Category Archives: Rants

Letter to MLAs regarding cell phone ban while driving in New Brunswick

Posted on June 1, 2010 by

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqfwcbw2oaU

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.

Regards,

Chris London

***

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.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

So, Coalition Governments aren't so bad now, Mr Harper?

Posted on May 11, 2010 by

Hmm, “coalition” government in the UK… Involving Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. In the very country upon which the parliamentary system of government used in Canada is based.

They are doing it for the sake of the people, it was what the people decided and they are working with it. A very democratic viewpoint, one shared by most Western democracies, a majority of which govern by coalition every day. As a matter of fact, coalitions represent the will of the people better than any single majority government (“dictatorship”?) ever could.

And I haven’t heard a single UK resident or politician (or even a Canadian Conservative…) utter the words “coup d’etat” while describing this particular coalition.

According to this article: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered Cameron his “sincere and heartfelt” congratulations, adding that Canada and Britain share a deep and enduring friendship forged by “hundreds of years of shared history, values and tradition.” All this without mentioning anything at all about his own feelings toward coalitions…

“Hundreds of years of shared history, values, and tradition”. Funny thing to hear from the man who screamed at the top of his lungs that democracy was being thwarted and called it an “undemocratic attempt to usurp power from his newly elected government through a backroom deal.” when the Liberals and NDP talked about a coalition.

I guess coalitions must only be a bad thing when Canada’s Conservatives are not invited…

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

How about some sustainability in electronic devices?

Posted on May 2, 2010 by

I am fascinated by the stupidity of the engineering and pricing models for electronic devices. Case in point – my TomTom GPS unit. There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact it is almost as cheap to buy a new one as it is to update the maps on my existing device.

I completely understand that the governments of the world we currently inhabit remain more concerned with today’s economy (read ‘the corporations’) than with living within our means or even trying to save the planet for the future of our kids. I also realize this is capitalist consumerism at its finest, forcing society to buy crap they don’t need just to “keep the economic cogs turning”.

But this is ridiculous. How about throwing even a small bone toward being environmentally friendly? Really, the world is shifting, albeit slowly, to a greener way of life, and this is driven by absolute necesity and the survival of the species. But corporate bulldogs fight it every step of the way with misinformation, threats, warnings of economic impacts, and outright lies. I think it is time to call their bluff!

I recycle. I turn the water off when I brush my teeth. I buy vehicles that get a gazillion kilometres to the tank. These are all the usual suspects that are in keeping with the propaganda the government is pretending to push these days. But if the government truly cared about the environment and sustainability as opposed to simply greasing the wheels of the corporate economy, they would implement some simple rules to ensure the products we use lasted a little longer and were not created with planned obsolescence.

And it would be easy to fix this issue. All electronic devices for sale in the modern world should be required to have memory expansion ports that accept industry-standard media cards. The Secure Digital (or SD as it is commonly known) card format would be a good choice for most devices simply because of size, capacity, and standardization. This small enhancement would enable additional features, software, operating system upgrades, etc., to be loaded to existing devices, regardless of a lack of built-in memory (also known as a lack of foresight and/or a war to bring you the cheapest price possible, regardless of consequences).

Having the latest processor that can power up my GPS 0.25 seconds faster is not a big deal to me. Having up-to-date maps on the other hand, can be pretty handy. That is only software. That is easy to implement. And that sure doesn’t cost as much to distribute as it does to build, market, program, and distribute a whole new device. But you would never know that from the price.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Secularism vs. Religion and dealing with the niquab

Posted on March 28, 2010 by

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.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Saint John's Tax Myth

Posted on March 8, 2010 by

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 .

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The NB Power Debacle

Posted on February 18, 2010 by

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?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

CIOs told to scrap enterprise IT departments?

Posted on August 31, 2009 by

Peter Hinssen, chairman of consulting firm Porthus in Belgium and a teacher at the London School of Business, gave an invitation-only speech to Canadian CIOs and explained to them that CIOs should scrap enterprise IT departments.

He states that CIOs need to be more than just nerds who manage nerds, which I agree with. However, he almost brags about cutting 5000 IT workers from the payroll at proctor & Gamble and outsourcing their jobs.

From a numbers-only, business bottom line point of view, Hinssen’s ideas this may sound like a solid idea, but what he is missing is the synergies that come from having real employees and not contractors. He advises removing a central IT department and a repository of skill sets to choose from.

I would suggest that Hinssen is a bit too much of a numbers guy and not a people person. HR departments are having trouble recruiting talent and finding solid workers. Any company that doesn’t provide employee loyalty is not going to receive it either and will spend enormous amounts of money recruiting and training new employees and contractors on a continuous basis.

Rather than, to abuse an old cliché, ‘Throw the baby out with the bathwater’, I would suggest a centralized IT management scheme and PMO that distributes IT resources throughout the company but still remains in control and up to speed on projects would be a more efficient model.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

100 Best Authors List (or not…)

Posted on August 21, 2009 by

I realize that no ‘Top 100’ list can ever be truly accurate, and I also find it difficult to see so many Americans on the list at the cost of so many other great writers. And the ‘best’ on the list? SPOILER ALERT: Faulkner (1) is good, and so is Kafka (2), but are they really better than Shakespeare (3), Doestoyevsky (11), Dante (12), Dickens (16), and Homer (17)? That is very much a personal opinion.

In any case this article: ‘The 100 Greatest Writers of All Time‘ by WILL HUBBARD and ALEX CARNEVALE at www.thisrecording.com, lists a group of very good authors, all worth reading and discussing, albeit very skewed toward Americans.

So, rather than arguing with this list and its proponents, I suggest that the following great writers belong on this list as well:

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Jack Kerouac
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Mordecai Richler
  • Joseph Heller
  • J.D. Salinger
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Oscar Wilde

And I am sure with a little time and effort, I could list off another 20 or 30 who deserve mention on such a list, proving that lists such as these are very subjective.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Quote of the day – "It isn't apathy making young people not vote"

Posted on August 18, 2009 by

I love this quote. It appeared in an article in ‘The Mark‘ by David Eaves, Public policy expert and Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Queen’s University. The article was titled The Apathy Lie, and is a response to Lawrence Martin‘s column in the Globe and Mail titled ‘If there is an inspiration deficit in our politics, blame it on the young‘.

Eaves explains how Martin’s logic is flawed simply because he is judging young people by the yardstick of older people, using an aging and outdated manner of collecting votes and determining government by a few . He describes young people as a group that ‘eschew the tools that Martin wants them to use – not just party politics but traditional media as well‘ and as being ‘uninterested in the slow and byzantine machinations of politics‘, and sums up Martin’s argument perfectly in the following quote:

Complaining that an Elections Canada campaign targeting young people didn’t work is akin to wondering why a marketing campaign on Facebook didn’t generate a bigger youth audience for a cable TV Matlock marathon.

Eaves describes how young people are taking the reins and actually making changes happen, as opposed to working within a very broken system to try and promote change. I find it both interesting and challenging at the same time, being caught in the middle between the ‘Boring Old Guys’ and the younger, digital natives.

In any case, I haven’t read an article in a long while that was quite as lucid and to the point about why young people are basically ‘fed up’, not only with the status quo, but also with such an outdated model of determining governance.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail