Sunday, 21 November 2010

Synecdoche, Zeugma, &etc.

All hands on deck!
The foundation of freedome, the fountaine of equitie, the safegard of wealth, and custodie of life, is preserved by lawes.

Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

The problem with figures of speech is that they can make nonsense sound good. Henry Peacham's rhetoric around 'lawes' (above) is obviously at least incomplete and more like flat-out wrong - these things are preserved by individuals who are willing to go to the wall for them. Still, as an example of a zeugma it is good.

The Senate has whacked Bill C-311 An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change (short title 'Climate Change Accountability Act'). Maybe it was inevitable & predictable since they had a (rigged) majority there and no moral compass and no scruples. One question:

What are we going to DO about it?

Bruce HyerGrant MitchellAnne Cools w Pierre TrudeauMarjory LeBretonOn the far left is the initiator & author of C-311, Bruce Hyer; next to him the Senate 'champion' of the bill, Grant Mitchell; on the right the government leader in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton in front of her favourite motto, "The Senate: Democratic. Accountable." (Ela é jabucréia!); and next to her Anne Cools, pictured with Pierre Trudeau for old times' sake.

You can find the details on Bill C-311: An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change on the government website LEGISINFO, and you can follow 'Selected Recorded Votes' & 'Senate Second Reading' for details of exactly what happened, who voted for & against and so forth in Hansard.

Imagine! Anne Cools (and here), the black activist who helped burn the Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) computer centre in 1969, voted against it. That, and she is living proof that you can vote against your master in the Senate and keep your seat & sinecure both. 'Sinecure' is interesting in this context, literally 'without cure' or 'without soul'

Was it Grant Mitchell's incompetence that led to the snap vote? Or was it Marjory LeBreton's quick thinking? How much was the old gal coached by Stephen Harper? Also interesting that these questions are not answered, even with a careful reading of Hansard.

Still, since Senators are safely ensconced there in their seats for life one is forced to concede that this vote must more-or-less represent what is left of their consciences - or maybe I should say consciousnesses (ending on a strong sibilant ... for the sssssnakes' sake y'unnerssssstan').

But elderly home economics (aka 'consumer sciences') grads and retired radicals in the Senate are just pawns in Stephen Harper's game.
Are we at the wall yet?
David Parkins - Jim PrenticeDavid Parkins - Squeeze The World
These illustrations by David Parkins are excellent - he captures Jim Prentice's feral undertone perfectly. That's the look you need to fuck over the environment and then slide out to a fat bank job for the free lunch (while it lasts).

Somewhere I came across a rant that "... at least we will have the expensive front-row first-class seats on the Titanic." Maybe that's what Jim Prentice is getting in line for? Do you think?

As for my question, "What are we going to DO about it?" It looks like nothing at all. I contacted everyone in this town I know who might give a shit and have heard back exactly ZERO.

Here's a guy who went to the wall - Craig Morrison of St. Martins, New Brunswick: ‘All I wanted to do is build a house’, he said and wound up Battling the house rules, until he was rescued by Justice Hugh McLellan of the Court Of Queen's Bench in Saint John who told the commission lawyers, “I’m not going to order a 91-year-old man to jail and have his wife placed in a nursing home, so you better think outside the box.”

Craig MorrisonCraig MorrisonRay Debly
RDPC Wayne MercerRDPC Wayne Mercer
Wayne Mercer ( is top-right in both these photos taken from the Royal District Planning Commission (RDPC) 2005 & 2007 Annual Reports.

Wayne MercerWayne MercerHere he is enlarged a bit. It would be easy to put all the blame on him. In the words of some functionary at, say, IG Farben, "I was just doing what I was told."

So who was telling our Wayne what to do? Above him in the hierarchy are: his immediate boss, Director Patricia Munkittrick (; the Chairperson of the Commissioners, Theresa Teakles; a-and the Minister of the Environment for New Brunswick, Margaret-Ann Blaney. To be fair, Blaney was just appointed minister in October of this year following the election; previously it was Rick Miles & Thomas Burke in 2009 and Roland Haché 2006-2009. It seems they have a sort of revolving door for Ministers of the Environment in New Brunswick - not so unlike Ottawa that way. This is a measure of the importance of long-term planning and consistency in this portfolio no doubt. The line managers though, Patricia Munkittrick & Theresa Teakles, have been in their positions over the duration of Craig Morrison's struggle to build his house and finally get to live in it.

Patricia MunkittrickTheresa TeaklesMargaret-Ann BlaneyObviously it is not the specific minion, nor the specific line manager, nor the specific honcho/honcha, who creates the bureaucratic culture of annihilation of honour, but they breed in such slime and perpetuate it - and it disgusts me. Complicit!

Still and all, 2¼ women more-or-less running our Wayne ... hummmm ... sorry, can't resist ... please see here how teenage girls can change the world. All of these women had to be teenage girls once upon a time weren't they?

So, here are the particulars of the Royal District Planning Commission (RDPC) of the Province of New Brunswick. Their address: 49 Winter Street, Unit 1, Sussex, New Brunswick, E4E 2W8 & telephone: (506) 432-7530 & FAX: (506) 432-7539 & email:, should you feel so inclined to take it up with them. Here are the Commissioners: Ronald Brown, Julie Booth, Lee Fraser, Robert Goddard, James McCrea, Malcolm McKnight, Reg Manzer, James Moran, Tom Nisbet, Janice Perry, Daryl Prince, Walter Riedle, Arie Ruitenberg, & Theresa Teakles. And here are the employees: Patricia Munkittrick (, Beverley Wilcox, Andrea Davis-Hourihan, Karen Neville, Elissa Gollan, Brian Shannon (, George Paulin, the infamous Wayne Mercer (, & Gerald Legacy (

Just a guess y'unnerstan'.A-and their boss of bosses, the Minister of the Environment, Margaret-Ann Blaney ( I would be surprised if most of 'em are not also members of the Rotary Club, whose exceedingly apt motto is: Service Above Self.

Tell me they are not complicit (yes, the whole shebang and the Rotary Club too), please.

Is this just a media furore centred on a soft spot in my k-k-Canadian psyche? Hard to tell, or at least easy to imagine that it might just possibly be a tempest in a teapot (?).

Marty KlinkenbergMarty KlinkenbergMarty KlinkenbergBut here. If the media mis-quoted a judge; if Justice Hugh McLellan did not say something closely approximate to, “I’m not going to order a 91-year-old man to jail and have his wife placed in a nursing home, so you better think outside the box,” then I think we would have heard from him by now - and we haven't.

The photographs of Marty Klinkenberg are from a video by Charles Leblanc of Fredericton, New Brunswick. The video is not about the Craig Morrison fiasco but it is worth watching - this Marty Klinkenberg fellow looks to me like a man you might be able to trust. I could be wrong, it's just my opinion; but I would bet 20-year-old single-malt that I'm not.

Here's a letter to the editor of the Telegraph Journal on the subject.

If Craig Morrison had not been well supported by his friends and family, or if they had not been close by, he would not have made it through - I bet it would have literally killed him. It killed my father. If you know anything about (or can imagine) living with an Alzheimer's victim you will know exactly what I mean, and if not - then you should go work in this damned RDPC coven of witches.

Anthony BennettAnthony BennettAnthony BennettWife? Daughter?Anthony BennettAnthony BennettSonAnthony BennettAnthony BennettAnthony Bennett
Some pictures of Anthony Bennett, the man captured by David Chen, and his family. If you look carefully at these pictures you may imagine some stories ... He's out on bail. The Bail conditions include addiction treatment which has been tried before without success. I wish him strength & good luck.

Helen Caldicott spoke in Port Hope, well, not in Port Hope but close by. A friend of mine who was there to hear her said she was awesome ... the exact words were "fricking amazing – emotional, feisty, smart". But the Anglican church did not permit her to speak directly to the town, and the next day Mayor Linda Thompson blasted her: "I'm mad as hell and not going to take it any more. This community has come under attack too many times. It's disgusting that someone from the outside would do this to further her own agenda," and so on. The town website keeps a collection of studies on-line here: Health Canada Fact Sheets.

Helen Caldicott c 1992Truth to tell I find Caldicott a bit too abrasive & shrill as well. If you watch her movie (links below) you can see it clearly at times. So ... I went and got her 1992 book, If You Love This Planet (lots of cheap copies at, to get a better bearing, and did. The back cover shows a beautiful young woman with a tantalizing and delightful smile. I scanned the picture - not a very good scan but good enough. It must have been taken well before 1992. Not hard to understand how twenty or thirty years might have taken some of the shine off.

The language in this book reveals a person who may know what she is talking about but who switched out of humanities and into sciences before she learned how to write good sentences and paragraphs. It is amusing that I indulge this kind of deconstructive textual analysis (if that's what it is); it is so like the bureaucrats I love to hate. But looking carefully at a paragraph like, "It was a thrilling time for me. Radicalized politically, I realized that democracy was a workable proposition, because the turmoil seemed to be igniting change. Anything, I thought, was possible," or a sentence like, "My vocation is medicine, and as a physician I examine the dying planet as I do a dying patient," adds a dimension. One imagines medical doctors in a certain intellectual way, because they can sign passport applications and so forth I suppose, but they are in general no better thinkers or communicators than scientists. A breathless teenage vision of apocalypse; true but not convincing. A rant without enough footnotes.

She's right though, the planet is dying. Fact Sheets from Health Canada don't convince me otherwise. I guess that makes me closed-minded. But I'm not so closed as not to know how 'official' reports get shaped & twisted by those who pay the piper.

I was mistaken, the event was organized by FARE Families Against Radiation Exposure not Lake Ontario Waterkeeper as I first thought - but Waterkeeper helped. I offered them time & energy and as usual got turned away. I really don't get it?

Here is the 2004 movie by her niece, Anna Broinowski on YouTube: Helen's War: Portrait of a Dissident, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. And here is a short clip of her speaking in Oshawa. As I find more I will post the links here.

Pearls Before SwinePearls Before Swine

Eric Reguly has had a look at the latest FAO report: UN report plays down food price speculators. The Globe is learning, slowly but surely; they now post links to at least some of the source material - this is good.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publishes the Food Outlook Global Market Analysis report biannually, and they keep an on-line archive of past issues to 1995 which is kind. Here is the November 2010 edition that Reguly is referring to.

Eric RegulyReguly says, "The truth is that the UN food agencies (there are three) are shy about blaming speculators for causing damage. The speculators come from the United States, Britain and Canada, each of them big sponsors of the agencies, meaning it is politically hard to criticize them. The truth, however, says speculators could trigger another food crisis. The FAO should come clean and say so."

I think our Eric Reguly has hit the nail on the head. Who pays the piper calls the tune. He could be in a position to know what he is talking about since his wife works at IFAD (if what Wikipedia tells us is true).

I have no idea what the three UN agencies are. The first two are obviously Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) & World Food Programme (WFP), but I find multiple candidates for the third position: is it the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)? or maybe the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)? I give up ... Ah, he has answered my email - the third one is IFAD.

So ... is it "toe the line" or is it "tow the line"? This is a question that Google is no longer very well suited to investigate since it assumes that no one can spell and includes toe & tow indescriminately when you ask for either even when they are in quotes.

A-and do you know the difference between biannual & biennial? Could be important one day ...

Michael McClure Bob Dylan Allen GinsbergMichael McClure The BeardI was mentioning Berlusconi & blow-jobs in the same breath last week. Later on as I was stumbling through and fossicking about in the 'now-dead friends' section of the old compost heap I came across a memory of Michael McClure's The Beard, which as I remember it ends with a blow-job of mythic proportions and Harlow screaming STAR! STAR! STAR! STAR! as she comes (Billy doing Harlow y'unnerstan'). A friend and I were going to produce it in Montreal but he went off to Israel and got himself killed in a motor crash before we could accomplish it. I think it was about 1967 and some people thought his death had something to do with the war, but it didn't. Here's a picture of Michael McClure with Bob Dylan & Allen Ginsberg about that time; there are a bunch of these photos - if you Google Image for 'Michael McClure Bob Dylan Allen Ginsberg' you can look at them. Here is one of Michael McClure's poems more-or-less on the subject of this post:


Let me be free of ligaments and tendencies
to change myself into a shape
that's less than spirit.
a caterpillar, a salmon,
sailing in the silver water
beneath the rosy sky.
Were I a moth or condor
you'd see me fly!
I love this meat of which I'm made!
I dive into it to find the simplest vital shape!



Just a moment to honour otters (in case you found that typography somehow child-like and arresting). Here is Alice Otterloop from Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac (there is even a bus turnaround in Toronto called the Otter Loop he tells us), arrived at by a commodius vicus of recirculation from Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine (yet!).

Stephan Pastis Pearls Before SwineRichard Thompson Cul De SacRichard Thompson Cul De Sac
I didn't look at all of them but early Cul De Sac strips from 2007 seem to have more edge than the recent ones. From a guy who puts the image of the Tower of Babel in a gated community, to "passive aggression that's so extreme, it induces spontaneous nosebleeds." I have noticed the same progressive enervation in Pearls Before Swine. Is this a pattern? Burnout? Or just possibly looking too long into the double barrels of a culture on the way out? Can't say.

The defeat of C-311 has really got me bummed ... and up into my reverie pop Ratso's teeth from Midnight Cowboy and then the image of a prisoner in a Turkish prison forced to walk round and round until he begins to babble, "I am a bad machine." At first I think the link is Jon Voigt and go haring off ... but the link is 'midnight' and what I am looking for is Midnight Express. Randy Quaid is in it (who has been in the k-k-Canadian news lately too) though he is not the one going round and round the Section 13 pillar as I first thought.

Those movies are around; Midnight Cowboy & Midnight Express. I cut out this short clip of part of the Section 13 'bad machine' scene - Brad Davis as Billy Hayes & Peter Jeffrey as Ahmet.

So that's it then - I am a bad machine. Nuclear energy is safe, the studies in Port Hope prove it. Global warming is a hoax, or not as bad as they say, whatever ... and ... I am a bad machine. I hope this is getting close to an end of some kind. I would rather not be here for this. I would rather that my life had not become a continuous lonely complaint. I would rather be ... some place else.

Someone has sicked the Google thought-police dogs onto me under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). There is something about California - AB 32 & Proposition 23. that someone somewhere somewhen doesn't like. Typical bureaucrats, they tell me I have sinned and that details are forthcoming but time goes by and the details do not arrive. I browse a forum and discover that this is standard procedure. Clever tactic; save effort, save the identity of the 'offended party', turn the screw on the paranoid dweebs & twerps and hope they just fold up. Oh my.
They are closing in. Eu sou um galhudo. All good.

Be well.


Steven CowanSteven CowanUh oh! Look out! :-)Some guy got so upset seeing Bristol Palin dancing on television that he blasted the TV with a shotgun. Steven N. Cowan of Black Earth, Wisconson. He was arrested and a 'mental health problem' is being implicated as well as possible drunkenness ... and so on. But he doesn't seem insane to me. On the contrary - that is one of the positive things you can do with a TV set in my book. (Uh oh! Look out!)

Barack ObamaMichelle & Barack ObamaMark BallasBristol PalinSarah PalinBut as I was thinking about this story; and with the help of a Globe headline: The great refudiation of Barack Obama; it came to me that Sarah Palin and Barack Obama really have a great deal in common; so much mythic consonance that their relatively small ideological differences seem to fade into insignificance.

These pictures could be photoshopped and it wouldn't change the notion one bit. Barack is a sensitive new age guy (SNAG) so I kept his daughter in the beefcake.

I see that Black Earth is not so far from Kenosha: "... but ... it is so tantalizing to solve the (merely) solveable ... he can do the Charleston and the Big Apple too, he can do the Castle Walk and the Lindy Hop, I bet he can even do the Kenosha Kid ... but ... can he do ..." (Thomas Pynchon).


1. ‘All I wanted to do is build a house’, Neil Reynolds, November 15 2010.

2. Battling the house rules, Marty Klinkenberg, November 6 2010.

3. Who answers for planning office?, Telegraph Journal letters, November 17 2010.

4. Bristol Palin’s dancing on TV set off man in standoff, complaint says, Ed Treleven, November 17 2010.

5. The great refudiation of Barack Obama, Clifford Orwin, November 15 2010.

6. UN report plays down food price speculators, Eric Reguly, November 17 2010.

‘All I wanted to do is build a house’, Neil Reynolds, November 15 2010.

It was the fifth house that Craig Morrison built with his own hands, and the last. He had built things with his own hands for 70 years, often using lumber he produced at his own small sawmill. Now he would build a modest, single-storey house where he could look after his wife, Irene, suffering from Alzheimer’s. He would do the work himself, of course. Didn’t everyone in New Brunswick? “I’m not flush with money,” he explains now. “I didn’t want to go into debt.”

Thus it was that Mr. Morrison broke ground three years ago – at 88 – for a bungalow on land overlooking the Bay of Fundy near St. Martins, a seaside village east of Saint John. And thus it was that Mr. Morrison got into trouble with the law for the first time in his life.

In the past two years, building inspectors have hauled Mr. Morrison into court six times, each appearance more harrowing than the last. A couple of weeks ago, the provincial agency that employs building inspectors demanded that the court forcibly remove Craig and Irene Morrison from their home, that the house be bulldozed, and that Mr. Morrison be found in contempt of court – meaning, almost certainly, imprisonment.

Mr. Morrison worked long hours into his 92nd year, fixing the inspectors’ long lists of defects. But for the court, he made his position clear: He would not vacate the house. If the court found him in contempt, he would go to jail.

In a memorable account of these proceedings, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal writer Marty Klinkenberg reported Mr. Morrison’s lament: “I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken. … All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw.”

Building inspector Wayne Mercer found many things wrong with Mr. Morrison’s house – although it wasn’t obvious that the building-code infractions he cited made it particularly unsafe. He noticed that Mr. Morrison’s lumber – custom-sawn – did not carry the requisite stickers. The windows did not carry the requisite stickers, either. The roof trusses and floor joists, he thought, were questionable. He wanted the ceilings torn out, drywall removed and wall studs replaced.

“[The inspectors] seemed to find fault with everything I did,” Mr. Morrison said. “They were out to get me because I was doing it with my own land and my own lumber and my own trusses and floor joists in my own time.”

At one point, a professional home builder, Raymond Debly, volunteered to do an independent inspection. He determined that the house exceeded the requirements of the National Building Code. It was “built like a fort.” The lumber, old-growth spruce, was superior to any lumber on the market. (“Some stamped lumber,” he said, “shouldn’t be used to build a doghouse.”) The floors were double strength. (“You could walk an elephant across them.”) And the trusses were fine. (“They were built the old-fashioned way,” said Mr. Debly, himself 80, “the way we did it in the ’60s.”)

Mr. Morrison’s long struggle with an implacable bureaucracy came to a merciful end in a Saint John courtroom on Nov. 1 when Mr. Justice Hugh McLellan ordered the planning commission to negotiate a settlement with Mr. Morrison, saying, “I’m not going to order a 91-year-old man to jail and have his wife placed in a nursing home.” The planning commission subsequently agreed to allow the Morrisons to live in their home, without further molestation, until they die.

Son of a lumberman and cattle rancher, Craig Morrison comes from self-sufficient stock, the sturdy people who built this country with their own hands. He raised seven children (and has 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren). Yet, government inspectors almost took him down.

This is a true Canadian story, a cautionary tale of the tremendous power of the state over the individual in an age of pervasive bureaucracy. It is, indeed, a profound parable of irretrievably lost independence and casually forgotten freedoms.

Battling the house rules, Marty Klinkenberg, November 6 2010.

Legal: Planners squared off against a St. Martins man over the house he built. After two years in court, a judge ordered an end to the fight, declaring: 'I'm not going to order a 91-year-old man to jail'

ST. MARTINS - Craig Morrison is exhausted now. By the court appearances and the threat of going to jail. By the long legal battle he has waged to build a house for himself and his wife of 66 years.

It has been nearly three years since he broke ground on the lovely parcel of land he owns overlooking the Bay of Fundy in West Quaco, along a road that he created himself and maintained for four decades. But finally, at long last, the Royal District Planning Commission is going to leave him alone.

On Monday, before Justice Hugh McLellan in the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John, an agreement was reached that allows the 91-year-old and his ailing spouse to live in the home he constructed, mostly while a court-imposed stop-work order was in place, at times without required permits.

"I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken," Morrison said as he sat at his dining room table, the day after his lawyer and solicitors for the planning commission called an uneasy truce. "I feel like a huge burden has been removed from my shoulders, but I am disappointed by the way I was treated.

"All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw. I wouldn't wish what happened to me on anybody."

A father of seven with 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, Morrison is the largest landowner in St. Martins, where he operated a small sawmill for his own purposes for 50 years. A lumberman and cattle rancher who raised purebred beef, his dad managed a farm where the Irving Oil refinery now stands and he remembers taking teams of horses there to cut hay.

In his lifetime, Morrison has built five houses, the last a modest, single-storey bungalow he designed to make it easier for him and caregivers to tend to his wife, Irene Elizabeth, who is stricken with Alzheimer's.

"I'm relieved that it is over, but I never dreamed something like this could happen," Morrison said over lunch, while his granddaughter-in-law, Leanne LeBlanc, fawned over him and his wife and puttered in the kitchen. "Our soldiers fought two world wars to preserve our freedom, but where is it?"

Monday's court appearance was the sixth in two years for Morrison, who had never been to court before his encounter began with the Royal District Planning Commission. As recently as this week, the provincial agency demanded that he and his wife be removed from their house, that the newly constructed premises be bulldozed and that the nonagenarian be found in contempt of court.

Instead, Justice McLellan, who has presided over the case for parts of two years, ordered the lawyers on both sides to negotiate a more reasonable resolution and he barked when barristers for the planning commission seemed to balk.

"I'm not going to order a 91-year-old man to jail and have his wife placed in a nursing home, so you better think outside the box," McLellan warned in court on Monday.

In the end, the planning commission agreed to let the Morrisons live in their new home, provided the commission was absolved of liability if the structure fell down. A notation will also be placed in property records to show that the house does not comply with the National Building Code, meaning it would have to be upgraded before it could be sold.

For nearly three years, Morrison had been engaged in a battle of wills with Wayne Mercer, an inspector with the Royal District Planning Commission, who compiled lists of violations that he alleged rendered the house unsafe.

Among other things, Mercer complained that the lumber Morrison specifically milled for the project didn't carry an appropriate grading sticker, that the windows were not certified, that the roof trusses and floor joists were of questionable pedigree and that moisture was found in the basement.

In a series of affidavits, Mercer asked for the ceiling to be removed to allow for the inspection of roof trusses, requested that drywall be ripped out to allow inspection around windows and doors and requested that wall studs be ripped out.

He also registered concerns about vapour barriers, flashing, siding, concrete supports, the front veranda and the back porch.

"The commission seemed to want to find fault with everything I did," Morrison said. "They were out to get me because I was doing it with my own land and my own lumber and my own trusses and floor joists in my own time. "I'm not flush with money, and didn't want to go into debt, which is why I wanted to use as much of my own stuff as possible. That is how this whole thing began."


Established by a ministerial order in 1988 under provisions of the Community Planning Act of New Brunswick, the Royal District Planning Commission's responsibilities include developing and administering rural plans and zoning bylaws, approving new subdivisions, issuing building permits, conducting inspections and providing planning advice to municipalities, rural communities and the minister of environment.

Overseen by an appointed board of 15 commissioners, the body serves 33,000 residents of five villages and 21 local service districts, and covers an area of 5,800 square kilometers extending from the Bay of Fundy to Grand Lake and from Anagance to the St. John River. The district includes the Kingston Peninsula and the villages of Cambridge-Narrows, Gagetown, Norton, St. Martins and Sussex Corner, but not the larger towns of Hampton and Sussex.

Since its formation, the commission's responsibilities have expanded along with the resources it needs to operate. An original staff of five people has been expanded to a complement of 10, including three inspectors: Brian Shannon, George Paulin and Wayne Mercer.

Overseeing such a large rural area in a largely rural province, the commission sometimes finds itself at odds with landowners and homeowners who believe they should be allowed to do with their property what they wish.

Craig Morrison is one of those people, and the planning commission is relieved to have him out of its hair.

"The Royal District Planning Commission is responsible for the enforcement of the provincial building regulation which includes the National Building Code," Patricia Munkittrick, the agency's director, said in an email on Friday. "The standards of the code are the minimum accepted to meet the objectives of safety, health, access for disabled persons, and fire and structural protection.

"The ideal outcome of the Morrison case would have seen Mr. and Mrs. Morrison occupying a safe home that met the requirements of the National Building Code. Alternatively, the courts could have directed the demolition of the house. Given the age and state of health of Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, no one wanted to see that outcome. The agreement undertaken on Monday will allow the Morrisons to remain in their home. The deficiencies of the home with respect to the National Building Code remain outstanding.

"The RDPC's objective all along has been to ensure that the Morrison home was safe and compliant with the National Building Code and provincial building regulations. While that would have been the ideal outcome, undoubtedly many people will be relieved that this matter is no longer before the courts.


The founder of a family-run construction firm, Raymond Debly built his first house in 1953 and has built several hundred since then.

Curious after reading a story in the Telegraph-Journal in 2008 that detailed Morrison's battle to build his own home, Debly called the elderly man and asked if he could inspect the property.

The former principal at an old high school in St. Martins, Debly remembered Morrison and held him in high regard.

"I knew he was an honourable man and had been building things, if perhaps on a relatively small scale, all of his life," Debly said this week. "He didn't strike me as someone who would build something that would hurt himself."

He spent several hours at Morrison's building site and was surprised by what he saw.

"I went through the house from one end to the other and found a few minor things that needed to be addressed, but nothing significant," Debly said. "To me, it looked like a model home.

"I remember telling him, 'Geez, Craig, you've got a really nice house here.'

"Based on the strength of that building, I wouldn't have hesitated to add two more storeys. There was nothing wrong with it.

"It was not about to fall down.

Now 80 and with two sons in the building industry, Debly said he saw no reason for the Royal District Planning Commission to give Morrison a hard time.

In fact, he was so impressed with Morrison's work that he volunteered to write a letter to his lawyer, Gary Fulton, a town councillor in Sussex.

Paid a small sum as a witness, Debly later returned the cheque to Fulton.

"I didn't do it for money," he said. "I did it because I didn't think what was happening to Mr. Morrison was right."

Three decades ago, Debly built a subdivision that contained 70 homes. At the time, he said, the houses cost about $15,000 a piece. Now they sell for approximately $120,000.

"When I built a house, I took the approach that I might never be able to sell it and would have to live in it myself," Debly said. "Because of that, there were never any compromises when it came to quality."

While surveying Morrison's property, Debly found that the construction often exceeded the standards of the National Building Code. Because of that, he does not understand how anyone could come up with a list of violations so lengthy that it would imperil the project.

"I know one of the complaints made was that he was using lumber without a stamp on it, but the lumber he had, old-growth spruce, was better than stamped lumber," Debly said. "Some of the lumber that is stamped, you wouldn't want to use to build a doghouse.

"On top of that, he put in a double floor that you could walk an elephant across, he had a more sophisticated electrical system than the code called for, the trusses he built, he built the old way, the way I did it in the 1960s, and he put in a beautiful concrete foundation.

"The house was built like a fort."

Debly is one of a few experts who inspected materials Morrison used to construct his house, as well as the construction work itself.

In an attempt to satisfy the planning commission, court documents show that an inspector from the Maritime Lumber Bureau was brought in to examine the wood, a technician from Kohler came to inspect the windows Morrison had installed and Morrison's grandson, Jeff LeBlanc, an engineer, fashioned countless mechanical drawings.

After two-and-a-half years of fighting, on Monday the commission was still demanding windows be removed from the house and sent to a laboratory for testing to make sure they adhered to the National Building Code.

Lawyers for the commission referred queries to the director, Munkittrick. A phone message for Mercer, the inspector, was not returned.

"I don't know what to make of it, other than to think that at some point this situation became personal," Debly said. "The guys at the commission were like horses with blinders on.

"They had their noses in the book the whole time."


On Nov. 26, 2009, Craig Morrison appeared before the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John to face a contempt charge because he had ignored a stop-work order and had continued building his house.

Justice Peter Glennie dismissed the charge, however, after learning that Mercer had written to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick asking them to review Jeff LeBlanc's work.

Court documents show that on June 1, 2009, a letter was written by Mercer to the association, the professional body to which LeBlanc belongs, questioning the quality of his sketches and drawings and requesting an opinion that they be evaluated to see if "the work provided was acceptable."

When the case against Morrison came to trial, the commission failed to disclose that a review of LeBlanc's work had been requested and when it was brought to Glennie's attention the judge became so angry that the contempt motion was tossed out.

As a result of the inquiry started by Mercer, court records show that LeBlanc wrote a letter on Feb. 9 of this year to Theresa Teakles, the chairwoman of the Royal District Planning Commission, requesting a formal apology and that Mercer's complaint be withdrawn. LeBlanc also asked for Mercer to be removed as the inspector in Morrison's case, because "I believe Mr. Mercer has taken up personal issues with Mr. Morrison and myself."

The following month, Teakles wrote to then-environment minister Rick Miles, providing details of the complicated case and defending Mercer.

"The request was properly made, and was not an attempt to disparage Mr. LeBlanc, but to determine if the drawings met the standards expected by the Engineering Association," she wrote. "If Mr. LeBlanc's work meets those standards, then he should have no concerns regarding any review by his professional association."

In her letter to the environment minister, Teakles said it would be a bad precedent to remove Mercer from the file and said Mercer did not owe LeBlanc an apology. "Mr. LeBlanc's complaint is an effort to prevent his professional association from reviewing his work on this file," she wrote.

With the case resolved this week, LeBlanc said no apology has ever been offered to him and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick confirmed it is still reviewing LeBlanc's drawings.

"This complaint is actively working its way through our normal process," Tom Sisk, the association's director of professional affairs, wrote in an email. "Until this complaint has been fully resolved, we are unable to comment on the outcome or specifics."

LeBlanc, who became involved because he wanted to help his grandfather, is emotionally drained.

"Quite honestly, this has been one of the worst experiences I have ever been through," he said. "There was no reason or logic to what happened.

"When I sat down in court on Monday, I said to the guy sitting next to me, 'How can a man be on the verge of being thrown in jail for trying to put a roof over his head, on his own land, using his own resources?'

"That's wrong at every level."


Last Saturday, Jeff LeBlanc and his brother, Danny, set up a tub containing 7,300 pounds of water in Craig Morrison's living room to prove to the Royal District Planning Commission that the floor boards could withstand the stress.

"I had to pay $500 for that, $300 to get my lumber inspected, $500 for something else," Morrison said. "It got to the point where I said, 'I don't care what they do with me.'

"One time, as I was getting ready to go to court, I told my grandson's wife, 'You might have to come make supper later for mother. I may be going to jail.' "

Over the last several years, Leanne LeBlanc says she has seen the case take a toll on the man everyone in the family refers to as "Grampy."

"It has broken my heart," she says. "He is 91. He didn't need this harassment. He'd get colds that he normally would be able to shake and couldn't shake them.

"He's 91 years old and he'd be out there standing on a ladder working, trying to fix things they complained about. He'd be out there from 8 a.m. until supper every night, and sometimes after supper, too.

"I was just appalled, and everyone else should be, too. The stress it put on him is unreal.

"Threatening to kick a 91-year-old man and his wife out of their new home ... how does that make sense?

For the first time in a long time, Morrison said this week, he felt relieved. He no longer has to worry about being tossed into jail, or thrown out on the street. He doesn't have to worry about his wife being forced into a nursing home, he can finally forget a three-year court battle, essentially over building permits, that created a file 20 centimetres thick.

"All I had behind me was 70 years of experience in building," he said, shaking his head. "I would never build a house that would fall down. What would be the sense of that?

Marty Klinkenberg is the senior writer at the Telegraph-Journal. He can be reached at

Who answers for planning office?, Telegraph Journal letters, November 17 2010.

Craig Morrison's abuse by New Brunswick bureaucrats made it to the Globe & Mail of Nov. 15. Remember the story by Marty Klinkenberg in the Telegraph-Journal?

Mr. Morrison is more than 90 years old and built a house with his own custom-sawn lumber to standards that an independent inspection deemed to exceed the National Building Code. Not something that many people can do, even in New Brunswick.

Yet a building inspector cited numerous infractions such as lumber and windows not carrying the requisite stickers, and roof trusses and floor joists being questionable. He allegedly wanted ceilings torn out, drywall removed and wall studs replaced.

Sanity finally prevailed when Mr. Justice Hugh McLellan put a stop to the bureaucratic nightmare, and the Planning Commission agreed (let's face it: they were told) to allow Mr. Morrison and his wife to live in the house until they die. So what happens then?

My tax dollars helped to pay the salaries of the people who caused Mr. Morrison needless grief and triggered the humiliation of the province in the national media. I resent that, and the fact that there appears to be no response from the relevant NB Department to attempt to explain and justify its actions.

I check your paper every day for news of a firing. No luck yet. Shame on us!

JAN BURNHAM, St. Andrews.

Bristol Palin’s dancing on TV set off man in standoff, complaint says, Ed Treleven, November 17 2010.

Allegedly set off by Bristol Palin’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars,” a rural Black Earth man kept police at bay outside his home for 15 hours Monday and Tuesday before he surrendered to police.

Steven N. Cowan, 66, railed at the television as the daughter of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared on the ABC program, his wife told police Monday after she fled from the town of Vermont house, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

Cowan had also been under stress because of a financial situation and was receiving care for a mental health problem, the complaint states. Cowan’s wife, Janice, told police that her husband had been drinking, but she did not think he was intoxicated.

The complaint charged Cowan with second-degree reckless endangerment.

According to the complaint, Cowan and his wife were watching “Dancing with the Stars” when Cowan jumped up and swore as Bristol Palin appeared, saying something about “the (expletive) politics.” Cowan was upset that a political figure’s daughter was on the show when he didn’t think she was a good dancer, the complaint states.

According to the complaint:

Cowan went upstairs for about 20 minutes and returned, demanding his pistols, which had been taken by his daughter about a month ago for safety reasons. He was carrying a single-shot shotgun, which he loaded and fired into the television.

Cowan continued to yell, demanding his pistols. He re-loaded the shotgun and pointed it toward his wife. She left the house and drove to Black Earth, where she called 911. She told police she was afraid for her safety.

Cowan kept sheriff’s deputies at bay outside his home until 11 a.m. Tuesday, when he surrendered without incident, sheriff’s spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said.

On Tuesday night's results show of "Dancing with the Stars," Bristol Palin advanced to next week's finals of the competition.

The great refudiation of Barack Obama, Clifford Orwin, November 15 2010.

Sorry about the headline. I just couldn’t help it. Liberals made such fun of Sarah Palin’s gaffe, and who’s smiling now? “The Great Repudiation” is James Ceaser’s coinage, and you’ll find his astute reading of the U.S. midterm elections on

As even Freud conceded, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a drubbing is just a drubbing. Accept no spinning: This was a bloodbath. You almost had to be Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell or Nevada’s Sharron Angle to lose as a Republican. A gain of at least 61 in the House, the largest swing since 1948 and the largest in a midterm election since 1938, and a gain of six in the Senate. The tsunami swamped not only the halls of Congress but also the statehouses and state legislatures. (These are crucial nationally because they control electoral redistricting.) Nor was there a rage against incumbents. Incumbent Republicans in Congress sat pretty. All but two survived, while more than 50 sitting Democrats perished. In softball, they’d invoke the mercy rule.

True, midterm elections don’t usually predict the ensuing presidential ones. Still, it’s clear the Democrats have two big problems. One is Barack Obama. The other is his program.

We shouldn’t exaggerate Mr. Obama’s supposed charisma. His biggest assets in 2008 were the grievous unpopularity of George W. Bush’s administration and the feeble campaigns of his opponents. True, he knew how to maximize the edge these gave him. But without Mr. Bush to run against in 2010, Mr. Obama and his party were reduced to running against … Mr. Bush. It only worked once. A poll in mainly Democratic Pennsylvania showed that Mr. Bush was now more popular than Mr. Obama. Teeth gnashed, proving a boon to local dentists.

This rout was on Mr. Obama’s head, no one else’s. It was clever of the GOP to highlight the always unpopular Nancy Pelosi, but Americans knew whose policies they were voting against. And make no mistake, that’s what they were doing.

Americans aren’t suddenly smitten with Republicans. This is cold comfort to Democrats, since it only underscores the voters’ rejection of their policies. Policies must not only work, they must be seen to work. Mr. Obama’s haven’t. He’s left with the worst of both worlds. The left says the recovery has sputtered because he didn’t pile up enough debt to stimulate it; the right says the debt already piled up has drowned any prospects of recovery. If he has an answer to either, he hasn’t succeeded in making it heard. As for health-care reform, it was a no-win issue. Spending all his political chips on it was a stunning tactical error; it narrowed any possible electoral coalition behind him.

Contrary to fashionable opinion, American voters aren’t idiots. They confirmed that by defeating Ms. Angle and Ms. O’Donnell. The question on the table this year was clear: Was the public confident (as it had resoundingly affirmed in the comparable midterm election of 1934) that the President’s policies were effectively addressing an ongoing national crisis? Yet, the outcome resembled the election of 1938, when it was clear that the New Deal had not produced a lasting recovery. The voters are as disenchanted with Mr. Obama’s policies after just two years as they were with Franklin Roosevelt’s after six. The war in Europe saved FDR (and the U.S. economy). Can anything save Mr. Obama?

A jobful recovery, for one thing. A bad Republican candidate, for another. The Republicans just have to learn from the defeats of Ms. Angle and Ms. O’Donnell. The Tea Party has revitalized a moribund Republican Party. The Democrats can only envy their enthusiasm. But to lose two gimme elections concentrates the mind. Americans have no time for right-wing wackos. Either conservatives learn that lesson, now so fresh, or their short-term memory loss makes things easy for the Democrats.

Clifford Orwin is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

UN report plays down food price speculators, Eric Reguly, November 17 2010.

Why are food prices soaring when there is plenty of food around?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome has some answers. But it plays down the importance of the one factor -- speculation -- that seems to be playing a big role in the price hikes.

The FAO on Wednesday released its flagship “Food Outlook Report,” a biannual publication larded with stats and analysis that examines short term-term trends. To its credit, the agency has been warning for half a year that prices were on a roll and might be headed back to the “crisis” levels of 2007-08, which triggered food riots in dozens of poor countries as wheat, rice, oilseeds and other items became unaffordable to large segments of the population.

Of course, the best cure for high prices, as they say, is high prices, and prices duly came down. Then the financial crisis and the recession struck, and they came down again. They reversed course dramatically in the summer, thanks to a sharp fall in Russian wheat production, followed by a wheat export ban; slowing exports from other big wheat producers, notably Ukraine; falling maize (corn) yields in the United States; the sinking dollar; and horrendous food inflation in China, which in October climbed at a 10 per cent rate.

As a result, overall prices are close to their June, 2008, record high, and could go higher, depending on the success of next planting season, the replenishment of stocks (or lack thereof) and, of course, the weather.

That is not to say a new food crisis is imminent. The FAO also points out the good news -- food still seems in ample supply. For example, wheat stocks are forecast to fall 10 per cent but will still be 25 per cent higher than 2008’s level. While the global rice harvest is being scaled back somewhat, it is still forecast to come in at a record, “sufficient to cover world consumption but without the need to draw down reserves,” the FAO says. Oilseeds output will remain close to last season’s record level. And so on.

At the FAO press conference, the question was asked: If food is heaped up everywhere, can the speculative inflows of managed money take some or all of the blame for the price rises?

The answer was maybe, perhaps, really don't know.The FAO’s chief grains economist and analyst, the well-respected Abdolreza Abbasssian, acknowledged that “there is no doubt speculative activities have brought into the market a great deal of volatility.” But he added there was “no proof” that speculators have driven up prices to near record levels in recent months.

While there may be no proof, there is certainly ample evidence that the speculative money flows are working their dark magic.

There is no doubt that since financial deregulation in Europe and North America went wild in the 1990s, huge dollops of money have flowed into the commodity futures (the FAO background notes say the sums are “colossal”). In the last decade alone, agricultural trading volumes have tripled on the CME Group (the merger of the Chicago Board of Trade and the New York Mercantile Exchange) and Euronext Liffe. These inflows have to have an impact on prices, even if the speculators don’t actually take delivery of the food and stuff it in warehouses in Chicago and New York.

Another big clue that speculators are running amok comes from the Chicago Board of Trade open interest contracts. Take maize. Between April and October, the number of contracts rose more than 50 per cent, to 2.36 million. Wheat and soybean contracts recorded a similar rise. Between April and mid-October, cash prices for maize went from $3.45 (U.S.) a bushel to $5.56.

Looking at these figures, it’s hard to deny that the speculators are playing some role in the price hikes, perhaps a considerable one.

Shiva Makki, a senior World Bank economist in Washington whose specialty is agriculture markets, thinks there is no doubt the speculators are driving prices. In a recent note, he noted that wide spread between wheat futures and the physical cash market (then $5) and concluded that “The current spike in wheat prices is again caused by speculation of traders in the Chicago commodity exchange.”

The truth is that the UN food agencies (there are three) are shy about blaming speculators for causing damage. The speculators come from the United States, Britain and Canada, each of them big sponsors of the agencies, meaning it is politically hard to criticize them. The truth, however, says speculators could trigger another food crisis. The FAO should come clean and say so.

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