The following is a letter to my local politician regarding the lack of a cell phone ban while driving in New Brunswick. Feel free to copy/paste whatever you like from this letter to send your own!
Dear Mr. McIntyre:
I realize that the Legislature is not currently sitting and won’t be in session again until after an election takes place, but I think this topic is worth acting upon immediately.
As a resident of New Brunswick, I find it embarrassing that we are one of only two provinces that have not found it important enough to save our resident’s lives by making the use of a cellular telephone or any electronic device while driving a criminal act.
On January 5, 2010, Public Safety Minister John Foran publicly stated that New Brunswick is “studying” a ban. The following studies have already been done, years ago:
A 2005 study can be found here: http://www.cartest.ca/cell_phones_and_driving_late.htm
A 2006 Utah news article about a study by the University of Utah titled “Drivers on cell phones are as bad as drunks”: http://www.unews.utah.edu/p/?r=062206-1
Here is a PDF overview of the UTAH study findings: http://www.hfes.org/Web/Pubpages/celldrunk.pdf
The complete Utah study can be purchased and downloaded here for $28 + tax: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/hfes/hf/2006/00000048/00000002/art00014
Some articles from Canada that suggest even hands-free devices are not safe: http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2009/07/21/cellphone-driving.html
This 2010 study in New York found that bans on handheld device use in densely populated areas caused a reduction, often dramatic, in accidents and fatalities: http://scienceblog.com/29826/study-cell-phone-bans-while-driving-have-more-impact-in-dense-urban-areas/
There is no more need for more studies. They have been done and the results are clear. What is needed now is effective leadership and fast action. Every day that is lost has the potential to cost more lives.
A group of Saint John High School Film Study students created the following video in a plea to try and convince young people to stop driving and texting. I suggest this video is in response to their frustration at a government they see as not doing its job.
Thank you for considering this message and I hope to hear of you championing it as part of your legacy to the people of New Brunswick.
The email and mailing address for all NB MLAs can be found here: http://app.infoaa.7700.gnb.ca/gnb/pub/ListMLA1.asp
If you send an email to any or all MLAs, I recommend you also send a letter to them to ensure they officially respond that they have received your letter. Email correspondence often isn’t taken as seriously as a letter.
In the article Quebec Will Require Bare Face for Service, it is revealed that as a result of a recent Quebec decision, muslim women to Muslim women will need to uncover their faces if they want to deal with the Quebec government. It states “people’s face-coverings will not be tolerated if they hinder communication or visual identification“. This is a controversial and very polarizing issue, but one that needs intelligent debate, not superfluous dogma and rhetoric, a debate that needs to be aired in public if we are to move on as a diverse, multi-cultural society instead of a closed-minded, stagnant one.
Society is is a collective “something” we have a duty to work within for the betterment of all. We must attempt to have balance, and sometimes that means upsetting the apple cart, even when someone tries to play the “religion” card to avoid playing by society’s rules. If we want the benefits of society, we must abide by society’s rules. It is only fair to those who are paying for the administration these services (we the taxpayers) that we have a right to ensure the government protects these services from being misused by those who may be ineligible.
Canada is an immigrant nation and a secular nation. Just because the immigrants of the past were mostly of the “Christian” faith, that does not guarantee it will remain that way in the future. As a matter of fact, current immigration trends show predominantly Asian and Middle Eastern religions for new immigrants. But that shouldn’t be a concern because freedom of religion (or ‘from’ religion as the case may be) is the right of every citizen, and the rights of any one religion or group are not permitted to override the rights of society (represented by a secular government). It was a great, forward-thinking piece of legislation that guaranteed these freedoms. Any Canadian is free to practice the religion of their choice, and any other Canadian is entitled to agree or disagree, so long as they follow the rules of society. In this way, the rights of the many do not simply override the rights of the few. This quote fits: “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner”. I can choose, but cannot be forced to be a Protestant or a Jew or a Catholic or a Muslim or an Atheist. I am also protected from being required to abide by any particular religion’s rules, edicts, dogma, or anything else. Like all other parts of society, religious groups have a right to express their opinions on issues, but do not make the final decisions. We are all accountable to the rules of society above all, and in my opinion, this is a good thing.
Some would argue “but only muslim women cover their face” and “it is discriminating against muslim women for them to be forced to wear a niquab”. I have also been told (but can’t confirm) that the wearing of the niquab isn’t even written in the Qur’an, it is the result of some form of edict by one of the branches of Islam. That’s irrelevant. All religions are permitted to practice their traditions and beliefs, all all religions have traditions and beliefs that may seem quirky or dated to outsiders. Some Jews wear a kippah, fundamentalist Jews can’t work on the sabbath, some Amish can’t use modern technology, some Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t allow blood transfusions, some Protestant women can’t cut their hair or wear pants, Catholic priests can’t be women nor can they marry, devout Catholics eat wafers and drink wine and believe it transforms into the flesh and blood of Jesus, Sikh men wear turbans and carry ceremonial knives… I could go on forever. Whatever the religion, any Canadian has the right to join it or leave it and decide if they want to follow the traditions. Forcing outside opinions on them isn’t permitted, so long as they are abiding by society’s rules.
Getting back to the identity issue, when we remove religion from the equation, the decision is very easy to make. Without proper identification, anyone with a stolen or forged identification could receive the services by hiding their face. I should be required to remove a ski mask if I am wearing one while attempting to procure the services of a government institution. Why let religion complicate it? This issue should not be a religious one at all, but an issue of personal identification. However, that doesn’t mean society can’t also be flexible.
In this particular case, for the sake of a very few requests and in the spirit of accommodation, ensuring a female employee at the government agency views the unveiling rather than a man, regardless of how trivial it may sound to most of society, is a small accommodation that could easily be met, so long as the woman wearing the niquab was also willing to accommodate and wait until a female employee was available to help her. If none were available, she would have to decide if she truly wanted/needed those particular government services, and if she did, as long as all reasonable attempts to locate a female employee to identify her were taken, she would be required to identify herself to a man if she wanted/needed the services. Society trumps religion, but in a fair manner.
In the case of my ski mask example, I should be required to show my face for proper identification. I could then put the ski mask back on if I wanted. Same scenario as the niquab example, I simply removed any religious undertones.
Shawn Peterson started this discussion with a re-print of a Telegraph Journal article by Stephen Chase. The article was fuelled by what Mr Chase refers to as “pre-Easter” presents in the form of the latest tax assessment notices.
As I noted in a comment on Shawn’s blog, I agree with Stephen Chase on this issue, Saint John tax rates are too high compared to other areas of the province.
Saint John is eating itself from the inside out. I know many people who left (and are currently in the process of leaving) the city. I have considered moving out of the city to join the migrating herds in the KV, Grand Bay, or elsewhere to stop paying crazy tax bills, particularly when the assessments keep going up by ridiculous amounts. As for the tax rates, I (of course!) have some thoughts…
First, the concept of varying tax rates by municipality is in itself a problem. NB is not a large enough province to have such a needlessly complicated system, therefore, in my opinion, a province-wide tax rate is in order. Yes, it would upset those who live in the local service districts and some of the smaller communities because their taxes would likely rise, but most of them use the roads in the various municipalities, they use the hospitals, they work in the municipalities, etc., so their argument can be countered quite handily. The mixed pot of money from the blended tax rates would then be proportioned to the municipalities appropriately. The taxes in the areas like KV would likely remain constant, while the tax rates in the municipalities would likely drop, making them more attractive places to live.
Second, paying taxes based on assessed value is another issue that pushes people out of the city and into lesser-taxed areas. A homeowner with a 2500 square foot home valued at $150,000 uses roughly the same amount of services as a homeowner with a 2500 square foot home valued at $300,000, yet the homeowner in the lesser-valued house pays 1/2 price for those services.
Imagine someone who makes $60,000/year going to McDonalds and being forced to pay $6 for a Big Mac while someone else who makes $30,000/year only pays $3. It would never be accepted, so why should we accept it with our taxes? A better system might be to assess taxes based on square footage rather than assessed value.
Finally, there should be a percentage cap in place for those who retain their primary residence. For example, a little old lady who has lived in the South End for 30 years in the same home is forced to come up with more and more tax money each year, likely while facing a fixed income problem, for no new services (some would argue she receives less services each year…). And as long as she lives in that home, she sees no real benefit for the increased “assessed value” of her home. Therefore, a plan similar to the “Save Our Homes” amendment capping (and allowing portability) to tax rate increases at 3% for existing homeowners (and a 10% cap on all previously uncapped properties) in the state of Florida would be in order .
The latest headlines quotes Jeannot Volpe, a Conservative MLA and former Energy Minister, as saying that selling NB Power to HydroQuebec is a better plan than the status quo.
I have sat on the sidelines on this, mainly because I don’t know enough about everything, which is of course the fault of those in government who went through this whole deal-making process in secret meetings.
So how do I feel about it?
I have an issue with the fact they didn’t offer NB Power to the highest bidder. That to me is a major flaw in their plan. Other than that, I’m not sure what all the hoopla is about.
NB Power is not some great provincial landmark, it is a company and an asset. Yes, it employs New Brunswickers. Great. HydroQuebec will also need to employ New Brunswickers. The good employees will be kept on, the rest will need to find work elsewhere. It happens every day in business.
Let’s look at the facts:
NBTel is gone, so is Aliant. You can now send your bill payments to Bell in Ontario.
Fundy Cable is gone. Now you send your cable TV payments to Rogers or Bell or Shaw, either in Ontario or Alberta.
I pay my cell phone bill to Telus, a company based in Alberta and BC, because they offered me a better deal than Bell and have much better coverage than Rogers in my area.
My car payment goes to Toyota, a company from Japan.
What is the big deal about sending my power bill to HydroQuebec?
I don’t care where I mail my power bill payment, as long as I get the best rates possible. If NB Power can’t provide the best rates possible, I have no problem with finding someone better.
I am not convinced that selling NBPower is good or bad, but I am convinced that as a consumer in the current economic model we live under, if you shop at WalMart or Zellers or the Dollar Stores or Big Box stores, you support the principal of buying cheap rather than supporting the idea of buying local or high quality products. What is the difference?
This was in the Halifax Chronicle Herald today and pretty much sums it all up…