Monthly Archives: September 2007

Fishing for an excuse

Today’s column was going to lampoon the presumptuous incompetence of governments simultaneously micromanaging our affairs and bungling their own. But while diligently procrastinating, I discovered in the pages of a rival newspaper the hot new trend of online alibi retailer. Apparently I can e-purchase fake plane tickets, a real reel and a dead fish to prove I was angling for trout, not a deadline extension.

Hang on. A fake fishing trip wouldn’t be any better than a real one for filing a column late. But then, I’m an amateur. Doubtless the pros would get me some fake surgery or a dead relative or a large-scale cataclysm. No, wait, scratch that last one too. My editor’s in the news business. He’d know. Better go with the medical emergency.

Especially because I was all set to write a health-related column ridiculing Dalton McGuinty’s recent promise to the Women’s Executive Network in Toronto that, as such women face more challenges than ever, he will make fertility monitoring tests available to women over 28 as part of their annual physical. Or over 29; newspaper accounts differ. I was going to look up his speech. Honestly. And check the fine print in the Liberals’ “Strong Women for a Strong Ontario 2007” document (subtitle: gosh, no, we didn’t focus group that name to bits) which offers women fertility screening “earlier in life as part of their annual check-up” unless, of course, they have no family doctor, in which case George Smitherman will yell at anyone who says our health care system isn’t perfect and a sublime confirmation of how great he is. Continue reading

In architecture, medieval is better than modern

How many events have I endured at the Ottawa Congress Centre? They blur together for various reasons including that it’s a hideous venue. But if you tear it down, please don’t replace it with something worse.

Like the proposed replacement shown on the front page of Tuesday’s Citizen. Architecture is in a glass and steel box nowadays, capable only of endless variations on one building that should never have been built except as a warning. So if you didn’t see that picture, close your eyes and try to imagine it.

Exactly. First floor set back behind those wretched pillars called “pilotis,” steel and blue-green glass, structural members emphasized, minimal decoration, severe inhumane spaces. Horrible to look at and worse to be in. There is another way. Continue reading

Our parliamentarians dishonour themselves over veiled voting

It is not entirely clear whether you can vote with a paper bag over your head in Canada. But our MPs should consider it.

Unless you habitually go about with your eyes and ears covered, you’ll know the recent discovery that you can vote federally with your face concealed has caused great upset on Parliament Hill. Amid a flurry of denunciations, the House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) unanimously urged Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand to reverse this ruling and, when he refused, unanimously summoned him to appear before them. To their shame, as it is their blunder, not his.

As Mr. Mayrand pointed out in a press conference this Monday, his job is to enforce the law not make it. The law as written does not require voters to unveil and, most crucially, as MPs just revised the Canada Elections Act this summer and didn’t incorporate any such requirement, it is not his place to read it in. Veiled voting was a prominent issue in the Quebec provincial election earlier this year and Mr. Mayrand personally drew parliamentarians’ attention to it in May, while the relevant Bill C-31 was before the Senate, and again in a conference call with representatives of the registered parties on July 26. Since MPs failed to act on it, he concludes, the constitutional protection of freedom of religion requires him to interpret the law permissively in this regard. Continue reading

Before voting, as these questions

With an Ontario election campaign about to start, what I really want to ask the main party leaders is, “Would you please keep your wretched candidates from ringing my doorbell?” Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I do not conduct my affairs in the teeth of inclement weather. And I’m insulted that you think I’d decide how to vote based on a prepackaged porch pitch without clarifications of the sort candidates do not give while cold wind blows through the doorway onto my dinner.

I’m interested in “why” questions, not “what” questions. I want to know why you politicians hold the positions you hold (or claim to) and why you think your solutions would actually work, especially if they’re things — like “Target health care funding where it is needed most” — that I’ve heard a dozen times before. So perhaps I can contribute a few more pertinent questions than “Would you please leave me alone?”, which I already know you might possibly do during the campaign if I bar the door and hide under the bed for the next 39 days but most certainly will not do once elected no matter what desperate measures I adopt.

I don’t even insist that your answers persuade me. I just want proof that you’ve thought about this stuff. Continue reading