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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Very Thin Skin Over at the Windsor Star

I had to chuckle, not very loudly of course, but chuckle I did.

In the Saturday, October 10, 2009 edition of the Windsor Star, feature opinion writer Chris Vander Doelen (whom I confess to knowing and liking) did a piece about the City of Windsor and County of Essex, doing some "fence mending". The story had little to do with the City-County feud or with any real fence mending. It was just a cover for the Windsor Star to slip in another piece on the Windsor Essex Development Commission (WEDC) and, of course, to take a shot at yours truly, and the previous WEDC Baord. Readers of my blog know I pull no punches when talking about the failures and antics over at the Windsor Star, especially this past week. Star management was very quick to show some very thin skin.

Back to the details of the Vander Doelen story. Chris always tries to be polite and careful, which he was in this article. But he did give this story a certain slant. That is okay; I have always said that is one of the perks given to an opinion writer. But what I don't understand is, why do it under some kind of false cover? Hey, just say what you have to say.

Okay, let me see if I can summarize Vander Doelen's main points:
  • the previous Board was paid an honorarium
  • when the WEDC was left without a CEO, the Board appointed me via my company
  • I was paid $1200 a day (Chris claims this is my standard rate)
  • the previous Board received bad legal advice
  • the result of the bad legal advice was that some monies had to be donated to charities to resolve a Revenue Canada issue
  • and new Board Chairman Lindsay Boyd, with a big sigh, just doesn't know where and how the old Board went wrong
Let me deal with Lindsay Boyd first. Lindsay, the entire previous Board is aware that you pretended to support us when you talked to me, but often ran to City Hall to slam us behind our backs. Every time you did this, my phone rang from multiple sources. Anyway, I wish you and the new Board lots of luck. I don't think any of the previous Board members will be slamming you and the new Board in public or behind your back.

Yes, the previous Board received an honorarium, just like the Board at the Windsor Airport and the Board over at the County of Essex Power Corporation. I wonder, who is the Chair of that Essex Power Corpoaration? The City and County, via their own transition Board, approved the policy of honorariums for the WEDC Board. Chris forgot to mention that.

Yes, I was paid $1200 a day plus reasonable expenses. Chris, just so you know, this is far below my private sector market rate. And in the private sector when I negotiate rates, I usually, not always, get stock options as well. And, oh Chris, I know you would want to know that I and my company donated 2 days per week to the Commission for a period of 18 months. This was a promise I made to the Board, which I kept in full. I will let the wizards at the Windsor Star calculate what all of that was worth, and while they are at it, they might want to consider a factor for lost opportunity and add that to the calculation.

Chris, please let me know when any of the new WEDC Board members decides to forgo 2 days per week of pay or income for a period of 18 months to support the WEDC effort. I am not a rich man, but I was happy to be able to do it. I thought the cause was worth it.

Chris makes no mention of the fact that the previous Board inherited an operational and legal mess. We did not make a big deal about it because we knew our job was to fix it up, and for the most part we did just that. The previous Board was very competent, did a good job, and got a lot done. Those are the facts.

Yes, maybe we did receive bad legal advice; I don't know as I don't have access to what the new Board is dealing with.

If the consequences of the so-called bad legal advice is that some Windsor-Essex charities received donations, well I accept full responsiblity for that, and I know the charities will use the money wisely.

In closing may I recommend:
  • that all Board meeting packages, initiatives, and documents of the previous Board be made public. Please black out the names of any and all clients, as we promised clients their names would not be made public unless they chose to do so;
  • make public all Board packages, initiatives and documents of the new Board since March 2009;
  • and please make public the Board orientation packages prepared for the new Board, which I am sure were prepared under the guidance of new Board Chair Lindsay Boyd, so we can get an appreciation of his knowledge, skillset, and leadership style;
  • oh, and please make public all the advertising and joint initiatives the previous Board undertook in partnership with the Windsor Star. From my understanding Star management was exceptionally pleased with our joint effort. And if the Star made some money on those joint efforts, that is good, too.
I am sure an objective comparison of all the obove documents would be interesting. And you know, there is no better person to do that than Chris Vander Doelan.

Again, my readers will know that I have pulled no punches when talking about the Windsor Star. A couple of close Amherstburg friends have asked me if I am worried the Star might go after me. Let me say this: I know the Star has a lot of resources, including Chris Vander Doelen, and yes I expect them to go after me. The Star folks are not used to real scrutiny, and when they get some, they react poorly. Everyone should know that I really appreciate the Star folks visiting my Fair Play Blog daily. Thanks for the support.

And I say to my Amherstburg friends, no, I am not worried about it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, be safe, see you next Tuesday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The End for Canwest Global?

CanWest Global Communications Corporation, owners of the Windsor Star, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday October 6, 2009. This was expected, as the company is under a mountain of debt.

The Globe and Mail did an excellent piece; read below.

CanWest assets likely to be sold after company files for creditor protection
Struggling under $4-billion in debt,
media company strikes deal with creditors

Grant Robertson, Tavia Grant and Andrew Willis
Tuesday, Oct. 06, 2009

CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s (CGS.A-T0.19----%) television and newspaper assets will likely be sold separately as Canada's biggest media company moves to satisfy its lenders.

Buried under billions in debt, CanWest filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, telling a judge in Toronto it was now insolvent.

Click here for the entire story.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ontario Health Minister Forced to Resign Over "eHealth" Scandal

As my readers will know, I have been writing about the problems over at eHealth for some time. This is the organization that is supposed to put all medical records in electronic form for easy use. Once this is done it should lower the cost of health care management and make it easier for practitioners to deliver service to the patients. So, in theory, eHealth is a good thing and should be worth the money.

However, the implementation of  the work being done over at eHealth is another matter altogether. It has run into lots of problems and has emerged as a major scandal. In political terms the scandal has given the Ontario Progressive Conservative party a big boost in their chances in the next provincial election. Because of this scandal, its size, the fact that it deals with health care, and the amount of attention it has received, all future criticisms of the McGuinty government will be taken more seriously. This may not be fair, but that is politics.

The following is the big story in the Toronto Star today.

eHealth scandal claims health minister

Premier scrambles to shuffle cabinet as David Caplan quits on eve of damning report on eHealth scandal

Published On Wed Oct 7 2009

The eHealth Ontario spending scandal has claimed one of the most powerful people at Queen's Park – Health Minister David Caplan, whose resignation forces Premier Dalton McGuinty to revamp his cabinet.

But McGuinty has one hand tied behind his back as he struggles to reshape his embattled Liberal government because Deputy Premier George Smitherman, who is planning to run for Toronto mayor next year, does not want to quit his energy and infrastructure post just yet.

"Things are chaotic," an insider said as worried Liberal MPPs held a late-night conference call to demand answers about the confusion at the highest levels of the provincial government.

To read the entire story click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Windsor Star - Poor Attempt to Apologize

Yesterday I wrote about the awful reporting featured in Saturday's October 3, 2009 edition of the Windsor Star, our daily regional paper. Anyone who takes the time to read the statistics will know this paper has monopoly-like control over the news given to our residents.

In my post of yesterday, I pointed out several blatant errors in the story written by famous reporter and super snooper Dave Battagello. He also gave the story a special tilt, just for good measure. Normally I wouldn't bother to comment at such length, but snoop was over the top. Battagello weaved a fairytale about a hoard of senior city employees being forced out of city employment. He pointed the finger at Mayor Francis.

The story was so bad, his list even included people who were not city employees, and some who were not forced out.

Assistant chief honcho Marty Beneteau should have done the right thing. We all make mistakes, and I am being kind here to Battagello: a real apology, retraction and correction was in order. But what do we get from our near monopoly news source?

It appears as if opinion writer Chris Vander Doelen (I confess to knowing and liking Chris) was dispatched to do some damage control. In today's October 6, 2009 edition, Vander Doelen calls the Battagello list "padded" and gives an example or two, or maybe seven, of some folks who were not forced out but left for various reasons. He also tries to give some balance to the Battagello fairytale. But you know, a fairytale is a fairytale.

I thank Chris for his efforts. But this looks like a poor attempt by Windsor Star management at an apology, retraction and correction. What a way to run a ship.

I repeat what I said yesterday: the Windsor Star is the most negative and harmful institution we have in our entire region.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are there any Standards at the Windsor Star?

Boy, super snooper Dave Battegello really outdid himself in this past Saturday's October 3, 2009 edition of the Windsor Star. He went a long way to make my point--that standards at the Windsor Star are not what they should be. You wonder just how much embarrassment Chief Honcho and publisher Jim Venney and assistant chief  honcho Marty Beneteau can take.

Super snooper Dave Battegello and whoever runs the Saturday edition dedicated almost the entire front page, and, if you can believe it, all of page 5, to a story regarding professional staff, who have left Windsor city employment. This story, or maybe fairytale, titled "The Revolving Door" with a sub-headline "High turnover costs city hall money and reputations, critics say" deserves to be looked at closely, at least in my opinion.

You guessed it, this is another one of those stories where Star reporters appear to want to be opinion writers. They go out and find "critics" to fit nicely into their story line, gosh how convenient. By the way, is it true that super snoop Battegello no longer covers the municipal scene? And if so, why? Maybe in the interest of transparency, management will tell us why?

Anyway, back to the story, or fairytale. On the front pages of the Star, there are photographs, lots of them, 27 in fact, mine included. My post of today for Fair Play blog will focus on comments made about me and the Windsor Essex Development Commission (WED,C) since I am familiar with the facts and details about the Commission. As my readers will know, I served as Chairman of the WEDC for more than two and a half years and as acting CEO of the Commission for about one year. I was initially appointed to the WEDC by the then Essex County Warden and Mayor of LaSalle Mike Raymond. Mike did a top notch job during his time.

Others talked about in the Battegello story-fairytale will have to speak for themselves, since I, unlike Battegello, don't know their facts or circumstances. But I do know super snoop Dave did not call me for this story.

This is how the story-fairytale is framed for the readers:
  • "Since November 2003, when Mayor Eddie Francis was first elected, more than 30 senior managers have either been terminated, taken other jobs or disappeared into the sunset."
Then our super snooper goes on to say:
  • "Nearly every municipal department, from public works to economic development, has been affected by a steady stream of departures among its highest-ranking bureaucrats."
The above is a serious mistake, in fact. The Windsor Essex Development Commission (WEDC) is not a municipal department. Far from it. It is a corporation and has a legislative framework to follow as a corporation to satisfy the law of the land. Wow, that this important fact was misrepresented to Windsor Star readers is unbelievable.

Super snoop Dave goes on to write about the WEDC as follows:
  • Both Paul Bondy and Roman Dzus were shown the door before Fischer arrived. After Fischer was fired, board chairman Remo Mancini took over, but he was eventually forced out as well.
Another serious factual mistake. I was not forced out as Board Chairman, nor in my role as acting CEO of the Commission. I and my 9 colleagues on the Board all resigned at the same time. We did so because City Council and Essex County Council indicated they wanted elected officials on the Board. This was contrary to policy they established for the WEDC, and totally inconsistent with how we had been recruited. Super snoop Dave obviously doesn't know this and it looks like he never read our resignation letters. The letters were made public and given wide circulation by the Board. Maybe snoop just forgot about them. Hey, he had a story to write, and I am sure time was limited...

At the same meeting where the entire WEDC Board resigned, I informed the Board that my company, Sandstone Strategies, would be concluding my contract as CEO effective with my and all our resignations. Again we all resigned together, and we resigned because the elected officials indicated they wanted Board seats. No problem for us if that is what they wanted, but we certainly did not sign up for a political Board. As a matter of fact, we signed up for exactly the opposite, and I am proud that we, the whole Board, stuck to our guns. I believe time will prove us right.

By the way, if super snoop Dave has any documents that proves I was forced out, he should make them public. Ok Dave, let's have it.

If the Battegello story-fairytale has this many factual errors about the WEDC alone, then I wonder how many other mistakes, misrepresentations, or errors there must be?

Let me say, to the best of my knowledge, neither Mayor Fancis nor Warden Santos interfered with the work of the WEDC. Other elected officials certainly did. I may write more about that in the future.

And finally, nobody did a greater disservice to the WEDC than the Windsor Star; please take full credit for what you have done. Saturday's fairytale effort to put all the blame on the shoulders of Mayor Francis would be laughable if the damage done to the community by the Windsor Star were not so great. To put it bluntly, the Windsor Star is the most negative and harmful institution in our entire region.

Friday, October 2, 2009

China to Pass Japan

It has been predicted for some time, but it appears China will pass Japan as the world's second largest economy sometime next year.

Yesterday, October 1, 2009 was the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. My congratulations to the people of China. I attended celebrations at Queen's Park, seat of the Provincial Parliament for Ontario in Toronto. The event was hosted by Premier Dalton McGuinty, and several cabinet ministers were present including Minister of Trade and Economic Development Sandra Pupatello. A number of Chinese dignitaries and business people were present.

Twenty years ago, such an occasion would probably have passed without notice. Things have changed. Today China is a powerhouse, with a huge population, 1.4 billion. Militarily, it is modernizing its forces and increasing defense spending, and economically it is big, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of 4.4 trillion U.S. dollars for 2008.

Below is the best broad definition I can give you for GDP:

"Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest measure of a nation's total economic activity. More specifically, GDP represents the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a nation's geographic borders over a specified period of time.

GDP includes all personal consumption, all government expenditures, all investments in plants, equipment, inventories all residential investments, all exports, minus all imports."

Also remember that technically when the GDP declines for two consecutive quarters or more, by definition the economy is in a recession. And of course, we here in the West are currently in the "Great Recession".

I guess the big question is "why is China growing so fast"?

In 1978, after decades of strict state control over all productive assets, the government of China embarked on a major program of economic reform. As a matter of fact, it was a revolution in thought and practice. This revolution awoke a sleeping economic giant. It fostered rural enterprises and the formation of private business. This rewarded human ingenuity, hard work, and entrepreneurship. The Chinese government liberalized foreign trade and investment, relaxed state control over some prices, invested in industrial infrastructure, and made the education of its workforce a priority. Last but not least, a significant increase in worker efficiency has played a big role.

A very informative story in the New York Times (read below) shows there is lots to celebrate in China.

Chinese Economic Juggernaut Is Gaining on Japan
Published: October 1, 2009

TOKYO — For years, Japan has been readying itself for the day that it is eclipsed economically by China. But as a result of the global slowdown, Japan’s difficulty in managing its economy and China’s rise — on vivid display Thursday as Beijing celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic — that day may come sooner than anyone predicted.

Read more, click here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cell Phone Numbers go public October 31, 2009

Just a reminder, and a big one.

Cell phone Numbers go public October 31, 2009

All cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing
companies and you will start to receive sales calls.


Use the Canadian Radio Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) "Do Not Call List Canada" website, and register your phone there to block these unwanted calls. The National Do Not Call List (DNCL) is great for consumers who want some privacy.

The address below should take you to the government site so you can register. Pass this information on to family and friends.
  •  or you can always google "crtc do not call list"