Category Archives: Canada

Watson turns the page, others haven’t

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Jim Watson has turned the page and has moved on from the fiasco that is all about the design of an addition that the owners of the Chateau Laurier what to pop on the site of the torn down parking garage.  Jim Watson has moved on, he’s moved onto to his LRT to the City of Ottawa gets the keys to the trains the middle of August from Rideau Transit Group.  He is getting the keys more than a year late and several missed deadlines later.

Jim Watson and 12 other councillors have moved on since Thursday July 11th when reconsideration of Councillor Fleury’s  motion to deny Larco, the owners of the Chateau Laurier their permit to build an addition.  Ten Ottawa City Councillors led by Mathieu Fleury, Heritage Ottawa and thousands of Ottawa voters that have signed petitions haven’t moved on, rather they’ve firmly planted themselves in a position that they hope will block backhoes from starting construction.

This story goes back years, the major sticking point is that City Council passed a heritage permit. The owners of the Chateau have presented five designs, all of which have been panned by the public, but have met the guidelines set out in the heritage permit.    The application has a few minor steps before ground can be broken and construction can begin on a design that has been called a car radiator.  City Council has the right to deny a permit to build if it doesn’t like the design, but in this case they didn’t, fearing a costly lawsuit.

It appears that a majority, maybe all of council does not like the design the owners are determined to build, but 14 voted to deny Fleury his opportunity, one last time, to have the permit revoked.  Mayor Watson must have let out a big sigh before he slid out the back door of council chambers to begin his vacation when the final vote tally was counted.
img_20180405_1541418638794165793251928.jpgI think the problem the public (and few public figures) has with the design is that the architects haven’t really veered far from design number one.  The fourth reiteration of the original drawing is still basically a box being stapled to a castle.  I’ve seen more imagination in the design of a building on a beach.

While Larco dreams of Bob the Builder, Councillors Fleury, Meehan, Deans, and others along with Heritage Ottawa and the Friends of the Chateau Laurier will be spending the time the Mayor is away looking to stop those dreams.  While all this planning takes place will the Mayor actually has a peaceful vacation with nothing on his mind?

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter@robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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75 Years On

D Day 2June 6th, 1944, the start of the the end of WWII; and 75 years later the sacrifice is still considered as great as it ever was.  D-Day and all its planning was the product of the failure of Dieppe only 2 years earlier. As a nation we never cease  to remember the sacrifice of that day, but do we ever ask why the sacrifice had to be given?

In my last post I was writing about how there seems to be no limts on what is ‘said ‘ on the internet.  The bravado of many has also extended to the actions on the streets. We are seeing things being done and words being spoken that a few would say set us up for dangerous times. It is as if the filter of kindness and respectful conversation has been lifted.  75 years ago young Canadians saw first hand what hate and selfishness created, a world where there was no room for dissent and no tolerance for different thinking.  June 6, 1944 was the beginning of the end of of that way of thinking.  As Canadian and allied forces swept through Europe liberating millions from oppression the stories of what our soldiers saw slowly entered the safe domain that was Canada in 1944.

So here we are in 2019, we’re over 100 years out from the end of the Great War and we are just a year away from the 75thanniversay of the end World War II.  Over the next 14 months the battles that led to the end of the Nazi reign will be detailed, the horror what man could do to another man and their familiy will be retold. Will we as a modern civilsation take stock of the losses and vow to make sure not one man or movement that takes us down that path again will be tolerated?  More importantly how will we ensure this happens, or doesn’t happen again?

UnknownD Day 1Taking my last post about respecting a ‘golden rule’ for social media another step forward, is it time that society as a whole stopped yelling at each other and started talking?  We are a nation and for the most part a society built on free speech, respect and being cordial to each other.

The end of WW2 is about the end of humanity at its worst, when we commemorated the centennary of the end of the Great War it was different.  It was truly the first global conflict in modern times, nothing like it had been seen before.  The reason for the great war?  It was about expanding influence.  WWII was fought because of a tyrant and his beliefs and the charasmatic method a country fell into a trance.

Today we are close, but also far from a repeat of 1939 and the rise of fascism. We are close because charasmatic groups are using methods at their fingertips to spread messages of hate and discourse.  We’re far from the same outcome because we remember when humanity last allowed these words, emotions and actions to overtake our responsibility.

75 years on, let’s take the words of our veterans and put them into action that we don’t allow movements of hate, movements that aim to restrict others, movements of fear to take over our society. Today in 2019, we have allowed fear and division to creep back and take over our politics and a common sense of reason and frankly some days it really scares me.

When we commemorate the 100thanniversay of the end of WWII in September of 2045, will we be able to say we learned the lessons Canadians died for?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter@robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

The Golden Rule of Social Media

Golen RuleThere are only weeks until the campaigning for the 43rd General Election in Canada starts. However the state of political discourse in Canada has never been as low as it is before an election as it is today. The language we’re speaking, the assumptions we’re making and the tone we’re using all are contributing to the discourse and really the anger in the conversations are at levels I have never heard before.

What are the origins of the new lows of our political discussions, where did we accept this behavior? Why do we accept this behavior? Have our leaders brought us to this point? Who do we hold responsible? Is all this because our new communication devices allow us, anyone to to have a personal soapbox? Our new communication freedom also brings millions of voices to us in a click.

There are voices that generate a lot of emotion, we all immediately think of @realDonaldTrump and his daily tweets – he generates strong reactions from supporters and opponents. In Canada our political leaders may not generate the same emotion, but Canadians are engaging. What concerns me is that we can’t engage without some people confusing opinion with information. As an example, this post and blog is based on my opinions and where ever possible I will insert information that support my opinion.

I cannot the only one concerned with this, I think that many Canadians share this with me, and now Parliamentarians must share this opinion as well; The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Parliament Hill is currently studying “Online Hate”. The committee has been hearing from witnesses since April. With Parliament approaching the summer recess the study will be wrapping up so that a report can be written and tabled before the House rises. The report will include recommendations that might be the basis for campaign promises during the upcoming election.

It is easy to compartmentalize hate as coming from one side of the political spectrum; one side claims to be on the side of good, automatically labeling the other as hateful. Online its easy, some people are faceless and nameless. Can you imagine if school playgrounds were treated the same as social media? If that were the case the principal’s office would have a line-up of combatants having to ‘explain themselves’ and their actions. If we never tolerated this type of activity in schoolyards, why do we allow it online?

I’ll wait for the report from the Justice and Human Rights Committee and read it with great interest. The committee heard from witnesses from many faiths, ethnic groups, LGBT groups, Gender groups, Human Rights, government departments and agencies and Individuals came and provided testimony. Will this provide an insight into how or if the government should regulate hate speech online.

Interestingly, the week the Justice Committee was meeting, the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy was also meeting in Ottawa. The second Grand Council of the committee was in Ottawa to have the tech giants talk about data security, #fakenews and privacy. The meeting had the understated question if FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) should be required to do more that they are? The meeting was overshadowed by the decision by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg ignored a summons to appear in front of the committee.

Parents, teachers, principals, school administrators and others wouldn’t allow faceless and nameless bullies on school property during recess to harm the children, why do we tolerate them on social media where more harm can be done with words, images and videos – where people we don’t even know have access to influence others? Don’t we deserve a safe social media playground?

Isn’t it time we took into consideration the audiences, known and unknown, we have online and started to police our own words and actions and call out others who cross a line? Can’t we all use a better language online? Surely (mostly) everyone doesn’t use the same language in person that is used online. We all need to use the golden rule of social media, use the language you want used on your posts when you post and comment on others.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My small green shift

This post is predicated on a great article in the Globe and Mail on Saturday May 11th about plastic and single use plastics in particular.  If you have not read it, I suggest you do.

coffee 1It’s been one week and I have NOT thrown out 18 Starbucks cups in the garbage, one week since Liz and I made the conscience decision to use only a travel coffee mug. It is a small step, one that on the grand scheme of things probably only makes me feel better about my small effort. The first day I walked in to my Starbucks, rather than mobile ordering, the manager gave me a weird look because I had not mobile ordered.  I said I can’t do it anymore, I asked him ‘do you have any idea how many cups I throw out?  He understood.

Does this get me closer to purchasing an electric vehicle?  No.

Does this get me closer to starting to lecture others on what they should do? No

But it is my little bit that I can do know, less garbage and less plastics – it is our single efforts to do a little that will have the greatest impacts.  Like I said, it’s a little for now, it will grow to doing more and to being made aware of where Liz and I can make little changes for a cleaner world.

This one article was an eye opening read.  It’s amazing how much we encourage people to recycle and how much actually GETS recycled. Yes, everyone feels good when the blue box, the black box and the green bin go to the curb.  If we all understood how little good this did, what actions would we be willing to take to make a bigger impact?  It is generally accepted that there is far too much packaging in goods we purchased day to day.  How do we get manufacturers to act on reducing packaging, especially items that are sealed in hard plastics. plastics that may or may not be accepted in our recycle bins.

It costs municipalities millions of dollars to have recycle programs, and the same municipalities may not earn much revenue from these same programs.  Municipalities struggle with cost vs good of a recycle program.  In Ottawa, the city spent $42.5M in 2018 on waste diversion and recycling.  In 2016 the City had revenues of $10.1M for paper and plastics.  However that revenue did not cover the costs of the pick up of the recyclables.  Part of the costs of Ottawa recycling in 2016 were picked up by Ontario’s stewardship program, in 2018 that program provides over $6M to the city.

How much longer can muncipalities afford these programs?  I know we can’t afford NOT to have them.  This should change with the Waste Free Ontario Act passed in 2016 by the Wynne government.  This act puts the onus on the manufactiers and producers shoulders.  They will need to find ways to reduce their packaging and I assume the cost of  packaging.

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As consumers we can demand better and should demand better of the manufacturers and of ourselves. Demand that what we buy has less packaging and demand that we buy products with less packaging.  We need to compare and reward those that make the effort needed.  It’s something I have started to pay attention to.

So for today it comes down to me and my travel coffee mug, less waste and my coffee staying hotter longer – its my small green shift.

 


Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter@robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Affordable Climate Change action, for some

mckennaThis week Environment and Climate Change Minister (and my MP) Catherine McKenna made an announcement, a funding announcement.  Joining her were area MP Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West Nepean) and Mona Fortier (Ottawa Vanier).  The funding provided would allow a grocery store to replace refrigeration and lighting in the store.  What a great idea, there are several local grocery and food operations that are struggling due to the high cost of food transportation and new carbon taxes.

What a coup for that local store to get that funding and an announcement with the Minister!

The store was a Loblaws store and the amount was $12M from the Low Carbon Economy Fund and that money would equal the emissions of 50,000 cars coming off the roads.  This is good funding money, but really, Loblaws? Loblaws not only had huge profits, but in 2017 also was found guilty of a 14-year long bread price fixing scheme. Loblaws Companies Limited had a net profit of $3.4B in 2018.    Minister McKenna could not find a local operation that has maybe 2 or 3 locations?  A small chain of specialty health food stores?  Kardish Foods, for one, comes to mind they are Ottawa local and a good local success story

I think however the number the Minister really wants everyone to focus on is 50,000 – as in the emissions reduction of taking 50K cars off the road.  BUT I argue that we should be looking at numbers like $3.4B in profit and $12M.

On the face of it, this announcement slaps small local stores that struggle with the high cost of hydro to keep lights, freezers and fridges running.  The Liberals could have done themselves a huge favour (and everyone knows they could use it) by making the announcement at a small butcher shop, a local restaurant, a health food store or any other example of a company that doesn’t make a profit of $3.4B.  Bog box chain stores like Loblaws don’t need funding announcements that represent a mere 0.35% of annual profits.

Gifting $12M to Loblaws tells me that Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna has allowed the arrogance of Justin Trudeau and his Liberals to overtake any sense of normalcy she might have had. This announcement shows just how out of touch Trudeau and his team have become. It comes at a cost to Loblaws who have taken a social media hit and it will, if social media posts are to be believed, as many plan to never set foot in a Loblaws store again.

Liberals are saying that the LCEF is an application baesd program, but shouldn’t there be a financial aspect to this?  Should government funding to help those who can afford the type of retrofitting that Loblaws is going to get?  Any funding awarded from this program should benefit those who really wouldbenefit from it. In Ottawa Centre, the riding of Minister McKenna, is home to many small businesses; butcher shops, fish markets, fruit and vegtable stores, business that rely on refridgerators to stay in business.  I am sure that Minister McKenna shops in these stores that are close to her home in Ottawa.

While there’s huge role for the large comglomerates, climate action only works if the small businesses see that they get a buy in and are part of a solution.  In Question Period both the Conservatives and the NDP peppered the Liberals with questions why they were only helping companies that could afford the retrofits without money from the LCEF.

In what has become the Liberals achilles heel, where once they were seen as looking out for every Canadian, now they seem to be looking out for Canadians, but others get helped first.  Its actions like what took place this week that make Justin Trudeau and the Liberals as looking out for the 1% and those looking to stay in the 1%.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

(don’t tell the Irish) The Scots Invented Canada

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April 6th is Tartan Day in Canada, how appropriate that I sit and write a few words about a book I first spotted in the office of a Senator when I toured the new Senate building a few weeks back.

I learned that there is almost a cottage industry of books written about things that Scots have invented.  There are books written about how the Scots invented the modern world, golf, fine single malts and Canada.  How Scots invented Canada was written in 2010 by Ken McGoogan and looks at 5 dozen or so Scots/Canadians with Scottish blood lines.

There are the expected profiles and where they stand in Canadian history, like Sir John A MacDonald, George Brown, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Frederick Banting and Sanford Fleming.  We know their place in Canadian history as fathers of confederation, the building of the CRP Railway and in the world of medicine and science.   McGoogan then goes and expands all our knowlledge of all things scottish and give us names like Alexander Grahma Bell, Doris Anderson, Timothy Eaton, John McCrae and Nellie McClung.  He manages to bring Scots into to present day Canada where the world continues to expand and unfold.

Lets go back to the pre-confederation for a bit.  Famine, wars, the American Revolution all emerge as some reasons of how many of Scottish decent came to the Upper and Lower Canada provinces.  Scots loyal to the crown found refuge in early Canada.  The Scots led to the successful mapping of trade routes to the west coast, some doing faster than anyone could have ever imagined. The growth of the Hudson Bay Company was at the hands of Scots that had been educated due to the “Scottish Enlightenment” where reading was given to many.  The enlightenment was a leading road to building the character of well educated Scots that would be foremost in business management and growth.  The growth of the fur trade and the establishment of the trade routes were instrumental in bringing the west coast colonies into an eventual confederation in 1871.  That move to came about with a promise to build a transcontinental railway.

Moving through the decades, profiles of Bell, George Brown and Timothy Eaton talk of leaders in communications.  Bell with the telephone, Brown as a leader in newspaper publishing and Timothy Eaton with the catalougue .  These communication giants helped grow commerce in a young country.  These three live on in 2018 with Bell Canada, The Globe and Mail and the centre of commerce in Toronto, the Eaton Centre.

Of Canada’s Prime Ministers, 60% have Scottish heritage.  14 of 24 can claim a direct Scottish lineage right up to our current PM, Justin Trudeau.  Younger Trudeau’s mother comes from the Sinclair Scots and his grandmother from his father’s side was also Scottish as Pierre Elliott Trudeau was borne from a Scottsh mum and French father.  Besides Sir John A, McGoogan brings us our other leaders; Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Nellie McClung and paths through their family lines that started back in the homeland.

While the book is an informative read about the mapping, discovery and building of our nation, there are a few chapters where I find he looks pretty far back to find the thinest of Scottish thread.  But have no fear he talks about Robbie Burns and the ties that the great poet has to Canada. He even reveals a personal connection in his family to Robbie Burns.

Over 60 profiles build a a strong case that the Scottish really did build Canada.  If you are Scottish you’ll enjoy this, if you want to be Scottish “How the Scots invented Canada” will reinforce that feeling. With all of the work McGoogan does to lay out his claims that the Scots really did ‘invent’ Canada, you have to wonder what everyone else doing?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Neil and Randy: The Winnipeggers

A few months ago I was given Shakey, a biography of Neil Young, surprisingly it took a false start and a few months to read it.  But after finishing Jimmy McDonnough’s work I knew the next book I had to read; Randy Bachman’s Tales from Beyond the Tap. The reason for this is amount of ink that Neil Young gives Randy, was it reciprical by Randy?  They are Winnipeggers, the early pioneers of rock and roll in Winnipeg (and Canada).  They made it and got away from Portage and Main.

The two books are not that different; McDonough asked Neil Young a TON of questions while also getting more about the music and life of Young by talking to many people that have been part of his life and and his music.  There are the tales of being on the road; accounts of being in the recording studio and the politics of the music industry. In Tales from Beyond the Tap, Bachman answers questions from listeners of his CBC Radio Show “Vinyl Tap”. The questions range from his life influences, tales of being on the road and his adventures in the recording studio.

What emerges from the two books are parallels in experiences in Rock and Roll.  Freindships and rvialries and many stories about the music.  The two books also reference the other Winnipegger.  In the index of Shakey, Randy Bachman is mentioned in 18 pages through Bachman directly and indirectly via The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Chad Allen. Unfortunately, In Tales from Beyond the Tap, there is no index to count the number of times Bachman refers to Young, whether its about recording, guitars and gizmos, touring and songwriting Bachman has great respect for Neil Young and he mentions his fellow Winnipeg rock pioneer on numerous occasions. Cleary though when reading the two books, there is a mutual respect for each other.

As songwriters, the two came about it differently; Young seems to have been writing from the moment the guitar was in his hands.  For Bachman the reality of being a serious songwriter came as a a result of a business deal offered to him and Burton Cummings by producer Jack Richardson.  Both have been prolific writers in their prime churning out great songs, while their output may have slowed,  they have not stopped challenging themselves.

Both Randy and Neil love life in the studio, they thrive on achieving a sound and for both it’s a sound that they’ve thought about before recording.  This brings with it disagreements and causes division.  In Bachman’s case 1977’s Freeways was the end of his time in BTO as he sought to bring in a different texture to the classic BTO on their 6thLp. It seems that Young has constantly been in conflict with everyone when it came to beng in the studio. He rebelled after Harvest was released as everyone wanted a Harvest 2, but more accurately no one knew what the result of Neil in the studio would be until he delivered the final master tapes.

Neil and Randy have always looked for something new, what would their next project be? For Young that often meant a new kick at the can at CSN&Y, or touring with Pearl Jam and embracing the era of grunge and the return to playing with Crazy Horse. Bachman, like Young, often went back to what was familiar; there was the Guess Who reunion tour, the Bachman-Cummings songbook and 2010’s Bachman-Turner that brought him back to the straight ahead rock of BTO with Fred Turner.

I think the best insight into these two Canadian music icons comes from an interview that Randy did with Guitar Player magazine in 2015 after the release of his Heavy Blues CD.

Geoff Kulawick, who is a friend of mine from Canada, had taken over True North Records, and was interested in signing me to a record deal if I would do something “new and exciting.” At the same time, I was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in January of 2014, and Neil Young was there, because his pedal-steel player, Ben Keith, was inducted as well. Ben had passed away, so Neil was there to accept for him. I told Neil I had a new record deal, and he said, “Great opportunity. Do yourself a favor: Don’t do the same old stuff. Get a new band, get different guitars, get a different producer. Do something scary that you’ve never done before or haven’t done in a while. Go into a strange room, challenge yourself, and see what happens.” (Full interview is available here: https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/randy-bachman-delivers-heavy-blues-with-a-power-trio)

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net