Put your lawn to pasture

Put your lawn to pasture

I spent most of the week in Vancouver and Surrey. If anyone I personally spawned asks you why I was there, please tell them it was to support my eldest (number 23 above) who was playing for the Saskatchewan team (Go Wheaties!) at the national ultimate championships. But really, I was there to meet great people and sweat profusely in my non-AC-endowed Vrbo during a very nasty heat wave. Part of my brain is permanently melted. 

I also discovered that Surrey does a great job of allowing gentle density on beautiful leafy residential streets in ways that don’t at all feel crowded, and I am working on a longer piece about just that.

My Ottawa Citizen column is, perhaps predictably, on grass, arguably the 20th century’s stupidest idea. In the Greater Vancouver area droughts are forcing municipalities to ban or severely limit watering lawns and a handful of them have decided to be creative and fun by running ugly lawn contests where the deadest, brownest patch of dried-out blades see their owner receive gift cards and other goodies. 

It’s a lovely, positive take on a problem that has plagued us for decades. Personally I’d be much harsher than that, and that may be related to why I don’t have very many friends. The only people who like me aren’t into comfort zones either. But we do love one another fiercely so there is that. 

Continuing on our summer series featuring awesome Ottawans we have this week a Q&A with retired businessman and well-known philanthropist Richard L’Abbé. Question for you: How many times do you feel you might be comfortable with being on the wrong side of an explosion? I’ll bet you his number is higher than yours. 

All this tournamenting, brewery-touring and red-eye-flying didn’t give me much time or energy to write more (no fascinating legal articles on retroactive tax from me this week), except for this piece about the business of writing morning pages when you’ve somehow packed only one pen for four days and both the Emergency Backup Pen and the Secondary Emergency Backup Pen fail. Fair warning: What happens after the Secondary Emergency Backup Pen could haunt your nightmares for decades to come. Never let anyone tell you artists don’t live dangerously.

Politics and the language of conspiracy which somehow includes news headlines

OK, so first of all, this is a fantastic piece. 

Duane Bratt, political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said some people have long embraced conspiracies, but now they have moved into mainstream politics.

“The big shift that we have seen is that it is now being promoted by someone who could be prime minister,” said Bratt.


“The question is does he really believe it or is he just pandering to people, and will he pivot again if he becomes prime minister,” Bratt said.

Kawser Ahmed, a politics professor at the University of Winnipeg with a research specialty in conspiracy theories, said the number and uptake of conspiracy theories began to grow after the 2016 presidential election in the United States, aided by social media and encrypted messaging apps.

But Ahmed said the biggest trigger was the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At that time, whatever decisions government took, it was explained to some corner of our citizens — in line with conspiracy theories — that the government is controlling you, the government has asked to give you a vaccine, the government has asked not to go out and so forth,” said Ahmed.

It’s a sentiment politicians have learned to pick up on, and Bratt believes that many people aren’t willing to reject a politician just because they peddle false claims or conspiracies.

Perhaps sensing they’d been busted, Conservative MPs went full-on idiotic telling everyone there is collusion organized by Canadian Press to demolish Dear Leader which, given the article in question, upends the entire concept of irony. Their evidence? The story ran in various outlets with the exact same headline! 

Here’s the thing, for those of you blessed with being unfamiliar with how news stories get written, edited and published. That’s exactly how Canadian Press works! When CP puts a story on the wire for its member organizations to use, it does so with a suggested headline. Which is often quite good because CP headline writers are boss. But news organizations can use a different headline if they need or want to, for instance if the space they have for it in the dead-tree version of their newspaper is small. Often CP stories run exactly the same way in all the outlets that decide to use them. 

Maybe you didn’t know that. But I assure you politicians do know it. They’re just choosing to ignore it because they think you’ll be moronic enough to get outraged into sending them yet another $5. 

I’ll tell you one more secret about journalists: We can’t even collude pub night without 15 rounds of reply-all emails and then only half the people show up. We are nowhere near organized enough for conspiracies, which honestly sound like way too much work for so little reward. 

Over in Quebec the energy minister is saying we need to get drastically fewer cars on our roads. Not the environment minister. The energy minister. I am suitably impressed. 


reminder that Afghanistan still needs our help and attention, two years after the return of the Taliban. If you’re keen to read more about Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, I recently interviewed one of the founders of the Ottawa chapter, Najia Haneefi

Political violence in the United States is getting worse and personal. That’s a very dangerous and toxic mix. No wonder we’re reportedly mulling options for how to deal with this… (Si vous comprenez bien le français, l’original est disponible ici.) 

Local news

The LRT is still fucked. Capital Pride is asking — totally justifiably — for some funds to make sure advocates are safe from the violent assholes who want them to not exist. And it just won’t stop raining. Have yourselves a lovely weekend anyway.