An important event this year

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DIspatches form the 148
by Fred Ryan


DIspatches form the 148
by Fred Ryan

The Journal is announcing the winners of the 2013 Pontiac Readers’ Choice Awards with a special supplement in this edition. For the Readers’ Choice Awards, residents from the Upper Pontiac to the Municipality of Pontiac voted for their favourite restaurants, shops, services, places, and events. Votes came from virtually every municipality and town, and the organizers, as well as most of our businesses and services, are expecting an even stronger turnout for the 2014 balloting.
This may appear a strange topic for a newspaper column, especially during municipal elections, the debate over the Charter of Values, floundering governments in both Quebec City and federal Ottawa, the American government’s shut-down, events in Syria and Iran, and a hundred other controversial subjects, but it isn’t. These Readers’ Choices are not merely an advertising event, nor an opportunity for this newspaper to toot its own horn. These awards and the voting are important events in their own right within our community because they affect so many people and enterprises.
These awards are widespread. Vancouver just tallied its own – yielding 60-plus pages of announcements, analysis, and, yes, congratulations. Our sister paper, the Bulletin d’Aylmer, has just launched the balloting for the second time within Aylmer. Other cities have had similar success, which tells us that both the population appreciates the opportunity to evaluate and praise their local businesses, and that this also offers those businesses a moment in the public spotlight for their contributions to our quality of life and our economic survival.
These awards are a way for us to support local businesses, businesspeople, professionals, their employees and volunteers. Our votes show we’re loyal to the people who serve us. This elicits a positive reaction from the business community, resulting in more services, more variety, and more quality in all parts of our lives.
The huge list of categories shows us in a very tangible way the variety of shops, services and events that are available across the Pontiac. Few of us are aware of them all. We learn from this process. The old impulse to drive across the river to shop is long out of date – and not always the best choice.
Furthermore, the wide discussion of businesses surrounding these votes and awards helps stimulate new investments and new ventures; it opens opportunities. This is hard data, real information, not only for shoppers but also for investors and certainly for municipal planners.
This voting is also fun. It’s a break from heavy and gloomy news reports. It’s a party, celebrating important elements and members of our community. These are who create jobs, including summer jobs for our kids, who pay taxes for our infrastructure and government services and who donate to our teams, fund-raisers, and community campaigns.
Certainly, the Readers Choice awards are an important event in our community, and everyone is encouraged to go to the section in this edition, which lists the winners and finalists. You will be pleasantly surprised! And I urge every reader to note the categories, and then vote online or with a ballot for 2014. Yes, voting in the municipal elections is much more important, but we citizens also have a duty to assist in community-building. There’s little we can do about the Middle East, no matter how riveting hot spots happen to be – at the moment. We can influence our own community in many ways, and this is one clear, quick and easy method to do so.  Be a part of your Pontiac. Put on your thinking cap, and get ready to vote again!

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Where is Canada’s voice at the UN?

The 68th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations opened on September 17, 2013. With 193 members, this is the largest gathering of countries on our planet. It represents humanity’s best hopes and mechanisms for a more peaceful and prosperous world. The importance of the United Nations General Assembly is recognized by most of the countries of the world. Many countries, including the United States of America, have sent their head of government to address this assembly; but not Canada. Despite many opportunities, the Harper government has chosen to forgo addressing the assembly, especially when, in fact, Mr. Harper was in New York to specifically meet some of the heads of state present for the opening of the new session of the Assembly.
It is another indication that the Harper government wants to ignore Canada’s traditional role in international affairs. This represents a complete reversal of Canada’s usual support for the United Nations. Since its founding, in 1945, all Canadian governments, regardless of the political party in power, have given complete support to the United Nations and its agencies. Two examples will illustrate this. At its founding, a Canadian, John Humphrey established the Human Rights Division of the UN Secretariat and drafted the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. In 1957, a Canadian, Lester Pearson, proposed the first UN peacekeeping force to solve the Suez crises.
Our current government ignores Canada’s past participation in the United Nations and minimizes the United Nations central role in providing a stabilizing force in world affairs. The Harper Government continues to withdraw from a number of UN sponsored initiatives. Canada’s reputation at the United Nations has fallen so low that, in 2010, Canada failed in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. Nor has recent comments by John Baird, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, helped improve Canada’s image at the United Nations.
In 2003, the rock star and poverty campaigner, Bono, stated that the world needs more Canadas.  That was a reflection of Canada’s standing before Harper became prime minister. Today, Canada’s voice is not heard on most international and UN sponsored bodies. Harper has insured that Canada has nothing to contribute to international efforts to create a better world. Canada is considered a “dead-beat” nation in many international sources.   
To date, Harper’s foreign policy has been driven by attempts at trade deals where Canada’s natural resources, especially mining, oil and gas, would play a central role. Other foreign issues, such as aid to developing countries, climate change, and desertification have been pushed aside. Unfortunately, these are not the pressing issues on the international stage and Canada is quickly becoming irrelevant on the significant international issues.