Archive for February, 2015

Remembering Calgary’s Bestest Newspaper

February 28, 2015

by Jack Locke

With the demise of FFWD, Calgary loses a vital source of information.

With the demise of FFWD, Calgary loses a vital source of information.

The death of Calgary’s weekly newspaper FFWD comes as no surprise to moi.

I had been a freelancer for this paper from 1997 until 2013. My final freelance pitch, We Need A Royal Commission on Railway Safety, sent to the editor on Dec 11, 2013, went unanswered. Unanswered for the first time in my 16 years of sending the newspaper my writing. It was a disappointment.

But there was much pleasure before that coup de grace. My first piece in FFWD, Federal Environment Minister a Disaster, was in many ways similar to my last submission, only that I referred to a different ministry. And sadly different in that I received no reply from the current editor.

This troubled me, but not overly, as my second to last pitch sent on Sept 6, 2013 titled, Quebec’s Charter of Values and the Mayor’s Invitation(referring to Naheed Nenshi’s welcoming of Quebecers to Calgary,) was the first piece for which I received a kill fee. A kill fee indicates my piece was accepted by the editor, but then held onto for a period but never published. I received $50 as compensation.

It was a time when editor Drew Anderson also assumed the position of publisher. And while the double position can be handled by some, the manner in which my material was processed indicated to me that things were falling between the cracks. Previously, FFWD had had two people in those positions.

I don’t know how many of FFWD’s writers ever became a cover story, but when it happened to me, I was not a happy camper. It came about when the government of Alberta sent me two letters informing me that they had intercepted my private communications in 1999 over a 4-month period.

The story was likely the beginning of a break in my own semi-career as a journalist. I had a difficult time reconciling the possibility that interview subjects might be part of a provincial government covert investigation.

It is also why I worry about the federal government’s latest Bill C-51, as I have personal knowledge of how this tawdry legislation sends a chill over normal journalistic enquiries. The government has no business in the computers or telephones of journalists. Yet, that’s where our current federal government seems to be heading, unfortunately.

It is clear how fragile newspapers have become, struggling against declining ad revenue, increased government secrecy, and a government that allows multinational predation of advertising revenue. And then there is the concentration of ownership, which applies in FFWD’s case. Although, economics of scale may benefit shareholders, in the long run, I think this is harmful to a free press. Readers know when quality and quantity of content is diminished, and with declining content, comes declining readership.

Money has to be pumped into newspapers, even when they are sustainable. An extra page of news helps capture additional readers. Pinch the content, punch a reader.

With the March 5 final edition of Calgary FFWD, comes the loss of a great legacy: Informing the public while criticizing the powerful. It is not a tragedy like the demise of France’s Charlie Hebdo, but still, it is the loss of a valued pillar of democracy.

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Corkscrew Calamity at School Board Meeting, $5,000 “slush” fund established for Chair

February 26, 2015

by Jack Locke

In life there are warning signs.

First, the security guard at the English Montreal School Board almost refused me admission into the building. Only through persistence did I get my foot in the door.

Then the board’s behind-closed-doors session ran late.

The delectable tray of goodies being rolled into the elevator was rolled past my nose without any being offered to us slovenly attired guests. They were for school board commissioners to dine on—albeit quickly—as the in-camera session ran 45 minutes late.

Then there was the corkscrew.

Once again, evidence that our faithful public servants were glugging down grape on the public purse strings.

$5,000 “slush fund” established for Chair Angela Mancini

The meeting’s pièce de résistance came at 11:20 PM on a resolution to provide the chair with a $5,000, undefined, contingency fund. It goes beyond the Chair’s existing expense account. See the video HERE at the 3:09:45 mark.

Board Commissioner Julien Feldman was ordered to leave council chambers after he called it a slush fund and refused to leave the chambers when approached by the heretofore mentioned security guard. The resolution passed after the Chair officially shunned Feldman, though he remained in his seat.

Back to the corkscrew. Minutes after the employee carted up the treats, she reappeared, and exited the same elevator with a corkscrew in hand. A corkscrew!

Could it have been for bottled water? Nope. Could it have been for picking lint off the munchies? Not likely.

As confirmed at last month’s meeting, various board members drink wine between the in-camera session and the open to the public portion of the meeting. (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO)

And a few drops of Chateau School Board 2014 may have been the precipitating factor when the board erupted in bickering over whether the board’s audit committee should add a fourth member. Numerous parents committee members had noted that at the previous meeting it had been agreed that one member of the parents group would sit on the audit committee. It was voted upon and passed.

When Commissioner James Kromida suggested parent commissioners ought not be on the audit committee, as this committee was reserved for “elected” members, that’s when all Hell broke loose. The meeting collapsed into impassioned speeches about who offended who, who are the real commissioners, and whether a parent commissioner who performs audit work for the federal government might sit on the audit committee.

It just goes to show what happens when people have to drink their wine in a hurry.

I call it the corkscrew calamity.

CLICK HERE If you wish to vote in The Lockeblog Poll:  Should school board trustees drink wine during their meeting?


The $8 Strip Search Opinion

February 23, 2015

by Jack Locke

SCC Judges

In the court case, M.R.M. v. Her Majesty The Queen(1998), in the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Cory speaking for the majority expressed that a school search of a student must be carried out in a “reasonable manner,” and that it should be conducted in a sensitive manner and be minimally intrusive.

He then cites Associate Justice Pugsley of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal (1997), in the same case who noted that the search here was only of the exterior of the appellant’s person, “not a highly invasive search such as a strip and body cavity search.”

Yes, a strip search of a student is highly invasive. It is not likely that courts would approve of a 15-year old girl being forced to strip over a minor drug possession allegation.

But if Minister of Education Dr. Yves Bolduc believes hiring a lawyer to investigate this matter, at a cost of $8,000 is necessary, I would beg to differ. An $8,000 expenditure is wholly unnecessary. If media reports are at all accurate—that a 15-year old girl was forced to strip—it would appear to be patently unreasonable.

And that’s the $8 opinion.


Poll: Should school board trustees drink wine during their meeting?

February 21, 2015

By Jack Locke

EMSB logo

Recently, English Montreal School Board Chair Angela Mancini said that school board trustees consume wine at the break during their meetings. To see the video of Mancini, click HERE


Did John Baird misrepresent Canada to Her Majesty?

February 19, 2015

The screenshot from CBC tells the story of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, regaling Queen Elizabeth at the newly opened Canada House in London, England today. The problem is that John Baird resigned from his position on February 3, 2015. What was he doing there?

John Baird leads Queen Elizabeth II through Canada's London House. Did he misrepresent himself to Her majesty?

John Baird leads Queen Elizabeth II through Canada’s London House. Did he misrepresent himself to Her majesty?

The event captured by CBC reporter, Ellen Mauro, mentioned nothing of John Baird’s presence. Was this Canada’s little secret? A call to Buckingham Palace is in order. More later.

I am not amused.

Harper needs to answer for this

February 19, 2015

Today’s Globe and Mail showed an interesting picture by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images. It shows the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, in an official capacity representing Canada. Yikes.

G&M London Screenshot from 2015-02-19 09:30:15Mr. Harper has some mansplaining to do.

The Tabernac File #1

February 17, 2015

If Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc says strip searches of students are OK, he should be stripped of his duties.

And by school officials?

No debate.

We deserve better here in La Belle province.

Cripple Creak

February 16, 2015

My back was fine

Until I bent

And now my spine

Has come and went.

Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada (1838)

February 15, 2015

As an historic reminder, we would be well to remember article #18. Oui. [Ed. Note.]


by Robert Nelson


WHEREAS, the solemn covenant made with the people of Lower Canada, and recorded in the Statute Book of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as the thirty-first chapter of the Act passed in the thirty-first year of the Reign of King George III hath been continually violated by the British Government, and our rights usurped. And, whereas our humble petitions, addresses, protests, and remonstrances against this injurious and unconstitutional interference have been made in vain. That the British Government hath disposed of our revenue without the constitutional consent of the local Legislature — pillaged our treasury — arrested great numbers of our citizens, and committed them to prison — distributed through the country a mercenary army, whose presence is accompanied by consternation and alarm — whose track is red with the blood of our people — who have laid our villages in ashes — profaned our temples — and spread terror and waste through the land. And, whereas we can no longer suffer the repeated violations of our dearest rights, and patiently support the multiplied outrages and cruelties of the Government of Lower Canada, we, in the name of the people of Lower Canada, acknowledging the decrees of a Divine Providence, which permits us to put down a Government, which hath abused the object and intention for which it was created, and to make choice of that form of Government which shall re-establish the empire of justice — assure domestic tranquillity — provide for common defence — promote general good, and secure to us and our posterity the advantages of civil and religious liberty,


  1. That from this day forward, the PEOPLE OF LOWER CANADA are absolved from all allegiance to Great Britain, and that the political connexion between that Power and Lower Canada, is now dissolved.

  2. That a REPUBLICAN form of Government is best suited to Lower Canada, which is this day declared to be a REPUBLIC.

  3. That under the Free Government of Lower Canada, all persons shall enjoy the same rights: the Indians shall no longer be under any civil disqualification, but shall enjoy the same rights as all other citizens in Lower Canada.

  4. That all union between Church and State is hereby declared to be DISSOLVED, and every person shall be at liberty freely to exercise such religion or belief as shall be dictated to him by his conscience.

  5. That the Feudal or Seignorial Tenure of land is hereby abolished, as completely as if such Tenure had never existed in Canada.

  6. That each and every person who shall bear arms, or otherwise furnish assistance to the people of Canada, in this contest for emancipation, shall be, and is discharged from all dues or obligations, real or supposed, for arrearages in virtue of Seignorial rights, heretofore existing.

  7. That the douaire coutumier is for the future abolished and prohibited.

  8. That imprisonment for debt shall no longer exist, except in such cases of fraud as shall be specified in an Act to be passed hereafter by the Legislature of Lower Canada for this purpose.

  9. That sentence of death shall no longer be passed nor executed, except in cases of murder.

  10. That all mortgages on landed estates shall be special, and to be valid, shall be enregistered in offices to be erected for this purpose, by an Act of the Legislature of Lower Canada.

  11. That the liberty and freedom of the press shall exist in all public matters and affairs.

  12. That TRIAL BY JURY is guaranteed to the people of Lower Canada in its most extended and liberal sense, in all criminal suits, and in civil suits, above a sum to be fixed by the Legislature of the State of Lower Canada.

  13. That as general and public education is necessary and due by the Government of the people, an Act to provide for the same shall be passed as soon as the circumstances of the country will permit.

  14. That to secure the elective franchise, all elections shall be had by BALLOT.

  15. That with the least possible delay, the people shall choose delegates, according to the present division of the country, into counties, towns, and boroughs, who shall constitute a Convention or Legislative body, to establish a Constitution, according to the wants of the country, and in conformity with the disposition of this declaration, subject to be modified according to the will of tho people.

  16. That every male person, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, shall have the right of voting, as herein provided, and for the election of the aforesaid delegates.

  17. That all Crown Lands, also, such as are called Clergy Reserves, and such as are nominally in possession of a certain company of landholders, in England, called the “British North American Land Company,” are of right the property of the State of Lower Canada, except such portions of the aforesaid lands as may be in possession of persons who hold the same in good faith, and to whom titles shall be secured and granted, by virtue of a law which shall be enacted to legalize the possession of, and afford a title for such untitled lots of land in the Townships as are under cultivation or improvement.

  18. That the French and English languages shall be used in all public affairs; and for the fulfilment of this declaration, and for the support of the patriotic cause in which we are now engaged, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Almighty, and justice of our conduct, WE, by these present, solemnly pledge to each other our lives and fortunes, and our most sacred honour.

By order of the Provisional Government,


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Poetic Personal Ad Brings Love

February 14, 2015

by Jack Locke

Danielle Berthiaume and John Thomas found love through a personal ad.

Danielle Berthiaume and John Thomas found love through a personal ad.

I like to think that the real world is captured by newspaper headlines, but more often the real world is found in the classified ad section. You know what I’m talking about.

Fifteen words written in a Montreal Gazette personal ad was all it took to bring Danielle Berthiaume and John Thomas together.

The year was 1996. Berthiaume was 3 months shy of her 50th birthday and a successful sales and marketing representative with Chatelaine Magazine. She worked 12 hour days and had little time for pursuing a man. But with a creative classified ad Danielle found love. In those days, personal ads were free for women.

“Pretty, petit, professional, passionate woman looking for peer partner to explore potential paths to paradise,” the ad said.

Sappy? Perhaps. But it caught the eye of her Mr. Right.

“I had seen ads that described women as beautiful, or funny, but I thought if that’s true, you don’t need to tell me,” says Thomas, a former Ilco Unican employee. He too worked long days.

He was almost 55 and had been married three times prior.

“I had decided to never get married again.

“I picked up the paper on a Saturday afternoon, took it home, poured myself a glass of Scotch, and started to read,” remembers Thomas. He spotted Berthiaume’s ad.

She was surprised when she got a call. When she placed the ad it was to run in the month of September. Somehow, the ad ran a 5th week. Unexpectedly, Thomas called in October.

“At a certain age, it’s hard to meet people,” says Berthiaume, “There is no way we could have met without The Gazette.”

The phone number posted in the ad was a proxie number redirected to the placer of the ad.

“He told me that the ad was so different that it caught his attention.” Berthiaume then called back on a weekend morning to ensure that no woman would answer the line.

On December 1, they met at Hurley’s Pub for a coffee. She would be wearing a coat patterned with Mickey Mouse, he would be the “guy with salt and pepper hair with a hat next to him.”

“If that’s salt and pepper, then it’s white pepper,” Berthiaume joked when they first met.

“And you didn’t mention that you were the size of Mickey Mouse,” Thomas responded. Berthiaume stands a shade below 5 feet tall.

Their first tête-a-tête lasted four to five hours.

“I even remember the table,” says Berthiaume. “It was a stroke of luck that the ad ran an extra week,” insists Berthiaume.

“Absolutely,” chimes Thomas.

They have been married since May 1999.