No Mr. Trudeau, I don’t want Statistics Canada accessing my personal banking information

News that Statistics Canada is asking the country’s nine largest banks for the transaction data of 500,000 randomly chosen Canadians, including everything from bill payments to cash withdrawals from ATMs to credit card payments and even account balances, got buried by events transpiring elsewhere in the world.

The government has said it has the legal authority to do so — even without informing Canadians or getting their consent — in order to build a personal information data bank to analyze things like consumer trends and spending habits.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen grilled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the request during question period Monday following the Global News report that revealed it. [Note: I am not a Conservative. IMHO, this is a non-partisan issue.]

Surprisingly, Trudeau defended the request, claiming that “High quality and timely data are critical to ensuring that government programs remain relevant and effective for Canadians,” adding that his government would ensure that all personal information would be protected and be used for statistical purposes only.

Say what?

In these days of almost daily Internet privacy breaches, who in their right mind – let alone the country’s PM – would willingly offer up their banking information to a third-party?

All that’s missing here is a robo-call  asking Canadians for their Credit Card and Access Card information.

Statistics Canada has said that once the data is compiled by the agency it will be made anonymous in order to remove personal identifiers saying it hopes to have the initiative up and running by January 2019.

Despite Trudeau’s reassurance, readers may remember that Statistics Canada lost nearly 600 sensitive files during the 2016 census process after confidential documents were left on a subway and hundreds were lost after an employee’s car was stolen.

Not exactly comforting news.

Surely, Canadians will vocalize their opposition to this unacceptable intrusion into their financial transactions.

 

 

A Star Is Born is a pleasant surprise

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Because I’m old enough to remember the embarrassingly bad 1976 Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version of A Star Is Born, I was in no particular hurry to see the new one. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised when I went to see it on Saturday with Val Cavalini.

Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) and Bradley Cooper have great screen chemistry as the two star-crossed lovers and the soundtrack is great.

Sure, it’s a schlocky cliched love story, but in these days of hate-filled world leaders, acts of terrorism and Fascist creep, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours in a darkened theatre.

Oh, by the way, bring some Kleenex. It’s a real tearjerker.

Here’s the tune that’s likely to be an Oscar contender next Spring.

October 22 can’t come soon enough for me

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for October 22 to come so this divisive municipal election campaign can finally be over.

I’m tired of the acronym BRT and all it represents.

I’m tired of BRT sucking up all the time, while other issues like poverty and homelessness take a backseat.

I’m tired of hearing the adjective “transformational.”

I’m tired of hearing some Mayoral candidates arguing over who has the most impressive business background and employment history, as if these were major prerequisites for the position.

I’m tired of hearing Paul Cheng’s godawful radio spot “Cheng for Change.”

I tired of hearing about election sign vandalism, phoney websites targeting female candidates, mysterious PR firms and election slates, and seemingly endless candidates’ meetings.

I’m tired of reading articles about how Ranked Balloting works and how it might impact the results of the October 22 election results.

But, more than anything else, I’m alarmed about how this election campaign has divided Londoners on the basis of class and income, age, place of residence and perceptions of the city past and present.

There may have been more acrimonious municipal election campaigns in London’s political history, but none that I can remember during my years voting  (1972 to present).

My major fear is that this campaign has turned off voters and may result in a poor turnout at the polls on October 22. This could be the worst outcome given the important issues at hand.

So, I can’t wait to cast my ranked ballot on October 22.

I hope you feel the same.

 

 

Reflections on cannabis legalization

Marijuana leaves (Shutterstock)

I was listening to a cannabis entrepreneur on the radio talking about his company’s THC-infused non-alcoholic products and their degree of intoxication the other day, when it suddenly hit me what a paradigm shift (I hate that term, but it fits here) Canadian society has experienced in regard to marijuana harvesting, sales and distribution, and consumption.

Almost overnight, the cannabis sector has become a legal multi-million dollar industry set to kick into operation throughout the land on Wednesday, October 17. Some provinces will have retail outlets – private or government-run – open for business, while others will sell cannabis online.

What’s more overwhelming is how many former “straights” like former Toronto and London police chief and former federal Cabinet minister, Julian Fantino, who have taken entrepreneurial leadership roles in the sector. This is the same guy who once compared legalizing weed to legalizing murder. WTF? I guess money trumps everything.

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Fantino, a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization, told the Toronto Sun in 2004 that legalization would not cut down on crime, adding: “I guess we can legalize murder too and then we won’t have a murder case. We can’t go that way.”

As someone who came of age in the 1960s when pot was very much a demonized illegal substance –  see movies like The Devil’s Weed and Reefer Madness – and usually only consumed by so-called fringe groups like hippies, artists and musicians (famous and otherwise), this change in attitudes in not only welcome but mind-boggling and a reminder of how old I am.

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The movie Reefer Madness, released in the 1930s, continued to influence attitudes to cannabis well into the 1950s and 1960s.

Indeed, I remember two infamous London narcs – Dave Tennant, who is now a big wheel in real estate development, and Brian Garroway – chasing teenagers around town and busting them for nickel and dime bags. Those were the days!

To be quite honest, I never thought I would live to see the day when it would be legalized.

Be here we are.

Let the great social experiment begin!

[To see how far attitudes have changed, check out this Link for the full length movie Reefer Madness released in 1936 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhQlcMHhF3w%5D

The Wife is enthralling drama

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Just saw The Wife at the Hyland Cinema.

I didn’t know what to expect going in and was completely enthralled by what I saw on the screen.

The film is about an affluent older couple, celebrated author Joe Castleman and his supportive wife Joan, who seem to have it all . We learn how they met and fell in love through a series of flashbacks.

However, Joan questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her flirtatious husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

While there it becomes obvious that they have a carefully guarded secret about their working relationship – which I will not reveal here in deference to those people who plan on seeing it.

The Wife has stellar cast led by veteran actress Glenn Close who gives an Oscar worthy performance. Other cast members include Christian Slater, Elizabeth McGovern, and Max Irons.

See it before it’s gone.

Directed by Björn Runge. Screenplay by Jane Anderson based on the novel The Wife by Meg Wolitzer.

 

Travel Blog: 12 Days on The Viking Trail of Newfoundland and Labrador

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One the places in Canada I have always wanted to visit is the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Partially, I must admit, because of those beautiful promotional TV commercials put out by the province’s Tourism Office. You know the ones — red-haired children running along rugged coastlines and views of the Viking site L’Anse aux Meadows.

That wish became reality this July when my partner, Val Cavalini, and I, spent 12 glorious days touring the province by bus on Hanover Holidays’ The Viking Trail of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rather than highlight each site and landmark we visited, I will structure this Blog under four headings: The Land, The People, The Culture, and The Tour.

The Land

Indeed, Newfoundland and Labrador is very much a wild, untamed region of Canada.

Calling it The Rock is not a derogatory stereotype, it’s a geological fact. We saw and visited many ports and seaside harbour communities and landmarks including St. John’s ( the provincial capital), Rocky Harbour, Cornerbrook, Signal Hill, St. Anthony, L’Anse aux Meadows, Gander, and many others.

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A highlight of the tour was our visit to magnificent Gros Morne National Park — a breathtaking geological wonder that should be on anyone’s itinerary if visiting the province. L’Anse aux Meadows, the site of the Viking Village believed to been settled by Leif the Lucky in the year 1000, is also a must-see.

Each location had its own identity and stories to tell.

Wildlife?

We saw plenty including three moose, one black bear, thousands of puffins, several whales, foxes, harbour seals, and gulls. One thing we learned is that there are no skunks or groundhogs on the island.

For two people who were primarily raised in an urban environment, the landscape of the province was simply breathtaking.

The People

To be sure, one thing visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador should do immediately is toss out all of their lingering preconceived stereotypes of dumb, indolent “Newfies.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we encountered were intelligent, resourceful folks who all expressed extreme pride in their province. All of them were natural-born story-tellers  with wicked senses of humour.

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Most were old enough to remember when the bottom fell out of the province’s local fisheries economy when the federal government halted the cod fishing industry in 1992 due to over-fishing. They remember leaving the province to find work elsewhere and using all of their resources and resilience to survive the hard times.

Many have returned home with skills and tools they are now employing in their native province.

Younger entrepreneurial Newfoundlanders like Jen, the young woman we met in Gros Morne Park, who owns and operates a Newfoundland Wildlife Interpretative Centre with her husband, are proof that the province is in good hands for the future.

By the way, just about everyone we met thanked us for joining Newfoundland in 1949.

The Culture

Music, storytelling and beautiful crafts account for most of the province’s culture.

We listened to several live musicians and groups, all of whom brought their style to the traditional music of the island. East Coast music is infectious and you can’t help but stomp your foot and sing along.

It may be a bit of an overstatement, but every “Newf” we encountered seemed to have a story to tell — usually one that was self-deprecating and had a twist. Many were politically incorrect, but who cares?

On the bus, we listened to one of the province’s leading comedians, Jimmy the Janitor, who had us in stitches.

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Newfoundland crafts are, in a word, beautiful. Handmade items like socks, quilts, hats, silk screens and wood carvings were scooped up by our fellow bus-trippers.

Oh, and the food and drink. We ate our share of local cod, salmon, crab cakes, and lobster, all of which was delicious.

We were introduced to a local beer — Iceberg Beer — brewed with water from 20,000 year old icebergs. It was delicious, but unfortunately it is not available out of province.

We also became members of The Royal Order of Screechers with our shot of Screech Rum and obligatory Kissing of the Cod.

The Bus Tour

I know many people prefer to set their own itineraries and pace when traveling, but we have always preferred to let professionals familiar with the location introduce us to the sights of places we have visited, especially for the first time.

This is why we chose Hanover Holiday’s 12-day Viking Trail of Newfoundland and Labrador bus tour.

Our Tour Guide, Jan, and Bus Driver, Ron, were born and bred Newfoundlanders with a wealth of knowledge and anecdotal stories about every one of the sites we visited. Both were professional, approachable and very personable.

The hotels were for the most part excellent with all the amenities one would expect on a 12-day bus tour. Jag Hotel in St. John’s deserves special mention for its classic rock decor.

In terms of ranking, we would give the tour 5 out of 5 Stars. Highly recommended!

Cost: Twin – $4695.00, Single – $5699.00

For more information about the tour, visit http://www.hanoverholidays.com/

 

 

Review: Lisa Brandt’s Make The Media Want You

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Got a charity fund-raising event coming up and you want to get some free publicity for it?

Got a book release scheduled for the local Chapters store and you want people to know about it?

Are you a member of a new band playing its very first show and you want to publicize it without spending any money?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, have a I got a book for you.

London media veteran Lisa Brandt has compiled a small, but very informative book, on how to make your pitch to the media about your event in Make The Media Work For You: An Insider’s Guide To Creating Persuasive Pitches.

Brandt pulls no punches in telling readers what to do and what not to do in pitching their events to the media.

In her Preface, she begins by stating: “We [media] don’t owe you airtime or an article.” This may not seem obvious to would-be pitchers, but it is the hard cold truth.

Brandt proceeds to tell her readers that media folks don’t have time to meet with pitchers to discuss their event.

But, probably the most important word of advice she gives is “Your idea needs a story,” in that it needs to teach something worth knowing, introduce listeners/readers to someone or something extraordinary, or bring a solution to a common problem.

In her first chapter, From Idea to Airtime, Brandt explains in blunt, straightforward language the art of putting together a successful pitch. Without giving away too many details, let’s just say that it involves timing, content and approach.

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In the following chapters, Brandt includes advice from other broadcasters and media people, including Toronto broadcaster Erin Davis and London publisher Barb Botten, the lady behind the Villager publications.

She also covers Off-Site Events and Interviews. The latter is very informative as it explains how to prepare for an on-air interview and how to handle yourself while on-air.

This is a very informative book and it is written in Lisa Brandt’s signature witty conversational style.

It should be required reading for all publicists, event planners and artists/musicians interested in pitching their events.

Rick Young, July 9, 2018