Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Congressman







                        With last season’s debut of “Naked and Afraid”, it appears that the TV reality show well might be running dry. Having exploited everything from dating to cooking to home improvement, it looks like the reality genre has finally been exhausted.
            Luckily for TV producers, there is still one fertile field of TV reality endeavor that’s ripe for the plucking, namely politics as evidenced by these proposed reality shows soon to spring forth from the drawing board:
The Congressman
            It’s “The Bachelor” meets “Joe Millionaire” in this political romance show. One U.S. congressman is introduced to 25 lobbyists who compete to win his love and support. Each episode features “dates” and ends with a “check” ceremony where the lobbyists offer up envelopes to the congressman in hopes of buying his heart and vote. Unlike other reality dating shows, the congressman is not restricted to choosing just one lobbyist. If successful, look for the debut of “The Congresswoman” next season.
Big Brothers and Sisters
            Nine aging jurists are forced to work together in a courtroom from the first Monday in October until the end of June. Alternating between sittings and recesses, the three women and six men are faced with new dilemmas such as what color to paint the walls, what kind of lunch to order in or whether or not a corporation is a person. The courtmates publicly assert that their decisions are all strictly based on legal reasoning although after the lights go out, it’s clear that there’s more politics than law involved as evidenced by the plethora of 5-4 split decisions.
Block That Bill
            There are 435 contestants living in the House and 100 in the Senate in this bicameral reality show. One team, called the Democrats, is assigned the task of trying to get bills passed to become actual laws. The other team, called the Republicans, tries to block those bills by whatever means available. The Democrats rule the Senate except for the inconvenient fact that it takes 60% of the residents to get anything done. It doesn’t really matter anyway since almost nothing gets by the Republicans in the House. Sadly, the only real losers in this show are the American public.
This Old White House
            It’s an aging Palladian-style mansion located in the heart of Washington, D. C. The almost 200-year-old residence has been home to more than forty different men and all but one lived there for eight or fewer years. The show follows the day-to-day life of the current resident and his ongoing failed attempts at legislative renovation. Whether it’s immigration reform or socialized medicine, the house’s tenant just can’t seem to get any Washington contractors to cooperate to make the necessary changes.
Here Comes Johnny Boo-hoo

            This show follows the daily life of Speaker of the House John Boehner, America’s favorite keening congressman. When it comes to sentimentality, he’s the handiest man with a handkerchief. Whether it’s remembering his hardscrabble background, thinking about the disadvantaged or honoring Rosa Parks, Johnny Boo-hoo is the king of the Washington waterworks. Unfortunately, when it comes to actually voting to help any of these folks, it looks like John’s are the only dry eyes in the House. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The S. S. Harper Majority






        Tired of endless talk of expanded social services for Canada’s less fortunate? Fed up with debates over gender equality and gay rights? Wishing for more personal and corporate tax cuts?            
        If so, then you may be ready for next fall’s planned cruise on the S. S. Harper Majority. Operated by Conservative Cruise Lines, the S. S. Harper Majority has been sailing the political seas for almost four years now and is hoping to experience smooth sailing for at least another four.
            For those who signed on back in May of 2011, the fall of 2015 presents another opportunity to jump aboard and experience luxury from a bygone era. Say goodbye to tax hikes and increased social welfare commitments and hello to American-style living at its finest.
Captain Harper and his crew have already hinted at what they’ve got planned including an upgraded Deregulation Lounge, a refurbished Tough On Crime bar, a two-tiered Medicare Mezzanine and the ever popular Bash The Public Sector pool deck. If you’ve envied your American friends who got to sail on the S. S. Ronald Reagan in years past, now’s your chance to tack to starboard and enjoy that rightwing sail you’ve always dreamed of.
            As in the past, Conservative Cruise Lines is promising a star-studded lineup of entertainers. Once again you’ll be able to enjoy the song stylings of the Cabinet Chorus who love to sing from the same songbook as well as the comedic offerings of the PMO Execs who continue to defy evidence and logic in their wacky policy pronouncements.
            Sadly, some of your favorite performers won’t be with us on next fall’s cruise. Such big names as Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy are not available for this voyage or apparently any future voyage.
            But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the show. Captain Harper himself has taken on the role of MC and will be personally responsible for the entire choreography of every shipboard performance. From the soft shoe dancing of Peter McKay to the fully scripted monologues of John Baird, Captain Harper’s touch will be evident throughout.
            Conservative Cruise Lines promises you that it won’t be undersold. In fact, they guarantee that they’ll go to any lengths to convince you that the competition just doesn’t have what it takes. And if that doesn’t do the trick, they’ll do whatever they can to win you over including promises of cheaper cable TV bills and automated voting day phone calls.
            If you have a six-figure income and a hankering for even more, it’s time to book your passage. You’ll get to visit such exciting ports of call as Lower Tax Rates, Higher Return on Investment and Fewer Public Services - and it won’t cost you an extra dime. In fact, by the end of the trip, you may be even richer than you are now.        

The Republican Three-ring Circus

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome under the Republican big top and prepare to be entertained by the incredible performers of Boehner Brothers (formerly Hastert & Boehner), America’s premier political circus. 

Unlike other political circuses, we don’t just present one show at a time. We are a full, three-ring operation. That means no matter where you turn your head, there’s an amazing performance you just won’t be able to look away from.

Unfortunately, our regular ringmaster, Mr. John Boehner, could not be here as he is away on an extended ABO tour urging one and all to support “anyone but Obama.” However, as his political understudy, I, Kevin McCarthy, will host tonight’s festivities in the very same fashion with absolutely no added original thought or flourishes.

Now if you will turn your attention to the far ring on my right or what we have dubbed “The Congressional ring”, you will be wowed by several acrobatic feats. Watch as the amazing House Republicans introduce Obamacare defunding over and over again. Marvel as they repeatedly bring the nation to the brink of fiscal collapse. Be amazed and astounded at the mathematical magic of Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who repeatedly turns forty per cent plus one into a majority.

To my left is “The Presidential wannabes ring” which doubles as the home of our circus’s clown contingent. Some of you are no doubt expecting to see our most famous presidential wannabes John McCain and Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, neither of these clowns is with the circus anymore but I can guarantee you that our current cast of jesters is capable of just as many wild antics as their famous predecessors.

You’ll see all your favorite clowns like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. You may even be lucky enough to be entertained by the best of the best from recent years like Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman.  

But that’s not all. Thanks to our world famous Republican clown college, there are always new graduates to entertain you. Keep your eyes open tonight for this season’s new prat-falling, seltzer-spraying buffoons like Jeb Bush and the “Amazin’ Pauls”: Paul Ryan and Rand Paul.

Finally, if you will look directly in front of me in the main circle, “The Republican donors ring”, you’ll be astounded by the taming abilities of our favorite bilious billionaires. Thanks to the assistance of five-ninths of the Supreme Court, you can now watch the likes of Sheldon Adelson and the Krazy Koch brothers tame the wildest presidential candidates making them eat right out of the palms of their hands.

We may not have dancing elephants or unicycle-riding bears but we have something even better: non-stop political shenanigans. If you thought politics was dull and unentertaining, you’re in for a delightful surprise as you’ll see astonishing things you’d never see anywhere outside Washington, D.C.

From sexual improprieties to overused filibusters, the Republican big top is sure to bring you ongoing, jaw-dropping entertainment unmatched in any jurisdiction west of Russia.

So, ladies and gentlemen, sit back and enjoy our three-ring circus. No matter where you look, you’ll be surprised, amazed and amused by the common sense-defying actions and antics of our team of unique performers.

You are indeed a fortunate audience as there is no guarantee that our circus can continue much longer. With this many no-net high wire acts, we may not last until the end of the year or even the end of the month. So sit back, open your eyes and be prepared to be astounded.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Tory Three-ring Circus

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome under the Tory big top and prepare to be entertained by the incredible performers of Harper Brothers (formerly Harper & Flaherty), Canada’s premier political circus.

Unlike other political circuses, we don’t just present one show at a time. We are a full, three-ring operation. That means no matter where you turn your head, there’s an amazing performance you just won’t be able to look away from.

Unfortunately, our regular ringmaster, Mr. Stephen Harper, could not be here as he is away on an extended foreign tour bringing our unique style of political showmanship to foreign capitals from Jerusalem to Kyiv to Berlin. However, as his political understudy, I, Pierre “call me Pete” Polievre, will host tonight’s festivities in the very same fashion with absolutely no added original thought or flourishes.

Now if you will turn your attention to the far ring on my right or what we have dubbed “the Senate ring”, you will be wowed by several acrobatic feats. Watch as the seemingly immoveable Mike Duffy simultaneously lives in Ottawa and P.E.I. Marvel as the glamorous dragon lady Pamela Wallin resides in Toronto but claims official residence in Saskatchewan. Be amazed and astounded at the financial high wire act of our once-undefeated serial pugilist Patrick Brazeau.

To my left is the Prime Minister’s Office ring which doubles as the home of our circus’s clown contingent. Watch as PMO clowns engage in all manner of political high jinks from unauthorized personal loans to senators to questionable interference in riding association nomination processes. Supposedly under the command and control of the ringmaster, these Kanadian Keystone Kops will have you in stitches with their crazy unexpected actions.

Some of you are no doubt expecting to see our most famous PMO performers Nigel Wright and Dmitri Soudas. Unfortunately, neither of these clowns is with the circus anymore but I can guarantee you that our current cast of jesters is capable of just as many wild antics as their famous predecessors.

Finally, if you will look directly in front of me in the main ring, you will see our star attraction: the dangerous caged caucus. For years, these fierce House members have been tamed and controlled by Canada’s top MP tamer, our brave ringmaster himself, Mr. Harper.

But with Mr. Harper’s repeated absences and recent damaging events, the caucus animals have become restless and emboldened. As your ringmaster for tonight, I will share taming duties with our top whip, Mr. John Duncan. Together we hope to keep these bellicose backbenchers from breaking free and bringing down the entire Tory tent.

We may not have dancing elephants or unicycle-riding donkeys but we have something even better: non-stop political shenanigans. If you thought politics was dull and unentertaining, you’re in for a delightful surprise as you’ll see astonishing things you’d never see anywhere outside Washington, D.C.

From double-claimed expenses to overused omnibus bills to borderline criminal activity, the Tory three-ring circus is sure to bring you ongoing, jaw-dropping entertainment unmatched in any jurisdiction north of the American border.

So, ladies and gentlemen, sit back and enjoy our three-ring circus. No matter where you look, you’ll be surprised, amazed and amused by the common sense-defying actions and antics of our team of unique performers.

You are indeed a fortunate audience as there is no guarantee that our circus can continue much longer. With this many no-net high wire acts, we may not last until the end of the year or even the end of the month. So sit back, open your eyes and be prepared to be astounded.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Bureaucrats' Trap

“[D]epartments are experimenting with regular ‘Dragons' Den’-type events with employees to find creative solutions to policy and operational challenges.”                                                          
-    Destination 2020 web site

“Good evening. I’m Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, and I’d like to welcome you to the first episode of our brand new show called Bureaucrats’ Trap. It’s a chance for federal public servants to participate in our wonderful new action plan called Destination 2020 by pitching their ideas to improve government service to a panel of topnotch bureaucrats.”
“First up is Fred Warner, a file clerk from Vancouver who has what he describes as a ‘sure-fire method’ to eliminate red tape and improve file processing in any government office.”
“Thanks, Mr. Clement. I’m really excited to be here tonight to tell you about my plan to revolutionize file handling in the public service. What’s that? Do I have my proper ID with me? Well, no. I didn’t think I’d need it for this. Security clearance? Again, I wasn’t aware I’d need to document that for a simple presentation.”
“Sorry about that, Fred, but you’ll understand that rules are rules and we can’t just have anyone appearing before our panel of experts. But hopefully our next presenter, Cindy Lawson, from Halifax has the proper accreditation so the bureaucrats can consider her new idea.”
“Yes I do, Mr. Clement, plus I’ve got everything in triplicate with extra copies for all the panelists.”
“Excellent, Cindy. Now please go ahead with your presentation.”
“As you can see on the screen in front of you, my plan for efficient file handling is called “first in – first out” or FIFO for short. It’s a revolutionary new method whereby the first file received in an office receives priority to ensure that it is the first one processed and finalized.”
“Thanks, Cindy, but as the bureaucrats have noted, that’s just not going to work. Your plan has a superficial appeal but, in essence, is just too simplistic. What about files requiring immediate priority for the minister? Or what about folios from favored constituents? And then there are those dockets that need to be temporarily or even permanently shelved for any number of good reasons that typically need not be publicly revealed. It’s a nice thought, Cindy, but I’m afraid it’s just a bit naïve. Which brings us to our next presenter - Gord Burroughs from Ottawa. Gord, what have you got for us tonight?”
“Well, Tony. May I call you Tony? No? OK. Well, Mr. Clement, I’ve got a plan that I know is going to help revamp and revitalize the entire federal public service. It’s something I call ‘adequate compensation and directions’ or ACAD for short. ACAD would provide a mechanism whereby an individual employee’s position would be properly classified and salary and bonuses would be set in accordance with established industry metrics.”
“Gord, the bureaucrats love your creative use of acronyms and the can-do spirit behind your proposal but ultimately they feel that it’s a no-go simply because it is far too specific. They would have preferred that you come up with a couple of innocuous acronyms without any detailed action plan. After all, obfuscation and deferral are the two key watchwords in any new grand government initiative. So long as it sounds good and it’s vague enough so no one can actually assess results, it’s a winner. Better luck next time.”

“Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of Bureaucrat’s Trap. Join us next week when we welcome three more workers with their simplistic and obvious suggestions that will likely not meet the bureaucrats’ minimum standards for viable policy implementation. And stay tuned for our new quiz show entitled Remember These? in which  workers and mandarins participate as contestants and try to recall anything meaningful about previous long-forgotten government action plans like La Relève, PS2000, GE Conversion, UCS (Universal Classification System) and VASE (Vision and Strategies Exercise). The winner gets to keep his or her job.” 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Barry And The Boys


Barry and the boys were sitting around the Oval Office trying to come up with an answer to the Ukraine crisis:

"Mr. President, we have to do something about Ukraine. We can't keep saying that there will be consequences. People are calling you a wimp."
"Let's be clear; I am not a wimp. There will be consequences if Russia does not respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Mark my words."
"That's what's been happening, Mr. President. Everyone's been marking your words and there's not a whole lot there."
"Well, let me be perfectly clear. The United States will not accept nor will we condone any incursion by a foreign power into the sovereign territory of another nation based solely on trumped up allegations of non‑existent security threats."
"Uh, Mr. President, what about Iraq?"
"Oh, damn! Thanks a lot George W. Bush."
"Anything else, Mr. President?"
"Well, let's see. How about the United States does not concede that there is any doctrine that Russia can invoke to curtail foreign influence in any country within its immediate sphere of influence?"
"You mean like the Monroe Doctrine?"
"Damn again!"
"There must be something we can do, Mr. President."
"Wait, wait, I've got it. There can be no acceptance of a political situation where a foreign power decides to intervene in the affairs of another country simply because one political faction in that country has toppled the ruling party and seeks an alliance with the foreign power's foes."
"Our invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965?"
"Damn and double damn! Wait, I've got it. Our nation will not countenance a violation of international law whereby a nation invades another country simply to protect those of its own ethnicity."
"Ronald Reagan. Grenada. 1983. Had to rescue those American medical students. Remember?"
"Can't allow a foreign influence to take hold so close to our shores?"
"Cuba. Bay of Pigs. 1961."
"OK. What about a condemnation of a specious claim of manifest destiny to expand one's sovereignty to include contiguous territory?"
"Sounds like the Mexican War of 1845, Mr. President."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So if you guys are so smart, what's the answer?"
"Let them have Crimea and call it a day. They'll live to regret it. Remember Afghanistan and Georgia?"
"OK, let's do it."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fuggedaboutit, eh?















Most political scandals in America have a Washington connection. Think Watergate, Abscam, Iran-Contra and Clinton-Lewinsky. In the case of the maelstrom surrounding Chris Christie, however, the Washington connection happens to be the George Washington Bridge spanning New Jersey and Manhattan.

For those who might have been out of the country or trapped in traffic on said bridge, Governor Christie is in hot water because his staffers arranged a traffic tie-up on the GWB last September in retaliation for the lack of a reelection endorsement from Fort Lee’s Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich. Although it appears that Mr. Christie had no direct involvement in or knowledge of those shenanigans, the fact that his people initiated this stunt suggests that he had created and encouraged an atmosphere of vindictive political payback.

Ordinarily, such an event would be a one-day wonder and would quickly disappear from the nation’s headlines. But in this case, the governor in question is the putative favorite to be the Republican Party’s nominee in the 2016 presidential election. Thus, this scandal has, if not legs, at least a couple of arms that could see it dragging itself along in full public view for the foreseeable future.

As a Canadian, I don’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed by America’s latest political scandal, what is sure to eventually be known as Bridgegate, Christiegate or Jerseygate. On the one hand, it finally takes the spotlight away from our foulmouthed, crack-smoking, lady-councillor-shoving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. On the other hand, it takes the spotlight away from Canada, a country that can use any publicity it can get whether good or bad.

On balance, I think this latest screw-up is a bad thing for us Canadians. After all, Mr. Ford has managed to give us more international media coverage in the last six months than we’ve otherwise garnered in 25 years. And since I don’t see anyone else on the northern horizon who’s capable of the antics necessary to get us noticed, I think Rob Ford’s the publicity horse we should keep on riding.

The question then becomes how do we squelch the interest in Governor Christie’s mess and get the news hounds back on the trail of Mr. Ford? I think the answer lies with Mr. Christie.

All it would take is a discreet call from the New Jersey Governor’s office to the Toronto Mayor’s office asking for one small favor. The fact remains that no matter what Rob Ford does, nothing seems to affect his popularity among Toronto voters. The crazier the stunt, the better his reelection chances. In fact, it’s apparent that when Mr. Ford is  behaving himself, his electability actually drops.

A savvy New Jersey pol should be able to pick up on this fact and suggest to Mr. Ford that a few more faux pas might be just what it takes to get him reelected to the Toronto mayoralty later this coming year. Maybe he could snort cocaine while speeding through downtown Toronto on a stolen motorcycle. Or what about dropping a couple of  water balloons from the CN Tower?

Let’s face it; it wouldn’t take much to return Mayor Ford to the front pages, the supper hour news shows and, most importantly, the lead story on The Daily Show. At that point, the George Washington Bridge scandal becomes yesterday’s news and Governor Christie can get back to doing what he does best: pimp for President.

So, hey Chris Christie, do yourself and us Canadians a big favor: call Rob Ford. As I see it, it’s a win-win situation. No need to thank me. As they say in Toronto: “fuggedaboutit, eh?”  

Saturday, November 02, 2013

24 Sussex Trick-or-treaters

Halloween is over and that means Canadian homes from coast to coast to coast were visited by scary trick-or-treaters.  And that included the nation’s First Residence: 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.  Here are some of the frightening visitors Stephen Harper had last Thursday night:

Mike Duffy
This is probably the scariest visitor the PM had on Halloween night. A modern version of the walking undead, it seems this guy can no longer be killed or bought off. Mr. Harper can try putting another cheque in Mr. Duffy’s treat bag but it might be too late. He better come up with something nice though; otherwise he can expect all manner of tricks from the Puffster.

Nigel Wright
This is the last person Mr. Harper wanted to see on Thursday night. But if Mr. Wright did show up, maybe the two of them finally got their story straight. Did Mr. Wright resign or did Mr. Harper dismiss him? With any luck, Mr. Wright will remain the disappeared ghost he has become.

Pamela Wallin
Dressed as a  witch, Ms. Wallin may have paid a visit to the official residence with vengeance on her mind. Like Mike Duffy, she’s looking for a few treats including the retention of her Senate seat or else she’ll be handing out old e-mails to the media like Halloween candy.

Arthur Hamilton
The prime minister probably barred this fellow at the gate, especially if he came bearing any scary e-mails and memos or possibly a frightening cancelled cheque for $13,560. If it was the latter, the PM just better hope it wasn’t drawn from Conservative Party funds.

Marjory LeBreton
 This is one scary Halloween visitor with both feet in her mouth and dragging a loose canon behind her. If she starts telling Mr. Harper how Patrick Brazeau was a failed experiment and how Mike Duffy spun his story of a repayment plot, he better cover his ears and have her escorted off the property.

The Ghost of Richard Nixon
If this spectre showed up at the door, Mr. Harper should have heeded his words carefully. “What did you know and when did you know it?” wails Mr. Nixon’s apparition. This ghost from scandals past knows very well that it’s seldom the crime that does you in; it’s usually the coverup that destroys you in the end.

The Conservative Base
They haven’t been too pleased of late and the latest Senate Scandal revelations have made them hopping mad. Mr. Harper better have some nice legislative goodies to offer them this Halloween if he hopes to keep his leadership position intact.

The Senate Tory Caucus
If this gang appeared, the PM should have listened very closely to their advice. Some are urging that the motion to suspend delinquent senators be withdrawn as a matter of principle. Given that further scrutiny might reveal more wrongdoings by other members, perhaps it should be withdrawn as a matter of practicality instead.

The Swing Voter
Possibly the scariest visitor to 24 Sussex Drive this year, the Swing Voter is as crazy and unpredictable as Justin Trudeau with a drug legalization issue.  Frightening as it is to consider, this spooky character almost elected the NDP last election and if Mr. Harper doesn’t fill up his Halloween treat bag with goodies like lower cell phone costs and pick-a-channel cable, he might just make Thomas Mulcair prime minister next time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weedstock 2015

“Medical marijuana grow-op strikes deal at Smiths Falls’ former Hershey plant”
- Newspaper headline - September 26, 2013

Some are for it and some are against it but there’s one thing for sure; everyone’s talking about it. The “it” in question is the phoenix-like deal to turn the old Hershey chocolate plant in Smiths Falls, Ontario into a medical marijuana grow-op.

    Reasonable people can debate at length the merits and demerits of marijuana but it appears to me that we are already on the path to its eventual legalization. And since that train seems to have already left the station, it behooves citizens of the Rideau Valley to get on board and enjoy the journey.

As I see it, the creation of a handful of jobs setting up and operating Smith Falls’ new fun factory is only one small part of the potential explosion in economic growth the region could soon enjoy.

Just like Hershey used to provide guided tours of its chocolate plant, the owners of the new facility could provide tours of its operation, a kind of seed-to-weed experience. And if the drug laws change soon, who knows, each visit could end just like the Hershey plant tours did with a free sample or two and the chance to buy a couple of ounces of your favorite product.

The spinoff effects could also be significant. Smith Falls could become eastern Canada’s pot destination of choice for cannabis tourists from around the globe. The growth in bed and breakfasts, all-you-can-eat restaurants and weed-tasting cafes could be explosive.

In the manner of other cutesy tourist towns, Smiths Falls could soon be home to quaint architecture, trendy head shops and fancy street signs with catchy new names like Doobie Drive and Justin Trudeau Lane.

Creative minds might also choose to expand this new tourist destination with attractions like a marijuana museum or even a marijuana theme park complete with fairly easy midway games, slow moving rides and lots and lots of concession stands.

I suspect that it won’t be long before the city fathers and mothers of Smiths Falls seize on this golden opportunity and start holding annual festivals. Their town could soon be home to everything from grass-themed music festivals to marijuana trade shows. It may not happen next year but don’t be surprised if you find yourself attending Weedstock in the near future.

Given the seeming inevitability of legalization, there’s also a golden opportunity for area farmers to start their own boutique marijuana growing and processing operations. Much like the Niagara region and northern California have done with wine, the Rideau Valley might well do with weed.

It won’t happen overnight, of course, but it won’t be too long before we can enjoy a drive or a quiet bike ride through the Smiths Falls region with a view to touring any number of pot farms and sampling and purchasing their unique wares. I predict that ten years from now, no one will be talking about B.C. Bud; instead all the buzz will be about Rideau Red.

Some are understandably leery of this new economic opportunity for the region but I’m the kind of guy who sees the bowl as being half full. With millions of potential grass tourists here in Canada alone, this is an opportunity Rideau Valley residents simply can’t let go up in smoke.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Government Plants Fear Cuts

“Government uproots office plants in continuing effort to trim spending”                                                                                                                           - Newspaper headline - August 22, 2013

First came the budget cuts. Then came the personnel cuts. And now, sadly, the current government appears to be taking aim at the most vulnerable among the ranks of the public service: office plants.
Despite the government of the day mouthing the usual platitudes about how the plants are hard workers and highly valued, hundreds of our treasured colleagues have not just been let go; they’ve been effectively sold into slavery for a reported average price of $3.36.
Recently, more than 500 palms, ficus trees and mother-in-law’s tongues were reportedly given a green slip and shipped off to Government Surplus where they were unceremoniously sold, pot and all, for next to nothing.
Given their non-union status, these plants were understandably reluctant to speak out about this public service plant reduction initiative.
“Frankly, I’m concerned about losing my health benefits,” said one anonymous piece of greenery. “For years, I could count on getting regular checkups and, if needed, antibacterial and fungicide sprays and the occasional spritz of Miracle Gro. Now that’s all under threat.”
“I’ve been a faithful guardian outside a deputy minister’s office for years,” said one prickly ficus who asked not to be identified fearing random trimming by senior management. “If I was going to get the ax, metaphorically speaking, I would have thought that they would have at least found me a good home in the private sector.”
The private sector may be the answer for many of these plants. If they are ultimately purchased by responsible companies with effective plant management programs, this could be a healthy move for the ex-government shoots and leaves. However, it’s a ficus-eat-ficus world out there for most plants and the government security they enjoyed for so long may be a thing of the past.
Without union representation, there’s not much the threatened plants can do to fight this latest cost-cutting measure. Although most saw the handwriting on the dusty plant stand, they expected better treatment.
“We always figured we’d at least get some severance pay,” said one potted palm. “But now it looks like the only severance we’ll be getting is when they cut off most of our leaves to make it easier to walk us out the door.”
  Having suffered through similar employment purges, the plants’ human colleagues have expressed support for their leafy brethren. Many, in fact, have offered to adopt a plant or two and provide the required maintenance services for no cost.
“Those plants deserve better,” said one anonymous clerk. “They’re there 24/7 and you never hear one complaint from them. When it comes to value for money, you can’t top a plant.”
There had reportedly been some talk of a wildcat strike by the plants in one large government complex. However, due to the lack of legs, opposable thumbs and any effective means of communication, the strike talk quickly fizzled out.
As with any massive government cutback, it seems like only the favorites will survive. Past personnel purges proved that the survivors don’t usually include the  best and the brightest. Often it’s simply a matter of seniority or sometimes simple favoritism.
Take, for example, the office of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau which has not unexpectedly adopted two marijuana plants, a bed of poppies and a coca plant. Some say these perennials were politically connected. Others claimed they provided special services to Mr. Trudeau which gained them favored status.
A senior manager speaking on condition of anonymity outlined what has been dubbed in-house as Project Defoliation. He says the exercise is a no-brainer in that millions of dollars will be saved and there will be little if any pushback from those affected.
“Let’s face it, these aren’t plant cuts, we’re actually cutting plants,” the anonymous source said. “They can’t speak, they can’t walk and they can’t give interviews to the media. In fact, my understanding is that not one of them is even bilingual. We should be able to harvest the entire national capital region without incident in a matter of days.”
“Like any austerity measure, we don’t want to eliminate the hard workers among our potted denizens,” said the source. “Therefore, we will give special consideration to retaining productive, fruit-bearing members of the class such as tomato plants, apple trees and maybe a BlackBerry bush or two. For the rest, however, we can’t afford to have leaf-bearing plants hanging around for years serving no useful purpose, particularly when most of them are Liberal plants.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pipeline! - The Board Game

   















With increasingly sophisticated programming and graphics, video games are more popular than ever. Sales of such titles as “Halo” and “Call of Duty” are in the millions.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to find that there has been a recent resurgence in sales of the old-fashioned board game as evidenced by these recent new offerings:

Majority
Loosely based on the game Monopoly, Majority has a board with ten provinces and three territories. Game pieces include the Tory, the Liberal, the Socialist, the Green and the Separatist.   Using their initial monetary outlay, players try to buy up as many seats in each jurisdiction as they can until one of them reaches the magic number of 155 at which point everyone else gives up until the next round of play in about four years.

Pipeline!
New from Hasbro, this game challenges players to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to a viable market end point. Roll the dice and head in the direction of your choice.
The simplest routes are often the hardest to complete. Try laying pipe south and you may end up getting blocked by environmental dead ends or by drawing the Obama card.
“Go west, young man” seems like an easy choice, too, unless you land on the Christy Clark square that requires you to give up 75% of your revenues. Slow and steady may win the game if you choose to head east but only if you can find a way to bypass the greedy Quebec monster.

Senate Reform
Open up the board and you’ll find a crazy quilt legislature populated by patronage appointments and out-of-control spenders. Each player is dealt a hand of five cards he can use to try to reform this unruly mess.
The challenge is to play the right card at the right time. The Triple-E card sounds great unless you happen to gain a Parliamentary majority. Then you might prefer to simply stock the Senate with members of your own party.
The Abolition card is everyone’s favorite but thanks to the complicated constitutional rule book, it’s almost impossible to play. Players typically choose instead to use the Procedural Change card but seldom get past all the provincial roadblocks on the board.
One lucky player will end up with the Appointment card which ensures a six-figure salary, a pension for life and the end of any more talk of Senate reform.

Cabinet Shuffle
Mattel has introduced their latest board game based on the time-honored practise of changing the federal cabinet. A deck of 163 cards is shuffled and dealt out to the players. The center of the board has spaces for 38 ministers and one prime minister.
The object of the game is to get as many of your cards into the center spots as possible. The winner is the player with the most ministerial spaces covered. Extra points are awarded for occupying the most central spots such as Finance, Defense and Foreign Affairs.
The game ends when one player reveals and plays the prime minister card which renders all the other cards useless.

Clueless
Parker Brothers has adapted their famous board game Clue to incorporate the latest Canadian political scandal. Rather than different rooms, Clueless has a board featuring different residences. Each player chooses one of the playing pieces identified as Mike, Mac, Pam and Pat.
A single die is rolled to advance players across the board where they try to claim two residences at once. As they move from residence to residence, they adopt different reasons and excuses for claiming extra expenses. Unfortunately, unlike in the parent game, the players have no clue.