Prohibition just doesn’t work.

As is so often the case, people are often drawn to simplistic solutions for complex problems. At issue right now is the potential banning of retail pet sales within Calgary. I have posted before on dog neglect and puppy mill issues as Jane and I foster rescue dogs. There is a large and growing problem as puppymills and unprepared pet owners neglect, abuse and abandon dogs every day.

I am going to post a couple pictures below of “Rowdy”. He is a rescue dog that Jane and I rushed to the vet just last week. He is residing with us until he gets healthy enough to adopt into a proper household. Rowdy is an English bulldog and is only 10 months old.

At the vet, poor Rowdy was terrified and it was difficult to even coax him out of the kennel. His fear and mistrust of people was very evident. After examination it was concluded that Rowdy had an extreme case of mange. His eyes were both badly infected as were his ears. Open sores were weeping all over his body and his underside was nearly totally hairless and greatly inflamed. He had been terribly neglected.

Below is the pile of medications that we will be giving to Rowdy for the next few weeks from anti-biotics to painkillers to anti-fungals along with some other unpronounceable meds. He clearly could not have survived much longer as he was.


Below is Rowdy when we got him home and gave him a long and gentle bath. It nearly brought us to tears as large clumps of fur and skin came loose all over the poor little fellow. His nose wrinkle was completely impacted and infected and the rest of his body was filthy. It may very well have been his first bath ever.

Rowdy is doing well and with a few months of care he should be just fine. He is proving to be a very affectionate and mischievous puppy as he regains confidence in knowing that he is in a safe home. He is learning to be a puppy again.

Now back to my main point; Rowdy came from a breeder not a pet store or individual owner. Banning retail pet sales would do nothing to prevent this.

Rowdy is unfortunately typical of the kind of dog that comes into the Alberta Bulldog Rescue Society (and other animal rescue societies). Rowdy was in worse condition than most, but his story is typical as puppy mills churn out dogs with no consideration for the well being of their breeder animals.

The main group that has been pushing for the ban on retail pet sales calls itself “Actions Speak Louder” Their site offers some great tips on ethical pet purchasing and I don’t doubt for a second that they are generally well meaning. Unfortunately the group highlights the statement: “Puppies are not products!” While that is a nice fluffy statement it does say worlds about the group.

Puppies, kittens, horses and goldfish are all property and at one time or another can all indeed be products. Animals are property and when we exchange property it becomes a product. Animals are indeed different than inanimate property in that we have personal moral and indeed legal obligations to provide a degree of care for them and can’t abuse them. We can take a sledgehammer to our car for example but if we did so to a horse we would soon find ourselves criminally charged even though both were technically our property.

Over the years some of the more extreme animal activists have made repeated efforts to have the laws changed so that animals would no longer be legally considered property. If such legislation were ever to pass, we would immediately see court challenges by PETA and other groups of the sort against every livestock operation in the country. These groups know exactly what they are doing in the pursuit of this change in legislation and it simply can’t happen.

I would very much like to see laws against animal cruelty strengthened with better enforcement and stronger penalties against offenders. There was a federal bill that failed some years ago that would have greatly toughened our laws. The bill unfortunately died as there was a clause within it calling for animals to lose their designation as property in law. The activists managed to squeek that clause into our very parliament but it was thankfully rejected by our legislators at the time. The downside is that the activists did more damage than good in that the whole bill got scrapped as they pushed it too far. Activist consultation in the drafting of bills really is of limited value at best.

Calgary City Council looking at banning the perfectly legal practice of retail pet sales and it is the wrong way to go in a few ways. For one, it simply should not be the role of a municipality to ban legal sales of any product despite what activists claim. This would set a very ugly precedent from city hall and is offensive to free enterprise. The ban would be nearly moot as well as apparently there is only one pet store in Calgary that still sells kittens and puppies. Why all the discussion and time wasted to ban something that essentially isn’t even happening?

The reason that retail stores no longer carry puppies and kittens is simply due to a lack of public demand and due to good work on the part of animal activists. In exposing the abuses of puppy mills and in highlighting the need for adoption of animals, the market for pet stores has simply collapsed. Retailers have discovered that it is much more lucrative to supply products for pet care than selling pets themselves anyway so it hasn’t taken much to make them discontinue sales. Legislation for a ban was not nor is it required.

Some could see the banning of retail pet sales as something of a moral victory. What it really would be would be a form of greenwashing in that people at large would feel that a problem has been solved when it really has not.

The internet has changed the entire face of pet sales. Breeders no longer need to pump out puppies for pet stores as they can cut out the middle-man and sell at retail prices directly to consumers through the internet. This has had the effect of expanding abuses in the unregulated industry of dog breeding and I fear that it will only get worse. Essentially banning retail pet sales in hopes of ending abuse is as naive as thinking that banning street level pot dealers will end pot use and distribution.

Banning internet sales of pets or trying to ban breeders is pointless. What we need is a continued effort to educate and encourage consumers to adopt pets in need before going to breeders. For those who want a purebreed pet, people should be encouraged to demand high standards from breeders that they patronize. As I said in my prior post, customers should demand to see the breeding facilities or simply refuse to buy there. The whole thing is about money and if unprincipled and cruel breeders don’t make money, they will go away.

We have a serious problem with impulsive pet purchases and very unprincipled breeders. Lets work on this productively though. Rest assured my heart breaks and I would love to see change immediately. I understand though that it will take some time to get things right. Kneejerk bans and interfering in legitimate business is not the route to take here. We don’t need symbolic legislative victories, we need real and lasting change. That will mean changing the views and practices of people at large. It is much more work and will take more time but will be worlds more effective than any ban could ever imagine to be.

One last plug here. Alberta Bulldog Rescue really needs help from supporters whether though the donation of time or funds (medications are terrifically expensive) or people considering adopting. You can see updates on Rowdy’s progress among other foster dogs here.

Alberta Bulldog Rescue.

I am due to deviate from partisan political ramblings for a posting. Dog abuse and puppy mills are a real problem in Alberta. I want to expand on bulldogs in particular.

Jane and I have been bulldog owners for some years now. Responsible dog ownership is always an ongoing learning experience, particularly when dealing with a breed as unique as an English bulldog. Aside from the lessons in maintaining and living with these dogs, one of the harder lessons was finding out just how many bulldogs are abused and abandoned in Alberta by unprepared pet owners and unscrupulous breeders. There is a real sad trend happening in Alberta and I hope that we can reduce the number of dogs being poorly treated like this.

Jane has been active with Alberta Bulldog Rescue for awhile now and we have hosted some foster dogs over the last few months. It is heartbreaking to see such great dogs neglected like this. I know that these issues exist with all breeds of dogs but it is bulldogs in particular that we are dealing with and they are pretty unique in the dog world with their behaviour and needs.

I will start with a bit of background on how Jane and I got into bulldog ownership and later fostering.

Stewie (pictured below) was and still is our first bulldog. When we decided that we wanted to get an English bulldog, it was far from an overnight process to get one. The cost for a well bred bulldog puppy runs from $2000-$3000, there are often waiting lists to get puppies and reputable breeders are very particular about who they will sell their beloved puppies to. After a long search Jane and I found Stewie at an Idaho breeder and after being able to convince the breeder that we could provide Stewie a good home we picked him up from Hayden for an average price.


Stewie settled in excellently and soon became a solid member of our family. After a couple years though, we thought that perhaps Stewie could use some company of his own breed. While Stewie loves other dogs, they often do not care much for him due to his snorting and odd appearance. We thought that another bulldog would be the best companion for Stewie and found Lonnie (pictured below) being offered for sale locally on kijiji. This is how and where we learned about what happens with “breeder” dogs.


We knew Lonnie was an older dog from the ad and that she had been bred a couple times. The price was only $500 and with her apparently being only 5 years old, we thought she would be a good match for Stewie. Lonnie came from a central Alberta breeder and the process of purchase was glaringly different with her than it had been with Stewie. The seller had no concern about who we were or if we could care for the dog properly and we literally met to exchange the dog for a cheque in a truck stop parking lot in Calgary. No followup from the breeder ever occurred and it was clear that their only interest was in getting a cheque and moving on.

Lonnie was a beautiful dog with a very loving and cuddly personality. She and Stewie became fast friends and she settled into the household quickly. It was immediate that we noticed that some things were odd with Lonnie too though. Lonnie’s teeth were decayed down to tiny nubs and her breath was wretched. While Lonnie loved human company and playing, she did not know how to play with toys though she would sort of try. Most disturbing was that Lonny would cower at any noise or even if a person approached her too quickly. Lonnie’s cowering stopped after a few months with us so it is clear that it was a learned behaviour. She quickly learned that nobody in our house was going to strike her.

On visiting with our vet it was determined that Lonnie was quite a bit older than what we had been told. It is impossible to tell for sure how old she really was but the vet was confident that 5 was a large understatement of her age. She had been bred multiple times as could be seen by the c-section scars and the condition of her teats but again it was impossible to tell just how many.

Unfortunately after about 8 months with us Lonnie acquired a case of chronic diarrhea. With many visits to the vet and countless experiments with medications and food changes we simply could not beat this disorder and Lonnie began radically losing weight. Upon an x-ray it was found that Lonnie had tumours throughout her entire body including one that was pressuring her trachea. There was little choice left and we had to have Lonnie put down last January (Stewie refused to eat for days after Lonnie was gone).

We certainly do not regret having gotten Lonnie and are happy to have been able to give her one good final year as a part of a family.

Jane and I had been watching the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group on Facebook for some time. After the Lonnie experience, we saw a trend happening in the facebook updates as abandoned female breeder bulldogs were commonly turning up with the rescue group. With bulldogs being so expensive and hard to come by I had figured that there would be little need for fostering or rescuing them. I was quite wrong. With the high demand and high price, unfortunately the breed draws the most unscrupulous of breeders who hope only to make a few bucks.

As with most puppy-mill operations, bulldog bitches are kept kennelled and bred essentially mercilessly. These breeder dogs often never get to leave their kennel environment and are often killed through having been sedated too many times for c-section procedures. The internet has provided a new means for breeders to squeeze just a few more dollars from these poor dogs as they get posted on sites like kijiji and sold to unsuspecting people such as Jane and I.

Below are pictures of Phoebe (French Bulldog) and Karma. Both of these girls stayed with Jane and I for a little while until foster homes were found. Both were breeder dogs. Karma was a very passive and affectionate dog and she has been permanently adopted. Phoebe is very playful and while blind in one eye and having had three c-sections and one natural litter, she loved wrestling with Stewie with gusto. Despite her age, she was not housebroken due to kennel living. That has been rectified since. Phoebe is still seeking a permanent family to join by the way.





I am going to go into extended details of what makes bulldogs unique and how they can be very difficult and expensive to own. They are excellent dogs but they are most definitely not for everybody.

Many people get these cut-rate breeder dogs from internet sites like Jane and I with the best of intentions. Not everybody who buys one of these dogs is prepared for the amount of maintenance required and the vet bills that often can and will run into the thousands of dollars. If people have not been properly briefed on what bulldogs are all about before they purchase one, they can be in for many rude awakenings. Unfortunately this leads to many bulldogs being abandoned or neglected when people find they simply can’t take proper care of (or afford to get treatment for) their bulldog.

I am going to list all of the downsides of bulldogs below as it is important that people who are considering getting one know what they are getting into. There are many upsides to the breed, but it is more important initially for a person to know what they do not want first.

Did I mention that bulldogs are expensive? 

It is not just that multi-thousand dollar purchase price that makes bulldogs expensive. Due to overbreeding and poor breeding practices by many unprincipled breeders, bulldogs are often loaded with all sorts of health issues. Many bulldogs have allergies and need specialized foods that cost a small fortune. Cherry eye is very common and requires expensive surgery. Hip problems and breathing issues are common among bulldogs along with digestive challenges.

Between his cherry-eye surgeries, an anaphalactic episode, a digestive infection and simple regular visits to the vet Stewie has already cost us much more in vet bills than he did in his purchase price.

Nobody should own any kind of dog if they can’t afford basic veterinary care for their pet at need. That goes doubly so for bulldogs. I saw a person posting on kijiji begging for somebody to sell them a bulldog saying that they had saved $500 but would make up the purchase price deficit with love. I wish I was kidding here. Vets do not accept love in lieu of payment and I really hope that nobody sold a dog to that person. If that person does get a bulldog, I expect that the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group would be seeing it soon.

Bulldogs are gross in many ways!

I am not talking about common occasional farts as all dogs are prone to doing. Bulldogs are flat-faced and gulp their food which leads to excessive gas. Any trip to google can determine that English bulldogs far and away are considered the most flatulent dogs on earth. Bulldog farts not only smell terribly they are loud and sound grossly almost human.

While talking about the flatulence can be funny, that actually is a serious issue to some people. I remember speaking with a fellow at an off leash park who had a French bulldog that was somewhat new to him. He was feeding it all sorts of new foods and diets in hopes of ending the farts. He found the smell of his dog unbearable and embarrassing and was seriously considering getting rid of the dog for that reason alone. If you can’t handle gas, do not get a bulldog.

Bulldogs are not the top droolers but they are well capable of it. They love sneezing and honestly seem to try to do so with a human target. Their nose-ropes are legendary.

Bulldogs snort and gag regularly. They seem to take pleasure in vomiting at least once weekly and they snore very loudly.

Dedicated bulldog lovers find the above traits endearing in many ways (though nobody likes the farts). If you are easily grossed out however, bulldogs are not for you.

Bulldogs are lazy! 


Stewie is in one of his favorite poses in the picture above. He likes to creatively sleep in all sorts of circumstances.

While bulldogs can have some profound spastic moments, they tire quickly and spend most of their time resting. Their endurance is very limited with activity and it cannot be stressed enough: bulldogs can’t handle heat! No dog should be left in an environment that is too hot but bulldogs can and will die at temperatures that other dogs are comfortable with. Bulldogs are not great with cold either and are not “outdoor dogs”. To keep a bulldog living in an outdoor kennel without full temperature control is simply outright abuse and in Calgary’s climate it likely will kill the dog.

If you want a hiking, biking, jogging etc. partner then a bulldog is not for you. The breed simply can’t do those things. One more reminder: most bulldogs can’t swim. Never toss one in the water.

Bulldogs are passive.

Bulldogs were bred centuries ago for the incredibly cruel sport of “bull baiting”. The sport was banned in the early 1800s but the breed was kept by aficionados. What breeders did was kept the strong build of bulldogs but purposely bred out all the aggression. Many people view bulldogs as some sort of tough dog and some foolishly get them thinking they are getting such. Realistically bulldogs are incapable of aggression and they make terrible guard dogs. I have encountered aggressive bulldogs but that is typically due to abuse of the animal.

If you want a guard dog or a tough dog, then a bulldog is not for you.

Bulldogs are high maintenance.

Those cute wrinkles on the face of a bulldog are irresistible. Those same cute wrinkles are also traps for all sorts of gunk and buildup which will cause terrible infections if the wrinkles are not cleaned regularly. Their ears can get pretty gunky and their anal glands often need expression. Bulldogs can’t reach their nether regions for a tongue cleaning as other dogs can. While some who hate seeing dogs lick themselves may see that as a plus, keep in mind that if the dog can’t clean it, then we have to.

If you don’t want to do regular and sometimes gross maintenance on a dog, then bulldogs are not for you.

Upsides of bulldogs.

Enough on all the downsides. Bulldogs are some of the friendliest and most loving of dogs that you could ever find. If you want a dog that loves kids, bulldogs are for you.

Bulldogs are beautiful to those who appreciate the breed. If you like attention while walking having a pair of bulldogs at the dog park is a sure way to turn heads. They are exceptional and fun to take out.

Bulldogs need very little exercise. One or two good walks around the neighborhood are more than enough to keep a bulldog content. If you are not too mobile, bulldogs are a good breed as opposed to some dogs that require hours of heavy activity regularly.  Bulldogs make good urban dogs as they love interaction with people and don’t need the space that other dogs may.

Bulldogs are natural clowns and their odd habits and tricks are an endless source of entertainment. Bulldogs not only look weird, they act weird. I truly see bulldogs as being more like another species of animal rather than a breed of dog. Their neurosis while disturbing to some is entertaining to weirdos like me. 😉

Now after all of that, should you choose to get yourself a bulldog I would like to suggest a few things.

Please begin by looking into the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group. The perfect dog may already be waiting for adoption. Please be patient when considering the bulldog rescue group. It is volunteer run and all processes take some time. Homes for prospective adoptees must be inspected and adopting the dogs is not free. The rescue group is truly seeking “forever” homes for these dogs and must ensure that the home is appropriate. It would be terrible if a dog that already found itself in the rescue society’s care found itself back in there yet again due to being adopted into the wrong home. One abandonment is enough.

If you are looking to go to a breeder please take every precaution to ensure that the breeder is principled and cares for dogs well. Any good breeder will invite you to see their facilities! If somebody is asking a few thousand dollars for a puppy, it is not at all unreasonable for a prospective buyer to see where the dog came from. While excuses about disease control and such are trotted out by some breeders who jealously hide their location and keep people from visiting for some reason, those are simply nothing more than excuses. While it is understandable that a breeder does not want a train of gawkers coming and going from their facilities, mitigating infection and limiting the visitors to serious buyers is easy to do.

There is pretty much no real regulation regarding dog breeding or protection of these dogs from puppy-mill environments. The best way to halt these nasty facilities is simply to stop buying from them. Check references and see for yourself if the breeder is principled and good to their dogs. There are many good breeders out there who love their dogs and care for them well. It is up to buyers to be patient and to seek them out.

So after a couple thousand words, I do hope that I have helped inform about the unique breed that bulldogs are and the problems that we are having in Alberta due to puppy-mills churning them out. Please consider lending a hand to the bulldog rescue group or even adopting a dog. They really need the help.


I’m sorry!

Did my blog heading make you feel better? Sure, I haven’t stated what I am apologizing for but the words alone should make a person feel better upon receiving them right? The reason for the apology means nothing and the sincerity of the apology really doesn’t matter if one is to believe those chronically aggrieved people who’s thin-skin gets ruptured at the slightest hint of being exposed to something offensive. Those aforementioned people will invariably howl and yelp whenever they feel that their feelings (or the feelings of somebody else) have been hurt and will demand that the offender be forced to apologize.

Really people, what is a forced apology worth to you? The muttered “I’m sorry” dropped out by a person who clearly is not sorry in the least really means absolutely nothing so people should quit demanding these damned apologies at the drop of a hat. When those kangaroo courts that we call “human rights commissions” add forced apologies to the other punishments that they have laid upon a person who they have deemed offensive, does the forced apology reverse the damage? Is the person who was made to say the words of apology under duress any less likely to harbor offensive feelings?

Here is a recent situation that is stupid on many many levels. While in California a couple members of the Australian Olympic swimming team dared to visit a gun shop and have pictures taken of themselves while holding some perfectly legal firearms in a non-threatening way. Now not only will these guys be forced to leave the Olympic games in London early and not only are they banned from social media use, the swimmers were forced to apologize. Do you really think for a second that those two young men are sorry that they somehow offended some pant-pissing fanatical anti-gun zealots by doing something totally legal and non-offensive to the sane world? Do you think that these guys really feel badly for the hypersenstive assholes who have managed to ruin the once in a lifetime Olympic appearance that the swimmers have been training for for years? These poor athletes are not sorry in the least and their having being forced to apologize is simply a last humiliating punitive action taken by an overly empowered group of the politically correct.

Australia has an Olympic shooting team by the way. Lets hope that none of their team members is photographed while training or something.

Here in Alberta, we still have the blessed CBC harping on about how Danielle Smith still refuses to apologize for a blog posting made by a former Wildrose Party candidate years ago. I think Hunpserger’s blog posting was offensive myself but I don’t think it is Smith’s job to apologize for it. Danielle Smith’s apology would not make Hunsperger’s blog posting any less offensive and we damn well know it would not sooth any of the feelings that Hunsperger hurt so why is the CBC still on this post electoral witchhunt anyway? The only one who should apologize for the views held by Alan Hunsperger is Alan Hunsperger and here is the part that is so important yet apparently lost on so many: Alan Hunsperger should only apologize if he sincerly is sorry for having held that view! There is simply no point in forcing Hunsperger to state words of apology if he doesn’t mean it.

Last year Ezra Levant dared to utter the Spanish expletive: “Chinga tu madre” on his show on the Sun News Network. Apparently this offended some people like English speaking, union-employed blogger David Climenhaga who sent a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. No Spanish speaking folks have been found prostrate and sobbing in offense to Ezra’s statement but the CBSC feels that a forced apology by Levant and the network is called for. Thankfully Ezra is not taking this quietly (as usual) and in his beligerant response to the CBSC he is proving excellently just how worthless forced apologies are. Would Levant’s actual uttering of the words “I’m sorry” make the hurt go away for anybody (assuming somebody was found to have been hurt)?

Apologies have merit and value in many situations. An apology will only be worth something though if the person making the apology is genuinely sorry. If anything, forced apologies cheapen sincere ones and bring the merit of them into question. Our society needs a thicker skin, an ability to change a channel and needs to lose this idiotic obsession of demanding apologies from people who simply are not sorry.

Perhaps down the road some pendejo is going to take offense to something I say or write. Perhaps that flake will actually manage to find some government body that could force an apology from me as HRCs often do in their kangaroo courts. Should that day come to pass, I do hope that the fool demanding my apology sees this blog post to truly understand just how heartfelt my hypothetical apology would be.

“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.

Bike lane experiment failing. Calgary city hall responds with more bike lanes.

I guess I really should not be all that shocked. The almost cult-like bike movement has carried a disproportionate weight in Calgary city hall for years. There is an obsessive desire to build a need and demand where it simply does not exist. No matter how much vehicle traffic gets choked and no matter how many lanes get closed for bikes, we will never see the bike utilization that is happening in dense cities with warm climates. Despite that reality, city council is determined to make commuting ever more intolerable and to waste even more millions in making bike lanes where we don’t need them.

10th Street NW Calgary had a bike lane made that is barely used by bikes. It has however helped lead to more crunch on residential parking in the area and backed up traffic due to a lost lane of course. Even worse was the 10th Avenue bike lane “experiment”. I put the word “experiment” in quotations as it is clear that the powers that be in city hall did not care if the lane was going to be effective or not. It was dropped on us with little warning or consultation and there really was never a will to potentially go back if the experiment should be deemed a failure.

Todd Babin at the Calgary Herald did an excellent summary of the 10th Avenue bike lane “experiment” and what appears to be it’s failure on his blog today. It is well worth the read.

So while supposed experiments in bike lanes are failing, what do we see coming out of city hall? Yup, more bike lanes.

The plan is to choke downtown Calgary’s traffic even further by closing vehicular traffic lanes on 6th and 7th streets in what looks like an effort to drive bike traffic into using that abomination that we call the “Peace Bridge”.

I am honestly becoming lost for words with this council and their almost irrational press to turn Calgary into something that it isn’t and never will be. We can close every lane in all of downtown to cars, we still will not see hundreds of thousands of people riding bikes to work from districts such as Sundance and Harvest Hills in January.

These backed up cars will idle for hours without need. How “green”.

The toughest test for these kids will be that of real life.

I guess the fault lays with all of us to a degree. The election of school board trustees tends to be ignored and those who do vote often don’t look too terribly closely at who they are voting for or what these people plan to bring to the education standards table. Due to this apathy we have allowed officials to whittle away at all forms of individual responsibility or performance measurement in the classroom.

Every now and then we see eruptions of annoyance when absurd policies from the banning of games that dare to be competitive as musical chairs, dodge-ball and tag. There are movements afoot to ban scorekeeping in sports and of course decades of “social passing” has ensured that no student’s self-esteem need be damaged no matter how poorly they perform academically.

We have finally hit an apex of of idiocy when we see a teacher being suspended for giving marks of zero when no work has been completed!!

We have actually hit the point where students are being taught that even if they do absolutely nothing, they will still receive a grade. In the link above, there is a poll asking for reader input on the policy banning giving zeros in the classroom. While web-polls are of limitted veracity at the best of times, the number of voters and the clear indication of support on one side of this issue is striking.

As of this posting, nearly 12,000 people have voted in the poll. 96.7% of poll respondants oppose this myopic policy!

Despite such clear and overwhemling public opposition to this stupid policy, the Edmonton Public School Board is sticking to it’s guns and may indeed fire Lynden Dorval for his daring to not reward students for doing nothing. Who’s kids are these anyway? Does the opinion of the parents and future employers mean utterly nothing to the school board? Does it even strike these fools for a second that when 97% of the population disagrees with you that you may indeed be wrong?

Let’s look at the outcome of this culture of coddling that we are building. Literacy is a rather good skill to have going forward in life. There are fewer better ways to ensure that a person advances poorly in the professional world than to release them into it without adequate reading skills. Well as of 2006  it was determined that 42% of Canadians are semi-literate!

In light of such disturbing, embarassing and outright dangerous statistics, school boards and teacher’s unions have embarked on a crusade against testing of children on all possible levels. These groups are not as interested in educating children as they are in covering up any measures that may expose their abysmal performance. Have you ever noted how aside from demanding more money teacher’s unions are most strongly focussed on ending standardized testing? That speaks volumes.

Think of what is being done to these kids. Many kids with special learning needs are sliding through the system as they are never properly tested and graded. Social passing policies ensure that these kids graduate no matter how little of the actual learning material they have actually absorbed. A deep sense of entitlement has been built into these kids as they have not even been allowed to lose in a simple game of tag and they have learned that they will be rewarded even if they refuse to undertake even the most simple of school assignments. Now how well will these kids do when they get a job? How are these kids doing when they get to a post-secondary institution and discover that they will indeed be failed if they do not do or understand the work?

In real life there is no ribbon for participation. Learning how to fail is as important as learning how to win. Schools should not be some cruel dog-eat-dog environment of hyper-competition and strict grading. Schools should be preparing students for life though and with policies such as the “No zero” crap we can be assured that the schools are failing terribly.

In Quebec we have seen thousands of entitled post-secondary students protesting in the streets screaming against a modest tuition increase that would still leave them with the lowest tuition rates in North America. It is our public education system that has created this unrealistic sense of entitlement on the part of these students as they are essentially having a collective temper-tantrum upon discovering the most modest realities of adult life and responsibilities. I wonder how many of those students are actually staying on the streets in order to hide from the course material that they discovered that they can’t handle do to “social passing” policies?

Unfortunately this incremental idiocy takes nearly a generation to really hit us all. I like to think that it is peaking and we will push back in order to regain some common sense in our education system. The first step is for us all to engage in elections of both provincial parties and school board officials. Make it clear. Toss the ivory tower fools out on their asses if they insist on a continuation of this foolishness in education. Teach them that if they do not perform for us, we will give them a failing grade at the ballot box. We will all benefit from that in the end.

OK now folks, raise your hand if you thought that smoking wasn’t bad for you.

The Redford government has launched a $10 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies for what appears to be two reasons:

1. To desperately try and find the funds required to pay for the massive spending promises Redford made in the last election.

2. To filter money to her ex-husband’s law-firm as it has unsurprisingly managed to land the contract for the suit and could potentially make millions.

The Alberta government has already reaped many billions of dollars in revenues from tobacco taxes over the years. This lawsuit is the equivalent of a drug pusher suing his supplier for the damage having been caused to his clients while he continues to push the product. The tobacco industry is so heavily regulated and taxed by the provincial government that the government is an outright partner in the distribution and sales of the product.

One common vapid defense for these kinds of lawsuits is claiming that people did not know that cigarettes were bad for them because tobacco companies so effectively hid the adverse health effects of smoking. Come on people, that is nothing less than a load of crap. People have known smoking is bad for them for nearly a century now and most were not so stupid as to fall for ads understating the risks from tobacco companies.

To prove my point I am thrilled to be be able to link to a piece by some of the most brilliant entertainers of our time. Yes, I am speaking of the Three Stooges of course.

 In this episode, the stooges have won a large prize from the “Coffin Nail cigarette company” at about the five minute mark if you want to watch it. The term “coffin nails” being used as a slang term for cigarettes has clearly been around since at least 1938 as demonstrated by Larry, Curly and Moe. The origin of that term is of course because people knew that smoking tended to send people to an early grave thus cigarettes were compared to adding nails to the coffin.

 While the full extent of health damages caused by tobacco may not have been known 80 years ago, it is pretty clear that nobody was under any illusion that there was not a health risk associated with smoking.

The above point is key because these lawsuits are predicated on the assumption that nobody really knew that smoking was bad for them until the 1980s or so. That assumption is simply not true.

The other flaw in these lawsuits is the calculation of apparent health costs due to smokers. The numbers being drawn up by anti-smoking activists and class action vultures like Redford’s ex-husband are brutally flawed. It has to be assumed that non-smokers will never get sick or die for the numbers to be correct with the alleged health costs due to smoking. Believe it or not, non-smokers can get chronic and expensive illnesses too. While it sounds unbelievable, I have to point out that non-smokers indeed do eventually die and often cost the healthcare system a great deal of money on their way out the door as well.

Most people use the vast majority of their healthcare consumption in the last couple decades of their lives. You can visit with some of the healthiest of people in their 70s and I assure you that they still will be able to draw you a long list of the medications that they are on, the procedures that they have had done and the very frequent schedule of visits to health professionals. I am not holding that against these people of course, but it does have to be faced that senior citizens are very expensive to care for health wise. Now it needs to be noted that seniors are not contributing income taxes and such as they used to as well and that many are drawing from government services such as OAS and subsidized care for decades.

In light of all of the above the case could be made in a very cold way that coupled with massive tax revenues to government, smoking may indeed actually save the public purse money in that it takes so many people out at a young age thus saving the costs associated with a 30 year retirement. It is indeed clear that the costs of smoking to governments are greatly exaggerated to say the least.

Now before the chorus of offended health zealots harms my virtual ears let me say that I do not see tobacco consumption in any amount is good for people or for society at large in any way. I am not advocating that people should die young in order to save the system money or that smoking does not still cost us all in lost productivity or even the emotional costs of seeing loved ones dying early due to health issues associated with smoking.

What I am saying is that we must stop being disingenuous in the efforts to demonize and sue a legal entity. Lets base this stuff on real facts before moving forward and lets start embracing some personal responsibility here.

I started smoking while young and only managed to quit a few years ago. I was never under the illusion for a moment that smoking was not bad for me. I did have that youthful “it will never happen to me” attitude but knew deep down that smoking was harming me. Since quitting I have packed on a fair degree of weight which is not a healthy thing either. Now regulating my diet and exercise is my responsibility as well but it should be pointed out that stopping people from smoking does not mean that they will immediately become healthy in every other way.

Governments ban all sorts of drugs, items and even simple pesticides based on those things being unhealthy to people. If the government really feels that smoking is so harmful, they really should ban the practice altogether. Will this lawsuit stop people from smoking? No! Again this legal action is nothing less than a corrupt and hypocritical money grab. Even after the suit government will continue to profit from the massive taxes levied on tobacco products.

Where indeed will this end? What other companies that are legally operating and following every government regulation may be sued for damages to people consuming their products? Will Sifto Salt be sued because people use too much salt? Over-consumption of salt is epidemic in North America and it is a proven killer so why not? Soft drinks? Meat packers? None of the aforementioned examples are unrealistic at all should the province win this lawsuit. How about ski hills? Orthopedic injuries cost a fortune in surgeries and lost productivity.

I guess we will simply have to watch and wait on this one. It is sad that government has to rely on shaky lawsuits to backstop their irresponsible spending.