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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

TVO and CBC TV Broadcasts to End

The only real surprise here is how quietly this decision has taken place, it seems that the last day to complain to the CRTC is June 18th but by all accounts it is a done deal anyway so why bother. It is also no suprise that there is no definitive list (from CBC) of the areas that will be left with NO broadcast TV (those that are not within range of a digital signal) which is once again the rural population whose only other option is expensive satellite TV.

"This transmission infrastructure is worth millions and has already been paid for by Canadian taxpayers," says Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS). Rather than being scrapped, communities should be given the chance to maintain it themselves. The transmitters and towers can be used not just to continue free CBC service, but also to set up local wireless Internet, mobile service, or community TV."

In March 2012, TVOntario announced that all 114 of its remaining analog transmitters still under TVOntario ownership will be shut down by October 2013, and will not be replaced by digital transmitters. Its 14 medium and high power transmitters will be shut down July 31, 2012. Of its low power transmitters, 50 will shut down in 2012 and the remaining 50 will shut down in 2013. Remaining broadcasters that carry TVOntario programming has since been transferred to local interests.[12]

Bancroft channel 42
Hawkesbury channel 48
Huntsville channel 13
Kenora channel 44
Kingston channel 38
North Bay channel 6
Owen Sound channel 12
Parry Sound channel 42
Pembroke channel 29
Penetanguishene channel 51
Peterborough channel 18
Sault Ste. Marie channel 20
Sudbury channel 19
Timmins channel 7

On August 18, 2011, the CRTC issued a decision that allows CBC's mandatory market rebroadcasting transmitters in analog to remain on-air until August 31, 2012.[55] Before that deadline, CBC's license renewal process will take place and CBC's digital transition plans will be examined as part of that process. The requirement remains for all of CBC's full power transmitters occupying channels 52 to 69 to either relocate to channels 2 to 51 or become low power transmitters. In some cases, CBC has opted to reduce the power of existing transmitters to low power transmitters, which will result in signal loss for some viewers.
On April 4, 2012, CBC released its budget plans, in which it announced that all of its approximately 620 analog television transmitters will be shut down on July 31, 2012, which is early than planned, due to funding reductions from the federal government.[56][57]

Once again us rural folks get screwed and treated as a second class citizen because we are a minority. In many of the locations, including it would seem the Grey Bruce area, the broadcasts will not be replaced by digital signals but simply shut down, period. As I said above that leaves but one choice for many of us – satellite TV. If anyone thinks I am going to pay $50 a month to watch an ever increasing load of crap they are sadly mistaken. I will miss TVO though, particularly Steve Pakin's “The Agenda”.

Also see my earlier posts on this subject here, here and here

NOTE:- Although Industry Canada has allocated a digital frequency for use by these stations there appears to be no applications for actually providing a digital signal in these largely rural areas. It is interesting to note that most digital transmitters of TV stations are located in urban areas where relatively inexpensive access to television via cable is available whilst in more remote rural areas where cable is rarely available there is now no access to a signal by either analog OR digital signals!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Canada to come?

This from The Sixth Estate needs no further introduction except to say that it is much closer to reality than many realize. I replicate the article in full here but highly recommend that you visit The Sixth Estate for their many investigative and factual writings.

The following post is deliberately alarmist. Orwellian, you might say. I’m not trying to paint a picture of what things are like in Canada right now, or even what I think they’ll be like in the near future. I’m not an idiot. But I do want to paint a picture of the sort of Canada which is explicitly permitted under some of the legal changes proposed and/or actually passed by the Harper regime. Whether this represents in any way the policies of a party that used to stand for small, transparent, and accountable government, is also up to you. I think by the end of this you’ll have a good idea where I stand on that question. So some of this list has already happened, but more of it are things the government has said they want to be allowed to happen, but haven’t actually done. Yet.

We’ll start from the perspective of an immigrant, rather than a newborn Canadian. You apply for immigration, you make sure all your ducks are in order, and you wait for your application to be processed. Because the government can’t afford to process the paperwork, your application may languish for a considerable time. Sometimes, the government simply eliminates the waiting list altogether and instructs you to start over from square one. You will also need to keep your political beliefs very quiet (or make sure they agree with the government in power), because the law allows the minister to personally reject your application for the nebulous reason of “public policy considerations.”

Assuming you arrive by air, from the moment you step off the airplane, you’ll be subjected — like all Canadians — to constant surveillance by the national security service, which routinely records all conversations at major airports. Also like all Canadians, your email, Internet use, and cell phone may be monitored at any time by the security service or the police, secretly and without a warrant. But as an immigrant, you’re also subject to some more intensive surveillance activities too. For instance, if the security service visits and demands that you report for an interrogation, you must agree. At this interrogation they can ask any questions they wish, and if you fail to answer truthfully, that’s grounds for expulsion from the country.

There’s another good reason to keep your political beliefs quiet, too: even after you become a citizen, if for some reason you’ve drawn the ire of the government (or the government’s American ally), once you leave the country the government claims the power not to let you back in. This isn’t a power granted to the government by the Constitution; in fact, it’s a power specifically denied by the Constitution. However, the government’s official policy is that when a minister makes a decision on a “matter of high policy,” ministerial prerogative automatically trumps the Constitution, so in practice, the Constitution doesn’t apply to government policy in those areas.
It’s no surprise that the government routinely violates its own and international law: that’s part of how the Canadian state functions. The ruling party and its Cabinet ministers have been under investigation for various incidents of fraud and corruption for six of the past seven years, racking up multiple convictions and findings of guilt. None of these convictions have amounted to more than mild admonitions, however, so all of the people in question, including the minister responsible for the police, are still at their posts. Recently an opposition party levelled yet another allegation of petty corruption; in retaliation, they were hauled into court to give an accounting for themselves.

You find a job in a federally regulated sector — at an airline company, say, or on the railway. In federal sectors, there are large trade unions, but strikes are outlawed. Even in the private sector, the federal government appoints arbitrators to determine your wages and working conditions, rather than allow these decisions to be made free of government interference in the labour market. So you pay dues to the union, you work for a private employer, but your wages are set by the government, sometimes in collaboration with the employer, sometimes not.
For some reason the government requires that a broadcast of Parliament be included in all cable packages, so you tune in a few times before rapidly growing bored of the inanity of it all. Under the Harper regime, Parliamentary debate does occur from time to time, but it’s strictly optional. The Speaker has ruled that, if the government really wants to, it can introduce all of the legislation for the session in a single omnibus bill, hold a paltry five hours of debate on that bill before passing it, and then close up shop early and come back in a year for the next session. The Speaker has also ruled that although opposition MPs have the right to ask questions of the government in Parliament, the government does not have an obligation to actually answer them.

That’s not out of the ordinary, either. Parliament has an array of theoretically independent commissioners, but their powers are minimal. One of them has actually threatened legal action to force the government to supply him financial information they’re legally required to provide; in response, the government has hinted that his job will be next on the chopping block. Another commissioner has repeatedly pointed to the illegal lobbying activities of several of the Prime Minister’s senior advisors; but in no case has this resulted in a charge being laid. The government and its advisors, it seems, are above and beyond the reach of mere law. You also have legal options open to you to request government information as a private citizen, but those options are very limited. The government routinely engages in illegal obstruction of access-to-information requests, ranging from excessive delays to retroactive reclassification of documents under a system known — at least in some departments — as the “Purple File.”
Of course the Charter guarantees you the right to protest all of this. But you’ll want to be careful with that. The government still provides subsidies to a range of NGOs and quasi-NGOs (what the British call quangos), but increasingly those subsidies come with explicit strings attached. Until last year, the only obvious one involved Canada’s foreign allies: criticize their domestic policy, warned the immigration minister, and your funding will get pulled. Since 2011, the list of enemies has broadened. The new policy, one minister revealed following the shutdown of the country’s premier environmental policy council, is that advocating a policy position which the government disagrees with is grounds to have your funding pulled. The prime minister subsequently clarified that organizations whose positions were “contrary to government policy” would be defunded and/or “eliminated” where possible. Recently a union economist was hauled before a Parliamentary committee and given a grotesquely comical McCarthyist grilling on his links to opposition political parties.

The funding issues are only the soft and slushy tip of the iceberg, however. The security service routinely infiltrates and monitors political advocacy groups, especially ones with ties to environmentalist or to First Nations. Raise too much of a stink, and you’ll be labelled an “enemy of the state.” Calling a minister’s office to complain about a new piece of legislation could be enough to get you cited for contempt of Parliament. If you do it anonymously, or issue threats, the government will ask the police and the intelligence service to investigate. But even if you just call to register a complaint, you can still be charged with the rather nebulous offence of interfering with a government official in the course of his duties. And if you’re an immigrant, these sorts of political activities probably raise the risk of you getting summoned to one of those pesky CSIS interviews.
Plus, if you’ve decided to identify yourself in a protest to your politician or a Cabinet minister, you’ll also be entered into another database, a separate one maintained by the ruling party with the objective of maintaining an up-to-date record of the address, political beliefs, and public activities of every citizen in the country. Government officials privately acknowledge that during the last election someone — a party insider or an outside hacker, they don’t know — accessed this database and downloaded contact information for thousands of suspected political dissidents, who were then misdirected to bogus polling stations in a bizarre attempt to prevent them from casting their votes. More recently, unknown but clearly well-organized hackers came within a hair’s breadth of shutting down an opposition party’s leadership convention. No one claimed responsibility; in fact, no one seems remotely concerned with identifying the guilty party.
And meanwhile, the government is trying very hard to explain to Canadians that the increasing gaps between their ideological vision of utopia and the reality of Canadian dystopia are the fault of a widespread liberal conspiracy which has penetrated deep into the government bureaucracy with the intention of undermining the government. For instance, recently, the government announced that lengthy delays in processing Employment Insurance paperwork were not the fault of government cutbacks (which actually improved service levels), but rather the fault of an organized conspiracy among the EI administrators to engage in work slowdowns and anti-government wrecking. For years, the ruling party has alleged that Liberals are secreted away at every level of the CBC and are trying to use the state broadcaster to undermine the government. Conservative commentators also allege that liberals have squirreled themselves away in Elections Canada and are trying to use that organization for much the same purpose.

A particularly telling sign of the paranoid authoritarian streak behind these tactics is that in recent months actual and former Conservatives and Conservative government appointees have become seen as sufficiently disloyal that they are denounced as members of the liberal conspiracy. Conservative appointees Marc Mayrand (head of Elections Canada), Tom Lederer (the Toronto judge who threw out Ted Opitz’s election), and Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, to name just three recent examples, have all been denounced as having been scheming liberal dissidents all along after falling afoul of the government. Recently two card-carrying Conservative veterans complained that a government MP on a Parliamentary committee had fallen asleep while listening to their presentation; for this seemingly minor faux pas, they were promptly denounced as pro-Russian NDP agents trying — once again — to embarrass the government.

Hoping that another exercise in dividing an conquering will shore up their flagging support, the government is returning to and escalating this war on the bureaucracy with new gusto. The day I sat down to pen this piece, a secret report was mysteriously leaked to the state broadcaster, and then announced on the evening news with great fanfare, purporting to show that bureaucrats were booking excessive sick time. It’s not hard to imagine who “leaked” this. To cut down on unwanted leaks and criticism, all employees in the federal public sector are being issued variations on a general order that they have ”a duty to refrain from public criticism of the government,” not just from within the workplace but also as a private citizen. Parks Canada’s version can be found here. A vaguer version of the duty of loyalty is also applied, as of May 2012, to English- but not French-language employees of the state broadcaster.
In addition to tightening the flow of information in this way, the government is also increasingly resorting to the more subtle tactic of simply deleting information entirely. Councils that have tried to change government policy on contentious issues, like the National Roundtable on the Environment, aren’t the only research-related programs being scrapped this year. The government’s ongoing war of attrition against Statistics Canada is continuing as well, with one of the most recent incidents being the mysterious disappearance of the agency’s online data tables on Employment Insurance rates just as the debate over EI reform was picking up speed. If you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t criticize what’s going on.

In short, the Harper regime has banned strikes, implemented massive new surveillance programs (extending to personal computers and cell phones as well as normal passenger traffic in public spaces), gutted the customary rights of Parliament, committed numerous incidents of electoral fraud, censored the public service, suppressed and classified formerly public information, denounced critics as members of a partian conspiracy, and argued that routine ministerial decisions take precedence over not just the law but even the Constitution. Thank God the Conservative Party stands for small and transparent government, or I’d be starting to get a little worried just about now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rally to Defend our Democracy.

Prime Minister Harper is trying to ram his Omnibus Budget Bill through Parliament this week. Opposition MPs are doing everything in their power to stop it, and more and more Conservative politicians are speaking out against the anti-democratic bill.

Send an urgent message to all the Conservative MPs in your province, calling on them to be one of the 13 heroes we need to stand up to Harper and defend our democracy.

Just 13 Conservative MPs can stop this Budget Bill, split it apart and start over, by simply telling Prime Minister Harper that they would deny him the majority of votes he needs to pass it.


These MPs are isolated in a government that keeps them in the dark and discourages them from representing our voices. We need a strong show of support for principled, honest action now to give our MPs the courage they need.

The Budget Bill is becoming a symbol of the struggle to defend Canadian democracy. Many Conservative MPs have deep concerns about the bill. Now they face a real choice: will they allow this reckless bill to pass, or will they stand up to Harper and defend our democracy?

Voting on the bill starts in Parliament this week. We need your help to create a massive public outcry right now, and flood Conservative MP offices with thousands of messages calling on them to defend our democracy and stop the Budget Bill:

Click here to send an urgent message direct to the Conservative MP constituency offices in your province, calling on them to be one of the 13 heroes we need to stop this bill:

From flooding Conservative MPs with pro-democracy messages, to amplifying opposition to this bill in the media, to rallying at MP offices on Wednesday night, we have a real opportunity to bring Canadians together, from across the political spectrum, to stand up to Harper and his Ministers.

Locally citizens of all political stripes will again be gathering outside Larry Miller's Office in Owen Sound to defend our democracy. Please join in on Wed  13 June at 5:30 pm - (1131 2nd Avenue East, Suite 208, Owen Sound ON, N4K 2J1)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shooting the Messenger

So our local Federal 'Representative' one Larry I'm Not Starving Miller thinks that Canada should withdraw from the U.N. because they say that 800,000 Canadian households are "food insecure," meaning they can't afford to feed themselves properly. "Food banks that depend on charity are not a solution: they are a symptom of failing social safety nets that the Government must address," Given that the Food bank in Owen Sound supports over 600 people each month and that this represents only a small part of the Grey Bruce riding one would think that he would instead be pushing his colleagues to protect social support instead of cutting such systems. But then most of the social support funding comes from either provincial coffers, municipal funding or from individual donations so its 'not his problem', the high unemployment rates, the changes to EI which will make it more difficult for said unemployed to feed their families, the cuts to youth employment programs and so on have no bearing on such problems. (that’s sarcasm folks)

It is clear that Mr Miller is fully in the clutches of the Conservative mind set which says that any organization or individual that disagrees with them must be withdrawn from, dismissed, defunded, investigated or otherwise insulted, ....be it a highly respected environmental organization or a world wide assembly of nations. Facts are such an inconvenience when you are trying to 'con' the voters into thinking you are the greatest regime since..........

Here are a few figures for you Mr Miller, we know your salary, try renting an apartment and feeding your family on a fraction of that. Nearly 10% of FAMILIES bring home less than $25,000. One final note before I move on, the report also says that “Since the mid-1980s, annual hours of low-wage workers fell from 1300 to 1100 hours. Those figures are Canada averages from 2007, I suspect it is much worse now and our rural area is even more challenged with low income.

The UN may not be perfect but at least they are trying to get the facts and have a conversation about such things and not wearing blinkers that only allow a narrow ideological view. Time to remove the blinkers Mr Miller.

For a slightly less restrained point of view see http://blunt-objects.blogspot.ca/2012/06/larry-miller-idiot.html

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Killing Environmental Science

There has been no announcement of the devastating decision to stop studying the natural world, but the evidence is piling up that such a decision has been taken.
It is no secret that Stephen Harper is uninterested in science.  One of his first decisions was to unburden himself of the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. Dr. Arthur Carty held the position when Harper came to power.  When his term ended, it was not continued, and the position dissolved.
Cuts to climate science have been clear for more than a year.  March 2012 marked the end of all funding, put in place in 2000 under Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. The Harper Conservatives announced last year there was no intention to continue the programme.  $110 million over ten years for autonomous research funding in Canada’s major universities has been spent expanding our understanding of the climate crisis in its multi-faceted disciplines of inquiry. There will be no more federal funding.
Also last year, cuts in Environment Canada seemed directed to anything with the word climate attached.  The entire group of term scientists working on research for adaptation to climate change, calculating the required changes in building codes, for example, to handle the altered climate, were laid off.  The entire Adaptation to Climate Change Research Group was disbanded. So too was the group within Natural Resources Canada maintaining work on Arctic ice cores.  An 80,000 year climate record in ice cores is to be abandoned (the minister said he hoped a university with a big freezer would take them) And the nine glaciologists who did the work are to focus on other issues.
This year, the cuts are coming thick and fast. Climate is still a target, but so also are water quality and toxicology.
The PEARL facility (the Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Laboratory) on Ellesemere Island is to close.  Recent investments of $10 million on state of the art equipment is to be wasted.  At 80 degrees north latitude, PEARL was the closest lab on the planet to the North Pole.  Running costs are only $1.5 million annually, but, despite having $8 million to enhance Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to audit environmental groups, there is no money to maintain critical research.  The world’s scientific community is stunned.  The loss of measurements from PEARL increase the risk that we are flying blind into climate change.
Then came the announcement that the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, Ontario is to close.  This facility is unique in the world.  Fifty-eight fresh water lakes 250 kilometres east of Winnipeg have been the testing ground for freshwater science research since the late 1960s.  Ground-breaking work on acid rain, the link between phosphates in detergents and eutrophication, the connection between higher UV levels and penetration at depths, with the additional factor of climate change – all of these findings were made possible because the Government of Canada maintained this real world laboratory of fresh water wilderness lakes.  Just a few years ago, when Stephen Harper was already Prime Minister, $3 million in new investments were made to upgrade the labs. The running cost per year? $600,000. In the House last Friday, the Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Fisheries announced that it will be sold to private interests.
Next up, cuts at NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) mean that the Yukon Research Lab at Yukon College in Whitehorse is also to close.  The $2.7 million facility only opened last fall – October 2011. But the Harper 2012 budget calls for NSERC to re-focus on research that is “business-led and industry-relevant.”  So much for studying the Yukon’s changing environment.
Then there are the personnel cuts.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is ending its national contaminants programme. Nearly all of the DFO scientists studying marine toxicology across Canada are being laid off – 75 scientists. That includes nine marine biologists specializing in marine toxicology in the Institute for Ocean Sciences on the West Saanich Road. According to Dr. Peter Ross, recently dismissed from IOS, “The entire pollution file for the government of Canada, and marine environment in Canada’s three oceans, will be overseen by five junior biologists scattered across Canada – one of which will be in BC.”  (quoted in Times Colonist, “Ottawa sinks pollution checks,” May 20, 2012)
We do not know where the axe will fall next. The cuts are secretive and un-announced.  We learn of them one blow at a time. At the same time as we cut climate science, we are driving up greenhouse gas emissions.  As we shut down research into the effects of toxic chemicals in Arctic marine mammals, the federal government has opened up a huge area of the Beaufort Sea for leases for oil drilling.
What is clear is that the cuts are not about fighting the deficit. If you have to lay off a certain amount of staff in deficit cutting, the priority is to keep key programmes functional – to maintain operations with less.  Setting out to render ourselves deaf, dumb and blind to the impact our resource-mad mania, called the Harper economic strategy, will visit on the natural world, and our own future, is so short-sighted that language is inadequate. Words fail.
Please help spread awareness of this anti-science agenda.  Write friends and family across Canada.  Demand the cuts be reversed.
Elizabeth May is the Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands