Monday, December 31, 2012


Twenty twelve is ending, we are preparing for a new year, brushing off our planned resolutions. It is time to look back at our successes or failures of 2012, or is it better to look forward? Do we really learn from our mistakes, or do we simply make them all over again? Hmmm..., maybe that's all too heavy to think about.

So let's instead celebrate the dawning of a new year with hope and cheer. As the only intelligent species on this Earth we are its stewards, whether we like it or not. Each and every day we give birth to our children, they to theirs, yet each generation shares a responsibility in the inheritance that they leave behind. We share a kinship with the trees and forests, all living creatures whether roaming on land, flying the skies or swimming our waters. True we are the intelligent ones that we have already established, yet we all share the same needs. We all need fresh and clean air to breathe, uncontaminated water to hydrate and sustain us, and nutrition from a food supply regardless of its source that is not tainted with foreign bodies. In the end our intelligence simply demands more from us.

Each year we begin with the countdown for midnight and its minute after to celebrate a sort of new beginning. True it is more symbolic then real, heck we have been around a long time after all and have raised those glasses at midnight often enough. Our resolutions promising change or planned goals for achievement have become the same as the ever fashionable tuxedo or the little black dress. Worn one night and then hung in the closet, lonely and dark, forgotten till the next dawning of new year's celebration.

It is time to change and put on new clothes for the celebration and to bring forth new resolutions, ones that demand our attention throughout the coming year. That old tuxedo and little black dress may of been comfortable for a long time but we have grown and no longer fit into it. Our own intelligence demands that we recognize the facts and evidence all around us for all of this is beneath our true potential.

Today is the dawning of 2013, lets put on new clothes, new resolutions to welcome the new year. Let's make this new year a year of real change towards a future that has promise and sustainability for our children and their children's children. It is time we take our immense intelligence to new heights and time to go back when our kinship with all who share this earth was of equal value.

Man truly is an intelligent species, our Earth simply needs us to prove it. IT IS TIME.....!

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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Bells Are Ringing

No not the words from the 1942 song made famous by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, nor church bells praising the beginning of better days. Rather this refers to Bell Canada, or for that matter any one of our telecommunication providers who supply our phones, television and internet for the residential consumer. Hands up if any one of you have had a problem that brought in return frustration and a run around from your provider as you tried to explain your situation. No doubt there would be many hands bopping in the air each attached to its own horror story.

In Ontario among the vast variety of telecommunications providers all shuffling for a share of of the market; the biggest are Bell Canada, TELUS and Rogers. Each with their own catchy slogans vying for the attention of the would be consumer, hoping that like the Asian carp we will simply jump on board. Technology itself is changing rapidly providing new must have gadgets; slimmer televisions, faster internet, and all of this at the touch of a screen. Soon even the buttons will be a thing of the past replaced with voice activated touch screens, as has the need for pen pals, now comfortably substituted with Facebook friends.

Yet how do these providers of our services, our needs treat us the consumer once we become a member of the family. Each has a 'customer service' department with supposedly trained staff to handle issues brought to their attention, either providing answers to our questions or referring us to qualified individuals who can provide the solution required. That at least is the image we are sold, but what happens when the 'corporate machine' breaks down and 'customer service' becomes only an illusion?

Bell Canada without hesitation is the biggest provider to the mass market covering television, phone, internet and cell phones. Statistics provided on Wikipedia show a revenue for 2011 at $19.49 billion and a net income of $2.159 billion in 2010. It truly is a large organization with some 55,250 employees in 2011, and although its size and share of the market is strong Bell Canada can never remain complacent resting on its success.

The marketing people at Bell gave birth to a slogan “Today Just Got Better,” its purpose is to make us the customers and potential customers feel confident with the choice we made. What happens when today is no better than yesterday, and tomorrow is shaping up to be even worse. How does Bell Canada really deal with its customers when it is more than a simple billing enquiry or technical problem? As documentation shows it simply tries to ignore the situation till its out of control.

One such scenario began with numerous calls by a customer regarding his internet service. The popular excuse he was given was that the physical distance of his house from the relay station was the reason for the problem. Finally in early August 2012 he found out after over an hour on the phone with a Bell internet technician that he had been charged for months for a level of service that he had not been getting. This was only the beginning of a journey of discovery on how much better his 'today' was to be.

Several weeks prior to the August hour long marathon on his cellphone this customer had found trouble with his home phone. The trouble was simple, it was not working. Again he called on more than one occasion only to be told that there did not appear to be any problems with the account that it had to be his equipment. This individual bought a new phone and still it did not work. Frustrated, fully confident that he had bills stamped by a bank teller, he had a repair technician come to the house. Prognosis was that there were no problems with the home line nor up the pole. He called the accounts people the next day and after arguing with the staff from accounting found out that his home phone indeed had been cut off by Bell. This was difficult to understand as he had the bills stamped by a bank teller. A meeting with the bank manager confirmed that the bank had inadvertently credited payments to the Bell internet account. The bank sent a letter to Bell Canada explaining the error on the part of the bank.

Bell refused to transfer funds from the internet account that was in credit to balance out the situation and at this point the whole issue with Bell reached a fever point. His bank manager had sent a letter to Bell Canada explaining the situation. This customer decided to send an email to Bell's Customer Service and another addressed to Andrew Wright, Vice President Residential Services, both were sent August 21st. No response and no reply. Another email was sent August 28th and a letter September 18th. No response and no reply from anyone at Bell. Finally this individual wrote Ellen Roseman, Consumer Reporter at The Toronto Star. Just one day after sending Ms. Roseman the email one Sami Selmani from the Executive Offices of Bell called. Mr. Selmani confirmed that a reporter had contacted senior management and the file was given to him.

At the same time as sending his email to Ms. Roseman at The Star this individual wrote the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services. The CCTS is a non-profit corporation incorporated under Canadian federal legislation as an agency to address telecommunication services complaints. As a non-profit and independent corporation it is funded by telecommunication providers with annual Canadian telecom revenue greater than 10 million; such as Bell Canada, Rogers, Fido, Cogeco and more.

Bell Canada ignored its customer and every attempt he made to sort out this situation. Yet once a reporter contacted Bell, management decided to immediately pay attention. In three separate conversations totalling over an hour and a half, all recorded, Bell's representative, their negotiator, Mr. Sami Selmani refused to deal with key issues. His response as to why Bell ignored numerous attempts made by the customer to resolve the issue was “you must understand that it is a big company” or “I don't want to talk about the past.” Mr. Selmani had ignored the overcharging for both the internet and home phone, he ignored the stress created by Bell to an individual, a customer who did not see today or any day get better.

As consumers we are at the mercy of these companies, and any competition amongst the telecommunication providers is more of a smokescreen than a reality. Most consumers would not be aware of the CCTS and attempt to handle their problems with the individual provider. At the same time the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services (CCTS) is a non-profit corporation funded by the telecommunication providers themselves. When a consumer is made aware of the CCTS and brings forth details of his particular situation he must first agree to certain terms and conditions before the CCTS even decides to review the facts provided. All these terms and conditions are outlined in the CCTS Procedural Code and in the Privacy Policy document, and any individual requesting an investigation by the CCTS must consent to be bound under both.

Telecommunications are a necessity today. There is no choice we need telephone and internet service in our day to day living. As consumers we create the demand expecting that there will be some form of competition in the marketplace for choice. Often the competition appears to be more in the services provided rather than in pricing policy. Yet as in the case of Bell Canada service was not provided at the least adequate level, escalating to an investigation by the CCTS which is underway. Bell Canada's Sami Selmani refused to acknowledge the real issues in a veiled attempt at resolution with Bell's customer.

As consumers individually there is little the large corporations fear, public attention, or even the threat of it is the key in dealing with such issues. Bell Canada broke their silent ignorance only after a reporter contacted senior management.

The emails and letter to Bell are published here including the final letter to the CCTS after phone calls dealing with Sami Selmani from Bell Canada. This is simply one example of abuse by a corporation more concerned with profit and covering up their own errors. There are many more individuals who have faced similar frustration and treatment from their particular providers of telecom services. It is important to know your rights and that organizations such as the CCTS exist. Your telecommunications provider will not tell you of them and the CCTS does not make a public list of actions taken against its own funding members.

The CCTS investigation is ongoing, Roseman of The Star has not made further comment and the Bell customer is the publisher of Mayorgate.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Enjoy the Oasis and Celebrate!

Mayorgate's ambassadors of celebration 

Another year is drawing to a close and although it is a time for celebration, 2012 ends with a horrific sorrow. No one in any part of the world can ignore the pain of tragic loss which the community of Newton, Connecticut has to endure. One word remains thick in the air and no answers are available to satisfy or relieve its agony.

We have been reminded the essence of celebration is not the sale at the mall or the weight of our wallet, rather it is the value of our self-worth, our family and friends.

The cheeky monkeys of Mayorgate symbolize an inherent curiosity and playful honesty often lost in maturity. Through 2012 Mayorgate has dealt with serious issues affecting our environment, our society and our future. Still there was time taken to celebrate the very nature of life.

Today, regardless of race, religion or tradition, is a day to be with family, to gather your friends or simply extend the hand of greeting to a stranger. Think of it as an oasis that has opened up in the midst of all the trials and tribulations of daily life. Stop, relax and put the oven on low as no one really wants take-out as a feast, and enjoy.

A very Merry Christmas to you all and I don't think the red dude minds if Mayorgate's monkeys borrowed a part of his wardrobe.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

How far can freedom of the press go?

Does media have total and complete freedom to do and say what they want without consequence? Should there be oversight or control over what is presented in the traditional printed press, television, radio or even the internet? These are not easy questions to consider and smell of 'big brother'. Many would vehemently oppose any control over the press and media, citing our democratic right for its freedom. Documents such as the Constitution, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Magna Carta, that have mapped out humanity's struggle and development towards equality of existence, may be referred to. Historical examples of the horror when man had to survive the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong may be referenced.

True the cornerstones of democracy are the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Yet what happens when it is the press, the media who butcher the truth with intentional lies, attack publicly with complete indifference to the rights and dignity of others? Can such action be permitted without consequence under the all encompassing tag of 'freedom of speech'?

In England, News of the World run by Rupert Murdoch's News International sparked off a public outcry after information surfaced of cell phone hacking of a murdered teenager Milly Dowler. Murdoch's journalists showed a complete indifference to an individual's privacy and dignity bringing an end to News of the World and a 515 page report by Lord Justice Brian Leveson after a nine month inquiry into the inner workings of the British press.

In Canada there appears to be an equivalent to the Murdoch media empire, and its disregard to even the most basic code of ethics. Sun Media has seen enough attention from governing bodies as civil courts and The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and it has cancelled its membership with the Press Council of Ontario.

A star among Sun Media personalities has to be Ezra Levant. Levant is a lawyer by profession, he has authored several books, written columns and is the television host for Sun television program The Source. He faced a defamation suit in 2000 filed by Ron Ghitter and libel suits by Giacomo Vigma, Richard Warman (a fellow lawyer) and Warren Kinsella. A judge had said that Levant speaks with a total disregard for the truth. Ezra Levant has proven his contempt for journalistic ethics more than once, and during a televised segment of his show The Source on December 22nd 2011 Levant sunk to a new low.

Ezra Levant told an executive of the Chiquita Banana Corporation with a Hispanic name “Chinga tu madre,” translated that meant “fuck your mother.” Levant did this to an individual who was not in Canada and not to his face, but on television. The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council received some 22 complaints and Levant himself debated the definition of chinga in an attempt to justify his cowardly outburst.

The CBSC a non-government industry body told Sun News it had to announce twice during prime time that it violated broadcaster's ethical guidelines during a taping of the Levant-hosted The Source in December.” (Wikipedia). Sun News defended its host for his insulting outburst and Ezra Levant saw nothing wrong in what he said, in fact he was willing to play semantics instead. Was this sufficient, what the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council adjudicated as a consequence of the actions by Ezra Levant? Regardless of arguments for or against such a question, proof of Levant's disregard for any form of ethics or dignity came crashing forward on September 5th 2012.

Once again as host of The Source Ezra Levant exploded with these words: “These are gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers. The phrase gypsy and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb he gyped me. Well the gypsies have gyped us. Too many have come here as false refugees. And they come here to gyp us again and rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries. They're gypsies. And one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.” (Wikipedia).

Ezra Levant is a lawyer, and presumably trained in the English language and in the art of understanding human motivation. What motivated Ezra Levant on a public television program to utter such hate-filled words? How could executives at Sun Television or Sun Media defend Ezra Levant this time? Executive Director at the Roma Community Centre Ms. Gina Csany-Robah said, “nearly nine minutes of on-air racist hate-speech targeting our community, one of the longest and most sustained on air broadcasts of hate-speech against any community in Canada that we've witnessed since our organization was established in 1997.” (Wikipedia).

Sun Television pulled the segment and apologized to the Roma community, they had no choice. Can that be considered enough? The Toronto Police Service are now investigating Levant’s outburst as a hate-crime, and the Alberta Law Society has to consider what action they must take in relation to Ezra Levant’s license to practise as a lawyer.

As shocking and repulsive as Ezra Levant’s outburst was it was not the first, and Sun Media has protected him each time. Yet he is not the only one under the Sun umbrella who has shown a total disregard to truth, facts, ethics and dignity. In St. Catharines Ontario, The Standard newspaper is a family member of the Sun Media group, and although the Sun Media family blindly supports the Conservatives as a general rule, The Standard has proven to have leanings in the opposite direction.

During the 2010 municipal elections, The Standard's oldest and star reporter Marlene Bergsma intentionally lied in print to discredit a candidate in the mayoral race. Bergsma did not misrepresent the truth nor did she twist the facts, no Marlene Bergsma lied. Former publisher Judy Bullis and former managing editor Andrea Kriluck published the intentional lies by Marlene Bergsma. Only days later another reporter from The Standard, Peter Downs repeated the same lies once again in his own article. The lies were clear and intentional, they were intended to damage the credibility of a candidate and influence an election. Pierre Karl Peladeau, head of Quebecor Inc. was provided the details, he remained silent, Mike Sifton as CEO of Sun Media was also provided with all the details, he too remained silent.

It is not only the journalists at The Standard who have compromised ethics and code of conduct, but also the management who have pushed the same boundaries to their limits. Protecting the identity of a 'source' who had provided sensitive information is understandable, protecting the identity of an individual who uses a fictitious name to launch a barrage of slanderous attacks is not.

One such individual has used the fictitious name of 'Steve Reynolds' and has posted slanderous comments attacking a regional councillor on the Reader Comments page of The Standard's official site. Comments posted by 'Steve Reynolds' had been intentionally aimed at Councillor Andy Petrowski with the purpose to smear his reputation. This fictitious 'Steve Reynolds' had posted a comment attacking Mayorgate and when Wendy Metcalfe the managing editor was contacted with the demand that the identity of this 'Steve Reynolds' be provided, The Standard refused. The comment posted by 'Steve Reynolds' was removed by The Standard within hours as they were aware of the slanderous nature of the comment. Yet Managing Editor Metcalf has decided to protect the individual's identity, only removing the posting rights of the individual using the name 'Steve Reynolds'.

As news broke of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford being removed from office by a judge Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun newspaper decided that Toronto's mayor should not be removed after being found guilty in his conflict of interest trial. Christina Blizzard could not see that a mere $3000.00 was serious enough as an indiscretion to warrant Mayor Ford's removal. It seems that Christina Blizzard put a dollar value on ethics and code of conduct of an elected public servant. Maybe if the dollar value amount was ten times the three thousand or if Mayor Ford was not a Conservative, then would Ms. Blizzard find it necessary to remove a public servant from office that requires public trust?

There are journalists all over the world who have risked their lives for their profession. Journalists who have never sold or traded their integrity or considered to trample their code of ethics. We as the public who buy the newspapers, watch television or use the internet no longer have a naive attitude, nor do we expect Clark Kent ethics from today's media. Still the actions of Murdoch's News of the World shocked many and a demand for appropriate consequences for such breaches of code of conduct was loud and clear.

After the inquiry into the actions of the British press Lord Justice Brian Leveson said, “that Britain needs a mechanism for independent self-regulation that would allow victims of the media to fight back outside the courts.” (Toronto Star Nov. 30, 2012 by Leslie Ciarula Taylor). The executive director of the Ontario Press Council, Don McCurdy said “Most Canadians would view the media in the UK as having a very cowboy mentality. Here it is much more civil and respectful and small-c conservative.” (Toronto Star Nov. 30, 2012).

What can be taken as the meaning in Don McCurdy's “small-c conservative”? The Ontario Press Council is a voluntary membership organization. It is not government regulated and has no real authority to enforce any rulings. Mr. McCurdy admitted that membership has declined and that Sun Media has dropped its membership completely. What would the Ontario Press Council do with Sun Media owned Standard and the intentional lies published? Could Don McCurdy enforce any penalties against The Standard through his non-government regulated, voluntary membership council with the “small-c conservative” attitudes?

When the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, another non-government body, slapped the wrist of Sun Media owned Sun Television and Ezra Levant, Ezra Levant turned around and produced a more torrid attack on a whole community.

Media today wields an immense power and therefore influence on our governments. British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to accept the recommendations of Lord Justice Brian Leveson's 515 page report, yet he refused any legislative changes to be implemented. Prime Minister Cameron did not want to threaten the freedom of the press and free speech. Yet without legislation and laws, voluntary organizations such as the Ontario Press Council, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council or even England's failed Press Complaints Commission, exist in name only. Victims of media in fact have no real means to “fight back outside of the courts.”

We truly are becoming a dollar value justice society with a “small-c conservative” attitude.

(Ezra Levant was contacted for any response or comment, he has refused to respond).

Ezra Levant host of The Source for Sun Television was given an opportunity to make a comment prior to the publishing of this article, he ignored that invitation. Levant is touted by Sun Media as a champion of free speech yet he is only a cowardly bully with the protection of Sun Media's dollars. It seems that the 'champion' of free speech has lost his voice. Another email was sent to Ezra Levant providing an opportunity to explain his actions or to disagree with the published article. Once again Sun Media's 'champion' of free speech only found a pussycat sit on his tongue.

Freedom of the press, of the media is of extreme importance to any free society, yet such freedom must be tempered with dignity, respect and fact. When our media ignores this it only becomes a bully with the power of wealth and connections to protect it. Society as a whole becomes its victim.

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