Tuesday 27 January 2009

Budget '09: Mind the lag

Like a bunch of little birds clamoring for barfed-up worms from the big momma bird, every organization, business sector and government in the country was begging for some sugar in today's budget.

Let me go on record again as saying that this whole concept of "fiscal stimulus" is way overblown. However, measures to boost investment in things that have potential to build value or increase productivity down the road could be helpful. For example, the extra funds for Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada could be money well spent, or the credit for home reno's (also because that one benefits me -- that's an important factor that we should all consider).

One of the dangers with all this is that we could we could be stepping on the gas pedal when we need to ease off, two or so years down the road. In economics, nothing is immediate. Monetary and fiscal policy all works with a lag. So two years down the road when the economy is recovering we might have put some things in motion with this budget and the next that could result in inflationary pressures when we least need them, especially if oil prices rebound, which is very likely.

Let me paint this scenario: it's 2011 and WRHA has just torn down the Nutty Club warehouse to build it's 5th office building in three years. GDP is growing again, but the economy is still relatively weak so tax revenues have not fully recovered. Inflation is at 3%, which means the the Bank of Canada needs to raise interest rates, effectively putting the brakes on the economic recovery while the government is still running deficits. The Federal government, in an attempt to rein in spending and get back to black, makes massive chops to transfer payments to the provinces. The provinces are in debt too because they went in for halfers on all of these infrastructure programs, and now their revenue stream is drying up. But that doesn't matter because a giant asteroid from the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt is about to destroy the planet. I mix myself a whiskey sour and put on some Pink Floyd.

In the end, we may have been better of riding this out instead of trying to spend our way out. Don't forget that this is a global problem, and the US will be injecting plenty of stimulus into the economy as well.

some Floyd for ya:

edit: actually, I like this version better with Roger Waters and the amazing Dave Kilminster (sp?) on guitar:

Monday 26 January 2009

Toronto identity crisis?

Could it be that The Centre of the Universe has low self esteem? Maybe not quite, but they appear to feel the need to re-image themselves:

Wanted: World-class nickname for Toronto

Invest Toronto, the city's fledgling investment attraction agency, canvassed more than 100 business, academic, labour and community leaders across the city this week about how to promote jobs, investment and excitement in Toronto.

The city hired Greg Clark, a London-based economic development guru who advises cities around the globe, to run the three days of consultations last week.
The title is misleading. It's not necessarily a nickname that they're looking for, although I could probably drum up a few if they want (Gallbladder of the Continent, Former home of the world's tallest building, Almost American, Forever Yonge*, ... should I go on?)

I am sure this Greg Clark dude doesn't come cheap, but I suspect they will get more bang for their buck than Manitoba did when they spent $600,000 to come up with Spirited Energy. Their approach involves bringing community leaders together in a brainstorming session that is open to any and all ideas to promote the city. What we got with the province was an expensive nickname that didn't really mean anything, and an even more expensive ad campaign, foisted upon us by a group of the Premier's buddies.

In reality what they're doing is probably more akin to The Business Call Team Initiative, but I can't pass up an opportunity to knock Spirited Energy...

*actually, this one isn't a product of my own brain. Forever Yonge was the title of a Car & Driver article where John Phillips drives the entire length of Yonge Street, the longest road in Canada.

h/t the broom

Sunday 25 January 2009

A dirty, dirty post

I enjoyed that little stretch of non-minus-30 weather that we had, although I was a little too busy to make the most of it.

The downside of course is the slush and muck. My car is dirty. Really dirty. I don't have a photo of my car to share with you, but if you don't mind I'll demonstrate with this picture:

That's what I'm sayin' .... really dirty.

Unfortunately for me, I can't wash my car now because it's too damn cold and my car would turn into an ice cube and my doors would freeze shut. I missed that 20 minute window of opportunity where the temperature was cool enough that it wasn't too slushy but warm enough that my car would have a chance to dry a little before everything froze. It think it was Friday afternoon some time.

Oh well. Such is life in Winnipeg. Looks like I'll be driving a dirty car until spring again.

Really, the purpose of this whole post was just to give me an excuse to post a picture of a half-naked girl. Seemed like the thing to do on a Sunday night. Hopefully some time this week I will be able to muster a few comments on the Federal budget or something meaningful. But until then:

thanks to this guy who keeps changing the name of his blog for the pictures.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

News Roundup: Cabs, QBs, and megawatts

Duffy's, Unicity apply for new cab licences

The Manitoba Taxicab Board is nearing the end of extensive hearings that began nearly a year ago on applications for 800 more taxi licences. Today the board heard an application from Duffy’s and Unicity for any and all new licences the board may issue.
How much is this board costing us? Turn these hearings over to me and I'll save everybody money:

Duffy's/Unicity exec: "We would like to apply for 800 additional licenses for ..."
Me: "Go fuck yourself"

There. Done.

There's no reason for this board to even exist. With some basic standards and regulations in place the industry should be opened up to whoever wishes to participate, and customer demand will determine how many cabs are on the street. But, if we are going to regulate licenses, there's no way in hell any more should go to Duffy's or Unicity so that they can further entrench their duopoly. This is not a healthy way to run an industry.

Bombers trade for Esks' QB

I like that we're looking at moving Glenn and reworking the QB position, but why are we trading for another 3rd stringer? We have three of them already. We need a proven performer.

Of our current crop I like the look of
Bryan Randall the most, but none of these guys have much experience.

Hydro eyeing historic buildings for new substation

I'm with rgalston on this one. Does this make any sense? Of all the parking lots and underutilized spaces in downtown Winnipeg, Hydro wants to put a substation here? That will certainly limit the revitalization potential of the area.

Monday 19 January 2009

CBC has a crush on Obama

Gosh, I hope he likes these songs...

Tune into CBC Radio 2 on Tuesday to hear it live!.

Why I'm glad Bush is gone

That was a long eight years.

You know, I consider myself a conservative. Fiscally conservative anyhow. Socially, I'm more moderate. Many die-hard conservatives will always side with the right wing politician in any political debate, and if you look hard enough you can always find a way to glorify your guy and demonize the other guy. However, when you break down the US leadership to it's fundamental components it is clear that Bush has failed miserably as President. Only somebody with ideological blinders on would be able to deny that.

The Economy

Bush claims that he inherited a recession. Whether that is technically true or not, he is leaving the economy is much worse shape than he found it. The building blocks of the financial collapse may have first started getting stacked during the previous administration, but the problems accelerated during W's years, and in large part due to the policies of his administration. And ultimately, the collapse happened under his watch. The buck stops with him, right? Worse, the US is poorly positioned to combat another recession because ...

Dubya also inherited a budget surplus, which he has turned into a trillion dollar deficit. Yes, 911 changed everything, but consider that much of the accumulated debt under his two terms in office can be chalked up to unsustainable tax cuts, not to fighting terrorism. As a conservative, I am all for tax cuts within a balanced budget situation. Not as a stimulus policy necessarily, but because it's the right thing to do when the government takes in more money than it needs. Low taxes are also good for the long term health of the economy. Deficits are not, however, and the Bush tax cuts were therefore ill-advised.

Bush also spent money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. He did not veto a single spending bill his entire first term in office. In fact, he did not veto anything until a bill on stem cell research crossed his desk in his second term*. In other words, prudent fiscal management was a lower priority for Bush than blocking life-saving research because of social ideology.

The other thing that contributed to the huge deficits of course is the "War on Terror". Not so much the war in Afghanistan, but the much more expensive war in Iraq, which brings me to the next major leadership failure:

The War in Iraq

George Bush Sr. should have toppled Saddam when he had the chance back in the first Gulf War, when conditions were much more favourable. He did not because he knew doing so would create a big mess that could take years to mop up. I guess Sr and Jr don't talk about such things at the dinner table. Anyhow, invading Iraq was a policy decision, not a necessity. Iraq was crawling with UN weapons inspectors at the time. Even if they had WMD's, they were in no position to use them against the US, nor did they have any will to. But Bush and his buddies took advantage of 911 to push their agenda into Iraq, and in doing so they neglected priority #1: Afghanistan. This caused several things to happen, including:

1. That six foot four jack-ass Osama Bin Laden and his posse were allowed to get away and are still gaining strength, threatening Afghanistan and killing Canadian soldiers.

2. Iraq has become unstable, allowing Al Qaeda to create a presence there and ethnic tensions to escalate, causing an uncertain future that may end up with a regime that is no better than the one that was toppled, after all is said and done.

3. Violations of human rights by the United States at Abu Ghraib, at home, and at GITMO, destroyed any "moral superiority" that they may have had, inciting people to join the enemy out of hatred for the US, and ultimately putting all western nations and their soldiers more at risk.


The Economy and the War in Iraq are the two big failures of the George Bush legacy. You could find others, like his environmental record, for example, but one last thing I want to pick on is his statesmanship. Here's the thing about his statesmanship: he doesn't have any. As a world leader, he is a joke. He is a spoiled brat with an adopted Texas accent who gives inappropriate back rubs to other world leaders, speaks as though he's talking to 3rd graders, and butchers the English language every step of the way. Combined with his arrogance and selfish policies, the only way he could have left a worse impression upon the world is if he re-instituted slavery.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out of the White House, Dubya.

Tuesday 13 January 2009


Saskatoon is quite a nice city, in spite of being located in the middle of The Gap. When I was there it was cold. Brutally cold. Colder than a hairless rat in a bag of frozen perogies. Colder than Winnipeg even. I woke up one morning to -41°c. The ice fog was so thick I couldn't see across the river from my hotel room. The picture above was taken the day before when it wasn't quite so cold. Somehow, the river was not completely frozen over, so mist was rising off the water as it froze, drifting up into the morning sky. Some of the bridges that cross the South Saskatchewan River are reasonably picturesque, and it made for a nice view from the river bank. (One of those bridges, by the way, crosses over the river from downtown to Broadway, which has a walkable shopping strip with small shops and cafes .. in case you're ever there.)

Somewhere along the way, they decided not to develop along the river. The river bank is not all designated parkland, but there is virtually no development between the street and the river as it passes through the city, making that land available for walking paths, green space and recreation. Saskatoon also seems to have better infrastructure than Winnipeg. It is 1/3 the size, but Circle Drive is essentially a freeway, with only a few stop lights on the east side of town. (Ditto for Ring Road in Regina). Previous city planners must have had a longer term vision than here in The 'Peg.

What about current and future development? I am not that familiar enough with Saskatoon to really comment, but the city of Saskatoon web site gives the impression that they actually have a functional planning process. The Local Area Planning (LAP) process really seems well organized. I look at that, and look at the ad hoc crap that we do here (hey, let's put a stadium in South Point Douglas!) and I shake my head. You should read their LAP Brochure, and if you're a city planning geek (you know who you are) there are lots of other reports and stuff to peruse. Of course putting something on paper and implementing it are two completely different things, but there may be a few things we can learn from the S'toon.

Monday 12 January 2009

It's all attitude, Baby.

What is Birdtail Sioux First Nation Chief Ken Chalmers doing differently than the other four Dakota chiefs?

Just as Enbridge Inc. moves to improve and formalize relations with aboriginal populations across Western Canada, the oil and gas pipeline giant has given $100,000 to each of Manitoba’s five Dakota First Nations as a goodwill gesture. -fp-
Chief Chalmers took the $100k and built a new general store and gas bar for his people. “A lot of people are on social assistance,” Chalmers said. “This way, they can stretch their meagre dollars.”

"I know (our people) were frustrated in the past ... We don’t want the future to be full of blockades. We want to move ahead here. My people are tired of this.”

Seems (from the article) to be a reasonable and intelligent guy who is making the best of the situation and is approaching the partnership in a positive manner. The other Chiefs, maybe not so much:
Canupawakpa Chief Frank Brown says Enbridge has not come through as they promised. “The other Dakota are standing behind me too. We’re all in the dark. We all got fooled the same. We all got lied to the same.” If he does pull out of negotiations with Enbridge, Brown says his band will keep Enbridge’s money
That's the spirit, Brown. You tell 'em.

By they way, Chief Nelson, has Chavez gotten back to you yet?

Saturday 10 January 2009

Brother, can you spare a living?

I got around to reading Brian Huycke's column about welfare in the Freep. It confused me a little bit. He starts off, all sympathetic, explaining that not all welfare recipients are lazy: "I am here to tell you that there are actually a small group of people who really need welfare." Then he finishes with: "We should have never started up the soul-destroying system." Huh? What about those people who really need it?

Worse, now that the "soul-destroying system" is in place, there is nothing that we can do about it: "The best the government can do is APPEAR to be doing something." What kind of an attitude is that? "oh well .. I guess we have to let these souls get destroyed. Too bad for them. I wonder if Dexter is on TV tonight?"

I agree that not all welfare recipients are lazy. I agree that the system is broken. I disagree that nothing can be done about it. The current system is set up such that any income earned by a welfare recipient is clawed back from their welfare payments. This why welfare is a "trap". There is a tremendous disincentive to getting off welfare because one would have to work many hours to earn even one extra dollar. Welfare recipients are also punished for saving money, making them more dependent on monthly payments. In other words, the current system encourages recipients to either cheat, or be lazy. Those are the two choices.

A policy change is needed to allow welfare recipients to keep a portion of their earnings if they choose to work, until they reach a certain income level at which point welfare payments would cease. The change should also allow recipients to build up some savings for emergencies or personal financial security. This will encourage more people to enter the workforce, save money, and eventually get off the dole. The government CAN do something to fix the system, so that maybe a few less souls will get destroyed. I suspect the political will to tackle this issue is missing though, because of a fear of public scorn from tampering with our sacred social safety net.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Rock The Casbah

I picked this up today:

I'm dating myself here, but I remember when CDs first came out they were $20. Now I can pick up 31 songs of classic punk rock for ten measly bucks. No doubt Limewire and Torrent play a part in this deflation. Plus maybe nobody listens to The Clash anymore. (Although they should.)

Monday 5 January 2009

Bipole disorder: It's not too late to go down the east side!!!

I am glad that Welch wrote her synopsis of Hydro's state of affairs. Allow me to comment of a few of her points:

on power rates:
"lawyer Williams said there could be a debate that starts percolating over just what Manitobans ought to pay for power -- the cheap rate we pay now or something closer to the real market value, which might spur people to conserve their megawatts."

Start percolating? Get with the program already. It's been debated on the internet many times already. YES we should be paying market rates, at least on marginal power consumption. If you maintain low rates on the first 200 kwh or so, and jack up the rates on the incremental consumption, you'll promote conservation without hurting the low incomers. You can employ market forces while feeling all warm and fuzzy about protecting the vulnerable people. That's the best of both worlds for a liberal province.

on wind power:
I don't know what's going on here, but there obviously isn't any motivation to make this happen. "The Doer government has promised to build another 600 megawatts of wind power." He also promised to get rid of hallway medicine. Next ...

The dams:
" 'We've got a lot of stuff going on, but everything seems to be under control,' said Hydro CEO Bob Brennan," who added: "NOT"

Cap and trade:
I am generally a fan of market-based mechanisms like this, but I was listening to a dude who works in the power industry in Vancouver and in his opinion there are major flaws with this plan. I must do more research to comment on this.

Bipole III:
"The province did finally table long-awaited legislation to help protect the east side's boreal forest from development, paving the way for a UNESCO World Heritage site and effectively killing any chance of a power line down the east side."

Grrrrrr. This is sooooo annoying. For those who are not familiar with the facts of the issue, let me summarize:
1. The east side of the lake aleady has development in the form of logging and mining and other such things. A new road is being proposed to access remote communities. The bipole line would not damage this area to any significant degree, and therefore this area does not need "protecting" any more than the Upper Fort Garry gates needed protecting.
2. The proposed west-side route will fell near as many trees as the west side route due to the longer distance. Some of those trees may be in protected aspen parklands. Plus, accoring to Jim Cotton (on some previous post), there is already a wide swath of land cleared down the side of the lake.
3. The Bipolee III power line does not preclude qualification for UNESCO membership, nor does the absence of said power line guarantee membership.
4. UNESCO membership means bugger all. What is it going to do? Fill the forest with eco tourists? No. The same hunters and fishers will visit the area then as they do now. Jake and Margaret from Vermont aren't going to vacation in the middle of a mosquito infested forest because it has a UNESCO designation. And the question has to be asked: do we even want tourists in this pristine area? Would it be better protected by keeping it below the radar? Why is this designation so important?
5. The proposed west-side route is far more expensive to build. According to Welch: the PUB "is a little worried about Hydro's financial future." As am I, by the way. Which is why I don't think we should be wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a longer path for Bipole III.
6. The west-side route will waste thousands of megawatt-hrs of electricity per year, resulting in the loss of around $7-15m per year according to my calculations here, not to mention a shit load of GREEN power. If you are at all concerned about the environment, you should be outraged by this callous waste of green electricity. Every megawatt wasted will be replaced by dirty power somewhere down the line.

It's not too late to reverse this idiotic decision!!!

Babysitting job from hell

Just another day at the trailer park:

Police say an angry four-year-old Ohio boy grabbed a gun from a closet and shot his babysitter. ... Witnesses told police the child was angry because Beavers accidentally stepped on his foot.
Four teenagers were in the house: the victim (Beavers), the uncle of the shooter (witness 1 from the police report), Brandon Fisher - the other guy who got shot, and 17 year old witness 3. How much do you want to bet that these guys were drinking and completely ignoring the kids? According to the report, the kid "stated that he took a shotgun shell out of a desk drawer in the living room, while everyone was sitting there and no one seen (him) get the shell." i.e. the "babysitters" were too busy drinking and watching tractor pulling on TV to do their "job". I put "job" in quotes because I kinda doubt this was a formal babysitting arrangement.

The other thing that stands out, besides the bad grammar in the police report, is the fact that shot gun shells are in a drawer in the living room and the gun was not locked up. Oh sure, my grandfather had a gun leaning up against a wall and a box of shells on the window sill, but that was out on a farm where various critters required shooting. This incident occurred in a trailer park (according to the blogger below).

Go here for more fun news from Ohio, including: Drunk arrested after striking wife with tube of gift paper.

h/t stop annoying me for the police report link

Thursday 1 January 2009

What am I?

I sometimes wonder about this blog. About what I'm doing with it. The intention has always been to share what's on my mind. Simply a diversion for myself. But that results in a shit mix of posts that vary from semi-serious discussions about civic and political issues to frivolous posts with no point whatsoever. Each type of writing has it's place. I sometimes go to blogs like The Pissed Kitty Cometh just to read pointless but funny ranting. I sometimes go to websites like Last Of Iraqis for quite the opposite sort of reading. If I want to read about a dog sticking its head in the snow (which I don't) I'll go to Ace Burpees blog. Many of the blogs on my blog roll offer excellent commentary on local and national issues with varying points of view and levels of snarkiness. The point is, when you go to one of these blogs you generally know what to expect. Truncated Logic is a new blog, but already I get the gist of what Baloo is trying to doo.

As the new year approached, I thought about putting my blog on medication to treat it's multiple personality disorder. Maybe if there was a little more consistency in the types of posts that I, um, post, then maybe my readers would get more out of it. However I think I'll let it be for the time being. Ultimately it's not about you, it's about me. (sorry). This is still an outlet for what happens to be on my mind, whether it be important or not. "It is what it is", as they say ("they" being at least one person in every single meeting I've attended at work over the past two years.)

Having said that, I am still interested in what you think. I always welcome your comments, and if there are have been particular posts that you've enjoyed or despised, feel free to let me know. You can email me at cherenkov -at- rocketmail.com if you want to keep your thoughts about me being a retarded bag of shit* between you and me.

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

*also let me know if I swear too much.

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