Up in Smoke

You’ll recall that I took this (enlargeable) picture of Poupoune and the Bush Whacker on Easter Sunday at Queensland Beach.

Well… I’m not absolutely sure, but I think the building in the background of that shot is gone, which is too bad because it was a well-known local landmark. (Update: It was that building.) What I do know for sure is that the Bush Whacker had nothing to do with it. I’m not suggesting she would’ve lit the fire; rather, I’m saying that, given this was a building rather than a bush, she probably wouldn’t have been able to single-handedly (hee hee!) contain the blaze. Then again, a bit more than a year ago, she did whack a fire dead in the lobby of her house when an aronist was loose in the South End of Halifax…

Shopping on Sunday

An issue that has been dominating the New Brunswick election and that might do the same in Nova Scotia when voters are called to the polls is the skyrocketing cost of auto insurance. However, in Nova Scotia, another issue that might (or ought to) surface is the Progressive Conservative government’s flipflop over Sunday shopping. For indeed, Nova Scotia is possibly the only remaining jurisdiction in North America where most Sunday shopping is prohibited by law. The PCs’ compromise, suspiciously proposed on the eve of an election, is to (a) have a 6-week trial of Sunday shopping before Christmas, and (b) hold a binding plebiscite during the Nova Scotia municipal elections in autumn 2004.

Early in this government’s mandate, Premier John Hamm declared a moratorium on the debate for Sunday shopping until 2005. Shortly afterwards, the New Brunswick PC government left it up to municipalities to apply for an exemption to that province’s Days of Rest Act. The City of Moncton, which is close to the border with Nova Scotia, obtained such an exemption. Now, many Nova Scotian shopaholics drive to the Hub City to satisfy their need for a shopping fix on Sunday.

In my opinion, it is silly to have such a thing as the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act in Nova Scotia. But what really gets on my tits is the thinly veiled reasoning for prohibiting Sunday shopping. The “best” arguments have been “to protect workers,” and that keeping stores closed on Sunday is meant to preserve “family values” and the “Nova Scotian Way of Life” — whatever those are. Why don’t these conservatives just come out and say that they’re trying to keep one last little vestige of Christian values within the state? If the state has any business determining when or not stores should be open — and I believe it doesn’t — why not legislate for all faiths? That would mean some stores would close on Saturday instead of Sunday, and so on.

For their part, many retailers are against Sunday shopping because it would mean having to pay more in salaries and merely spreading people’s shopping patterns over more hours. When my parents and sister came visiting a few weeks ago, we went to the Mic Mac Mall on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. It was Monday afternoon and we could have shot a canon several times without hitting anyone. Stands to reason: Most shoppers were at their 9 to 5 job. Besides, Monday is a notoriously dead day for retail.

Now let me allow for a minute that the provincial government should be sticking its nose into when stores should be open or not. Why not consider a formula whereby each retailer may chose not only to stay open or not, but also the day to remain close? Since Monday is a disaster for retailers because most shoppers are working, then allow them to close on Monday but open on Sunday when shoppers AREN’T working! That’s what my neighbourhood bakery does, for it is exempt under the Act due to its size.

What’s that? Oh, the general closing day has to be Sunday?

Well then, Premier Hamm. I just called your bluff.

As for the argument that Sunday closure is “to protect workers,” then why does the Nova Scotia Trade Union Act continue to be stacked in favour of employers and against workers? Ummm?

A Family’s Political Landscape

In a parliamentary system like Canada’s, election dates aren’t cast in stone as they are in the United States. Federally and provincially, a majority government (formed when one party holds more seats than all the other parties combined) can remain in power for up to 5 years, but usually about 4 years. It is up to the prime minister federally, and the premier provincially, to pay a visit to the Governor General or the Lieutenant Governor to ask that the House be dissolved and an election be called for a given date. Thus an election to form a new provincial government was held this year in Quebec on April 14. One is being held in Manitoba on June 3 and another in New Brunswick on June 9, while one is expected in Nova Scotia this fall. A federal election will likely be held next spring.

However — at least in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to my knowledge — municipal elections are held province-wise roughly on the same date every three (?) or four years. And in most municipalities, there are no political parties. In municipalities where there is a party structure, those parties are local (i.e., are not those we see on the roster in provincial or federal elections).

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In federal or provincial elections, we don’t get to vote for the prime minister or premier, who’s merely the leader of a party; we vote for a candidate who represents a party. Thus a party is swept to power for winning the most riding races, and all the votes within each riding for candidates from the other parties essentially get tossed into the garbage. Unfortunately, this “first-through-the-gate” system leads to huge discrepencies between the popular vote and the number of seats any one party secures in the House.

That can lead to quite a dilemma for the common Canadian voter: Should I vote for the candidate or the party the candidate represents? What should I do if I’m leaning towards the policies of one party, but the candidate running for that party in my riding is a complete asshole? Or what if my heart is with one party, but the candidate for another party is a gem who deserves to get my vote?

Personally I feel that even though we don’t have a “proportional representation (PR)” system, I have to go for the party, not the candidate. I have to question the motives of the gem who otherwise would deserve my vote. Many are the New Democrats at heart who have opted to run under the banner of the Liberals because they didn’t believe they could win as a New Democrat. Thus it seems to me those candidates are more concerned about themselves (and getting to power) than serving their constituents.

I have a friend, though, who actively canvassed for the Progressive Conservative candidate in his federal riding in 1984. He went for the candidate, not the party. To this day I tease him for having contributed to the Mulroney landslide, the largest parliamentary majority in Canadian history. In my opinion, Mulroney was the 20th-century’s biggest weasle of a prime minister. My blood boils all over again when I see him on his very rare media appearances today. He is tactless, arrogant, and a great prime minister only in his mind. Little surprise, then, that 9 years after the landslide and even though he was no longer party leader, the Conversatives suffered the most stinging electoral defeat in Canadian history, dropping down to 2 seats in the House of Commons: Saint John bigoted wonder Elsie Wayne, and now Liberal Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

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I was idly thinking last night about how it’s likely my parents and siblings don’t vote the same way in provincial and federal elections (although we don’t get to vote in the same provincial elections). In fact, I think it’s very likely that we don’t. For instance:

¤ I suspect that my parents have automatically been voting Liberal at least since the Trudeau days federally and the Louis J. Robichaud days in New Brunswick. I probably would have done the same in the ’60s through the early ’80s had I been eligible to vote. At the time, the Liberals were left of centre; now they’re either dead centre or right of centre, depending on the issue.

¤ I suspect that my brother who’s closer to my age also votes Liberal. He would do so in the tradition of “left of centre” Liberals.

¤ I suspect that my other brother may have voted Progressive Conservative more than once in his life. I doubt he will in the current New Brunswick provincial election, though, for reasons I can’t get into beyond saying that he rightly has a distaste for the PC candidate.

¤ I’m not sure how my sister votes, although I suspect it’s centre to left. She’s been living in Quebec for nearly 30 years, so she’s been embroiled in all that Quebec nationalist sentiment. Most French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec want Quebec to stay in Canada, for they know they will become an insignificant minority in a Canada sans Quebec. But based on conversations I’ve had with my sister, I think that in her mind it’s not a matter of should Quebec become a sovereign nation, but when.

¤ I, of course, have always voted for the New Democrats, even when it was a hopeless gesture provincially or federally. It isn’t anymore in Nova Scotia, where the NDP nearly formed the provincial government in 1998 and a good proportion of the NDP’s (admittedly small) caucus federally comes from eastern Canada. My federal and provincial ridings are both represented by New Democrats.

The Other Kind of CD

There’s this guy I know who jokingly calls me “Ex-Friend Maurice” because we hardly ever call each other. At one point he and his partner moved to Truro and I found out a few months later; then, last year they moved back to Halifax and I found out a few months later. But that’s just the way it is; we’re not really ex-friends but it’s funny to refer to each other like that.

Anyway, Ex-Friend grew in the South Shore town of Shelburne — a very small town, I should point out. There was a family in town that adopted a goose as a pet. They called the goose “CD.” They’d take CD for a walk, on a leash as one would walk a dog. In many respect, CD was a regular pet.

But why call it CD? It wasn’t a reference to compact discs; they hadn’t been invented yet. Surely CD had to stand for something. Regrettably, Ex-Friend asked, not quite prepared for the answer. CD stood for…

Christmas Dinner.

And I have no idea why I remembered that just now.

So Stupid, You Have to Laugh

One of my brothers has this tendency of sending really dumb jokes by e-mail — you know the kind I mean — but this one made me laugh out loud since it is terribly silly. I suppose it’s been going around for a while, but it was new to me.

Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 13:11:39 -0700 (ADT)
From: Maurice’s Brother
Subject: Fwd: Saddam
To: Maurice

BULLETIN…..BULLETIN…BULLETIN

Major news sources have reported that US Special Forces troops in southern Bagdad have captured Saddam in the mountains of southern Bagdad.

He was captured at about 2:19 am, eastern time after US warplanes sprayed the entire area with liquid Viagra and the little prick just popped up.