starting-blast landlocked

Category: Oh Canada

The next time you die of cancer, do it in French, oui?

Quebec’s got problems. So says just about anyone who doesn’t live in Quebec and a significant number of people who do. Kicking out the separatist party as they did earlier this year solves a chunk of them, but there’s still the niggling little issue of language. Specificly, Quebec’s insistence that there can be only one. It’s lead to some very interesting conversation topics. Like what, exactly, the french word for pasta is. Or exactly how large the writing on a package of spoons aught to be before it’s offensive. Or whether or not one should rearange their request for hospital care so it sounds pretty in French before you can consider yourself an equal among cancer patients–wait, what?

An agitated orderly at a Hull hospital demanded that an anglophone family — still reeling from a cancer diagnosis — address him in French in the emergency ward because he was “Québécois” and “c’est le Quebec,” the family has complained.

To make matters worse, the patient, John Gervais, 77 and a Canadian Navy veteran, is a longtime resident of Aylmer, Quebec and, though too weak to speak, is fluently bilingual.

Bilingualism in Quebec? Off with their heads. It’s French or nothing, and everyone knows. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood orderly, after he’s done with his suspension with pay and… er… that’s about it. Clearly the family has learned their lesson, I’d imagine. The next time one of them ends up with cancer, they’ll do it in French. Or, you know, they’ll just pack up and leave Quebec, but you’ll have that. Canada, you’re awesome, but you’ve been broken since at least 1982. And it’s all the fault of bilingualism–except in Quebec. Only in Canada…

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For the hundredth time, enough of toronto’s walking circus already.

So for those of you living under a rock, toronto has its very own walking circus. That self same walking circus has decided it’s not done dragging the city down the pipes from a PR perspective, so it’s off to the races in its second shot at being mayor. And yet, the media doesn’t even really wanna talk about its second shot at being mayor. So instead, we get treated to things like its attendance at a Leafs game. Or when it decides to show up at a football game wearing the team’s jersey. Or when it gets told it’s not allowed into a lounge area–presumedly where there happens to be alcohol service–at the aforementioned Leafs game.

Granted I don’t live in toronto, so wouldn’t have a dog in this fight regardless. But let’s draw some comparisons here, if we can. Quebec’s got themselves an election tomorrow. Ontario may or may not have itself an election between now and 2015. Canada’s got a federal election coming up in 2015, whether the government likes it or not. What we’re hearing from all of those corners, with maybe the exception of the federal one (more on that in another entry later), is the beginnings of actual election platforms–and, in Quebec, the plank by plank dismantling of the same. But in Toronto, the majority of the attention is focused on the circus–and not even because the circus is dangling a platform in front of our noses. Hell, even in situations where there’s a potential person to carry on the supposed politics started by the circus without the, you know, circus, we’re hearing less of a platform and more of a “This is what you *shouldn’t* be doing if you’re Toronto’s mayor.”. Which just about anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows, which is why this post refers to him as the circus and not, instead, as toronto’s current mayor.

Okay, we get it. It’s a walking, talking, political bombshell. Some might even go so far as to say a public relations disaster if not a financial one. So why is the media (note: by the media, I don’t just mean the toronto Star–although they should probably be entitled to their own special place among the media by now) still eating all of this up? If the circus is at a hockey game, the media should be following someone like, let’s say, Olivia Chow around instead–and maybe somehow managing to coax something that vaguely resembles how she intends to pay for yet another local transit brainstorm. Or see if John Tory can give something for the opinion pages aside from his code of conduct. Like, you know, an election platform. I’d even settle, grudgingly, for more about Sarah Thomson, if I must. Just please, for the love of anything and everything sane, enough about the circus already. The reruns are killing me.

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Canada is golden!

I’ll freely admit I haven’t been a very good sports fanatic this olympics. I was all over it in 2010, to the probable irritation of 5 of the 6 that read the thing. But largely, I was all over the fact it was in Vancouver, and I actually had the time, the energy, and the motivation to watch. Or, at least to keep up with the things I couldn’t watch. This year, not so much. But I’ll be damned if I was going to miss a gold metal hockey game. So, bright and early on a day when just about anyone–okay, including me–would consider getting up before 9 when you don’t have to an act of borderline insanity, I was at the computer, headphones on, and my twitter feed in full on hockey mode. And for a change, I could cheer for the same team as most of the people on my twitter feed. And we owned the hell out of it, to the tune of 3 nothing. We are winter indeed, Canada. Best early Sunday morning I’ve had in a while. If this does turn out to be the last olympics the NHL participates in, it was well worth it.

PS: On the topic of the NHL, sorry boys. I’m still not a habs fan. But, you know, if Toronto ever gets around to signing Sid the kid…

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In canada Post land, no means yes.

Just about everywhere else in the world, noteably in places like the UK, the government’s gotten itself the hell out of the mail carrying business. In Canada, the government *is* the mail carrying business. And that business is bleeding money from just about every open wound in existence. Rather than do the sensible thing and get out of the business altogether, like everyone else, it’s decided now’s a mighty fine time for getting creative. Said creativity results in things like sending junkmail to the folks who’ve requested they not get junkmail explaining why it is they need their junkmail.

“Your address is part of Canada Posts’ Consumers’ Choice database as a result of having a ‘no flyer’ notice on your mailbox,” read the letter. “You are currently not receiving unaddressed mail delivered by Canada Post that your neighbours are receiving. This includes mail that can save you money and keep you connected with your local community.”

What they don’t do is explain exactly what part of my local community’s responsible for sending me those preapproved Capital One creditcards that somewhat occasionally show up in the stack–probably because they figure at least one member of the community’d be fixing to punch the source in the kidney. Those, the random menus from local restaurants, the even more random advertisements from stores I’ve never set foot in, all end up collecting in a bin by the front door until we get around to sorting, sifting and tossing. And for the privilege of having a bunch-o-mail® taking up space that might be better served being taken up by honest to god legitimate mail traffic that might actually get read before next Christmas, these companies pay Canada post. Fewer places to dump the junk, smaller payments from the folks wanting it dumped, shorter stack of cash from which to be paying out all those nifty government pensions. Mix it all together and you’ve got Canada post saying “I know you said no, but please?”. You know, come to think of it, on the internets I think there’s laws for that…

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CTV gets a bright idea. Bet it won’t happen twice.

So remember all that rambling I did about the CBC and its inability to actually put together anything resembling good canadian content outside of HNIC? Yeah, about that. I wrote that entry, having completely forgotten about another brilliant idea CTV latched on to a bit ago. They’ve launched a show for weekday afternoons they’re calling The social. It’s supposed to be escentially another news talk show with cohosts, live audiences and all manner of interaction. This one’s huge selling point? They’re even interacting on Twitter. So now we’ve got a show that talks about current events and the like, not unlike any number of shows that already do such a thing, only this one wants to throw Twitter into the mix–presumedly they’ll be reading people’s tweets to them on the show, I’d imagine? And they’re airing the thing at a time when it’s very likely the only people who’ll be home to watch it are people who have much better things to do than to also be attached to Twitter–like, say, any number of things people do while they’ve got the TV on in the background. And because this is how we do it up in Canada, they’re calling this new show idea of theirs The Social. Folks, I rest my case. We totally suck at content. Although, I suppose it’s a little better than some other US idea we’ve copied and stuck Canada on the end, but you know. If it wasn’t for sports, I’m pretty sure we’d find ourselves up a creak…

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If the CBC collapses and nobody notices, did it really happen?

I mentioned a bit ago that Rogers pretty much bought off the TV rights for anything NHL that happens to involve a Canadian team. They probably walked off with a whole lot more than that, but that was where I stopped reading. One of the main stories people keep coming back to is what this means, escentially, for the CBC after next year–when this agreement actually takes effect. Apparently, one of the casualties of this deal was that CBC pretty much loses any control over Hockey Night in Canada–but they still get to actually broadcast that show, at least for the next 4 years or so. So the question’s been asked, sometimes repeatedly. Without hockey, what’s next for the CBC? To which I have a counterquestion. What has the CBC offered in the last several years aside from hockey?

I’ll freely admit I never did get a whole lot out of CBC, either growing up or now. I mean let’s be honest–most of the content that network produces insofar as TV series goes is, well, less than quality. I can’t name an actual series CBC still runs aside from Little Mosque on the Prairy, and I was turned right off of that after about 3 episodes. I have several sources I go to for news, most of them online, some of them redirecting occasionally to the CBC–but none of them are actually the CBC itself. On the very rare occasion where I’ll listen to radio in the traditional sense (well, in as close to the traditional sense as I possibly can without actually owning and setting up a proper radio), I do it primarily for sports, secondarily for news while I’m grabbing something to eat. So the only actual time the CBC plays a role over here is if I happen to be in front of the TV on a Saturday wherein the Leafs just so happen to be playing–and that only if I decide I need a break from the computer for a couple hours. Even the CBC itself says they get the majority of their decent ratings, and as such their advertising dollars, from Hockey Night in Canada. Which to me is an indication there’s more than a few people who, like me, would have no reason to bother with the CBC without hockey.

With that out there, I’m wondering just slightly if maybe now’s a fine time for the CBC to be skaled back significantly, if we even still need it at all–and it should probably be asked, if the CBC was to go the way of the rotary phone in a few years without HNIC, who would actually miss it? I’m not saying it didn’t serve a purpose at one time. And maybe in some areas it still does–just not necessarily a major place like an Ottawa or a toronto. But do we need a publicly-funded, escentially government-supported TV network who’s best material outside of hockey doesn’t even come close to reaching the eyeballs of a majority of the people who pay for the service by virtue of not withholding their taxes?

For the most part, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves over here, we suck at content. And I mean totally suck at content. Rick Mercer notwithstanding, I don’t know of anything semi-decent that’s come out of Canada in the TV space in a halfway to longish time. And for that, the CBC gets a pretty nifty little chunk of our tax dollars–that’s, like, a third of that 3.1 billion dollars everyone’s so hung up on the government misplaced even though the folks what look into that kinda thing say it’s placed exactly where it should be. That’s a whole heaping helping of Mike Duffy’s illegal–or at least unethical–dipping into the pot to pay for a house he’s owned in Ottawa since before he was a senator for Prince Edward Island. That’s an aweful freaking lot of money just to keep Hockey Night in Canada on the air, as good as it… Well… Was. Since the CBC’s losing HNIC anyway, would very many people actually notice if the rest of it drifted off into the sunset? I’d be slightly inclined to think maybe not. And for the money we’d save, I can’t say that’s a bad thing. Which is probably why they don’t let me make that decision.

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If you don’t quit drinking and driving, I’ll threaten you again.

I meant to do something with this forever ago. then life happened. So, uh, have this now.

Say what you will about the way the US handles DWI laws. Oh, please, by all means, say what you will. But before you do, consider this. It’s 8:45 AM on a Sunday morning. You’ve been drinking more than enough to put you over the legal limit. You’ve been drinking exactly enough to actually double the legal limit. And you’re officially out of booze. Now, there’s a couple ways you could handle this. You could actually decide it might be time to go sleep off your very near future one hell of a hangover. You could, assuming you’re not drinking alone, try and find yourself someone sober who wouldn’t mind making a run to the grocery store for beer–I’m still a little jealous you folks in Quebec can pick up your beer when you pick up a bag of milk, I’m just saying. You can get creative and try walking to your nearest grocery store for the offending beer run. Or you can pour your drunk ass into the driver’s seat and head off to help yourself.

If you picked that last one, congratulations. Odds are you are the next Maurice Larrivee. Odds are also that you will be intercepted by well-meaning grocery store employees who valiantly attempt to talk some sober second thought into your alcohol-hazed brain and try to get across to you that you don’t, in fact, want to be driving home in your way past “I only had one or two” condition. Odds are you’ll dismiss the caution, because hell, you got here just fine didn’t you? And odds are you’ll drive yourself straight into your 17th arrest for drunk driving. But you can rest safely in the knowledge that you won’t actually see much if any jail time. And, hey, if you play your cards right you might just be back in a position to take a run at arrest number 18. Because worse than the fact some of these folks haven’t yet stopped by the clue shop on their way home is the fact there’s not a whole lot the police can actually do about it. Well, unless you’ve gone and killed someone before they managed to arrest you for driving while sloshed beyond belief.

sure, the police can take your car, or suspend your license–and they have. But you can–and often times do–eventually get one or both of those back before entirely too long. Meanwhile the police are kind of left with escentially wagging a finger at you and saying pretty much “don’t do that again, or else.” Or else what? Well, or else they’ll tell you not to do that again. Because, you know, that worked so well the first, second, third and sixteenth times. But hey, one can always hope 17’s this one’s lucky number. And somewhere, someone with at least as many convictions just drank to that.

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The government wants you to pick your TV channels. Here’s why it won’t happen.

So around the middle of last week or so, there was a big to-do around the speech from the throne–that’s the kickoff to the new legislative session, for those folks what read this who aren’t up on their Canadian politics. The government’s decided, what with it being 2 years before the next election and all, that now would be the absolute perfect time to go all consumers first on us. Taking aim at cell phone bills. At the trend of selling 75 tickets for a 60-seater airplane. At those fees you cough up for the privelege of being able to pull cash out of a bank machine on the rare occasion in freaking 2013 where you actually still need to pull cash out of a bank machine. But my absolute favourite part of the throne speech was aimed squarely at folks like Rogers, who I’ve gone back and forth and back again with a few times for pulling the stupid out of thin air. It’s my favourite not because I expect it to actually have a chance in hell of happening, but rather because there are too many wicked obvious reasons, just taking into account the TV viewing habbits in this house, why it’s got every chance in this world and the next of not happening.

Our Government believes Canadian families should be able to choose the combination of television channels they want. It will require channels to be unbundled, while protecting Canadian jobs.

Don’t get me wrong. It sounds awesome. And if it actually happens, I’d absofreakinglutely love to be proven wrong–I’ll take those words with a side of fries and a coke, please. But it’s not happening, or it’ll be a long freaking way off if it does. An explanation, in list format, based on viewing paterns here in the last year or so. Because lazy, efficient, and why freaking not?

  • The most regular watching that’d be happening now, if Rogers and I were on speaking terms not related to arguing over their various levels of broken, would be hockey. And very little of that, unless I wanted to watch the Senators ruin what’s left of their season.
  • I’m in Ottawa, so Leafs TV isn’t happening. If you’re local, go ahead and call your provider to ask–it won’t exist for you. Thank the Senators in particular and the NHL in general.
  • Even if a chunk of the games wouldn’t be broadcast on Leafs TV, living in Ottawa means I get the local feed of stations like, for instance, sportsnet Ontario. I’ve yet to find a workaround for that. So if Toronto and Ottawa are playing on the same night and broadcasting on the same channel, I get Ottawa. Which is awesome, except I’m not looking to *watch* Ottawa.
  • That leaves the CBC, and Hockey Night in Canada. Fortunately there are enough of those channels that at least one of them will be broadcasting the Leafs game even if Ottawa’s playing on the same night. Of course the CBC also has HNIC online for streaming or on-demand purposes, so I technically need not even be concerned with that necessarily. Not to mention several radio stations will stream the games–it’s how I can follow even the ones the NHL won’t let me watch on TV in the first place.

Second on the list would be baseball, unless the Jays actually manage to outsuck themselves next year.

  • Most of those games are on one or the other of TSN or Sportsnet, so if I absolutely had no other option but TV I could still watch pretty much all of those.
  • Again, they’re also carried on several dozen radio stations, one of them local, so if I had to there’s that option as well.
  • Plus, Gameday Audio. Which, let’s be honest–for the price you pay it would almost be worth cancelling cable for the summer anyway. I mean unless you’re a fan of reruns but I address those below.

Trailing behind both of those, but not by much, is the occasional tuning into CPAC–that’s Canada’s answer to CSPAN, for you US political folks. Because while it can be interesting to read about political events unfolding, depending on the event it may be more interesting to actually watch it live. I mean I didn’t tune in to listen to the whole damn throne speech, but I’ve had question period on in the background while I’ve done things around the house–it’s a thing to do. That’s also streamed online, so again if it were a thing I needed to watch for reasons, that would hardly be problematic by any means.

Game Show Network. That gets watched every now and again, mostly if May and I happen to be downstairs at the same time with little else to do. I haven’t yet found an alternative to requiring a TV for that, but I also wouldn’t lose sleep over it if I never had that channel on again. There are probably several less than legal ways to catch hold of at least most of those shows, but again, doesn’t really bother me enough to go wandering about looking.

All things wrestling, but mostly of the pay per view variety and primarily for May’s benefit rather than my own. Again, most if not all of those are probably available online if you’d rather not cough up the cash and don’t mind waiting a day or two for them to come available, but if you’d actually like to know what’s happening before John Q. Fanatic with a cable package and a pay per view order in decides to get on Twitter and advertise it, you’re ponying up the dollars. But you’d be doing that anyway whether or not you paid for 900 other channels of which you may only watch 2.

Local/national news. This one used to be huge back before things like RSS feeds and Twitter took right the hell off. Part of my routine was come home, fix me something to eat, flip on the news then flip over to hockey or baseball or whatever after. Now, I can’t recall the last time I actually had a news station on for specificly news related purposes. This includes both the TV and radio versions. I mean sure, I’ll flip on an all-news radio station once in a while. But nine times in ten I go back to the computer after on account of I’ll find more info online on whatever story I’m following. And the rest of the time that particular all-news station’s broadcasting the Jays game, so we’re good.

New episodes of current shows, and reruns of older ones. I honestly just about snickered writing this, but it’s still a thing. The only time I actually sit down to watch a CSI or Big Bang Theory or something like that on TV now is when I’m at my parents’. Because being realistic over here, they’re not all that technical enough to be going out and scraping the interwebs for the same damn thing. Besides–it makes for fairly good background noise while we sit down to supper and talk about taking the backroads to get out there by way of greyhound. But other than that, I’ve got an external HD full of TV crap and the ability to glom onto more if the need be.

Looking at that list, there’s actually nothing on it that’s really up in the “must have it” category. I mean sure, GSN would be nice occasionally, but unless Rogers and friends decided to start massively overcharging on a per-channel basis (ha), it would almost cost more in extra service fees and crap they’d no doubt tack onto the bill than it would for the actual channel. Assuming the price for pay per views don’t do some massive skyrocketting as a result, and assuming a per-channel rate of we’ll call it a generous–in my opinion, anyway–$10, the highest bill for cable services we’d see around here for our one channel and maybe a pay per view, before any additional service charges and the like, would run about $70 or $80. That’s on the outside. Assuming the cable/satelite providers stuck to the theoretical $10 per channel model, and assuming the average subscriber watches more actual TV than we do here, that can add up amazingly quickly–to the tune of roughly what we pay for the package we’ve got now, most of which neither May nor I have bothered actually watching, for maybe 6 or 7 channels. That before you factor in any of the pay per view goodness. And this assumes they decide to do the flat rate thing re: that per channel fee–a mighty fine assumption, given who I’m talking about. Suddenly things look a lot less like the consumers first picture the throne speech painted for us. Which is why I’m not holding my breath when it comes to actually seeing this become a thing. It’s a wicked nifty cool idea, in theory. The problem with theory, though, is it dies a death just as soon as it meats reality. Putting this kind of thing into practice will be a right royal hot mess. And in the meantime, I’ll be over here watching the Leafs online. But hey, thanks for trying, guys. I owe ya one.

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The Sun News issue, from a sports fan’s perspective: what gives, #CRTC?

You can be forgiven if you’re only now remotely aware there’s a thing called Sun News, nevermind that it has an axe to grind with the CRTC. Its issue, which is a fair one insofar as there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell the playing field will change in the near future, is it’s not on the list of TV stations that are required carried on basic cable. Other all news stations, however, such as CTV News Channel, have been required on basic cable for years. Sun News would like to have that fixed. Level the playing field, they’ll call it. Which is accurate, if in the wrong direction.

To be completely fair, I’ve never watched Sun News. I don’t even know if the service I’ll be getting next month would entitle me to watch Sun News–although, more than likely not. So I wouldn’t know if its content would or wouldn’t be worthy of being required carried on basic cable–whatever that means these days. but I do know we shouldn’t even need to be having this conversation. because there shouldn’t need to *be* required carry channels.

Let’s look at it through this lense. I don’t watch that much TV–even when I do actually pay for the service. My honest to goodness TV watching consists of Hockey Night in Canada (except for this year) on CBC,, flipping to TSN, or Sportsnet. Occasionally, I’ll swing past CTV–if, as is sometimes the case, they’re airing something I haven’t gotten my hands on yet by way of alternate means. But more often than not, if I’m watching TV, I’m not sitting in front of my TV to do it. Political stuff, when I decide to watch a debate or somesuch live, I can usually get online. Movies, TV shows and the like–well, uh, yeah. Got it covered. If you have to guess how, still, you need you some rereading of older posts. It’s just the live sports content that keeps me glooed to cable. for 3–or 4, if you want to push things–channels, Rogers wants to charge me at least $50. And that’s before you add in anything interesting, like the Gameshow Network–which we’ll need to be adding for the other one what lives with me now. And $50 is probably lowballing, only because I don’t have actual exact numbers staring me in the face. Still, $50. For half a dozen channels. Do explain?

The only reason I stick with cable for live sports is really, if we’re being realistic, even at $50 for half a dozen channels it’s still far cheaper, and far less restrictive, than the halfway offerings by the leagues themselves–which, given I follow both baseball and–maybe again in the future–hockey, would work out to costing me nearly twice as much just for those two. And again, because they like to do this to their fans, you run the risk of not being able to actually tune in the *local* broadcast of the games to boot.

In the entry linked above, I called out the leagues-with help from a writer over at Techdirt for what they’re offering–or rather, what they’re not offering. But when I flip through doing the kind of math that leads me to my cable bill for the month, even that starts to look good. When I also factor in that outside of Hockey Night in Canada, there’s not much on some of the channels I’m forced to accept in order to get the 3 or 4 I do, I really can’t help but have the very wee small suspicion that maybe I’m being just a little teeny tiny bit ripped off.

The incredibly sad part about this mess? If the CRTC was interested, they could stick a fork in debates like this with one decision. Eliminate the entire concept of channels required to be carried on basic cable. Eliminate the entire concept of cable packages–basic, or otherwise. If John Q. Busy only ever has time to flip on CTV Toronto for the news while he has himself a supper, then let John Q. Busy pay for CTV Toronto out of pocket. Does he really need TSN, YTV, Fox and the like to go along with it? It’s not like he watches them, after all. On a more personal front, I had a couple TLC channels on a package I used to have, back when I used to watch more TV. But I never watched them. In fact, I forgot I had them until somebody what had working eyes was scrolling through the channel guide one afternoon. If I’d known a friend of mine who does watch them fairly regularly back then, the outcome would have been different. But as it was, when my company left I called up the cable guys, figured out which package threw those channels at me and very nearly tossed it–until I heard it included Sportsnet. Then I asked the poor sap on the other end of the phone who in their right mind puts a Sportsnet in the same package as a TLC in the first damn place. At least make them vaguely related, guys.

Cable and satelite companies have channels you can purchase individually already. NHL Center Ice is one such. The NHL Network, which I’m pretty sure has a couple of channels, is another. Your favourite sports team probably has one. They’re not part of any package. You make a phone call, you say I want $channel, and on your next bill the $2 or $3 it’ll cost you for $channel for that month says hello. They have the technology. So why are we still paying $50 for half a dozen channels? And why is the CRTC so scared to fix that? I’d be interested in the answer to that million dollar question–preferably, without the political talking points. I’d also be interested in a lower cable bill. So, CRTC, what gives?

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Please, by all means, be idle no more.

For anyone not living in Canada, or anyone living in Canada who’s decided now would be a fine time to secure themselves under a rock, it might have gone missed that, for lack of a better way to put it, the natives are getting restless. They’ve started a series of protests, blockades and the like, that they’re calling “Idle No More”, which supposedly is meant to express several things all in one movement. If you ask Theresa Spence, a native chief who’s been on a hunger strike of sorts since before the official birth of this “movement”, it’s to protest the condition of native reservations, one of which has–well–its own problems independant of whatever the government may or may not have decided to do, or not (note: Spence is the chief of the reservation referenced in the linked article). Apparently, same goes if you ask any of the chiefs that support her–yes, still, even though she’s already moved her own goal posts several times in the span of a couple weeks. When they’re not also still smarting over the violation of a treaty their great great grandparents signed with mine (*), they’re insisting on a greater share of any and all resource-based industry that passes anywhere near, on or around what they believe is their lands–industry they aren’t even willing to approve anyway (see: northern gateway, keystone, etc). But, see, here’s the thing that passes me by. They want to be self-sufficient, which is completely and entirely reasonable–and they should be. But they want to do it by relying on their traditional way of life–hunting, fishing, escentially living off the land, as I’ve seen a few folks put it. That’s great too. I’d never presume to deny someone the right to live their life as they please. But I’ve never seen it actually explained how, in 2013, the natives who take up issues like this one plan to go about doing that.

In fact, I’ve seen it spelled out rather nicely exactly how, assuming the government agreed completely with those demands and gave them complete self-governance, complete with allowing them to go back to their traditional ways of life, it would very quickly fall apart. In short, from the day the treaties were signed, the natives’ hunting days were numberd.

It’s important to emphasize that these Treaty commissioners were not anthropologists or do-gooders. Notwithstanding their respect for the Cree, they came with a very specific mission: to set the stage for white commercial development in these territories.

For instance, the commissioners reported a meeting in Fort Hope, on the shore of Lake Eabamet, with a certain well-regarded chief named Moonias. At one point, a local Indian named Yesno (“who received his name from his imperfect knowledge of the English language, which consisted altogether in the use of the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’”) told the commissioners that the terms of the Treaty should ensure that natives in the area receive “cattle and implements, seed-grain and tools.”

This horrified the commissioners, who evidently wished to guard against unfulfilled expectations: “As the undersigned wished to guard carefully against any misconception or against making any promises which were not written in the treaty itself, it was explained that none of these issues were to be made, as the band could not hope to depend upon agriculture as a means of subsistence; that hunting and fishing, in which occupations they were not to be interfered with, should for very many years prove lucrative sources of revenue. The Indians were informed that by signing the treaty they pledged themselves not to interfere with white men who might come into the country surveying, prospecting, hunting, or in other occupations; that they must respect the laws of the land in every particular, and that their reserves were set apart for them in order that they might have a tract in which they could not be molested, and where no white man would have any claims without the consent of their tribe and of the government. After this very full discussion, the treaty was signed, and payment was commenced.”

What I am quoting here is the commissioners’ Nov. 6, 1905 report, not the actual text of the James Bay Treaty (which is brief). But it expresses the real nub of the intended treaty relationship: The natives would continue hunting and fishing for sustenance and trade, and receive annual payments from the government (four dollars, to be exact), while white men would have the right to put down their train tracks, mines, forestry operations and settlements. Some reserve lands were stipulated in a schedule to the treaty (“not to exceed in all one square mile for each family of five”), but the exact location of such lands was not then considered as important as it is now. That’s because the local Cree were semi-nomadic, and came and went with the hunt. (At Lake Abitibi, for instance, the commissioners reported: “We did not expect to find many Indians in attendance, as they usually leave for their hunting grounds about the first week in July.”)

As the article goes on to say, it’s that treaty, and the creation therein of this type of reserve, that’s still today being held over our heads–over a century later. The problem? We tried to bring the natives into what was then modern society. We just, well, only did it about halfway. oh, right–and by “we”, I mean the about, we’ll say, 1930 or so “we”.

Cree men such as Moonias and Yesno, were they still around, would be absolutely appalled by this state of affairs. They apparently believed they were negotiating Treaty terms that would permit them to continue to provide for themselves as rugged hunter-gatherers (and possibly farmers). The notion that the white man eventually would put them up in permanently subsidized year-round housing that allowed them to abandon hunting and fishing — the very heart of their culture — would have seemed alien and unexpected.

That move from semi-nomadic to settled life, which was seen in part as a humane gesture aimed at bringing natives into modern civilization, is the real “cultural genocide” we keep hearing about. It’s not a Stephen Harper plot. It’s something that happened mostly before Harper was born.

So wheres the halfway point? well, that would be right around this part of those self-same treaties.

Yet the altogether worst aspect of the James Bay Treaty is that, like other treaties, it ensured that reserve land “shall be held and administered by His Majesty, for the benefit of the Indians,” and that “in no wise [sic] shall the said Indians, or any of them, be entitled to sell or otherwise alienate any of the lands allotted to them as reserves.” This was basically Soviet-style communism, avant la lettre. To this day, this system of communal land ownership ensures that reserve-resident natives are the only people in Canada who are systematically denied the right to buy, sell, lease and mortgage their land.

This is the single most awful thing we ever did to the Indians: bring them into a settled, capitalist society, and then deny them the basic tools to generate capital. Yet, perversely, it is the one aspect of native policy that is consistently championed by left-wing native-rights advocates, who see in it a sentimental vindication of Marxism despite its European failures.

And this, combined with some one-time assistance to actually see to it the people on those reserves aren’t swept out to sea by the changes, is exactly what the people involved–be they native or not–should be pushing to be changed. At the moment, natives living on reserves have no actual attachment to the property they occupy. Nor are they actually allowed, legally, to have any attachment or place any value on those properties. Which is why, in communities like Attawapiskat, they made headlines when it became clear just how bad the housing situation was actually getting. And when they made headlines, they still had to wait for the government to do something about it–as opposed to anyone else, who can pretty much make any changes they please to their living arangements–including deciding to forget about paying rent and go buy a house across town. And it’s these remote, mostly fly-in communities, that protesters are saying should be allowed to do their own thing, their own way, in compliance with those self-same treaties. It’s those self-same communities that folks like Theresa Spence are saying the government should hand more money to, for presumedly very similar results. But complying with treaties from over a hundred years ago and giving natives their self-sufficience are mutually exclusive.

Ms. Spence and her Idle No More supporters are absolutely correct to say that the James Bay Treaty made provisions for Indians to get land, cash payments, and even some measure of autonomy. But ramping up those perqs won’t do anything to change the fact that the whole basis of the treaty was destroyed as soon as traditional native hunting life came to an end.

This is the fundamental reason that the Idle No More message on treaties is irrelevant: The great challenge of native policy in the 21st century will be to integrate natives into the larger economy that is based in Canadian population centers.

Remote fly-in communities such as Attawapiskat, on the other hand, are doomed: You can’t turn he clock back to 1905, or even to 1930.

And as much as that means folks like Theresa Spence would have to be out of a job, that has to be the simple reality. That should have been the reality years ago, but a combination of the government mucking it up and the natives fighting it lead to, well, the exact opposite. If being idle no more means fixing this system, and giving native people the ability to make themselves sufficient and get them off the government take, then by all means, please do be idle no more. But if, in seaking these changes, the natives can’t accept the fact that some traditions–some aspects of their culture–they want so badly to hold onto simply cannot survive a transition like that? To continue to hold to that expectation, and to insist the rest of Canada work around that expectation, will only continue to end up in situations exactly like this one. And really, honestly? I think we’re all getting a little tiny bit tired of reading headlines that start off with “Native Group Protests”. Just tossing that out there.

*: I can’t be a hundred percent sure how accurate that statement actually is, as I have great great grandparents on both sides of the issue. Pretty sure that puts me in a bit of a conflict of interest when writing a post like this. But, then, I never did give much thought to that kind of deal.

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Question, #Ottawa. What the hell happened to our 1500 winter warnings?

So coming on the end of November, we were still dealing with temperatures mostly above freezing. I mean sure, okay–there was that one minor little snow scare that made me go “oh shit where’s my portable shovel” a couple weeks ago, but for the most part, it’s been actually, you know, pleasant. Just at, or above, freezing–hell, we got as high as 17 degrees c week before last. Or was that last week? Whenever. Then yesterday, I woke up to ice on the sidewalk by our building and the threat of a snowpile by later last night/this morning. If what I’m reading’s anywhere near accurate, it’s a little more than a threat now–and a little more than snow. And Ottawa folks, here’s the kicker–it didn’t take for bloody ever this time.

I’m used to Ottawa’s weather paterns. Or rather, I’m used to what they *should* be. You get about half a foot of snow, maybe a day or two of freezing rain, then by the weekend, about 80% of it goes melt and we sit above freezing for another week or so. This year? december came and so did the holy fuck it be a cold one. So who ran off with our 1500 warnings? Or better yet, who’s bloody idea was it to slap me in the face with snow on get things done day? Oh, and if that idea came from Texas, you’re fired.

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In which the government catches up to the rest of the world. Again.

For years, you couldn’t do anything without them wanting to run a credit check on you. Wanna rent an apartment? Credit check. Apply for a mortgage, or creditcard? Credit check. Sign up with most cell phone cariers? … Yeah. You get the picture. Pretty effective way of keeping an eye on folks, right? So you’d think Canada’s government would be all over it. Well, they are. Just recently. They’ve decided to use it to try and step on businesses tasked with collecting the GST (General Sales Tax) or HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) for the government, and have already gone after $3000000 worth of it. The plan is to eventually (read: probably in about 15 years) use it to make sure folks aren’t taking advantage of things like, you know, welfare when they aught not to be. But right now, it’s a tax grab. Still, even for a tax grab, it’s about damn time. As long as this kinda thing’s been around, you’d think they’d be the first. But, then, since when does that apply up here?

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The social insurance card is fired as of next year.

If you have a social insurance number, which you must if you plan to do something as simple as, you know, work in Canada, you may find yourself surprised next year. In March, anyone in need of a new or replacement social insurance card will instead be sent a letter with their SIN number. Why? for your protection, says the government. The card, which the Service Canada’s website insists you should never have on you–in spite of the fact Service Canada employees usually ask to see it–is a good excuse for someone to walk off with your identity should it go missing. again, says the government. So now, rather than spend the money on printing and shipping the actual social insurance card, they’ll spend less money printing and shipping a letter to you that contains the same info. Which you’ll still need, most likely, to provide to folks like, you know, Service Canada to get pretty much anywhere. And, which folks will more than likely still carry on them simply because, hey, it’s asked for in situations. All for your protection, and to save a million and a half. Anyone else feel much safer after reading this?

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Wanna be a Canadian citizen? Brush up on your official language of choice…

From the “it’s about goddamn time” department, the folks what run this country are actually doing something else that makes sense and is long overdue. For folks not so familiar with the workings of Canada, we have two official languages. Well, unless you live in Quebec–then there’s one, with grudging acknowledgement of some kind of second language type thing going on over there. thing about it is, people coming to Canada weren’t required to actually learn either of those languages. That makes things really quite interesting–particularly when I run to the store across the street and the guy serving me can speak an entire… maybe… 4 words in English (that’s another entry). The folks over at Citizenship and Immigration would very much like to change that. A new thought bubble to be floated out of the downtown core is that folks wanting to apply for citizenship must now be able to prove, in writing, their proficiency in at least one of our two official languages–English, or French (yes, Quebec, that probably includes citizens who want to live there). Now, here’s a question. How long before somebody on the opposition benches turns that into an attack on immigrants? Any ideas?

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The government plans to catch up to 2012–in 2016.

Forget about trying to bring ODSP up to date–a thing I’ve been doing off and on for a couple years, now. Somebody’s been prodding the federal government in the ass a time or six. They’ve now decided, scheduled for 2016, that any and all payments from them–like, say, your income tax refund–will be handled via direct deposit. Keep in mind direct deposit’s been around for years. They call it in the name of saving money, but finally catching up to technology would be another way to look at it. Now, if we could just do something about the fact there’s still places around here that don’t take debbit–KFC here in Ottawa, I’m staring directly in your direction.

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Giorgio Mammoliti on Toronto: We want to be our own have-not province!

Toronto has all manner of somewhat decent hockey teams–hey, the Leafs aren’t in last place yet, okay? But I’d still rather gouge my own eyes out with a pitchfork than consider living there. One of the reasons for that would be city councellor Giorgio Mammoliti, who’s recently made headlines for suggesting that Toronto should become its own province. Let’s put this into perspective just a little. Toronto’s previous mayor, David Miller, pretty much spent the hell out of what money he got from the province of Ontario–and some extra, just to make sure he got it all. Current mayor Rob Ford is insisting he can cut spending, and all he’s managed to do is cut his support–in more than half, actually. Oh yeah, and Toronto’s still spending money like it’s going out of style. So why does councellor Mammoliti want Toronto to be its own province, you may ask?

He told the Toronto Sun he is frustrated federal and provincial governments aren’t doing enough for municipalities.

He maintained if Toronto was a province it would qualify for transfer payments from Ottawa.

So, basicly, if toronto was a province, the rest of Canada would have to give them more money they likely would have just as much (read: absolutely no) trouble finding things to do with due to the way equalization’s been set up, and the fact they’re bleeding red out both ends. Yeah, tell you what. No. Spend a few million less, then maybe talk to us about separation. Quebec could use some company on that front. Or better yet, just get rid of Giorgio Mammoliti.

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More on Ontario’s choice between the same, the same, and the same. Rent increases!

So yesterday, partially inspired by a conversation I had with Trish and Roger over the weekend, I explained–not for the first time–in detail why it is this provincial election thing just isn’t doing it for me. And why the federal election–only a few months ago, for the record–did only slightly more than that for me. And now, or rather a while ago, the 3 leading parties have produced another in a long list of reasons for yesterday’s entry–in the form of their reaction to this year’s rent increases. Back in August, an increase was granted of a maximum of 3.1%, or higher than any previous increase since the late 90’s or early 2000’s. The basic reaction of all 3 major parties? Ow, that sucks. The liberals are making noises about reexamining the legislation after the election, with not much in the way of actual specifics on what they’d change. The conservatives are making the same noises with the same kind of specifics or lack thereof. And the NDP’s just making noises–I think they just like to hear what they sound like, personally. Meanwhile, those of us who can’t aford to buy a place to call home and don’t want to live in mom’s basement have been forewarned to hang on to our wallets–it’s about to get wicked nifty not so cool. This happens a lot in recent elections–an issue comes up that’s got a pretty significant enough number of people pissed off, and gives anyone with half a brain cell a golden opportunity to do something–oh, I dunno–different with it. Then, within a few days of it being talked about, all 3 parties come out with an answer at the same time, and all 3 parties escentially flop it. And all the while, folks get ready to have less money to hand out to everyone else who’s bills are going up. If our choices are going to be widdled down to the same, the same and the same, do I really need to know which one wins?

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Attention politicians: we’re electioned out.

This has definitely been a year. Earlier this year, several municipalities held their own elections–including the Ottawa area. Then, not long after that wrapped up, the federal election. Which, it should probably be pointed out, was pretty much being squared off for during the municipal ones. And now, for the majority of the next couple weeks, several provinces are going through their own elections–including this one. And there’s been a common theme to most if not all of them, that I’ve noticed. With the exception of one or two issues of the week, you’ve got a choice of the same, the same, or the same, optionally with slightly differing levels of snore. In Ontario, the federal government run CBC has opted to broadcast the season opener for this year’s hockey go round instead of the results of the election in this here province. Because, hey, it just isn’t all that interesting this year. Hey, guys? That’s a hint. We’re kind of electioned out. Can we get back to running Ontario, and the rest of the country, now? That’d rock.

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Music Canada: not much about music, or Canada.

So you’ve probably heard mutterings in recent days about an organization going by the name Music Canada. You’d think they’re an advocacy group for Canadian musicians, wouldn’t you? In an alternate universe, you might be correct. In this one, though? Nope, it’s only the Canadian Recording Industry Asociation renaming itself. This post is just writing itself using bits and pieces of other posts. Like this one. And this one. And probably several others. Ah hell–let’s just chalk the whole thing up to different name, same organization, same good screwing. Cover all the bases? Yeah, I think so. Music Canada? How about no.

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Canada’s democratic process not democratic enough for Brigette DePape. Or the PSAC, apparently.

On May second, Canada went through its most recent election. Canada’s conservative party, which despite popular belief up here is far less conservative than the US conservative party, was elected to government. Fairly, insofar as a system can be fair without offending Quebec, elected in a majority of communities across Canada. In most cases, that would be enough to satisfy even the most politically active–democracy is democracy, win or lose, after all. Unless, apparently, you’re a former senate page named Brigette DePape–or Marcelle, as her press release identified her. Then, democracy is only democracy if the guy you voted for wins. And to prove we just weren’t democratic enough for her liking, during the throne speech to open this session of parliament, the senate page turned senate protester. Her reasoning? Well, after she was fired, she educated us.

Marcelle had served in the Senate as a page for nearly a year, but she decided to take action a few days ago because she said Harper doesn’t reflect the majority of Canadians.

“Harper’s agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation,” Marcelle said.

She added that the government is “blowing billions of dollars” on fighter jets and corporate tax cuts, but ignoring important environmental issues like climate change.

But since Harper recently won a majority, Marcelle said that staging “creative” protests is the only way to fight back.

“I think that Harper’s agenda is so damaging that it called for something that is different,” she said. “I think we really need to take action.”

Ms. DePape continues, informing anyone who’ll listen that we could benefit from our very own version of the Arab spring. There’s a comment in here somewhere about just how ridiculous and, dare I say, out of step a call like that actually sounds in Canada of all places–you know, one of those places where people in the midst of their own Arab spring come to and enjoy the very thing she’s telling us to protest. I can’t put it into my own words. Instead, I’ll borrow from this opinion piece.

DePape called for a “Canadian version of an Arab Spring.” That’s right, we should all take to the streets and demand free and fair elections — you know, like the one we had on May 2. Now you’d think that a college student would know that we enjoy the freedom and system of government that thousands of Arabs are fighting, and dying, to achieve. But she somehow thinks that our first-past-the-post system invalidates the entire democratic process. I suppose we should expect contradictions like this from someone who professes to support democracy, but took a job in the unelected Senate.

Thanks for that, Jesse Kline. When asked what kind of people would support such a poor, misinformed soul, you need look no farther than the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), who was gracious enough to offer her a job. Oh, and Michael Moore–yeah, that Michael Moore. Maybe I’m the odd man out or something, but when Jack Layton, also known as Mr. “Harper Is Evil”, says himself what she did was wrong, that should say something.

This kid comes out of the University of Ottawa, lands herself a pretty nifty job for a university student while she’s attending, then turns around and does something like that. And all because the party she voted for wasn’t elected, so clearly there’s no democracy here. A little advice for Ms. DePape, not that she’d take it. What you’re protesting? Yeah, that thing over there? That’s what the Arab spring’s all about. Please, for the love of chese, do a little research before somebody protests the kind of education people are getting at Ottawa U these days.

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Randomly curious: does anyone actually miss the mail?

We’ve officially been on some kind of a postal strike or something on this side of the border now for over a week. The strikes have been rotating, and they’re talking about making it a full on national strike if their demands for $millions aren’t met. They’ve already reduced delivery to 3 days a week due to the lack of actual business brought on by the strike. This whole event’s got me wondering something though. Does anyone who’s been affected by the strike actually miss getting the mail? I don’t mean the 95% of the mail that usually only goes with you as far as file 13 anyway. Is there anything you receive, either regularly or occasionally, that this strike has made more difficult? How about those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure? If your city/town was to suffer a postal strike tomorrow, would it actually affect you? I’ll follow up later with my answer to that question, but if you’re bored, feel free to slap yours in the comments. And give the folks over at Canada Post some free advice while you’re at it–I get the impression both sides could use it.

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So much for fair play. Thanks, Ontario soccer league.

Remember when you were always being nagged at to play by the rules or you’d wind up watching instead? Anyone? There are 10 girls on one local soccer team who won’t be getting that lesson–and 10 more who probably wouldn’t mind if they did. After using a player during the season who wasn’t listed on the team’s actual roster, the Louis Riel Rebelles were shocked to learn they’d been disqualified from the tournament that was taking place this week. So shocked were they, and so put out in disbelief that such things would actually be frowned on, the school took the league to court–and, surprise, had the decision overturned. The decision came down only a few hours before the tournament in Hamilton was to begin. The team they replaced? They got to find out after already sitting in Hamilton for the games. Ten grade school girls got to hear from their coach, “Thanks for coming out–oh, and by the way, you’re not playing today. The court said so.”. Fair play? Not in this league. So another group of kids gets to learn all about our definition of follow the rules, and they all lived judicially ever after. Way to go, Ontario.

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Your attention please. Coffee and pickles can give you cancer. Oh yeah–your cell phone, too.

So a new World Health Organization (WHO) study came out earlier this week potentially classifying your cell phone as a class 2B carcinogen. In other words, possibly carcinogenic. In simpler terms, potentially cancer-inducing. Yay. Go World Health Organization. In response to this, the 80 millionth study declaring such things (soon to follow: the 80 millionth study declaring the opposite), Ontario’s NDP would like to see warning labels indicating the things are potentially linked to cancer slapped on any and all cell phone by the manufacturer. And now, Ontario’s government is investigating the issue. For a little perspective, the Ontario NDP–and potentially our liberal government–is investigating the results of the World Health Organization’s having just potentially tossed cell phones into the same category as, we’ll say, coffee. Or pickles. And now it’s time for warning labels. Watch this space. Next month, beware of early morning caffination–it’ll kill you. Only in Ontario.

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The Canadian justice system hard at work. Or not.

Until a couple days ago, I had no idea if you were a member of the RCMP, you were entitled to use stress as a defense against an assault charge–even if the assault charge was because you pounded on an innmate. Apparently, if you’re an RCMP officer in Alberta, that’s the defense that keeps you out of jail. An RCMP officer, after admitting he did a number on an innmate who’d already gotten whacked one in a bar fight, blames the stress of having been one of the officers called to the scene after the murders of 4 police officers.

Now, before folks jump all over me for being a cold and uncaring bastard, I get that it’s a mental kick in the teeth dealing with something like that. Obviously he worked with and was probably friends with those people, so yeah it’s going to be hard. I get that. But if you’re still bothered/stressed over that kinda thing, the absolute last place you should be is right back at work–particularly work wherein you’re dealing with other people. And the absolute last thing you should be doing is leaning on that as an excuse for having lost it and pounded the crap out of some shmuck you brought in on charges of his own. And yet, that’s precisely what this officer did, and then walked away from it.

Maybe I’m a nutter over here, but if average Joe who’d just been handed a craptacular week or two, complete with losing a family member, friend, coworker or whatever, haulled off and let some other average guy have it, he’d be sitting in jail right now for–oh–we’ll call it a year or two. This guy? Nope not so much. Six-month conditional sentence, 3 of which spent under house arrest. Barely a tap on the wrist–and still nowhere near the 6-9 months in jail that was asked for. And all because of stress. Guess it really does pay to be in law enforcement. Where do I sign up?

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Hey look, it’s another election! yippy!

I have a thing for politics. Call it a hidden streak of sadism. Whichever. I’ve kept a relatively close eye on it since highschool. which, quite surprisingly, meant I got to play witness to nearly an average of one election every two years since shortly after I got out of college. In 2004, our majority liberal government under former crook–er I mean Prime Minister–Jean Chretien shrunk to a minority liberal government under former partner in crime–er I mean Prime Minister–Paul Martin. In 2006, we kept the minority but switched parties, and ended up with the conservatives and Stephen “accountability” Harper. In 2008, we landed the exact same government in the exact same position–huge thanks to Stephane “green shift” Dion. And in 2011, we get treated to another one with the help of Michael “No coalition, maybe” Ignatieff. I’m not even bothering to comment on the role Jack “your money for everyone” Layton or that member of provincial parliament from Quebec played in any or all of them, simply because, well, nobody but they really care about it.

I voted in the 2004 election. I even voted in the 2006 election. When 2008 rolled around and we went for a third straight vote in 4 years, I didn’t bother. The platforms were the same. Most of the major players were the same. My local representative remained the same–mostly because the alternatives to him remained pretty much the same. And truth be told, I’d much rathered be at work than standing in line for an hour and not getting paid for it. I will not be voting in 2011. Why? See my reasoning for 2008, minus the whole being at work thing. It’s been 3 years since the last election, and for the better part of 2 of them, they’ve been talking about the next one. Hi, really really old Michael Ignatieff quote. Nice to see you. And of course, surprise of surprises–here we are again. I can has stability plz? No, somehow, I didn’t think so.

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