Happy birthday, Mr. Sleeman

I feel a special attachment to Sleeman Breweries for a couple of reasons. First, it's based in the place I grew up : Guelph, Ontario. And I'm always tickled when things and people from Guelph do well.

Second, I was present, in a way, at the creation for this particular brewery and I've been fascinated to watch it win critical acclaim from beer drinkers as well as commercial success. Here's that story:

In 1988, I was the editor of student newspaper at the University of Guelph, The Ontarion. Though I was paid a full-time salary and supervised a staff of about 20 full- and part-time staffers, the writing and editing was mostly done, as it is on student papers around the world, by volunteers.

During my day at the helm of The Ontarion (and in the preceding decade as a volunteer there), the tradition for thanking volunteers was a night of free beer and pizza, usually at The Albion in downtown Guelph. (The Albion, in the 1980s, was a classic beer tavern with tiny glasses and terry cloth on the tables. It was recently re-modelled and bears zero relation inside to the wonderfully scruffy watering hole I grew up in).

But in the winter of 1988, I got a called from a fellow named John Sleeman. John had just started up a new brewery and he told me about his family's connection to beer-making in Guelph. He said that the first batch of Sleeman Cream Ale had just been bottled and the company was ready for its commercial launch. He said he wanted to build a little buzz for his beer and what did I think of a little tasting party at restaurant/pub then known as Churchill's? (Churchill's, on the corner of Quebec and Baker Street is long gone, I believe. It was slightly upscale faux-British pub that was a favourite of the artsty/theatre crowd in Guelph).

I thought it was a great idea and then, as I was always thinking of my volunteers first, of course, I asked if I could bring, say, 200 friends along to this party.

John paused for a bit and then, to his credit, said, sure!

And so in the winter semester of 2008, The Ontarion volunteer party was held at Churchill's and the beer was supplied by John Sleeman from the new brewery that the world would soon get to know. I and my volunteers had our first taste of Sleeman Cream Ale.

I thought about that as I walked into my local beer store this afternoon and there was a guy offering samples of a new Sleeman producer: The 20 Ale. This is Sleeman's 20th Anniversary product and I was happy to take the salesman's sample and then buy a few bottles to enjoy while watching a little Stanley Cup hockey tonight.

Happy birthday, Sleeman's! And congratulations!

Visibile minorities by the numbers

Sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow waiting to depart for Ottawa gave me some spare time to crunch some Stats Canada numbers that have been sitting in my electronic inbox. The calculations of percentages and rankings are mine based on the raw data in the Statscan release that came out in April on ethnic origin and visible minorities.

Statistics Canada uses the definition of visible minority that is in The Employment Equity Act and so I do, too. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as 'persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.' Categories in the visible minority population variable include Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Visible minority, n.i.e. ('n.i.e.' means 'not included elsewhere'), Multiple visible minority, and Not a visible minority.

Census Metropolitan Areas with the most visible minorities

Five with most

Toronto – (Ont.): 2,174,065

Vancouver – (B.C.) : 875,300

Montréal – (Que.): 590,375

Calgary – (Alta.): 237,890

Ottawa – Gatineau – (Ont.): 179,295

Five with least

Hawkesbury (Quebec part): 0

Campbellton (Quebec part): 10

Bay Roberts – (N.L.): 45

Matane (Que.): 60

Dolbeau-Mistassini (Que.): 70

Percent of total population that is a visible minority:

The national average 16.2 per cent.

Five highest

Toronto – (Ont.) 42.86%

Vancouver – (B.C.) 41.72%

Abbotsford – (B.C.) 22.80%

Calgary – (Alta.) 22.23%

Ottawa – Gatineau (Ontario part) 19.44%

Five lowest

Hawkesbury (Quebec part) 0.00%

Saint-Georges – (Que.) 0.23%

Campbellton (Quebec part) 0.33%

Shawinigan – (Que.) 0.35%

Matane – (Que.) 0.37%

South Asians

Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets. Examples of South Asians, according to Statscan, are those who come to Canada and would describe themselves as East Indian, Pakistani, or Sri Lankan.

The national average is 4 per cent (1.26 million)

Five highest

Abbotsford – (B.C.) 16.33% (25,580)

Toronto – (Ont.) 13.49% (684,070)

Squamish – (B.C.) 11.06% ( 1,680)

Vancouver – (B.C.) 9.87% (207,160)

Calgary – (Alta.) 5.39% (57,700)

Five lowest

The census did not find any South Asian Canadians in Hawkesbury (Quebec part), Thetford Mines (Que.), Saint-Georges (Que.), Edmundston (N.B.), Matane (Que.), Campbellton (Quebec part), Shawinigan (Que.), Victoriaville (Que.), Baie-Comeau (Que.), Rimouski (Que.), Dolbeau-Mistassini (Que.), Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (Que.), La Tuque (Que.), Riviére-du-Loup (Que.), Granby (Que.), Portage la Prairie (Man.), Amos (Que.)

Drummondville – (Que.) 0.01% (10)

Timmins – (Ont.) 0.02% (10)

Rouyn-Noranda – (Que.) 0.03% (10)

Saguenay – (Que.) 0.03% (45)

Alma – (Que.) 0.03% (10)


Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets.

Five highest

Vancouver – (B.C.) 18.19% (381,535)

Toronto – (Ont.) 9.59% (486,330)

Calgary – (Alta.) 6.20% (66,375)

Edmonton – (Alta.) 4.61% (47,200)

Victoria – (B.C.) 3.79% (12,325)

Five lowest

The census did not find any Chinese Canadians in Portage La Prairie (MB), Matane (QC), Shawinigan (QC), Estevan (SK), and Collingwood (ON)

Miramichi – (N.B.) 0.04% (10)

Thetford Mines – (Que.) 0.06% (15)

Riviére-du-Loup – (Que.) 0.06% (15)

Salmon Arm – (B.C.) 0.06% (10)

Edmundston – (N.B.) 0.07% (15)


Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets. The national average is 2.51 per cent (783,795).

Five Highest

Toronto – (Ont.) 6.94% (352,2200)

Brooks – (Alta.) 5.00% (1,120)

Montréal – (Que.) 4.71% (169,065)

Ottawa – Gatineau (Ontario part) 4.70% (39,280)

Ottawa – Gatineau – (Ont.) 4.03% (45,060)

Five lowest

The census did not find any black Canadians in Matane (QC), Campbellton (Quebec part), Grand Falls-Windsor (NL) or Hawkesbury (Quebec part).

Parksville – (B.C.) 0.04% (10)

Swift Current – (Sask.) 0.06% (10)

Salmon Arm – (B.C.) 0.06% (10)

Shawinigan – (Que.) 0.06% (35)

Dolbeau-Mistassini – (Que.) 0.07% (10)


Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets. The national average is 1.3 per cent (410,695)

Five highest

Toronto – (Ont.) 3.39% (171,985)

Brooks – (Alta.) 0.33% (75)

Montréal – (Que.)0.66% (23,505)

Ottawa – Gatineau (Ontario part) 0.85% (7,130) / Ottawa – Gatineau – (Ont.) 0.66% (7,330)

Oshawa – (Ont.) 0.66% (2,155)

Five lowest

The census did not find any Filipino Canadians in New Glasgow (NS), Cape Breton (NS), Collingwood (ON), Joliette (QC), Estevan (SK), Temiskaming Shores (ON), Cowansville (QC), Bathurst (NB), Sept-Iles (QC), La Tuque (QC) Drummondville (QC), Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (QC), Victoriaville (QC), Riviére-du-Loup (QC), Edmundston (NB), Sorel-Tracy (QC), Baie-Comeau (QC), Thetford Mines (QC), Miramichi (NB), Saint Georges (QC), Campbellton (NB Part), Bay Roberts (NL), Shawinigan (QC), Matane (QC), Campbellton (QC part), Hawkesbury (QC).

Trois-Riviéres – (Que.) 0.01% (15)

Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – (Que.) 0.01% (10)

Québec – (Que.) 0.02% (120)

Charlottetown – (P.E.I.) 0.02% (10)

Saint-Hyacinthe – (Que.) 0.02% (10)

Latin American

Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets. The national average is 0.97 per cent (304,245).

Five Highest

Leamington – (Ont.) 3.66% (1,785)

Montréal – (Que.) 2.10% (75,400)

Toronto – (Ont.) 1.96% (99,290)

London – (Ont.) 1.75% (7,920)

Red Deer – (Alta.) 1.73% (1,410)

Five lowest

The census found no Latin American Canadians in New Glasgow – (N.S.), Temiskaming Shores – (Ont.), Cowansville – (Que.) , La Tuque – (Que.), Campbellton (New-Brunswick part), Bay Roberts – (N.L.), Matane – (Que.), Campbellton (Quebec part), Val-d'Or – (Que.), Portage la Prairie – (Man.), Campbellton – (N.B.), Summerside – (P.E.I.), Dolbeau-Mistassini – (Que.), North Battleford – (Sask.), Grand Falls-Windsor – (N.L.), Amos – (Que.), Petawawa – (Ont.), Kentville – (N.S.), Hawkesbury (Ontario part), Kenora – (Ont.), Canmore – (Alta.), Prince Rupert – (B.C.)

Cape Breton – (N.S.) 0.01% (10)

Shawinigan – (Que.) 0.02% (10)

Bathurst – (N.B.) 0.03% (10)

Baie-Comeau – (Que.) 0.03% (10)

Sept-Îles – (Que.) 0.04% (10)

Southeast Asian

Ranked by percentage compared to total population with absolute figures in brackets. Statscan says examples of a Southeast Asian Canadian are those who described themselves as Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian or Laotian. The national average is 0.77 per cent (239,935).

Five Highest

Tillsonburg – (Ont.) 2.19% (320)

Yellowknife – (N.W.T.) 1.81% (335)

Vancouver – (B.C.) 1.60% (33,470)

Prince Rupert – (B.C.) 1.51% (200)

Calgary – (Alta.) 1.47% (15,750)

Five lowest

The census found no Southeast Asian Canadians in Hawkesbury (Quebec part) , Elliot Lake (Ont.) , Kitimat (B.C.) , Thetford Mines (Que.) , Cobourg (Ont.) , Okotoks (Alta.) , Lachute (Que.) , Fort St. John (B.C.) , Saint-Georges (Que.) , Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.) , Truro (N.S.) , Edmundston (N.B.) , Wetaskiwin (Alta.) , Yorkton (Sask.) , Hawkesbury (Ont.) , Miramichi (N.B.) , Sept-Œles (Que.) , Bathurst (N.B.) , New Glasgow (N.S.) , Temiskaming Shores (Ont.) , Campbellton (New-Brunswick part) , Bay Roberts (N.L.) , Matane (Que.) , Campbellton (Quebec part) , Campbellton (N.B.) , Summerside (P.E.I.) , Grand Falls-Windsor (N.L.) , Petawawa (Ont.), Hawkesbury (Ontario part) , Kenora (Ont.)

Norfolk – (Ont.) 0.02% (10)

Charlottetown – (P.E.I.) 0.02% (10)

Shawinigan – (Que.) 0.02% (10)

Victoriaville – (Que.) 0.02% (10)

Kawartha Lakes – (Ont.) 0.03% (20)

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A communications misstep undone at 36,000 feet

Minutes before we took off from Rome Thursday morning, the press secretary for Prime Minister Stephen Harper met reporters at the back of the plane with big news: The Italians were removing restrictions that kept their troops out of harm's way in Afghanistan.

Moreover, this news was being released the morning after Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi and Harper enjoyed a two-hour private dinner together. In her comments to reporters before takeoff, the press secretary, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, linked the two events.

Now, knowing we would be unable to communicate with our Canadian editors as soon as the plane took off, I and others quickly grabbed our BlackBerrys or cellphones and dashed out a few paragraphs with this important news.

Harper and other Canadian officials have been lobbying Italy and other NATO allies to lift the so-called caveats that prevent troops from several countries from operating in unsafe areas, such as southern Afghanistan where about 2,500 Canadian troops have been fighting and dying. More troops from more countries could help reduce the burden Canada and a handful of NATO members have been bearing in southern Afghanistan.

This was a big diplomatic coup for Harper, getting an ally to change their stance on the caveats after he personally interceded.

But then, 40 minutes into the flight and 36,000 feet above Europe, Stewart-Olsen came to the back of the plane again, this time with a correction: Italy had not announced it was removing its caveats but was only considering removing them, news that had, in fact, been circulating for days.

What might have been a big diplomatic coup for Harper quickly became an embarrassing mis-step for Stewart-Olsen and the Prime Minister's office.

“Blame me. It's my fault,” Stewart-Olsen said.

Reporters, like me, who had filed their stories, however, had a problem. Because they were unable to communicate with their desks back in Canada, morning newscasts and early Internet editions of newspapers were about to spread important news about Afghanistan that was wrong.

So, to undo the error, the PMO took the rare step of allowing reporters, one-by-one, to use the satellite phone next to the Harper's office on the plane. Some reporters could see the prime minister sitting across the airplane aisle from them as they made those calls.

One of my colleagues, who had been travelling with prime ministers since Pierre Trudeau had the job, could not recall any other instance when the PMO staff let reporters communicate with their editors back home using the PMO satellite phone.

Stewart-Olsen said the the PMO's staff at the front of the plane had become aware of a story filed by the wire service Agence-France Press about 15 minutes before the flight departed. The AFP story referred to a statement that Berlusconi released late Wednesday night after his meeting with Harper.

Somewhere between the receipt of that wire story by PMO staff on the plane and Stewart-Olsen's first discussion with reporters a few minutes later, someone indicated that the story was about the caveats were coming off.

Among those who travelled to Europe with the Prime Minister this week were Sandra Buckler, the prime minister's director of communications and Stewart-Olsen's boss; the deputy press secretary Dimitri Soudas, and the director of policy and research for the PMO, Mark Cameron. Jill Sinclair, who works in the Privy Council Office as the prime minister's national security advisor, is also travelling on the prime minister's plane.

Stewart-Olsen would not say who first indicated that the caveats had been lifted, insisting that she alone bore responsibility for incorrectly alerting reporters.

As for the issue of the Italian caveats, Berlusconi's office did, in fact, release a statement Wednesday night after his meeting with Harper saying he was reconsidering the rules of engagement for Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Berlusconi's foreign minister Franco Fattini had said as much a few days ago but it was the first time that Berlusconi himself admitted he was considering ordering Italian troops into the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.

That news was on the front pages of Italian daily newspapers Thursday morning.

Italy has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, in the western province of Herat and in the capital of Kabul, where they are employed largely in non-combat roles.

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With Harper in Paris

The PM Airbus at Orly

It's been pouring rain all day but when you're in Paris in the spring, who cares?

I'm travelling this week with Prime Minister Harper on a whirlwind tour through Western Europe. We left Ottawa last night at 11 pm local time and, seven hours later, we landed at Orly International Airport where it turned out to be noon and wet. That's the Canadian Forces jet (left) on the tarmac at Orly International Airport in Paris.

We're not staying here long. After a busy day, we're about to fly to Cologne, Germany and, once there, we will travel to Bonn where we will stay the night.

Harper, on this trip, is visiting Paris, Bonn, Rome and London before flying back to Canada late Thursday night.

For this trip, Harper is travelling without his wife. As his communications director Sandra Buckler said before we left, this is a “tightly-focused” trip.

For the ride over, we were joined by various staffers from the PMO, including Buckler, press secretary Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, deputy press secretary Dimitri Soudas, PMO policy and research director Mark Cameron, and, of course, Harper's executive assistant Ray Novak. Novak goes wherever the PM goes and, as I've often said, is underestimated power in the PMO as he is the first person Harper sees (other than his wife) when he gets up and the last person he sees before going to bed.

Also on board was Thunder Bay-Superior North Joe Comuzzi. Comuzzi, of course, was the Liberal MP who crossed the floor to sit as a Conservative over the 2006 budget. I've known Joe since I was a reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in his hometown and we had a great chat about all the infrastructure that's needed in his gigantic territory north of Lake Superior — a riding, incidentally, that's bigger than the country I'm in right now.
Harper got the French honour guard/red carpet on arrival (below) and, as I write this, is wrapping up a one-on-one meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Honour Guard salute

Ex-Minister Bernier

For leaving behind top-secret documents at a former girlfriend's, Maxime Bernier resigned this afternoon as Minister of Foreign Affairs:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Room 313-S, Centre Block
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Prime Minister,
This is to inform you that I am resigning my post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, effective immediately.
I informed you late this afternoon that last night I became aware that I had left behind classified government documents at a private residence.
Prime Minister, the security breach that occurred was my fault and my fault alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.
I have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to conduct a thorough review of the situation.
Thank you for the trust you have shown in me. I will do everything I can to serve the government well in my capacity as Member of Parliament.
Yours truly,
Maxime Bernier

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Whither newspapers: The Post's Kurtz

A personal column, with more questions than answers, from a pretty smart media guy:

Let's not bury the lead: This is a rough time for the newspaper business, a rough time for The Washington Post and a rough time for me.

No one need shed any tears for the people leaving this building. The more than 100 journalists who have just taken early-retirement packages are voluntarily accepting a generous offer as the company trims its payroll — a situation far better than at newspapers that have resorted to layoffs.

But it is painful to watch from the inside. The talented reporters, editors and photographers walking out the door are part of the heart and soul of a living, breathing organism. How do you replace a Tom Ricks, one of the best Pentagon reporters ever? Or a Sue Schmidt, the investigative reporter who revealed Jack Abramoff's dirty dealings? Or Robin Wright, who's covered the Middle East for a quarter-century? What about battle-scarred editors with deep knowledge and a light touch? . . .

Marketing whiz Jack Trout had some suggestions for newspapers in a column last year and I tend to agree with his general thrust: The best thing newspapers have going for them is their brand. Use it or lose it.

President Yushchenko: Then and now — in Canada

The Toronto Star's Mitch Potter scores an exclusive interview with Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko on the eve of his visit to Canada. Yushchenko will be accorded the honour of addressing Canada's House of Commons. I'm going on memory here but I think the only other leaders to address the Commons during Prime Minister Harper's tenure are former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

In any event … great piece by Potter and even more compelling for the description of Yuschenko's personal battle to come back from dioxin poisoning:

… he unwittingly ingested a dioxin-laced bowl of soup in the autumn of 2004. Speaking in an exclusive interview on the eve of a long-awaited visit to Canada, the 54-year-old Yushchenko said the physical toll of the treatments all but consumed him during his first 30 months in office.

“I'll tell you one secret – how to make your body pool its energy and strength,” Yushchenko said, calling the period from 2005 to mid-2007 the “biggest overload on my health” because of a punishing schedule of operations. “I can tell you another secret, how these surgeries were made. On Friday nights, right after work, at 9 or 10 p.m., they would do the operations” so Yushchenko would be able to spend weekends marshalling the energy to resume his duties on Monday. Each surgery involved 2 to 2 ½ hours of “cleaning the skin” to remove dioxin.

“The methods are really painful, but I couldn't survive without them,” said Yushchenko, who is believed to be only the third person to survive an infiltration of TCCD dioxin at a level of concentration at least 1,000 times higher than that which occurs naturally in the human body . . .

I saw Yushchenko in 2005 in Brussels. Yushchenko attended a meeting of NATO leaders and had a one-on-one meeting with then-Prime Minister Martin. The Ukraine is desperate to get into NATO.

I assume Prime Minister Harper wants Ukraine in NATO as well, though I've never asked him about it. In Potter's piece, Yuschenko calls Harper “a hero”, hence my assumption.
I hope to be in the Commons tomorrow to listen to President Yushchenko. At NATO, when I first met him, he had just led the “Orange Revolution” and was one of the most interesting people at that 2005 summit. Now, three years later, he is fighting for his political life in Ukraine but his personal fight against the dioxin poisoning is showing tremendous gains. That's the photo that's running with The Star's piece in the top left and that's a photo, on the right, I took from my seat in the front row at a NATO press conference in Brussels three years ago. Incredible.


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The Surveillance Society

I've a piece out in some of today's papers that grew out of some discussions I had with researchers at Queen's University a few weeks ago.

… a group of researchers are … taking a broader look at the entire surveillance apparatus used by bureaucracies around the world. The Queen's researchers are grouped around a new initiative called the Surveillance Project, set up in part by a $2.5-million federal government grant.

“The goal of surveillance is to limit or restrict life choices, life opportunities — for good or ill,” said David Lyon, a sociology professor at Queen's and the director of the project …

And yet, despite the cautionary tale that [Maher] Arar represents, surveys done by Queen's sociologist Elia Zureik suggest most Canadians seem content to trade away the potential dangers of a surveillance society in favour of the perception of increased security.

“People do not place a high priority on privacy in Canada,” Mr. Zureik said during a recent workshop in Kingston with some of the scholars involved in the Surveillance Project. “And fewer still know how and what technologies are used to intrude on their privacy or to protect their privacy.”

Read the rest of the story

Olberman: Why Sen. Clinton was wrong, a remarkable rant

Earlier today, Senator Hillary Clinton referenced Bobby Kennedy's assassination in June 1968 — and it wasn't the first time she's brought this up in the campaign …

This time, though, reporters asked her, considering the death threats made against her and her opponent in the race to win the Democratic primary, if she thought it appropriate to reference that event:

MSNBC's Keith Olberman, in a remarkable 10-minute long rant, tells Sen. Clinton that she was most definitely wrong. You probably want to stick with this one all the way through …

Dialing up Washington …

Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President Bush had a phone conversation this morning. Here's a summary of that call, as provided by the Prime Minister's Office:

The call lasted roughly 15 minutes.

The Prime Minister and President Bush discussed the upcoming G8 in Toyako, Japan. Prime Minister Harper also discussed his upcoming trip to Europe with the President and that he would be meeting with the G8 European leaders – President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Berlusconi and Prime Minister Brown – in advance of the G8 summit to discuss key issues.

Leaders also discussed the latest developments Middle East in advance of the Prime Minister's upcoming trip.

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