#195: The Strange Tale of Amor De Cosmos

Oh, have I been relishing this moment for a long time. One of the benefits of living in a country as massive and disunited as Canada is that I rarely have to give a shit about any provinces. Here in Ontario it’s kind of assumed that you came from Ontario or from another country because Ontario has a very weak provincial identity by virtue of fact that it sees itself as “Canada writ small”. British Columbia is nothing but provincial swagger, which is perhaps the single most annoying kind of swagger in existence. If Canadian pride is bush-league know-nothing bullshit coupled with smug self-assuredness, imagine how much worse that pride gets when affixed to a province. Cakers are a smug people, but even among the cakers British Columbia is known for  how fucking smug it is. Which makes tearing down this province a particular joy. And what better way to start that task than by ripping apart the precious mythology that British Columbia was destined to join Canada?

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(S) Spoilers: a bear in a Victorian costume is involved.

Fortunately for us, it’s not hard to tear down that myth. The province was cursed to join Canada by the hilariously-named Amor De Cosmos. De Cosmos was an advocate for unifying all of Britain’s North American colonies because he felt humiliated by the idea that he was to “die a tadpole British colonist“, without the same rights and sense of nationhood that those in the United Kingdom had. He was a key proponent of unifying Vancouver Island and British Columbia and pushed for British Columbia’s entry into Confederation. I always love showcasing how little interest there was for a united Canada in the early years. In fact, a petition was sent to Washington, DC in 1869 seeking annexation by the United States. And though British Columbia’s government was not especially democratic, the Confederation-focused forces were crushed in 1868’s elections:

In the November votes, pro-confederation candidates were successful on the mainland but not on Vancouver Island. There they were defeated by an alliance of the governmental and HBC élites, who upheld the status quo, with the European-born businessmen who favoured annexation to the United States rather than to Canada. De Cosmos was himself defeated in Victoria City…The next meeting of the Legislative Council reflected these results. The colonial officials and magistrates who made up the majority joined with Vancouver Island anti-confederates in passing a motion calling confederation “undesirable, even if practicable.” Only the five popular members from the mainland dissented.

But what could save the Confederation project and ensure that British Columbia wouldn’t experience the horrors of being a part of a successful and relevant country? Two things: the realization that the British didn’t give a shit about BC, and Canada basically buying the place with promises of a railway and debt relief. As British interest in defending a distant port in the middle of nowhere faded, BC knew that if it wanted the protection of the Royal Navy (and if it wanted to ever be able to repay its debts) it would have to sign up with the nearest polity of stinking Englishmen. Canada seemed to fit the bill, so BC shacked up with the fat, balding ass that we call Canada.

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(S) If everything in this picture is purchased on credit this is the Cliff Notes version of BC’s entry into Confederation

In typical Canada fashion, the terms of the agreement were pretty loosely followed. The railroad project upon which the deal hinged went so poorly that De Cosmos threatened to seek annexation by the United States if Ottawa wasn’t going to get its shit together. De Cosmos would ultimately be deposed and removed from politics because he dared to suggest that Canadians should act less like Brits and try to instead formulate its own coherent collection of identities. Oh, and he also went insane.

Next up, we’ll watch the relationship between floozie province and sugar daddy country devolve into the slithering form it takes today. Stay tuned!

#194: The Boreal Failure – Northern Ontario

The time has come to start chipping away at Canada’s largest province, Ontario. A land of scholastic mystery, the engine room of this sadsack state hides too many malevolent folds to be covered in one go. Because of its sheer size and shittiness our tour of Onterrible begins up north, to a post-extractive hellscape that makes the Soviet Union’s old industrial yards look pleasant. How bad is Northern Ontario? How about we begin with a piece from the Toronto Star with the by-line “Survival in Ontario’s north requires ingenuity, endurance and a trace of subversion”, which includes stories of pitiable want and active avoidance of the stew of ineptitude that is Queen’s Park.

From the same piece:

Northern towns have one small food outlet if they’re lucky. If not, residents go to the next town. No matter where they shop, they won’t see cantaloupes, fresh pears, bunches of raw broccoli, inside round steak or 200 gram blocks of partially skim mozzarella cheese. At least half of the items on the province’s [nutritous food basket] checklist aren’t available in the north.

That’s fucked up. Northern Ontario is one of Canada’s most neglected regions. Governed from Toronto by people who consider Northern Ontario to be nifty map-filler, the area’s chronic neglect and desperation takes so many forms that this entire piece will consist of ringing them off and asking you, the reader, if this is the kind of stuff you expect in a “rich country”.

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(S) Soviet mining camp or Canadian town? You decide!

The first shit-shaped tee-ball to get smashed by yours truly is the staggering cost of transportation. Those people of Manitoulin Island who don’t own vehicles get to spend a staggering $35-60 on cab fare to get to the nearest grocery store. Imagine if every grocery trip you made involved you purchasing several t-bone steaks only to throw them into the street. Speaking of transportation, Northern Ontario is a classic case of “free”** Canadian healthcare. Take the town of Timiskaming, where nearly 1 in 5 men have diabetes. If a denizen of Northern Ontario dares to need specialized medical help that they can’t find locally they can expect a $100 grant from the government…but only for one-way travel. Better get ready to hitchhike home, sucker! People in Northern Ontario are, to be frank about it, unable to take care of themselves because of the sheer costs associated with transportation. And even assuming that you’re picked up by someone who isn’t going to rape you and chuck your corpse in the snow good luck traversing Northern Ontario’s roads in the winter. Come to town to get one health problem examined, go home with two. Now that’s some Canadian mathematics for you!

How about telehealth services, asks the hypothetical caker apologist? Treating Northern Ontarians as though they have a right to get around is expensive and icky, after all. Why see a doctor physically when you can go online?…Except the Internet access in Northern Ontario is fucking terrible. Are you surprised? And before you ask about Northern Ontario “getting a job”, why don’t you read some labor stats? Like these, which put Northern Ontario’s employment rates at 54.5% and 58%, respectively?

We certainly can’t forget the crown jewel of Northern Ontarian shittiness – atrocious housing. We’re talking fucking shacks here, folks.

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(S) Totally legit house! For a lawnmower, perhaps.

Living in such dire poverty, surounded by joblessness and want with nowhere to go and no way to get out, lead lives of stunning want. Appendix B of this report speaks to some of the difficulties associated with combatting homelessness and so-called “invisible homelessness” (which basically means couch-surfing and bumming at friends’ places). Words like “skeletal infrastructure”, “no infrastructure”, “using informal networks”, and “lack of data”. Lacking basic information and having no real means to handle the basic needs incumbent to capitalist civilization suggests to me that these areas are effectively without governance. And that’s not just me saying this, either.

That’s a good way to end our brief trip through Northern Ontario. The area lives with infrastructure deliberately designed to bypass inadequate and poorly thought-out governance from Toronto. People can basically afford to slowly become more ill, trapped by insane transit costs and a live of grinding dependence on piss-poor social security. And if there’s anything worse than being governed by cakers, it’s being forgotten by cakers.

#193: Bubbles in the Badlands – Alberta’s Nonsense Economics

Next up on the pan-Canada tour of shame is a province that the reactionary left loves to hate. Alberta, mockingly referred to as “Canada’s Texas” has little in common with the snarling nu-left jackoffs in Ottawa and Toronto. Indeed, outside of Quebec Alberta has perhaps the most reason of the caker provinces to consider itself aggrieved by senseless federal action and thus deserving of independence. Alberta is more tragic than stillborn provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba for one crucial reason: although it understands that the great eastern croupier stick isn’t to be trusted it has no meaningful prescription for its own salvation. Instead of looking to resolve its failures by considering the outsized role of extraction and speculation within itself, the reactionary core of the province calls for doubling-down on maintaining Alberta’s status as an extractive hellhole and what diversification exists is in the form of yet more speculation. Fucking Saudi Arabia has made a more sincere try of developing a post-extractive economy than Alberta has. But what really makes Alberta special is how its housing market serves as a portent for failures to come for the rest of Canada.

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(S) Here we see Steve and Martha looking at a room full of Canadian housing options.

Let’s start with the extractive present of Alberta, a province that is desperately hooked on oil and resource extraction. Nearly 20% of the province’s GDP is based on oil and mining (see page 10), with 15% more based on financial speculation and 11% built on something called “business and commercial services”, which is a bundle of bureaucratic mush that at best has a knock-on effect for the economy as a whole. Speculation, bureaucracy, and boom-bust cycles do not an economy make. And despite Alberta’s rocky history and weathering of bust after bust, as of 2015 it still hadn’t bothered to hedge its bets instead of “picking winners”. Why do that when you can diversity your economy by relying on two boom-bust cycles instead of one? Enter bubble number two: the housing market.

Speaking of Texas, that infamous left-sizzling state has actually gone ahead and looked at protecting itself from the kinds of fiscal shock caused by boom-bust cycles. Canada’s Texas is out-Texasing the real Texas in terms of half-assed planning and non-existent foresight.

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(S) The cow on this magazine cover has better plans for its future than Alberta does.

This is all so far pretty par for the course, albeit in the more tacky and egregious stylings of nu-monied morons than the traditional slapdash failure aesthetic associated with the rest of the country. But the uniquely malodorous cowpie that is Alberta has to offer us is its role as a canary in Canada’s real estate coal mine. As I mentioned, Alberta joined the rest of this fell country in overbuilding its housing market. What came after are data that should scare anyone looking to buy a home in Canada – after the one-note oil economy collapsed, housing sales in the province fell 8.8%…and prices in Alberta’s major cities haven’t fallen to reasonable levels yet. In Calgary, a city where 10% of the population is spending more than 30% of its income on housing, prices just aren’t coming down to a point where people can actually afford them. Just to add a special flavor of fuck you to the mix, Alberta has no rent control either. And those with the audacity to be poor in Alberta also get to enjoy being fucked around with and treated as subhumans.

So there’s your future, Canada. If you want to see where you’re living and how you’re pulling it off in the future, be sure to take a look at Alberta. The Icarian tale of a province that flew too close to a boom-bust cycle and decided to replace its easily-melted extractive economic wings with waxy new plumage founded in real estate speculation has a familiar end for Canadians now living in the worst of both worlds. Hooked by the long horns of low income prospects and high prices, Alberta’s bleak prospects reflect those of the country it loathes belonging to.

#192 – the Wreck of the HMS Nova Scotia

On the face of it Nova Scotia is in a better spot than the rest of Atlantic Canada. First, it has a (relatively) sizeable city in Halifax that hasn’t been rendered carcinogenic by the Irvings. Second, Nova Scotia is exporting cakers at lightning speed – in 2013 it and Newfoundland had the dubious honors of being the only provinces where the death rate exceeded the birth rate and where emigration outpaced immigration. Fewer cakers and not being poisoned to death by a soulless caker business? If you can get past the totally absurd condo bubble the place might be inhabitable!

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(S) Though this headline caught Halifax at its best

But that assessment must be tempered by the fact that Atlantic Canada isn’t worth anything, because Atlantic Canada is a failed shitstain on the face of a failed country. We’ll start with the basics – Nova Scotia is fucking broke and what money it does have it doesn’t know how to spend. The province can’t even afford to provide that substandard healthcare cakers love to brag about without federal transfer payments. The province pays out $870M a year in interest payments on its debt; what money it does have it spends on cozy deals for ferry services that leave people stranded for days in the winter because the Coast Guard sucks ass and can’t do its job. Oh, and if you complain about said cozy deal you’re “bad for business“, which is something only a caker business would whinge about. Because why should government care about providing meaningful services for its people with the resources it has when it can support caker business because reasons?

The population of the province is struggling with an above-average rate of bankruptcy, which may have something to do with $200 monthly bills for fucking heating oil. On Cape Breton, 32% of children are living below the poverty line. I can’t express to you enough how pitiful a province we’re talking about here. Like most of Canada this shithole can’t feed itself because of high prices and terrible work prospects, and it’s got the same bizarre affinity for enforcing car dependency on its population by way of terrible transit services. There’s literally nothing in this waste heap that isn’t trying to savage your fiscal – or for that matter actual – health.

This is the part where I talk about substandard healthcare. And oh boy, do I have a story for you. Enter Victoria General Hospital, a shoddy abomination that manages to make one of Medicine sans Frontiere’s emergency clinics look like a top-of-the-line facility. Say what you will about primitive medical facilities – at least the person getting operated on a tent doesn’t have to worry about Legionnaire’s Disease laying unresolved in the OR for 27 fucking years and counting. The water at Victoria General isn’t even potable, which is kind of a fucking problem in a hospital. I’d rather risk having open-heart surgery on a table at McDonald’s. I’d almost rather experience healthcare in northern Canada than risk Halifax’s Victoria General. When Pravda is telling you that the place is a disaster, the place is a fucking disaster. And if that sounds like enough to drive you crazy, I’ve got some more bad news – the mental healthcare system is as failure-ridden as the physical one.

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(S) Nurse Googly-Eyed Hamburger, get me 3cc of ketchup stat!

And that’s Nova Sovietska, a province that is desperate for your tourism dollars and equally desperate that you won’t look at it too hard and see the staggering consequences of rancid, constant caker failure. A province practically owned and operated by the Irvings and the Canadian Navy isn’t going to be much to write home about in the best of times; add to that a culture of chronic desperation and want and an economy whose failure nearly 30 years ago remains unaddressed and disregarded and you have a recipe for the kind of disaster that only Canada can pretend is something to celebrate.

Reviewing Canada’s provinces is yet more evidence that the worst thing that happened to this podunk pile of shit was when it started pretending to be a country instead of a repository for unbridled horror and unrepentant idiocy.

#191 – Saskatchewan, Canada’s ‘Special’ Child

Oh, fucking Saskatchewan. Even within cakerdom this miserable rectangle of reactionary fuckery is regarded as the rural asscrack of the country. What other province has a tradition of wearing fucking watermelons on their heads?

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(s) Captioning this with the word durr is an insult to the letters d, u, and r.

When they aren’t busy putting more intelligent melons on their own melons, what does Saskatchewan do? Among such other activities as waiting for porn to load and setting all five of their remaining neurons to pondering how they became the laughingstock of Canada, a country that for all intents and purposes is the laughingstock of civilization, Saskatchewan likes to give local Indigenous tours. Tours of the “fuck you, now freeze to death” variety. Saskatchewan’s “finest” (if you define “fine” by way of soldier-sniffing knuckle-dragging) are also fans of (theoretically) non-lethally racist policing and prison practices; if you’re Indigenous in the Rancid Rectangle you’re 33 times more likely to get thrown in the slammer. And the rest of Saskatchewan is a fan of racism too, to the point where Premier Brad Wall had to plead on national media for Saskatchewan to go back to using its limited bandwidth and brain cells to look for bad porn and watermelons, respectively.

But hey, you say. Canada’s rural bits are basically Wyoming with shit healthcare and a smug attitude. We demand Saskatchewan’s special brand of suck! But the thing is, Saskatchesuck is such a piece of shit that even its problems aren’t interesting or unique. Let’s go through Saskatchewan’s caker credentials. Shitty hospitals? Check! A fixation on mindless extraction regardless of economic merits? Ding! Hideously expensive produce in a province fabled for its agricultural output? You know it! A runaway housing market that in no way reflects the economic merits of the areas being overbuilt? Chronic gang-related violence coupled with police inaction? A lack of capacity for basic, modern waste disposal? It all checks out, folks. The Wretched Rectangle is a piece of a caker shit!

Saskatchewan’s problems are mostly related to its economic output. Saskatchewan is flat and grows a shit-ton of wheat. The problem with leaning an economy on extraction, as we’ve talked about before, is that shit like this happens and the whole thing goes belly-up. And then, when you try to hide your extractive failure in other festering economic buttcracks, like, say, mindless sprawl, your lack of planning for this new stupid idea comes to firmly bite you in the ass. Saskatchewan is also known for mining potash. It is not, however, known for having anything else to do that isn’t speculative or extractive, meaning that entire towns can get knocked flat off their asses by market forces far beyond their control or understanding. You may recognize this as being Canada’s modus operandi, but somehow even stupider than usual.

Speaking of stupid things beyond reasoned understanding, who the fuck thought a giant metal statue of wheat was going to do anything besides rust and be mocked by cruel people like me? In a province with reams of people claiming that there’s nothing to do, the best thought people had is to build random giant shit and hope that someone cares enough about it to get out of their fucking car for two seconds? Who does that?

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(s) Answer: Cakers.

Seriously – here’s Pravda’s list of things to do in the entire province on a holiday Monday. Please note that this exciting spread of activities is typically found in literally any community that isn’t a fucking hole in the ground. You know you suck when taking a train that’s somehow even slower than VIA Rail’s subpar service is considered an activity. Though this does help to explain the watermelon thing – maybe Saskatchewan’s bored population is so numbed by the mindless miles of absolutely nothing that wearing fruit on their empty skulls like a retarded version of the Chiquita Banana lady is the closest thing to feeling that they have left.

It’s also probably the only unique thing they have going for them, which I think says all that needs to be said about the Wretched Rectangle.

#190 -New Bumswick, the Fief

Imagine yourself a life. The city you live in, dominated by massive tanks with the company’s name slathered on them, suffers an disproportionate number of respiratory problems and cancers. But you’ll never know – every single newspaper in the city, indeed in the whole place, is owned by the company. Your work options are scarce. You could work in timber or paper-making for the company. You could work in the oil industry for the company. The government’s new initiative is call centers; you could always listen to cakers, day in and day out, as they bitch and moan about God-knows-what. The ultimate dream is a terrible administrative job with the government, desperately trying to make sense of byzantine regulation and severe understaffing.

Got a good mental image going?  Good, ’cause I’m going to pencil it in for you. Welcome to New Brunswick, a polluted hellhole clinging to life by accepting Ottawa’s sloppy seconds and licking the boots of some of the most loathsome, terrible caker businesspeople that cakers have to offer. New Brunswick is practically owned by the Irving family, a collection of lizard-people who own or dabble in basically every economic activity in New Brunswick. Their combined net worth is equivalent to the entire province’s revenue in 2014. Yeah, this is going to get ugly.

The Irvings are notorious for their hyper-aggressive oligarchic hold over the province of New Brunswick. Sound a bit like post-Soviet Russia? You’d not be the only one thinking that – people live in fucking fear of the choking control that the Irvings have over their lives. Here’s a story of the Irvings collaborating with both the provincial and federal government to bury a story about glyphosates (a common herbicide used in forestry) and their connection to declines in deer stock. The degenerate caker mafiosos are aided in their Chechnyesque stylings by the fact that they are the key players in what a 2006 Senate report called an “industrial-media complex“.

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(s) Irving “reporter” getting “the news”, circa 2013

Oh, and they like to use dodgy shell companies in Bermuda to avoid paying Canadian taxes. Because nothing says that a company is committed to and cares about the areas it exploits quite like them running away from fiscal responsibilities. That’s kind of shitty given that New Brunswick is wildly in debt and doesn’t seem likely to fix it anytime soon. Oh, and another small sign that the Irvings may not give a shit about the people of New Brunswick: the places that they’ve industrialized, like their massive operation at Saint John, are at greater risk of cancer than other New Brunswickers. Meanwhile, the Irvings keep growing and stowing their wealth, running their little Dagestan as it putters and shits like a Lada rolling to a junkyard. You know what’s even better? The Irvings aren’t even the only shitty oligarchic family operation in the province!

So the Irvings are massive wankers. And what they and the province have wrought is impossible misery. Between the ages of 15 and 24, there are only 36,900 workers, giving the province an incredible 17.1 percent youth unemployment rate. The general unemployment rate – the stated one, mind, with all its flaws and failures – hovers around 10%. Nearly one in seven was living in poverty in 2006. An astonishing 53% of adults in the province are functionally illiterate, meaning that they street signs are about as complex as it gets. This may have something to do with the government’s make-work programs there being critically understaffed. There’s something ironic here, given that New Brunswick is unusually bilingual, but I just can’t find it in me to kick down people who can’t fathom that there’s more to the written canon of man than words written on street signs.

Oh wait, yes I can. New Brunswick is basically Canada’s end-game. It’s a province almost singularly devoted to extraction for the benefit of a tiny minority of people while the majority suffer pollution, fear, poverty, and idiocy. It’s a dismal, miserable, appallingly-poor province in a country that seems more and more full of these sorts of bush-league failures the more we comb through province by province through the abomination that is the Canadian federal family.

 

 

#189 – Fuck Manitoba

You know your province sucks when your major city is used for a throwaway joke on an episode of the Simpsons:

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(S) A major newspaper printed this article. Read it and cringe.
Winnipeg gets another reference in the show, this time as a threat to keep children in line. To be honest I’d be a little concerned by the threat of being sent to Winnipeg. One reason? An underclass of segregated, impoverished Indigneous people. Shockingly, the great Canadian air hasn’t magically given desperate people with nothing to do a sudden impulse to garden and sing O Canada into the sunrise – gangs run rampant. 10% of the population don’t know where their next meal is coming from. There’s a housing bubble there too, because why not fuck up some more. The people have spoken about public transit being akin to Satan’s puckered asshole have some evidence to their claim. Like how they deferred maintenance for so long that they had to cut services suddenly. Here’s a lady saying that she literally might as well have walked.

Sound like shit? Well, it’s all downhill from there folks! Yes, Manitoba’s best offering is a sloppy slapping of shit on a plate, a place that Canada would almost rather forget was there. This may be because it used to be an important rail hub for extractive industry until those industries inevitably buckled or moved. Shockingly there were no plans for Winnipeg after that, and man does it show. Remember how I said that Canada throws places away after they’ve served their purpose? This is probably the biggest instance of that – a whole province tossed away.

How bad is it? Well, faith in Winnipeg outside of Winnipeg is so high that municipalities are trying to take the construction of vital services into their own hands. The wait-times in Manitoba’s hospitals were the dubious winners of the Longest Wait Time Award for 2015. Provincial transit infrastructure is so poor that paramedics can’t do their jobs. Manitoba scored a bitchin’ D on Canada’s education report card. I’d like to especially point at this chart:

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Translation: onlly loosers wory bout skool!

Before we move on to the ultimate expression of Manitoba misery let’s take a moment to talk about CFB Shilo. One of the largest caker-bases in the country, Shilo has an engrained culture of racism so powerful that it broke the spirit of an Inuk woman who tragically believed in the velvet lies of the Canadian state. And don’t worry – mental health on base is as good as you’d expect. This is a pervasive problem in Manitoba’s small towns. Here’s a lady alleging that racism ran her and her business out of town. And it just wouldn’t be extra-tolerant tee-hee Canada without gay people having every chance to also get run out of town by bigots!

The Canadian military certainly has its problems, but Manitoba takes even that misery and cranks it up like a mad scientist. When the mad province cranks the vile dial as far as it’ll go the ultimate manifestation of misery is born. Enter Manitoba’s Indigenous Reserves, stage left. Manitoba’s reserves are, to be simple about it, the worst in the country. Housing is failing, poverty is rampant, 76% of children on reserves are impoverished, and desperation is the norm – often to tragic result that police can’t be bothered to follow up on. Relations are further strained between Manitoba and the Indigenous because – suprise! – Manitoba may have reneged on its treaty obligations. And I suspect the pollution and contamination doesn’t help relations much either.

And that’s Manitoba – a boring hellhole managing a range of boring, reactionary towns and housing some of the most shameful conditions in Canada. A province built on the bilingual lie which pushed the French away and helped to create the schism between French and English that serves as just one more crack in the caker facade of unity. I thought P.E.I. would be a hard province to top in terms of shittiness. Boy, was I wrong.