When Our Institutions Work: Urban Federal Ridings in Saskatchewan

Musketeers

The federal boundary redistribution process was not a particularly accessible democratic tool. For something as significant as how we vote in federal elections, there was stunningly little buzz last summer when the opportunity arose for public involvement.

After more than a year of uncertainty, the new federal electoral boundaries in the province have been finalized. The report and  responses to House of Commons objections were released yesterday, and though two of ten MP objections were addressed, Saskatchewan is now the proud home of 5 exclusively urban ridings, 3 in Saskatoon and 2 in Regina.

These changes represent a shift away from the hybrid urban-rural ridings which have been blamed for our funky federal electoral results. Because the opportunity to redraw the federal voting districts only happens every decade, it is something to be taken seriously. We made an effort to cover this process as it happened, and called for changes, trying to avoid outcomes like the 2011 elections which allowed federal Conservatives to secure 92 per cent of the seats with just over half of the vote.

There was widespread support for a shift away from hybrid ridings and the creation of urban ridings in the submission phase, an argument propelled by a team of political scientists from the U of S and U of R, and echoed by urban residents of Regina and Saskatoon seeking better democratic representation through urban ridings.

There was no shortage of angry buzz from opponents of urban ridings in the hearing phase where Saskatchewan’s federally-appointed three person commission was bombarded with rhetorical pleas from a number of self-interested parties (not to mention hyper-partisan elected officials).

The buzzing continued when the commission released its recommendations in late summer, in support of the logical and well-evidenced arguments for urban ridings. It became almost a roar the when obviously self-interested MPs came forward publicly bemoaning the decision, questioning the performance of the panel members, and exhausting every imaginable federal tool to halt the process (including the infamous robo-call mess).

Considering how few functional democratic tools our fine citizenry have access to these days, I am considering these results a HUGE SUCESS SUCCESS. One that transforms Saskatchewan from a political anomaly – a scar in Canadian electoral representation, but also hopefully helps some of our province’s apathetic to recognize change is possible, to participate in politics, and to cast a vote.

Regina Wrap: Federal Boundary Hearings Move On

As Greg wrote in last week’s paper, day one of Regina’s federal electoral boundary commission hearings was a little unusual. Thankfully, reason triumphed in the second and third day of presentations.

As we’ve written elsewhere, this year federal voting lines are being redrawn across the country. Saskatchewan’s federally-appointed three person commission was holding hearings last week in Regina to hear citizen’s responses to the proposed voting map released in early August.

The commission’s proposal clearly stated that the current hybrid electoral boundaries around Saskatoon and Regina – unique in Canada – need to be replaced. Instead, the new map would create 5 urban-only ridings; three in Sasakatoon and two in Regina. This arrangement better acknowledges rural to urban demographic shifts and gives Saskatchewan residents representation in the House of Commons.

Because that is what these commissions are all about.

Yet, day one of the hearings had basically nothing to do with democratic representation. The parade of emotional rhetoric from obviously self-interested parties was disheartening.

Not because it actually pertained to much the commission was there to address, but because the same process in 2002 was halted after an “overwhelmingly negative response” to the elimination of hybrid ridings in the 32 presentations that were heard. The hearing phase in 2002 essentially established the way almost a million people have voted for a decade.

So, even though day one went to the “Conservative class”,  two and three showed significant improvement. Strong, cohesive arguments were made to continue forward with the proposed map. Those in support of the changes argued that the current system leaves Saskatchewan out of step with Canadian democracy and no longer reflects demographic realities. In the 70s and 80s when the Saskatchewan economy was more agriculturally-oriented, blended ridings made more sense, but the Province has changed in 30 years, and that’s what the commission is tasked to address. 

Despite what one might have heard in the first day of the hearing process, electoral boundaries ARE NOT a means to preserve Saskatchewan history. We can’t rob the commission of its purpose because it makes people uncomfortable.  The recurring argument against the changes was hinged on the idea that rural and urban identities are so intrinsically linked that there is no benefit in creating these distinctions between them, because there is no distinct urban identity in Saskatchewan.

Lunacy. I’m an urban person. I live, work, and play in the city. I might actually even die if I were left on a farm. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the value of the rural identity, it just means they’re not like me, and it isn’t within my best interests for us to be pooled come election-time. The ‘non-urban identity’ is not a strong enough reason to maintain a weirdo electoral map that that gives us junk electoral results and alienates an already apathetic voter-base in the province.

There’s no question the well-prepared pleas of those who came forward in the second and third day of the hearings to support the new map were heard by the commission. Based on rough counts, the last two days both saw a 3:1 turnout of those in favour of the new electoral map. The commission takes this week off hearings and continue across the province next week, wrapping in Saskatoon on Saturday the 6th. Full Hearing details can be found here.  

The commission will release its decision by the end of December. Based on my scorecard, the Regina hearings were a 2-1 victory for those supporting the changes. Hopefully the commission can stick to their guns this time.

Indefinite Detention Act Ruled Unconstitutional

Earlier today, U.S. District Judge Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act’s provision allowing for the indefinite detention of civilians by the military in the  violated the constitution.

This law, supported by the Obama administration, allowed the military to hold U.S. citizens indefinitely without charge. Being a member of, or loosely linked to, any organization or person deemed to be associated with terrorism was enough for its application. This gave the military the ability to target  journalists and academics – doing what they are paid to do – for associations with groups designated to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

A group of authors and academics including Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Wolfe filed a lawsuit against President Obama earlier this year questioning the provision’s constitutionality. Check out today’s Sparrow Project article on what’s up now.

UPDATE: Whitworth here. First, here’s The Guardian‘s story on this. Second, a website Chris Hedges writes for, TruthDig, has a short article up on the court win. Also, anyone looking for background might want to check out a recent Hedges’ article on the case here and Naomi Wolf’s Guardian article on it here. And by the way, this is a good ruling. You expect laws letting people be arrested for no reason in North Korea, not the United States (well, actually I do expect such laws in the U.S., sigh). Anyway, aside from being beyond vile, stupid laws like the NDAA can cost citizens multi-million dollar court settlements. Just ask Maher Arar.

The U.S. government, by the way, has already announced it will appeal the decision.

By the way, one big reason this is on the blog today is that Hedges will be in Regina next week for a must-see public lecture. He’ll be promoting this fantastic-looking book. See you there?

Six In The Morning: Wednesday Edition

1 DEAD ISSUE? A man was shot and killed outside Pauline Marois’ victory speech at a Montreal theatre last night. Another victim was injured but is in stable condition. The suspect, originally from Quebec, is in custody. Details here. Marois has become Quebec’s first female premier after leading PQ to a narrow minority government victory yesterday.

2 LET’S RECYCLE THE STADIUM INSTEAD City council’s executive committee is meeting today to look at a resident-funded recycling program and proceed with the next step in our glorious stadium confusedness.

3 BATTLE OF THE SPOUSES Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last night was subtly effective. Ann and Michelle were expected to ‘humanize’ the presidential candidates. Ann stepped up to the plate last week, but the First Lady aced it last night. By steering clear of the partisan, she managed to deliver the Democratic message (more effectively than her husband has in recent months) through simple personal experiences. Worth a watch.

4 CENTRAL AMERICAN QUAKE Costa Rica experienced a 7.6 magnitude earthquake this morning, centered around the capital city of San Jose. A tsunami warning has been issued for Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. More here.

5 MAURI-WHA? Mauritania, a country which is almost never talked, written or heard about, has been involved in a SPY SCANDAL! Abdullah al-Senussi, believed to be the  ‘spy chief’ of the Gaddafi regime, was arrested and extradited to Libyan authorities today.

6 THEN AND NOW Katie Hosmer from My Modern Met takes a look at Shawn Clover’s photographic adventure that blends contemporary city shots with images from the city’s catastrophic earthquake in 1906.

Four In The Afternoon: Late Edition

4 in the Afternoon1 MORE ELECTION NONSENSE Why is it that those who know the least about women’s issues are talking the loudest? If the women’s vote is so important, and if we’re going to hack away at so many dead issues, could we at least have someone who knows what the flip they are talking about do it? Our most recent Republican treat: Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith’s reacted to Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks by clarifying that his views were distinctly different from Akin’s. By paralleling rape to pregnancy out of wedlock.

2 PART PUZZLE 2.0 Toronto police announced today in a statement that the estranged boyfriend of Liu Guanghua was responsible for her death and subsequent displacement of her body parts across the GTA.  Jiang Chunqi was arrested on Sunday and is being charged with second degree murder in Canada’s second weird dismemberment mess this year.

3 LACKLUSTRE KICKOFF The republican national convention’s kickoff, scheduled to start today, was delayed until tomorrow as tropical storm Isaac threatens to hit the Louisiana coast as a category 2 hurricane. President Obama has declared a state of emergency in the State of Louisiana in preparation for the storm which has already claimed at least 20 lives across the Caribbean.

4 WHEN FORM AND FUNCTION COMBINE At long last, what we’ve all been waiting for; our first glimpses at Regina’s famed LFL football team. This photo was snapped at Regina Rage’s season-opener in Abbotsford on Saturday. Check out more of the “action” here.

Several In The Evening: The Very Late Edition Because Today Is His Highness’ Fifth Birthday. And It’s Demanding Stuff Dammit.

1 EASTERN PARTS More body parts have been found on Canadian soil. An investigation has unfolded over the last couple days to investigate the remains of an unidentified woman. The body parts were found in two separate Ontario jurisdictions. While we look down our noses at the recent surge of gun violence in the States, a special breed of Canadian serial killers are running amuck.

2 ALARMING TREND After Sunday’s train fatality, questions are being raised about the safety of the line at the intersection of Broder and 8th avenue. The 32 year old man is the third victim in 20 months.

3 THE RAPE SPECTRUM Republican nominee Todd Akin is under fire for comments seeking to describe “legitimate rape”. Akin contended this particular version doesn’t run the risk of pregnancy, because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down”. Katie Baker of Jezebel had an excellent look at this complete  nonsense.

Six In The Morning: Monday Edition

1 COLORADO REELS The suspect in Colorado’s movie shootings heads to court today. Shooting suspect James Holmes shot 70 people at a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises, 12 have died and 11 remain in critical condition. The suspect carried a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a glock. He was dressed in tactical gear and was reported telling the police he was “the Joker”. Holmes was a PhD student in a prestigious neurological program and many see this as an indication of American shortcomings in dealing with the mentally ill.

2 BANDAID On Friday 75 Saskatchewan arts, culture, youth and official-language programs received part of a $4,573,132 federal grant in response to funding applications. The Mackenzie Art gallery was a big beneficiary, receiving $256.000 for upcoming exhibits.

3 ONLY CUTE BECAUSE I WASN’T THERE A one year-old female bear cub was tranquilized and removed from a Pennsylvania mall on Saturday night. No one was hurt, but authorities acknowledged it was unusual to find bears in that area.

4 SYRIAN UNCERTAINTY The fighting continues in Syria, though the clash has been contained by government forces in central Damascus. Russia is holding firm in support of Assad’s regime, and the EU has agreed to impose sanctions. Assad has declined the promise of safe passage by the Arab League countries if he steps down. An interesting power politics take on the situation in the Globe by former Canadian ambassador Michael Bell is a worthwhile read.

5 IRAQ FLARE-UP At least 97 are dead this morning after insurgents launched attacks across the country. It is believed Iraqi Al Qaeda leader Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi warned of these attacks yesterday, calling it part of the new Breaking Down Walls offensive. It has been difficult to conclusively identify his voice, Baghdadi’s broadcast is quoted in Al Jazeera suggesting: “”The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards.”

6 YEAH, ENOUGH OF THAT Sometimes, when I get down, I go to this mostly ridiculous and surprisingly effective site:  http://www.happynews.com/. Don’t judge. This weekend was a rough one (see above). You might be in need as well. First Nations’ communities in Connecticut celebrate a rare white bison! Belgian scientists find a way to detect superparasites! See??

Four In The Afternoon: Almost On Time Edition

4 in the Afternoon1 BIG DAY AT CITY HALL Following this weekend’s stadium announcement, the city’s executive committee is reviewing a proposal which, among other things, proposes to hike property taxes around 5 per cent over ten years to help fund the new stadium. The executive committee is also addressing the results of the downtown transportation study, with results possibly opening the plaza to some traffic.

2 LOSING GRIP Assad’s forces came today following a bombing in at a high profile security meeting in Damascus. Three members of his inner circle, including his brother-in-law, a former defence minister, and his current Minister of Defence, were killed in a bomb believed to have been worn by a security guard.

3 SELL OFF Premier Wall has been on a ‘clean energy’ rampage this week, working his tail off trying to clean up the good name of Canadian oilsands. On Monday in the keynote address of the four day Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting in Saskatoon, Wall took an explicit stance on the issue. Americans need Canadian oil.  Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat and international relations specialist suggest that Wall was using a more blunt and “direct” approach, more appropriate when dealing with Americans. Blunt like evoking the imagery of fallen American soldiers fighting in overseas wars? Hey, tarsands are bad, but at least it’s not WAR. Bravo.

4 JUNK WEATHER, BAD CROPS Numerous agricultural woes have sprung up across North America following a summer of unpredictable weather in most regions. Eastern provinces and Ontario are reporting unusually dry summer conditions which are expected to affect prices by the end of the summer. Similar reports from south of the border suggest the same thing. Consumers should expect to see some short term price changes, but also long term price hikes with corn – currently climbing in price – being central to many types of food production.

Four In The Afternoon: Do Not Open Your Mail.

4 in the Afternoon1 HANDS, FEET, AND…? Montreal police confirmed today that the hand and foot that were opened in two Vancouver schools yesterday had come from Montreal. The body parts are believed to be linked to Luka Magnotta, but police are waiting on DNA evidence to confirm whether the parts belonged to Montreal student Jun Lin. One can’t help but notice that not all the body parts have been discovered, and the obvious lunatic doesn’t seem like the type to stop short of mailing brains…

2 SNAIL MAIL IS BLOWING UP! Just when we were starting to think traditional mail services were a thing of the past, a NEW function for Canada Post arises! Terror mail! Why stop at hands and feet. Nine packages, containing suspicious white powder were received at government and media offices in Montreal and Sherbrooke today. The packages, signed what loosely translates to “the armed revolutionary forces of Quebec”, turned out to be harmless. Mail bullet dodged. Or foot. Or whatever.  

3 MORE BLOODSHED Another massacre has taken place in the Hama province of central Syria this week. Opposition activists came forth today indicating that at least 86 people, including women and children, have been killed by Syrian pro-government forces.

4 DEL MASTRO DONE BAD Oh, so the easily detestable Dean Del Mastro is under investigation for potentially over-spending on his election budget. The mysterious unclaimed $21,000 cheque not only takes the steam out of anything Harper’s parliamentary secretary said during the robocall debate, it also makes him look like an ass.

Six In The Morning: Well, Kind Of

1 AIR CANADA IS FALLING APART, LITERALLY Monday afternoon’s incident at Toronto Pearson involving an Air Canada 777 passenger jet was not the aircraft’s first, apparently. A frighteningly thorough CBC story outlines the plane’s other two incidents that preceded Monday’s ENGINE SHUT-DOWN on the way to JAPAN.  Efforts to instill consumer confidence are going exceptionally well.

2 CLINCH OF THE MITT Pardon the phrasing, just trying to instill some snazz into what is being called the “most boring election ever“. Mitt has secured the Republican nomination following a big win in the Texas primary, and it’s hard to even care. We should. This guy has the potential to direct our country’s biggest economic partner, a relationship which will only get stronger with the unilateralism in Ottawa these days.

3 THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING Facebook shares have dipped to a new low this week, losing almost a quarter of their value. Meanwhile RIM, the Canadian company behind Blackberry has announced it will making making “significant” job cuts, following a rough quarter.

4 WAR CRIMINAL GETS FIFTY Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to fifty years in prison for his role in the 2002 massacres in Sierra Leone. This is the first time a former head of state has been convicted by the ICC since WWII, and is a big step for humanitarian interventionism on the international stage. You know, all that stuff Canada used to stand for…

5 HORROR POLITICS Authorities have confirmed that the foot and hand sent to Conservative offices this week had belonged to the human torso found in Montreal’s west end yesterday morning. More here.

6 SPEAKING OF HORROR MOVIE SH*T Police are releasing more details following what has been described as a “cannibal attack” between two men on a Miami causeway Saturday afternoon. The attacker, 31 year-old Rudy Eugene is now believed to have been overdosing on a potent new LSD-variant called ‘bath salts’. The relatively new drug has been linked to high body temperatures, extreme aggression, superhuman strength and fixation involving the jaw and mouth. Check it out. Or don’t, I didn’t sleep last night.

Four In The Afternoon: Late Edition

1 ROYAL VISIT Woop woop, Prince Charles and Camilla spent last night in Regina. Victor Sawa is conducting a special Regina Symphony Orchestra performance for the royal couple this evening. They’re in town for a couple more hours, and if following them around is your jam, their itinerary can be found here.

2 EVEREST WOES There’s been a massive influx of hikers scaling Mount Everest recently, and fatalities are on the climb.  CBC released a story this morning with Canadian climber Sandra Leduc comparing the mountain to a “morgue”. Yikes.

3 AND THE MARKETS REEL More EU related market instability as the future of Greece and the single currency remain uncertain. New French President Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel bumped heads over key issues in the Brussels summit. Flaherty announced at a Senator’s committee today that our fine country may feel the backlash from the political and economic instability overseas. Doubt Jim’ll be missing any meals.

4 ET FINALEMENT! Okay, I know I’m always on about how impossible it is to access politics with any level of influence, and I generally blame crappy coverage of important issues. Not in this case. Couture’s Star Phoenix article does decent job in covering Wall’s cabinet shuffle, expected later this week. Culture Minister Bill Hutchinson is out, a move some see as an effort to appease film industry advocates.

A Sad, Sad Day For American Politics. And Us. And Whoever, Grrr…


Just when I felt like I had reached my patience limit for the current lunacy of American politics, the bar keeps getting pushed lower.  Apparently, working for the Republican Party and being homosexual CANNOT OVERLAP.  Mitt Romney’s national security spokesman Richard Grenell resigned Tuesday after questions about his commitment to conservatism as an openly gay, sexual rights activist.

It has only been weeks since Canadian gay rights activist Raymond Taavel was beaten to death outside a Halifax bar. Truly disappointing to add homophobes to the ever-lengthening list of right-infringers.

Four In The Afternoon: Late Edition, Because There Are Too Few Hours In The Day.

1 BLACK IS BACK Canada is allowing Lord Conrad Black back into the country following his release from a Florida prison this week. The media mogul is expected to be released Friday following a 42 month sentence for obstruction of justice and fraud.  More back-scratching for well-known jerks. It’s a bad sign that I’m not even that upset. Complaining is my specialty. Maybe I’m disappointed? Or desensitized.  At least Mulcair is re-instilling a bit o’ passion into the issue, it’s impossible to watch him red-faced and shouty and not feel something.

2 ON THE WAY OUT President Obama was in the Afghan capital  of Kabul yesterday for a surprise visit, announcing ‘peaceful’ exit plans by 2014. ‘Peaceful’ exit doesn’t mean US troops will be leaving behind a peaceful Afghanistan, apparently. Obama’s very convincing assertions about reduced violence during his visit/photo-op were deflated by the suicide bombing that killed 7 people a mere 90 minutes after his departure. If that weren’t enough, the Taliban announced this morning that their ‘spring offensive’ starts tomorrow.

3 NEWS ON ONE OF THE REGIONS WE NEVER HEAR ABOUT! ANNNND IT”S GOOD! Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn into Parliament today following 49 years of military rule in the country. Suu Kyi, daughter of independence figure Aung San, is expected to usher in a culture of political change, transitioning away from the military rule which has dominated the region in the last century.  More on this here.

4 OH! AND APPARENTLY NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING WORTH REPEATING ABOUT THE STADIUM PLANS More ambiguous figures have been released about the publicly (or privately) funded open-air (or retractable roof) stadium/revitalization project/rail-yard revamp/mess. I’ve seen so many different ‘plans’ and images in the last few weeks, my head might fly off. For those who haven’t given up trying to decipher what can only be considered deliberate attempt to convolute what should be accessible information, check it out here, here and here. Clarification is promised for Friday.

Four In The Afternoon: Federal Stuff N’ Junk

4 in the Afternoon1 OFF TO THE LAPDOGS! Today the federal government announced its plans for a  Supreme Court appeal to overturn an earlier decision by the Ontario Court of Appeals which struck down a handful of anti-prostitution laws. The changes legalizes the employment of bodyguards and drivers for sex trade workers, and allows individuals to work legally indoors in brothels in Ontario. More on this here.

2 ANYONE WILL DO Newt Gingrich announced this morning that he will suspend his presidential campaign next week and support the Romney cause. He held on quite a bit longer than expected considering he didn’t have a hope in heck of being elected. The bounced checks may have been the final straw…

3 CURTAILING BENEFITS The federal government announced today that it will be scaling back on health provisions for refugees in Canada. The cutbacks seek to match health provisions for refugees to the level of coverage provided for Canadian citizens.

4 OH, THAT OLD CHESTNUT The abortion debate will be back on the table tomorrow as Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion will be debated. I personally cannot wait to listen to another old white guy (apparently the ‘experts’ on these issues) discuss what is best for women’s reproductive health.

BONUS: A dynamite live performance by dynamite multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird, one of Coachella 2012’s best acts.

Six In The Morning: Budget and Bigotry Blues

1 MOVING BACKWARDS Obama’s health care law is under scrutiny for the third day as Supreme Court justices assess the provisions of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, introduced in 2010. Critics question the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate, which requires every American to buy health coverage. Two related provisions, protection from retracting health care coverage and higher premiums for pre-existing medical conditions, are also expected to fall if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional. Before this law was enacted, the United States was the only developed country without a national health care program.

2 NOT GOOD. An Iraqi woman was taken off life support on Saturday, after being severely beaten in what authorities suspect could have been race-related hate crime. Maybe it was the note saying “go back to your country” found next to the woman’s body that gave it away. Shaima Alwadi, a 32-year-old mother of five was found by her daughter in their San Diego home a week ago today. Oh yeah, and apparently Germany is having some issues with neo-Nazis. Great.

3 SPEAKING OF CRAZY RACIST GROUPS A document was leaked by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, exposing some pretty questionable strategizing by the National Organization for Marriage to eliminate same-sex marriage in the US. The documents indicate the organization has been trying to create a strategic divide between the black and gay/lesbian vote, while increasing support for traditional family values in the key swing Latino vote.  

4 AHA! THEY’VE GOT IT! The Riots Communities and Victims Panel, a government-organized panel tasked to investigate the UK riots last summer has released its findings today. The issue: people need a stake in society. Weird, isn’t that what was figured out after the riots in Paris? And weren’t immigration, racism, and social integration central issues in BOTH LA riots? Maybe, just maybe, countries which rely so heavily on immigration for demographic stability should consider ramping up social integration policies rather than slashing them.

5 I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN HANDLE ANOTHER BUDGET Flaherty releases the Federal budget  tomorrow, and if it follows the pattern of the budgets we’ve seen so far this month, it should be a treat. Newly appointed NDP leader Thomas Mulcair used the budget discussion to evoke some serious imagery, warning of  Harper government’s painful public service cuts by a “rusty machete”.

6 BREATHING ROOM The deadline for Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit applications has been extended three months in order to allow productions to wrap up their current seasons before the program is eliminated entirely. Brad Wall promised yesterday to consider alternatives of a more ‘sustainable’ nature. Ron Goetz, president of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association points out that while the extension allows productions to capitalize on the film industry’s busy season, more importantly, it also provides the time for the industry’s supporters to come up with a new plan.

Four In The Afternoon: Budgets!

4 in the Afternoon1 DUAL MESSAGE Today’s provincial budget appears to swing both ways. While the it promises increased spending on healthcare, highways and infrastructure, on the other hand, the film and video industry took a hit, it plans to reduce prescription funding for the children and seniors, and will cut 500 civil service jobs.

2 SPEAKING OF BUDGETS The austere UK budget was announced yesterday and involved pension cuts, reductions to welfare spending and raised the cutoff for low income benefits. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

3 BEHIND KOFI WE STAND The UN security council has united in support of UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan aimed to contain the violence in Syria. The informal agreement hopes to facilitate humanitarian access and promote a peaceful political transition.

4 JOKES UNWELCOME Robert De Niro is under fire after making a race-related joke about Michelle Obama and the Republican candidates’ wives at a Presidential Fundraiser on Monday night. Gingrich has taken to the airwaves to blast De Niro (and also the President for some reason) about the comment. I get it, you can only say ridiculous things if you actually believe them. On a barely related note, and providing an excellent reason to post a picture of the Cloonster, George Clooney and his father were arrested while protesting Sudanese violence at the Sudanese embassy in Washington last week.

Six In The Morning: Avoiding All That Sad Stuff.

1 WHEW. Tony Clement is heading a cabinet committee tasked with reviewing over 70 billion dollars of government spending. The plan IS NOT to slash Canada’s public service spending and pension funding. What HE’S talking about is respecting taxpayers and a culture shift in spending. Yep, culture and respect in the same breath. Can you believe it?

2 THE PAPERLESS REVOLUTION SUCKS Yeah, I said it. Encyclopaedia Britannica has stopped printing paper copies. The Chicago flagship company announced yesterday that they will not be printing in book form for the first time in 244 years.

3 STILL WORKING ON IT A survey conducted by Leger Marketing for the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters uncovered some pretty alarming  results in discussions about domestic violence. Among other things, the survey found that nearly 10 percent of respondents considered it okay to hit a woman if she angered him, while 40 percent of respondents do not consider slapping a child in the face a form of domestic violence.

4 STUPID CATS? Well, why are they crushing their human counterparts in the first cross-species online game then?

5 TALKS Premier Brad Wall is telling us that he and Prime Minister Harper ‘talked’ about the funding gap between First Nation schools and those at the provincial level. That counts for something, I’m sure…

6 TWO MAN RACE Gingrich’s GOP bid is seen to be on life support following Santorum’s primary wins in Mississippi and Alabama, undermining the former speaker’s Deep South strategy. Side Note: Check out the Sandra Fluke theories coming out of the wordwork. Personal favourite: Obama sent her.