Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Ours to celebrate: Happy Firsta July!

Happy Firsta July to Canadians everywhere!

For a couple of decades, I've been hearing this drum-beat about poor, miserable Canada, and about how things are truly awful in Canada if only Canadians would wake up to some dismal facts. "Boo Canada, thumbs down Canada!" they seem to be saying. Well, nuts to that.

Canada emerged from WWII (1939-1945) covered in honours for its astonishing industrial, military, financial, agricultural, and scientific performance ... a country which after WWII showed a far-sighted social conscience toward its veterans and citizens. We're justified in asking what brought this unfortunate change to "poor miserable" shameful Canada.

Keep telling us how backward, unproductive, ill-informed we are -- and we will become backward, unproductive, and ill-informed ... and (I ask this seriously) ... to whose advantage?? Not ours. Certainly, not to Canada's national advantage.

The continuing negativity simply doesn't fit with what we know about ourselves. This negativity can become -- maybe is becoming -- a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? How did it happen? Could it be that the Avro Arrow story* was the first dramatic test?

Firsta July could return to the old tradition of being a day of community picnics ... where people simply packed a pot-luck picnic basket and headed off to the nearest park, ball-field, beach, camp-site ... shared food and laughter with others ... played baseball, danced, sang, ate, played more games, talked, laughed some more ... and took home good thoughts to remember (as I do) for the rest of their lives. Unproductive, says the Conference Board of Canada? I think not.

Where did all that fun and productivity go? I wonder if it got left out of the equation when community leaders -- politicians -- seized the initiative by demanding "government funding" before they come together to celebrate some spectacle which we passively sit and watch. We've been cut off from participating in what should be the happiest civic holiday of our year.

Tons of people feel very special, being Canadian and about Canadian achievements; but the way things are going, I think we're getting a raw deal. Maybe Firsta July is the litmus test which shows us whether we have allowed the paid, political scorn to beat us down, or whether we can still stand up tall to say "Damright I'm Canadian!" on this most Canadian of days.

Happy Firsta July, everyone. - BC Mary.

Here it is: the Canada Day report from the Conference Board of Canada:

Economy, environment, quality of life. Canada's international rankings are dropping

The Gazette (Montreal) - Sunday, June 29, 2008

Canada, which turns a year older Tuesday, is not aging well, according to an annual report card that finds it is slipping further behind its peers economically, environmentally, and with regard to the health and quality of life of its citizens.

The Conference Board of Canada, in its annual report card, notes that it's a lagging performance that has eroded Canada's economic standing among the 17 most advanced economies to 11th from third in 1970s. [Note from BC Mary: those were the days, all right, when we basked in the left-over glow of Expo 67, and we had Trudeaumania, Participatory Democracy, and a palpable sense of how good it is, to be Canadian.]

It's a continuing deterioration that, in recent years, is being masked by high prices for the commodities that Canada produces and exports, it said.

It's a "myth" that Canada has one of the highest living standards in the world, the board said, noting that living standards here have fallen to ninth in the world from fourth in 1990, citing as other myths the idea that Canada has a highly educated population and that it is a world leader in science and technology.

"The BlackBerry is the exception, not the rule," it said. "Over 7 million Canadians do not have the literacy skills to cope with the demands of everyday life and work in modern society.

Canada is losing ground to other countries that are better at exploiting their own advantages," said conference board president Anne Golden, adding that it's something the think-tank has been pointing out for a dozen years.
"We appear to be riding high due to global demand for our resources, but this is not a sustainable course for our country," she said.

In five of the six broad categories assessed, Canada's performance ranks in the bottom half of the 17 countries.
While the findings are disappointing, Golden said in an interview she is not discouraged because the message the board has been issuing for years, such as the need for Canada to be more productive and innovative, has been getting out.

She cited last week's Competition Policy Review Panel report.
The biggest reason for the slide in Canada's economic performance is its low productivity, where it ranks 15th, the conference board said, adding that Canada has also failed to keep pace in the growing competition for global investment.

While the way to raise Canada's productivity is to improve its innovation performance, it is also an area where Canada has consistently fared poorly since the 1980s and ranks 13th in this year's report.

Canada has many elements needed to be innovative, but research is not successfully commercialized [uh huh] and taken advantage of to help companies compete for global market share, it said.

Its environmental performance is no better, with Canada again ranking 15th out of 17, with poor performances in greenhouse-gas emissions, smog and waste generation, it said. It charged that Canadians generate more waste per person that any other country, and that only Australia produces greater per capita greenhouse-gas emissions.

The quality of life in Canadian society is also in the bottom half of the rankings at 10th, ahead of the U.S. but well behind the leading countries.
"Some of Canada's results - such as rates of burglary and assault, and levels of child poverty - are shockingly poor," it said.

In terms of the health of its population, Canada ranks a notch higher but is still in the bottom half, at ninth place.
"High levels of mortality due to heart disease and increasing levels of mortality from diabetes should raise alarm bells," it said. "Furthermore, with soaring child diabetes and obesity rates, this may be the first generation of children in more than a century to have worse health outcomes than their parents."

Even where Canada ranks highly - in education and skills, where it is second, behind only Finland, and where Canada earns top marks for high school and college completion rates - there are "problem areas."

Not only do four in 10 Canadian workers lack the basic literacy skills to cope with the demands of work in the modern economy, Canada does not produce enough graduates in fields that underpin innovation - such as science, math and engineering - and it produces too few PhD graduates, it said.

"The answers are not encouraging," the conference board said, noting that in the most recent report card, Canada receives "B" grades on its economic, education, health and social performance, but a "C" on environmental performance, and a "D" on innovation.

"Canada needs to do better, not only in absolute terms but also relative to others."


* Search: Avro Arrow, 1949-1959, the world's most advanced supersonic, twin-engined, all-weather interceptor jet, designed and built by Canada at Malton, Ontario. Successful test flight 1958. Destroyed by order of Canadian government 1959.


Hi Mary,

I hope your weekend was as memorable, as much as it was well deserved.

Vaughn palmer will be hosting Voice of BC that has attorney general critic Leonard krog as one of the guests this week. Vaughn mentioned last week that the subject of basi-virk would be brought up for discussion. So, Mary, I was thinking that maybe you could use your considerable charms to convince one of your readers to rebroadcast this program on youtube, so that all can learn from these discussions.

Thursday July 3rd 8:00 pm, and repeated on the weekend. (Shaw channel, check for your local times)
Anonymous 3:10, thanks for your good wishes. My weekend was very quiet, as 'flu struck the household and kept us at home. But that's OK too. It was nice (except the 'flu part).

Thanks too for the advance notice about Voice of B.C. and Leonard Krog. I hope some kind souls can get the Palmer-Krog conversation onto YouTube, as the extra dimension adds a lot to our understanding.

For example, the troubling image of Rich Coleman standing in the Legislature during the spring session to answer questions. He is obviously at the end of his rope, and worn out. I didn't know about that until I watched a pod-cast. If he would only retire, we could afford the luxury of offering sympathy.

Which reminds me: we should be making new requests about activating TV cameras in Supreme Court for the BCRail trial. Any thoughts on how best to do that?

Hi Mary,

About the cameras in the courtroom Mary, the NDP have to ramp up the pressure on the Campbell government and the justice system. The NDP should be on the news and in the papers at every opportunity pushing for cameras in the courtroom. Thus bringing the whole sorted affair back to the front and center for the people of BC and Canada. Cameras in the courtroom would also be a deterrent to bias reporting by the media/press. Maybe Mr. Krog will bring this point up on the voice of bc program this week, or even better yet, would be for Mr. Palmer to ask about this option/ruling.

I do get that the Campbell government does not want to talk about this corruption, but what I don’t get, is the silence outside of the legislature from the NDP on this scandal. This “stay out of the way” approach doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not a lawyer or a strategist, but in my view, the failure to keep this scandal out in the open for all of Canada to understand and the failure to keep the story in the news is really rather impotent and is a scandal in itself. This walking on eggshells mentality does not seem to be working for the people, nor does it put pressure on the decision makers that seem to have a healthy arrogance about them. I feel that the most effective way of informing the public to the subject of cameras in the courtroom would be for the opposition to take the lead in this attempt to get the whole truth, by all of us watching the trial.

Maybe it’s time for the NDP to start calling a spade a spade!
In other words Anon 6:26, you want the NDP to start "digging" the facts up and putting them on public display.

"......Thus bringing the whole sorted affair back to the front and center for the people of BC and Canada......."

"sorted" ---- that's exactly what is happening here. I can hardly wait till jury selection. Once upon a time lawyers would shy away from professionals... engineers and journalist because they were too logical thinking, too much into disecting the facts, too much of making sure all of their evidence "ducks were in a row", but incapable of expressing any emotion, which does seem to be the ploy that Basi/Virk's lawyers have introduced from the outset.

Don't blame the defendents, they were only acting on the orders from on high.
Mary, it took me the longest time to read your Canada Day greetings and not "see" fiesta (a Spanish party)rather than firsta. It's amazing how one often sees what one expects, like most people can read (that can read) a message with the letters all jumbled as long as the first and last letter of each word is in the correct location.

Your example article about the Conference Board report certainly illustrates well the self flagellation that is so common in Canadian media. I especially "liked" the part where they said "Even where Canada ranks highly..... there are problem areas." These guys are measuring Canada in relation to what THEY would like to see, and without consideration of some very significant factors.

For example Canada's poor rating environmentally shouldn't be surprising to anyone who considers the fact that Canada is a VERY LARGE and spread out COLD country with comparatively few people spread over long distances.(Oh yeah, and we have to hew a lot of wood and tote a lotta water)

Now as to "only Australia produces greater per capita greenhouse-gas emissions" I would suggest Australia give its head a shake, as they certainly don't need to burn a lot of fuel for heating except some what in Tasmania. They have vast distances to travel compared to Belgium, but compared to Canada it is just another mini-country.

As far as Canadian "productivity" goes, the GM plants in Ontario were much more productive than plants not being closed down in the US. Economists have a funny way of measuring things and don't calculate the true costs of much. Indeed the Nobel Prize in Economics should be awarded complete with a mandatory minimum prison sentence to the recipient for promoting make believe theories that actually harm most of the earth's population.

Education at all levels could stand some improvement, but the last thing most current politicians want to face is an educated electorate. Improving education much would be like signing their own "pink slips."

AS TO:"Don't blame the defendents, they were only acting on the orders from on high."

I blame the defendants, but not them alone, most definitely. Now though I feel the defendants deserve even more blame as I am sure they could illuminate the public and justice systems about what really went on with BC Rail and its shameful divestiture. Absolution generally requires confession or more in the vernacular, coming clean! So at this point not only may the defendants have done what they are charged with doing, but also are daily acting as accomplices to those likely guilty of far more serious crimes and obstructing justice in a real sense, if not in the legal sense.
Dear July 1, 6:26,

My thoughts exactly! What's with this B.C. Opposition? Sure, we're all sick of partisan screeching and bickering which gets us nowhere. But there are questions which need to be asked and answered.

Same as you, I just don't get it. This James Gang is the worst ever. They could never bring in a Medicare system, a functioning Insurance Corporation, an Agricultural Land Reserve, a new Provincial Park, as their predecessors did. This current lot is a disgrace to the legacy left by many gentle warriors of the past.

In fact, I've wondered if the James Gang is deliberately phasing itself out ... because maybe the picture they see from their front-row eats is so dismal. (But Joy & Jenny faced an even rowdier, bigger government and succeeded brilliantly in Opposition.)

OR ... is it that we, the citizens, haven't made our wishes, hopes, fears better known to them ... to motivate them???

OTOH ... there is that media block. I bet you: Carole James, stark naked, could ride a high-stepping horse down Blanshard Street to the Legislature at high noon and NOTHING would appear in any of the daily newspapers in B.C. So it figures that the Opposition gets even less news coverage of their views on the serious issues of the day.

The NDP should be riding ICBC (their innovation! their success story!) like a bucking bronco, followed by a few recently re-built wrecks with facts and figures painted all over them about the corruption which has seized control of ICBC -- riding right down Blanshard Street from the Times Colonist Building to the Legislature and talking about that once-great story of ICBC.

I dunno, 6:26. All I can figure is that if we can bring Basi, Virk, Basi and the BCRail Case to trial, we stand a reasonable chance of hearing some of the facts given under oath as to what has seized control of British Columbia "since 2001" (- RCMP Sgt Ward). Once we know, I hope it becomes more clear what we the citizens must do about it.

But it always comes back to the media. A responsible media is absolutely essential to the function of a democratic society. So it's important to ask: will CanWest media allow full in-depth coverage of the BCRail trial?

And that's where I dig in. On the BCRail Case ... but also on the duty of the media in B.C. We need both. And we can all do our part by persistently letting the media know our expectations.

In addition, those TV cameras in the courtroom are so important.

The calm transmission of the unfiltered courtroom process would provide the best coverage to all parts of BC, allowing each of us to hear what's said, how it's said, and to come to our own conclusions. That would be the fairest coverage of all.

Hi, Koot:

Yeah, it's one of the burdens we carry in Canada when (if we aren't vigilant and/or obstreperous) we're overwhelmed by other cultures such as the nameless empire to the south. But in earlier times, every Canadian knew exactly what Firsta July meant. If I may say so, dear friend, you are the first to risk telling BC Mary that when you looked at it, you couldn't even SEE it, let alone register it as the high point of the Canadian picnic-year.

I would even take issue with "self-flagellation" ... I've met only two members of the Conference Board of Canada and was not surprised, really, that one was a British immigrant, the other a German immigrant. I would swear on stacks of Eaton's Catalogues that no born-in-Canada Canadian makes a career out of scorning Canadian things, or self-flagellation. Au contraire.

And yes, I think that it often happens -- more often than we realize -- people are measuring Canada in terms of what THEY would like to see.

Lemme tell you a little story. When my daughter was principal bassoonist with Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, the C.O.C. was invited to the Edinburgh Festival to perform a double bill created by Robert LePage. "Bluebeard" was one part of it, I forget the other title. C.O.C. absolutely wowed that discriminating audience. Edinburgh Festival organizers were so impressed by LePage and COC they created a special category so as to present them with not one, but two awards for excellence, plus money, plus an invitation to return the next year, plus many laudatory reviews in British newspapers.

At the time, I was a subscriber to "Canadian Opera News" so I looked forward to their next issue in which I expected to learn lots more about this Canadian triumph. There was nothing. Not a damn thing except a dull generalized blurb about the E. Festival itself and a complaint that the lighting -- the stage LIGHTING -- of the Robert LePage Star Performance -- was not perfect. That was all.

I wish the facts were different -- I wish that the opera magazine (published in Toronto) had been able to SEE the story, SHARE the pride, and BUILD the self-confidence of Canadians and their very own Opera Company. But, Koot, it was not to be. It was Canada's great loss, in my view. And it wasn't self-inflicted. And I have tried hard, over the years, to believe that the relentless put-downs are unintentional.

But the fact is: I had met the editor of Canadian Opera News, and I have to tell you, she was not Canadian. And I simply cannot imagine a born-in-Canada Canadian throwing away such a tribute, and replacing it with a cheap-shot complaint.

Now, on to Australia which, thank you very much, doesn't need to give its head a shake. For starts, Australia is almost as big as Canada, and is bigger than the U.S.A., did you know that? Sure, they don't need to heat their homes. But they do need refrigeration and air-conditioning. Many retail emporiums have no doors -- only a wall of chilled air which is nice to walk through.

Good point you make about the high-level of productivity at the GM plant in Oshawa. Side-Note: fat lot of good it did them, eh? That's the plant GM wants to close down and move to Mexico.

But hey, Conference Board, we get the idea -- it's our fault, eh? Bad, bad Canada ... lazy, unproductive, dull-witted Canada ... that is what you said, isn't it, Conference Board of ... of ... where was that again?

Just to make sure we are referring to the same facts Mary:

Geographical Area of Selected Countries.

Canada = 3,849,674 sq. mi.

Agitated States of Greed = 3,875,037 sq. mi.

Australia = 2,966,200 sq. mi.

I'll admit to some hyperbole in referring to Australia as "mini-Country." But they are almost all mini compared to Canada. Hell if Russia loses enough "Stans" maybe Canada will be the biggest soon! I like the one about B.C alone being able to accomodate California, Oregon AND Washington (with enough left over for New Jersey and maybe Tasmania). That one captures the attention even of ADD afflicted Yanks.

By the way Mary, have you heard about Campbell River Council and Shaw trying to pull a Mugabe with the aid of the CRTC over Shaw taking over the community TV service. It was defeated at referendum, but now Shaw and the CRTC and apparently council want to do a "do-over" vote and keep changing the date moving it back and forth - four times so far, I think. The people had spoken, but the people who count apparently didn't like what the people had to say.

I'm not a fan of Shaw, they used to provide a community access channel in Nelson, as part of their licensing requirement. Now you can't even pay your bill in person at Shaw, in Nelson. Kind of like logging companies going into real estate or railroad companies going into the shopping mall development business after failing to provide the originally promised service to the communities, like shipping and transportation. But hey, it all leads to more trucks and traffic and the Campbell war on Carbon is in no danger of being won.

Agitated States = 3,675,031 sq. mi.

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