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...
- Pierre Trudeau
Monday, November 29, 2010
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.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
[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 11th 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.
Global TV Edmonton
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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 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
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
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
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!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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
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.