Dark Days At Year’s End

Dead-End John

 

Dear John,

When I last wrote, it was about the novelty of the Dear John phenomenon. This time, I fear that the intent is very much in line with the original intent of letters of this nature. Your reading of the data for and against Site C construction seems to be very different from mine, and in any case, the idea of flinging another good seven billion dollars after the bad four that was essentially down to Christy Clark and her lot is a powerful inducement to quit the project, sorta like what Dad used to say about getting out of a hole: the first step is to quit digging. You have now pretty much forever linked your name with a project conceived in greed and executed with blunt force political trauma: you have turned Christy’s nasty little quip about getting Site C to the point of no return into a self-fulfilling prophesy. You have chosen to stick with a 20th-century project that has no place in a climate care strategy in the 21st century and have therefore earned the nickname “Dead-End John”, the dead-endedness referring not only to this project, but also to the length of your mandate and to the legacy that you leave to future generations of British Columbians. You have effectively become a patsy for the former Liberal clique, all of whom must be feeling rather smug right about now. What explains the rubber-kneed capitulation that we got to witness this morning? Is your political, social, economic, and reconciliatory acumen so stunted that you were able to overlook the impending catastrophe that awaits us, both in terms of legal battles the apologies that you will be forced to issue over cost overruns and completion delays? Did some Bilderberg-like group of rich heavyweights reach out to twist some painful part of your anatomy to incite the sort of tone deafness to your constituents that produced this gawdawful abomination? Are we completely ignoring the consequences under NAFTA to control over water exports? Do we not have a willingness to explore other opportunities in terms of energy production and the kind of jobs that might go along with it?

I guess in real life there’s no chance that you’ll be back in the rotunda tomorrow to tell us that it was a bad joke, and that really, no one could be that politically blind. I think it’s very likely that the New Democratic Party of BC has seen the last contribution and the last vote from this British Columbian, and I suspect that this kind of shenanigan is likely to produce a similar effect elsewhere. When that alternate to corruption is foolhardiness, or for whatever reason produces the sort of headscratchingly blunders on the order of continuing Site C, I’m guessing that many voters are simply wishing a pox on the houses of all politicians and going off to get what they can while they can.

Sadly, there is no respect left with which to sign this missive…

Respectfully,

Dan Schubart

Previous, pre-decision note:

Dear John, (I’ve never before had the privilege of writing a Dear John Letter!)

Pull the rug out from under the Site C project, would you please? It was a political decision made by Christy Clark as a gift to her contractor friends who have already done untold damage to the province and who need to wear the blame for the, pardon me, downstream effects. Our union brothers and sisters should be looked after by an ambitious (but well thought-out) program of renewable energy infrastructure, forest and fishery remediation, and programs to encourage small-scale intensive organic farming, as well as the protection of vital water resources. The Liberal Party needs to wear the blame for this project, every aspect of it, like Coleridge’s Albatross, as they parade through the upcoming corruption inquiry (you will encourage Mr. Eby to undertake this, won’t you?), along with all the other (NOT) on-time, on-budget fiascos that characterized the Campbell and Clark tenures on the government benches.

John, er, Mr. Premier, I like your style, generally, and much of your policy platform and would like to think that I could, with a clear conscience lend both moral and financial support to your party. But a decision to maintain any part of the Site C project or to support the various pipeline fantasies would preclude support of any nature, particularly as a decision on a moral basis: I have grandchildren and I would like for them, and for all citizens of B.C. (your bailiwick), Canada and the World to have a reasonably stable planetary environment in which to grow and thrive. Site C cannot be part of that vision.

Get in front of the cameras, with or without that Weaver feller, and tell BC that the citizens are in charge, not the SNC Lavallins of the world.

In hopes that you’ll act in a way that allows me to sign this…

Respectfully,

Dan Schubart

Port Alberni

Na, na. na-boo-boo!

Remove Sexism From the Indian Act

 

Reported in the Globe and Mail that it will cost $407milion a year to eliminate sexism from the Indian Act. Why do we still have legislation on the books do deal with Indians? Might it be time to take down the window dressing and to invite First Nations to participate in truly meaningful deliberations on their own affairs? For my money and theirs, I suspect that the removal of sexism here is no bargain, and that perhaps we ought to clean our own stables before we address the needs of one segment of the greater whole of society.

Where Does Innocence End?

This was in a signature file from A Word A Day:

I don’t believe in playing down to children, either in life or in motion pictures. I didn’t treat my own youngsters like fragile flowers, and I think no parent should. Children are people, and they should have to reach to learn about things, to understand things, just as adults have to reach if they want to grow in mental stature. Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. -Walt Disney, entrepreneur and animator (5 Dec 1901-1966)

This is a lofty and worthy sentiment, completely belied by the output of Disney Studios where the happy endings in the face of overwhelming odds are legion and where the characters seem as idealized as they could be in stark contrast to the nastiness that seems to be in charge of the human universe of late. Witness that Disney has reigned over the magic kingdom as a form of refuge from the toil and turmoil of everyday life, a place where even adults can cast off the cares of life and unilaterally declare a hiatus wherein they can say, in effect, “Piss on it, enough of the serious shit. I’m gonna revert to the world of thumbsucking again for a few days!”, at least until the credit card bills come in. What?! You pay for the privilege of visiting the magic kingdom and going into the kid cocoon for whatever span of time? Oh, yeah, and you’ve already made your kids part of the conspiracy.

“Telle est la vie des hommes, 
quelques joies très vite éffacées
par d’inoubliables chagrins. 
Il n’est pas nécessaire de le dire aux enfants.”

                             —Marcel Pagnol

Life, a few joys quickly overtaken by unforgettable pains, and no need to mention it to the children…they will see it soon enough and perhaps it’s better to monitor this and get out in front of it, letting children in on the secret of choosing a path toward some sort of fulfilment and working to make some joy with friends and family.

Goose and Gander

Gary Bendig

 

The Richmond News had this somewhere in its folds as pointed out by Coins. Harold Steves. This sort of solution to energy needs has been floated hereabouts as well following some visits to the Ocean Discovery Centre a decade ago. This system is essentially a rather large heating/cooling exchange system (an oversized heat pump) based on the rather constant temperature of soil below the surface, or, in this case, water that is in a body large enough that it doesn’t freeze. Even at low temperatures, there is enough energy to extract that it’s worth the cost of pumping and exchange to heat and/or cool a building, or, as in the Richmond case, a whole neighbourhood. An early-on interview with the ODC in Sidney elicited the cost of the upgrade being less than $1m and the payback being on the order of five years, with the additional benefit of providing copious quantities of Saanich Inlet sea water to maintain the various life forms constituting the displays at the centre on top of the HVAC energy for the retail and residential units that make up the bulk of the structure.

Sadly, the idea has landed consistently with the same dull thud of a river rock landing in a bed of shoe-sucking mud with the seeming perspective that we can’t have a district heating initiative without burning something, a kind of tunnel vision that often accompanies the senescent attitude that seems to pervade most of the apparatus of local government and often seems to spread like a plague to the youngers as they move toward olders in association with those self-same olders. Steves seems to have avoided this altogether, having, if I’m not mistaken, been one of the early proponents of the ALR back in1972, and seemingly having kept that fresh perspective right up to the present, thereby earning the designation of Elder rather than older, as distinguished by a large dollop of accumulated wisdom.

Couns. Steves cites this as a reason to put a stake through the black heart of the Site C project. wherein he once again lands on the right side of history. Bravo, and good on him for doing what he can to ensure that there will be further history on whose right side there will be a place for those who follow in his footsteps.

 

Blow Back

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

The following headline showed up in my Twitter feed this morning:

Local economic impacts would be considerable if Site C

is cancelled: Chamber President

…and you can go to the source here (it was posted by Integrity BC)

The crux of the matter is that there will be a loss of revenue to those providing service to the work site/project and that layoffs will ensue, should the project be cancelled. Yes, there will likely be some of that, though a principled and aware government would be taking steps to mitigate the negative effects by redirecting that portion of the embedded costs to local business for other work that might be deemed in the public interest, and some form of development, if properly thought through, would almost always be appropriate for the region. However, we have to ask ourselves whether any of the local leadership was paying attention as the plans for this project moved forward. The exclusion of the Utilities Commission from any review should have been a red flag, and certainly when the then-Premier spoke of pushing the project past the point of no return, hackles ought to have been fully deployed with the message loud and clear that this was perhaps a politically motivated boondoggle and that those who put their faith in it were those who would be abetting a scheme to defraud taxpayers and ratepayers of substantial sums for decades to come. The documentation was always there, though it might have taken some chasing beyond the confines of Global News or the PostMedia crowd.

The logical course of action now for the Nabobs of the North is to work with Victoria to wind down this project and remediate the entirety of the damages while developing strategies to ensure that an appropriate package of development funds will be earmarked and distributed to northern communities to ensure that they will be equal participants in whatever prosperity flows from the ongoing business of the whole province. Let’s stop making problems to fix, let’s work to ensure that everyone gets a fair shake in an economy that isn’t run for the benefit of large corporate donors to the party of “free enterprise” (and insults in the legislature).

 

They Papered Paradise

Along with the revelation that finance minister Bill Morneau had neglected to put his business dealings in a blind trust (and that he wasn’t the only minister to lag on that front by a long shot), the release of the Paradise Papers has a lot of Canadians hopping mad, including some on the opposition benches who, when they were in government, seemed quite content to sign deals with fiscal havens (in French, they are called Paradis Fiscaux, perhaps explaining the moniker Paradise Papers), but who have since developed and honed a sense of outrage that, of course, overlooks their own underhanded behaviour.

It can’t be worth a lot of time and resources to investigate this stuff under the current legal and fiscal statutes because, of course, it’s all perfectly legal, and therein lies the rub. This set of laws is like a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who whispered in the legislative ear to get the enabling legislation enacted. So, not a crime, but certainly this all flies in the face of any rhetoric about saving whatever social class other than those who can muster the resources to hire the legal beagles who will set up your off-shore shell companies in which you can shelter the rest of your massive fortune. Likely, this is neither thee nor me.

If you voted for either the current government or the previous government (today’s “opposition”, you are an enabler. If you didn’t vote, you are an enabler. tacit approval being much like an active imprimatur.

Let the louts in Ottawa (Victoria, Edmonton, etc.) know that you want at least a level playing field, legally, fiscally, socially. Do it starting now with a curt note to your MP and MLA, and to the likely candidates of all the opposition parties. Do be rude and bring this up at coffee and at the dinner table, and mention it to the pastor and elders in church this Sunday, as well as to your hockey team and your mother-in-law.

The Burden of Politics and Governing

 

Photo by Daniel Malikyar on Unsplash

In the course of many extended conversations with a friend who practices law, mostly pertaining to real estate, we would touch on the essence of what a career entailed. I was a school teacher until I discovered the wonders of retirement, and Scott even went as far as to pay a visit to the small rural school where I spent five really stellar years late in my working life. I had visited his office on occasion, but it would have been somewhat awkward for me to get in any observations of his interactions with clients, so I had to take his word for his thoughts on the law, its deployment, and on how it affected the parties undertaking the legal process.

A recurring theme in our conversations was that education formed a good part of many occupations where one has to deal with human beings, and Scott thought this was very relevant to the practice of law, particularly in the process of bringing parties to an acceptable settlement without engaging the services of the court and burning through exorbitant legal fees. I had observed some of this phenomenon in my father’s architectural practice where clients had, at times, unrealistic expectations of what could be built, and especially what could be built within a realistic budget, along with considerations of light, sight lines, interior spaces, interrelationships within the building envelope and how the building related to the building site. This was a critical part of the work because it was, in essence, the intellectual and spiritual framework for construction and ensured that the client understood well in advance not only the end result, but the journey from conception to planning, to detail preparation and on to construction before final occupancy. Dad’s success as an architect rested on the number of people who would write at the end of the process to say not only that they were deeply enjoying the final project, but also that they could see how those initial consultations had set the course for both the process and the result.

Such is not the case for all practitioners, and the area where education seems to be least central to the work at hand is in politics and government, an area where a good part of the electorate is content to function on preconceived notions of ideology and/or to accept the divisions laid out in the existing political framework of parties, candidates and support groups. As in business, it would appear for secrecy and deception to be largely the norm, sometimes through societal inertia, sometimes through duplicity, sometimes through expediency. The electorate gets bombarded with waves of information, but said information has been carefully chosen to direct attention to whatever the agency deems as good and to distract from the sources of the information and, often, the possible and likely consequences of the decisions being made. Where business is entirely about generating profit for shareholders and the executive suite, there seems little impetus to ensure that we are getting the whole picture and that the profits being generated will do more good than harm. The current and ongoing shut-down of the Sears retailing establishment in Canada is an interesting case study, where layoffs and disappearing pensions are being used to fund bonuses to the executives who have taken the enterprise into bankruptcy and dissolution, where those responsible for the decisions that lead to the downfall reap large rewards and those who toiled in the trenches are stripped of benefits, both present and future.

The same hiding behind a veil of secrecy also prevails in most governing bodies, often for the benefit of small groups of people whose fortunes allows them much greater influence than the one vote to which the general populace can aspire. Where this amounts to corruption, if often goes unpunished because of that same veil of secrecy. This is a legal matter and missed opportunity to hold to account those at fault. Other times, there may be cases where policy seems distant in its origin and benefit, and the implementation seems high-handed and dictatorial. In those cases, what’s lacking in a meaningful effort on the part of those enacting that policy to ensure than all parties are armed with the data and analysis to make sense of the action. All of our elected representatives ought to be armed with the knowledge to explain their decisions and the ability to make sense of those decisions to the people who elected them. as well as those who may have made other, unfulfilled choices at election time.

As an example, the current discussions of reconciliation with First Nations certainly has both supporters and detractors. On this file, we seem to be moving slowly, but there is an ongoing stream of relevant information that needs to be put at everyone’s disposal and there needs to be time for options to be developed and time and resources allotted to First Nations to sort out what might be their idea of the desired outcomes. For those like Senator Lynn Beyak whose sense is that First Nations should just “get over it” and become Canadians, there is a chance to review the information and to show that they have a basis for their beliefs, and for the rest of us to understand that perspective, without necessarily accepting that it might be valid if we have data and analysis to bolster our own thoughts.As new material emerges, we might need to re-evaluate our positions.

There is a certain amount of anxiety in the salmon farming community at this point, where First Nations are occupying a farm and where notice of review of tenures seems to have given the idea to the companies that they are about to be unceremoniously evicted from the waterways of the province. It turns out that the reviews are scheduled and that the panic might reveal more about the outlook of Marine Harvest than about the state of the spaces they occupy. For a group that appears to have done whatever it can to squelch information relating to disease outbreaks, escapes and other negative effects on wild stocks, there might be a tendency to think that the fish farming community senses that the end of their current business mode might be coming to an end. I wonder if they are willing to put all the informational cards on the table and let the public decide in full knowledge of how the industry operates and what are the real benefits and harms involved in their operations. It i here that the government, and especially the ministers responsible, ought to have the duty and the mandate to see that all appropriate information is put at the disposal of the electorate so that, when the government decides to either renew the tenures or to let them lapse, we will all have a clear understanding of the reasoning behind that decision.

When it comes to light that local casinos have become a money laundromat, and where it comes to light that the phenomenon has been known to government for the better part of a decade, and where the knowledge has been buried because it might have a negative impact on certain “commercial” enterprises, and where those enterprises are undertaken by people whose moral, electoral and financial support props up the party that buries the report, we have the exact opposite of a desirable education quotient. This is not a simple oversight, but a fraud on the electorate, even if the law seems not to see it as punishable.

The same applies to the approval of projects that appear, on the fact of it, to contrary to the interests of Canadians as a whole, but that will be good for board rooms in Toronto, Calgary and Houston, projects whose evaluation omits large swathes of data about downstream consequences to be suffered by all of us, but whole effects will be mitigated for those who stand to gain the most.

As a voter, I am willing to revise my position on many files, but I need to see that I’m getting decisions based on the best information, which means all the information. It falls upon my representatives to convince that the revision is warranted.

 

 

Who Knew?

 

I read just about everything written by Michael Lewis, starting with Moneyball, through all the  sports and financial tomes he published. He has interesting perspectives and is a good storyteller. The sports stuff is good entertainment and thought-provoking, the financial stuff is a little chilling, and his latest pronouncement on Canadian housing as outlined in an article in MacLean’s adds to an already disturbing picture of market manipulation on a grand scale leading to the destruction of liveability in much of Canada’s urban landscape. The recent revelations of casino money-laundering in B.C. only adds to the feeling that there are subterfuges being used to skirt both the letter and the spirit of laws and to pervert the market mechanisms that are supposed to provide a measure of affordability for those residents who need to work and live in our communities.

Studies seem to indicate that foreign ownership is not the major problem, but that doesn’t entirely eliminate the phenomenon of overseas capital as one of the exacerbating factors, especially when it appears that there are “underground banks” in play and that real estate developers constitute the largest group of those flushing large quantities of cash through the gaming system. Also in play is the accumulation of debt by those signing up for mortgages, some of which may not be within the realm of realistic repayment, particularly in case of a retrenchment of the market where the asset might become less valuable than the sum of the debt incurred to purchase.

The U.S. is being run by a clique of bandits who have assumed the reins of power and are busy ensuring that the satisfaction of their greed, as well as that of their puppet masters, is being satisfied to the detriment of society and the environment. We in B.C. have toiled under a government for the past decade and a half whose main mission seemed to be sequestering the benefit of the commons for the benefit on party donors, many of whom are in finance and real estate, either directly or indirectly. This has generated a socio-economic structure where there has been a pretty thorough decoupling of any relation between housing costs and salaries/wages, meaning that a lot of folks can’t afford to live anywhere within reasonable proximity to where the jobs are, and that, increasingly, jobs go begging because there is no one around to work them as they flee what are unrealistic markets for housing. The knock-on effects of twisted markets are being felt outside the urban centres as people sell out of the rich markets and take the resulting cash to lower-cost areas, but the real estate and finance people follow them, and prices rise sharply with the arrival of these newly-wealthy real estate refugees, pricing the locals out of their own market.

Real estate people love it, as both buying and selling causes the honey to stick to their hands, bankers love it, because the create money from nothing and take it back in as a representation of real wealth, and officialdom seems loathe to anything other than minor tinkering for fear of alienating powerful constituencies and not wanting to be tagged as having caused the pain that will inevitably result from a marketplace that is so out of kilter. However, that pain will come, and experience teaches us that those with the greatest political clout will be those who feel it least, while those who have pawns in the game will take it on the chin. After all, unless you live in Iceland, you haven’t seen any of the people responsible for the last crash held to account for it. The prospects for the next “correction” don’t seem all that rosy either.

Committed to Canada

 

How strange it can seem that, when a trade dispute arises, one of the principals in the dispute seems all of a sudden to become solicitous of the well-being of the constituents of one of the other parties involved in the dispute. Such seems to be the case with the current round of sniping over aircraft contracts, originally between Boeing and Bombardier. With Bombardier having a good chunk of its investment held by the Province of Québec and with Bombardier, over the course of several decades, having been the beneficiary of considerable largesse on the part of the federal government, one might conclude that Boeing has some legitimacy in their claims against Bombardier. Silly me, I neglected to pay attention to the duopoly that is supposed to govern the whole of the aeronautical sphere, airline division, to be divided more or less equally between the lion and unicorn that are Boeing and Airbus. So when Delta Airlines purchased a significant chunk of Bombardier’s C100 (I believe it was), Boeing cried foul and asked for the imposition of tariffs to countervail the unfair advantage that Canada offered in terms of subsidies. 220%, boys, just like that! Make America Great Again, and a follow-up of another 80%. We’ll show them! Never mind that Boeing is so fat with US military contracts of the type that could unto themselves be considered a subsidy that they didn’t, it would seem have a comparable aircraft to sell to Delta, but Delta could easily buy something that Boeing makes to keep Boeing happy…so Canada is making rumblings about playing hardball by negotiation a deal for used Australian F-18s rather than a purchase of new F-18s from Boeing, but would these not be serviced by, hmmm…, Boeing? If this conjures up thoughts of Alice in Wonderland, you’re probably on the right track. And then we get this, on the Web, on television, and who knows, it may be in print as well, I no longer read pulp dailies, so I don’t know:

Committed to Canada

Committed they are, to continuing to sell as much as possible at the highest profit to a country whose aeronautical industry has been consistently suborned over the last many decades to the interests of outfits like Boeing. They will toss us a bone from time to time, but Boeing is committed to generating shareholder value and nothing else. This commitment is reminiscent of the protestations of eternal faithfulness at the altar that is little other than a prelude to divorce. It’s offensive.

The Plague of History?

Saw this at Marianne.net this morning:

(Is it necessary to unbolt the historic figures who’ve become an embarrassment? Renaming streets and removing statues of former slavery advocates: the controversy has arrived in France.)

A local city councillor brought this debate to the fore some months ago and it stirred up much debate, a lot of it less than civilized, and raised the whole question of how we perceive and deal with history. In question were the name of a local school and a street that carried the name of an openly racist politician and government agent whose policies did considerable harm to both orientals and First Nations people.

A first thought is the actual history that gets presented, initially at home and at school and the extent to which that history becomes the internal narrative. I know it was instructive coming to Canada in the last months of high school and being subjected to an entirely different perspective on history than what I had absorbed through the school system in the U.S., where I grew up. The cognitive dissonance set up by the new narrative, along with considerable openness and encouragement from parents who had a view of history that often was more nuanced than the textbook version, has lead to a willingness to at listen to “alternate” views of history and a desire to uncover as much of the overall narrative that I can form at least a provisional outlook on history and how that might guide any actions that stem from that outlook.

The second thought is that we all tend to construct our own narratives based on our own experiences and our exposure to whatever depth and breadth of history we have encountered. We’ve likely, many of us, had the experience of connecting with someone who has read the same text as we have, or watched the same documentary, and come away with a completely different take on what actually happened and what might be the consequences of those actions. This phenomenon can really muddy the waters of possible debate and common thought leading to action. Even when we can arrive at consensus about historic events, it’s a bit of a trick to intuit motives on the part of the players, and even trickier to map out a course of action, or inaction, as the case may be.

Is there a reasoned and generally acceptable approach to dealing with the enshrined who turn out to non-conforming when it comes to contemporary mores? Can the enshrined remain atop a pedestal with a degree of opprobrium attached to their notoriety? Can we use these discussions as a jumping off point for acknowledgement and possible redress of past wrongdoing? The evidence thus far isn’t all that encouraging with many not wanting to unearth the past (implying that it’s being kept out of mind to begin with) and others unwilling to acknowledge that some of our forbears acted out of less-than-benign motivation, with some stepping deeply into the pool of racism, sexism and general barbarism. How do those of us alive today square our own attitudes with the deeds of illustrious forbears with feet of clay? Is there sufficient will and resources to effectively redress the wrongs that were done under previous iterations of our societal structures?

All the ideas and questions in play need to be part of the process of dealing with A.W. Neill, with Sir John A. Macdonald, with all the Confederate Statuary that riled folks up at Charlottesville, and all the centuries of French public figures whose likenesses are bolted to pedestals around France. I suspect that there are other jurisdictions where the same discussions will arise, in addition to which, we need to deal more forthrightly that we do currently with the leading figures of our own days and the deeds that they perpetrate in our name.