#68 – The Family Desmarais

English Canadians know a lot about EVIL MERIKKKAN businessmen and the ways in which they operate, but they couldn’t give a fish turd about Canadian businesses with similarly deep connections.

The Desmarais family is from Quebec. Their “business” consists of sitting on profitable companies and taking their income while intermarrying and otherwise schmoodling into the political scene. The Desmarais are married into the Chretien family; they hired (read: bought and paid for) Paul Martin; Pierre Trudeau, the totemized Shiny Golden God of Eastern English Canadian politics advised them. Their holding company, an interminable piece of shit called the Power Corporation of Canada, is a textbook example of capitalism gone wrong in that it siphons off profits while literally providing nothing for itself. There is no truer definition of parasitism than this.

And what gnashing of teeth does English Canada have for these *gasp* French bastards and their nigh-ownership of the Liberal Party? If you said “any”, you’re fucking wrong and you should go back through these posts to figure out the answer. Of course nobody cares about the Desmarais! Like the Irvings, the Thomsens, the Fords, the Molsons, and of course Tim Fucking Horton himself, Canadian businesses go virtually unexamined in English Canada except for how loyally they are branded. Minimum five Maple Leaves a square foot, ladies and gentlemen of the Board!

What this means is that some genuinely shitty activities can get sneaked right on past the English Canadian brain. We’ve discussed the wretched filth that is Canada’s mining industry; the thing is, fuckers like those and their ways of thinking are Canadian business. Rather than creating and improving on a product, English Canadian businesses instead look to assure profits and then blob like an unemployed college kid with a Netflix account. Doing things and adapting to market conditions? Fuck that – just incest your way into a political party and you’ll be just fine! Innovation is for real countries, not English Canadians.

Meanwhile, the Power Corporation and the Desmarais behind it sing about how they donate 1% of its profits to the charity industry, something so impressive that the Desmarais family pulled an anti-Rockefeller and are practically invisible in Canada. For these amazing contributions to the pocketbooks of Canadian political figures and to the continuing decay of the Canadian business world, the Desmarais sons are both recipients of the Order of Canada. Despite actively employing three former Canadian Prime Ministers including the father of one of the Party leaders at current and the acknowledged deep involvement of the family in Canadian politics, the Desmarais and their shitty holding company are allowed to watch their fiscal swimming pool fill while doing nothing of value for the Canadian economy or the Canadian people.

#67 – Canada Pissed, a Study in Decay

English Canadians don’t care about the postal service.

Postal services were among the earliest ways to assert sovereignty over a North American territory. The Confederate States of America were in fact largely tied together by the post service and the reliable(ish) carriage of letters and goods that the rebels could manage. Being able to move things from place-to-place and to do so reliably is a good thing to be able to do. Naturally, Canada Post was told that the “things” they were to move are advertisements and that deliveries are now to be done at a community box.

The postal service has, to believe the national media been bleeding out since inception. Never mind that the Canadian government also doesn’t expect to make money off of highways (which cost billions to maintain); Canada Post needs to be profitable at all costs because there is literally no benefit to having a national postal carrier or even a debate about the merits of what to do with it. So, when it isn’t hawking Canadiana-ridden stamps Canada Post is being treated like the Globe and Mail – to hell with your quality, just balance your books! Those “permanent” stamps better not be on sale because stamp prices can’t stay static!

The drive to stay profitable at all costs without either cutting the government’s cord (as Sweden and the Netherlands have) or having the government invest in its company (modernization is estimated to cost $2.7B) and use it as a public good rather than a for-profit entity (even though Canada Post made profits despite being antiquated until 2011), Canada is determined to match the level of service to the company’s fiscal fates. Pursuing quality mail delivery? Fuck that – old people can wait for their pizza coupons and stupid mail-in bullshit letters from MPs. Canada is now one of a tiny club of advanced states that can’t handle door-to-door mail delivery, opting for community boxes.

Forget those fucks who have mobility problems, right? And rural people – ugh, fuck them even harder. It isn’t like Canada has any nondescript bad weather, right? Matching service to decay while staring blankly at a company is a recipe for killing trust in the postal service, but Canada would need to have a plan otherwise and planning isn’t on the docket. So the mediocrity continues; the company continues to go unloved and underfunded while being constantly attacked on the news for wasting money and delivering poor service, which is what happens when you watch something fail rather than planning to fix it.

Nobody sends mail anymore (online shopping? What heresy is this? You drive to the Hudson’s Bay Credit Agency like everyone else, butttaco!), so letting the mail service decay rather than thinking about how to best use what it has is a good idea. You don’t make more with less – unless, that is, you’re Canada.

#65 – The Myth of the Military, Part Three: Drowning is Fun!

English Canada doesn’t care about the Coast Guard, which is a problem given the amount of coast that Canada claims. And yes, I’m aware that the Canadian Coast Guard isn’t a military force. But it has the insignia and the structure and it gets shit on too, so I’m putting this here. Also, they are tasked with enforcing Canada’s control over the Arctic. Also also, fuck you. Where else am I going to write about the Coast Guard?

Now, before we begin, I need to shit on the Liberals. The Coast Guard started sputtering in 1995, under Jean “the Chokemaster” Chretien and his Finance Minister, Paul “Dithers” Martin, when the Dudnamic Duo decided to put the Coast Guard under the same heading as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That one of these organizations is devoting to protecting people and the other to protecting fish wasn’t really a problem in the minds of Jean et Paul, because cost savings overrode sense in those dark times. Which haven’t really left, come to think of it. But I digress.

Steve “the Chopper” Harper continued this valiant tradition of bleeding the Coast Guard dry by trying to cut lighthouse funding. They didn’t bother to check what the lighthouses were actually doing or whether the public wanted them (hint: they did) before announcing the cuts. It was stopped, surprisingly, by public outrage; but while the left hand returnith the right hand takith even mor…ith. Even if that morith doesn’t make any sense to be cutting from.

See, it’s easy to take things away from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans because a fuckton of English Canadians don’t live by an ocean and English Canadians have the foresight of an English muffin. The Coast Guard monitors foreign fishing activity to ensure enforcement of sustainability quotas? Better cut that shit and chuck the money at the Lower Taxes as an Offering to the Job Fairy Fund. Everyone knows that Canada is so polite that everyone automatically does no wrong. No need to worry about the Grand Banks, no sir!

So, we’ve gone from cutting by guesswork to cutting-because…magic? The Coast Guard had its bureaucracy dislocated and stuffed into an inappropriate ministry before finally getting some degree of autonomy. it suffered from an uncertain mandate with bits and pieces being added to and removed from it like the pieces of an idly-made LEGO spaceship. It is responsible for marine cleanup, which is somewhat important if you’re going to be flinging oil everywhere – but no. Who cares about fish, right?

And the worst part of this is that simply restoring funding doesn’t work. The Coast Guard has to actually have a clear idea as to what it’s supposed to be doing and how it fits into the broader plan for maritime monitoring and safeguarding. You see that word “plan” in there? That’s how you know that Canada will never figure this shit out.

#49 – Getting Schooled, Part Three: Get Stuffed, Kids!

As we’ve been going over, Canada is shitty when it comes to schooling. We’ve talked about the low quality of the material going into these institutions. We’ve talked about how professors are underpaid and subject to the perils of contract work. Now it’s time to add to this shit-kindling another peril coming to a caker university near you. In the face of falling government funding for institutions of higher learning and the increasingly-dubious value of postsecondary education, schools increasingly find themselves needing to find ways to more money. In other words, our colleges and universities are devolving into de-facto businesses, focused more on profit than on education. Oh, joy. It’s our old friend caker business.

(S) Seen here hard at work holding Canada back

Any good example of caker business simply has to involve the dislocation of peoples for the sake of profit, and in caker school this role is being filled by the international student, numbers of which are soaring in recent years. A worrying amount of university budgets now lean on the practice of government selling entry into this country in exchange for boatloads of money. Never mind the negative consequences of this cheap-ass attempt on the governments of Canada’s provinces to pass the buck on providing needed funding. Forget the fundamentally damaging impact of corporatizing education. Especially when you can do all of this while hiding behind a shield of diversity. What’s that? You don’t believe in randomly stuffing more foreign students into our schools? You must be a racist! Trump alert! Trump alert!

And of course, here’s the part where I try to piss on the right-wing moron brigade that is presently nodding along and hoping that I’ll throw some racist red meat at them. ‘Fraid that’s not going to happen. I happen to like the concept of international students a great deal, truth be told. But here’s the thing – I also like infrastructure that works, and one of the problems with treating foreigners like cash cows in the name of squeezing profits into an increasingly overcomplicated postsecondary landscape is that the basic concepts of education are forgotten. Oh, and that the education they got leaves with them, because I’m pretty sure most of them have realized after a few years how shit Canada is compared to where they came from.

I would consider the first building block to any postsecondary education to be literacy in the language of instruction. And Canada immediately fails at the gate on that one! Surprise! There’s something especially gross about the idea that Canada is prepared to sell its academic integrity so quickly that it doesn’t even bother ensuring that the ostensible student can even understand the language of so-called instruction before the caker croupier comes for their pocketbook. Then again, you, the student were probably recruited by a shady motherfucker in one of Canada’s favorite industries: shady, barely-regulated bullshit artistry.

Once you’ve been conned into coming here, caker business surely hasn’t given a shit about actually housing the influx of newly-fleeced foreigners.  But of course, there’s also that most awesome of caker business practices, drip pricing, here to fuck up the foreign student’s day! Oh, and here’s hoping you aren’t caught in a nightmare scenario where you end up hiding from Border Security in a Regina church! And since you are basically a fiscal piñata to school administration you won’t get a real education anyways, since you won’t be allowed to fail. And if you even wanted to stay in this dumpster fire of a country, good fucking luck!

And those are a smattering of the perils of the international student, fiscal crutch and victim of caker business and its unending quest to berid itself of responsibility by crushing the dreams and hopes of others.

 

#43 – The Myth of the Military, Part Two: Canada’s Magic Veterans

To the surprise of absolutely fucking nobody Canada is terrible at taking care of veterans. Before we go any further I want to make sure that I explain where my concerns regarding Veteran’s Affairs come from. I’m not exactly a soldier-sniffer; the military is effectively welfare for poor people in the same way that the basic units of government are welfare for the middle class. But soldiers are employees of the state, and as employees they deserve basic protections should they be injured on the job and should expect to receive those benefits and monies that were promised to them while they were federal employees. If we are going to demand that the private sector recognize and honor the agreements made with employees (which is a laughable proposition in Canada as it is, but anyways), it behooves the federal government to take care of its own employees so as to set an example.

Enter Paul Franklin. Paul Franklin was hired by the federal government to destroy people that the Canadian government doesn’t like very much in Afghanistan. In 2006, Mr. Franklin lost the use of his legs as a result of a suicide bombing. He trucked onwards with the military until 2009, when he quit the Forces to go do more useful things. By all accounts, Mr. Franklin is a fine, upstanding soul trying to make the world a better place despite losing his legs. He has been championing the causes of wounded vets who are like him being treated like a sack of sagging dogshit by their former employer, and for that reason alone I’m inclined to say that Mr. Franklin is doing better outside the Forces than in.

Unfortunately, Mr. Franklin still has to interact with the Canadian state after his retirement. As can only be expected with such an interaction, Mr. Franklin finds himself getting more and more frustrated with the federal government. In his position I would be too; once a year, from his retirement in 2009 until at least 2016 Mr. Franklin has been forced to file paperwork with Veteran’s Affairs proving that his legs are still, in fact, gone. And this gets even better, friends. The Canadian government took Mr. Franklin’s wheelchair away because they didn’t know which branch of the Canadian government was paying for it (and because they needed a doctor’s note – it’s not like lost limbs can be visually confirmed or anything, no sir). And they did this twice.

(S) “Once his legs grow back he won’t be needing this anyways!”

Caker doublethink surrounding the military has Canadians at once believing that their military is small, peace-minded, and polite while also holding to the idea that Canadians are among the world’s finest troops. And cakers are quick to umbrage whenever stories like these arise. But it’s not like the Canadian government does anything about the problem, and eventually cakers return to pretending that their soldiers are really polite ubermensch.  Indeed, within the military itself there is a never-ending war between a cold, flaccid, worthless caker corp of penny-pinching shitwands who don’t understand their moral, fiscal, and social obligations to the people who serve said corps and troops demanding that they get what they deserve as employees of the state. Liberal, Tory – it doesn’t matter. From the subhuman treatment of World World One veterans to the “cheap-o” approach to therapy for modern troopers, Canada’s history is one of brutal cruelty to those who served it.

Canada’s veterans are just one more example of why trusting the Canadian state with anything is a bad, awful, terrible, no good idea. And you better believe that we’ll be back on this topic, because hol-ee-shit does Canada treat human lives as nothing more than disposable grist.

 

#41 – Starve the Soul, Feed the Ego, Part One: John George Diefenbaker

Welcome to the beginning of a series of writings I’ve been working on about Canada’s Prime Ministers. They’re a motley bunch: a bundle of worthless cakers, imperialists, and scumbags with a handful of clever, decent people who made the critical mistake of believing in making Canada a better place. John George Diefenbaker is of the latter class, though you wouldn’t know it to hear cakers scream about how the man who ensured universal franchise, eliminated the anti-Semitism of the Bank of Canada in the ballsiest way possible, and established the legal precedent for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms eliminated the Avro Arrow, a white elephant of a war project that epitomizes the jingoism that defines but one facet of caker revisionism. Let us now set the record straight on a worthy candidate for leadership of an unworthy people – John “the Chief” Diefenbaker.

Diefenbaker was born on 18 September, 1895 in the tiny town of Neustadt, Ontario. In 1903, the Diefenbakers moved to Saskatchewan, giving Diefenbaker a much-needed chance to see the massive gulf in living standards between WASPish caker-nobility and the rest of the people of Canada. In his memoirs, titled “One Canada”, he wrote that this experience of Western Canada inspired his later concern for a singular, equal, uniquely Canadian identity. Which may explain why he nominated James Gladstone, the first Indigenous Senator and Ellen Fairclough, Canada’s first female Cabinet Minister. And that’s not mentioning the first Jewish head of the Bank of Canada (Louis Rasminsky). If Canada was as in love with the notion of inclusivity that it claims to be you’d think that Diefenbaker would be a national hero.

Diefenbaker’s equalizing streak doesn’t end with a few appointments. Diefenbaker not only completed Canada’s universal franchise (in 1960 – Canada has allowed Indigenous people to vote for less than half of its actual history), but the 1962 election was also the first one in which Inuit ballots were taken seriously. It’s hard to overstate how important Diefenbaker’s regime was in terms of actually moving Canada towards the mythological tolerant cakerstan that Canada pretends exists in this hellish country today.

Speaking of caker revision made possible by a forgotten hero, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had its origins in the Canadian Bill of Rights. For whatever weaknesses the Bill had it was at least a conscious step towards a codification of Canadian rights and a well-intentioned attempt at making this heap a better place. As is the case with many of Canada’s good political ideas the concept of a Bill of Rights came from the Prairies back when they were populated by immigrants rather than their cakerized descendents. Saskatchewan’s Bill of Rights, written in 1947, was deeply important to Diefenbaker. Indeed, Dief’s Bill of Rights had a provision of property rights that the Charter forgot; because of this the Bill of Rights, frequently revised by grumpy cakers as to be ineffectual and pointless is in fact regularly cited today in legal cases.

And with that established, allow me now to get through the idiotic revisionism that is the Avro Arrow. Really, the fact that disputing the mythological fighter jet that wasn’t has to take up so much of my piece on Diefenbaker is a pain in the ass. There’s a lot to the Chief that I’m skirting over to make sure that this fits in the rough word count I try to stick to. Frankly, the Avro Arrow was a white elephant of a project that is falsely used to undermine the Prime Minister who made arguably the greatest strides towards realizing the caker mythology of inclusiveness of any Prime Minister in…well, in ever.

By the time the project was in the air, the Avro Arrow was obsolete. Despite this caker business tried its best to use nationalism and the fear of “ruining the industry” to try and force Diefenbaker’s hand into maintaining the project despite its obsolescence…and he refused. You know, like cakers desperately wish Ottawa would do with Bombardier? Do you really want your monies going towards garbage caker businesses that produce obsolete, shitty equipment? No? You pretty much agreed with Diefenbaker.

He stood up to caker business and tried to make Canada a more honest place, and for his efforts he gets shit on. That’s cakers for you!

 

#36 – Betterment made Bitter

Being a doctoral student in Canada is a sad, unrewarding enterprise. Well, being in Canada itself is a sad, unrewarding enterprise, but life is especially wretched for those driven to make as much of their lives as they possibly can. Note that I’m not saying that Canada discourages people from making money – if you’re an unscrupulous assbiscuit who wants to make money from mindlessly pulling shit out of the ground, you’re golden. I’m referring to personal improvement. When you attempt to improve yourself, know that Canada will pull you down.

Let’s start with education. The undergraduate degree in Canada is a defilement of the very concept of education. When people say that “you could get a job with just an undergraduate degree” they often think of credentialism as the problem. What often doesn’t get talked about is the absolute degeneration of the absolute value of an undergraduate degree. For one thing, undergraduates from times before were generally expected to be literate. Apparently that’s not the case in Canada today, where 27% of undergrads don’t pass basic literacy tests and 23% can’t do basic maths. Who wants to hire an illiterate for a complex job? I mean besides the federal government which frequently bridges people from a program called FSWEP. Come to think of it, that might explain a good deal as to why Ottawa runs as well as a tar-coated bag of rabid possums.

If you’re smart enough to actually manage to learn during (and perhaps despite) your undergraduate studies and masochistic enough to continue with your studies, get ready for a bad goddamn time. The act of learning is a valuable one and I know that even my feeble undergraduate degree made me a better and more knowledgeable person than I was before. But in Canada, working on bettering yourself means that you’re likely going to be broke. What a perverse fucking economy – it’s actually more valuable to not learn the fine arts than it is to do so. And heaven fucking help you if you’re interested enough in a topic to dare to learn more about it through a Masters/Ph.D. Doctorates may not even be worth the money here. Forget murdering academics – this is simply starving them out of existence. And this is assuming that these programs are run properly, which is in and of itself hardly a known quantity. Remind me how any of this is emblematic of a healthy society.

(S) My search results for “why encouraging less education is a good thing”

It isn’t just personal improvement through academic achievement that earns the scorn of the caker economy. Do you think that it would be cool to learn both English and French? Well, fuck you – despite Canada being ostensibly bi-lingual (which itself provides an ethical dilemma, what with all of the extinct and dying Indigenous languages that are dying precisely because Canada is ostensibly bi-lingual), English Canada sucks at teaching cakers French. Considering the myriad benefits to polylingualism this is a rather profound problem. From personal anecdotes French education was an absolute joke. We had worksheets and subtitled VHS tapes from grade 9 to grade 11 French. I’d have learned more from a cereal box.

Let’s be clear that not every avenue of self-improvement is perpetually sealed off from Canadians. This isn’t some overarching Illuminati shit. But there’s a lot discouraging the average person from pursuing knowledge which is socially valuable. We want more polyglots for the same reason that we want more critical evaluation of relevant topics. A more literate society is more prosperous (as a planet we would be $1.2 trillion USD more prosperous if we could all read and write) ; a more reflective society can undergo periods of meaningful social change. But social barriers and economic disincentivization prevent these benefits from coming to Canada. The basic university degree is a dummy prize, a purchased bauble that provides experience only in finding the path of least resistance for most disinterested students. Because really, fuck your success.

Of course, in the same country that has no time for academic success, there’s plenty of room for dodgy bullshit loan sharks, oligarchs, seedy middlemen guarding exploitative crap-work, and caker business of all stripes. Because priorities.

 

#23 – The Job Genie, Part One

Cakers have a strange love for the concept of job creation through corporate subsidy. This is despite the small problem that caker business is the rule of the day in Canada. Caker business is my term and tag for the oligarchs that dominate Canada’s economic landscape. Caker business comes with caker business practices – idiotic anti-labor practices, begging for subsidy as opposed to developing better product, aiming for consumptive Canadiana, the whole works. Rather than retool, caker business believes in rebranding and cuts to quality and labor force. Innovation? Fuck that! The Job Genie is only amused by tax cuts and corporate welfare. Improvement, forethought, planning, competition, quality, fairness, recognition of the importance of labor, and modernity are all sure to inspire the Wrath of the Job Genie.

The Job Genie is quite kind to the kinds of shitty, thoughtless design choices Canadians love. When a caker business wants to do something that is ultimately stupid or a caker political figure wants to stay in office the Job Genie’s is the lamp they rub. Why build a poorly-designed and badly-made big-box monstrosity? JOBS! Sprawl? Car dependence? Low-wage, insecure labor? Fuck it – JOBS! Municipal governments eat that shit up. And of course Mitch Goldhar‘s staff just knows that nothing stands between Mitch and pick-up hockey, except maybe for the stressful drive on a crowded road passing by empty miles of parking lagoons and boredom. Wonder why that is? Nicer buildings and better working opportunities are for losers – the Canadian way is the slap-dash path to JOBS.

The flipside of this equation, the aforementioned Wrath of the Job Genie is reserved for people who want better and want to live better. Do you think that workers should be paid enough to live in a country where food and housing prices are subject to rapid, unchecked inflation? Fuck you, job-killing swine! The Job Genie surely shall zap you into your menial shit-work place for such heresy. Does the public pension system and its awesome ability to give old folks who can’t work anymore a dignified remainder of their existence appeal to you? Well it better not because you just Hitler’d jobs, chump! And don’t even think about environmental protection, you Stalinesque moustache-twirling skank.

87974594_32be803c-efcf-47ef-9a17-197106074016
(s) Stalin’s hideous treatment of labor does Canada proud

The Job Genie stands in for doing the brainwork and discovering the horrible truth that Canada’s economic growth is built on the same logic that it was when Canada was just a genocidal twinkle in European eyes – extraction, exploitation, and aristocracy. Just as the old mining towns and single-industry communities weren’t and aren’t kind to their laborers so too does the Canadian economy continue to maintain a cut-corner understanding of how business is supposed to work. Longevity is for chumps – extracting money from morons is the way of the caker game. This preoccupation with profit over long-term investment reflects Canada’s colonial mentality – as in the past the idea is to get big and extract as much as possible without regard to the effects said has in the present of looming effects coming in the future.

The wisdom of treating jobs as a barometer of successful policy is just the latest permutation of shortsighted caker business practices. The Job Genie Canadians have invented to justify this policy has no understanding of the future and doesn’t have to actually live in and amongst economic activity. In an oligarchic economy built on immediate-term, sell-it-all, slash-and-burn business practices the last thing we need to do is invent a totemic way to justify idiocy. The Job Genie is just that totem – big, ponderous, thoughtless, and built on “common sense” as opposed to empirical observation, the Job Genie is Canada’s special way of ensuring that it and its labor markets will continue to suck long into the future.

 

#17 – The Circle of Suck, Fort McMurray Edition

Resource extraction in Canada invariably ends up with broken communities and shattered dreams. It’s a tale as old as Canada – a city finds itself rich with a certain resource and then proceeds to build an entire town devoted to that function over to then watch that town fail when the extractive industry bites the big one. It’s a carryover mentality from Canada’s colonial days which has never really changed; the land, the people, and the community established by the confluence of the two are less important than maintaining profits. These one-industry towns, usually finding themselves on the wrong side of the newest idiotic extraction trend before slowly, painfully twisting into obscurity and decay.

The Circle of Suck, as I’ve taken to calling this cycle of meteoric rise, gratuitous construction without regard for longevity, and brutal decline is on full display at Fort McMurray, a distant hellhole and extraction center for Canadian oil. A city where six-figure salaries ruled the roost while oil prices were sky-high, Fort McMurray drew in victims of previous resource crashes like Newfies and proceeded to build itself with no regard for the future. A city where drug use and pickup trucks are the primary sources of entertainment built itself into a concrete grave. What happens after the oil runs out? Who cares! Build more shit! More condos! More parking!

image
(s) We’ll build our economy on novelty truck balls after the oil dies!

Mindless booming contrasts with other, saner techniques. Like Norway, which chose to forego the bumper stickers of Calvin pissing on a truck logo in favor of investing the money into a trust fund. This wild and insane idea allows Norway wiggle room while it retools itself when oil prices crash. It also means that Norway isn’t tempted to do what Canada invariably does when the lights at the caker party start to flicker and hand concession after subsidy to the industry in a desperate attempt to keep the lights on. The revenues gleaned from Alberta’s royalty system depend on, among other elements, “the price of oil, natural gas and other liquids; the production levels of an individual well; the age of a well; the depth of a well; the capital costs of an oilsands project; the value of the Canadian dollar; and the return on a Canadian government bond”. In Norway they tax corporate income around 78%, which total of which depends on…income. That’s it.

With plenty of beg-out options through the confusing-as-fuck royalty system the oil sands shockingly failed to provide the kind of revenue that would allow Alberta to retool itself after the price of oil inevitably crashed. Never mind the whoopsie miscalculation errors that the Alberta Tories loved so much – these people chose to let corporate bodies hold massive profits over figuring out what to do with overbuilt places like Fort McMurray. Does anyone expect that city to remain at its current size when the work dies off? What’s the degrowth plan? How is it funded? Fuck if we know! Surprisingly, giving the Suncors of the world a tax break they didn’t need somehow didn’t translate into a tenable Fort McMurray or a way for that city to keep existing when the industry finally fails.

And what happens on the downswing? When prices suddenly fall and the place depopulates for want of work or function the overbuilt Fort McMurray and the toys and the drugs won’t save it. Where Norway is currently doing just fine for itself Alberta is struggling to break both the culture of non-taxation that comes from constantly decrying taxation as “dangerous for the industry” and the monoculture that was the Alberta economy. Undoubtedly this translates as real pain for Albertans and for people who moved there to ride the wave only to find themselves mired in debt.

The natural predisposition of Albertans is of course to cry caker – it’s Quebec’s fault because they take equalization money! Rather than addressing the problem as the lights go out cakers opt for hand-wringing and pointing the finger of blame elsewhere. But the real problem is a Canadian one – the Circle of Suck is timeless and merciless, and only a cultural shift towards tenable construction and careful economic development will end it.

With this lot, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

 

#14 – An Icy Reception to Transit: Bratty Caker Blues

Caker cities on the whole have terrible modal spreads that make Canadian cities less enjoyable and more stressful than they have to be. Too bad for Canada that cakers also love making excuses for wild transit imbalances in Canadian cities, pretending that Canadian cities are somehow uniquely cold and snowy enough to require car use at all times despite a fairly obvious example of this not being the case literally under the urban caker’s nose.

The concept of multimodal planning is a good one. The jist of it is pretty simple to grasp – cities should have built-in capabilities to accept multiple means of transportation in an egalitarian way. Because the requirements of transit types are contradictory a multimodal system helps to resolve the worst excesses of relying exclusively on one or another type of transit. Sprawl precludes walking and makes both cycling and transit harder – it is monomodal and thereby shit. By contrast, dense space allows for cycling, walking, and transit while accepting cars only with difficulty. Lower-density space isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be connectable to other forms of transportation. A trolleybus and a bike lane don’t make suburbs any more walkable but they add options and allow people to avoid driving.

The modal spread in Canada’s metropoles looks like this:

wymymtb
This whole thing is worth reading, but here’s the chart

Does that look like shit to you? It should – in some places 9/10 trips are made by car. Even the developed transit systems of Montreal and Toronto only pulled around 22% of people in by transit.By contrast, here’s Berlin. Walking in Berlin is almost six times more common than in Montreal or Toronto and cycling is almost thirteen times more common than in Canada’s metropoles.

smnvnxq
Source

And here comes the gale of feels. “The weather in Canada is literally the worst thing ever”. “It’s too expensive to maintain non-car infrastructure!”. “Bikes are for pinkos!”  – except that said bad weather profoundly impacts car safety and it’s entirely possible (and indeed cheaper) to plow paths and bike lanes. Bikes can change to winter or studded tires more easily than cars; in Québec it’s even the law to change your car tires for winter. Walking and separated transit lines are far safer in wintertime because of the lowered consequences of screwing up (i.e.: falling is less dangerous than car crashes are and separations lower the risk of pile-ups), but somehow in Canada’s wicked winters only the personal motorcar will do!

Ironically, this car-centric thinking is actually forcing more drivers onto the road and furthering the problems of congestion and pollution that cakers have long had in the approved list of Things to Complain and then Apologize For in Bland Non-Conversation. Apologising for car use is only making car use worse; it’s actually in the drivers’ best interests that we figure out ways to get around in the winter. But where could such lessons be? A place with exactly the same climate and design challenges but without highways? Where could that be?

Certainly not here in history-less Canada. I mean, it’s not like Toronto predates the motorcar or anything. There’s no way that Toronto once experienced the same winters that it does now but managed to get around without cars. No lessons to learn there, no sir. Even if there were they would likely require restrictions on car use (density and motorcars don’t work well, and density is a good way to calm the effects of bad weather. It’s almost like Canada is profoundly urbanized in part because of this trait or something) which is tantamount to war amongst the frothing lunatic suburbanites.

I always like to needle cakers with this question – if the climate is so difficult to traverse that regular weather patterns wreak havoc and there’s nothing that can be done about it, why would we consider the place inhabitable at all? Obviously carless caker ancestors didn’t think so, so either the assertion that Canada’s climate (and it’s always a singular climate, because Vancouver and Dildo, NL obviously have the same weather problems) destroys all non-car possibilities is bunk or cakers feel entitled to drive their boxes anywhere they please without regard for the preferences of others or the thought that doing such a thing may not be the most effective option.

I think we know which of those two it is. Cakers are fucking infantile.