Sir John A., We Hardly Knew Ye


Mayor Lisa Helps announced yesterday that the statue of our first PM will be removed from its podium of honour in front of the entrance to Victoria City Hall pretty much forthwith. This has, of course, generated a good deal of tsking, finger wagging, and jaw flapping, much of it to do with the reverence we feel for our founding father, to borrow a USism. But let’s have a bit of context, by perhaps considering Johnny Mac in his own context, but somewhat transposed into our current status.


Do we hold Justin Trudeau to be worthy of the same level of reverence and Sir John A.? How about Stephen Harper? Paul Martin? Jean Chrétien? Kim Campbell? Brian Mulroney? John Turner? PET? Joe Clark?Mike?

With few exceptions for exceptional circumstances, the answer is no. I haven’t done the required research and reading to really nail it down, but my sense is that these folks, and all the rest of their ilk, were, first and foremost, politicians, with all the mixed connotations that that term carries on its overloaded back. They were people both revered and reviled, depending on your political stripe, your policy outlook and how deeply you were embedded in the system that produced them.


Perhaps a gentle step back to consider all facets of admiration and condemnation might help us to keep our blood pressure in check as we navigate possible attempts to reconcile settlers and First Nations, as well as our past with our present and future.

Deflection of Necessary Perspective

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash


There is an old Chinese proverb:

Quand le sage montre la lune, l’imbécile regarde le doigt.
When the wise man points to the moon, the idiot looks at his finger.
Paraphrased this morning in Libération:
Quand le sage montre le climat, l’économiste regards l’inflation.
When the wise man points to the climate, the economist looks at inflation.
No wonder they call it “the dismal science”. This is the very picture of pretty much all out national and regional leaders who still don’t seem to get the urgency of the situation in which we find ourselves. This is Trudeau/McKenna claiming to mitigate climate disruption while buying/expanding dilbit infrastructure, Horgan building Site C, and a whole whack of premiers fracking merrily away and giving away to energy to foreigners without bothering to collect royalties or taxes. It’s clear that Trump and Ford aren’t the only idiots, they just have less of the veneer of sanity.

Do grow-ops Belong on ALR Land?

Pic From Victoria Times Colonist


It seems that our outgoing head of the ALC believes this to be the case, that concrete slab based bunkers ought properly to be situated on ALR land, because, well, it’s a form of agriculture. I disagree vehemently. In a conversation with a relative in Ontario last winter, it came out that his brother had sold a hundred or so acres of farmland, the kind of black dirt land that requires almost no amendment to produce food crops, and that the highest bidder was a grow-op. Now all that soil is under cement, and I gather that there is never any chance that there will ever be a recovery. The grow-op could have been situated on marginal land, or on utterly unproductive land, without altering the nature of cultivation. In our area, the land under ALR is protected because it is deemed to be potentially productive soil, and the paving over for whatever reason flies in the face of the spirit of ALR.

The time where the justification of the Agricultural Land Reserve is apparent is upon us as our supply lines to California and Florida become more tenuous due to energy concerns, and where those areas are threatened by drought and sea level rise. If we are to be able to have a chance to feed ourselves, we must protect not only the geographic locations under ALR, but also the soil they host, including areas such as, say, the Peace River Valley.

The current scheme for the legalization of marijuana is in large part to blame for this blunder as it continues a régime of restricted supply and subsequent over-valuation of a crop due to induced scarcity and control.

“Economics is a form of brain damage.” 
–Hazel Henderson
This is what is driving our civilization to decay, the idea that this abstraction called the economy takes precedence over the physical conditions that allow the economy to exist. Our margins for existence are pretty thin, and we’ve used up most of the room for error. We continue to err.

Rachel’s Path to Success

Rachel Notley announced yesterday that Alberta will be seeking intervenor status in the BC reference question, that she’s ready to turn off the oil taps to BC, and that she’s rolling out an ad campaign to win hearts and minds to the Kinder Morgan cause. So here we have a promise to participate in the process whose legitimacy she has denied, a threat, and paid persuasion. Cute.

The ads are the most curious part of the package. That a province that doesn’t balance the books should spend money on ads is pretty retrograde, that the ads in question should be for the benefit of a profitable Texas-based pipeline company touches on absurd, and the idea that she can capture hearts and minds is frightening.

After all, advertising is really about getting the target population to spend more money than it ought to on things it doesn’t need, often doesn’t want, and which may, in both long- and short- terms, be hazardous to the health of the target population. Just sit in front of a television for an hour and you’ll see all these phenomena in play. Perhaps if the ads can make you believe you need to eat Chocolate-Covered Sugar Bombs, they can also convince you that you like dilbit and paying to build a pipeline so that you can ship the stuff through several hundred kilometres of varying terrain and urban landscape to tidewater, thence to undetermined markets leaving no economic benefit for most of BC and a large sword of Damocles in terms of spills. Rachel wants to convince you that this is a good deal. It is not. Rachel, Justin, Jim Carr, Ian Anderson and the whole tar baby industry are lying to you. They want you to lie to yourself. I won’t, not in this instance. Please join me.


I sure am glad…

… that neither Justin Trudeau nor Rachel Notley is my personal investment advisor.

Apparently, Kinder Morgan’s free range investors have figured out that this may not be a good bet in either the short, and particularly, in the long run. I frequently see references by serious business types to the coming collapse of the fossil fuel market, coupled with multiple references to how inexpensive renewable energy is becoming. I have purged my piddly portfolio of the oily stuff, but I collect pensions that are drenched in the stuff, despite the fact that pensioners are increasingly aware of the damage being done in their names and the risks being incurred in the name of propping up a dying industry and the fortunes of some very greedy and corrupt corporate and political figures. It’s very frustrating to see that people who have told so many lies continue to be empowered to work toward the destruction of life on the planet with the money that they collect “legally” from all of us. I left the following comment on Norm Farrell’s blog this morning in the context of his discussion of how the current régime in victoria can remain tone deaf to the financial, social, and ecological  reasoning presented on that organ, In-Sights:

The cudgel of reason seems to lose mass in the face of blind ideology.

So let’s celebrate, while we can, the fact that no amount of common sense seems to get us to the point of doing the right thing in the context of our shared living space, in terms of our economic well-being and in terms of working toward a more reasonable and just society. Let the sparklers light up the throwing of good money after bad, and worse, and worst. We’re there.

A-Peacekeeping We Will Go

For those who don’t read French:

Unprecedented attack on the Blue Helmets and French forces in Timbuktu

This is where Justin Trudeau et al propose to send out peacekeepers, Not much peace, it would seem.

Perhaps you can read something about why this is…

I believe the “mines” in question are land mines, but a quick check might show that there are considerable French mining concerns in the area. It rather reminds me of why Hondurans never seem to be able to sort out some kind of government that will stop mining companies from murdering activists.

Kinder Morgan and Raison d’État


Listening to Justin Trudeau speak of Canada as a country of rule of law reminded me of this paragraph from John Ralston Saul’s 1992 tome, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.His assertion that Kinder Morgan had achieved all the requisite permits rings hollow, given the make-up of the NEB and the writing of the regulations by the former Harper administration under whose regulations the Trans Mountain expansion was approved speaks of a willingness to choose allegiance to the law as it suits his own purposes, and his invocation of the national interest belies the idea that the national interest might include the best interests of all Canadian citizens rather than the will of the Chinese government who might eventually decide that they want to ship bitumen into their energy mix, or of the fossil fuel cabal that insists on its right to trash whatever it will in the pursuit of profit, most of which is sent offshore in a big hurry.

This is Justin telling us that he knows better than we do, that he alone can, with the aid of his special sidekick Cath McKenna, perform that special trick of legerdemain wherein we produce more carbon-intensive fuels and manage in passing to meet those laudable climate goals expressed to such loud ovations in Paris in 2015. There is a whiff of something malodorous about this business, something that resembles the duplicity of pretty much the whole of the Liberal election platform. Trudeau the Younger seems to have a bit of a problem being truthful, and his difficulty seems to increase as he seems to increase his belief in his own pronouncements.

If Kinder Morgan does abandon the project, it will be because Kinder Morgan will have recognized that market forces have clearly demonstrated that the project doesn’t work.  There has perhaps been a shove due to the resistance from First Nations and those inclined to leave something of a livable legacy for their children and future generations, but the long-run prospects for fossil fuels get less attractive with every cent that comes off the price of a kilowatt of renewable energy, particularly given that we know how to store and distribute intermittent energy, and that we have the technology to convert electricity to liquid hydrogen, as well as how to make plastics and other items from crops we already know how to grow. Mr. Trudeau would seem to see himself as part of a technocrat élite that ought rightly to be above having its pronouncements or actions questioned, and there are places on the planet where this would work well for him, but in Canada, he is supposed to serve his constituents rather than the reverse.



Note: A discussion of the rule of law needs to include this little gem depicting an anti-spawning mat installed by Kinder Morgan to facilitate the permitting and building of the Trans Mountain pipeline, an act that looks to my untrained legal mind as a clear infraction of fisheries law. Did Justin stamp his feet over these? They may be all gone (if they aren’t, something is clearly amiss in the realm of the righteous) but the act itself speaks to an attitude of arrogance and impatience that augurs not well for a collaborative relationship between pipeline proponent and citizens.

Note 2: Saul’s book is a worthy read even if you don’t see it as revelatory or agree with his outlook on history and governance. It resonates pretty loudly with me.

Protecting Genetic Heritage

Along with whatever might be useful as we plunge into the abyss of our GM-AI-Driverless Technofuture:

Semences autochtones : la Tunisie en prend de la graine

Alors que les semences de blé améliorées, massivement importées dans les années 80, sont rattrapées par les maladies, les variétés traditionnelles font de la résistance.


An article from Libération details how Tunisia has reverted to the use of heritage seeds for its staple crops, having experienced high degrees of disease and degradation with the ongoing plantings of hybrid and GM varieties adopted in the ’80s. There is particularly heightened interest in this given that Tunisia was where the Arab Spring first arose, and arise it did because of lack of food due in part to lack of funds, tied to lack of work. This appears to be a rare application of that rarest of commodities of late, common sense based on traditional knowledge.

We Return to Peacekeeping

From Libération


The big announcement that Canada “is back” in the peacekeeping game rings somewhat hollow in the absence of a peace to keep. The government is sending a half-dozen helos and associated personnel, along with other troops, apparently including a significant contingent of women, to a place ill-suited to our equipment and training and where an elusive and sometimes ill-defined enemy has proven elusive in an ongoing series of clashes involving not only the local government, but a large contingent of French troops, and, it seems of late, a sprinkling of US forces.

This is a link to a series of stories from Libération, a mainstream French daily that gives some idea of the scope and duration of the conflict, easy to discern even for those who speak little or no French from the dates and the photos. What seems clear enough is that there exists more conflict that peace, and one has to wonder, given the fractured nature of the “enemy”, whether it’s possible to settle a peace accord with a single faction.

We have been witness to the heartbreak of returning peacekeepers, the physical wounds, the PTSD, the difficulty re-integrating into normal life in Canada, the unmet needs of veterans sloughed off by the military when considered redundant for whatever reason, and the general indifference of a population already dealing with marginalization, housing woes, and political fol-di-rol on a grand scale, with the exception of Don Cherry-like calls to support the troops and salute the flag. Hence, it seems something of a dubious undertaking to send valuable resources off to Mali to struggle with hostile people in a hostile environment , especially with so little prospect of a constructive outcome. The whole mission is looking increasingly like a veiled contribution to the ol’ War On Terror in which we are called upon by NATO (North AFRICAN Treaty Organization?) to keep the lid on some restless locals while the empire does its dirty business in Mali, elsewhere in Africa and in as much of the rest of the world as possible.

The question arises as to with whom one might engage in dialogue about peace, and would that include a broader geographical definition of peace. It doesn’t look as though contemplation of those questions will be moving to the forefront of global efforts.



Taxes are…

Long ago, I came to see the following, attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, as an axiom by which to gauge a good deal of public policy:

Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.

Today, I ran across this in the cesspool that is Facebook, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that it was posted by a former student:

I guess it hurts to see a chunk of your paycheque disappearing into the maw of Revenue Canada to be handed out by the Trudeau Liberals to miscreants both foreign and domestic, layabouts, drug addicts, Commies, queers and Jews (to paraphrase an old line from Asshole from El Paso, Chinga Chavin, c. 1975).

There is little doubt that much of what we pay in taxes is misspent in paroxysms of waste, but the object of the ire is often the wrong target by a long shot. All the welfare fraud, even all the welfare, pales in comparison with the funds eaten up by misguided projects like the Phoenix pay system where implementation is into the hundreds of millions of dollars stretching across the mandates of two governments with no end in sight to the expenditures and no resolution to the seemingly random overpaying, underpaying or simple not paying of civil servants. The examples of this sort of waste are legion, but even this sort of malfeasance pales in comparison to the amount of cash extracted by large corporations, by foundations and by rich individuals, money taken from people such as Tommy, the former student in question, and shipped offshore to be tucked away in perfectly legal (moral? not so much) accounts in Panama, the Bahamas, the Isle of Man, and such places for future reference, but without scrutiny by Revenue Canada. Revenue Canada recently was convicted of malicious prosecution of a couple of business people in Nanaimo, apparently chosen because they didn’t have the kind of financial and legal resources at the disposal of, say, the clients that KPMG counselled to set up accounts in offshore havens. Yes, you, the hardworking individual, are subject to the yoke of taxation in a way that touches the wealthy in a  proportionately gentle fashion, it would seem.

I’m an old retired guy now, but I spent a lifetime working for a living, a wage slave if there ever was one. Before I discovered the joys of a career in the classroom, I worked in commercial fishing, in logging, in hospital and hotel maintenance, in construction, in plumbing, in bookselling, in grill cooking, in gardening and hauling, in rock drilling and odd bits of this and that to fill in the gaps and pay for much of my education (I also had a really good gig for a number of years running a pool hall and bowling alley on campus, not great pay but very satisfying socially). All along, I paid taxes, and, for the most part, it was money that went away to support other people and initiatives. I obviously needed it less than those who benefited directly from government largesse. But when I hurt my back rock drilling, I actually managed to get some support from WCB, and there were no huge doctor bills or prescription worries because there were programs, supported by taxes, to take care of those items.

We don’t always get the best value for our tax dollars, and the system of taxation is far from equitable and fair (a reflection of general economic policy), but I still pay taxes on my pension and am happy to do so for the aid that some folks get when they most need it and for those services provided by all levels of government.

None of us lives insolation and we all have contributions to make to our social life. Taxes are part of it, as is the responsibility to be informed on governance and to participate in the conversations that should be leading us forward.