Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Billion Dollars is a Lot of Money

I have written numerous stories about the "eHealth" scandal. This sad story  just keeps getting worse as more details are made public.

An important update from the Toronto Star.

EHealth operation bled $1B

Auditor's report slams
Ontario's bungled push
for e-records and cash
it threw at the problem
Sep 30, 2009

Tanya Talaga
Rob Ferguson
Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau

The cost of Ontario's bungled push toward electronic health records for every patient ballooned to more than $1 billion as successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments scrambled to bring the system online, says a critical new auditor general's report into the eHealth Ontario spending scandal.

The Star has learned Auditor General Jim McCarter's probe, slated for release next week, blasts Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government for exacerbating problems that began under the previous Conservative administration and continuing a legacy of failure to modernize health records.

"It ain't pretty. This is not a happy tale," a senior official said Tuesday.

For the whole story click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ontario Deficit for 2008-2009 Bigger than Projected

The fiscal year for the Province of Ontario runs from April 1 to March 31st. It then takes a number of months before the Finance Minister is able to close the books and give a final accounting. This year is no different. On Friday, September 25th, Minister Dwight Duncan finally closed the books on the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Minister Duncan had projected a deficit of around $3.9 billion, but the number came in $2.5 billion higher by the time the books closed on March 31st 2009. The total provincial debt now stands in the neighbourhood of $113 billion. I agree these are all very big numbers.

Projections for the 2009-2010 fiscal year are also out of whack. Earlier this year in his budget statement the minister told Ontarians to expect a $14.1 billion deficit. After the first quarter the minister changed his projections. The following is a statement from the ministry website:

  • In the 2009 Ontario Budget, the government projected a $14.1 billion deficit for 2009–10. Since then, a weaker-than-expected economy and further steps to support the automotive industry have increased the deficit projection to $18.5 billion in 2009–10. 
  • This $4.4 billion increase to the deficit for 2009–10 is primarily due to an approximately $2.8 billion deterioration in the Province’s revenue outlook as a result of a weaker economy, combined with an increase in total expense of $1.5 billion to support the automotive sector and $0.1 billion in higher interest on debt expense. 
A strong political argument can be made to defend these very big deficits, and why minister Duncan has been so wrong with his projections. But I have to admit, the minister is going to have a hard time shaking the "Duncan Deficits" label.

The financial update regarding the 2008-09 deficit, like the TD Bank report on the impact to consumers of the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), was conveniently made public after the St Paul's provincial by-election. I know some political adviser or advisers must have thought delaying this information was a stroke of genius. However, in reality, the Liberals would have won the by-election anyway and the political manipulation of this public information needlessly harms their reputation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

German Voters Select Merkel

German voters went to the polls on Sunday, September 22nd 09 and voted to end the "Grand Coalition". For the past 4 years, Germany has been governed by an uneasy coalition made up of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The Christian Democrats represent the conservative right of the political spectrum, while the Social Democrats represent the left wing of politics.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has governed very competently and carefully over the past 4 years. She showed herself to be quite astute in dealing with the Social Democrats, who had half the cabinet positions as part of the "Grand Coalition". Voters rewarded Mrs. Merkel and her CDU with a big win; she will be Chancellor for another 4 years.

Germany, with a population of 82 million people, has the richest and largest economy in Europe. Germany is the world's largest exporter and a big investor in Canada, making what happens in Germany important to all of us.

During my time as Chairman of the Windsor Essex Development Commission, we at the Commission made a significant effort to get to know our German investors. In fact, for the very first time ever, the Board of Directors and Commission staff held a "German Investor Day" to acknowledge the importance of  German investors in the Windsor Essex region and our very special relationship.

The makeup of the new Bundestag or Parliament will have a decidedly conservative flavour. Results show the Christian Democrats winning 33.8 percent of the vote. The very pro-business Free Democrats are poised to win almost 15 per cent of the vote. The two parties will be able to form a majority government.

The Social Democrats won only 23 per cent--their worst showing since the second world war. Their political allies, the Left Party (who are very far left, by the way), won 11.9 percent.

Other smaller parties, such as the Green Party, will also be represented in the Bundestag. Voter turnout was just over 70 per cent.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Canadian House of Commons to grow by 34 Seats?

Speculation is rampant that the current 308 seat Canadian House of Commons could grow to 342 seats before the next federal election. Democratic Reform Minister Steven Fletcher, a member of the Harper government, is working on legislation which would greatly increase the number of MP's in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.

One would think that allocating constituencies for the House of Commons is a relatively simply task. In theory, in a liberal democracy like Canada, it should be one person one vote, and therefore all constituencies should be of similar size. But the history of Canada and past agreements with Provinces has created a cumbersome mechanism.

For example, since 1915, the senatorial clause has guaranteed that no province would have fewer members in the House of Commons than it has in the Senate. The Representation Act, 1985, created a new grandfather clause that guaranteed each province no fewer seats than it had in 1976 or during the 33rd Parliament. Legislation like this gives more power to smaller provinces and guarantees Quebec 75 seats.

Let's for a moment assume all federal ridings were equal. If this were the case, each riding would have about 108,000 people. However, this is not the case. For example, as things stand today, the average Ontario riding has about 107,000 people, in British Columbia the number is about 108,000 and in Saskatchewan it is about 69,900. Therefore, the principle of one person one vote is modified for different parts of the country.

The proposed changes to increase the number of MP's will be an attempt to address this issue. However, past agreements will prevent a true one person one vote situation. Using 2001 census figures, if the number of MP's in the House of Commons is increased from its current 308 to 342, you can expect the average riding population to be as follows:
  • Ontario 89,800
  • British Columbia 90,800
  • Alberta 87,500
The numbers for smaller provinces will not change. For example:
  • New Brunswick 72,900
  • Prince Edward Island 33,800
(All above numbers have been rounded for ease of use.)

The new situation will not be perfect, but it will be better and more fair than it stands today.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Details about the New Tax

My readers will know that I have written several times about the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Today's online version of the Toronto Star has quite a story.

Take your time; it's worth the read.

Ontario can't drop new tax
Sep 24, 2009
Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario's controversial harmonized sales tax is here to stay – no matter who wins the next federal or provincial elections, documents confirm.

Buried in the fine print of the accord signed last March between Ottawa and Queen's Park is a clause that ensures the new 13 per cent tax, which takes effect July 1, remains at that rate until at least 2012.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday he was not up on the minutiae of the four-page memorandum of agreement, which also stipulates the HST must be in place through 2015.

"I'm actually not familiar with that stuff," McGuinty said. "I'm sure that (Finance Minister Dwight Duncan) will be of help."

For the full story click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

King of Cheap Politics

Boy oh boy, some people just don't know where bottom is.

In today's Windsor Star a well written article touches on the ongoing feud between the Town of Tecumseh and the City of Windsor. The feud is very wide ranging and in my opinion is constantly stoked by Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and his sidekick Deputy Mayor Tom Burton.

McNamara was crowing about the Dragon Boat Festival being moved to the Tecumseh waterfront from Windsor. Festival organizer Gerry Orum, a very good guy by the way, made the official request to Tecumseh, which of course, was accepted.

What is most disgusting about this article are the comments made by McNamara regarding some recently public news about Sue Whelan, the former Essex MP and cabinet minister. For McNamara to bring attention to himself by talking about Ms. Whelan's health challenges, and somehow inserting her situation into this controversial matter is unspeakable.

Talk about a big mouth and a tiny brain!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Windsor City Council Way too Big

I have written several stories about the recent ward changes approved by Windsor City Council. Just a quick recap for my readers: Windsor has gone from 5 wards with 2 council members each, to 10 wards with 1 council member per ward. In this change, the number of elected officials stayed the same and Council designed most of the wards to be similar in size. The ward system had not been changed for over 30 years, and due to population growth and shifting neighbourhoods, some of the wards were quite large.

Council last week started to reduce the size of its executive management; the number has gone from 5 to 3. This is a big change! Some Council members have also indicated that the size of government for Windsor is too large and not sustainable due to slow population growth and the fundamental change that has taken place in Windsor's economy.

But when it came to their own members, Council made sure that 10 equals 10. At the time, my recommendation was 6 council members plus the mayor. The reporting by the Windsor Star on this issue was half-hearted at best. Where was super snoop Dave Battegello when we needed him? He seems to be able to do a lot of important research when it interests him. Just look at his terrific and skilled reporting regarding the recent departure of Windsor CAO John Skorobohacz. As an important side note, Skorobohacz is one of the most capable public servants I have ever worked with and that includes my time as an Ontario cabinet minister, where I worked directly with 3 Deputy Ministers in various portfolios.

Back to the size of council. I wrote about Edmonton, which has a population of almost 800,000. They have 12 council members. I would like to add another comparison a little closer to Windsor and very similar in size. Let's look at Kitchener with a population of 205,000. Guess how many council members there are in Kitchener? Indeed: 6 plus the mayor. They had no trouble dividing Kitchener into 6 wards. The city seems to be well run.

This information was too difficult for the Windsor Star to find. And I don't remember it being talked about at Windsor City Council during the "great ward debate".

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ontario Liberals Win By -Election

Dr. Eric Hoskins, a 48-year-old family physician, easily won the wealthy midtown Toronto riding of St. Paul's. The recent well publicized government spending, contract and expense scandals seemed to play no part in the vote.

Hoskins replaces former cabinet minister Michael Bryant, who left provincial politics in June, to become CEO on INVEST Toronto. Mr. Bryant recently resigned from his new CEO position due to his involvement (and being charged) in a tragic automobile incident.

St. Paul's was supposed to have been a hotly contested race. The Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate Sue-Ann Levy, 52, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, finished second, and NDP candidate Julian Heller, a lawyer, came third. The vote wasn't even close. So much for the pundits!

The standings in the Ontario Legislature now look like this: Liberals have 72 of the 107 seats, PC's 25 and the NDP 10.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What a Difference a Few Months Make

Last year then Liberal leader Stephane Dion took some very bold steps to remove Stephen Harper and his Conservatives from power. Mr. Dion with great fanfare held a media conference where he and the leader of the Bloc Quebecois along with the leader of the New Democratic Party signed an accord to defeat the Conservatives. The accord would have created a Liberal-NDP coalition government supported by the Bloc, but with no Bloc members as part of the government.

The accord included the following:
  • Stéphane Dion will be prime minister until May 2, 2009, when a new Liberal leader is chosen. The new Liberal leader will then become PM.
  • The Liberal Party and NDP will sit together as a coalition government until June 30, 2011.
  • The Bloc will support the new government until June 30, 2010, with an option to renew their support at that time. They will not be part of the government, and will not hold any seats in cabinet. The Bloc’s support is based on economic concerns, not the issue of Québec independence.
  • The cabinet will consist of twenty-four members, plus the prime minister. Sixteen ministers will be Liberals, six will be New Democrats.
  • The deputy prime minister and finance minister will be Liberals.
Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives went to work!!

Harper said "the highest principle" of Canadian democracy was to have a mandate to govern via an election. He went on to say anything less was a "betrayal" of our democracy. Boy, pretty strong words. But anyway, Harper and the Conservatives were just warming up.

Time and again Harper accused the Liberals of creating an alliance with the "separatists". And he accused the Liberals of trying to win power "through the back door". Referring to the NDP as "socialists" was about the nicest thing the Prime Minister said.

After a nation wide campaign to vilify the Liberals, Prime Minister Harper realized he was going to be defeated anyway, and took the extraordinary step of asking  the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to close down Parliament, in order to avoid a vote. This is truly breathtaking! Parliament had been in session for only 2 weeks. But it happened. Parliament was prorogued or closed, the Harper government survived, Mr. Dion resigned, and the rest is history.

Yet today on Friday, September 18, 2009, there will be a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons. The Liberals will vote to defeat Prime Minister Harper. The "separatist" Bloc Quebecois and "socialist" NDP will vote to keep Harper and the Conservatives in office. I guess we are supposed to believe that there have been no backroom deals between the Conservatives, the "separatists" and the "socialists"...

You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interesting Changes at Windsor City Hall

Windsor CAO John Skorobohacz did not renew his contract with the City of Windsor. I understand from media reports that this decision was mutual. Mr. Skorobohacz was quoted as saying "every CAO has a best before date". I believe this to be very true, especially in Windsor, where city officials have to work with people like Councillors Alan Halberstadt and Bill Marra. Halberstadt only throws curve and spit balls. Bill Marra is not reliable when he gives you his word and never knows what he wants.

I have known John Skorobohacz for some time and worked closely with him over the past 3 years as we both served on the Windsor Essex Development Commission Board of Directors. I have seen him in action in other forums as well. My up-close observation is that he did great work and his outstanding leadership will be missed by all in the Windsor Essex region, especially by those who want to get things done.

This week, Windsor City Council also reduced the number of top level administrators from 5 to 3, in an apparent cost-saving effort. The city unions see this as a prelude to job cuts in their ranks. This may or may not be true. Job cuts can also be achieved by attrition or retirement. With an election 12 months away, we will have to wait and see which route this Council takes.

The really interesting thing about reducing the size of government in Windsor is the recent exercise Council went through to alter the ward system for electing councillors. Windsor had 5 wards with 2 councillors in each ward, that makes 10. And after the changes, Windsor ended up with 10 wards and 1 councillor per ward. Gosh, that makes 10.

As I have said in the past, there is no justification for such a large Council.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Messy Details for Duncan Over at OLG

I said in my post of Monday September 14 that the anticipated law suit by Kelly McDougald, the fired CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), was sure to be messy. Sure enough, details of the 18-page statement of claim have begun pouring out. The alleged conversations between McDougald and Ontario Finance Minister Duncan are messy, to say the least.

The Toronto Star seems very interested in this story. In today's online editions we read:

OLG chief: I'm the scapegoat
Kelly McDougald says she was axed amid scandal
after refusing government order to fire underlings

Sep 16, 2009 04:30 AM
Rob Ferguson
Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau

The Liberal government knew months ago that an expense scandal was brewing at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., but kept a lid on it while searching for a political scapegoat before settling on lotto boss Kelly McDougald, her $8.85 million lawsuit against the province claims.

For the whole story click here.

As I said on Monday, it is very difficult to prove cause in such a firing. McDougald wanted 400 grand to go away quietly. My prediction is the Ontario government will spend far more than $400,000 just in legal fees.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

All Eyes on Ottawa

You can hear the Liberal McGuinty-Duncan government in Ontario breathe a sigh of relief from Queen's Park all the way here in Amherstburg. Liberal political appointments both at eHealth and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation have caused immense damage to the McGuinty and Duncan Liberals.

Why the sigh of relief? Well, federal politics has taken centre stage and all eyes are on Ottawa. Less than 3 weeks ago, federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff finally decided to be full-time opposition leader. No more "Mr. Nice Guy" and no more support for Stephen Harper and his very conservative Conservatives.

Ok, now the real political maneuvering begins. The Harper Conservatives have scheduled a non-confidence vote for Friday, September 18th. Will the separatist Bloc Quebecois and the socialist NDP, as Prime Minister Harper calls them, embarrass themselves and support the Conservative government? My money says yes.

It will take the Bloc and NDP leaders weeks to explain how this is possible and in the process eat up all valuable media space. And by the time they explain this vote, they will have to do it again. Oh boy, sore backs and joints for everyone. By the time Christmas rolls around, both the Bloc and NDP members will be signing up for the International Contortion Convention, where they will no doubt ably compete with world famous contortionist Daniel "Rubberboy" Browning Smith.

I know, I know, the Bloc and NDP leaders will say Canadians don't want an election. Then they will trumpet all manner of government announcements (the ones they like) as something they forced on the Harper Conservatives. And then they will conclude by saying, 'You see, it was worth supporting a government we don't support to get these great programmes and policies for Canadians'.

It is enough to make everyone want an election right now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Duncan and Fired Lottery Boss in Big Battle

 Just a short 15 days ago and with great fanfare and indignation, a very serious looking Dwight Duncan, finance minister for the province of Ontario, fired with cause Kelly McDougald, the CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The same day, the OLG Board Chair and the rest of the Board all resigned or were pushed out.

Minister Duncan, who only 2 months ago got responsibility for the OLG, exposed all the dirty laundry in a Toronto media conference filled with tension. The tension comes from what appears to be poor oversight by the Board of Directors of the OLG management and some interesting spending habits. There is lots of political sting here as this is fresh on the heals of the spending and contract scandal over at eHealth.

Premier Dalton McGuinty even got into the act by announcing new rules for the people who receive these political appointments. McGuinty announced that workers at the largest 23 of Ontario's 600 agencies, boards, and commissions will have to submit their expense claims to the integrity commissioner rather than having them approved in-house. Things must be pretty bad.

The 600 or so agencies, boards, and commissions (ABC's) do all sorts of things from running lotteries to managing environmental hearings, to the LCBO. The ABC's are so numerous and so influential they could be considered a government within a government. Most of them do good and important work and stay out of trouble.

The ABC's report to one government minister or another, so there is direct political accountability. As well, the legislature has an all-party committee that has oversight responsibility for these agencies, boards, and commissions. When I served as MPP for Essex South, I was for several years a member of this legislative committee. We would hold public hearings and have several of these ABC's before the committee each year and then issue a report.

Media reports indicate that Kelly McDougald, the fired CEO, was handpicked by the Liberals for the $400,000 per year job. This makes the whole fiasco doubly embarrassing for Duncan and the Liberals.

"I am disappointed about what has been brought to my attention," said Duncan during his media conference. He went on to outline some of the spending: $7.70 pen refill, a $1.12 cloth grocery, a $30 car wash claim submitted without a receipt, $487.50 for a nanny to be paid so a worker could attend meetings from September 2006 to December 2006 - no receipts, but the expense was allowed anyway.

All of the above is small but rotten potatoes. So we have got to believe that more--and the worst--is yet to come. You don't fire a CEO with cause on the stuff we have been told so far.

McDougald, according to Toronto media, will soon file a $9 million lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. This is bad news for Duncan, McGuinty and the Liberals, as all sorts of damaging political information is sure come out. In fact, one of the members of the OLG Board of Directors who resigned said she quit because the Liberals failed to act on the board's advice to strengthen accountability. Stuff like this will be used against the Liberals both in the court of law and the court of public opinion.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What to do with Afghanistan?

The current War in Afghanistan officially began on October 7, 2001, when the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the attacks of September 11th. The then-stated aim of the mission was to find Osama Bin Laden and to find and destroy Al-Queda. And, finally, to remove the Taliban government which gave protection and safe harbour to the terrorists.

The American and coalition forces were able to defeat and depose the Taliban government within a few weeks, but have never found Bin Laden or destroyed Al-Queda. The war grinds on.

We as Canadians have invested heavily in Afghanistan, both in blood and treasure. Since 2002, 129 Canadian soldiers have died as part of the Afghan mission. In 2008, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page reported that the mission would cost $14 to $18 Billion by the time it ends in 2011. That works out to about $1500 for every household in Canada.

As we all know, the people of Afghanistan recently participated in a vote. Current President Hamid Karzai is the 12th President of Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai was made Chairman of the Transitional Committee in December 2001. In 2002, he was named Interim President, and in 2004 he was elected President.

Governing has been difficult for President Karzai. He is surrounded by warlords who have their own armies. It is speculated that some of these warlords and maybe some senior officials in the Karzai government are involved in the heroin trade. As Canadians, we read on a regular basis of the interference from Pakistan, and media reports tell of safe havens for the Taliban on Pakistani soil. We hear horror stories of schoolgirls being attacked and brutalized for attending class. Indeed it appears to the outsider that in general very little has changed for women in Afghanistan.

Anyway, everyone keeps trying to build infrastructure and institutions in order to make Afghanistan a stable member of the international community. Without a doubt, it is in our interests to do so.

The whole Afghan mission is now in jeopardy, at least in my opinion, due to the recent Presidential elections. President Karzai's main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, and his supporters have claimed massive fraud in the voting. So far it looks like Mr. Abdullah may be correct. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is investigating more than 2,500 allegations of fraudulent activity. Media reports talk of fictitious voting stations and ballot box stuffing by the thousands. In fact, the ECC called on Afghanistan's Independent Elections Commission (IEC) to conduct an audit and recount because of "clear and convincing evidence of fraud in a number of polling stations." This does not bode well for Afghanistan's future.

Given the scale of this controversy, the best result might be a mandatory runoff between the two top vote-getters, Mr.Karzai and Mr. Abdullah.

All of us have too much at stake to allow the election to turn into a fiasco.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Can Venice be Saved ?

The city of Venice has a great history (and that is putting it mildly) as an financial power, maritime power, trading power and as a world centre for culture and arts. Over the centuries, Venice has played all these roles, while its main focus today is tourism, culture and arts.

I have traveled to Venice several times, with each I visit I am drawn closer to and further appreciate Venice.
Like many people from all parts of the world, I am worried about the future of Venice, one of the great wonders of the world. In fact, Venice and its lagoon is a  UNESCO World Heritage site.

Venice is located in the north-eastern part of Italy, in the wealthy Region of Veneto. Veneto is one of  20 regions in Italy and has a population of 4.8 million people. To better understand the situation, you should know that in Italy, a Region is similar to a Canadian Province or U.S State, and a Province is similar to a Canadian County. Their are 7 provinces in the Region of  Veneto. The City of Venice itself has a population of some 270,000 people. Only 30% live on the Venetian Islands in the lagoon (which we all presume to be Venice), some 70% of the city residents residing on the mainland part of Venice.

Thre are two big things going on in and around Venice that we should know and be concerned about. One is the "Moses Project". As we all know, Venice is subject to flooding or "acqua alta", as they say in Italian. In December 2008, Venice experienced the deepest flood in over 20 years, which put 95% of the city under water.

The simplest description of the "Moses Project" I have found is the following:

  • "A huge structure (composed of 79 steel dams) is being strung from thousands of steel stakes where the floodwaters enter the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. These dams are each 30 meters high and 20 long, and they will be raised into position every time a high tide threatens the city. The project is expected to cost in excess of 5 billion Euros, with annual maintenance at about 9 million Euros after completion in 2013. Obviously the intention is to hold back the water – but there is concern about the effect this will have on the fragile ecosystem."
The "Moses Project" is proceeding, albeit very slowly, and is now scheduled for completion in 2014. Hopefully, this will stop the flooding and any environmental consequences from the massive construction of the dams will be minimal.

The other big situation is the proposed mainland port expansion. Italian governmental authorities have plans to expand Venice's port into a huge shipping hub. In the opinion of many, this will endanger the fragile lagoon which the slowly sinking city is built on. This port expansion calls for significant dredging of the lagoon and will allow for more and bigger ships.

The British organization, "Venice in Peril Fund", which was founded in 1966 and is one of many international organizations working to preserve Venice, has issued a report and sounded the alarm bells over what is proposed. In 1951, around 1 million people per year visited Venice, recent statistics indicate the number is now 15 million per year!!

The proposed expanded port will bring in more cargo ships and more cruise liners with more people. None of this should happen without proper studies and management systems to enusure Venice and the lagoon are not further degraded.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy Labour Day

Following the Great Canadian Tradition, I don't plan on working leading up to and over the Labour Day Weekend!

See you all next Wednesday September 9th, 2009.

Be safe and enjoy the great weather.

Thank you very much for supporting "Fair Play Wins" Blog!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How About Full Disclosure on the Internet

If you write an opinion for others to read, you should give your name. This is a basic principle that should be followed, no exceptions.

So, you want to write a letter to the editor of the local paper. What a great idea, more people should do it. And if you do, there is accepted protocol for you to follow. For example, this is the protocol at the Windsor Star:
  • "Letters to the editor must include your full name, address and a daytime phone number. The Star reserves the right to edit, condense or reject letters. Letters must be fewer than 300 words." 
 If your letter gets published, your name and town gets published as well. So if I wrote a letter, my name and Amherstburg would appear.

So there you have it. A good policy as far as I am concerned. The same or similar policies hold true at other publications as well. 

My question is, why no such policy for online stories by the Windsor Star and other publications? Why the veil of secrecy? Why allow anyone with a throw-away email address and some goofy moniker to spout his or her opinion? What opinion can be of value or fair under such circumstances?

Let me give you an example.

On September 2, 2009 someone named Tumble Weed wrote the following:
 "people in Windsor are sick of unions. be gone with you. i wish you into the corn field"

in response to an online article titled: 
"Labour Day parade hits wrong note with musicians' union"

Now I know this "letter" by Tumble Weed is pure genius and Tumble Weed is certainly within the 300 word limit. So good so far.  And, of course, this is what you get when you have no standards.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Banking will Never be the Same

Technology is changing many things we do and how we do it. Banking is no different. The TimesOnline did a really interesting story of how you might be banking in the year 2020, not that far away, really.

From The Times August 29, 2009

What high street banking will look like in 2020

Banking technology is developing so swiftly that soon you’ll be able to buy things without your PIN or plastic

Imagine a world where, when you walk into your bank, messages and adverts pop up that address you by name. A world where debit and credit cards are extinct and business is done by a swipe of your mobile phone. A world where you make payments using an iris scan and do not have to remember those pesky PINs.

It might sound like the premise of the futuristic 2002 film Minority Report, based on the novel by the science-fiction master Philip K. Dick. But the technology to make all this possible is already being developed. What sounds far-fetched now could be the norm in just a few years.

For the rest of the story click here.