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Nicole Ludwig

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Oh Canada

The Problem with Canadian Elections

 The thing about American elections, especially the Presidential election (which, face it, is really the only one of interest to most Canadians) is that it drags on and on and on takes awhile. From party primaries, to the campaign, to the election night itself, it’s non-stop fun (depending on your definition of fun). Elections are scheduled and no one would think to mess with that. This means elections are exciting, cliffhangers, if you will because candidates have forever and a day to prepare and campaign. It also means the parties have ample opportunity to get all their ducks in a row: candidates in each constituency.

The problem with Canadian Elections is that they happen FAST. Really fast. Parliament was dissolved late last week and the election is May 2nd (which is also Tax Day here). As of March 30, the only candidates from the major parties are the Conservative Party and Green Party candidates. Now, I live in a Conservative stronghold, but democracy is all about choice. Part of the problem of cracking the Conservative hold here might be that you don’t have a candidate from the start. By not having someone waiting in the wings, you’re giving the other parties, in this case the reigning party, a head start.

Now, I know the NDP is no bastion of organization, but at least when I punched in my postal code on their website, I got the address for the Constituency Office (which, incidentally is in the skeeviest part of town). Oh and they responded to my tweet right away. When I punched in my postal code on the Liberal Party website, it gave me a Canada-wide return because it seems my riding doesn’t register on the website until they have a candidate.

So we could blame this on the speed that the elections arrive, but in this case they knew that at some point, they would come to an election. Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party, has been threatening to bring down the Harper regime for months – and the Liberals still couldn’t get it together enough to get a candidate out here in time for the election call.

I should say that I started writing this on March 30. By April 2, we had candidates for both the NDP and Liberals. I like to think that the NDP candidate has a fair shot out here in the boonies – he’s a rather popular District Councillor.

But regardless of that, the Liberal Party and the NDP have been slow to the game out here. By not having candidates ready to go when the writ dropped to call an election, they’ve pretty much shown that they don’t have a lot of interest out here. It’s no wonder my riding goes Conservative all the time.

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This is why the budget will fail

The NDP and the Liberals may wax poetic about why they’re not supporting today’s budget (seniors. education, blah blah yadda yadda).

But really, I think they’re mad about stuff like this (photos and captions courtesy Vancouver Sun).

First, the opposition is worried about video game addiction:

budget2

Also, they saw what “high-quality Canadian Programming is”…AND THEY DON’T LIKE IT. Why, I’m not sure, but judge for yourself:

budget1

Your thoughts on today’s budget?

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Random Poptart Antics

18 months is interesting. We have language and physical abilities explosions, coupled with a lack of judgment. Seriously, child, I cannot leave you sitting alone on the counter while you watch the Wiggles on the computer because when you fall? the kitchen tile is hard and unforgiving. So I have to hang around.

And the language explosions. My god. I suppose this is what my mother meant when she said I have to watch my language around the kid.

Scene: I am wrestling with her carseat trying to get it back in the car. Not a difficult process so long as you have the seat in the right position (duh). I do not. So I am wrestling with it.

Me: Oh, shit. What gives?

Later that evening, the Poptart is sitting on the sofa playing with something and drops it.

The Poptart: Oh shit!
Darren: What did she say?
Me: I don’t know! I’m working on my paper!

And the potty training. There’s lots of naked time involved because it’s easier to get her on the potty quickly when she needs it. The other night, she was running around in the buck and blew some air.

Me: Do you have to poo?
The Poptart: No, gas!

And finally, it seems that there is a lot of hockey going on in our house. Darren is a bit of a (hockey) nut, you see. On Monday, the Poptart pulled one of my old textbooks off the bookshelf. On the back cover was this symbol:

For non-Canadians, that’s the symbol for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). They host Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.

So the Poptart sees the emblem, points at it and says “Hockey!!!”

She is Canadian. Through and through.

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Canada, you’re doing it wrong

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. And don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for, in no particular order:

Tommy Douglas
Darren and the Poptart
Inlaws who come to visit for the weekend and take over your kitchen so you don’t have to cook
The extra day off on the weekend
A roof over my head, a well-functioning car and a good job
The love that abounds in this house
The Poptart doing laps around the main floor

But when it comes to Thanksgiving and the date its on here, I think Canada is doing it wrong. See, here, Thanksgiving is always the second Monday in October. It’s a national holiday because in 1957, the Canadian Government proclaimed:

A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

Although I am proud to be Canadian and will take that over any other nationality, I find myself almost jealous of the way our neighbours to the south celebrate their holidays. Like most things in Canada, thanksgiving seems to be a bit of a quiet echo of the way Americans do their celebrations. They always seem big and exciting, not quiet and relaxing (although this year I could use quiet and relaxing).

American Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday in November and from there it’s a quick trip down four weeks to Christmas. From what I read, those four weeks seem to be quite exhilarating. Here Thanksgiving is basically just an extra day off.

So, I admit it, I am jealous of our neighbours to the south in this respect.

But I am grateful, nonetheless. And that outweighs all of the grousing in this post.

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Happy HST Day! I mean, Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day! Have a donut for breakfast!

But if you live in BC and buy that donut at the Great Canadian Institution that is Tim Horton’s, that donut will cost you 7% more (or so) than yesterday. Because our ever-lovin’ Premier’s gift to us on  Canada’s Birthday is the Hated Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). So instead of paying just

(Note: you cannot buy day-old donuts and get away with paying yesterday’s tax. And really, day-old donuts?).

Anyways, because of the HST, we got hit with property taxes and a special levy when our strata suddenly had to accelerate our complex’s roof replacement and purchase materials and services for it in June. Ouch.

Anyways, for those BC-ites that are interested, our ever-lovin’ government has put up a handy-dandy list of what is affected by HST and what is not (I’m not going to go through the hypocrisies I see in it related to green initiatives because that is another post in and of itself).

Note, that’s not an exhaustive list. Generally speaking, at the grocery store, processed foods are subject to HST, and “natural foods” are not.

So that cow’s milk you’re buying is apparently raw, because homogenization and pasteurization are not considered processing foods, but that soy milk you buy because your partner/kid/elderly aunt is lactose intolerant? Is considered a processed food. The cow’s milk isn’t subject to HST but the soy milk is.

Now if that doesn’t twist your noodle, take a look at this one.

Because the HST combines two previous taxes (GST and PST) it’s deemed more efficient by economists. The theory is:

the cost of services will eventually fall as business costs are reduced, and the savings are passed on to consumers.

And in that same article, Gordon Campbell claims that

“There’s a savings for businesses across the province of about $150 million, and those savings will be passed onto consumers”

Really? No? REALLY?

One of the interesting things about the HST is that the tax rate actually drops on a few items. One of these is liquor. Until yesterday, taxes on liquor in BC were 15%. The HST drops it to 12%, which is a savings of 3%, which will be passed on to consumers, right?

WRONG.

The BC Liquor Control board which sells liquor to liquor stores is raising its wholesale prices by 3%, under direction from the Minister of Finance, Colin Hansen:

But in February’s budget Hansen revealed that he has instructed the government’s monopoly Liquor Distribution Branch to keep shelf prices the same by raising the wholesale price, so the three per cent saving won’t show up in either government or private liquor stores.

So let me get this straight: private businesses, and small businesses are expected to pass on their material savings to consumers, but a government regulatory body isn’t.

Hypocrisy, much, Mr. Premier?

How’s that one twist your noodle?

BUT if you buy wine in BC directly from a winery, that 3% savings will occur because they’re selling their own product. So if you’re looking for wineries, check out my Glocality page.

Oh, but wait, in the long run, this will be good for us. Really. The Premier promises that

prices of some goods and services will increase in the short term, but said the tax will ultimately mean more jobs, increased investment and a better economic outlook for all of B.C.

And it’s going to be so good, that some companies are taking Bill Vander Zalm and BC’s Chief Electoral Officer to court to try to stop the anti-HST petition (that gathered more than enough signatures to be considered by the legislature and was delivered to Victoria yesterday)

Really? Companies are trying to knock down a citizen’s initiative petition and trying to tell the Chief Electoral Officer he doesn’t know his job? Really?

Democracy, anyone? Last I checked, people elected governments, not companies. And to allow companies to bring a case against a citizen’s initiative petition strikes at the heart of democracy, and shows just how much gall these companies have.

So, Happy Birthday, Canada. BC-ites, you’ll be paying for it.

Crossposted at Wet Coast Women

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PSA: Oh, that Hated Sales Tax (The HST)

It’s no secret that the Campbell Liberals (and really, a lot of them are old SoCreds – and for those that remember, the irony of this will become apparent shortly) want to implement the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in BC later on this year.

Former Social Credit (SoCred – oh the irony) Premier Bill Vander Zalm has received permission to launch an official Citizen’s Initiative Petition against the HST. If it receives 10% of signatures from registered voters in each electoral district, the decision on whether to implement the HST will have to go to a referendum or it must be scrapped.

Now you may have already signed some online petitions against it, and that’s great. But in order for your opinion to count, you MUST sign the Citizen’s Initiative Petition.

To sign the petition, you must be a registered voter and go to the appropriate place or contact your local canvasser.

Now, my own opinion? I’m signing as soon as there’s someone in my electoral area who’s collecting signatures. I think we have enough taxes and the HST will be revenue-neutral, apparently, because businesses get it all back at the end of the year. I don’t think businesses will pass on lower prices to the consumer – why would they when they can turn more of a profit?

And I don’t enjoy the prospect of paying HST on my strata fees. So I’m saying:

say no to hst in bc

Contacts and locations to sign the petition can be found here.

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The Nanny Saga

We all know that childcare in Canada is a bit of a joke (at least outside of Quebec). There’s not enough of it, it’s somewhat questionably regulated, and finding a place the parents are comfortable with and that will take you is difficult. And it’s expensive.

I didn’t like the idea of daycare for the Poptart. I didn’t like the idea of her being in a large centre and liked the idea of her being in a private home even less. So I looked into the Live-In Caregiver Program.

In order to deal with a shortage of childcare in Canada (you know, rather than implementing accessible, affordable, quality daycare everywhere) the Canadian government created the Live-in Caregiver Program. This allows families to “import” nannies on 2-year work visa for child care or elder care. At the end of two years, they get permanent residence status, and can fast-track citizenship if they like. The families get a live-in caregiver, provide room and board (deducted from pay, unless you’re in Quebec), and get child/elder care and a bit of cooking and cleaning. The new changes also require employers to provide one-way air flight from the country the nanny is coming from, medical insurance until she is eligible for provincial plans, etc.

The process is confusing and there are at least 3 federal agencies involved. Trying to wade through the steps alone is difficult and time-consuming. So we went to an agency in Ontario. Back when I contacted them, they were operating under Ontario provincial law which didn’t require that they charge the families anything. They were really helpful, knew what they were doing and came highly recommended. They got the process rolling, we made an offer to a candidate, and at the beginning of February, I got an email from the agency asking for proof of address to send to Canadian Immigration. This is late stage and meant her work visa was almost approved.

And then, the federal government changed the laws governing the program, which is fine because honestly: the laws before were lax and probably resulted in a lot of abuse. Now for us, the new laws are not grandfathered and don’t really kick in until April 10 or so.

Now here’s the fun part: when a federal law changes, if there is a corresponding provincial law then the provinces have to bring their laws in line with any new federal law/changes thereto (in other words, a federal law supersedes a provincial law).

After sending proof of address, I kind of hunkered down and tried to ignore the fact that I have to go back to work. And then it was the beginning of March and I hadn’t heard anything. So I emailed the agency for an update.

The email bounced back.

I went to their website. There was a parking page there.

I called them. Their voicemail was full.

This was a Friday. Over the weekend, I put my Mad Internet Sleuthing Skillz to work and got ahold of them through the owner’s mother who was a fan on their facebook page. Apparently, Ontario had changed their laws and gave them 48 hours to shut down. Apparently there is a letter floating around somewhere that explains fully what happened, but I’m not holding my breath to get it.

Side note: How difficult is it to send an email to your database explaining or putting up a page on your website about what clients should do? Really.

Anyways, since they’d been above board all the way along and we would be stuck asking grandparents for help (and we’d been doing this for 6 months), we decided we wanted to proceed with our offer. On Sunday afternoon, I emailed the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong, where her visa was being processed, with my predicament.

FYI: if you sponsor an individual and you do not have their contact information you cannot get it from the Consulate processing it. Just sayin’. This is because they are private individuals and under the Privacy Act, they will not release information even if you are the sponsor, unless you have a signed release from the individual (which, when you’re looking for contact information, is redundant). All I could get was that a decision had been made and sent to the applicant. They wouldn’t even tell me what the decision was.

So average people can’t get the information, but apparently Members of Parliament can. So off I went on Monday and within two days had an answer: the visa had been approved (after weeks of waiting for it. I suspect involving my MP helped).

On the Thursday evening (so Friday in Hong Kong) I got a call from the Hong Kong agency and our nanny.

She arrived the evening of March 24th. And she is lovely and the Poptart adores her. She came with us to playgroup yesterday and all of the babies started migrating towards her.

I got to the airport right as her flight arrived. I hadn’t stopped for gas because I was running late and wanted to be there in case immigration needed to talk to me. And then I waited for an hour and a half while she was interrogated and they called my house to confirm. At least Darren was there to answer questions.

Then we went back. It’s about an hour from the airport to my house. I got to the Pitt River bridge and traffic just ground to a halt. The Einsteins finishing up construction closed 3 of 4 lanes on the bridge and it would be at least 45 minutes to get over to the other side.

When my fuel went down to two bars on the gauge, I looped back into Port Coquitlam to get gas. Because running out of gas here would be really, really bad. I phone Darren from the gas station to let him know I’d be later then expected (I had phoned him already about the delay), and he suggested going through Langley and over the Golden Ears. So I did. Back along Mary Hill Bypass, onto the freeway, over the Port Mann, and over the Golden Ears.

25 minutes.

Her flight arrived at 7:30pm. We got home close to midnight and are still recovering from it.

But the Poptart really likes her and she is excellent with babies. I’m clinging to that in hopes it’ll eventually make me feel a bit better about going back to work.

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Hey, Canadians – wanna go to the loonie store?

The loonie store is a wondrous place. I found these salad containers there – they have a compartment in the lid where you put your dressing so when you’re ready to eat, you just push this button on top, and pop! the dressing goes into the container below (hopefully you put some salad in there first). Give it a shake and your salad is ready to eat (so long as you have a fork. I suppose you could use your hands, but that would get messy).

My point is, you never know what you’re going to find at the loonie store. And wouldn’t you be interested in finding out what other people’s loonie stores carry? OMG. Loonie store nirvana.

If you do and you want to participate in an exchange, pop on over to Just One Miss’  Dollar Store Challenge (yes, it originates in the US so it’s a “dollar store” not a “loonie store” – although I find our name much more entertaining).

The way it works: you leave a comment, and you’ll be contacted via email for your mailing address and then you’ll be paired up with someone. Take $20 and go to the loonie store and buy some stuff. Put it in a box and mail it to the person you were matched up with. You’ll receive a box too. Then you can blog about it. Or whatever.

But Miss wants more Canadians! So go. Comment. And sign up by March 10 (that’s Wednesday, people).

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The Post-O Glow is Golden

As Canadians, we’re thought of as apologetic. Humble, even, sometimes (and good god, isn’t that arrogant of me? :)). We set out to Own the Podium this year in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. That is, the program wanted us to win the most medals overall beating out our neighbours to the South even. Well, we didn’t. And really, at having roughly 10 times the population of us and a much larger pool of athletes to draw from, they should have a lot more medals than us.

We ended up with 26 (including both men’s and women’s hockey gold medals. We own hockey again!). The US put in a really good show (gotta love the Flying Tomato) and ended up with 37, the most medals ever at any Olympic games. Germany (who also has a much larger population than Canada) ended up with 30.

So the Own the Podium people said the program didn’t meet it’s objectives. But you know what, peanuts?

What? says the peanut gallery.

We have the most gold medals EVER at any single Olympic games. EVER. That’s a pretty good feeling and accomplishment for a country with about 33 million people in it. Own the Podium? Yeah, I’d say we own the podium with a golden post-o glow.

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Girl Talk Thursday: Getting my bitch on about the IOC and Jacques Rogge

This week’s Girl Talk Thursday is about getting your bitch on. Let it all out. Please note, there is more than one f-bomb in here.

I’d normally have posted yesterday, but yesterday I really didn’t have anything to bitch about. My life is pretty good. The thing I’m going to bitch about offends me deeply, on a fundamental level.

That thing happens to be Jacques Rogge. And the IOC in general.

Last night, the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team beat their US counterparts in the Olympic Gold Medal game. And I say beat rather than “won against” because the Canadian ladies blanked the US ladies 2-0. It was awesome and I am so incredibly proud of our women for dominating the game from the outset.

After the game, they got their beer on and went out onto the ice after all the spectators had left and climbed on the zamboni. And the IOC is all offended by this, and Hockey Canada, being Canadian has apologized.

NEWSFLASH: Hockey players like to drink beer after the game! Also, the sky is blue!

THEN, and OMG my blood pressure (for real this time), Jacques Rogge says something about how women’s hockey will have to become more international and widespread and not so dominated by two countries if it is to stay in the Olympics.

Really, Jacques? Really? Never mind that it took half a century for men’s hockey to become internationally competitive.

And how dare you, you arrogant prick – you couldn’t even wait until after the Olympics were said and done and let the women have their moment?

Fuck you, Jacques Rogge. You owe an apology to all female hockey players, especially the Canadian and American women, who, through no fault of their own, grew up playing with the boys and men. This is how they train. How about the IOC put money where their mouth is to encourage women in other countries to train with the men, and allow girls into boys’ leagues like they do here?

You also owe an apology to the Finnish women who are spectacular in their own right, and all the women all over the world who have fought against cultural stances that may prevent women from participating in traditionally male-dominated sports.

And you owe an apology to Canada and the US – for being so disrespectful that you can’t even let us have our moment.

Fuck you, Jacques Rogge.

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