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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Canadian Accent You Say, eh?

smiling mouth image
My husband and I do a fair amount of traveling outside of Canada. On more than one occasion I have been accused of having a Canadian accent.  In fact this comment comes up on just about every trip we make outside of Canada and it is most often directed to me rather than my husband despite the fact we are both Canadian born.    During our recent trip it came up again a few times always in a positive light such as "I love your Canadian accent!".  I made the comment to my husband that I did not have an accent of any kind to which he replied, "Oh but you do and it's about as Canadian as it could get!"  Say what?  Here even my husband was telling me I have a Canadian accent!  So what is a Canadian accent?

Canadian English varies from American English in that we use the British spelling of certain words.  According to eHow there is a distinctive Canadian accent that is easily recognizable.  Apparently Canadians draw out the vowel sounds in words as well as emphasizing them more than Americans.  Canadians speak slower, round the "o" and flattening the "a".  In addition to the distinctive pronunciation of vowels and certain words there words that are uniquely Canadian terms aka slang that serve as a give away that you are Canadian.  Of course the ubiquitous "eh?"  and Canadian politeness are two of the most recognizable components of the speach pattern although neither are really part of the Canadian accent but rather distinguishable Canadian teminology

I'm not convinced I have a Canadian accent but according to others I do and apparently it is very, very noticeable.  My husband on the other hand is seldom told he has a Canadian accent but rather he is asked if he is Canadian if he uses certain words.  I attribute this difference in dialect being due to my ancestry going back to the first Canadian settlers (French, English) and Aboriginal Canadians while my husband is first generation Canadian on his paternal side and second generation Canadian on his maternal side so had the infuence in his speach patterns from those who's first language was not English.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Canada is My Home

Canada is my home.  It's such a simple statement that holds such profound meaning that it is really difficult to put it into words.  Like many Canadians we travel outside of Canada often for extended periods of time.  It's always wonderful traveling but one of the sweetest feelings I get when we near the border crossing and finally stepping onto our much beloved familiar turf.  I miss seeing our beautiful flag.  I miss our Canadian vernacular and cuisine.  I actually miss CBC!  Whenever we are out of the country I have either the laptop or iPod Touch to check out the lastest Canadian news.  I'm in touch with fellow Canadians on a daily basis while away.  So in some ways I still keep in touch with Canada and my thoughts are never far from our beautiful country.  Yes I nit pick and I do bash our politicians since they make it so easy and I complain about the increasing cost of living in Canada BUT there is no other country I would ever call home!  Canada is and always will be my home.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Victoria Day

Today is Victoria Day.  Mrs. Clementina Fessenden of Hamilton, ON began Victoria Day in 1897 to stimulate patriotism.  The day commemorates the birthday of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) on May 24, 1819.  It has been customary for people of the British Commonwealth to celebrate the birthday of the ruling monarch as a patriotic holiday.  Even after Queen Victoria's death, people in the Britich Commonwealth continued to celebrate her birthday as an expression of loyalty to the British Empire.  The day was originally called Empire Day then in 1947 the name was changed to Commonwealth Day and is now known as Victoria Day.  The official holiday on the Monday before May 25 celebrates Victoria Dan and the official birthday of the reigning monarch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Traveling Outside of Canada

We love to travel! For the most part our traveling is mainly in North America.  As Canadians traveling to the United States we need proof of citizenship which includes passport or Nexus as well as birth certificate and sometimes driver's license.  Those documents will allow us to land in the US by land, air or sea and we do land by two of the three.  When flying we usually leave from a US airport.  In addition to these important documents it is imperative that we have traveler's insurance.  Traveler's insurance covers any necessary emergency health care that may be necessary when outside of Canada.  It is a must have even if only going for a day trip outside of Canada as provincial health plans will not cover any medical expenses outside of Canada.  Those Canadians heading to the sunny south for the winter months aka snowbirds are restricted as to the length of time they can be out of Canada before they lose their provincial health coverage.  In Ontario you are allowed to be out of the province for 6 months less a day before losing your provincial health coverage.  With these absolutely must have basics there are a few other considerations:

  • vaccinations - Keep booster shots up to date.  If in doubt contact your health care provider prior to leaving Canada to be sure you are up to date.
  • OTC medications/prescriptions - There are many Canadian medications and prescriptions that are not available in the US.  Make sure you take a full prescription with you and the prescription in the event you need a refill but be aware certain Canadian prescriptions are not available in the US so ask your health care provider for an extended prescription to get filled all at once in Canada before leaving the country.  This is especially important for snowbirds.  OTC medications can also vary in what is available in Canada is not available in the US.  Do a bit of homework before leaving Canada for an extended period of time so you can take those OTC medications with you that you won't be able to get in the US.  All medications should be in their original containers.
  • currency - In many US/Canadian border towns there is no problem being able to convert currency however further inland and not by all that many miles most places will not take Canadian currency.  To be on the safe side always have US currency as well as a credit card and/or traveler's cheques and/or debit card.  If you are traveling in the US on a regular basis then setting up a US bank account may be of benefit to you.
  • cell phone coverage - Canadian cell phones in most cases will work outside of Canada however long distance and roaming charges may apply.  This can be quite costly so plan ahead to avoid extra charges.
  • GPS - For traveling a GPS device is the way to go when it comes to ease.  While free road maps are available they are not nearly as easy to use as a GPS.  A GPS will set you back somewhere between $100 and $150 but it is well worth it especially for navigating around US cities.  Be sure you download and update the GPS for both Canadian and US maps.  What is nice is you can pre-program for points of interest, restaurants and that type of thing.  
  • a sense of humour - A sense of humour is a must when traveling outside of Canada.  Some of the terminology we use is not quite the same as American terminology so they may look at you strange if you ask for a pop or CC & coke or even want vinegar for your fries and whatever you do don't call electricity hydro as that's a real no no.  You may even be accused of having a Canadian accent!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Solar Power in Ontario

Solar Array on Farm in Southwestern Ontario
May 12, 2010

The Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 which was passed into law on May 14, 2009 to encourage the development of renewable energy in Ontario.  The Feed-in Tariff Program  (FIT) is North America's first comprehensive guaranteed pricing structure for renewable electricity production.  Long term contracts through the Ontario Power Authority are available for energy generated from renewable sources such as biomass, biogas, landfill gas, wind power, solar photovoltaic and waterpower.  The microFit program is tailored to the homeowner, farmer or small business owner who develops a small or micro renewable electricity generation project (10 kilowatts or less in size) on your property.  Once a project is approved a contract is signed guaranteeing a set price for all the electricity your project produces for at least 20 years.  

Across Ontario many farms and businesses are harnessing the power of solar energy under the microFIT program.  Currently hydro rates in Ontario through HydroOne are 6.5¢ up to 600 kWh per month and 7.5¢ per kWh over 600 kWh for those who have not already been transferred over to the new Time of Use (TOU) rates.  In reality with services charges and taxes the total cost per kWh works out to be 15.5¢ per kWh up to 600 kWh to 17.9¢ per kWh over 600 kWh.  Under the microFIT progam electricity generated using solar photovoltaic is paid a guaranteed 80.2¢ per kWh for the duration of the 20 year contract.  In essence anyone participating in the program is realizing a net gain of 62.3¢ to 64.7¢ per each kWh generated over the 20 year contract making it a nice source of income.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Business Wall of Shame - Home Depot

The new HST that comes into effect on July 1, 2010 has been the subject of much debate.  One company has been cashing in on the PST for the past 18 months even though the HST was not in effect!  That company is Home Depot in British Columbia earning them a position of my Business Wall of Shame.

We all know that big business gives a rat's pattoie about the little guy but Home Depot has really taken the cake with this one.  The US based company blamed a computer glitch that has charged customers PST for the past 18 months on tax-exempt items in British Columbia.  They (Dan McAreavey, Home Depot spokesman) have apologized to customers and have admitted they should be aware of the tax laws in this country.  Home Depot has stated they will refund the HST collected to those who bring in their receipts.

One customer, Tosh Suzuki (Delta, BC) was overcharged about $70 in PST on tax exempt items dating back to January 2009.  He noticed he had been charged PST on several tax exempt items when checking receipts for Live Smart, BC's home improvement tax credit program.  According to Suzuki this has wide implications for other consumers who also participated in the same two government incentive program.  Despite several complaints including one to the head office of Home Depot, Suzuki got little response.  In fact he continued to be charged PST when shopping at Home Depot for tax exempt items so he contacted CBC news who confirmed that Home Depot in several locations in British Columbia were indeed charging the 7% PST on tax exempt items.

There are currently 179 Home Depot outlets in Canada.  British Columbia's 25 Home Depot stores accounted for almost $1 B of the $6.8 B reported annual sales in 2009.  An accountant when asked by CBC estimated that customers could have been overcharged $3.3 million in taxes in 2009 alone.  While Home Depot maintains it has not benefited from this error, at the very least the BC government did.  Britishc Columbia's finance minister, Colin Hansen has indicated the province is now investigating this matter.  Any company found to be overcharging PST could face numerous sanctions including inspections, desk audits, audits at a business location and investigations.  Taxpayer over paying the PST by $10 or mor can apply for a refund upto four years from the date of purchase from the Ministry of Finance which differs significantly from what Suzuki was told when he contacted the Ministry.

From this Canadian's perspective, since Home Depot claims to have not profitted from the glitch then the BC government did.  Most consumers do not keep their receipts from retain stores longer than 30 days or the length of time specified by the store's return policy.  Those keeping them for a year are doing so to for a particular reason such as a government grant but very few of even those will keep the recipts for 4 years.  So here the BC government is sitting pretty with all the extra money collected via Home Depot thanks to their glitch and all anyone can say is I'm sorry?  Well Canadians are getting tired of the I'm Sorry GameIn my opinion not only should every Canadian boycott Home Depot but there should be a federal investigation into the BC provincial government for taking monies that they were not entitled to take.  A simple I'm sorry doesn't cut it in this case!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Canadian Companies Outsourcing

A few days ago I had the wonderful experience of speaking with HydroOne the electricity provider for the province of Ontario. Being eco-friendly we decided to sign up for their peaksaver® program.  Now after dealing with Bell and the numerous Bell representatives that obviously have never been to Canada and their first language is anything but Canadian nothing surprises me.  So I jump through all of HydroOne's bells and whistles to finally get to talk to a live person.  All was going smoothly until the representative asked me to confirm my zip code!  Hello?  We have postal codes in Canada not zip codes!  So obviously HydroOne is also outsourcing as well.  What happened to hiring Canadians?  What is it with these companies that get the tax benefits of being in Canada with their wages paid through the Canadian tax payers (HydroOne is government owned) that there is no loyalty to Canada and Canadians?  In essence in this case the Ontario government is outsourcing paying non-Canadians for doing a job that many unemployed Canadians would do if given a chance.  Shame on you HydroOne and Dalton McGuinty! 

Friday, May 7, 2010

The CRTC Approves Usage-Based Internet Billing

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) provisionally approved usage-based internet billing for Bell's retail and wholesale customers who rent part of Bell's network in August 2009. Bell will be able to apply usage-based internet billing only if it ends unlimited downloading from its own offerings. This means those using Bell's internet services will be billed based on how much they download each month. In order for full approval, Bell must move any retail customers it has on unlimited downloading services onto new usage-based plans before it can apply usage-based billing its wholesale internet service providers. Bell will also be required to make any usage insurance plans that allows its own retain customers extra monthly usage for a small fee available to wholesale ISPs.

Despite opposition from smaller wholesale ISPs, Bell argued that usage-based billing is necessary to slow the congestion caused on its network by heavy downloaders. Currently some ISPs offer plans with hundreds of GB but Bell limits retail customers to 50 or 75 GB depending on the plan. The usage-based billing will use flat fees and set a monthly usage limit per customer. Users exceeding their limit will be charge per gigabyte based on their connection speed. Customers with a connection speed of 5 megabits will have a limit of 60 GB with a charge of $1.12 per GB to a maximum of $22.50. There will be an additional charge of 75¢ per GB for customers using more than 300 GB per month.

The CRTC is currently considering matching speeds ruling as well. Smaller ISPs can sell connection speeds up to 5 megabits per second while Bell sells connections speeds up to 25 megabits per second. This gives Bell an unfair advantage over the smaller ISPs. The CRTC is expected to report on the matching speeds ruling in September 2010.

Many consumers feel that the CRTC's approval of usage-based internet billing is taking a major step backwards.  Many more feel that the CRTC is failing to do it's intended job of protecting the Canadian consumer and that they are being influenced to side with companies such as Bell and Rogers.  The internet infrastructure in Canada is one of the poorest in the world.  Part of the reason for this is lack of competition with the companies that own television signals also owning the internet infrastructure.  There is no incentive for companies such as Bell or Rogers to extend their services to those living in rural areas so at best the rural areas are serviced by dial-up internet or satellite.  Neither of these are considered high speed although satellite can be as much as 25 times faster than dial-up.  However, anyone using satellite internet will quickly tell you about Fair Access Policy (FAP) where the connection speed will be throttled down to dial-up speeds if you exceed the bandwidth threshold.  Some satellite providers (Xplornet) throttle down for 1 hour while others (Hughes) throttles down for 24 hours making it almost impossible to do anything online.  The CRTC ruled that thottling down by the satellite companies was acceptable in 2009 essentially forcing customers to pay 100% while receiving at times 40% of the service.  Both Bell and Rogers have come out with wireless stick connections that are getting some rural customers high speeds but there are not enough towers and many customers can't get a signal due to obstructions such as trees. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Anti-Consumer Copyright Bill

According to University of Ottawa expert Michael Geist and confirmed by Andrew MacDougall, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Officea new reform legislation will be introduced in the House of Commons likely in June that may be the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history.  The bill would mirror the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) preventing the breaking of digital locks put on electronic devices and content as well as eliminating the notion of fair dealing.  This bill will detrimentally affect all consumers including institutions such as schools and the media have copyright exemptions.

Two previous attempts to update Canada's copyright legislation were met with fierce opposition from the public.  The first attempt in late 2007 was met with a Facebook protest group and demonstrations at the Calgary office of Jim Prentice, former industry minister after Geist leaked details of a plan to introduce similar American-style laws.  Bill C-61 was introduced to Parliament in June 2008 in a second attempt to update Canada's copyright legislation.  This bill contained several anti-consumer measures including a clause that made it illegal to break digital locks on devices and content.  The bill died when Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament in December 2008.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the new attempt to update Canada's copyright legislation.  There are two sides to the issue with the first goal to protect the rights of artists and authors so they are paid fairly for their content.  Obviously every time a free copy of their content is made available they are not getting paid for it.  Their rights supercede the right of consumers to use their content under fair usage.  Current copyright allows fair usage for personal use. If the new bill is worded the same as Bill C-61 consumers will still be able to record a movie for personal use but will only be able to keep the recording for a limited amount of time.  However, the new laws are trying to enact legislation that will allow digital locks designed to prevent you from making even personal use copies.  Under the new legislation the consumer will no longer be able to buy a CD, make a copy for personal use and an MP3 then transfer it to an MP3 player or to their computer without paying for each copy.  Now the real problem becomes if a new copyright bill passes how is it going to be enforced?  A digital lock will only be effective until a hack is found for it.  Another thing to consider too is just because a bill is introduced doesn't mean it will be approved.  As I said it will be interesting to see the outcome if and when the bill is introduced. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

European Union Commission Wants Canadian Action on Climate Change

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union Commission said (May 5, 2010) Canada shouldn't keep waiting for the rest of the world to act on climate change before making its own changes in advance of a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Brussels.  He is concerned over Canada's position that it won't start taking drastic action to combat climate change until most other countries in the world agree to do the same.  In the end he fears that if more countries adopt this attitude "no one will move in the end."  Barroso feels the matter is pressing enough to require immediate political action to reduce carbon emissions.

Canada has been getting a bad reputation due to the failure of our elected officials to act on climate change.  More specifically to they are getting a bad reputation for failure to reduce carbon emissions that many are citing as the causation of climate change.  From this Canadian's perspective, it is quite clear the current Canadian government has really no interests in environmental concerns.  Their primary goal is taxation! They introduced a green tax right on the heels of suddenly and unexpectedly halting the ecoEnergy Program that provided rebates for homeowners retrofitting their homes to make them more energy efficient with a goal of energy conservation.  Perhaps they missed the point that energy conservation reduces carbon emissions!  Unfortunately with funding no longer available from the Canadian government, provincial home energy retrofitting rebates are also at risk.   What is interesting about the green tax is it has been implimented prior to knowing what the associated costs are.  In other words they are collecting the green tax without knowing what it will be used for.  That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?  Basically the Canadian government is using climate chage as a scapegoat to increase taxes.   

Inquiring minds would like to know why our elected officials who are being paid substantial salaries by Canadian tax dollars are failing to represent Canada in a better light?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Canadians Healthier and Outliving Americans

A recent study in BioMed Central's online journal Population Health Metrics based on data from the 2002-03 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health indicated that Canadian are healthier and outliving Americans. Mortality risk and the health-related quality of life (eg. free of disability) were also considered. According to the study a 19-year-old Canadian could expect to enjoy 2.7 more years of perfect health in comparison to 19-year-old in the US. Both mortality and morbidity or disease rates in Canada are lower than in the US. Two major potential explanations to the differences are:

  • Differences in access to care between the "prenatal to grave" health service offered in Canada with the non-universal American access typically through employee coverage or Medicaid or Medicare for those with low incomes and seniors.
  • The higher degree of social inequity  is more pronounced in the US particularly among seniors.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Canadian Maple Cream Cookies

Canadian love their maple syrup!   Making a trip to the sugar bush in the early spring is a true Canadian delight.  Maple syrup is not just for pancakes though.  It is made into maple sugar or candy and used as an ingredient in cooking, baking and grilling.  In fact maple syrup is one of my favourite ingredients to cook with.  The traditional shape for maple sugar and maple cream cookies is of course the maple leaf.  A few days ago we received a package from oldest grandbaby (age 3) who had visited the sugar bush.  Inside were two packages of Jakeman's Canadian Maple Cream Cookies. 

Jakeman's is a Canadian company established in 1876 by George and Betsy Anne Jakeman who immigrated from Oxfordshire, Enland and settled in Oxford County near Woodstock, Ontario.  They produce quality maple syrup gift and gourmet products in upscale retail outlets world wide.  Jakeman's continues to promote Canadian maple syrup through quality products and top notch business practices.  Jakeman's is located at 454414 Trillium Line, RR# 1 Beachville, Ontario N0J 1A0, Canada.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Commentary on Canadian Children Getting a Failing Grade for Physical Activity

Yesterday I posted a summary of  Active Healthy Kids Canada's recently released  sixth annual report card based on hundreds of data sets and studies related to physical activity of children and youth in Canada.  The group's conclusion was a failing grade.  Today's post will give my view on their conclusion and implications. 

According to the data 36% of children ages 2 - 3 and 44% of children ages 4 - 5 were getting regulat physical activity as part of their daily routines but only 12% of children and youth are getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity for their age group. The recommended amount of physical activity for children ages 1 - 5 is at least two hours a day.  Children older than 5 should have 90 minutes of physical activity daily.  Children in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories were getting slightly more daily exercise while those in the Atlantic provinces were getting the least amoung of daily physical activity.  Reasons cited for Canadian children getting the failing grade for physical activity included:

  • driven to school
  • too much screen time (Grade F)
  • Canada's physical education programs (Grade C)
  • recreation facilities/programs, parks and playgrounds (Grade D)
  •  federal government (Grade F)
It is true that more children are being driven or bused to school.  The reality is there has been school closures forcing Canadian children to have to travel further to get to their school even in urban settings.  Canadian children in rural areas have no choice but to ride the bus to school.  Parents of urban children face the fear that they may come into harm so driving them to school is seen as protecting their children.  At the same time a surprising number of school aged children are in extra curricular activities that due to timing forces the children to be picked up immediately after school to get them to that activity on time.  In smaller Canadian communities a good portion of children do walk or bike to school.  To put it in perspective when I was in elementary school I walked or biked because we didn't have a vehicle as my Mom never learned to drive.  Sometimes I got a ride with a friend on rainy or bitter cold days but even back then parents were driving their children to school so this really is nothing new.

In many ways I don't find it surprising that some children are spending up to six hours a day in front of television and computer screens.  While this time did not include homework it included video games, TV, and chatting with friends on line.  The reality is we live in a computerized, technological society.  Children today are introduced to both television and computers at a much earlier age.  Our oldest grandbaby could work an iPhone at about age 1, easily and effortlessly scrolling to her favourite childrens programs on it.  I was amazed but at the same time this is what is being expected of children today.  The group also mentioned that about 90% of Canadian children begin watching TV before their second birthday in comparison to the average age of 4 forty years ago while the current recommendation is no screen time for children under age 2.    Forty years ago we relied on a black and white television hooked to an antenna that got all of 4 channels.  Many Canadian families today cannot afford things like extra curricular sports or take their kids to the movies.  Have you seen how much some of these programs actually cost?  Television and computers are the accepted norm today.  The report also only reported on time spent in front of screens but didn't distinguish how much time was spent on video games like the Wii that is specifically meant to get people of all ages moving. 

Canada's physical education programs have discrepancies between the amount of time mandated for phys-ed in schools and the amount actually allotted to it.  The reason for this is the current educational curriculums across Canada are stressing learning.  There is increasing pressure on the educational system in short do the parenting for the parents.   At the same time each provincial educational curriculum has certain expectations the students must meet in order to proceed to the next grade.  With higher learning expectations there is less time available for physical activity programs.  It is a reasonable expectation on the part of the province that if a child has 2 - 10 minute recesses, a 15 minute play period at lunch and a 20 minute scheduled physical education class daily that the parents should be able to ensure their children get the additional 45 minutes of physical activity before/after school hours and on weekends.   
    Recreation facilities/programs, parks and playgrounds received a Grade D because less than half of Canadian children and youth used the amenities available to them. There are a few problems with this point.  The facilities may be there but if Canadian families cannot afford to have their children use amenities that are not free it becomes a moot point.  Honestly a family membership at the YMCA costs $100 per month but the additional cost such as just getting back and forth greatly add to the cost.  With today's rising prices, just coming out of a recession and Prime Minister Harper's ever increasing tax grab few families have an extra $100 to spend on using a recreational facility or programs.  Sports cost even more when you factor in registration, equipment and travelling and that is per child.  If a family has 3 children this is even more problematic.  Free facilities especially park, playgrounds and pools have a host of problems as well mainly centred around vandalisim and bullying.  Many parents are not comfortable letting their younger children go to the playground by themselves.

    The Canadian federal government received a Grade F because it spends half the amount it spent in 1986 on promoting physical fitness.  Again the government like the educational system is expected to step in to do the job parents are supposed to do.  However, when they are increases taxes at a rate faster than the average Canadian can keep up with I feel they have a responsibility to use some of those tax dollars to promote physical fitness especially for Canada's children and youth.  The bottom line is we as Canadians all have a responsibility to promote physical fitness not only for our selves but both the older and younger generations.