Monday, December 24, 2012

Geoffrey Canada on Friday's NRA statement: "That was the most irresponsible...hurtful response to an American tragedy that I have heard"

n response to Friday morning's public statement by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre – the first public remarks by the National Rifle Association since last week's shooting in Newtown, Conn. – this evening "Piers Morgan Tonight" invites Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, to share his insight and reactions:

"That was the most irresponsible, and I think, hurtful response to an American tragedy that I have heard," said Canada, referencing LaPierre's suggestion of more firearms as an answer for the current epidemic of gun violence in the country. "He should be ashamed of himself to come and tell the American people 'I am not going to do anything reasonable – not one thing.'"

As the pro-gun lobby continues to laud the value of military grade weapons – the likes of which have been used in several recent mass killings – Canada voices his opposition:

"It is shameful because they can give you not one logical reason that an American citizen needs an assault weapon. Not one. They aren't good for hunting, they serve no purpose," says the 60-year-old social activist. "In the hands of someone really mentally ill, they can do damage that is inconceivable to us."

Watch the clip, and listen to the interview, then tune in this evening at 9 as Canada further explains the pressing need to address this issue through legislation, so as to better "protect our children."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Readers defend Canada's ties to the monarchy

Re: "Let's dump this outdated institution," Our View, Wednesday, Nov. 28.

I can't stand some reports on so-called "surveys."

Apparently, a Montreal-based "Association for Canadian Studies" (possibly funded by us taxpayers) claimed the majority of their phone canvassing resulted in negative views on Canadians' interest in our ties with the English monarchy.

Well, considering it was a Montreal-based survey, I think it questionable. Could we have expected anything different? I'm having a lot of questions on how Quebec is run, in light of past and current legal and political "irregularities."

A vast number of Quebecois continue to be disenchanted with anything, especially "English," outside their desire for independence. Let's do an Ontario-west survey, I say. Oh, by the way, how far afield did the canvass actually take them?

The monarchy has had its many problems with outrageous scandals, political and domestic, but what country, regime or family unit hasn't?

Our society was founded on the basis of Roman, Judeo-Christian ethic with the founding fathers of the British Rule of Law and political governance that has been questioned and criticized, but what other system is really that much better?

How many other societies have experienced the characteristics of what we have in the West and are not truly envious (inclusive of our English ties) - journalistic freedoms, transparency, democratic freedom of selection of government, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, etc.?

The monarchy is one form of the reflection of our society as to who we are and were and where we have come from as a nation.

Formally cutting links with our past for what? We are currently on a disastrous road financially, spiritually, fiscally and morally around the globe and we desperately need leaders, for sure. Let's not forsake what we feel is no longer important, when there are positive historical remnants of our past that we can be still identified with.

God save our Queen and country!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tories defend $4 million Olympic advertising tab

The Harper government on Monday stood by its decision to spend millions on advertising campaigns during the Olympics, after it came under attack from the opposition NDP for putting “propaganda advertising” ahead of this country’s athletes.

Last week, documents tabled in Parliament showed the government spent more than $4 million on advertisements that ran during the London Olympics, a total that was about 20 times more on than the amount paid out in bonuses to medal winners.

In the Commons, the NDP asked the government why there was more money spent to promote a commemorative coin for the Olympics than there was spent on medallists. The coin campaign through the Royal Canadian Mint cost more than $1.1 million, while about $214,000 was doled out in medal bonuses to Olympic athletes.

“We do indeed put our athletes first. If we look at the Own the Podium program and the investments we made there, certainly after the 2010 Olympics, we are very proud of our Canadian athletes,” said Heritage Minister James Moore.

“We take every opportunity to highlight the brilliance of our athletes. We have welcomed them here on Parliament Hill, supported their programs to ensure that our athletes do indeed shine on the international stage, and not only supporting athletes directly, but also supporting the opportunities for our athletes.”
Moore said the government would continue spending money to promote Canada’s history, which was at the centre of the costliest ad campaign run during the Olympics.

The NDP’s sport critic suggested that the government should have taken some of the almost $4.5 million from the advertising budget and used it to fund athletes or youth sports.

“It’s good to do a little advertising, but I think we’re reaching the point where the entire thing has been quite excessive,” Matthew Dube said outside the Commons.

In all, federal spending on advertising that ran during the Olympics was about $4.46 million, with the largest spenders being Canadian Heritage, which oversees War of 1812 commemorations. The Mint spent $1.13 million on television ads and a special page on the Mint’s website promoting the coin dubbed the “Lucky Loonie.”

The advertising spending also created television and online campaigns to promote tax credits from the federal budget and new citizenship requirements.

The $4-million-plus advertising costs aren’t complete. Canada Post, for instance, declined to reveal how much it spent on advertising a promotional stamp for the Games, saying it was “financial and commercial in nature and has always been treated as confidential.” As well, the final costs for some other federal agencies have yet to be tabulated and won’t be known for at least another month, according to Public Works and Government Services Canada, which tracks all government advertising.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unions defend worker interests

Canada's Defence Minister had strong words about two conflicts in the Middle East at the Halifax International Security Forum on Sunday.

Peter MacKay said Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, and that Russia should step into the deteriorating situation in Syria.

The escalating missile exchange between Israel and Hamas was the main topic at the weekend conference.
Delegates had animated discussions about who is to blame and what should be done to stop the attacks from both sides. MacKay put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hamas.

"A country has the right to defend itself. A country has the right to exist, and part of that existence means protecting your population, which is what Israel is trying to do," he said.

Call for Russian action

MacKay also accused Russia of being unwilling to help resolve the bloodshed in Syria. Anti-government forces have been trying to oust the Assad government since March 2011. Russia has not openly been involved on either side.

"Thus far they have been reluctant to do so at the security council. They have refused to do so bilaterally. We can't have Russia on the sideline with a country coming apart at the seams," he said.

The security conference also focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

MacKay said he visited Afghanistan last week and is encouraged by what he saw. But the defence minister also said the onus is on Pakistan to create real peace in the region.

"Let me be clear: we need Pakistan's unequivocal [support] for that effort for their neighbourhood and thus far that has not been the case," he said.

MacKay said the international security conference is about more than talk. But the CBC's Steven Puddicombe said that with few actual decision makers in attendance, it is questionable about what effect the tough words at this conference will have.

Bill shines light on unions, opinion column, by Chris Vander Doelen, Nov. 13.
The call for union transparency is coming not from rank-and-file members. It is coming from Canada's economic and political class who don't want workers organizing to challenge them.
Unions have a privileged place in society precisely because they stand as a bulwark against truly powerful corporations and their allies in government. Sure, unions spend money on research into political and economic issues.
They also produce solution-based reports on the impacts on their members and society as a whole. Unions are a way for workers to defend their interests and the interests of broader society.
Also, Canadian labour infrastructure cannot be carelessly compared to other countries because the context of labour relations varies greatly.
The $400 million in tax breaks Vander Doelen mentions are likely compensated for by the decent wages union members spend in the economy. Where would this city be if not for unionized workers?
Do rank-and-file workers grumble about their unions? They sure do, but grumbling doesn't amount to cause for C-377.
I contacted Neil Watson, the portfolio manager Vander Doelen so casually dismisses. Watson's argument is crucial: Bill 377 threatens union members' pensions in an era where all pensions are buckling from underfunding.
Increased costs will force pension and benefit administrators to either cut benefits or increase contributions. This cannot be casually dismissed. Unionized charity pensions are at risk too, and will further be under C-377.
Finally, the transparency so desired will actually open up confidential files on peoples' benefits. Hands up for those who don't mind sharing health information with just anyone?
Let's call C-377 for what it is - a clumsy hatchet job meant to undermine workers' participation in the political affairs of the country with serious collateral damage to privacy and existing pensions and benefit plans.

Read more:

Bill shines light on unions, opinion column, by Chris Vander Doelen, Nov. 13.
The call for union transparency is coming not from rank-and-file members. It is coming from Canada's economic and political class who don't want workers organizing to challenge them.
Unions have a privileged place in society precisely because they stand as a bulwark against truly powerful corporations and their allies in government. Sure, unions spend money on research into political and economic issues.
They also produce solution-based reports on the impacts on their members and society as a whole. Unions are a way for workers to defend their interests and the interests of broader society.
Also, Canadian labour infrastructure cannot be carelessly compared to other countries because the context of labour relations varies greatly.
The $400 million in tax breaks Vander Doelen mentions are likely compensated for by the decent wages union members spend in the economy. Where would this city be if not for unionized workers?
Do rank-and-file workers grumble about their unions? They sure do, but grumbling doesn't amount to cause for C-377.
I contacted Neil Watson, the portfolio manager Vander Doelen so casually dismisses. Watson's argument is crucial: Bill 377 threatens union members' pensions in an era where all pensions are buckling from underfunding.
Increased costs will force pension and benefit administrators to either cut benefits or increase contributions. This cannot be casually dismissed. Unionized charity pensions are at risk too, and will further be under C-377.
Finally, the transparency so desired will actually open up confidential files on peoples' benefits. Hands up for those who don't mind sharing health information with just anyone?
Let's call C-377 for what it is - a clumsy hatchet job meant to undermine workers' participation in the political affairs of the country with serious collateral damage to privacy and existing pensions and benefit plans.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Canada’s Guay has his sights on a record as the alpine ski season starts

Skier Jan Hudec has had seven knee surgeries in nine years, the last one just a few weeks ago. That doesn’t make him much out of the ordinary in this injury-laden sport where men fly down icy hills at 150 km/h in, well, tights. Hudec was actually one of the healthiest of the bunch on the men’s alpine ski team last year and was the top Canadian overall on the World Cup circuit placing ninth in downhill and sixth in super-G.
At one point last season, only three of the six “Canadian Cowboys” were still on the hills. That’s the nickname for those who have had a podium finish in the most elite of the alpine ski races. 

Now, as the team prepares for the first World Cup downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise, Alta., later this month, they’re back to full strength — and hoping to keep it that way. It’s a world championship year in 2013 after all, and these men desperately want to defend their back-to-back downhill titles. Canada’s Erik Guay is the defending champion from 2011. His teammate John Kucera won it in 2009.

“We have a really great team when everyone is healthy,” says Guay. “We have six guys who can be in the top 15 in the world at any given time. You want to have all those athletes around you because it raises your game.”

He’ll need that. As well as defending his world downhill title, Guay is trying to make Canadian history. With 17 World Cup podiums, he needs just four more to overtake “Crazy Canuck” Steve Podborski’s record of 20 set almost 30 years ago.

Teammate Kucera is returning after three years off with injuries and three-time World Cup winner Manuel Osborne-Paradis has been off the slopes for two years with a knee injury and a broken leg. 

This is Osborne-Paradis’s first comeback from injury. But for Kucera, this is an uncomfortably familiar road. “Every time I try to make a comeback, I reinjure myself.” 

In 2009, he badly broke his left leg in a crash on the slopes of Lake Louise. Then, in 2011, he broke that same leg when his binding failed and he suddenly found himself with just one ski. Last year, it was a back injury. 

“I’m hoping I’ve got them all done now,” Kucera says.

Paul Kristofic, vice-president of sport for Alpine Canada, hopes so, too. Injuries have always been a part of speed skiing but efforts are being made to reduce them.

During the summers, there’s a focus on strength and conditioning to give racers the best chance of staying healthy and, particularly with younger skiers, there is coaching to help identify when to take risks to gain the fractions of a second that win races and where doing so is more likely to mean a career-ending crash.
Most men’s courses have sections that Kristofic calls “very unforgiving.” Skier Osborne-Paradis, more colourfully, calls them a race’s “little demons.”

Racers need to “approach those sections without taking a ton of risk because the reward will be very little but the consequences extreme,” says Kristofic.

“It’s a fine line,” says Ben Thomsen, who was last season’s breakout star coming second in a World Cup downhill in Sochi, Russia, in his first year on the national team. “On race day, you have to risk just enough. You can’t hold back too much.”

Showing tactical maturity may be more important than ever this year because of equipment changes introduced by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in an attempt to lower injuries worldwide.
The changes, essentially, make the skis less aggressive, says Kristofic. Skiers won’t be able to carve as tight a clean turn. If they try to maintain the tight radius they’re used to, the skis will now bounce or slide. This reduces some of the tremendous force arcing puts on the lower body, which routinely leaves racers with knee and back injuries. 

But, already, some racers have said the new skis are much more difficult to ski on. “Is it really safer?” asks Kristofic. “It’s hard to tell until we start racing.”

With only 10 downhills and six super-Gs this season, there is precious little time to recover from any injury. That’s why avoiding them is key to Canada’s success and Guay’s shot at making history. These racers have already proven they can get to the podium, so long as they’re in one piece.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Web is About to Obliterate Canada's Entertainment Industry. Here's How to Save It

Canada's entertainment industry is under fire. The web is the shooter. And, if you hear it from Quebecor's chief executive, our nation currently has little armour with which to defend itself.

Pierre Paeladeau warned this week that web-based providers are penetrating the Canadian market - and could overtake it if we don't act fast. His solution? Create globally appealing content, television shows that reach far beyond our country's borders.

“How TV is watched and distributed is changing rapidly,” Mr. Peladeau said at an annual industry even in France. “TV networks are not the be all and end all anymore."

“If we still want a vibrant Quebec and Canadian TV industry in 20 years, we have to start developing strong original concepts that will be popular across platforms and across markets," he continued. "This is the only way we’ll be able to make a mark in the world of digital distribution, [and] generate the necessary funding to keep our local industry going.”

“Audiences are rapidly changing, and if you want to keep up with them, you have to program on YouTube,” affirmed Robert Kyncl of Google said during an afternoon presentation at the event.

Building on the launch of 100 dedicated channels last year at a cost of $100-million, Google has added new YouTube channels with popular celebrities such as British chef Jamie Oliver and U.S. comedian Sarah Silverman. Two new offerings from BBC Worldwide, one dedicated to science the other to nature, have been launched as well among others.

Mr. Kyncl says that YouTube’s top 25 channels receive more than one million views worldwide per week. That's about a third of what a hit TV show usually draws on a weeknight in Canada. On YouTube, 800 million viewers are watching four billion hours of content per month.

“So great is YouTube’s audience, many content brands already view it as the most important platform to which to publish their work,” PaidContent claims.

“We want the next Office, Big Brother, Top Chef to be Canadian,” Mr. Peladeau said. “For that, we need to really [focus] our funding infrastructure from being strictly locally focused to also being export focused.  We need to position our industry on the global scene or face extinction,” the executive said."

“We lived through it with music," he pointed out in conclusion. "There’s no reason why technological distribution alternatives will not apply to television shows the same way – we’re living through it at the cable business right now.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A gauche PQ blunders and bashes

For the longest time, Quebeckers have been shrugging off the concerns of fellow Canadians over the Parti Québécois’s so-called menace.

Despite the party’s quest for independence – which is far from shared across the population, as sovereignty is dormant on the Richter scale of pollsters – Quebeckers never doubted the PQ’s willingness to foster growth. Likewise, they could generally count on PQ premiers to soundly manage the province, though there were some notable blunders.

Former premier Bernard Landry has always defended free trade as a way to create wealth. Lucien Bouchard was obsessed with the province’s fiscal woes, fighting hard to secure a political consensus around the “déficit zero” target. Jacques Parizeau presided over the rise of a generation of French-Canadian entrepreneurs through his innovative Quebec stock savings plan.

Far from being anti-business, these PQ premiers bent over backward to court investors and create a favourable business environment. Which is why Quebeckers are now as stunned with Pauline Marois’s economic plans as the coyote in Road Runner who is hit by an anvil he didn’t see falling. Where did these retroactive tax hikes come from?

The PQ government that has regained power after nine years in political wilderness is markedly to the left of its predecessors, with key ministers held by green activists. It is also “gauche” in the figurative sense, as it clumsily and precipitously unveiled its plans.

In just the past week, the Marois government revealed that its tax hikes would be retroactive to Jan. 1. It hinted at a permanent ban on shale gas exploration, before the completion of scientific studies that will determine the safety of the hydraulic fracturing used to free natural gas from rock formations. And it announced the closing of Quebec’s only nuclear plant before meeting with the leaders of the Mauricie region where the Gentilly II plant and its 800 jobs are located.

Retroactive income tax hikes are rare. In 1993, Gérard D. Levesque, Robert Bourassa’s finance minister, controversially imposed two surtaxes of 5 per cent each on the “rich” Quebeckers earning more than $32,500 and $54,300, respectively.

But no one has ever increased the capital gains tax retroactively, an idea the Marois government is mulling, but may now abandon as its seeks a compromise. Imagine you sold your cottage in February and invested the proceeds elsewhere, to find out you owe money on that transaction? This flies against the basic fiscal principle that taxpayers should have certainty.

New Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau toured the most listened-to stations Tuesday to defend his plan. “I claim we were clear,” he said during a Radio-Canada interview, when asked why the PQ had hid the retroactive tax increases.

The PQ said that they would abolish the controversial health tax within 100 days of taking power, creating a $1-billion shortfall, argued Mr. Marceau. Quebeckers should have logically deduced that the only way to pay for this was to change the rules, the minister said.

No matter which way the new Finance Minister wants to spin this, the PQ lied by omission.
There are good reasons to amend the regressive health tax, a $200 yearly contribution that all taxpayers must pay, no matter what their income. There are also logical reasons not to upgrade the Gentilly plant. The refurbishment will cost between $2-billion and $3-billion, and the province is already flush with surplus electricity.

Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Marois government is deliberately bashing Quebec’s highest-income earners, and its energy industry, in a populist bid to secure a majority government.

Who is going to defend the 140,000 plus Quebeckers who earn more than $130,000 a year? Who is going to defend nuclear energy and fracking? If you want to reclaim the ground to the left taken by the new Québec Solidaire party, there are no better targets. While this might play well in certain circles, this is now seen as a disaster by business leaders, who fear the PQ’s newstance will scare away talented professionals and investors.

Mr. Marceaus has been trying to reassure the business community. “Quebeckers will derive their prosperity from a faster economic growth and a business community which enjoys an attractive environment,” he said.
Fine words but all of the PQ’s actions since they took office speak otherwise.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Canada gets crucial win in World Cup qualifying

Skill and cunning proved to be a deadly combination for Canada on Friday night.

Dwayne De Rosario scored a historic goal (and the most important of his national team career thus far) to guide Canada to a thrilling 1-0 win over Panama in a crucial World Cup qualifier before 17,586 fans at BMO Field.

After Simeon Jackson drew a foul on the edge of the box, Atiba Hutchinson didn't wait for Panama's defence to set up, and delivered a quick free kick into the middle for an unmarked De Rosario to knock home past shell-shocked goalkeeper Jamie Penedo in the 77th minute.

With the goal, De Rosario moved past Dale Mitchell as Canada's all-time leading scorer with 20 goals in 70 appearances. More importantly, Canada put itself in a very good position to advance to the final round of World Cup qualifying

Canada tops Group C with seven points from three games. Panama is second (six points), followed by Honduras (four) and pointless Cuba. The Canadians play Panama away next Tuesday, before closing out the group stage with matches in October against Cuba (at home) and Honduras (on the road).

Only the top two nations move on to "The Hex," the final round of the CONCACAF qualifiers where the best three countries in the six-team, round-robin group qualify for the World Cup. Canada has not advanced to "the Hex" since 1998, and even then it finished dead last.

One can't overstate the significance of this Canadian victory over a dangerous and technically proficient Panama, regarded as a rising power in CONCACAF. With the three points, Canada is in firm control of its destiny as it inches closer to "The Hex." It's far too early to talk about ending the World Cup drought (Canada's only previous World Cup appearance came in 1986) but this result gives the Reds a major boost, and if capitalized on, could be a turning point for the national team.

Canadian coach Stephen downplayed the win somewhat, stating that there's still plenty of work to do, although he did admit the win gives Canada the "confidence that (it) can play with anybody in CONCACAF."

"I think we can only gain confidence from this. Let's not fool ourselves -- Panama is a very good team. Extremely organized, technically they play the ball well, they have (some players) who can change the game at any moment," Hart stated.

Captain Kevin McKenna also sounded cautious, warning that Canada can't become complacent or dwell on the fact that it is the surprise group leader ahead of next week's game in Panama.

"Nothing changes. We go there and we play the same way tonight," McKenna stated. 

Scoring has historically been Canada's biggest problem and guile has been lacking, but not on this night. Maybe the Canadian side has finally learned that hard work only goes so far, and you need to be clever and crafty to grind out results in the cut-throat world of international soccer.

Full credit goes to Hutchinson for the heads up play that lead to the goal.

"I saw a perfect opportunity where there was nobody in front of the ball. They turned their backs and I really didn't think twice about. I just put the ball in. I saw Dwayne and he took care of the rest," Hutchinson said.
Hart didn't realize the historical significance of De Rosario's goal. Nor did he really care.

"You know what, I didn't even know that. ... I think it's good for him that he broke the record, but as a coach, I don't care who scores," Hart admitted.

Another positive is that Canada continues to expertly defend, recording its fifth consecutive shutout and tenth in its last 11 contests. And the Reds did look very comfortable in possession, confidently stoking the ball around and pulling off some intricate passing sequences.

Hart gave credit to the entire starting 11, and not just the defence, for registering yet another clean sheet.
"It's not just the defence. It's good work by the midfield. The (back four) got battered around. ... But we held out nerve, defended with some intelligence and we got the result on the back of good defending," the Canadian coach explained.

Hart certainly can't be accused of conservative tactics -- he fielded an attacking 4-3-3 formation, spearheaded by Olivier Occean up front with De Rosario and Jackson in support.

The opening half saw Canada carry the balance of play on the offensive end, using an effective pressing game that made it hard for Panama to work its way out of its end.

While Julian de Guzman provided the defensive foundation in midfield, Hutchinson pulled the creative strings, effectively linking up with Jackson.

But for all of Canada's bright play, it didn't come close to scoring, except when McKenna's bullet header off a corner kick slammed across the post in the 36th minute.

Tensions nearly boiled over late in the half, which saw the Costa Rican referee brandish several yellow cards. Panama's Alberto Quintero threw himself to the ground after the slightest touch from De Rosario, and players had to be separated before Quintero was comically stretchered off the pitch.

Panama came out strong to start the second half, but it was Canada who came closest to scoring, De Rosario forcing Penedo to parry away a powerful strike from distance.

Canada began to fade as the second half progressed, and Panama looked quite happy to play for the draw. But they became too comfortable, and Hutchinson took full advantage, quickly taking the spot kick and picking out De Rosario, who effortlessly slotted the ball home into an empty net.

"I'm just very grateful to be in this position, and most importantly to do it front of the home fans," De Rosario said of his record-breaking goal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Youth workers defend Toronto 'hug a thug' programs

Coddling or curing? That's the essence of the debate rekindled by a spate of gun violence in Toronto, questioning the value of spending taxpayers' money to fund social programs aimed at curbing youth violence and gang activity.

After two people died and 23 others were injured in a hail of gunfire at an east-end Toronto community block party on July 16, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared war on street criminals, vowing to throw anyone convicted of a gun crime out of the city.

Ford, who had cast the only vote on city council against granting more than $13 million to community programs across Toronto the week before, suggested employment is the best way to set at-risk youth on the right path.

"You get these people working, the best social program is a job, I've always said that,” he told reporters the day after the shooting.

"I don't believe in these programs. I call them 'hug a thug' programs, and they haven't been very productive in the past, and I don’t know why we're continuing with them."

But the director of programs and services at YouthLink, an organization that provides social services throughout the city's east-end and downtown core, says the mayor is oversimplifying a complex issue.
"We all long for a simple, easy, fast answer to a very complex problem, and it's most unfortunate because our programs have really come along," Watson told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.

"We have a fabulous return on investment in social programs, at a fraction of the cost of incarceration," she added, explaining the political problem is that they require a long-term approach.

Jacob is a graduate of one of those programs with roots dating back to 1998. Developed by the Canadian Training Institute, “Breaking the Cycle” has drawn funding over the years from the City of Toronto, Human Resources and Skill Development Canada, and the National Crime Prevention Centre.

Growing up in Toronto's Jane and Finch neighbourhood, Jacob told Canada AM he was associating with the wrong crowd until he discovered the program for at-risk youth aged 15-30. Once he got involved, he learned a valuable lesson.

"I don't have to try and be somebody because of my environment, I could try to step outside my environment and be who I am," he told Canada AM.

And even now, as a graduate of the program, he values being able to draw on the resources there.
"When I come across certain obstacles in life that I can't seem to cross, I could always turn to a group of people that I could always resort to and get answers from."

In her own experience with the program, Monique highlighted how that kind of support has boosted her self-reliance.

"Basically learning how to put yourself in a situation where you have to self-motivate yourself and not depend on other people to do that for you," she said.

Echoing Jacob, she also said it helped to realize who was influencing her decisions in life.
"And if it's not a positive influence then you kind of have to think about what you're doing first and just push yourself to understand this is not the right way to go," she said.

For Watson, those kinds of success stories should encourage politicians to consider the roots of youth violence, and consider funding the programs where people know the issues and how to deal with them.

Mayor Ford calls for resources

With more than 200 shootings in Toronto so far this year, including three shootings in a 24-hour period last weekend, Mayor Ford is sticking with his hard line.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Ford to discuss the guns and gang problem in the city on Tuesday, but the two left their meeting without speaking to reporters.

The prime minister later said strengthening U.S. border security so illegal hand guns don't make it into Canada was a "No. 1" priority for the government, as were tougher penalties for offenders in gun crimes.
“I think the events in Toronto underscore why these penalties are essential, why it is essential to have tough and certain penalties for gun crime,” Harper said, telling reporters he had urged Ford to work with the province to tackle gun crime.

On Monday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the province would provide $12.5 million in provincial anti-violence funding, with $5 million directed to the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy.
Known as TAVIS, the program employs 72 Toronto Police officers trained to prevent gang-related violence and is responsible for nearly 22,000 arrests since its creation in 2006.

McGuinty also promised to invest $500,000 to improve co-ordination between OPP, Toronto and GTA police forces, and another $500,000 to support Toronto community groups.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liberals defend ad with pot-banging PQ Leader

An unflattering ad that stars Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois has prompted a legal threat from a videographer, as the spectre of a possible fall election looms over the province.

The political ad, launched by Quebec's ruling Liberal Party, is a highly stylized, black-and-white voiceless video clip that uses amateur footage of Marois at a spring casserole protest in Lachute.

The 15-second video shows Marois banging on two metal lids, in slow motion, looking quizzically at people striking pots and pans around her. At one point, she fumbles with her lids. 

Guy Séguin, the man who originally shot the video and posted it on Facebook, has sent a legal letter to the Liberal Party asking them to stop using the clip.

He recorded the images in Lachute during a byelection campaign that saw the PQ score a surprise victory in the longtime Liberal stronghold riding of Argenteuil.

The footage was originally posted to Facebook, on the PQ's official website and YouTube.

PQ members accused the Liberals of using negative "Republican-style" tactics by running the ad.

Premier Jean Charest defended the clip, stressing that the PQ "chose themselves to make these pictures public" in the first place.

"This illustrates an episode in the political life of Pauline Marois that Quebecers have an interest in knowing," Charest told reporters Tuesday.

"The image speaks for itself. We did not suggest a conclusion Quebecers should reach -- given how obvious that conclusion is."

In the past, Quebec Premier Charest has mentioned he associates Marois with "the streets and protest," constantly reminding people of her support of the student strike.

After vigorously encouraging the student movement this past spring, Marois has backed away, at least symbolically.

She wore the movement's iconic red felt square for months, until last week, when she stopped pinning it on her lapel.

A Quebec election could be held as early as September, if Charest chooses to call one this summer. The premier has until the fall of 2013 to call a vote.

The Liberals' possible election campaign could prominently feature the PQ and its support for Quebec's student strike.

Charest released his own video last week, in which he directly addresses Quebecers and underlines his government's "political courage" during "this period of turbulence."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Defend democracy: Stand against the Conservative budget bill

On Wednesday, June 13 while Members of Parliament (MPs) begin voting on the Conservative government's 400-plus page omnibus budget bill, Canadians from coast to coast will be demonstrating against it.

Conservative MPs' offices across the country, as well as on Parliament Hill, will be the scene of protests starting at 5:30 p.m. to show the massive opposition to this undemocratic trojan horse budget bill. The bill is so far-reaching it includes changes to over 70 pieces of legislation, most of which are completely unrelated to the federal budget.

Leadnow, the group helping to organize the demonstrations says that this budget bill is bad for democracy, threatens our economic and social security, takes a reckless approach to the environment and attacks science and public information. It is also criticizing the government for using the omnibus tactic to ram the bill through. Omnibus bills lump many unrelated items into one bill, looking for a yes or no response.

More and more Conservative backbenchers are hearing from their constitutents and know this budget bill is a slap in the face to a democracy. Several former Conservative colleagues have spoken out publicly against the bill. Lead Now is calling for 13 "heroes", Conservative MPs who have the courage to stand up against the budget bill and the devastating effects it will have.

Opposition parties have submitted 871 amendments to the bill but the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer has organized them into 67 sections in order to restrict the amount of time it will take for each vote. Despite this, it is likely that MPs will be voting on the bill for at least 24 hours.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Air Canada expects to book $120 million charge related to Aveos shut down

Air Canada (TSX.AC.B) said Thursday it expects first-quarter results to include $120 million in charges related to the shut down of its largest aircraft repair and overhaul provider.

Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. filed for creditor protection last month and laid off more than 2,600 employees across the country when it ceased operations.

Air Canada's preliminary estimates indicate it will book a $65-million non-cash loss on investments resulting from Aveos' 2010 restructuring.

It also anticipates a $55-million loss from discontinued operations related to commitments made under a January 2011 Canada Industrial Relations Board ruling that recognized separate bargaining units for Aveos and Air Canada unionized employees.

It now expects first-quarter adjusted earnings to range between $170 million and $180 million.
Frustrated former Aveos employees have accused the Harper Conservatives of being in a conspiracy with Air Canada by not enforcing a law they say requires heavy maintenance work to be done in Canada.
The federal Air Canada Public Participation Act requires the airline to maintain heavy maintenance operations in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

The Montreal-based airline said Thursday it has sent several aircraft to government-approved Canadian and international maintenance providers since the Aveos closure.

"In addition to aircraft maintenance, Air Canada requires alternate solutions for its engines and aircraft components maintenance as well as the provision of various maintenance support services," it said in a release.

"Air Canada is already working with a network of approximately forty Canadian suppliers as well as additional international suppliers and this network will continue to grow over the coming months."
For the long-term, it is taking proposals from maintenance suppliers and said it will give preference to suppliers that have or will have some portion of operations in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver or Toronto.
The province of Quebec has said it's willing to provide financial support to potential buyers of Aveos as long as they maintain jobs in Montreal.

It is also taking Air Canada to court, aiming to force it to adhere to the law enacted when the airline was privatized in 1988.

Air Canada said Thursday it "continues to be in full compliance with the letter and spirit of the ACPPA, despite the closure of Aveos and the airline will vigourously defend its position."

The dismantling of Aveos is expected to begin next week.

Shares in Air Canada, which provided the update after markets closed, ended Thursday down a penny to 83 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Flames salvage point against lowly Blue Jackets

With his right knee and left shoulder all bandaged up, Blake Comeau looked every bit the poster child Sunday night for the faltering Calgary Flames.

“I think we all know in this locker-room that it’s unacceptable,” Comeau said dejectedly. “Especially at this time of year.

“But the last thing you want to do is dwell on it. We need to learn from what we did.”

And what the Flames didn’t do in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Saddledome.

For the second time in one weekend, the Flames reported to the office for a so-called “must win game” in this wild Western Conference playoff race.

For the second time in one weekend, the Flames showed up in body, but not mind for the first period against a bottom-feeding team.

On this night, they battled back from a brutal start to secure a single point.

Keep in mind: the Jackets are mired in 30th place in the National Hockey League. And the loss comes just two nights after the Flames fell 3-1 to the 29th-place Edmonton Oilers.

The obituary for the current edition of the Flames is likely weeks — hey, perhaps even months — away from publication. But we’ll find out soon enough whether this weekend proved the coup de grace for a team clawing for playoff position.

“We’re still right there,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “It’s not death yet.”

“We know we need points. We know one point isn’t going to cut it for us.”

Cam Atkinson scored in the fourth round of the shootout to seal the victory for the weary travellers, who played the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night.

The defeat marks the eighth loss off the year in the shootout for the Flames.

“Shootouts just aren’t going our way right now,” said Flames forward Tom Kostopoulos. “We’ve just got to focus on the way we played in the second and third and take that into Colorado.

“It’s a huge game for us.”

The same can be said for Sunday night. For some bizarre reason, the Flames took 10 minutes to register a single shot against goalie Curtis Sanford.

To the surprise of no one watching, the Jackets hit the scoreboard first at 13:03, with defenceman Nikita Nikitin doing the honours.

Perhaps stiff from standing around, Sanford collapsed in a heap with five minutes to go in the first period. The veteran Columbus netminder could put no weight on his foot as he skated gingerly to the bench.

Enter Steve Mason to further complicate the night for the Flames. On what was supposed to be a night off, he turned away 29 shots to steal two points almost single-handedly.

“We played the second and third hard, we hit like five posts,” said centre Matt Stajan. “We didn’t get any bounces and that’s the difference.

“Their goalie came in and you have to give Mason credit.”

One of those nights for the Flames turned even darker on the out-of-town scoreboard. Raffi Torres scored with 2:23 left in regulation to send the Phoenix Coyotes into overtime against the Edmonton Oilers. The Coyotes won in the skills completion. The Flames did not. As a result, Calgary is in 11th spot in the Western Conference.

The good news? Well, the Flames are still only two points back of the seventh-place Coyotes and eighth-place Colorado Avalanche.

“We still control our own fate here,” Stajan said. “We play all the teams we are battling with and we go from there.”

Stajan finally solved Mason at 8:34 of the third period on a behind-the-net feed from Glencross. In the shootout, the Columbus netminder proved perfect in stopping Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped Rick Nash, Mark Letestu and Jack Johnson before Atkinson played the hero.

“It’s tough to give up that point,” Comeau said. “But at this time of year, you have to move on and get ready for your next game.”

The Flames head out on the road for a three-game road swing through Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Australian Universities Defend Alternative-Medicine Teaching

Universities in Australia are defending their teaching of alternative medicine after a group of the country’s top scientists and doctors urged them to abandon this increasingly popular subject.

Friends of Science in Medicine — a recently formed group that includes more than 400 prominent scientists, doctors, academics and consumer advocates from Australia and overseas — wrote to the vice chancellors of Australian universities last month. They outlined their concerns about what they called the “diminishing of the standards applied to the teaching of science in our universities” and “the increased teaching of pseudoscience.”

The vice chancellors were asked in the letter to help reverse “the trend which sees government-funded tertiary institutions offering courses in the health care sciences that are not underpinned by convincing scientific evidence.”

“Such courses involve so-called ‘complementary or alternative medicine’ masquerading as, and sitting side-by-side with, evidence-based health-related science courses,” the letter said.

It added that universities were risking their reputations by teaching courses like chiropractic, homeopathy, iridology and reflexology.

“We take the view that those universities involved in teaching pseudoscience,” the letter said, “give such ideologies undeserved credibility, damage their academic standing and put the public at risk.”

The group says that 19 of Australia’s 39 universities offer degrees or courses in alternative health care. Such universities have asserted that their courses are legitimate.

Macquarie University, which is in Sydney and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chiropractic science, said it offered rigorous, high-quality courses.

“Our chiropractic science students are well trained in the fundamental relevant sciences (physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, biophysics, radiology, etc.) together with units in chiropractic methods and clinical practice,” the university said in a statement. “Our students are taught to understand that science proceeds only on the basis of evidence. We are confident that our graduates have been taught those techniques that are known through science to be beneficial.”

Nick Klomp, dean of the science faculty at Charles Sturt University, in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, said while Friends in Science in Medicine made some valid points, the degree offered at his university, a bachelor of health science (complementary medicine), was based on science.

He said the course was designed to impart evidence-based science to people who already had a qualification, like a diploma, in alternative health care. The course includes such subjects as biology and physiology.

“They’re all subjects that are already mainstream, hard health science subjects,” Mr. Klomp said.

He said that thousands of practitioners were already providing alternative medicine and that there was much demand for their services.

“I could ignore them or I could train them better,” Mr. Klomp said, adding that a majority of the university’s students were already practicing. “We actually create graduates who are much better health care providers. It’s all about evidence based, science based.”

Murdoch University, in Perth, said it was committed to the promotion of research-led teaching and evidence-based practice across all disciplines, and that its School of Chiropractic and Sports Science was “established to be consistent with that approach.”

“Students are taught the science-practitioner model and our aim is to produce graduates who are critical thinkers,” the university said in a statement. “This enables them to distinguish between fad and genuine innovation in the discipline as practitioners, intelligent consumers of research and promoters of the scientific method. A clear distinction is made in all of our courses between areas for which the evidence is clear and those in which the science has not caught up with accepted practice and where sufficient evidence has yet to be accumulated.”

Universities Australia, which represents the country’s universities, said in a statement that the schools were “self-accrediting institutions with the autonomy and capacity to ensure the quality and relevance of the courses they offer.”

John Dwyer, co-founder of Friends of Science in Medicine and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of New South Wales, said the academics had decided to form the group because of concerns about the growing number of courses in alternative medicine and their rising popularity among students.

“For many of us, we’ve been concerned for a long time that in this most scientific of all ages, pseudoscience seems to be flourishing,” he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Dwyer said more than 50 scientists from Britain, the United States and Canada involved in similar efforts had expressed their support for the Australian group.

“It’s becoming an international effort,” he said, adding that the British government withdrew government funding for alternative-medicine courses in January.

David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London who has called for ending of alternative-medicine programs in Britain, is a member of the Australian group.

“Courses in alternative medicine are dishonest, they teach things that aren’t true, and things that are dangerous to patients in some cases,” Mr. Colquhoun said in a statement.

Emphasizing that the group was not opposed to universities’ conducting research into different fields, Mr. Dwyer said the scientists were urging the vice chancellors to review the teaching of these courses and come up with a statement on the issue when they meet in March.