Thursday, April 28, 2011

 

DEADWEIGHT LOSS

Why is the Federal Government ready to front the State of Michigan close to $600-Million for its share of building a second Windsor-Detroit bridge?

Michigan's economy is flat-broke and commercial interests on the Canadian side of the border are so critically important that there is virtually no other choice. Lest I digress...I say "virtually" no other choice, because the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit billionaire and right-wing conservative Matty Moroun, is ready and willing to build his own second bridge. In fact Mr. Moroun has been running a series of "attack ads" against the government's project on American television, including Fox News.

"Thickening" of America's border with Canada and the Harper Government's efforts last winter to blunt its effect with a "Perimeter Security" arrangement have remained pretty much under the radar during the current Federal Election campaign. It may be that the issue was pretty much a non-starter despite vocal critics dubbing it at the time as an attack on Canadian sovereignty.

Since the near collapse of the American economy in the "Great Recession of 2008" there's been an interesting seesaw effect in the balance of trade between our two nations. Though it remains the most significant exchange of trade and services on the planet; business between the United-States and Canada dropped to $430-Billion in imports and exports in 2009 from a pre-recession high of about $600-Billion, and shot back up to $525-Billion in 2010. It's hard to predict just how the meteoric rise of the Canadian "Loonie" to $1.05 USD will affect trade matters through 2011; but VISA Credit Cards USA reported just last week that Canadian cross-border shoppers accounted for a multi-billion dollar increase in its bottom line since the start of the new year.

Back at the Detroit River bottle neck, a recent study published by two southwestern Ontario Universities (University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University)concludes that the costs of border crossing delays can be startlingly large especially in the automobile sector. For example, it's estimated that the parts and sub-assemblies of automobiles which criss-cross the border several times during production, adds about $800 to the final cost of each automobile. In contrast imported cars from overseas only pass through Customs once; on entering the country.

When it's all put together this loss of economic efficiency known as "deadweight loss" may be sufficiently large to offset Canada's economic gains produced by the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The cost of border delays estimated by the study at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier may be as much as $30-Billion per year...and the Province of Ontario is its biggest loser. The long-term effect is that potential investors are looking elsewhere when it comes time to open businesses that rely on cross-border shipments.

National "orange surge" or not; polls and pundits predict that it will be difficult on Monday to unseat the two Windsor area N.D.P. Members of Parliament, Brian Masse (Windsor West) and Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh), both of whom are strong supporters of the Harper Government's plan to pay our share of the bridge cost, and to advance the Americans a major share of their costs. Windsor's economy and that of the neighbouring Essex Riding, held by Conservative MP Jeff Watson, have been devastated by the economic downturn in the United-States and the still very fragile recovery of the automobile assembly sector in the Detroit area.

Unless and until car parts, automobiles, lumber, oil and gas; pretty much everything else Canada produces can magically cross the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans as easily as trucks and trains cross into the United States of America; our economic fate is in American hands...a somewhat shaky prospect which may explain why "border issues" have remained off of the election trail.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

 

DOOMED...

...And, it's not just about anticipating the results of next week's Federal Election. It is in the nature of our humankind to seek, develop and nurture progress at each and every evolutionary opportunity.

Alas from the coming of the end of the Agrarian Age, (4000 B.C. to 1700 A.D.) each evolutionary progressive step taken by the species has been a progressive step towards destroying the environment which nurtures our very existence.

For at least the last 400 years we have been embarked on a relentless mission to destroy our life giving and life sustaining planet. I am increasingly convinced that humankind has been thus genetically programmed, and that it is in the nature of our very existence, to wreak the havoc which will ultimately destroy the planet. To digress: Forgive me for being crude - Birds don't shit in their nests; but it seems we do! That train (as it were) has left the station.

DAS ENDE DER WELT IST NAH! (The end is nigh!) - Since we have pretty much pillaged and ravaged most of the planet's finite resources to feed our insatiable and greedy need for power and energy. We are now embarked on using high-technology in a relentless process to change the very way humans interact and, for better or worse, there is no turning back from that either. In this Federal Election ironically much has been said and debated about "Vote Mobs" - A concept which began at the University of Guelph as a student response to a rant by Comedian Rick Mercer; which has been spreading from campus to campus across Canada.

South of the border, our cousins from America have advanced the concept to "Crowd Funding." It too is primarily a phenomenon of the web savvy younger generations and it's aims; some good, some questionable; are to raise money "online" by getting as many visitors as possible to donate to a cause, project or venture. The tools of the social Web are evolving to take advantage of our human need to connect, while raising money.

A Psychology Professor at the University of New Brunswick, Lucia Sullivan, recently identified a third element she describes as "desperate texters" - She says:"People who text heavily are probably people who are more needy for a social connection and are using (it) to self-medicate." I digress...

Alas! There's is a high-tech connect between my theory on humankind's evolution and the "End of Time." - Never mind the Doomsday 2012 scenarios inspired by the mysterious Mayan Calendar which ends abruptly on December 21, 2012; nor the avaricious who sell survival seeds and doomsday bunkers. A small sect, headed by 88-year-old Harold Camping, based in Oakland, California with followers across the United-States says the end of time is next month. Mr. Camping claims to have scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he's developed a mathematical system to interpret prophesies hidden within the "Good Book." When he crunched the numbers he found that the planet's JUDGEMENT DAY, is May 21, 2011 - And; as per Revelation 9:5 - THE END OF THE WORLD, 5 months later, on October 21, 2011.

Never mind that on September 6, 1994 Mr. Camping's followers awaited Christ's return in vain; apparently a mere mis-crunching of the Biblical numbers. But this time be prepared. Just last week as I left Florida to return to Canada the "converted" (albeit in very small numbers) were gathered on street corners to remind that The End is nigh!

Time is short. How, say you, may we buy happiness in the after-life? Apparently salvation is just a credit card swipe away: "High-Tech Tithing!" In Agrarian times people gave God parts of their livelihood - goats, sheep, wheat and barley. Much later, they began plopping money into collection plates. Now, some churchgoers are swiping their cards at machines that look a bit like ATM's. In recent decades places of worship have provided increasing options for tithing and offerings: Links on websites and automatic deductions from bank accounts. Now comes the new twist: Machines called "Giving Kiosk Units" installed in churches by a Georgia company called "SecureGive". - Sleek silver pedestal machines, complete with LED screen, keypad and magnetic strip reader so far installed at more than 325 churches in the United-States.

As predicted; if the end comes before your credit card balance is due next month...you will be saved, and God may never know you didn't pay.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

 

1-2-3 "RED" LIGHT!

Faced with an economy so fragile that this week Standard & Poor's issued an unprecedented warning to the U.S. to fix it's financial woes or risk it's credit rating; the Obama Administration can ill afford to offend America's Cuban diaspora.

As the joke goes; our neighbour's economy is so bad that a truckload of Americans has been recently caught sneaking "into" Mexico...I digress. Both the economic and political clout of the the Cuban exiles and their descendants now scattered throughout many southern states (and beyond) is sufficient to deliver the State of Florida and to influence the results in many others in American Presidential politics.

So that despite the rhetoric of his first campaign on easing the five decades old hostilities between Cuba and the United-States; it seems at the threshold of his campaign for a second term, Mr. Obama is prepared to reverse course. In Washington though U.S. officials think that they have done enough to elicit a more positive response from Cuba; in reality the easing of travel restrictions for Cuban exiles in America to visit relatives and families on the island is their only concrete achievement. And the exiles in Florida and elsewhere have warmly embraced the change. Hundreds of charter flights shuttle between Miami and Havana each week...but they are loathe to support any measures which would open-up tourism for "other" Americans to the Caribbean Island 90 miles offshore.

In the American capital they say that it's Cuba which has soured the political climate. The current irritant is the detention and 15-year jailing of contractor Alan Gross for spying. The U.S. Government claims that Mr. Gross was in Cuba to expand Internet services for Jewish groups but concedes that he entered the island on a tourist visa that would not permit such work. And, his work was funded under a U.S. Government program aimed at "promoting democracy in Cuba" - A program which the Cubans claim is part of a long term campaign to topple their government.

Overshadowed by the crisis in North Africa, the former Democrat President, Jimmy Carter, spent three days in Havana from March 28 under the auspices of the "Carter Center Foundation" which was founded in 1982, the year after he left the Presidency. Under the guise of various enterprises since Mr. Obama's election, both former Presidents Carter and Bill Clinton have travelled as "de facto" emissaries of the administration. The Carter Center claimed that the ex-President sought to learn about..."new economic policies and the upcoming Party Congress (held last weekend." Though it's widely rumoured that in a private "tete a tete" with President Raul Castro, Carter advised that, for the reasons just outlined, Obama was backing away from the fragile improvements until into his second term of office...Ah; assuming he has one.

Fidel Castro reportedly said on the weekend that it just never occurred to him to step-down as Chair of the Cuban Communist Party after he handed the country's Presidency to his brother Raul five years ago. Be that as it may; yesterday the full transfer of power was (apparently) completed when President Raul also became Communist Party chief. It was Prime-Minister John Diefenbaker who in 1961, primarily because he couldn't stand President Kennedy, refused to follow America's lead and cut-off Cuba. Canadians have had an up-and-down relationship since, but some economic ties particularly pertaining to the tourism industry have remained strong. Recently, each winter about 3/4 of a million Canadian tourists descend on Cuba to inject about $700-Million into the Cuban economy. It's an economic relationship that Cuba can ill afford to jeopardize.

Back then John Diefenbaker believed that with the United-States breaking relations, Canada could fill the gap. In general subsequent (Liberal) Prime Ministers, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau subscribed to the idea. Pierre Trudeau in particular had a warm personal relationship with Fidel Castro. But with the rapprochement of our shared economic vision to that of the United-States under the free-trade accords of the early 1990's, the political relationship with the island nation has chilled. Tourism aside, our bilateral relations have been "shaded" by the United-States.

And - It seems that when it comes to U.S. - Cuba relations, old habits die hard. Perhaps only for purely political gains in the 2012 Presidential elections down south, both the Americans and the Cubans are on the verge of falling back into old antagonistic ways which will obscure whatever progress had been made and hinder further advances. In the end; we may all lose.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

 

A QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP

A couple of provincial political parties have come to grips publicly this weekend with matters of leadership.

Out on the west coast, British Columbia's New Democrats are struggling with a decision whether to shift their traditionally left-wing party into the Centre to challenge head-on the Liberal Government of Premier Christy Clark in the next provincial election. - Or take the party to a more traditional hard(er) left; in a counter effort against the Right of Center burgeoning B.C. Progressive-Conservative party which is being championed by their own former NDP Premier, Bill Vander Zalm, and former Newfoundland P.C. Premier, Brian Peckford.

Whilst in Quebec, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois picked-up 94% support in a confidence motion at the party's annual conclave. As with British-Columbia, Quebec is gearing-up for a widely anticipated Provincial Election pitting 3-term scandal plagued Liberal Premier Jean Charest (scraping the bottom of the polling barrel) against all comers. Despite her astounding "vote o' confidence;" in Quebec's political backrooms, Mme Marois is disliked and not the PQ's first leadership choice to confront the Charest Liberals. Federal Bloc-Quebecois Leader, the charismatic Gilles Duceppe, is much more likely to lead (and win) the provincial Separatist movement in any upcoming Quebec Election. Duceppe you will recall threw-in his hat against Marois in the PQ's last leadership go-round to replace former Premier Bernard Landry; but in a move never adequately explained, he stepped-out just as fast as he'd stepped-in.

Be that as it may: Beyond Mr. Duceppe's anticipated transfer to the Quebec Provincial scene; the current May 2Nd Federal General Election will define the future political career of all 5 major Canadian Party leaders: From Stephen Harper on down to the Greens' Elizabeth May:

STEPHEN HARPER: Pundits, observers and pollsters share the opinion that Mr. Harper's Conservatives will be re-elected On May 2 once more with a "Minority" of seats in the House of Commons. Though the Conservative Party of Canada is said to be a one-man effort (Harper's), waiting in the wings for the right moment to swing into a leadership challenge is New Brunswick's former Premier Bernard Lord. The charismatic fluently bilingual young politician has been purposely staying-out of the current Federal tilt so as not to taint his own image with the Harper Brand. A 2011 version of a Harper Minority Government; the Prime Minister's 4Th attempt at a majority will sound the death knell of his leadership either with another eventual defeat in Parliament...or more likely with the call of a party leadership convention and Stephen Harper's retirement from active politics.

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: For the Federal Party dubbed the 20Th Century's "natural governing party," only a win will do. And, as an astute observer noted this week..."that win is squarely on the shoulders of 64 year-old Ignatieff." From Wilfred Laurier; on down through MacKenzie-King, Louis St. Laurent, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien: Liberals are expected to perform, and the performance criteria is winning elections. And; as even Nobel Laureat Lester B. Pearson learned after being elected in two historic Minority Parliaments, if a House majority doesn't materialize, there is no room at the party helm for that person anymore. Although the (very) young Justin Trudeau has aspirations to, and is clearly being groomed for an eventual leadership bid, party insiders know that he's not yet sufficiently seasoned to take over from Ignatieff when, - barring a "Coalition" of minority Parliamentarians of sorts later this spring, - he does not end-up Prime-Minister, and walks away. At that point; the Liberals may be looking for another short-term leader and Ignatieff's old college roommate and former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae may be among the very few choices.

JACK LAYTON: Far less is at stake when you are the perennial third or fourth place finisher. His party aside, polls suggest Mr. Layton is best liked and integrates the leadership qualities Canadians demand. Someone observed in conversation just yesterday that had Layton stepped-on over to the Liberals (as did Bob Rae), he'd most likely be elected Prime Minister on May Second. Except for a limited number of strong New Democrat ridings, Mr. Layton "is" the NDP. One of those growing areas of support is in metropolitan urban Quebec. Based on decades of work by Phil Edmonston, picked-up much more recently by former provincial (Liberal) Cabinet Minister, and current NDP Deputy-Leader and Outremont MP Thomas Mulchair, the party may record significant gains in May taking votes away from both the Liberals and the Conservatives. In light of Mr. Layton's health issues, any significant breakthrough in the large urban ridings of the province of Quebec would bode well for a Mulchair leadership takeover and (perhaps like the NDP in British-Columbia) a significant makeover of the party philosophy.

GILLES DUCEPPE: The charismatic Mr. Duceppe is a consummate politicians and like many previous Quebec based fringe parties with national aspirations; Real Caouette and the "Socreds" for instance; I think he knows that the Quebec destiny (whatever it is) will be shaped at home. It's over for the "Separatist" movement as we've known it for 40 years. The new "Independantistes" are pragmatic and urbane and Mr. Duceppe is itching to be Premier of Quebec. A 21St Century Rene Levesque in white armour ready to tackle both domestic issues and "les anglais" of Canada. In the aftermath of the May 2Nd election (with a secure lifelong Federal Parliamentary pension in hand) he's about to be handed his chance. Despite her overwhelming "vote of confidence" this weekend, the machinations are already well greased in the Provincial Parti Quebecois to secure Duceppe's leadership so that he's poised to slay the pesky Jean Charest before year's end.

ELIZABETH MAY: A week in politics is an eternity. Never mind 3 years! Stephane Dion's cornerstone Liberal Party platform in 2008 was an omnibus "Green Plan." - Sadly, and despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, in this second decade of the 21St Century, If at all, "The Environment" is an insignificant blip on the political radar screen. Though Mrs. May and the "Greens" polled about one-million votes in 2008, no one was elected. No positive results either at a handful of noteworthy Federal by-elections in the 3 years hence, including one or two attempts by Mrs. May herself. In eliminating Mrs. May from last week's debate, the "Leaders' Television Consortium" was anticipating realistically the Federal vote results. There's just nothing for Mrs. May to hang-on for.

As they say on Election Night: If the trends are maintained; though the standings in the House won't change much: 2011 may be a seminal election which leads to a wholesale shake-up in Canadian party politics. - In Monte Carlo they'd say: "Les jeux sont faits!"

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

 

A PRETTY AMAZING DAY...

I suppose that given time and with enough research amazing things may be discovered about pretty much any date on the calendar. But there is a surprising convergence of events centered on April 12...

WAR IS HELL: In silence before the break of dawn they gathered by the hundreds at Charleston in South Carolina today to mark the solemn occasion of the naval attack on Fort Sumter and the start of the U.S. Civil War, 150 years ago. The confrontation between the Confederacy of southern states and the government of the United-States tore the country apart. Some wounds still fresh. The roll call of more than 800,000 dead echoes still from Gettysburg to Bentonville by way of Antietam, Shiloh, Manassas, Vicksburg, Fredericksburg, Richmond and so many other places.

THE MUSIC DIED: Ninety-nine years ago this day the venerable "RMS Titanic" sailed from Southampton on her faithful maiden voyage. A new book titled "The Band That Played On" is being published this week about the eight man band that played-on as the ship went down until the Atlantic eventually drowned their music into silence. The centennial of the sinking of the doomed ship is just a year away. It's only natural that a new round of stories, anecdotes and tales is beginning to emerge.

...BUT ROCK WAS BORN: Turns out it was also on April 12; in 1954, 57 years ago, that rock and roll was born. Bill Haley and the Comets travelled from Pennsylvania to New York city on their first contract with Decca Records: A rock-a-billy tune titled "Thirteen Women And Only One Man In Town" - But the recording needed a "B" side and the group was offered "Rock Around The Clock". Forty-five Minutes of rehearsal and two-takes later: Rock & Roll had been born. Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" remains the best selling rock single of all time.

MAN ENTERS THE SPACE AGE: It was 50 years ago today that Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted into, and became the first human to orbit the planet in space. Gagarin's April 12, 1961 blast-off and successful three orbit(s) mission just short of 200 miles above the planet prompted the administration of American President John F. Kennedy to commit his country to landing a man "on the moon" before the end of the decade. A mission accomplished in July 1969.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

 

NORTH BY NORTHEAST

Walterboro, South Carolina

NOSTALGIA: I am always a bit nostalgic about leaving America's deep-south for the long journey home. Had the Internet existed back then; this would be travelogue #39. I've been fortunate to spend some, part and most recently all of the winter months in the Sunshine State of Florida since 1972. I am particularly grateful to have been away from the harsh realities of our eastern Canadian winters for most of the last decade. Still; it's always good to get home. But I'd just as soon just look at the pictures of the past winter's snows.

HOT-HOT-HOT: No doubt everyone who has been through this past (long) agonising winter will have stories to tell. What has been most surprising about the period since mid-February in the deep-south is its rapid transition from "winter" to summer sub-tropical conditions. In 39 years, I can say (with little fear of contradiction) that I've not experienced such early conditions before. December was unusually cool; but as if to make up for it, atmospheric conditions usually experienced in June and July have been upon us since March. Hot humid days, followed by tropical like rain storms at the latter part of the day. In Jacksonville at lunchtime today the temperature was a scorching 36 C. The upside...Florida is not experiencing it's annual brush fire season, it's too wet and more importantly very "spring" green.

HOGS OF THE ROAD: Perhaps it's a language thing, but only Quebecers hauling motor homes and RV's (frequently with cars, boats and motorbikes attached) travel like wolves: In Packs. I suspect they're in touch by CB Radio...they pull off at the same rest-stops; lunch at the same diners. But for those annoying caravans, the worst road hogs are from New York and New Jersey. Once the cruise control is set they ain't moving from the outside lane...and what's with people from Vermont driving the oldest most decrepit vehicles on the road? (PS) Usually Volvo's.

BUYING-UP THE SOUTH LAND: A Montreal "Gazette" poll I heard of recently claimed that one-in-five (20%) of Quebecers are contemplating buying properties in Florida. I ain't complaining about anything that will eliminate the "wolf pack" caravans from America's interstates. But; the south's real-estate remains historically depressed and it is unlikely ever to recover to it's hyper-inflated pre "Great Recession" prices.
The reality is quite simply that we have entered into the "Baby-Boomer" retirement bubble and the next statistical cohort - the so-called "Generation X" - has neither the size nor the resources to invest in Snowbird retirement properties...no matter how good the gettin's been! Just don't rush into Florida real-estate with the expectation of ever turning a profit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

 

PU - PU PLATTER OF NORTHERN DELIGHTS

Little wonder that Prime Minister Harper's "Perimeter Security" arrangement was D.O.A. from the "git-go." And; forget about lifting the egregious trade and business barriers between Canada and the United-States now that President Barack Obama has launched his re-election campaign for the White House in 2012.

Canada's economy may feel the need for a loving relationship with the massive commercial appetite of our southern neighbour but, at least publicly, it's a one way relationship. We're a lover scorned...alas without any of the appended fury.

In America's growing slide into isolationism, fueled largely by the philosophy of the "Tea Party Patriots" and their supporters, the country's land borders are one more irritant and potential source of all those elements: terrorists, carpetbaggers and aliens who would wish harm upon the United States.

Let it not be said that Canada is not a quintessential partner to the recovery of the American economy, including the country's biggest foreign supplier of oil and gas; and most probably eventually its biggest supplier of fresh water; but in "official" Washington, pending the outcome of the 2012 election; northern border issues, choke-points and business concerns fall on deaf ears...



From the Alberta oil sands, which President Obama described this week: "These tarsands (sic), there are some environmental questions about how destructive they are...we've got to examine all those questions." - To eliminating a $583-Million project to ease woefully insufficient infrastructure at the Blue Water crossing from Sarnia to Port Huron, Michigan - and the President's budget proposal to tax Canadians entering the United-States - The pile of anecdotal evidence seems to point to just one inevitable conclusion: CANADA! Not on the radar screen of crucial re-election issues down south.

Perhaps until the saga of the American 2012 Presidential election plays-out to its conclusion; it would be best for Canada to concentrate on its abundant Cornucopia of northern delights for those American tourists who can still afford to travel "abroad". Ottawa hotels are selling out from a Tourism Commission digital media blitz in the U.S. northeast to promote the "Canada Day" visit of the Royal newlyweds; Prince William and Katherine Middleton. And; Disney Cruise Line has announced that its 2400 passenger ship the "Disney Magic" will make a total of 9 trips (each) to Halifax and Saint John this summer. - There you go!

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Monday, April 4, 2011

 

SHOWDOWN IN PARLIAMENT - REDUX

HARD NEWS, STRAIGHT TALK: Meet the new signature tag for Sun News Network which launches on Monday, April 18th just as the dust begins to settle over next week's televised leaders' debate(s); and 2 weeks to Federal Election day. Pundit, blogger and former Jean Chretien campaign chief Warren Kinsella will assume a starring role over at Sun News as the web's token Liberal. Let it not be said that Quebecor's foray into English language all-news television won't be "fair and balanced" just like America's Fox News on whose template it's being propped.

SCARY EVEN TO LITTLE CHILDREN: Pundit Kinsella opines that the Harper Conservative campaign is flawed from the git-go. Mr. Kinsella has suggested that the Tory attack ads against Michael Ignatieff have been built..."on too many exaggerations, too many out of context quotes and too many falsehoods." And; as electors become increasingly exposed to the reality of the Liberal Leader, the Conservative contradictions become painfully obvious. With the campaign now well under way, Canadians tuning-in have seen that Ignatieff,(perhaps) unlike his predecessor Stephane Dion, isn't nearly as bad as he's been made out to be.

HECK! THE SAME OLD SAME OLD: The "Harper Headed to Majority" headlines have the Prime Minister's handlers fretting that the campaign efforts may be peaking too soon. They've had Mr. Harper launch the week's campaigning assuring his audience in Welland that..."the Conservatives would govern the same with a majority as they have in a minority." Implying that there is no hidden socially conservative agenda. It's the unspoken fear that derailed Mr. Harper's three previous campaigns and eventually scared enough voters away to deny his party a ruling majority.

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING: The Prime Minister has successfully ignored his own suggestion of a "one-on-one" debate with the Liberal Leader. Neither politician is a scintillating spell-binder. Still there's a sense that (...here I hesitate) an American-style debate between the two front-runners would have injected considerable interest into a otherwise moribund campaign. Of course, the downside of a campaign debate moderated by Rick Mercer is that the CBC Comedian and current 'McLean's Magazine' pundit may himself have ended-up being elected Prime-Minister.

WHEN A MAJORITY IS NOT A MAJORITY: In the May 2nd election there are roughly 16-million eligible voters. If (as they say on election night coverage) the trend persists: Perhaps no more than 8-million people will be voting in this Federal Election. Regardless of which party wins on election night...if 40% of votes cast represent the magic majority of seats in Parliament: Under 4-million Canadians could elect the country's first majority government in eleven years. More than 40% of eligible Canadian adults did not bother to vote in 2008, the lowest turnout since Confederation, and there's little indication that next month's election will yield better results. I guess we'll get the government we deserve.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

 

PASSING THE TORCH? NAH! TORCHING THE PAST.

Florida's tourism officials gathered for a conclave in Destin aren't exactly jumping for joy over the prospects for growth in 2011; even as the worst of America's recession and the BP Oil spill (almost a year old) appear behind them.

Canadians have been amongst the most reliable of Florida's long time visitors, but our Snowbird trips outside of the USA have grown by 109% since 1998. In fact the share of the Snowbird trips captured by the United-States fell to 65% in 2009 from almost 70% in the previous ten years. It's not just as a result of the economic downturn and environmental concerns. The more aggressive targeting of Canadians to destinations such as Cuba, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands as well as Spain and Portugal has been especially effective with younger Snowbirds taking shorter more active trips south during Canada's miserable winter months.

Florida's big draw remains two-fold: You can drive there - And despite the overwhelming gun violence stories many Canadians witness on America's television networks; our perception is that it remains a relatively safe destination. In fact in the last couple of years it is reports of Canadian tourists injured or murdered in Mexico which have dominated our own national headlines.

It's likely a sign of our difficult winters. But for a nation of just about 33-Million people, in 2009 Canadians took more than 52-Million trips abroad; and in just about 300 of those they were unfortunately assaulted or killed on their foreign travel(s).

How safe are Canadians abroad and where don't we want to go? Statistics show that out of every 100,000 Canadians who visit India, 7.5 will be assaulted or killed. Jamaica (3.6); Russia (3.2); and Mexico (2.1) are next along the list. Foreign Affairs and International Trade says the United-States (our most popular travel destination) remains the safest. The chance of being assaulted or killed while visiting south of the 49th parallel is pegged at 3 incidents for every 10-million visits. In real terms; in 2009 that consisted of six assaults and seven deaths.

Spring Break is just now wrapped-up. Fast forward to 2012 and police officials envision gun-slinging party goers free to drink alcohol and to display sidearms (pistols) openly. As early as this July, a bill currently working its way through Florida's State Legislature would allow people with weapons' permits to carry guns openly. If enacted, the "open-carry" law will take effect on July first. There are already more than 1-million licensed permit holders "good to go!"

Besides the abominable image of an idiot in a Speedo packing a six-shooter; the Florida Sheriffs' Association has told the Legislature that..."the image of citizens openly carrying firearms in public places could have a negative impact on tourism and the state's economy." Never mind that "spring break" (in particular) means sand, surf and binge drinking for many young visitors. They carry alcohol to the beach; store liquor in their rented rooms and condos; and pound back shots at bars. And; between fake IDs, older friends, and trips to 18+ drinking zones; everyone imbibes...then someone dies.

Critics proclaim that it's not just that Florida's new "Tea-Party" motivated Republican Administration of Governor Rick Scott is passionate about individual freedoms. They say, it is that the current session of the legislative assembly is going way too far in its zeal to divest of its social responsibilities. Further to the troubling "open-carry" gun issue a second bill supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA) would prevent local authorities from enacting city or county by-laws against the State's new gun law. The NRA maintains that local governments (cities/counties) will continue to..."flout state laws with unwarranted gun restrictions without stiffer penalties."

So their companion piece of legislation working its way through the state government, would fine local officials up to $100,000 for enacting local gun or ammunition restrictions that would run counter to the "open carry" state law. One critic described the legislation as having a "chilling effect" on anyone running for local public office. Yes! And perhaps a double-dose of chill on Canadian tourists pondering a visit to Florida after the first of July. I sure hope that Mickey Mouse doesn't plan on packing a six-gun.

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