Saturday, May 30, 2009

I went to Desi-fest in Toronto today

I went to downtown Toronto to do some shopping at and near the Eaton Centre. While I took a break from my shopping, I went to the south-east corner of Yonge and Dundas and enjoyed some of the Desi-fest festivities. I saw a children's dance performance, a singer, a McMaster dance group, and 12 drummers drumming. I didn't see 11 pipers piping or ten lords-a-leaping. The McMaster group was really great with their leaping! I didn't count if there were ten performers in their group. Several of the groups that I heard either sang or danced to songs that had a contemporary techno-Indo beat.

I did savour some Tandoori chicken and rice. The chicken tasted great, but not as great as Vijay Sappani's wife's Tandoori chicken that I enjoyed at Vijay and his wife's home at last year's Progressive Bloggers gathering.

Vijay did mention to his friends that he would be attending Desi-fest. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see him. Maybe next year I will.

The weather was great and there were lots of people. I think it was great that many of the attendees came from various South Asian and non-South Asian backgrounds. It was a Toronto event that was enjoyed by those who were there.

Thanks Vijay for informing me about Desi-fest. I had a great day!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

CRTC reports and local television: Help me translate into plain everyday English

I am looking at some CRTC reports about the state of television. When I hear about how broadcast companies need help by getting the cable and satellite companies to pay for carriage of local stations, I wonder why. If I interpret some of the information found in the CRTC reports, specialty channels are gaining in revenue while the on-air (terrestrial) stations are stagnating. Local television news is facing a couple of challenges. People, especially young people, are watching less television. Also, the CBC is increasing resources to provide better local news production. Both of these will cut into the revenues that the private stations get from airing the local news.

If someone could help me interpret some of the information found in these reports, that would be great!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Local television: "It's the plus and plus, if the minuses are played correctly"

CTV and the A-Channels are holding public open houses and community events in order to get the locals to believe that they need to help save local television. I just looked at my Rogers TV guide and noticed with CFTO-TV Toronto and CKCO-TV Kitchener that the only differences in scheduling are the one-hour suppertime news at 6 p.m. and the late evening news at 11:30. That's only one and a half hours of local programming today (Saturday). On the weekdays, there is an extra hour of lunchtime local news. Wow. Local programming is 10.42% of the daily weekday schedule. And it's all news programming.

If you want to see what local programming was like, what this news story about the former Tiny Talent Time show from CHCH-TV Hamilton:

Here's a piece from the 1970's show, WKRP in Cinninatti. I know the content is not exactly related to the so-called fight for local program. However, I do get the feeling that CTV is trying to shift its plusses and minuses in order to maximize the benefits for itself. It's using the campaign to support local television as a way to gain more revenue. Cue to 2:30:

Update: Perhaps we need less local television. See video with station info. at the end:

Another update: If you didn't read my first blog about the local television campaign, click the link.

Another update again: The Tyee has a great blogpost about how the "local" A-Channel in Victoria, BC missed covering the provincial election--especially the local races. Instead, the A-Channel ran American programs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I know I am an energy waster when,,,'s 20 degrees Celsius outside, my portable heater, air-conditioner, and electric fan (which is blowing toward the wall) are all running at the same time in my apartment. The window is open next to my wall-mounted air conditioner.

Me bad.

Help Save Local Television! Cough-cough!

CTV wants you to contact your local MP in order to save local television from the greedy cable and satellite companies.

"I agree that cable and satellite companies should pay for the signals they distribute." That's an email that you can send to you local MP with a carbon copy being sent to Heritage Minister James Moore, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and CTV.

I used to work for a broadcast company several years ago. I enjoyed my time working in Toronto and if I could do it again, I would. I would just prefer 9-5 working shifts. That's not usually possible in 24 hour television.

I won't talk about my former employer. That would be unethical and perhaps illegal due to confidentiality requirements. However, with all these media mergers, I'm not sure if I can avoid it.

If you have a cable or satellite package that allows you to get television stations that come from most major cities in Canada, you will notice that on many of the local stations, the programming is the same. For example on CTV, one will see the exact same programs aired at exactly the same time in Ontario on different stations such as Toronto, Kitchener, Ottawa, and Sudbury. The only thing different is the supper-time and late evening news programs. During the day, when you are watching Oprah, you will notice that each segment airs at exactly the same time. The only difference is when the commercials come on, local spots are inserted. The master control room, where programs and commercials are aired, comes from Toronto. One master control operator can operate all the stations for Ontario. Thanks to automation, the programs and commercials go to air without the operator lifting a finger. He or she does have an important job when the automation fails. That doesn't usually happen.

Many years ago when I lived in northern Ontario, there were the local CTV stations in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, and Timmins which had their own daytime programming and each one aired their own news programs. That was in the era when the rabbit ears ruled the earth and everyone was happy to get two television stations plus the French Radio Canada which no one watched except for the Montreal Canadiens hockey games. CBC English in Ontario usually aired the Toronto Maple Leafs. What's new? During the expansion of cable and satellite television, CTV consolidated the news programs and converted the news centres into news bureaus for a regional suppertime and late evening program coming from Sudbury. All other local programming was dropped. Remember the commercials in most of Ontario are now aired from Toronto.

CTV and I assume other private broadcasters want cable and satellite companies to pay to provide local over the air stations on their services. This seems interesting except as I mentioned previously, CTV has gutted local programming over the years that there is very little of it to maintain.

Do I think private broadcasters deserve fair compensation? Yes, I do. Do I think they deserve to receive money from the cable and satellite companies this time? No, I don't. If I remember correctly from my time working at the broadcast company, cable/satellite-only stations such as TSN and Showcase are allowed to air eight minutes of commercials every hour. Note: promotions for Canadian shows do not count as commercial time. Over the air stations are allowed to air about 12 minutes of commercials every hour. The CRTC licencing requirements will be different for each station. The over the air stations can air an extra four minutes of commercials every hour. Private broadcasters want the cable and satellite companies to pay an extra charge for providing these stations to their customers. As we all know...

...we, the customers, pay in the end.

For information:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Le Petit Nicolas Sarkozy--the film

If you ever wondered what French President Nicolas Sarkozy was like when he was un petit garçon, the movie is being released to the public on September 30 in France.

Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas) is a series of books that contain short stories about a fictional boy named Nicolas (Nicholas). The first book was published in 1959.

Below is a trailer of the film, Le Petit Nicolas. No, it is not based on the life of little Nicolas Sarkozy. The kid in the movie seems too sweet.

En français:

Happy Queen Vixen Day!

Happy 2-4 and all that other crap!

On this weekend holiday, I am proud to claim that I am a proud monarchist--so long as the king is I.

Prime Minister Stephan Harper complains about Czar Ignatieff being outside Canada for 30 friggin' years. He should complain about that Queen Lizzard Beth for being out for 57 years. That's only counting the years she's been our dairy queen.

Anyway, starting next week, I am going to be your king.

Here's a rap poem I made up. You better like my poem because I will be your tyrant king and chop off your heads if you don't like it.

King Skinny D
Walks down the street,
In his emperor's robe,
as proud as can be.

The people rejoice.
They bow and curtsy to the roy.
From the crowd comes a voice
Of a tiny-little boy.

"King Skinny D,
You're a proud man to be
Showing for all to see
Your free willy, tee hee hee!"

Was the king embarrassed?
Should he run really fast?
No, he knew he was better.
He was a trendsetter.

The people walked with the king.
They threw off everything.
A king must always be cool,
Or else people will see him as a fool.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No BC-STV: What happened? What's next?

About 38% of the voters in British Columbia supported the Single Transferable Vote (STV). That poor result drove a stake through the hearts of voting reformers in BC and throughout Canada. Will there be no formal progress on voting reform for another generation? Who knows?

What happened in the referendum? The NO STV side ran a nasty campaign. The anti-STV campaigners created doubts about the Single Transferable Vote by using any obscure information they could find. They never mentioned anything good to say about the current First-Past-the-Post voting system. Had I run the NO STV campaign, I probably would have done the same. Voters needed every reason to support STV; they only needed one reason to oppose it.

While the NO STV campaign ran a media oriented political campaign. The pro-STV group which I supported placed a lot of emphasis on running an information campaign that included people stopping voters on the street and going door-to-door to talk with individual voters about STV. We seemed to be the Mormons of political action. We believed in ourselves; everyone else was going to go to political hell. Unfortunately, negative political campaigns work better than information campaigns.

Voting reform organizations tend to be fairly consensual. While there usually main leaders, they need to deal with hundreds and sometimes thousands of active supporters who want a piece of the action. The result is that no one person can clearly speak on behalf of voting reformers when needed. In the referendum, we had no single charismatic person who could rally the supporters and speak directly to the voters through the media. We had no René Levesque or Lucien Bouchard. We had no one leader who could explain why we hated the current voting system, why we wanted voting reform, explain what STV was in 30 seconds, and frame the debate as being one between political elite insiders who wanted to keep the current system versus average voters who wanted more choice and better representation.

What is next under the current voting system?

I predict that voting participation will continue to decline. I don't worry about the actual numerical percentage in decline. I worry that in the future if our legislatures and federal parliament need to deal with a major economic or environmental disaster, or deal with a military situation around the world, the politicians will not have the ability rally the support of an apathetic public. With power being increasing concentrated among the elites in the political parties and most of the political decision making taking place within the prime minister and premiers' offices, there is no effective way for the citizens to engage politically with our elected officials.

During the BC and Ontario referendums/referenda, I read and heard from people who opposed proportional representation explain that PR was for losers who belonged or voted for minor parties such as the Green Party. I don't know if we should call these people "losers." However, I would prefer to see these so-called losers having meaningful representation in our legislative institutions than imagine what could happen in the future.

I worry that if citizens cannot feel engaged meaningfully in our political institutions, they will seek solutions that may not be as pretty as having a bunch of loser elected representatives sitting in the legislatures and federal parliament. Citizens who feel disenfranchised may start by protesting in the streets to get their message out to the public and politicians. If that doesn't work effectively, they may seek solutions that may not be so peaceful. When democracy becomes a charade in Canada, citizens may seek other solutions in order to get heard. I would prefer to have the citizens of Canada engaged politically in meaningful institutions that effectively represent the people--including the losers. Otherwise, the losers may start taking action in less than polite ways. I hope the latter doesn't happen.

If Canada and its provinces and territories do not get some kind of proportional representation, the decline of democracy will continue. In the years to come, citizens may seek not-so-nice solutions in order to be heard.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eleven year old explains BC-STV

Today is the day for you to vote for the Single Transferable Vote in the BC referendum on voting reform.

In the video below, an 11 year old girl explains how BC-STV works.


Vote for BC-STV today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

BC can make history by supporting the Single Transferable Vote

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall started to crumble. The citizens of the former East Germany exercised their right to travel past the wall and into West Berlin and West Germany. It was a historic occasion that started the process of providing democracy to 17 million Germans living in the east. Ir wasn't just a physical wall that started to crumble; an ideological wall that limited what people should believe and how they should behave crumbled that night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 will become one of the most historic days in British Columbia and Canada overall. You will have a choice when voting in the referendum to choose between a voting system that keeps walls up between you and your fellow British Columbians or a new voting system that tears down those walls to your neighbours. You have the opportunity to open your minds to a better democracy. You have the right to participate in a better democracy by first voting for the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in the referendum.

Many of your fellow citizens have been campaigning for STV for many weeks, months, and years. Most of them are average British Columbians who believe in making democracy better for themselves and possibly their children and grandchildren.

A lot of well known British Columbians and other Canadians express their strong support for STV. They include Christy Clark, Gary Mason, Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells, David Suzuki, Gordon Gibson, Deborah Grey, Rafe Mair, Bill Siksay, Ted White, Farley Mowat, Preston Manning, Lorne Nystrom, and many others. They come from all walks of life and hold different political viewpoints. They all share their commitment in supporting STV. You have the opportunity to share your commitment in making democracy better by supporting the Single Transferable Vote.

British Columbians and your fellow Canadians will be celebrating on May 13 when the people of BC give their firm support for the Single Transferable Vote.

Thank you for all your effort in making democracy better for British Columbia.

Vote for BC-STV!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maclean's: Andrew Coyne--a shorter explanation of support for BC-STV

Earlier this week, Andrew Coyne wrote a lengthy piece about why he support the Single Transferable Vote in British Columbia's referendum on voting reform.

Today, Mr. Coyne provides a shorter piece on his blog for those of you who want a brief explanation why he supports BC-STV.

If you live in BC and you are unsure about supporting the Single Transferable Vote, give it a try. If you like it, that will be great. If after a couple of elections you do not like STV, then you can always contact an MLA to change the voting system to a different proportional system or switch back to the current one.

If you choose the current voting system and you find that it does not suit your needs, you won't get another chance at voting reform for at least another 20 years.

Vote for the Single Transferable Vote on Tuesday.
(It's the choice shown on the bottom of the ballot.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Remember the elitist Charlottetown Accord. Vote for BC-STV

In 1992, the vast majority (68.3%) of British Columbians voted against the Charlottetown Accord which was supported by the elites in most political parties across Canada.

British Columbians need to reject the views of elite political party insiders such as the NDP's Bill Tieleman and David Schreck who support the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting sytem. British Columbians can vote in favour of BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote). This is a voting system favoured by British Columbians who come from all walks of life--not just the political elite.

Support BC-STV on May 12.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Tuesday, British Columbians will be making history

If more than 60% of the voters support BC-STV, Tuesday's referendum will become one of the most important days in Canada's democracy. Tuesday will be the start of making democracy better--starting with British Columbia. Canada has advanced from allowing just male property owners the right to vote by including this right to women, minorities, and young people. Tuesday will advance the cause of democracy by improving the way how people vote and making our representatives better reflect the voters' choices.

I will ask the teachers of British Columbia who teach social studies, history, or politics to select eight boys and two girls to go to the front of the class. Ask your students how fair your picks are. The boys will think your picks are great; the girls will claim that you are unfair. Tell your students that your parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts elect about 80% men and 20% women to the legislative assembly and the federal House of Commons. If the teacher's picks are not fair in the classroom, why is it fair in under the First-Past-the-Post voting system? The naysayers of STV will state that Ireland and Malta have lower percentages of women in their STV parliaments. That is true. However, I think the good people of British Columbia are open minded enough to elect more women than Ireland and Malta. British Columbians are open minded to vote for BC-STV and eventually elect more women than are currently elected under First-Past-the-Post. When you vote in the referendum, think of your daughters; think of your sons. Someday, your daughter or son may become an MLA. Someday, she or he may become premier.

On Tuesday, you will be creating history when you cast your vote in the referendum. I hope you will cast it in favour of BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote).

Farley Mowat's Birthday Wish!

Tuesday, May 12 is Farley Mowat's birthday.

Tuesday, May 12 is also Referendum Day in British Columbia on the Single Transferable Vote. (BC-STV)

Farley has one wish for his birthday: See his video.

Happy Birthday, Farley!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gordon Gibson is for BC-STV

The Vancouver Sun has published a guest column by Gordon Gibson who support the BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote) system. I encourage you to read it.

87% of the world's population doesn't live in full democracies. Therefore we should not support BC-STV


We hear from supporters of the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system that the good people of British Columbia should not support BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote) because very few countries in the world use it. If we take their logic further, we should not have any kind of free democratic institution because 83.2 percent of the countries in the world representing 87 percent of the world's population are not full democracies. According to the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, full democracies had to score well in 1) electoral process and pluralism, 2) functioning of government, 3) political participation, 4) political participation, 5) political culture, and 6) civil liberties. Canada ranked ninth. Twenty-eight countries are considered full democracies.

  • Most of the world's countries are not democracies;
  • Most of the world's population does not live in full democracies;
  • Few people live in full democracies;
  • Very few people live in democracies that use the Single Transferable Vote.

  • British Columbians can either follow the majority of the world by someday becoming undemocratic; or
  • British Columbians can lead the world in building a better democracy by supporting BC-STV in the referendum on May 12.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Under First-Past-the-Post, single member constituencies are increasingly run by party leaders and executives

There is an interesting letter posted on a Blogging Tories forum. Clyde Fulton, a long time Conservative Party of Canada member, writes that a new rule defending current Conservative MPs from being removed as candidates for the next federal election is a sham. Two-thirds of the members of a constituency association will need to agree on removing an MP as a candidate and open the nomination process to others. He mentions that the constituency members' list is not always accessible and is not updated. It is difficult to get the 2/3 support from people who move out of a riding. It is extremely difficult to get the 2/3 support from dead members. This rule protects poorly performing MPs who are loyal to their leaders.

Even though the situation above deals with the federal Conservative Party, One can notice that political parties under the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system are becoming increasingly centralized. Party leaders appoint people to run as candidates in local ridings over the objections of the local constituency associations. These local party associations matter less each election under the existing but antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system.

British Columbians will get a chance to vote for BC-STV (Single Transferable Vote) on in the referendum on May 12. Under BC-STV, voters will be able to rank candidates when they vote. If I were voting, I would rank highly those candidates who were nominated and chosen by their constituency members. I would also rank good independent candidates highly. I would lowly rank candidates who were appointed by their party leaders.

Democracy will continue be centralized if we keep the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system. Here is the letter that talks about the situation with the federal Conservative Party. It could just as well apply to other political parties--federally and provincially. The letter doesn't mention voting reform. However, I do think that voting for BC-STV and against the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system will lessen centralized control in our political system.

Support BC-STV on May 12.

The Conservative Party of Canada
1204 - 130 Albert Street,
Ottawa, Ontario KIP 5G4

Mr Don Plett, President

I enclose my Certificate of Appreciation, which I am returning in disgust over the manner in which you and National Council have subverted the democratic nomination process in the EDA of Calgary West, depriving grassroots party members of a long-sought after and well-deserved nomination meeting.

A balloting process requiring two-thirds of all members to request a nomination meeting is a sham with a predetermined outcome. While one could legitimately argue whether a simple majority or some greater percentage of voting members is appropriate, two-thirds of all registered members is an absurd hurdle rate clearly designed to simply acclaim all existing MPs, while wasting party resources in a pathetic attempt to give the appearance of having consulted the membership.

Perhaps you could tell me how you intend to validate the number of living members in the EDA which will be used to calculate the two-thirds majority. I am aware of at least one deceased member ... perhaps you could tell me how many others have died, moved out of the EDA or are otherwise ineligible? How can you even verify that all members have received ballots? The answer of course is that you cannot do any of these things because the process is so badly flawed.

It is a sad irony that this party, which only months ago claimed the opposition was undemocratically attempting to seize control through a coalition, now effectively disenfranchises its own members using an unprecedented and absurd test of two-thirds of all registered members. Not once in the past four federal elections have two-thirds of registered Canadian voters actually cast a vote. I am unaware of any democratic process in which a failure to vote is regarded as a vote in favour of the status quo. I can only presume the goal of National Council is to keep the party's focus on winning the next election, as it should be. Does the prospect of a divisive challenge to the legitimacy of this process seem like a good use of party resources in a minority government situation? Why would you insult the very membership you rely upon for financial and voter support with such a transparently deceitful and mean-spirited process?

As you are acutely aware, Calgary West recently held its AGM in which a new Board was elected with a clear mandate to hold a nomination meeting. This was the culmination of a decade-long struggle to replace the buffoon who has represented this riding for the past 12 years. His offensive response was to simply brand as "closet Liberals" longstanding party members of integrity who questioned, challenged or criticized his outlandish behavior and dismal performance as an MP.

The question so many of us in Calgary West are asking is what possible interest you, the party and the Prime Minister have in protecting Mr. Anders who represents such a liability and whose performance is the subject of constant ridicule by his own constituents and any impartial, thoughtful observer. He reaffirms in the minds of many Canadian voters their concern that the party still tolerates the lunatic element of the extreme right, effectively dashing any hope of ever electing a Conservative majority government.

Further exacerbating my frustration, has been the manner in which you personally, Mr. Plett, have intervened to undermine the authority of the EDA and the will of the grassroots members of Calgary West by unilaterally denying the new Board and its Interim Executive timely access to the mailing list. Your thug-like behavior contravenes every principle of grassroots democracy that this party was founded upon.

While it saddens me to withdraw my support from the party that I truly believe should govern this country, the reprehensible actions, arrogant attitude and bullying conduct of you personally and National Council have left me no choice but to use every democratic means available to effect the positive change so desperately needed in this riding and apparently at National Council itself. Until we are able to hold a fair, open and democratic nomination process in Calgary West I will:

• Withhold all further financial contributions to the party and encourage my family,
friends, neighbours and business colleagues to do likewise
• Use every channel available to me to publicize this charade
• Make every effort to apply increased scrutiny and publicity over Mr. Anders
dismal performance
• Support the recruitment and financing of a high profile independent progressive conservative candidate of integrity to run in Calgary West in the next federal election. The risk of course is that this will split the conservative vote allowing a Liberal win. While this would be unfortunate, it is the only process you and National Council have left available to the large number of people in this riding so disenchanted with Mr Anders.

Historically I have taken a very passive role in politics. However this issue has mobilized me like no other. I will make it my personal mission to bring this travesty of democracy to the attention of as many people as possible.

If you believe a nomination process would have been divisive, you can imagine what using such a fraudulent process to deprive the newly mobilized membership of Calgary West of a legitimate voice in selecting who will represent them in the next election will produce.

The Prime Minister and the Party have the actions of you personally and National Council to blame for this deplorable situation.

Clyde W. Fulton

cc. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Kara Johnson, Vice President
Victor Marciano, Secretary
Menno Froese, Regional Vice President (West)
Cecil Taylor, Regional Vice President (Atlantic)
Gilles Lavoie, Regional Vice President (Quebec)

Serious Pan-Flu te epidemic!

Watch this low quality video from the United States Homeland Security about the recent pandemic going around the world!