March 25, 2008

On Isolating Ontario: Conservatives Borrowing from Chinese Playbook?

Lord Kitchener's Own has been doing a fantastic job of tracking and analyzing the current squabble between Ontario and the federal Conservatives.
The short: The Conservatives are trying to provoke Ontarians into an uprising against our provincial Liberal government in an attempt to distract us from reality. That reality being Flaherty eyeing the Ontario PC leadership job (and ultimately the Premier's office - though I doubt he could pull that off anytime soon) and that Ontario is getting the dual treatment of the short end of the stick, stuck up our wazoo by the federal government when it comes to representation and financial transfers. However, the plan is likely to backfire as Ontarians are only going to be further enlightened on how good the country has it because of Ontario.

I would add that the Conservatives should realize that by provoking Ontario they are doing anything but helping their own cause. While underrepresented with Parliament, Ontario's seats are essentially needed if the Conservatives ever want their elusive majority. So beyond personal glory (i.e. Flaherty) and continuing to rip-off Ontario, what purpose would 'poking the bear' have? To answer this, one may only have to look at China's verbal assault on Tibet.

Chris Edey's latest post argues that China continues to blame Tibetans and the Dalai Lama, and plays the role of victim, not because it's true, trying to gain sympathies from the West or convince Tibetans. Rather, it's about building support with the Chinese population and it's about nationalism. China doesn't care what the West or Tibetans think. They know that the international community won't do anything, so China isn't worried about international opinion. What they are worried about is their own self-preservation, which comes from within. And therein lies their m.o. They blame the Tibetans and Dalai Lama to play on the historic prejudices that exist in China to have support of the people for whatever actions they take, any justification they make to isolate Tibet (as well as Taiwan and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) and to buffer against any dissenting, international opinions that may make their way within China's borders.

So how does the China-Tibet conflict equate with the current rift between the federal government and Ontario? Well, most of it doesn't with the exception of the reasoning behind the words being used. Whereas China is trying to curry greater favour with everyone, except Tibetans, within their borders by being negative about Tibet, the federal Conservatives are also trying to isolate Ontario with the rest of Canada. There are likely at least three reasons for this:
First, to win a majority government at the federal level, generally, the support of Ontario is needed. Given that support for parties is often divided across the nation, having Ontario on your side can often tilt the scale in your favour. Lacking Ontario's support would essentially mean that you need significant support everywhere else and one way is to play Ontario against the rest of the country, which seems to be the case.
Second, in the event that Ontario, for the second time in Canadian history, qualifies as a 'have-not' province, don't be surprised if the equalization rules are changed (as they were in 1982) to exclude Ontario. This will need to be justified somehow and having favourable opinion outside of Ontario (through the negative attacks on Ontario) will buffer the Conservatives against the unfavourable opinions coming from within.
Third, there is also the general isolation of Ontario within Canada. Since Ontario has been playing the 'patsy' for years, in terms of representation, financial transfers, equalization, etc., during this economic slowdown, Ontario just might ask for something in return or begin lashing out on its own. The Conservatives need Ontario isolated to avoid Ontario influencing other provinces. Think of the 'Not a Leader' campaign the Conservatives ran against Dion and you'll get the picture here.

Fortunately for Ontario (and the rest of Canada, really) this plan will be much more difficult for the Conservatives than it is for China. In Canada we have a free media that will point out the reality. Ontario isn't Tibet in the sense that we are a small and effectively, controlled state within an authoritarian country. For Ontario it's quite the opposite. Ontario is the most populous province and generally the most powerful. And while the Conservatives may want to isolate Ontario, in the end Ontario has all the money that the Conservatives want. Furthermore, the Conservatives aren't an all powerful party. And even in the event they succeed at isolating Ontario, they won't necessarily get the votes elsewhere because they aren't the only party with substantial support and have burned other bridges elsewhere.

Update: Lord Kitchener's Own strikes again!

March 12, 2008

'Roadside Zoos Hopefully Coming to an End' Or 'Hopefully, This is Only the Beginning'

I can't say it enough that most, if not all, roadside zoos in Ontario need to be shut down, immediately. And it finally looks like the Ontario Liberals are going to crackdown on these grotesque excuses for entertainment.

The legislation, aimed at overhauling a 90-year-old law, is expected to set standards of care for small zoos and give the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals the right to inspect the operations, The Canadian Press has learned.

Definitely, this is long overdue. The current legislation was put in place 90 years ago, a lot has been learned since then in regards to animals' care, biology, needs, etc. To know just how appalling things are in some of Ontario's roadside zoos, go here. It's scary, sad and disgusting that people are willing to do this to animals that are biologically disposed to create territories that are vast or are social and/or pack animals and then argue, as the owner of the deplorable Lickety-Split Ranch and Zoo in London, Ontario did,

"Check your facts and do your research and you'll see there's nothing wrong."

Remember, this is coming from a woman that created an international firestorm over her housing and treatment of a red kangaroo. At one point, the Australian Environment Minister was calling for an official investigation into the situation. My response to owner Shirley McElroy is simply this: I've read the research on kangaroos, though, even a 3 year-old child could see that a tiny cage is no place for the world's largest marsupial.

To see these deplorable 'zoos' shutdown or subject to tough restrictions would be a nice change. The Ontario Liberals should be commended for finally bringing this forward, even if it's long overdue. It's even more encouraging because it is likely to include a section that will penalize people who hurt animals with tougher penalties.

The bill, if passed, will also likely ensure there are tougher consequences for people who abuse animals by making it a provincial offence to hurt an animal, sources said.

Hopefully, this means that there will be meaningful penalties, not just marginal increases of the current penalties, which are a complete joke. When I say 'meaningful' I pretty much mean significant jail time and financial consequences. Animals deserve considerably more respect and recognition as sentient beings in our laws. Something along the lines of Ajax-Pickering MPP Mark Holland's bill C-373, is really where I'm going with this. However, even C-373 isn't complete though it is much better and thorough than bill S-203 (formerly, S-213), which is currently making the rounds in the House and Senate.

Animal rights and welfare is not an area I write about often. Mostly this is mostly due to how easily I get worked up about the subject and find it hard to keep my emotions in check. From where I sit, not just Ontario but all of Canada is completely antiquated when it comes to animal rights and welfare. There is no reason that a country as modern as Canada should still have an archaic outlook on animals and how they are treated. Animals are sentient, at the very least, and given that should be afforded much more respect and protection than they currently receive.

March 11, 2008

Six Unimportant Things

Good ol' Scott Tribe tagged me with this silly, little meme that has been making its rounds through the blogosphere. So I figured I would give it a shot and toss it out there. I'm also supposed to tag six others and here are my six tags: Apply-Liberally, BCer in TO, Quito, Lord Kitchener, This Year, and Edey.

  1. I don't eat any warm-blooded, furry animal - for any one specific reason - unless I'm a guest for dinner and that is all they are serving;
  2. As a child I walked into the handle of a lawn mower and the branches of a tree and required stitches for both incidents;
  3. I like to play Call of Duty (whichever edition is current), online;
  4. My car is a standard;
  5. I have an aquarium with 6 fish (1 sunburst platy, 3 neon tetras, and 2 white cloud minnows) and 4 amano shrimp;
  6. My wife and I share custody over Meisha (see below), with my parents.

March 07, 2008

From a Snowball to an Avalanche?

It isn't exactly a revelation that many grassroots Liberals are beginning to wonder what the hell the leaders and advisers are doing. From Dion to his caucus to their cronies and so forth, all have talked tough when it comes to the many questionable actions of Harper and the Conservatives. Yet, when push to comes to shove our fearful fearless leaders renege pretty much every time. The scratching of heads by many Liberal and non-Liberal bloggers has reached exponential heights. Scott Tribe has documented the questioning that has been going on in the blogosphere and on any given day you can pick up the angst from non-bloggers over at Progressive Bloggers. While most Liberal bloggers are just expressing frustration and venting on the lack of action by our leaders, one blogger, Apply-Liberally, who is also a valuable Young Liberal, has completely pulled his support for the party.

My frustrations run deep now and I’ve decided I will no longer consider myself a Liberal supporter.
The icing on the cake came today when I was reading a note written by a Liberal MP lambasting the Conservatives over scandal and corruption allegations inside the current government. The tone was that the Conservatives have broken the trust of Canadians. There was a laundry list of examples. There wasn’t, however, any solutions. There has been no attempt to toss this government out.

His sentiments are not unique to him, either. Hearing from some local candidates the feeling is also being heard at the doors of supporters and potential supporters. A couple weeks ago people were more than willing to talk about the state of the government and issues. Today they are expressing frustration and are laughing at the state of the Liberal Party. It is not going unnoticed that the Liberal leadership isn't willing to walk the walk. I also have my doubts that this view is going to just up and disappear in the near future.

The risk the Liberal Party is facing is becoming irrelevant in the eyes of voters. If our party isn't going to stand up against our poor excuse for a government then what do they stand for? If they are waiting for the perfect issue to bring the government down on, I can tell you right now that short of a full, blown out scandal that this Conservative government isn't likely to give the Opposition much to run with. What they have done though is given the Opposition A LOT of little issues and these combined have given us enough fodder to strike with if an election were held now. Our leaders have to stop listening to their advisers and put their ears to the ground to hear what their grassroots members are saying, just like they said they would do during and immediately after the leadership selection. If not, not only do they run the risk of becoming irrelevant as the opposition but they also run the risk of alienating all their members, AGAIN!

It's time for the Liberals to stand for something and fight the good fight before all the quiet chatter becomes a chorus and the party walks off into the distance...

Update: My. Point. Exactly.

March 06, 2008

A Couple of Quick Updates: Smoking and Book Bans

It's being reported that McGuinty is going full steam with the ban on smoking in cars while children are present. Good. It's about time. I've written on this a few times and have yet to receive any real challenge to this new law. Why? Probably because there is no real challenge to be made here. This law is about protecting the health of children and limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke. It's not about directly limiting smokers' rights to kill themselves like some idiots will claim. ALW has probably given the strongest analogy I've seen by comparing this ban with drinking and driving. Also, don't believe the clowns behind when they argue this is going to lead us down a slippery-slope where cell phones, sneezing and scratching your ass are next to be banned. Slippery-slopes hardly come true and there are no foundations to back up any further bans. The ban in cars has a solid medical background and even though this evidence could also backup smoking in homes, the home is sacrosanct and therefore pretty much off limits.
See Also:
here, here, and here.

And while we're on the topic of bans:
Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board has
decided not to pull Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy out of their school libraries. However, they will be putting disclaimers on the covers to warn students about the supposed misrepresentation of the Roman Catholic Church - which is only likely to draw more attention to the Pullman's point. This is a change of view from the Halton Catholic School Board, which pulled the books from their library shelves in a misguided and cowardly manner. In that regard, I think Dufferin-Peel deserves some praise for not being so short-sited as to attempt censorship and hide with their tail between their legs. Just as Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, argued, this trilogy should be mandatory reading in religion courses to teach students about how to avoid the traps of organized religion control and losing the message to dogma. Furthermore, a publicly funded school board should not be able to censor books arbitrarily, like Halton had done. If the books are pornographic, racist or similar ilk, then maybe a school board would have an argument. But to ban the books because you disagree with them sets a very bad precedent for future books that may also bring up a challenge. Dufferin-Peel is the obvious leader in this situation. We now know is being run by confident and competent people.
See also:
Here, here, and here.

To Test Or Not To Test...

Apparently, testing leads to greater recall of information. According to this article, studying and repeatedly testing on information allows students to retain information better than if they were only to constantly study.

As a teacher, I think this is useful information to know. I'm the type of teacher that particularly despises testing based on pure recall but to some degree this information does present some validity to giving 'pop quizzes'. While I tend to focus more on teaching for understanding while providing tests and assignments that promotes this, it may not be too bad to throw in a few more quizzes to assist with retention.

This is one of those dilemmas that many teachers face. Since testing for pure recall only shows us which students are better at remembering but not the best with understanding, there are always questions about how best to evaluate students. However, testing for understanding is not only time consuming - for both teachers and students - it's also very difficult to design the right question and accurately mark making it hard to sometimes get concrete feedback from it. Sometimes, pure recall testing is simpler and more concrete for assessment and assigning marks. Especially when the government requirements are asking for concrete results, simple testing is the answer, however, as I mentioned earlier this curves away from the goal of education; understanding. The magic formula is really a mixture of testing for understanding, simple testing and observations of experiential learning and projects.

While the article has pointed out the usefulness of simple testing, it doesn't mean teachers should put more emphasis on it. Rather, it may be more useful to provide more pop quizzes to assist students with information retention. However, at the same time teachers should give less weight to the results when it comes to students' final assessments. Ultimately, it gives us something to think about. Now if I could only remember what I was trying to accomplish before writing this post...

h/t to Saskboy

March 01, 2008

As If We Needed Another Reason...

... but this one is just as good, if not better, than all the others. And it looks like it might just happen, though I'm not holding my breath.

Cadman affair sparks election threat - Toronto Star

"The (Liberal) party may have to reconsider, in light of the allegations, whether it ought to prop up the government now facing ethical allegations that go right to the top," Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East) said.

"If this story is not discredited substantially in the next 48 hours, I am sure that a number of our colleagues will be very keen come Monday to pull the plug on this (minority) government," said Liberal MP Garth Turner (Halton).

There have been many Liberals, including myself, and non-Liberals calling for an election for quite some time now. Whether it's been an election over the inaction with the environment, detainee transfers and torturing in Afghanistan, poor governance by the Conservatives (i.e. lying, misrepresention, lack of transparency and accountability, etc.), etc. This list can go on as bloggers such as Scott Tribe and JimBobby have repeatedly pointed out. This latest development involving Chuck Cadman is another good reason to go to the polls.

Breaking the law and offering a bribe to buy a vote is a serious crime - Patrick Monahan, Dean of Osgoode Law, emphasised that himself several times on CTV yesterday. Let's also be honest, if the tables were turned there would be little doubt that the Conservatives would bring down the House themselves.

Many Liberals have been questioning why our party has been playing the part of the ostrich with its head in the sand when it comes to triggering an election. We have issues to run on, we have a strong core of leaders to put in front of the public (many more than the Cons have), and we know that the Conservatives are unlikely to get any more power than they already have. So why not take our chances with the public? The Liberals are only likely to gain in an election and the more seats the Liberals have the better off Canada will be because it sure hasn't been good so far with the Conservatives but it definitely can get worse.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)