Here in the Glorious People’s Republic of Alberta, we have begun the process of saving the Earth, 4.5 cents a litre at a time.

The NDP government introduced its Climate Change Plan Jan. 1 , slapping taxes on the stuff that we use to drive our vehicles and heat our homes. The fuel tax is not especially onerous at 4.5 cents a litre – not even half the increase Big Oil slapped on gasoline just before Christmas, without explanation – but it is enough to get some sectors of the province frothing. The Wildrose’s Derek Fildebrandt tweeted a picture of himself loading up gas cans on Dec. 31 to avoid the tax, part of a wildly exciting New Year’s Eve party, I assume. Two days after the tax came into effect, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips snickered that Alberta was “still standing” after two days, a typically condescending comment from Rachael Notley’s smuggest minister. Wildrose critic Don MacIntyre issued this overwrought statement:  “It is a rather typical move on the part of a socialist government to tax its businesses into insolvency and its people into poverty and then offer us a crumb or two of our own money and expect us to be grateful. Well, we’re not.” MacIntyre wasn’t done yet. Taking the bait from Edmonton Journal columnist and NDP cheerleader Graham Thompson, MacIntyre managed to blurt out that the science around climate change “isn’t settled”. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, what a maroon.

Continuing their propaganda offensive, the government set up one of those photo-ops with and “average” Albertan to announce that rebate cheques were on the way. The event was staged at an “average” Albertan’s household, and the “average” Albertan obliged by saying he was “wildly proud” of the government. I know this because the media, always a sucker for these dog-and-pony shows, dutifully reported from the scene. Here’s my question about the rebates: how can the government give out carbon levy rebates after the carbon taxes has only been applied for five days? Shouldn’t you get rebates after you’ve spent the money, not before? Doesn’t that make it a prebate?

So, how much will the carbon tax cost the average Albertan? Well, I’m about as average as they come, so I’m going to keep track of how much it costs me this year. For the next 12 months, I’m going to keep track of how much gas I put in my motor vehicles, and how many gigajoules of natural gas I use. I’ll let you know how much it’s costing me, and how much I get back in rebates.

The Decline of the American Empire

The Trump Era hasn’t officially started yet, but the elected-by-a-minority president is already flexing muscles – or more precisely, his thumb muscles.

Last week, the new congress moved to gut the ethics watchdog’s office, an extraordinarily brazen act, even by Republican standards. Now here’s where it gets weird –  Donald Trump tweeted that he wasn’t happy with the gutting of the ethics office, and the Republicans immediately backed down and rescinded the order. Republicans, who run both the Senate and the House, are clearly terrified of Trump, and will do his bidding immediately and without question. Reminds me of another world leader,  Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

Things only got worse last week. Trump has openly questioned the consensus of the intelligence community that Russia was behind the hacks of the Democratic party, saying basically that he knows more about hacking than the CIA and the FBI.  And finally, Trump – the next leader of the free world, who should have a lot on his mind – took time to tweet an insult to Arnold Schwarzenneger, the new star of Trump’s old show, The Apprentice, which debuted to its worst ratings ever. Weirder yet, Trump is the executive producer of the show he dissed! It’s madness, people.

Thoroughly modern musical

I watch a lot of movies, but I don’t often go to the theatre. Most movies work perfectly fine on my home TV screen, and if if sucks, you just turn it off. But once or twice a year a movie comes along that demands to be seen on the big screen. Right now, that movie is La La Land.

La La Land is a movie movie, an entertainment that can only exist on film (or digital). It’s a musical, which for some audiences will take some getting used to. People randomly singing and dancing in public is, well, weird, but no weirder than wars in outer space and giant monsters destroying cities. Just accept the concept.

La La Land is a glorious throwback to old school movies, without ever seeming old fashioned. The director, Damien Chazelle, makes full use of the bag of tricks available to a 21st century filmmaker.

A musical is, of course, only as good as its music, and La La Land’s music will lodge in your brain (I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this). La La Land isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. It will be nominated as best picture when this year’s Academy Award nominees are announced on Jan. 24, and I’ll predict here that it will win. It is exactly the kind of movie that the academy loves, and while that sometimes results in mediocre movies winning, that won’t be the case here.  See it, and see it in the theatre.

Pure Canadiana I

In honour of this great nation’s 150th birthday, this year I will include in this blog one little thing you should know about your home and native (to some of us) land. I’ll call it Pure Canadiana.

robertson
The Robertson head screw.

Let’s begin with a tribute to two great Canadian inventions that you likely have used at some point in your life. First, there’s the Robertson screw (no, it’s not what you’re thinking). The Robertson screw is the one with the square indentation, first manufactured by P.L. Robertson in 1908. It locks in better than any other kind of screw, and is still most popular in Canada. The other great Canadian invention is the paint roller, the greatest time saver in the history of painting invented in 1939 by Torontonian Norman Breakey. Unfortunately, Breakey neglected to patent his creation, and some Americans (of course) made some minor modifications to his creation and patented it. Still, history records the paint roller as a Canadian creation. As someone who has used countless paint rollers, I think Norman Breakey shoud be, at the very least, on a Canadian stamp.

RIP

Milt Schmidt, 98, a Boston Bruins legend who was a player, captain, coach and general manager of the team during his career. He was a member of the famed Kraut Line which, in the 1939-40 season, finished 1-2-3 in the NHL scoring race. He was the oldest living ex-NHLer at the time of his death … Tilikum, 36, a captive orca who was responsible for the deaths of three people. Tilikum was prominently featured in the documentary Blackfish.

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