Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shame on you Ignatieff

It is a sad sign of how far our representatives in Ottawa have drifted from doing their job, namely representing the will of the Canadian electorate, when the Bloc Quebecois is the party tabling a motion condemning the extension of Canada's presence and asking for a vote on the Canadian involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Not the Liberals and certainly not the Conservatives. In fact the Conservatives, led by Harper, have instead proposed an "extension" of the mission till 2014. This political gimmick allows them to keep our men and women in Afghanistan without requiring a vote in the House of Commons.

Not to be outdone, the Liberals, are planning on voting against the Bloc motion!

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun reported that over 80% of Canadians want to end the mission by 2011 !!!

Meanwhile the extension till 2014 will cost $ 1.6 billion dollars that we don't have.

Meanwhile 867,948 Canadians are assisted by food banks!

What is wrong with this picture? When are these politicians going to do what we want them to do? What they're supposed to do?

I can't believe that the two largest political parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, are both so eager to act against the wishes of 80% of the Canadian population, while the Bloc Quebecois, who's voter base is limited to Quebec, are the ones trying to save the lives of our soldiers and bring them home.

Shame on you Ignatieff. You had an opportunity to show us that you're different. That you would, miracle of miracles, represent us. I guess we were wrong.

Bravo Bloc Quebecois!

Please contact your MP and tell them what you think! If they don't vote the way you want, make it clear to them you will not vote for them ever again.

Enough Canadian blood has soaked the sand in Afghanistan...

Monday, November 29, 2010

First 220 "Cablegate" documents released by Wikileaks

True to their word, Wikileaks has just released 220/251,287 documents in what is now being called Cablegate. After quickly browsing through this initial set, some interesting things pop up. Namely:

  • King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia frequently requested the US attack Iran to "cut off the head of the snake". This will severely damage the already strained relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran to say the least. However, a senior member of the Saudi Foreign Ministry cautioned the US against using the military option with Iran.
  • Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) Crown Prince discusses using the military option against Iran with US military officials, declaring "It will take ground forces!"
  • The US ordered all of its diplomats to spy on United Nations officials. Not surprising but not a team builder either.
  • The US orders its diplomats in the middle east to send vehicle registrations and travel routes of senior Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials. You know, the kind of information that can be useful in a friendly neighborhood targeted assassination.
  • Hillary Clinton issued a directive to US diplomats ordering them to collect DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, language skills and many other things from key and emerging political, military , intelligence, opposition, religious and business leaders in certain African countries.
  • President Aliyev of Azerbaijan makes a crude joke to a US diplomat when referring to the relationship between Russian President Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Putin saying " You can't boil two heads in one pot", implying that Putin really runs the show. Not a very smart thing to say when you're the president of a small country on the underbelly of a former, and now rising, superpower.
  • Libyan leader Qaddafi has a thing for his buxom blonde Ukrainian nurse. Too funny!
Also from the Wikileaks website:

Are all the embassy cables being released at once?
No. Instead of publishing the documents all at once, the organisation will be releasing the embassy files in stages.
Why not release everything now?
The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.
We owe it to the people who entrusted us with the documents to ensure that there is time for them to be written about, commented on and discussed widely in public, something that is impossible if hundreds of thousands of documents are released at once. We will therefore be releasing the documents gradually over the coming weeks and months.
Ouch. This is going to be painful for the US government to manage. It's death by a thousand diplomatic paper cuts!

You can browse through some of these cables on sites of the NY Times , Der Spiegel, Le Monde and The Guardian, which has a great interactive search tool.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Decarie gets the Bronze!

U.S. traffic data firm NAVTEQ has published  a list of the 10 slowest freeways in North America:

Freeways with the Slowest Typical Rush Hour
(Traffic direction in parentheses)
1. New York City – Brooklyn Battery TUNL (NB)
2. New York City – Washington BRG (EB)
3. Montreal – AUT-15 (EB)
4. Philadelphia – US-202 (SB)
5. Montreal – RTE-138 (WB)
6. New York City – Washington BRG (WB)
7. Los Angeles – 1-10 (EB)
8. Boston – US-1 (NB)
9. Dallas – TX-366 (EB)
10. Toronto – Don Valley PKWY (NB)
Now that's impressive! Coming in third after NYC is no mean feat in a continent that includes LA, Chicago and Dallas.
This list doesn't even take population into account. Speaking of which:
Fed Up Montrealer's Freeways with the Slowest Typical Rush Hour
(Metro area population in millions of people, Source Wikipedia)
1. New York City – Brooklyn Battery TUNL (19.069)
2. New York City – Washington BRG (19.069)
3. Montreal – AUT-15 (3.814)
4. Philadelphia – US-202 (5.8)
5. Montreal – RTE-138 (3.814)
6. New York City – Washington BRG (19.069)
7. Los Angeles – 1-10 (17.786)
8. Boston – US-1 (4.522)
9. Dallas – TX-366 (6.447)
10. Toronto – Don Valley PKWY (6.539)
Well, at least we beat Toronto as usual :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Canada: Symptoms of a Banana Republic

If you are prone to getting angry when reading how our elected officials willfully sabotage our system of governance, you may want to sit down before continuing.

The BC Liberal party announced in 2009 the adoption of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which came into effect in BC on July 1st, 2010. The 12% HST now applies to new houses, cars, clothing, furniture and haircuts (among other things), all of which previously had only the 5% GST tax applied to them. Mind you this is being applied in a province where people are financially stretched to the limit because of astronomical real estate prices.

So the good people of BC decided to do something about it and let the Liberals know they won't stand for this and created the Fight HST organization. Fight HST started collecting signatures for a petition to repeal the HST in BC. They were wildly successful and have collected over 500,000 signatures to date! Not only that, the Fight HST group started organizing campaigns to recall several elected MLA's (Members of the Legislative Assembly) that voted in favor of the HST. This is EXACTLY what an active, alert and intelligent citizenry is supposed to do in a representative democracy. Without checks and balances the politicians get away with anything.

The first of the recalls planned was that of Liberal MLA Ida Chong of the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding in suburban Victoria, who is the BC minister of science and universities and also now the minister for economic skills and development. They planned to canvas the area with 600 volunteers over 4-6 weeks to collect the 18,000 signatures (40% of registered voters) needed to successfully recall Ms. Chong from her post. According to Elections BC regulations, before commencing a recall petition, and application must be filed. Fight HST filed their application according to the rules on Monday November 22nd.

One of the rules regarding the petition application is that it have 200 words or less. This is clearly shown in the Google cached copy of the Elections BC Recall website which we have courtesy of the great work done by the Globe and Mail. However, on Wednesday Elections BC rejected the application because it had "too many words". They subsequently went on to explain that the acronyms MLA and HST, when read out loud, counted for 8 words instead of 2 and that put the application over the 200 word limit! Then, on Wednesday November 24th in the afternoon they published the new rules and guidelines where they had inserted, in the 3rd paragraph of section B, the following:

                         If the application is complete and meets the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act...

They then published the Recall and Initiative Act which is a silly document explaining how different acronyms, abbreviations and the like are to be treated when counting words.

They changed the rules after the application had been filed! This is a violation of the ex post facto legal concept which says you cannot change a law after the fact, i.e. after the act was committed. While expressly prohibited by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it comes to criminal law, it is also advisable to follow this concept for all other laws as well. Otherwise nobody would know what to do! This ridiculous rule change should have only applied to applications filed AFTER the date on which the new rules were made public.

Here is a video of Mike Hayes of Fight HST reacting to the news.

This is a disgusting attempt to thwart and frustrate the Fight HST group. Not only was their application to petition rejected but also 150 volunteer applications as well. Now they have to resubmit all of the paperwork and pay the application fees all over again.

The Chief Electoral Officer should resign immediately or be removed from his office. Shame on him! These are public employees whose salaries are paid for by the very people they are attempting to stifle! Do we pay a chief electoral officer to sit around and think how many words an acronym should count for instead of facilitating the desire of these registered voters to exercise their rights?!

This is something we expect from a mayoral election in Angola, not in beautiful BC.

I hope the Fight HST movement overcomes this obstacle and continues to toss each of these MLA's that voted for the HST out of office! They should also hold the chief electoral officer Craig James responsible for his actions.

Behind The Curtain?

Well this should be interesting. Wikileaks, the famous whistle-blower website, has promised the world that the next set of documents they are going to release this weekend will be a doozy! 

The Globe and Mail reports that the US has warned Ottawa that the contents of the leaked documents will be embarrassing for Canada. Embarrasing? hmmmm...

Specifically the article quotes the US Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, as follows:

                   “Most of the time, cables, whether it is here in Canada or elsewhere around the world, reflect the author’s personal opinions, and don’t represent the policies of the government of the United States,” Mr. Jacobson said. “But I will say this: These were documents that were meant to be private, and when they are put on the front page of a newspaper, that has impact.

                    “I was a lawyer for 30 years before I got here, and I have a lot of experience over the years of looking at documents that people send back to each other, perhaps on an informal basis. And oftentimes there’s, let’s call it locker-room conversation in them that probably they would rather not see on the front page of a newspaper,” he said. “I don’t know what’s in these, and I’m not going to comment about them, but that’s oftentimes the case.”
In other words, what you read in the news and in the official communiques is different from what is actually being said behind closed doors. Of course, we all know this. What is troubling is how scared everyone is. What is it exactly that they don't want us to find out? 
The article also says:
                      But the fear of real damage is accompanied by another concern in Ottawa – that snippets of private talk by U.S. diplomats might include sharp words that could stick in the mind of a Canadian public that is often sensitive to how they are seen in American eyes. Ottawa officials worry about references to a Canadian inferiority complex, biting criticisms or belittling comments.
This is a very strange passage. It hints that the journalist who wrote it has heard these worries expressed by officials in Ottawa. So, we are to understand the US regularly insults Canada, Canadians or Canadian officials in diplomatic cables? Also note the quote from Mr. Jacobson :
                     "And oftentimes there’s, let’s call it locker-room conversation in them that probably they would rather not see on the front page of a newspaper,”
Notice the use of the term "locker-room conversation" . When I hear that term, I immediately think of macho, high-testosterone, swear-word laced language. Language always gives you away.
It's clear to me that the US knows, at least partially, the content of the documents about to be leaked. Otherwise why the specific warnings to Canada? It's also clear that the Canadian government now also knows and is hiding it from the public. The fact they plastered this all over the Canadian news outlets is evidence they are trying to soften the blow they know is coming. It's funny what happens when you say one thing and do another.
I wouldn't be surprised if the speculation in the article is correct. That, indeed, the US bullied Canada into sending troops to Afghanistan and then into extending their stay there. This would be embarrassing now wouldn't it? The fact that Stephen Harper is willing to send young men and women, born in the most peace loving nation on earth, to die in a strange faraway land, that has done us no harm, because he was bullied into it by our southern neighbors would be VERY embarrassing. Some would go as far as to say it is treacherous.
I guess we will have to wait and see. I will be posting any updates on this matter asap.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Car Tax Lunacy

I am assuming that most Montrealers have, by now, heard about the ridiculous car tax that our incompetent city bureaucrats, led by the mercurial Gerald Tremblay, want to impose on vehicle registrations of the residents of the island of Montreal.

There are so many problems here that I hardly know where to start!

For one, Mayor Tremblay wants us to believe that they still don't know how much this tax amount is. Come on. They should have some more respect for the residents of this once great city. Clearly, they have a specific amount in mind and have figured out that increasing each registration fee by X amount of dollars would raise the amount of money they're looking for. I can't believe that this opacity is what passes for "accountability" these days. I can't believe that Montrealers simply shrug their shoulders and move on after hearing this. They should be up in arms!

Mayor Tremblay has also shown us that he either doesn't read the news or believes he will be spared the fate of former Toronto mayor David Miller who, as the article points out, lost his re-election bid as a direct result of increasing the vehicle registration costs in Toronto by $ 60. Hopefully, Tremblay will soon have more time to ponder this lesson when he loses the next election.

An important point that shouldn't be lost on the readers is how unfair all of this is. The city claims it needs the funds to improve our public transit system. Has it not occurred to them that a large portion of the users of this system are NOT residents of l'isle de Montreal but instead live in Laval or the South Shore? Does it not make you angry that, through these new taxes, we will be subsidizing the transportation of non-residents? Why not share the cost and make it more bearable? Unbelievable.

Also, shouldn't the users of a system pay for the true cost of that system? If the public transit system needs more funds then why not increase the rates for those using the system, or at least have them share it?Alternatively, I would like to know why I am paying $260/year for a vehicle registration when there are, literally, hundreds of potholes in the streets of Montreal that cause vehicle damage on a regular basis? I wonder how everyone would feel if the city imposed taxes on public transit users to fix potholes? You can see how ridiculous this situation is.

I am all in favor of public transit systems as they improve efficiency, economic activity and reduce smog, noise pollution and traffic jams.

What I am not in favor of, is a city bureaucracy who's problem solving skills set consists of two words: TAX THEM.

Make your voices heard!

Contact Mayor Tremblay and let him know you won't stand for this lunacy and that he will lose your vote if he proceeds in this manner!