Want to conserve a resource? Make it a commodity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free enterprise will ease native reserve dependency if we would let it.

I am happy to see Canadian native issues remaining on the forefront of public discussion despite the idiocy coming from some Chief’s, activists and politicians who have jumped onto the whole “Idle No More” movement. While the “Idle No More” crowd is demonstrating great discontent, they really are proposing utterly nothing in the way of solutions to current problems on reserves across Canada, in fact the “Idle No More” bunch has not even really accurately been able to point to the source of the problems. We hear buzz-words and see indignant rage but we really see nothing of merit coming from the demonstrations and illegal blockades being fostered by this movement of activists.

The only thing the thinking public at large really shares with the “Idle No More” movement is the knowledge that current conditions on native reserves are simply no longer acceptable. Productive discourse is quickly lost with most activists as they bleat out loaded terms such as “genocide” and “assimilation”. We can’t reason with stooges who are threatening such actions as “shutting down the Canadian economy” or “activating warriors” either. To get productive discussion on native issues one has to shut out the white noise from the self-serving activists such as Chief Theresa Spence and the ever self-serving Pam Palmater and speak with rational people.

One of the main contributors to native misery is dependency. Dependency damages the pride and sucks the self-worth from an individual and is the chief factor in the outrageous rates of suicide, substance abuse and domestic abuse. There are few ways to destroy a human more effectively than to make them feel directionless and without purpose and dependency fosters and maintains both of those destructive feelings with terrible efficiency.

For most reserves, a person who is tired of depending on the welfare of others does not have the simple choice of going out and seeking a job in the pursuit of personal independence. Most reserves are not near major centres of employment and unless a person has close connections to the Chief and Council on a reserve, they likely will not find employment with the band itself. If reserves and individuals are ever to see fiscal independence and sustainability it will have to be through creative free enterprise. Only through development of reserve based businesses will we see at least some easing of the dependency that is a factor in the vast majority of reserves in Canada.

Simply stating that free enterprise will free reserves from dependency is not enough. Starting and maintaining a successful business is a difficult and potentially terrifying exercise for people native and non-native alike. Natives entrepreneurs face some challenges that non-natives do no have to deal with and I suspect that many people do not realize. Many government grants have been almost blindly thrown at reserves in the hopes of kindling active enterprises but the failure rate of those ventures has been catastrophic for a number of reasons.

Fiscal independence alone is not what is needed on reserves. If money alone could ease things, the Samson Louis-Bull reserve in Alberta would be doing great due to decades of massive oil and gas revenues. The town of Hobbema on that reserve is awash in social discord, poverty and gang violence giving it one of the highest murder rates per-capita in North America. Reserves need fiscal independence but they need the independence built from within in a participatory manner. That builds the pride and social structure that leads to social stability.


Native reserves are loaded with ambitious and creative citizens who would love nothing more than to start a business. There are countless ideas and concepts that would take off if given the proper chance and with the proper support. Many keep thinking that the only support required for such things is in the form of a government grant. The issue is much more complex than that but there are solutions and the payoff for everybody can be great if we can remove some of the roadblocks to native enterprise.

Last fall I attended the second annual Aboriginal Entrepreneurial Conference and Trade Show in Ottawa. In a shameless plug for the family business, I am including a picture of myself manning the booth at our conference display (if you ever need a good deal on ammolite gems, send me an email). The conference was an excellent networking opportunity for everybody and there were some excellent breakout seminars full of information on how to create successful native ventures. There was a great deal of informal discussion among those of us in attendance too and the subject of the special challenges to native businesses came up often. I am going to list below some of the prime hindrances to native enterprises and how we must remove them.


Bureaucracy and Corruption

While bureaucracy and corruption are two different things, I am including them together here as both of those things are tightly tied in native politics and business.

Red tape has killed countless ventures since the beginning of time. In native politics, corrupted red-tape has been brought to a whole new level of art-form. Parasitic members of the Indian Industry from lawyers to band employees to federal employees to council and chiefs to all sorts of consultants have been drawn like flies to poop as they see opportunity to line their pockets through the bureaucracy of reserve business applications. When a reserve citizen wants to start a venture, applications suddenly become mountainous. Consultants seem to spring from the woodwork who offer to ease the paper process when they actually have every interest in expanding the process while bleeding the applicants dry. It is almost standard practice in many (not all by any means) that the Chief and Council will be paid if not outright, then through token salaried positions to them and their families. Many many ventures of great promise have died before even beginning as their founders lose hope in the maze of corruption and bureaucracy that gets dumped upon them. To refuse to play the game is to have applications forever dumped on yourself and a never ending stream of demands for more studies and reports at great cost. To rebel on the more corrupt reserves could even mean losing one’s house if the Chief and Council are annoyed and unprincipled enough.

The prime employer on reserves has been the band itself for decades and decades. Bureaucracies can only grow as band employees generate ever more regulations and forms to try and justify their positions. If any municipality ever had to deal with the overmanagement of a native band, every business in the municipality would go broke within months. Even non-corrupted reserves still choke and kill ventures with their overbearing processes.

Cleaning up the corruption on the band management level begins with transparency. The reason that many of the Chiefs in Canada are up in arms right now is because Harper is bringing in transparency legislation that will expose many of their inept and often corrupt practices. These legislations must pass and self-serving people such as Chief Spence and her band manager/common-law husband must be exposed to the membership of the reserves. When the corrupt are dislodged, streamlining of band management and process can happen.

Indian affairs is loaded with all sorts of bureaucrats who strangle ventures as well. Every level of native management from band level to federal departments needs to be examined and cleaned up. Until that happens, business development will continue to be stunted on reserves.

Reserve Isolation 

Chief Clarence Louie is without doubt one of the brightest and visionary of Chiefs that Canada has seen in generations. Louie’s management of his Osoyoos Band has been incredible in both the changing of band attitudes to the pursuit of successful business ventures. To be fair though, Louie has enjoyed a geographic advantage that many other reserves do not have. Osoyoos is accessible and has a great climate. We can’t expect isolated Northern Canadian Reserves to be able to set up vineyards, wineries, casinos and golf courses as Osoyoos has. This does not mean that those reserves have no opportunities though.

Modern communications now provide incredible new opportunities for isolated reserves. Products, services and attractions can now be marketed in ways that were outright impossible only 15 years ago. Many reserves are placed next to some of the best hunting and fishing areas in the world and native guides for such activities are incomparable in their skills and local knowledge. Many people are more than willing to pay a great deal of money to experience natural activities on reserve lands. Hiking, camping, photography or simply experiencing local culture can draw many people and provide all sorts of local jobs on reserves. The means are now there for reserves to reach out to the world and show what they have.

Genuine native artisan products are always high in demand and reserves boast many incredible artists. Now middle-men and distributors can be cut away as products can be marketed online and shipped directly from reserves to customers.

There are doubtless many more creative ideas and ventures than I can think of that are now potentially feasible on reserves and I am sure many reserve citizens are ready to move on them. It will take training and time though. Simply having access to the internet does not mean a person knows how to utilize it to aid in their business. Literacy programs such as the Harper one and conferences such as the one I attended last fall are the sorts of things that will lead to more reserve citizens taking advantage of the opportunities that modern communications now provide them with.

We need to expand education for aspiring native business people with a more practical curriculum. Liberal Arts are fine and dandy but they won’t teach a person how to manage a promotional website, how to create a business plan or how to effectively market in general. These critical things need to be taught through mentoring and conventional education.

It has to be noted that educational efforts still have to be tailored carefully to take the special circumstances of people from isolated reserves. We can’t simply take somebody from a small and isolated community and drop them into a university in an urban area. The social adjustment could very well destroy the efforts of the individual to get an education as they retreat to the reserve dejected and defeated. While some individuals could integrate perfectly fine in such circumstances, some others will need a differing program. Distance education utilizing the internet provides great options to help with this too. While specially designed programs and the logistics may make these educational efforts costly, the benefits will far outweigh that if we see some independent businesses beginning to set up and remain sustainable on reserves.

Social Challenges 

There is a term I often use called “crabbing”. It is part of an analogy where if you use a bucket to keep crabs in. One crab on it’s own will climb out and escape. If you have multiple crabs none will escape as whenever one tries to climb out, the others will pull the ambitious crab back down to themselves. This syndrome is not at all unique to native reserves but it is more acute due to them often being small and tight knit communities with unfortunately a myriad of socioeconomic problems.

An ambitious person’s efforts can often make less ambitious person uncomfortable as it exposes their own shortcomings to themselves. This often inspires a person to try and drag the person back down to their level. Any successful business person native or non-native will relate about the naysayers who they had to overcome when they began their venture. Many people had to change their social circles to avoid being brought down before they got going. This option of change is simply not available to reserve citizens where social standing is very important and it is not as if there is a number of social circles to choose from. The people bringing the ambitious down are not bad people, they are just troubled people. No native business person is going to shun the family and friends for the sake of their venture so help in coping with some of those challenges for the aspiring business person is vital.

This whole challenge is complex but very real. The simple words “So what, you think you are better than everybody now?” can be terribly cutting and defeating. It will take a cultural shift that celebrates individual success in order for this challenge to fade and that may take generations. For now, native business people need to be coached and encouraged and learn to shake off the naysayers. It is tough but it can be done.

Another challenge comes from off-reserve and it often stems from non-native activists who seem to equate reserve independence with assimilation. These people seem to want to keep these little isolated reserves like zoos where things never change and some sort of hunter gatherer society will re-emerge and thrive if we just keep pouring enough money at it. I saw this attitude greatly as activists stacked hearings for the Mackenzie Valley NEB and Joint Review Panel pipeline hearings. These union funded urban dwellers would wax on about how an influx of money and workers into the Northern communities would destroy culture. I assure you, poverty and dependency are destroying culture on reserves far faster than prosperity ever could.

Lets be clear; the natives of old were among the most independent and self-sustaining people on the planet. It took tough, creative, hard working people to thrive in Canada’s environment hundreds of years ago. The perpetuation of dependency is not how that native strength of independence and culture is going to thrive. Modern times are here. There is a new way to personal independence and it does not mean one is shunning their culture, they are simply evolving. Successful native business people are not “apples”, they are simply creative hardworking people. The outsiders insisting on shielding native reserves from modern concepts must be ignored. Latte-lapping academics and hipsters really don’t know a hell of a lot about reserves no matter how many letters are next to their names on their business cards. Just as going to Mardi Gras for a weekend does not teach one what it is to be Cajun, attending a Powwow or occasional sweat does not imbue much insight to day to day reserve living.


Lack of property is the main and critical hindrance to many native businesses. Due to communal property on reserves, native entrepeneurs can’t build the collateral required as easily as non-natives do. Unsecured credit is difficult for anybody to aquire and it is pretty much impossible for an ambitious native who has never had a job opportunity in order to create a credit rating. Credit is needed for seed capital as well as operating funds. Ordering supplies and making payroll are things that require short-term credit in even the most thriving of businesses. Native business people are terribly handicapped by this circumstance.

One way around this has been through partnerships with interests off reserve. This can work well but is often still hindered by challenges from bureaucrats both on and off reserve. Negative experiences with band business ventures has made many businesses shy away from dealing with reserves over the years too. It will take time and examples of success in order to see more trust build and relationships grow in more joint-ventures. For larger ventures though, partnerships are an excellent route to go as outside interests not only provide funds, they provide experience and mentoring as well. We need to open the path to more of these relationships.

For smaller operations such as artists or lone guides, partnerships are not really an option though the need for financing and training are just as acute as with large ventures. Government backed loans and grants can help but they have a terrible default rate with native ventures unfortunately. The best model for native small business owners would be the acquisition and growth of their own net fiscal worth so that they can build collateral to fund their ventures. Few things inspire an entrepeneur better than putting their own hard earned nest egg on the line for their business. Sure, some people will lose at times. That is the hard nature of business. Some will thrive too and that is what makes it worth it. Blank cheques never lead to future independence.

The activist element and the parasites in the Indian Industry oppose property rights for natives fervently. That opposition alone makes it clear that it is the way to go. Individuals need empowerment on reserves and only through the ownership of property that they have full title to dispose of at will will we see sustainable reserve life grow. Pride and personal estates can grow through property on reserves just as they do off reserves. We need to win the battle to instill those rights for reserve citizens though and it is going to be hard fought.

There is a world of potential on native reserves. These reserves can thrive and prosper if we can shed the myths and trash from the supporters of this status-quo of misery and poverty. Ignore those howling about mythical treaty rights violations or entitlements due to the actions of ancestors. Set aside the activists and the self-serving Chiefs who want to maintain their personal fortunes. Free enterprise on reserves is not a panacea but if allowed to thrive it will at least ease the dependency on some reserves while eliminating it on some others. There are some steps that will need to be taken before this can happen though and I hope that the public begins to discuss, examine and then pursue these changes that we need.

I have been rather rough on some and should clarify; not all band Chiefs, councils, bureaucrats, consultants and employees with Indian Affairs are inept or corrupt by any means. There are some very dedicated people working as hard as they can in all of those categories. Their efforts far too often are encountered by the inept and corrupt who do infest their circles however.

“Sustainable”: code for massive municipal social engineering.

There are many terms and words that are overused and abused by many in the political world. In Calgary municipal politics there is no doubt that sustainable/sustainability top the list. The definition of the word is open to broad interpretation which gives license to people to utilize the term to encapsulate and hide a broader agenda. The word is used in a way to stifle debate often as we see politicos state: “We must be sustainable”. We see virtually every report and plan coming from city hall in Calgary noting sustainability as a goal yet often never defining just what makes an issue, plan, process, industry, practice or product “sustainable”.

Today I am locked into a motel room due to some rather nasty thunderstorms making my workplan for the day unsustainable. This has provided me with some time to read and review some of the pap and reports that have been commissioned and released by our city. Rest assured, when trying to read, absorb and stomach much of these terribly expensive reports a person needs a good deal of free time without distractions. Gravol helps too.

This morning I punished myself by reading the:  “CALGARY FOOD SYSTEM ASSESSMENT & ACTION PLAN”.

The terms of reference for this dog can be found here along with cost estimates but nothing solid.

The above document was produced by the “Calgary Food Committee” which was formed by  The Office of Sustainability” (yes there really is a city hall office dedicated to this). This office is modelled through the “ImagineCalgary” Which has a vague mandate of coming up with a 100 year plan for the city that will be presumably sustainable.

The above mess is tied in with “Plan it” which is a city hall division that routinely churns out reports and studies further seeking means of planning to live in a sustainable environment.  The proposals of “Plan it Calgary” are routinely rejected as they simply are not fiscally viable.  Despite this, the pointy heads slaving away in that department will continue to roll out more reports, plans and propositions at great expense to taxpayers.

It is outright overwhelming when one begins to dig through the City of Calgary website and sees just how many committees and groups are spawned and funded to look into and report on damn near everything. There is clearly a huge cottage industry in creating reports for the City of Calgary and while Mayor Nenshi has often spoken of streamlining City Hall, I don’t recall him trying to touch the report/study generation department. I suspect it is because that department makes for such a great employment program for old school chums who have tired of working in the barista field. While it is easy to find all these departments, reports and committees; it is damned tough finding the costs of these things (unsurprisingly).

Need, viability or even a fragment of realism are not required in generating these reports. Lack of all of the aforementioned are all present in the “Calgary Food System Assessment & Action Plan”.  This thing is so horrible I am outright compelled to break it up and tear it apart piece by piece.

Let’s start with need. Is there a food sustainability crisis in Calgary by any measure that demands a huge report and insanely intrusive “action plan”? Do we see mass or even minor starvation in Calgary? Is it difficult to find sources of food in Calgary? Is food in Calgary more expensive than other jurisdictions? Are we at risk of starvation or even rationing of food within Calgary? The answer to all of the questions is a resounding NO! 

Canada and Calgary within it have some of the lowest prices for consumer products (including food) as a ratio to income in the entire world. We have a vast variety of food products from the inexpensive & healthy basics to delicacies and specialty foods. We are by far a net exporter of agricultural products and are not at any risk of running out of domestically produced food.  There are countless big-bag grocery stores within the city and thousands of smaller stores whether Mom & Pop shops, butchers or even large gas stations for small purchases. We have a transit system and good roadways for access to food suppliers. There simply is no food crisis in Calgary nor a looming one by any measure.

One does have to wonder what the reasoning is behind producing a large and expensive report on a non-issue is aside from employing it’s authors. In reading the entire report though it is easy to see the underlying agenda. There are an element of people who want to go back in time to the days when people lived on small farms where they often did live in food independent environments. Never mind that the life expectancies of these folks was 40 back then or that there was mass starvation on those farms as recently as the 30s due to drought. With some highly rose-colored glasses some report generating idealists have determined that this organic and independent lifestyle is attainable and desirable to most people if they simply would embrace going back in time. There is of course a general feeling of loathing of large scale and corporate agriculture throughout the report despite those things being what actually have made food affordable and plentiful to large urban populations.

Lets have a look at what that report lists as it’s goals from the imagineCalgary targets:

By 2036, Calgarians support local food production.

OK so apparently Calgarians need to be trained/convinced/mandated or something to support food production. Does this mean polling in a majority or every single Calgarian? In support does this mean participating? Will there be mandated home gardens? Mandated hours dedicated to working in collective gardens and urban ranches?

There is some polling in the report that indicates that Calgarians are generally supportive of the vague concept of local food production. Does that fill the 2036 quota or is their definition of “support” indeed something more? If that is indeed what is considered support, then what is this goal even trying to accomplish? We are already there.

The above speculations sound absurd on the surface but in reading the entire report I put little beyond these people. What I suspect would happen though is that all Calgarians would find themselves mandated through taxation to support local food production through punitive taxes added to imported foods and massive subsidies to local foods (as local/urban production is not fully sustainable).

The statement itself is as broad broad beyond reason and is a ridiculous goal for a report/action plan.

By 2036, Calgary maintains access to reliable and quality food sources.

Well that certainly does indeed sound like a nice goal. Of course I had not realized that such a threat to access actually existed. I suspect that access to food will be maintained simply due to supply and demand. Hungry people are not prone to closing roads, railways and farms. There is no exclusive access to food. We do not have people being denied food due to race or religion. Access simply is not an issue.

This statement goes a little deeper when one reads the report though. On page 90 the apparent issue is broken down.

The authors of this report feel that it is catastrophic that many Calgarians live more than 1km from a major grocery store. Keep in mind this is “major” stores such as Safeway or Superstore. Convenience stores have been categorized strangely as eating establishments and thus are not considered secure sources of food purchasing.

Now lets look at the makeup of our city. The majority of areas where one could find themselves more than 1km from a large grocery store are suburban and are middle class areas. These areas are predominantly populated by people who are mobile and have chosen to live in areas that are predominantly residential and have limited retail facilities. I bolded “chosen” because individual choice is so often ignored by city planning social engineers.

Now there are some lower income people who do not have access to a vehicle and for whom getting to a large grocery store could be more troublesome. The maps and charts in this report show where we have most of our low income people however and the vast bulk of them live in older, denser and more developed areas that have many retail options including large grocery stores. The number of people who live more than a kilometer from a large grocery store and who can’t actually get to one is microscopic. It certainly does not warrant rezoning the entire city.

Oh but wait! Zoning is exactly what is being proposed. Yes, below I will quote exactly what this report recommends to address this non-crisis of access to large food retailers:

Work with Land Use Planning and Policy to analyze the physical accessibility to grocery stores in the established areas and in the development of future policy in local area plans.
Explore potential programs and initiatives to encourage the location of food retail outlets in areas of
need. Collaboration with Family and Community Support Services, Land Use Planning and Policy, Federation of Calgary Communities and Business Revitalization Zones.

Note that with all of these calls for “collaboration” that developers and retailers are left off the list. Retailers base their locations on where they find the most demand. It is as simple as that. How does this group plan to “encourage” retailers to set up shop where business is not viable? Will the encouragement be punitive or through massive subsidies (yes us the taxpayers again)? Aside from existing districts, what will happen in new suburbs where large tracts have been zoned for large grocery retailers if no retailers want to move in? Will we force businesses to open? Will we have large city owned grocery stores? I toured the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Rest assured people, government is not who you want in charge of food production and retailing. They really are not very good at it.

Mandating a major grocery provider so that every person in the city is within a kilometer of one is simply impossible and stupid in it’s proposal.

By 2036, 100% of Calgary’s food supply derives from sources that practice sustainable food production.

The above proposal is dipping right into the realm of  insanity. How intrusive would policy have to be in order to do this? They are not even saying “most”, they are proposing nothing less than 100% of our supply would be provided by sources that they determine to practice sustainable food production.

How the hell do they think they will do this? Will imported foods be banned? Will certain farms be allowed to sell to Calgary while others are not based on what this committee feels is “sustainable”?

Is this even possible under a municipal government? If not, what the hell business do these guys have in even proposing it as a goal?

Now the word “sustainable” appears 88 times in the report and is applied to damn near everything so it is tough to determine which context is in mind whenever it appears. With this crappy statement though it is expanded on later on in the document on page 110:

Environmental sustainability has been defined as the protection of air, land and water, critical for
achieving healthy ecosystems by minimising green house gas emissions, potable water use and waste
and maximising efficient use of land, air quality, water quality and biodiversity. In addition, the food
system should support community development and action taken locally to create economic
opportunities in the community on a sustainable and inclusive basis.

Quite the definition eh? So not only will these people somehow determine that 100% of Calgary’s food suppliers meet the above environmental criteria, they will somehow ensure that it is on an “inclusive” basis whatever that means.

Ahh but of course these fanatics do not stop there. On page 111 they go into a long diatribe about organic foods. You see, these people now want to expand into controlling exactly what you eat and they feel that they should somehow compel us all to eat organic food.

Now to each their own. If a person wants to pay a premium to purchase and consume organically produced food they of course have every right to. The same goes for producers. Of course I support the right of people to produce, consume and sell non-organic foods too and that is where I quickly part ways with our appointed, tax funded authors of this report.

If the goal of this food “sustainability” plan really is to ensure that healthy food is available to all at a reasonable price and with a limited footprint, then organics are the exact opposite way to go!

Let’s begin with nutritional content. Despite the perception of many, it has been outright proven that organic produce has no nutrional advantages over conventionally produced food (aside from increased protein gained through wormy organic apples).

Lets look at cost and environmental. Organic foods cost much more than conventional foods and cause a larger environmental footprint due to the much lower crop yields. In large scale farming one can’t simply pull weeds or apply a little detergent to aphids as we can in our gardens. No farmhouse will ever compost enough food scraps to fertilize a large operation. Due to this yields are consistenly lower in organic farming which in turn requires greater landuse at a greater cost to the environment and the consumer.

Personally I see it as cut and dry on the organics thing. Still though, some see it as debatable (everything is). There is simply no way that any benefits of organic food production can merit mandating that a percentage of it be a part of Calgary’s consumption despite that being an apparent goal on page 111 of the report.

By 2010, 100 % of Calgarians have access to nutritious foods.

Pure redundancy. 100% of Calgarians have access to nutritious foods already. Unless of course one wants to redefine what nutritious or access are. Get over it guys, food need not be organic in order to be nutritious. A person over 1km from a Superstore is not being denied access to food.

There are people in deep poverty who indeed have trouble getting to stores. Those are poverty issues rather than food ones however. The food bank and Meals on Wheels deal with this to some degree. There could be more work to be done on these issues but that really is not the part of a city-wide food mandate (or it sure shouldn’t be).

Some could claim that the cost alone of food is barring access for some from nutritional meals. That is simply a load of BS and this groups own report shows that.

On page 87 of the report, a piece is written on the role and successes of the Community Kitchen Program of Calgary. This is a great and proactive program that helps teach people how to shop efficiently and cost effectively. Menu planning is provided as well as direction to food specials. Now in their own statement they say: “The Community Kitchen Program can help you prepare delicious food for your family at an average cost of $1.85 per person per meal while saving you time and energy.” Yes, with effort a person can feed a family of four a healthy meal for less than $8.

We have no real food access issues in Calgary.

By 2036, sustainable urban food production increases to 5%.

Now by nature Calgary has a limited amount of urban food production. Calgary has a growing period of roughly 114 days which hugely limits the variety of foods that can be grown and the volume. Being surrounded by tens of thousands of square miles of agricultural land makes urban food production more than a little uncompetitive with major producers as a food source.

Many people garden and it is an excellent hobby. Good fresh food can be produced at home, it is nice to get outside and one can even save a few bucks. Gardening is not for everybody however. Many people simply do not have the time to plant and maintain a garden. Many people simply do not want to garden! I had to bold that because it is another one of those personal choices that social engineers despise.

This goal is where these planners start to tie themselves in knots a bit too in a few ways. While always pushing for a far denser urban environment, these people are also demanding that space be kept open for gardening whether community or personally. You simply can’t have it both ways people.

For a solution the heavy city hammer of zoning is proposed of course. Land is far too valuable (particularly in dense areas) to be set aside to grow veggies for 114 days per year. If we crunch space even further with mandated community gardens, we will an increase in property values again which of course leads to higher rents which of course leads to higher general cost of living which of course harms the low income people that these social engineers love to crow that they are protecting. Is there really a benefit in raising urban rent by say $50 per month on average so that land can be set aside to grow potatoes that for 5% of people that could have been purchased for 59 cents per pound at Safeway? These planners seem to think so.

Other means are proposed in the document. Rooftop gardens are a neat idea. They are rarely actually efficient and produce food that costs far more than simply purchasing it however. How would rooftop gardens be “encouraged”? Will owners have any say?

Now the foodie crowd wants to of course expand into further food production in suburban yards too. On page 40 of the report, it is suggested that people raise chickens, goats and bees in their yards! 

I do wish I was kidding here. Anybody who has spent time near goats knows that they are terribly smelly animals that make a racket and are prone to wandering. If I wanted to live next to a yard full of chickens and goats I would move to the damn country and I suggest the same to anybody who wants to raise livestock.

On page 40 the report speaks of wool and leather being produced in urban settings too. I guess sheep and cattle in backyards are not unreasonable to these people.

How about bees? Sure honey bees are generally non aggressive and they create a great benefit in their pollination efforts. Do you really want to live next to an amateur beekeeper though? How many stings will I get when my neighbor accidentally hits his beehive with the weedwhacker? What if myself or my kids are deathly allergic to bee stings as are so many people? Who will we sue? The city or my neighbor? Either way we will all pay in the end if such idiocy comes to pass.

Concepts of supply, demand and economies of scale are totally lost on the sorts who created this report and set these goals. If indeed we hit 5% urban food production it should only be because masses of citizens chose to do so on their own accord. We can’t force these things.

By 2036, the consumption of urban and regionally produced food by Calgarians increases to 30%.

This is the final little goal here. Now they have coupled urban and “regional” to come with a number of 30%. This goes back to the concept of the “100 mile diet” that eco-types have been pushing around the world. It is quite possible if a person lives in the tropics to have such a diet. Being in Calgary however, people would soon tire of the mass wheat and canola intakes and likely would miss citrus fruits and such.

Transportation of food goods does indeed add to consumption of fuels thus making an environmental impact. This does lead to increased costs though so typically supply and demand ensures that things remain in balance between local and imported foods (until social engineers meddle with the system. Look at Ukraine last century for example).

What really gets me in this report though is that they propose and encourage the use of “bio-fuels”  in transporting food in order to reduce environmental impact on page 60 and other parts of the report. Regulated minimum biofuel use actually caused food scarcity and pressured the poor in Mexico because corn was being burned as fuel rather than consumed as food!

Yes, the folks who want to feed the world are proposing that we switch to a fuel that burns food and has been proven to cause harm to the world’s hungriest and most vulnerable. Just brilliant.

To summarize, this report is nothing less than a pile of idealistic and unrealistic garbage produced in the name of some weird definition of “sustainability”. The City of Calgary blows millions on these idiotic reports and could cost us hundreds of millions if they actually tried to reach the goals of this one. The contents of the report are laughable but the cost and potential costs are unfortunately not.

“Food insecurity” is not what threatens the well being and prosperity of Calgarians. Bureaucratic and idealistic nuts who produce reports like this and the politicians who approve the intrusive legislation in applying the suggestions of these reports are a huge threat to the prosperity of us all. I know it is dull reading through these things, but Calgary voters really need to get a look at what their tax dollars are going towards and what they may be going towards in the future. This has to be reigned in and only the electorate can do it. Get up and vote to fire any city councilor who supports this trash in 2013.