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.

cab

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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A ribbon for participation.

I am a surveyor who likes ranting about whatever is on my mind on a blog. I am prone to terrible run-on sentences, occasionally rambling postings, some spelling errors that slip through the spell-check function of the blog, and some grammatical errors that doubtless have made some of the grammar fixated wish that they could jump through their computer screen and slap me in the head. Some of my writings may be dull or lack in creativity at times. I recognize these literary shortcomings on my part.

Despite knowing that I do not write among the best on earth, I find it simply agonizing as the collective best among academia gather at Columbia University (an institution that I have been unfairly prevented from attending), and work to truly wreak havoc on my self-esteem through highlighting the planet’s literary best through an internationally celebrated awards ceremony. As the spotlight shines on the world’s literary best, a sidelight shines upon my inadequate writings thus humiliating me on a profound scale. How dare they openly remind me that I will never be able to reach the apex of literary achievement!! How cruel and unfair this world is indeed. Every time I see one of these award winners I nearly fall prostrate and go fetal in agony as they rub my nose in my shame of not being able to produce the world’s best.

This cruel ceremony must end! This recognition and presentation is damaging to the self-esteem of every literate person on earth who does not win it!

THE PULITZER PRIZES MUST BE BANNED!!

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While the above demand appears to be ridiculous and the rationale behind it whining, entitled and petulant, it is pretty much the same sort of demand and same rationale being used by the idiots in a Calgary school who have managed to get the honour roll among all other academic recognitions and their associated ceremonies removed from the school.

Kurt Vonnegut (another robbed of a Pulitzer) wrote a fantastic short-story called Harrison Bergeron that I strongly recommend anybody read if they have not already. He depicts a futuristic world where equality is achieved through the removal of all recognition that anybody may have more ability than another and literal handicaps are applied to anybody who excels beyond the average in society.

Download Harrison Bergeron here

Vonnegut’s story truly does appear less and less like abstract science fiction as we see stories of the ongoing assault on all forms of recognition of excellence being successful. Scores are no longer kept in many children’s sports and games as simple as duck duck goose are actually being banned so that nobody may lose.

This pursuit and enforcement of mediocrity will not be creating children with higher self-esteem. If anything, these children are being set up for a catastrophic blow to their self-esteem when they leave the coddling walls of educational institutions only to discover that in the real world, not everybody gets a ribbon for participation. Will these kids with such a deep sense of entitlement be able to adapt to the harsh realities of life? I guess some will and some won’t, but hiding them from these lessons for their formative years will not be doing them any favors.

We need awards and heights in order to keep us striving. Ambition is not a bad thing, in fact it is essential. If the world had been controlled by these self-esteem obsessed fools 10,000 years ago, we still would never have seen the invention of fire for crying out loud. Do you think the inventor of the wheel did so for altruistic reasons? Do you think he didn’t seek the celebration of his peers as another part of his ambition along with seeking a better way to move things around?

We need to be taught to strive for the top yet accept that we won’t all make it there.

Some people are smarter than others. Some people are stronger than others. Some people are better looking than others. Some people work harder than others.

GET OVER IT!!

I think personally one of the biggest lessons I had in life has been to quit worrying about what others do or what they have. Envy and entitlement are the most poison of feelings and our attempts to enforce a form of equality where it really does not exist will only foster more entitled bitterness.

I know I won’t win a Pulitzer Prize. I am OK with that. I don’t let the knowledge of that keep me from writing and feeling satisfied with what I write. I can celebrate the top of the writing world while still being happy with my mediocre standing in it.

There are ways and there are ways to deal with inequality. I know and understand that I am not hung like Rasputin. I still make what I like to think is good use with what I have and go for a drive in my large diesel truck when it really bothers me. To follow the self-esteem movement’s lead, what I should be doing is lobbying that all men be surgically shortened to an equitable length or at least ban them from shared changing rooms in the name of fairness. It is no less ludicrous than many other proposals in the name of equality out there.

Sadly it is much easier to drag folks down in the quest for equality than it is to try to pull everybody else up. I hope this trend ends soon.

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We can’t all be astronauts.

bondar

Yesterday I listened to a radio retrospective from 1969 where excited children were interviewed just after the moon landing.

 

One of the children was asked, “Do you want to go into space one day?”

 

The child responded, “Oh yes.”

 

The interviewer asked, “Do you think you will?”

 

The child responded, “No”.

 

When asked why not the child said. “Because I am a girl.”

 

In such a short piece it was laid out so clearly how our primitive societal outlook held back the hopes, dreams and aspirations of so many children based on things such as gender, race or even family status. This was not all that long ago at all but thankfully in the developed world we have grown beyond those attitudes incredibly in just one generation. There are still archaic attitudes held by some and still unfair limitations being presented to some but we are working towards ending those.

 

As with so many things though, we have reached a target and then continued pushing right past it to the point where we have created a whole new problem. We no longer have a generation that feels that they can’t do certain things simply because of race or gender but we have created a generation that is marked by a very deep sense of entitlement.

 

We have told our young people over and over that they have the right to become whatever they want to be. The reality is that what we are creating is the equal opportunity to pursue certain careers but we can’t guarantee that the pursuit will be fruitful. Let’s face it, if every young person could become whatever they dreamed to be, we would be a world full of singers, firefighters, movie stars and of course astronauts. In the real world the openings for those roles are rather limited.

 

In Quebec we have seen riotous protests for over a year as thousands of students with a profound sense of entitlement protested an incredibly modest increase in the cost of their already hugely subsidized tuition. During the whole “occupy” thing the year before we saw young people feeling entitled to illegally squat wherever they please to demonstrate a sense of general discontent that they could not get everything they want from society. As that generation hits the working world the cold wash of reality is going to be terribly hard on them.

 

In the real world we don’t all get a ribbon for participation. We never should be trying to crush or limit the aspirations of young people. We do need to add a dose of reality though.

 

In the world of the arts we see this sense of entitlement at it’s height. Embittered interpretive dance graduates and people with doctorates in advanced finger painting are tiring of serving coffee and are demanding that the public fund them so they may work in the field of their choice even if there is no demand for it. Arts lobbies are having some degree of success as politicians fear being swarmed by unemployed mimes at election time so tax dollars keep getting tossed into the arts pit for more substandard productions. In Alberta SOFA has been yelping to a fever pitch acting as if art will outright vanish from the world entirely if we do not tax the productive further to pay for it. That of course is simply untrue. Heavily subsidized arts do lead to crappy quality arts though as I laid out in this posting.

 

Though I am sure there are people who could be more diplomatic than I about it but it has to be said to some. Not every person is actually any good in their field of choice. Somehow the interpretive dance major has to be coaxed into another trade and the finger painter informed that his work is shitty and will never sell. If these delusions are not punctured at some point, the dancer will often find herself swinging around a pole with money in a g-string while drama majors find themselves in grimy West Coast studios in a branch of the film industry that they never really dreamed of entering. Which reality dose is more painful? The first one or the second?

 

Our collective sense of entitlement has led to mass overspending provincially. Redford now is ineptly cutting from post-secondary education which has led Mount Royal University to cut some of their arts and journalism programs. Hey, we can’t have it all and if we are going to cut that is simply where it needs to be done. This does not mean that there is no arts education or journalism available, it is just that the opportunities are re-modelling a bit to reflect a realistic demand.

 

What am I to say to a person with a degree in philosophy aside from: “No thank you, I don’t need fries with that.”? How many openings for careers in women’s studies do we really ever think there will be? We have to get realistic with what we are teaching and those taking the courses need to be realistically informed about the chance of their being employed in the field of their choosing.

 

I do not owe anybody a living in their field of choice.

 

The dreams do not need to be squashed but they do need to be tempered with reality. A person can paint part time while working on a different career. A person can still attend weekend casting calls while working as an engineer. Hey, if you get your break that’s wonderful but if perchance you don’t make the cut your bills will still be paid and I won’t have to listen to the enraged howls of entitlement from you.

 

It needs to be taught that a person is not a failure if they end up in a career that was not their first choice in life. Nothing makes a job more of a drudgery than thinking that you were supposed to be elsewhere. As I type, I am in Oklahoma supervising the survey of an oil exploration program. I deal with countless nightmares at times from drug addled staff, to gross hotel conditions to picking ticks from myself nightly after having walked through the bush for a day. Rest assured I did not daydream of doing this as a child. Despite this not being my first career choice, I am comfortable with it and accept that it is what I do. Why depress myself or demand that others facilitate a change for me? If it was all that bad, I could seek something else. I have learned to enjoy the travel and the outdoor aspects.

 

As deficit budgets continue on all levels of government while we pursue the same crash the Europe is enjoying, we see a looming reality check where spending will inevitably have to be cut. When we re-balance our education system we must work to ensure that we model public-funded education based on our national needs rather than entitled wants. If we keep taking the path of least resistance we will have a mountain of unemployed arts grads while we madly draw even more immigrants to fill the labor voids created by our tilted system.

 

You never see a plumber working as a barista. Let’s work to find that balance with our youth between encouragement and reality.

 

We need not destroy dreams, but we have to let youth know that they don’t always (in fact rarely) come true.

 

 

 

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Want to conserve a resource? Make it a commodity!

An unfortunate reality is that the more critical a resource is to the population at large is, the more likely and effective efforts will be to put the management of the resource fully and directly into the hands of governments. I say this is unfortunate as when a resource is collectivized; a sense of consumer entitlement arises leading to even more consumption and more irresponsible management of the resource.

Few resources demonstrate the above principle more clearly than fresh water. Based on the simple reality that fresh water is indeed essential in life, advocates for intrusive government expand from there in demanding that water never be traded or used as a commodity in a private manner. What is overlooked whether purposely or not is that water already is a tradable commodity and it must be in order for modern society to function. Industry and agriculture have been purchasing water since the invention of canals.

Despite the hysterics of groups such as the Council of Canadians, nobody is really coming to steal or buy all of Canada’s fresh water. Our supply of fresh water as a nation is quite safe. Treated water for household use and consumption however is indeed a resource that is expensive to produce and hard to keep up with citizen’s demands for it.

Last Saturday evening was dedicated as the time for people to observe “earth hour” as designated by the international lobby corporation known as the World Wildlife Fund. Despite ads, gimmicks and general lobbying, Calgary happily ignored the hype and I am proud to report that we as a city showed utterly no change in our energy use as during this hour of greenwashing. The usual suspects in the environmentalist world are of course decrying us as rednecks and enemies of the earth for ignoring their foolish little exercise.

Assuming that Calgarians are indeed the heartless, environment-destroying, capitalist bastards that some in other regions like to try and paint us, how on earth did we manage to be the city with the lowest per-capita water consumption numbers in the country?

What inspired so many Calgarians to install low-flow toilets, track down leaking pipes, use rain-barrels and reduce the amount of treated water that we pour on to our lawns? Was it successful lobbying by Greenpeace and the like with their door-to-door work and flyer drops? Was it ads in the paper wagging collective fingers at us for overconsumption? Was it an earth-shattering speech from a civic leader? None of the above apply of course. The key element in the reduction of Calgary’s domestic water use has been household water metering!

I know that we like to envision society as being altruistic to the point that they will embrace every conservation initiative that is fed to them but in reality it is only self-interest that moves people en masse to change anything. Through making water a measurable commodity that people pay for based on individual use Calgary succeeded where decades of socialized water distribution failed. By simply being charged by the liter and being able to see a measure of household use, citizens were suddenly inspired to seek effective ways to reduce their consumption.

Hipsters do love their irony so they should appreciate the figure below from Statistics Canada.

Chart 4 Households in single-detatched dwellings more likely to use water-saving fixtures

wateruse

While the majority of our urban density zealots who preach of the wasteful lifestyles of suburbs live in dense neighborhoods (and their parent’s basements in the suburbs), it appears that they have some issues in practicing what they preach. Why is it that the areas most densely packed with environmental idealists are not embracing water consumption reduction initiatives nearly as much as those evil bourgeoisie devils in single detached homes?

The answer is pretty simple; in apartments and other multi-unit dwellings utilities and resources such as water are much more likely to be collectivized. Renters abound and utilities are often bundled in with their rent. Despite high-idealism, direct incentive to reduce consumption is not seen  so consumption simply isn’t reduced. Like most socialists, it is expected that somebody else has to do it but the demands on everybody else are to be shrill, sanctimonious and as can be seen, often hypocritical.

The principle of making a resource a commodity in order to control consumption works pretty much anywhere. Environmentalists love to screech indignantly at the practices of logging companies. One would assume that crown land under the tight scrutiny and control of government would be where best practices would occur then no?

In reality, private woodlots are far more efficiently managed than crown lands. While only 11% of Canada’s woodlots are privately owned, 19% of our timber products come from them. Private woodlots are carefully managed for erosion control, esthetics and of course productivity. Sustainability and replanting are critical simply due to the element of self-interest in maintaining a healthy, balanced forest. That is not to say that no sustainable practices are done on public lands, this is just pointing out that private practices prove to be superior to public management.

If public ownership of resources were the key to wise environmental practices and sustainable growth, China would be leading the world in clean industry.

If public ownership of critical resources led to more efficient production and a sustainable cost of living, Soviet Russia would have had the most stable food supply on the planet. Google bread-lines or starvation in Ukraine to see what happens when government is given the management of a resource simply on the premise that because it is critical that it should not be left in private hands. Food is a need. Despite that, government management of food has always proven to be a failure with extremely dire consequences.

We need to keep these principles in mind when looking at other resources too. Where are our largest areas of public expenditure? Where are these expenditures growing the fastest?

Healthcare and education prove to be the most important issues to voters and both are proving to be unsustainable to the public purse. Because of massive government subsidization and control, a sense of entitlement has caused an unsustainable trend in demand and direct management of these resources. Nations are going bankrupt around the planet due to entitlements and as we see all levels of government in North America spending far more than they bring in it is clear that we are heading towards a crash as well.

Water and food are needs and we have found that treating them as commodities has been the best way to ensure that these needs are sustainably managed for all. Healthcare and Education are needs as well yet we refuse to recognize them as commodities due to flawed and outdated ideologies.

It should not be an entitlement to go to an emergency room without direct personal cost every time your child has the sniffles nor does every child need post-secondary education. Treating healthcare and education as commodities would mean directing resources towards real need rather than entitled wants. This is not to say that we need to move to a fully private model for either of these areas by any means. What this means is that we have to change how we look at these resources in a new way if we really actually want to conserve them in the most responsible manner.

Whether we like it or not, government resources are finite. We simply can’t fund everything to keep up with every entitled demand by interest groups. We have to look at supply realistically before trying to fill every demand.

I know people fear private provision of services. If we continue to live beyond our collective means as we are now though, the dog-eat-dog system that will come post-crash will make controls that we could make now appear to be a cake-walk. Have a look at Spain, Greece or Russia for examples.

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Stranger than fiction.

The latest breaking story of corruption by our Progressive Conservative government really is such a gross example of corruption on so many levels that it reads like a novel of a fictional government in some sort of third-world dictatorship.

Premier Alison Redford’s sister who was appointed to a plum executive position with the Calgary Health Region had been illegally laundering tax dollars back to the party that her sister leads!

In light of the above sentence it really sounds too grossly corrupt to be true. Even Fidel and Raul Castro would blush at such blatant corruption and family cronyism.

The full story is here and was broken by Charles Rusnell with the CBC. I am often quite the critic of the CBC but a huge hat tip has to be given to Rusnell’s investigative work in this last few years. This is one of many stories of Progressive Conservative corruption that he has broken in his actions as a one-man opposition party and watchdog.

Fewer issues have better illustrated the deeply ingrained culture of entitlement and corruption of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta than this latest revelation.

The utter shamelessness of this government has been striking. They are leading us back into debt, giving themselves an 8% raise, while forcing our Doctors into a contract with a 2.5% raise and in the midst of constant scandals breaking of their obscene expensing such as with Premier Redford’s gold-plated trip to the London Olympics we still see more of these scandals breaking.

The Progressive Conservative Party has been applauded for it’s ability to hit bottom with the electorate and manage to renew itself at the last minute before losing power. This happened with Getty and Stelmach. Dogged partisan supporters of the party would crow of “change from within” and optimistic Albertans unfortunately would buy it at election time. This time the thin facade of reform didn’t even last a year before all of the scandals began to surface showing that the Progressive Conservative Party is more corrupt than ever.

The culture of the Progressive Conservative Party is one of entitlement and it shows rather clearly. The movers and shakers in that party do not lose a wink of sleep as they rob taxpayers to fund their own partisan activities. They really do feel that Albertan taxpayers owe them something. Premier Redford doesn’t think twice about expensing a $24 cup of coffee nor keeping her sister in a senior government position. Redford thought nothing of lying bald-faced in claiming that she didn’t know that a single donor provided almost a third of her election budget in the last election and she thought nothing of lying to Albertans in campaigning on a balanced budget.

This is a form of group sociopathy. The people in the Redford government truly do not even realize that they are doing something wrong. They have been in power for 41 years and really feel that this entitles them to act however they please and that the laws do not apply to them.

This party atmosphere of entitlement, corruption and indifference to the needs and laws of Albertans is not the sort of thing that can be “changed from within”. The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta needs to be removed from power within Alberta. It is unfortunate that it will still be 3 1/2 years before we get the chance to do so in an election and I fear for the amount of corruption and damage that this broken regime will cause before we can get them out.

Left right or center, it is clear that we as Albertan’s  have to get rid of the corrupt regime that we so recently elected on false promises and premises.

Redford and her cronies are embarrassing us as a province. This illness can’t be treated, it must be excised.

UPDATE

 In compounding their cowardice in the face of this reprehensible scandal, Redford hid in Ottawa and assigned her Deputy Premier to sit in for her in the legislature. The Deputy Premier shamelessly lied repeatedly and called all who dared question the illegal contributions made by the Premier’s sister “bottom feeders”.

Redford was found sprinting through an Ottawa Hotel. Rather than answer pressing questions for the Albertans who employ her, Premier Redford refused to even make eye contact with cameras as her security detail rudely shoved press aside as can be seen in the video below:

 

Redford clearly lacks even an ounce of principle or leadership. It is bad enough to embroil our province in such an embarrassing scandal, but to be too cowardly to even address it herself shows Redford is completely unfit to stand as our Premier.

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Is a boom really so bad?

Few things get me worked up faster than hearing people whining about the challenges that come with a robust economy. During the last boom, the complaints from the spoiled hit a fever pitch as people yelped about everything from long restaurant lines to the increased cost of living. Many people actually called for the government to intervene and purposely slow Alberta’s economy. The Alberta economy hit the toilet well enough on it’s own in late 2007, can you imagine how bad it would have been had government already worked to slow it down prior to that? Governments make enough of a damn mess when they mess with an economy trying to speed it up, it is nothing short of idiocy to ask a government to slow an economy down.

Things in Alberta are finally getting back to where they should be and the usual suspects are crawling out of the woodwork complaining about the challenges. From higher rents to traffic backups to infrastructure shortcomings, the complaints are ramping up. Despite these being real symptoms of a strong and growing economy, these problems pale in comparison to the challenges that come with a dead or dying economy.

With my cell phone camera I set out in Stuebenville Ohio to try to demonstrate just what a slow economy looks like as it is clear that many of our myopic complainers in Alberta have utterly no idea what they are wishing for.

The demands for increased entitlements, infrastructure, healthcare, art and larger government in general are extremely damned expensive. If the economy is stunted, rest assured we will get no increases to the aforementioned things though that seems lost on the anti-business crowd.

I do apologize for the shaky video and any vertigo experienced in watching the bumpy ride. I did have to do the tour while in the vehicle as it truly is not safe to be walking about filming things in this city. It is my first venture into video ranting and I find typing easier than speaking.

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Why don’t we turn EI into an insurance plan?

While EI is indeed an abbreviation with the word insurance in it, it is not an insurance plan. Many people have different opinions of what EI is and what it should be. It appears that many if not most are wrong.

In trying to make EI appear as an insurance plan, payments made by workers into the plan are called “premiums”. Sorry folks, but payments made by workers for EI are taxes and nothing less. Revenues from EI were indeed once kept in a fund specifically for the purpose of payouts on claims. When workers paid more into the EI fund than they drew out, a surplus was generated. Surplus funds never escape the eyes of free spending politicians for long unfortunately and EI “premiums” now are directed into government hands thus turning them into taxes.

While serving as Canada’s finance minister some years ago; Paul Martin spotted billions of dollars languishing away from his greedy fingers in an EI surplus. Typically, when an insurance fund generates a surplus either the premiums are reduced or a larger dividend is paid out to the shareholders in the insurance company. As EI was a government program without formal shareholders, premium reduction was really the only option. Surplus funds could have been invested as well so that revenues could lead to further reduction in premiums and the funds could have been saved for increased payouts should there be a sustained economic downturn. What Paul Martin did though was utilize a majority Liberal government in order to change the very nature of the entire program and find a different way to use surplus EI funds. The Chretien Liberal government passed legislation allowing government to take surplus EI funds and direct them to general revenue.

As soon as government could take funds from EI payments and spend them elsewhere, the program ceased being an insurance plan in any manner. Premiums are now actually taxes and payouts are essentially a form of social service. EI is not an insurance plan at all, it is just a large social service program with different steps for qualification and limits on the terms of payout.

The Harper government has been no better than the Chretien government in this regard. Surplus EI funds (overcharged taxes to the employed) are still being directed to general revenue and there has been no indication of an appetite to change the program to an insurance plan. The Harper government is rightly trying to move people away from chronic utilization of EI payouts, but the government is failing in it’s refusal to separate EI as a program.

 With EI being essentially a separate welfare program for the employed, it has unfortunately turned into what some people see as yet another entitlement from the government. Many people are using the program as a supplement to their incomes and they feel it is their right to do so. An insurance plan is not supposed to act as a savings plan, a retirement plan, an income supplemental plan, a regional income balancing plan or a supplemental vacation pay plan. Unfortunately EI is being used as all of the aforementioned things by many.

An insurance plan should be something that covers a circumstance that is unforeseen and can’t be properly planned for. Seasons are pretty predictible in their annual appearances for example so one really should not be insuring themselves for the changes of season. If you know that you will be laid off every year at the exact same time then you need either a savings plan or an alternative seasonal job. No real insurance plan would cover a person for something that happens as predictably as a sunrise.

With a real insurance plan, people’s premiums will rise and fall with their risk levels. Bad drivers pay huge automotive premiums while good ones see a reduction in premiums. A person’s reward for not needing insurance is reduced premiums, not a guaranteed payout. How often do you hear people say “I have paid in all my working life, it is my right to draw out!”.  Damnit no! That is a savings plan then, not an insurance plan. If you don’t crash your car for years, do you get to file a claim and collect anyway? If your house does not burn down, does this mean you get your homeowners insurance premiums back?

I think it is important that workers have a fallback should they unexpectedly find themselves unemployed for awhile. The buffer of insurance benefits can allow workers to seek new employment, move to a different region or retrain for a new line of work. I can live with participation in an insurance plan being mandatory for workers too. Whether run at arms length by government or even privately, an insurance plan can and will work. We need a real insurance plan though!

A real insurance plan will charge higher premiums for people in fields of work that are of a high risk for unemployment and will charge individuals who make more claims than others a higher premium as well. Premiums and payouts would reflect regional needs as well. People who rarely or never claim will find their premiums to be exceedingly small over time. While a minimum participation would be required, people could opt-in for extra coverage (with an increased premium of course) should they wish to. This reduces incentive to be unemployed while still covers a person should they need it.

Let’s be clear, among businesses that I despise insurance companies top the list. Whether privately run or government run, an insurance plan will have to be closely regulated. Benefits must come close to matching premium revenues and surpluses must not go to unreasonable salaries for management or payouts to company owners. Funds must never go to general government revenue either!

Until we actually change EI into an insurance plan we are simply deluding ourselves in calling it one or trying to treat it like one. The current incarnation of “Employment Insurance” is a tax-revenue generating scheme that is used as a political tool for regional political play. It is past time that we re-examined the role of EI and it’s form. The entitlement and abuse due to the current EI (welfare) system is not beneficial to Canadians at large.

If we are going to have an “Employment Insurance” plan, let’s make it a real one.

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I am an artist! No handouts required thanks.

Thanks to the occupy movement, a common theme in political discussion lately has been entitlement. The complainers squatting in our city park and the keyboard quarterbacks who support and enable the squatters regularly display an astonishing level of entitlement and an almost complete lack of any sense of personal responsibility for anything. Those two traits often go hand in hand of course.

Few can demonstrate a sense of entitlement better than some elements of Canada’s arts community. The lobbying is endless and it is essentially implied that all forms of art will simply wither and die without massive subsidies from taxpayers.

I contend that the over-subsidization of forms of art actually reduces the quality of the art itself. I blogged on this a few years ago and detailed some of the wonderful productions we have seen with tax-funded art.

To go further, I can demonstrate first hand that art can and does exist without a dime of tax funding.

I spent three winters in Canada’s Arctic working on oil and gas exploration programs. I was always impressed by some of the fine carvings produced by the Inuit and Inuvialuit people up there. One season I decided to try my own hand at carving upon returning home. I already had some means for stonework due to having done some fossil restoration work and  gem cutting so aside from some more specialized rasps and some rough material, my investment was little.

With a great deal of dust, countless failed efforts and many pounds of wasted rock I began to produce some reasonably acceptable sculptures. I generally stuck to wildlife and native themes as they were what I was familiar with and they were what were popular sellers at the outlet in Canmore that began to carry my pieces. Sales were sporadic but carvings did sell for a modest price and I was simply happy to see that some people were willing to spend a few bucks to own some work done by a middling artist like myself.

The last few years have not left me much time for carving. I sold all but the carving pictured below so that is all that I can display here.

I decided one weekend to let go with a large piece of stone and to simply see where it took me. I clearly had something on my mind that weekend but I simply could not put my finger on it. Either way, my imagination produced the freeform abstract piece pictured below. I felt that Jane was my inspiration for this one so instead of selling it like all the others I kept it and gave it to Jane.

Jane muttered something about Freud and gave the carving a spot of prominence in her office.

Now as can be seen, I am not going to be a master sculptor. I sold some carvings and made a few bucks and I am happy with that. There is simply a combination of a lack of demand and a lack of skill on my part to make a living through the carving. I can accept that. Sure I would rather spend my days working on my own schedule and carving what I please. That simply isn’t in the cards for me so I make my living in the energy sector while I enjoy myself carving and making a few extra bucks now and then.

I like to think I am no less an artist than any other. I create for my own enjoyment and I hope that some others enjoy what I have created. Is that not what it is all about? Well, this sort of creation is clearly quite possible without government subsidy.

Now for contrast, let me introduce you to a Calgarian artist named Len Cochrane. There are countless artists in Calgary of course. The reason I am singling out Len here is that Len has been a prominent, belligerent and abrasive supporter of the “occupy” Calgary squatters on social media. Len is one of those who attacks all who question the squatters, yet can’t be bothered to put his own butt on the line and camp down there himself as far as I can tell.

Len also displays that great sense of victimhood, entitlement and bitterness that our local squatters and some of the arts community hold in such a clear manner that I could not find a better example to demonstrate just who is demanding tax funding for arts. Below is a snap from Len’s website where in a couple sentences we pretty much see what it is all about.

OK, in the first part of his FAQ Len advises all starting artists to quit while they are ahead and implies that Canada does not support artists. I am not sure how much support it will take for artists to feel supported but clearly it has not been enough for poor Len here.

According to  Stats Canada, governments on all levels spent a cumulative total of almost $10 billion on culture in 2008-2009. It has only gone up since. Culture covers a broad range of things of course. As the site points out, much of it is in parks and broadcasting. Broadcasting has been used a great deal in the promotion and display of our arts of course particularly through our $1.2 billion per year behemoth called the CBC. Museums, galleries and events are all promoted through the culture department. Rest assured, billions are being spent on the arts.

On the private level a similar level is directed at Canadian arts. Many large corporations sponsor countless events and venues. The squatters may note that they are camped next to the Epcor center for performing arts. Large corporations commission and purchase millions in art every year too. Then there are the millions and millions of dollars spent by individual Canadians purchasing everything from $10 handmade keychains to seven figure paintings and everything in between.

So how much would it take before poor Len feels that the arts are supported in Canada? $15 billion? $20 billion?

Is it really a case that the arts are not supported in Canada or is it simply a case that Len’s art has not seen any direct support?

From what can be gathered from the website, it looks like Len has been a victim of the police and health services due to an apparent basement tattoo parlour. Of course Len feels he has done nothing wrong and claims that police and health services corruption are what got him. It was all a conspiracy to shut him down.

There are reasons for health regulations Len. Tattooing involves piercing people’s flesh repeatedly with a needle. If somebody is going to charge for that service, yes I expect a degree of regulation to be involved. Were you claiming the revenues from that operation by the way? One wouldn’t like to think that you were withholding income taxes that should go towards other starving artists.

Every self-styled starving artist has a story to tell and excuses to be made. Art like everything else requires dedication and hard work for success in most cases. That is the true hurdle that holds back many of these entitled artists.

The world does not owe us a living in whatever endeavor that we choose. So you want to make a living painting? Good for you. I hope it all works out. In the meantime instead of whining and blaming the world for your woes how about getting a job and paying your own way until your art blossoms?

I met an unlikely sort of fellow last year who was pumping gas at a Medicine Hat gas station. He was an interesting little fellow and was always practicing on his well-worn violin when cars were not about. He had travelled the year before to Montreal where he met some other kindred souls. They formed a group, all chipped in and had a CD pressed with some of their music. A local artist designed a very funky jacket for it too. He sold me a copy for $15 and then went on to the next gas customer. The music was interesting but not to my taste. All the same, I have no regrets on that small purchase. That fellow was overjoyed with the sale of the CD. I could tell that his joy was not so much for the $15, but simply that somebody would listen to what he and his friends produced.

That man is an artist and I have nothing but respect for him. Instead of sitting, begging and making excuses he went out and had his product produced. He works to pay his bills and works to spread his art at the same time. He is a true artist in every sense.

To the other artists who do nothing but complain and expect success handed to them I say the same thing that I always do when I encounter them: “No thank you. I don’t want fries with that.”

 

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