Thursday, November 5, 2009

Up-date on Fair Play Blog

Well, it's been 6 months or more and 150 posts later since I started Fair Play Blog. My initial thought was to write one or two stories a week or maybe none at all, on some weeks. I am happy to say that is not how it has turned out, and the stories and information pieces have been posted for the most part daily. It has been fun.

I am rethinking Fair Play and what to do with Fair Play. To me this is important since I have a very loyal and sizeable group of readers. Blogs today are more important than ever since the main stream media continue to fail.

Anyway, I am going to take the next couple of weeks at least to figure out what to do with Fair Play. In the meantime I may post a story or two, so stay in touch. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thank you Ian Connerty

Based on the feedback I have received I know my readers have enjoyed guest columnist Ian Connerty. Ian is a big talent and I am proud to say a very dear friend of many years.

If the local Windsor Star could find 2 or 3 writers like Ian, the newspaper might be interesting again, but don't hold your breath.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kyoto’s son, Copenhagen, will also be a failure

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Back in December 1997 a United Nations protocol was signed in Kyoto, Japan to reduce world wide emissions of greenhouse gases as a way of fighting global warming.

The Kyoto Protocol, as it came to be called, took effect in February 2005 and by October 2009, 184 countries had ratified the treaty.

But since Kyoto was signed, greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up, not down.

That’s because the United States, the county that produced the most greenhouse gases at the time, accounting for 36% of all emissions in the world, refused to sign Kyoto.

US President George W. Bush felt that so-called developing countries like China and even Russia were given an unfair advantage because they had zero reduction targets under the protocol.

He was right. By August 2008, China passed the US as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2. And since 2000, greenhouse gas emissions from China have increased by 120% as their economy has come to life. China now accounts for 20% of all worldwide emissions.

Kyoto is a failure.

In order to “save” Kyoto, the United Nations will be pushing for a new and tougher emission reduction protocol this December in Copenhagen. It would come into force after Kyoto expires 2012.

As far as the United Nations is concerned, Kyoto was only the beginning, asking for modest reductions in emissions. For European Union countries the reduction target was 8%, for Canada it was 6% and for Russia and China it was zero.

The Copenhagen targets will be much higher. The UN wants to cut global emissions by 60 to 80 per cent by 2020.

And fighting climate change will very, very costly.

While Kyoto is estimated to have cost Europe $23 Billion to comply, by way of funding clean technology projects in developing counties, Copenhagen sets the price tag at $250 Billion PER YEAR by 2020.

On the positive side, the UN also says there will be new markets for low carbon energy products of around $500 Billion by 2050.

However the biggest polluters, the US and China must sign on for Copenhagen to happen. China says it will only consider signing if the US does.

And that doesn’t seem likely, even under a new President who is more committed to fighting climate change than his predecessor.

The US Senate is stalling legislation which would make it easier for Mr. Obama to sign Copenhagen.

As a result, both President Obama and the UN are down playing expectations for this December. In fact, Mr. Obama is now saying he may not even attend.

Without a commitment from the United States to a new international climate change Protocol, China will also say no. And so will Russia, and so on and so on.

Kyoto is dead, and its beginning to look like Kyoto’s son is on life support.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ignatieff turns to key Chretien advisor for answers

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Michael Ignatieff took over from Stephane Dion as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada just 10 months ago after a revolt by Liberal Members of Parliament that ousted Mr. Dion

Mr. Dion lost his job because he led the Liberals to their worst election result since 1867 in the 2008 election when the Liberals got just 26.2 per cent of the popular vote.

Most of the Liberal Members of Parliament, fresh from that election, rallied around Mr. Ignatieff and installed him as leader of the party last December.

However, last week, after 10 months under Mr. Ignatieff, a nationwide opinion poll showed that the Liberals had dropped even further to just 25 per cent public support.

Last month was a particularly bad one for Mr. Ignatieff - highlighted by having his hand picked Quebec lieutenant resign in a very public manner saying that the Party was being run by too many advisors from Toronto.

Under renewed pressure from the same Liberal Members of Parliament who ousted Mr. Dion and installed him as leader, Mr. Ignatieff took drastic action.

He fired his chief of staff, Ian Davey, from Toronto and replaced him with Peter Donolo, from Toronto.

But unlike Mr. Davey, Mr. Donolo has worked on Parliament Hill before, as Director of Communications for former Prime Minister Jean Chretien from 1991 to 1999, helping him win three majority governments.

Prior to that he was a communications advisor to Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton and in 2003, he co-chaired the successful Toronto mayoral campaign of David Miller.

Firing Mr. Davey must have been difficult for Mr. Ignatieff because Mr. Davey is the reason that Mr. Ignatieff is in politics in Canada.

Four years ago, Mr. Davey went down to Harvard University in Boston to convince Mr. Ignatieff to quit his job as a professor there and return to Canada. They have been close political friends since then.

The firing is being touted as an example of Mr. Ignatieff’s ability to make the tough decisions demanded of leaders in both politics and business.

Mr. Donolo is being called a political magician because of his success in helping to get two Mayors of Toronto elected and for doing the same with Mr. Chretien nationally.

He better bring his best bag of tricks back to Ottawa with him if he hopes to have the same success with Mr. Ignatieff.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Failed H1N1 flu strategy is killing children

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Worldwide scientific studies show that the average age of patients admitted to hospital because of H1N1, the so-called swine flu, is 18 and the largest number of deaths is among teenagers and young adults.

But the Canadian and Ontario governments have decided, in spite of the mounting evidence that they are not at high risk of getting this flu, so they can’t even get vaccines yet.

Instead, a policy directive posted on the Ontario government website on September 24, 2009 says the following are on priority lists to get the scarce shots of the H1N1 flu vaccine:

  • people with chronic medical conditions, under age 65,
  • pregnant women,
  • healthy children from six months to five years old,
  • persons residing in remote and isolated settings or communities,
  • health care workers involved in pandemic response or the delivery of essential health care services, and
  • household contacts and care providers of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized or may not respond to vaccines.

Meanwhile, an 11 year old girl from Cornwall died two days ago in an Ottawa hospital and a 13 boy from Vaughan, a suburb north of Toronto, died yesterday at home in his father’s arms. Both died from H1N1.

They were not on the government’s priority list and therefore couldn’t even get the H1N1 vaccine.

And no one on the government’s priority list has died. What is going on here?

If children are dying, and no one in the priority groups is dying of H1N1, how can government officials stand by their decision to withhold a life-saving vaccine from Canadian children?

If parents did this, they would be arrested for child abuse and if the child dies, they might be charged with homicide.

How can health officials sleep at night knowing that their ill-conceived policies are targeting the wrong groups to get the vaccine and that their tardiness in delivering the H1N1 vaccine is resulting in dead children?

Wake up government.

Change your policies NOW in the face of the stark and uncomfortable facts. You were wrong. This disease is killing children, not seniors and care workers.

Another scientific study released just yesterday shows that older people have more immunity to this disease than young people. Back in September the Ontario government knew this saying: “data shows that infection from the pandemic H1N1 virus does not typically occur in persons over age 60, probably as a result of residual immunity from exposure to H1N1 prior to 1957.”

Most times governments are just wrong-headed and dumb. This time they are endangering your children’s health.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The slow and painful death of newspapers

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

In the six months ending Sept 30 2009 circulation of daily newspapers in the U.S. fell another 10% compared to one year ago. This comes on top of a 5% drop last year.

The biggest losers were the Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Newark Star Ledger which all had declines in paid circulation of more than 20% in just six months.

The Los Angeles Times dropped 11% and the Chicago Tribune was down 9 percent. Even the New York Times lost 7% of its readers. The only US daily with a slight increase was the Wall Street Journal which was up by 0.6%.

Canadian media is also feeling the pinch. Recently we witnessed the sad demise of the now bankrupt $4 Billion CanWest newspaper and TV chain and the closure of local affiliate TV stations.

This loss of readers and viewers is a problem for the mass media because advertisers look at paid circulation and viewer numbers to decide if, and how much they will spend with these media outlets over the next six months.

As a result of these reduced numbers, advertising revenues will now be down for most U.S. newspapers over the next six months and they will have to lay off more staff, further reducing the quality of their product.

And then they will lose more readers, and then they will lose more advertisers, in an endless cycle.

There is no end in sight to the bleeding.

Sell your media stocks now, if you still own any. Take your loses now, because the future will be more of the same.

This problem for the media is not just as sign of the global recession that is hitting newspapers and network TV hard, it’s because of the new competition – free news and commentary on the internet that has become a daily experience for former subscribers.

As for future customers - young people. They don’t even read newspapers – never have. They grew up on TV “Info-tainment news” and have now graduated to internet chat rooms.

The future is here on the Internet on blogs like this, and you are the proof that they work.

Informed commentary has been dropped by many mass media outlets in order to save money in their downward spiral and that is what the Internet is all about, as well as some real news, if you know where to find it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

OPSEU gets ready to fight “Dalton Days”

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

The 115,000 member Ontario Public Service Employees Union is getting ready to fight the McGuinty government if it tries to make up some of its $25 billion deficit by laying off OPSEU members or forcing them to take unpaid days off.

“We are already planning a bold strategy to fight the coming attack,” said Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas in a letter to all OSPEU members. “The Liberals’ plan is to make us pay. Premier Dalton McGuinty would not rule out unpaid days off for the million Ontarians who earn their bread in the provincial public sector. And the spectre of privatization now looms over every public service worker,” he continued.

This came in response to Premier McGuinty saying last week that he has not ruled out forcing Ontario Public Servants to take days off without pay and other suggestions that the government might look to privatize some of the work it does now.

Given that 80% of the $113 Billion provincial budget is spent on salaries, the Premier may have to embark on the biggest political fight of his life - against his own employees.

OPSEU responded; “As for more layoffs, they can only weaken local economies, destroy the services people need, and generate headlines the Liberals really don’t want to see.”

OPSEU has concluded that the Premier’s plan is to threaten layoffs and privatization of public service jobs to “force public employees to agree to the wage cuts or “Dalton Days” he wants.”

However, according to OPSEU such an arrangement, that was called “The Social Contract” by the Bob Rae government back in the 1990s when they forced OPSEU to take unpaid days off, would be struck down by the courts today.

They cite the case of BC Premier Gordon Campbell who attempted, in 2007, to legislate an end to collective agreements of BC health workers. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against BC and as far as OPSEU is concerned, “collective bargaining has been recognized as a protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”


Watch out Dalton, OPSEU will take you to the Supreme Court if you try this. And remember what happened to Bob Rae. He ended up being humiliated and took the NDP to a third place finish in the next election after he instituted his infamous “Rae Days.”

Mr McGuinty looks poised to go down the same road as Mr. Rae in order to cut government spending. If he does, he risks facing the same result as Mr. Rae at the next election.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ontario economy hits the wall

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Back in April 2008 the Ontario government projected a balanced budget and a surplus of $800 million.

Eighteen months later, Ontario Treasurer Dwight Duncan says the provincial deficit will be almost $25 billion this year and the accumulated deficits over the next three years will total $65 billion.

Wow. What a difference 18 months can make.

One the major bond rating agencies, DBRS was quick to react to the news, lowering the province’s bond rating from AAA to AA, a move which will increase the cost of borrowing money to finance the deficit.

DBRS also said it will take at least a decade for the province to reduce its debt burden to a more manageable level without tax increases or sharp cuts in government spending.

This huge downturn is the result of the global recession which hit Ontario’s economy and especially its auto sector very hard. More than 200,000 jobs were lost in Ontario this year including 25% of all jobs in the auto sector - gone and not likely to return.

At the same time, because of business loses and closures, corporate tax revenues have dropped by almost $6 billion, a whopping 48% less than last year. Other tax revenues are also down.

But government spending continues to grow. Spending is up almost $5 billion to $113 billion, mainly on health and education which account for more than 65% of all government spending.

Another $32 billion has been allocated for infrastructure projects to create short term jobs to replace the ones that have disappeared.

Treasurer Duncan indicated that cuts in spending are coming, but not right away. So far, cuts have been put off in favour of three years of continued deficit spending. But that might not be possible if the economy remains in free fall.

Mr Duncan announced a review of all government spending and Premier McGuinty has not ruled out forcing public servants to take days off without pay, a move that is being compared to the infamous “Rae Days” which led to the downfall of Ontario’s only NDP government back in the 1990s.

Given that 80% of all provincial government spending is on salaries, the government may have no other choice. Either lay people off or cut back their salaries with forced days off.

The options facing the government are very limited – keep spending and borrowing, cut program spending or raise taxes. Two out of these three will be very unpopular with voters in the run up the next provincial election slated for October 2011.

Premier McGuinty, who is nearing the end of his second majority government mandate is facing the biggest political challenge of his career and is obviously hoping for a miraculous economic recovery before the next election.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Ontario law will protect Caregivers

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

In the wake of the widely reported “nanny-gate” affair which saw Federal Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla get in trouble over the caregivers she hired to help her mother, the Ontario government has introduced legislation to protect the rights of the 21,000 people across the province who are part of the federal Live-In Caregiver Program.

The need for this legislation has long been promoted by Liberal backbencher and former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle. He succeeded in convincing Premier McGuinty to go ahead with the new law, giving hope to backbenchers who are promoting other issues.

The new law will protect foreign nationals who are live-in caregivers by:

  • Prohibiting recruiters from charging fees to these employees;
  • Prohibiting recruitment fees or fees for related services, such as resume writing;
  • Preventing employers from recovering recruitment and placement costs from caregivers;
  • Prohibiting employers and recruiters from taking possession of a caregiver's personal documents, such as passports and work permits; and
  • Allowing live-in caregivers up to three and a half years to make a complaint - an increase from the current two year period under the Employment Standards Act.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Obama reaches out to Russia but abandons Eastern Europe

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

This week US President Barack Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden on a whirlwind tour of Eastern Europe to do some serious damage control.

Biden will meet with political leaders in Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania in a vain attempt to reassure them that the US will continue to protect them against a newly emboldened Russian Bear.

This follows an earlier trip by Biden to Ukraine and Georgia who are also nervous that Russia is ending its long hibernation that began when the Berlin Wall famously came down in November 1989 heralding the break up of the USSR.

Since then the United States has expanded its influence in these former USSR satellite states, while Russia was licking its wounds and very nearly went bankrupt.

Former President George W. Bush developed strong ties with all of the former satellite states by, among other things, promoting NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. Then came the ill-fated hostilities in Georgia last year backed by the US. Russia quickly moved its armed forces into Georgia and told the US in no uncertain terms to get out of their home turf. Bush backed down and Russia is now re-exerting its influence on neighbouring states.

President Obama has reversed Bush’s policies of confronting Russia and is trying to improve relations with the former Superpower.

Last June Obama went to Moscow to cement the new relationship by agreeing to cancel the Missile Defence system that Bush promised to Eastern Europe. Bush said the system was needed to aim missiles at a hostile Iran. Russia did not agree and felt that Moscow was dangerously in range of the proposed missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Not surprisingly, the day after Obama cancelled the proposed missile defence system, Russia said they would help the US in dealing with Iran.

That was the deal. A chance for peace in the Middle East now and put Eastern Europe on the back burner. As a result, Eastern European countries that until very recently enjoyed US support in standing up Russia, quite rightly feel betrayed.

Today Russia is no longer the economic basket case it was in 1989. It is piling up huge profits from oil and gas resources thanks to a National Energy Program put in place by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

And Mr Putin found some very eager customers for his natural gas reserves in Western Europe not Eastern Europe, notably Germany, France and Italy. In fact, Germany is a financial partner in a new pipeline that will deliver Russian gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, bypassing Poland.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that Germany, France and Italy don’t seem to care that much about Eastern Europe and their new concerns about Russia. They want Russian gas and are prepared to treat Russia as an ally in order to get that gas.

As a result, the newly emancipated Eastern European countries will to be left on their own, once again, to deal with the Russian Bear.

And we all know what happened the last time the Bear got hungry – Eastern Europe became a tasty morsel to be swallowed up. This time President Obama has offered them up on a platter as he tries to play nice with his new found friend Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ian Connerty - Special Guest Columnist

A very dear associate of mine, Ian Connerty will be writing for Fair Play Blog over the next week or two. Ian is very talented, very thoughtful and very articulate. I know you will enjoy reading his opinions.

Thanks very much for doing this Ian.


Monday, October 19, 2009

What to do with Enemy Combatants and Terrorists?

The U.S. President, Barack Obama has made it clear that the Guantanamo Bay prison now holding enemy combatants captured on the battle field will be closed. What is to happen with these people, some of whom are terrorist masterminds and very very dangerous.

In a very well written piece just published in the Wall Street Journal, former United States Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey challenges us to think about what to do with enemy combatants and terrorists.

This is a lengthy article, but I strongly encourage you to take the time to read it.


Civilian Courts Are No Place to Try Terrorists 

We tried the first World Trade Center bombers in civilian courts. In return we got 9/11 and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents.

The Obama administration has said it intends to try several of the prisoners now detained at Guantanamo Bay in civilian courts in this country. This would include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and other detainees allegedly involved. The Justice Department claims that our courts are well suited to the task.

Based on my experience trying such cases, and what I saw as attorney general, they aren't. That is not to say that civilian courts cannot ever handle terrorist prosecutions, but rather that their role in a war on terror—to use an unfashionably harsh phrase—should be, as the term "war" would suggest, a supporting and not a principal role.

To continue please click here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ontario Budget Update Next Week

The "Great Recession" continues to make budgets and deficits major political problems for all governments. The Ontario government will provide its fall economic update next week. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has his hands full dealing with expenditures as a result of falling corporate tax revenues, 48% last year. Boy that is a big number.

The 2009-2010 deficit was projected to be around 14 billion. This past June the number shot up to $18.5 billion. We will see how big the number is next week.

The Ontario Liberal government cannot be fully blamed for this, but politics is unfair, so they will get plenty of blame. Minister Duncan, who is a smart political operative will have to use all his skill to navigate around the scary size of the deficit and then figure out how to get things back under control.

I cannot predict what Duncan will do, but it will be interesting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Update on Bankruptcy Protection for Owners of the Windsor Star

CanWest Global Communications Corporation, the large media company and owners of the Windsor Star is moving quickly to restructure. The company filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in the past week or so.  I thought for sure we would have seen a feature story on this on the front page of the Star, but I couldn't find it.

CanWest's lawyer, Lyndon Barnes, was before an Ontario judge on Tuesday October 13/09 asking for a very tight time line to restructure the company. He was also there to fight with lawyers representing Goldman Sachs whose lawyers have claimed their interests are not being protected. This fight is just starting, my bet is that Goldman will play hardball with CanWest. I think they see an opportunity here.

The big problem with CanWest is debt and more debt. Most of the huge debt piled on by CanWest came from the $3.5-billion purchase in 2000 of the Hollinger Inc. newspaper chain, and later the $2.3-billion buyout of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. in 2007.

There are very few ways to get rid of debt. You can pay it off. CanWest cannot do that. Everybody takes a haircut. Which is what CanWest would like, but people like Goldman don't like. Or the company is sold off in pieces and creditors agree on how to divide up the spoils.

Anyway this is all very interesting, I will try to keep you up to date.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The "Nobel" Prize

Given all the controversy over U.S. President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I thought my readers might like to have some independent information about the person who created the Nobel prizes.

I found a short but good piece in an online Swedish paper called "The Local".

Alfred Nobel's last will and testament
Published: 5 Oct 09 11:32 CET

Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel created the Nobel prizes in his will, written in 1895, bequeathing his fortune to a fund that would honour "those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

 Click here to read the rest.