Posts Tagged With: opinion

Saving the World – another in a series

I’ve recently taken to wiling away rainy afternoons by offering up snappy solutions to some of the pressing problems of the day, in hopes that the relevant politicians may someday stumble upon my humble blog and be galvanized into appropriate action.

The solutions all seem so simple when concocted from the comfort of my favourite armchair – why just last week I took a stab at vanquishing the current housing affordability crisis ttps://gentlemansrelish.ca/2022/04/25/down-to-the-sea-again/, so this week I thought I would offer up a”twofer’ and tackle two burning problems- climate change and indigenous rights, with a single stroke of the pen.

It is time, I suggest, to re-visit the long mothballed Mid Canada Corridor Project, the personal centennial project of Maj. Gen Richard Rohmer, soldier, lawyer, author, public figure, and passionately patriotic Canadian.

Rohmer’s plan was essentially to kickstart the development of the north by creating an infrastructure corridor across boreal Canada, anchored by large planned communities in locations such as Fort Smith, Flin Flon, Whitehorse, Timmins and Labrador City, and linked with road and rail corridors that would open up the ports of Churchill and Inuvik. Back in the sixties, no-one was paying a lot of attention to either climate change , or indigenous rights, so nationalism, and resource extraction were the real driving forces behind the plan. Rohmer was concerned that, in a vast, empty land, we all lived in a thin ribbon of population right along the border with a restless and unpredictable neighbour. Indeed he wrote several novels exploring the theme of the USA annexing Canada.

40 years on, our southern neighbour is even more volatile, climate change is top of mind everywhere, agriculture is creeping northward, and the north is starting to look a lot more hospitable than it did in the sixties when his grand scheme could never get beyond the fact that nobody actually wanted to live in Flin Flon or Labrador City.

If last summer’s heat dome here in the south is the harbinger of future summer weather, a temperate northern summer now seems almost alluring, and as crops wither and bake down here, agricultural opportunities expand to the north, where technology, ample water, and the midnight sun could combine for exciting possibilities.

Presently, most think of the north as a void of endless uninhabited acres of boreal forest, but of course , it isn’t. Not only has our north been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years, it remains so today – dotted with many small communities, albeit most on life support. Our First Nations remain anchored to their ancestral homelands, but no longer utilize them as their ancestors did. The result has been to create artificial communities that exist without any economic rationale.

Southerners shake their heads at reports of 90% unemployment rates in indigenous communities, and bridle at the astronomic and ever increasing cost of supplying them with services. Indeed some communities can only be accessed by air, so it is little wonder that they are unable to sustain a viable economy. Even those communities blessed with nearby natural resources can’t benefit from them without the infrastructure to move those resources to market, and those without resources have no economic advantages they can leverage. Who wants to set up shop in a remote location without access to the tools of commerce?

Surely a large part of the solution to “the First Nations Problem” is to integrate indigenous communities into the mainstream economy by providing the infrastructure that would enable them to participate fully in it. The North has the land, the resources, and the potential workforce- but it needs the roads, railway, and power grid that the Mid Canada Corridor envisions, in order to thrive. Welfare or infrastructure – we are going to pay either way, so we have little to lose.

Too glib a solution? probably- but a key component to beginning to address and improve our complex relationship with our indigenous peoples has to be economic empowerment, and that requires a bold vision, and a big plan (the sort of stuff Canada used to be built on). Some have called Rohmer’s vision grandiose and doomed, but serious thinkers, including the Northern Policy Institute, in 2014, and even the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce, as recently as 2017, have dusted off Rohmer’s detailed report.

Selfishly, I love the wilderness, and would love to keep the north empty and wild, but realistically, is it possible? or fair to our First Nations? It is time to start the conversation, so I can move on to armchair quarterbacking more solutions to the world’s problems.

Balckstone River running through Tombstone Territorial Park, with the Dempster Highway slicing through the landscape
Categories: entrepreneurship, Environment, First Nations, visions of the future | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Down to the sea again

Vancouver is a maritime city, so, isn’t it time we started incorporating the sea into our thinking when grappling with our municipal problems?

The related problems of homelessness and affordable housing immediately come to mind. In the year 3 BC ( that’s Before Covid) I blogged an elegant solution to the problem of homelessness https://gentlemansrelish.ca/2017/12/09/enough-already/#more-627. Simply buy a used cruise ship, I suggested, park it in an empty patch of ocean in the harbour, and, voila- 2,000 or 3,000 well appointed beds instantly available, together with space for all of the ancillary services you could ever need, for far less money than we are currently throwing at the problem. Well, nobody listened, and here we are five years later, no closer to a solution, but having spent the better part of a billion dollars on band-aids.

OK, so maybe the ‘hard to house’ wouldn’t be the ideal tenants for a permanently parked cruise ship, – they would probably turn the boat into a slum in short order- but I still think its a housing idea with merit- for the right clientele. What about the temporary foreign workers we so desperately need to bolster our workforce? What about the young single working stiffs who are finding it impossible to find respectable, affordable rental accommodation? Or students? Having a micro-apartment aboard a well appointed cruise ship could become an attractive lifestyle.

And lets not forget that the world of work has changed forever, courtesy of Covid. Workers no longer need to live within an endurable daily commuting distance from their office. They now have the theoretical ability to live anywhere, although still tethered to an office that requires them to make regular guest appearances. They are the new commuters, needing a small pied-a-terre in the city for a couple of nights a week for work, with their main residence in a smaller community elsewhere. A cruise ship cabin would seem an ideal solution for the new hybrid work week.

But what of families, you ask? – well the ocean could provide a solution for them as well, in the form of float homes. It is a mystery to me why, in an environment where the land supply is restricted, but water is a so abundant, we don’t make better use of our waterways to host housing of all descriptions. There are indeed small pockets across the lower mainland where float home communities thrive, but truly, the potential for floating communities has barely been scratched.

The answer to our housing problem may truly be right at our doorstep, in the hundreds of miles of protected coastline, and river bank within Metro Vancouver, a priceless resource, should we be bold enough to re-imagine Vancouver as a truly maritime environment, where people live and work and commute on the sea, as well as beside it.

Categories: entrepreneurship, Environment, Reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment
 
 

TIS THE SEASON – OF CONTROVERSY

We came across the tree of remembrance on a snowy trail deep in Mundy park- a small fir tree festooned with photos -some of humans, but mostly of dogs (Mundy is an off -leash dog park) a small hand lettered sign inviting walkers to hang a photo in remembrance of someone dear, but now departed, that had walked the park with them in days gone by. The memorial was a new creation, since we walk the park frequently and had never encountered it before-doubtless it was done in the sprit of the season, since Christmas was almost upon us.

It seemed a simple, and heartwarming gesture, and judging from the comments of others as they passed, one which was appreciated by the community of dog walkers who inhabit the park. Imagine then, my surprise when our local community Facebook page came alive with a diatribe against Christmas decorations in parks!

Decorating trees along local forest trails with Christmas ornaments has been gaining popularity over the past several year. I’m not sure when I first noticed a decorated tree in one of our local parks,- likely at least five years ago, but they have become common place, with families and groups, like my wife’s walking group, adopting a tree for the season and decorating it.

But alas, the grinchly Facebook post had ignited a fire storm, and incendiary posts poured in – the Ornamentalists pleading for reason- the pastime was innocent, and gave joy to many-a delightful and unexpected enhancement of a stroll through a wintry wood- while the Puritans insisted it was a desecration of nature- an un-needed and unwanted intrusion- surely unadorned nature should be enough!

Many of the Facebook Flame-throwers insisted that Christmas ornaments were simply bad for the environment. I could have saved them the energy of a Facebook post- I know for a fact that argument doesn’t work- I tried to use it a few years ago to get out of hanging the outdoor Christmas lights, and ended up on the top of a stepladder with a flea in my ear and a string of lights around my neck quicker than you can say Merry Christmas.

The social media ‘War in the Woods’ continued to escalate, as one of the most strident puritans, emboldened by the luke-warm support she had received, posted that all Christmas decorations were henceforth deemed “litter” and she was personally forming a work party to clean up the park . The Ornamentalists were put on notice – if they valued their baubles, they had best remove them within 48 hours before a volunteer posse of environmentalists assembled to sweep the park clean of man-made clutter – Christmas be damned!

The litter argument was a curious one, I thought, since the ornaments have been appearing in the park for years around Christmas time, and promptly disappearing, a few days after New Years, leaving no trace in the forest. Whether the work of unseen forest elves, or of conscientious Baublistas, the woodland park has remained pristine, without the intervention of zealots.

Social media being what it is, the challenge did not go unanswered, as the Baublistas replied with fury-how dare others be offended- and who gave the puritans the right to preach, or interfere with the god-given and probably constitutional right to hang ornaments in parks?

Feeling the need to nurture the seasonal myth of goodwill to all mankind, and yearning for the simple pleasure of a tranquil walk in the woods, free of controversy, we elected to avoid encountering the threatened work party and the likely clash of ideology along the trail, by taking an alternate, and unadorned path.

There, to our delight we discovered the work product of that endangered species of the deep forest –

THE MODERATE!

Someone, of obvious diplomatic mien. had taken the time to adorn the path with a seasonal icon- a snowman- BUT- using only natural materials – compacted snow, fir boughs, twigs, and pinecones. Something human crafted- to amuse the passersby, – but no man-made materials to offend.

On a snowy path, deep in the forest, a master class in the art of compromise, taught by an anonymous Moderate.

We tried to follow their tracks, since its so rare to see a Moderate in the wild, but the tracks eventually disappeared into the deep snow, leaving us to muse that, in the Canada of our youth, Moderates were everywhere- their range extending Canada wide- from the great boreal forest, tp the the Canadian Shield and beyond- even occasionally being spotted in Ottawa. What had caused their decline, we wondered ?

So we continued our walk, wistful that we had missed a rare sighting, but gladdened by the knowledge that untamed, free-range Moderates continue to exist in the wilderness at our back door. My wife, always with a soft spot for wildlife, suggested that we should leave some food out for them, but I’m against it-let them live as nature intended, I say.

Then again, to settle the debate, perhaps I should try to solicit some feedback from our friendly neighbourhood Facebook group?

Categories: Environment, Etiquette & manners, Nature, Parks, Reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Air Flight 752

This is a difficult piece to write, and the little editor/censor that sits on my shoulder and occasionally whispers in my ear to shut up, is practically shouting at me. Possibly I should listen, but here goes anyway:

I am offended by Prime Minister Trudeau’s gesture to make a $25,000 gift to each of the 57 families who lost loved ones when flight 752 was shot down on take-off from Tehran.

Like all Canadians, I am shocked and angered by the inexcusable loss of innocent lives that occurred as a result of Iran’s stupidity, negligence or worse. The loss to Canada was especially egregious, given the remarkable accomplishments of the victims. We lost doctors, scholars, promising students, entrepreneurs, the very best of what we hope our immigration policies will attract.

Indeed the families of the victims deserve our support and respect. I applaud the government for taking a stern line with Iran, demanding answers, and compensation, and for the consular support they are providing to the families.

That said, it is, I believe, wrong on principle for the government to provide compensation in such circumstances, where they are not to blame for the loss that occurred, and where to do so sets an unhealthy precedent.

Compensation should flow from fault, or responsibility for the loss, not from a politician’s desire to be seen as virtuous.

Consider that aircraft crashes in Canada last year claimed at least as many lives as we lost on flight 752. Eighteen Canadians were lost in the equally unforgivable Ethiopian Airways Boeing 737 Max 8 crash, without the government feeling the need to start writing cheques, and there were 22 aircraft fatalities in Canada in July alone last year, all resulting from small aircraft crashes, and none resulted in the government rushing forward to pay the victims’ families.

Please understand this is a difficult matter of principle, and not intended to be hurtful to the families involved, who deserve, and in the fullness of time will doubtless receive, much more fulsome compensation from the proper source, the government of Iran. It is a reflection on what is, and is not, the proper role of government.

The government will easily spend more than the $25,000 now being paid to each family, in order to send investigators and consular officials to Iran. Indeed they have already spent far more than that in order to convene and host a meeting of foreign ministers from affected nations, in order to forge a united plan of action. That money is appropriately spent. The $25,000 gift payments are not.

The families of the Ethiopian Airlines disaster have suffered every bit as much as the Flight 752 families, and in addition to the anguish of sudden, and unnecessary bereavement, have faced the same expenses of repatriating bodies, and conducting funerals, and many have felt compelled to make the expensive journey to Ethiopia to visit the crash site.

When authorizing the expenditure of taxpayers dollars governments need to look beyond the political value of the headline the expenditure creates, and be guided by policy – hopefully by policy not formulated in the midst of an emotional maelstrom – and a policy which is applied consistently.

Is it now government policy that the family of every Canadian who loses their life in a plane crash anywhere in the world is to be given a payment? I certainly hope not. If so, it marks a complete about face from Canada’s long-standing policy against providing gratuitous assistance to Canadian travelling abroad. Consider the Canadians presently trapped inside Kashmir who have been denied financial assistance to leave, or the 300,000 Canadians¬† nervously living in Hong Kong who are hoping in vain that the Canadian Government might ride to their rescue if things get worse.

There is a limit to what any government can do, and we deserve to know what criteria the government is using, when they spend our money. Buying a photo op is not an appropriate one.

To the families I say, we all share your grief, and we understand that you did not want to be thrust into this awful spotlight, and you did not come to government with your hand out, expecting anything. I truly wish we didn’t have to make any comment at all.

Categories: law, Politics, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

All aboard the climate change bandwagon!

Whistler has just sent a demand letter to a major Alberta oil company seeking compensation for the extra costs incurred by the municipality because of climate change. Now that is a bandwagon I can climb aboard!-here’s a draft of my own demand letter to Big Oil: Continue reading

Categories: Environment, humour, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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