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Nurses, MPs, and money

I had a bit of an adventure this afternoon. It started with the graphic you see below, shared on Facebook by someone I know here in town.

From a fairness point of view, all else being equal, it doesn’t leave me with a good feeling. Of course all else is not equal, but politicians lead us, and they should act like leaders. The situation as depicted in the graphic doesn’t put the politicians is a good light. And make no mistake, they control the light.

Looking purely at the numbers, it’s difficult to compare only percentages. There are 308 MPs in the Canadian House of Commons. Multiple sources on the web indicated that their 2013 salary was $160,200. An 11% increase is $17,622, bringing their salaries to $177,822, each. Multiplying the increase by number of MPs brings to total cost of their raise to $5,427,576. Turning my attention to nurses, the Ontario Nurses’ Association has a table in their FAQ that lists their 2011 and 2013 salaries based on their seniority. To keep things simple, I took a starting RN’s pay for 2013 ($58,831.50) and calculated that an 11% increase would be $6471.47. According to the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, there were 127,611 nurses in Ontario in 2012. Multiplying the 11% increase by the number of nurses give us a minimum of $825,830,758.17. Coincidentally, the provincial government just released their budget, and the total amount the province will spend is $130.4 billion dollars. Deserving or not, it’s no surprise that the province isn’t rushing to spend more than one half of one percent of the entire budget on nurse raises. Not salaries, but only raises!

At that point I paused. I wanted some other confirmation of this 11% figure. My search took me to a Huffington Post article, “How Much Do Canadian MPs And Senators Make?” This article corroborated the $160,200 salary figure for 2013, but it claimed that their increase was 2.2% meaning their current salary is $163,700. What’s going on here? I looked at the graphic again and things started to fall into place. Notice how close the MPs are? That’s because they’re sitting on a bench seat. In Canada, MPs have chairs, while in the U.K., MPs sit on long leather-upholstered benches.

The graphic is telling us the situation in the U.K. and has nothing at all to do with Canada. So if Canadian MPs received a 2.2% salary increase this year, how did Ontario nurses do? The best information I could find was the FAQ from the Ontario Nurses’ Association. It’s already a year out of date, and it compares nurse salaries from 2011 and 2013. Still, it’s the best info I have so it’ll have to do. Here’s the table:

I ran the numbers and the increase between 2011 and 2013 ranges from 2.736% to 2.764%. The thing is, the starting salary for example, increases from $57,252 to $58,831.50, which is 2.758%. But if a nurse starts at $57,252 in 2011, by the time 2013 rolls around, she’ll have risen to the 2 year 2013 salary amount, which is $60,684. That’s a two-year increase of 5.995%. Because of this, the two-year increases vary between 2.758% for those nurses with between 10 and 24 years of experience in 2013, and 15.686% for nurses with 8 years of experience in 2013.

Are Ontario nurses being treated as shabbily as the graphic would have us believe? I don’t know because the Ontario Nurses’ Association hasn’t updated their FAQ. Comparing MP salary increase this year and nurses salaries between 2011 and 2013, some nurses are doing a little worse than MPs, some nurses are doing better, and a small number of nurses are doing much better. Looking back at MP increases, the nurses did far better. Last year the MP salary increase was 1.6 %. In each of the three years before that, the MPs received no increase at all.

Where does this leave us? It leaves me understanding that one must sometime dig a little when presented with information.

Damned statistics

It seems that the facts of what happened depends on who you choose to tell you about them.

I typically check the CBC News site for the medal standings during the Olympics. Here are the final standings according to a screen capture I just made:

The official site at tells a similar story:

But NBC has a different story to tell:

The source data is the same, but the presentation gives a different standing.

It’s interesting. I had a further look around and every site based in the United States ranks the medal standings on the total number of medals earned, giving themselves a better finishing position. Every site based in the United States, that is, save one. The exception is the Associated Press. Everywhere else in the world, gold medals determine the standings, with the silver and bronze used as tie-breakers. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and neither is right or wrong, but I look forward to the day when sorting by the total number of medals gives the United States a worse position in the standings. What will the American media do then? Do I really need to ask?

For the record, these were the sites I found that sorted the standings as NBC did: CBS News, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, the Huffington Post (including the Canadian site), the NY Times, Sports illustrated, USA today, and the Washington Post.

This hearkens back to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Donovan Bailey won the gold medal for the 100 metre race with a world record time of 9.84 seconds. The US media traditionally referred to the winner of the 100 metre race as the world’s fastest man. But Bailey is a Canadian! Can’t have that, right? Happily, Michael Johnson won the gold medal for the 200 metre race, and he is American, so the US media called him the worlds fastest man.

Being the country next door gives us remarkably easy access to American media, so this uniquely sorted medal standing is nothing new, but it does allow another insight into the American mind.

Living in a launch platform

I’ve read about the security preparations for the London Olympics and one particular aspect that has piqued my interest is the MoD deployment of ground-to-air missile batteries in London. They can’t put them in the street, both for public safety, and because the surrounding buildings would severely limit their field of fire.

To address both problems, the MoD decided to put the batteries on the buildings. The Sun reported,

General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of the military’s Olympics role, said the security exercise would prepare for the possibility of “extreme threats”.

He said: “What we need to do is make sure we practise against those high-end threats but they are not considered to be likely.

“What I’m doing is testing my systems so I’m reassured that, should they become more likely, we can react.”

He added: “One would want the world to know that we are taking security for the Olympics seriously.”

I wonder if his last comment isn’t the key to the point behind the missiles. That is, to make sure everyone knows the UK is deadly serious about securing the games in the hopes that any groups thinking about causing trouble will decide not to bother.

I base my conclusion on two thoughts. My main thought is that the real world doesn’t work like the movies. When the explosives in a missile detonate near a flying aircraft, the end-product is not limited to a pretty explosion with crowds of people cheering because they’ve been saved. Rather, the missile explodes and if successful, the explosion renders the aircraft unable to fly. The fuel aboard the aircraft may explode, but the dry mass of the aircraft remains. Since it can no longer fly, it falls to the ground. Whether the bulk of the aircraft remains in one piece or breaks up, it’s coming down.

With some or all the missile batteries stationed within the city, it’s not impossible that a downed aircraft would fall into the city, causing who know how much damage. Both missile systems the MoD has deployed have 7 km ranges, increasing that possibility, in my opinion.

My other thought is regarding the buildings used for the missile batteries. The specific locations mentioned in news articles are either apartment buildings, or other structures in plain public view. One of the latter is a water-tower, for instance.

Surely the MoD isn’t so out of touch that they can’t imagine the inhabitants of these apartment buildings might have strong feelings about having their homes thrust to the front line in the defence against a possible terrorist attack. The residents were informed of their building’s new defence role in a flyer. According to The Sun,

It said the GBAD — Ground-Based Air Defence — weapons will be operated by “fully trained and experienced soldiers” and added: “Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your security and will not make you a terrorist target.”

One has to wonder how they can be so certain that a group intent on an air attack wouldn’t think it prudent to deal with the defences they’re likely to meet.

It’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but believe the military wants this splashed all over the news in the hopes that it will scare off potential attackers, or that the publicised missile launchers are no-where near to total number that will be used in London’s defence. Below is a photo of a mobile Rapier missile launcher. It looks no larger than a small U‑Haul trailer.


The newer Starstreak missile can be fired from a similarly sized launcher or a portable launcher that MoD personnel can carry into the field.

How will this all work out? We’ll have to wait and see.

Rapier launcher photo by Wikipedia user Desmoh, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Poppies are red

There was some drama downtown yesterday that’s erupted into a full-blown controversy in the news. After the Remembrance Day ceremony, a group laid two wreaths of white poppies at the National War memorial. I’ve read conflicting accounts of the group responsible, so I don’t know if it was Voice of Women or the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition. But to me, it doesn’t much matter.

The white poppy isn’t very well known around here, but Wikipedia describes it as “an artificial flower used as a symbol of peace, worn as an alternative or complement to the red poppy for Remembrance Day or Anzac Day.”

This isn’t about freedom of expression to me. I’m all for peace and have no problem with anyone saying that peace is a good thing. I’m not a pacifist, but I have no problem with those who voice their beliefs. I take issue with those behind the white poppy co-oping the symbol and ceremony of remembrance day for their own cause. They’re free to do so, but I feel it shows a tremendous disrespect and they shouldn’t be surprised that people  are expressing disapproval. Being free to do something doesn’t mean there will be no consequences.

Let’s take a step back and define things.

Veterans Affairs Canada describes Remembrance Day in this way:

Veterans Affairs Canada joins with all Canadians in recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served in the cause of peace and freedom around the world over the years.

Veterans, Canadian Forces members and those who have given their lives in the pursuit of peace have made great contributions to our country and the world. The peaceful society we in Canada enjoy today is only a dream to the many people in the world who live in countries torn apart by violence. This peace is possible only because it has been protected by the efforts and sacrifices of generations of Canadians over the years who have put their lives on the line. Remembering all that these men and women have done during times of war, military conflict and peace helps us understand the country we live in today and how we can build a better future together.

The first sentence pretty much sums it up for me.

Those behind the white poppy are not as structured so it’s difficult to be so specific. There was an article in the National Post on November 3 however, in which Ian Harvey, an activist in the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, shares some of his thoughts. He says,

The red Legion poppy, in my opinion, represents the nostalgia and romanticizing of war

I disagree. Further, I wonder where he could possibly get such an idea. No veteran I’ve ever heard had anything good to say about war. Perhaps that it’s necessary at times, but not that it’s ever a good thing. I’d like to know why Harvey holds this opinion because I can’t imagine how he formed it.

The story describes Harvey’s plan to lay the white poppy wreaths on the National War Memorial at 12:30 pm, after the ceremony. And we come to the crux of the matter when he says,

We don’t want to look like we’re competing with them.

But they are, and he knows it. Although there are 364 other days, he chooses Remembrance Day to lay the wreath. Of the 8760 hours in the year, he wants us to believe that waiting a single hour after the ceremony decouples his message from the ceremony? And why lay the wreath on the National War Memorial? And there are all kinds of symbols the white poppy creators might use, including most notably, the dove, but they take the same flower and merely change the colour. Not only do they look like they’re competing, they’re making it blindingly obvious that they are competing.

The Peace Pledge Union description of the history of the white poppy shows how even the origin of the white poppy was about getting their way. The page states,

A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint ‘No More War’ in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the ‘Haig Fund’ imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women’s Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War — a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers.

The Haig Fund is the organization benefiting from the sale of the poppies to this day, but the pacifists wanted their own message on the poppies and had the audacity to tell the British Legion to change it or they’d make their own poppies. The British Legion obviously told them to bugger off, and rightly so.

Fast forward to today and we have a ceremony to express our gratitude and thanks to those who put themselves into harms way for all of our benefit. But that’s not good enough for the pacifists. They want to change the observance to more closely fit with their agenda, and all the while claiming that their actions have nothing to do with Remembrance Day. Make no mistake, they’re trying to co-opt Remembrance Day entirely.

Don’t expect me to show you respect for your beliefs and freedoms when you go out of your way to disrespect my beliefs and those who gave their lives so can enjoy those same freedoms.

We remember.

There…I fixed it.

I read about the latest Special 301 Report issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Briefly, the report puts Canada on the Priority Watch List, alongside other countries like China and Russia. The priority watch list is for the worst of the worst copyright offenders. But despite this report being issued by a government body, you can bet it’s merely a bullying tactic and the U.S. entertainment industry is behind it. Analysis comparing reality to their claims will show as much.

But they’re missing a blatantly obvious solution to the problem. I wrote to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in hopes that he’ll pass my idea along to the entertainment industry in his country:

Mr. Kirk, United States Trade Representative,

I read with interest that Canada has again made the Special 301 Report watch list as one of the worst of the worst offenders. I’m not entirely surprised given the process involved in generating the report and what information is considered … and what information is not.

You may be making this far more complicated than it needs to be, however. I sympathize with how governmental rules and procedures sometimes makes it difficult to see the forest with all those pesky trees in the way. With this in mind, I come to you with a suggestion.

If Canada is so bad, and piracy so rampant, it sounds as if the U.S entertainment industry isn’t making enough money here to bother with Canada at all. My thought is that you might suggest to the entertainment industry in your country that perhaps the easiest, simplest, and best solution would be to stop trying to sell their wares in Canada. Stop the CDs, movies, TV shows, books … all of it.

If it’s so bad for them, why keep trying when it’s such a headache? Their huge problem would instantly evaporate and everyone would be happy. And don’t worry about us. Although the withdrawal symptoms will be intense, they will fade. We will somehow manage to do without Friends repeats and that dreamy Adam Lambert. Somehow.

Your friend from up north,


See? Easy-peasy!

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