#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.

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#60 – The Job Fairy, Part Three: A Poverty of Sense

We’ve touched before on how shitty Canada is at collecting statistics. Now we’re going to talk about one facet of this problem: namely, the fact that Canada has no official definition of poverty. Instead, what it has are three obsolete, obfuscating measures, two of which are used in Canada and nowhere else. One of these metrics, the Low Income Meaure (LIM), wasn’t even designed to catch the poverty rate and relies on ten-year old data. Other metrics like the Market Basket Metric (MBM) has been developed almost entirely without public input and thus can be used to artificially lower the stated poverty rate in Canada. And the old stalwart, the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) doesn’t account for differences in rent between major centers and rural communities. Spoilers – it’s a bit more expensive to live in Toronto than it is to live in Bumfuk Falls, Alskatchetobador.

I’ve got a super-handy chart of the types of poverty metrics that Canada collects instead of following the Irish lead and just…having a poverty rate that makes sense. Fuck sense, am I right?

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(S)

Check out the variations in play here! Anywhere from 9-14% of Canadians by these measures are living in poverty, though every metric we used stands accused of understating poverty in some way or another. Despite Statistics Canada warning that LICO should not be used as a “poverty rate”, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for decades. Genius! Oh, and did I mention that the practically-useless LICO is the only consistently-collected metric of poverty in Canada? Gotta keep that useless, antiquated statistic running. Then again, it’s not like Statscan is prepared to accept any other metric that it produces as an actual indicator of poverty. It’s like watching a shitty golfer constantly call mulligans after slicing a ball into the water hazard again.

With such spotty data collection and a lack of ways by which Canadian figures can be compared to global ones, there’s no real way to tell if Canada is meeting domestic or international obligations regarding poverty reduction. Our data collection is designed to create a situation where comparison is impossible. The one metric that we do have that we can use to compare with the rest of the world, the LIM, can produce counterintuitive results because it is pegged to average income. If average income falls, the threshhold for poverty does too, reducing the stated number of impoverished people. And as for the MBM, Statscan consistently whinges about how expensive it is to produce.

The upshot of all of this bullshit regarding statistics is that Canada flies blind in terms of poverty reduction strategies and that our governments can arbitrarily declare success by lying with numbers. Just like with the Quadriptych of Death, poverty lines and metrics can be bent to bury practical realities under political spin. We also don’t account for poverty relative to assets held. If you own a house outright, your required income is different than if you rent. Even if you do have a mortgage, a house can in theory be liquidated in a way that rent can’t. But nuance and careful consideration of societal needs is too complicated and expensive in Canada, so the timeless strategy of declaring endless victories while stressing that “more must be done” (while, of course, nothing is done because we have no yardsticks to work with) continues apace. As we continue to ignore serious catastrophes that loom in Canada’s future, the entire country is allowed to drift on with vague platitudes and do-nothing make-believe.

Clearly, hoboes and the underemployed just need to be dynamic team players and they too could ride the Job Fairy’s Magic Job Carpet to Jobland and out of poverty…however that’s defined.

#54 – The Quadriptych of Death, Part Three: On Suicide

I first encountered the great French sociologist Émile Durkheim in my second year of undergrad. I was immediately gripped by his explanation of industrial society and the sense of loneliness it creates in man. But it is another of Durkheim’s intellectual triumphs, the categorization of types of suicidal impulse that we’re going to be working with today. The reason for this is simple: comparison of suicide rates across countries, as my research has found, is practically impossible. Indeed, it’s one of those meaningless numbers that this series is supposed to be combatting. So instead of trying to compare Canada’s dispositions to end it all, let’s instead try to look into why Canadians and which Canadians tend to off themselves. The data on this one is…yeah, you probably already know the drill.

In terms of where Canadians commit suicide, we need only look North. Nunavut is the capital of suicide in Canada, with the issue getting to a point that in 2007 40% of coroner investigations in the territory pointed to suicide as a cause of death. The issue is so extreme that even Pravda has felt the need to call for a state of emergency over the matter. It’s not like Nunavut has a bevy of coroners; bearing witness to children as young as 13 deciding that life isn’t worth living can’t be good for the mental health of the coroner. And it’s not like people have stopped trying since 2007 – attempts are up as recently as 2016, with the victims largely being under 30 years old.

While Nunavut is the worst of the worst (literally) there are other instances of high rates of suicide that we can look at. There is of course the legendary Attawapiskat, where a state of emergency was declared after waves of attempted suicide cases would swamp local medical infrastructure. Prince Selfie, in one of his most egregious acts of inhumanity to date, promised help and has yet to deliver a timetable for the deployment of that help. This co-opting of Indigenous issues for political profit was probably the greatest collective national gaslighting to ever transpire. This place is literally crazy-making, and cakers have been in the business for decades now.

Back to Durkheim now. Émile found that he could explain the rationale behind suicide attempts with one of four schema. The first is egoistic suicide, which stems from a lack of sense of community. Without the social ties that keep us grounded, we develop a depression and a sense of hopelessness that eventually claims us. The second is altruistic suicide, where the suicide is the result of being so overwhelmed by social demands that we kill ourselves in the name of the greater social good. Think martyrdom in the Christian sense and you’ve got the right idea. The third is anomic suicide, which I think the Wikipedia article does a better job explaining that I can.

“It is the product of moral deregulation and a lack of definition of legitimate aspirations through a restraining social ethic, which could impose meaning and order on the individual conscience. This is symptomatic of a failure of economic development and division of labour…People do not know where they fit in within their societies. Durkheim explains that this is a state of moral disorder where people do not know the limits on their desires and are constantly in a state of disappointment.”

Thanks, Wikibro.

Finally, we come to fatalistic suicide, where life is so restrictive and brutal that death is a better option. Prison camps, oppressive dictatorships, slave labor – that’s the kind of “restrictive” we’re on about here.

Looking at these and evaluating the economic and social condition of areas known for high suicide rates in Canada, we can argue a strong case for the very real consequences of the feelings of detachment, disappointment, economic failure, and stagnation that Canada pretends to do anything about before going back to staring at socks and being smug about bullshit.

I’d be lying if I said living in Canada hasn’t gotten me down some bad paths in my life. If you’re struggling here too, know that you aren’t alone. Work on making yourself the best you can be and make an escape plan. You don’t have to stay here. You deserve better.

(S) Pictured: a place you could be in that is not Canada

#39 – Getting Schooled, Part Two: Contractual Idiocy

The concept of tenure is a simple one. In exchange for paying and protecting an academic from harm, the academic provides valuable research insights and teaches students in her ways to inspire the next generation of academics. This concept of patronage is fucking ancient – Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great because he was paid by King Philip II of Macedonia to do so. Surely to shit Canada can’t screw this up, can it?

Yup! Canada absolutely can and will screw that up! Enter the university-as-business age, where students represent profits and education takes a back seat to income. Enter the contract professor. Poorly-paid, dependent on good reviews from students to keep their jobs, and unable to know if they even have work the next semester, these professors are now teaching half of all undergraduate students in Canada. In exchange for abruptly halting an ancient tradition, caker universities provide…administrative bloat. In Canada, the best use for facilities of higher learning is to provide cushy jobs to the friends of wealthy people. Gives a whole new context to the humblebragging CBC piece about Canadians have more postsecondary degrees than anyone else, eh?

The biggest reason for contract professorship growing into a full-time phenomenon is of course cost. Contract professors don’t get benefits or job security or money for doing their own research (which the contractor is of course expected to do on their own dime),  Never mind that the people who teach undergraduate students are desperately poor. Never mind that low wages and limited prospects discourage higher education and thus potentially silence valuable insights. Just look at the savings. Which is what universities and centers of learning were first built for. Plato’s Lyceum was all about squeezing funding from educators and shafting the learned. For sure.

(S) “What’s this about shafting the learned?”

The problem has gotten so bad that even tenured profs are speaking out against the practice. And while these “adjunct” professors are suffering as they try to teach useless caker students, the administrations behind the professors just keep growing. Here’s a funny story about full-time professors protesting a $400,000 year administrative position by offering to split the job four ways. In Quebec, university administrators are making $200 million more per year than they were almost 20 years ago. Said administrations also have a hard time being honest about themselves and their rapid expansion, which is I suppose to be expected. But the point still stands – instead of funding actual intellectuals and their actual research into problems, we’ve opted to funnel funds to mid-level know-nothing administrators who think strangling the academic lifeblood of the university is a good idea.

On top of the administration’s desperate attempts to render professors as broke as possible, universities in Canada have been trying their level best to grow their student populations regardless of whether there’s actually room for those students or if those students can expect a reasonable education. The upshot of that is professors having to teach more students in ever-larger classes, which reduces the ability of the professor to answer questions and to actually teach. And on the whole, universities aren’t hiring enough professors to deal with the ever-growing crush of students.

So, to recap. Your academic achievement in Canada and subsequent desire to teach the next generation of academics is going to leave you mired in poverty and uncertainty, working alongside an unresponsive, ever-growing morass of idiot administrators, responding to reactionary cakers protesting the idea that universities produce research, dealing with a growing number of students that the school does not know how to accomodate, and without any hope that the school might one day recognize that its behavior is suicidal and instead opt to hire enough faculty to address the students being admitted.

What a deal! Who could possibly say no?