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About "Dan Brown"

I do a bit of everything for The Free Press. I edit copy, write columns, report, and blog on I've been with the paper — which I delivered as a kid growing up in Poplar Hill — since 2005. My main passions are pop culture and local personalities, and I also do a weekly column about graphic novels. Like what you read? Got a beef? Send me an e-mail at or tweet me at @DanatLFPress. I look forward to hearing from you!

It’s time to un-fix Canada’s election dates

- January 22nd, 2015

There’s been much speculation of late about when Canadians will next cast their federal ballots, with some pundits predicting that Prime Minster Stephen Harper may opt for a spring election.

This is supremely strange because, according to legislation passed by Harper’s own Conservatives, we’re supposed to know exactly when the next federal vote will take place – Oct. 19.

Canada has fixed election dates, doesn’t it? Sure.

Well, not really. Not like the United States does.

The truth of the matter is that the legislation – at both the federal and provincial level – has been ignored more than it’s been observed.

In theory, having fixed election dates was supposed to eliminate the political advantage the governing party in our parliamentary democracy has to dissolve the legislature when it chooses, sending politicians out on the campaign trail and voters to the polls.

That was the theory. In the real world, it hasn’t worked out that way. Prime ministers and premiers from coast to coast still pretty much call elections when they see fit.

So it’s time to do away with this charade.

What we know for sure is that politics in this country is pretty much the same as it was before this experiment in Americanization was launched.

If we had real fixed-date elections, there wouldn’t be any rumblings about Harper pulling the plug on the House of Commons early. If we had real fixed-date elections, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wouldn’t have been able to call a snap election last year.

The truth is that the legislation is toothless. There’s no penalty for not following it.

In fact, there’s a very strong argument to be made that our traditional mechanism for setting election dates – letting the leader of the governing party choose the timing as he or she sees fit – allows for a much stiffer penalty: banishment to the political hinterland.

Readers with long memories will recall how, long before the fixing of election dates became fashionable, former Ontario premier David Peterson called a snap election in 1990, not even three years into the Liberal mandate.

The thinking was that Peterson knew the economy was about to go into the tank, and he wanted to renew his hold on the legislature before the coming recession hit. What happened next was that Ontario voters punished him for the cynical ploy by tossing the Liberals out in favour of Bob Rae’s New Democrats.

Peterson and the provincial Grits paid a very real price for inflicting an unwanted election on the province’s voters.

I think we can all agree that having fixed election dates was an interesting experiment, but it’s been a failure.

Speaking as someone who has an affection for the quirks of the Canadian parliamentary system, I don’t want an American style of government. What works for our neighbours to the south obviously isn’t working for us, as the last few years demonstrate.

When a law gets broken regularly by the same people who brought it in, it’s time for another solution.

Let’s do something truly conservative and turn back the clock, so we don’t have to pretend anymore that this legislation means something. It doesn’t.

All it has done is provide more proof to the public that politicians from all sides of the ideological spectrum are equally opportunistic.

Don’t fire the coach, fire the fans

- January 15th, 2015

The Toronto Maple Leafs can sack their coach. They can make a few strategic trades. Heck, they can even change the colours of the team’s uniform.

All of it is nibbling around the edges. None of it will make any difference.

The heart of the matter is that head coach Randy Carlyle was not the problem.

What the Leafs should be doing is firing their fans, not their coach.

The issue? Leafs fans are way too loyal.

The fans have supported this hockey club through thick and thin, which makes them the true obstacle standing in the way of the team’s progress.

They need more fair-weather fans, not fewer. They need supporters who are not blindly loyal, who will desert the team when the going gets rough.

For decades, the Leafs have had fans who are the envy of every professional sports franchise in North America. You won’t find that many staunch supporters in any other city.

And what has Leafs Nation been given in return?

Certainly not a Stanley Cup championship, which is every NHL fan’s dream.

I’m 46 years old. The Leafs haven’t won the Cup in my lifetime. Heck, they haven’t even made the finals in all that time. Of late, they’ve been missing the playoffs entirely.

All they have to offer is past glories. And utterly mediocre hockey, season after season.

They are perpetual underachievers who generally have a hot streak every November or December, then cool off by March.

You might argue that the on-ice performance of any sports franchise is beyond the control of even the most diehard fan, which is true enough — but here’s the central question: Why would fans go on rewarding mediocrity when it’s in their power to send a clear message that they want change?

The Leafs are like any other huge corporation. They will modify how they do business when consumers demand a different product.

As a fan, your task is simple.

All you have to do is stop watching Leaf games on television, stop paying to attend games in person, stop buying Leafs merchandise.

Believe me, without money rolling in, the team’s front office will understand that fans are sick of being gaken for granted. The team will do something. You will see them act.

After decades of so-so performances, it’s clear the Maple Leafs as an organization would rather make money than win a Stanley Cup. We get it. And thanks to the endless supply of adoring fans, they make money hand over fist.

It’s the fans who are the enablers here.

They are the ones who allow the Leafs to suck without any change in the level of their support.

As smarter people than me have pointed out, Leafs fans are like a stockbroker who goes on buying a losing stock as it falls and falls and falls.

At some point, any sane individual would say enough is enough.

Any rational, thinking person wouldn’t accept that kind of awful treatment for decades in a row.

So if the fans won’t quit voluntarily, the Leafs need to fire them. It’s the best thing they could do to ensure a brighter future.

Bill Cosby in London

- January 8th, 2015

If you’re interested in the Cosby story, my colleague and ace reporter Dale Carruthers will be covering the protest live from Budweiser Gardens via Twitter tonight.

You can follow him at DaleatLFPress.

Dale went to Kitchener last night and did a great job with his live coverage, tweeting as the show unfolded from start to standing ovation.

Our crack entertainment writer, Joe Belanger, will be our reporter on the inside tonight — he will let readers know how the crowd responds to the much-accused comedian. He can be found at JoeBatLFPress.

As always, the images will be provided by the superlative Derek Ruttan (DerekatLFPress)! Should be a fascinating story package.

My own list of banned words

- January 6th, 2015

I’ve been inspired by the word police at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.

You may know them as the folks who issue a list of banned words at the end of each year, hoping to stop the spread of overused terms and cliches.

Here, in no particular order, is my own list of words from the last 12 months that should never be uttered again.

Innovative: This is one of those words you see everywhere; it’s used frequently by corporate and political types without any concern for its meaning. If everything and everyone is “innovative,” then the word has no real heft. True innovations are innovative because they are rare.

Transformation: No one changes anymore, they’re “transformed.” This one is overused on reality-TV shows – to stress the potential for participants on these programs to have a life-altering experience. No one renovates a house anymore, they “transform” it.

Journey: How’s your “personal journey” going? I’m not quite sure who to blame for the proliferation of this one, maybe the makers of the Lord of the Rings movies? Can’t I just live my life without it being a “journey?”

Exponentially: Again, the overuse of this one comes from attempts to pump life into bland statements, but here’s the thing: The people who use “exponentially” to describe rapid and increasing growth don’t really understand exponents.

Integral: Being a journalist, this one grates because it’s just a fancy way of saying something else. It means very important, no less and no more.

Hub: There are no more centres anymore, just “hubs.” A port city is a “trade hub,” the nation’s capital is a “government hub” and on and on.

Of the: This one is noticeable in recent movie titles. “Hey, did you see latest sequel to Dawn of the Planet of the Guardians of the . . .” You get my point.

Curate: You do not “curate” your music collection or your wardrobe or anything else. Stop it.

Successive: Means “in a row,” but sounds more sophisticated.

Continually and progressively: Try to find a press release that doesn’t include at least one of these. It’s impossible.

Honourable mentions include suppose to and use to (they should be rendered “supposed” and “used”) and “graciously.”

As we enter 2015 , let’s rededicate ourselves to communicating in a clear and effective manner.

Got any words that you would be happy never to read or hear again? Let me know in the comments section below.

Let’s support the music scene in London

- December 25th, 2014

I have a crazy idea about how to support the arts here in London that I’d like to share with you.

It stems from the Orchestra London situation and it’s my own modest cultural proposal.

If you’ve been reading The London Free Press, you’ll be aware that the orchestra is in dire financial straits.

In a last-ditch attempt to right the sinking ship, the failed organization’s president, Joe O’Neill, went cap in hand to London’s municipal government to ask if councillors would give Orchestra London an advance on its yearly subsidy of $500,000.

If the whole scenario felt familiar to you, that’s likely because city hall has been bailing out Orchestra London for approximately a thousand years now.

From the outside looking in, it appears it’s constantly on the verge of failing.

O’Neill’s bid – which was rejected by council with a unanimous vote – came on the heels of executive director and former mayoral candidate Joe Swan’s resignation.

Council has symbolically washed its hands of Orchestra London. What happens next? That’s what I’d like to address.

Several councillors are on the record as saying they have no problem with the idea of a city orchestra.

Politicians like Ward 1′s Michael van Holst have indicated they think council should come up with some creative ideas for how to promote music and the arts in this city. A new council ought to be able to come up with new ideas, they say.

I happen to agree. Here’s my own two cents.

I think council should keep handing out the annual half-million. They’ve been subsidizing Orchestra London for years now, so it’s not going to break the bank to continue doing so for the time being.

However, I believe they can do a better job of targeting that taxpayer cash.

What I’d like to see them do is find 50 so-called garage bands and give them $10,000 each. That might not seem like a lot, but to a struggling musician that’s a potentially life-changing boost.

Why garage bands?

Why not?

Apart from flat-out snobbery, there’s absolutely no reason why the type of music played by Orchestra London – classical music – is more deserving of support than any other.

It’s true $500,000 is not a large amount when compared to the entire billion-dollar city budget, but if we’re talking about generating “a bigger bang for our bucks,” this is the way to go.

It’s also true that garage bands play cover versions of songs like Wild Thing by the Troggs; Orchestra London also specialized in cover tunes — again, all I’m suggesting is that, as a city, we support a different type of cover band.

In fact, I’ll bet you more Londoners are familiar with Wild Thing than with, say, Beethoven’s ouevre.

We could review this policy in about five years. I bet you by then, we will see a big difference. London’s music scene will be thriving.

It will be a different scene, that’s all.

Yet I see no reason why Londoners should go on supporting classical music when it’s a proven money-loser.

Who knows – a half-million dollars a year could go a long way toward transforming London into a community such as Austin, Tex., which is renowned for its South by Southwest festival.

I bet you agree with me that it’s past time for a change of focus when it comes to the arts in London.

The only question is, does city council have the courage necessary to enact a plan like mine? Or will they keep on trying to placate the music snobs among us, who talk a good game about supporting the orchestra but never come through when it matters?