Lizzie May and a deep sense of entitlement.

Strangely while so many people are complaining that our federal elections have been too close together, many of these same people seem to have completely forgotten the mess that was made when Elizabeth May was allowed to participate in the debate in the 2008 election. People claim that they want to see reasoned discussion of issues in this election yet some of those people want the election debate turned into a circus again with the addition of an irrational fringe candidate like Elizabeth May. In 2008 May completely disrupted the debate with shrill interjections and interruptions of the other candidates. Serious issues were lost as other candidates had to battle to simply get a word in edgewise as May kept sidetracking into her strange world of green/socialism.  Lets not forget, Elizabeth May is the person who called Canadian’s stupid on her way in to the last election (and people wonder why Greens cant win seats).

Elizabeth May is no more entitled to enter a televised debate than the leaders of parties such as the Christian Heritage Party or the Marijuana party. These groups are electoral non-entities with single-issue stands and small cult followings.  While these fringe parties certainly have every right to campaign, they have no absolute right to force their way into a debate being held by a consortium of private broadcasters. I am seeing hyperbolic comments about free speech being infringed upon and I am getting tired of it. Just as reducing tax funding for arts does not infringe on free expression, private broadcasters are not infringing on free speech when they choose what they will televise.

People are disengaged enough from politics as it is. The election debate is a good opportunity for people for people to get a close look at the parties in real contention for seats and it helps voters make their decisions. A mistake was made last time and May derailed this fine electoral tool. This should not be allowed to happen again. Had May been somewhat lucid in the last debate perhaps her participation could be considered but come on, May turned the 2008 into a gong-show. May was given the benefit of the doubt once and we have learned from that error.

Elizabeth May and her fringe party are not entitled to sit at the big table during the debates no matter how deeply their sense of entitlement sits. Come back when you have won a seat or two Liz. Until then your party is on the fringe no matter how loudly your followers howl.

I do hope that the consortium holds their ground on the exclusion of May in the debates. Otherwise we likely will see an end to national televised debates of any relevance as the addition of every fringe group with a loud voice continues to dilute the more important and broad policy discussions that only the major parties can provide.

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Fear factor.

One odd trait that I will never understand is humanity’s enjoyment and pursuit of being frightened. The reason for fear in itself is pretty self-evident in evolutionary rationale. We have (or should have) a natural inclination to avoid things that may harm us. Despite this worthy instinct, we go out of our way to put ourselves into fearful situations. We participate in extreme sports and we put ourselves on midway rides that have been assembled by carnies of the most questionable mechanical merit in our pursuit of the thrill that fear gives us. An entire genre of fearful storytelling has evolved from Dante’s Inferno to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street.

Writers who want to thrill their readers with fearful creations have realized that one of the most fearful realms for that of humanity is the fear of the unknown. Dante Alighieri crafted an epic trilogy dealing with the afterlife. Mary Shelley wrote on the possible outcomes of work with electricity which was poorly understood at the time and the creators of a Nightmare on Elm Street made a frightening movie based on what happens while we dream.

The aforementioned stories (and many others) were quite successful in playing on the fear of readers as they took an area where people generally have a lack of understanding and they filled that void with a terrifying explanation.

Unfortunately, it is not simply novelists and movie creators who take advantage of societies fear of the unknown. The media and special interest groups take advantage of this human tendency all the time and often to our detriment as a whole.

Take heavy metals for an example. It has been long known that ingesting quantities of many of these elements can harm or even kill people. There seems to be quite an ignorance displayed by some on how one does ingest these metals and how much is dangerous.

I will always remember a news story on TV that I saw a couple of years ago leading up to Halloween. A woman had purchased some mechanical porch decorations and put them outside in preparation for the evening of little ghouls and goblins. These decorations were robotic sort of witches and such that moved and made sounds. In a moment of revelation this gal decided to fully read the packaging on her purchase and much to her horror she discovered that THE PRODUCT CONTAINS LEAD!!!!

Oh dear oh dear. What to do? Return the item? Call a hazmat crew for removal? Call the Prime Minister? Call Ghostbusters? Nah, this lady called the media. A crew rushed down and filmed this woman fearfully and indignantly ranting on how her entire block has been put at risk by this toxic product. Children could very well have dropped dead walking up her steps and birds could have fallen from the sky.

Now lets inject a touch of reality here. The lead contained in the products was in a solder within the circuitry of the units. A person would literally have to take the things apart, extract the lead and eat it from multiple units in order to be harmed. These were not baby toys in the crib, they are porch decorations. Has a person ever noticed that most fishing tackle boxes will include some lead weights? Has anybody ever wondered what that fast oxidizing grey metal is on their car battery posts? We are surrounded by lead people and we always have been. It is an essential metal to us in many ways and is pretty much harmless when we utilize it properly.

Now back to the main issue; did the reporter do the simple research to dismiss and move beyond this hysteric claim of mass poisoning? Of course not. She needed a story that would scare people and facts would certainly ruin that. An expert was quoted on what the harmful effects are due to mass consumption of lead (but he never explained how one ends up consuming so much) and a protectionist labor leader was interviewed to explain the evils of importing products from other nations. The story actually ran over multiple days so I guess viewer reviews were positive. Sad.

Now on to a bigger scale we are seeing a renewed hysteria about nuclear energy due to the tragic events in Japan. Aging hippies are gleefully feeling justified in their attempts to liken nuclear power generation to nuclear bombing as they have done so for decades. Again facts are being completely left aside as media and special interests swarm over this story and try to instill a fear of Armageddon in society at large. Iodine is selling out in Calgary despite their being utterly no risk of radiation exposure in Alberta and “health” stores are eager to fill this irrational demand as they prey on unfounded fears.

Now lets get back to reality. Currently there are 442 nuclear power plants in operation in over 30 countries. Nuclear power has been used for over 50 years. There have now been 3 incidents. Three Mile Island is often cited. People need to remember that the death toll of the Three Mile Island is ZERO. Chernobyl was certainly a disaster. Due to the communist tendencies of hiding facts, we never will know the true human cost of that tragedy. People have to keep in mind though that the Chernobyl reactor was created and run by a communist regime that was completely dysfunctional to the point of being incapable of manufacturing a good clock radio.

The contributing factors in the TWO nuclear generation incidents must be kept in mind and it is foolish to try and blanket what is statistically a very clean and safe industry. The earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan were exceptional and rare occurrences. Despite this, I see Alberta activists trying to use that example to fight potential nuclear power generation in Alberta. How about this folks, I am offering $10 million insurance coverage for tsunami damage within Alberta for the paltry premium of $100 per month. Contact me for details.

Interest groups are comparing apples and oranges and leaving aside facts as they take advantage of public fear in their opposition to pretty much every form of power generation known to man. Wind farms kill birds and whales, dammed rivers flood habitats, coal is evil, natural gas is evil, solar requires masses of mined heavy metals from third-world countries and of course nuclear energy is created by Satan Himself.

These groups preying on public fear never offer alternatives to things. They simply create hysteric theoretical outcomes. Keep in mind, if you are fundraising for an environmental group your efforts will be far more successful if you portray a mushroom cloud frying millions of people as opposed to the kinda sorta possibility that a few people may get hurt reality involved in power generation. Many people have died building dams, in oil/gas exploration and in coal mining. No form of energy comes with no cost.

The best case that I have seen against nuclear power generation in Alberta has been the economic one. If nuclear generation is unviable without government grants, then it is not a feasible form of generation. When the element of fear is set aside and a person thinks rationally on the issue, that is the simple and correct outcome.

Fear sells but I hope we can try better to move away from letting it impact our choices on important issues. We need to do our own research on issues. Whether it is an irrational fear of vaccinations or of types of power generation, if we make any decisions based on fear rather than fact we will almost invariably make the wrong choice. Remember, most fear is based on the unknown. We can make many of our fears go away simply by educating ourselves.

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Do we want the best or not?

 Year after year, poll after poll we see that health care is considered far and away to be the most important issue to Albertans whether left, right or center. We also see constant stories of shortcomings in our current system. Recently we have literally seen a doughnut shop being used as an ER because a BC hospital was over capacity. People have been literally dying on waiting lists and we are seeing health facilities in dire need of upgrading or repair.

 Two facts are evident here.  One is that health care is paramount in importance to Albertans and that the system is not performing in a satisfactory way. People say that they want the “best”. OK fair enough but how do we determine what is actually the best? Lets look at a few measures.

Spending.

 Almost invariably when shortcomings are pointed out in the system, defenders of the status-quo (unions) suddenly claim that our system is one of perfection and that we simply are underfunding it.

 Alberta has tripled health care spending in the last decade. Despite that massive increase in expenditure, our waiting lists continue to grow and our infrastructure continues to crumble.  if spending alone were the measure of a successful system, the United States are clearly the most successful health care providers on the planet as they spend more by every measure on health care than any developed nation on the planet.

 Many health systems that can brag better results than Canada spend less in measures of per-capita spending and in percentage of gross domestic product. It is pretty safe to say that this means that we can see better results in health care without spending more money if we are willing to change how we do things.

 It must be kept in mind that the most vocal groups for increased spending are unions and their side lobby groups (Friends of Medicare). Despite what they may claim, unions simply do not have the interests of patients in mind (nor should they, the workers are their mandate). Note that the unions constantly call for “more beds”, not more doctors, more procedures, more drug coverage, more preventative medicine or more diagnostic equipment. The reason for this is simply that more beds translates into more union staff whether nurses, janitorial or even in laundry services. If we got all of the other things, we would need less beds as people would not be languishing in hospitals awaiting treatment as they are now. The unions are simply doing their job in that their interest is nothing more than gaining and maintaining more union workers. That always has to be kept in mind when they call for more spending in health however.

World health spending rates can be found here. Canada is near the top in this at least.

Beds per 10,000

 While beds and the need for them can represent a shortcoming in timely treatment, we certainly do need a measure of them. As Canada is among the world leaders in spending, how do we rank among beds? Not too well I fear.

Canada ranks 40th behind such economic powerhouses as Uzbekistan and Palau

 Again beds alone are pretty limited in what they indicate and in what they provide in health services. All the same, if we are going to lead in spending, why are we not leading in such measures as this?

Doctors

                   One thing that greatly reduces the need for hospital beds is having an adequate number of doctors and specialists treating patients so that they can be back on their feet again. An increased number of doctors helps reduce the load on the system by diagnosing and treating patients earlier while many conditions still remain more easily treatable.

 Canada ranks 58th in doctors per capita behind such nations as Moldova and Uruguay with 2.1 doctors per 1000 people.

 Gaining and maintaining doctors is not a simple task. Increasing the number of doctors we educate at home is good but it is no assurance that we will keep these recent graduates. Many newly trained Canadian doctors are quickly recruited by foreign countries that have more flexible health systems which are much more attractive to doctors than ours with essentially capped salaries and untenable hours of work. Our system hinders us in trying to draw foreign doctors in to Canada as well.

 It only makes sense that we examine comparable countries to our own and that we emulate what has been working with them.

Life Expectancy

 Many other factors come in when it comes to life expectancy. The local health care system has a huge impact on expectancies though.

In the world rankings, Canada is 11th in life expectancy. Not bad. I still like aspiring to the numbers of the 10 nations ahead of us though (all of whom have mixed health care provision systems).

Infant mortality

Infant mortality is a good measure. Certainly we can’t directly compare with third-world nations that are coping with malnutrition, clean water and getting simple vaccinations. In developed nations though, the infant mortality rate can give a good indication of how the pre-natal and birthing care have been. In Canada we rank 23rd. 

Universality

Universal care is a value that most Canadians share. Ironically, in our stubborn adherence to our flawed system many desperate Canadians are going to European and Asian nations in order to purchase procedures that they simply can no longer wait for in Canada. The irony is that these people are subsidizing the universal coverage of other nations while we languish with untenable waiting lists in Canada due to a twisted sense of “fairness” and an ingrained fear of “two-tier” care. Our socialized and rationed system is self-defeating in that people of means (or desperation) are still jumping the line and are taking their resources out of the country while they are at it. I wonder how many of these people end up getting treated by Canadian trained doctors in foreign nations? Which nations more truly have universal coverage?

 We as Canadians have had it driven into our heads our whole lives that Canada has the best health system on the planet while every measure possible is contrary to that assertion. We have actually built a system of service provision into our national identity which is sort of disturbing when you think of it.

 If we truly want to get the best health care possible for ourselves, we first have to admit that our system is not the best (in fact it isn’t even close to it). We then need to examine the systems that do rate as the best and emulate them.

 In all of the measures I referred to above, some countries consistently ranked near the top. France, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland all surpass us and only Switzerland spends more. One common element of the countries that are surpassing us is that they have set aside the notions of envy and socialism in order to pursue the best outcomes for patients. All of those countries allow a much greater degree of private provision and management than Canada does and that is no small denominator in why those countries enjoy better care than we do at less cost to all. All of those countries have universal coverage as well.

 When we look at the chronic crisis hitting Canada’s health system despite massive increases in expenditures, it becomes clear that change to Canada’s system is inevitable. What we have to ask ourselves is whether we want to proactively pursue that change now or if we will stubbornly hang on to our broken system until it collapses and change comes in a different way.

 I would prefer to pursue the best system myself.

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The facts will win in the end (not to mention economic reality).

Over the years we have seen nothing less than a barrage of hyperbole and outright untruths spread about the development of Alberta’s oilsands. Eco-zealots set aside all principle as they determine that the end (not that they can define that end) justifies any means in their cause against modern life.

The oilsands are an easy target. The scope of the resource is vast and the operations are large. Oilsand development happens in the deep Northwest end of Alberta along a dead end highway so very few Albertans will ever actually go up there in person to see what is actually happening in Alberta’s oilsands development. This allows those with a questionable agenda to fabricate whatever scenario they like and we can rest assured that these unprincipled environmentalists do not hesitate to do so.

I have worked up in Fort McMurray/Fort McKay many times. I will be the first to admit that the development is ugly at a glance. Large areas are strip mined (now most is in-situ) and the smell from the facilities spreads for miles. Water is used and on cold days plants emit vast clouds of steam as they return water to the eco-system through evaporation. Those images are used in trying to exaggerate the pollution of the plants of course. Keep in mind that the steam in the washroom as you shower is the same harmless substance.

The picture below I have taken from a site that indignantly has howled that we are strip mining an area the size of New York state. That is utter B.S. of course but such hysteria helps these environmental groups as they go door to door looking for your money and claiming that they are saving the planet for your children. Keep in mind, with the right camera angle I can make my backyard garden look like an ecological disaster in ground disturbance.

Strangely, the eco-shysters rarely post the pictures of strip mining in China, Russia or many other parts of the world which are larger and have little to no environmental controls.

Another thing the eco-crowd loves to try and claim is that trees never grow back and that it is impossible to reclaim any developed land. We certainly see that when logging projects are irrationally opposed. The pictures below show successful reclamation of oilsands land though the eco-fanatics have forgotten to add those in their crazy press releases.

 All of the above pictures are of lands that had been mined and reclaimed. Bunnies and Bambis are indeed happily frolicking and the eco-world has not ended there.

How about the nasty stuff happening downstream though?  The green gang has shrilly claimed that oilsands development is causing cancer in people living downstream on the Athabasca river? Thankfully, like so many claims by the self-styled environmentalist crowd the cancer thing a is 100% complete and undeniable falsehood. The entire thing was yet another fabrication made to scare people. Science totally debunked it (at great expense unfortunately). Even the CBC had to admit it.

The CBC next jumped on and reported a terrible leak of toxins from a tailings pond. OMG OMG. Children will shrivel! Fish will scream in agony!!!! The moon will fall from the sky!!!

Ooooopps. Looks like that leak thing was 100% untrue.

CBC and left leaning media seem to bury their corrections pretty deeply however. Who can forget the nasty looking three-jawed fish? Oh dear!!!!! Clearly the oilsands have caused this nasty deformity!!!! Put the picture on the front page!!! Stop the world!!!

 

Eco-kooks even took the fish on tour with them in their crusade against energy development.

OOOOPs, looks like the oilsands had absolutely nothing to do with the fish looking that way. Oh dear. Well, lets just bury that retraction on the latest hysterical environmental fabrication.

If people are going to take sides in an issue, may I suggest that they tend to dismiss the side of the issue that constantly engages in spreading falsehood?

We hear endless claims that there is no environmental regulation in energy development (total lie, we are among the strictest in the world) or that we are giving away our resources for free (aside from the 100s of billions paid), or that there is little to no reclamation. These are effective fundraising claims. Speaking to real issues such as particulate pollution or third-world developments are not effective when rattling the cup at the door.

Have no doubt folks, this is about money. Greenpeace is a multinational corporation making hundreds of millions of dollars per year. They need constant donors in order to pay their hundreds of activists who altruistically travel the world and live rather well.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Pictured below is Dr. Patrick Moore.

  Now, on the left you can see a picture of Dr. Moore when he co-founded Greenpeace.  Moore’s doctorate is in ecology by the way. Moore left Greenpeace decades ago when the organization totally lost sight of their environmental roots and turned into a fundraising machine. Dr. Moore is still very much concerned about the environment. He has now moved on to dealing realistically with issues.

Yes, Dr. Moore does not hang from buildings waving banners nor does he dump loads of fish in the offices of politicians. Moore simply deals with facts and reality. He does not get the headlines that environmental extremists do but his work is more enduring as it is based in fact.

Dr. Patrick Moore has declared:  “There is nobody with a better environment or human rights record selling oil in this world.” when speaking of Alberta’s energy industry.

That is the fact and it is simply undeniable. That fact will win in the end but we will have to be vigilant in countering the exaggerations of environmentalists as they fund-raise. We have to be vigilant in looking into the claims of these groups and looking at their interests.

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