Monday, January 31, 2011

"P" is for Parliament, "S" is for Session

Hey, what an unbearably cold day! Well hopefully the antics of Parliament will warm you up... *crickets* no? ok, I tried. Today, Parliament resumes in the House of Commons, after a 6-week winter break. I watched a bit of question period online, and I'll admit, its really only fun to watch when they scream at each other. There wasn't too much screaming today.
What's the hot topic in parliament you ask? I know you're just dying to know. Michael Ignatieff, criticized Mr. Harper's budget for its inclusion of corporate tax cuts, at a time when the government is running a $55 billion deficit (or somewhere there abouts). Harper countered this by arguing that corporate tax cuts "promote jobs, and improve the economy". Ignatieff went on to say the money lost from corporate tax cuts would be better spent on training and education for citizens, as a better means of improving the economy. How do you feel about the issue? Tax cuts for business vs. no Tax cuts for business. My election radar is beeping really loudly; you know the annoying alarm-clock type beeping? NDP leader Jack Layton has sided with the Liberals on this issue, saying the Conservatives need to, "help Canadian families, rather than big business, if they don't want an election".
Currently the federal business tax is 16.5%, which will be lowered to 15% if the budget passes.
Other items talked about today in the house of commons included a heavy criticism over the PM's response to the current crisis in Egypt. Is the PM taking enough of a stand in the Egypt crisis? Is he fully representing Canadian democratic values on the global political scene?

You can watch question period live here:

Elemental View: Surprise, surprise...but it shouldn't be...not rea...

A pleasant excerpt from anther blog, Elemental View.

Elemental View: Surprise, surprise...but it shouldn't be...not rea...: "The way the mainstream media makes it out to be, the wave of protests sweeping across the Middle East comes across as a huge surprise, a sho..."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

stimulus money well spent

What do I do in my free time? Great question! I think of ways to make the world a better place! Sometimes my ideas are not very realistic. Actually, most of the time my ideas are not very realistic. Below, I've drawn some ideas on how the City of Guelph could improve, especially in the interest of students.
Remember the recession everyone was talking about a little while back? Well the government had the bright idea of providing stimulus money to municipalities to build infrastructure projects. What is the point of this? stimulate growth and provide jobs. How effective it has proven, is debatable. Anyways, the deadline for projects to be completed was extended to October 31st, 2011. This is especially important for Guelph, because projects like the new bus terminal downtown would not have been completed before the previous deadline of March 31st, 2011.
How much money did Guelph get? 45 million. Thats a lot of dough. Here is a link on theprojects Guelph has undertaken since the stimulus announcement.

Enough reading, here is my list of the absolute most effective ways to spend 45 million dollars for students:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

a Conservative budget is coming. also maybe an election.

Yo! So, whats happening? Having a good weekend? Ok, so there is going to be a new budget tabled by the Conservatives, and it is currently being discussed and debated. What is a budget you ask? It is framework for how the government plans to spend our tax dollars. If the Conservatives want to pass their budget, they will need to get the support of at least one other party.
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe has requested a 5 billion dollar compensation package for Quebec, if he is to accept the budget. His reasons for asking for 5 billion: new stadium, cost of harmonizing sales tax, changes in the equalization payments, more money for education and social programs, and money for the 1998 ice storm...
Personally, I dont't see the conservatives giving into these requests. Maybe they will give over a bit of the money requested, but Duceppe has asked for the whole amount, or no deal. Anyways, if the Conservatives don't give into the requests it might cost them seats in Quebec.

NDP leader Jack Layton has some specific requests in the budget, and has said he is prepared to accept the budget and tango with the Conservatives if the budget meets his standards. In any event, his new "election war room", suggests he is prepared for the budget to fail and an election to occur.
A spokes person for Stephen Harper's Conservatives has said the party is not interested in holding an election at this point.
Michael Ignatieff has explicitly stated he will not vote for a budget that includes 16 billion for fighter jets. or corporate tax cuts. I get the impression the Liberals are the ones who want an election.

Will there be an election? Who knows. I don't think an election will have any major effect on parliament. Polls indicate the house of commons' current status quo is likely to endure even if an election is called.

Graffiti is vandalism. It can also be meaningful. and beautiful.

Hey, Its late at night. Did you know this??? Anyways, I love graffiti. I know it destroys public property, and costs money to clean it up. But sometimes, its just the best way to get the message out. It is the voice of the poor, the voice of the marginalized, the voice of those who take back public space. It forces views to be noticed, and changes how we interpret our surroundings. Enough of my psycho-babble, here's some cool politically-motivated vandalism.

This is downtown guelph, on the wall of Sun-Sun's. I don't suggest voting for nobody, at least put "abstain" on your ballot.

This sweet piece was in Vancouver. I like how it references Stephen Harper and George Bush with Pinky and the Brain. funny. I used to watch Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain was the shizzz.

This piece was in Brooklyn, NY. We also have a Conservative party in Canada. Whether you think they are "Con-Men" or not, is for you to decide.

Ahh, tar sands. Very topical. I love these "stop" graffitis. This is not from Guelph. I don't know where its from, but its a pretty creative use of signage.

It says "Let's go blood genocide for oil". Do you think this is true?

This is Banksy. He's pretty popular now, but I liked him before he was cool (<-my attempt at being trendy). This is on the dividing wall between Israel and Palestine. Political? very much so.

Another Banksy, also on the dividing wall between Israel and Palestine.

I think this is so creative. So much expression with minimal work and lines. Also on the Israeli-Palestine wall. Also Banksy.

I painted this in grade 10, on a bridge. Besides infringe on laws, I was trying to make a statement about child soldiers, and sort of put-the-issue-in-the-face of establishment. heck yeahs!

There is tons more politically motivated graffiti out there. Search Guelph, you'll find it.

Canada does not tolerate crooks... Or their brother-in-laws (who are also crooks).

This is serious stuff. Some times I joke around, and play hop-scotch. But this is serious. You all heard about the riots in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, etc etc etc. Well, all these riots started with Tunisia. The former monarch, Ben Ali, fled the country with his tail between his legs because the people were so angry. His brother-in-law, a former insurance sales man, has fled the country also. He came to Montreal, where he is currently shacked up in a posh hotel.
This guy is a crook. He was a former insurance sales man, making a hundred-bucks a week, and then his sister married the president of Tunisia. Since then, he is now apparently worth billions of dollars. Corruption. His business style had been referred to as "Mafia-like" by western diplomats, as he has been "gifted" with numerous government assets since his sister married the president.
Canada has to get rid of this guy. Deport him. Extradite him. Put him on an ice floe and push him off into the atlantic.
This is what this guy is doing: he is using all the legal avenues to try and seek asylum in Canada. Meanwhile the new government of Tunisia is demanding we return this guy for punishment. Here's where the red tape comes in:
1. He has, or had, permanent resident status. It is currently being investigated whether or not he has lived in Canada for at least 2, of the past 5 years. If not, his status could be revoked.
2.He can claim refugee status. This would be an insult to real refugees. His lavish lifestyle is why the Tunisians revolted. If he is denied, he can claim compassionate grounds, because his life would be in danger if he returned to Tunisia.
3. Canada has no extradition treaty with Tunisia. Although, Tunisia has put an arrest warrant out for him.
4. Due to the extensive legal process of appeals, and re-appeals, and re-re-appeals, it could be years before Belhassen is finally kicked out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Riots in Egypt!! 50,000 people= :(

I was in Toronto today for a doctor's appointment. On my way to lunch, I passed a large group of people protesting at city hall, they were protesting in solidarity with their counterparts in Egypt. They were protesting the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has held power for 30 years. His authoritarian rule has angered many Egyptians, and they want him out (see Egyptian Emergency Measures Act after the Arab-Isreali conflict, low wages, police state, unemployment,etc, etc). These protests are coming hot-on-the-heels of similar protests last week in Tunisia, which resulted in their president fleeing the country.
Arab nations across Northern Africa are challenging their leadership with protests, which is creating a boiling pot scenario.
Egypt has a strategically placed geography which is very important for international trade (see Suez Canal), an immense population (see 82 million), and cool buildings. It has yet to be seen whether the current regime of Hosni Mubarak will crumble, and if so, what regime will take his place? Will it be a progressive secular muslim society? will it be a dictatorship? will it adopt principles similar to Iran? Will Egypt regain its previous calmness? How will the US respond to a new regime after 30 years of consistency? I don't know how this is going to turn out.

Here's a video: (lol watch the guy slip at 0:06)
Here's a good article:

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm gonna buy, like, 65 fighter jets.

A big issue in the news right now (or least a couple month's ago), was the Conservative parties decision to purchase a brand-spanking new fleet of fighter jets. Canada is currently using the CF-18, but their life span will run out in the next 10 years. So... Canada bought 65 new F-35's, which are expected to start rolling out by 2016. What's the controversy: Their selection of plane was not open to bids. Usually, in order to get the best price, several aircraft companies will pitch their planes and costs to the government. There are a couple other companies making planes comparable to the F-35, such as Boeing's Super-Hornet or Eurofighter's Typhoon. The Conservative party states the F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter", is the only plane capable of fulfilling Canada's fighter plane needs.
Here's my concern: The current fighter plane Canada is using to patrol the north, is the twin-engine CF-18. Now, I'm no pilot, but the purpose of two engines is: that if one conks out, the other one can still take you home. The F-35's only have one engine, which would totally suck if it failed over the barren Arctic tundra. Defence Minister Peter McKay has assured the public the engine will not fail. But he is not a a pilot either.
*I just found out a benefit of only one engine: Cheaper maintenance costs. Half of a fighter jet's maintenance supposedly come from engines

The Census Sheikh

Hey all, following my last post about the controversy surrounding the mandatory long-form cancellation, here's some more information. Munir Sheikh was Canada's chief statistician. He was strongly in favour of the long form census, so-much-so that he resigned after it was cancelled. He complained that cancelling the mandatory long-form census would deprive the government of crucial data which cannot be attained with the National House Hold Survey. He was also appointed by Stephen Harper, if that makes any difference.

Here's an easily readable article:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

21,000 Canadians registered Jedi knight as a religion in the 2001 census

Over the past summer, the debate over the long-form census raged on, with conservatives proposing to scrape and reform the whole census process. If you haven’t been paying close attention, that’s ok. It can be kind of tiring. But it ended like this: The mandatory long-form census is now voluntary, and it’s called instead the “National Household Survey”. What was the long-form census? Well, it’s essentially a big questionnaire asking Canadians about their lives. How much money do you make? Are you an immigrant? Where did you come from? What’s your education? How many kids do you have? How many times do you go to the washroom in a day, on average? Ok so maybe that last one wasn’t there. You get the picture.

And it was mandatory, meaning if you didn’t fill it out, you pay a fine or go to jail. Yikes. The belief was, that if it weren’t mandatory, no one would be bothered because they are too busy pursuing life. The goal of the survey: develop a better picture of Canadians from the west coast, across every province and territory, to the east coast. Which brings me to my next point: Census’ and government planning are like purchasing rap music.

When you think of emerging rap styles in the 80’s and 90’s, it is often broken down into two camps: West Coast rappers (like Dr. Dre, Ice-T, Ice Cube, Snoop and Tupac) and East Coast rappers (Biggie, Nas, Run DMC, Jungle Brothers, etc.). Lets say the East and West coast rappers are the most popular and sell the most albums out of all rap genres. If you were to look at the rap charts for purchasing suggestions, it would seem like East and West coast rap are the most prevalent and popular, so you decide to spend all your money buying CD’s from these two genres. But wait. Did the charts give you an accurate description of the actual rap you like? No, it just suggested two popular themes of where to spend your money. As it turns out, you’re real preference is Southern Rap (think Outkast, B.o.B, Missy Elliott), but unfortunately southern rap doesn’t sell enough records yet, to make the top 10 charts or the radio, so you’ve never heard of it.

This is the main idea with the census: by forcing people to fill it out, the government gets a better sense of the country and where to spend your hard-earned tax dollars. Marginalized groups that lack public services can be identified on the survey, and perhaps the government will recognize this by implementing greater support services. Seems like an effective solution.

Back to rapping: pretend you sent out a survey to every rapper, asking them about their rap style. You would get a back survey’s indicating rappers who are neither West coast OR East coast. You would get back some survey’s declaring different rapper’s styles, such as: Crunk, Ghettotech, Battle rap, Conscious rap, Christian rap, etc. etc. Now you realize what you’re missing out on!
So why did the Conservatives want to scrap the mandatory long-form census? Here are 4 reasons why the conservatives wanted to scrap the long form census:
1-Invades people’s privacy, Big Brother is watching, Government needs to step back.
2- It’s wrong to fine people (or send them to jail) for not doing it
3-Waste of money, the data isn’t worth the price; make more room in the budget for other stuff (let private Interest groups spend their own money on getting information)
4- People were complaining about it
How you stand on the issue is up to you; weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed decision. Do you think the government will get an accurate picture of Canada without the survey? Here are some questions: How do Internet marketing companies get information? How about just looking at the consumer trends within regions? How accurate can it be, if it’s only mandatory for 20% of the population?
Personally, I think the mandatory long-form census was pretty valuable. But I also think it’s distribution could have been managed more effectively, and the questions slightly changed. But that’s only my opinion. Make your own!

Here are some interesting links providing more information:
-Questions found on the new voluntary National Household Survey:
-Liberal Arguments:
-Conservative Arguments: (not that comprehensive, there are probably better links for this)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not enough hugs for everyone :(

With a possible federal election happening in the spring (yes! that soon! maybe), Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s 20/11 tour is traveling across Canada, visiting 20 ridings in 11 days. His message: Canada is not better off than it was 5 years ago when conservatives took power. I think thats highly debatable, but the verdict is still out.
What is the purpose of these magical visits you might ask? Each riding he’s visiting is on the cusp of the Liberal party. These ridings have been know to flirt and tease with the Liberals, but sadly didn’t ask them to dance. Sunday, he was in Kitchener-Waterloo campaigning for two former Liberal ridings, now held by conservatives.
I sympathize with Mr. Ignatieff, just like a student scrambling between a project and a midterm, he’s preparing for doomsday. Do you study for the mid-term, or finish your project? Also, they are both worth 100%
The liberal party needs to win all these proposed ridings if they have any hope of reducing Stephen Harper’s minority government in the *possible* election.
So what’s Ignatieff’s problem? All he has to do is kiss some NDP and Green party babies for photo ops and viola! Not exactly. Ignatieff’s choice to woo NDP and Green party voters from the political left will definitely cost him votes from the more conservative liberals. He faces a trade off, how this will play out has yet to be determined. Either way, just like the student, he’s going to make a sacrifice.
What should this mean to you? It means vote. The government is not some static thing, but rather dynamic and changing. Vote for the parties that represent the world you want to live in. If you don’t agree with any party, mark your ballot with “Abstain” to show how dissatisfied you are. Its easy, and it’s the first step to being an active member in decision making. The student vote can make a huge difference, but it needs to be taken for a walk more often.