195b: Finishing What I Started

I’ve already mentioned that I hate British Columbia, and I spent the whole of post 195 chasing one argument (that British Columbia’s connection to Canada was literally carved out by a crazy person and not an expression of a common will that a country called Canada ought to exist and look as it does) and ignoring the sloppy shitpool that is British Columbia today. You want madness? Here is madness – insane machine politics, an ecologically-sanctimonious ego belied by impossibly poor standards for ecological protections, a wildly irresponsible economy, and a polity whose horrendous rural conditions fit a typical caker pattern of neglect and abandonment.

As per usual, it took a real journalistic effort from an actual news source, in this case the New York Times, to reveal the depths of British Columbia’s political depravity. The current Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, receives an extra $50,000 stipend a year from her party, the money for which comes from donations. For $20,000 you can meet with Clark personally – and even better, there are no limits on yearly donations to political parties in BC. This effectively means that a wealthy person donating to the BC Liberal Party is directly paying a bonus to the Premier on top of being able to purchase access to her. Does this sound corrupt as shit to you? If you have any respect for the concept of transparency the prospect of people being able to limitlessly contribute to the perpetuation of a government – and even being able to pay the Premier a bonus! – should seem rather skeevy.

Unfortunately, British Columbia doesn’t care about such trifles as corruption and the purchase of political power, because the conflict-of-interest commissioner (whose son works for the Premier) says that there’s nothing wrong with buying political power. Hell, you don’t even have to be Canadian to purchase political clou-I mean to donate to the Liberal Party of BC. And golly, does being able to buy political power seem to work out nicely for donors to the Liberal Party. I bet investment firms in Beijing are donating to the party in power in BC because they just care so very much about the citizens of British Columbia. Totally not extracting favors. Right?

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(S) Trump looks on with sadness knowing that he will never be as corrupt as B.C.

The bounds of British Columbia’s corruption could take another post to fully express, and there’s so much more evil about that hateful province to shit on, so we’re going to move on and squat a deuce on BC’s ecological record. And boy – for a province that claims to love nature so much they sure suck eggs at actually protecting that environment. Here’s the Bella Bella diesel spill, the cleanup for which was of course utterly fucked up and ended up screwing over an Indigenous community’s clam harvest. There’s the dreadful Mount Polley disaster, which I have discussed before…and it’s open again! Yup, everything is totally okay according to the provincial government of BC. You know, the one that was bought and paid for. But it’s not like Imperial Metal, the company responsible for the failure at Mount Polley donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government or anythin…oh. Oh, they did. Those “untouched” forests better get used to some slimy touches, and fast.

But these aren’t even the big dogs in terms of British Columbia’s absolute fuckery. The housing market in Vancouver is famously absolutely insane, to the point where the only people covering the problem honestly are in Hong Kong. The Hongcouver, as the South China Morning Post’s column is known as offers a fascinating look into the absolute fuckery of BC’s housing market that – shockingly – Pravda just doesn’t seem to have a grasp on. Need to ditch your poor reputation created from a life of crime and malice? Come to Vancouver, where there’s literally a firm designed to erase your sins. And then, if you take advantage of the myriad exceptions to BC’s attempt at stemming the tide of foreign wealth creating an insane housing bubble in Vancouver, you too can be living large and laughing easy while the working classes live in poverty as a result of ludicrous housing costs. Just ask this “student”, whose college dorm is a $31 million mansion. And when the bubble does burst, don’t expect any relief from housing insanity – the average housing unit still costs a princely $896,000, and that’s after the detached housing market started to slide. And this shit is BC’s largest revenue generator, by the way.

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(S) Hideous glass phalluses – truly the strongest of economic spines.

But what about those people who decided that a life of arrogance and working poverty wasn’t for them, the folks who tried to make a go outside of BC’s ludicrously overvalued urban spaces? Well, enjoy some fucking desperation, folks! Emergency services in rural British Columbia aren’t getting to people in time, unless your idea of “on time” is a 5-hour wait to get to a hospital. Even with an unhealthy fixation on extraction (the CBC’s idea of “good paying jobs” in rural BC are “coal, gas, and oil”, which sure are eco-friendly positions for Canada’s green-loving province to lean on) jobs are scarce. Hazelton, BC’s poorest community, suffers from a staggering 80% family poverty rate, with an estimated 85% unemployment rate. Half a million people in British Columbia were going fucking hungry in 2012 (before the huge price upticks, which were of course coupled with no meaningful pay increase), which is no surprise when you’re looking at a $1000 monthly food bill for a family of four in northern BC. Because of insane prices live in urban BC is also shit, which is why British Columbia is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

There. Fuck British Columbia, fuck Vancouver, and fuck everyone who told me that I should move to Vancouver because “the east isn’t the real Canada”. Spoilers – Canada sucks no matter where you’re at in the country.

#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!

#34 – Sports and Weather, Part Three: Forecasted Obsolescence

For being a country that incessantly bitches about the stuff, Canada sure fucking sucks at predicting bad weather. This comes to be a small problem when dealing with extractive industry, which frequently involves doing shit outside and which therefore typically needs a bit of a heads-up when shit is about to hit the proverbial fan. It’s a right shame then that Canada not only is home to an obsolete patchwork of equipment for forecasting but also frequently ends up shitting the bed by either failing or being late about providing information about extreme weather. And as per usual for caker country the response is to shrug at a problem for decades before decrying how hard it is to do basic shit.

A good place to start with this is a piece that I found from 2003 which references chaos, underfunding, and “literal rust out” as a sampling of problems affecting Canada’s meteorological infrastructure. An amazing example of this method of forecasting-by-fuck-it-whatever can be found at Mould Bay weather station, a long-standing and strategic asset near the Northwest Passage that was simply left to rot in 1997. Even more fun facts about that one – of the $8 million budget to decommission the place (which was nearly-new when it was abandoned) as of 2008, only $700,000 can actually be traced.

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(S) Even the fucking sign looks mouldy.

And it’s not like things got any better. This is a charming little report from 2012 which features such reassurances as “obsolete” radar stations and notes that available systems aren’t life-cycle managed. That’s a fancy way of saying that nobody’s keeping track of when that shit should be replaced and the only way we know that shit’s fucked is when shit gets fucked. Enter West Sea Otter, a vital offshore weather forecasting system that was down for seven months in 2014. When the place being forecasted on experiences hurricane-force winds you’d think fixing it might be a priority. Oh, and for those counting at home this is at least 10 years of chronic government inability to perform basic meteorological tasks.

But don’t for a second think that the fun stops there! Remember those non life-cycle managed radar systems? Yeah, those have gone down for months too! Here’s the story of the radar system out of Bethune, Saskatchewan, which kept going down during major weather events in the summer of 2015 and even prompted the MP for the area to call for an investigation. Which was probably the right call, seeing as Environment Canada fucking forgot to report on a tornado. Also in 2015 the radar station at Strathmore, Alberta went down shortly before a hailstorm came through. Not like anybody needs to know about that, right? And we can’t leave out Canada’s glorious telecommunications system, which is apparently the cause of this radar station failing to transmit information before and during a tornado touchdown in Taber, Alberta.

Even when they do modernize bad infrastructure Environment Canada manages to fuck up, as happened when the newly-retrofitted station at Exeter, Ontario still couldn’t convince the government to warn people in a timely manner about a tornado in Southern Ontario. It seems that the country can’t maintain a coherent standard for forecasting, which is in line with the 2012 report I cited above. Before anyone blames human error, Canada’s automated weather forecasting stations apparently also suck. A CBC report from 2010, citing the unfindable report titled “Degradation in Environment Canada’s Network, Quality Control and Data Storage Practices: A Call to Repair the Damage” notes that in a single month there are hundreds of cases of missing data and false reports from automated stations.

We’re supposedly getting new radar systems now, years after we were warned that the system was obsolete and years again after said system has demonstrated how shitty it is over and over again. We’ll see if Canada can do a proper fucking forecast after this, but here I’m seeing a 90% chance of scattered bullshit turning into a wave of complacent laziness in a few more years. One key piece of evidence for my forecast? There was no announcement for the new systems.