Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

After Many Years

May 19, 2009

Your eyes do not deceive you, there is indeed a link to my new book over on the sidebar.  Potter of Plans: Poems About Canada is a collection of my poems about this country. Some have appeared on this very blog in recent weeks, and there are many more in the book. You can order it through that link, or if you know me I can get you a copy when the first ones arrive in a couple of weeks.

I have long wanted to do this, and The Alder Fork has given me the confidence and ability to do so.  The collection represents the sum of my poetry from the last 6 months.  Obviously, I have rejected some of my output in order to put the best material in the book.  I have been quite pleased with what my imagination has come up with lately.

In honour of this auspicious occasion I offer you yet one more poem from this collection:

Short Note of Thanksgiving

It’s the colour I remember most
You used it
In all of the paintings you sold me
I wish
I wish I could buy more
But money
Is always tight around here
My fault?
Not with this economy
But really
The paintings were lovely
Thank you

From Sea To Sea

May 18, 2009

For the last few years there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding Canada’s arctic sovereignty.  The current Conservative government has been very interested in establishing Canada’s command of the Northwest passage.    The original quest for the Northwest Passage was fraught with death and disaster.  Modern technology and changing global conditions has changed the situation. As the ice becomes more navigable, shipping and tourism through the Arctic sea is more attractive.  Already Canada has been faced with competing interests from Russia, the United States, and others.  The government pays people to live in Arctic regions, in part to keep a presence in that area.  This issue has been on my mind for awhile, and I’d like to recommend the following CBC documentary as an interesting look at one such Northern community.  This one was created by a previous Canadian government precisely to reinforce Arctic sovereignty.

There has also been talk of adding an additional “to sea” to the Canada motto of “from sea to sea.”  This change would acknowledge that Canada is surrounded by three bodies of water and not just two.  The original motto came about at a time when the country was interested in expanding westward to the Pacific ocean, and the Arctic region was an afterthought.  Apparently the change would be relatively cheap, and is supported by many elected officials.  It is a minor detail in a sea of much more important issues, but it is also a simple way to acknowledge the breadth of our nation and its peoples.

The Whole Wide World

May 2, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yet another delicious National Film Board archive piece for you.  I have exactly 1 Expo ’67 story, and it isn’t exactly mine since I wasn’t alive.  My mother attended the Expo with her grade 8 class, and I’m sure she was very excited to check out this amazing event. Unfortunately, she collapsed at the front gates and spent the entire trip in a Montreal Hospital.  Her doctors and nurses only spoke French, so they could not explain to her what was wrong (I’m not sure if they even knew).  So you and I have now seen more of Expo ’67 than my mom, who was there.

The World’s Fair movement continues to this day, but many argue that Expo ’67 was the Zenith.  This remarkable effort in Canada’s centennial year exceeded all expectations. Over 50 million people visited Montreal that summer including a record 590 000 in one day.  It is even more remarkable that many observers at the time believed the Expo was unfeasible.  Instead people from around the world were treated to a marvelous experience.

This film captures much of the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the Expo.  It is a cultural milestone for Canada that may never be matched. The film itself lacks narration, which is fine for this kind of documentary/commercial.  The images speak for themselves.

He Hit The Post!

April 29, 2009

You said you didn’t give a **** about hockey and I never saw someone say that before. You held my hand as we walked home the long way you were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr.

The Tragically Hip


In honour of the second round of the NHL playoffs, which are about to begin, I have a few thoughts about the future of hockey in Canada. I thank you in advance for indulging this diversion from my usual fare.

The internet has been a wonderful resource for modern history.  This blog regularly features National Film Board films from the online archive, and media institutions such as Time magazine have made their collections available to the world.  For awhile the CBC has offered a great deal of material in their own digital archive.  While looking around, I came across a feature on the departure of Candian professional teams.   The  Jets (now Coyotes), and Nordiques (now Avalanche), are the two most recent examples.  On the site you can find radio and television reports about the WHA, and the loss of both teams.  There is also information about the Oilers troubles, and bitterness of the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup title that came one year after the team abandoned Quebec.

It is very strange to me that Canada has only 6 NHL teams (out of 30) when it is the leading hotbed of hockey internationally.  Junior hockey does well in many small communities, but people in this country have shown that they won’t support professional hockey that is second rate (see the AHL for example).  The most recent story on this topic concerned a meeting of interested Toronto investors with NHL VP Bill Daly. They want to place a team in Vaughn, Ontario.  A great many commentators believe that a second team could thrive in southern Ontario based on the population base and the passion for hockey.  Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t fans of that idea since this is their major market (though the team is popular in many other parts of the country thanks to their dominance of Hockey Night in Canada).  With the NHL, among other sports leagues,  likely facing economic difficulties in the coming years, it makes sense to examine alternative ideas for the league.  This leads me to one question: How many teams could Canada realistically support? Here’s a list of the 6 NHL teams, their 2009 per game attendance (% of capacity), and the population of their cities (2006 Census):

Calgary, 19,289 (100%), 1,079,310
Edmonton, 16,839 (100%), 1,034,945
Montreal, 21,273 (100%), 3,635,571
Ottawa, 18,949 (105%), 1,168,788
Toronto, 19,312 (102.7%),  5,113,149
Vancouver, 18,630 (101%), 2,116,581

That list demonstrates that the Canadian franchises are quite successful at the gate, and that a city needs to be able to provide 16000-20000 fans per game to fit in this group.  That Toronto total includes Mississauga and the rest of the main GTA (but not Hamilton-Burlington).  These are the 6 largest metropolitan areas in the country. I think a very convincing argument could be made for another team in Toronto, maybe in the aforementioned Mississauga (668,549).  Here are the next 7 largest metro areas along with the two major Saskatchewan cities just for fun:

Quebec City, 715,515
Winnipeg, 694,668
Hamilton, 692,911
London, 457,720
Kitchener, 451,235
St. Catherines-Niagara, 390,317
Halifax, 372,858
Saskatoon, 233,923
Regina, 194,971

On the surface the drop off is pretty steep from 6-7 and beyond.  Returns to Winnipeg and Quebec have been floated several times.  Both Quebec City and Winnipeg lost their franchises due in part to financial difficulties.  Those problems occured in the old NHL when cost certainty was a dream. With the new financial model in the league it is much more likely that a team in a smaller market, with a strong fan base, would be able to thrive. Before the lockout Edmonton, and Calgary were struggling with rising salaries, yet they are now among the most successful franchises in the league. A new league model means reexamining the potential for the NHL in Canada.

If we accept that teams in smaller Canadian markets would be more successful now, then Winnipeg and Quebec are obvious considerations.  When Jim Balsille began accepting down payments on season’s tickets in Hamilton (part of a failed attempt to buy the Nashville Predators) 10000 people signed up.  There are very many people in southern Ontario who aren’t Maple Leafs fans.  Some like the Canadiens, some the Senators, and many follow teams from all over the league.  People living in Hamilton, London, KW, and Niagara don’t share their identity with the city of Toronto even if they are nearby.  I absolutely believe that a second team in one of those communities would find a fan base.  Obviously, there are many large issues to be sorted out before that happens, like an arena, satisfying the Leafs and Sabres, figuring out where the team would come from (relocation or expansion) and finding solid ownership (I hear RIM is sort of successful), but the idea is workable.  Putting teams in the four communities I’ve mentioned (Mississauga/Vaughn, Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Hamilton/KW/London) would bring the Canadian portion of the league to 10 teams.  I can also stretch my imagination to include teams in Halifax and Saskatchewan (they whole-heartedly support the Riders, why not a hockey team?), which gives us 12 Canadian and likely 18 American teams.  Doesn’t that reflect the identity of hockey in North America a bit better?

I understand that this will probably never happen, but I think fans of the game should continue to make our preferences known. The NHL has, at times, actually listened to what its fans and critics have to say about the game.  I believe that at least 2 of the cities I’ve mentioned will have teams in the next 10 years.  The forces just seem to be moving that way.  Here’s my theoretical NHL, for fun. Oddly, I kept the top 21 teams in attendance and three other random teams from the bottom 9 based on history and geography.  You could definitely argue which ones belong, and if any of the ones I’ve included could be relocated elsewhere.

Thanks for bearing with my diversion.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres
Carolina Hurricanes
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Ottawa Senators
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Quebec Nordiques
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Edmonton Oilers
LA Kings
Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets

I Want My CBC

March 21, 2009

I want to take my thoughts from yesterday and carry them off on a wild tangent.  The CBC has been in the news lately because they are facing a budget deficit, like the other major Canadian broadcasters.  As I’ve reflected on whether or not the government should bail them out, my mind drifts to the very idea of subsidizing the Arts and how exactly a society should go about doing that.  When I say the Arts I am referring to music, visual art, film, theatre, dance, television, and any of the other creative endeavours.

There are three main ways that Canada/Canadians subsidize the Arts: through government programs, private patronage, and consumer purchases.  Each type of art utilizes each of these to various degrees.  I imagine that music or television are more dependent on the average consumer than visual art or dance, for example.  I am particularly interested in the government’s role in promoting Canadian Arts.  This brings us back to the CBC.  I was able to find this handy guide to the CBC’s finances in the Annual Report:

For the fiscal year 2006, the CBC received a total of $1.53 billion from all revenue sources. Expenditures for the year included $616 million for English TV, $402 million for French TV, $126 million for specialty channels, a total of $348 million for radio services in both languages, $88 million for management and technical costs, and $124 million for “amortization of property and equipment.” Some of this spending was derived from amortization of funding from previous years

As I understand the breakdown of revenue, they receive about $1 Billion from the government, with the rest coming from advertising on television and subscription fees for their cable channels.  Without doing the research I assume that the CBC is the most heavily funded Arts project in Canada.  It may be hard for some to justify a crown corporation receiving money for advertising, but for me the issue comes down to use of the money.  As I see it, the federal government should be supporting the production of homegrown programming.  That $1 Billion should be used to make outstanding Canadian television programs.  It can also be used for the promotion of the same.  Does this mean the CBC needs to run multiple television channels, and radio stations on the public dime?  That is a very complicated question.

For starters I have to ask if the CBC is actually producing quality Canadian programming.  There is certainly some, Newsworld, Hockey Night In Canada, and The Fifth Estate, are well made and a testament to the talents of Canadian television people.  Of course, CTV and Global have both made their own great shows without the same level of government support (I’m pretty sure individual programs receive funding from grants and tax breaks).  For this discussion let’s say that the CBC is producing quality and valuable programming.

I also wonder if the two roles of the CBC producing and presenting television shows (and to a certain extent live music performances) are both required of a Crown corporation.  Now before I go too far I should say that I am someone who believes that the Arts enrich our society and that the government should be promoting them as a policy.  I’m not completely clear on the organization’s connections to each program they show, but for those that I am sure are produced in house, I suppose they are a necessary part of doing business.  After all, without good programming the CBC would be useless.  Would the CBC be better as a media entity that presents programming produced by others?  I don’t think so, in fact I think that would be a good reason to take away their funding. As it is, while I believe they could make better programming, for example shows that were more popular abroad, the broadcaster has actually done pretty well in this regard.

Perhaps the biggest criticism I’ve ever heard about CBC is the apparent mismanagement.  It seems most observers assume that being a government agency has created a bureaucratic mess.  The CBC, like most media empires, in involved in many diverse ventures. Other than some major bungles in their sports division, and annoying a lot of people by switching the format of Radio 2, they have done pretty well at keeping up with the emerging trends in media.  I am not qualified to comment on the financial issues as much (though both Global and CTV are also facing severe budgetary problems) but I do know that projects like Radio 3, and the CBC News website show that the corporation has some bright minds on board. In fact, CBC Radio 3 is such a brilliant project that it should be emulated around the world.  Indie music has never had such a mainstream home in this country, or probably any other.

I want to continue this topic in future posts by going deeper into the issue of Arts funding.  As I said, I think it is an essential part of a well functioning society. Although my thoughs today are a bit fragmented and don’t lead to any real conclusions, I think the sum total of what I write on this topic will ultimately make sense.

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Maple Syrup???

March 8, 2009

O Canada Our Home And Native Land!

The almost entirely meaningless World Baseball Classic is underway, and Canada’s schedule kicked off yesterday with a game against the U.S. in Toronto.  The game will already be decided when this post goes up. I am writing it during the first inning with the score already 1-0 for Canada.  So there is some hope for the home side.  Baseball season always begins with a lot of fanfare for those who love the game. Even though we are 7 months from the World Series, and the WBC is in many ways a less than stellar exercise (I happen to love international baseball), the boys of summer have arrived.

A lot of people don’t understand why anyone likes baseball. They find it long and boring. I can’t argue against that because if you don’t already like baseball you might never.  I will say though that if you are a patriotic sort of person the WBC is your chance to get excited about the sport.  Although you’ve already missed Canada vs. the U.S., there will be more Canadian games, including the possibility of a rematch or two with those Americans. Give it a shot, I think you’ll find that the most pastoral of games is for you.

Why do I love baseball? Well for one I started playing when I was 4 and didn’t stop until after my 23rd birthday, so it’s been a major part of my life. I will probably play many more times before I die.  It’s a game where individual performance is paramount.  No one can help you succeed out on the field.  A great receiver can make a mediocre QB better, a great PG elevates the game of their teammates, and a strong centre will help his/her wings score a lot of goals, but in baseball your teammates aren’t really going to affect your performance.  In the same way a player can’t be saved by schemes or plays.  For example, Steve Nash’s game was elevated by playing in the seven seconds or less offence.  The batter stands at the plate alone, with only himself to control his performance.  Other than during ball in play situations, when fielders must cover their positions, baseball is a one on one game.  Baseball is not necessarily better than other sports, but this unique feature of the game sets it apart from others.  People often write about team chemistry, but unlike in more team oriented sports, I don’t think it’s that big of a factor in baseball.  I played on a team with some people I couldn’t stand, but I still had a great season.  Once you are at the plate, on the mound, or in the field, it’s just you and the ball.

It’s also hard to deny that the opportunity for individual glory is an attractive part of the game.  A dominant pitching performance is beautiful to watch, and there is nothing more exciting than a sliding triple.  Nevermind the joy that comes from a walk off home run.  In baseball there can be a sudden death style finish every single game, no matter what the score is going into the ninth inning.  As has been written many times before baseball games are open ended. Without a clock an inning they can last indefinitely, meaning no lead is safe until every out is recorded.  Baseball is a game of hope.

Hopefully I will be able to add a note to tomorrow’s post that Mike Johnson (who just K’d two Americans in the first inning) pulled off another big win over the U.S..

Violins and Tambourines

December 23, 2008
A Man and His Camel

A Man and His Camel

I have to admit that I don’t know the whole story of this picture.  I asked my good friend, Kern, to send me the most interesting picture from his crazy Asian oddyssey.  This is what he came up with.  The fellow’s uniform looks to be somewhere between  flight attendant and a green beret.  I imagine since he’s patrolling a stone wall in the desert he probably means business.  With a camel you don’t have to worry about sand in the air filter!

You might wander why I’d put up a random picture from half way around the world.  Honestly I just wanted a neat shot from Kern’s amazing adventure.  It’s also a somewhat appropriate lead-in to today’s topic: Afghanistan. Not the country specifically, but the challenges Canadians face as our soldiers fight there.  I was lead to this topic by, of all people, Don Cherry.  The Hockey Night in Canada commentator (who wears the most hideous suits) always features the pictures and stories of any soldier who dies over there.  I touched on the topic of war in my Remembrance Day post, but since Home by Christmas was a popular war related refrain, it seems like a good time to touch on it again.

War history has always been an interest of mine, along with philosophical topics related to death, dying, and evil. I think the reason that I am so into these concepts is that I am a very emotional person. I have strong experiences when I imagine myself in various situations.  So when I watch a movie about war, or play a video game, I can’t help but imagine the fear that I would feel if I actually faced enemy fire.  Now of course I can not possibly envision the true experience because I have never had to live it.  I am immensely grateful for that.  It is all well and good to say I am thankful for the sacrifices of generations before mine, and soldiers fighting today for peace and justice.  But if I fail to work towards a peaceful future, have I really gotten the point?  The lesson of the World Wars should be that violence is terrible and our children need to know that. They need to know that even though their parents, grandparents, and other ancestors saw fit to kill each other, it is not the best solution for the future. In fact it is not any kind of a solution.  It may seem that I am a pacifist advocating non-violence in every scenario.  Actually I’m not.  In fact I recognize that men like Adolph Hitler (the supreme example) need to be fought tooth and nail.  The loftier goal I have in mind is creating a generation that is smarter, more forgiving, and cooperative than ours.  We try very hard to create solutions among our adult selves, when perhaps the best we can do is to teach our children to do what we have been unable to do. To get along.

I firmly believe that humans aren’t born with the venom that can develop later in life.  Though some people seem to be predisposed toward certain behaviours, it is possible in the overwhelming majority of cases to influence young people towards a noble life.  We try very hard on the whole to protect our children, to give them what they want, and to help them succeed in life. Do I know how exactly we do this?  No I don’t.  But I want to be in the discussion. I want everyone to be in the conversation. At Christmas many people pray for peace, perhaps we need to get on our horses (or camels) and make it work. Thoughts?