything to help responsible businesses.

- Finally, Lana Payne discusses how the Cons' lies are piling up over the course of the federal election campaign, while Robert Benzie highlights the fact that even a substantial portion of the Cons' voting base isn't buying Stephen Harper's spin. And Susan Delacourt rightly notes that the obligation to testify under oath at Mike Duffy's trial has forced Harper's staffers to give accurate answers where they never did before - though one can hardly blame Parliament as a whole for Harper's refusal to either be responsible for his office or tell the truth when questioned.

On incomplete assessments

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:25
Yes, there's plenty of reason to be outraged by the fact that the National Energy Board is delaying its review of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion - and perhaps setting the review back significantly - so a lobbyist for the project can take over as a board member.

But it's worth noting that the delay itself could have some extremely dangerous effects:
Bill C-38 imposes new time limits on some federal environmental assessments. Assessments conducted by independent panels must be completed within two years and, by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, one year. As well, the National Energy Board’s review of pipeline projects must be completed within 15 months – including an environmental assessment, if one is required.  That's right: the Harper Cons' choice of an oil lobbyist to regulate oil developments won't just put a thumb on the scale for future assessments, but could also directly limit what evidence can be provided in existing assessments. And depending on the length of the delay, the result could be to run out the clock on any meaningful review at all.

Of course, the panel dealing with the Trans-Mountain application can't be entirely faulted for addressing a difficult choice between impartiality and thoroughness. But the fact that the Cons are once again doing their best to limit both should remind us why we need a more credible government to oversee Canada's future development.

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #17

we move to canada - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 07:30
A customer comes to the reference desk to ask about Zinio. I tell him that Zinio allows him to get full access to hundreds of magazines, all at zero cost, through his library account. His eyes light up.

"This is all free?"

"Yes, it's completely free. Do you use a computer at home?" He does.

"Do you have a tablet, by any chance?" Even better, he does.

I show him how he can create an account, then sort magazines by language or interest, then download or read anything he wants.

"When I was growing up in my country, my brother and I walked 12 kilometres to the library. The names of the books were written on little cards. The librarian would write our names on the cards. We would read the books like this." He pantomimes opening a book a tiny bit, to preserve the spine. "And now, look at this..." He sweeps his arm to take in the entire library. "There is so much here." He shakes his head, speechless. "So much. It is so wonderful."

wheelchair rugby finals, parapan am games 2015

we move to canada - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 07:00
The 2015 Pan Am Games and Parapan Am Games were held in Toronto and the GTA this summer. Although I regard these events as a ridiculous waste of money, a very bad deal for residents of the host cities, there was one very bright upside for me: the opportunity to see some disability sports, nearby and at a very high level of play.

Mississauga hosted wheelchair rugby and goalball. I saw goalball at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, and it is a unique and thrilling sport, played by blind athletes. Wheelchair rugby is irresistible, as millions have discovered through the excellent documentary "Murderball".

I couldn't get to goalball, but I snagged good seats to the wheelchair rugby finals, which eventually sold out. I went with a friend who had never seen - or even thought about - wheelchair sports before. When we got to the arena, we learned that the gold medal game was between the US and Canada, the same teams that face off in Murderball.

Bronze medal game: Colombia vs. Brazil

In the bronze medal game, Colombia played Brazil. The game started with dull, lacklustre play, not at all what we expected. It looked more like a trial game in a rehab centre than elite international play. But gradually, speed and strategy picked up.

One Colombian player began to dominate the court, not with size or strength, but with agility and finesse. (I think it was Jhon Orozco Nunez, wearing number 4, but I'm not positive.) He used his torso to pivot and swivel and wind his way through openings. The crowd noticed him and began to cheer his every move, and his game came on stronger and faster. By the last quarter, the stands were packed, and every time #4 touched the ball, the crowd went wild. (Also, Brazil had been cleaning up in the medal count, so many people were cheering against them, for the underdog.)

Brazil ramming crowd favourite #4Despite our favourite #4, the teams were well matched, and the score was neck and neck throughout. In the end, Colombia won the bronze medal: final score 50-48.

Gold medal game: USA vs. Canada

By the time the gold medal game started, the stands were completely packed, a sea of Canada red with the occasional Stars and Stripes visible here and there. The North American players were noticeably bigger and more athletic looking than the South American players. My friend and I were both struck by the difference, leading us to speculate about the difference in healthcare, rehab opportunities, even nutrition and education. Most wheelchair athletes must travel in order to practice and play in tournaments. Depending on where they live, their opportunities to actually play their sport may be very limited.

The game was wild. The US took an early lead, with Canada playing catch-up right from the start, down four or six points. The American team was so strong, we felt that if Canada fell further behind, it was cooked.

Canadian Zak MadellJust as #4 emerged as the crowd favourite in the bronze medal game, Canadian Zak Madell, wearing #33, quickly established himself as the dominant player. He seemed to either score or assist in every goal. Once he touched the ball he was virtually unstoppable, at one point frustrating four defenders to score. But every time Canada scored and threatened to tie the game, the US would edge further ahead.

Zadell with the ball, as usualIn the third quarter, Canada finally tied the score, and the crowd went insane. The score seesawed back and forth, each team squeaking out a goal, then the other team answering with a goal of their own. Finally, with the crowd roaring, Canada took the lead in the fourth quarter, and held it throughout, winning the gold with a score of 57-54.

I ducked out before the medal ceremony, as it was already late and I was working the following morning, which gave me an out from the national anthem issue. (It looks very disrespectful when I sit for the Star Spangled Banner, then stand for O Canada.)

The gold medal wheelchair rugby game was the highest level of play I've ever seen in a wheelchair game. I took a ton of pictures, which are not very good - partly because I was not on the sidelines with a huge lens like the professionals, and partly from my inexperience with sports photography. But if you're interested, they are here.

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