Tuesday 30 September 2008

Falling rain, falling leaves, falling markets

What a lovely soft, gray day, as my late aunt used to say. With overnight single-digit temperatures, it is time for heavier coats. The leaves slowly flutter off the branches, but are fewer. The rain is blessing the land and the lakes and soaking the bright reds and yellows that have been sprinkled on our deck. The summer solstice has come and gone, as it should. As with the seasons, our lives rotate around an ebb and flow of diurnal, seasonal, and temporal changes.

Our clever feathered friends do not complain. They know they have no right to. They do not sit around the bird feeder, like the the characters in our local coffee shops, complaining about the weather: too rainy, cloudy, sunny, hot, warm, cold. (These people who have never experienced hurricanes or famine.) The birds are flying from food source to food source and doing something about their condition and do not sit and weep.

The blue heron popped in for a feast this morning. She caught a small sunfish and then took off to fish on other shores. She understands, as all surviving species, that she cannot fish in one place all day, all summer, without jeopardizing her fishing grounds. The frogs have gone underwater, it being too cold for them. Once the sunfish disappear into the deeper waters, that remain a stable 4 degrees all winter, the heron knows to move south to find more available food. Like those workers who moved from the over fished shores of the Atlantic coast to the richer oil-based work out west, she doesn't sit on the frozen land and complain about the fishing industry!

I believe that just like the weather (with its daily changes) and the current climate (and more seasonal patterns) we must read the weather reports on the economy and respond to the anticipated climate and not-so-sudden changes. We could have predicted the current extent of the economic crisis. Beginning with the decline in North American car sales, and decreased appetite for N.A. gas-guzzling cars, and ending with plant closures and job losses in terms of hundreds of jobs at one time, we knew what was happening. Government continued to bail out car companies, rather than supporting a redefinition of this industry. We needed a reshaping of our taxpayer dollars, rather than a rescue and a buy out of our hard-earned dollars here in Canada, as well as the failed Buyout Bill in the USA.

The US under Bush removed the protections and deregulation program for those who borrow, as much as lend, allowed those with no down payments and, therefore, no equity or collateral, to take part in the buy-buy-buy and borrow-borrow-borrow frenzy. To fulfill the American dream some have shouldered loans that were doomed to failure. In a bid to allow Americans to buy their dream homes, investors have turned them into nightmares as jobless rates (600,000 fewer jobs) in the US climb.

On CBC's The Sunday Edition, in a segment Sunday, September 28th, 2008, called Elitism, three panelists pointed out that Wall Street/corporate greed (1% of the population holds 20% of the wealth). With the American taxpayer shouldering the mistakes of many large corporations (Fanny May, Freddy Mac, Behr Sterns, AIG; Lehman Brothers would sh1t outta luck!), and yet CEOs, the American Elites, managed to get their $6 million, $36 million, $68 million bonuses. Bush advisers included those who formerly worked for Goldman Sachs, those in-the-know said.

Currently, what with variable-rate, sub-prime mortgages being in default and the impending doom and gloom, we must realize that rather than moving to another fishing ground, consumers and investors ought to be decreasing their appetites for those things they cannot afford. We ordinary people cannot afford to keep fishing in markets that cannot support such vast amounts of unsecured lending. Despite some economists touting the 'great opportunities' that greet investors, we cannot borrow more money to invest. We are not in that tax bracket! We shall have to retract and regroup.

For us, like our cats who sit and howl at the rain, complaining vociferously, we cannot migrate south, there is little fishing there. We will go to our cupboards and dig into the canned food we have stored and put away for a rainy day. Unlike the man I saw top up his boat gas tank and pay $450, we do not depend upon our investments. We will contract, buy less, spend less and more wisely. We will live within our means and live the lives we can afford to live on fixed income pensions that will limit us. This is all we can do.

Monday 29 September 2008

Women in Government

Things are looking up. More women than ever before are running for this Federal election.

  • Liberals are running 113 women: 37%
  • NDP 104 women, or 34%
  • Bloc Quebecois : 21 women, 28%.
  • Green Party: 89 women, or 29%
  • Conservatives: 60 women, just 20%
  • Independents: another 50 women: 27%
I have concerns, mind you. I recall entering my chosen profession, teaching, in the late 80s. At this time women were keen to aspire to positions of added responsibility (PAR). In fact, if you did not try to claw your way to the top you were frowned upon and it was intimated that you should do better.

I worked for my union, Carleton Elementary Teachers, I found it interesting working part-time (occasional teaching) and having time for professional work as well as my young children.

Once I found a full time job I chose, instead, to concern myself about my three children. There was a lot of peer pressure aimed at forcing women to step up. In my school board, at the time Carleton B. E., we had a long line of women who rose to these PAR spots at the rate of principals of, as I recall about 65%. We had one of the first superintendents to go off on maternity leave. They were a driven group. I decided not to go this route. I did not want to burn out. Having stayed home with my children in the early years the penalty on my pension and early retirement, as well as a lower salary upon retirement not having gone for a PAR, means that my pension is about 25% of my last year's salary. It is a penalty I can live with.

bonfires and leaf burning

It is that season again. Leaf burning is an iffy proposition at best. In the fall in Muskoka our leaves are very wet and do not burn well; we just had rain a few days ago. Many Muskokans put their leaves into a metal drum and go to it. My neighbours have started already, the photo at the top was last year's efforts - biggie. We have strict by-laws that govern burning outdoors. One couple faced a $600 fine! Bracebridge has a by-law control officer on duty until 4:30 p.m., here is their list of by-laws.

When there is a Fire Ban in effect (full explanation here!), as there is right now, no burning, fireworks, etc. is allowed at all. When the Fire Ban is no longer in effect, then burning is allowed 2 hours before sunset through to 2 hours after sunrise. (Apr 1 - Oct 31... No Daytime Burning)

If folks burn wet leaves outdoors you can see by the smoke that they release pollutants: carcinogenic hydrocarbons ,that go into the atmosphere. This kind of pollution affects those who breathing problems: asthma, seniors, smokers and those with chronic lung disease. Many people in Muskoka burn wet leaves, or use wood furnaces, and the smoke drifts across the highway as you pass. It smells like something familiar, but as we learn more about the environment, we understand how harmful these practices can be.

It is difficult to speak to aging neighbours who have burned leaves since before I was born! Between the fireworks, and the other environmental invasions it is hard to make a dent. do not know how to influence them, as they pooh-pooh what is sommon knowledge amongst me, my generation and my children's generation.

As we dump our waste into the earth's atmosphere, we are putting carbon oxides from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, e.g., transportation, industry and home heating, into the air we breathe. Coal and oil fuel sources reacts with gases in the atmosphere to produce sulfuric acid (acid rain).
  • Carbon monoxide - reduces the blood’s ability to supply oxygen to body tissues. Even small amounts can stress your heart and reduce your ability to exercise.
  • Oxides of nitrogen – can lower a child’s resistance to lung infections.
  • Hydrocarbons – can injure the lungs and make breathing difficult.
There are primary pollutants from natural events such as fires and volcanic eruptions, and secondary pollutants formed by the interaction of natural and human-made chemicals. We can control that latter and stop burning leaves, for example.

Connecticut's Dep't of Environmental Protection advises against wood furnaces (see photo of this small outdoor structure - they smell is horrible). This furnace burns wood to run a household. It takes large logs and you can tell be the smell and the amount of white smoke, that they are not functioning as efficiently as other devices.
For those who burn wood to save on other fuel costs, Canadian insurance companies require that stoves meet CSA requirements and have it assessed. The B.C. government provides some cautions against particulates that pollute:
1. Select a stove that's certified clean-burning and tested to CSA BB415.1-00 or EPA 1990 standards.
2. Make sure it's the proper size for its location and use. Bigger is not always better.
3. Make sure it's properly installed and inspected.
4. Avoid smouldering fires by using proper burning techniques.
5. Use only dry, seasoned, firewood split to the right size for your stove.
6. Reduce your need for wood fuel by making your house
more energy-efficient (caulk windows and doors, etc.).
We had our old stove taken away, since the chimney and stove pipes were beyond current by-laws, could be recycled, and it was an old, inefficient stove. It was sad, but we installed an electric stove to keep people warm in our cooler shoulder seasons. Our current wood stove, the cat loves it, we carefully stoke and we put in a hot, efficient fire. Of course, you can see that our kindling and wood pile is too close to the stove and we move these during fire season. Usually we burn wood once the deep cold sets in. We have passive solar heat in our front windows. On those cool mornings the sun heats us up enough to take away the chill. Our new, efficient propane furnace heats the main floor only on those colder days. The heat rises and we have no need to heat the second floor. Once we hit the double-digit numbers we can crank up the stove in the morning and let it die once we get enough heat. Damping down a fire is not good as it causes smoke and pollution.

If you burn damp wood, which is much of the wood outdoors at cottages, you are dumping hydrocarbons into the air. This site illustrates current levels of ozone pollution in North America.

Health Canada says,
Internally generated airborne pollutants fall into one of three categories:
  • those formed in combustion processes for heating and cooking;
  • those derived from construction materials and furnishings;
  • those related to human activity or presence.

Sunday 28 September 2008

don't blame the US government

I cannot agree with blogger and pundits who blame the government for the collapse of the mortgage market. 
I blame investors who demand returns on their investments that outstrip the market.
I blame CEOs who can make bonuses in the double-digit millions that could feed a village in Tibet.
 I blame consumers who demand more for less, rack up credit card debt, mortgage debts, and fail to live according to their standard of living. For those with no down payments on homes, who continue to live the American dream, and use credit cards or reverse mortgages to pay for bigger toys; new cars every 3 years, expensive vacations, technologies they cannot pay for with cash (HD TVs, computers and computer peripherals, blackberries, cell phones for their 10 year-olds), or luxury items to help them keep up with the Jones'. 

These are middle class families who must wear designer jeans, or give in to their children who will wear nothing less. Parents who cannot say NO to themselves, much less their children are building up a debt load that they cannot maintain.

It is time to contract: figure out the difference between wants and needs. Reduce your debts, live in a home you can afford and live life in the present, in a reality-based budget in which layaway programs can help us to only purchase wants that you can afford. I am surprised as middle class Canadian complain about this economic crisis, in which the truth far exceeds the fear mongering threatened by taxpayers.

What has happened is that as consumers and home owners in the US cannot afford to keep their Credit Ratings, their costs go up, i.e., insurance and health care. Americans using credit cards to pay their mortgages use a short-term solution doomed to failure, with an impact on all taxpayers. Credit card debt is a slippery slope. Far better to carry a line of credit, than credit cards that charge exorbitant rates of interest. The trick with some credit cards: unless you pay the entire amount you pay interest on the original balance which compounds interest payments. Check the fine print.

In the economic boom of, for example, the oil industry in our Canadian west, people buy bigger, better, more sophisticated and keep an inventory of stuff they could not afford in a slight downturn of the market.  

Saturday 27 September 2008

Bala Streetscape project - 2008

We have had a street overhaul here in Bala. It has been quite a project, with trucks, accidents, single-lane traffic, and now we have new shoulders and prettied up parking areas. The local paper cites costs of $515,000.

As I passed through Bala last week, I noticed a car having a bit of a meeting with a garbage truck.

The driver was trying to prevent a further accident as people were trying to get around the accident!

Traffic is ever a problem and will continue to be so. The Bala Streetscape project is rendering parking lots inaccessible, and taking over the street, too. People are in an awful hurry to motor around and through town, despite flagger trying to slow them down and protect them from trouble.

I was shocked to see the results of the Streetscape project. There are those in town who question the need for this project in times of cutbacks, low tourism dollars, and protests by taxpayers, and some cottagers, who would prefer to not spend money.

It is great that we can support the local contractors, but I question the need of trees, plants and shrubs across from The Kee, where it is not seen in the dark. While we walk in town almost every day, we really didn't need a sidewalk. The asphalt was quite adequate. We would prefer our money going to plowing the sidewalk in winter when we vie for walking space with snowmobiles!

Friday 26 September 2008

Port Carling construction

Things are booming in Port Carling. Blasting has been occurring over the past while, with big dump trucks taking away honking boulders in order to create a parking lot. "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
I cannot imagine how councillors could pass such a project through town planning. Residents continue to be opposed, yet they have little recourse since Councillors have been hard at work creating a plan for the area.

The trucks are hauling away tons of rock. The trees look wobbly on the top of the promontory.The dentist in the house adjacent has had issues with the blasting, so says the Bracebridge Examiner.

It is most difficult to weigh progress, with the environmental issues and seasonal jobs in this town. It has a long history of difficulties, with the land originally being deeded to early settlers, ripping it out of the hands of the Aboriginal Peoples who settled it long ago. Finally, in 2007, I recall working in one of the stores when they renamed the park in honour of our Port Carling son, James Bartleman. I would highly recommend his book, Raisin Wine, if you are interested in both the history of Port and his story of abject poverty, yet love of nature and joy. What a difference he has made living his life as a survivor.

Port is a great town. All comes to a halt when the ferry steams on through the locks. At one point last year, and, apparently this fall, there will be a shut down as a ship is dry docked. For a town with a 3-season economy, based on good weather, they are hard-pressed to find the right time for such work.

What is interesting in the media is that in these small towns the press has a vested interest, or is related to someone who does. Articles tend not to be strictly reporting, with much bias embedded in what can only be coined editorials. The Save the Bala Falls group has won the hearts of the press, with quoted opinions that get in the way of facts. Having lived 25 years in Ottawa and the previous 25 in Toronto, I am more familiar with the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog reporting where bias is clearly reflected, but balanced with a panel from various view points. Each newspaper, of course, has its Liberal-Conservative-NDP bias, they tend not to be too Green yet, but within the articles and editorials we find much in the way of food for thought.

What is great in the Information Age, is that we have access to all sorts of opinions, some (i.e., blogs) we understand more biased than others but some media postings appear to be articles, rather than letters to the editor or information pieces.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Parry Sound Green Party Rally

Green Rally in Parry Sound photos
After a Green party rally, attended by about 80 supporters on the Equal Voice, trying to encourage women to enter politics, and our daughters to vote.
The platform of the Parry Sound train station, Elizabeth May's VIA train pulled in after 7:30. It had been expected around 4:00, but was inevitably delayed. Everyone crowded the platform. They put out the steps and Elizabeth burst from the train in an explosion of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. She has great energy and I see her as a role model to all those who aspire. There is a women's group,

What an historic moment, as previous candidates, such as Wilfred Laurier in the 1900s had not option but to travel by train. Then, John Diefenbaker in 1965 and Pierre Trudeau in 1974, similarly ran the rails visiting whistle stops across the country. As one fan said, is gives respect to those of us in small towns, as well as saving carbon emissions.

There were two false starts as two freight trains pulled through at breakneck speed. It was a practice run, as folks picked up signs and began cheering. There were 6 Green Party candidates on the platform, with 5 jumping on the train to travel the rest of the way to Toronto. There were no platform speeches other than a welcome to all of us and thanks for Mr. Hodgson's team, a missed opportunity, but perhaps the candidate, Glen felt he would be preaching to the choir.

Elizabeth May burst out of the train with such energy and spirit and spoke to a formerly weary but now energised crowd. We had anticipated a 4:00 p.m., then 6:30, and finally a 7:30 arrival of the train taking across the country. It was poignant as the train arrived in the dusk, the sun setting as she began to talk to us. The sound of the train entering the station is a Canadian moment, the whistle being a familiar Central and North Ontario sound. She was articulate and powerful, and greeted all with a strong presence that puts forward the women’s movement, unlike some female politicians, i.e., the American McCain's running mate Sarah Palin, who sets the women’s movement back 4 years with her conservative views!

It was a shame not to see more reporters; CTV was represented by A-Channel: Barrie, COGECO had a videographer, The Moose sent a reporter, Mark Clairmont of Muskoka Today, and North Star Media sent a videocam and photographer. The National news reporters embedded onboard did not even disembark, despite the cheering crowd on the platform.

My YouTube Elizabeth May's arrival | her platform speech .

Wednesday 24 September 2008

US economic crisis

What has happened is that people who cannot afford mortgage payments were given mortgages. (The mortage brokers did not demand large enough down payments to ensure that the monthly payments were affordable.) The mortgages were bought by a series of investment companies in a long chain of companies now well removed from the original loans.

Building homes is good for the economy. Owning a home is better than renting in that you put money into equity in your homes. The equity is based on the down payment plus the amount you can pay down. The problem, of course, is that the home owner is paying interest on the loan (the profits for the investment companies that hold the loans) at the same time.

The mortgages were secured by the homes themselves. If the mortgagees defaulted, then the mortgage lenders take back the homes. Well, sure enough, many, many of the home owners defaulted on the homes - but in such numbers that there was a glut on the market and the value of the homes went down as mortgage holders tried to sell the homes to get back their money.

Investments are considered long-term and YOUR investments must be considered to be long-term. The problem with this glut is that everyone is panicking and trying to sell both stocks and home at the same time. You have to sit on your holdings. They will come back. We have watched our investments and the market will eventually self-correct. This is the advice our investment counsellor tell us. You have to look long-term, this is only a short term blip on the radar. It is silly to sell now, both property and stocks, as the investment accrues over the long term.

I think there were massive frauds occurred in the beginning as the loans were made to those who were doomed to default on their homes. There is a lot to maintaining a home. I say sit tight. The impact has been world-wide, here in Canada our portfolio has gone down in value - but this, too, is short-term and only on paper. We will sit on it and eventually it will accrue more value.

The current bear market started in August of 2007. The world economy has slowed, but is not in a true recession. There are signs that it is recovering and most Canadian and US stocks are demonstrating this fact. It is said that the US market is rebounding, as people like Warren Buffet demonstrate confidence in the long-term nature of economics by buying Goldman Sachs.

My hope is that the CEOs will be fired, and the $700 billion will go to those who have lost homes, not stock values, which will increase later. I hope that the CEOs involved will not get their bonuses and your government will ensure that those who screwed up will not benefit from more cash.

So hang in there - be tough and wait it out. This, too, shall pass!
/my two cents worth!

Bats in our belfry

We have experiences with bats here and there. I loved watching them come out at dusk and flit about. We know they are eating their weight in bugs!

Out in the garage fending off bugs, I was calling to get the cats in for the night I spotted one of our favourite, bug-eating friends on the inner wall! I had turned on the light and it had frozen on the wall.

In 2003, we found one in our old fireplace. The fireplace was doomed by our inspector and it is now gone, but the dog was quite keen on the bat in our belfry.

Bandy, dad's dog spotted them.

We put up a bat box, which hasn't done well. They say to put it in the morning sun, but this is too busy a spot with raccoons, nocturnal flying squirrels, and cats running around.

Tuesday 23 September 2008


It is important to understand the political process in a democracy. We live in a country in which our spirituality and our faith (in ourselves, each other, and the world) is open to discussion and, unlike the fundamentalist right wing that demands obedience, we can separate out church, synagogue, mosque and state. We can hold politicians accountable to represent our ideals and our beliefs. If they do not, we can take responsibility by voting them out of office.

In an unhealthy community organized religion is what replaces personal values and love. Dogma is a God-substitute. We need not think for ourselves or employ our personal values. This is true, too, of gangs. People like ombudspeople, government employees, and unelected officials, should not hold power over policy. We are entitled to hold politicians accountable to fulfill their promises.

What is happening as social networking sites, such as Facebook, those with little experience, education, or objectivity, rant and promote misinformation. You can see this on sites in which people rant about issues where loved ones experience victimization by those who are mentally ill. The recent violence on buses, for example, have led to an outpouring of rage. There is a call to action and more vigilant security. Unfortunately, anything that the bus company does will cause bus tickets to rise. No one wants to pay $200 for a 200 km trip.

Progress has been made in the war on drinking and driving. But we are all responsible, not just governments. It takes a vigilance, and a reflection on policies to improve our legislation.

It is healthy to be clear and precise in our discussions. Stakeholders must sit down and work out what is best for all. The language we use is important. In my attempts to ask questions and employ discourse on the Save the Bala Falls issue I have been cut down. This is wrong. My conversations have been ignored and postings deleted in an attempt to remove any reflection.

Our spirituality, and a spirit of grace, unconditional love, is what we live for. Dogma and doctrine is what we kill for.
--to paraphrase Rev. Ed Bacon

Monday 22 September 2008

Bala Falls Hydro Project -part 3

Bracebridge Falls

The town has risen in uproar. It is quite a movement. I posted a video on the Save the Bala Falls Facebook site and, for the second time my post was deleted and, I was blocked from a site that declares that it is an "open group". Obviously not open to discussion.

The photo above shows the Bracebridge Hydro Project. It looks very amenable to visitors and draws tourists.

An 'anonymous' posting on my original post has been responded to and new points have been raised. A rant, intended to disparage me and my motivation, has been removed, at my request, to keep this issue clear, and not about emotions but values and issues. In a democracy a healthy debate helps everyone to understand and come to some sense of truth.
hydro falls
What is clear in the media is that they are not looking for those in favour, nor seem interested in presenting a balanced viewpoint. Many business owners are in the fray, with ties to local politics, but no effort has been made to correct untruths and, indeed, efforts seem to be made to regurgitate falsehoods. This is the difference between an editorial and news reporting, something that escapes many media outlets these days.

cottage property
Many are working long hours on dambusting. It is good to see the business people, taxpayers and cottagers united. I am still unsure that there isn't some efficacy in this project and find that the move to sway public opinion opinion means that those who are in favour of the project are going unheard in the grassroots movement. In an attempt to sway those in the privileged Moon River area taxpayers, Swift River made a special presentation to this group worried about the impact to their cottages and homes. What is ironic is that the original dam was built to assist secondary landowners in maintaining water levels for logging and to protect white settlers who took over the land from the original native settlers.

That is the way to discuss, debate and determine the future! We need to sit, like ancient and modern aboriginal leaders, and come to a consensus, not shrieking in debate-like forums. Thank goodness we live in a democracy. In the current Federal election, like the politicians building up of planks to create platforms, we can have healthy debates and weed out facts from fiction. With the different levels of government involved, e.g., our Conservative M.P.P. is supporting the fight against this Liberal provincial government initiative. It was the McGuinty government who was accused of not meeting election promises of reducing our dependence upon coal and he has done so with this mandate from taxpayers.
Coal dependence reduction graph
This project has been begun by provincial policy,
"aimed at developing new clean, renewable, ‘green’ sources of power generation in order to reduce Ontario’s dependence on dirty, coal-fired sources of electricity production."
It is controlled by various levels and divisions of our government (MNR, Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act (O.Reg. 116/01), & Canadian Environmental Assessment Act but they are bureaucrats responding to government policy, driven by taxpayers. Norm Miller, our Parry Sound-Muskoka Conservative member in a Liberal provincial government, has found a perfect opportunity to get on the bandwagon! What is interesting is that this issue does not appear on his website. With no election in the immediate future, it hasn't been discussed, and very little is being said outside the town. There were a couple of articles in our local paper
(Sept. 17, Aug. 13 & July 16), and one in McLeans that I have yet to read!), but the province is interested in looking after the well-being of the entire province, not just our small town.

I follow the debate with interest. The next event will be the visitation on Oct. 14 of local councillors of the Muskoka district council, to view the area. I hope they make an informed decision, not one based on popularity. (Swift River Energy will be in attendance for questions, although coverage of the facts by their group seems sparce.) They have already agreed to the project 'in principle' - subject to a study, and will proceed from there. It is exciting to see the critical reflection on this debate, the quality of the debate varies, but it is there. Unlike the Federal politicians not much use is being made of the Internet, aside from sneering comments, lies, and untruths mixed with some real concerns. Unfortunately, the mix means that the project cannot be weighed and balanced over public good and inconvenience to cottagers, pain for business owners, and the value of adding green power to the grid. While I live here, I found that many of my neighbours are absent landlords, however, choosing to rent over participating in cottage life. Many cannot see the forest for the trees.

Below is my iMovie, also on YouTube, that clearly shows the falls and the area for those who may not understand the hydrogeologic perspective.

Below are the overhead photos with labels that demonstrate the extent of the project. Taken from the Swift River presentation to Moon River area taxpayers. (Reprinted by permission.)

Bala Falls Hydro: Post #1,
Dambusters (post #2) & Misinformation -part 4

"Love is being able to walk arm in arm.
Even when you don’t see eye to eye
." --Thomas A. Kempis

Election 2008 here we come

I guess at my age, every two years is two much. There are those who do not see the need for it. I agree. There is no reason that a minority government should not work. It is a shame that Mr. Harper broke his own laws on fixed date elections. Surely, there is work that needs to be done that supersedes the political filibusters intended for political gain. Can those in power not determine what needs to be done, set aside party politics, and make a difference in this country? I have great issues with many of our parties.

Mr. Harper promised many things.
Senate reform- there has been none
Lowered GST – what for? We need more services, not less. The minimal reduction made little difference for those that have and reduced the tax dollars available for those who have not.
How about 4 – year elections: he fixed date and changed his own rules. Reminds me of some men I dated. Last minute cancellations for their own political gains.
He said he would not appoint ministers from outside government, and he did.
He promised no floor crossing: yet a man elected as liberal a week later crossed over to the other side, which reflected opportunism.

Liberals Have gone green and laud the Kyoto agreement, an obtuse document that allows us to guilt-free buy our way to ‘carbon credits’. What is with this? Mr. Dion is not favoured. His English has improved but not enough for me to have faith in him. His policies sing out tax dollars, and his carbon tax seems ridiculous. Those who cannot afford to pay more for gas will suffer. We will still find those who can afford it continue to idle in parking lots with the motor running.

I must admit my bias: I have always voted NDP, being a federation and union member. I began to distrust the NDP when Bob Rae enacted "Rae Days" in provincial education to save money. His defection to the Federal Liberals scares me, too.

I worry about those who do not cast their vote for particular local candidates due to strategic voting. I heard a fellow citizen in my riding who complained that since the NDP never made it in this riding that he tried strategic voting last time to no effect. Mr. Layton comes second in opinion polls for strong leadership. He and his partner would make a strong opposition. Too many people are afraid of open policies in which we look after each other, and not ourselves or business.

There are rumours of his agreements with the B.C. parties; candidates who defected to NDP after a lack of success there. Former marijuana party members, if you please! B.C. has always gone from Liberal to NDP, and back again, why Mr. Layton made deals, if he did so, is beyond me. Mr. Harper is now aiming for NDP supporters in BC, as he realizes that Mr. Dion doesn't have a chance there.

The NDP has faced a couple of issues as his BC candidates have been unravelled with past mistakes. There were 3 candidates that resigned this week.

Green Party
Elizabeth May has made great progress in bringing the philosophy of ‘Greens” to Canada. I adore her feisty spirit. She is smart and articulate, but inexperienced. By now, the Green Party of Canada, which has made great gains in Germany, has not met expectations here. Ms. May has failed to drum up enough support, either philosophical or financial, to make a difference. By getting into bed with the Liberals to promote herself in her riding by running unopposed by a Liberal candidate, she diminishes her personal and party power and demonstrates values I question. The Toronto Star says the the Greens & NDP are now tied in popularity. The consortium that tried to force May out of the debate really messed up the plans. The attention accorded her, the little guy vs. the big guys, has gleaned her much attention. She is second choice for many voters...mind you the polls are pretty uneventful, if you can depend upon pollsters.

For fun we are going to go and watch Ms. May arrive in Parry Sound -not that we necessarily intend voting Green, but it is an historical occasion. What a great trip she is having - both real and philosophical. Watch for photos later!

Parry Sound-Muskoka riding

With all of that said, the Parry Sound-Muskoka riding is one that holds much interest. I really wonder, as I heard one phone-in caller state, whether to vote strategically, or to vote on the issues. Muskoka is an area of either retirees (18%) or those in the sales and service industries (28%), and that causes fear amongst those who are self-employed or in the business world. Last election, with the Conservative, Tony Clement, edging out the Liberal incumbent in 2006 by 28 votes; our riding is one that gets attention.

That said, what about local candidates? I do not know them well and have found many Tony Clement signs about. They say that the incumbent has an advantage. We have been inundated with bizarre flyers from the Conservatives, asking us bizarre questions about whether we want X, Y, Z to happen with a Liberal government. Certainly, Mr. Clement takes every opportunity to be in every event going and yet there are issues unresolved in this riding.

We are still sorting through the party positions on many Federal issues: education, poverty, immigration policy, the environment, gun violence, government corruption, senate reform, and Afghanistan. They say that an election is no time to deal with policies, only planks announced daily to garnish the most sound bites and build up to a strong, unbreakable platform in the final climax on election day. No matter your positions on issues - get out there, listen to their platforms and invoke your rights as a citizen, talk to your candidates about the issues, and vote.

Sunday 21 September 2008

committee of adjustment for minor variances

For those renovating, or changing structures on properties, they must follow current by-laws. If you want a permit to vary building guidelines, you must appear before this committee. A recent article in the Examiner claims that a cottager seeking a variance was represented by someone sitting on the variance committee before which they were presenting. Their neighbour has registered a complaint, and great disgust, that the person trying to build too close to the water sought the advocacy of someone on this committee. I cannot imagine this scenario. Further, the minutes were expunged and rewritten to be more open, despite the deceit within the meeting. I am shocked.

It is particularly deceitful. It seems as if the rules are made by environmentalists, town planners and hydrogeology experts but they are just guidelines!

Either town committees have a plan to protect the environment or they do not. If you have money, influence and power the rules and regulations can be broken. This is a breach of public trust. Town committee members have a responsibility to by-laws. This is shameful.

Mind you, if those seeking the variance are not granted same - they WILL go to the Ontario Municipal Board where there is a 75% chance the OMB will overrule the duly elected officials. It is a lose-lose situation for those who have respect for the environment. Only in Muskoka! This issue requires some reflection. Mind you, the councillors do seem to show bias. An article similarly says that they support Tony Clement in the Federal Election, with YouTube videos galore. I resent such propaganda by municipally elected officials with their own agendas.

Friday 19 September 2008

Fall Colours

Not only the trees, but the flowers are brightly dressed!

Election 2008 coverage

Here we are in another election! It seems like yesterday. It was a grand time to be an educator. We debated platforms, talked about issues, spoke of local candidates and party leaders. There was a buzz. We learned not to believe everything we read. In the time since, however, there are much more information out there than before. The wise educator needs to educate her students.

I am concerned with the news coverage. I would like to read information and news – not the blog of everyman. It is hard to weed out facts from those who pontificate with little knowledge or expertise behind them. I read every article with a critical eye. I know that reporters have editors and are accountable. When I see the trend towards anyone being allowed to post offensive, biased, racist and sexist comments, I shudder.

Teachers are wise to take this opportunity to explore this important facet of Canadian Politics. Students can collect articles, campaign pamphlets, view debates, and generally exploit this phenomenon that lends itself to literacy and integrated unit opportunities. You need not have a great deal of experience or be a political animal, the older students (Gr. 4 and above) can have a grand time. My Gr. 8’s, back in 2006, found a lot of excitement in following what proved to be a minority government. We compared and contrasted what we read, saw on TV and heard on radio. My classroom walls were filled with articles that students would rush in to show me.

It was interesting comparing the difference between Municipal ( and Regional), Provincial and Federal mandates and issues. It is the Municipal elections that have a profound effect on citizens in terms of your region and local taxes, but a Federal election is a prime opportunity for separating out the various levels of government and determining their mandate and effect upon Canadians as a whole.

Another aspect of this current election is the effect that applications like Twitter and Facebook have on election fever. Entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the money they can glean from ads on web site. I have chosen not to. This, in and of itself reflects a bias. One web site provides much information by a political science grad and student teacher. It is possible to have interesting discussions about potential bias (or lack thereof) in this Web site.

No matter- talk about what is going on. Grill your candidates and hold them accountable.

Thursday 18 September 2008

The New TV Season

Alright, finally the new season is starting to come together. Every year, since we had a TV in the 50s, we would welcome new shows. We watched Batman as kids, The Wonderful World of Disney, Ed Sullivan, and so on. But I date myself.

Now, after a career in education I have retired. No longer do I have to attend after school meetings, or go to workshops, take courses, or do the numerous activities necessary to look after a family: ferrying kids to and from school, play, lessons, activities and events. My parents I cared for as they fought their respective battles with cancer. The sandwich generation is a tough one to live through.

My days are filled with volunteer work and writing for fun and pleasure. My nights are filled with meetings for the organization for which I volunteer. I am able to make choices. I have much more time, now, to watch TV -- guilt-free! The problem is that I do not feel that the shows are geared for me and my generation.

I remember watching 5 CSIs in a row the night dad passed away. It was bizarre, as this show took me far and away from my dad's laboured breathing. I could go to a world where there was a certain amount of science and see beautiful people work very hard.

I have just seen the season premieres of several shows. One of my favourites, Bones, is about a lab in the Institute in which scientists explore various plot lines revolving around pathology cases in conjunction with the FBI. Having been through this building, I find it hopeful to see these incredibly beautiful, and nearly perfectly coifed men and women, explore the mysteries of a case and determine, using state-of-the-art technology, the cause of death in a case in an hour. I know it unrealistic. I know that most detective work is pounding the pavement, but I like the scientific principles and the technology the purport to use. It is different than my reality.

The issue I have this year is that they are increasingly making these types of shows soap operas. Now, I don't know who their target audiences are, but it sure isn't me. I really do not want to have a good mystery and plot line confounded by who is in bed with whom. The characterization on such shows is increasingly puerile, too. They develop incredibly arrogant, or rude people, like Hugh ... character, Dr. House, whom I would not tolerate as a physician no matter how skilled. I would rather die.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

September-signs of fall

As faithfully as the diurnal sun rises and sets, the seasons change and with it brings change. Our lives, too, can depend upon change. I love the Facebook discussion and rebellion over the changing homepage design. I find that the change brings new ideas, new discussion, and more discourse. Education, my field, depended upon that pendulum of change. Each year, each new principle or new senior staff, or new Ministry of Education Minister and new government brought change. The funny thing is that the pendulum always swung. (But that is a topic for My Reflections and Musings blog!)

With the changing temperatures (see my Fall Beginnings photos) the foliage punctuates the impending winter solstice. Our lows have ranged from 1 degree Celsius, in open areas, to double-digit daytime highs of 20.

The bulrushes have moved through their reproductive cycle: their cattails are ready for the winter winds and snow. Formerly used by Native Peoples as absorbent materials, the wind takes it across marshes and ponds.

The creatures are feverishly gathering winter stores. The bees have been filling their pollen sacs. The photo shows its little yellow packages of sweet goodness. My wasp trap remains empty, as I could not fool them in their pursuit of winter shelter. I had to remove nest after nest in our storage cupboard that had cracks that simply invited guests.

We walked under a tree that was apparently flinging its green pine cones at us. My understanding is that they do not fall until ripe, and dry. Upon further examination, we spotted an arrogant red squirrel (from the species: 'tree rat') atop a deeply green conifer. The cones were scattered on the ground, cluttering the roadway. It was unstoppable. Such fierce critters.

The maples began to exchange their summer suits for delightful yellows, then golds and reds. The tips of branches seem gleeful in beating the rest of the tree to dress up for the season.

The sumac, previously delicate and frail, and gently wafting in the spring winds, has grown tall and strong as it works its way through its seasonal cycle of life. The succulent berries have grown and turned into bright red, soft, fuzzy little grape-like clusters. The leaves, long fronds that responded to rains and winds of summer, have turned colours. The maple leaves, now red on the tips of many tall trees, similarly herald the coming of fall. I always looked forward to fall. After a summer happily toiling in the garden, playing in the water and observing the summer visitors, fair and fowl, I welcome a rest and the pursuit of other projects.

The remnants of Hurricane Hanna brought us sparkling waters and wind, while Tropical Storm Ike, after its trip up central North America, dumped many cms of rain (see the video!), refilling our frog pond and lakes. The high water, as well as snow cover, protects both animal and vegetable over our extreme temperatures.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Election Campaign Signs

It was in 2006 that candidates in one riding agreed to limit campaign signs in a bid to reduce waste, and improve the environment. We have moved from the old days of politicking when, in order to let your neighbour know your voting pledge, you would put up a sign.

One Kingston newspaper reports that they will refrain from placing signs on public property. The Globe says that it is the Green party pushing this idea through. It is not a new one.

Cooperation during campaigning is not limited to environmental issues. The sudden death of an Ottawa-area sitting MP's mother, Marion Dewar, has generated some respect for Paul Dewar who must deal with his bereavement issues while leading up to this relatively short 37-day election period.

Monday 15 September 2008

Protect Our Children Act

I watched a powerful Oprah show today. It was about child pornography and predators. Her call to action revolves around the American Senate Bill #1738 - the Protect Our Children Act. There have been problems passing this act. Sometimes our rights to privacy must be superceded by what is moral. Internet Safety is a topic of concern to me, with a couple of articles to my credit. I have created a PPT to educate parents and teachers. I understand some of the issues.

What I cannot understand is this act. The purpose of the act is to invest millions in setting up law enforcement agencies. Oprah has put a call out to her constituents to pass this law. She cites the need for an infusion of dollars, as well as a tightening of the mandate and money for software to find predators. While her goals are laudable, I think them misplaced. She has the power to sway many people and broadcast important causes, but I wonder if this push for more money is the right one.

They key is empowering parents to prevent such abuses, and teaching those who work with children to be vigilant. The USA's National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is one place to start. Most predation is carried out by people familiar to the children. Also, children who are lured online fall in the small minority. Those who create child porn use their home computers and equipment. That said, there are means by which a parent can determine where a child has been on his or her computer. It is the right of a parent, indeed the obligation to supervise them. Checking the browser history will let you know the sites that are accessed. One must be vigilant.

Regarding this act, I think we must come to the determination that Internet Service Providers must be forced to cooperate with child protection agencies and stop the trading, and marketing of these illegal, immoral and unlawful products. People from around the world must take action. Those who worry about internet censorship and personal and human rights need to wake up. The impact of child pornography on the psyche of the nation is huge. The stress of this problem on the children, their families, law enforcement officers and society is preventable. Something needs to be done. The discussion needs to continue.

Bala Falls Hydro Issues part 2.2

What is very interesting as Muskoka evolves and grows, is the great fight against the Bala Falls Hydro Project- a project signed and sealed with a contract! Volunteers were going door-to-door with flyers to inform citizens of the town hall meeting. They are soliciting donations to help defray printing costs in their attempts to inform the public of their concerns. My first post has photos, as well as some concerns.

The dambusters are working hard at cancelling this project. It is interesting that they are primarily store owners who will be affected, but the entire closely knit community is up in arms. Media coverage has been interesting, with bias on many fronts and reporting of misinformation.

It was standing room only, with a packed hall. Cars were parked everywhere as those interested in this issue made a point of attending the Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14, 2008) session. There was a printed agenda, with various speakers, including several store and business owners (the Burgess, Gidley, Purkis folks) concerned with the impact of the project on their profits.

Tourism dollars were hard to find this past year. Those who know tell us that it was down by as much as 30 - 40%. It is likely not due to gas prices. (The extra costs of driving from Toronto to Muskoka would make a trip about $30 more expensive) It was the lack of sunny days and the rain that reduced our visitors.

At the town hall meeting presentations made before the District Council (Sept. 2, 2008) were reprised, as well as info by Mitchell Shnier,
Mark Gidley and Nigel Nicholson.

The group is looking for help in generating names on petitions, and mobilization of teams to speak to Donna Cansfield (Ministry of Natural Resources), George Smitherman (Minister of Energy), District Councillors (who will visit the site Oct. 14th), and to meet to discuss the impact of tourism on this initiative.

The Facebook site has been continuing. Posts are becoming clearer, and some correspondence has been quoted. For example, John Purkis (who leads the FB group) posted a response regarding his concerns from Swift River...

I am sorry that we can’t do more to answer your concerns. The existence of the town of Bala seems to depend upon the dams, as this is the reason that the road, rail and river junctions exist, as well as maintaining the level of Lake Muskoka and the Moon River.

Our project does not touch the existing dams, nor does it create a new one. It is an underground power plant that will be created in order to build an extensive park on top. The park will become the focal point, not the power project – which is in fact invisible.

Ian Baines

Chief Operating Officer
Swift River Energy
I continue to find some discrepancy between what the dambusters are claiming will happen and what Swift River's plans outline. The artist's rendering, a thorn in Swift River's side, is grossly overdone and not to specifications.

A book I have about the History of Bala, shows photos of the original falls, before the falls were dammed to raise the water levels, and ensure that they did not rise and fall abruptly with sping thaws and summer droughts. At that time the falls could raise or lower 9 feet, according to this book. The photos of the original falls were lovely. If you look under the first bridge you can see the lovely Precambrian Shield rock over which the water roared uncontained. People have seen fit to harness the water and control its impact to steamships and loggers in the early days of development of the area. I guess the more things change...