The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Fun with arithmetic

During his chat about how he differs from (or, according the the National Post, is better than) George W. Bush. Jean Chrétien played up how Bush’s right-wing government is running massive deficits.
“We still have surpluses. The Americans will have a $500-billion deficit this year and it is a right-wing government. If we were to equal that we would have to have a $75-billion deficit. Imagine!”
Well, back in the day (about 1999; that’s long enough in the political game doncha know) you could’ve run the numbers something like this: The US has ten times Canada’s population, but their dollar’s worth a buck-fifty, so a US government deficit of $500-billion divided by ten times one-and-a-half equals 75 billion loonies up here.

Do it today, and you might think that the surge in the dollar would make the Prime Minister look like an exaggerating blowhard. Maybe not, though. Indeed, a US dollar is now $1.38 Canadian, but the US’s population isn’t quite ten times Canada’s, either. The population clock on shows about 291 million down in those excited States, while StatsCan, not having yet written some sorta CGI thingy to make a population clock, pegs the Canadian population at around 31.4 million, give or take a Salmon Arm or two. Divide the big number by the small one and you get 9.267… close enough for work in government.

The new calculation is $500-billion x ($1.38 Cdn / $1 US) / 9.267 Yankees per Canuck = $74.5-billion.

How ‘bout that, eh?

Betcha that someone in the PMO ran those numbers before giving the Prime Minister that sweet little talking point that could possibly be interpreted as “Hey, lookit me! I'm a free-spendin’ liberal balancing the books, while that rock-ribbed conservative down south is blowing holes in the budget like nobody’s business!”

Or maybe I should get some sleep.
Fun with headline writing

The downside of media convergence, downsizing, and streamiling means that the same story written by the same hack will be run ad nauseam over Christ-knows-how-many papers. For consumers who appreciate getting different perspectives on a story, that sucks. The upshot is that you can see how different outlets play not just the same sotry, but the same report. Witness this front-page piece by National Post Ottawa Poobah Bob Fife on Jean Chretién's chat with the hacks during a transatlantic flight to some sort of gathering of leaders.

Now spot which paper "torqued" the headline.

a) Vancouver Sun: Chretien slams Bush for $500-billion U.S. deficit

b) National Post: PM says he's better than Bush

c) Ottawa Citizen: PM rips Bush's $500B deficit

d) Edmonton Journal: Chretien takes jabs at Bush, U.S. policies

[Note the lack of accents aigu in the headlines. What gives?]

If you answered anything other than b, you must be a Canadian Alliance member. If you answered b, then give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing that while the National Post might have a new team at the top, they're still up to the same old tricks.

For those of you stuck in a market where CanWest dominates the news; and where the Fife story's the only one that made it into print in your area, you have the Internet. Use it -- and have a look at Reuters's report on that same flight over the Atlantic.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

TV Tonight

(this will not be a regulat feature on this web log)

CBC Newsworld will be airing the BBC documentary War Spin: The Truth about Jessica this evening on The Passionate Eye, at 7 PM and 10 PM Pacific Time. The film calls into question the "official" version of the April rescue of American Private Jessica Lynch from a hospital in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

Questions about the details of Lynch's rescue were first raised in this story by Toronto Star reporter Mitch Potter; the BBC film has raised some controversy in America since it first aired last week on the Beeb.

Worth checking out.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

More RAV progress

The proposed Vancouver rapid transit line cleared another hurdle yesterday. Directors at TransLink, the regional transportation authority for Vancouver, voted in favour of a privately built and operated line from Vancouver to Richmond with a spur to Vancouver International Airport. The decision to go with a public-private partnership (P3) means that roughly $300-million in capital costs will be assumed by a private bidder, along with some of the risk for the line's contruction and operating costs.

Quite how the partnership works is confusing to an ignoramus like your scribe, but you can try to figure out the report on the recommended financing model (PDF) for yourself.

The TransLink Overlords also formally approved allowing bicycles onto the existing SkyTrain rapid transit system at yesterday's board meeting. Bikes will be allowed on Skytrain on weekdays between 9:30 am to 3:30 and after 6:30 pm on weekdays, and all day on weekends. The one-year trial program begins June 1st.
CJOB talker Charles Adler, the original host of Global Sunday, also has a wekly smear column in the Winnipeg Sun. He uses it to bash the same three targets: Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray (possibly the most repected big-city mayor in the country) and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer (cruising along to an easy win in next month’s election.). This week, he’s decided that Jean Chrétien is to blame for mad cow disease. Is attributing this belief to Adler an unfair accusation on my part? Probably so—but it nicely illustrates his brand of cheap shots.
A friend of mine whose father works in the livestock industry in southern Manitoba writes, “Hi, Charles. My dad found it quite interesting, when he tried to ship a huge load of bulls to the States a few days ago … and the semis were turned back at the border. One of the guys (don’t think it was the guard … more like an inspector guy) told the driver that if perhaps our prime minister didn’t have such a big mouth, we wouldn’t be running into problems like this. It sounds like mad cow disease is a bit of an excuse to help get an important point across to Canadians … no?”
I wonder if the Winnipeg Windbag actually bothered to check out his third-hand anecdote about a border inspector claiming that the PM’s words are causing some sort of crackdown. Most of the people telling these sorts of stories have a political axe of their own to grind, and the story may have been torqued by the time it hit Adler's Inbox. Might be worth actually confirming these tales before you run with ‘em, Chuckles. I recall that a good rule of thumb in journalism is to get confirmation from two mutually independent sources before you call something a fact. Well, Adler says it’s proof that Liberal actions are harming the Canadian agriculture trade, and I say it’s an unconfirmed story.

The truth-twisting questions that Adler poses in his column are ridiculous. When did Jean Chrétien ever claim that the US was to blame for the September 11th attacks? Should Chretien have invoked some God to bless America when he does not publicly do the same for his own country? Did Adler forget the September 11 service on Parliament Hill after the attacks, or that we not only supported the campaign against al-Qaeda but contributed troops to the campaign in Afghanistan?

Maybe I ought to ask Adler why he thinks that Saddam was behind the September 11th attacks. Adler has insinuated as much even as the evidence for a Saddam-al-Qaeda connection has been little more than a meeting or two between envoys. Adler exploits the deaths of thousands in order to promote his political agenda. Perhaps, to be as unfair as he is, he should be forced to explain why he wants every “Mohammedan” deported or at least placed under permanent police surveillance. Hey, if he can dish out accusations based on faulty inferences, he ought to be able to take them... right?

Oh, right. He’s a loudmouth talk-show host with a column in a Sun tabloid. My mistake for thinking that he might still have standards.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Good news for cyclists: They'll finally be able to take their bikes on Vancouver's SkyTrain rapid transit system. Provincial regulations had banned bicycles from being transported in the cars since the system was opened in early 1986. In the last 10 years, local transit authorities (first BC Transit and since 1999, TransLink) had made major moves to make "bike and ride" a viable option -- first by putting bike racks on buses that operated through the George Massey Tunnel, then by adding bike racks to most buses delivered since 1998. With SkyTrain, all public transit modes in Vancouver will now carry bikes for those that want to leave part of their trip to something other than pedal power.

In a related story (by the same reporter), the local Chamber of Commerce -- never fans of public transportation -- have raised their own doubts about the proposed Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit project, citing a lack of a long-range regional transportation plan.

The CoC prefers that money be sunk into more road-building, including the proposed South Fraser Perimeter Road to connect the Port Kells industrial area in Surrey and a new Fraser River crossing with the River Road industries in Delta. TransLink, the regional transportation authority in Greater Vancouver, favours both -- rapid transit to move people, and the South Fraser road for goods and industry. That's no mean feat, considering that politicians biased towards automobile-centred development are currently the majority on the 15-person TransLink board of directors.

Someone should remind the Chamber that there was a regional plan. TransLink unveiled a transportation strategy 1999. The plan called for road projects to clear up bottlenecks and improve goods movement throughout the region, and also expansion of both rapid transit and express bus service in order to make transit a viable option for more consumers. The NDP provincial government effectively killed the plan in 2000 when they nixed a proposed regional vehicle levy ($40-$120 depending on vehicle weight) that would have paid for the planned improvements. It was an attempt to win a few votes in the upcoming provincial election. Fat lot of good that did them -- they would have been crushed in 2001, vehicle levy or not.

I'll have more to say on this when I get back home later today.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Well, the Progressive Conservatives have picked up another seat in Parliament. Gary Schellenberger won the Monday by-election in the southwestern Ontario riding of Perth-Middlesex.

Canadian Alliance candidate Marian Meinen, who called Ontario voters "unthinking masses" in a letter to the Calgary Sun last year, was a distant third.
Another National Post resignation: Sports writer Dave Feschuk is the latest Postie to find another gig. For those of you who need a quick count, that's 7 prominent journalists since CanWest Global fired Post founding editors Ken Whyte and Martin Newland. Feschuk is headed over to the Toronto Star.

Now if that other Feschuk, TV critic, "Couch Boy," and general wiseacre Scott Feschuk quits the Post, there'll be little else left to read.

Rumours abound about the future of One-Man Global Content Provider Mark Steyn's future (and that of his rumoured $250,000 annual pay packet) at the troubled paper. His column didn't run in Monday's Post. Hmmm...
Martin should think twice about a snap election

Seems that Paul Martin is contemplating a Spring 2004 election call if he wins the Liberal leadership this fall. (Granted, this is all but assured barring a catastrophe.) He’d better forget that plan if he’s serious about addressing concerns in the western provinces.

If the next election is called before July 21, 2004, the House will still have 301 members, distributed according to the 1996 representation order. After that date, there will be two extra seats for BC and Alberta, and three more in Ontario. BC’s new seats will be in the Fraser Valley and the Burnaby-New Westminster areas, while Calgary and Edmonton will each get an extra MP.

One of the major gripes in BC and Alberta—whether or not you buy into any of the other western complaints—is that both provinces are under-represented in the House compared to their share of Canada’s population. This is interpreted by some uninformed folks in these parts as an “Eastern” conspiracy to screw the West. (Never mind that Ontario is just as under-represented under the current formula, or the over-representation of Saskatchewan and Manitoba thanks to the “33rd Parliament” clause; it gets in the way of a good rant.) If the next election is held under the current representation, that keeps BC and Alberta with the same number of seats for another three or four years, while their share of the Canadian population continues to grow.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the Canadian Alliance will use this as a weapon against Martin and the Grits if they call an early election, and that the backlash might cost the Liberals several seats that they have a good chance of picking up under the Alliance.

The Alliance can paint a snap election as one more example of an Eastern establishment man doing his best to screw the West… just like Trudeau, like Mulroney, like Chrétien. Add that to the fact that it would be another election held only 3 1/2 years since the last one. They’ll be able to ask voters, especially in BC and Alberta: Is this Montreal shipping magnate a damn bit different from the last three Québec Prime Ministers? As disastrous as playing the Quebec card is in much of Canada, it plays well in parts of the West.

While it’s true that half of the new seats in the West are in likely Alliance territory, the fact is that the Grits have a decent shot in the other two, and to call a snap election costs them winnable seats in Greater Vancouver and Edmonton. Does he (or do his advisors) really think he’ll lose more Central Canadian seats with a fall election that he would lose in the West in Spring?

You’ve got to wonder how that’s playing with Liberals in the West. By and large, western Liberals support Martin and expect him to lead the party to results that the Liberals haven’t known for three decades. This can’t be too encouraging.

The Anointed One would be wise to hold off on a snap election, and instead spend a few months Martinizing the federal government while waiting for the 2004 representation order to kick in. Both actions will win him favour with voters who have parked their votes with the Alliance while not being entirely enthusiastic for the CA’s fiscal and social policies—those voters that Martin needs in order to win substantial support this side of Winnipeg.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

How To Be Unthinking

My, my, what should we do with would-be Parliamentarian Marian Meinen? Apparently Meinen, who faces the voters in the rural Ontario riding of Perth-Middlesex in Monday's by-election, called her fellow Ontarians "unthinking masses" in a letter published last year in the Calgary Sun. The possibly-unstated reason for 12 million Canadians being "unthinking masses" has something to do with electing Liberals to Parliament, rather than the Canadian Alliance of Ms. Meinen. (Originally found on New Improved Head and Warren Kinsella's Musings.)

Someone over at the Alliance Department of Electoral Strategury should tell its potential candidates that it's a really bad idea to characterize large swaths of Canadians in such a negative manner -- Atlantic Canadians are still smarting over Alliance leader Stephen Harper calling them "defeatist" and former pollster John Mykytyshn calling them lazy welfare bums. Then again, perhaps it's Alliance policy to slag off any part of the country that, oh, doesn't always vote for them. Can you imagine the outrage if Jean Chrétien called Albertans "a horde of mouth-breating, slack-jawed rednecks?" You'd never hear the end of it. Lesser barbs by Liberals have been taken as greater insults by Albertan editorialists and politicians.

I'd say that there's one Ontarian that hasn't been thinking too straight... Marian Meinen.

Footnote-in-mouth: Meinen's campaign website borrowed its Flash introduction from the site of Calgary West MP Rob Anders. Anders was last in the news two years ago when he tried to block Parliament from awarding honourary Canadian citizenship to Nelson Mandela. Prior to that he was best known for publicly declaring that he is a virgin. Fortunately for the human gene pool, Mr. Anders is still a virgin. Unfortunately for Parliament, Mr. Anders's seat in Calgary is as safe as his virginity.
More Post ramblings...

The continuing National Post saga is providing endless inches of copy -- and to think that I haven't updated here in a while (too busy or drunk to bother, thanks.) To recap the last few weeks:
  • April 24th: The Asper family, Overlords of CanWest Global Communications and owners of the Post, announce that while the paper continues to bleed money (somewhere between $15-million and $25-million annually, depending on how you work the numbers) they are not going to kill the thing or strip it down to its Financial Post core.
  • May 1st: The Aspers fire founding editors Ken Whyte and Martin Newland. Publisher Peter Viner slides over to CanWest's new jazz station in Winnipeg; he is replaced with Bob McKenzie, known for his axe-wielding past at the St. Catharines Standard. Rye High prof and right-wing suck-up Matthew Fraser, who hasn't been a reporter or editor of any sort for nearly 15 years, becomes the new editor. Post staff are devastated or start looking for new jobs; the chattering classes wonder what to make of the changes. While there is some sort of chatter from CanWest about a three-year plan to turn around the Post's fortunes, they announce no definite steps to move the paper's books into balance.
  • May 3rd: Lucky Sperm Club luminary David Frum quits the paper in protest over Whyte's firing. Whines about horrrible left-liberal hegemony in Canadian media. Nobody outside conservative circles cares.
  • Rumours surface that Christie Blatchford is contemplating her future at the Post. She's still there -- for now.
  • May 8th: Parliamentary columnist Paul Wells gives the Posties his notice. This is a bigger hit: Wells was one of the few writers at the Post who was neither partisan nor predictable. His columns are also wickedly funny. Wells is rumoured to be joining Maclean's... now, will Wells do an ad for Macleans pontificating about how you read voices in Maclean's, while all you get in most newspapers is the news? (Odd -- I thought that one read papers for the news)
  • Sometime that same week, Post managing editor Alison Uncles announces that she's leaving to take a slightly more junior position over at One Yonge Street -- the despised Toronto Star!
  • Queen's Park correspondent Bob Benzie and foreign reporter Marina Jimenez also leave, to the Star and Globe and Mail respectively.
  • Mark Hume, formerly the Post's Vancouver bureau chief, moves to the Globe and Mail Vancouver bureau. The move leaves the National Post with only two full-time reporters in British Columbia, compared to the Globe's ten.
  • Some blogger/media columnist in Vancouver wonders what the hell is going to happen next, but is rather pleased that the continuing turmoil means that he's got lots of ready-made material.

Of course, the Post is rushing to its own defence, assuring everyone that the rumours of their demist have been greatly exaggerated and blah blah blah. Apparently those who are still left (all 21 of them) are also taking issue from all the analysis of the Post's troubles from their former colleagues now slaving away for the Post's gleeful competitors. Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran, formerly the author of much stale invective in the Globe's Report on Business, shot back in a letter to his old home last Thursday. Corcoran thinks that the critics are all wrong, and that those who complain of a lack of moderate voices in the Post since Patricia Pearson's departure should check out "Paul Wells, Mark Kingwell, Anne Kingston, Don Martin and Jonathan Kay." Oops. That letter ran a few hours before Wells went bye-bye; Kingwell appears once every other week (about one-eighth as frequently as, say Andrew Coyne); Kingston comments mostly on social and cultural matters, leading the politics, diplomacy, and economics to the Post's still-strong cadre of neo-conservative armchair generals; and if Kay's a moderate, then I'm a goddamn Marxist.

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