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, 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!