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More from the CRTC: Abandoning truthful broadcast journalism

With the momentum and outrage that has been building up behind the CRTC’s ruling to give our monopoly telecommunication companies the approval to implement usage-based internet billing as of March of this year, another blow to the social fabric of Canadian communications is lurking quietly in its shadow. In this case, the CRTC is trying to ease up on a ban that states that broadcasters “shall not broadcast any false or misleading news“.

How, you might ask?

The CRTC would like to loosen the regulation to only ban “any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.” The key operative is found in the word “and”. Namely, “… false or misleading AND that endangers… lives, health or safety of the public.” It’s such a small word and seemingly small amendment, but the consequences are monumental. What this means is that the law only applies to broadcast news that may endanger lives, health or public safety – broadcasters can’t provide false or misleading information within those parameters. Anything else? Fair game… Read more

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CRTC rules in favour of usage-based internet billing

Last Tuesday, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) ruled in favour of usage-based billing for internet services in Canada. What this means is that internet providers have received the green light to start charging Canadians for the internet bandwidth they use, similar to how users are currently billed for their cell phone useage. The ruling has been hotly contested by user internet advocacy groups, such as Open Media, which has since started a petition that has been signed by over 107,000 people as of today.

What’s troubling about the ruling is that the CRTC is intended to be an independent, government-sanctioned regulatory body. It’s mandate is to “ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public”, using the “objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions”. In this case, it’s really the Telecommunications Act that is the relevant Act, and if you review the objectives outlined within the Act itself (I’ve taken the liberty of including the pertinent ones below), you’ll notice the Act isn’t exactly vague about what CRTC’s telecommunications policies should support.

It is hereby affirmed that telecommunications performs an essential role in the maintenance of Canada’s identity and sovereignty and that the Canadian telecommunications policy has as its objectives

  1. to facilitate the orderly development throughout Canada of a telecommunications system that serves to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the social and economic fabric of Canada and its regions;
  2. to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada;
  3. to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness, at the national and international levels, of Canadian telecommunications;
  4. to foster increased reliance on market forces for the provision of telecommunications services and to ensure that regulation, where required, is efficient and effective;
  5. to respond to the economic and social requirements of users of telecommunications services;

Read more

The small things

Plastic shadows. A plastic bag on the counter. (Photo credits: Vivian Chan)

I’ve been thinking about the concept of balance lately and living a full life. Most of us are all too familiar with the old adage to remember to “stop and smell the flowers” once in a while. It may be cliché and obvious, but I really do believe it’s as simple as that. Finding balance and happiness is in the moment, and yet, it’s a life-long commitment of collecting strings of those moments. Amazing things happen when we take the time to observe, notice, and fully experience the smaller things in life, throughout our lives – and it does require a commitment.

It’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the harried pace of relationships, work, family, and other commitments. Worse still, we fall prey to a later-when mentality, where we think we will do something we want or find happiness later, when _______. Later, when I buy a house, land a job, get a raise, find a boyfriend or girlfriend, buy those shoes, then, I will (fill in the blank). But why not now?

The best part is that living in the moment doesn’t have to involve some major life altering event. It can be so simple and done right where you are, where ever you are.

For myself, I’ve been trying to capture those moments in photography. Below are a few of my moments. Read more

In loving memory

Photo credit: Yuk K. Chan

Three years ago, earlier this month, my father passed away after a long fight with primary liver cancer. It’s hard to think it’s already been three years when it feels like just yesterday that time stood still and I was convinced the painful void in my life would never lessen.

The month of January tends to be a time of reflection for most people, and also a time for hope for the next year to come. For me, my thoughts go back even deeper as I remember the wonderful man who once was, and the legacy he left behind.

I’m not sure what is compelling me to write this post – but something is pushing me to. I suppose it may be because there has been a lot of loss in my family as well as for friends I care a great deal about over the last few years. Although we all cognitively know that dying is a natural part of living, it never seems to ever feel very natural.

I was recently looking back at some old ramblings I had written down over the years, and a quote stood out for me: Read more

Disaster in the Gulf: Final report released

Photo credit: oilspillcommission.gov

Today, the Commission that was assembled by President Obama immediately after the Deep Water Horizon gulf oil disaster released their final report about the disaster.

The verdict: If the industry does not change how they operate and the government does not adjust its regulative policies, another disaster is inevitable.

That’s a frightful forecast.

Even if you did not follow the news reports around the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a quick scan of the table of contents within the report would give you a very good sense of the events that led up to and followed the oil spill that was labeled “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced”. From Part 1, “The Path to Tragedy” and the quote, “Everyone involved with the job… was completely satisfied…” through Part 2, “Explosion and Aftermath” – “But, who cares, it’s done, end of story [we] will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job” to the final section, Part 3, “Lessons Learned” – “Safety is not proprietary“, the table of contents powerfully highlights the milestone perspectives that characterized the disaster at every point.

Overall, the report gives a methodical take on the events leading up to and giving rise to the disaster, and the actions (and inactions) taken that caused further difficulty. Finally, and probably of the most value, are the recommendations for changes in how the oil industry currently operates and the level of government regulation required.

Below is the summary of conclusions the Commission made, coming out of their six-month investigative report.

  • The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.
  • The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.
  • Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared, but for which they can and must be prepared in the future.
  • To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Fundamental reform will be needed in both the structure of those in charge of regulatory oversight and their internal decisionmaking process to ensure their political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.
  • Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to increase dramatically safety throughout the industry, including self-policing mechanisms that supplement governmental enforcement.
  • The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling into large, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. Government must close the existing gap and industry must support rather than resist that effort.
  • Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.

The report is available for free download. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading it. It’s well-written, easy to follow, and fascinating. More than that, it’s a window into the changes necessary to prevent future disasters such as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill from happening again and spotlighting those who are accountable for change.

Only Heroes.

lucha libreCulturally, we are immersed in the notion of polarized human dynamics. On one side, there are the “good guys”, and on the other are the “bad guys”. Good versus evil. Heroes against villains. Almost every good novel, movie, or tv show has an element of this in it. Usually, as you’re reading or watching, you can tell very quickly who is on which side.

But what about real life?

Naturally, most of us consider ourselves to be one of the good guys. From our perspective, we are doing the best we can for ourselves and the people we care about. On occasion, we may even go a bit overboard.

Read more

“Foodiologie” now live

A brief note…

Food has always been a great passion and source of sharing and conversation for me and my family. As a result, my sister and I decided to finally launch a joint food blog that would capture our ideas, observations, tips, and opinions about food. What this means is that I’ll be posting all future posts about food in our new blog, called Foodiologie.

I hope you’ll visit us there.

Happy New Year, and happy eating!

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