Archive for category Oh Canada

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night … Bad weather, on the other hand …

Considering the union’s public relations efforts, Canada Post didn’t pick the best time to stop home delivery:

What happened to the mail?

It’s a question occupying the minds of Isabel Ward, a retiree who has yet to receive her Metropass; Peter Stiegler, an accountant in need of tax documents to help his clients; and Russell Bennett, a self-employed father anxiously awaiting cheques to pay the rent and support his family.

They are three people who live or work in three different Toronto neighbourhoods — all complaining that they haven’t seen a Canada Post mail carrier in more than two weeks. But they are far from being the only residents who have gone with empty mailboxes since just before Christmas.

This being The Star, it is obviously the fault of Canada Post, not its workers:

"Working during bad weather isn't in my contract."

“Bad weather isn’t in my contract.”

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has accused Canada Post of overworking permanent carriers by expanding routes, leading to sudden absences, and of not having enough temporary workers on standby.

“We’re seeing people booking off on stress at levels like we’ve never seen before,” said Gerry Deveau, national director for Ontario.

Is this the first winter these carriers have ever experienced? Didn’t someone tell them when they took this job that Toronto is in Canada?

“Stress” levels? Are these people for real?

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A Clockwork Envy

As the earth swings around the sun, so the anti-capitalist grievance-mongers drum up yet another predictable “report” on “inequality” from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

I wrote about this annual report a couple of years ago, so I won’t go into great detail here because it’s just as stupid now as it was then.

The numbers in this report have annual compensation at roughly 177 times that of the “average” worker, while the 2012 report was at 189 times. Therefore, according to this highly objective and passionless reporting metric, inequality has actually gone down. But there is no mention of the year-over-year trend of these results found here.

Why do supposedly reputable journalists repeat this gossip-column trash without any, you know, actual journalism?

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The Projecting Finger

Unwilling to merely be wrong about civic issues in Saskatoon, Gerry “The Finger” Klein fails to find the pulse of the city of Calgary as well.

His latest column is a terrific exercise in the art of projecting one’s own biases:

Our western neighbour held its municipal elections Monday while councillors in Saskatoon debated how to get more cabs on the streets, whether it was possible to extricate the city from the taxi industry or whether we wouldn’t be better served with a taxi commission or outside body.

It is a dance I have witnessed regularly since the 1980s, when I first started to cover council. The issue seemed fresh and alive then, but no longer so.

Because when you think of the terms “fresh” and “alive,” your mind goes immediately toward municipal policy discussions.

Many people — including me — have advocated for city hall to free the taxi industry from its control by allowing market forces to dictate how many cars are allowed on the streets and restricting council’s control to monitoring safe cars, trained drivers and compliance with standard rules. However, civic officials who have followed this for as long as I have insist that the free market strategy hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been tried. Too often it leaves drivers and passengers exposed to criminal activity or inadequate service.

And as one wise official reminded me this week, taxis actually form an integral part of Saskatoon’s public transportation system. It can’t be allowed to fail, yet there is a string of unhappy players any time councillors get involved.

It is the lobbying from those players that kicks off the seemingly inescapable and awkward dance, which typically makes for a long night at council. I even recall a meeting where a representative of a taxi company started to snore loudly when the debate went past midnight, making it difficult for me to hear what was being said.

Those damned, dull Saskatonians clinging to their outdated taxi regulations. I’m bored! Why don’t we have elections when I’m bored?!

While Saskatoon again was undergoing the ritual on Monday night, Alberta’s two largest cities were overturning the latest political theory about the conservative nature of suburbia. Calgary handily sent Naheed Nenshi back to the mayor’s office in spite of a well funded campaign to oppose his urban agenda. He first caught the country’s attention when he came from behind to claim the highest office in a city well known for its conservative traditions.

Indeed. Naheed Nenshi has the distinction of being only the eighth liberal/progressive mayor ever elected in Calgary. A remarkable achievement, really, especially when you consider his opposition in the race:

Despite this imposing ensemble, Nenshi received about 74% of the overall vote, no thanks to a “well-funded campaign” by his opponents, who likely didn’t even spend one-tenth of what was spent by the Nenshi campaign.

While his agenda clearly upset some Calgary developers who were encouraged to contribute $100,000 each to help ward candidates who could slow its implementation, there was little surprise that Calgary’s hyper-popular mayor was returned to office – especially after his tireless effort to deal with the unprecedented flooding that befell Alberta’s largest city this spring.

Yes. The nefarious efforts by those nasty developers, of whom the Nenshi campaign said were acting “illegally,” only knocked off two of Nenshi’s five main supporters on city council — John Mar and Gael MacLeod — and nearly a third, the erstwhile Druh Farrell.

On the other hand, of the 14 ward candidates supposedly supported by this sinister cabal (as seen in this joint Global TV-Nenshi expose), only eight were able to win their seats on council.

Wait a second. I guess this means that Nenshi’s efforts to raise taxes and levies on suburban developers will be thwarted by council.

Some revolution.

Oh, and The Finger might as well know, that boring, old notion of taxi regulation? Nenshi’s dancing the taxi commission dance too.

Facts can be a bitch when you’re projecting.

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Kooky Suzuki

David Suzuki, not satisfied with merely taking Canadian taxpayer’s dollars in order to spew his misanthropic stupidity, participated in a public question-and-answer forum recently on the taxpayer-subsidized Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Humans are maggots, baby

“Humans are maggots, baby.”

Posted below are a few snippets of the reaction to the appearance.

From the left-wing Media Watch:

The Canadian geneticist was given the podium to himself, in an honour previously granted only to Bill Gates and a handful of Australia’s political leaders.

And even his supporters must have been disappointed…

When challenged on the claim that global warming appears to have slowed or paused over the last 15 years Suzuki seemed somewhat surprised… So why was Suzuki given the stage all to himself if he is not a climatologist and is not across the subject?

Suzuki supporter davrosz:

Love David Suzuki, but sad ABC #QandA is spreading doubt about climate science again. Why do we keep having this ridiculous conversation.

The Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine:

David Suzuki’s appearance on the ABC flagship program Q&A spelled the death of any credibility left in the fag end of the climate alarm movement.

The Herald Sun‘s Andrew Bolt:

The only rational response to Suzuki’s astonishing admission of utter ignorance would have been to say to him: “Sir, you are a phony and imposter. Get off the stage and don’t waste our time for a second longer.”

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That?:

How in God’s name could people take this man seriously?

Climate blogger Joanne Nova:

The man is emphatically an activist who might as well be innumerate. He is unburdened by data, evidence or logic. Why is the ABC giving him such a hallowed space, which is usually only given to PM’s?

Australian blogger Don Aitkin:

What in blazes does he know? And why on earth is such a know-nothing given pride of place on a top ABC talk show? I expected a tough, well-informed, competent scientist. What I got was a feeble apologist. From a sceptical perspective the event was a success: Suzuki is such a dreadful exponent of the faith that  I would think he loses twenty supporters every time he answers a question.

The Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant:

Last week in Australia, David Suzuki did something he hasn’t done before: He allowed himself to be interviewed in a situation he did not control.

It was a disaster.

Saving the best for last, don’t forget to check out Ezra’s beautiful five-part summary of the Suzuki appearance (part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).

Insert your favourite responses to the Suzuki meltdown in the comments below.

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Reflection on confection protection

The Hill, May 22, 2013:

The Senate rejected a farm bill amendment that would have reformed the U.S. sugar program.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment that would have reformed the subsidies and import restrictions on sugar within the United States. The amendment failed on a 45-54 vote Wednesday.

“Currently sugar is the only commodity program that was not reformed in the committee passed farm bill that is under consideration now,” Shaheen said ahead of the vote. “It’s puzzling to me that they totally left sugar subsidies out of the bill reforms.

“What we have now is a sweet deal for sugar growers and a bad deal for consumers.”

The Globe & Mail, June 6, 2013:

A former president and CEO at Nestlé Canada Inc. and Nestlé USA – who also headed up the iconic Laura Secord brand – now faces the prospect of jail time for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy with his competitors to fix chocolate prices in Canada.

The federal Competition Bureau said Thursday criminal price-fixing charges have been laid against the executive, Robert (Bob) Leonidas, as well as Nestlé Canada, its competitor, Mars Canada Inc., and a wholesale distributors network called ITWAL Ltd. Also facing charges are Sandra Martinez, former president of confectionary for Nestlé Canada, and Glenn Stevens, president and chief executive officer of ITWAL.

Price fixing: it’s not wrong if it’s legal.

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Price-Gougers vs. Hoarders

I would make a terrible politician.

I have this awful tendency to say the right thing instead of what’s politically correct.

I lived in Calgary for eight terrific years. Most of my good friends still live there, as do many former colleagues and neighbours. My brother and his family are there, as is my wife’s sister and family, plus several aunts, uncles and cousins. I also loved my former neighbourhood, with its proximity to good restaurants, bars, shops, parks, downtown and the Stampede grounds. There were many reasons why we left town in 2008, but our family, friends and neighbourhood at the time were not any of them. I really love that town.

So it should not come to any surprise to you to learn that the recent massive flood in Calgary really shook me emotionally. My brother had to evacuate his house, as did a couple of my dearest friends. There were probably other friends and former colleagues forced out too. My old neighbourhood was devastated, as were the lovely parks and pathways along the Elbow through which I roamed regularly.

It should without saying that many people are volunteering their time, energy and other resources in response to this environmental disaster. That’s wonderful and commendable.

However, a disturbing but inevitable trend comes from the backlash against those who are perceived to be less generous with their resources, as seen here:

Gordy Marchant’s wife first informed him the Queensland Liquor Store in Calgary’s southeast was charging $10 for a bag of ice amid a rush by people to stock up on goods as floods ravaged Calgary Friday.

“I didn’t believe it, but was out having a smoke and figured, ‘What the heck, I’ll check it out,’ it’s only down the street from me,” he recalled.

Marchant got to the store shortly before noon and said he was shocked to find the sign on the front of the ice cooler now read $20 per bag. He snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook. That same image quickly made it to Twitter and had been retweeted by hundreds Friday afternoon.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Marchant said. “I went up and asked him (the store clerk) and he said, ‘Yep, $20.’ “

On his way out of the store Marchant said he told the clerk, “Just remember, karma’s a bitch.”

Note that the guy didn’t want or need the ice. He was just pissed off at the price. While he smoked from a $14/pack cigarette.

It prompted me to post on Facebook:

To those in Calgary who are bitching about price gougers, remember that increased prices helps to ensure a higher level of supply of essential goods in times of increased scarcity. Now’s not the time to bitch about the high cost of water; that price may have helped ensure the water was there for you to purchase.

The response to this was about what one could expect. No one wants to pay more for essential goods like water or ice in times of crisis, and no one wants to be taken advantage of.

Fair enough. I don’t want people to pay any more for a product as the next guy, and that wasn’t evident in my harsh post. But my point isn’t about what’s fair but instead about how to ensure essential goods are efficiently distributed to the public in times of need.

When asked how this statement was wrong or false, the responses were generally along the lines of “You’re wrong because SHUT UP, YOU UNCARING JERK.”

And don’t think that type of response doesn’t cross party lines:

Of course, there was very little price gouging going on in Calgary, especially once the panic wore off. Even though businesses ought to have the right to charge what they want, they still have to be concerned about their future business and the way they treat their customers.

Still, my empathy wasn’t so much with them as with the poor folk who went to stores only to find empty shelves because prices were kept below market value:

"Even if the water is shut off for a few days, at least I saved ten bucks. So it all worked out!"

“Even if the water is shut off for a few days, at least I saved ten bucks. So it all worked out!”

The shelves are empty because many people — fearful or speculative of being trapped without clean water — grabbed as much as they could before others did the same. Moreover, as prices are capped below market value, these consumers purchase more than they need.

In other words, these people hoarded the essential good, meaning others didn’t have a chance to purchase said product.

And the government not only encourages this behaviour, but demands it.

Don Boudreax speaketh thus:

Whenever government obstructs sellers’ abilities to raise prices at the pump, the method for allocating the few supplies among the many demanders is first-come, first-served.  Two inevitable results are long queues and the failure of many motorists to find gasoline to buy.  Each motorist who waits in line, therefore, raises the cost of gasoline to other motorists – both by increasing the amount of time that each motorist must spend waiting in line for a chance to buy gasoline, and by decreasing the chances that each motorist will actually find gasoline to buy.

So the logic that leads you to prosecute retailers for “unscrupulously” raising prices ought lead you also to prosecute motorists for “unscrupulously” queuing up.  Indeed, because queuing (unlike higher prices) creates no incentives for suppliers to bring more gasoline to market, queuing motorists, as you might describe their self-interested activities, rip each other off even worse than do price-hiking retailers.

Why is the self-interest of hoarders more morally ethical than the self-interest of price gougers?

Trick question: neither is more than the other.

This is because self-interest in the market even during times of scarcity — especially in times of scarcity — helps ensure people get what they need:

Allowing prices to rise at times of extreme demand discourages overconsumption. People consider their purchases more carefully. Instead of buying a dozen batteries (or bottles of water or gallons of gas), perhaps they buy half that. The result is that goods under extreme demand are available to more customers. The market process actually results in a more equitable distribution than the anti-gouging laws.

Once we understand this, it’s easy to see that merchants aren’t really profiting from disaster. They are profiting from managing their prices, which has the socially beneficial effect of broadening distribution and discouraging hoarding. In short, they are being justly rewarded for performing an important public service.

Like rent controls and minimum wage, anti-price-gouging legislation is just another example of where government intervention creates the very scarcity it seeks to prevent, also known as pathological altruism:

Good government is a foundation of large-scale societies; government programs are designed to minimize a variety of social problems. Although virtually every program has its critics, well designed programs can be effective in bettering people’s lives with few negative tradeoffs. From a scientifically-based perspective, however, some programs are deeply problematic, often as a result of superficial notions on the part of program designers or implementers about what is genuinely beneficial for others, coupled with a lack of accountability for ensuing programmatic failures. In these pathologically altruistic enterprises, confirmation bias, discounting, motivated reasoning, and egocentric certitude that our approach is the best—in short, the usual biases that underlie pathologies of altruism—appear to play important roles.

You see, dear reader, I defend price gouging, not because I like it, but because it works.

But unfortunately, the public doesn’t see it that way, which is why politicians would commit professional suicide if they said anything else.

Which is why I would make a terrible politician.

UPDATE: This says it better than I could. Read the whole thing.

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Lax Tax Facts

Even when Gerry Klein gets it right, he gets it wrong.

He’s right that the Senate reform would provide more balance in the federal government against the prime minister’s office, but he just can’t help but control his lazy-ass journalism.

Among the various Conservative scandals (and “scandals”) The Finger uses to make his case, he comes up with this doozy:

Last year’s budget document included a clause giving Revenue Canada the power to go after charities in what clearly was an attack on environmental groups that opposed pipelines. It’s worth mentioning that the Obama administration is facing its greatest scandal over the Internal Revenue Service doing that very thing to various Tea Party groups that claimed charitable status.

Nope. There is no reasonable comparison between the investigation of Canada Revenue Agency on environmental groups and what the IRS was doing in the United States.

The CRA categorizes non-profits as not-for-profits or registered charities. The former category has its own set of rules and regulations which allows groups to operate efficiently, pay limited or no income tax and receive donations, but the donors do not receive tax-deductible receipts.

Registered charities, on the other hand, are to be dedicated toward charitable activities and are allowed to issue tax receipts. These organizations cannot spend more of 10% of its revenue on advocacy. This is the crux of the recent investigations into environmental groups, several of whom were accused of spending most of their budget on advocacy, among other things. The scandal here, then, isn’t that the Conservative government was targeting environmental groups maliciously, but that the CRA was allowing them to operate without verifying their compliance.

Meanwhile, the president of the United States has directed the IRS — likely personally — to harass political and ideological opponents who had not broken any laws or regulations. There is little doubt that the administration and the IRS broke laws in this witch hunting exercise, though the question remains on which heads will role.

In other words, the CRA audits of environmental groups and the IRS scandal are like apples and … well, whatever is the complete opposite of apples. Bowling balls, maybe.

The Finger might also want to consider the fact that the United States has far stronger checks and balances through the constitutionally defined separation of powers — including an independent Senate — and that never stopped the administration from abusing its tax-collection authority.

I would just be satisfied if Klein could just get his facts straight before taking yet another cheap smear on a conservative politician. Here’s a good place for him to start.

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