Hello Down There

Welcome to the League’s new sub-blog, the 49th – a Canadian-focused blog written specifically for an American audience. My name is Jonathan McLeod, and I’ll be your guide on this northern expedition. I am a Fellow with the Canadian Council for Democracy, and I am a contributor and editor for the CCD’s blog, the Commons (which I helped launch with our good friend and OG, Scott H. Payne).

You may remember me from a couple of recent guest posts, one on the death of Jack Layton and the other a remembrance of the massacre at  École Polytechnique (or, if you hop in your Way-Back Machine, you might recall this attempt to foster inter-blog discussions on Canadian foreign policy).  These two guest posts demonstrate the mission of this blog. It would be easy enough to re-create another Canadian political blog here at the League, but what would be the fun in that? Instead, I hope to bring to you, dear reader, a little insight into the hot issues and interesting writers up here, north of the 49th.

There will be no Talking to Americans-esque condescension, nor none of that typical, and annoying, false modesty so many Canadians drape themselves in. It’ll just be a chat.

In case you’re interested in who I actually am, I am a lifelong resident of our nation’s capital, Ottawa, living just blocks from the greatest deliberative body on earth (yes, that’s cheek) with my wife, two daughters and dog. Aside from the Commons, my writing can be found at The Politic, The Mark and Apt 613. I also cover civil rights issues in Ottawa (how’s that for provincial?) for Examiner.com. You can find me on Twitter and Google+.

Now, I know I said that there’d be no smack-talking, but just so we’re clear, Hootie and the Blowfish can’t touch 54-40:

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Am I free to be a Dumb American and ask questions that might come across as stupid (and thus why I do not ask my Canadian friends)?

    • Damn. I had meant to mention that I’ll also take requests. Definitely feel free to ask questions or make suggestions on topics to cover.

      …unless it’s Celine Dion.

      • Request.

        I am very interested in Canadian broadcasting generally. I’m afraid that I don’t know a whole lot about the interaction between Canadian TV and American TV (or TV shows in particular). I know how national networks and local affiliates work in the US, but not if they work the same way in Canada. And I don’t know how American shows get incorporated onto Canadian TV. Do they air at the same time? Do Canadian networks have deals with American networks (like ABC-produced shows go directly to the Canuck Broadcasting Network or whatever).

        Being an ugly American, most of my questions (whether they involve broadcasting or not) are probably going to be along the lines of “In the US, things work this way. Do they work that way in Canada?”).

        • Canadian networks get to buy American shows directly and most of primetime on the two major privately owned networks (CTV and Global) are American imports while carrying the bare minimum of mandated Canadian content. They basically get to pick and choose from whatever the American channels are producing and whoever bids more gets the show. They don’t limit themselves to the major networks either, for example, “The Daily Show” may be on cable in the US but in Canada its popular enough to be on a major network. “Morality” standards are much looser too, so CTV was able to air “the Sopranos,” tits and all, at 11 PM over the air.

          The third major network is the publicly funded CBC, which is somewhere between being a super-PBS and a lame BBC, almost exclusively produces and airs Canadian shows, which tends to be a losing proposition ratings-wise but to do that is why they exist and get public money. They do pretty well as a sports and news broadcaster though.

          The situation get more complicated because most Canadians will also get an affiliate of the major American networks also, leading to the same show being on at the same time on different channels. In this case the Canadian channel has the right to override the American one and show their feed, and more importantly, their advertisements, on the American channel. They also get to choose when they want to air a show, which occasionally leads to Canadians seeing an American show before American audiences do.

          The only one-to-one network partnership I know of is TSN (The leading sports network) having a content deal with ESPN, although there may be other arrangements like that for speciality channels in the same niche.

          This is just for English language TV. French stuff is its own animal and largely locally produced within Quebec.

          • This is a great rundown, Stephen. Thank you.

            When you say most Canadians have the major American networks, are you saying that Toronto has its own affiliate, or that they get an American one piped in to their TV sets? A quick google of Toronto ABC affiliate suggests they get Buffalo’s – is that accurate?

            The advertising thing is interesting. Seems smart.

          • Pretty much every Canadian basic cable package has 4 of the big American networks from an affiliate close to the border (for example, I live in Edmonton and get American TV out of Spokane) plus PBS.

            American speciality channels however, are allowed to be on cable packages only if they don’t directly compete with an existing Canadian channel. So no ESPN or Syfy because there is already Canadian equivalents in TSN/Sportsnet/theScore and Space.

          • This is pretty much how I would have described the situation. This is especially accurate:

            “The third major network is the publicly funded CBC, which is somewhere between being a super-PBS and a lame BBC…”

          • Don’t forget about CITY, once a Toronto station, that grew into a TBS-esque superstation, and is now a de facto network.

            On the question of TSN, remember that ESPN owns 20% of it, which is why we get our own version of Sportscentre (note the different spelling).

            One case where Toronto arguably has it’s own affiliate is actually PBS; WNED brands itself as Buffalo/Toronto. Not surprising given that most of their donations come from north of the border (but still south of the 49th!).

    • My God(ess)? I can’t believe you said that!! I adore Swiss Chalet. I suppose you’ve never had a Great Canadian at Arby’s in Canada either? Or coffee crist… Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, Coffee Crisp!!! Lord I’m making myself hungry.

      • They have Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet dual restaurants sprinkled in PEI. The hamburgers are, to be blunt, Dairy Queen quality.

        • Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet are affiliates, and they’re building more and more of those dual stores – especially in rest stops along the highway.

          I enjoy Harvey’s for a fast food burger. I’ve always found them superior to Dairy Queen… but perhaps Dairy Queen is of lower quality up here.

        • “The hamburgers are, to be blunt, Dairy Queen quality.”

          That only puts them two steps above White Castle burgers. Or so I hear.

        • Hmm well all the Swiss Chalet’s I’ve ever gone to were sit down restaurants, with waitresses and the like. So perhaps we’re eating entirely different products.

  2. Yay! Welcome!

    I look forward to your thoughtful post about how hard Vancouver kicks Seattle’s ass, to which I will comment with enthusiastic assent.

      • I do not know Seattle well enough to give a proper critique, though I doubt it is as nice as Vancouver.

        However, I was in Vancouver (well, Abbotsford) in the fall of ’93 to visit my grandparents. During the trip, my Dad and I popped down to the Kingdome to catch a Seahawks game. It was immediately evident that Washington state drivers were far better (and much faster) than those in the Fraser Valley.

        • I visited Vancouver this autumn past. The gay scene was interesting but during a stroll through down town we nearly tripped over a skunk! In downtown Vancouver!!

    • I slept on floors at Robson and Thurlow and halfway up Burnaby Mountain for a few months living large in Vancouver just after I graduated college. Van rocks.

  3. Huzzah! Both you and Kyle in one week… nay, in one day! This place just keeps getting better and better.

    Plus, now I have a fellow knitting widower to commiserate with. (Though we are probably each knitting widowers with very, very warm feet.)

    • Perhaps surprisingly, I have never received a pair of knitted socks… although that’s partially my fault for never choosing a pair to be knit… which is kinda her fault for giving me about a thousand options to choose from.

      • Hey, I keep bringing it up and you can feel free to just hand over all your kilt hose personal agency to me. I’d be all too happy to make decisions for you.

  4. Any and all references to and/or clips from Trailer Park Boys would be greatly appreciated. If I may make a request: please post on why Jim Leahy’s use of expletives is so funny.

    • I’ll do what I can, but I haven’t watched TPB in a long time (and never watched that regularly). I had hoped to share a little rumour that I’m sure would “please” some of the League by noting that Bubbles was played by Anne Murray’s nephew. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that’s the case. Maybe it was someone else in the cast.

    • It was really huge news a few years ago when one of our prime labour leaders wrote an op-ed saying that NAFTA has been a net positive for Canada. He caught a ton of flak for it, and quickly backtracked, claiming that when he said NAFTA was a good thing, he meant it was a bad thing. It was kind of fun to watch.

      Sadly, I know no Mexican bloggers, so I can’t even suggest how we might live up to our NAFTA (non-)obligations.

      • Roque Neuvo was a sterling commentator who seemed to have commections to Mexico. My goodness I miss him. But I dunno if he formally blogged.

  5. Late to the chorus as yesterday was extraordinarily stressful for me. Apologies.

    Welcome aboard! I hope for periodic updates on the continuing struggle to maintain a majority that is the Canadian federal electoral system, the subtly-challenging ongoing struggle for free speech rights, and maybe a reflection on Canadian immigration and security policies.

    • If it had not been for the implosion that was the Michael Ignatieff-led Liberal campaign, we might still be living with minority governments. Mr. Ignatieff was kind enough to relieve such a worry, and now we’ve got a pretty dominant Prime Minister’s Office leading things. I’ll do my best to keep y’all updated.

      Freedom of speech (well, freedom of expression) is a topic I tend to cover quite a bit. It certainly is an ongoing struggle.

  6. The 49th, eh? I’m torn between two possible responses:

    1. No, Canada is the 51st state.

    2. 54-40 0r fight!

    I guess I’ll just settle for, congrats and good to see you here.

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