RCMP Face Lockout in British Columbia

Written by Harold McNeill on September 29th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

RCMP Strike 2
RCMP Members Face Lockout in BC (file photo)

The following ‘alternate’ news report was written after the recent dust-up between BC and Ottawa over RCMP contract services in BC. In the following ‘News Release”, our political leaders have been given Management and Labour Association roles befitting the dispute:

1 Vic Toews, Federal Minister for Public Safety (Conservative), spokesperson for the powerful Federal Employers Group2 administering RCMP contracts across Canada.
Shirely Bond, Solicitor General for BC  (Liberal), the spokesperson for the BC Employees Group providing service across BC.
3 Jaspir Sandhu, an Ottawa based, Public Service Safety Critic (NDP), a left-leaning group supporting Employees.

For Immediate Release

Victoria, British Columbia
September 28, 2011

RCMP Threaten Strike

In a surprise move yesterday, the RCMP in Ottawa, operating under the direction of the Federal Employers Association (a Conservative Group) threatened to withdraw all contract policing services in British Columbia.  The threat comes at a particularly bad time as any widespread disruption of police services could have an adverse effect upon the fragile economic recovery.

A spokesperson for the RCMP Employers Association, Vic Toews,1 stated the employers have already negotiated contracts with employees in Alberta and Saskatchewan and that employees in British Columbia will simply have to follow suit or the services of the RCMP will be withdrawn in British Columbia.

Toews stated: “They (AB and SK) find the (contract conditions) to be reasonable and now the other provinces will have to make the decision, whether they want to go with the RCMP as their provincial police or whether they want to do something else and that’s their choice.”

A spokesperson of the British Columbia Employees Association, Shirley Bond2, was taken aback by the statements, stating her group will not bow to the pressure tactics any federal employer group.  Bond stated negotiations have been ongoing for the past two years but the employers have been increasingly intransigent, particularly since signing contracts in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It appears to be another case of divide and conquer on the part of the RCMP Employers Association.

According to Bond, a key issue in British Columbia is gaining back control from the employers. Over the past contract period, the employers have simply been running the shop and the employees are no longer willing to sit back and accept that as the status quo.

Jasbir Sandhu3 a public service safety critic (in opposition), stated: “Is pulling police off the streets of British Columbia part of (the employers) tough-on-crime agenda?”  Other spokespersons with the employees stated that if the RCMP Employers Association in Ottawa follows through with their threat to pull police off the streets of British Columbian, the Employees will seriously consider moving back to a ‘made at BC, Police Service?

Many other employee groups across the country are now backing Bond, stating the federal employers have gained far to much control and, in addition, the ongoing political infighting and scandals that have wracked RCMP have emanated from the highest levels in Ottawa, and that is detracting from the high standards British Columbia desires to promote within the police service.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, it would not be surprising to see the majority Conservatives who run the Employers Association, might lock-out the RCMP in BC if they don’t sign off on a new contract within the next week or two.

Harold McNeill

RCMP Take a Ride

Shirley Bond and the BC Union of Municipalities served notice on the Ottawa based RCMP Employees Group that unless they return to the table for some ‘good faith’ bargaining, they will be sent packing. The RCMP could be out and a Provincial Force on its way in as early as the New Year.
Globe and Mail.


Crime and Punishment: Ideology Trumps Reason

Written by Harold McNeill on September 25th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


Most Recent: Texas Conservatives Reject Harpers Plan

News Flash:  October 28, Times Colonist (A2), Pot Laws Fuel Gang Wars. An Angus Reid poll shows very little public support for maintaining tough laws against marihuana.


Too often Governments are driven by ideology rather than reason and common sense of which the recent introduction of the Omnibus Crime Bill (C-10) is another example. In an earlier decade, the Liberals walked a similar path with their Long Gun Registry5.

While “let’s get tough with crime” resonates well within the general population, governments Harold in 1966must seek to avoid painting all criminal transgressions with the same brush.  Paedophiles, child pornographers, rapists, murders and other violent criminals clearly fall into a different category than do those who commit property crimes or are involved in the use or distribution of soft drugs.

Photo (1966): The author spent thirty years working the front lines as a police officer as well as studying criminal justice and law reform issues both at University (BSc, 1974) and as a private interest. After retiring in 1994 with the rank of Detective-Sergeant, the author continues to study and write on crime and punishment issues.

For Canadians, we have only to look south of the border to see the impact of broad-spectrum  “tough on crime” initiatives such as “three strikes and your out” and “mandatory minimums”, to see the results (Ref: Graph 4; Pie Chart 5).  We are even being warned by many legislators and legal scholars in the United States against following in the footsteps of the USA. It is certainly not a path we want to follow, yet a portion of Bill C-10 charts just that course.

I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to read or scan this article and consider the arguments made for taking a more reasonable approach.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC
October 2011

1. Law and Order

All Canadian political parties, even those with the slimmest chance of becoming the governing party at the national or provincial level, play the ‘law and order’ card as a means to gain votes. A ‘Safe Streets and Communities’ or a ‘Tough on Crime’ strategy always plays well in a world explained in thirty-second news clips of random, isolated, violent, but infrequent criminal acts, many of which occur in other countries. It is made to appear these criminals are ruling the streets within every community.

Statistical trends, (local and worldwide), expert opinions, experience with crime suppression legislation in other jurisdictions and basic ‘reason’ have little impact when it comes to changing well-established beliefs about crime. For politically expedient reasons, governments likewise choose to ignore the evidence.

For example, crime in Canada, with few exceptions, has been in steep decline (also Charts 1, 2, and 3) for twenty years largely due to the changing demographics of our society – older people simply do not commit as many crimes. The governing Conservatives seem not to recognize this fact, nor do they seem to understand that our entire justice system from prosecution offices, to the courts and jails, is currently bursting at the seams. Without making any of the changes listed in Bill C-10, the current system requires a tremendous injection of funds just to maintain the stability.

That pressure, along with ongoing cutbacks in Provincial and Federal spending in an attempt to reduce deficits, has resulted in hundreds of accused, many charged with serious offences, have had their charges dropped for want of prosecutors, judges and courtrooms. In protest, dozens of prosecutors across the country (many in Quebec) have walked away from the system. Even at current levels of conviction and sentencing, finding room for new placements in Provincial and Federal institutions has reached a crisis point.

2. Why Violent Crime Initiatives May Fail

While Bill C-10, the Omni-Bus Bill currently before Parliament, suggests it represents a ‘get tough’ on ‘hard’ crime, the package could well have just the opposite effect because the vast majority of those affected by C-10 will be those committing non-violent and victimless (‘soft’) crimes.

It is well established the Criminal Justice system, from the courts to the prison system, are presently under considerable stress. As the system becomes further clogged with non-violent cases (e.g. property crimes, marihuana distribution and possession, ‘grow ops’, etc), the prosecution of more serious crimes (e.g. rape, murder, robbery, child molestation, paedophiles, organized crime, gangs, etc.) may be delayed. Considerable publicity has been given to dozens of cases involving extremely violent criminals are now walking the streets after having their cases thrown out due to extreme delay.

The sections of C-10 that will pose the greatest challenge are those related to ‘mandatory minimums’3 and, to a lesser extent, removal of conditional sentences (house arrest). Minister of Justice Rob Nicholsen, stuck in a position of having to justify the initiatives, often fumbles when asking about the legislation.2 Little wonder – in another decade, Mr. Nicholsen was vice chair of a parliamentary committee that came out strongly against ‘mandatory minimums’ the rationale being that it would unduly hamstring Judges dealing with complex variables in many criminal cases.

Who are the persons most affected in this new world order of crime and punishment? It will be Pot Plants on Deckthose convicted of non-violent, ‘victimless’ crimes such as cultivating pot (as few as six plants) and those involved in the distribution system. In some instances, the mandatory minimum penalties for pot offenders will exceed those applicable to child sex offenders. If this sounds unreasonable, take time to research the mandatory minimums legislation.

Photo: These pot plants, on the deck of a rural Salt Spring Island rental residence in British Columbia, were part of a larger ‘grow op’. Under the proposed legislation, just the plants on the deck could result in a year of imprisonment for each of the residents who appeared to otherwise be law-abiding, productive citizens. The details of this case will be published later in the Police Notebook Series. Photo by the author taken during a 1980s investigation.

3. That Ubiquitous Weed

Since the 1960s, marihuana has continued to permeate all socio-economic levels of our culture but, as with many laws, it is those at the lower levels who most often get caught up in the law enforcement web. Today, pot is a multibillion-dollar enterprise4 in Canada with British Columbia at the epicentre. With ever-increasing demand, particularly in the United States, there are now so many ‘grow ops’ throughout the Southern Interior and BC Coastal Islands, the RCMP and other police agencies have largely given up on large-scale enforcement as being a waste of scarce police resources (ref: CBC radio interviews with RCMP officers in the Kootenays, late September 2011).

Even with less emphasis being dedicated to marihuana enforcement across Canada, more than 18,000 individuals, largely small-time growers and distributors, are still convicted each year. In the future, a majority of those persons will be subject to mandatory minimum sentences that will require thousands of new prison cells and staff for which few contingency plans have been made or money allocated. Granted the Federal and Provincial Governments have budgeted considerable money for new prison space and personnel, but that is being done to relieve current over-crowding partially caused by other, recent, ‘law and order’ revisions(e.g. removal of the ‘two for one’ provisions, etc.).

4. The United States Experience

In both the short and long term, mandatory minimum sentences will not change behaviours any more than did prohibition in the United States stop people from purchasing and consuming alcohol.  What it will do is create an influx of individuals into an already stressed court and prison system. As most of those convicted will be held in Provincial facilities, the costs will become the entire responsibility of the Provinces, the costs of which is estimated to be in the order of ten billion. When this finally dawns on politicians, particularly those in British Columbia, there is bound to be a backlash as us now evident south of the border.

Today, in the United States, we are beginning to see many highly placed Republicans (who make our Conservative leaders look like raving socialists) admitting the ‘get tough on crime’ initiatives that began in the Regan era and perpetuated by ongoing administration, have been
a failure. (Ref Charts 4 and 5). Even with extremely harsh penalties, demand for pot has grown exponentially. Many US States are now rescinding or relaxing the laws in an effort to salvage their justice systems. Dozens of other States will soon follow suit. To see Canada embarking upon a path the US began walking over two decades ago makes no sense what-so-ever.

By way of comparison, if we were to lock up as many people in Canada as they do in the United States, our prison population would move from its current level of roughly 45,000 to an extraordinary 210,000-245,000.  ‘Scare’ tactics’, yes, perhaps, but that is the reality of using ‘prison’ as a primary means of bringing compliance to all criminal laws without regard to type, just as they have done in the United States over the past 30 years.

5. The Hidden Victims of “Tough on Crime” Legislation

To carry the costs of the new ‘tough on crime’ legislation, money will need to be diverted from other parts of the system and, as is often the case, programs for the mentally ill, disadvantaged and disabled are frequently the first targets. It has long been established these persons make up a disproportionate share of prison populations and slashing programs Raeside Cartoonwill invariably create new challenges that will put more pressure on the courts and prisons.  It is a vicious cycle destined to spiral downward as has happened in the United States with their ongoing ‘war on drugs’, ‘war on crime’ ‘war on terror’ and ‘three strikes and your out’ strategies.

Cartoon: Adrian Raeside political cartoon in the Times Colonist on November 12, 2011. 

The other groups seriously affected by overzealous imprisonment are the families of those incarcerated (usually men), who are left to fend for themselves. You might take a hard approach and say ‘tough luck’ that is the result of making bad decisions, but the reality is, many sent to prison would have otherwise been law-abiding individuals who held jobs and were supporting families (reference the grow op picture above taken on Salt Spring Island).

Even if the Conservatives come to admit the path is not sustainable, billions will have been wasted (as with the Long Guns Registry) and tens of thousands of lives affected as the Government attempts to reign in the crime and punishment tsunami they continue to unleash. When removed from power, as they certainly will during some future election, another party will be given the opportunity to reverse the direction but, unfortunately, will likely implement costly ideologies of their own.

Will there come a time when facts, reason and ‘common sense’ prevail over ideology? Probably not, as long as we allow ourselves to be seduced into believing our lives are endangered by murders, rapists, paedophiles and internet prowlers, drug traffickers, terrorists, organized gangs and others that, we have been confidently assured, are lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce on the innocent and unsuspecting.

October 2011


Incarceration Rates: In the United States, in 2008, approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole). In 2008 the breakdown for adults under correctional control was as follows: one out of 18 men, one in 89 women, one in 11 African-Americans (9.2%), one in 27 Latinos (3.7%), and one in 45 whites (2.2%). Crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008.[13] 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites.[14] In recent decades the U.S. has experienced a surge in its prison population, quadrupling since 1980, partially as a result of mandatory sentencing that came about during the “war on drugs.” Violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s.[15]  

While the argument could be made that the dropping “crime rate” in the US was due to locking up more criminals, that argument would disregard the fact that crime has been dropping in every democratic country. The number sent to prison in all other countries is just a fraction of the number sent to prison in the USA, therefore, one might infer that other factors are at work.

2 “We do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.” That was federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s astonishing response to Statistics Canada’s finding in July that crime rates in Canada now stand at the same level they did in 1973.  Another point being periodically made by the Justice Minister is that crime is ‘under-reported’.  While that is true, that under-reported crime is generally of the non-violent type (car prowling, break and enter, etc).  In the period of 1960 – 1990, during my time in service, police statistical collection methods were not nearly as refined as they are today meaning the amount of unreported crime back then was much larger than now. This suggests the drop in crime over the past 20 years is even greater than that reported.

3 Estimates vary widely, but, on average, 20,000 metric tons of marihuana are consumed in the United States each year.  Of that, 10,000 metric tons are imported with less than 10% of the total being intercepted by various police agencies. This is likely about the same as the seizure rate for alcohol during prohibition. About 60% of the marihuana produced in Canada is exported to the US with the lion’s share coming from British Columbia’s 15,000 to 20,000 grow ops. While many are small-time operations for personal use only, there hundreds of consolidated operations.  Police seizures in Canada run at about the same rate as that in the US, perhaps a little less as our local, provincial and national police forces have greatly scaled back enforcement in recent years.

4 For a good roundtable discussion including US Justice Department Officials on the subject of ‘Mandatory Minimums’ proposed for Canada, go to CBC Radio, The House

5  In the mid-1990s, the Liberal Government, after a few tragic events including the senseless killings at École Polytechnique (1989) and Concordia (1992), began an all-out push for mandatory long gun registration. Applauded by many citizens and police organizations, it was little more than an ideological platform designed to project an image of strength for law and order.

Once the path was charted and the idea accepted by the public, particularly those in urban areas, it was tabled in the Commons in 1995, implemented in 2001 and became mandatory in 2003. From the beginning, costs spiralled from millions to billions and not a shred of evidence was ever produced to show it made for ‘safer streets and communities.’  One good thing that could be said about the legislation was that it focused on prevention as opposed to detention, a strategy Governments seldom pursue.

Always staunch law and order populists, the Conservatives were unalterably opposed to the legislation as were their rank and file members, mainly those in rural and western constituencies. In order to appease the grassroots, the Conservatives vowed to remove the registry as soon as they gained power. Now having a majority, the registry will soon become a historical footnote. After billions were spent on the registry, the streets and communities across Canada will be just as safe as they were before the legislation became law.

I. Canadian Crime Rates

Crime Rates Graph

Overall, crime in Canada has been dropping since the early 1990s, a fact known by every police agency and reported by every media outlet. A challenge that remains – some types of violent crime continue to rise (murder is not one) so combined statistics can be a bit misleading. Because non-violent crime (property, marihuana and other victimless offences) is dropping at a significant rate, one wonders why Bill C-10 focuses far more heavily on those soft crimes than on violent crime.

2. Homicide Rates in Canada

Graph Homicide Rates

The homicide rate (number murders per 100,000) in Canada has been falling for decades and are now at the lowest rates since the late 1960s.  This does not mean other aspects of violent crime are not rising. The challenge, Gangland killings (as with the recent killing of a gang leader outside a Kelowna casino) always gains major news coverage across the country. It is this coverage, and the heated rhetoric that follows, which makes it seem that murder is out of control.  While every killing, gangland or otherwise, is cause for concern, we should not be lead to believe that these crimes are increasing in Canada.  Take a look at the following graphic. While this is a narrow snapshot, it generally reflects the situation in the listed countries.

3. Homicides World Wide

  Bar Chart of Homicides by Country

While even one murder is one too many, Canada’s legislative and policing strategies over the past few decades, as well as an ageing population, is apparently paying dividends.  In the United States, on the other hand, after implementing the most draconian measures to combat crime and drug use, have remained singularly ineffective. If we and our government think that by locking up more non-violent offenders, violent crime will be reduced, they (and we) will be wrong. In fact, it is just as likely to have the opposite effect.

4. Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences1 in the USA

Incarceration Numbers

After viewing the two US Justice Department Graphs (above and below), it escapes me how senior bureaucrats and politicians in Ottawa, could not help but wonder if widespread use of “mandatory minimums”is the route we should follow in Canada.  Whereas the percentage of inmates in Canada serving time for drug-related offences stands around 22%, the number in the US is 52% and rising. Imagine the effects on our society if we were to Americanize our justice and prison system!

5. Percentage Incarcerations Rates by Crime Type

US Stats

In 2006 the United States had the highest incarceration rate in the world at 573 per 100,000 (in 2010 it stood at over 700 and was still climbing) with lock them up and throw away key Russia, running a close second. The U.K (#99), Australia (#104), Canada (#123) and other Commonwealth Countries are in the range of 120 – 160 per 100,000. Your comments on the analysis outlined in this blog post
would be most appreciated.

September 28, 2011.  National Post Article:

It is exceedingly difficult to find articles and commentary in support of the omnibus criminal-justice bill, however, one appeared in the National Post, September 28, 2011 (page A13).  Written by Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at UBC and senior fellow at the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, he does about the only thing one could do to justify the full bill – he plays to the parts that have high public support.

In the article he highlights sections related to violent or morally repugnant crimes, items such as making and distributing child pornography, sexual assault of a child (various sub-sections), predatory paedophiles, date rape drug offences, etc. and uses those sections to indicate the entire bill has widespread support.

Mr. Perrin well knows that few, if any, would be opposed to the changes he highlights and most would support heavy penalties against those convicted of such offences, yet those offences are relatively infrequent occurrences within Canada and it is not those sections against which there has been an outpouring of public concern. Mr. Perrin has carefully avoided making any mention of the sections which will have the greatest overall impact and which will tend to swell our prison populations.

It is disingenuous of Professor Perrin, a supposedly intelligent man holding a full professorship at a respected University, to use his title and position to mislead the general public about the overall impact of the bill.

I would hazard to guess the Conservatives will, as they enter the debate, attempt to paint any who oppose the bill as ‘soft on crime’ and willing to let child abusers, porn distributors and others who commit horrendous crimes, walk free.


7. Liberals and the Big Guns – A History Lesson

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal Government, after a few tragic events including the senseless killings at École Polytechnique (1989) and Concordia (1992), began an all-out push for mandatory long gun registration. Applauded by many citizens and police organizations, it was little more than an ideological platform designed to project an image of strength for law and order.

Once the path was charted and the idea accepted by the public, particularly those in urban areas, it was tabled in the Commons in 1995, implemented in 2001 and became mandatory in 2003. From the beginning, costs spiralled from millions to billions and not a shred of evidence was ever produced to show it made for ‘safer streets and communities.’  One good thing that could be said about the legislation was that it focused on prevention as opposed to detention, a strategy Governments seldom pursue.

Always staunch law and order populists, the Conservatives were unalterably opposed to the legislation as were their rank and file members, mainly those in rural and western constituencies. In order to appease the grassroots, the Conservatives vowed to remove the registry as soon as they gained power. Now having a majority, the registry will soon become a historical footnote. After billions were spent on the registry, the streets and communities across Canada will be just as safe as they were before the legislation became law.


February 25, 2016  (1190)


Remembrance: Viet Nam

Written by Harold McNeill on September 11th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


Remembrance: Viet Nam

By the time the Viet Nam war came to an unceremonious close in 1975, over 58,000 United States Military men and women had been killed. More than three times that number had been badly wounded and to this day many of the veterans and their families carry the scars of that terrible conflict. The number of families torn asunder is almost beyond count.

Many citizens of Canada and other countries, who served in that war, were also killed or wounded. The wounds of that conflict remain as a clear within our family as my step-son’s father was one of those casualties. When he returned from the war all seemed OK, but it was not many months later the deep scars left behind from Viet Nam, began to show and the young man’s zest for life began to ebb away to a point where even his family could not reach him.  His wife and young son were encouraged to return to Canada from Iowa were living at the time.  That so many young men who returned from Viet Nam were cast aside by their own country after they had given so much, is a scar that has yet to heal.  (Link to Twenty-First Chromosome to read about the child of that union)

In the United States, neither the President nor Congress wanted any reminders of those dark days of US foreign policy as that would be of no political, ideological or commercial value. Viet Nam Veterans and families of the dead and wounded fought for decades to gain some recognition for the sacrifices made and for the lasting injuries inflicted. In the years following the conflict, the US Government made no plans for a public memorial or for any remembrance celebrations. Mass media likewise remained largely silent.

It was not until 1978 that a Hollywood movie, The Deer Hunter, became an enormous hit, and public sentiment slowly begin to shift. Following the movie, a wounded Viet Nam Vet, Corporal Jan Scruggs, started a campaign to have a memorial built in remembrance of all those lost their live in the war. In the months and years following and after donating $2800 of his own money, Corporal Scruggs traveled the country and managed to raise $8,500,000 in public donations.

After much conflict and foot dragging by the US Government, the Viet Nam War Veterans memorial was built in Washington, DC.  It stands today as the only major memorial to all those killed in action. Only recently have others have since been built in individual States.  For those of you who have any recollection of that war or the aftermath, can you remember a time when the Governments of the United States, Canada or any other country ever made more than cursory mention of the heavy price paid by those hundreds of thousands military personnel and their families? They and their families served their countries well and were then forgotten. Herein lies the message: Least We Forget.

Harold McNeill

Link to Black Friday in Norway:  A Story Valour about one young man from British Columbia who flew off to war.

Link to an Amazing Coincidence Seventy years after a photo of the RCAF 404 Squadron was taken, only three men still survived. Take a look at the photo see the amazing coincidence.

Link to Remembrance Day 2012  (with photo of Lynn’s Dad and Mom at their wedding, in England, just before Lynn’s Dad left for the front in Italy).

A Pittance of Time (For Video Link Here)



Border Security Gone Crazy

Written by Harold McNeill on August 14th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


This week the National Post, as well as many other media outlets, is carrying a series of articles and stories related September 11 2001.  While 911 was monumental tragedy in terms of lives lost and families torn apart, the damage done over the past ten years by governments, particularly in the USA who have lead the world, is much greater both in terms of lives lost and families destroyed.  Beyond that, the invasion of privacy by security agencies, including our very own, is unprecedented. 911 was no D Day, VE or VJ Day. It was a criminal act that deserved only to be treated as such. The following editorial touchs on only a few aspects of the changes that have taken place.


Preserving Our Civil Liberties

Written by Harold McNeill on July 8th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

Preserving Our Civil Liberties

July 7, 2011: Closure of the British Tabloid “News of the World”

The demise of the 168-year-old British paper that held a readership of nearly three million, all over a ‘mobile phone – internet hacking’ scandal, was a bit of overkill when compared to the attack on our civil liberties by our own governments over the past decade. In the case of News of the World a high price will now be paid by the thousands of dedicated, honest workers all because of a few dishonest people at high levels, including the owner’s son, James Murdock.

It is reported Murdock closed the paper because he wanted to protect his reputation (and that of his father, Rupert) as well “protecting” other money making schemes he currently has on the table.  I have little sympathy for Murdock and for those who cheat and scheme in order to make an extra dollar, what hurts is seeing all those jobs taken away from thousands of honest workers who toiled at the paper.

While the allegations against a few reporters and senior administrators at World News was serious and needed to be addressed, the transgressions were positively minor compared to the widespread intrusions on civil liberties conducted by various government security organziations around the world.


The Best Laid Plans (1)

Written by Harold McNeill on April 28th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

 Jack Tackles the Giants on the Beanstalk

Jack Layton

Do you remember ever having the feeling your world has just been turned upside down?  Perhaps you were nearing 50 when your wife came home and calmly stated: “Guess what honey, I’m pregnant?” Or, in the worst case, it was not your wife it was that less than full time girl friend (not as uncommon as you might think). In either case it was a game changer.  I experienced the former but, thanks to my chaste behaviour, never the latter.

In another case perhaps it was your boss who came in and said:  “Sorry, but due to the recession we are cutting back, ah, but not to worry, you are a good worker so you should have no trouble finding a new job!” Bummer dude! Perhaps we are about to experience a similar type ‘game changer’ on the national political scene.

Having closely followed the campaign over the past few weeks I was struck by how mundaneGilles Duceppe everything seemed to be evolving when, suddenly, late last week, the folks in Quebec decided they might just want to try something different.  No, they did not start importing tons of the best BC Bud (not a bad idea through), they just found a new religion called NDP. It is now possible the Bloc might soon be a footnote in history.  Can’t say I would be sorry to see them finally exit stage left.

Now what about poor Jack?  How would you like to have the whole La Belle Province riding on your coat tails?  All I can say is he had better have a strong ‘constitution’. After the election he could be leading a group of neophyte politicians, including a number of young student candidates with no political background, into the blood sport that is Ottawa. Perhaps that is just what we need in opposition, a bunch of young idealists with nothing to lose.

From my perspective, it would be an excellent outcome – a Harper minority (140 seats), NDP (90 seats, including a major position in Quebec), Liberal (60 seats) and Bloc (15), Independent (2) and Greens (1) as somebody has gotta finally throw poor Lizbeth a bone. Taken in combination it just might be the tonic we need to shake things up on the Federal scene. Just as Best Laid Plansthe Conservatives moved to coalesce the right a few years back, the left needs an ‘earth shaker’ to cause them to put the left leaning house in order. 

Given the heavy turnout in the advance polls and if the current poll trends portend future seat results, we might just go to bed on May 2, 2011 with a game-changing Parliament.

(Harold is a card carrying Liberal but willing to look at alternatives)

1For a good chuckle on this very subject read “The Best Laid Plans” by Terry Fallis (McLellan Books, 2008), winner of the CBC Canada Reads Award, 2011.  The book takes a peek inside the back rooms of national political parties where a crusty old Scot, Angus McClintock, is suddenly and unwillingly thrust into the fray. He quickly becomes a media darling and throws every party, including his own Liberals, into disarray.  Just as has every movie and TV series hero that challenged the status quo found a cult following, so does the reluctant Angus McClintock.


My New R.I.M. Blackberry for Seniors

Written by Harold McNeill on April 20th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

Harold doing some in-store testing of the new Blackberry Playbook for Seniors


It was chilly with a dusting of snow when I left home at 2:00 am yesterday to join the line a Future Shop to get my new Research in Motion Blackberry “Playbook for Seniors’. My trusty Tim Horton’s super mug in hand – a double, double, triple, triple with a couple of shots of Kahlua (and small bottle in my backpack) – helped to ward off the cold and calm the knot in the pit of my stomach. Would I be too late? Not to worry, by 9:30 am I was inside and the supplies looked to last.

Harold at Tim Horton's 

Photo: Harold bikes our for his usual morning cuppa at Tim Horton’s. The two litre cup cuts down on refills.


My first surprise was the size. The new Seniors Edition was at least 32 X 55 cm (12 X 22 inches) but with a high definition screen and large print (even at 36-40 pt. you can still get a full page on the screen) it is certainly easy to read.  You know, you can actually enlarge words and flip pages with just the flick of a finger? Amazing!

Now, a word about price! At $700 (2 gb storage) a crack, plus $200 for the tax and extended guarantee, it is well within the means of most seniors. Just don’t forget to factor in an average $400 per month for Apps, internet access, download fees, book purchases, etc. so you don’t over extend yourself (1). My bets – move over Apple – this new RIM Seniors Edition Playbook is about to take the market by storm. 


The only real challenge I found was trying to fit the device in my jacket or briefcase and I am wondering whether getting through airport security is going to be a problem.  Perhaps, in the future, RIM will consider a folding model.


Congratulations to Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis, you and your RIM Team from Waterloo have made Canada proud – another first for Canadian Technology that is on a level with the Canada Arm.  From this Canadian Senior – two thumbs up.


Harold McNeill

Victoria, BC


(1) For BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) there is connectivity from that BES to RIM’s NOC, and that’s an extra charge. This is done via the SRP (Service Routing Protocol). Each BES has a unique SRP, just like our handhelds have a unique PIN. BES has better guaranteed service versus a BIS plan. On a BES you get way more functionality than BIS and you get more security, etc. These are matters are near and dear to most seniors.

(My young friend Riyad at Future Shop, passed along these helpful tidbits)





Staff Top Up


Staff at both Future Shop and Staples had to catch a coffee on the run as business was so brisk.


IPad vs Blackberry

IPad vs Blackberry:  While IPad has a jump on the market, the Blackberry Seniors model is likely to become a very big hit with the boomers who are just now entering those mellow years.  My guess is the larger Blackberry will outsell the IPad by a factor of two or three.


PAX Canadiana

Written by Harold McNeill on April 7th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

Pax Canadiana

Pax Canadiana

Pax Canadiana in the Twenty-First Century

PAX Canadiana:    In the 20th Century the term PAX Americana came to indicate the pre-eminent military and economic position of the United States in relation to other nations, just as PAX Britannia was used the 19th Century (Wikipedia background).  In the 21st Century, Canada will eclipse the United States and PAX Canadiana could become a reality. This article provides a satirical look at the alternate path we may choose to follow.

February 10, 2016 Update

With President Trump about to take office and promising to build walls between Mexico and the US, as well as between Canada and the US (by ripping up all the trade deals), we need to add a little protectionism of our own. You might not realize this (most Canadians don’t), but compared to the rest of the world (particularly the USA) we have the lion’s share of the world’s natural resources with water, yes water, topping the list. Water to the US will soon become (in many areas such as California) more valuable than oil.
And, speaking of oil and gas, it is spread across Canada in thick layers and pockets from British Columbia to Labrador/Newfoundland and back. Bring on the XL pipeline where we can put a meter on the Canada side of the US border that will suck in US dollars faster than if we had our own US dollar printing press. President Trump may think it is a windfall for the US, but he needs to remember who controls the taps and the Premier of Alberta has just told him who that is. Let’s just process our oil in directions that will make CANADA GREAT AGAIN, not America. Thanks, Donald for the offer, but Alberta is calling the shots on this not you.
For most of our history, we have been the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” but the time is ripe to change that and if the US chooses to pull the pin on NATA and try to turn us into the 51st state, let’s just slam the door and let our resources work for Canada from sea, to sea, to sea and across that new wall that protects us from the USA.

1. Corporate Taxes

What got m thinking of this was the whole issue of “Corporate Tax Reductions.”  With our Federal rates approaching 15%1,  I checked the G20 major economies and found none below 25%.   Then I checked on Ireland  – poor little Ireland (not a G20 by the way) – they went bankrupt – just when they achieved a Corporate Tax rate of 12.5%, lowest in the EU and lower than the rest of the world, save for a few OPEC countries.

MoneyThis happened even after Google and dozens of big companies moved to Ireland to catch a piece of that generous corporate tax pie.  As supply-side economists, trickle-down theorists3 and deregulators predicted, unemployment shrank to near zero and “things were booming”.  Ireland was sitting at the top of the EU financial world.  Then bang – the crash – banks folded and massive debt took the country down.  The prescription for a sound financial future sounded great but the patient was dying.  On their knees, they went to their EU partners for a bailout.

Could this happen in Canada?  With a projected national debt exceeding half a trillion, with further tax cuts promised and cash being handed out for everything but the kitchen sink (well that too if the Conservatives reconstitute their billion-dollar “home improvement program”) it could happen.  We might very well be headed down the same path as Ireland and our good neighbour, the USA, whose move to supply-side economics and deregulation over the past several decades lead to the worst economic meltdown they have ever experienced.  They are now printing money so fast many of their presses have overheated and, if the rumors are correct, may have broken down4.

Then, to my great relief, two newspaper articles appeared – one in the National Post, the other in the Globe and Mail. The first was a three-page spread in the Post entitled: “Global Warming – Bring it On” and, the second, in the Globe, “Republicans Urge New Pipelines.”  Republicans?  Republicans?  It was no surprise to see the National Post calling ‘Global Warming’ a “good thing”, but US Senate Republicans calling for help from that great white, socialist enclave called Canada; that was when the loonie (our new penny) finally dropped.


Between 2000 and 2006, the Liberals reduced the Corporate Tax Rate from 29% to 21%.  From 2006 to 2011 the Conservatives further reduced to 16.5%. The Conservatives indicate a further reduction to 15% is needed to boost investment and reduce unemployment.  Now the question, if a reduction from 29% to 15% was needed to boost investment and decrease unemployment, would not a further reduction from 15% to 0% be even better? We might wish to ask: “For whom?”

3  Referencing “trickle-down theory” humorist Will Rogers, said during the Great Depression (known as the “Dirty Thirties”): “The money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” (partially Wikipedia)

Unless the US Congress takes drastic steps they will be dead broke and shutting down parts of government when they reach their debt limit. A debt default by the USA will have worldwide implications.



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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.