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Archive for October 2007

Halifax in October

October 23, 2007 @ 22:03 By: gordon Category: General, Geocaching, Travelling

My work has taken me to Halifax this week. I arrived Sunday evening after an uneventful flight and met up with my colleagues Monday morning. One person had flown down Saturday while the other flew down early Monday morning. Our work has been in the late-afternoons and evening, so we’ve had the days to ourselves to “play tourist”. Yesterday morning, my colleague, Amanda, and I met up for breakfast and then I introduced her to geocaching. It only took one geocache for her to get the bug and we headed off to find another two caches before our boss arrived at the hotel. We met up then headed out to wander along the waterfront. John and I headed off towards Pier 21 while Amanda did her own thing. I turned on the GPS at Pier 21 and as luck would have it we were about 10m away from a geocache so John and I started looking. John retrieved the container and we signed the log and then headed back to the hotel where we joined up with Amanda and headed off to the regional office to look after work part of the trip.

This morning (Tuesday), the other two had a meeting to attend so I took advantage to sleep in and then met up with them for lunch. Amanda had to fly back to Ottawa in the afternoon, so John and I wandered along the boardwalk before heading off to the regional office for a second monitoring session.

The weather here has been absolutely beautiful. Monday was about 22C and today it was probably 18C. The weather forecast is calling for a bit of rain overnight and maybe tomorrow, but I can’t really complain. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Halifax in a couple of months, even though it’ll probably be covered in snow and ice then.

Giving Western Union another chance

October 17, 2007 @ 22:46 By: gordon Category: General

In a previous post, I recounted my experiences trying to send money via Western Union. But, I decided to give Western Union another try and I’m happy to say the experience was much more successful than any of my previous attempts. (i.e. it actually worked!)

I entered the details of my transfer into the Western Union website and received a similar “please call to complete this transaction”. “Oh no, not again,” thought I. But, I called and the person was much more helpful and informative. Basically, he said that Western Union and the credit card companies want positive confirmation that the sender is knowingly sending money to someone in China. He specifically asked if I knew the recipient, to which I responded this was the company’s designated wire transfer recipient and that I had dealt with the company before so I knew they were legit. We talked about this policy and it became clear that it covers monies being sent to some countries “like this one”. I couldn’t get him to give examples of other countries on the list, but I can imagine who is on it.

The money was available to the recipient before the end of the phone call and it was apparently picked up without any hassles by the recipient. So, I’ve revised my opinion of Western Union and would actually consider using them over a bank wire transfer because they’re cheaper, faster, and all the fees are paid upfront. (The reason I went back to them was because although I paid $30 for the wire transfer to my bank an additional $45 evaporated in-transit by intermediary banks that the money flowed through. Talk about “hands in your pockets,” eh?)

It’s October 10th. Have you voted?

October 10, 2007 @ 09:00 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

So, it’s Wednesday, October 10th, 2007. That means that if you’re a registered voter in the Province of Ontario and haven’t vote yet, you haven’t done your civic duty. If you have already voted, thank you.

Depending on where in the province you live, you probably have at least three or four candidates to pick from. How you vote is entirely up to you. Some people vote based on the candidate’s party. Others vote for the candidate based on who the person is, regardless of their party. Still others cast their vote because someone they know voted for the same person. Undoubtedly, some people vote based on the order the names appear on the ballot. I’ll bet there’s even someone out there who flips a coin or throws dice to determine their vote.

And there’s a disturbing number of people who do not vote. For whatever reason, these people have decided that their vote doesn’t matter or perhaps they genuinely don’t care. These people do not get to complain about anything the government does until such time as they do cast a vote, which is probably in three or four years.

Oh, and there’s a very small number of people who find themselves in extenuating circumstances that prevent them from voting, such as being unexpectedly out of town on election day. If you’re one of these people and you intended to vote, that sucks.

For the rest of you, I can’t encourage you enough to get yourself down to your polling place and fulfil your civic duty by casting a vote for your preferred candidate and your vote on the referendum.

The polls are open from 9am to 9pm Eastern, or 8am to 8pm Central if you’re in the extreme western part of Ontario.

According to Section 6 of the Election Act, everyone is entitled to three consecutive hours within which to vote. So, if your normal work day doesn’t give you three consecutive hours before or after your working hours, your employer is required to give you enough time off that you have three consecutive hours within which to vote and they’re not allowed to dock your pay while you’re off voting:

Employees to have three consecutive hours for voting

(3) Every employee who is qualified to vote shall, while the polls are open on polling day at an election, have three consecutive hours for the purpose of voting and, if the hours of his or her employment do not allow for three consecutive hours, the employee may request that his or her employer allow such additional time for voting as may be necessary to provide those three consecutive hours and the employer shall grant the request. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 6 (3).

Deduction from pay prohibited

(4) No employer shall make any deduction from the pay of any employee or impose upon or exact from the employee any penalty by reason of his or her absence from work during the consecutive hours that the employer is required to allow under subsection (3). R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 6 (4).

Time off best suiting convenience of employer

(5) Any time off for voting as provided in subsection (3) shall be granted at the time of day that best suits the convenience of the employer. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 6 (5).

If you don’t know where to vote, you can find out online at the Elections Ontario website (www.elections.on.ca). Click here for a direct link to their “Where Do I Vote?” page.

If you don’t know who’s running in your electoral district, you can find out on the Elections Ontario website by clicking here.

If you still need help, you can call Elections Ontario toll-free at 1-888-ONT-VOTE (1-888-662-2629).

Finally, to draw on something John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, said this morning on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning show: Get out and participate in democracy. Cast your votes for your candidate and the referendum. Or just the candidate. Or just the referendum. Or, if you truly can’t decide, go to your polling station and exercise your democratic right by declining your ballots because even that is participating in the democratic process.

Get out and be heard! Go vote! Now!

Letter published in today’s Ottawa Sun

October 10, 2007 @ 08:23 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

A letter by Brian Newman in Tuesday’s Ottawa Sun was way off base and did nothing but spread disinformation about MMP. They published my comments about it in today’s Ottawa Sun.

Don’t forget: The polls open at 9am!

Ontario’s Referendum: to MMP or not to MMP, that is the question

October 08, 2007 @ 23:56 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

On Wednesday, October 10th, voters in the Province of Ontario are being asked to cast two ballots: one for the person you want to represent you in the legislature and one to determine the future of voting in Ontario.

Currently, we use a system commonly called “First Past The Post” (FPTP) where people cast votes for the person they wish to have represent them in the legislature. The person who receives the most votes is the person elected. If the votes in a riding are distributed thusly:

  • Joe Blow (Party B): 40%
  • Jane Doe (Party A): 25%
  • Jason Bourne (Party D): 15%
  • James Bond (Party C): 10%
  • Ernst Blofeld (Independent): 7%
  • Joe Q. Public (Independent): 3%

Joe Blow would be elected to represent everyone in the riding, including the 60% of people who didn’t vote for him.

If the results in the rest of the province are similar, you could very well have Party B end up with a majority of the seats in the legislature, even though the majority of the votes cast in the province were not for Party B. This has happened in the past, and it will almost certainly happen again in the future.

So, what’s the solution?

Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) is the solution put forward by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The Assembly was made up of one randomly selected voter from each riding in Ontario and was tasked with looking at the current system and coming up with changes that the government promised would go to a binding referendum.

The Mixed-Member Proportional system would see a legislature with 129 seats, 90 of which are for directly-elected representatives and 39 allocated to political parties.

Under MMP, you still cast a ballot for your representative in the legislature, but you also cast a ballot for a political party. The representative who wins the seat in a riding is determined using the same method as FPTP — the person with the most votes wins.

After the 90 directly-elected seats are filled, if a party has fewer seats than its portion of the party vote, that party wins some of the additional 39 province-wide at-large seats to ensure it has a fair share of the total seats in the legislature. Each seat represents roughly 3% of the population of Ontario, so a party must win at least 3% of the party votes to win a seat from the at-large seats.

For example, if a party wins 40% of the party votes, and the number of riding seats they win falls 10 seats short of giving that party 40% of the seats in the legislature, then the top 10 at-large candidates on that partyís candidatesí list are elected to fill those seats.

Each political party identifies a list of people who will fill the 39 seats prior to the election. Well in advance of an election, they’ll be required to make public the names, background information on each person and the process used to create their list.

I could go on about it, but it boils down to this: MMP is superior to the system currently in place because it will see a more-balanced legislature and give the smaller parties more of a chance to be heard.

It also allows you to vote for someone you want to be represented by even if they’re not in the party you want to support, because you get to cast a vote for your party, too.

On October 10th, vote for MMP. You can learn more about MMP at www.voteformmp.ca.

Why I’m not voting for John Tory and company

October 07, 2007 @ 21:59 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

As you should know if you live in Ontario, there’s a provincial election taking place on Wednesday. While I haven’t completely made up my mind about who I will support this time, I do know who I will not support and his name is John Tory.

Apart from running negative attack ads from day one, something that I can’t believe converts any significant number of undecided voters, I just don’t find the messages in the Ontario PC Party ads, both negative and non-negative, credible.

For example, there’s an ad that has your “typical resident of Ontario” talking about deaths from smog. The number they quote is something like 1900 per year, and go on to say that equates to 5600 unnecessary deaths because Dalton McGuinty didn’t live up to his campaign promise of getting rid of the coal-fired generating plants. There may well be something like 1900 deaths a year in Ontario that can be attributed to poor air quality, but that doesn’t mean that eliminating the coal-fired power plants will eliminate the poor air quality. There are many other sources of pollution that contribute to poor air quality, particularly automobile that are a non-trivial source of the pollutants that make up smog. Other sources include heavy manufacturing such as refineries. But, the ad is worded to lead the viewer to believe that the coal-fired power plants in Ontario are directly responsible for 1900 deaths a year. What about the air pollution that is generated by extra-provincial sources upwind of Ontario?

Another ad talking about coal-fired power plants has John Tory bemoaning the fact that the coal-fire power plants weren’t closed as promised and outlining what he will do with respect to coal-fired power plants. His solution is to order the installation of scrubbers on the smoke stacks to reduce the pollutants emitted. A short-term plan — that’s all. He doesn’t go on to tell the viewer what the long-term plan is, which is a much more important issue. Is he going to commission new nuclear power plants, or gas-fired power plants, or build more hydroelectric generating capacity, or invest in alternative technologies such as wind or solar? Is he going to decommission the coal-fired power plants? Or are we going to increasingly rely on imported electricity, shifting the emissions from Ontario to another jurisdiction, some of which are using coal-fired generating plants that happen to be upwind of us, which brings us back to the previous ad.

Many of the other ads I’ve seen have similar messages that basically tells you that everything will instantly be wonderful if you vote for the Ontario PC Party. I find that hard to believe.