Is there anything Albertan that Alison Redford actually likes?

I think that most can agree that one of the main causes of Alison Redford’s downfall was that she didn’t endear herself to pretty much anybody. It is hard to imagine a person in public service getting into such a high position while being so abrasive to all but Redford managed to pull it off. What Redford proved though was that while a miserable person can manage to get to a high position in public office they simply don’t have a hope in hell of maintaining it in the long run. Due to countless incidents and clashes with staffers, press, opposition members and even her caucus members, when tough times came for Redford she found herself with utterly no allies. The race to throw Redford under the bus by her own compatriots was unprecedented. Nary a voice has been heard to try to make even a weak defense for Redford and this is not for lack of defenses (politicians can always come up with some excuse). The reason nobody is coming to Redford’s defense is simply that nobody likes her.

redbean

Some folks have tried to point out that Ralph Klein routinely abused the provincial aircraft as if this somehow justifies Redford’s abuse of them. It is a sad justification of the abuse and really only proves that Progressive Conservative entitlement has been alive and well in government for a long time. It does bring an interesting question though, how did Klein get away with such abuses with only minor critique when similar actions outright destroyed Alison Redford? The simple answer is that people liked Ralph Klein.

When Klein got himself into trouble (and he often did), he had a masterful knack of extricating himself with an apology and a promise not to do whatever he had done again. That tended to close the matter and we moved on to other things. The reason Klein could do so is that his caucus and a great many of the Alberta public genuinely and simply liked Ralph Klein a great deal. Ralph had allies when the crap hit the fan. Redford had positioned herself to be all alone and it cost her everything.

Politics is a popularity contest no matter how some may wish it wasn’t so. Policy is important but the person presenting that policy is even more important.

So why did people like Ralph Klein so much when Alison Redford earned herself almost universal provincial scorn? The bottom line is that it was clear and evident at all times that Ralph Klein loved Alberta and loved Albertans. It is much harder to dislike somebody when they clearly like you and it is much easier to forgive their errors when they do. Ralph was one of us for better or for worse.

Alison Redford never really appeared to like Albertans. She seemed to suffer the necessity of us at best. Redford never seemed to leave her UN roots behind and felt that her world was to be an elite one of diplomatic functions where Albertans were there to serve her rather than the other way around. This was evident in Redford’s constant incredibly expensive world travel and her efforts to make sure she never had to travel with the unwashed. Redford spoke repeatedly on how she wanted to change Alberta’s culture. I don’t recall Albertans as a whole really asking Redford to change their culture. The only cultural change that Redford brought about was a short term aristocracy with her at the top which thankfully is over with.

The reason I am off on this tirade is a small thing I noticed in the latest FOIP release of information from the Redford Regime. This was from the communications of Redford’s personal travel scout for her globe trotting missions. I feel that trade missions are important but they do have to focus on promoting Alberta and Albertan products as opposed to preening in the diplomatic world of luxury that Redford did.

While on her $450,000 trip to India (the government site still bullshits and claims it cost $131,000), Redford’s very expensive personal travel scout reported: “Getting some intel on India gifting. I think ammonite will work here. I know it may not be premier’s favourite but gemstones are very popular.” This is actually some valuable information from this travel scout. Gifting is an important part of these sorts of missions. It is a sign of respect and it is an opportunity to promote items unique to your nation. This has been done since the days of medieval ambassadors.

It can be seen that the scout made a point to ensure that the translator doesn’t talk to Redford at any time. That gets back to that issue of why nobody really could find themselves liking her.

What is odd here though is that it is clear that Alison Redford does not like Alberta Ammonite (ammolite). Jewellery preference is a very subjective thing but that applies to what one wears personally. When it comes to gifts like this though, one has to look at what you are representing and promoting. Alberta ammonite gems are a growing industry with First Nations involvement. These gems are the rarest organic gemstone on earth as they are only found in Alberta. What could be better to promote on such a mission particularly when gemstones are very popular in the place you are visiting?

Well despite this sage advice, Redford chose to give watercolor paintings of grain elevators to the dignitaries. Art is nice to promote too but I wouldn’t be surprised if the paintings were done by a relative of Redford’s. Why deviate from the advice of the well paid scout? Honestly, why does Redford dislike this stone? Either way, Redford let her personal dislike of ammonite lead to losing an opportunity to promote this Albertan product while on her mission. Why was she supposedly there again?

redpaint

I have to give full disclosure here, my family is involved in the Alberta ammonite/ammolite business. We in partnership with members of the Blood Reserve have been mining and retailing in a manufacturing/retail outlet in Canmore. This is of course what made my ears perk up as soon as I saw the gem mentioned. It has taken decades for Alberta ammonite gems to get recognition worldwide but it has been steadily gaining popularity. Government has never really done the industry any favors unfortunately.

I will take advantage of this issue to segue into giving some background on this great stone though as it is better known internationally than it is right here in Alberta (and of course I will plug the family business).

ammonite

Ammonite is a fossilized nautilus from the cretaceous period around 70 or 80 million years ago. While ammonite fossils are found throughout the world, it is only in small portions of Alberta where the fossils demonstrate the brilliant colors as can be seen in the picture above. The best fields of these gems are on the Blood Reserve in the Saint Mary’s river area. When the gem is harvested from these fossils, it is then called “ammolite” which is why we see both terms used at times. The gem makes stones and pieces such as these below.

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finished

Tours and sales of course are available at the Ammonite Factory in Canmore. It makes for a great day trip and you can’t beat the mining/cutting direct prices provided.

Ahh, there are few things more satisfying than giving a well founded critique of Alison Redford while making a self-serving plug for the family business. ;-)

In summary, Redford’s abrasive personality and apparent dislike of most things Albertan led to her downfall and people should pop by the ammonite factory for a good deal on a unique gem.

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Druh Farrell and her goofy anti-auto ideology yet again.

jaywalking-downtownThe tiny yet vocal anti-automobile crowd in Calgary love going on and on whenever an auto/pedestrian accident happens about how this is due to our sick car-culture and such. They love to paint a picture of Calgary’s streets as if it is a never ending scene of carnage with cars mowing pedestrians down at will. Due to the laws of physics, pedestrian vs. automotive collisions often do end in tragedy and we should examine ways to reduce these sorts of accidents as much as is reasonably possible. This is where anti-auto ideologues such as Druh depart from common sense yet again.

druh

This week’s incidents proved that people like Druh Farrell and her supporters don’t really care about pedestrian safety. Their goal is simply to attack personal automotive usage however possible.

If we truly want to look at reducing accidents involving pedestrians the approach has to be multi-facetted and look at a number of things. Infrastructure, traffic movement and the enforcement of traffic laws all are factors in road safety. The anti-auto set only wants to look at one factor however and that is personal automobiles. They endlessly call for traffic calming projects, reduced speed limits, increased enforcement of traffic laws against drivers and even the outright removal of many roads. What the anti-automobile gang never mentions however is that we need to crack down on reckless pedestrians too if we truly want to reduce collisions.

Construction is a pretty common thing in a growing city like Calgary. With construction, we occasionally have to close some sidewalks temporarily for reasons of space and safety. BOMA Calgary excellently explains all of that here.

Sidewalk closures are clearly marked with bright orange signs and a simple detour making people walk on the other side of the street is typically required. At a construction project at 7th Avenue and 5th Street, many pedestrians were lazily and dangerously ignoring the clearly marked detour and walking in the roadway rather than crossing the street as directed. This led to a great hazard for both drivers and pedestrians and led to complaints. This led Calgary police to set up and write 40 warnings and 90 jaywalking tickets.

peds

Are the signs bright enough? Is the detour not clear enough? I think the picture above says it all. It is even a short block and it is not like it is mid-winter when walking is uncomfortable.

The straightforward enforcement of traffic laws on pedestrians made the usual suspects in the anti-auto set go haywire on social media led by the ever vapid Farrell who tried to imply that the construction company was somehow at fault for these jaywalkers. Druh feels that the pedestrians are not 100% to blame in this and they are sometimes “forced” into traffic. Pardon me? Forced? How? Only by their own laziness. There is a perfectly safe crosswalk and more than enough signage to show them how to get there. Nobody was forced to break the law Druh.

Some called this a cash grab. Really? A few officers for a day issuing 90 tickets? How much was the net fiscal benefit of this? A fraction of that of any red light camera or speed on green I imagine. If they simply wanted to make money, there are many lucrative speed trap spots they like to set up in.

Some said that if the police really wanted to stop the jaywalking they would have stopped people from doing it before they jaywalked rather than waiting and ticketing them afterwards. Huh??? Does that mean the only way for officers to stop speeders is to tail vehicles to make sure they never do it? Can we only stop trespassers who ignore signs by standing there and stopping them? Do we need to assign a police officer to stand day and night at every sidewalk closure to inform people what those bright orange signs mean? No! The signs are clear. The police did exactly the right thing and set an example. If common sense won’t stop these jaywalkers, perhaps the threat of fines will.

Reducing pedestrian collisions requires increases enforcement of all traffic laws and that certainly includes jaywalking. If anybody claims that they want to reduce pedestrian/automobile accidents in Calgary yet opposes enforcement of laws against jaywalking that person is clearly and simply full of shit. Drivers who run red lights and go through crosswalks with pedestrians in them should be ticket just as idiot pedestrians who blindly step into traffic should.

If nothing else this weeks incidents proved yet again that folks such as Druh Farrell and her anti-automobile supporters are driven only by blind ideology as opposed to outcomes. Anybody who is outcome driven and truly wants to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities would have applauded the Calgary police service and their crackdown on jaywalkers.

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A great medium for political messages.

Just loving how social media is getting political messages out to new audiences in music videos whether through parody as the first couple below demonstrate or even in making economic philosophy palatable and fun as can be seen in the third video (one of my personal favorites).

 

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First Calgary Financial a sponsor of dangerous Cyclepalooza “Crowbomb” stunt.

Corporate responsibility is a term we hear often. That term can apply to what public events or actions a corporation may sponsor. I suspect that perhaps First Calgary Financial didn’t realize that in sponsoring the Cyclepalooza event in Calgary that the “festival” also included dangerous stunts such as the fourth annual “Crowbomb” action. That does not absolve First Calgary Financial of responsibility here. They really should research exactly what they are funding as the activity that they are funding reflects on the sponsor. As a shareholder and a citizen I am disappointed that First Calgary Financial has sponsored this event.

Here is a recap of what the Cyclepalooza “crowbomb” event involved.

cyclepalooza

Eight activists staged at a gas station in Marda Loop and then proceeded to aggressively and dangerously ride down Crowchild Trail in Calgary during rush hour. Cyclists purposely weaved in and out of traffic putting both themselves and innocent drivers at terrible risk as can be seen in the picture below showing one cyclist cutting off a large truck.

crowbomb-cutoff-2-copy

Fortunately for these activists, Calgary Police have decided not to charge them for this dangerous stunt at this time. In reading the quotes from Sgt. Mike ter Kuile of the Calgary police traffic response unit, it is clear that charges certainly could be possible and I suspect that they may be laid in any future events.

Sgt. Mike ter Kuile:

Sgt. Mike ter Kuile of the traffic response unit says he viewed the footage captured by Global Calgary and noted some of the things he saw — including bicycles weaving between vehicles — were dangerous and violated bylaws and rules under the Traffic Safety Act.

For example, cyclists must travel in single file and ride as close as practicable to the right curb, with both hands on the handlebars — unless signalling — and both feet on the pedals — unless stopped.

He said stunting charges are also possible in cases where cyclists are deemed to be causing a distraction to other roadway users.

He said stunting charges are also possible in cases where cyclists are deemed to be causing a distraction to other roadway users.

“In any contest with a 3,500 pound vehicle, you will lose,” ter Kuile added. “What right do you have to impact the motoring community by conducting yourself in this manner?”

 

 
The organizers within Cyclepalooza refuse to distance themselves from this clearly dangerous stunt. It can be hoped that responsible sponsors may do so. I hope that citizens and shareholders demand that First Calgary Financial and other sponsors stop sponsoring this activity. Liability has to be considered too. What if a cyclist or motorist got injured or killed in one of these events. Would the sponsors be held legally responsible?

firstcalgary

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Gian-Carlo Carra’s $100,000 “high-level rendering”

OK, it is hardly news when Gian-Carlo Carra and other members of the Flakey Four on Calgary city council waste the tax dollars and time of Calgarians. It is no shock that Carra want’s to transform a portion of his ward into some unpronounceable European modelled walkway at the expense of automotive infrastructure.

Gian-Carlo Carra has really outdone himself this time though when he went begging to city council for $100,000 to study this inane proposal a year ago and we are now presented with the “high-level rendering” below.

rendering

bathers

Yes, $100,000 and one year to create drawings that look like they were done by a 6 year old.

The rest of the “high-level” renderings can be found in a Metro article here. The quality and depth rivals the picture above.

Simple words such as “picnic” apparently are beyond the spelling ability of these folks doing this fine study and they depict nude sunbathers in the pictures too (not well drawn unfortunately).

There really is little more to be said about this. It is just another gross example of finite city of Calgary tax dollars being wasted on the whimsical notions of a city councillor. I really wonder what the tendering process is (if any) to do these six figure studies that take a year to draw stick people.

Just wanted to document this beauty so people have yet another thing to point at when Nenshi and his Flakey Four allies on Calgary city council (Druh Farrell, Brian Pincott, Evan Woolley and of course Gian-Carlo Carra) try to claim that we need to keep imposing record high property tax increases as there simply is no waste to be cut in city hall.

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Too important to test! (according to teacher’s unions)

DiscoveryMath

The most effective way to send the Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) into apoplectic fits is to propose any possible means of testing the competence of individual teachers. The union has long battled all forms of standardized testing of students and has recently displayed nothing short of hysteria when the Alberta government dared to suggest that we should test teachers directly. This of course is simply because the Alberta Teacher’s Association is protecting a great number of incompetent teachers in the system and they know it.

Let’s get the usual statements and platitudes out of the way. Our children are our future thus the role of teachers is greatly important to us all. Teaching is a terribly difficult job. Alberta’s education system is critical to the future competitiveness of the province. Investing in education is investing in our future. Our children deserve the best.

All of the above statements are accurate. The Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) uses all of those statements as reasons why we must never test the competency of teachers. Anybody with a grain of common sense knows that the above statements demonstrate why it is vital that we test the competence of our teachers!

I should save on the use of parenthesis and clear one thing up right now. The Alberta Teacher’s Association is a union that tries to cloak itself as a professional association. The second an organization is empowered to collectively bargain and go on strike, it becomes a union no matter how it tries to portray itself. The prime mandate of unions is to protect the union members and it shows with the actions of the ATA. Professional associations will look out for the profession as a whole. In their vehement opposition of all forms of quality control in the classroom, the ATA has proven themselves to be nothing more than a union.

Professional associations strive to protect the integrity of their profession in working to ensure that all members meet a standard of quality and they will eject members who do not meet this standard. In 10 years, the Alberta Teacher’s Union has not found a single one of their 35,000 teachers to be incompetent. Really? Not a single one? Here is a word that I was not taught in school but it is the best one that applies here: Bullshit!

The Alberta Teacher’s Union is currently furious that our Education Minister has permanently barred some sex-offender teachers from teaching as well. That is how deeply the member protection instinct in the Alberta Teacher’s Union runs.

We all can remember our years in the education system. We all can remember some teachers who were incredibly talented and made an impact on us for life. We all can remember some who had to use slip-on shoes as tying laces was too much of a task for them.

I will run down the road of anecdotes here as I am sure that most will be able to nod their heads in understanding with similar experiences. I attended Banff Community High School in the 80s. It is a small school as demonstrated by our graduating class of 32 people in 88. This meant that teachers had to often take on multiple specialties. I had a math teacher who was incredible for my years there. This man’s presence was incredible. I was a pain in the ass student yet never dared mess around in this teacher’s class. Myself along with pretty much every student in this teacher’s class saw a spike in our math test markings as this talented man managed to make the most dry of courses understandable. Now in biology 20 I (and others in my school) had the opposite experience. The school’s regular biology teacher had taken maternity leave so the girl’s gym teacher was brought in to teach the course. This woman’s form of teaching was literally to write the textbook matter on the chalk board and expected us to copy it verbatim in our notebooks. We then would be tested and 60% of us failed. With nearly 2/3 (my math is still good) of us failing Bio 20 the course can be safely called a waste. I signed up for Bio 20 the next year and found to my horror that this same incompetent teacher was running the course. After two classes myself and over half of the class dropped the course. I still don’t have Bio 20 to this day. That worthless biology “teacher” was compensated and protected the same as that incredible math teacher. There are of course 10s of thousands of examples if this throughout the province.

Teaching is a calling and the talent within the best of teachers is innate rather than taught. Most of the best of our teachers were drawn to the profession immediately upon graduation. They love their work and are worth every penny (likely more) that they are compensated. Imagine the talent we could draw if we drove out the incompetent teachers and gave raises to the great ones. That of course would be merit pay which again terrifies unions.

There is a hard reality about many within the teaching profession that the union really doesn’t like to talk about. A huge number of teachers joined the profession as they simply saw it as a good paycheque that provided them with extended holidays throughout the year. Some of those who joined the trade for this reason are still great teachers but that number is much lower.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the schoolmate you had who drank his way through university while gliding into a degree of Ethiopian philosophy? Ever notice that while coffee shops are jammed with baristas with liberal arts degrees that few of them are over 30? Where did the person with the music degree or dance degree go when the garage band and stripper pole became tiring? Many of these people went back to school, picked up a teaching certificate and joined the high salary, profound pension world of Alberta teachers.

Not every person who decided to become a teacher as a secondary career choice is incompetent but let’s face it, many of them are. If we do want the best and brightest teachers in the system that we entrust our children to we have to test them and test them vigorously. The Alberta Teacher’s Union has failed terribly in monitoring the quality of their members (as can be expected) so it should not be a surprise that some want to see some outside testing of the quality of our teachers.

Ignore the BS from the Alberta Teacher’s Union whenever they cry the standard vapid: “its for the children!”. When it comes from the Alberta Teacher’s Union the reality is that it is always for the union members. The call is always for more pay, smaller class sizes (less work) and of course no outcome testing of students or performance testing of teachers. At least they are consistent.

While I am far from being a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party by any means, I am fully supportive of Minister Jeff Johnson in that our teachers desperately need competence testing.

Our teachers are so important that their testing is critical.

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Calgary’s war on cars now targets suburban park-and-ride users.

The ideologically driven transportation department in Calgary is hitting new lows in their war on cars as they now attack folks who park their cars in order to use transit. That’s right, it’s not good enough that people park their cars at LRT stations in suburban communities and take the train to work. These people are expected to walk, ride bikes or somehow find one of those rare, crowded and often pungent busses that will take them to the station.

The City of Calgary plans to remove 1250 stalls from Anderson LRT station!

Councillor Brian Pincott is of course absolutely giddy with this notion. He feels that the parking lot is not “walkable” enough. No surprise that he is one of the head members of the “Flakey Four” on city council.

I stopped by the Anderson LRT station today to take a few pictures. As can be seen below, the lot is already full beyond capacity to the point where people are desperately double parking and hoping to get overlooked by Calgary’s finest ticket issuers.

Anderson stationIMG552

It should be noted though, that the bike racks at the station languish empty as usual.

IMG553

So where are these 1250 commuters going to go? Whether Nenshi’s council like it or not, citizens simply are not going to abandon their cars no matter how hard they are pushed. This was proven with recent numbers showing that the vast majority of Calgarians prefer personal autos despite years of an anti-auto agenda from the Nenshi administration.

Cars are already overflowing into neighboring communities as the picture below demonstrates. Residential permit parking and mass enforcement may drive out these commuter refugees but they will still have to go somewhere.

IMG554Commuters can’t go one more station South as the Canyon Meadows park and ride is already full to overflowing (likely spaces next on the city hit list).

IMG555

The sad irony is that many of these displaced commuters will throw up their hands and just drive the entire way downtown rather than ride the train.

This sort of planning idiocy will also of course contribute to the growing trend of businesses relocating to areas like Quarry Park and up near the airport as downtown becomes increasingly unviable for employees. This of course increases the ongoing exodus of citizens to bedroom communities and the ever demonized “sprawl” accelerates.

To remove 1250 spaces from a lot that is already filled beyond capacity is a whole new level of stupidity from our city planners but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

This is the city that is letting a homeless charity lose $350,000 per year purely due to their anti-auto agenda.

Eventually Nenshi will move on to his federal ambitions and the city will tire of his allies in the “Flakey Four”. How much damage will these ideologues cause to the city before they leave though?

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Ideas so good they have to be mandatory!

The Purple Peacock

Naheed Nenshi has a dream. In Nenshi’s utopia, Calgarians will eschew suburban living and automobiles en masse while embracing high density downtown condo living and riding bicycles or taking transit to work. Calgary will turn into some sort of North American Amsterdam and lead the world in urbanist dreams. Industrial districts will vanish along with those nasty railroads that move consumer goods. Calgary will offer food trucks, art galleries and coffee shops as main industries. Hipsters from around the world will travel to Calgary to ride bicycles and gaze upon public art created by sole sourced foreign artists.

Despite using every tool at His disposal, Nenshi’s dream so far has pretty much been an utter failure. There is one factor that is foiling Nenshi’s every move to create this beautiful fantasy city. That factor is consumer choice!

consumer

Yes, those damned unwashed Calgarians just refuse to embrace Nenshi’s dream. Citizens are voting with their wallets and moving to bedroom communities in record numbers to flee the congestion and costs that are growing under Nenshi’s high-density stewardship of Calgary. Calgarians are still refusing to jam themselves like sardines into aromatic city transit or ride bicycles to work in winter as well. The personal auto is still by far the most popular means of transportation in Calgary.

Nenshi has tried every punitive means at his disposal to try to get people out of cars. Streets are being given away for a non-existent cyclist demand and parking spaces removed as quickly as possible. City Hall is now even considering charging people to park in front of their own homes. Those damned drivers are still ignoring Nenshi’s efforts to save them from themselves.

Rather than respect the wishes of Calgarians, Nenshi wants the province to empower him to force people to give up their autos and force neighboring municipalities to plan based on His own ridiculous density targets.

Nenshi has long been begging the province to grant him additional taxation powers. Property taxes alone are inadequate to feed Nenshi’s spending lust despite constant massive annual increases. Property taxes and fees do not allow Nenshi to punish behavior he doesn’t like and direct the unwashed masses into the mold He dreams of. Nenshi wants the power to charge for auto registrations and to tax the hell out of fuel. He wants to make automotive use as expensive and unviable as possible.

Nenshi’s taxation dreams have thankfully been stymied by our provincial government and it appears that they will continue to be.

Nenshi’s city hall has been strangling development in the suburbs through bureaucratic means and he has dedicated profound energy to demonizing people who choose to live in the suburbs and those businesses that dare to service such demand. Instead of squeezing into Nenshi’s square hole however, people are simply moving away from Nenshi’s playground altogether.

Nenshi’s plan to curb the exodus of citizens and businesses from the city is even more odious than his taxation dreams. Nenshi has been pushing and making ridiculous demands for a provincially mandated Municipal Development Plan which would give Him a veto power over development plans in neighboring municipalities and impose Calgary’s density requirements upon them.

Nenshi’s unbending demands for authority over other municipalities has stunted any chance of a regional development agreement being developed. Regional planning is a good thing but it simply has to be cooperative. Rather than subject themselves to Nenshi’s dictatorial dreams, the MDs of Foothills, Wheatland and Rocky View have told Nenshi to kiss their collected asses. Okotoks and Airdrie have refused to participate and so far the provincial government has refused to intervene.

Nenshi’s pouting has gotten more vocal as he has been stamping his foot and demanding that the province step in and force those uppity neighbors to take part in his dream.

So far no provincial ministers have indulged Nenshi in His fervent demands as they pretty much know that doing so would be committing political suicide in rural constituencies.

We must remain on guard though. Nenshi is a canny political strategist and he can smell vulnerability in the Progressive Conservative Party right now. You can bet that Nenshi is pressuring the individual leadership candidates to promise a provincially forced Municipal Development Plan and it is possible that one of those candidates may foolishly commit to such a promise in hopes of securing the Purple Endorsement in both the leadership and the next provincial election.

If people wanted to live in Nenshi’s dream, they would choose to. The ever vaunted and subsidized “East Village” languishes undeveloped and suburbs remain popular. Auto sales continue in record numbers and weekend road trips remain more popular than art festivals. Nenshi will never understand and respect the reality that he is supposed to serve the will of the electorate rather than direct it. That is why Nenshi consistently resorts to the hammer rather than accommodating the needs and wants of citizens. That of course is why it is critical that we ensure that our provincial government never empowers Nenshi as he is demanding. It would be damned tough to get that toothpaste back into the tube.

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Bureaucracy run wild in Calgary costs a homeless charity $350,000 per year.

homeless

Examples abound but this one is a truly magnificent demonstration of the anti-car idiocy that has taken over  in Nenshi’s city hall. It is hard to write anything about the actions of Calgary city hall without the word ridiculous being used too much.

The Mustard Seed is one of the most respected charities in all of Calgary in helping with homeless people. They expanded to a large new building downtown. The new facility provides 228 affordable housing units and three stories for education and employment services. Due to city regulations, the building had to contain 79 parking stalls and 60 secured bike racks.

Due to the reality that homeless people typically don’t need parking spaces, 70 of the parking stalls and all of the bike racks are languishing empty.

Thanks to years of city hall’s anti-auto strangling of parking spaces, Calgary is second only to New York city in all of North America for the highest prices for downtown parking. These rates will only be going up as hundreds of downtown stalls are going to be removed for a bicycle track “pilot” program. This has the side-effect of making downtown parking spaces a very lucrative possession, that is if you are allowed to rent them out.

The Mustard Seed could make $350,000 per year renting out those empty and wasted parking stalls. Unfortunately adding parking goes against the anti-auto ideology of Calgary city hall these days so they refuse to allow the spaces to be rented out. The volunteers and staff at the Mustard Seed get to look at those empty spaces every day and wonder what charitable works $350,000 per year could be dedicated to if only Nenshi’s city hall transportation could drop their ideological agenda and let a little reality creep in.

According to this story, the Calgary Transportation department told the Mustard Seed that letting them rent out their parking spaces would encourage traffic.

Essentially a charity like the Mustard Seed will be paying $350,000 per year to remain in keeping with the anti-auto agenda of city hall councillors such as the Flakey Four (Pincott, Farrell, Woolley & Carra) and their leader Naheed Nenshi. Anti-auto ideology trumps simple common sense and Calgary’s charities are paying the price.

Ward 4 Councillor Sean Chu has thankfully been speaking up on this issue.

chu

Evan Woolley, the councillor for the ward that the Mustard Seed is in has so far remained utterly silent on this issue.  In the next week, I hope we see some more city councillors questioning transportation bureaucrats on this latest idiocy. I expect we will hear nothing but silence from the usual anti-auto suspects. I wonder how good they feel knowing the homeless get to subsidize their anti-auto agenda?

 

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Time to clear up some things on the Calgary Southwest ring road

The hard-left collective four on Calgary’s city council (Druh Farrell, Brian Pincott, Gian-Carlo Carra and Evan Woolley) have managed to stir up quite some discussion through their hyperbolic posturing during a committee meeting the other day. Discussion on issues is always a good thing. The Flakey Four (ht. Rick Bell) however are on more of a water muddying mission than any real pursuit of facts. It has been something of a dark comedy as we listen to these four initially claim to be concerned about costs (they never have shown such concern before), yet invariably go on anti-auto tirades as soon as extended discussion ensues.

The four aforementioned city councillors are all inner-city representatives with long-established reputations of being anti-suburb. These four are extremely ideologically driven and consistently oppose anything they view as being supportive of suburban development or automotive infrastructure. Their opposition to the ring road has utterly nothing to do with the cost of the project and everything to do with the fact that the road will serve the needs of suburbanites.

It’s time to cut through some of the BS.

For starters, this is a provincial issue and not even within the jurisdiction of Calgary’s city council. The province has already made it clear that this project is going forward no matter how much noise inner-city councillors make.

Next is a demonstration of need. Opponents of the ring-road are simply claiming that we don’t need it. In the poorly edited image below I will demonstrate the need.

ringroada

I couldn’t find an image that combines current traffic flow with the projected ring road location so I cobbled one together. If you can squint really well or expand the image you can see the need for this traffic artery demonstrated.

The poorly drawn yellow line is an approximate rendering of where the ring road is going to go. The dark purple lines on the map indicate roads that carry over 100,000 vehicles per day. People familiar with Calgary’s Southwest will recognize the traffic bottlenecks immediately. Glenmore Trail, Crowchild Trail and 14th Street SW are all heavily congested with both commuter and trucking traffic. As can be clearly seen, all of those roads will see a great reduction in traffic with the coming of the ring-road as traffic can and will by-pass those narrow and traffic-light laden routes.

The red line is pointing to where development will be happening in the city of Calgary. The city boundary includes those areas and development down there is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Calgary is a fast growing city and despite the efforts of our density obsessed members of city council, 92% of people are choosing to live in the suburbs. Most People just do not and will not squash themselves into inner-city condos no matter what the inner-city ideological four think.

Hundreds of thousands of people will be building on and living in the Southwest region of Calgary in coming years. Is not one of our common complaints that infrastructure is always built after the fact rather than in anticipation of growth? The need for the ring road is already there and will only become more acute with time.

The need for the ring road is clearly established. The Flakey Four loves wistfully talking about the amount of LRT tracks that could be laid with the money but that will not aid in the movement of goods and services. Your plumber is not going to ride the train to your house, a parent of a family of five is not going to ride the train to get groceries and the grocery store will get it’s stock by truck, not LRT.

With the need established, the more realistic area of contention is the cost. It must be remembered, the need is not going away and the cost will not be going down over time. That said, the ballpark cost of $5 billion is a very large number. We need to break down and work out why it is in that range as much as we can before the province lays out more detailed information on this.

For a history of the ring road click here. The gentleman who created this blog has done a fantastic job of digging up and documenting the history of the road as well as reporting new developments on it. Considering it appears that the province’s first approach to the Tsuu T’ina band on this road was in 1947, there is a lot of history to cover.

The largest cost factor that differentiates the Southwest leg of the ring road from the rest of the segments is that the road goes through the Tsuu T’ina native reserve. This brought about a great deal of added costs as compensation for land and other factors came into the deal that other legs did not have to deal with. Dealing with potential burial grounds and other culturally sensitive issues arise on the reserve.

There are clauses in the agreement that guarantee some of the contracting on the construction of the road to the reserve. When working in the North, mandatory hiring of native contractors is usually part of our obligations in permits to work on crown land. The reasons why it costs so much more to use native contractors would be fodder for an entire series of blog postings. Be assured though that while native contractors can often do a fantastic job, they cost a great deal more than any other contractors tend to.

The ring road goes through the old artillery range of CFB Calgary. The clearing of the land of potential unexploded ordnance before construction is a huge and unique cost.

The Southwest ring road is in some environmentally sensitive areas that other legs of the road did not have to deal with. Crossing upstream of the  Weaselhead area is one example as well as crossing smaller water bodies like Fish Creek.

From the ring road blog:

The Southwest Ring Road includes:

  • 26 km of six and eight-lane divided roadway
  • 37 bridges
  • Crossings of Elbow River and Fish Creek
  • Rail flyover
  • 13 interchanges:
      • Westhills Way SW interchange
      • Sarcee Trail SW interchange
      • Old Strathcona Road SW interchange
      • 90 Avenue SW interchange
      • Anderson Road SW interchange
      • 130 Avenue SW interchange
      • 146 Avenue SW interchange
      • 162 Avenue SW interchange
      • Stoney Trail/Highway 22X systems interchange
      • Spruce Meadows Way SW/James McKevitt Road SW interchange
      • Sheriff King Street SW/6 Street SW partial interchange
      • Macleod Trail SW interchange

 

As demonstrated above, this is a very large project with many unique costs and challenges.

It took two referendums and decades of negotiations to get an agreement with the Tsuu T’ina band to get this ring road going. Part of the agreement also says that if the province does not have this road going within 7 years of the land transfer, the deal will be void. There is no time to dither on this. We can’t navel-gaze and think about it for a few years now. It would take decades longer and unimaginable compensation to do this deal again if we break it with the Tsuu T’ina now.

I don’t know how much it would cost to simply break the agreement right now but be assured there is a clause that states we would be paying the Tsuu T’ina  a great deal of money just to get out of the contract. Something that can’t be measured in dollars would be the lost faith and trust between the Tsuu T’ina band and the province/city. Trust is a limited commodity with First Nations as it is. Breaking new deals won’t exactly help.

One more thing that many folks are neglecting to mention is that the projected costs include 30 years of the maintenance of the ring road. The $5 billion is not simply for construction, it covers decades of maintenance that will be expensive under any circumstance.

It was irresponsible for Alberta Transportation to toss out what they now call a “ballpark” figure on the cost of the ring road. We need more detail before we can properly understand and absorb the costs associated with this critical piece of infrastructure. Having no detailed breakdown for the costs leaves room for opponents such as the Flakey Four to speculate and it is difficult to counter such unfounded speculations.

We need detailed costs and we need our provincial representatives to debate and work on these costs. There probably is room to reduce the cost of this project if we look closely enough. Let’s be clear though, the ring road is going ahead. To cancel the deal now simply is not a realistic option no matter what some inner-city councillors are dreaming.

Sideline the Flakey Four when it comes to further discussion on the ring road. They would oppose the project if it was 1/4 of the projected cost. Their issue is not with cost, it is with ideology and it always will be.

The ring road needs open and rational discussion and the place for it is in our legislature rather than city hall.

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