"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

10 Wishes For Canada In 2014

Nope, no reviews or predictions here!
As a rule, I don't much care for "year end reviews". I find them to be a waste of time. 

While I consider myself to be a student of history, I find that looking backwards to rehash what has happened in the near past isn't nearly as constructive as looking ahead. What has happened in the past has already happened. We've already lived it for better or for worse. 

Yes, I believe it to be true that he who fails to heed the lessons of history is doomed to repeat it's mistakes, but hey- 2013 has shown us oh so many mistakes- at least as far as Canadian politics is concerned- we all know what they were. In this age of 24/7 news coverage, they've been all too glaring and impossible to ignore. So lets move on already. 

And don't get me started on predictions. None of us has a crystal ball and none of us is, to my knowledge, psychic. The best any of us can do regarding the year ahead, is to make guesses, educated or otherwise. 

So no, I won't be titillating anyone with my prediction that Stephen Harper will suffer from male pattern baldness in the next year and end up wearing a hair piece that makes him look like Donald Trump, hence leading to his continued slide in the polls and his eventual ouster as P.M. But we can hope. 

So no, no rehashing of the high or low lights of 2013 and no Ouija board induced glimpses into 2014 from this corner. But what I CAN offer, are some of my hopes, dreams and wishes for Canada for the coming year. So here is my list of top 10 things I hope happens in 2014:

1) While vacationing on his yacht in the sunny Caribbean, Gary Bettman is
"Arrrr Billy, Have yea ever been to sea"??
kidnapped by a merry band of homosexual pirates. The Pirates attempt to ransom Bettman, but no one seems willing to cough up the money for his safe return. So the price the pirates are asking for the "Tiny-Perfect Person" keeps getting lower and lower until finally, Don Cherry offers the sum of $1.95. The Pirates accept the deal but ultimately, Gary, who ends up changing his name to Sherry, refuses to leave the company of his new shipmates. 

2a) In the absence of Bettman, the NHL seems to come to its collective senses and cancels an impending expansion franchise  that would have seen Boise Idaho land a team which the city had intended to call the "Ice Taters". 

2b) The league then decides to place franchises in Hamilton, Saskatoon, Quebec and Halifax and subsequently creates a Canadian and American conference so that each year, the Stanly cup is contested by an American club and a Canadian club. 

3) Justin Trudeau continues to have good hair days. Much as they try, the ReformaCons can't seem to find a bad picture of Justin who on his worst day, still exudes more charm and charisma than Helmet-Head Harper on his best. 

Harper was never able to pull off the
Clint Eastwood look. 
4) Thomas Mulcair keeps his beard which gives him a  Clint Eastwoodish kind of persona in Parliament that suits his shoot from the hip, rapid fire style of questioning. In keeping with this theme, Thomas's handlers eventually talk him into wearing a poncho and chewing on a cigar stub during question period while occasionally uttering the phrase "go ahead, make my day".

5) Elizabeth May becomes Prime Minister. Hey, if you're going to dream, dream big.

6) Ezra Levant accepts an offer to be a celebrity rodeo clown at the upcoming Calgary Stampede. Once there however, Levant becomes upset with a particularly confrontational Bull who he accuses of being antisemitic. The Bull subsequently launches Levant into orbit and was last seen streaking past the International Space Station where resident Cosmonauts claim to have heard the ex-lawyer screaming "I'LL SUE"!

7) Mike Duffy puts a curse on the entire Conservative caucus so that every time one of them attempts to spout empty talking points and twisted rhetoric, their lips spontaneously combust. 

8) Rob Ford, deciding he needs a vacation from the stress and strain of his own stupidity, goes on Safari in deepest, darkest Africa and attempts to poach wild elephants so that he can sell their tusks for a tidy profit. However Ford's brother Doug, (who is also on this vacation, because the Ford brothers can't seem to do anything on their own), mistakes Rob for one of their prey and accidentally shoots him. Rob, eventually recovers from what turns out to be a flesh wound in the posterior and subsequently blames the Toronto Star for his ordeal. 

9) In an extremely rare moment of contrition, Stephen Harper invites Stephane Dion to lunch at an outdoor cafe in Ottawa. As Harper is about to apologize to Dion for ruining his career, a puffin flies overhead and poops on Harper's head to which Dion comments: "Karma is a bitch eh fat boy"? 

10) Canadians finally wake up and realize that our country's experiment with conservatism was a horrendous mistake and we can all go back to being a respected, progressive nation again. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

James Moore Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

Jimmy Moore reminds me of that fake signing
interpreter at the Mandela funeral. 
On Friday, Federal Industry Minister (and hopeful Harper successor) James Moore told a Vancouver radio station that child poverty is not Ottawa's problem.

He pointed a stubby finger at the provinces and accusingly said it was THEIR problem that one in seven Canadian children is living in poverty  and that it's not HIS job to feed his neighbor's children. 

And then Little Jimmy went on to spout ReformaCon talking points about fighting poverty through "jobs, growth and long term prosperity" (or as Canada's poor might suggest, long term austerity).

And therein lies the foundation of the Conservative mindset. 

Our Straussian Neo-con government would still have us believe in the rather whimsical, mythical creature known as the "invisible hand of capitalism". 

According to this tall tale, prosperity in business equals prosperity for everyone. That the wealth and success realized by the business class will "trickle down" to the peons laboring in the fields, thus stimulating greater consumerism and a very Merry Christmas for one and all. 

But of course, the Invisible Hand is as much a children's tale as is Santa Clause. The truth of it is, the success of big business has resulted in unprecedented hoarding of grotesque sums of cash in offshore tax free havens. None of that manna is trickling down any further than the CEO's yearly bonuses. 

And if that weren't enough to purchase a yacht or two for the affluent 1%, they are colluding with our Government to kill organized labor and drive down wages across the country. And in the process, they want to cut huge holes in our social safety net that has taken decades to weave. 

Let's not forget that for years, citizen Stephen (Harper) was president
Colin M. Brown
Rich Insurance Magnet
And founder of the NCC
of the National Citizen's Coalition. This highly secretive lobby group which represents the interests of the business class, was founded by a rich insurance man who felt that our national health insurance program was undercutting his bottom line. 

But since Canada still tends to be a rather progressive place with strong progressive values (as opposed to Stephen's assertion that the Conservative party's values are Canadian values) Mr. H and company have had to soft-peddle their Neo-Con rhetoric in order to implement incremental change in the fundamental way Canadadians look after one another and do it in such a way that was hardly noticeable.  Hence, Stephen's hard line on talking points and message control lest one of his apostles accidently lets the cat out of the bag regarding the Conservative agenda as Moore did Friday. 

Let em eat cake!
Today, Jimmy Moore apologized for his heartless comments. But it is a case of too little too late. In a moment of weakness (or strength depending on how you look at it), Moore spoke his mind and gave us all a glimpse inside what the Harper Government REALLY thinks. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two Tiered Medical Care In Canada As Seen Through My Fuzzy Eyes.

Me and Bubbles. Brother's from
different Mother's
I walk into things. Driving at night is terrifying. I can't distinguish faces at a distance which is rather embarrassing when I chase people for blocks, calling them by name, only to realize when I catch up to them that the person in question is a complete stranger. Worse still, that they aren't even of the appropriate gender in relation to the name I'd been calling them.

I have cataracts you see. 

Nowadays, Cataracts aren't a big deal. A quick in and out day surgery and "Bob's your Uncle". They don't even put you out to slice your eyes open and insert the new and improved synthetic lenses. They just load you up on happy juice and stick a needle in your eyeball. It's common surgery. 

Thank god we live in Canada eh?

Then why do I get the distinct impression that good vision is not for the working poor such as eye.... I mean, "I"?

It has taken a full year from the first time I went to the optometrist and paid the $80 for the appointment that wasn't covered by OHIP, (only to learn that there was nothing they could do for me), to next week, when I get to lay on the operating table, stoned to the gills as the surgeon puts my peepers in the ball washer. 

I guess there are a lot of us folks chasing strangers around the block. So there's a pretty long wait list. 

When I was being assessed by the surgeon, I was told that they needed to take accurate measurements of my eyes, most specifically, the old worn out lenses.  This made sense to me. I wouldn't want the good doctor to be replacing my lenses with teacups. 

The Doc told me there were two ways of accomplishing this measurement. One was with lasers, which were quite accurate but weren't covered by OHIP, or the second which, if I recall, involves the use of a rusty tape measure, which IS covered by OHIP. 

Well seeing as vision is rather important to me, and I am employed full time with benefits (lucky me), I opted for the $85 an eye laser measurement. 

Turns out my benefits don't cover the laser measurement either. So I was out $170 that I could ill afford to spend. This equalled several tanks of gas and impacted greatly on my food budget. Oh, and it also sent me to the legalized loan sharks for a pay-day loan at 25% which in turn, caused me to be late in paying my rent which resulted in receiving several nasty letters from the management company that owns my building with the word EVICTION written in bold letters all over them. I figure the bold letters and caps was in consideration of my cataracts. 

Well I finally got caught up and still have a roof over my head. But I now get surly looks from the Super whenever I see who I think is her. But then, with my eyes, it might be just a fire-hydrant with a trollish demeanor that I'm seeing every morning. 

My employer, the local Board of Education, needed a letter from my
Thank goodness the Doctor was willing to provide
that $35 letter. I wouldn't want my employer
thinking I was having THIS done to me just to
get the time off work. 
Surgeon as proof of my need for getting my eyeballs fixed (yeah, like I'm going to volunteer for this procedure unnecessarily) and that I will need so many weeks off for recovery. So I contacted the Doc only to learn that OHIP doesn't cover that kind of thing either and that the Doctor required $35 for providing proof of my impending ordeal. 

I should point out here that the surgeon in question has a very lovely family. There are pictures of he and his brood all over his office, mostly cavorting about on a sailboat on some tropical sea. I can see why he needs the $35. Sailboats don't come cheap. But for me, it was another week and a half of gas to drive back and forth to work and hey, a week without meat in my diet was probably good for me anyway. 

Well then it came time to select the lenses that I would have inserted into my eyes. OHIP DOES cover the bargain basement lenses. I think they're made from old coke bottles. Or, for $70 an eye (that's $140 total for those who may be mathematically challenged) I could select the next rung up which meant I might actually be able to function without glasses or chasing strangers around the block for the first time since I was 15 years old. I should add that the high-end lenses, the ones reserved for the more upwardly mobile and which probably glow in the dark, go for about $1,300 an eye. I chose the $70 implants. 

Well as it turns out, I was in error when I assumed my benefits would cover these next to bargain basement lenses. When I read in their brochure that they would cover "post cataract surgery corrective lenses", they meant a new pair of glasses. 

So it seems that both OHIP and the insurance company are perfectly fine with my having imperfect eyes despite the corrective operation. Perfection so it seems, is reserved for those with the money to pay for it.  

Anyway, it's back to the Shylocks' I go for another pay-day loan to cover for my new lens implants. I should probably inform my corporate landlords that caps and bold lettering will no longer be necessary for any future threatening letters they may choose to send to me. 

I suppose I should be counting my blessings that much of my impending operations are in fact covered by OHIP and that my eyeballs won't get repossessed for non-payment of any hospital bills. But I'm still left with the feeling that there are two distinct tiers of service when it comes to this kind of procedure. The high-end Cadillac of services where those with the money can purchase good eyesight, and the one reserved for the rest of us who, while we may no longer have cloudy lenses, will still be chasing strangers around the block for the rest of our lives. 

But whatever happens to me, I am at least comforted by the warm fuzzy image in my head of the good doctor, sailing off into the sunset once again.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In 2015, Who Will Be the Voice of Hope For Working Class Canadians

It's as plain as the smarmy grin
on Harper's face that the CPC
are the champions of the 1%
Well we are now past the half-way point in Stephen Harper's dark and sinister majority mandate. So you can expect little in the way of actual governance between now and the next election.

Not that there was much in the way of any real management of the country since May of 2011. There HAS been a whole hell of a lot of politicking however from the party that currently claims to be the Canadian Government. 

The Government of Harper has created solutions (and bad ones at that) to problems that don't exist. A tough on crime agenda for example, at a time when Canada's crime rate is at its lowest level in over 40 years. But hey, his base LOVES the idea. 

He used the 2008 economic crisis to unnecessarily spend us into the largest deficit in our history. Previous Governments had insured that our banks were adequately insulated against the kind of madness that occurred in the States. But the financial crash was a wonderful excuse for Mr. H to throw cash around (mostly in Conservative ridings) like a drunken sailor in a brothel, all in an effort to win over future votes. 

With Stephen, it's always been about the next election. Damage control, political spin, attack ads and scoring points with his ideological base has replaced day to day management of the country. In essence, we have no real Government. We have a self-serving political party that has been given the keys to the family car and has been on a reckless road trip for the past seven years while you and I pay for the gas. 

But now that Stephen has reached a critical juncture in his mandate (complete with a brand new directionless throne speech), expect the madness to escalate to dizzying heights. He will be going overboard in his efforts. Not to manage the country responsibly, but to score political points. Everything- EVERYTHING he does from here on in will be about 2015. It's all about the party. It's all about HIM. It has nothing whatsoever to do with you or I. He could "care less".  

So in his effort to stake out his "turf" in the war to come, his
Harperness is attempting to return to his populist roots. He is trying to paint himself as the outsider, the "everyman", a Timmies double-double kind of guy who is taking on the down-town elites. 

And Citizen Stephen might well win a vote or two with this "little guy" shtick of his. But it doesn't take much of an effort to see through the charade. In fact, it's probably the ONLY thing about his current reign that is in any way transparent. 

We know the Emperor is wearing no clothes. It's as plain as the
Stephen is Bullish on the One Percent
smarmy grin on his face that he is the envoy of the 1%. The oil patch lovin, Bay Street humping corporate Elites. Yes, "Elites", which makes Harper's down-home, humble pie routine all the more pathetically transparent. 

You see, the "Elites" Mr. Harper is at war with are the educated class. The doctors, the professors, teachers, the artsy-fartsy set, and most especially, the media. Not to mention scientists or anyone who gives a flying fig about the environment. You know, the ones who could potentially throw a monkey wrench into his  corporate agenda. 

So despite his circus-like antics, it's pretty plain to see who Harper speaks for in this Canada of ours and it's pretty safe to say they rarely visit the local Tim Horton's drive through. 

But what about the "other" guys? For whom in this country do Mr Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair speak?

Prince Justin: Charming, Likable, In
every way, the Anti-Harper. But does
he represent ALL Canadians?
Well it's pretty clear that Prince Justin has staked out the traditional Liberal territory in the middle of the pack. Canada has, by and large, been a pretty middle of the road kind of country historically, never straying either too far to the left or too far to the right. And the driving force behind this has been a healthy middle class. Progressive, but not too progressive. Pragmatic, but not too pragmatic. This is why the Liberals have been dubbed Canada's "natural ruling party". 

So Trudeau has quite emphatically shouted to the folks residing in the Centre of Canada's economic and political spectrum: "Hey you! You in the middle class! Yous is my peeps". If he can keep from shooting himself in the foot on a regular basis, this is territory he might well conquer between now and 2015. 

But the middle of the road is a place that ALL  the parties want a piece 
Tom Mulcair channels the late Jack Layton
of which is why Stephen pretends to be your next door neighbor and Thomas Mulcair has taken to calling himself plain old "Tom" and has made sure HIS party has dropped any and all references to "Social" Democracy in its Mission and Vision statements. Those middle of the road folks don't cotton to none of that "Bolshevik" nonsense. 

So JT will have his hands full trying to win battle-ground suburbia. It seems that EVERYONE is simply tripping over themselves to look after those folks in the middle class. Which is terribly nice for the folks in the middle class. They are Canadian citizens and deserve to be looked after.  And Stephen already has a lock on the 1%, which is real nice for them as well. 

Just because an unemployed single mom doesn't
donate to a political party, is she less deserving of
our politician's support?
But I have to wonder who speaks for the REAL "Everyman", the one who is now less and less likely to be a middle classer. He's the guy just a few notches below that hallowed ground. He's the guy who's carrying more debt than income. The guy with two jobs. The guy who can't afford to put his kids through college. And as often as not, that guy is a girl. And equally likely, a single mother to boot. 

And who is staking claim to the unemployed as well as the working poor, the homeless, the mental health patients, the drug addicts, the elderly and all those folks that we here in Hamilton would refer to as "North Enders". 

Well Tom's party USED to be the ones who claimed to represent the lower class. And they represented the working class as well, the REAL Timmies folks. But lets face it, the poor rarely vote. I mean, how the hell do you enumerate homeless people and drug addicts? And the poor NEVER donate to political parties. And thanks to Stephen The Terrible who has eliminated subsidies for political parties, donations are the ONLY way parties can survive now. Which of course means the lower class don't matter a rat's ass in the big game of politics. 

So with Stephen being the hand puppet of the 1% who NEEDS a sizable chunk of the middle class to win. And with Justin having pitched HIS tent squarely in the middle of the road. And Tom eyeing that same territory, just who the heck DOES speak for the lower class anymore. Who really gives a damn about a truly "just" society or about unprecedented income inequality? Who cares about that Everyman who is forced to pay a visit to Money Mart more often than he cares to admit because he  owes his left testicle to the bank? Who really gives a shit about the welfare recipient who has to make that monthly decision between paying the rent or feeding her children? What about those 800,000 Canadians who still rely on food banks? Are they any less important  because they can't contribute to the coffers of our political parties?

Yes, I've heard some lovely lip-service coming from the three amigos with regard to poor and working class Canadians. But lets face it folks, in reality, Stephen is positively revolted by the peasantry while Justin is pretty much playing it safe and Tom, well dear old Tom wants to be PM so he'll play the political game to the hilt. I'm just not seeing anyone who is claiming to be the right and true advocate of the poor/working poor, the ones with no light at the end of the tunnel, just more darkness. Until we see some real commitment there, someone who can lay claim to be the voice of ALL Canadians, I'm not sure any of the three above mentioned gentlemen are deserving of my vote or yours.  

And who will be the champion of the unemployed?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Canada's Big Heart

I used to be an educational assistant working at an inner city school in Ontario Canada. So my job was basically to assist physically, developmentally or emotionally challenged children gain access to their universally recognized right to an education and to help them to realize their full potential. 

That in itself is a pretty special thing. I've been a child and Youth worker for over 30 years now and have worked with a lot of different kids in a lot of different kinds of settings. The consistent theme of my career has been the challenge of working with some of society's most vulnerable and neediest young people despite living in a world that is appearing to be less and less willing to help the helpless. It has done much to shape my political views over the years. 

But the job I used to do in the school where I used to  do it, was extra special. It has a mammoth population of immigrant and refugee children.  It isn't a big school. An elementary school - JK to eight - with about 400 students. But among those 400 students, there are 53 first languages spoken other than English. It has kids from Mayanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Eritrea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and a particularly large Somali population. And yes, it used to have Roma kids as well. 

Of those  kids who have come from far away places, I would say that the majority of them are refugees from war-torn, highly impoverished places. They've come from the squalor of UN refugee camps. They've escaped wars. Many have stories of fleeing their homes in the middle of the night to escape death squads. They've seen family members- parents- killed before their eyes. They've all lost loved ones or been forced to leave them behind. They've all experienced violence on a level we can only imagine. Some were born in jungles. Many have never been to school before. 

But these kids come to school every day. And they have smiles on their
Safe for the first time in their young lives. 
faces. They are eager and willing to learn. The various cultures, ethnicities and religious backgrounds melt together and play together. And they are safe, perhaps for the first time in their young lives. And they are happy. 

"...and I wonder which ones would not be alive today".
I used to look around at all the smiling young faces and sometimes wonder which ones would not be alive if they had not been brought to Canada, if they had not been given the opportunity to live in the kind of place with the same kinds of rights and guarantees of personal health and safety that we tend to take for granted. And it made me so very proud that our society has such a big heart- that it is willing to give all these wonderful children the opportunity to live the same kind of life as my children. That it gives these young people a chance at life itself. 

Canada has a long and admirable reputation as being a good global citizen. It has contributed often to the greater good, whether it be through peacekeeping, international aid, diplomatic missions in war-torn countries or by opening itself to adopting the world's neediest, by welcoming them and enveloping them in it's warm embrace like we were global foster parents. But these days, a chill wind is beginning to sweep over the land.  

As I said above, there used to be Roma children in my school. I doubt
These Roma children are apparently
not deserving of our kindness. 
there are any left now. A part of our otherwise warm heart froze over when the previous Conservative government decided that Roma kids were not worthy of our kindness. They were accused of being freeloaders and bums - here just to take advantage of our social assistance. But I looked at the kids, and I knew otherwise. 

We had a little Roma girl in grade two, a happy young child who had lived the majority of her life here in Canada. Her entire school career to that point had been in the school where I worked. She was born with no right hand. She had been assessed and was in the process of being fitted for a fully functional, state of the art, prosthetic hand. Courtesy of our collective good will. But then that dark, cold part of the Conservative government decided that this beautiful little girl was not worthy of our generosity, that the money being spent on giving her a better quality of life, could probably be better spent on gazebos and self aggrandizing advertisement. And the little girl with the smiling face became sad, and she disappeared one day. And one by one, all the little Roma children who lived in the safety of our protective society disappeared. And something died in all of us.  

So when I hear people complaining about the immigrants and refugees, that they are just coming to Canada to sponge off our good will, I just shake my head and think of the children. These are the beneficiaries of our helping spirit. These are the ones who will remember our helping hand and will grow up to become proud members of the nation that opened it's heart to them. 

One of our grade eight students who had spent much of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand was asked one day what she wanted to be when she grew up. She didn't say she wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. She simply said: " I want to be someone I can be proud of". And I knew then that our collective kindness would be paid forward one day. And I knew that despite the ignorance of the political ideology of a few cynical and disconnected men, that our country remains a place where the worlds needy children can come and live in peace and become the kinds of citizens that have become the very soul of our caring society. The kind of people we can be proud of. Thank goodness for Canada's big heart!