Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembrance protocol

I was observing the ceremonies today and couldn't quite put my finger on something that was bothering me.  Then it occurred to me - it was how the ceremony to remember the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform places more emphasis on our government than on the veterans, seeing members of the military and their families.

According to the Government of Canada (from http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/get-involved/remembrance-day/guide-to-commemorative-services), the order of precedence for laying wreaths at Remembrance Day ceremonies is as follows:

"Protocol dictates the order in which the wreaths will be laid. According to the Royal Canadian Legion, depending on who is present, the order of precedence is:
  • a representative of the Queen (Governor General, Lieutenant Governor)
  • a representative of the Government of Canada (highest ranking official present)
  • a representative of a provincial government 
  • a representative of a municipal government
  • a Silver Cross Recipient
  • a representative of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • a representative of the Royal Canadian Legion
  • representatives of other organizations and individuals"

This means that the fuckers who send young men and women off to die rank higher in the order of precedence than their parents, surviving comrades and family.  So who is the ceremony really for, then?

Monday, 10 November 2014


According to HuffPost, the Legion hopes that they will set a record with 19 million poppies sold this year.

What I want to know is, who are the 15 million (+/-) Canadians that are NOT buying poppies each year!?!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

CRD Amalgamation

I complained earlier that it was difficult to find information about my local municipal election.  There's a good reason for that - I live in a community of about 16,000 and no one outside really cares, and if they did, they'd still have little ability to affect the outcome.  As a result, media is focused on elections that are newsworthy, and not on who gets to be the glorified community association president mayor for Esquimalt.

However, one issue which is common to all the municipalities in the CRD, and which is present in one form or another for many (but not all) of them, is whether the municipalities should consider amalgamating.  With the lack of coordination that I've learnt is par for the course here, no two municipalities are asking their citizens the same question, but the intent, in general, is to initiate a study on amalgamation.  To me, the benefits of amalgamation are clear, and include (but are not limited to) coordinated planning across the amalgamated municipalities for land use, transportation and servicing, combined services for fire & police, a more significant voice to higher levels of government (both provincial and federal) when seeking policies or funding, the efficiencies that come from a single, larger municipal budget versus several smaller, uncoordinated budgets.  The arguments against amalgamation seem weak to me - there will be no 'loss of identity', and since planning and policies will be made by a single council answerable to the whole of the larger community, there will be no 'bullying' of smaller municipalities, since there won't be smaller municipalities.

If you live in the CRD, please vote to get the conversation on amalgamation started.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


So, today the CBC decided to fire Jian Ghomeshi, the successor to Peter Gzowski.  Earlier this year, they lost the rights to Hockey Night in Canada, which was the CBC's prize broadcast since the 1930s.  CBC has been haemorrhaging staff, both through layoffs and resignations, for months.

You'd almost think there was a conspiracy afloat to destroy Mother Corp.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


I've been reminiscing about Ottawa after following today's news.  The National War Memorial is visible from where I worked in City Hall, and I would often visit it at lunchtime or after work.  I'd see the reservists on guard there and wonder what they were thinking.  My condolences for Cpl Cirillo and his family, friends and regiment.

My deepest respect to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers and the rest of the law enforcement, security and other officers on Parliament Hill and elsewhere in the Capital for rising to the occasion and responding appropriately and with superb professionalism.  We don't often think of the Sergeant at Arms as anything other than a quaint relic of a bygone era, when we see him parade the mace at the opening of Parliament, but with the actions of Mr Vickers today, and those of RenĂ© Jalbert at the Quebec National Assembly in 1984, are evidence of the nature of the men recruited to fill those positions of trust and responsibility.

It was interesting to see twitter feeds from various politicians emerging through the crisis.  I'll admit that my first thoughts on reading some of them included rolling my eyes or raising my eyebrows, but on reflection I now realise that my initial reaction was uncharitable.  Twitter has become an interesting phenomenon, allowing us to read the first, unfiltered thoughts of the writers.  It's interesting to see the information that the twitter writers find most important to share first.

Keep calm and carry on, eh.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Why bomb the Islamic State?

Last week, my friend Daryl posted the following comment on his Facebook page, along with a link to an editorial from the Sun (the Canadian Sun News Network, not any other Sun).  I've decided to share Daryl's question and my response here, and open this conversation up for input from my legion of fans.

Daryl's original comment:

I'm curious. I know I have Left wing friends, and I know I have hawkish left wing friends too who are big on law, order, and good government. Why do you suppose this opposition exists here? Are the Liberals and NDP speaking truly on your behalf? And if so, why would you oppose Canada getting involved in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/whatever they are calling themselves this week? On the surface I understand why my dove left wing friends don't want to get involved, it's way over on the other side of the world and why should Canadian soldiers die for a cause that Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian soldiers should be fighting instead. Sure. Why not. I agree, the weak shouldn't be made to fight, they suck at it. But I don't get my hawkish left wing friends (as I described) being opposed to getting involved.... or is your opposition more of a go big, or don't go at all sort of thing?

I replied as follows:

Hi, Daryl

I saw your request for comments on Canada’s plan to bomb IS in Iraq and possibly Syria from ‘left wing’ friends.  The whole left wing/right wing or wherever on the political spectrum thingie can be somewhat subjective, but I assume that from your perspective I fall in the left wing category, so I’ll take a stab at offering my thoughts on the matter.

I originally thought of posting this to your Facebook timeline, but quickly ruled that out.  I don’t have time to hang out on fb and respond in a timely way to comments on my comments.  I noticed that your commentators were getting belligerent in defending their viewpoints, and it appeared to me that some commentators were deliberately (mis)interpreting comments through the lens of their own biases.  

I may have it wrong here, but it seemed that your initial question was based on a bit of a fallacy, and I certain did not agree with Mr McCullough’s opinion piece.

1.  The Liberals and the NDP are not necessarily pacifists.  These parties supported sending Canadian warplanes to bomb Muammar Qadafi’s forces in Libya a few years back.  I think the opposition to the government’s proposal says much about the government’s heavy handed approach to almost every area of policy since it won a majority of the seats in the House of Commons in 2011.  On this particular issue, the NDP proposed an amendment that was categorically rejected by government MPs before the government’s proposal was put to the vote.  If the government completely rejects suggestions from across the aisle, why should opposition MPs turn around and support the government?  

2.  On to specifics.  The government has decided to send 6 warplanes to provide aerial support to whoever it is on the ground fighting IS. To me, it appears that this is an attempt by the Government of Canada to show that we are going to “do something”, without regard to what “something” is, or if it is effective or (as I suspect) counterproductive.  IS wants Western powers to unite, send in military force which will then kill civilians in their area of control, so they can rant about “crusaders’ coming to get them and create a reason for muslims to rally around the black flag.  Dropping bombs WILL kill civilians - just look at what happens when Israel goes after Hamas.  Certainly to me it seems that we should not fight IS by doing exactly what they want.

3.  Prior to the debate in Parliament, there were reports of Canadian operatives active on the ground in Iraq.  I assume that these operatives were JTF types - and to my mind, JTF, SAS, SEALS, and other special forces are more effective than launching HE munitions from aircraft.  They will support the local fighters on the ground directly, provide training, backup and maybe even a bit of spine to the locals when needed.  They will be better able to distinguish between friend, foe and local farmer/grandma/other civilian.  Better to have SF on the ground than RCAF in the air.

4.  Other than the Kurds and what’s left of the Iraqi army, who is on our side on the ground?  Turkey isn’t involved, yet - they’re not about to support Iraqi Kurds in case it encourages Turkish Kurds.  We can’t distinguish between good Syrian rebels and bad Syrian rebels, and we’re ought not to be supporting Bashir Al-Assad’s forces after condemning them for the past bunch of years.  We’re not ready to make friends with Iran, even though the Iranians are probably more worried about the IS nut bars than we are.  We’re too busy shaking our fists at Russia to make an effort to bring them on side.  Basically, we need allies on the ground, LOCAL allies, and there are far too few of the ‘goods allies in the area  make a difference against IS.

5.  While the Syrian civil war has been raging for years, there has been a massive dislocation of Syrian civilians.  There are HUGE numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.  We can make a meaningful contribution to their lives by providing support, especially in Jordan.  Why not take the money that would otherwise keep 6 CF-18s and 600-odd CF ground and air crew function in their undisclosed location, and use it instead to help these refugees.  It would create more goodwill, both with the refugees (who for the most part just want to go home) and with the countries hosting those refugees (who are our potential allies against IS).

6.  In the meantime, we don’t seem to have a meaningful idea of how we;re going to help the people in West Africa fight Ebola.  We should be sending them support so that this outbreak can be contained there before it spreads.

7.  It seems that IS is recruiting Canadians.  We can do more by tracking Canadians leaving the country - we don’t even interview people leaving Canada which is common practice in other countries - I’ve been interviewed by Immigration officials when leaving Afghanistan, Australia and other countries.  Setting up an exit interview would allow immigration officials to verify that visitors have left the country, and for Canadians leaving, they’d get at least the first destination that potentially radicalized Canadians are visiting, even if these potential jihadis are smart enough not to hand over their entire itineraries.  Extra police work at home can help stem the flow of recruits to IS, which again will be a greater benefit to the battle against them than dropping bombs on cities in Iraq and Syria that IS has occupied.

8.  Legally, what is our basis to go and bomb the crap out of another country?  We have no treaty obligations (unless IS is foolish enough to attack our NATO ally Turkey).  I don’t think that the UN Security Council has addressed this as yet, or even been asked to sanction the activity.  Is it just because IS has issued threats?  Done horrible things?  We’ve ignored horrible behaviour before (Rwanda, Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Sierra Leone, etc) so what makes IS different?

I could keep going, but it’s late, I’m next up for feeding Erik and I need to get some sleep or i won’t be able to keep up with Arthur in the morning.


As you can see, I kind of ran out of steam toward the end.  If anyone cares, I could expand my opinion on any of the items I've presented above, and would be interested in anyone who wishes to refute them.


Municipal elections grrr

BC municipal elections are coming up soon.  i'm trying to get information on candidates and positions for my municipality (Esquimalt), but just about the only municipal election I can get any information on is Toronto's.  FFS.

Friday, 18 July 2014

No time to rant

I've been grumpy about quite a few things lately, but simply haven't been able to find the time to get my thoughts written out.  So, here is a truncated list of ranty subjects:

1.  The Government of Canada is wrong to provide unconditional support to the Government of Israel.  To my mind, Canada lost all credibility on matters related to Israel when they refused to hold Israel responsible for killing Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener in 2006.  Currently, Canada has been vocal about Israel's 'right to defend itself' by bombing the crap out of Gaza.  When I see advanced weapon systems raining down death and destruction on Gaza, I don't see Israel defending itself, I see Israel collectively punishing everyone in Gaza for the actions of Hamas.

2.  The Government of Canada has handed the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to strip Canadian citizenship.  Those who are to be stripped of citizenship have no right to a hearing - the Minister may choose to have a hearing, but the legislation makes it clear that the hearing is at the Minister's discretion.  This means that a politician gets to decide if a Canadian gets their citizenship removed, not a court, not a judge.  Will the Minister this power be used for political advantage?

3.  After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's prostitution laws, the Government of Canada presented a bill to make all forms of prostitution illegal.  The Government's own study indicated that two thirds of respondents felt there should be some legal mechanism for sex workers to exchange their services for money, but the proposed legislation will ban all forms of prostitution.  Because we all know that banning prostitution will make it go away.  

4.  OK, just got interrupted.  More ranting later.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Attack ads - WTF?

I don't own a TV, so I don't watch TV and thus I'm a bit behind the times.  However, last night I went to meet a friend in a pub (that's been a very rare occurrence over the past few years as well, BTW).  I was a few minutes early, so I watched a bit of TSN on the big screen until he arrived.  And lo and behold, there was that infamous Justin Trudeau 'over his head' ad.

There is no federal election campaign on right now.  The next election is over a year away (unless our dear leader decides to change the rules again).  So why is the CPC running campaign-style ads attacking the character of a prominent Member of Parliament?  This is just wrong.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Temporary Foreign Workers

I’ve been reading on and off over the past year about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) programme.  Everything I learn about the programme makes me question why Canada not only allows it but encourages employers to use it.

My understanding of the programme is that it allows Canadian employers to recruit foreigners where Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available, for example in the case of situations like agricultural enterprises, where employers will need a large labour force for a short period of time in the autumn.  The TFW programme allows employers to take advantage of an international migrant workforce to bring in the harvest cheaply.  I also understand that TFW is used for musicians and other performers to allow them to get paid for their performances.  All well and good (if exploitive, in the case of agricultural workers), and limited to a few weeks employment (that is, temporary).

However, many of the current TFW employers are recruiting for positions that are not temporary, such as workers in restaurants (especially fast-food restaurants) and retail operations.  The employers claim that they are unable to find Canadian workers for the wages that they are prepared to offer, and on that basis are able to obtain a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) that will allow them to import workers via TFW.

I guess the argument in favour of the LMOs is that what is good for the employer is good for the economy, and that overall, Canada will benefit.  I don’t see it that way.  I see that employers are able to employ workers for lower wages than are available in the local market.  This allows them to provide downward pressure on the wages that are offered overall.  Instead of Smith’s so-called invisible hand balancing out the workers’ need for a living wage with the employers’ need for affordable business costs (wages paid), employers get to choose what they will pay, and effectively get to tilt the whole balance in their favour as they can go elsewhere for low-cost workers if local workers don’t bend to their demands.

Participants in the TFW often get lower pay and far fewer benefits than their Canadian counterparts.  They are not motivated to participate in the community, as they are temporary and will depart as soon as their contracts end.  They are instead motivated to conserve as much income as possible, live as cheaply as possible, and in general minimize the amount that they spend in the community, whether through rents, purchasing food or other goods or entertainment.  As they are paid less, their payroll taxes are less.  Generally, they take income out of the community almost as much as if their work itself was outsourced.

However, at the same time that the TFW workers are taking from the community, they are generally living uncomfortable lives.  Anecdotal evidence is that living conditions involve overcrowded living conditions and little access or even understanding of potential benefits.  On top of this, the workers are quite vulnerable, as many do not understand their rights, and even if they do, they may fear to stand up to employers for fear of termination.  There are certainly credible stories available of widespread abuse of foreign workers.

To the powers that be - please stop giving LMOs for permanent positions.  If an employer wants workers for his fast food restaurant or to stock the shelves at his retail shop, let him compete for workers - by offering a fair wage to workers already in Canada, not by exporting the work overseas.

And I don't even want to get started on this:


Canadian Army new rank insignia revisited

I've finally seen an image of what the new/old Canadian Army officers' rank insignia will look like, and I have to admit that I am underwhelmed.  The most obviously flaw is that majors and warrant officers will both have the same insignia - except, of course, that the WO will have a LARGER crown.  If I were still in, I'd probably start saluting WOs just to stir up trouble (sorry, warrant, I thought you were a major!).  They've also eliminated the maple leaves from the general officers insignia.  To me that's very disappointing - the maple leaf pips were distinctly Canadian, but left little room for confusion as to general officer grade, even with our allies.  

Oh, well, I guess we're stuck with it.  Next up - revert to RAF ranks and insignia for the air force?  What ho, jolly squiffing good time, I say there pilot officer, eh?  Rather, wing commander, bally Gerry pranged his kite in the how's your father and now squadron leader Biggles bought the farm, what?  Progress, ya gotta love it.