Archive for September, 2011

September 13, 2011

Steve Nash opens TSX, says ‘no good news’ on NBA lockout

Steve Nash opens Toronto Stock Exchange

Steve Nash opens the Toronto Stock Exchange, which was up in early trading on Tuesday. (Julia Pelish photo)

Just because the NBA is locked out doesn’t mean Steve Nash isn’t taking shots in a competitive environment.

The two-time MVP from Victoria, British Columbia rang the opening bell at the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning as part of Liquid Nutrition Group, a maker of nutritional beverages. Nash is a partner in the Quebec-based chain that serves juices, smoothies and electrolyte-rich mineral water.

While he was excited about the prospects of the company, which plans to open nine franchises across Metro Toronto, he was downbeat about the odds of a quick settlement to the NBA’s work stoppage.

“I wish I had good news for you,” the Phoenix Suns’ point guard said shortly after trading commenced on the TSX. “I sense that it’s getting toward the place where it needs to get but I don’t think we’re there. Maybe next week people will start to say, ‘Okay, let’s cut the crap and get a deal in place.’ I don’t mean to be flip about it. This is a serious negotiation.”

Talks are expected to become more intense as the deadline nears for the season-opener on November 1. Both the players’ union and league owners resumed discussions with full bargaining committees at the negotiating table on Tuesday. Training camps are supposed to start on October 3, but it seems unlikely they will.

“The players are unified but having said that we want to get back to work as soon as we possibly can,” said Nash, who arrived in Toronto at 3 a.m. from Winnipeg, where he received a humanitarian award from a hospital charity. “At some point we have to come together, come to a middle ground. Right now, the owners are pretty adamant they don’t want to come to the middle ground. They want us to come down. That’s the main issue.”

Asked if the players might consider starting their own league, Nash said anything would be on the table if the lockout prolonged.

read more »

September 11, 2011

Ottawa travel tips to help you plan your visit to the nation’s capital

Zak's Diner in Byward Market

Lots of good times and some great shakes can be enjoyed in Zak's Diner.

OTTAWA — Sure, Ottawa doesn’t have the natural beauty of Vancouver, the big-city energy of Toronto or the artistic vibe of Montreal. It may not even have the charm of Halifax. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included among the best travel experiences in Canada. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated travel destinations in North America. As one American recently told me, “Ottawa is a gem.”

She was won over by the Gothic architecture of the Parliament buildings, the cleanliness of the city, the Rideau Canal’s attractiveness and the lively atmosphere of the Byward Market. I spent a couple of weekends in the city this summer and found that its winning qualities continue to endure. Ottawa is an easy city to get around, has a tremendous amount of cultural attractions to enjoy, a growing number of quality restaurants, and citizens who are pleasant and laid-back (including some of those who are politicians).

Next time, you’re in the nation’s capital, consider planning your visit around these activities, restaurants and lodgings.

WHERE TO STAY

Ottawa has been criticized, and rightly so, for not offering enough outstanding hotels. Aside from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and the Lord Elgin, there aren’t enough five-star accommodations, and the chains in town, while reliable, don’t offer much in the way of personality. Hotel Indigo, I was happy to find, is a mid-priced boutique hotel affiliated with Holiday Inn that offers what a good hotel should: a marvellously comfortable bed and pleasant customer service. It’s also reasonably priced. You can reserve a room for a weekend night in October for $140 or less on the hotel’s booking engine.

Hotel Indigo room in Ottawa

Plush beds make a stay at Hotel Indigo a treat.

At this price range, the room was the second-best I’ve ever stayed in (the best being the abundantly delightful Le Petit Hotel in Montreal). At Indigo, the hardwood floors add warmth, the bathrooms are spacious and the plush beds easy to sink into. Room-darkening curtains, flat-screen TVs and complimentary WiFi access are other plusses that made this an enjoyable stay. The hotel, at 123 Metcalfe Street, is also a five-minute walk straight north to Parliament Hill.

On the minus side was the breakfast in the hotel’s Phi bar. The food is mediocre and the service tedious. The biggest drawback, though, is parking. The lot, beneath the adjacent Marriott, is typical of Ottawa underground garages: dark, frighteningly tight and desperately in need of renovation. If you’ve got a big car, you’re going to be in for a potentially stressful experience trying to get in and out of a spot.

WHERE TO EAT

Smoque Shack – Recently opened in August, the Smoque Shack is a barbecue joint that hooks you the minute you walk into the dining room and smell the flavour of the food wafting in from the kitchen. It’s a casual place with fair prices and some seriously tasty stuff, including a wonderfully spiced Jerk Chicken for about $12. Numerous side dishes range from $3-$5. 129 York Street.

read more »

September 8, 2011

2012 U.S. Presidential Election: Huntsman wins Republican debate, no one will notice

It’s an indictment of American politics and the conservative movement that the Republican candidate who speaks the most sensibly is running at 1 percent in the polls. Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China under Barack Obama for nearly two years, displayed a level head, candor and a global perspective during Wednesday’s GOP candidates’ debate held in Simi Valley, California.

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman, a reasonable man, which means he has no chance of being president.

For that, his views will be buried in the majority of news accounts because his name is not Rick Perry or Mitt Romney. This debate was essentially set up as a boxing match that pitted the governor of Massachusetts against his counterpart from Texas. Such a dramatic plot buildup left no room for networks or commentators to manoeuvre away from that script. If this was coverage of a sport, an underdog could win with a definitive moment. Multi-candidate political debates rarely have knock-out punches, though, and with eight people on stage and less than two hours of coverage Huntsman and the non-headliners had little opportunity for a game-changing achievement.

Huntsman impressed, nevertheless, answering some questions that showed he’s a right-winger with a conscience. He spoke about the “humanity” that should be involved in immigration policy, the tragedy and “un-American” nature of the “fortress security mentality” the country has adopted since 9/11, and, most distinctly of all, backed science full-heartedly when some of his peers continue to stubbornly declare their disbelief in climate change and evolution.

“We can’t run from science, we can’t run from mainstream conservative philosophy,” Huntsman said, commenting on Republicans’ need to appeal to mainstream, independent voters, millions of whom are educated enough to know humans and velociraptors didn’t co-exist and that extreme flooding and other bizarre weather patterns just may be a hint that something big is happening with the planet. “If we’re going to win in 2012, we have to make sure we have someone who can win the numbers.”

And, yes, it was nice to hear a Republican politician point to Canada and say we are an example to follow.

“Why is it that Vancouver has the fastest-growing real estate market in the world? It’s because they let people in legally and it lifts all boats,” Huntsman, the former Utah governor, said during the immigration discussion.

read more »

September 5, 2011

Savour Ottawa dishes out a bountiful celebration of local food

Chris Tremblay and fresh corn at Savour Ottawa Harvest Table 2011

Chris Tremblay preps fresh-picked corn for guests of the Savour Ottawa Harvest Table.

OTTAWA — The nation’s capital took a hit a month ago when the Canadian Tourism Commission omitted it from a list of 48 great things to do in the country. Politicians and at least one brilliant commentator noted the head-scratching oversight. Katherine Hobbs, a city councilor, told me, “We felt so left out of the party.” Yet she didn’t seem all that concerned by the perceived slap, nor did too many others in the city.

In this government town, things can be surprisingly low-key and attitudes relaxed once you get away from Parliament Hill. Case in point, the Savour Ottawa feast last Sunday. This celebration of local food wouldn’t make headlines outside of Ottawa, but it is an indication of the progressive mindset of the city and its culinary establishment. It was a community event with potential ripple effects for the rest of the province.

“It’s frustrating when you go into a big grocery store and find fruits and vegetables coming from the States, when you have those same products being grown here in season,” said Hobbs, whose Kitchissippi riding was home to the event’s venue underneath a tent at Parkdale park. “If we all buy local and support our farmers everyone benefits.”

Savour Ottawa is an organization that has brought together Capital Region farmers who share a permanent retail space in Kitchissippi, a neighbourhood that is about a 10-minute drive west of the city’s downtown and whose Algonquin name means “the Great River.” In the past, those farmers have been showcased in Savour Ottawa events that aim to pair regional products with the best restaurants in the city. On this occasion, though, such an event — the Savour Ottawa Harvest Table — was open to the public for the first time. For $50 a ticket, guests were able to enjoy a sampling of some of the freshest and most fantastic food you can find in our province.

Highlights included a Chanterelle and Lobster Mushroom Tourte from Les Fougeres in Chelsea, Quebec and featuring mushrooms from Le Coprin. The Acer Farms beef was buttery smooth while the Apple Crumble Pie from Hall’s, whose baked treats and cider are available throughout Ottawa, was sweet and decadent.

read more »