CBC cuts

To address their $171 million budget shortfall (total budget just north of $1 Billion), CBC has made a number of cuts.

From what I’m hearing, job losses will affect Windsor, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Québec City, Moncton, St John, Sydney, Corner Brook, Labrador, Gander, and Grand Falls.  Two one-person bureaus in La Ronge, SK and the Thompson, MB bureaus will close.

Television programming will be affected as CBC cancels Steven and Chris, and Fashion File and reduces budget for 22 minutes, Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Border, Being Erica, Living In…, Fifth Estate (20% budget cut), and Marketplace.

The state broadcaster has recently faced criticism from the Minister of Heritage concerning their American programming.  The network has committed a freeze on purchasing new US television programming.

CBC.ca is receiving more funding as more content as more audience goes online for content.  More bandwidth will be purchased for audio/video streaming and a focus will be placed on user-generated content.

CBC radio will cut The Inside Track, Out Front, In the Key of Charles, The Point, and The Signal (weekend edition).  The Current will have its budget reduced by 10%.

On the French language side, Téléjournal‘s show will go from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, Windsor morning programming will be replaced by Toronto content.  Saturday’s programming is also cut.  Ottawa’s noon news program will also be axed.

The cuts are focused more on television than radio.  CBC still will not sell advertising on radio although they are cutting 121 total jobs in that department.  In the Maritimes, 26 jobs are cut from CBC Radio.

CBC Sports will cut 313 jobs while CBC News (English) will cut 80 and will face a budget cut by $7 million.  The CBC will drop showing Toronto Blue Jays baseball, will reduce coverage of figure skating, soccer and world aquatics and will significantly reduce coverage of amateur sports.  Also, 20 communications jobs and 12 marketing have been cut.

More cuts will be announced soon as CEO Lacroix has deemed that the network will shrink by 800 jobs total (out of 10,200 total).

Censorship in Ireland?

It all started with a bit of an amusing piece on the evening news.  It seemed that a prankster was walking into Irish art galleries and hanging nude painted portraits of the country’s Taoiseach (the head of the government appointed by the PM).  The portraits were elaborately painted and could be somewhat passable among the other artwork yet gallery patrons asked staff about the pieces and the jig was up.

The country’s state broadcaster decided to do a piece about the interesting prank.

And that ended what must have been a rather uneventful day in Irish news. That is, until the Taoiseach’s office called the state broadcaster to complain. The next evening’s newscast contained this apology:

“On last night’s program we carried a report on the illicit hanging of caricatures of An Taoiseach in two Dublin galleries. RTE News would like to apologize for any personal offense caused to Mr. Cowen or his family or for any disrespect shown to the office of Taoiseach by our broadcast.”

Irish bloggers and columnists are calling the move censorship of the news and we’re already seeing predictable results of amplification caused by the government’s move to meddle.

George Galloway won’t be coming to Canada

Infamous British MP George Galloway will not be coming to Canada this month as the bureaucrats at Citizenship and Immigration Canada have decided that Galloway is inadmissible to Canada. It is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s prerogative to grant an exception, but Minister Kenney has chosen not to do so.

Galloway has a history of being a supporter of organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and has spoken warmly about Saddam Hussein.

The department of Public Safety lists Hezbollah and Hamas as banned terrorist groups in Canada.

Here is a video of Galloway speaking in support of Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah at a protest in London in 2006,

Galloway tells the crowd,

“I am here to glorify the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah. I am here to glorify the leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.” — George Galloway

Regarding Hamas, Galloway told IslamOnline.net about why he was visiting Gaza,

“My visit has more than one reason. The first one is to walk a step toward lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip.

The second is to tell the whole free world that they can do anything real to you.

The third and the main one is to stand beside the legal Palestinian prime minister, [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniya. The entire world knows that he was elected, apparently, democratically. I have offered him corporeal and financial support.” — George Galloway

Galloway has also offered friendship and comfort to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,

The NDP, showing that its still not ready for prime time, published a news release on this via their immigration critic Olivia Chow,

OTTAWA – Canadians interested in hearing international experts deliver anti-war messages will now have to leave the country to do so. British MP George Galloway, who was schedule to talk on resisting the war in Afghanistan, was banned by Harper’s government from entering Canada.

“Harper’s Conservatives are wrong to bar MP George Galloway,” said New Democrat Immigration Critic Olivia Chow. “The Minister of Immigration is becoming the ‘Minister of Censorship’. This bunker mentality indicates a government afraid of hearing contradictory points of view.”

The last time I remember Chow defending the indefensible was when US domestic terrorist Bill Ayers was denied entry into Canada.

Canadians seeking “anti war” messages could visit the following countries,

England:

Sweden:

The United States (Ft. Lauderdale, FL):

France:

Iran:

Canada:

Is Lush Cosmetics playing a dangerous game?

The seal hunt has always been heated debate in Canada.  This country’s Conservative government has been supportive of the Maritimers that depend upon sealing as part of their livelihoods while support from other parties has been ambiguous.

Liberal Senator Mac Harb is the leading Canadian political voice against the hunt. His Bill S-229 would outlaw the commercial seal hunt.

Here’s Senator Harb in Ottawa’s Byward Market on March 15th of this year,

Just a few blocks away, a Lush Cosmetics store has also made its position clear in the debate. The store, among the over 40 Lush locations nationwide, is protesting the seal hunt. Present on the front of the Lush website is a white baby seal with the words “End Canada’s license to kill” emblazoned overtop in red.

We also learn from their website that Lush is partnering with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to raise money for the organization,

“For the campaign LUSH has partnered with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group that has been at the forefront of defending baby seals against slaughter for over 30 years. Sea Shepherd volunteers risk their safety and face the possibility of arrest to document and witness the killing of baby seals (illegal to do without the permission from the Canadian Government). They go directly onto the ice packs of Eastern Canada to document the cruelty of the seal hunt and expose the truth to the world.”

For $19.95 you can buy a “charity pot” of lotion “gorgeously fragranced with ylang ylang, geranium and marigold essential oils” with “every penny of the retail price (excluding taxes) [going] directly into a charitable fund to support animal rights, environmental protection and humanitarian concerns.” Currently, Lush Cosmetics is supporting the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

What is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, you may ask? Are they heroic documentary filmmakers? The organization started as a splinter group from Greenpeace and its activists regularly engage in not only protest, but the destruction of commercial property and in the endangerment of the lives and safety of fishers.

The group has harassed and attacked Japanese and Canadian vessels. In a string of incidents involving the Japanese, activists from Sea Shepherd threw butyric acid on the decks of three vessels injuring a crew member in one incident. The group has also used its own ships to caused extensive damage to commercial fishers. Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson boasts,

“Yes we have sunk whaling ships, rammed whalers and drift netters, boarded poaching vessels and destroyed equipment used for illegal exploitation of the oceans and we believe that these are valid tactics.”

In this video, the Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Steve Irwin rams a Japanese fishing ship.

On the tragic deaths of four fishers who perished after their sealing vessel sank while a Canadian Coast Guard vessel was towing it after it had been disabled (unrelated to Sea Shepherd activities), Watson wrote,

“The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy.”

“One of the sealers was quoted as saying that he felt absolutely helpless as he watched the boat sink with sealers onboard,” said Captain Paul Watson. “I can’t think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can’t swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club. This is a seal nursery and these men are sadistic baby killers and that might offend some people but it is the unvarnished truth – they are vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity.”

Watson was criticized by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the remark

“It’s despicable that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would use the death of Canadian sealers to try and advance its campaign of misinformation against the seal hunt.”

The Fisheries minister at the time had this to say about Watson’s statements,

“By attacking and trivializing the memory of these men who tragically lost their lives, Mr. Watson has proven to the world that he is gutless, shameless, and has not one shred of human decency. His lust for media coverage knows no bounds.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to once again express our condolences to the family and loved ones of these sealers.

Our government has said that it will stand up for the safety and security of sealers, and I want to confirm that the militant actions of the Sea Shepherd Society have not gone unnoticed are currently under investigation.” — Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn

The Japanese have branded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as “eco-terrorists” and even Greenpeace doesn’t want anything to do with them,

“We have always pledged to take a non-violent approach to saving the whale,’ said Holden. ‘We are not going to compromise on those ideals and we are not going to help people who have said they will use violence. We are here to save the whale, not put the lives of whalers at risk.” — Greenpeace spokesperson Sara Holden speaking about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Here’s an alleged history of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s activities (originally published at The Institute for Cetacean Research, the aforementioned Japanese group attacked by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

But there’s your neighbourhood cosmetics store taking a stand for “social justice”, for the “environment”, and for “animal rights” but one wonders if they’ve done their research on the folks with whom they’re now sharing a bed. Customers will hopefully ask themselves that by patronizing Lush, buying their “charity pots” are they instead enabling something more sinister?

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Paul Watson describes the use of the seal hunt as a poster campaign for environmental groups.

I’m hopeful that Lush and its customers don’t want to enrich Watson and enable his attacks elsewhere. We should all call upon Lush to drop its association with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Here is their email if you’d like to contact them:

saveourseals@lush.com

Please tell them too that the commercial seal hunt is important for jobs in Atlantic Canada.

Liberals first to go neg via proxy?

In the dark world of politicking, political gamemanship and attacks on political opponents, the new Liberals are a bit more sophisticated that their purged Dionista bretheren.  With the backdrop of a global economic crisis, governments working together to “rescue” (that’s another debate) the worldwide economy through spending and bailouts, political parties in Canada are somewhat reluctant to play partisan games to avoid being cast in a bad light themselves among the voting public that does not have an appetite for attacks.

For this reason, the Conservatives post-Dion have been relatively quiet on defining the new Leader of the Opposition.  Every opposition leader from Manning to Day to Harper and yes, Mr. Dion, has been ruthlessly defined by the governing party of the time.  We have yet to see the Conservatives unload on Mr. Ignatieff with even a hint of the fire they rained down on the hapless Stephane Dion.

No party can been seen to have initiated a wave of negativity during this time so perhaps the Conservatives have strategically been holding off on firing the first volley.

Though, as I’m coming to realize, the Liberals may have been sniping at the Conservatives for a few weeks now though as insurgents that have shed their Liberal uniforms.

Take, for example, this video by “theGritGirl”:

theGritGirl joined YouTube on March 10, 2009 but is already cranking out broadcast quality vignette’s attacking the Conservative government.  Surely skill doesn’t automatically mean that a big P partisan professionalism is at play here.  But go to 9 seconds into the video to committee testimony by Minister Jim Flaherty.  If you exist off of the Hill, you might have seen this testimony on CPAC and if you exist on the Hill, you may have seen it on that same channel or through the internal House of Commons feed.  Note that this TV-quality feed lacks “CPAC” designation meaning that this video capture likely occurred on the Hill from the House of Commons feed.  This professional video (with titles produced with a professional video suite like After Effects) was also first seen on Warren Kinsella’s blog.  The lack of CPAC designation and Warren Kinsella’s distribution may mean that the Liberals produced the video and are the first to “go neg” during this time of economic crisis.  If the Conservatives are looking for an opening to unleash a barrage against Ignatieff and the Liberals this may be it as their actions would appear to be defensive rather than offensive.

Further to more Liberal attack, we see this entry by Liberal war room chief Kinsella on March 2 featuring a letter from James Turk, the head of the Canadian Association of University Teachers complaining to Minister Goodyear that a staffer told Turk and his colleagues them to “shut up” during a meeting.  After looking into this incident, I learned that Turk and his associates had given the Minister a brow-beating for about an hour without bringing up new business (ie. that he hadn’t already read in published op-eds by Turk et al).  The letter is carbon copied to Marc Garneau (Liberal S&T critic) Stephen Harper, Tony Clement, and Jim Maloway (NDP S&T critic).  The document on Kinsella’s site is a scanned copy of the fax sent to one of those individuals (let’s say Garneau) and then passed onto Kinsella.

In today’s Globe and Mail, we read that Jim Turk has an immediate comment available regarding the balancing of one’s job as Minister of S&T and one’s own personal faith.  Here’s Turk,

“The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,”

Outside of Goodyear’s tangential though unwise hedging on evolution, we see this Globe and Mail piece write up Turk on Goodyear without the context of their previous run-in.  Turk is presented as an unbiased voice on Goodyear.  Also, Turk and Goodyear didn’t spar over Goodyear’s unknown views of a particular field of science or how public policy is or is not informed by those views.  Further, this Globe piece is timed perfectly for those that would gain from a Conservative stumble on Goodyear as the government held a high profile event last night honouring NSERC award winners.  In communications, that was supposed to be the story that Conservatives wanted whereas, the Liberals got quite a gift today.

Finally, if we check out Kinsella today, we find him going along the same attack as that unleashed against Stockwell Day.  Kinsella will be dusting off his Barney doll to chase away religious constituents that Ignatieff is said to be courting.

Have the Conservatives used proxies to level attacks agaist their opponents in the past? Of course.  This is nothing new; every political party does it.  But in this latest post-Dion, post-economic collapse round of the war where everyone is supposed to rise above, if the Conservatives are holding their fire so they won’t be blamed for playing politics during this economic crisis, the Liberals and their proxies have just given them the green light and the media wouldn’t hold much credibility if they said the Tories fired first.

Tim Hudak comes by the office

Our office in downtown Ottawa today hosted potential Ontario PC leadership candidate Tim Hudak for a meet and greet with friends and colleagues on Parliament Hill today. Many thanks to Dimitri Pantazopoulos and Phil von Finkenstein for coordinating and to Chris Froggatt for tieing it all together.

Hudak spoke about returning Ontario to a clear sense of conservatism and will be attending the Manning Centre conference this weekend.

On the developing news front, I’ve learned that Hudak is receiving the endorsement of Rob Nicholson, the federal minister of Justice. Does Froggatt’s involvement with today’s event mean that endorsement from his boss John Baird will follow?

The Manning Centre is hosting a reception tonight prior to our conference and I can confirm that Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott, Randy Hillier and Peter van Loan will be in attendence. The Manning Centre conference will be the first significant venue for leadership pre-campaigning.

And now for something completely different…

Sit back, this will take about half an hour out of your day.

I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed the birth of a new art-form as it happened. Take the simple concept of the mash-up, use the sum of human social collaboration on youtube as your orchestra, edit on your home computer and release for global consumption.

This isn’t a new musical genre. This is a new artform.

Cool.

Here’s the whole mashup album.

Barack Obama rightly advances scientific research, it’s the moral elitism which is offensive

Yesterday, President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration’s ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. For many in the scientific community, this means increased funding for their projects and to patients it means hope for more cures for terrible diseases and ailments. I believe that the selective withholding of federal funds from this area of research was done for political reasons to satisfy a certain “moral” base of voters. Because of this, I’ve been cynical of Bush’s decision; it was public policy made on a sort of moral elitism.

For someone who has studied and manipulated the cellular basis of life (both simple and complex) in the laboratory with public funds, I can confidently say that Obama’s reversal advances medical research. Though I may disagree with the moral argument that human lives are extinguished with every embryonic cell line experiment, I do sympathize with people who hold these strong and fundamental views.

Yesterday’s announcement was itself minor; the only public policy change was the use of federal funds for this sort of research. The use of embryonic stem cells in experiments has been done for years with private money by private labs seeking profit from innovation. The issue only comes to the forefront of the public conscience via the moral debate which envelops the policy. What lies at the core for those for and against this type of research? For advocates against, they argue that public money consists of their money and public money is therefore a collective and democratically tyrannical breach of their morality. For advocates for, well there’s more money for this still relatively minor slice of the federal research budget to complement the funding and research done in the private sector.

And therein lies the rub. Advocates for this public money have made a lot of noise for this realistically minor victory. They’ve heralded this as a return to sanity of the executive branch, a reversal from misinformed values interfering with progress, and the moment when the oceans stopped rising and embryonic stem cells started dividing in public labs. What underlies their ebullience?

For the amount of media coverage received and public airing of this issue over the past 72 hours, it has gone beyond the fundamentals of the policy to overt moral gloating. And where I find offense is the moral elitism surrounding partisan supporters of the debate. For some that don’t even understand the science behind embryonic stem cells and their progenetive potential, this is rather a chance to rub the face of their moral opponents in the proverbial cell culture.

“You religious cretin, these aren’t babies!”

Those that investigate the cellular basis of life don’t know when a “human” life truly begins. We may have more scientifically-informed opinions but we cannot yet truly know. Even a cell biologist who uses embryonic stem cells in her research cannot honestly dismiss all ethical questions.

Similarly, those that hold deep religious convictions cannot truly know when life begins. They may have more faith-informed religious beliefs, but like the rest of us, they cannot yet truly know. Even a devout clergyman cannot honestly dismiss all ethical implications of forbidding the research.

For scientists, yesterday’s announcement was a victory for research. For many of those that share this victory, but are gloating though ignorant of the finer details of the science, this was a victory of moral one-upsmanship. These gloaters are no better than their moral elitist counterparts under Bush who told others that their moral conviction was absolute (and better for everyone else). In fact, the latter may be worse because an element of their boastful victory is won in spite of their opponents values while the former enjoyed victory despite them.

While I share the victory and cautiously applaud Obama’s announcement, I sympathize with those who hold strong and fundamental views against this sort of research done in their name. Issues of life that intersect with public policy never produce perfect victories for everyone nor for either side individually.

Who is considering a run at the Ontario PC leadership?

I’ve been hitting the phone, email and blackberry PIN asking known PC organizers, student leaders and strategists who’s been calling them “testing the waters”. I’ve learned that there are at least seven people considering a bid for the Ontario PC leadership to succeed John Tory. Here they are:

Tim Hudak: The perceived front-runner for the PC leadership is backed by a number of student/youth leaders, much of the party executive but has shallow support in caucus. Hudak’s people are pushing for an early leadership election (June) in order to deprive oxygen from other rivals who are trying to catch up. Hudak has been billed as a “true-blue conservative” by many of his supporters.

Christine Elliott: MPP from Whitby-Oshawa, lawyer and wife of Canada’s federal Conservative finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Flaherty ran for the PC leadership against John Tory and the organization and team may fall into place should Elliott contest the leadership.

Frank Klees: Among Hudak and Elliott, Klees rounds out the top three frontrunners who are making active and concerted pitchs to potential supporters to form a team for the 2009 leadership race. Klees ran against Tory for leadership in 2004 and served as a cabinet minister under Premier Harris.

Randy Hillier: Hillier is the former president of the Lanark Landowners Association and has represented a defiant conservative streak during his time in the Ontario legislature. The most conservative among the lot, many see a bid by Hillier as principled yet politically untenable. According to my sources, Hillier has been pushing for a later leadership election.

Peter Shurman: One of the only gains during the last election for the Ontario PC, Shurman is the MPP for Thornhill. A former broadcaster and businessman, Shurman has the profile and resources for a serious bid though my sources say that he is testing the waters carefully at this time. (update: Shurman’s out, but was considering this possibility)

Peter van Loan: Yes, the Conservative federal minister for Public Safety is said to be “leaving the door” open for a potential run at the provincial party leadership. PVL is the former president of the PC Party of Ontario, former government House leader for the Conservative government and, in his previous private sector life, he was a successful lawyer in Toronto. Van Loan is a “no guff” style administrator and would likely bring order to a divisive caucus that churned under Tory.

Dean Del Mastro: Del Mastro is the federal Conservative MP from Peterborough and has served in the House of Commons since 2006. Mr. Del Mastro is also allowing talk to circulate about a potential leadership shot to make a bid for the Premier’s office in the next Ontario election. Del Mastro plays the wouded partisan role well and this may be the contrast to John Tory’s approach that Ontario PC partisans are seeking. Del Mastro has been a visible member of the CPC caucus and has done a good job to raise his media profile in the short time he’s been in Parliament. (update: Del Mastro has ruled out a run at leadership but confirmed that he was approached to run the day of John Tory’s resignation)

UPDATE: Shurman says he’s out, Elizabeth Witmer says she’s considering a run.