Monday, February 26, 2007

Riddle me this, Habs watchers...

Is this a prelude to a biger acquisition? Or is Gainey setting the stage now to make a move for Angelo Esposito on Draft Day?

By the way, a shout-out to Trashy, my first-ever commenter. You'd think there oughtta be a prize, but nope.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Because actually reading the thing is so hard...

...we can instead take the word of newest celebrity pundit Tasha Kheiriddin, who reliably informs us that Statcan's recent study on university access "...concludes that fees are not a determinant of access ."

Oh. Sorry.

This has officially gone beyond simple misunderstanding or understating of research findings. This is rapidly entering the realm of intellectual dishonesty.

This has got to stop. Low- and middle-income Canadian students and families are being cheated by shoddy treatment of the truth in this debate.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

On a totally unrelated note...

...I know Habs fans everywhere are getting seriously worried.

But this would be a terrible mistake.

Not because he couldn't help; he probably would pretty well. But so would this guy, the way he's playing. And Gainey would first need to make room.

Personally, I wouldn't be adverse to Bob Gainey trading either Huet or Aebischer at this point, and bringing up Halak and/or Price to challenge the remaining veteran for game time. But if there aren't any takers for #30 or #39, then Gainey would just be bringing on another headache that coach Carbo doesn't need. Three-goalie systems are rare, and rarely successful.

Messing with Big Al


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Emily Haines, where have you been all of my life?

Just bought Metric's Live it Out album off iTunes.

I should explain that, in terms of the Canadian indie scene, I've been rather slow on the uptake. This is actually quite consistent with my practice of being slow on the uptake with most things music (I finally got off my arse and bought O.K. Computer last year).

Anyway. "Patriarch on a Vespa" is possibly the coolest song title in the history of the universe. The music rocks, too.

Faith and Reason

To the extent I actually have readers (Hi, Mom), I'd like to draw their attention to this fascinating blogalogue between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris. I think I mentioned earlier that Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish is my favourite blog. This, and discussions like it, are why.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Those who can't, watch.

I'm not sure what business I have liking hockey.

When I was a young kid growing up in Montreal, I really didn't pay much attention to the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL, or hockey in general. Baseball, yeah. I can still visualize the picture of Gary Carter from the Expos team (circa 1982 I think) on my bedroom wall.

But hockey? One of my cousins played for his university team. But I couldn't skate worth a damn. My dad took me to a Canadiens game in 1989, but I didn't really know what the hell was going on.

And my earliest street hockey memory involves hurling myself bodily out of the way of a hockey ball fired from about 75 feet away by a burly 18-year-old guy with a straggly beard and a pony tail (I was 10) and still rising as it found the top corner of the net.

Did I mention that I was the goalie?

Not my finest hour.

But, as they say, timing is everything. Sometime during the spring or summer (I think) of 1992, I managed to talk my parents into letting me have an old 13-inch tv in my bedroom. With a goofy-looking antenna bought at Radio Shack, I eventually discovered that I could get a fuzzy CBC signal on Channel 6, and a slightly better feed of Radio Canada on Channel 2.


The first hockey game I clearly remember watching on that little TV pitted the Habs against the Hartford Whalers in Game 2 of the Adams Division Semifinal. Denis Savard racked up 3 assists in the second period alone (finishing with 4 overall) as the Habs trounced the Whalers 5-2. Interesting. Then, of course, they got bounced from the playoffs by the Bruins, Pat Burns quit, and Serge Savard went shopping, picking up Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows and moving out Russ Courtnall, Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrest and Mike McPhee.

As the 1992-93 season began, I discovered that Habs games could be found on channel 10 (TVA) and UHF-35 (TQS). With Dick Irvin and Steve Shutt on the radio and the TV volume at zero, my little TV and I followed the Habs through a roller-coaster of a season, which (of course) culminated in an improbable 24th Stanley Cup.

And I was hooked.

And I still am, despite the fact that the Habs have not been nearly as generous to their fans in the years since what hockey historians now generally agree was a lucky Cup win. Even since moving to the Outaouais region, I've kept my allegiance, despite subtle and less-subtle prods from friends and co-workers that I should move on back the Sens.

Which leads me to the present day, with my beloved Habs stumbling through an inconsistent season that began with great promise. As I write this, RDS is reporting that coach Guy Carbonneau (damn, the act of typing that makes me feel old) has -again - shuffled the lines, with Alexei Kovalev now projected to ride shotgun with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins.

We play the Sens tomorrow. Blogging will be light. Unless we get our asses handed to us in the first period, in which case blogging will be heavy and colourful.

joining the non-partisan alliance (replete with some shout-outs)

I explained in my original post that a big source of motivation for me starting this blog was a need to provide an outlet for my feelings about certain political issues. I mentioned in particular what I felt (and still feel) was a beneath-the-belt smear job on Stéphane Dion over his dual citizenship.

I definitely will be using this virtual platform to speak my mind (I've already done that on a couple of topics). And it will probably become pretty clear where my political and philosophical sympathies lie, if that hasn't already happened. But for a number of reasons I'll touch on in due course, I want to tread very carefully in how I deal with the more down-and-dirty aspects of partisan politics. More importantly, I'm not sure this blog would be reflective of me if I allowed it to become too partisan in tone.

In deciding on which of the many excellent Canadian blog exchanges out there I would seek to engage with, these concerns have been nagging at me. I finally decided that the Non-partisan Canadians Alliance was the place for me. Without a doubt it's the community that is most reflective of where I am in my head and heart - which is to say, all over the bloody map ;)

I want to take a moment to thank the Calgary Grit for being kind enough to reply to my email seeking advice on blogging. He encouraged me to join the Liblogs, of course, and I probably could do that, but I'm simply not there yet, and I may not get there. This probably sounds pithy as hell, but it's true. I'll probably want to re-visit my possible affiliation with other exchanges over time, but it can wait.

I'd also like to send a shout-out to James Bow, (a) for welcoming me aboard, and (b) for a very good tip - that being, to remember to be myself as I blog, which includes not getting into the rut of blogging only about politics all the time. He's right. So a promise - the next blog will be about something other than politics.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fun With Headlines - CBC Edition

Updated below...

Here be the headline to the CBC.CA's report on a new Statcan analytical paper released today:

University costs not blocking poor youth: StatsCan
Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2007 12:18 PM ET

And here be the headline 56 minutes later:

University costs may not be blocking poor youth: StatsCan
Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2007 1:14 PM ET

Here be the CBC's report. And here be the actual study, which in fact does not say that university costs may not be blocking poor youth from enrolling. What it does say is that the so-called "income gap" (i.e., high school grads whose parents are poor are less likely to go on to university that those whose parents are rich) is not solely attributable to the financial costs of enrolling in university. Other factors, in addition to one's ability to absorb the financial costs of going to university(such as a student's reading ability, his/her high school grades, the educational background of his/her parents) were also found to influence the likelihood of enrolling in university, and as with ability to pay, these other factors were found to be linked to income.

Specifically, kids coming from poor homes were less likely than kids from richer homes to have:
  • achieved good grades in school;
  • scored well on literacy tests;
  • parents with university or professional degrees;
  • parents who expected them to enroll in university.
All of these factors, in addition to ability to pay, were found to be important contributors to the "income gap." The study found that 12% of the income gap is attributable to ability to pay, versus 12% for parental expectations, 14% for academic achievement, 20% for reading ability, and 30% for parental education.


Update - This is the text of a message I submitted through the CBC website's "feedback" feature today:

"With respect, your coverage of the Statcan study on the impact of tuition cost on access to university, and particularly the headline, is grossly misleading. The study does not, in fact, show that tuition costs do not impact access to university. The study is an analysis ofthe factors that contribute to the well-known "income gap" in terms of university participation. The study shows "financial constraints" to be one of many "observable factors" (among them reading ability, high school academic achievement, parental educational background, and parental expectations) that make up the income gap. Financial constraints made up 12% of the gap, versus (respectively) 20%, 14% 30%and 12% for the other factors.

"I see this morning that the website is now carrying the same misleading headline that you first ran with yesterday and persist in publishing, in modified form, today. The coverage by the media of this very important study is doing a disservice to Canadian youth, who deserve to have the issues they face dealt with in a fair and accurate manner. I urge you to correct the record."

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


So the students are marching again. For lower fees, for a longer freeze, for more federal money.

I was an editor for my CEGEP's (Vanier, if you care) newspaper during the student strikes of 1996-97. We were out for two days in November '96; other CEGEPs, particularly some of the larger francophone CEGEPs in Montreal like Saint-Laurent and de Maisonneuve, were out for something like six weeks. I can't recall how long the universities were out for. But it wasn't fun. And the victories, such as they were, were fleeting.

I remain supportive of the cause, notwithstanding the sincere efforts of guys like Paul Wells and Bob Rae to build a progressive case for raising tuition, provided it's done right. I personally think Wells is barking up the wrong tree by pointing to the lower rate of university participation in Quebec versus Ontario or Nova Scotia as "evidence" that lower tuition doesn't lead to better outcomes in terms of accessing university.

This study, published in 2005 by Statistics Canada, provides a much more nuanced view. Specifically, their findings suggested that "the enrolment gap between students from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds rose substantially in Ontario [during the late 1990s], where the deregulation of professional programs was more prominent [wheras in] provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, where tuition fees remained stable, no change in the enrolment gap was registered." Of course, the study also found that enrolment increased overall in those programs during that time, meaning Wells' point about higher revenues leading to more spaces is correct. But that enrolment gap, and what it represents in the longer term in terms of the intergenerational perpetuation of poverty, is just not acceptable.

What I find most frustrating in this discussion is the failure by proponents of tuition hikes to properly acknowledge that, in the 21st century, a university degree (or other postsecondary certification) is not what it used to be - or more specifically, that a high school diploma is nowhere near what it used to be in terms of preparing people for entry into the labour market. Such that, absent that additional preparation provided by postsecondary education, an individual is more likely than not to spend his/her adulthood living with precarious employment and poverty, with all the associated social costs.

The Rae report kinda sorta played footise with some of these issues, before coming to the conclusion - based on something other than divine inspiration, I hope - that "the average portion of the operating cost of colleges and universities borne by students (25% for universities and even less for colleges) is not unreasonable." (Page 24)

Sorry, but they ain't sold me yet.

Take that, Hérouxville

Somehow, I'm betting the Hérouses down in Hérouxville hadn't banked on becoming the new national poster town for the post-911 multiculturalism backlash. Today, among other things, we read that a teacher at a very multicultural school in my former hometown/burrough (and no, I'll never get used to calling it a burrough) of Ville Saint-Laurent has decided to cancel a field trip to the nearby town of Saint-Thècle for fear of adding to controversy. Saint-Thècle is not, by the way, one of the five towns in the region to have followed in Hérouxville's footsteps by adopting their own shiny new no-stoning bylaws.

Thankfully, on Monday Jean Charest - finally - found his sea legs (or, if you prefer, guts) on the issue. Good. And, on a somewhat lighter , the town of Huntington has passed what amounts to an anti-Hérouxville declaration, stating that the town embraces without reservation the principles of multiculturalism. Vive le backlash-against-le-backlash!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

...and while I'm playing with the Blogger hyperlink thingie...

...I would join the Calgary Grit in congratulating Ted Haggard on not being gay.

Andrew Sullivan (who, though neither Canadian nor a fiscal leftie is the host of what is by many yards my favourite blog) is, predictably eloquent.

As is, in their own way, the Onion. (with the requisite hat-tip to Mr. Sullivan)

Speaking of bloggers...

...Garth Turner to the Liberals, huh?

I'm watching/listening to his explanatory web video as I'm writing this. Says he met with Dion, found him "reasonable, visionary, passionate." Parrots well-tread lines about how the Progressive Conservative party of old is long gone. Fine.

I see the likes of Adam Radwanski, the Calgary Grit, others aren't overly impressed, wondering if the gain - one MP, not enough to take away the NDP's leverage in the House - will be worth the pain of a guy who has, in some observers, earned a reputation for grandstanding and poor team play. That's fine too.

And yeah, the floor-crosser epithets will fly (though his preemptive strike against this - I'll stand for a byelection if Emerson, Khan and Fortier go too - is just cheeky enough to be effective).

I'll say only that if Dion and Co. are willing to allow Garth's key strength - namely, is innovative use of the Internet as an outreach and promotional tool - to become theirs, then yeah, it's worth it. More on this angle later.

Monday, February 5, 2007

oh very own acme rack and pinion tranquilizer blog

So, uh, yeah.


Welcome to what I hope will be a dandy little Canadian blog.

A forum for me (and, eventually, my readers, as I slowly grasp the various the various subtleties of operating a blog - not to mention acquire a reader) to discuss things of interest to Canada, to observers of Canadian politics and public affairs.

A place for good-natured John vs. Paul debates, along with other, more current things music.

The odd rant about hockey and/or reflection on the wonder of cartoons.

And - I swear - only occasionally an embarrassing exercise in vanity.

How to begin....

I'm 28, a resident of Western Quebec and an avid consumer (read: addict) of online news and punditry, and I've been particularly drawn to the Canadian blogosphere - 99% of the time as a consumer, with the odd visit to various comment threads - for a couple of years now. As I recall (it's all a blur) t started with three sites bookmarked as part of my morning routine - Inkless Wells, Norman's Spectator and Kinsella's daily musings - and snowballed from there. Pogge, Jim Elve's E-Group, Andrew Anderson's Bound By Gravity, Zerb, Crawl Across the Ocean, the late Tilting at Windmills, Andrew Spicer, Jonathan Ross...well, you get the hint.

I found it fascinating to watch as interested individuals from across this country would engage in vigorous, sometimes heated, but generally civilized - and, most importantly, well-informed - discussions of very complicated, often very messy political issues. For the most part, I've been content to watch from the sidelines.

A few weeks ago however, I couldn't help myself. Stéphane Dion, the newly-elected leader of the Liberal Party, had come under fire from a couple of isolated outposts (read: Ezra, Bourque, Pat Martin) for his alleged lack of loyalty to Canada, which was evidenced beyond any reasonable doubt by the fact that... his mother was from France.

So I got on the comment boards, engaging in a looooooooooooonnnng recurring debate with Glenn et al over at the E-group, firing off an angry letter to the NDP (of which I am now proudly a former supporter), and generally spending a lot of time being frustrated that our national discourse could sink so low (even if only for a week), but not doing anything about it.

So it's my (naive) hope that by launching this blog and participating in these virtual conversations in a serious way, I can help make a difference.

Meanwhile, I've had another problem.

I fancy myself a writer, but for a number of reasons (which I'll kick around later during one of those occasional exercises in vanity I warned y'all about), I haven't been able to write. At least, not the way I want to.

So, with your indulgence, it is my other (also naive) hope that by launching this blog I will help myself to rediscover a love of writing.

A quick note - I've read the horror stories encountered by novice and veteran bloggers alike about the joys of comments and spam, but since I don't know enough about what I'm doing yet to worry about it, I won't.