Sometimes, smaller is better.

I live in the community of Priddis Alberta. It is a small bedroom community about 10 km West of the Calgary city limits just south of the Tsuu T’ina native reserve.

We are a region more than a town. Over about 20 square kilometers there are about 2000 people in various small subdivisions, acreages and farms. There is a hamlet in the middle of it all where we have a community center, a small mall with a gas station, and a number of small businesses such as the pub and business center.

Pictured below is the Priddis curling team playing a game on Fish Creek in 1895. The rink was soon built nearby along with the community center. Winter activity has long been important here.

Aside from the community center, the true hub of the community is the modest but popular outdoor skating rink. It has been there in one form or another for well over one hundred years now.

Multiple generations have learned to skate here as it is very popular with families during the day and hockey players at night. It is a gathering place where community members can meet and establish a relationship as a true community rather than simply being a loose collection of residences.

At night after closing the pub, I often walk past the rink on the way home and see a number of young folks from the Tsuu T’ina reserve out playing informal shinny with other locals. Our communities unfortunately rarely interact directly but the rink does provide a place (aside from my pub) where people from both communities can interact and have a good time.

As a growing community we have many young families here. Our local “Priddis Panthers” hockey needed to be divided into nine teams.

The rink is funded by donors and maintained by volunteers. Whenever weather permits, volunteers are out in the wee hours flooding the ice and in summer they are repairing and painting the boards. It is a fun community activity just keeping the rink up to shape.

All that said, resources are always tight and the weather is our biggest enemy. Below I have taken a picture of the rink just today. Two weeks of warm weather have melted the ice down to the pavement and until we get some cold nights to re-flood, we will go without a functional rink.

A small Zamboni would add many many precious weeks of rink time to our community as a much thicker layer of ice can be built and maintained in much less time. Refrigeration systems can aid as well. A small used Zamboni can be found for anywhere from $20,000-$40,000. I don’t know what refrigeration costs but I suspect it is dear. We are always fundraising and may get these things eventually.

OK. I know you are thinking: “So what? Canada has hundreds of communities in the same boat.”

Well, that is my point. Outdoor rinks are a true Canadian tradition from coast to coast and there are hundreds of them. Most if all of them are always in need of more funding to keep as functional as possible. They provide healthy activity that bonds communities. What better place could there be for funding from our Canada 150 celebrations?

The Trudeau Liberals decided to spend $5.6 million dollars for a temporary rink on Parliament Hill that will last perhaps 8 weeks at tops. The public will have to book in advance to use the rink and will be barraged with a pile of rules for time and allowed activity. It should be noted that the Rideau Canal is right there and has provided public skating for over a century as well.

The reason to ignore Canadian communities while spending millions on this temporary rink is obvious. It is pure political vanity.

Justin Trudeau can never get enough opportunities to take selfies, show off his socks and do publicity stunts (as opposed to trying to run our nation).

We can rest assured that Pierre Jr. will do a grand ribbon cutting with his hair styled perfectly along with an entourage of photographers to ensure that every angle is covered. They can’t have the grimy backdrop of some small town! They must have the Parliament buildings in the background as they worship Canada’s child-king.

Ohh the “impulsive” follies will be beautiful to behold as Canada’s tax funded personal paparazzi catch Justin helping children learn to skate just after kissing their mom’s cheeks with just the right angle from the sun. Justin will surely take a gleeful tumble or two on the ice which will just happen to be perfectly photographed just as his little faux-kayak turnover was.

The cameras will make love to Justin and he will surely climax for them in return. Let’s hope it is discrete but who knows what lengths Trudeau will go to to try and distract from Morneau’s mess?

A rink that will only last a few weeks is well worth $5.6 million for such a public relations bliss as our Prime Minister is determined to be our most vain leader in history (following daddy’s footsteps closely).

If the Liberals really wanted to leave a Canada 150 legacy that was appreciated, they could have given grants of $50,000 to 112 small town rinks in Canada. They could have randomly drawn from applicants. Hell, I am sure that the rinks would all be happy to put up a plaque with a picture of and thanking Trudeau for the grant. A small price to pay and we know damn well that volunteers would make that $50,000 stretch infinitely farther than the fools in Ottawa did. The benefits would be felt for generations.

Alas, Trudeau will always think bigger is better.

If that was not the case, then why not stop giving Bombardier billions and instead give out thousands of $100,000 business startup grants? Hell, if only 10% of the startups survived we would still see more benefit and employment than we get in pissing it into Bombardier only to have them come back begging for more every year.

Yes, smaller is better indeed. Unless you are of old stock money and vanity such as those members of Canadian aristocracy such as Morneau and Trudeau. In that case, the spending can never be big enough.

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My name is Earl. A steer’s journey from field to plate.

When Earls restaurant chain announced that they were refusing to buy Alberta beef in favor of a Kansas supplier that has a dubious stamp of being “humane beef” from a Virginia outfit that apparently certifies for these sorts of things, I have to say I was rather stumped. Why would a restaurant chain purposely alienate the people who built them? They were started in Edmonton after all.

There is nothing that the Kansas supplier provides that Alberta does not as far as standards for humane beef go. Regulations prevent antibiotic laden meat from hitting the market and there are countless suppliers who provide non-hormone filled beef on request.

Earl’s made some weak claims that there is consumer demand for this. As a restaurant owner I have to call outright bullshit on that. In this past year, I have had all sorts of odd requests from customers but I have NEVER had a request for certified humane beef. While Earls may have a different clientele in some of their urban locations, I still find it exceedingly hard to believe that there is or ever was any significant demand for this kind of certification.

Even assuming this demand was there and growing, for Earls to claim that they couldn’t find Canadian suppliers who could produce that sort of beef is simply bullshit again. Alberta alone has thousands of producers and over 5 million cattle. With only marginal effort Earls could have brokered directly with some large local producers who would have been overjoyed to produce in whatever manner Earls likes (in fact most of them already do). I guess if they went local though, Earls would have lost the strength of their ill conceived publicity stunt.

As is my nature though, I am inclined to put things to the test.

I decided to purchase beef for my restaurant directly from a local supplier who would abide by my requests for a lack of anti-biotics in the meat, lack of growth hormones and a humane treatment throughout life up to and including processing time.

It took me about 5 minutes on google and couple phone inquiries before I found such a producer.

Meet Earl!

earl1

The young steer pictured above resides but 10 kilometers from my restaurant. I have purchased him and named him Earl in honor of some of Alberta’s less principled restaurant owners.

Earl will be local and grass fed. Earl’s natural growth will suffice thus he will not have any hormones applied. If Earl should grow sick, he will indeed receive treatment even if that means using antibiotics if need be. It would be sick and inhuman to refuse treatment like that even if some restaurants condone such heartless cruelty. If such should happen, Earl would have to wait a minimum of 90 days before heading to the processors all the same as is Alberta regulation. No medications make it to the plate here.

earl2

As can be seen above, I have direct access to check on Earl’s welfare at any time I please. Earl’s mom is a little on the grouchy side so I didn’t get much closer for the shot. She will be a good mom to protect him from coyotes and some of the other hazards Earl may face in grazing free range around here. They have a good relationship and am happy to have purchased a steer from such a solid family unit.

I will track and document Earl’s progress through life here until he hits the plates in my pub. We will observe holidays together and enjoy the great scenery and atmosphere just West of Calgary.

Earl and any other livestock I purchase for my restaurant will be certified humane through the “Cory Morgan certification program” which is no less credible than any organization out of Virginia.

This whole process was remarkably easy to do. I expect it would have been even easier if I needed millions of pounds of meat as producers would be clamoring to get a client who can purchase so much.

In closing, if you want good solid Alberta beef which is antibiotic free and humanely raised, just come on down to Water’s Edge Pub in Priddis (10 minutes from Calgary).

Earl needs to grow a fair bit before he is ready to grace the pub himself but we already stock beef just as humanely raised as he will be.

Now was that so hard?

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Getting real with homelessness

I had an unusual experience in the last few days. A homeless gentleman showed up in my pub one evening. He was friendly enough. He paid for some food and a few drinks and then hung about with some of our regulars for the evening who ended up putting him up for the night. While homeless folks are pretty common in Calgary, it is unusual in Priddis as we have little in the way to shelter them.

The next morning the fellow showed up in our coffee shop and hung about there for the day. Again, he caused no problems and bought a couple items. He is pretty rough around the edges though and made our younger staff members in the coffee shop a little uncomfortable. He then moved into the pub for the evening when it opened. He ate a pizza and then wandered off to where he had camped.

This morning the poor devil showed up at the coffee shop at 7am quite frozen and exhausted. It turns out that while he had a tent, he had no sleeping bag or blanket. He says he had heard large animals moving about in the night which is very possible as we have many cougars and black bears in the area. He was quite miserable and had barely slept.

I had tried to coax him into coming to Calgary with me yesterday to no avail. He was quite eager for a lift into the city today after his experience last night. I drove him in and dropped him off downtown today.

I had a long conversation with him on the drive. It sounds like this guy led an interesting though rough life (as I am sure is the case with many homeless). Substance abuse had taken it’s toll on him physically and while I am not a professional by any means it was pretty clear to me that while the gentleman was quite smart, he had some serious mental health issues.

This man was harmless and troubled. I very much hope he finds some help and settles in somewhere.

Now what I am getting to with this long ramble is that we have to get over this ridiculous and ongoing notion of “ending homelessness” and get more realistic in mitigating it. The man I was dealing with in this last couple few days will never be able to hold down a regular job and likely will never be able to place himself into a position where he can maintain an independent living arrangement. This man needs help mentally and fiscally and will need a degree of care to ensure that he doesn’t come to harm.

Rent controls, forcing developers to build certain housing units, secondary suites etc. and all the rest of that trash that comes from these initiatives to “end homelessness” will do nothing to aid folks like the man I met this week and the thousands of others who are in similar states yet this is exactly what these people who claim to want to end homelessness keep focussing on.

We need to realize that there are some people who will forever be transient no matter what we offer for housing. Some of these people will never kick their substance abuse nor will they somehow beat mental health issues.

Let’s work with those realities and see how we can best help these people with realistic mitigation and care options instead of pursuing expensive pie-in-the sky housing goals that will not help the people who have truly fallen through our cracks in society. I know that the authors of these countless initiatives are predominantly well meaning, but they are also blinding themselves to the true realities of some of these situations.

We need to invest more heavily in mental health facilities and yes, even have some people institutionalized at times. We also need to invest much more in temporary sheltering and substance abuse treatment. The funds wasted chasing potheads around would be well spent on this for example.

Like so many things (such as native issues), we need policy makers to work on dealing with hard realities rather than fluffy ribbon cuttings. It will make a world of difference to us all down the road.

::rant off::

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