Monday, May 30, 2011

Teachers' work to rule campaign begins

CTV Saskatchewan - Teachers' work to rule campaign begins - CTV News

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation launched its work to rule campaign Monday, despite the decision to return to the bargaining table Sunday.

Starting Monday teachers will not participate in extra-curricular activities until further notice, which could have an impact on graduation ceremonies.

So my question is, why should we expect any different from teachers normally? To put it another way, why aren't all those "extra-curricular" activities codified into the teaching contract?

At what point in history was it decided that a school should have sanctioned teams, that those teams need to be supervised by teachers, and that that supervision by teachers is unpaid labour? How about school clubs?

It's only fair that teachers be paid for that time if it isn't truly voluntary, but I will be honest - I don't support paying ALL teachers for the voluntary activities of a few.

Similarly, when did it become standard practice to do field trips for all classes every year? How about ski trips? Provincial championships for sports? All of these things are secondary to the educational experience, and arguably not necessary to achieve good results, and yet these are things that are paid for using voluntary labour and the taxpayer who has to fund it to make sure that everything is "fair".

If these activities aren't truly voluntary, then again, I don't support paying ALL teachers for the voluntary activities of a few.

If the teachers were to negotiate a per club/activity/sport incentive I would be all for it. If teachers were to drop the idea that a class trip outside of the city and spanning more than the school day, than I would be good with that too. The problem is that they had been dangling these activities in front of students for the better part of a school year and then blaming the government when these activities get cancelled. That's not negotiation, that attempted blackmail, and it's why I think the teachers have already lost.

Artists face adversity

Artists face adversity - Meadow Lake Progress - Saskatchewan, CA

There is a well known adage that if you don't like something, vote with your feet.

Don't like how a business treated you? Don't go back there. Don't like the food? Don't eat there.

While I don't disagree with censorship, I don't believe that these filmmakers are necessarily being persecuted for the art that they are producing. The fact is that these filmmakers are creating a show at the pleasure of the people who give them access to their resources. If those people find the finished product objectionable, it isn't censorship for them to take the project up the road, its a natural reaction.

Similar to the "punk" band that ended up in a fecal storm over producing an objectionable album with government money, the principle comes down to it not being censorship if resources are withdrawn. These filmmakers can make whatever film that they want, but they still have to retain the good graces of those who are helping them. These resources just happen to be voting with their feet.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

HiStory - Bobby Jurasin Pt 2

... And the conclusion

HiStory - Bobby Jurasin Pt 1

In Preparation for the upcoming CFL Season... One of the greats (in 2 parts)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And now it's time for a whole lot of awesome

Chewbacca and the Star Wars gang performing Welcome to the Jungle

Loughner ruled incompetent for trial

Loughner ruled incompetent for trial | World | News | Edmonton Sun

The judge cited the conclusions of two experts, a forensic psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist, that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.
Burns ruled Loughner will remain in custody at a prison hospital and set a hearing for Sept. 21 to determine whether his condition has improved enough for proceedings to resume.
Is it me, or does the American justice system make more sense than ours when it comes to mentally ill perpetrators?

I mean seriously - in Canada, if you perpetrate a crime and are deemed incompetent to stand trial, you're remanded to a mental hospital and then let go when you are judged well. My understanding of the American system is that you're remanded to a mental hospital until you are judged well enough to stand trial.

On one hand you have a system that says "Oh, you poor dear, you didn't know what you were doing. Here, take these pills for the rest of your life, and we'll let you go when we see good results" and on the other hand, you have a system that says "Oh, you poor dear, here take these pills, and we'll hold off on the trial until you're well enough to understand what's going on during the trial.".

It's the difference between protecting society from a potential relapse and repeat, and recognizing that you can't rehabilitate the perpetrator so you let him go when you've pumped him full of enough drugs.

Yup, I like the American system better.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chrysler set to repay Canadian, U.S. auto loans

Chrysler set to repay Canadian, U.S. auto loans

... And now it seems that the Canadian and Ontario governments will have a little bit more cash in their pockets for next year's financial results.

Kudos to Chrysler for finding another way to refinance their operations other than government money.  Now if only GM would do that too so that I can end my boycott.

Students walk out in advance of teachers strike

Students walk out in advance of teachers strike - Saskatchewan - CBC News

"I think the teachers deserve their raise," said Kelsey Brown, one of the students at the legislature. "They do so much for us. They know us almost as well as our parents know us, maybe more."

Okay, first off it's sad that any student would say with a straight face that their teachers know them better than their own parents know them.

Secondly, it is sad that this reasoning should be used to justify a wage increase for anyone, let alone teachers. This is not what we pay teachers for, and to be quite frank, just because the teacher KNOWS you, doesn't mean that they are doing their job well.

Kody Mark, who attends F.W. Johnson Collegiate, said teachers are needed during poor economic conditions.
"Without teachers, we cannot honestly have students learning these new careers to stabilize our economy," he said.
Sorry Kody, you too have the wrong point. Y'see Kody there is no danger of teachers being cut, but that not withstanding, even someone your age should be able to cut through the BS that you just spouted.

Can't see it? Wanna hint?

The teachers you are talking about. The ones that are SO invaluable in your eyes don't actually teach anything that will help you get one of those new careers. All these teachers are is a feeder system to post-secondary education, and the first line of weeding of prospective students for university. That's it.

Oh, and one more thing if the teachers REALLY cared about you kids, they wouldn't be threatening to strike over first 12% in one year, and now 16% over 3 years.

Punk band’s controversial album recalled

Punk band’s controversial album recalled | Canada | News | Edmonton Sun

Subtitled The Poo Testament, Holy S--- made headlines when Heritage Minister James Moore said, "it's one thing for art to be edgy, it's another thing for art to be deliberately attacking a group of Canadians based on their faith."

That's censorship! Those evil nasty Conservatives and their right wing mouthpieces at Sun News are censoring these artists by... exposing the hypocrisy of a punk band taking government money to produce an album this steeped in crap.

Realistically, I could care less if this "punk" band sold out and took government money to produce their album... unless most of their songs are about the evils of taking government money, that is. What I do care about is when that same "punk" band takes money from a government of the people... ALL the people... and then uses that money to attack a particular group of those people.

Let's be clear though - this isn't about a band parodying the Christian faith through excrement - I'm pretty sure that I'd feel the same way if it were a reimagining of the Koran or the Torah in the same way. No, this is more about the disrespect of citizens of the country by a band being given money by the government to do the same.

I applaud Living with Lions for giving the money back and vowing to reproduce the album without government funding. To be quite honest though, I'm also disappointed in them as well - not because I particularly cared to see an album like this one on the shelves, but because they didn't have the courage in their convictions to merely repay the government funding and leave the album on the market. I'm sure there are a lot of people, both foreign and domestic, who would love to buy this album, but by taking the album off the market, we'll never know how popular this album based in excrement really would have been.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saskatchewan teachers plan strike

*Fair Warning - I'm going to be a little politically incorrect here*

Saskatchewan teachers plan strike

I need help understanding something, and maybe Blogging Tories can help me out.

Why do we feel that teachers need to be paid as much as they currently are? Why is it generally agreed that teachers are underpaid and that they DESERVE more?

As I've pointed out in the past, a Saskatchewan Teacher with 10 years of experience and 4 years of university (1 undergraduate degree) lands in the top 10% of all earners in Saskatchewan. Their salary includes a generous pension as well as excellent health and disability insurance. In short, they are being paid very generously compared to those they are working for.

So it comes back to my original question... Why do we think that they are underpaid? Are we, as a society, so indoctrinated as to not see the truth? Are we (ironically) uneducated as to their actual salary and benefits level to properly judge whether they are being paid commensurate to their value to society? Do we overvalue their worth to society, or is it merely that nobody wants to take the opposite stance, that they have overstepped what we expect of them and as such they are being overpaid for what we want?

Or is it simply a matter of a union once again distorting the value of their membership by removing the ability for the market to determine the value and ability we want to pay for?

All I know is that I don't know of one teacher, both past and present, who isn't being paid a comfortable living from the first day they secure a full time teaching job until the day they die. Can any private sector worker say the same thing?

I invite someone to make a proper case to help me understand why we feel teachers are underpaid.

Presenting a little 40 MW Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor

Thorenco LLC presents a little 40 MW Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor

Introducing a Small Nuclear reactor design that is portable, affordable, safe, and guaranteed to make the most ardent anti-nuke's head explode. The reactor core is about a foot and a half wide and about 20 inches tall, lasts 10 years and is returned to the manufacturer for reprocessing when it is spent. Best of all, the reactor produces very little plutonium which makes it ideal for use in certain countries that we don't want to have plutonium.

Let's hope that we see some of these really soon.

The Power of the Connected Classroom: Why and How I’m Teaching Social Justice

The Power of the Connected Classroom: Why and How I’m Teaching Social Justice | Powerful Learning Practice

Perhaps the title of this post should be "How I'm indoctrinating your children"

Everything about this semester is intricately crafted. As a class we’re going somewhere. I teach the Holocaust for a reason beyond the fact that my students find it interesting. I teach the Rwandan genocide for reasons other than to show them that genocide has happened, and continues to happen, repeatedly. The truth is I teach both of these to show my students that the bystander effect is lethal, often on a scale beyond our imagination.

Furthermore, I don’t ask my students to try to decide if they would’ve been counted among the few who helped persecuted people flee or hide. For me, that’s the wrong question. It’s too easy to say 15 or 70 years after a genocide that you would have done the right thing. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re brave — that we will stand up for what is right, regardless of the cost.
So here’s the question I pose instead. We have the equivalent of a mass genocide occur every year in the world. You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I speak of those who die needlessly in developing countries, predominantly Africa, every year from diseases that we know how to prevent or treat: malaria, TB, malnutrition, diarrhea. Rather than being hypothetical, the question to my students is: what are you going to do about it? Now, and for the rest of their lives. It’s not enough to say I would have. Instead, we need to say I am.
Now, I have no doubt that she feels very strongly about social justice, I question whether she should be the one to teach it to her students.

To me, social justice "values" should be taught to children and teenagers by their parents, not by their teachers. We don't pay teachers to teach our children values. While the learning of values is a constantly evolving thing, the main focus is that it is the parents of the child who should be the driving force behind that development, not teachers. To teach the so-called "other side" of Walmart without teaching about how Walmart is one of the single most important drivers for development in the third world does the child no good. Similarly, teaching about how many third world diseases could be eradicated (ie malaria) and blaming the first world for this failure without also noting that it was social justice activists who pressured WHO to deny those very same tools to the Third World that we ourselves use is another example.

To make a long story short, I question how "social justice" fits into the curriculum for Ms. Wright's chosen teaching areas of English, Science and Technology. Perhaps she wants to explain that to the parents of her students while she is attempting to indoctrinate their children.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"If it were Mr. Wall, would the media treat this any differently?"

John Gormley Live May 20, 2011 - Ultimate Open Lines Part 1 | News Talk 650 CKOM

"If you're going away on an entirely family matter, and you're a multi-millionaire as Mr. Lingenfelter is, he's a big land holder multi multi millionaire. Why wouldn't you just take your own family vehicle?"

The first 12 minutes of the audio at the link is a playback of the press conference where Mr. Lingenfelter is taken to task by the media at a scrum and some points being made by Mr. Gormley, including pointing out that Mr. Lingenfelter reimbursed the CVA for personal usage at a rate of 15.5 cents per kilometer in January.

Now, I'm not going to dispute that Mr. Lingenfelter reimburses the government what it asks for in the use of this vehicle. I'm not even going to dispute that the mileage rate might be low compared to the normal operating and capital costs of a vehicle. What I'm going to question, is why a CVA vehicle should have any usage outside of Saskatchewan at all.

Perhaps I'm just out of touch with government procedures, but it would seem to me that when a minister or an executive travels outside of the province, they would more likely than not fly to their destination and rent a vehicle or be provided with a shuttle while they are there. I would point out that it would be too time consuming for a minister or executive of the province to actually drive to their destination, especially given that most out of province meetings are held in cities with commercial airports.

It would also seem to me that the CVA's Operator's Handbook also subscribes to this by not articulating any procedures for out of province (or even out of country) purchasing of fuel, repairs or maintenance for the vehicle. There can be a very simple solution to this - plate the vehicle, as with a farm vehicle, to have limited insurance coverage and valid only in the Province of Saskatchewan. If the operator of the vehicle knows that there is no insurance coverage outside of the province of Saskatchewan, then the vehicle will stay where it belongs.

As for Mr. Lingenfelter, there are two points to make - obviously his CVA vehicle is more fuel efficient than his other personal vehicles, otherwise he wouldn't choose to take a vehicle for which he pays a "high rate, something like 50 cents" per kilometer for personal use to a destination 3000 km round trip from his home. If his figure can be believed, that's a $1500 trip, and while cheaper than airfare I'm sure, it's still much more expensive than driving your own vehicle. Second point was that his first instinct in answering the questions was to deny he did anything wrong and then call into question the integrity of other Ministers or CVA vehicle recipients by alleging misconduct in their not claiming the personal use to drive to the cabin or the lake.

This last bit - moreso than his own misstep, moreso than the questions from the media about the fact that this information has been leaked from the CVA - is something that the media SHOULD be investigating. If Mr. Lingenfelter has evidence of Ministers or Deputy Ministers who are using their vehicles for personal use without claiming it, then it should be brought to light - regardless of the dollar value. Let the public decide whether the dollar values are worth the accusation, but don't leave the accusation hanging out there.

Senate reform is still on the agenda

With the hullabaloo over Mr. Harper's surprise Senate appointments on Wednesday, there was one thing left unnoticed by virtually all of the commentators, both for and against the appointments:

He didn't fill all the seats that were vacant.

To those that decried the appointments, questioning whether Senate reform is really on the agenda, this is exhibit A to prove that it's still on deck.  Mr. Harper only appointed enough Senators to get an unquestioned majority in the Senate.  He only appointed enough Senators to ensure that he has 4 solid years to implement his reforms without having to appoint another Senator.  The standings in the house are now 55/45/2/2 with one vacancy.  There will be 25 Senators retiring in the next 4 years - 14 Conservatives, 10 Liberals and 1 Progressive Conservative.  After those retirements, the standings will still be 41/35/1/2 with 26 vacancies.  At no point in the next 4 years do the Conservatives lose control of the Senate.

We also heard this week on Byline (no video available on the website) that Bert Brown has now changed his position on term limits and will now sit until he's 75.  The only problem with this complaint is that Bert Brown is currently 73 years old.  Even if there WERE term limits, Mr. Brown wouldn't have sat for a full term because he was 69 when he was appointed to the Senate.

So there you go folks.  The Conservative Party's communications strategy may be in need of improvement, but at the end of the day, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last time we hear of Senate appointments before passage of Senate reform bills.  It's up to the provinces to do their part.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Because Green IS the colour

The Rider Oath

And yes... of COURSE I'm one of those. :)

Cops: Woman Tries to Kill Children, Self to Avoid 'the Tribulation'

Cops: Woman Tries to Kill Children, Self to Avoid 'the Tribulation'

Palmdale (KTLA) -- A woman slit her daughters' throats before slitting her own early Friday evening, claiming that "the Tribulation" was going to occur and she wanted to prevent them from suffering through it, officials said.

Okay, I have to ask, how poorly do you have to do the job to be able to live long enough to drive to someone else's house and survive until THEY got home, found the scene and called the police.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy they're all alive, but really, how poorly do you have to do not one or two, but THREE throat cuttings?

Another Video for the Victoria Day Weekend

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Epic Mealtime - Fast Food Lasagna

.... because you can't be political all the time...

There are times when these guys disgust even me...

Why CPP is not a good investment *Repost*

*This is a repost from February 21st.  It's pretty long and information intensive, but at the end, it projects real world data on the CPP to show how badly it underperforms for you and me.  I hope you enjoy*

Every time I see a comment from Jack Layton about how we should increase the CPP contributions and double the maximum benefit. Every time I see an op-ed from a union boss saying the same thing. Every time I see these things, it doesn't sit right with me because I know it's the wrong thing to do. It doesn't sit right with me because it transfers more money to past generations at the expense of the current and future generations. It forces me to pay for the short-sightedness of my parent's generations (Dad was at the beginning of WWII, Mom was the first year of baby boomers).

In order to understand why I think the CPP is a bad idea, it's useful to understand how it was funded in the past, and is currently funded now (from wikipedia):

At its inception, the prescribed CPP contribution rate was 1.8% of an employee's gross income up to an annual maximum. Over time, the contribution rate was increased slowly. However, by the 1990s, it was concluded that the "pay-as-you-go" structure would lead to excessively high contribution rates within 20 years or so, due to Canada's changing demographics, increased life expectancy of Canadians, a changing economy, benefit improvements and increased usage of disability benefits (all as referenced in the Chief Actuary's study of April 2007, noted above). The same study reports that the reserve fund was expected to run out by 2015. This impending pension crisis sparked an extensive review by the federal and provincial governments in 1996. As a part of the major review process, the federal government actively conducted consultations with the Canadian public to solicit suggestions, recommendations, and proposals on how the CPP could be restructured to achieve sustainability once again. As a direct result of this public consultation process and internal review of the CPP, the following key changes were proposed and jointly approved by the Federal and provincial governments in 1997:

* Total CPP contribution rates (employer/employee combined) were increased annually from 6% of pensionable earnings in 1997 to 9.9% by 2003.
* Continuously seek out ways to reduce CPP administration and operating costs.
* Move towards a hybrid structure to take advantage of investment earnings on accumulated assets. Instead of a "pay-as-you-go" structure, the CPP is expected to be 20% funded by 2014, such funding ratio to constantly increase thereafter towards 30% by 2075 (that is, the CPP Reserve Fund will equal 30% of the "liabilities" - or accrued pension obligations).
* Creation of the CPP Investment Board (CPPIB).
* Review the CPP and CPPIB every 3 years.

I'm going to paraphrase that so that my point is clear. Until 1996, the CPP was a government ponzii scheme. In fact, in 1996, according to these two documents (Contributions (Page 16) and Payments(Page 7), archived from the StatsCan website here), the plan had been paying out more than was contributed for 12 solid years. The cumulative effect was that by 2000, the first year when contributions again exceeded benefit payments, total CPP payments had exceeded the total contributions made in the entire history of the plan. The only saving grace for the CPP at that point was that interest rates had been high for a large part of the 70s and 80s, giving the fund some breathing room to keep a nest egg.

I ran my own data back to 1994, the beginning of my working life.  Specifically, I had data back to 1999 and estimated my prior contributions.  I then took the information on current maximums and projected out what I will pay over the remaining 30 years of my working life.  Since I am self-employed, that is accurate to say "I PAY" because it's all coming from the same pocket.  Not only did I project out what I will pay, but I also projected out what those contributions would be worth when grown through normal investing.

From that total, I also projected out what the CPP maximum benefit would be when I begin to collect in 2041.  To make that projection I used an average inflation rate of 2.5%, a rate that has held fairly steady over the past 15 years.  The number I arrived at was slightly more than $2000 a month (2014/month).

Now here's where it gets interesting.  Assuming these numbers are correct, the CPPIB would only need to average 3.89% from 1994 until I die in order to pay me the maximum benefit.  This assumes that I live to age 88 - a full 15 years after the expected life span of a male my age when I was born.  Even if I lived to age 100, the CPPIB would only have to average 4.8% during that same span in order to pay me a maximum benefit.

Indeed, if I lived to age 88, the CPPIB would have to average 6.01% in order to pay me DOUBLE the maximum benefit from age 65 until I die.

Now, that last bit is important for 2 reasons.  The first reason, is that if I DON'T live to age 88, the remainder of my accumulated contributions are property of the CPPIB and do not accrue any benefits to my spouse unless she is younger than age 65 (assumption is that she will receive SOME CPP benefit when she turns 65, and thus would be cut out of a survivor pension from me).  The second reason is because currently, most money managers are using 6% as their assumption of what the market will yield over the next few decades.  Point of fact, the market HAS yielded approximately 8% over the past 100 years, despite certain notable Black periods such as the one beginning in 1929.

The essence is that if the CPPIB earns more than 3.89% at current benefit levels, or if I die between age 65 and age 88, the CPP will not have benefited me as contributor.  Further, even if I died prior to age 65, the CPP will not pay out to my surviving spouse or children in survivor benefits even as much as I contributed during my lifetime.

The importance of that knowledge  leads me to make one further question - if the CPPIB has to average slightly less than 2/3rds of the projected market yield in order to sustain current benefits, and it has to yield what the market it projected to yield in order to pay out double the maximum benefits, then why do contribution rates need to be increased?

Personally, what I would like to see in pension reform is a system where there is eventually no CPPIB.  I would like to see OAS GIS augmented to absorb the current CPP beneficiaries, and the current reserve apportioned to contributors based on their accumulated contributions.  In the meantime, the requirement for a CPP contribution would not go away, it would merely take the form of a mandated matched contribution to a locked in RRSP account which can not be accessed except on retirement (at age 65), disability or death.  The retirement account would be portable in that it moves with the individual, and like an RRSP, it would roll to your spouse tax-free upon death.  Most importantly, the individual would be responsible for investing the money and for determining their own annual income levels on retirement.

No, my reforms would not be fair for those people who didn't contribute enough during their lifetimes.  No, my reforms would not protect the individuals from market fluctuations (unless those individuals bought government T-Bills 5-7 years before they were due to retire).  What my reforms WOULD do is help nay FORCE individuals to create their own wealth for retirement and destroy the reliance not just on the government to provide for the poor, but destroy the current system which borrows from current generations to fund the short-sightedness of past generations.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting from scandal to substance

Getting from scandal to substance

Shocks, apparently, are another matter. How else to explain Harper's decision this week to appoint three failed Conservative candidates to the Senate? Astonishing contempt for public opinion? Arrogance worthy of the detested Liberals? A "slap in the face" to voters as Jack Layton claimed -and to Harper's faithful western supporters, especially?

I'm sorry Susan, I didn't realize that Mssrs Smith, Manning and Ms. Verner were participating in a Senate election.

Oh wait, I forgot - Quebec and Newfoundland don't see it as being necessary to elect senators, choosing to allow the Prime Minister the unfettered power to appoint the people he sees fit.

This shouldn't be a reflection on Mr. Harper and the judicious use of his powers, this is a reflection on the provinces who refuse to do what he asks - to advise him through a democratic election as to who they want to represent them in the Senate. Until they do that, he is being left with no choice, especially when existing senators attempt to force him to fill vacancies by requesting that the Governor General does so without his advice.

Two premiers lash out over PM's Senate appointments

Two premiers lash out over PM's Senate appointments - CTV News

So let's see... Two provincial premiers have lashed out over the Senate appointments. Neither one leads a province where a vacancy was filled, and at least one of those provinces has a law in place to hold senatorial elections if only the Federal government would pony up some dough to do so.

Was Thursday a slow news day?

Let's be clear - the only provincial premiers who should be complaining right now are Mr Charest and Ms. Dunderdale. They are the ones who lead the provinces with the vacancies filled. The fact that neither one is publicly speaking out against the appointments means that they are okay with the choices.

But this leads to a larger point. This doesn't cause damage to Mr. Harper's reputation as a Senate reformer, nor does it fly in the face of his promises. Mr. Harper has proven in the past that he will appoint a Senator who has been elected in a Senatorial election, his only problem is that no other province has held elections.

I'm going to say that again, because I think it's important. To date, only ALBERTA has held an election to even advise the Prime Minister of a candidate for appointment. And he has taken that advice in the appointment of the last Alberta senator.

Now, my better half pointed out this evening that there are two problems - the first being the aforementioned problem that no other province has held elections, and the second being that there is nothing legislated to force the Prime Minister to take that advice. The first is easily corrected if only the individual provinces would. The second is up to Mr. Harper to legislate - assuming that any law short of a Constitutional change can bind the Prime Minister to that advice. Barring that, there's another easier law that may come into play - precedence. The longer that elected senators are appointed, the harder it becomes to go back to arbitrarily appointing them against the advice of the provinces.

Either way, with a majority in the Senate and Parliament, there is nothing stopping Mr. Harper from making it happen.

Negotiations break down between province, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation

Negotiations break down between province, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation

The bargaining committee says the STF returned to the table Tuesday asking for an increase of 16.3 per cent over three years, about 5.4 per cent per year.
The government restated its offer of 5.5 per cent over three years, or about 1.8 per cent per year.
A spokesperson from the STF said the organization would not provide comment until further discussion with the membership, but said the STF is disappointed talks have ended.
The STF comes back after a one day strike over an unreasonable one year offer to make an unreasonable 3 year offer, and they're disappointed that talks have ended?

Either they're lying or they're not all that bright. But at least they have progressed beyond a massive increase over 1 year to a massive increase over 3 years. Now, if only they'll stay at the table long enough to perhaps negotiate a moderate increase over 3 years. I sympathize with the teachers in that they were negotiating in the middle of what was a recession for the rest of the country, but I seriously don't see why they (or the HSAS) should get anything spectacularly larger than the one or two percent per year that most normal unions would get during the same time frame.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CPP feeding frenzy comes to an end

CPP feeding frenzy comes to an end

And the Ponzii scheme keeps underperforming...

Over the past five years, the fund has generated an annualized rate of return of 3.3%, while the 10-year rate of return is 5.9%.

Mr. Denison said the 10-year annualized rate of return has recovered to a level consistent with the 4% real rate of return incorporated by the Chief Actuary in the latest report confirming the sustainability of CPP.

"We remain confident that we have designed the mix of assets within the CPP Fund so that it is well positioned to achieve the 4% real rate of return required over the longer term," he said.

It's really too bad that the CPP can't be voluntary... there's no reason for any investment portfolio to make only 4% over 10 years, even taking into account the recent financial problems.

Harper's Senate picks turn off Canadians: Layton

Harper's Senate picks turn off Canadians: Layton - Canada - CBC News

"Mr. Harper talks about Senate reform but he's doing things in the same old way, in fact even worse," Layton said.
"He's taking people who have been defeated, who have been rejected by voters.... You should earn your place in the Senate and if you can't get elected, you shouldn't be appointed to the Senate two weeks later."
So let's see if I get this right...

It's undemocratic for Prime Minister Harper to prorogue Parliament even though it's technically legal and a common practice by Prime Ministers and Premiers throughout the country. It's NOT undemocratic for Mr. Layton and his allies to overturn the result of an election and take control of the government even though neither he nor any of his allies received the largest number of votes nor the largest number of seats in the 2008 election and Mr. Harper was returned with a larger caucus than he had before the election (again, technically legal but not common practice). It IS undemocratic for Prime Minister Harper to appoint senators - two of whom resigned from the Senate to stand for election, and all of whom are more than qualified to sit in the Senate - merely because they happened to be Conservative candidates that did not win in the election - Again, unequivocally legal.

So, just out of curiosity, is there a book somewhere that tells me which moves are democratic and which are undemocratic? Should we just assume that anything that Mr. Harper does, while allowed by the Constitution, is undemocratic? Are we just to assume that anything Mr. Layton and his ilk do is automatically in the interest of democracy?

Like they say "Get your program - you can't tell the difference without your program".

The reality is that there are a high number of Senate appointments to come. There are a high number of Supreme Court appointments to come. There are a high number of appointments to be made in all levels of government. If Mr. Layton truly wanted this stuff to be accountable, he shouldn't have rejected Mr. Morgan in 2006. Right now, the only thing that Mr. Layton can do is scream and holler while working with Mr. Harper to push through Senate reforms that will actually give the Prime Minister LESS power in those decisions. Until he does so, there's nothing he can say that will change the reality that Senate appointments are legal and acceptable.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NDP governments strike again

Full disclosure: I'm an accountant in Saskatchewan working in public practice, so of course I don't pay attention to the provincial budgets in other provinces.  For that reason, it came as a shock to learn that Manitoba companies have a tax on their payrolls:

The Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy (HE) is a tax imposed on remuneration that is paid to employees.  The HE is paid by employers with a permanent establishment in Manitoba.  Effective January 1, 2008, employers with total remuneration in a year of $1.25 million or less are exempted (see note below).  Associated groups (associated corporations/certain corporate partnerships) must share the $1.25 million exemption based on the total of their combined yearly payroll.
 In essence, if your company's payroll is greater than $1.25 million, then you are going to be paying an additional 4.3% tax to the Manitoba government for every dollar between $1.25 million and $2.5 million, and 2.15% on the entire payroll if your payroll is greater than $2.5 million.

Is it any wonder that governments are the largest employer in Manitoba?  Notwithstanding that Manitoba recently cut their corporate tax rate to zero, this just shows that they are still unfriendly to business BIG business, and this will ultimately hold them back.  Here's hoping that Saskatchewan passes them in population in the next few years.

h/t CTF

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No one is illegal?

No one is illegal? : Prime time : SunNews Video Gallery

So let's see if I have this one right... Nobody is illegal because the Canadian government is illegitimate, and we're all occupiers on "Turtle Island". And if we're all occupiers of "Turtle Island", then there should be no limit on those who want to come here and take advantage of our social safety net, even though the Canadian government which provides those services is illegitimate. And did I mention that we are occupiers and we don't belong here, but since we're here, everybody should come here and take advantage of the services and wealth of people who aren't supposed to be here? And did I forget to mention that Canada is racist?

My head's starting to hurt over this one. Watch the video for yourself. I was just as incredulous as Mr. Lilley was listening to her, and I'm glad that he let her state her point (as incongruous as it was) so that there was no doubt left that she was allowed to speak her piece and make her case.

To be honest though, the problem with her argument isn't that it's crazy - it's that it tried to wrap all the usual talking points into one coherent argument and failed miserably. If she had stopped at making the point that there should be no borders and thus there are no illegal immigrants, she might have had a point. If she had pointed out that Canadian society as we know it is built on an occupation of "Turtle Island" then she would have sounded coherent - even though she's the wrong race to be making that argument. If she hadn't tried to make the case that Canadian society would still provide all the benefits we enjoy without the Canadian Government to pull it all together and provide those services (not to mention take money from "the rich" to pay for those services) then the argument would actually make sense. Because she tried to tie all this together, because she tried to get all her talking points into one line of reasoning, she ended up marginalizing herself and her cause.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's time for Right to Work legislation

In Saskatchewan, as in many other places across North America, you must join the union if a workplace is unionized.  Not only that, you must pay the union dues, even if you don't agree with some of the things that the union leadership does.

Such is the dilemma facing a union member who doesn't support the NDP in Saskatchewan or the Liberals in Ontario.

Why then, doesn't a union member challenge that law?  Sadly, I already knew the answer before I typed the question - members won't challenge the law, they won't refuse to contribute, they won't do anything to rock the boat because their "brothers and sisters" would make life absolutely difficult if they did. 

And so as a result, SGEU members will now get to contribute 26.6% more to their union, not because the union is going to do something that benefits all members, but because the union is going to spend that money on advertising that runs counter to some of their members' beliefs.  I hope that the next labour change on the plate will be the right to refuse union membership in a workplace - it's time for a change.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Welcome Blogging Tories

When I first started blogging 5 years or so ago, it was on the same premise as Kate at Small Dead Animals - that the media doesn't necessarily speak for me and this is my way to shout back at them and correct what they're saying.  When I started, I didn't consider myself a "Tory", I considered myself a libertarian, and I still do.  For that reason, I specifically made a decision not to join any of the partisan aggregators in order to ensure that my audience encompasses the largest tent possible.  In the ensuing 5 or 6 years, however, I've grown to understand that the Conservative party - the party (now) of classic liberalism - is the one party that can get closest of all the mainstream parties to those ideals.  It's not perfect, what in life truly is?  If a true libertarian option became mainstream, I have no doubt that I would likely support that party, but until that time, I'm comfortably in the Big Blue Tent.

That isn't to say that I'm necessarily happy with the size of the federal government and the surplus/deficit, but I'm willing to give Mssrs Harper and Flaherty a shot at erasing the mistakes of Tory governments past and proving to the phantom 60% that conservatives DO have compassion, they just manifest it in a tough love sort of way rather than throwing money at ineffectual solutions to problems.  I also understand that sometimes solutions DO require money, however I also know that the longer the Conservatives have the reins in Ottawa, the more often the solution to a problem will be more than about the money thrown at it, it'll be about the results that are actually achieved on the other end.  In short, I trust Mr. Harper in particular to remember that governments are much more inefficient than the private sector in solving many problems that will come our way, and his actions - despite the spending on gobs of money on "stimulus" - have been to steadily gloss over the conservative answers - tax cuts as stimulus, trust in the citizen to exercise their own set of values, reliance on independance - with diminishing continuance of solutions that haven't worked in the past.

So having said all this, I welcome my new readers and look forward to your feedback and knowledge as I have enjoyed yours over the past few years.  I will be reviewing some of my posts over the past couple years on Blogger and updating and reposting some of my favourites over the coming days, just to give a taste of what's to come.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quebec announces $80B mining plan

Quebec announces $80B mining plan | Money | Edmonton Sun

Praise the Lord and Pass the money plate!
LEVIS, QUE. - Mining firms and the Quebec government will invest $80 billion over 25 years to extract gold, diamonds and uranium from northern regions, Premier Jean Charest said Monday.

The 11 privately financed projects could create $14 billion in spinoffs, Charest told a news conference in suburban Quebec City.

Quebec is touting its mining plan as the largest natural-resources project since the massive hydroelectric networks that were built in the 1970s. Mines would spring up in a 1.2 million square-kilometre area of northern Quebec - a region more than twice the size of Saskatchewan.

Do you think it's a coincidence that this is being done while the Liberal leader in Quebec is at his lowest all time popularity while the Conservative party in Canada is at its highest level of popularity in a couple of decades?

Tories can be more aggressive

With a majority, Tories can be more aggressive

And I say "amen to that".

Trust a bureaucrat to call a 1.3% cut to government spending a horrible idea.

Mr. Baird says about 80,000 public servants are expected to leave within the next five to seven years, meaning attrition could be a source of savings. He said the government hasn’t set a target, though.

“We’re not starting out this process saying: ‘Here’s the range of public servants we want to reduce,’” he said.
John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says he’s concerned by the government’s attrition talk.

“Stephen Harper has always talked about smaller government,” Mr. Gordon said. “If people leave through attrition, that means less people to do the work. And if there’s less people to do the work, then something has to give.”
 Here's what it comes down to.  There are hundreds of little offices and jobs in the federal government that aren't effective and a waste of money.  There are hundreds and thousands of people in the public service who have been promoted for no other reason than their supervisor or their political master wanted it so.  To be quite frank, it's time for the public service to have to start living within its means.  The unfortunately thing for them is that they now have a political master who may honestly believe this and will do something about it.

One thing I do know, is that the Conservatives can reverse the course of talking points merely by making sure that they balance the budget as quickly as they can and start repaying the debt as quickly as they can.  Not only should they pay down the debt as soon as possible, they should make sure that debt repayment is encoded in the budgeting process so that the accumulated debt can be repaid as early as possible as well - be it through a sinking fund or through actual reduction of debt.

In the mean time, good luck to PSAC for avoiding job losses in a bureaucracy that clearly needs them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Success of 2011 census may come down to nagging, guilt

Success of 2011 census may come down to nagging, guilt

"We're counting on Canadians to recognize the importance of this information and respond to the NHS if they are selected," she said.
And if they don't, Statistics Canada isn't above nagging people to take part.
Rivais said Canadians who don't fill out their survey may get a phone call or knock on the door from the agency.
"We'll ... follow up and ask them to participate," said Rivais. "We'll explain to you why it's important. And if you say you understand but you still don't want to do it, then, well, you don't do it and we're done."
Try 5 times.

The last time I was asked to fill out a voluntary survey, I was nagged 5 times for a total of about an hour of my time before they finally stopped trying to brow beat me into doing the survey.

And just think, if they had quietly accepted the decision to make the long-form voluntary, I might have taken the survey. Because they didn't accept the decision quietly, because they decided that the Canadian public should be forced into answering questions as inane as "how many bedrooms are in your house" or "how much unpaid work do you do in your household", because they didn't accept MY decision that I didn't want to participate in their survey, they just strengthened my resolve to cooperate less with them in the future.

Perhaps, instead of paying $150 for two or more bureaucrats to successively nag me and harass me, they should consider PAYING $50 for the inconvenience of filling out their survey, and they would likely guarantee that I would not only fill it out, but fill it out honestly.

Huh... it looks like they have plenty of money in the budget too...

Friday, May 6, 2011

If a majority is illegitimate at less than 50% of the popular vote...

*Upperdate* (Bumped May 6th)
Welcome to Charles Adler Viewers

Linked from Free Dominion,Surecure, and mentioned on Charles Adler... welcome to all who are visiting for the first time... c'mon in and set a spell

Original Post:
Then nothing done under Lester Pearson is legitimate.  This includes:

1.  The CPP
2.  Universal Health Care
3.  Student Loans
4.  The current Canadian Flag
5.  The Order of Canada.
6.  The 40 hour work week
7.  Two weeks paid vacation
8.  Minimum Wage law

Furthermore, nothing done under Trudeau should stand, including:

1.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
2.  Decriminalization of homosexual acts
3.  Legalization of contraception
4.  Legalization of abortion
5.  Legalization of lotteries
6.  Gun Ownership restrictions
7.  Liberalization of divorce laws
8.  Institution of breathalyzer tests for drunk drivers.
9.  Regional development programs
10. Official Bilingualism
11. Repatriation of the Constitution.

How about Mulroney?  Well, he only had 50% for his first term, but let's be honest, without most of the previous, Mulroney wouldn't have had to do a lot of what he did, including:

1.  The GST
2.  Meech Lake Accord
3.  Charlottetown Accord
4.  8 additional Senators

1.  Changes to the Young Offender's Act
2.  The Clarity Act
3.  The Sponsorship Scandal
4.  The Sea King Helicopter replacement deal being cancelled

You see?  It's all a matter of perspective.  I hope that people remember this before they start spouting about how 60% of the country voted AGAINST this newly minted majority government.

Teacher salaries in perspective

Yes, even in Saskatchewan...

The problem with contract negotiations when it comes to teachers and health care (nurses especially) is that there is too much emotion attached to it. Each person in society has a different idea of what is fair compensation for a teacher.

The discussion - and I don't care where the collective bargaining is done, be it Wisconsin or Ontario or Saskatchewan - revolves around either pointing out that teachers are underpaid for what they do, or that teachers are grossly underpaid for what they do so we should all just shut up and be glad they're only getting what they're asking for.

Except that's not exactly all sides of the story.

I'm going to preface this by saying that I believe teachers are well paid for what I EXPECT them to do. That's what the whole thing comes down to - expectations. Too many people expect that teachers are the front line in raising children. They expect that the teacher not only teach reading, writing and 'rithmetic, but that they also be integral in the raising of the child.

I don't expect that of teachers, and herein lies the point I'm about to make. It is ultimately the PARENTS who are responsible for raising their children, teaching them right from wrong, what is and is not proper behaviour in society, and helping them to grow up. It is the Teacher who reinforces that teaching by enforcing social mores and proper rules of conduct whilst the student is in their care. This is actually the job of ALL adults in contact with a child, not just the teachers, and the reward for that job is a just society that values safety and politeness for all.

Do I think that a Teacher's core function is important in society? Yes. Is it worth whatever they think it is? Not unless they want to submit to a free market unfettered by seniority rules and the like.

As it sits right now, a first year teacher in Saskatchewan earns as much as the average household in Saskatchewan earned in 2006. A first year teacher in Saskatchewan (presumably with a 4 year B.Ed degree) earns $46,419 plus benefits while the average household (all households, mind you) earned $46,719.

I'm going to emphasize that again - the average HOUSEHOLD earned $46,719 in 2006.

If we slide up the scale, the most experienced teacher in Saskatchewan, in the same normal class, can expect to earn $73,036 per year - a full $13,038 per year more than the average middle class HOUSEHOLD earned in 2006.

Let's put it another way...

A First year teacher in Saskatchewan is in the top 40% of earners in Saskatchewan, especially when their benefits are factored in.

A teacher at the top of their class in Saskatchewan (15 years or more of experience) is in the top 10% of all earners in Saskatchewan - again when all their benefits are factored in.

Now... are they really underpaid?  You be the judge.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Station 20 West: update

Station 20 West Gains new legs with big donation

When last we checked in on Station 20 West, it had raised $2 million in a little more than 2 years since their funding from the provincial government had been pulled.  On Feb. 15th, it had planned to raise another $2 million and take out a mortgage for the remainder.

Now, just 16 months later, the project received a donation that pushed them to $5.25 million and put them within $275,000 of their ultimate goal of funding the entire project.

Let me say that again, just to emphasize it... THEY ARE WITHIN $275,000 OF FUNDING THE ENTIRE PROJECT WITHOUT A MORTGAGE.

What a difference 3 years makes, because when the funding was cut, there was a huge outcry that the project would NEVER get done, and the government and the Premier were evil mean jerks for killing this project by taking away all the funding.  All Mr. Wall said at the time is that if it was truly important, it would get done regardless of the government funding.

It appears he was right.

Monday, May 2, 2011

How the Liberal meltdown gave Stephen Harper his majority - Canada Votes 2011 - CBC News

How the Liberal meltdown gave Stephen Harper his majority - Canada Votes 2011 - CBC News

And all it came down to is that despite the media being hard on Harper, despite the reports of how well Iggy's campaign was going, despite the so-called ethical lapses...

Harper won because he's the only one that wasn't trying to spend more money.

That's it. He was the only one being fiscally responsible in a time of deficits. He's been making a dent in the deficit, and many of his promises were contingent on eliminating that deficit.

It wasn't because the Conservatives were particularly nasty in their criticisms of Mr. Ignatieff, it's that what the Conservatives were serving was absolutely believable.

The other thing to note on this election night... the NDP didn't break through anywhere else in Canada... They broke through in Quebec, they picked up about 4 seats in the Atlantic and 4 in the rest of Canada. Hardly the Orange Crush that the press seem to think it is.