Calgary tax dollars at work.

The other day, I ran across a picture on a Calgary discussion board that depicted the all too typical scene of a large number of city employees standing around while one or two fellows actually worked on the rather simple task at hand.

In this case the task was to paint a green square on the road on a bike track. The forum was at and the picture was posted by (and presumably taken by) a poster who goes by rage2.  


The picture sort of says it all. We have had a Mayor and council constantly pleading poverty in Calgary while trying to justify a whopping 32% increase in property since Naheed Nenshi took the Mayor’s chair less than three years ago. Our Mayor and city council constantly pretend that it is utterly impossible for the City to streamline or even cut expenditures while scenes like that pictured above show that there is plenty of room to have the expenditure of our tax dollars done in a more effective manner. The excuses fly while countless dollars are wasted on foolish studies of whimsical plans and outright idiotic gameshow style “consultation” circuses that are ignored when the taxpayers wish something different than His Worship intended them to.

I tweeted the image and it took off as dozens of people retweeted this little piece of dark comedy.

This brought about the attention of Mayor Nenshi who to his credit is very responsive to social media. What Nenshi tweeted in justification of the depicted scene is below:


This whole scene was apparently a training session.

Umm….. OK… I guess I will just have to come right out and say it: HOW MUCH TRAINING DOES IT TAKE TO PAINT A GREEN DAMNED BOX ON A ROAD????

Seriously folks, we are in a city with over a million people that has thousands of civic employees and city contractors. None of them had been trained already in painting things on the road?

I wonder, is a special training course required to paint the image below:


Does another differently trained crew need to come in and flip the stencil at other intersections or will they only need a different supervisor or two?


Now we are going to get tricky. The painting job below requires two colors and possibly two stencils. How many workers were required? 20? 30? How many months was the training course?


I have to admit, I could use a gig like training folks to paint boxes on roads. I had a great deal of informal training in my youth with more complicated design as pictured below:


I can provide my own training manual so that there shall be no confusion for trainees should they find themselves in a circumstance where they may need to paint something with less than 6 supervisors present.


As a surveyor I am familiar with complex tools such as graph paper and measuring tape so will be able to “confirm final design” on painted boxes with possibly as few as two assistants. I have ArcGIS and could confirm such things alone from the comfort of an office in about 30 seconds but I do understand that our city has a limited amount of resources and needs to be led in baby steps here.

Is it really surprising that Calgary City council managed to blow the West LRT budget literally by 100% in light of how complex painting a simple box on a road appears to be?

In light of all this, I wonder what portion of our city budget is dedicated to road painting alone in Calgary. We have a great deal of pavement out there.

I really have not seen such a scandalous waste of tax dollars on paint since Mulroney purchased the masterpiece below for $1.8 million Canadian tax bucks.


Calgary really needs to flush out City Council this fall in favor of some candidates with at least a little grounding in fiscal reality.

I am making light of this, but the issue of out of control spending by municipal governments is deadly serious. As Detroit how they are loving that great art collection these days.



You don’t vote? I don’t care.

 Every election whether it is a by-election or a general one, we will inevitably hear about those poor, hard-done-by disengaged folks who could not be bothered to vote. Often the losing side likes to play with the numbers to try and undercut the support that was there for the winning side. We saw that when people tried to downplay the victory by the Stelmach PCs in 2008 and we see some of it now with the Hinman win in Calgary Glenmore. “well ya know, with all eligible taken into account the support was only 20%…” yadda yadda yadda.

 Well, people always claim they want honesty from politicians (though they often regret asking for it). As  a person who has run in an election or two I am going to say something honest. I don’t care what people who don’t vote think!

 Ahh, that feels better.

 I tire of people yelping about how politicians have to reach out to those who are taking their great democratic right for granted. I tire of those who are too intellectually (or physically) lazy to vote asking for others to cater to their concerns.

 We are extremely fortunate in that we have a democratic system that allows everybody to participate whether it is running for office, forming a party or doing the extremely simple act of voting. It is almost cliche, but it is extremely valid; people around the world are dying for the right to vote. In light of the risks some folks take to participate in democracy, why should I shed a tear for somebody who can’t pull their ass off the couch for 20 minutes every few years?

 I will relate a story about an election I was in a few years ago. I had a couple native reserves in my constituency. I got a phone call from a resident on one of these reserves howling that I had ignored their area in the campaign and implied that this was due to racism. Now an irony in this is that I was the only candidate with some native heritage in that election and that I did indeed waste an entire day campaigning on that reserve. When I say wasted my day I mean it. The turnout was something like 6% in that election on that reserve.

 Look at some political reality people. I had 28 days to convince as many people as possible to choose me as their representative. A campaigner has to be strategic in that scenario as opposed to idealistic. Realistically a politician would be very lucky to meet 30% of the constituents face to face in a campaign. Now in light of that, why on earth would a candidate pursue a demographic that is prone to not going to the polls? Left. right or center it is sort of stupid to pursue the vote of people who do not vote.

 We only have so many means to keep our elected officials in check. The most important one by a long shot is the vote.

 Voter apathy is a problem, of that there is no doubt. We should discuss and try to find means of increasing the participation of the electorate. If people think that they are sending any sort of message to any politicians by staying at home however, they are deluding themselves (this stands for people who think ballot spoiling sends a message or something too).

 Whether a person votes for a fringe party, an independent or a frontrunner, they have at least had an impact no matter how small it seems. When a person does not vote at all they have had utterly no impact and they only have themselves to blame.

 Quit blaming politicians for your apathy. While many may say otherwise I will answer honestly; we don’t care if you won’t vote.

 I do care about issues that go beyond election issues. I certainly will never model any form of campaign about what the chronically apathetic take issue with however.

 As for excuses not to vote, they are nothing less than that. I covered the commonly used excuses for not voting here some time ago.

 If you have concerns and you want politicians to pay attention, may I strongly suggest that you vote. It sort of only makes sense doesn’t it?

There is no excuse for not voting.

 Within days of the federal writ being dropped, I observed people making their lame excuses as to why they will not take part in the election. The only honest answer is when somebody says they don’t care. Aside from that, those who keep spitting out their excuses as to why they wont vote must know that they are turning their backs on a very important responsibility thus they scramble to try and justify their sloth.

 We see some journalists and pundits talking about how systemic changes or different advertising initiatives may bring out more voters. That is all simply a load of crap. The bottom line is that an increasing amount of Canadians are simply too lazy and apathetic to make that twenty-minute effort once every couple to few years.

 Lets look at some of the common whining excuses:

None of the candidates/parties fully represent my views.

 Well suck it up princess. Unless you yourself are running or leading a party (there is nothing to stop you from doing just that by the way), you will never have a candidate/party represent 100% of your views.

 Whether you take that supreme effort to vote or not, one of those candidates will end up in the position of representing you anyhow. What a voter has to do is examine all of the candidates and choose which one most  represents their views and cast a vote towards them. This of course will take at least a few minutes of time and a little mental effort thus many use lame excuses to avoid such responsibility and forgo the right to vote.

 Of course in seeking (not really) information on the candidates, we get on to another common and sad excuse:

I don’t know enough about the candidates/party to make a decision. I have heard nothing from them.

 To put it bluntly, the above excuse is simply bullshit. During the entire campaign every form of media whether radio, newspapers, TV or internet has been barraged with coverage of the parties and candidates.

 Teams of volunteers and candidates spent a month knocking on doors and dropping flyers. I hear some people claiming that they never receive any information to their homes. While I guess it is possible for there to be some strange Bermuda triangle zones in parts of the city where campaign literature disappears and doorknockers magically shy away, just about every household in Canada gets at least a few flyers during the campaign. FSM knows my household hardly passes a day during a campaign without something in the mailbox about the election.

 I have heard some whine about the lack of candidates at their doors as well. In a federal election, each candidate has over 100,000 constituents. Rest assured that in any serious campaign, the candidates will knock on as many doors in person as possible. It has been proven countless times that the most effective method of campaigning is to have the candidate meet as many constituents as possible in person. It is physically impossible for any federal candidate to hit every door in a riding in one campaign however. If your household is missed, if you take a few minutes to call the headquarters of virtually any candidate, they will arrange to get the candidate to your door if possible. Truly undecided voters are difficult to identify and no decent campaign will ignore one that contacts them.

 The internet has given us a great resource in elections. Even the most low-budget of fringe candidates can set up (and they do) a campaign website offering info on where they stand, contact information etc. If you are reading this, I can safely assume that you have access to the internet and some degree of literacy. In a couple minutes on google, you can find out who is running in your riding and what they are proposing in general.

 Even without internet, it is rather easy to get information. Every party has a headquarters and a phone line. They will gladly direct you to contact information for their candidates if you simply contact them.

 The information on all the parties/candidates is abundant and easy to acquire. For one to claim that they did not have enough information is simply a BS excuse and does not hold water. The real reason is simple laziness.

 Another of my shallow favorites is:

They are all the same.

 Again dear reader I must call bullshit. Using the means of gathering the information on the candidates I proposed above, anybody will find out within minutes that the candidates are all indeed very different and go to great pains to point out how and why they differ from each other.

 Do you honestly think that an NDP member will vote the same way on bills in Parliament as a CPC member? Do you think a Liberal party member will raise the same issues as a Bloc member? The parties/candidates are different and their behavior in office shows that rather clearly.

 To say they are all the same is just a simplistic and lazy excuse not to trouble yourself to choose among them.

 The above excuse invariably leads to the next one if the whining non-voter is questioned:

They are all crooks and in it for themselves.

 To be a politician is on of the most unstable and thankless career choices that anybody could imagine making.

 Remember, in every riding there are at least four candidates running. That means at least three will have nothing in personal gain to show for their efforts after the campaign. The reality is that most of the candidates are running for idealistic reasons and are not expecting personal gain. Hardly a selfish endeavor.

 Many of the winning candidates are often professionals who made pretty good cash when in the private sector. While MPs get pretty good compensation, many lawyers, doctors and business people actually take a pay cut upon being elected.

 If all those people running for office are simply in it for themselves, they certainly are taking a painful path to personal gain.

Below is another common excuse:

My vote makes no difference/doesn’t count.

 Hmmm how will I respond to that one? You guessed it! Bullshit!

 I wonder how many people in Edmonton thought that Rahim Jaffer was a sure thing and did not bother to vote for him? There were countless other races that were determined by a handful of votes as there are in every election. Even in  a jurisdiction as huge as the United States, we saw in 2000 how a tiny number of voters actually determined the presidency.

 Lets say however you feel more closely aligned with one of the alternative/fringe candidates. Surely voting for one of them is a waste of time as they will never win right? Wrong!

 The old cliche out there with elections is that the only poll that counts is on election day. While tired, that cliche is very very true. There is no better cross country poll for measuring the views of the electorate and you can rest assured that the results for every riding will be dissected and studied in the next few years as future candidates prepare to challenge the incumbents. Had Jaffer seen the rising trend of NDP in his riding, perhaps he would still have a job today.

 To win a riding a candidate has to follow as well as lead. This means measuring what the voters want and to provide that for them. If an incumbent sees the vote creeping up for the Green party in their riding for example, they will likely adopt a more environmentally friendly stance in the house in hopes of undercutting that rise in their riding. The NDP member who won in Edmonton will likely swing more right than other NDP members as she knows that if a Libertarian candidate takes even 1000 votes from her she may very well lose her seat next time.

 There is some truth to the fact that our elected representatives often ignore us between elections. Those MPs do pay very close attention at election time however and it is foolhardy to waste that window of opportunity by not taking part. There is no better time to get their attention.

 I don’t care for the new system where tax dollars are dedicated to parties based on votes. Whether I like that or not, the system is there and it does add a great deal of incentive for people to select non-mainstream candidates at times. The Green Party never came close to winning a riding in the last election. They did however get thousands upon thousands of votes which will translate into annual funding for their party. Money is essential in politics and any party trying to build up needs a regular flow of it. No Green Party supporter can truly say they wasted their vote on that party as they have contributed not only a vote of support, but a portion of funding so that the party can retain a voice and prepare for the next election.

 There is no such thing as a wasted vote.

I couldn’t find out how/where to vote.

 As with the other excuses, this one is simply more bullshit.

 Every election Elections Canada makes it easier and easier to vote. Advertisements are running on all forms of media, the internet provides all the information required and of course there are toll free numbers that will direct you to your voting station and the requirements for voting.

 I work in the oilfield and am rarely in my riding on voting day. Despite that I don’t miss the vote as they make it incredibly easy for me to walk in and vote by special ballot.

 Voting is a twenty minute task and there is no excuse aside from laziness in not doing it.


 The bottom line is that people simply want to dodge any form of personal responsibility (a disturbing trend in many areas). True democracy is the epitome of personal responsibility whether we want to deny that or not. Our system is not perfect, but the bottom line is that the electorate chooses who runs it. If a person refuses to take part in that, the system surely will not represent them.

 It seems that the chronic whiners who refuse to vote are often the same ones who whine about those who assume office. Complainers are rarely doers and it shows in voting patterns.

 We are lucky to live in a democracy and to have control over our government should we choose to exercise it. Anybody can run for office, form a party or simply vote to take part in the system. We can freely join parties and vote on policy or nominees. We can be vocal whether on the streets, internet or in the press with our views.

 Due to our having it so good, many have unfortunately slipped into lazy apathy and take our great right of voting for granted.

 It is an embarrassment and people should be ashamed of not voting rather than belching out shallow excuses as to why they wont.

 I see people and some journalists whining saying that the electorate needs to be better inspired. Inspired? By who? Why? Why is it the responsibility of others for you to be inspired? Inspire yourself you lazy electorate and take part in the system. The means are there, you simply have to make use of them. Again so many people dodge any form of personal responsibility. Our system is referred to as a participatory democracy. Uhh, that means you are expected to participate rather than whining that you need to be inspired and have your hand held all the way to the polling station.

 There is the saying “In a democracy, the electorate gets the government that they deserve.” This is true.

 When half of the country is too lazy to spend the few minutes that it takes to vote however, I often get the government that those lazy assholes deserve.

 That sort of grates on me.