On economic realities in food service & “living wages”

The fallout continues to mount as the cumulative effects the Notley government’s anti-business policies come home to roost.

With minimum wage hikes, hikes in stat pay for people who never actually work on those stat holidays, carbon tax hikes and new regulations piling on monthly, even restaurants that have managed to succeed for decades are beginning to fail.

This week’s closure was the Bear’s Den restaurant that operated in Northwest Calgary for 14 years.

What infuriated the hysteric left and Notley apologists with this closure was that the owner dared speak openly on what pushed his formerly prosperous business into closure. Yes. Government policies on all levels are pushing places out of business. The only thing I can fault this man with is that he neglected to mention how federal and municipal governments have been piling on small businesses as well. The blame in these deaths by a thousand cuts lands on all levels of government as none of them have been doing small business any favors of late.

The ignorance being displayed by Notley’s social media fartcatchers on this closure has been both striking and predictable.

Armchair restaurant managers spring forth like weeds and begin to explain all the reasons that these businesses keep failing and they work to understate the damage that is caused when these places close.

This clown is a prime example. He went on with multiple tweets about how the prices were too high and that it only led to about 12 people losing their jobs anyway. He of course took that common assumption that the owner of the restaurant was filthy rich and would retire upon a pile of money.

In reality, 26 jobs were directly lost from that restaurant alone. This closure also reduces revenues for the companies that serviced and supplied the restaurant and likely added up to at least another job or two lost.

Odd how those who always claim to be standing up for the little guy are so quick to dismiss the impact of job losses for these little guys.

In their lack of understanding of economic realities, many lefties conflate high prices with high profits. They assume that if a restaurant is upscale, the profits must be as well. Alas, the margins remain the same for food service businesses whether in upscale eateries such as the Bear’s Den or in a food court stall in a mall. They are incredibly thin.

I saw one comment where the person exclaimed upon looking at the menu:  “$14 martinis? No thank you!” As if that statement alone explained why this restaurant failed.

Head to any bar. I know first hand as a pub owner that we don’t pay a hell of a lot less for liquor than retail customers do. We need to mark that booze up. If taxes didn’t account for nearly 50% of the cost of booze, I promise you that you would get better prices. The market is competitive.

Either way, martinis are cocktails that are doubles and usually use premium vodkas or gins. They take time to mix and present and have a garnish. They range at best from $12 to $16 in bars. $14 was average.

The Bank of Canada thinks that as many as 60,000 jobs will be lost due to minimum wage hikes alone. Shall we dismiss this? Is this a desirable outcome? Are we somehow winning here?

 

What people don’t seem to get is what a profit margin is and just how thin those margins are for restaurants and bars.

According to stats Canada, the average profit margin in restaurant and bar lands under 4%.

To put it more simply, for the average owner they may see $4 for every $100 of product sold.

Think of it this way. It takes a hell of a lot of work just to run a mid size establishment that grosses $100,000 per month. I assure you that in pretty much every place of that size there is an owner/operator. It would never be profitable at that scale without the owner working full time in it. That owner would gross roughly $48,000 per year.

Not exactly the “rich fat cats” that some folks are working so hard to demonize. It is a lot of work for a relatively meager income.

I don’t begrudge any business a profit or a good margin. The entire purpose of taking that gamble to invest time and money into a venture is to make a profit.

If indeed folks insist on playing the repugnant politics of envy and really want to drag down the successful (and many indeed do want to do that), they are way off base in who they are targeting.

I will put this in the form of charts that even a Notley supporter should understand.

Here is what the average restaurant profit margin looks like:

Pretty damn skinny and I rounded up.

Let’s compare that margin with the mining industry:

Guess how mines can afford to pay better than restaurants (leaving aside the reality that mining is a much more dangerous and skilled trade than a role in a restaurant).

Rail transport has some splendid profit margins. Being an oligopoly that is heavily protected by the state helps of course.

Speaking of oligopolies, how about banks. Well Royal Bank’s profit margin ranged from 25-32%. There is good money in lending. Just look at how much the Alberta government is spending on debt interest.

Securities and financial services in general enjoy solid average profit margins around 40%. Insurance companies are up there too.

Now I don’t want to see those high margin industries dragged down. I am just saying that the vitriolic and envious left is really flying over the wrong target these days in their quest to ensure that nobody dares make too much money.

I (unlike the anti-corporate left) understand where pension fund growth comes from so no, I would never celebrate the reduction of profits for corporations.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce established that the combination of higher property tax, carbon tax and minimum wages will cost the average restaurant $60,700 per year. That is more than the average restaurant owner makes.

Restaurant sales are indeed climbing in Alberta but unfortunately the increase in expenses is outpacing that sales growth. It doesn’t matter how high your sales are if your margins are in the negative.

This is simple math people. A restaurant can’t run at a loss for long. A restaurant owner in these situations has only two options when margins evaporate. Increased sales only mean increased losses.

We can raise prices and we can cut expenses.

Food service prices are terribly inelastic. That means we can’t raise prices very much before the associated drop in sales volume removes the benefit of the price raise. The industry is fickle and competitive. Consumers only have so much to spend and they will move on in the face of price increases that pass their budget. I guess if your goal is to drive consumers into eating at home more, this is a good route to go. Cold comfort for the unemployed workers however.

In cutting expenses we have limits as well. Many of our expenses such as utilities, taxes and lease payments are fixed. We can reduce food costs to a degree but most restaurants are already at peak efficiency in this regard. They have to be when dealing with 4% margins. Labor makes up over 33% of the expenses. While we can only cut that by so much while remaining in operation, it is our most flexible area to work with. Part time and lower paid staff may be shed while more work is placed on the remaining workers. Places may move more into a self-serve system which again costs jobs. As we saw with Tim Hortons, some prior benefits such as paid breaks or health benefits may be cut. We simply don’t have a hell of a lot to work with here.

Simply raising minimum wage is not enough for some of course. Many of the economically illiterate feel that every job whether in a starting position, unskilled position or part time position deserves what they determine to be a “living wage”.

What is a “living wage”? That all depends on how far out in left field the person proposing it is actually. It can range anywhere from $17 per hour up to $30 per hour.

This dingdong is a typical self-styled business expert.

“If your business model does not include paying employees a living wage, then you do not have a good business model.”

She indicates that anything less than this ambiguous “living wage” is “exploitive”.

Very nice comrade but of course utterly unrealistic.

Still, lets explore the viability of this “living wages” in the food service industry.

If this non-“exploitive”  business model does indeed exist it should be no problem finding all sorts of restaurants in the thousands across the nation who use it.

Look at this! There is even a Canadian site that works as something of a registry for businesses that pay a “living wage”. Excellent. Surely these establishments must number in the hundreds with it being such a great business model and all.

 

Hmm. I see a lot of charities. Government bodies such as the City of Vancouver. Some left wing activist groups and unions.

You know what is missing?

You guessed it. Restaurants. Not a single one among them.

How is this so? Did we not just hear that a living wage model is good business?

While this business model does appear to be quite popular among self-proclaimed business experts on the left, actual business people seem not to have embraced this stroke of genius yet.

Fear not. Perhaps this guide wasn’t comprehensive enough. Maybe all those living wage restaurants were so damned busy that they forgot to register.

In searching google I finally found some examples.

Here is a beauty. Bartertown Diner is a union shop and not only do they pay living wages, they have no management hierarchy. Every employee is equal in compensation and in decision making.

It just doesn’t get any more fair than this.

Let’s look ahead and see how this little socialist paradise worked out..

Aww shit.  Say it ain’t so! How could this collectivist Nirvana have possibly failed?

Oh yeah, the same way socialism always fails. Nobody wanted to work. Nobody paid the bills. Everybody lost their jobs.

OK OK. Maybe they were a little too idealistic. What if the outright Marxism was dropped and a restaurant simply adopted the “living wage” part.

Looks like Ritual in Vancouver did just this:

Groundbreaking! Brilliant! This is Vancouver too so there must be an abundant supply of folks who want to pay an extra 20% or so in order to patronize a place that pays “living wages”.

Let’s follow up and see how that all went…….

Aww shit…..

Their website is down and by all reports it appears that they went broke.

How is this possible with the brilliant model of “living wages”?

Maybe people really actually wanted to pay more but were constrained by the menu prices. The folks behind the Harvest Cafe realized this and set up a business where customers could choose what they pay. How could a place not  prosper and pay massive wages while tapping into all that natural altruism in society?

Hmm, their website seems to be down

Facebook site looks to be gone too.

Aww shit……

Somehow they went broke.

OK OK. Maybe it is a little too much to ask folks to pay what they can. Maybe if restaurants went without tipping, but raised the prices by the amount that would be tipped and claimed to use this new revenue to pay a fair living wage.

Sorta just re-branding a price increase and robbing the servers but lets see how that all went.

Earls in Calgary did just this. How could the managers who so brilliantly shit on Alberta beef while the bulk of their restaurants resided within Alberta possibly go wrong?

Aww shit…..

It didn’t even make it three months.

Damned customers clearly don’t know whats good for them.

The only models I could find that let customers pay what they want while the place claims to pay “living wages” are essentially charity soup kitchens.

They rely on donations and volunteers (people working for nothing?? How “exploitive”!).

Others rely on well heeled celebrity ownership for publicity along with donation and volunteer labor such as Jon Bon Jovi’s place

Sure helps if the owner has a few hundred million in the bank to backstop things if funds should run a little short.

 

Hey. I am sure Bon Jovi is a great guy and he doesn’t have to do a damn thing. This is a nice effort by him.

Let’s not pretend that this glorified soup kitchen is a viable business model that will change the face of the food service industry across North America.

We have to face it. Consumers want good product and service provided to them at the lowest prices possible. If the prices are too high, they simply won’t buy. It doesn’t matter how much they claim to want to support “living wages”.  That is why restaurants must manage with 4% margins. Not because they want to walk that razor thin line. They simply have to.

Yes restaurants will always come and go even if government leaves them alone. It is abhorrent seeing government intervention causing an inordinate number of establishments go out of business however.

Yes. Some of the most creative and the ones with the most capital behind them will survive and the weak will fall by the wayside. Mom & pop places will disappear and be replaced by large corporate chains and franchises who can utilize economies of scale in order to keep operating.

Fewer restaurants will exist, they will employ fewer people of course and the general cost of living will rise.

Is this winning? Is this a desirable outcome from piling taxes and regulations upon a struggling industry?

Some may think so.

Those finding themselves losing those ever so important entry level jobs, those servers who worked part time to supplement their income, those seniors who worked part time to supplement their retirement income and those students who worked part time to offset tuition costs may feel otherwise.

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Saint George and the NDP Dragon

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As time passes George Clark (of kudatah fame) has been becoming less and less lucid. His postings increasingly demonstrate a whole plethora of conditions from simple paranoia to a martyr complex to a distressing messiah complex.

While these observations on an individual should usually only be of concern for friends, family and mental health professionals, in George’s case it is a little bit different as he has managed to gather a sizable following of folks nearly as delusional as he is.

In years gone by folks like George wouldn’t get much farther than standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board while predicting the end of the world or some other sort of conspiracy. In today’s age the internet has given folks like Mr. Clark a much bigger street corner to rave from and it has allowed him to gather a flock of kindred souls.

While the Church of George only appeals to a tiny fraction of Albertans, that still is of concern as this adds up to a few thousand folks who are very angry, paranoid and delusional. As I wrote in a recent posting, George Clark has convinced himself and his following that he has found some odd legal loophole which will allow him to bring the Notley government down through petitioning.

Clark is planning a rally on the steps of the legislature when it opens where he claims he will bring down the government. While everybody rational knows that Clark will never bring down the government, we have to be concerned that he will manage to gather upwards of a couple thousand people on the legislature steps who are not rational. How will these people react when they learn that they have been chasing a myth? Certainly George Clark will claim that the government is corrupt and has robbed them of their hard earned kudetah. Will George and his followers simply throw up their hands and go home? In reading the writings of Clark and his followers I suspect that they wont go that easily and things could possibly go out of control no matter how much Clark keeps talking about his creepy “fight them with LOVE” lines.

Below is a series of screen caps of discussions when Clark and his following discovered that some internet URLs had been purchased by folks who don’t support the kudetah. Yes, these folks don’t even understand the internet and copyright laws at a grade 1 level yet they feel they can overthrow an elected government.

I want to keep documenting these sorts of things in hopes that people glancing at George Clark’s movement can research and see just how nuts this is. I also want it well recorded that this is a fringe group that has no connection to any formal opposition party or rational opposition group as NDP supporters are trying their very hardest to tie people to Clark’s cult.

I will start with a snap from George’s own tantrum when he discovered that the rules of the internets don’t always work in his favor. The domain wasn’t “stolen” as he never owned it. Notley doesn’t him anything, much less an apology. He doesn’t even understand how domains are purchased and retained, he sure as hell doesn’t have the capacity to find out who bought it (the WHOIS is anonymous). It gave George an opportunity to try and play victim some more though of course.

geo

Now, on to the reactions from George Clark’s followers.

In this post, loons speculate that it may be Rachel Notley’s husband and go on about how union members should be fired if they are found to be behind it. You cant sue them or bring charges against them but rage on. Delusional as always. I suspect that the government is less than scared of George Clark. Anybody with a few bucks on a credit card can purchase domains. No government conspiracy required.

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Here, some of Clark’s followers think the destination of the URL is not due to a purchase of a domain but is due to malware or hacking.

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In this posting, George’s crew goes on about how the world is controlled by Soros and the Rockefellers who are apparently behind this domain purchase. Another feels that this should be investigated by the FBI. I hate to break it to her, but we are still in Canada. No FBI here.  Soros probably owns the FBI anyway. There was a conspiracy theorist speaking on how reporting the legal purchase of a domain to the police was pointless as the government controls all the cops anyway.

b

Here George Clark demonstrates that he is as ignorant of communications and trademark laws as he is with electoral ones. I wonder how many lawyers are going to have to try and explain this to him and his followers?

d

There are all sorts of other ravings on George’s thread but the one below is the most telling. When frustrated by a dose of reality, Clark’s followers invariably start wandering down the path of speculation of what would happen if they simply chose to ignore laws. I fear that these answers would come pretty quickly to these folks if they decide they are above the laws created by a legally elected government. I just hope nobody gets harmed if and when they try it.

f

Sadly, the passage of time only seems to be making these folks even more paranoid and delusional. They are distracting from real efforts to improve our current government and to replace the current government in the next general election (the only way they can and will be replaced).

These people are few and these people are nuts. They need to be watched though and I strongly suggest that anybody rational who has crossed paths with them should disassociate themselves as soon as possible. If and when things hit the fan on the steps of the legislature on opening day with George’s gang, the crap is going to spread far and wide and nobody wants to get smeared in that.

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Reality on the impacts of Macleod Trail lane closure for bike lanes

Macleod Trail

One of the most vapid cases to be made in justifying the closure of major road arteries is the old: “Auto commuters should support this as every car taken off the road makes more room for them!”

If indeed Calgary’s proposed cycle infrastructure was complimentary to the existing roadways that statement would be true. Since Calgary’s proposed cycle tracks are all coming at the direct expense of existing roadways the above contention of car removal is simply BS.

The section of Macleod Trail (among the busy roads targeted) that the city wants to close a lane on moves about 25,000 cars per day. When transit is taken into account (bus riders will have their commute times extended by this too) we are looking at roughly 1.3 occupants per vehicle out there for about 32,500. Now in removing 25% of the roadway, we will be displacing 8125 people. As that section of road is one-way, we need not cut the number in half as most will only travel that stretch once in a day. Let’s be generous and make the figure 8000 then.

For the proposed bike track on Macleod Trail to actually reduce traffic we would need to see at least 8000 people who drive only on Macleod Trail alone to give up their cars and ride their bikes to work.

Reality dictates that we would only see a few hundred people leave their cars in winter at best on Macleod Trail and lets be generous and say 1000 in summer. The remaining 31,000+ commuters will be jammed into a much smaller roadway which in turn will extend their daily commute times which will lead to more idling and emissions and leads to reduced productivity and quality home time for daily commuters.

This is not theory folks, this is simple math.

Until the cycle proponents can convince us that nearly 25% of commuters will give up their cars and ride bikes to work all year round the case that bike tracks at the expense of automotive lanes is nothing more than pap.

 

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The show must go on. We can’t stall pipelines forever.

Revenues have gone down, taxes have gone up and folks have lost jobs thanks to the trend of hysteric opposition to the safest form of oil/gas transport known to man: pipelines. Time and reality will win in the end and Canada will continue to increase exports of oil and gas products despite the irrational blanket opposition to all development coming from groups that purport to care about working class Canadians.

pipeline

TransCanada Corp announced that they are moving forward with their proposal to build infrastructure to bring crude oil to St. John New Brunswick that would transport over a million barrels per day.

The usual union backed suspects are already gnashing their teeth in opposition and rounding up bored hipsters and natives to try and stage protests against Canada’s latest effort to bring jobs and prosperity. The ink isn’t dry on the proposal and it does not need to be. Reality and facts are of no consequence as organized labor claims to care about the working man yet consistently opposes all efforts to create infrastructure to support an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people. Screeching members of the loony-left automatically oppose all energy development while howling for more expenditure on a myriad of social programs. The folks truly have no concept of where the cash comes from for their beloved arts projects, welfare and even health care. They really believe Canada will be fine without the billions and billions of tax dollars brought in annually from the energy industry.

Now on to reality. The aforementioned chronic opponents of development can and will be dismissed as they are truly irrational and there is no reasoning with them.

Reality: THERE IS NO REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE TO CARBON BASED ENERGY YET!!!

We can make windmills, talk of tidal and geothermal and dream of solar energy. The reality is that none of those sources can generate power in nearly the volume required or at a cost that is at all reasonable at this time. What happened to the hydrogen fuel cell powered car anyway? How about the Volt? How is that biofuel black hole going? Governments can be pressured into investing into many pie-in-the-sky alternatives but fiscal reality inevitably returns to bite them (and the taxpayers in the arse).

Reality: CANADA’S PRODUCTS MUST GET TO MARKET!!!

Canada has some of the largest energy reserves on the entire planet. Our prosperity as an entire nation is not only dependent on our development of these carbon based products but on our selling of those products to consumers outside of Canada. Protectionism is always a shallow farce. We need trade and oil/gas are our strongest items for this. It is not reasonable to turn ourselves into a third world country in refusing to trade with our best asset.

While keeping our energy in could indeed lead to cheap domestic fuel prices, we would be broke otherwise. Venezuela is a wonderful example of foolish policies (socialism). While they have some of the cheapest domestic fuel prices of earth, damn near none of their citizens can afford cars. Not really a good trade.

Reality: THE USA DOES NOT NEED OUR OIL AND GAS

Peak oil has been a myth propagated to keep folks in fear for over 50 years. A few minutes on google can find countless predictions of the world running out of energy and they have all of course been wrong. There has always been somebody predicting the end of the world and to date none have been correct.

New fields are still being discovered and new extraction technology is always coming on-stream.

In the last five years I have spent more than half of my time working South of the border on American oil/gas exploration projects. While we piss and moan and delay domestic energy projects, a very mobile workforce has been taking it’s expertise (and tax dollars) out of the country. We are not going to sit and go broke and wait for common sense to ensue.

I have worked in oilfields in Pennsylvania that are literally well over 140 years old that are now getting new life thanks to fracturing and seismic technology. Texas and Oklahoma are booming as new wells are being drilled and product is flowing. North Dakota is discovering whole new and giant reserves.

I spent three years working in the Arctic on the ice North of Inuvik. I assure you there is at least a couple more generations of oil and gas sitting up there and not a drop has been taken out yet. We need to look ahead but we are a long way from running out of reserves yet.

The USA does not need our energy and pricing ourselves out of the market will not help. We need to get our product to the coastlines in an increasing amount if we want to retain our standard of living across the country.

Reality: OIL AND GAS ARE ALREADY GOING TO OUR COASTS AND IT HAS FOR DECADES!!

It is painful listening to the daft, shallow souls howling about tanker traffic suddenly coming to Canada’s West coast or pipelines spanning our Rocky Mountains when we consider that tankers have been going to the coast already for decades and we have been pipelining oil across the mountains for over sixty years already.

We have transported untold millions of barrels across the mountains and then the Pacific without major incident and our technology is only becoming safer.

Rail traffic in crude oil has quadrupled in just the last few years and it will continue to grow if we keep foolishly delaying pipelines. More bears will get splattered and a much higher risk of spills and derailment will continue if we keep forcing the use of rail despite a safe means of transport being in front of us.

Governments are sensitive to the environmental lobby but they are even more sensitive to revenue. These new pipelines will get approved and will be built no matter how hard the union funded opposition howls. What we have to ask ourselves is how much more time and resources we will waste before getting on with it. We can’t afford as a nation to keep pissing around with this and we will not no matter who heads the next federal government. Reality dictates this, lets accept it and work with it.

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We can’t all be astronauts.

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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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Let’s put the whole “sovereign nations” idea to rest and have some real discussions.

I truly am happy that the “Idle No More” protests have brought discussion of native issues to the forefront in Canada. Our biggest shame as Canadians is our racially segregated native population living in economic and social misery in our appalling reserve system under terribly outdated and racist legislation. We need serious discussions as a nation as to how to end this cycle of misery that appears to get worse year after year no matter how much time and resources are being dedicated to it.

While “Idle No More” can be credited with engaging the national discussion, credit to the movement for anything productive pretty much ends there. “Idle No More” began with modest and well meaning intentions but quickly was taken over by extreme activists both native and non-native who sound pretty much like last year’s “occupy” movement in their lack of focus on anything specific aside from a general loathing of the Harper government and capitalism in general. That would be of course because the same unions and activists that led “occupy” have deeply entrenched themselves into the “Idle No More” movement and soon they will doubtless kill all credibility in the movement before moving back into their urban lifestyles.

In native politics there are a few elements of people. There are your average reserve level natives who are simply trying to get by as they are challenged by the poverty and dependency that are inevitable in our system of racial apartheid. We rarely hear from these people as they are rather busy and disengaged as they are awash in the socioeconomic mess of reserve life. These people are often used for photo opportunities by the activist elements who like to point to poor conditions on reserves as a means to attack our current federal government. To be fair, those images are used on occasion by truly racist people to try and paint natives as being from some sort of inferior race incapable of taking care of itself. It is the circumstance, not the race that is the problem here. People of any race would be dysfunctional raised in reserve circumstances.

Band Chief’s, councils and hired administration are another element of native politics. The degree of competence and ethics practised by people on this level of native politics varies widely as there are 600 bands on over 2000 reserves in Canada. While some Chief’s, councils and administrators truly have the best interest of the native residents under them at heart, corruption and mismanagement are epidemic in native reserves in Canada. Theresa Spence’s gross mismanagement of Attawapiskat is only unusual in the amount of attention that it has garnered. There are hundreds of reserves in Canada is much the same condition and for the same reasons.

The next level in native politics are the members of the “Indian Industry”. The most abhorrent of people take part in this portion of native management. There are levels and levels and levels of bureaucrats and consultants in this industry and they are accomplished parasites at intercepting government dollars before they ever come anywhere close to the natives on the ground who need them. Within the industry are countless lawyers as well who bleed the system dry with endless litigation on issues of questionable merit regarding native issues. A lawyer can make a good pocket full of cash going to court on a treaty interpretation issue no matter how inane it is as government will foot the bill for the action win or lose. If we want to see resources efficiently getting to where they belong, this cottage industry of bureaucracy and corruption needs to be cleaned right out.

We next get a level of activists in the native world. Many of these folks are non-native but have taken it upon themselves to focus their activism on native issues. Many of them envision themselves as some sort of reincarnated natives in white bodies though and it is comical watching them assume and wear items of native regalia. There are natives in the activist end of things as well of course. Lately one of the most shrill has been Pam Palmater who failed in her bid for the leadership of AFN and now has placed herself at the head of the “Idle No More” group. Palmater almost rages when speaking in her self-styled role as representative of “Idle No More” but despite her passion she seems to fall short on proposing anything aside from anger and perpetuating myths. It is from the activist bunch that we see many of the counterproductive ideas and myths erupting that ruin good discussion of native issues.

What the native activist world is constantly pushing for is all of the authority of native self determination while eschewing all elements of responsibility that come with that. Native activists are fight tooth and nail against forms of government oversight of the management of native bands yet howl indignantly while blaming the government when we see cases of massive mismanagement such as with Attawapiskat. You simply can’t have it both ways. Funding without oversight has turned native affairs into a giant black hole of expense with no visible or tangible benefits to be seen. Despite massive injections of money, traditional culture on reserves is fading and poverty is epidemic. Only through some forms of accountability will this trend change and it will take outside management to do this. This is not being paternalistic, this is being realistic.

The activist element constantly claims that we must abide by treaties until somebody actually points out what is in the treaties. Upon realistic exposure of treaty obligations the activist element suddenly goes off into an unverifiable and essentially fictional world where we must now suddenly abide by the spirit of treaties that only they of course can interpret.

One of the most deceptive and to be honest, ridiculous assertions by the native activist element is that native bands, tribes etc. are actually sovereign nations. It is through this imaginary status that activists try to play every possible side of the fence whenever they please. Again, these people want to pursue all of the autonomy of action of independent states yet they refuse to accept all of the responsibility that would come from such a theoretical setup.

A list of sovereign nations can be found here: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/states.htm One may note that there are no native bands listed there. I spotted no Mauri or Australian aboriginal nations in that list either. That of course is because these groups are not sovereign nations.

Sovereignty and nationhood can be very ambiguous things to define and wars have indeed been fought over such interpretations. It is simply absurd to recognize native bands as such but let’s go down the road of what commonly would be expected of a sovereign nation by most people’s measures.

Native sovereign nations should be expected to collect their own taxes, create their own currency, come up with a passport/visa system for citizens to come and go, develop their own resources, build and maintain their own infrastructure, make independent trade deals with other countries, make their own constitutions, make their own laws, make their own police forces, armies and courts…… The responsibilities go on and on and on. Clearly this is NEVER going to happen so lets move conversation to reality shall we?

At a website of Ontario Chiefs  I see some of these wonderful statements built around that flawed sovereign nation concept too. While never addressing possible fiscal independence, it demands a right to all authority in governance and their site says this:

“As sovereign Nations we have never surrendered our rights or title in right of the Crown or the successor state of Canada but, have maintained and solidified their inherency (sic) through the Treaty making process”

The above statement is false on two levels. They are not sovereign nations and they indeed fully ceded title and rights to the crown when signing treaties. While some treaties have elements open to interpretation of intent, the ceding of land and title is pretty clear as per this clause from Treaty 9 below for example:

“For the purpose of negotiating an extension of James Bay Treaty No. 9 with the Ojibeway and other Indians, inhabitants of the territory within the limits hereinafter defined and  described, by their chiefs and headmen, for the purpose of opening for settlement, immigration, trade, travel, mining and lumbering, and for such other purposes as to His Majesty may seem meet, a tract of country bounded and described as hereinafter mentioned, and of obtaining the consent thereto of His Indian subjects inhabiting the said tract, and of arranging with them for the cession of the Indian rights, titles and privileges to be ceded, released, surrendered and yielded up to His Majesty the King, and His successors forever, so that there may be peace and good-will between them and His Majesty’s other subjects, and that His Indian people may know and be assured of what allowances they are to count upon and receive from His Majesty’s bounty and benevolence, which said territory may be described and defined as follows, that is to say the said treaty to release and surrender also all Indian rights and privileges whatsoever of the said Indians to all or any other lands wherever situated in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba or the District of Keewatin or in any other portion of the Dominion of Canada.

As I said, we need this discussion of how to deal with the growing disaster that we call a reserve system. These discussions must be based in reality and facts. As per past blog postings of mine, I have asserted and still believe that most people who are advocating for treaty rights have never actually read the treaties and don’t really know what they are asking for. Treaty 9 calls for compensation of $4 per year per Indian. Even adjusted for inflation that isn’t very much. There is nothing about healthcare or housing or many of the other things some are claiming as treaty rights.

It may be noted that while that group of Chiefs constantly states that FNs have some sort of inherent authority to all elements of their own governance, it says nothing about ending the utter dependency upon Canada for funds. Sovereign means independence in more ways than simply self-determination and sustainability of a modern economy on most of the reserves in Canada is utterly impossible.

 

Lets begin with what is documented in the treaties and work from there rather than with the myths and false interpretations coming from the self-serving native activist network. When we do that, we can start moving towards some real changes that may benefit future generations of natives and non-natives alike. Getting hung up on crap such as sovereign nations existing within nations is simply distracting and counterproductive.

We have an opportunity to seek and discuss solutions to this wretched and untenable system of racial segregation through reserves in Canada. I hope we are ready to take it on with reality and facts as a basis. We need to cut through the white-noise of activists and self-serving people entrenched within the system and start to look towards what will really aid the natives suffering on reserves in our current system.

Let’s look at these isolated reserves and try to envision what they will look like a in ten years, twenty years and fifty years from now. When looking with the status-quo in mind, we see only more misery no matter how much is spent.

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Recount!

Back in early October I headed out one morning to see for myself just how many cyclists are using some of the main bike-lanes in our city. Despite bike enthusiasts constantly tossing out numbers claiming as many as over 10,000 people use bicycles to commute in and out of downtown Calgary daily, it simply did not seem like I was seeing the number of bike riders on the street to justify these rather grand claims. On parking myself on a few main bike commuter routes and doing a formal count during rush hour my suspicions were confirmed.

One Calgary bike lane had only 2 bikes on it during an entire hour during the rush. The 10st NW bike lane as a main artery to downtown Calgary carried a grand total of 51 bike riders during the morning rush on a nice clear day.

Upon posting these findings, the rather hysteric and somewhat extreme self-styled bike crowd in Calgary were predictably apoplectic that somebody dared question and verify the veracity of their exaggerated claims of bike ridership in Calgary. Excuses were made and new numbers were cooked. Some excellent creative accounting of the rather flimsy bike rider counts out there was used but the bottom line simply can’t be escaped; only a tiny minority of Calgarians are using bike lanes to commute to work!

I felt I needed to be fair here though. Perhaps that period of October was a one-off sort of situation. Maybe there was some sort of religious observance where the bike cult all had to pay homage to the great cycle Gods that week or something. In light of that possibility, I went back out to the 10 St NW bike lane to get yet another count.

Well, on a reasonable morning for this time of year, the winds were down and the road was simply wet, on a main artery into Calgary’s downtown on a bike lane that was well established during the busiest hour of the day………….

I didn’t even need my  fancy clicker. I could have taken off my shoes and counted the grand total of 17 bikes that used the 10 St. NW bike lane during the busiest hour of the day.

10 St NW carries thousands of cars daily and is a terrible choke-point for traffic coming in and out of Calgary’s core. Despite that, 1/3 of the road was taken from vehicles and designated for bike use which as we can see today is pretty much pointless.

What pissed me off even more was that two bike riders were actually ignoring the bike lanes built for them and rode on the sidewalk instead while I was there. With the light at the time and with my parking spot, I did not catch shots of them in action though I did get pictures of their tracks.

This action of bike riders ignoring and refusing to use these very expensive bike lanes is clearly a chronic thing as a sign actually was posted (and clearly ignored) telling bike riders not to ride on the sidewalk. If we subtract those two bike riders from my count we get 15 actually using the lanes in rush hour.

Being ever generous though, I thought I should venture further in search of this elusive crowd of bike riders that is packed so tightly that we must take away automotive lanes and give them to bike riders for their commute.

I took a deep breath and ventured deeply into prime hipster habitat (Kensington) seeking this pileup of bikes. I began at the Safeway. Maybe all the bike commuters had paused to get granola and organic-bean sprouts or something.

While the Kensington Safeway provides loads of bike racks, not a single bike was to be found in them. The mystery continues. Following the scent of patchouli, I ventured deeply into this foreign district and found an actual bike shop. The outside had a grand variety of bike racks.

One would think that a bike shop within Kensington with a bike lane leading to it would be a virtual Mecca of bikes. As can be seen though, not a one was parked in the many bike racks. The grand migratory herd of Calgarian bike riders still eluded me.

I carried on with my venture to downtown Calgary. I saw the occasional bike track, but alas no riders as I crossed one of our many many many pedestrian bridges.

I found myself at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market. No bikes were found to be parked there either though but my tour of that dismal little mall ties well into all this.

Eau Claire Market was a terribly planned and incredibly expensive experiment that was created on the flawed logic of: “If you build it they will come!” Sorry kids, that only works in movies about cornfields. In real life one must identify demand before creating a supply.

Bike lanes are based on that logic too. Despite 20 years of effort, no measurable increase in the percentage of people who commute with bikes in Calgary has happened. That little bit of reality unfortunately is still not stopping idealistic city planners and delusional cycle aficionados from promoting and indeed wasting countless dollars and space on bike lanes for which there is no real demand.

Eau Claire Market was supposed to be Calgary’s great entry into a cosmopolitan and “vibrant” world of an active core. This was going to be Calgary’s Granville Island! People would come from around the world to visit Eau Claire and drink at the (very short lived) Calgary Hard Rock Cafe! Trendy development and pedestrian friendly services would naturally expand from this anchor and Paris would be envious of this profound exercise in urbanism!

Alas, reality prevailed. Currently space can hardly be given away in the Eau Claire Market. Small specialty stores with hand-drawn signs fill some spaces while others languish empty. Even the food fair has spaces that they can’t lease out (quite and accomplishment downtown) and the mall itself is cavernous and depressing.

Decades of effort and countless marketing dollars spent would not change the simple reality that Calgarians are suburban people. We don’t want to hang around downtown with it’s purposely inflated parking costs and purposely choked traffic. We have no interest in an urban mall with poor selection where we would be expected to lug our overpriced purchases onto public transit in order to bring it back to our homes. This will not change folks.

With decades of effort, the social engineering experiment of making us all ride bikes to work in a winter nation is failing too.

The 10 St bike lanes are well established. They built it but alas the bikers did not come (nor will they ever). Today was no exception. These bike lanes and this bike demand is supposed to be all year round. At -11 this morning, it was actually much warmer than many mornings will be throughout the winter. On days when it is hot people are not going to be too willing to ride home on a bike while wearing a suit either by the way.

The bike lobby is persistent and extreme though. Yes I do refer to them as the “bike cult” at times and I think it is accurate. Many (possibly most) people enjoy going out for a bike ride now and then. There is nothing wrong with that and it is these recreational users that bike fanatics use to pad their polls trying to exaggerate bike demand. There is a world of difference between a recreational user and a bike cultist though.

The bike cultists are much like vegans, you don’t have to look hard to spot them (they will self-identify if you do not open the conversation on their spandex wearing at the wedding) . These people wear their lifestyles on their sleeves and they live for their hobby. Their twitter monikers invariably will contain the word bike within them and usually include a picture of them on a bike or of a bike they wish they could own.

Hey, it is a free world. By all means wrap yourself around the activity of biking. FSM knows there are far worse obsessions for people to have. The problem with the bike cult though is that like vegans they generally are sanctimonious and demanding. It is not enough that they have chosen what they feel to be a higher way, they now need services to accommodate their choices and they feel that others must be converted. That is when the line from enthusiast to cultist gets crossed and ire gets raised.

Red Deer got rid of some of their idiotic bike lanes last summer. Calgary is getting rid of a purely stupid notion of a bike lane in Lakeview now and Toronto dealt with outright hysteria from their bike cult when they got rid of a completely redundant bike lane that had a bike track running parallel only one block away.

Look at the drama queens in action below as a pointless bike lane is removed in Toronto a few weeks ago. No folks, calling these people cultists is not an exaggeration.

Do we want to be a competitive destination as a city? Do we want to reduce pointless idling? Do we really want a “vibrant” core? We need traffic flow for that and bike lanes choke that.

The case is being made about how bikes take cars off roads. That is a load of horse poop. What the bike lanes have done is choke vehicular traffic however. On 10th St in Calgary 1000s of cars pass daily while the bike lane can barely draw dozens. The number of autodrivers suddenly embracing bike use will have to increase a hundredfold before the waste of dedicating a third of a lane to them can be somewhat justified.

On 11 St SE two lanes were removed to make bike lanes. A person is lucky to see even a single bike ever use those lanes but it is always easy to find traffic hopelessly snarled as it is packed into two less lanes.

The world revolves on supply and demand. Social engineers keep trying to fight that principle but they inevitably lose. The problem is that the loss comes at a great cost in the battle.

People in Calgary are increasingly moving to the suburbs and now outside of the city altogether causing tax-revenue losses while they still commute on city streets. Businesses are now moving to the suburbs and out of the city following the citizens as we become increasingly unbalanced in Calgary.

Let’s plan realistically with citizen demand in mind for a change. Plan for vehicular traffic as it simply is growing despite all city hall efforts to fight it. Quit putting in stupid bike lanes at the expense of automotive lanes. The demand is simply not there nor will it ever be.

A pushback will happen eventually. I fear for how much mess will be made of our city infrastructure before that happens though.

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Let’s face reality, prostitution is simply never going away.

 This afternoon I decided to take a walk down Center Street North to Lina’s Market to grab some groceries  (strongly recommend that place to anybody for Italian food by the way). I was thinking of blogging further on the deteriorating condition of Center Street North as City Hall continues to sit on it’s hands with whether or not they will run an LRT line up Center Street in the future. This indecision by City Hall has left a large tract of the city in a development limbo which is leading to an increase in crime and a fast growing stretch of slum in what used to be a nice part of the city. Who in their right mind would maintain or develop a property when there is potential that it could soon be expropriated and torn down at any time?

 Walking is better way to get a look at how things are. I drive Center Street quite often but getting out on foot one can see much more closely and clearly how things are doing. Needless to say, in my hike I found that things were indeed even worse than I had thought. Virtually every house on Center that has not already been boarded up or torn down is in brutal disrepair. With an indifference to property maintenance and improvement, landlords have rented to predominantly the seediest of tenants. Crack houses are blossoming and who knows what else is going on in those firetraps along the street.

It is not only  rather undesirable people inhabiting these properties, undesirable businesses have been moving in as well. The are many many houses with sheets over the windows, a lighted “open” sign and the word “massage” painted on the window. A few years back I was quite naive and never really paid much attention to the massage parlours fronting for prostitution in the city and never really realized how many there were. In the 2009 Calgary Glenmore by-election I was tasked with trying to find a space for a campaign headquarters. In one strip-mall, I had found what I thought to be a good office space that we could use. I brought another person along to have a look and he immediately said that it was inappropriate. I was confused and asked why. He pointed to the office next to it which had it’s windows painted over and nothing aside from a lit “open” sign. He explained that it was a massage parlour providing prostitution. We found a better location and the campaign carried on. Media often came by to our headquarters and I can’t help but wonder what sort of awkward scenes may have ensued had we rented the first spot I had found as some “client” of the rub-and-tug next door comes out and bumps into a camera crew.

 I am digressing as is my wont. Either way, that experience led me to peripherally watch for those businesses and when you look for them it is quite surprising just how prolific they are in the city. There are many legitimate businesses providing massage of course. They are pretty easy to identify as they will be sure to trumpet that their massage services are therapeutic and advertise the credentials of their practitioners. I am sure that legitimate massage practitioners want more than anybody to ensure that the clients they get want no services aside from a proper massage.

 Along with these “massage” businesses, street prostitutes are beginning to appear. Our former community association president had frequent and disturbing prostitution issues right outside of his house. I was propositioned while simply sitting in my truck waiting for Jane to come out of a convenience store. It was surprising in her boldness and disturbing personally in that she felt I looked like a potential customer.

 Now in walking back today, I passed the the Northminster United Church on Center and 32nd Avenue. This church provides daycare to children and has a fenced play area right out front. I was mortified and outright disgusted to note a discarded condom while walking past the church parking lot. I can only guess that some creep had utilized the church parking lot to use the services of one of the local prostitutes. This activity, the location where it was carried out in and the bio hazard that was left behind really drives home why prostitution presents a great threat to residential communities and why it needs to be brought under control.

In light of these kinds of problems the kneejerk response is invariably to call for a police crackdown on prostitution in the area. While increased law enforcement may indeed reduce the overt prostitution in my area, it will not end it. The prostitutes, their pimps and their clientele will simply slide over into another district and the problem will be shared with a whole new crowd of innocent residents.

Afganistan has some of the strongest laws against prostitution in the world. Despite that, it is still happening there. If being potentially executed or being incarcerated for decades won’t stop prostitution can we finally safely assume that increased law enforcement is not the solution to this problem?

 I am sure if one interviewed 50 prostitutes they would find 50 different stories as to why they entered that line of work. Whether the person had addiction issues, poverty issues, mental health issues or even they possibly simply like that kind of work, some people will be drawn to taking the route of prostitution in order to make money. The legality of the issue really does not factor into things.

We have to learn to accept that there will always be an element of people who want to pay for sexual services and there will be an element of people providing those services. If we can be realistic and work from that basis we can work towards mitigating the real damages that prostitution causes.

It is not the act of the prostitution in itself that causes the most damages to communities. The problem is the involvement of the criminal element in the trade bringing associated crime with it. Pimps and gangs thrive on the abuse of women in prostitution and prostitutes working without pimp and gang protection can find themselves abused by their clientele. Drug use usually comes hand in hand with prostitution. In following with supply and demand, one can rest assured that dealers are always nearby and ready to supply addicted prostitutes as they earn their funds. These dealers will happily sell to our children as well and cause more neighborhood risks as their violent turf wars occasionally erupt. Massage parlours are notorious for practicing human slavery as dependent immigrant women find themselves trapped in those places. Underage girls can be found on the streets and in these brothels too. Disease is rampantly spread in this unregulated and illegal industry as well.

 The vast majority of the associated problems with illegal prostitution can be eliminated if we simply accepted reality and legalized and regulated prostitution. A red light district can be established well away from residential areas. Sex trade workers can be properly screened for diseases and it can be ensured that they are of legal age and willingly participating in the trade. Pimps can be eliminated and both clients and prostitutes can have their safety ensured in a protected environment. Taxes could be paid by businesses as well of course.

It is true that many addicted or otherwise troubled prostitutes would not qualify to work in a controlled brothel. These people would find the industry in street prostitution to be far less lucrative though as I imagine that most of those who frequent prostitutes would prefer to go to a safe and legal facility rather than take on the associated risks that come from patronizing street hookers. Police could focus on the remaining illegal and unregulated prostitution activities which could greatly help in reducing the practice. It can be hoped that with illegal prostitution being less lucrative the troubled people participating in in may be more likely to seek help to get off the streets.

 Legalizing prostitution will hardly solve all problems by any stretch of the imagination. Considering that the practice has been happening for millenia though we have to accept that it is not going away and we really should work on a realistic approach to this practice. This facade of enforcement and illegality is simply making things worse and pretty much everybody is losing here.

Essentially, if a person is of the age of majority it is none of our business what they legally chose to do with their own bodies. Supporting the legalization of prostitution does not mean one condones the practice, it simply means accepting reality. Nobody wants their daughters to make a living that way and paying for services cant be the most healthy sexual practice for men. One can oppose the law without condoning the practice.

The late great George Carlin covered this in a great rant. It is laden with expletives though and I do suggest that people not play this video at work or around kids.

Lets deal with this issue realistically. I am tiring of seeing the damage that the current setup for prostitution is doing to both people and my community. This hybrid of legal/illegal prostitution is simply a failure for all of us.

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Voting with their feet and wallets, Canadians are heading to suburbia.

The anti-“sprawl” crowd is a vocal group but in looking at our development patterns these people are clearly in a tiny minority. Despite efforts to stunt outward development and an almost cult-like subgroup of people screaming for and trying to shame people into dense downtown living, Canadians en masse are simply choosing to move away from the cores of cities.

Some recent number crunching has revealed that non-core areas have made up 97% of Calgary’s growth with similar numbers in cities accross Canada.  

It is not that hard to figure out why this is a trend. When I was in my early 20s, I lived in downtown Calgary and I loved it. I could walk to pretty much anything I needed and while Calgary is not known for it’s exciting downtown nightlife, the downtown still provided many bars and such to be patronized. I was shopping for food for one and didn’t mind walking a couple blocks with some grocery bags and riding an elevator with them. Of course, my needs and preferences changed as I grew older. The main thing was having kids.

Suddenly grocery loads are a bigger deal and the need for a car is becoming more acute. While I was comfortable walking downtown streets at night as a young man, I really did not like walking with my kids past the seedy elements that are drawn to city centers. I wanted space. I wanted a yard for the kids to play in. I wanted a spread out neighborhood where I knew who lived next door. I wanted family to be able to visit without paying $20 in parking. To summarize, I like over 90% of Calgarians chose to live in the suburbs and have utterly no regrets.

I understand that some people manage to live downtown with kids and enjoy it. Well good for them. It doesn’t need to mean that the rest of us should have to.

I am tired of the near scorn being directed at suburban commuters for daring to choose to live in a cost-efficient comfort with their families. Nobody should be ashamed for not wanting to live in a crowded dense area. We have the space to grow outward and we are doing so. Good.

Now that we have established that the vast vast majority of Calgarians do not want to live downtown, can we start to model policies based on that reality? We don’t need more damn bike lanes. There is no screaming need for more bikes, there simply is a loudly screaming minority of bike riders. We are refusing to recognize where our population really is and are choking traffic to accommodate a tiny minority. Never will a large number of middle-aged folks suddenly decide to start riding bikes 20km to work downtown in January so let’s quit with the idiotic planning under the assumption that they will.

Those who are tired of smog and idling should look at reality here too. Choking traffic will not reduce this. People will simply get up earlier and sit idling longer as they have lost lanes to a handful of bike riders in winter. You want to reduce fuel consumption and idling? Speed up traffic flow then.

Our mayor and council love to blow millions on endless studies of everything under the sun. Well we don’t need to spend a pile here to see the trend. We are a prairie city that is growing quickly and it won’t be stopped. Lets start planning based on that reality instead of some unrealistic utopia of a densely packed downtown. People simply do not want to live like that.

Really folks, the urban density pictured below is hardly a noble goal to pursue.

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OMG! OMG! We’re surrounded!!!

The hyped hysteria from the anti-progress crowd who oppose the Gateway Pipeline project has been hitting a fever pitch as hyperbole and utter fabrications are being spread about pipelines.

One would think that this was the first major oil pipeline ever built. I do understand however that your average person really has little to do with oilfield and pipelines and that is understandable. It does make people impressionable however and it is time for a reality check.

To begin with, there are over 825,000 km of existing oil and gas pipelines in Canada.

More excellent information on Canada’s pipelines and their safety record can be found here.

 

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If we want to go further into buried utilities and add small natural gas service lines, water lines, sewage lines and such the number goes into the millions of kilometers. They are around us all the time everywhere you go even if you do not notice it.

Have you ever noticed that pretty much every city seems to have long narrow parkways that are often used for bikepaths, dog parks and golf courses? Ever wonder why such oddly shaped parks were designed? Well, more often than not those parks are actually right-of-ways for large pipelines. While it is indeed perfectly safe to have a large high pressure pipeline go through a city, we can’t build houses and such right on top of them so the land is often used for parks. Have we heard of any massive blowouts? Cities destroyed by leaking oil?

With the millions of kilometers of pipelines throughout North America it is pretty easy to cherry pick some incidents of leakage to try and paint all pipelines as being unsafe. For the few kilometers of pipeline that spring leaks every year, one should keep in mind the millions of kilometers of pipeline that do not. That is not to say that it is acceptable to have pipelines leaking but the scope and scale of things has to be kept in mind. We are very good at moving products through pipes and we are getting better all the time. Companies are heavily fined for pipeline breaches and they lose product. Rest assured companies that own buried utilities have utterly no incentive to have them leaking.

Next I am going to point out something utterly shocking.

 We have had a crude oil pipeline running from Alberta to the West coast for almost 60 years!!!!

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The Trans Mountain Pipeline has traversed the Rocky Mountains since shortly after World War II and the world has not come to an end. Well over 200,000 barrels per day of crude has been flowing through some very sensitive regions of the mountains without an environmental catastrophe and that pipeline is old. Newer ones are much safer. Demand is far outstripping the capacity of that pipeline today.

How has this large pipeline snuck under the radar for so many for so long?

Well to begin with, it’s buried. I am being serious here. Many people are under the misimpression that these pipelines are above ground. That myth has been happily fed by people in opposition to development as surface pipes paint an ugly and intrusive picture. Again, with most people not spending time in the oilfield, their impressions are formed on the pictures that media put out.

Below is a picture that accompanied an article about the Keystone Pipeline in FFWD magazine a little while ago.

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Isn’t that perfect? A nice pristine mountain background broken by an unsightly and intrusive surface pipeline. Never mind that the picture has utterly no relation to either the Keystone or Gateway pipelines which will be buried. It gives nice negative optics to be reinforced. May as well use pictures of sewage pipes spewing into oceans. It is just as relevant.

In my job I have to occasionally pop out to locate buried utilities. As can be seen in the picture below not only am I cold and wearing a safety vest that is ill fitting, I am holding an electronic locating wand. That is because pipelines buried in isolated areas are actually quite difficult to find so I have to begin at the wellhead as I did below and locate the pipe from there.

 

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Below are the stakes I placed to indicate the location of the line. As can be seen, one would never even know it is there had I not marked it. That is the case with most pipelines and is much of the reason that so many people do not realize just how much pipeline infrastructure they are surrounded by every day. The dead trees are due to a forest fire a few years ago by the way. It had no impact on the pipe and as can be seen the natural regrowth is coming along very well. Some anti-progress types like to wrongly imply that a forest that has been cut or burned is gone forever. Trees grow back.

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Modern pipelines are buried following very strict quality and environmental standards. Riparian buffers are observed. Bores are used to bypass water bodies without threatening the water itself. Sensitive areas are avoided and construction is timed to avoid migratory wildlife.

Pipelines are a reality of life and they have been moving oil and gas in North America since the turn of the century. They are nothing new and they really do not cause much harm despite the hysteria of opponents of development.

The need and demand for energy is a fact of life as well. The oilsands are not going away and they are not going to be shut down. The product from the oilsands will be transported to market one way or another. Pipelines are by far the safest means of carrying that product.

If we do not use pipelines, product will continue to be moved with tanker trucks or trains as pictured below.

 

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There are real concerns and issues that need to be heard regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline. Unfortunately those legitimate concerns are being drowned out by groups who are determined to derail all forms of progress with any means possible. These people will not stick to facts in their crusade against energy and they are harming an important process.

Lets face the reality that we will be moving oil products through pipelines and try to stick to a realistic goal of trying to move product  as safely as possible. That means we need to stick to the facts.

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