Wednesday, April 30, 2008


***DWUCP the acronym to be used for Driving While Using Cell Phone.***

It certainly can be dangerous when DWUCP, but how many motor vehicle accidents can be attributed to the actual use of cellular telephones? Most motor vehicle accidents are caused by some form of reckless driving such as speeding, unsafe lane changes, unsafe vehicles or drinking and driving.

Nova Scotia has recently created a new law banning their use when behind the wheel. It's a bold step but I am unsure if eliminating usage of this mode of communication helps in preventing motor vehicle accidents. I can see their recent change to their motor vehicle act to prevent smoking in vehicles when infant occupants are aboard since second hand smoke unquestionably harms others.

However, picking up your cell phone to take or place a business call is no more dangerous than looking at the radio before changing the station or eating a cheeseburger while scratching yourself. At least I think. Are conversations on headsets any different than when the phone is held in your hand? Probably not.

If their Province keeps statistical information that demonstrates otherwise than perhaps the ban is justified. Unlikely though given the Registrar of Motor Vehicles role under its legislation. So what gives?

Let me know what you think.



Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tasers or 9mms?

Tasers have become controversial lately. Without question, the use of tasers on certain individuals are lethal. We all know of the example where the RCMP's use of "Thomas A. Swift Electrical Rifle" killed Robert Dziekansi in Vancouver. Airport security called the RCMP for help after Dziekanski allegedly was pounding on windows and throwing chairs and computer equipment. After engaging Dziekanski with the Taser, the Mounties speculated that he died shortly after from a rare condition called excited delirium, though the coroner's office has not concluded the cause of death.

Not more than a week after Dziekansi's death, a Montreal man was killed after being tazed by by police. Quilem Registre, 38, was intoxicated when he was stopped by police on Oct. 14 for a traffic violation. Police say he became aggressive when questioned and officers were forced to use a Taser. He was sent to hospital in critical condition, where he died Oct. 17. Registre was the 17th person to die from a stun-gun-related death in Canada.

Two prime examples of the National call on a moratorium on the police use of Tasers. So what is the alternative? The handgun? The baton? Pepper spray? More non-lethal weapons that police should use on suspects they approach who may be armed and/or reportedly violent? I have travelled abroad this Country and throughout the world and if ever stopped by an officer of the law, the universal "reach for the gun" method has always been a deterrent for criminals to cease and desist of their behaviour. Unless extremely intoxicated, high, or mentally ill, those who do not understand that an officer has his weapon out usually know that severe consequences will result if they do not abide by the officer's demands.

So how do we keep officer's and the public safe if we lessen an peace officer's ability to subdue a violent suspect by removing Tasers and allowing them to resort to sidearms? I would really hearing from people on this subject as this topic will form part of discussion at the next Federal/Provincial Ministers of Justice and Public Safety Conference held in Quebec this fall.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lost People in a Highly Charged Debate

Most people know of my heritage. I am a proud member of the Maliseet community at Tobique. A relatively small First Nation nestled along the St. John River and located within short proximity of Perth Andover, New Brunswick. Our people have been inhabitants of this land for many centuries. We are holders of significant rights and special relationships with the Federal and Provincial government since Confederation and the inception of this Province's birth.

While growing up, my mother made the determination that our native language was more important than learning French. English was necessary since mastering this skill was the way to become better educated and to "get the good job." They didn't teach Maliseet in school, there wasn't an immersion program, and there certainly weren't sufficient resources to teach those who wanted to learn or maintain the language. Well, I did OK learning and comprehending the language and have the ability to teach most aspects of my language to my children. But hold on!

At the beginning of the school year my wife and I were forced into the difficult decision of answering which program our daughter should enrol. We chose early french immersion. Why? Well, like many parents we believe that without learning this language her options for employment will be limited. It's a shame we think like that, but many anglophone parents believe this to be true. I remember when all three of my daughters were born and while holding them I recall saying to myself thank god they are healthy. While raising them (and we still are) we do so in a manner where we hope they exceed all our expectations of them in life. Nobody wants mediocrity for their children and neither do we. However, I have come to the realization (as I have with my 16 year old) that no matter how much you want for your children to succeed in life we can only guide them so far. My 16 year old wants to be a journalist now after years of saying she wanted to go to veterinarian school. As her father I support her decision. Pushing her away from her goal is simply unproductive. At the end of the day, I want her to be healthy, happy, and to choose a career that she enjoys. I think as a parent that's all I can ask for.

So, why is it that some (and I say some) Parents feel compelled to believe that success will only be driven by the opportunity to learn French. Is it really because we are the only officially bilingual province in Canada or is it because of the loss of potential career opportunities? I don't know. I have heard a multitude of arguments both for and against, but if people really believe that you can't find suitable employment in our Province without being bilingual, I respectfully beg to differ. Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, Tradesman, Business owners/operators, I know lots of them and many are unilingual and have done fine for themselves.

Of the many people that I speak to in my riding on this issue some believe their children will not be able to work for the government some day because they need french to do so. On reflection, there seems to be a deeper issue here that people just aren't saying but rather masquerading in flowery language. Is it the way government assess and employs people that has them frustrated? I hear this quit a bit: If you have a degree and have the requisite experience to perform the job well, should you be turned away because you can't speak French? Sure, if you are working in areas with a high population of French speakers I can see the argument, but what if you aren't? I was raised to believe that the best and most qualfied person should get the job. If having french as a second language is a necessary component of applying for employment than it holds true that every person should have the opportunity to learn French like my colleague, Kelly Lamrock, has been saying.

It would be an overstatement if I were to say the removal of EFI has been contentious. Many parents, academics and politicians have called this an attack on the French culture. I disagree. The French culture is alive and well and is legally entrenched in our Country's highest law and New Brunswick's Official Languages Act. Like First Nation's people, there is a special relationship between the francophone and the Crown. The difference being of course the legal protection of one language versus the slow erosion of another. The elimination of EFI is a removal of a program and not a culture.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq who have become lost people once again in this highly charged debate.

Thank you for taking the time to read,


Monday, April 7, 2008

Sport or Brutality - You decide!

So, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is coming to Canada for the first time on April 19th. Montreal, Quebec is the chosen Province largely because the number one contender in the welterweight division, George St. Pierre, trains and resides there. Personally, I am a huge fan of this sport and have been since its first pay per view showing in the mid 1990's when athletes like Royce Gracie would battle men twice his weight and size. In those days the rules were a little less relaxed compared to mixed martial arts competitions today, but major injuries were still a rare occurrence. The April 19th fight card will pit present world welterweight champion Matt Serra against St. Pierre as the main event and the title and belt are up for grabs again. These two squared off months ago in St. Pierre's first title defence which led to what I classify as a fluke knockout by Serra. St. Pierre is focused now and completely crushed Matt Hughes in his most recent fight. Hands down, George St. Pierre will regain his title over the older and less physically intimidating Serra.

Sorry, I am getting lost of the reason for posting this blog due to my enthusiasm for this sport. But is it a sport? I think it is. These athletes are highly skilled, highly trained and extremely athletic. My wife thinks it's just a couple of dudes knocking the hell out of each other and doesn't see much athleticism at all. Hmmm. Well, people once thought this way about Tae Kwon Do and Judo which are now global Olympic events. I am sure it isn't what the Greeks envisioned Centuries ago but nevertheless a sport and one that will take part in Beijing at the 2008 summer Olympics.

In some Provinces, like New Brunswick, these events are considered illegal because of section 83 under the Criminal Code of Canada which reads:

Prize Fights

Engaging in prize fight
83. (1) Every one who
(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Definition of “prize fight”(2) In this section, "prize fight" means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 83; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 186.

So - sport or brutality? You decide.



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Weirder By the Moment

After a short stint of the flu, I am back to blogging.

I have to admit the past week or so in the legislature has been stymied over the Leader of the Opposition's stance on Bill 34. While I appreciate a politician's passion for debate and fighting for principles they believe in, the leader of the opposition has taken the debate on Bill 34 to another level. Bill 34 is an Act that essence reduces the number of RHA's from 8 to 2 (see my previous article "trimming the fat in health care").

While many health care professionals agree this is a step in the right direction, the leader of the opposition does not. In fact, he has chosen to "fillybuster" this Bill on second reading rather than allowing the Bill to go to committee of the whole house to examine the content of the bill, make recommendations and suggest amendments. This is day 5 of Mr. Volpe's unlimited speaking time and in my opinion is becoming weirder by the moment. Don't believe me just tune in and listen via web cast or watch it on cable.

So why is this weird? Well, for one its the first Bill up for real debate in the house since we returned on March 7th. We have yet to get any other Bills that must be introduced and debated and I believe their are close to 40 on the agenda. Secondly, it costs taxpayers in the vicinity of $100k per day to run the legislature. We could certainly be moving on to other matters by now. Finally, each department must perform 'estimates' whereby each Minister and staff appear before the house and justify its budget by answering questions from members of the opposition.

Looks like it's going to be another record session.