A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


All across Ontario and in several other places in North America high winds recently took out much of the electricity supply network and left many of us in the dark for anything from a few hours to a few days. We here in the Klondike Hills had planned our family get together for Sunday as our daughter was working over Christmas at her job in food services for a small nursing home. So naturally just before the rest of the family arrived the power went off and the menu for the day went with it! Now to many folk that would be an absolute disaster but we are much more flexible than that, “Murphy” has visited unexpectedly numerous times and we are somewhat prepared for such challenges. We normally cook with propane and so one would think that things in that department would be unaffected, but no, the oven has an electric pilot, handy during normal times but not so good with power off. With no oven the girls simply made a few minor adjustments and proceeded to get things started on the wood stove, a ham to be heated, veggies on the boil, nut roast and other vegetarian goodies to be simply reheated, good conversation and company on the side! Everything worked out so well that that the propane stove top was not even needed, the only thing we really had to work around was the lack of running water where we had to rely upon the “emergency” supply stored in the basement.

Now I know that most folks rely upon hydro more than we do and that some were off for an extended period, not just 10 hours. A few folks in fact are still off as I write this, however I still think we owe a vote of thanks to those hydro workers who are out there planting new poles, stringing new lines and removing fallen trees in order to get our power back on. I do not know exactly how much a lineman gets per hour for just like most union agreements they keep the details of their contracts pretty close to their chest, however it appears that they make in the range of $25 to $35 per hour. This is coincidentally is in the same wage scale as that of the unionized auto worker. I do wonder how many of those folk would be willing to assemble that car out in the parking lot in the middle of a blizzard after being rousted out of bed because there were more workers needed. Then lets ask them to do it from a bucket 70’ in the air with high voltage lines all around and to work 12 or 14 hours at a time! Bottom line those hydro linemen earn every penny they get, I may not like that “delivery charge” line in my monthly bill, but I sure do appreciate the power coming back on after a power outage during a storm. Its not as if you can go down to the corner store and get a bucket of hydro to get you through till morning!!

Thanks Guys.

Cross posted at Grey Bruce Views

Thursday, December 25, 2008


This holiday has us all wondering what we did to deserve all this extra exercise shoveling the white stuff from above, added to the other stresses of the season and the ongoing bah humbug attitude coming from our somewhat less omnipotent leaders it makes it hard to remember what this is supposed to be about. I am probably the last person to preach about it being a celebration of “Christ’s” birth, not a church go’er, not a believer of any religion, not even one to “get excited” about the holiday I never the less do know where it originated.
To those that do celebrate it as Christ’s birthday, I respect your views. To those that look upon it as an excuse to gather family around and share some special moments, I will be doing the same, would but that we did it more often. For those that have spent or received hundreds of dollars worth of gifts, thanks for helping our economy, I do hope you bought Canadian goods. To those of other faiths, I respect your beliefs also but you may as well take advantage of this holiday to join your family also. And finally to those big box stores, sorry but you will not be getting any of my money to pay your executive bonuses…

As I said above I am not a “church go’er” nor am I a religious person but that does not stop me from being a believer in the Christian “ideals”, one does not have to have a belief in a superior being or have a religious “leader” available to tell you what to do to be a caring and responsible person. Not being one to really accept “labels” the closest I have seen that encompasses my views is that called a Humanist, but as I say I am not much on labels, suffice to say that if one is raised to know right from wrong (and most of us are) you know in your own mind when you go astray. I am sorry to say that my views have been developed from reading about and watching the various religions across the world as they literally go to war about their individual beliefs. Somewhere I have read that more humans have been killed in “religious wars” than in any other conflicts, if you consider the medieval wars and the recent and current conflicts, which seem to be defined by religious beliefs, that may well be true.

There is one piece of Christian writing that we should take particular note of, something about reaping what you sow, indeed if you don’t treat others with respect one should not expect respect in return, a lesson that our political partys in Ottawa have yet to learn it would seem.
So as we celebrate the birth of one particular religion I would suggest that we collectively need to make the holiday more about embracing a tolerance for all points of view and less about a narrow definition of our particular beliefs. Take the best of your “religious” teachings, put dogma aside and BE a good neighbor, friend, parent, child, person and human being. Actions speak louder than prayers!

Merry ……er …….”Holidays” to you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

All I want for Christmas….

…..is our parliamentary democracy to live, its been on life support for some time now whilst the “doctors” have been running around arguing about the diagnosis and fighting to see who is going to administer the shot in the arm, how much to use and even where to stick it! Like a child going through those shiny Xmas catalogs I have a long wish list, but unlike that child I do not expect to receive any of the things on my list, but I will write out the list just in case Santa is reading this!

I want ALL our MPs to put Country before self and Party.
I want consensus not confrontation to be the norm in the HoC.
I want truth not spin and propaganda from our leaders.
I want our scientists, bureaucrats and commissions free to speak their minds.
I want a strong and independent Senate to maintain those checks and balances upon our legislators.
I want a functioning parliament for more than just 93 days a year.
I want parliamentary rules strengthened, codified and followed.
I want penalties for MPs and Leaders who attack or abuse our democratic systems.
I want less “votes of confidence” and more “free” votes in the HoC.
I want our electoral system to be reviewed and made more representational.
I want party policy to have more effect on voters than party disinformation.
I want alternative partys to have a fair chance of being heard and elected.
I want the notion of minority or coalition governments being a bad thing removed.
I want independent “made in Canada” rules for our Health, Drug and Food systems to remain just that..
I want less integration and regulation “consolidation” with the U.S. not more.
I want “the man of steel” Kevin Page and the Parliamentary Budget office to be able to continue their work without interference.
I want the Auditor General to be able to publish her reports at any time, not just when parliament is sitting.
I want Canada to retain or regain control of our natural resources and our major manufacturing and financial systems.
I want that “open and accountable” government that I was promised last year.
I want public servants, federal, provincial and municipal employees to realize that the taxpayers pockets are all but empty and reduce their demands for “more”.

The list goes on, I would like to wish for a happy and prosperous new year but I do not think that even Santa can provide that, and it is far to late for any government to effect any meaningful change in the prognostication!

Cross posted at Grey Bruce Views

Thursday, December 18, 2008

21 new Mps for Ontario?

Impolitical , one of the best political commentary blogs on the net, has a great piece on this recent announcement which I will reproduce here in its entirety…

Political machinations during prorogation: "Ontario to get 21 more seats in Commons: McGuinty." A refresher on recent trends in Ontario:
Conservative share of vote in Ontario in 2006: 35.1% = 40 seats.
Conservative share of vote in Ontario in 2008: 39.2% = 51 seats.
We are now in a parliamentary position where 12 additional seats are necessary for a Harper majority. Not that circumstances will be in any way easier for Mr. Harper next time out given that his Liberal opponent has changed. And he's provided conclusive evidence of late that he is not to be trusted with a majority. And he may very well lose seats in Quebec. But the number of citizens who were prepared to buy into the "coup" rhetoric was disturbing. So for the Harper team, hope remains ever eternal. So we get word today from Dalton McGuinty that yes, Ontario will get the seats it deserves as the House of Commons makeup is updated. A proposition that should have been a no-brainer when the matter was first raised. Instead, at the time, we had Harper minister Van Loan calling McGuinty the "small man of confederation" for having the audacity to make the justified 21 seat request. Now McGuinty says Harper agreed to the proper Ontario seat distribution last week (Friday). Is it any coincidence that Harper suddenly gets on side with the basic democratic proposition as he mulls an election in the next six months or so, a possibility made all the more real by events of the last month? As he weighs his political future? Now that it may be politically advantageous for Harper to add those seats in Ontario, of course it's happening. The timing says it all.Watch for this to become a legislative priority for the Harper Conservatives in the new year if the budget passes.

Apart from the timing of this which, coming from Harper at this time looks suspiciously like trying to appease Ontario voters and MPs prior to a possible confidence vote in January, I have very mixed feelings about it. As a rural resident I must recognize that the additional MPs will represent mostly urban centers and thus reduce our already overwhelmed rural voice. On the other hand I support a more equitable representation by population and a more equitable selection of said representatives by population. I also recognize that less populated provinces may well feel like I do as a rural citizen and have a hard time making themselves heard above the majority. In advocating for representation and selection by population we must be careful to maintain the check and balances to ensure that the minorities of all kinds do not get forgotten, ignored or pushed aside without consideration by the majority. For that reason, if no other, I support a strong, non partisan senate as the house of sober second thought regarding all legislation. I do agree with Harper (Oh my god that?s hard to write!) that our method of selecting senators needs reforming but an not sure that election by the general populous is the answer. That would reflect too closely the parliament of the day and accomplish little. I have proposed before that the Provincial parliaments (not the provincial ruling party or premier) either select or recommend new senators, this would seem to be the best of both worlds without expensive and, no doubt, spin filled general election of same would ensue. The Timing of these two announcements from a PM that said he would not do either and during a period when governments must join the rest of us in practicing restraint still stinks though!!

Lets see, 22 new seats in HoC and 18 replacement Senators = MINIMUM of 3M + 2.3M salaries + expenses (typically around 50,000 each MP) per year makes around $15 MILLION plus per year. Not the best time to announce this I would have thought.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sick Leave or Sick of working?

"The employer wants to abolish family related leave and reduce sick leave, this is totally unacceptable," says John Gordon, PSAC National President. Even worse, says Gordon, the employer wants to give authority to a private insurance company that will determine how and when the workers can access sick leave benefits.

Canada Post had issued a statement Friday saying it had reached a "tentative agreement" with its counter staff, technical support and other support employees, who have been on strike since Nov. 17.
The post office said it includes a 2.5 per cent salary increase over the first two years and a 2.75 per cent increase over the third and fourth years of the contract.

The auditor also found a "serious absenteeism problem" in Ontario's jails, where corrections officers take an average of 32.5 sick days each year.
McCarter's audit team wondered if the guards were "gaming the system" when the absentee rate in one institution jumped 55 per cent the year after it was transferred from a private company to become government-run.

The 2300 drivers, maintenance workers and dispatchers at OC Transpo are on strike over scheduling, sick leave and pay issues. ...

I wonder how many folks that are in the private sector and taking home $10 - $12 per hour or less get PAID sick leave………..

If you have a job and are offered a 2% raise per year and turn it down because of reduced sick leave benefits you don’t deserve the bloody job, suck it up and get back to work!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Convenient Timing

Couple of interesting developments of late, seems this proroguing has some real convenient timing if someone is trying to duck difficult questions.

This from the Office of the parliamentary budget officer regarding the recent fiscal statement.

This category (measures for which little information has been provided) includes two items, on which the Government’s projection
of balanced budgets rests:

• The recognition of $2 billion in gains from the sale of assets yet to be identified; and
• Reductions in departmental spending realized from departmental reviews.

The assessment of fiscal risk would be improved if these items were presented with supporting documentation. For the departmental spending reductions, the risk associated with obtaining the estimated $6 billion in savings incorporated over the next four years can only be assessed if a list of the proposed reductions in departmental appropriations is provided. Further, to insure informed debate, the complete list of the approximately $2.3 billion in expected reductions in appropriations in 2009-10, including the value of the planned savings in hospitality, travel, and professional services expenditures, should be explicitly included in the 2009-10 Main Estimates when they are
tabled in the spring.

Parliamentarians would also benefit from further details on two additional issues: first, whether the liabilities related to the Afghanistan mission have been fully accounted for6; and second, how the $4.3 billion in revenues received from this year’s wireless spectrum auction have been incorporated into the Government’s fiscal projections.
Then this from the Office of the Auditor General

Media Advisory: Reports of the Auditor General of Canada and of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons—Tabling of reports and media lock-up are being postponed
Ottawa, 4 December 2008—Reports from the Office of the Auditor General can only be tabled when Parliament is sitting, and tabling dates are planned with the Parliamentary schedule in mind. Therefore, due to the prorogation of Parliament, the December 2008 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, and of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Scott Vaughan, will be tabled at a later date when the House of Commons is sitting.
The media lock-up planned for 9 December 2008 at the Ottawa Marriott Hotel is therefore cancelled.
The Office will advise the media when a new date for tabling its reports has been determined.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

MPs expenses

At least one observer has pointed out the large increase in printing costs over the preceding fiscal period and wondered if that was due to all those 10%ers. It would appear that this is not the case as the glut of mailouts came AFTER this fiscal period ended. We will have to wait until next after the 08 – 09 expense is tabled to see the cost of that! Meanwhile unless there has been some creative accounting going on it would seem that apart from the printing and advertising budgets the members have been holding the line or even reducing expense spending. Could it be they are starting to see the light.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers, I would like to provide more detail by party but the report does not do so and restricts copying so that we cannot easily cut and paste to a spreadsheet to produce such detail, seems strange to restrict copying of a public document???

Here are the details…

MPs expenses April 1st to March 31st

………………… "06-07……….."07-08……%increase
Office lease…..$6,996,072……$7,256,155…..3.72%
Provided by parliamentary services


MPs expenses for 2007 – 2008 are available at


PS If someone can tell me how to copy and paste a list such as this to blogger without loosing the formating I sure would like to know!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four Fossil Awards for Canada

I don’t normally have much time for the Sierra Club but find it hard to disagree with this that pretty well got lost in the ongoing political “crisis”…….

Today, during international climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Canada was given an unprecedented four "Fossil of the Day" awards by the international community. The awards are given to governments taking positions that stall or block the progress of climate negotiations. At the climate talks, the Canadian delegation has failed to take a constructive approach to negotiations - at the same time as the Harper government prorogued Parliament, shutting down debate until next year. "
Canada must take a more constructive approach to international climate talks. With ever-increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, time is running out," said Mike Buckthought, National Climate Change Campaigner. "We need deep reductions in emissions to avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change."
Canada tied for first place with Japan and Russia in failing to support deep reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. Reductions of at least 25-40% are needed by 2020, in order to avoid dangerous global warming that threatens most of the world´s plant and animal species.For the second place Fossil of the Day Award, the international community awarded Canada two awards of shame - an unusual tie for second place.
Canada´s negotiators argued that the country should get a break on its emissions targets, because the tar sands release a lot of carbon."The tar sands should not be exempted from targets for reductions. Quite the contrary, Canada and the international community need to apply disincentives for the burning of dirty oil from the tar sands," said Stephen Hazell, Executive Director.Canada also insisted that rich countries should get special treatment for "welfare loss" - the "hardship" of using smaller cars, or public transit.
Canada picked up a third place award, for a total of four prizes of shame in arguing that special "national circumstances" (i.e., Canada is cold and big) are the reason for Canada being 29% above its Kyoto target. This argument ignores the fact that other cold countries such as Sweden have been able to meet their Kyoto targets. "

Canada is missing the chance to create thousands of new green jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors," said Hazell. "Other countries with northern climates have invested in a sustainable economy, and the investments have paid off - with the creation of thousands of new jobs."

Update Wed Dec 10
Canada won again today, sharing a second place and first place Fossil of the Day Award. The mock gala ceremony takes place every evening at 6 pm at every Conference of the Parties to mark the most shameful efforts to obstruct progress in climate talks. So far Canada has a clear lead. We already had five Fossil of the Day Awards.

Today’s second place was for objecting to protecting indigenous rights in the negotiations on the deforestation agreement (referred to as the REDD talks for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries). Our first place award was shared with Japan and Australia. La Presse got the scoop. There are in fact exactly two Canadian reporters here: from La Presse and Radio Canada.

H/T to Elizabeth May for this.

Update #2 Thur Dec 11
Poznan: Canada Snags Another Fossil of the Day

Canada distinguished itself for poor performance again today by forcing the United Nations Secretariat to dismantle a tar sands display mounted by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. The display consisted of four roughly three-foot by two-foot tar sands photos, accompanied by a small amount of explanatory (and not very controversial) type. The pictures were tacked to a Climate Action Network booth in the main conference hall at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Poznan.
T/H to http://www.desmogblog.com/

Update #3 Dec 13th
After eight years during which the United States was consistently derided as the most obstructive force in international climate negotiations, Canada moved into worst place today, receiving the "Colossal Fossil" award for having done more than any other country to drag down talks at the UN climate negotiations in Poznan.

Oh Canada....................!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Parliamentary procedures, a proposal.

It seems to me that much of the recent “crisis” was brought on by the lack of clear parliamentary rules and the lack of any consequences for ignoring those that are in place.

One suggestion made said this :- Mendes says Parliament should pass legislation to prevent abuse of the prorogation in the future. "I think that this is a very dangerous precedent, It's one, however, that could be curtailed by Parliament itself, passing legislation to prevent future prime ministers from seeking prorogation … [to limit] what a future prime minister can do."
"Why does this remind me of signing statements and Congress having to think about enacting laws to prevent similar abuses that Bush used to subvert democracy?
This is indeed one thing we should look at however we must go much further to protect our Parliamentary Democracy for much of the daily working of parliament and parliamentary committees is governed by tradition and few real rules are in place and it would seem there are no real consequences for ignoring said conventions.

A far better informed writer than I, Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto has suggested this by saying :- “I am greatly concerned that there is so little public knowledge of the constitutional rules that govern our parliamentary system of government. These rules are not formally written down in a legal text or taught in our schools. Maybe the most important lesson to take from the situation we are now living through is to begin to codify as much as we can of this "unwritten" part of our Constitution and to ensure that it is well taught in our schools.”

Then consider this from David Kilgour, a Fellow of the Queen's University Centre for the Study of Democracy and a director of the Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD). He was one of the two longest-serving MPs in the House of Commons for the 38th Parliament.
“All too often in Canada and elsewhere there has been a tendency to equate democracy with the holding of elections, forgetting that democracy must be continuously nurtured – not just once every four or five years. Democracy demands vigilance, and a willingness to pose difficult questions and to take risks. I do not mean by that only taking to the streets to complain about what is wrong, but also advocating constructive alternatives.”

I have said earlier that I believe that there should be no such thing as a Whipped Vote, in short it should be illegal to pressure any MP to vote in any particular way. MPs who are affiliated with a particular party naturally will support in general that partys platform and if they make a habit of voting against bills put forward by that party may well expect to have some discussions as to whether they should remain within that party. They would have to weigh that against whether the bill is in fact acceptable to themselves and those they represent. We must allow MPs to vote on the bills merits, not whether or not it fits a particular partys agenda or philosophy. To balance the all free vote situation and to reduce the political games being played there should also be no such thing as a vote of non confidence except that which specifically says “THIS HOUSE HAS NO CONFIDENCE IN ………” so that no “accidental” or “engineered” falling of governments could take place. It should not be up to the party in power to decide whether a particular vote is or is not a vote of confidence, even in the case of the throne speech which lays out the partys fundamental plan. If such a vote fails then it must be broken into smaller proposals, reworked or otherwise modified so as to be acceptable to the majority of MPs in a FREE vote.

I doubt that such a restrictive measure would pass, however this bit from the recently proposed coalitions agreement is much more reasonable than recent past practice.
“The Government will not request a dissolution of Parliament during the term of this agreement, except following defeat on an explicitly-framed motion of non-confidence presented by the Opposition; or any vote pertaining to the speech from the throne; or on a budget vote at on any stage in the House; or on any bill to implement a budget at any stage in the House; or on any motion in the House to concur in, restore or reinstate any Estimates; or on any supply bill at any stage in the House.”
Frankly I think if any financial bill is be considered a confidence motion there are far to many opportunities for either the government or the opposition to play partisan games, but there is little doubt that there must be some limitations upon this tool particularly with the prospect of a series of minority governments in Canada.

With all of the above in mind here is my rough draught of a bill to be put before the house if and when it resumes. I would suggest that if it were to come from an independent member then no political party could cry that it was a partisan move which no doubt one or the other will try and do because anything that restricts their power trip will be no doubt viewed that way.

Whereas our Prime minister has called a previous session of this house “dysfunctional” and increased partisanship by all parties both in the house and in committee has had a profound effect upon the orderly conduct of the business of the house.

And whereas many of the rules and conventions of conduct with the house are unclear, unwritten or unknown by both the public and those within the house.

And whereas even when such rules and conventions are broken by our elected representatives or their agents there are few if any penalties for such action.

Be it resolved that:-
This house immediately for an citizens assembly consisting of representatives from all political partys, constitutional experts and interested citizens from across Canada to examine and codify the existing rules and conventions of our parliamentary democracy.

Further this assembly shall have the mandate to recommend changes to said rules and conventions and propose specific penalties for those who do not respect said rules and conventions once clearly identified and formally adopted by this house.

This assembly shall have the authority to examine and recommend changes to, but not limited to, the use of whipped votes, the use of votes of confidence, the chairing of committees and the conduct within same, the conduct of members during question period, members mailing and expense privileges, the use of proroguing parliament, the power vested in the office of the prime minister, and other such areas of our democratic processes as it deems necessary to examine.

The assembly may also consider whether the house needs to take such measures as are necessary to initiate an examination of our method of selecting our members of parliament, the funding and informational processes of prospective candidates and partys, and make recommendations as to how such measures should proceed if they deem it necessary for such examination to take place.

The assembly shall make available to all citizens of Canada the opportunity to comment upon such changes and penalties that they may be considering on an ongoing basis. The results of their studies shall be regularly published and available to all citizens in a timely manner throughout the process. Every effort should be made to make the process as open and non partisan as possible.

The assembly shall have the ability to request the assistance of such persons with specialized knowledge of the areas of study as they deem necessary and such support staff as are necessary to fulfill their mandate.

Readers are invited to use this as a basis for proposing positive change to the way in which we are governed, feel free to repost it, modify it, send it to your MP or even disagree with it, but please recognize that we must do SOMETHING to enable change and that it must be done in a democratic way.

Cross posted at Vive le Canada and elsewhere.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pro-Rogue or Pro-Democracy

Pro-Rogue or Pro-Democracy, that was the question yesterday. Today we have our answer. When a Prime Minister can suspend parliament in order to avoid a particular vote by the elected member of parliament and does so just a few weeks into a parliamentary session, then we are on the verge of a dictatorship. My concern and dismay at this action is further added to by the fact that the election that again gave Mr Harper a MINORITY government that was called in violation of his own legislation, on the excuse that the previous session was “dysfunctional”, but was in fact made so by the conservatives almost daily attack upon parliamentary procedures and traditions.

Can we trust PMSH to recall the house in January or will he “extend” the suspension in order to further advance his agenda without opposition? Given his past performance I would suggest we cannot.

Canadian Democracy RIP.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Coalition & Demorcracy

To put it all in perspective I think the constitutional expert participating in TVO’s “The Agenda” put it correctly. We elect a parliament, not a prime minister, we are not the U.S. and do not have a presidential system. The party that gets the most votes gets to run the country so long as they have the confidence of the parliamentary representatives that we have elected.
Whilst the non confidence vote may be centered upon the recent fiscal update I believe that the loss of confidence in this government has its basis in the many antidemocratic actions by Mr Harper and his party over the last 2 years. They are far too numerous to document here but a small sampling includes the parliamentary dirty tricks handbook, the partisan 10%ers sent out in the millions prior to the election, the muzzling of diplomats, bureaucrats, government scientists, firing of “independent” commission chairpersons without due process, the list goes on.
Now they have the gall to call the actions of the rest of the parliamentarians in seeking to form a coalition “anti democratic” and instruct their followers to bombard the media with totally inaccurate and misleading “talking points”. Whether or not their financial plans are good or bad it is their attacks upon democracy that must be stopped and as they seem incapable of any kind of cooperation within the House I believe the opposition is fully justified in this move and that the Governor General when / if asked must give them the opportunity to try and govern. A new election so soon after the last one, with a probable similar result of a non majority government of one type or another, is not an option.

A copy of the Coalition agreement is posted at http://www.garth.ca/weblog/2008/12/02/the-accord/#comment-186328