Archive for the ‘Canada eh’ Category
Today was the official end of the penny in Canada, as the Royal Canadian Mint halted production and went into collection mode. While pennies will continue to be legal tender indefinitely, retailers as of today will begin rounding to the nearest nickel for cash purposes.
It occurs to me that the end of the penny will bring with it the gradual demise or dis-use of a number of penny-related expressions. I’m sure they’ll stay in our vocabulary for decades still; after all, the US penny is still in circulation, and our language is slow to adapt to change at any rate. But I wonder if our grandchildren’s generation will know what we meant by some of these expressions. So in honour of the beginning of the end of the Canadian penny, here’s my top 10 for expressions that we’ll now have to change:
10. Cut off without a penny.
9. A penny saved is a penny earned.
8. Penny for your thoughts?
7. Here are my two cents.
5. In for a penny, in for a pound.
4. Penny-wise and pound-foolish
3. Not worth a red cent
2. Pinching pennies
1. …And the penny drops.
RIP, Canadian penny. I can’t say I’ll miss you weighing down my purse. But it does feel like the end of a chapter in history.
The CRTC has actually momentarily remembered that its job isn’t to rubber-stamp requests from the big telecoms: It has squashed Bell’s plan to buy Astral and thus control a massive share of the telecom market:
“BCE failed to persuade us the deal would benefit Canadians,” said chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, who took over the post earlier this year and has quickly put a populist stamp on the regulator. “It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies. We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”
Anglos are breathing a sign of relief because this will save TSN 690, Montreal’s English-language sports radio station (and official home of the Habs, when the NHL isn’t on lockout). Rival media conglomerate Quebecor is breathing a sigh of relief, because its dominance in the francophone market won’t be challenged by a Bell/Astral giant.
But there’s a bigger issue here, and one that should be of interest to all Canadians who are concerned about the extreme amount of media consolidation that we’ve witnessed in our country over the past couple of decades. When two or three companies are allowed to control both the media and the messaging via television, radio, newspapers, digital and mobile channels, we all suffer. Just about every Canadian has a nightmare story about one of the telecom giants (and Bell figures at the top of most of those nightmare story lists). Canadians already pay the highest cell phone rates in the world, and that’s only getting worse due to the lack of competition in the marketplace. The telecoms are all working hard to produce exclusive content, and are licensing it to their rivals for high costs. The limited choice in television service offerings is leading many Canadians to simply pull the plug rather than put up with poor service and content offerings for high prices.
Canadians are fed up. And plenty of them spoke up at the CRTC hearings. There were 9,700 interventions filed, and while many of them were from rival media conglomerates such as Rogers, plenty of others were from the general public. They were standing up to say that having one company in charge of nearly half of what we see, hear, read and watch isn’t in anyone’s best interest.
I’ve been really hard on the CRTC in the past for being in the pockets of the telecom companies and shirking its mandate to protect the consumer. Thanks to this decision, I have to issue this blog’s first-ever kudos to the CRTC. It’s a step in the right direction. Keep it up.
That’s the theory behind this site: We are the 1 percent. It contains manifestos of a bunch of people who claim to be part of the American super-rich, but who feel that it’s unfair that they aren’t taxed their fair share.
Now, admittedly, this concept might be better if more of the people in the blog’s photos actually said what they were doing to help the 99%, besides writing statements on paper. But the spirit ain’t bad.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has its share of problems, namely, the lack of any coherent demands, the lack of focus, and the general sense of a movement with lots of gripes but few answers. But they’re not wrong to point out the negative consequences of large income disparity in the US. And while the income gap isn’t nearly as dramatic in Canada, there’s a strong sense that we’re moving in that direction.
The fact is, while these people claim to be in the so-called 1% of Americans, and most of us aren’t, we’re pretty much ALL of us part of the luckiest 0.00001% in the world – we hit the mother of all jackpots just by being born here in Canada, having enough food to eat, a roof over our heads, security and safety and education and healthcare and the chance to grow to be an adult. It’s worth it for all of us to think about how we can do more to give something back.
(Not for nothing, but this goes back to my long-standing call for Quebec to raise university tuition for those who can afford it and increase bursaries and financial aid for those who can’t. More access to opportunity benefits everyone. Just sayin’.)
Ontario voters avoided the threat of a triple-whammy conservative blowhard government – Ford in Toronto, Harper in Ottawa, and Hudak challenging at the provincial level – by rewarding incumbent Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty with a third term in office. But with only 53 seats, down from 72 in the previous government, the Liberals will be one seat shy of a majority, and will need support from the NDP – now holding the balance of power – to enact legislation.
I’m only a casual observer of the ins and outs of Ontario politics. Unlike the minefield of the Quebec political landscape, Ontarians are more traditionally divided along left-right lines. For the most part, I think McGuinty has been a decent-to-good leader, and I’m relieved that Ontario dodged the Hudak bullet. But this was far from the resurgence of the Liberal banner that people at the federal level were hoping for.
It’s worth noting that the turnout for this election hit a record low – just the latest example of a disturbing trend showcasing widespread disillusionment with the political process.
The longtime leader of the NDP and official opposition leader of Canada, Jack Layton, lost his battle with cancer this morning at age 61:
“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones,” the statement read.
Layton led a party that I often didn’t agree with. I wasn’t a big fan of him as a politician, either. I mocked his used-car-salesman demeanour, his debate tactics, his party’s habit of apologizing for extremism or drawing false moral equivalencies, and even his moustache.
All of that aside, though, his death is a tragedy, just as any death from cancer is a tragedy. It also comes at a time when the country is, more than ever, in the iron grip of a Conservative party that is doing frightening things to our political landscape. The NDP’s historic gains in the May election, which vaulted them into official opposition status, meant that Layton was expected to play a major role in doing whatever he could to keep the Tories in check. Now, of course, this duty will pass onto someone else.
Canadians of all political stripes – left, right or the kitchen sink – will mourn Layton’s passing, and rightly so. I didn’t always agree him, but even where we disagreed, I recognize that he was acting for what he believed was his vision for Canada. My condolences to Olivia Chow and to the rest of Layton’s family and friends.
You can read the text of Layton’s last letter to Canadians here.
As the eyes of the world have been on our American neighbours and their efforts to make a deal childish grandstanding and petty squabbling to avert a default on the national debt, it’s understandable that many of us Canadians have been feeling pretty smug. After all, we may have problems, but not problems to the tune of nearly $15 trillion dollars… right?
Well, sort of right. We’re a smaller country with a smaller economy, so of course the total number is proportionally smaller as well. But what you may not know is that Canada’s public debt has been steadily rising over the past five years, and now sits at an all-time high of $564 billion dollars. That’s nearly $17,000 per Canadian – which, granted, is much lower than the $46,000 per American that our neighbours to the south are on the hook for. Still, that’s 17 grand for every man, woman and child in Canada, and I suspect that if you were asked to pull our your chequebook, you might balk at coming up with that amount.
This happened on Stephen Harper’s watch – the same Stephen Harper who got elected on a fiction of being good for the economy. As you can see by the chart below, the previous Liberal governments had balanced the budget and were steadily lowering the public debt each year… but the Conservative government since 2006-07 has increased it to its all-time high levels and is continuing to spend:
Sure, you might argue, the Liberal government years were years of relative economic prosperity in the world, while the Tory government has been navigating Canada through a global recession. But how, exactly, does building more federal prisons, buying military fighter jets, and pouring money into the Harper government’s promotional campaigns constitute responsible spending during recessionary times?
What’s happening in the US ought to serve as a cautionary tale for us Canadians on how debt can spiral out of control and severely weaken our economy when irresponsible politicians are at the helm. Of course, liberals and conservatives (and NDPers) will never agree on where to spend and what to cut. But anyone who voted conservative because they believe that Harper is good economy needs a bit of a reality check. As the Tory government has shown time and time again, a balanced budget is not a priority for them. And Canadians will be paying the price… to the tune of almost $17 grand apiece – and rising.
What will Stephen Harper do with a majority government? That was the question on everyone’s lips just 50 days ago, after an election shocker gave the Tories their long-awaited majority with 166 seats.
Oh, I heard all the platitudes. It won’t be so bad, people said. Give them a chance. They’re not so scary. They won’t do anything that they didn’t do as a minority (not like that was very reassuring, either).
In politics, it’s customary to review the “first 100 days”. Unfortunately, Harper and his cronies have been so busy doing shit, that waiting until 100 days for this review seemed excessive.
(And yes, I know it’s not really the first 50 days of majority government. The 41st Parliament only convened on June 2nd, which is in fact less than 3 weeks ago. That’s a frighteningly short period of time in which Harper has already managed to do an awful lot of damage. But it has been 50 days since the election, so I think the post title is appropriate.)
Let’s look at what’s happened in the 50 days since the May 2nd election, shall we?
- Workers’ rights have taken a serious beating, with back to work legislation being tabled against Canada Post, and threatened against Air Canada (who struck a deal to avoid it). In the case of Canada Post, arguably the legislation is against the crown corporation, which has locked out the workers. And those of you who know me understand that I have rather ambiguous feelings about labour unions that have too much power. But, especially in the case of Air Canada – a private company with competitive options for the consumer – the Tory government’s swift response against any labour rights whatsoever crosses the line even for me. There’s a happy medium in there, and this ain’t it.
- Senate appointments for three Tory MP candidates who lost in their ridings called into question not only the appointment process itself, but Harper’s own promises to reform it. Canadians didn’t even blink. Beyond that, he’s threatening to abolish the Senate altogether if they don’t cave to his extortion cooperate with his reforms.
- Asbestos exports are once again being defended by the Tories, who apparently feel that cancer is okay as long as it happens to people in other countries.
- Job cuts in the public sector are coming pretty much right away. One of the first areas to be hit? Auditors. Cause, y’know, Harper doesn’t want anyone actually noticing how badly he’s been cooking the books – and how badly he plans to continue doing so.
- And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that Harper is about to appoint two judges to the Supreme Court – something that will have ramifications for decades.
When you consider that there are still most of 5 years to go in his term, and that nothing prevents him from being re-elected, it’s downright terrifying.
The number of hate crimes reported to police increased by 42% between 2008 and 2009:
While hate crimes remain primarily motivated by race (and black Canadians remain the most-targeted by hate crime), the data also showed the number of reported hate crimes perpetrated against Arabs and West Asians doubled (to 75 from 37). There was also a 71 per cent increase in hate crimes committed against Jewish people.
Statistics Canada analyst Mia Dauvergne says two factors might have influenced the result: While there may have been a real increase in hate crimes, it is also possible that more crimes are being reported as police forces across Canada set up special hate-crimes units.
Regular readers of mine know of my general discomfort with hate crime legislation. We also know that these are the kind of statistics that, on their own, don’t mean very much; how a crime is reported is less about what happened and more about the circumstances involved.
But if this trend continues, it’s very disturbing. Especially when it leads to fostering of secondary hate, such as resentment between minority communities who are vying for the dubious label of “most victimized”.
Well, the votes are in, and Stephen Harper has his majority government.
- The right moves further to the right. The Tories, after spending five years walking all over Canadians as a minority, now get to walk all over Canadians even more as a majority. Harper believes – as he should, with these numbers – that he has a mandate from Canada to impose his agenda and move the government rightward. Forget the Shit Harper Did; what about the Shit Harper will do?
- The left moves further to the left. The official opposition is now the NDP, not the Liberals. The same NDP who has campaigned on anti-Israel platforms; who cozies up to the labour unions; who believes that quota systems will provide equality. The NDP is positioning itself as the de facto Tory alternative, and with nearly three times as many seats as the Liberals, it clearly believes that it is the voice of the left – or the potential leader of any merger or move to unite the progressive parties. Ironically, the jubilant Layton doesn’t seem to grasp that he had more power in fourth place in a Tory minority than he does in second place in a Tory majority.
- The middle disintegrates. The Liberal party is in shambles. They lost over half their seats and most of their star MPs. They lost official opposition status. They will have to regroup and rebuild. And the common sense centre, the great balancing force against polarization, is severely crippled. Moderation is what suffers in this outcome.
- A weaker official opposition. A Harper majority is a scary enough prospect. But now 102 NDP MPs – many of whom are complete political rookies – will be heading to Ottawa to serve as the official opposition. Even seasoned Liberal MPs would have had a hard time keeping the Harpers in check. There’s no way that inexperienced political neophytes from the NDP will be able to pull it off. Harper’s now got a majority with no strong opposition; he can basically do whatever he wants and get away with it.
- Bloc collapses, but sovereignty gets a boost. The big news of the night was the Bloc Quebecois’s collapse from 47 seats to 4 amidst the Quebec “orange crush”, and Duceppe’s defeat and resignation. It should be good news for federalism? Right? Wrong. I’ve never seen so many Quebecers feel disenfranchised and alienated from the rest of Canada. This is going to provide a huge boost to sovereignty. I’m about as staunch a federalist as it gets, but even I have to admit that I see their point. Quebec voted overwhelmingly left-wing progressive NDP; the rest of Canada (except for Newfoundland) voted overwhelmingly Conservative. Is there any point in arguing that we’re not different here in La Belle Province?
- Human rights? What human rights? With as many as four Supreme Court seats opening up to be stacked by Harper-crony Conservatives during this term. Abortion rights, gay marriage, rights of women, rights of minorities, immigrants’ rights… you name it, it’s on their agenda for attack.
- No more funding for arts and culture. That is, unless the Calgary Stampede is your idea of a cultural event.
- Technology and innovation? Not on Harper’s watch. With important issues facing our country around telecom consolidation, internet billing and metering, privacy, digital rights management… the only party who didn’t respond to Canadians’ concerns about internet and digital policy is the one now holding a majority in Parliament. Four or five more years for the rest of the world to advance while Canada lags behind? Will we even have an economy when Harper is done with us?
- Canadians get slapped around; claim we fell down the stairs. We have a government who ignores us at every turn, walks all over us, and breaks the law with impunity. We get a chance to toss it out on its ear. Instead, we go crawling back to it. Domestic abuse on a grand scale, anyone? Basically, we’ve just sent Harper a message that he can get away with anything. And he will.
- Harper plans to reward his “base”. The Alberta-native social conservative movement has been waiting a long time in minority to get rewarded for its efforts to put Harper in power. All this time, he didn’t revisit socially conservative issues because he didn’t have a mandate and knew that the opposition wouldn’t let him get away with it. Now, all these interest groups want their pound of flesh. Our flesh.
The silver lining is, it’s only 4 or 5 years. The question is, will we recognize Canada after all that time?