Monthly Archives: April 2006

More than “positioning,” please

A new poll by Decima Research finds that 63% of Canadians believe the Conservative government is “doing a poor job on the environment.” (The poll was even taken before the government gutted environment programs last week.)

Pollster Bruce Anderson was quoted as saying that public opinion research suggests Canadians are becoming more focused on global environmental issues, and that “it’s important for [the Conservatives] to position themselves as progressive advocates of environmental solutions domestically and internationally if they want to broaden their support base.”

Bruce isn’t wrong. I might humbly add, however, that “it’s important for the Conservatives to become progressive advocates of environmental solutions — and implement those solutions — if all of us want to preserve our quality of life.”

But hey, I don’t want to get into an argument over semantics.

Rahim’s Magic BlackBerry

On the lighter side, our friend Rahim Jaffer was on the radio today defending his government’s decision to ban cell phones and BlackBerries in cabinet meetings. Cynics could be forgiven for taking this as a sign that the Conservative government does not trust its ministers, or that they want to further clamp-down on ministers’ abilities to communicate with the media.

Not so, explained Jaffer. The ban is for security reasons. You see, according to Jaffer, even if your BlackBerry or cell is turned off, a hacker could remotely turn it on and cause it to start transmitting audio from your location to theirs without your knowledge.

Seriously. He said that. I am not making this up.

Tell ya what — I’m offering a cash prize to anyone who can do that with my phone. I’ll even give you a head start: I’m leaving it turned on.

Chasing the Cancer Answer

Wendy Mesley just got off CBC radio talking about her Marketplace documentary “Chasing the Cancer Answer,” which will re-air in an extended one-hour cut this Monday April 17 and 8pm on CBC Newsworld.

If you decide to watch it (and tape Prison Break), you’ll learn a lot of things someone should have told you by now. Like the fact that almost 1 in 2 children born today will have cancer in their lifetimes. Or that a recent study found that the average Canadian has 44 heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals in their blood. Or that the Canadian Cancer Society only spends 10% of their budget on prevention (and even that is mostly spent on healthy eating and anti-smoking campaigns).

What can the government do? Well, for a start they could ban carcinogens from being used in personal products (there are carcinogens in my shampoo? in my food?), or at least require that those carcinogens are listed on the label (…labeling isn’t required?).

How is it possible there’s still only one political party in Canada that thinks this is a priority? Are we going to wait until 1 in 1 children are destined to have cancer?

Real Transparency and Accountability

Listen, there are lots of things I find disturbing about this government’s performance so far. Seriously. Lots and lots. But nothing upsets me more than the way they’ve attempted to shut-out and manipulate the media, or those who disagree with them.

This is the one issue that all of us, regardless of partisan leanings, should be able to get behind. Even if you support the Conservative government, you still need to know what they’re up to.

And remember, this government was elected, above all, on a promise of transparency and accountability; as in, transparent and accountable to us. The news media, regardless of its faults, is our number one source for information on what’s going on in government.

(As a side note, during the last election campaign my communist opponent loved to opine at all-candidates meetings that “Stephen Harper is the face of George W. Bush in this country.” It’s not the most accurate statement that’s ever been spoken, but it’s a great way to get applause from a Toronto crowd. Try it some time. Anyway, the point is that this move to control the media reminds me more of the Bush White House than anything else Harper’s done so far.)

We need our government to open up. Let ministers and MPs speak their minds; hold frequent press conferences; give reporters full access. Of course, if we do that, we’re also going to need to learn to be more forgiving of politicians who talk like normal people. And bloggers who write longwinded ranty diatribes.