Sunday, August 29, 2010


...With some moments of weakness excepted, I long ago stopped listening to the music of my youth in favour of the alleged sophistication of contemporary jazz.

But, because in the latter half of September I will be attending the 50th anniversary of the campus radio station where my career in the media began, I've recently immersed myself into the music of the sixties. To digress: I spent eight years at Radio UNB / CHSR-FM starting in 1965 as a Disc Jockey/Announcer through to Management until 1973 while in university studying Political Science and subsequently Law.

Thanks to satellite radio and the modern wonder of the Internet I've spent several recent nostalgic hours (days, really!) recapturing the essence of the music of the years when we, the earliest members of the Boomer Generation, engaged "adult" life.

What has been most striking to me on this recent journey into the music, the artists, the poets, and the beat of my decade of innocence, now fifty years hence, is both the simplicity and more importantly the optimism with which we embraced the dawn of our brave new world.

If the human experience is a journey, then five decades later we seem to have failed miserably in achieving even a measure of the lofty optimistic ideals we set-out to establish and conquer. In a half-century we've pillaged the planet and pretty well destroyed the environment we need to survive as a species. The economic legacy we are about to leave behind, perhaps the only remaining tool with which to finance a fix to our mess, lies amongst ruins akin to the demise of the historical civilizations of ancient Greece and of the Roman Empire.

Whether it be from gorging ourselves on a failed real estate banquet, or the escapism pleasures we've sought from Disney-like entertainment; it seems time on the doomsday clock may be running out. And, the great industrialized consumer civilization of North America's lasting legacy may be the demise of humankind. Sadly as too many of our political and other leaders seem bent on doing: Appealing to the lowest common denominator may elicit visceral popularity - But, it won't solve the problems.

Friday, August 27, 2010


The motion pictures really! It is amazing how often the movies and real life intersect. I was reminded of, and struck by the similarities between American arch-conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the 1957 movie character "Lonesome Rhodes" (Andy Griffith) while watching "A Face In The Crowd" on Thursday. Beck's "Take Back America" crusade comes dangerously close to Griffith's broadcaster role in the Elia Kazan movie exploration of the power of television which, in 1957, was still a very new mass medium. Ah! Lest I digress further, that's not where I want to go.

It is not for me to pass judgement on the political polarization of our southern neighbour. Though clearly Canada's lesson is to be vigilant towards those who may seek to employ similar aggressive methods and measures to reshape our brand new world.

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY AIR - A thought provoking analysis written by national political columnist Susan Riley of the gaffe about CF-18 pilots..."starring down on Russian long-range bombers" earlier in the week by the Prime-Minister's office; suggests that Mr. Harper is not just changing the country's direction, but some within the Conservative government even appear..."intent on reshaping reality." - It's now twice in recent weeks that routine Russian patrols over their north have been used to justify the sole-source purchase of F-35 fighter jets. In the aftermath of this week's events, the North American air defence command quickly described the matter as a routine exercise..."important to both NORAD and Russia and...not cause for alarm."

No one suggests that Canada's sovereignty is unimportant; particularly in the North. The reality is that experts say there have been no Russian military incursions over Canada in at least a dozen years. In fact at least one journalist, John Ivison of the National Post, says National Defence is increasingly frustrated at "a hostility toward Russia that is manufactured for entirely domestic political purposes." The fact of the matter is, as late as 3 weeks ago, the Russians, the Americans and Canadian military forces were cooperating in a jointly held exercise to track and intercept a "hijacked" aircraft as a part of airborne international terrorism training. Which is both contradictory of, and counter-productive to, our seemingly new "get tough" policy with the Russian air force.

Clearly there are a couple of movie inspired themes here as well: Former (1960's) Ottawa resident Tom Cruise as Maverick in "Top Gun"...but more likely the hilariously comical romp through Cape Cod of "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming!" (1966). A truly iconic funny exploration of the paranoia engendered by "cold-war" hyper-rhetoric, directed by Canadian Norman Jewison. I guess now we know the Canadian inspired logic for the sales pitch on those 65 jet-fighters no one seems quite sure we need.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I am trying to detect a lesson worthwhile - Ah Hell! Anything worthy - Over this kerfuffle out on the country's left coast about what the conventional media has been describing as the "ticking HST time Bomb."

In Canada's La-La-Land, British Columbia locals lined-up, 700,000 strong, behind their former disgraced Premier, William Vander Zalm to pony-up on a petition to (a) overthrow the Government of Premier, Gordon Campbell; - (b) Force the Legislative Assembly into reversing an earlier vote - (and/or) (c) Hold a province-wide Referendum.

The issue is British-Columbia's dreaded HST, a 12% Value-added tax which went into effect on July first, the same day Ontario's HST of 13% also kicked-in. In fact, there are now just a couple of provinces without their own Harmonized Sales Tax, which combines the national Goods and Services Tax (GST) with their provincial sales tax.

The difference is that British Columbia is Canada's only province with a "direct democracy law", a concept borrowed from a handful of States south of the border whereby if sufficient names are collected on a petition; elected officials and the measures they represent can be "recalled from office." In B.C. apparently everything has been forgiven of their former Premier, Bill Vander Zalm, forced-out of office in 1991 over allegations of "conflict of interest" involving his family owned theme park: 'Fantasy Garden World.'

"Recall Measures" have been practiced foremost in California the "Land of Fantasy" where the recall of Governor, Gray Davis, in October 2003 over the cost of energy production (electricity) promoted strong-man, turned actor Arnold Schwarzenegger into the Gubernatorial Mansion on promises of strong tax-cutting measures - Governor Schwarzenegger will step-down from office on November 2nd this year; amidst California's worst economic slump since the collapse of the gold-rush of 1848...

Former Governor Jerry Brown hopes to be returned to California's highest office to replace Governor Schwarzenegger. Mr. Brown who twice sought and lost the U.S. Democratic Presidential nomination three decades ago was known as Governor "Moonbeam" back in the late 1970's after pop singer Linda Ronstadt described her relationship with Brown as "My little Moonbeam" in Rolling Stone Magazine. - I digress!

Whether in California, British-Columbia or elsewhere the issue is clearly just who will pay the bills if taxpayers continue to demand better services but refuse to provide the funds necessary to cover the costs? An issue which is all too real for the residents of my native province of New Brunswick on Canada's east coast. regardless of the B.C. recall law, or California's November election; New Brunswick ratepayers will be first at the polls this fall, on September 27. Second smallest of the country's ten provinces, the 750,000 people of New Brunswick face a staggering debt of almost $10-Billion or about $13,000 for every man, woman, child. And; while this untenable provincial debt should be the main focus of the election, the province's main political parties are using every measure to avoid talking about it.

Just like in British-Columbia, California and all of those other places which have come before it seems everyone is counting on "moonbeams," miracles and prayers, maybe a little "Pixie Dust" to avoid the inevitable payoff to the piper.

Friday, August 20, 2010


It's a toss-up I think whether Canadians will face another Federal Election sometime in the fall. Unfortunately that's the territory created by a minority status government in a Parliament composed of four Political Parties. And, it happens irrespective of Federal legislation establishing fixed electoral dates every four years. That Legislation was ignored in 2008 by the ruling Party which promoted it. There are no valid reasons to believe it will be any different the next time.

Three months ago when the House of Commons adjourned there were high expectations that from a political perspective it would be a relatively quiet break from the routine drudgery of a Parliamentary session. Basking in the afterglow of the two Ontario Summits in June and the Queen's Canada Day tour of several provinces, the Prime Minister was to take the summer off with family at the Harrington Lake compound while the Liberal Leader, Michael Ignatieff, rode the country's back roads for a third summer's attempt at connecting with just plain folk. Oh my!

Just when you'd have thought we'd remain on safe ground for a few more weeks; the Prime Minister who's summer absence was described by critics as arrogant, uncaring and out of touch; has taken to the road with announcements in Vancouver last week, visits and job creation goodies in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island this week, and an Arctic Tour which begins on Monday. And; amidst the unexpected clamour of accusations over the G-20 security tactics; the long-form census controversy; and the sacking of the RCMP's "Gun Registry" honcho - Though described as "somewhat respectably successful" - The Ignatieff summer camp tour has been forced to play to a significantly lesser National audience whilst his speeches, announcements and pronouncements have been preached to a largely converted crowd of existing Liberal supporters. "C'est la vie" as they say too frequently in Politics.

Front and centre, the Conservatives of Prime Minister Harper have faced a summer long barrage of growing accusations over the Government's treatment of officials and bureaucrats with dissenting views. The most recent to join the list is the RCMP Superintendent (Marty Cheliak) dumped from his job overseeing the national "long-gun registry" which the Conservatives have vowed to abolish before September's end. Very recent rumours suggest the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (The CRTC) are heading for the dumpster as well - At least one wag suggesting - to clear the way for the regulator's blessing of Quebecor's right of centre all news TV outlet: "Sun News" which is being fronted by Mr. Harper's former Chief Spokesman, Kory Teneycke.

Mr. Harper is obsessed with image and some say his Government and Party have taken their agenda control to a freakish new level. But, despite the government's centrally controlled information and news vetting efforts; Conservative insiders have frequently bristled over and complained about the national media's coverage of government initiatives. The Quebecor backed right-wing television news channel modelled on Fox News, and fronted by Mr. Teneycke, is said to be of paramount importance with Mr. Harper and his handlers.

Michael Ignatieff and the rag tag team of Liberals left behind from the back-to-back meltdowns of the Jean Chretien and Paul Martin governments back in 2005 & 2006 don't likely appear too well organized nor prepared much to seize the issue and capitalize significantly from the seemingly arrogant and obsessive behaviour of the current minority government.

Political leaders and observers from both sides of the aisle should know that Parties lose their grip on power when voters perceive that they are too arrogant to work cooperatively on facing and solving the country's common problems. It seems that many issues in Canada may well have reached the point that they should transcend political parties. The bi-partisan turmoil which has crippled the Administration of the Government of the United-States is just one recent (very nearby) example from which to draw our own critical lesson.

Canadians are right to be furious and disillusioned with our Federal politicians. It may be a toss-up on whether we'll be called (once again) to go to the ballot boxes in the fall. However before paradise is lost in a flurry of apathy and disillusionment we will need people who choose to run for office for the purposes that they can serve far more than to merely get elected. Politicians and representatives who are not just saying what they need to get elected, or make promises they can't keep. Beware because eventually they will be judged by their effectiveness and willingness to cooperate. Consensus, so that the tensions and the differences of opinions about the problems we need to address are resolved before the doomsday clock strikes twelve, would be a refreshing change and a good starting point.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's the "dog days" of August and I hope that one may be forgiven for lightening on the Blog Load, or at least on its content. A reflective piece I read recently titled "How Many Times Can We Come Of Age" focused on the media's coverage of the annual July First Canada Day festivities, marked this year by the visit of The Queen to Ottawa.

At long last it seems after 143 years; that pundits, editorial writers, commentators concurred that the country has "come of age!" It's a story that we've been telling ourselves for quite some time. John Mazerolle who wrote the piece doesn't quite buy into the scenario. He believes we cling to a perpetual Canadian humility..."then claim we're newly proud every time anything noteworthy happens." There is perhaps something worthy about that conclusion. Maybe it's true: Clinging to a national myth of humility makes it easy to pat ourselves on the back for accomplishing things that really don't matter all that much.

Mazerolle says instead, we are incredibly smug and he likens being Canadian to a..."self-satisfied guy, who smirks to himself and wonders when everyone will notice how awesome he is". The "Confederation" of 1867, celebrated on July first, may be just one of those events we've convinced ourselves firmed-up our Canadian national identity: The list is nebulous and varies according to one's background, education and interests - Vimy Ridge, the Wars, Expo '67, Paul Henderson's 1972 goal, Olympic hockey gold, even the occasional mention on American network television all seem to bolster the national consensus that we're really better than anyone else...It's just that the world, (especially the United-States) has not quite noticed.

In fact another tempest in a teapot with the moniker "coming of age" may be brewing just around the corner: It seems a group of history pundits and advocates are trying to get their hands on the original "British North America Act," essentially Canada's birth certificate. The document which was adopted by the British Parliament in 1867 reposes in the archives of Great Britain. A former national archivist for Canada, Ian Wilson, says his group is inspired by the 1988 Australian battle with Britain over the century old legislation that made Australia an independent country.

In 1988, Australia arranged to borrow its document to celebrate a national anniversary and subsequently refused to return it to London. The move prompted some British Parliamentarians to accuse the Australians of..."conniving for accepting...a loan and then hanging on for dear life to what is rightfully ours."

Our Canadian promoters want Britain to "lend" us the British North America Act to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. What happens after that...Well, it could pretty well be any one's guest?

A noble endeavour perhaps. But, I think we're full of it: John Mazerolle likely would agree!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I grew-up in the 1950's. In as much as changes were well deserved and long overdue; some of my male contemporaries might be tempted to argue that in the intervening decades men have assumed a less historically comfortable place in the struggles over gender equality.

There has been little backlash if any, but at least here in North America, it's no longer quite the "Man's World" which existed in the immediate aftermath of the 20th Century's two world wars. Everyone, male and female, has coped in their own best way with the sexual revolution, the gender gap, wage parity, the glass ceiling, two wage-earner families, and increasingly 3 car garages.

Two generations later, and on a far much softer scale however, I am sensing somewhat of a testosterone fueled revolution...or at the very least a rising level of assertiveness amongst men. One which is beyond the occasional pedagogical discussion over the place of boys in today's modern school classroom and/or social environment.

I am not quite sure when it launched. But, the return of 21st Century softer versions of the North American appropriately named "Muscle Cars" of the 60's - The Camaro, The Charger, The Mustang - is probably as good a place to start as any. In fact, in a related development the Chrysler Corporation is tackling the "soccer-mom" image of its iconic Mini Vans with what it calls the "Man Van", a special version of the Dodge Caravan designed to appeal to men, which it plans to roll-out later this fall. One company representative told the Wall Street Journal..."it's one those vehicles that gets people talking and heads turning."

Then of course there is the phenomenon of the "smell like a man" campaign which was launched simultaneously on TV and on the Internet during February's Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. In one of the commercials actor Isaiah Mustafa, the "new" Old Spice Guy declares that women "should smell like butterflies and salt water taffy", and men like "jet fighters and punching." Mustafa by the way is a former Seattle Seahawks NFL Receiver, and his cheesy commercials have: a) Magically revived a brand - Old Spice - closely associated with grandpa's after war generation; b) Already made many additional millions for Proctor & Gamble; and c) Caused competitors and more importantly the advertising industry to stand-up and take notice.

Hitching unto that bandwagon is "Canadian Tire", once the most "Male" of Canadian icons. Corporate President and CEO Stephen Wetmore told his Board of Directors recently that Canadian Tire has strayed too far from its core business. Though automotive needs are not an exclusive male preserve, Canadian Tire is going to return to prominence in Formula One, NASCAR, and Indy racing which are pretty much male dominated. In Mr. Wetmore's words: "In short, automotive is the cornerstone of our business, and now were going to act like it."

Perhaps on a smaller scale, but just as important North Americans have witnessed the emergence of male dominated television networks which are not only skewed to heavy sports programming, such as 'Spike TV'; as well as radio stations and programs with testosterone heavy content: 'DAWG-FM' in Ottawa; and the 'Manhole Morning Show' in Regina among the more recent examples.

None of these changes will affect or deter from the progress of the last two generations in the struggle towards forging a more appropriate recognition of gender equality. In fact the new assertiveness may help. And that, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


As a university student in the mid-sixties, I worked several summers at the New Brunswick Tourist Information kiosk on the Trans-Canada Highway near Edmundston: Gateway to our fabled Maritime Provinces.

Jeepers! I just realized most among you weren't then born. I am old and given to digressions - Picture this: It was as America's west coast surfing craze was launching riding on a wave of Orange County, California music from the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and The Surfaris.

I did not experience the event; but even in the absence of today's instant social media; a prominent story making the round of tourist counsellors was of the tourist(s) arriving toting surf-boards ready to ride the Peticodiac River's 'Tidal Bore.' A tidal bore, essentially a curly wave flowing against the river's current, forms on the Peticodiac as it is forced each day to reverse flow by the massive tides of the Bay of Fundy which can top 15 meters. (50 feet) - Human progress in the form of the building of a causeway in 1968 across the river reduced the "Bore" to a pitiful trickle. Lest I digress once more: My fellow Maritimers will know that four months ago the causeway's gates were re-opened for the first time in 42 years and that the Tidal Bore is making a remarkable come back. Last month's peak Fundy tide on July 15th brought-out a record crowd of camera buffs to watch it roll-in. (Still no word on surfers though!)

Every day, the equivalent of the outflow of every river on the planet passes in and out of the Bay of Fundy. The Tidal Bore is just one of the recurring phenomenon of the Bay's high tidal range...In the quest for world tidal dominance; they are the strongest and the highest, period!

Fundy's extreme tidal range, in addition to the Tidal Bore, cause the St. John River to reverse flow through a series of rapids, the famous Reversing Falls, through a gorge in the middle of the City of Saint John. And, eroded rock formations at Hopewell Cape allow stunned visitors to walk on the bottom of the ocean at low tide.

The Bay of Fundy and its ecological wonders have been designated finalists in a current world-wide search for "The New 7 Wonders of Nature." - The Seven Wonders Foundation, based in Switzerland, started with 440 sites in a competition launched now a few years back. The initial list has whittled-down to just 28 finalists. The Bay of Fundy is the only Canadian of two North American competitors to make the finals. The other finalist from the continent is The Grand Canyon. And, Fundy and the U.S. Canyon are amongst a group of impressive, worthy competitors: The Amazon Rain Forest; Ayers Rock (Australia) and Mount Vesuvius just to name-drop a few.

In a rare show of national unity last week at the annual conference of Canadian Premiers, the Premiers of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham, and Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter, received even rarer unanimous and uncontentious support for our natural wonder..."today we're calling upon Canadians from coast to coast to vote for the Bay of Fundy in this international competition as one of the natural seven wonders of the world." - Reads the unanimous motion. The heads of the provincial and territorial governments have also agreed to post a video on-line; make statements in their Legislative Assemblies and encourage residents to take part in the voting.

The choice of the "New Seven Wonders" will be finalized and announced on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11)! Fundy's got my vote.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I haven't quite been able to engage this debate over the brouhaha involving the Long-Form Canadian Census. Perhaps it's because I have never seen the form nor (obviously) have been among the chosen to complete it. I am grateful for that because at between 40 to 60 pages long, I am not quite sure that by the last twenty or so pages, I wouldn't have been tempted, despite the penalty of jail time, to fudge some of the answers.

Be that as it may. When this began to unravel about a month ago, I frankly thought that it was one of those Ottawa political tempests in a teapot concocted by the National Parliamentary Press Gallery somewhat bored in the afterglow of the two Toronto Summit gatherings and the Queen's successful Canada Day holiday tour. But the damn story seems to have sprouted legs and engaged statisticians, politicians, pundits, hangers-on and wannabees from even beyond Canada's borders.

In an age of rapid communications when one can hardly turn around without being asked for an opinion, an idea, a survey, life's personal details, obligations, and / or a viewpoint on practically any subject on God's green orb; you'd think just about every Canadian and the organizations who represent them would have wanted to steer real-clear of any contentious debate over another matter how apparently precious to our Nation's well being. That's the part I still don't get; but I am of the opinion (poll me if you want) that the government had the same practical idea when it decided to make the long-form requirements voluntary rather than a legal obligation. By the way; lest I digress, that is all that is at stake here - Nothing more!

What's clear to me now; and a series of nationwide focus groups (Jeez more polling!) carried-out by Ipsos Reid acknowledge; is that Canadians are frustrated with the Harper Government's..."lack of communication, leaving them in the dark about the Tory agenda." It seems that there is a certain whiff of uncomfortable arrogance which has swept-over Prime Minister Harper's best efforts to tightly control the Government's messaging skills.

In Ottawa parlance: The PM, through the PMO, gags the PCO - To wit: In the four and a half years since the Conservatives were elected; the Prime-Minister's Office, frequently through the bureaucratic arm of Government, the Privy Council Office, has been accused of strong-arming strict messaging practices which a) Script the words spoken by politicians and the few bureaucrats allowed to speak publicly and b) Gag just about every other effort by journalists and the Media to inform stake holders.

The Ipsos Reid focus groups were conducted amongst a cross-section of Canadians in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Mississauga, Halifax and Trois-Rivieres. According to the Canadian Press, which claims to have seen the report, the client was the Communications and Consultation Secretariat of the Privy Council Office. Or as I read it: (Ready for this?) - The CCS of the PCO, paid to be told the PM and his PMO, are micromanaging the talking points; and Canadians are uncomfortable about that!

It's an obsession over the control of information for which the script was written south of the border in the aftermath of the sad and shattering events of September 2001. - From which the continued practiced has derailed far too many decent efforts to improve the lives of American people. - And: The aggressive pursuit of which in this country threatens to paralyze our own institutions of government over silly political partisanship. At the very least you'd think we'd learn from just watching.

Ipsos Reid claims the Canadians who took part in their research were..."perturbed by the trickle of information from...the government." Critics have been more vocal claiming the tightly scripted messages, Media lines, soundbites and photo-ops undermine democracy and transparency.

A seemingly clear case that the Voodoo some do, and their impulsive control over the release of information can eventually undermine their message and blur their vision.

Monday, August 2, 2010


That new report published in the United-States which flagged the past decade as the "hottest on record" may signal a last-ditch effort to deal with run away climate change. But, I fear for the outcome of the human generations to whom we are leaving the blue planet.

The 2009 "State of the Climate" report which was released less than a week ago by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration combines data on temperature, humidity, sea levels, sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover going as far back as 1850 in some cases. It concludes that the calendar decade 2000-2009 was the warmest of the last five decades, and that each of the last three decades was warmer than the one before.

Sadly the report comes at the same time as polls have shown that the public is becoming less worried about climate change despite clear signals that the earth's temperature is likely to blow right through the fragile point of no return. The N.O.A.A. study concludes that overall, the planet's temperature has gone up just a little more than 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years. It's a generally accepted scientific theory that that earth's warming by 2 degrees Celsius is our species' point of no return.

The United Nations' framework on climate change adopted in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 is predicated on the +2 Celsius benchmark. Though so far more than 180 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and pledged to hold (and/or reduce) pollution emissions to 1990 levels; twenty years later offenders...North Americans among the worse...aren't anywhere near compliance. Last year's follow-up Summit on climate change in Copenhagen was a dismal failure; and there isn't any much optimism for the next feeble effort which is scheduled in Cancun, Mexico in 5 months.

I don't subscribe to theories about an abrupt "End Of The World". Clearly though there may be some elements of truth to the myths, stories, and tales like those of the "Old Testament": The Flood; The Apocalypse; Armageddon; - Through to the prophesies of Nostradamus - and the theories of the ancient Mayan Calendar which ends at the winter's Solstice in 2012.

Earth provides the only example of an environment which has given rise to the evolution of life, most of which followed the planet's Ice-Age roughly 600-Million years ago. "Snowball Earth's" receding ice-caps allowed life forms to develop; but the continuum of life has been spotty. Over 98% of species that ever lived are now extinct and it's quite unlikely that the human life-form is any more immune from extinction than were the reptilian dinosaurs:

Planet Earth has survived five major Mass Extinction Events the most recent of which led to the disappearance of the dinosaurs and other large reptiles, but spared some small animals such as mammalian life, some of which eventually diversified into our human life form.

It is abundantly clear that humans have influenced Earth in a short time span as no other life form ever had. Call it any name you wish: Earth, Mother Nature, the Blue Planet, God's creation - It will survive. In the evolution of the Human life form though, not only have we placed ourselves at great risk; but we appear to have hastened the planet's next Mass Extinction Event: Our own!