Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Visions of Canada 2010

Here are a few of our visions of Canada from 2010.  Enjoy :)

visions of Canada 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

RMR: A Message Regarding Food Safety

Like many Canadians we are quite concerned over our food safety.  Just recently in the new there are food recalls over botulism and listeria but this seems to be a growing concern.  As Canadians we are being taxed more and yet a basic necessity as food is not safe simply because we do not have enough food inspectors that are paid for through our tax dollars?  From this Canadian's perspective perhaps some of our government officials should nix their $1,000 per plate dinners in favour of more food inspectors to ensure all in Canada have access to safe, contaminate free foods.  Here is my favourite Canadian funny man, Rick Mercer driving home the point that our Canadian food inspectors are not taking the necessary measures to ensure food safety in Canada.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Toronto Dubbed the Most Miserable City in Canada

A recent study by the Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards has found that Toronto is the most miserable city in Canada1.  Apparently Toronto ranks rather low on the happiness scale, scoring 4.15 out of 5.  Reasons stated for the low happiness score was a lower sense of belonging to local communities combined with a higher stress level.

The results of this study has me scratching my head, pondering.  From this Canadian's perspective, Toronto is my favourite city.  About the only negative thing to say about Toronto that I can come up with is lay off the horns!  Seriously honking the horn the way many do in Toronto is down right impolite.  I think the study missed the little pockets of local communities within Toronto as well.  It is quite reasonable to expect the stress level to increase somewhat in any city but the stress level can be quite high in small, rural communities as well.  Just try to get decent, high speed internet service in rural Canada and you will see your stress level superseding that of city living!  To brand Toronto as the most miserable city in Canada is really a bit unfair!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Farewell Leslie Nielsen

It is with great sadness to hear that Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away on Novemeber 28, 2010 at the age of 84.  While he was in more than 100 films he is best know for his role as a hapless doctor in Airplane (1980) and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun comedies.

RIP Leslie and thanks so much for all the chuckles.  Your legacy will live on...

Friday, November 26, 2010

RMR - Front Page November 23, 2010

Given the recent political nonsense in Canada a bit of humour is needed.  Here is the video clip of Rick Mercer's Front Page.  Enjoy the chuckle!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Elections BC Rejects HST Petition

Elections BC rejected the application for recall in the suburban Victoria riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head, saying it contains too many words1.  They ruled that HST and MLA are not two word but rather eight resulting in the petition exceeding the 200-word allotment.

From this Canadian's perspective, give me a break!  The acronyms HST and MLA are part of the Canadian vocabulary.  Insisting these acronyms are eight words rather than two is about as anal as acting chief electoral officer Craig James can get.  This tactic crosses the line to political interference.  This is indeed a sorry state of affairs for Canadian politics!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

British Columbian Court to Begin Hearins on Polygamy Laws

Winston Blackmore and James Oler, leaders of an obscure fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, British Columbia have the province in a quandary.  This religious group practices polygamy, meaning to have more than one wife.  Blackmore has 19 wives and more than 100 children while Oler has three wives according to police and more than 50 of Oler's followers are in polygamous relationships.  he question has become is polygamy a crime or is it protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a sacred religious practice.  According to Vancouver-based constitutional lawyer Ron Skolrood the issue is much broader than Bountiful with implications that could affect a range of issues from the definition of marriage to how prospective immigrants with multiple wives should be treated1.  This case is expected to reach the Supreme Court of Canada.

From this Canadian's perspective there are a few issues revealed by this particular case.  The morality of polygamy or it's opposite polyandry (having more than one husband) is a cultural norm in some societies. In fact a study by Ford and Beach (1951) found that monogamy is a rarity in primitive cultures.  Setting aside the morality issues envolked by the issue of polygamy these types of 'marriages' can afford a certain advantage.  However, in a modern society such as in Canada these types of 'marriages' can raise a number of issues especially when it comes to the rights of the children, government pensions and marital rights involved from such unions.  One theory is polygamy harms women and children, as well as society as a whole.  There is evidence that men and boys are driven out of the community to reduce competition, leaving child brides for the older men.  The main Mormon religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) officially ended the practice of polygamy in 1890 but fringe break-off groups have kept the practice.  Polygamy is recognized and even encouraged in some countries so at some point Canada will have to make a ruling as immigrants may wish to continue living in a polygamous relationship.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts and how the ruling will affect new immigrants to Canada.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ontario Verses Energy Conservation

Originally the TOU electricity pricing came into effect in Ontario as a way for foster energy conservation.  The concept was rather simple that by shifting certain electricity uses to off-peak hours it would lessen the strain on the aging electrical grid in Ontario as well as to help phase in green sources of energy.  On the surface all this sounds quite lovely until you start analyzing it.  On July 1 the HST went into effect raising hydro rates by 8% that when combined with the new TOU pricing saw our hydro rates rise 17%.  Public outcry has caused the Ontario government to announce the Ontario Green Energy Benefit that will give a rebate of 10% on hydro bills.  Essentially what this means is even with the rebate our hydro bills have gone up 7%.  Announced at the same time was hydro rates in Ontario will continue rising 7.6% per year for the next five years or a projected 46% increase.

Let's look at this in terms of energy conservation.  Those with money will continue on as normal unless they are looking to moving towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.  Hydro One suggests doing laundry and running the dishwasher during off-peak hours which effectively will save 5¢ per washer load and 17¢ per dishwasher load neither of these are really going to save any real money.  One of the problems is with TOU it has essentially directed folks to over use electricity during off-peak hours while limiting use dure mid-peak and on-peak hours.  The problem is off-peak winter hours cost 5.1¢ per kWh compared to when the TOU pricing was first proposed where off-peak hours would be 4.2¢ and higher than our previous winter rate of 4.6% so essentially even on off-peak hours we are paying more for our electricity per kWh, 17% more!

Is Ontario meeting the goal of fostering energy conservation?

No, and the reason for this is they have failed to educate those in Ontario how to effectively save electricity.  Simply switching electricity use to use as much as possible during off peaks hours does nothing.  If anything the announced rebate does more damage than good because many will see the 10% rebate without realizing they are still paying 7.6% per year more on electricity.  The Ontario government is not really working towards getting people into using solar alternatives rather than electricity and that is because it is not in the best interest of the Ontario government who runs Hydro One.  So encouraging folks to switch electricity usage to off-peak hours is still making them money.   They even announced earlier this year that they would no longer be honouring the promised 84¢ per kWh generated by farmers enrolled in the microFIT program.  This is a program where farmers or residential owners install solar panels via a low interest loan to feed electricity back into the grid. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Depressing Time to Live in Ontario

This certainly has to be one of the most depressing times since I can remember to live in Ontario.  During the Ontario's Fall Economic Update on November 18, 2010 a  10 per cent rebate program (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit) for all portions of electricity bills was announced.  Given that since the HST went into effect our hydro has increased by 17% this was welcomed news for many.  However, the hope for affordable hydro rates were dashed when it was revealed that hydro rates will increase by 46 per cent over the next five years according to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.  I guess the good news is the debt retirement charge from the old Ontario Hydro will be finally removed from bills in 2015.  Well guess what?  The debt from the old Ontario Hydro was created through government mismanagement and since we the taxpayers pay the government, apparently we the taxpayers have to pay again due to government mismanagement.  The contract with Teranet (operates the province's electronic land registry) was extended another 50 years to the benefit of the Liberal government.  Really it is another Highway 407 type of deal with short term benefits to the government but long term consequences to Ontarians.

The Liberal party in Ontario are clearly trying to buy votes for next fall's election but I doubt Ontarians will fall for this tactic.  By next fall the full effect of the HST will have been felt by families who can no longer afford many luxuries like home heating and electricity.  While Duncan says there are clear signs of Ontario's economic recovery he fails to address the growing food insercurity and homeless issues in Ontario.

I think it is rather rich that the Ontario government at one point actually said they were trying to foster a sense of frugality in Ontario.  Excuse me!  The common Joe has now alternative but to practice frugality otherwise they cannot survive.  That means turning down the temperature, eating less meat, using less electricity, going without and using whatever means possible to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.  Yet members of the Ontario government have absolutely not problem sitting down to $1,000 per plate dinner?  How exactly is that being frugal?  How can they possibly justify spending taxpayers' dollars on a $1,000 per plate meal when some taxpayers can even afford 49¢ for an extra tin of soup?  How can they justify it when some taxpayers have to make the choice between food or utilities?

In the end our elected officials, the very same ones we pay through our tax dollars care diddly about the voter until it comes to election time.  Then the will make promises like McGuinty's "no new taxes" only to break that promise as soon as elected.  Do they care if Ontarians shop outside of Ontario, vacation outside of Ontario, or even live in Ontario.  Honestly I think they are hell bent on driving folks out of Ontario then taxing the snot out of anyone left in Ontario simply to line their greedy pockets.

It is time for the Ontario government to practice the frugality they spout off about.  If they stayed within their budget that would be one thing.  How about giving up some of the high pay cheques, expensive dinners and excessive perks that go along with being a politician?  How about if you can't afford it, don't do it.  How about for one start giving the people of Ontario true value for what they are paying for?  Premier Dalton McGuinty is so out of touch with the taxpayers it is pathetic.  We are indeed living in very dark and depressing times in Ontario!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Personal Impact of the HST

The HST came into effect on July 1, 2010 combining the 5% GST (federal) and 8% PST (provincial).  Previously 17% of consumer goods and services (eg. lawyers fees, real estate commissions, internet, electricity, natural gas, gasoline, hair cuts, public transportation, motel rooms etc) were PST exempt.  The HST has added 8% in tax to these goods and services.  On a personal level the added 8% on just internet, electricity and natural gas has increased our annual cost of living by $230.72.  We live in a rural area so must buy gasoline if we want to go anywhere which has added at least $8 per week to our cost of living ($416 per year).  So between four necessities of modern life our cost of living has risen by $646.72 per year.  If we sell our house for the price we want, we will pay $2.047.50 HST on the commission paid to the real estate agent plus HST on lawyers fees and land transfer fees to purchase another home, basically using up a good chunk of our equity.  If we do any repairs or maintenance on our home to help it sell we will pay HST on materials and any labour.

How are we coping with the HST?

We are shopping outside of Ontario as much as possible.  I'm sorry but with the added 8% we can no longer afford to buy gasoline in Ontario or anything else we don't have to including materials needed for home repair and maintenance.  We are currently looking at a way to get internet service outside of Ontario and since truckers are able to get internet service outside of Ontario we feel it is quite possible to do so.  Rather than purchase a cottage in Ontario with all the associated HST costs of acquisition, upkeep, utilities, and commuting to, we purchased a vacation home outside of Ontario with no HST costs.  While we were always the DIY type, we now refuse to hire anyone for repairs and maintenance.  We are slowly making the conversion over to solar and this is slowed because out house is on the market but we intend the next house to be fully solar as far as electricity to simply eliminate buying hydro entirely which in turn eliminates any hydro related HST.  We are buying the components for our solar system as we can afford them outside of Ontario.  We are also intending to switch over to solar water heating that will eliminate part of our natural gas costs.

What are my thoughts on the HST?

I'm very much against the HST!  The HST is a poorly designed tax with the sole purpose of hurting people when they are already down due to the current economic downfall.  It is nothing more than an extremely greedy tax grab on the part of the McGuinty government.  The HST adds tax to essentials that living in Ontario you cannot do without - electricity, gasoline and home heating fuel.  I fail to see why we have to pay another $2,000 in tax on the sale of our house when we already pay through the nose in taxes for owning a home.  I think this was a real eye opener realizing that the McGuinty government would get an additional $2,000 in tax out of the equity we have worked so hard to build up in our home.  Let's face it one of the reasons we want to move is to reduce the commute, reduce our house taxes and reduce the amount of HST we have to pay where we are now.  This really is not a good time to be selling a house in Ontario!

The people of Ontario are not stupid.  They can see all of the backpedaling McGuinty is doing.  Short term rebates of giving voters back money that is rightfully theirs in the first place will not sway their votes come election time.  Dalton McGuinty should do the graceful thing and step down like British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell did.  The funny thing is no one in the Liberal party wants to take over Campbell's postition so clearly even they realize what a hot potato the HST is and how much the voters are against it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Canadian Firms Face US Fraud Charges

Direct Financial Management (director David D. Richards) of Mississauga, Ontario and Elite Financial Group of Oakville, Ontario are facing a variety of fraud-related charges in the U.S. after authorities shut down an alleged scam that took close to $13 million from 13,000 consumers1.  Each company is facing eight count including misrepresentation in advertising, marketing and promotion; violations of the telemarketing sales rule; failing to provide refunds; violating the do-not-call registry; and using pre-recorded robocalls.  Both companies promised consumers relief from high interest rates for a fee of $995 charged immediately to their credit card.  The companies would place a three-way call to the consumer's credit card company requesting a lower interest rate but typically the answer was no.  Although consumers had been promised refunds if they did not get a lower interest rate, few got them.  Business assets have been frozen.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is trying shut down the businesses while the Ontario's Attorney General has filed suit against the Canadian principals to help recover money owed to the consumers involved in the fraud. 

From this Canadian's perspective, this type of thing is nothing new.  It's just a more refined way of scam artists targetting easy victims.  The problem is with the current economic downturn there are many more easy desperate victims trying to survive.  Normal, hard working folks with a debt ratio in line with their income have suddenly found out that losing a job can quickly put them into desperate mode as they look for more ways to save money.  A promise of a savings of $2,500 in interest if they paid $995 immediately on their credit card looks rather good, doesn't it?  A few things strike me as interesting about this whole ordeal.  First off the consumers themselves bear responsibility in allowing themselves to be ripped-off.  True desperate people are more vulnerable to fraud but if something sounds too good to be true it likely is.  Second, the credit card companies should have recognized this as a scam and refused payment.  Quite often if a suspicious attempted charge it made against a credit card, the credit card company will call the card holder to confirm the charge and they usually will put a hold on the card to prevent further charges until they can speak with the card holder.  Third, several agencies were involved with this fraud investigation including the FTC, Ontario's Attorney General, RCMP, Toronto Police Fraud Squad, Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services.  Who's missing in the investigation that should have been involved?  The CRTC allowed this telemarketing scam to continue without ever stepping in.  It even allowed the scam to cross over into the US.  We personally had several phone calls from these telemarketers despite being on Canada's National Do Not Call Registry (DNCR).  We finally ended up adding them to our phone feature call block.  The CRTC had the power to not only shut these  telemarketing scammers down they also had the power to impose fines for continuing to contact people on the DNCR.  Who else is missing?  The credit card companies themselves.  You can't tell me they did not recognize this scam!  They should have raised the red flag right from the first credit card charge that led to a phone call asking them to reduce the interest rate and when they said no the other party just said thanks for the payment.  Who else is missing?  The phone company (likely Bell Canada) would have started receiving complaints when the first consumer realized they had been taken for $995.  There's no doubt that the phone company helped in the investigation but when did they start acting?  Once they had more than one complaint they should have been investigating internally and raising the red flag.  The phone company needs to send a strong message to these telemarketing scammers by charging them for the fraudulent use of phone services if only to serve as a warning to other wanna-be telemarketing scammers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

HST Impact in Ontario and British Columbia

The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) has had more of an impact on Ontario and British Columbia than was expected.  British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell resigned as a direct result of voter unpopularity of the HST.  Many are feeling the added pinch in higher prices.  It is affecting an already soft real estate market in Ontario.  It is affecting the way we shop, where we shop and how we go about our daily lives.  Here is a recent video Federal Research Director Derek Fildebrandt being interviewed on the impact of the HST in Ontario and British Columbia.

From a personal Canadian perspective we have our house on the market.  Do you know if we sell that we pay HST on the real estate commission which means the Ontario government ends ups with over $2,000 of our very hard earned equity?  Let's see we pay taxes to live here, taxes to support local schools, taxes for any repairs and maintenance, taxes on our utilities but that is not good enough?  Now the McGuinty government has to grab into the equity we have built up in our house!  In addition to that our hydro bill has increased by $8, our cruddy internet service by $7 even though our tax dollars paid for a grant to get decent internet service to our areas and the CRTC says we have to pay 100% for 40% service, our gas bill has increased by $8 and on average we pay $20 extra on vehicle gas.  You know what that stupid rebate they send is not doing anything to cover the costs of the HST!  When the people of Ontario realize that hopefully McGuinty will be doing the same thing Campbell did.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Windsor, Ontario Balks at Urban Chickens Proposal

There has been a growing movement across North America to allow residents to keep a small number of chickens in their urban backyards.  I blogged about the great backyard chicken debate a few months ago.  Backyard chickens make a lot of sense as more Canadians face hunger and food insecurity.  As a result more and more municipalities are faced with the decision whether to allow backyard chickens and if so what restrictions to put into place.  In order to allow, disallow or place restrictions on backyard chickens each municipality must pass a bylaw.  This can take a bit of time as passing a bylaw must follow the proper channels before it can come into effect.

Residents of Windsor, Ontario have hit a snag with the possibility of having backyard chickens because city council has simply refused to set up a committee to study the issue.  "Council decided at its Monday meeting to defer the matter indefinitely"1.  Councillor Drew Dikens when asked said "In reality here there were a handful of people who thought that having chickens running around the backyard of homes in Windsor was an [excellent] idea. However, I felt that having our administration spend time on building a bylaw and enforcing a bylaw in this regard was just clucking ridiculous."  Steve Green is the resident behind the backyard chicken movement in Windsor.  He did not attend the council meeting because he was led to believe Council would be establishing a committee to study the issue.

What really happened here is Windsor City Council was able to put off the issue of backyard chickens indefinitely because there was not representation from the backyard chicken movement in Windsor.  The system is set up so that residents can have a say in those municipal decisions that affect them but only if they attend council meetings to make their voice heard.  Had Steve Green attended the council meeting armed with a bit of community support via other residents in person and a signed petition as well as a bit of well thought out documentation supporting the feasibility of backyard chickens in Windsor, the Council would have been forced to deal with the issue. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day 2010

[Note: This is a repost from my personal blog, My Journey. It was originally posted on November 11, 2008. While I have modified the note I have kept the original contents of the post intact.  This will be the third year that I've used this wonderful video tribute to the fine men and women that serve our country.  Not only do they keep us safe they act as amazing Canadian ambassadors helping to maintain peace home and abroad as well as serving in a humanitarian capacity.  Please take a moment to watch the video and ponder the price so many have paid and continue to pay to make Canada the great nation that it is.]

I come from a strong military family with ancestors that were instrumental in shaping the history of Canada. I grew up surrounded by relatives who had fought for this country. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice and while they are no longer here they live forever in our memories. If this video does not bring tears to your eyes, nothing will. On the 11
th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we honour our fallen with 2 minutes silence from shore to shore of our great nation, Canada. Please join our nation in showing our respect and how thankful we are for enjoying the freedom they fought so hard for.

Remembrance Day Tribute
courtesy of
Global TV Edmonton

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flying a Canadian Flag is Against Homeowner's Association Rules

Brian and Linda-Lee Cassidy of Belle River, Ontario have been asked by the Cooper's Mill Retirement Community homeowners' association to take down their Canadian flag1.  According to the homeowners' association "no additions or substitutions are permitted to the exterior of homes without permission".  The Cassidys along with another resident Charles Strong refuse to take down their flags.  Residents across the street are calling the flags trailer trashy and the homeowners' association have received letters of complaint from other residents.  In the meantime the Cassidys and the homeowners' association are at a stalemate with respect to the flags.

From this Canadian's perspective this has to be one of the sadest things I have heard yet!  I am thoroughly discusted at this display on anti-patriotism.  Every Canadian citizen should have the right to properly display our national flag.  No one including a homeowners' association should have the right to prevent a Canadian citizen from properly flying our national flag.  The residents in the Cooper's Mill Retirement Community who are complaining over the Canadian flag being flown in a Canadian community ought to be very, very ashamed of themselves.  How dare they refer to flying our flag as looking trailer trashy!  Any Canadian living in Canada who has the audacity to refer to our flag as trailer trashy or complain because another Canadian shows their patriotism by flying the Canadian flag should move to another country.  Perhaps then they would quickly realize a greater appreciation what the Canadian flag stands for and of the ultimate sacrifice so many have made to ensure the rights and freedoms in our great country.  Better yet, I hope they attend tomorrow's Remberance Day services so they can get a good idea of exactly how trailer trashy our Canadian flag looks when being proudly displayed by those who have served and continue to serve our country.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Air Canada Fined for Price Fixing

Air Canada along with 10 other airlines has been fined by the European Union for price fixing and faced similar charged in Canada and the United States.  Charges were dropped against 11 other carriers and one consultancy for lack of proof they participated in the cartel.   According the European Commission those fined "co-ordinated their action on surcharges for fuel and security without discounts" between December 1999 and February 2006, when the EU's investigation stopped the cartel1.  As a result of the European Commission intervention the cartel ended in 2006.  Air Canada was fined €21 million, the equivalent of $29.1 million.  While the EU cannot lay criminal charges against these companies including Air Canada it has not been ruled out whether the individual countries will charge the companies criminally.

From this Canadian's perspective, this is indeed a black mark on Air Canada that reflects rather poorly on Canada.  We live in the information age.  Did Air Canada not think they would be caught participating in the price fixing cartel?  Obviously whoever gave the go ahead did not think of the possible outcome from a price fixing scheme.  Either that or they just didn't care!  Without a doubt the decision was one made without considering social responsibility.  Those making this type of decision to participate in a scummy, price fixing scheme should be held legally responsible in addition to the fines levied at Air Canada.  Perhaps a bit of accountability would help to prevent this type of thing from happening in futured!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Breech In Air Canada Security

image courtesy of Canada Border Services Agency  (CBSA)
November 7, 2010

My gosh!  Apparently a young Asian man boarded an Air Canada plane in Hong Kong disguised as an elderly Caucasian man and actually managed to get into Canada!  The Canada Border Services Agency was tipped off because a stewardess on board the plane thought this person's hand looked too young for his age.  The individual was arrested after the flight landed in Vancouver on Oct. 29 and pictures of the man were released by Canada Border Services.  The man did claim refugee status and there is some speculation as to whether the person used a fake US passport to board the plane or had somebody else's passport or there had been inauthentic identification.

Well of course this individual supposedly entering our country under false pretenses already has a bleeding heart lawyer crying out invasion of privacy.  Apparently the person in question could also be at risk to personal harm in China which from this Canadian's perspective doesn't make a lot of sense since he is safely under lock and key in Canada awaiting legal identification.  At any rate the Canada Border Services Agency is now investigating not only the masked man himself but also how news of this leaked out to the media.  Now, given today's standard of social media and cell phones capable of taking pictures, I really do think the CBSA needs to go back to sluthing 101.  I'm pretty sure those pictures were released into cyberspace well before the man in question even got off the plane.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hydro One's Midtown Toronto Project

The Hydro One's Midtown Toronto Project is an electricity infrastructure renewal program between Hydro One Networks Inc. (Hydro One)  and Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited (Toronto Hydo).  This joint project will refurbish the existing 115 kilovolt (kV) transmission infrastructure serving the midtown corridor running from the Leaseide Transformer Station via Birch Junction to Bridgman Transformer station that was originally built in the 1920's.  The first undergound cable in along this corridor was laid in the 1950's.  The upgrade will ensure electrical power to Toronto's midtown area.  Here is a good video that explains it a bit further.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

BC Premier Gordon Campbell Announces His Resignation

The Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell announced his resignation as premier yesterday in a special press conference. He cited voter hatred and his quickly dwindling popularity due to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) that went into effect in British Columbia and Ontario on July 1, 2010. It will be interesting to see what the fall out from his resignation will be. One can only hope that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty with his multitude of greedy tax grabs follows suit!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PotashCorp Possible Takeover

Federal Industry Minister, Tony Clement will announce later today whether a proposed hostile takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan by Australian-based BHP Billiton will be allowed.  The announcement is expected after 4:30 pm at the close of the North American stock markets.  Saskatchewan is dead set against a foreign takeover with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall hinted he will consider challenging the federal government if Clement approves the hostile takeover. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Canadian Postal Codes

The Canadian postal code system was introduced by Communications Minister Eric Kierans in  February of 1970 although a numbered zone coding system had been in use in some major Canadian cities to varying degrees since 1925.  Toronto was the first Canadian city to use a numbered zone and the system spread to other major cities in 1940.  The new 6-digit postal code was rolled out over a four year period starting in the test city of Ottawa and the rest of Canada by the end of 1974.  The new postal code system allowed Canada Post to speed up and simplify the flow of mail in Canada.  The union held a protest of the new postal code system asking for a boycott and ensuring any mail without postal codes received priority treatment.  The boycott was called off in February of 1976.

The Canadian postal code system is comprised of 6 digits in two groups of three separated by a space.  The format is letter, number, letter space number, letter, number.  The letters are capitalized.  The first three digits is the Forward Sortation Area (FSA) and the last three digits are the Local Distribution Unit (LDU).  Canada is broken into postal code districts  which is the first letter of the FSA.  The code district begins with A (Newfoundland Labador) and moving westward from the Maritime provinces through the alphabet.  So any postal code beginning with P is northern Ontario while R is Manitoba.  The LDU represents a range of addresses within that unit for hand delivery.  One side of the street may have a different LDU than the other side depending on the location.

Mail not address correctly with the postal code is returned asundeliverable.  As a result a large number of letters to Santa were returned.   In 1983 the Santa Clause letter response program was initiated with the special postal code H0H 0H0.  Canada Post has hard copy and online resources for easily looking up Canadian postal codes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alberta Will Sue Tobacco Companies

Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford announced the province's intentions to file a statement of claim against tobacco companies within the next 12 months on Monday (October 25, 2010).  This brings the count to four Canadian provinces filing a lawsuit against the tobacco industry to help recover some of the health-care costs of treating smokers.  Provinces that have already filed lawsuits are British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick1.

My gosh, from this Canadian's perspective this really does open up a whole can of worms!  While the tobacco industry is responsible to some degree for advertising and glorifying the use of tobacco products they cannot be held solely responsible for the use of those products.  Tobacco products have been in use in Canada well before Canada's confederation, well before tobacco companies were established and quite frankly if all the tobacco companies went out of business the use of tobacco products would continue.   Individuals have the responsibility to make informed decisions as to what products they will or will not use.  The warnings against using tobacco products have been out for more than a couple of decades and yet that doesn't stop people from using them.  The taxes have been increasing on tobacco products driving the price upwards and that doesn't stop people from using them.

In short the provinces should not be going after just the tobacco industry.  They should be seeking a way of holding tobacco users accountable for their use of tobacco products AND they should specifically target those who have in any way affected the health of others through exposure to their secondary tobacco smoke.  To play devil's advocate here another thing to consider is just exactly what are these provinces going to do if they suddenly find themselves not getting the tobacco tax revenue?  Well you can bet your bottom dollar that they will come after the taxpayers to recover that loss.  They will come after the taxpayers to cover the costs of the actual lawsuits that will likely be very long, very drawn out and very costly.  It doesn't help that the cards are stacked in favour of the tobacco industry as well.  Lawsuits will not be effective at getting those who smoke to quit or prevent those who don't smoke from starting either.

This is one battle the provinces involved would be well advised to not even tackle.  The money would be better spent on smoking educational programs especially at an earlier age, smoking cessation programs, more smoking bans, higher medical insurance premiums for smokers and any other way possible to discourage smoking.  Lawsuits are not the answer in this case!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tim Hortons is in the News

Tim Hortons, the Canadian iconic coffee-and-donut shop chain is in the news.  They are teaming up with the North West Company to open three kiosks in Nunavut's capital city, Iqaluit.  It is one of the last places in Canada to have a Tim Hortons.  Apparently Tim Hortons fans on daily flights from Ottawa to Iqaluit were bringing back dozens of donuts.  That is good news for Iqaluit if you don't take into consideration the environmental impact of Tim Hortons' disposable cups and increased litter.  Tim Hortons say their disposable cups are now recyclable or can be composted however Iqaluit lacks the necessary recycling and composting facilities.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Missing Canada

We often vacation outside of Canada and we own a vacation home outside of Canada so we have ample opportunity to compare the Canadian way of doing things to what we see outside of Canada.  Let me say there are so very many things I miss about Canada when away.  Some things seem small but others honestly are big in my books.  I'm used to being accused of having a Canadian accent which apparently I do have even though I don't think I have one.  I seriously miss some of our native cuisine and the way just something as simple as cottage cheese tastes.  One of the biggest things I miss is our Canadian manners.  I'm serious I really miss the politeness.  What the heck is wrong with saying please, thank-you and using other civilities?    I honestly cannot believe the rest of the world has not heard of these terms.    Oh and I will go that extra mile to say if I hear the term y'all one more time, I will have a serious problem ever traveling outside of Canada again.  I'm not kidding!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mounted Police in Canada

By far the most recognized mounted police in Canada and a true Canadian icon is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) often referred to as the Mounties.  The RCMP is the federal police force that has jurisdiction Canada wide.  There are several RCMP detachments throughout Canada with a total of 28,700 officers over 15 districts. However, other municipalities across Canada have regional or municipal mounted police.

The Niagara Regional Police Service (NPRS) Mounted Unit serves the Niagara region. There are four trained mounted police in the NPRS Mounted Unit that act as ambassadors at special events while providing effective policing within the community.  Other mounted police units across Canada include:

  • Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit
  • Halifax Regional Police Mounted Patrol (2 horses) 
  • Montreal City Police Service Cavalry (11 horses, 10 officers)
  • Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit (25 horses, 45 officers)
  • Vancouver Police Department Mounted Squad (9 horses, 7 officers)
  • Victoria Police Department Mounted Patrol

There was a large presence of mounted police at the G20 in Toronto, Ontario that included members from several mounted units including the RCMP.  While the mounted police do perform the role of ambassadors their effectiveness at controlling the rioting that broke out during G20 Summit in June was quite evident.  The mounted units are used for crowd control during demonstrations as well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

RMR: Longism

In recent Canadian news the focus has been the long gun registry and the long census form.  Once again Rick Mercer turns politics into a bit of humour.  He really is a national treasure! It looks like the entire showing would have been a good laugh from all the video clips.  Unfortunately I did not get to see it.  At any rate, in his ultimate way of explaining all things pertaining to Canadian politics, here is his take on the Conservative Longism.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

RMR - Region Against Region Rant September 28, 2010

Oh my gosh, it would appear that the Rick Mercer Report was a good one on September 28 and I missed it! His rants are usually pretty good and they do present very valid viewpoints.  This is an excellent rant based on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's comments on Canadian regions in follow-up to Cabinet Minister's John Baird's recent comments on the long gun registry vote.  Harper actually went on the news to "say the people of the regions of Canada will not stand for this".  This statement alone shows that Harper views Canada not as a nation united but as one made up of regions, something that has been quite apparent in much of his decision making.  He really is not working towards Canada as a nation and that is what is making him ineffective as a Prime Minister.  Here is Rick's rant on the regions statement.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

RMR: Front Page September 28, 2010

Canadians in general love to poke fun at other Canadians and why not because a good sense of humour is a Canadian tradition.  Heck when our land is covered with snow a good portion of the year a sense of humour goes a long ways to making life pleasant.  Poking a bit of fun at other Canadians is more than acceptable but poking fun at Canadian politician, well now, that is a must do.  Keeping the Canadian constituents happy is why our politicians are so gracious in providing ample opportunity for us to poke fun at them.  It's the Canadian way.  Here is a recent clip from my favourite Canadian funny man, Rick Mercer.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Tribute to Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from 20 April 1968 to 4 June 1979.  He served again from 3 March 1980 to 30 June 1984.  He was one of the best Prime Ministers Canada has ever had.  He is know for establishing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian constitution.  Here is a wonderful tribute to some of his many, many achievements!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Melting Pot verses A Mosaic

Many Americans feel there is little difference between Canada and the United States.  That simple is not the case.  Canadian societal beliefs are significantly different from Americas and that can easily be demonstrated by the way both countries treat immigrants.  This is a fundamental difference between the two countries.  It shapes the way Canadians view the world, how we interact as a society and how the world views Canada as a nation.

The American way for immigration is often referred to as the great melting pot.  This idealism is well engrained into American society.  New immigrants are expected to blend in by adapting the culture and language of the USA.  Assimilation is key!  There is one official language and that is English although by some standards that can be debated.  Many areas in the US speak one of a number of English slang dialects.  In many ways being unique and keeping the homeland culture is discourage.  This is typically unsuccessful in the home environment but to succeed in the USA you need to learn the language and adapt.  Once you are fully immigrated the homeland identity is lost by the addition of American to just about every nationality possible.  Let's say you immigrated from China, the correct term after becoming a legalized American is American Chinese.  The American addition to the homeland identity serves as a reminder that you are now American not Chinese.

The Canadian approach to immigration is often referred to as a mosaic.  New immigrants are expected to embrace what Canada has to offer, become good citizens yet are encouraged to keep their ethnicity. In many ways Canada can be seen as a huge quilt made up of many pieces (cultures) and stronger than the sum of its parts.  Native peoples in Canada are not referred to as Canadian Indians, they are called First Nations, Innuit or Métis depending on which Aboriginal group they belong to.  Those immigrating to Canada often move to established cluster communities of a similar culture (eg. Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy) usually because it is familiar and they more than likely have family or friends there.  It's normal to see shop signs in that ethnic language as well.  Canada has two official languages, English and French.  While learning one of the two official languages is a huge asset to new immigrants some do not.  Children of immigrants are classified as ESL (English as a Second Language) so they will learn English in the school system but at home communicate in the native language.  Quite often if an extended family immigrates together (eg. grandparents, parents, children) or even if elderly parents immigrate later to join their families they may never learn to speak English or French.  The various ethnicities in Canada are often celebrated by festivals that embrace that culture and its foods but is open for anyone to enjoy.

Which immigration method is better - melting pot or mosaic?  Each have their strengths and weaknesses.  The melting pot idealism is that we are strong because we are united as one.   Differences are less tolerated and if you want to be a good American then you act like a good American by leaving your ethnicity at the door.  The end result is there is less tolerance for those who are different (eg. racially, ethnically) in general and for new immigrants.  It also encourages blatant racism especially towards those who do not conform to the American way.  The mosaic idealism is that we are strong because we are many with many different perspectives all moving towards a common goal.  If you want to be a good Canadian then be a good citizen and good neighbour.  Contribute to your community and society in general.  There is a greater tolerance of ethnic diversity.  At the same time racism while it does exist in Canada is quieter, not so much of an in your face type of thing but more like snide comments usually amongst family, friends and occasionally co-workers.

In this Canadian's perspective having a fair amount of experience traveling through the US and owning property in the US, I am still partial to the Canadian mosaic idealism.  Neither system is perfect.  Both face the issue of racism and whether blatant or somewhat hidden it is still there.  Both are opening their countries doors to those hoping for a better life with an expectation that the new immigrant is going to contribute to society.  So quite honestly I don't feel one immigration ideal is better than the other.  They each perform their intended function.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bit More Information on Official Canadian Travel Advisories

Yesterday I gave the information on an official travel advisory issued by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advising against Canadians traveling in the northern border region between Mexico and the United States.  When an official travel advisory is issued there are several things to consider for any travel to the area or country noted in the travel advisory. It is best to avoid traveling to the area or country noted if at all possible.   Some considerations:

  • You are putting yourself at risk for personal harm possibly resulting in death.
  • You may be detained and denied the rights and freedoms you take for granted in Canada.
  • You are putting your personal belongings including your personal identification at risk.
  • Once an official travel advisory has been issued any out of country insurance you may have becomes null and void.  That means you have no emergency medical health coverage and if your personal effects or vehicle are stolen you will not be covered under your vehicle insurance policy.
  • If your personal identification is stolen you may have considerable troubles getting back into Canada as well as any countries you may have to travel through to get back into Canada.
  • The Government of Canada may not be able to help you.
Last night we had a very interesting discussion on official travel advisories.  One of our friends is in the insurance business.  He told a rather chilling story about four business men who were sent to Mexico on behalf of their company.  The actual facility they were working at was under 24 armed guard protection.  The guys were told under no circumstances to leave the compound after dark.  However, they decided it wouldn't be a problem to slip out for a quick bite to eat.  They were ambushed less than 10 minutes from the compound.  Shots were fired.  Their vehicle was stolen along with their identification and money.  They were extremely lucky to have gotten away with their lives.  They had to walk back to the compound while fearing another ambush then when they got to the compound the guards wouldn't let them in because they had no identification.  It was a nightmare to get everything straightened out!  Without photo identification they could not even report the crime to the Agencia del Ministerio Público although they could report the theft of their identification to the Mexican authorities and the Embassy of Canada.

This whole incident could have turned out considerably worse than it did but this is the very reason official travel advisories are issued in the first place!  The Government of Canada does what it can to protect its citizens.  It cannot protect citizens from themselves if they choose not to heed the advisory or fail to listen to warnings once at their destination.  Any type of travel even within Canada has a risk element but that increases when traveling outside of Canada.  Be an informed traveller especially when traveling outside of Canada.  Pay particular attention to advisories and warnings.  Educate yourself on the laws where you will be staying as well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Travel Advisory Issued - Canadians Should Avoid Crossing Mexico's Northern Border

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has issued an official travel advisory for Canadians to avoid crossing Mexico’s northern border (between US and Mexico) by land, as shootouts, attacks, and illegal roadblocks may occur at any time.  This region is experiencing a high level of violence linked to drug trafficking.  There have been reports of carjackings targeting SUVs and full-sized pickup trucks along highways in the bordering Mexican states.  The full travel advisory goes into greater detail and there is a link on that page to register when traveling abroad to be notified in the event of other travel advisories or emergency evacuation notices.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Recent CRTC Rulings of Interest

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has recently made two important rulings.   First the phone companies in Canada must pay back about $310 million to urban customers who were overcharged between 2002 and 2006.  This will result in rebates between $25 and $90 per customer.  Second the CRTC approved expanding broadband internet to 287 rural and remote communities.  This will take place over the next four years at a cost $421 million.  Doesn't this all sound rosy for Canadian consumers?  It does until you start digging into things.

In 2002, the CRTC ruled that phone companies could charge extra to allow new competitors entering the home phone market to undercut them.  These extra charges were put into deferral accounts that at one time amounted to $1.6 billion.  Since phone companies were allowed to draw on the accounts to reduce whole sale rates charged to competitors the funds had decreased to $650 million by 2008 when the CRTC ruled the phone companies spend $350 million of that on expanding rural broadband and improving services for disabled persons with the remaining $300 million being returned to urban customers who had originally been overcharged.  However, phone companies and consumer groups objected to the original splitting of the deferral accounts so a battle has been raging and went as far as the Supreme Court in 2009 which supported the CRTC's ruling.   The current amount in the deferral accounts is $770 million.  The CRTC further rejected Bell's suggestion to use HSPA wireless technology  for the rural broadband expansion by saying they must use DSL wired connections.  DSL wired connections will give rural customers the same usage as urban subscribers.

How does this decision affect us as Canadians living in rural Ontario?  It doesn't.  First our little rural community is not on the list of 112 communities in Ontario where DSL broadband will be expanded to.  Despite the fact that Bell was given a grant to provide high speed internet service to our area, it remains a problem area that according to Bell they just can't fix so apparently we are out of luck.  We can get satellite internet but thanks to the CRTC's ruling satellite providers can continue throttling service under the Fair Access Policy (FAP) and satellite providers while promising certain speeds really only have to provide 40% of that even though we pay full price at the 100% speed rate.  The second problem with satellite internet is if a mosquito so much as flies through the beam our internet service goes down.  It is very unpredictable at best even though we pay through the nose for it and thanks to Dalton McGuinty's HST we get to pay an additional 8% for the crappy service! In case you are wondering the only alternative to satellite internet service here is dial-up.

The second problem is anyone who lived in a urban location between 2002 and the passing of the CRTC ruling that moved from that urban location to another urban or rural one is likely out of luck for any type of a rebate even though they were over charged.  The CRTC has not said how this problem.  One would assume the phone companies would make some type of effort to get the refunds to those who deserve them but from experience that likely is not going to happen.  So there will be a number of individuals entitled to a rebate that end up with nothing. 

Once again kudos to the CRTC for doing a job half-way!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1967 International and Universal Expedition (Expo 67)

In 1967 Canada celebrated it's centennial year of confederation.  The 1967 International and Universal Expedition commonly called Expo 67 held from  April 27 to October 29 of that year in Montreal, Quebec was the main celebration.   Expo 67 set a lot of records becoming the most successful World's Fair of the 20th century.  Sixty-two nations participated in Expo 67.  Over 50 million visitors attended the exposition and it has the distinction of setting the single-day attendance record for a world's fair with 569,000 visitors on its third day1.  Canada's centennial celebration bilingual song was written by Bobby Gimby's who in 1971 donated all future royalties from the song to Scouts Canada2.  Here is a video clip of some great Canadian images set to his song. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

HST is Affecting Canadians More Than Expected

On July 1, 2010 the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) came into effect in Ontario and British Columbia.  Statistics Canada predicted that the HST would cost each family living in those provinces an additional $512 annually.  On August 20 Statistics Canada released reported that consumer prices in Ontario rose 2.9 per cent in July1.  According to Statistics Canada this is the largest year to year increase in Canada.  Media sources across Canada are reporting that the HST is driving inflation higher accounting for 1.3% of the increase, considerably higher than a TD Bank report used by the government to justify the HST.

Ontario consumers are now paying an additional 8% on gasoline, electricity, home heating fuel, auto insurance premiums and home renovation costs as well a 18% of consumer goods that previously only had the 5% GST (federal).  What does this really mean?  Speaking as a somewhat average Canadian consumer I was quite surprised at the difference.  Here are the prominent cost of living increases we have experienced due to the HST as per the most recent bills:

  • electricity - HST was $7.27
  • telephone - HST was $8.27
  • television (satellite)* - HST was $9.27
  • internet (satellite)* - HST was $7.15
  • natural gas (heating, hot water, dryer, grill) - HST was $7.67
That comes to a grand total of  $39.63 of which more than half ($31.70) is new tax!  At this rate it works out to our increased cost of living in Ontario of $380.45.  That's getting rather close to the original annual prediction of $512 and this is just on our basic necessities without considering any extras like gasoline, car repairs, or any of the other 17% of consumer goods this tax is on.  The other day my husband forgot the usable grocery bags but was only stopping for a few things.  He bought one plastic bag that cost 5¢ then had 1¢ tacked on in HST.  The HST comes at a time when people are already down and getting discouraged over the ever increasing cost of living.  Hydro One in Ontario has predicted that electricity rates will increase 32% by the end of 2011.  When the HST was announced we put our house up for sale just after we bought an out of country vacation home.  We were hoping to sell before it went into effect because the HST increases all costs associated with buying and selling a house (real estate fees, lawyer's fees, land transfer tax, etc) by 8%.  We couldn't sell with the number one reason being the additional HST costs.  I suspect we will get a prorated bill from our auto insurance company wanting the HST after July 1 since we renewed earlier in the year. 

The HST is nothing but a greedy tax grab!  Rather than moving Ontario and British Columbia forward it is going to be putting it into more of a recession as people can no longer afford even the basics in life like home heating.  I'm sorry but to those on fixed incomes an overall increase just on the basics of $39.63, well actually it is more than that because we now have a TV tax, the Ontario Hydro debt retirement (thanks to the Ontario government's mismanagement), and a host of user fees with from all predictions many more to come thanks to Dalton McGuinty's government.  These really are dark days for living in Ontario!  Food insecurity continues to rise, monetary and food donations are down, the food banks are hurting, the social assistance and unemployment rolls are rising AND the only solution McGuinty's government can come up with it to tax us more?

*We live in a rural area.  We have a choice of dial-up internet or satellite service and that's it.  We have a choice of antenna (about 4 channels) or satellite, that's it.  Since we stay home especially in the winter rather than going out to theatres and that type of thing, the internet and television are our main source of entertainment.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Canada's National Do Not Call Registry

In an effort to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls there is a National Do Not Call Registry set up by the CRTC.  You simply register your telephone number in the registry which is then provided to telemarketers,  clients of telemarketers and other subscribers to prevent telemarketing calls to your phone number.  In theory this sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  Legitimate companies don't waste their time calling someone who doesn't want to be called and at the same time the person not wanting to be called isn't disturbed.  However, this registry has turned out to be about as flawed as it can get.  Just look at all the loop holes!

A legitimate telemarketer can buy the list as can their clients who may or may not be legitimate companies.   Anyone can create a company name, register it and buy the list.  Then there is tha 'other subscribers' which really ends up being a catch-all for who ever wants the DNCL.   The problem should be quite apparent just in this light.  Well meaning Canadian citizens who put their phone numbers, unpublished land line and cell phone numbers on the list helped to compile the list that is now available to just about anyone who wants to pester them.  All you have to do is look to sites like 800notes or Who Calls Me to see all of the complaints and frustrations many Canadians are feeling over the DNCL.

We put our home phone number on the DNCL about 18 months ago.  Within a matter of 2 weeks the number of telemarketing phone calls more than doubled!  All of a sudden telemarketing calls originating outside of Canada started happening and they continued to increase.  As of last Novemeber we were averaging 4 - 5 telemarketing calls daily.  We bought a Panasonic phone system that has onsite call blocking so we don't have to go through our phone carrier.  If a blocked number calls the house the phone registers it and sends back a busy signal.  It honestly took us a few months to get it where we were getting only the occasional telemarketer call.  In hind sight I regret ever putting our phone number on the DNCL and thank the lucky stars that I didn't put our cell phone numbers on it!

The CRTC has greatly failed Canadians with the DNCL but in many ways that is par for the course with the CRTC.  They are forgetting that anyone who signs up for telephone service is paying for it with their hard earned dollars and nowhere in the contract does it say accepting telemarketing calls or any other calls for that matter is mandatory.  In fact telemarketing calls much like spam is theft of services.  We pay for telephone services to stay in touch with those we need or want to not to have our time and money wasted by telemarketers.  Telephone service is not cheap in Canada either and yet the government agency (CRTC) who is supposed to protect Canadian citizens simply allows Canadians to bite the bullet once again!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BPA Contaminants Found in Most Canadians

The results of a survey by Statistics Canada measuring the levels of various contaminants in the urine and blood of Canadians aged six to 79 was released on August 116, 2010. Somewhat not surprising at least to me is they found  91% of Canadians have detectable bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is a chemical used to make some hard plastics such as baby bottles and reusable water bottles.  I became quite concerned about the BPA issue about 4 years ago.

BPA may imitate estrogen and other hormones according to the National Institutes of Health (Maryland, USA)1.  This chemical has been shown under laboratory conditions to affect brain development and behaviour.  BPA is excreted quickly but does have an effect before it is excreted.  Reducing exposure to this chemical something that Health Canada intends to do making Canada the first country in the world to do so. 

What a lot of Canadian may not know is that every food and beverage container in North American has a mandatory plastic coating that contains BPA. BPA can leach from the plastic when exposed to heat and acidic condition both of which occur in the commercial canning industry. Every time you open a can of food or drink a can of soda or even a glass jar with metal lid of applesauce you are ingesting BPA.  Those who rely on a good portion of home canned foods as we do are still exposed to BPA but on a much lower level through the coating on the canning lid which is why I am currently testing out the Tattler canning lids that are both reusable and BPA-free.  The study did not distinguish how much BPA exposure comes from handling polycarbonate plastic devices (eg. CDs, cellphones, electronics, etc)  but if the BPA leaches from the device to the hands then in theory it can get ingested.  I find this type of thing very scary!

As Canadians we can reduce our exposure to BPA by reducing the amount of polycarbonate plastics we use.  Over the past 4 years I have reduced a lot of the plastic use in our home but at the same time a certain amount of plastic in unavoidable.  My glass food storage bowls came with plastic lids although they are BPA free.  Plastic is everywhere anymore because it is cheap, lightweight and the risk of breakage is minimal.    When buying any type of plastic that will come into contact with food make sure it is BPA free.  Reusable plastic waterbottles should be hand washed to avoid any leaching that can occur in the dishwasher.  Plastics should not be used in the microwave oven.  Hot foods should not be placed into plastic containers to cool for storage.  Use glass containers for food storage.  Reduce the amount of ingestible BPA by home canning, using frozen fruits or vegetables, and eliminating food and drinks in metal can.  Buy local, fresh produce in season and grow whatever you can. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Migrant Ship Arrives in Canada

A couple of days ago there were reports of a ship of Sri Lankans heading towards British Columbia seeking refugee status.  Yesterday the MV Sun Sea was intercepted off Vancouver Island and boarded by Canadians (RCMP, navy) and escorted to CFB Esquimalt near Victoria where it docked this morning.  The small vessel had about 490 migrants on board, many women and children.  Several are ill from their migration journey that began in May.  According to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews some of those aboard are 'human smugglers and terrorists'.

Last October a ship carrying 76 Sri Lankan Tamils arrived off the coast of Vancouver Island.  That vesessle was escorted to Victoria where the migrants were detained for several months. Toews has said suggested there will be changes in Canada's laws to prevent future ships from arriving the same way.  "Let me be clear on this point: human smuggling, illegal migration or any other abuses of Canada’s immigration system can not and will not be tolerated," he said.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, Canada must process all refugee claimants who manage to reach Canadian soil1.  This immediately brings into question the reason for letting the ship dock in the first place.  Until the migrants actually leave the ship they have not officially reached Canadian soil.  As boaters who travel between Canada and the US we know that you are not considered landed until you actually leave your boat in either country.  Escorting this ship to shore and allowing it to dock sends the message that Canada condones human smuggling.  A lot of other countries would have prevented the ship from reaching shore in the first place.  We need to start taking a firmer stand on illegal immigrants similar to what Arizona has done!

There has been some question as to whether the migrants are refugees in the true sense of the word.  It has been suggested that in fact some of the migrants are terrorists by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.  Yet Robert Holmes, president of the civil liberties association “Canada’s conduct with respect to last October’s group of Tamil migrants is very troubling," despite 25 of the 76 Tamil migrants in October 25 were thought to have links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  This is a banned terrorist organization and separatist group that lost a 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka last year.  This is the kind of thing that just make this Canadian a bit angry!

There are a lot of issues that comes to light with this abuse of international law and Canadian generosity!  I am all for helping fellow humans from a humanitarin perspective but from a Canadian perspective we as in the collective all including the Canadian government are now supposed to welcome terrorists into our country?  We aren't supposed to detain them until we know for sure that they aren't terrorists?  And we are supposed to bestow Canadian rights and freedoms when they aren't even Canadian citizens?  The hospital in Victoria was bracing itself for the influx of sick and injured migrants.  The cost of treating is going to fall squarely on the taxpayers' shoulders as is the detainment and support after detainment.  It is actually better economically to be a refugee in Canada than it is to be an unemployed Canadian on social assistence.  The worst thing is it will be the Canadian taxpayers paying for this while the government allows terrorists a safe haven in Canada! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do you know where your food comes from? - Eat Real. Eat Local.

We are huge foodies here so eating local and supporting local farmers makes a lot of sense to us.  We try to eat as much as possible within a 100 km radius of our home.  Surprisingly in our little corner of Canada that is quite possible.  Canada produces some of the finest foods there are so there is no excuse to not support local Canadian growers.  Here is a short video clip I found to reiterate that very ideal!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Food Day Canada

We are real foodies here so would like to share with you that July 31, 2010 is the 8th annual cost-to-coast Food Day in Canada.   This event is a national celebration of restauranteurs, suppliers, grower, farmers and foodies who enjoy Canada's unique culinary diversity and creativity.  We will be celebrating with all Canadian foods that day but then we eat mainly Canadian foods most days.  Dinner will be grilled Canadian beef (ribeye steaks) served with local Canadian sweet corn and new potatoes served on the dock enjoying our view of the Great Lakes waterways.  We may have a campfire after dinner as well.  It will be a grand day filled with great Canadian foods!  You can be sure butter tarts will make an appearance for us to enjoy while the kids are filling themselves with fresh, local watermelon.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Drive Through the Countryside

straw bales
Straw Bales
July 21, 2010

A drive through the countryside is always a pleasant diversion.  The farmers a baling straw this time of year which gives ample photo opportunities.  Straw is an important cash crop in our area.  It is used for both animal bedding and feed.  There are various ways that they bale straw with rectangle and round bales being the two main ones.  A freshly mowed field of straw with bales is always delightful to see.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


June 14, 2006

An Inukshuk is a stone landmark or cairn that resembles a human.  In Innuit it means I was here and serves for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for hunting grounds, or as a food cache.  As a point of reference the arms are aligned along the north, south axis.  These are common landmarks along the northern regions of the Bruce Trail and in northern Ontario.  They are always built of stone and usually serve the purpose of not only marking but saying I was here without resorting to graffatti.  I had an Inukshuk in my last garden that served the purpose well.  I did not duplicate it in this garden but likely will in the next garden.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

KD aka Kraft Dinner - Canadian vs American

Like many Canadians we travel to the United States.  This gives me ample opportunity to compare similar products for similarities and differences.   Kraft Dinner topped with ketchup is reputed to be Canada's national food.  So I thought it would be interesting to compare the packaging from a box of Canadian Kraft Dinner and it's American counterpart Macaroni & Cheese.

Details - Kraft Dinner (Canadian) is manufactured by Kraft Canada Inc., Don Mills, Ontario.  Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (American) is manufactured by Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Northfield, Illinois.

Kraft Dinner - Notice that the product in Canada is actually called Kraft Dinner or KD for short and that is indicated on the packaging.  That is because most Canadians can recognize a picture of macaroni with the trademark neon orange colouring without being told that it is macaroni and cheese.   In very fine print near the bottom the product is identified as macaroni and cheese but that's likely a legal thing just in case some inexperienced Canadian can't identify the product by its picture and just happened to bring a magnifying glass with them while they were shopping.  In this case Canadians already know that Kraft Dinner is made by Kraft so we don't need a huge logo of Kraft to grace the box.  In fine print also needing a magnifying glass are short instructions for getting into the box likely because Canada's national drink (beer) may be involved when opening the box or again for those who aren't sure how to open boxes.  More likely is another legal thing due to our southern influence of suing if a mosquito lands on them.   Notice we don't need any fancy font or extra labeling claiming to be the cheesiest although on the top there is a Kraft logo on the top of the box that says made with real Kraft cheddar.    The box inculdes cooking instructions for both microwave and stove-top.  That's a good thing because the quicker you can cook KD the faster you can eat it.  As with all packaging in Canada labeling is bilingual.  Now here is where Canadians actually get a better deal for their dollar.  A box of Kraft Dinner is 225 g compared to the American Macaroni & Cheese that is only 206 g.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - The product in the US is labeled as macaroni & cheese with no mention of Kraft Dinner on the packaging.  This must be a legal thing to prevent someone from suing expecting a dinner in a box and all they got was dried pasta and a package of neon organge powder stuff.  The box has a considerably larger picture of macaroni and cheese.  This is likely for those consumers with poor eyesight or seeing eye dogs helping their owners find the culinary delight easily.  It also helps those who don't speak English to identify the product because the only language on the label is English.  The American package contains instructions on opening the box on top and on the side.  I'm not sure why other than maybe American's need to be told twice how to do some things.  The box only includes stove-top cooking instructions.  That's a pity since most Americans tend to be a bit more rushed than Canadians.  There is the notation on the box that it is the cheesiest but no mention as to what cheese it is so one can only wonder about exactly what that neon orange powder is..As already mention a box of the American version is only 206 g so Canadians are getting the better deal here.

My Recommendations for Americans - Buy Canadian.  You get more product that is clearly labeled as using cheddar and you can cook it in the microwave.  Be sure to cover your culinary delight with ketchup to make it truly Canadian!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bruce Trail Northern Terminus Cairn

Bruce Trail Northern Terminus Cairn
Bruce Trail Northern Terminus Cairn
June 14, 2006

We have hiked portions of the Bruce Trail mainly between Tobermory, Ontario and Lion's Head, Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula several times.  We tend to focus on the trail portion that wanders through Bruce Peninsula National Park near the Cypress Lake Campground.  The trail can be rather challenging in this area.  The guys with kids in tow have hiked the trail from Tobermory to Cypress Lake Campground which is about a 15 km challenging hike that takes a good portion of the day.  The Bruce Trail Northern Terminus Cairn is located on Bay Street overlooking Little Tug Harbour in the Village of Tobermory.  The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail that follows Niagara Escarpment from Queenston to Tobermory in Ontario.  The trail is approximately 800 km long and traverses in some spots over privately owned land and farmland in central and southern Ontario.  The trail itself ranges from being quite challenging with a fair amount of climbing to areas of low, flat terrain.  The southern terminus cairn is located in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Queenston Heights Park.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Niagara Escarpment Plaque

Niagara Escarpment plaque

Niagara Escarpment Plaque
June 14, 2006

The village of Tobermory is located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula about 300 km northwest of Toronto.  The Niagara Escarpment plaque marking the northern extremity shoreline of the Niagara Escarpment is on Bay Street overlooking Little Tub Harbour.  It was erected by the Niagara Escarpment Commission in 1976.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Peaceful Protest in Canada

Yesterday I focused on how civil liberties were denied during the G20 Summit (June 25 - 27, 2010) in Toronto, Ontario.  Today I want to focus on the fundamental freedoms that essential gives every Canadian the right to peaceful protest (demonstration).  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Constitution Act of 1982 states that every Canadian:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
Essentially the fundament freedoms means you have have a right to express your beliefs and opinions through any media of communication providing it is peaceful and you have the right to associate with others in order to do so.  Here are a few peaceful ways to demonstrate in Canada:
  • demonstrations - Demonstrations usually involve a group of like-minded individuals coming together for a common goal and voicing that goal through such events as rallies, marches, sit-ins and that type of thing.  Public routes such as highways and streets may be blocked by these events for short periods of time or they may be open but dramatically slowed as when the farmers drove tractors from Windsor to Toronto slowing down the main artery Hwy. 401.  Quite often demonstrators use tactics like holding signs and/or flags, chanting slogans or phrases, and using blow horns to deliver the message to their intended target.  They may use tactics such as sit-ins at governmental offices to get their message across.
  • signs - The fundamental freedoms says you can communicate via other means of media of communication.  That includes the use of signs.  The signs may be carried, posted on buildings with the permission of the owner, posted on your own property or in the window of your residence, on your vehicle and anywhere else you get permission to post them.  The caveat with signs is to keep them tasteful and devoid of slanderous comments or name calling.  A sign on your property that simply says Say No to HST gets your point across without calling Premier Dalton McGuinty every name in the book that while he likely deserves them clouds the issue of the HST.  Avoid any type of personal attack on any signs you post.  Posted signs must not obstruct the view of you or your neighbours exiting their driveways and those posted on vehicles must not obstruct your view for safe driving and they must be securely attached so they don't present a road hazzard by flying off.
  • petitions -  Petitions are another media of communication.  Essentially what is needed for a petition is the cause clearly stated then as many names of individuals supporting the cause along with their contact information.  Once you have gathered a substantial number of signatures the petition is delivered to the person or office you are seeking attention from.
  • letters - Letters are another media of communication.  They include letters written to the editor of local newspapers, your MPP or MP or other political person of interest, and any agency or organization that may support your cause.  Again the letter should state the facts in a professional manner without resorting to name calling or derrogatory comments.  Letters definitely should never include a threat of any kind.
  • online sources - Online sources are also media of communication.  Three of the biggest are blogging, YouTube and Twitter.  Using online sources must comply with the terms of use (TOU) or terms of service (TOS) of your ISP and whatever third party service you are using.  In general you cannot incite hate through online services.  When blogging try to stick to the facts and your feelings about them like how they affect your life.  The personal touch adds more credence to your protest.  Clearly state that it is your opinion or use phrases like I think or I feel.
  • radio/television/newspaper interviews - These are all excellent mediums for protest when done properly.  If you are organizing a demonstration notify the press as to the date and time.  Write follow-up letters thanking them for the coverage after the event.
  • personal communication - This really becomes a word of mouth thing and here you basically have as much latitude as the other person or group will put up with.  Amongst a group of close friends well you can get as passionate as you want about your cause.  Amongst a group of coworkers you might want to tone it down.  At any rate you can get your cause known quite nicely through personal communication.