Health care is more than hospitals and doctors

Canadians are really proud of our universal health care, which we are lucky to have. But also only covers some things. When I have needed other services I’ve been struck but how wildly unfair it is that I live in a place that loves health care but where your income decides whether you get to go to the dentist or to physio or to therapy. It’s wrong.

Health care is more than doctors visits and hospitals. Uninsured services are a big problem and we need to close the gaps.

Home sweet home: Some thoughts on this here dominion of Canada

Today marks the union of the original provinces making up Canada. It's a day of crowded streets and fireworks. Often it's a day or not much going on.

Perhaps it's a day on which we should all reflect on this big vast land and its diverse people, its past and its future, its charms and its flaws.

I am lucky to be a Canadian. There is such enormous privilege that I gain by being born in this place. I have a high quality of life and am well-educated. I have a passport that lets me do just about anything I want. My nationality gains me respect and favour I've done nothing to deserve. It's easy to forget this.

Then there's the voice in my head that is disappointed with Canada, with our mediocrity, with our lack of action, with our endless willingness to tolerate dysfunction, with our better than the Americans slogan. I often find this place and its culture and its policies and its institutions to be enormously frustrating. We are often not a land of best practices, or one that even tries very hard to live up to its own ideals.

I mean we are the land of universal healthcare yet we fail to ensure many vital services including prescriptions, ambulance rides, vaccines, dental, optometry and physiotherapy. It's a bit crazy for a country that picked Tommy Douglas as its greatest Canadian.

We also have a horrible record on the environment and climate change. Too much money to be made to think of the future.

I lack faith in our institutions especially those that through an outdated electoral system give us one of two parties, neither of which represent me or reflect my values.

So what am I doing here? I thought about moving to Europe. To Denmark or Sweden or the Netherlands or Scotland but then I came home. Part of it was Brexit. Part of it was that being in Canada is a lot easier. This place has to take me. It has to give me healthcare. It has to let me do whatever work I feel like. That's not true anywhere else.

It's easy to be here. It makes sense. I share a culture and language and set of values with the people around me. I don't have to explain things. It just makes sense. As much as I struggle to feel like I belong much of anywhere in this world I do feel like it's easy to be in Canada. This place feels like home more than anywhere else I've tried thus far.

I complain a lot about Canada, about our flaws and imperfections, especially healthcare. I want us to strive more and to do better. To not just shrug through problems but to actually want to solve them, to hold ourselves to higher standards on some of these issues. I do it because I want this place to be as good as it can be and because I think it's worth fighting for.

If anything I like the ideal of Canada. A decent progressive polite place filled with beauty and nature. A place of Canadian English, a magical and amusing dialect of English that I adore. A place that I am from and am in now. A place that I am happy to fight to make better.

Lest we forget

Remembrance Day is tomorrow and I've been thinking about making a poppy. I've gotten lazy about doing the design skills I learned at SAIT and I need to practice more. One of the cool things we learned was how to look at things and break them into shapes so you can build them. Like a graphic of a house in an add, I now see it as a box with windows and a door. You can build it if you look at it that way.

So here's a poppy and I thought that a cursive would be fitting. On Remembrance Day I usually think about my great uncle who died fighting in France when his plane was shot down. My mother has his journal and she says it is pretty horrible to read. Maybe one day I'll try and brave it. We live in unstable and dark times. We have a lot to think about during our moment of silence.


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The best sentences I read this week: Downward facing monkey

“A key question being discussed once again as a result of the storm is why electrical service in Canada is so vulnerable to weather disruptions. For years, officials of Toronto Hydro, Ontario Hydro and Quebec Hydro have rebuffed arguments in favour of moving overhead electrical service cables and wires in urban areas underground. This was one of the recommendations of the Quebec government commission of inquiry following the January 1998 ice storm that knocked out electricity and threatened transportation and water supply in Montreal for many days during very harsh winter weather conditions. “Too expensive” say the officials.”

An inconvenient ice storm hits Canada and northern U.S. amidst the whirlwind of climate science denial

“There’s only so much discussion of whaling techniques and classifications that most readers can take. To those who sail through these chapters, the rest of the reading world salutes you.”

50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers

“‘Do you think Ocean would wear this?’ she asked one day, modeling a purple hoodie and a pair of purple-and-white stretch pants in the break room. ‘Who’s Ocean?’ I asked, and she sighed. ‘Who trained you? Ocean is our ideal customer. She does yoga every day, makes $100,000 a year, and dates a triathlete named Mountain.’ I stared at her, nonplussed. Pityingly, she added: ‘Mary, we all want to be Ocean. That’s why we work here.'”

Yoga, spinning and a murder: My strange months at Lululemon

“Six-month-old Angus Smith is a devout churchgoer. He doesn’t know it yet, but as a young, male, Protestant in 2013, he is in the minority.”

Churches keep the faith as congregations steadily shrink

“The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was the novelist Joseph Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.”

How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word

The dark horse: some thoughts on Thomas Mulcair

The exciting thing about the next election is that nobody knows what is going to happen. There are three contenders in a shifting political system. Anything could happen and every prediction can be paired with an equal and contradicting one.

It is easy to discount Thomas Mulcair. He is no Jack Layton, but then again nobody is Jack Layton. This country is still mourning the loss of the great man that turned many individuals, particularly the Quebecois, to the NDP cause. Mulcair has shown that he can be adept. While Trudeau and Harper raced to the bottom with terrible blunders in the wake of the Boston bombings Mulcair’s response was calm and reasonable and well coherent. Mulcair has put on several shows during question period that show skill as a parliamentarian and shame the conservatives. At these moments he can put on a show that makes Canadians stand up and cheer, or at the very least take note. When he is at his best he looks like he would make a good prime minister.

Then he starts talking about the senate and I wish that he could borrow some of Trudeau’s populism. Trudeau may have no real policy goals but at least he has the sense to know that reopening the debate on the constitution is suicide. Mulcair seems to have missed that history lesson. Perhaps he should google Charlottetown and find out about the last crucifixion. There is also the risk that reopening debate on the constitution will open old wounds in Quebec at a time when it seems that separatism is starting to simmer down. This is not smart talk and makes me wonder where the lovely man shutting down Harper went.

It is hard to say whether Mulcair can repeat in Quebec. The Bloc seem all but done as of the last election. Mulcair is a Quebecois francophone. This will play well there and is probably a large part of why he was chosen. If the NDP can hold onto Quebec then they will consider the next election a success.

Despite what the media say the next election will be fought between three major party leaders. It is easy to forget Mulcair with the shine of Trudeau but he is still the leader of the opposition, and on his good days he can be one darned good politician.

Canadian television

The other day I was reading an article about the growing Popularity of Danish television ( It talks about how Denmark’s state television makes excellent shows and is on par with HBO. This got me to thinking why is Canadian television so bad. We have nothing similar to HBO and would be happy to settle for the WB or ABC.

On occasion something worthwhile comes out of Canada like Corner Gas but that the exception not the rule — though the Food Network is solid gold. At best we can boost Degrassi and One Girl Five Gays, both of which I love and adore but aren’t exactly the epitome of culture. We have Carly Rae Jepsen and Bieber, but what about something serious and oh actually worth watching.

We are pleased to boost Canadian actors and writers who work for American programs or to point out that Toronto is frequently used as a stand in for New York but that’s not really Canadian television, it’s American television that Canadians are a part of. I have no problem with American television, in fact most of my favourite shows are American. I just wish that Canadians could produce a show worth being proud of, or maybe if we want to be really ambitious a whole slew of shows that we can be proud of. We are satisfied to just watch lots and lots of American television and let everything worthwhile happen abroad.

In “Danish Postmodern” Lauren Collins discusses how Danish television contributes to and reflects a Danish sense of identity. It is about Denmark and is a reflection of the way Danes live. It is their expressions, their ideas, and their cities and landscapes. Canadian television doesn’t reflect what it means to be Canadian, and doesn’t do much to help reflect our sense of identity and culture which is a terrible shame. There is so much potential for Canada to do something so much better. Canada has produced so many good musicians and writers it’s about time that Canadian television caught up. I would love it if I wanted to watch even one of the shows that CTV is advertising but I don’t.

How I learned to stop complaining and love Tim Hortons

So it is the first Friday of the summer. A very good day in an of itself and then it happened. Three boxes of donuts, Timbits and a dozen bagels appeared in the staff kitchen. It seems Fridays are donut day. What a lovely idea.

Now the thing about these donuts and bagels is that they were not just any donuts and bagels, they were from Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian coffee institution with two major downsides: ridiculously long line ups and appalling bad drip coffee.

Yes, whether you are prepared to admit it or not the drip coffee at Tim Hortons is awful. Those beans regret being selected for that purpose. There is a reason that double doubles are so common: you need a lot of sugar and cream to make that coffee consumable.

Now that sounds like complaining and I haven’t even gotten to the lines yet.

However, there is an upside. Tim Hortons is extremely affordable. One might go so far as to say ridiculously cheap. You can get a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee for less than the cost of a latte at Starbukcs. Now that is the power of Tim Hortons. If your coworkers invite you for a Starbucks run and you haven’t found a twenty on the sidewalk recently you always say yes with a little bit of financial trepidation. If your friends invite you on a Tim Hortons run you know you can get something without thinking twice about it.

Their baked goods are delicious. The donuts may be terrible for you but for the most part they are delicious. They are the perfect Friday pick me up.

Their breakfast sandwiches are excellent — so long as you don’t order the sausage which is quite suspect. Their muffins are delicious and about $1.15.

Their iced coffee is delicious, though a little sugary, it is at a price that can’t be beat.

So if you can face the lineups, which the worst one was about half an hour long, then you get your moneys worth.


Pitching in

Yesterday’s semi-final against the U.S. was possibly the biggest and most popular game of the Olympics in this country. The end result (and the free kick leading to a penalty) has caused so much hoopla that our Prime Minster Steven Harper felt compelled to comment on it — his sweater vest, however, remained silent.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. The Canadian women’s soccer team have been downright impressive throughout the Olympics, and not just yesterday. They are playing superb soccer that is a delight to watch.
  2. They have made quite a bounce back from the disappointment of last year’s world championship.
  3. Automatic penalties for unintentional and likely unavoidable handballs are ridiculous. Why this rule exists is beyond me. If a player was unable to avoid a handball that is very different than a hand of God moment. Referees (despite complaints about yesterday) should be given the discretion to decide when it was intentional — and this is usually pretty obvious. A penalty for an unintentional handball, especially at close distances when the ball would’ve hit the body anyways, is too severe. I hate this rule in general, not just in yesterday’s semi-final. The handball resulting in a penalty resulting in a goal in the euro quarter-final between Germany and Greece was ultimately unimportant but it could’ve been. The same goes for the handball call that result in a German penalty in their Euro semi-final against Italy — which also didn’t affect the outcome of the game. Losing on a call like that is hard for players to take, and for good reason. Rules should serve the integrity of the game, not detract from it. Punishments should also be proportional to infractions. A penalty should be called when a handball is used to intentionally alter the path of a ball, as opposed to incidental contact.
  4. I was not aware that there was a call for a goalie holding the ball for over six seconds. Why does this even exist and when will FIFA get rid of it? It seems as though time wasting is a sufficient call should a keeper be holding onto the ball for too long in order to delay play. This was not the case with the call against Canada. Once again the context for this was ignored and a punishment was given that was disproportionate to the infraction committed — if one was committed at all.
  5. Christine Sinclair is insanely good.
  6. I am pleased that the quality of the women’s game is so high that Canada, and large parts of the rest of the world can get caught up in it and love watching it. The Canadian women have exhibited skill that rivals that of the men’s sport.
  7. There is something unsettling about players counting next to referees baiting them to make calls that may be in the rule book but are never made in actual play. There is a line between wanting to win and being a fierce competitor, and respecting your sport and your opponent. My favourite American athlete at the Olympics so far is Sam Mikulak who placed fifth in the men’s gymnastics individual vault event. He showed excellent sportsmanship, and despite slipping to fourth and knowing he would probably drop another spot was very excited to watch the reigning world champion go for it. Loving your sport counts as much as the will to win.
  8. The Americans play a choppy and aggressive style of soccer that may get the job done but isn’t as nice to watch as more tactical and possession based approaches.
  9. The Canadians have a killer counter attack.
  10. The Canadians can deliver crosses like no body’s business.
  11. The Canadians could improve their possession and ball control from what they did against the Americans.
  12. I am glad that this game did not go to penalties. A late goal for either side is a much better decider. Penalties are lame, and a terrible way to lose a close match. Sudden death overtime is a much better way of deciding it.
  13. John Herdman has done an excellent job as team Canada’s coach. Regardless of what happens from here on out we can judge him by the quality of the soccer they are playing and it has been superb.