April 30, 2011

Politics as usual

I saw this spruced up political poster in downtown Montreal last night and it made me laugh for a number of reasons. They like to stir things up in Quebec too. I can't figure out the exact translation but I think it has something to do with this dude being a con. If I could vote I would do everything I could to make sure the Bloc is not well represented in Parliament.

Quebec politics....almost as interesting as the recent ridiculous, racially-driven birth certificate dilemma in the U.S. The Bloc Quebecois here is the political party that wants to separate from the rest of Canada and make the entire province exclusively French speaking (even at the risk of losing business and residents) and it's own country. They came very close in the mid 1990s and they are gearing up again.

So Monday is election day here in Canada. All we can do is sit back and watch what happens and where our tax dollars will go....even though we really have no say since we can't vote. We can only be entertained. See, Canada is not that different from the U.S.

April 29, 2011

the Daily Duke 4.29.11

Duke Pisani of Beaconsfield does not understand why it was necessary to get up so early to watch a royal wedding when there's such a thing as Tivo. It was so early he didn't even go out to pee until after the vows.

April 18, 2011

The Cup

The city of Montreal is jazzed up about the hockey playoffs. There's a Canadian restaurant company called Boston Pizza...they decided to change the name during this playoff run against the Boston Bruins...they've been waiting for this match-up for quite a while.

April 17, 2011

the Daily Duke 4.17.11

Concentration. It's hard to explain in a photo this dog's deep affection for peanut butter. An empty jar secures at least a half an hour of peace and quiet in the house.

April 14, 2011

New Brunswick bound

We dropped Danielle off early this morning at her school for a road trip to New Brunswick for a school rugby tournament. This will be the third year she has gone to this tournament. The team plays an exausting schedule of games and they get to visit a beautiful part of Canada.

Why rugby you ask? We ask that ourselves. Danielle got involved in the sport her first year at the school and has been hooked ever since. She loves the team aspect of the game and we have to say she has the most amazing coach. This man, who hails from South Africa, truly understands the sport, and most importantly the safety factor. He has had very few injuries (that's reassuring) as a coach. The worst injury was a broken leg and hip -- and that was when one of his athletes was playing basketball in her driveway.

At a recent team meeting, her coach read the following quote from Sir Richard Wild, the former Chief Justice of New Zealand...

"It is the team element which provides a spur for the weaker spirit, a curb for the selfish and discipline for all. It treats every player as equal from whatever sporting background she comes; there is no yielding in the tackle, there's no privilege in the scrum."

Oh...and now that she's been appointed Captain of the team we're not sure if we should be addressing her as "Captain Danni" at home.

April 12, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions partie une

We're often asked a myriad of questions starting with "why are you here?" I thought I would answer some of these questions and at the same time provide updates about why we are here.

Do you like it in Canada?
Why, yes we do. We've been in Montreal since October 2008 and it's been an adventure to say the least. Once we got through all the pain it the ass moving details and starting life in a new country, it's been okay. We survived filing our first Canadian taxes and will never complain about taxes again in the U.S. Kish continues to try and covert her U.S. speedometer to kilometers per hour and has unfortunately been unsuccessful on a couple of occasions. She also tried to convince a Montreal police officer that if the bright red sign that said "Arret" had said "Stop" she would have stopped. He didn't care.

However, in general, we do like the quality of life in Canada.

How are you liking that free health care? I heard they have death panels in Canada!
Well, it's not free of course because over 50% of our income goes to taxes and the majority of Quebec budget goes to health care. Our roads may suck, but we have health care. We did not have a problem finding doctors. However, what makes it easy is that we do have a supplemental health care policy through Paul's job. Think of it like Medicare in the U.S...those who only have Medicare have a more difficult time than those who have another policy to help out. (Our universal health care is also called Medicare). Most doctor's offices do not handle insurance at all. They swipe your Medicare card and if you need to pay for anything else, you pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed from the insurance company. Despite the rumors, you can't just cross the border into Canada and get free health care or cheap prescriptions. In order to get a Medicare card you have to show a lot of paperwork, pay some fees, get some stamps, justify some government worker's jobs, etc. But, in the long run, it's been relatively easy for us and we have very few complaints, if any.

Are you Canadian citizens now?
No, we are temporary residents through Paul's work permit. We all have visas we keep in our passports. We are treated like Canadians when it comes to customs and all that so we do have restrictions on what we can bring across the border, which I've written about often on this blog. We pay taxes like anyone else, but we can't vote. There are a few other things we are not entitled to either...mainly when it comes to school-related programs that are for Canadian citizens.

I've heard college is cheap in Canada?
Why, yes it is, relative to the U.S.  However, since we are not permanent residents or citizens and despite the fact that we pay taxes here, that still does not apply to us right now.  When Danielle turns 18 she will be able to apply for permanent residency herself, which would enable her to attend University in Canada at the "cheaper" rate. For those of you in the U.S., think of it as in-state versus out of state tuition. The prices also vary by province with Quebec being the "cheapest." Here in Quebec, Danielle could attend a university like McGill for less than $4,000 per year (for tuition). Yes, you read that right, $4,000 per year, not per month as it would be for many schools in the States. There are many other fantastic universities in Canada which are more expensive, but nowhere near the inflated prices in the U.S.

Do you want Danielle to go to college in Canada?
Do the math. Ideally, yes.

Wait a minute...isn't Danielle only in 11th grade or a junior in high school...why is she graduating from high school this spring?
In Quebec, high school goes from grade 7 through grade 11. In grade 11, actually a bit earlier, kids need to decide what track they want to continue with for their education...social sciences, sciences, vocational or whatever. So, after grade 11, kids go to CEGEP which is like a two year junior college program. Then, they can go to university in Quebec (or not) and it's three years. Some kids choose to go to a year or two of CEGEP in Quebec, then transfer to another province (or not). If a kid attends high school in Quebec, they must go to CEGEP for two years before going to University in Quebec. However, if someone in high school in another provinces, which goes through grade 12, they can come to University in Quebec when they are finished with their respective high school program. Confused? It's taken us a two years to get this figured out.

So, what's Danielle doing next year?
Danielle applied to three Commerce programs (like business) at CEGEPs in the Montreal area and got accepted to all three. She's decided to attend John Abbott College and was accepted to the Honours Commerce program which is where she will go. The school is located five miles or so from our house, and easy public transportation since she does not yet have a driver's license (which is not uncommon here). It will be nice to not have to commute to the city. She will be in a program with about 40 other students and is very much looking forward to it. We're taking it one year at a time and it's a two year program. Since we are not residents we will have to pay, however, if we were residents it would be basically FREE. For our friends in the U.S., it's like free freshman year of college.

Does Duke understand French?

to be continued in a future post.....

April 11, 2011

Because it's Canada

Disclaimer: the rest of the family gets annoyed when I start getting too political so I need to mention that these opinions are those of the writer (me) and don't necessarily represent the opinions of the entire family. However, Duke the dog agrees with me on everything.

Because it's Canada, the Federal election debate in French was just rescheduled due to a hockey game. Yes, hockey. Sadly there are only two Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoff race, one of them being our home team, the Montreal Canadiens. This country also happens to be in the middle of a Federal election. When it was discovered the first playoff game for the Canadiens was scheduled on the same evening as a French televised debate, Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois party, suggested they move the debate up a day so as not to interfere with the game. Unlike the conflict that put this country into another election cycle, everyone agreed. And so it was done. Everyone is happy. For now. Besides, it's hockey.

I'm still trying to understand Canadian politics. I'm sure there's a sixth grader out there who can correct my facts. However, that sixth grader would have to be outside of Quebec because in this Province they emphasize Quebec politics and history because, well, many people in Quebec still want to abolish English, separate and want nothing to do with Canada except when it comes to equalization payments and benefiting from the Alberta.

This is what I know about the current election. Back in March the Conservative government FELL. Doesn't that sound dramatic? Almost as bad as a government shutdown. Basically, the Conservatives lost a motion in the House of Commons that was brought forward by the Liberals. Unlike the U.S. which has two parties (yes, I know, those Tea Party people want to be a real party, but... ), Canada has a bunch of them. There are the Liberals and the Conservatives, the New Democratic Party the Green Party and here in Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois. There are several other candidates but they don't seem to matter much, sort of like Donald Trump. They use the election to make some noise, like the Marijuana party in Canada (yes, they are an official party).

So, last month the House of Commons passed a motion of non-confidence in the Conservative government because they affirmed the Conservative government did some not-so-legal things by not disclosing financial details and therefore obstructing government. As a result, the Liberals and all the other opposing Members of Parliament refused to pass a budget. Sound familiar? But instead, here in Canada this meant that Parliament is basically dissolved and within six weeks or so there has to be a Federal election.

So, this is where we are now...six weeks of campaigning for a reappointment of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister or a leader of one of the other parties. The main difference between the elections in Canada versus the U.S. is that in Canada everyone votes for the candidate/party they want in their "riding" which is like a district. This person will represent them as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons. The leader of the winning party then becomes Prime Minister. Currently we have Stephen Harper. Confused? There are 308 seats in Parliament and 158 are needed for a majority. Although Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have the most MPs, they don't have the full majority which makes things interesting.

Quebec makes things even more interesting, as usual. Outside of Montreal, most of the MPs are members of the Bloc Quebecois. Many of these supporters are the ones who would like to see Quebec break away from Canada and have a lot of other crazy ideas. Personally, I correlate the leader of the Bloc and his party to Sarah Palin and her followers. They make a lot of waves and get a lot of attention for the crazy things they say or do. Not that I can understand Gilles Duceppe from the Bloc because he doesn't like to speak English, nor does he care much about the anglophone vote. I feel the same about Sarah Palin, I can't comprehend what she's saying most of the time either.

Speaking of hockey. The Montreal Canadiens will play the first game on Thursday, April 14th and the Federal Election debate (in French) will be the day before. There will be an English debate as well, which I will watch so I can make sure I'm understanding these politics.

Not that it matters that much. Despite the fact that we pay hefty taxes here in Canada (more in Quebec), we can't vote.

You don't think the folks in this country eat, sleep and breathe hockey? Stephen Harper plays a game of ball hockey with a staffer while waiting for his plane on the tarmac as it's prepared for another campaign stop.

April 9, 2011

the Daily Duke 4.9.11

Duke is hanging on to the last bits of winter. He doesn't want the snow to go.

April 2, 2011

the Daily Duke 4.2.11

Searching for a white ball. What sort of mean dog owner throws a white ball in the snow?
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