Courage in the Face of Contagion

Posted: 22/10/2014 9:24:58 AM





Recently I attended a graduation at York University. You can not help but be moved watching a parade of young people who have worked so hard, march across the stage and pick up their Bachelor of this or their Masters of that—young graduates filled with such hope, such promise, and crushing personal debt.

The last group to graduate were the nurses. They are a tribe onto themselves. They were by far the loudest of the bunch. They didn't care, they cheered each other on louder and harder than anyone else. They celebrated as if nobody was watching. They had the best shoes. And as they strode across that stage I could not help but think what kind of occupation are they marching into.

We’ve all seen the news. We live on a continent that is currently hysterical about a terrible disease that very few of us know anything about. And we’ve been here before. In my lifetime, AIDS happened; good people, decent people, family and friends were scared and ran the other way. Nurses—they went into the room, they held the hands. When SARS happened, when the city of Toronto was bathing in Purell®, the nurses went to work every day. And when they got sick, other nurses replaced them.

And now we have this terrible thing, Ebola. It has yet to, and perhaps never will reach our shores. But if it does, we know what will happen. We will run for the hills, they will run into the room.

So let us take a moment and praise the nurses. And let it be known that in this country, in Canada, no nurse should be denied the equipment or training they need to do their job safely. We should be there for the nurses because they’re always there for us.

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Special Access Adds Ease to Attacks

Posted: 15/10/2014 7:43:00 AM





When a three or a four-year-old takes candy from the corner store and puts it in their pocket without paying for it, we all understand it's not the end of the world. And we also understand that if that child has parents with a moral compass, on that day that child learns the lesson that stealing is wrong. Because in our society, if you take something that does not belong to you without permission, it is theft. It does not matter who you are.

Oh, unless of course you’re the Conservative Party of Canada, who recently floated the idea of changing Canada's copyright laws. Not to protect people who need the laws or to create jobs. No, no. They want to change the laws to allow political parties, them specifically, to take news footage that they don't own, to re-edit it, slow it down, add creepy music, and create attack ads. Well in this country, you just can't do that to footage without permission, no matter how tempting the candy is—because it is stealing.

If Global TV, a private news outfit, invests time, energy, resources, and money landing an exclusive interview, another news network can't take that footage and put it on TV. Because they don't own it. A charity can't put that on TV because they don't own it. There are no exceptions. To quote a very popular document—Thou shalt not steal. I know Stephen Harper has been accused of having a hidden agenda but I didn't think it involved circumventing the Ten Commandments.

Stealing is wrong. If the Tories allow this to go through, every single Tory MP should have to write a letter to the children in their ridings explaining to them why the next time they’re in a store, if they think they can get away with it and no one is looking, take all the candy you want.

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Bound by Tradition?

Posted: 08/10/2014 6:54:14 AM





Growing up my father told me, over and over again, that the vast majority of Canadians, when they go to work in the morning, they try their best. That it was human nature. And you know what? I believed him. Well, with all due respect, I can’t help but think that when my father came to that conclusion, it was before there were cameras in the House of Commons. 

We have gotten to the point now where if you ask this government any question on any issue, domestic or international, they will tell you, "We stand with Israel.” You ask a cabinet minister directions to the closest washroom they will tell you, "We stand with Israel.” Which personally I believe does a disservice to Israel. But that is the situation we find ourselves in. 

Enter the Speaker of the House of Commons, our referee, our saviour of democracy, Andrew Scheer. He says it is not his job to ensure that the government answers direct questions in question period; despite the fact that it's been in his job description since 1894. 

Well, that’s not the way Scheer sees it. No, in a passionate, passionate ruling he revealed to the country that his only role is to ensure decorum in the House of Commons. Show me one person who believes he's done a good job on the decorum front. 308 meth addicts on the dance floor have better manners. 

Which brings me to a proposal. This government is always saying they’re looking for redundancies to save money in government. May I suggest the job of Speaker, a job that comes with a minister's salary, a staff, a car, a driver, a house in the country where deer gambol on the lawn. Yes, they gambol. And we replace the Speaker with a bag of flour with a smiley face drawn on the front with a sharpie. What's the worst thing that could happen? Questions will go unanswered, rudeness will prevail.

Because really if the highlight of one's professional career is an eloquent explanation as to why they are useless, they should be relieved of the burden of faking it. 

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I've Been Everywhere Man

Posted: 24/09/2014 3:05:07 PM





I’ve been everywhere man… and we haven’t even started yet.

RMR is back for another season, we launch on October 7.

Three weeks ago my crew and I (all four of us) hit the road and started shooting segments for the coming season. I’ve flown Toronto to Halifax, Halifax to Fredericton, Fredericton to Toronto then on to Edmonton on to Vancouver then back across the country to St. John’s before popping back to Toronto to wash my smalls and then back to Calgary and Edmonton again. Throw in a road trip to Kingston Ontario and a couple of thousand miles on the rental van and it’s good to be back. Although sometimes I forget where back actually is.

Without giving too much away, we may have outdone ourselves this season already. I now have a scar on my right index finger from a shark. Yes I said shark. Also I may have swam with this shark. I know that makes me sound incredibly brave, and let’s face it I am, but it is a very tiny scar. In fact it is nothing compared to the bruise the size of a dinner plate on my left kidney that Jann Arden gave me when I took her on a date. I think it means she likes me.

I now know what it’s like to land a plane on a glacial lake in the mountains of British Columbia and just how glacial those lakes feel. I’ve blown up a popular nightspot in St. John’s using all manner of explosives. I have harvested wild blueberries and I was convinced for some reason to try a sport called face first repelling; without revealing too much it involves a cliff, a rope and a man with a dream.

Did you know pilots in World War one threw bombs out of planes by hand? I did that too, except instead of bombs I used baking ingredients. Somewhere in Canada there is a mayor who is a very good sport and has a new fear of flour.

Oh when using a chain saw that has a blade longer than a dinner table, beware of the kick.

Also removing wheat seeds from ones ears can be accomplished with what doctors call “a light rinsing”

Along the way I may or may not have carved something in a wheat field while driving a half a million dollar combine harvester. I am always amazed how generous Canadians are when passing me the keys.

Anyone flying East over the prairies keep an eye out of the left side of the plane. It is visible from 30 thousand feet.

The season hasn’t even begun yet and of course there are more trips planned. Every week until Christmas we will be back on the road. Early in the season Don Spence my cameraman made me promise that I wouldn’t make him go on any more boats in the North Atlantic. I broke that promise in week one. Next week I shall do it again except it doesn’t really count because the water off Newfoundland is famously flat and calm.

The countdown is on… I’ll see you on Tuesday Oct 7 on CBC @ 8:00. 8:30 in NL.

Now if only there was something to rant about.

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The Kids Are Online

Posted: 02/04/2014 7:06:21 AM





One of the advantages of a majority government is they can pretty much do whatever they want. Now, how we ended up with a strong, stable majority government with just 39 percent of the popular vote, that’s just a fun fact of Canadian democracy. 

But with voter turnouts at historic lows everyone realizes that our democratic process, it needs some tinkering. Which is why the government has introduced the Fair Elections Act. Ironic title because in a clever move they have decided the way to deal with low voter turnout is to make voting more difficult. Gotta hand it to them. Did not see that coming. 

How is it possible in 2014, in a bill that deals with how we can vote, was there absolutely no discussion of online voting? And I know, online voting makes a lot of Canadians very nervous. I'm one of them. I’m old fashioned. I like the notion of lining up in a church basement, getting a little stubby pencil and marking an X. And do you know what that makes me? A dinosaur. 

Because while I may not like the idea of online voting, I know who will love the idea. Young Canadians. They are some of the most wired people on the planet. They go to school online, they work online; heck, they find husbands and wives online. There are literally millions of young Canadians who have never walked across the room to an attractive person and tried to score a phone number because there’s an app for that. If the biological imperative won't get them out of the house, I don’t know how voting is going to do it. 

The government has a responsibility to make voting available wherever Canadians live. And yes, all Canadians reside in a riding but young Canadians, they live online. If we let them pay taxes there, let them vote there.

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