Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival

Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival that presented terrorist play – The Globe and Mail.

Cost cutting is one thing; denying funding because a bureaucrat or politician is making decisions based on what some one said about a piece of art without actually seeing it is quite another. The first is just the way it goes; the second is a governmental attempt to control the arts, and indeed freedom of speech. Does the Harper government think that it was elected to make artistic judgements for all of us?

Saudi women: Some brave women of Saudi Arabia continue to make incursions against the status quo, the latest one aided by her husband, an imam, who taught her how to drive. It still astounds me that countries need to have religious police. Not that the same thing didn’t happen in the history of western nations, but it was several hundred years ago. This is the 21st century, and a woman in Saudi Arabia can’t leave the house without the permission of some one with male genitalia, her guardian, lest the dreaded religious police intervene and cart her off to jail.

A lovely weekend here, warm and sunny with a breeze to keep the bugs away, and a country to live in without fear. Happy Canada Day.

Old-time Politics

Auditor blasts lack of transparency in doling out generous G8 funds – The Globe and Mail.

In the Ottawa Valley, prior to elections, the spending on the roads, where unemployed men could find some summer work, increased so much that locals knew before the writ was dropped that an election was coming. All of those men were expected to vote and did, for the party in power, that had bought the votes with road work, much of it un-needed–or so it was said.

The Globe and Mail article above gives details from the report, some of which are below, along with my opinion.

The Conservatives have taken it to a new level. In the Auditor-General’s report on G8 expenditures, tabled conveniently after the election, it becomes clear(as the process of funding was not) that large sums of money were dispensed by politicians alone. Not one civil servant was involved in the decisions. The civil service of course has to follow the rules. As Bob Rae said, quoted in the Globe  article above, “they just basically go  in a back room and cut up the funds.) They hid it, burying it in a bill to provide funds to relieve border congestion.

Now the Minister who spent all that money in his riding, Tony Clement, is the Minister responsible for forcing governmental cuts so they can balance the books. First they spend the money, then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut programmes they don’t like. It’s your money they’re playing these games with, and your services they’re going to cut. Does it sound fiscally prudent to you?

About that new level, it’s low. And it’s for four more years.


The worst enemy of Stephen Harper described in this article by Gerald Caplan, is Harper himself, at least the mean-spirited, nasty, revenge-seeking, never-say-you’re-sorry side of the man. He punishes dissent as quickly as any Middle-Eastern despot, although not with bullets and truncheons. The article above is dealing with the ramifications of the Oda affair, which has the autocrat’s stamp all over it. What I found disconcerting was the line-up of members of Kairos, churches from the Anglican Church of Canada to the Evangelical Lutheran, to the Mormon Church, all of them working together for decades to bring compassion and health care to violated women in Africa. But they spoke out against the decisions of Harper with which they disagreed, and so the funding, long-established and carried forward for thirty-five years is gone, as has the funding for countless other smaller organizations on the other side of political debate.

And then they lied, yet again. “Who did that? Not me?” she says to the Commons committee, not to a newspaper, or her friends at lunch, but to Parliament. Apparently the Harperites despise, not just the Upper House, but the whole thing. And it’s not the first time.

Gerald Caplan writes that this reflects the abandonment of the view that a government of the people is responsible for maintaining civil society. That is the difference that Canadians, who value our civil society and its support of the ill and the weak and the old, will have to consider at the next election.

Go to the end of the article and read the list of activities Harper has indulged in over the five years he has been in power. Why would we want to keep him?

He isn’t conservative with our money either. Look at the millions of dollars that is the estimate to carry out his further acts of vengeance against those convicted of crimes, many of them minor ones committed by people with serious mental illness, condemning them to be stacked like cordwood in cells barely adequate for one let alone three or four. Our prisons are going to resemble those in the third world. And for what? Rehabilitation doesn’t occur under these circumstances. Education in crime does. Getting mental heath resources for children is extremely difficult in this country. Perhaps he could spend a few dollars at the root of the problem.


The web address of this editorial in the the Toronto Star this morning is a little misleading. I was as astounded as the editorialist to read of the conversion of Newt Gingrich to the side of those of us who are against the expansion of prisons. It would seem that the Harperites are operating about ten years behind American conservatives. The prisons are full of petty thieves and the drug addicted(many of whom are the same people) and serve as finishing schools for criminals. Amongst the things they do not do are: halt recidivism, especially with dollars going to buildings, not programs; address a soaring crime rate–the evening news notwithstanding, it is lower–; treat the mentally ill within the walls; or decrease the use of illegal drugs. As far as I understand it, the prisons are incapable of keeping drugs out of the buildings themselves.
The amount of money spent is staggering. According to the Star editorial, 68 billion dollars/year in the USA. 68 billion! A fraction of that amount would go a long way towards mental health programs, literacy programs, drug rehabilitation, housing the homeless. According to the Star, the amount of new money here over 5 years will be 5 billion. That’s new money, for new beds, not for refurbishing the old prisons that are a crumbling disgrace.

The list of the root causes of crime goes on and on, but tossing people into a revolving door system that turns out ever more hardened criminals is not, to my mind, the answer. I think that Corrections(and isn’t that a misnomer) needs to look at the hospital system, which has turned from a totally inpatient to a largely outpatient system, trying to care for people in their homes, as opposed to beds in an institution as it was when I started(40 years ago). They could begin by eliminating prison time for petty crime and soft drug offenses, turning to community-based initiatives, saving prison for those so dangerous that there is nothing to do except lock them up.

Freedom of Information

Canada ranks last in freedom of information: study – The Globe and Mail.

You knew this, didn’t you? Harper had a lot to say about freedom of information before he was elected. Now that’s it his government’s information, suddenly we have no access compared to other democracies, and we’re the go-to guys on how not to implement freedom of information acts.

It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. And a little frightening. What is it they don’t want us to know?

Free media, free speech.

Geoffrey York in the Globe and Mail, writing about South Africa:

The government of President Jacob Zuma is being accused of harassing the media, failing to improve the lives of the poor, and favouring its own cronies in dubious business deals.

Lawrence Martin also in the Globe and Mail:

Last year, as revealed by The Canadian Press, Prime Minister Stephen Harper lunched in New York with Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, and Rupert Murdoch, who owns it. Kory Teneycke, Mr. Harper’s former spokesman, was also present at the unannounced event.

Mr. Teneycke later became the point man for Quebecor’s Pierre Karl Péladeau in his effort to create a right-wing television network modelled along the lines of Fox News. The new network is a high priority for Mr. Harper, for whom controlling the message has always been – witness his government vetting program – of paramount importance.

In this regard, he scored a fantastic coup when Mr. Teneycke became head, courtesy of Mr. Péladeau, of Sun Media’s political coverage. It’s not every day that a prime minister sees his one-time spokesperson taking control of a giant media chain’s coverage of his government.

Now, I don’t think Mr. Harper is an idiot on the level of Mr. Zuma, who until lately denied the problem AIDS presents in his country. But I do think Harper’s overweaning desire to control almost everything, is becoming hard for him to disguise. Remember at the beginning, when he decided to protect himself from the hurly-burly of the scrum by hiding in a basement room of the Parliament, with selected members of the media present and taking only pre-vetted and few questions. Now he will have a whole network to lob easy questions at him and allow him to distort the facts with impunity.

The rot started with his success in proroguing Parliament, continued with the whole census debacle and recently found a respected Mountie out the door because of his support, along with all the rest of this country’s police, of the long gun registry.

It’s his agenda, his take on what the women of the world need, his belief that we don’t need facts on which to base decisions. How does he tolerate a man like Stockwell Day in his cabinet, with his prattling about “unreported crime” as an excuse for more and bigger jails? I begin to be concerned about what new crimes will soon be announced and how long free expression can survive.


Last week and this I have been proof-reading the galley for my new book. This exercise leaves me with a renewed respect for all those who read and correct the millions—it must be millions— of words written every day.


The long spring and hot, humid summer are ending with what seems to be an early autumn. The swallows are making practice flights; the black squirrel is driving the dog crazy with his aerial foraging in oak tree; the brown-eyed susans are making a spectacular show with their mounds of intense gold and black. What does it all mean? A heavy, snow-laden lengthy winter? Our autumn will end with a stay in the south of Spain.


I’ve been reading Frances Mayles  A Year in the World. She and her husband took our trip, first to Madrid, then to Seville and on to Ronda. I hope some of the restaurants and tapas bars she writes about are still open. Spain is having a tough time economically this year.


Her fate was supposed to be decided on August, but so far—nothing. the British Government has called in the Iranian ambassador to express its deep concern. I hope it expressed the full horror of civilized nations at the barbaric crime Iran is perpetrating on its citizens, and particularly this woman and the fourteen co-condemned, waiting out the tattered remains of their lives in that foul prison.

Please sign the petition at


The Guardian reports this morning that the deaths by stoning of the (mainly) women in Iran’s prisons are being quietly change to death by hanging. The article, goes on to remind us of the appalling state of justice in that Republic. The cases include that of a fifteen year old child bride, accused of her elderly husband of adultery, condemned not only to die by stoning but also to live for three years under that sentence because she was not yet eighteen. What a mockery.

Meanwhile Sakineh herself is tortured into reading a “confession” on television. Her lawyer is now in Norway, having been arrested in Turkey and offered safe haven in that country of EU officials intervened in Turkey. He of course can and is speaking to the press.

Please keep up the pressure on Iran. Sign the petition at

Ottawa Notebook – The Globe and Mail.

The census, still in the news. Earlier this week Tony Clement complained that he felt all alone in the census fight, with so many groups against him. Apparently he thinks he is the only one with revealed truth on this issue.

Then, the government, throwing a bone to Quebec, moves questions on language to the short form, because they couldn’t be assured of accurate data in a voluntary long form! Now do these people actually ever listen to themselves?


I spent an entire morning this week talking to Sean, at Microsoft for Word for Mac about a  strange problem with my manuscript. All the quotation marks were reversed. Sean couldn’t solve the problem for me and finally, I did a manual review and changed them all. As to the service from that department, it was great. Two phone calls back, the first to give me an update on the progress, and two days later to tell me that despite their best efforts there didn’t seem to be a solution.

Now comes the slogging part of writing — reviewing the galley proofs.

Sunday Roundup2


My latest book went to the publisher some time ago. Two errors, both mine, merged to give both the editor and me headaches. First, I had sent the wrong version, unedited and unrevised. During May and June I had worked on the manuscript and then carefully saved it — to a usb drive. I didn’t remember that and sent the most recent one on the computer. The next mistake was in using Word. I didn’t know that there was a small button in the reviewing toolbar that I had to click in order to accept all my edits and create a final version. The editor received a file full of corrections, strike-throughs, and sidebar comments.  Once the Microsoft tech told me what to do — success. The publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words Inc. and  Cambridge Books, has been great about it and I have sent along the revised  version to the editor.

Tech Support

I needed support from both Apple and Microsoft to solve the problem, and both technicians were great. The wait time was brief and the information clear. It was Saturday evening, so not too much traffic at support, I imagine.

Another outfit that has an efficient website and great service is Rail Europe. I used them to book our tickets from Madrid to Seville in the fall. From booking to the UPS driver at my door took three days, including a border crossing!


Sakineh still waits in that prison in Iran, while they review her sentence for a murder she says she didn’t commit and of which she was acquitted. Through an intermediary she says that the international pressure is embarrassing Iran. I hope that this country, once such a pearl, can be saved, with Sakineh, from the madmen at the top. Please continue to embarrass them and sign the petition. Website follows.

The census, still.

This week, Sylvia Ostry, former chief of Stats Can and an internationally known economist is quoted in Michael Valpy’s article at the Globe and Mail, as saying it is “shocking” and “ridiculous” that Ottawa should have abandoned the long form census. She was receiving an award for public policy at the Couchiching Conference.

Why the government is staying with this sorry decision is difficult to understand, unless it is Harper’s ego in play again. Hubris best describes it I think.


I went to a summer theatre this week, to see a play, out of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, by way of Hitchcock’s film, filtered through an English music hall. The actors were excellent, but I didn’t enjoy seeing Buchan’s work turned into burlesque.

I hadn’t read the book for many years, so I reread it this week. It’s a cracking good yarn, with lots of adventure in the Scottish highlands of a century ago. John Buchan was also Lord Tweedsmuir and served as Canada’s fifteenth Governor-General from 1935-1940.

One thing I noticed, as I have in Christie, Naigo Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and other writers from England of that period is the pervasive and off-hand anti-semitism. Buchan, though, confines it to a character who is soon murdered, and whose attitude towards Jews is called “strange”.

More on the Census

Canada’s stat crunchers join census fight – The Globe and Mail.

One week until the new census goes to press. One can see the strategy the government is employing. It is clear they – being he, Harper – thinks that if they hold on, beat the drumbeat of the jail time problem, until it is too late to change the census, it will all just go away, become yesterday’s news.

The problem is that often works for them. Who will remember that the rights of the citizens of Toronto and elsewhere were trampled during the G20 fiasco?

Who will remember that Harper refused to include abortion in his women’s health initiative?

I think it’s important to remember these events. The pattern of authoritarian behaviour worsens over time as governments become more entrenched. Without an accurate census and without the comparison to before, the government will be able to tell us what it wishes, with no facts to confuse us.

The census is about fact. It should be saved. Why on earth don’t they just remove the jail time penalty and leave it as mandatory, with a fine for refusing?

Kandahar airbase was attacked today.  What about that leaked information on the war? How much truth is there in in what we have been told? Or is it more government manipulation?

The Canadian Census

Topic : Canada Census –

The Star this morning has a list of recent articles within its pages on the subject of the 2011 census. Many of the arguments in favour of retaining the long-form census in its present form, with the mandatory aspect, come from the folks who depend on its information to design everything from the next red hot gadget to policies governing higher education and hospitals. Young people planning a career can search for information about job prospects and health care managers on the population trends within their area. Do they need more nursery bassinets  or nursing homes?
What about power needs? The Conservatives say the state has no business asking you how many bedrooms are in your house? Do you know a better way to judge the size of a house, and its likely power requirements?

I’ve been an amateur genealogist for some years now. Long enough to have endured the privacy commissioner’s decision, now retracted, to disallow all future access to census data for genealogical purposes. It was to have begun with the 1911 census but both that and the 1916 are available online. At least, the information from the short form is.

At this time genealogy is a popular pastime. Television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are and Ancestors in the Attic have loyal followings. Future genealogists however will find their past locked away in the vaults, even if their ancestors, us, filled out the forms.

Trivial you say? Perhaps. The need for information in all government departments, in industry, in social and educational planning is not. I think it is important that we understand the make-up of our country. In short, how we are doing? The census, in place in all countries in the sphere of the British Empire since 1841, has been the source of reliable information. Why is the government so intent on fixing what isn’t broken?

Oh, and don’t tell us people have complained. Not according to StatsCan, or the privacy commissioner. We know that’s a conservative  American problem, not ours. As usual, Tories pandering to their base support and their heroes across the border.

Facts are so troublesome. No wonder the Tories don’t want us to have access to them. We might understand just how incompetent and ideologically driven they are.

Will I fill out my long form if I get one? Yes indeed. Not because I think the government has chosen the right path, but because I want future information to be as accurate as possible in the circumstances. And that will introduce my bias into their data.