Wednesday 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Me

This (rein)deer came to visit my driveway a little while ago just to deliver that message. So much nicer than receiving a postage-free card from that grinch temporarily occupying 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

Happy Holidays from the National Film Board

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Thursday 3 November 2011

Where Halloween Pumpkins Go to Die

Victoria, BC - Mount Douglas Park Way, November 3, 2011

Monday 31 October 2011

At home yesterday at 2pm

Other people get snow and rain, we get deer - does, fawns, and bucks. But then, our MP is the leader of the Green Party, not "you know who"!

Friday 5 August 2011

And yet another deer!

July 28, 2011 - on the other side of the car port

Sunday 5 June 2011

And now for something completely different!

Since this video was uploaded in March 2010, it has been viewed almost 7,000,000 times. See if you can watch it without either laughing or crying!

Here are some of the things his father had to say about the little video:

"This is 3 year old Jonathan conducting to the 4th movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. This DGG recording was conducted by Herbert von Karajan and played by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, one of Jonathan's favorite conductors and orchestras. Jonathan's passion for classical music became apparent when he was only eight months old. Shortly after that he began conducting on his own."

Friday 3 June 2011

An Act of Civil Courage

A 21-year-old page has lost her Senate job after walking onto the Senate floor during the speech from the throne to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an action unprecedented in modern Canadian parliamentary history. Brigitte DePape, a recent University of Ottawa graduate, carried a sign reading "Stop Harper" and walked out in front of Gov. Gen. David Johnston as he read the speech Friday afternoon.

In a press release, DePape said: "Harper's agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation. We have to stop him from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases, and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate. Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generations. Contrary to Harper's rhetoric, Conservative values are not in fact Canadian values. How could they be when 3 out of 4 eligible voters didn't even give their support to the Conservatives? But we will only be able to stop Harper's agenda if people of all ages and from all walks of life engage in creative actions and civil disobedience."

Her action clearly demonstrates the frustration of many of the 61% of Canadian voters who voted against Harper's ideology-driven agenda which puts neo-conservative ideology ahead of any fact-derived vision for Canada.

Well done, Brigitte!

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Just lounging in the rain ...

May 16th - rain as usual for this year in Victoria - two of a family of six deer who have made their home in our neighbourhood. They didn't move during the whole five minutes or so that I was out there taking their picture. :-)

Sunday 15 May 2011

What Stephen Harper thinks of Canada and what he's going to do about it ...

"Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status."

National Post, Dec. 8, 2000, p. A18

When he said, "You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it"... he wasn't kidding. Now that he has his 39% "majority", watch out. He can do what he wants, and he will, and no one can stop him. Is this what the 61% of you who didn't vote Tory wanted? Oh Canada!

Friday 6 May 2011

Proportional Representation - The Right Way

Thinking Canadians know that the "first past the post" electoral system is outdated and undemocratic in a multi-party state. The only fair system to replace it with is some form of proportional representation. All politicians know this. Some political parties oppose it because they fear a potential loss of power (disenfranchised voters are not their concern).

The question is what is proportional representation? Is there more than one variation? If so, which version is best and most easily understood by voters?

Pure proportional representation is the most democratic because it reflects exactly what voters want. Briefly, this is how it works: Each voter has one vote, just as now. Voters vote for the party of their choice, not for candidates. The number of seats each party receives is determined by their percentage of the votes cast. Each party has an established list of candidates (with the leader in position one, the others listed however the party chooses). The successful candidates are chosen from the list starting at the top. A simple system easy to understand and implement.

But it has a number of drawbacks, the most important of which is potential political instability. For example, if a party gets an MP for every 100,000 votes it receives, there is a good chance that many splinter parties will receive a few seats. Germany and France, among others, had this system prior to World War II, Italy and Israel still have it now. Anyone who follows international politics closely will know that the Israeli government is extremely unstable because it consists of a coalition made up of many parties that have almost nothing in common. Hence, the lack of progress resolving the Arab-Israeli situation, for example.

In order to resolve the apparent contradiction of fairness and stability, a modified system of proportional representation has developed since World War II which works very well and is easy for the average unsophisticated voter to understand. That system is usually called Mixed Member Proportional Representation, commonly abbreviated to MMP, and is used successfully in many democratic countries.

In a nutshell, here's how it works: each voter has two votes - one for the party of choice, one for a candidate in a riding (the same as now) who does not necessarily have to be from the same party. The seats are allocated on the basis of 50% from the first vote and 50% from the second vote. Essentially this means that voters still have the benefit of a local MP whom they can feel a connection to and to whom they can turn for help in the case of problems with government agencies. At the same time, voters who favour smaller parties (such as the Green Party) will not be disenfranchised as they are now.

The potential drawback of splinter parties causing instability is resolved by establishing a threshold which must be exceeded for party representation. This is usually set at 5% of the total vote and has worked very successfully at keeping extremist and one-issue parties out (for instance in countries like Germany and New Zealand which use this system). The threshold does not apply to candidates who are elected personally by the second ballot (i.e. Elizabeth May would still have been elected, even if the Green Party had not received enough votes to pass the threshold).

There is another variation of proportional representation called the Single Transferable Vote system. I won't explain it here. It's extremely complicated to explain and understand. It's the system proposed here in BC and voted on twice by referendum and turned down twice in 2005 and 2009. It may be democratic and fair, but because of its complexity is not supportable.

The Mixed Member Proportional system is very easy to understand and implement and is fair to all points of view, and above all it's democratic. That's where we need to go - after all, most Canadians favour a democratic system of government, don't we?

Thursday 5 May 2011

Three Peas in a Pod

The face of our new government: is it time to emigrate, or should we stay and fight? ;-)

Someone else wrote this, but it's too good not to share:

"It's impossible not to say this. Those three look like the sort of minor league hockey coaches who would tell a young concussed player to go out and spear, board and stomp, or else they're benched. Then they'd go for a Timmy's and call the server 'Sweetie', get in their new F150 king cab and meet the boys at the local strip joint and steak house out on the edge of town to talk about how to avoid seeking planning permission for their new unwanted big box store real estate development. The next day they would attend a Conservative riding association lunch, where they would be awarded 'good citizens' plaques."

I didn't make this up, honest!

Wednesday 4 May 2011

On the "demise" of the Bloc québecois

Most people and commentators in English-speaking Canada are still crowing about the melt-down of the Bloc and how that signifies the a renewed commitment to federalism in Quebec. Unfortunately it signifies nothing of the sort, it only demonstrates how little people outside Quebec understand what's going on there.

The Bloc had, over the past few years, lost its purpose for existence. It only remained strong because at each of the past few elections, issues arose in a timely manner to keep voters loyal. In 2006, it was Harper's vilification of the Liberals over the sponsorship scandal (which turned out to be a $3.75 million tempest in a teapot if you examine the facts laid bare by the Gomery Commission) which kept Bloc voters loyal. In 2008, it was Harper's announced cuts to cultural spending. (That concern over culture should become an issue in Quebec shows how different that province is from Harperland.) But this year, there were no issues like that. So when Duceppe/Harper/Ignatieff struck out during the French TV debate and Layton was all likability, the Orange surge suddenly took off and we now have the result.

But people who follow political developments in Quebec, remember the fate of the ADQ which came out of nowhere and returned to nowhere in one short session. The same is likely to happen to Jack Layton's 58 Quebec MPs (well, more accurately, maybe only 55-57 of them). Not only will the NDP have to swing towards Quebec wishes, but, since they won't be able to deliver (remember, Harper is now in total control), the voters won't likely be still with him for the 2015 federal election. The Bloc was a federal safety valve for Quebec nationalists diffusing the pressure for separation. So all the "demise" means is that Quebec "nationalism" is now once again totally centered on Quebec, with the result that the separatist focus will sharpen during the coming months or years - unless the NDP becomes the BlocNPD. And that's not likely to happen

Long before then, something else will happen - a provincial election in Quebec, most likely in 2012. The provincial Liberals face almost certain defeat because of the monumental dislike for Premier Charest. That means a Parti québecois government in power at the same time as Harper in Ottawa. There will almost certainly be a referendum on Quebec independence. How Harper handles that will determine the future of Canada. Well, it's already too late to worry about that now, because we're all helpless in his grip.

Still angry!

I'm usually slow to anger and fast to recover, but not this time. As soon as I was able to think about the implications of the election results, I got extremely angry and I'm still angry; angry enough to stay away from people because I'm likely to explode (figuratively, of course). So far the anger hasn't abated (which is bad because Mother's Day lunch is coming up soon and I have to decide what to do).

I'm angry because this election, more than previous ones, demonstrates the ignorance and stupidity (they're not the same) of a good 90% of Canada's voters, as well as the laziness (coupled with stupidity/ignorance) of the 39% of potential voters who couldn't be bothered to vote. That 39% proves, by the way, that there was no "ground swell" of interest in the election, because the turn-out was only a bit more than 2 % higher than in 2008. That's not a shining example of interest in democracy..

Then there's extreme disappointment in the quality of election result analysis both by commentators, political scientists, and politicians. Hardly anyone interpreted the implication of the results correctly, whether it was analysis of the disappearance of the Bloc, the shift of Quebec voters to the NDP or the extremely poor showing of the Liberals. CTV, as usual, was shilling for Harper, so sober commentary couldn't originate from there. At the CBC, trying to report objectively (for which they were hounded several times by Tories during the campaign - itself a sign of Harper's degree of commitment to democratic principles), I don't remember hearing, during the broadcast itself, a correct analysis of the implications of what was happening. It wasn't till Tuesday afternoon that things started to improve there, but the implications were obvious on Monday night and should have been discussed.

That's not a good sign for the future of political analysis in this country.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Canadians get the government they deserve ...

... but clearly not the government they wanted. Many conclusions can be drawn from last night's disastrous election results right now, some of the implications for Canada won't become clear for a while. One thing is clear right from the start, this election, as others before it, has not served Canadian democracy well. Compare the result under the current electoral system to a system using Proportional Representation:

CON: 39.62% of vote, 167 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 123 seats
NDP: 30.62% of vote, 102 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 95 seats
LIB: 18.91% of vote, 34 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 58 seats
BQ: 6.05% of vote, 4 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 18 seats
GRN: 3.91% of vote, 1 seat - under prop. rep. they would have 12 seats

Perhaps not the neatest result, but a fair and democratic one - not a result to Harper's liking, of course, because he can only get along with himself (see below).

Only three democratic countries still use the 19th century "first past the post" system which evolved in a two party system but clearly can't be considered democratic in the 21st century. Before you think that this is about the fate of any particular political party, think again. This is about the democratic future of Canada. What will Canada look like four years from now, when we go to the polls again? Will we recognize it? How far will Harper go to dismantle the reasonably progressive country we've built during the past 50 years?

Before I go on, here's a bit of cheerful news, amidst the gloom: Progressive forces have taken over the entire south end of Vancouver Island where more than half of the population lives; no Blue Harpocritters remain here (alas, no Liberals either). And my riding, Saanich-Gulf Islands, which had been deep blue for 14 years, elected Elizabeth May, North America's first Green Party MP. Now that's no mean achievement!

But to go on: Harper with his unearned majority will now be able to do anything he wants. He's now a virtual dictator (that's how our system works). And he will act like one, because that fits his personality. "L'état c'est moi!", as Louis XIV used to say, "I am the state!". We know that's how he acted as minority prime minister, with his majority no one can so NO to him. So, what will now happen to public health care, to employment insurance, to drug costs, to a woman's right to choose, to pensions, to culture, to scientific research, to the CBC, to public funding of political parties, and to dealing with global warming, climate change, and the environment? Hold on to your hats, folks! Remember, we're dealing with right wingers here, anti-intellectual, anti-professional, many of them fundamentalist protestant believers.

And then there's the new NDP. Based on their platform and previous behaviour, not quite ready for prime time, but now the official opposition party. They can grow up, I certainly hope so - after all, they've run and are running successful provincial governments. But there's a serious new wrinkle now: 58 of their elected members are totally inexperienced new Quebec MPs. These MPs have replaced the Bloc, but they will hold similar views. Not only will that tend to tilt the NDP towards Quebec, but also, if they don't deliver, chances are extremely good that these seats will go elsewhere in 2015. And then what?

The progressive parties had several chances during the past two years to prevent what happened yesterday, they were urged to do so by their elder statesmen, men of stature, experience and ability. Both the Liberals and the NDP chose to keep to the status quo. They, and more importantly we, have to live with the result! For now the creation of a new centre-left party has to stay on hold, at least until the dust settles.

The probable result of this election was pretty certain from the beginning - either a Harper minority or a majority, depending on how the progressive vote was split. It was certain from the beginning that the majority of progressive voters would not be intelligent enough to cast their votes to defeat Harper. The Harper majority is the best result of two undesirable outcomes. Now Harper will be solely and totally responsible for what happens to Canada. The blame for anything negative that occurs will be no one's but his.

There will be a provincial election in Quebec in 2012. The Parti Québecois will likely win and, then, Canada will be be faced with another referendum on Quebec independence. How will Stephen Harper deal with that? A man with no mental finesse, a man whose only political goals have always been absolute power for himself no matter what, and the destruction of the Liberal Party (those are his words not mine, that's why he spent millions of dollars demonizing two Liberal leaders). We'll see how he'll deal with that. But will the result be the destruction of Canada?

One thing is certain right now though: With Harper's contempt for democracy and international institutions, Canada will continue its slide into mediocrity and international irrelevance. Not a comforting thought!

Thursday 21 April 2011

Question of the Day - April 20th "Inside Politics" Question of the Day:

Will your vote be influenced by the possibility of another minority government?
2724 readers voted: Yes - 18.39%, No - 80.98%, Unsure - 0.62%

I sometimes comment on these daily questions. This was my comment today:

"Why would anyone who knows anything about our system of parliamentary representative democracy be worried about a possible minority government? Only a populist demagogue who's after nothing but personal power would rail against it. Minority government only means you need to be able to get along with people. Who among our political leaders is incapable of getting along with other political leaders? Do I really need to spell this out? Go on Harpocritters, let's hear your arguments!"

105 people gave this comment "Thumbs Up"
6 people gave it "Thumbs Down"

Usually my comments get about 2/3 for, 1/3 against (reflecting the national support for the Harpocritters) - today's result is a record. Just thought I'd share it with you. ;-)

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Harper, once more, on coalitions...

Oh, how times change! But never Harper! Was he lying then, or is he lying now, or does he always lie? How can you tell?

Monday 18 April 2011

If you call yourself a Progressive Canadian, there's only one way to vote!


Do you really want to re-elect this person? No? In that case, if you call yourself a progressive voter, you need to consider the facts.

Any vote for the NDP or the Green Party is a vote for Harper. Anyone who doesn't understand that, doesn't know how our parliamentary system works. You can't call yourself a progressive Canadian if you don't know this. It isn't enough to be for universal health care or green energy to be considered progressive, you have to see the whole picture.

If you feel self-satisfied after you've cast your vote for the NDP or the Green Party and then see Harper back in power, it will be your fault and your fault alone. What is more important, saving Canada by freeing it from Harper and the neo-Conservatives, or voting for a splinter party?

Until Canada adopts a modified system of Proportional Representation (like Germany, for instance), we cannot afford to vote for splinter parties no matter how much we'd like to. Do you realize that only Canada, the UK and the US still use the "first past the post" system? Look at how much is being made of the NDP "surge" in Quebec by certain commentators. The NDP support is spread all around Quebec, so it won't result in any seats. It's the same as with the Green Party support across the country: no seats. Only with Proportional Representation will these votes count for anything.

But until we change our 19th century electoral system (which was designed for a two party state), there's no choice. If you want to call yourself a progressive Canadian, you must understand this. Otherwise you might as well vote Conservative. the final result will be the same.

Sunday 10 April 2011


Let's rid ourselves of the Wicked Witch of the West and restore Canada's reputation in the world! Enough of lies and broken promises! Enough of the destruction of parliamentary democracy! Let's end the five year slide back into the mediocrity of the 1950s!

And, it's still not warm here in Victoria! Whose fault do you think that is? Stamp out Harpocritters now!

Thursday 31 March 2011

It's still not very warm here!

From this morning:

Beside the house, a surfeit of daffodils!

Tuesday 15 March 2011


Cherry Blossoms

Even if it is about two weeks later than usual!

Sunday 27 February 2011


A few days later, the snow is melting (this is Victoria after all!) and the usual visitors are back in the driveway. Life is good!

If it weren't for that colourless Albertan doing his worst to take our country back to the 19th century!

Wednesday 23 February 2011


We're in Victoria, and it's February 23rd! This isn't supposed to happen here! What's next, an earthquake? I can't get out to buy emergency supplies!

Monday 21 February 2011

Happy Louis Riel Day!

Louis Riel, Manitoba's Father of Confederation, defender of the rights of the Metis people against White Anglo-Saxon Protestant discrimination and corruption, targeted specifically by the Orange Order (Canada's equivalent to the Ku Klux Klan), condemned to death by a hand-picked white racist jury for "crimes" he did not commit, and allowed to be executed on November 16, 1885 by a white racist prime minister. Oh Canada!

Sir John A. Macdonald, that great paragon of virtue, who was instrumental in upholding Riel's sentence, is famously quoted as saying: "He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour."

Friday 11 February 2011

Christmas in Vancouver

Christmas Eve overlooking Stanley Park

Boxing Day - see where the snow isn't :-)
Oh Canada!