Category Archives: Canada

Happy Cannabis Day

Pot FlagThe Trudeau Liberals checked off another box today from their 2015 election promises. Legislation was introduced to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

In this bill, Trudeau is sitting pretty atop the pyramid of responsibility, he has the least to lose and the least to pay for an issue that in the Provincial Elections of 2011 and 2014 was not raised. Even during my short time campaigning municipally in 2010, this was not an election concern. In the federal campaigns of 2011 and 2015, I don’t recall legal marijuana being listed as a top concern in Ottawa Centre and other ridings, whether it was in Toronto or Ottawa that I helped a candidate in.

While the Liberals have the greatest to gain and the least to lose it’s the two lower tiers that will have to work the hardest to make the legislation work. This is legislation that as far as I can tell was not top of the page in Queens Park, Ottawa or Toronto City Hall or any other provincial legislature. As the responsibility drops, there’s more to lose. The cost of enforcement falls to municipal and provincial police forces; the provincial justice system has to try the cases. Distribution will flow through individual provincial manners much like alcohol and with different provincial policies for health and healthcare it just gets messier.

If the federal government really wanted to take control of legal pot – they could do it all alone using federal institutions that are currently in place. Let’s leave the Provinces and Municipalities out of it. It’s not unrealistic to think that the federal government could do this all on their own, with few exceptions.

Growth and production regulations for of cannabis and cannabis products would fall under the Health Canada, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would team up with Agriculture Canada to regulate the growth, collection and inspection of the efficacy and safety of the product going out to Canadians. Health Canada would be responsible for education on the use of pot and the awareness of its use’s effects.

The federal government can rely on Canada Post for distribution of the marijuana to customers, either through mail or in Canada Post outlets. This eliminates the need and legality of others owning the pot dispensaries.

Enforcement falls in to the laps of RCMP; the CBSA could be expanded to include the law’s enforcement and on federal lands (parks and Parliament Hill) wardens and Parliamentary Police Forces would pitch in. In some other cases other levels of policing could be contracted and invoice the federal government when arrests are made. These policing costs would merely be a line item in the larger legal marijuana budget. Criminal cases would be tried solely in federal courts and convictions to be served in federal penitentiaries.

The same concept works for the treatment of cases for marijuana related ambulatory trips to the ER’s, stays in hospitals etc., Provinces can bill the federal government and receive payment through healthcare transfers.

Through all of this, the beauty is that the federal government keeps all the money; there would be no need to share any of the revenue from the sale of the marijuana.

Does this scenario make it more difficult for people who want to smoke it get it? Maybe, but that’s not my issue, more importantly though it makes it simpler to know who is supposed to do what.  It would all fall on the federal government – no one to blame (or praise) for the success or failure of legalizing pot goes to any other level of government.

The bottom line is this; it’s easy to come up with an idea and tell someone else to take care of it. But courage is to take ownership, 100% ownership. In a 2017 Trudeau world, there is no room to take 100% ownership of any problem, there is always someone else.

Now what can we do to move the date of legalization away, far away from Canada Day?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Sanctuary! Sanctuary?

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A funny thing has happened since November 8, 2016 (Election Day in the United States); people feel the need to defend values in Canada because they feel similar values in the US are being attacked by the new administration. There is a reaction revolution happening in Canada. Protests against the President are taking place; protests are taking place against the decisions being made in the American capital. Funny thing though, Donald trump is not our President, heck, he isn’t even our Prime Minister. Yet Canadians are taking to the street to protest his actions. Likely though, Canadians are just trying to let our Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments know how they feel about the 45th American President.

I found that there are 17 sanctuary cities in the US; the largest are New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. In Canada, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and London ON are sanctuary cities. London being the newest, as the city council voted in 2017 to become a sanctuary city. But – do we need to have sanctuary cities here in Canada? Hasn’t Canada always been a welcoming country – taking in thousands from areas of the world afflicted with political uncertainty and upheaval?

What does it mean to be a sanctuary city? The designation of being a “Sanctuary City” ensures that people without legal documentation will have access to services they require. The designation also means that illegal immigrants would not be sent back to their home country if they were discovered.

This past week in Ottawa, Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney indicated she wants to make Ottawa a sanctuary city. A motion to council was expected this week (February 8th), but McKenney held the motion back and hopes to have Ottawa council vote to be a designated sanctuary city in the spring.

The idea of sanctuary goes back over 800 years to the 12th Century in England where fugitives, when they crossed the threshold of a church, the community would be legally required to feed and house the fugitives for up to forty days. I am sure we all at one point have seen a movie where someone is running into a church demanding “sanctuary”. Oh…and after 40 days, the fugitive had to confess his crime, give up everything they owned and walk barefoot to the nearest port and live in exile for the rest of their lives. Sanctuary has evolved since the days of King Henry III.

Back to Ottawa. Ottawa has a very generous history of accepting those from other countries recently; Syrians have found a home on our city as have Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970’s. Ottawans have continuously opened their doors and hearts to help others. Ottawa is now a vibrant multi-cultural community as Iraqi’s, Iranians, Somalians, Congolese and Afghans among others have come to Ottawa to live following political unrest and violence in their home country.

Ottawa, and Canada have accepted the many from the around the world – and in Ottawa’s case, they have had little if any documentation – they have been refugees. This has been done and we have welcomed many without the designation of being a sanctuary city.

So, do we need to have that designation? Conservative or Liberal federal governments have always accepted an open door policy to refugees, this is what Canada is.

Are Canadians and specifically, Canadian politicians allowing President Trump to dictate our laws and regulations? We didn’t expect NO political fallout from a Trump Presidency, but to have one man and his administration have such an effect is surely an overreaction. Canada has survived ‘cool’ relationships with the Americans in the past – what evidence is there where we expect that we won’t get through the next four years, or eight with Trump? It’s not like he can rule as Prime Ministers have for 10-15-20 years.

Are demands for sanctuary cities nothing more than a reaction,  a shield, a need for protection a need to define LOUDLY our Canadian Values?

Do Canadians lose when we feel the need to ‘bulk up’ against someone who has such different values than us? Shouldn’t sanctuary be something we want as a proactive step rather than a reactive move against one person?

If becoming a sanctuary city was such a good idea, why haven’t we discussed this earlier? Why do we need to wait for one person to cause this to happen. If we haven’t needed this is the past, why do we need it now?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

Hopes, Aspirations & Dreams of 2017

2017

Photo: northernstar.info

2017, it is finally here, though many would have been happy to see 2017 arrive in October of last year. To begin the year here is a list of my hopes, aspirations and dreams for the coming 12 months.

I have been waiting a few years now for new music from Michelle Branch, though rumoured for sometime, she recently tweeted out that we could expect something new in 2017. She is listed in Entertainment Weekly’s list of anticipated music for 2017. Also, I can’t wait for the follow up disc by Ryan Adams after his version of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ last year (which I loved as much as TS’s). His new Lp ‘Prisoner’ comes out early 2017.

I am also keenly interested in sophomore releases from Lorde, Haim and The Chainsmokers in this, a year where Taylor Swift isn’t scheduled to drop any new music. I am holding out hope that the new John Mayer disc will sparkle. Here is what EW complied for music we just can’t wait to listen to, http://ew.com/music/2016/12/22/most-anticipated-albums-2017/?xid=entertainment-weekly_socialflow_twitter

The Grey Cup comes to Ottawa in November, wouldn’t it be sweet to see the Ottawa Redblacks make three straight Cup appearances and repeat as champs?

Still on sports, here’s dreaming that the Ottawa Senators can go deep in the playoffs in 2017 just as the Redblacks did the past two years, the Ottawa Champions did (and won) last summer and the Ottawa Fury FC accomplished in 2015.

After going 4-1 in By-election wins since Patrick Brown became leader of Ontario PC Party, he will the opportunity to increase that to five wins now that former Liberal Minister David Orazietti resigned as MPP for Sault Ste Marie on December 31st. Whether there will be other provincial by-elections is yet to be seen as others in the Liberal government weigh their options leading up to the 2018 Ontario General Elections.

There will finally be one Conservative standing the in party’s leadership race come May, hopefully the party will stand behind whoever he or she may be after the convention. I still have no clue of who will replace Rona Ambrose in the House of Commons as the Leader of the Opposition. The NDP race becomes more interesting now that calendars have flipped from 2016 to 2017, we might shortly have the first declared candidate for Mulcair’s chair.

Finally, I aspire that we can all get along while having our differences. I hope days of populist chants and unresearched claims and inaccurate accusations will be left behind. We all should be better informed and read past the click bait headlines on social media. This is the only way we can have healthy debates about the issues our leaders face in coming 12 months.

Maybe just maybe I will finally get around to posting a vlog.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

123: Review – Roméo Dallaire: Waiting for First Light

I do not know war.

Most of my generation and those that followed me also would not know war except what is reported. There are, however, thousands of Canadians that have fought in a theatre of combat who have experiences I will never know. For those who have served and have comeback home, Roméo Dallaire’s latest book should be a textbook for all Canadians to read. It is a testament of what we as a country need to do for our active and retired soldiers.

In Waiting for First Light – My Ongoing Battle with PTSD, Retired Lieutenant – General Romeo Dallaire addresses his life after Rwanda and the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his struggles to understand what is happening to him and how he separated his public life from the darkness he faced when the lights were off and he was not at work.

Without being able to understand what his actions were doing to his brain, Dallaire dives into wanting to tell of the horrors of the Rwandan genocide almost immediately after being relieved of his duties (at his request). Dallaire believes that this will be the only way to exorcise the nightmares and endless nights of no sleep. It is only the ‘first light of day’ that saves him from any harm he might do to himself.

He writes how his medical release from the army allowed him to dedicate more time to exposing the genocide in Rwanda, fighting to ensure children will no longer be used as soldiers. While retirement from the army was meant to give him more time to heal, that time was used instead for more speeches, interviews and to make sure the Dallaire Institute would be successful in preventing the enlistment of child soldiers. He knows what he is doing is not helping, but he does not know any other way.  It seems only after a widely reported night of an drunk blackout does he fully recognize how his PTSD is affecting him. In one passage writes that after several failed suicide attempts, he knows that killing himself is not how he will go out.

One of the more difficult sections of the book deals with the effects of the Rwandan genocide, even on those who did not serve there. Sian Canfield, a CBC journalist, worked Dallaire, sorting through 1000’s of pages of documents and recorded 100’s of hours of interviews with Dallaire in preparation for the book Shaking Hands with the Devil. She worked the hours he did, long hours.   Sian had been to Rwanda and as a reporter had faced other very difficult scenes of her own. Early morning, June 1st 2002, she left a message saying goodbye. Moments later she jumped into the Don River in Toronto, Rwanda was taking lives long after the genocide ended.

Reading Waiting for First Light started as an exercise for me to better understand what my work on Parliament Hill with the Opposition Veterans Affairs Critic John Brassard should be about, to help MP Brassard in his duties to advocate for Canada’s Veterans.   Dallaire is not kind to former Prime Minister Harper, I am OK with that. Dallaire holds all government responsible to assist Veterans, especially Peacekeepers and soldiers from conflicts going back to Somalia – any theatre of operation Canadians served in after the Korean War. This book will be with me on Parliament Hill, it will be a reminder of what needs to be done to better prepare our soldiers for life after combat.

I have had Dallaire’s book Shake Hands with the Devil on a book shelf for years. I unknowingly have not been prepared to crack it open. Having read Waiting for First Light, I am now ready to read his account of Rwanda and will always have in mind Dallaire’s, unknown to him at that time, struggles with Occupational Stress injury and PTSD.

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.

122: Ottawa Centre Election Reform

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Julien Lamarche is the President of the NCR Chapter of Fair Vote Canada. I met Julian via Twitter through several online discussions. Julien attended the Ottawa West-Nepean election reform meeting as I did (you can read my post on that meeting here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/120-owns-electoral-reform-town-hall/ ). Julien works as a software developer in the private sector. He is also an advocate for safe cycling. You can follow Julien on Twitter at @cyclingzealot.

I was unable to attend the Ottawa Centre Election Reform meeting this month so I have asked Julien to be a (the first) guest contributor to #RedHeartBlueSign and present his observations of the meeting. I have not edited or changed his words some changes were made for formating purposes only.

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The town hall for Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa-Centre, followed the recommended format set out by the Ministry of Democratic Institutions. That is, invite the crowd to break down into groups of 5 to 10 people, discuss the following questions and have someone report back. The questions were:

  1. What is your opinion of our current electoral system? What do you think are its flaws? What do you think are its strengths? Do you feel though your vote is fairly translated through our current First-Past-The-Post system?
  1. What specific features are important to you in our electoral system? Local representation, proportionality, simplicity, legitimacy, inclusiveness, effectiveness?
  1. Many Canadians choose not to participate in our democratic process. What do you think can be done to encourage greater participation?
  1. Should it be mandatory to cast a ballot (choosing “none of the above” or spoiling the ballot would be allowed under mandatory voting)?
  1. Should online voting be an option? If so, do you have any specific concerns and do you think there are ways those concerns could be addressed?

There were 10 tables of about 9-10 people for an approximate count of 150 people, though there are some reports of 200 people. The breakdown into subgroups has many advantages over the town hall format where people line up at an open mic:

  1. It allows for many conversations to happen, sharing knowledge & opinions
  1. It encourages more civility in conversation

The only advantage the open mic format has: it permits clarification to be brought to the entire assembly. But that advantage is quickly lost by the vitriol it also brings. I love giving a passionate speech for voter equality, but any format which diminishes the advantage of the loudest person and encourage knowledge sharing gets my vote.

Question 4 & 5 were the quickest to deal with. Along with question 1, they also make for easy straw polls (who wants change? who doesn’t?). Question 3 and 2 were harder to summarize as the reporter of my group. I discuss how question 2 could be further broken down into subquestions here: https://jlam.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/question-2-of-town-halls/

Opponents of reform or of the Liberal party have reported that Catherine McKenna ended the evening “promoting” ranked ballots. This is a gross misrepresentation. She simply asked the crowd if there was a preference for “ranked ballots” to which I and others quickly requested clarification if she meant Alternative Vote (majoritarian, single member ridings) or Single Transferable Vote (proportional, multi member ridings). The difference *really* matters and it’s one that gets lost with the term “ranked ballot”.

If it matters to you though, she did mean Alternative Vote. This voting system also gets called “Preferential Voting”, “Instant Runoff” and unfortunately, “ranked ballots”.

Most importantly, the question was preceded by questions about voting reform and proportionality. In the context of various straw polls on the crowds preference, to call it “promotion” is an exaggeration.

For more information on proportional voting systems, see http://fairvote.ca/proportional-representation/

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all  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.

121: I don’t get that they don’t get it

I am gobsmacked.

This week saw the federal Liberals drop their Climate Change plan on the provinces. It was disguised as a simple motion to have Parliament ratify the Paris COP21 Agreement. In Ontario the provincial Liberals have already started down the road of carbon pricing with a Cap and Trade partnership with Quebec and California. BC and Alberta have a Carbon Levy, with Ontario and Quebec the four provinces have the combined population of 80% of Canadians.

Through generations there have been causes that have had to be addressed; Acid Rain, Reducing waste, Clean Lakes…government has come and done what was needed. Here we are and there is an need to act to slowdown, stall and reverse the changes in our climate. I get that, some people don’t – that’s OK and that is a discussion for another day.

Here is what I don’t get. I don’t get that they don’t get it.

There is a cost to all of what Kathleen Wynne has done to Ontario. Increased Hydro rates, bad Wind and Solar contracts driving up the cost of doing business in Ontario which is driving businesses out of Ontario to the States who – get this – get our hydro for a steal, for next to nothing.

The Ontario Green Energy Plan (GEP) was forecast to create 27,000 jobs. That’s fine, but the 27,000 only represents 0.4% of Ontario’s total workforce of 6.9 million. The GEP will not financially benefit every worker in Ontario. In fact the additional costs we already know about, 4 cents/litre at the pumps, $5/month on hydro bills plus HST on a the Carbon tax will affect every worker in Ontario. Ontario’s plan is not a revenue neutral plan for Ontarians.

Ontario’s Premier, Canada’s Environment Minister (and Ottawa Centre MP) along with Prime Minister Trudeau have not expresssed one iota of recognition that this is going to be tough for many Ontarians, it will hit many in the pocketbook. Sure it may be good for the planet and the earth we leave our children and grandchildren may be better than it is today but while we get there Ontario families are going to hurt financially and the lives they dreamed of having are more and more becoming unreachable because of it.

There has been no real recogition, that the choices being made in Ontario are costing the middle class and fixed income voters of a good lifestyle, from Wynne, McKenna and Trudeau.

As recent as today there were two exampIes that the Federal Liberals have no clue what to say about the impact on Canadians a carbon price will have. In Question Period MP Lisa Raitt tried to relate how taxes keep going up and the impact of higher costs for everyday goods are very stressful. The federal reaction to this quest was for government MP to laugh. The laughter was so loud MP Raitt had to sit and stop for the Speaker of the House to have peace reclaimed.

On today’s CTV Power Play. Host Don Martin asked Environment Minister Catherine McKenna three times about the cost of the Carbon pricing on Canadians, three times! Three times there was no answer except that the provinces will decide how the impact will be felt on Canadians. Catherine was also asked about the impact the Federal GST would have on the price of carbon, again crickets.

The very same On broadcast, Lisa Raitt appeared with Toronto Liberal Adam Vaughan for a panel discussion. Vaughan was asked the same question and gave a response that the if Lisa Raitt was not the calm and collected politician she is I am sure she would have walked out, it was all over her face.

It really is as if they really don’t know what it is going to be like when all the extra costs of a Cap and Trade or a Carbon Tax finally kicks in.

I don’t get that they don’t get that.

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.

Which #elxn is your favourite?

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Election 42 is almost in the books, is that a relief or cause for concern? Are you worried that Election 43 will be here sooner than you want? Will 2018 be the year we have three elections in Ontario? Will the winner of Election 42 make it through to Canada’s 150th? I know a few that feel Election 41 was the BEST!

Was this the ‘most important’ election ever for Canada? Should the next election have that moniker? Should we have waited until the next election to use that term? It does it get over used. EVERY election is an important election, is one more important than another? That is almost like asking a parent which one of their children they love the most.

This election has been the ‘hate’ election, and personally that scares the living daylights out of me.

Elections are about hope, the future and yes one form of change (a leader, party or direction). Even though the leaders of ALL parties did not utter the word hate, it was certainly inferred each and every day. The tone of this election changed from the pre-election “whip out their f-18’s” to this elections opening week “stop Harper”, and it almost happened in the blink of an eye.

I am not big on the use of the word hate, I have preached to my two kids, now, young adults, to not use the word – that hate starts wars. If you don’t like someone you dis-like them, not hate.

I wish we could go through an election cycle without anger rearing its ugly head, that we don’t stop someone but we start something and that hope is what we reach for and fear is what we will not raise. The partisan emotion reached new highs, causing friends to declare an election truce and not to talk politics – that’s how divided Canada has become. Strangers were venting with such veracity to supporters of other political parties that it became personal with others we didn’t even know! What kind of craziness is that?

Have we started down a slippery slope that we cannot reverse? Should we be wary of the attitudes that Election 43 will bring out in us? There were a few days where I envied the apathetic voter, they didn’t care and didn’t get caught up in the fervour.

Election 41 was the ‘shock’ election, I’ve call Election 42 the “h@+&” election and I am here and now naming Election 43 the “New Hope” election where ideas are brought forward, debates become discussions and rhetoric disappears.

Are you with me?

I invite you to share your ideas by commenting to this post or any post on my blog. You can also email me directly at robdekkeroc@gmail.com.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.