Thursday, September 29, 2005

CBC Lockout

-- a sister Torstar publication, it must be said -- has a bang-on editorial this week about the CBC lockout of 5,500 members of the Canadian Media Guild, now in their seventh week of pounding the pavement.

The piece argues that public sector unions -- and, I might add, crown corporations -- be prevented from going the labour disruption route. Specifically, no strikes, no lockouts. There are too many losers -- and most of them are ordinary citizens.


Think about CBC. Top management has absolutely no incentive to end the dispute because there is no financial penalty in continuing it.

In a private company, losses would pile up as assembly lines ground to a halt and inventories dried up. Executive bonuses would shrink. Shareholders would scream and yell.

But CBC managers are getting paid extra to cover for the locked-out workers. There will be more money for them to play with after this is all over. There's no financial downside.

- Antonia Zerbisias,Toronto Star

Bang-on post by Antonia. CBC management has shown that it has no regard for a) Canadians, b) public broadcasting, and c) its most valuable asset - the employees.

Makes me wonder: What treatment should we expect from CBC management once we graduate?

For many of us young wanna-be journalists, working for the CBC is a dream, but not the distant, fantasy-type. We work on assignments, interviews, tapings, edits, bearing with each frustrating screw-up, hoping that it's all preparing us for the day we can say "CBC News" in our extro. We dream of sporting the CBC logo on our press pass and equipment. We want the Mother Corp. to adopt us, treat us well, and give us the chance to do what we're so passionate about.

Whether our dream is to report from far away places, do exposes as investigative journalists, or become a trusted news anchor, most of us would want to do it for the CBC before doing it for anyone else.

But Mama's ugly side is beginning to shatter the dreams. Sure, we may be passionate about journalism and the CBC, and we may very well find ourselves without much of a choice, but if this is the type of CBC that'll be adopting us, well....then let us re-focus our dreams.

Rabinovitch seems to be under the impression that young people nowadays (yeah, that's us) don't like to stick around for too long, and thus can conveniently be offered short-term contracts.

In other words, we don't deserve careers at the CBC.

Well, I've got news for Mr. Rabinovitch.

We don't dream of spending six months or a year at the CBC. We dream long-term. We don't like uncertainty. We want stability so that we can pursue our passion while earning a decent living, enabling us to raise families and live a stable life.

If someone else offers that, we'll probably go for it.

End result: Rabinovitch will be left mostly with those who have no choice, which won't be a happy bunch. Unhappy kids working for a unloving mom is not a recipe for a good product.

Reading is knowledge

CanWest is hosting its annual Raise a Reader day today. It is an opportunity to raise money to help those who need to learn to read.

For most of us, reading a a given. I still remember learning to read in grade 1. One word at a time, one syllable at a time, I started discovering what all these little symbold meant.

As a child, I was an avid reader, grabbing everything I could find to read. I have to dredit my parents for intilling in me the thirst for reading, for knowledge. I even remember doing a read-a-thon to raise money for multiple sclerosis. I read so many books in a week, I managed to raise a few hundred dollars (!).

Reading was an escape; I could read about anything, anyone and transport myself to another world, become someone, learn about a different culture.

Whenever I give a gift for a child it is always a book. I can spend two hours in the bookstore, pouring over children's books, making sure the book is interesting and that it will challenge the child's skills and imagination.

However, not everyone gets this chance. For some, they did not learn to read and everyday tasks become a horrible experience. How do you find a number in the phone book? How do you read and understand your bills?

Someone told me about finding out that one of their work colleagues did not know how to read or write. The office was having a team meeting and everyone in the room had to read a small text that was part of a team-building game. When this person's turn arrived, he fel uncomfortable, squirmed around and the room went silent. Someone made an excuse for the person and they moved on. But it was there and then that people realize the illiteracy can hit closer to home than you might expect.

My grandfather moved to Canada from Poland. He never learned to read or write in English and had to rely on his children to read anything from prescription notices, to bills and more.

22 per cent of Canadians have a hard time dealing with printed material. That is about one in five people. That means, chances are, someone close to you, a neighbour, friend, colleague cannot properly read and most probably feels ashamed to admit it.

Raise a reader is a great way to ensure all children get enough teaching for them to be completely literate. Literacy is linked to better job opportunities and is simply a easier life.

Please, either make a donation to the Raise a Reader Campaign or simply help out a child or friend with reading. Reading with a child is truly an wonderful experience and they will be forever grateful.

Hooked on electricity

It is incredible how much we rely on electricity for everything. Today, because of some high winds in Montreal, Concordia lost power (well, at least Loyola did). Classes were stopped, students could no longer edit their projects or work on the computers, ATM machines were out of service and cafeterias were not serving food because the cash registers were not working.

Funny thing is, is that in the journalism / communication building, everyone congregated to the small seating area we have. The place became the central hub for the latest on the electricity situation. Everyone had a story on how the lack of electricity was ruining their day and their plans. People lost valuable work on the computers, my radio class was unable to finish.

There was a buzz. What now? What do we do? We are so used to living in our own little bubble with all the technology around us, it seemed almost imagineable that we would not have eelectricity for a few hours.

It felt as if people were asking, :"Really, what did people do before electricity?"

Believe it or not - people talked, people discussed, people communicated. Maybe this is a sign that we must put some of the technology aside for a few minutes and reconnect with reality.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Governor-General: Let's evolve!

Sikander Z. Hashmi

With tears rolling down her cheeks, a dancing Michaëlle Jean became Canada’s 27th Governor-General yesterday.

Regardless of whether the Haitian-born former journalist, who just renounced her French citizenship before accepting the gig, is a good choice for the post and notwithstanding the debate on whether we actually need a Governor-General, I wish her well.

But do we really need a Governor-General? Yes and no.

The responsibilities of the Governor-General need to be discharged by someone – someone who’s not the prime minister.

Think about it: would you want Paul Martin to be the figurehead of this country, presiding over swearing in ceremonies for ministers and the chief justices, attending ceremonial events, doing all the outreach Governor-Generals tend to do across our vast land, and traveling overseas to represent us in events that, in all honesty, aren’t all that important?

Surely, he has better things to do, I’d hope. But someone’s got to do all that stuff.

In the odd one-in-a-light-year chance that a decision needs to be made on a serious issue such as the dissolving of parliament in a confidence loss or a PM wanting to hold an election two months into his or her mandate, there needs to be someone who can make that decision.

And that’s definitely not a decision to be made by Paul Martin.

At the same time, at 138 years old, we’re old enough to take care of ourselves, thank you very much.

The Queen has played a dignified ceremonial role and we appreciate her love and concern, but with all due respect, we can do without it.

We need someone to discharge the ceremonial responsibilities associated with the Governor-General, as well as someone who can make a decision for the country when a decision needs to be made, without being involved in politics.

So why not have two people?

MPs have proven that they can put partisan politics aside and choose a speaker for their House from amongst themselves.

Meanwhile, we all accept the judiciary to be free of bias and politics.

Therein lies the solution.

Let either the MPs or Senators choose a member to be President or Governor, what he or she may be called, from amongst themselves. Let him perform all the ceremonial duties of Governor-General, except for things like giving bills royal assent, which isn’t needed anyway.

Give him a tightly controlled budget, approved by parliament, with no perks. Place limits on voting powers in the Commons, similar to limits on the Speaker of the House.

Whenever an important issue comes up that the Governor-General would have otherwise handled, let the Supreme Court solve it in an emergency sitting.

There. We’ve gotten rid of the position without affecting the responsibilities, and most importantly, without costing taxpayers a fortune.

And to prove that we don't hate the Queen, we'll let her visit whenever she wishes, at her own expense. After all, doesn't a mother visit her daughter after she has moved out?