June 07, 2006

Canada and the War on Terror

June 7 - I've been off-line as the phone company didn't come through and then Munuvia was hit with yet another DNS attack. We must have pissed someone off, which I'll take as a compliment.

The international attention to the terror arrests up here has been astonishing, and all the more so in that the Canadian security agencies involved in the arrests have been more forthcoming than usual about those accused and their alleged specific targets. And too, the accusation that one of them wanted to behead the prime minister adds to the sensationalism in the case.

The Toronto Sun has archived the reports coming out in the aftermath of the arrest of 17 alleged terrorists here.

Judging from my own observations, I would say that awareness by both private citizens as well as by institutions has been increased -- but I'm sticking with generalities for the same reason as I cited in the previous post: give nothing away and make the bastards do their own legwork.

I will only report on the responses of those I know (and those who know me, and my American flag lapel pin intentionally acts to forewarn folks) yet I think it's fair to say that the astonishment here in Toronto is mixed with gratification. After the dismal failure to convict the defendents in the Air India trial which was, in part, attributed to turf wars between CSIS and the RCMP coupled with the revelation that the RCMP was involved in some questionable Adscam doings and had become highly politicized was disenheartening, but the arrests seemingly signaled that those responsible for public safety were in fact making us safer:

The RCMP led the investigation, but the probe included significant co-operation with partners through an Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, or INSET, made up of RCMP, the CSIS spy organization, federal agencies and provincial and municipal police.

INSET teams were created in April 2002 under a five-year, $64-million investment by the federal government.

That means the teams were created when Chretien was prime minister, which is significant and asks a question of those who parrot the sorry "it sends a message" line: Why do you vote for people who say one thing and then do another rather than voting (or at least respecting) those do what they say they will do?

Chretien and his ministers continually pooh-poohed the terror threat in Canada, yet established a high-profile committee to counter terror threats and it was highly successful. The arrests and detainment in Canada under this country's Anti-Terrorism Act (and which was opposed in an open letter from Muslim and civil rights organizations in part due to provisions permitting secrecy and long-term detentions without the formal filing of charges) should have been enough to persuade Canadians that (a) there was a security threat and (b) some strong measures had been taken to contain that threat.

The most striking feature of the case is that the targets were total Cancon -- nary an American business concern or MacDonald's were on that list. Even the dumbest dunderhead should have to concede that their hated for Canada and her institutions went beyond any imagined connection with the USA and spoke to their hatred of the West in general, but I'm not counting on it. The readiness with which many up here blame the USA for everything and anything is so deeply embedded that I doubt anything could excise it, but it is those others who are thinking about this and doing their own math and, if they think about it from this perspective, the aborted attacks say so much about Canada's worth that it may help counter the sense of inferiority that marks much of what is called Canadian self-deprecation.

In short, Canada is a force of good in the world and that makes her a target -- just not in the way that those at the CBC and Toronto Star would project. It is more evident in the West, but folks in the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario too have it as part of their heritage: the courage to pick up roots and settle in a foreign country (including the Tories Loyalists* that fled from the American War of Independence;) the willing self-reliance and confidence such a decision requires; the optimism and hope that life here will be better than it was "back home."

Okay, I'm going all Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle on you, but there is a lot of wisdom in that movie (and some grrr-eat humour) but I do have a point: people don't come here (especially given the damned winters) unless they have confidence and yearn to build a better life for themselves and their children. I actually believe that at least some of the familes of the accused had no idea what their kids were up to because that spark and optimism drove them to take a chance and move here and I feel as badly for them as for any family that sees - and disbelieves - that their kids are trashing every gift their parents gave them.

Those who want to invoke the 60s might want to look a little deeper: one of the accusations of my generation was that our parents were too materialistic and insufficiently spiritual and "close to nature." That this accusation was directed at people who had grown up with war-time scarcities was not even a consideration, yet how different is that blindness from the young fundamentalists who have disavowed every reason for which their parents migrated here?

It should be said that recognition of and gratitude for that gift can be perverted if the schools and communities don't celebrate the very heritage that enabled people of all colours, religions and ethnicities to come here and succeed, and by that I am referring specifically to the shared English heritage of both the USA and Canada which molded our institutions and gave legal recognition to individual merit and free will, despite its inconveniences, and just maybe what Canada and Canadians need is to accept that the two countries have that in common as well as a geographical boundary.

Instead of Canadians prefacing sentences with "unlike Americans," maybe we can all say that we -- Canadian, American, Australian, New Zealander, and British -- are all engaged in promoting the genuine values of an Anglosphere which decrees that all are equal and can rise on the basis of individual merit and worth.

On Canadian Appeasement

All the protests, anti-Americanism, Bush-bashing (including that by elected officials) and a refusal to support the Iraq War only fooled the fools -- it did not fool those who allegedly plotted attacks on institutions and landmarks and, had the plot actually gone forward, the death toll as well as the impact on the Canadian economy would have been substantial.

They are even accused of plotting an attack on the Toronto CBC studio, one of the most liberal if not leftist institutions in Canada. The CBC has been lukewarm on Canadian involvement in Afghanistan and their hostility to the USA as well as US efforts in Iraq is unmistakeable, yet they were a target.

Again, only the fools were fooled.

As I noted in an earlier post about some pre-Sept. 11 difficulties between the French and British in their respective perceptions of the international scope of conspiracies to commit terror acts, the French may talk a lot about discourse and negotiations but their security services tell a different story: they are focused, hard-nosed, and sometimes ruthless in their determination to eliminate threats. The problem with the French governments is their hypocrisy, or perhaps it would be better to say that the security agencies operate in such deep shadows that the French people can pretend that they are far too sophisticated to indulge in cowboyish maneuvers or do things like blow up the Rainbow Warrior just because it was attempting to expose the environmental impact of continued nuclear testing in Polynesia. After all, their government was "sending the right message."

There are indeed two Canadas, but it is not divided so much between French and English as between those who recognize that terrorism is an international threat and Canada is vulnerable, and those who will not concede the fearsome reality. Given the need for public vigilance in noticing stray bags, gunfire in the night, or an imam who preaches beyong the fiery, the extent to which these arrests are a wake-up call are yet to be determined.

As it has in the USA, though, I fear the retreat to partisan trench warfare between right and left will be rapid and unashamed, and far too many will not be able to find it within themselves to take the necessary steps to admit that we need to pull together now if only for self-preservation. But I really hope to be proven wrong.

* I should have said Loyalists, not Tories. Thanks to Keith for the correction.

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June 03, 2006

GTA Terror Sweet

June 3 - There was a curious story yesterday about some men who were behaving quite peculiarly in the subway. The description of their activities was enough to raise terror concerns:

These two men, spotted May 23 at the Keele subway station, have brought this to the forefront. It could be nothing. It might be something! Who knows? "Two guys with video cameras were hanging around the platform and were on the trains filming the inside and under the seats," a TTC source said. "It was strange." (Emphasis added)
Strange indeed, yet one would think a real terror planner would be considerably more circumspect .. and I figured there was little to the story.


Newsbeat1 linked to a partial transcript of an Al Jazeera interview last May with Taliban military commander Mullah Dadallah (breathless CTV version here) and a veiled threat to Canada was followed by the suggestion that, should Canada withdraw from Afghanistan, there would be no reason to attack:

Mullah Dadallah: "America now wants to avoid the heat of battle, so it pushes other countries towards it. Our operations may increase even more. Our advice to Canada and Britain is to refrain from defending the American propaganda, and from standing by this historic American crime. America wants to get other countries entangled in the crimes it committed in Afghanistan. Our advice to these countries is to avoid the heat of battle, because we will wreak vengeance upon them one by one, like we are doing with the Americans, if they remain here when the Americans are gone."


"Our main enemy is the United States. As for Canada and the other countries - we have no historical enmity with them. But if they want to come here as fighting forces, we will view them just as we view the Americans, and will conduct resistance against them. But if they return to where they came from, and withdraw their forces from here, we will not view them like the Americans, but as countries which we have nothing to do with."

When I left work this morning, there it was on the front page of the Toronto Sun: GTA Terror Sweep:
In a stunning development yesterday, police made a sweeping terrorist bust within the GTA and expected to make several more arrests throughout the night.

"The RCMP, CSIS and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team arrested individuals throughout the GTA today in relation to terrorist-related offences," confirmed RCMP spokesman Corp. Michele Paradis.

As of about 9 p.m. last night, Paradis also added "there are ongoing arrests."

Though unconfirmed, sources have told the Sun police arrested a possible home-grown al-Qaeda terrorist cell operating in Toronto that had planned to bomb the subway as early as Monday.

Home grown terrorists tranining in home grown training camps:
Police had been watching several alleged terrorist camps since 2004 -- one of which is reported to be in the Muskokas near Bracebridge and another near Thunder Bay, a police source told Warmington late last night.

"Recently some officers followed two men who left the camp near Thunder Bay and headed to Toronto," said the source.

Another Sun source said there was a similar "terrorist" camp near Barry's Bay -- within an hour's drive of several Ontario nuclear operations.

There are reports that the suspects were "amassing weapons" -- including explosives.

Now we return to something curious:

But sources also tell the Sun that the RCMP "planted" that story [see first paragraph of this post] with the media, though reasons remain unclear.
It is regrettable that this cat was let out of the bag, and if this item is true, the "source" should be disciplined.

Iraq fired a Scud missile into Kuwait shortly after the invasion into Iraq began. A CNN correspondence told the world precisely where the missile landed -- not thinking that the information would be of value to the Iraqis and help them correct their aim.

I don't want to seem overly harsh on this, but one of the hardest parts about being a terror and war blogger is that sometimes the dots line up and you gasp "Wow!" and rush off to the keyboard ... only to realize that, if you truly care about helping the war effort, you can not publish your Eureka moment.

We aren't supposed to give out operational information! (Yes, I know, the U.S. news media violates that dictum as a matter of routine. Shoot them. Please.)

There will be a press conference this morning at 10 a.m. EDT. and it should be fascinating. I'm certain Newsbeat1 will quickly provide links as to what information is given out if you can't watch it yourself.

Today is moving day and I'll be losing internet access at some point. More later (Toronto hydro, the cable company and Bell Canada willing.)

Posted by Debbye at 06:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 29, 2006

TTC wildcat strike offends Mayor Miller

May 29 - Another glorious day in Toronto, and a really great day to skip work as Toronto buses, streetcars and the subway are not running due to a wildcat strike, and despite the fact that Toronto transit workers were ordered back to work, the system still isn't running.

This is definitely a laugh-cry stituation. Despite the personal inconvenience this may cause as I head for work tonight, our labour-friendly mayor certainly looked foolish on the news this morning and even as I write he is assuming a tough stance on CP24 but is coming off sounding petulant.

How could they do this to him? He's pro-union, by golly, and here they are making him look bad.

But there's some confusion as to what exactly triggered the shutdown:

Union officials warned of a possible strike on the weekend, claiming management was not properly addressing the concerns of employees.

Maintenance workers reportedly instigated the strike, and other employees followed suit.

The union earlier claimed management had locked out some employees, but management disputed the allegations.

The cease and desist order hasn't achieved much because:
[Toronto Transit Commission general manager Rick] Ducharme said the illegal picketers are waiting to hear from their union leader and its executives, who Ducharme has not been able to contact for negotiations.
According to one report, the union is currently in a meeting with the Ontario Labour Board.

The story is being updating continuously on the CTV link.

Obviously this whole mess is clearly Howard ("terrorists can't find Toronto on the map") Moscoe's fault.

13:16 - It's also Moscoe's fault that the time stamp on today's posts are screwy. Clearly I didn't write this at 5:17 a.m.! I'm adjusting the times now.

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May 28, 2006

Rally in Toronto for illegal immigrants rights

May 28 - It was inevitable, I suppose, that rallies in the U.S. demanding rights for illegal immigrants would trigger similar ones up here. 500 attended a rally for immigrants' rights in Toronto yesterday:

The protesters, who gathered outside the OISE building on Bloor St., chanted "No one is illegal," and "Status for all." The rally and march was one of several across Canada yesterday.

"We want an end to the detentions, deportations and use of security certificates," said Zima Zerehi, a spokesman for No One is Illegal Toronto.

Zerehi said studies show about 500,000 illegal immigrants live in Canada with 80,000 in Toronto.

If we apply the 10:1 ratio when comparing Canadian figures to those for the U.S., that would approximate 5 million illegal immigrants in Canada and 800,000 in Toronto.

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May 12, 2006

Would they change the meters if the GST went up?

May 12 - The Ontario government just passed the budget which included a provision increasing the terms for Toronto elected officials from 3 to 4 years. (It's disturbing that the budget included this provision and even more disturbing that the province could do this without even consulting the people of Toronto; in most if not all U.S. cities such a civic matter would be on a city ballot but what can I say? The amagamation of Toronto was also ordered by the provincial government. Centralized authority is a fact of life up here.)

Meanwhile, the minority Conservative federal government is honouring an election promise to reduce the Goods and Services Tax. It's going down by 1%, bringing the federal tax down to 6% (the provincial tax stays at 8%) (yes, people in Ontario pay 15% tax) but now it has been suggested that Cabbies could keep GST cut:

Councillor Howard Moscoe said yesterday that cabbies will have to pay $35 to have taxi meters adjusted to reflect the cut, which kicks in July 1.

They will also lose half a day of work while the meters are reset, he said.

"It just makes sense to leave the meter rates as they are," Moscoe said. "There are going to be those who argue that we're denying people their GST rebate, but in this case, it's not practical to do."

The issue of raising fares to offset the tax cut will be dealt with at next month's meeting of the city's planning and transportation committee. The city sets cab fares in Toronto.

Moscoe noted that the Toronto Parking Authority has already determined it will not pass the GST break on to its customers.

I don't think it makes sense (I mean the part about the cabbies. The Toronto Parking Authority will pocket the extra money and smugly congratulate themselves.)

Surely had the federal government increased the GST the cabbies (and whoever services parking ticket machines) would have found the means to adjust the meters! And isn't the cost for adjusting the meters tax deductible?

Also, why do they need to raise cab fares to offset the tax cut -- the taxes are paid directly to the federal government and are not income.

This city is one weird place.

I have to be back at work at 3:30 this afternoon, so be sure to log onto Newsbeat1 regularly for news and pundit links.

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May 10, 2006

The sad story of Cecilia Zhang

May 10 - As did many others, I tried to spread the word when Cecilia Zhang first went missing over two years ago and I feel I should follow-up with an account of her killer's trial, but his stark account of his motivations and the events that lead to her death are so selfish and desperate that I don't know how to reconcile how I feel about the human instinct to protect children with this man's willingness to use a child as a bartering chip in an extortion scheme concocted out of his desperation to stay in Canada rather than return to China.

Here's the link (Cece's night of terror revealed) and it needs no further elaboration.

May 13 08:37 - Joe Warmington's comments on the sentence of the accused says it all.

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April 05, 2006

Doc Halladay - 88 pitches in 7-2/3 innings

Halladay 06 home opener eIh6zrEB.jpg
Roy Halladay in home opener 2006
Picture from Toronto Blue Jays

Apr. 5 - How about them Jays? Great home opener winning 6-3 against the Twins. And that Halladay? He tossed a mere 88 pitches allowing only 5 hits in 7-2/3 innings.

He made everyone sit up and take notice when, on the last day of the season in back in 1998, he nearly tossed a no-hitter only for the Tigers get one off him in the 9th inning (I think that is when he became known as "Doc" Halladay.) His season ended prematurely last year with a broken leg from a line drive shortly before the All-Star break and his much anticipated return last night did not disappoint more than 50,000 fans who attended the game.

And it looks like we have a closer. B.J. Ryan picked up his first save last night.

Of course the temperatures dropped last night in honour of the opener. (It's tradition!)

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April 03, 2006

Coffee shop incident ruled to be a fire

Apr. 3 - Terorism has been ruled out as a motive in yesterday's incident at a downtown Tim Horton's (Deadly Tim's blast) and, although there's a degree in comfort in that conclusion, I find the bizarre nature of the incident is even more disturbing.

The official word is that it was a fire, not an explosion. The deceased, who has not yet been identified, allegedly entered the coffee shop with a container of gasoline and took it with him to the men's washroom in the back.

The police have secured what they believe to be the car of the deceased which was found parked nearby, but other than that are releasing little information on the case. The question now is whether it was a bungled arson attempt or a suicide. Self-immolation as one's death of choice is horrific.

I try to keep track of terror attacks so of course such would be my first guess but I'm surprised that so many non-political, non-news-junkie people drew that as a conclusion. I guess that, try as we might, the terror threat really isn't that removed from our consciousness.

I confess: I double-checked my flashlight before I went to work last night to make sure it had a strong beam and wore sturdy shoes just in case.

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April 02, 2006

Explosion at Tim Horton's (Updated)

Apr. 2 - 13:36 - This just in: Reports say one person dead in explosion in downtown Toronto Sunday at a Tim Horton's Donut Shop in Yorkville near Bloor and Yonge.

Live coverage says they still don't know what happened and unconfirmed reports say that the explosion happened in the washroom.

I'm trying not to speculate - and failing - because my mind inevitably flashes to one possible scenario.

14:39 - A police spokesman just confirmed the explosion happened somewhere near the back of the shop.

15:04 - The victim was male, and there was some sign of burns on the body.

15:34 - CP 24 just reported a witness who claims a man walked into the restroom wearing explosives. It's a beautiful day so no one is wearing winter coats (most of us are tempting the fates by wearing no coats) but even so I'd put a caution on the explosives theory just yet.

But, since it's been broached, my first thought was that someone was adjusting his explosives before boarding the subway. But I have a pretty active imagination.

15:45 - CNews seems to be updating its reports fairly regularly and they repeat the unconfirmed report from radio station AM-640 that someone wearing explosives entered the washroom shortly before the blast. That is downright bizarre; I should think an intentional bomber would at minimum attempt to conceal the explosives and pick a more populated area than a washroom or the back of a coffee shop.

It is possible that nerves are a bit jittery after the arrests of several terror suspects recently in the Toronto area and some recognize that there could be an attack for both revenge purposes and to serve as a deterrent to further arrests, or even in response to the recent offensive in Afghanistan which involves Canadian troops.

Both CBC Newsworld and CTV Newsnet are only reporting official police and fire department statements and, for Toronto area people, CP 24 has the best live coverage thus far, but it's unlikely any new information will be released soon.

16:47 - It has been confirmed that the dead man was not an employee.

I'm lazily just copying the portion of a post in progress which has news links to recent arrests (remember that an arrest is not the same as a conviction, okay?)

Truth is, I've lost track of the the growing number of Canadian terrorists that have been arrested, killed abroad, or for whom arrest warrants have been issued and far too many of which lived in the Toronto area. (Updates on Mustafa, or Murtaza, here and here.)

And then there's everyone's favourite terrorist family, the Khadr's. Omar Khadr, dubbed the "Toronto Teen" by the Star, is scheduled to face another hearing at Guantanamo and his brother Abdullah has been accused by the U.S. of supplying al-Qaida with weapons and explosives.

I've including this more to explain why so many of us are trying so damned hard not to jump to conclusions; the Jabarah brothers come to mind as well.

I'm going out because (a) it's a beautiful day and (b) the speculation and suspense is killing me. I may counsel patience but find it hard to follow my own advice.

Newsbeat1 is staying on top of this and will likely catch new developments as soon as they break.

Apr. 3 - Police have ruled out terrorism. Update here.

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February 20, 2006

Guardian Angels in Toronto

Feb. 20 -

"You must be the change that you want to see in the world."
These words were spoken by Steve Pacquette of the new Toronto chapter of the Guardian Angels..

The creation of the Guardian Angels up here has sparked a lot of controversy. The stated concerns are that the Guardian Angels might operate as vigilantes. I believe that there is an underlying issue, though: citizen-based groups like the Angels threaten a mentality that would have us be passive victims and wait patiently for the government to "do something" -- inevitably after things have gone wrong due to government policies.

The Guardian Angels, in fact, are like preventive medicine, and they have the potential to stop trouble before it starts simply by their presence. What's not to like and admire?

It comes down to this: should citizens step up and take responsibility for themselves and their neighbourhoods? Or, to put it another way, if we don't take responsibility then who will?

People who live in rural areas are likely smiling at all this. After all, they have a robust history of belonging to fire and police auxiliaries and all the twitter over the Guardian Angels must seem insane. Communities are stronger, not weaker, when citizens take responsibility for themselves and their city. It's just, you know, common sense.

The creation of the Guardian Angels was a major first step for the people of New York to take back their city. I earnestly hope that the sight of red berets will restore a sense of pride and dignity -- and safety -- in Parkdale.

Posted by Debbye at 09:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Turning the work world clock back

Oct. 4 - File this under "I'm glad it's not just me."

When I read this I tried to write a coherent post but I couldn't get past writing "why did she drag the kids out?" but I knew I was missing something.

It was a relief to learn I'm not the only one aghast at the staging of the children. Tim nails it:

Don’t these idiots have any shame? Sure, people have affairs, but dragging your kids out to a press conference to parade your stupidity in front of the world borders on child abuse. What was she looking for, the child-sympathy factor?
Of course, Pam Coburn is not only a mother she's a single mother so naturally is above reproach. /sarcasm

Then my day got even better. Tim linked to a Christine Blatchford column (just follow the Google link he provides) that is considerably more insightful than my aborted post:

Please make her stop before she completes the transformation to damsel in distress, before she turns the work world clock back even further, before she completely ruins the cherished dream that secretly sustains us all from time to time -- sin without sorrow.


In the morning yesterday, Ms. Coburn was having a press conference, to which she had inexplicably dragged her two children and at which she did not deny the dalliance but rather confirmed it (so what was the point, exactly?), and by 3 in the afternoon, with lawyer in tow, she was a guest on The John Moore Show on Toronto radio station CFRB, fielding calls from the great unwashed and even blubbering once, when some poor demented fellow, one "David," phoned in to offer his support.

David's support -- he said he was taking off his hat for her, though a crasser mind than mine would suggest perhaps he look lower down on his person -- was based on his view of Ms. Coburn as a courageous lady who was being "honest and open" and was "trapped in a system which does not accept the reality . . . that two people who work together can very easily become attracted to one another."

This was Ms. Coburn's own theme yesterday. (Emphasis added.)

Playing the single mother card was bad enough, but portraying oneself as a woman irresistibly drawn to a colleague and unable to withstand temptation reinforces some rather ancient objections to letting women enter the work force because it would inevitably lead to hanky-panky. How freaking wonderful. Play to the belief that women are guided by their emotions rather than logic and throw in Woman The Seductress and Homewrecker and why? because the executive director of Toronto's municipal licensing and standards department, one Pam Coburn, reveals too much without revealing the one, unassailable fact: she messed up.

If she writes a book I'll scream. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually prefer Wanda Liczyk's unbelievable denials of being involved with Dash Domi or that her past relationship with Michael Saunders made her more easily manipulated. At least it proves that we can stare 'em down and challenge them to prove the allegations.

When we marched in the '70s we demanded equal opportunities because we knew we were equal to the tasks and responsiblities. When we slip up we must take it like a man adults because if we try to wiggle out by taking refuge behind old prejudices the result, in Blatchford's words, is that it "turns the work world clock back even further."

Thanks, Pam. You're a freaking inspiration - to all those who would chase us out of managerial positions because we aren't hard-headed and shroud us in burkas because we are too prone to lead other astray.

(No, I'm not voting for Hillary in any year. She had her eight years in the White House - "two for one" - and we had Sept. 11. Ordering Arafat outside to smoke his cigars doesn't qualify as "taking a firm stand against terrorism.")

Posted by Debbye at 12:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

Pizza and guns

Sept. 25 - Long ago I desisted from reporting on gun crimes in Toronto. There may have been a slender window of opportunity to crack down on the gangs, but I think that time has passed and gangs are securely entrenched.

But when I wonder about the money and resources that have been squandered on the useless gun registry, the reduced number of personnel in the RCMP and Toronto Police who actually work on capturing criminals, and the seeming inability of border guards to control weapons imports and keep previously deported criminals out of Canada, I realize that I really should have majored in Compiling Data from Diverse Sources to Present Myth-Busting Papers instead of History. Unfortunately, numbers induce a deer-caught-in-headlights response from me so I may believe these things are connected but can't yank up numbers to prove it.

Back on topic. It's been a long, bloody summer here, but you people outside of Toronto can rest assured that Toronto City Council is doing nothing everything they can to end the bloodshed.

The shooting death of a child last summer was hailed as "The Last Straw" by our intrepid mayor, so I suppose this latest can't really be called "the last straw" but maybe this will be "the really last straw" or "the really really last straw" ( Cops review tape in hunt for gunmen who shot one 17- and one 18-year old as they stood at a counter ordering pizza.)

(N.B.: I don't know the colour of the victims in this case and, quite frankly, I don't care: it's irrelevant. Two men were shot and they shouldn't have been shot. The other patrons in the pizza shop shouldn't have been forced to dive for cover and the owner and staff shouldn't have to endure the trauma of returning to work in the following days, relive the incident and see bullet holes. I really hope that sounds judgemental because I am!)

23:31 - It's not just Toronto, by the way. Read this, ponder the questions, and follow the link.

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April 23, 2005

To the polls! (C'mon, you know you want to.)

Apr. 23 - The impact of Adscam is finally returning to the one arena that most needs to be challenged: the Ontario voter. I say "returning" because when Ontarians went to the polls last year far too many of them surrendered to the devil they knew and returned the Liberal Party to power - albeit limited as other Canadians were less willing to consort with that devil.

There's no getting around it: Quebeckers punished the Liberal Party. Albertans punished the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party leads a minority government because some Ontarians punished the Liberal Party but those in greater Toronto area did not - and the mayor of Toronto is setting the stage for us to be bribed - again:

"It would be very serious," he told reporters Saturday. "It would cost us, directly, $40 to $50 million this year. That's equivalent to about a four per cent tax hike. And indirectly, tens of millions more."

The impact would only get worse in succeeding years, he said.

Miller is worried about his city's share of federal gas tax revenue promised by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The Toronto Star newspaper published an editorial Saturday opposing an early election. The newspaper said if the Martin government were defeated without the budget being passed, it would cost Canada's cities $600 million in lost gas tax revenue.

We've all read the accusations that Quebec holds Canada for ransom and that rivers of federal money flow into Quebec, but Quebeckers refused to be bribed in the last federal election. I wish I could say the same for Ontario.

Kateland recognizes the tip of an iceberg when she sees it:

Adscam only represents one Liberal run government program. If this is how the Liberals ran the sponsorship program in Quebec; what’s to say that all the other liberal government programs in Quebec and the rest of the country are not run the same way? Think GUN REGISTRY or STRIPPERGATE for starters. Adscam is only where they got caught holding the smoking gun - not evidence of innocence.
Let's take it even further. If Benoit Corbeil's statements are true, the Liberal Party systematically set out to destroy the Progressive Conservative Party in Quebec and see to it that the Liberal Party and Canada became synonymous. What's to say they didn't also try to subvert the democratic process in other provinces?

Joe Clark, the last leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, actually endorsed Paul Martin and the Liberal Party over Stephen Harper and the newly merged Conservative Party of Canada one year ago. Greg Weston wrote a column last May in which he accused some very senior Tories of making a secret deal with the Liberal Party in the 2000 election to secure Clark's re-election in return for securing Alberta Liberal Anne McLellan's re-election - and then some:

Two weeks before Jean Chretien called the country to the polls in October 2000, reliable sources say, a small group of top Tory officials cut a secret deal to help Chretien's ultimately successful national campaign for a third majority government.

In return, the Liberals agreed to throw the vote in the Calgary Centre riding of then Tory leader Joe Clark.

In what may have been a series of similar deals, sources say the Tories also agreed to "stand down" to help Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan hang on to her Edmonton seat, which she won by only 733 votes.

Sources refuse to divulge details of what, exactly, the Tories agreed to do for the Liberals. One would say only that the deal "without question, helped them (the Liberals) nationally."

Another tool in the Liberal Party bag has been bribery of provincial governments by means of transfer payments to provinces - and that means they can also withhold transfer payments to punish provincial governments.

People should be outraged that the government give or withholds their money according to "correct voting," (it isn't that different from the kind of tactic that people like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe uses.) Nevertheless, the Liberal party was elected in Ontario with a general expectation that the federal Liberal party would loosen the purse-strings more readily for their provincial cousins than they had for the Progressive Conservative-led government and once the Liberals were installed, the federal government re-opened talks about extra money for Ontario - and nobody so much as blushed.

Kateland analyzed the reaction to Martin's pathetic speech April 22:

My conclusion was that the typical Ontarian will give him [Paul Martin] kudos and high marks for stating the obvious and delivering it with obvious sincerity. ..

Will that work? Canadians are neither naturally politicos or idealistic. We tend to take people at their word rather than judging them by their actions. I think the most common phrase in Canada is that “he means well.” That excuses all.

Here in Toronto, people desperately need that excuse so they can do the math from a high moral ground:

"he meant well"
"he'll give us money"
Toronto votes Liberal.

This should be easy, because it is for that monetary incentive that they voted Liberal last year. (Sheesh, sex workers have more brains than had the average Torontonian voter because they demand to be paid before rendering service.) The only question is how easily Torontonians can be fooled twice.

Martin's plea to let him "clean up the mess" sounds very reasonable unless you're alert like Laurent and remember a 1995 assertion from then Minister of Finance Paul Martin:

The problem is that Paul Martin has been claiming for the last 10 years that he was cleaning up. As soon as his 1995 budget speech, he claimed that he had introduced "a new and much tighter system to manage its spending" and that his first priority was to "eliminate waste and abuse and ensure value for Canadian taxpayers." We saw the results.
1995 was also the year of the referendum vote in Quebec and the the Liberal conspiracy to destroy the Progressive Conservative Party which was one of the goals for which the Sponsorship Program was designed. The question is inevitable: did Martin tighten the system or loosen it so that Adscam could proceed undetected for several years?

One of Benoit Corbeil's assertions was that lawyers worked for Liberal party candidates with the expectation of receiving appointments to the bench. (Kind of a neat Canadian twist on "will work for food," eh?) Damian Penny and Bob Tarantino write eloquently of their outrage so I won't cover the same ground here.

I seem to be the only person I've read that liked Duceppe's rebuttal last Thursday (and I'm disappointed that CTV didn't see fit to post the text to his speech yet included NDP Leader Jack Layton's) but my impression of Duceppe's remarks was that he appealed to Canadians to restore honesty to the Canadian government, and however cynical one might be about the Bloc Quebecois, there really isn't much we can say to urge Quebec to stay in Canada especially as voting Liberal would be to condone the dirty tactics they used in Quebec which gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "special relationship."

Maybe it's because I'm coming at this whole thing with an American anti-federalist (i.e., pro-States rights, pro-provincial rights) attitude. I can completely sympathize with the desires of both Quebeckers and Albertans to be free of a federal government that increasingly usurps power from provincial governments, takes the revenues of the provinces and then uses that same money to reward or punish according to how the electorate votes.

But this is the interesting part: I think that Ontario and Toronto will get a better deal from the Conservative Party than the Liberals can offer. The Liberals can be fairly confident that, as Toronto voters love platitudes and scare pretty easily, the election is in the bag for them so they can afford to make promises they don't intend to keep, but Conservative MPs would, if elected, have to go extra lengths to meet their promises in order to be re-elected and retain power.

Ah, power. It really is all about power, but there seems to be a perverse disinclination in Canada to examine the pursuit of power. Maybe that's why "he meant well" has such traction and why people seem actually surprised that the Liberal party is as corrupt as it is, and maybe that's why Torontonians, under the veneer of their sophistication, are stupid voters.

The Liberal Party has ruled Canada with unchallenged arrogance for 12 years -- how could anyone realistically expect them not to be corrupt? It defies logic, psychology and history. Mark Steyn puts it succinctly:

In a one-party state, the one party in power attracts not those interested in the party, but those interested in power.
In an age when there is so much talk about empowerment it seems beyond strange that more people don't understand power - personal or political.

It looks as though the Conservative Party is putting together a slate (Conservatives line up high-profile candidates) and, if you can believe anything Layton says, he isn't selling out to the Liberal Party but is willing to go with the proposed Liberal budget if they meet his demands to, er, fight smog (and, socialist to the end, drop plans for a tax rebate cut for businesses.)

Although I don't know if Toronto will vote Liberal or Conservative (or Green, NDP or even Rhinosaurus) I do think it urgently necessary that an election be held now rather than later. Those who vote to oust the Liberals will at least have the knowledge that they personally did not give tacit approval to corruption.

Fighting isn't only about winning, but about reclaiming honour, self-respect and human dignity. People who give into outrage without a fight lose more than those who lose a fight: damage to the spirit lasts longer than bruises and, knowing they wimped out, it gets harder to fight back as each subsequent outrage piles higher like stones on a burial cairn.

(Globe and Mail and Reuters links via Neale News.)

Apr. 24 - 07:56: Criminey, even CNN has noticed that the Liberals are desperate to forge a deal with the NDP and that Bono is disappointed in Martin.

18:12 - I should have read Sari before I posted; she articulates what I felt about Duceppe:

Duceppe had me wishing - not for the first time - that he wasn't on the wrong side, because as usual he stole the show with a fantastic opening line to his speech, something to the effect of "the last time a prime minister addressed the nation, it was 1995 and Chretien was fighting to save Canada; this time, Martin's fighting to save the Liberals". He picked up votes for sure.
It is surprisingly possible that separatist sentiments in the West and Quebec will end up saving Canada by forcing the federal government to return those powers to the provinces which were originally apportioned to them in the Constutution - including health care - and restore the notion of local control over local concerns. Of course, that would mean less power concentrated in Ottawa ...

Apr. 25 - 11:00: RJ at Thoughtcrimes.ca has a key observervation about Duceppe:

Duceppe does not have to maneuver for position nationally as do Martin, Harper, and Layton, so that gives him a bit more room to step up and be statesmanlike. He talked about how the BQ are not supporters of federalism, but that the BQ had pledged to work within the system.

Key to both Harper and Duceppe's speeches was the distinction that the scandal allegations emerging from the Gomery Inquiry are Liberal scandals--not Quebec scandals. An important point that will continue to get much play from both BQ and CPC talking heads over the next few weeks.

The Meatriarchy may reflect the thoughts of many Canadians on Duceppe:
Duceppe - well I didn’t really listen to him. Although the bit I caught he sounded better than usual. If anyone is growing in stature through this thing it’s him.

Posted by Debbye at 11:56 PM | Comments (8)

March 30, 2005

MPs must learn about the sex trade abroad

Mar. 30 - Five upstanding, hardworking Members of Parliament plan to spend $200,000 visiting brothels in Europe and the USA.

Don't worry, it's legit. Really. The MPs are members of a federal committee that is reviewing prostitution laws (some people, including sex workers, believe the trade should be legal and taxed.)

An MPP (member of provincial parliament) made the federal MPs a counter offer: MPP Peter Kormos (NDP) [said] "We're talking about five federal members on a junket touring European whorehouses at a cost of $40,000 each," Kormos said yesterday. "I can take anyone of them down to Bridge St. in Niagara Falls and get them laid for less than $50."

Give up the glories of "Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Nevada" for a weekend trip to Niagara Falls? Save the taxpayers the unnecessary expense of travel abroad when the "research" could be done in our own backyard?

Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell does a nice bit of commentary on this in Merry mission. As he says, "For once, call it what it is. The $200,000 sin city soiree, the vice-is-nice world tour, one jolly junket."

He also has some questions about other aspects of the spending:

The cash to cruise goes to five MPs and three staff for transportation, hotel, food and ... I hate this word ... miscellaneous. In this case, miscellaneous means money for interpreters, gifts and fees. Gifts and fees? Are there going to be receipts?
It's almost a relief to be able to laugh at them again ... does all this indicate that elected officials believe they're in office for a good time, not a long time?

Apr. 12 - The trip may be off.

Posted by Debbye at 12:41 PM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2005

Spring and the TTC

Mar. 20 - It's officially spring. It's been a pleasure to see the beginnings of dawn as I leave work and view full rosy dawn as the subway pulls out of Kipling station.

I can glare at the snow banks and think You Are Doomed! Doomed!

On a dour note, is it just me or has TTC service really sucked lately?

I hope the drivers aren't indulging in a little pre-strike action of their own. I think, given the chance, most riders would gladly dump the members of the Transit Commission. We'd even burn them in effigy if service would improve as a result.

Just some thoughts as I prepare to start my work week (which starts in a little over an hour.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:08 PM | Comments (30)

March 16, 2005

Anti-Semitism in Toronto

Mar. 16 - A report issued by B'nai Brith says that out of 857 anti-Semitic incidents reported in Canada, 405 happened here (Problem worst in GTA with more here.)

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. Tolerance is easy to talk about but harder to feel and impossible to enforce. I constantly overhear anti-Jewish comments which go by unchallenged but, were they directed against African- or West Asian-Canadians, would be immediately denounced by everyone in the room.

Something else that would be interesting to track would be expressions of hate toward Chinese- and East Asian-Canadians.

The Toronto police will release a report next month on acts which legally constitute "hate crimes."

Posted by Debbye at 06:28 PM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2005

Events catch up to pretensions

Feb. 4 - This is downright disheartening. Paul covers the story of some very sharp criticisms leveled by John Watson, head of CARE Canada, on Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) which languished in Canada for 10 days after the tsunamai hit Asian coasts until they finally arranged to rent a Russian transport for travel to Sri Lanka in I rest my case... and the criticisms cast doubt on even the value of the team's work after it arrived.

Truth is, I find it very awkward to post about Canada these days. There's a code of honour that dictates you don't kick somebody when they're down (don't remind me that some Canadians don't follow that code - I well know that!) and despite the smugness displayed by much of the media, a lot of people in Toronto and Canada are down. Just here in Toronto, today's paper tells about problems in the education system (even at the elementary level,) the transit systems and despite millions of dollars spent to fight homelessness people are still sleeping in parks and on the streets even though it's mid-winter. Nationally, the sorry tale of Canada's sub purchase reveals yet another stupid decision and the Adscam inquiry is still bogged down in conflicting testimony while questions remain unanswerable due to bookeeping that rivals that of the U.N. for careful incompetency.

The failure of the electorate to administer a sharp rebuke to the Liberal Party for corruption and mendacity is depressing. Some back home say the American press was too voracious in pursuing the Watergate story and the leads arising from the hearings, but up here I'm seeing the other side of the picture: too many in the media seem almost disinterested in learning the truth and complacently let the government investigate its own wrongdoing with the occasional plaintive bleat that the commission has uncovered little of substance.

Two main legs of Canadian identity are health care and hockey, and both are way past life-support systems.

I can't count how many times Canadians used to conclude a (usually friendly) comment about the USA with a grinning "but don't get sick there!" I never took offense (Americans are much more polite and forbearing than we're given credit for) but consider how many people died of SARS in the US and how many died here in the city of Toronto. Might it have something to do with the fact that medical personnel down there wore the proper face masks whereas they were deemed to be too uncomfortable up here? Or maybe the quaint notion of "quarantine" actually meant something in the US even when it inconvenienced people. What happened to the meme if it saves only one life, hmm? They only trot that out when it comes to coke, Twinkies and McDonald's but keep it tucked away when people are actually dying.

Today the despised American-style health system is the only resort for Canadians suffering and even dying on the waiting lists the treasured health care system offers in place of actual medical care, and some treatments are even being offered to Canadians at a discount by some enterprising American doctors.

As for hockey, Attention NHL owners, players, and assorted others: it's February, you morons, and yet you're pretending there might yet be a chance for a hockey season? This season is dead, defunct. It has passed on. Canada survived without NHL hockey and the CBC showed some pretty decent double-billed movies on Saturday nights. End of story.

So what's left when health care and hockey are out for the count? The U.N., peacekeeping forces, and moral superiority.

Exposure of the debasement of the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program remains sparse and although a story today speculates about possible Canadian connections to Hussein's oil, the conflict of interest of former PM Chretien due to his familial ties to Power Corp. and thus TotalFinaElf remains an unpublicized and unexplored factor in Canada's membership in the the Axis of Weasels.

Remember when the argument would be made that Canadians had consciously reduced their military in order to nationalize a world-class health system?

Then he who was then Finance Minister and is now the Prime Minister, Paul Martin, decided to reduce the national debt by withholding money from the provinces which should have gone into the health care system. Now there's neither accessible health care nor military strength up here, but cruel history provided events in Liberia, Haiti (including the devastation of last summer's hurricanes) Sudan and a tsunamai to accentuate the harsh reality that Canada can no longer respond to international crises nor provide peacekeeping to protect innocent people from genocide. crimes against humanity.

The only leg standing (as it were) is moral superiority. Above all, Canadians are compassionate. If you don't believe me, just ask them. They will expound at length as to how much more compassionate and caring and enlightened they are than Americans. (They've even got some Americans believing it.) Why, they're close to achieving a plane of compassionate existence that's almost European! Unfortunately, they spend so much time and money proclaiming it that they never get around to actually doing much that is compassionate, caring or enlightened but a cynicism has set in that allows that it's the appearance that matters, not the deeds.

Coming back full circle, as was pointed out in the opening link, if Canada's rapid response to disaster is delayed 10 days while waiting for a foreign power to transport that team, what will happen in the event of a disaster within Canada? How will aid reach Canadians in their own country?

You know the answer to that. You know you do. Despite the recent urging of outgoing U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci, don't count on Canada spending the necessary money to enable herself to become self-sufficient in the areas of self-defense at home or doing her fair part abroad.

But beware: if the day should come that they need our help, they'll hate us for it not because of what it says about us but because of what it says about them. Gratitude barely disguises resentment.

I do understand in part what lies under the surface in Canada. Canada's moral pose adopted a strikingly higher plane when the US was bitterly divided over Vietnam and demoralized over the Watergate hearings. After all, Canada was just coming out of the FLQ Crisis and needed a boost. The country was in danger of losing federal coherency so everyone rallied around a "we're better than the US" plank. And it worked.

In fact it worked so well, they were reluctant to tone it down. The media and politicos have trumpeted Canada's superiority over their American neighbours increasingly louder since the mid-70's, but as so often happens, reality is slowing catching up and there is growing recognition that Canada has become too complacent and the legs of Canadian identity and culture have become eroded.

But that's not a crime, it's just life. No nation can live up completely to its ideals, but one of life's challenges is to square our shoulders and try again. The important part is to adhere to the truths of those ideals, nourish them, and keep trying.

The deaths of U.S. soldiers and personnel as well as Iraqis unfortunate enough to be near IEDs when they went off provided a kind of comfort zone for those Canadians who have had some niggling feelings that just maybe Canada should have been on board for Operation Iraqi Freedom if only to offer moral support.

But now something has changed, or rather, everything has changed. There were real elections in Iraq in which the people of Iraq defied both the terrorists and the expectations of those with compassionate, caring, and enlightened views and, in so doing, also defied France, Russia, Belguim and Canada.

And we know that the price our sons and daughters are paying can be laid on account against the weasels because we kept our troops in the desert for several months while they pretended to debate in good faith on the U.N.S.C. all the while buying time for Saddam to set up his underground thugs.

Although far too few, however, there are indeed Canadians who have been awe-inspiring rock-freaking-solid in supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom from the onset, and they have earned the right to feel proud of the remarkable events of Sunday because they were part of it. (If you don't know who they are, look at the blogroll and I admit that it's incomplete.) Their numbers include media such as the Toronto Sun and Western Standard. (It hasn't been uncritical support, of course, but that's what friends are for.)

As for some others up here ... If they're examining their souls and wondering how they could have so misjudged the situation in Iraq then I'd advise them not to waste too much time on guilt or shame but pledge only to open their minds to the possibilility that if a stopped clock can be right twice a day, then Americans too might occasionally be right.

Those, however, who are rapidly devising a posture that denies that the success of the elections in Iraq might require a re-evaluation of their world view may as well carry on as though nothing has changed. They no longer matter.

As I wrote earlier, gratitude equals resentment, and therein lies an additional reason as to why the elections in Iraq were so important. The Iraqis need no longer feel lessened by Operation Iraqi Freedom because when it came time for them to take a stand, they alone made the decisions and took the steps toward freedom, braving the threats of those who had proven their willingness to murder them and, in that defiance, asserting the dignity of the Iraqi people beyond all measure and for all time.

One result of that renewed confidence was indicated when the citizens of the Iraqi village of al-Mudhariya fought off an insurgent attack, killing 5 and wounding 8, and then burnt the insurgents' car! (link via Best of the Web Today)

It's become much more simple now. The mission in Iraq is far from over but we have a new member in the Coalition of the Willing: the Iraqis, and this coalition has something the Axis of Weasels could never have - a mandate from the Iraqi people.

The counter-offensive began yesterday, and there are once again families in the US and Iraq who are bereaved. Press advisories come into my inbox advising me of the names and heartbreakingly young ages of the Americans who have lost their lives. It's not fair. It's wrong. It hurts. But we won't be deterred.

You see, we Americans share a national dream that has returned to the fore with renewed vigor and energy. I look forward to that day when all the peoples of the world can join hands and bear witness to the stirring power of Dr. King's words as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and echo his words saying, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, [insert deity or deities] we are free at last!"

Correction: Feb. 7 - Dr. King's speech was delivered in the steps of the Lincoln Memorial not the Washington Monument as I initially wrote.

Posted by Debbye at 08:22 AM | Comments (16)

November 07, 2004

Bashing with Bloggers

Nov. 7 - I've been trying to find some intelligent comments I could make on the blogger bash in Toronto last Friday night, and all I can come up with is awe that so many of them are so wonderfully exuberant (and young!)

Yes, I know that sounds incredibly superficial. Yet given the plethora of media reports about how young American idealists were supposed to rock the vote and follow the Boss to the polls, I think it significant that so many 20 and 30 somethings up here are openly espousing the Western ideals of individualism and independent thinking that is probably the greatest achievement of this civilisation that we love to criticize and defend.

Michael of Canadian Headhunter had described last spring's meeting with guest of honour Damian Penny as like watching Mystery Men, i.e., ordinary people engaged in battling super villains without superhero skills. That description has grown on me because most bloggers are indeed Everymen who have chosen to break from bobble-head acquiescence of mainstream media punditry and tried to apply common sense to political observations.

The sour comments by Dan Rather about bloggers presumably organizing a call for John Kerry to concede missed the entire point about bloggers: no one tells us what to write. Yes, we do read and link to one another, but only if we want to. Unlike Mr. Rather, we don't rush to publish something that doesn't pass our individual litmus tests for truth.

The blogosphere has given new life to those who feel disenfranchised by mainstream media, and whenever a blogger says maybe it's just me you can bet your bottom dollar that it isn't.

Flea has a post on the meet and lists some of the attendees including their urls and Nicholas of Quotulatiousness has a more extensive post and (ohmigosh) pictures!

As always, if you wait long enough someone else will write something coherent and the rest of us can just link to it ... but it will never be redundant to say how wonderful it was to meet finally meet the people behind the blogs.

Posted by Debbye at 10:54 PM | Comments (3)

October 26, 2004

It's a tax, not a premium

Oct. 26 - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has affirmed that the new health care tax is a tax, not a premium which means that people, not employers, must pay it.

His statement came in response to an ruling that a nursing home must cover it's employees at a cost of up to $900 per worker because the arbitrator considered it to be a premium and the contract said that the employer covered OHIP [Ontario Hospital Insurance] premiums. Another arbiter ruled that it was a tax, so opinion is divided.

If it is a premium, then the Ontario government (which means us) will have to pay it on behalf of government employees which could run as high as $2 billion, according to NDP leader Howard Hampton.

It's all about the wording. Premier McGuinty said

"But the intention remains the same, and it's been very clear from the outset, this is a tax provision found within the Income Tax Act and our intention is that taxpayers will pay this new premium."

McGuinty called the tax a premium in an advertising campaign, and Finance Minister Greg Sorbara referred to it as such in his official budget speech.

[NDP leader Howard] Hampton said their statements have created a problem for labour arbitrators who are dealing with contracts that refer to health premiums.

"I suppose the government could bring in legislation that says that Dalton McGuinty and Greg Sorbara misinformed the public," Hampton said.

Tory Interim Leader Bob Runciman said the government may have to bring in legislation to clarify that the premium is, in fact, a tax.

Free health care is not free. It is paid for by taxpayer money, and is expensive in part due to the layers of bureaucracy that exist to ensure the system is not abused, in part because those working in the public sector are paid higher wages and receive more benefits than their counterparts in the private sector, and in part because the marketplace checks that would get rid of ineffective and inefficient administrators and facilities don't exist in the public sector.

This crisis in health care has reached alarming proportions. Waiting times for diagnostic tests can run to several months. Imagine a doctor saying I don't want to alarm you but I'd like to schedule a CAT scan because I think you may have a brain tumor. Let's see, you should be able to get the test 6 to 9 months from now so we'll schedule a follow-up appointment for next year and review the findings of the scan, okay?) "Americanized health care" is demonized but it's also what desperate Canadians utilize by travelling to the US, getting the CAT scan the day after they arrive and the results of the test that day.

Has the Canadian federal health care system become one of rationed health care? Yes, at least here in Ontario.

Robert A. Heinlein used a word in his book The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress which means "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" - tanstaafl. The failure to heed the lessons of that 1966 novel are being driven home in Canada because the cure for less and less efficient delivery of those services is proclaimed to be Yet More Money which will ensure that services won't deteriorate as rapidly.

In spite of their inability to maintain health care services, the Canadian federal government is already setting the groundwork for establishing a federal child care program (or is that an early education program?)

The extra neat twist is that, according to the Canadian Constitution, health care and education are provincial mandates, so the federal government has usurped one set of provincial powers and is preparing to usurp another set of provincial powers with nary a whimper from Ontario.

Posted by Debbye at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Toronto: Sad, but true

July 1 - I feel somewhat ambivalent about a request from Kathy to link to this post at the Western Standard's Shotgun blog mostly because it makes Torontonians looks as ridiculous and hateful as they really are.

But there is good reason to link to it, and that is to let American readers know just how frivolous and ill-natured anti-Americanism really is. I live here, and I've heard a lot of stupid reasons why people proclaim to hate us, but they never admit the truth:



Kathy is right: don't come here to waste your vacation money on this bunch of pretentious bastards. They will whine if they don't get your money, and abuse you to your faces after they do get your money. And given the taxes and corruption, adding your hard-earned money into the government's coffers really would be shameful.

See Alberta. See America. See Australia. Breath air that is free and full of promise, not the depressed, cynical toxicity that is Toronto.

(Yep, we've been having that "let's move to New Mexico or Alberta" conversation again.)

I'm so sick of hearing the smug assumption "they want to take us over" meme. Why on earth would we want to take over a nation like Canada? Given the overweening sense of entitlement, the fear of allowing free will and self-defense, and the professed hatred for capitalism, I just couldn't imagine a worse scenario than to allow most Canadians the right to vote in US elections and determine the course of our nation.

I try to keep a grip, but the fact is that someday I'll explode and yell at whoever advances that stupid proposition "Are you nuts? That ship sailed 225 years ago! Go build a country of your own."

Or maybe I'll state the truth: Sorry, you haven't earned it.

Posted by Debbye at 09:45 PM | Comments (12)

May 13, 2004

Gangs in Toronto

May 13 - Several stories about gangbusting tactics by the police here, here, here, and here, and it was done with the cooperation and assistance of local residents.

Now if only the courts do their parts ...

Also, it looks like there will be funding to track sex offenders in Toronto after all.

Posted by Debbye at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2004

Go Leafs!

May 2 - Game 5 is crucial (shouldn't that be critical?)

Posted by Debbye at 12:02 PM | Comments (2)

May 01, 2004

Anti-semitism in the GTA

May 1 - Another anti-semitic attack in the Toronto area, this one at an Oshawa synagogue Oshawa vandals deface synagogue.

This seems to be somewhat different than previous incidents in that the vandals seemingly knew details of anti-Semitism and Nazis.

23:58: There is something about this incident that seems particularly, I dunno, maybe threatening? maybe more pointed than some of the earlier ones ... the defacing of that particular rock, for example, seems to imply this is a more targeted attack than the spray-paint and run tactics employed before. I hope I'm just letting my imagination run away with me.

Posted by Debbye at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2004

5 reasons we hate Bobby Clarke

Apr. 28 - Toronto's Top 5 column.

I'm going with #1, and #2 is why the mute button is used when Clark's mug shows up on the TV.

We hate the flyers,
Bobby Clark's a maggot
A whiny little maggot

(By the end of this round of the play-offs, I might even know all the words to the song.)

Posted by Debbye at 05:27 PM | Comments (1)

Groups say ... never mind

Apr. 28 - Special interest groups in Ontario say that we, the taxpayers, won't mind paying extra money to keep their pet projects afloat (Grits say you want deficit.

The groups, involving a total of 254 people in six cities, ...

Posted by Debbye at 05:23 PM | Comments (3)

April 25, 2004

MFP Scandal Review

Apr. 25 - It all started with computers and an arrangement with MFP Financial Services Ltd. in Mississauga, which claims to provide innovative solutions.

Corruption concerns raised in computer probe - Ya think?

Alarm bells began sounding in Toronto after municipal officials in Waterloo, about 100 kilometres to the southwest, found their financing costs for a new sports park had blown up by more than $100 million to $227 million.

As with Toronto's computers, MFP had arranged the Waterloo financing.

A closer look showed the computer deal, which had been slated to cost about $43 million, had somehow ballooned to about $83 million.

In due course, council opted for a full-blown judicial inquiry to find out how Toronto taxpayers had ended up paying an average of more than $8,000 for personal computers, many of which are now obsolete but still in use and still sucking up tax money.

The final bill to the city will exceed $110 million. Toronto taxpayers are shelling out another $15 million for the inquiry.

Read the whole thing with especial attention to the references to Tom Jakobek.

A lot of people would have voted for Tom Jakobek in his run for mayor had he not been caught in a foolish lie about a stupid plane trip (at the time, most people assumed that he accepted a free ride. Turns out it may have been figurative as well as literal.)

What was presumed to be ethical idiocy has expanded to something worse, but the decision was made in January to end the first phase of the inquiry early so they could focus on the city's dealings with two US based consulting firms. As the article notes, in 2002 provincial police found no grounds to file criminal charges against any of the players.

Posted by Debbye at 03:22 PM | Comments (1)

April 02, 2004

Toronto Affairs

Apr. 2 - Yet another reason to wonder if Toronto will ever grow up to be a responsible adult: T.O. surplus fight heats up (excerpts):

Toronto council has no choice but to spend almost all of last year's $39-million budget surplus on items recommended by city bureaucrats, insists budget chief David Soknacki. Councillor Jane Pitfield last week complained that city officials recommended spending most of the cash instead of leaving it to politicians to determine what to do with the money.
Never mind that bureaucrats wasted millions of Toronto taxpayer dollars in the MFP affair because the City Council approved a bureaucrat-recommended contract without reading it. Who runs this city, anyway? I don't recall elections for any of the bureaucrats.

Using the money to offset this year's proposed 3% residential property tax hike was one thing politicians could do with the cash, Pitfield said.

However, Soknacki argued the city needs to cough up cash to meet financial commitments, such as paying for the MFP inquiry and making a computer leasing payment.

Uh huh, because when bureaucrats misspend our money we have to pay to unravel their paper trails.
A finance department report to councillors urges them to use $4.5 million of the surplus to pay part of the tab for an inquiry into the city's leasing deal with MFP Financial Services Inc. It also earmarks $3.5 million to finance a municipal election campaign rebate program, $9.8 million to meet the city's funding obligations to GO Transit and $4.6 million for a computer leasing payment.
Yet they still plan to increase transit fares, after which they'll moan about downtown gridlock.

Posted by Debbye at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2004

Toronto aids Bam earthquake survivors

Jan. 3 - One of the things about living in a city like Toronto is that you always seem to know, within a few degrees of separation, someone who is directly affected by a disaster like Bam, so these catastrophes inevitably have a personal connection. GTA aid for Bam has been swift and enormous.

There's an onsite report on Canadian Red Cross activities in Iran here.

GTA residents can go to the David McAntony Gibson Foundation website, contact Rahul Singh at 416-998-7813, or telephone the Red Cross at 1-800-418-1111.

Posted by Debbye at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2003

Toronto Affairs

Dec. 26 - I'm not a science person, so I don't know how feasible this really is: Garbage disposal going hi-tech.

"I have heard of success stories around the world and even in other North American cities," she [Councillor Jane Pitfield] adds. "I don't think the City of Toronto needs to make this complicated; I think we need to show leadership."

Earlier this year, 51 companies answered the city's call for firms that are interested in eliminating trash by means other than landfilling or mass incineration. Many of those firms are involved in using extreme heat in the absence of oxygen to eliminate garbage and form gases that could be used as fuel.

Under current plans, council will formally ask companies in the first quarter of the new year to submit proposals to establish test sites for new disposal technologies.

Posted by Debbye at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2003

Maple Leaf Garden spared

Dec. 24 - Loblaw's has withdrawn its offer to buy Maple Leaf Gardens saying renovations would be too expensive.

Why not keep it for minor hockey? According to this article, doing so would pose direct competition to the Maple Leafs Sports' Air Canada Centre.

Posted by Debbye at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2003

Les Shaw's generosity to the troops

Dec. 22 - There is one Canadian who knows the Price of freedom and is expressing his gratitude directly to the families who have lost loved ones: 76-year old Les Shaw is sending the families of American soldiers who died protecting democracy overseas $2,000 and $2,500 to the familes of the 6 Canadian soliders who died in Afghanistan.

"We in North America and other parts of the world, we take freedom for granted," Shaw, who now lives in Barbados, said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

"Yet here's these young fellows and their families who are giving the ultimate sacrifice to sustain the freedom we enjoy."

Shaw sent a letter with the gifts:
"It is too easy for many of us in North America to take our wonderful freedoms for granted; obviously, your loved one did not," Shaw's letter reads.

"Please accept this small token as a gesture of heartfelt thanks from an appreciative Canadian. Spend it however you think your fallen hero would want."

The letters prompted more than 100 heart-wrenching replies, many stuffed with family photos and other tokens of remembrance from grieving parents, widows and widowers whose anguish leaps from the page.

Shaw's 22-year old nephew is in Baghdad with US forces. He went public with his gifts when casualties continued after his planned cut-off date of July 31 and hopes another will step in to continue his philanthrophy.

UPDATE: Smug Canadian has some interesting thoughts here.

Posted by Debbye at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

Deed sold dirt cheap

Dec. 22 - Days before the Toronto City Council voted to stop the construction of a bridge linking the mainland to Toronto Island, the Federal government quietly sold a portion of lakefront property located at the end of Bathurst to the Port Authority. The land is the loading point for the ferry slip and a parking lot and be necessary for the building of the bridge. The property is valued at $7,028,000 and was sold dirt cheap for $300,000.

The unannounced sale was discovered by a lawyer going through land registry documents.

NDP federal leader and former Toronto City Councillor Jack Layton brought the sale to the attention of the media:

Layton said while the federal government announced they would respect the wishes of Toronto city council, they were handing over a vital piece of land needed to build the bridge.

"Not only that, they're subsidizing the construction of this bridge because they gave the land at cut-rate prices," Layton said.

"You can't buy a house in Toronto for $300,000, never mind a prime piece of real estate on the waterfront. This is incredible."

MP Dennis Mills (Lib.) said he knew nothing about the deal and that he believes that no more condos should be built on the shoreline preserving the land for public use.

MP Dennis Mills spoke at last April's "Friends of America" rally in Toronto, and recently announced he will not seek re-election.

UPDATE: The government responds that there was nothing secretive about the deal, and that the land can only be used for parking or getting to the Toronto Island Airport.

Posted by Debbye at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2003

Toronto Affairs

Dec. 6 - Since our City Council (aka Havana Hall) thinks it wiser to protect the lakeshore for condominium developers than address issues like garbage disposal and safety in the streets, I suspect it will be up to Congress and the Dept. for Homeland Security to force our city to accept their responsibilities.

A recent post from Interested-Participant is part of a cross-border attempt to keep the issue of transporting Toronto's garbage to Michigan at the forefront. Maybe someone from London (Ont.) would like to jump in? I've read enough complaints from people along the 401 corridor to suspect that they too take issue with the daily truckloads of garbage that pass them.

Posted by Debbye at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2003

Toronto Affairs

Nov. 30 - Interested-Participant posts on the controversy over Toronto shipping our garbage to Michigan. According to the article he links from the Toronto Star, the EPA will be in Toronto to for three days touring solid waste transfer, composting and recycling facilities in Toronto, as well as in York, Durham and Peel regions. I could have saved them the trip: they'll find mountains of recyleables with no place to go because no companies are equipped to handle that much metal, glass and paper.

The program for recollecting the items was begun before a plan was made to re-direct the items. The blue box program is around 10 years old, and they still don't have a workable plan. That's how things work in Toronto.

Sadly, it is more likely that the US Congress will act long before the City Council here finishes "reviewing" the issue. The feckless Council doesn't want to take the kind of decisive action needed to find a Toronto solution to a Toronto problem, and their past actions have been to hope the problem would just go away.

The garbage issue was a point of debate in the recent mayoral race, of course. Failed canadidate John Tory had proposed building a garbage incinerator, which newly elected Mayor David Miller had rejected as too expensive and environmentally dangerous, but had no counter proposals. The paranoid faction won, even though other municipalities have incinerators with built-in safeguards that make the practice safer and cleaner than any other method of disposal.

Mississauga, our neighbour immediately to the west of here, incincerates their garbage. But they also have a strong mayor and council. Considering how fast that city has grown, you have to figure that there are more sensible people leaving Toronto than staying.

In an earlier post which featured an astonishing discovery of mixing hospital waste with garbage, Interested Participant wondered if Canadian environmentalists are of the NIMBY variety. I can affirm that they are, at least the ones in this neck of the country.

BUT anyone who reads the London Free Press will have noted columnists and letters to the editor which complain about the truckloads that merely pass that city on their way to Michigan, so in this case, at least, the NIMBY element isn't just directed at the US but within Canada as well.

Posted by Debbye at 09:08 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2003

Toronto's $1million payout to departing politicians

Nov. 15 - In a not-terribly-suprising reaction to the $1 million payout Torontonian will have to pay to departing councillors, the mayor and staff, the reaction has been swift. The payout is not limited to defeated incumbents but also to those who chose not to run. Ain't public service grand? Monetary pay-outs are detailed in the article.

Some side-hurrahs are owed to Etobicoke Couns. Rob Ford and Doug Holyday (whose penny-pinching ways with their office budgets so infuriated their fellow councillors that a special resolution was passed at City Council in an effort to get those councillors to bill the city more) and have weighed in strongly against the pay-outs.

But some kind of special honourary award should be given to this man:

Councillor Fred Dominelli said he will not pocket his $3,578 cheque because he did not stand for re-election.

"I don't think I deserve the money and I don't want it," said Dominelli, who was appointed to fill Disero's seat in May. "I just got appointed and I feel guilty for taking the money from taxpayers."

But he won't leave the money in the city's coffers. He'll to donate it to a church that can't afford insurance.

"If I leave it with the city, the city will blow it on some foolish thing," he said. (Emphasis added)

That quote should be immortalized, say by engraving it over the entrance to City Hall.
Dominelli is challenging the rest of the outgoing council not to accept their severance cheques or to donate them to charity.

Tim Ivanyshyn, manager of council services, said yesterday none of the departing councillors has so far said no to the payout.

Posted by Debbye at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2003

Balancing the budgets

Nov. 14 - The Canadian Surplus shrinks to $1.6B for the first half of the fiscal year (April-September) which is somewhat less than the $4.6 billion recorded in the same period last year.

In Ontario, it seems there was a slight miscalculation by the incoming Liberal government for a projected deficit (as in the departing Tory government had balanced the budget as they had claimed) and there would in fact be a small surplus instead of a shortfall of $5.6-billion for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2004.

[Finance Minister Greg] Sorbara had said a day earlier that a final accounting would show 2002-03 ended up in the red to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars despite boasts by the Tories of a $524-million surplus.

"I double-checked my information and I wasn't entirely accurate," Mr. Sorbara said in an interview.

While the projected excess has "shrunk very significantly," there is likely still "a small surplus, not a deficit," he said, adding the books have yet to be closed on the year.

But even as one hand gives, the other is quick to take away. Toronto taxpayers may need to pay out over $1 million in severance pay to departing city councillors and their staff.
"Oh, my gosh," said budget committee member Jane Pitfield, who never figured the payouts would be so high. "Taxpayers would be shocked that so much money is being wasted."
I think Torontonians are way beyond shocked, but thank you for thinking of us.
"This is just highway robbery," bristled penny-pinching councillor Rob Ford, adding that councillors and their staff take the job knowing it could last only three years. "I guess we're not in such rough shape after all," said Ford, referring to the city's financial situation.

Councillors and the mayor are entitled to a month's pay for every year of service, over and above their pensions, up to a maximum one year's pay.

Note the inclusion of the phrase "above their pensions." Yes, they get a sizeable pension for being on the job for three years, but that's a scandal older than me.

Posted by Debbye at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2003

MFP inquiry reveals ethical idiocy

Nov. 6 - I've resisted posting about the ongoing inquiry into the MFP scandal (it's a Toronto thing) but this finally cracked my resolve: Ex-treasurer defends MFP role:

Former City of Toronto treasurer Wanda Liczyk says MFP salesman Dash Domi didn't outfox her on the computer-leasing deal that has blown up in the city's face. Liczyk testified yesterday at the inquiry into the MFP scandal that Domi booked her an appointment with an exclusive hair stylist, extended invitations to dinners and hockey and basketball games and got tickets for Leaf games for her sister because he was a "nice guy."
How f***ing stupid are the people who work for the City of Toronto? Hello? I used to be involved with a minor sports association, and whenever a parent walked up to me with a big smile and flattery I knew without any doubt that they wanted something! And I didn't control millions of dollars (fact is, I barely controlled anything: the game was settled on the field) but I knew I was being set up to be used.

That Ms. Liczyk is so needy and in need of affirmation indicates that she and the others involved in this scandal lack the basic qualification for stewardship: brains.

Liczyk spent another day on the witness stand insisting her relationship with Domi was typical for her and a salesman and there was nothing improper.
So he played you! It was his job. Admit it. Learn the lesson. Be an adult.
The inquiry is investigating why a $43-million computer deal with MFP ballooned out of control, costing tens of millions more.
I can't go on. Read the whole thing. It stinks.

Posted by Debbye at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2003

Why they hate us (who live in Toronto)

Aug. 30 -- Hate Toronto, that is. The Canadian alerted me to an open letter to the PM (which PM?) and Premier published yesterday in the abominable Toronto Star:

Over the last two years, a remarkable civic consensus has been building in Toronto. Business, labour, the voluntary sector, education, and local government have been working ... to create new ways to ensure that the Toronto region remains prosperous and competitive. The Toronto City Summit Alliance released "Enough Talk, An Action Plan for the Toronto Region," in April. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to endorse that action plan and set out a timetable for each of your government's contributions to implementing it.

"Enough Talk" is a road map for improving our city region.... The action plan sets out realistic ideas for expanding the Toronto region's affordable housing stock, re-invigorating public transit, and building community services infrastructure in our poorest neighbourhoods.

Translation: send more money to a city that screws up every money-spending project they touch, makes more unworkable plans to spend more money that . . . oh, never mind. You already know all this.

The civic workers (and teachers union) has this city by the nuts. We can't even find a place in Canada willing to take our garbage, at least that portion that isn't strewn on our streets.

Whenever I hear someone opine "If only we had someone like Rudy Guiliani" I choke because Rudy had something we ain't got: a city population behind him with the same resolve to make the hard calls and get things done.

"Enough Talk," SHUT UP. We live in a dysfunctional city because we have the most useless, weak-kneed City Council in the history of All City Councils and THEY LISTEN TO IDIOTS LIKE YOU LOT.

UPDATE (or should that be OUCH!): No less a personage than Colby Cosh has taken Toronto (in the form of Robert Fulford, National Post columnist) to task for a totally different example of its egocentricity (or could that cosmocentricity? patriacentricity?) for failing to notice the substantial bits of real estate to the West that are also Canadian.

Posted by Debbye at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2003

Frugal Etobian Councillors

Aug. 26 -- Etobians are rather proud that the two most frugal councillors in Toronto are from our area. The office expenses of the members of Toronto City Council are under scrutiny and it always makes for interesting reading. Remember: they are allotted $53,100 per year and have another 4 months to go.

Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun also looks at the office expenses and applauds Rob Ford in her column Frugal councillor scopes his colleagues' expenses (link will die shortly.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)