Ground Control to the Government of Canada

Posted: 19/11/2014 7:44:16 AM

Last week I was looking at my Facebook feed when my friend updated his status to read, “One hour ago humanity successfully landed a spacecraft on a slowly tumbling mountain of ice and rock—let’s celebrate.” It was a nice break from your classic updates such as “I'm eating pizza!” or “my cat is possessed.” Since then, like so many people, I’ve become obsessed with what a group of European science geeks have been up to in outer space. 

The numbers alone make my brain hurt. They landed a space craft on a comet that is half a billion kilometres away. It took ten years to get there and the comet is moving at 135,000 kilometres an hour.

For thousands of years people trembled in fear when a comet appeared in our sky and now, in 2014, we have visited one. What an astounding thing humanity has accomplished all in the name of pure science. And my God, how smart must the men and women be who pulled this thing off.

And how sad that here on Earth, or at least on our little part of it in Canada, pure science is no longer encouraged. We have a government that not only abolished the Office of the National Science Advisor, but they bragged about it. In Canada, the only time you hear about scientists now is when they’re being told to shut up or they're being shut down by a government who can't even begin to understand what the scientists are talking about. 

I don't know much about science but I know this: They didn't land a spaceship on a comet using anecdotal evidence and they didn't calibrate the rate of descent using focus groups. Canadians, we get excited about pure science. Canadians, we are as passionate and as curious as anyone else. It's our government that begs to differ.


348 More Days of This

Posted: 05/11/2014 7:27:18 AM

The Prime Minister was in Vaughan, Ontario this past week; the tie was gone, he was in his groovy relaxed mode, which personally I find to be his most unsettling personality. But he was there to make promises about income splitting. 

Afterwards, he invited the media to stick around and have some sandwiches and watch him do arts and crafts with children. Because you know Stephen Harper—nothing makes him happier than getting out the Crayolas and getting down on the ground with the little ones. When they spit up—that's his happy place.

This hot on the heels of Tom Mulcair and the NDP inviting the media along to see Tom up on the monkey bars with toddlers, while he made promises. Because you know Tom Mulcair, everything about that man screams, let's all get in the bouncy castle. Next week Justin Trudeau will appear at a daycare, also making promises and simultaneously juggling three infants and a puppy.

This is it Canada. As predicted in the prophecies, when the pale ones appear on the playgrounds, the election campaign has begun. And we are 12 months out. Canada has always been blessed with short election campaigns, historically five and six weeks max, which is a good thing.

The one thing that every election campaign since Confederation has in common is this: nothing of any substance gets accomplished during a campaign. Of course not, the leaders are too busy to lead. Sorry, no time to govern; I have to go get photographed feigning interest in a cow.

We are now looking down the barrel at twelve months of these three men, promising us the sun, the moon and the stars while wearing hard hats, cowboy hats, hair nets and stilettos. It's like a never-ending episode of ‘So You Think You Can Govern Canada’ except we can't change the channel because the country is on remote control. 


Open House

Posted: 29/10/2014 7:28:04 AM

When Canadians visit Ottawa—and all Canadians should at some point in their lives—without fail they’ll make it up to Parliament Hill. Which makes perfect sense; they are spectacularly beautiful buildings. They are my favourite buildings in the entire country.

I promise you, you make it up there an hour before sunset, when the golden light is dancing on the Peace Tower, it is a sight you will never forget. Even in the pouring rain, in the sleet or the snow, in the middle of winter, 30 below, they can still make your heart skip. Parliament Hill, as they say in the world of real estate, shows beautifully.

And when I'm talking to people about visiting Ottawa, I always say the same thing—take the tour. Because Canadians, being Canadians, sometimes they don't think about lining up and going inside. But there are tours almost every day. The hours vary, but they’re open pretty much all year round. And it’s been like that for over a hundred years.

And when you get inside, the walls are dripping in history. And the tour guides, all full time students, are so young, informed and well-spoken you can't help but think that this generation is the best and the brightest yet.

And unlike similar tours of similar buildings elsewhere in the world, the access is spectacular. The first time that I took a tour, I remember thinking—wow, we are walking around like we own the joint. And of course, we do.

It's our house. It's on a hill. And there's a tower. And it's named for the idea, the concept and notion of peace. And it’s open to all of us. Times change, but that never has, let's keep our heads and ensure that it never will.


Courage in the Face of Contagion

Posted: 22/10/2014 9:24:58 AM

Recently I attended a graduation at York University. You can not help but be moved watching a parade of young people who have worked so hard, march across the stage and pick up their Bachelor of this or their Masters of that—young graduates filled with such hope, such promise, and crushing personal debt.

The last group to graduate were the nurses. They are a tribe onto themselves. They were by far the loudest of the bunch. They didn't care, they cheered each other on louder and harder than anyone else. They celebrated as if nobody was watching. They had the best shoes. And as they strode across that stage I could not help but think what kind of occupation are they marching into.

We’ve all seen the news. We live on a continent that is currently hysterical about a terrible disease that very few of us know anything about. And we’ve been here before. In my lifetime, AIDS happened; good people, decent people, family and friends were scared and ran the other way. Nurses—they went into the room, they held the hands. When SARS happened, when the city of Toronto was bathing in Purell®, the nurses went to work every day. And when they got sick, other nurses replaced them.

And now we have this terrible thing, Ebola. It has yet to, and perhaps never will reach our shores. But if it does, we know what will happen. We will run for the hills, they will run into the room.

So let us take a moment and praise the nurses. And let it be known that in this country, in Canada, no nurse should be denied the equipment or training they need to do their job safely. We should be there for the nurses because they’re always there for us.


Special Access Adds Ease to Attacks

Posted: 15/10/2014 7:43:00 AM

When a three or a four-year-old takes candy from the corner store and puts it in their pocket without paying for it, we all understand it's not the end of the world. And we also understand that if that child has parents with a moral compass, on that day that child learns the lesson that stealing is wrong. Because in our society, if you take something that does not belong to you without permission, it is theft. It does not matter who you are.

Oh, unless of course you’re the Conservative Party of Canada, who recently floated the idea of changing Canada's copyright laws. Not to protect people who need the laws or to create jobs. No, no. They want to change the laws to allow political parties, them specifically, to take news footage that they don't own, to re-edit it, slow it down, add creepy music, and create attack ads. Well in this country, you just can't do that to footage without permission, no matter how tempting the candy is—because it is stealing.

If Global TV, a private news outfit, invests time, energy, resources, and money landing an exclusive interview, another news network can't take that footage and put it on TV. Because they don't own it. A charity can't put that on TV because they don't own it. There are no exceptions. To quote a very popular document—Thou shalt not steal. I know Stephen Harper has been accused of having a hidden agenda but I didn't think it involved circumventing the Ten Commandments.

Stealing is wrong. If the Tories allow this to go through, every single Tory MP should have to write a letter to the children in their ridings explaining to them why the next time they’re in a store, if they think they can get away with it and no one is looking, take all the candy you want.