Log Cabin Chronicles

Posted 4.19.22

SHAWVILLE, QC | With Covid fading from our alarm systems -- it's no longer the topic of most conversation -- and with the protesters having left Ottawa, we have one more distraction: the war in the Ukraine. What we know we do have to face ultimately, what's waiting outside, is huge: the climate crash. It's too big to compare to even war and pandemic.

Posted 4.19.22

SHAWVILLE, QC | Premier Legault's promise in his March 2022 budget to send every family a $500 cheque is intended to help them recover from the chaos of Covid and to assist Quebec families deal with the new inflation we are all facing. Besides, this year has a provincial election in October -- just in time for voters to express their gratitude for the cheques!

Posted 4.10.22

SHAWVILLE, QC | The three-week old alliance of the federal Liberals and NDP has generated plenty of comment by the media's talking heads. It's not difficult to predict that the NDP will get some clear wins out of this agreement -- pharmacare is a big one, but others cover health, climate change and affordability legislation. These should all aid the population as a whole, although paying for these new programs seems to be the second big question. But, after Covid's expenses, what are billions more?

Posted 3.10.22

SHAWVILLE, QC | But wouldn't Putin also be smiling (if he ever does smile) over last weekend's big rally in Orlando, Florida. The America First Political Action Committee (of the Republican Party) hosted this event which concluded with ten minutes of chanting, "Putin! ...Putin! ..." . "Even America supports me," Mr Putin must have told himself.

Posted 12.20.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | The public nastiness over vaccinations, masks, and lockdowns has exceeded normal boundaries of public debate, but this nastiness is not new, especially after Trump's foray into anti-democratic politics.

Posted 10.7.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | With most political parties counting "more affordable housing" as a major plank in their platforms (apart from smaller parties), those of us in the rural world have to wonder just where is the nation-wide inventory of housing? Who did the count, and did they bother to look into Canada's thousands of small towns? That's a question because we can suspect their lists' completeness; did they count rural housing, stretching across Canada's farm areas, Boreal forest communities, even northern latitudes.

Healthcare providers who are vax-deniers?
Posted 10.7.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | Have you noticed that, amid all the uproar and dispute over Covid and vaccinations, there is one health field in particular which has a surprising share of vax-deniers protesting assaults on their personal liberty.

Single-parenting, early education
Posted 6.17.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | We are learning more than expected from the pandemic -- from scientific insights to generalizations about well-being and good mental health. As we slog through levels of lockdown, mental health problems seem only to grow. Our kids, for example, feel isolated and stressed, struggling to focus on their on-line lessons.

The Trouble with Democracy>
Posted 6.9.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | Lend me your attention for a moment. This is not about local -- only issues, not about Covid, hockey, nor low moisture in our crops. This is about money, and money is the Trouble with Democracy. MEMORIAL FOR THE VICTIMS OF . . . WHAT?
Posted 4.30.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | Among the surprises of this month's federal budget was a doubling of funds for Harper's "victims of communism" 2010 memorial in Ottawa. With a total of near $7 million, this should be one heck of a memorial. Protests ... protests ... protests ...
Posted 3.27.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | Big national issues affect us all. "Idle No More", "Me Too", 2SLGBTQ..., "Black Lives Matter", "Defund the Police" and other era-defining social upheavals will mark these years, almost as much as will the Covid-19 pandemic. Remembering the unforgettable
Posted 3.17.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | March 11, the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, was our day to commemorate those Canadians who have lost their lives to Covid-19. Twenty-two thousand people, plus, lost their lives here to this virus and its effects. A near majority were senior citizens. This commemoration is crucial. FAKE NEWS BEGAN A LONG TIME AGO
Posted 3.9.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | I suppose, thanks to a lifetime in journalism, that my fascination is still alive with the "false news" phenomena of the last few years. "Decades" is more realistic: false news has been with us for a lot longer than the latest of its guises, Trump & today's populism.

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Protest ... where it counts!
Posted 2.1.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | Two street protests against pandemic restrictions in Quebec, in Fort Coulonge and Shawville, have stimulated public comment. And criticism -- many participants, generally, were not following the health rules (masks and a two-metre distance). The SQ were careful to warn protestors of the rules, without aggravating emotions and stimulating further disturbance.

Posted 1.12.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | One of the lesser-noted effects of Covid-19 and its lockdown is the sudden and widespread proliferation of scientific expertise. There's a touch of sarcasm here.

Posted 12.23.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | Lesson number one: The pandemic's lockdown may be teaching us a thing or two, despite it's costs. One lesson is obvious: how deeply we all depend upon contact and communication with others. The opposite side of that coin may be that we also are learning to live with our own selves, without the contact we took for granted in the past.

Posted 11.15.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | American friends are certainly now on the road to a healing presidential term. The Republicans may rant about individual counts, but we can also be certain that they are busy studying their playbook, "How to Sabotage a Democrat President."

Social upheavals: the money trail
Posted 10.19.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | It seems clear that modern societies have major inequities virtually built in -- when 1-to-2 percent of the population controls well over 50 percent of the wealth and income increases, or when we have a few families controlling majorities of the properties and assets of the world. This is inherently unstable -- as the wealthy classes and oligarchs learned in France, Britain's American colonies, Russia, China, Cuba, and others, prior to major revolutions.

We have a Big Biz model -- Hydro-Quebec
Posted 8.30.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | Before the pandemic, the media, including this newspaper, received a steady flow of messaging from business associations and pro-business foundations and think-tanks. Apart from immediate flash-points (any change to tax law, for example), these messages have been consistently critical of any government intervention in the economy, and even in social matters. Some even urge privatizing health-care.

Mini-nuke reactors — from the Ottawa River Valley to the world?
Posted 6.22.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | Just when Canada has its attention diverted by policing protests and the pandemic, and with no urgent need, a group of corporations has launched a new zombie attack: Chalk River will rise from the ashes of that terrible plan to build a astoundingly large radioactive dump just up stream from most of the Pontiac's population.

Fellas, it's Mother Day
Posted 5.10.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | The pandemic, no matter how close or distant it seems to any of us, is affecting us all, and, the most social amongst us, women — largely, women — appear to feel the lockdown's limitations most profoundly. What can be done to help? Certainly not demanding that the isolation rules be dropped. But how can we help our partners? How can we ease their anxieties, as well as our own, with so much isolation?

>China-bashing looks backwards, not to the future
Posted 2.28.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | China, both "communist" yet economically successful -- something's wrong there! -- plus racially different: there's an enemy for us! That seems to have been the extent of a lot of the mental activity within the Canadian/American thinking class (as they like to characterize themselves). And, presto, we are awash in accusations of industrial spying, 5-G sabotage (via Huawei), COVID-19 rumour-mongering, and the maleficent intentions of the Belts & Roads initiative, plus the spread of Confucius Institutes - around the world!

IN CANADA: MEXIT to the Pontiac?
Posted 1.24.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | Although Quebec's Pontiac region is no royalist hot-bed, the plight, or flight, or fight, of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex has captured the attention of many of us. It has been a long time since anything much Royal was on the tongues of the Pontiac -- not, perhaps, not since the hoopla about creating a Duchy of Pontiac! And that was the early '90s.

IN CANADA: Conservative -- or conservative?
Posted 1.3.20

SHAWVILLE, QC | So the Conservatives of Canada are about to pick a new leader -- giving us even more exciting and stimulating campaigning! -- The need is obvious, but shouldn't we finish digesting all that we were fed prior to October 21? -- Is what we call democracy just being in a big rush?

Tune-up the nuclear waste plan? Are they crazy?
Posted 12.29.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | This is an opinion column. I live within Chalk River's disaster radius; my children and grandchildren, too -- as do thousands of Canadians. The issue is not a technical detail here and a repair-job there, the central fact is that this consortium is proposing to store mega amounts of toxic materials in our back yard.

News? What the heck?
Posted 12.11.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | When the news is delivered to us -- daily via air-waves, paper or device -- are we getting the news? Or are we given an interpretation of the news? Take this fall's federal election -- big news. What we received were the election results, but inevitably delivered to us as an opinion, and as a car-wreak: the result was an unstable minority government, radical regional divisions, under-performing leaders.

Bringing it all back home
Posted 12.03.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | As several friends and I were driving recently, one passenger noticed that all four of us had been part of the quot;back-to-the-landersquot; movement in the Pontiac in the 1970-80s. He was glum about it. quot;We didn't re-invent any wheels -- all pretty naive!quot; Naive, yes, but inventing wheels was never the plan when my wife and I bought an abandoned farm on the Coulonge River in 1972.

Our rural Quebec hospital: death by a thousand cuts?
Posted 11.30.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | For those of us who have spent the best part of our lives in the Pontiac, the single institution which represents our community is the modern hospital in Shawville. Up until the last five years or so, Pontiac's hospital was ranked as one of the best-run, most-successful of all Quebec's rural hospitals. We have supported and fund-raised it -- and we feel especially fortunate to have it serving us, when we hear horror stories from nearby city hospitals.

Canada's Election 2019: What went right?
Posted 11.24.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | It's puzzling why most media reports the election just past as a failure, a political car-crash. Apart from specific contests, and certainly for the NDP & Greens, and Liberals on the prairies, apart from them, what went wrong?

Hey, Canada, one more election thing…
Posted 11.7.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | The election isn't over. Tired of election talk? Sorry, but many seem still fascinated with the ins and outs of the campaign. Trudeau's victory, qualified as it is, remains a victory and one worth remembering when we consider how much ground the Liberals were able to make up during the brief campaign. "Brief", compared to the Americans.

Let's make Hydro-Quebec a verb. And use it.
Posted 10.25.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | With at minimum six parties powering (sometimes sputtering) through the federal campaign just passed, voters had a near-full slate of proposals to choose from. Not full; nearly full. Canada had no Bernie Sanders -- nor any Trump either -- even the NDP with its innovative record, or the Greens' wisely generous proposals, and the new PPC on the Right, offering a tight-fisted menu, and even with the Bloc back in the game -- plenty of voices, plenty of bases covered, and yet the solutions proposed by all of the parties are the old ones, slightly tweaked, pumped up or budget-slimmed ... but hardly novel.

UN steps into Chalk River radioactive dump dispute
Posted 10.10.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | After over a year of side-stepping the dangers of a proposal to create a mega-dump for radioactive materials at Chalk River, along the Ottawa River above the Pontiac, it appears the United Nations itself has intervened. Acting on complaints from five First Nations and about 40 citizen groups, the federal government invited the United Nation's atomic energy overseer (IAEA) to investigate. An 24-member investigative team wrapped up its survey, September 13.

Posted 10.1.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | So much praise for the climate-action demonstrations of the youth last week! Finally modern kids are waking up -- "the way we woke up in the Sixties,", or "fighting Free Trade in the Americas," or "protesting globalisation." But others dismiss the whole thing with a "Bah, humbug, what do kids know!"

Ottawa Flooding: our river, our selves
Posted 9.15.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | The flooding of 2019 is not over -- we are still dealing with its aftermath. One issue is the province's flood-plain identification plan with its preliminary mapping and building restrictions. These questions cover the province, wherever flooding occurred.

Election Canada: guess who's back!
Posted 8.31.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | The IDU's own funding is unclear, since most comes from non-profit foundations which do not have to reveal their funding amounts nor the people involved. The Koch Brothers, US billionaires, have not been shy. One former employee, Mike Roman (his Koch salary in 2016: $286,000), has sat not only on the US Republican Party National Committee but as treasurer of the IDU. He has acknowledged, with pride, digging up dirt on liberals of all stripes, on environmental groups, unions, etc.

A national debate in Canada on Climate Change?
Posted 8.21.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | National polls consistently register that "action on climate change" is one of the top concerns of Canadian voters, even Conservatives (although with less gusto). The polls results vary with place, time, class, education, income, age, affiliations, and occupation, but, clearly, the issue remains high on Canadians' all-governments-must-do list.

If legalization works, how about nationalization?
Posted 8.15.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Legalizing cannabis has reduced the violence associated with illegal pot production, distribution and sales -- according to researchers in Norway and the USA (Economics Journal, July 19, 2019). It may be early for Canadians to draw such optimistic conclusions, but this study looked at the legalization of medical marijuana, which has been in effect in many places since the late '90s. California legalized medical use back in 1996. We can be forgiven our optimism if we project these benefits into recreational uses -- a more massive market than for the medical herb.

We are all populists, right?
Posted 8.8.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Populism is not new; the concept stretches at least to the 1800s with political parties using that term in both the US and Russia. Then, populism was left of centre, advocating for collectivization in Russia and the nationalization of public goods, like railways, in the US. US populists (The Peoples Party) argued for a graduated income-tax, and it is curious that today's born-again populists are pushing to reverse tax laws, so the wealthiest citizens pay the same as do the poorest.

Measles? TB? What's Next?
Posted 7.30.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Finding three cases of measles in this region in 2019 (barely half-over) has re-ignited the debate over making vaccinations mandatory. Measles was once conquered, easily avoided by childhood vaccinations. Yet it's back. So, too, is tuberculosis. Could polio's resurgence come next? These scourges of humanity were considered gone, and, given their seriousness, their partial return has prompted varieties of hysteria.

Wax Wings?
Posted 7.18.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | The older I get, the more unavoidably obvious are changes in our climate. Perhaps for someone who lives mostly indoors, in a city condo maybe, or those who hardly notice such things as trees and snowfall, birds and heat waves, as they rush from car to work to car to home ... perhaps it's understandable that the whole idea of a climate catastrophe is irrelevant, or a luxury, almost, when the daily chaos in just making ends meet eats anyone's time ... perhaps the climate is not speaking to them, not saying a thing. Is our climate is mute or it's us who aren't listening, looking around?

Climate change and voting reform
Posted 7.11.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Real-media news seems focused on climate change, with a recent report of polling firm Abacus showing climate change as the number one concern in voters' minds across Canada. Climate change polled high even among committed Conservative voters.

About One Quebec Graduation
Posted 7.05.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | First, this relatively large graduating class' teachers and administrators were female. Of the 18 teachers on stage, two were male. The influence of a female-heavy administration pervaded the whole ceremony -- decorations, music, all the hugging (rather than only male-ish hand-shaking) and general excitement. These are clichés, but they reflected an ambiance.

Canadian Military and Sexism
Posted 6.11.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | One of Canada's national news items was our military's failure to reduce sexual harassment within its ranks. This is serious (anyone dismissive should think of their sisters, daughters, grand-daughters), and the military is taking it seriously.

After the flood...
Posted 5.27.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | With the floods in retreat, the long cleanup underway, summer soon will be full-force, full of BBQ, kids, a road trip or two -- and we'll be in the midst of a federal election. Over a year ago, this scenario (apart from the flood) would have raised only a yawn. The election then seemed a slam-dunk for the governing Liberals, but since then they and the world around them have collided, providing us a very different set of electoral possibilities.

Quebec's Bill 21 -- Fred thinks -- is "liberating, not oppressive"
Posted 5.17.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Bill 21-- Quebec's efforts to "secularize" its public service -- includes minor ramifications, some rarely-heard, some with deep implications. Bill 21 implies that religious belief, what we hold in our hearts as well as in public, should first be a private and personal thing.

UN : Reshaping life on Earth
Posted 5.13.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | About 75 percent of land and 66 percent of ocean areas have been "significantly altered" by people, driven in large part by the production of food, says the IPBES. Cropping and livestock co-opt more than 33 percent of Earth’s land surface and 75 percent of its freshwater resources.

Hard-wired to self-destruct?
Posted 5.8.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | This month, following the first peak of the flooding, a group took to the streets to protest the provincial government's secularization proposals. Naturally, they were met by another group, much smaller, supporting Bill 21.

The haiku of political hard-headedness
Posted 5.1.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Besotted as we are, finding ourselves in yet another season of flooding, giving us just a taste of the anguish and massive expense to come, assuming we continue to refuse a concerted and personal effort to thwart the changes we ourselves are forcing upon our climate, how about an editorial different from the usual -- un-cynical, when cynicism is understandable, focussed on the tiny, when the big picture needs our attention, one step, one life-change, every day ...

Whose planet is this?
Posted 4.22.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Many households have been watching the series "Our Planet" on Netflix, with the slow, wise voice of narrator David Attenborough reminding so many of their grandfathers. Attenborough has much of Aylmer sitting in a circle around him as he tells us the tales grandfathers seem best capable of passing along. But he's not our grandfather; he is relating to all of humanity the modern tales we do need to hear about our world and its future. His measured tone and his observations, combined with absolutely stunning photography, makes this series a must-see for us all.

Show some respect
Posted 4.12.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Can't we finally acknowledge that climate change is moving faster towards us than expected -- and that there are measures we can take to combat (and adjust to) it?

Open the door to the Boreal!
Posted 3.28.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Talk to most people about current affairs, public personalities, important places and events, and chances are most of their news will be from south of the border. Maybe you'll hear some comment about events and places in Canada, but they'll almost exclusively be from the few big cities on our side of that border. We live in the second or third largest and richest country on the planet, yet our attention is focused somewhere else... Why does our distant focus even seem natural?

"I've got my own sources"
Posted 2.24.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Don't trust the media? Too many "smut-seeking journalists"? Too much sensationalism? Unchecked facts? Unverified claims and assertions, innuendos, rumours reported as fact?

Canada's PM with a plan?
Posted 2.14.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | With Suicide Prevention Week just past, it's a wonder the federal Liberals didn't take some of the Week's precautions to heart. After foolishly stepping into Trump's neck-snare over China, then joining the distinctly un-liberal gang-up on Venezuela, on-side with the hemisphere's most anti-democratic forces (Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Paraguay, and the USA), and now protecting SNC Lavalin from bribery prosecution by, in effect, firing the cabinet's senior Aboriginal minister, Justice and Attorney-General -- is something wrong with the lemmings in the Liberal Party's management? Heading for the nearest cliff, with only a few months before the election, seems unwise.

Funding Canada's print media?
Posted 1.26.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Recent emergency federal aid for print media has proven to be a productive decision, so far. This support is nowhere near federal support for petroleum, pipeline, ship-building, and a few other industries. Yet it seems proportional to the size of each sector's difficulties -- and to their economic and social importance.

Here's a bone to chew on
Posted 1.22.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | I'm impressed by the dogs on Aylmer's sidewalks and trails -- breeds one seldom sees (Kuvasz or Great Pyrenees), and all their shapes, sizes, and personalities. Everything from Danes and Newfoundlands down to miniature mutts I cannot identify. "Mutt" is a term of endearment.

The passing of James Shea and the future of school boards
Posted 1.9.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | West Quebec's anglophones were saddened to learn of James Shea's passing after his lifetime of commitment to our community. His funeral reminds us that the threat to minority-language school boards is real. Mr Shea appealed for respect for Québec's minority community's constitutional protections, especially school boards.

A Christmas enough?
Posted 12.20.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | This is a rough time of the year for pessimists. Gift-giving, hearty meals, and coloured lights reflecting off pure white snow are hardly the stuff from which nightmares and disasters are made. In fact, since these features combine better now than in any other public holiday during the year, might we consider expanding its pleasures, fun, and warmth? Expand it, you ask, how?

On Dying and other Autumnal considerations
Posted 11.27.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | These are a few reflections on our final autumns, on the end of life. We're all heading there, so sooner or later these lines might provide some understanding and, through that, comfort to all our readers -- but let's hope it's later!

Canada's postal strike: crocodile tears?
Posted 11.23.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | News of the stalemate in the labour dispute at Canada Post includes an announcement that 550 tractor trailer loads of parcels are waiting across the country to be sorted and delivered. With the union applying pressure where it would be most effective -- at Canada Post's few centralized big sorting centres -- the labour dispute has become something more.

PTSD and you? And us?
Posted 11.20.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Around Remembrance Day, I was in a local Canadian Legion hall and saw on the wall a collage of photos of Canadian servicemen & women who have given their lives in Afghanistan; it was a simple yet noble statement of the terrible costs of war, something which should balance our tendency to rush off to foreign battlefields in the pursuit of grand ideals.

Together? Not.
Posted 11.9.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Today we view our society under multiple fracturing -- we divide ourselves between immigrants and non-immigrants, among racial types, left-to-right political positions -- all the dimensions into which we force our communities, slicing and dicing ourselves, but one big divide we rarely heard about is the rural -- urban split.

So what happened?
Posted 10.8.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Post-election, are we to accustom ourselves to a new era of change for the sake of change? So it seems. Voters did want change, but every party offered changes, big lists of promises -- and yet a lot of voters had no idea what was on those lists. The voters knew mainly one thing: "change." This seemed to motivate voters in the US presidential election, in BC and Ontario elections, and now in Quebec. New era, or back to the 1800s?

More Canada politics: guns 'n ammo
Posted 10.4.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | However, if gun owners want guns to protect themselves from "big goverment" -- this is insurrection, clearly illegal. What's wrong with owning a gun or two or five, but keeping them in a regulated, secure environment? Is "gun control" even the issue?

The coming Canadian disaster
Posted 9.27.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | The question isn't if the greatest disaster will occur, or a lesser one, or something far worse -- the question is, why are we even taking these chances? Why would we allow a gigantic radioactive mound in that location, and under these circumstances, at all? Why would we even take the chance?

Notpetya ~ a cautionary tale
Posted 9.18.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | I stood for some time behind a couple paying for two coffees -- with a debit card. Next, a guy pulled out a fiver and paid for his in under two minutes. Did that couple really not have a few bucks between them? That seems a stretch, cashless out in the world, or maybe with a cell phone to make a payment.

Letter to Cousin Marjorie
Posted 8.7.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Cousin, think about that -- wouldn't you do exactly the same thing if you and Ronnie decided to emigrate, say, to Argentina? Tell me you wouldn't insist on real maple syrup!

Posted 6.23.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | Your safety belts fastened? We have an election coming - - in October, four quick months away. Growing parts of the world don't have elections, or they're for show. And we did hear plenty about Ontario's vote in early June, but you'd never know we'll be picking a new government, soon, in our own province.

Happy Birthday to all Geminis!
Posted 6.21.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | What a birthday gift
to be born in this time of year...

For stupidity, how about a UN monument?
Posted 6.21.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | When we think about Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Fukushima - - of dikes bursting, cities flooded, and infrastructure built on earthquake lines or on eroding sea cliffs - - and when the inevitable does then happen, we inevitably exclaim, "What were they thinking!"

Ontario's vote will affect West Quebec
Posted 5.26.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | One thing the Liberal government in Ontario has accomplished is to keep Quebec tightly engaged with the federation -- as a deliberate policy. While this would likely be continued under an NDP or coalition government, it's unlikely that relations with Quebec are even on the Ford/Conservative radar.

Really, a Trump-Trudeau axis?
Posted 5.10.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | When Mr Trump was elected many Canadians wondered how our avant-garde "feminist" leader would deal with the new president, already known for outrageous actions and views. Canada has historically walked a very thin line between what we profess and what our American protectors expect of us. This would surely challenge that relationship.

False-flags right here at home
Posted 5.5.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The most cynical of false-flag events are "public consultations." It's a rare one that actually consults with anyone. Usually they're public announcements: "this is how it's going to be - - and how do you feel about it?". That's no consultation, although there's a smidgeon of feedback requested. Substantive changes rarely are birthed in public consultations except in very dramatic circumstances - - say, as a close election approaches.

$1.2 billion misdirected in Canada
Posted 4.24.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Harper-Trudeau solution to our Canadian nation's nuclear waste over-flow - - dump it onto a mound, covered by a 'membrane' - - is going to backfire. Who doubts this?

In the gig economy, where's the synergy?
Posted 4.4.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We're constantly told that today's world is at a boundary. We've reached a no-return point, and life will be very different in the future. We heard this first via predictions about the changes digitization would be bringing us, and indeed that seems to fit -- in our homes, work, in businesses, the arts, sports, travel, etc.

On plagiarizing news
Posted 3.31.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Bulletin's discovery that one of its journalists has been plagiarizing material published in another newspaper, while very embarrassing, has an up-side, a lesson, as much for the reading public as for journalists everywhere.

Facebook & Orwell, tongue-in-cheek-ishly
Posted 3.21.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | "One of any citizen's rights is the right to copyright material in our possession, generated by our processes and devices. We have the legal right to copyright all information, photos, data, numbers, and recordings generated by our various systems. The purpose of this Notice is to inform you personally, as our valued client, that Facebook has copyrighted your life."

Are we in the midst of World War III?
Posted 3.17.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | While we await, certainly with trepidation, for the US President's next Twitter threat against North Korea (or Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia, Niger ... ) it's worth considering that America's "War on Terror" is actually a third World War. Add to Trump's crazy threats, his threats to end trade agreements that don't favour America, and it seems hard to say that we are not there.

Ah, stereotypes
Posted 2.21.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We're constantly reminded to avoid stereotyping, but I can't get through a single day without making a stereotype of one kind or another, especially to myself. I've tried to stop, but, to be frank, it seems most conversations would grind to a halt. (Or else blow into long-winded storms of convoluted verbiage.)

Valentine's Day: Love's changing numbers are written on water
Posted 2.13.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This arithmetic of romance is highly emotional and usually calculated in-the-moment, not from an calm moment. Any estimation of costs - - or benefits - - of a relationship is ethereal and shifting; love's changing numbers are written on water.

"Give us the money, but not your rules"
Posted 2.8.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | But look at the implications. Does the Conference of Bishops (all unmarried males) really believe that any appeal to "freedom of religion" trumps federal law? Where and when did we agree that our charters and legal heritage are subservient to religious beliefs?

Clean, clear, easy to find and understand
Posted 1.27.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Accountability? The public deserves the project's details. Details of managerial salaries, consultant fees, contracting-out fees -- the big costs. Quarterly reports. We have to know what the managers are being paid, to assess the projects. (Sorry but privacy concerns their private lives, not our tax dollars.)

Climate change is NOT the only problem, folks
Posted 1.27.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | "It won't re-charge," he argued. Even if the next ten years were as wet as the last were dry, and this because the soil structure holding the aquifer has by now silted up and collapsed; there is no longer much storage capacity down deep. Even if the Americans were able to divert an entire Canadian river down there, the aquifer no longer exists as it once did. The river would run off, drain away.

The Me Species
Posted 1.19.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Making one nation great is clan-thought. Nations, tribes, even families, religions, languages : each means one nation really can be separate. Yet it's obvious the world is a network, and it's hard to imagine that changing.

"I'm from the government, how can I help?"
Posted 12.16.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Quebec government just announced a budget to help "traditional media," including small community newspapers. Great idea! The help? Oh, that community newspapers stop being newspapers.

The internet and no communications
Posted 11.28.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Quebec's federation of municipal governments -- the FQM -- this week announced it's support of efforts to extend high-speed internet to all rural municipalities in the province. The FQM claims there are 244,000 households without real access.

Proud to be Canadian
Posted 11.22.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Canadian patriotism is big in 2017. National celebrations on July 1, and the 150th projects and festivities have been inspirational, but just what do they mean to us, as patriotic Canadians?

West Quebec in provincial cabinet?
Posted 11.16.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Even on the federal level, Pontiac had, for years, the senior minister in Prime Minister Harper's government - - Harper's Quebec lieutenant, no less - - and is there one project in the Pontiac which was helped by "having a seat at the table"?

Critics! Methinks thou dost whine too much…
Posted 11.8.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Not only does Canada have a new Governor-General, an astronaut-scientist-engineer, but she's not shy. One of Mme Julie Payette's first speeches -- to a science forum -- has generated an uproar. Most GG's avoid controversy, and many conservatives are complaining.

She dared to question creationism and embrace evolution.

And that was just the beginning. She restated the science of climate change, lamented the quackery of cancer panaceas, and dismissed astrology as junk science.

The trouble with stories
Posted 11.2.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This is not about turning the profession of journalism into story-telling. Nor is it about the stories we continually tell ourselves to explain our actions, urges, mistakes, and achievements. No, this is about surrounding ourselves with stories, drowning in them - - and shouldn't that be a concern for us, coping with an evolving world?

Expropriate the old rail line?
Posted 10.28.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | However, the Municipality of Pontiac declined, and sold off the old rail line to the line's neighbours, effectively strangling the Route's access to the Ottawa Valley, and killing any chance of the municipality's own fledgling tourism businesses profit fro this popular tourist link.

Loony anthropology
Posted 10.19.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Following the last full moon, I watched it rise and sail eastward each evening - - until one night I was out before the moon. All the stars! All exceptionally clear and bright - - and everywhere! Perhaps there was less humidity on the air.

Quebec Day-care strike
Posted 9.25.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Four hundred educators in the Outaouais have been without a contract since March, 2015. There are 11,000 unionized workers in Quebec working with no or with expired contracts. Is this the way to run an economy? How can this be considered good government and good business management? How family-friendly is it to push day-care workers to strike?

NAFTA: Will Quebec's Pontiac region get milk - - or milked?
Posted 9.19.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Meanwhile Canada is re-negotiating the NAFTA pact with the US and Mexico, and this "revision" will directly harm - - or help - - the Pontiac. Is NAFTA not news because Canada's farm supply-management system is not high on Ottawa's priority list?

Is CBC radio out of the news business?
Posted 9.12.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Radio-heads will answer that there's a news minute or two at the top of every hour on our national broadcaster, and they're right. But if the fans call those few minutes "news reporting," are they actually listening?

NOT THE FAIR'S SIDESHOW -- he's our president, too
Posted 9.6.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In the old days, when farm fairs began, there were side shows with weirdos and wonders in which we'd find Trump-like buffoons, orange comb-over, all mouth, little Napoleons - - that sort of thing - - and we'd all marvel, laugh, and go home feeling smug and superior. Today, the real show has taken over centre stage and there's no going home to avoid it.

A challenge for anti-immigrants
Posted 8.2 4.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The spectacular media circus created by, largely, alt-Trump supporters in the US has caught our attention - - how could it not? But less attention, as usual, seems to be on events and issues closer to home. Specifically, in Quebec - - and not that our province has a worse record - - the mosque shootings in Quebec, the anti-Muslim cemetery campaign, and more recent demonstrations of anti-immigrant feelings by groups, like La Meute, "the pack", or individuals who put up large anti-immigrant banners outside the venues housing immigrants make it clear that we Canadians still carry old fears and prejudices.

America's Growing Neo-Fascists
Posted 8.16.17

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA | Again the leader of the "free world" is caught up in violence and racism -- the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally by America's growing neo-fascists was last week's top news.

Harm reduction, a safe injection site?
Posted 8.2.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It is good news that a safe injection site has been approved for Ottawa's Sandy Hill area, and that Ontario has offered funding. It's important to note that it will be part of an existing drug and alcohol treatment centre, one with a good record on all counts. The elephant in the room, and not a silent one, are community fears that such a service will attract more drug users and contribute to local criminality. Surveys have shown that this is unlikely.

A little R-e-s-p-e-c-t, or a lot
Posted 7.22.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Just back from a Zydeco festival in Louisiana, a musician friend was steamed up - - about garbage, not music. "When the music was over and everyone rolled up their blankets, the venue was 10 inches deep in trash! Wasn't our generation past all that?" (expletives omitted).

New proposal for the nuclear dump on Ontario's Ottawa River
Posted 6.23.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (non-government) announced a year ago their proposal to build a very large above-ground dump for nuclear wastes, near a fault-line, not far from the Ottawa River, up-stream from Aylmer, Gatineau and our nation's capital.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Our LCC home in Cobden, Ontario, is on Muskrat Lake, which feeds into the Ottawa River. We buy our daily drinking water from the Culligan plant in Pembroke, which is just down river from the proposed nuclear dump site at Chalk River.]

Apart from local newspapers, this project has received almost no attention, and even less from our political leaders. Isn't their silence unsettling?

We're all newspaper people
Posted 6.14.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Over the years we've all noticed that: Radio was killed off by cinema. Movies were then killed by TV. Television was wiped out by video cartridges. And VCRs were destroyed by DVDs. Vinyl succumbed to cassettes, which in turn were killed off by CDs. CDs themselves fell under multiple streaming sites. E-books have ended hard-copy books (which mysteriously increased 17 percent over e-book sales last year); flaming fake news has built social media, and now real news is hammering social media.

Go tax yourself!
Posted 6.2.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Arts are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Necessary for a whole life, living in a way that assists us translate all that life throws at us into our happiness index. The arts help us appreciate the multi-wealths surrounding us, and not merely count the years until our pensions kick in (one sorry approach to living! Life has to be more than accumulating junk and preparing for its final years).

In Canada, the monarchy's a good thing
Posted 5.23.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The old argument about Canada being -- or not -- a monarchy has indeed grown old. It's no longer a burning issue, except, probably, within the Monarchist League and in various republican grouplets. Yet it's still worth some thought.

Ontario's Chalk River Plant: nuke waste risk, with no gain
Posted 5.11.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It is strange, indeed, if any good can come from the flooding we've experienced almost everywhere in our region. There will be many individual stories of bravery and perseverance, certainly, but I am marvelling at the coincidence of these floods and a great decision that is facing us -- the decision on the proposal for a massive nuclear waste dump in Chalk River, upstream from much of Ontario and also West Quebec. This is our decision, not only that of a "panel of experts.

Posted 5.3.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Wouldn't it be interesting to read readers' reflections on what Canada means to them, as we look back over our nation's first 150 years? It's a safe bet we'd prefer to remain Canadian and not "American", despite our admiration for America's achievements. Canadians admire Americans' openness, friendliness, and optimism.

Are governments enemies of democracy?
Posted 4.21.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In early April the CBC reported the closure of a reputable Mexican newspaper, El Norte, in Cuidad Juarez, opposite El Paso, Texas. The interview with the publisher focused on the assassination of one of the paper's reporters, a woman specializing in political stories, including government corruption.

Her murder was a message to journalists. She was the third Mexican journalist murdered in March alone. The CBC interview focused on the murder. Rightly so for two reasons -- one, to congratulate ourselves that no matter how inexplicable things might be at home, they are surely worse elsewhere. That's the Canadian mantra.

It's not "for families" at all
Posted 4.11.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | When I was a young man, one fashionable idea was that the family is the key to any society's success. "Family units" were considered a community's building blocks -- social organization seem to grow from this format, therefore all energies should go to protecting and encouraging "the family."

Oh, the Chalk River nuclear plant -- what could go wrong?
Posted 3.30.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | An 18-foot high mound, the size of multiple football fields, all above ground - - not far from the once-mighty Ottawa River, the source of life for much of the Valley - - picture it. Of course it's covered tightly, under and over with a membrane. A high-tech membrane. There are pumps to suck out leaking - - what, you ask?

Here's the kicker - - this big mound will be filled with radioactive waste. What exactly, we can't tell

Ignore Trump, watch Ryan
Posted 3.22.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Reader Joanne Forsythe recent letter voiced her frustration with the media's wall-to-wall coverage of Donald Trump, and that's probably media of every stripe, shade, or ownership. "It's Trump, Trump, Trump!", she writes, expressing an anger many people share. Surely there's important news, not this man's idiocies!

In Canada: Broken promise -- or unexplained change?
Posted 3.1.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The latest big topic in our region has been the federal Liberals' plan to walk away from their promise to reform the Canadian electoral system.

Revolution is in the air
Posted 2.22.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Brexit vote in Britain, Trump's win in the US, the Hungarian and Polish extreme-right regimes, plus Putin's promotion of Great Russia nationalism, all point to a political lurch to the right underway in the world today. There are many explanations, and most may be correct within their frame of reference, but the fact that these nationalisms seem to be rising everywhere at the same time should indicate that there's even more at play here than a single, local explanation.

A new regime south of the border -- or not?
Posted 2.6.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Approaching the new regime in Washington, analyst Gwynne Dyer borrowed Rene Levesque's famous prescription: "OK, everybody, take a valium!"

Women marching
Posted 1.23.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The participation rate in the "women's march" in Washington, the day following the inauguration of Donald Trump, certainly upstaged the official celebration. It is not difficult to grasp why so many women -- and men -- came out for this protest; the response of Mr. Trump's press secretary to a question about the size of the women's march demonstrated in the clearest way why they were making a statement with their presence: "there were more people at Mr. Trump's inauguration than had ever come out -- but the press covered it up" or something to that effect. A bold-faced lie, which he later retreated from. Too many lies … was one element being protested.

Putin turns the tables
Posted 1.16.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Two or three years ago it seemed that Russia had been backed into a corner by the West - - from the Sochi Olympics to NATO's forces stationed along Russia's borders, including the very-provocative NATO move to rotate warships continually through the Black Sea, along the coasts of Russia and Iran. NATO was negotiating for use of what used to be Russia's largest naval base in the south, Sevastopol in the Crimea.

CBC's new Canadian plan: more of the same?
Posted 12.30.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | CBC has proposed a new operating model -- semi-new, since the BBC & TeleSur have used it for years -- in which CBC no longer competes with private media for advertising dollars. Government funding (more) makes up for the missing advertising revenues. Sounds interesting, especially for the private media conglomerates who have long complained about competing with the national broadcaster.

No fear & loathing ‘round this old Christmas tree
Posted 12.22.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Since when did, "Have a safe Christmas!", become a seasonal greeting? Did you hear this as a kid? I didn't. Or if I did, it meant "don't drink too much", but today this so-called greeting encompasses the most horrendous threats.

Tabloid news reborn -- bigger, brighter, louder!
Posted 12.05.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The American election just demonstrated -- if there remained a doubt -- that people across this continent are getting their news in new ways. They once favoured "the tabs."

Fake news, but where?
Posted 11.25.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | A month after the American election, the extent and influence of "fake news" is slowly being uncovered. Fake news is now at the top of most pundits' lists of explanations. Unbeknownst to us in Snowflake Kingdom, the internet was jammed with "reports" of Hilary Clinton's mis-deeds: with no evidence, apart from multiple repetitions of the accusations, she was charged with corruption, bribery, money-laundering, foreign influence, and favouritism.

Creeping fascism to Canada's south
Posted 11.08.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | A lot of observers rolled their eyes when Donald Trump accused the US elections process of being "rigged." However, when the FBI "leaked" the bombshell, two weeks before the vote, that Ms. Clinton "may" be investigated for misuse of e-mails when she was Secretary of State -- resulting in a huge drop in voter support, just as she was putting distance between her candidacy and Trump's -- Trump''s claims all of sudden had some sense to them.

We need immigrants!
Posted 11.01.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are few villages and towns across West Quebec which are not in decline. Given the exhaustion of our forest resources, the marginality of tourism, the lack of infrastructure (even the internet!), the flight of younger generations to the cities, given all this, is there any wonder that Outaouais towns are almost zombie-towns?

The political parade reaches West Quebec
Posted 10.16.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It's a screwy system we've let develop, where our so-called representatives and our so-called government leaders are not representative at all, and, in many cases, hardly leading anyone real at all. If they represent anything, our reps represent not us to the government, but they represent the government to us.Our system has morphed into a top-down governing process, rather than what we used to romantically call "grass roots" democracy.

Values that are Canadian?
Posted 10.08.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | One of the candidates for leadership of the federal Conservatives has proposed screening immigrants and refugees for their acceptance of "Canadian values and principles". It is possible that this may not mean what it appears to say, and is a code-word for anti-immigrant prejudice.

What's wrong with Truth & Reconciliation?
Posted 09.23.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Canada's Truth & Reconciliation Commission has been judged a big success -- so far. It takes its place with similar successes in countries as varied as South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and, now, Canada. I am not aware of any such efforts elsewhere which have failed.

Posted 09.17.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Imagine for a moment or two a very different life. Imagine you are a trout, beautiful, quick, sleek and wary -- in every way -- and you live in a deep pond on a wide river not far north-west of Aylmer, Quebec. But the pool sits above a high falls and fierce rapids. You live your life in this great pool and you feel constantly the pull of the current as it rushes towards the falls.

Victories at Rio: stunning & incomplete
Posted 08.19.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Writing conclusions from the Olympics with the Games still underway is risky since everything can change with a single competition. Except one. The Games have already made an immense mark, and that is on the struggle for full equality for women. These Games have set that standard, as anyone viewing, say, the women's 100 m would easily see

Before the classrooms are humming again
Posted 08.05.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Excuse me for bringing this up in the heat of mid-summer, but about a month from now the kids across West Quebec will be heading back to their classrooms. Once the school year begins, it seems, there'll be too much going on and too much to get through to allow time for any reflection on our schools' activities. Allow me to raise one consideration: school trips.

Mohammed Ali, 1942-2016
Posted 06.10.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Ali deserves to be considered the sports icon of his time. Today, stars rate themselves by their salaries and little else. Ali's place in history is marked by his bravery, his principles, his still-unmatched skill in the ring -- and by his lip! Here's a guy who stimulated the careers of rappers everywhere with his lyrical and very edgy trash-talking. Ali, contrary to today's sports millionaires, used his career and his phenomenal successes not to push product but to push principles -- and good sense.

How to be wealthy
Posted 05.30.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This headline reads "be", not "become", wealthy. I have no unusual ideas on how to become wealthy; if I did, would I be writing this column every week? Which is something to consider when faced with all the self-help books promising wealth and success which fill book stores.

The hounds of capitalism
Posted 05.18.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | My puzzlement over such blind support for capitalism grows from my personal frustration with our economic system. Why would we want more of a system which must lie to us, apparently, to sell us their products (wall-to-wall advertising, deceptive packaging, hidden ingredients, phoney stats and testimonials).

Simplicities are us
Posted 04.23.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Speaking from fifty years in journalism and especially in editorial-writing, I am continually impressed with our predilection to go with the simplistic solution to any problem. As the problems become more complex and convoluted, as many political and social problems do, our desire for a simple answer grows stronger.

"Buy local" under threat -- by the USA
Posted 04.15.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Or, we might say that our ability to buy-local to support our home-town economy may also be under threat by Japan, Chile, or any of the dozen coastal nations signing on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Panama's alarm: Wake up, Canadians!
Posted 04.08.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The so-called Panama Papers have everyone talking about off-shore accounts and tax avoidance - again. A week earlier the same subject was in the news. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) was then in hot water because the Agency admitted giving soft rides to the wealthy. Tax avoidance and off-shore banking were the subjects then, too. The Panama disclosures add shell companies to that list. And the Panama disclosures identify hundreds of Canadians and Canadian companies using these devices to avoid paying their taxes in Canada.

Hydro-Quebec For Sale? No Thanks!
Posted 03.23.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Hydro-Québec may have its occasional scandal, fraud, or embarrassment, but it is a model across the continent for efficient delivery of energy under even the most extreme conditions. We can see how often Ottawa consumers are hit with black-outs and interruptions of service; we should be proud of Hydro Quebec's record.

Free University, or University for -- what?
Posted 03.17.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Since high school seniors are applying at this time of year, two recent events are worth noting about university education. First was the Ontario premier's proposal that university be free, essentially for students from low-income families. Finally!

Seeking a better view
Posted 03.10.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Some Asian cultures use the expression, "The Ten Thousand Things", to refer to the world or everything that presses in on us day after day. I recently found a nice line of poetry about this concept

America, example to the world?
Posted 02.27.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We seem to avoid meddling in foreign nations (most of the time), or we may be really good at camouflage, but anyone watching the American presidential primaries will have wondered what might happen if the likes of Trump or Ted Cruz end up in the White House, unleashing their macho rage-culture on the world. We may have to reconsider our hands-off attitude toward other governments.

Any good news?
Posted 02.23.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There is good news in the news; it's not as rare as we think. There's plenty -- read through this newspaper! But bad news gets our attention -- disasters, with warnings and scary items at the top of the list. Especially scary. Good news can be medical discoveries that'll save millions of lives, eventually, but this becomes invisible next to a gunman massacring school children -- because it's awful and it's today.

Cosmic weather
Posted 02.16.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | I'm convinced there's something like "emotional weather.". It's not weather at all — there are no clouds rolling in, no blizzards or sunny days, except as metaphors, and as for metaphors, "weather" will have to do.

Physician-assisted depression
Posted 02.11.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | However, there remains a big question, one raised last year by an American surgeon, who asked why are we opting for a longer life, without any thought of the quality of that long life? If life is painful and incapacitated, due to terminal illnesses, or cancer, what is the purpose in prolonging it?

Real change in Ottawa?
Posted 01.27.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | While we, and apparently much of Canada, are still happy with the results of last fall's federal election, it's worthwhile to consider that election in terms of Canada's electoral history. The most common view is that Mr Trudeau's convincing victory marks a significant shift in popular feeling and in the country's vision of its future.

Promoting conflict to promote sales
Posted 01.19.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Obviously the incredible influence -- power -- of the NRA to prevent and derail legislation aimed at tightening gun possession laws is foreign to us in Canada. At least we think this.

New Year's Resolutions -- or questions
Posted 01.08.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | I had little success in convincing my granddaughters that New Year's resolutions are appropriate -- or helpful.

Are Quebec cities in the sports business?
Posted 06.12.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Simply, cities cannot afford such extravagance, and there is good reason to question whether any city should be in the business of building facilities for corporate-owned commercial sports franchises, no matter the popularity of the sport.

In Canada: Truth, first, then Reconciliation
Posted 06.05.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | So why refuse to call a spade a spade? Compensation claims? Does that explain, too, why the Catholic Church still refuses an apology for its role in the Residential Schools. Mr. Harper has apologized, at least, so why not our & quot;new& quot; Pope, the man who claims to be bringing a conscience back to Rome? He lectures the world on eliminating poverty and fixing climate change, fine, but the Church was one of the three principal players in the Schools and it does claim a general moral high road.

The future of the past
Posted 05.30.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We can remember the grand promises when we were in high school from experts studying the future -- flying cars, housework robots, world peace through better education, and, especially, the end of labour. Our leisure lives were supposed to steadily grow, leaving us with decisions not about careers but about filling up those leisure hours. With robots taking over manual labour and electronics providing all capabilities, the future indeed looked like a big vacation.

No spring this year? Or just for some of us?
Posted 05.25.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The year 2015 may be remembered as the year without a Spring. We went directly from never-ending winter to 30 plus degrees in early May. The daffodils barely had their beautiful heads up when the heat slumped them over. Lilacs are struggling with this Spring-squeezed year.

Posted 05.19.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Ottawa keeps calling itself senior-supportive, but aside from this propaganda, there isn't much for us to cheer about -- or to vote for once again.

Reclaiming human values
Posted 04.19.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With the wave of austerity sweeping today's right-wing governments, choices for public funding become more difficult and, thus, more in need of full discussion.

You and me and the news
Posted 04.11.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Personally, I can't resist a newspaper on the table, or a radio near news time. (TV I can avoid.) But I wish I could. And you know why: it's awful.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Personal train wrecks
Posted 04.05.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The disaster and tragedy at Lac Megantic, Quebec — the train wreck supreme — remains in our minds. Flames in the sky, billowing black clouds, night-time explosions, all framed by buildings which could have been any of our neighbourhoods (those near train tracks).
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Public art
Posted 03.17.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The great murals of the world attract thousands of tourists, and, for those in Mexico City, for example, visitors come from Europe, Asia, the US, and our own cities. Look at the guest books. These murals deserve their notoriety -- they are beautiful, awe inspiring, stimulating.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

More on wood
Posted 03.06.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | What luxury, in the context of any other place in the world, to be able to burn hardwood for heat. In many countries burning up maple, oak, yellow birch, or beech would be unthinkably extravagant. How wasteful to just burn up such valuable woods. We must seem clueless to the rest of the world.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Plain old firewood?
Posted 03.04.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This winter's frigid temperatures remind us that the proper term is not "global warming," at least not around here. "Climate change" is the concept, even "runaway climate change." Sometimes cold, hot, usually fierce, always destructive -- that's climate change, and this winter our household had almost burned through our total wood supply by February first.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Sitting on your [Canadian] hands?
Posted 02.15.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | National polls show the government inching past the divided opposition. How can this be? Obviously, my friends, despite their agreement, are remarkably insulated from what motivates so many other Canadians.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Dirtying whose nest?
Posted 02.05.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Here's some more-than-local news: astronomers have found a solar system not terribly unlike our own, named Kepler 444, with five earth-similar planets. They don't believe there's life there, since these planets revolve too close to the star to accommodate life, as we know it. The news is that the scientists were able to assign an approximate age to this system -- and its age is exceptionally old, several billion years older than our own.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

What's this you're reading?
Posted 01.31.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | How many of us know what makes a newspaper work? We have reporters who go out and get the news. This news is edited, laid out, printed up, and delivered, right? And that makes a newspaper?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Pay your own way
Posted 01.20.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The revolutionary idea is that these costly institutions -- hospitals and CLSCs, schools and day-cares and so on -- should be obligated to earn their own way, just like you and I. This plan was proposed when Quebec City was studying the Hull and Gatineau hospitals; those geniuses, and they deserve this title, had decided that the two hospitals which were unable to work together an any file, should be given a brand new super-hospital for them to run jointly. Being in one building, they would have to, at least, talk to each other in the hallways.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Money isn't everything in Quebec, Premier Couillard
Posted 12.27.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Christmas Holiday season may not be the best time to raise the question of money -- although maybe it is, since this is exactly the season of money. Cartoonist Aislin of the Montreal Gazette noted last week that Christmas shows Canada's true colours -- not Jesus, not democracy, not personal liberties, not justice, but buying stuff. And then buying even more stuff.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Christmas in the Middle East
Posted 12.11.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | American sources estimate that their wars against Iraq and Afghanistan have cost roughly four trillion dollars -- so far. That is an immense amount of money, making these wars the most expensive in history -- not only among the least successful. Why that is the case, and where all this money has gone are hard to uncover -- they're deliberately well-concealed.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Am I the only misanthrope in the newsroom?
Posted 12.04.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This title refers to the media's universally awful coverage of last month's attacks on our soldiers in Canada. Is no one else revolted by the flood of platitudes, pomposities, clichés, repetitions, vacuous statements, emotional outbursts, and total lack of informative content which filled the national media, private or public, as it pretended to cover the week's terrible events and the subsequent outpouring of tears, angst, and even more platitudes?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Can "anti-collusion" be a smokescreen?
Posted 11.25.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Large corporations are using "anti-collusion" as a smoke screen to obscure their growing domination of our economy. Price-fixing is already a crime. Just use the legal system, as we already do. Why now kill local entrepreneurship and jobs?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Is this Quebec school board election our last?
Posted 11.20.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Liberals in Quebec are questioning free-standing school boards, and proposing to close many down and centralize school management. The Couillard Liberals' centralization mantra is very old news –- most of the health system restructuring in the last decades was designed to combat the problems of a top-heavy bureaucracy, too far from the people it is mandated to serve.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Law 'n order is not making Canadians any safer
Posted 11.10.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We are not safer under the Harper government than before. Despite this government's commitment to law-and-order jingoism, it seems that although we may indeed have more laws and stiffer regulations now, we are not safer. The attacks on soldiers here at home could be seen as a dramatic and tragic blow-back from this government's foolish commitment to heavy-handed military approaches to complicated problems.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Homegrown terrorists in Canada?
Posted 10.30.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Amid the sadness and shock of the recent attacks in Canada, there have been voices of reason and careful analysis, but they've been drowned by the media's single-minded focus on tears and breast-beating.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Can day care destroy Canada?
Posted 10.16.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Finally, a political party is awake. After years of talk, hand-wringing, and hypocritical concern for families, one federal party – the NDP -- has bitten the bullet and figured out how we can afford a national day-care program. Finally! Bravo!
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Bound for glory?
Posted 10.08.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We each, on average, have a little more than 1000 months of life to live. That's how much time we have to discover -- or create -- meaning in our lives.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

On dying and dignity
Posted 09.26.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Canada's doctors proposed at the their annual convention this summer that euthanasia be left to individual doctors. Those who disagree with assisted suicide would not be required to assist their patients. Sounds good and democratic -- for doctors.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Posted 09.17.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Since we are near the opposite side of the calendar from Valentines Day, it might be interesting to look at love and relationships without the candlelight and red lingerie of February 14.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

On Desiderata, that old poster
Posted 09.12.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Ages ago it seemed as though every apartment and dormitory room had a poster called "Desiderata." The poster, presumably, carried advice on how to lead a happy and fulfilling life. The advice was hardly Earth-shaking -- "Go placidly amid the noise and haste." -- "Do not feign affection." And the now-famous "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars." Yet every one of its ten suggestions is solid and realistic advice.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Re-making Ottawa?
Posted 09.04.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | "Attention servants of the Canadian State..." that's how the communique was supposed to begin, I'm certain.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Posted 08.27.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It's a rare person today who criticizes "social media" as a basic tool of communication. Just look at any gaggle of teens in the mall, all tapping away on their phones as if they each were alone in the world; look at adults constantly checking their mail on a date, during supper, while driving. People sleep with their cell phones, and check them during the night.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Books -- reading one, holding one
Posted 08.13.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | To relax and pursue my personal interests, I pick up a small paperback, say one from the City Lights Poets series, not much bigger than my hand. I open at my bookmark, smile at the silence and speed of this procedure, and I read a few pages.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Gas prices at the pump
Posted 08.05.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | When I was in high school with my first car, gas prices were less than a dollar a gallon. That's right, per gallon. And at time Canada was producing almost no oil.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

That swastika was more than graffiti
Posted 06.23.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | When Councillor Mike Duggan, of Aylmer's Lucerne Ward, took out his tools and safety gear and removed the swastika graffiti on a sidewalk in town earlier this month, likely he was not criticizing the slow reaction of the city's Public Works Department.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Locally, we could be more creative
Posted 06.17.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Cultural events and shows are considered one of Montreal's main attractions, and its infrastructure keeps the millions, yes, millions of visitors, in the city for days. They spend more, visit more sites, expositions, view shows, tours -- all leaving substantial funds behind. Ottawa is another powerhouse cultural destination.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

The school calendar of years ago
Posted 06.12.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As we unwind with the school year towards summer vacations, do we ever wonder why our schools have the schedules they do? Why two or three months off in a solid block during summer?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Why collect books in a digital age?
Posted 06.03.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | They add warmth to a room. On an exterior wall they add insulation. Sit close to them and notice the warmth -- compared to a blank wall or to a screen. There's warmth.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Could a musician save America?
Posted 05.10.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Any of our readers who travel often in the US, or follow American media, are aware that the United States is a fractured nation. The political arena seems toxic and the idiocies that come from many politicians and candidates are, frankly, unbelievable.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Economic optimism in Aylmer, Quebec
Posted 05.02.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | These business people attribute the up-tick to the last provincial election. Every one of them said they felt consumers and home-owners had put plans on hold as they waited for Mme. Marois and the PQ try for a majority government and, likely, another independence referendum.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Catching up to Quebec
Posted 04.21.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Of all the commentaries about the Quebec election -- and there are no end to them -- we learn a great deal about the parties, their strategies, and their missteps. What we don't see are comments on the people who made the difference here -- the voters.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Post-election -- You are white and I am black
Posted 04.11.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Close up, each of our contraries can be a division, a Berlin Wall, a conflict. We dis-learn about each other; we dis-learn how to speak to each other with respect and understanding.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

When the voting is over
Posted 04.03.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Everyone's talking about the Quebec election slated for Monday, April 7, 2014. So many opinions, and so many highly charged with emotion. But if we really want to help ourselves, the future for ourselves and our kids, we have to do it ourselves. And that means more than voting.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Nouveau Parti Quebecor, eh?
Posted 03.27.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Karl Peladeau's entry into the Quebec election campaign has been well dissected but one question has not been carefully studied -- the man's motive for this radical career change. Why has he jumped into politics, and why on the side of the PQ? What's in it for him -- this man who owns so influential a part of the Quebec economy, Quebecor (including the Sun newspapers)?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Damned if you don't
Posted 03.18.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There is a temptation to tell all the politicians to just Go to Hell in this provincial election. How? By not voting. Or by spoiling our ballots, which is supposed to indicate an unhappy electorate. If only politics was this simple and clean.There is a temptation to tell all the politicians to just Go to Hell in this provincial election. How? By not voting. Or by spoiling our ballots, which is supposed to indicate an unhappy electorate. If only politics was this simple and clean.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Focus, in hindsight
Posted 03.15.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | I am an unashamed admirer of the Olympic Games, both winter and summer. The massive expenses of both the Sochi and the Peking Games may dismay many people -- myself included -- but why are we surprised by such extravagance when every year we learn of multi-million dollar contracts to hockey and baseball players, or the huge amounts invested in sports training? Are these our nation's priorities?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Student debt -- it's societal self-abuse
Posted 02.25.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As economists try to make sense of Canada's stuck-in-the-mud resource economy, one interesting consideration is the dampening effect of over $15 billion taken out of the economy by outstanding student debt. Some $15 billion is owed to the federal government -- much more is owed to the provinces, the banks, family coffers, and to credit cards by the graduates, 15 percent who are unable to find work.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Canada's Conservative Party War against the Placenta
Posted 02.05.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With Canada's Parliament back in session, we've just been told that the Dirty Tricks Squad will re-introduce the "abortion debate" this term. Oh, these folks!
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Do I remember who I am? Do you?
Posted 01.28.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Last fall, in-laws visiting from British Columbia were struck by our Quebec license plates. "What does the slogan mean, 'je me souviens'?," they wanted to know.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

In Canada: Privatizing Public Service
Posted 01.17.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Internet has already hit [Canada's Post Office] hard, so increasing postage and parcel rates means business revenues decline even further. With the revenues down, run up the costs. Appoint a political guy to run the post office and pay him roughly $600,000 a year (with perks). Add a whole bunch of vice-presidents, all well-paid. Say, appoint twenty-two vice presidents.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Read too quick, talk too soon
Posted 12.16.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | One of the key cautions in our era of click-n-send e-mails is to write your message, save it, take a break, review it, and only then hit the final "send." That is good advice for replying to anything and anyone -- including letters to the editor.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

A great Santa parade, but was it successful?
Posted 12.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Who came to see Santa during the recent parade in Aylmer? Tens of thousands, apparently! And although it is difficult to figure out how the organizers come up with attendance numbers, it is clear that the parade attracts thousands.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

In Quebec, a (Pontiac) Charter of Values, yes!
Posted 11.25.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Our local economy has effectively ceased to function. Most people work outside, and government payments (pensions, EI, welfare) make up a major source of Pontiac income. The Pontiac has been not merely de-industrialized, but de-economied.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

We cannot be against war
Posted 11.14.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Pacifists weren't evident at this year's Remembrance Day ceremony here, no white poppies in the sea of red. Yet in the most ordinary of circumstances, most of us are pacifists -- which parents wish to have our sons and daughters head off to a war? At best, we see those departures as necessary evils.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

And the little children shall lead them
Posted 11.10.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In the last several weeks of the recently completed campaign, I was surprised to have my granddaughter, who is in Grade Three, explain the election to me.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Winning could be losing
Posted 11.02.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In other countries and times, a disinterested population, coupled with some national decline or crisis, opens the door for The Strong Man to step in. A dictator.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Democracy doesn't end when the election is over
Posted 10.27.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We aren't picking a lottery number -- we hope -- but no candidate comes with a guarantee. Our homework gives us an inkling of what we might expect; real life throws so many unexpected curves that promises are only guidelines. That is why voting is just the beginning, not the end of our citizen opportunities and responsibilities.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Damage Control
Posted 10.19.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | While many of us watched the dramatic revelations of Quebec's Charbonneau corruption commission, we were relieved to learn that this cancer has not spread to Gatineau's political life. But then, a couple of weeks later, we learn that Radio Canada has found something worth examining in the relations between a major contractor -- and a local school board.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Magicians Everywhere
Posted 09.24.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Magic and magical thinking are topics that grow bigger, more widespread, the more thought and attention they're given. For example, politics is magic...
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Lousy government equals lousy voter attitude
Posted 09.17.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With a municipal election here in west Quebec this November -- plus elections for school board commissioners -- let's not look at the candidates, but at our role in an election, you and me. It's not a pretty picture.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

A good wife? A good husband?
Posted 08.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Editorials are usually about current events, politics, topics of the day -- from a new streetlight to closing a school, bullying to illiteracy rates, high gas prices and the lack of recycling in your local mall, you name it --but always removed from our most personal concerns and certainly far from our personal lives. Editorials appeal, most often, to our brains rather than our feelings, to our community more than our bedrooms … and why is that?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Sound Management or Foolhardy Ideology?
Posted 08.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | More than a year ago, Japan's new prime minister, the conservative Shinzo Abe, announced his government was giving up on "austerity" measures because twenty years of austerity had not yielded any economic improvement. When Abe announced a 100 billion dollar spending plan to stimulate Japan's economy, the experts called the plan, "Abenomics," and waited for Japan to sink.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

We can do better
Posted 07.26.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We ask our youths to work very hard at school, to put in the long days | and long weeks of college and university study, take part-time jobs -- | and to also assume $20,000 to $45,000 in debt, in their twenties.Could | we make it any more difficult for our kids to get a higher | education?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Big, quiet change
Posted 07.18.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The difficulty with historical change is that the people within it usually are unaware that it's even happening. Once it's passed, historians and the media tell us all about it. Why don't they inform us while we are in the middle of it?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

In Canada today: More than just cronies
Posted 07.01.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Although most prime ministers have misused their power to appoint, Mr. Harper's blatant use of appointments to reward big donors, party workers, or his party's losing candidates seems, well, shameless.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Today's miracles and magical thinking
Posted 06.22.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It's a bit like fantasy, a bit like wishing, where self-contradictory statements, programs, and plans are taken to be accurate reflections of the way the world works.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

What we're learning about Canada's Senate
Posted 06.11.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As the Senate expenses scandal ripples outward, and as surprising as | is the venality of the few senators who've been caught, it is what we | are learning about the Senate's operating rules that is most | informative. This is a genuine scandal. In any other jurisdiction, | this would be a criminal matter.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

What Canada Senate expenses scandal?
Posted 06.02.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We haven't forgotten, have we, that politics is all about what's under | the radar screen, not what's grabbing today's 3-minute media bite? How | else explain this government's record-breaking use of omnibus bills to | slide in innumerable measures that would, by definition, surely not | pass on their own. Or, at minimum, these secret-agenda items would | bring public wrath or a spotlight on the manipulations of this | toxically-secretive government.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

The [Quebec] Pontiac's reality options?
Posted 05.24.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We do have a sovereigntist government at the helm in Quebec City. | Pontiac being one big chrome-plated municipality or eighteen | independent fiefdoms won't mean much to us if we are thrown into | another independence referendum. Kiss investment | goodbye.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Alert! Alert!
Posted 05.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We all love kids, especially our own. We love grandkids. That is not | the issue. Just about everyone will do what they can to prevent harm | to any child. We do not have to prove we love kids by supporting every | call for hysteria, nor do we have to embrace fear as our guiding | emotion.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

April Moon Thoughts
Posted 04.23.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Late at night, when there's not much left of the daylight world to think about, it is interesting to consider that when we are looking at the moon, we are in fact looking at the sun. Looking at the sun is a no-no, while looking at the moon is a romantic and philosophic moment, although moonlight is no more than sunlight reflected. Can reflections make such a difference?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

The chainsaws of springtime
Posted 04.15.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With the air finally warming and the days nice and long, we're clearly in spring. And spring means one thing: chainsaws.
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Libraries and urban villages
Posted 04.02.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Debates about public libraries are not limited to QuebecWhat's wrong with Truth | & Reconciliation?
Posted 09.23.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC |Canada's Truth & | Reconciliation Commission has been judged a big success -- so far. It | takes its place with similar successes in countries as varied as South | Africa, Argentina, Chile, and, now, Canada. I am not aware of any such | efforts elsewhere which have failed.

s Gastineau. We've seen them in Montreal, Seattle, Singapore, Berlin, Ottawa, and New York City. A major impetus is the digitization of printed material. It has been estimated that the entire collection of the federal Library of Parliament can now fit into a shoebox. Why, ask library critics, do we need massive, expensive buildings to house a shoebox?
Fred Ryans column archives: Click Here

Can you afford to raise a kid?
Posted 03.28.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Statistics tell us that it costs an average of a quarter million dollars to raise one child to the age of 17 (in the US). High-earners can spend a half-million. I don't know about you, but I have three grown kids and I know we didn't run through that much money.

Hydro-Québec "green-washes" its new fridge campaign
Posted 03.21.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | First, Hydro is asking us to discard our old appliances. How is that done? Dumped on the curb, or traded in to appliance shops? Where will the carcasses of all those old machines end up? What's "green" in dumping thousands of working appliances into landfills, before or after they've been stripped?

Talking too much
Posted 03.14.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | At a recent evening get-together, with people talking on all sides, several conversations at once, I had a startling revelation, to wit, that most people don't know what they are talking about.

New check-off boxes on our ballots?
Posted 03.05.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It amazes us to hear that in Russia and the old Soviet republics there are many people who want communism back, and that the Communist Parties do well in elections in many places. "Are they crazy?" we ask; "They want megalomaniacs back in power?" They do. But they wouldn't put it that way. Few people want mass murders or secret police, but a lot of people want guaranteed jobs, enforced low prices on food and staples, free education through university, even free telephone and bus services. They want the security that dictatorial regimes can provide.

Quebec is not a bilingual province
Posted 02.27.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It will come as a surprise to some of our readers, but our province is officially unilingual; its legal language is French, and only French. Many who write letters to the editor believe Canada is a bilingual country and they assume since Quebec is a province, it must also be bilingual. This is mistaken, and the mistake is a big one: Canada is not a bilingual country.

Where's the money gone?
Posted 02.16.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Where has the world's wealth gone? Since personal and family debt loads have never been higher, pensions are being cut -- or evaded by some corporations -- and Canada, once rated the number one country to live in the world by the United Nations, now can't afford to keep our scientists and researchers working, our health system functioning smoothly, schools teaching, infrastructure maintained -- we can't even fund a restoration of St Paul's Church!

Posted 02.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are so many guns in the US that some are bound to be pointed at us all. We wring out hands, shed tears for parents and teachers, and we tsk-tsk their culture of extreme-gun ownership. We can do little about all this, apart from a shared sorrow and our oh-so-Canadian indignation.

A lesson from the States?
Posted 01.26.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This picture is changing, says my nephew. This town does have the deserted downtown and the ostentatious suburbs, but few malls -- in fact there were none. None open.There were no small stores at all, but there was one massive Walmart.

Don't get stuck in idle
Posted 01.15.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Need proof that we live in interesting times? How about the Idle No More movement, the student anti-austerity protests last spring, the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring upheavals -- all just the start of a list.

Those New Year resolutions
Posted 01.10.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | What a relief that the world didn't end. The media's analysts misinterpreted the Mayan calendar, or likely they exaggerated someone else's misinterpretation, similar to the Y2K crisis when the digital world was due to end. So we have a reprieve.

Quebec municipal corruption for decades. No one noticed?
Posted 12.26.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We're still in shock from the Charbonneau Commission's revelations. There's more to come, but what often happens is that we, the public, are overloaded with information and quickly grow jaded even with the worst scandals. As a public, our population seems to suffer collective Attention Deficit Disorder -- we continually want to hear about a new scandal, new horrors in Syria, new massacres in the States, new anything.

Pontiac's Easy Street?
Posted 12.15.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As close as we are to Ottawa, no one could have missed hearing about Ottawa's big idea to build a casino of its own, right downtown where traffic is bad, parking terrible, light-rail construction chaos is starting, and the area is already over-built and crowded. And why a casino?

Atomic Anger
Posted 12.07.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Nuclear is the big dark horse. Atomic energy is the door to so much debate - and confusion. Shouldn't we cut through some of that confusion if we could by speaking more clearly?

A different Turkey, different Thanksgiving
Posted 10.23.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With the Quebec election only a month old and the US presidential election heating up, the conversation over wine, cheese, and smoked whitefish and salmon quickly turned to politics. This might alarm those who avoid mixing politics and family, but given the range of opinions, backgrounds, and experiences present, these conversations were enlightening.

Posted 10.02.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Say the word "democracy" and most of us think of voting every four years. That's the shopper's view, similar to choosing a brand of toothpaste or detergent in the store. What if democracy means music in a park, kids parading with banners and drums, and choices among chili-dogs, salmon burgers or a Mexican atole drink? Democracy is closer to what goes on in a park like that, than it is to voting once or picking out one of 100 identical toothpastes.

Quebec's political sanity
Posted 09.13.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Mme. Marois has a place in history as our first female premier. Will she be a footnote to history or an entire chapter? If she feeds her old guard, the geezers my age who want one more kick at the referendum can before they croak, her record may read, " . . . she stalled Quebec's future by immersing us in the quarrelling of another unwinable referendum"?

An automatic referendum on separation?
Posted 09.04.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We may get or avoid a referendum, but we don't get the projects which had caught our attention at the start. We are hostages.

This Quebec election is part of something old
Posted 08.21.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As I get older, I'm surprised to find that some of my prejudices are getting stronger, not dying away.

Who needs another bridge? Not Ottawa
Posted 08.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Ottawa's mayor claims he is against another bridge because it will allow more people to move to Gatineau's cheaper housing and better family services, and Ottawa will lose even more tax base. Is Mayor Watson considering a wall around Ottawa to keep his ratepayers paying their taxes only to Ottawa?

"Ain't seen nothin' yet!"
Posted 07.25.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We're getting accustomed to reports of weather that would have been shocking twenty years ago. Two weeks ago Edmonton was hit with tornado-speed winds, hail, and flash flooding, with many drivers abandoning their cars on flooded highways. American reports of multiple tornados, floods, continent-sized drought and lightning-caused blackouts amid super-hot weather are almost routine.

The community of "us"
Posted 07.12.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With our excessive regard for individualism, do we pay as much attention to this reciprocity as it merits? Isn't our personal happiness connected to the genetic collectivity to which we each and all belong?

Je me souviens -- but can we go back there?
Posted 07.02.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | A drive home from work is a great place to think. My route has little traffic and less stress -- perfect. This isn't about relaxation.

Canada joins the petro-democracies
Posted 06.20.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There were plenty of crocodile tears shed in Canada during the last federal election about the weaknesses of a minority government. Although the country seemed to be doing just fine with its minority governments, we were assured minorities are the road to disaster.

Our moon and Venus
Posted 06.12.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Driving out into the rural areas earlier this month, I followed the graceful sliver of the moon drifting off to my left, while to the right was Venus, about to set and burning crystal-clear in the distant sky -- what is it that makes us smile at these celestial bodies, what seems so familiar about them, so home-like? What pulls our attention upward?

Do yourself a lifetime favour
Posted 06.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Is buying a painting extravagant? Is it any more self-indulgent than buying a boat, skidoo, patio set, even a microwave or a new outfit? If we bought only essentials we'd have a lot more money in the bank, but not much else.

Does shooting yourself in the foot feel that good?
Posted 05.19.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | On occasional trips through Eastern Ontario, I can't help noticing a few large signs put up by various "landowner associations." They carry short, loud messages like "Back off, government!"

Better Quebec education, more Quebec education
Posted 05.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Students across Quebec have changed the "national dialogue" within the province. Premier Charest and his party had sunk everything into their famous Plan Nord, yet, at the peak of the Premier's campaign to sell the Plan as the means of re-setting Quebec's future, thousands of students have all but knocked that plan off the public's radar.

Why wear a red tag of support?
Posted 04.17.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In my extended-and-blended family, two broad approaches to staying alive regularly surface during our multi-generational meals: to spend less, be more frugal in everything, and require less income, and the other, maybe the opposite, is to earn more. Earn more, live with more abandon, spend more, work more, spread wealth around so it comes back -- option two.

The Canadian Federal Budget or the Harper Rip-off Plan?
Posted 04.13.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The government isn't proposing that the present slow and inadequate regulatory process be revised and updated. No, the Harper solution is to close it down -- make it shorter, cheaper. This budget is for corporations; we merely pay the bills.

Data-mining (your name here)
Posted 03.27.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | One advance in our high-tech world is to allow people in every check-out line to pull out their debit card for a pack of smokes, a scratch card, groceries, or merely for a liter of beer, and, of course, have to make two or three tries to get the card to work -- while the rest of the line-up glares.

I can get it cheaper
Posted 03.20.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | If it is OK for you to drive to Ottawa to pick up sporting gear, for example, would you also say it's OK for your boss, one morning, to tell you he can get someone else to do your job at a cheaper rate?

Obesity, the new normal?
Posted 03.06.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This is not a moral or ethical question. It's a health issue. It is not about telling someone how to live as much as being aware that obese people cost everyone, not just themselves, since we all pay their eventual health bills. The list of ailments which apparently grow from obesity is long and chilling. The current flood of diabetes, for example, is repeatedly said to be in large part due to obesity. Ditto for heart problems.

A Valentine's Day message -- for guys only
Posted 02.13.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Sigmund Freud asked that famous question -- to his life-long embarrassment -- and it's still heard in sports bars. If you were to scratch most guys, you'd find this question floating in their heads, although more likely, "what the heck does Carrie really want?" Or Ruth, Marie, Anik, someone personal.

Clear the air, Mr. Prime Minister
Posted 02.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Prime Minister made headlines flutter over a week ago, accusing the opposition to that pipeline of being, basically, puppets of the US environmental movement and for interests in the US who do not want Alberta's tar sold to China.

The War on Terror should come home
Posted 01.25.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Smoking is also big business, and tobacco corporations make millions from the drug, millions they can use to insulate their drug from criminal investigation. Imagine what the cocaine and heroin dealers could accomplish if they followed tobacco's political pressure tactics.

The real nitty-gritty of progress
Posted 01.15.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It's popular to insist that schools and colleges teach specific skills -- like plumbing, circuit-board design, or nursing. These can lead to a job, quickly. But when the job changes, grows obsolete, or becomes cheaper in China or Mexico, that skill-based education suddenly is a constriction. It is flexibility, vision, knowledge of history, and the ability to create absolutely new combinations that will see us through, and which will be our tools to use what the complex modern world throws at us. These skills help us grab the ball and run with it.

2011 -- One big year
Posted 12.27.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We are nearing the end of the first year in which our society is being remodeled: the Boomers are stepping aside.

Research -- with credentials?
Posted 12.14.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | "Privatize Hydro-Quebec" is a favourite idea of the Montreal Economic Institute. This think-tank argues that, to cut to the chase, hydro rates are too low in Quebec, but in corporate hands, the rates would go up and investors would earn more profit, making Quebec a more profitable place for investment.

Great logic, from this tank so generously funded by those very investors who want to save Quebec by charging us more.

Politics -- it's all about people
Posted 12.08.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are people who believe politics are everywhere and in everything. Every club, team, movement, even every family, has its politics. And on an abstract level, they feel every view, belief, attitude, outlook, even jokes and art, have a political content, make a statement, or support a political theory.

Our complaints industry
Posted 11.28.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We've had a pleasant autumn, after a great summer -- so why all the complaining across our city? Councilors are exchanging accusations, the media is heaving barbs as if that's the only way to sell newspapers, and regular citizens are up in arms about every subject -- from stoplights and dog parks to the lack of doctors and crowded classrooms. Editorial-writers and talk-show hosts, we self-appointed complainers, are getting drowned out. What's going on?

It's holiday scam time -- be cranky, be uncooperative!
Posted 11.18.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Christmas also calls out the thieves and scam-artists -- those scum-bags who climb out of their gutters not to admire the lights but to rob the weakest and least-alert of our neighbours. Already we have had several letters and calls about scams hitting local people, seniors mostly, via the telephone or Internet.

How to make flu vaccinations difficult
Posted 11.10.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The elderly and the ill are supposed to arrange their own rides, to and from, and also to wait during the line up and then rest in observation after the shot? The elderly and infirm likely don't or can't drive; can they find a family member to spend the afternoon, or can they figure out the bus routes and transfers to take a city bus, or can they pay for a cab across the city?

In Quebec, who's celebrating being an anglo?
Posted 11.02.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The francophone majority has plenty of public mouthpieces, from Quebec nationalists and political parties to cultural watchdogs like Imperatif français -- not to mention the entire Quebec government with its often nationalistic civil service.

Yes, Premier Charest, an inquiry
Posted 10.27.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Let me add another voice supporting a public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry in Quebec. Premier Charest announced one, but given his original insistence that an inquiry will never happen, his lack of details is not encouraging.

Farming regulations, climate change
Posted 10.13.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | In our densely populated world the only alternative to government regulation is self-regulation. The rant that "the only good government is no government" leads nowhere.

Plenty new in Ottawa
Posted 10.03.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Aylmer, Quebec's MP Nycole Turmel takes up the challenge of Opposition leader as a new session of the House of Commons begins. Prime Minister Harper is a known commodity, but we will be watching Ms. Turmel. The massive job cuts (770 cut from Environment Canada alone) will affect Aylmer. And the game-changer is the Tory majority in both House and Senate.

Don't step aside, step back
Posted 09.07.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Although here in the Ottawa Valley we live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of the world -- not dramatically breath-taking, but calm, pastoral and clean -- and although we are not crowded like even New England, nor are we subjected to the thrashing of tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, or major flooding, and although we are not subject to rampant corruption, drug wars, and criminality, the Pontiac often feels like an unhappy place.

Jack's legacy, our challenge
Posted 08.17.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The massive and very public grieving in Canada over NDP leader Jack Layton's death, and the very quick growth of a myth around him, tells us less about Jack than it tells us about ourselves.
Fred Ryan is the publisher of Quebec's Aylmer Bulletin, The West Quebec Post, and the Pontiac Journal.

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