2020-01-02

New Year Prediction – The New Veganism

Perhaps not this year, but I can see it coming as clear as the lighting in a laboratory clean room.

It started with vegetarianism, a dietary preference to avoid eating meat. And it morphed into veganism, a morality cult claiming any food products related to animals in any way are evil.

The latest result of this is laboratory created factory produced meat. Meat is evil but we must have non-meat that looks, feels and tastes like real meat.

We can see where this will lead, Why is just meat evil. Plants are living things too. If we can create fake meat, we can create fake vegetables, fruit, beans, etc. Living things were not intended to be eaten by other living things. That is why we have artificial food.

So the next big thing will be the new veganism, the successor to veganism. We shall not eat living things. The only thing left to predict is the name – Laboratoryism, Artificialism, Fakeism, take you choice.

2019-12-31

Happy New Year – We Are All Going to Die

Yes, we are all going to die and that's it, the end.

Except for the Christians, of course, they get to go to an afterlife of either heaven or hell. There seem to be two schools of thought on who goes where. One seems to believe good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. The other, more scripture based, says it does not matter whether you are good or bad, Jesus died for your sins so if you believe you go to heaven no matter how evil you are, and non-believers, no matter how good they are go to hell.

And then their are those that believe in reincarnation, that you come back in another life form, perhaps in another place, after death. The particulars of reincarnation, depending on belief, seem to be as varied as there are possibilities.

And then we have the Vikings. After death they go to live with the gods in Valhalla. But only if they die trying to kill other people. I do not know what happens to peaceful Vikings after they die.

These are, of course, all religious fables. I believe the technical term is “poppycock”.

As is the religion of individualism being so fervently promoted these days. This is represented by the promotion of the theory that “if everyone acts in their own self interest the best interests of society will be served”. This is just a way of trying to justify greed and promotes the idea that “he who has the most stuff when he dies wins”. Poppycock.

The fact is that our individual lives are just a tiny speck in the space time continuum, so tiny as to be meaningless by themselves. The only way our lives can have any real meaning is as part of a society that existed before we were born that will exist after we die. The only possible hope for any form of immortality, even just symbolically, is through what we do with our lives that leaves our society better after we die than before we were born.

The only New Year's Resolution anyone can make that means anything is “to make a difference”.

2019-12-03

The War Against Holiday Diversity

They call it the War on Christmas, but in reality it is just an opportunity for a few people to get apoplectic, or is it apocalyptic, about the fact that some people acknowledge that many holidays are celebrated at this time of year.


Proponents of the theory like to claim that we need to get back to the origins of the Christmas holiday, to the “reason for the season”. But of course, the actual reason tor the season is the winter solstice and the pagan rituals celebrating it.

This is of course because the Christians did not know the actual date of Christ's birth so they simply piggybacked on the pagan celebrations in the same way their Easter piggybacks on the pagan Ēostre celebrations.

If the Christians want to get upset with anyone taking over their holiday it should be the capitalists. The Christians only have one high holy day during the season, Christmas. However, the capitalists have several, seemingly celebrated, at least in North America, by many more people (or should we call them consumers as the capitalists consider them) than Christmas. They have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day, not to Mention Black Friday Week and Boxing Week. And then there are the December 25th celebrations of the Patron Saint of Consumers, Santa Claus.

We live in a multicultural society. We should consider it a “blessing" that so many of us celebrate different holidays during this time of year and can share them with each other. There is no reason for one group to claim ownership of the season or to be offended by holiday greetings that are inclusive.

Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays everyone.

2019-11-18

Towards a Green Social Democratic Economy

Background/Context

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[1][2][3][4] Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets.[5][6] In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.[7][8]

Social democracy is a political, social and economic philosophy that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and a capitalist mixed economy. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy, measures for income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest and social welfare provisions.[1][2][3] In this way, social democracy aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes.[4]

The Green New Deal is an ambitious plan for how we can eliminate poverty and create millions of jobs while tackling the biggest threat of our time: climate change. It involves massive public investment in clean energy, transit and climate adaptation work. But the vision is bigger than that: it’s about transforming our entire economy to be safer and more fair, and give everyone a better life. First proposed in the U.S., the Green New Deal is now spreading around the world. In 2015, we joined with dozens of movement leaders to draft the The Leap Manifesto, a 15-point plan for how Canada can decarbonize its economy based on principles of justice. We’re excited about the Green New Deal because it’s even more ambitious than the Manifesto, and it’s being backed by both grassroots movements and politicians.

The Failure of Capitalism

If you are part of the 1%, or perhaps even the top 10%, of wealthy people that call themselves capitalists you are probably wondering what the nonsense of the heading above is. Capitalism is working just fine for you.

But if you are not one of the owners of the means of production, but are the means of production, part of the masses that actually produce the wealth and services that our society depends on you see it completely differently. Indeed even the capitalists themselves are recognizing the market system as it currently works does not serve society and are rethinking the idea that corporations only duty is to shareholders profits and are suggesting corporations also have a responsibility to workers, customers and society. Or at least they want the public to think they have such concerns as a means of placating the masses to prevent the complete abolition of capitalism.

Capitalism unfortunately is based on a lot of assumptions and mythology which simply is not true. Shall we look at some of them.
If everyone acts in their own self interest the interests of the society will be served is one of the basic tents of capitalism. Unfortunately it is just a poorly presented justification for greed.

The market will ensure fair prices and wages and an effective distribution of resources to where they are most needed. Clearly not working.

What's good for General Motors is good for America, or more generically, what is good for the mega corporations is good for the country and the society. Has the laughter died down yet.

Competition will ensure the survival of the best ideas and most efficient implementation of them and the failure of the poorest. UNLESS you are too big to fail, then state socialism will bail the capitalists out with the workers money.

No one is too rich and there is no need for income or wealth redistribution because the earth has infinite energy and resources and infinite capacity for development and the environmental impacts that go along with that and there are no limits to growth. Everybody can become a billionaire if they just make the effort. The poor are just lazy. No comment necessary.

Need I go on.

Fortunately social democracy does not require, nor seek, the elimination of private ownership. It only seeks to build a fair society where everyone can contribute with a fair distribution of wealth.

Inequality

We have all read the statistics on wealth and income inequality. It seems unnecessary to repeat them here. But here are a few citations anyway.

The world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 45 percent of the world’s wealth. (Global Inequality - Inequality.org)

Last year 26 people owned the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. (5 shocking facts about extreme global inequality and how to even it up | Oxfam International)

Billionaires in Canada have increased their wealth by $20 billion over the last year, says a new Oxfam report on global inequality. In the same time, the 4.5 per cent of the country's wealth held by the poorest half of Canadians remained static. (Obscene gap between rich and poor, says Oxfam | National Observer)

Since 1990, the richest group of Canadians has increased its share of total national income, while the poorest and middle-income groups has lost share. (Income inequality - Canada and world results)

Income inequality in America is the highest it’s been since Census Bureau started tracking it, data shows (The Washington Post)

I wrote this about excessive wealth in an earlier blog post, THE FIFTH COLUMN: On Inequality, Democracy and Taxing the Rich – A Modest Proposal.

So what is excessive income and wealth. There are many ways to measure that, many statistical, but I propose a simpler definition – the amount of wealth and income where increases have no discernible effect on ones way of life or standard of living, where the increase is simply not noticeable in one's day to day life. Let's be generous to the wealthy in determining such levels. I propose an annual income of $1 million dollars and total assets of $100 million as the level that triggers “excessive income and wealth”. Above that no one notices without reading their financial statements.

The thing about excessive wealth is that it makes minuscule difference to the recipients but could make all the world of difference to the poor and underprivileged and to society as a whole if used for the common good. I will not even attempt to list what all that excessive wealth could do if devoted to the common good of society .

But there is another side to excessive income and wealth – it is highly undemocratic. The rich do not cling to their excessive wealth because it makes a difference to their daily lives. They cling to it because it gives them economic and political power. It is not just a matter of economic inequality, is a matter of political inequality.

Democracy is based on equality, one person one vote. Economic power is political power. Excessive wealth skews political power so that the wealthy have more of it. Excessive wealth is inherently undemocratic.

The argument that the rich are simply smarter or work harder simply does not hold water (to use an expression). The extremely wealthy are in that position because of privilege or in a few exceptional cases just plain dumb luck. But there is no moral justification for such extreme levels of wealth and inequality, particularity when you take into account the amount of economic and political power that provides which negates any sense of democracy we think may exist in our societies.

Climate Change

This inequality is taking place in a time of environmental crisis. No need to go on and on about the scientific consensus here. Just a few citations for the record.




Some people suggest the solution to climate change lies in the hands of a few big corporations. Others think it only involves moving away from fossil fuels. But in reality avoiding future environmental disaster requires a major remaking of our economy from one based on the concept of unlimited consumption, waste and growth to one based on sustainable living and sustainable development (remember that). We need to refocus our society away from the concept of increasing our standard of living, where standard of living is defined by how much stuff (energy and resources) we consume to one based on increasing our quality of life, where quality of life is defined by how satisfied we are with our life experiences, in effect by how “happy” we are.

Tackling Climate Change and Inequality: An Opportunity to Build a New Society

Too big crises at once. How do we prioritize our response. Fortunately we do not. This is indeed an opportunity to use our responses to both these crises to build a better society.

So let us first look at the so-called “elephant in the room”, the idea that actually doing something significant about inequality is an extreme radical idea that involves stealing the wealth of the mega rich.

Let us assume that we are in an economy where the richest people earn up to a million dollars annually, making more than 10-20 times the income of average workers and that the richest people could acquire wealth of up to $100 million dollars, 100 times what the average worker can save up in a lifetime. Then let us assume someone suggests that is not enough incentive for people to work hard and invest and we should change the system so the wealthy can earn unlimited incomes and acquire unlimited wealth gaining them the economic and political power that that brings with it. Those people would be called extreme radicals with crazy ideas. Rationally that kind of uncontrolled excessive inequality is the crazy radical idea that would undermine society, not establishing reasonable limits to inequality.

Tackling inequality will provide the political opportunity and funds to change our society to deal with climate change. We need to change the economic and political power distribution to do this and there will be economic disruptions and major economic change, which will be for the better in the long term.

How Do We Tackle Inequality

Let us look first at how we tackle the problem of excessive wealth (as defined earlier) and inequality.

Preferably we deal with this outside the tax system and only use the tax system to correct egregious behaviours that continue.

We must start with protections for ordinary working people. We need to start with a minimum guaranteed income for everyone, and not a poverty/subsistence level income but a decent middle class income that allows people to have a satisfactory quality of life.


When it comes to excess income we should set a societal standard that the gap between the lowest income and the highest income should not exceed twenty times within the society and ten times within any one organization. That leaves lots of room to reward hard work, education or risk taking.

On excessive wealth we hope corporations and organization revise their profit structure so it does not lead to excessive wealth, by reducing exorbitant executive salaries and increasing wages for the people that make the goods and provide the services that create the profits, spending more on making products and services better quality and reducing prices. The days when maximizing profits was the only corporate goal need to end.

There will, of course, be situations of such excessive wealth where drastic measures will need to be taken. They should include, where appropriate, simply transferring corporate ownership to workers co-operatives where the profits can be shared more evenly. They may also include the society, through government, taking ownership of enterprises and devoting the profits earned to the common good. In some cases corporate operations and practices will need to be realigned to better serve the needs of the society as a whole.

Where excessive income and wealth remains we will need to use the tax system to tax away any income over $1 million annually and any wealth in the form of assets over $100 million.

At levels below those that are extremely excessive we need to reform the income tax system reversing decades of tax reductions for high income earners and making it more progressive. We start with eliminating income tax on the minimum guaranteed annual income. Tax rates above that should increase progressively with new higher tax brackets at the upper end.

Corporate tax rates need to be brought back to historical levels before the massive cuts began.

What Type of Economy Do We Need

As we respond to the climate change crisis we must realize that the answer is not simply avoiding a catastrophe at this time by reducing our fossil fuel use and carbon footprint but avoiding future environmental disasters with an economy based, not on consumerism with it's inherent excessive consumption and waste, but on sustainability.

The 4 R's:

One guideline to this is the traditional 4 Rs .

1. Refuse: To refuse waste is often seen as a "radical" choice. As a consumer, the impact of refusing waste is a clear statement to the producer. This choice is a powerful one in that you refuse to take on the responsibility of waste and only wish to receive the wanted or needed product.2. Reduce: As you gain a better understanding of what waste is and the impacts it has on our natural, economic and social environments, reducing becomes a choice of consciousness. Reducing waste allows you to participate at any level.3. Reuse: Using conventional waste to divert it from the waste stream offers a broad spectrum of savings. From plastic containers to shipping containers, the reuse of a product introduces a second life cycle.4. Recycle: Though recycling is the last "R" in this though process, it has become the most commonly used element. Recycling is absolutely important in eliminating waste and will always be part of the ongoing process. Separating out recyclables from other waste is a responsibility that often lies with the end consumer. The problems that arise with recycling are usually the lack of knowledge and accessibility.

I would like to emphasize here that these are listed in priority order with the most important principle being saying no to environmentally unsustainable products and practices.

And “Reduce” has to be meaningful as we move from an economy based on consuming to one based on living.

For example, at a time when families are smaller why are houses bigger. A family of two adults and two children does not need a three or four thousand square foot house. A family with two parents and two teenagers does not need four automobiles. What happened to the family car. Appliances should be built to last twenty or more years. Even computers, tablets, smartphones, etc,. are at a state of maturity now that they do not need to be replaced every two years. When it comes to smaller items it is often the excessive packaging that is the biggest environmental problem. Why do we allow that when it harms the planet and adds unnecessary costs to both the producer and consumer. We simply cannot continue such a wasteful and unsustainable lifestyle. Clothing can be worn until it is actually worn out. These are just simple examples of how we can change our habits with little real impact on our quality of life.

Localism

I would add an additional, and perhaps most important, principle here – localism. A search of the Internet will find many different definitions of localism and environmental localism and political localism. Most of them relate to a certain degree to what I see as localism in this context.

One of the biggest users of energy and resources and contributors to climate change is transportation, and in particular the transportation of goods over long distances.

People make a great deal of noise over personal air travel. However there is a lot of good that comes with people visiting other countries, experiencing other cultures and getting to know other people. There is a also a lot of good to come from international conferences where people get together to try to solve the world's problems that can only be done face to face.

Certainly a lot of business travel, where people are simply travelling to airports and then to meeting rooms and only meeting like-minded people and only discussing internal corporate matters could probably be replaced with electronic communications.

But the big transportation waste of energy and resources (and carbon footprint) has to be the needless global transportation of goods that could easily be produced locally by local workers. There was a time when every town had a sawmill, a textile mill and a factory or two producing consumer goods and providing good paying union jobs.

Now most of our consumer goods are made in the same massive factories in China and most of our clothing comes from the third world. Capitalism is supposed to promote efficiency but when you add the amount of resources and labour to the cost of transportation to market, importing most of our goods from offshore is not efficient. The only measure by which this is profitable is the extremely low value we attach to workers in developing countries and on flags of convenience shipping lines. When you look at what wages used to paid for goods consumed in North America compared to wages are now paid for most goods consumed in North America it is pennies, or less, on the dollar.

But the environmental costs, particularly in terms of carbon footprint, are excessively greater than producing goods close to where they will be used.

Much the same can be said about food. There is a lot of energy and resources expended because we think we should be able to get anything we want from anywhere anytime. That was not even the case 50 years ago when many products were just considered seasonal. We don't need to just eat what we grow in our own backyards but we can adopt a more balanced approach to importing food. And we can certainly encourage more local growing of Canadian produced foods to reduce transportation costs and the related environmental impacts.

We need more than individual tokenism here but an economy built on these principles.

Community Infrastructure Building and A Green New Deal

Capitalism and the so-called free market may do a good job of maximizing short term profits but it needs tempering to serve longer term corporate needs and is a complete failure at serving social needs, often diverting funds to frivolous but profitable expenditures.

Regulations (including labour, environmental, and health and safety standards) can restrain some of the worst aspects of capitalism but only taxation can provide the funds necessary to fulfill our society's needs. This is why, as pointed out earlier in this post, we need a strong progressive tax system especially at the highest levels of income and for corporations.

As well as funding a social safety net in the form of a guaranteed annual income and universal health care and public education, not to mention police and fires services, defence and foreign policy, and on and on, taxation funds necessary public infrastructure.


This is where the proposed Green New Deal comes in. By building sustainable public infrastructure the public sector can set an example for the private sector on how to do development that is not harmful to the environment.

The most obvious example is transportation which has a huge carbon footprint. Locally improved public transit and cycling infrastructure can reduce the use of individual motor vehicles considerably, even eliminating it's need for short trips. Development of electric transport vehicles, particularly rail, can make a huge reduction in the economic and environmental cost of delivering goods, especially when coupled with production facilities (factories) closer to the final consumers.

The improvement of water, sewage and waste disposal facilities has an obvious environmental benefit.

As well, moving to a more people focused society, as discussed in the next section of this post, will see the need for more educational, arts and community facilities.

And we must not neglect to include publicly funded housing projects to address the chronic need for affordable housing. Public housing projects will provide an opportunity to develop and implement more sustainable building techniques and build housing that has much lower ongoing environmental impacts.


We now know the best way to provide affordable housing is through co-operative or mixed income housing that does not ghettoize low income earners, Hopefully a guaranteed income at a decent middle class income level will make this less of an issue.

All of this will, of course, provide an employment benefit, increasing the traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) standard of living measurement and more importantly increasing the quality of life of the population.

What Type of Society Do We Want

This is the big question. Do we want a society based on people not stuff, living not consuming. But first this.

The Robots Are Taking Over and Taking Our Jobs

Since the first stages of industrialization to the assembly line and beyond to modern robotics there have been two scenarios for this trend. One dystopian. One utopian.

The current capitalist economy tends to be leading us to the dystopian model. As automation leads workers to be more productive, producing more per hour of labour, wages per hour are going down. Workers are earning less for producing more. This is because, unlike early predictions, increased productivity has not led to reduced working hours but to increased unemployment. At some point very few people will be producing a large number goods for a very small number of people and the whole system will collapse.

A New Society For A New Economy

“Whoever has the most stuff when he dies wins” is a reflection of our current capitalist society based on competition where the goal is to prove yourself better than other people by acquiring more stuff, which may include fame and status.

There is a another, more utopian model. The expression "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” reflects a society where everyone contributes according to their ability and has their basic needs met, a social democratic society.

Such a society will produce our basic needs in the most efficient way possible, taking advantage of automation and robotics to free people from the drudgery of producing excessive stuff. We will produce less stuff because our lives will not be based on the status conferred by owning things.

People will still work, but hours of drudgery will be limited and everyone will be guaranteed a decent middle class income. Education will be at the forefront of society with most people serving as both teachers and students. Education, the arts and culture (including writing, music, theatre, movie, TV and video production, etc.) and recreation will provide meaningful employment. There is a huge opportunity for localism here with hopefully a better balance of funding and earnings for local productions compared to international corporate financed productions and so-called superstars earnings.

Connections with the natural world will be emphasized with resource extraction of the wilderness being replaced by sustainable recreation and forms of eco-education and eco-tourism. Sustainable energy sources will replace those based on resource extraction.

A society based on living a more meaningful life will reduce alienation (Side Note: Karl Marx’s Conception of Alienation) and build a sense of community and reduce crime and conflict. While the first stages of new society will allow for some inequality, people realizing they do not want to measure themselves by how much more they own than everyone else will lead to the gradual end of inequality. The lack of desire for the consumption of excessive stuff will put less stress on the planet's resources and environment and avoid future environmental disasters.

And finally Karl Marx and Jesus Christ will rest easily in their graves.


Postscript:

For those asking what about our democratic institutions. That is a completely different blog post. See: THE FIFTH COLUMN: On Democracy

2019-11-01

The Truth About the Kanata Lakes Golf Course Development Proposal

Many of you probably see the opposition to replacing the Kanata Lakes golf course with housing as just a NIMBY response of a bunch of privileged entitled suburbanites living in their low density paradise. After all golf courses are not usually considered environmentally friendly and there is a real need for more housing, though whether we need more low density suburban housing is a different question.

However there is a much bigger backstory to this whole issue relating to larger issues of environmental protection and land developers' powers over communities and municipal governments.

All of Kanata Lakes (originally referred to as Marchwood-Lakeside in planning documents), including the golf course, was zoned as Environmental Protection before the developers flexed their muscle threatening to go to the Ontario Municipal Board to get them to overrule the environmental zoning unless the municipal authorities allowed them to develop the land. The result was the flawed 40% agreement applying to Kanata Lakes/South March Highlands.. This was supposedly to protect the most environmentally sensitive lands yet the municipal authorities allowed the developer to include a golf course in that 40% protected “greenspace”. Much of the rest of the 40% was lands the developer did not want to develop anyway. I suppose we should be thankful homeowners lawns were not also included in the 40%.

The fact is we only have the South March Highlands Conservation Forest because the municipality bought those lands as that was the only way to protect them as environmental zoning is almost meaningless in Ontario.

For example a portion of the South March Highlands Conservation Forest within the Trillium Woods was zoned Environmental Protection. When the municipality denied permission to develop it the developer went to the OMB and had the zoning overturned and the municipality was forced to buy the land to protect it from development.

The golf course represents a contractual agreement by the developer (passed on to it's successors) to protect 40% of the total Kanata Lakes/South March Highlands lands as “greenspace”. To allow that 40% protected “greenspace” to be reduced even further would be to admit that communities have absolutely no control over land development and that there are virtually no protections for environmentally important lands in Ontario. It would be to say to the land development industry - go ahead do whatever you want, we are not even going to try to give communities a say in local development decisions anymore.

The solution is not to just acquiesce because trading a golf course for housing might be a good idea but to use this as an opportunity to further strengthen the 40% agreement by swapping the protected golf course lands for more environmentally important lands in the South March Highlands. While most of the KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) lands are probably too far along in the development stage to be protected there is an environmentally significant portion of lands north of the South March Highlands Conservation Forest including a significant block of land owned by Metcalfe Realty that is zoned Environmental Protection.

The 2008 Brunton report said this about these lands:

Even at 400 ha, the Conservation Forest is presently too small to fully represent South March Highlands natural features and functions. A substantial proportion of that deficiency, however, is represented in the area immediately east and north of Heron Pond. Were the contributions of that area included within those of the present Conservation Forest, total protected floristic representation would rise to 98%. Significant species representation would also increase considerably, rising to 85% of the South March Highlands total. Substantially better representation of Blanding’s Turtle breeding habitat would also be achieved. Conservation management of this adjacent landscape is clearly a desirable objective of impact mitigation for the Conservation Forest.

It is recommended that management planning consider mechanisms for incorporating and protecting the ecological contributions of adjacent lands, particularly those to the north, to minimize negative impacts of the unnatural shape of the Conservation Forest.

Natural environment assessment (existing conditions):
South March Highlands Conservation Forest, Kanata,Ottawa, Ontario, May 2008, Daniel F. Brunton, Brunton Consulting Services, Ottawa, Ontario)

My understanding is that the municipal government has been trying to purchase that land but the landowner wants to sell it as a price suitable for development lands and the municipality wants to buy it at it's value as land zoned Environmental Protection.

I would propose that the current owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course purchase that land and donate it to the city (for inclusion in the South March Highlands Conservation Forest) to replace the golf course lands within the 40% agreement and that the golf course lands then be zoned for housing.

This is not quite a win win situation as no doubt it will not satisfy most of the current neighbours of the golf course, but it will allow for new housing and protect more environmentally important lands while strengthening the spirit of the 40% agreement.

Note: the terms municipality and municipal authorities, etc. are used above because over the time period involved the municipal jurisdiction went through numerous reorganizations from City of Kanata to a regional government model to the current enlarged City of Ottawa. It should also be noted that the ownership of lands comprising Kanata Lakes have passed through several developers over the years.

Further Background Information

Kanata Lakes 40% Plan, City of Ottawa
(click/double click on image to enlarge)

South Mach Highlands Zoning Map
 
(click/double click on image to enlarge)
 Zoning Codes Used on Map
RESIDENTIAL ZONES
Residential Third Density Zone R3
Residential Fifth Density Zone R5
OPEN SPACE AND LEISURE ZONES
Parks and Open Space Zone O1
ENVIRONMENTAL ZONE
Environmental Protection Zone EP
RURAL ZONES
Agricultural Zone AG
Rural Residential RR
Rural Countryside Zone RU
OTHER ZONES
Development Reserve Zone DR



Comprehensive Map of the South March Highlands

2019-10-22

Federal Election 2019 Reflections

The big surprise of the election has to be the Bloc Québécois resurgence, although I am sure they probably saw it coming even if the rest of us didn't. This certainly makes leader Yves-François Blanchet's position secure.

The other surprise was the late campaign resurgence of the New Democratic Party under leader Jagmeet Singh. I am sure many New Democrats are thinking if only they had another week of the campaign as his popularity surge does not seem to have peaked yet. If before the election there was uncertainty over whether they had made the right choice he has proven himself and his leadership is certainly secure now.

The Green Party under Elizabeth May is a different matter altogether. This was the election they were supposed to make a breakthrough and it proved not to be. While Elizabeth May may be a saint to many Greens, others have questioned her “leadership style”, to put it politely. To many the Green Party is Elizabeth May and that may be a problem in itself. The question for the future of the party may be is there a Green Party beyond Elizabeth May.

As for the upstart People’s Party of Canada (aka the “Mad Max party” or the “I'll get you Andrew Scheer party”), it went down in flames with even leader Maxime Bernier losing the seat he won as a Conservative in the last election. There will be no leadership change here as you cannot have anyone else but Max Bernier lead the Max Bernier party. What we will likely see is brave statements about this being their first election and they will be better organized next time, followed by the party slowly fading away.

This was supposed to be the election the Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer formed government, considering Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau's recent SNC-Lavalin and brown face scandals, to name just two. But that was not to be, leaving Max Bernier with at least something to celebrate. The knives were already out for Andrew Scheer during the last week of the campaign as many Conservatives foresaw what was coming. But it is not only leadership the Conservatives have to change, they need to find a way to move beyond their social conservative base that just scares away other voters.

As for the apparent winner, Liberal Party leader, and Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the big question is going to be did he win a minority or lose a majority. To many observers this is the election where more people voted against the Conservatives than voted against the Liberals. It may indeed have been an election where the Liberals won despite, not because of, Justin Trudeau. I see it as similar to the last election Kathleen Wynne's Liberals won in Ontario. Discontent with her leadership of the province was only going to grow and she did not see it was time to step down and let the Liberals re-brand under a new leader if they hoped to win the next election. Will Justin Trudeau see this, or more importantly, will the Liberal Party.

So how many party leadership campaigns will we be seeing in the next few years.

Postscript - What if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had kept his promise and this election was not held under the First Past The Post system but under a system where every vote counted.


2019-09-15

On Inequality, Democracy and Taxing the Rich – A Modest Proposal

No doubt many raised in our capitalist society, where inequality rules and excessive incomes and wealth are seen as a right (and where even the NDP only proposes a measly 1% tax on excessive wealth), will consider this proposal to be radical but it is actually quite a modest proposal.

So what is excessive income and wealth. There are many ways to measure that, many statistical, but I propose a simpler definition – the amount of wealth and income where increases have no discernible effect on ones way of life or standard of living, where the increase is simply not noticeable in one's day to day life. Let's be generous to the wealthy in determining such levels. I propose an annual income of $1 million dollars and total assets of $100 million as the level that triggers “excessive income and wealth”. Above that no one notices without reading their financial statements.

The thing about excessive wealth is that it makes minuscule difference to the recipients but could make all the world of difference to the poor and underprivileged and to society as a whole if used for the common good. I will not even attempt to list what all that excessive wealth could do if devoted to the common good of society .

But there is another side to excessive income and wealth – it is highly undemocratic. The rich do not cling to their excessive wealth because it makes a difference to their daily lives. They cling to it because it gives them economic and political power. It is not just a matter of economic inequality, is a matter of political inequality.

Democracy is based on equality, one person one vote. Economic power is political power. Excessive wealth skews political power so that the wealthy have more of it. Excessive wealth is inherently undemocratic.

So what do we do with this excessive wealth so that it benefits society. We tax it away so that it can be used for the common good.

This sounds radical at first. But what do the wealthy lose in this proposal. Their standard of living and quality of life does not change. They only thing they lose is their excessive economic and political power, power that undermines our democracy.

Postscript

In taxing away excessive wealth we cannot just require it's conversion to cash to be paid as taxes. That would obviously be very disruptive to the economic system. Society (through the government) will take ownership of these resources in kind and in many cases maintain them while applying revenues from them to the common good. In some cases they may need to change the policies of entities that are not acting in the public interest or divest ownership of entities where that serves the public interest.

Also this proposal does not address all the problems with our tax system. For it to be truly progressive we need to raise the income level that triggers the payment of taxes and increase the higher marginal tax rates, including adding marginal tax rates at higher income levels (between $200,000 and $1 million).

2019-07-25

Guns – What Are They Good For


War

The Wikipedia section on the history of guns makes it clear that the history of guns and war are clearly intertwined, guns being developed primarily as a means to kill people in warfare.

Indeed even with the advent of weapons of mass destruction, the infamous WMDs, guns are still the weapon of choice in warfare. These guns are often being fired by the poor and disadvantaged against other poor and disadvantaged in wars started by the wealthy and advantaged.

Hunting

People have been hunting successfully without firearms for survival and sport since man started eating meat. Nonetheless the use of hunting rifles to kill game is a long established and accepted part of many societies. But, no one needs a military assault rifle to hunt for sport or survival. Spraying bullets at everything around hoping to hit something or mowing down a whole herd in one push of a trigger is not sport.

Sport Shooting

Shooting as a sport is also a thing, from biathlon in the Olympics to target shooting with handguns. No harm is done here as long as the guns are safely stored at the shooting range.

Criminals and Police

Criminals have discovered that guns can be a useful tool of their trade and the police have responded. In some countries the police responded cautiously with beat police and detectives remaining unarmed and special armed response units established. Other countries decided to start an arms race with the criminals, with ordinary police armed to the teeth and and special (SWAT) units armed like military assault units. We will leave it to your reading of current affairs to determine which response resulted in more or less gun violence and deaths.

Mass Murder

The easy availability of military style assault weapons has made mass murder a much easier undertaking than in the past. Internationally, the numbers of incidents of mass murders compared to the availability of such weapons speaks for itself.

Protection and Vigilantism

While some believe that they need guns to protect themselves and to deal with criminals, most civilized societies believe that should be the role of the police. There is a a belief, primarily in one country, that an armed populace is a safe populace and the more people with guns the safer a society is. Unfortunately the facts internationally indicate the opposite, particularly when it comes to gun violence and the deaths from it.

What Should We Do

So what should Canada do about guns and gun violence. Fortunately we are not saddled by a foolish Second Amendment but consider gun ownership to be a carefully regulated privilege as most civilized countries do.

While hunting rifles can be used in crimes, and no doubt are occasionally, they are not the main problem.

The big problem with gun violence lies with handguns and assault rifles which no ordinary citizens have a need for. This is one situation where there are simple and effective solutions. No one outside of the military and certain special police units need assault rifles. They should simply be prohibited. As for handguns, there is really no need for civilians to have them either but since they can be easily controlled for sport shooting purposes by restricting their use and storage to approved shooting ranges they should be allowed with those restrictions.

Government simply needs to ignore the imported ideas of the American right wing and provide the solutions the majority of Canadians agree with.

2019-07-20

On Free Trade


Even among left wing parties and progressive politicians trade is worshipped as the saviour of the world, but perhaps we should ask ourselves Is Trade Evil ?

After we do that we can consider the question of free trade and free trade agreements.

We need to seriously look at the so-called free trade agreements for what they are. They certainly do not guarantee free trade. What they guarantee are rights to corporations over sovereign countries with things like investor state dispute provisions that allow corporations to sue countries for passing legislation in the public interest that offends the multinational corporations rights to maximize their profits.

So what could real free trade look like. One option would be absolute free trade. Eliminate all tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Provide no artificial advantages to domestic products or corporations. Provide no, intentional or otherwise, advantages to foreign products or corporations.

Any goods could be sold in Canada, subject equally to any forms of taxation applied, regardless of country of origin, as long as the goods are produced subject to health and safety, environmental, and labour standards (minimum wages, collective bargaining and workers rights provisions, etc.) equivalent to those required of goods produced in Canada.

That would be true free trade.

2019-07-14

Can We, Should We, Will We Live Forever Online


When typing for this blog I have often wished I could just think my thoughts at the computer and have them type out on the screen. This, no doubt, has much to do with the fact I am a one finger hunt and peck typist (having been streamed into drafting and electricity in grade nine rather than typing and home economics).

But this got me thinking bigger.

First some thoughts on what makes us human. I have heard it said that what separates us from the (other) animals is that we are aware of our existence. I think it is probably somewhat more than that, extending to the fact that we philosophize and question the meaning of life. Of course we do not know what (other) animals are thinking but clearly thinking and communicating are more important to us than simply the tasks necessary for our physical existence.

On to the idea of living forever. It seems the biggest obstacle to living forever is that our bodies wear out, particularly our hearts and lungs that keep oxygen and blood circulating. The other big factor is that the earth could not sustain everyone living forever unless we stopped reproducing.

But what if we did not need most of our physical body and all those resources we live off of. What if we only needed to keep our brains alive.

If the essence of being human is thinking and communication, what if we only needed our brains to do that.

What if we had a brain-computer interface that would let us think our thoughts to our computers and communicate with other humans, including living brains. What then.

How much space and resources would it take to just keep our brains alive after our bodies died,

And what if we did not even have to do that. What if we could transfer the essence of our brains, our intellectual being and memories onto computer chips that required virtually no storage space and only required a few millivolts of energy to be sustained forever.

The big question is would you want to live forever on the Internet watching mankind make the same mistakes over and over forever and ever.