Friday, April 28, 2006

Making the Grade

CBC Toronto has had running for the last little while a feature called "Making the Grade":
We started this series by asking Ontario students: "if you could come up with a new law for Ontario, what would it be?" Now, three of those bills have been introduced and passed first reading in the legislature.

On May 10th, those bills will be called back for a special, unprecedented sitting of the legislature. The bills will be given second reading and a full public debate, and then MPP's will cast a vote to determine what happens next.

This is a chance for students to exercise their political voice, and try to have a say at Queen's Park in what happens next. Debate an issue in class. Write your MPP. Collect names on the petitions created to support the bills. Find ways to help your elected representatives know how you feel about these bills before they debate and vote on them.

I think it's a great way to get students involved in the political process.

There were three private members bills introduced before the Ontario legislature based on suggestions by high school students.



Bill 96, Education Amendment Act (School Waste Reduction) aims to promote recycling at schools, by making sure that every classroom has 2 recycling bins (one for paper, one for cans), and that school lunch rooms or cafeterias promote recycling as well.

The bill was introduced by Kathleen Wynne, of the Ontario Liberal Party.

The bill was proposed to the legislature by the afterschool eco-club at Georgetown District High School.

[CBC, Better Recycling in Schools]



Bill 93, Education Amendment Act (Nutrition Standards in Schools) aims to encourage high school cafeterias to offer more healthy alternatives. The bill doesn't try to get rid of junk food – it simply wants cafeterias meet nutritional guidelines, like those put out by the Eat Smart program.

The bill was introduced by Frank Klees, of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

The bill was proposed to the legislature by Nupur Dogra, from Iroquois Ridge High School in Oakville.

[CBC, Bill 2 - Healthier Cafeterias]



Bill 95, Employment Statue Law Amendment Act (Informing Students of their Employment Rights) tries to educate young people about their rights on the job, by creating a poster and booklet that explains things in language young people can understand.

The bill was introduced by Andrea Horwath, of the Ontario NDP.

The bill was proposed by a number of people. Majd El-Samrout of Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa, The Bill Making Team of Cardinal Cartier Secondary School in Aurora, and the Ken Rachner's Grade 12 politics class at St. Ignatius Loyola Secondary School in Oakville.

[CBC, Student Rights on the Job]



I think all three bills are great ideas and I encourage everyone to contact their Ontario MPP to voice your support.

Write to your local MPP.

Find your riding here.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fixed Election Dates

The Tories are bouncing around the idea of introducing fixed election dates [Globe & Mail, Tories offer plan for fixed election dates]:
The Conservative government is canvassing the opposition parties to see whether they would support fixed dates for federal elections, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Government House Leader Rob Nicholson raised the issue Tuesday with House leaders from the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party, according to parliamentary sources familiar with the meeting.

...

A law setting fixed election dates is unlikely to have a effect on minority governments, such as the one headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, given their traditionally short life span, but it would tie the hands of the next prime minister who obtains a majority.
The idea that a sitting government couldn't dissolve parliament on a whim makes sense. Elections are expensive. The article cites examples of the previous governments doing just that.

I would maybe like the rules to be a little tighter about when a minority government could fall, though. The only piece of legislation deemed as a confidence motion should be the budget. The only other way a government should fall is if a specific motion of non-confidence is adopted.

I do not think the Speech from the Throne should be a confidence motion - as it's fluff - and I do not think every piece of spending legislation should be a confidence motion either - either the motion to spend is passed or not passed.

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Why You Don't Anger the Media

Stephen Harper: How do I look?

Reuters Photographer: Lookin' good, big guy! Hold it right there.

[Metro, The bucks stop here]

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why all the Controversy?

I admit it. I've succumbed to the Da Vinci Code hype and I've started reading it. Granted, I waited till the paperback came out before succumbing because I'm a cheap succumber(?).

Here's what I don't get.

In the top left corner of the back of the book is the word "FICTION".

Why is there all these people trying to debunk a work of fiction? Seems to me, I can do it by finding the word "FICTION" on the back. If you do a Google search for "
debunk da vinci code", there are 250,000 hits.

Compare with 855 hits for "
debunk bourne supremacy", another fine work of fiction with seemingly close to the truth realism (on aside, I thought the movie stank).

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On the Media Ban : Put it to the Soldiers

In my opinion, the outright banning of the media on the tarmac for the returning of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan was wrong. These Canadians that we've sent over deserve to be honoured publicly - at the very least, some who would want to pay their respects who could not attend a service, would be able to do so. As well, Canadians need to see the effects of going to war - only then will we ensure we question every future decision to go to war again and that if we do so, we do so for the right reason.

In short, though, my opinion shouldn't matter and it ultimately shouldn't be up to me. It shouldn't be up to the media, and it shouldn't be up to a politician, either.

It seems to me that there is a quick and relatively easy way to handle this.

Put the question directly to the soldiers or their next of kin directly on how they would like to be remembered. There seems to be some question of what general protocol should be, when there shouldn't truly be any question and having one overriding general protocol doesn't seem to fit the diverse opinion within the military.

Darrin Fudge

"When troops come home, I believe that's a family matter. I mean, it's a pretty sad time for all family, and I think it should be kept private," Cpl. Darrin Fudge said in an interview with CBC News in Kandahar.

"I don't think everyone else in the world should know what that family is going through."

Chris Schmidt


"In some ways, it would be good for the general public to see. It would give them an idea of what's going on over here," said Master Cpl. Chris Schmidt.

"However, I don't know if I'd necessarily want everyone to see what my family is going through if it was me coming back in that type of plane."

...

"There's guys back home that knew these guys," Schmidt said. "Maybe that's the only way they'll be able to actually get any type of closure too."

[CBC, Serving soldiers say arrival of bodies should be private]

Christine Wood


Christine Wood's son, Adam Seegmiller, was a member of the honour guard that helped load the caskets of the four men killed last weekend into the plane in Afghanistan.

"I can only say if it was my son in that box . . . I would want the country to see me, and to understand the level of my grief, and to show the honour of those boys taken off the plane and the ceremony," Ms. Wood said yesterday. "I would want the Canadian people to understand what we've given -- what I've given -- with my eldest son."

Dr. Douglas Bland


"It's none of Canadians' business, and especially not the media's business, how we celebrate soldiers," said Douglas Bland who served in the military for three decades and now teaches military strategy at Queen's University in Kingston.

"It is the professional responsibility of members of the armed forces -- always has been, always ought to be," he said. "We, the soldiers, take care of our dead and we bury them according to our traditions, our customs."

That is the way it has been for centuries and there is no reason for a media spectacle, he added. "It has nothing to do with freedom of information. What Canadian who is interested doesn't know these people are dead?"
[Globe & Mail, Ban stirs conflicting emotions]

Richard Leger


It should be up to the families to decide whether they want reporters present at such ceremonies, said Richard Leger, whose son Marc was killed in Afghanistan four years ago.

"I know, in 2002, it was a great thing for us to have the media there... We wanted to show all Canadians what the cost of their liberty is," he told CBC Newsworld.
[CBC, Harper on defensive over media ban on return of dead soldiers]

Updated: Graphic snagged from The Galloping Beaver.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Palladium Books in Trouble

Palladium Books, a role-playing game company based in Michigan, the publisher of Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural, and publishing the past licensed games for Robotech and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is in trouble.
Please Help Save Palladium from Going Under

An open letter from Kevin Siembieda, President & Owner.

A Crisis of Treachery

At a time when Palladium Books’ future has never looked more promising, we have been dealt a crippling blow.

For legal reasons, I cannot go into details about exactly what happened. Suffice it to say that betrayal of trust, theft, and embezzlement has inflicted what we estimate to be $850,000 to 1.3 million dollars in damages to Palladium.

It is a blow from which Palladium cannot recover. At least, not without YOUR help.
More here.

I've been somewhat out of the Palladium loop for sometime. At any rate, if you're concerned - head on over.

They are selling a limited edition print to help out. I'm wondering if would be better to buy product instead.


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Well, Technically ...

... it was the previous Liberal government that returned to the old tradition of not lowering the flag on the Peace Tower for war fallen [CBC, When to lower the flag for Canada's war dead]:
[T]he Peace Tower flag was not lowered when Pte. Braun Woodfield was killed in November in Afghanistan, when his armoured vehicle rolled over, and the practice has not been picked up since the Conservatives came to office.
It's fair to ask the current government to reinstate the "new old" tradition, but you can't blame the Conservatives for not "continuing" the practice since it was previously discontinued.

Yes, it is fun beating a dead political horse.

That being said, I believe that it is neither disrespectful to our previous fallen to institute a new tradition of lowering the flag when a soldier falls, nor is it disrespectful not to lower the flag, but to honour all fallen on November 11.

This is one of those debates that has no bad side as it draws attention to our soldiers and their sacrifices.

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Age of Consent Concerns

I'm generally in favour of the age of consent increase to 16. I think promoting abstinence is a good thing until our kids are mature enough to handle the consequences (good and bad) from a mature sexual relationship.

That all said, I remember what it was like to be a 16-year old boy, too. Promoting safe sexual activity is also extremely important, because like it or not, it's going to happen and no amount of legislation is going to prevent it. Telling kids "don't do it" doesn't work.

In the United States, a Kansas law apparently had required doctors to notify police if someone under the age of 16 had engaged in sexual activity. The legislative abuse came when the Attorney General interpreted it to mean any sexual activity - consensual or otherwise. I'm not in favour of and could never support what I perceive as a general crack down on teenagers having sex via government legislation. Look what could happen when you try to do that [TheAnnaLog, Parents, Keep the Government Away From Your Kids]:

A Kansas law would require health-care workers to report teen sex to state police. A group called the Medical Institute got federal money to teach med students about abstinence-only sex ed. I see a trend here: parents want to stop kids having sex, and the government wants to help.

...

Take the Kansas law. Say a teenager starts having STD symptoms and is afraid to tell her parents. What's the best solution? According to Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, when she goes to a local clinic for help, the clinic should report her to the police. But faced with the prospect of angry police and angry parents, the average teenager will do one thing: wait for the symptoms to go away. They probably will -- many STDs have long periods of dormancy -- but she will remain contagious and potentially infertile.

Thankfully, a Kansas federal judge clamped down on this view of the law [Daily News Central, Fed Judge Clarifies Teen Sex Reporting Law in Kansas]:

Kansas' chief law enforcement officer misread the law and in doing so threatened the sexual privacy of the state's teenagers, a federal judge in Wichita ruled Tuesday.

In a case watched across the nation, US District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that Kansas healthcare providers should retain discretion in deciding what teenage sexual activities they report to the state as abuse. Attorney General Phill Kline had wanted most sexual contact involving children under age 16 reported.

Marten pointed out that both sides agreed certain abusive acts should always be reported, including incest, sexual abuse of a child by an adult, and sex involving a child under age 12.
While Justice Minister Vic Toews has indicated that the new age of consent law will include a "acceptable age range" for teenagers having sex with one another, I think we must be vigilant against any legislative abuse at trying to crack down on it.

We have to ensure that teenagers engaging in sexual activity have access to privacy when seeking medical advice, rather than punishing them for seeking out help. This ensures that they do, in fact, seek medical advice, rather than weighing the consequences of getting caught having had sex. This is in addition to providing them the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding sexual activity.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

James Calder Endorses the Ottawa Senators for Stanley Cup Champions

Well, without the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs, I was going to take a pass on hockey and really enjoy baseball.

I can't do it.

Wait.


I can still enjoy baseball, but I'm not going to pass on hockey.

So, I'm applying the following formula throughout the playoffs, so you, the reader, can determine who I am supporting.


(1) Toronto

(2) Canadian team, in order by proximity.



  • Ottawa
  • Montreal
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Vancouver

(3) American team, as part of the original six, in order by proximity.

  • Detroit
  • New York (Rangers)
  • Chicago
  • Boston

(4) Pittsburgh

I will take a pass on the playoffs once this list is entirely out.

Updated: With the removal of some teams. I won't be supporting an American team at all.

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Blogging to Resume

Real life has a nasty habit of interfering with blogging.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Cat's Out of the Bag

As I had said back in the comments of this post, Gerard Kennedy is the best pick for the Liberal Party leader. I had also mused that Liberals wouldn't realize it.

I was way off.

Calgary Grit:
I'm going to switch the order and start this profile off with an endorsement of Gerard Kennedy to be the next leader of the Liberal Party. Three months ago I had no idea who Gerard Kennedy was but the more I hear about him and the more I listen to him, the more convinced I become that he's the right man to lead the Liberal Party at this crucial time of renewal.
Mark Holland, MP (and others):
A group of about a dozen young Liberal MPs acting as a bloc is poised to support former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy's bid to become leader of the federal Liberal Party.

...

This group is preparing to publicly announce its support for Mr. Kennedy soon. But it is part of a larger group, which includes former MPs and defeated candidates, that is still debating policy and considering candidates.

[Mark] Holland said the group members were looking for a candidate who could unite the party and was not a "hyphenated Liberal" or an "ite." He was referring to the two factions -- the Chrétienites and Martinites, or supporters of former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin -- who feuded within the party for nearly 10 years.
The Liberal Party doesn't need former Conservatives or former Dippers to lead it.

The Liberal Party doesn't need more internal fighting.

The Liberal Party doesn't need Michael Ignatieff and his baggage, real or not.

Interesting times are to come for the Grits.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Seinfeld Moment : Regular vs. Medium Coffee

A regular coffee is "single cream - single sugar". It is not a size; it is a way of taking coffee.

Timothy's World Coffee offers coffee in five sizes - small, regular, medium, large, and extra large. What is the difference between a regular and a medium-sized coffee? Why is "regular" smaller than "medium" but bigger than "small"? I can have a regular medium or a regular large or a regular small, but what's a regular regular?

I blame McDonald's. I think they're the culprits who introduced "regular" as a size. In the McDonald's universe, regular = medium.


But, then, why is regular coffee in the Timothy's universe a different size than medium coffee?

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Once Again - the House of Commons needs a Quorum Requirement

Here's a portion of a post I made back in September when the House of Commons sat to debate the issue of skyrocketing gas prices [The Progressive Right, Packed House for Emergency Gas Price Debate!]:

Is there no concept of quorum in the House of Commons? What's the point of having these heartfelt debates between 9 people? Is something actually accomplished, or does this go into somebody's talking points the next day? I'm not even playing partisan as it looks like there were three-and-a-half times as many black hats as white hats - it was 4 Liberals, 3 BQists, and 2 Good Guys (not including the Liberal speaker).

...

So, here's a proposal for democratic reform. Institute quorum. No debates are to take place unless at least 155 Members of Parliament are in the House. There is no requirement that Leaders, or a majority of a particular party are present - but no debate can take place unless 50% + 1 members are in attendance.
From all accounts, for the House of Commons emergency debate on Afghanistan, it was another packed house [CTV, Afghan mission in Canada's interest: O'Connor]:

In fact, the House of Commons was mostly empty during the five-hour debate with groups of MPs showing up to lend support to one particular speaker or the other.

While there were only eight NDP MPs at the beginning of the debate, the entire caucus of 29 MPs was in the House to hear their leader Jack Layton speak.

Similarly, about 60 of the 122 members of the Conservative caucus were on hand to hear Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor.

But as soon as O'Connor was done, many Conservative MPs left and for much of the night less than 20 were present.

Though there are 102 Liberal MPs in the House, just 21 of them were present when their defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh spoke. Opposition Leader Bill Graham did not deliver a speech although he asked a question of O'Connor during the debate.

The poorest attendance at the debate was from Bloc Quebecois MPs. When the BQ defence critic Claude Bachand spoke for his party, there was just one other Bloc MP present in the House. And for the first three hours of the debate at least, there were never more than four Bloc MPs present out of a caucus of 51.

[H/T, Wudrick Blog]

Not wanting to sound like a broken record ... but ...

Here's a proposal for democratic reform. Institute quorum. No debates are to take place unless at least "X" Members of Parliament are in the House. There is no requirement that Leaders, or a majority of a particular party are present - but no debate can take place unless a certain percentage of members are in attendance.

I had originally suggested 50% + 1 (or 155 members), but that was argued that that would be be unrealistic attendance for a debate.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

I Like the Old One Better

I happened to catch the start of American Idol the other day and was giddy to see that Kenny Rogers was going to be on.

Now, I have no idea who this guy is:


But, that ain't the guy who knows how to hold 'em. This is the only Kenny Rogers I'll acknowledge:

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It's Amazing the Things I Think of

A question for the scientists in my audience.

How come when you do Number 1 in an urinal, the "water level" doesn't rise? Is there enough room in the piping to allow the extra "fluid" to go in? I'm also going to propose that it doesn't rise in a toilet either, but it's harder to determine since the surface area is much greater (making it harder to notice).


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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Conservative Yahoos and Liberal Googles

I did that title on purpose, just to see who I could rankle.

Anna over at TheAnnaLog, hypothesizes that your political leanings may determine which search engine you prefer.
If you vote conservative, you probably prefer Yahoo! over Google.

One way to begin testing this is to look at the political donations of employees at the respective companies. I visited BuyBlue.org (the name is partisan, the data is not) and found the following:

If you tally up contributions by top executives, top officers, and political action committees (to which any employee can contribute),

Yahoo made $231,750 in political contributions last year, of which 60% went to Republican candidates, and 40% went to Democratic candidates.

Google made $71,500 in political contributions last year, of which 100% went to Democratic candidates.
Go have a read. I'm not entirely sure if she's arguing that political preference determines search engine preference, or the other way around - search engine preference determines political preference, as she refers to the ads that appear when you do a search.

Maybe it's a chicken-egg thing.

For the record, I prefer Google.

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Putting Something In Perspective

Guess when Citizenship & Immigration Canada said this:

Asked to comment on the allegations of ... bias, Giovanna Gatti, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said, "We administer the Immigration Act in keeping with Canada's charter [of rights and freedoms]."

Gatti says the removal numbers for the Toronto area are very different than those for the province as a whole. In 1998, for example, the top five countries to which people were deported from Ontario were the U.S. (489), Jamaica (337), Sri Lanka (158), Hungary (126) and El Salvador (113).

She also suggested that the disproportionate number of deportations ... might be the result of a backlog of orders being cleared up.

"We had a number of cases ... where we had been working for quite some time to get documents for them, and it just so happened that finally when we got them, we got a whole bunch of them. So it's not like a particular group was being targeted, but these sorts of things happen."
If you said it was during the Liberal Party's apparent "crackdown" on illegal Caribbean immigrants in 2000, you'd be right.

Now, go read this.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Daylight Savings Time

The thing I hate the most about Daylight Savings Time is not losing an hour's sleep; it is the number of people that whine about what time it "really" is.

"I'm so tired because, really, it's 6 o'clock in the morning."

"I can't get to sleep because, really, it's only 10 at night."

Blah blah blah.

People in
Saskatchewan have no idea what I'm talking about.

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