Liberal reactions to Harper’s conduct at G20 Summit a mixed bag

December 3, 2009

The Prime Minister has not represented Canada well at any time, let alone at the G20 Summit, says Malpeque MP Wayne Easter.

The economic summit was held Sept. 24-25 in Pittsburgh. The leaders of the 20 largest global economies met to discuss foregin policy and other global issues.

Easter has not been impressed with the way Stephen Harper has been dealing with other world leaders.

“His pattern of avoiding productive communication with other countries is appalling, especially with respect to action on climate change.”

Not all Liberal MPs are completely unsatisfied with Harper’s diplomatic conduct. Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy commended the prime minister’s decision to not attend Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN.

“He made the right choice.”

Although he agreed with this decision, Murphy said he did not agree with Harper’s choice to leave the summit a day early.

“He didn’t stick around for the last day for the enviromental talks because he has no plan for Canada when it comes to dealing with climate change. It’s disappointing that he doesn’t have anything to say.”


Island musicians moving up the maritime charts

December 3, 2009

Meaghan Blanchard spent many hours of her early teens in her room writing songs. Now, at age 20, she is one of the fastest rising stars in Prince Edward Island.

Both Blanchard and Racoon Bandit vocalist Fraser McCallum grew up in the small village of Hunter River and used their musical talents to work their way through the Maritime music scene.

Her start in music was when her mother started a church choir when her family moved to Hunter River, Blanchard said

“She thought, I have four kids, why not put them in a choir.”

Blanchard was 12 or 13 when she first picked up a guitar and started writing songs.

“They were very awful songs. Very angsty. Teen angst. Not even teen angst. Pre-teen angst, which is even worse than teen angst.”

Her first recording was done when she was 15.

“It was a demo of songs that I wrote up until that point. It’s funny. My brother still has the recording on his computer, my sisters have it, and my friends have passed it around to.”

Her music career really took off when she was driving home from basketball practice one night when she was 16, she said.

“It was at about the same time of the Canadian Idol fad. I heard this thing on Magic 93 about Maritime Idol. They said to call in and sing a song, so I called in and I got asked to come in for the final and I won it. Then I went up to CTV television and I was on TV and that was probably when people started realizing I was doing something with my music.”

Her career has taken off since.

“I have been playing at the ECMAs, I have been nominated and won some awards from Music PEI.”

In February 2009, she won Music PEI’s award for best female recording, best folk recording, best new artist, and songwriter of the year.

The award she is most proud of is her win for song writer of the year, Blanchard said.

“So I think it is all growing collectively as I grow.”

McCallum has a similar musical background. Growing up, he spent his time listening to his father’s 1960s vinyl records before getting his start in music, joining his high school band.

“It was around this time that I started writing songs. I started out doing open mics and that sort of thing.”

McCallum, now 23, eventually set up a band.

“We just released our first CD just a month ago.”

He enjoys performing at larger venues with his band, but he also enjoys solo performances at smaller venues like the Pen & Inkling Festival, held Sept. 20 in Charlottetown.

“It is a great way to write an individual acoustic type of song. You can have fun with it, mix things up a bit and you’re the only one who has to worry about it.

“So often an artist can play the same kind of music in front of the same kind of crowds. This exposes artists to a different audience and the audience to different types of music that they would not have seen in other venues. It is exposure for everybody.”

McCallum wears many hats. He is a graduate of Concordia University in Montreal. He decided to move back east to debunk the current trend.

“I’m also a writer as well. I write communications and promotional stuff.”

Racoon Bandit’s debut album, Campcraft, is available at Back Alley Music in Charlottetown. The band is online at McCallum occasionally performs standup comedy at The Guild.

Blanchard planned on travelling south in October with some of her fellow Island musicians to Nashville.

“Myself, John Connolly, Dennis Ellsworth, Dan Curry and a few others are heading down in a rented van and bringing our guitars and we’re going to spread the word about what we’re doing in P.E.I.  It should be fun. Taking a few days off school. Teachers always love that.”

Wireless Internet continues to expand throughout Holland College

December 2, 2009

Holland College student Spencer Mosher, tries out the new wireless Internet connection in the Charlottetown Centre cafeteria. Conway photo

Due to a growing student demand, the wireless Internet connection at the Charlottetown Centre the first of what could be a series of upgrades.

On Oct. 15, the wireless Internet services provided at the campus expanded as part of a pilot project to make it more accessible throughout the campus.

The new wireless system is designed to be more stable and manageable, said Richard MacDonald, manager of computer services.

“It is  also capable of handeling traffic more efficiently.”

The new connection was made possible due to the co-operation between Computer Serivces, the Student Union, and the Computer Information Systems and Business departments, he said.

“With everyone working together, we have a better wireless connection here than we would have had if we did not co-operate.”

Still, there are only three routers providing wireless Internet for the cafeteria and bottom floor, he said.

“To provide coverage to the entire building would require 20, 30 wireless routers. We could eventually have 25-30 routers to provide full coverage.”

Students are enjoying the wireless connection, although there are some minor glitches.

“It’s pretty good. It goes down sometimes but other than that it works well,” said Spencer Mosher.

MacDonald said the main goal is to figure out the best way to have wireless access on a large scale for all Holland College centres.

“Students want to be connected and we want to provide it without students having to pay too much for it.

“It would be nice to have the same student experience in all of our major centres.”

The Langille Show: behind the scenes

December 2, 2009
Brian Langille filming and episode of The Langille Show. Conway photo

A man answers the door on Halloween. He is greeted by children in their costumes.

“Trick or Treat,” they yell with glee as they expect their sugary treats. The man choses trick.

He morphs into a horrific monster. The children flee in terror. This 30-second clip took  three hours of careful editing.

It was the opening of episode 189 of The Langille Show. It is the Youtube show created and hosted by Holland College’s resident Mac technician, Brian Langille. The episode, Sweet, Sweet Candy, serves as the show’s Halloween special.

A lot of work went into the making of the show’s introduction. In fact, it takes a considerable level of technical skill to make his face so terrifying.

Langille shot the original footage and took it back to his computer, where he began the editing process.

“I cut to the piece where I wanted to make my face to expand, export that, put in some after-effects and motion track it. Once I have it motion tracked, I can apply things to my face and make them move with my face. “

Then he was able to shrink his eyes and nose and puff up his face and everything else, he said.

“Once I get that done and rendered, I test and apply a couple more things. I changed the tone of my skin colour and I imported the sound and everything else.

“That is what gave me the demon effect. It’s fun to do something like that.”

Langille filmed the episode during his lunch break on Oct. 28 in his front yard. It was a beautiful autumn day in his quiet suburban neighbourhood. He couldn’t have asked for a better day to film.

In the driveway was the infamous van blown up in many an opening sequence. You’d expect it be in several pieces scattered across the lawn rather than parked in one piece. Perhaps he has a secret stock pile of vans somewhere?

Before the actual filming began, Langille went to his basement to gather some equipment. His version of the bat cave contains the technology that makes filming The Langille Show possible.

There were two 2,000-watt lights and a green screen used for indoor filiming, his microphone, camera and computer.

Langille grabbed his microphone, camera and tripod and headed out the door, but before that he had to make sure he was wearing his trademark glasses, hat and jersey.

“When I’m putting on the gear, it makes me feel like Clark Kent turning into Superman.”

Before turning on the camera, he noticed someone looking as they drove down the road. It happened before.

“There are times when people who are driving by will slow down to check out what I’m doing. I remember I got some strange looks from the neighbours the time I filmed the episode where I shaved my head.”

As soon as he had his camera adjusted to get the perfect shot, he began recording. He started things off with his trademark, “Hey!”

It echoed throughout the neighbourhood as he started his opening monologue. He let a little blopper slip out as he remembered he wanted to tell a joke about a tree but there was no tree in the shot.

He was able to improvise with a joke about the Toronto Maple Leafs and all was well.

The episode revolved around an incident which occurred on Halloween a few years back. He was in charge of passing out the candy, but instead ate the candy himself.

The shoot took about 11 minutes and besides a few pauses and bloopers all went smoothly.

There was one thing that seemed odd. There were a few moments when he would pace from one spot to another. The reason would be revealed during his editing process.

One of Langille’s biggest fans is his wife, Susan. He does some great work on the show, she said

“He puts a lot of hard work into every show and it really pays off.”

She usually doesn’t get to see any of the tapings since they are done when she is at work. But she is occasionally exposed to some content unseen by viewers.

“Whenever I happen to be at home when he is filming, I get to hear some of the outtakes. I get a good chuckle out of them.”

She has nothing but good things to say about her husband’s show.

“I think it is amazing. He makes it look so easy to do. He taught himself how to do it.”

After Langille completed filming the episode, he headed back to the basement to begin editing.

He took the opening segment and attaching it to the nine minutes of video he had just finished filming. After that, it was a matter of trimming the new footage and cutting anything he didn’t want to use.

He cut the jokes he doesn’t plan on using to get straight to the punchline.

He does this to take the over 10 minutes worth of footage and convert it to about three or four.

“Sometimes I realize that not every joke needs to be in there.”

Langille also revealed the reason why he was moving around so many times during the taping.

It is to compensate for not having a director to zoom the camera in and out. He also said he makes sure the time it takes him to move is taken out of the video.

“I also have to make sure to cut out as much dead time as possible, so that I am constantly in different spots on the screen and that there is no down time as far as silence goes.”

This process used to take hours, now it takes about 20 minutes.

“I got better over time and learned what material I want to keep or remove from  a video.  It comes with practice.”

After he completed the video it is just a matter of fading to black and inserting the final punch line.

“I guess this takes away a lot of the mystique.”

Charlottetown residents stand together against poverty:Island New Democrats leader among those gathered outside Province House

December 2, 2009

They are part of a very large group of people all around the world that wants to make poverty history, said the leader of the Island New Democrats on Oct. 17.

About 65 Charlottetown residents stood outside Province House in the pouring rain to take part in the worldwide Stand Up Against Poverty campaign. It was one of thousands of global demonstrations taking place over the weekend.

Guest speakers included Marie Burge of the P.E.I. Working Group for Livable Income and Island New Democrat leader James Rodd.

The protest began with an introduction from Cotelle Mackintosh, one of the organizers of the event.

Stand Up Against Poverty is a  global mobilization which calls upon society, schools, businesses and non-governmental organizations to band together with a message about the need to make poverty history, said Mackintosh.

“We are demanding that world leaders, including our own federal government, keep the promises they made back in the year 2000 to achieve the millennium development goals. To eradicate extreme poverty and develop a global partnership development plan all by the year 2015.

“We still have a long way to go.”

Following a short presentation from A Dare to Remember, Burge took the podium.

The P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income looks at how poverty affects a society and looks for a solution, she said.

“There is a solution and it would take very little effort on the part of the federal government and of our provincial government to create a poverty reduction strategy. We should feel ashamed that Canada does not have a poverty reduction strategy.”

Federal and provincial governments haven’t been living up to past promises to eliminate poverty and create livable income initiatives, she said

When governments do give money to help fund the fight against poverty, it is often for the wrong reasons, she said.

“We are concerned about the fact that even when governments create polices, most of the time they are only creating them out of charity rather than social justice. Charitable policies that only give a little bit here and there. It is a charity model that does not promote social justice for all people.”

The amount given in foreign aid is a disgrace, she said.

“Canada is showing that we don’t care about how the rest of the world lives or how our own citizens do.”

Rodd said the world has more than enough wealth and resources to eliminate both poverty and hunger, but the political and social will is lacking.

“The people of the planet Earth and her governments have not yet fully acknowledged the need to ensure that every individual has the right to the most basic level of sustenance.”

Governments should be held accountable, he said.

“Think about what our governments are doing. What can you do here today as individuals standing outside of Province House in Charlottetown to make poverty history? You can start by acknowledging that you are a part of a large group of people from around the world who want to make poverty history and are willing to make the elimination of poverty a part of their lives.”

Leader of the Island New Democrats, James Rodd speaking outside of Province House during the Stand Up Against Poverty rally. Conway photo

Chytrid fungus a possible threat to Island frogs

December 2, 2009

A killer fungus known as chytrid, which has caused the death of approximately 200 species of frogs worldwide, has been found in P.E.I.

A group of researchers found traces of the fungus as they spent the summer travelling to ponds throughout the province.  The fungus is seen as the root of the worse case of mass extinction in history.

The spread of chytrid originated in 1934 when South African clawed frogs were imported to North America and became a popular test subject for pregnancy test research. The American bull frog, which can also carry the fungus, made it a worldwide problem when frog legs became a popular culinary export.

Humans can also spread the fungus when travelling through different habitats. Something as simple as mud on a boot can contain traces of chytrid. The fungus is not a threat to humans however.

Assistant biology professor at UPEI Natacha Hogan was one of the researchers here.

The research team would spend every day to every second day sampling several ponds from west of O’Leary to Souris, she said

“We swabbed several frogs from each pond we visited and sent the swabs to a lab in Washington.”

The lab performed what is known as a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on the swab samples. The tests revealed 26.3 per cent of frogs on P.E.I. tested positive for chytrid. Froglets are also 4.5 per cent more likely to have the fungus than older frogs.

It is a form of bacteria within the fungus that is killing the frogs and it is impossible to treat frogs who live in the wild, Hogan said.

“There could possibly be a way of treating frogs which live in a laboratory setting, however there isn’t a cure for chytrid at this time.”

The  fungus came up in a recent speech in Charlottetown. Dr. Maria Forzan was a keynote speaker during the opening night of Amphibian Week at the Atlantic Veterinary College on Oct. 5.

Chytrid spreads through the body, casuing an electrolyte imbalance, and respiration problems, since frogs breathe through their skin, she said.

“Tadpoles can also carry chytrid but they carry it in their mouths rather than their skin. Chytrid causes the tadpoles to develop with mouth deformities and behaviour changes.

“Tadpoles with chytrid tend to be more prone to panic attacks, which gives them a better chance to escape predators. It is fortunate for them to be able to escape but it is unfortune they survive long enough to spread the disease.”

The extreme tempratures in P.E.I. may determine whether the frogs live or die, said Forzan.

“The heat during the summer months and the cold during the winter months could keep the bacteria from spreading.”

Hogan said it is too soon to determine the effects of chytrid in P.E.I. due to this being the first year of testing.

“The effects of the chytrid spread is something that must be monitored for a number of years.”

Charlottetown’s bid for 2011 ECMAs has good chance of coming through

December 2, 2009

They hope to bring bring the East Coast Music Awards back to Charlottetown, said a city councillor during the Nov. 9 the council meeting.

David MacDonald, chair of the economic development and tourism committee, has been working with the event committee dedicated to bringing the event back to Charlottetown.

The city has a good chance to host the awards in 2011, MacDonald said

“We have been in discussions with the ECMA people and I think we are going to be able to meet all of the criteria they have. I am very optimistic about our chances.”

The ECMAs are a big event, which could benefit businesses all over the city, he said.

“It is good for hotels, good for restaurants, and good for our transportation industry as well.”

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said he sees it as tremendous opportunity for the city’s tourism industry.

“Tourism is usually down in February and this is a great chance to bring a lot of economic activity to the city during an otherwise slow season.”

It is also a fun, cultural experience for residents, he said.

“It is great that our residents could have this nearly week long event to take part in and be a part of.

“It is also a great way to promote east coast music and to promote our own talented musicians.”

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford, during the Nov. 9 council meeting. Conway photo

UPEI blogger provides media a helping hand

December 2, 2009

Reporters need to come up with at least two new story ideas each day and a UPEI blog was created to help them, says the man who writes it.

Dave Atkinson created the blog as a public relations tool to give exposure to the scientific community of UPEI. Atkinson, a former CBC reporter, said he knows the pressure reporters face in coming up with new ideas.  He made the comment at a news conference Nov. 10 at UPEI.

He decided to link the university’s need for exposure and the media’s need for stories.

The blog provides reporters with information on the school’s science work and puts it in away they can understand.

To get the full story, Atkinson interviews those who do the research. Researchers often use scientic terms during the interview and it is his job to find out what it really means, he said.

“The best way to unravel jargon is to let them do it themselves. Everyone is human at their core, no matter how convoluted they seem.”

The best way to get them to give you the story is to put them at ease, he said.

“People will give you a great story if you give them the chance.”

His job is to take the research information provided to him by the science staff and translate the jargon to make an interesting story, he said.

“I make the researchers interesting characters in a story that people can understand and I then provide the information to journalists.”

He used the spread of chytrid fungus in Island ponds as an example. The fungus has been linked to the extinction of many species of frogs around the world. Researchers from UPEI tested ponds across the province to see how many frogs had the fungus.

“Sometimes the university will not give a press release and only post it on the blog. But there have been some stories that are so big that it wouldn’t be fair not to give it to everyone. The research that was done about the effects of the chytrid fungus on Island frogs is a good example of that,” he said.

Atkinson also provided some advice about with those in public relations.

“You also have to be careful when dealing with them because they could be a former journalist. A lot of journalists have gone into public relations and they know how to spin the story.”

Maria Forzan also spoke at the news conference. She talked about her research regarding the chytrid fungus and a parasite which has been killing songbirds on the Island.

Her research team monitors the life spans of different species of wildlife, Forzan said

“We do general surveillance to monitor wildlife mortality which we believe to be abnormal.”

Forzan has discovered song birds may catch the parasite from the food people feed them and the chytrid fungus may be triggered by warm temperatures.UPEI Research Communications Officer, Dave Atkinson. Conway photo

New project set to scare crows away from Charlottetown

December 2, 2009

New machines have been brought in to scare crows off of residential properties after city councillors received compliants, says the manager of parks and recreation.

The project was launched Nov. 5. It allows residents of Victoria Park to use Phoenix Wailers to scare crows away from their properties. The wailers play noises the crows fear like eagles, gunshots and owl whistles.

Sue Hendricken said there are two reasons why the wailers were brought in.

“The primary reason was the noise and the second would have to be the mess the crows leave behind. The crow droppings, I mean.”

There are two wailers available, she said.

“We got one stationary and one mobile model.”

The stationary model is in use at a home in Victoria Park. Use of the wailer is free, she said.

“It is being done as a pilot project for the neighbourhood, to see if it helps disperse the crows from the area.”

The project was discussed at the Nov. 10 city council meeting.

Councillor Kim Devine said the crows are smart.

“If the crows are constantly fed in the same area, they will continue to go there because they have a good enough memory to remember to go there. I am in favour of making the public aware of how smart they are.”

Councillor Terry Bernard said the wailers are a good idea.

“I think this could be what is needed to send the crows back into the park and keep them off of people’s properties.”

Councillor Melissa Hilton said she had friends who once nursed an injured crow back to health.

“They named him Russel.”

New project set to scare crows away from Charlottetown. Conway photo

Budget becomes main focus of question period

April 20, 2009


Premier Robert Ghiz answering questions for the media. Conway photo.


    The Liberal government is proud to have created such economic growth during a time of economic downturn, said provincial Treasurer Wesley Sheridan during Question Period April 17.

    Montague Conservative MLA Jim Bagnall said the Conservatives feel the economy is not doing as well as the Liberals are saying that Sheridan can’t seem to ever know the proper economic figures.

      The argument began when Bagnall asked the treasurer about the $ 42.3 million deficit.

      “The budget that was put in by the previous government when you came into power had a surplus of $2.1 million. That would have showed three surplus budgets in a row. Mr. Treasurer, why did you revise the budget when you came in from a $2.1 million surplus to a $42.3 million deficit?”

       Sheridan said the province was just coming out of the 10 best economic years the province and the country as a whole have ever gone through and the Conservatives had nine deficit budgets.

       “Probably the most embarrassing piece of financial work I have ever witnessed.”

        Sheridan said there were a lot of problems caused by the Conservatives which the Liberals had to take care of when they took office.

         He said examples included a health care system which was ignored for 10 years, write offs in the beef industry and in the fisheries as well.

      “The things we had to clean up inside that first year were incredible.”

      Bagnall said the treasurer numbers were wrong and the fact was he had lost $39 million in his first budget.

     “How do you expect Islanders to have faith in your number?”

      Premier Robert Ghiz stepped in to answer the question.

      Ghiz said Islanders were actually very happy to have a treasurer with as much integrity and experience as Sheridan.

       “He is doing a tremendous job balancing the books of this province. I wish he had been in power 12 years ago when that government was in power because I think the Island would be in better shape than it is now.”

        Bagnall said the Conservatives were on the verge of a balanced budget.

        “But when the Liberals came in, we get a budget with a deficit.”

         Sheridan said the Liberals were there when Islanders needed help and the Liberals will be there to invest when there is a need for it.

          “Twelve hundred jobs will be created on the Island. Our model of a stimulus budget has been used accross North America and even the Obama government has followed our leader.”

          The discussion ended with one final question from Bagnall.

          “How can we have a deficit with the economy working as well as you said it has?”

           The Liberal party has seen other jurisdictions that are producing billion dollars in debt, said the provincial treasurer.

            “We have tightened our belts and don’t have that problem.”