Canada's NEW Government now Canada's SUE Government

That change in branding is now more than apparent after yesterday's RCMP raid on Conservative Party headquarters. Rather than show actual leadership in addressing his party's 'in and out' fundraising scheme which violated Elections Canada rules, Stephen Harper is screaming to the courts for a pound of Elections Canada's flesh. The Conservatives don't see anything wrong in giving money to local candidates and having those candidates hand it back to them for national TV & radio odds, pushing the Tory campaign over its legal spending limit. What they do believe is wrong is being caught by Elections Canada, hence another lawsuit to bookend the Tories' lawsuit against the Liberal Party of Canada.

Canadians live next to American elections decided by hanging chads, voting machine failures, partisan officiating, and organized suppression of the electorate. A little further south is Mexico, where an independent Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) has only been place for little over a decade, and as this page noticed personally, operates at gunpoint to protect themselves from longstanding traditions of corruption and violence at the polls. By comparison, Elections Canada is a model of non-partisan democratic efficiency, and Stephen Harper has no business dragging its officers to the courts.


Where'd Everybody Go?

This page took a look at the hit counter this morning, and noticed that the number of hits have dropped from something in the 28,000 range to something in the 2,200 range.

Either it's a technical issue, or 26,000 people (or robots) have retroactively decided never to have read this page. At the least, I know how the CanWest papers feel. Anyone remember Pulse?

The National Post?


Next Steal..err. Station: YVR

Nothing annoys the flying public like having to pay surcharges right before the security gate - that's why the Vancouver Airport Authority, after years of complaints from travellers, finally decided to roll its Airport Improvement Fee into the cost of airline tickets rather than having passengers line up to be shaken down. This would be an example of the kind of idiocy that unelected transportation authorities with rabid privatization agendas inflict on the public. Is it possible that the new Translink Board, created by the same Ministry of Transportation with the same lack of accountability, has learned anything from the Airport's experience when it comes to mass transit service to and from the airport?

No! Of course not! What else can British Columbians (particularly those who work at YVR who were supposed to be taking the Canada Line) expect from a public-private partnership? This is as much a partnership as the partnership between the mugger and a traveller on the way to the airport. Contrary to what the Translink apologists claim, YVR is not simply going to be another fare zone (for those of you outside of Metro Vancouver, Translink uses an insipid zone system to punish commuters who can't afford to live near downtown) - it's going to be a lot more, why else would the Translink Board meet behind closed doors to determine what the surcharge will be?

How much will the surcharge be? There's a simple formula to figure that out: take the amount of money it will take to pacify the other ground transportation interests at YVR: rental car agencies, taxi companies, and hotel shuttles. Multiply that amount by the what the incompetent contractor thugs who are building the Canada Line need to turn a profit to shareholders (as opposed to a cost-effective, publicly built and financed system that only needs to break even for taxpayers). Divide that by the handful of riders who will be able to afford the Canada Line airport service, and that's what the surcharge will be - give or take whatever legal and public relations money gets thrown around when airport commuters and the public realize that Translink is giving them another Cambie Street Stick-Up.


I'd rather be Right than Sustainable

The B.C. Liberals plan to graft the 'principle' of 'sustainability' on to the Canada Health Act through their proposed Medicare 'Protection' Act.

For those of you scoring at home, the gratutious use of quotation marks in the previous sentence was intended to illustrate the Lieberals unsustainable application of other principles, like the truth. This legislation is not about making the health care system any more cost-effective or efficient, it's about the Liberals legally empowering themselves to continue the destruction of public health care in British Columbia. Campbell and Company tried the sustainability argument when they passed Bill 29, claiming that labour costs for front-line health care were out of control. They ended up getting slapped down hard by the Supreme Court of Canada, with taxpayers footing the bill for legal fees and compensation for the members of the Hospital Employees Union whose lives were destroyed by Campbell's assault on the principles of Collective Bargaining.

This page can't help but see the Medicare Protection Act meeting the same legal fate. Sustainability cuts a lot of ways, and the Supreme Court Justices just might ask themselves exactly how a privatized health care system is supposed to more 'sustainable' for BC taxpayers when the government can borrow money at far lower interest rates than private health care providers, and all Victoria has to do is break even, as opposed to any corporate imperative to return profits to shareholders. Also, a judge is not going to be hoodwinked by a Carole Taylor shrieking about health care taking up a growing chunk of the provincial budget, while at the same time other government mandates are rolled back and tax cuts are thrown off the back of a truck to make the Medicare piece of the pie look that much bigger.

Here's hoping that Canada maintains a judiciary that continues to operate on the basis of right and wrong, rather than profit and loss. Health care is a right for Canadians, not a commodity to be screwed around with by small-minded buzzword-toting provinicial governments.


Forecast: More Rain, Homeless

Initial numbers from the March 11 homeless count in Vancouver show approximately 2,600 people living on the streets, and increase of 19% from the 2005 survey. While this number may be amplified by the fact that there were more volunteers this time around, this page shudders to think what the number would be like if more people were doing the counting. It's obvious that no level of government has their collective heads wrapped around this issue, and the least among us will continue to suffer as a result.

The key factor in Vancouver's homeless problem is addiciton: the addiction to right-wing, me-first, market-driven ideology at City Hall, the BC Legislature, and the House of Commons. The NPA responds to the homeless by criminalizing them with Giulianist idiocy like 'Project Civil City' and extending the unaccountable long arm of the 'Downtown Ambassadors' program. Meanwhile, in Victoria, the BC Liberals do everything possible to alleviate homelessness without actually having to do anything. The Gordon Campbells and Carole Taylors of the world don't grasp that rental subsidies and increasing the number of shelters don't help fight homelessness: if you get a rental subsidy, you may be poor, but you still have a home. As for shelters, I will say this only once, so pay attention: Shelters are not homes. Homes are places people can live in without being told to move on, and build themselves a base of operations for the journey into the workplace and society. Homelessness isn't just a local issue, it's a national epidemic, but the public won't get a response from the Harper Conservatives because in their faith-based/blame-the-victim view of the world, the homeless are getting what they deserve.

Of course, one can't mention the homeless crisis in Vancouver without mentioning the vicious, deluded, high-stakes real estate tomofoolery spurred by the 2010 Winter Olympics. The fact that the value of my home has increased over 150% in the past five years because this city will be host to the ski, skate & spandex set for a couple of weeks points to the absolute detachment of logic from capitalism. Rational leaders would do something to intervene, but at this point in time, our leaders refuse to lead - they simply don't have the imagination or the compassion. Why not place a small tax on Olympic tickets to subsidize social housing? With 1.6 million tickets going on sale, how much money could be raised to find 2,600 people a decent place to live? Why not consolidate the patchwork of social service agencies in the Downtown Eastside (and across Metro Vancouver) into a single, effective resource and advocate for the homeless? Why not tell developers who don't want to include social housing in their projects, that they must pay a social housing 'offset' to be paid so that housing could be built at another location?

The answer, again, comes down to leadership, and we have leadership addicted not only to ideology, but also easy money in the form of campaign contributions from the Real Estate industry. Change those people, and real change can begin.


Snuff out Beijing's Trolls

In reviewing the local national media's coverage of China's brutal crackdown in Tibet and the subsequent worldwide protests of the Olympic Torch relay, this page has noticed a chilling trend among the online discussion threads and letters to the editor stemming from the coverage - the high volume of disgusting posts from Chinese people in Canada supporting the actions of the Peoples' Revolutionary Army. This page does not consider these people to be Chinese Canadians. Chinese Canadians are Canadians, and Canadians respect the values inherent in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some bloggers and commentators maintain there are two sides to every story, so as a public service, here's the Communist side of the story:

"In 1949, our little ragtag group led by Mao Tse Tung took over the country, and we're still in charge. We'll be damned if any other little ragtag group, be it Falun Gong, the Tibetans, or those annoying students in Tianman Square get anywhere near to challenging us, no matter how many of them we have to send to the prisons, the hospitals, and the executioners!!"

What these wannabe Jintaos and the Jiabos don't grasp is that for all their demonizing of the Tibeatan people and the Dalai Lama, it's not like anyone who stands in their way has any actual firepower. Having been through a few similar threads occupied by Chinese trolls, I've noticed that they work from a script more than likely drafted by the Xinhua News Agency. Here's a sample of some their regurgitated talking points:

-The Dalai Lama and his 'Dalai Clique' are terrorists, funded by the CIA.
-Any protest against China and the Beijing Olympics is 'violent'.
-Tibet is 'historically' part of China (for those of you scoring at home, this would be in the same way that parts of France 'historically' belong to England).
-China 'liberated' Tibet in 1952.
-The Dalai Lama wants Tibet to secede from China (for those of you scoring at home, the Dalai Lama has insisted that Tibet should function as the 'autonomous region' promised by China).
-China should be allowed to brutalize Tibetans because the U.S. brutalized Iraqis.
-China should be allowed to brutalized Tibetans because Canada brutalized First Nations people.
-China should be excused from its excessive brutality because of its unique cultural and slow adaptation to change. At the same time, Beijing should host the Olympics because China feels its ready to take its place among the 'advanced' nations of the world.

Anyone else sick of Communist Party hacks who refuse to tell the difference between democratic freedom and dictatorship capitalism? People may hate the opinions expressed by this page, but there's a huge difference here: I'm not pulled by anyone's strings, I'm not on anyone's payroll, and you can count my contributors on one hand. Freedom of expression is one thing, but just like we didn't hear Japanese Canadians whooping it up after Pearl Harbour, Chinese Canadians aren't celebrating the Communist beatdown in Lhasa. Anything else, as far as this page is concerned, is coming from the propaganda wing of the People's Republic, and if it continues to show up in Canadian media outlets, the RCMP and CSIS should investigate.


'Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!!!'

'Mainstream America is depending on you—counting on you—to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time or resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it's a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other, and all the New Age apologists for juvenile crime, who see roving gangs as a means of youthful expression.'

-Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston, the one-time actor and mascot for the National Rifle Association, is dead at the age of 84. Heston's last role of any consequence was in Michael Moore's Oscar winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, when just a few days after the tragic shootings at the suburban Denver High School, Moses the Monkey Slayer himself came to town to let the NRA faithful know that gun control advocates could take away his piece when they 'pry it from my cold, dead hands'.



Boot for the Home Team

After yesterday's 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the local hockey concern, the Vancouver Canucks, were disqualified from the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. For those of you who who regard this turn of events as tragic, this page invites you to consider that things could be worse.

This page realizes that missing the playoffs means that the Canucks are now 0 for 38 seasons in securing an National Hockey League Championship, but here's something else Canucks fans have never experienced: the threat of their favourite team moving or an owner brave/foolish enough to follow through with that threat. This is something that fans of each of the Canucks' Northwest Division rivals know something about: Minnesota lost the North Stars to Dallas before the expansion Wild arrived in St. Paul. The Quebec Nordiques bolted to Denver in 1995 to win the Stanley Cup as the Colorado Avalanche the following year. The owners of both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers both threatened their respective City Halls with relocation, and successfully siphoned Federal infrastructure grants that were intended for municipal projects not involving millionaires on skates.

Canucks fans could also look about 200 miles south to Seattle, where both MLB's Seattle Mariners and the NFL's Seahawks threatened to disembark for Tampa Bay and Los Angeles respectively unless new sporting palaces were plastered with public money, while public schools, transit, and other critical infrastructure went wanting . Seattle's other major pro team, the NBA's Supersonics, are packing their bags for Oklahoma City after new owner Clay Bennett was unsuccessful in holding the Washington State Legislature for a $500 million ransom in order to build a new arena in suburban of Renton. Bennett's group bought the Sonics from Starbucks' executive Howard Schultz and claimed they didn't want to move the team to his hometown (Oklahoma City), but for some reason they can live with only $120 million in OKC tax dollars to simply renovate the Ford Center. The final Sonics home games at the allegedly inadequate Key Arena have been marked by protests and an abundance of security guards. Sorry Canucks fans, Sonics fans have you sorely beaten when it comes to season-ending bitterness.

If there are any Canucks fans who left GM Place last night wondering 'what might have been', this page hopes that they took a good, hard look at the dishevelled, desperate street people begging by the arena exits, just like every other major league stadium and arena in North America, and felt a sense of relief it wasn't them. Perhaps they could take that sense of relief, add it to the money they would have otherwise spent on playoff tickets, and put it towards doing something constructive for those who need it more than the Acquilini family or Molson Breweries.


The Separation of Church & Strata

For a city whose leaders are obsessed with cultivating a 'world-class' image, Vancouver has some odd ways of showing it. The latest unenlightened stumble comes from the Vancouver Parks Board and their decision to dismantle Dennis Oppenheim's renowned sculpture Device to Root Out Evil from it current Coal Harbour location. For those of you scoring at home, this page loves public art: it gives cities a real sense of place and also provides a familiar comfort if the piece doesn't take itself too seriously, like Oldenburg and Van Bruggen's Spoonbridge & Cherry at the Walker Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis. The upside-down church of Device to Root Out Evil reminded this page of the opening of the Wizard of Oz when Kansas is uprooted by a tornado, just like how the world view of many Vancouverites who emigrated from the Prairies (like this page) was uprooted by the diversity and intensity of our new surroundings.

Oppenheim's piece, commissioned in 2006 for the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale, more than serves its function as public art: it's interesting to look at and gets people talking, so why should the Parks Board remove it? Does this upside-down church really offend the religious sensitivities of people, or does it just make Coal Harbour condominium owners and their NIMBY Strata Councils, obsessed with the resale value of their properties, a little nervous? For that matter, why is it the Parks Board making this decision? What do people charged with maintaining bike paths and swimming pools know about art? Do we let the Athletic Commission pick the season for the Vancouver Opera?

If the Parks Board wants to address a quality of life issue surrounding a church, perhaps they should look on Great Northern Way between Main Street and Clark Drive, where St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church is building a massive expansion of their cathedral/private school. The complex takes up an entire block, and blocks out the North Shore Mountains view formerly enjoyed by residents on the south side of East 5th Avenue, who in fact, may not be Catholic and perhaps object to an overt display of religion dominating their view. By comparison, Oppenheim's piece is about the size of a bus and Stanley Park is still visible to the Starbucks Landed Gentry from their overpriced windows.

When somebody says that we should 'clean up this town', I don't think it means that we clean the city out of any sense of creativity or personality.


Je ne me souviens rien

Previously on ursa minor: bear604:

"...just like the Constitution, another item the Tories thought they could screw with behind closed doors. How did that work out?"

It appears that, given their plan to sucker Quebec voters by re-opening the Constitution, the Conservatives don't remember how that worked out. Obviously, Stephen Harper's declaration of Quebec as a 'Nation' didn't give the Conservatives the electoral traction they were looking for as most decided voters are still siding with the Bloc Quebecois, and the Holy Grail of a Tory majority remains denied. Harper remains convinced that Quebec holds the keys to the kingdom, even if that means still alienated westerners foregoing the polls and marginal Tory seats in BC and Saskatchewan slip into the hands of the NDP.

As I reside on the other side of the country, my knowledge of Quebec politics is admittedly sketchy. However, I think that the Tories, in courting the federalist vote in Quebec, don't really understand what the federalist vote is: One person's Asymmetrical Federalist is another person's Soft Nationalist. Wouldn't the real Quebec Federalists be the ones who are happy with the way things are? Given the choice, are those people going to consciously vote to relive the anxious, unstable, flag burning days of the early 1990s? Wouldn't they be more inclined to run for cover to the Liberals, led by the author of the Clarity Act, Stephane Dion?

This page says to the Conservative Party of Canada: hey, it's your funeral. Didn't Lucien Bouchard sire the Bloc Quebecois after the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord? Isn't your base made up of former Reform Party/Canadian Alliance types who cut their vicious right-wing fangs on the Charlottetown Accord? Didn't Reform and the Bloc wipe the floor with you guys in the 1993 election? Did Kim Campbell ever sell that car?

Another Conservative government aspires to a permanent lock on power by opportunistically rewriting the Constitution to suit Quebec's demands: La plus ca change...


Whose Flag is it Anyway?

If Jason Kenney's hand-picked panel and the Harperites have their way, Remembrance Day will virtually be the only occasion Canada's flag flies at half mast. This page says that the Conservatives, like everything else they get their greedy, grubby little paws on, are trying to use the flag as a political tool in order to reshape Canada in their own image. Rejecting the Opposition motion to fly the flag at half mast for each Canadian soldier killed is a cynical exercise in denial. For as much as the Tories enjoy blustering about Canada's proud military tradition, one would think that would include recognizing that the country is at war more often than every 11th of November. What's the problem with lower OUR flag at half mast when one of OUR troops is killed in action? They gave up their lives on the Kandahar killing fields, while Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon: guess who had the Maple Leaf lowered at their death?

Restricting the flag lowering to Remembrance Day is also an insult to other Canadians who made a valuable contribution to this country. As someone who lost a parent to an industrial accident, this page registers his profound disgust that the Tories would refuse to lower the flag on April 28, the International Day of Mourning for Killed and Injured Workers. Obviously, the military protects this country, but it's the people on the farms, in the factories and mills, in the classrooms, offices and on the roads that built this country, and must also be remembered for their sacrifice. As for the opinion of the so-called heraldry experts, why should their opinion, stuck in the bygone days of the Red Ensign and 'The Maple Leaf Forever', matter more than anyone else? The flag doesn't belong to them, the Royal Canadian Legion, nor a Conservative Party who hold a minority of seats in the House Commons: it belongs to the people, just like the Constitution, another item the Tories thought they could screw with behind closed doors. How did that work out?