Sunday, October 30, 2011

There are overprotective trademark lawyers, and then ... there's the Legion

It is just me, or has the Royal Canadian Legion become a laughing stock for calling in the trademark lawyers to go after -- ready for this -- a group of veteran bikers who raise awareness about the sacrifices the men and uniform make for those of us who don't have the courage to.   Why?  Because of the group's emblem -- a soldier kneeling, rifle in hand, with a helmet on which is emblazoned a poppy; against the maple leaf in background.   Seems that the poppy is legally trademarked and the RCL is flipping mad about that.

A few things.   First, the poppy the group uses isn't the one familiar to most Canadians -- a felt four petal poppy with a black centre.   The bikers are using the British poppy, which looks more free-form in style and is made of plastic.   (There too the style changes depending on where you are -- in Scotland it's a curled four petal; in England, Wales and Northern Ireland it's a flat two petal with a green stem.)

Second -- the bikers are veterans themselves and are trying to raise awareness for the cause of remembrance as well as supporting our troops overseas.    They're not in it for themselves

Third, this isn't the Red Cross, the Red Crescent or the Red Crystal (which all refer to the same general international neutral humanitarian movement).    All of these, along with the currently dormant Red Lion and Sun (for Iran, until the coming of Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 when he replaced it with the Red Crescent), have the highest level of protection under Canadian law -- in fact the Trademark Act refers to those symbols quite specifically.   Any commercial use of the red symbols that might confuse people into thinking a product or service is endorsed by the Red Cross should of course be addressed.

There are a few other symbols that get specific protection under  law -- royal crests, the coats of arms of Canada, the provinces and cities, current and past Governors General, the Mounties and so forth.   So is the poppy under its articles of incorporation (to be clear, the one specific poppy design we're familiar with in Canada and its reverse colours), but I don't think Parliament ever intended the RCL to become the equivalent of the Tongue Troopers -- um, L'Office québécois de la langue française.   There can be no confusing this poppy (the British poppy) with the poppy used in Canada.   And remembrance is a civic duty for all, it is not the sole monopoly of the Legion.

Does this mean if I post a poppy, along with the poem "In Flanders Fields" on Remembrance Day, as do so many bloggers worldwide, I am breaking copyright law?    I mean, get real.   I can understand now why a growing number of people wear the white poppy as a sign of protest against all wars.   This custom has been going on since 1926 but it has increasingly curried favour among many.

Should the bikers have asked for permission?   Technically, yes, perhaps.   But a sledgehammer strategy does no good for anyone.    We honour the dead by trying to live lives of peace even as we prepare for wars we may not want to fight; but that does not mean sending in the Fourth Mechanized Lawyers' Battalion.   Overreacting over "religious headgear" is what brought disrepute to the Legion a number of years ago, and now this.   No wonder so many veterans don't want anything to do with the RCL and I can't blame them one jot.

Just shake hands and leave well enough alone, guys.   After all, you fought for all of us, not the party in power when you fought.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rick Mercer: "It gets better" isn't enough

Frankly, Rick says it way better than most of us.    The crap that leads 300 students in this country to commit suicide every year because they can't stand the bullying over their being LGBT has got to stop.

(Transcript here, thanks Rick for saving a lot of us having to speed transcribe)

As much as we should support the "It Gets Better" campaign, it simply isn't enough to say we're against bullying LGBT persons, in fact any one straight or not, we have to mean it in our words and actions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CBC v Quebecor -- at least wrastling's fake

The ongoing between Quebecor Media and the CBC has gotten really intense this week, if the Toronto Star is to be believed.   I agree that the CBC has some issues with transparency and that it would be wise to answer at least some, if not necessarily all, of the Freedom of Information requests that have been filed on how the state broadcaster spends our money.    Short of that I think it may be time to end the grant, go to a licensing model (probably $16 per month per address using TV to make it revenue neutral)  and have a truly accountable board of directors, not one that only answers to the Prime Minister.

But the question I would ask Sun News Network and the Sun Newspapers is -- how do you have a conscience waving the Canadian flag and claiming to want to "save" (read:  kill) the CBC, knowing you're owned by group that has many, many people on staff who have long promoted the breakup of Canada (TVA, Journal de Montréal, etc)?    Seriously, this is a contradiction I have never been able to figure out.   (M. Péladeau can explain this away by claiming that he doesn't actually support separatists but wouldn't be surprised if Québec became independent -- but the fact is, you either fight for Canada or you really don't care about this country's future.)

Setting that aside, frankly, I can barely count the days when SNN forgoes its terrestrial transmitters in Toronto, Hamilton and London at the end of the month -- it left Ottawa at the end of the summer.   Then SNN will be left only as a Category B service, which means it has to negotiate with every cable and satellite company individually for carriage, rather than Category A which gets mandatory pickup on digital and pricing bargained with the entire block of cable companies in Canada en masse.   So SNN now will have to compete on its own, often on a pick and pay basis, and if some industry insiders are to be believed the network is already hemorrhaging money from the profitable Quebecor properties.    Those cable and satellite companies that do carry "Project Levant-istan" are pushing it way up the dial, to Channel 140 and beyond (around where the irrelevant basic cable channels usually begin.   Even the ethically vapid Fox News gets a higher priority, which tells me a lot).  Back when the local Toronto channel was known as Toronto One, it bled so much money from Craig Media that the once successful family had to sell out its entire mini-network of stations.

Maybe Quebecor has forgotten that the Toronto Sun long ago promised that if it ever went belly-up, it would turn over its entire archive, including those of its predecessor the Toronto Telegram (1876-1971), to York University.   (Actually, YorkU already has the ToTel archive but Sun uses it on exclusive license).    Pretty nice piece of history to lose, just because you have issues with an opposing network.

And of course, Quebecor will not report that it takes about $4 million in federal subsidies every year to offset the cost of delivering its periodicals.   Not to mention it threatened to sue the fed's Media Fund when it refused to subsidize the production of Star Académie, perhaps because on the show (a cross between Idol and Big Brother) nearly all the contestants every year are very proud separatists (when did you ever see a Canadian flag flown on the show -- they only fly the Québec flag on that show even though it is broadcast across Canada).    For what it is worth, I only watched the final a few years back because the special guest was James Taylor, who surprisingly (for a guy born in western Massachusetts and grew up in North Carolina) speaks very fluent French.

Yes, I agree the CBC should be more accountable.   The two ombudsmen (French and English) should be given more oversight in that regard also.    And since it is our state broadcaster, I also think separatists in the midst should of course be booted out.

But it's high time Quebecor's reporters and management were held to the same standard.   I would not be the least bit surprised if some of those on the other side acting so moral and mighty have skeletons in their own closet.   It would be even bolder for the CBC to air it as their top story on the nightly news, provided the facts were irrefutable.    That would be something worth watching.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Link away as much as you want, sez SCC

The Supreme Court of Canada has handed the blog world a big victory.    Writing for a unanimous Court in Crookes v. Newton, Justice Rosalie Abella wrote that merely providing a hyperlink to a definitively or potentially defamatory website does not itself constitute defamation.   She points out that hyperlinks are at one of the hearts of the Internet -- that to provide context to a point one is making, that person will offer such a link elsewhere for more information rather than repeating everything verbatim.    To prevent people from offering such links would undercut the purpose of the Net which is access to information.    While ordinary individuals do have the right not to be defamed, it is a big jump to assert that because a second person repeats a lie directly or not he or she is just as liable as the person who started the misinformation.

It's worth pointing out that one of the justices says it's not really that clear-cut.   Justice Marie Deschamps wrote that providing a link to a false news website is definitely not defamatory in itself, but it could potentially be if the linker knew that it was false.    In this particular case, however, the argument could not be made because it failed on one of the key tests to prove defamation -- that a receiving third party was made aware that the information was false, so she ruled for the defendants.

I did a quick check on the law on defamation in Canada, or at least the general principles around it.   In the common law jurisdictions (the territories and all provinces except Québec) the courts have rejected the "actual malice" standard in the States (based on a 1964 SCOTUS ruling, New York Times v Sullivan, which ruled the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional and essentially undercut the Confederate States' attempts to block protests against segregation merely by suing anyone, black or white, who challenged the morality of Jim Crow -- it was actually against the law in many of those states to sign a petition calling for the end to segregation, or to voluntarily desegregate a restaurant in an area where segregation was required).   Actual malice requires "knowledge that the information is false" or was "published with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

 Common law here instead states that fair comment, truth, responsible communication or privilege remain defences against defamation claims, whether the target is a public or private figure.   Determining defamation  goes on a case by case basis but it largely depends on who the target audience.   (You may remember Benny Hinn's attempts against both the CBC and NBC back in 2005 to sue for damages based on his outlandish spending sprees, until he discovered the leaked documents proving where he stayed and dined were from his own ministry.   In that case, broadcast media's target audience is everyone, the defence is freedom of the press.)

The standard in Québec is actually a mixture of common and civil law principles (in part because the colonial period where English standards of freedom of speech and religion became so imbued in the province's laws that it overtook some contradicting principles in older versions of the civil code).   One of the most important of these is fair comment.   Unlike the rest of Canada, there is not a strict liability standard, instead there is a standard of reasonableness.   That is, someone who made a defamatory statement would not be liable if he or she honestly believed it was truthful.

The relevant Article of the province's Civil Code, 1457, reads:
Every person has a duty to abide by the rules of conduct which lie upon him, according to the circumstances, usage or law, so as not to cause injury to another.
Where he is endowed with reason and fails in this duty, he is responsible for any injury he causes to another person by such fault and is liable to reparation for the injury, whether it be bodily, moral or material in nature.
He is also liable, in certain cases, to reparation for injury caused to another by the act or fault of another person or by the act of things in his custody.
In the particular case here, I do not think there would have been a case under civil law anyway.   We all put up hyperlinks in blog posts we write or e-mails we send.    Unless we knew the information was definitely defamatory or patently false -- example, the Holocaust was exaggerated or a total lie -- why should we be held responsible?    And even if we knew that, why should we be held responsible for a link even if it came with the advisory that we don't agree with the material but we're pointing it out so people know it's out there and being consumed by individual not as discerning as most are?

Once again, free speech wins.   As it always should.   There are strict limits as to what should not be allowed to be published or disseminated (e.g. child pornography) and it's good to know that a link, any link, does not fall within those bounds.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At long last, a "churchie la femme" has been busted ...

Finally, after more than a quarter of a century, a Roman Catholic bishop in North America may finally be held to account in the courts -- the legal courts, not the canonical ones.

The sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church has had a relatively common denominator -- more often than not bishops have played the game of musical chairs, moving an accused priest to another county or even to another diocese all together to evade prosecution.    This is of course obstruction of justice, a crime in itself.    I do say "more often than not" because many bishops have refused to game that way and cooperate fully with prosecutors, police and child welfare authorities.    The usual means for the Vatican to deal with this has been to give a threatened bishop a passport issued by Vatican City or even more rarely by the Holy See itself (the inner cabal of the Pope and his most senior allegedly "celibate" advisers) to give that bishop diplomatic immunity.

This time, the Vatican didn't act fast enough, and thank God.    The bishop in question here is Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who has been charged with failure to report child abuse.  The Diocese itself faces a separate criminal charge and will be tried as a corporation with the potential appropriate penalties there.     (The respective penalties are pretty minor -- Finn faces a year in jail and a fine of  $1000, the Diocese a fine of $5000.)

Earlier this year, Finn outraged his flock when he admitted that he knew one of the priests under his command, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, had taken pornographic pictures of minor females as early as December of last year but did not report this to authorities until May of this year.    (The photos, which besides forced poses also included "upskirts," were discovered on Ratigan's laptop by a computer technician and immediately turned over to the diocese office.)      Finn ordered Ratigan to hole up at a convent for a time (after a suicide attempt, the day after the discovery) and to stay away from minors but was still going to such events as Easter egg hunts and even spending weekends with families well within reach of minors.

Even more bizarre is that Finn had previously pledge such cooperation as part of a $5 million class action settlement with Kansas City victims three years ago.

Incredibly, it was only last year that the Vatican finally joined the rest of its sister churches in requiring allegations of abuse to be reported immediately to secular authorities.       And the only known example of a conviction of a bishop for obstruction in recent memory was one in France.

Hopefully, this is a sign that authorities have finally had enough of giving the largest church in America a free pass.    But we need more indictments and convictions.    As for Finn, it is obvious he should resign.   The West-Central and Northwest of Missouri deserves better than this.    Even six months is way too long of a delay as was the case here.   The standard should be what the law is, which is immediate reporting to the police.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wagging the dog, Mexican style

It's been a little over 24 hours since the United States announced it had arrested an Iranian operative who was picked up in Mexico for wanting to try to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US.    If even half of it is true then it suggests that the country below ours could have averted what would be under international law an act of war, depending on how high up the orders went.

Something about this doesn't make sense however.    Why the Saudi ambassador?   Why not go after the US attaché in Tehran?    (The US maintains a suspension of relations with Iran but maintains an "interests sections" under the protection of Switzerland.)

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote today at CNN's website, all of this depends on the reliability of a "confidential source" who was facing a narcotics charge but had it dropped, and also got paid $50 thousand, in exchange for this "information."     Jailhouse informants are rarely reliable at the best of times, especially with child murders.    When it comes to terrorism however it's an even more difficult burden of proof.   Also worth considering is that the suspect was interrogated for twelve days, some of that by the federales in Mexico and where interrogation procedures aren't quite the same as in America.

Frankly, I think this is just a distraction from some other problems.    Yes, Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been rivals for power in the Middle East, but this is just a way to deflect for a day or two from America and Europe's banking problems.    Let the case run its course ... but next time, the authorities had better try another way of wagging the dog.   The stakes, for economic as well as political security, are way too high.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cherry in more hot water

To follow up on my last post about "Grapes":

The three NHL players that Don Cherry criticized last Thursday night -- that three retired NHL players, namely Stu Grimsom, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson were "pukes," "turncoats," and "hypocrites" for saying the enforcement game in "Le Great Game" has gone overboard --  have decided to fight back.    Mr Grimsom who is now a lawyer has sent a letter to "Grapes" saying that the issues they and other players current and former are facing are very real and cannot be minimzed.

Last Saturday, Don Cherry appeared to back away (just slightly) from his comments two nights before.     But to further make his point on violence in sports, he then showed  some very close calls in baseball where the catcher and opposing runner were colliding at home plate -- often with the same kinds of head shots we're seeing all too often in hockey but without the same protective equipment (a baseball helmet is quite different from a hockey one after all).

To that Grimsom has said, not good enough.   The phrase he uses to describe Cherry's semi-retraction was that "Mr. Cherry's conduct throughout has shown a complete lack of decency."

Actually, Cherry's argument is a fine attempt at making a point -- to a point.    However it fails in this respect,  that when a pitcher deliberately beans a ball at the batter to force a walk and there winds up a bench clearing brawl, there is clearly intent; but when a runner is racing home and the catcher is trying to catch and tag in one fell swoop, contact is inevitable but rarely is there the same kind of intent.    Hockey, of course, is different -- some minor penalties such as high sticking or "holding the stick" can be unintentional but swinging a stick is uncalled for (and even if it is in "self-defence" the standard for the argument is much higher).     Full contact is to be expected in ice hockey -- I would never favour a reversion to shinny -- but expected and unexpected contact are different things.

The Mother Ship continues to insist that Cherry's views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the network.    "To all you youngsters out there," as he is fond of saying, it would help if the CBC flashed "Editorial Reply" to make that emphatically clear.

When a player dies on the ice from a head shot, God forbid, and several players get banished from the game, maybe there will then finally be a reckoning.   But I can hardly think that Cherry still deserves $700,000 a year to shoot off his mouth like that for six minutes a week (he got eighteen this weekend because it was the opening of the season).   He must make twice that from merchandising so it's not like he would have to collect unemployment insurance (at his tax bracket he'd have to pay most of it back anyway in April).

A body check and a head shot are like an apple and an orange.    But I'm not really surprised at the state of affairs.    It's why I hardly watch the game anymore.    If I wanted to see a prize fight I'd order it on pay per view.   At least I know that sport is rigged.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CBC wags finger at Cherry

Looks like there may be finally trouble in the self-built paradise that Don Cherry has constructed all these years.   At long last the CBC actually disagrees with something he said, openly.    This is in reference to opening night for the NHL two nights ago.   Mr Cherry accused three well known heavy hitters of being "turncoats" for saying they have changed their minds about fighting in hockey and then went on to claim that some groups are trying to take advantage of the deaths of three "enforcers" during the off-season.   Further he accuses Brendan Shanahan (an enforcer who got suspended five times during his playing career) of going too heavy in handing out suspensions and fines.

For its part, the Mother Ship says that as a broadcaster it takes violence in the sport quite seriously and that it supports player safety "on and off the ice."   Could it be the CBC going to cut the man loose after all these years?    Other than his tributes to fallen troops and cops, he has gotten increasingly irrational over the years.    Certainly much more unrestrained since Rose died (sorry, but that's how I see it.)

I do wonder if a lot of the violence has to do with all of the safety equipment.    You sure didn't see that many head shots way back when players didn't have any helmets, mouth guards or padding.   But as the equipment has gotten better, so has the bar been lifted constantly on how far one can go and get away with it.

I happen to think players can be aggressive without going demented.    A smoother and faster game exists in Europe in part because there is absolutely zero tolerance for the crap that exists in the NHL.   Most fights here get only a two minute penalty, at most five from the ice (although for official records it would be ten) -- over there it would be anywhere from five to twenty depending on the severity, and in the most extreme cases expulsion from the match followed by suspension (along with an official 25 PIM in the books).   Come on, don't tell me European players aren't aggressive -- during the lockout in 2005 games were broadcast from Europe and what we saw was that the home talent there as well as NHLers who wanted the exercise actually enjoyed themselves; they took chances but knew when to draw the line.

I know the old joke, "I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out."   But if players are dying from dementia or Parkinson's, a direct result of all the hits they took, then it's no joke.    Maybe the Mighty Mister Donald should lead by example and turn in his government health card as well as the supplementary benefits he gets from the Exploding Pizza.    Or maybe ... uh, no, not that.   He's not worth it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bye Steve, and bye-bye (maybe) Tim

Hard to imagine a world without Steve Jobs ... I'll always be a "PC" (personal computer) but I love iTunes ™ -- which made possible the podcast and the ability to download a lot of favourite radio and TV shows as well as discovering new ones, all for free.   NPR and the CBC, among other public broadcasters, have gotten a new lease on life because of the technology and have busted the old ratings models wide open (and have opened up new revenue sources as links for the free shows point to series available only by subscription due to copyright clearance issues).    Thanks Steve for making our world a bit easier to navigate in a time when it's being more congested than ever.

Okay ... enough of that.   Today is election day in Ontario.   This time I'm not going to tell you whether you should vote or not, that's up to you.    (The three leaders make their final pitches to rule Ontario, here.)  But all I can say is that an election that should have been an easy scoop for the "PC"s (the no longer "Progressive" Conservatives) has turned into a nail-biter.   If Ottawa born and bred Dalton McGuinty can pull off a last minute majority it will be a truly remarkable political resurrection.   Bland and manipulative as he may be he has run a generally competent government.    Even with a minority which would almost certainly be propped up by Andrea Horwath of the NDP (and a "Hammer" woman) he will have pulled off what would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago which is slam-dunk Tim Hudak (who also represents a district which takes in a big part of Hamilton).

Poor Tim (and I'm not being sarcastic here).   He could never quite get his foot out of his mouth after he accused Pointy Head of favouring "immigrants" over Canadians when in fact what McGuinty is aiming at is getting the "taxi cab" posse into jobs they were actually trained for and which would all be paid back in new income tax revenue, in many cases in the first year.    After that the old tried and true Reaganomics (cut taxes, but especially for the rich) which has been discredited time and time again as any supposed growth does not solely account for recovery of revenues.   And in the last week, his stupid challenge against gay and lesbian clubs in Ontario schools.

McGuinty is an idiot, but at least he's competent.   Hudak is a Harper ditto head.   I like Horwath but she needs another election cycle before she becomes a truly viable alternative to the Liberals.

I'm predicting a turnout of just over 50%.   Disappointing but not surprising, just how disaffected we are in general.

UPDATE (11:20 am EDT, 1520 GMT):   Just a quick additional note about ads which all have the tag line "Authorized by the CFO of the [blank] Party."   No in and out scheme this time around (with different disclaimers for different areas to get around spending rules) but the fact the ads are approved by an accountant and not the party leader itself, says something to me who has some training in accounting.     Especially with the anti-gay ads that appeared all over the GTA in marginal districts and in "ethnic enclaves."    It's time we did what the States did, and have the leader clearly say, "I approve this message."    No ambiguity in a statement like that.   None whatsoever.    The leader should approve and thus stand behind his or her message and not let apparatchiks approve it for him or her.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quick weekend thoughts (2010-10-02)

Quick whip of two items so let's go:

Good on the Supreme Court of Canada for ruling the Insite clinic in Vancouver does not run afoul of drug control policies; more technically that it does but to deny it a "constitutional exemption" would be a far worse outcome than what the needle exchange clinic provides, safe and sterile injection supplies.   Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, supported by her eight Associates (including PMS appointees Marshall Rothstein and Thomas Cromwell), wrote the unanimous opinion in favour of Insite.    Well acquainted with the terrible existence of the Downtown East Side (having spent a great deal of her law practice there as well as handling drug cases as a bencher during her time in the lower courts), one would think that as a matter of course she would recuse herself from the matter at hand but instead she came out swinging.   The chief magistrate did not focus so much on Charter issues (although there is a bit of discussion there) as she did on the division of powers, something you'd think "Steve" Harper would consider sacrosanct.

Oddly, when the centre opened it was an incredible feat of cooperation between all three levels of government as well as Aboriginals who comprise nearly 20% of the neighbourhood.   It was only a change of government in Ottawa that brought about the impasse.   Nevertheless, wrote McLachlin, the issue is not one of crime.    Many if not most addicts aren't criminals, they are addicts period.   They need treatment to be cured or have their addictions go into remission but until that point comes they need access to a facility like Insite because it is properly regulated, professionally run and the staff there help their patients get referred to facilities that work on the disease.

As it is, health care is a provincial responsibility, and while what goes on  in shooting up drugs is technically illegal (a federal responsibility, criminal law) and that federal law does take precedence, the federal law in question also interferes with the staff's ability to do their job and it is that that is unconstitutional, as is the federal government's decision not to extend Insite's license being based on political and not logical grounds.   Accordingly, McLachlin and Co. granted Insite's request for an injunction and ordered the federal Minister of Health to grant the clinic its license.

While technically the decision only applies to Insite, it's also a big victory for other needle exchange programs, such as "The Van" here in Hamilton.    Surely we need to fight the real criminal elements in the drug trade (the kingpins and their immediate minions) but many addicts, and I have come across quite a few, do not deserve to be branded as criminals.   They need help.   It's time they got that help without fear.


The other quick note is the pending CETA -- the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.    We have gone through eight rounds of talks and it looks more like there will be a treaty ready for a final vote, maybe in a matter of weeks.   Unlike many of my progressive colleagues I actually support free trade with Europe, especially if it includes a labour mobility agreement.    This would go far beyond anything in NAFTA which only guarantees a quota of worker visas but not much else.    If there can be harmonization in product safety and environment standards so much the better.   I am troubled however by the almost complete lack of silence on the issue.

The Canada-US agreements, which was later extended to Mexico with NAFTA, by contrast had a very vigorous public debate in all three countries.    It was that debate that led to the Protocols on the environment and labour rights, as well as the ongoing call in all three countries among civil society groups for a reopening of Chapter XI (the "investor state dispute settlement" provision).

But nothing about this.   No debate.  Why is this?    Increasing our economic ties to Europe can primarily be a good thing because it will mean we will not be so much bound to the States as we are.   We can't keep our eggs in one basket and over the long run the European frame of mind has proved quite stable compared to the American brand.   Surely however, if we're going to get into something this big, there should be a full debate -- at the grassroots, in the media and certainly in the federal legislature.    Even "take note" debates in the provincial and territorial legislative assemblies would be more gratifying than the black hole of silence -- but there too there seems to be silence as the subnational governments are actually included in the talks, unprecedented with the other agreements the EU have negotiated which have been with national governments only.

Some civil society groups have raised a stink (including the usual "suspects" the Council of Canadians which I do not really respect and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which I do), but there is more debate about the Tar Sands and the proposed XL extension to the Keystone pipeline system, than this.    Doesn't make sense.

The only fair way to settle this is to put forward the draft document, whatever it is right now, in the public domain.    And to allow MPs and Senators to vote on the final treaty in free votes and not party line ones.   If we're going to become de facto if not de jure a part of the EU, then we need to discuss openly and honestly the impact of being part of or a partner with a supranational institution -- one that has promoted peace and democracy for over a half century to be sure but has created an endless trail of irritants even amongst its most ardent supporters.

(Provincial) election week in Canada

It would be nice if we did it as the States do -- schedule all federal, state and local elections and by-elections such that they all happen on the same day (except in the case of death).    Would save a ton on multiple manual revisions of the voter's list.    But as it is, we're having a busy week for elections in Canada.   Four provinces and two territories are having them -- Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland-Labrador, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Not much to say about Ontario's election, other than it looks more like it will be a Liberal-NDP working alliance unless McGuinty pulls off a last minute majority upset.    But minority government can be a good thing, it slams the brakes on some of the crazier ideas while letting the smarter ones get through.

One thing I am interested in though is the election in the NWT.   Like Nunavut next door, the NWT does not have parties, instead everyone runs as independents with those who get elected in the 19 districts choosing a Premier amongst their ranks and most issues having to be debated on a consensus basis.   Sadly it would never work in the South where consensus is like saying "Antichrist," especially those in the Tea Party frame of mind.

From my armchair in the South I have been able to discern three major issues this time around.   One is devolution, granting the territory province-like powers.   This is supported by only two of the First Nations in the region, the others claim they were never consulted on the proposed deal.    Two is the continued high cost of living -- those away from the road network (i.e. the corridor along the Enterprise-Yellowknife-Inuvik route) often pay up to four times for basic items than what would be expected in the rest of Canada, and major changes last year that PMS implemented for the "food mail" program have only made it worse.   Third and somewhat connected to the second is the Deh Cho Bridge (which looks like a combination cable stayed - truss structure) which has been delayed for another year and will help to reduce the food costs quite a bit in many areas since the mighty Mackenzie River will no longer be the obstacle it normally is during fall freeze and spring melt -- problem is that the bridge is costing triple what it was supposed to and the design had to be changed midway through the project.   (The ice pilots will still have work, just from a more northerly and better staging point).

Rather mundane issues for a Southerner to be sure -- but consider:    Many parts of Ontario still can be only accessed by float plane, their basic living costs are enormous too compared to the rest of us.    There are still no final resolutions for many of the First Nations, agreements if reached could be a huge boon for Aboriginals as well as the "rest of us" in terms of royalties and pull this province back into "have" status.    And the road network up north is appalling -- the Prairie Provinces have full expressways at the same latitudes where we have barely navigable two lane roads, and right in the middle of where the real heart of the province is, the resource rich North .    I mean, come on.    And of course we are all familiar with mega-projects that have gotten way out of hand in terms of costs and at our expense.

All I can say there is, if you live in one of the "Six" then get out there and vote.   As for me, I will vote but I am only making an anti-endorsement:    No to the Tea Party "Progressive" Conservatives.     Feel compelled to vote for them if you will, but I think we don't need even more poison in the system than there already is.   I'm not endorsing any of the other parties because they haven't provided any satisfactory answers to the issues, just a muddle.    (For the record, I voted NDP but that's only because in my district a vote for the Liberals is a wasted vote, such that the evil FPTP system is.)