Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is Stephen Harper getting ready to pull the pin?

We all know that minority governments are destined to fall - it's a political sure-thing. When they do, it's for one of 2 reasons: Either the opposition decided that it was time to force the government down, or the government decided it was time to go to the polls and try to get more members, or possibly even a majority.

Mainstream Media news reports over the past 2 weeks have indicated tht Stephen Harper and his inner circle may be considering this second option. Of course, the Mainstream Media loves elections, and hopes we get one every few months - this is the same media, though, that thinks a washed-up pop princess' sexual escapades and haircut are front-page news while we've got troops in combat. Today, we'll examine whether or not Prime Minister Harper SHOULD engineer the defeat of his own government, and head to the polls.

Point One: Democracy is inconvenient. The possibility for voter backlash is a real one when a government engineers its own defeat. Unless the spin doctoring in the media is expertly done, the public can decide to punish the party that triggered the election. And although the Harper Tories have some PhD's of spin in their ranks, the media aren't exactly enamoured with Steve and the Gang.

Point Two: The Conservatives are in the best possible situation they could hope for as a minority government. At this point, support from ANY of the opposition parties is enough to ensure a bill or motion passes. The only way they could be more secure in their numbers would be if they were to capture a majority of the House - a possibility that nobody, within or outside of the party, is even daring to mention, it's so preposterous with the polls where they are.

Point Three: The malaise and partisanship on Parliament Hill is gumming up the works. A fresh mandate from the people of Canada would give the Tories a green light to go ahead with their climate change initiatives, the Income Trust issue would go away ("the voters agreed with us").

Point Four: IF you fall on your legislative sword to trigger an election, you've got to make sure it's on a very popular piece of legislation. If the Tories pick something too far to the right, KNOWING it will be defeated (as an example, a ban on gay marriage), then the voters will view the defeat of the bill, and of the government, as a neccesity rather than as a simple matter of fact, and the governing party starts at a disadvantage, as the other parties can begin the campaign on the high road, saying that all Canadians need to act to keep those "right-wing nutjobs" out of office, on account of what they were trying to do before "we righteously brought them down".

Point Five: The record of "Canada's New Government" is lacklustre, at this point. They've accomplished a lot, all things considered, but except for the GST cut, none of their initiatives has been front-and-centre. They've tried to get legislation passed, and most Canadians will remember what at least a couple of their 5 Key Priorities were in the last election, but with the exception of the GST cut, most won't be able to identify if the Tories got their way or if the laws are sitting in minority parliament limbo. After a year in power, if you go to the voters asking for a new mandate, you've got to show them WHY you deserve more time, since you're just not getting a majority in this political climate.

Point Six: The sponsorship scandal is yesterday's news. The anger that the average Canadian voter felt towards the Liberal Party of Canada is gone, for better or worse. Stephane Dion may be a leadership neophyte, and there may be fresh footage from the Liberal leadership debates to illustrate their lack of unity, but the greatest impetus in the last election was not to elect the Tories, but rather to punish the Liberals. With that impetus gone, many people who voted Tory while holding their nose last time will go back to voting Liberal at worst, or stay home at best.

Point Seven: The NDP is down in the polls, but those voters aren't running to the Tories, they're running to the Greens and the Liberals. There's a chance to capitalize on the NDP drop and steal a few seats for the Tory cause, but not enough to get you a majority.

Most of these points argue against calling an unneccesary election. Prime Minister Harper announced today that he has no plans to rush into an election - and that's a wise decision. Until the Tories get their first Five Key Priorities through the House, one way or the other, coming back to the voters to ask for a new mandate is a dangerous proposition. In the meantime, the Tories should keep trotting out centrist policies (like today's HIV announcement), completely immerse themselves in the environmental and climate change dialogues, and take the chance that the Liberals might organize themselves and fundraise. Because at this point, the Tories have a lot more to fear from themselves and the voters than they do from the other parties in an impending election - and that's not likely to change for quite a while.

- ES

Friday, February 16, 2007

There's No Business Like Snow Business...

Well, the Chinook wind has blown through Calgary, and with it the warm-fuzzy feeling that city planners hope will all but erase the feelings of outrage that many Calgarians had been simmering in for the week before that.

Calgary is a city of a million people, with 4,203 kilometers of paved roads, and is in Canada. Even a 10th-grade drop-out from Little Rock, Arkansas could tell you "it's probably gunna snow there, y'all". And snow it does. And the plows hit the road... after 3 days of non-stop snow. Why did it take 3 days?

"We send out the plows after 10 centimeters have fallen". So said the head of the snow removal crews, many times, this past week. Even though the city's own website says it's 5 centimeters that is the bench-mark, not 10. But, he says they start plowing at 10 cm.

Really? Where are the rulers, pray tell? Who's measuring this 10 cm? Is there a little old lady in Mount Royal with her yardstick, waiting for the snowfall to hit 4 inches so she can call city hall and tell them it's time to dispatch the plows? Because here at my house, by the time the first plow passed by (I'm on one of Calgary's secondary roads, not a major road like the Deerfoot or Glenmore, but close), there had been close to 22 cm of snow. Getting in and out of my place had become an absolute joke - and I'm not alone.

Now, the city claims that most Calgarians won't support a tax hike of $30 to $40 per year for improved snow removal. What they FAIL to mention, however, is that Calgarians as a rule get their taxes hiked by 3 to 5 percent EVERY YEAR, for nothing more substantial that what is vaguely referred to as "maintaining high levels of service". Well, DUH... if you hiked people's taxes and told them much of it was going to be because you had to hire 3 new communications specialists and buy 65 new computers for City Hall staffers, because the 2 year-old machines were obsolete, most Calgarians would tell you where to go, and how to get there. But you don't GET that specific, do you? You just say "maintaining service levels, 3 to 5 percent", and we swallow it. So, hike the taxes, plow the road, and we'll swallow it.

Will the Chinook inevitably come? Yes, it will. But, in this last winter storm, we had 850 collisions in this city. EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY. The Chinook hit only yesterday. The average amount of damage to vehicles in these collisions is estimated to be around $3000, and about half the collisions are single-vehicle crunchers. So we're looking at a cost to Calgarians of $3,825,000. During this ONE STORM. That doesn't factor in personal injury, or lost productivity or wages due to injury or traffic snarls. $3.8 Million. But it's through the insurance companies, so who cares, right?

Believe it or not, when most people get into an accident on a road covered with snow that they pay the city every year to clear, the first thing that pops into their head after they hear that sickening crunch is NOT "Thank god, the insurance company will pay for the damage".

Now, back to figures. You'll recall that the cost in pure damage to vehicles, for this one storm alone, will cost Calgarians (and their insurance companies) $3.8 Million. This city's snow removal budget, for the YEAR, is $17 million. Edmonton's budget is double. Makes sense, Edmonton gets more snow than Calgary, right? Wrong. According to Environment Canada, Calgary averages 5 cm more per year than Edmonton. But the Chinooks melt it all, right? Right. Eventually. But tell that to the people involved in the 850 collisions in less than a week, while the city sat on its hands, did a "Sun Dance", and prayed for warm weather so they wouldn't have to pay the plow operators overtime.

The Chinooks came. The furor will die down. But $3.8 Million is a heavy price to pay for the city's lack of foresight. And that's just for ONE storm like this. Calgary gets 2 or 3 of these storms, in an average year, with similar numbers of collisions.

Perhaps the insurance companies should send the bills to the city?

- ES

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who is the Canadian Soldier?

We used to know our men and women in uniforms were "the good guys". It was an accepted fact of life that those in the Canadian Forces were there to help, both at home and abroad. They were people of the highest character, doing what few of us dared, and continuing a long tradition of service to Sovereign and Country. We even had something of a reputation for going out of our way to thank them, especially those who chose to identify themselves as Veterans as November the 11th neared each year.

In the past few years, that image has changed. Now, soldiers are viewed with a sense of foreboding, or mistrust. Politicians all say the right things: "We support our men and women in uniform, and trust that they live up to the high standards of conduct set by their forebears..." but, in the end, much of that support is of the verbal sort only. As a society, we have changed the way we view the Soldier. Some of this is perhaps leftover disgust at the Airborne fiasco... some of it, from the stories that hit the newswire every so often of atrocities committed by Canadian troops in faraway lands like Somalia, Rwanda of the Balkans. Some of it - in fact, perhaps a large part of it - is our general dislike of the need for a martial element to society, and the things we see, hear and read about troops from the U.S. and their alleged indiscretions. But somewhere along the line, we as a society decided that the last group of Veterans who served for a higher purpose were those in Korea and, before them, WW2. The lack of a Hitler-esque threat has also contributed to this general shift in attitude towards the military - we don't have a foreign army, led by an evil madman and all wearing matching uniforms, threatening to destroy us or our Allies of Mother Britain, so why do we need a full military? We did fine recruiting and outfitting troops after Hitler invaded Belgium.

Now, the disrespect for the military has been creeping to the forefront as late (see the aborted "Troops in Our Streets" ad for proof), but is this a purely Canadian phenomenon? Hardly. Americans, much as they did in Vietnam, have begun to view their own troops not as liberators or heros, but as (at best) puppets of a corrupt, incompetant government or (at worst) little more than government-sanctioned thugs. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, "Pardon me, but aren't you all just a bunch of hired killers?".

As a nation, we have to decide what we're going to do about our soldiers... the current missions to Afghanistan have put the military life, once considered a viable option for graduating high schoolers unsure of their next step, in stark opposition to its former perception. No longer are the Forces viewed as "getting to wear that messed up hat and turn the ship 135 degrees on a dime, like in the commercials". Heck, even the COMMERCIALS for Armed Forces recruitment have changed to reflect a more operational status.

As I mentioned above, all politicians say the right things about our troops. The Harper Government is taking steps to modernize our equipment and increase our recruiting numbers, and the mumblings of "warmongers" aren't all that hard to pick out, if you just listen hard enough. They're accused of wanting to cuddle up to George W. Bush, who'll be gone in less than 2 years anyway. Some people actually suggest that these new soldiers, with their new guns, will be used to launch OFFENSIVE missions against other countries. In short, they're suggesting that Stephen Harper is going to wait for a majority government, and then try to INVADE somebody. The only thing more laughable and simultaneously sad than the assertion that the government, and PEOPLE, of Canada would support such an action, is the suggestion that, if told to invade, say, Chile, that Canadian troops would simply say "okay", and grab their rifles. Kevin Bacon following Col. Jessop's orders in Gitmo notwithstanding, few soldiers will do something they know to be illegal simply because they're ordered to. One would think this would be the case even LESS often in Canada, where rule of law and order rather than fear or hope for domination have been the driving force for generations.

What we need is to decide as a nation whether or not we're going to support our troops. We can choose to support or withhold our support from their leaders, the ones we elect. But when those men and women put on the uniform, whether to help set up sandbags in Manitoba or to flush out Taliban in Kabul, we have to decide whether we support them or not, without condition. They can't be heros on one mission and thugs on the next, simply because of our politics. They put their lives on the line for poor pay and minimal respect, and have to endure dangerous working conditions even when NOT in combat. Either we as a society believe that this is because they are good people drawn to public service, or we believe that they're really frustrated bullies who want the government to give them a gun so they can kill other human beings without fear of legal reprisal. We need to decide which case we believe, and we need to commit to that belief. Then we can at least know what to tell our children when we see that uniformed man shopping at Safeway.

Either's he's an example of the best we have to offer, or he's a thug with no good job prospects who enjoys hurting people.

It's time we decided, and reacted accordingly.

I vote "Hero". Just as my grandfathers and uncles did when they signed up for fly planes, jump out of them, build bridges across France and stomp through the mud to stop Hitler's war machine. These men who, because of their surnames had their farming equipment confiscated by the Canadian government as possible security risks, yet still volunteered to serve that same government and, in some of their cases, bled and died on the same ground in Europe that their parents had left behind for a better life not 30 years earlier. They didn't have to go... but they went. And not because they were thugs, or bullies, or murderers. They went to save people like their parents, and their cousins. They went because it was RIGHT, knowing full well they could die. I owe no less respect to the men and women who wear that uniform in a time of peace as I do to my dead ancestors buried in the cold, dark soil of Western Europe. To me, they represent the best that our nation has to offer, and what little money and respect we pay them for their efforts doesn't even BEGIN to account for one sweat-soaked night of terror that these brave people have to endure not in battle, but when they come home to their loving wife or husband, lay down to sleep, close their eyes, and see the face of the man they killed who was trying his best to kill them first. Many have those same nightmares every night, for years. Or forever.

Thug? I think not. Hero? Only because there's no better word.

- ES

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Blogger Blogs on Blogging

Well, I've been at this for a little while now, and I thought I'd take advantage of a break in the insanity that has become my schedule as late to post some quick observations about my experience thus far. No hard-hitting political commentary today, sadly.

I've found, for the most part, that I'm really enjoying my voyage through the blogosphere. It's been a great chance to add to the conversation, rather than just contributing to the noise. Most of the people I communicate with are extremely friendly, and welcome all viewpoints, not just their own. Even people who comment on this blog, anonymous or not, have tended to send well-thought out arguments and offered their support. I'm really enjoying myself, and hope to continue this as long as I can. With municipal elections, federal elections, and provincial elections all seemingly within the next 12 to 18 months, at most, I hope to use this beach-head to offer the same biting, insightful, witty, and humble commentary you've come to expect. ;)

I wanted to give special thanks to Ken Chapman, who went out of his way to make me feel welcome. I really enjoyed our conversation, Ken, and hope that we can have many more as I get more entrenched in the "alternative media", and eventually make my grab for the reigns of power as (gods help us all) an elected official someday.

So, who does the Commander-in-Chief of the ES Nation read every day? I read Ken Chapman's Blog several times a day - I have to, to keep abreast of all the varied issues he brings up with machine-gun rapidity. Phendrana Drifts is a daily read as well, and Duncan and Allie have been extremely kind to me. daveberta is a great read, and although you'd think that Dave and I had little in common philosophically, I often find myself nodding in agreement with his posts - before I realize that, as he's a Redmontonian, I'm honour-bound to disagree with everything he says except for any positive comments about God's Favourite Hockey Team, the Edmonton Oilers. ;) I also check out Larry Johnsrude on a daily basis, and find his blog a great source of information on the blogosphere itself.

I received mail today officially welcoming me to Progressive Bloggers! BOO-yah! Everyone make sure to vote for my posts - if I can figure out how to get them to appear. Opinions, I'm long on. Blogging Tech Knowledge, not so much.

Projects coming in the future include a possible podcast or vidcast (depending on the technological know-how required to get such things set up). There are "Enlightened Savage" stickers on the way - although I'm having a difficult time deciding between simple stickers with the logo and the URL on them, or stickers and buttons with "Proud Member of the E.S. Nation" on them.

I'm still trying to get time off from the gov't job (in the mysterious, un-named department in the miscellaneous ministry) to attend the PC Convention in Edmonton this May. I'd really like to meet up with the usual suspects while there (Ken, Duncan, Allie, Dave - I'm talking to YOU!) and report from the proceedings, but we'll see. I will DEFINITELY be in Edmonton in March, performing, and will let anyone who expresses an interest to my email (amishbuggyracing(at)gmail(dot)com) in on the where-and-when of that appearance. :)

I recently upgraded cell-phones to a Sony-Ericsson Z710i, which will make it infinitely easier for me to post remotely to the blog, if and when I figure out how to get the wireless keyboard for my Palm Tungsten E working, so I can type the message in the Palm, beam it (via I/R) to the phone, and post it to the web from there. I know, Blackberry would probably be easier - but I'm a Fido customer. :) Only provider with per-second billing.

On a personal level, work and life have caused me to contribute to the blog MUCH less often than I'd like, but those of you who have had to move 20 years worth of knick-knacks and whatzits into a substantially smaller space than they previously inhabited, while still trying to live your lives, not ruin your personal relationships, work several jobs and run a business (so, clearly no one who's SANE) can attest to the mess that things have become lately.

Thank-you all for your patience, and here's to many more great conversations in the days, weeks and months to come!

- The Enlightened Savage

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

"The Party" versus "The Caucus"

Well, Garth Turner surprised absolutely no-one (except, possibly, himself) by crossing the floor yesterday and joining the Liberals. As usual, the MP in question decided they would never be the kind of player they hoped to be within the caucus to which they were elected, stepped down "out of principle", and then at the first opportunity, jumped to a new party, trusting that the new party will form the next government and they'll get the clout for which they were hoping originally.

The familiar chorus from the floor-crossing MP's these days is as predictable as a Rush Limbaugh interview on gay marriage:
"I wasn't comfortable in that party/Their leader is (a dick/jerk/little hitler/imbecile)/They're being run by idealogues".
Worth looking at, though, is the assertion that these MP's make, that there's something wrong with the PARTY that they're leaving...

The Party is the national executive, the caucus, the leader, and the thousands of members from coast to coast to coast who vote on policy points and form the planks of the platform that you RAN on, and had no problem with at the time of your election as a Liberal, or Tory, or whatever. They're the people who spent insane hours at your campaign office, to whom you rarely deigned to speak except for a select few, whom you lent to other candidates (from that same party) to bolster their fortunes, whom spent hours knocking on doors, dropping off flyers, and making phone calls to undecided voters, all on your behalf.

THAT is the Party that you suddenly feel so uncomfortable with?

Look Garth, Belinda, Wajid, David, Scott... you all had a problem with your caucus. With the other people who managed to get elected under the same banner that you did. With the guy sitting at the front of the room, or his secretary, or his pals, or whatever. You wanted to be one of the people sitting near the front of the table. You wanted to be "on the inside". An advisor to the leader. Helping to set policy. Sitting at the cabinet table. Having your people spin you as a possible leadership heir. But it didn't work out, and you decided you'd have a better shot at your goals in another party because, quite frankly, you hate the people you work with and you've got no power and no hope for advancement. I get it. Nobody likes to go to work where they think the boss is a jerk and nobody likes them and the feelings are quite mutual. So you quit, and find something else.

But DON'T step in front of the camera and tell me you're quitting because you're "uncomfortable with the party's policies towards women", or because "Mr. Dion isn't a leader". Tell the truth.
Step up to the mic and say "I'm jumping because we'd need a 50-member cabinet for me to even get a sniff of cabinet on this side of the house, the leader and I disagree on just about everything, and I think (name 3 or 4 MP's here) are just total jag-offs."

Don't tell me you're uncomfortable with the Party, or its direction... because that discomfort wasn't enough to prevent you from accepting the help and money of the THOUSANDS of Party members who got you elected with their money and their hard work. And if you think you're uncomfortable with your former party NOW, keep bashing it (and those thousands of grass-roots members and supporters who worked so hard to get you IN), and see how hard those same people work, and how much they donate, to get you OUT of office.

- ES

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Road to Damascus

Alright, my biblical history is a little on the thin side, but the sentiment will be clear soon...

Prime Minister Harper came out today and stated, unquivocally, that Canada "must act" to curb global warming. Opponents of the Prime Minister will point to statements he's made in the past about "so-called greenhouse gases" (oddly enough, many of the networks airing those complaints still refer to a "so-called fiscal imbalance" and see nothing wrong with the term when they themselves use it) and Kyoto.

Many of these opponents are completely ignoring 2 key points. Firstly, Kyoto is not the be all and end all of environment change. Just because it was agreed to years ago by many nations (although it was ignored by most of the largest polluters), and Jean Chretien liked it, does NOT make it the only possible way to deal with climate change. "I disagree with Kyoto" does NOT translate as "I think there's no problem". It just means that you prefer a different solution. The second main point these people are ignoring is the possibility of conversion. Yes, as in "conversion on the road to Damascus". There's the tie-in. Harper made these statements in the past. As he became better informed about the issues, he may have changed his mind on the science of the issue. Critics will come out, no matter WHAT the Tory plan, and trot out Harper's old letters and speeches as proof that he's a dinosaur on the issue. But they discount the possibility that he may have changed his opinion in the meantime.

Consider the heros of these critics:

Stephane Dion was a seperatist who campaigned to break-up this country. He's now readily accepted as the man to "stop Stephen Harper and untire all Canadians". Perhaps he converted on the road to Damascus, and changed his opinion on seperatism?

In 2004, Jack Layton demanded for the revocation of the Clarity Act, and said that the NDP would immediately recognize an independant Quebec after any referendum win for the "yes" side. In 2006, he pledged his unwavering support for the Clarity Act. Another Damascus conversion, leading to a change in opinion?

Al Gore, the Godfather of Global Warming Activism, is not immune to this type of conversion. In the 1980's, Gore voted 84% of the time against abortion. Yet, once elected Vice President, he became a champion for a woman's right to choose. A change of opinion? An unconvenient truth.

The bottom line here is that those on the left readily accept all of these "conversions on the road to Damascus", all of these changes of opinion, yet they generally refuse to accept that such a change in the opinion of the Prime Minister is even the remotest of possibilities. I submit, respectfully, that if politicians can change their opinions on such fundamental, values-based policies such as Quebec remaining a province of Canada, or abortion, they can certainly change their opinions on whether or not the environment is changing.

If it's good for Saul the Tax Collector, it's good for Paul the Apostle.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Pinch of This, A Dab of That...

Greetings, ES Nation... once again, real life has been getting in the way of my duty to tell you all how you should think. I'll have to get on that plan to launch "ES" merchandise and quit my jobs, so I can just blog all day. ;-)

Now then, only have a bit of time, so I'll throw out a bunch of quick hitter today. If people comment on particular topics, I'll flesh them out in frther detail later.

The Ads
Well, all too predictably, the press got up in arms over what is universally referred to as "American-style" ads the Tories hav eput together about Stephane Dion. Nope, no anti-American bias in the mainstream media there. Just every time they want people to hate something, they throw "American" into the name (American-style attack ads, American-style health care).

The Tories took a calculated risk by running these ads - could it be construed as desperation? Yes. Could one presume that, by attacking Dion in this way, the Tories are legitimizing him as a threat to their grip on power? Yes - but who ELSE would the Tories consider a threat to their hold on Parliament? Are Duceppe,
Layton or May going to win a majority?

The bottom line here is you only get one chance to make a first impression. The Liberals, largely with the media's help, made Stock Day look like a total buffoon shortly after he came onto the scene federally, and the Canadian Alliance paid for it at the polls. If Harper has learned a lesson from this, he has Sensei Chretien to thank for the education... and since the Tory mistrust of the mainstream media is both ingrained and probably legitimate, paying for ad time seems the best way to go. Is it ugly? Yes. But it's a calculated risk - and one that may end up paying off at the polls. Bad news for Dion. Dare I say, good news for Justin Trudeau, who may get to take a shot at taking his "rightful place" in a few years?

Hancock on Health
Dave wants us to be healthy. He figures, shockingly, that one of the best ways to save the government money in healthcare is to promote healthy living. Wait a minute, he's putting the onus on US? Nah, that'll never work...

But seriously, Dave has been all over the Health portfolio since first opening it up just over a month ago, and he's made some great suggestions. Will everyone be happy with them? No. Will some of them be difficult to put into place? Sure. But will we all benefit in the long run? Absolutely. It's like the Metric system - not everyone wanted to change, but it made sense in the long term. Among Dave's pondering as late:

  • Province-wide smoking ban: General ban? No way. That's prohibition, and won't work. Ban in all public spaces and buildings, including bars and casinos? It's going to happen eventually anyway, it's a great idea that will save lives, and if you do it across the porvince in one fell swoop, no businesses will suffer a loss of customers to the bar the next town over. Get it done.
  • Eliminate Health Care Premiums: Taking away the tax that everyone sees, and replacing it with a bump in the taxes we automatically lose off each cheque, is a smart move. It may be a political shell game, but in the end, we're always happiest when we're not thinking about specific taxes. Winner.
  • Healthy Living Tax Breaks: HELL yes, and about bloody time. People who spend their own money to get healthy will, as a rule, cost the public less money in the health care system, so those healthy choices should be rewarded and partially subsidized by the government. Giving people tax breaks on exercise equipment, gym memberships, etc. is going to be a pain in the butt to get set up, but once it's going it will give people a fiscal incentive to take responsibility for their own health. One wonders if Dave is going to listen to some of Gary McPherson's ideas from the leadership race, and include therapies like chiropractic of chinese medicine either as covered by Alberta Health or as eligible services for tax write-off...

Is Stephen Fat?
Answer: It doesn't matter. Dion comes off as a petulant child for bringing it up on the heels of what he knows are going to be ads aimed at him. He brought it up in a joking way, but the Tory ads are focused on his policies and leadership, not on his accent or his physical appearance, which are (and should be) off-limits as personal.

That said... the Tories come off as the big losers here, because most casual observers won't split that hair. They'll look at this little temper tantrum the Tories are throwing and say "if you can't take it, don't dish it out". They'll be right, of course, even though Dion's attack is personal and Harper's is professional. The Tories cemented their repuation as thin-skinned, quick to anger and ready-to-fight at the drop of a hat - not what a lot of people list as major selling points in a government.

ATM Fees
Jack Layton had a good idea. Excuse me while I go wash my hands for even having typed those words.

Back. Now look, if I actually add up my ATM fees over the past year, and add them to my account fees each month, I've paid probably $720 for a bank to hold my money, pay virtually no interest on it, and I've never once gone in to see a live human being about my account. No teller withdrawals, nothing. The ATM and its explosion in popularity (along wth Internet banking) has reduced the number of living, breathing people banks need working at each branch. And yet, despite the fact that the advance has saved the banks millions in wages, we're charged further fees for the privilege, "for the convenience". Well, if it's convenient for me AND it's convenient for the bank, why don't we drop the charge and call it even?

An ATM transfer costs the bank nothing to process, save for a slip of paper and a couple watts of electricity. The calls from machine to computer are all local. There's no need to charge me to use the machine, because by using it, I (and millions of Canadians like me each day) am SAVING the bank thousands of dollars by not going into a branch and dealing with real, live people who are paid by the hour.

Non-brand ATMs should still charge - they're businesses, usually put there by the establishment or by a third-party, offering a convenient place to withdraw money that you can then turn around and give to the waitress/throw into a VLT. Convenient? Yes. Does the bar or restaurant is most cases get the money right back? Sure. But a private entrepreneur put that machine there, and filled it with his or her own money - for that risk, they deserve a chance to make $0.75 on a transaction.

But the bank's ATM is sitting there, at the bank, holding MY money. That I pay the bank $20 per month to watch. And if I want some of my money, they're going to charge me to give it up? When they're already turning hundreds of millions in profits each year, on projects they're investing in with MY MONEY? No. Good business, bad sense. Give me back my money! Jack's got a good poisition on an issue that affects a lot of Canadians. Unfortunately for him, it's a minor annoyance rather than a full-on crisis, but with the NDP polling numbers as late, he needs every ray of sunshine he can find.

- ES