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October 31, 2008

Simpsons Spoof the Great Pumpkin & Peanuts

ENTERTAINMENT - The new Halloween Simpsons episode will spoof the movie Transformers and the Peanuts Halloween special "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Dead celebrity endorsements and politics will be featured in the third story referencing the United States election.

Unfortunately the Simpsons episode has been bumped to Sunday. The 19th annual Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode won't air until Sunday night at 8 PM EST on Fox and Global.

So why was the Simpsons episode bumped to Sunday? Usually they air the new Treehouse of Horror episode on Halloween Eve, not two days later.

Or does Homer's dead celebrity endorsements for the election candidates have some kind of political statement and they want to deliberately air it 2 days before the election? Don't forget the Treehouse of Horror (VII) episode where Bill Clinton and Bob Dole get bumped off and replaced by Kang and Kodos.

Halloween Financial News

UNITED STATES - No, its not what you're thinking. This post has very little to do with Halloween.

Oil prices slipped to $64.45 a barrel today (Nymex), heading for what will likely become the sharpest monthly decline in crude prices since futures trading began on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, December Brent crude fell to $62 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Since Oct. 1, the price of crude has fallen about $34, meaning a barrel of oil has lost about 35% of its value. Crude have not fallen that fast in the 25 year history of Nymex trading.

Since prices peaked above $147 in July, crude's value has been more than halved. Consumers have pulled back drastically on spending, including spending on fuel, amid an American recession.

US Consumer spending in general dropped in September by the largest amount in four years, while incomes suffered because of Hurricane Ike. Personal spending fell by 0.3 per cent last month, the biggest decline since June of 2004. That followed flat readings in both July and August, contributing to the worst quarterly performance in 28 years.

Incomes showed a 0.2 per cent rise in September, just half of the August increase, a slowdown that partly reflected the adverse effects of Hurricane Ike along the Gulf Coast. The storm cut into rental payments and earnings from businesses affected by the rough weather and its aftermath.

The September spending decline was slightly worse than economists expected and confirmed that the economy hit a wall in the third quarter because of the weakness in consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity.


Despite the recent plunge in the economy, Halloween sales are projected to reach $5.8 billion dollars across the United States. That’s up $800 million from last year. People spent more on costumes this year, but less on decorations.

October 29, 2008

If John McCain kicks the bucket...

By Ai Lung Nguyen - October 2008.

UNITED STATES - If 72 year old John McCain wins the US presidency, but kicks the bucket in the next four year years his vice-president Sarah Palin will be sworn in as President of the United States of America.

McCain is already the same age the average America dies, and his health is not spectacular. Due to some recent gaffes its even become a question of whether he's going senile in his old age.

Its possible after all. America could end up with a president who keeps reminiscing about bygone eras in the midst of speeches, perhaps even forgetting where he is and thinking he is back in a POW camp in Vietnam.

I admit it sounds kind of funny, but its possible. Look at what happened to Boris Yeltsin and Fidel Castro. They both went senile but managed to stay in power for years.

And if he doesn't go senile there's always the potential for catastrophic heart attack, stroke, brain aneurysm or old fashioned cancer. It would certainly highlight the poor state of America's health care system.

In that event Sarah Palin would be sworn in as president, would pick a vice president and serve out the rest of the presidential term playing the "reluctant leader" and "grieving colleague" role. If she played her cards right she could even win a second term.

But will Americans like Sarah Palin? I mean, she's an extremist and by extremist I mean she forces her beliefs onto others against their will. She doesn't listen to polls or the will of the people (neither did George W. Bush for that matter).

Also given the current financial troubles facing the United States (the credit crisis, the budget deficit, the weak American dollar, interest rates, oil prices and corporate crime) does Sarah Palin have any experience dealing with such problems?

None whatsoever. Palin knows nothing about economics. She's a right wing crusader for pro-life, anti-gay marriages and conservative Christian values.

Does America really need Christian crusader for president when we should be focusing on the economic mess George W. Bush left the USA?

October 28, 2008

Can Electric Cars be Sexy?

CARS - To the right is a photo of a yellow Tesla. Granted yellow isn't a very sexy colour, but the car is nevertheless a sexy little hotrod. Or is it? Its an electric car.

Tesla Motors is an American company based in San Francisco which builds "high performance" electric cars. Its not a new idea, people have been building electric cars for over a hundred years and hot sexy electric cars have been struggling to get noticed over the past 30 years.

These days with all the hybrids people tend to forget you can still go pure electic, but there is a horrible stereotype that electric cars are slow, have limited range, run out of battery really quickly, etc. And these are VALID points, especially if you live in a country like Canada where towns and cities are so spread out and distance is measured in how many hours it takes to drive from one city to another.

While several automakers have produced electric vehicles in limited quantities over the past decade, primarily to satisfy California emissions regulations, none to date has proven to be a commercial success (mostly because they're ugly or slow).

The introduction of General Motors' much-publicized Volt concept car was the apparent catalyst for the sudden renewal of interest in plug-in electric vehicles, although it is technically a hybrid with plug-in capability. (The Volt is driven solely by electricity, an on-board internal combustion engine drives a generator to maintain battery charge and extend the vehicle's driving range beyond that possible with a single plug-in battery charge.) A production version of the Volt will be ready in 2010.

Toyota has countered GM's plans by announcing that an electric Prius will be made available to selected fleet customers at about the same time. And many other automakers have started similar plug-in hybrid programs.

The electric vehicle surge does not stop with plug-in hybrids, however.

Tesla has attracted huge publicity for its $100,000-plus pure electric sports car, based on a Lotus chassis, which is now in limited production. With its exceptional performance capability, it has shattered the long-held image of electric vehicles as dull and plodding.

Tesla now has plans for lower-priced, more-mainstream electric vehicles as well. But more importantly, so do such established manufacturers as Audi, BMW, Daimler, Mitsubishi, Renault/Nissan, and Subaru, all of which plan to introduce production models in various parts of the world within the next two or three years.

Of those, the Renault/Nissan program is particularly interesting, in part because of its affiliation with Project Better Place, a company founded by Shai Agassi. Agassi, a former executive at software giant SAP, has ambitious plans that include redefining the whole vehicle ownership/energy-supply experience.

He envisions nationwide networks of both plug-in stations and battery exchange depots. Owners of electric vehicles would lease the batteries and contract for energy supply from the energy provider, choosing from a variety of usage packages – much as we now do for cellphone service.

Renault/Nissan signed a deal with Project Better Place last January to market electric vehicles in Israel. Renault will build the cars and Project Better Place will install 500,000 charging stations and 150 battery exchange depots throughout that country.

As is the case for most of the plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles now in the planning stage, the commercial development of lithium-ion batteries suitable for automotive use is key to the feasibility of the proposed Renault electric car. They will tentatively use lithium-ion batteries, being developed by a Nissan/NEC joint venture, that are expected to provide an operating range of about 200 km per charge.

The company plans to have several hundred cars on the road in Israel within a year.

Similar plans have been announced for Denmark and Portugal, and Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has said that the company intends to sell electric vehicles in the U.S. as well. Indeed, Renault/Nissan is committed to "becoming a global leader" in the production of affordable electric cars, Ghosn says.

In Israel, Agassi says he plans to use solar energy generated in the Negev Desert to power the vehicles. And therein lies another key to electric vehicles' ultimate success.

If they end up as a significant portion of the vehicle population, as their promoters suggest they could, recharging them will add a substantial load to the electricity supply infrastructure, which is already stretched to or beyond peak capacity in many parts of the world – including, at times, in Ontario.

Promoters suggest that vehicle recharging will be limited primarily to the overnight period when electrical demand is low, although that is an unlikely scenario, as Agassi has recognized in his plans. But even if that is the case, adding a dramatic load, such as that for recharging perhaps tens of thousands of electric vehicles, could alter the electrical base-load requirements.

In that case, increased generation capacity and transmission infrastructure could be required. That possibility has become a key point in discussions of the potential for electric vehicles in the United States, although it has received little attention here.

Furthermore, if electric vehicles are to be truly environmentally benign, the source of the electricity with which they are recharged must also be sustainable and clean.

Agassi has dealt with both the supply and environmental issues with his plans for additional generation capacity from solar farms in the Israeli desert.

But what of the prospects for significant increases in the electric vehicle population elsewhere in the world?

That is an area where governments at various levels have an opportunity to shape the future in a positive way.

What if, for example, they were to mandate that electric vehicle purchases or leases be tied to an energy supply contract for electricity from environmentally benign, renewable, non-nuclear sources? If the Japanese can tie vehicle ownership to access to parking, doing the same here for access to green electricity shouldn't be that different.

Such a policy would have multiple benefits. Not only would it enable the introduction of these vehicles on a mass scale while offsetting any increase in electricity demand with new, environmentally benign supply, it would also promote the development of that supply infrastructure.

Indicators suggest that, one way or another, electric vehicles will play a major role in our transportation future.

It is important that we start planning for that future now, and ensure that its needs can be met in an environmentally responsible manner.

Lastly, let's not forget hydrogen. Hydrogen cars are also being touted as the cars of the future, having better performance and range than both gasoline and electric. The problem with hydroden cars is the infrastructure for fueling them but that is just a matter of time.

October 27, 2008

Modern Communism in America

UNITED STATES - America's economy is going down the toilet, the Federal Reserve, the White House and Congress are bailing out investment banks to the tune of $700 billion and meanwhile every day Americans are starting to question the success of capitalism in the United States.

Is America becoming Communist?

Just looking at the bailout by itself... that is Communist Socialism in action. Using government money to support national banks/companies, and in this case effectively buying out those banks so that they are now partially owned by the US government.

In just the last three days presidential candidate John McCain has been pushing the issue of Communism in America, trying to paint his opponent Barack Obama as Red. This despite the fact that McCain ALSO was in favour of the bank bailout.

This is not the first time Republicans have tried to paint Democrats as being pro-Communist... the tactic has been used for decades. The idea that American liberals have been fomenting communist revolution for decades is a theme often pushed by right-wing pundits. Best-selling right-wing books, such as Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior and Ann Coulter's Treason, repeatedly define American liberalism as a covert form of communism.

John McCain's logic is because Barack Obama wants to create a Canadian or French style of health care. Is Canada communist? No. Is France? No. But they have two of the best health care systems in the world. Shouldn't America aspire to have a better health care system? Right now the USA is hovering just above Cuba in terms of quality. Is that the best America can do? Slightly better than Cuba?

But here's the silly thing. The bank bailout was George W. Bush's idea. Its therefore a Republican idea, because we all know Bush isn't the brains in the White House.

So apparently the pot is calling the kettle black. Or in this case Red.

The only reason we're having a bailout in the first place is because George W. Bush has been asleep at the economic wheel during his entire presidency. He has followed a philosophy of ZERO government intervention and when the markets went sour due to the credit crisis his solution is to just throw money at the problem.

So is America becoming Communist? No. A real Communist state would have been controlling everything (or trying to control everything) in the financial markets from the start. Whats happening now is the result of White House and Federal Reserve incompetence.

There's an old mantra that says "Don't attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity."

Is free market Capitalism failing? Is Bush corrupt and/or a communist? No and no again, the economy is just having a rough time because the leadership in America is incompetent.

Lastly, using a solution like a bailout is also rather incompetent. It shows a complete lack of imagination and it will serve to make things worse. Will investment banks learn their lesson? No.

What we need is a REAL solution that will bolster the American economy, and one possible solution would be to cut back on all the Asian imports flooding the American market.

October 25, 2008

Kevin Smith at the Eaton's Centre Today

CANADA - I met Kevin Smith at the Eaton's Centre today. I was on my way to meet up with a friend and visit some art galleries in Toronto's Distillery District... and voila, I'm walking by the guy who screams JESUS SAVES and the other guy who is a Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name" impersonator... and voila I walk into Kevin Smith.

For a moment I was stunned and couldn't remember his name. Finally I said "Kevin Smith?" and he said "Yeah? That's me."

"What are you doing in Toronto?" (I shake his hand.)

"Oh, I'm here promoting my new movie."

"Oh yeah, Zack And Miri Make A Porno. That's weird actually..."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, a colleague of mine has been fussing about your movie lately and wants me to go see it and review it when it comes out. I've been kind of procrastinating about it. Its kind of a weird coincidence that I should bump into you now."

"Oh, that is rather weird. Small world."

"Yep. I have to be going, but it was nice to meet you." (At this point I shook his hand again.)

NOTE: Kevin Smith is thinner in real life. That or he has lost weight recently. Pretty likable guy overall.

OTHER NOTE: I seem to have a weird habit of bumping into celebrities, actors and politicians lately. In the past year I've bumped into Bob Rae, Cameron Diaz (she wasn't very nice BTW), Pierre Pettigrew, Michael Mahonen, Colin Feore and several others whom I can't remember their names right now.

Handsfree Cellphone Driving Ban in the Works

CARS - Ontario will join other Canada provinces Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec in banning cellphone use while driving. Transport Minister Jim Bradley will be seeking to prohibit all use of phones, BlackBerrys and GPS devices by drivers in the province.

The Ontario Liberal government will introduce a bill to ban electronic distractions next Tuesday. Previous attempts to introduce private member's bills banning cellphones have failed.

The reports say the law will likely only apply to those behind the wheel and not passengers in the front or back seat. Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League told CityTV getting drivers to go along with the law will be a challenge for police.

The law is being pushed by various drivers associations and a variety of studies which have shown hands-free cellphone use is just as dangerous as taking your hands off the wheel because the driver's attention to the road drops significantly.

Hands-free chat while driving just as dangerous: study

Researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax found that talking on a cellphone, even using a handsfree device such as a headset or Bluetooth technology, negatively affects driving performance — especially in detecting and identifying events on the road.

The study, which reviewed more than two dozen scientific papers that looked at the effects of both types of cellphone use on driving, found that some drivers alter their driving style — particularly speed — when using a handheld device.

Drivers who use hands-free devices, however, did not.

"When you are talking on a hands-free phone you tend not to slow down," said Yoko Ishigami, a Killam scholar in Dalhousie's experimental psychology department and the study's lead author. More speed, she said, means more mistakes and more accidents.

"When people drive with a hands-free phone they tend not to compensate because they actually think it's safer, said Dalhousie researcher Raymond Klein.

Both said the research shows why any cellphone use in a vehicle should be banned, hands-free or not.

"We actually drive with our minds … and if our minds are busy, then we might make mistakes in driving," Klein said.

About 50 countries — from Australia to Zimbabwe — restrict the use of cellphones while driving. Some of the bans date back as far as 1998.

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec have all banned hand-held cellphones for drivers, while still allowing people to use the hands-free devices. Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and P.E.I. are considering similar moves. Newfoundland discourages it strongly.

Transport Canada also recommends that people shouldn't use any cellphone while driving.

Newfoundland's Government Services Minister Kevin O'Brien said the government, which enacted its ban six years ago, knows hands-free cellphone use while driving is dangerous.

He said the government didn't make include hands-free use in its ban, because it would be too difficult to prosecute people accused of violating the law.

Michael Joliffe is just one of many Canadians who used their hands-free device while driving, particularly as he traveled to and from work.

"That 150 kilometres a day I would drive, it was a great time to talk on the phone."

He said he stopped doing it, however, when one day he drove from Oakville to Richmond Hill, talking on his phone all the way, and couldn't remember how he got home.

Research conducted by the Ontario Medical Association has found that cellphone use puts drivers at significantly greater risk of collision, regardless of whether they use a hands-free or hand-held phone.

The findings showed that cellphone driving can pose nearly the same risks as driving while at the legal limit for alcohol.

The United States meanwhile is still coping with cellphones in general and is currently banning people from using handhelds while driving. The legislation hasn't caught up with the idea of banning cellphone use entirely while driving because banning hands-free is so much more difficult to enforce.

Why not wait until you're at WORK before you speak with clients? Afterall what is the point of having those fancy Business Phones if you don't use them properly? Besides, who really wants to talk business on a cellphone where you have to worry about your minutes, running out of battery power and a bad connection?

October 23, 2008

The Future of Black Nationalism in America

UNITED STATES - Malcolm X made a speech years ago commonly known as "We Have No Freedom" in which he talked about Black Nationalism.
"It was Nationalism that brought about the independence of the people in Asia. Every nation in Asia gained its Independence through the philosophy of Nationalism. Every nation on the African continent that got its independence brought it about through the philosophy of Nationalism and it will take Black Nationalism to bring about the freedom of about twenty-two million Afro Americans here in this country where we have suffered Colonialism for the past four hundred years." - Malcolm X

In the speech Malcolm X also talks about Washington and how the whites in America gained their freedom from the British Empire through the philosophy of Nationalism and "Liberty or Death!"

Central to what Malcolm X talked about in the speech was patriotism. Patriotism is like a loophole or a gateway to freedom and respect. Any man, woman or child can express themselves as a patriot and will be admired for it. Crowds will go "Awww", people will sing the National Anthem, citizens will wipe tears from their eyes and they will remember that moment where they listened to a patriot speak.

Its not about leadership or elections, although those certainly come into play. Its about appealing to every person's common love for their country. If a little black girl stands up on a podium and speaks about love for her country, about racism, sexism and her belief in a stronger, united America where sexism/racism have been almost eliminated it will bring tears to people's eyes. She can express her love for her country and in that moment she won't just be free, she'll be a shining symbol of Lady Liberty herself.

During the French Revolution Lady Liberty was a symbol for freedom against tyranny. When the French gave the United States the Statue of Liberty as a gift in 1886 they did more than cement their friendship with the USA, they galvanized the United States for future generations with a symbol of freedom and hope.

And its the future I wish to talk about.

Right now 12.85% of the United States is Afro-American. That is a pretty large voting bloc when you consider most elections the vote between the Democrats and Republicans are split 50/50, and therefore the Afro vote can be the deciding factor in many an election. Granted a larger percentage of Afro-Americans already vote Democrat, but there's also a sizable percentage that usually vote Republican too. Then there's the percentage, and this is seemingly the largest chunk, who can't make up their mind and don't decide until they're finally in the voting box.

An interesting factor is population growth rates in America. Latino-Americans is the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States today. The Hispanic population increased 29% from 2000 to 2007 and most of it is due to the birth rate, not immigration. Because many Hispanics practice Catholicism they're against abortion and thus explains why the Hispanic population in the USA is expected to triple by 2050.

That means ethnic diversity is going to be the status quo in the future of America. Afro-Americans will still be a minority. Their numbers will grow, but their % of the pie will shrink because of the huge Hispanic growth rates (which means we will likely see an Hispanic president some day in America).

So if ethnic diversity is going to become the status quo in America it means complete freedom and the virtual erasure of racism in the United States is merely decades away. It will be a bumpy ride along the way, but we will see a fresh crop of Afro-American patriots, leaders and the like minded.

We will see people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama and others.

Who does young Afro-Americans look up to today? Historically it has been more likely to have been an entertainer or sports star, ranging from actor/singer Will Smith, basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr., golf star Tiger Woods, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, boxer Muhammad Ali or comedian Dave Chapelle. Its a huge list of Afro-American entertainers and sports celebrities, but the list of Afro-American patriots and leaders has been relatively short.

As Black Nationalism grows in America we will see new heroes for young Afro-Americans to look up to and aspire to be like.

See More Malcolm X Speeches at:

Malcolm X Speech - December 1962
Malcolm X Speech - June 1963
Malcolm X Speech - December 4, 1963
Malcolm X Speech - February 14, 1965

October 22, 2008

Canadian cities not getting the truth on their air quality

Cities not getting true air quality story

Right: Smoggy Montreal

CANADA - The federal and provincial governments are lulling Ontario residents into a false sense of security about the level of pollution they're breathing in on city streets, the province's environment watchdog warned today.

The air quality city dwellers actually endure can differ ``significantly" from the readings provided by the province and Environment Canada because they don't factor in street-level pollution, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said in his annual report.

Ontario's monitoring stations, which are used by the federal government to provide its Air Quality Health Index, are located well away from traffic and other sources of pollution, he said.

Many residents rely on those readings – called the Air Quality Index, or AQI, in Ontario – on a daily basis to determine whether its safe to go outside, he said.

In effect, the current system may be "inadvertently enticing" people to expose themselves to inferior air quality because they're under the false impression that the air in city streets is safe to breathe, his report said.

"I have data to show that the AQI will say that the air quality is clean in Toronto today, and down there on Bay Street, it's very poor," Miller said.

"It's ironic because Ontario actually was ahead of the game 20 years ago when we brought in AQI, on a world basis. Now we're far behind."

Cities like Paris and London have a regional warning system and a street-level system, which provides a better picture of the air quality in key problem areas, Miller said.

Environment Canada provides air quality reports for the provinces and territories, and an Air Quality Health Index – which combines the quality of air with known health effects – for Saint John and dozens of cities in Ontario and British Columbia, according to the agency's website.

Some Ontario municipalities like Halton have plans to put in their own street-level monitoring stations, Miller added.

Ontario environment officials appear to be "well aware" of this weakness, but lack the resources to correct it, Miller said.

Air pollution is linked to an estimated 9,500 deaths each year and its effects on health and the environment costs the province millions of dollars each year, his report said.

But there were no promises to fix the system from Ontario's environment minister.

"If there are some suggestions that he's making with respect as to where these monitoring stations should be set up, we are certainly going to take a look at that, because I think the reporting that we do should be as accurate as possible," John Gerretsen said Tuesday, ahead of the report's official release.

But air quality reporting isn't the only provincial program that's not doing its job to protect people's health and the environment, Miller said.

His report also slammed Ontario's environmental assessment process, which he says isn't screening new projects as carefully as the public has been led to expect.

The province has gradually "whittled away" at the legislation for 30 years, leaving it "in shambles," Miller said.

"Increasingly, in many kinds of environment assessment process, it's a pre-determined 'yes' and there's no way to stop it," he said.

Right: Smoggy Toronto

Mining projects in Ontario are currently exempt from the process, said Justin Duncan of Ecojustice, a non-profit environmental group.

"The Victor diamond mine, for instance. It's going to be a massive pit in the ground, and no one assessed it," he said.

Miller's report also recommends that the government take steps to protect biodiversity in the province and its fresh water.

Ontario has an increasingly limited water supply and has experienced some of the driest conditions on record over the last decade, Miller said.

The government should raise the low fees it charges to companies who take Ontario water, which would encourage conservation and offset the cost of its water management programs, he said.

The report also concludes that the decline in biodiversity has reached a crisis state, but the government hasn't been studying the problem in a comprehensive way.

Detailed studies are instead being done by not-for-profit groups, many of which have spent years documenting species' decline, it said.

October 20, 2008

Unpasteurized milk is good for you.

CANADA - There's a big fuss going on in Ontario where a dairy farmer is being charged with distributing unpasteurized milk through a "cow share program".

In September, dairy farmer Michael Schmidt went on trial after York Region filed a contempt charge against him for failing to obey a May 2007 court order that prohibited him from distributing raw milk within its borders. Today he was found guilty of contempt of court and is being fined $5,000, and lawyers for the prosecution are also suggesting an extra $53,000 for the legal bills.

Schmidt runs a co-operative venture near Owen Sound with about 150 cow-share members. He claims he does not sell or distribute raw milk but he simply provides the milk to the cow’s owners, all of whom pay to board the cows at his farm.

Schmidt defended himself in the case to save money ahead of a wider trial scheduled for 2009, in which he faces 20 charges laid by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grey-Bruce Health Unit.

Unpasteurized milk does carry the risk of spreading salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, but if you are boil the milk yourself those risks are eliminated.

NOTE: I was raised on unpasteurized milk when I was much younger. As I recall unpasteurized milk not only tasted better, but was inexpensive and good for cooking with. PLEASE NOTE that we boiled the milk, then stored it in the fridge before drinking it. People are assuming its being drank "raw" and thats a misnomer. Store bought milk has simply been boiled down, pasteurized, had water added to it and re-pasteurized and water re-added. Its a huge lengthy process with a lot of wasted energy. If farmers want to buy unpasteurized milk and boil it themselves that is really their choice.

Related Agricultural Topics:

Farming Demographics and Intercropping

A Fair Share For Canadian Farmers!

Green Gold - Is Biofuel the fuel of the future?

Walkerton Water and E.coli

The Best of John Candy

CANADA - Who doesn't like John Candy? He's a big lovable character.

I still have a sizable VHS collection of John Candy movies (and looking to get them on DVD soon) and of them I can say the best ones are (in chronological order):

1. Armed and Dangerous
2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
3. The Great Outdoors
4. Who's Harry Crumb
5. Uncle Buck
6. Delirious

Indeed, thanks to YouTube you can watch almost all of the film Delirious right here. And thanks to the failures of YouTube, there's no sound in part 1 so its not included in the playlist above. To summarize part 1 John Candy is a soap opera writer and the soap opera he works for is rather cheesy and wants to replace him with an even cheesier guy. To summarize the plot, John Candy eventually hits his head and wakes up in the world of his own soap opera.

"This can't be! I must be dead. I am dead! I'm in hell! And my punishment is spending eternity on my own show! Oh no!"

YouTube also has a tonne of great clips from when John Candy was a member of Second City. Second City is currently coming out with a new comedy show called "Barack to the Future", which stars comedian Marty Adams (considered by some to be the next John Candy).

October 18, 2008

Carl Schaefer

We added Carl Schaefer to the Art History Archive today. The Canadian landscape artist from Hanover Ontario lived from 1903 to 1995 and his most famous work is Ontario Farmhouse done in 1934.

Carl Schaefer is one of numerous Canadian artists that are taught in Canadian high schools, including the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Daphne Odjig, Paul Peel, Tom Thomson, Ken Danby and Joyce Wieland.

Is Canada in a Recession?

Is Canada joining the United States in a recession?

Time will tell.

What is happening in Canada is strange. Job growth is up and unemployment is still very low, but people are so worried about the economy that they are cutting back on spendng... especially on luxury items.

So how do we track luxury items?

Well, for starters champagne sales in Ontario are down dramatically in 2008. 24%. Don't know what the percentage is for the rest of Canada, but seeing as Ontario has one third of Canada's population and is the biggest Canadian consumer of champagne it sends a signal that people are worried and being more thrifty.

Ontario cottages are also seeing a major drop in sales.

Sales of cottages in the Muskoka area (considered the most luxurious and convenient cottage market dominated by million-dollar mansions on the water) are down by a daunting 43 per cent in the first nine months of the year according to figures from the Muskoka and Haliburton Association of Realtors. Agents reported 111 transactions by the end of September, compared to 197 by the same time last year.

While sales of all types of cottages are down, Karen Flood, incoming president of the association, said the high end cottages are the ones most affected.
So yes, Canadians are cutting back on luxury items. Are we in a recession like the United States?

No, we're just feeling the pinch and the worry over the economy is effecting us too.

In the Unites States however there isn't just worry. There's panic.

Panic induced government bailouts of the leading banks of the U.S. and Europe, and a stock market that posted a record weekly drop of 18 per cent last week, and a 40 per cent plunge since last summer – the biggest failure in modern free-market economics is bound to raise doubts about the future of capitalism as we know it.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a tycoon with a near-monopoly on commercial broadcasting in Italy, scorns the "capitalism of adventurers" in the USA – the anything-goes Wall Street investment bankers who put annual bonuses ahead of integrity. Berlusconi is a brilliant businessman who started small and managed to build his business into a near monopoly and even become Italian Prime Minister, but he has a very important point.

Corruption and Greed in the Marketplace = Loss of Integrity, Honesty and Profits are soon to disappear...

Think about it. Would you invest money with a company you knew was fraudulent, syphoning funds to the private accounts or just plain greedy and untrustworthy?

No. Neither would I.

And thats what investors are saying. If American investment banks are so greedy and untrustworthy, why should we give them our money?

And furthermore, why should we bail them out either? That $700 billion George W. Bush is giving investment banks to buy junk mortgages is a fundamental waste of money. Its like going to the shady used car salesman and saying "Hey buddy, I heard times are rough... how about I buy $[insert big number here] of your worst cars, your lemons/etc. and you can go on vacation to Hawaii with the money."

Last I checked investment bankers are pretty well off, rich to say the least. Profits are down due to the credit crisis, but they're still making profits. So why boost their profits with a bailout?

Because we're talking about America's elite, the backbone of the Republican party. They make a huge fuss if they're not making huge profits. Small profits just doesn't look good enough on paper. Because the outgoing Bush Administration is corrupt and just doesn't care if they bankrupt America and have a budget deficit.

So Canada, America... what will it be? Your pensions are riding on investment banks that use shady mortgages in an effort to boost profits. Do you really want your money being managed by someone you can't trust?

October 14, 2008

Conservatives Win a Minority, but no mandate

CANADA - The Conservative Party of Canada has won 143 seats but failed to reach the number needed to form a majority government. The Liberals won 76, the BQ won 50, the NDP 37 and there is 2 independents. Massive vote splitting between the Liberals, NDP and Green parties crippled the Canadian left, but Canadians fearing a Stephen Harper majority still managed to vote and prevent it from happening.

Harper ran on a campaign of nothingness. Its easy to keep your promises when you don't make any. The party had no platform, no mandate and was basically arguing that Canada should do nothing special. No changes, despite huge economic and environmental concerns. Many people criticize this, suggesting Harper has a hidden agenda and doesn't want to reveal his platform of privatizing healthcare, more military spending and continuing to ignore Canadian schools and universities.

The Conservatives still could not break into the heartland of Ontario or Quebec, but did make some progress in British Columbia due to vote splitting between the NDP and Liberals and unusually strong support for the Green Party. This is the third time Stephen Harper has failed to win a majority government, prompting suggestions that he is a poor leader. If he was going to win ever it should have been this time.

The vote splitting has cost the Liberals heavily and some are whispering about replacing Liberal leader Stephane Dion. In other news Justin Trudeau won his seat in Papineau Montreal, winning the seat back from the BQ which won it in 2006. Trudeau is a potential prospect for leader of the Liberal Party.

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe lost seats to the Liberals, but still claimed victory for preventing a Harper majority. Duceppe had campaigned on comparing Harper to George W. Bush and saying that the only way to stop a Harper majority is for Quebecers to vote BQ.

Voter turnout however was only 61%, sparking more talk about making voting mandatory or giving people who vote an income tax benefit. Voter turnout is the lowest amongst young people who feel jaded and pessimistic about politicians... but frankly if you don't vote you get what you deserve. Politicians that don't serve your needs.

In the pre-election polls the Green Party was estimated to get 11% of the vote, but ended up only getting 7%. In other words roughly 40% of Green supporters either voted for a different party or didn't vote at all. The Green Party didn't win a single seat, confirming that anyone who votes Green is basically throwing their vote away.

That 7% could have made a huge difference to the Liberals or NDP.

While we were in the voting booth we also noted something funny. The Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party... why does Canada have two parties going for roughly the same thing? And frankly, who votes for them? A complete waste of a vote.

What Canada needs is for the NDP, Greens and Liberals to combine into one party, perhaps under Justin Trudeau's leadership. New ideas and a new future.

October 11, 2008

General Motors and Chrysler discuss Merger

UNITED STATES - Failing automotive giants General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have held preliminary talks about a merger or an acquisition of Chrysler by GM, according to published reports. Both companies have been hard hit by the Automotive Recession.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people it described as familiar with the discussions, reported that Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns 80.1 per cent of Chrysler and 51 per cent of GMAC Financial Services, proposed trading Chrysler's automotive operations to GM. The Journal said Cerberus would receive GM's remaining 49 per cent stake in GMAC.

The New York Times, also citing people familiar with the talks, reported that the automakers were discussing a merger. The Times did not mention GMAC.

GMAC, primarily an auto lender, also has significant mortgage lending operations that have been hit hard by the crisis in that industry.

The talks have stalled because of the recent turmoil in the financial markets, according to the Journal. Its sources said negotiations could resume if markets stabilize because both GM and Cerberus want to quickly divest the assets under discussion.

The negotiations between 100-year-old GM and 83-year-old Chrysler began more than a month ago, according to the Times. Its sources said the chances of a merger were "50-50" as of Friday and likely would take weeks to complete.

Both newspapers posted their stories on their Web sites late Friday.

"Without referencing this specific rumor, as we've often said, GM officials routinely discuss issues of mutual interest with other automakers," GM spokesman Tony Cervone said.

"The company is looking at a number of potential global partnerships as it explores growth opportunities around the world," Chrysler spokeswoman Lori McTavish said. "Beyond those partnerships already announced, however, Chrysler has not formed any new agreements and has no further announcements to make at this time.''

A tie-up between the automotive giants would be historic for the industry and solidify GM's position as the global sales leader, which it has been in danger of losing to Toyota Motor Corp. GM and Toyota finished 2007 essentially even in vehicles sold worldwide.

This would not be the first time Detroit's automakers have explored mergers.

GM reportedly talked with DaimlerChrysler AG in 2007 about acquiring Chrysler before Cerberus made a deal to acquire most of the automaker.

In 2005, GM and Ford Motor Co. reportedly held talks regarding a potential business combination.

Cerberus acquired its GMAC stake in 2006 for $14 billion and bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler from Daimler AG in August 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal. Cerberus and Daimler confirmed last month they are in talks for Cerberus to acquire Daimler's remaining Chrysler stake.

The auto industry has been hit hard in recent weeks by the effects of the credit crisis, prompting GM and Ford to issue statements Friday to dispel the notion that they might be headed for bankruptcy.

GM and Ford shares were battered with the rest of the stock market this week, falling to lows not seen in decades. GM shares lost about half of their already-depressed value during the week, closing at $4.89 on Friday. Ford shares fell similarly, ending the week at $1.99.

North Korea no longer terrorists says USA

Note About Images: In this post are 7 examples of North Korean propaganda posters, as well as two images of women in the North Korean army.

ASIA - North Korea has agreed to all United States nuclear inspection demands and the Bush administration responded Saturday by removing the communist country from a terrorism blacklist. The breakthrough is intended to salvage a faltering disarmament accord before President George W. Bush leaves office in January.

"Every single element of verification that we sought going in is part of this package," State Department Sean McCormack said at a a rare weekend briefing.

North Korea tested a nuclear bomb on October 9th 2006.

North Korea will allow atomic experts to take samples and conduct forensic tests at all of its declared nuclear facilities and undeclared sites on mutual consent. The North will permit experts to verify that it has told the truth about transfers of nuclear technology and an alleged uranium program.

"Verifying North Korea's nuclear proliferation will be a serious challenge. This is most is the most secret and opaque regime in the entire world," said Patricia McNerney, assistant secretary for international security and nonprofileration.

The move followed days of intense internal debate in Washington and consultations with U.S. negotiating partners China, South Korea, Russia and Japan. Tokyo had balked at the move because North Korea has not resolved issues related to its abduction of Japanese citizens.

"The key principle of the six-party talks is that any agreement must be agreed upon and in essence guaranteed. The next is to go to the six and have this formalized," McCormack said.

Removing North Korea from the blacklist was immediately criticized by some conservatives who said it rewards the North for bad behavior and sends a bad signal to other U.S. adversaries, notably Iran. U.S. officials stressed that the North would be placed back on the list if it fails to comply with the plan to verify it has told the truth about its nuclear activities.

The broader accord had been threatened by North Korea's refusal to accept such nuclear inspections because Washington had refused to drop the North from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

That designation – now shared only by Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan – carries severe penalties, but U.S. officials said North Korea would not see any immediate benefit because it is punished penalized under other programs.

North Korea has moved to restart a disabled nuclear reactor and takes other provocative steps, including expelling U.N. inspectors and test-firing missiles. Those steps in recent weeks have heightened tensions in the region and place the shaky disarmament deal in peril.

The blacklist decision had been in the works since chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill returned from a trip to North Korea late last week. On his visit, he proposed a face-saving compromise under which the North would accept the verification plan after the delisting was announced. Previously, the U.S. had insisted that the North agree to the deal first.

Critics pilloried the development because it addresses only the North's plutonium program and does not deal with its involvement in spreading nuclear weapons technology or alleged uranium enrichment activities.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he would not support the step unless it is clear North Korea will accept intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites.

"I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies before I will be able to support any decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism," McCain said in a statement late Friday.

In addition, he expressed concern that U.S. allies in Asia, particularly Japan, had not been properly consulted.

"I am also concerned that this latest agreement appears to have been reached between Washington and Pyongyang and only then discussed with our Asian allies in an effort to garner their support," he said.

McCormack said the decision had been discussed with all the U.S. partners in the six-nation talks and that a consensus had been reached.

Japan had been resistant, arguing that North Korea should not be taken off the list until the cases of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s are resolved.

North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, was branded as part of an "axis of evil" by Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks.

North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Il is believed to have had a stroke this past September.

Below: Women comprise an important part of North Korea's fighting force. Is it feminism? Not really. Military service in North Korea is basically mandatory due to a combination of laws and a poor economy.

Capture the Flag Toronto

CANADA - Tonight several thousand people in Toronto's downtown banking district will have a huge Capture the Flag game. The game is free, exciting and if you live in Toronto a great way to get out and have some fun.

There is a variety of rules to keep the game safe and keep people from getting arrested. Police will be watching the game for jaywalkers/etc. Volunteer referees will be watching at all times to make sure rules are followed.

All participants are strongly encouraged to bring a cellphone and a flashlight. Players use phones to plan strategies. The area is dimly lit, and you will be glad you brought a flashlight or a head lamp. Additionally, if you are on wheels, please light up your bike!

See complete details at

October 10, 2008

Traders Panicking as TSX, Dow keep falling

Recession in the United States and panicking investors react to today's financial news.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index has crossed below the 9,000-point mark in intra-day trading for the first time since mid-January 2005 with a 610-point slide. New York's Dow Jones industrials was also off early lows, down 356.59 points to 8,222.6.

On the TSX this morning, energy stocks again got stomped as oil prices continued to retreat and financial stocks moved lower even as the government announced help for Canada's big banks.

New York markets also fell sharply, joining a series of big declines on stock markets around the world, as investors bailed out on continued fears centred on frozen credit.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is buying up to $25 billion in mortgage-backed securities from the country's banks in an effort to maintain the availability of credit and stave off an US style credit crisis.

Canada's central bank lowered its rate 50 basis points in concert with its international counterparts on Wednesday, but the chartered banks initially responded by lowering theirs only 25 points.

The TSX energy sector dropped seven per cent as the November crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange pulled back $6.31 to US$80.28 a barrel as investors believe rapidly slowing economic conditions will curb demand.

General Electric, the oldest Dow component, reported third-quarter earnings in line with downwardly revised expectations. Profit fell 12 per cent from a year ago to US$4.5 billion while revenue rose 11 per cent to US$47.2 billion. GE said that its board has resolved to maintain the dividend at US$1.24 per share at least through next year and its shares rose 18 cents to US$19.19.

General Motors Corp. said today bankruptcy is still not an option, despite a dramatic stock plunge the day before that sent the automaker's shares to their lowest level in more than 58 years and wiped out nearly one-third of their value. Its shares moved up 18 cents to US$4.94. General Motors needs to cut $15.5 billion from its annual budget and has been hard hit by the Automotive Recession.

Citigroup Inc. said late Thursday it was suspending its bid to acquire Wachovia Corp., which will be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. Citigroup shares rose 36 cents to US$13.29 and Wells Fargo added 50 cents to US$27.75.

Oil Prices and the Canadian Dollar

Have you noticed the Canadian Dollar and Oil Prices always move together?

Since oil is an internationally traded commodity and since Canada is so small relative to the United States and the EU, price changes in oil are caused by international factors outside of Canada.

Canada exports around 2 million barrels of oil a day to the United States. If the price of a barrel of oil is $50 U.S., that is $100 million (U.S.) in purchases that occur every day. Because of the magnitude of sales involved, any changes to the price of oil has an impact on currency market.

When the price of oil goes up, Canadian oil companies receive more U.S. dollars. Since they pay their employees (and taxes and many other expenses) in Canadian dollars, they need to exchange U.S. dollars for Canadian ones on foreign exchange markets. So when they have more U.S. dollars, they supply more U.S. dollars and demand more Canadian dollars. The increase in supply of the U.S. dollar drives the price of the U.S. dollar down. Similarly, the increase in demand for the Canadian dollar drives the price of the Canadian dollar up.

The same is equally true when the price of oil drops, the Canadian dollar also drops in value because oil companies don't need as much.

Loonie suffers record one-day drop

As oil prices drops below $80/barrel, Canada's oil export driven economy takes a huge hit.

CANADA - The loonie had the biggest one-day drop on record today, falling nearly four cents against the American dollar at one point amid tremendous financial upheaval around the world.

Even after recovering from its lowest point, the loonie was down 3.08 cents to 84.20 cents US early in the afternoon.

Earlier, the dollar was down as much as 3.87 cents at 83.41 cents, according to the Bank of Montreal's currency desk.

Canada's dollar has now fallen more than a quarter since hitting an all-time peak of 110.3 cents US last November after a rapid three-month rise.

It's nearly three years since Canada's dollar was below 84 cents US, on Nov. 21, 2005.

According to the Bank of Canada's exchange rate website, the dollar hasn't fallen more than three cents in one day since June 21, 1961, when it lost 3.38 cents US.

The fall of the loonie reflects the impact of lower commodity prices, especially oil, along with weak economies around the world and concern that even Canada's sturdy banks are being effected by a global credit crunch.

An economic note from Scotiabank said the loonie is "showing no signs of ending its losing streak against the U.S. dollar."

The loonie is also being sideswiped by rising demand for the U.S. dollar as the United States government tries to borrow heavily in global money markets to finance its $700-billion bailout of banks.

The loonie's plunge yesterday and today came despite a report from Statistics Canada that the country generated a record number of new jobs last month and more support for the financial system from Ottawa.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the government won't allow Canada to be dragged down by instability from outside the country and promises to buy as much as $25 billion worth of debts from Canadian financial institutions.

If the loonie stays at current levels it will make imports of everything from Florida fruit to Boeing jetliners more expensive to Canadians and raise the costs of winter vacations in the United States.

It will also provide some relief to hard-pressed Canadian manufacturers, squeezed for the last two years as the strong currency made Canadian lumber, newsprint, machinery, furniture and other products more costly in the United States market.

However, the volatile trading in the currency makes it difficult for companies and consumers to adapt to such rapid changes.

Past Headlines regarding the Canadian Loonie:

Canadian Loonie on a Roll - Uphill!

Loonie Expected to Soar in 2008

Par in sight for Canadian Dollar

Canadian Dollar Soars Above Par

The Canadian Dollar and Exports

October 7, 2008

Climate right for green bonds

CANADA - The International Energy Agency warned last week that 50 per cent of global electricity supply will need to come from renewable energy sources by 2050 if we hope to "minimize significant and irreversible climate change impacts."

"Governments need to take urgent action," said Nobuo Tanak, executive director of the agency. "Governments need to do more. Setting a carbon price is not enough."

What's interesting about this particular warning is that comes from an agency that, in the past, has been accused of paying only lip service to renewables as part of its broader energy mandate, which has traditionally been dominated by fossil fuels.

Indeed, the organization was founded during the early 1970s directly in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

Here in Canada, Tanak's "do more" message likely fell on deaf ears. The federal Conservative government is more focused on ways to clean up the image of the western oil sands so that development there can continue unabated. Provinces such as Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have taken leadership, but at a federal level there's no green vision for Canada — just a laundry list of half-measures aimed at creating a perception of action.

Given the Conservative lead in the polls, Canadians must be buying it. The only other explanation is that four in 10 voters don't care about the environment, climate change or how we leave the world for future generations. Not enough, anyway, to sway them toward the Liberals, NDP or Green Party.

It gets worse.

The collapse of Wall Street has severely tightened lending markets. There's a global credit crunch, and those looking to spend big bucks on wind, hydroelectric, solar and biomass projects will find it much more difficult — and expensive — to obtain debt financing.

The bottom line: the knee-jerk reaction to the financial crisis will lead to less, or slower action on the climate crisis.

"These are capital-intensive projects," says Tom Rand, director of Toronto-based VCi Green Funds Inc., a private-equity fund that invests in technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. "And we need renewable-energy production to step up tomorrow."

Rand has spent the past year promoting the creation of a government "green bond" that, during the current credit crunch, makes more sense than ever.

The idea is that Canadians could purchase tax-free green bonds in the same way they can purchase Canada Savings Bonds, earning about 4 per cent a year. But the money, potentially billions of dollars, raised from the bond issue would be devoted to infrastructure projects that promote deployment of renewable energy.

"Renewables have to get built, that's a priority, and our plan steps in to provide that liquidity, that cheap debt capital," explains Rand, adding that the bond money could also be used to backstop low-interest bank loans so homeowners have an affordable way to pay for energy retrofits.

"Canadians get a safe investment vehicle, and companies get guaranteed access to low-cost capital over a long period of time. They don't have to worry about that credit crunch biting them in the ass. It's the best of both worlds."

Jobs get created. Clean energy capacity gets built. And Canadians who purchased the bonds get a safe return on their investment and a chance to boost — for themselves, and for their children — development of a green economy.

Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion is a strong advocate of the green bond concept.

Last month, Dion said if elected he would create a federal infrastructure bank that would use money raised from green bonds to provide low-cost financing for major clean-energy projects.

A week earlier, NDP leader Jack Layton announced similar plans for a climate-change bond.

The Conservatives, initially receptive to the idea, ended up backing away.

"Mainly because I don't think they want to engage Canadians on climate-change issues," Rand says. "Because once Canadians are engaged and they have something at stake, their psychology changes and suddenly people want real action."

Europe introduced green bonds last year and within three months about $1.5 billion was raised.

The public appetite is enormous for this kind of investment vehicle, says Rand, who plans to shift gears if the Conservatives get re-elected and start pitching the idea to the provinces.

Why wait? Ontario should be looking into the green bond approach today. If Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman is serious about increasing the province's targets for renewables, then reaching those targets in an environment of tight credit will require some creative financing.

A green bond could fit that bill.

October 6, 2008

Toronto Stock Market Crashes 1200 Points

CANADA - Falling oil prices and investor fears of a global recession pummelled the Canadian stock market again today, dragging the benchmark index to its biggest intraday loss ever as concerns heightened that the Wall Street credit crisis has dragged the Canadian economy into a deep freeze and seized up bank lending around the world.

The Toronto stock market plunged nearly 1,200 points in early trading before clawing back more than half of the loss to close down about 573 points, five per cent, or about $75 billion of paper losses.

At one point the index fell below 10,000 points for the first time in more than three years, wiping out all the gains of the market since mid-2005.

The Bay Street selloff continued a wave of volatile trading that has seen huge swings up and down as investors worry about the global credit crunch and its impact on the Canadian and global economies.

Canada’s main stock index lost 11 per cent last week, evaporating $150 billion in value, as recession worries spooked traders around the world.

While the broader economy seems headed into recession — technically two quarters of shrinking output (see Redefining a Recession) — the jobless rate in Canada is still less than half the unemployment of the early 1980s, during the worst recession in the post Second World War era.

Economists from Canada’s Big Five banks said they expect little or no economic growth in the near future and warned that the domestic gloom will deepen into something worse than a recession.

Since the beginning of the year, the Toronto market has lost about one-third of its value, more than $600 billion, diminishing the value of stocks held by millions of Canadians either directly or through mutual funds and pension plans.

If ordinary Canadians are suddenly feeling poorer because of the market meltdown, analysts warn, that could tighten their purse strings and generate a bigger spending fallout on the retail sector and broader economy.

Election Jitters

The economy has become the key issue on the campaign for the Oct. 14 federal election, with the opposition parties hammering the Conservative government for what they say is a laissez-faire approach to economic management.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that while Canada is not immune to the troubles in global financial markets, the Canadian economy is fundamentally sound and has been helped with Tory tax cuts and other policies.

“Let’s be clear: the prime minister of Canada isn’t going to go around the country predicting a recession when we’re not in a recession now,” ’ Harper said while campaigning in Ottawa early Monday.

“I remain fundamentally optimistic about the Canadian economy, but optimistic, as I’ve said from the beginning, within the framework that we’re now living in ... a period of economic uncertainty.”

“We’re in relatively good position compared to some other countries.” - Stephen Harper.

Unfortunately Mr Harper's words do little to soothe investors. Harper's words have amounted to a lot of hot air and rhetoric, but in reality what the market needs is some political reassurance that he will ACT instead of just sitting back and watching the economy unravel.

October 5, 2008

Open Letter to the Opposition Leaders: If Harper wins a minority

To Stephane Dion, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth May, Jack Layton:

CC: The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail

If Stephen Harper wins a minority government it will be because you four have failed to work together to collectively portray him as an incompetent do-nothing leader and a pawn of the American Republicans and the oil industry.

You had plenty of scandals that leaked out as well, ranging from bribery to fraud, so there was no shortage of ammunition to prove Harper is corrupt and incompetent.

Squabbling between yourselves is a given, we can accept that. But what we don't want is another couple years of Harper bullying his way through parliament with threats of another election and either the Liberals, NDP or the Bloc propping up the Conservatives (you're all guilty of doing it at least once).

As opposition parties facing a minority Conservative government you will have the power to say NO. We shall be expecting you to exercise that.

Furthermore you also have the power to put forth a private members bill, on the topic of the environment for example. Mr Dion has proposed taxing carbon emissions and Mr Layton wants caps on carbon emissions. Why not do both? Seriously. Tax the carbon emissions AND set caps on the maximum allowed.

On the topic of medical care Mr Layton wants to introduce pharmacare and Mr Dion wants to train/hire more doctors and nurses. Evidently in this case we could again do both.

Other issues ranging from Quebec, native rights, Canadian troops in Afghanistan will have to be discussed on a case by case basis. In some cases you will have to compromise (what would politics be without compromise?) and in other cases you will always have the option of doing both, nothing or multiple solutions.

Your end goal should be to make the Conservative Party powerless. When a minority government becomes powerless there is always the opportunity for the opposition leaders to form a new minority government without going to another election. You will have to check the precise rules in the Parliament of Canada Act about forming a secondary minority government. We should note however that, to our knowledge, that particular rule in the Parliament of Canada Act has never actually been used, and is a bit controversial because it relies on several opposition parties to work together to form a new government.

Lately many Canadians we've spoken to are undecided about whom to vote for. We like Stephane Dion's integrity, we like Jack Layton's optimism, we like Elizabeth May's fiery spirit and some of us Anglo-Canadians even like well-spoken Gilles Duceppe and wish he was leader of a national party.

In the case of the Greens, the NDP and the Liberals we are faced with vote splitting and its reached a point where we are looking at an endless line of Conservative minority governments until either one of you or all of you decide to take some initiative and work together.

You may even decide to form a New Liberal Party and push the Liberals more to the left. We have far too many left-wing parties in Canada right now and while that it is encouraging that approx. 65% of Canadians vote left of the middle, the voting system in Canada is such that parties like the Greens and NDP have millions of votes but collectively only get 30 seats or less in parliament.

Redesigning the voting system might be one of the things you want to discuss if we do end up in perpetual minority governments.

We personally don't mind minority governments because it means the parties are forced to work together to come up with solutions. HOWEVER, having someone like Stephen Harper who bullies through legislation defeats the purpose of a minority government. Minority governments are supposed to compromise. Harper has been doing very little of that during the past year.

We can do better than that. You can do better than that.

Charles Moffat & Suzanne MacNevin
Toronto, Ontario

Political parties need to learn to relax and work together more often. Maybe they should host a party, hire some caterers or Toronto Party Rentals and then discuss options for building a better Canada?

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