Archive for July, 2010

#67 – Seduced by Ma Bell again.

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

It is insidious. You want to trust Ma Bell. Ma has done much for Canada over many years. She ran copper wire through our wilderness to create a nation. She brought forth trustworthy technology to connect our peoples. She took over Northern Electric to create the wonder of Nortel. She gave thousands and thousands of people purpose and careers jacking us into the rest of the world. She was the widows’ and orphans’ shares that brought stability to retirement and leisure living. “I work for Bell,” was a strong social statement. Ma Bell was known. Ma Bell was trusted.

But no more! Ma has fallen on bad times. She has been raped and abused by business predators. Without the stabilizing hand of Bell, Nortel withered and died. Ma’s managers have divested reliable earners such as the yellow pages, off-loaded the installers, contracted out knowledgeable sales people to low-bid call centres and continues to out-source facilities, technologies and people at an alarming rate. Ma Bell is a poor shadow of the once robust company that was the succour of widows and orphans.

Ma has become desperate in hard times. Like an aged crone pitifully working the streets, she entices with promises, blandishments, free samples and simple deceit for the unwary. Those of us who knew her in her glory days still want to trust her.

But you cannot. Until recently, in this household, there was peace. Despite repeated calls from people with strange accents, Ma Bell’s many promises were ignored. The household was generally satisfied with the reliable billings of Yak Communications and much dissatisfied with the rapacious attitude of Rogers Cable.

It was when Ma Bell introduced satellite television service that the house of cards was shaken. As much as Ma Bell was no longer trusted, Mr. Rogers’ people were less loved. Have you ever tried to talk to someone at Rogers? Call centres are the only acceptable form of communication to them. Ask them something they do not understand and you lose. They never call back. Do not take them from the prepared route of their script. It confuses them. And do not forget, they can lose the tenuous connection with you in an instant (too bad).

You can flip a coin. Does Ma Bell or Rogers annoy you the most? It’s a toss-up.

But when Ma Bell offered the panacea of satellite service in this condominium, the owners beat a path to her door. To no longer have to deal with those autocratic no-names at Rogers was the appeal. The word ‘free,’ so freely used, certainly helped you along.

The deal was too good to be true. And, of course, it was not true.

Being of sound mind though, this householder held out for a written offer. There was some waffling at the written stipulation but your intrepid, knowledgeable householder held out. A deal was struck for the first year: Ma Bell would supply home telephone, six megabit DSL Internet service and high definition television with personal video recorder for a grand total of $71.90 plus tax each month. The key to this was that all miscellaneous fees such as the 24 cents for 911-service were included. No modems, touch tone fees, network charges or other extraneous charges were to be added.

Would it surprise you to learn that after a month of trying to get everything working, the first bill arrived from Ma Bell. While no person outside Bell employ could ever explain the details of that bill, it is also most likely that no two Bell employees could explain it the same way. It is a creative task. Suffice to say, the bill was for approximately three times the quoted figure. You can hardly blame Premier McGinty’s harmonized taxes for that kind of screw-up.

Next week, this contrite householder is returning to the nice people at Yak Communications and to the arms of the greedy cable guys at Rogers. As for Ma Bell, one can only hope that her minions will sic the small claims court on us. That is one place where written contracts are still likely to be honoured.

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Friday, July 30th, 2010

McGinty’s government is suffering from performance anxiety,

But if we elect Tim Hudak, we better move to another society.


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Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We’ve magic laws in Ontario, now you see ‘em, now you don’t,

On G20 weekend, they lied to us.  Do you see it? No you don’t.


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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

If British Petroleum in the U.S. can afford a $17 billion cleanup,

Then all the oil companies, on us, have sure been cleaning up.


#66 – Justice for all…Just not in Canada.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Canadians have a schizophrenic relationship with the law. They watch American television and believe that law is about justice and retribution. Nothing could be further from the truth in Canada. In this country, the law is a make-work, share-the-wealth fund for lawyers. It is written by lawyers, for lawyers, read by lawyers, arbitrated by lawyers, argued by lawyers, judged by lawyers, appealed to lawyers and any involvement in the process by non lawyers is frowned upon. Is it any wonder that most Canadians are actually afraid of the law? And we should be.

Canadian law has become an arcane right, practiced in secret by people in black robes. It is controlled by an inner circle within an inner circle, guarded by the heavy hand of an automaton constabulary. Just think back to the G20 weekend in Toronto and you saw the police of Canada, in lockstep, carrying out the supposed commands of the law. Is it any wonder that writers acknowledge that ‘the law is an ass.’

It has been so for a long time. About four centuries ago, William Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI that to carry out an effective revolution: ‘First we must kill all the lawyers.’

Never has there been better reason for revolution. The law in Canada has become a shield behind which we hide much stupidity. Our politicians practice careless law because nobody calls them on it. They approve omnibus changes in laws without a due process of consideration and thinking. They trust departmental juniors with no concept of the real life who passed a bar admission exam on their third attempt last year.

It was almost 30 years ago that the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To our shame, we have allowed inept, uncaring politicians to routinely exempt their laws from the charter. They have made a mockery of what should have been mandatory.

This is not written to damn all lawyers and politicians. In a lifetime of involvement in politics, one gets to know and appreciate many lawyers, judges and law professors. An old friend, the Hon. Justice Allen Linden, for example, has done wonderful work in modernizing Canadian tort law. He has made it easier for Canadians to win compensation for injury through other’s negligence. You can be sure that other lawyers are today earning fat fees from his work.

Many years ago, Al explained something that has stayed with me over the years. He was commenting on a column I had written for a Toronto newspaper. “I know you were right in what you wrote,” he said, “but some truths make great cocktail conversation and some you can write about. You have to know the difference.”

And that is why I do not hesitate to say that some of my best friends are…..

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Monday, July 26th, 2010

The Internet tells secrets of the war in Afghanistan,

While the hell do we not get out as soon as we can?


#65 – For those who cannot tell left from right.

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Liberals should leave it to the Reform-Conservative coalition to own the right wing of Canadian politics. There are far more Canadians who want to support a middle of the road party. And if we liberals appear a bit left wing occasionally, it is probably because we want to do something for the good of Canada.

People who deny there are left and right wings in Canadian politics seem to be mainly from the right of the political spectrum. It must be because the right wing has much to answer for and they want to escape the blame. This should only be true of the Conservative Party but in the Liberal Party, the active presence of a right wing is hard to deny. Right wing Liberals also have much to answer for over the past two decades.

It started with Liberal leader Jean Chrétien before he even defeated Conservative Kim Campbell to win his first majority government. Chrétien’s support for Brian Mulroney’s Charlottetown Accord was seen as contrary to Liberal Party principles and this was confirmed to many liberals when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau came out of retirement to give his famous speech against the accord at La Maison Egg Roll. Despite this rift in the party, more people hated Brian Mulroney’s right wing Conservatives than were annoyed with Jean Chrétien.

The famous “Red Book” of temporary fame in 1993 that gave detail of the Liberal Party policy was soon cast aside. Popular policies such as national child care and dumping the hated Goods and Services Tax (GST) were quickly forgotten while a promise to revamp Unemployment Insurance was kept in a non-liberal way. Paul Martin, one of the authors of the Red Book, had the name changed to Employment Insurance and payments to the unemployed decreased.

Finance Minister Paul Martin’s hard work at balancing the budget kept many right wing voters tied to the Liberals through the turn of the century. He balanced the country’s books but it was at the expense of angering provincial politicians as he reduced transfer payments. His ill-conceived austerity programs can also take the dubious honour of starting the ball rolling to effectively reduce food inspection in Canada to the point that Listeriosis could reach out from a prepared meats plant to kill Canadians.

Laissez-faire economic theory is just one of the trademarks of right wing politicians. Status quo thinking is also part of it, as are silly monarchists, narrow-minded right-to-life advocates, blood thirsty pro-death penalty supporters, anti-gun control freaks and other oppressive groups who band together for their own special tea party.

While this right-wing collection does add up to a sizeable number of our fellow citizens, by and large Canadians are much more tolerant and fair than the right wing wants to believe. Canadians do not believe in a heavy handed judiciary, they would welcome a national daycare program, a federal drug program to match Medicare, more generous treatment of seniors and other programs that can increase the dignity of life for all.

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Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Canadians will not welcome back the Black’s,

Loyalty to country is what his lordship lacks.


#64 – PM Harper is not familiar with barnyards.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

You should warn a person at least once before they go into a barnyard. That is sufficient for them to look around and be aware of the dangers that lurk underfoot. It is far more important that the farmer can easily get the cows to and from their milking than to worry about the shoes of city slickers.

Tunney’s Pasture in Ottawa is very much like that barnyard. The government departments located there have always been prideful of their ability to lay minefields to ward off the unwary politician bent on disrupting their way of life. For many years, Statistics Canada was a guardian at the gate of Tunney’s Pasture, locked in its demands on Canadians for it ten-year cycle of queries about the number of our indoor toilets.

And then along came Mr. Harper and his effete band of Conservative ideologues. They just marched into the pasture to enforce their ideas of small, less intrusive government. Their delicate Italian-made shoes were never designed to withstand the cowflaps that were there in the pasture for them.

Tony Clement, Stephen Harper, et al were not raised on farms. They had little understanding either of the reasons for counting inside toilets. They thought it was intrusive and they reasoned that there was no need for such count. Mind you, they relented, if someone wishes to tell you such information, you may collect it. They had no way of knowing that making the details voluntary would destroy the statistical viability of the information. It would be useless.

And the people they hurt are not civil servants who think the information is important. They hurt their business supporters who need that information to be able to forecast the needs of the Canadian marketplace. The rate of change from outdoor privies to indoor plumbing, for example, tells the porcelain manufacturers how many toilets to mould in the coming year. Having too few can be just about as bad as having too many.

Canadian business trusts Statistics Canada. For many years, they have bought increasing complex studies based on the reliability of the five and ten year analyses. For the Harper government to toss their bombshell into this relationship is not only foolish and ill-thought. It gives Canadian a very good example of the danger of turning ideologues lose in the federal government.

It is one thing to tighten the screws on civil servants to increase productivity. It is an entirely different situation to tell them how to do their jobs. Some of them take quite justifiable pride in their work. The resignation of the head of Statistics Canada was a very understandable outcome from an honourable person.

Back on the farm, we would have said that the Right Honourable Stephen Harper stepped into a really warm, squishy one this time.

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Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

They have let Lord Black out of jail,

We hope he’s sent back without fail.