Thursday, June 29, 2006

Changes at TVOntario - some good, others why?

So the provincial minister in charge of TVOntario just showed up, split the company in two, dropped a bundle of promises of cash at the front door and ran off (figuratively speaking). Just afterwards, TVO announced the end of Studio 2 in favour of "The Agenda", a show which is going to be all about citizenship - whatever that means. Anyway, it's all totally unconnected. Really.

Studio 2 looked budget but then you have to consider their actual budget - not much, and with old school equipment. Meanwhile the Tories and NDP are muttering about the Liberals neutering TVO's political content. It also combined a wide range of stuff, not least Steve Paikin's slightly bizarre interview with Ricky Williams during the week.

Yes it's great that TVO will get new kit which will make those union members better able to move to CanWest or CTV and use that newfangled equipment for more money. Yes it's great that the teachers unions are salivating over "digital content". But that's separate from the actual programming - a review of which could have taken place in a more open context.

Never mind - Steve Paikin and the CEP union both say everything will be fine. Let's hope that that's what happens rather than because unlike what Antonia Zerbisias, all over these developments in the last week, is saying about some of their TVO colleagues, they still have their jobs.

Considering Peter Mansbridge's eruption about the National being pushed back an hour, I suspect TVO bosses are glad to have the seemingly more pliable Paikin to nudge into the party line.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mark July 5th in your calendars

because if I don't blog after that, it will be because I'll have expired from cardiac arrest... I will be participating in the Bike for Tykes event at the TD Centre Courtyard in Toronto along with some work colleagues. It's in support of Bloorview Kids Rehab so any donations towards my goal figure would be gratefully accepted - Canadian donors get tax receipts :)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

McGuinty - get back to work!

Apparently the Provincial Liberals are on a war footing. Now, in most political regimes this might not be altogether surprising if you didn't know two things -

1. The Libs have a comfortable majority
2. They know exactly when the next election will be - October 2007. They know this because they passed the legislation fixing the date.

At a time when the OPP have told certain Caledonia residents that they will not respond to calls, the "fiscal imbalance" negotiations, the urgent need to get the Golden Horseshoe urban development plan finished before developers like the Sorbara Group pave over everything and now the electricity plan which is taking fire from all sides, you'd think McGuinty would have to enough to worry about without taking electoral strategy sessions - especially since he's cooking the books this year to declare a miraculous budget surplus next year.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Can't they just axe the stupid TV tax?

The Irish Times reports on the Irish TV licence fee today. Some of what they report is not news, like the substantial "evasion". But now the fee, a subvention in respect of public service broadcasting, is to be taxed. This will only be grist to the mill of the private broadcasters, who believe the licence fee merely allows RTE to overbid them for soccer and Hollywood movie rights.

Even An Post, who historically collect the licence money, don't want to collect it. Some in RTE are also surely looking at the UK who are claiming a requirement to pay a licence fee for cellphones which can now receive video.

I've got a better idea - let's pick a figure of say, 155m Euro. Let's add in the fee payable to An Post for administering the system and for paying "licence inspectors". Let's write a single block grant cheque from Dept of Finance to RTE. Note to Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen - it would be about as popular as Jack Lynch abolishing rates but with a way lower impact on national finance, would increase RTE's revenue, free up court caseload due to prosecuting "evaders" and get An Post out of a business they don't want to be in because it makes people hate them. Get it done.

Tory ex-lobbyist not favouring ex-clients shock! Liberal against no-tender contract shock!

Apparently the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence are finalising their procurement requests for Cabinet. Procurement is a vexed subject in Canada as orders are made and then cancelled (Chretien and the EH-101), or equipment sold that it turns out we're now borrowing from others (Mulroney sold CF Chinooks to the Dutch, who are currently providing airlift to Canadian Forces in Afghanistan with the same aircraft).

There seems to be a political consensus now that having the Canadian Forces abroad is a good thing, although there is some dispute about where they should be - the NDP and Lloyd Axworthy wants them in Darfur (where they're not wanted by the Sudanese government) and the Tories and the Ignatieff wing of the Liberals want them in Afghanistan (where they're not wanted by western college students and by the Talibs - though apparently not all of the latter).

In any case, Rick Mercer put it best when he said "if you want people to leave the best place in the world for some of the worst, you have to bring out the Gold Card". The vulnerability of Canadian personnel in the ageing Sea Kings, the inadequate Iltis and the rolling LAV IIIs is getting wide media coverage, as it should be.

Chinooks are back on the wishlist, and let it be hoped that the CF learn from the RAF's order of eight Mark 3 Chinooks in Special Forces configuration, since those Chinooks have been sitting idle for years because of disputes between the British and Boeing over certification of the aircraft. Let's hope the people who bought the Victoria class subs for Canada aren't taking calls from the UK - it's not like Canada has bought lemons that sat idle for years from there before.

In opposition, with the assistance of the Bloc Quebecois Defence spokesman, Gordon O'Connor criticised the intention of the Liberals to seek a single source contract to replace the (C)C-130E/H fleet with new J models from Lockheed. O'Connor's criticisms were put down to his former employment at Hill & Knowlton, an Airbus lobbyist. Airbus were offering the A400M, a larger and faster aircraft than the C-130J but which will not be certified before the 2008 contract deadline. Now in government, O'Connor appears ready to... seek a single source contract from Lockheed! An order of C-17s from Boeing seems likely also.

However, the hypocrisy is mirrored on the Liberal bench, with Ujjal Dosanjh claiming the government shouldn't give a contract to Boeing without competition "unless it is 100 per cent sure that it is the best product available" , whatever that means. As the census controversy showed, Lockheed seems to be in a different class to other American companies when looking for Liberal business.

Airbus are trying to fight back, and their disappointment will be sharpened by the apparent intention to defer the search and rescue requirement for which they were pitching the Spanish CASA 295. Apparently their lobbying includes an offer to give work to Quebec businesses, but it seems a lot of bitterness remains since the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW180 engine was dropped in favour of the TP400 from a European consortium. Airbus appear to tie workshare very closely to orders, for instance a recent announcement that South African company Denel will make parts for A400M in conjunction with Saab only came after a South African commitment to 8 aircraft. However, the Lockheed aircraft doesn't use Canadian engines either.

If deliveries cannot be expected before the rumoured 2014 then Airbus will have to provide interim lift - refurbished C-130s were rumoured - and this isn't mentioned in their release. Lockheed themselves are leasing C-130s to Germany pending delivery of their Airbuses. It's possible a fast order of C-295s to replace the SAR C-130s could stretch the life of the latter fleet but this seems to be off the table. The C-295s have Canadian engines which may help its chances but the rival Lockheed/Alenia offering would have engine commonality with the C-130J fleet.

In reality, this is all too little too late. The options which could have reorganised CF transport to allow A400M to enter the race weren't taken under the Liberals. The C-130s are needed now, and let us hope the California Senators and Representatives desperately trying to keep the C-17 line open will repay Canada's faith in their product with a gesture of thanks. Let's see if I can think of a way... how about the softwood lumber duty back, including the US$1,000,000,000 currently being negotiated away?

Why so shy, Ruby? Tell us who the Tory was.

Apparently Ruby Dhalla and Judy Sgro have been approached to join the Tories. I could possibly understand Dhalla - she's young and a qualified chiropractor, not just a political hack from birth.

Harper seems to have great "faith" in building ethnic minority support, thinking they have predominantly conservative social positions on same sex marriage and so on - the rush to apologise over the head tax is another clue. The Tories sudden love for minorities is plainly strategic.

She's also easy on the eye and maybe the Tories wanted an Ontario version of Rona Ambrose for the Blogging Tories to put on their bedroom walls.

But why would the Tories want Sgro when "Strippergate" showed her poor judgement, not least in her choice of staff. Supposedly it was a Tory Toronto Councillor - it wasn't Rob Ford after a few beers surely?

In any case, Dhalla should name the people who approached her, as should Sgro - what is the public interest in not doing so? As it stands, it just stinks of a smear after the "Youth for Volpe" affair.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I've had the renovators in...

This template is a modified version of newsline but mostly in terms of layout - I need to get the css and host it myself so I can adjust the fonts which are a bit iffy, especially the quotes.

Liberal Party make discovery - Mugabe's a bad man!

Given the disgrace that Zimbabwe has become in the last decade, with the homophobia, the de facto ethnic cleansing and the political purging of the judiciary, it's odd that the Liberal Party have only recently become aware of the situation to the extent of wanting to do something about it. Obviously they weren't briefed - it's not like they weren't in power for over a decade ... or maybe they didn't see any of the frequent media coverage.

With the thousand priorities Paul Martin had - this couldn't have been one? He couldn't have publicly exhorted the South Africans and Chinese to stop sending the regime aid, probably the only thing keeping Mugabe afloat? But then the Chinese might not have bought Canadian reactors - that piece of tech that gets the Chinese Government a free pass from Canada.

Instead the Federal Liberals did in that respect what the Ontario Liberals are doing in Caledonia, Ontario - standing by, mouthing platitudes, achieving nothing.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Twenty lashes

Many (all?) of us have experienced a national crisis where the government mouths the words about how unfortunate it all is but you just know behind it all they don't give a damn. You just wish you could go up to them and ask them to at least look like it bothers them. Twenty Major does just that (well, on his blog rather than in person). The current situation may be specific to Ireland (the voiding of the statute which allows no defence to statutory rape) but it's easy to think of others for international readers.
While Fine Gael's Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbite of the Labour Party rightly tore strips off you and your government you sat there looking down at the desk, maybe even scribbling on a piece of paper. You could, for all intents and purposes, have been playing noughts and crosses with yourself.

Their tirades over it was your turn to speak. This is where I have the biggest problem. You stood there, again not making any eye-contact with the people you were addressing, looking down and with one hand in your pocket told us not to worry.

[...]

You might as well have been chewing on a piece of gum while you said it. It really did appear that couldn't care less that a 38 year old who raped a 12 year old was released.

It might as well have been just another one of your party colleagues involved in tax evasion or corruption or dodgy planning applications. You know, the day to day stuff your government has been involved in for years. You were more upset when the Bertiebowl didn't happen.

[...]

Take your hands out of your pockets, look people in the eye and pretend to care. We'd all appreciate it.
I'd quote some more but Twenty's invective might set off corporate profanity web scanners so it's best read at home with no young children reading over your shoulder.

Fiona de Londras is back in the Blog O'Sphere (though not on Mental Meanderings) and weighs in on the A case.

TTC strike aftermath: as if we needed telling

From the Toronto Star:
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker pointed out that the nine-member commission of city councillors is very much pro-union. "I'm 100 per cent pro-union, so is Howard Moscoe, Joe Mihevc, David Miller," said De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre). "The employees of the TTC will never have more sympathetic people than the commission is now. "
And let's not forget TTC vice-chair Adam Giambrone, whose other job is Federal NDP President.

Hizzoner stacked the TTC with his pals - it's not like he's having to deal with the Lastman rearguard like the Police Services Board in his first year as mayor. Now he's going to have to take responsibility. Sadly Pitfield in her response continues to appear no more than an opportunist rather than someone with a real alternative to offer.

As for Local 113 - they walked out on a day when the humidex hit 43C - something well forecasted. There is no excuse - a couple of days would have made no difference or they could have gone out before the weekend. That day may have cost people their lives because of delays to EMS due to traffic or to increased smog from the heavy traffic.

Treatment versus enforcement

Former Toronto Argonaut quarterback and Super Bowl winner Joe Theismann laid into the signing of Ricky Williams. He believes Williams' suspension from the NFL should have been honoured by the CFL and that Williams doesn't deserve to wear the Argo uniform because he's an "addict". I wish that Williams in the spirit of full disclosure told us what the mystery 4th test failure was for (the first three being cannabis). But there are problems with Theismann going off like this.
  • Theismann reflects his ESPN listenership - chuck them out is what they want to hear, just like prison is the sole drug policy of the Republican party. The Canadian fanbase is not quite there yet.
  • The CFL has been a de facto haven for the NFL unwanted a longer day than today and probably was when Theismann graduated Notre Dame and came north.
  • I honestly believe that getting away for his Miami base will be a good opportunity for Williams to reorder his life and that Mike Clemons is serious about helping him.
  • When you go this public, your own life comes under scrutiny and the CBC via AP and Canadian Press notes that Theismann's son (then 31 years old) pleaded out a cocaine dealing charge for which he received probation. You'd think he'd be more game to try and find a way to rehabilitate Williams but instead you wonder did he lobby his son's DA to forgo probation in favour of breaking rocks on the chain gang given the virulence with which he attacks the "temporary Argo".
If any good comes out of this it will be a move to drug testing in the CFL if only to level the playing field for refugees from the NFL, with Williams due to be drug tested 10 times this year. It also has labour implications since Williams does not have an option year in his contract to satisfy the Dolphins' desire to have him return in 2007 but which was previously mandatory for CFL players and allowed other teams to claim that player for the option year. The Montreal Alouettes also want to know how you can be contracted to two teams at the same time.

Ontario's children that "never existed"

According to the Star, some children born in Ontario are not being registered (up to 3% of 130,000 births in the province annually) because it costs up to $35 depending on the municipality and low income and single parents are unable to afford it. The effect of this is that deaths of these infants are not recorded either - it's as if they never existed. This is born out of the Harris era where the costs of registering children is borne by municipalities (such as Toronto) and passed on to the parents.

I have to say am not impressed with how children's services work in this province. I'm thinking especially of child protection, a function one would normally expect to be a direct arm of government but which in Ontario is farmed out to voluntary Children's Aid Societies, some of which are denominational such as the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto which failed in its duty to protect Jeffery Baldwin.

It is unconscionable that children can go unregistered and unacknowledged as Canadians because of their parents' poverty. Arguably as citizens of Canada, registration should be a federal responsibility but regardless of the responsibility this is a disgrace and should be eliminated - I thought this country had got rid of head taxes.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail has posted an article on this issue.

Update day

So it seems Mozilla have gotten their ambition of synchronising Thunderbird and Firefox releases - let's see how long that lasts!

TB1.5.0.4 and FF1.5.0.4 are out - some security issues are addressed in these releases.