Government managed economic diversification? Been there, done that.

nutley

As Alberta’s economy continues to swirl down the fiscal toilet bowl, the increasingly ideologically driven Notley NDP is still insisting on proven socialism inspired failures. Notley’s insane insistence on trying to rip up PPA contracts is building an investment chill that even Naheed Nenshi is calling out.

A government study on the economic impact of the carbon tax was so damning, Notley’s administration refused to release it. Notley wont even share or acknowledge the outcomes of her own studies funded by the taxpayer.

The last faint hope that the Notley regime has in mitigating widespread economic damage from the carbon tax is that through massive corporate welfare programs they will be able to force economic diversification upon Alberta.

THE PROBLEM WITH THIS STRATEGY IS THAT IT HAS ALREADY BEEN TRIED AND IT FAILED TERRIBLY! 

getty lougheed

While self styled “progressives” in the Progressive Conservative Party like to wistfully look back on the glory days of old, they conveniently overlook the fact that Don Getty and Peter Lougheed led fiscally liberal governments that created the massive deficits and debt that forced us all into austerity in the 1990s under Ralph Klein. Much of that debt was due to the foolish pursuit of government guided economic diversity.

Billions of dollars were lost as loan guarantees and outright grants were given to dozens of failed ventures. When one considers how small Alberta’s population was at the time and what a dollar was worth, these were some very significant blows to the taxpayer.

In the usual progressive fashion, the progressives borrowed money to cover the losses and let the next generation take care of the bill in the 1990s.

Sound familiar?

Notley apparently is no student of recent history as she is bound and determined to repeat it.

A great piece on past diversification efforts was recently done by the UofC School of Public Policy with Ted Morton and Merideth MacDonald. It is well worth a read in its entirety. 

I will summarize below some of the brutal investments that the progressives of the time made in the name of economic diversity.

I have to start with MagCan as I passed by the site of that crumbling plant yesterday and had to get a picture taken with it where I could show my thoughts on that waste of dollars that has polluted the landscape for over 20 years.

corymag

1988 Magnesium Company of Canada (MagCan) Loss covered by taxpayers: $164 million

1984 Swan Hills Waste Treatment Plant Loss covered by taxpayers: $440 million

1989 NovaTel Loss covered by taxpayers: $544 million to $614 million (they screwed it so badly that the auditor general couldnt even figure out the total loss)

1987 Millar Western Pulp Loss covered by taxpayers: $272 million

1986 Gainers Loss covered by taxpayers: $209 million

1982 Ridley Grain Ltd. Loss covered by taxpayers: $161 million (though still considered an outstanding loan)

1991 Al-Pac Loss covered by taxpayers: $155 million

1977 Chembiomed Loss covered by taxpayers: $44 million

1981 Canadian Commercial Bank Loss covered by taxpayers: $56 million

1973 Northern Lite Canola Loss covered by taxpayers: $50 million

1983 General Systems Research Loss covered by taxpayers: $30 million

Ironically it was during the period of cuts and austerity led by Ralph Klein when Alberta moved closer to a diversified economy. Innovative ventures started and blossomed under a regime that was welcoming to business and investment. The lack of government interference in the market and lack of tax hikes attracted record numbers of new head offices to Alberta while existing businesses expanded and broadened their scope of products and services.

ralph

It has been proven that economic diversification through government trying to pick winners and losers in business is an utter failure.

It has also been proven that if left alone, business will expand and diversify all on it’s own.

Unfortunately this stark historical lesson is lost on Notley and those who call themselves the “progressive” element in the PC Party of Alberta.

We will cut back and our economy will rebound once we get Notley as far from the reins of power as possible. That will take the kind of partisan unity that Jason Kenney is offering though and that means that the “progressive” folks in the PC party cant be allowed to try and turn the clock back to the Getty days of fiscal liberalism.

Notley will do massive damage to us in the next few years with her attempts to make the first working socialist model. We simply cant take the chance that she may get 8 years to pursue this mad experiment.

Below is a list of smaller but still not insignificant government backed ventures that lost in that period for honorable mention.

Alberta Pacific Terminals $10 million

Alberta Terminals: $2.6million

Alberta White Wood Industries and Meunier Forest Products: $2.3 million

Alert Disaster Control: $2.6 million

Canadian Professional Munitions: $803,000

Carbovan: $5.9 million

Climate Master: $5 million

Dial Guard: $600,000

Emery Apparel Canada: $2 million

Fletchers Fine Foods: $13.9 million

General Composites Canada: $3.5 million

Myrias Research Corp: $9 million

Nanton Spring Water: $2.8 million

Norstar Recreation Products: $1 million

Northern Steel: $11 million

Peace River Fertilizer: approx $6 million

Ski Free Marine: $2.8 million

Teknica Resource Development: $1.9 million

Tomotechnology: approx: $1 million

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We can’t all be astronauts.

bondar

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

 

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

 

The child responded, “Oh yes.”

 

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

 

The child responded, “No”.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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ImagineCalgary document dissection Pt. 4

 

Most of the ImagineCalgary document delves into areas that are completely outside of municipal jurisdiction (for now). That in itself indicative of just how much Naheed Nenshi and Brian Pincott who are among the authors of the document such plan to expand the size and reach of our city government at any cost. In this installment I will go into their plans for housing which at least is directly within the scope of a municipal government though the plans are no less extreme and unrealistic. I will get back into their plans for our children’s collective self-esteem in the document in later posts (yes they even go there).

The depth of the density zeal is evident in the sudden firing of planner Stan Schwartzenberger in order to make room for the controversial density extremist Rollin Stanley. Schwartzenberger sued the city of Calgary asking for $640,000 and eventually settled for an undisclosed amount that doubtless is well into six figures.

Rollin Stanley has quickly gotten to work and has alienated citizens and developers alike with statements as ridiculous as comparing Calgary to Stockton California as he tries to make his case for an extreme civic density agenda. That prompted homebuilder Avi Amir to take out an article to correct Stanley’s hogwash which of course brought on the increasingly petulant wrath of Nenshi who does not care for the exposure of his hired density zealots such as Rollin Stanley.

Now, back to the crazy $3.4 million dollar Calgary city plan called ImagineCalgary:

HOUSING

Goal:
Calgarians have a choice of housing options that are affordable, accessible and eco-efficient and that support a variety of lifestyles. Housing reflects local environmental conditions and resources and is adaptable over time to reflect changes in technology, climate and demographics.

The housing section begins with the fluffy statement above. What is lost is that such a choice already exists in the free market. People can buy homes at whatever price range, accessibility and eco-efficiency that they like. Not all people are in a position to afford all choices but that is covered in later sections where ImagineCalgary feels that the city government should control income levels in Calgary.

STRATEGY 1
Support an increase in residential density, particularly in strategic locations at transit stations, in employment areas and close to goods and service providers.
Change the Municipal Development Plan policy to allow higher densities within new communities.
Communicate/increase awareness of the ecological impacts of low-density housing.
Develop housing intensification policies for strategic locations (e.g. near LRT stations and employment areas).

They get straight to the point of increasing density which is unsurprising. There is nothing wrong with straightforward goals. As the document continues though, the motive and means become more apparent and disturbing.

The MDP does not need to be changed to “allow” more density in newer communities. The battle in new developments is to try and spread homes out as it is. “Sprawling” developments are labelled as “crap” by Mayor Nenshi as he defends the essential abuse of the regulatory system in order to hinder developments that don’t fall within his density vision. The city does not want to “allow” more density, they want to force it. That is a huge distinction.

Part of the plan is in “increasing awareness” of the apparent ecological merits of Manhattan style density. That means spending our tax dollars to “educate” and shame our suburban butts for daring to live in homes with yards.

STRATEGY 2 Increase the mix of uses within communities.
Encourage livable streetscapes that are active throughout the day.
Educate consumers to increase awareness of different housing types and mix.
Develop of standards for complete communities.
Promote existing mixed-use developments in Calgary.
Develop mandatory design guidelines.
Revise City policies that restrict opportunities for the development of mixed uses.

None of the above is all that unreasonable. They are coming out and using the word “mandatory” at least rather than talking around it using the word “encourage” as they usually do. They feel that they must “educate” us unwashed folks further though which is condescending and irritating.

Planning communities and having city enforced standards is a reasonable thing. It is a matter of the degree of course and the use of guidelines to throttle “crap” as Nenshi likes to do that is a problem.

STRATEGY 3 Support the development of underdeveloped land for population-intensive activities and uses.
Support changes to the tax system to encourage the development of vacant lands within established areas.
Provide mortgages, guarantees and revolving loans for brownfield sites that meet restoration criteria.
Support the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites for appropriate development.
Encourage the redevelopment of greyfield sites (old malls and commercial sites that are no longer economically viable).
Support the intensification of existing communities, particularly in strategic locations like those near transit stations.

Whoa whoa whoa folks! I have to quote this again below as this is the sort of thing that leads to disasters and government bankruptcies.

Provide mortgages, guarantees and revolving loans for brownfield sites that meet restoration criteria.

That’s right, the ImagineCalgary folks actually want the City of Calgary government to provide loans and mortgages as well as guarantee other high risk loans. The loans in question would of course have to be high risk or they would not need a guarantee in the first place.

It is not enough to choke and regulate developments that do not fit within their density visions. The visionaries behind this document understand that it is economically unviable to invest in their ideal communities thus they must provide taxpayer financing to build these developments.

One needs only to look at the outright fiscal disaster South of our border to see what happens when government gets into the mortgage business. Lending institutions have come up with their lending standards for damn good reason. If people don’t qualify for a loan with established lending institutions, then they simply should not be loaned money.

We are not paying our tax dollars so that the City of Calgary can lend them to high risk borrowers!

What is this supporting changes in the tax system about? One can only imagine that it would be selective tinkering with rates so that preferred development gets breaks while we tax the piss out of those evil folks in the suburbs. The city is prepared to fight consumer choice and supply and demand with every tool at their disposal.

“Encourage” and “support” are terms for some very heavy market meddling with a very high risk of loss of tax dollars invested according to ImagineCalgary.

STRATEGY 4 Promote innovative housing forms that are able to adapt to a variety of housing needs.
Support backyard infill housing (e.g. granny suites).
Encourage co-housing or other forms that provide innovative living arrangements.
Encourage flex-housing to enable the spaces within residential units to be converted over time to meet changing household needs.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and support more sustainable lifestyles.
Develop a provincial strategy to address the shortfall of affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities.

Now with this statement we have to wonder to what extent “promote” goes to. More education for us? More loans and subsidies?

Infill housing can be a good thing but the degree has to be watched. Parking and general neighborhood densities are real issues despite the utopian bicycle and pedestrian’s paradise envisioned by these planners. Those who purchase a home with a yard in an area with other single occupancy dwellings do so for a reason. It is not reasonable that they suddenly have a neighbor who tosses in an infill and basement suite and suddenly has groups of revolving renters coming and going.

This apparent supporting of streamlining of processes that are “innovative” and fit within what they define as “sustainable lifestyles” is an admission that the city wants to purposely abuse the regulatory regime to model things to fit within their idealism. Either streamline all regulations or none. The selective route is just a disingenuous means to choke supply and demand.

What exactly is a “sustainable lifestyle” anyway and who the hell are these guys to tell us what that is? The City of Calgary endorsed ImagineCalgary plan actually takes it upon itself to manage our choice in lifestyles. Again, the term social engineering is not at all an exaggeration here.

This calls for “developing a provincial strategy” as well. These people don’t even consider for a second that this is a civic document. What other municipalities do is none of your damn business. Rest assured the pap within ImagineCalgary is intrusive enough without trying to expand to controlling other cities.

STRATEGY 5 Review the rules for housing construction and community development to determine how they may be unnecessarily limiting innovative housing options.
Develop flexible rules within the Land Use Bylaw (create opportunities for mixed use, building setbacks, etc.).
Explore options to streamline the permitting process to encourage desired housing forms and make them more financially feasible.
Review the Alberta Building Code to identify how it may be limiting innovative housing options.
Research the appropriateness of alternative policy mechanisms, such as objective-based policy versus prescriptive-based policy.
Research options for alternative housing forms, such as legalized basement suites.
Research options to improve the Ward system of political representation.

Develop “flexible” rules? Either we have solid rules or we don’t. Selective application of rules means no rules at all but it sure does empower City Hall to pick and choose who they will or won’t enforce laws upon. Again, in knowing that consumer choice does not allow for their goals in city modelling the planners here want to take a disingenuous, backdoor route to their objectives.

Streamlining permitting to encourage desired housing forms? How about streamlining it all? Yet again these people want to abuse regulatory systems in order to force development into ways that would not normally happen. Maybe these developments are not “financially feasible” for a reason. Financial feasibility has never been a real priority for the kind of folks who built ImagineCalgary though, remember Druh Farrell’s name is attached to it.

The looking into options to improve the Ward system of representation is a neat one. What is at issue for the drafters of ImagineCalgary here is that due to the rep-by-pop nature of the Ward system, our city gets properly represented by the majority of the population which predominantly resides in the suburbs. Suburbanites are tiring of the demonization coming from city hall and they will clearly wake up electorally as the kind of goals such as the ones in ImagineCalgary are pursued. To get around this pesky democracy things, the ImagineCalgary bunch want to change the whole system of local representation. Why else would they mention revising the Ward system under the heading of housing? There is already an entire section on governance in ImagineCalgary that I will eviscerate later.


TARGET By 2036, all new and retrofitted residential buildings are built to be within five per cent of the highest energy-efficient design available out of all economically competitive products, as measured on a life cycle basis.

Want to see a great way to drive cost of living right through the roof? The above statement is the way to do it. Don’t believe that “economically competitive” statement for a second, they have ignored that principle in the entire plan. Why would they care what is economically competitive now?

STRATEGY 1 Develop education and awareness programs that identify the benefits of eco-efficient design.
Identify the ecological impacts of different forms of commercial development.
Provide benchmarking to indicate how eco-efficient non-residential buildings are and where we rank against other cities of similar size and characteristics.
Develop a system to rate commercial types according to eco-efficiency standards.
Develop a single comprehensive labelling system for “green” buildings, products and technologies.

Most of the above is not all unreasonable. It really all depends on how extreme the standards get set at.

The labelling system sounds like a disaster though and working towards potential shaming of businesses that fall outside of what the city considers as “green”. Really not their turf.

STRATEGY 2 Streamline the development approval process for buildings that demonstrate eco-efficient standards.

How about just setting standards and following up on them? Why the constant call to use the approval and permitting process as a hammer?

STRATEGY 3 Develop incentives for adopting eco-efficient standards in buildings and site design.
Consider subsidies for eco-efficient buildings and site design.
Provide financing incentives for buildings that are more energy efficient.
Support local groups and businesses that offer green building products and technologies through information and awareness packages.

Ahh we knew they couldn’t last too long before wanting to jump right into direct subsidies for businesses that they determine to be green.

We can’t let these people begin picking and choosing businesses to give our tax dollars to. Corporate welfare is bad enough on the federal and provincial levels. We do not need the city to piss our money down this road.

There are few realms that invite corruption better than giving government power to directly subsidize businesses. If these efficiencies are so good, rest assured businesses will be pursuing them even without having our tax dollars lavished upon them.

Wonder why our city is so deeply in debt while our road infrastructure languishes? This is a good indicator. The city feels it is mandated to spend however and wherever they please.

TARGET By 2036, all commercial buildings are accessible to people with disabilities.

A good enough goal. It depends on how much it would cost with some existing buildings though. A degree of grandfathering has to be allowed here.

TARGET By 2036, all Calgarians have the option of spending less than 30 per cent of their gross family incomes on housing.

Now this is quite the target. An irony (or idiocy) of this kind of goal being in ImagineCalgary is that high density cities all have huge housing costs. Have a look at housing costs in Manhattan or San Francisco to see what happens when you build a density paradise. It is through the expansion of a city as a whole that housing costs are kept under control. This is totally lost on ImagineCalgary though.

STRATEGY 1 Encourage innovative practices or standards that reduce the costs of new housing.
Explore modified parking standards to reduce housing costs, especially where housing is close to transit, pathways or employment.
Research if quotas could be applied to affordable housing.
Ensure a certain percentage of rental units are for low-income households.
Investigate options for setting land aside for affordable housing.
Research options for providing more affordable housing, such as legalized basement suites.
Establish policy and land use districts to support single-room occupancy units.
Support programs that help integrate affordable housing into the community at large.
Support an increase in funding for programs that meet the complex needs of those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Support the construction trades to ensure we have enough labour to fulfill the demands for housing construction.
Develop information and awareness on choosing the housing trades as a career.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and provide affordable housing.
Encourage mixed-income neighborhoods. Explore options for alternative financing to integrate affordable housing within all communities

OK where to begin. Many of these things are already happening. The only thing debatable is the degree. Do we really need to force the construction of a single-room occupancy building in an outlying suburb for example?

They do save the best at the bottom of their lists of strategies of course. Is it the city’s role to direct career choices of people? They appear to think so. Better to keep cost of living low and attract the tradespeople who will continue to be drawn to Calgary. These folks can’t let market determine such things though of course.

Next we get into “alternative financing”. This goes back to that call to have the City of Calgary provide mortgages and loan guarantees. Do you want the city to take your tax dollars to give to an unviable low income complex (future slum) to be developed next to the dream home you worked your ass off to buy? That I exactly what ImagineCalgary wants to do.

STRATEGY 2 Support the concept of a living wage for all Calgarians.
Identify a living wage standard for Calgary.
Develop awareness programs for employers on the benefits of paying employees a living wage.
Develop training programs that enable people to earn enough to afford housing and to sustain this affordability over time.

Now they are dipping deeply into the well of insanity again. The ImagineCalgary planners want to tell employers what they have to pay their staff.

“Living wage” could be anything these zealots determine. It need not be based in reality and it sure as hell won’t reflect market demand. Policies such as this would bring down the cost of living as businesses flock from the city to avoid these policies though. Doubtless we could look forward to more “incentives” for businesses that adhere to this living wage policy.

Training programs? It looks like our city will be opening trade schools and other sorts of post-secondary institutions too. Just how big do our civic officials think they can make city hall?

If we want affordable housing the answer is simple; open up the thousands of square miles of undeveloped land surrounding our city for development. The virtual suburban development freeze that we have right now is pushing real-estate prices through the roof.

STRATEGY 3 Support public/private partnerships to develop integrated affordable housing.
Encourage government to act as a land banker to absorb the risks of providing affordable housing in new communities.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and provide affordable housing.
Encourage mixed-income neighbourhoods

Ahh great. Our City Hall not only wants to become a banker that provides mortgages, it wants to become a “land banker”. Why simply risk tax dollars in cash when we can put whole tracts of city owned land at risk as well? Quebec has cracked down on their civic corruption lately. I bet their municipal gangsters would love to get a piece of these city business and land partnerships.

It is frightening how many ways these people can imagine to take our money and redistribute it based on their idealism.

By 2036, the Calgary market can meet the housing needs of those below the Low-income Cut-off (LICO).

Again a nice but frightening goal. We are talking about a massive civic welfare state here and nothing less. This simply is not a municipal government’s role.

STRATEGY 1 Fully integrate non-market housing into communities throughout the city, with a mix of rental, owned and mixed-income tenures.

Want an ever growing pile of government owned housing tenements opening up in your neighborhood? That is exactly what this is calling for. The theory is that if government owns enough of the housing that they can control the overall costs of housing for all. The cost to fund this will be through ever increasing taxation upon the productive of course which will drive more of them into low income situations creating need for more low income housing meaning more tradespeople will need to be trained in City owned trade schools…….. Big government just keeps getting bigger.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to tour Moscow in the 80s. I assure you that large cities full of socialized housing are not terribly pleasant.

STRATEGY 2 Increase the stock of affordable housing along the continuum: from emergency shelters, to transitional housing, to non-market rental units, to formal and informal rental units, to affordable owned homes.
Support the development of hostels and single-room occupancy dwellings like boarding houses, special care facilities and lodging houses.
Support the development of emergency and transitional housing to accommodate specific subgroups within the homeless population, including youth under the age of 18, families, women with or without children who are fleeing violence, people leaving addictions treatment and people with mental health issues or cognitive or physical disabilities.

Some of this is OK but how much? How many hostels are we obligated to provide for travelling hipsters with Liberal Arts degrees for example?

STRATEGY 3 Research and develop new ways of providing non-market housing.
Develop new ways of providing non-market housing in Calgary by having The City’s Affordable Housing Implementation Team work with the Community Action Committee addressing homelessness, the Community Land Trust and other partners in public, private and community sectors.

The repetitiveness of the goal of increasing state-owned housing is rather telling. ImagineCalgary see’s no other recourse for housing issues without massive state participation. This strategy has failed everywhere else but hey, lets let Calgarian taxpayers try just one more time.

STRATEGY 4 Identify specific buildings and parcels of land that can be set aside for the development of non-market housing.
Provide the option of subsidizing people, and not projects, to expand the supply of affordable housing.

Oh look, another strategy to pursue more state owned housing tenements. How creative of them.

STRATEGY 5 Bring together developers and non-profit organizations and guide them in seeking federal and provincial funding for the development and operation of affordable housing.

Well this is something interesting at least. They want to bring others with them when they go begging for more money from other levels of government. Nenshi may have a hard time getting those homebuilders to come with him if he keeps banning them from his committees when he has his periodic tantrums though.

STRATeGY 6 Support appropriate relaxations to regulations on a site-specific basis for development that meets the needs of low-income households.

Oh good, let the standards down on the low income developments. Hell, get rid of the smoke detector requirements and allow smoking within them. That should reduce our low income population right quickly.

We either need regulations for all developments or none.

STRATeGY 7 Support initiatives to eliminate homelessness.
Mobilize community partners and other orders of government to develop a comprehensive 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness that would lead to a shift from our current temporary/ transitional shelter approach to one that uses prevention combined with rapid re-housing and supportive housing practices.
Focus short-term efforts on families with children that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as on children and youth at risk of becoming homeless later in life due to childhood housing instability.
Support a Mayor’s task force to reach out to vulnerable group at risk of becoming homeless.
Continue to introduce and support social programs that help the homeless become self-reliant.
Enhance programs and supports that help unemployed and low-income people achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Use a collaborative and shared investment approach with not-for-profit, industry and government sectors.
Provide adequate training or education and services for life skills development, job preparation and job placement to the homeless population and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Support various employment supports, including transportation subsidies, child care and eligibility for health benefits.
Support early childhood development that assists parents in providing children with healthy environments for full development.

Most of the above is standard fluff in speaking to homelessness. When they say “eliminate” though, reality is already lost. Homelessness can be mitigated and reduced but it will never be eliminated. If we don’t plan for realistic outcomes we will never see the ones we want. Many of the initiatives listed above are already in existence. The term “enhance” is used to mask a call for increased spending though.

As usual, ImagineCalgary goes way beyond civic mandate though in calling for child care and health benefits. Early childhood programs are not a municipal role either so lets just get off it.

Well, that is the ImagineCalgary housing dreams in nutshell along with interpretation and in only 4000 words. Writing on their self-esteem goals in a future installment will be a cakewalk after having written this one. 😉

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ImagineCalgary document dissection Pt. 3

For today’s trip into the surreal world of the ImagineCalgary civic plan I am going to have a look into the city of Calgary’s plans to manage our goods and services. This section demonstrates just how intrusive Calgary’s city management wants to get in our lives and businesses.

The first part of the ImagineCalgary goods and services plan delves into food. They really do want to tell us what to eat. That plan inspired the more in-depth;  “CALGARY FOOD SYSTEM ASSESSMENT & ACTION PLAN” which is possibly even more crazy than the ImagineCalgary document itself. I broke down the food plan in all it’s loopy glory in last year. I do recommend reading it and will leave the food section of ImagineCalgary alone in this posting.

Now on to ImagineCalgary’s plan to micromanage our goods and services. In this case they start with fluffy statements and then get more specific into the crazy direct interventions as you read along to the point of proposing free land for select business friends.

System Built environment and infrastructure
Goal
Calgarians access a wide variety of locally produced goods and services and consume these in a responsible manner. We support and consume responsibly produced goods and services from around the world.

OK here is the broad goal. Not only we are to access locally produced goods (I hear those Calgary bananas are terrific), but we are expected to consume these goods in a responsible manner. Does that mean I can’t eat too many of these locally produced bananas lest I get fat? Does this mean I will be monitored to ensure that I compost the peel?

Now I see below that this “We” does indeed support consumption of imported goods (again only if done so in a manner that they deem responsible) as long as these goods and services were produced in a manner that they deep to have been responsible.

This of course is the sort of garbage that inspired the delusional city councilor Brian Pincott to crusade against legal items on menus in Chinese restaurants in Calgary. The ImagineCalgary people and their flakey proponents like Pincott truly do want to tell us what we are allowed to eat or utilize as consumers in general. Courts in Ontario have already proven that this is totally out of the jurisdiction of civic governments. Despite these legal realities, our ideologues on city council want to waste court and legislative time further trying to beat those legal precedents.

As I have said before, if one has the stomach to delve deeply into the ImagineCalgary plan, one can see where much of the city council lunacy stems from.

1 TARGET By 2036, over 50 per cent of Calgary businesses adopt a protocol for sustainable practices and report on it regularly.

The along with the word “vibrant”, the ImagineCalgary crowd loves to beat the hell out of the word “sustainable”. The word appears well over 100 times in their blueprint alone. The reason that word is beloved by the framers of ImagineCalgary is that the definition of the term is vague and can be bent to whatever need they like. Environmentally sustainable? Ethically? Economically? The word is only limited by the user’s imagination.

Now in light of it being so tough to determine what “sustainable” means in this context, it does make it disturbing to imagine half of our city’s businesses being strong-armed into adopting binding protocols on this that as is said above would have to be reported regularly. Reported to who? The sustainability police? What if the business does not meet the definition of sustainability that day? Will there be fines? Revocation of licenses? Sanctions? Finger waggling?

Business people are ambitious and independent minded. I can’t see even 10% willingly binding themselves into something like this. Clearly the ImagineCalgary creators realize a bit of this as this is one of the few goals that they have with less than 90% compliance expectations. All the same, I fear for how these busybodies plan to get half of businesses to get on board with this.

Oh but wait, they of course do give some indication of their strategies:

STRATEGY 1 Develop incentives to support businesses that operate in an environmentally sustainable way.
Support the attraction and retention of sustainable industry. Support the design of eco-efficient industrial and business centres.Enhance e-commerce infrastructure within Calgary.

Now none of the above strategies needs any help from the city. The free market will decide which industries can be sustained here and efficiencies in consumption come rather clearly through supply and demand.

To allow market choice would be to lose control and the ImagineCalgary gang could not abide by such. Real markets likely would not fit within their definition of sustainability thus must be stunted.

Develop incentives? Attract and retain?

Let’s face it folks, the only way governments try to do this is by taxing the hell out of the successful businesses in order to pad and subsidize the economically non-viable ones.

There are few better recipes for market collapse and corruption than the empowerment of government to pick and choose businesses that they will “support” at the expense of others. We can’t let Calgary city hall get any more deeply into this game than it already is.

STRATEGY 2 Develop a sustainable business ethic that Calgary businesses can sign on to.
Promote sustainable business and products (through labeling, associations, etc.).

This kind of gimmick is neat. It is a form of public shaming that local governments can use to push businesses around.

First, bureaucrats at city hall draft a “sustainable business ethic” of their own definition. An business association of sorts is created that of course only allows businesses who have bound themselves into this sustainability definition. The city will use tax dollars to promote and advertise that consumers should try to only go to businesses that display such and such sticker to indicate they are part of this association.

While I am sure the city would never outright tell us not to go to a particular business, they will happily imply that you perhaps are not a good citizen should you take your money to one of those icky businesses that refused to sign on to their protocol and join their new association.

Now we start to see how the ImagineCalgary folks expect to get as many as 50%of businesses to sign on to their “protocol” thus losing choice in operating their own enterprises. Sneaky but effective. Not really a new strategy, think back to the “look for the union label” campaigns only imagine a powerful government doing it.

STRATEGY 3 Ensure Calgary businesses adopt cradle-to-cradle responsibility of products. Ensure businesses think longer-term when selling goods and services.

When they go from “encourage” to “ensure” one rightly hears alarm bells. This is the sort of statement that leads to legislation and penalties.

What is “Cradle-to-Cradle” you say? In short it is a flakey environmentalist ideology that would demand profound market intervention to enforce and would put the cost of consumer goods through the roof. It is an ideological theory that businesses are welcome to willingly embrace but we would be crazy to allow our city busybodies to enforce such practices as they would like to.

STRATEGY 4 Encourage the trade of locally based goods and services.
Ensure businesses think longer-term when selling goods and services

This one starts with “encourage” but ends with “ensure” so again we see the barrel of the government gun-to-the-head peeking out.

In this case “encourage” when it comes to protectionism means tariffs. Of course such things usually only apply to countries. Now we can see part of why Naheed Nenshi and many of his compatriots are so eager to expand the taxation powers of the city. Taxation is not simply a way to raise government funds, it can be and often is used as a punitive form of control over citizens and enterprise.

The ways of “ensuring” along with targeted taxation are limitless and who defines what is thinking in the longer-term? Will this be a license requirement for business? Another mandatory-but-not-mandatory business association?

Alas though, we are still only at the tip of the iceberg with where these people want to go in building their ideological utopia out of Calgary.

TARGET By 2016, Calgary has a strong and diverse portfolio of locally based businesses.

This one has a very short timeline and really is a fluff statement with no measure. Most of the targets in the plan have those ridiculous targeted percentages attached to them. I guess we should be happy that this one lacks this.

The entire goal above can be reached simply through having a good environment in which to do business. That means reasonable (needs reduction) red-tape and regulation. Reasonable local costs for real-estate, taxation etc. and free consumer and business mobility to ensure that services develop to fit the needs.

Sadly, the ImagineCalgary goal is to massively increase market intervention through regulation and raised taxes as well as raising cost of operation due to explosive real-estate prices through mandated density targets. This will only backfire with catastrophic consequences but despite so many world examples of why government needs to stay clear of business the likes of the ImagineCalgary gang plan to push forth and micromanage our lives and endeavors.

Now on to the strategies. It is not an exaggeration to call the strategies below socialism. This is the definition of it, only the degree is in question.

STRATEGY 1 Provide incentives to diversify our economic base.
Provide seed money to help support the establishment of local businesses and industries in strategic sectors.

Explore options for utilizing publicly owned land to help support/incubate locally owned businesses.

Explore the option of using vacant and underutilized buildings as local business incubators.

Support tax incentives for local business.

Create economic development programs to diversify local business.

Well in this one they come right out and say it: “provide seed money” and in “strategic sectors” of course. I imagine organic hemp-shops and bicycle repair shops will be determined as “strategic” thus worthy of being lavished with “seed money” that will be taken from the pockets of the productive through taxation. This is corporate welfare even if the recipients may indeed to be from some smaller businesses. This is direct market intervention and this will fail at monumental cost to us all as it invariably does.

While these folks are in love with the term “sustainability” the concept is completely lost when the word “economic” is placed in front of it. There are reasons why certain businesses do not exist. Usually it is because nobody wants the damn things. Supply and demand have been proven infinitely more effective in determining what businesses we need or do not need than any government ever has. It is ridiculous that our City Hall wants to go down this insane road.

Google MagCan or Novatel Alberta to see to relatively recent and local examples what happens when idiotic bureaucrats determine that they can create local industries with “seed money” from taxpayers.

Of course just giving money to friends and preferred businesses is not enough for these utopian urban-planners. This plan calls for giving land to certain businesses as well. Why dedicate civic land to things like parks and paths when it can be given to vibrant, sustainable, handpicked business ventures with some tax dollars on top?

Oh but as we see, land and money are not enough alone. The plan here also says that buildings that they determine (by what measure) to be underutilized can be given to the business friends they have gathered as well. This does not even specify if these are public-owned properties or not, only that they have determined that these have been underutilized by some unknown measure. What sort of utilization quotas are we speaking of now?

If free money, free land and a free building are not enough for the Chosen Ones to flourish as businesses, we can see that there are plans for “tax incentives” as well. In other words, these businesses that are determined by the tall-foreheads will get tax breaks in order to ensure that they may directly compete and possibly eliminate other businesses that do not offer the practices, goods and services that ImagineCalgary deem to be good for the collective.

STRATEGY 2 Develop information that promotes locally based businesses in Calgary and its region.
Create a directory of locally based businesses.
Create economic development programs to diversify local business.

I guess one should go farther into the ideology of what these people consider “locally based businesses” as are not all businesses in Calgary based locally by their very nature? You see, this is another of those ambiguous terms that can be used when they begin to pick and choose between the businesses that they feel are good for us or bad. WalMart while employing thousands and providing affordable consumer goods for example is bad as they are multinational and sell foreign produced goods. A small shoemaker who considers himself an artist and only uses organic leather from nearby cows that were massaged daily and put to sleep with poems from Calgary’s poet-laureate would be a good local business and must be preserved and promoted at all costs.

Create a directory of locally based businesses? With all of the money and time spent on this documents and these assholes suddenly have decided that they can invent the Yellow Pages???

The framers of ImagineCalgary while being ideological zealots are not complete idiots. They know that countless directories on paper and online list local businesses. What they are getting at is that they will determine their own list of worthy businesses and advertize them in order to create yet another competitive edge for their Chosen Ones.

Money, land, buildings, tax breaks and now free advertising for certain businesses. As one can see, it can pay very well to be connected to the right folks in Calgary City Hall as these plans develop.

STRATEGY 3 Support flexible standards to encourage a wide variety of local businesses. Enable buildings that can adapt to a wide range of business types.
Provide land use districts that facilitate the development of flexible spaces.
Support mixed-usecommunities.

As with many portions of the ImagineCalgary document, this is a bit vague.

Like the sudden discovery of the yellowpages though, it looks like ImagineCalgary has stumbled across the concept of the shopping mall when speaking of buildings that provide a range of business types.

Of course all of these things can and will come into being without the direct manage of City Hall. To allow nature to take it’s course in these matters would be to lose some control. That clashes directly with the goals of ImagineCalgary.

There is so much more to cover in this blueprint of madness. I have hit all I can for today. In finishing on the theme of control though I do want to hit one more target.

TARGET By 2036, all Calgarians consume more responsibly.

It is the short and sweet targets that scare one the most. How will they get us all to consume in what they determine to be a responsible manner? Not just some, but “all”.

Lofty and scarey goals indeed.

Remember, Naheed Nenshi some members of our current council took part in making this document. These people believe in the goals and means within ImagineCalgary and intend to pursue them.

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A Record Month for Calgary City Council.

It has been some time since I have seen our intrusive city council get on such a roll of covering so many self-important, expensive and intrusive initiatives that we really don’t need and that really don’t fall within what I see as their mandate as a city council.

Below is a clip from the Alberta Municipal Government Act mandating what the role of a municipality should be:

Municipal purposes
3 The purposes of a municipality are:

(a) to provide good government,

(b) to provide services, facilities or other things that, in the
opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or a
part of the municipality, and

(c) to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.

Now the above statement is pretty broad and yes leaves a great deal open to interpretation. It greatly empowers council in that it allows things to be done “in the opinion” of council which pretty much lets them judge themselves empowered to do damn near anything (and it shows in their actions).

What is outstanding in the document is also that the mandate is simple. The complexities in city governance are grown and created by busybody city councils that feel that they should be mandating, regulating and banning whatever practices among Calgarians they please.

Personal special interest mandates are showing clearly as city councilors waste their tax funded time on petty issues while major issues languish by the sidelines.

Council extremist Brian Pincott is a specialist in pushing these foolish, narrow initiatives. Pincott wants the law to tell you how many lights you can have turned on and at what time. Pincott wants to ban your right to use fire pits on your own property and perhaps even ban your wood burning fireplace. Brian Pincott wants ban cutting of trees on your own property and now Pincott feels it is his right and obligation to tell you what you are legally allowed to eat! 

Yes, I do understand that the practice of shark finning is repellent and inhumane. That being said, is it the role of a municipal council to ban the consumption of a legal product? Where do we stop? Veal? Foie Gras? Meat altogether? Non-organic foods? Non free range eggs? The list is endless and the precedent has been set. Sorry, I am grown to the point where I no longer will even let my mother tell me what I can or can’t eat, I sure as hell will not let a gang of busybody clowns in city hall tell me what to eat.

Despite a lack of need or demand, city hall will be spending a fortune closing even more lanes downtown for bikes and has set a timeline to pursue the expensive and proven loser called “bike sharing” that has proven to be a catastrophe around the world. 

Now in a stroke of genius despite the City of Calgary’s $3 billion debt and constant tax increases, Nenshi and city council have happily decided to pour tax dollars into golf courses to subsidize green fees. Hey, I like golfing but I don’t expect taxpayers to keep the cost of my game down. Is golf a need? How many Calgarians are served in this move? Is there a giant hidden surplus out there?

What can we look forward to in the next month as these nuts work to control more aspects of our personal lives on private property?

It is past time to clean house on Calgary city council. The next election is a year away. I do hope that a good fresh slate of people come forward as we really can’t afford these fools much longer.

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Lets get straight on what censorship is.

  We have some very real and very serious issues happening in Canada regarding freedom of speech. Human Rights Commissions are being used to stifle free political expression and the supporters of these commissions are using the legal system to try and shut down critical comment through SLAPP actions. When a Human Rights Commission can squelch political speech, this is a real case of censorship.

 Back in the 60s when artists were being charged for “lewd” drawings, that was censorship.

 Some people however are a tad confused as to what censorship is.

 In federal bill C10, there is a clause that states:  “Public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy”.

 Due to this, artists across Canada have begun the shrill cry that they are being censored.

David Cronenberg said: “‘It sounds like something they do in Beijing.”  Uh, Mr. Cronenberg, I strongly suggest that you look at China’s support for free speech, free expression or pretty much freedoms regarding anything before making such an idiotic comparison. Hyperbole does not help make your case.

 Sarah Polley has jumped into the ring saying: “It’s the job of artists to provoke and to challenge. Part of the responsibility of being an artist is to create work that will inspire dialogue, suggest that people examine their long-held positions and, yes, occasionally offend in order to do so.”

 Fair enough Sarah, but it is not the job or obligation of Canadians to fund such productions.

 Here is a quote that all you Canadian artists can make use of: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”.

 Personally, I think the government should get out of funding many of these “artistic” endeavors altogether. While we are indeed still funding them though, the government holding my tax-dollars in trust has every damn right to determine which productions get funding and which don’t. 

  Had the government being trying to ban production of controversial films, then we would indeed be speaking of censorship here. That is not the case. These artists are free to make pretty much whatever they want. If they go out of the bounds of what the government has determined to be in good taste, then the producers simply have to round up their own money (like everybody else in the business world).

 Canada has produced many successful movies and television shows that can hold their own in the market. The secret to this is to make entertaining productions that appeal to a broad market.  This is not rocket science folks. We have talented actors, directors, writers etc. who can and will break into the industry given time. The cost of indy productions is a fraction of what it used to be and online promotion and such of films has opened a whole new world to small producers. Make use of these things and quit whining for my money.

 Below are some creative films of varying Canadian content and I have no idea how much if any government funding went into the initial production of them. Many of them have become cult-classics and still hold appeal in the DVD market.

Heavy Metal    Scanners  Prom Night  My Bloody Valentine   My American Cousin  The Changeling

Meatballs  Porky’s 

 There are many more. I have just listed those that I thought were entertaining to watch though not Oscar quality. My omission of other Canadian productions is not censorship by the way, it is me exercising my right to post or not post whatever the hell I want.

 There are a few commonalities in the listing of the above films. All of them proved to be financially successful. All of them made it into popular distribution. All of them pursued genre niches such as cult horror and tasteless comedy that was not as common back then. All of them used creativity instead of massive funding in order to be entertaining. It may be noted that all of the above are from the late 70s early 80s. Much of the reason for that is that government funding for films was not as lucrative back then. If a producer wanted to have their production financed, they actually had to produce a financially viable film.

 As with most things subsidized, when the producer no longer has to worry about the quality of the product, the outcome is almost invariably crap. As long as we are funding garbage, we likely will not see many more films break into the broader North American market as we used to.  It should come as no surprise that the government funded, 2007 Canadian production Young People Fucking will likely never be shown outside of the odd film festival and perhaps late at night on government subsidised stations such as Showcase.

 When trash gets subsidized, truly talented and creative people will often leave for greener pastures. Canada has exported far more actors and directors than it has movies these days. We have the talent, but talented people often have ambition. They would like to see something more for their careers than being part of some subsidized sub-rate “artistic” production in Canada that will only be shown in the most obscure of independent theaters. 

 We have talent in Canada. Lets keep it here by letting popular demand determine what is produced in film as opposed to talent in mooching for tax-funded handouts. If anything, many of these artists are censoring themselves in a roundabout way by relegating our film industry to a non-profitable niche-market for the latte-crowd to view in little film festivals.

 Our proximity to the United States is often what is cited as the reason that taxpayer money is required to shore up Canadian productions. That is simply BS. The United States is a huge market and hey… they speak exactly the same language as us. It is a great opportunity for film to have a huge and similar culture and market right next door to us in order to market our productions to. We used to successfully do just that and we could do it again.

 Back to the initial point of this rant, there is no unfair censorship of films happening in Canada. Those who want to produce material that remain within the bounds of good taste will still likely qualify to get funding from the taxpayer’s teat (for now). Those who want to push the limits of good taste can still produce whatever the hell they want, they are not censored but it is time they became self-funding.

 

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