Thursday, August 27, 2009

Expect a Slow Down.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the blog, I've got something I need to say.

I know I haven't updated in awhile; and that quite a few things are going on that deserve talking about. The by-elections scheduled for late September, the Government's budget problem on overestimating the price of potash...

But, allow me to explain why I've let the blog fall over to the wayside.

Rather than be a sit down, back seat driver that criticizes the way things are being run; I've put my money where my mouth is and gotten involved in the political process. As such, I am currently standing for nomination to run as a political candidate here in my riding of Saskatoon-Humboldt.

It's a time consuming process, and as such, I won't have as much time as normal to scan the news headlines and reflect and respond to them. In September, we'll know whether or not I've been selected as the candidate.

If I am not, expect the blog to return to normal operating status.

If I am, then expect the blog to be more of a personal reflection on political events as well as a means to talk a bit about policy on a deeper level, rather than headlines.

Either way, the blog will continue.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving Right Along

Source: CBC NEWS: Former Child Soldier Loses Fight to Stay in Saskatoon
Source: CBC NEWS: Former Child Soldiers Fights to Stay in Saskatoon

A former child soldier from Burma/Myanmar; lost his fight today to stay in Saskatoon. Nay Myo Hein, who deserted the Burma Army at the age of 14 and came to Canada, was told today that he would be deported back to Burma.

Hein maintains that he risks imprisonment, torture, and even worried for his life if he were to be returned to Burma. Hein came to Canada by working on a container ship, which he abandoned and then came west. Hein had applied for refuge status with the Canadian Government, but the application was rejected because the Immigration Board did not believe Hein's life was in any danger.

Let's do a quick history lesson on Burma:

It democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi in 1993, only to have her shut out and placed under house arrest by the ruling military junta. Suu Kyi has often been released from her house arrest, only to have new charges brought against her to keep her confined.

Burma is also a country that was hit hard by a cyclone in 2008, and the ruling military government dragged it heels to allow UN workers to distribute food and medicine and other supplies throughout the country.

The reigme is also often referred to as one of the worst offenders for human rights violations in the world.

Yet, given all this information that can be found quite easily, the Immigration Board does not believe that a child soldier who deserted the army is in any danger when he is returned to the country.

After all, desertion is a pretty serious charge. In the United States, a desertion charge can lead up to a treason charge against the person; a charge that can result in prison, or in that person's execution. And the United States is a modernized country; just imagine what a military junta is going to do to a deserter.

The fact of the matter is, the Conservatives opened a can of worms with their visa restrictions on Mexico and Czech Republic citizens. The minister responsible, and even the Prime Minister, have said that these restrictions were to ensure that CREDIBLE asylum seekers weren't thrown to the wayside in a myriad of worthless claims.

Yet, here is a man with a reasonable case to make against being returned to Burma; a CREDIBLE asylum seeker, and the government is failing him.

The only recourse left for Mr. Hein is receive a 'reprieve' from Peter Van Loan, and hopefully the Conservatives will show that they do actually care about 'credible asylum seekers' and at least give Mr. Hein's case a closer look and learn that the right thing to do is to keep him out of Burma.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Response to From My Cold Dead Hands Comment...

Well, I must admit a bit of shocking surprise when I logged on today and saw that my last post had generated quite a few comments. I must say I'm a tad disappointed that there were mostly comments that objected to the view I presented, as I would have liked at least one agreement, but I guess that's how things go sometimes.

Many of the commentators put forward their own statistics, links and opinions and I thank them for that. I have been going through the information they've provided and I feel that I should comment slightly on it.

I do not wish for this blog to become a 'they said, I said' response format, so I hope that I can say what needs to be said in this post and we can put the issue to rest on the blog...At least until something comes up in the news again to warrant further discussion.

Since there are quite a few people to respond to, I shall break this down in a person-by-person response. This does mean though that I may repeat myself.

Anonymous:
I looked into your link, and was unable to find the complete text you have pasted. The one argument I can make against it, of course, is that the age of the statistics is biased towards a time when the UK was indeed going through dangerous spikes. Links to British Government publications, which can be found below, often cite 1995 as being a particularly bad time.

Also, the US figure is only ESTIMATED. This provides a problem as, from my own experience, estimates usually turn out to be quite wrong and way off the mark.

Jayde:

I appreciate your linking to the Home Office website with the English Government, but I must point out that your statistics are little off. You provided a link for the 2006-2007 year, which is in contrast to the link I provided detailing 2008. The following link: Crime in England and Wales 2008/09; provides a picture that shows violent crime on the decline.

According to the report, found on page 7/12, weapons were only used 21% of the time in violent crimes; which equals to about one in five violent crimes. To further compound the matter, firearms were only used in 1% of those violent crimes, while overall firearms use by criminals fell 17% in 2008/09 as compared to 2007/08.

Offenses resulting in injury also fell 47% in the country. The report cites the reduction of imitation weapons as a major contributing factor in this number. (For those who don't know, imitation weapons refer to replicas which can and have been converted into live fire weapons. More information can be found here: 500,000 fake guns a year reach Britain|News|This is London)

In addition, in regards to your original source, I would point out that the highest violent crime rate according to the source was domestic crime; so things such as spousal and child abuse, rather than breaking and entering.

Sadly, I cannot comment on the link provided by you in regards to England and Scotland being dubbed more dangerous than Northern Ireland, because the link did not work. I attempted to find the source myself on the UN Crime and Justice website, but was unable to do so.

You ended your comment mentioning that the RCMP says they don't really use the registry and believe that it should be abolished. I was unable to find a link to support your comment, but I was able to find this: Winnipeg Free Press: Canadian Police Want to Keep Gun Registry Going.

The article also ends on a note I feel should be presented here, since you mentioned the United States. The California Attorney General Report on Firearms concluded that firearms within the state were used far more often by males to kill females and that firearms were rarely used against criminals or stop crimes; rather they inflicted harm on the people the firearm was meant to protect.

I would like to see a source for your ending argument, about the police wanting the registry abolished, because all I can find on my own is overwhelming support within the police community for the continuation of the registry.

Michael:

Sadly, I didn't see any sources to back up your arguments. However, I shall respond to them as best I can and work with the assumption that somewhere they are possibly recorded as fact.

I do thank you for providing a picture of use for a semi-automatic weapon, as I likely would not have considered the need for a follow-up shot on an animal before it runs off into the wild. However, I suppose I could argue, that the purpose of hunting (other than enjoyment or food) would be to become a better hunter, and develop the ability to kill an animal with a single shot.

After all, a single bullet would be more humane to the animal than a burst fire of five or so tearing through them. I would also argue that hunters who use longbows and other varieties of archery equipment could tell you all about the value of a 'good first blow' rather than just firing and hoping to finish the animal off.

As for your objections to my other arguments; in regards to saying that I am suggesting passivity over objectivity, I do not believe so. A person does indeed have a right to defend themselves from a person who is seeking to do harm to them. John Stuart Mill, a political philosopher, would suggest that the harm principle comes into play.

That we are able to do what we need to do in that it prevents a greater harm from occurring to ourselves. However, Canadian law would look on that within reason. You cite that we have a means to protect ourselves in regards to the claim of 'self-defense'. But, self-defense is not black and white, it is a very grey area.

For example, if a person breaks into your home with a baseball bat as their weapon and you proceed to shoot them on sight...Well, your self-defense trial would be over shortly and you would go to prison. The fact of the matter is, that we do not allow the 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality.

A person with a baseball bat poses no actual harm to a person armed with a gun, and as such, you stepped outside of your legal limits when you fired the weapon as you were in no physical danger and were not actually defending yourselves.

It is the same with the RCMP. I've spent some time touring detachments and have had relatives and friends within the RCMP, and they'll tell you all about the conflict 'wheel' that they use. That if a person is harmed with this, they can respond with that. The first response is not to go to the gun, but other things such as pepper spray or a tazer or a baton.

Self-defense is necessary when dealing with someone who is going to harm you or your loved ones, but if we hold our police to a standard of reasonable action, then we must adhere to it ourselves.

I suppose you'd ask well, what if they have a gun instead of a baseball bat? Well, that's a more difficult situation. Some would say that just the threat of you shooting back would be enough to get someone to submit, while others would say no you need to shoot first. But again, this can fall back to the problem with self-defense.

After all, that air gun they might have been carrying posed no harm and you shot them outside of your legal right to do so.

You also mentioned that areas with higher gun ownership see lower amounts of violent crimes. You cite the United States, and say they have low rape, home invasion and assault rates. You do not provide statistics, so I suppose it's my job.

Using the American Department of Justice website, which unfortunately only had this data up to 2005, there were 15,687 homicides (which can be broken down in to categories such as assault) throughout the United States. Unsurprisingly, guns and firearms were often the highest percentage in relation to these crimes.

You can look for yourself here: Bureau of Justice

Also according to the Bureau, from 2007 results found here; throughout the United States there was:
1,408,337 total violent crimes
16,929 murders and non-negligent manslaughter
90,427 forcible rape
445,125 robberies
885,856 aggravated assaults

Looking at those numbers, Assault/Rape/Robberies, your argument that the US sees less of these crimes seems to be a moot point.

Of course, I'd welcome any statistics you can bring that would counter these.

You also argue that because I don't see a logical use for a gun outside of hunting, that I'm naive in some way. Perhaps, in some ways I am, I can admit that. You suggest that others don't share my lifestyle and wouldn't agree with me. Well, that is where you might be wrong.

Going back to the Winnipeg Free Press article, in 2001 61% of Canadians wanted stricter gun laws. While 63% favoured outlawing gun ownership completely for private citizens. Now, I'm not completely against gun ownership so I'm not in that 63%; but I would say I am in the 61% that want stricter laws.

As such, given the polls findings, I'd say there are quite a few out there who seemingly share my 'life style', as you put it, and think something more needs to be done and that there is no use for guns outside of hunting and sport shooting.

You also challenge my definition of the Militia, well, here's some thanks to Dictionary.com:
1. a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
2. a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
3. all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
4. a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.

When the Second Amendment would have been written, the definition of a militia would have followed 1 - 3. Furthermore, the concept comes from a time when all able bodied men would be required to help defend the country/King from invasion and other threats.

But if you literally read the Second Amendment as written, all it does is guarantee the right of a person to own a gun to defend the nation. It does not give them the right to use it as self-defense, nor even for hunting, rather it simply states that for the purpose of defending the nation all able bodied men exist within the militia of the United States and can carry a gun for that purpose.

So, while it gives them the gun, it doesn't give them the right to use it outside of the defense of their country...If you want to squabble over definitions, that is.

Anonymous:

You stated Vermont, so allow me to use the Bureau of Justice to provide the same facts I did above.

In Vermont alone, there was:
772 violent crimes
12 murders/non-negligent manslaughter
123 forcible rape
80 robbery
557 aggravated assaults

So, while people might be carrying concealed weapons; 10% of the population according to your undocumented claim, it doesn't seem to be doing much to stop crime rates. Considering the high assault rate and the higher rape rate, it would seem that the fear of being shot is not considered at all by the people committing these crimes.

Rishi Maharaj:

As I noted in my response to Michael, self-defense is a tricky issue and one that is often to easily bandied about as a reason for gun ownership. I do appreciate that you did indeed reference that self-defense requires that the action is necessary, which is often a caveat that people leave out when they make the self-defense claim.

You too reference Vermont, and I suggest you read the above.

Now, you do make a very compelling argument from a standpoint. That if self-defense is a right, how can you say that the tools of self-defense should not be a right? I must admit, I've never quite heard that argument before...

But, I must also admit that I am not overly swayed by it. You assert that governments exist to secure fundamental human rights, not legalize them or enshrine them. You balance this argument by referring to abortion and how while not decriminalized, was often impossible for a woman to get done properly back in the day.

From a philosophical standpoint, your argument is quite sound.

However, in practical terms, I don't think it is. Governments do protect basic human rights, which is why we have them. But they are required to do one important thing that people often forget: Governments protect us from ourselves.

For example, going back to good old John Stuart Mill, a utilitarian principle would suggest that drug laws are useless. After all, a person is only harming themselves through drug use and therefore should be allowed under philosophical principle to use drugs to their hearts content.

As such, since humans have a basic right to do what they wish with their own body, your argument would suggest that governments have no right to prevent a person from using drugs. The same goes with a woman or man who decided to turn to prostitution as a career, since it is their right to do what they wish with their body.

Now, I am not saying that you support these things. What I am saying is that your argument must protect them, not just gun rights, otherwise it is a hypocritical argument and is not actually sound in either reality or philosophy.

To the point, governments exist to place limits. If a person could sit back and do drugs all day while contributing nothing to society, they likely could, under a Millian principle and your argument. Government prevents that through the use of laws against drug use, the purchase of drugs, and the very act of being intoxicated or high while in public.

The same is true of gun laws. A person could, under no gun laws, decide that they want to shoot parking metres. Or that they want to jump through the air whilst firing two guns just because it looks cool, while not actually shooting at anything.

Laws are in place to prevent this from happening, such as regulations about where and when a gun can be fired to laws that prevent destruction of public property. Government is not the evil monster that some people make it out to be, it is actually here to improve our lives and make life just a little bit better for all of us.

As such, going back to the key of your argument, access to guns is not the ONLY means of self-defense available to people. You make it sound as though guns are the only option of self-defense, which they are not, and as such do not constitute the sole tools of a basic right.

You end your comment on a question, posing about why criminals do not target or take on police officers or attack police stations. To an extent, you're right. The idea of storming a building full of armed people is not the greatest idea.

But you also forget to mention that there are more deterrents than guns. Anything worth stealing in a police station is tightly guarded and locked up, which means that a criminal would need to get keys or access codes to get anything of value. So, while armed cops might be somewhat of a deterrent, the idea of not getting anything easily is also there.

Secondly, and more importantly to my point, normal citizens do not really take the same precaution as cops do in regards to locking things up. How many of us have safes where we store our most valued objects? Probably not that many.

But how many of us have laptops worth hundreds of dollars? Televisions worth more? Jewelry, artwork, etc, etc, etc...Luxury items that we don't lock away every night, but leave comfortably sitting in their place until we replace them or move; and all we secure them with is a locked door and window.

Criminals may not be suicidal, as you said, but they aren't stupid either. The easier target will always be the average citizen's house, as opposed to a police station, regardless of how many guns the homeowner has.

And if you truly want criminals to reconsider a life of crime, then support a political party that addresses the key problems of poverty, social programs, and other social problems that force people into a life crime. Crime is a bit like a wart that way, you have to treat the root not the surface if you want it to go away.

Anonymous:

I do appreciate the history you've put into your post, and I do feel that I've addressed those concerns as time as gone by with the previous responses, but there are two things I must address.

First, you mention how the governments seem to be turning their back on this 1000 year old legislation. Think about that for a moment. Government is like an organism, it evolves and it changes to suit the times. A 1000 year old document is unlikely to apply to our times, given the rapid advances in technology.

For example, if the legislation was written when swords were the predominant weapon, then there would be a right to bear swords and people would be fighting over that today. As for guns, guns have changed a lot in the last 1000 years.

We've gone from muskets and saltpeter weapons, to guns that are rapid fire and able to inflict a great deal more damage than those in the past. After all, why should there be a law against having a gun you can fire once that takes 10 minutes to reload? There isn't much worry about that if the person misses their first shot.

Laws and government change, it's a pure and simple fact. If they did not, they would stagnate and lead to the second point...

Secondly, you mused the idea that coups are always from the military. Can I ask you a personal question? When you get into your vehicle of choice, do you have one of those little yellow "Support our Troops" stickers/magnet?

If you do, how can say support our troops one moment...And then say that we need guns because our military might take over the country? Now, if you do not have one of those stickers, this point doesn't apply.

However, I do feel the need to point out the general fear mongering. When you've seen a military coup, who is it usually against? Some dictator or self-important ruler who has gone beyond his or her power and is changing the nation in ways that harm and change the nation in ways that are unfavourable.

Now, some of you will say, there are documented cases of democracies being overthrown by military coups...Burma being such an example. In most of those cases, we see a major difference between those armies and ours.

In addition to potential outside political pressure for the coup, armies in these countries often carry more prestige than Canadian Officers. Generals are given a lifestyle that they want to maintain and fear losing, after all, no one stays a General forever. As such, a coup is more about personal politics than it is about military vs democracy.

It is usually an ambitious person who seeks to keep the lifestyle they've become accustomed to and know that there is no other way to keep it than to seize power for themselves. I do not believe Canada is at risk for this kind of personality, namely for the fact that our generals are not given villas and servants and other perks that would drive someone to want to keep their power.

Not to mention a pretty good pension system for soldiers who retire from the forces, there is no motivation for a coup with Canada, and the mere suggestion of it is simply a weak tactic used to distract people from actual fact.

Dave:

As I've mentioned before, I am not preaching pacifism. Self-defense is something that everyone is entitled to, but what I am saying is that guns are not the only means of obtaining this defense. People seem to think that protection = gun, and that is simply not the case.

In addition to firearms, and the police, there are numerous other means of defense. Alarm systems, for example, are just as effective as warding off intruders into your home. My uncle and aunt had an alarm system for years while living in Saskatoon and never had any problem.

And even if they had, the alarm going off would cause an intruder to leave the premises before the police had shown up. There are always different courses of action to deal with the same problem, and I for one, do not believe that guns are the sole course.

Anonymous:

I may very well take you up on that offer to visit a gun range one of these days. As I noted in my original post and in this one, I am not for taking away guns from citizens but I do believe more has to be done to limit unnecessary firearms and ensure that guns are owned for a purpose.

I do appreciate your mentioning the historical and engineering aspect of firearms, and also appreciate that you approached the subject with an open mind. I do acknowledge that not everyone is going to agree with what I say on this blog, much like I won't agree with what others say on theirs, and it's nice to see that someone can read this blog, disagree with it, but still be courteous and respectful. So, thank you for that, and maybe (once I get everything in order), I'll see you one day at the gun range.

DaveC:

Your first link, which suggests Home Office numbers are deflated, may contain some truth but it also defuses the argument you're making. The number that was excluded from the official list referred to gun crimes that did not result in a gun being brandished, used as a blunt instrument, or fired. Rather, those gun crimes that didn't make the list were cases of illegally trafficking a weapon into Britain or not having the weapon registered. So, while gun crimes are slightly higher when those figures are added, it does not add to the overall number of violent gun crimes within Britain.

Your second link, however, is more alarming. It states that children as young as 12 are carrying guns in Britain, and that the 'shock' of this has worn off on the public.

Now, consider this for a moment, why are children carrying guns? Is it the example set at home? The glorification of them in media? Likely, it is a combination of both. The article does not make reference to where the children secured the guns, but I'd imagine that it is likely from home due to carelessness on the part of the parent who owns the weapon.

This of course, brings us to Canada. Gun ownership poses certain risks, especially when children are present within the household. As I mentioned before, from the Winnipeg Free Press article, the California Attorney General Report suggested that guns in the State harmed those they were meant to protect more than criminals.

I'm not saying that all gun owners are this irresponsible, but what I am saying is that some of them would be. No one is ever 100% responsible, to assume so would be a fallacy. So, in the case of children as young as 12 in Britain walking around with guns; it has to be a majority of these guns are coming from home where they were not secured properly by those who owned them.

There is, of course, a chance that some of these guns come from outside of the home. In those cases, it is not the fault of responsible gun owning parents. But the fact still remains, that gun ownership within the home could be responsible for younger children having this access to guns when the owners are irresponsible for the firearm's storage.

I wish I could say the rest of your comment was as eye opening, but sadly, you too strayed into the realm of fear mongering.

You list countries that turned on their citizens and took away their weapons and then slaughtered them, but you fail to mention that most of those countries were not a democratic state when this occurred.

And furthermore, to Germany, to include it on this list is a bit of a stretch. For all its own citizens it may have killed during the course of WWII, it was the toll on people outside of its borders that saw the worst of it. Polish citizens, Russian Soldiers, and numerous other NON-German citizens suffered under that regime, and simply having access to guns would not have stopped it.

Then you refer to our Former Prime Minister choking a man who got too close as proof of your argument as to why it could happen here in Canada.

Re-watching the video of the incident you mentioned, ask yourself, what would you have done? When the Prime Minister is walking through a crowd, it's sort of parted and he or she would stop here and there and shake hands and accept pats on the back as they walked by.

Now, come face to face with a protester who is directly in your path, and ask, what would you have done?

Keep in mind, that in 1995 (one year before Chretien had choked the protester) Andre Dallaire had broken in to 24 Sussex Drive, armed with a knife and intention to assassinate the then Prime Minister. So, of course, an unexpected person standing in a place where they shouldn't be standing could have been interpreted by the Prime Minister as a potential threat and he did, as many of you have advocated in comment, and undertook in self-defense.

As for the Second Amendment questions you raise, go back and look at my response to Michael to get my opinion on that and the definition of what defines a militia.

And while your last quote does make some sense about the outlawing of things driving them underground and making them a greater threat than what they are now; ask yourself if you hold this to be true of everything?

As I said in response to Rishi Maharaj, the argument is only sound provided that you apply it to everything. Obviously, as we've seen with drugs, laws have driven the trade underground and led to dangerous situations because of it. But the same is true of anything that has been outlawed, and if that is the case, then by using this argument you must agree to decriminalize everything outside of physical harm laws because we've just driven everything underground.

If you don't, then as I said, it is a hypocritical argument and does not serve to further your point.

But in direct regards to it; outlawing guns would not drive them underground. We've already seen an underground movement to bring guns into this country, despite the fact that they are legally available already. Is there a chance that outlawing them would cause this to inflate? Yes, there is a chance. But there is also a chance that outlawing them could increase public safety.

As I've said before, I do not support the outlawing of guns because there are practical uses for them. However guns that serve no practical use and just sit on the shelf collecting dust, waiting for the time when they may have to be used to defend my family, do not need to be in existence.

I am not challenging the ownership of firearms; what I am challenging is the necessity of them when a person does not use them for hunting or sport shooting, or any other form of actually using the firearm.

To state that a person should have one simply because they can, is to open the floodgates for more dangerous arguments that will simply make this world a little bit more dangerous.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

From My Cold, Dead Hands...

Source: CBC NEWS: Duck Shooting Video Leads to Charges Against 3 Sask. Men
Source: CBC NEWS: Reward Offered to Help ID Illegal Duck Shooters
Source: CBC NEWS: Hunt on for men who Shot Ducks From Car Window

This is a bit of a short source, and may not seem political, but allow me to give a chance to explain why I've decided to talk about this.

When I read these articles, the first thought that popped into my mind was the issue of gun control. How some groups would argue that this is proof that gun control is too lax in Canada; while others would argue that 'leftists' would try and use a few 'bad eggs' to support taking away guns from 'law-abiding' Canadians.

Growing up in the riding of Yorkton-Melville, I've heard a lot about gun control during my life time. I've heard both sides of the argument, the idea over freedom and the idea over restrictions, and I like to think that I've chosen the right side on the issue.

I would like to start off by saying that while I don't own a gun, I've always been interested in the idea of taking up hunting at some point in my life. As such, I don't believe that a person should be restricted from owning a weapon for the sake of hunting.

However, there are limits. Why does someone need a semi-automatic or fully automatic rifle to hunt? Is an assault rifle really needed to take down a deer? A moose? Ducks?

The answer, of course, is no. The further question, which really complicates things, is the question of whether or not a person should own a gun solely for the sake of protection. The person does not engage in hunting, but simply owns the gun and keeps it stored away for the day when they might need it to protect themselves or their family.

The problem with this argument is the problem of escalation. When criminals start carrying knives, we start carrying knives around home to defend ourselves. They start using guns, we want a gun. And so on and so forth.

The bigger problem, of course, is that simply providing access to a gun is not a means of stopping crime. Were that so; if every Canadian had a gun or some kind of weapon, surely there would be no crime...

So what does that tell us? Unlike the Cold War, where the threat of the use of weapons was enough to prevent full scale war; the threat of gun use is not a deterrent in the face of crime. This is because if someone is driven to the point where they need/feel they need to commit a crime, then the risks are not outweighed by the benefits.

Sure, the person could shoot them; but they could also get away with whatever they are planning. As such, simply allowing guns for the sake of protection seems like an effort in futility.

As such, I do not believe that guns for the sake of protection while serving any no other use should be an option for Canadians, as there is no logical use for them.

This of course brings us to the gun registry. Much maligned by Conservatives since its inception, the gun registry has always been under constant threat of destruction and has been repeated subverted during Stephen Harper's tenure as Prime Minister.

Many people say, well the opponents anyway, that the gun registry is a waste of money. That it is an unfair tax against law abiding citizens who use their guns for sport or hunting, and that it does nothing to stop crime.

This is because of a misconception. The Firearms Registry alone is not going to reduce crime statistics. What is will do, however, is protect RCMP and City Police officers by allowing them to know whether a situation could be more dangerous than reported. No one is going to object to protecting our police officers in the line of duty, yet moving to scrap the gun registry would do exactly that.

I'm not saying that everyone with a registered gun is likely to shoot a police officer, what I am saying is that is allows officers to know whether a domestic abuse call is likely to include a person with a weapon and thus allow proper precaution to be taken.

The registry here poses a problem in that its implementation has been flawed since the beginning. But, then let's look at a country that seemingly had done the job right.

If you look at the United Kingdom, mainland Britain in particular, you see incredibly low gun related crime rates. According to these statistics, crimes committed in Britain with guns represented only 0.3% of all crime, or 1 in every 300 crimes. (Source: GNC Comment - Annual Gun Crime Figures)

Compare those 2008 figures with Canada; where gun crimes represented 2.4% of violent crimes. (Source: CBC NEWS: Gun Crimes Among Teens on the Rise: StatsCan) To make matters worse, the same statistics show that gun crimes were often two to three times higher in the Western Provinces than in the Maritime Provinces.

So, why does Britain have such a lower gun crime rate than Canada?

Well, probably the main reason: Britain has one of the lowest counts of private gun ownership world wide, and as legislation restricting and prohibiting many types of weapons from being owned privately.

Furthermore, all certificates for guns licensed within Britain are issued by the local police authority and require the owner of the weapon to provide a good reason for EACH firearm they own. With the exception of Northern Ireland, self-defense is not considered an acceptable reason.

So, is that the answer? To follow the British example and require gun owners to demonstrate why they need to own the weapon or weapons they do? To further restrict certain weapons from public ownership?

Perhaps. It's often true that what works for one country won't work for another, so a Canadian made solution would be better.

What can be said, though, is that Canadians are indeed becoming as infatuated with 'gun culture' as our neighbours to the south. We, like them, are beginning to think that we have an inherent right to own a weapon.

And much like them, some of us begin to believe conspiracy theories that suggest the government wants an unarmed populace or will move to take away all their weapons; for a variety of reasons.

But where in Canadian law does it say that we need weapons?

And for those who argue in favour of the American Constitution, please read the following sentence:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,shall not be infringed. (Source: The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net)

The second amendment is often cited by Americans who defend gun rights; but they often ignore that fact that private citizens do not constitute a militia and that it is these militias that are given the right to arms.

The fact of the matter is that Canada has no such legislation that enshrines gun ownership into our rights and freedoms. And even if we did, I fear it would become as twisted and as misquoted as the American equivalent.

So, perhaps this is only going to end one way: Either the guns are going to go, or we're going to live in a nation that begins allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons with a permit or allows them to store one in the trunk of their car.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the Canada I know...And it doesn't sound like the Canada I would want to be a part of.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Promises, Promises...

Source: CTV NEWS: Renovation Tax Credit not yet Approved: Expert

Here's a scenario for you all; you're sitting at home on a weekday night, watching some television after a hard day's work or play or what have you. Your show takes a commercial break, and suddenly there is a happy couple telling you about the Tax Renovation Credit and how it helped them get up to $1,350 dollars back from their renovation.

The commercial ends with a friendly voice over telling you all about how the Renovation Credit is all part 'of Canada's economic action plan' and tells you where to find more information. Well, according to an expert, there is a key piece of information that they are leaving out: This program has not yet been approved by Parliament.

Yes, that's right; a program which is being given massive television screen time (personally, I see this commercial about 2 - 4 times a day, depending what channel I'm on) has yet to actually be legally put into effect.

To compound matters, the ruling Conservatives seem to be neglecting this fact. Our illustrious Prime Minister has gone on the record saying that 'there's no better time to renovate your home' than now, a message which seems to refer to this program. Has no one told the PM that the program isn't legally active yet?

Allow me to try and put some perspective on this:

Let's say instead of a commercial for a tax credit; it is a movie trailer. The movie looks like something you'd like to go and see this weekend, but then it ends by telling you that it doesn't open in theatres until 2010.

Now, consider it without that warning and to make it worse, theatres are already selling tickets. You buy one, or several, and then read closely in the fine print that the movie isn't in theatres until 2010. Now, this is a bit of ridiculous example, I'll admit, but it does prove my point.

Most people wouldn't rush out and buy something that they're not going to be able to use for a little over a year; with the exception of die-hard fans for a very anticipated movie, for example.

By not telling Canadians that the tax credit isn't actually approved, this leaves Canadians in a bit of a jam. Someone may decide and agree with our PM that now is a great time to redo the plumbing in the bathroom, or adding on that garage; and they will spend money on those projects expecting to get some of it back through taxes.

However, there is no guarantee that Revenue Canada will honour these tax credits given that they are not legally bound to do so. After all, since the law isn't on the books there is no rules that really govern them about how to proceed. Sure, it's all there in the bill, but that's not legally binding and could change by the time the bill is actually passed.

So, if Revenue Canada wanted to play it safe, what would they do? Deny, deny, deny (to borrow a phrase from Nova Scotian singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett) the claims and reject the tax credit for those who apply for it.

But, I hear you asking, why would the Conservatives spend all this money advertising and why would Harper add his two-cents if the program isn't actually working yet?

I'm glad you asked.

Since the economic crisis began, the Conservatives have taken the typical laissez faire attitude in regards to economics. The idea that the market is self-regulating and will eventually work itself out; the idea that markets have highs and lows, and that we are simply experiencing a natural downturn that will eventually change on its own.

That sounds silly, doesn't it?

Of course, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition weren't too happy with this classical Liberal view and began to demand the government act to 'right the ship' so to speak. Eventually, the government agreed to spend money on stimulus spending and various programs to keep Canada from being swept under financially.

Since the dawn of the announcement, there has been nothing but debate. The Liberals demanded Economic Updates in the House of Commons to see how this stimulus money was coming along; while everyone else continued to say that the money wasn't coming fast enough or wasn't being spent in the right places.

You know there's trouble when programs that would qualify for public works money (such as railways) are denied the funding they've applied for, and many others outside of Parliament continue to say that the money is not being approved or provided fast enough, and that there isn't even enough of the money to begin with.

John Baird, Jim Prentice, Jim Flaherty, and even Stephen Harper have likely heard these complaints at one point or another.

And speaking of points, here's mine.

The reason why the Conservatives are advertising this renovation tax credit is a ruse; a simple means of showing Canadians what they are doing during these tough economic times. It's a simple idea and a simple gesture to show their 'good governance' and provide Canadians (who were faced many times with threat of an election) a reason to vote Conservative.

To put that simply; the Conservatives are hyping this tax credit as proof of why they should be in government.

But now that the truth has come out, will the bubble burst?

That remains to be seen. What doesn't remain to be seen however is the ever growing possibility that those who take advantage of this not yet approved tax credit could see themselves paying more than they bargained for when their tax credit is denied.

And in that case, the Conservatives, much like those home owners, are going to find themselves paying for their policies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rearing Its Head Again...

Source: Leader Post: Details of Sask. Medical Isotopes Proposal to be Released Next Week

We all knew that it was coming, and we all could see just how much Premier Wall was gushing about the prospect of a nuclear isotope facility in Saskatchewan; and it seems that next week we're going to have the chance to see just what they've been planning.

Before I repeat myself with some of the things I've previously ranted about in regards to a nuclear Saskatchewan, I feel the need to point out one very important thing:

Richard Florizone, a man who has been instrumental in pushing for nuclear power in Saskatchewan, is currently the Vice-President of Finances and Resources at the University of Saskatchewan; a post he's held for probably a little over two years.

Now, I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but it seems odd that after his appointment the University of Saskatchewan seems to be a prime spot for this reactor.

Take that as you will.

Now, I could sit here and type out all the problems I've mentioned before: How this simply opens a backdoor for the Saskatchewan Party Government to circumvent the will of the people (who seem to overwhelming oppose nuclear power in the province) by getting their foot in the door; or the problem of what does one do with nuclear waste?

But, I have ranted about those in great detail on about two or three prior posts on this blog; and simply, I don't need to repeat it when it can simply be looked up.

What I am going to say, is that we are seeing a potentially devastating situation here. I'm not saying that there is going to be a nuclear disaster, not that kind of devastating; the kind of devastating I'm talking about is an isolation in the political process.

We've elected representatives to be exactly that, representatives. The idea of holding public consultations and speaking with constituents is what a democracy is about; instead, we are seeing a shift towards the dangerous mood of party driven politics and arrogance.

Allow me to explain.

As I mentioned awhile back while talking about Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz, his famous response to me was the idea of 'if people didn't agree with me, they wouldn't have voted for me.' This is what we are seeing with this annoucement.

A government that thinks being elected means their entire policy is suddenly approved; that it doesn't come down to what the people actually want, it's what they were elected to do. This is a common defense for these politicians 'I was elected to...'

But how many people really vote based on policy?

I guarantee you that there are voters who simply vote a certain way because that's how they were raised; or that's the party that they've always voted for; or that they knew the candidate personally, and any other numerous other reasons people for a representative outside of their policy.

Perhaps worse, are people who pick and chose their policies. For example, let's say a person is an environmentalist. But they are also pro-life, and they consider this issue to be more important than their environmental leanings. As such, they'll likely vote Conservative over that one key issue rather than a party that can represent all their issues.

So, while a person did indeed vote for them, they didn't necessarily agree with all of their policy points.

That is what we are seeing here. People in Saskatchewan often cite voting for the Saskatchewan Party because after 16 years of NDP Government, it was time for a change. Now this issue doesn't factor into the thinking of Saskatchewan Party MLAs. Rather, they're under the misguided idea that they were elected to impliment all of their policies, and that is why they were elected.

This is indeed, not the case. Given that public consulations were strongly against the idea of nuclear power, the Saskatchewan Party found itself at a crossroads. We were elected to explore nuclear power, so we need to explore it. Who cares if people are telling us they don't want it now that we're in power, we were elected on our policy!

See what the problem is here?

So, what is the solution? As I see it, there isn't one. Party Politics is a dangerous game, especially when elected officials are too blind to see that a vote is not an endorsement of all party policy. This is the price we pay for a political system driven by party politics. After all, how could you organize a government without some form of party system?

So, the solution is rather simple: If parties are going to hold consultations, honour them. Even if your party policy contradicts the results, you were elected to REPRESENT people, not force a doctrine upon them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Days are Here Again...

Source: CTV News: Conservatives Buoyed by Brighter Economic Outlook

Unlike usual, I won't be quoting much from this article. What I shall be doing is referring to it from time to time, while adding my own thoughts and wisdom to it.

The Conservative Party of Canada seemed to think the tough times are over. After Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney announced that the recession seemed to be over in Canada and that recovery was around the corner.

But that isn't what the Conservatives heard, at least not according to this article. What they heard was instead:
Great job, Steve and crew! No one would ever dare vote against you now, our economic stalwarts!

That's right, during 'election training', Conservative hopes were high that because of Carney's economic opinion, the opposition would lose their nerve and the Conservatives would stay in power until at least 2010.

Someone might want to tell Michael Ignatieff that...Before he does something foolish with the the Employment Insurance council and forces an election.

The problem is, and always has been, that the Conservatives seem to have an air of arrogance around them. That either they are 'untouchable' by the opposition parties, and an election will prove that...OR that the other parties are forcing Canadians to vote; even though it is their own bullheaded stubbornness that is forcing the opposition to consider bringing them down.

I would like, if you will allow me, to talk a little bit about the economic stewardship we've had under this government.

We've had city officials, Provincial officials, and other groups step up to the plate to ask Ottawa: Where is this stimulus money? Many people agree that the Conservatives dragged their feet on authorizing and spending the stimulus money; after all, would Michael Ignatieff demand progress reports and spending reports if the money was flowing?

The Conservatives, mostly John Baird and a few others, have always dismissed the idea that the stimulus money was coming out too slowly or not doing enough to help infrastructure and other projects throughout the country. But given the Conservative Party's penchant for saying one thing and then doing another (see Trost V. Ablonczy, etc), it seems unlikely that we can actually trust what a Conservative MP is saying.

And what about the thought that the economic dark times are over? Well, as someone who is experiencing them, I can tell you that they are not. I am going to get a little personal here, which may or may not be a good thing.

I graduated from University in May, was done classes as soon as April, and had been hitting the pavement to get a job in my chosen field. At first, I was a bit uncompromising in my desire to stay in Saskatoon. Then, as June rolled around and no job offers were given, I expanded to Regina, Edmonton, Toronto, and even the entire province of Nova Scotia.

So, where is the problem, some of you are asking are no doubt. The problem rests in that in my continued search to find work which I am qualified to do, there seems to be a dryness in the air that these jobs don't seem to pan out.

Now, the problem could be that there are better qualified people than myself. I'm the first to admit that I don't have the best resume, given that I was fortunate enough to be able to just concentrate on my studies during my four years in University, and perhaps that is a strike against me.

So, perhaps it's just being under qualified or lack of experience...Well, then that doesn't explain a certain agency which shall remain nameless. Their goal is an internship program that is designed to help recent graduates, like myself, with little to no experience to develop their skills to work in a modern business.

In those regards, everyone who applied should be on equal footing. But alas, the same problem arose.

Now, why am I talking about this? I'm not bemoaning my own difficulties in finding work, what I am bemoaning is the assumption that economic dark times are coming to a close. In my own estimates, I've applied for over 58 jobs in the past three months with no offers; imagine how many times this scenario is playing out across the country.

The fact of the matter is, as it stands, recently graduated students (and others throughout Canada, but I say students since I best understand that perspective) are having a hard time throughout the country.

I've spent four years and a ridiculous amount of money, told that a University Degree was my ticket to a career and the means of supporting myself. Instead, like many others, we've found ourselves at a crossroads:
Do we take a job, as opposed to the career we were promised? OR, do we return to University, spend more money, sharpen our skills, and hope that by the time we're done those career opportunities will have returned?

It is a difficult decision. Both have advantages and both have disadvantages. I would like to share, if I may, another personal story.

My brother and I are quite different people. He tried the world of academia, but ultimately decided that it wasn't the path he was meant to be on. He tried different jobs throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta, and he discovered something on some of these jobs.

Despite not obtaining a degree, or even completing more than a few semesters of University, there was an animosity of non-educated workers towards him. He was treated with a sense of contempt, all because he had had the audacity to go to University instead of automatically going to the workforce.

Ultimately, my brother had to leave one of the jobs he was at after a series of incidents that stems from this sense of contempt towards him. I won't say much about it, since I do not know all that happened and since I do not wish to point any fingers, but it ended with an activity that very well placed my brother in a dangerous and potentially life threatening situation.

What is the point of my telling this story?

I think, to a degree, there is a sense of contempt against University graduates in certain careers. But, is this sense justified?

In some senses, yes. There seems to be a sense of entitlement among certain university colleges, a sense that can rub quite a few people the wrong way. The idea that 'I'm educated, I deserve ________' has seemed to permeate within certain colleges. This sense of entitlement is further compounded by the flaw that these students think that their education allows them to do less work and instead shuffle their responsibilities to those they will be working with.

Perhaps others see this sense of entitlement, in these few select students, and think it characteristic of all University students.

Either way, the blame goes both ways when it comes to a sense of distrust and contempt between some people who entered the workforce and those who entered University.

I fear I'm straying too far from the point I was hoping to make, but I need to clarify something first. I am not saying that entering the workforce rather than school is the wrong choice; nor am I saying that entering school rather than the workforce is the wrong choice. What I am saying is that there are qualities, in both groups of people, that can cause conflict between the two sides and make a job/career difficult for both parties.

Now, back to my point and why I brought all this up. With this sense of contempt, the idea of a university graduate taking a short-term job outside of their field becomes a more daunting aspect. After all, where is the point in taking a job if you will be forced to leave it due to conflicts with co-workers who have been their longer?

I'm not saying this is commonplace, but I am saying that it does happen in certain cases and it's something we can recognize.

And what about going back to school? For many, this is not an option. Already saddled with thousands of dollars of debt, the idea of weighing yourself down with a few thousand more isn't appealing to many people; not to mention, the idea of having more degrees doesn't really help most people as they will be taking something outside of their original field, unless they are pursuing a Masters or PhD.

So, what is my point after all this rambling?

My point is that the economic rough times are far from over, and the fact that such unemployment exists is proof that our Conservative Government has not done a very good job in helping the economy. The idea of a trade deficit or just overspending in the first place may become less likely, but the fact that many Canadian are still facing unemployment is of far more importance and an issue that the Conservatives don't seem to talk too much about.

Until the Conservatives address this issue, and I don't believe they will as it's too 'socialist' to create jobs and use the government to place people in them over private enterprise, then we are still in a recession and we are far from the 'Happy Days' the Conservatives seem to see in their minds.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Few Things We Need To Talk About

Well, for the first time ever, I'm doing a double-blog post. By which I mean writing two different articles in the same day. Granted, I took a break between my last post and this one, but it's still a monumental thing for this blog.

Much like the last one, this is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge of subjects given that some things have come up that I think we should talk about.

Source: CBC News: Commissioner who Refused to Marry Same-Sex Couple Loses Appeal
Source: CNN News: Reality Check: Canada's Government Health Care System
Source: CTV News: Ontario Woman Slams Universal Health Care in TV Ads

The first thing I'm going to do is make a small comment on the case of Orville Nichols, the marriage commissioner who refused to marry a same-sex couple and was then taken to court for violating the couples' rights. Mr. Nichols', who argued that his religious beliefs were being infringed and not protected under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, lost his appeal to the original decision that saw him pay $2,500 in damages to the couple.

Now, I've written an extensive blog post on the role of marriage commissioners and Justices of the Peace, and their roles and rights to refuse service to someone, so I'm not going to repeat things I've already said. What I will say, is that Mr. Nichols is in the wrong and it's good to see the justice system work in the best interest of the people.

Mr. Nichols' rights, in this case religious rights, were not infringed because he took a voluntary public service post and therefore bound himself to uphold the laws of the Province and Nation, not the laws of a religion. As such, he had no right to cite religious belief as a means to refuse service to a couple who can legally wed.

Hopefully, this loss will put a wrench in the Saskatchewan Party's bill to enshrine the right to refuse service based on Mr. Nichols' defense; as if the courts have their say, it will show that it is not a valid defense in a marriage commissioner's job and does not allow them to deny legal access to marriage to anyone.

With that out of the way, I'm going to talk about the issue that I wanted to blog about in my second blog post of the day.

I like the scan the news sites, it's something I do. So imagine my surprise when I see a headline on CNN saying that an American Lobby group against Universal Health Care found a poster girl in the form of a woman from Ontario.

That person is Shona Holmes. Ms. Holmes discovered that she had a growth in her brain, and was told that she would have to wait months to see a specialist here in Canada. As such, she re-mortgaged her home and went to the USA Mayo Clinic to have the growth removed, to the cost of $100,000.

The ad she is in talks about how she was refused service in Canada and that if she had waited for the government, she would be dead.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, former Health Minister, said that this was an extreme case. That serious cases are treated quickly in Canada, but that occasionally, some cases may be overlooked by the system. Even the CNN news report has testimony from a Canadian with cancer, who admitted that the entire process to undergo treatment and diagnosis for him was only a month.

Now, this is where things get a bit dicey and I open myself up for all kinds of abuse from a few people.

In the Canadian news article, Ms. Holmes' condition is only referred to as a growth near her pituitary gland. In the American news article, her condition is referred to as cancer pressing against her optic chasm.

I want to say at this point, that I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of Ms. Holmes' condition. A growth is a growth, and some would say that any growth is a tumor, but none of the Canadian agencies seem to go this far in classifying what was wrong with Ms. Holmes.

So, why do I think American doctors were quick to call it a tumor? Let's imagine for a moment: You go into your doctor and he tells you that there appears to be a growth on one of your internal organs. Obviously there is some worry, but the doctor schedules you to see a specialist in an appointment a few months away.

Now, imagine the worry when the doctor takes away the 'unfamiliar' word of growth and replaces it directly with the word: tumor. Your immediate thought is cancer, and all the things that are linked to it. Obviously, at this point, you would be panicked and not want to see a specialist in a month but now.

Understand what I am trying to say here. Americans seem to have a nation of sensationalizing; look at their media: Which house hold product could be killing your kids?! Did the government let _________ die?! And so forth...

As such, it would seem that they would be the kind of person to jump to the immediate that any kind of growth is a tumor, and that tumor is of course cancer. Whereas, I'd argue, that in Canada we are the kind of people to not jump towards an answer until we're sure it is the right one.

Again, I feel I must say this: I am not downplaying Ms. Holmes' illness. I am not saying that it was not serious or non-existent. What I am saying, is that due to her desire to rush and see American doctors (within this sensationalist ideal) she got an answer that may not be entirely accurate.

There was indeed a problem, a growth, but American networks are treating it as if it were cancer rather than as a benign, non-malignant or malignant/cancerous growth.

I feel as if I've strayed from the topic too much, which is why I'm going to attempt to 'right the ship' as it were. Ms. Holmes' has gone to the USA for medical treatment, and she is not the first, but she is among the first to my knowledge to become involved in a political campaign to attack Universal Health Care within the USA.

This post is not to condemn her or try and explain what she did was wrong, but rather to explore why she had to do this in the first place.

Yes, it is true that we do sometimes have long wait times in this country for medical access. And like former Health Minister Dosanjh said, sometimes serious cases could be overlooked. But does a system where a person has to mortgage their home to pay for treatment, to pay to live in some cases, sound any better?

It's time for me to get on my soapbox again and say what I've wanted to say about the health care system in this country.

To an extent, our health care system is broken. This is due to a few key reasons: politicians, health care workers, universities, and ourselves.

Allow me to explain.

Politicians are a problem because I firmly believe that none of them fully understand the health care system. Whenever there is a problem with health care, politicians are quick to say the usual things:
'Pay with your health card, not your credit card.' OR We've pledged this much money in our platform/budget to help improve access to health care.

The problem is, none of them ever go any further than introducing more money into the system. More money does not help when the system is understaffed. Sure, it may help us buy more equipment and help renovate aging hospitals, but if there is no one to work in these facilities then where is the point?

Now, what about health care workers? How can they possibly be a problem in all this?

Well, some of the problems are there and some of them are caused by others. When was the last time you went to a doctor's office? I imagine you had an appointment, and I also imagine that your doctor wasn't even close to keeping the time you were booked for. In these regards, doctors are a problem because of being overworked it is possible that they are increasing the chances for misdiagnosis and other problems.

We also have problems in that doctors, nurse and other health care professionals seem to be losing the human element in regards to health care. A Time Magazine article quoted a doctor, who trained others, that said many new doctors are treating their job as 'shift work'. That they don't see the patient as 'their patient' and are more than willing to pass on a patient to another doctor just so they can clock out on time.

So, what about universities? How are they a problem?

As a recent University Graduate, I can tell you there is a problem in our places of higher learning. In regards to medicine, look at the idea of 'seats' within the medical program. Only a certain number of people are allowed into the school of medicine each year, and hundred if not thousands more are denied entry into such programs.

In some cases, the applicant is rightfully rejected. Their MCAT score was too low, or their class average in undergraduate studies was too low. But even then, is this enough?

I don't have to tell some of you about the biases of standardized testing (like the MCAT), but I can see where they are coming from. But, there is one requirement which is utterly ridiculous: years of undergraduate study.

I happen to know someone who after four years of undergraduate study, to the best of my knowledge, they were finally accepted into Medicine. The same is true with other 'limited' seating programs like Law; where the college will only seriously consider candidate who have at least two years of undergraduate study. The applicant doesn't even need to graduate, although that looks better, but they need this time to study things they won't need before they can study what they will.

The other problem, is applicants whose rejection is unexplainable. I'm sure there are people with medium to high MCAT scores and decent averages, who are rejected from medical school, despite the fact that the person would indeed make a damned good doctor.

Effectively, universities are the SOURCE for our under staffing of the medical profession. By requiring applicants to have years of undergraduate study, they are robbing lower income students, who would easily perform well in medicine, access to studies by making them waste time and money on a program that does not help them earn a degree.

Furthermore, by restricting how many people can study medicine at a time, we are constantly stuck in a loop of under staffing. I'm not saying there should be no limit, as most professors would argue that it would be impossible to teach a class that numbered into the thousands, but surely we can provide access to more than just the few hundred that are allowed. Currently, the University of Saskatchewan only allows 84 (EIGHTY-FOUR) students to study first-year medicine, with hopes of expanding that to 100 by 2011.

And finally, there's us average Canadian citizens. In the past four years, I'd argue I've been to the doctor's office about, oh, no more than seven or eight times. Only one of those times led to a minor surgery, and even then, the wait time for that was only a matter of a month or so.

However, there are people that tend to be a bit more...Well, worrisome about their health. People who could have, in the four years I've seen a doctor eight times, gone at least fifty if not more times.

The sniffles or a cough, don't really warrant a trip to the doctor. Most of us, at least myself, try a bit of self-medicating with over the counter drugs from the local pharmacy and if those don't help, then we seek medical attention. Why do you think most doctors/nurses take the time to ask you what drugs you've taken in the past day or so?

The fact of the matter is, we are constantly told that we shouldn't self medicate. Or we shouldn't self diagnose what could be wrong with us. In serious cases, this is really great advice. In minor cases, it's something we should ignore.

By always going to a doctor when we don't need to, we are putting undue stress and burden on the system. We are plugging up a system that can move more freely if some of us would try other things before running off to the ER or the doctor.

So, in a nutshell, what did I just say up there?

Politicians think the only way to solve health care problems is to throw more money at the system, which doesn't help at all.

Health care workers are treating it too much like a job, rather than a public service, which increases the chances for mistakes and problems to arise; and worse, these mistakes can happen more often due to under staffing.

Universities add to the problem by not allowing direct admission to Medicine programs and restricting, to a ridiculous level, the number of seats they have in their first year medicine program.

And finally, we ourselves make the system worse by always running to a doctor at the first sign of a problem. Much like the boy who cried wolf, we think that a runny nose or sneezing three times in a row is a sign of a serious disorder that needs to be looked at immediately, rather than just an allergen causing a temporary problem.

Only by addressing all of these problems can we manage to fix the problems that currently plague our health care system.

We do have a great system, there is no doubt about that, but we have complications that prevent the system from functioning as it is supposed to, and only when those problems are fixed can we say that we have a PERFECT health care system.

The Truth Comes Out...Kinda.

Source: CTV News: Tories Reject Funding for Montreal Gay Festival
Source: CTV News: Minister Defends Decision Not to Fund Gay Arts Festival
Source: CTV News: Ignatieff Uses Speech to Blast Harper's Attack Ads

Now, today's post is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge of ideas that revolve around a theory I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. Surprisingly, the theory becomes more and more relevant and seemingly realistic as I've gone over these articles. For the moment, I shall discuss the first issue before launching into my own thoughts, but, in time you will see how the last source is connected to the first two and many more on this site.

I want you to think back to one of my last posts, one in which Brad Trost asserted that Diane Ablonczy lost a $100 million dollar tourism program after she gave the Toronto Gay Pride Parade $400,000. Trost asserted that her losing the program came after the caucus rose up in complaints about it, and that even the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was upset about it as well.

Well, the party couldn't have that, so they quickly said that Trost was not telling the truth and that it was only four or so Members of Parliament who were vocal about the funding. They also said that Ablonczy lost the program because her department was understaffed and too busy working on a National Tourism program to handle both.

Now, let's fast forward to the Divers-Cite Festival in Montreal. The Festival, which brings Gay and Lesbian acts from around the world to perform, had applied for $155,000 of funds under the Marquee Tourism Fund (the same fund that was taken away from Ablonczy and given to Industry Minister Tony Clement.)

Before the fund was taken away from Ablonczy, Divers-Cite was basically told by government bureaucrats that they had met the criteria needed to apply for funds and were basically given the 'green light'. The funds seemed to be apparently in the bank, so to speak.

When the Ablonczy problem hit the news, the people in charge of Divers-Cite came to the government's aid; they said that they had felt that the government had never treated them differently and that they had even received more guaranteed funding in the past two years than in any other year before.

And then, they were told, that the final authorization was before Minister Clement. And then they were told that their funding was denied.

Clement's office came out to say, later, that the Divers-Cite Festival was denied funding in the interest of 'regional fairness'. Clement cited the Just for Laughs festival and the Montreal International Jazz festival received about a combined total of $12 million dollars. Clement went on to say that his department was trying to keep things fair with Quebec and Montreal and the rest of the country; that 42% of the funds have gone into Quebec, which is the same amount that have gone into Ontario. (Which for those of you keeping tracking, leaves only 16% for the rest of Canada.)

However, some people are disputing Clement's defense of regional fairness. Luc Fournier, a director of a Quebec events group, said that his group had told Clement and the Conservatives that Quebec's festivals would likely take a lion's share of the money from the offset.

Fournier's comment is based on the fact that the major requirement of being able to get funding from the Marquee Tourism Fund is that it must be a draw for national and international tourism, that it must be a major draw. This is to prevent a repeat of the 'Sponsorship Program', but also the requirement that Fournier says gives Quebec an advantage over other provinces.

Others are quick to point out that there is nothing in the criteria of the Marquee Tourism Fund that says regional fairness must be considered when the government dolls out the funds.

Gay and Lesbian groups are crying foul, of course. The director of the Black and Blue Festival in Quebec, who claims that their festival was the second largest draw in tourism behind the now non-existent Grand Prix, has been waiting approval for a pittance of $125,000; while a smaller, non-large drawing music festival (which is not gay or lesbian backed) has received approval for $1.4 million dollars from the fund.

So, what is the point of my argument in bringing all this up? I had stated in my last post concerning Brad Trost's opinion, that we would never know the truth about whether or not Ablonczy lost the Marquee Tourism Fund over her funding of the gay pride parade in Toronto, as Trost states, or whether it was actually from being understaffed.

Now, I believe we have our answer. Ablonczy was indeed punished for her funding, and Trost (who as I stated before, really has nothing to gain from making up this claim) was indeed telling the truth when he stated that the Conservative Caucus was against the funding, and we are seeing it now through Clement's denial of funds to gay and lesbian programs despite meeting requirements to receive those funds.

And now, to my theory: You will notice that I've linked another story that talks about Michael Ignatieff condemning Conservative Attack ads that ran in Quebec, which likened the Bloc Quebecois to pedophiles by their refusal to support a certain bill that came before the House of Commons.

Now many of you are thinking, what does this have to do with the first half of this post? Allow me to explain.

When these Conservative Ads first came out, I had a thought that ran across my mind and that I rebounded off a close political friend of mine. He told me that he thought it was ridiculous, if only because he refused to believe the Conservative Electoral Machine was this smart.

Right now, the Conservatives have 10 members from Quebec in the House of Commons, a result that was considered a 'breakthrough' for the Conservative Party and their luck in Quebec.

In the last election, the Conservatives came under fire for their controversial cuts to Arts Funding, and Quebec was one of the most vocal opponents over these cuts and seriously hurt Conservative chances in Quebec.

Many of you are asking, will you just get to the point, aren't you? Well, here is my point and my theory:

I firmly believe, that the Stephen Harper Conservatives have seen the writing on the wall. They know that their chances of re-election are diminishing by the day, and they need a way to stem the bleeding. How is the best way to do that? The answer: Prevent your opponent, your major opponent, from picking up your losses.

What do I mean by that?

By attacking the Bloc Quebecois, Harper is hoping to push Quebec citizens away from the Liberals and hope that any Conservative losses in Quebec will be in favour of the Bloc Quebecois. Even if Harper loses his ten seats in Quebec, if those ten seats go to the Bloc and the Liberals make no gains elsewhere, Harper could still have a chance of staying in government by preventing the Liberals from making gains.

To further these ends, by saying 'regional fairness' in regards to the Quebec gay and lesbian events funding, the Conservatives are pushing more people towards the Bloc Quebecois by saying that any other party will consider 'regional fairness' and do what they can to spread the funds across the country even if their events are lesser draws than ones in Quebec.

As such, this will push Quebec to vote for the Bloc as it will make them feel as if the Bloc is the only people who will actually fight to get funding for events in Quebec that qualify for them.

So, so sum things up:

I firmly believe that given the Harper Government's positions towards Quebec funding and attack ads that were released there; the Conservatives are hoping to push Quebec residents towards voting for the Bloc Quebecois in order to prevent those ridings they may lose from going to the Liberals.

If the Harper Conservatives can minimize their losses elsewhere, as I assume they are banking on, then by ensuring their losses in Quebec go to the Bloc, they have a small chance to retain government rather than losing it outright to the Liberals.

And even if the plan fails and the opposition form a coalition government, Harper still wins a small victory in saying that the government is 'in bed with the separatists' and furthermore, he gives Quebec a larger voice in the coalition which will sow the seeds of its own destruction.

I hate to admit that the Conservative Machine could actually be this smart to come up with a plan as dastardly as this...The idea of chopping off the hand to save the body, but the more I see the current government picking fights in Quebec, the more I begin to believe it may actually be the case.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where is the Line?

Source: CBC NEWS: Alberta MLA Kicked Out of Tory Caucus Over Health Spending Spat

I know that when I started this blog, I said it would focus mostly on Federal Canadian and Saskatchewan politics, but this was an event that I figured was worthy of talking about.

Guy Boutilier, an Albertan Conservative MLA and former Cabinet Minister, was asked to leave the caucus apparently by Premier Ed Stelmach himself. So, what could this man have done that was grievous enough to make the Premier kick him out of the government caucus? Well, if you take Mr. Boutilier's word on the issue: He disagreed with the province dragging it's heels on a project to build long term care facility for the elderly in his riding and was vocal in his conversations with constituents about the issue.

As such, the ruling Conservatives decided that Mr. Boutilier could not longer be trusted to support and represent the government and promptly removed him from the Treasury Board and the caucus.

Now, for those of you who don't quite understand what it means to be removed from a caucus, let me explain. All parties in a legislative body are referred to as a caucus, which is effectively the gathered people of one party who represent their electors and the party within the legislative body.

When one is removed from caucus, they are effectively stripped of their party membership within the legislative body. So, Mr. Boutilier has gone from a Conservative MLA to an independent/undeclared MLA. I throw in the mention of undeclared, since it is possible that he may seek to join another party within the Legislative Assembly.

However, a spokesman for the Premier has essentially left the door open for Boutilier's return to the caucus, saying that any kind of reconciliation between him and the party is solely in Boutilier's hands. The spokesman then went on to continue to reinforce the government position, stating that Government MLAs need to present a united front in tough economic times by standing by government decisions.

The only crux to this argument is that the facility was approved 18 months ago, when tough economic times were already being predicted and making headlines. As such, I find it a little hard to believe that the facility was a cut back just due to this factor. Mr. Boutilier claims that the Alberta Health Minister also claimed that Boutilier's riding was 'youthful' and didn't need a long term care facility for the elderly.

So, once again, we find elected officials in a game of they said - I said. Obviously, this game has cost Mr. Boutilier a lot more than it has politicians who have recently been caught up in such games. (Brad Trost, for example.)

And now for the real reason I have brought this story up. A fine line was drawn by Mr. Boutilier's actions, a line that highlights the balance between representing your constituents and being fateful to your party.

Party politics is something that always risks taking over the way a government or opposition is run within a democratic system. You have competing forces vying for the same chance to run the country, and as such, co-operation is often limited. You have Government Bills that the party says all Government MPs or MLAs must support, or risk being removed from caucus.

You have opposition bills that have the same conditions, although they often revolve around not voting with the government.

What does this tell us about Canada's political system?

Well, if you listen to Mr. Boutilier, it tells us that constituents are fast taking a much worse back seat to the demands of the party. That our elected representatives are now too responsible to their party, so much so that they must ignore their constituents or face reprimands and consequences when they buck against the party in favour of those who elected them.

But it is important to measure a difference here. The Conservatives say Mr. Boutilier went too far in his candid conversations with his constituents, while Mr. Boutilier says he was just doing his job and being a good MLA. Right now, it's impossible to tell which one is telling the truth about the situation.

Obviously, there are times when an MP or MLA needs to represent the party over their constituents. For example, in the face of national media. We all remember Carolyn Parrish and her expressions towards American on national and international media outlets. In this case, she did not give her riding a bad name, but rather the party and government that she represented.

But where is the line when the MP or MLA is directly talking to their constituents? It is impossible to say whether or not Mr. Boutilier actually went too far with the information I have access to. It is also impossible to speculate whether or not he could have taken a different route to reach a better conclusion for himself. (Such as limited constituent interaction while privately consulting with the Premier, Health Minister, and others to push for the facility to be built, while still telling constituents that he was working on the issue.)

In closing, what we've seen here is the ultimate crime of the political landscape: The needs of the party put before the needs of the people. The Conservatives have been in power in Alberta for a long time, and perhaps that has clouded their judgment on how to interact with their constituents. After all, the odds of a Conservative getting elected in Alberta are incredibly good just because they carry the banner of being a Conservative; so, how hard do they really have to work to get re-elected?

Sadly, that last statement is true across Canada. We've seen ridings held by Federal MPs who have done nothing for the riding while continuing to get re-elected simply because they are a certain political stripe or the incumbent.

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Until we demand better from our politicians, we'll never see any real or true progress in this country. We've grown too complacent in sticking with the familiar, and in the end, it is the familiar that will abandon the people in favour of keeping the power they've already managed to get.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Old Friend...

Source: CBC NEWS: N.L. Man Perplexed by Mailing from Sask. MP

I grew up in the Yorkton-Melville and during my time there, currently I am residing in the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding, I developed a rather terrible relationship with my local Member of Parliament, Garry Breitkreuz. A relationship which developed around 2004, at the Yorkton-Melville candidate debates.

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Breitkreuz about his feelings in regard to community involvement and co-operation between Federal, Provincial and Municipal elected officials. Mr. Breitkreuz used the opportunity to stress how important that relationship was, as well as how important it was to be seen supporting community events.

With a bit of insider information, when I proceeded to ask Mr. Breitkreuz why he'd only been to one event within the City of Yorkton (the largest area in his riding) in eight years, he seemed rather perplexed and presented a non-answer about that fact not being true, even though he did not tell me which events he had attended.

I furthered my contact with Mr. Breitkreuz during my years in high school, when as part of a 'social justice' class, I wrote him asking for some positions on same-sex marriage, a hot button issue at the time. It was in his response that I saw the true caliber of a man that he was. I had asked, if you polled your constituents and found that a majority over 50% supported same-sex marriage, would you reverse your opinion on the matter?

Mr. Breitkreuz proceeded to dismiss the notion and simply said, 'If they didn't agree with my positions, they wouldn't have voted for me.'

Well, for me, that was when the gloves essentially came off. Over the next few elections, I wrote in to my local newspaper and made it very clear the kind of man Mr. Breitkreuz was; how he was a model career politician who cared more about towing the party line than acting within the best interest of his constituents. Both of my letters were printed, and one even received a rebuttal from a fellow Yorkton-Melville citizen.

It's around this time, that I am convinced Mr. Breitkreuz learned who I was. I say so, because at the next candidate debate, he made it a very clear issue to avoid me for as long as he could. I had requested to speak with him, the moment the debates were over, and he proceeded to brush me off to talk to 'supporters' and other people.

After 30 minutes of making me wait, perhaps expecting me to go home, Mr. Breitkreuz finally talked with me. The conversation was a little heated, and both of us had a fair amount to gain given the small group of people who had gathered to watch a Member of Parliament and a teenager in a suit debate policy.

In the end, neither of us really won. We each had our talking points, we each got a few murmurs from the gathered crowd, and then we both eventually walked away from one another.

Now, I know many of you are asking, what does this have to do with the source story I've posted above? Is it just me stroking my ego by telling you about the small political feud I've had with an elected Member of Parliament? No, it is above all else a character study in Mr. Breitkreuz.

When I saw the news story today on the CBC, I expected someone in one of the larger city centres to be responsible, but to my surprise, it was my old friend Garry.

Effectively, a man in Newfoundland has reported receiving mail from Breitkreuz, despite not living anywhere near the man's home riding. He's not the only one, as other Newfoundland residents have stated they too have received mail from Breitkreuz's office.

So, how did this happen?

In Canada, Members of Parliament are entitled to mail out what is know as 10 percenters. Effectively, a MP can mail any riding in Canada provided that mail does not go to more than 10% of houses within a riding.

Usually, these 10 percenters are used outside of an election by a MP to get the word out about what his/her party has been doing in Parliament, and more importantly, what they have been doing for their elected riding.

For example, every once in awhile I will receive a black and white mailing from Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost. Within the mailing is the usual horn blowing "Conservatives cut ____ by ___%" or "Conservatives help _______" And of course, the odd "Liberals wrong on _____ issue." But inside is also usually a small record of what Mr. Trost has been up to since he was elected as our MP.

So, imagine the surprise of the people in Newfoundland, when they receive one of these mailing from a Saskatchewan Member of Parliament, and the only issue is a list of attacking points on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Now, I know some of you are thinking, is this really a problem?

Yes. These 10 percenters are paid out of tax dollars, not money that is raised by the party, but rather money that comes from good, honest, hardworking Canadians. As such, these mailings should not be used as a means to attack a Liberal Leader, or any other Member of Parliament, as they are paid for by the taxpayer.

To compound the problem, the taxes should really stay within the riding of the Member of Parliament who is sending out the flier.

And now, for my speculation.

As I stated, in my dealings with Mr. Breitkreuz, I found him to be a man of political opportunity; say what he needs to say to get elected, then listen to the party and follow only what they tell him to do. (To some extent, he did break this when he introduced his own private member's bill on abolishing the long-gun registry, a major talking point for him, outside of the government sponsored bill to do the same thing.)

As such, I would like to state my opinion of what I believed happened. We all know that the Harper Government is not opposed to using dirty tactics to flaunt the law, and good taste, in order to further their own political careers. So, what is a good way of doing that? Redirecting money from 'safe' Members of Parliament to ridings where they need to stomp the word out.

I am man enough to admit that Mr. Breitkreuz will likely serve as Yorkton-Melville's MP until he retires or the day he dies; mostly because Yorkton-Melville has been a political stronghold for any party who gets in once. Before Breitkreuz, Yorkton-Melville elected Lorne Nystrom of the NDP for 25 years. As such, it seems that they will likely continue their pattern of voting in the incumbent.

Effectively, this means Mr. Breitkreuz has an advantage when it comes to funds. It is easy to imagine that a party desperate to bash Ignatieff would do whatever they could to get the message across AND save money for when the election comes. (After all, independent attack ads can be costly.)

As such, since Garry seems to be in a safe riding, why not use his 10 percenters (paid for by tax dollars) to send out attack ads in a province kilometres away? After all, Garry doesn't need the money to gain support, so might as well do something with it, right?

Now, this is all of course speculation on my part. I have no proof that this was the conversation that took place; nor proof that Mr. Breitkreuz, good Conservative Party Member that he is, agreed whole heartedly to the plan to move money around in the name of saving it in the long run.

What I can say, is that if the Conservative Party did indeed manufacture this plan to take money from a secure riding and use a Parliamentary Rule to allow it to be spent outside of the home riding, then the system is obviously broken and needs to be fixed and fast.

An aide for Mr. Breitkreuz was quoted as saying they were looking into how this happened, and whether or not that is true, I think some of us already know the truth. After all, when Stephen Harper beckons, Garry Breitkreuz listens.