Monthly Archives: November 2007

The slop on our trays

Wait a minute. What’s this? While everyone’s been standing on guard against two-tier health care it turns out we’ve got two-tier education. I want an expensive, restrictive, dysfunctional federal law and I want it now. Now now now.

We cannot delay, for we face a crisis. The Canadian Council on Learning’s 2007 Survey of Canadian Attitudes Toward Learning reports that almost one in three Canadian parents has hired a tutor for their children. And it’s not a matter of helping kids overcome disadvantages. The study says “Families with annual household incomes greater than $100,000 are almost three times more likely (2.9 times more likely) to hire tutors than families making less than $40,000.” Even worse, if anything could be worse than the rich having money, “most parents who hire tutors (73 per cent) estimate that their children’s overall academic performance is in the A or B range.”

How does that cheery Leonard Cohen song go again? “The poor stay poor, the rich get rich/ That’s how it goes/ Everybody knows.” But this is Canada. Here we have universal health care and nobody gets better treatment than anyone else unless they live in a big city, know somebody, are a politician or journalist, can afford to go to the U.S. or buy private catastrophic illness insurance, get to jump the queue thanks to a workers’ compensation board or some such irritating detail. Everybody else gets to wait in the same dingy corridors for the same exhausted ER nurses and doctors, wondering if there’s much C. difficile in this place and when that floor was last mopped.

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I’ve got a bad feeling…

Cassandra was my kind of gal. Unfortunately I can’t find her statue anywhere on Parliament Hill.

In case you attended a progressive, fact-free school, she’s the unfortunate Trojan princess granted the gift of foresight by Apollo but then, when she did not return his love, cursed so that no one would believe her. “There’s something fishy about that wooden horse,” she said, but …

I thought of her after grousing last Friday about a “general breakdown of public institutions” in Canada. Such talk can get you pegged as an alarmist crank. But three days later the Citizen reported that “Retiring baby boomers have sparked an unprecedented churn of workers within the federal government, starting at the top where nearly 60 per cent of executives spend less than a year in their jobs.”

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Crazy about ideas

One of the joys of writing opinion columns is imagining that every Friday, in countless government offices, keen analytical minds share my ideas with colleagues and suggest that I may be the most preposterous lunatic ever to chew through the straps and stagger to a keyboard. It makes me feel less alone.

So did this Tuesday’s launch of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s new book A Canadian Priorities Agenda. I especially enjoyed their fascinating explanation of how they assembled their agenda by running the priorities of 12 experts past eight analysts before six judges chose five proposals each from the resulting …

Uh, maybe this would be easier if I could show you the explanatory tables they handed out at the luncheon. But I’m not kidding. It really was a fascinating way to generate proposals visionary enough to be worth trying, yet technically sound and relevant enough that someone might actually try them.

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Erasing history, the Canadian way

So now we learn that “Radical Jack” was actually “Reactionary Jerk” and swiftly airbrush another page out of our national history. Take that, you dead white anglo male.

The background here is quite embarrassing. The National Capital Commission, in its Sparks Street exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ottawa being chosen Canada’s capital, included a picture of someone they thought was Lord Durham, author of the 1839 report instrumental in securing self-government for the political train wreck formerly known as the Dominion of Canada. But he turned out to be some bigoted British ponce who thought constant bickering over language was a recipe for disaster. Ha, ha, ha, what an idiot. As if …

Confronted with their blunder, the NCC put out a press release in which CEO Micheline Dubé stammered: “The NCC acknowledges that the recommendations put forth by Lord Durham at the time are considered inappropriate for many and certainly controversial. We in no way intended to offend anyone and have subsequently removed the panel in question.” Continue reading

When the auditor comes calling

The auditor general’s report on how government money is being misspent was trumped on Tuesday by the Finance Minister throwing a bunch of it in your face. Welcome to modern democracy. But it’s no way to run a railroad.

Some journalists showed up for the AG’s lockup under the impression that if the government was suddenly dropping a mislabeled mini-budget on top of her report there must be something they wanted to bury. Not so. The timing simply indicates that Mr. Harper’s respect for Parliament is as high as ever. It was contempt, not cunning.

In any case, we weren’t distracted. The auditor general’s reports can’t all be Adscam and there was nothing here especially embarrassing to the current administration. But if you read the Citizen (and if not what are you holding now?) you’ll know all of Wednesday’s page A3 was taken up with her findings, mostly troubling national security issues from poor medical care for military personnel to egregious lapses in border security to failure to follow contracting policies. Continue reading