Friday, 30 November 2007

Police Tylenol Deaths Raise Questions

After reading this, I have to ask: How many people have died in police custody after being given Tylenol. This goes along with the question of how many people have died from "excited delirium" that were not in contact with police. Oh, and can someone explain how a pacemaker or defibrillator works if electric currents do not affect the heart.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Much Ado About A "Right" Nobody Wants

Bill C-6 provides that "an elector shall have an uncovered face when the elector is proving his or her identity".

So just what is the problem with this new rule.

Why should we not have our face uncovered when proving our identity when voting, whether we use photo ID or not.

I can think of two reasons, one being medical for which there is already an exemption. The other might be a matter of "reasonable accommodation" for religious or cultural requirements, except that no religious or cultural group has requested that proving ones identity with one's face covered when voting be allowed. The only request has been that Muslim women be allowed to uncover their faces in front of female officials rather than male officials, which has been accommodated in the bill.

This "controversy" all began when the Chief Electoral Officer decided to address a non-problem by issuing a statement clarifying the fact that the existing law did in fact allow the practice of proving one's identity with one's face covered. As it turned out the only people interested in taking advantage of this "right" were people protesting the fact that the law did in fact allow it.

Yes, it is seemingly irrelevant to require the face be uncovered when photo ID is not being checked and I know the motivations of some people supporting this rule might be less than pure, but for whatever reasons there is strong support for this rule, including at least one Canadian Muslim organization.

Perhaps the Green Party and others who so vehemently oppose this rule should focus their attention on important matters of public policy rather than fighting for "rights" that nobody actually wants and that just create a backlash against the recipients of those unrequested "rights"

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

This Just In - Hillier to Resign

After months of negotiations the government has reached an agreement in the dispute over the Chief of Defence Staff's refusal to take direction from his civilian masters. The agreement will see civilian control return to the military.

On Friday General Rick Hillier will resign as Chief of Defence Staff and leave the Canadian Forces. On Monday Hillier will be appointed as the new Minister of National Defence. General, oops I mean citizen, Hillier will seek election to the House of Commons in a by-election in the newly created constituency of Kandahar.

When asked to explain this unusual arrangement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said "hey, it worked in Pakistan".

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Facebook: From Networking to Marketing

Facebook began at Harvard University and was soon opened up to all universities, university students and alumni. It was a wonderful networking tool for the academic community.

But it was not to remain so. As it’s income generating potential became known it’s creators positioned it as a marketing tool by opening it up to the whole world, making it just another MySpace, though perhaps more sophisticated and certainly with more business savvy.

The transformation from a networking site to a marketing site came with the policy of allowing others to run applications on top of Facebook, virtually selling you, your personal information, and your list of friends to outside marketers. Thousands of these applications have been implemented on Facebook.

Jennifer LaBorde, of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Advance Titan writes that ”Facebook applications disguise immoral advertising business”.

Between the Lines at ZDNet states that this can be “downright dangerous”.

The newest Facebook application that has raised the most concern is called Beacon and it will tell your friends what you buy online (and it automatically opts you into the application). Simon Barrett of Blogger News Network writes that privacy experts are concerned that Facebook may have crossed the line from being social to being invasive.

But perhaps more troubling are concerns raised by TechCrunch that Facebook is censoring search results for political reasons.

I remember when the Internet was non-commercial and primarily an academic network with public access via Freenets, such as the Cleveland Freenet, the world’s first Freenet, and the National Capital FreeNet of which I was ”one of the first information providers”, as organizations and individuals who provided information via the Freenets and Internet were then called. The Internet was very much a networking tool at that stage - for academics, public interest organizations and individuals.

I remember the concerns being raised when it was first proposed that commercial use of the Internet be allowed, because” in the beginning” business was not allowed on the Internet. As one who shared those concerns I was relieved to find that, for the most part, business use of the net has been positive, providing useful resources to the public and customers.

However concerns have been raised lately about the corporate interests that control the hardware networks that the Internet runs on favouring certain commercial users over the broader public interest. This is a concept known as net neutrality.

I use the Internet for social networking, primarily through mountain biking and photography sites that operate on a membership fee or donation funding basis.

This blog is on a commercial site, but there is no intrusion on the blog itself except for the compulsory task bar at the top. Though advertising options are made available that would provide revenue to me and the service owner (Google) I have not been required to have any advertising on my blog.

It would be nice to see a real social networking site for the academic community - universities, professors, students and alumni. It could be developed by the open software community, hosted co-operatively on the university networks and maintained by volunteers.

With Facebook the original purpose has become secondary to generating revenues for it’s owners. Facebook has become the worst of capitalism on the net and I call on all progressive Internet users to BOYCOTT FACEBOOK.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Racism in the Context of Time - The Full Story

These words were taken from my Grade 13 history notes from 1968-1969 (Mr. Varpio, LaSalle Secondary School, Sudbury, Ontario). They are from a handout entitled "The Myth of Lincoln - Globe, April 14, 1965, By Harry Pitt, London Observer Service".

These words were stated by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 during the Senate election campaign in response to the incumbent Stephen Douglas:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races - I am not ... in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.

There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
Lincoln, in 1862, while President and prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, stated:
If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also. What I do about slavery and the coloured race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.
I will leave you to come to your own conclusions on whether or not Abraham Lincoln was a racist.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Racism in the Context of Time

Was the man who said this a racist:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races - I am not ... in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.

There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
I will leave you to ponder these words over the weekend.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Bill Teron’s Plan to Destroy The Greenbelt

According to the Ottawa Citizen, “Kanata’s founder”, developer Bill Teron, thinks that there are not enough people using the Greenbelt so we should develop it and build another Ottawa inside it. He states “It's a gorgeous place, but very seldom do you see people within it. Here, a million people would connect."

In case you think you did not read this correctly Bill Teron wants to build a city of one million people inside our Greenbelt.

According to the Citizen: “Within the developed land, Mr. Teron envisioned small "villages" of 5,000 to 10,000 people each, which would be developed around roads such as Woodroffe and Merivale”. After all, what good are environmental lands with trails in them when you can have villages instead. And what good is greenspace without roads running through it, as Teron states: “"We would be the only city in the world in which our ring roads were through a green paradise."

As a regular user of the greenbelt I know people use it. They may not crammed together on the trails or lined up to get on them like at a ride at Canada’s Wonderland but they are using the trails, and enjoying them because they are not congested. One can only imagine what putting a city of a million people inside it would do to the Greenbelt. Not being a fan of horror movies I would rather not imagine that

And yes, Teron has some novel ideas about adding to the greenbelt, but that would not make up for destroying what is there now. We all know what would happen if this plan was taken seriously - the negative parts of the plan would be implemented and then it would be discovered that the positive aspects are “impractical and unworkable”.

It is time for us all to stand up for the greenbelt.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Complexity and Simplicity

The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be seen in it’s long history, yet it’s solution is a basically simple one.

The conflict started before the creation of the State of Israel following the Second world War (which was no doubt influenced by the treatment of the Jews by the Nazi regime).

Israel was created by the major powers stealing land from the Arabs and Palestinians which led to immediate war and conflicts which have continued ever since. These wars have led to Israel unilaterally stealing more land from it’s neighbouring countries leading to continuous Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

At the moment the Palestinians are divided. Following the death of Yasser Arafat, a moderate Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement, was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority. Following that the more militant Hamas movement won the Palestinian Parliamentary elections, while Abbas remained President. Conflict arose between the two movements leading to Hamas officials being ousted from their positions in the Palestinian National Authority and Palestinian President Abbas issuing a decree outlawing the Hamas militia and executive force.

On the Israeli side there is conflict between those who believe Israel should exist in it’s original borders and these who believe in permanently annexing the lands taken from the Palestinians after the creation of the State of Israel.

At times the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems futile. But one only has to look to Northern Ireland and South Africa to see that the seemingly impossible is possible. In both these cases peace came about because both sides had the courage to talk to each other, rather than invoking the convenient excuse of “not negotiating with terrorists” even if each side considered the other to be terrorists. Who would have thought that black and white South Africans would come together to build a new country,

There is only one ultimate solution and it is essentially a simple one and the sooner both sides accept this the sooner a lasting peace can be established.

The solution essentially comes down to understanding the most and least that each side can accept.

We could argue forever whether the State of Israel should have been created the way it was but, as most Palestinians have come to accept, that is a historical fact that is simply not going to change. It has been a huge and difficult step for the Palestinians to accept that, after all it was their land that was stolen from them. But come to accept it they have. That is the most they can be expected to accept. The least they can be expected to accept is to have their own Palestinian State and have Israel give back the land they stole since the creation of the State of Israel with no exceptions. The original boundaries must be restored, including the status of Jerusalem at the time Israel was created.

The least that Israel can be expected to accept is to have their right to exist accepted by the international community, including Palestinians and Arab states. The most they can be expected to give up is all the land they stole after the creation of the state of Israel, a not unreasonable expectation.

The beauty of this solution is that it provides something that is acceptable to the moderate majority on both sides and thus reduces the ability of extremist to rally support, That is not to say that both Israelis and Palestinians will not have to deal with the extremists within their own ranks. The Palestinians have already shown they are willing to do that and without having to fight an external enemy at the same time, they can be more effective.

It also means Israelis and Palestinians will no longer have a need to fear each other and be enemies but can work towards being partners in the Middle East.

It is as simple (and as complicated) as that.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tasing Is Oh So Funny

At least according to Fox News it is. Watch the video and read more about it here.

This whole subject just keeps getting more disgusting and shameful everyday.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Should Carbon Offsets Be Mandatory

My wife and I are planning to travel to Vienna for our 30th anniversary, which means we will be flying. Although our specific plans are not made yet, I decided to see what the cost of carbon offsets for our return flight would be if we flew via Air Canada to Frankfurt return. At economy the flights would cost about $2700 and the carbon offsets approximately $40 (about 1.5 % of the cost). The carbon offsets would pay for a reforestation project that would supposedly offset the carbon released into the atmosphere by our share of the flights.

The problem with carbon offsets is that they can be used to buy off your guilt and to justify to yourself that your carbon emitting activities are not part of the problem. You can drive the gas guzzling SUV and take the overseas vacations and buy your way out of responsibility.

The other problem is that we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emitting activities at the same time as we undertake the kind of environmental projects, such as reforestation projects, that the carbon offsets finance.

But the fact is that some people are just not going to care and will refuse to limit their carbon creating habits, while those that are environmentally conscious are still going to have to travel by automobile or air at times, even if they consciously limit such travel.

The best way to do our part is to reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible and offset those we cannot reduce with environmental projects such as reforestation. Carbon offsets are one way of doing that, and they should not be limited to the voluntary contributions of the environmentally conscious.

Carbon offsets should be mandatory and built into the cost of air travel, gasoline and other vehicle fuels.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The South March Highlands - Kanata’s Outdoor Wonderland

I want to preface this by stating that I am a hiker and mountain biker, as well as a cross-country skier, but primarily I am an environmentalist.

On November 10, 2000 the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton announced the purchase of 556 acres of the South March Highlands for $1.6 million at the urging of Kanata Regional councilor Alex Munter who has stated “his biggest achievement would be putting South March Highland into public ownership to keep it protected.“

My attempt to find anything about the plans for the South March Highlands on the City of Ottawa website have been unsuccessful. All I could find were references to the fact that a plan should be drawn up.

However my own sources have confirmed that the process has begun with the city meeting with stakeholders and conducting another environmental assessment on the lands. I understand public meetings will be announced shortly.

Having heard rumours that some “environmentalists” wanted to restrict public access and trails to the periphery of the area I contacted the Kanata Environmental Network who provided this response:

“KEN has a representative attending the City meetings concerning the South March Highlands. The periphery approach is consistent with the environmental studies that Dan Brunton did over 20 years ago. There will be a new environmental assessment done in the next year and it may recommend keeping all human traffic on the edges. KEN is in favour of this approach. There is no other way to protect the heronry and multiple rare plant species in the highlands. KEN's stance reflects Brunton's recommendations until an update becomes available.”

This will come as a shock to the local community associations and activists who used Dan Brunton’s research in their fight to save the adjoining KNL lands from development and protect the trail network. They obviously have a different interpretation of Brunton’s position.

The fact is that this is urban parkland, not wilderness. It is surrounded by roads and the southern boundary is going to be a major roadway - Terry Fox Drive. Treating this land as wilderness with no interior public access simply does not make sense. One only needs to look at the response to KNL’s development proposals to know the public wants access to these lands.

And of course the trails are there and have existed for years and are being used by residents from all over Ottawa.

People can be a great threat to the environment, the biggest impact being from development - bulldozing and paving it over, blasting and replacing forests and meadows with parking lots and buildings.

On the other hand people hiking responsibly through the forest has no greater impact than deer or bears running through the forest, particularly when they are on a controlled trail system. The same applies to mountain biking where the scientific evidence indicates that hikers and mountain bikers and hikers have equivalent impacts on trails. See for example the reviews done by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

The majority of outdoorspersons considers themselves to be, and indeed are, environmentalists. The best way to raise environmental awareness is by getting people out into the environment, enjoying it and learning of it’s importance and the need to protect it. That is where the environmentalists that we need to fight the real threats to the environment - development and habitat destruction, are born.

Getting people out into the environment, onto the lakes and rivers and into the forests builds healthy lifestyles, and healthy lifestyles improve our health and reduces our health care costs. This is important at a time when obesity, and childhood obesity in particular, is at epidemic levels. We need natural spaces and trails to teach our children the benefits and enjoyment that can be had in the great outdoors. Kanata is fortunate that we have a population that celebrates healthy lifestyles and rises up to challenge those that want to take our natural spaces and trails away from us.

Young people need the type of challenges the outdoors can provide as an alternative to spending their time a sedentary lifestyle centered on electronic devices, or other even worse but seemingly exciting activities, like gangs and drugs. Youth can be attracted to these things by the very risks we want to protect them from. Outdoors activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking can provide exciting healthy risks that build character and a healthy body.

The South March Highlands is an ideal location for the people of Kanata, young and old, to discover and enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle.

Fortunately we already have an environmentally friendly trail system in the South March Highlands, with natural, rugged, single track trails that have minimal environmental impact. These are the types of trails that hikers and mountain bikers love. The trail system is currently unofficially maintained by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association according to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) sustainable trail building standards which keeps the trails as natural as possible with some rock armouring used to raise low wet areas and some bridges over wet areas.

So what should the South March Highlands Management Plan propose for the existing trail system.

The trail system should be reviewed in light of the findings of the new environmental assessment, and in particular the identification of environmentally sensitive areas. It should also be reviewed in light of IMBA’s sustainable trail standards. This review would determine if any trail sections need to be rebuilt, closed or re-routed, as well as identifying possible additional trail routes.

Existing and new trails should be designed and maintained in as natural a state as possible, no widening, flattening, or paving should be allowed.

The South March Highlands belongs to all of us. The trails should be open to all users, with the exception of motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles.

In the summer we already have seen that the trails function exceedingly well as shared trails and they have the potential to become a model shared use trail system.

In the winter these rugged trails are ideal for snowshoeing, as well as mountain biking. Cross country skiers should also be welcome but these natural trails should not be altered into wide flat ski trails. There are lots of good wide flat ski trails available for skiing. These trails provide an excellent alternative for other trail users to avoid conflicts with skiers on the cross country ski trails.

The final, but perhaps most important part of the plan, should be public education on environmentally friendly and sustainable trail use, including respect for other trail users - share the trail. The education campaign should stress that trail users should stay on the designated trails. As well it should encourage trail users to avoid wet muddy trails but advise them to use the centre of the trail, not go alongside and widen it, if they do need to go through wet muddy sections. A good place to start with trail education are the IMBA Rules of the Trail

The residents of Kanata fought a valiant fight to try to protect the environmental lands and trail system within the KNL development lands, We still have the South March Highlands. It is time to build a plan that allows us to enjoy this environmental jewel in a responsible way that gets more people out enjoying the great outdoors and protects the environment.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Royal Canadian Murderous Police Shame


Do we really need another blog stating it's disgust and shame for the murder of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Unfortunately we do. This case is of such significance that I feel I must go on the record. However we all know the facts and have seen the videos so I will not repeat or reference them here.

Some have used this as an example of why the police should not use Tasers. The police argument has always been that Tasers are used as an alternative to guns and can allow police to avoid shooting and killing people. What that says is about this case is that if the RCMP did not have Tasers they would have shot him instead. This is not a case of whether the RCMP can be trusted with Tasers, it is a case of whether they can be trusted with any weapons. With four officers dealing with one unarmed man (who could not understand them) there was no need for any type of weapon to be used. We can only hope it was not a case of them wanting to try out their new toy.

One might be able to make a weak case that the first use of the Taser was bad judgment but the continued use on the victim, after he was down, was murder, pure and simple.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police must pull the wagons back out of the circle and join the rest of Canada in expressing their disgust and shame for this act of murder.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

It’s Time To Ban Inane Drug Ads

Don't you just love Canadian drug ads. I know they have me hooked, I'm heading down to the drugstore right now to get bottles of "dancing in the street like a fool", "floating through the meadow" and maybe I'll pick up a couple of bottles of "talk like an alien baby".

One of the most interesting is the Viagara retirement speech ad where the retiree is bleeped, apparently for saying, so we are supposed to think, that he is going to have more sex, or some euphemism therefor. Of course, we're supposed to think he's being bleeped because he mentions sex, but actually it is because to do so would come too close to telling the people what the drug is for and in Canada drug ads cannot mention the name of the drug and the disease or ailment it treats. That is why you see all these drug ads that give you no clue what the drug treats, or you see "education" ads about an ailment telling you to ask your doctor about new treatments (in the hopes he will prescribe the drug that is being "advertised").

If the government wants to ban drug advertising why do they not do it directly, instead of taking this approach that forces us to watch these inane drug ads. There is no reason for drug advertising in Canada. Prescription drugs should not be self-prescribed in a country where anyone can see a doctor without personal cost. It is the doctor's role to diagnose conditions and prescribe drugs. If patients want to do research on the Internet or in books and ask their doctors about specific treatments or drugs they can do that. Drug companies so-called "education' ads are only veiled attempts to sell products.

It is time to spare us the suffering and take those inane drug ads off our television screens.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Religion and Real Estate - King-Priests

I was channel surfing the other day when I came upon a televangelist on the CTS Network. This is not my usual thing to watch but it caught my attention because, although it was obviously a preacher talking, it sounded more like a real estate seminar. Apparently god created the world so that we could own it and where the Bible talks about eliminating poverty it means everyone should buy their own home and real estate.

At the end of the show I realized it was entitled “Washed By the Word' with Dr. Pat Francis. They provided the website address, which I just had to check out.

I found out this organization operates “Education & Kingdom Businesses”, including an elementary and secondary school in Ontario. They also sell “educational material” including an interesting video entitled “Anointed In the Marketplace”.

Anointed In the Marketplace will help to position you for your king-priest calling. As a king you are anointed with power, influence, wealth and wisdom to lead others. As a priest you are anointed to minister to others, pray, intercede and to advance His Kingdom. You are anointed. You are what you believe. His anointed will manifest in you place of work whether it is in the marketplace or at home. You are anointed for influence.

Once you understand your calling you will no longer work for a living but will fulfill your calling to represent God wherever He positions you with more power and influence. Send for Anointed In the Marketplace today and start your full-time ministry as a king-priest servant of God.

I am believing with you.
Maybe this is mainstream out there in the religious community but it struck me as something strange to come across on basic cable that almost everyone receives. That makes it a great marketing tool, and preaching appears to have become the marketing tool of the religion business in the modern age.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Parliament is Our House - Keep It “Open”

Despite the concerns of Members of Parliament that the Parliament Buildings not become a fortress, the house of Commons security service is again increasing security measures.

According to the Ottawa Citizen NDP MP Yvon Godin and Liberal MP Garth Turner have both expressed concerns over the new measures:

NDP MP Yvon Godin said he has visited legislative assemblies in other countries where uniformed guards carry weapons and he felt it to be intimidating. "Parliament is a place where I want people to come in and feel like home," said Mr. Godin. "I don't want people to come in there and see people with guns."

"I don't know what the threat is," said Mr. Turner. "I don't understand, as a guy who works in these buildings all day like you, why we need people to protect us with sticks and guns."
As one who worked on Parliament Hill for 33 years I have never felt in danger, even before the security measures initiated after “9/11".

Parliament makes decisions to send Canadians into harms way whether as police officers or military personnel, often justifying the decisions on the basis that these Canadians are protecting our democratic way of life or fighting for democracy. They should be willing to take a small risk to keep Parliament democratic and open to the people.

The security services are focused on security and unfortunately they do not seem to understand that Parliament is a special place - it is the Common Peoples House, thus, the House of Commons. The people must have access to their lawmakers and to the lawmaking process. They must be able to freely watch democracy in action and have free access to their representatives without feeling intimidated.

And of course there is the symbolic aspect which should not be dismissed. Symbols are a way for a society to express its values. Armed guards within Parliament can be seen as being symbolic of a police state or military rule. Do we really want to send that message to Canadians.

Friday, 9 November 2007

A tax cut I can support

Congratulations to the Ontario government for taking a small step that makes an important statement about the importance of health, fitness and the environment. The provincial government has announced the removal of the Provincial Sales Tax on bicycle helmets and bicycles under $1,000.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Larry O’Brien’s Three Big Ideas

Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien finally laid out his much anticipated , “plan” for a zero means zero tax freeze, and in true Larry O’Brien fashion it turned out to be nothing but more recycled right wing platitudes.

In the spirit of solving the City’s problems by telling everyone else to just “work smarter” he is going to tell City staff to find more administrative savings, again.

He also put forth the standard right wing solution to municipal costs - to reduce wages by back-door union busting, also known as contracting-out or privatization. This, of course, is a solution that would potentially mean more profits for the company whose Board of Directors the mayor sits on, Calian Technologies. Mr. O’Brien thinks the people that provide the municipal services that we all depend on should bear the brunt of the rising costs the City is facing. Better they take a major wage cut than we face a moderate tax increase. Interestingly enough, the example he used to justify privatization was a service that the City makes money off of - parking.

The mayor also trudged up the age old solution used by companies in financial crisis - sell off parts of the company. Of course, in the private sector they usually sell of a non-profitable part of the company to someone who thinks they can turn it around and make a profit. Mr O’Brien wants to sell of Hydro Ottawa, a company that makes a profit for the City.

This is just more of the same non-leadership in a record that will be remembered for proving that the City can function without a mayor.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Abolishing The Senate - An Easy Solution

New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton has called for a national referendum on the abolition of the Senate, while others, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper want to reform it, while the expert think abolition is unlikely.

Certainly at a time when politicians and political institutions are perhaps at their lowest in public respect, the Senate is the least respected institution and Senators the least respected politicians.

Politically, abolishing the Senate is an easy solution.

The real question is not whether Senators are doing a good job or whether the institution as it is constituted now is useful. The real question is whether our federal government requires two legislative chambers, a bicameral system, when the provinces function fine without them. Do we need a “chamber of sober second thought”.

In many ways the provinces deal with jurisdictions of a more administrative nature, such as health care, education and transportation infrastructure, while the federal Parliament is the one that reflects Canadian values.

Although health care administration is under provincial jurisdiction it was when the federal Parliament adopted Medicare as a national program that it became the most sacred of all Canadian values, along with national social programs.

As I type this I cannot help but think of the major role the New Democratic Party has played in establishing Canada’s national values, from inventing Medicare in Saskatchewan to opposing capital punishment, which recent polls indicate has become entrenched as a basic Canadian value.

As with the capital punishment decision, it is the federal Parliament that decides what we as a society consider to be right or wrong, in its responsibility for the Criminal Code. It decides who our friends and enemies are and what Canadians are willing to fight and die for, in it’s responsibility for foreign and military policy. It decides who we let immigrate into the country and become Canadians. It decides, on behalf of all Canadians, what our responsibilities are in the world in protecting and promoting equality, human rights and a sustainable environment. It is the level of government that ensures Canadian values are entrenched in our laws and public policies.

The Fifth Column proposes, for purposes of discussion, that we consider establishing a New Chamber with a more focused role.

That role would be to ensure that legislation complies with Canadian values, and in particular, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The New Chamber would also retain the “sober second thought” role of identifying flaws and unintended effects in legislation before it is passed, and sending it back to the House of Commons, basically saying “did you really want to do that”.

The New Chamber would be different. It would not be appointed. It would not be elected. It would be selected randomly from the population similar to the jury selection process. It would not be made up of politicians and it would not be divided by party allegiances. It would be an attempt to represent the people directly, rather than indirectly through elected representatives.

The New Chamber would not initiate legislation. That would be the role of the politicians that we elect on the basis of their policies and personal character. It would, as previously stated, provide an oversight role in ensuring that legislation complies with Canadian values and it would undertake studies on matters of public interest and policies and present non-partisan reports to the House of Commons for consideration.

This proposal would definitely not be an easy solution.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Twelve Thousand Words on Why We Should Preserve The Greenbelt

The Ottawa Greenbelt, or as it is officially known, The National Capital Greenbelt has been in the news lately due to the musings of the new Chair of the National Capital Commission (NCC), Russel Mills. Fortunately, if not surprisingly, the Minister of the Environment, John Baird thinks otherwise.

Today I want to share with you some of my photographs taken in our favourite place to spend our time, The Greenbelt:

Click on the photos to see larger images.

























More of my photos of The Greenbelt and other locations can be found in Richard's Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 Photo Galleries @ Fotopic.Net

Monday, 5 November 2007

Privacy Rights – Where Do We Draw The Lines - Questions

Are we too concerned about privacy. Has the concept of privacy gone too far. Do we really have a right to anonymity. When is it acceptable for authorities to ask us to prove who we are. These issues arise in all sorts of social and political contexts.

Do people who work for public agencies – people who work for us – have a right to refuse to let the public know what they are being paid on our behalf.

What about complaints by drivers about red light cameras that catch them in public breaking the law. Do they have a right to be concerned about people finding out where they were, when they were in a public place. Do people have a right to “freedom from embarrassment”.

If we can be freely seen in a public place is being videotaped or photographed in that place an invasion of privacy.

Should police be able to stop all black men and request identification if a black man has committed a crime in that area. Do police ever stop all tall men when a tall man has committed a crime in the area. How do we differentiate between racial profiling and stopping people that match the description of a suspect.

Would we all be better off if authorities could use the best technology available to identify people, such as fingerprints, Iris scans or DNA (can we separate medical from identifying information in a DNA sample). Should we all have our identification data on the public record.

If travellers are subjected to inappropriate treatment due to misidentification, or having similar names to other people, are more accurate identification methods such as fingerprinting or iris scans actually less intrusive than comparing names or photographs.

Should we worry about Internet financial transactions but freely give our VISA number to anyone working in a restaurant or gas station.

Should we require photo identification to vote. Does it matter that many poor and disadvantaged people don’t have photo ID because they don’t vote anyway.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Bus Business Butt Ban

Well actually it's a "OC Transpo transit property smoking ban" but "Bus Business Butt Ban" alliterates better.

It's a little late for me now that I am retired, but I remember waiting at the bus stop and how annoying it was trying to avoid smokers. If I can smell the stuff I'm breathing it and and suffering the health consequences.

Indeed, The Canadian Cancer Society reports:

January 2006 - A new study by Canadian Cancer Society researcher Dr Roberta Ferrence may make it more difficult to smoke in outdoor public places.

The Toronto-based researcher is studying the behavior of smokers and non-smokers in outdoor public places in order to encourage new legislation and new designs that will limit outdoor smoking.

“The fact is that there are substantial health hazards from second-hand tobacco smoke exposure outdoors as well as indoors,” says Dr Ferrence, who is also the director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. “This means that we must start thinking about how to protect people from second-hand smoke when they’re in outdoor public places.”
Credit goes to OC Transpo for increasing its protection of transit users from second hand smoke.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The State of the Blog

I am very happy with the progress of the blog. It has been 9 months since I created The Fifth Column, two months of that was the development and testing stage, 7 months with actual new blog posts and the last two months with posts every weekday.

From April 1 to October 31 there have been 1852 visits by 1293 unique visitors with 2832 page views. The blog took its biggest jump in traffic when I started posting daily during the week. Being “syndicated” on Progressive Bloggers and Blogging Dippers also helped a lot.

This may not be a lot by the standards of the big mainstream blogs but I certainly feel that it is enough to make the effort worthwhile, especially as I do appear to be getting some regular visitors to the blog. I am also very pleased to be receiving votes on Progressive Bloggers, yesterday’s blog receiving 5 votes. I look forward to growing the blog further.

I am however disappointed in the low number of comments being posted, one of the main goals of the blog being to initiate discussion. So if you do have any general comments on The Fifth Column please post them in response to this blog posting, and please let me know if you are a regular reader of The Fifth Column.