3rd period of Oh Canada, where art thou going ?

In between periods our dressing room was pretty quiet, a pretty frustrated bunch. The fans meanwhile, though they had multiple things around them to keep them distracted, were becoming board, but as the 2nd period had run down, more of them began to notice that there was a game being played on the ice. And as more watched more became frustrated at what they were seeing.

Especially how Harper arrogantly skated around calling all the shots and he and his team had no intentions of playing by the rules or with any sort of integrity. Though his team had been selected by the fans to represent them, they didn’t seem to represent anybody other than their leader. Regulated by obscene pension packages, pay and perks to follow his lead and under no circumstances were they to speak out against any of his decisions and policies or heaven forbid vote against anything he says.

By the end of the second intermission, all around the arena, cellphones began to be turned off. The concourse began to empty, as people went back to their seats, now interested in the outcome of the game. They knew who we were, for we were them and because of that they were unwilling to ignore the unfairness anymore.

This period, the final period, we have collectively decided to put aside anything to do with our egos and play for each other, our loved ones and all Canadians. And if our best is not good enough we will lose and go home to dry out our sweaty gear and make what is really important to us, important again; our lives, families, relationships and communities. Because after watching and playing against the Harper government we have seen the blatant disregard of their responsibilities to the people of Canada, and how they operate with no worry of being held accountable. It is very obvious in the arrogant way they play and move their lips that they cannot be relied upon anymore to fulfill our needs at the provincial and community level. While in many cases the teams that represent the provinces are unable and unwilling to meet our needs either. So it all comes down to community. Where we don’t need to have a team, we just need each other.

Drafting another government team, to simply operate in the same broken system, isn’t really much of an option, considering Liberal or Conservative policies on the whole are very similar. The battle between them is waged by pointing out the few differences each have and throwing everything they got at that. The system is what’s broken.

The only power we have over our government is voting. Federally, the majority of Canadians forfeit this right and people get elected who become a member of parliament and cease to represent their constituents and who instead represent only their leader of their party and the policies that come out of his office. In between elections, we the people have no say at all in what the government is doing. As a matter of fact MP’s obviously don’t either, throwing their consciences and what’s good for the country easily aside as they do.

If one was to be looking at selecting a team amongst the most developed and richest countries in the world, one would want to look at their performance and competitive nature.

The French based, international economic organization, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), formed in 1961, compares policies, economic progress and world trade of the 34 most developed and richest countries on the planet. They try to co-ordinate the domestic and international policies of its members and keep track of the world’s countries’ GDP (gross domestic product). Though the GDP does not fully define social and economic well being and how we are doing as a society because it defines only the total market value of goods and services produced by a country in one year, and really has nothing to do with if one is happy in their life or not, it is interesting to look over the OECD’s global competitiveness rankings of 2011 and see how Harper’s Canada is doing.

Of the G7 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States, Canada is 2nd worst after Japan in global competitiveness. As to the GDP performance of all OECD countries, Canada’s GDP growth is projected to be equaled or surpassed by Chile, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and Turkey. Our unemployment rate is just below the OECD average. Countries whose deficits are smaller, as a percentage of GDP than Canada’s, include Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

OECD also rates Canada 22nd in poverty, and 25th in social spending, Though Canada prides itself as having the 9th largest GDP in the world, it is rated as such; 22nd in poverty, 25th in social spending and research and development, 21st in tax load, with the 4th highest in personal taxation amount. Meanwhile, in 2006, Canadian banks made a profit of $89 billion and paid only 15% income tax. Canada is 54th in the world as to doctors per 100,000 patients. Cuba has been under a blockade for over forty years and has twice as many doctors per 100,000 patients. As far as spending on education as a % of GDP Canada is ranked 91st in the world.

The horn goes to start the third period; we throw our legs over the boards and are off to the races.

Feb. 2012. Harper Government abandons, the $1 billion to establish, Long Gun registry because it claims it is an invasion of privacy. All gathered information pertaining to non-restrictive firearms to be destroyed. Same month, they introduce legislation to allow police to read e-mails and view surfing habits of any individual. Bill C-30 would require telecommunication companies to hand over customers’ personal info to police without a court order. Supreme Court of Canada ruled such a thing is unconstitutional. Bill was passed after being tweaked to make it indeed mandatory for police to let you know you’ve been wiretapped, but only after it is concluded, and which could go on for years. Supreme Court of Canada was happy with that.

Canada’s continuing disconnect between the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10), which is expected to increase population of Canada’s prisons with its priority being “tough on crime” and reality. Bill C-10 is a prison promotion strategy not a crime prevention or rehabilitation bill. Yet expected cuts to federal Corrections will be more than $295 million, $85 million in 2012 alone. Though there is more overcrowding in prisons with less staff, the Harper government has no intention of building prisons. Responsibility of warehousing any prisoners has been simply passed onto each province.

Bill C-10’s amendments include more mandatory sentencing. Thus judges are to ignore specific circumstances of the offender and the offence. These new laws (passed on March 12, 2012 by a vote of 154 for, 129 against) have created such things as; if found growing 6-200 marijuana plants will give you a mandatory minimum of 6 months, but not more than 2 years, with a maximum of 14 years. While someone sexually assaults a child or forces a child to have sex with an animal will only get a minimum of 1 year and not more than 10 and if a person admits guilt of such an offence, upon summary conviction will be given, not more than 18 months and a minimum of 90 days.

And because that great pendulum of life never stops swinging to both ends of its arc and never slows in the middle, Bill C-10 dictates that if you are growing five marijuana plants in your garden as an herbal medicine, whether sick or not, will put you in jail for a minimum of 6 months with a maximum of 2 years less a day, the same sentence for being found guilty of publishing child porn and distribution of. While any sexual interference, invitation to sexual touch and sexually exploit any child will give you a mandatory sentence of only 90 days on summary conviction, 1 year on indictment.

March 2012.  Major reductions of environmental oversight, including closing of BC’s Command centre for emergency oil spills. In all, $3.78 million is cut from the Environmental Emergency Program. Environmental emergencies will now be nationally co-ordinated. How emergencies will now be handled is, if in need of assistance in a disaster, any advice or assistance the Harper government can give us will now be by telephone. Across Canada emergency response personnel are being slashed in half, the rest are being relocated to Quebec. Environment Minister Peter Kent says the program will function just fine with a reduced staff and without six of its regional offices, including ones in Vancouver and St. John’s. The Harper government’s response to questions pertaining to oil response plans, usually end with conceding that “successful” spill cleanups, recover 10 to 15 per cent of the oil.

Internationally respected Nova Scotia-based scientist, oil spill expert and the executive director of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Kenneth Lee, is informed his position will be terminated.

Overall and across the country, more than one thousand workers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada have received the same notices. “I’m no longer surprised but I’m increasingly angry and I’m also extremely wary of what the future means for Canada,” said Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University. “The government’s decisions lately are reducing our governmental scientific capacity and what that means is that it’s reducing or seriously compromising the ability of science to contribute effectively to those decisions that affect the well being, the safety and the health of Canadians and their environment.”

April 2012. Five and a half thousand Federal services jobs cut, predominately in Health Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Agriculture Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Investment Development Agency, Citizenship and Immigration, Canada Heritage, Veteran Affairs and anything to do with monitoring the environment.

Also in April, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland’s population of over 2 million people lose the domestic and international, Emergency Disaster Response Team, due to budget cuts. The Response Team had been setup and trained, with the tools and skills needed to respond to an earthquake or such disaster and quickly act to save lives. But was not able to show any profit I suppose.

Back in the game, we are all sitting on the bench or leaning over the boards, waiting through yet another delay. One of Harper’s players, the Public Safety minister, had been playing an atypical stay at home defenseman’s role all game, but in the third period he and the goalie, a senator, had built up a brick wall in front of their net, with only a couple of holes where you could see twine showing through. Once again winning another one-on-one battle, we had managed to get the puck out of our zone, crossed center ice and dumped the puck deep into their end. The Public Safety minister was caught unawares as he was shooing the goalie to the bench, for they didn’t need him anymore since the brick wall in front of their net was now completed. Anyways, the puck came rifling into his zone and with a brick in one hand and his stick, upside down, in the other; he quickly got up and skated hard for the corner to retrieve the puck but lost an edge and crashes into the end boards. We swore he was out cold. The officials huddled around him and medical personnel were soon scurrying across the ice to his prone body. Put on a stretcher, he was wheeled off the ice, one arm slowing rising with a thumbs- up. The crowd cheered, without malice, only in support and hope that it was not too bad an injury and for a healthy recovery, because well, we’re Canadian.

One of our coaches returned from checking out the extent of the injuries to tell us that the injured Public Safety minister was in his dressing room, awake now and obviously concussed by his screaming that tomorrow he will table changes to the rules of hockey to include yield signs embedded along the blue lines at three foot intervals, stop signs to be plastered across the glass at both ends and there was going to be a speed limit as to how hard one can skate and shoot the puck. At least we hoped he was concussed. We guffawed; yeah right we pretended to say.

Their injured player was then replaced by an elderly Chinese fellow, who strangely enough had skates on but never took a shift and wore an impeccable black business suit. Whenever Harper went to the bench to take a breather, the elderly Chinese fellow would lean into him, whispering into his ear.

In 2005, as a lowly Member of Parliament, Harper opposed an omnibus bill the ruling Liberals were trying to shove through. “In the interests of democracy, I ask how members can represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation”, he raged.

May 2012 Changes to 70 different laws are put forth by Harper government, of which there will be minimal debate, all under the “Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act”, Bill C-38 (Omnibus bill). Passing omnibus bills are speedy and efficient because there is no discussion or research or considerations of the evidence and impact. Right up a government’s alley. Bill C-38 is passed 157-135 on June 19th, 2012 and contains over 400 pages. Many in the press and even Cabinet doubt many members of parliament know what they even voted for or what is actually included in the bill, but all do know enough to admit that most of the changes have nothing whatsoever to do with economic performance.

Environment Canada which protects Canada’s environment through conservation, including providing weather and meteorological information has its Ozone monitoring division shut down. Environment Canada’s total budget is $1 billion per year but will be cut down to $854 million with 11% of their staff to be terminated. Comparatively in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget is $10.3 billion, their National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agency’s budget is $5.5 billion. Funding for any programs that inform Canadians about state of environment, including monitoring of heavy metals and toxic contaminants are slashed. Public funding for environmental sciences for Canadian universities has run out of money and expected to end in 2012.

The smokestack pollution monitoring specialist team of Environment Canada is also being dismantled, compromising the department’s enforcement capability and credibility of environmental reports on greenhouse gas emissions and indicators of environmental sustainability in Canada. Harper government feels they can save $718,000 per year and instead rely on sources of information such as the U.S. In June 2012, Environment Canada’s top bureaucrat, deputy minister Paul Boothe, announces he his taking early retirement and stepping down after what he describes as a “very challenging” past couple of years.

The non-partisan, Canadian Environmental Network, which was the best two-way communication channel between public and federal government on all matters environmental is shutdown, yet only needed $536,000 in funding. Were muzzled because what they are proposing goes against present Harper government policy.

And the puck keeps getting whacked about; Canada repeals Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions; Harper’s federal cabinet will now have the authority to approve any new pipeline projects as well as the ability to set limits for regulatory reviews. If the National Energy Board, which oversees such projects, disapproves any of them, cabinet can now force it to reconsider; changes to how permits under the Species at Rick Act are authorized; changes to Fisheries Act include that they will now only focus on major waterways and not every single body of water, such as streams and small-river fish spawning grounds; to offset less enforcement capabilities, stiffer fines for industry players who break environmental regulations and laws. Not that they can’t afford it.

In a hockey player’s head, where the game is 70% mental and the rest in his head, it’s real easy to figure out that if an industry makes a mess on the planet, they pay to clean it up, get fined millions and the CEO goes to jail. No raises in salary, bonuses, bailouts or subsidies to be paid.

May 2012. Cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard, especially on the West coast, includes shutting down Kitsilano Search and Rescue center, as well as three Marine Communications Centers in Vancouver, Comox, and Tofino. The Kitsilano Rescue center has saved over 55 lives so far this year. Last year they responded to over 285 emergencies. The area they cover is one of the most congested marine areas in Canada, year-round. The area includes Howe Sound, English Bay, Vancouver Harbour, Indian Arm and parts of the entrance of the North arm of the Fraser River, with over two and a half million active people surrounding their area of responsibility. On a daily basis, night and day, they are there for everything from swimmers to stand up paddlers, kayakers, sailors, power boats and sail, jet skis, cruise ships, freighters and soon to be, twice as many oil tankers. It is estimated that there will be 50% cut to response ability to all emergencies, often times instances where every second counts.

Joint Emergency Preparedness Program established in 1980, which helped cover the costs of emergency preparedness, such as developing municipal emergency plans, conduct local exercises and purchasing of generators and rescue vehicles is cancelled, along with shutting down all operations at the Canadian Emergency Management College, which offered training to emergency responders since 1954. Provinces, municipalities and fire departments across Canada are now expressing their concerns for public safety.

Also in Bill C-38; forty departments and agencies, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which does environmental reviews, is cut back to three, as in 3. “To speed up approvals for projects that will bolster Canada’s economy.”  Included in these cuts are the job losses of Canada’s only marine-mammal toxicologist, Peter Ross and his team, almost all employees who monitor ocean pollution across Canada and the entire Department of Fisheries and Oceans contaminants program, which will be shut down in Apr 2013. Overall, the Fisheries and Oceans Department will be slashing about 400 positions from its 11,000-strong workforce. The Harper government’s chest is puffed out on this one, proud that the cuts between Fisheries and Canadian Coast Guard will produce about $79 million in savings for Canadians.

Once again thinking like a hockey player, does this mean that each one of us, nearly 35 million Canadians, gets a cheque from the government for two dollars and twenty-five cents? After all these cuts, job losses, responsibilities to our environment taken away, where no one is personally accountable and our health and welfare thoroughly compromised, it just doesn’t seem like a good deal. That’s not even the price of two litres of gas for gosh sakes.

Crazy period, the third: after play had resumed, the Harper team wasn’t even trying to score anymore. But then considering they were up 16-6 and their net was bricked over, why bother? We did. We’re Canadian.

With ten minutes to go, the Harper team just either sat on the boards with legs dangling over or sat on the bench, having conversations with a surprisingly large number of men in business suits who had crowded around their bench. They watched and laughed at us at first but soon grew bored. You see, once we realized they were not going to even attempt to score again, we being Canadians, thought fine we’ll keep trying. We wasted precious moments all lined up in front of the bricked over net and with slap-shots from ten feet out tried to break that wall down. But then one of our best players, a two-tours in Iraq and two-tours in Afghanistan combat veteran had simply had enough. With a blood curdling scream he smashed his stick to pieces on the ice and charged the brick wall. He skated full out and hit the wall with the best shoulder check I had ever seen, and the wall moved. Three of Harper’s minsters were watching and in unison, raising their arms, pointed at us and yelled, “Hey, look at what they do”.

With one more shoulder check into the wall it began to give. We all dropped our sticks and raced in as one and literally threw ourselves at the wall. It was ugly. We didn’t realize that the brick wall was actually really weak and not built very well and it gave pretty easily, with nearly all of us receiving some sort of injury. Skate blades were thrashed from stepping on the bricks, arms and bodies cut and bruised from the posts and crossbar, with seven players actually entangled in the net, took forever to extract them.

By the time the eight officials could pull us off the pile and get things sorted out. Harper was proposing an end to the game, clearly perturbed. But before any actual decision was made, the crowd began to boo. The decibel level was incredible; we were startled when it started. After five minutes of this immense, uninterrupted and passionate sound, the game was allowed to resume.

Our team, now bleeding, sore, covered in brick and mortar dust and rolled up gauze sticking out of our noses and seriously looking like true Canadian hockey players, were ready. Each player was very aware and focused on the job at hand. We scored right off the face-off to make it 16 to 7.

Hardly noticeable at first, but as we lined up for the face-off after the goal, a rumble began. It wasn’t necessarily loud but it had a deep mid-range resonance to it and was passion felt. We could feel it on our bums when sitting on the bench, and in the diaphragm in our throats. The crowd, all Canadians and of many colors and representing all three coasts, were repeatedly chanting one simple word, “We”. It felt and sounded like a pulse to us and it made each one of us a little bigger, faster and better. The Harper team acted like the classic deer in the headlights or very similar to how one looks watching TV with a remote in one’s hand.

We scored, on average, one goal every 37 seconds to tie it up. This was pretty good no matter what level of hockey, but considering various sorts of gas had been rained down on us from the rafters and from whence came clubs, spikes and rubber bullets, we were pretty proud of ourselves, an effort for the ages. Harper’s team had finally been called on a few infractions and for the final 30 seconds anyways, actually seemed to care what they were doing. No one scored and the game ended a tie.

As we headed for our dressing rooms, we noticed that police in riot gear had moved in and were amongst the crowd, forcing everyone, under the threat of being pepper sprayed and fined thousands of dollars, out of the arena. We made sure our loved ones and friends were safely leaving before anything got ugly, and headed to the dressing room to prepare for overtime.

The adage is, in overtime anything can happen. But our team had a bad feeling about this one.



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