By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
The unofficial public audit of Senator Pamela Wallin’s expense account continues apace.
“Let us put the spending of these tax dollars into perspective,” NDP MP Wayne Marston graciously offered shortly before Question Period, referring to some $300,000 in “other” travel expenses apparently claimed by the Senator over the last few years. “This could have paid for one year of old age security for 57 seniors. It took the combined taxes of 28 hard-working Canadian families to pay for this person’s ‘other’ travel. Think about it. Every single dime in taxes for 28 Canadian families just to cover this senator’s ‘other’ travel.”
There is probably a worthwhile proposal here somewhere to make the Senate entirely dependent on voluntary public pledges.
A minute later, Thomas Mulcair stood and pegged the Senator’s travel expenses at $350,000 over a 27-month period. The NDP leader was displeased, but the Prime Minister was apparently unconcerned.
“Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, the amount spent by the Senator for travel is similar to that of other parliamentarians,” he said.
In fact, Mr. Harper had an example.
“Just to give an example of that, for instance, over the past three years the average amount spent on travel to and from provinces by western members of the New Democratic Party has been $350,000,” the Prime Minister reported, having apparently stayed up late last night to do the math. “These are the costs that parliamentarians incur when they travel back and forth from Ottawa to their provinces. That is what the senator has done. Of course, all senators and members are committed to ensuring these expenses are appropriate.”
Mr. Mulcair was not quite persuaded to drop the subject. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:42 AM - 0 Comments
It is my duty pursuant to section 21 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act to lay upon the table a certified copy of the reports of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commissions for the provinces of New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. These reports are referred permanently to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, uttered these words Monday. As it happens, one of the reports he plopped down before the House touches closely upon the interests of his other (secret?) identity as Member for Regina-Qu’Appelle. The proposed riding map for Saskatchewan is by far the most controversial of the 10 now approaching finalization. It’s so controversial that one of the three commissioners appointed to draw the map refused to sign off on it, filing a minority report instead.
This is thought to be the first time that a Canadian boundaries commission has split irreconcilably in this way. It’s a nasty failure, since the whole point of a boundaries commission is to use logic to arrive at a broadly acceptable nonpartisan consensus. A conscientious government would be careful to avoid trouble of this sort from the outset, but apparently nobody saw it coming.
The problem isn’t partisanship as such. For the past few decades Saskatchewan’s federal riding map has had a unique “pie-slice” nature whereby there are no constituencies wholly within either of the two major cities. The good folks in southwest Regina, for example, have voted in the Palliser riding, alongside residents of Moose Jaw, since 1996. Voters in the northeast of the city are in the Regina-Qu’Appelle riding, mixing their votes with those of a half-dozen small towns like Indian Head and Wynyard—the latter being almost 200 kilometres away by road.
This arrangement was originally tolerated on the premise that in Saskatchewan there are no meaningful differences of culture or interest between the city and the country. All are one under the sign of the wheat sheaf. This seems to have become a perverse point of provincial pride, much like the lack of a sales tax in Alberta; the boundary commissioners were told often at public hearings that there is no such thing as “urban Saskatchewan” for political purposes. Two of the panelists dismissed this argument, snortingly, and created five new all-urban ridings, three in Saskatoon and two in Regina. The third member of the commission, David Marit, feels so strongly about the truth of the argument that he is willing to jeopardize the whole mapmaking exercise by refusing to sign a unanimous report.
What the people making this argument really mean, naturally, is that the “pie-slice” system has allowed rural Saskatchewan and the satellite cities to dominate or at least counterbalance Regina and Saskatoon in federal elections. Dissenter Marit is the president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities; I suppose he would have us believe he wants the big cities to remain divided for some other purpose than “divide and conquer.” But, of course, anybody who followed the 2011 election knows how the rural tail ends up wagging the urban dog under the existing system. The New Democrats picked up 32.3% of the vote provincewide, but this translated to zero seats in Parliament; the Liberals, with 8.6%, recaptured Ralph Goodale’s Wascana seat quite comfortably.
I took a look at the poll-by-poll results from the election, counting only the Regina and Saskatoon votes within the mixed ridings. These totals exclude advance and mobile polls.
As you can see, within the major cities the New Democrats are very competitive indeed with the Conservatives. (Though it’s also worth noting, lest any myths of extreme injustice and skulduggery flourish, that the Conservatives do seem to have “won” both metropolises.) Palliser MP Ray Boughen, a former mayor of Moose Jaw, would have gotten his clock cleaned if not for the Moose Javian votes. Farmer Nettie Wiebe, the NDP candidate in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, won a majority in the city and got beaten narrowly (for the third time in a row) on the strength of rural votes. And, sure enough, Speaker Scheer got fewer votes within Regina than the NDP’s Fred Clipsham.
It remains to be seen how well Thomas Mulcair’s “Western strategy” will ultimately work out, but in essence the Conservatives will start the 2015 campaign a couple seats down in Saskatchewan by virtue of the new electoral map alone. That is assuming the Conservatives in the Procedure Committee don’t use David Marit’s dissent as a pretext to go after the new map with a fat blue pencil. Vigilance is urged.
By Mark Richardson - Monday, July 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM - 0 Comments
What to do on a cross-country drive? Jump from a plane
Moose Jaw, Saskatechewan – Days 38, 39, 40
Trans-Canada distance: 5,447 km
Actual distance driven: 12,193 km
NOW: (Regina) So much for the high-quality road that Manitoba’s minister of transport, Steve Ashton, told me about this week. Somewhere west of Brandon on the Trans-Canada Highway, a flying rock scored a direct hit on the windshield, scoring a starburst just to the left of my line of sight.
I was passing a truck at the time. The vehicle in front of me was waaaaay in front. There were some loose stones on the road from recent maintenance, but there wasn’t much I could have done to avoid it.
We drove into Regina yesterday and I went looking for a Chip King stand, which I found in the Safeway parking lot. For $55 all in, Taylor Wandler told me he could fix the chip so that it wouldn’t spread and crack the rest of the windshield. The problem is that tiny air bubbles get into the crack and can flex the glass with vibration, or with temperature change, and that can crack the whole thing.
Taylor went at it with a small drill to create a hole for the air to escape, then a suction thingee that pulled the air out. Then he injected resin into the crack to fill the glass so that it was a solid piece again. Took 20 minutes.
There’s still an obvious mark on the glass if you look for it, but I’m not worried about it spreading now. And to be realistic, I’ve driven on lots of gravel roads so far with no issues. It’s ironic this should happen on Canada’s national highway.
Chatting with Taylor while he was making the repair, I realized he’s in a pretty good business. His dad has owned the franchise for the last 15 years and Taylor’s sister works for the company too. But think about it: There will always be windshields and there will always be stone chips in them. The price is a fair exchange for the work, and customers don’t leave feeling ripped off – they blame the government, not the repair person. And most important, the business can’t be outsourced. Nobody in India can fix your windshield – you’ve got to be right there on the spot. Pretty good business.
THEN: (Burrows, Sask.) Remember Percy Gomery? I introduced him back in northern Ontario, where he was driving home to Vancouver from Montreal with his long-suffering wife “the Skipper.” When we left them, in 1920, they’d just gotten mired in a bog deep in the woods, wrecked their car, and the Skipper was becoming hysterical. Read the blog here.
I haven’t mentioned him since then because the two of them cut through the States after reaching Sault Ste.-Marie. They came back into Canada south of Winnipeg – where they were stopped for speeding at 65 km/h – and quite enjoyed Manitoba, but found Saskatchewan roads to be abominable.
“Through Moosomin we loped along, over roads which, at their best, gave us something the motion of a prairie wolf, to Wapella, a typical elevator village. Starting next morning early we did a twenty-mile succession of mud-holes, which forcefully suggested to our minds a string of beads, in more senses than one. Though it might be recorded that between Wapella and Whitewood we found the one and only road-construction gang seen during the whole 500-mile drive across Saskatchewan.”
Every year though, the road was slowly improving. We stayed at the farm of Phyllis and Ewan Armstrong, Maclean’s readers who wrote and offered us a meal, and their property straddles the current Trans-Canada between Wapella and Whitewood. Previous to its construction in the 1950s, the two-lane gravel road lay parallel, just to the north of the highway, and previous to that, in Gomery’s ’20s, the clay road ran parallel to the south through what is now their back yard.
The next morning, Ewan took us four miles north to a track through a field that marks the route of the old Ellis Trail, laid out in the late 19th century as the road across the prairie. There’s only a placard there now to tell anyone that it ever existed and we found it dug up and bent by vandals. The trail is historic and protected but local farmers want it redesignated as regular agricultural land, so they can plow it in and make use of it as part of their fields. Life goes on.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT … (MOOSE JAW) It’s on a lot of bucket lists, and with my 50th birthday approaching rapidly, jumping out of an airplane just seemed like a good thing to do. And if I could do it beside the Trans-Canada, out on the limitless prairie, then all the better.
Tandem diving doesn’t take any special training – just $250, a lot of initials on a waiver form (and a compulsory video to explain the waiver) and 10 minutes of basic information. My tandem instructor, Mark Ehrmantraut, buckled me in and his dive team partner Pablo Moreno volunteered to help shoot video.
Mark and Pablo call themselves the Saskatchewan Provincial Free-flight Champions, though they laugh when they do so. Mark’s got nearly 5,000 jumps to his name and Pablo’s trying to catch up with 700. They love nothing better than hurling themselves from a plane toward the prairie.
“It’s a huge addiction for me,” said Mark, a high school science teacher who made his first jump – a tandem – in 1997. His wife jumped then, too, but she’s only been a couple of times since. She’s busy now as an assistant deputy minister with the department of highways, which seems fitting for this blog.
“Freefall is the adrenaline rush, but now we’re more into the technical side of it. Every time you try something new, a new trick, you get that sense of your first jump. You can’t beat it.”
Pablo, a maintenance worker at the Regina Casino, agreed: “The first time I flew head down, and I was stable, it was awesome. It doesn’t get any better.”
And me? It’s tough to describe in words, except to say the intense rush at the beginning as you plummet from 10,000 feet at 250 km/h is like nothing you can feel on the ground. Then when the instructor opens the chute at around 5,000 feet, everything suddenly becomes very calm. You’re not falling – you’re floating, right up until you touch the ground.
Want to see for yourself? Take a look at the video here.
SOMETHING FROM TRISTAN: Today was an even-out day for me and my dad because he got to go sky-diving but I got to go down the water slide at the hotel like a billion times.
I still think he got the better half of the bargain because he got to go sky-diving but apparently there is a guy in Montreal will take me when I’m 14 so all I have to do is convince my mom that it is safe and I’m ready.
The only problem is that convincing my mom won’t be so easy and I have to wait a year and a bit.
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
Our roundup of bizarre police reports from across the country
British Columbia: A known B.C. gangster who survived a bomb attack last winter near Whistler was shot dead inside a Starbucks in Mexico last month, according to the RCMP. The man, who had received just superficial burns from the bomb explosion in a motorhome last year, died after being shot twice in the coffee shop of a Mexican tourist town.
Nunavut: The RCMP in Arviat said they shot and wounded a man who was walking around shooting at dogs with a pistol. The police say the man received non-life-threatening injuries while being arrested. The police said the type of gun he was using to target the pooches was the same as one stolen from the community’s RCMP detachment early last month.
Alberta: Police in Moose Jaw had been called to check on a man who had been spotted on the rooftop of an apartment building. They couldn’t find the man at first, but then bricks started flying their way. An unsuccesful negotiation ensued and the man climbed into a chimney, falling four storeys down, only to get stuck at the bottom. He cried out for help and police were able to talk to him through a small vent on the chimney. The man was carrying a small sword when he was eventually arrested.
Ontario: The good guys, it turns out, don’t always wear blue. Police are on the hunt for two bad guys in blue spandex bodysuits—the Morphsuits made famous by the Blue Man Group. The periwinkle pair snatched merchandise from a Strathroy variety store, then bolted; store staff saw no weapons. Police dogs and the local emergency response unit tried to hunt them down, to no avail.
Nova Scotia: A man caught in the act with a woman inside a stall in the men’s washroom at a Halifax lounge pulled out a stun gun in response to an employee’s request that the couple leave. The man fired the gun at the employee. He was eventually overpowered by staff, but managed to spit on a police officer who searched him.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 11:25 AM - 2 Comments
Why the former NHL star stayed quiet about the abuse for so long
In late 1996, Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy had a meeting of minds—albeit the sort that takes place over bottles of beer and lines of cocaine. Strung out and miserable, the two NHL players were in the midst of a golfing trip to Phoenix, delving into a shared secret that was about to send tremors through the sport of hockey. Kennedy had recently told police he’d been sexually abused by Graham James, a coach both had played for as juniors in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Fleury, too, had been abused by James as often as twice a week while playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. The story had not yet hit the press, but each knew how deeply the other had suffered. For 10 hours that night, they discussed openly experiences they’d never spoken of before.
When the session was over, however, they took separate paths. Kennedy went public, becoming the face of a sporting scandal, while Fleury maintained his silence for a dozen more years—a decision that left him a shell of a man. “Sheldon’s secret was out, so he was able to start dealing with it,” Fleury explains in a new autobiography, Playing with Fire. “Mine was not. Graham still had control of my life.” To forget, the stumpy winger from Russell, Man., threw himself headlong into booze, cocaine, womanizing and gambling. “The direct result of my being abused was that I became a f–king raging, alcoholic lunatic,” he writes. “[James] destroyed my belief system. The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right. I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment.” Continue…