Archive for August, 2010

Why the Gun Registry Needs To Go

August 30, 2010

An excellent op-ed by Yorkton-Melville MP, Garry Breitkreuz on the ongoing debate regarding the private member’s Bill C-391 which – if passed – would see the end of the federal long-gun registry.

Breitkreuz hits hard against the politicking of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and all of the various machinations that are going on to try and kill the bill.

The media war over the hotly contested long-gun registry is in full swing, and it isn’t pretty. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) is lobbying hard to keep our tax dollars flowing into the black hole that is the registry.

Taxpayers should be incensed at the CACP for co-opting the role of policy-maker. When law enforcement managers try to write the laws they enforce, history has taught us we risk becoming a state where police can dictate our personal freedoms.

Policy-making is solely the mandate of elected governments on behalf of the people. While police can and should be consulted on the efficacy of current policies, police chiefs should not be lobbying to tell the government which laws it should adopt. The tail is wagging the dog with such intensity, the pooch is a veritable blur.

Breitkreuz also points the finger at the CACP’s conflict of interest on this issue: something the media has studiously avoided in their coverage.

Consider that the CACP’s vocal endorsement of the registry caused the sudden departure of its own ethics expert last year. John Jones quit the CACP ethics committee after the chiefs accepted a $115,000 donation from the gun registry’s software provider. Indeed, Jones says the CACP has a track record of providing public endorsements to private sector companies that help to fund their lavish annual conference galas.

Although this bill passed 1st and 2nd readings, with the help of Liberal and NDP MPs, the 3rd reading will be a much tighter battle.

In fact it will be a battle just to get it to 3rd reading, as the federal Liberals have entered a motion to kill the bill outright to make sure it never even gets there.

As well, the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff has decided to whip his caucus’ vote, which means that the Liberal MPs who have supported the bill in the previous two readings will now have to vote against the bill or face severe repercussions within their party. This goes against parliamentary tradition, which has normally allowed a free vote on private member’s bills. However it appears that Ignatieff is willing to play to his Quebec and Toronto base and write-off the West and Eastern rural constituents.

So far the NDP leader, Jack Layton, has stayed clear of whipping his caucus’ vote, but whether he will bow to his Toronto base before this is finished is a good question. Should he do so he will likely cause some fractures within his own party.

Hopefully the NDP MPs who voted to get rid of this ridiculous legislation on the first two readings will stick to their principles and see it through to the end.

It would be a big win to see the long-gun registry go the way of the Dodo bird.


Federal boating licencing regulations to be toughened up

August 30, 2010

I know that I have complained on various occasions here about stupid laws and the knee jerk reactions to tragedies that lead to more stupid laws. The problem is, they just keep coming or at least expanding.

In 1999 the Canadian government decided – in their infinite wisdom – to make it compulsory for everyone running a powerboat in Canada to be licensed (notably the Northwest Territories and Nunavut being excluded from the licensing rules). This could be accomplished by paying a fee (of course) and passing a test.The rationale, as it always seems to be, was public safety. In the bureaucratic mind, every boat owner/operator being licensed would somehow reduce boating accidents and the inevitable fatalities.

Like so many other bureaucratic  endeavours they were of course wrong. With their previous failures in licensing (cue the firearms licensing and registration laws) why they would think that taking a test would improve safety on the water is beyond comprehension.  But then it makes it look as though they and their political masters have provided a solution to a perceived problem and no doubts it ensures some more taxpayer funded government jobs.

Now, true to form, there are plans to make obtaining an operating license more difficult because there are still accidents happening on the waterways.

Ottawa will change course on the way it licenses recreational boat operators, toughening up a testing program long criticized as ineffective and easy to cheat.

But the new standards will not take effect until September, after the height of the summer boating season, Transport Canada confirms. And some marine-safety experts suggest that even the proposed changes to the online Pleasure Craft Operator Card testing regime will still leave too many people operating boats without sufficient knowledge, training or oversight.

Calls for tougher rules on the water have grown following a horrific accident on Shuswap Lake in B.C. last weekend in which 53-year-old Ken Brown was killed when a speedboat rammed into his houseboat. Police investigating the accident have said speed, alcohol and the lack of running lights could have been factors in the crash.

James Kusie, of federal Transport Minister John Baird’s office, said the government is altering the licensing program with the goal of improving boating safety from coast to coast.

Unfortunately, all of the licensing in the world will not change the fact that most of the boating fatalities are caused by carelessness and stupidity – much of it alcohol induced. There have been a number of fatalities in BC this summer that would have been avoided had the boaters simply been wearing their life jackets.

The stats are not in from 2010, of course, but in 2009 there were 66 water related fatalities in British Columbia of which 11 were attributed to powerboating,, 1 to a houseboat and 2 to personal watercraft. .

Bathtubs accounted for 2 and hot tubs for another 1 fatalities. Neither of which have, to date, generated calls for bathing or soaking licenses.

I leave the last word to Macleans columnist Andrew Coyne.

In the name of reducing government intrusion in people’s lives, the Conservative government is proposing to abolish the mandatory long-form census (it would become voluntary), a vitally important source of data that only applies to one-fifth of the population, once every five years.

At the very same time, the same Conservative government is proposing to tighten the requirement that every one of Canada’s 7-million or so boaters obtain an operator’s licence and carry it with them every time they get in a boat, on pain of a $250 fine — an utterly needless piece of bureaucratic busywork whose sole defence is that it is ludicrously unenforceable.

Sigh. Could we make up our minds, please? Doctrinaire libertarianism, nanny-state paternalism, whatever. But both at once is just too much to bear.

I’ll take the libertarian approach, thank you.

Quiting your job the JetBlue way

August 22, 2010

The big hype on the JetBlue flight attendant, who cursed out an  unruly passenger and then grabbed a couple of beers and slid down the emergency chute to fame, possibly fortune and a chance at jail time, has subsided in the media.

It appears that he is still facing charges for reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Although I would be curious to know just what that means. By exiting the plane in a somewhat unconventional manner he probably ran afoul of some federal law pertaining to airport safety or U.S. terrorism laws or whatever. There seem to be enough laws on the books these days to cover every possible situation. I read earlier that he was also being charged with theft – I presume for the two beers that absconded with – but that may or may not be the case. However police have been known to pile on the charges initially on a ‘just in case’ scenario or possibly to simply intimidate the miscreant.

As to the fame and fortune he now has a publicist.

Quitting your job usually leads to bookmarking on your laptop and watching M*A*S*H DVDs in your underwear, not fame and fortune. Of course, if for your final act at said job you lay down an expletive-laced tirade over an intercom system and exit via an emergency escape tube, the way former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater reportedly did, the standard rules may not apply. After a week of his story saturating a strangely obsessed media, on Sunday Slater procured the services of top publicist Howard Bragman to help deal with media relations and manage the numerous offers said to be coming his way.

Can a book and a movie be far behind?

But then again Slater might not be the pure folk hero that the media initially made him out to be.

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater may have been drinking long before he grabbed a beer and made a dramatic exit from a jetliner by opening an emergency slide to the tarmac at New York’s Kennedy Airport, police said today.

Witnesses have also told police that it was Slater who was rude to passengers, and the cut on his forehead came at the beginning of the flight, not during an altercation with a surly passenger after the plane landed as Slater has claimed.

Nor does it appear that he actually quit his job when he made his dramatic exit. So it wasn’t really a glorious ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.

A flight attendant accused of cursing out a passenger on an airplane passenger-address system, grabbing some beer from the galley and exiting on an emergency slide was suspended Tuesday. The attendant’s lawyer said a rule-breaking passenger provoked him.

There is more often than not a lot more to a story than initially gets on the front page.

Where has T. Woods gone?

August 9, 2010

The Tiger Wood saga fascinates me. Not the scandal,  but the aftermath and how it has affected his game.

We are constantly told that golf is a mental game (although, come to think of it that may mean that you’re crazy to play it), even though we are inundated with advice on how improve your technique. But if anyone ever had any doubts about the game being played between your ears, they just have to look at what has happened to Woods.

In less than a year he has gone from being arguably the greatest player ever to play the game, to struggling to make a cut. The only thing saving him from not playing the weekend at the Bridgestone Invitational was the fact that it was a no-cut event.

So what happened? He lost his muscle memory and his swing went with it? Bloody unlikely.

This is a guy that his last instructor, Hank Haney, in a Golf Digest article said knew more about his swing than anyone he ever worked with.

How knowledgeable is Tiger about the golf swing?

The most knowledgeable I’ve ever been around. I’ve taught 200 pros from tours around the world, and nobody came close to knowing what Tiger knows.

I think it’s all head games. Too many major distractions in his personal life and Woods’ fabled focus is screwed up.

He’s not having just one problem. Everything’s screwed. His driver has gone south, his irons are bad and the putts aren’t dropping.. He is a walking disaster area.

The question is: Can he make it all the way back?

It’s hard to bet against Woods, especially once his personal life returns to a semblance of order and his focus and self discipline is restored. The question being – can he actually accomplish that.

There have been many fine golfers who have lost their edge and were never able to regain their top form.

A famous example is Australian Ian Baker Finch who won the Open in 1991 and then a couple of years saw his game collapse.

Baker-Finch then famously suffered a complete collapse of his game.[4] The problems were often psychological: He would hit shots flawlessly on the practice range, and then go to the first tee and hit a weak drive into the wrong fairway. In the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, he notoriously hooked his first round tee-shot at the first out-of-bounds on the left side of the fairway shared with the 18th, with attention focused on him as his playing partner was Arnold Palmer, competing in his final Open. In 1995 and 1996 he missed the cut, withdrew after one round, or was disqualified in all twenty nine PGA Tour events that he entered. After shooting a 92 in the first round of the 1997 British Open, an extraordinarily bad score by tournament professional standards, he withdrew from the championship and retired from tournament golf..

Another is David Duval who rose to number one in the world in 1999 and won The Open in 2001. Then his game went sideways, although part of the initial problem may have been some physical issues. But Duval has never been able to regain his old form, although he has shown occasional flashes of his former abilities but still didn’t earn his 2010 tour exemption.

So will Tiger work his way through this? With his past history it is pretty difficult to bet against him, but the mind is a delicate thing. Who would have ever expected that he could play for four days and never get close to par. Eighteen over par for the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone this weekend was pretty unbelievable.

Making predictions on something like this is a mugs game. One can only wait and see how things unfold.

But I wonder what the British bookie odds are on this.

Why dumb and useless laws get passed

August 8, 2010

I have written on occasion about stupid laws, many most of which are written to show that something is being done to solve some perceived problem, regardless of effectiveness or even common sense.

Now an article by Joseph Brean in the National Post does some analysis as to why this happens.

If a skeptic was to wonder why Canadian authorities seem to respond to every tragedy by proposing intrusive new rules that can have impacts far beyond the problems they purport to be addressing, Frank Furedi has the answer: Canada has a cultural “addiction to rule-making.”

It is a world leader in the “intrusification” of everyday life, says Mr. Furedi, a sociologist who likens the impulse to using rules like religion to bring solace from grief and fear. “Every time a child dies, somebody will say — either the police or the coroner or a lawyer — that the lessons must be learned,” said Mr. Furedi, a professor at the University of Kent and author of The Politics of Fear. “We cannot just accept that this was a death. We’ve got to give that death meaning, and the way to give it meaning is to pass a law.”

The article then goes on to detail a number of examples, the latest being Ontario’s new legislation to instate a zero tolerance rule for alcohol in the system which will apply to any drivers under the age of 22. (My initial thought on this one was that it would be unconstitutional when applied to a specific group within society. There has already been a suit filed in that respect, although the provincial government feels that they are on solid footing.)

The article doesn’t even get to the federal gun legislation that was shoved down Canadian’s throats directly due to the murders at Ecole Polythechnique murders of 14 female engineering students in 1989.

Mr. Furedi makes a few other pointed comments:

Modern safety regulations, like witchcraft or divine retribution, are based on a faulty premise about who is responsible for stuff happening, and what can be done about it. Like religion, they are an effort to bring meaning to a cruel and random universe.

“They think their job is to save people from themselves,” he said of politicians who promote rules designed to send social messages, and that this reveals their “contempt” for “people who cannot be relied on to manage their everyday existence.”
Now if only our politicians, both provincial and federal, would take it to heart.

The Voluntary Long-Form Census

August 7, 2010

The fact that the federal government’s long-form census was compulsory and backed by legal sanctions of fines and jail time has always been a problem with me. I have received the long-form census on occasion and dutifully have filled it in, and would have done so whether the legal hammer was poised over my head or not. But the fact that the government made it a criminal offense if I refused to give up my information stuck in my craw, although my moral indignation never reached the point where I was prepared to challenge the bureaucrats in Ottawa and stand hard on my principles.

But now the federal government has decided that the long-form is intrusive and are going to make it a voluntary process.

The Conservative government is scrapping the mandatory long census form for the 2011 census, replacing it with a voluntary national household survey.

All Canadians will still receive a mandatory short census. One in three households will be sent the new household survey as well. Previously, one in five households were sent the mandatory long-form census.

A small victory, as even if the long-form is decriminalized, the rest of the census is still covered by the old legislation. So the government isn’t concerned about the fact that not filling in a government form could turn you into a criminal, but with the fact that the questions are intrusive. I guess you take your wins where you find them.

There have, however, been others who have made a stand based on their beliefs. Or at least one person. Maybe more, but that’s not in my data bank.

In 2006, Sandra Finley went to court over her refusal to complete the census forms. Although her problem was not with the compulsive requirements to comply. She was incensed with Statistics Canada decision to buy software from defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the U.S. and the possibility of the census material being accessed by other than Canadian government sources.

The Conservative government’s decision to do away with the mandatory long census has not satisfied the concerns of Canada’s top crusader against the survey.

Cabinet had decided to do away with the long form in 2011 and replace it with a voluntary survey in response to criticism from some Canadians that the process was coercive and intrusive.

But Sandra Finley, the Saskatoon activist who made national headlines for going to court over her refusal to fill out the 2006 census, is unimpressed.

She and others have balked at the Statistics Canada-led process because of the fact the agency bought software from defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin back in 2003.

Although the agency insisted before the 2006 census that only federal employees would have access to the data collected, that did not assuage Finley and others who protested the link to Lockheed. The short census will remain mandatory for all Canadians and will still be based on Lockheed Martin technology.

“As far as I’m concerned, my objection to them contracting out to Lockheed Martin is stronger than ever based on what I’ve learned over seven years,” said Finley, who is still in court with Statistics Canada.

Once the federal government announced their intention a hue and cry emanated from the media, opposition parties and various organizations that make their living from using the data that flows from the long-form. The media is looking for a story they can pumps out to the public, the opposition parties are looking for any issue they think might inflate their political credibility and the various private organizations are aghast that their livelihood may be negatively impacted.

Of course the reverberations we hear is the world coming to an end or at least civilization as we know it today. Voluntary data won’t give all the good information that everyone needs. Governments won’t be able to spend their (sorry -‘ our’) money wisely. No-one will know what the needs of the nation are. God help us!

I wonder.

I wonder when government has ever spent our money wisely. I wonder when government takes their information and makes long-term social decisions rather than short-term political decisions. I wonder how accurate and meaningful the coerced information is. My life is full of wonder.

As to the last bit of wondering, while working in the business world, I received forms from various government departments demanding information on different aspects of our operations. Since we didn’t compile any data in their areas of concern and because they were insistent that I should comply, I would fill in figures gleaned from thin air and send them off. That seemed to make everyone happy. But I used to think that I probably wasn’t the only recipient of these forms who was doing this and wondered what world changing decisions were being made, based on these guesstimates, by some obscure bureaucrats labouring in the dark recesses of some Ottawa office building.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that other than providing a living for a lot of people, I have no great confidence that all of this material has any real value other than giving various groups and individuals the enjoyment of arguing about what it all really means.

As for the intrusiveness of the long-form, I like Ezra Levant’s take on it.

The regular census is short. It asks who lives in your house and some questions about how everyone is related to each other. It also asks about language use — information that fuels Canada’s bilingualism policy. That’s about it.

But the long-form census feels like it was written by the biggest gossips in the country. The 2011 version hasn’t been released yet, but the 1996 one can still be seen online.

Some of it is the basic stuff. But how about this: Question 7 demanded everyone in your home describe any physical or mental-health condition, and what limits that places on your school, work or home life.

Sorry, that’s just none of the government’s business. It’s supposed to be a census, not a peek through a family’s medicine cabinet.

This so-called census also asked Canadians to tell the government who did what chores and errands in the house — which parent helped the kids with homework; which parent drove them to sports; who did the shopping; who talked “with teens about their problems.”

And a helpful bureaucrat would be right there to write it all down.

That’s not what really bothered me, though.

Question 19 demanded Canadians define themselves according to ethnicity.

And “Canadian” wasn’t an option.

The census gave a list of different alternatives including some colours (white and black) and a continent (Latin American). What would U.S. President Barack Obama, whose mom was white, choose — both white and black? Why weren’t brown or red or yellow allowable colours?

What on earth does “Latin American” mean as an ethnicity? Latin Americans come in every race and ethnicity — black, Aboriginal, white or, like Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru, Japanese. And why was Latin America a choice, but not North America?

Stranger still, black was actually explained not by colour but by country. It included African, which would include white South Africans.

But Arab/West Asian was another choice, even though the examples included Egyptian and Moroccan (which are in Africa, not Asia) and Iranian, which is a country that is overwhelmingly Persian in ethnicity — not Arab.

Some ethnically homogenous countries were listed (Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese) but many others weren’t.

The choices just made no sense.

And then there was the answer marked “other”.

In another question, the census asked your “cultural group.” It listed only one religion (Jewish), and several countries. Is Jewish a country?

Given that “etc.” was also listed, it’s not surprising that in a recent census, 21,000 Canadians described themselves as Star Wars Jedi Knights.

What are these bizarre questions and answers about? The census form was perfectly frank: It stated it was for government programs that use racial quotas — also called affirmative action. As Canadians, we like to think we’re equal before the law. But Statistics Canada collects this information to treat us unequally.

Let the nosy bureaucrats pound sand: Scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a small victory against big government.

Sounds good to me.

Oak Ridge Boys in Kelowna

August 1, 2010

Just returned from seeing the Oak Ridge Boys at the Kelowna Community Theatre. They put on a great, high energy show to a packed theatre.

Old crowd for the most part though, but then we all go back a long ways with the The Oak Ridge Boys. Although there was a 13 year old there that impressed them when they saw her singing along to all of the old songs.

I think that they were pleased with the reception they got from the Kelowna crowd. They got a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of one song, mid concert.  Something you don’t see too often – especially with a seniors crowd. They claimed they were coming back next year.

Anyway, a great performance, they still sound good and look like they’re having fun up there. It was also a pleasure to see a group like that in a smaller theatre. They advertise that there are 853 seats in total.

After finishing at Kelowna tonight their next show was in Sweet Home, Oregon (I think near Eugene) tomorrow at 2:00 PM. They have a brutal traveling schedule. I hope they really love what they do.