Saturday, October 31, 2009

Politics In A Small Town

It is municipal election time in Salluit, the time we get a (hopefully) new mayor and 6-member council to suffer under for the next three years.

Now in southern climes, the indicators of a municipal election are lawn signs, pamphlets stuffed through the letter box, an occasional knock on the door from a candidate's representative or the candidate him/herself. Television interviews, radio call-in shows, public debates and numerous polls are other means to whip up some whooplah and encourage an otherwise disinterested electorate to drag themselves into the polling station.

But in Salluit, NO. None of the standard means of involving the public in policy-forming debate is used, EVAR. Instead, we are forced to witness the same old podunck political practices of misdirection, backstabbing and utter cynicism.

Here are some examples.

Fresh off the ship, a brand spanking new road sander has been driving all over town, a symbol of the current administration's newfound commitment to public service. So much sand has been put down on the streets that I saw camel footprints going up the hill towards the airport. At this rate, by the time the election comes next week I expect to see palms and oases dotting the roadside - but then, this would be entirely consistent with Salluit's mirage-like quality.

There will probably be an open mike at the local FM station, with candidates limited to 10 minutes, though few of them have enough hot air (or ideas) to last that long. I predict we will hear the same old crap - preservation of language, beluga whale quotas, a heated swimming pool, and a seal in every pot. No one will propose policy that the town is sinking as our permafrost is melting away, that our region has the highest rate of suicide in the world, child neglect is rampant, alcohol and drug abuse is rife, and so on. It's just an exercise in burying the village's collective head in the snow drift and ignoring the serious problems we face.

Basic municipal services have been deplorable this year. I was unable to flush my toilet, wash dishes or take a shower for days on end since the regular complement of 3 sewage trucks went down to one due to mechanical breakdowns. And when you share your house with another adult and five teens, this situation fast became dire. Long-time readers of this blog are familiar with my frequent wailings about the lack of water or the surplus of sewage in my house.

Guess what? In honour of the election, extra truck drivers were hired a couple of weeks back to work weekends and to fill in for those too hungover to drive. Now I get sewage pickup and water delivery daily, sometimes many times a day. For sure, the day after the election they'll all be laid off and we'll be back up to our eyeballs in shit.

I vote in an early poll tomorrow since I am heading out of town this week. I really wonder if it is worth my while showing up.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lotta Zeroes In A Yotta

Twenty-four, in fact.

I'm glad the US judicial system is so unfettered by frivolous law suits that they have to to consider hearing this one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Dime Store Theory of Monetary Policy

Please don't get scared off by the title. I just want to ventilate about those feeble-minded Canadians who are "proud" our humble loonie is close to catching up to the almighty American greenback.

Let me first say that I don't travel to the US - not because I wouldn't go there, but I just have no compelling reason right now. Also, Mrs. Nanuk would have serious difficulties in crossing the border, but I will say no more about that. The only American products I buy (besides pr0n and eBay retail goods) are fruits and vegetables - mighty fine edibles, but more and more Mexico and Chile are becoming major suppliers of these commodities.

I support a seriously under-par Canadian dollar. Our greatest prosperity in recent times has been when our currency was wallowing in the low 80¢ range vis à vis the American dollar. Everyone was buying Canadian and our balance of trade was ponderously weighted in our favour. Americans (and many other nationalities) were flocking to our poutine stands, maple syrup megamalls, and butter tart bakeries here north of the 49th. Things were good and there was a chicken in our pot every Sunday.

But it didn't last. The prevalent banking insanity south of the border devalued the US buck and made ours rise proportionately. And it has been hard on the domestic economy. Why, a bottle of Jack Daniels actually rose about 20¢ and don't get me started on that fiasco of a citrus fruit retirement plan I dreamed up - the juice fast dried up in the proverbial pamplemousse.

All this in way of saying I am glad our central bank refused to raise its overnight rate today, and maintains that a high dollar is more detrimental to our economy than inflation.

You know, there are some comforting things to being the bargain basement store of the western world: you get lots of foot traffic, you don't have to dress up, and hell, they have cute underpaid high school students manning the registers.

Mediocrity has its advantages.

Sidenote: The heavily-regulated Quebec economy actually grew during the so-called recession. Actually, the bad economic times as experienced in the US were hardly felt up here in general, save for the oil patch and the rust belt. Time to step in and put some heavy-duty rules on your banking/securities sectors, my red, white and blue friends!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Short Medical Visit to Montréal

I am presently sojourning in Montreal while waiting for a string of medical appointments to play itself out. This has involved hopping a Dash-8, flying south for 6 plus hours, and moving into a hotel for my 5-day stay. I'd rate my current health as very good, and I have the constitution of a, well, polar bear; but there are a few recurring issues which need to be hashed out.

We have all heard the term medical tourism - the recent trend of booking surgeries and other procedures in inexpensive countries such as Mexico and India. However, while the term may be new, the concept is not. For the past half century and more Inuit from all over the Arctic have boarded ships and airplanes and travelled vast distances to get medical care in Montreal, Moosenee, Quebec City, Hamilton ON and probably a few other sites.

In the old days, this often meant being away from home for half a year or more, especially when there were outbreaks of tuberculosis. Many did not return, and their remains are interred in hospital graveyards, often with a name.

The distance in terms of culture must have been equally vast in these pre-television days of ethnic isolation. It must have been particularly hard: they knew no English or French, the food was very foreign, and they rarely if ever had the presence of a relative for company and consolation.

This very melancholy situation has been the subject of the recent award-winning film The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre). Although I have not seen it yet (no theatres where I live and it has not been shown on television), I hear it is well worth the look. Take a chance on it the next time you're in Blockbusters or rent it through Netflix. And as they say, preparez vos mouchoirs (get the Kleenex ready).

This photo was found on the Listening to our Past website of Heritage Canada. It shows Inuit in transit on the Coast Guard ship C. D. Howe for medical treatment. By the looks of the clothing this could be from the 1950s, 60s or 70s.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Justice Prevails!

The following is my imagined transcript of a real hearing between a Federal Court judge and a petitioner.

Judge: So you are seeking damages for a work-related incident?

Plaintiff: Yes, sir.

Judge: And this damage occured 37 years ago?

Plaintiff: Yes, sir, and it causes me such pain to this very day.

Judge: Why didn't you seek Workman's Compensation when it happened?

Plaintiff: I was a Mountie in training, and we in the RCMP have a culture of never letting physical or emotional distress get in the way of duty. But now that I am retired from the force, it is only right that I receive compensation for the grievous injury I have had to endure.

Judge: Could you describe your current quality of life for the court?

Plaintiff: Certainly. I cannot sleep at night as a result of the pain eminating from this injury. I have a severe loss of mobility and am hobbled. Then there is the psychological and emotional distress caused by an unfeeling and uncaring employer who refuses to compensate me although I gave them 37 years of service. . . Sorry, your honour, but I get distraught everytime I talk about it.

Judge: There, there, my good man. Take a deep breath and we'll proceed, unless you feel a recess is in order?

Plaintiff: No sir, I'll soldier on.

Judge: So what was the root cause of this injury which has played such a pivotal role in your life?

Plaintiff: It started with a nose bleed . . .

Judge: Excuse me, did you say "nose bleed"?

Plaintiff: Yes. In the middle of the night. In the Mountie barracks.

Judge: Continue.

Plaintiff: Alright. Since I didn't want to get blood over my sheets and risk incurring the wrath of the Superintendant, I went to the washroom. It was en route to the washroom when the calamity befell me.

Judge: Let me get this straight - you were sleeping in the barracks at night when you got a nosebleed, and you injured yourself getting to the lavatory to clean up?.

Plaintiff: That's it exactly, sir.

Judge: And you put up with the consequences of this injury for nearly 4 decades without complaint until you retired?

Plaintiff: Yes.

Judge: Did you slip over some clothing and herniate a disk in your back?

Plaintiff: No.

Judge: Then, did you fall down the stairs of some improperly indicated stairwell and break your leg?

Plaintiff: No.

Judge: Perhaps someone left a sharp object on the floor, you cut yourself, and got blood poisoning resulting in some form of amputation?

Plaintiff: No.

Judge: Well, then, what sort of dire injury did you have?

Plaintiff: I stubbed my toe.

Judge: You stubbed your toe?

Plaintiff: Yes, sir, the big one.

Judge: Why didn't you say so in the first place? If any case I have ever heard over the course of my career, this is without a doubt the most heart-wrenching. I find your case has merit, and will allow it to proceed.