Thursday, October 18, 2007

A sad day in Calgary

I was driving to work this morning, traveling north on Crowchild Trail, when I noticed traffic backing up. As I got closer I realized that it was not due to an accident on my side of the divider, but people rubber-necking at an accident on the other side. There were six or seven cars by the side of the road along with a short school bus and a gravel truck, but I didn't see much in the way of damage. And I must have missed being an eyewitness by mere minutes since the police hadn't arrived yet (an unmarked police van, undoutedly generating cash for the city playing photoradar possum, whizzed by me to get to the scene).

That was until I was going past the gravel truck. On the back end was a yellow school bus panel. I realized what must have happened. The school bus must have sideswiped the gravel truck, shearing the whole right side of the bus off the vehicle in one piece and others had stopped to help out. Once that was clear I hoped no children were on the bus. Unfortunately, my fears were realized. There were 11 special-needs children on the bus on their way to a private school. Two were taken to the Calgary Children's Hospital in critical condition and three others in serious condition. One of those in criticial condition, an 8-year old girl, succumbed to her injuries later in the morning.

To those that stopped to help out I say thank you. I would have myself, but those that know Crowchild will understand how dangerous that would be. It wouldn't be the first time I had been first on the scene of a serious accident and had to care for the injured, but that's another story. My thoughts and those of my wife go out to the victims and their families.

The full news story can be read here. It's hard to believe, but the bus looked completely undamaged from my viewing angle.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ontario Tories trounced by electorate on religious school funding

Canadians pride themselves on being different from our southern cousins. One of the biggest differences in our political systems is that religion is bad form when even mentioned in an electoral campaign, let alone when part of a platform. Yesterday gave us a glimpse at this in the results of the Ontario provincial election. Ontario is the largest Canadian province in population, but no longer is it the economic center. And yet the federal government still acts as if the universe revolves around Toronto (ptew!). Well, enough of my western patriotic rant.

Any how, the election saw two archrivals in the incumbent premier Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal party and Progressive Conservative John Tory. There were the usual accusations of broken promises by the Tories (for those not familiar with the Canadian or British political vernacular, the term 'Tories' refers to Conservatives, not to the coincidentally-similar name of their temporarily-current leader). In response, McGuiny accused the previous Conservative administration of hiding a $5.6 billion defecit.

But what sunk the Tory boat was the inclusion of an ill-advised promise of public funding for religious schools. With the current religio-political climate of the US, I doubt anybody outside card-carrying members of the ACLU and FFRF would bat an eye, but up here you just don't do that. There are two things you don't touch if you don't want to commit political suicide. Obviously, this is one of them (the other being Medicare). This was the first big mistake and I very much doubt that this idea was floated within the party beforehand to test the waters. More likely, this was a solo improvisation which in politics is not a good idea. The second was floating a promise like this a mere nine days before the election date. McGuinty correctly seized upon this. "We do not want to see our children divided," McGuinty told supporters gathered at Ottawa's Fairmont Chateau Laurier. "We want publicly funded schools, not public funds for private schools."

This incredibly bone-headed political move of Tory's completely demolished any chances of an electoral victory. Out of 107 seats up for grabs in the Ontario legislature, McGuinty's Liberals won 71, the Tory's Tories took 26 and the remaining 10 went to the New Democratic Party. All in all, a resounding Tory thumping by the Liberals in a record-low voter turnout. But the final insult was to John Tory himself. He lost his own seat to Liberal incumbent Kathleen Wynne who, appropriately enough, has served as education minister under McGuinty.

John Tory has put on a brave face and plans to remain as leader of the Conservative party in Ontario, but this is highly unlikely in the face of both an electoral defeat and a rejection by voters in his own riding. “You can't stay where you're not wanted to stay, quite frankly,” he told listeners of a Toronto (ptew!) radio station. Well, duh.