storyteller, broadcaster

Trudeau 2 ?

Hello loyal readers,

My blogging patterns continue to evolve, and I welcome comments and suggestions.
Here for the first time is a ‘repost’ of an article I just came across. I have not always been the same page as Murray Dobbin politically, but I found this to be one of the best examinations of the Justin Trudeau story to appear since Trudeau’s announcement last week that he is indeed a candidate for the Liberal leadership, the job his father held from 1968 – 1984.
.. Roger

rogerc@mymts.net

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Whose Liberals Will Justin Trudeau Lead?
Will he disavow the Chretien-Martin era that betrayed his father’s vision?

By: By Murray Dobbin, 8 October 2012, TheTyee.ca

View full article and comments: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/10/08/Trudeaus-Liberals/

You would think that federal Liberals would by now have immunized themselves against the affliction that almost did them in: delusional giddiness at the prospect of a political saviour. It is embarrassing watching Liberals talk about Trudeau 2.0 — as if outpunching a Conservative in the boxing ring somehow qualifies for him taking on Stephen Harper’s right wing political machine.

Any euphoria accompanying Trudeau’s leadership bid is rooted in a convenient amnesia about just what the Liberal party is and what it has stood for over the past 18 years under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. While Justin might make people feel good, his party effectively paved the way for what Stephen Harper is now doing to the country by establishing the new political paradigm by which big business runs the country.

To be sure, Harper, with his unvarnished libertarianism is unique in Canadian political history in the degree to which he wants to dismantle the activist state and democratic governance. But the Liberals are so complicit in this grand project the notion that we should turn to them for salvation is laughable. It was Paul Martin who, more than any other finance minister including Flaherty, gutted the federal state and boasted that he had taken federal spending (as a percentage of GDP) back to levels not seen since 1950.

Paul Martin’s legacy consists of two principal items: slashing 40 per cent of the federal contribution to social programs while ending the universality principle and then implementing a five year, $100-billion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that ensured those cuts would never be reversed.

Where was Justin then? Did he write an op-ed denouncing this vicious attack on what previous Liberal and NDP parties had created? Did he call up Paul Martin and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing? If he did, now would be a good time to tell us about it.

Trudeau could get a lot of mileage from criticizing what his party has done to the country and pledging to reverse its course to re-establish the principles of governance that his father actually believed in. That, of course, is the real litmus test of any new aspiring leader, especially someone young like Trudeau promising renewal. Is he willing to sacrifice a bit of the loyalty that is expected of him to be truthful to voters? The answer: only if he really believes that mistakes were made.

Vague on six key issues

There is no indication that Trudeau thinks any mistakes were made. He is, in his attitudes, ideology and patrician background, a full patch member of the Liberal gang. The only thing likely to be renewed is classic Liberal opportunism: run from the left and hope to govern from the right. The 1993 Red Book of Liberal promises turned out to be a book of lies. Trudeau will have to work hard to convince people he won’t play the same game.

Trudeau’s opening leadership speech was very short on any policy details but there are a number of key issues that we should keep an eye on as his campaign evolves. These issues — though not an exclusive list — will determine where on the political spectrum he wants to establish his “renewed” party. In short, what he will do to take back the middle from the NDP? What will distinguish him from conventional Liberal hackery?

Key issue number one would be his attitude towards some kind of formal or informal arrangement with the NDP to rid the country of Stephen Harper. This is the one issue he decisively answered in launching his bid: there will be no “formal co-operation,” period.

Key issue number two is the Enbridge pipeline. If Trudeau wants to recapture the seats his party lost to the NDP in B.C. this issue will be critical and here, too, he hinted at his position, though it is contradictory. He told a media scrum in Richmond that Enbridge would have to come up with a better plan if it wanted to go ahead. But he criticized the NDP’s economic policies for “attacking success” — that is, the tar sands. He has also said that he wants to start his rebuilding in Alberta. He can either do that or reclaim lost B.C. seats, but he can’t do both.

Key issue number three is taxes and the revenue needed to actually run a country and pay for the social programs Canadians in overwhelming numbers say they want. Here, too, Trudeau could catch the NDP flat-footed and pledge to add a couple of tax brackets for the stinking rich and the not-quite-so-stinky, and add back a couple of the seven percentage points lopped off the corporate rate by Harper. If you think that’s likely you may have forgotten who runs the Liberal party.

Key issue number four is climate change, Kyoto and some kind of carbon tax or cap and trade plan. This is, of course, especially important for the young people Trudeau hopes to attract to the party (he apparently has 153,000 Twitter followers). If does not have a clear policy on this issue which more than any other energizes young people, he hasn’t a chance of engaging them.

Key issue number five is the question of industrial policy. Unfettered laissez fair economics has been a disaster for Ontario and Quebec, producing the famous Dutch disease issue that the NDP has used effectively. If Trudeau cozies up to the Alberta oil industry and lets Ontario and Quebec manufacturing swing in the wind, he can kiss any hope of being prime minister goodbye. A new industrial policy? Not if the financial sector has anything to say about it.

And speaking of the financial sector, what will the hip Mr. Trudeau do when the housing bubble truly bursts and tens of thousands of people face foreclosure? Does he have a plan? Will he — and this would make him unique in the country’s history –– actually confront the banks and make them pay for their grossly irresponsible lending practices (including thousands of liars’ loans)? Again, we would have to imagine a man totally inexperienced in the exercise of real power confronting the people who have dominated his party, and the country, for decades.

Lastly, will Trudeau pledge to reverse the most egregious actions by the Harper government regarding a whole raft of executive outrages — cuts to the CBC, the environment department, public science and more? That alone would be a winner, taking the sting of voters’ despair out of future Harper outrages.

Who really runs the Grits?

The Liberals could actually outflank the NDP on the centre-left on several of these policy areas but the centre in the Liberal party has moved to the right even since the days of Chretien. Many of the 25 per cent of people who identify as Liberal supporters have long ago decided they can never vote for the NDP. How many of these voters is Trudeau willing to alienate in order to scoop up recent NDP converts?

Then there is the question of the state of the party after Martin’s extremely destructive leadership campaign. Martin’s vicious campaign left the party traumatized, weak and deeply divided. Whoever takes the reins had better have a very clear idea of what they want or — like Michael Ignatieff — they will be pulled back and forth by different factions in the party and present an easy target for Harper’s well-honed machine.

That doesn’t bode well for Trudeau who, with four years experience in the House, has shown little initiative in terms of where he wants the party or the country to go. It’s not just the public Trudeau has to impress. It’s the power brokers in his party who will quickly fill policy and strategic gaps created by any weakness or uncertainty in their leader.

It’s not a question of whether or not Justin Trudeau is just a pretty boy. He won’t be. He’ll be a pretty boy whose policy prescriptions and political persona will be judged carefully by those who agonize over Stephen Harper’s death grip on the country. If he wins, and he likely will, it will be a short honeymoon.

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I shall be back to prairie stories later this week. Keep warm, and don’t eat too much leftover turkey.

.. Roger Currie

In a couple of months I will be celebrating a very interesting 48th anniversary. It was a crisp and sunny November day, in 1964, that I passed the only driving test I was ever required to take. I was in my last year of high school, and from that moment on, I have been legal to operate heavy machinery.

It’s because of that realization, and perhaps because of my recent move back to a community of more than 700,000 people that I am more aware of my abilities behind the wheel.

The weather is still close to summer on many days, so there are tons of bicycles on the road, and there are many of those big yellow school buses.

A little over a year ago I actually gave serious thought to becoming a school bus driver, but I thought better of it. It’s a truly awesome responsibility, and I have great admiration for the men and women who transport our future, to and from the classroom.

Outside the cities, the ride on that bus can take more than an hour each way as the little red schoolhouses are just a distant memory. Sooner than any of us would like, the city streets and country roads will include snow and ice, not to mention fog patches and blowing snow. It’s a miracle how few school days we actually lose to weather and road problems on the prairies.

Winnipeg is considering reducing the speed limit on residential streets from 50 kph to 40 K, or possibly even 30 K. Other cities in both Canada and the U.S. have already made such a move, and it may just be an idea whose time has come.

Driving a personal vehicle gives us an incredible sense of freedom, but far too many of us take that freedom for granted. Way more than was the case 48 years ago, I drive very defensively when I get behind the wheel.

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Can there be a greater joy at this time of year than eating fresh, locally grown, corn on the cob? I picked up some delicious peaches and cream recently, four ears for a buck, at Wal-Mart of all places! Hopefully it didn’t come from further away than Taber Alberta, the self-proclaimed corn capital of the prairies.

This is the peak season for farmers markets as local growers gather to sell their produce before the snow flies.

Those markets are growing in popularity all across the country, and along with them comes the ongoing debate over whether the eat local or lovocore movement is really the smart way to go.

The naysayers argue that promoting locally grown food is actually a backward step in the massive effort that’s needed to feed the billions of people on this planet. It’s certainly more efficient to farm more intensively, even if it happens thousands of miles away.

The size of the carbon footprint that results from long hauling trucking is exaggerated they say. I say lighten up already! The hill that farmers markets and local independent grocery stores will have to climb is not going to get less steep as the years go by.

Safeway, Sobey’s and Superstore will undoubtedly increase their market share, and they do a wonderful job of providing affordable food and plenty of choice. Yes, as a percentage of our income, Canadians enjoy one of the cheapest food supplies in the world.

I will never cease to be amazed when I pick up grapes from Chile for not much more than a dollar a pound, virtually every month of the year. I love my coffee in the morning, and my dark chocolate.

But we should get out and enjoy that yummy local corn right now.

Please pass that Canadian-made, supply-managed butter while you’re at it.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg and can be reached at .. rogerc@mymts.net

Those of us who are old enough to remember July 20, 1969 have looked at the moon somewhat differently since then. It was on that fateful Sunday evening 43 years ago that Neil Armstrong climbed down that ladder in the Sea of Tranquility and made that amazing giant leap for mankind.

Armstrong’s death last month at the age of 82 should make us pause and reflect on the importance of being first. Most of us also recognize the name Buzz Aldrin. He was the second man to climb down that ladder on July 20th. But hands up if you remember the names Pete Conrad and Alan Bean.

They were the moonwalkers of Apollo 12, in November of 1969. They sent back better TV pictures from the lunar surface than Neil and Buzz did, and they were in colour ! Alan Bean is 82, the same age as Armstrong. He became an artist after retiring from the space program and the U.S. Navy.

He is the only artist to ever incorporate dust from the moon’s surface onto a canvas. Pete Conrad was not so lucky. He died in the summer of 1999, after being hurt in a motorcycle accident.

We don’t remember much about Apollo 12, but who could forget Apollo 13, in April of 1970. Chances are that Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise would have been long forgotten by now if they had not almost become the first Americans to die in space.

The story had a miraculous happy ending, which Ron Howard captured beautifully in a terrific movie which immortalized the line “Houston, we have a problem”.

12 human beings left their Footprints on the Moon. Prairie writer Maureen Hunter used that phrase as the title of her play that won a Governor General’s award. Those footprints will outlive us all, but the explorers who made them will not.

Let us cherish their courage and celebrate that history.

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While Neil Armstrong was making history on the surface of the moon, he had a namesake who was a public figure on football fields in Canada. The football Neill ( with 2 L’s ) played and coached in both the CFL and the NFL.

On July 29th 1969, 9 days after his namesake left his footprints on the lunar surface, the other Neill coached the Edmonton Eskimos to a 33-0 shellacking of the Blue Bombers at Winnipeg Stadium. Although I can conjure up no memory of the occasion, I’m certain I was there, probably until I couldn’t stand watching any longer.

It would be 43 years before the Bombers would be shut out again in a regular season game. On Sunday September 2, 2012, the so-called Labour Day Classic they were humiliated 52-0 by the Roughriders 52-0 at Taylor Field.

I was there for that one too, and thankfully I was wearing a Rider jersey.

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Roger Currie can be reached at .. rogerc@mymts.net

When it comes to questionable inflated hockey salaries, who is at the head of the class ? Give yourself a Hershey bar if you said Gary Bettman.

He is in his 20th year as Commissioner of the NHL, and he and the owners of the league’s 30 teams are getting ready to lock players out of the rinks for the third time in 20 years. Eight years ago the lockout scrubbed an entire season. Bettman insisted it was necessary to get costs under control.

Did I miss a meeting or two? Player salaries have continued to rise into the stratosphere, the cost of tickets requires a second mortgage in many cities, and more than half the owners say they’re losing money.

And the commissioner ? He seems to have done quite OK. His basic salary is well over seven million dollars a year. That’s more than double what it was eight years ago when the players got nothing. Not bad for a man who has never stopped a shot from the point, or even taken a hip check.

His so-called Southern Strategy which moved teams to non-traditional hockey markets has been largely a failure. The Phoenix Coyotes, who used to be the Winnipeg Jets, have been an expensive welfare case for years in the Arizona desert.

The Atlanta Thrashers are now the reborn Jets, thanks more to Mark Chipman and his partners than Gary Bettman.

Now those Winnipeg fans who committed major cash to secure their tickets for five years, are facing the prospect of a shutout after only one season. The move to another lockout appears to be deliberate and premeditated, and the impact will be huge, especially in the Canadian markets.

Most North Americans who work for a living keep their jobs by working hard and being productive. Sometimes it’s not enough as the Global economy spits people out.

How and why does Gary Bettman keep his job ?

We’re not sure.

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I am not what you would call a world traveler, even in my own region of Canada. I have lived most of my life in two southern cities, Winnipeg and Regina. But this month I pushed the envelope a little with a rare visit to the near north.

Flin Flon is a mining community which straddles the Manitoba – Saskatchewan boundary, just into the northern half of both provinces. It’s firmly located in the Pre-Cambrian shield, and the scenery is rugged and breathtaking.

It reminded very much of northwest Ontario where my grandfather first built a cottage in the late 1920’s. That’s about the same time that the Whitneys of New York first began mining for copper and zinc and other metals buried in those rocks.

The name Flin Flon comes from Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the hero of a long forgotten fantasy novel. A giant statue of Flinty, designed by cartoonist Al Capp, celebrates that colourful history.

Enormous trout and other fish are still regularly pulled from the waters of Lake Athapapaskow in Baker’s Narrows Provincial Park.

More than 5,000 people live in Flin Flon, and some of them live in two provinces all the time. The boundary is a crooked line that wanders through the western part of town, and some folks literally sleep in Manitoba, and get up to eat breakfast in Saskatchewan, or vice versa.

It’s a wondrous world that most of us southerners will never see because it takes an eight hour drive, or an expensive plane ride to get there. That’s what the locals are faced with when they need anything major in the way of health care.

It costs a lot more to fill your gas tank and put fresh fruit and veggies on the table. Summers are fabulous, especially when it’s warm and sunny.

Winter is a different story indeed. Maybe I’ll check that out after I get my knees fixed.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, but this week he’s returning to Regina to watch the 2 and 6 Blue Bombers tangle with the 3 and 5 Roughriders.

They used to call it the Labour Day Classic

He can be reached at .. rogerc@mymts.net

The digital age we live in has produced some very strange research in the field of human behaviour, as well as just plain scams.

I was all set to declare Dr. Christopher Moeller as this year’s winner of the International Award For Terminal Dumbness. He is supposedly a psychologist who gathered a ton of coverage recently when he declared that anyone who is not on Facebook might not be normal. In fact, they could be a dangerous sociopath.

The reasoning behind this absurd pronouncement? Well it seems that the nutbars who were responsible for the mass killings in Norway last year, and the shooting spree last month at that movie theatre in Colorado, are NOT among the 900 million souls who exist in some form on the social networking site.

The story began on the pages and website of a German magazine called Der Taggespiegel, and it went viral when it was picked up by the Daily Mirror in England.

Dr. Moeller suggested that employers looking to hire young people, are now leery of folks who are NOT on Facebook, whereas until now, they were nervous about candidates who let it all hang out on that site.

The fact that no such employers were quoted or even named in the story made it smell a bit funny to me. With the help of Mr. And Mrs. Google, I went in search of Dr. Moeller. You know what ? I could not find him.

Personally, I don’t think he exists, except as a means of promoting Facebook, or possibly selling magazines.

Impossible you say? Remember David Manning? He was a movie critic who was always showing up in newspaper ads about a dozen years ago, praising films that no one else liked. Turned out old David never existed, but was created by one of the studios.

Stay tuned, and don’t believe everything you read or hear anywhere .. even from me.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Driving across the prairies at this time of year has always been a wonderfully Canadian experience for me. Green or brown tend to dominate the landscape, depending on how wet the summer has been.

Harvesting of hay and other early crops is underway, and there’s a peace and serenity to the picture which is quietly inspiring.

There have definitely been changes since I first traveled that stretch between Winnipeg and Regina, long before I was old enough to be the person behind the wheel. The biggest change has been the disappearance of those familiar wooden elevators, including the red one at Fleming that said Lake of the Woods Milling. It came down in an unfortunate fire a couple of years ago. 

Others have mostly been replaced by those imposing concrete structures called inland terminals. They carry names like Cargill and Viterra and Richardson. They are the product of the global economy, and politics.

Since the beginning of August, the Canadian Wheat Board no longer has the monopoly to sell wheat and barley that is grown on those prairie fields. The CWB has been around for more than 70 years, and it appears they are not about to quickly fade away.

As the first crop year under the new regime begins, hundreds of Wheat Board employees have been terminated, but the survivors seem to be doing quite well.

They have concluded grain handling agreements with a number of major players including Richardson International of Winnipeg. This will give farmers more than 170 locations across the prairies where they can deliver their crop and be confident that it will be handled and marketed by experienced people who know what they’re doing.

Chances are the producers who continue to market through the Board will be barely acknowledged by the likes of Stephen Harper and Gerry Ritz, but don’t be surprised if they do amazingly well on a world market where prices are very strong.   

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Bonjour mes amis. Comment ca va? That is about the extent of my ability in Canada’s other official language I’m afraid.

Truth be told, with the notable exception of wonderful and lively communities like Gravelbourg in Saskatchewan and St. Pierre Jolys in Manitoba, the Canadian prairies will never be francophone country.

The CBC spends many millions of dollars delivering local TV news in French on the prairies. It has long been argued that it would be cheaper to pick up that small group of francophone viewers and drive them to a theatre where they could watch the broadcast on a closed-circuit. Sadly, it’s only a slight exaggeration.

But Pierre Trudeau’s vision of Canada lives on in the person of Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner. Graham Fraser occupies that job at the moment. He has dispatched his troops as mystery shoppers. Their mission is to find out how francophone-friendly Canada’s major airports are.

They’re checking things like bilingual signage, and whether airport staff greet travelers in both languages. These are the standards for airports that serve more than a million passengers a year. The eight that are being mystery-shopped are Winnipeg, Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Strangely missing are Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon. Perhaps Edmonton and Calgary take turns, but why is the entire province of Saskatchewan left out ? Perhaps the folks in Mr. Fraser’s office are relying on old numbers.

Both Saskatchewan airports are now regularly handling more than a million passengers a year, and more growth is expected in the future.

Ralph Goodale is my favourite prairie politician. He may eventually be remembered as “one of the best prime ministers we never had”. He readily admits that a major reason was his lack of ability in French.

He also comes from the province that Canada continues to forget for some strange reason, even though it’s no longer a have not.   

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

 

 

Reporters and storytellers like me have a number of time-honoured rituals that are generally guaranteed to raise the anxiety level of all of us. It happens often when we report the latest figures on violent crime in Canada.

This month, the story took on even greater intensity, against the backdrop of senseless gun violence on the streets of Toronto, and the senseless killings inside that movie theatre in Colorado.

Here on the prairies, the picture has not changed a great deal. Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon are still at the top of the list when it comes to violent crime in Canada, although the rates are continuing to drop slowly.

Police and politicians are on the hot seat when the figures are released.

Winnipeg Police Chief Ken McKaskill is among those who say ” the glass is half full and we should not be unduly frightened”.

The politicians engage in endless photo ops, and some of them call for more legal restrictions on guns and knives.

One or two of the folks involved even say “it’s time to address the root causes of violent crime”. They’re usually in opposition and don’t have to sign any of the cheques.

What then are the root causes in our prairie cities? All three communities have neighbourhoods with a lot of poor people, including aboriginals who have moved to the city with few marketable skills. Affordable housing is getting harder and harder to find.

When we dare to dig a little deeper, we find that things are getting better in some of those core neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon. It’s a difficult struggle, but there are lots of stories of people working endless hours to make a difference, one street and one block at a time.

But every few months we have to endure the ritual of those crime stats, and the media asking us to answer that inevitable question yet again “Do you feel safe?”

Is there not a better way of telling the story? Just asking.

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There was a time, not so long ago, that both Manitoba and Saskatchewan were hosting a lot of movie and TV companies. It provided lots of local jobs for creative people and many spinoffs for local suppliers.

Producers were attracted to the Canadian prairie by the weak Loonie and generous tax credits offered by provincial governments. But the cameras have just about stopped rolling in Saskatchewan since Brad Wall and company pulled the plug on the $8 million Employment Tax Credit.

That money will be used instead to help build the new stadium for the Roughriders. One by one the companies who had set up shop in Saskatchewan to work in film and TV started to pack up and leave.

Kevin DeWalt of Mind’s Eye Entertainment is just wrapping on a sci-fi thriller called Stranded starring Christian Slater. Coincidentally, the budget on that one is $8 million.

DeWalt says he will be leaving Saskatchewan at some point, after Stranded is put to bed. It was expected that more than a few producers would relocate to Winnipeg. But so far it hasn’t exactly been a rush of refugees that you would notice.

Production levels in Winnipeg this summer have been well below the peaks of a few years ago.

Still to shoot this summer are a biography of Jack Layton which will produced for CBC, and a cheapie horror flick called . It’s a far cry from Oscar winners like Capote which put Winnipeg on Hollywood’s map.

Back in Saskatchewan, it appears more and more as though Brad Wall knew he would take heat for killing the industry that was famous in many countries for Corner Gas, but he also knew that there were relatively few votes to be lost in the long run.

The victims most affected are the young creative people who were proud to be doing their thing in a place where it didn’t use to happen.

They will now have to live with those memories somewhere else, or find a new career path. Such is the world of political choices.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

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