Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Eve, some years ago.

On a winter afternoon some years ago, a young couple set out on a drive.

It was Christmas Eve and the car was loaded with gifts for the family Christmas gathering two hours away. They had called ahead to warn the family they were running behind but that they planned to reach town in time for Christmas dinner.

After a visit with the in laws, they set out on the highway, the sun starting to set behind them.

As the couple drove down the highway everything seemed normal, the radio was tuned to Christmas music and they chatted as they drove. Then the young fellow noticed the car behind them was flashing its headlights. He wondered why but thought little more about it until the temperature light came on.

As they slowed and pulled onto the shoulder they started to see the steam coming from under the hood. Stranded on the side of the highway on Christmas Eve was not a good place to be so they decided to try for the next interchange, there might be help there.

They drove down the shoulder of the highway, watching for the temperature light, hoping they were close to the interchange. Then a sign came into view, the interchange was near and there was a Provincial Police Station on the side road. Finally they had some good news.

On they drove and as they came to the Police Station they saw there were no cars there. The lights were off, there was no one home. The sign on the door explained it was a substation and had regular hours like any business but that there was a phone for emergencies in the entranceway. He called the police and they said they would send someone.

Not knowing what else to do he walked to the house next to the station and knocked on the door. When a man answered, he explained his situation and asked that the man call a tow truck for him. The man asked the young fellow if he wanted to come in but he said no, that he wanted to wait in case the tow truck showed up and that his wife was still with the car but he did thank the man for his kind offer.

Eventually the tow truck came. He opened the hood hoping that it was a small hole in the radiator hose and that he would be able to patch it. As he looked, the man from the house came over to see if he could help. The tow truck driver said no, the hose was too badly damaged and that the car would have to be towed, and it was just a matter of figuring out where to tow it to. The man from the house asked how much hose was needed, the tow truck driver told him, and the man said that he could get some hose and some coolant for the car. He ran a truck supply business and would be back shortly with what was needed.

A while later the man returned with a length of hose and two jugs of coolant which the tow truck driver was able to use to get the car going again. The young fellow offered the man some money for the hose and coolant, which was at first turned down but eventually accepted at the young fellow’s insistence. He wanted to thank the man for his help and the only way he could think of was to at least pay for the parts.

The tow truck driver was paid for his time, it was his business to help and he had to charge for the repair.

The young couple were happy to be safely on their way only making one stop, at a pay phone to let people know the car had broken down but they were back on the road again. They said they would be late, and they would explain when they got there, which they did.

Every year as Christmas approaches I think of this story, how a stranger offered his home to a stranded motorist, how he took time from his family on Christmas Eve to help, how some people have to work on Christmas Eve in case someone becomes stranded on the road, like I was some years ago.

The story is true, and at this time of year it gladdens me that there are still people willing to put the needs of others in front of their own in order to help a stranger on Christmas Eve.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On Senate Reform or Step Away from the Red Chamber Stephen

As I was browsing through the channels the other day I happened across Jinny Sims speaking in the House of Commons about the “Senate Reform Act”.

Now Jinny Sims (pictured) is a New Democrat and I am not (I am not a card carrying member of any party) and we do not see eye to eye on the Senate. The NDP would like it abolished, I believe the Senate is an important part of our democratic system but that it is open to abuse and the Stephen Harper Party is abusing the Senate power more than any time I can remember.

Many years ago, when the Fathers of Confederation sat down and created Canada, they had a number of Democratic Models to choose from and they chose a Parliamentary System, the Westminster System.

Under this system, we have an elected House of Commons, the Parliament and an appointed Senate, appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

In our Canadian system, Senators are appointed for life or age 75 and must meet certain criteria to be eligible to sit as a Senator. These Senators represent their respective regions of Canada and are charged with evaluating legislation based on whether or not it is good for their region as well as the country as a whole. By appointing these Senators, they are not accountable to anyone but themselves, they cannot be recalled by voters or called to task by sitting Prime Ministers or anyone else. This is supposed to be a strength of the Senate. When the Senate looks at legislation, the members are free to discuss the legislation without fear of reprisal for supporting an unpopular view or voting against party doctrine.

When the Fathers of Confederation considered the Senate, they chose to balance the numbers and the power evenly over the 4 regions of Canada so that no one or two regions could dominate the Senate.

When a Prime Minister recommends someone for the Senate, he or she will often base part (or all) of their recommendation on the politics of the person they are suggesting, but that is where it is supposed to end. Each and every Senator’s responsibility is to the Country and to the people of the region they represent and not blind obeisance to the party that put him there.

At this point I quote Jinny Sims from Hansards:

It is a very telling comment when a senator can write a letter to other senators stating:

Those of us who came to the red chamber were there to get a majority vote for reform. Those in the Senate before [the Prime Minister came to power] need to realize that, had he not made appointments, the Conservatives appointed by Mulroney would now be a very small group struggling to do anything! Every senator in this caucus needs to decide where their loyalty should be and must be. The answer is simple:--

As a taxpayer this would actually give me sleepless nights. It continues:

--our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics, the Rt. Hon. [Prime Minister].

Jinny is quoting Senator Bert Brown. I choose to not in “Honourable” as part of Bert’s title as I feel that any Senator who feels this way does a disservice to every Senator who does try to represent their constituents, their region, their Country.

The Senate is often referred to as a place of “sober second thought” where proposed laws receive their final evaluation before being sent on to the Governor General for Royal Assent or back to the House of Commons with amendments if the law is found wanting. The Senate is also often referred to a “rubber stamp” and it appears that is what Bert wants it to be.

Don Cherry likes to say “Dance with the one that brought you” which is fine for choosing your Goalie, but Stephen Harper doesn’t pay your salary Bert, the people of Canada do. If you want to dance with Stephen Harper, do it at the Senate Christmas Ball, not in the Red Chamber which incidentally is also paid for by the Canadian people.

I don’t care if the members of the Senate are members of political parties, I don’t care if they sit in those parties’ caucuses, I do have issue with Senators blindly following the dictates of Lord Stephen or whoever is the leader of the governing party of the day.

Here I quote Sir Clifford Sifton’s The New Era in Canada: (you'll need to scroll to section 3 for this part)

No nation should be under unchecked, single-chamber government ... It must also be remembered that, under our system, the power of the Cabinet tends to grow at the expense of the House of Commons ... The Senate is not so much a check on the House of Commons as it is upon the Cabinet, and there can be no doubt that its influence in this respect is salutary.

(words in bold my choice)

I would also quote a famous Canadian:

"... in the Upper House, - the controlling and regulating, but not the initiating, branch - ... in the House which has the sober second-thought in legislation, it is provided that each of those great sections shall be represented equally"

- Sir John A. Macdonald

I wouldn’t dream of contradicting Sir John A. but apparently Stephen and Bert have no qualms about it.

Now I hear that the Stephen Harper Party is considering closure for debate in the Senate, much as they have done in the House of Commons. The Senate needs to stand up to the House of Commons and say “No” or risk becoming what they are accused of, a rubber stamp not worth saving, a second act of “Marionette Theatre” with Lord Stephen pulling the strings.

The Stephen Harper Party wants to reform the Senate, they can’t stand the fact that they might be second guessed by “the controlling and regulating…branch” of government’s “sober second thought”. Again I refer to Sir John A. Macdonald.

The Senate has served us for over 140 years, offering amendments to laws that needed them, sitting on “special committees” looking into poverty in Canada, the needs of our youth, the needs of our elderly. They have been able to do this in part because they do not have to worry about rushing to please anyone but only to making sure things are done right. As for the committee work, they have the luxury of time to fully study an issue and fully understand the issue before moving forward on that issue. There is no 4 year window to try and jam things through.

If we need to reform the Senate, we need to take the power of selection of these Senators in waiting from the PMO and take the power over the Senate away from the government.

If Stephen Harper and his marionettes manage to distort the Senate into the image that they feel is the “right” one then I’ll seriously have to reconsider the NDP stance on the Senate.

It will just be a rubber stamp with folks like Bert in it. We might just as well shut the doors and fire the lot of them. No severance pay, no pension, just hit the bricks people, you don’t work here anymore.

Or perhaps the Senators will decide to use their power of sober second thought.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Attawapiskat... It's about the people Stephen

What in the name of all things Holy are they doing in Ottawa?

The people of Attawapiskat are in dire need of help and Stephen and his boy John send an Accountant up to help? A freaking accountant?

Hey guys, it’s not about the money… it’s about the people.

The Indian Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says his people were in Attawapiskat as recently as October and saw nothing wrong. Did they even get out of the plane? Seriously, people living in sheds and tents in October on the shores of James Bay and your people are OK with that?

John Duncan and Stephen Harper like to tell us that Attawapiskat has received on the order of $90 Million dollars in Harper’s time in office and that the money must have been mismanaged in some way. If that is really the case then the accountant needs to be in Ottawa, specifically in the offices of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to find out what kind of people could be so inept at handling money that they mail out cheque after cheque and never bother to check on how the money is spent.

But he doesn’t have to do that, Attawapiskat posts their audited finances on the internet on a regular basis. I can see how much Chief Spence gets, and other members of the council, maybe the PMO should follow her lead and post the salaries and perks of the PMO staff.

This is so typical of the Stephen Harper Party. They are so busy pointing fingers, blaming everyone in sight they don’t have time to do a damn thing to help.

Now John Duncan boasts that Ottawa still controls the purse strings for Attawapiskat even if they threw the third party manager out. News Flash for John Duncan, you had that power last week, last month and last year and it still made no difference. There are still people in sheds and tents who need houses to live in. There are still people living in houses that in Ottawa would be condemned.

And apparently you didn’t know until Charlie Angus told you.

It is not about the money. It is about making sure that the people of Attawapiskat are able to get through the winter safely and in good health.

And that is the bottom line.

Does it not bother you John or you Stephen that the conditions at Attawapiskat have gotten so bad that the Red Cross had to step in and help because no one else would? I think that it is disgraceful.

But what is worse is the finger pointing and placing the blame when a competent manager would be gathering as many experts as he can to create a plan and get it implemented.

Not our Stephen, he schedules more meetings in January, Mr. Dithers indeed.

The issue is simple. These people need adequate shelter, heat and fuel to see them through the winter. If this is done intelligently then the supplies can be reused in the construction of new homes and the repair of existing ones. They need access to clean water and a school would be nice too.

Here’s a thought, send up another manager. Maybe the nice people in Attawapiskat can set him up with a family in a shed. Let him use a slop bucket for a toilet and boil his water for three minutes so he can have coffee. Then maybe he can explain to you what is going on.

Then in the spring, when the new housing initiative gets started and the infrastructure is repaired and they start building the new school you can go looking for scapegoats and do all the finger pointing you like.

But just remember, whenever you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointed back at you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Transparent Credibility Gap

When I was younger, one of my preferred reading materials was “Mad Magazine”, a glorious combination of humour and satire.

One thing sticks in my mind from those days, from those magazines… Why is it when your child tells a fib it’s called lying, but when the President does it, it’s called a “credibility gap”? (I’m running off memory here, forgive me if I messed that up.)

The reason it popped into my head again, is the ongoing nonsense from Ottawa. Why does it seem that it is impossible for any member of the Stephen Harper Party (SHP) to fess up when they make a mistake or if they screw up?

The standard operating procedure for the SHP seems to be lie about it create a credibility gap.

A while ago, Bev Oda signed a document she (according to the SHP) shouldn’t have signed recommending funding for a group. So rather than just step up and say “I did it by mistake”, she fudged. Someone using “the arm”, the auto signer for important people, signed it for her. In the recommendation someone stuck in a caret and the word “not”, except the two bureaucrats that signed it were in fact sending a recommendation to pay, so an unknown staffer stuck the ^not in on their own accord then later on Bev Oda’s say so.

She got a promotion instead of a kick in the pants.

Tony Clement and the G8/G20 spending fiasco. The tapes say one thing and Hansard says another. Someone changed something, no one’s saying who.

Peter MacKay and his rescue “training mission”. Now we get the emails that the military was hesitant about picking him up and developed the cover story about how MacKay wanted to see them in action. Here’s a thought, in the real world, where we don’t get free helicopter rides, we plan our vacations to not interfere with our work.

Now we have the Stephen Harper talking heads pop up and say “It was OK, it was business”. No. He knew full well that he had an appointment and could have arranged to leave his buddy’s fishing lodge two hours earlier, but instead he misappropriated a military helicopter and then has the gall to lie about it create yet another SHP credibility gap.

Supposedly, when we have elections, we are choosing from among our best people to choose the very best to represent us in the House of Commons. It ain’t happening kids… adults suck it up when they screw up, the SHP crew cover up and fib.

You see where I come from, a person’s word is their bond. If I tell you I will do something, I will do it. If I screw up, it is my responsibility to admit it.

Now if my memory isn’t too far off, Stephen Harper said there would be transparency and accountability on his watch. Ministers would answer for their decisions.

I also recall Stephen Harper saying that the SHP would be better than the Liberals. He preached honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability.

Or was that all one big credibility gap?

Oh, the guy on the right is Balok the puppet from Star Trek.