Top 10 reasons to avoid Porter Airlines

On a trip for a very happy occasion, Porter will be remembered as the worst part.

I remember when Porter used to be the standard for excellence in service – a model of a Canadian airline with the right priorities who cared about the customer. I remember once writing on Yelp that “I love Porter as much as a guy can love an airline.”

Those days are LONG over.

Now, the word “service” doesn’t even fit with their name. In the name of higher revenues, Porter has voluntarily abandoned everything that once made them great. It shows that their priority is their own bottom line rather than their clients, on whom their success relies.

For a trip earlier this year, I used virtually all of my points because I no longer care to fly with Porter Airlines. And by their policies, they don’t seem to care.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I will not fly Porter again until major changes are made to their policies to refocus on the customer rather than on themselves.

  1. VIPorter program changed for the worse, drastically devaluing loyal customer points

You used to get 375/750/1500 points (based on fare class) per leg of travel, and it used to cost 7,500 points to buy a one-way ticket, plus fees and taxes. It was a simple reward system that made redemption easy and predictable. Their VIPorter members relied on this system to plan for their rewards. And then they changed it.

The new system awarded 1/5 to 1/6 of the points that the old system did, while keeping redemption in the same “price” point. They advertised a “new and improved” VIPorter. Improved for whom? Oh, for them.

  1. Splitting up a father and his young child

Checking in for the flight on my above mentioned trip, I was assigned a seat near the middle of the plane and my daughter was assigned one at the back, next to a total stranger. 4 hours after check-in was opened prior to the flight, I called Porter customer service and asked them to fix this problem. The correct, “refined” answer would have been “sorry for that oversight, sir, we’ll get that taken care of immediately. Of course you should not be separated from your young child!”

Instead, the first agent told me it wasn’t possible. Why not? Switch someone who has no clue which seat they have been assigned to. There’s no way that everyone has checked in already – check in has only been available for 4 hours! Nah, that would be too easy. I suggested it, but was told that it couldn’t be done.

I didn’t accept the agent’s answers. She suggested that I “ask people on the plane to switch seats”. When would you like me to do this? While everyone is boarding? And what if people refuse? What should we do then? No thanks. You can fix it, do it now. She refuses. I ask to speak with a supervisor, after being on the line for over an HOUR! She puts me on hold for 20 minutes, then comes back and tells me she will change our seats to place us together. After 95 MINUTES, it was done. Why so long? More importantly, why was this even a problem in the first place?

Worse than my situation, we were seated opposite another parent and child. Getting on the plane, I noticed the mother wiping down everything in the vicinity. She explained that her child had serious allergies, and went on to explain the fight that she, too, had to have with a Porter representative to get seated together with her son.

Air Canada offers complimentary seat assignment for parents flying with young children.

Porter makes parents spend considerable amounts of time arguing with phone agents. Unjustifiable.

  1. Porter rules matter more than US government rules, somehow??

As NEXUS members, I was curious if we could travel with our NEXUS cards to the USA and leave our passports at home. The night before our flight, I spent over an hour checking the US Customs and Border Protection website for relevant regulations about whether a NEXUS card is a valid replacement for a passport. It is there that I learned about the WHTI – the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which specifically states that the NEXUS card can be used by Canadian citizens to enter the USA without a passport. Wonderful!

The check-in process on the Porter website advises that “Government issued travel document will be required to board your flight.” NEXUS is “government issued travel document.” Check.

On arrival at our home airport, we checked in at the automated machines, went through security, and sat at the gate ready for our flight. All of a sudden, the gate agent called us on the public address system. I went up to the desk to ask what was going on, and was asked for my passport. I provided my NEXUS card. In response, I was told that I would be denied boarding because I need my passport.

I asked why, and was told that they needed to know that I would be admitted to the US before allowing me to board. Uhh, neither the NEXUS nor the passport guarantees admission to the US, but they both potentially allow it.

The impact: We were rebooked on a later flight and I had to take a taxi home with my child, one without a proper child seat, to get our passports that the US government does not even require. We lost money and 4 hours of our vacation, and we arrived in a strange city at night in the dark rather than during the afternoon as planned, with a young child.

To make matters worse, we were called up once again in Toronto to provide the passports – for what?? The Customer Service Lead at Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport talked in circles at me, (annoyed) by my very legitimate question. She finally gave me an answer that basically boiled down to “that’s just the way it is.” But it isn’t. I had to provide passport information upon check in. They don’t need it again.

  1. “Sale” prices – 3 times a week.

Between April 14 and October 1, 2016, Porter had 94 sales on fares. If it happens that often, it’s not a sale. It’s the regular price. It’s rather disingenuous to price your business this way and insulting to anyone who ever paid “full” (read: inflated) price for a ticket. It seems obvious that their pricing structure is to attract customers with “low” prices for the fares only to hit with unreasonable, abusive fees for baggage, seats, and more.

  1. Porter – fee pioneer!

When Porter launched their fee for the first checked bag, they tried to explain it away by saying that everyone else was doing it. The facts tell a different story. Porter charged for a 1st checked bag BEFORE Air Canada and WestJet did. They didn’t follow a trend, they LED the way and created it.

  1. Ignorant social media diversion

When Porter announced a new policy of charging a fee for every bag, people were outraged and took to social media to complain.

In response, Porter was proud to point out their “free snacks and bevies” on board, ignoring that the cost or value a tiny bag of almonds and a cup of coke don’t come close to $27.50 plus tax (or worse…)

They also were quick to suggest GatePorter, their gate checking option, as a free option, conveniently ignoring that this option is not comparable to actually checking a bag since sizing is different and, even in carryon sized bags, some items are not allowed through security in carryon bags.

Porter doesn’t care to make intellectually honest arguments, they just cared about their “complimentary snacks and bevies…”

  1. Punitive baggage fees

For over a year, Porter has had a 3-tiered baggage pricing policy in place.

  • If you “book” your checked bag online at or prior to online check-in, you pay $27.50 plus tax.
  • If you wait until you get to the airport and check a bag at the check-in counter, you pay $37.50 plus tax.
  • If you go through security with your carryon bag and a Porter representative *catches* you at the gate with a bag that is too big or too heavy, they will force you to check that bag and charge you a whopping $47.50 plus tax.


And to show their priorities, Porter has invested in baggage size templates – you know, those things where you have to put your bag in at the gate to check if it fits or not – for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEIR GATES (and 2 in the “lounge”) at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto – Porter’s hub.

And if that wasn’t enough, instead of having 2 agents checking in passengers to move people along to their destination – you know, the thing they are being paid to do – they serve themselves by having one check in agent and one agent walking the line checking people’s bags, so they can catch people over their arbitrary size and weight limits. Air Canada flies the same planes as Porter from YTZ and can handle the extra kilogram – why can’t Porter?

This isn’t a question of capacity, safety, or weight balance. Rather, it is Porter deciding that the ability to charge an extra $47.50 for a bag that is slightly over is worth more than creating a respectful guest experience. Investing in baggage measuring devices is an investment in their own pocketbooks. Why spend money on your paying customers when you can spend money to force your paying customers to pay even more?

On the way home from our trip, we were greeted by a sign on the check-in counter at Midway airport’s Gate A3 that said “we will be happy to assist you 45 minutes before your flight.”

The agent showed up 22 minutes before departure and with 4 people in line at the counter that close to take off, her only concern was making sure that my bags still fit in their regulation size and weight.

And they call themselves “refined”. HA!

  1. Size matters

Porter advertises that they allow the most generous carryon size in Canada. This is true only if you talk about cubic measurements, but Porter allows 9kg instead of 10kg allowed by Air Canada and others. And that extra kilogram makes a big difference.

With typical laptop computers weighing over 4kg, and the bag having some weight as well, there’s not much left for your other contents.

Basically, Porter is saying that you’re allowed to have a slightly bigger bag, you just can’t put much into it.

And if you pack too much weight in that‎ bag, they’ll get ya! For a penalty fee at the gate!

  1. TSA Pre-check? Not with Porter!

My family are all registered with TSA Pre-Chk, a service that allows expedited passage through security checkpoints at US airports for travelers deemed to be low risk.

The problem is that Porter hasn’t paid for their travelers to have that privilege.

Porter is, mostly, a business airline. They are not new, and have been operating for long time now in and out of US destinations. They advertise a “refined” experience and yet they don’t care to allow their qualified paying customers the *refined* Pre-Chk experience?

The security line agent said Porter hasn’t met with TSA about requirements yet. Why not? My research says that they just haven’t paid the fees. She saw my Porter bag tag and told me that lots of Porter passengers are upset.

Perhaps it’s because they’re too busy coming up with creative new fees to meet with the TSA…

  1. Bad weather? Oh well… too bad for the customer.

Having purchased a ticket with Porter from Montreal to Toronto’s City Center airport (island), I arrived at Trudeau airport to find out that there was fog around the island in Toronto and that our flight would be delayed. Of course, that kind of weather concern is not Porter’s fault and is understandable around island environments.

The flight took off 90 minutes late and, thankfully, because of good planning, I was still comfortably on time for my commitment in Toronto. That is, until we got to within 10km of the airport and the captain announced that the fog had set in again and we couldn’t land. He announced that we would be circling above the airport and that he would update us “every 10 minutes”. Oh oh.. But I’m still ok for time. For now.

45 minutes and 2 attempts at landing later, the captain comes back on the speakers and says:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. As you’ve noticed, we have tried twice to land at Toronto City airport, but the fog is not permitting a safe landing… We will be proceeding to our alternate… (Pause)”

He paused long enough for everyone in the middle of the plane to either mouth, or say aloud, “Pearson.”

Then he continued. “Our alternate is Montreal. Arrival time in Montreal is…”

We just CAME from Montreal! If we wanted to be in Montreal, we never would have been on this plane!

Later, I found out that all Air Canada flights were diverted to Pearson, and people were able to get downtown for their engagements. But not with Porter? Why not? Did they not want to pay for the emergency slots? They have landed at Pearson before….

Fast forward to December 8, 2016. It is 9:30pm at YTZ in Toronto. Air Canada announces pre-boarding for their final flight of the day to Montreal and its passengers (including me, thankfully) are walking toward the gate, happy that the 15 minute delay is over. We will get home that night.

As I walk by the Porter counter, a Porter agent announces that, due to bad weather in Montreal, the final Porter flight of the day to Montreal is cancelled and that they will be “happy to rebook everyone on a flight tomorrow morning.” Some consolation…

Absolutely incredible that Air Canada was able to fly the exact same route at the exact same time in the exact same weather with the exact same plane as Porter, but they couldn’t – or, actually, wouldn’t.

That incident proved me right. As long as Porter continues with these selfish policies and ignores basic customer service attitudes in favour of ridiculous, arbitrary fees, I will stay away.

And I hope that after reading my select experiences (there are others…) that you will too.

Only the consumer and our mighty dollar will force change, and we will only succeed in doing so by flying with the airlines that actually respect us and our business. Air Canada changed many of its policies to better meet the needs of its customers and do away with abusive fees. They have earned my business back, and I am happy to reward their positive changes.

My experience at the Quebec Court of Appeal

This morning I witnessed everything that is wrong with our justice system.

An error in law, during a judicial recount of an election, was made by a judge of the Court of Quebec. A judge. The guy in the process who is supposed to understand the law better than anyone. He pooched a black and white law because, well, we have no idea why. It could be because he had a bad day. It could be because the day started off with proof that the process was compromised in other ways before it even got to him. It could be because one set of lawyers were more aggressive than the other. It could be because the judge didn’t take time to fully understand the law, and the context in which it is applied.

A judge is supposed to be able to flush out the distractions and stay focused on the case; on the law. A judge is supposed to be above all of this.

This judge, Judge Antonio De Michele, was not above any of this. He was tasked by law to settle a dispute about the validity of ballots. Instead, he caused more, and greater, problems than there were when the parties first entered his courtroom.

Fast forward about six months (it is unclear who is ultimately responsible for this delay) and today, finally, the Quebec Court of Appeal was convened to hear a challenge to Judge De Michele’s decision. That never happened.

It never happened because the judges, yesterday, sent a memo to the plaintiff’s lawyers questioning whether they had the jurisdiction to even hear this appeal. Their assertion was that the proper court for this process should have been the Superior Court, the court designated to hear “Contestation of Election” challenges, even though this was not a contestation of the election, but rather a review of Judge De Michele’s inconsistent-with-the-law rulings. An appeal, if you will, at the Quebec Court of, you guess it, “Appeals”.

I know that appealing a judge’s decision at a lower court to the aptly-named Court of Appeals sounds reasonable to most of us, but in their decision, the Court of Appeal judges claimed that Judge De Michele was not, in fact, acting in the position of “Judge” when he presided over the judicial recount. The Court of Appeal’s (QCOA) position is that *Judge* De Michele was merely a “persona designata” which, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, means “A person considered as an individual rather than as a member of a class”. So, in essence, the QCOA position was that this person who was treated like a judge all day when performing their functions, was not actually acting in the capacity of a judge. And therefore, any appeal of their decisions must go to the court of first instance, which is the Quebec Superior Court. Ironically, the building that this Judge-not-acting-as-a-Judge was operating in at the time of the errors in law he committed.


The fact that the law requires the person who presides over the recount to be a judge didn’t matter to the 3 QCOA judges who heard the argument this morning.

The fact that the process of recounting votes is called a “judicial” recount didn’t matter to them.

The fact that the process took place in a courtroom didn’t matter to them.

The fact that the process took place in front of opposing sets of lawyers, pleading their cases to a person whose main profession is a judge didn’t matter to them.

The fact that the person required to make rulings was supposed to rule based on the law, the main responsibility of a judge, didn’t matter to them.

The Chief Judge of the QCOA said, repeatedly, that Judge De Michele (should we be calling him “Mister” instead, given the court’s positon?) was merely conducting a recount, not rendering any legal decisions. I cannot disagree more. In fact, Judge De Michele rendered dozens of decisions which should have been based on the elections law, but weren’t.

And because the deadline to file a “challenge to a recount” (rather than an “Appeal”) is 30 days, that means that the plaintiff now has no further recourse. Game over. Case closed.

So Judge De Michele’s arbitrary decisions as to the validity of ballots in an election go completely unchecked.

So why do I care about this?

I don’t have any horse in this race. I don’t care who ultimately wins the commissioner’s seat. I was fighting, from day one, for the rights of electors to have their legally valid votes counted. I was fighting for the principle that voters are supposed to decide elections, not courts. Judge De Michele let electors down and today, the Quebec Court of Appeal, the highest provincial court, gave this travesty their stamp of approval. On a technicality that might not even be one.

This is not my fight, but I have made it my fight because the people who should have led the charge all ran and hid, each with their own pass-the-buck excuse.

First, I brought this issue to the attention of the Directeur General des Elections du Quebec (DGEQ). Their response was that even though they are responsible for provincial elections, that school board elections are not their responsibility. Rather, they said, school board elections fall under the Ministry of Education.

So I called the Ministry of Education and shared the issue with them. They told me that it’s not their responsibility. Yup, you guessed it. They told me to call the DGEQ. I explained that I had and shared what I was told. They checked and said that they couldn’t get involved because it would be perceived that they were taking sides (one candidate over the other). I responded that they needed to get involved to take the elector’s side. They said they’d get back to me. I told them that time was short, given that the 30-day delay would expire a few days later. I never got another call.

And today, the Quebec Court of Appeal said that they are not responsible for settling this issue. The highest court in Quebec – “not responsible.”


Once the last ballot was in the ballot box, this process completely forgot about the most important participant in the process: the elector. Lawyers fought for their clients to be elected, Judge De Michele ignored the law, and the judges on the Court of Appeal never even allowed a conversation about their best interests.

The 3 judges today argued with jurisprudence presented to them by the plaintiff’s lawyer, who argued beautifully. Their argument was that the cases he was citing were all in Federal courts. Fine. It’s an important distinction, but no jurisprudence exists in provincial court on this issue, in this context. Instead of taking hold of an opportunity to create new jurisprudence in the interest of building confidence in the electoral system, these judges – who admitted openly in court that they agreed there was no direct example for them to follow – took the easy road and walked away.

Our justice system is supposed to be about following the rules. Today, it was not. Today, it was about convenience. These judges came into the courtroom today looking for arguments on jurisdiction and the burden of proof was on the attorney to convince them. Sitting in that courtroom today, it was clear they were not going to be convinced. At one point, the attorney made a very strong point about their choice of venue at the QCOA being deliberate and not an error on their part. Instead of acknowledging the argument being made, Judge Marie St-Pierre chose to focus on how that fact was not mentioned in the plaintiff’s brief. Why should it have been? They chose a court based on their research and filed there. Isn’t intention obvious?

Our justice system is supposed to be accessible. Today, it was not. Today, in essence, the judges told the plaintiff that because his lawyers made what in the court’s mind was a bad decision, that he loses the right to have his say. Now I know that when we hire lawyers that they become our representatives, and that we are responsible for our representative’s actions. But consider that if a lawyer got this “wrong” (arguably, in the eyes of these judges) that the plaintiff would have had no chance in getting it right on his own. The issue wasn’t clear. The judges said that themselves.

I have been working in elections for over half of my life, managing them for the last 9 years at all levels of government. I have extensive training, both theoretical and practical. I have travelled internationally to observe elections in the interest of fairness. I’ve seen lots of unbelievable things. But this has me profoundly upset because I expected better at home. Today, neither the letter nor the spirit of the law was held up by those whose sole job it is to ensure the primacy of law.

Today, a school board commissioner candidate (who was the winner on election day, by the way, only to lose during the contested recount) lost his chance to have even a hearing to have even the chance to have a wrong righted. And for no good reason.

More importantly though, the public lost today. Countless people every election ask Deputy Returning Officers and Poll Clerks how to mark their ballots to ensure that their votes are counted. As a Returning Officer, I have led countless training sessions to make sure that I train these people to provide answers that will stand up to questioning and scrutiny based on the legal definitions and examples provided. I used to rely on the clear, black and white text of the law. Now I don’t know how to answer their question. Today, I lost confidence that I am in control of my vote. Today, I learned that a judge can decide that my mark is not valid because my pencil slightly left the circle, even though the law specifically and expressly declares that mark valid.

Many lawyers over the years have told me that when you bring a court case, there is always luck involved. If you have the facts on your side, you should win. There are cases where the facts are disputed, but this wasn’t one of them. This was an easy opportunity for the Quebec Court of Appeal to make this wrong right. And they chose not to.

Today, the people who were responsible for ensuring that justice is ultimately done when justice was not done let down the people of Quebec.

Is a boycott a hate crime?

There are (FALSE) rumours in Canadian news circles that the Conservative government in Canada is considering laws that would make a hate crime out of boycotting. The context of choice in these reports is boycotts of Israel.

Boycotting Israel is not a hate crime; it’s a crime of ignorance.

People have the right to choose which companies to support with their money and which to withhold support from. If they decide to make their decisions based on propaganda, misinformation, bigotry and horrible priorities, that is their right too.

That’s the beauty of our free market, free expression society. We should all endeavour to keep it that way.

Game of 72 – don’t even think about it

According to a recent article, there seems to be a new social media “game” being played by some kids in Europe called “Game of 72”. The goal is to completely vanish for 72 hours. As the article suggests, “they are not to tell anyone where they are and the more mayhem and panic that is caused, the more points that teen is awarded.”

I don’t know if this will make it to Canada or the US (though in this borderless internet world this stuff travels FAST), but I think it important to warn my parent followers (and any teenager who may happen on this blog) so that they can get ahead of this with their teenage kids.

My child is quite young, so I have nothing to worry about for the moment, but in hopes of inspiring other parents, let me declare unambiguously:

If my child EVER did this, she would come home to find another “Game of 72” – grounded for 72 weeks. And grounded like we were grounded as kids, not the BS groundings of today.

Social media has its benefits, but it also has a significant, serious potential downside. And as I have written in the past, names matter. This may have the word “game” in the title, but it certainly is not a game.

Wednesday morning quickie

This morning, one moment my daughter was whining that she didn’t like me.

The next minute she was hugging me, telling me she loves me.

Very different feelings, mere seconds apart.

It would be easy to pass this off as the simple, impulsive behaviour of a 4-year old. But that would be wrong.

Adults’ feelings are just as fleeting!

Why do we allow fleeting feelings to dictate some of our most significant life decisions?

There are thoughtful, purposeful, intentional alternatives. Find the ones that work for you. Most importantly, be present in every moment – both to yourself and your circumstances.

Have an amazing day!

Watson vs. Prust, an in-depth analysis

In the first period of the Montreal-Tampa Bay game on Sunday evening, referee Brad Watson assessed a roughing penalty to Montreal’s Brandon Prust. Many viewers thought it a marginal call, and it seems, as in many penalty cases, that the penalized player had a few words for the referee. Unlike many cases, however, this time the verbal war between player and referee escalated, with TV cameras picking up referee Watson yelling and wagging his finger at Prust in the penalty box.

As a long time referee (20+ years of experience) with a commitment to upholding the rules of the sports I officiate without bias – and – as a Habs fan who has come to understand and respect Brandon Prust’s unique style of play and behaviour on the ice, I have a unique perspective to offer. I hope you’ll find this both informative and even-handed.

First, players complain on about 3/4 of all penalty calls. Players always see situations differently from referees. Whether because of the saintly way humans in general see their own actions, from their interest in their team winning, or just from a different angle of vision, we will have different viewpoints on what happened – sometimes literally. It is also common that these disagreements include certain choice words from player to referee. Like in every confrontational situation, there are lines to not cross. While these lines are largely subjective and their locations vary from official to official, there is one common rule among seasoned sports officials: if you’re going to criticize a referee’s decision, don’t make it personal. The expression goes: “the f-word won’t get you kicked out of a game; the y-word will.”

That y-word is “you”.

Brandon Prust’s version of the story is that he told Watson he thought the call was “soft”. If that is true, and that’s all that Prust said, then it should’ve ended there. Referees hear far worse than that on a regular basis and nothing comes of it. So, unless Watson was trying to bait Prust by making a very marginal call against him at the first opportunity, I doubt that that is all that Prust said.

When I first saw the penalty call, I had to rewind my PVR to see it again, because there was nothing penalty-worthy on that play until Prust saw Watson’s arm up. I looked again, and still – nothing. I took to twitter posting:

Unbelieveable that Referee Watson found 2 minutes in that Prust/Coburn sequence, let alone 4 minutes. What the hell is going on?

Well, it seems that the hell that was going on was that altercation between Prust and the calling referee.

Here’s a GIF of the stern finger-wagging talking-to that Watson gave Prust at the penalty box. (courtesy Stephanie Vail @myregularface)

There are a few things wrong with this picture.

First, notice how preoccupied referee Watson is making sure that his public address microphone is off. Are these the actions of someone who is saying something he wouldn’t mind people hear? I doubt it. I would guess that he knows that what he is saying is over a line, and he wants to make sure that there’s no public record of it.

Second, notice where Prust is looking – and more importantly, where he is not looking. He is not looking at all at the referee – exactly as he asserted in his post-game comments. While it is still possible that he is verbally abusing Watson while looking elsewhere, he is not looking at him or taking an aggressive posture against the referee. In fact, he is in the process of doing exactly what Watson ordered him to do – sitting down. There is NO reason for the referee to still be at the penalty box, let alone to be taking an aggressive posture against a player who is complying.

We are taught over and over to make our call and get out of the area. Watson would have been well-served to follow this basic advice.

Third, the finger wag. In addition to obviously raised voices, referee Watson decided to sternly wag his finger at Prust as if Watson were the father of a petulant child. While Prust can sometimes act that way, in no situation is it appropriate for a referee to lecture a player in this manner. Those who are accusing Prust of publicly shaming an official should look here for the beginning of that tale – where Watson publicly shamed a player. This is unacceptable – both ways.

If players and referees have something to say to each other, they should say it, and be done. Once a player has entered the penalty box and is in the process of sitting down, there is no reason for a referee to be standing over him, aggressively, waving his finger and yelling at the player. To do so only invites needless trouble and, in this case, it showed up right on cue.

If Prust is telling the whole truth that he confined his comments to Watson’s penalty call being “soft”, then there is no verbal abuse here. It is completely understandable that a player criticize a referee’s call in a reasonable tone, especially in a heated professional playoff series. The standard has been set, and that behaviour, however unlikely to be the whole truth, would fit neatly within that established standard. If it were the case, the blame would lie entirely with Watson for a grave overreaction.

If, however, Prust used more colourful language to protest the call, then Watson is still wrong to have reacted the way he did. Referees are the highest authority on the ice during a hockey game. They have tools that allow them to keep order in these exact situations, and they do not have to consult with anyone before using them. They are judge and jury. That’s a lot of power. To take a famous quote, though, with great power comes great responsibility: referees must not commit the same sins that their tools allow them to punish. Referees must always hold themselves to a higher standard, in large part due to the fact that the subordinate players they govern do not have the same ability to punish them when they lose control.

If Prust went on with his complaints for too long, used choice words, made his protest too loud or personal, then Watson would be well within his rights to assess more penalties – 2 minutes, 10 minutes, or a game misconduct, according to the rules of the game – the rules Watson is responsible for applying.

Prust accused Watson of “calling him every name in the book”. To that I simply answer, “so what?” This happens all the time. Name calling is, sadly, part of the professional game. I don’t like it, but it is.

The first real problem arises from Prust’s next accusation. If, as Prust asserts, Watson actually threatened to “drive [him] out of the arena” then that’s a big problem. When a referee starts seeing themselves as the person who gets to decide who plays and who doesn’t, they lose sight of their role in the game. I believe that the best referees are the ones who view themselves as guardians of the rules, not as being all-powerful. That, coupled with Watson’s extremely ill-advised decision to openly show up a player he has already penalized, made this situation much more difficult than it was, and than it needed to be.

Watson didn’t maintain the necessary higher standard the referees must hold themselves to. He chose a different path. Watson chose to embarrass a player, and by doing so, he not only crossed a line, but he opened the floodgates. It was his actions at the penalty box that opened the door for the shenanigans that followed. Instead of deescalating a situation on the ice, he was responsible for escalating it. And for what? To send a message? We must always remember that referees and players in these professional leagues are both adults, and both deserve respect.

When players don’t respect referees, there are consequences written into the rules of the game. Referees need only apply these consequences. When referees don’t respect players, there is a much bigger problem. While I don’t like the way Prust decided to seek relief from this problem, I can’t help but understand why he did it that way. People who feel backed into a corner and unfairly treated often lash out in extreme ways.

As a sports official who has thrown out hundreds of players and coaches for unsportsmanlike behaviour and verbal abuse, let me be perfectly clear: there is no place for it in sports. Respect must win the day. But, when it doesn’t, – players and referees are human, after all – referees must make absolutely sure to remain on the high road, use the tools they are given, and keep the situations – and themselves – in control. When we don’t, bad things tend to happen.

Last night, referee Brad Watson either forgot this rule or failed at applying it. Just as it did when Stephane Auger did it (much less demonstrably, I might add), that lapse may end up costing him his job.

As always, I invite your respectful comments below, even if you don’t share my view.

Easy to criticize, harder to lead.

On Saturday morning, within hours of Future Shop announcing its immediate closing of all stores resulting in 1,500 lost jobs, NDP MP Nathan Cullen​ posted a partisan attack on the Conservative government, blaming them for this closure.

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Regardless of the fact that any somewhat-informed person understands that this was a routine business consolidation by a company whose services were needlessly duplicated in 60+ regions of Canada, I can’t help but criticize the NDP for, once again, trying to use a crappy situation for 1,500 into a selfish political gain.

Despite having absolutely ZERO experience managing Canada (the NDP has NEVER, EVER, EVER been in power in Canada, federally), the NDP has loudly and repeatedly called for a $15/hour national minimum wage. If they were to ever get to implement that ridiculous policy, how many more chains will have to close their doors because of the 40%+ immediate rise in their labour costs? How many more jobs will be lost?

It seems that the NDP have gotten comfortable in their opposition role where, under the guise of “holding government accountable” they have learned how to make absurd, unrealistic proposals with one simple purpose – to shame the government. They have no realistic statistics to back up their calls because they know that they don’t need ’em to whine. The only parties who actually need to make responsible proposals are the ones who might one day be called on to implement them.

Right now, for the NDP, a role on the government benches is a pipe dream at best. Instead of showing themselves to be a responsible alternative to the current government, a reasonable government-in-waiting, they continue to play the say-anything-against-the-government card.

I know one thing for sure. Any job lost as a result of a wage increase that large, that spontaneous, will be on the head of the party that introduced it.

It’s easy to be critical when you know that your policies will never see the light of day, eh? It would be so much nicer if people who liked to criticize would actually have a clue and a realistic solution to go along with their complaining. That way, we might actually advance as a nation – together.

It’s a novel concept, but one that is only available by parties who want to work with the government to improve our country, not to those whose sole mission is to blow things out of proportion in an attempt to embarrass the country’s democratically-elected representatives in an effort to increase their chances in the next election. If the NDP would like to be taken seriously this coming October, it is high time that they start acting responsibly – in the interest of all Canadians on all ends of the political spectrum.

When you’re good…

I’ve been sick all winter. It seems beyond the typical case of having a child in daycare bringing germs home. My doctor sent me for blood tests. I went today.

This time, I was called by a man. He was the only male nurse visible in the department. That little voice in my head started talking, a lot. I wanted a woman to take my blood. Women are gentler, women are just better nurses, it said. And I was listening.

For whatever reason, I did not act on its recommendations. Instead, I went to my standard joke when the nurse came back. As I lay down (because of a past fainting episode I haven’t been able to forget) with a smile, I asked: “please be gentle?”

Like I always do, I looked away. This nurse was all business. He was doing what he needed to do and not wasting any time doing it. I continued: “please don’t feel the need to tell me what’s going on, just do what you need to.” I turned ever so slightly to see him smile, and then stared back at the wall.

Then, I felt the most subtle pinch. Virtually nothing. Whatever I felt was markedly less than I have normally felt, maybe even less than ever. Before I could finish my thought, it was over. He put on the cotton, stuck the tape to my arm hair, and said “ok, you’re done.”

As I lay there, just in case, I was overcome with emotion. I had judged him to be not good enough because he was a man, and I was so, so wrong. I’m glad I didn’t end up saying anything, because had I listened to my gut, to my instinct, I would not have realized how mistaken my thought was. I would not have realized how amazing this man was at his job.

Over the last 10 years, I have often said that everything happens for a reason. With one delicately, gently, and well-placed needle, this man taught the very important lesson I was meant to learn today. When you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about you doing it.

Often, we hear women complaining of discrimination in the workplace. Today, I discriminated against a man (albeit silently). I was very, very wrong.

For a wiser 2015

Approaching a new year is a wonderful opportunity to look ahead and actually create what we want that year to look like. I would like my 2015 to be a wiser year. I would like it to be a year of honest self-reflection and positive action.

A past teacher once told me that I have no idea how my community sees and listens to me. I don’t know what they love or hate about me, and I don’t know what I’ve done to them in the past that remains incomplete – unless they tell me. And, many don’t volunteer that information until expressly asked for it.

In that spirit, I am asking.

I am putting out an open call to understand how people see and listen to me now and, where those views aren’t so positive, to get your opinions on what I can do to encourage others to see and listen to me in a more positive light.

So, I ask that you please “leave a reply” below with as much brutal honesty as you can stomach. Please indicate if you would like your comment to remain private (that’s the default) or if you allow me to make it public. You can also feel free to contact me directly by e-mail at markonline3 at hotmail dot com if you would like to share that way.

Thank you in advance for your generosity. I see this as a gift.

Why I am leaving social media

I am leaving all social media for one week, effective immediately.

Lately, I have become present to the extremely negative role that social media has on my view of people in general and more importantly, on my mental health.

Waking up this morning to a myriad of comments celebrating (!!!) the murder of 4 Israeli civilians who were just praying in their synagogue, coupled with the complete lack of even the slightest condemnation from any of my non-Jewish friends on the topic, leaves me empty about the future of humanity.

It saddens me to remember Martin Niemoller’s famous quote in times like this:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We will get the world that we create, and we will deserve that world. And if we only speak out when we have a personal interest, then we should be ready for our society, our morals, and our values, to be taken over by those who have no morals or values at all.

And if you prefer to brush off my fears as irrational or exaggerated, just look at your timeline. It is already happening.

Worse than the silence of not speaking out against this murderous hatred is the fact that global silence from non-Jews is considered tacit support for their hate-filled, destructive tactics. International aide funneled to terrorists who are believed to be among the richest groups in the world, coupled with international condemnation of Israel for simply defending their people’s right to live leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

But it’s true. Iran openly declares, three times in one week, about their desire to destroy the state of Israel and their plan to do it, and the United States sits quietly, working back channels to make a deal with them that would allow them to pursue their destructive nuclear goals.

I see friends who decide to stay out of these issues telling me that it’s not worth it. I believe it is worth it, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Perhaps the majority is right.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

The Jian Ghomeshi saga

I am disturbed by how the public seems to think it’s okay to weigh in on a situation it has next to no unbiased information about.

It bothers me that people are so quick to confuse their beliefs and feelings with the truth, and publicly claim them as such (not only here… eh?).

I am disgusted by how ALL involved feel it necessary to fight these private matters in the court of public opinion, where the rules are much more lax, the standards are much lower, and the “jurors” more easily influenced by feeling than fact.

Good for all of you. Really mature.

We shouldn’t be surprised, though, that all of this is happening on social media. We do, in fact, live in an era where people communicate through smartphones and websites rather than picking up a phone or ringing a doorbell. And when we do get together, we spend most of our time looking at our devices anyway.

And that is why it is even more important than ever to remind people that just reading something on the internet does not make it true.

Let me be perfectly clear, I categorically condemn anyone who abuses another person. I would like nothing more than to see all forms of abuse disappear. Neither you, nor I, know for sure if this is a case of abuse.

While civil society definitely has a role to play in discussing, searching for and creating and then implementing solutions for eliminating abuse between people, we should not pretend that this case is any of our business.

It would be entirely disingenuous for anyone to suddenly take an interest in the cause of domestic abuse or abusive relationships because of this case, as the only reason we are hearing about it is because Jian Ghomeshi is a public figure. To make Jian Ghomeshi the scapegoat for our anger about abusive relationships would be completely irresponsible given that this story doesn’t hold a candle to the real, damaging, abuse that so many others face on a daily basis that doesn’t get the press it deserves.

Toronto Police Chief (and spotlight stealer extraordinaire) Bill Blair has publicly requested that victims of abuse step forward. Isn’t involving the police a very personal, private decision? (One of Ghomeshi’s accusers provided today a very rational explanation for why she didn’t.) And if Chief Blair is so interested in helping, why has he been so silent up until now? What about all of the unreported abuse at the hands of regular joes who don’t live in the public eye? What is the end game here?

To those standing up for Jian, please remember that there are many reasons why he would release the statement that he did the other day, and not all of them are honourable. A little common sense and critical analysis goes a long way.

To those taking the side of (a growing number of) the women involved, does it not seem odd to you that while you stand up for “Lucy”, you are stepping on Jian? (I am NOT defending him, I am just pointing out the hypocrisy in defending an alleged victim by creating a real one – with absolutely no proof.)

Again, I do not know anything about what happened between Jian and these women, and I am positive that the stories we are hearing (from both “sides”) are not the complete truth. These kinds of statements allow those involved the opportunity to say what they want us to hear, in the way they want us to hear it. In many cases, much time has passed, and many psychological studies suggest strong proof that, in time, we remember stories the way we wished they happened rather than how they actually did. Could that be happening here? Absolutely. From both sides.

Last I checked, we lived in a society that valued being innocent until proven guilty. And our opinions on Jian’s innocence or guilt, or on the credibility of the women involved, doesn’t make him innocent or guilty, nor do they make the women credible or not.

We are spectators watching a game that should not even be played in the stadium we are sitting in. Our comments on what we are seeing add nothing to the game. Worse, they might even be proving our collective lack of real commitment to ending it.

Down (but not out) at 25,000 feet

Just after midnight on Thursday, I posted a message that only began to explain my mood:


Little did I know at the time that my Thursday would be a lot more eventful than expected and that I would be running more than one race.

I organize team building events in the format of the TV show The Amazing Race. All of our events are custom designed and personalized. Every race is unique. The finished product is the result of countless hours of work including much logistical planning. The process for designing a race begins weeks before its execution.

When I left my house at 8am for Trudeau airport in Montreal on Thursday morning with a bag of materials and clues for a 3pm race in Toronto, I was excited but very calm. Visibility was poor around Toronto’s City airport but I had time. I knew that my 9:30am flight could be delayed up to 2 full hours and I would still arrive with enough time to set up and get the race going.

At the airport, I learned that the 8:30am flight had not yet left, and along with the 9:30am flight, we were waiting for the fog to lift in Toronto before departing. My previous experience was this this was a morning phenomenon and I was confident that we would leave well before 11:30am. The pilot of the flight, along with the Montreal ground crew, were watching a camera perched at the Toronto airport and were encouraged by what they saw. Obviously, their optimism encouraged me.

I got off on next flight out, just before 10am. I knew my schedule would be tight, but that I had time. In the air, all felt perfectly normal, until the captain took to the PA system and explained that the weather conditions had worsened since we took off and that, though we were approaching Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, that we would have to “hold up here for a while”. When he said he would update us “every 10 minutes”, we all got the sense that this wouldn’t be a short wait.

10, 20, 30 minutes passed. The captain made an attempt to land. We were at the height of the Rogers Center and part way up the CN Tower. We saw they were virtually engulfed in dark fog. The captain pulled the plane back up.

I was still calm. A few passengers started talking about how we would rather land safely and be late than risk a landing with poor visibility.

10, 20 more minutes passed. The captain then explained that we are going to try again from the other side. We made an approach that allowed me to just barely see the edge of the runway from my seat in row 9. And then we were pulled back up again.

At this point, I am slightly on edge. I reassure myself with the knowledge that we were so close. 300 meters to be precise, confirmed by a handheld GPS and ultimately by the co-pilot later on.  The passengers around me start discussing theories of what might come next. Generally, we are confident this is all coming to an end soon, but the word “Pearson” (as in the airport) has entered the conversation.

5-10 minutes later, and the captain takes the mic again. We are all expecting him to say we’re trying again. I wonder if a “third time’s the charm” comment is forthcoming.

Instead, he says this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. As you’ve noticed, we have tried twice to land at Toronto City airport, but the fog is not permitting a safe landing… We will be proceeding to our alternate… (Pause)”

He paused long enough for everyone in the middle of the plane to either mouth, or say aloud, “Pearson.”

Then he continued. “Our alternate is Montreal. Arrival time in Montreal is…”

A collective, audible gasp could be heard. I am confident that what came out of my mouth was a hushed “no!” though the voice inside my head screamed something that sounded more like “no <censored> way!”

I looked around for a flight attendant, probably to get a visual confirmation that the captain said what I thought (feared) he said. Emily and Kathleen,  I quickly learned their names, were being bombarded with questions. We could not believe our ears.

Now headed east, an intense feeling of resignation came over me. I started to rehash and question my decisions. Should I have flown the night before at this time of year? Could I have foreseen such a crazy delay? Did I do everything I needed to do to put myself in a position for success on this race? I was upset but I was taking it out on myself. I wanted to punch a seat. I joked with the flight attendants who asked me not to. I obliged.

Standing at the back of the plane, trapped without communication at 25,000 feet, I felt helpless. I tried to ignore that I would need to explain this to my client by getting into a conversation with the flight attendants. They were in good spirits. My inner voice explained their calmness as being “on the clock” and that they wouldn’t have to deal with the same consequences I would. I started to try to justify my bad mood.

And then, my feeling of helplessness bothered me more than the circumstances I found myself in. I became defiant. I looked at the flight attendants and said: “forget this! I’m going to make this work!” (Ummm..  the f-word I used wasn’t “forget”.)

I went back to my seat and pulled out my laptop and started preparing emails with the clues and instructions for my staff on the ground in Toronto. The clues would need to be reprinted and materials would need to be delivered, but I certainly wasn’t going to accomplish anything useful by brooding or feeling sorry for myself.

As soon as we landed, I took the front seat of the plane, connected to the airport’s Wi-Fi and sent the e-mails. I called my awesome staff and race partners and explained what they needed to do to make this work. We were on the ground for about 35 minutes, and I used every single one of them to be in productive communication. I was committed to making this work regardless of the circumstances.

I called my client (interrupting his presentation at his company meeting), explained the situation and reiterated my commitment to making this work. We agreed to postpone the race start by an hour. Bolstered by his flexibility and generous understanding, I got right back to making the necessary adjustments.

By the time we were up in the air again, this time with a very confident confirmation from the pilot that we would not be back in Montreal, I was cautiously optimistic. This was a freaky, unexpected situation that forced me to let go of the reins, relinquish control, and put my trust and faith in my partners. Though I absolutely love what I do for a living, I have had a lot of trouble doing this in the past. This company is my proverbial “baby” and I have been meticulous about making sure that nothing bad happens to it.

In this situation, it was absolutely clear that if we were to see success in this event, I would need to lean on others rather than do it all on my own. There was only so much I could do over the next 55 minutes in the sky and I did all of it, just in case. Ultimately, though, it was my staff and partners who came through and made this race happen.

I could not be more grateful for their listening, partnership, and can-do attitude. Thank you to Lee, Willard, Debby, and Frances for helping turn a very unfortunate situation into a wonderful learning experience. Through Amazing Race Canada, I have designed engaging challenges to teach effective problem solving skills, but this one was more challenging than any I have dreamed up.

I was recently told that “attitude is altitude”. Looking back, I will not soon forget how a change of attitude at an altitude of 25,000 feet changed the course of this fateful day. Sure, our circumstances have an effect on our lives, but having (and keeping) a positive attitude can overcome some of the most challenging situations we might encounter.

Ron MacLean, French referees, and public outrage

First of all, GO HABS GO! Great series, boys!

If you’re a fan like me, you watched games 1-4 attentively, with excitement. You would have seen a young French referee in Game 3 named Francis Charron make a very gutsy call to disallow a Tampa Bay goal. You would have seen the shock that followed from the Tampa bench. You would have expected, from experience, that the fact that this referee and the Montreal coach and GM spoke the same first language would be brought up. Sadly.

You’d have been right.

Then, in Game 4, another French referee, Francois St. Laurent, is involved in another goalmouth decision. This time, he decides in favour of Tampa Bay. Phew. Crisis averted, right?


At the intermission, CBC’s Ron MacLean opines that the NHL should not have assigned a French referee to this game, given what happened in the last game.

Okay. Interesting.

Then, within hours, outrage from people in various parts of the country at this comment.

The Montreal Gazette, in its typical habit of promoting controversy to sell “papers”, publishes a letter to the editor written at lightning-fast speed (so fast he didn’t even care to check facts or understand context) by Calgary native Kevin O’Connor, who criticizes, well, everyone at the CBC, saying this:

Ron MacLean’s comments regarding the inappropriate use of French referees in the Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay game was insulting to all Canadians who respect diversity and who live in a country that claims this as a value.

To think our so-called national broadcaster allows such divisive rhetoric is deplorable and just reinforces the fact that the CBC should have its funding cut (even though I do not support the political reasons the government uses to justify its cuts).

The CBC should be ashamed of itself! I know my family and I are.

I would love to have someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?”


Once again, shame on the CBC. Hopefully Rogers will provide a more balanced coverage and keep divisive ignorant behaviour to a minimum.

A soon to be RDS customer …

Kevin O’Connor, Calgary

Since he asks so nicely for someone to provide an explanation to his 6-year old son, and since I love to help, here’s one I wrote just for him. I invite him to share this with his young child.

To Kevin O’Connor, outraged Habs fan:

As a proud Habs fan myself, I watched last night’s Game 4 with interest and excitement, and heard the comment that Ron MacLean made about French referees during the intermission.

As a parent, aware of my child being a proverbial “sponge”, soaking in comments from all around, and her being very inquisitive, I am sensitive to your call for “someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?””

Since I doubt that the CBC would take the time to provide such an answer to you, please accept mine.

First, I would tell your son that Mr. MacLean did not actually say they should not have French referees. I would tell him that it is important to listen carefully before criticizing. What Mr. MacLean actually said was that he doesn’t think the league should have assigned a French referee for Game 4, the game following one where a French referee made a marginal call in favour of the Habs that had a huge impact on the game.

You could use this opportunity to teach your son the meaning of the term “unfortunate coincidence” given that you must, like all reasonable people, understand that professional hockey referees do not stand to gain anything by calling a game in favour of one team or the other.

You could further teach your son that whether we like it or not, people will judge. They won’t take the time to understand the context of the thing they are complaining about, to get the full story, or even make sure that the story they tell is true. They will judge anyway.

Oh, wait. You did teach your son that. You proved to him that his own father is the worst example of that, by writing this letter.

Now that you have received my explanation, Mr. O’Connor, I would ask you to provide me with an explanation of why you are so outraged by MacLean’s so-called generalization of “French referees” (that you have wildly misinterpreted, by the way) while finding it completely acceptable to generalize MacLean’s personal comment to be representative of the entire CBC. I actually read what you wrote (“The CBC should be ashamed of itself!) and again later (Once again, shame on the CBC!) before criticizing. Why should an entire network be ashamed because of a singular comment made by one person during a live broadcast?

Finally, you could teach your son that people make mistakes, and that the honourable ones take responsibility and apologize, just like Ron MacLean did. The sad part, here, is that you criticized so quickly that you didn’t give him the time to teach your son the most important lesson of all – that when you do wrong, or might have, to ultimately do what is right.

Mark (Unleashed)

Good riddance, ex-Premier Marois

I understand that politically correct offers of thanks to outgoing Premier Pauline Marois for her “service” to Quebec will happen. Still, I am confused when I hear them, given that Marois’ version of “service” was to divide Quebecers, sow hatred, and create space for people to “not be afraid to be intolerant” (her words).

However, reading Gazette columnist Jillian Page’s “appreciation” is simply shocking. To attempt to credit Marois for “putting herself in the line of fire,” literally, is to re-write what happened on the night of the 2012 election and what led up to it.

Let me be clear: I am not condoning shooting people one doesn’t agree with. We should not be surprised, however, that when someone runs a campaign meant on creating animosity between people and exploiting cultural and religious differences, and for what – personal, political gain – that someone would resort to extreme measures to stop it.

While die-hard Pequistes will claim that Premier Marois dedicated herself to Quebec, Monday night’s result shows clearly that most Quebecers understand that Marois’ only service was to her own narrow self-interest, at the expense of everyone who did not think like her or want what she wants. Rather than congratulate her, let us get right to the difficult work of building the bridges she destroyed and undoing the vast damage she caused to our communities and to our province.

Celebrity with a Deadly Past

As we approach the Paralympics, I find myself conflicted.

I witnessed much of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games first hand as an employee of the the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and can attest to the remarkable nature of and perseverance shown by these athletes in overcoming their physical limitations in order to excel in sport, and for some, in life.

That being said, some of the disabilities are not as unexpected as others. This story talks about how former Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey player Herve Lord admitted that on the night he lost his right leg in a car accident, he was driving drunk. The accident killed 2 parents and left 2 kids orphaned.

At the end of the video, this reporter calls Lord “an incredible guy” who has “been through an awful lot”.

  • Do you think he is incredible?
  • Does “being through an awful lot” count for as much when the hardship is of your own irresponsible causing?
  • Does someone like this deserve to be celebrated (in a report, as a representative of a country, in a session with the country’s leader) after what he did?
  • Does the fact that he served 16 months in prison make up for killing 2 people and leaving 2 others without their parents, AND allow him to live a normal life within his new context, an opportunity not afforded at all to the two he killed?
  • Does his remorse affect your opinion at all? How?

I am having a hard time forgiving this action and justifying cheering this guy on. Thankfully, he’s no longer part of the team, so I will be excitedly cheering on Canada these Paralympics in hopes of Triple Hockey Gold in Sochi. But I would love your opinions on how this guy’s past actions affect how you see him, and people like him, today.

Let’s build bridges in Quebec

The identity and Charter of Values debates in Quebec have definitely increased tensions on both sides of this province’s linguistic divide. Personally, I am sad and angry at this state of affairs. I am scared for the future of this province. The separation debate is one thing, but trying to win an election by instilling fear of your neighbours is much, much worse. 

Much of the support for these divisive policies seems to be coming from Quebec’s “regions”. Areas outside of the big cities where the population is very homogeneous. They don’t see Muslims very often. Most of them don’t have Muslim friends, and I dare say that many might never have even met one. 

It seems that there are 2 plausible explanations for the 40%+ support of these  policies. 1) that the people who support them are truly hateful, or 2) that they are scared, insecure, fearful of what they don’t know or have much experience with. I fear that it could be #1, but I hope with all of my heart that it is #2. 

One friend told me that he is disappointed that through all of the complaining about these laws, we are seeing very few solutions being proposed. He’s absolutely right. I would like to propose a solution, one that I need your help in making happen. 

Let’s build bridges in Quebec. 

The media hasn’t been effective in getting people to see other viewpoints. Harmony doesn’t sell newspapers and ad space; conflict does. Sensationalism does. And I certainly don’t trust this government to help. It is in the PQ’s interest to sow division, fear, and discontent in its base. 

So what can we do? 

We need to go straight to them. We need to travel to where they are. We need these people to meet real live anglophones, real live allophones, real live Muslims, face to face.

We need to create a direct dialogue to show them what we contribute to Quebec and to make it patently clear that, contrary to what the PQ will have them believe, we are partners, not enemies. 

We need to organize town hall type meetings where we can pass along a positive, unfiltered message. Where everyone can learn about the other in a way that isn’t biased by government propaganda or media hype. 

We have a problem, and direct dialogue is the only way that has a chance to solve it. 

We need to do this now. Yesterday, in fact.

I don’t personally have the resources to make this happen, but many interested Quebecers do. If you believe that this plan might make a difference, please share this post on your social networks in hopes that the right people will hear about it and help make it a reality.

Thank you.

Gold Medal Olympic Breakfast

WOOHOO!!! Congratulations to the Canadian men’s hockey team (and the women, and men’s curling, and women’s curling, and… ) on their incredible GOLD MEDAL performances!

I am not a fan of waking up before 7am, but if I am going to do it, it’s going to be for a good reason (Canadian Olympic hockey GOLD!) and I am going to have a great breakfast. Here’s what I made and served this morning:

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

All you need:

For the Olympic rings: bagels (Montreal bagels, the best in the world), cream cheese, red, blue, green, and yellow food colouring (mix red, green and blue to make the “black” for the middle ring),

For the gold medal: scrambled eggs and bacon (ran out just before 11pm last night for this ingredient)

Cut steak into the shape of a maple leaf for a Canadian finish.

Deliciously GOLDEN!

Congratulations to all of Canada’s athletes. So proud of how you represented us on the world stage!

See you in Pyeongchang in 2018!

2014 Super Bowl Commercials

Thank you for visiting Mark Unleashed, a blog dedicated to truly speaking freely, even when the opinion is not common or mainstream, and personal development.

Please check out some of my posts by clicking on the links to the right and subscribe to receive future posts right in your inbox. Thank you!

If you’re like me, the day after the Super Bowl is a day to check out all the commercials that you missed during the big game. Or, in Canada, all of the commercials that our immature national TV regulator prevented us from seeing in a bid to promote Canadian content. Here’s a link to simplify your search for all of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials. Thanks to Mashable for simplifying my search this year. Enjoy!

Which commercials did you like best? Post in the comments below!

Love, Mark

The case of Richard Sherman

In honour of the Super Bowl this Sunday, a football post!

If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably heard of Richard Sherman. Yup, he’s the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who made a phenomenal last-minute play to seal the Seahawks’ berth into the Super Bowl. And then, when reporter Erin Andrews asked him a simple question, he’s the guy that went, well, psycho.

Now I’m not a fan of the standard pre-, mid-, and post-game interview that we all have heard thousands of times, where a player rattles off tame clichés to keep everyone calm and avoid giving the opponent any ammunition or fire for the game. I feel like I waste precious moments of my life when I hear interview answers like: “they’re an excellent team”, “they’ve got some talented guys there” and “we’re going to have to play for a full 60 minutes to come away with this one” when we all know that in their locker room, among themselves, they were talking the height of smack.

So on one hand, it’s refreshing to hear, as Andrews herself called it, Sherman’s “raw emotion.” It puts some reality back into the boring sports interview. But,  in proclaiming his superiority and his opponent’s “sorry-ness”, he crossed a line between professional and, well, childish.

It has been widely reported that Sherman and Michael Crabtree (the intended receiver on that final play and target of Sherman’s outburst) have an acrimonious history believed to be from an interaction at a charity event. It is easy to believe that this fun fact played a role in Sherman’s behaviour. Sherman claims that his outburst was about his opponent’s incompetence meeting his superiority. I believe that this was personal.

In response to people bad-mouthing Richard Sherman with names like “thug”, his supporters are quick to point out how he came from the projects and excelled academically, graduating top of his class from Stanford, and that he’s very involved in his community.

On the other hand, in judging a person, I am compelled to consider the whole person. Richard Sherman is also someone who has brashly and unapologetically  gone off on and make personal attacks against sports writers who dispute his “I’m the best” rants. Frankly, when someone or something is truly “the best”, they don’t need to say it – or scream it – especially not like a deranged psychopath.

There’s no disputing that, in terms of his academic achievement, he’s a model worth emulating. In terms of his behaviour with people who disagree with him though, he’s classless, arrogant, and ignorant. And for that, I can’t respect him – no matter what his GPA was.

Richard Sherman was nice and honourable when nobody was watching – which is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. But now that people are watching, and given that he has demonstrated his ability to be selfless (community service) and a good role model (excellent student), NOW IS THE TIME to really be those things and make a difference. Seems to me like his success has made him feel entitled to forget all the great things he’s done and been, like his celebrity offers him some sort of tacit permission. I don’t agree that it does. In fact, his celebrity amplifies the attention that he gets and thus, the possible impact that his actions can have on impressionable people who watch him.

Richard Sherman needs to decide whether he wants to be emulated for his commendable off-field service, drive, and commitment to education, or whether he wants to be the poster boy for vindictiveness, personal attacks, and petulant resistance to criticism.

Richard, you can be intense without sacrificing your dignity. You’re at the beginning of your career. You are obviously busy preparing for the big game, but starting Monday, you might want to give this some careful consideration.

And on the topic of sports writers criticizing you, consider the case of the much-maligned Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman and Norris-trophy winner P.K. Subban, who plays in probably the most demanding hockey market in the world. He has been the subject of a tremendous amount of criticism, especially in commentary leading up to the selection of the Canadian Olympic hockey team. After he was selected, he was asked whether he believes his selection would silence his detractors. His response: “I hope not because they’re the people that make me better, so I hope they keep critiquing and finding things to talk about.”

There you have it: proof that passion and intensity can exist with class and intelligence. And that, we can all respect.

The Plausibility Test

People often tell me that I have an opinion about everything. While I wouldn’t go *that* far, it is hard to deny that I have a lot of opinions on various topics and am not afraid to share them. This is, after all, the basic premise for Mark Unleashed.

Following up on that question, I sometimes get asked how I know enough about all of these topics to have an opinion on them. The truth is that while there are topics that I am very knowledgeable about, mostly, I know a little bit about a lot of things.

I don’t know why I am this way. It might be a protection mechanism, self-defense, or it might arise from how I hate the feeling of being taken advantage of. I was always told that knowledge is power, and while it is not the end-all and be-all, it has taken me a long way.

Thankfully, in the last few years I have accepted that I have a lot left to learn. But, since life happens even though we don’t know all we need to know, I have devised a test that I think gets me off on the right foot in virtually every situation, regardless of my imperfect knowledge. I call it “The Plausibility Test” and its application is uber-simple. When someone shares an opinion, makes a comment, tries to convince me of something or sell me something, I start by asking myself: “is this plausible?”

I’ve mentioned this to people over the years, and there is sometimes a confusion between possibility and plausibility. I believe that anything is possible. Perhaps no one is travelling through time at this moment, but I believe that it is possible. In the absence of proof that something is not possible, I am inspired by the belief that it is.

So what is plausibility? Above all, it is subjective. What is plausible to you depends on your knowledge, experience, and perspective. It is therefore important to be present to all three of these factors. Consider that something is plausible to you if you can conceive of its existence or occurrence, based on what you know, have learned, or believe to be true.

Okay, okay, how about a concrete example. A friend, shocked, shares a post on facebook about a situation in a Montreal-area hospital from just over a week ago. He wants your reaction. You start reading:

A couple enters a local emergency room. The triage nurse asks the patient a question. The patient’s husband replies that she doesn’t understand and asks if the nurse can speak to his wife in English. The nurse, incensed, leaps up and screams at him (in French): “THIS IS QUEBEC! SPEAK FRENCH!”

You ask yourself: “is this plausible?” I harness my inner Mathnet detective and ask: “What do I know?” (For those who’ve never watched Square One TV and have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.”)

So, I know that Quebec is full of people who are fiercely defensive of their native language. I know that there’s a law in Quebec that requires French words to be twice the size of words in other languages on store signage (and even inspectors with rulers who don’t like the word pasta enforcing the law) and that currently, tensions are high in the province as the governing party is proposing a law that is dividing the population along linguistic lines and fostering hatred between people of different religions.

So, is this plausible? Yes. It is.

If this story had been set elsewhere, literally anywhere else in the Western world, I can’t see it being plausible to me. It is such a ridiculous story that it can’t possibly be true. But, given what I know about the situation in Quebec, it sadly makes sense.

In a nutshell, something that is plausible makes sense, at least to you.

The key to benefiting from the plausibility test is questioning that which you deem implausible and, not stopping the questioning until you have solved the test of plausibility. The test is solved when you gather information that suggests that the story is, in fact, plausible, or that you can’t.

It is important to remember that even if something is plausible, it might still be false. But, if you do not determine that it is plausible, then you must continue questioning to either satisfy that test or dismiss it outright. Accepting an implausible story is illogical.

Plausibility always comes before acceptance. 

The best part about using the plausibility test (and doing the work required by it) is that the less you know, the less you will see as plausible. As a result, you will research more, and can learn more.

The plausibility test is useful in all kinds of situations. From differentiating between honest and biased news stories in the media (and social media), to making sure that we don’t get suckered into marketing hype and buying snake oil-type products or avoid getting taken advantage of by so-called “experts” (construction contractors and mechanics come to mind), the plausibility test is an excellent tool to help us become informed, responsible, and empowered citizens in a society that is becoming more manipulative, complex, and intimidating by the hour.

So don’t just take my word on this test or the benefits that are possible with it; ask yourself: “are they plausible?”