Sunday, December 04, 2011

Next year

I've debated what I'm going to do with this blog. It's currently sitting here like a rather uncomfortable blob, not doing much. People keep coming by and poking it with a stick, but typical of most blobs, it's not doing much, so they kind of shuffle away.

It's not dead, although evidence is obviously quite to the contrary given how long it's been since I've posted. I've decided to give it one last try, starting in January. We're going to relaunch with a plan. And if it doesn't work, well, I'll let you know if the blog is resembling Norwegian parrot so you don't have to keep coming back and asking what's happening.

So, January or bust. Tune in and see if I can pull a rabbit out of my hat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Little things

I don't have anything particularly profound to say about the Newfoundland election yet or a seat prediction. I could pick apart the different policy platforms of the parties, but others are already doing a good job of that. Although I am pleased that the one common thread is that party's seem to be going through great pains to explain exactly how they're going to pay for the promises they're making. You can argue whether or not if they're dreaming in technicolour, but I'm at least glad to see the debate happening.

People in the province have, for way too many years, just gobbled down hook, line and sinker whatever politicians promised about how we're going to do all these wonderful things for you - more teachers, more doctors, pave all your roads - but have always failed to mention how they were going to pay for all of that. We're all in a reality where promising to do stuff isn't enough anymore....how you're going to pay for it and is that the best way to spend that money is also important.

As for the rest, well, I remain slightly shocked the NDP are ahead of the Liberals in the polls. But percentages mean nothing in this race. If the NDP is going to have a shot, I think they're going to have to run a smooth, smart campaign, focus where they can win and pray for a late breaking wave like what happened federally and steal a bunch of seats in the St. John's metro area.

Having said that, they're still making some amateur hour mistakes. They launched their campaign on Monday near a construction zone. Yes, I understand you're try to make a point about housing for seniors, but make it in a quieter place. TV and radio reporters are important, and they have special needs. When you're staging your press event or media availability, you have to take these things into account.

So noise on Monday was a problem. Doing a policy release at 3 pm, which is deathly close to deadline for TV reporters (it was later bumped back to 1:30), having an event inside but not providing an audio system or lights for camera crews, producing a sign for the event that someone running for class president in junior high wouldn't use...

It's stupid little stuff like that which will kill you in a three week election campaign. It makes you look amateurish, which will eventually show up in the coverage. This election is all about showing the NDP are ready for prime time. Well, time to start acting like a professional campaign.

As for the Liberals, the only thing that jumped out at me is that perhaps when launching a campaign focussing on rural Newfoundland, doing it from St. John's is not the best way to do it. If you absolutely need to do it in St. John's because you want access to the town media, then at least go to Petty Harbour or Portugal Cove or something. Better still, launch it out on the west coast or something. Not exactly a stroke of genius there...

I haven't seen any bonehead stuff from the PCs yet, or complaints from reporters covering the campaign. Which means so far they are running a conservative, smart, straight forward campaign. Which is what you would expect. This is theirs to lose and they know it.

It's early days yet, so we'll see how it goes. But so far, I think it's pretty much going as expected. Which is to say, kind of boring.

Last Five
All from "Patton Oswalt's Finest Hour"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free tuition is a dumbass idea

With the provincial election getting ready to kick into gear back in Newfoundland, I am perking up a little more about what's being said. Yes, there is this minor patronage controversy, but I honestly think no one will give a shit about this. It's not going to swing any votes. It's the type of controversy only reporters and political junkies really care about.

Having said that, the notion of free tuition, as proposed by the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students or bringing back student grants as proposed by the NDP, certainly caught my eye.

Mainly because they're both pretty stupid.

I have some knowledge about this as I was involved in student politics for awhile in the mid-90s, including serving on the CFS national board of directors for about six months until I came to my senses. Look, I know CFS is a lobby organization and there's a provincial election happening. So yes, they're going to lobby the parties to try and get things that will benefit students. I understand that. It's their job.

But free tuition is what you want to shoot your load on?

OK, first thing first. The poll saying 80 per cent of people support free tuition is bullshit. I'm sure 80 per cent do. I'm also willing to bet you would get similar numbers if you poll people if they want magical fairies to arrive at their house and perform oral sex on them. Ms. McCormick argues this means Newfoundlanders want this. But I wonder if the poll asked what priority Newfoundlanders place on getting free university tuition. I'm betting it's not even in the top 10.

Free tuition has always been a dumb idea. And don't point to Europe because what works there doesn't mean it will work in North America. I am absolutely convinced free tuition would be abused and a post secondary education would not be taken as seriously as it should be. I know people who dropped $20,000 in student loans and still spent most of their time in university fucking around and didn't even graduate. Hell, my last two years at MUN, where I was spending my own money, was essentially me screwing around because I was having to much fun at the Muse and I had a girlfriend I didn't want to leave behind when I graduated. Now if people are willing to waste their own money, or money they're going to have to pay back, imagine what they'll be like with free money thrown at tuition.

Free tuition will not help produce more quality graduates in Newfoundland, which ought to be the goal. It'll get more people in university, but that doesn't mean they'll graduate, and it doesn't mean you'll get a more educated workforce.

Why CFS is choosing to focus on this, instead of improving the quality of education, or working on forgiveness after graduation, which are both achievable goals, is beyond me. You keep your powder dry for an election, and this foolishness is what you choose to blow it on. Dumb.

As for the NDP and grants....sigh...Grants were a mess back in the early 90s when they were finally phased out. I'll bet they would be the same now.

Because I think you should try and offer up some solutions rather than just shooting down other peoples...here's my idea.

If you complete your degree in a reasonable manner (a four year degree should be done in no more than five years barring medical/family crisis) then you get a percentage of the money spent on tuition refunded to you. This happens if you're on student loans or not. There's no reason why if you manage to pay your own tuition and get through university that you shouldn't get the same breaks that someone who pays for their education through loans. Let's say a one-third tuition rebate.

There you go...you have a tuition freeze right now. Tie any future increases into the projected inflation rate over a five year period so students can budget how much tuition will go up while they're at university. You get a refund upon the timely completion of your university degree. You have student loans to assist while going to university. By god, if you can't get a university degree and manage your debt upon graduation reasonably with all those breaks, then they should probably take the degree back from you.

Last Five
1. Hey Jude - The Beatles*
2. So distant - Matt Mays
3. I'll cry instead - The Beatles
4. Fully completely - The Tragically Hip
5. Three sunrises (live) - U2

Monday, September 05, 2011

Boats

It's September, which means the last parts of summer for people in southern climates. In Iqaluit, fall is now in full force and we got a reminder the weekend that fall is basically a very brief concept. Let's take a look at the view greeting me today as I was walking the dog.


Yeah, that's snow on the hills across the bay. Happened over the weekend, which is pretty depressing, but welcome to the north. Actually, if you look closely, you can see a tiny spec on the bay...


Which is clearly a sailing vessel of some kind. Seeing a boat with a sail on it is a pretty unusual site in Iqaluit at the best of times, but in early September, well, I think the crew is starting to push their luck a bit being in the kind of vessel, that far north at this time of the year. It was a pretty miserable weekend anyway, with lots of high winds and cold.

Which probably didn't make it that much fun for the guests on this vessel either.


Yeah, a cruise ship came into the bay on Saturday, although I didn't see her offload any passengers until Sunday. Not the best weekend in the world up here for visitors. This time last year we were berry picking in our t-shirts. This year we had to turn on the space heater in the living room on Saturday to break the chill in the house.

A friend of mine is convinced we're going to have a brutal winter this year to make up for the easy one we got through. Last year it was raining at Christmas and the bay didn't freeze until January of this year, which is easily two months later than normal. Karma being what it is, he's convinced this year will be punishment.

I kind of hope that he's wrong about that. If for no other reason than I've checked the boating schedule and it appears our sealift boat won't be getting into Iqaluit until October 4th at the earliest. It's possible we won't receive out order until as late as October 17th. Which would mean unloading that box with snow on the ground and it being possibly very cold.

So if we could have another of those weather hiccups this year, at least until November, that would be awesome.

Last Five
1. The river in reverse - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
2. Last night of the world (live) - Bruce Cockburn
3. Munich - Editors
4. Fire on the mountain - Rob Thomas
5. Ion square - Bloc Party

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rationing

So yes, I did the post about Moving to Iqaluit the other day and I certainly could have did an update yesterday. And it would have been "strange things are going to happen in Iqaluit. You might as well start getting zen with it now."

Monday's bit of weirdness was over power. In order for there to be power in Iqaluit a number of generators are needed. They also require a lot of work because most of them are old. As it happens one of the generators was down for maintenance work. Which would make it a phenomenally bad time for the main generator in town to have a little meltdown. Which is none the less what happened yesterday.

So the city was suddenly face with the problem of having a substantial energy demand and not enough working generators to meet that demand. Now, in Toronto maybe you rush out to the warehouse and get the part you need to make the main generator work. Or perhaps you put a call out and the part arrives on a special charter a few hours later.

This is Iqaluit. Things don't really work that way. So in order to get the part needed, the power corp. was talking about it taking a few days. Full power might not be back until Wednesday. Which, in Nunavut speak, probably meant Thursday. So this meant power rationing. The company issued a press release outlining a schedule where one part of the town would get power for four hours, the other part wouldn't. The exceptions were the hospital and the airport.

So immediately madness sets in around town. Work schedules go out the window because most businesses and offices had to close if there was not power. Stores are trying to figure out to open so that people can buy supplies, but make sure their produce doesn't go bad.

Oddly, there was a lot of griping online about not being able to get a cup of coffee. Oh, and water supplies got weird around town as well. For example, we couldn't do anything with water without power. We needed electricity for our water pump to work. So, full tank of water, no way to really to get it to where we needed it to go.

So yeah, it was shaping up to be an interesting and dramatic few days. I figured people were going to start gnawing on each other's bones if power wasn't restored by Wednesday. Nothing like not having a regular source of power to make people really unhappy.

Fortunately we got a little miracle around 8 pm last night. They got the generator down for maintenance up and working again. So there's power, although I suspect it's been hanging by a string the last 24 hours. They're begging people to be careful with power.

So all is right in the universe at this moment. And it could have been worse...the power went out in August. If it had gone out in February, people would have taken to burning their neighbours for warmth.

Anyway, these things happen from time to time. So consider it one more thing to mentally prepare yourself for if considering a life in the arctic.

Last Five
1. Ball and biscuit - The White Stripes*
2. Sunny came home - Shawn Colvin
3. Longest time - Billy Joel
4. Spike (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
5. Your ex-lover is dead - Stars

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Moving to Iqaluit FAQ, v 4.0

Towards the end of 2008 I wrote a post called "Moving to Iqaluit FAQ". I did it because I thought I had a bit of knowledge to share having done this myself and having lived up here a few years.

Since then it's become the most read post on my blog. It's to the point that I know some locals give out the link to people thinking of moving here because they think it's the best resource available. I still get messages left there thanking me for the information and I've had several people email me to thank me for the post and to ask follow-up questions. Which is both very cool and quite gratifying to know it's helped people.

This is the fourth version of this post. I keep updating because information keeps changing and people keep coming up with new questions. Once again, if you can think of anything I've missed, please add it in the comments section. And if I've missed something or get something wrong, then I beg you indulgence.

The biggest change this year is that I’ve reorganized how things are laid out. Rather than listing the questions and answers as they occur to me, I’ve put them into categories. Hopefully this should make finding the information you’re looking for a bit easier. I'm also adding some pictures, so you can get an idea of what Iqaluit looks like during different times of the year.

And, as always, if you speak to someone who has lived here for 20 odd years and what they're saying contradicts what I'm saying, I'd go with them.

Iqaluit – What is it like?

Should I move to Iqaluit?
Answer. Why not? There are certainly challenges to living here, but there are perks and advantages as well. It's a nice place to live, there's a good sense of community and the place is growing quickly. It's a lot different now than what it was even six years ago. The challenges, however, are a bit different than what you might find in other cities in Canada.

So what are the main challenges?
Answer. There are 5 things, right off the top, you need to know.

A. It's cold up here. No kidding, but people still fail to take it seriously sometimes. I've seen people walk off planes in February wearing a leather jacket, which is insane. The coldest I've experienced is -62C with windchill. Every day you get warmer than -30 from December 1 to April 30 is a gift. So make sure when you come up here you have the proper winter gear. More on that later.

B. The daylight up here can mess with your mind. It doesn't get completely dark in the winter, but during the darkest part of the year, you're only looking about six hours of daylight. During the summer, the sun does set, but it never gets truly dark. All that daylight can mess with people as much as all that darkness. So if you are sensitive to these things, take it into account. The darkness can make people tired, cranky and depressed. All the daylight can make people wired insomniacs.

C. Things are expensive. A case of a dozen Pepsi is about $15. A large bag of chips is $6. A smallish honeydew is about $10. Gas is about $1.30 a litre. A mechanic will run about $100 an hour. A return plane ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa costs about $1,600. There is that shock the first time you walk into Arctic Ventures or North Mart. But odds are you're making good money working up here anyway. And there are ways to save some money on food. More on that in a minute.

D. The amenities you're used to in the south are likely not here. There is no Wal-Mart. There is no mall. There is no book store (but there is a library). There is no full time vet. So if you like those things, well, you're going to have to adjust or reconsider coming here. However, we now have a Tim Hortons so, you know, all is right in the universe.

E. You are isolated. There are only two ways out of town - boat and plane. You're not getting to another city by skidoo. And the bay is frozen seven to eight months of the year. So airplane it is. Montreal and Ottawa are three hours away by plane and a normal ticket these days is $1,600. There are seat sales, but even then, a ticket is still around $1,200. So unless you're rich or work with the airlines (who give huge discounts to employees), you're not popping down to Ottawa for the weekend.

And the good things are?
Answer. There's a nice sense of community. For a small city (forget Stats Canada estimated of 6,400, the population is between 7,000 and 7,500) there's a decent arts scene. If you love the outdoors and can't stand cities anyway, then there's a lot to be said for Iqaluit. Hop on a skidoo for 15 minutes and you're in the middle of nowhere. It's a growing community and there are lots of opportunity.

Do you like it up there?
Answer. We still wouldn't be here if we didn't. That's not a flippant answer either. The one thing about Iqaluit is that you will know within a couple of months if you're going to like it here. There are people who only came up for a few months and 20 years later are still here. And there are people who come up for 1 year contracts and don't last three months.

We like it here. We're comfortable and happy and we've bought a house and a new car. We came up here with a five-year plan that would have taken us to 2010. We're now into our second five-year plan. We have friends, we like our jobs, we're paid well, the cold doesn't bother us much (unless it gets silly cold, like -50C or so) and we're comfortable. We have more freedom to live and do things we want by living in Iqaluit than if we had stayed in Newfoundland.

Getting Here

What airlines fly here and what’s the difference between them, if any?
Answer. There are currently two airlines operating into Iqaluit from Ottawa - First Air and Canadian North have operated up here for years. A third, Air Canada Jazz, used to fly here, but pulled out in August, 2011.

Idiotically, both arrive and leave at virtually the same time, so there's no real benefit of picking one of the other in terms of timing.

You can use Aeroplan point to book tickets out on the airlines. However, be aware that they do heavily restrict the number of seats on each flight. I think it’s no more than four. So if you’re going to use Aeroplan, off-peak and in the middle of the week would be your best bet. On the upside, an Aeroplan ticket to Ottawa can be had for as low as 15,000 points, which is a steal considering how much a ticket can cost. It’s one of the reasons why Air Canada pulled out – no one was buying tickets, they were all using Aeroplan.

The prices are obviously very expensive, but there are perks. For one thing, both airlines feed you, which is nice. And they do have one very good thing that you should feel free to ruthlessly take advantage of – luggage. Each passenger gets two bags with a 70 pound limit. It’s $50 a bag after that. I’ve personally traveled up here with five bags before – So that’s 210 extra pounds of personal belongings for $150, which is a lot better than trying to mail things up.

Obviously this depends on you being able to do this from Ottawa. If you’re flying from Winnipeg first, for example, then you’re going to have issues. Also, there’s no guarantee all your bags will come up on the same flight. It’s might take a day or two for them all to come up. Still, if you need to take a lot of things, you should take advantage of this.

Getting Around

Do I need a car?
Answer. It wouldn't hurt. Iqaluit is a bit of a sprawl and it's hilly. You can certainly get around walking, but when it's -50C, ask yourself how much walking you really want to be doing. There are no buses, but there are taxis, which run at a flat rate of $6 per person. Taxis will stop for multiple people, so don't be surprised if you're sharing a cab with three or four people.

Also, a car might not be the best thing for you. Snowmobiles and ATVs operate freely within the city limits. You might want to consider one of those if you plan on travelling out on the land a lot.

How can I get one?
Answer. You can buy new and used cars up here. For example, Driving Force is now selling Ford (mostly Edge and Escape), GM (mostly Terrain and Equinox) and Suzuki (Grand Vitara's, I believe). They do the warranty work on those vehicles, which is a big advantage. For example, we bought a Chevy Equinox this year. We paid more than we would have if we had bought it down south, but between the hassles of licensing and getting it shipped up north, I figure it was worth a few extra dollars. We had been looking at a Suburu Forrester, but they don't have anyone to do warranty work. Something goes wrong, even under warranty, you're on your own.

There are also plenty of posters kicking around offering ones for sale. The best time for buying one tends to be around June, when people are most likely to move south (end of the school year). Or you can buy one down south and ship it up. This will cost at least $1,500 and probably more, depending on the size of the vehicle. Make sure you have a block heater, a battery blanket and remote starter installed. Vehicles are normally shipped up on the sealift out of Montreal.

Normally I would say a 4x4 with a bit of ground clearance would be a good option because of the number of dirt roads. However, a nice chunk of Iqaluit was paved during the summer of 2009, so the roads should be much better now. However, I suspect 50% of the community's roads are still dirt and the potholes during spring (ie. June) can be huge.

Also remember that this level of cold is hard on vehicles. Get used to being friends with your local mechanic and get used to the idea of large bills for simple things. For example, an oil change, which you can get done in Wal-Mart down south for about $25 will likely cost about $100 or so here.

There are insurance companies that operate in town. Try Nunavut Insurance, for example. I believe Royal Bank also does insurance. Motor Vehicle registration is located in Inuksugait Plaza. Vehicle registration is some insanely low price like $40 a year. However, they do not send out reminders, so it's up to you to notice when your vehicle registration has expired. Local Bylaw lives to pull over people who have not updated their plates.

Food and Supplies

What's a sealift?
Answer. The sealift runs from approximately June until November each year, which is when there is no or little ice in the bay. Boats run up all kinds of supplies and if you wish you can ship things up this way. Furniture, cars, building supplies and food just to name a few. Many people in town take advantage of the sealift to ship up a year's supply of dried goods. It's a way to save some money by buying in bulk. There are a number of businesses that will help you with that. For example there is Northmart or I Shop 4 U. If you want to go and buy all your supplies yourself in Ottawa, TSC can help you ship it up.

The sealift is also interesting to watch. There are no real port facilities in town and the tides can vary by as much as 10 metres. That means the vessels anchors out in the bay and, at high tide, barges run back and forth between the vessel and the beach. It's a bit odd to watch.

I'm a vegetarian. Can I still be one in Iqaluit?
Answer. Yes, but it will be a bit more expensive. Both North Mart and Arctic Ventures get fresh produce in on a regular basis and both cater a bit to vegetarians by offering some soy and veggie foods. Fresh produce is expensive, but after awhile you'll learn to ignore it. There is also Food Mail, which can help out.

What's Food Mail?
Answer. Recognizing that healthy, fresh food can be a expensive in the North, there is a program in which healthy food can be shipped up from down south at a subsidized rate. Significant changes to the Food Mail program are currently in progress. Previously Canada Post ran the program, but earlier in 2010 the federal government announced changes. Rather than explain at length what those changes are, go to this website which should be able to answer most of your questions.

Let’s just say that Nutrition North Canada is controversial and not beloved by everybody in the North (do a Google News search). Food security is a big issue up here that people take very seriously. I suspect there will be more changes and tweaks to the program before all is said and done.

How much would I spend in groceries a month?
Answer. No idea. There are a whole host of factors that would play into that. How much food you need, how many are in your family, if you did a sealift….

Cathy and I spend around $150-$200 a week. This is mostly for bread, fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and other perishables. We get most of our dried goods from the sealift, so we rarely buy cereal, pasta, sauces, soft drinks, etc.

Also, there does come a point when you’ve been up here long enough that you cease noticing the prices. There are only so many places in town you can buy groceries and you have to eat. Odds are you’re being paid well. So you buy what you need and try not to think about how much it costs.

Are there things I really need to bring with me before coming up?
Answer. You can actually get most things you need either in Iqaluit or by ordering online. There are also good yard sales, especially in the spring, from people selling things as they head south. Also, Iqaluit Sell/Swap on Facebook has become huge in the last few months. You have to ask to sign up to the group and I wouldn’t recommend doing it until you move here, but you can find all kinds of items for sale there.

However, I recommend buying your cold weather gear down south if possible. It is expensive up here. And buy proper warm weather gear. What will get you through a Newfoundland winter, for example, won't cut it up here. Get coats, boots and gloves that are rated for temperatures around -70C. And your coat's hood should be fur trimmed. It makes a huge difference in keeping your face warm. Also get the proper boots and gloves, although I recommend getting a nice pair of fur mittens once you get here.

Clothes selection is somewhat limited, but you can order online. People will quickly give you their recommended sites for order, but we've ordered from Eddie Bauer, Land's End, Tilley and l.l. bean with no problems. Furniture is also expensive, but you have to weigh that against the cost of shipping it up. Be careful shipping anything with glass in it up here, as glass tends to not travel well. The Source is here if you need electronics, although items are more expensive than if you bought it down south.

I would bring enough entertainment to keep you amused for a few months until you get settled in. So if you like video games, bring them along. If you like books, bring some of your favourites. If you like movies, bring some of your favourite DVDs.

We brought plants with us up here, which was silly because stores sell plants. We brought lots of books, which was silly because there's a perfectly good library here. Not to mention Chapters and Amazon offer free shipping over $25. Whatever you don't take with you, odds are you can get it here or get it sent to you.

Bring an open mind. It helps. Iqaluit is about 60% Inuit, 40% non-Inuit (and of those, most are Newfoundlanders, Quebecois and Ontarians). It's a different culture and way of life.

Finally, bring your patience. No kidding, things operate at a different speed up here. This is still a growing, developing territory and government. Things work at a slower pace. If you want things done right now a lot, you will lose your mind because it's not happening.

Employment

How easy is it to get a job in Iqaluit?
Answer. Depends. Crappy answer, but it depends on your skills. If you're a nurse or doctor, you will be welcomed with a ticker tape parade. If you're curious about the jobs available go to the Government of Nunavut site, Nunatsiaq News or News North.

It's also worth remembering that some places, and I'm thinking specifically of the Government of Nunavut (everyone calls it the GN), but others follow it as well, having hiring priority procedures in place. For example, with the GN, land claim beneficiaries get first crack at all jobs. If no one is qualified in that "first tier" then the next tier is long-term northerner (ie. people who have lived in Nunavut for at least one year) and then it's pretty much everyone else. So just because you see a job that you think you're really qualified for it, don't believe you're a lock for it and don't get discouraged.

Some jobs will come with perks, such as relocation costs being covered, air fare, housing, etc. It never hurts to ask, but don't go in expecting all of these things. There are still plenty of positions that need to be filled, but they're not scrambling quite so hard to fill everything these days.


Housing and Utilities

How hard is it to find housing?
Answer. Again, depends. If you get a job with the federal government, then odds are they provide it for you. If you get one with the GN then some jobs come with housing. Remember it's easier to get housing if it's just you or your spouse. When you start involving kids, pets, etc, it gets that much harder to find housing. Still, these position will give you a house/apartment and rent will be deducted from your check, but the GN does pay for a portion of it.

Also, the GN is increasingly getting into offering a housing subsidy. What does this mean? It means they won't find you a place to live, but they will give you $400 per family towards rent or a mortgage. Go here if you want to learn more. Please make sure which they are offering you, as I've had some emails express confusion.

If you're coming up here to work on construction sites or with a local business, odds are they're not giving you housing. Which means you have to find it on your own. A small, one-bedroom apartment will set you back roughly $1,700 a month. A 2-bedroom apartment cannot be found for under $2,000. Check Northern Properties and Nunastar for some of the rental proprieties available. Iqaluit Online lists some of the proprieties for sale, among other things. You can also try Used Iqaluit.

Could I just buy a house?
Answer. Sure. In fact, we bought ours in December of 2009. Average house price is around $375,000 for a three bedroom house. There is only one real estate agent in town, John Matthews. You can reach him at 867-979-1343 (he has no website). A lot of houses are private sales, which means either finding them online or, just as often, wandering around town and reading the bulletin boards.

Housing in Iqaluit also has some issues you may not encounter elsewhere. All houses are built on stilts due to shifting permafrost. Some may find the idea of a house with about 10 feet of open space between it and the ground...disconcerting. Not all houses are on water and sewer, which means trucked water. There are land leases to deal with. I wouldn't recommend buying a house when first moving up here. It's really a move after you've been here a few years first.

Are there banks in town?
Answer. CIBC, Royal Bank and First Nations all have branches with ATMs in town.

Is there high speed internet service in town?
Answer. Yes...sorta. It's very slow high speed, certainly slower than what you're likely used to down south. Northwestel and Qiniq both offer internet. Keep in mind that it is expensive. In the summer of 2010 NorthwesTel changed their internet.

Their High Speed Iqaluit Classic service gets you download speed of 768kbps, upload speed of 256kbps, 2 e-mail addresses, 5GB usage cap ($25 per GB of additional usage, charged in 0.0001 GB increments). Their High Speed Iqaluit Ultra includes the following features: Download speed of 1.5mbps, upload speed of 384kbps, 5 e-mail addresses and 10GB usage cap ($25 per GB of additional usage, charged in 0.0001 GB increments). That goes for $120/month. By the way, those are...optimistic speeds. Don't be the least bit surprised if you come nowhere near them. Bitching about NorthwesTel is practically a recreational activity.

I also cannot emphasize this strong enough - watch your usage per month. NWTel are not kidding around with that cap. I've heard too many horror stories about people coming up here, not knowing about the cap and downloading all their movies, TV shows, music and whatnot and running up an internet bill into the hundreds. 10 gigs goes by quick. As someone who has blown his cap more than once, trust me on this.

Qiniq is around $60 a month with a cap around 2 gigs. I know very few people in Iqaluit who use Qiniq. They mostly serve other Nunavut communities that NWTel does not deal with.

Also, there is Xplornet, which you can ask about at the Source. Go here for more information online. It's a dish attached to the side of your building. We switched to this in May of 2010 after being frustrated with NWTel. It is not for everyone. It involves having a satellite dish attached to the side of your building, and signing a contract of 1-3 years. However, if you're a long-term resident, I would recommend looking into it. Their three year contract gives you internet at the same speed as NWTel, the speed is better and there is no cap. (well, there is, but not a seriously evil one like NWTel has). The main downside with Xplorenet is that the signal can be disrupted by rain and snow, which is a nuisance.

Our phone bill is around $50 a month. That's for regular service and our long distance calls. It's not great, but all right.

What are the utilities like up there?
Your main utilities will be Nunavut Power, Northwest Tel, Uqsuq (if you need heating oil), along with water and sewer. Is it going to be more expensive than what you pay for down south? Yes. However, it won’t be as much as you might think as things like power and oil are subsidized to reduce some of the sting. They’re all fairly reliable. Most of the city is on water and sewer, although some of it is not, which means trucks. Basically, once the red light on the front of our house goes off, the water truck will swing by and fill up the 750 gallon tank in our house. Another truck comes by and empties the sewage tank located under the house.

We’re on truck supply, which isn’t bad at all. Some people hate it, but it’s just as easy to have pipes freeze underground as it is for a water truck to flood your house or a sewage truck to hit blow instead of suck (the later has happened to someone I know).

Social Activities

Are there bars in town or is it a dry community?
Answer. There are several bars in town - The Storehouse, the Kicking Caribou and the Legion (which is supposedly the most financially successful one in Canada). There are also a couple of private clubs, like the Racketball Club and the Elks. Several restaurants also serve alcohol. Neither myself nor Cathy are big drinkers, but $5 for a can of beer (no bottles nor any kegs. Which means no Guinness) is around par for the course. There is no liquor store, so if you want to order beer, wine, hard liquor, you need to order it and it will arrive several days later from Rankin Inlet. You can also order it from Montreal. You can also order beer from the Sea Lift. This link gives you some ideas.

Oh, and keep in mind that if you order alcohol, you might have trouble getting European booze, like Scotch or French and Italian wines. The Government of Nunavut banned the importation of European alcohol into the territory as retaliation for the EU’s attempts to ban seal products. Seriously.

What about entertainment and sports?
Answer. It's not Toronto with its options, but there is a lot to do. There are two hockey arenas There's a curling rink (and as a member, I encourage you to join as well) a racquetball club, the Atii Fitness Centre, a swimming pool (which might close soon as it is very old). The first Saturday after Labour Day in September there is something called Mass Registration where you can sign up for everything from ball room dancing, to speed skating, judo, the greenhouse society, etc. If you're in town I highly recommend going to this. The City of Iqaluit lists most of the recreational activities on their website.

There is also a movie theatre - two screens normally showing four movies a week. There are several video rental stores. Cable and satellite is available here, although remember they are pricey. There are things to do; it's just a matter of going out and doing them. If you want to be kept busy, there's plenty of people willing to help you do just that.

Safety

How safe is it in Iqaluit?
Answer. I tend to be a touch anti-social, but other than some petty vandalism, neither of us have had any problems. I think Iqaluit is reasonably safe as long as you're not stupid. If you get drunk and belligerent at the local bar, well, yes, you're going to have trouble. Single women should follow the same precautions they take if they were going out in a major city like Toronto or Montreal.

A lot of the violence you hear about, and I hate saying this, the victim and the attacker tend to know each other. And yes, there are also drug problems in the city. However, we don't feel any less safe than when we lived in St. John's.

Having said that, obviously there are plenty of stories about the troubles in Iqaluit and Nunavut as a whole. There is a high crime rate here. Personally, I’ve found it’s more mentally hard reading about it and hearing what people are going through. It can be more depressing than scary.

Living here

Are there any non-Inuit, non-white people in Iqaluit?
Answer. It's not Toronto or Vancouver, but yes, there are. I'm very careful to use the word "Southerner" to describe non-Inuit in Iqaluit because there are people here who are not white. There's a decent-sized Filipino population, for example. I used to work with someone who came here from Africa. Cathy has a couple of girls in her school who moved here from South America who barely spoke English when they moved to town.

What about medical issues?
There are no private medical clinics, so odds are you're going to Public Health or the hospital to see doctors. There are a couple of dentists. There are several pharmacists. And there is a brand new hospital in town. Serious medical cases are normally sent to Ottawa. We've both been fortunate to not need any real medical attention, so I can't speak a lot about it. However, this one of these things where, unless its an emergency, a bit of patience goes a long way.

Your provincial medical card is, I think, still good for three months after you move up here. If you're staying longer than that, you'll need to get a Nunavut medical card, which can be a bit of a slow process. This is the link for getting your card.

There are also at least two pharmacies in town, although they can be short staffed at times. Again, patience is your very best friend.

What are the schools like?
Answer. That's a touchy one and at least partially because my wife is a teacher. There's no doubt that some parents do not like the school system and move down south because they believe their children can get a better education there. On other other hand, I've met a lot of hard working teachers doing their best. There are opportunities for travel and programs that might not be easily accessible in other parts of Canada. The high school has been making great strides in improving its graduation rate and offers some unique programs. And the government pays for one year tuition at any Canadian university for every four years your child attends school in Nunavut.

But yeah, there are problems. There's stuff that can break your heart. Does that make it any better or worse than some places in southern Canada? I can't really say.

I have young kids who need daycare. How hard is it going to be?
Answer. Pretty hard. The bad joke in town is that you should call a day care to get put on the wait list as soon as the pregnancy test gives you a positive result. Still, if you need some numbers, this is a link to all the daycares in Nunavut. It was last updated December 2009, so bear that in mind.

And yes, you can get sitters, but they go at a premium ($10/hr is the minimum wage, and you won't get one of that) and they can be....unreliable, according to some parents I've overheard. The names of the reliable ones are guarded the same way the army guards gold at Fort Knox.

Some people sponsor nannies to take care of their children. I'm afraid I know very little about that, but there are a couple of dozen operating in Iqaluit. You'll have to do your own research on that.

What are taxes like up there?
Answer. Well, there's no territorial sales tax, which is nice. The only sales tax is the GST, which is currently 5%. There is a payroll tax of 2% which is, let's just say, not that popular.

There are also other tax benefits to living in the north. Some (governments) give a northern allowance, the amount depending on how isolated you are. In Iqaluit it's about $15,000. There's also a northern tax benefit you can claim. Andy Wong, who is a columnist with News North does an excellent column with the paper regarding tax breaks and other financial advice for people living in the north. You have to pay to view it online, but it's worth taking a look at.

For that matter, at least in your first year, it might be worth hiring a tax specialist to help make sure you don't miss anything. We use a family friend down south, although there are people here in town who can help with your taxes.

Is there much interaction between Inuit and non-Inuit?
Answer. As for how much interaction between the Inuit and southerners, well, it depends.

In smaller communities, where there is only a couple of hundred people, I think there's a lot more interaction. But in places like Iqaluit, which has more than 7,000 people, it's certainly pretty easy to keep to yourself and other people from down south if you choose.

Then again, some Inuit prefer to keep to themselves and not deal much with southerners. It works both ways.

We have friends who are Inuit, although more would always be nice. But that's just because we're a bit insular sometimes. Hell, I'm not sure how many close southern friends we have in town, a situation we're trying to resolve.

Like anything, it depends on how much effort you want to put into it. You can have as much, or as little, interaction as you want.

Any other tips?
Answer. Avoid being a racist is a nice start. Sadly, you still get some of that up here. Avoid giving the impression that you're just up here to make a few bucks to pay off your student loan or mortgage and then getting out of town. Go figure, people who live and work here, trying to build the territory, take it kind of personally. Avoid the attitude that you know better on how things should be done. Just because things are done differently up here than you're used to doesn't means they're wrong. Oh, and if you have issues with fur products - like sealskin gloves or fur coats - I'd lose them or keep it to yourself. Many people wear fur because it's warm and comfortable. You can get some very nice things up here at a reasonable price.

And get out there and try things. It's a different world and culture in Nunavut, in all likelihood completely different than anything you've experienced before. So try some seal or caribou. Get out on the land if given a chance. Talk to an elder. Do stuff.

Finally, we both think it's important to treat yourself. It can be hard for some people to live here and living an austere life doesn't help. I'm not saying going out and blow your paycheck every week, but do make sure you take care of yourself and do things for your mental health. Cathy and I like to travel and we try to go on at least one large trip a year - Italy in 2008, Australia in 2009, Costa Rica in 2011. It does wonders for your mental health. Travel might not be your thing, but whatever it is, do it. It helps.

Pets
We're thinking of bringing our pets. Any suggestions?
Answer. First, please be sure they travel well. I speak from experience on this. When we came up in 2005 we brought my cat. He hated travelling, but I thought sedating him with the help of a vet would help. It didn't. He collapsed once I took him out of the crate and died two days later. I would spare you that kind of pain if at all possible.

There are no full-time vets in Iqaluit (there's been rumours of one setting up shop here for the past year, but it hasn't happened yet). There isn't so much as a pet groomer in town. The Legion brings in vets twice a year. However, if there's an emergency, you're going to have to send them down south. The hospital sometimes can help with fluids or stitches if they're not busy and you catch the right person on duty, but they aren't trained to treat pets so don't depend on them.

If you have to send them to Ottawa, realize it's going to be very expensive. For example, our dog Boo had a digestive infection of some kind and stopped eating and drinking early in 2009. We had to fly him to Ottawa, get a courier to pick him up at the airport and take him to the vet, then he was treated plus stayed at the vets for four nights. That was about $2,000. We have no regrets, but just be aware of the costs.

We dealt with the Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Ottawa who can walk you through what you need to do when freaking out. But as there are only a few planes heading south each day. If something catastrophic happens like your pet gets hit by a car, there's a limit to what can be done.

Also, if you're staying in an apartment, realize that many do not allow dogs. They may allow other pets like cats, fish or birds. But dogs are touchy.

I'm not saying don't bring pets or get one when you're up here, but realize they are going to be more challenging to care for up here than down south. For example, does your pet need to go outside and can it handle the cold? Our cut-off with Boo is -30C, which means he can go weeks without going outside (he's paper trained).

If you're thinking of getting a pet up here, then give the Humane Society a shot, although they’ve been having problems lately with money and volunteers. Sadly, there are many dogs who are not properly taken care of. Many are sent to Ottawa for adoption. Although remember that the huskies, while beautiful, are high maintenance and not used to being kept inside. And the sled dogs are not pets, so don't even go there.

There's also no kennels, so if you're going to be travelling a lot, you're going to need to find a house-sitter to watch your place and pet. There are people who do the "House-sitting circuit." Ask around and you might be able to find someone.

Links
What are the list of useful links you'd recommend?
Answer. There are a lot. Here they are broken down by category.

Basic
1. Government of Nunavut
1A. Government of Nunavut Orientation Site
2. City of Iqaluit
3. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
4. Iqaluit on Wikipedia
5. Nunavut Blogs - There is an excellent community of Nunavut bloggers. Go read what they have to say about their experiences. And join in yourself.
6. Nunavut Tourism
7. Used Iqaluit

Media
1. Nunatsiaq News
2. News North
3. CBC North
4. APTN News

Jobs
1. Government of Nunavut
2. Government of Canada
3. Listings in Nunatsiaq News
4. Listings in News North
5. Teaching positions

Shopping
1. Chapters and Amazon takes care of your books, DVDs and video games. Free shipping over $25 and only 5% tax makes this one of the best deals in Canada, especially when you take into account their online discounts.
2. Well.ca. An online drug store with free shipping, even to Nunavut. One of the best deals you're going to find.
3. Canada Goose (you can't buy them online, but it does list retailers who will) and Woods Canada for arctic apparel.
4. Costco will sometimes offer free shipping across Canada on certain items. Worth poking around and seeing what you can find.
5. Apple and Dell both have free shipping to Nunavut. They are probably the two most popular computer brands in Nunavut.
6. MEC has good shipping and the quality is good, but be aware their cold weather is often not the best match for the environment up here.
7. Sealift if you want to try and order a year's worth of soup or toilet paper.
8. There are numerous clothing stores online. We're fond of Tilley and LL Bean, but please check carefully how much shipping will be, as it can vary from time to time and on the size of the order. Plus, remember than ordering from the US means you can get dinged with duty or customs, so be extra careful of that.
9. Future Shop was a joke for many years because of their ridiculous shipping rates. For example, asking $15 to ship a DVD. However, they've recently changed their shipping so that it's free if you spend more than $39. There are exceptions, such as large appliances and TV sets, but Future Shop is again worth taking a look at.

And that's all I have for now. If you have any further questions or can think of something I miss, please feel free to add it to the comments section.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A week not to remember

The last week has been one of those times where I've meant to sit down and write, something massive would happen, I'd want some time to digest what had happened and then something else would happen. The first thing would fall to the backburner while I tried to digest the new thing. By the time that happened, something else would pop up...and it just never seemed to stop.

Last week got off to a perfectly good start. There was a bowhead whale hunt up here, hunters managed to get one in about 12 hours, which made people in Iqaluit very happy. Seriously, it's the happiest I've seen people here in ages. So I held off a bit on posting that, just because I wanted to get some of the pictures from the hunt and I wanted to properly articulate what killing that whale meant to people. I'd read a lot of genuinely stupid comments on the CBC and Globe and Mail websites and wanted to get the arguments just right.

Then, of course, we had the horrible tragedy in Resolute with the First Air plane crash. I'm still trying to process that, as a lot of people are. That was a particularly weird experience. The first we heard something might be going on was when we were buying groceries. One of the cashiers ran out of the store, and all people knew was something about a crash in another community. People thought it must have been a car crash or an ATV.

Then, when we got home, I read as the whole thing unfolded on Twitter. If there is a more surreal way to learn information about a terrible accident, I haven't encountered it yet. But yeah, that crash hit me harder than I expected. I didn't know anyone on the plane, but I guess because we fly so much in the north, especially on First Air. Because of the little girls...

Yeah, that was a rough couple of days.

Monday morning I found to be particularly hard. Part of my job responsibilities include putting together a media monitor of stories in the north. So my Monday morning was compiling all the coverage of the accident, which is a bit more concentrated a dose of horror than I usually like to start my week with.

There was a point in the morning where I had a crash, which meant I lost most of the work I'd already put into the monitor, meaning I'd have to start over again. It was at that moment when news broke about Jack Layton's death. Let's just say there's a sizeable dent in my filing cabinet. At that moment, it was just a bit too much to process...

There's been an awful lot written about Layton, and a lot more will be over the next few days. His letter to Canadians is going to be one of those things that's going to have an impact, I think, for many years to come.

And, stupidly, I had a quote from, of all bloody things, "Batman Begins" stuck in my head. After watching the outpouring of grief from the news of Layton's death and the reaction to his letter. I just couldn't get it out of my mind. And perhaps it's stupid, but here's the quote:

Henri Ducard: But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely.
Bruce Wayne: Which is?
Henri Ducard: A legend, Mr. Wayne.

We'll see how things happen, of course. And obviously I'm not comparing Layton to Batman (although a moustache and the cape and cowl would be kind of awesome). But the way Layton lead his party to its greatest achievement, quite possibly sacrificing his health to do so, then passing away before getting to really enjoy the fruits of what he achieved is the stuff of legend. I think Layton may well become not only a rallying point for those on the left in Canada, but also for those sick with cancer. Time will tell, but I suspect Layton will not fade quietly in the myths of political obscurity.

So yes, quite a busy week. I mean, when you're getting laughs from people's reaction to an earthquake, you're into dark humour territory.

And as I was writing this, Steve Jobs announced he's stepping down as CEO of Apple. As he's been ill with cancer for awhile, it's probably not good news on that front either.

You know, reporters often lament how August is the duldrums and there's no news. I think I need to smack the next one I hear say that. Frankly, I'm giving reasonably decent odds of the world ending before the end of August at the rate things are going.

So if you'll pardon me, I'm going to crawl underneath the desk and hide for a bit.

Last Five
All from "Learn and Burn" by The Sheepdogs

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Noseworthy dives in

I really was going to give the Newfoundland election a pass on writing for a day or two. I do have a couple of other things that need to be brought up on the blog. But today's story out of the province of former Auditor General John Noseworthy's decision to run against the NDP leader in the districting of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is too good to pass up.

It's not without prescident that an auditor general would pursue political office. Hell, Elizabeth Marshall did it back in 2003. But this one feels a bit weirder and the circumstances are a little different.

I stand to be corrected, but Marshall had completed her term as AG and had been out of office for a few years. Nobody expects an AG to retire and live as a hermit once they complete their term. They're often very smart, very driven people, so a life of retired leisure isn't going to cut it. I get that.

But Noseworthy quit his term as AG a year before it was up, and a few months before an election. So clearly politics had been on his mind for quite some time, even when he was doing his job of checking into the books. Although there's only one non-Conservative seat in the St. John's area - the one he's running in - several of the MHAs declared their intention not to run again. So he could have picked one of those seats.

I really do remain conflicted over it. He's clearly a smart man (probably smarter than 95% of the current Conservative caucus) with an idea of what he would like to bring to government. And someone who wants to get in there and bring better fiscal management to the place and actually has the skills to be able to do this is worth taking a serious look at and a worthy contender for your vote.

On the other hand, quitting his AG job earlier to run for the governing party he was charged with monitoring is just begging for screams of conflict of interest accusations to taint his campaign. Running against the leader of the NDP...well, there's nothing wrong with it. It just feels....tacky.

There's also the matter that if he got elected, there's no guarantees he'll be able to do anything. Least we forget when Marhsall got elected, the first time she challenged Premier Williams on something, she found herself relegated to the backbenches watching people not as clever as she was getting appointed ahead of her because they knew which ass to kiss.

Somehow, I get the feeling Noseworthy isn't much of an asskisser. Also, how welcome is he going to be in a caucus when he has made many of their lives difficult in the past?

So we'll see. One more weird and wacky development in this election.

Next blog post - something other than Newfoundland and Labrador politics, I promise.

last Five
1. I wish I was in New Orleans - Tom Waits
2. Into the white - Pixies
3. A thousand suns - Hey Rosetta!*
4. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (live) - Paul McCartney and U2
5. World of wonders (live) - Bruce Cockburn

Monday, August 15, 2011

Doooooomed

Way back in the day, when I first started working as a community newspaper journalist, the only stipulation I gave my then editor was that I wouldn't cover car wrecks or accident scenes. I was not, and I'm still not, the kind of person that can go to these things, take pictures and talk to people who have been through a traumatic experience. There are reporters who can, and I've never been sure if I should envy that ability, or pity them for it, but they have it and I don't. I buckled once and covered one car accident, and I hated the experience so much that I told the editor she could fire me if she wanted, but I wasn't doing that again.

And I didn't.

Political car wrecks, on the other, remain deeply fascinating.

So, in a mild shocker Kevin Aylward wins the leadership of the Liberal party. My memory can be a bit of a sieve sometimes, but I'm pretty sure Aylward wasn't that impressive a cabinet minister. When your portfolio, which you're bragging about, includes stops in Tourism, Environment, Forestry and Agriculture, you weren't exactly hitting the lofty heights of cabinet seniority. At best those are maybe, maybe mid-tier cabinet positions. Hell, Environment has long been considered either a place to break in rookies or a place to break the freefall of a cabinet minister who has fallen into disfavour.

So yeah, woo hoo.

I understand there was a real lack of quality choice in this process, but I think this is going to be a very grim season for the Liberals. Probably not helping them is Craig Westcott leaving as Director of Communications less than six weeks before the election. There's a story there somewhere. God knows what it is, but I bet it will be an interesting one in the telling a few years down the line over a few drinks.

So yes, grimness abounding. Aylward is making noises about an October surprise. About the only surprise I see is finding a bookie that would give you odds of that happening. It would require an Act of God or pictures of the premier eating babies for us to wake up the day after the election to Premier Aylward.

I suspect the real race this election is for Opposition. The NDP are feeling cocky. And if people are looking for a place to plant their vote to protest the current government, they may well look to the NDP rather than the self-destructive madness that is the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador right now.

Last Five
1. Rise to me - The Decemberists
2. Bad (live) - U2*
3. Waiting - City and Colour
4. Fine young cannibals - Wolf Parade
5. Sweet talk, sweet talk - The New Pornographers

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Well, that was a weird week back in Newfoundland

No sooner do I go and predict a possible Liberal minority government than all hell breaks loose. That wasn't the strangest week in Newfoundland political history, but it was certainly up there high on the surreality scale.

I kept thinking that I was going to write another blog post about it during the week, but circumstances kept changing so fast I was afraid to write anything else for fear that post would quickly look antiquated. I was following CBC reporter David Cochrane and NTV reporter Mike Connors (both Muse alumni) on Twitter and there were days they couldn't keep up with the swirling rumours.

For those not following the madness, the week went something like this.

1. Rumours start on Sunday that Liberal leader Yvonne Jones might not run in the next provincial election on October 11, barely two months away. Jones had been fighting breast cancer for more than a year.

2. The rumours are quickly confirmed and on Tuesday she announces that due to medical reasons she can't run. Her immune system is too compromised and the election campaign could be harmful for her.

3. The Liberal executive announce their doing an emergency leadership race. Nominations open on Wednesday, close Friday and the executive will vote who the next leader will be on Sunday afternoon.

4. The creme de la creme of fringe candidates come out and announce they're running for the leadership, including a guy who ran for the Conservative leadership earlier the year and a guy who couldn't win his own party's riding nomination a few years ago. Things look grim.

5. Then, like the shot heard around the world, late Wednesday night it breaks that retired General Rick Hillier is considering running. It's one of those things that would have changed everything. Odds would go from a Liberal slaughter to a landslide Liberal victory. The only person more loved in the province that Williams is probably Hillier. One joke says that Dunderdale would defect to the Liberals if that happened.

6. It doesn't happen. Citing family reasons, Hillier opts not to run.

7. Gloom and despair settle on the Liberals. People I've never heard of before decide to run. A couple of former Liberal cabinet ministers from the early 00s rise like the undead and announce they're thinking of running. One, Chuck Furey decides against running. The other, Kevin Alyward, tragically decides to.

This is the list of candidates here. One is reluctant to use words such as "doomed" and "slaughter" before the actual campaign begins, but whoever wins this (Lawyer Bern Coffey is apparently the favourite) has their work seriously cut out for them. They have less than two months to rally a political party that is pretty much broke. They have to introduce themselves to a deeply skeptical public. And if it's one of the political neophytes who have never run before, they're going to have to get used to the pressures of an election campaign on short notice and try and find a seat to run in.

So seriously, good luck with that. That's a huge learning curve and amount of work to do in less than no time, with barely any resources.

I'll come out with a final seat count prediction once the election is called and we'll get an idea of how the new Liberal leader shapes up. But it's not a stretch to see the NDP taking over the role of official Opposition as of October 12. Not much of a stretch at all...

Last Five
Last Five all from "Light of Endangered Species" by Matthew Good

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Election prediction

It's about two months until the election back in Newfoundland and Labrador. Obviously, I'm not on the ground, which means distance is giving me problems in making completely accurate assessments about what's going on back in the old stomping grounds. Although if plans hold I'll probably be back in the province the week of the election, so that'll be interesting.

But I guess distance has its advantages. I tend to look at the election from a different point of view than if I was there. I have a bit more of emotional distance from it. Rightly or wrongly I'm looking at it more from a strategy/game point of view than the "which party is best to run the province?" which is the correct way to look at these things.

So looking at the landscape right now, I'm beginning to form a potentially interesting theory. That we could see a minority government after this election.

Yes, I'm crazy. Hang in there with me for a second.

The province is in a rare bubble where there is no cult of personality type of leader heading any of the three political parties. I honestly can't think of the election where that was the case. Williams, Tobin, Wells, Peckford, Moores and Smallwood all fit that role. People voted for them as much as they did the party. Especially Williams. If he came out of retirement right now and decided to run under the Danny Party this election, no only would about 2/3rds of the Tory caucus defect, he would also still probably win 40 seats.

But Dunderdale, Jones and Michaels are nobody's idea of a cult of personality type of leader. I'm sure they're liked within their party (well, not sure about Dunderdale), but they don't exactly set the public's imagination on fire. That means there's no strong leader to come into a riding and ride roughshod or save a weak candidate. It now means individual candidates are going to have to stand on their own merit more and local issues are going to come much more into play.

That can be potentially very messy. For example, how pissed off are the people in the Burin and Bonavista peninsula areas with the government over the Hurricane Igor response?

And what about St. John's? Both seats went NDP in the last federal election and they're clearly thinking they can get more than their traditional one seat in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. The fact that they have more of their candidates in place at this point in time than the Liberals is interesting. The fact that staunch Liberals like Ed Hollett and Simon Lono are taking as much time bashing the NDP online these days as they are the Conservatives says to me they are concerned they could actually pick up seats.

How many? I could see the NDP getting a half dozen seats, perhaps more. They take a bunch of riding around the city, maybe one in Labrador or something and there you go. So say they pull six or seven seats. That means all the Liberals need is 18 seats or so to make a proper mess of things. It may happen, it may not. But I think in the heat of the election anything is possible.

So yeah, that's my longshot prediction - A Liberal minority government. Although that does depend on the Liberals getting their act together more than they seem to right now. Hell, the other weird thing could be a repeat of what happened federally - a Conservative government with an NDP opposition.

I'm just saying, it has the potential to be the first interesting election the province has seen in more than 20 years. Like anything, time will tell.

Last Five
1. Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners*
2. Matt Eiley - Figgy Duff
3. Killing the blues - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
4. Surprise - Sean Panting
5. We've got tonight - Bob Seger

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sunsets

Cathy had the clever idea of framing up a bunch of sunset photos from all our trips. I quite like the idea of taking anywhere from four to six sunset photos, putting the time and location underneath and putting them in one frame. I think it'll look good on the wall.

I'm going through old sunset photos right now (once I get over some technical glitch with Aperture, where it's telling me the master versions aren't there, although I can still see the image on my computer), but I'm trying to figure out which sunset photo to use from the Costa Rica vacation. Through a bit of good luck, we hit an absolutely spectacular sunset on our last day on the Pacific coast.

So, for your reviewing pleasure, here's my list of the best of those sunset shots. I'm curious as to what people think is the best one. I know which one I like best, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best one. Feel free to leave a comment with your vote.








Last Five
1. Look for me - Neko Case
2. Hoochie woman - Tori Amos
3. Turkish revelry - Loudon Wainwright III
4. The forty - Mark Bragg*
5. Distant early warning - Rush

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back again

So, I'm back in Iqaluit...I'm sure the five of you still reading the blog will be happy to know this.

Obviously the blog has been rather slow the last couple of months. Hell, most of this year. But I think I might be starting to feel a little revitalized. I think the couple of weeks vacation helped. Some may recall in the last blog post I said I would be back in a few weeks. Well, I was vague because I was going on vacation. Normally I have no problem letting people know that because we have someone housesitting. But not this time. We sent Boo off to Cathy's parents back in Newfoundland, which meant the house was empty. I prefer not to mention that sort of thing on the blog.

And then we had communications problems the last week. Apparently while we were away one of the city's sewage trucks clipped our internet satellite dish, knocking it out of alignment. It's back now, but that took a couple of days. And today we had pouring rain and fog, which interfered with reception. So, we've had some issues.

That doesn't excuse most of this year, but I've been doing this blog for about six years. I think a little burnout is entitled.

So, where was the vacation? Well, we managed to pack in quite a bit in two weeks. First up was Toronto, a city ordinarily we wouldn't go anywhere near (Cathy has a near psychotic loathing of the place and 40C with smog during our time there didn't help), but there was a small gathering of old friends taking place and it was good to see them again (even if several threatened me if I didn't restart the blog). That was Sunday.

On Monday we finally got to use the U2 tickets we bought over two years ago. I loved the show, although it was fascinating to read the review the next day. The Sun had a fairly bland recap, but gave it five stars, the Globe quite liked it, but went into more detail. But the Star must have seen a different show, because they didn't really care much for it. Then again, it read like a review of someone who has seen the band every time they've hit Toronto since the 80s. He wasn't impressed, which is fair enough, I guess. But seeing as how it was the first time I saw the band, I was blown away.

After that, back to Ottawa to spend a few frantic days doing our sealift order. That's always a terrifying amount of money out the window in a short period of time. And then we headed to Costa Rica for 10 days.

We've always wanted to go, and rather than plan everything ourselves, we got lazy and used Caravan - a bus tour operator. I'd read reviews about how good they were for ages and we decided to take a chance on them. A very good tour, I must say. Volcanoes, hot springs, lots of wildlife, lots of greenery (returning to Iqaluit was a bit of a shock) and a good time was had by all. Funny, there were 43 people on this tour, and we were the only Canadians. Us and 41 Americans. That was a touch eye-opening. But most were lovely people and a lot of fun.

So, what's next? Well, I'll be putting up some photos over the next couple of blog posts. I may need help with one of them. Cathy and the fantastic idea of doing a frame of a bunch of sunset shots I've taken over the years. I have a couple of great ones from the trip, so I'm curious as to what people think is the best one. A little about what I've been up to the last few months (including a hacking incident) and I may even delve into politics again. Really, there's an election in Newfoundland in October. If you think I can pass that up, well...

And, of course, I have to revamp the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ. New information and I think I'm going to organize it differently. If you have any more questions, now is the time to get them in.

Oh, and finally, happy anniversary to my lovely wife. Six years ago today she said "I do" shortly after I said the same thing. We're celebrating in the traditional way, with me in Iqaluit and her in Mount Pearl. Luck of the draw when you marry a teacher. Anyway, happy anniversary, my love...

Last Five
1. In-between - Josh Rouse
2. Lost control - Grinspoon
3. There's an arc - Hey Rosetta!
4. Flower - Liz Phair
5. Rains on me - Tom Waits*

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ah yes

Reports of my death are somewhat exaggerated. Let's call it severe blog fatigue. But it's not dead, I promise. He'll, I've had stuff I could write about the last few weeks, but the drive to post it up just wasn't there.

But the blog isn't dead, nor am I going to delete it. I still have great affection for old place, even if cobwebs are setting in and rats are beginning to eye the place.

Just give me a couple more weeks and I promise I'll come back with new stories and more updates.

But thanks for your patience, everyone. I know I've been abusing it something fierce lately.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A hard week

So yeah, we're having a bad day in Iqaluit. And when I say we, I'm not referring specifically to Cathy and I. For those of you who might have missed the news, we had an....incident here yesterday. You can read more about it here and here.

I've had some friends and family contact me and ask if we're all right. We are. They've asked if we knew the family involved. We did not. However, Iqaluit is 7,000 people. We're not talking six degrees of separation here to find people who were friends and family of the people involved. And if it seems I'm being circumspect with the information, well, the police and media are not giving out a lot of information until family can be notified. And there's enough of a reporter left in me that I respect that. Besides, the mood in town can best be summed up as stunned.

Understand, it's a small town. Rumours are flying fast and furious. Everybody knows the names of those involved and there's plenty of speculation about what happened. But this blog isn't the place for that, so I'm not getting into it. The RCMP will be doing a press conference on Thursday. If you want to know more I'm sure there'll be more coverage then.

This hasn't been a great last 12 months in Nunavut. There's been a lot of tragedy and when you start reading reporters finding it getting too hard to keep doing these stories (Several experienced journalists were on Twitter last night giving details as they learned it and they were obviously distraught) then you know things are getting bad.

We love living in Iqaluit and Nunavut. If we didn't we'd be making escape plans. We wouldn't have bought a house. We wouldn't have just bought a car which is getting here next month. It can be an astonishing place to live. An opportunity you feel lucky to get a chance to experience.

You get tremendous acts of community and willingness to come together. When there was a fire earlier the year that left dozens homeless so much clothes were donated they had to ask people to stop because they didn't know what to do with it. There was a terrible snowmobile accident a few weeks ago that left one man dead and a young woman still in hospital and the outpouring of grief and support for the families involved was nearly overwhelming.

And that's in Iqaluit. It happens all across Nunavut. In the face of tragedy, communities band together to help.

I just wish tragedy didn't feel so commonplace up here sometimes. We love Nunavut. I just wish Nunavut made it easier to love it, that's all. I think the thing that disheartens me the most sometimes is that there are smart people up here trying to figure things out, so that tragedies like what happened on Tuesday are less common than what they are. And they struggle to come up with solutions.

I've always said Nunavut's problems aren't going to change overnight and for a (North American) culture that expects change to happen almost instantaneously and without pain, that's a hard thing to accept. That it could take decades or generations for Nunavut to be the kind of place that people here dream it could be is hard to take.

In the meantime, if you could spare a prayer or, if that's not your thing, then at least a thought for the friends and family who are absolutely devastated by this, then I think that would at least be a start.

Last Five
1. 40 - U2
2. Come talk to me (live) - Peter Gabriel*
3. Do what you want - Hall & Oates
4. Why do you love me - Garbage
5. Ending start - Metric

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jets and comic books

So most of the day has been people cheering loudly about the return of hockey to Winnipeg. Understand, I could not care less. Hockey is not my sport, at all. I cheer for Vancouver in the finals simply because if I have to read another sports story about how long its been since a Canadian team won the Cup, I might go mad.

Still, you know, good on Winnipeg if it makes them happy. There was a rumour swirling around on Twitter today that they might call the team the Manitoba Polar Bears. Which I don't think is likely, but will result in me cheering against the team whenever they play just because I have a think about polar bears. Although if, in-between periods, they put a live polar bear and two fans out on the ice and the one who survives the intermission gets a prize, that's a team promotion I could possibly get behind.

There's also the possibility of Winnipeg's AHL team ending up in St. John's, which has people all excited and Danny Williams back in the news. Just in case you forgot how much bluster and bullying the man possesses, read this story. Seriously, if he changed his mind and created the Williams Party to run in the next provincial election, not only would he win, but 2/3rds of the current PC caucus would defect to him.

Anyway, I tend to be of two minds on giving the AHL team money. First of all, I think it's going to happen. Williams is making a racket, it's an election year and there's only so much Dunderdale can do to piss off Williams, who is still beloved. I'm not sure about giving money to a professional sports team. Williams can afford the $500,000 so I don't understand what the big deal is for him needing the province to kick in the dollars.

On the other hand, lord knows the provincial government wastes more than $500,000 a year on stupider stuff than a travel subsidy. So I guess we'll see what happens.

But honestly, the thing that interests me the most is this story. DC Comics is rebooting its entire line of comics. Now, something like this seems to happen every few years, although this one seems to be bigger than most, what with all the titles being cancelled and relaunched from #1 (including Action Comics and Detective Comics, which have been running with the same numbering since the 30s.). They're also promising younger versions of the characters and more "real world situations". I expect you can kiss the Clark Kent-Lois Lane marriage good-bye for starters. Robin might be gone. God only knows what they'll do with poor Wonder Woman.

This is all fairly high end geek stuff. If you love the comics, you'll notice. If you don't, you might be somewhat interested in passing, but probably would have no interest in going out of your way to a comic store and checking it out. Which is where the clever bit comes in. In September, when the reboot happens, the same day the physical comic hits your local store, the digital version will be available online to buy.

This was inevitable, is going to piss off comic stores like nothing else, and entirely clever. Going digital was going to happen, but doing it when relaunching the comics to attract younger readers....not half bad. I'll be curious, that's for sure. I could download comics off torrent sites if I wanted, but I like the idea of sampling digital comics online.

We'll see how this all shakes out. More interesting than bloody hockey, that's for sure.

Last Five
1. Hollow - Drive
2. Mushaboom - Feist
3. Falling down blue (live) - Blue Rodeo*
4. Don't let the man get you down - Fatboy Slim
5. Yesterdays - Billie Holiday

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Regents again

Every three years my alma mater, Memorial University of Newfoundland (don't even get me started on dropping Newfoundland from most of the promo products), has the clever idea of allowing six alumi to be elected to the Board of Regents. Now, the Board is the governing body of the university and it has a decent amount of power on deciding how things are going to be run and done at the place. Those six people aren't going to change the world. Most of the 30 members are appointed to the board by the provincial government, so they tend to do whatever those up on The Hill tell them to do. Still, it's a chance for alumni to have a voice and I think it's an important election.

I've run twice - once in 2005 and in 2008. To surprise of pretty much no one, I didn't win. I finished about the middle of the pack each time. I give MUN a lot of shit, but I do love the place, have good memories and the place means a lot. I poke, bitch and complain because you do that to things you love sometimes. And lord knows MUN has needed a swift kick in the ass more than once over the years.

Case in point was the racket that happened around the last alumni election when then Premier Danny Williams and Education Minister Joan Burke blatantly inferred with the selection process for the university's next president. They had no business doing it and, to make matters worse, removed members of the Board of Regents for various reasons before the term. It was, I don't think, ever said in public but if I had to hazard a guess those members disagreed with what the government was doing and, of their troubles, they were removed.

I was pretty pissed with the Regents at that time. At the least they should have all stood up and said "The government doesn't get to decide the next MUN president. There's a process, we're following it so back off." But they didn't because Danny was Danny and it obviously required more balls than most of them possessed to do that. I think they should have resigned on mass, but again, requiring more guts than what was on the Board.

So that annoyed me. The other thing that annoyed me was that the vote totals for those people who ran in the election - and I think there was around 40 - were never revealed. We knew who the top six were. I knew how many votes I got and where I placed. But unlike virtually every other democratic election held in Canada, MUN's Board of Regents alumni election couldn't have the complete vote totals released because it would violate privacy regulations.

Yes, feel free to discreetly cough bullshit over that one.

However, I am pleased to see they've changed the rules on that one. You know what, I'm going to take credit for that one. I had more than one exchange with people at MUN over that, including getting a note from the university president. Not releasing the final totals for all candidates was bullshit and I'm glad to see they've changed that rule.

I thought about running again. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to pass. I've had friends tell me to just let it rest. Which is a fair point. I was pretty annoying (well, more than usual) for a few months back in '98 as MUN was taking up a lot of my time. Plus, the blog was a lot more active then, I had the radical notion of starting up a Facebook page to try and get people to vote for me (CBC interviewed me over the unique strategy). This time everyone is going to have a blog, Facebook page and god help Twitter. God help us all.

Also, I'm going to be out of the country for the last part of the election. So no, not running unless there is a sudden massive groundswell trying to convince me to run. Which I doubt will happen. But I will pay close attention to those who do run. They're important positions and people should be serious about running and what they want to do when they get elected.

Because if you're not going to go in there and fight and make a racket and try and change and improve things, why bother running?

Something those running should think about, at any rate...

Last Five
1. Honey - Best Coast
2. Ask me why - The Beatles
3. 7 - Prince
4. Me and Lazarus - Iron & Wine
5. Tired - Adele*

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thor!

1. I'm guessing I should probably do a review of Thor as I am the resident northern comic book geek. I've never been the biggest fan of the character in the world, with the exception of Walt Simonson's run on the series back in the 80s (Now collected in this bad boy which I will own soon enough). A norse God of Thunder is perhaps not the most likely candidate for a movie, but hey, Marvel seems to have a formula down with their movies. Take a basically good guy with lots of power and potential, but basically an dick with daddy issues, throw him into the deep end, watch him become a Man and then a good guy. The end.

So Thor is a fun enough movie. It's probably in my Top 10 all-time comic book movies, but definitely clinging to the bottom of the list as opposed to being near the top with films like X-Men 2, Spider Man 2, Iron Man and the Dark Knight. The acting is fun enough, the story does a decent job of making sense of a norse god walking the earth, Odin is a prick (Odin is a prick in the comics as well), Loki steals scenes like he's supposed to do, Natalie Portman slums along as nice eye candy and Kenneth Branaugh does a good job of making something fun not seem completely weightless.

But if I have a gripe, it's about the 3-D. I think it's a gripe I can have about almost any of the movies using 3-D and Roger Ebert is currently in the middle of a jihad against it on his blog, but he's right. I'm tired of spending extra on a movie that looks really dark and in which the 3-D adds little to it. I'm willing to bet I'm going to enjoy Thor a lot more on Blu Ray when it comes out because I'll appreciate how much brighter and sharper it is.

So a decent start for the comic movies of the summer of '11. And next week's X-Men: First Class is getting early comparisons to X-Men 2, which is a very good sign. Still not sure about Green Lantern. I think it's going to be spectacular, but good or bad I don't know. I still don't know enough about Captain America to have an idea of how that's going to work out.

2. An update for those of you who might possibly care about the banking stuff I mentioned the other day. CIBC seems oddly friendly to me right now. People at the bank certain seem to know who I am, although whether that's good or not I don't know. But they did step up. We got a much better deal at CIBC than RBC (and by much better, I mean 2.5% better at least) so that's enough to keep me happy for now.

I don't know if we're going to use it or not. We're juggling a few things here right now. The car (It's going to be an Equinox), upcoming sea lift order, our vacation and the desire to hammer some money down on the mortgage. Oddly, there is only so much money to go around.

But on the upside, we should have our new Equinox by early July, assuming the ice breaks up on time and the sealift boats stick to schedule. Which is questionable, but you can always live in hope. It'll be the first brand new vehicle for either of us in 10 years, which is pretty exciting. Mmmmmmm, new car smell...

Last Five
1. What you're missing - Sean Panting
2. DNA - The Kills*
3. Way out - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. Tightly - Neko Case
5. El Manana - Gorillaz