The Creative Crockpot of Christopher Olson

Two-Day Limit Keeps Canadians in the Dark

The Conservatives are ramming their 102 page omnibus crime bill through parliament and limiting the debate in the House of Commons to only two days. I don’t know what omnibus means (ok, I do, but it’s more fun if I don’t*), but I assume it means a busload of legislation in which some seriously screwed up legislation is trying to hide from Canadians.

The Conservative majority is a useful device for cramming through legislation that is likely to be unpopular, and potentially costly. So the best option is to limit debate on the bill, and hope no one bothers to read the large tome. And I can see why.

There are some seriously concerning measures introduced in this bill. I’m all for protecting children, and closing loopholes for human smugglers. I have no problem with legislation that already has broad appeal, support, and is both domestically and internationally supported.

However, the legislation regarding automatic sentences for drug offences is very concerning, especially when people like William J. Bennett, the man in charge of the United States’ war on drugs during the most recent Bush administration thinks it’s the wrong way to go. A rather prominent Republican figure, whose sole job was to conduct the american war on drugs thinks we’re going in the wrong direction. Isn’t that scary? Shouldn’t that be telling? Is it not obvious our government is going too far to the right? Our biggest allies think we’re going in the opposite direction.

Yeah, I think there’s something seriously wrong with what Team Harper is up to, and I think this bill needs to be split up, and studied, and the government needs to explain to Canadians why these changes are necessary, and show evidence it that it will improve safety and reduce crime by the most cost and socially effective way possible. Because right now, they’re just trying to snowball us, which is frustrating, especially since it’s so early into the fall session.

*It just means “a volume containing several novels or other items previously published separately.” So my description is actually pretty accurate.

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Expanding the Base?

My intention with this blog was to stick to Canadian politics, however, watching Republicans come down on Obama’s plan to marginally increase the tax rate on rich people, and counter suggest that taxes should be raised on the poor instead, just makes me shake my head.

Guys, c’mon, you’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone. They don’t have any money, the rich people do. If you want to fight a lot of expensive wars, you’re going to have to take money from the people who actually have it.

It’s really quite simple. You can’t increase the tax base by trying to tax people who don’t have money. You don’t go to the Sahara desert in search of snow, why would you try to “increase the base” by increasing taxes on those who don’t have money?

It boggles my mind that these people, these are the cream of the crop of the Republican Party, could, next year, take over the world’s most powerful country; the people, who can’t understand the simple concept of, “you can’t take from people, what they don’t have.”

We live in scary times, scary times indeed.

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Bankrupt BC?

I’d like to rant at how the 54.73 per cent of British Columbians who voted to scrap the HST are idiots, who’ve effectively bankrupted this province. But, while, I think they’re misinformed, don’t understand the complicated issue of taxation, or basic economics, I can’t really blame them for voting with their hearts instead of their brains. Was there bigger picture thinking going on here? No. But at least they voted.

How about the nearly half of registered BC voters who didn’t vote at all? They’re definitely idiots. Not caring is not an excuse. You should care. This is your province, which is now essentially barreling towards chapter 11, because you couldn’t take half an hour to do some simple research, come up with an opinion, then take another five minutes to scratch an X, and stick a couple of envelopes inside of each other.

This is your fault. Now, approximately a quarter of the province successfully doomed BC, and effectively tripled the deficit.

Yeah, and what’s more, the government is stupid for letting it happen. There are times when the government needs to tell the people to shove it, and this is one of those times. Let the bleeding hearts bleed.

You’re making tax policy based on the opinion of a quarter of the voting populace. That’s terrible governance. Ask California. Those guys are in serious financial trouble because they let their people vote on tax policy directly. It’s a failed experiment, and the last thing BC should be doing is following in those footsteps toward the poor house.

So, yes, I’m angry at the short sighted twits who killed the HST. I’m more angry at the uncaring majority that doomed our province with their lazy inaction. And I’m absolutely furious at the terrible leadership of the provincial government that really needs to step in and tell the people how it needs to be.

Show some leadership – point out it was a minority of voters that voted to scrap the tax, then suck it up, deal with the fallout, and get back to running the province and stop governing like you’re campaigning for an election.

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RIP Jack Layton

You don’t have to agree with his politics to respect Jack Layton and what he did and believed in. Sure, I wouldn’t have voted NDP in a million years, their economic positions are almost planned to drive the country into the ground, but of all the leaders in the last federal election, he was the one who came off as genuine, warm and actually caring.

He cared about Canada, he tried to do right by his views, and the Canadian political landscape has become a colder darker place with his passing.

To Layton’s family, I offer my deepest condolences, and to this country, here’s hoping we see another politician like him in our life time.

Read: A letter to Canadians from the Honourable Jack Layton

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I’m Still Angry, But I Support The HST

The BC Liberals have shown they can be trusted about as far as they can be collectively thrown. Even for someone with experience throwing people in Jiu-jitsu, I find myself having a hard time trusting Premier Clark’s promise that if the HST is kept, it will be decreased to 11 percent, let alone 10 percent.

Something will come up, unforeseen expenses. It will endanger health care, or her family first agenda. No, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the tax cuts.

But I still support the HST.

As a small business owner & operator, the introduction of the HST was initially bad. I didn’t have to collect PST before, so the amount of tax I collected was substantially lower.

Due to inflation in general, and overall increases in operating costs, we generally have to increase our prices 1 to 2 percent a year. Now imagine, our prices jump 7 percent when the tax is implemented. Do we go up a further 1-2 percent that year leading to a potential increase of up to 9 percent increase in prices in one year.

A lot of small business live at the margin. We’re not rich, that’s for sure. We decided to eat the loss for the year. But I’m sure several business suffered for the increase. Now, if you’re paying your accountant less because you don’t have to collect PST and GST perhaps it breaks even – yeah right. But if you’re a small business where it’s your time, the question is if the times saving is worth the money lost.

Fortunately for us, we could afford to forgo raising prices that first year. But we still had to add on more tax, and while I don’t think we lost any clients due to the increase in price, there’s always people who seem to expect an increase in service level when they have to pay more. And when we’re getting none of that revenue, well, it’s hard to provide more for essentially less.

But I still support the HST.

Many of the points I would like to make are made much better by this video.

I think the embedded tax is something that a lot of people don’t understand, and it’s well explained in this video.

While I don’t know if the constant slamming of Bill Vander Zalm in the video is appropriate, it does show passion. Most of the passion in HST debate is clearly deposited on the anti-HST side. But most of the passion is misplaced. The problem is most of the pro-HST arguments are pushed by businesses and come across as condescending and if anything, they further fan the flames of opposition.

The fact is, people are pissed off with the BC Liberals over the implementation of the HST. And they have every right to. Whether we were directly lied to or not isn’t really important, we were clearly misled. Sometimes governments need to do unpopular things for the good of their citizens. But they should be up front about it.

How should we show our anger? Not by killing a tax that makes sense. It doesn’t matter if they really messed up the introduction, the HST is better than the previous tax structure, and the arguments for the PST are seriously flawed.

I support the HST. I just don’t support the BC Liberals. So I’ll be showing that in the way I vote:

A No vote for the abolishing of the HST and returning to the PST & GST… and a vote for anyone but the incumbent BC Liberals in the next provincial election.

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Mayor Ford’s Family Taboo

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is in trouble with the LGBTQ community. He wants to spend the Canada Day long weekend with his family. Yes, protesters have actually taken up signs, put marker to cardboard and are marching about protesting his decision to skip on the Gay Pride Parade.

I think I can keep this pretty brief by saying, wake up LGBTQ community – Ford’s not saying don’t have a parade. He’s not saying you can’t have a parade. He’s not even saying he doesn’t support the parade. What he’s saying is he’d rather be at his cottage over the Canada Day long weekend with his family. Just like thousands of other Canadian families.

Let’s be fair to Mayor Ford for just a minute. When the choice is between being in the city of Toronto, or at a cottage with your family, who would choose anything but going to the cottage?

I mean, let’s face it LGBTQ community it’s pretty clear cut. In the summer Toronto is hot, smoggy and miserable. If you had spent more time thinking about it, you would be holding your parade in Huntsville just outside Algonquin Park instead. And from what I understand, the Conservatives made some nice investments there during the G20…

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Who to Blame when Vancouver Riots?

In the aftermath of the Vancouver riot of 2011, a lot of blame has been thrown around by commentators, the media, and public officials alike. People have come forth and vociferously claimed that real Vancouver Canucks fans would not have done this. And people counter, of course, out of hundreds involved, clearly some were fans.

Public officials immediately blamed a small amount of trouble makers, criminals and anarchists, for the small pockets of trouble. People who would have rioted regardless of the game’s outcome.

Others blame the police for what they see as a lack of preparedness for an inevitable event.

And then, as the dust cleared, social media, and the youth movements desire to gain fame through FaceBook and online posting became the next whipping boy.

Who is to blame? I think, with an incident like this, there’s enough blame to go around.

Some people came ready to riot; that’s an irrefutable fact. Have you ever tried to set a car on fire with just disposable lighter? I can’t say that I have, but despite suggestions of video games and movies, cars do not spontaneously combust at the slightest touch. People came downtown, with the intention, win or lose, to cause destruction and loot. No one, in there day-to-day lives carry the makings of a molotov cocktail with them. Accelerant is not usually in your back pocket.

Does this mean they are solely to blame? Hardly. If they had been dealt with decisively and quickly by the police, things would have likely died quickly, and the following hours of anarchy may have been avoided.

So why did the police fail? The police were acting using a plan originally conceived for the 2010 Olympic games. Police were being social, high-fiving citizens and offering support and encouragement to those wanting to have a good time. It worked during the Olympics very effectively, but there’s a bit of a difference between that event and this event. Sheer numbers.

For the Olympics security was a national event. We had police officers from all over the country patrolling our streets, giving aid to the Vancouver Police Department. There were police from the Peel Regional Police, an obscure municipal force in Ontario for pete’s sake. The police had the manpower to put hundreds of officers on the street, and keep reserves in riot gear who could quickly respond to any incident.

Now, I am not privy to any special knowledge of what the police did or didn’t do during the Olympics. But I know what I saw, and cops were everywhere in downtown Vancouver.

One of the reasons provided for the delayed police response was the police had to come off the lines and then get into their riot gear. They had to change into their equipment to deal with the crowd. They didn’t have the resources to deal with a crowd of 100,000 people.

Why didn’t they have the resources? Because those in power didn’t give it to them. The city and province should have been prepared. But they weren’t.

So that delay caused a mob mentality to build. By the time the police could respond, it wasn’t a small group instigating trouble anymore. There were hundreds of people cheering, egging on rioters, and confronting the late arriving police. The mob mentality drew people into the violence and carnage, leading to a situation they could not easily defuse.

The mob is, of course also to blame. Fuelled by alcohol, rage and stupidity, normal everyday people began to loot, fight, and cause damage.

University students with no criminal record got swept up in the moment and decided to take souvenirs and show off to their friends online, boasting of violent confrontations with police, and loot acquired.

Middle aged Canucks fans allowed disappointment and booze to push them into violence and vandalism.

People posed in front of burning cars and smashed windows, and revelled in the mayhem.

The phrase, when in Rome, is not just a saying. People get swept up in what their peers are doing and want to be involved. Instead of realizing what they were doing was counter to their values, their beliefs, and taking a stand, they let themselves become criminals and anarchists, and trouble makers.

A few tried to stand against the crowd, but they were taken down, pelted with debris, threatened with violence and attacked.

So whose to blame for the Vancouver riots?

The city that set up giant TV’s and then packed 100,000 people as if they were sardines into the congested downtown core?

The police for somehow not predicting the numbers, despite the massive turnouts earlier in the series?

The few criminals and anarchists that came to town for the soul purpose of rioting win or lose?

The crowds of privileged citizens that gave into the mob mentality?

Those Vancouverites that didn’t take a stand against the madness?

It’s pretty clear, everyone’s to blame.

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Christy Clark’s Actions & Message Contradictory

BC Premier Christy Clark’s “Family First” platform is flawed. And maybe it’s not even the platform that’s flawed so much as the name.

BC is in serious trouble. One of the more troubling problems facing BC is the breakdown of the justice system. Criminal court cases are being stayed, charges dropped, and “alleged” criminals are going free, because of the delay in getting cases to trial. This is due to a lack of prosecutors and judges across the province. Now, the Attorney General, Barry Penner, and his department have reduced the number of hours Sheriff’s are working, reducing the number of Sheriff’s available for security, and causing judges to cancel cases due to security concerns.

AG Penner would have you believe that it’s a tough economy and they just don’t have the resources. I don’t doubt they’re not getting enough money, but the justice system is not a business – economic downturns are not an excuse for poor performance. The government needs to step in and give the AG’s department more money.

Clark has offered to toss money toward funding a parade in Vancouver if the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. She has also made parking free in BC parks. And the government has pledged $13.375 million to assist in a new Ronald’s McDonald’s children house. While the cause is just, it’s a private charity, a fairly large one, and government has no role in spending tax payer dollars on these charities. If British Columbians want to support a private charity, they can do so on their own. Citizens of BC would be much happier to see that the institutions that the government ARE responsible for are adequately funded.

And it’s not just criminals getting off that’s offensive. It’s the wasted money and resources that go into catching criminals, in acquiring proof to prosecute, the expensive policing we pay for, all of which, goes to waste when a criminal gets off because his trial wasn’t fast enough.

Private charities, public parades, parking, these are things the government should have no role in funding. Let the private sector handle them.

So Ms. Clark, please, the people of BC are begging you, stick to the stuff the private sector can’t supply, like say, judges and sheriffs, and help protect the families you claim to cherish from all the criminals who are getting off scot-free.

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Bad Optics Leads to Bad Descisions

In game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Vancouver Canucks defensemen Aaron Rome delivered a late hit to Bruins forward Nathan Horton.

Rome absolutely creamed Horton, who was busy watching his pass, and didn’t have his head up.

The hit looked awful, and the trainers and medics, being ever so cautious, wheeled Horton off the ice on a stretcher. There was no spinal damage, and it was clear before they loaded him onto the back board that he could move his digits, etc. He was clearly concussed. But the hit looked pretty bad.

The hit, ruled by Senior VP Mike Murphy was late, and had it been earlier, would have been legal.

The penalty called by the on ice officials was pretty severe, a 5-minute major for interference. It’s the first time in my memory I can recall seeing a legal hit, that was just late, being a major.

I was shocked to hear the NHL was going to have a meeting with Rome. That implied a possible suspension. And Rome, despite Murphy indicating that the hit would be completely legal had it happened a second earlier, received a 4 game suspension – the longest suspension ever handed out during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It was a shock. If you look back at some of the no calls just this series, some with actual intent to injure, unlike Rome’s, to think a nearly legal hit gains four games, is mind boggling.

Look back a few years to Chris Pronger’s elbow which gained him one game. It was a vicious elbow, with no place in hockey. One game. Rome finishes a late check, and he gets four. How does this make any sense?

It doesn’t really, but it’s obvious why it happened. Optics.

When Rome was knocked out of several games with a concussion earlier this post season by the Shark’s Jamie McGinn, there was no suspension, despite the fact it was charging, boarding, and hitting from behind all in one instance. But Rome wasn’t wheeled out on a stretcher. He was helped off the ice.

Horton was clearly concussed, and the trainers and medics didn’t take any risks. They strapped him to a backboard, lifted him onto a stretcher, and wheeled him off the ice. It looked like he’d broken his neck. It looked bad.

And when the NHL, which has been panned all season for their lack of response to shots to the head, saw the upcoming storm of controversy over this concussion, which had nothing to do with an illegal hit to the head, they came down hard. They needed to appear to be doing something.

They decided that this was the time, on their biggest stage, to set an example.

“Concussions are something we are dealing with. Ignore the fact that had the hit been a second earlier he still would have suffered the concussion, (he still had his head down), and it would have been legal, and the line would be, it’s a physical game, people get injured. No, now is the time to make it look like we are doing something.”*

It’s pretty hypocritical, especially when actually illegal hits are being ignored, and it’s pretty unfair to Rome, who while he made a mistake, understands better than the execs making the decisions what it’s like to suffer a concussion.

The NHL made a disgraceful, hypocritical, and shameful decision based entirely on optics.

How does this relate to politics? Politics is largely driven by optics. And the current HST fiasco is an exercise of poor judgement for the sake of a better image.

The HST is being seen as this awful hit to poor and middle income families, and I won’t debate that it isn’t. It is. The Liberals sprung it right after the election, (which looks awful), and the new Premier Christy Clark needs to do something to make sure it’s not roundly defeated in the upcoming referendum.

She has to make the HST more voter friendly. Her solutions is to offer to cut the HST by 2 percentage points by 2014.

Why would you vote yes to paying for more taxes?

But for the province to make up for the lost revenue, they’re going to cancel a corporate tax cut, and postpone a small business tax cut.

As a small business owner, I have a love hate view of the HST. I hate paying HST on items I didn’t pay PST on before, like gym memberships, restaurants, etc. However, I love a single integrated collection and repayment system. It makes dealing with the government, collecting, and remitting taxes much easier.

We can’t go back to the PST. It would be a mess, but the HST is political quicksand, and a 2 percent cut seems like the only vine available. But BC needs to continue to cut corporate and small business taxes. The economy is still fragile, and jobs aren’t easy to come by. The BC liberals are making decisions based on optics, and not economics, and by pushing so hard to make sure the HST is not defeated, they’re making bad economic decisions.

There is no good optic friendly answer for the BC Liberals. They created the mess by springing the HST onto the public and lying about it. They’re going to have pay the price for it, or screw BC in the process. That seems to be the direction they’re going.

I think the BC Liberals are better served by falling on their swords and apologizing. Tell BC you’re sorry about hiding the HST, and then tell them to suck it up, because it’s here to stay. Then throw the voters a bone with a one percent cut to the HST, and not a penny more. The furor will eventually die down, and people will get used to it, and remember their only other option is the NDP, and that’s just a little too scary.

As for the NHL, there’s no point wasting digital ink on advice to hypocrites as they’re unlikely to recognize it anyway.

*Not an actual quote.

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The Bob Rae Spread

Depending on which columnist you’re reading, across multitudes of papers and press, Bob Rae’s rise to interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is seen as the continued destruction of the party, or further proof of its complete irrelevance. Oh wait, those are pretty much the same things.

There was one “positive” article, which noted that since he’s only the temporary leader the Conservatives won’t waste money on attack ads, like they did with Michael Ignatieff. This might give him a chance to build up support, and in two years time, if they’re trending well, the Liberals could change the rules and let him be the permanent leader. At which point the attack ads would roll out and remind Canadians of the destruction that was “Rae-ned” down on Ontario during his tenure as an NDP premier.

The general consensus and overused analogy is that he’s become the captain of a sinking ship, one that has little hope of making it to dry dock for repairs.

Having said that, they also agree on one other thing, the Liberals need a raison d’être. They currently have no set values or beliefs, and thus nothing to offer. They push themselves as anti-Harper, but that’s not enough to get elected. It’s just like saying Canadian culture is Anti-american and that’s not going to get you a passing grade on a high school essay; the Liberals should know it won’t work in politics.

The Liberals, if insiders are to be believed, are deeply divided along the previous Martin/Chretien lines. I don’t actually know what either side stands for, and I suspect neither do they. Which doesn’t help them when they’re trying to figure out how to agree.

I think the idea that Rae has to reach out to Canadians is wrong. Canadians are ever increasingly apathetic over their political institutions. The last election wasn’t won because Harper ran a fantastic campaign, or offered traditional Canadian values. He won because he didn’t say anything particularly controversial. He was boring, and he sounded like the steward for Canadian government that most people can accept.

I don’t want a loud entertainer doing my taxes, or running administrative tasks at my business. I want the guy who looks solid, responsible, dressed like an accountant, and is boring. For some reason, I can trust boring. It makes sense.

Canadians are trusting boring. They chose Harper because he didn’t seem to rock the boat too much, and he kept the wackier Alliance conservatives from opening their mouths. And it worked.

Rae can’t reach out to Canadians, he has to get in their heads and think like Canadians. Canadians don’t want to go out to tell their leaders what they want. They expect them to know, and to just do it.

Rae needs to get the Liberals back into a position where they know what the public wants, and then portray them as the confident old stooges who can provide leadership without political scandal. And that’s the paradoxical trouble.

The Conservatives fell into power over dissatisfaction from scandal. They didn’t run a flashy campaign to get their original minority, they started as a protest vote, and then proved themselves to be quiet old clerks. The Liberals have to get some values, and promote them to Canadians without coming across as flashy or expensive. What they need is for the Conservatives to do something loud.

The Liberals have to hold their breath and wait for the Conservatives to screw up, and screw up big.

Of course, everyone knows the downside to having to hold their breath – you can’t do it forever.

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