Reviews / Canada

The Best Canadian Kids Channels, Part 1: TVOntario

tvokidsrightlogo.jpgIf you’re a parent, chances are you have to sit through more children’s programming in a week than you ever would in your life if you had the chance. That’s not to say all of it is bad – in fact, some of it is quite good. In Canada, we’re fortunate enough to have a number of excellent channels at our disposal that commit part of their programming to childrens television. With each of these channels being so different, it’s hard to know which of these is most suitable for your family. Luckily, we here at SmartCanucks have the inside track, and we’re going to share it with you in our seven part series “The Best Canadian Kids Channels.”

For more than half of the day, from 6am-7pm, Ontario’s publicly-funded channel TVOntario transforms into TVOKids – a toddler friendly place featuring a good variety of shows for kids aged five and under. It’s a pretty solid lineup, with it’s only weakness being its lack of original content. Gone are the days of Polkaroo and Today’s Special — TVOKids focus nowadays is on bringing universally recognized children’s shows to the network.

In place of original programming TVO does offer fresh content in the form of Gisele’s Big Backyard and The Space, both of which offer quick 2-3 minute vignettes between the shows throughout the course of the day.

TVO also makes up for it’s lack of original content with it’s inclusion of syndicated shows that aren’t available anywhere else — Bali, Mustard Pancakes, and Tigga & Togga are perfect examples of this. The main staples of this channel though, are the big names you’ve come to expect in children’s programming, like Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder.

In the evenings, TVO switches back to original adult programming, and it’s arguably some of the most thought-provoking on television. I’ve recently discovered The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and I can’t get enough of it. Instead of just repeating a 30 second news item like all of the talking heads on cable news do, Steve assembles a group of experts on a certain subject that’s currently in the news and hosts a solid half hour debate.

You can check out the TVOKids schedule as well as games, contests, and information for parents and teachers on their official website If you’re interested in the adult side, check out the TVO website at

This article was written by our very own Jim Squires. To check out more of his writing visit the pop culture blog Fjetsam, now updated daily.

The Air Miles Series – Part 1: Valuing Air Miles

Robert D. Gibb is posting a stunning series of articles on Air Miles on the forum. I found the series very useful and enlightening so I’m posting it on the blog as well.

Robert D. Gibb is a Contributing Editor (DRIPs) at the Canadian MoneySaver Magazine. You can read his articles at Here’s one of his most recent articles.

Thanks Robert 🙂

Based on my recent post on the “Buy 5 Get 50 Air Miles” this week at Safeway there’s been some interest after the post was placed on the Blog.

There were several questions and I spent a good hour composing a post answering them in depth. Not realizing I had to include my e-mail it was lost into hyperspace.

So I recomposed (and we all know how painful that can be) a shorter reply, filled in all the boxes and it seems to have disappeared as well. Ah! the mysteries of the Internet.

So I’m going to post several threads (over several days) on the forum instead regarding Air Miles. The first will explain my logic (insert your own joke here!) at deriving a value of $0.12/AM.

I know many people use a “dollars spent per Air Mile system” to derive value. E.g. 2 products in the same 10 Get 50 offer but with different prices: A = $2 B = $4

$20 of A gets 50 AMs while it takes $40 of B.

Clearly A accumulates AMs quicker.

But what if item B is what you use and it’s on sale while perhaps item is something you rarely use? It’s something to consider.

However, I also think it’s important to know what an AM can get you. This is where I place a value of $0.12/AM.

How this is derived:

(Note: the value of an AM can be much higher than this but I’ll explain later.)

To value an AM use this formula:

Total Cost of Item/Number of AMs = Value/AM


Dollarama Canada: $1 Pregnancy Test Kits – do NOT use them

matrix82 posted on the forum about Dollarama selling $1 pregnancy testers!

I was in dollarama and they had pregnancy tests for $1…I am not so sure if I would necessarily take the advice of a $1 one…I am betting it might be pretty inaccurate but they had tons of them…and has to be the strangest thing I have ever seen there, as of yet. What are your thoughts?

Read the full thread here

$1 test kits sound fishy. I had a look around and found that in May 2005 health Canada sent out an advisory, advising consumers not to use New Choice pregnancy test:

Health Canada is advising consumers not to use New Choice pregnancy test because this product is not licensed for sale in Canada.

The product is used for the early detection of pregnancy by testing for the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in a urine sample.

The product, manufactured by IND Diagnostic Inc. of Delta, British Columbia and distributed by Sales Enterprises Inc. of Rockville, Maryland, has been available in Dollarama stores in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

Read full Health Canada advisory here

Death of the Cinemas – How One Mall Destroyed a Local Landmark

godzilla.jpgWhen I was growing up in St. Catharines we had not one, not two, but four movie theaters to pick from. An awful lot for a city our size, but we made good use of them. As time passed and small theaters gave way to 8 screen multiplexes, that original number eventually shrunk down to two. But still, they were our two. We had a Famous Players Silvercity in the south end of town (now an Empire Cinemas) and a Cineplex Odeon in the north. Both theaters were the anchors of our local malls, the Pen Centre and the Fairview Mall respectively. Even though I didn’t grow up with these fancy new moviehouses, I still have fond memories. Heck – I even worked at the Pen’s Silvercity all through high school. Like many in my community we felt these movie theaters were a part of our lives, even if we didn’t go as much as we should have.

As time marched on and DVD’s and HDTV’s starting bringing a better than cinemas experience to our own living rooms, home movie viewing really began to chip away at the movie theater industry. Had that been the cause of a theater’s closure — that we’d simply not been going enough, that they couldn’t afford to operate — then we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves for what happened last month in the north end of town. Unfortunately that’s not the way things happened.

In early January, the Cineplex Odeon at the St. Catharines Fairview Mall closed its doors for good — not because it wasn’t profitable, but because the company that owns the mall decided to exercise the “best use” clause in the theater’s lease, kicking them out with less than a months notice. You might be wondering why they’d do that. Well it turns out it wasn’t drugs or violence or loitering teens or any other number of reasons that one could justifiably understand. It was so they could make room to bring a Winners/HomeSense to the mall. They tried to justify it as best they could, saying that theaters just don’t bring people to a mall like they used to and that a big box store could change that. Considering the mall is already home to Future Shop, Chapters, and Zehrs, I tend to think that the Fairview is a little big boxed out.

I understand that time marches on and things change, but kicking out a cultural landmark in favor of another big box store is just downright insensitive. It goes to show that managing a mall in St. Catharines from an office in Toronto leaves you completely out of touch with the feelings of the community that you’re supposed to be marketing to. It’s bad business. I can’t speak for the whole community, but I can tell you this much – I won’t be shopping at the Fairview again any time soon.

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