Sunday, March 26, 2006

There's No Place Like The MTS Centre

As of today, the Brandon Wheat Kings are tied with the Moose Jaw Warriors one game each in the playoff run. Yet because of the scheduling, I may not have a chance to see a playoff game here in Brandon at all.

That's because for about the next week, the Keystone Centre, which would host the Wheat Kings games normally, is booked solid for the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. Because of this booking, the Wheats will have to play their "home" games at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. Usually, this (at least the first 2 games, anyways) isn't an issue for Brandon fans at all. The first 2 playoff games for the league are usually played on the weekend just prior to the Fair starting. Since the Wheat Kings usually have home ice advantage in the first round, Brandon fans in other years have a chance to see those first 2 games. Not so in this case, as the Wheats finished 4th in the division this time around.

It's a scheduling issue that, despite not being apparent by Brandon's usual home ice advantage position, arises every year. It's well-known that every year, in the last week of March/1st week of April (depending on the alignment of the calendar) the Fair comes to Brandon, and that it interferes with the playoff schedules. I believe a simple solution could be found. Why doesn't the WHL, recognising the situation the Keystone finds itself in, simply schedule the first 2 games of the Wheat's first round in Brandon regardless of who has home ice advantage, and schedule the rest of the games to reflect the home ice advantage situation? There may still be a need to play a few games in Winnipeg, but at least this way Brandon fans have the chance to see playoff hockey during the first round in their own community.

That seems to me to be a workable arrangement.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

They Freely Walk Among Us

Just before the weekend, former Saskatchewan politician Colin Thatcher was granted unescorted passes to visit his family for 3 days. Thatcher was convicted in the early 80s for the murder of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson, although he has consistently maintained his innocence.

Unlike other cases, there is no noticable outcry over this. The issue of crime and punishment raises its head in Canada from time to time, often when crime is in the news and the system is perceived as being too lenient with criminals. During the last federal election, the major political parties emphasised tough-on-crime measures such as manditory minimum sentences and reverse-onus bail for gun crimes, while paying lip service to crime prevention. Last year, people were outraged over the release of Karla Homolka, even though she had served the full term of her 12 year sentence. And in the spring time, the nation was horrified at the killings of 4 Mounties in Alberta, and people became outraged after finding out that the suspect in the case, James Roszko, had a long history of charges and convictions.

There are several other cases where people feel the justice system failed to adequately deal with criminals. In many of those cases, like the last 2 I mentioned, those feelings are justified. But when you look at those cases, the people involved don't appear to be prominent in any other way, except that they are in the news because of the horrible crimes they committed. Stated differently, had they not committed their crimes, their names would probably not be nearly as well-known as they are. Thatcher, on the other hand, was a figure in the cabinet of the Devine government in Saskatchewan and son of former Premier Ross Thatcher. He was in a position of power and influence, even if for a brief period of time, and was known before the brutal murder of his ex-wife.

Could this explain the lack of outrage over his release? Has the passage of more than 20 years caused the impact to fade? Why is it that people accept allowing Thatcher some freedom, when they don't accept it in other cases?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Reflections From Kandahar

As I write this, our Prime Minister is talking to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has made the news lately, because of a poll suggesting a majority of Canadians (and at least one military family) have questions about the mission (despite the Canadian media establishment being, by and large, supportive of the mission) and because a number of soldiers have been killed while over there. The Opposition has called for a debate, but Harper says it's not needed, suggesting that Canadians will support the mission once they better understand it, and that the debate has already happened. He must remember things differently than I do. I remember then-Prime Minister Chretien announcing Canada's involvement in Afghanistan when the US campaign to displace the Taliban began, with little, if any, debate. It would be nice if the current Prime Minister could say when this debate happened.

Why is the Prime Minister afraid of debate anyways? The media's response to this issue may give an indication. For example, the Brandon Sun recently wrote in full support of the mission (and in support of re-opening talks on ballistic missile defence). What's disturbing is that the newspaper used the "War on Terror" reasoning that in the US has been used to justify the war in Iraq, among other things. Another way the argument can be interpreted is to say, "shut up or else the terrorists are going to get us all." War, however, is a very serious issue. It's expensive, it's hard on the soldier's families while the soldiers are away, there are many civilian casualties, and those who decide to go to war often are sheltered from the worst consequences. All the more reason to debate the issue. Who's interests are the Canadian government serving by going to war and by having little debate on the issue? Why are they afraid of public opinion?