February 28, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.27

Is it any wonder why we are known as the Chicago sports family in the neighborhood?

February 27, 2011

Compassion in Action

When you are the sibling of a someone with any sort of disability, it's known that you tend to grow up with more compassion, patience and understanding. We know this about Danielle. We were so proud, again, when we heard a couple of weeks ago that she won an essay contest entitled "Compassion in Action."

Before I go on...let me first say that it seems like our last few posts have been about how great our family is -- and our dog of course. That's not the message we're trying to portray here. In other words, it's  not meant to be like one of those annoying Christmas newsletters where the writer is bragging and bragging about this and that. When we brag, it's because we deserve it, dammit. While blessed in so, so, so many ways, we've certainly encountered many, many obstacles, not unlike many, many others. Trust me, we're not perfect. On any given day we could easily find ourselves on The Dr. Phil Show. Seriously, just ask the neighbors come spring time when we forget the windows are open and they hear us on a not-so-perfect day.

That being said, we do get to brag about Danielle, again. She deserves it. When we moved to Montreal six weeks into her Freshman year, it wasn't easy.  Imagine one of her first classes on her first day of school being a discussion about gun control. Danielle had to make the comment that not all American gun owners are evil and that most every member of her mom's family owns guns...and her dad too but we decided to leave them in the U.S. Let's just say, it wasn't the best day for Danielle, but kudos for speaking her mind and defending her country in a way that would even make Sarah Palin proud (it's hard for me to write that). Even more challenging was sitting through a year of history class in French.

A few months ago, Danielle submitted an essay contest called Compassion in Action sponsored by LEARN (Leading English Education and Resource Network) in Montreal. In the essay they were to write about a person or group who has made a significant difference to the community or world through compassion and leadership. Danielle chose to write about Eleanor Roosevelt in an essay called Eleanor Roosevelt: The Woman Behind the Declaration. Specifically she addressed Roosevelt's role as the most influential member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.


The award was announced in the middle of her class when members of the organization and the Headmistress of the school came into the classroom. She was most surprised.
For winning the award Danielle received a scholarship to attend Encounters with Canada (EWC) in Ottawa. This program is a week-long gathering of kids from across Canada to gather and learn and experience different topics. After this week she'll become one of over 85,000 Canadians who have already taken part in this remarkable experience. And we bet she's only one of a handful of Americans to ever attend this program.
Danielle left tonight for Ottawa where she's attending the "Politics in Canada" week. She'll have the opportunity to go to Parliament, meet her MP (Member of Parliament), go to meetings, meet other Canadian kids and more. She will spend the first week of her March break (she has the next two weeks off school) in Ottawa at Encounters with Canada. The Headmistress (like a principal) of her school, who herself is a graduate of this program in Ottawa, was so pleased with Danielle's accomplishment that she offered to pay for her transportation. This being the case because Danielle is not a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, yet. Yes, we pay high taxes. But -- get this -- the government pays for the transportation for all the kids attending this program! And, the Headmistress said she could miss a week of school if the week she chose did not fall during March break. As it is, Danielle decided the Politics in Canada would be the most interesting program even though she had a free pass basically to attend one later in March.

Bon Voyage Danielle! You exemplify Compassion in Action each and every day.

Following is an excerpt from Danielle's school website announcing the award.

Grade 11 student Danielle P. learned this week that she is one of the winners of the Compassion in Action Writing Contest, offered by LEARN (Leading English Education and Resources Network) and Encounters with Canada.

To be eligible, competitors between 14 and 17 years of age had to write an essay about a person (or group) who has made a difference to the community (or world) through their compassion and leadership, or is in the process of transforming a community (local, national or international) for the better. The contest also challenged essay writers to include an element that would inspire others to make a difference in their community.

Danielle wrote about former First Lady, author, speaker, politician, and activist Eleanor Roosevelt, clearly impressing the judges with her essay. She says she chose this topic because, “Eleanor Roosevelt has always been an inspiration to me; I want to go into International Relations and Politics when I’m older.”

Danielle learned about her win when representatives from LEARN and Encounters appeared in her classroom, and made the announcement, taking her completely by surprise. Her prize will be a fully paid week at Encounters with Canada- the country’s largest youth forum – compliments of LEARN.

Danielle will join 135 other students from across the country in Ottawa for the theme week of her choice, taking part in unforgettable workshops, presentations, excursions and cultural activities. An American by birth, she says she’s “really looking forward to having a Canadian perspective on international relations or politics to meeting people from across the country.” EWC has been offering rich and diverse programmess for 29 years. Over 85,000 youth have already lived the EWC Experience.

To find out more about the contest and LEARN, go to www.learnquebec.ca. 
For information about the Encounters with Canada programme, visit www.encounters-rencontres.ca.

ESSAY EXCERPT: Eleanor Roosevelt: The Woman behind the Declaration

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” This first article of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS seems quite simple doesn’t it? A basic human right is to be born free and what a simple right it is. No one is created better or worse than another and no one deserves to be discriminated against, hurt or misrepresented by anyone else, which is all in keeping with the idea that one should act towards another in a spirit of brotherhood. Sadly, before one such great woman, the right to be born free and have equal rights was merely a privilege granted to those in power. One woman used political power, the media spotlight, leadership and, most of all, compassion to change not just her country, but the world as well. This woman was none other than Eleanor Roosevelt.

Unlike the first ladies of the United States that preceded her, Eleanor Roosevelt felt that she needed to exceed the traditional duties that they had come to be marked by the first ladies that preceded her. While her husband was in office for 12 years, she felt it was her duty to use her leadership to change the world. In fact, she is considered by many historians to be a major contributing factor to Roosevelt’s presidency, as she was the face of his campaign shortly after his diagnosis with Polio.

February 21, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.21

Paul skied all day. He has an excuse. Duke...well...he did the same thing he's doing in this picture. All day.

Family Day in Canada

It's technically a holiday in much of Canada...except Quebec. The provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan celebrate Family Day on the third Monday in February. It's supposed to celebrate the importance of family life to people and their communities. Kind of nice.

It was just an ordinary day in Quebec. We've been spending a good bit of time at a small rental place near our ski hill. What better way to learn more about Canada than with Canadian Monopoly?

Although, when Danielle and Louis play this game together, it's not always that friendly. I suppose, that's normal...and very family-like. Even for Family Day...most everywhere but Quebec.

February 18, 2011

Welcome to your world, Canada

"That will be $5.50 (U.S.) please."

That's what Canadians will be charged in the way of a travel fee President Obama has proposed for the 2012 budget. I don't think it's much of a news story in the U.S. from what I can tell. But in Canada? Wow! People are pissed. I've been entertained by reading the comments following news stories in the Globe and Mail and National Post. I have not been this entertained since watching ten minutes of Glenn Beck's show the other day. There's some serious misinformation going on. I know, I know. This is a family blog. I talk about stuff in our family. But, every once in a while there comes a subject -- a subject relating to the U.S. and Canada and I have to speak out. This is probably a good time to say that the political opinions expressed in this blog are expressed by the writer of this blog (Kish) and not always the entire family. There. I said it. 

I'm amused at the irony.

I mean, I feel like once a day I get a tax bill of some sort. I'm truly Canadian when I say to Paul as a lawyer invoice comes in the mail..."Holy crap, did you know lawyers have to charge sales tax?" It's true, they do. It's called a goods and services tax and we are taxed on everything. They guy who mows the lawn in the summer? Yup, goods and services tax on top of all that. We are used to it by now.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made comments about it being a bad idea. Sort of funny when you think about the fees and taxes he institutes in Canada.

Yes, I know, we have "free" health care in Canada. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know that I love Canada. I've come to accept Canada and the taxes. I'm cool with it really. I actually don't mind the health care situation in Canada. I've embraced life here...and the water tax bill, the welcome to Quebec tax (true), the yearly driver's licence renewal fee (which is more if you accidentally went through a stop sign have any traffic violations, $700/month plus tax to heat the house, the new, annual "car" tax, double digit sales tax, and more. Did I mention $24 for a case of beer? Canadian beer? As Tony Soprano says, "it is what it is." We just deal with it. We have health care and affordable secondary education compared to the U.S. It all comes out in the laundry, so to speak.

So, as I mentioned, this new proposed $5.50 U.S. travel fee has Canadians really upset. They think they are bailing out the US economy, and they should not have to bail out the neighbors to the south. Because after all we are friends. Think of it like a cover charge for a party. Canada thinks it would be like your brother making you pay a cover charge to go to a party in your own neighborhood. You just don't treat family like that. Well, in my family we did, but that's another story.

Here are some details of this travel fee...

Since 1997, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean have been exempt from paying a document inspection fee to fly or arrive by ship to the U.S. Other travelers to the US do pay a fee and will continue to do so. We all know the U.S. economy is in the toilet is trying to rebound. So, Obama proposes this $5.50 fee for people traveling from Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada. Seriously, $5.50. That's like a cup of coffee and a small box of Timbits at Tim Horton's (with tax). It's estimated that in 2009 16 million Canadians flew into the U.S. Yes, I know, that's a nice number. They also spend a lot of money in the U.S. and we love Canadians. The U.S. government estimates this new fee will generate $90 million from Canadians alone. Many Canadians have the impression though that they are "bailing" out the U.S. Frankly, this is chump change compared to the deficit in the U.S. I mean, some professional sports contracts out there worth more than $90 million when all is said and done.

But here's the irony...have Canadians taken a look at what it costs to fly in and out of Canada and for the privilege of using a Canadian airport? We pay $25 each and every time we use Montreal's airport. You want to talk taxes? Holy crap.  It's not uncommon for the taxes and fees in Canada to be 25 percent or more of a fare. And you want to use miles? You pay the taxes and fees anyway. And, the news of this $5.50 fee came the same week CTV ran a story about the number of Canadians choosing to drive across the border to take flights out of U.S. airports because they can save thousands -- thousands of dollars in airfare and fees for a family. Yes, U.S. carriers charge baggage fees. That does kind of suck. But, have you tried carry-on? Or better yet, try and ship the contents of a suitcase from Canada to the U.S. via Canada Post. Have fun with that...baggage fees are a bargain in comparison.

Just for the heck of it...I went on United Airlines and checked a flight from Chicago to Montreal...leaving March 11 and returning March 18. To fly in and out of Montreal the fare is $717.03 with $68.20 in taxes and fees. (all dollars are American). To fly in and out of Burlington, Vermont (less than a 2 hour drive) it's $448 and $21.20 in taxes and fees. If you are a family of five...do the math.

And this is before the $5.50 fee Obama has proposed for the 2012 budget, which still has to pass.

My point?

Welcome to your world, Canada. A $5.50 fee is not a big deal and will help the U.S. Department of Homeland inSecurity. Will it bail out the U.S. deficit? It won't make a dent. But it is something. Is it a slap in the face as some have said? Perhaps. But, we're talking $5.50! (A slap in the face was receiving a "Welcome to Quebec" bill weeks after we bought this house -- essentially it's a sales tax on the price of your home).

Besides, you'll spent more to buy a beer at the airport in Montreal. Just think what you'll save being in the U.S., you can easily get a beer in Milwaukee for less than $5.50. And if you don't like that, fly over Florida and go to Cuba. But wait, there's a $25 departure tax there.

Just for fun...here's some bullshit explanation from the Air Canada website on what the fees mean.....

What are the additional charges in my Fare?

Fuel NAV Canada Insurance ATSC Airport Fees International Destinations
Note: This information is intended as a guideline only. Actual fees and surcharges are subject to change and some exceptions apply.

Your fare may include NAV CANADA surcharges, fuel surcharges and insurance surcharges where applicable. Ticketable Airport Improvement Fees and the Air Travellers Security Charge (ATSC) are included in taxes component of your fare.

Canadian and US Destinations

Fuel Surcharges: For travel within Canada and between Canada and the United-States, fuel surcharges are now included in the ticket price. For International travel, fuel surcharges vary according to destination.

NAV Canada Surcharge: NAV surcharges within Canada are either 9 / 15 / or 20 CAD based on distance. For transborder itineraries, 7.50 CAD / 7.50 USD each way. This surcharge is collected to cover the fees that Air Canada pays to NAV Canada to operate Canada's Air Navigation systems.

Insurance Surcharge: In order to account for the rising costs of aviation insurance, Air Canada along with other North American carriers have implemented an insurance surcharge. This insurance surcharge is 3 CAD, each way for travel wholly within Canada. (Some exceptions apply).

ATSC: The Canadian Parliament has enacted the Air Travellers Security Charge Act to fund security personnel and security equipment in response to the events of September 11. For domestic itineraries, the ATSC is 7.12 CAD one-way to a maximum charge of 14.25 CAD. For transborder itineraries, the ATSC is 8 CAD / 7 USD one-way to a maximum charge of 16 CAD / 14 USD.

Airport Improvement Fees: Many airports in Canada and around the world have implemented Airport Improvement Fees (AIFs). Some airports collect these fees at the airport at time of departure, others are collected at the time of ticketing and are reflected in the additional charges portion in your fare. Canadian airports that include the AIF on your ticket are as follows: (All amounts in CAD)

Bagotville, Que. (YBG) $20
Baie-Comeau, Que. (YBC) $10
Bathurst, N.B. (ZBF) $40
Calgary, Alta (YYC) $22
Castlegar, B.C. (YCG) $7
Charlottetown, P.E.I. (YYG) $15
Comox, B.C. (YQQ) $5
Cranbrook, B.C. (YXC) $10
Deer Lake, N.L. (YDF) $15
Edmonton, Alta (YEG) $20
Fort McMurray, Alta (YMM) $20
Fort St. John, B.C. (YXJ) $12
Fredericton, N.B. (YFC) $20
Gander, N.L. (YQX) $20
Goose Bay, N.L. (YYR) $20
Grande Prairie, Alta (YQU) $12
Halifax, N.S. (YHZ) $15
Hamilton, Ont. (YHM) $20
Kamloops, B.C. (YKA) $10
Kelowna, B.C. (YLW) $10
Lethbridge, Alta (YQL) $12
London, Ont. (YXU) $15
Moncton, N.B. (YQM) $15
Montreal, Que. (YUL) $25
Mont-Joli, Que. (YYY) $5
Mont Tremblant, Que. (YTM) $20
Moosonee, Ont. (YMO) $7
Nanaimo, B.C. (YCD) $10
Ottawa, Ont. (YOW) $15
Prince George, B.C. (YXS) $18
Quebec City, Que. (YQB) $25
Regina, Sask. (YQR) $15
Rouyn-Noranda, Que. (YUY) $10
Saint John, N.B. (YSJ) $20
Sarnia, Ont. (YZR) $20
Saskatoon, Sask (YXE) $5 Travel within Saskatchewan
(YXE) $15 Travel outside Saskatchewan
Sault Ste Marie, Ont. (YAM) $15
Smithers, B.C. (YYD) $15
Stephenville, N.L. (YJT) $20
St. John's, N.L. (YYT) $15
Sydney, N.S. (YQY) $25
Thompson, Man. (YTH) $15
Timmins, Ont. (YTS) $10
Toronto, Ont. (YYZ) $25 Originating passengers
(YYZ) $8 Connecting passengers
Val d'Or, Que. (YVO) $10
Vancouver, B.C. (YVR) $5 Travel within B.C./Yukon
(YVR) $15 Travel outside B.C./Yukon
Victoria, B.C. (YYJ) $10
Waterloo, Ont. (YKF) $15
Windsor, Ont. (YQG) $10
Winnipeg, Man. (YWG) $20

International Destinations

ATSC: The Canadian Parliament has enacted the Air Travellers Security Charge Act to fund security personnel and security equipment in response to the events of September 11. For international itineraries, the Air Travellers Security charge is 17 CAD for each return or one-way trip with a departure from Canada.

Airport Improvement Fees: Many airports in Canada and around the world have implemented Airport Improvement Fees (AIFs). Some airports collect these fees at the airport at time of departure; others are collected at the time of ticketing and are reflected in the additional charges portion in your fare.

NAV Canada Surcharge: NAV surcharge for International travel to and from select countries is CAD 15 per direction. This surcharge is collected to cover the fees that Air Canada pays to NAV Canada to operate Canada's Air Navigation systems.

Peak Travel Premium: For travel to/from certain international destinations on peak travel dates, a Peak Travel Premium may be added to the 'Taxes, fees, charges and surcharges' component of your fare. The actual premium charged and the applicable peak travel dates are subject to change.

February 16, 2011

February 15, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.15

Duke really, really likes snow. He attacks a snow bank in the yard as if it's a giant cone of gelato.

February 14, 2011

Repeat Gold

It's Valentine's Day and my heart is warm. Louis won Gold again over the weekend at this year's Provincial Special Olympics Alpine Ski Championships. It was a long and rewarding day for Louis and all of his fellow athletes. And for the parents, coaches and volunteers.

It was the oddest weather day...one minute we would have a white out and then the sun would come out and then another white out. The conditions were difficult for the athletes with many of them falling on the race course. It's always hard to watch a fall. But each and every one of them would get up, put their skis back on and finish the race. (they can't receive any help on the course, if they are even touched by anyone they get disqualified). They did great despite the weather, not being able to take a practice run and only being able to do one Giant Slalom in the morning and Slalom in the afternoon.

This race prepared the athletes for the upcoming Special Olympics Quebec Winter Games March 4-6. Louis will join his team and the other racers and winter sports athletes from around the Province for a weekend of competition. We are ready!
Louis gets ready for his race

Danielle was his coach for the day- cheering him on as he skied and at the bottom

February 13, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.13

Duke was very....relieved....when we returned last night after being away from the house for 13 hours at Louis' Special Olympics ski race. We're lucky he can hold it. Today, he knows we owe him big time for his patience. And his bladder.

February 7, 2011

So proud

While training with our Special Olympics group yesterday, I saw something that made me so proud. Danielle volunteers her time as a certified ski instructor, teaching Special Olympians ski techniques, encouraging them, helping them, supporting them, laughing with them. Sometimes it's not easy. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's not so fun. But the rewards are priceless.

I was helping at the race course and looked up on the chairlift to see Danielle with our newest skier, a young man with Down Syndrome. This young man would not move his feet forward to even put on skis last week. (Don't ever assume that people with disabilities are not stubborn!) The week prior, he spent time on the "magic carpet" -- an area with barely an incline which is used for new skiers.

So yesterday after a time or two on the magic carpet, Danielle decided this young man was ready for the ski lift and to get skiing. She got him on the lift -- no small accomplishment -- and up they went. (He didn't have a lift ticket -- that's our girl -- plow ahead and ask questions later.) That's where I saw them and I have to admit, I though "oh shit" what is she doing?

She was teaching this young man how to ski.
And ski he did. Was he fast? No. Was it perfect? No. Was he up on skis, trying something for the first time? Yes. Is he a Special Olympian? You bet.

Danielle did it too. She was amazing. And patient. And kind.
Our new skier got tired. He sat down after a while and did not want to get back on his skis. That's okay. Danielle told him it was okay because he tried and he accomplished so much. He was skiing.

The most interesting part of this day? This young man only spoke French and didn't know a word of English. Danielle taught him in French.

It was a good day for everyone and she made her parents proud. Très bon Danielle.

February 4, 2011

They look good together, eh?

The meeting that took place between Stephen Harper and Barack Obama has been news in Canada all week. I'm guessing it seems to not be such a big deal in the U.S. as I've looked through the regular news sources to try and get an American perspective. I suppose it's because it's all about Egypt this week, as it was during this press conference where they were supposed to be talking about border relations between the two countries on the 49th parallel. The American media didn't seem too interested in what Harper had to say as they actually cut away from his comments in French and English in order to analyze what Obama stated about Egypt. Again.

All they did today in meetings was really talk about the border, a future agreement and how the two countries could work even better together to help out the economies, streamline the border and yet remain sovereign. Many politicians in Canada want more discussion here. We are each other's largest trading partners, so it is sort of a big deal. And the U.S. could certainly take advantage of some of the natural resources in Canada, like fossil fuels and such and other resources that would lessen its dependence on foreign energy sources. But I digress. (Stephen Harper had, what I interpreted as a bit of a smirk on his face when he talked about this and how it would be better to accept energy from a secure, stable and friendly country like Canada).

On a side note...I'm stunned at how many Americans do not even know who Stephen Harper is. I'm also amazed at how many Americans have no idea about important the business and cultural relationship is between our two countries. There's more to Canada than hockey and that Justin Bieber kid. Oh, and Celine Dion. She can stay in the U.S. Sorry, that's not nice.

Back to the border...it sounds good and you can tell by the editorial below from the National Post, that it is a welcome idea for man. Unless, Joe Lieberman pushes the idea of wanting Canadians to get visas each time they cross the border. I can tell you that would NOT be good and it would not do anything but complicate border crossings more than they already are. Dumb idea Mr. Lieberman...not to mention the fact that all the Canadian "Snow Birds" who contribute a significant amount to the U.S. economy in the winter months, might consider taking their golf clubs and flip flops elsewhere, which means their loonies and toonies too.

All I really want to know is if they share "intelligence" will the Canadian border people be able to really tell how long I've been out of the country when I return to Canada from the U.S. So, in other words, when I say I've been gone a day, give or take three, they would be able to tell?

Harper and Obama only took a couple of questions from the press. When the Canadian reporter asked President Obama a question and told him that he did not have to answer it in French, the President looked relieved and said something about his French not being that great. Dude, that's how I feel every day...I too get relieved when I call the cable company and reach someone who actually speaks English. Welcome to my world, north of your border.

National Post editorial board: Yes to the North American perimeter

  February 4, 2011 – 9:30 am

At 6,400 kilometres in length, the non-militarized border shared by Canada and the United States is the longest in the world. Until Sept. 11, 2001, moving across it in some places was as simple as crossing the street. In the adjacent towns of Derby Line, Vt., and Stanstead, Que., for instance, you could pass back and forth within the confines of the local library, which was deliberately built on the border itself.
This all changed nine years ago. Border agents properly became more vigilant about potential security threats: Suddenly, contraband cigarette runners and outlet shopaholics were no longer their primary interest. In this post-9/11 world, mandatory passports, NEXUS terminals and FAST cards all became part of the ad hoc security apparatus cobbled together in the campaign to fight terror without hampering legitimate business and tourist travellers.
Now, there is a movement to create a more comprehensive bilateral-security framework. Indeed, the subject is expected to dominate today’s meeting between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper.
Since 9/11, America has gone through several cycles of overheated fretting in regard to the security threat from the north. This week brought a typical instance: U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security committee, commented on a report indicating that U.S. security forces provide an “adequate level of security” on only 1% of the Canada-U.S. border. Mr. Lieberman said security challenges were complicated by the fact that “most Canadians do not need a visa to enter the United States.” While not directly advocating visas, Mr. Lieberman added: “I think it is something that we should be talking about with our Canadian neighbours.”
In response, the Obama administration quickly quashed speculation on the issue, while the Canadian federal government flatly rejected any calls even for a discussion about a visa requirement — which of course would cripple Canada’s export-dependent economy overnight. As Immigration Minister Jason Kenney pointed out, “It would be massively problematic from an economic perspective.”
Apart from flying in the face of free trade, a visa requirement also would undercut the close relationship between our two countries. Requiring a visa is an unfortunate necessity in some bilateral contexts — but it is not conducive to international trust and goodwill. Witness the hostility generated by the United Arab Emirates’ recent requirement that Canadian visitors to that country purchase an expensive visa before their travels, or the negative reaction when Canada recently imposed visa requirements on visitors from Mexico and the Czech Republic, as a means to block bogus refugee claimants.
Senator Lieberman was correct, however, when he said that Canada has “more lenient asylum laws and immigration laws than we do here [in the United States]. And that potentially has an effect on us.” Numerous experts, such as former Canadian Immigration Service head James Bissett, have argued on these pages that our bleeding-heart policies in this area constitute a major security threat not only to the United States, but also to our own country.
Thus, instead of making it more difficult for law-abiding Canadian citizens to cross the border into the United States, Canada should make it more difficult for foreign security threats from ending up in our country in the first place. And the best way of doing so is through a co-ordinated security perimeter that protects both countries on the basis of agreed-to standards regarding the entry of personnel and cargo.
This is an issue that extends beyond terrorism. A related complaint heard on Capitol Hill concerns the prevalence of cross-border drug smuggling, particularly of methamphetamines, in part because of more lenient Canadian laws governing the chemicals used in manufacturing the drug. The issue could be addressed by reviewing Canadian laws in this area, and by cracking down on the criminal elements who produce and distribute these substances.
Stephen Harper and Barack Obama will meet today to discuss these issues. And the scuttlebutt is that they will sign an agreement, and strike a committee of bureaucrats, with the aim of putting in place some form of perimeter. This is a good time to be embarking on such a project. Due to recent events, Canada is entering these negotiations from a position of strength: With the crisis in Egypt threatening the security of the world’s oil supply, Americans will be looking north for a secure supply of oil and natural gas.
Detractors claim that a security perimeter would represent a step toward abrogation of our sovereignty. But critics made the same claims about free trade, which enriched us without making us any less sovereign.
A North American security perimeter would be beneficial to the law-abiding citizens of both countries — and bad news for those who would threaten our common safety.

Read more: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/02/04/national-post-editorial-board-2/#ixzz1D1ctxUOw

We're getting milked

I've written in the past (click here) about how confusing it was when we first moved to Montreal when it came to buying milk. I had no idea what to do. And I didn't want to ask. Danielle would come home from school and tell me how "it" worked. I have the process covered now, but each and every time I go to the super market it gets me angry. I will never, ever, complain about the price of dairy in the U.S. again. This is crazy! As you can see from the article below, I'm not the only one. The scoop is -- we pay just about $6 a gallon for milk in our area. Yup! And we have to work for it -- putting the darn plastic bags in the pitcher and all that. Really, that's not a big deal, but it's not like we're paying a lot for packaging. 

We've been spending quite a bit of time in the Eastern Townships of Quebec where we ski each weekend. It's a short ride over the border to Vermont. You know how in the U.S. you don't want to do your food shopping at a 7-11 or White Hen because you know you are paying more for convenience? Well, those prices are bargains for us. It's sad when I walk into a Vermont convenience store and feel like I've won the lottery by stocking up on gallons of milk (in plastic containers), chicken, butter and cheese and actually saved money. We always stop at a super market in the U.S. and pick up a turkey or two -- just your average bird can cost $50-$60. Pork is reasonable and then of course there's always rabbit or lamb. (Interestingly, I just read over that post and I thought it was crazy when we were paying 95 cents/litre for gas). Oh, and I can fill up the car with gas on the way home and save a bundle there too -- seriously -- the gas prices yesterday were $1.27 a litre -- with almost four litres to the gallon you can do the math. It's not uncommon for those prices to fluctuate 10 cents/litre from one day to the next so it's a gamble whenever we decide to buy gas in Quebec. We're all about supporting the local economy and all, but this is just crazy.

Quebecers get milked as price increases

Retail price here 40% higher than in rest of Canada

MONTREAL - Quebec families will be hit with higher grocery bills this week, as the retail price of milk increased an average of four cents a litre across the province Monday.
A four-litre package of two-per-cent milk now retails for as much as $7.67 after the increase - significantly more than what consumers pay in other provinces.

While four cents might not seem like a lot, Quebecers have been paying higher milk prices for years and a further increase will put an even bigger strain on consumers' budgets.

Over a year-long period, paying more for milk can have a significant financial impact on a family with growing children.

Canada's Food Guide recommends drinking two cups - 500 millilitres - of milk a day as part of a healthy diet. According to this guide, that would mean a family of four should consume 14 litres of milk per week - or 3 1/2 four-litre bags of two-per-cent milk. At $7.67 per bag, that would work out to a total price of $26.85 per week.

A 2008 Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) study found that a family of four in Quebec paid an extra $300 a year for milk, eggs and poultry as a result of Canada's supply management policies.

Agricultural policy expert Sylvain Charlebois, the author of the aforementioned report, found that the retail price of milk was as much as 40 per cent higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada.
"Are we penalizing consumers with less means?" asked the associate dean of Guelph University's school of management in an interview. "We are talking about a necessity. For pregnant women, it is really important."

Canada's taxpayer-funded supply management system regulates the production and pricing of milk across the country. Critics argue these policies result in inflated production costs and high retail prices.
A more recent MEI report found the cost of milk production in Canada was the third highest among developed nations, behind only Japan and Norway.

Quebec and Nova Scotia are the only two provinces that regulate the retail price of milk: Nova Scotia sets a minimum retail price; Quebec sets a minimum and maximum retail price.
While consumers deal with the increased price of retail milk; restaurant owners are grappling with a hike in industrial milk prices that took effect Tuesday.

The Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC) has increased the price of industrial milk by 1.5 per cent, to the dismay of many restaurant owners. Industrial milk is used to make cheese, yogurt and ice cream. A price increase means more expensive food staples and increased operating costs for restaurants.

In a recent news release, The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) urged the CDC not to go through with a price increase.

"Record-high dairy prices and low disposable incomes are already driving consumers to choose other menu items in our restaurants," Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the CRFA said in a statement.
"This price increase will drive dairy consumption down even further."
As for the jump in retail milk prices in Quebec, the head of a prominent consumer group said the price hike was unnecessary.

Cran, president of the Ottawabased Consumers' Association of Canada in an interview.
Pierre Nadeau, president of the Conseil des industriels laitiers du Quebec, which represents the interests of Quebec dairy producers, said the price increase was needed to cover the rising cost of producing milk: running the machinery, covering fuel costs and paying salaries to the employees of milk production firms.

He acknowledged that "consumer groups can be upset at an increase in price."

"As a consumer, I can understand," he said.

"There are costs to bring milk to the population and the cost is increasing. The farm costs are increasing. The processing and distribution costs are increasing. We think (the price increase) is justified and maybe they think it is not -that is simply the way it is."

Charlebois said Quebec dairy industry players need to recognize and react to broad changes in the marketplace -such as the fact that Quebecers "are drinking less and less milk."

In the past, milk was an important part of the traditional Quebec diet, he noted.

But Quebec has become much more multicultural and a significant number of today's consumers are from cultures where milk is not an important part of the diet.

As a result, he said, the dairy industry needs to figure out ways to "increase demand" and develop innovate products to attract consumers.
In 2008, Statistics Canada found the average Canadian drank 57.7 litres of milk in a year, a 12.3 litre drop from 70 litres in 1988.



February 2, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.2

Duke is in his usual spot in the morning looking out the window. Today he's watching the snow fall wondering how his dog friends back in Chicago are taking care of business this morning in the blizzard.

February 1, 2011

the Daily Duke 2.1

Duke is exhausted from watching the Weather Channel all day long. He's borrowing a phrase from the Sarah Palin word salad, playbook and is having his own "WTF moment." He's all...WTF -- What's the Fuss? It's winter. It snows. He is a Canadian Field Labrador after all.

We're sorry...

As they say in Canada quite often, "we're sorry." We're sorry to our neighbors down south that you are getting some nasty weather...we're not. While our Chicago friends are getting ready for a blizzard, we're not. It's a bit cold, but it's Canada. To celebrate the weather we are not getting, here's a very funny clip from last week's Rick Mercer Report, one of our favorite shows. Bundle up, stay warm, enjoy the snow day tomorrow. Again, we're sorry.

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