#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.

#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.

#55 – The Quadriptych of Death, Part Four: Skeleton Shift

One of the ads that fucking haunts me to this day is a PSA that played on Canadian television back in the 1990s. It featured a woman carrying a pot of boiling oh-shit and slipping, pouring the oh-shit all over herself and subsequently screaming as her skin boils. Stay safe, kids! Speaking of safety, Canada has a bit of a problem with workplace safety. There are approximately 1000 reported deaths on the job every year in Canada, with the word “reported” being very important because the actual number of workplace fatalities could be much, much higher. Indeed, employers are known to suppress workplace injury claims; the numbers could be as much as 50% off because caker business would rather ignore problems than deal with them. Never mind the suppression of evidence though, because in Cakerstan if you can’t see things it means they aren’t real!

The last sentence there is literally true of some of Canada’s most dangerous jobs. Take logging, the most dangerous job in Canada according to the Globe and Mail. It may come as a surprise to the caker meme factory, but most Canadians do not experience any facet of the logging industry directly on a day-to-day basis. Same for the fishing industry. The human truck driver behind the machine isn’t often seen by those driving by (who are hopefully focusing on the road, and the same applies for garbage collection and power line installers. Because these jobs aren’t seen, mitigating the dangers incumbent to the task is left up to caker business.

(S) Pretty much

And how reliable, pray tell, is caker business? Well, here’s an oilsands giant getting fined $10,000(!!!) for failing to use appropriate contractors on their construction projects. What’s that? You think I was missing a few zeroes on that fine? Nope! $10k is apparently good enough recompense for killing two and injuring five!! And who knows what kind of justice came for the people on this list, whose deaths often sound truly horrific. And of course you’ve got a higher chance of injury as a temp worker. Really puts Bill Morneau’s “get used to it” comment into focus, no?

At the very least Canada has decided to do the bare minimum in terms of data collection on labor safety! In 2017! Reading that article reveals the amazing extent to which the federal government has absolved itself of responsibility for Canadian workers. Which leads to amazing efforts like the caker businesses currently over-building Saskatoon failing to enforce proper safety equipment on nearly 50% of construction sites. Manitoba’s punishment for six incidents of workplace danger, including a guy being lit on fire because his employer didn’t bother with basic safety, was a collective $111,000 fine. And speaking of not wanting to take this problem seriously, here’s Newfoundland referring to the worker death probe for a man who fell through a skylight as “completely inadequate“. Across the entire country, only five employers have even gone to prison for their role in destroying lives and families. When your major safety accomplishments include not using a lift that previously killed workers you probably need some kind of intervention. Golly, maybe we could have caught that one sooner?

Even though the 1000/year figure sounds reasonable for a country of 35,000,000, it’s pretty clear that the deaths happen away from public eyes, with limited oversight or even basic care from employers and a governmental system that fails at every turn. With data so unreliable, employers who can bully people into skewing what limited data exists in ways more favorable to the company, a predisposition to treating the most vulnerable workers in Canada with the greatest contempt, and a population that hides problems behind numbers, the story behind showcases a culture of disregard and despair.

#37 – AmeriKKKa, Part Four: Mining for Bullshit

It’s no secret that Canada’s mining companies are fucking evil, despite Canada’s best efforts to hide the fact that its largest city is built on the mining industry. The rotten heart of the mining industry, what with its gang-rape, environmental degradation, and hideous labor relations certainly fits into this rotting extractive hole of a country, but the issue here isn’t just that Canada hosts evil companies. Rather, the issue is that Canada hosts malicious corporations and blames AmeriKKKa for the very things that Canadian companies are doing abroad.

To be sure, Canada’s mining industry is fucking evil. HudBay Minerals, perhaps the least creative name for a company ever, is being sued by 13 Mayan Guatemalans for abetting the rape and forced relocation of Indigenous women as a result of the Fenix mining project. Intercontinental gang-rape aficionados Barrick Gold have been forced to pay out for ruining the lives of women as young as 14 and as old as 80 both in Papua New Guinea and in Tanzania. And if you’re noticing my sources note how I keep having to rely on foreign press because the mining industry in Canada just loves to sue the shit out of anyone bold and daring enough to question its malicious behavior abroad. With such a legacy of cruelty particularly in Latin America, it’s no surprise that Canadians would simply rather not think about that part of the world. I mean, Canada’s already a world leader in abusing Indigenous peoples internally; why not go for the gold and abuse Indigenous peoples internationally too!

(S) We’re the cruelest on 4 continents! Whoo!!!!

And as Canadians boldly and bravely don’t give a single caustic shit about the lives their businesses ruin abroad, cakers can be counted on in their masses to protest the actions of American companies doing similar work. Remember the Standing Rock protests over the expansion of an oil pipeline through Indigenous territory? Well, cakers loved waving placards about that shit. Canadians were even prepared to shut down infrastructure here to prevent the evil AmeriKKKan , Inc. from finishing their construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Fury about AmeriKKKa’s trampling of Indigenous rights came to the fore as clueless protesters claimed that they wanted American tribes (who can actually form their own governments without having that government type and design dictated by the federal government) to have the same rights as Canadian tribes (which can’t). But Barrick Gold? HudBay? Nah, says the caker – that’s fine. A stunning silence erupts when Canadian businesses commit evils abroad, but Canada is first in line to protest Americans doing similar things to their own people.

Oh, and let’s not assume that Canada’s mining industry is only evil outside of Canada. Remember Mount Polley? And the total inaction over a mining company’s badly-designed tailings retention pond? Yeah, that’s pretty much par for the course. And while Canadians loved the Standing Rock protests they’re more fretful of protest against extractive industry on the basis of Indigenous rights here in Canada. What of the news that the RCMP spied on people who dared to protest extractive industry here? Crickets. The Idle No More movement was entirely built on Indigenous action, mostly because Canadians can’t be bothered to think about evil deeds when those evil deeds are committed by Canadians. But when AmeriKKKa behaves badly, you can bet that revisionist cakers will be there.

Because AmeriKKKa is the bad guy, you guys, and when Canada acts like AmeriKKKa those actions are less vile because…maple syrup, I guess? We are most certainly not done with the mining industry in Canada as an institution here. As usual in Canada, however, the best place to start is with caker hypocrisy.