Friday, 31 July 2015

The Only Reason for an Early Election Call Is in Order to Spend More on Advertising

Don't get me wrong: there have been times in my life when I just loved political campaigns.  Hard to explain, but the kind of rush a political junkie gets after the writs are dropped and the canvassing begins is amazing.

This time, though, I'm simply angry that Stephen Harper will start the 2015 Canadian Federal election campaign next week, six weeks earlier than necessary.  The only reason for him to do this is because his Conservatives have a lot more money than any other party, and will be able to spend it on lots and lots of advertising.  To counter that is going to take a lot of work on the part of people who are fed up with Harper and his agenda to make Canada a different country from the one that has been admired around the world.

I won't mince words: polls now suggest that Thomas Mulcair and the New Democratic Party have an excellent chance of winning,  but they don't have the  same war chest that the Conservatives do, particularly in Quebec.  You probably saw the news reports last week about the difficulties many riding associations are having coming up with enough money to run a decent local campaign. The July 23 story in The Globe and Mail puts it bluntly: "vulnerable Quebec New Democrats are at risk of being outspent by opponents."

So consider this an appeal for contributions--to your local campaign, the federal Canada-wide one, and other ones that are going to need help from outside. There  are several campaigns that I think deserve extra help: here are five of them.

First of all,  those of two young women who were among the surprise NDP victors in 2011, and who have done great jobs in Ottawa: Ruth-Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinogé, Deputy critic for agriculture) and Laurin Liu (Rivière de Mille isles, Deputy critic for science and technology ). 

Then there are three campaigns outside of Montreal where the NDP incumbent is not running again: those of Danielle Landreville (Joliette), Brigitte Sansoucy (Saint Hyacinthe-Bagot) and Hans Marotte (St. Jean)

Federal election laws allow each citizen and permanent resident to give $1,500 a year to a Federal political party and $1,500 to local riding associations.  These contributions are eligible for a sizeable tax credit. For example a $100 donation works out to only $25 after the credit.  Were you to give $50 to each of the five campaigns mentioned above plus your local campaign,  your  total cost would be $75.  Were you to give an additional $100 to the federal campaign, your total cost for all the contributions would be $100.

The easiest way to contribute to  local campaigns in Quebec is on-line at

For a donation to the country-wide Federal campaign, see!step1

Or if you like, write a cheque: if you live in Montreal, I'll come and pick it up.  Please feel free to call me at 514 276-9257, or write me at

To find out more about these candidates:

Ruth Ellen Brosseau,  Berthier-Maskinogé, Deputy critic for agriculture

Laurin Liu, Rivière de Mille isles, Deputy critic for science and technology

Running to replace current NDP MPs.

Brigitte Sansoucy: Saint Hyacinthe-Bagot

Danielle Landreville: Joliette,-nouvelle-candidate-pour-le-NPD-dans-Joliette/1

Hans Marotte:St-Jean

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Saturday Photo: Resilience and that Other Goldilocks Planet

There's been a lot in the news this week about the discovery of a planet that might be hospitable to life as we know it.  The scientists have amused themselves, calling it a Goldilocks planet since it is not too close to its sun, nor too far away.

Others have also joked that at least now there's an exit door if things get too bad down here.  No matter that Keplar 452b is about 1500 light years away, some may find the idea of another place to mess up comforting.  Of course, given the fact that it appears to be about a 1.5 billion years older than us, the chances are that, had life evolved the way it has here, there's not much left.

But when things get really depressing I like to remember Dylan Thomas's line about "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower." Life on this planet is amazingly resilient, as this treeling demonstrates.  I like this photo particularly because of the bus passing in the background.  A shift from individualistic, carbon-fuel dependent modes of living will be the key to making sure that this planet remains habitable for a while longer.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Saturday Photo: Street Furniture, or Living Outdoors

Didn't have my camera with me the other night, but Thom, his mother, Grandpa and I made an after-supper visit to a local artisanal ice cream place.  It was a lovely summer evening and the lines of parents, kids and grandkids were long.  Our choices were mostly chocolate: good thing Thom was wearing a brown tee shirt because it was covered in drips before the treat was eaten.  Grandpa's white beard also was decorated with chocolate as he ate a cone with TWO scoops!

We sat on one of the benches in the photo, enjoying the ice cream and the outing.  Putting just a few out as street furniture enhances the dynamics of urban life.  Periodic emptying of trash cans is necessary, but the folks at the ice cream parlor seem to be on the case.  A great addition to the neighborhood!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Saturday Photo: Cemetery Gates over Time

The gate on the north side of Mount Royal Cemetery are just about finished.  The stonework was completed before the snow fell last winter, but it's been some time for the extent of the repairs to become evident.

I suppose that's not too surprising. A cemetery, after all, is a place where time stands still, except in the rolling onward of the season.  Here are a few other photos of the gates, shortly after the original construction in 1862, as it was before reconstruction began in 2010 and during the reconstruction process.   Must add that before the work this time, the gate was completely covered with climbing hydrangea--absolutely beautiful.  Do hope it will be replanted.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Night Hawks in the Night

Not to make too much about it, but when I woke up about 4 a.m. to open the windows after a thunderstorm I lay in bed listening to nighthawks flying in the night.  Obviously they aren't nesting near us, and the scouts were probably checking out a wider range, following the rain, but I was so pleased to know that the birds still nest in the city.

Earlier in the evening we had gone to see Le Sel de la terre, a very fine movie about the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.  He gained his reputation with tough photos from the conflict and famine regions of the world, but in the last decade has turned to taking pictures of the glory of the planet.  This desire to make the world a better place has found concrete expression in the refurbishing of the land his family own in the central region of Brazil.

The film includes an interview with Salgado's father who says that he educated his seven children on the proceeds of wood which once covered the land.  At the time he spoke, the hills were denuded and erosion was rampant.  But since then Salgado and his family have reforested it, a demonstration that at least some of the destruction we've wrought can be reversed.

So there's some hope for this summer day.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Saturday Photo: Where are the Nighthawks and the Ducks?

This photo was taken a couple of years ago at a pond in Parc Beaubien, a rather civilized neighborhood park near us.  For several years ducks had been nesting at this pond or in another a short flight away, and one of our summer pleasures was to watch the ducklings.

However, this year the only ducks to show up were three males.  Don't know what happened to the females, but it looks like the guys were checking out the place where they were born. Unfortunately work on the ponds-which originally were natural but which have been tamed--emptied them in early spring this year and last, so there was no place for nests.

Similarly, for the three decades that we've lived in this house, one of the delightful summer sounds was that of nighthawks hunting in the early evening and morning.  I'd heard from friends a few years ago that nighthawk numbers were crashing, but until now the plague hadn't hit here.  No sounds of the hunters this spring and summer, although the swallows have been swooping around a bit.

Yes, here were are at the Sixth Extinction.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Goodreads Results and a Nice Review

In the flurry of activity around here, I forgot to post the Goodreads Giveaway results.  The lucky three are:

Barry Kazimer of Campbell River, BC, Kelley Burrow of Morenc, MI and Caitlin Wardle of Adelaide, SA.   The books will be in the mail in a couple of days. 

And the latest on the review front:

Ian McGillis writes about River Music  in The Gazette. "Swept up by River Music: Mary Soderstrom's new novel charts course of pioneering pianist.: