Archive for November, 2008

A Privilege Earned

Let the madness stop. The “privilege to govern must be earned, not taken”. No truer words can be said. The Conservatives are in damage control mode and have sent out an appeal for donations today. This after leaking a “secret deal” between the NDP and the Bloc.

After stopping to listen to the “Conservatives eavesdropping” clips of Jack Layton at an NDP caucus meeting, (Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3) I expect delusional paranoia must be taking hold. The scare must be on after Jim Flaherty’s update and the resulting tide of opposition called. From the selected clips, in my opinion, Jack Layton appears to be briefing members on what has transpired to date with respect to coalition negotiations and what it would mean for the NDP going forward. I’m hopeful Mr. Layton will clarify his position and the context of comments made. Talk of any opposition party stealing the house so close to an election are far fetched. If that were the case it would have happened sooner, perhaps right after the election votes were tallied. All parties have been in consultations regarding the economy and have had face to face meetings with the PM since the election. When none of the oppositions recommendations were headed it’s not surprising see the actions of the opposition. Even less surprising is that the NDP may pursue criminal charges with respect to how these audio clips were acquired and distributed. Think of what consequences would be if someone leaked a private corporation’s conference call to the press.

Are memories that short? Harper, as leader of the Opposition, held lengthy discussions with Layton and Duceppe aimed at ousting Paul Martin’s Liberal government in the fall of 2004. The context of any meetings that may or may not have happened between any parties (other than the Conservatives) looks like less of a conspiracy or “backroom scheme” and more like a way of forming consensus in an ineffective parliament. Ignorance and inaction by key Conservatives on the economy were the tipping point to advance these meetings.

To run away from your own battle cries of “confidence motions” and tactics is puzzling. To pout, delay and filibuster is not what Canadians need right now. The crisis is here, ACT!!! The privilege to govern must be earned not taken, for granted.

Leadership Not Dictatorship

As predicted Mr. Flaherty’s financial update and call for the cancellation of polical party funding was the enough to bring war cries from across the bench. The Conservatives are now backtracking from their calls to end of party funding linked to the proportion of federal votes (political parties currently receive a rate of $1.95 per vote in a federal election). Much like the cuts to Arts funding proposed during the election campaign and later retracted these proposed political funding cuts are getting swept away after public outcry.

Has it come to this? In two short years there is now talk of forming a coalition with NDP, Liberals and the Bloc. This is sobering and signals a potential search for a new Conservative leader. A separatist party is so dissatisfied with the current government (most notably with respect to the environment and crime) that they are willing to chum with their arch enemies the Liberals? The NDP who campaigned as an alternative to rule would consider to help form a coalition?

Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Harper have nowhere to run now. Talk of a strong economy, a technical recession, then a crisis “unlike and potentially as dangerous as anything we have faced since 1929”. A lot can change in a matter of weeks and the majority of elected MP’s look as though they will push Mr. Harper out of power based on mismanagement and myopic vision. Perhaps the “new” government will now be forced to bring in a sound budget and policies that will strengthen Canada during this recession. If elected MP’s can serve Canada as a whole, leave their party colours at home and form consensus despite differences we are better off. True blue Conservatives would be wise to join with this consensus. I’m hoping the “dream” of a government that can “meet in the middle” happens whether or not a coalition is formed after this tipping point. A multi-party coalition can’t be any worse than leadership that blatantly dropped the ball on the state of the economy and increased government spending more than 20% (some $40 Billion) putting us into a deficit after years of surpluses.

Looks Like Democracy Is Due To Be Cut By The Feds

Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for the GTA, is set to provide a fiscal update today. One of the talking points appears to be a measure to eliminate public subsidies for all political parties. This is proposed to save the government about $30 million. (The Conservatives have earned $10 million, the Liberals $7.7 million, the NDP $4.9 million, the Bloc $2.6 million and $1.8 million for the Greens)

Under the current system a polical party would receive $1.95 for every vote cast in a federal election, provided they win at least 2% of the national popular vote. With the abysmal turnout during the last election at a cost of $300 million this subsidy cut seems insane. Are the Conservatives now saying that they would prefer to have parties spend more time fund raising? Sounds like a calling card for more special interests and corporate slush fund adventures. With the Conservatives and the Liberals already dabbling in “adscams” of $1 million what new lows would be achieved by this plan. The current government, which has bloated spending, reduced tax revenues and increased the size of cabinet even after winning a minority, is more than a bit irresponsible on this issue. Talk of “belt tightening”, technical recessions and necessary deficits aside reality must set in.

A subsidy that, by its nature, promotes a diverse political base at a cost of about $1 per citizen is not the first area which should be cut. Mr. Flaherty’s proposal seems to be more in tune with disarming the opposition, much like the first term of the government under its confidence vote debauchery. On paper the Conservatives stand to lose the most, $10 million. That amount is less than 40% of their operating revenues, it wont hurt as much of what all opposition parties will feel. The current subsidy accounts for about 60% for the other parties (over 80% for the Bloc). Other measures like a cancellation of April’s $2 million MP salary increase are a step in the right direction as is potential relief for Canadians faced with mandated withdrawals from registered retirement income funds (RRIFs).

The inaction on several other integral portfolios is criminal. Hopefully the opposition can make Mr. Flaherty come to his senses but will this be at the cost of another election? The GTA and Canada as a whole can’t afford any further mismanagement or political posturing. The political party sudsidies are not campaign welfare Mr. Flaherty but are more likely Democracy assistance that should be preserved, and not slashed.

Blast From Adrift’s Past…

The Useless Wooden Toys skateboard art clock benefit show for Skate4Cancer at Adrift in 2007.

The Useless Wooden Toys skateboard artclock benefit show for Skate4Cancer at Adrift in 2007.

The online Adrift Archive continues, and the show Saturday is fast approaching. Nike SB and Adrift are presenting a photo showcase celebrating Adrift Skateshop’s first four years of skateboarding, art shows, and live music. Looking forward to seeing images from Ryan Allan, Canice Leung, Andrew Norton, and David Waldman. Toronto photographers past and present and only a few who are contributing images.

The Adrift Archive
November 29th
7-11pm
116 Spadina Avenue

An Interesting Editorial…BUT

The editorial by Alberta premier Ed Stelmach in the Toronto Star peaked my interest. Not because it tries to re-stoke the tired Ontario vs. Alberta debate. Not because it overlooks the reality of oil sands and the disruptive environmental damage that continues. That may be considered offensive but is not unexpected considering the source. Alberta is an economic engine, as is Quebec, Newfoundland,… etc. Alberta has and continues to carry some heavy baggage.

Mr. Stelmach talks of some efforts to lessen enviromental impacts and carbon capture and storage. Yes there have been some small steps in Alberta to reduce emissions and environmental impacts but not enough to change the downward spiral. Carbon capture and storage research and development is in its infancy. It remains to be seen if a solution of “hiding” CO2 underground will work. American big coal have touted this as a potential solution for years. The safety of storing massive amounts of an odorless gases that can asphyxiate seem daunting or near impossible at best. New technology, the geology of the storage sites and time will tell.

Ralph Klein was not a poster child of sound economic development nor is Ed Stelmach. By having no plan for oil sands development, up to 50%+ of Albertas economy demanded most of if not all of employment and other resources. With only modest reinvestment in infrastructure like roads and housing the tide slowly started to turn. The modest royalties during the boom period looked to be eclipsing demand for services. With several years worth of surplus at risk the Alberta government saw this and Stelmach helped to implement an increases to Alberta royalties last year. Now with the price of oil falling and the viability of Tar Sands expansion in jeopordy we have calls for special “royalty discounts” and high profile editorials. Mismanagement of the royalty program alerted the public to the problem at hand and created the pressure to increase rates in the first place. During the period from 2004 to 2007 it was found that Alberta was short paid about $1 Billion per year in royalties. Stelmach wasn’t concerned then since $22 Billion in government debt had been repaid under the old system. Continuing under this flawed logic not paying your taxes would be OK as long as you bought goods and services in Canada rather than while vacationing abroad (the money is still spent in Canada right?) Whatever?!!!

Stelmach misses the point once again. It matters not which province is in the economic lead, we are on the same team. TEAM CANADA. By squandering surplus funds, allowing growth without planning, and failing to protect the business and living environment the premier shows he has little to offer Alberta let alone Ontario. Hmm, what could he and his colleagues at The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships be lobbying for? Surely the runaway blank cheque approach should not form the basis of Public-Private Partnerships as well.

Taxpayers feel the pain of industry windfalls or shortfalls and elected officials should be more mindful of this than anyone. How much tax revenue will closed industries pay into the government? What are a governments costs of benefits paid to those put out of work and who are paying less or no income tax? How real is a deficit in these trying circumstances?

Am I calling for the end of the Tar Sands, the closing of Ford or a planned economy? No, no, and no. Your opinion is welcome Ed but your bias is a little bit transparent. Personally when it comes to infrastructure, resources, and industry I like to see return on my investment. The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ Toronto event, which Mr. Stelmach is attending, focuses on Canadian, U.S. and Mexican perspectives on infrastructure. Mr. Stelmach you seem to be running Alberta like a thirsty bloated furnace rather than well tuned engine. Thanks but no thanks. Canadians are calling for a much needed rebuilding of our infrastructure, not another puff of hot air.

Shoot To Thrill – Toronto Premiere – Friday Night!!!

The moment of truth has finally arrived. Ten teams from across the country participated in SHOOT TO THRILL, a skateboard film challenge presented by Color Magazine. The Pro division of the competition was shot analog. Shooting a short film in just 72 hours would have been hard enough for each team of 5 participants (3 skaters, a director and photographer). To try that near toxic mix using only 10 rolls of 16mm film would be a nightmare! Much like regular film you the masterpieces or disasters are only truly discovered after the film is developed.

The stress is over, the editing done and the winner of the $8,000 SHOOT TO THRILL prize has been chosen. Check out the amazing skateboarding and art for Free tonight at the Bloor Cinema. All 10 short films will be screen and the winners of both the photography and movie will be revealed. It will be great to see what Canada’s pro skateboarders have put together. Looking forward to seeing Team Vancouver’s film shot by Fred Montagne (“French Fred“) as well as Toronto’s team featuring Corey Sheppard.

RED BULL SHOOT TO THRILL
Presented by Color Magazine

TORONTO, NOVEMBER 21st
Bloor Cinema
506 Bloor St W
9pm
all ages – FREE

Ring The Alarm – The Sea And Cake Took Toronto By Storm

Joel Thibodeau of Death Vessel at Lee\'s Palace.

Joel Thibodeau of Death Vessel at Lee's Palace.

The Sea and Cake were a band with a mission at Lee\'s Palace Nov. 14th.

The Sea and Cake were a band with a mission at Lee's Palace Nov. 14th.

Glad I was able to catch The Sea and Cake last night. They are truly an amazing band and a must see live. The opening act was interesting as well.

Joel Thibodeau’s Death Vessel was impressive. His solo acoustic set peppered with his silvery voice got things off to a great start. Great to see the “return of the acoustic” with Iron and Wine, City and Colour and others moving this style of music back into the limelight.

Next up were The Sea and Cake. I was interested to see them play again. Last year’s Everybody, an album made after a four year break, was quickly followed by their latest, Car Alarm. The Sea and Cake wasted no time getting back into the studio after last year’s CD and tour. Good thing! I’ve seen The Sea and Cake a few times now but they appeared like a band on a mission and an even tighter unit. Hoping they continue to ride the momentum! They cranked out some gems from their latest album. I was most taken with tracks performed from their earlier material infused with a serious drive. A solid set and sweet encore were barely enough to appease the packed crowd at Lee’s Palace. Ring the alarm indeed.

Touched By Fire – At The Gladstone

Touched By Fire is a program which strives to encourage and celebrate the work created by artists with mood disorders. Many well known artists in art history, from van Gogh to Georgia O’Keefe, have been faced with mood disorders.

The online gallery continues to grow but this Thursday is special. The success of the 2007 gallery show has prompted Touched by Fire to repeat it this year. Come out to the Gladstone to check out great paintings, photos, mixed media and other creations at this year’s Touched by Fire.

Touched by Fire
“An Art Show And Sale Of Works Created By Artists With Mood Disorders”
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto ON M6J 1J6

Opening Reception: Thursday November 13th
7pm to 10pm

Additional Gallery Viewing: November 14th and 15th
1pm to 5pm (2nd Floor)
November 14 2008 To November 15 2008 | 1-5PM Daily | 2nd Floor

Last Night of the Vigil

There were special Remembrance Day events Queen’s Park and at Old City Hall today. The TTC gave pause to honour our veterans this morning too. If you have not already seen it, tonight until dawn the last 10,000 names of the 68,000 lost will be shown as part of the 1914 – 1918 Vigil. Coincidental or not Mayor Miller noted earlier today, about 10,000 of the 68,000 who perished in that war made Toronto their home. Lest we forget…

If Halloween Wasn’t Scary Enough For You

The CBC have tracked the fall of the TSX in pictures. You can see the one month 17% carnage from several views around Bay Street and the Financial District. Hoping this horror story ended with October but a horrible sequel could be added in the months to come. I’m sure the Christmas decor is already lining the malls as I write this. Time will tell if the consumer hibernates this winter.

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