Friday, 18 April 2014

Why We Need a Strong Public Broadcaster: Radio Canada's Enquête

The knives were out last week at the CBC and Radio Canada: 657 jobs will be cut and $130 million slashed from the budget. This is just the latest in the campaign to bring down Canada's public broadcaster orchestrated by the Stephen Harper Conservatives. 

Many times in the past I've ranted about the cuts to serious programming on what used to be the music service.  About five years ago, both the CBC and its French-language twin Radio-Canada started dumbing down the music content in a (I think) mistaken attempt to make the service more "accessible."  The repercussions for the future of music in this country are grave, since the serious music programming both builds audiences and provides jobs for musicians. 

But, much as I value cultural programming, what is coming now seems to have enormous for the political life of the country.  This was brought home when the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec resumed its investigation this week into corruption in the construction industry and the financing of political parties. 

In 2009, the Radio Canada program Enquête began a series of documentaries about "organized crime bosses worked hand in glove with both the construction industry and government bureaucrats who awarded highly lucrative contracts." as the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression put it in explaining why  Enquête received its 2012 Tara Singh Hayer award.

Journalists in other media followed up, with the result that  we see now: a large official investigation into corruption that had been going on for a very long time.  What will happen next depends on many factor, but nothing would have happened had not the Enquête team started digging.

The CBC/Radio Can brass weren't talking last week about getting rid of programs like Enquête but the danger exists.  Why send out journalists to  uncover difficult news that is embarassing to the powers that be, anyway?  The temptation is to think: maybe it's better just to keep your head down.

 Let's hope that doesn't happen.  Join the protests.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Rainy Day, But At Least Our Winters Are Sunny, Or What To Do Where the Sun Doesn't Shine

Came across this in The New York Times today: a town in Norway which now has mirrors beaming sun down into the town square. 

It's not a first: the BBC reported in 2006 on a town in the Italian Alps which had did something similar.  In Austria, a mirror installation was put up the year before. 

The sun in Rjukan, Norway, looks a little anemic from this photo, but I guess it's better than nothing.  Don't think I could last long where there wasn't some sun in the winter.  Give me a day in February when it's -25 C and the sun is shining on new snow, and I've happy!


Monday, 14 April 2014

First Robin of Spring Sighted...Or At Least, My First Robin

Out walking this morning and sighted the first robin so far this spring. The grass is mostly free of snow, but now yet green here, nor are there any leaves on the trees. Ordinarily things burst out the first week in May, and that is two weeks away. But here's a taste of what is coming.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday Photo: Collecting Onion Skins for Easter Eggs

Going to decorate Easter eggs with Jeanne next weekend, so I'm collecting onion skins to make the gorgeous Latvian eggs our neighbor showed me how to make. 

You wrap the eggs in the onion skins, tie them on securely and then boil them for 15 to 20 minutes.  They come out a lovely red, with splotches from the uneven skins.  An example is the egg on the lower left in the picture.

The other colours are also natural, but I decided last year that they're more trouble than they're worth and the red eggs are the best.  We'll see what the other members of the decoration team say, however.

Friday, 11 April 2014

We Have Seen the Future and It Is Beautiful (and Brazil Was There First)...

Missed this because our National Geographic subscription has been transferred to the grandkids, which  is probably quite fitting:  given the rate of racial and ethnic intermarriage in the US, by 2050 the faces of the country will be a gorgeous mixture of hair, eye and skin colour, the magazine says extrapolating from census data.

Following the rebuff given the xenophobic policies of the Parti Québecois in this week's provincial elections, it's good to see that migration and assimilation are trending in this direction.  There's no telling where love will lead us, is there?

Of course, anyone who's visited Brazil will say that faces like these are common there.  Some are the legacy of forced relations in the past, but many, many  are  evidence of a vast country where there never were laws  which prohibited marriage between "white" people and those who "had any known blood" as there were in many US jurisidictions.




Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Not Pleased about the Liberals, But Glad the PQ Got What It Deserves

Let me say right off, that 18 months ago I was ready to give the Parti Québécois some slack as it won minority government status in a provincial election.  Bringing in a budget at the very beginning was a smart move, since none of the opposition parties were in a position to challenge  it bring on a snap election.  Pauline Maurois and friends were setting themselves up to do some interesting things, I thought.

But they blew it--going back on their promise to cut a per capita health care tax, waffling about mining legislation, moving their economic policy to the right and much, much more.  Then came the disastrous attempt to appeal to French Canadian insularity with their charter on "a neutral state."  The state should of course be neutral--I fought for years to introduce public schools organized on linguistic, not religious lines--but the idea of outlawing the wearing of religious symbols by public servants was  simply terrible.

It's a measure of the incompetence of the PQ leaders that they thought widespread support for state neutrality would translate into partisan votes.  What were they smoking?  Who were their pollstars talking to?  Whatever, they got it all wrong.

Philippe Couillard and his Liberals are only marginally better on most issues, but this is a least worst situation.  Too bad the only party with a platform I can really supportm Québec Solidaire, didn't do better.  But maybe next time: QS just increased the number of its members of the National Assembly  by 50 per cent--from two to three.  That's a hopeful sign, although at that rate it will only take eight more elections for the QS to win a majority of the 125 seats and form the government. 


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Saturday Photo: Coming in the Not Too Distant Future--Snow Drops!

The snow is retreating in front, and a sprinkle of little leaves are pushing up from the dirt.  Spring is late this year, but very soon I expect the new growth will transform itself into the first spring flowers.

Snowdrops always raise my spirits.  This picture was taken a few years ago, and I can't wait until I see this year's crop.

Sitting Out an Election: What's Happening to Volunteers?

This is the first provincial or federal election in years that I haven't worked hard for some leftish candidate. Usually I do a lot of telephoning, or some door to door, and occasionally I've even been on of the "back room boys and girls." 

This time my various health issues--the shingles and the cataract surgery in the last couple of months--gave me a good excuse not to put a lot of time into campaigning for Edith Laperle, the Québec Solidaire candidate in our riding.  (Didn't work for her in the bye election last December because I was in South America, but that's another story.)   She's a fine young woman, a hard campaigner (this is the third time around), and definitely would be an good addition to the National Assembly.  We contributed some money, put up a sign on the front porch and certainly wish her well. 

But work?  No, not really.

I've felt guilty, but it seems that I'm not the only stalwart who is sitting this one out.  Le Devoir had a story on the weekend about how the volunteers which have until now been the backbone of a good, grass roots campaign are just not showing up.  Vincent Marissol wrote a similar piece in La Presse last week:  Where are the Militants?

Part of the problem is that the kind of work campaign volunteeers have done in the past just isn't as useful as it was.  The number of people with landlines whose numbers are easy to reach has plummeted, making telephone canvassing less effective.  Even when campaigns can come up with lists of sympathizers, harassing them to make sure they vote looks increasingly counter-productive.  To be sure, door-knocking can still work, but it takes a lot more time than telephoning did in the old days.

But perhaps even more importantly, many folks are finding it hard to get enthusiastic about the people running.  A sign of growing cynicism about the political process?  Probably.  This time around only Québec Solidaire seems to be running a campaign with clear cut stands on issues, and, in my view, is the only part worth voting for, even if I didn't do any work for it.