Monday, January 29, 2007


So Saturday was great. Liz and I tried out our new snowshoes along the canal and in the Arboretum. Despite the fact that I can seem to bend down far enough to tightent the rear boot strap it all went really well. It was so much fun. Clear sky, warmer than last week and the snow although not perfect, was still fairly deep and new in many places.

We both remarked at how great it was that we could be in a city of 800k people but snowshoeing in a park environment. We also liked that it was safe enough for people to be in that environment and that there were others tobogganing and walking their dogs. Just made us happy to live in a country like this.

After that it was home for Fondue and champagne. It was lovely.

The bad move was apparently as I was cleaning the house last week I forgot that one of the boxes was lost and found stuff and put it outside. Between the wind and animals I think some of the stuff got strewn across the yard and I've got to try and find the rest of it tonight. Like I can remember where I put it!?

Apparently there were some shoes out side, a necklace in the yard and some of the pants in the laundry. I have no idea where the rest of the stuff is or even entirely what I'm looking for. Oh well.



Friday, January 26, 2007

nb: I will still never EVER vote NDP given their current platform.

So, Capt'n Jack wants the poor Canadian banking industry to remove the user fees from ATMs and other such banking services. So the banks claim that they can't do this because it would lose them lots of money and they'd be forced into penury (they made approximately 19 billion dollars in profits [ie. above expenses and salaries] last year).

While no one likes to be hit with fees the banks often do have compelling arguments to support their fees, it helps pay for the upkeep of the machines, pays for advances in security, and generally helps the banks remain internationally competitive where 19billion in profit isn't much comparted to 1 citibank or HSBC.

All this said, THEY MADE 19 BILLION IN PROFITS LAST YEAR. A certain percentage of that revenue should automatically be directed to improving services, security and upkeep of existing infrastructure and even, wild idea that it is, expanding it to make life easier for people.

As for being competitive most of our banks gain or lose re. competitiveness through their investments overseas and their expansion into other markets such as Scotia into the caribbean and south america and CIBC world markets etc.

Lastly to drive the point home that these fees are absolutely unncessecary I will now retell a story from my 1st day in england when setting up my bank account:

Bank Employee (BE): And here is your bank card, you can use it as a debit card at switch (like interac) locations and to withdraw money.
Me: And what are the fees?
BE: What do you mean?
Me: the fees to use the card. When I go to a withdraw money how much will it be, 1 pound 2 pounds etc?
BE: um there are no fees?
Me: [looking awestruck and with the face of a 19th century provincial rube] no... feees?
Be: no, I'm not sure why we would need to charge a fee, the withdrawal machines are there for your conviniences. In fact a few years agot most of the UK banks suggested imposing a fee on all machines but the outcry from the public and the government was so strong it wasn't worth our while financially or politically.
Me: Wow... this is truly the promised land of Banking
BE: giggles
Me: Ok so how much is the fee for me to use this card at banking locations that are not affilated with this bank?
Be: There are no fees to use the machines of other banks either.. that was part of the deal. Either we'd all charge fees or we all would make it free to use
Me: foaming at the mouth with extasy.... promised land of banking.

If the brits can do it we can folks. Government outrage and public outrage was all it took. Come on Canada rouse yourself from your cold mid-winters, apathetic sleep. Get outraged for once... in fact we should all get outraged a lot more often.



Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MARRIED... sort of

So I got hitched on Saturday. The entire event was exhausting, wonderful and one helluva lot of fun. Without going into a lengthy discussion I'll just drop some of the highlights and the not so highlights below

Once again, for everyone who came and/or participated in the event Thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart!


- Falco came
- The fire in the chapel during the service
- the sleigh ride with champagne (and bootlegged sctoch)
- Mazo's subs imported from Montreal
- seeing lots of friend and relatives all getting along so well [from both Liz's and my side]
- some of the key songs during the dance
- my very swish ring
- Will's reflection
- Tom saraneding me with his version of the North West Passage
- beign driven to the wedding in a Prius
- 1st dance on the frozen pond
- having a good deal of professional fireworks exploding over our heads during the fist dance on the frozen pond leading to an amazing visual effect of our silouhettes against coloured flashes of light on pure white snow and ice.

Less than highlights

- Forgetting the marriage liscence at home (so we still have some signatures to collect to be formally married!)
- having the music to be played during the signing ceremony and the candle lighting start at the wrong place (we used the theme from 1st contact but only wanted the good instrumental bit in the middle between the ST theme and the clangy borg theme. We got the ST theme and the part we wanted but it was a shock to everyone when the theme to star trek started playing...)
- the receving line could have been handled better
- my driver and wife feeling less than great by the end of the night so we had to leave the party early
- my complete disaster of a house now that it is full of all the boxes and such from gifts and the remnant of having people herding through it all week!

All that said as planning and weddings and parties go. I give this one a 9.



Monday, January 15, 2007


From today's globe:

Ottawa aims to soften U.S. arms-contract rules 'It's discrimination, pure and simple,' barred Syrian-born technician complains

DANIEL LEBLANC OTTAWA Georges Nahas has lived in Canada for 24 years, and spent 19 of them working for Bell Helicopter. Last week, he found out he will always be treated as a security threat by the U.S. military.

Despite Charter provisions that prevent discrimination based on nationality, the citizen of Canada and Syria -- along with 23 other dual-national colleagues -- was told he will never be able to work on U.S. military contracts at his workplace in Mirabel, Que.
Mr. Nahas was the latest Canadian to fall afoul of Pentagon rules that prevent people from certain countries from coming into contact with U.S. military data.

"I feel like a second-class citizen. It's discrimination, pure and simple," said Mr. Nahas, a technician who assembles helicopters.

The Conservative government has been negotiating with U.S. officials since last year to find a solution to this U.S.-imposed contractual condition, with no movement so far.
In addition, The Globe and Mail has learned that if ever an agreement is struck, it will help only affected federal employees and their subcontractors, and not private-sector workers such as Mr. Nahas.

The problems stem from U.S. rules called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which prevent citizens from about 20 countries -- China, Cuba, Syria and Lebanon, among others -- from working on U.S. military contracts in foreign countries.

The ITAR, which are strictly enforced by the U.S. government, are applied to Canadian citizens who also hold the citizenship of these proscribed countries, even if they have the appropriate clearance.

Bell Helicopter asked the U.S. government last year for a waiver for people such as Mr. Nahas, stating they have excellent work records.

"The answer came back this week from the Department of State that essentially said there is no waiver for anyone, in any circumstance," Bell Helicopter spokesman Michel Legault, who acknowledged the answer came as a disappointment, said on Friday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is looking for a solution.
"We have serious preoccupations with this policy," Mr. Harper said. "I can only say that we'll keep on trying to resolve the situation." The Conservative government launched a diplomatic offensive last year to persuade the U.S. government to change the restrictions on dual nationals and replace them with individualized security checks. Senior Conservative ministers have raised the issue with their American counterparts, and Canada's ambassador to Washington has been lobbying on the matter.

There has been no movement, even as the government is negotiating $13-billion in aircraft purchases from U.S. suppliers.

As it stands, the ITAR would affect dual nationals in the Department of National Defence working on the project, as well as those working in private-sector companies that would help build or maintain the aircraft. In that context, Canadian officials are hoping to find an agreement to allow those dual nationals to work on the aircraft.

However, the current set of negotiations would not help people in Canada, such as Mr. Nahas, who are working for companies that receive their contracts from the U.S.
Ron Kane, a specialist on the issue at the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, confirmed that a settlement would not include all Canadians.

"We understand there may be some movement to first reach accommodation for Government of Canada employees," Mr. Kane said. "That may then be the foundation to move ahead with the industry on a more comprehensive basis." The current situation is creating headaches across Canada.

CAE Inc., a Montreal-based firm that produces flight simulators, was openly advertising openings that called on applicants to meet ITAR restrictions until late last year.
At a plant in Ontario that produces military vehicles, one employee has to be accompanied by a colleague to go to the washroom because she has to walk through a part of the building that is off-limits to dual nationals. That person's computer also has special filters that remove ITAR-sensitive information.

Mr. Nahas said he recently learned he no longer has access to parts of his workplace at Bell Helicopter. "It's because of the U.S. foreign policy. I don't want to blame the company. But who suffers from this? We are the victims at the end of the day," he said.
Lawyers said the matter is still untested in Canadian courts.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is hearing the case of seven dual nationals working at a military plant in London, Ont. "

With disgust...


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


So a few months back you might recall me bemoaning the softwood lumber agreement with the US that our current PM and Trade minister hold in such high regards. At the time I said that this agreement would come back to bite us and that it was the unofficial end to anything even remotely resembling free trade in North America.

Now Canada is doing this:

Taking the US to the WTO tribunal over corn subsidies. That's fine except it won't matter. By settling on Softwood the US knows we are willing to settle and take in on the chin every time we have a greivance. We backed down on softwood when the NAFTA panel and at least 50% of the rulings from the WTO were in our favour. Why would the US think we would do anythign different this time?

Therefore while settling the softwood issue (again if only temporarily): a) certainly puts immediate money back in the pockets of our industry (even though they are still taking a loss compared to where they should be), b) demonstrated an actual RESOLUTION to a long standing dispute, and c) allowed a new PM to show he was doing something.

At the end of the day all of this has undermined Canada's negotiating position in any future trade disputes and mark my words, in this new corn case we will be the losers partially because we have shown we're happy to back down, take an unjustified loss, and throw principles of free trade out the window all because the PM wants to show how decisive he is. Great.

President Dubya was decisive in Iraq... that worked well didn't. Being decisive only works if its based on sound judgement. In Canada's New Trade Policy and in Iraq, short term judgement was used at the expense of good long term policy planning.



Friday, January 05, 2007


So i'm happy someone else caught this over the holidays. In fact I remember watching the news at some point over the christmas break and thinking... we led the fight to get the landmine treaty signed, now our good ally and friend pakistan can control its tribal areas so its peppering the border with afghanistan with landmines... and we, Canada, are saying... NOTHING!? WTF?

Anyway, since I was away I didn't mention it here, but for your dancing and dining pleasure I include a op-ed by former Foreign Minister Axworthy on this very topic. Hurray!

From today's globe and mail:

"Why aren't we condemning Pakistan's land-mine plan?


Lost in the flurry of news reports of Saddam Hussein's execution was a seemingly innocuous item announcing that Pakistan is preparing to use anti-personnel land mines as a way of curtailing movement across its border into Afghanistan. This move deserves an immediate international response because of its potential destructive impact.

First, it is an admission from the government of Pakistan, one of our self-proclaimed allies in the fight against the Taliban, that it is incapable of controlling its lawless northwest territories where the Taliban and other militant groups breed and conspire in their attacks against the occupying NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Rather than doing what the Pakistanis ought to be doing -- exerting proper security within their own territory -- they are taking the easy and inefficient way out, adding greatly to the risks faced by the many innocent people living in that region.

Second, and more serious as far as Canadians are concerned, is the reality that our government appears to be capitulating to the transgression of a treaty of which we were the primary authors.

And if the deafening silence from Ottawa is to be taken as any sign, there is downright acquiescence to the measures.

Ten years ago, Canadian diplomats, parliamentarians, civil society groups and cabinet ministers were engaged in a full-court press to mobilize support for a treaty that would ban the use, manufacture and trading in land mines. In December of 1997, officials from 122 countries came to Ottawa to sign the treaty that set in motion a worldwide effort to reduce the risk of land mines and rid the world of a killer of innocent people. It was a demonstration of Canadian leadership in the vital area of establishing international rules of law.

Since then, Canada has played a prominent role in increasing the number of nations signing on to the treaty (now more than 150), advancing the plan for demining and aiding the victims. Fatalities have dropped by more than half, the area of mine clearance exceeded 740 square kilometres in 2006, and trafficking has virtually stopped.

Most important, the basic prohibition of land mines as a weapon of war was becoming an international norm, and the argument for its efficacy as a weapon was being dismissed.
The treaty's 10th anniversary, set for the end of 2007, was meant to give its worldwide supporters the chance to assess its value and to make further progress in eliminating this destructive tool of war and its spinoff imitators such as cluster bombs. But Pakistan's move casts a shadow on the treaty's accomplishments -- and just might precipitate a regression where other countries feel that they, too, can flout the treaty because of the silence and unwillingness of its supporters to condemn Islamabad's action.

That is certainly what happened when Pakistan and India tested nuclear weapons -- the international response was tepid, with the exception of the Commonwealth, where Canada led the effort to put the genie back into the bottle. Ironically enough, the only voice that has spoken up on Pakistan is the Afghan President, whose spokesperson was quoted as saying: "Fencing or mining the borders is neither helpful nor practical; the border is not where the problem is." Instead, according to the Afghan government, Pakistan should stop helping the Taliban.
What makes the silence of NATO -- and, by extension, Canada -- so suspect in this case is that they have been the prime promoters of having Pakistan try to limit the number of Taliban crossing into Afghan territory. Does that mean that their silence must be construed as compliance? If so, it puts Canada into direct contradiction with one of its stated disarmament aims and undermines its reputation as a country that promotes humanitarian efforts to save lives -- another casualty, perhaps, of the war-fighting mentality that has taken over Ottawa's foreign policy-making.

This one-dimensional combat preoccupation has already severely curtailed the effort within Afghanistan to undertake demining efforts to clear the detritus of the last war. Funding has fallen off, leading to the laying off of demining personnel and an increase in casualties among children, according to the 2006 Landmine Monitor Report.

Canada, in this 10th anniversary year of the land-mine treaty, can redeem its reputation by making it very clear from the highest sources that it condemns the Pakistani move. It should also use its diplomatic clout to have NATO reject this effort to eviscerate the land-mine treaty, and it should contribute in a serious way to reducing the risk to ordinary Afghans from the many land mines that still pose a risk to life and limb in that poor, war-torn country.
Lloyd Axworthy, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg, served as

Canada's foreign affairs minister from 1996 to 2000. "

Thursday, January 04, 2007


So after a few faxes going back and forth between BA and myself they are now unconditionally offering the maximum amount of money they are legally required to pay me under the international convention which governs airline responsibilities. However, they have still not accounted for what happened to my exploded and completely destroyed luggage, nor have they, in my view, made any attempt to restore my confidence as a BA frequent flyer.

So the question to you all here is what action should I take?

My initial ask was for full compensation of the damaged articles ($2500), an explanation as to what actually happened to my bag, and lastly that I be upgraded to executive club gold status and given two round trip tickets to new york to replace some of my lost articles, not least of which was a very expensive suit.

BA has come back with about one thousand dollars less than I was asking. No explanation, and nothing else.

I feel compelled to press them a bit more (or should I just settle?)