Friday 30 May 2008

See Gary Spend, Part II

Dan Lett has a column today, where (if I can boil it down) he essentially says the new legislation is a non-issue. However, he eventually makes the following point:

Even if the NDP wanted to require the province to balance its consolidated budget on a rolling, four-year basis, it could continue to balance the operating budget on an annual basis if only to save itself from criticism.
This is exactly what they should have done. Not to save themselves from criticism, but to give taxpayers confidence that they won't spend us into oblivion if Hydro has a few good years. The NDP has done little to give us confidence that they can control their spending -- for example, drawing down the Fiscal Stabilization Fund even though the economy was in full flight and transfer payments were increasing.

Hydro has only lost money once in the last decade. This IS essentially a free pass to increase spending, Mr. Lett.


I went to the PC Manitoba web site to see what they had to say about this bill, and found ... nothing! There is nothing but one month-old press releases under the "Current News" and "Where We Stand" links, and there is a tiny link to an audio clip that gives no detail about the bill. WTF? If you're going to get all fired up about a bill and ask people to speak to the government about it, why don't you have something on your web site? Explain to us exactly why you think it's a bad bill!

Thursday 29 May 2008

See Gary Spend

I am not a legislation geek, but I heard about a proposal by the NDP to meddle with the balanced budget legislation on the Great Canadian Talk Show. Well as a concerned citizen, a fiscal conservative, and somebody with an economics background, this caught my attention because responsible financial management is extremely important for any government. Anything that can give the NDP even more leeway for spending is a scary prospect. So, while I also happen to be the laziest blogger in Winnipeg, I actually felt compelled to read the bill.

At first glance it doesn't look that bad, but here's the thing: the balanced budget isn't based on government operations anymore, but on the "government reporting entity" which includes crown corporations. Manitoba Hydro, for instance, while heavily in debt itself, does turn a profit most years ($122m in 2007; $415m in 2006). The government can use these profits to offset deficits in core government operations. In other words, the government can leverage the crown corps to spend more then they could under the current legislation.

This government has a serious spending problem and this legistation is not going to help. I think we need to bring in a professional:

also read: NDP bill crosses line from bad to awful

links: old bill / new bill

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Down with Big Taxi

The big two taxi cab companies in town are at it again: trying to crush any competition to their duopoly. Competition is what makes our economy go 'round. It's a good thing. Open up the damn market and let it regulate itself. If some drivers want to start a taxi co-op, let 'em. It can only lead to improved service for the public, which is the bottom line after all.

Last time we saw Big Taxi get its panties in a knot, it was to protest an airport shuttle proposal. Imagine that -- an airport shuttle in a city that takes pride in being a transportation hub. What an outrageous idea. People like to throw around the term "World Class" in Winnipeg. Something as simple as an airport shuttle would do a lot more towards making Winnipeg a World Class city than any interpretive centre for a non-existent fort.

There is no good reason for this over-regulation of the industry. In fact, ditch the Taxi Cab Board completely and replace it with some basic regulations (minimum standards for cabs, etc.) and let the market work. It will be ok. Trust me.

Recommended reading: This column from Peter Holle.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Is that a fly in your water, or are you just crazy?

There have been a number of lawsuits over the years in which people have been rewarded for being unlucky, weak, and/or just plain stupid. The most famous probably being the $3m McDonalds coffee incident. This is a kind of reverse-Darwinism where the genetically deprived prosper, and ordinary folks suffer because of higher insurance rates and reduced share values.

As one of the ordinary folks (I hope) I am therefore pleased to read that a similar case was recently overturned by our Supreme Court:

A hairdresser who claimed the torment of finding dead flies in his bottled water wrecked his sleep, his sex life, his business and his ability to take showers has lost his bid for psychological damages in a ruling Thursday morning in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The decision means Martin Mustapha loses the $341,000 award he won from Culligan Canada after convincing a judge that he suffered enduring distress when he noticed one whole fly and another half one in an unopened bottle of drinking water [link]
I find it ironic that seeing a fly in a bottle of water cause him to stop taking showers, which no doubt attracted more flies. Seriously, how does somebody that sensitive make it into adulthood not confined to a straight jacket?

Monday 19 May 2008


My reply to James, since he does not allow comments on his blog:

Is the Government lying about inflation ?


It is true that some things have gone up more that 2%, which is the Bank of Canada's target rate. Orange juice is one. I used to buy cans of frozen OJ on sale for a buck. Now I have to steal it from my neighbour. However, other things are cheaper. You can buy a brand new car for $10,000 now. When was the last time you could do that? Electronics always go down in price. Milk never changes much. Frozen dinners, meat, etc.. none of it is changing much.

Inflation is not 12%.
Something that cost $100 in 1964 would cost $690.80 this year, a whopping 590.80 % increase in just 44 years !
That may be, but that's only 4.6% inflation, and that period includes the mid 70's when Trudeau had to implement wage controls to try to rein it in, and interest rates sky rocketed.
I don't care what anyone says, I am keeping a majority of my savings in silver and gold. Over time, they have held their value.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: DO NOT PUT YOUR MONEY IN GOLD AND SILVER! Especially not now! Seriously, you would have to be the Evel Knievel of investors to sink your money in something with a chart like this:

Sure, if you bought gold in 2000 and sold now, you would make out like a bandit. But if you bought gold in 1980 and sold 20 years later you would have lost half your money in nomimal terms, meaning that you would have lost more when taking into account inflation. (A lot more if inflation was 12%).

Sure, take a few thousand bucks and play the market, or shift 10% of your money into bullion if you sniff a recession around the corner, but fer gawd's sake, don't risk what you can't afford to lose.
When inflation happens, it only benefits large companies. Because prices always go up before wages.
Inflation does not benefit (most) companies because it causes interest rates to rise which makes the cost of borrowing more expensive, and all large companies borrow money. Lots of it.

Do prices always go up before wages? It's a chicken and egg thing, but sometimes wages go up more than inflation. Just ask the nurses about that.

Friday 16 May 2008

Woo hoo! Long weekend. I cut outta work a little early today. I'll have to check out Darcy's Friday Night Blues and Beer selection of tunes a little bit later, because I've got international hockey on the tube right now. Canada up by two after an awsome goal by Green. I've been trying out a few new beers lately, but have gone back to one of my fav's today:

I've got to say that I'm I a pretty upbeat mood, despite all of the devastation in Asia and the fact that killing a hooker nets you only one day in jail (if you beleive the headline). I am formulating some thoughts on Waverly West and will stick them up here soon. There have been some stories lately about the insatiable appetite for housing, which makes me wonder why we can't push through geothermal energy and proper road infrastructure as originally planned. There's more than one way to reach equilibrium in a market, but the little ticky tacky house makers will tell you that there's only one: more quantity.

Anyhow. Enough about that. Time to relax and watch Canada bury the Swedes. Have a good long weekend everybody.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

The nail in the coffin

I don't comment much on US politics, but I just want to say that this is the nail in the coffin of Hillary's hopes and dreams (at least for 4 years):

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards endorsed Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Edwards will get the VP ticket that he was hoping for, and Obama will get the white middle-class draw that he was looking for. Hillary will get a loan to pay for her campaign bills then take a seat on the bench. 48 hours tops before she calls it quits.

Sunday 11 May 2008


Good thing I didn't eat before I read this:

the voice of Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr. trembled last night when he talked about receiving his latest National Newspaper Award. ... NNA judges lauded Sinclair Jr.'s work for "tugging at his readers' heartstrings with powerfully sensitive columns."
One of the powerfully sensitive columns that earned him the hardware was the column that "brought the battle for the future of Upper Fort Garry, one of Canada's most sacred historic sites, to public attention.." I can't tell you which of his 82 columns on Upper Fort Garry that was, but it really doesn't matter. Let me remind you, dear readers, about what this was all about. THIS is precisely the sacred historic site he was tugging at peoples' heartstrings to save:

That's right, it's a FUCKING PARKING LOT! And thanks to Gordon and the so-called Friends of Upper Fort Garry, that's exactly how it will stay for years to come.

Apparently, the NNA judges were also hoodwinked by Gordon's sappy writing. Or maybe that's what is considered the gold standard in journalism these days: the ability to mislead readers and manufacture a controversy. If that's the case, then Gordo has many more awards in his future because he's been practicing it for so long it's now second nature. Even at the awards ceremony he couldn't turn off the bullshit machine:
He also singled out [with his voice trembling, no doubt] Free Press reader Currie McMillan for contacting him about Upper Fort Garry's precarious future.
Oh ya, Mr. Sinclair: hero for the little guy. Fighting for the cause of an ordinary Joe. 'Cause you know, if it wasn't for Currie McMillan, Gordon never would have known about Upper Fort Garry and the big bad apartment building that was threatening a near-by sacred parking lot.

Friday 9 May 2008

Vive le Canada Uni

A few weeks ago, I said I was impressed with the new French PM Nicolas Sarkozy. Well, the man has come through again, by sticking his finger in the eye of the Separatists:

In a stirring declaration of love toward Canada, Sarkozy said he would like to "bring together" Canada and La Belle Province. ... "We bring them together so each can understand what we have in common. We will turn toward the future so the future of Canada and France will be the future of two countries that are not only allies, but two friends." [cnews]
He made the statements while attending a D-Day ceremony in Normandy with Michaelle Jean, whom I have no doubt he tried to charm the pants off of when the cameras weren't looking.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe (is he still around?) was not a happy camper, which makes me a happy camper. Thank God the days of Charles de Gaulle are behind us. I can hardly wait until the days of the Bloc are a thing of history as well. It won't be long...

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Breaking News: We're better than Calgary!

A strange little "Breaking News" article in the on-line edition of the Freep reports in the headline and opening paragraph that "Building permits in Winnipeg rise 3.5%", which was "far better than in Calgary and Edmonton where building permit values fell 45 per cent and 21 per cent respectively." This is true, but a fairly rosy take on a report that could have also started off a number of other ways:

Breaking News: Growth in Saskatewan surpasses Manitoba

The value of building permits in our neighbouring province grew 30% in March to $145m, leapfrogging Manitoba where building permits dropped 6% to $116m.

Breaking News: Winnipeg lagging behind other major cities
Despite modest 3.5% growth in building permit values in March, reaching $74m, Winnipeg is still lagging far behind other cities of similar size including Quebec City ($157m) and Hamilton ($206m) which has seen 85% growth in building permits year over year.

Breaking News: Bored Free Press reporter stumbles across StatsCan web site
A bored-as-hell Free Press reporter resorted to passing off a routine monthly StatsCan report as "Breaking News" Tuesday, when told by his boss to stop playing Mahjong and dig up a story, Dammit.

While building permits in Calgary and Edmonton did in fact drop quite a bit month over month, both cities still dwarf Winnipeg in that area. All I'm saying is, let's not get all excited because a few more stucco houses are going up this month vs. last month.

StatsCan report link

Saturday 3 May 2008

Can't think of a title.

I have been neglecting my blog, with all of the house repairs, slo-pitch season starting, budget stuff at work, etc... I am also seriously considering sinus removal surgery at the moment too, but I won't get into that. However, I will make a best effort at keeping this thing going throughout the gin & tonic swilling days of summer.

A couple of things ...

First, I wanted to share something that Sputnik dug up from and posted on the on the NewWinnipeg forum. It's a quote supposedly from an architect from the building that was to have gone up behind 100 Main St, but which the Friends of Upper Fort Garry successfully fought to save a parking lot (and their view from the Winnipeg Club). Anyhow, this is the quote, for those of you who aren't NewWinnipeg junkies:

100 main didn't work out, the City hired a real estate agent to run PP&D, the mayor yells at Councillors who care about historic buildings and the state of the City ... seems like a good time to leave the City for a while and see if it's any better when we have a new Mayor.

I'm off too Calgary this next week to look for a house ... I'll be back, but our current state is partly to blame for my future time away. I really hope this changes.

I do a lot of work in Calgary, and hope to do more ... that's the main reason for the move. As for commute time; my commute time to Calgary and time away from family is much greater while I'm in Winnipeg, so as much as I'll miss the 15min Wolesley commute by bus to downtown, things will be better for me in the short term if my family is located there.

Don't get me wrong though ... I hate driving in Calgary and will never grow to love that City ... these are just stepping stone days.

Had lunch with a councillor today and spoke about our new PP&D director ... sounds like not too many of them are in support of the Mayor right now ... sure hope we have a different one of each when I return (I fear this will not be the case).
This is just one person of course, but it is also an example. Not just of a professional leaving for greener pastures (and I know several more personally), but of the effects of a disfunctional city hall and a lack of vision around here. Just thought I should share it.


Second, I left work earlier than normal today and caught a little bit of the Great Canadian Talk Show. One thing that caught my ear was something about all constituency mail-outs having to be approved by an NDP-dominated board of some kind. Maybe I heard wrong, but this sounds very alarming to me. Like something that Robert Mugabe might do.

They also spoke about the recent changes to the electoral rules. Curtis Brown had his take on these a few days ago. My take: if it means an end to the tax-funded pre-election ads and ridiculous advertising from the nurses union I'm all for it. I don't care why he did it. I am just happy he's showing signs of giving up control.


Time for me to medicate myself and get some sleep so I can shovel gravel tomorrow. Night y'all.

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